Title: Procrustean Bed of Virtue
Fandom: nbc's Revolution
Rating: hard PG-13. One use of strong language, non-descriptive violence- most of it vague or implied, nothing too graphic. Canon character death. Also Strausser- cause the man deserves his own warning.
Characters: Will Strausser, Mr. & Mrs. Strausser, Jeremy, Miles and Rachel
Pairing: Gen, though Strausser might desire otherwise.
Prompt: From nbc_revolution's Community Prompt Table 054. Dead Inside
Summary: "Will Strausser has always known that he was different than the other kids at school, different even than his parents" or the life and death of Will Strausser.
A/N: Strausser's POV, I basically took Miles calling him a sociopath and ran with it. This was actually a lot of fun to write, even if I
had to look up some interesting things and rewatch certain scenes (oh the hardship!).
* "It is, indeed, a fact that, in the midst of society and sociability every evil inclination has to place itself under such great restraint, don so many masks, lay itself so often on the Procrustean bed of virtue, that one could well speak of a martyrdom of the evil man. In solitude all this falls away. He who is evil is at his most evil in solitude: which is where he is also at his best and thus to the eye of him who sees everywhere only a spectacle also at his most beautiful."
- Friedrich Nietzsche, "Daybreak" aphorism 499
* Miles: "Well, let's be honest- you're a sociopath, it's what you are. Before the blackout, you'd have been locked in a rubber room."
"Strausser: "Did you ever consider that maybe society was sick, not me?"
-Revolution, 1X08 "The Ties That Bind"
Will Strausser has always known that he was different than the other kids at school, different even than his parents. He doesn't see things the way they do, doesn't feel what they feel. He isn't normal, as the bullies at school keep reminding him. They call him names: "freak", "psycho", "weirdo", but he doesn't care what the brainless herd think. They're emotional, dependant, starved for affection, pathetic, weak. Will doesn't need their approval or friendship, he doesn't need anyone and that makes him stronger than them, it makes him better.
Will always suspected he was different, but he knows for sure when he's eight. He and some of the other kids are walking home from the bus stop when Sandy Compton's dog gets run over right in front of them. The other kids are in shock, averting their eyes, some run to get help or to comfort Sandy… Will simply stares at what was once 'Rusty', completely enthralled.
His mom has a meeting at church that day. When she gets back, he tells her about Rusty; he makes sure his voice is shaking as he embellishes some of the gory details, in order to get a horrified reaction out of her. "Oh you poor dear," his mother hugs him tightly. "That must have been just awful."
"I can still see what Rusty looked like, lying there dead," Will sniffs into her shirt. He isn't lying about that, he really can picture it as clear as day. It's incredible remembering what the mutt was like alive and seeing it dead, body broken and bloody, its ribs protruding and its entrails strewn across the street. It amazes him that there are so many little parts inside one being, that they're all necessary cogs in a machine, all of them needed for one little dog to live.
He wonders if also humans look like that on the inside.
He's never seen a dead body before; despite what the dimwits at school might think- his dad never took him to work with him. When people find out what his dad does for a living, they look at him differently, disdainfully. The parents keep their distance, as if he's contagious and would muck up their pristine selves with a single touch or look. The kids are even worse- they jeer at him, call him names, ask him if his father kills people too and if he brings home fresh road kill. They brag about their own dads' jobs and how they work in clean offices and don't kill for a living.
He gets sent to the Principal's office for punching Mike Thompson, who is two grades above him, in the face. The dickhead deserves it, he was the one who started the fight- calling him names and shoving him. It's not his fault that Mike's a wuss who can't even take one lousy hit like a man, without running to the teachers.
When his dad comes to get him, he pretends to be remorseful, in order to appease Mrs. Killian, The Dragon Lady. He shuffles his feet and doesn't meet anyone's eye, making sure to be polite and speak quietly. He gets off with a warning. When they get home his father finally asks him what the fight was about, so Will tells him Mike said his dad is a serial killer who makes meat out of his victims.
"This kid is ignorant and doesn't know any better. And what people don't understand scares them, so they lash out; you shouldn't be angry at him, you should feel sorry for him," his father states intently. "There's no shame in what I do; I provide for this family by doing an honest day's work, the way we were meant to- through physical labor and sweat. Used to be a time people had to take care of themselves- hunt or grow their own food, prepare it and cook it- nowadays you can buy it all wrapped up with a bow at a grocery store."
