The Order of Things

/ooc What follows is the story of Thaddeus Grey in the summer of 1707. I will be posting it serially.

Part One
Chapter One

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

--William Shakespeare

I would swear that my son could understand every word we say, even when he was only a year old. He seemed to understand that he was regarded as small, frail even, and did everything in his power to prove us all wrong. It was not that Thaddeus was a difficult baby; he simply had to be watched very carefully lest he decide to prove himself through some life threatening means.

I believe the physician grew tired of me.

--Close Secrets: The Memoirs of Lady Grey

As was his habit on such journeys, Thaddeus stared out the window of the carriage, daydreaming whilst pretending to look for his family's Bulgarian Estate. He and his parents were crossing over the arched bridge that marked the beginning of their property, though it would still be a bit before they arrived at the house proper. Thaddeus resisted the urge to lean out the window, telling himself he had seen the cold blue stream several times before and he was certain it was no different this time. Once they were over the bridge and back on the cobblestone street, however, he found himself looking back over his shoulder. Recent rains, which had coincided most unfortunately with their journey, had left the creek looking slow and swollen, though he imagined if anyone were to fall in they would find themselves a mile or two downstream before they managed to get out on the other side. The current was strong this high in the mountains.

They had left their villa in Amalfi early that year, much to Thaddeus's regret. Though he found joy in Bulgaria as well, it was, in a way, a return to obligations and formalities. Not as rigid as his family's home in London, but still surrounded by enough society to be somewhat taxing at times.

Amalfi, he believed, was a sort of a heaven on earth. Perfect bluer than blue water, expansive skies, the smell of the sea mixing with the heavy fragrance of the flowers. Paths to walk, seas to sail, and, of course, books to read in the sun. It was a place almost too wonderful; the thought of growing too familiar with the surroundings was somewhat sad. He could not help but reflect that for some, looking out the window and seeing such a spectacular sight as the coastline at sunset was commonplace, was ordinary and everyday. That seemed a loss in some way. Thaddeus saw something that amazing and never want to lose his awe of it.

In that setting was a kind of delicious escapism; he could forget so much in those blue waters. And he could remember. Thaddeus enjoyed remembering, trying to see how far back his recall would go, smiling as sights and smells revived things forgotten.

Bulgaria, though, brought its own set of memories, and held its own sort of beauty. Walks through the gardens and parties and time spent with friends. The sight of the stars, framed by the tips of the mountains that surrounded them.

Their little town, surrounded as it was by high mountains and accessible only by way of a single bridge built sometime in the fifteenth century, gave the feeling of being entirely isolated from the rest of the world without actually cutting one off from the people in it. Several wealthy families took up residence here during the summer months and they spent the better part of that time entertaining each other. Social standards remained in place, though they were somewhat relaxed and bendable. It was not so much an escape from the bounds of social standings as its own miniature version of the world at large.

It was a good follow up for Italy, in fact. Amalfi recharged him, and Bulgaria brought him back to society, albeit gradually.

Even so, that was when he had sufficient time to decompress, and this year in particular he could have used another week of idleness. It was significant in many ways, this year; the summer of his eighteenth birthday. A time to find his place in the world.

He wondered what it said about him, that he wanted another week in the sun. A little more time to act as a child.

They pulled up to the white brick house after another eternity of such thoughts, and Thaddeus stepped out, stretching his legs. The staff came out immediately and he could not help but smile; they must have been watching. After exchanging pleasantries with the housekeeper, a stout, cheerful woman named Mrs. Huxley that he had known since he was a small child, he walked into the house and headed straight for his father's study, as he did every year, wanting before all else to confirm it looked just as he remembered it.

He never had a chance to check; there was, it seemed, a surprise waiting for him in that familiar leather chair of his father's; his closest childhood friend.


"Ha! Grey, you look abominable!"Â?

This was a typical greeting for Edward, and Thaddeus gave an indignant snort as he charged forward and gripped his friend's hand, cheered by the familiar welcome. Edward, of course, was having none of that, and rose to pull Thaddeus into a brotherly embrace before shoving him back by the shoulders and dusting him off.

"You cannot possibly go to the Littlebury's in this state. Go on, change, I shall wait."Â? His declaration made, he took a seat once more, slouching comfortably and looking up at Thaddeus with a flashing smile.

Thaddeus rolled his eyes in mock exasperation at Edward's impertinence. It was fortunate that Lord Grey was fond of his friend; anyone else would have been treated with something less than civility had they made themselves comfortable in his favorite chair.

"I've only just arrived and already you want to get me in another carriage! No 'hello, how was your journey' or any such pleasantries first, no, it's 'you look abominable' and 'change your clothes' and 'off to the parties we go...'"Â?

Thaddeus's rant trailed off as he wandered out the door and to his rooms, leaving Edward alone with his smirk. It was no use arguing when Edward's mind was made up, and Thaddeus was not particularly inclined to try. Edward's coming was too pleasant a surprise to bemoan his friend's insistence on attending every party no matter what the circumstances, and privately Thaddeus imagined that getting out might do him some good. Might do them both some good, at that; Edward had missed the past two summers running, presumably because there was little point in staying at his family's residence alone and his pride would not allow him to ask to stay with the Greys. Thaddeus thought this a shame, though he understood the polite fiction Edward was trying to maintain. Edward was certainly not living with and supported by the Greys; no, he was merely visiting. Often. And if Lord Grey saw fit to occasionally bestow a gift here and there, well that was no one's business but Lord Grey's.

As the two gentlemen climbed into a fresh carriage, Thaddeus debated over how much he should ask about Edward's presence. He didn't want to tempt fate but he was curious as to what prompted the visit. Finally, as they settled in and the carriage took off, he decided on a neutral inquiry.

"I had thought you were in Germany for the summer."Â? That was the normal course of things; while the Greys traveled, Edward went his own way, visiting with various friends and acquaintances. Thaddeus had done his best to get used to that; Edward always came and went as he pleased.

Edward stretched lazily, all long arms and legs, and smirked. "Couldn't miss my dear friend Thaddeus Grey's birthday, could I?"Â?

Resisting a roll of his eyes at this obvious diversionary tactic, Thaddeus could not quite keep his surprise in check when he spoke. "You remembered."Â?

Edward laughed out loud. Thaddeus observed that his friend never seemed to chuckle, or grin or express any emotion by halves. He was all uproarious laughter and toothy smiles and broad, contorting smirks. "Of course I remembered, idiot. How could I forget?"Â?

Thaddeus shook his head. That was, it seemed, all the explanation he would get for his friend's absence and sudden return. "And I suppose Lord and Lady Grey knew all along?"Â?

"Naturally. You've been set up, my friend. And speaking of which..."Â? Edward leaned forward, his bright blue eyes twinkling. "Miss Littlebury will be in attendance."Â?

Thaddeus inclined his chin, knowing just what Edward was on about and not really wanting to go there. He also hadn't missed the change in subject but was willing to let it go, resigned. Miss Littlebury, who not two years ago, before her coming out party, was referred to as Christina by the two young men, had been a delightful childhood friend for many years but more recently they had found themselves growing apart. Or perhaps growing up, Thaddeus wasn't certain. "Obviously."Â?

"Don't -obviously- me. You two are an excellent match."Â? Edward spoke in a high falsetto and winked at the end of his comment, apparently knowing just how impossible he was being and not caring in the least.

"I have heard as much."Â? Thaddeus spoke dryly in return, and did not return the wink. Edward, of course, did not take the hint.

"Don't start. You know -my- feelings on the matter, but if you expect me to refrain from teasing you..."Â?

Thaddeus held up both hands in a sign of surrender. "I would never presume to expect restraint from you."Â? Thaddeus knew his friend was not serious, though he privately felt it was a bit indelicate of him to mention such matters. That was Edward, though; coarse and shocking in private, bold and charming in public. And Thaddeus loved him like a brother because of it all as much as in spite of it.

Edward, meanwhile, was still rambling on about Thaddeus's eligibility, and he did his best to continue with his uncaring façade. "I still say you should be like me. -I- shall live out my years as a bachelor, drinking in the coffee houses every day, traveling the world, fencing and sailing and enjoying the good life with no one to tie me down."�

"You do that. Unless, of course, Miss Whitney finally decides to look your way..."Â?

"Oh goodness, I'm quite over -her-. She's a bit too..."Â?

"Upward climbing? Vicious? Demanding?"Â?

"Well I was going to say useless but that about covers it. Goodness, Grey, where did that come from?"Â?

Thaddeus simply shook his head, refraining from further comment. Unlike Christina, Miss Whitney always insisted on being addressed as such and was, in Thaddeus's young opinion, no fun at all. It was a surprise to no one that she had grown into a dignified young woman with her choice of suitors, but Thaddeus was hard pressed to forgive her for snubbing Edward when he had a crush on the girl. Of course, explaining the root of his animosity to Edward would only bring about relentless teasing to cloak indignation at Thaddeus's protective nature toward his friend.

"In any case, we all know this is just more foolishness on my part. We all know I can't...well. I suppose the future is not written yet."Â? Edward had enough of a sense of propriety to refrain from finishing his initial thought, though Thaddeus knew how it ended by now.

"You need not worry about that. You know this."Â?

"I cannot live off your father's kindness forever. You know this."Â?

It was an old argument, uncomfortable and depressing, and not one Thaddeus wished to engage in tonight. He let it go, assuring himself it could be resolved after a few drinks on Edwards part and only a little pushing on his. For this time, anyway. If Edward made it easy to discuss money...well, he wouldn't be Edward, Thaddeus reasoned. It was for that reason that he merely raised his eyebrows when he noticed the antlers embroidered into the ankle of Edward's stocking, refraining from speaking on his friend wearing his family's sigil.

"I can wear it if I want to. I am still a Morely."Â?

Well, so much for that. He'd obviously been caught looking. "Of course you can. I'm glad you are, actually."Â?

Edward snorted. "Well you can't expect me to wear -doves- on my ankles, can you?"Â?

Thaddeus laughed and shook his head. "No, I cannot expect it."Â? It was true enough; Edward was, childish wishes aside, not a Grey. He had his house. And I have mine.

Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Two
Eternity, thou pleasing, dreadful thought,
Through what variety of untried being,
Through what new scenes and changes must we pass
The wide, the unbounded prospect lies before me

-Joseph Addison

While all of the houses in the neighborhood had a similar flavor, with the second story overhanging the first and the same dark wood doors and window frames, the Grey Estate and the Littlebury Manor could not have felt more differently on first glance. Where the Grey Estate seemed to stretch out over the landscape like a lazy cat, the Littlebury Manor appeared tight and efficient. It was, in fact, a perfect square with a neatly carved courtyard. The hills had been flattened when the house was built, unlike the Grey Estate, which seemed to lay over the land like a blanket, conforming to its shape rather than the other way around.

The two gentlemen arrived at the Littlebury’s right on time, in spite of Edward’s insistence that Thaddeus had taken far too long to dress and they would surely be late. They were readily welcomed into the drawing room, and Thaddeus’s eyes wandered to the hallway early on. Edward, knowing his friend all too well, snuck up behind him with drink already in hand and whispered in Thaddeus’s ear.

“I know what you’re about. No books, no library, not tonight.”

Thaddeus sighed, knowing Edward would win out. It was all he could do not to groan, though, at the sound of a shrill but familiar voice.

“Tad! Oh, Tad, I am so pleased you made it! Christina! Tad is here!”

He erased his wince and turned with a fixed smile to meet Mrs. Littlebury’s welcome. Miss Littlebury had grown into a handsome and agreeable young lady, but her –mother- was another story altogether. In truth the woman had grated Thaddeus’s nerves for as long as he could remember; she had a tendency toward being too affectionate, too demonstrative, too loud. It made him uncomfortable even before he was old enough to understand the things she said behind people’s backs shortly after gushing to their faces.

“Good evening, Mrs. Littlebury. Miss Littlebury.” He gave each a bow in turn, noticing out of the corner of his eye that Edward had managed a quick escape.

“We are simply delighted you could make it. Of course, I heard of your arrival immediately, but we could hardly assume you would come so soon after your trip. I trust it was well?” Mrs. Littlebury plowed on, ignoring the wordless response to her own question. “You simply must hear Miss Littlebury play; she has only become –more- accomplished in your absence, and I am –certain- you two will want to spend some time together.” She gave a completely indiscreet wink at this assertion and ushered the two young people to the piano.

Thaddeus wondered vaguely what Miss Littlebury thought of her mother’s behavior; though the young woman never appeared displeased by Mrs. Littlebury’s remarks, neither did she seem overly enthusiastic. She did, however, give Thaddeus a small smile as she took her place at the piano bench.

Mrs. Littlebury’s lavish praise aside, Thaddeus could hear an improvement in Christina’s playing. He could not deny that her mother had much to be proud of, and her claims of having an accomplished daughter were well founded. And she truly was a lovely woman; strange for Thaddeus to think of her as such when it seemed such a short time ago she was a girl, but then he supposed they had all changed. Him least of all, it seemed, at least in a physical way. Edward had grown from a gangly little boy, all arms and legs, into a broad shouldered gentleman with long brown curls and a chin to make the ladies swoon, while Christina had transformed from a fuzzy haired little thing, her face all eyes, into an elegant blonde. Her brown eyes, though, still seemed to take up most of her face in Thaddeus’s mind.

Thaddeus, meanwhile, had experienced only a sharpening of his features, or so it seemed to him. He had filled in his slight frame as much as he could expect to and any hopes that he would grow to be as tall and broad shouldered as his father had faded away by the time he was seventeen.

In less formal company he might have laced his fingers together behind his head and simply enjoyed the music, but as it was, Christina’s playing did manage to relax him some after the long trip. When the set ended, she stopped and looked up, smiling somewhat stiffly, as though wanting to say something lacking the words. He would have encouraged her to go on, as music had the added benefit of not forcing conversation where little was to be had, but at that moment Edward approached, speaking loudly.

“Miss Littlebury! Extraordinary!” He gave Thaddeus an elbow to the shoulder as he walked around the piano and took Christina’s hand in his, bowing low and kissing it briefly before releasing her. Thaddeus noticed that she blushed rather deeply at Edward’s pronouncements, though whether in pride or embarrassment he could not say. It was, however, more reaction than he had ever managed to pull from her. He wondered if perhaps Edward might even have some luck getting the woman to say more than five words at a time, but reasoned that with that mother of hers it was likely difficult to get a word in edgewise.

“I have, alas, come to steal away your company, if you can stand to spare Taddy for just a moment.”

Thaddeus did his best not to grit his teeth as Miss Littlebury smiled in agreement and said something too quietly for him to hear. Taddy indeed.

Edward seemed satisfied with Miss Littlebury’s nearly inaudible answer, and yanked Thaddeus up by the arm. “I am told I must introduce you to someone…drat, where did she go…”

Thaddeus muttered under his breath. “Ass.”

Edward snorted. “Aw, is little Taddy mad at me?”

Answering with an elbow to the ribs, Thaddeus followed Edward to the other side of the drawing room where, sitting on a sofa, was a young woman speaking to Mrs. Littlebury. Both parties halted their conversation suddenly at their arrival, though Mrs. Littlebury was casting guilty glances at Edward. Edward had clearly picked up on this, and was not one to miss a chance to cause embarrassment.

“Elaborating on my better qualities?” Edward smirked as Mrs. Littlebury blushed, though she covered well enough.

“I was just speaking to Miss Stannish of your lovely sister. She is in London now, yes?”

Thaddeus managed to keep his opinion that Mrs. Littlebury was a complete miserable wench to himself only by force of manners and will. He would be willing to bet she was telling the strange woman all about Edward’s sister, and the rest of his family, and none of it had been kind. Edward, however, lit up at the mere mention of his sibling, all slights forgotten, and opened his mouth to speak before being cut off abruptly by Mrs. Littlebury.

“And since –you- clearly cannot be trusted to make a proper introduction,” she turned to Thaddeus, “May I present Miss Emma Stannish. Miss Stannish arrived just a week ago, inherited the house just down the hill from us and we could not have asked for a more lovely neighbor! Why Miss Stannish, when I think of your dreadful uncle, and you’ll forgive me for saying so I’m sure, but when I think of that man cooped up in that lovely house, never socializing, no, never condescending to call on his neighbors, why I always thought it a pity…”

Thaddeus wondered how his eyes had managed to pass over Miss Stannish so easily at first glance; when she fixed her attention on him, the thought of not noticing her seemed impossible. When she smiled, the thought of noticing anything else in the room was equally unthinkable.

It was obvious, even seated, that she would be dwarfed standing next to Miss Littlebury, who, while slim and petite, was statuesque in comparison to Miss Stannish. Her diminutive height did nothing, however, to lessen her presence in the room. Some might have described her as a porcelain doll, with her pale oval face and dark curls of hair, but not Thaddeus; she had, in his opinion, none of the fragility of porcelain.

Edward had the good sense to end Mrs. Littlebury’s rant when she stopped for air, and took it upon himself to finish the introductions with an overly elaborate bow, complete with his trademark smirk.

“May I introduce my dear friend Lord Thaddeus Grey.”

Thaddeus pulled his gaze from the captivating woman and raised an eyebrow at Edward, who shrugged in return. He supposed he should be glad that he was not introduced as Taddy, though that would have been less surprising than hearing Edward actually introduce him properly. He turned back after a moment and gave Miss Stannish a bow. She looked between the two young men as though wondering at their wordless exchange, but by then Mrs. Littlebury had clearly been silent far too long and cut in before more pleasantries could be exchanged.

“Oh we don’t stand on ceremony here, Tad is fine, isn’t it dear?”

Thaddeus wondered if he would ever manage to answer a question posed to him in this company; both Edward and Mrs. Littlebury were quite content to speak for him, it seemed.

“Well now, Mrs. Littlebury, our Taddy here is of age now, didn’t you know?”

Thaddeus hoped his wince was not noticed. This conversation was quickly going downhill and neither he nor Miss Stannish had spoken a word. Did the obviously older woman really need to know just how young he was? Not that it made any difference, really; in fact, he appeared even younger than he was, but the entire conversation made him feel about ten years old. He wondered if there was any chance he might escape to the library without anyone noticing, but his plots were forgotten when he realized that he was not the only one ignoring the conversation. Miss Stannish seemed to be regarding him almost curiously as the other two bantered, and Thaddeus found himself wondering just what was on this woman’s mind. Many were intrigued by his title, and he supposed that was as good a reason as any to study him, but he had a feeling there was something else; her clothing and bearing did not leave the impression of a woman who needed to climb social ladders.

He had half a mind to check and see if there was something amiss with his appearance before Mrs. Littlebury’s ranting broke through his musings.

“Now, yes, what were we speaking of, dear? Oh, that’s right, the library, you wanted to see the library, yes?” Miss Stannish turned to answer Mrs. Littlebury and Thaddeus suddenly realized that he had been looking at her just as intently as she had regarded him; breaking the gaze seemed to bring him back to himself a bit, though Mrs. Littlebury was a step ahead of his thoughts. For once, however, they were in the same mental vein. “Well Tad and Edward would be glad to show you around I am sure…Christina! Christina, come here, Tad and Edward are going to show Miss Stannish the library.”

Thaddeus nearly snickered at the expression on Miss Littlebury’s face, which clearly stated that she had, in fact, seen said library many times before. Compliant as always, though, she took leave of her conversation with Miss Whitney, who apparently had arrived fashionably late, and joined the party. Edward, meanwhile, was entering into a dramatic fit.

“No, no Mrs. Littlebury, think of your poor daughter!” He took Thaddeus by the shoulders in a mockery of restraint. “Don’t let him near the books, we shall lose him forever!”

Thaddeus would have made a scathing remark, but surprisingly it was Miss Littlebury who spoke next, in soft tones.

“Perhaps Lord Thaddeus Grey would read to us all, if he wishes to have a book in hand.”

Thaddeus turned to Miss Littlebury, gratitude written on his face. While reading out loud in large company was an unnerving proposition in and of itself, particularly in front of Miss Stannish, a woman he had only just met, it was certainly an improvement over the current situation.

Of course, Edward felt the need to negotiate. “Very well then, but Miss Stannish and I will make the selection. You two can stay here and catch up.”

Thaddeus inclined his chin to Edward, ready to deliver some veiled retort to that comment. Miss Stannish managed to speak first this time, however. “The grave matter of walking down the hall is thus settled to everyone’s satisfaction, I should hope.” With that she rose, took Edward’s offered arm, and exited without a backward glance.

Thaddeus did manage to catch the smirk on her face before turning his attention to Miss Littlebury, who was, he was surprised to see, smirking as well. The look faded into her more impassive appearance as she glanced over at her mother, then back to Thaddeus.

“I am told you play the piano as well.”

Thaddeus blinked and took a moment to recall his powers of speech, out of practice as they were. “I do.”

Miss Littlebury nodded and gestured to the piano. “Perhaps you would care to play, then?”

Thaddeus shook his head, though not unkindly. “I do not think you want your guests to leave just yet.”

“One piece. As I played for you.” Miss Littlebury was blushing furiously by this point, but managed the words well enough. Thaddeus raised an eyebrow, which seemed to unnerve her even more. As that was never his intention, he softened his expression and managed a smile.

“You have been spending far too much time with Edward, picking up his negotiating abilities.” He rubbed his chin and turned, feeling Mrs. Littlebury watching them. He realized, then, that Miss Littlebury wanted away from her mother’s prying eyes, and the piano was a way of escaping them. “But I cannot leave a debt unpaid. I am at your service.” He walked over to the piano, sitting at the bench. No matter how bravely he might have acted, the truth was he was more than a little nervous. He knew everyone in this room at this moment, and still, he was uncomfortable.

He looked up, thinking to mention that Miss Littlebury ought not expect much, but her own nerve had apparently run out; she did not even look at him directly, instead keeping her head to the side and watching him out of the corner of her eye. Miss Whitney had apparently moved on to speak with some gentlemen playing cards, which he thought was a shame as perhaps another lady would make Christina feel more at ease. He sighed, brushing away the thought, and ran his hand along the keys as was his habit. He began to play, reasonably sure his timing was off, but it seemed attempting to correct it only seemed to make the music more awkward and he gave up, trying instead to relax into the music and simply let it come. After a moment he hit his stride, though the room did not disappear as it did when he was alone. There were more eyes on him as he finished the piece than when he began, and he looked up from his playing to meet the two dark ones belonging to Miss Stannish. He quickly looked elsewhere as he closed the cover.

Edward, meanwhile, was congratulating Miss Littlebury on her powers of persuasion.

“How –ever- did you manage to get him to play? You must tell me, I have been trying for years and have had no luck.”

Miss Littlebury looked up at Edward with a completely serious and solemn expression. “I negotiated.”

Even Thaddeus had to smile at that. Edward, on the other hand, paused for a moment before breaking out into laughter that filled the room, turning more heads and bringing rather more attention to their corner than Thaddeus felt comfortable with.

Miss Stannish, noticing Thaddeus’s motions to abandon the piano, looked at him curiously.

“Finished then?”

Thaddeus nodded and turned to Miss Littlebury. “If, that is, my debt is paid?”

Miss Littlebury lowered her chin, her expression unreadable. Edward, recovering from his fit of laughter, was now pressing a book into his hands, and Thaddeus could only wonder if his playing had really been so awful before he was urged to read.

“Miss Stannish is nearly as bad as you, you know. I had to give up my rights to the selection of the reading entirely just to convince her to leave.” He winked at Thaddeus.

Thaddeus took the book and, upon reading the title, smiled genuinely at Miss Stannish before opening to a passage. While still somewhat self conscious, it was good to read something he knew well.

“Henry Vaughan is a favorite of mine.” He met each of the small party’s eyes in turn, though in the case of Miss Littlebury it was more accurate to say that he met her ear. “The World, then.” With that, he looked down and began to read. It was, he felt, a poem one could get lost in, and he noticed as he went on that Miss Stannish was leaning in closer to hear him before the words took him to oblivion. He had initially made some effort at eye contact as he read, but that was quickly abandoned.

I saw Eternity the other night
Like a great Ring of pure and endless light
All calm as it was bright;
And round beneath it, Time, in hours, days, years,
Driven by the spheres,
Like a vast shadow moved, in which the world
And all her train were hurled.
The doting Lover in his quaintest strain
Did there complain;
Near him, his lute, his fancy, and his flights,
Wit's sour delights;
With gloves and knots, the silly snares of pleasure;
Yet his dear treasure
All scattered lay, while he his eyes did pour
Upon a flower.

The darksome Statesman hung with weights and woe,
Like a thick midnight fog, moved there so slow
He did nor stay nor go;
Condemning thoughts, like sad eclipses, scowl
Upon his soul,
And clouds of crying witnesses without
Pursued him with one shout.
Yet digged the mole, and, lest his ways be found,
Worked under ground,
Where he did clutch his prey; but One did see
That policy.
Churches and altars fed him, perjuries
Were gnats and flies;
It rained about him blood and tears, but he
Drank them as free.

The fearful Miser on a heap of rust
Sat pining all his life there, did scarce trust
His own hands with the dust;
Yet would not place one piece above, but lives
In fear of thieves.
Thousands there were as frantic as himself,
And hugged each one his pelf.
The downright Epicure placed heaven in sense
And scorned pretence;
While others, slipped into a wide excess,
Said little less;
The weaker sort, slight, trivial wares enslave,
Who think them brave;
And poor despisèd Truth sat counting by
Their victory.

Yet some, who all this while did weep and sing,
And sing and weep, soared up into the Ring;
But most would use no wing.
'Oh, fools,' said I, 'thus to prefer dark night
Before true light,
To live in grots and caves, and hate the day
Because it shows the way,
The way which from this dead and dark abode
Leaps up to God,
A way where you might tread the sun, and be
More bright than he.'
But as I did their madness so discuss,
One whispered thus,
This Ring the Bridegroom did for none provide
But for his Bride.

He realized as he finished the last stanza that he had trailed off a bit, lost in another world, before Miss Stannish’s words brought him back to the present.

“You read well.”

Edward grunted. “If only we could hear you!” Thaddeus quite successfully ignored his friend, raising one eyebrow at Miss Stannish. It was, he felt, an unusual compliment; one either read, or they did not. He shuddered to think what ‘reading poorly’ might entail.

However, he took the compliment gracefully enough after that brief hesitation, thanking Miss Stannish and handing the book back to her. He looked over at Miss Littlebury, who seemed lost in thought. Edward, meanwhile, was rubbing his eyes. Thaddeus smiled at him.

“I’ve nearly put you to sleep I see.”

Edward yawned lazily. “Oh, I suppose it wasn’t as bad as all that.”

Thaddeus smirked. “Why thank you, you are too kind.”

“I know I am.” He grinned at Miss Stannish, who had likewise fallen oddly quiet. “I did try to warn you.”

