Title: Until then my soul it burns
Fandom: American Horror Story: Murder House
Pairing: Tate Langdon/Violet Harmon
Characters: Tate Langdon, Violet Harmon, Moira O'Hara, Michael, Billie Dean Howard, with mentions of Constance Langdon, Vivian Harmon, Ben Harmon and others.
Disclaimer: American Horror Story belongs to Ryan Murphy and company. The title comes from "The Halcyon Days" by The Tea Party.
Prompts: Written for GinHermi for Round One at AHS-Exchange. See the original post for the full prompt. (http://ahs-exchange.livejournal.com/9511.html)
Notes: The first half of the story is really a character piece about Tate but it develops into Tate/Violet. Ben Harmon is in this story but only by mention and he's not portrayed very sympathetically. There's also an appearance of Michael in this story.
Summary: Fifteen years or so have passed since the Harmons died in the house, Violet's starting to forget who she is. Tate wanders the house trying to find his place.
Warnings: Murder, mention of Vivian's rape and a reference to Vivian forgiving Tate.
Word Count: 3731
If he had been alive, he would have been in his fifties or close to it by now. Sometimes things like the passage of time gets a little hazy. He only knows that he's been stuck at seventeen for thirty or so years because Constance takes great delight in reminding him. He was a waste of life at seventeen, throwing away his gifts forever for no good reason. Tate doesn't begin to tell her that he threw it all away because he had wanted to escape her, partly because if he's quiet and doesn't respond to her, she'll leave him alone sooner and mainly because it doesn't work to tell her anything. Constance always tells him how his son, her precious darling Michael won't wind up how he did. Tate doesn't tell her that Michael's going to end up worse than he ever did. Michael somehow manages to hide his transgressions rather well but Tate knows that he's up to much worse than Tate ever was. He's not sure how he knows, he just does. At least, Tate had the excuse of anger, hate and drugs alongside the evil in the house that had crawled into his brain.
In the end though, Tate cannot find it in himself to really care about Constance or Michael. No doubt his lack of concern is just more fodder for the likes of Dr. Harmon in his never ending campaign of labelling Tate as a psychopath. Tate wonders if the good doctor realizes that Tate's read enough of the doctor's books to realize that Dr. Harmon falls into the psychopath category as well. A psychopath doesn't necessarily have to have killed someone or even had the desire to kill someone to be a psychopath. Tate thinks that the good doctor is more of one than he is himself. Tate at least knows that he is unstable. He admits to his multitude of sins. He doesn't whitewash them (or build a gazebo over them) while trying to pretend that death has given him a chance to play the loving husband and father that he never was in life. Everyone can see through the act but Dr. Harmon.
It might be why the Harmon family has faded into some sort of limbo within the confines of the house. Moira and Tate seem to be the only constants in the house. The other ghosts, Violet and her family included, seem to exist in some sort of limbo, only coming out when the house needs them to act. Currently the house is empty, slowly falling into neglected disrepair. It doesn't help that when Marcy died, no one really wanted to take up the challenge of selling the infamous Murder House. Whenever Marcy manages to escape her slumber, she bemoans the fact that the realtors that come out aren't playing the house's strengths up enough. Tate finds it amusing that Marcy died in the house that she had hated so much. Does his amusement in the irony of Marcy's fate make him evil? Or does it simply make him more human? She hadn't been concerned enough to save the Harmons, especially Vivian and Violet.
For Tate, everything always comes back to Moira and Constance, Nora, Vivian and Violet. Four of them he sees them as maternal figures and the other anything but. The house has given him a mother in the form of Nora when Constance had proved so unworthy. Tate couldn't have known that the house was grooming him, preparing him for the future, paving the way for Michael. (The house is a living, breathing entity, it's more than brick and wood held together by mortar and nails. It's a thing, a malevolent one at that.) Everything that Tate has done, he had done for Constance and Nora, and neither of them quite appreciated it, it was never enough. But the house gave him Vivian's forgiveness. How could she see what her daughter and husband can't is beyond Tate's understanding. They'll never be anything trite as friends but she's absolved him of his guilt. Maybe he's not the quite the psychopath as advertised. Maybe he's just a fucked up little boy that evil found a way inside where it ate at him and manipulated him into committing terrible acts. Yet Tate knows that those horrible acts were always inside of his mind, even without the house.
