Comforting Lie
Chapter Forty-Six
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Twenty-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Thirty-Nine
Chapter Forty
Chapter Forty-One
Chapter Forty-Two
Chapter Forty-Three
Chapter Forty-Four
Chapter Forty-Five
Chapter Forty-Six
Chapter Forty-Seven
Chapter Forty-Eight
Chapter Forty-Nine
Chapter Fifty
Chapter Fifty-One
Chapter Fifty-Two

Onstage, four of the sturdier men in the ensemble were helping to transport Lucy's corpse offstage via cot as the lights dimmed around them. From the wings, Tabitha's Lady Beaconsfield and Larkin's Nellie took deep breaths and began to belt in unison.

There's a beast at the door
And he's wild and free
But we don't let him in
'Cause we don't want to see
What is lurking right behind the fašade

Cara climbed off the cot and moved to stand by Larkin, more than thrilled that her part in the dress rehearsal had finally come to the end. Beside her, Larkin winked and continued to sing the song of mourning that would allow for the last scene change of the show. From various points both onstage and off, the other cast members joined her in harmony, a chorus of voices chanting the strange, sorry tale of their hero's fate.

And he's not one, but two
He is evil and good
And he walks the fine line
That he'd cross if he could
And he's waiting... *

The cast decrescendoed appropriately, allowing the final chord to fade as Trent's John Utterson took to stage right in a top hat and tux, prepared to commence the show's last narration. He spoke solemnly but clearly as the spotlight focused on his formally-clad figure.

"Henry had entered the very gates of hell and seen what lay beyond. His search for the truth had come to nothing." Utterson took a deep breath and gave a gentle shake of his head as if to emphasize the hopelessness of his friend's situation. "He knew he must leave his father in his unending darkness."

From stage left, Rob's Sir Danvers emerged in equally formal attire to continue the narration. He lifted his gaze to greet the audience of ensemble cast members and smiled wryly into the spotlight, his voice ironically cheery as he arched an eyebrow.

"Yet, back from the dead he the sound of wedding bells, ready to embrace the next--and we hope, much happier--chapter of his life."

The two men stepped back into the wings as the velvet curtains behind them swung open dramatically, revealing the inside of a small, ornate wedding chapel. On the sidelines, Cara and Larkin exchanged less-than-enthusiastic smiles and reluctantly filled their diaphragms in anticipation of what would have been the less-than-engaging entrance hymn. Both girls understood the importance of the processional, but neither was fond of the music Frank Wildhorn had chosen to accompany the final parade of personages.

Thankfully, neither was Calvert Holland. The temperamental director had chosen to substitute the processional hymn with something much more avant-garde in the ways of musical theater. He'd found an a cappella arrangement of Pachebel's Canon in D for the cast to sing as they made their way into the pews. He called it "the last great demonstration of what should be vocal prowess." Like everything
else that Cal introduced, the piece had come with a single order--"don't suck."

From either side of the stage, Trent, Kyle, and Rob began to sing the half notes of the bass line, their eyes focused on the rising scrim as they waited for their cue to enter the scene. At long last, a soft click announced the scrim's arrival at the rafters, and a nod from one of the stage techs allowed for the beginning of the cast's parade down the aisle.

The board of governors filed in slowly from the top of the stage, heads down in reverence as they made their way to their assigned pews. Larkin, who had quickly slipped on a dress fit for a wedding, added herself to the end of the line as she and Cara picked up the descending soprano harmony.

The tenor's quarter notes answered the soprano addition as John Utterson and Dr. Henry Jekyll made their way towards the makeshift altar. As soon as both men found a suitable resting place downstage, the Canon came to an end, and the entire congregation stood in anticipation of the bride-to-be. A brief organ interlude announced Lisa Carew's arrival in the wings, and a single bar's introduction allowed her a moment to make her way to centerstage on the arm of her father, Sir Danvers.

Theresa's Lisa strode down the aisle primly, her head held high and her eyes shining as she glided towards her love. Once at the end of the pew, she turned to her father and allowed him a single kiss. Satisfied, he handed his daughter to a beaming Dr. Jekyll, and the organ interlude ceased.

The clergyman at the front of the church cleared his throat pointedly.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony. If any man can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, this let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace."

As expected, the prompt yielded absolutely no responses from the onlookers. The clergyman ducked his chin, returned his gaze to his Bible, and continued.

"Henry John Albert Jekyll, do you take this woman Lisa Margaret Ellis Carew..."

