Karl Ruprecht Kroenen

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Made in Hell (1/3)
 
Author: linaerys
Pairing: Ilsa/Kroenen
Rating: PG-13 (so far) for minor violence and kinky suggestions
Summary: This is the first in a series about Ilsa and Kroenen's meeting and, uh, other things. In my version of their world, in 1930 Rasputin has yet to make an appearance. Leon Strasser was introduced in The Dueling Club but that's not necessary reading.
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Prologue (2004)
 
Ilsa did not like to spend time in Kroenen's study. The smell of blood mixed with machine oils lingered on her skin after a visit, and the operas he always listened to grated on her nerves, but they needed to work together on this last piece of the puzzle of how to resurrect Rasputin. Locked within her mind were the necessary clues, but only Kroenen could detect the subtle shift in magickal energy when she stumbled over one. She put off going into his study as long as possible, but since she did not want him searching for her, she finally opened the door after the final aria from Salome wound down. "You cut your hair," he said through missing lips. Ilsa was surprised. He went weeks without speaking now, and saying something so obvious, and, well, male, usually seemed beneath him. He saved his breath for orders and necessities now, and tried to choose words that avoided labial consonants. She fluffed up her hair with her hands. "Grigori is coming back soon. I want him to remember," she explained. She did not expect a response, and bent back to her reading. He sighed loudly. "I liked it better long." The word "better" came out clumsily, a wet snarl, but long practice enabled her to understand. She softened slightly. The years had diminished him to a shell, a joke, a freak. Once he had been, arguably, the most powerful man in Germany, the man behind the throne, the man whose vision shaped two decades of world politics. She had been painfully attracted to that power once, and the depths of perversion his hard voice promised. Ilsa remembered . . . Chapter 1: Flirtation (1930) Her father thought it was cute, his young Ilsa in a tarted up version of the army uniform, and any men who might object to it on principle reconsidered when they saw her supple figure encased in the tight leather. Baron von Haupstein was never above using her as bait, and he watched carefully as his colleagues looked her over. Who looked too hard and long, who didn't bother to look at all. Subtle clues built the foundations for blackmail and the toppling of careers, after all.
 
Ilsa might have spared a moment to be annoyed at being so used, but her father's power accrued to her also. Power and money were everything to a girl whose family suffered so grievously with Germany's declining fortunes. Until recently Baron von Haupstein had found a way to be on the wrong side of every political shift, with a lack of skill that seemed willful. She hoped his mistakes had gained him some wisdom. The other women at this fete were wives and mistresses, who mingled with ill-concealed disdain. Until Ilsa's place had been decided, wife or mistress, neither group would trade words with her. Their dresses all looked secondhand, except for a few of the actresses, and Ilsa smiled, self-satisfied, as she smoothed down the leather of her trousers. The costume was shocking, to be sure, but garnered more attention than the tawdry silks most of the women wore. Ilsa kept the same smile on her face as she shook hands with man after man. They all seemed to be sniffing the air, jockeying for position within the eddying currents of power. They were all the same, although some wore an army or freicorps uniform, and some wore civilian clothes; a flash of lust in their eyes, an evaluation of her father, and they passed on. Ilsa stopped paying attention, and merely nodded and smiled automatically until her father guided her over to a tight knot of people near one of the windows. This, Ilsa realized, was the power center of the room. At first Ilsa noticed the tall golden man, and who would not? Leon Strasser was blond and charismatic, with an affable manner, and curving lips that made her want to smile with them. He wore a suit that fit like a part of him, and Ilsa was distracted for a moment from her father's querulous monologue, as she admired the way Strasser filled it out. Behind him stood a shorter man in a black suit, corpse pale with thin lips and blue eyes so light they were almost white. He seemed to be listening with half his attention to a man in army uniform, and his eyes scanned the crowd. Ilsa and the Baron lingered in the outer circle of the men orbiting the pair, and watched their interactions. Strasser did most of the speaking, smiling, shaking of hands, but his every motion was a question, and he checked his companion's impassive face frequently for confirmation. Finally her father managed to present her to Strasser, who raised her hand to his lips, and shot a glance at Dr. Kroenen. He nodded slightly and Strasser took Ilsa's elbow. "This is my associate, Dr. Karl Kroenen," said Strasser. The doctor did not extend his hand, and Ilsa was glad. She felt as if bugs were crawling over her skin, being this close to him. "Ilsa, you got ahead of me," interjected her father, who moved in next to her.
 
