Climbing The Walls Gets Me Nowhere

It’s easier to lie to me than to yourself. Forget about your friends, you know they’re going to say we’re bad for each other, but we ain’t good for anyone else.

Seryl 10th, 1513 – Carico Estate, River Sulis, Lothianshire, Albion


“You should go over and talk to him, Caroline.” Marianne’s cousin, Babette said from her place on one of the settees in the lounge.

“It doesn’t do for a lady to be so bold, Babette.” Caroline demurred, fluffing her hair like a ninny. “Besides, it’s just plain rude to interrupt.”

“She’s afraid Leo’s more interested in the card game than in her.” Audrina snickered. Caroline sighed and tossed her hair again. Ugh. Vivi squared her shoulders under her dress and tried to keep her hands from balling into fists. Right now it was taking every ounce of deportment and the fact that no one (except maybe Marianne) would thank her for turning around and slamming her fist square into Caroline’s face to keep from doing exactly that.

Did the girl ever use her brain? Did she have one? Maybe it just dribbled out her ears onto her pillow and spiders had taken up residence in there instead. Nah, Caroline was probably too poisonous for even a spider to survive living in.


“I am not.” Caroline said. “He was quite attentive when we were dancing.”

“She means he was talking to her while everyone else was dancing.” Audrina mock-whispered across Caroline to Babette and Nadine.

“Because dancing with my younger cousin is so much better than talking with ones almost betrothed.” Caroline smirked.

“And just what is wrong with my brother?” Babette asked tossing her hair haughtily.

Nothing.” Caroline told her. “He’s just younger than Audrina is and I think the only reason that she danced with him is because every other lad in attendance knows to stay far, far away from her. Audrina does have a bit of a… shall we say… reputation?”

“Just because mother and father would prefer I chose my own spouse instead of auctioning me off to the highest bidder does not give me a reputation. How’m I supposed to know which boy I want to marry if I don’t do a bit of flirting with all the options?” Audrina sneered back. Maybe their brains had been “borrowed” by the cow demons and used to play a rather vigorous game of croquet and been returned damaged.


“Vivianne?” Marianne whispered. “Are you alright? You’re awful pale.” Vivi noticed that her brothers, all three of them were craning their attention toward where the two of them stood.

“I’m fine. I just–it’s probably just the wig.” Marianne didn’t look convinced–for that matter, neither did her brothers.

The door to the cardroom opened, letting in overly warm, overly perfumed air from the ballroom.

“C’mon, let’s sit and get a game in before my mother can arrange me another dance.” Elizabet grinned at her best friends. “You too, Ri.” She added when Marianne hesitated.

“Marianne, don’t you dare, a lady doesn’t play poker.” Caroline called from her couch.


“My mother plays poker. My grandmother, Sophie, who I’m pretty sure was considered the epitome of “a lady” in her day was the one who taught me to play poker.” Elizabet dismissed with a wave. “A lady, I guess, is not supposed to take shits either, must be why you’re so full of it, Caroline.” Caroline’s startled gasp was almost drowned in the masculine laughter. Marianne hurried to one of the chairs at the card table, with Severus dropping into the fourth chair a moment later when Ansem excused himself from their poker game to go find a drink.

“You are so coarse, Elizabet.” Caroline sniffed when the laughter had died down. “You’re a young lady now, not a child. One of these days you’re just going to have to grow up and stop wasting those deportment lessons that your parents are paying for.”

“Caroline, let me tell you something that your mother won’t. There is a lot more to being a lady than following ‘the rules’.” Elizabet looked over at Caroline, holding her gaze for a long moment. “A true lady doesn’t need to pretend to be something she’s not. And someone who spends all their time pretending, rather than being themselves is an actress not a lady.”

“Wow, that almost sounded wise, Elizabet.” Severus commented breaking the silence that had followed Elizabet’s words.

“Well, I’m only twelve, almost wise is about the best I can do. Your deal, Ri.” Elizabet flicked a strand of black hair out of her face. Severus chuckled. Marianne hesitated for a second before picking up the deck of cards and dealing out the cards.

“So, how’s it going in there?” Vivi asked, jerking her chin toward the ballroom.

“I now know how a prize side of beef feels.” Elizabet said. Vivi shrugged, Marianne stared at the table, picking at a piece of fluff that had built up on the felt. At Vivi’s own debut, her mother had already broached the subject of marrying Vivi off to Prince Nathaniel. He had been supposed to attend, but had caught some sort of flux or something and had not been able to make it. Still, it had spared Vivi the indignity of having to be passed from prospective husband to prospective husband via dance after dance.