The clergyman lowered his voice appropriately as Dr. Jekyll began to rock gently back on his heels. His chin fell forward as though he'd dozed off for a brief second. He came to almost immediately, shaking his head to keep himself alert. Lisa, noticing her groom's discomfort, furrowed her brow noticeably and put a steady hand on his arm.

"Henry? What is it?"

His eyes opened widely, proof that the beast, though still trapped behind his cheekbones, was awake and wild and searching for an escape. His shoulders hunched forward, and he doubled over, gasping in pain.

John Utterson's voice shook as he watched his friend fearfully, reaching out a useless hand. "Henry..."

Jekyll's form twisted backwards in anguish, and he clutched his arm to his side immediately as though trying to contain the monster within. "Oh, God, not now..." he mused, breathing deeply and loudly. "Oh, GOD, not now..."

Blinded by the ache in his chest, he began to stumble away from the altar in a vain attempt to save his friends, family, and foes from what he knew was coming. The sense of inevitability, however, did little to keep him from pleading with the heavens for peace.

"Please help me," he whimpered, loudly enough to be heard above the murmurs of the congregation.

Lisa took another step forward, her brow furrowed deeply in concern for her beloved. "Henry..."

Jekyll doubled over again, fighting for breath as he struggled to say afloat in the sea of madness that threatened to surround him. "Someone please take the pain away," he cried, his voice rough. "Oh, feel it fill me...oh, feel it kill me!"

His shouts grew louder as his best friend and wife-to-be watched with mounting horror. Unable to stand the burning pain, he fell to his knees and tipped his head back to speak directly to his maker. "Oh, God, won't somebody please set me free?" A single, solitary tear slid down his cheek as he clutched his stomach and squeezed his eyes shut. "Oh, God, don't let them see me look like this! Not on my wedding day..." He trailed off, and his reiteration of the phrase came in the form of a blood-curdling scream. "Not on my wedding day!"

His scream was echoed by various ladies in the congregation as his form collapsed against the black floor in front of the first pew. Ever the brave addition to the cast of sordid characters, Simon Stride stepped tentatively over to the doctor's fallen form and pressed his two fingers to the man's aorta, searching for a pulse. He had just glanced at his watch to properly assess the doctor's condition when Edward Hyde's head rose in a flurry of blonde. The congregation released a collective gasp when Hyde's two trembling hands found Stride's neck.

"Mr. Stride," Hyde sneered, his voice little more than a growl as he began to caress the smug man's jawline. "I trustfully respect your accordingly order of business." He bit out the last word, punctuating it with a loud snap as he jerked Stride's head to the side, breaking his neck.

"Henry!" Utterson cried in alarm.

From her place in one of the pews, Lady Beaconsfield began fanning herself. "Oh, God...oh, God..."

Sir Danvers Carew stepped forward, determined to put his daughter's fiancÚ in his place once and for all. "Dr. Jekyll..." he began sternly.

"There is no Dr. Jekyll!" Hyde bellowed, whirling around to glare at the older man. "Only Edward Hyde," he finished with a snarl that dared the wedding guests to contradict him.


The members of the congregation stared in amazement, frozen by fear as Lisa Carew approached her disturbed husband-to-be. Slowly, gently, the beautiful woman laid a tender hand on his arm and continued to speak in her soothing soprano. "Henry, it's all right."

Hyde covered her trembling hand with his for a moment before yanking her into his chest. Ignoring the gasps that ensued, he wrapped his free arm around her neck. "Stay back!" he ordered angrily.

No one dared to disobey him. In the glare of the spotlights, the gleam in his eye was menacing.

"No one..." he began, his voice rising slightly as he emphasized the next words, "NO ONE touches Edward Hyde, or before GOD she dies."

"Henry," John Utterson pleaded, taking a dangerous step forward.

Hyde reeled back, carrying Lisa with him.

"No one touches Edward Hyde," he bit out through gritted teeth.

"Henry..." Lisa entreated shakily. She gulped, and a deep breath fortified her tone in the slightest. "Henry, I know that it is you." She paused, listening to the low rattle of his breath behind her. "And you would never harm me..."

Hyde's facial muscles began to twitch--a small sign that he was waging war inside. Slowly and haltingly, he began to remove his hands from Lisa's neck. When she was free of his grasp, she turned gently in his arms and reached a hand up to cup his cheek lovingly but uncertainly.

"Very well."

Jekyll took a step backwards, his features contorting in anguish as the dastardly actions of his alter-ego began to register.

"Lisa?" he inquired fearfully, clutching his stomach in helpless regret. "Oh, God..."

