in the shadows of the workhouse

just a little bit of credence angst i wrote this one time. i was planning to do more with this but i’m not gonna so here it is. i love this sad baby boy.

He watches her sometimes. On evenings like this one, when the rains have let up long enough to allow outside play and the workhouse has dismissed him from his duties; when the sun is casting just enough light by which to see her, but just enough shadow to keep him hidden.

She seems younger. She seems - well, not happy, but less heavy, somehow, kicking a coffee can in the street, directing the other children, enforcing the rules of the game. She’d always been a leader. Even Credence used to follow her lead. He tries to remember the feeling of her soft, delicate fingers curling around his hand, tugging him down the street. Instead he only feels the burn of the folded page in his pocket. Just having it in his possession feels wrong. It’s so near to his skin. He should throw it away, but he can’t.

She keeps her hair in a tight bun as she always has, but her clothes are different. She has a new dress. Credence’s chest swells to see it. He used to catch her longing gazes as they passed by Hudson’s department store, but he never mentioned it. They weren’t supposed to want for things like that. We do not covet, Mother had said. God provides all that we need.

But isn’t that all Credence had ever done, is covet? And now he was alone. Mother had been right, of course she had been. Yet still he covets, the prickle of the page against his leg, and he wishes he could go to her. Wishes she would take his hand and give him some of her strength. He knows he is wicked because he never stops wanting.

He tucks himself further behind the corner of the building as the last rays of sunlight dip beneath the horizon. She’d hate him now, and rightly so. But he refuses to take anything else from her. He’s already caused enough damage. Now she plays games in the street. Now she has a new dress. He doesn’t think God would mind.

Each time she is summoned out of the growing darkness, into the warm light of her new home, for just one moment he thinks he might call out to her. He feels the urge gather in his chest and die in his throat, dissipating to his fingertips. He always was a very selfish boy.

He keeps his eyes trained to the pavement just in front of his feet during his journey back to the workhouse, itching as though he’s left something behind. This place doesn’t feel like home to him, but then again, no place ever really has.

Like he does most nights, by candlelight, amid the snoring chorus of men around him, he tentatively pulls the sheet from his pocket and spreads it out on his lumpy mattress. No matter how many times he’s seen it, it still leaves him awestruck, the way the photographs move right on the page. He can’t understand how it’s possible, but magic is like that, he knows.

Grindelwald In Custody, the headline practically shouts in thick, black text. He pores over the article, pausing on each phrase, hoping this time it will be clear. Hoping this time all the words will make sense. Notorious Criminal Discovered Impersonating MACUSA Official, it goes on to say, smaller but no less pronounced. He reads it like it has nothing to do with him. Like he wasn’t there.

Once again, he sees words like polyjuice, and Disillusionment, and obliviate, and they hold no more meaning than they ever have. Still, he reads them again and again as if studying scripture, guilt churning slowly in his stomach. Despite his best efforts to concentrate on extracting meaning from the meaningless (if he just thinks hard enough, if only he weren’t so stupid), his eyeline slides over to the most prominent photograph on the page, as it always does, and he shivers.

One light iris, one dark. White-blond hair, slicked back, with a matching mustache. A terrible grin on his face, sharpening into a sneer then reforming. He seems to laugh, but it’s not like any laugh Credence has ever seen, and he’s grateful that this strange magical newspaper doesn’t also emit sound. He can’t stop staring, although doing so makes all of his muscles feel weak and shaky. There should be nothing recognizable about this man - absolutely nothing - and yet, there’s something about his expression, the glint in his eye, that seems sickeningly familiar.

Sometimes he swears the man in the photo is looking right at him - accusing, mocking. I know who you are, Credence, those eyes seem to say. In the man’s grimace, he hears, I know who you are on the inside. I’ve taken the measure of your filthy soul. How amusing that you thought you could be more than this.

It’s not wrong, of course. He can’t be more than this - this breathing vessel of sin, this creature of darkness. Not like Modesty, who once sought to understand him. Not like Mother, who was only trying to save his soul. There was a time when, foolishly, he saw himself differently. He knows better now. Now he knows for sure.

He takes a deep breath because he knows he’ll need it, and finally lets his eyes fall to the smaller photo, inset in the corner of the larger one. His fingers curl into a fist, nails digging into his palms. It hurts to look, but it hurts worse to look away. Not until he’s ready.

This man, this achingly handsome man, could not appear more different than the first. Everything about him is softer; there are no hard edges, no sharp lines. Warm eyes underlie an open expression, and though there is no humor there, as he poses stoically for the photograph, the wrinkles near his temples and nose divulge a lifetime of laughter and affectionate smiles. Credence remembers it all - the sight, the sound, even the smell of him - much too clearly. More clearly than he deserves.