She’d only had to dance the dances she felt like dancing and chatted with only the people she felt like chatting with–and with the few people that she couldn’t really avoid having some conversation with.

Marianne had probably had it the worst. Neither she nor Elizabet had been invited to the party, Elizabet had only been nine and a fairly rambunctious nine at that. Vivi had been eleven, only three or so months from the mythical twelve, but Lady Katherine was a quibbler over things like that. In fact, Vivi and Elizabet had had a sleepover and gotten wired on fizzy pop and cake and according to Elizabet’s nurse, had to be more or less peeled off the ceiling that night.

But from what little Vivi knew about Marianne’s party, she’d had a relatively empty dance card–but not by choice. More, she gathered, because there just hadn’t been too many people that interested in dancing with the second daughter of a man who was perilously close to losing noble status.


And Vivi knew it bothered her. Lord Henry, so far as anyone knew, hadn’t entertained many offers for Marianne. Which sucked because  Marianne–of all of them–was the one most deserving of being chased. Wish I could trade her my quasi-betrothal to the prince. Vivi thought glumly. She had met Nathaniel once–so many years ago she barely remembered him as anything but tall and blonde. She didn’t know what he was like or what he looked like. He wrote her a couple of letters a year, probably because the queen told him he had to.

She was starting to think that he was avoiding her. Every time she’d gone to court with her mother, he wasn’t at court. Every time he was supposed to come to see her, something happened, fire, flood, rioting in the streets. He’d broken two bones, come down with any number of communicable diseases, either he was the most hapless prince in memory–or he was no more keen on the idea than she was.

But if he would just meet her, they’d either hit it off (ha) or they’d know they didn’t want to get married to each other and they could start looking other places. Vivi’s father insisted that she would not be forced to marry someone that she couldn’t stand. No matter what that meant giving up. But he equally insisted that they couldn’t decide that without meeting each other as young adults.

Leo had met him at Camford and told her that he really thought that she would like Nathaniel. But then again, he really thought that he could tolerate Caroline for the rest of their natural lives, so as much as she adored her brother, she wasn’t sure that she trusted his judgment on matters romantic.


“Well, that’s it for me, lads.” Leo said, tossing his cards onto the stack. “Probably shouldn’t lose all of my pocket money, I do need to get back to Camford somehow, and I don’t fancy sleeping in bushes all the way.”

“Aw, c’mon, Leo, I’d lend you some.” Vivi craned her neck, looking at the stack of chips that Charlie had amassed in front of him, most of Leo’s pocket money was probably sitting in that stack.

“No, thanks. I don’t care to be your debtor, Charlie, your interest rates are way too high. You’re worse than a Reman pawnbroker.” Leo told him to the laughter of most of the rest of the room. “Besides…” He trailed off. Vivi’s back was to Leo, but he probably nodded toward something because there was a chorus of “ah’s”.

“My lady, would you care to accompany me for a breath of air?” He said walking over to where Caroline sat. She tittered behind her hand, but Vivi would bet money that she also used it to screen a smirk shot at Audrina before she stood and tucked her hand into the crook of Leo’s elbow.

“Oh, we probably shouldn’t be out without a chaperone.” Caroline paused. Knowing her brother, Vivi would guess it was an act of will for him to not roll his eyes at her. “Marianne, you probably shouldn’t lose all your pocket money either. Why don’t you accompany us.” It would take knowing Marianne well to see the way she withered a little. She slid her cards together and slid them in at the bottom of the deck.

I can’t let her go by herself. Vivi decided. Normally Elizabet would have made it a group thing, and it would have been a lot more fun that way, but it probably wouldn’t do for the guest of honor at the party to disappear out into the night to chaperone a single couple that wasn’t even related to her.

“I’ll go with you.” Vivi said handing Elizabet her cards.

“I’ll wish I could, guess I should probably go head back into the meat market.” Elizabet sighed. “Sorry to abandon you, Severus, but you can go lose all your pocket money to your brother instead of me if you want.” Severus chuckled as the three of them stood straightening their skirts.


The balcony off the Carico’s library was, for a wonder, currently empty. Leo escorted Caroline to the bench nearest the door and under the lanterns and seemed to settle in for a long conversation about the weather or something equally fascinating. What did you talk about with someone who would be hard-pressed to challenge a rock to a battle of wits.

“So, who was your favorite costume?” Vivi asked Marianne, hoping that even if her brother and Marianne’s sister couldn’t find something fun to talk about, she and Marianne still could.