The Baron extended his hand to grasp Kroenen's and Ilsa saw a muscle in Kroenen's jaw clench as he shook her father's hand. "He's the youngest head surgeon in the history of Waldfreide Hospital," said her father. "How young?" asked Ilsa. She realized she had been staring, but her eyes were caught by his watery blue ones, and she could not turn away. "Thirty-three," answered Kroenen. His voice was hard. "Like Jesus," she returned, challenging. His eyes widened slightly and some understanding past between them. He bowed his head ironically. "Just so." "And he's never lost a patient," Strasser added. Then, long past the moment when it would have been appropriate, Kroenen took her hand. She jumped at the unexpected contact. He bent as if to kiss it, but instead leaned close to her ear. "Never by accident, anyway," he said, sotto voce. She shook off his touch, but his eyes locked hers in again when he stood up. She didn't know how long they might have stood thus, but her father cleared his throat, took her arm, and steered her to a different part of the ballroom. "Be careful, Ilsa," he said when they were out of Kroenen and Strasser's sphere. Ilsa turned innocent eyes upon him. "How so, father?" "Dr. Kroenen . . . well, there are rumors. Sometimes he's become interested in someone and they've risen to great power. Sometimes they disappear." Later she would think that was her moment of choice, her moment to choose a prosaic life, and death in its time, but instead of being repulsed by Dr. Kroenen's admission, and his reputation, she was intrigued. Somehow she was not surprised when, near the end of the evening, Strasser approached her and asked if he could call on her. Ilsa wondered how deep the good doctor's control was over his associate, and from whom this invitation came. She smiled up at Strasser and kept her eyes firmly away from seek out Kroenen's, although the effort at control left her shaking.
 
Kroenen felt himself growing tense as the evening wore on. He would have rather been in his laboratory, with his latest invention, a mechanical joint that picked up on nerve impulses and amplified their intention. He even had a subject to test it on, sleeping the sleep of the drugged and waiting for his return. He thanked the fortune that had brought Strasser into his life so many years ago. Strasser's charm and loquacity made him the perfect servant. These years had been hard. He had traveled all over Europe and beyond, gathering followers, sewing the seeds of hate and destruction that he would later reap. He saw dimly his Great Work taking shape. The harvest of blood and death looming on the horizon was merely fuel for the greatest task of all, the opening of the portal. But ideologies were rising that championed violence and control, and soon the engine would churn on without his help. The girl was a just reward for all his hard work. She was so young and fragile behind that tough pose and the laughable uniform and she still had puppy fat clinging to her cheeks. All her thoughts were written clearly in her eyes, but Kroenen sensed something cruel and dark in her. Something he wanted. Most women were so tiresome, good for one night, and then they were used up, but he knew she would be different. She was so young--was she even ready for the burden his gods wanted to place on her? "Ilsa," he whispered to himself, tasting the name. It did not matter; either she would bear the burden or she would break.
 
A week later Strasser sat in her father's sitting room, sipping brandy with him for an hour. After they had spoken her father called her in, and Strasser asked if she would like to accompany him to Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg, playing at the Berlin Opera a few days hence. "I would offer Tristan und Isolde," he said, when he kissed her hand, "but I don't know if you can stand me for so long." I don't know if I could stand Wagner for so long, Ilsa thought, but it wouldn't do to criticize the most German of German composers. When Strasser came to pick her up on the appointed night, Ilsa wore her most fashionable dress. Her father told her how lovely she looked, even though Ilsa would have preferred slacks. He gave her a short lecture on her duty as his daughter, and saw her off. Strasser helped her into a long black automobile. Ilsa thought white would have suited him better, and she wondered if this car was borrowed, much as his influence was. He made genteel small talk between acts, but Ilsa could not concentrate either on him or the music. She felt a frisson of fear and excitement in her stomach the whole time. Would Strasser simply hand her over to Kroenen, like a paper-wrapped package? Would there be many of these charades before the true purpose was revealed? Or had she misread everything and Strasser was here for himself? As they walked down the Opera steps after, Strasser turned to her suddenly, and said, "You have a choice, Ilsa. To be as other women, a brood mare for the servants of the Fatherland, or you can bring forth something else entirely." His voice sounded harsh suddenly, very unlike the smooth tones he used to flatter her at the Opera. A puppet indeed, she thought. "Tell me," she said. Something told her that Strasser now was merely a conduit for the voice of his master. "You must come with me now," said Strasser, now in his own voice. "We will talk on the way."
 
She took his arm and they walked into the cool dark of the night. "What do you know of the Thule Society?" he asked. Ilsa snorted. "A bunch of superstitious old men? They see Jewish shadows around every corner. My father says--I mean, they waste energy fighting phantoms," she said. "Your father? He was denied membership. Perhaps once they were as you say," Strasser allowed, "but Dr. Kroenen has turned them into something more." He suddenly pinioned her arm against him. "Magic is real, Ilsa," he said in Kroenen's voice. Ilsa shivered and did not reply. Strasser continued talking, his enthusiasm was boyish, and he spoke of the coming days of glory for Germany, when magic and science would work together to allow Germany to triumph over its enemies. Ilsa had heard such political rhetoric before, and found it tedious. Strasser turned at a thick wooden door, and let them inside. A set of stairs went down into the darkeness, lit by gaslights set in sconces on the wall. Ilsa waved off Strasser's offer of an arm to help steady her. The stairs went down two flights to a small foyer with a door to each side. Strasser showed her into a dark and richly furnished sitting room on one side, and then knocked on the other one, and went in, closing it swiftly behind him. Ilsa thought she saw gleaming steel and red blood, but the door closed and the impression faded. Ilsa wandered the room. The bookshelves held tomes of which she had heard whispers, like the Maleus Maleficarium and stranger volumes still. Some bore titles written in characters that made her head ache. Presently Dr. Kroenen swept into the room. He wore a black enamel gas mask, and bloody rubber gloves that covered the sleeves of his black shirt. Ilsa felt these had been left on to gauge her reaction, and she tried to stay as blank as possible. Kroenen stripped off the gloves and handed them to Strasser, and then the mask.
 