Miss Stannish did not take her eyes off Thaddeus. “Warnings did not suffice.”

There was a long silence at this, and Thaddeus found himself wishing that Edward would jump in, as he was apt to do, with some comment or other. He himself was busy trying to keep from blushing, and found himself staring rather intently at the floor. He imagined that he must have mistook her meaning; after all, it was an ambiguous statement, though she had managed to make it sound quite…loaded.

It was Miss Littlebury who put an end to the awkward moment, rising abruptly and moving around Edward and Miss Stannish.

“I believe my mother is calling for me. If you will excuse me.”

Thaddeus and Edward rose at once and gave their pardons, though Thaddeus could not help but notice that Mrs. Littlebury seemed quite engaged in conversation on the other side of the room. They had not yet taken their seats once more when Miss Stannish was rising as well.

“I am afraid I must also take my leave. It was a pleasure meeting you both.” And just that quickly, Thaddeus and Edward, two young bachelors in their prime, were left alone, with barely time to say their goodbyes before Miss Stannish was out the door.

Edward, Thaddeus noticed, was looking unusually broody. Thaddeus titled his head to one side, wondering what was on his friend’s mind, but Edward seemed to be deliberately ignoring his regard. He supposed it was possible Edward was simply lost in thought, though it would be too much to hope that he was actually reflecting on the poem. At last, though, he looked up, and after a moment grinned.

“Alright, alright, if you must I won’t stop you. I will come get you when it is time. I suppose I should pay my respects to Margaret Whitney as well.”

With that, he handed Thaddeus the book of poetry. Thaddeus privately felt that Margaret was surrounded by quite enough young men already and perhaps Edward would do better keeping Miss Littlebury entertained, but he supposed some things never changed.

He gratefully took the opportunity to leave the drawing room and wander down the hallway to the library, though ultimately he got a bit less reading done than usual.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Three
“Hold your sword as if you were holding a bird in your hand: not too lightly to prevent his escape and not too tightly to prevent him choking”

--Justin LafaugerI

"If your sword's too short, add to its length by taking one step forward."


“Truth commands the art, that it does not build on air, nor teach, if not of those things which are infallible and of perpetual truth.”

From Great Representation of the Art and of The Use Of Fencing
-- Ridolfo Capo Ferro of Cagli

“Guard your right.”

“I am”

Thaddeus feinted, then lunged in a single fluid motion, scoring a touch to Edward’s left shoulder. “Well you were just then I’ll admit.”

“Aw, is little Taddy learning to be roguish? How adorable.” Edward gave a triumphant grin, still speaking as he went on the offensive. “But maybe you should stick to trying on your mother’s dresses; there’s an act you seem to do well...”

Edward had obviously intended to punctuate that statement with a touch, but Thaddeus saw it coming and shifted slightly out of the way, letting his friend open himself up for a quick score to the chest. “You might have learned some actual fencing in all of those lessons; I swear after years of practice you only learned to run your mouth.”

It was true enough, though while Thaddeus was the better fencer technically, he had to admit that Edward was as likely to win a proper match by virtue of the ability to make him laugh, or blush, at a critical moment. It was, however, apparently Thaddeus’s day; ignoring Edward’s stream of insults against his family, his honor, his choice of household pets, and so on, he managed a clean victory.

Edward took it all in a quite gentlemanly manner, which meant he continued his creative insults as they made their way down the hall and into the drawing room, sweaty and laughing and in good spirits. They burst into the room as one, still going back and forth.

“…your mother weeps every night to think of what an unfortunate being her son has be…come. Oh hello Lady Grey, Mrs. Littlebury. I didn’t realize you were here.”

If it were not a completely undignified gesture Thaddeus might have slapped his forehead with the palm of his hand. Lady Grey, however, seemed to take Edward’s foolishness in stride as she regarded him with a calm, though slightly smug, expression. “Did Thaddeus beat you at fencing again?”

Thaddeus grinned and approached his mother, picking up her hand and kissing it lightly.

“Your honor has been defended most valiantly, my lady.”

Lady Grey gave a little smirk. “I should hope so; I had no idea it was in danger.”

Seeing that his mother was clearly entertaining Mrs. Littlebury, Thaddeus had every wish to make himself scarce, but knew Edward would likely not resist his perverse desire to goad the woman into rudeness and he could not, in good conscience, leave them to it completely unattended. He did not much care her tiresome gossip, but Edward, as predicted, made himself at home, eager to hear the woman’s outrageous chat about all of the neighbors. Thaddeus, meanwhile, resigned himself to trying not to glaze over with boredom as they visited.

When Miss Stannish’s name was mentioned, however, he could not help but bring his attention back to the group, curious. It seemed she had fallen out of the neighborhood’s good graces with alarming rapidity, at least according to Mrs. Littlebury. She was apparently quite scandalized to find out that Miss Stannish had traveled alone to Bulgaria and furthermore was staying by herself in her uncle’s house, with no one to keep her company. Thaddeus soon heard what he imagined was the real reason for Mrs. Littlebury’s venom, though; it seemed Miss Stannish had been unavailable when the busy body neighbor came calling. A tremendous insult, to be sure, at least as far as Mrs. Littlebury was concerned. She was now making all manner of accusations, calling Miss Stannish cold and unwelcoming and too high and mighty for her own good.

Thaddeus rolled his eyes mentally and reflected that perhaps Miss Stannish simply wanted to be left to conduct her business in peace. Finally an idea struck him, and, taking a page from Christina’s book, he stood.

“Lord Grey mentioned that he wished for some of our time today. If you will excuse us.”

Lady Grey gave the two young men a somewhat stiff look, though there was a hint of a smirk in place at the quite obvious fib. In truth, though, Thaddeus thought his mother enjoyed entertaining, even the likes of Mrs. Littlebury, and did not feel too guilty about leaving them to it.

In the end, it turned out that Thaddeus had not told quite as big of a lie as it had seemed; when he entered the ballroom once more, dragging Edward behind him, his father was already waiting, bated blade in hand. Both young men fell quiet, ceasing their rowdiness, but before Thaddeus could ask if his father wanted the room to himself, Lord Grey turned and acknowledged their presence with a slight nod.

“Mr. Morely, I trust you will not mind if I borrow your fencing partner for a moment?.”

Edward nodded in deference and stepped aside, while Thaddeus walked over to the wall where the fencing equipment was stored. He readied himself quickly enough and stood in front of his father, giving Edward a slight grin before making eye contact with Lord Grey.

Thaddeus saluted, then pulled the mask over his face at his father’s return. Though technically he was meant to watch the match, Edward leaned against the wall and tilted his head up to the ceiling; father and son needed no referee.

Lord Grey was not one to exchange witticisms while fencing, a fact which tended to unnerve people much more than a clever retort, and Thaddeus had picked up this habit. Some thought this behavior cold, or a sign of a lack of wit, but anyone who spent five minutes in the company of either man learned that they were simply dignified and serious when it came to fencing. Lord Grey did, however, take every opportunity to teach while they fenced, in his own way.

“I was open just then.”

“For a taller man perhaps.”


Thaddeus ducked and lunged when Lord Grey repeated the motion. Thaddeus could practically hear Edward’s smug retort, but Lord Grey said nothing save ‘Touché’. Thaddeus had learned in the course of fencing with his father nearly every day that the man did not appreciate his son giving him any sort of leeway.

He stepped back when the match was at an end, wondering, as he often did, if he had won because his father was holding back, but Lord Grey simply told him he had done well and turned to Edward, who, in spite of affecting a lazy and unconcerned stance, moved quickly to his place.

Thaddeus wondered, as he watched the match, if Edward missed these times when he was away. The simple pleasures of fencing, and chats with Lady Grey, and time spent with him. He realized with a pang of sadness that these things would fade from his life as well. He was a man grown now, and would be traveling, getting his education, pursuing his own interests, his own life. A part of him didn’t feel at all ready for those things, while another part could hardly wait to see the world and make his accomplishments.

The match, he observed, was close now, and Thaddeus raised his eyebrows as he watched the two men compete. Edward seemed to be fencing with an unusual intensity for him, moving with silent concentration as Lord Grey pressed the attack. It was somewhat unusual to see Edward so serious about anything; fencing was simply fun for him and he relied greatly on natural talent with a healthy dose of bravado.

‘He’s going to win this,’ Thaddeus thought, a smile crossing his features. Neither party was holding back now, moving with a speed that was difficult to track, and Thaddeus bit down on his lower lip in excitement. Edward had yet to defeat Lord Grey in an even match, and he was sure this would be his friend’s day.

It was not, however, so. Lord Grey scored the final touch a split second before Edward. Thaddeus searched his friend’s face for a sign of disappointment as the mask was lifted away, but instead met a broad, good natured smile. Thaddeus wondered if his father would want another round; Edward certainly seemed willing enough by the look on his face, but Lord Grey halted that line of thought preemptively.

“I am not so young that I can go hours as you and Mr. Morley can. Excellent matches, both.”

They went through the pleasantries before Lord Grey put back the swords. Seeing that their sparring was at an end whether they had wished to carry on or not, Thaddeus and Edward put the room back to rights. Besides the pleased expression, Edward, Thaddeus noted, seemed even more subdue than usual in Lord Grey’s presence; in fact, both his father and his friend seemed somewhat distant. Thaddeus did not have much time to ponder their behavior, though, as Lord Grey asked them to join him in his office. It was less invitation and more order, and Thaddeus was beginning to feel apprehensive now. They followed Lord Grey in silence, looking at each other in confusion along the way.

Lord Grey held the mahogany office door open for both Edward and Thaddeus, who compliantly went inside and took their accustomed seats in front of the sprawling oak desk that dominated the interior of the room. The office had always been a place for serious talks with Lord Grey, and while Thaddeus held a great deal of fondness for this room, it had a way of making him feel about eight years old instead of eighteen. He smiled inwardly, thinking the same could be said for his father. The room reflected the man, Thaddeus supposed.

Lord Grey took his time finding his own chair, walking by the display case on the far wall and pausing, apparently thinking some matter or other over. His expression changed to one of decisiveness after a moment, though he gave no other indication as to the direction of his thoughts, and at last he walked around the desk and sat down.

Thaddeus hoped this wouldn’t be another discussion about Edward’s living, though those usually went on alone with Lord Grey. Where Edward stayed, how comfortable he was, if there was anything he needed…Thaddeus repressed a sigh, thinking this had been such a pleasant day. Edward never reacted well to such questions, which were usually followed by offers, and would likely be out of sorts for the some time afterward. And as much as Thaddeus agreed with Lord Grey, he did not look forward to convincing his friend to his father’s way of thinking.

Lord Grey, however, merely said, in his quiet baritone, “Look at you two. When did these two men replace my boys?”

Thaddeus looked down, unsure of how to respond to that, and somewhat relieved that he didn’t have to, as Lord Grey went on.

“It seems there has been less time than usual to catch up with the two of you. Tell me, what are your plans for this summer?”

Thaddeus answered first, pleased that he had one to provide. “Edward and I intend to finish some translations for the library; they should make a fine addition.”

Lord Grey nodded and turned to Edward, his expression questioning. Edward, seemingly deciding the discussion was in safe territory, smirked slightly. “I plan to attend every party possible. I also expect I’ll need to train Missy.”

The latter goal was an inside joke of sorts and Thaddeus broke into a grin despite his attempt at stern disapproval. Missy was a difficult old nag, and that was putting it kindly. Why Lord Grey kept her here Thaddeus would never understand, but she was hazardous at best and many patient years had done nothing to break her ill temper.

Lord Grey smiled as well. “Worthy goals.” He met Thaddeus’s eyes. “Both.”

Chagrinned, Thaddeus’ expression faded and he waited for his father to go on.

“I have another task for you both.” With that, Lord Grey stood and walked back to the display case, motioning for them to follow. The three stood regarding the contents inside; several fragile books, a few heirlooms, and in the center two finely weighted blades crafted in the fifteenth century.

“I will not live forever, and while there is a certain protocol for these swords, I find that I would prefer to see them in your hands while I am still alive.” Before the two friends could recover from their dismay, then surprise, at this announcement, Lord Grey turned to Edward, his expression solemn. “Aequitas is yours.” He turned next to Thaddeus. “Veritas is yours. Keep them well, both of you; that is your task.”

Edward stammered out his thanks, apparently unnerved by this unexpected gift, and took his leave, but Thaddeus stayed behind, trying to put his thoughts into words.

Thaddeus had known since he was young that one day Via Veritas would be his. It had sat alongside its brother for as long as he could remember, save when his father took it out, which these days was rare indeed. He had not, however, expected it to fall to his hands so soon. He could not honestly say what moved him the most; that his father was, in this moment, calling him a man, or that Lord Grey had called Edward his son as well. He could only imagine what this might mean to Edward, but it meant more to him than he could possibly express to his father.

He set his jaw, not looking at his father for a long moment, before he was collected enough to face him.

“Thank you, Father. I will.”

Lord Grey smiled slightly, taking in his son’s expression, then spoke, softly. “You should go find Edward.”

Thaddeus left to do just that, though it took some doing, and when at last he came across his friend in the gardens Edward spoke without looking up from his seat on the ground, obviously hearing his approach and knowing who would be coming to find him.

“Via Aequitas. The Way of Justice.”

“Truth and Justice. We make quite a pair.”

Edward nodded. He was still not looking at Thaddeus. “God as my witness Grey, I never wanted to take anything from you. I wanted…I only…just believe me, I never meant…” He trailed off, shaking his head, for once without a way to express himself.

Thaddeus did not quite know what to say to that. What could possibly be going through Edward’s mind, or was he simply out of it entirely? Could he really think Thaddeus was anything less than pleased with his father’s actions tonight? He could not recall ever seeing his friend in this state before, not even after his father died, and was suddenly uncomfortable with an Edward that was not making an offhand comment and brushing the whole matter away.

And how horrible was that, that he was so confused by sincerity? He shook his head and went to one knee beside Edward, putting one hand on the other man’s shoulder.

“I don’t think that your being a part of this family takes anything away from me.”

Edward rubbed at one eye and brushed away Thaddeus’s hand. “You don’t have a bit of sense in your head, for all those books you read. Thank god you know your way around a sword or I’d give you up as a lost cause.”

Thaddeus put the hand right back on Edward’s shoulder and continued with a straight face. “And thank god I have you around to remind me of that.”

Edward sighed and shook his head. “Well, someone’s got to look after you. You figure out the truths, I’ll handle the justice bit.”

Thaddeus smiled and joined Edward on the ground, reasonably assured that Edward was not going to hit him for being, as he would say, ‘just plain embarrassing’.

Of course, that was when Edward struck, shoving Thaddeus hard enough in the shoulder to knock him over. “Idiot. Your father has to pay me to be your friend.”

Thaddeus laughed and lay back on the grass. How many years ago had Edward made that declaration for the first time? Ten? The joke had taken on a bitter meaning in recent years, but this time it was said completely without rancor.

“Perhaps I should ask to trade you in for a beautiful woman if that is the case.”

“As if you have any trouble.”

“More trouble than I know what to do with, I’m afraid.”

Edward joined Thaddeus in laying back on the grass, lacing his fingers behind his head. “And that’s why you need me. I know –exactly- what to do with that sort of trouble.”

“I am sure I do not know what you mean.”

“I’ll explain it to you when you’re older.”


“You are the personification of wit. How can I compete against such clever insults?”

Thaddeus rolled his eyes once before closing them. They rested in comfortable silence this way for a time, thinking their respective thoughts.


“What it is Grey?”

“I think your father would be proud of you.”

Another long silence.



“Do me a favor?”


“You’re not going to ask me what it is?”


Edward paused for so long that Thaddeus was beginning to wonder if his friend wished to call in said favor at a later date. “Don’t talk about things you don’t understand.”

He did not say it unkindly. Thaddeus sighed and propped himself up on his elbows. “Fair enough.” Deciding it might be best to leave off conversation altogether, Thaddeus tilted his head and looked up at the stars instead.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Four
Women can be so vicious. To be fair, so can men, but it seems to me that when men are petty and cruel to each other, they can still go about their business the next day. If a woman chooses to be cruel, she can ruin another woman for life; they are, perhaps, more powerful in that respect.

Of course, men tend to solve their interpersonal problems with a duel. I suppose it all evens out.

--Thaddeus Grey

When my son was three years old, I was reading from a book of fables only to look down and discover that Thaddeus was fast asleep on my lap. He wore the slightest frown as he slept, though when I tried to smooth back his hair and make the crease in his forehead go away, he sighed contentedly and his expression turned to one of such peace.

He was terribly upset when he woke up, having discovered that he fell asleep in the midst of reading. He told me, in his little three year old voice, that I must never let him do that again.

He had missed something, you see. He didn’t realize the book would be there, waiting to be picked up again, just where he had left off.

--Close Secrets: The Memoirs of Lady Grey

It was the Grey’s obligation, according to some anyway, to host the next gathering of the four English families who took up residence in the small Bulgarian neighborhood. There had been a time when the Morelys would take up hosting duties as well but since the death of Edward’s father this had not been an option, as it was only Edward who still followed the tradition of visiting, even sporadically, and chose to stay with the Greys. In truth there was little choice in the matter, as the Morely family homes were not open to Edward any longer, but dwelling on such matters was neither here nor there in Thaddeus’s opinion. He was glad that Edward was with them and hoped his friend felt the same way.

There was, however, another guest that evening that Thaddeus found he had cause to be glad of.

“Miss Stannish, good evening.”

Thaddeus looked up as Lord Whitney, Margaret’s father, loudly greeted the mysterious woman from the other night, again somewhat startled that he hadn’t noticed her presence before in spite of paying attention to the comings and goings in the room. He was not the only one who was just now noticing her, though; the gossip mongers in the corner all looked up as one for a long moment before resuming their clucking at an increased rate. Thaddeus paid no attention to this; he was too busy watching Miss Stannish, who had immediately drawn Lord Grey’s attention. The two spoke intently for a moment, though he was too far away to hear their conversation. Lady Grey, he noticed, had left her own group of friends to join her husband, and Lord Grey soon gestured down the hall, turning to lead the way to his office.

Both women followed.

How interesting.

He was pulled from his reverie at Edward’s sharp elbow to the ribs, and turned to scowl at his friend before realizing that the rest of the small group was waiting for him to take his turn. He had accepted the invitation to join the men in a game of cards, mostly under the pretense of observing the room while pretending to be social at the same time, and found he was doing a much better job at the former. He absently set down a card and stayed quiet as the game progressed.

They parted ways after the last hand with a polite exchange of nods and handshakes. Edward had a smug look on his face, as he had emerged the victor, but Thaddeus hardly noticed his friend’s teasing.

“I nearly felt sorry for you at the end; I didn’t know it was –possible- to lose that badly.”

“At least it can be said that I do nothing halfway.”

Edward gave a snort of disgust. “You have no competitive edge, that’s your problem.”

Thaddeus shrugged and scanned the room. The circle of eternal meddling was still at it in one corner, and he saw with some amount of disappointment that Miss Littlebury was among them. He had hoped she would be above that sort of thing and wondered once again at how much she had changed from the bright fuzzy haired girl he had grown up with. To be fair, though, it seemed that tonight the ladies were either gossiping…or sitting alone. Miss Stannish, who had apparently returned unnoticed from Lord Grey’s offices, was doing the latter. That alone was enough to drive thoughts of Christina’s current disposition out of his mind.

He gave a muttered excuse to Edward, who was already engaged in conversation with one of the gentlemen they had played a round of cards with, and approached her. Politeness dictated as much, after all.

He realized somewhere between opening his mouth and offering up a soft greeting that he really ought to have thought of something to say beyond ‘good evening, Miss Stannish’. Fortunately Miss Stannish did not appear to need more initiation to begin a conversation. She gave him a slight nod and tilted up her small, pointed chin. Thaddeus thought that she might be restraining a smirk.

“He speaks! And to the pariah no less.”

Thaddeus raised one eyebrow and turned his head to the group of women in the corner, where Mrs. Littlebury was in the midst of telling a no doubt scandalous story, before looking back. “A sad waste of a good library. Criminal, really.”

Miss Stannish regarded Thaddeus coolly for a moment before breaking into a smile. “Yes, the Littleburys do have an excellent library; I see you are as one track minded as I am when it comes to books. It must run in the family; Lord Grey hosts an impressive library of his own.”

Thaddeus smiled at the compliment, though in reality he was somewhat disappointed that Miss Stannish had already seen the library. “Ah, yes…we take some pride in that. I had half a mind to offer a tour, but as you have already seen it…”

Miss Stannish’s expression warmed and she spoke softly, almost gently. Thaddeus wondered if she might be taking pity on him and was decidedly unnerved by that line of thought. “I have heard the gardens on the Grey estate are something to behold. Perhaps you would offer me a tour of those instead?”

After a moment’s consideration, Thaddeus returned the smile and raised his eyebrow, deciding that there were worse things than being patronized. His first impulse had been to take the opportunity given, but as much as he could express disdain for the women in the corner, it would not be proper to wander the grounds alone with Miss Stannish. “Very well. However, I cannot, in good conscience as a gentleman, damage a lady’s reputation by walking alone with her. Perhaps…” He turned his head, seeking out Edward and, meeting his eyes, signaling him over. “…we could make a party of it.”

Miss Stannish smirked, clearly amused. “How kind of you to trouble yourself over my reputation.” She leaned forward, whispering. “It is a shame it is wasted on me. I do not even pretend to care about the opinion of those…Oh hello Mr. Morley!”

Edward rested one arm on Thaddeus’s shoulder and looked to Miss Stannish with a cheeky grin. “And what are you two whispering about over here? Talking about –me-, I hope?”

Thaddeus rolled his eyes, but Miss Stannish tilted her chin up at Edward, her expression serious. “We were discussing the nature of gentlemen.”

Edward laughed out loud. “Ah, not talking about me then! Grey here is a much better example for such discussions.”

Thaddeus shook his head. “Now, Mr. Morley, I will not hear you say such things about yourself. Should anyone else dare claim you are not a gentleman, I should have to challenge them to a duel to defend your honor. How I am I to defend you and battle you at the same time?”

Miss Stannish laughed and rose to her feet. “My, but Lord Thaddeus Grey is quite devoted to defending honor, isn’t he?”

Edward gave Thaddeus a playful little shove and smirked. “And Truth.”

Thaddeus rolled his eyes. “But I am to leave Justice to you, yes?” He shook his head at Miss Stannish apologetically. “Forgive us, we get carried away at times.” It was, in fact, somewhat of a rarity for Thaddeus to behave in such a way with Edward publicly, and he wondered at how comfortable he was with the increasingly interesting woman in front of him.

Miss Stannish looked back and forth between the two men in front of her with a bemused expression. “Not at all. I am curious, though, about this fascination with fighting.”

Edward laughed and shook his head. “Grey? No, no, Grey has no love of –fighting-, but a passion for honor and an appreciation for talent and ability. Sadly, though…he has no competitive edge.”

Thaddeus looked up at Edward with an uncertain expression, wondering at the strange mix of sincerity and exaggeration. “Now that is simply untrue, Mr. Morley. I am simply hard pressed to find competition greater than that of beating my own standards.”

Edward smirked. “I suspect you simply prefer being the best to actually winning.”

Thaddeus smiled back. “What good is winning without true ability? Anyone who fences enough is bound to win a match sooner or later. But no, you are wrong on that score; I do in fact take winning rather –too- seriously at times.”

Tilting his head down, he looked up at Miss Stannish through lowered eyelashes, smirking in a self depreciating fashion. He hoped she understood that both his arrogance and his modesty were done mostly in jest, and it seemed that she gathered that if her return smirk was any indication.

Chuckling softly, Edward continued to press his point. “Yes, you are quite serious about winning when you refuse to take points for anything less than an ideal touch.”

The corners of Miss Stannish’s eyes crinkled a little as she spoke, as though she were trying not to laugh. “You two bicker like brothers! However, perhaps at a later date I might have the opportunity to see this ability you speak of.”

There was something about her tone of voice that unnerved Thaddeus a little, though he was not quite sure of why. He found himself looking at his feet for a moment and missed some small bit of conversation before Miss Littlebury’s voice brought him back to the present.

“Lord Thaddeus Grey?”

He turned to face her, though not before he noticed Miss Stannish’s expression go cold. Edward, however, seemed as warm as ever and similarly turned in her direction.

“Good evening, Miss Littlebury. I hope you are enjoying the party?” She did not appear to be enjoying herself much at all, in fact, and her next words proved Thaddeus right.

“I wanted to thank you, it was quite lovely. I am taking my leave now.” She gave a nod and turned to go, but Edward stopped her.

“You are taking the carriage?”

Miss Littlebury shook her head. “No, my mother will need that when she is ready to go. It is not far to walk.”

Miss Stannish raised one eyebrow. “You should not be walking at night alone. I cannot imagine Lord Thaddeus Grey would allow that, would you?”

“Of course not. I will send for one of ours.” Thaddeus wondered if that had been her wish from the beginning; while the distance was not far, it was senseless to make the walk at night alone, and he wondered what would drive her to make such a choice. “Are you quite well?”

Miss Littlebury nodded and cast a glance over her shoulder at her mother. “I am well. Merely…tired.”

Thaddeus felt immediately guilty. He had clearly misjudged the young woman in a harsh light, which was really most unfair. Perhaps he had been oversensitive to slights at seeing the way Miss Stannish was treated; he knew Miss Littlebury took no pleasure in her mother’s gossip and should have given her the benefit of the doubt and then some when he saw her in the group of women. Where else was she supposed to go, after all? It was not as though she were automatically included in his and Edward’s activities anymore, and Thaddeus suddenly wondered if she missed that at all.

He was about to go for the carriage when Edward again interrupted his efforts. “Perhaps a walk would invigorate you after all, then. While we could not possibly stand by and watch you go off alone, you could join us, if you like. It would please me very much.”

Thaddeus rather thought that Miss Littlebury simply wanted to go home, but he was apparently mistaken if the brightened look on her face was anything to go by. A sharp elbow to the ribs from Edward was enough to compel him to speak.

“That is an excellent idea; Miss Stannish and I were in fact just discussing the gardens and would be delighted to enjoy your company.”

Miss Littlebury seemed beyond words for a moment, though she managed to stammer a soft “yes, thank you” after a moment’s struggle.

And so it was that the four young people found themselves walking the path through the gardens. Miss Littlebury’s countenance improved tremendously and Thaddeus could see that Edward had been correct in his assessment. Interesting that his typically oblivious, though not unkind friend was so insightful when it came to the young lady. Edward immediately launched into a story about his adventures in Germany. Thaddeus had heard the tale before, and though it was always entertaining, he found himself falling behind.