“I think Lady Marisol’s. She looks almost exactly like that picture of Lady Dindrane from the costume book.” Marianne told her.

“I kinda liked Darin’s date’s.” Marianne frowned.

“I didn’t know Darin came with a date…” She trailed off.

“Well, she’s been chatting with Benoit most of the evening.” Vivi told her. Caroline snickered.


“You can actually chat with Benoit?” The comment earned her three black looks. Even if it was kinda true, it was a little hard to chat with Benoit, he was a very nice boy, but dense as a brick wall. He might have actually lost a battle of wits with Caroline. Still, it didn’t do to say something like that. Which I think just proves Elizabet’s point. Caroline isn’t a lady any more than that bench she’s sitting on. She’s just an actress.

Anyway,” Vivi said as if she hadn’t been interrupted. “She’s the one who came as Baroness Ferreira.”

“Are you sure we aren’t just prejudiced in favor of our own ancestors?” Marianne giggled. “I mean you’re descended from the Ferreiras and I’m descended from the Gwynedds and Lady Dindrane while not my direct ancestor, so far as I know, was the sister of my ancestor.”

“Well, point.” Vivi took the lull as a chance to shoot a look at her brother who had such a confused look on his face from whatever Caroline was saying that Vivi was hardpressed not to laugh. “Okay, so what about favorite male costume, we’ll see if we’re still prejudiced.”


“Hmmm, Well, I did like Darin’s. But I would have to say I think my favorite was Joshua’s.”

Vivi giggled. “He does kinda work the hell out of a black outfit, doesn’t he? I didn’t realize you could probably break wallnuts with his calf-muscles until I saw him in those hosen!” Marianne swatted her arm.


“Well, I coulda made some comment about his butt. Which is very nice too.” Vivi waggled her eyebrows  and Marianne blushed even redder.

“So before your mouth gets you into any more trouble, what was your favorite male costume. And please tell me that you whomever it was you weren’t looking at their–rear.” Marianne said sounding somewhat prim.

“Well, no, you can’t even see the butt of the guy in my favorite costume as anything more than a bit of a lump. Besides I wouldn’t be looking at your dad’s butt anyway. I liked your father’s costume a lot.” Vivi said.

“Ugh. Vivianne!” Caroline interjected. “Really, with Edouard’s and Jeremie’s and even your brother Severus’ costumes the “best” costume you can choose is a middle aged man with five kids? I mean, really?”

“The question was favorite costume, Caroline. Not which was the best looking boy who filled out his tights well.” Vivi told her affronted. “And I notice that Leo wasn’t on your list, what’s wrong with his costume?”

Caroline gaped for a long moment, her mouth opening and closing like a fish.

“Sorry, Marianne, I’m afraid the air out her has turned a bit rancid.” Vivi said shooting Caroline a black look as she headed off, intent on finding her mother and insisting to be allowed to head straight home. Elizabet was going to spend the whole evening stuck in the ballroom dancing or chatting anyway. And while Vivi was not going to blame Marianne for her obnoxious sister, after all she hated it when the backlash of some prank or what not of her brothers’ spilled over onto her, she couldn’t help but wish that Caroline would just do them all a favor and fall down some stairs or something.

Seryl 11th, 1513 – Finessa Estate


Vivi took one last long look at herself in her costume in the mirror. Twisting to look at the way she filled out the back and wishing there were a bit more to fill out the front before sliding the black wig off and there she was. Back to being plain old Vivi, with too many freckles and unruly not quite red, not quite blonde, not quite brown curls spilling out.

She turned to the wardrobe, slipping out of the costume, holding the underdress in one hand, reaching for a clothes hanger.


“Vivi?” She gasped as Leo’s voice came from her room. “Can we talk for a minute?”

“Leo–I thought you were still at the party.” She dropped the cloth in her hand and walked up the stairs to her bedroom. She heard Leo gulp, saw him freeze in the middle of settling on her bed. Why is he looking at me like that?


His eyes swept over her, once, twice, on the second trip down she glanced down–just then realizing that she was–very not dressed.


“Lemme grab my robe.” She said, hurrying back down the stairs, just stepping over the dress that she probably should have picked up from it’s crumpled heap on the floor, her cheeks still painfully red.


“No, no, it’s–my fault for not knocking. Guess I’m not used to having to worry about my sister the young lady.” Leo said with a chuckle that would have been better if it didn’t sound so forced.

“But, I thought you were still at the party.” She repeated, sliding onto the bed beside him. “It’s not even like you had to worry about me getting home. The walk home isn’t even far. I do it every day almost.”

