House of the Rising Sun

And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy and God I know I’m one…

Hybel 6th, 1513 – Finessa Estate, River Sulis, Lothianshire, Albion


The window Charlie was looking out rattled, as probably every window in the entire estate as a door slammed above.

“What d’you think that’s about?” Sev asked from the place where he lounged on his bed, a book propped up on his stomach, wrinkling the silk of his waistcoat. Charlie tipped his head to the side and shrugged. Leo was home and he’d just gotten back from the FitzChivalry estate. It could be anything. Vivi was a powder keg whenever their brother was around. He’d suspected that something was–wrong–between Leo and Vivi probably before Vivi and Leo suspected that something was wrong between them.

Their parents, when they were around, were the very picture of loving care and parental concern. The problem had been that they hadn’t been around that much. Their mother spent far more time at court with the queen than here with them. Their father sometimes disappeared for weeks on end with no word as to where he’d been or when he’d get back. It wasn’t unheard of, lots of kids in their class were in the exact same boat. Or worse, their parents were never around and didn’t even care about them on the rare occasion that they were.

Still, if the Ferriera blood carried one thing over the year, it was passion. Loyalty was given absolutely, and once a Ferriera loved someone, it was nearly unshakable. Even when it probably should have been shaken. It had cost them a few times over the years. Vivi had been Leo’s pet pretty much since she had been born. Her first word was his name. Anything that Vivi had ever wanted, Leo had made sure that she had, sometimes even begging pocket money off his brothers, even at Charlie’s outrageous level of interest, to make it happen.

He imagined it was pretty heady stuff, having someone worship you. To know you could ask almost anything of someone and they would do it–somehow. The only thing that Leo had ever seemed to want from Vivi was her to be happy. He was content with that. Then somewhere, somehow, a line got crossed. A point of no return. And suddenly what had started as sweet, mostly an emotional shelter from the storm, became something it shouldn’t be. Maybe it was a societal thing. Leo, after all, was almost the stereotype of a “leading man”. Tall, handsome, with picture perfect manners and even the fiery disposition that was called for in books and theater. Pair that with parents who weren’t there, the knowledge that she was to be married off to some bloke her parents picked because they thought it was a good idea. Maybe it did make some sort of twisted sense.

“Finding all the answer to the universe out there?” Sev asked, sarcasm tinting his voice. Charlie laughed. If only the answers to the universe were out there in the reflection pool or the carefully tended rows of hedges and their mother’s prized purple roses. What was the answer to life, the universe, and everything? Forty-two, a voice seemed to whisper in his head. Whatever that meant.

“Nope. Just thinking.” Charlie tossed a stocking at his brother. He needed to ask the upstairs maid to come in and clean up Sev’s side of the room again. He’d ask his brother but the likelihood that his brother would actually clean anything was remote. The two of them could have had their own rooms, that was one thing the estate certainly was not lacking. But Charlie supposed that this was, in part, his way of dealing with the same issues that Vivi and Leo had. Sev wasn’t his everything, not by a long shot, but some nights, the only way he slept was closing his eyes and waiting for his breath to sync with Sev’s.

“Hey, Charlie?” The double doors popped open and Leo stuck his head inside. Leo’s eyes were dark, not a good sign, and there was a stress crinkle between his brows.


“You finished with my philosophy text?” A hundred questions piled up in his throat, Leo wasn’t the type to work out temper by reading a book, certainly not a text book.

“I can be.” Charlie said, moving over to his desk, picking the leather bound volume out of the neat stack by the inkwell.

“Thanks, I’d leave it for you to read, but I’m heading back to Camford tonight.” Charlie and Sev shared a glance. It was after tea. To even make it to the Lothianshire High Cross tonight, he’d have to ride well into dark or cruelly push his horse.

“Oh?” Charlie asked.

“Aye, I should probably get out of River Sulis before someone else never wants to see me again. I’ve already got Vivi and Caroline saying it.” Leo sighed, tossing the book in his hands. “Not to mention what I’m sure Lady Henry will be sending over for me breaking her poor daughter’s heart–as if she has one–and our betrothal.”

“Wait, what?” Sev asked sitting up and staring hard at their brother. “You and Caroline broke your engagement?”

“Aye. She wants the Rances to lose their estate so her father can have it. I just can’t with her.” Leo shook his head.

“Is that over her coldhearted lack of regard for her own kin or that her understanding of political succession is so poor that she thinks it’d work that way?” Charlie asked curiously. Sev and Leo both looked at him for a long moment. “It’s a valid question.” Charlie defended.

“More the former. I had long since figured out that her understanding of anything of consequence was limited at best. And even if I hadn’t, Vivi is always reminding me of it.” Leo said leaning against the wall, shaking his head.

“So what went wrong with Vivi.”

“Who knows?” Leo asked. “I actually had just told her that she was right.” Charlie looked sidelong at Sev who shook his head. “I don’t get it.”