Will's father puts his large hands on Will's shoulders and squeezes gently, the closest he's ever come to showing affection. "People are too civilized now. They like their burgers and fried chicken and bacon- but they don't want to think about what it went through to get to their plate. I take no pleasure in killing those animals- but we've got to eat and someone's gotta do the dirty work. My work keeps people fed and does more good than any of them swanky bankers and lawyers ever have."
Will decides then and there that he will do something important with his life, that he is going to be somebody. He tells himself he won't get caught fighting anymore- but not because he's going to pity their idiocy and let it go. He isn't going to sink to their level of insults and fist fighting, he's going to be smart about it and get his revenge without getting into trouble.
After all, things always get stolen, and accidents can happen to anyone and at any time.
Mrs. Emerson, his homeroom teacher, used to tell them that true art transcends language and culture barriers; that it stirs a reaction, an emotion in our very core. If that's true, then Will first sees a work of art when he's 14. It's during a scalding summer day, when Will has nothing better to do than sit at home and watch TV all day. His mom looks at him disapprovingly and comments: "The Devil finds work for idle hands." She was planning to have him help out around the house and in their small garden, but his father instead suggests he accompany him to work.
"He's practically a man now," his father says with a shrug. "He's been wondering and asking questions, it's time he learns what it is I do."
His mother doesn't argue, she rarely does, she simply purses her lips, her eyes downcast in quiet reproach, as they leave the house. Will tries not to let the excitement show on his face and hopes that if it does, it can be read as apprehension. That day, as he watches his father work, Will feels for the first time a sort of happiness and peace descend on him. He sees his father in a whole new light- the hard and quiet man, who is simple and has no use for fancy words or decorations… That man is a true artist.
"You need the right tool for the right job," his father explains, as he picks up a knife and starts slicing and carving the carcass. After he splits the meat, he starts preparing primal cuts and Will watches him work in awe. His father's knife strokes are like a brush on canvas; his movements are as economical and graceful as a dance. Will's fingers itch to grab one of the knives and follow his father's tutelage, to make art just like he's making. Another part of him yearns to start the piece earlier, when the clay is still a warm, living, wriggling thing.
"Can I help?" Will asks hopefully, though he tries to mask his enthusiasm. Normal kids aren't eager to cut up dead things.
"Your mother will never let me hear the end of it," his father shakes his head, wiping sweat off his forehead with the back of his forearm. "In a few years, if you're still interested you can learn."
Will tries not to pout or let his brief flash of anger get the better of him. He nods his head and keeps watching his father work, memorizing each step in the process- each cut, slice and thrust with the knife.
That summer quite a few of the neighborhood pets go missing.
The blackout catches everyone off guard, though that's to be expected. Will is working at a construction site when it hits and all the machinery inexplicably turns off. Nobody around him knows what's going on or what to do, as every day that passes the sense of unease and panic intensifies. Will finds it all extremely fascinating. Will waits two weeks, before he decides that there is no point in hanging around, and any unfinished business he has would probably get lost in the unfurling tumult.
Will starts making his way to his parents' home and watches with some satisfaction as society crumbles around him. Society is just a lie anyway, as far as he's concerned. Human beings by nature are selfish and cruel creatures, only they've somehow convinced themselves that they aren't, that they are good at heart and kind deep down inside. In reality, humans are vicious animals who wear masks and lie to everyone and especially to themselves. They create religion and laws to scare the masses into submission; they tell them that good deeds get them to Heaven and bad deeds to Hell- because society needs to keep people restraint, submissive, demure or they'll revolt and overthrow the regime.
Will's been traveling for several days now and he realizes a few things in the process. The first being- the blackout isn't going anywhere, it's here to stay. Nothing works- it's not just stuff run on electricity, it's batteries as well. He isn't sure what can cause such an event, but he knows it's cataclysmic. Nothing like this has ever happened before and everything is changing before his own eyes. Will recognizes that life as he knows it has changed forever and he finds it all very exhilarating. Those bankers, lawyers, computer tech people are all obsolete now. The world has gone back to the days his father used to tell him about- when men lived and died by their own two hands and his hands are ready.