“Not at night.”

“With all the guards posted at the Carcios to keep people from crashing the party, ha, Leo. You must be mistaking me for your delicate little flower.” Vivi said.

“Delicate little flower?” Leo repeated.

“You know–Caroline.” Vivi told him with a glare a the toe of her stocking.

“Vivi, my marrying Caroline FitzChivalry is more that it’s a good match politically and even financially. It has nothing to do with actually wanting to marry Caroline. You can’t keep punishing me for it.”

“Daddy said we didn’t have to marry anyone we didn’t like! You can’t possibly like her!” Vivi said, trying very hard not to whine as she said it.

“I also don’t dislike her. There are quite a few girls out there that I can’t even say that much about. It’s hard to find a girl who is tolerable and a good match.” Leo sighed. “I mean it would be wonderful, Viv, if I could find a beautiful girl who was a good match and had a good personality. But this isn’t a storybook, Vivi.”

“Wouldn’t marrying Marianne net you the same advantages as Caroline and that wouldn’t give me a sister-in-law I wanna strangle to sit across from at Robertmas dinner!” Vivi asked.

“And just how offended do you think Lord Henry would be if I said to him ‘you know, the more I get to know Caroline the less I like her, can we try the other one?’…?” Leo started to glare at her then quickly looked at his boots. He never glared at her–not even when she deserved it. It wasn’t his fault–and he was right–and she just couldn’t admit it.

“It’d be Lady Henry who was offended. I’m pretty sure that Lord Henry is well aware that his eldest daughter is a bitch.” Vivi said.


“She is!” Vivi said turning on her side and looking at her brother. “She belittles and insults her sister, her friends, me, anyone she thinks she can!” She locked eyes with Leo and whispered. “And she’ll make you miserable.” She added in a whisper.

“Vivi.” Leo rolled onto his side and put a hand on her elbow as her fingers ran over his belt buckle. “Oh Wright, Vivi.” He twined a curl around his finger before shifting.

A moment later he was basically straddling her waist, leaning over her. Then he shook himself like a dog that had just been dunked in cold water.

“Vivi, I–”

“You’re right.” She met his eyes, the exact same color as hers, in understanding even if he never finished. There were some things you just couldn’t articulate. “We shouldn’t be doing this now.”

“Vivi–we shouldn’t be doing this at all.” A moment later he’d slid off the side of the bed and stalked off toward the door, without so much as a look back in her direction, the staccato of his boots almost identical the sound of Lady Henry’s slippers on the floor.

Vivi shivered.

8 thoughts on “Climbing The Walls Gets Me Nowhere

  1. … Well, that was interesting. All kinds of messed up. But interesting.

    I think Vivi needs to meet some nice boys, maybe including that prince of hers … and Leo needs to meet some nice girls who can be good matches who aren’t Caroline. I refuse to believe that the pickings on the ground are as slim as all that. If the first generation of Albion, which was much smaller, can have everybody get paired off with only one Babette among the lot, there has to be hope for Leo. Because if this keeps on the way it is, I don’t think it’s going to end up anywhere good.

    Plus, as much as I hate to say this — letting Caroline go as quickly as possible is what’s most fair to her. She’s going to need all the time she can get to find a someone who will marry her, unless she wants to emulate Babette in more ways than just her costume.

    And speaking of Babette, one thing I wish I’d seen in this party would have been Annette pestering Caroline about hanging out together or something. Because they’re sisters don’t you know. I would love to see Caroline’s face when she realized that.

    But mostly I just want to see Leo and Vivi realize that this is a really bad idea and try to find somebody else for each of them.

    1. I think they realize it’s a bad idea already. I mean that’s why they’re not doing anything more than this. The problem is they haven’t yet found something else to replace it with.

      Vivi will meet the prince this year. But beyond that and what happens with him, I dunno. I guess another thing that Vivi doesn’t see is that if there are other options for Leo there are other options for her and that there’s nothing to say that she can’t look around and see if someone else catches her fancy. Or even have a bit of a flirtation with somebody even if nothing comes from it except a little bit of excitement.

      You’re very right. Telling Henry that he wasn’t sure about the betrothal, rather than stringing Caroline along would be helpful. I–think that she has somehow mentally glossed over the fact that her hero, for lack of a better term, Babette had a shotgun wedding. And her father is well enough off and her bloodlines good enough that she shouldn’t have to fuck her way into an advantageous marriage.