Strasser bowed and left the room. Kroenen crossed over to where Ilsa stood by the bookshelves. He moved with authority and grace, and Ilsa remembered hearing that he was a master of the saber and epee and had never been defeated on a fencing field. He pulled down a volume, set it on a table and opened it in the middle, smoothing down the vellum with his hand. Ilsa noticed a fresh suture on the back of the hand; the black thread stood out harshly against his pale skin, and a trickle of blood seeped out around the stitches. She felt and odd stirring in her looking at the hand, and the blood, and the foreign script of the book. "Read," he commanded. It was the guttural voice she remembered from the ball, and later from Strasser's own mouth. "I don't know it," she protested. "Read," he said again. He took his hand away from the pages, and her eyes followed it, but then she brought her gaze back to the script. The language was none of this earth, but as she stared at it the sounds, if not the meaning, became clear in her head. She heard herself reading the syllables out loud. The room receded from her consciousness, and in front of her eyes grew the vision of a ruined church, and a beam of light shooting up to the sky. Her body felt energized with a dark power, and her voice grew louder in her ears, until finally Kroenen closed the book hard. It was like a clap of thunder and drew her back to herself with a start. "The script drives most mad," he said. "But not you." The words seemed like a caress. "And not me." "What about Strasser?" Ilsa asked. "Can he read it?" "Only if I read it through him," Kroenen answered. "He is nothing more than a renfield. But his social graces can be useful." Ilsa smiled at that. "There are certain rituals only a female can perform," he continued. "There are certain books only a female can read. I can't use a puppet woman. I don't know why." He frowned and rubbed his forehead. It was such a natural gesture, coming from a man whose every move was studied, that Ilsa had to smile again. "What do I get? What do I have to do?" she asked. "Power over life and death. Money. Freedom from, ah, society's expectations." He made a vaguely lewd gesture that seemed to suggest a female form. "And what do I have to do?" Ilsa asked. "Whatever is needed." Dr. Kroenen's face was blank. Ilsa thought for a moment and then she drew back. "I've heard about these rituals," she spat. "Virgin sacrifices, some strange sex thing." Kroenen smiled. "I don't think that is something you have to worry about," he said. She backed away from him behind a desk. On the desk was a letter opener in the shape of a dagger. She picked it up. "I don't want to be a whore for my father's fortune, and I don't want to be a whore for you!" she said. Kroenen stalked toward her, but the expression he made was amused. "I wouldn't dream of it," he said, advancing toward her but putting the desk between them. "If that's what I wanted, you would already be naked and waiting," he said, licking his lips.
 
Ilsa felt obscurely insulted, but continued to back away. Then he said a word. She couldn't understand it but her body could, and she froze in place. He came around to her side of the desk and held out his hand for the letter opener. His other one was resting on the desk, and Ilsa felt the spell weaken for a moment, and in that moment she stabbed down through his hand and into the desk. The sutures tore away and blood welled up around the wound. Ilsa put her hands to her mouth and backed away. Shit, was all she could think, I'm dead now. Kroenen looked down at his hand pinned to the desk and Ilsa saw and odd sort of smile on his face. He wrenched the letter opener out and examined his hand and the blood dripping freely down it. Ilsa watched fascinated as he caught a drop of blood from his finger with the tip of his tongue. His eyes caught hers, and she felt herself flushed and breathing hard. She told herself it was from the fear, and perhaps that was part of it, but beneath the fear was excitement. "This will be fun," Kroenen said, half to himself, "I had envisioned our agreement sealed in blood but not like this." Again that strange smile sat on his harsh features. "Your turn," he said. Ilsa stretched out her hand, and it was shaking. He took it in his bloody one, and Ilsa squeezed her eyes tight. If he put the blunt letter opener through her hand, she didn't know if she could keep from screaming, but a moment passed and no pain assaulted her so she opened her eyes again. Kroenen produced a scalpel from his shirt pocket and drew it along her inner arm, keeping his eyes fixed on hers. He pressed his bleeding hand to her arm, and she felt her whole world shift and settle into a new order. After a long moment he let go. "You'll know if you're required," he said, and she knew it was true. Some connection bound them now. Strasser escorted her home again, in the car he must have retrieved while she and Kroenen were talking. He said little, and Ilsa wondered if she now had the power to make a puppet of her own. Or to control this one. Her dreams that night were filled with strange tentacled creatures, and Kroenen in his mask. And behind him stood a bearded man she did not recognize, with eyes wild as John the Baptist's and a voice that seemed to call her home.
 