Miss Stannish, though, seemed to be matching his pace.

Interesting indeed.

Casting about for conversation, Thaddeus decided to take the opportunity to enquire on a matter he was quite curious about.

“I am under the impression that you are acquainted with Lord Grey? How did you make your association with him?”

Miss Stannish looked at him curiously. “And how did you fall under that impression?”

Thaddeus looked back, confused. “I noticed you speaking with him earlier. You seemed to know each other.”

Miss Stannish nodded, apparently satisfied. “Yes, I know your father, though up until recently only via a third party. I was attempting to establish some business dealings with him. Unfortunately…they did not work out.”

Thaddeus made a non committal sound and continued walking. “That is unfortunate indeed.”

Miss Stannish laughed softly. “Do not worry, I do not feel ill used in any way. At one point I suspected that Lord Grey did not wish to do business with me because I am a woman, but meeting with Lady Grey disabused me of that notion quickly enough.” She met Thaddeus’s eyes. “Your father is a stubborn man, but not a rude one, and that is something anyway.”

Thaddeus chuckled softly at Miss Stannish’s impression of his mother, imagining that Lady Grey had not allowed her any misconceptions in that department.

The inflection she used in her all too accurate description of his father was one of respect, not insult, and Thaddeus appreciated that. To some, being honest was equivalent to being as brutal and nasty as possible; Miss Stannish was honest, but without the rancor.

It was something that appealed to him enough to mention it, and Miss Stannish seemed to color at that statement, much to Thaddeus’s surprise.

“Some would say that even gracious honesty is too much, that such opinions should be kept to one’s self.”

Thaddeus chuckled. “Miss Stannish, I hope you do not think I am one of those people.”

“Ah, but you do not voice your opinions, which leads me to believe that you do not care for the things.”

Thaddeus raised his eyebrow. “Quite the opposite. I simply…like to listen.”

Miss Stannish tilted her head up at Thaddeus with an unreadable expression. “Yes…I believe that of you.” Oddly, they walked in silence for a long moment before they caught sight of Edward and Miss Littlebury up ahead of them on the path. Thaddeus was surprised to see that the two did not appear to have noticed that they had fallen behind.

It was a moot point, as they were quickly gaining on them, and Thaddeus realized that he would have only a little more time alone with Miss Stannish tonight. He remembered that there were unanswered questions regarding her relationship with his parents…but somehow other thoughts came to the forefront instead.

“It is common knowledge, in the neighborhood, that any of our neighbors are welcome to take these paths.” He paused for a long moment, listening to Miss Littlebury’s laughter up ahead. “I myself walk them quite often.” It was not until they caught up and reformed the group that he worked up the nerve to look over at Miss Stannish again, though in the safety of numbers he did so several times as they continued their tour.

More often than not, she was looking back.

If Edward noticed a new tension between the two, he did not show it, instead regaling the group with another story from his youth. Miss Littlebury, though, cast the pair several backward glances, a fact that Thaddeus had not failed to notice.

He found that he did not believe anything about this walk would get back to Mrs. Littlebury, but just the same, he wondered what Christina might be thinking in this moment. He did not, however, come to any solid conclusion on the matter, and gave it up as a lost cause by the time they reached the stables. Edward moved ahead to see about a carriage, but Miss Stannish stepped forward at the same moment, and he hesitated. She spoke softly to Miss Littlebury, suddenly quite serious.

“Would you allow me to join you? I am only a little further down the way.”

Miss Littlebury showed a flicker of shyness at the suggestion, though she accepted readily enough. “Certainly, then. That is an excellent solution.”

And, just as suddenly as in their previous meeting, the two men were left standing alone, watching the ladies retreat into the night without a backward glance. They exchanged a look, shook their heads, and went back inside to rejoin the party.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Five
A Grey keeps his bedclothes orderly at all times. He never kicks his sheet to the bottom of the bed while sleeping, nor uses pillows for other than their intended purpose, that of supporting the head while sleeping.

--Lord Grey, ‘Quoting’ The Book of Grey

“Do I have this correct? Read, will you?”

Edward picked up the volume Thaddeus plopped down in front of him and compared it to the book in his hand, his forehead creased in concentration.

“Grey…when we go to Italy together, do allow me to do the talking. You butcher the language, it’s embarrassing.” Edward made several scratches and notes on the vellum as Thaddeus bit back a frustrated sigh. He wasn’t –that- bad at Italian though he would freely admit that Edward had more ability in the area of languages. After a moment Edward pushed up and leaned against the bed post, rather smugly reading the edited translation out loud.

“Its exterior form is that it is pointed; because if it were blunt, it would not serve to hold the adversary at the distance of natural offense.”

Thaddeus rolled his eyes. “Oh that’s helpful. Swords are pointy, good to know.”

Edward’s expression grew solemn. “Respect the distance of natural offense, Lord Thaddeus Grey.”

Thaddeus snorted and threw a pillow at Edward. “There’s your distance of natural offense. And who says we’re going to Italy anyway?”

Edward took the pillow by the corner and swung at Thaddeus, who flattened himself on the bed to avoid the strike only to get smacked on the downswing. “I do believe I just did, Grey.”

“Be careful with that. I’ve had it since I was five and…oh for heaven’s sake, you’ve gotten feathers everywhere.”

“You have not had that since you were five! Your mother told you it was the same pillow but she secretly swaps it out when you’re not looking because she knew you would…” Edward was abruptly cut off as the pillow came into contact with his mouth, though he ducked down, put his arms over his head, and continued on through a sudden barrage of beatings from Thaddeus. “…pitch…a…fit…if she told you the truth! You drool…Thaddeus Grey drools and ruins his pillows!”

“I…do…not…drool! Say it Edward, say it or face my wrath!”

“Ahhhh! The seam, the seam! My eye!”

Thaddeus put a halt to the onslaught and peered down in concern. This was, naturally, the perfect opportunity for Edward to spring, leaping up and shoving Thaddeus down on the bed before both collapsed in a heap of laughter and feathers. It was several minutes before they recovered, wiping tears from their eyes.

“Goodness, you would think we were eight instead of eighteen.”

“You are as old as you feel, Grey.”

“Wise words,” Thaddeus said, rolling his eyes. “In any case,” he said, trying to sound nonchalant in spite of a sudden fit of nerves, “I had thought we might try a different sort of travel.”

Edward sat up, brushing away the feathers that had gathered in his hair with both hands. “Oh?”

Thaddeus raised both eyebrows and looked up at the ceiling. In truth he hadn’t really planned to speak to Edward about this so soon; it had been an impulse, and one that he was now regretting. That didn’t mean, however, that the idea itself was impulsive. He had considered what he was about to propose very carefully while in Amalfi, and being back with Edward only enforced his plan. “Why visit the same places we have gone a dozen times before when across the ocean there are –colonies- to explore?”

Edward gave his friend an incredulous stare before bursting into laughter.

“That is by far ridiculous idea you have –ever- concocted, Grey.”

Thaddeus propped himself up on his elbows and looked up at Edward, somewhat offended that his idea had been so easily brushed off. While he had been somewhat nervous about his friend’s reaction, he had still rather envisioned the conversation going much differently.

He spoke in a somewhat sulky voice. “It is –not-.”

Edward, oblivious to his friend’s distress, kept laughing and slapped Thaddeus hard enough on the shoulder to make him wince (had he not been used to this sort of behavior), stirring up more feathers in the process. “Alright, alright. Your idea of starting a parish was slightly more ridiculous.”

Thaddeus flopped back on the bed and gave an indignant snort. “I would have made an –excellent- clergyman. And you would consider it too if you had Mrs. Littlebury trying to sink her hooks into you any way she can.”

Edward continued to chuckle and shake his head. “Oh, is that what this is about then? If that is the case you will forget all about this in a week’s time.”

Thaddeus sighed and picked up a feather, twirling it absently between his fingers. “That –isn’t- what this is about and you know it. You’re not even considering the idea.”

Edward finally stopped shaking the entire bed with his laughter, and a frown crossed his features. “And you’re not considering what this idea means. Think of our education. Think of the –tour-.”

Ah yes…the grand tour. A year spent doing nothing but traveling Europe with peers, studying at some cities and living it up in others. A year of relative freedom and pleasures before settling down to more formal learning. Few young men of Thaddeus’s stature did not participate in that tradition. Which, Thaddeus reflected, was quite possibly a reason for not taking much interest in it. Edward, however, was more than a little excited about the tour, though Thaddeus could not see how it held a candle to his idea.

“I suppose…I want something more. Something that sets us apart, Edward.”

Thaddeus could practically –feel- Edward roll his eyes. “Set yourself apart the same way you always do. Excel in Europe, Grey. And then come –home- and distinguish yourself there.”

Thaddeus shook his head. “I’ve –seen- Europe. I have not, however, seen the American Colonies. Edward, I don’t want to be just another spoiled rich boy who banged around Europe for a year and then settled down five miles from where he grew up.”

Edward frowned. “There’s nothing wrong with where we grew up, Grey.”

Thaddeus shook his head. “That’s not what I meant and you know it. But in all honesty, Edward, are you telling me you will be content to go home and…do what? Sit in one of your coffee houses and hold court?”

Edward laced his fingers behind his head and lay down on the bed, scowling up at the ceiling. “That actually sounds pretty great to me, Thaddeus. And there was a time when that was good enough for you too. Remember? You were going to study, I was going to lead the life of leisure for the both of us…what happened?”

Sighing, Thaddeus pinched the bridge of his nose, not particularly appreciating having his own jokes thrown back in his face. Of course they had playfully spoken of Thaddeus getting his education while Edward wasted away his days in his precious coffee shops, the merits of which were lost on him…but they had been joking. Hadn’t they? “I don’t know Edward. I just…want more. Everywhere I look, it seems people see me only for the fortune that will some day be mine. I want something that is mine in my own right…I can’t explain it, I know it is beyond strange.”

“Beyond stupid too. You have everything here. Everything. And lest you forget, I have a sister to think of.”

Thaddeus remained quiet for some time, matching Edward’s gaze and looking up at the ceiling. He could feel movement on the bed and knew Edward had turned over, was likely regarding him now with his sharp blue eyes, but Thaddeus could not bring himself to turn his head just yet. Edward was right, he knew; there was no good reason to leave all of this and go to the colonies. He wished he could let the idea go, and wondered how it had taken hold of him this way.

Then there was the matter of Edward’s sister, Elizabeth. While his friend would not want to put that much distance between the two of them, Thaddeus wasn’t certain of what the solution to that problem was. A more rebellious part of him was quietly suggesting that they take her on the ship with them and damn the consequences but more reasonable heads would have to prevail on that account if Edward had any hope at all of regaining his status.

“Look, Grey. Do the tour with me. Stay in England and finish your education. Then, if you still want to do this…crazy…stupid…stunt of yours, hell, I’ll even pack your bags.”

Thaddeus finally looked up at Edward, his expression blank. “I had rather hoped you would come with me. And honestly, what do we want with the tour? It’s…been done.”

Edward rolled his eyes. “Do the tour, Grey. I’ll show you Europe in a whole new light. You just can’t appreciate some things traveling with your parents, -trust- me on that. Besides, it will be an excellent learning experience.”

“I’ve no doubt. But so would the colonies. And I fail to see the difference; I like traveling with my parents and they permit me to make my choices as I see fit by now.” It was true enough; as embarrassed as he was to admit it, he thought Europe would not be quite the same without the talks with his father in the evenings and his quiet walks with his mother in the mornings. Oh, certainly it would be entertaining to travel alone with Edward, but it would be –twice- as adventurous to cross the ocean with him.

Edward gave a disgusted snort. “See, I still have so much to teach you. I clearly have not done my job. You are severely lacking in education.”

Thaddeus once again lifted himself on his elbows, speaking in earnest. “There is education to be had in the colonies, Edward! Think of it…for my sake.”

Edward shook his head sadly, though his well defined chin was set. “Grey…”

Thaddeus immediately waved his hand. Edward Morley was and always would be his own man. Was that not one of the reasons he loved him as a brother, his fierce independence in spite of his difficult situation? Nevertheless, it was hurtful and frustrating at times that he would not bend even for the sake of friendship. He reasoned that Edward knew there was nothing he could do that would make Thaddeus stop being his friend, and that trust in and of itself was something to be valued. Somehow right now it felt more like he was being taken for granted, that the fact that he would bend to Edward’s way of thinking was such a given in his friend’s mind that it was not even worth discussing alternatives.

He shoved himself off Edward’s bed, straightened his clothes, and went for the door. “I have something I must do. I will see you later tonight.”

Edward grunted behind him. “For heaven’s sake Grey, don’t be that way.”

Thaddeus shook his head and smiled. “I’m not, honestly I’m not. Just…let me clear my head of this idea.”

The flashing white smile Edward beamed at Thaddeus was almost enough to make up for his off handed rejection. Almost.

“Sorry about your pillow, Grey.”

Thaddeus chuckled and leaned on the door frame. “I’ve had it since I was five.”

“You haven’t. Ask Lady Grey, she’ll tell you. Terrible drooling problem, she told me all about it.”

“I don’t drool. –Greys- do not drool.”

With that, Thaddeus took his leave, heading for the gardens.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Six

God Almighty first planted a Garden; and, indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures; it is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man; without which buildings and palaces are but gross handy-works: and a man shall ever see, that, when ages grow to civility and elegancy, men come to build stately, sooner than to garden finely; as if gardening were the greater perfection.

--Francis Bacon, Of Gardens

The gardens at the Grey Estate were a comfortable mix of cultures, inspired by both French and English, chaos and order coming together with touches of the far east and of course local flavor. It was a place where one of diverse tastes could very likely find what they were looking for, whether it be the tranquility of the stone wishing well in the center, the fragrant beauty of the rose garden, the order of the lawns and beds, or the aroma of the vineyard.

Thaddeus had enjoyed each area in its own right, depending on his mood, but tonight he sought out the most English area of the gardens, wanting a sense of order for his cluttered mind. He smiled as a gray squirrel crossed his path, chittering.

Instead of a solitary walk in contemplation, however, Thaddeus had found Miss Stannish taking the same paths. They had met in passing twice before, and he told himself that she merely enjoyed the view and so had accepted his open invitation. That she was not seeking him out. This time, though, instead of exchanging greetings from a distance and wandering the gardens separately but aware of the other’s presence, she turned and approached him on sight with a rather rewarding smile on her face that made his arguments less than convincing.

Thaddeus slowed his pace to allow her to join him, if that was indeed her intention. It seemed he was not imagining things after all; she fell into step with him after a moment and they exchanged greetings. In unspoken agreement they made their way deeper into the gardens, away from prying eyes; out loud they reserved their words for discussion of their surroundings.

Still distracted by his own thoughts, Thaddeus spoke mostly of the gardens and the Grey Estate, giving little details of both history and more recent developments. Miss Stannish listened with interest until they came to the spot in the gardens where he and Edward had only recently spoken, at which time he fell quiet for a moment.

He had not intended to share his more private thoughts. That was something he rarely did with anyone, much less someone he had met only recently. But somehow when she looked at him, stating that he was clearly a thousand miles away and whatever was the matter, he had not been able to stop himself from speaking, from telling her all about his private wish to go to the colonies and Edward’s reaction to the idea.

And she had not laughed. Instead, she had taken off her shoes and was now attempting to get her stockings off while keeping her modesty. Thaddeus did her the courtesy of finding something interesting in the sky, though it was a bit awkward to simultaneously afford her the courtesy of giving her his full attention when she spoke.

“Well anyone would have to admit, at the very least, that it is a most compelling idea. I find I am quite enamored of it myself.”

Thaddeus looked back down at those words and watched Miss Stannish curl her bare toes in the grass, oddly fascinated by the sight. The thought occurred to him that she was probably getting her feet beyond filthy, but it was rather effectively drowned out by the belief that Miss Stannish had simply lovely little toes.

Lovely little toes? “I must be out of my mind.”

Miss Stannish turned to Thaddeus, who was resolutely leaning against the garden wall rather than joining her in enjoying the small lawn.

“I don’t think you are out of your mind at all. Sincerely, I think it’s a wonderful idea.”

Thaddeus smiled softly, relieved that he had not revealed the true direction of his inner thoughts with that careless slip. “You know, I am meant to be getting said ‘wonderful idea’ out of my head at this moment.” He shook his head.

“Lord Thaddeus Grey…my goodness, that is a mouthful isn’t it. In any case, I think you have more influence than you may believe over Mr. Morley.”

Thaddeus smiled softly. “Addressing me by my full title is, as you may have heard, a recent development. I doubt you would be cut off from society if you called me Thaddeus, and you would hear no objections from me.”

Miss Stannish slipped her shoes back on her feet and closed the distance between them. “That is something of a relief to hear, if for no other reason than because I can now ask you to call me Emma without fear of impropriety.”

Thaddeus bit his lip thoughtfully and considered the offer. Their cases, in his opinion, were different, after all. “Emma in private, then. In public, Miss Stannish would likely be for the best.”

Emma shrugged her slim shoulders and began walking down the path, speaking over her shoulder. “Alright then. Of course, that assumes there will be future opportunities to speak in private.”

Thaddeus had shoved off the wall and was moving to catch up with Emma, but her words stopped him short and he found himself blushing quite deeply. Emma must have noticed the pause; she turned around and regarded Thaddeus for a moment with a twinkle in her eye. She was, however, gracious enough to show no other signs of amusement.

“I…of course did not mean to presume…”

Emma’s expression quickly turned to one of embarrassment, and Thaddeus was surprised to see the dignified woman in front of him was quite unable to meet his eyes. “Oh…that is not what I meant at all. I was actually quite hoping…”

Thaddeus closed the distance between them and tilted his head, peering down at her curiously. Emma seemed to collect herself and looked up, smiling.

“Thaddeus, I should like to see you here again.”

Through some force of will Thaddeus managed to keep eye contact and very nearly stopped blushing. “Oh.”

Emma blinked, and seemed to hesitate. Thaddeus found he was rather tongue tied and absurdly happy in this moment and was surprised when Emma turned and continued down the path without saying anything more. He went over their conversation in his mind and realized that if Edward were here, he would likely be getting a hard elbow to the ribs right about now. And why was he still standing here? He forced his feet to move.


Emma slowed down her pace, though she kept her eyes forward. “Yes, Thaddeus?”

“If we walk a bit further down this path we will come to a hedge of roses. It surrounds a white gazebo.”

“That sounds lovely.”

“It is. It is also private, and about halfway between our respective houses.”

Emma stopped walking and turned to Thaddeus, hands on her hips. “Lord Thaddeus Grey, for heaven’s sake say what you mean! Your gardens are lovely but if you think I am here to see them you are sorely mistaken. I am not interested in walking these paths alone, but neither am I interested in speaking in implications and having to guess at your meaning.”

Thaddeus took a step back, somewhat surprised by the petite woman’s vehemence. He was –getting- to the point, it was just…well quite frankly he had wanted to avoid getting slapped for impropriety and could see now that his instincts were correct. She looked fit to…step on his foot or something, the way she was tapping it dangerously. He bit his lower lip and looked down at Emma, finding that words failed him even more when she looked at him with those dark fiery eyes.

Her expression softened. “Thaddeus, you are not going to offend me.” She took a step forward and reached up to push a wayward strand of hair out of her eyes. Thaddeus started a little at the movement; he had been half convinced she was reaching up to touch his cheek. “What is it you are so afraid of?”

Thaddeus closed his eyes for a moment, longer than a blink but not by much. He answered her candidly, not knowing what else he could say. “Of not being the gentleman you deserve.”

Emma appeared almost startled by this pronouncement, though she quickly recovered. She did not seem to know quite what to do with her hands; one moment they were clasped together, the next resting uneasily at her sides. “I cannot imagine you as anything but a gentleman, Thaddeus.”

Thaddeus felt suddenly guilty; Emma appeared so nervous for some reason, restless and anxious, and he realized that she had taken something of a risk in admitting she wanted to see him again. A risk that he had not yet matched with his own.

“The gazebo would be an ideal location for us to meet. Tomorrow. If that is your wish; I will be there.”

Emma lit up the evening with her smile, and Thaddeus was somewhat relieved to have finally said the right thing. “I will be there. After sunset.”

She hesitated for another moment before turning to make her way down the path once more. They walked together in silence for a time, making their way to the rose hedge, which came into view at a turn of the path.

Thaddeus found himself wondering just why they needed to meet after sunset; after all, it was summer and the days were long; if they met earlier in the day, they would have more time together and perhaps better see the gardens. Deciding that both the nighttime and the gardens were convenient covers for their true intentions, however, he let the matter rest, and before long even the question was forgotten entirely.

“I have not forgotten that you have not addressed my other point, Thaddeus.”

Thaddeus blinked, uncomprehending.

“Edward, I think, would follow you anywhere. I have not known either of you long, but even I can see how loyal you are to each other.”

Thaddeus gestured Emma through the entrance in the hedge and into the opening with the gazebo in the center before following. “It is…a complicated situation I suppose.” He leaned against the railing, looking out at the stars.

She tilted her head and walked over to the railing, resting her hands on the smooth white wood. “I see. Mrs. Littlebury told me some of his…situation.”

Thaddeus gritted his teeth at the mention of that woman. “I doubt very much that you had an accurate accounting then.” He sighed. “It is…not an altogether pleasant story in any light, but it can be twisted in the most cruel of ways.” He bit his lip, musing. It seemed wrong to tell stories that were not his to tell, but he could not in good conscience allow Mrs. Littlebury’s version of events to stand. When Emma looked up at him with an expectant expression, he decided it was best to explain.

“I met Edward when I was seven years old, and we have been virtually inseparable ever since. He spent a great deal of time at the Grey Manor…I think it was not pleasant for him at home. His mother had only recently died and that was clearly hard on him. He became a sort of an honorary Grey, especially when he endeared himself to my father.”

He sighed softly, thinking of just how much Lord Grey cared for his friend. He was more grateful for that than he could explain, and found it confusing that Edward occasionally asked if their excellent rapport bothered him.

“Four years ago, Edward’s father passed on. Edward was meant to inherit everything, and the Morleys had an impressive fortune. Young as he was, though, the money was put into trust.

And that is when matters began to get ugly.”

The Morley’s treatment of Edward still made his blood boil to this day, and he had to force himself to take a deep breath before he continued.

“They…his uncles, the trust holders, attacked Edward in every possible way to get to that money. Awful lies were spread…regarding Edward’s legitimacy among other things, and with Edward’s mother being long gone it was the uncle’s word against a fourteen year old boy. While that was not enough to prove anything, there were mysterious problems with the will…” Thaddeus shook his head. “Edward and Lord Grey fought in every way they knew, but the uncles would stop at nothing. There was no act too devious for them to consider in the course of getting their hands on that money.”

“Finally, the day came to make a settlement. Edward walked into a room with his uncles a rich man. He came out with the clothes on his back.” Thaddeus sighed sadly and raked his fingers through his hair.

“They told him he had two choices. Stay and watch his money be drained away in a relentless legal battle…or agree to their terms. The house, the heirlooms, the land…everything would go to the uncles. Edward was to return home long enough to take what was his before he left permanently.

In exchange, they said, Edward’s sister, Miss Elizabeth Morley, would be well taken care of; in fact, she would be set for life, though always beholden to the uncle’s kindness.

But Edward was forbidden from seeing her.”

Thaddeus pushed off the ledge of the gazebo and moved to sit on the bench. Emma looked as though she wanted to ask him something, but remained quiet, simply sitting beside him on the bench, and he soon continued.

“He would have fought. Lord Grey, well all of us really, would have helped him, and he would have fought. He barely had the stomach to fight his family this way, but he had more than enough incentive to defend himself. They were…you have to understand, he was being raked through the coals and taking it with the dignity of a man at fourteen. And it was killing him, anyone could see that. He could take whatever lies they wanted to throw at him, but when they started in on Elizabeth…”

Thaddeus looked up at Emma, wondering if she understood. It seemed by her expression that she did, and her low, almost sad voice confirmed her sympathetic view.

“He loved his sister. There is no fault in that, nor is it a sign of weakness in any of you that he gave in to them.” Emma smiled softly. “You are correct…I heard a very different accounting of the matter. But go on.”

Thaddeus nodded his head and did as asked, feeling less inhibited in spite of the highly personal nature of their discussion. “Well, after the settlement was made, Edward returned to his home to tell his sister and collect his belongings. He told the housekeeper that he planned to go to family on his mother’s side, though I do not believe he ever had any intention of going there; they had little enough to support themselves, much less another young man.”

He smiled ruefully. “Word travels quickly. The housekeeper came to the Grey Manor in tears, and then –our- housekeeper came to –me- in tears, and somewhere in the midst of these two crying women the story was revealed.”

He paused and rubbed at his chin, searching for words. “I was…vocal…in my opinion.”

Emma raised an eyebrow. “Ah. A rare occurrence. Did you shock the poor crying women?”

Thaddeus chuckled. “Oh, indeed, though at the time I was quite beside myself.”

Emma laughed softly and leaned forward. “I must admit, I am hard pressed to imagine your state.”

Shaking his head, Thaddeus looked out through the archway into the gardens, somewhat embarrassed upon remembering his behavior. “Trust me, I was quite worked up. After ranting at length on my plans for Edward’s uncles, I announced that I was going to march right over to the Morley estate and lay in front of the carriage if that is what it took to stop him leaving.”

Emma put one hand over her heart. “That is…” She paused, apparently looking for words.

Thaddeus waved his hand. “Melodramatic, I know. In my defense, I was only fourteen. In any case, that is when I heard Lord Grey’s voice behind me.”

He laughed, then deepened his voice in an imitation of his father. “I do not think it will come to that, son.” He shook his head. “I turned around to face my father, more than a little embarrassed already but still quite determined…and there was Edward, in spite of everything trying very hard not to laugh.” Thaddeus paused and smiled at Emma. “That was Edward, though…he never lost his sense of humor through it all, even though the strain showed.”

Somewhere in the course of this talk he realized that his previous frustrations with Edward had melted away to the easy affection those two had shared for so many years. It was much easier to remember Edward’s strength of character and admire him for that than it was to fault him for his stubbornness.

“You can imagine my shock and delight. It must have showed on my face, if the amused looks of Lord Grey and Edward were any indication. I clearly remember Edward giving me a good shove and asking me ‘Where –else- would I be, idiot?’” Thaddeus chuckled, partly at his own mediocre impression of his friend and partly in memory. “I was not entirely wrong, though; Edward had every intention of running off on his own had Lord Grey not intercepted him and brought him back to the Manor. And the only way he convinced my stubborn friend to stay was by agreeing that it would only be for a month.”

He smiled again and shook his head, remembering that conversation. He realized he was losing himself to the story and that perhaps Emma was at this point regretting her own curiosity, but he felt obliged to explain how everything had turned out.