Vivian can see how the house promised him someone to love and someone to love him in return if he had just committed one more atrocity, one more sin, one more murder. She can see how Constance rejected him, how Nora couldn't see him once he grew big enough to be a half-boy, half-man creature at seventeen. She'll never be able to look at him without some revulsion but she forgives him, sees that he's just another victim of the house. Vivian is the one that leads him back to Moira before she becomes dormant like so many of the ghosts in the house have.
Moira has always been protective of him, even when he had been a small child. When she had first disappeared, he had hated her for leaving him. He had no reason to not believe Constance's lies. And then when he had died (suicide by cop, according to the wonderful delusional doctor, it's another sign of his psychopathy), Moira was aged. He had barely understood the house (not that he claims to now, but he has grasped a few of the rules) so he had loathed her still. Strangely enough, it had been Dr Harmon's psycho girlfriend who had helped him to understand. With Vivian's forgiveness, he and Moira become closer. Maybe the fact that Moira had never forgotten, she had served her sentence without a strand of obsession and maybe the fact that they were the only two ghosts who never went dormant after the Harmons' drew them closer. Moira never lost sight of what he was, even if Tate had no idea of what he was. But Moira cared for him, guided him and made sure that he didn't succumb to the house once more.
Time passes slowly in the house. It's hazy and indistinct, even for Moira and Tate. When you're dead, time really doesn't matter anymore because it is the one commodity that you have endless quantities of. However they both measure it. Moira in her never ending list of chores as she battles against the dirt, grime and neglect that threaten to overtake the house. Tate keeps track of time with all of Violet's rejections for him. Time treads ever so slowly, punctuated by Constance's semi-regular visits where she gloats. She gloats to him and to Moira about her darling Michael, her reward for all that she's suffered because of them. It seems unfair that Constance is rewarded while he's still on the outside looking in when it comes to Violet. Moira cares but it's not the same.
And then two things happen to change everything.
Two things happen to change the status quo of the house, of his very existence.
The first is that Violet begins to forget who and what she is. He supposes that she still knows that she's Violet Harmon but only in the most vaguest of senses and an abstract way. It's as if she's that girl newly arrived from Boston with her family that's in tatters. That girl who tricked him into thinking that she's fierce and fearless before he knew that underneath the facade, she's really just a scared little girl. She looks at him in confusion one day when she discovers him in her father's office. Not that it's really Ben Harmon's office anymore. It hasn't been in a very long time.
"What are you doing here?" Violet demands.
For a moment, he expects her to tell him to get out, to go away but she stands there, her arms folded over her chest, her left foot tapping a rhythm against the floor while she waits for an answer. Tate isn't quite sure what to say.
"I talk to your dad sometimes," Tate replies. He simply omits the fact that he hasn't spoken to Dr. Harmon in years. The last time must have been over five years ago.
"Well he's not in and you shouldn't be here."
Her voice is ice cold and he wants to tell her that there was a time when she would have dragged him upstairs to her room in spite of parental edicts. However he merely nods in agreement and leaves the room. It's annoying in how she follows him to the front door. He actually has to step over the threshold and it makes him ill to do so but Violet closes the door on his face. He can hear the audible click of the lock turning and Tate thinks that maybe he should have made a point of asking her where the good doctor is instead of just complying to her demands. But he's always had a difficult time with telling her no. Even now, when she looks at him like he's some freak stranger.
He tells Moira later about it. "I think that she is forgetting everything."
Moira doesn't ask who, she barely looks up from the floors that she's scrubbing. He wonders who supplies the endless gallons of white vinegar that she uses to clean the house. He doesn't wonder why she bothers. That, at least, he knows.
"It happens," Moira flatly says.
Her voice is brusque, dismissive even but he doesn't leave. Instead he continues. Who else will listen to him?
"Not quite like this. She still thinks that she is alive."
"You did at times."
"Not really, not for long anyhow, not with Constance," Tate sneers as her name falls out of his mouth, "Not with her around all of the time to remind me."
"Use it to your advantage then," Moira suggests.
Her words shock him. There are ghosts in his house that he'd expect this from. They would either think that he'd manipulate Violet or that would tell him to do so. But Moira isn't one of those ghosts. She rises from the floor, wiping her hands on her pristine apron. He wonders if losing Violet's parents and baby brother to the house, to the dormancy is what has made her look more sad and haggard than before. He's never really notices it and it makes him sad that she's lost so much. And that she keeps paying for his father's sin.
"If she's forgetting, then let her forget. Take what you can while you can."
"And when she remembers?" Tate darkly asks.