He doesn't have a gun, but has several knives of choice on him at all times. The people that are stupid enough to get in his way, to try and rob him or kill him are dealt with quickly and efficiently. He may never be a true artist with his knife like his father, but over the years he has secretly honed his skills considerably.
He reaches his parents' house and finds them both still there. His father gives him an imperceptible smile and a quick hug when he sees him and ushers him inside. His mother is lying in their bed, weak as a kitten and pale as death.
"Her immune system was never that great to begin with," his father tells him, placing a wet cloth on his mother's fevered head. "She must have caught something. Even if we knew what she's got, we've run out of medicine."
"We need to go," Will says cajolingly, barely sparing his mother a glance. "It's not safe here. We need to go where there's farming or game to hunt."
"As soon as she gets better," his father promises him, laying a gentle hand on her greasy hair.
"The longer we stay here…" Will says with an impatient sigh. "There are men out there who don't care about what's proper anymore- they'll kill for scraps." He should know, he's one of them.
"We can't move her, not yet," his father says, his gravely voice cracking a bit. "As soon as she gets better, we'll leave."
Will looks at his mother's sleeping form with contempt. She was useless even before the blackout- anemic with low blood pressure, prone to fainting spells. They always had to tiptoe around her, lest they accidentally upset her poor equilibrium. The spare time she used to have besides housework and her tending her garden, she would spend in church and doing her inane charity work. It doesn't surprise him that even now her only purpose seems to be to disrupt his plans.
The next morning his father wakes up to find that she has passed during the night. Neither man cries, though Will knows his father is grieving in his own way- his mother always was the man's true weakness. Now he's finally free. The two of them bury her under her peach tree, pack a few essentials and start making their way east.
It's been five years since the world ended, when Will Strausser dies and is reborn. He and his father have been traveling the country for years, before they find a small community near Topeka, Kansas. There are scattered Militias all around, vying for control over every bite of land. Will craves to keep traveling east, to where the real wars are fought and there's carnage to behold, but his father likes the community and urges him to stay.
"I'm tired of running scared, always looking over my shoulder," his father admits to him in rare candor. "A man can't live his life if he doesn't feel safe. If you want to go and keep traveling, I won't stop you. But I can't go with you this time."
It shouldn't bother him, the fact that his father prefers the company of strangers over his own flesh and blood. He isn't afraid to travel on his own; he's so used to being alone, even when he's surrounded by others. His father is getting old and weak; soon he'll be of little use to him on the road. Still, Will stays in the community for a while, not ready yet to give up the last tie he has to his past.
A few months later a gang of marauders descends on the community like locust. Every able man and woman fights them off with what little ammunition they have. There are a few guns being handed out, but Will refuses to take one on principal. He's killed men before with a gun- it's too impersonal for his taste and over far too quickly. He takes out his knives and jabs and slices his way through anyone in his way. It's all chaotic, blurred and disorienting, and over far too soon. When the dust settles there are dozens of dead men and women littering the ground and the remaining marauders escape to terrorize another day.
Will gains little gratification from the altercation and it frustrates him. He isn't sure how many men he's killed, how long it took them to die- he can't experience their departure properly in all the mayhem. It takes him several minutes to find his father; he's lying on the ground, behind an upturn cart, clutching his arm as blood seeps through his shirt from a bullet wound. Will examines his injury and feels a cold fury settle in his stomach. It's his dominant arm, his carving arm.
The meager medicine in the community isn't enough and his father's arm gets infected and gangrene sets in. The doctor warns them that the arm has to be amputated, or it could spread to the rest of the body and kill him. Will wishes he could do it himself, but there's no way of voicing that desire in a way that would be acceptable. Instead he stays and watches as the doctor sedates his father and chops off his arm. Will returns with his father back to their tent and promises the doctor that he'll take good care of him.
Two weeks later Will's father dies, and he has the privilege of witnessing his last moments and seeing the light fade from his eyes. Will buries his father and feels at once both reflective and joyous. His father was the last shackle that kept him from shedding his mask, kept him from truly being himself. Strausser packs his and his father's belongings, carefully cleaning and storing the knives, before he departs the community and heads east, always east, to a brand new life.