“I, of course, had other ideas. Staying is the one thing Edward has conceded to, though even there he makes it clear that he has a choice and generally makes things much more difficult than they need be. He has a tendency to disappear for a month or three at a time, manages to worry the life out of me in all honesty, but he comes back and Lord Grey has learned that Edward generally needs his freedoms. There is more peace for everyone if we all let Edward do what he will and come to us when we are needed, though I fear he does not always know when that is.”

The fact that the Greys supported Edward was no secret, and Thaddeus was reasonably certain of the fact that he broke no trust with his friend in telling Emma the truth. Doubtless others told his story in a much different light, and while Edward made a point of not arguing the rumors, he felt Emma was someone who was…worthy of the truth.

Emma nodded her head, contemplating the story. “Edward is a proud man, it seems.”

Thaddeus nodded. “He has reason to be. But you see now, I hope, why our relationship is complicated.”

“I suppose I do.” She fell quiet for a long moment. “Is it important? Going to America?”

Thaddeus tilted his head to one side. “I suppose it is what I make of it, isn’t it? It could be important, though, yes.”

“Then perhaps you should go. Regardless of what Edward says. I would honestly be somewhat surprised if he did not come with you in the end, but even if he doesn’t…” She smiled softly, her eyes far away. “You will still be friends.”

Thaddeus shook his head. “I would likely go out of my mind worrying about him. He’s like my other half, I imagine I’d be witless without him.”

Emma laughed. “And he you! But you will both be better friends to each other if you are free to do what you believe is right for you.”

Thaddeus looked out at the stars, thinking. The idea of going to America without Edward was difficult for him to wrap his mind around, reasonable as Emma made it sound. Though Edward frequently pulled his little disappearing acts, they spent far more time together than apart in the course of their young lives, and having an ocean between them seemed an impossible thing. And if he was being honest with himself, half of his motivations for going to America were for Edward’s sake. New surroundings and new people would do his friend good, and with the right start Edward could easily achieve the independence he craved.

“I shall have to think on it more. But I am glad we spoke; I was going to completely dismiss the idea.”

Emma smiled, amused. “Yes, you were doing a very good job of it weren’t you.”

Thaddeus laughed. “Ah…I suppose not.” He smiled over at Emma. “In all serious, though…thank you for your council.”

Emma shrugged. “None of us have all the answers. I had a similar struggle with letting friends go their own way, and it was just as difficult for me. I can tell you, though, that it all worked out in the end. I happen to like my friends best when they are happy.”

Thaddeus smiled. “This is true.” He pushed himself off the bench and offered a hand to Emma. It was a habitual gesture, and he realized only too late that it was less than proper to do so when they were alone. Emma seemed unfazed and accepted the offered hand, rising to her feet…and not letting go.

Well. Interesting.

Unnerved for a moment, Thaddeus found himself once again stammering. “It is…quite late.”

Emma smiled, apparently oblivious to her hand in his. “I suppose it is.” She stood very still for a long moment, looking distant even as her warm hand in his felt so present. Finally she looked to Thaddeus once more. “Tomorrow then?”

“After sunset.”

“Thaddeus? There is…one thing I would ask you.”

Thaddeus nodded his head. “Very well.”

Emma looked askance at Thaddeus for a moment before she continued. “Be careful in coming and going.”

Thaddeus raised his eyebrow. Of course he would be careful; as much as they tip toed around the matter, he knew perfectly well what it was they were doing, and how it would appear. However, he replied with the seriousness her request was due. “I will.”

Emma nodded, unsmiling. “See that you do.” Her expression softened as they walked together through the arch. “Until tomorrow then?”

Thaddeus frowned. “I had thought to escort you at least a bit closer to your home.”

Emma shook her head. “I will be perfectly fine. And you should be getting back.”

The tone of her voice did not invite argument, much as Thaddeus would have liked to protest. Instead, he nodded once more. “Very well then. Until tomorrow.”

Emma looked down and let go of Thaddeus’s hand. She gave him one final smile before turning at the fork in the path. Thaddeus watched her go for a time, until she turned around, laughing, and waved in a gesture that clearly said ‘go on!’

He was, as Emma requested, careful in his trip home.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Seven

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

--I Corinthians 13:11

I have a deeply loving relationship with my husband. For this reason, when he announced that he would be taking Thaddeus with him on his next hunting trip, I felt perfectly comfortable looking him in the eye and saying:

“The hell you are.”

The matter was put to rest, or so I thought, for when Lord Grey announced that he would be going into town to meet with his business partners, my own words echoed back in my ears in the form of a five year old voice.

“The hell you are.”

Lord Grey was not nearly as amused as I was. I am a lucky woman, though, to have a husband who loves me so much.

--Close Secrets: The Memoirs of Lady Grey

Thaddeus did his best not to fidget as he sat in the office, waiting for his father. His hands wanted to rake through his hair and his feet wanted to twitch, but he kept so still that he must have, he reflected later, appeared stiff as a board when his father entered the room.

He began speaking without preamble, taking his father through his thoughts of the last few days, explaining his thinking in as orderly a fashion as so chaotic an idea would allow. He barely heard himself speaking, but, having practiced his speech in front of the portrait of Uncle David, who resembled his father enough to suffice, he imagined his explanation was mostly clear. After concluding with a rushed “go to the American Colonies,” Thaddeus finally paused in his speaking long enough to take in his father’s reply. Throughout his explanation he had observed Lord Grey’s eyebrow go up higher and higher with each word, and he wondered just what might be going through his father’s mind.

When his father responded at last his reply was somewhat noncommittal.

“How interesting.”

Thaddeus waited patiently for his father to continue, knowing he would in his own time. Lord Grey had a distant look to his steely eyes, and was stroking his chin in his usual thoughtful way. It was interesting, Thaddeus reflected, how similar and yet how different their little mannerisms were. Lord Grey moved just his thumb and forefinger down both sides of his chin, making a point at the bottom. Thaddeus tended to move only his thumb in his emulation of the same basic gesture.

Finally, Lord Grey spoke again, and it was only the slightest hint of a twinkle in his eyes that revealed his good humor. Likely even his father was not aware that he was revealing himself; Thaddeus had watched Lord Grey quite carefully over the years.

“I see that all of Europe is not enough to sustain two Lord Greys. Is your home not enough for your ambitions?”

Thaddeus raised one eyebrow, hoping his father’s somewhat amused reaction was a good sign. Underneath Lord Grey’s light manner of speaking, though, were some words that carried real weight for Thaddeus, and he wanted to assure his father of his intentions.

“I will admit that this idea does, in part, stem from a desire to…come into my own. Not to escape my home, but to build it, expand it, to discover my own potential.”

Lord Grey frowned. “And you cannot do this by way of the tour? That is the intention of this…popular pastime, in part. If you are concerned that Mr. Morely would not be able to join you in Europe, let me assure you of my willingness to fund the trip.”

Thaddeus bit the inside of his cheek to keep from sighing. “I am truly grateful for that. But I simply do not feel the tour is what is best for me. Mr. Morely is in fact quite interested in traveling Europe, but I feel my efforts are better spent elsewhere.”

Chuckling, Lord Grey shook his head as he considered his son’s remarks. “I suppose I should not be surprised; you always did have to be a little different, always wanted to stand out.” He held up his hand at Thaddeus’s look of objection. “No, I know this of you. You may dislike the results of drawing attention to yourself, but you do everything in your power to make certain your actions are distinguished.”

Thaddeus looked down, feeling somewhat admonished while at the same time secretly proud that his father had noticed his efforts. Even knowing the man his entire life it was, at times, difficult to tell Lord Grey’s opinions. While they shared many of the same pursuits, they were also vastly different in some ways. His father was at heart a politician; Thaddeus felt himself more of a scholar. Lord Grey was powerful, influential, and in spite of his occasionally cold demeanor, he was charismatic. Others wanted his respect. Thaddeus was different; respected out of propriety rather than desire, so that it faded into informality quickly. People tended to take him into their confidence rather than guard their words around him as they did with Lord Grey, and it never occurred to Thaddeus that this was, in fact, a compliment to his nature rather than a criticism of his bearing.

The differences, Thaddeus felt, extended into the physical as well; Lord Grey was a tall, broad shouldered man with long golden blonde hair and steel grey eyes. These eyes were the most obvious characteristic Thaddeus had inherited from his father; while it was said there was a strong resemblance between the two men, he could not help but feel people were simply being polite. True, Thaddeus’s hair was also blonde and both men had similarly cut cheekbones, but his own hair had almost none of the gold of his father’s and his finer, more delicately set jaw set them apart further. He sometimes felt he was seen as a diminished version of Lord Grey; shorter, smaller, the color sapped from his hair and skin.

He wondered at times if these superficial differences were a disappointment to his father and it was somewhat of an assurance to hear that perhaps he was mistaken. On the other hand the idea that is father believed he went his own way out of a desire to draw attention to himself was disturbing. Thaddeus greatly admired Lord Grey and would like nothing better than to be more like his father, but he simply could not help being exactly the way he was and reasoned that he might as well make that something worth being proud of.

Apparently taking in his son’s brooding look, Lord Grey waved his hand dismissively. “Oh, Thaddeus, it is not a crime.” Lord Grey looked thoughtful for a moment. “But Mr. Morely does not wish to go with you.”

It was not a question and thus required no answer other than affirmation, which Thaddeus gave an incline of his chin. “This is true.”

He was somewhat surprised at his father’s next comments, though he did his best not to show it.

“Perhaps that is for the best. You know how fond I am of Mr. Morely, but you are very different people. Though your friendship will no doubt hold through even this, Mr. Morely very much desires to do the same thing most people of his age and station in life do. I believe it would cause him more pain than necessary to miss out on that. Another slight to add to an already extensive list.”

Thaddeus smiled, somewhat surprised at his father’s assessment of his friend. “Mr. Morely has never cared for what other people say. Why would he now?”

Lord Grey shook his head. “I believe he cares very much. But that is neither here nor there.”

That particular door was firmly shut with those words, and Thaddeus did not pursue it though his own stubbornness refused to allow him to nod his head in agreement. Instead, he listened quietly as his father moved on.

“Your mother will not approve.”

This was to be expected, Thaddeus supposed. Lady Grey was set in her ways; her home was her domain, her mind was very much her own, and her son belonged with her.

“Perhaps she will find she enjoys the respite after eighteen years.” A long shot to be sure, and Thaddeus made the comment more in humor than anything else.

“She will argue that eighteen years is hardly long enough.” Lord Grey’s eyebrows suddenly shot up at his own statement. “Although…yes.” He stood and walked over to his bookshelf, then returned just as quickly empty handed. Thaddeus would have paced outright, but that was not Lord Grey’s way. “Yes. I have an idea which may well be amenable to everyone.”

He regarded Thaddeus carefully for a moment before continuing. “Let me speak with Lady Grey.”

Though Thaddeus was now quite curious as to what his father could be thinking, he knew he had been dismissed, and furthermore was not to bring the subject up again until Lord Grey declared it the proper time.

A part of him was anxious for that time to be soon, though he was willing to wait for his father’s approval and hopefully his input as well. He knew, however, just how he would spend his time while his future hung in the balance.

He visited the library first, remembering how Emma had seemed to enjoy his reading. He passed by several titles, finally selecting Shakespeare’s Sonnets as a quite worthy choice, and slipped silently out of the house and into the gardens.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter 8
It is a Grey’s duty to smooth over awkward moments with grace and ease. A Grey is never the cause of aforementioned awkward moment, but he may end it with dignity.

--Lord Grey, ‘quoting’ The Book of Grey

Thaddeus and Edward gathered with the others in the neighborhood at the Littlebury’s rather than the Whitney’s, though it was their turn to host. The two young men had only heard of the change at the last minute, presumably because it had been the talk of the last gathering and according to Mrs. Littlebury, they should have known already that the Whitney’s would be skipping their turn. The only reason they hadn’t heard, in fact, was due to the walk they had taken in the gardens instead of socializing as they should have.

In any case, they arrived late due to this miscommunication, full of questions, and Edward immediately sought out Mrs. Littlebury to, as he put it, ‘get the news.’ They found her, along with Emma and Christina, sitting around a small game table, apparently engaged in both cards and gossip, and it was not long before their questions were answered.

“…just disappeared. Vanished! We had –believed-…” Here Mrs. Littlebury exchanged a look with her daughter, her eyes wide and bug like. Thaddeus found he did not believe the expression was entirely feigned, as such dramatic gestures usually were when it came to the meddlesome woman, and tilted his head to one side, curious as to who they were speaking about. “…that Miss Whitney snuck off to London to elope with that officer…oh, what was his name, do you recall?”

Thaddeus had the rather uncharitable thought that this was a great deal of fuss over some poor witless soul and the aforementioned Miss Whitney, but bit back on saying anything in part because for once Mrs. Littlebury looked completely sincere as she plowed on ahead in her accounting. Instead he eased into a chair after giving Emma and Christina a polite nod.

“Well, it hardly matters now. No one, it seems, knows her whereabouts, and she is thought to be -genuinely missing-.”

At last Mrs. Littlebury paused, letting those words hang in the hair. Thaddeus’s personal thoughts on the matter (which he did not share for reasons of tact) were that Miss Whitney would turn up in another week or so in some sort of disreputable state and give the neighbors something to talk about for the rest of the summer at least.

Mrs. Littlebury proved his point when she continued, and he could almost believe she was back to her old self.

“Of course it would be horrible to –hope- that she ran off to elope, as that would be a terrible tragedy for the young woman in and of itself…”

Emma looked up rather sharply at this, and Thaddeus, as in tune with her movements as he was even from across the round card table where he was pretending quite stoically that he was not sparing her a glance every other second, caught her tension at once.

“I can imagine worse things.”

The words were spoken with such sharpness that even in parts of the room where their discussion could not possibly be heard, an unsettling silence fell. The others at the table stared at Emma in open shock, and even Mrs. Littlebury was at a loss for words.

Thaddeus, meanwhile, was quite occupied with feeling extremely ashamed of himself. His somewhat callous mood was likely a result of not wanting to believe the worst, he realized, but it was still grossly unfair to think disdainful thoughts when he should be concerned.

It was Miss Littlebury who broke the awkward silence, much to everyone’s surprise. Her voice was wobbly and strained and Thaddeus realized that in spite of her clear eyes and dry cheeks, she had been crying, and recently.

“It was not in Miss Whitney’s character to run off in secret. I’m sure something awful has happened to her.” That pronouncement made, she stood up and left the table, abandoning the card game completely.

In spite of Miss Whitney’s rather snobbish behavior and tendency to ignore Christina when there was better company about, Miss Littlebury had remained good friends with Miss Whitney over the years. It was Christina who insisted that Thaddeus and Edward include Miss Whitney in their activities as children, though all three were generally rewarded for their efforts with lectures on how their choice of entertainment was somehow unsuitable. Thaddeus realized that Christina must be taking this hard indeed and his guilt only increased when it dawned on him that the gossip surrounding Miss Whitney’s disappearance must have been what had her so upset at the previous party.

Edward had the good sense to get up and follow her over to the piano, where he somehow managed to prevent her from leaving entirely. Thaddeus allowed them a moment before joining the group, feeling that he certainly didn’t have anything useful to say at the moment and whatever Edward was saying to Christina seemed to be working. Mrs. Littlebury made a vaguely dissatisfied noise before picking up the cards, shaking her head, and leaving to join her usual group of friends in the corner, where gossip would have a better reception.

After making eye contact with Emma, though he did not dare do more than that, he offered her his arm and walked over to the piano at her side. It was strange, he thought, that they had to sneak around in the dead of night to meet, yet it was in public that he was at ease with her hand on his arm. There was nothing improper about that here, but alone he was apt to grow nervous at such a gesture. Aside from their more personal discussions, they did nothing that Thaddeus would not do in front of others; still, the moments they had alone were wonderful for their own sake.

Once in their usual places, with Miss Littlebury at the piano bench and the other three in the chairs surrounding it, Thaddeus did his best to keep the conversation light, and the discussion leaned of its own accord to the finer points of fencing. Everyone was, however, distracted tonight; Thaddeus with the effort of keeping up appearances with Emma, the women with their own concerns for Miss Whitney, and Edward with getting spectacularly drunk. Tonight many seemed to be going that route to deal with the palatable tension of having one of their number absent. The families here were all creatures of habit to an extent and the change of venue and the reasons for it seemed to put everyone off their moods even as they tried to make the party festive.

Between keeping half an eye on his friend, who had taken to circulating the room and toasting everyone’s health (including people he had never met in his life) and being preoccupied himself, Thaddeus did not feel he was making for very good company. Thinking that perhaps it would be best to read aloud and let his company listen or ignore him as they wished, he brought out the book of sonnets, blushing slightly when he realized that a leaf from the gardens still marked the place he had left off reading to Emma.

Edward, however, had other ideas.

”Thaddeus Grey is going to marry a book.”

Thaddeus kept his expression carefully neutral as he looked to Edward, who had draped himself over the back of a chair in a position most would find uncomfortable but which looked completely natural for his tall, lanky friend. He was, in fact, somewhat surprised that Edward would even mention the word “marry” within earshot of Mrs. Littlebury and prayed the woman would not look their way. However, he thought it best to play along with the joke and hopefully diffuse the situation before it began.

He raised one eyebrow. “Am I?” Looking down at the open book in his hand, he shook his head and then smiled up at the two ladies. “Alas, I am not certain Shakespeare would have me.”

Edward groaned and slumped further into the chair. “Take it away from him, for heaven’s sake! Don’t get him started!”

To Thaddeus’s surprise, Emma did as Edward asked, removing the book from his lap and brushing her hand against his thigh in what he was sure was a deliberate manner. Her expression, however, betrayed no mischief, and he was quick to school his own away from shock.

He could only hope he was quick enough.

Emma spoke quite calmly, looking at Miss Littlebury all the while. “I believe Mr. Morely might suffer real and sincere pain if he attempted to process literature tonight.” She smirked and set the book down on the chair next to her.

A disturbance from the other side of the room interrupted further argument. It seemed that Edward was not the only one who had decided it would be a good idea to deal with the current state of affairs by drinking heavily; a mustached gentleman Thaddeus did not know looked to be even more inebriated than his friend, in fact. Several women were pleading with him to put down a vase he was apparently using in some sort of demonstration, though of what Thaddeus could not quite say. The vase, quite predictably, dropped to the ground and shattered as the stranger looked down, shocked by this basic example of cause and effect.

Edward, also quite predictably, began to laugh, hard and loud. So hard, in fact, that it became too difficult to maintain his balance and express his amusement at the same time, and he lost his grip on the back of the chair.

Thaddeus winced as his friend fell to the floor.

“I believe that is our cue to go.” He nodded to the two women, giving Emma a somewhat embarrassed smile, and helped Edward up, leading him out into the foyer as best he could considering their relative sizes. Edward was generally cooperative, if not exactly helpful, in this venture, walking along meekly as best he could.

Once in the foyer, though, he seemed to recover his speech, much to Thaddeus’s annoyance.

“Women. They’re all crazy, I’ll have you know. Running off and getting married…they all want something, Grey, to get married or get monied or who knows?”

Thaddeus huffed. “You are drunk. Where is my book? Hell, I left it behind, didn’t I.”

“They all want something. You think Miss Stannish chose you because she enjoys a quiet walk through the gardens?” Edward gave a disgusted snort. “Even –you- can’t be that naïve.”

Thaddeus sighed, struggling to pull Edward’s coat onto his broad shoulders as the other man gestured wildly, caught up in his rant. Inwardly, though, he was more than a little concerned. What did his friend know? Had he been seen returning from the gardens? Had he been careless tonight? Just how much had he revealed unintentionally?

“And Miss Littlebury. Well, we all know she won’t be content to smile at you from behind a piano forever. Let her –down- already, you know your intentions.”

Thaddeus grunted as he worked the buttons of the coat. “Christina has been our friend for years, Edward. I cannot enjoy the company of a woman I have no wish to marry?”

“She wants more than that, you know she does. Determined to get her hooks in you, isn’t that right?!”

”I never…” A strangled sort of squeaking sound caused Thaddeus to look up sharply from his task, praying that their intruder was anyone save…

“Miss Littlebury.”

Edward had, at this point, slumped forward, using Thaddeus’s considerably slimmer shoulders for balance. He managed to turn his head in time to watch Miss Littlebury flee in tears, dropping Thaddeus’s book to the floor as she went.

Thaddeus was properly horrified. Edward was inappropriately amused.

“Thaddeus Grey makes women cry.”

Thaddeus sighed in exasperation and reached for the book on the ground, but was prevented from actually picking it up by the fact that Edward was entirely relying on him to remain upright. Frowning, he rather awkwardly walked them both to the wall and leaned his friend on the wall.

Of course, Edward immediately slid down the wood paneling and Thaddeus had to reach out quickly to take hold of his friend once more. Cursing inwardly, he turned, looking for a way to retrieve the book and keep Edward from cracking his head open at the same time, but was interrupted by a somewhat slurred comment.

“Maybe…’should go after ‘er…”

Thaddeus sighed, believing an attempt at an apology likely would not go over particularly well right now and in any case Edward was apt to begin laughing at any efforts made. He should have been more careful with his words, he realized; it had been Mrs. Littlebury who seemed to take an interest in playing marriage games and it had been unfair to pin blame on Christina. That had been one of the reasons for their current distance and now that Thaddeus realized that, he also saw what a shame it was.

“Let us go home before anything else happens.”

“Yes, you certainly do not want to go after the woman you just set to tears. God forbid!” Emma smirked cheekily at Thaddeus, holding out the dropped book. It was only the heavy weight of Edward draped over his shoulder that kept him from jumping about three feet at the sight of her, and he wondered vaguely how she managed to catch him unaware so often.

He accepted the book with his free hand, the other being occupied with keeping Edward upright, and concluded that this night was simply destined to go wrong in every possible way.

Edward, of course, laughed all the harder as Thaddeus thanked her, trying through some sort of eye contact to tell her he was sorry, that he wanted to see her, that he wished things had turned out better.

It might have worked, though Emma did not respond to his unspoken plea except to tell him to take care of his friend. She then turned to Edward, still smirking.

“Perhaps when you are feeling more…vertical…you can tell me what, exactly, I want.” With that, she stepped out of the foyer to rejoin the party.

Thaddeus was almost positive she winked at him before she took her leave, though he was too occupied to wonder what she was on about. He could only hope that Emma had not taken offense at his distinct lack of defense of her good name, as it was clear now that she had heard the entire exchange.

Impossible woman.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Nine

Perhaps I am simply a young man falling in love.

--Thaddeus Grey

After the excitement and dramatics of the past few days Thaddeus found it pleasant to enjoy a quiet meal at home with his family before going out to meet Emma. Well, sneaking out, really, but he rationalized that he wasn’t doing anything wrong so much as improper and there was, he was learning, a difference between the two.

In any case, judging by the dinner conversation it seemed he would have interesting things to ask her about later tonight; Lord Grey had a few choice words when Thaddeus mentioned her presence at the Littlebury’s. To his surprise, he found that his father’s criticisms of Miss Stannish mattered little to him; he was more curious than anything else, in spite of Edward’s warnings and his parent’s misgivings. He wondered if he was suddenly finding a rebellious, belligerent streak in himself.

On the other hand, he supposed he could be biased for other reasons.

He pulled out of such musings, though, when his father continued speaking, realizing that he had not been paying the closest of attention to Lord Grey’s ranting.

“…true intentions for coming to Bulgaria. I am not a betting man, but I doubt I would lose money if I were to wager that it has little to do with her dead uncle.”

Thaddeus carefully set his fork down on his plate and tilted his head, doing his best to keep the incredulity out of his tone.

“That seems like a perfectly valid reason to me, and to be frank, one that few people would question.”

Lord Grey shook his head and spoke, though not unkindly. “Thaddeus, you don’t understand. Her late uncle was not well liked, and liked no one in return. Some have said he could be dead years and no one would be the wiser for how little attention he brought to himself. No one has been inside that house aside from servants for years, and unlike most help, they do not speak.”

Thaddeus gave a little shrug, repressing an impulse to roll his eyes. He understood perfectly well and was a touch piqued at being told he didn’t. This wasn’t the first he’d heard of the mysterious Englishman who lived nearby. That didn’t change the fact that family was family. “Well who is to say that there was not one person he liked, and who liked him in return? And in any case, he is her family; she has a responsibility whether there is mutual appreciation or not.”

“Such things can be taken care of from a distance; no one bothered with him in life, why come out in person at his death? Why stay there at length, holing up in that house just like her uncle, not allowing anyone to come calling?” Lord Grey picked up his fork once more, though he continued to look thoughtful for a moment. “I simply have reason to believe that woman has ulterior motives.”

Thaddeus could not resist raising one eyebrow at that. While perhaps this was just Lord Grey’s intuition talking he couldn’t help but suspect that Mrs. Littlebury had worked her way into his thoughts.

Meanwhile, Lady Grey had set down her wine glass and pressed her lips together in a disapproving expression. “And there is the transaction she wished to make with us.”

The sharp crease between Lord Grey’s eyes deepened at his wife’s statement, though the expression could not properly be called a scowl. “I don’t believe that needs to be mentioned.” At that, he gave a slight nod in Thaddeus’s direction. At that, Thaddeus did roll his eyes – did his father think he was five?

Lady Grey raised one eyebrow at her husband. “I don’t know why not.” She turned to Thaddeus. “She wanted to purchase certain books from our library. Even upon finding out they were not for sale, she was quite insistent upon at the very least viewing them. She claimed she wanted to research the neighborhood’s genealogies, but when we explained that the books she wanted were not the best source of information for that subject, she continued to press the issue and we agreed it was best to part ways in the discussion.”

Lord Grey actually did scowl at that and looked down at his plate. Never one to take a dirty look lying down, Lady Grey scowled right back. “What ever is the matter with you? There is no harm in him knowing!”

Lord Grey fixed his son with a stern stare for a moment, likely payback for rolling his eyes, before turning his attention to his wife. “Well, now you have guaranteed that Thaddeus will seek Miss Stannish out further.”

Thaddeus patiently waited for his heart to start again before responding, even though he was being spoken about as though he was not in the room. “Why would I do that? You have made your decision regarding your business.”

Snorting, Lord Grey explained. “Everyone at this table is well aware of the fact that, given a captive audience, you will wax on about the Grey family history until said audience knows more than they ever wanted to. Thaddeus, I do believe you know more than I in this regard.”

Thaddeus decided to take that comment as a compliment, though in all honestly he could not tell if it was meant that way. He also happened to be more than a little relieved that his father did not suspect something slightly more…untoward. “And where is the harm in that, if the audience does not take offense at what could be perceived as an excess of familial pride?”