She took a step forward to ease his angst, but he began to reel backwards, suddenly afraid of what he was capable of doing to her. "Oh, God, go on!" he cried, stumbling away from her. His brow furrowed in disgust. "Go on..." He stumbled to the opposite side of the stage, hunching his shoulders to avoid touching anyone else in his path. A maniacal cackle arose as he turned his back on the audience, and John Utterson reached around to his side and brandished a sword.

"Henry!!" Lisa cried.

Hyde turned around with a sinister grin. "DO it, John," he urged, chuckling lowly to himself. "Do it..."

Utterson took a threatening step forward, and Hyde's evil expression melted into the pained, hopeful gaze of Henry Jekyll.

Jekyll, surprisingly enough, continued the plea in his tormented tenor. "Do it..." he agreed quietly. "Please, John, do it!" He shook his head slowly, locking gazes with his lawyer and longtime friend. "Set me free, John, set me free." He let out a bitter chuckle. "Set us all free. Just do it, it."

Utterson's determined expression faded to one of fear. He began to shake his head slowly, afraid of his own ill will. "I could not!"

Jekyll took three steps forward and reached out, grabbing the blade that Utterson wielded and pulling himself into its lethal line. The tip appeared behind him as rivers of blood ran down his fingers. When Utterson pulled the blade away in horror, the end of the sword was covered in glittering crimson.

Jekyll stumbled backward, staring at his hands in awe as he fell to the ground.

Lisa let out a tiny, anguished squeak and rushed forward. "Henry...oh, Henry..." she murmured, stroking his hair as she bent to cradle his head in her lap.

He lifted his gaze from his stained skin and offered her a breathtakingly hopeful smile. "Lisa..."

"Shh," she admonished, her whisper trembling with the weight of unshed tears. "Rest," she ordered gently, placing a finger against his lips. "Rest now, my tormented love."

With one last reassuring smile, she sucked in a deep breath and sang her offering of sanctuary in a lilting, whisper-soft soprano.

You are free now
You're with me now
Where you'll always be **

The last note faded into the gentle call of a French horn, and the orchestra continued the melody as it rose from a hesitant wind harmony to a triumphant brass call.

Unfortunately, the lights had barely faded to black before the triumphant brass call came to an equally triumphant halt.

Silence ensued for less than a moment before a familiar voice spoke for the first time since the performance had begun.

"Okay, kids, everybody up."

The air in the theater hung thick with tension as the cast rose from their positions and queued at the front of the stage. Their chests were heaving with exhausted breath, and they squinted their eyes nervously just beyond the orchestra pit as their director stood.

They'd just finished their first uninterrupted run-through. Every member of the cast knew that elation was in order, but they were biting their tongues in anticipation. True to his word, Cal had remained silent and watchful throughout the entire performance, and everyone was unnerved by the lack of interjections from their usually loquacious director.

Now, as he inspected each of them in turn, they were terrified. Cal tapped his chin with his fist and heaved a sigh. "On second thought, find a seat onstage where you can see. This is going to take awhile."

The air rushed out of their lungs as they slumped dejectedly to suitable seats amidst the stage props. When they were properly arranged, Cal vaulted onto the stage and sucked in a breath.

"Well, you got through it."


"Oh, come on," he grumbled. "You have to feel some sense of accomplishment."

No one dared to move.

Cal rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Jesus Christ."

Aaron reached out and grabbed the hands of both Cara and Theresa, squeezing them lightly. He'd expected to feel safety in numbers, but Cal was rapidly making him feel no more than two inches tall. God, we suck. He's going to tell us that we're not ready. He's going to send us packing and recruit another cast because he's sick of trying to force us into doing this thing justice.

Cal narrowed his eyes. "I'm not sure if I should be flattered or just amused that you're all scared shitless, but here's what I have to say." He paused and removed his hand from his chin. "However terrified you all are right now? Multiply that by, oh...a hundred and fifty, and you'll see how terrified I was when you kids started this thing."

From stage right, Trent and Tabitha gulped. God, this can't be good.

Cal began to pace. "I took a risk here. I pulled a bunch of really young actors together to revive a classic musical. Not only did I nip and tuck the story, but I stuck a pop star in the lead role. I gave the whole damn thing a facelift and made it feel about ten years younger, and I've spent the past two months living in constant fear of lifting the bandages and finding out that I'd not only fucked up the plastic surgery, but left my patient with unsightly scars and possible disfigurement." He paused and glanced at them expectantly. "Not just Cher-caliber oopsie either, people. I'm talking Michael Jackson's worst nightmare."