“Maybe…” Sev trailed off. Charlie gestured for him to continue, if he had an idea about why Vivi would respond like that, it was better than anything Charlie had. He’d have thought that Vivi would have been happy to know she was right. “Maybe it was the way you found out that she was right. She’s been telling you for years, right? But it took Caroline being incredibly stupid for you to listen to her.”

“I was listening to her!” Leo protested. “I just didn’t think that her being–not bright was worth breaking my engagement to her. I mean lots of men marry women who are not–that smart. In fact there are lots of people who believe that it’s better not to marry a clever woman.”

“I don’t know.” Sev said with a shrug. “Girls are complicated.”

“Yeah. Well, I’d better get going.” Leo sighed. “You know how the Remans are. If I give Lady Henry too much time, I’ll be dodging Reman bounty hunters all the way to Camford.” He laughed without humor.

“Whoa.” Sev said, pulling his legs up onto the bed and looking at Charlie. Charlie nodded in agreement. “Should we draw straws?”

“Over what?”

“Which of us should go brave Vivi in her lair?” Sev pushed a hand through his hair. “Someone should talk to her.”

“Do you really think she’ll want to see one of her brothers right now?” Charlie asked, unconsciously mirroring Sev’s position on the bed. “I would think that one of us would be toward the bottom of that list actually.”

“Well, I don’t know that she’ll really want to see either of us, but I do think that someone should go talk to her. And I also think that we’re the best she has. Dad’s gonna be busy with fallout. Mum’s not here. Marianne would be a better choice, but it’s not like Lady Henry’s likely to let her come over here anytime soon.” Sev paused, his throat working for a moment as he thought about the implications of that. Charlie hid a smile by laying his head on his knees before it faded. He might be stuck in a house of people with broken hearts. That ought to be fun. “Somehow I don’t see Elizabet being any more help on this subject. She’s a little too prone to telling people she told them so. That pretty much leaves us.”

“Right.” Charlie pursed his lips thoughtfully. “But–um–couldn’t we let her calm down a little more before we head up there.”


“The man who knows when to hide lives to cower another day.” Charlie smirked. “Besides there’s nothing we could say right now.”

7 thoughts on “House of the Rising Sun

  1. So I’m off to a great start with my keeping to a schedule thing. Although in my defense, EVERY time I’ve sat down to write prior to this, it’s ended with me fighting a bloody nose. A bit more back story on the Leo/Vivi drama, plus our first visit inside Charlie’s head.

    The header picture of Charlie is impossibly smug. I don’t see him that smug, but I think it may be the odd angle I have his head turned at… It was either smug or slightly deformed. >_< ' I sometimes wonder why people think I'm a good artist. >_<’

  2. Because you draw good pictures, that’s why. :-P

    And … well, I guess it was inevitable that fights would beget fights would beget fights. And I can see why Vivi might have been upset that Leo finally admits she was right. He waited until after Caroline said something so mind-numbingly stupid that it’s amazing the brains of everyone in the room didn’t fall out upon hearing it.

    Plus, Leo acknowledging, “Yeah, I know she doesn’t have the brains the Lord Wright gave a doornail, but I didn’t figure that as any reason to go breaking off the engagement”? Justifiably infuriating for any intelligent woman. (It would be one thing if Caroline was an absolute sweetheart who just wasn’t very bright — the female version of a Lancelot — but she’s got the brains and the personality of a Babette.)

    Still, I feel sorry for whoever has to go in there and brave Vivi’s wrath. Though perversely I hope it’s Charlie, because Sev has his own heartbreak to deal with.

    Actually, I hope Vivi’s father is the one who tries to help … because since a lack of parental involvement is what caused a lot of this mess in the first place, maybe a good dose of parenting could help to fix it.

    1. Seconding Kellie in regards to your artistic ability. I doubt Rembrandt or da Vinci put to paint exactly what they had in their heads, and I’m sure they beat themselves up about it too. Doesn’t make your work any less impressive.

      Looks like it’s not going to be fun times in the Finessa house for a while. Leo heading off to Camford is in both his and Vivi’s best interests right now. There is sometimes a certain bitterness that comes with being right, especially if it took something catastrophic for you to be proven so.

      I also kind of have to wonder if some part of Vivi took a comfort in Leo being semi-engaged, in that it gave her another reason not to act on her feelings. The fact that it was someone she couldn’t stand probably helped there, since she might feel she’s bound to resent whoever he ends up with no matter what; it might as well be someone she wouldn’t have liked anyway. And while not being conventionally intelligent does not by any means make someone a bad person or unworthy of happiness, I agree, it’s never fun for an intelligent woman to hear any implication that a woman ought to be dim–doubly so when the not-so-bright one in question also happens to be a total bitch.

      Not sure which of the twins I hope goes to comfort her. Sev would probably be more sensitive, but maybe Vivi (and Leo!) has to hear Charlie’s take on it. I’m also going to hope that Squeak gets involved before this gets too out of hand, and I’m sure he’ll handle it in a way worthy of George and Ravenna (or, failing that, at least better than Haldred and Cladelia did).

      In regards to Sev’s own issues, I hope he tells his father how much he likes Marianne soon. If Squeak knows this, then that’s one way he and Henry can possibly mend that bridge. Katherine won’t be happy, but Katherine is never happy, so whatever.