Lord Grey sniffed. “She is nosing into our business and I do not approve.”

And that, it seemed to Thaddeus, was the end of that. Lord Grey apparently believed the discussion was over as well, and he rose from the table with his glass of wine in hand, heading to his study without a backward glance and leaving his wife and son to whatever further talk they wished to engage in. Thaddeus was surprised to see his father acting so irrationally about the whole business, though now he was admittedly starting to feel guilty for his disrespectful attitude.

Not that his guilt would stop him from finding out more.

He resisted asking more questions for a full minute before leaning toward his mother and speaking in a confidential tone. Lady Grey’s smile indicated that this was exactly what she had expected. “I must ask. What, specifically, did Miss Stannish want?”

Lady Grey arched her eyebrow, though her eyes seemed to dance with amusement. “Oh, a book of Lady Jane Grey’s poetry, a well known journal of your uncle David’s…and she was willing to pay quite a price for even just a copy of the Book of Grey.” The edge of Lady Grey’s mouth twitched upward slightly at this, and Thaddeus shared in her mirth for a moment before schooling his own expression.

“You –did- tell her, didn’t you?”

Lady Grey folded her hands in her lap. “She never asked.”

Thaddeus put on a scandalized expression. “-Mother-, you didn’t!”

A little shrug of her shoulders indicated that Thaddeus’s mother did, in fact, commit the act she was accused of. “We all keep our secrets close.”

Suddenly quite uncomfortable with that statement, spoken with such a knowing air, Thaddeus kept further curiosity in check and finished his meal hastily before leaving the table to get ready for that evening’s visit.

He could not help but wonder, however, just what Emma might want with a book that did not exist. It was with this thought in mind that he met Emma in the gardens later that evening, though they were well into their conversation before he worked up the nerve to bring it up. He struggled with a way to broach the subject for some time before he decided on the blunt approach, breaking a moment of stargazing silence. Such moments were far from uncomfortable; in fact, one of the things Thaddeus enjoyed about Emma’s company was her appreciation of the quiet. The question, he felt, was a somewhat rough interruption in comparison, but Emma did not appear to mind.

“Lord and Lady Grey informed me of your business with them.”

Emma nodded absently. “I was wondering if they would. Do you believe me a wicked meddler in other people’s affairs now, as your parents seem to?”

Thaddeus laughed out loud. “Not at all; I can understand being curious. Though your specific choice of volumes was…interesting to say the least.”

Emma continued to feign disinterest, picking at an imaginary thread of her dress for a moment before turning to meet Thaddeus’s eyes. “Oh? How so?”

Thaddeus smirked and rested his elbows on the back of the bench, wondering, not for the first time, when he had become so relaxed in this woman’s presence. He had imagined that finding a romantic interest would mean a series of formalities and carefully held respect; genuine friendship was an unexpected but thoroughly pleasant surprise.

“Well, in the first place, Lady Jane’s poetry was, you’ll forgive me for saying so, nothing short of awful. And Uncle David’s journal is not well known for its literary merit, but rather because it contains a particularly excellent recipe for roast pheasant along with some fascinating commentary on his wife and a variety of hunting tips. Neither book provides any real insight into our heritage, which I am told you have taken an interest in.”

Emma chuckled and gave up the act, leaning forward to better see her companion. “Now, I have heard wonderful things about Lady Jane Grey’s poetry and am shocked to hear that her own family member would speak otherwise. I will admit, however, that I was not aware your Uncle’s journal would prove to be such engaging reading; I was expecting something dry, to be honest.”

She wrapped a curl around her finger once, then tucked it back into her hair before continuing. “And yes, I do take an interest in your family; in all of the families in this area, in fact. Does that bother you?”

Thaddeus chuckled at her innocent question. “In all honesty, no; in fact, I believe I am quite fortunate to have found the only other person in all the world who is interested in such mundane facts.”

Emma tilted her head to one side, her expression suddenly serious. “Interesting. I was just thinking that very same thing. I did, however, notice that you left out the third book I sought; did you find it equally mundane, then?”

Thaddeus shook his head, trying not to laugh and hoping his companion would not be too terribly upset. “I am afraid I did not find it at all. I regret that I must break it to you…but the Book of Grey is something of an inside family joke. It doesn’t exist.”

He found he was a bit taken aback by the disappointed look on Emma’s face; she look rather as though her hopes had been crushed, and he wondered at just what she had invested in finding this particular fictitious tome. “I suppose I should have known. I had hoped…but that is neither here nor there.”

Thaddeus tried to look encouraging, feeling suddenly guilty for the rather perverse trick the Greys had played on the rest of the world. “Even if it did exist, which we have absolutely no evidence of, I doubt it would prove useful in any capacity.”

Emma tilted her head to one side. “Well, if it isn’t a real book…what is it? Why the joke?”

Thaddeus smiled gently, though he refrained from chuckling at his companion’s apparent distress. “Around the fourteenth century my ancestors started referring to a list of rules, a code of conduct if you will, for how Greys were meant to behave. They used to claim they were all recorded in this tome, The Book of Grey, but no one ever saw it and it was assumed after a time that my grandfather’s great grandfather simply invented the whole thing as a way to give himself a more authoritative air when enforcing the rules.” With a little shrug, he continued. “The man did have six sons and four daughters; I imagine it helped to keep them in line. In any case, we started referring to the book every time we quoted a family rule, whether real or invented on the spot. I suppose you could say that we have a twisted sense of humor.”

Emma gave Thaddeus’s arm a playful slap, which was his cue to go ahead and laugh. “I can’t believe you people! Here I was under the impression that this was a treasured work of great insight and rich tradition! How shockingly I have been misled!”

Thaddeus gave a mock bow and dropped down in front of Emma, lowering his forehead to his knee, then peered up at her, still smirking. “I beg your forgiveness for my family’s most ungentlemanly behavior. Whatever can I do to redeem the Grey family honor?”

Emma returned the smirk, and reached out as though to give Thaddeus a shove, though her hand ended up resting lightly on his shoulder. There was a moment of quiet that was distinctly more awkward than any they had shared previously, and Thaddeus found he could not quite look away, nor could he seem to work up the nerve to break the silence with speech.

Emma, however, seemed to have quite enough powers of speech for both of them.

“Well, you could kiss me to make amends.”

Thaddeus rather gracelessly tipped over and had to reach out one hand to the bench to keep his balance. Blushing fiercely, he looked up to meet Emma’s mirthful gaze, finding himself much closer due to his awkward stumble. His heart was suddenly beating rather quickly.

Where he got the nerve he never quite knew. He placed his other hand on Emma’s opposite side, framing her with his arms without actually touching her, and pushed himself up until he was nose to nose before closing his eyes, tilting his head to one side, and kissing Emma Stannish full on the mouth.

His hands were shaking by the time he pulled away, and he was so nervous that his mind could barely seem to process the sensation of kissing someone he was certain he was falling for before the moment was over, and he was on his feet, offering her his hand. She accepted, and he pulled her up before leaning down and speaking softly in her ear.


Emma just nodded quietly before reaching up to take Thaddeus’s face in her hands.

“Much better.”

The second kiss was even better than the first.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Ten

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:16-18

Sometimes I wonder if Thaddeus and Edward would have become brothers if it had not been so necessary for both of them. I don’t know how it was that they saw each other and instantly knew they needed each other, though perhaps such matters are much more simple for seven year olds.

I’ll never forget the look on my son’s face when he first realized that Edward would have to go home that evening. He actually seemed shocked at the suggestion that his friend would be taken away from him.

--Close Secrets: The Memoirs of Lady Grey

Thaddeus half collapsed into bed that morning, not even bothering to pull the covers over himself before sleep overtook him. The many late nights were beginning to take their toll on him and the last few days he had been running on nervous energy, though he of course could not quite acknowledge that, unwilling as he was to give up his time with Emma.

It might have gone easier for him if he were more willing to admit that he needed sleep, or if his restless mind would give him some respite, but this was not to be. His eyes flickered under pale lids in the midst of vivid but incomprehensible dreams and he managed to wake himself up several times in the course of a few hours with his own thrashing.

Of course, when he finally settled into sleep it did not last; a knock at the door disturbed him, and he groaned in protest before scrambling up to answer the door.

It took a moment to process what the housekeeper was saying, but when her words finally penetrated his bleary mind, he nodded his head and said he would be out and ready shortly. Apparently Lady Grey had requested his company for a morning walk. He looked at the clock on the wall, sighing.

Eight AM.

This was, he was already certain, sure to be a long day.

Of course, there was no way he could decline and in fact he looked forward to the opportunity to speak with his mother, hopeful that perhaps his parents had come to some sort of conclusion regarding his recent request. This did not, however, appear to be the case; it seemed Lady Grey was attempting to come to terms with the very idea that he wanted to leave at all more than anything else. He spoke little throughout the walk, though once in a while a smile would cross his features when they passed by a landmark of significance. Lady Grey did not seem inclined to speak much either, though sometimes she would sigh softly and give Thaddeus a look that he wasn’t quite sure of how to react to. She did indicate that his father had spoken to her; whatever had come from that conversation, however, she kept to herself.

He wondered, as he made his way back to his rooms, if he should have spoken more; in all honestly he was afraid that he would push the issue and at the time it had seemed best to remain quiet, but now he was beginning to think that perhaps his mother had simply wished for a little of his time for its own sake. He wasn’t, however, very good at pretending things weren’t changing and there was nothing on his mind, and he reasoned that his mother likely understood this.

At least he hoped she understood.

Sitting down at his desk, he wrote out a quick note to Edward, begging off their afternoon plans. There was still hope he would get some measure of sleep and he imagined that his friend would likely prefer to go visiting without him in any case, as he was frequently told that he was no fun at all on such ventures and it would be more amusing for everyone to bring the cat in his place.

Then he once again flopped down on the bed and, lacking the energy to get under the covers, rolled over until he was quite tangled. Sleep came more easily to him this time, though once again it did not last.

Edward, of course, ignored his note completely and beat him over the head with the already quite distressed pillow until he rolled out of bed, fell in a graceless heap on the floor, and followed meekly along.

It was fairly likely that he owed Edward the courtesy of accompanying him if that was his friend’s wish, though Thaddeus had discovered that his best friend was one of the few people in the world that he did not keep a mental tally of sorts on. He just assumed that things evened out with Edward, and if they didn’t, where was the harm in that? Not so with other people; Thaddeus was normally meticulous in ensuring that he was in no one's debt and if he were, it was resolved as soon as humanly possible.

Such were his thoughts as he got into the carriage after Edward and the two friends headed for the Whitney’s. Apparently Edward thought it would be wise to check on the family and see if they needed anything, though when they arrived it was made quite clear that they were mistaken in their good intentions.

The housekeeper answered the door, but did not so much as let them into the foyer. Instead, they waited for Lord Whitney to see them, and the pair were to the point of exchanging awkward glances before he made an appearance.

When he finally did arrive, however, his front of good cheer and welcome was transparent to both young men, though both did their best not to notice. Instead, they chatted amiably for a time, nodding in the right places and making sympathetic noises when Lord Whitney explained that he could not let them in due to his wife taking ill.

Thaddeus could not help but notice that Lord Whitney barely looked in Edward’s direction, saving his comments for Thaddeus. Edward did not appear to have observed this inconsistency and responded to questions as if they had both been asked. This was something of a relief for Thaddeus, as he certainly didn’t want to answer queries about his future plans and Edward was quite enthusiastic about informing Lord Whitney of all the places in Europe he was eager to see.

It seemed that although Lord Whitney had asked, he wasn’t particularly interested in actually listening. He simply nodded and smiled at Thaddeus as Edward went on, and made a vague comment about quite enjoying the tour when he was their age before taking his leave.

Edward appeared entirely unfazed by the awkward conversation, and Thaddeus wasn’t inclined to point out specific oddities as they made their way back to the carriage. This time they were headed to pick up the post, though Thaddeus had tried to remind Edward that it would get to their home eventually. It seemed he was impatient to receive something or other, and he was all too eager to go by himself when Thaddeus mentioned wanting to browse the shops. Thaddeus decided that he could only concern himself with Edward’s personal affairs so much, and spent the time in his friend’s absence purchasing a lady’s hair comb that made him think of Emma on sight.

It was well hidden by the time he met with Edward once more, as was whatever Edward might have received.

He reminded himself that other people’s mail were none of his business as he got into the carriage. He was never sure if Edward wanted to be asked or not, but had learned that asking would do little good and thought it a waste of effort to say anything regardless of how much his friend might want Thaddeus’s curiosity.

He wasn’t certain if they had managed all of Edward’s plans for that afternoon, but by this point his head was pounding and he was struggling to keep his eyes open. His friend seemed sympathetic enough when he mentioned wanting to go home, though he remained oblivious to Thaddeus’s headache, talking loudly about their summer plans. Thaddeus tuned him out for a moment, rubbing at his temple, though eventually he returned his attention to the one sided conversation in time to hear Edward’s new thoughts.

“Well at the very least, visit Paris with me this fall! The colonies will surely wait a month even if you do decide to go after having a little taste of freedom in Europe.”

Thaddeus took that offer of a compromise into consideration; it was, in all honestly, more than fair and likely the least he could do for the sake of his friend. He looked out the window of the carriage as he mused, biting down on his lower lip. He was surprised to find that a stubborn streak seemed to have emerged. Edward was not even willing to consider going with him, not even for the sake of friendship, but that was exactly what his friend was asking of him.

“I am getting on a boat in September, Edward. Meet me, when you are ready. In America. I will get us established, and you can join me when you are ready.”

Perhaps his resolution was slightly misplaced; after all, he wasn’t entirely certain of whether or not he was going, when he was going, and what he would do when he got there, but he didn’t want to bend on this in front of Edward.

Edward scowled and tugged at his sleeves, likewise looking out the window rather than at Thaddeus. “In the first place, Thaddeus Grey, you are transparent as glass! If you think I am fooled for one instant on –either- of your little schemes, you had best forget it! My only comfort in all of this is that you are, apparently, incapable of deception. No, I will –not- continue to spend your father’s money, -your- money, in both Paris –and- America, and don’t think I don’t know that is –exactly- what you have planned. You would have me arrive in America to a successful business venture which, conveniently, you would simply not have time to run properly what with your continued education. You can see it now, can’t you?”

Edward sat up a bit straighter and spoke in a mocking, high pitched tone, though he continued to avoid Thaddeus’s gaze.

“‘Oh, Edward, you have come just in time! I am overwhelmed, I have not the mind for these matters, I only wish to study my books. Here, take the business, run it as I know you can. Oh, and here is an eligible bachelor for your sister, since I would never –condescend- to marry her myself! Now let me get back to my books…oh, wait, here is some pocket money to keep you going until your salary is taken care of.’”

Edward leaned forward, glaring. “Am I wrong?”

Thaddeus was silent for a long moment, studying the landscape out the window of the carriage. He saw Edward shift his weight uncomfortably out of the corner of his eye and shifted his gaze to the floor instead. The greenery and the warm sun seemed to be mocking him in his foul mood.

Of course Edward wasn’t wrong, though he wouldn’t have put it quite like that. He wasn’t going to travel around Europe for a year, or spend evenings in coffee houses with Edward, or marry Miss Morely and live happily ever after with his best friend and his young wife at his side. It was heartbreaking to think that that life was not for him, when for all intents and purposes it should be, but there it was. It occurred to him that he and Edward must care for each other quite a bit to push so hard for the other to share in their dreams. Weren’t matters like this supposed to work out if the people involved were good enough friends? In that case, perhaps the answer was in the question; Thaddeus wasn’t certain.

Likely it didn’t matter; Edward may say he wanted Thaddeus to join him in his travels and business ventures and marry into his family today, but tomorrow he would be longing for more independence and preventing Thaddeus from even looking Elizabeth Morely’s way. Thaddeus had never understood that sibling relationship and had given up trying; one moment it would seem Edward had great affection for Elizabeth, and the next he was throwing her out like a bargaining chip and using her to guilt Thaddeus, or simply annoy him. Thaddeus assumed that he simply didn’t quite understand Edward’s odd sense of humor.

“Grey…look, I cannot just…”

Finally, Thaddeus relented and spoke. “I don’t sound like that.”

Edward blinked and turned to Thaddeus, confused. “What?”

“When I speak. I don’t sound like that.”

Edward paused for a moment, regarding his friend with something like incredulity. Then he began to laugh, loudly. Soon he was holding his sides as tears streamed down his face. “Thaddeus Grey…”

Thaddeus looked up, unsmiling, and met Edward’s eyes. His friend quickly collected himself. “I did not mean half of those things. I am sorry…I got carried away.”

Thaddeus shrugged his shoulders and looked back at the floor. Catching his stride, Edward continued. “After all, my sister would never have you. No…you are not nearly good enough for her.”

Thaddeus nodded his head. “I know.”

Edward rolled his eyes and gave him a playful shove. “At any rate, I am also well aware that a certain Miss Stannish is likely to accompany you in September. So you do not have me fooled on that account either.”

Thaddeus pulled out of his sulky mood and looked up once again in surprise. “What?”

“Oh yes, I know. Don’t act so shocked, I think it’s wonderful that you and Miss Stannish are friends and no, I won’t say a word to Lord Grey. In any case, Mrs. Littlebury told me where your lady friend hails from this morning.”

“You were at the Littlebury’s?”

It was the only question, among several, that he felt reasonably safe in asking, though he had much larger concerns. While it was a relief that Edward had no intention of mentioning anything to Lord Grey, he couldn’t help wonder what it was his friend knew, or thought he knew.

The primary concern, though, was that this was the first he had heard of Emma being from the American Colonies.

“Of course. I went to apologize.” Edward looked thoughtful. “I seem to be doing quite a bit of that lately. In any case, I assumed you wouldn’t want to go…”

It was Thaddeus’s turn to be incredulous, and he decided to keep the conversation in that vein for the time being, not wanting to reveal how much Edward’s offhanded remark had affected him. He waved off Edward’s concern with his hand.

“I can hardly believe you showed your face there.”

“Oh, she was understanding enough. We actually had…a rather nice chat.”

Thoughts of Emma being from the colonies…and never once mentioning it…continued to stew in his mind, though the weight of Edward’s comment eventually sunk in. Thaddeus’s eyes widened.


“Don’t ‘Edward’ me! Just because –you- do not take an interest in the lovely Christina does not mean I cannot pay her attention. Besides, one does not need to marry a woman to enjoy her company. We are friends, after all.”

Thaddeus found he was somewhat skeptical. The more he thought about it, the more he suspected there was…something afoot. He wasn’t exactly sure what might be going through his friend’s mind, but Edward had been just a bit too dismissive of his suspicions. For the moment, though, he thought it wise not to pry. He rather liked being on Edward’s good side and wanted to stay there, after all.

“She is…quite well then?”

“Oh yes, quite over the whole mess.”

Thaddeus nodded his head, though he wasn’t sure he believed it. “That is good.”

Edward looked slightly shifty for a moment. “Ah…I would not expect a dinner invitation any time soon, however. Mrs. Littlebury…well, you know how she is.”

Thaddeus put his head in his hand. Wonderful; now everyone would get an earful of just what had transpired that night. Or a version of it, in any case, and likely not the most accurate one.

It could, Thaddeus supposed, be worse. Mrs. Littlebury could be brutal at times but that certainly didn’t stop her from handing out party invitations; it wasn’t as though he would be completely ostracized. He would just be on the receiving end of some very cold shoulders.

“Oh dear.”

Edward leaned back in his seat, chuckling. “It is not as bad as all that.”

“What are they saying?”

“Who is –they-? What do you care about what –they- say? The parties involved understand, and that is all you need concern yourself with.”


“Oh, only that you are a wicked, wicked man who leads innocent women on only to break their poor little hearts…”

“You’re not serious.”

“No, I am not. Mrs. Littlebury is nothing if not indiscreet, but I believe she feels it prudent to wait before besmirching your good name. I suspect that she feels you will come around after your tour.”

“Which I will not be going on.”

“Ah, but she doesn’t know that, does she?”


“Ah, we’re back to Edward, are we?” Edward grinned, apparently pleased. “And the words you are looking for are ‘thank’ and ‘you’. I settled a rather embarrassing situation on –your- behalf, you know.”

“That…that entire mess was your fault!”

“I am not the one who led a poor, sweet, innocent girl on only to crush her dreams as casually as one might squash a fly.”

“Alright, alright. I am a bad, bad man who makes women cry. Are you happy?”



“Good. Now get out.”

Thaddeus blinked and looked to Edward with a frown. “What?”

Edward just smirked. “We’re home. Go rest your head so you have some hope of winning a fencing match with me tomorrow.”

Thaddeus climbed out of the carriage and looked up at the sky for a moment, seeing that there were a few hours of daylight left, and hoped he would be able to catch a little sleep.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Eleven
Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

Ecclesiastes 3:22

Having only one son, there was so much that I questioned. Was it normal for a nine year old boy to spend long hours with his books? Did the other boys get so many scrapes and bruises? Is he making friends with those boys or enemies?

Boys are such odd creatures in general and having no point of reference, I often seek to compare. I watch Thaddeus more closely than he knows, especially when he is with his little…friends? Are those his friends, those boys who stand at the top of the cliff on the Amalfi coast? He doesn’t think I know that they take turns jumping off into the ocean. Of course I do; Thaddeus is not nearly as subtle as he believes, or at least not with me. The other boys do not see him when he comes home, shaking and pale and exhilarated.

I wonder why he does something that clearly frightens him so badly, but then I have never pretended to understand boys.

--Close Secrets: The Memoirs of Lady Grey

Thaddeus ended up getting very little in the way of rest and peace of mind, concerned as he was over recent developments with Emma. Surely the matter of the American colonies had come up enough times for her to have mentioned it. Why keep such a thing secret? It made little sense, though his mind was certainly willing to conjure up various explanations and keep him awake with worries.

Finally his room began to go dark, and he pulled himself out of bed and, for the third time that day, got dressed. He walked silently toward the back exit, keeping a wary eye out for anyone who might take notice of his wanderings. There had been times when he was forced to make up some story or other to explain himself to the housekeeper or to his parents, but tonight there was no one to interrupt his progress.

He made his way along the path, reflecting that the walk was now familiar in an entirely new light, but paused when he came to the rose trellis that surrounded the gazebo. Standing in the archway, he regarded Emma silently for a long moment; her back was to him, and she appeared to be looking up at the stars. He smiled inwardly at the sight, almost forgetting his concerns, and eventually came to the conclusion that he would have to wait and see what she might say tonight.

Finally, she turned around to see Thaddeus watching her, and her genuine smile further eased his mind. He passed through the arch completely and approached the gazebo, letting his own pleasure at seeing her come through in his expression, though his own smile felt a little tired around the eyes. His misgivings were, however, still enough that he pressed the comb he’d purchased that day into her hand rather than more boldly setting it in her hair. She gave him a warm expression and thanked him prettily, but in a way that he could not help but notice seemed a shade distracted. Worried, perhaps. Was he moving too quickly? This reservation from her was new, and he wasn’t entirely sure of what to make of it. Finally deciding that he could only carry on as he always did, he nodded to the bench, where they made themselves comfortable.

“You look enchanting, Emma. How was your day?”

Likely a trite question, or so Thaddeus supposed when her only response was a quietly spoken “It was fine, Thaddeus. How was yours?”

Thaddeus had a tendency to think that when someone asked him how his day was, they really wanted to know. He reconsidered his attitude for a moment but eventually went forward as he normally did, determined to be reasonable in spite of the insecurity that was slowing returning to him.

“Honestly…it was a bit of a blur. I spent most of it trying to sleep between errands.”

He considered leaving it at that, considering Emma had spoken so little on her own business, but eventually decided that he was being unfair and perhaps she simply needed the subject to come up before she would mention it.

“I did speak to Lady Grey. In fact, I get the impression that they are nearing a decision in the matter of my leaving.”

Emma turned to meet Thaddeus’s eyes, though she kept one hand wrapped around the white post that helped to support the roof of the gazebo. “That is encouraging. Have you any idea of what you will be asked to do while you are there? Or where, exactly, you will be going? The American Colonies are quite expansive, you know.”

Thaddeus frowned for a moment, wondering why, when it seemed she had the perfect opportunity, she still did not mention where she was from. Finally, he shook his head. “No on both counts; it seems they are keeping their thoughts to themselves on the matter, at least for now, and such things would be good to know before I settle on a location.”

He bit back further comment, though by this point he would have very much liked to hear her say where –she- had decided to locate. His stubborn streak was back in full force, though, and he reasoned that if she wasn’t going to tell him, he certainly wasn’t going to ask.

Emma nodded almost absently, which Thaddeus was beginning to realize was an indicator that she was actually thinking quite deeply on the matter at hand. Or on some matter, in any case. “This is true. I hope for your sake you find out soon; you must be restless with waiting.”

“In all honesty, I can hardly wait impatiently when I do not know precisely what it is I am waiting –for-.”

Emma frowned at this and walked over to the bench where Thaddeus stood, sitting down and gesturing for him to join her, which he was complicit enough in doing. “Thaddeus…you do realize that this is your life, and not your parents, don’t you?”

“It is and it isn’t, I suppose. As much as I desire some freedom and a work of my own, I have a responsibility to uphold.” Rote words, perhaps, when spoken by some, but Thaddeus meant them with the utmost sincerity. Of course he had choices; he hardly considered himself under his parent’s rule by any means, but he had, in his short life, come to believe in the importance of his family to who he was. It was not a looming, hovering importance that weighed about his neck like a biblical millstone, but rather a warm and significant presence; he was a Grey, and that meant something, and he was determined that it would continue to mean something long after he died.

Emma smiled warmly and appeared to be suppressing a snicker, though her speech came out evenly enough. “Forgive me, but…you are eighteen years old, and yet I don’t know that I have ever met someone so –serious- about such things. You should be out causing trouble and studying and living the good life! What else is youth for?”

Thaddeus tilted his head to one side, realizing for the first time that he was entirely uncertain as to Emma’s age. Wild horses could not drag that impossibly rude question out of him, though, and so he settled for a gentle smile in return. It was not without a trace of concern; he was beginning to suspect that she found him too young for her tastes. Perhaps, he reasoned, that was why she was not more forthcoming.

“Have you been speaking to Edward?” With a chuckle, he continued. “My youth will keep for only a few more years, and I would not consider it wasted if I begin the work of immortalizing my family name a bit earlier than most.”

Emma, for some reason, found this declaration amusing, though Thaddeus could not quite gather why. “Ah, immortality. Is that the point, then?”

Thaddeus shrugged somewhat self consciously. “Well, that would be impossible, but I suppose I seek the next best thing. To continue what my father, and my father’s father, began, and to have a family of my own to realize my works.”

