When I looked out the window and saw a man in a crisp black suit approaching the sketchy motel, I did not expect him to enter my room and hand me a letter. Yet hand me a letter he did. And not just any letter- this was old. Over 100 years at least, but very well preserved for its age. I ran my fingers across the single page, savoring the soft crinkling sound it produced. And the smell... Oh, it was heaven!
I spent several minutes simply admiring the beauty of the paper- the texture and composition, that sweet, musky aroma so characteristic of old pages, the soft, faded edges, and the three lines that formed scars where the page had been folded. There was just so much to love about such a sheet of paper.
Finally I began to examine the actual words- the penmanship was flawless. Of course, that made whoever had written it that much more attractive. And such eloquence- I could just die! I had always wanted to be able to write with someone like this. Already feeling like I would melt any second now, I began to read.
I have gone to great lengths to ensure that this letter is presented to you at precisely this moment- it is of the utmost importance. I would imagine that quite recently- within the past few minutes, I should hope- Ian Heartbreak appeared in your time, very much alive, and I would imagine also that Niccolò stared at you with naught but contempt in his gaze before suddenly falling unconscious. I dread to consider the things he may have said to you. However, comfort though it may be to contact you, I have not written this letter to quell my fears, but to pass on information. I am the consciousness of Niccolò Croatoan- the consciousness only you have come to know. It was I whom you met one fateful night in a dark alleyway, where you provided me with comfort and I, in turn, scorned and attacked you. You used the name of my dear late sister, Mercy, to return to my mind enough sanity to leave you. And despite all I have done, to you and to others, you have yet to give up on me. As I am completely myself for once, I suppose now is as good a time as any to inform you that your undying faith in the people you care for is one of many things that made me fall hopelessly in love with you. My other names would see it as weakness, but I see it as extraordinary compassion. You deserve to know that you are the single most admirable person I have ever known, and although I know you would never return the feeling I assure you it is my honor to have been given the chance to fall in love with you. And yet now I must ask of you to defy your own nature- you must kill me, in your time, before I wake. I understand that you will not want to- that you will wish to keep this part of me alive- but I no longer reside in that body. Healing Ian and slipping through the strands of time made me just weak enough for my other names to cast me aside, and when my body journeyed back into your time I remained trapped here. I have no physical form of my own- in fact, I had to... Possess someone, if you will, to write this and arrange its passage by hand through the ages to its final destination. I have no way of returning to you without harming others, which I simply will not do, and you've no way of ever reaching me. The one thing I ask of you now is that you kill my body before my other names do you harm, because they are sick and twisted and will do things to you that I have not dared to imagine. They will tear this world apart, and though it pains me greatly to say so, it falls upon you to make sure they do not gain the chance. Would that I had more time to write- there is so much I would say to you- but if you recall, my own name is infected with love for the Faceless Ones, and I feel it coming over me again. May you travel far under fair skies, and never forget your own beauty.
If the letter was any younger, my tears would have made the ink bleed. My knees gave out from under me and I had to wonder if it was more than a lucky coincidence that I had been standing in front of a chair.
"No," I said aloud, although I knew no one could hear me. "No, that's not fair, you can't-" My voice broke, and a quiet sob escaped my mouth. "You can't do this to me... Not now, after you just said...!
"Why would you do this to me?!" I continued, tears streaming down my face. "Why couldn't you just be an axe murderer? Why couldn't you just be sadistic, insane? Why on Earth did you have to be so..." My voice gave way to sobs.
After a few minutes I dried the tears and crawled over to where Niccolò slept. My hand lingered over his forehead for a moment- definitely too hot- and I pulled off his long coat, tossing it aside. I figured the floor probably wasn't all too comfortable, so I lifted him onto the couch. I had plenty of time before he woke up, and I intended to use it.
If I do ever try to kill you... I want you to kill me first. I had been so confused when he first told me that. Why did it take me so long? Why did it always take me so long to understand? I had always been the least socially aware person I'd ever met. But this... Why am I never good enough when it really counts? I almost lost Death, and now Niccolò? I thought about everyone I knew who had died. My whole family, and then Marina... Niccolò was all I had left, and that was even before I saw beneath all of the cruelty. And now he expects me to just let him go...? Could that really be the right thing to do?
I fell asleep sitting with my back against the couch, knowing the answer was no and praying that my dreams would come up with some miracle solution my consciousness couldn't fathom.