      1. Going back to school is probably the smartest thing Leo did all day. The distance and time will do both Leo and Vivi some good. And it gets Leo out of River Sulis where Katherine might do him harm.

        As with a lot of inappropriate relationships there are a lot of levels and I’m sure that Vivi did find it–easier–in a lot of ways that Leo was bespoken for. For one she could focus on hating Caroline rather than on possible ways she could possibly act upon her feelings, which she knows are wrong, but I think she’s also at the age where she might think that if she thought about it in the right way–hard enough–that she could make it work.

        I certainly would want to put my fist in the face of any person who tried to even hint that a woman shouldn’t have a fully-functioning brain used to the best of it’s ability. (There are people out there who aren’t necessarily “intelligent” but there’s no excuse for being stupid, no matter what your IQ.) And the fact that Caroline seems to revel in being stupid would make it all the more annoying.

        Severus would be more sensitive, Charlie is not a people-person and he fully acknowledges that he’s not a people-person. But I think this might be one of those times when sensitivity wouldn’t necessarily be a virtue. Sometimes you need the blunt brother who’ll call the spade a spade.

        Squeak does get involved here in the rather near future. I won’t say entirely how it plays out, if I don’t make it into an update I will at least include some of what falls out of the conversation in the next update with Vivi in it, but Squeak’s not stupid, he knows that trying to force feelings and people in the direction he wants them to go (without a damned persuasive way to get them going that direction) will only blow up in his face. He doesn’t want Vivi to hate him, I never got the impression that Haldred and Cladelia cared what Searle and Rinoa thought of them as long as no one knew their dirty secret.

        We’ll see what happens with Sev and Marianne. Henry would like nothing better than to patch things up with the Finessas and if he gets that alliance marriage out of it, all the better.

        But you’re quite correct, Katherine won’t be jumping up and down with happiness if Marianne and Severus get together. I don’t think that if Hector offered one of his sons for Marianne Katherine would jump up and down with joy.

        Thanks, Van!

    2. I wish I had half the confidence in my artistic ability that you guys do.

      Yes, fighting does seem to beget more fighting, especially between Leo-Caroline-Vivi. Leo would have been better off to calm down and think about what had happened before going to talk to Vivi. His timing sucked and he wasn’t cool-headed enough to think about what he was saying before he said it, which of course just made matters worse.

      Pretty much. It’d be one thing if Caroline were a nice idiot, it’s a whole different world of something else altogether when it’s a mean idiot who quite honestly meant what she said.

      Vivi comes from a long line of smart women, capable women, to even get the hint of the implication that her brother might possibly agree with the “idiots make better wives” idea? I’d have probably smacked him. It certainly wouldn’t have left me on his side.

      Charlie is the first one to brave Vivi. He knows that Severus is hurting himself and he’s not going to send his twin in for that. But mostly what he does is encourages Vivi to talk to Squeak.

      I’m still deciding if I’m actually going to write that talk, but they will have a talk and it will put a lot of things in perspective for Vivi. Sorry for the long-ass delay on the responses. I thought I had already responded. *blushes*

  3. Thirding the good artist comments! I don’t see Charlie as smug, but I can absolutely picture him making that face if he just beat Sev at something (cards, wits, whatever.)

    I doubt even the haven of Camford would save Leo if Katherine truly wanted him dead at any cost. The distance plus the social consequences of murdering a nobleman’s heir will be just enough to keep his head on his shoulders. The thought of Marianne getting married before Caroline would probably just make her worse, though, so I’m hoping she gets some time to cool off before anything happens there. It will be tough all around as long as she’s running the show at home.

    I’m going to agree that some distance will do Leo/Vivi some good. There’s really nothing anyone can say to her that is going to make this better. Leo was going to marry that halfwit despite everything Vivi told him – being told she was right after he got hit in the head with Caroline’s idiocy just doesn’t cut it. Whether or not they’re going to be resolving their issues any time soon, they can’t do anything while Vivi is fuming. It’s better that she gets some time to cool down. I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship goes from here.

    1. Very true. If she wanted him dead–she’d get him a case of the deads. I imagine that Remans have near perfected the art of revenge.

      You’re right, things will probably be pretty uncomfortable around the Fitz-Chivalry house with Katherine in charge. And even the slightest hint of Marianne having a possible suitor is likely to make Katherine hit the roof. It’s not her baby, it’s not her favorite. Caroline had her poor heart stepped on. The last thing she’d want is for Marianne to have something that Caroline does not while Caroline is still hurting.

      It won’t be easy to mend things for the two of them, that’s for certain. Vivi has a temper and she does like a grudge… Pair that with the fact that she. Was. Right. and this is could be a Sisyphean task. But he is still her brother, for a long time there was a lot that was right between them, and I think there’s still hope for putting things right.

      We’ll be blipping over to see a few other households in the next few updates, but we’ll be back to see how things go for Vivi and Leo and all the Finessas in the not too far off future.

      Thanks, Winter!

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