Emma looked down as she continued to smile, though after a moment she met his eyes. “You’re just so young, Thaddeus. I don’t think I know anyone who thinks of such things at your age.”

Thaddeus now had the distinct impression he was being patronized. In fact, he was feeling more vulnerable than ever at the moment, and did not much like it. Why was she talking to him at all if she found him so young and tedious? And why was he continuing to speak as though nothing were wrong?

“I don’t know why such things should not occur to me. Duty, family, history and the future…I have grown up surrounded by such concepts every day of my life; small wonder, I think, that I have a desire to be a part of that.”

Emma, perhaps realizing that Thaddeus was feeling somewhat slighted, continued in a somewhat chagrined tone of voice.

“Of course you do. It is an admirable quality, really; I simply find it surprising.”

She reached out and tucked an errant strand of hair behind Thaddeus’s ear. Startled at the gesture, he pulled back a little, and Emma regarded him carefully for a moment before speaking again.

“You should get some sleep. You need it.”

“I wanted to see you.” And there it was, in spite of his misgivings. Thaddeus bit his lip and looked away at this pronouncement. He normally found it somewhat difficult to speak so openly, but the smile on Emma’s face made him reconsider his own closed off ways. Even so, he knew he was not the best with such statements, and wished, not for the first time, that he had more of a poetic sense.

“I am glad of that, Thaddeus. You have seen me, and will see me again tomorrow, but I have kept you up too much these past few nights. Go, get some sleep.”

Not having the energy to argue, Thaddeus stood, feeling a bit dejected but seeing no other appropriate course of action. He made it to the pathway out of the gazebo before Emma’s voice calling his name brought him back, and he turned once again to face her, an unspoken question written on his face.

“You look miserable; I can’t stand seeing you like this.”

Thaddeus raked his fingers through his hair, not quite knowing how to respond to that. Edward had always told him he was as transparent as glass; he privately believed that transparency came not from openly revealing his emotions, but from never faking something he didn’t feel. It was simply not his way, though he almost wished he had learned the skill so that he could at least leave Emma with a smile.

He didn’t have it in him. His future was on a thread, and whatever he said out loud, there was an internal tension in that. Every day seemed to pull him in different directions, leaving him confused and unsure. He seemed to be constantly at odds with Edward, and their conflicts left him increasingly drained. Deceiving his parents left him guilty at times, righteously protective of what he had with Emma at others, but at the heart of it there was the question of what happened when summer was over and they inevitably parted ways.

Thinking in that direction only left him feeling more guilty; he somehow understood that Emma would not follow him should he ask, and he had to admit that he would not were their situations reversed. It made him wonder what kind of person he was, and whether or not he deserved even these late night trysts. He reasoned that he wasn’t the only one avoiding the topic, though it was perfectly possible that Emma simply was not overly concerned with the matter. He was, however, beginning to suspect that it was something else; that Emma never considered anything else save going her own way, and was discreetly encouraging him to make his own path.

Seeing her, standing there looking at him with sympathetic eyes, was almost enough to make him return, sit down beside her, and simply tell her what was on his mind. Edward, his parents, how he felt about her, the tension in the town, the nightmares that interrupted what little sleep he could get…it was all so close to the surface in that moment, and he would have liked nothing better than to rest his head on her lap and simply talk. He could almost imagine telling her that he knew she lived in the colonies, asking her why she hadn’t mentioned it. He was nearly certain, for that moment, that there was some perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this and he was worrying over nothing.

The moment, however, passed.

“More follies of youth I suppose. Good night.”

That said, he returned home, climbed into bed, and slept like the dead for the next twelve hours. It was not until he awoke that he wondered just how differently that night might have gone had he not been so sensitive, and he sincerely hoped that Emma would still wish to see him again. Second chances, he understood, were a rare treasure, and he could not help but think he had missed an opportunity for something wonderful when he walked away. Perhaps, though, there would be time for amends. In the early hours of evening, after a good nights sleep, it was so much easier to think clearly on the situation, to realize that he was being far too suspicious to the point of being unkind.

He was nearly certain he was worrying over nothing.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Twelve

As in the art of fencing in order to come to measure, I need a certain and just tempo of motion and of stillness, it doesn’t matter whether I arrive there either early or late, provided that I reach the desired place.

--From Great Representation of the Art and of The Use Of Fencing
Ridolfo Capo Ferro of Cagli

I have always known that Thaddeus is his father’s son, though it was never more clear than at thirteen. I found it surprising that he came to me one evening and asked if Lord Grey was terribly disappointed that he felt the need to remain at home and study when it came time for the annual hunting trip.

I knew what my son was really asking, and told him no, his father was not disappointed at all. How could Lord Grey be disappointed? How could either of us be anything less than grateful, every day, that Thaddeus was in our lives?

--Close Secrets: The Memoirs of Lady Grey


“I missed you by three inches Grey; if I didn’t know better I would swear you wanted this to be over.”

Thaddeus kept his sigh to himself, not wanting to throw off his own timing, though he inclined his chin slightly and tried to refocus. In truth he wasn’t much in the mood for fencing but Edward had insisted and he was doing the best he could. Unfortunately, his best today fell somewhat below standards, and of course his friend had picked up on that.

All of that didn’t mean Edward wouldn’t take the touch, but he didn’t want the grief that went with that. He moved to strike and was parried easily.

“You gave yourself away with that one.”

Thaddeus was well aware of his mistake and felt his jaw tighten in irritation, though he calmly moved back and around his opponent, leading Edward out of the center of the ballroom.

“Are we fencing or are we taking a walk?”

Thaddeus ignored Edward’s remarks, trying to get his pace back. Reducing his thoughts to the weight of the blade, the feel of his steps, the opponent he was now circling. Edward’s hand twitched to the left and Thaddeus’s blade was there, blocking the strike before delivering a thrust of his own.

Edward parried again, successfully; Thaddeus’s blade went wide. Edward chuckled, smug and all too cheerful in Thaddeus’s mind.

“I’m teaching you the value of living with disappointment, Grey. Face it; today is the day I surpass you.”

“You’re out of line.”

Edward shifted back, surprised. “Good lord, Grey, I was joking…”

Thaddeus landed a solid touch to Edward’s left shoulder, pushing his friend back with the force of it, and shook his head.

“Your feet. They were out of line. Don’t worry, I fixed it.”

Edward muttered darkly and took the lead in circling.

“What was that Morely? I couldn’t quite hear you.”

Edward snorted and spoke loudly, so there could be no mistake.

“I –said-…touché.”

“I do believe the entire neighborhood heard you that time, Mr. Morely.”

Both young men paused in their activities and slowly lowered their swords as one when Lord Grey stepped into the ballroom. Once their intentions were clear on both ends, they stepped back and saluted each other, then their unexpected audience. Lord Grey seemed amused by the gesture and spoke smoothly.

“I did not mean to interrupt.”

Thaddeus had the rather disrespectful urge to roll his eyes, though he repressed that impulse sharply. That was, in his mind, a disadvantage to being stately; Lord Grey was bound to interrupt any activity he walked in on so that the people in question could pay their respects.

“Not at all, father. How can we help you?”

Lord Grey regarded the two young men quietly for a moment, rubbing his chin, then seemed to come to a decision.

“I must once again ask for a moment of your fencing partner’s time, Mr. Morely.”

The request was rhetorical, though Edward gave a rather cheeky “of course” before taking Thaddeus’s sword in his free hand and going to the end of the ballroom to put both away. Thaddeus, meanwhile, walked after his father, who had already turned to go.

Father and son walked into Lord Grey’s office without any further exchange, and Thaddeus took a seat at his father’s prompting. He looked around for a moment, reflecting on the many talks they had here; there was a time when he (and sometimes Edward) were called in to speak about some bout of troublemaking, but in recent years this had become a place of serious discourse rather than discipline.

Lord Grey might have been thinking similar thoughts judging by his expression, though he began speaking soon enough.

“You two fence well; rarely does one see such cooperative and dedicated spirits. Your mother will miss that, I think. Seeing the two of you together.”

Thaddeus raised his eyebrow, though he could not do more than that in response as his father continued on with a shake of his head.

“But I digress. I imagine that you wish to continue your education when you go to the American Colonies?”

Thaddeus nodded his head, once, though inside his head had gone somewhere up in the clouds at that simple word, ‘when.’

“Very much so. There are a number of fine institutions on the other side of the ocean.”

Lord Grey waved his hand somewhat dismissively. “Yes, yes, I am aware. A bit…progressive, perhaps, but they will suffice and in any case there is more to the world than study.”

Thaddeus stilled fingers that wanted to drum on the highly polished wood of the chair arms. His father was a well educated man but Thaddeus did not believe he understood learning for its own sake; in Lord Grey’s mind, such things were part of a final destination, not a means in and of itself. Perhaps he was right in a way; after all, as much as Thaddeus loved the idea of being surrounded by academia for the rest of his days, one had to leave the comforts of school at some point.

Lord Grey leaned forward, resting his elbows on his desk, and continued. “’Progressive’ is, however, just what we’re looking for. Your mother and I have…come to a compromise of sorts.”

Thaddeus raised his eyebrow, but remained silent, waiting for his father to go on. It wouldn’t do to rush his father, firstly because it was just rude and secondly because such efforts were entirely futile.

“Lady Grey has been…strongly suggesting…that the Greys invest in building an educational institution specifically for the fairer sex. I have, in all honestly, put the venture off for far too long, but it seems that the time has come.”

Thaddeus repressed the smile that was threatening to cross his features, seeing exactly where his father was headed.

“We need a Grey there, in the Colonies. Preferably the North East though I will leave that to your discretion. Most of the day to day logistics will fall to a team that you and I will assemble, but you will be needed in the approval process and frankly the Grey name carries more weight in person; you will show up when you are needed to make a given event occur, and remain silent when your presence is not requested.”

Continuing to keep his expression level, Thaddeus reflected on his father’s offer. They needed a figure head. He wasn’t certain of how he felt about that, but it was for a good cause and it was, after all, his ticket to a trip to the Colonies with his parent’s blessing. He supposed beggars could not be choosers, though he did manage a smile at his father’s next words.

“Of course, you understand this is the official way of things. What you choose to say off the record is, naturally, your affair, and I cannot imagine selecting anyone for our team that would be less than receptive to your brand of creativity.”

Realizing that his father’s pause was indicative of expecting an answer, Thaddeus sat up a bit straighter and looked Lord Grey in the eye.

“That is quite amenable.” He hesitated a moment, then added, “I will not disappoint you.”

Lord Grey looked somewhat surprised at this statement, though his voice was level when he spoke.

“You never have, Thaddeus.” For a moment he looked as though he wanted to add something, but the moment passed with a shake of the head. “This will not interfere with your own education, and remember that we are only a letter away should you have need of us.”

Thaddeus looked down, finding himself at a loss for words, though he soon realized this was no way for a Grey to behave. He wondered for a moment if he had heard a rule to that effect at some point and concluded that it was his own instinct, his own blood, speaking. He looked up, again meeting his father’s eyes.

His voice was far less even when he replied, though Lord Grey did not seem to take any notice of that.

“Thank you.”

Lord Grey stood up and walked around the desk, speaking as he moved. “We will meet again to go over arrangements and discuss potential team members. For the moment…I would just like you to think over the idea, and be certain of what you wish to do.”

Believing that was his cue to go, Thaddeus stood and walked toward the door, thinking that Lord Grey wanted to leave with him. Instead, his father stopped him with a light touch on the arm and spoke almost apprehensively.

“I trust that you will conduct yourself in a manner befitting a Grey, Thaddeus, especially under the circumstances. I imagine no more needs to be said on that matter.”

The comment surprised him, coming so soon after such high praise. Lord Grey must have detected his confusion, as he shook his head, chuckling.

“On the other hand, perhaps I am wrong. You see, Thaddeus…” Lord Grey rubbed at his chin, thoughtful. “…women that go to the American Colonies…very ambitious…”

Thaddeus tilted his head to one side, quite baffled at his father’s odd behavior.

“Well that is a good thing in an educational institution. Ambition.”

Lord Grey gave a little snort. “Quite, son. That is quite true.” He sighed, and then to Thaddeus’s surprise reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose. Thaddeus wondered what on earth was the matter with him.

“You carry a title, Thaddeus. You are young and you…have the Grey look about you. Perhaps you have not noticed yet…”

Thaddeus willed himself not to blush as realization struck. Oh, he’d noticed. Despite what Edward might think, he noticed a great deal. Even so, the idea that his father thought his virtue, or some as of yet unknown woman’s, rather, was in danger was very nearly laughable if it weren’t so painfully awkward. He quickly cut in with a reply, both to end his father’s suffering and his own.

“Ah, yes, well. I imagine no more needs to be said on that matter.”

There was a bit of somewhat embarrassed looking around, though Thaddeus noted that this time, it seemed both parties were indulging their nervous habits. After a moment, Lord Grey spoke, effectively ending the conversation.

“Very well. We will speak again soon.”

With that, they parted ways, and Thaddeus drifted toward the library to spend the last hours of daylight doing what his father had asked; thinking carefully. To his surprise, Edward was there as well, busily writing a letter from the looks of it, though he stopped when he heard Thaddeus approach.

“Everything alright?”

Thaddeus nodded and pulled up a chair at the small table. “Yes, quite…father just…” He trailed off rather abruptly, realizing that he had enough on his mind without starting another argument with his friend. Edward picked up on his hesitation, though, and interjected with a dismissive wave of his hand.

“Oh relax, you can tell me. I’m not going to fly off the handle.”

Brightening a little, Thaddeus leaned in and explained, in an animated fashion, just what he and his father had discussed in the study. To his continued surprise, Edward seemed quite taken with the idea, though he seemed careful not to give any false hope on the question of his joining Thaddeus in the venture. It was a good idea for him, and him alone.

After Thaddeus had quite talked himself out on his trip to the colonies but before he could ask what Edward was writing, his friend stood and took his leave, claiming that it sounded as though he had quite a bit to think about. Thaddeus suspected he would not have received an answer anyway, but he was mildly disconcerted by his friend’s odd excuse for leaving. Since when had Edward cared whether or not he needed quiet solitude? He supposed it didn’t matter and he should just be grateful for his understanding, but he still found it strange in spite of being quite cheered that he and Edward had had a civil conversation about his trip.

Turning his mind to his decision, now that he was alone and had ample opportunity to think, he reflected that he could hardly wait to tell Emma about these developments. The realization that there was still some awkwardness between them brought that thought to a screeching halt, however, and he wondered just how he should approach the matter.

Sighing, he raked his fingers through his hair and decided that perhaps he should concern himself with getting back into Emma’s good graces before attempting to add more complications to the mix. While he had nearly convinced himself that there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for her apparent secrecy, he felt it was best to show some measure of patience and see if perhaps she would speak of the matter on her own.

He weighed his own conclusions, trying to determine the validity of them. On the one hand, perhaps he could save himself some grief by being honest; then at least he would know the truth in return, one way or another. On the other hand, what if the truth was as he had feared; that she had not told him because she had no wish to see him after she departed for home? Was that something he really wanted to find out now, halfway through the summer, when he could simply forget his worries and enjoy these last few weeks?

It was, he ultimately decided, best for events to take their course as they would. He would do his best to make their time together enjoyable rather than worrying over her motivations.

With such thoughts in mind, he headed to the ballroom. An idea had occurred to him in and amongst his musings, and he thought now was the ideal time to satisfy Emma’s apparent curiosity regarding the fine art of fencing.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Thirteen
I wonder if I am easily won over, waxing romantic over a woman’s interest in the sport I so enjoy.

--Thaddeus Grey

A Grey does not strike a lady, nor lift his hand in violence to her, as this is a most unseemly thing.

--Lord Grey, quoting ‘The Book of Grey’

Emma received what Thaddeus privately termed ‘the short version’ of his father’s proposal, which entirely left out any mention of anyone’s virtue; that was a conversation he was fairly certain –he- didn’t want to remember, much less anyone else. Even so, he might have elaborated more but Emma’s somewhat impassive reaction, that smile that revealed nothing, was putting him on edge and he felt it was time for his little distraction in the form of sword play.

“I would swear you’ve done this before.”

Emma laughed lightly as she parried Thaddeus’s strike, closing the distance with a shift of her weight and taking a strike of her own.

“And I would swear you’re just toying with me.”

Blocking the touch, Thaddeus pulled back, grinning. “Not toying. –Teaching-.”

He had, in truth, taken his responsibilities as teacher very seriously, going through each of the positions, guiding Emma’s hand over the grip, and likely boring her to tears with theory before even looking toward his own bated blade. He had gone through the salute multiple times before Emma caught on that he simply liked to watch her perform the graceful motion.

Emma, he found, looked extremely desirable with a sword in hand. He wondered for a moment what the fate of mankind might be if more women armed themselves and had the brief mental image of a circle of gentlemen all standing agape at the sight of a lady wielding a sword. Shaking his head, he lunged to Emma’s left, carefully controlling the motion in case she didn’t parry.

She did well with her sword arm but her feet pulled her off center and he put a halt to things to explain, hoping he wasn’t making things tedious. So many simply wished to pick up a sword and swish it around a bit but Emma seemed genuinely interested in the art, a fact which was immeasurably pleasing to Thaddeus. Even so, he felt it was his duty to both the sport and to Emma to make their little lesson as engaging as possible and he worried that he was talking too much and showing too little.

The other cause for hesitation, though, was a bit more awkward. With Edward it was a simple matter for either of them to grab the other one’s arm, to position the shoulders or the hips, to deliver a tap to the sternum or a nudge to the leg. There was a physicality to teaching and learning to fence beyond the contact of the blades that Thaddeus had hardly been aware of until he had begun working with Emma. Explaining how to move and how to stand with words proved cumbersome, but moving her about was flustering. Even so, he had absently tilted her chin up when she seemed more focused on his feet than his blade and had rested his hands on her hips to show her how to align herself. Both gestures were done without thinking and once he realized what he was doing he stepped back and resumed stammering out explanations. Emma seemed more amused by this than anything, but Thaddeus thought it best to act a gentleman while she had a sword in her hand, bated or not.

“This would be easier if I could see what your legs were doing.”

Ah. So much for acting a gentleman.


And eloquent too!

Fortunately, it seemed that Emma was inclined to be merciful tonight.

“I know what you meant. Breeches, my fortune for a pair of breeches!”

Thaddeus laughed and put one arm around her, lightly touching her elbows as he showed her where to put her feet. When he pulled away again he saw that she was smiling at him, a rather affectionate look on her face. He stepped back, unnerved.

“It’s nice to see you do that.”

Thaddeus raised one eyebrow, trying to collect himself. “Do what?”

Emma shook her head. “Laugh. You’re so serious, Thaddeus.”

It was, he thought, fair enough. He truly didn’t laugh easily, though he considered himself a quite contented person. He smirked, feeling cheerful in spite of vague misgivings that he would, he decided, sort out later. It worried him a little that she did not seem to approve of his generally solemn nature and he wondered if the reason for her distance was because he simply didn’t make her happy. For the moment, however, she seemed pleased with his company and that was good enough for him.

“Well fencing is a very serious matter. You were paying attention, weren’t you?”

Emma returned the smirk with one of her own.

“Let me show you how well I listened.”

With that, Emma took the offensive and Thaddeus was kept quite busy with blocking her attempts and explaining the names of the different defenses, how they worked and why. He was, in short, in his element and enjoying himself immensely.

Likely things were simply going too well, and Thaddeus should have known that bout of good luck would preclude something truly awful.

It was a combination of circumstances; a misstep on his part, a failed block on hers, the fencing jacket that was too loose for her small frame. Thaddeus’s blade snagged on the sleeve, slipped up, and when he motioned for Emma to freeze and oh so carefully pulled the sword away, it was followed by a thin trail of blood.

For a moment he simply could not believe this had happened. Then he was scrambling for a handkerchief and babbling like a complete idiot, apologizing and trying to remember where the physician’s house was and only vaguely hearing Emma’s assurances as he helped her get the heavy fencing jacket off her shoulders.


“…We can take the carriage, Doctor Redwood is quite competent, you’ll be in good hands…can you walk? Can you stand? Never mind, I can carry you, we have to put pressure on this…”

“Thaddeus. It’s just a scratch.”

“You’re bleeding, god, I’m so sorry, we’ll have you fixed up in no time, the blade’s clean, there shouldn’t be blood poisoning…”


Emma took the handkerchief from his hand and turned, effectively blocking his view of the injury. Thaddeus stilled and took a steadying breath, wondering if he was overreacting.

“Well let me see, then.”

He steeled himself for the worst, imagining some horrible gaping wound he might have inflicted, but when Emma turned back to him with the handkerchief wrapped neatly around her forearm, he saw that the blood had hardly soaked through the thin material at all. It had been, as Emma said, just a scratch.

“I’m fine, Thaddeus. I promise. Now kiss me better and let’s forget that happened.”

Thaddeus was willing to oblige the request and took her hand, bending down to kiss the injured arm, but Emma pulled away once she saw his intent.

“Honestly. Kiss me properly!”

He thought he detected something akin to agitation flicker over her features, though when he met her eyes she was smiling. Momentarily confused, he let the disconcerted feeling go and did as asked, leaning forward to brush the corner of her mouth with his lips before returning to his concerned regard.

Emma seemed satisfied with this if her slight smile was anything to go by, though Thaddeus was beginning to realize that smile could mean just about anything. She stepped back and picked up her sword from where she had dropped it, placing it on the bench at the center of the gazebo.

“I do believe, however, we have had enough of fencing for one night.”

Thaddeus privately agreed with that assessment; while the distraction had seemed like a good idea at the time, now matters felt awkward and not just because of Emma’s injury. He was beginning to second guess his instincts in not speaking to Emma about his concerns and found himself wondering what Edward would say if he had been able to ask for his friend’s advice. He had a feeling it would involve a smack across the back of his head. He was vaguely aware of the fact that he was making quite a mess of things but less certain of how to make matters right.

Emma’s next words, however, pulled him out of his reverie.

“You never said where this illustrious monument to women’s education would be located, Thaddeus.”

Thaddeus smiled slightly, shaking his head. “That is, in fact, entirely up to me.” He looked to Emma with an oddly calm expression and the words seemed to come of their own accord.

“So. Where in the colonies did you choose to settle?”

Emma turned her head up sharply at this statement and Thaddeus winced in sympathy at the pain that must have caused her neck. Still unsure of where that last statement had come from, he smiled in what he hoped was a gentle manner and continued, answering the unasked question.

“Mrs. Littlebury.”

He could see Emma grit her teeth together before laughing somewhat bitterly. “It would seem there are no secrets here.”

His internal monologue helpfully mentioned that tonight was just getting better and better before he shook the thought away, though he would have preferred a slightly better reaction to his query. He gave a little shrug and looked out at the trellis, suddenly finding the climbing roses fascinating. Lady Grey’s words, spoken several days prior, came to mind, and he quoted them reflectively.

“We keep our secrets close.”

Emma fixed him with an odd look at this, but he only saw out of the corner of his eye and could not fathom what she might be thinking. That was all right by him; he had by this point figured out that he rarely, if ever, could even guess what was going on in her head.


Thaddeus shook his head. “Nothing.”


There was a wasp working its way around the inside of one of the roses, shifting the petals almost imperceptibly. Thaddeus had thought such insects did their business during daylight hours and wondered what this one might be up to.

“There are so many people telling you what to do with your life. I didn’t…want to complicate things. I didn’t want to be one of those people.”

Thaddeus rested his elbows on the railing, watching as the wasp decided the first rose was not to his liking and flew away. He gestured absently in the direction of the Grey Estate, not meeting Emma’s eyes.

“’Those people.’”

He heard Emma sigh somewhere behind him. “You know what I meant.”

Wondering absently if he should investigate the rose bushes for wasp’s nests in the daylight hours, he continued looking out into the gardens as he spoke. “Enlighten me.”

Light fingers crept along his chin, turning his head to face Emma.


Now it was his turn to be confused.


“The city. Nachton. It’s where…I live.”

Thaddeus would have nodded his head if not for the fact that his chin was still in Emma’s grip. He moved to push her hand away, not unkindly, but somehow his arms managed to slip around her waist instead, his head moving of its own accord to her shoulder.

“I don’t know what’s gotten into me.”

He breathed in the scent of her neck and her hair, feeling suddenly quite warm and comfortable and oblivious to just how close he was holding her. There was sadness there as well, that came from the knowledge that he was now closer than ever and it became harder every second to think of letting go.

Eventually he pulled back as realization struck.

“Am I hurting you?”

Emma looked confused for a moment, until she followed the direction of Thaddeus’s eyes, which were fixed on the handkerchief tied around her arm.

“Oh. No, not at all.”

“Are you sure I can’t…”

“It’s fine, Thaddeus. Really.”

Thaddeus smiled somewhat uneasily.

“Can I see you home tonight then? It’s the least I can do.”

Emma appeared to consider this for a moment, then shook her head. “Best not.”

Thaddeus nodded his head and stepped away, picking up both swords in his hand. “Very well.”

“I have to go away for a few days. I’ll be at the ball, though.”

Thaddeus considered asking her where she was going and decided it was likely a lost cause. The Greys weren’t the only ones who kept their secrets close. “I look forward to seeing you there, then.”

Only a few more words were exchanged before they parted, and Thaddeus had the distinct sense that neither of them were speaking their minds. He realized, as he returned home, alone, that even with the additional information of Emma’s home city, he was absolutely nowhere. While she might have told him where she was from, the real question, of whether she would want to see him again when he came to the colonies and she returned home, remained unanswered.

And what had she meant by ‘those people’? ‘Those people’ loved him. ‘Those people’ took an interest in his future and wanted to see him happy. He vaguely understood that she seemed to find that oppressive but he personally was grateful even if it did make his life more complicated at times. It was a good sort of complicated. Perhaps he and Emma were not quite at that point where one could ask the other to take part in their life, and she felt she would obligate him in some way by telling him the truth…but to have no desire at all to do so troubled Thaddeus. He had thought their friendship, if not their growing romantic interest, would dictate a certain amount of candor. Apparently, he was wrong on that count. Likely he was being unfair; she didn’t owe him anything, and he didn’t owe her anything. There were no promises made, no understandings.

Some might call that an ideal relationship. Most men his age, in fact.

It was going to be a long four days until the ball.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Fourteen
The purpose of this journal is certainly not to record gossip, but I fear I must put something light hearted on record.

Edward spent quite a long time alone with Miss Littlebury in the library.

--Thaddeus Grey

No Grey shall be a social outcast, but neither should a Grey make a spectacle of himself in public. A Grey remembers his station in society at all times.