It has been eight years since Judgment Day and Strausser has joined the Militia of what is now apparently called The Monroe Republic. He's just a new recruit, but he's dying to meet the arrogant prick who names a State after himself, so he can shake the bastard's hand. But even more than that he wants to meet someone whose name he's heard whispered in fear throughout the Republic: General Miles Matheson.
He's heard so many stories about the man; at least some of them have got to be true. He needs to meet the man that burned an opposing Militia's safe house with all the inhabitants still inside; the man who shot a woman's entire family in front of her very eyes, one at a time, until she gave up the location of her terrorist friends. Because a man who can do even half of the things the stories say about him, a man like that must be like him.
He's still a lowly Private, assigned to Captain Baker's Company, when he finally gets a chance to prove his worth. They've captured Wade Roberts, the infamous leader of what remains of The Columbus Militia and Strausser has to give the man credit- he still has his pride. He won't talk, won't give up the rest of his men or their base. Strausser is guarding the prisoner in their 'interrogation tent', as Captain Baker leans hard on Roberts, giving him a severe beating and breaking his fingers. Strausser finds it too barbaric and inelegant, and he politely asks his Captain if he could try something.
"You've torture people before?" Baker asks with a raised brow, as he takes a step back and wipes the blood off his hands.
"I wouldn't say that," Strausser shrugs coyly. "But my father was a butcher by trade; I've watched him and I'm somewhat handy with a knife."
"Then by all means, knock yourself out," Jeremy motions him forward.
"Do I have permission to cause… Possible long-lasting damage to the prisoner?" Strausser asks pointedly.
"He's going to be executed as soon as he talks, that's about as long-lasting as you can get," Jeremy nods casually and sits down on a chair, watching him intently.
It takes him four hours and there's not much left of Roberts when he's done, but he gets the information they need. The evening they get back to Philadelphia, Captain Baker calls him to his office. "You did a fine job, Corporal," Baker says with a small grin, sitting in front of him with his feet on the desk.
"Thank you, Sir," Strausser's happy his work is finally appreciated, and lets his contentment show.
"I hear you've been asking questions about our illustrious General Matheson," Baker says knowingly, giving him a teasing smile. "You've got some hero worship going on?"
"Merely curious," Strausser says placidly. "I've heard so many rumors and stories; I wanted to know what the boogeyman's like."
"Two words: Grumpy and broody," Baker says with a smirk.
"I heard that," General Matheson chides, as he enters from the adjacent room.
"You were meant to," Baker says cheekily, as he stands in attention. Strausser observes their interaction quietly, studying them and their rapport. General Matheson looks tired, his shoulders are hunched and his eyes are stormy.
"Is this the Private you wanted me to meet?" Matheson asks Baker impatiently, indicating a silent Strausser with his head.
"Corporal, actually," Strausser corrects him. "Sir."
"Corporal Strausser here is your number one fan," Baker grins at Matheson.
"I thought you were my number one fan," Matheson returns a small grin of his own.
"I was, but then you kept sending me away on these long 'search and destroy' missions and I'm just not feeling the love anymore."
"Stop pissing off your superiors and maybe you'll get to stay in Philly for more than a day," Miles says meaningfully. He turns his sharp gaze to Strausser. "So, Corporal, here I am. Not what you expected?" Strausser is unnerved that Matheson must somehow notice his disappointment. "Let me guess- you thought I'd be taller?"
"Actually, I was expecting horns and a tail, Sir," Strausser says glibly, recovering quickly.
"Oh those he only gets out for special occasions," Baker says and received a glare in return.
"What did I just say two seconds ago?" Matheson warns him in mock seriousness
"Sorry, Sir," Baker replies, chastised, though his demeanor hasn't changed a bit. Strausser can see no tension in the shoulders, no rigidity in the spine- it sounds like a well rehearsed routine between two old friends.
"I hear you broke Roberts?" Matheson turns those calculating eyes back to Strausser.
"I... May have assisted in questioning him," Strausser says cautiously.
"Let's not mess around- you tortured him," Matheson's eyes catch his and for a moment it's as if he can see right through him. "You butchered him so bad, even his kids wouldn't have been able to recognize him. You've done that before?"
"No, Sir," Strausser says honestly. He never needed to get information out of those he worked on. "I guess it must be a hidden talent."