Despite the humor, no one dared to laugh--even nervously.

"You guys have terrified the shit out of me. I've spent every fucking day in the worst kind of suspense, watching you flub lines and fuck up lyrics and generally make a mess of a pretty magnificent musical. I've gone to bed every night and stared at my ceiling for hours, trying to figure out why in the hell I hired such a young, stupid group of people."

He paused again and stared at them with the slightest hint of amusement.

"I haven't slept well since I started this project. I probably won't sleep well tonight, either, but...for the first time in a long time, I can honestly say that's not your fault."

He expected a collective sigh of relief. What he got was uncertain silence. Unable to keep calm any longer, Cal exploded, flailing his arms.

"Oh, come on, people! Relax, would you? It's over, and it didn't suck!"

The explosion received the predicted response. Forty shoulders fell in unison to a soundtrack of a dozen balloons being deflated.

And then the unthinkable happened. Cal smiled.

"I tell you what. When I sat down in that seat this morning, I was positive that I was going to have to sit on my hands to keep from scratching my own eyeballs out."

A few nervous laughs echoed in the auditorium.

"I didn't," he finished with a chuckle. "I was mouthing every fucking word with you, but I didn't feel the need to stop you every five seconds. Not that the performance was perfect--because it wasn't, by any far stretch of the imagination--but it wasn't half-bad." A small gleam in his eye intrigued the three stars sitting directly in front of him. "In fact, I can actually imagine taking ticket money tomorrow night without a guilty conscience."

Out of the corners of their eyes, Aaron and Cara shared small smiles.

"You've still got a fucking lot of room for improvement,'ve managed to capture the essence of the storyline." He glanced around the stage appreciatively. "You made me feel it this morning." He sucked in a deep breath, dropped his gaze to his three star pupils, and frowned hesitantly.

"Good job."

He said the words as though they pained him, and the irony of the scene filled his cast with pride. Slowly, an undercurrent of excited chatter rose to a level slightly above nervous whispers.


Cast and crew were immediately silent.

"I'm not done yet!" Cal paused to glare at his students contemptuously. "You did fairly well this morning, but don't you dare make me regret that admission. Like I said, we've got a lot left to do if we want to give this thing the appropriate amount of polish, and I'm not about to settle for anything less than the perfection that I know you're capable of attaining." He arched a menacing eyebrow. "Are we clear?"

Reluctant murmurs of agreement provided the response he was looking for.

"Good. Now, we may have a lot of work to do, but opening night is tomorrow night, and..." He flinched. "I'm really hesitant to work you into the ground today. I wasn't entirely disgusted by this morning's enactment, and I'm afraid that more rehearsal will fuck up your sense of equilibrium." He sighed heavily, and the flinch became a grimace. "That said...I think I'm going to give you the rest of the day off."

Theresa's big blue eyes widened in shock. Holy shit...

The rest of the cast sat in stunned, disbelieving silence. Compliments were one thing, but compliments and compassion in one day were unthinkable, even in things like Holland mythology and theater folklore.

Cal's eyebrows rose expectantly. "What? Why are you still sitting here? Do you want me to run another grueling rehearsal?!"

The entire auditorium seemed to shake as various members of cast and crew rose to their feet and scrambled to the door, hoping to get outside before their errant director changed his mind.

Aaron watched his friends go with a chuckle. Cara and Theresa were taking their time packing up, though, and he knew they'd wait for him.

"Hey, Cal?"

Cal turned around in surprise. "What're you still doing here?"

Aaron cracked a small smile, torn suddenly by his inability to express everything he was feeling in a few words. Despite Cal's harsh demeanor, the man had taken Aaron under his wing and challenged him in a way that no one else had cared to. He'd been grateful for Cal's faith from day one, but now, standing in the spotlight of the director's recent compliments, he was overcome with gratitude.

"I just..." He sighed heavily, and his brow furrowed in slight frustration at the inadequacy of the words he was about to use. "I just wanted to say thank you."

Cal nodded knowingly, an amused smile playing at the corners of his mouth. "Don't thank me yet, kid. We haven't been ripped and raped by the New York critics yet."

"No," Aaron agreed, "but...but we've still come a long way, haven't we?"

Cal chuckled lightly. "Yeah, I guess you have." He glanced up with a smirk. "Of course, that's not me, is it? That one's all you."

* "Facade"
performed by the ensemble
lyrics by Leslie Bricusse
music by Frank Wildhorn
** "The Wedding"
performed by Carolee Carmello
lyrics by Leslie Bricusse
music by Frank Wildhorn