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Funerary Rites 37: Throw in (a) Towel

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Senga was sitting between her friends, eating the same pizza they ater every week, soaking up the warmth of people who understood her – at least, who understood everything she had been that didn’t involve this house and –

and

“Chitter?”

“Yeah, Sang?”

“… Did Erramun go to talk to the cook in a towel?”

“Yes, yes he did.”

“Well.  Do you think I should rescue him?”

“Senga, he’s an assassin, he’s older than you, and he’s a tough man.  I’m sure he can take care of-”

“This is the Monmartin family staff, though,” Ezer cut in.

“-you should go rescue him.” Continue reading

Funerary Rites 36: Stages of Grief

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“Will it help?”  That was sigh-worthy, so she did sigh.  “I don’t know, not about the long run,” Senga admitted.  “In the short run, what it’s done is, uh. You saw.”

“Mistress everything,” Chitter agreed. “He’s like — he’s like some sort of puppet or something.  Like he’s pulling his own strings.” Chitter wrinkled her nose. “I don’t like it.”

“I don’t either.”  Senga took her friend’s arm and led her down the stairs, whispering softly. “I don’t want to talk about it where he might overhear, okay? Because it might make it worse.  And I don’t want to talk about it where anyone else can overhear, because it might give them something-”

“Geeze, what, do you think I’m an amateur? I’m offended, Senga.” Chitter wrinkled her nose up at Senga. “Come on, ‘no eavesdroppers’ was like the first Working I learned. Did you really think I wasn’t going to use it everywhere around this place, with the creepy butler and — hey, why didn’t you quiz the maids?”

“They’re…” Senga stumbled. “Shit.  I should have quizzed the maids. It’s just, uh.”

“They helped raise you, when you were a baby, didn’t they?  But it’s not like uh. It’s not like the butler guy didn’t do the same thing, and you—”  Chitter looked at her wide-eyed. “Oh. You didn’t. So why didn’t Erramun quiz the maids?”

“That’s a very good question.  Maybe he is waiting to sneak up on them unawares.  I mean — did I just say ‘unawares?’”

“Are you reading mystery novels again? Because you know that makes you see crazy men in rubber masks everywhere we go.”

“No, Chit, that was you.”  Nobody else could get away with calling Chitter Chit.  Ezer had almost lost his nose to it once.  But Senga and Chitter went way back, more than the rest of the crew did.  “Remember, after that cartoon marathon…?”

“Yeah, well, you read all those mysteries, and you remember what happened then.”

“We actually found out who was behind…. Chitter.”  She stopped on the bottom step of the grand staircase.  “Someone murdered my great-aunt.”

“Well, yeah?  She was dead, right?  Fae don’t just uh, fall over. And you checked to be sure she was really dead, right?  That’s just Cartoon HIjinx 101.”

“I checked.  I did check. And so did Erramun and — you knew my aunt was murdered?”

“Well, I figured, yeah.  I mean, like I said. We’re fae.  We don’t really drop dead from old age; okay, I’ve heard of three cases of that, but that means that that’s the exception that proves the rule,” she flapped her hands.  “So the point is, I figured you were processing. I mean, she was — is, let’s be honest,” she thumped the railing “– she’s a huge part of your life. I mean. She killed your parents.  She kept you safe. We know all this. So I figured you just needed some time to chew on it before you really accepted it. Grieving and all.”

“…Oh.”  Senga tried to work her mind around that.  Had she been – had she been even thinking about the whole thing?  People trying to kill her, yest, but that was nearly comforting and familiar in her line of work.  Generally, it meant they were getting close to something interesting. “I… guess I was having trouble processing it.”

“Well, to be fair, you also moved back into your childhood home and… got a boyfriend?  A new pet? What is even the way to say that? I mean…” Chitter shook her head so much her whole body shook.  “A new guy, either way. So there has to be uh, a little bit of a distraction going on. Anyway. Someone murdered your great-aunt.”

“They did.  They killed her.  And they very well might have uh.  They might have gotten something in her will.”

“Considering it really looks like she likes attaching strings to everything, I kinda hope they did.  Something with a caveat like ‘if you killed me, this will blow up horribly and you will never know why.'”

“Chitter, have I told you recently that you are a dangerous woman?”

“Not in at least the last week.  So, come on.” Chitter took Senga’s hand.  “Pizza. Come on. It’s in a not-entirely-fancy dining room and everything and Ezer already has paper spread out all over the place.  It’ll be just like home.”

“Ha.”  Senga shook her head.  “All right. Here we go.  ‘Just Like Home.'”

She remembered the informal dining room, or, at least, her feet did, although it took far fewer steps than the last time she’d been here.  She remembered the table, and the place where she had accidentally broken a table leg while riding on her tricycle around the downstairs.

She remembered the way her father had spoken to her, calm and soft, and shown her the magic that mended the table leg.

She remembered him showing her a Working that would make her tricycle have a “bumper” of air in front of it so that she wouldn’t break any more legs, table or family or anyone else.

She blinked her eyes, pushing away tears that she did not want to deal with, not now.  Not in front of everyone, not-

The smell of pizza and wings assaulted her nose.  Senga caught her breath and straightened herself up.

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Funerary Rites 35: Pizza?

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A short nap and a long shower in – in her  new shower – found Senga unwilling to stop cuddling Erramun.  

Which was, she supposed, kind of ridiculous.  She had things to do. She had places to be.

She had a man who was amazing in bed, who could handle what she did, who had a mind.

Maybe that’s why Great-Aunt Mirabella had done this.