      Lol, I dunno if Annette would want to hang out with Caroline, even just to pester her, but I do have one more update from this party, I’ll see if somehow I can work in a few cracks from Annette about how it’s adorable that they’re sisters…

      I though that you are definitely right and if this continues on it’s current trajectory, it’s not going to land in happy happy good times land. Thanks, Morgaine!

  2. If Leo breaks it off with Caroline, the new lack of alliance there would give Severus an excuse to make his feelings about Marianne known… ;)

    But seriously, I do hope that Vivi and Leo get past the incesty thing before anything catastrophic happens. There are probably plenty of politically-convenient young women at Camford who could be excellent matches for Leo personality-wise, or at least more tolerable than Caroline. And if he doesn’t feel up to getting married any time soon, he could always wait for Elizabet to grow up. As for Vivi… well, there’s Camford for her too. There’s also Josh (who, while he might not be able to actually love her, is not a jerk and not her brother and could at least become a good friend) and Brandon (who I kind of hope marries either Vivi or Elizabet, both because he’s a sweetheart and because then Marianne would have at least one in-law connection to one of her best friends). And hey, maybe she and Nathanial will end up liking each other after all.

    I’m guessing Vivi and Leo’s parents have no idea about this?

    Caroline as Babette is the most fitting costume at the party. I suspect she and Leo will have ample time apart in the next few years, because I struggle to imagine a Camford entrance exam easy enough for Caroline to pass.

    1. That it would! And we’ll see Severus (and quite probably a bit more of Marianne) in the next update. Though I dunno that he will be shouting his feelings from the rooftop in that post.

      As I said to Morgaine on IM the other night, pickings aren’t nearly as slim as Leo thinks they are, it’s–like everything else in this family, complicated. He doesn’t want to disappoint his father and while Vivi is sure that Squeak wouldn’t force any of his children to marry someone that they couldn’t stand… Well Leo is the eldest and a boy and Vivi is the youngest and the only girl, they’re looking at the problem from different perspectives.

      And yes, there are probably plenty of girls who would be politically advantageous at Camford who have the brain to even get in the door. I mean Elyan found one. But if there is one thing that most of the Finessas can’t seem to see it is how to break out of their current ruts.

      I–don’t see Elizabet and Leo as a couple. I don’t know that Leo needs a “lady” with as many rules as Caroline, but I don’t think the kind of lady who–in mixed company–tells someone they’re full of shit is quite what Leo’s looking for in a wife… I think he’s a bit more conformist about his taste in women than Elizabet is ever going to be.

      There are indeed several options for Vivi and so far all we know about the prince is what Vivi’s thought of him and told her friends, and she isn’t exactly impartial.

      Lianne has no clue. Squeak, I think, might have a guess or two, but he has no idea to the depth of this thing between them. And I think that in some ways he’s kind of waiting and seeing if the two with the additional space and time apart with Leo off at Camford surrounded by lovely young ladies and Vivi surrounded by all the boys from the Academy that the twins bring round might turn their fancies.

      Yeah, I think Camford is pickier than to allow Caroline in… So they will have plenty of time apart…

      Thanks, Van!

    1. Sorry about that, Andavri. I was getting an error anytime I tried to post a comment, and obviously it’s something in the original comment since that worked. I’ll re-type it and try again.

  3. Oh, Vivi. Until and unless this situation changes, I think she would end up wanting to marry whoever Leo marries. Marianne would take longer than Caroline to get there (Caroline is already selling postcards there), but even she would hit the threshold eventually. That aside, I’ve always come out of the Vivi & Leo hints wanting to to know their whole story at once. The train wreck aura around them is fasincating.

    Caroline as Babette a la Jessie was perfect. Though, I wouldn’t think pregnant first and married second would be very ladylike behavior either.

    1. No worries. It happens sometimes, I’ve gotten a couple of errors on it myself. I just have the option to go in and edit any comments so I can fix it myself, you’ve got to work around.

      You’re probably right, I do think that even if Leo married Marianne, Vivi would come to resent her. (Not to mention how Severus would feel.)

      It’s twisted and disturbing the two of them together, but I’m glad somebody likes the arc. (No big surprises, Morgaine’s really not that fond of it.) But their story is still in the telling, we’ll definitely find out more later.

      No, sleeping with someone before they put a ring on it is definitely not lady-like behavior. Caroline might actually be successful with copper birth control. (As in a copper between the knees.) But as I commented to Morgaine, she doesn’t seem to remember that there is some discrepancy between the wedding and the birth on Babette and Aglovale. She’s wonderfully blind when she puts her mind to it.

      Thanks, Winter!

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