It was not, Stian later protested, his idea.
It was Rafe’s. Which, going into it, meant that everyone involved conceded that it was probably a terrible idea, doomed to end in tears (and a terrible hangover), but would be a great deal of fun in the meantime.
Finding his son a wife had been harder than Beorn had anticipated. He himself had stumbled into one, and all things considered that had worked out remarkably well. So he couldn’t understand why the boy was so damned picky.
“Just find a woman, get a son on her, and then go about your life,” he had said, and Dag had only looked pained and said nothing.
He didn’t argue, exactly: the boy never argued. It was damned irritating.
He just… didn’t cooperate.
Beorn wanted to blame Catherine, and say that she’d made the boy soft. But he knew it wasn’t true. Other men would make that mistake, but he knew subtlety when he saw it.
He wasn’t capable of it, but he admired it in his son.
So when it became clear that Dag wasn’t going to find a wife on his own, at least not nearly fast enough to suit him, he took matters into his own hands.
And that’s where it had gotten complicated. He had, well, ruffled some feathers in his day, and the result was that he found the available pool of brides sharply diminished. Political necessity (god damn it) required a future duchess of a certain standing, especially now. But that left him with two categories of women: those whose families would have nothing to do with him and those who he wouldn’t have in the family for anything. The search had been mostly fruitless.
Well, metaphorically fruitless. He’d somehow tripped and ended up with another daughter in the process.
There had been a pretty little English girl he’d had an eye on, bright, talented, nice figure, red hair, old family. But when he’d consulted with the Bitches in the Basement they’d told him she was destined to die without children, no matter who her husband was. So that was that.
Then, finally, he’d found the girl. The boy liked her, she finally consented (and what a fucking drama that had been). So now there was but one remaining bit of ceremony. He had put it off because it meant going to the Sisters. They didn’t get on.
They didn’t get on like oil and water, like fire and ice – no, like fire and oil a dose of kerosene. His contempt for the Sisters was unparalleled and made far worse by the fact that he needed them. He could, conceivably, serve as Magus without their consent – he’d done it for more than forty years without their good will – but it would be an even bigger fucking pain in the arse than it already was. There was also a great deal that he couldn’t do without them, not all of it ceremonial. But every interaction with them was laden with danger and frequently ended explosively.
He would reflect, years later, that he should have known.
He should have known when he entered the cavern below the residence and found them waiting: they had, for the last twenty years, only come when he sent for them. Politely.
He should have known when they spoke, at first, in soothing tones. He had taken it for condescnension. He should have known it for kindness.
And he should have known that kindness would never have been directed at him.
“Let’s get this over with,” he had said in a gruff voice.
“You are here for the auspices,” the first of the three said. They wore black today, and their veils were lace.
“We can cut through the bullshit,” he said. “There’s only one thing I need to know.”
“Choose carefully,” said the third. “There is much we see: where events are fixed and where the threads can be shifted, and where we can advise…”
“I need your advice now as much as ever,” he said with a snarl. “I’m here because we have come, for twelve hundred years. Every wedding, every birth into the House, we come, and while I have no patience for you I will not break that chain. But I will not waste my time here. Will Sonja produce an heir, or won’t she?”
Three identical veiled figures stared at him, still as statues, and though he could not see their faces he could feel the contempt rolling off of them.
“Well?” he asked.
“You’ll get your heir,” the middle one spat at last. “One such as even you will be proud of.” And as one, they turned on their heels and left him standing in the cavern alone.
Beorn hissed and spat on the floor. But his show of temper covered for the chill that was beginning to settle in over his bones. For what may have been the first time in his life, he wondered if he had been terribly, terribly wrong.
They had been going through more scotch than usual.
As Edmund worked his way through the contract Josef had sent, he was drinking more than usual. Sometimes it was out of irritation or perplexity. Just as often, it was when he had found something he knew Stian would find particularly objectionable. In either case, the decanters were empty, and it necessitated a trip down to the cellar.
But when Higgins went looking for the twenty-five year old scotch that he usually kept the study stocked in, it was missing. And unless he was mistaken, the bottle of forty year had been in the process of creeping down the shelf when it had frozen, tottered slightly, and clunked back onto the board.
“That’s strange,” said Higgins aloud.
“Ach, crivens,” a tiny voice said. “We’re done for now.”
“Ssshhh, Wullie. He hasna seen us yet.”
Higgins’ shoulders sagged. He trudged back up the stairs to the kitchen, where Molly was taking a fresh pie out of the oven. He had to admit: the girl wasn’t nearly so good a cook as Miss Nikopoulos had been, but she did a fair bit more baking.
“I need to borrow your frying pan, Molly,” he said.
“The frying pan? Whatever for?” Even as she asked she moved the footstool over to climb up to hanging pot rack.
“Just a little problem in cellar,” said Higgins.