"It must be," Matheson clearly doesn't believe a word he says and the atmosphere in the tent becomes tense.
"Well, this was fun," Baker attempts to diffuse the situation. "But I haven't been home in ages and you," he points at General Matheson. "Owe me a drink. Or three. We can swing by Kip's- he's got the good stuff stashed away and he accepts bribes."
"Yeah, ok sure," Matheson sighs wearily and addresses Strausser. "Corporal- it was nice meeting you. Keep up the good work."
"Sir," Strausser says to the General, then slightly bows his head at Baker in acknowledgment, before backing out of the office and closing the door behind him.
He's not sure how Matheson saw right through his façade- if his mask slipped or if Matheson is that good at reading people, at reading him. As he walks to his shared quarters, Strausser can't help but wallow in his disappointment- after all the stories, all these years… He expected something else, something more. He doesn't doubt that at least some of the stories are true- too many people have repeated them and they're too detailed to be pure myth. But the man he met tonight was a man burdened by responsibility and haunted by his actions. He's just a man, one who is capable of doing terrible things and is trying his best to stomach them.
Despite the stories and the rumors, General Miles Matheson is not a monster. He is not like him.
"You get off on it, don't you?"
Strausser turns away from his tools, which he was in the process of meticulously cleaning, to see General Matheson at the entrance of his tent, giving him a dark look. They're at their base in Kimberton, where they've sucessfully quashed a local rebellion.
"Sir?" Strausser asks evenly, putting down his knife; his stance purposely respectful.
He's been with the Militia for two years now and he's still a Corporal- and he knows he has Matheson to blame for it. He's seen the way Matheson watches him, always on guard around him; which is why he makes sure that he's always polite, always respectful and does whatever he's asked to do. He's been getting more and more retrieval assignments outside of Philly- also Matheson's influence, no doubt- but never too far. He's treated like the Militia's bloodhound and kept on a tight leash. What exactly do they think might happen if he gets sent farther away? That he'd run off? Why would he?
"Do you get off on torturing and raping little girls?" Miles spits out, his eyes glaring at the knives spread neatly on the table. Strausser notices that his words are slightly slurred- he's been drinking, which means there are inner demons he's trying to bury.
"Fifteen is hardly 'a little girl' and she's not an innocent either- she's a terrorist, conspiring to overthrow the Republic," Strausser says smoothly, his hands clasped behind his back. "I seem to recall you stating that 'if the enemy is old enough to kill, then they're old enough to be killed'." He cocks his head to the side and adds: "I've also personally witnessed you executing boys and girls younger than Ms. Grayson."
"It's not the same thing and you know it! I don't make them suffer for my own amusement."
"You've never voiced any displeasure regarding my work before, therefore I must conclude, that though you may not be happy with the methods, you do appreciate the results,'' Strausser says reasonably."So why does Ms. Grayson's treatment bother you? It can't be her age; we’ve had younger prisoners than her. Is it her big sad blue eyes- did they get to you? Does she remind you of someone?"
Matheson flinches and he knows he's on the right track. "That's a tad hypocritical, don't you think?"
"It's not about her, it's about you," Miles hisses, swaying slightly. "You do get off on it, don't you? You really are a sick and twisted fuck, aren't you?" Miles gives a dark chuckle. "Monroe thinks you're his attack dog- that as long as he keeps you on a tight leash, he can just aim you at the enemy and let you loose. But I know the truth."
"What truth would that be, Sir?" Strausser asks, curious despite himself.
"You're not an attack dog, you're a rabid dog. Your brain is diseased and you're already dead inside, the rest of you just hasn't figured it out yet. You can't be tamed or controlled- you've got no morals, no sense of loyalty. If the mood strikes you, you'll turn on The Militia without a second thought." Miles gives him a cruel smile. "But I'm on to you; I'm watching you and the minute you step out of line, I'm putting you down."
"Well, I do appreciate your honest opinion, Sir, even if I don’t quite agree," Strausser keeps his tone serene through grit teeth. "Might I be frank, in return?"
"Sure, why not?" Miles shrugs. "Go ahead- it's probably nothing I haven't heard before."
"You remind me of my father," Strausser sees that he's thrown Matheson off, so he continues. "He was a quiet man, a simple man and he never liked to show emotions, never was one to complain, he didn't even cry when my mother died. Whatever he felt, he kept it bottled up inside. He was… What's the word…? Stoic, a lot like you."