--Lord Grey, quoting The Book of Grey

The Greys had ultimately agreed to host the annual ball, though it was not their year to do so. The rotation among the families had been thrown off through various comings and goings and personal matters and the Greys were the most obvious choice, mainly because the Littleburys had already played host more than their share this summer.

Mrs. Littlebury might later say that her own events were far more entertaining, with superior food and excellent company, but no one could argue on whose gathering was the most elegant. Brightly dressed Bulgarian musicians played at the far end of the expansive circular ballroom and tall fragrant vines of roses wrapped around the four columns that framed the dance floor. There had been a great deal of cursing involved in properly hanging the roses, twined in white ribbon, but the effect was well worth it.

Thaddeus privately thought their food was better as well, but would be the first to admit he was not the best judge. He did not care for half the items served at these functions in any case and more often than not snuck off to the kitchens at some point to sample the fruits and cheeses and breads before the chefs combined them into odd concoctions.

The guest list was handled in a somewhat unusual way; if you were in the neighborhood, you were welcome to this particular gathering. One just had to know about the party and where it would be held, which prevented complete strangers from showing up as one had to have dealings with the right circles in order to hear about the event. People were known to travel to the area around this time of year in hopes of being in the right time and place to hear of the legendary ball. Somehow, the arrangement worked; for an evening, everyone got along amiably and succumbed to the elegant delights of the ball. Even the more mysterious guests only made the event more interesting and they had never, as of yet, had to throw anyone out.

Elegant or not, however, Thaddeus was doing his best not to look bored. Edward had wandered off to the library and the Littleburys were nowhere in sight. Emma had not arrived yet. He was with a group of young men who had apparently stopped for a visit before going on to Greece, though it took so long for them to settle on that story that Thaddeus rather suspected they were a group of aimless youths who were starting the tour a little early and looking for unique ways to get into trouble before their peers.

Where on earth was Edward? He should, in Thaddeus’s opinion, have returned by now, as he was never one to miss a gathering in favor of visiting the library. He half wanted to wander over closer to his parents as they seemed to be the only ones he both knew and liked, but that would be unseemly at his age and in any case he shouldn’t be rude to the out of town guests.

It was his experience that the hosting town generally inquired of the visitor’s travels, but the group of young men he was currently standing with seemed much more interested in learning all they could about the neighborhood, and peppered Thaddeus liberally with questions. They soon discovered that they could not have found a better source in many areas; though Thaddeus may not have kept current on every piece of gossip to cross Mrs. Littlebury’s ears, he was quite able to fill them in on the history of the four British families as well as the various landmarks around town. They did, however, seem disappointed when he did not elaborate on the ruins, and pressed him a bit for information. Thaddeus was reluctant to explain himself, considering the story was not a pleasant one and he did not want to kill the mood of the party, but after another round of inquiries he finally responded.

“A part of one of the buildings collapsed and killed a small child who was exploring there. We have not been inclined to visit since.”

He was rather hoping that would quiet the group, but instead they seemed morbidly fascinated by this bluntly worded statement. They did not, however, risk more direct questions, instead making vague statements to which Thaddeus could choose to respond to or not.

He chose not. The Amsels, a charming German family who lived a bit further down the lane, had been devastated by the loss of their son and he was beginning to think it was none of these people’s business what had happened.

Even so, it would not do to be less than gracious or to reveal that he was developing a growing dislike of this group, so when he was invited to join them at a table he went along agreeably enough, hoping all the time that Emma or Edward might come to his rescue.

He was, in the end, not disappointed. Emma arrived moments later, though in spite of carefully watching the door he did not see her until she was nearly at their table. He smiled slightly, pleased.

Rising to help Emma with her chair, he noticed that the other gentleman all motioned to stand as well, but she beat them to it, pulling out the chair herself and taking a seat. Apparently noticing that he was halfway up, she smirked.

“You’ll have to be quicker than that.”

And so the challenge was on, in Thaddeus’s mind at least. Something about the round of introductions that followed felt odd to him, but it was nothing he could place. Perhaps it was the somewhat humorless smirk that one of the guests wore, or it could have been Emma’s very formal bearing. He supposed that he had become so accustomed to seeing Emma outside of such situations that he was no longer used to seeing her public face.

Thaddeus was not the only competitor in this self imposed challenge, though he was by far the most subtle. For the next hour the group did their best to prove their worth as gentleman by clamoring over each other to open doors, hold out chairs, and offer arms as they circulated through the party. There was very nearly a duel over who would have the honor of the first dance with Miss Stannish, though Thaddeus smoothly resolved that issue.

Thaddeus had chosen a quieter method of approach, not seeing the point in loudly and boastfully drawing attention to ones self when the point of the game was to be sly. Instead, he distracted Emma with conversation, carefully positioning himself as they walked, checking for clear views and staying alert at all times. When she found herself surrounded by men asking for the first dance, Thaddeus stood back, arms crossed over his chest, leaning against the wall with a smirk on his face instead of joining in the fray.

The look on her face when she pulled her dance card out of her sleeve and saw ‘Lord Thaddeus Grey’ in neat print on the first line was quite worth the near duel. He didn’t care about the expressions of the other men, which was probably a good thing considering if looks could kill he would be dead about five times over. Instead, he waited for the crowd to clear a path, resisting the urge to say something to the effect of ‘stand aside, boys’, and offered Emma his arm.

The subtle smile stayed on his face all through the dance, and while some might have described his appearance as smug in truth he was genuinely pleased to have the privilege of dancing with Emma. She seemed to enjoy herself as well, though she spoke little until after the music quieted to transition into the next piece.

“You dance well. Another hidden talent.”

Thaddeus allowed his slight smile to broaden at the compliment as he stepped back.

“I should, I suppose, let another waiting gentleman have the pleasure of your company.”

In truth he did not feel the least bit guilty at the thought of dancing every dance with the lovely Miss Stannish, but as neither of them wished to be the center of gossip he relinquished her hand and let the next gentleman, one of the visitors, take over.

After looking around to ensure there had been no bloodshed over the choice of who Miss Stannish’s next partner would be, Thaddeus retreated to the edge of the room, hoping to claim a dance with Miss Littlebury and perhaps make his own apologies. Really, they should have a proper talk, but as he had always been terrible with talking to Christina and he didn’t think that was likely to change any time soon, he reasoned that perhaps the matter could be smoothed over without getting into embarrassing details.

Miss Littlebury, however, was nowhere to be found, and so Thaddeus ended up standing that dance out, and the next as Miss Whitney was also absent and he didn’t know any of the other ladies well. He did not mind; it was a pleasure to watch Emma dance.

She carried herself with an almost regal air when she moved, and while it appeared she was keeping up polite conversation with each successive gentleman, he could not help but notice with something very much like smugness that neither of –them- were rewarded with one of Emma’s bright smiles.

The fourth dance was spent with his mother, a tradition since he began attending such events and one which the men would occasionally snicker at, but the women generally found endearing. He cared about neither set of opinions, as he danced with his mother neither to impress ladies nor to earn the disdain of the gentlemen; he danced with his mother simply because he enjoyed doing so and believed it made her happy as well.

Lady Grey looked as stunning as ever, with her rich blonde hair swept up and adorned with fresh flowers and a jeweled comb and her fashionable gown direct from Paris. She was in top form tonight and both men and women could hardly keep their eyes off her, but at the moment her attention was solely focused on her son.

“I expect you will be off to the library soon?”

Thaddeus smiled and shook his head. “I had expected to be more sociable tonight, but I imagine I must remain predictable as always.”

Lady Grey looked around the room as the dance line shifted, then returned her gaze to her son.

“And where is Edward? He should be out here disrupting the dancing and trying to create a tangle with whatever poor woman agreed to be his partner, if you have both resigned yourselves to predictability.”

Thaddeus chuckled and led the way as the lines crossed, the steps of the relatively simple dance coming naturally to him. Edward was, in fact, quite capable of dancing like a respectable person, but claimed that wasn’t nearly as much fun as seeing all the well dressed guests tripping over each other.

“Perhaps he’s decided to try something new; he mentioned going to the library and I haven’t seen him since.”

Lady Grey smiled in her knowing sort of way, though it was half hidden in a light twirl of motion. Thaddeus had time to reflect on just how young his mother looked tonight before the conversation turned to the visiting gentlemen. Thaddeus kept his comments neutral but knew Lady Grey would pick up on the fact that those four had not made the best impression on him. She responded to the implied sentiment by expressing relief that since Thaddeus had spent time with the guests, she would not be obligated to do more than greet them and the duties of the host would be fulfilled. Thaddeus chuckled and replied that he was, of course, always thinking of her, and then the song ended and they parted ways almost abruptly as the next piece began.

Thaddeus scanned the room for Emma, wondering if she had managed to escape the many so-called gentlemen who wanted a dance, and finally spotted her at the far end of the room. She was dancing with the last of the men from out of town, who stood a head taller than Thaddeus and was, he had to admit, quite handsome.

Thaddeus frowned and decided he didn’t have to admit anything, come to think of it. In fact, he privately felt that the man looked quite clumsy dancing with the petite and delicate Emma, who was at the moment was smiling…no, laughing, with her partner.

He concluded that the stranger’s posture was hopeless and that he could defeat the man in a duel any day of the week.

Deciding that he was being positively indiscreet, standing there watching Emma dance and not speaking to anyone, he weighed his options. He could stay and try to make conversation with the other guests, or he could sneak off to the library and hopefully find Edward.

Reasoning that the answer was in the question with that one, he shook his head and turned for the door.

He wasn’t more than three feet away before he found Emma at his side.

“One of these days you’re going to have to tell me just how you manage to keep doing that.”

Emma laughed lightly as she took Thaddeus’s offered arm. “Do what?”

Thaddeus waved his hand dismissively and let them down the hallway to the library, letting her speak about her dance partners and how pleased she was to have escaped.

“That last one didn’t offend you, did he?”

Emma raised her eyebrow. “Did I look offended?”

Thaddeus tilted his chin up slightly. “It is sometimes hard to tell.”

There was little difficulty discerning her current expression of open suspicion, however, and Thaddeus willed himself not to blush. After a moment, though, she broke into a broad grin. “You’re…”

“…here,” he said, quickly, cutting off her obvious statement and opening the door to the library. Emma shook her head, amused, and Thaddeus repressed a chuckle.

It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the light but he recognized the soft spoken voices at the far corner of the library even before he and Emma rounded the bookshelf and saw Edward and Christina leaning over a book and whispering quietly to each other. Thaddeus paused at the sight, amused, and turned to Emma, who put a single finger to her lips to indicate silence and crept up slowly to Miss Littlebury’s chair. Thaddeus stayed behind, watching in amusement and certain the two would look up at any moment and see Emma’s approach. It seemed, however, that he was incorrect in that; the pair remained oblivious until Emma rested one hand on the back of the chair and spoke in a surprisingly loud, clear voice.

“Ah, here you are!”

Thaddeus bit down on his lower lip as Christina gasped and jumped out of her chair, nearly upsetting it if not for Emma’s hand. Edward was likewise startled and put a hand over his chest.

“Good lord, woman, my poor heart can only take so much!”

Thaddeus snorted and drew the couple’s notice, apparently for the first time. Edward shook his head, grinning, then placed the back of his hand on his brow and continued in a long suffering voice.

“I nearly fainted just then, and wouldn’t you have been sorry.”

Thaddeus finally walked up, feeling smug even if he’d had nothing to do with taking Edward and Christina unaware. Peering over their shoulders, he looked to the book they seemed to be examining intently. He’d never known Edward to take an interest in Milton, but it didn’t make much difference as the book was upside down.

He spoke dryly, trying to keep his smirk to himself. As he was not trying particularly hard, however, his amusement came through in his tone.

“You’ve been here the whole time, then?”

Christina blushed and fixed on a distant bookshelf, leaving Edward to quite calmly explain that yes, they had become so wrapped up in their reading that they had entirely forgotten the party. The four conversed amiably for a while, as even Christina eventually made a recovery, and as all four were well mannered young people, they all pretended the book was facing the correct way.

Eventually, however, Emma quietly leaned in and explained that she had to be going, and would Thaddeus be so kind as to escort her to her carriage?

They were walking out the door in short order after that, with brief goodbyes to the already reengaged pair, and stood in waiting for Emma’s carriage to approach. There was a comfortable silence then while he looked up at the stars, stealing glances at Emma’s profile once in a while. She broke the quiet after a moment, seemingly in mid thought.

“I don’t think you cared for them much.”

Thaddeus felt the corner of his mouth turn up in a smile. There was something charming about picking up a silent conversation with words and not missing a beat; they must, he reflected, understand each other better than he had guessed.

“No, I didn’t. There was something…odd about them, and I’m not…” Thaddeus frowned, shaking his head, “…there was something about the way they behaved around you that struck me wrong.”

He supposed he could just admit that he had been slightly jealous, though he did sincerely get a strange feeling around the four gentlemen that might or might not have anything to do with that.

“You knew them. That’s what it was.” He turned to Emma, tilting his head to one side. “Am I right?”

Emma shrugged lightly. “You are right and wrong, I suppose. I have met them before, but I would not say I knew them.”

There was a cold hardness to the way Emma spoke, which Thaddeus found somewhat surprising. He had a hard time imagining that the lovely and engaging woman at his side had trouble getting along with just about anyone, though something about those four men had rubbed him the wrong way as well. Even so, he was somewhat curious.

“How did you meet them?”

Emma frowned. “They are not worth your consideration, Thaddeus. That is all I will say on the matter. Forget about them.”

Thaddeus raised one eyebrow, thinking that there were certainly some things that Emma was quite willing to dictate, but he complied easily enough. “Alright then. Frankly until you showed up our conversation was somewhat awkward. I doubt they wish to see more of me.”

Emma turned her head, sharply. “Why? What did they want to know?”

Thaddeus blinked. “Who said they wanted to know anything? Or have the Greys earned a reputation for being reluctant with information?”

Apparently reflecting on her clipped query, she sighed lightly. “Not at all, Thaddeus. Really, let us not trouble ourselves over them any more.”

“Fair enough.” He supposed that he could just tell her what it was they were talking about, but it wasn’t as though she didn’t have her own things she was keeping from him and quite honestly it wasn’t something he wanted to discuss a second time that evening.

“I have to go away again.”

Thaddeus nodded his head, accepting these outings as yet another mystery he wouldn’t likely solve and which, in another month, wouldn’t make much difference anyway. “When will I see you again?”

“Wednesday. Perhaps Thursday, I’m honestly not positive.”

He kept his sigh inward, studying the ground as he walked.

“You don’t have to wait for me. I could send a message when I return.”

Thaddeus shook his head. “No, I’d rather wait. Less risk.”

He didn’t particularly care about going out to the gazebo in the middle of the night and hanging around like a complete fool in hopes of catching a glimpse of Emma…well, perhaps he did, but not all that much. He just wished that there was even a shred of certainty in all of this.

Instead of sharing any of these inward musings, though, he said the only polite truth that came to mind. “I very much enjoyed our dance.”

Well, perhaps he was understating there; it was, to him, a perfect moment that he would likely play over in his mind a great deal over the next few days, while Emma was gone, but such things tended to sound awkward when said out loud.

Emma smiled as her carriage came into view. “I did as well. Would that you had written your name on every line.”

Shaking his head, he offered Emma his hand so she could climb in. “That would, I think, be somewhat telling.”

Emma looked almost sad as she took her seat, though Thaddeus was uncertain as for her reasons. “Yes, yes it would. Good night.”

Thaddeus gave a little bow and watched the carriage pull away. He reasoned that perhaps it was better to spend this time apart. He could sort out what he felt, and work toward finishing the arrangements for his trip to the Colonies, and Emma could…do whatever it was she was doing.

Sighing audibly now, he turned to rejoin the party.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Fifteen
She was a vision of beauty the likes of which I could not possibly describe accurately, with her dark curled hair down and flowing around her, pale skin and red lips…I am hard pressed to forget that image of her, though I know now that I must. Her name comes to my mind over and over, and I am witless with remembrances and the sound of her name in my ears.

--Thaddeus Grey


Thaddeus could hardly think straight and was somewhat surprised he was able to say anything coherent at all; his own voice startled him, though it did not seem to bother the lady in question. The lady who was, at that moment, running her hands up Thaddeus’s back, her nails raking gently over bare skin as they made their way up his shirt.

It was Friday. Thaddeus had waited through two nights in the gazebo with no sign from Emma and his worry increased by the hour. He had come tonight not knowing what to expect, his mind filled with dread, and seeing her, perfectly healthy and walking toward him, had been such a relief that he froze for a moment, his mind forgetting to order his legs to go through the motions of walking.

There had, aside from hurried greetings, been surprisingly little conversation tonight, which Thaddeus might have found somewhat odd, considering how much he normally spoke to Emma, if not for what they were currently replacing talk with.


The first hint that there was something unusual about this evening was the fact that, rather than waiting patiently in the gazebo, Emma had met him nearly halfway down the path. Thaddeus had actually felt a rush of anxiety at that, mixed in with delight; she was quite close to risking being seen, but he was so pleased to see her that the thought only flickered through his mind for a moment, replaced by more significant concerns. Where had she been? Was she hurt? Frightened?

Such worries had faded when she wrapped her arms around him and suddenly she was –everywhere-, with her curves pressed against him and the smell of her hair in his nose and her hands lightly touching his shoulder blades. A bit intoxicated and not a little surprised at this greeting, he sought the security of the gazebo, where they might remain out of sight. He did not, however, have any wish to release her just yet, and so he bent down and scooped her up neatly in his arms, amazed to find she weighed so little when she felt so solid and warm and real. She did not seem at all opposed to this action on his part, which came as something of a relief to him as he wouldn’t have dared to be so familiar with her under ordinary circumstances.

As soon as he put her down again she was kissing him, and it was nothing like the feather light, nearly playful kisses he had given her. It was worlds different, in fact, deep and hot and intoxicating, closer than Thaddeus had thought possible with just a kiss. When she moved down to his jaw line he had the odd thought that his knees were going to give out - this was a strange notion in Thaddeus’s mind, considering he couldn’t actually feel his knees and therefore couldn’t possibly know if they were reliable.

His rambling thoughts were, however, completely put aside when Emma found her way to his neck, nudging his chin to one side and placing teasing little kisses there. Her hands had by this point found their way to the front of his shirt and a sudden draft of cool air brought him back to his sense. Suddenly apprehensive, he tried to move back, but it seemed Emma had anticipated this and moved with him, pressing against him closer than ever. He made a noise that was half whimper and half growl in the back of his throat and tilted his head to capture Emma in another kiss, uncertain if he was doing so because it seemed safer than allowing her to continue working her way along his neck or because desire was beginning to take over reason.

In any case, it seemed that Emma had noticed, during this interval, that Thaddeus’s hands had remained on her shoulders while her own had wandered rather liberally. This was apparently a matter that needed to be remedied and as Thaddeus didn’t seem to be getting whatever signals she might have been sending, she took it upon herself to take his hand and place it where she wanted it.

Thaddeus felt some part of his resistance break down and knew, in that moment, that he was in the most exquisitely dire trouble.

There was a long moment before he broke the kiss, a length of time that was very nearly indecent in Thaddeus’s mind, but once he was touching her he found he was hard pressed to stop. He was not quite certain of how he managed to pull back at all, though he reasoned that perhaps it was simply a need for oxygen as much as his own sense of honor; he found he was breathing, lightly but rapidly, into Emma’s neck. Reluctantly, he slid his hand back up to the safer waters of Emma’s shoulder, a motion that, in spite of efforts to be gentlemanly, proved only more stirring.


She kissed his collarbone lightly, and he wondered how exactly that particular body part had come to be exposed. That thought led him to take stock of matters; it seemed he was leaning on one of the posts of the gazebo, and while that answered the question of just how he was managing to remain upright, it begged the question of how he had managed to get there. He vaguely remembered a timid step back, and then another, but everything was somewhat hazy.

“What is it, Thaddeus?”

Thaddeus pulled her closer, oddly seeking security from the very person who was, frankly, making him nervous in the first place. He held her this way for a moment, not moving, and she seemed to understand his desire for stillness. Finally, he spoke, as he realized Emma was likely waiting for an answer of some sort.

“You overestimate my restraint.”

He could feel the vibrations of Emma’s laughter in his chest, and wondered just what she found so amusing when he was speaking with the utmost sincerity.

“I don’t think it is possible to overestimate you, Thaddeus.”

Apparently thinking that the conversation was over in spite of not reaching any sort of resolution, she leaned in and kissed him again, though this time he found it slightly easier to pull back. He couldn’t help but feel that his reservations were being kissed away and while that was the most wonderful distraction he had ever encountered, it wasn’t what he needed right now.

She spoke tenderly enough, but a frown crinkled her brow and now he was distinctly uncomfortable. “So shy. What is it you’re so afraid of, Thaddeus?”

The words stung more than they really should have, and his smile was somewhat artless because of that slight, though he spoke evenly enough, trying to return her affectionate tones. “Of not being the gentleman you deserve.”

Emma sighed and stepped back, fixing him with a look that seemed half incredulous and half exasperated. This only made him more uncertain; he felt distinctly manipulated now, as though she had expected him to behave according to his passions rather than as he always did. Well, that belief was hardly unreasonable, in fact, though it seemed to Thaddeus that she might have expected better of him.

Her voice, however, was soft and warm when she spoke.

“I had a truly awful trip, Thaddeus. I missed you.”

Thaddeus looked down at his feet at that pronouncement, willing himself not to say anything idiotic. He realized a moment later that his efforts had only served to make him forget to return the sentiment.

She reached up and took his chin in her hand, forcing him to look up at her.

“It’s alright. We weren’t doing anything wrong.”

Thaddeus raised one eyebrow at that, finding he was extremely skeptical.

“I may be young but I’m reasonably certain I know where that was leading.”

Emma shrugged a little, dismissing the concern. “I rather liked where that was leading.”

Thaddeus felt the blush creep up his neck and was sure his ears were glowing red by now. He sighed heavily, letting his head hit the post behind him and looking up at the ceiling until it subsided.

What was he doing? One part of his mind (in Edward’s voice, no less) cried out that here was an incredible, willing…no, -eager- young woman who seemed to want nothing more than to have her way with him right here in the gazebo, and what was he doing? Standing there blushing, that’s what. Anyone in his situation would let matters take their desired course.

But Thaddeus had never been just ‘anyone’, and he didn’t think now was the time to start behaving in a manner that went against his very nature.

“I don’t want this without everything else that comes with it. That’s not who I am, and right now, when so much of myself is up in the air, it matters, it’s important, that I don’t do something I’ll regret.”

Emma took a step further back and regarded him with a curious expression, as though she sympathized, but did not understand. Thaddeus wondered at that; was she so cynical that she couldn’t believe he would have honest and good intentions toward her?

Well, perhaps he hadn’t made himself clear.

“Emma…I want more.”

Emma took yet another step back, this time with a stricken expression. “Thaddeus…I don’t think you know what you’re asking.”

Thaddeus bit down on his lower lip, but met Emma’s eyes. “What if I do know, Emma? What if, for once in my life, I know what I want?”

The immediate shake of her head was answer enough for him, though the tone of her voice nearly convinced him otherwise. “Thaddeus, I can’t…”

“But you could…” Thaddeus made gesture that was meant to indicate things he was rather too embarrassed to say out loud. Emma merely looked at him in confusion. “You were willing enough to…oh, for heaven’s sake. There are a thousand things you can’t so much as talk to me about, god forbid we do something truly mad like tell my parents about us, and you certainly can’t commit to me, oh no, but I’m good enough for…” He trailed off, letting his head thunk hard against the support. Then, very suddenly, he straightened his posture and gave Emma a slight bow.

“You will forgive me my lapse in manners, I hope. Greys do not take rejection well, though perhaps there is hope for us yet. Good evening.”

With that, he walked out of the gazebo and down the garden path, trying his best to erase the stunned look on her face at that moment from his memory. Her parting words, however, still managed to cut right to the heart of him.

“Be careful, Thaddeus.”

Thaddeus looked over his shoulder, suddenly wanting to meet Emma’s eyes one more time, but she had already turned away and was staring out into the gardens.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Sixteen
Edward always told me that my mouth was bound to get me hit sooner or later, but I imagined he never supposed he would be the one doing the hitting. I feel it is my honor bound duty to state, for the record, that I had it coming.

--Thaddeus Grey

Offense is a defense in which I seek the measure and strike my adversary.

From Great Representation of the Art and of The Use Of Fencing
-- Ridolfo Capo Ferro of Cagli

Finding Edward waiting for him on the steps of the gardens near the house was, Thaddeus thought, just about the last way he wanted to end this particular night. He wanted to curl up somewhere and lick his wounds in peace, not have his friend around to pick them open again. It wasn’t until he came closer that he realized Edward was nearly white with…fear? Fury?

It would seem, in Thaddeus’s mind, to be the latter if his friend’s words were any indication.

“Where the –hell- have you been, Thaddeus Grey?”

Thaddeus opened his mouth to deliver some sort of excuse, knowing it could not be the truth, but Edward was already ahead of him.

“And don’t lie to me, you idiot, I’ve been looking for you all god damn night, I’ve been frantic, and dammit you –owe- me…”

Thaddeus held up one hand, trying to process Edward’s rant. He had never taken well to being yelled at, particularly now when he was already upset and dejected. The noise bothered him and he had trouble making sense of what the person was trying to say when it was shouted.

Hoping to set an example of the kind of discourse he was more comfortable with, he spoke in a calm, quiet tone, hoping to be placating while still somewhat bewildered by Edward’s behavior.

“Edward, calm down. I was in the gardens…”

“Don’t you tell me to calm down! Don’t you do it Grey, don’t you start with that, I swear to god…”


Edward came closer, so that he was toe to toe with Thaddeus, and looked him dead in the eye. He had, to Thaddeus’s relief, lowered his voice and was now speaking in a low, flat tone.

Of course, Thaddeus didn’t think it was much of an improvement considering his friend’s next words.

“Grey, I swear to god, if you ‘Edward’ me one more time I am going to break every bone in your body. I was out of my mind. You stupid bastard.”

Thaddeus found that he was rather tired of being called stupid. He knew he wasn’t even if at the moment he was questioning his own intelligence. He was tired of the fights with Edward, the uphill battles in every little part of his life…hell, he was honest to goodness just physically tired. It was probably for that reason that he lifted his chin, fixed Edward with a cold stare, and said the first thing that came to mind.

“I don’t believe my parentage is in question.”

He knew the minute it was out of his mouth that it was the wrong thing to say. Possibly the worst thing he could have said. He really hadn’t even meant anything by it other than that it would be nice if Edward stopped calling him a bastard but the way it had come out sounded much, much worse than it had in the brief instant it had passed through his mind before escaping his lips.