* * *
 
Title: Made in Hell (2/3) Pairing: Ilsa/Kroenen, sort of Rating: Hard R for sex, violence and torture (I would say NC-17, but I think the next one will be worse) Disclaimer: Characters belong to Mike Mignola and Guillermo Del Toro Feedback: pretty please with sugar on top (Email me!) Summary: This is the second in a series about Ilsa and Kroenen working together. In my version of their world, in 1930 Rasputin has yet to make an appearance. Leon Strasser was introduced in The Dueling Club but that's not necessary reading. Follows Chapter 1: Flirtation.
 
Chapter 2: Courtship
 
A few days later Strasser delivered package. The velvet box was heavy and he did not say whom it was from, but Ilsa knew. She opened it and within lay two thick bladed knifes and wrist sheathes for them. The straps were made of black leather. The blades sat on the inside of her wrists until the press of a button, when they slid forth with a satisfying click. When she put them on she wanted never to take them off. She wore long sleeves to hide them, but couldn't help releasing and sliding them back whenever she had a chance. She felt dangerous until she cut herself without thinking when she reached to brush her hair out of her face. When Strasser came by the next day, she showed him the cut on her arm. The cut from Kroenen's scalpel had healed quickly, but now she had another parallel to it from the knives. Ilsa searched Strasser's face for some reaction to the cut other than gallant concern, but there was none. He did offer to teach her how to wield the knives more carefully. Soon began a rhythm to her days of mornings spent in the gymnasium teaching her clumsy body how to fight with a foil, with knives, and with her hands. Under Strasser's tutelage she learned to shoot as well.
 
She spent afternoons reading books chosen, she supposed, by Kroenen: histories, political screeds, and obscure occult volumes. Without Kroenen, Strasser was a perfectly light companion, charming and courtly. Ilsa could not decide how conscious he was of being under Kroenen's thrall, and something kept her from asking. Even without a master's control, Strasser would have been a careless, forgetful man, the kind of playboy who slid through his life on beauty and charm. Kroenen gave him a fair degree of autonomy, or else he was busy elsewhere, for in the days and weeks that followed, Ilsa never heard Strasser speak in anything but his own voice. For a while Ilsa relished having this rich and golden man on her arm. She let him take her to the glittering dance halls and enjoyed her former school chums' shock at her good fortune. One even told her she had all thought Ilsa too clumsy and mannish to catch such a fine gentleman. But it did not take long for Ilsa to grow bored. She found herself searching Strasser's eyes for some hint of cold cruelty--she had to admit she longed for it. One night Strasser and Ilsa danced cheek-to-cheek at a club, to the sounds of muted trombones, and Ilsa snuggled up to him. She did it at first out of boredom, just to see what would happen. If his investment in his dilletante charade were as great as she thought, he would take the bait. She pressed her breasts into his chest and tilted her face up to his. All around them couples kissed, but Strasser seemed oblivious, and Ilsa sighed. She licked her lips and took one more deep breath to further enhance her dйcolletage, determined that if this did not work, she would simply grab the next passing man. Luckily Strasser took the hint, and bent his head to hers, giving her a full lipped kiss. So boring was the thought that leaped to her mind, but then she gave herself up to the sensation--sensual pleasure usually distracted her, at least for a little while. When they left the dance hall, he spoke little, in sharp contrast to his usual forgettable monologue. Ilsa could not tell who was home in his head. If anyone, she scoffed. Her body was aroused though, and she put her head on his shoulder as he drove her home, and he put his hand on her knee. The house was dark, and they tiptoed up to her bedroom. Her father was either dead asleep or out all night at a political meeting and he had never disturbed her trysts before. Strasser seemed content to take her lead. She pushed his suit jacket off his shoulders, and turned around for his help with the zipper. When she had her dress off and stood before him in her heels and stockings, she said to him, "Say something." Her stomach fluttered; what voice would she hear? "You're beautiful," he said softly.
 
His own voice, not Kroenen's and Ilsa could not say if she was disappointed or relieved. He took over then, and pushed her down on the bed. He kicked off the rest of his clothes, except his socks, and pushed her panties aside with his hand. Ilsa was not ready, so she rolled him over and sat on top of him. From above, she noticed, Strasser was lovely. Fencing gave him long, lean muscles, and she traced these with her fingers. She felt warm all over except where the knives still bound to her wrists chilled her skin. He pushed a finger and then two up inside of her, and she moved back and forward against him making herself ready. Finally she eased him inside of her, and sat for a moment, smiling her sweetest smile at him in the dim light. Damn Kroenen, she thought, I hope he pulls this memory out of you. I hope he chokes on it. She rocked back and forth, and he held onto her hips, guiding her motion, but he did not seem to be in any hurry, and neither was she. As she let her mind grow blank she felt some kind of magic stirring, like she had in Kroenen's study when she read the strange script. At first she thought it was Strasser's master coming to take him over, and she froze, but no, this came from somewhere within her. Suddenly the knowledge from all the books she had been reading fell into place. She felt the magickal power generated by the sex, and felt her mind and body gathering it and storing it. It felt good, but not good enough, and she knew with some unerring instinct what would make it better. Blood. Blood or death. Before she could think about it, she pressed the levers that loosed the knives and drew two furrows down Strasser's perfect chest. She could see under his skin the veins and arteries, bones and nerves--the map of his life. She wondered if Kroenen saw this in everyone, if that's why he was such a gifted surgeon. Blood welled out of his chest in wide rivulets and orgasm broke over her. Strasser spasmed once and then fell back, his mouth open in a silent scream. She felt like cup full to overflowing with the liquid power. Without speaking she commanded Strasser to bind his chest and leave, and he obeyed like a zombie. She added a little threat to keep him from getting blood in her father's house, and he gathered up his clothes and left. She heard the car pull away.
 