Strausser returns to his tools and picks up a knife he didn't get around to cleaning yet, still bloodied. "He got shot by marauders several years ago. His injured arm got infected and pretty soon gangrene set in; his body was dying bit by bit. He never said a word, though it must have hurt something fierce," Strausser says wistfully, as he grabs a cloth and starts cleaning the knife. "His arm couldn't be salvaged and the doc wasn't around, so I had to remove it myself. It had to be done- the dead tissue had to be removed to save the body and all. We had no pain medication and not even a man like my father could stop the screams from tearing themselves out of his throat."
Strausser pauses and gives Miles a small smile, before he continues. "But that wasn't enough and he was still infected, he was still dying inside piece by piece, until I had no choice. He could never ask for it- being a good Christian and all- but I could see it in his eyes, I knew he was suffering and that I was his only salvation. As I delivered to him the only mercy I could grant him, I saw the gratitude in his eyes. I believe in those last moments with my father, I saw him for who he really was, under those brick walls of his. And in his moment of death, we shared a connection and there was this deep understanding between us." His eyes lock with Matheson's for several moments, before Matheson looks away, hiding a shiver.
"I won't deny that there is a certain pleasure I derive from my work," Strausser says, packing his knives and putting them away. "But it's that moment when we see each other bare, when I carve away all the lies, the deceit and the facades; when I've stripped away any hope or fear or regret and all that's left are serenity, acceptance and the true essence of a person- that's the moment that gives my work meaning."
"You really believe that shit, don't you?" Matheson asks in shock. "You're insane."
"There's a fine line between genius and insanity," Strausser replies with a shrug. "I wouldn't worry about me, if I were you. I'm not here because I believe in The Militia, or because I'm faithful to the Republic, or that I'm scared to make it out there unprotected- I'm here because I choose to be. Because I'm satisfied with my current role in life and because my needs are fulfilled."
He gives Matheson a knowing look and a toothy grin. "Loyalties shift, ideals are substituted and people change. Some people just aren't cut out for this life, can't stomach what needs to be done. It catches up with you in the end and no amount of alcohol will be able to keep the demons at bay indefinitely. You'll have to face them eventually and either slay them or be consumed by them. Or just save yourself time and trouble and just put one in your head, end your misery once and for all."
"I'm speaking generally, of course," Strausser smiles at him, once again standing like a perfect soldier. "Is there anything else I can do for you, General? Anything at all?" Matheson doesn't speak, clearly rattled. He wordlessly storms out of the tent and Strausser allows his smile to grow.
A few months later, General Matheson runs off and Strausser is the only one in the Militia who isn't shocked, the only one who saw it coming.
"Just try something, Mrs. Matheson- try and sabotage that machine," Strausser taunts Rachel as he walks around her back so he can face her. "I want you to, 'cause then the General will turn your kids over to me. And I like your girl- she's a peach… And I could each peaches all day."
He isn't just saying it to terrify her; he really does like the girl. She's gutsy and willing to sacrifice herself rather than help The Militia. He's glad Rachel came to her senses before he had to shoot her daughter- he prefers her to be alive when he finally gets to play with her. Strausser likes it when they still have fire in their blood, when they have some fight left in them. It will make it all that much sweeter when he'll break her, now that Monroe is finally done with the kiddies'-glove treatment.
They could have gotten here a lot sooner if Monroe had let him interrogate Rachel properly. Strausser could have gotten those names and addresses out of her, could have gotten Dr. Jaffe and his pendant years ago. But Monroe can't seen to let go of past affections, can't let go of who he used to be, who Miles wants him to be and he refuses to fully embrace the man he has become. None of them allow themselves to be free and it saddens Strausser to see so much potential go to waste.
Major Neville has that lovely little viper of his and his love for her is his Achilles' heel. He also suffers from delusions and self deceit- he truly believes he stands for order and justice, that The Republic is the last line of defense against total anarchy and chaos. Neville can keep on lying to himself, but Strausser knows all the man really cares about is having power over others, so that he'll never be seen as weak again.