And maybe pigs flew. Continue reading

Funerary Rites 34: Teeth, Hands, Hips

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Senga balanced on her toes, kissing Erramun.  There was a split second where she thought he wouldn’t respond before he kissed back, pressing his throat against her hands.  As she drew on the kiss, letting her thumbs brush against the tattoos she’d inked into his skin, he put first one hand and then the other on her waist to brace her.

She snaked one hand around to the back of his neck and drew out the kiss; he pressed his hand against the small of her back, holding her to him.  She caught a breath and stole a glance at him; he had closed his eyes.  He leaned in towards her; she kissed him again, her fingers all pressing into his neck.

At the moment when she thought that her toes might give out, he lifted her up.  She wrapped her legs around his waist and kept hissing him, pressing her whole body against his.  They were still wearing quite inconvenient clothing; she wanted to do something about that, but that would require either that she stop kissing him or stop touching him.  Possibly both. Neither were acceptable.

He turned slowly around, so slowly she almost didn’t notice what he was doing, and set her on the bed.  A moment later, he set her on the bed and, very slowly, disengaged.

Senga opened her eyes and made a soft noise, not quite a complaint.  He froze.

“I think,” he murmured, “that Mistress-” Continue reading

Funerary Rites 33: Leave

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There were, at the very least, not literal traps between the Solar in the back left of the downstairs and Senga’s room in the middle right of the upstairs, or at least not new ones.  Senga found that she was holding Erramun’s hand, and she found that he was holding very firmly to that hand.

She closed the door behind them and locked it.  She turned to look at him as he released her hand and dropped to his knees in the middle of her sitting room.  “Mistress.”  His voice sounded rusty; it hitched in the middle of the word.

“Erramun.”  She needed a manual for this.  Aunt Mirabella had clearly not seen fit to provide her with all of the things that she needed for this endeavor.  If it turned out she wasn’t really dead, Senga was going to have come very stern words with her. Continue reading

Funerary Rites 32: Control

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“I have to ask again, are you an idiot?”

“You don’t have  to be an asshole.  I know how Keeping works, you giant shit, so you can back off and just assume I’m not asking or talking about the bond.  Obviously you’re protective of her.  Obviously you have to obey her.  That has nothing to do with the way you’re looking at her right now.”  Ezer rolled his eyes and flapped that away with a wave of his hand. “Anyway.  There’s a job.  It’s a recon, and if you, mister, can listen and follow a plan, then we could use you.  If you can’t, then you’re staying back here.”

“You can’t give me orders,” Erramun snarled. Continue reading

Funerary Rites 31: Orders

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“I’m just saying, she knows more than she’s saying.”

Ezer was following Senga and Erramun around the house.

This might have been adorable in a normal case, but since Senga was trying to get a moment or seven alone with Erramun, it was growing a little frustrating.

“And I’m saying, of course she does.”  Senga checked the back door to the garden – the one in the Sturdy – and found it, too, locked.

Her cousins were fae.  They couldn’t enter a house without an invitation, any more than she could. But that wouldn’t stop them from sending an agent, or a team of them, if they thought it would work.

“What do you mean, of course she does?” Continue reading

Funerary Rites 30: Adjustments

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Ezer cleared his throat. “How likely is this to interfere with our business?”

“I think,” Senga admitted quietly, “that it’s already doing so.  I think that whatever happened with that job the other day, it was probably family-related – my family.  I mean, unless you or Allayne have come up with enemies lately that you haven’t told me about.”

“What about Chitter?”  Erramun looked between the two of them, ignoring the staff for the moment.

Ezer snorted. “She just makes online enemies.  They’d hack the house – one of them made the icemaker spew ice all over the kitchen once – but they don’t generally sink to attempted murder.  They think it’s messy and sort of below them, I think.”

“Murder?”  Candavish leaned forward.  “You’re not speaking of Mirabella.” Continue reading

Funerary Rites 29: Service

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It took them another fifteen minutes to calm Chitter down that time, during which the tea and coffee – and Chitter’s soda – arrived. The maid bringing the drinks made things either better or much worse by looking Chitter in the eye and apologizing for being late. “I had to feed the moat creature, you see.”

“Moat creature! Moat Creature! Wait…”

Five minutes later, Senga had managed to convince Chitter that there was no invisible moat and no moat creature. Five minutes after that, with Candavish’s amused help, they’d managed to calm her down.

“Honestly. You could have just told me that you were kidding,” she huffed.

“I believe I did. Twelve minutes ago. Although-” Continue reading

Funerary Rites 28: Catching Up

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It took half an hour to get everyone settled down.  When Senga managed to get Candavish and Erramun to stop sizing each other up, got Allayne to stop fussing over the staff’s uniforms, which, it appeared, had a fashion of their own, got Ezer to stop whining and acting like his head was going to explode, and got Chitter to stop looking for trap doors from which the staff could have arrived – all of this while trying to ignore her own pounding heart and the confused twist in her chest – she sat down with a thump in the Casual Lounge.

“I…  Okay. Candavish, Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Collier, please come sit with us.  Could, ah, someone get me some coffee? Coffee, everyone?”

Her crew were looking at her like she’d grown a second head.  “Okay, Allayne will have black tea with a hint of mint, if we have it.  Ezer drinks his coffee with enough cream and sugar to bring it to beige caramel.  I drink mine black with one ice cube. Chitter likes soda; if you don’t have that, she’ll have water.  Erramun?”

He looked surprised she was asking his opinion. “Black tea,” he managed.

“Black tea.  Thank you.”

One of the younger maids – younger than her! – scurried off. Continue reading