When she looked at herself in the mirror her blue eyes had gone dark, pupils dilated and almost covering the iris. She waved her fingers and saw the glass ripple. Ilsa noticed that some of Strasser's blood had covered her hands and arms, and there were some splashes on her legs, but she did not want to wash it off. She wrapped her nakedness in a long coat, and went out the door into the cool night. Steam rose off her as she walked. She felt the potential of the night, the dark shadows and threats of violence that lived within each person she passed. Two men riding in a car together passed her and broke into a vicious argument. She could feel it when they crashed into the side of a house a few blocks later. She could feel it add to her power. She moved through the city like some female Loki, spreading dark fire where she went. It had not been very long, no more than an hour, since she and Strasser had left the dance hall, and now they were just starting to close. Couples and men alone, drunk and horny, spilled out onto the streets. She called one of the men to her with the crook of a finger. He thought he was going to have her against the stones between two buildings, but she left him there, unsatisfied and bleeding out his life's blood onto the damp pavement, and the tide of power carried her onward. Five hundred miles away in Italy Kroenen sat in an empty hotel room. He had set certain events in motion that would bear fruit, and now he merely awaited the rising sun and the train back to Berlin. A girl's dead body lay in the bed behind him. She had not been as good company as he had hoped. He left just enough life in her to send her walking out of the hotel, but soon after she would be a corpse. He kept his mask on, so even if she found someone to talk to before the end, he would not be blamed. Kroenen paced back and forth in front of the window. He never slept, and even if he had, this would have jarred him awake. He felt the tether he had to Strasser shudder and break, and the power that flowed in from his link to Ilsa make him lose his balance.
 
She was not his slave, and he could not feel what she felt, nor see what she saw, like he could with Strasser, but he knew she had come into her power. He had not expected it so soon. Then he frowned. What had happened to Strasser? He reached out through the link and felt only a blank. Was this Ilsa's doing? The next day Ilsa slept until evening. She awoke when she felt a tugging within her chest, a summons, and she knew where to go. Some man she did not recognize opened Kroenen's door, and led her wordlessly down into the study. She looked at the books in the bookshelf, and could now understand every title. One kept drawing her eyes back. It was a diary with Russian writing on the spine, but within the script were the strange characters that before she could read but not understand. She started to turn the pages, faster and faster. She jumped when Kroenen came in, again wearing bloody gloves and his mask, which he took off and laid on his desk. "I'm told the Berlin police have three unsolved murders from last night," he said when he came in. Ilsa shrugged. "If you don't care to keep a low profile, I can keep you locked up and out of trouble." He smiled--a bland smile, but it looked frightening on his cadaverous features. "And if that doesn't work, I can think of more inventive ways to keep you under control." Ilsa had visions of herself under his scalpels and bone saws and shuddered. "I've patched up Strasser," he continued. "That's not his blood," she said. She could not say how, but she could feel, even across the room that the blood on his gloves belonged to someone else. She itched to rub it into her hands, to taste it. "I had hoped to be there for your first time," he said with a leer. She made a disgusted face, but he affected not to notice. "I'm sorry it had to be sex that awoke your powers. After all that protesting." "This book," she said, changing the subject, and trying not to blush. "I think this holds a key to the Great Work." "What do you know of that?" he asked.
 
She made a dismissive gesture. "Certain things have . . . become clear, or at least clearer. The forces that give us power, they long to be loosed." He nodded, and she continued. "Within this book is someone, or something, who understands them better than either of us." Kroenen frowned, and his eyes grew blank for a moment before he nodded. "This is truth," he said. "You need me for this." She held the book out to him, and he opened it, grimaced and then closed it quickly again. "I do," he admitted. "I cannot read this. This book hid itself in my library for five years, and yet it jumped out at you. Yes, the Work needs you. But now you need it, too. There is no walking away. Read it, and let me know what you learn," he commanded and turned to go. "Oh and Ilsa, my dear," he said, as he paused at the door, "please leave Strasser out of your little games for now. I don't think he can keep up with you." "What am I supposed to do then?" she asked angrily. "I'm hungry!" She had not meant to sound so desperate, but she felt it, a gnawing emptiness somewhere deeper than her stomach, a craving. "I can teach you. It just takes control. Control and someone who can take more damage." Before she could react he opened the door and left. She haunted his library, which continued into the catacombs beneath the building. She had never been a bookish girl, but understanding the Russian diary had become an obsession with her. One of Kroenen's silent servants provided her with notebooks and pens, and fetched food and drink for her. She slept one night curled up on one of his couches and woke to find a blanket draped over her. Sometimes she heard screams from room across the hall she would go and press her hand to the door, gathering the scraps of power that escaped. One day she saw Strasser, and he bowed and kissed her hand as if nothing had happened. She used her newfound powers to press in against his mind, but Kroenen had wiped the incident from him, and he remembered nothing.
 