“Oh, no,” she said, her voice half dismay and half sympathetic coo. “Feegles again?”
“I’m afraid so.”
She sighed and handed him the frying pan. “Well if knocking them up one side and down the other doesn’t work, warn them the young miss is studying transmutations.”
“Threten to turn them into toads, eh?” Higgins smirked at the image.
“No,” said Molly. “Lawyers. They’ll cack their pants for certain.”
It’s the Greyson-versary, more or less.
Which means a year ago, I started writing this massive…EPICFICTHING over at livejournal, and it has kinda taken over my life. At any given point my brain is gnawing on it.
It’s meant many good things.
It’s how I met Anachronistique (and thus any number of y’all) and SieSieGirl and others, and if I never get anything else out of it, that’s worth it.
It’s been a real sanity saver as I navigate chronic illness, post-dissertator syndrome (SOMEONE GAVE ME A PhD WHUUUUT), and being the mother of a toddler.
I could lay down some real heavy shit about how it’s the first time I’ve been able to write fiction since before I was abused, but that’s not what this post is about.
This is mostly about being really grateful for having a project to work on and the friends it has brought me. And saying thank you to some imaginary friends for amusing me.
AND to say, for the next twenty four hours, it’s a fic-a-thon around here. I had hoped to have A Particular Event ready to go, but it just didn’t quite sync up. SO instead, ALL OF YOU:
Name a fandom, give me a rating (and a pairing if you’re so inclined), and I’ll give you something. Those of you who know the boys, that’s obviously top of the list, but I’ll do anything. Well, let’s be reasonable. ALMOST anything. Yes, you can double-dip. Or triple dip. Keep me amused.
And if you ask nicely, Rafe will answer questions too.
Ironically enough, Rafe was not used to having women around the house. He didn’t usually bring girls home, back when he did such things (and he was trying very hard to not feel any regret on the strict past tense on that one), his mother never came here (“I do not want to know,”), nor did his sister (“Don’t you ever clean?”*), and practical concerns and preference meant that when he had spent the night with Marianna he’d usually done it back at the main house.
The fact that he’d spent more time in his childhood room than he had since he was fourteen should have been his first clue, he now thought ruefully.
But now that he’d acquired a wife (still waiting for the punchline on that one, he was) he couldn’t exactly not bring her home. They hadn’t even begun to fight over the logistics of that long term arrangement, but the most immediate effect was that he suddenly found himself overrun by women. Molly, Lily, and Wils were popping over on a daily basis and staying for hours at a time. Rebecca suddenly started dropping by.
And God help him there was tidying.
But the really disturbing and unexpected side effect of the whole thing was revealed a few weeks after the wedding. Stephen had come over with their sister, and he and Rafe were hiding in what Rafe was now starting to call his study while Marianna and Wils visited.
After a while, Stephen eyed the shelves. “So she’s letting you keep the library?”
“So far,” said Rafe, “which likely means she’s tabled the issue until she’s in the mood for a really big row.” He pushed himself up in the large chair. “Say, that reminds me. Did you borrow something last time you and Wils were here?”
“Like what?” Stephen asked.
“Eighteenth century, blue binding, really spectacular woodcuts? I don’t mind, I just wish you’d ask first.”
“I’ve told you, Rafe, I have no interest in your staggering collection of… instructional manuals.”
Stephen was clearly telling the truth, which meant…
Rafe shuddered with fraternal revulsion. “You have no idea how sorry I am to hear you say that.”
* The townhouse was, in fact, extremely clean. He had someone in three times a week to ensure this was the case, and he was far more fastidious than you might expect. What it wasn’t, however, was tidy. Edmund called him an inveterate slob, he countered that he simply had an innovative filing system, but the real truth was that it was infinitely easier to tell someone had been picking through your possessions in your absence if things looked like a hurricane had just hit them.
So a lot of my characters start out in central casting, which is to say inspired by actors or other characters. They take on their own lives from there, and within a few thousand words they no longer have much in common with their real-world parents.
EXCEPT NOW WE HAVE AMNESIA ERIC SO WE HAVE ERIC BEING DOOFY AND PROTECTIVE AND NOBLE AND I CAN’T EVEN COPE BECAUSE HELLO SWEETIE THERE YOU ARE.
You know I love you. It’s real, guys. It’s real. And I know that between recent events and they fact that we’re all taking a bit of a vacation, everyone is feeling rambunctious.
This is good! This is where story ideas come from. It’s also what makes having all of you in my head a lot of fun.
And this is why I asked the wives, mothers, girlfriends, lovers and sisters to sit this one out.
There are times and places where it is appropriate for you to drop extensive porn ideas into my head. I won’t use all of them, but I appreciate the help. I do.
DURING PRAYER CIRCLE AT BIBLE STUDY WITH SEVENTY YEAR OLD LADIES IS NOT IT.
Ed, stop smacking your brother. It’s not his fault for a change.