"Who knows?" Moira responds with a shrug. "But it's better to take what you can while you can."
She had grabbed what little happiness that she could when she had been welcomed into the happy Harmon family. It had only lasted for a few years, two or three, maybe four, before the older Harmons had slowly started fading away, only coming out to scare those who had tried to live in the house. Tate suspects that the house doesn't want anyone new in it, or at least not yet.
He mulls over Moira's words. Should he take that brief moment of happiness, always worrying that Violet will remember or should he remain unsatisfied and unhappy? He has the feeling that no matter what he decides, he'll wind up alone and miserable with nothing but Violet's eternal rejection of him. Time might be indistinct but living on the outside looking in is still a very lonely existence.
Sometimes Violet seems on the verge of remembering something, but she seems stuck in some sort of loop. Moira has told her that her parents have gone away. It's vague and Violet seems to think that they're on some sort of antiquing weekend road trip. The only problem is that it's always the first day that her parents are gone, she never seems to remember waking up and asking Moira where her parents are.
"Is it normal for someone to keep forgetting like she has?"
Tate's voice is low and desperate. He's seen some of the others forget that they're dead but never anything like this. Moira looks at him like he's some sort of idiot. Maybe he is.
"Everyone's different. Look at Thaddeus and Nora."
"But Nora remembers that Thaddeus is her son."
"Most of the time."
Moira sighs. "I don't know Tate. Things have been different since the Harmons."
She tactfully doesn't say the word died but it hangs heavy in the air between them. Death seems to be the one word that none of them ever feel comfortable saying.
"How long has it been?" Tate asks.
He knows how long it's been but he wants confirmation because sometimes it only seems like a few months ago. Moira sets a cup of tea down in front of him. It's some sort of herbal tea that tastes like she's boiled some of the weeds from the back yard. He takes a sip and tries not to grimace at the bitter taste. Why she insists on serving it to him, he'll never know.
"Fifteen years, maybe sixteen," Moira finally says.
He's still trying to figure out how to proceed with Violet. She has dragged him up to her room one day to listen to music. It reminds him of the first time that he had been back in her room after she had first moved into the house. It reminds of him of how everything started to fall apart in the first place because of this house, because of Nora, because of Constance, because of all the little traps that he'd created for himself in his delusions that he didn't really mean to hurt those kids. (He did. No matter what he tells himself, he wanted those kids to hurt just like he did because it didn't seem fair that he should be the only person who hurts quite like this.)
His life narrows down to just Violet. Although it could be argued that has been the case for a very long time, in fact since she first entered the house. But there's no one interested in arguing with him. There are days when Violet likes him and they waste the days away talking like they used to. Other days she doesn't trust him and Tate thinks that maybe she shouldn't trust him. Yet he wants her to trust him. He wants those idyllic days where they would lay on her bed together, limbs entwined while they watched the sunlight travel along the floor and the walls of the room. Tate knows that no matter what Moira says, they'll never get back to that place again.
The second thing happens when Constance's pet psychic bursts into the house. For a brief moment, he gets stuck on the thought that the word psychic and psycho are so similar. Tate can't remember her name. He just remembers that he doesn't like her. She's the one who made Constance think that she could harness the power of the Murder House for her own personal gain. Not that the psychic had needed to give Constance reason to believe in that. Tate knows Constance well enough to know that she only needs someone to enable her, someone to make her feel that her crazy ideas are attainable. The psychic gave Constance the fuel to feel that she could harness the house's energy. Tate thinks that she should worry that the psychic is here but it's Constance, no doubt his mother is up to her old tricks again.
"You have to do something!"
He suddenly remembers that her name is Billie Dean.
"I'm dead. I don't have to do anything," Tate tells her.
He finds it ironic that she's here. She had helped Constance to poison Violet against him. He wonders if Constance has sent her here to fuck him up somehow. He wouldn't put it past Mommy Dearest.
"That abomination of a child needs to be stopped.
"So," Tate says. It's not as if he can leave this house. It's not as if he really cares about Constance's golden-haired perfect child.
"You need to stop it ."
Tate doesn't really see how this affects him at all. Moira enters the room. She doesn't care for Billie Dean either. Tate wonders if the psychic's talented enough to know what Constance really thinks about her. He doubts it. He doubts that she's even psychic.
"And how you do propose that he does that?" Moira asks, her voice prim and proper and full of icy disdain.
"He's the cause of that thing , he should stop it."