The blood Kroenen spilled in his laboratory only served to whet her appetite though, and by the end of the week she was shaky with need. "Report," he commanded, as he did every day when he visited. "No," she said. "I'm missing . . . you can't just expect me to taste power like that and give it up." She knew she sounded petulant but did not care. I didn't expect you to drink so deeply," he countered. She pouted and stamped her foot and his lips twitched with amusement. "Come with me." She followed him into his laboratory. A body of indeterminate gender was strapped down on an operating table, covered with a translucent shroud. Kroenen handed her a surgeon's mask and put back on his gas mask. "Infection is the greatest risk," he said. "To them or us?" Ilsa asked. Kroenen turned his head toward her. Ilsa found herself resenting the way she could not read his expressions, but he seemed more at ease with his face so covered. Something in the relaxed way he moved made Ilsa think this was his true home. "To him," Kroenen said, exasperated. "His open wounds leave him vulnerable to infection." "But you're just going to kill him," Ilsa protested. "Not so. See here."
 
He beckoned her to come closer to the prone form and lifted up the covering. Ilsa had been subconsciously looking away from this torture scene, but now she steeled herself and walked over. The limbs all had multiple sutured seams running their lengths, except one leg whose flesh was laid open to the bone. Ilsa looked in and saw a steel rod fused to the femur with wires that went into the knee and hip joints. Her eyes went wide and Kroenen nodded slightly and covered the leg with a plastic sheet. "You probably don't want to see the face then," he said, amused. Ilsa could see nothing but a red mass behind the translucent sheet covering the figure's head, and was grateful she could see no more. She swallowed convulsively a few times. "What . . . what is this for?" she asked when she thought she could trust her voice. The words still came out thickly. Her love affair with blood was borne of sex and passion; this cold precision seemed too detached for her, and some still-human part of her rebelled at the sight of this person slowly being turned to a machine. "He's not feeling any pain, if that's what worries you," said Kroenen, still in that indulgent tone. "Pain causes shock, shock can cause death, and I want him alive, after a fashion." Ilsa rubbed at her thigh with her hand reflexively; the image of the surgery in progress was still burned into her mind. Kroenen walked over to the wood paneling on one wall and pushed it in with his fingertips. It sprang back and revealed a tunnel going off under the earth, a twin to the one on the library side of the building. Ilsa saw a dim glow emanating from the space behind. She stepped closer and saw row upon row of large tanks of liquid, each with some humanoid creature within. The creatures had odd metal attachments in their arms and faces, and were covered with the seams of surgery. "Six hundred and sixty-six," whispered Kroenen. "Eventually." "Why?" asked Ilsa. "The number is symbolic." "No . . . why do it at all?" "It is an army. To protect the fatherland, to do the master's will." The words sounded rote to Ilsa's ears, like something he had said countless times before, but Kroenen tended to speak in monotone, and she could not be sure. "This gives you power?" she asked. She could feel no magic in this room, only the chill embrace of science. "No hot blood spilling over your hand, no thrill of the chase, just this?" She started to lower her surgical mask, and his hand shot out, faster than thought, and caught her arm before she could complete the motion. Ilsa rolled her eyes and wrenched her arm out of his grasp. His fingers felt like they had metal running through them, and she could feel where each one had bruised her. "If that's what you want," he said, "it can be arranged." He had produced a scalpel from somewhere and was now twirling it between his fingers. "You must be more careful though. Although, your murder of the Party secretary's son did turn out to be fortuitous. We're just deciding now whether to blame the Jews or the Communists." Ilsa looked down at her feet. She felt like a child in trouble with her parents and saying "oops" did not quite seem adequate. Kroenen wagged a finger at her. "You should have some idea of who your victims are. This man--" he gestured at the body on the operating table "--was a Russian, a suspected Communist, and no one will miss him." "I will, I'll be careful," she said eagerly. "Hmmm." Kroenen considered for a moment, still toying with the blade. "I suppose you may go out and find your prey," he said finally. "But only if I come with you."
 
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Title: Made in Hell: Consummation (3/3) Pairing: Ilsa/Kroenen Rating: NC-17 for just about everything (violence, torture, self-injury, very kinky sex, S&M) Disclaimer: Characters belong to Mike Mignola and Guillermo Del Toro
Feedback: pretty please with sugar on top (Email me!) Summary: After teasing you people for 6000 words in the previous chapters, this is it. It mostly stands alone, but also follows Chapter 1: Flirtation and Chapter 2: Courtship. In my version of their world Kroenen is human in 1930, not yet immortal and still without the facial surgery. The Story So Far: Ilsa has found she likes to kill for power, Kroenen insists on supervising. Interlude (2004)
 
 
Ilsa still remembered each time as if it were yesterday. The frenzied nightly couplings with Grigori had faded into a mélange of pleasure in her memories, but no one stood out. It had only been a few times with Karl, and never after Grigori, but she could remember every moment.
 