He thinks of a smooth, deep voice telling him not to be afraid. He thinks of the comforting press of large, capable hands on his shoulders. He thinks of I’m done with you, and the sting of a slap across his cheek. His eyes flick toward the larger photo and back again, and he feels a disorienting lurch of detachment from his life, the world, everything he thinks he knows. He’s not sure what’s real and what’s not, and were Mother not dead, he might think all of it was a dream.

One of the sleeping men chokes on a snore and shifts on his pallet, and Credence hastily folds the page, shoving it under his pillow. He should destroy it, he knows. He should forget about magic, which he will never truly have, evil men that he will never truly meet, and the piercing gaze of the one person that ever truly noticed him. He knows he should. He also knows, with absolute certainty, that he won’t.

He falls asleep with one hand under his pillow, flicking at the corner of the folded page. He is so very, very selfish. It is better that he is alone.

A summary of Baelfire's life.

- Branded as the coward’s son at birth.
- Grows up for a few years watching his mother verbally abuse his father and being left at home all alone while his mother goes off to drink and his father works
- Mother disappears; forced to believe she was kidnapped and killed horrifically
- Lives in a time of fear with his father, as his friends are being called to the fronts for the Ogre Wars. Knows he will soon be called too. Witnesses more ridiculing of his father.
- Father become the Dark One to protect him, witnesses his father brutally kill some soldiers and innocent people in front of his face. Blames himself for his father’s ruthlessness. 
- Isolated from peers because they are all afraid of his father. 
- Gets ready to leave everything he knows to have a fresh start with his father. Abandoned at portal instead. Enters world that is entirely alien to him. 
- Slaves in awful workhouses where it is indicated that he is mistreated. Starved and homeless, he wanders about the streets of Victorian England. 
- Experiences six months of happiness among the Darlings, then sacrifices himself to a demonic shadow and a land of magic (which he fears) in order to save them. 
- Rescued by pirate, learns skills, feels some happiness, but later finds out he has been manipulated the entire time. 
- Asks to leave the ship and is instead betrayed to Pan. Sleeps fearfully in a cave for 250 years. 
- Finally escapes, but is forced to become a homeless thief because he has no skills to acquire meaningful employment in this world. 
- Meets Emma, finally feels happy for the first time in 250 years. 
- Forced to leave Emma to give her her best chance at breaking the curse and finding her family. 
- Guilt-ridden for having left her. Does his best to ensure that she’ll be okay after her jail time. Supposed guardian angel steals money and fails to uphold his promise to take care of her. 
- Ten years later, still believing Emma would never forgive him, he meets another woman and quickly becomes engaged to her in an attempt to move on with his life. Does not know she is manipulating him.
- Curse breaks, but does not go to find Emma because he does not think she’ll forgive him. 
- Forced to face his father when he and Emma come to Manhattan. Find out he has a son. Guilt-ridden for not having been there for his son. Drops everything in his life to be there for him. 
- Father gets stabbed by assholian pirate, has to battle with evil witches to save his life. 
- Finds out his fiancee has been manipulating him (LIKE PRETTY MUCH EVERY OTHER FUCKING PERSON IN HIS FUCKING LIFE) and is shot. Nearly dies. 
- Wakes up, immediately thinks of love and son, fights like hell to save them in Neverland, the place of his nightmares. 
- Drugged, caged. Son does not even find out what he had done to try to save him. 
- Woman he loves tells him she wishes he had died so that she would not have to confront her pain. Accepts these hurtful words without excuses.
- Finds out that the assholian pirate who had betrayed him before and had run off with his mom now lusts for the woman he loves. 
- Discovers that the family he’d sacrificed himself for was held captive by Pan anyway, so his sacrifice was for naught. 
- Gives lovely speech to son who actually isn’t his son. 
- More bullshit conflict. Separated from love and son AGAIN. Retains hope he will see both once more (but doesn’t get to do so).
- Fights hard to devise a plan to get back to them. Ends up having to exchange his life to save his father’s. 
- Meanwhile, the assholian pirate gets to deliver the memory potion to Emma. 
- Finally gets to see the woman he loves again. Denied the opportunity to see his son though. Guilt-ridden for having missed yet another year of his son’s life. 
- Dies. 
- Meanwhile the pirate who had betrayed him now gets to bond with his son and snog the woman he loved. 

Conclusions: If you’ve been good pretty much all your life in spite of all the crap that happened to you, you’re just going to end up dying without having experienced much happiness. Your abusers will get your happy ending. So don’t bother being kind-hearted and selfless. This is a world in which manipulation and deceit are the keys to success. 

Fuck this show.