Tate doesn't have much of an opinion about Michael. The boy has always been Constance's, never his even if he is the father. Billie Dean goes off on some rant about how Michael's the antichrist. That the child is full of pure evil. Tate doesn't doubt any of what she says but he doesn't really care. He's dead. Everyone in this house is dead. Why should any of them care about the antichrist or an evil teenager. The kid's been raised by Constance, the kid never really had a chance.
"Go away," Tate finally says.
He walks away and climbs the stairs to Violet's room. It used to be his room and sometimes he thinks that he can still smell the faint scent of his death in the room. It's Heaven and Hell but Violet's there. She smiles at him and he enters the room. They wind up on her bed, listening to her ipod. She doesn't have any of the music that he had loved. She seems stuck on the 1980s: the Smiths, the Cure, Depeche Mode. All the music that a certain type of girl listens to. But he doesn't mind. He'd listen to anything if it meant that he could lie on her bed in this room with their limbs entwined, safe in the knowledge that he loves her and she loves him.
"Sometimes Tate, I have these horrible dreams that I am dead. That we're all dead in this house."
He doesn't know what to say. The truth? A lie? Either way it'll just end up hurting her. He pulls her closer, wrapping his arms around her and presses a chaste kiss on her clothed shoulder. They lay there for hours still as corpses. Their bodies are heavy and warm and he has a hard time remembering that he's dead when he feels so solid with Violet pressed against him. He wonders how things might have been if he'd met her when he'd still been alive, when he'd still been in track, before his mother had gotten her lover to kill his brother, and before Larry's family had died because of Constance. Maybe he'd be almost fifty and alive.
He doubts it though.
The moment ends far too soon for him. Even if it lasted for a day or longer. And soon enough Michael darkens the door. Tate is in the kitchen lost in his thoughts when Michael appears. With one look, Tate can tell that regardless of his conception, Michael is all Constance. There's no Vivian in him, no Tate in him. Just Constance and her hate, finely honed.
"Hello Dad," Michael says, his voice dripping with venom, his lips curved upwards in a smirk.
Moira and Violet enter the kitchen, almost as if his thoughts call them there. They stand behind him, as if he's supposed to protect them.
"The maid and my sister," Michael says with a viscous smirk.
"Go away!" Violet shouts, her voice is only slightly unhinged and Tate's proud of her.
"That only works on the dead, sis," Michael tells her.
"What do you want?" Tate finally asks.
He can feel Violet shivering in Moira's arms. It makes him angry. Michael only smiles in a way that makes Tate think of sharp razor blades and sharks. It reminds him of Constance. For the first time, Tate finds himself wanting to protect instead of destroying something. He knows that Michael is here only to destroy, to tear apart what little peace of mind Tate has managed to salvage in this house.
"I just thought that I'd come on over and pay a visit to my dear old dad. Not that you're really old," Michael says. "That must be a bitch. Forever a teenager."
Michael barks out a laugh.
"I'm not really interested."
Michael's lips twist and he steps closer to Tate. He can feel his skin crawling and he thinks that maybe Billie Dean is right about the need to destroy Michael.
"I don't care what you want," Tate says.
"Tate," Moira says, her voice heavy and dark.
Tate steps forward, closing the distance between him and Michael. He moves lightening fast, his hands are around Michael's neck. The boy's eyes widen but he's slow to react. Tate breaks Michael's neck and it's as if the house sighs as the life fades away in Michael's eyes. The house feels different somehow when Violet's hand slips into his own.
"I don't think that we need to worry about him," Moira says.
"Why not?" Violet asks, her voice is tight and small. But it's obvious that her memory is back.
Moira doesn't respond but her words prove true. In fact, ever since Michael's death the house seems emptier and quiet. When he calls for one of the other ghosts, there's no answer. The only ones that respond are Moira and Violet. It's as if they are the only three left in the house. And Tate thinks he can enjoy that for ever and ever. Violet seems to have remembered everything but she doesn't seem to care. He's overheard her whispering to Moira that it seems another lifetime ago. And maybe to her it is. She was only about fifteen or sixteen when she died and it's been about the same length of time since she's died. Why care about something that happened another lifetime ago?
They spend the days on her bed, limbs entwined as the sharp smell of vinegar wafts up the stairs. Sooner or later a new family will claim this house as their own and maybe the house will wake up from its slumber. But until then Tate decides to enjoy this moment that seems to stretch out endlessly between them and that's all that matter.
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