She looked at him sharply, and the ever-present tick tick tick of his clockwork seemed louder. She wondered if he were directing her thoughts, as he had done in the past when training her. He could never completely take her over, but he had subtler controls at his disposal and had led her when she let him. No, Grigori had severed that bond with his last coming. Karl came to her as a supplicant now, though he tried not to admit it. His vision was still stuck in the Germany of yesteryear, all his thoughts still bent on a thousand-year Reich. What was sixty years of ignominy for a nation that would live millennia? Ilsa idly wondered if he still bore the scars she gave him, or if they were subsumed under the years of tinkering with the sand and clockwork body his gods had given him. That first scar on his hand, from her angry stab with the letter opener, that was gone with his hand to some other dimension. Or no, that was gone earlier, when he had flayed that hand to the bone. For his improvements he said . . . or was it his own version of Van Gogh's ear? Idle thoughts . . . Ilsa tried to bend her mind back to studying. Perhaps he still bore the scar on his shoulder. He had placed her hand and her knife there, and showed her the way. Chapter 3: Consummation (1930) "Strasser is still, ah, lessened, and I need a companion for tonight's event," he said to her. "You rather need a keeper," she muttered. As she expected he said nothing. He seemed inordinately cheery, and that frightened her more than anything that had happened to her yet. The things that made Kroenen happy made most shudder in horror, and Ilsa fought a shiver that crept over her skin. She was excited, and it wasn't just fear. She tried to tell herself that it was simply like looking at a train wreck, but her interest was nothing so wholesome. He flexed his arm, probed at it through his shirt, and seemed to grimace a little. "It didn't work," he said under his breath. His hand came away lightly stained with blood. "What is it?" asked Ilsa. "I need to fix something," he said dismissively. "Go get a dress to wear." Ilsa walked closer instead. "Can I help?" she asked. She wasn't sure she wanted to or whether he would accept. "You won't enjoy it," he said, but beckoned her along anyway. Men, thought Ilsa. She followed him into a different laboratory, this one not, thankfully, tenanted.
 
He sat down at a workbench and rolled up his sleeve. His skin was milk white and seamed with red scars, and protruding from his arm was a piece of steel. Ilsa fought the urge to recoil. "I need to fix this. It worked on number 212. I don't know what happened here." Ilsa's eyes grew wide. "You do to yourself what you do to them?" she asked in a whisper. "The human body is so frail," he replied. "An unfit servant to the will that commands it. I merely make some additions." He drew one of his ever-present scalpels out of his breast pocket and widened the cut in his arm. His face showed very little reaction, but Ilsa saw beads of sweat stand out on his upper lip. "I have to go into the hand a bit to reattach the wires. Can you please hold it down?" Kroenen said lightly. Ilsa looked at him sharply. He sighed. "There are some autonomic responses I am not able to control. Yet. Reflexes." Ilsa complied. His hand was very cold. He made three expert cuts, and his hand jumped lightly in Ilsa's. She could see the wires within, curled around bone and tendon. At his request she fetched him more wire and pliers. She tried to emulate his light and emotionless tone, but found it difficult. At times she had to turn away, and at times she caught herself staring at his face--he furrowed his brow sometimes with concentration, and his pulse seemed to be higher, but, for all that, he could have been cutting into someone else, not the limb attached to his own body. Finally Kroenen seemed satisfied with his repairs. Kroenen asked Ilsa to hold the edges of the wound together while he sewed. He took his time and made neat little stitches that would do a seamstress proud. Ilsa bit back a hysterical giggle at the mental picture of him hemming a lady's dress rather than suturing his own flesh. He finished the last stitch and Ilsa pulled her hands back. The fingers on her right hand were bloody, and, without thinking, she licked the blood off her index finger. She stopped the moment she realized what she was doing, but then she looked at Kroenen and saw the dark, speculative look in his eyes. The atmosphere was suddenly thick with tension. "Go," he said quietly. "Get ready for this evening."
 
There was a promise in his expression that Ilsa could not help returning. She did not want to leave now, not with all this potential ripe in the air, but she turned to go. Ilsa met him at the banquet hall wearing her favorite black dress. The waist was cinched and the skirt blossomed out to emphasize her strong hips and thighs, those most German of attributes. This was the same dress she had worn for Strasser, and when she put it on she felt a hint of the blood and sex from that night still clinging to it. They walked in arm-in-arm, and before a moment had passed men and women started approaching her, making introductions, passing her gifts, begging her to pass along a request to the estimable doctor. Through some link to him she knew who to dance with, who deserved her attention and who did not, who she should string along if they asked for an assignation and who should be rejected. She drank little, but felt drunk anyway on the eddies of power that whorled around her. She had never been this close to so much of it. It was amusing to let people think that she and Kroenen were some kind of item.
 