As for Captain Baker… Strausser knows he used to worship the ground Matheson walks on, but the betrayal cut him deep and Baker's a vengeful sort. Baker's loyalty towards Monroe stems from a life debt from long ago, when Matheson and Monroe saved his life. He might be a loyal guard dog, but at least he has a level of self awareness. He knows what the Republic truly is and he knows that he isn't a good man, knows he has a sadistic streak a mile long. But even Baker has his limits, has some morals- archaic relics of the old society that stop him from being his true self.
And then you have Miles Matheson, a man who sees and is blind, who acknowledges what he is, but is simultaneously in denial as well. Matheson, who looks in the mirror and sees only a monster and doesn't accept the misguided hero, the knight in shining armor. Matheson cares about things, about people- it's why he makes the mistakes he makes, why he founded the Republic in the first place. His motives are always good, but his dark side always sabotages him in the end. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, after all- and after seeing him again, Strausser believes he's in his own version of it.
If only the Clayton sisters had kept their word, Strausser would have had Matheson here as well as the pendant. Matheson could always see Strausser more clearly than the others, but he still doesn't really see him, not completely. He had called him a sociopath, told him that before the blackout he would have been locked in a rubber room. He just doesn't get it- without society, there are no sociopaths, without a measured and quantified norm, there is no abnormal. It's society that is diseased, society that needs everyone to conform to its strict definitions and robs them of their individuality.
Matheson doesn't understand it yet, but he will when they capture him and hand him over to Strausser. Strausser isn't delusional, he knows Monroe doesn't want Matheson back to stand trial for crimes against the Republic; Monroe wants Matheson back. And when a bound Matheson will be brought before Monroe, when Monroe tempts him with absolution- Matheson will do what he always does when cornered and emotionally vulnerable and confused: He'll find a weakness or doubt and sink his teeth into it, he'll find a way to crush Monroe completely. When he does, Monroe will lash out and will finally give up on whatever remnants of humanity he still has left. He'll hand Matheson over to Strausser and Strausser will finally get to teach him a thing or two about society and monsters.
Strausser watches with keen eyes as Rachel works and there is a certain beauty to watching her in her element. He imagines her in a proper lab with proper equipment- she must be a sight to see in her natural habitant. It makes her all the more enticing. Rachel places the pendant in the slot in the machine, which flashed a bright red light and buzzed loudly. An emergency lantern turns on and Strausser must admit he's truly impressed. "Would you look at that?" Rachel has finally delivered on her promise, which means that the orders are more flexible and Strausser can play with her a bit.
They hear gunfire from down the hall and Strausser sends the men to check on it, leaving him to guard Rachel on his own. They have no audience now, not that that bothers him the least, but some special moments deserve to be shared in privacy. He ghosts his hand up her back and watches in amusement as she flinches from his touch. "Don't worry Mrs. Matheson; I'm sure everything's going to be fine."
He glimpses the motion out of the corner of his eye and blocks the hammer deftly, before punching her and throwing her across the room to the floor. She tries to escape up the stairs, but he pulls her by the legs and twists her onto her back, straddling her. She spits blood onto his face and he loves this version of her, more than the pathetic and reticent mother or passive captive. He unsheathes his sword, chocking her with one hand and with the other holding the sword against her throat.
"Monroe wants me alive," she says confidently, but he can still smell the fear on her and it is intoxicating.
"So do I," he grins at her manically. "It's much more fun that way."
She raises her hand and cups his face gently and it throws him off momentarily. Women don't show him affection, not unless he'd pay them to, and Rachel has shown him nothing but contempt and disgust in the past. He hesitates for just a moment and doesn't see the blow coming. He gets knocked to the ground, stunned, his head's throbbing and he can't get his bearing. He feels her slip the sword from his hand and the next thing he knows, pain explodes in his torso, stealing his breath away.
"That's for what you did to me, you sick son of a bitch," Rachel bites at him. Strausser can't answer, can't even shove her off. The pain is excruciating and he can feel himself fading fast. He looks into her eyes and witnesses the protective mother, the pragmatic scientist and the ruthless killer, all rolled into one. He may not have gotten her under his knife, gotten to know her properly- but he sees her now, all the jagged puzzle pieces that somehow fit together perfectly into one form.
He gasps his last few breaths and wonders, before the world darkens for good, if she sees him as well. He wonders if finally someone really sees him for who and what he truly is.