The shock of seeing him with a woman made some of the guests lose their composure and reveal more than they wished. "Now I suppose you want your reward," he said as he prepared to leave, after he had spoken with everyone he needed to and sewed the seeds for the next crop of political shifts. Merely making eye contact with him made her pulse race and her face heat with the promise from earlier in the evening that remained between them, unfulfilled. "Yes, yes I do," she said breathlessly. "Any of the young men over there are safe," he said, gesturing at a gaggle of twenty-something men lingering near the punch bowl. "But they're true Germans," she protested, "Aryan, Party members." He drew her hand to his lips in a parting gesture. "I would not have you sully yourself with anything less," he said, and walked down the stairs away from her. Ilsa couldn't work out whether to feel insulted or flattered, but she pushed the question out of her mind and went to mingle with the blond youths indicated by Kroenen. A few shied away from her, scared, she supposed, after seeing her keeping Kroenen's company, but one young man, Peter, happily accepted her attention. She easily persuaded him to join her in the alley behind the hall, where she kissed him with growing urgency. He hiked up her skirt but before he could do anything else, she extended her knives and pinned him to the clammy stone wall behind him. She touched his mind enough to keep him quiet and started to put the knives to his neck, his arms, his chest. Blood flowed through his shirt, staining the white red, and his eyes grew wide with terror. A miasma of blood and sex filled the air around her and she drank it in. Just as she was about to finish it, she saw a figure beyond the alley. In her euphoric state she did not stop to panic, instead preparing to enthrall and kill this man, too, but as he came closer she saw the bug-like glass lenses of Kroenen's mask, and recognized his graceful walk.
 
She watched him as she killed the boy. He came over and looked down at the blood covering her hand, and she took her other hand and placed it on the cheek of the mask for just a moment. He pulled back as if even such tenderness as this were alien to him. "It didn't last long enough," she said, wiping her hands on the boy's jacket. "I got bored, or he stopped giving me power." Kroenen reached out with a leather-gloved hand and took her wrist, the wrist that still had a knife extended from it. He lifted it slowly to him and let the point rest gently against his shoulder. "I can show you how," he said. They did not speak in the car, as if speaking would break the spell, derail them from the path they traveled. Some spell held her suspended between strong attraction and an equally deep repulsion, and she felt she could scarcely breath. When they reached his house, he took her red-stained hand and led her in through a different door, upstairs to a small bedroom. Ilsa shivered as she passed over the threshold. Had she been expecting this? Hoping for it? Was she even here of her own free will? She wasn't sure.
 
He took off his gloves and hat and reached to take off the mask, but Ilsa came behind him and helped him undo the straps that held it in place. She cradled it gently in her hands and placed it on a table. He seemed paralyzed so she started unbuttoning his shirt for him. "Show me," she whispered. He finished taking it off and backed toward the bed with Ilsa following. She was scared to look at his eyes, so she looked at his scar-covered torso instead. Most of them seemed to be from knife cuts, except a bullet scar on his upper arm. Some looked brand-new and some decades old. He leaned down to her and touched his lips to hers just briefly before he lay back on the bed. Ilsa got up on top of him; part of her still recoiled at touching him, and her skin crawled, but the rest of her moved inexorably forward. She could feel his eyes searching her face but still kept hers lowered. She followed where his hands pointed her, slowly drawing shallow lines with her knife. The room was silent except the sound of their breathing. "Just a little of your blood will make it better," he said with a wicked smile. His torso was covered in shallow cuts. She opened her mouth to protest, but some curiosity kept her silent. He much stronger than his leanness suggested and he rolled her onto her back effortlessly. "Just once," she said. She wanted to sound firm and in control, but she half-gasped the words instead. She flinched as his scalpel broke the skin of her neck. She half expected him to drink it from her like some peasant vampire, but he licked off the scalpel instead. She could feel his growing urgency at the sight of her blood, but did not want to be trapped under him--he had enough control lying on his back. She forced him back over with a sharp smile and a knife at his throat. He was right: the power in the room was greater now, with her blood and his mingled. She licked her lips as if she tasted chocolate on them, her consciousness started to give way to the trance state in which she killed. She held him down and continued undressing him with little nicks and cuts wherever she passed. She was about to push him inside of her when he sat up and grabbed he wrist and said "cut me deeper," in a harsh whisper. Ilsa did not like to be brought back to reality, so she looked blank for a moment. "Enough teasing," he said, "give me a real cut. Leave a scar I'll always have."
 
He guided her hips onto him and pulled her wrist toward his shoulder. He drew a line down his bicep with one finger and nodded for her to follow with her knife. "To the bone," he commanded. She did as she was told, and a wave of magical power filled her as she made the cut. The blood filled her vision as it spilled out over her hand and the blade. He pulled her hips hard against him, and was done. When her trance of pleasure and bloodlust receded she looked down at him, at the satiated expression on his face. She could see bone in the cut in his shoulder, and she thought she was going to be sick. She got up shakily, ran out of the room. She wanted to get the memory of his face and his body out of her head, and worse, the memory of her willing participation and enjoyment. She scrubbed the blood off her hands and face in the bathroom. Her legs shook like jelly, and her face in the mirror was ashen. In her own blue eyes she saw only his, mocking and hungry for more.
 
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