Edward, of course, took it in the worst possible light, or so it would seem. There was really no other way he could take that comment, though. His friend’s face went dark as his lip curled up into a sneer.

Edward had never been one to be subtle when angry.

That he hit Thaddeus full on in the eye was, therefore, not really a surprise.

The punch flattened him, completely and utterly. One moment he was standing, glaring fixedly at Edward, and the next his world exploded with light. A moment later he registered that he was on the ground and his entire face felt like it had been bashed with a rock.

The next moment, the world went black.

He came to in his room, with Edward’s face looming in his blurry vision. Something cold was pressed to his face.

He groaned.

“Hell. Your mother is going to kill me.”

Thaddeus bit back another groan of pain and tried to make heads or tails of where he was. He managed to figure out that he was on his bed, supported by pillows, with Edward leaning over him, clearly concerned.

He cracked a smile and found the expression hurt like hell.

“Why would my mother kill you? Everyone knows that Missy has a habit of kicking and it’s hardly your fault if I got too close.”

Talking, he found, hurt like hell too. When had Edward become so bloody strong?

“Right then. Thanks, Grey.”

“No problem Edward.”

Men, Thaddeus mused, had odd ways of apologizing to each other. He took a stab at moving and decided to give up on it completely for the moment.

“So. Christina got attacked tonight. And we found Mar…Miss Whitney.”

Thaddeus blanched.

It hurt.


“God, I hope I didn’t burst your ear drum…”

Thaddeus rolled his eyes, which sent another bolt of pain through his face. He hadn’t thought it was possible for pain to travel that way. Even so, he was quick to calm his features, partly because he didn’t want to give Edward the satisfaction and partly because it seemed the slightest expression was just going to hurt like hell right now. “You mean you hope Missy didn’t burst my ear drum. I heard you fine, my god, Edward, tell me what happened.”

Edward took a deep breath and looked down at the blanket. “Well first off, both girls will be okay. Miss Whitney is…not in a good way, but she’s not seriously hurt. It’s mostly…well she wouldn’t stop crying. Christina…well she was pretty calm actually…”

Thaddeus thought he detected a trace of pride at that statement, though he couldn’t be certain as it was hard to see straight through his gradually swelling eye.

“…but she was the more hurt of the two. She’s at home, in bed now…the doctor is looking in on her.”

Thaddeus remembered not to nod this time, though he did reach up and touch the cold bit on his face, finding a crude wet bandage of sorts tied to his cheek. He adjusted it until it covered one eye.

“Oh, yeah, I used one of your shirts…hope you don’t mind.”

“The one with the doves on the sleeves?”

“They all have doves on the sleeves!”

“Not the…oh, never mind, it’s not important. Where on earth did you find them?”

At Thaddeus’s question Edward grew serious once more. “Wandering the streets. Christina was carrying Miss Whitney…god, she was a mess, screaming her full head off at the time. Woke up half the neighborhood I’m sure…I’m surprised you didn’t hear, actually.”

Thaddeus thought it must have been difficult to hear over the sound of blood rushing through his ears, but remained quiet on that front. Likely he was simply too far away to hear anything going on in the street.

“In any case, Christina was quite a mess when we found her, we being myself and Lord Grey and Mr. Whitney, by the way. Margaret was blessedly silent at first, until she woke up that is. Then she started crying and, well…just never stopped. Couldn’t get a coherent word out of the woman, though once they were found Christina calmed down and spoke plenty enough for both of them.”

Edward paused in his telling to reach up and try to fix the makeshift dressing on Thaddeus’s face. Thaddeus considered telling him not to bother but it did seem to help a bit and so he let the matter rest.

“In any case…here’s where the story goes odd. It seems Christina got it into her head that Miss Whitney was…well that the rumors weren’t true. She decided to go to Miss Stannish to see if perhaps she could be of help, considering no one else was listening to her and she believed Miss Stannish might be a sympathetic ear at the least.”

Thaddeus felt a mix of guilt and anxiety at those words; guilt that he had not taken heed of Christina’s conviction that Margaret would never run off without telling her, and anxiety when he realized…

“For whatever reason, Miss Stannish was not at home, a fact that was considered quite odd by all in the party. In any case, she started for home again, there being little else she could do. What possessed the woman to cut through the woods I’ll never know, but she heard sounds in the distance and went to investigate. By the ruins.”

Thaddeus stiffed in horror. Edward must have picked up on his tension; he put a calming hand on Thaddeus’s shoulder as he went on. “I know, I know. You probably were better off not being there when we heard that part of the accounting. There was shouting and I know how you hate that.”

“It would seem I got my fair share of it in any case,” Thaddeus said, dryly.

“Missy brays as loud as she kicks hard, it would seem. Do you want to hear the accounting or do your delicate ears need a rest?”

There was a sharpness to Edward’s tone and for the first time Thaddeus took in the strain this night had brought for his friend. Edward looked dead on his feet, as a matter of fact.

“Go on.”

“Very well. The sound, it seemed, was our dear Margaret, weeping and moaning and scraped and bruised…nothing a hot bath didn’t ease some, though she’ll be in bed a week according to the doctor. Longer if she can’t…god, Thaddeus, I’ve never seen anyone cry like that. I thought she would certainly run out of tears, that something had to give, but she just kept going on and on…”

Thaddeus waited patiently for Edward to go on, as any sort of prompting gesture was bound to cause another bout of pain and in all honesty he was feeling queasy already. Eventually Edward seemed to recover and continued.

“Miss Whitney was useless, as always, though she mercifully fainted soon after Christina found her. Christina picked her up, and let me tell you, that girl is stronger than I would have thought, small as she is, she picked Miss Whitney up and started for the village proper.”

Edward sighed, though it seemed to Thaddeus it was not so much to take a breath as it was to collect himself. His voice shook when he spoke again. “And…there was a wolf. Just one, alone, and it…attacked her, bit her arm, and…” Edward gave a somewhat distressed laugh “…Christina, apparently, kicked him. Not before the wolf got to her a bit more, miracle that her throat wasn’t…Jesus…anyway, she scared him away, screaming and kicking…and kept on screaming all the way to the village.”

Finally Edward looked Thaddeus’s way again, then reached out, pushing back blonde hair in an uncharacteristically gentle gesture and peering at the injury he had caused. “When Christina started talking about the wolf…your father and Mr. Whitney told me to go. I didn’t want to but they were insistent and…god, she just wouldn’t stop with the crying, Miss Whitney I mean, Christina was…so brave.”

“So, I came here, and what else would I do but wake up my dear friend Grey and give him an accounting. Only…you weren’t there. And I didn’t know what to do, Grey, I just…I about lost my mind, I didn’t know what to do.”

The only way Thaddeus might have been more ashamed of himself was if his mother were also in the room with them. Edward looked so young and helpless in that moment; it was as though they were fourteen again, and his friend was walking into his bedroom with that look of defeat on his face, that expression that he so quickly replaced with a smile when he saw Thaddeus waiting for him. It hurt to watch and this time it didn’t go away.


“Stupid. Yes, you are.”

This time Thaddeus wasn’t nearly so inclined to disagree.

“In any case, keep the ice on your face; you don’t want to look a complete ass when we go to Miss Stannish’s tomorrow.”

Thaddeus blinked, very slowly and carefully. “Why are we going there?”

Edward rolled his eyes. “Haven’t you been listening? Strange, isn’t it, that she wasn’t at home last night? Miss Whitney was found on –her- property…”

“Be serious Edward! You can’t honestly think…”

“Well what are we supposed to think, Grey? It looks odd, I’m not saying she had anything to do with it but it looks odd and I for one want to know where she was!”

Thaddeus took a deep breath. “She was with me, Edward. She wasn’t at home because she was with me.”

Edward froze for a long moment, regarding Thaddeus with a hard stare. “You’re telling me. That you were off…doing…god knows what with Miss Stannish…while we were out…while I was…” He clenched his jaw so tightly that the strain of the gesture showed in his neck, and he seemed to speak through his teeth. “You really are stupid, Grey. If you didn’t already look a mess I would hit you again and I can tell you I’m a –hell- of a lot less sorry I hit you the first time.”

His voice was thick with contempt, and he shoved off the bed almost violently, walking briskly to the door.

“You’re not going out again after dark. They’ve instated a curfew.”

And with that final blow, Edward left Thaddeus to his pounding head and the terrible weight of guilt.

End of Part One
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Part Two
Chapter Seventeen
I am desperate for engagement and finding that it disappeared with my freedom.

--Thaddeus Grey

Edward, at fifteen, was far more independent than Thaddeus. I could never quite decide if this is good or not, and wonder if it is simply in a mother’s nature to worry when my sons are happy. I worried that Thaddeus had no desire to leave our side. I worried that Edward felt so strongly compelled to wander.

Thaddeus is such a broody young man and I found it surprising that his spirits did not fall when Edward left without a word. I suppose he knew that his friend would return. I did not realize until I saw him in the library, translating a fencing manual and chuckling lightly to himself, that Edward was always with him.

--Close Secrets: The Memoirs of Lady Grey

Oh, my dear friends,--you who are letting miserable misunderstandings run on from year to year, meaning to clear them up some day,--if you only could know and see and feel that the time is short, how it would break the spell! How you would go instantly and do the thing which you might never have another chance to do!

--Philips Brooks

Thaddeus spent several miserable days trapped inside the house, which might have been odd considering he normally enjoyed staying at home with his comforts if not for the current circumstances. His eye was a ruin and the physical discomfort put him in a foul mood, along with making it difficult to read his books to take his mind off the pain.

Worse than the pain and the nearly all consuming boredom, though, was his current estrangement with Edward, who had not spoken to him since leaving his bedroom four days ago. It was horribly awkward to pass his friend in the hallways, and he took to walking with his head down, hair in his eyes, and sulking about in areas of the house where Edward was less likely to be.

Lady Grey had made a great deal less fuss over his injury than Thaddeus had expected, though he supposed that should be a relief. In fact, she had not even asked what happened, and he was glad he was not forced to tell the absurd ‘Missy’ story he concocted last night. He wondered if his mother already knew what had happened and was being discreet; parents, he found, tended to know more than their children believed. If that were the case, however, why was his mother not bestowing concerned affection on him? That thought only made him feel more broody and ignored; it was becoming tempting not to leave his room at all if his own mother didn’t care what happened to him.

There was, however, one bright spot to his current situation; it left him with ample time to meet with various prospective team members for the University project. At first it had been difficult to think about continuing with his plans, being so deeply entrenched in despair, but the fascinating people his father brought to his attention gradually brought him around in that regard, at least.

One man showed him his various published works on architecture for better learning, and while Thaddeus had expected to be bored, he found he was quite the opposite; the gentleman was hilariously eccentric and full of antidotes regarding the various structures he had been involved with. He was self depreciating but brilliant, amusing and quirky but not irritating in the least. When Thaddeus told Lord Grey he was definitely on the team, his father agreed with him whole heartedly.

Then there was the mild mannered professor of literature, youthful and handsome but sharp tongued and adamant about his methods of teaching. Thaddeus especially liked him. He did, however, take issue with the fact that, for a women’s university, they had yet to interview any women. He mentioned this to his father, who smiled in his own private way and nodded his head in agreement. The next day they met with a stern woman who would, if hired, teach mathematics. Thaddeus and Lady Grey were both well pleased with that development and discovered that there was an extremely dry sense of humor to be found in her severity.

Thaddeus found there was something extremely satisfying in this work, and knew his parents had been wise to suggest it for him. He was well suited to the logistical side and found, in spite of his typically antisocial nature, that he liked working with a team when it was of his own choosing. There was something else to it too; this had all started before he even met Emma, or at least before he had really gotten to know her. In all honesty he was not entirely certain of the timeline, but it hardly mattered. It wasn’t as though she had wanted any part of this anyway, but it didn’t do to be bitter; this was –his- project, not connected with any of the troubles with his friends and troublesome women. He found it did him a world of good to have something of his own right now.

Even so, it was hard to keep more depressing bouts of loneliness and frustration at bay. He spent many such blue hours in the ballroom, fencing and thinking, but that was one place where he had to consciously avoid Edward, as his friend was just as likely to partake of that particularly outlet. This should not have surprised him; in spite of their many and varied surface differences, they were very much alike. That did not make his quests for peace and solitude any easier, though.

Eventually, of course, Thaddeus’s patience gave out. He had every right to the ballroom, after all, and why should he let Edward stop him from getting his sword?

It occurred to him, as he worked up a righteous frenzy and marched down to the ballroom, that it would be the height of irony if he arrived at the ballroom only to find it empty, after all the thought he had put into a confrontation. In fact, this idea had so embedded itself into his mind that he was actually a little surprised to open the ballroom doors and see Edward fencing an invisible opponent with his eyes tightly closed.

Thaddeus, wisely, stood to the side, waiting for Edward to notice him. Not because he expected any sort of acknowledgement, but rather it was always a bad idea to walk near a fencer unaware.

Edward moved with an odd ferocity, in contrast to his typical relaxed style, and Thaddeus wondered for a moment what it would be like to fence against him in that state of mind. He wasn’t certain if he envied or pitied Edward’s imaginary opponent, but he thought there could be a hell of a match to be found in their pent up emotions.

Watching him was, he found, oddly vindicating in a way he had not expected. His friend was behaving differently, and Thaddeus felt he was safe in deducing that their falling out was effecting Edward just as strongly as it was disturbing him. Perhaps that shouldn’t have been a comfort, but it was just the same. Edward’s thick skinned nature made it difficult to tell when things sincerely got to him, leaving Thaddeus to suspect that he was the only party that felt terribly hurt by their separation. This was proof that he was wrong, and he was glad of it, however awful a person that might make him.

After a time, Edward finally opened his eyes and noticed his presence and, much to Thaddeus’s surprise, stopped what he was doing and saluted. He honestly couldn’t tell if his friend was being sarcastic or not, and his expression remained impassive as he nodded his head and walked to the back of the room to retrieve his own sword.

Once he had his weapon in hand, though, he wasn’t quite sure of what to do with himself; he certainly didn’t want to stay in the room with Edward, considering he could practically see icicles hanging off the ornate wood trim, but he technically wasn’t supposed to practice fencing anywhere else.

Deciding that he had disregarded so many rules as of late that one more hardly mattered, he headed for the door, only to be rudely interrupted by Edward’s voice.

“Lord Grey will have a fit.”

Thaddeus turned sharply and managed to keep himself from wincing at the pain that brought his head, looking at Edward with as much irritation as he could manage with only one eye.

“What’s he going to do, Morely, punch me in the eye?”

Edward threw up his hands in an explosive gesture that matched his tone.

“Fine! Fine, you complete pig-headed mule! Can you just for one minute not be a total and complete stubborn ass and listen to me? I’m trying to…god, I’m trying to talk to you, Grey.”

Thaddeus calmly turned and rested his sword against the wall, then turned back to Edward, crossing his arms over his chest. In spite of just being called some rather awful names, his heart was beating with private hope. Edward was speaking to him! Not kindly, but there was no doubt they were at the very least exchanging words. Of course, honor insisted that he not appear too eager, and so he kept his expression impassive, unimpressed by his friend’s shouting.

“Now you want to talk?”

Edward, realizing that he was still holding his sword, likewise placed his against the wall before continuing in a somewhat quieter tone of voice.

“You really are a piece of work. You’ve been avoiding me all week and now you act like it’s my fault we’re not talking?”

Thaddeus reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose while he studied the floor. Was that how it was, then? And if so…well why should he have to come to Edward first? Edward had walked away from –him-, after all, so he should be the one to come back. That was fair.

And so beside the point it wasn’t even funny.

“At this point I could care less whose fault it is. I’m going out of my mind, Edward, I swear I’m losing my mind.”

Edward walked over to where several high backed chairs were lined up at the back of the room and pulled one out for himself, gesturing for Thaddeus to do the same. He complied willingly enough, hoping this meant their arguing was at last at an end.

“You’re an unbearable self centered little snot, you know.”

Thaddeus beamed, never so happy to be insulted. Odd, how easily an argument could break just because both parties wanted it to end.

“Just think of how awful I’d be without you around.”

Edward mocked shivered, which would normally get a laugh out of Thaddeus, but now he merely shook his head. His friend picked up on his still melancholy mood and, as he was always so supportive, snorted in amusement.

“Oh come now, it can’t be that bad. Well, you look ridiculous and you’re wasting away your youth trapped in your house, but aside from that…” Edward trailed off, then brightened and leaned in. “Oh…I know what it is. Trouble with your lady friend, I presume?”

Thaddeus rolled his eyes. “Yes, you do presume, don’t you? And…hell, trouble with all my friends apparently.”

“You seem to be making plenty of new ones.”

So Edward had noticed. Ignoring what he saw as a clear road to another argument, he tilted his head to rest on the back of the chair. “However, among other things, there is trouble with Miss Stannish.”

He could hear Edward chuckling even if he could no longer see him, but was not particularly surprised. “Perhaps if you marry her quickly enough…”

Thaddeus shook his head, oblivious to Edward’s terrible humor. “She doesn’t want to get married.”

Edward whistled low. “You’re sure she has a choice?”

Lifting his head to meet his friend’s eyes, he gave Edward a perplexed stare. “What do you mean, she…oh, good lord, not –that- sort of trouble! What do you take me for!”

Pleased that Thaddeus had finally picked up on the joke, even if he was a little slow, Edward snickered liberally before answering. “A young a virile man? Come on, Grey, anyone with a pulse wouldn’t be able to resist…”

Thaddeus wished in a distant sort of way that there was a wall nearby to beat his head against. Edward, meanwhile, looked to be having the time of his life.

“…Thaddeus Grey, I am honest to goodness not entirely certain you’re human. You met Emma Stannish in secret and didn’t so much as make a move, did you?”

Thaddeus leaned forward and put his head in his hands.

“Oh, it’s even better.”

With that, he explained everything. Meeting Emma in the gardens, their long talks, fencing and reading and stargazing, and all the while pretending nothing was going on. He gave a somewhat glossed over description of what had happened the night Edward found him, and he was certain that Edward was going to be completely…

“…sympathetic about the whole thing, Grey.”

Thaddeus blinked. “What?”

“I’m really beginning to wonder if…Missy…didn’t permanently damage your hearing.”

Thaddeus resisted the urge to throw something at Edward, imagining the hostility was likely just the pent up frustration.

“Really, Grey, what did you expect? I can hardly come down on you for that.”

Thaddeus felt his jaw tighten. “You certainly did last night.”

Edward just shrugged. “I was angry. Are you planning on allowing me to forget that or will you hold it over my head for the rest of my days?”

After giving his friend a long, hard stare, Thaddeus broke into a smile and shook his head.

“No, no holding it over your head. Though I reserve the right to remind you when we’re both old and gray and telling stories to our grandchildren.”

Edward got a good laugh out of this, though he was shaking his head and trying to speak through it. “No no, you’re much too far ahead of yourself. There have to be children before grandchildren, and a wife before that, and as I will be a bachelor for the rest of my life your whole scenario simply isn’t going to happen.” He feigned a look of deep regret but broke into a grin under Thaddeus’s regard.

“If you say so.” He smirked and tilted his head to one side. “Have you heard how Christina is doing?”

Edward gave Thaddeus his best ‘you’re not fooling anyone’ expression and rolled his eyes. “My, my, what on earth made you bring that up? And here I thought the Greys were known for their subtlety…”

Thaddeus looked to the ceiling, sighing in a gesture nearly as theatrical as Edward. “Oh, fine! But in all seriousness, how is she?” He was tactful enough to not mention just how certain he was that Edward would know their friend’s condition, thinking he’d be more likely to get a serious answer if he didn’t needle the man.

“She is much improved. Drastically improved, even; the color has come back into her cheeks and even her spirits are up.”

As Thaddeus rather liked being back in Edward’s good graces, he refrained from comment regarding Christina’s appearance. Privately, though, he found he was quite relieved to hear she was doing better.

Edward had the grace to look slightly embarrassed as he went on. “I should tell you that I wasn’t particularly kind to Miss Stannish when I visited. So, ah…just to forewarn you. When you two talk again.”

Thaddeus blinked, finding there was too much in that statement to respond to, and picked something at random. “You went to see Miss Stannish? I thought, when I explained where she was…”

Edward waved his hand dismissively. “No, no, I went to visit Miss Littlebury and your friend was there. There, I’ve said it, are you happy now? In any case, Miss Stannish was not the person I wanted to see at that particular moment, and I’m afraid it was quite obvious.”

Leaning forward, Thaddeus rested his chin in his hand and thought over that news. He supposed he should be annoyed that Edward had treated his…well, someone he cared about…rudely, but he couldn’t really work up much in the way of resentment.

“It was kind of Emma to visit, I think.”

Edward nodded his head. “I suppose it was, though it made for far too much in the way of ‘women talk’ for my tastes. All that tea and chatter just isn’t good for me, though Miss Stannish’s blend seemed to make Christina feel better.”

Thaddeus raised one eyebrow. “Yet another talent I knew nothing about. Would that a cup of tea could mend all matters.”

Edward shrugged. “Well she wouldn’t let me try any so I assume it was something special. Either that or she was just getting her own back.”

Thaddeus shook his head in denial of Edward’s last statement, not believing Emma was the type to be so petty. Then another question occurred to him and he leaned forward, nervous but needing to know.

“And Margaret? Is she improved as well?”

Edward got a far away look in his eyes, looking somehow older than his years, and did not answer for a long moment. Finally, though, he spoke, blunt as ever.

“No. She is not improved.”

Thaddeus nodded his head, frowning, uncertain if he should press the matter but finally concluding that he would never know if he didn’t ask.

“Does anyone know what happened to her?”

Edward shook his head, and Thaddeus thought that was the end of it, but after some hesitation his friend spoke.

“I think your father might know. No one’s talking about it, not even Mrs. Littlebury, but I think they know something and think we’re too young to hear.”

Being particularly sensitive to the idea that his parents were holding back ‘for his own good’, he understood just where Edward was coming from, even with no evidence to back up his theory. Thaddeus considered that for a moment, then nodded his head, resolved.

“I’ll speak to my father about it then.” Edward looked doubtful at that but Thaddeus felt he could trust Lord Grey to be honest with him. While considering the matter, though, Thaddeus happened to look at the clock and stood up with a start.

“I’m going to be late; I completely forgot, we have another meeting with the architect team today.” Thaddeus looked over his shoulder and felt his cheek twitch in discomfort when he realized he had broached uncomfortable territory with Edward; they still weren’t exactly talking about his upcoming trip to the American Colonies.

Edward, however, merely raised one eyebrow in response.

“So. This wasn’t about a girl then.”

Thaddeus shook his head. “No. It never was, Edward.”

That it could have been about the two of them, he refrained from saying as he walked through the doorway.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Eighteen
“What is the resolution? What is The Happy Ending? What am I hoping for, and what am I doing here while I wait for it to happen? How did I lose my sense of purpose so easily?”

--Thaddeus Grey

Over the course of the next few days Thaddeus should have been quite content with his lot in life. He and Edward were back to their old ways, and while there was always a certain fragility to that relationship, he didn’t think he could ask for more. The plans for traveling to the colonies were going well, and not only that, but he would be doing something meaningful, perhaps even great, while he was overseas.

Thaddeus should have been ecstatic.

Instead he was still in his bed in the late afternoon, reading Shakespeare’s sonnets and bemoaning his fate with Emma. It wasn’t enough that he was playing his misspoken words over and over in his head; not just from the last evening they spent together, but a dozen seemingly small conversations where he could have said something and didn’t or said the wrong thing at the wrong time. Beyond that, he genuinely missed her company. He missed talking to her, and those quiet times when they could simply be together, each lost in their own thoughts.

By the time the dinner hour rolled around, Thaddeus had worked himself into quite the moody state and couldn’t have felt less like eating. In fact, for a brief time he entertained the notion of pining away in his rooms, wasting away to skin and bones for the sake of love gone wrong. He had to admit to himself, in the end, that at some point he would be required to explain himself and his reasoning, while quite romantic and tragic, would only sound incredibly stupid to listeners on. No one found love stories, even ones with depressing endings, half as interesting as the ill fated lovers involved.

And so, trying not to act like the petulant teenager he certainly was, he headed down the stairs, attempting to fix his rumpled clothes along the way so as to avoid looking as though he had spent the day in bed.

In the Grey Estate, one had to pass through the foyer to enter said dining room. It simply figured that Miss Stannish was standing there, just inside the door, looking up at him expectantly. He could not read her expression – she might have been happy to see him, but mostly she just looked anxious. Hoping to set her at ease, he greeted her politely, though his words were drowned out by Mrs. Huxley’s attempts at ushering them both toward the dining room, where Lord and Lady Grey were waiting. There was a fraction of a pause, after the housekeeper got out of the way, where Emma and Thaddeus simply regarded each other, though after a moment Thaddeus remembered his manners once more and offered her his arm.

Finding himself in a painfully awkward situation, he walked the two of them down the hallway, keeping his eyes directly in front of him and searching desperately for something to say that wouldn’t make him sound like a complete idiot. Fortunately, or perhaps not, Emma took the opportunity to lean in toward Thaddeus, the grip on his arm tightening, and spoke in a forceful whisper.

“Your father just sent a carriage and an invitation; I didn’t know about this in advance or I would have found a way to tell you.”

Thaddeus nodded in silence and quickly opened the door to the dining room, letting Emma go through first. It was, at the very least, clear that this meeting was in no way about him and given the choice she wouldn’t have come at all. Somehow he no longer felt the need to make friendly chatter – what was the point? He was already quite resigned to the idea that Emma could have tried to contact him at any point in this entire mess, and had not. To be fair, he could have done the same, though he felt that continuing to pursue her would be in poor taste after she had effectively expressed her lack of interest in him.

With such mildly bitter thoughts, he sat down along with his parents and Emma and found a fixed point in the wall to stare at while they ate. Lord Grey seemed equally disinclined to make conversation or be the least bit social, and while Lady Grey made a valiant attempt to keep the light discussion going, it seemed Emma was somewhat distracted. Thaddeus was reasonably certain it wasn’t the food occupying her attention, considering Emma had barely touched hers, though he wouldn’t want to assume (hope) she was thinking of him. Not that he was looking her way so much as stealing little glances here and there. As the stilted conversation between the women went on, his thoughts turned to where Edward might be. His friend had a standing dinner invitation, and while he didn’t always take the Greys up on that Thaddeus rather thought he might be absent on purpose. Of course that was ridiculous – Edward couldn’t possibly know that Emma would be coming over for dinner – but his friend had an unusually keen sense of timing and was worse than Mrs. Littlebury for being current on gossip.

Caught up in such thoughts, he started a little when Lord Grey quite suddenly spoke up in a seeming non sequetor, as Thaddeus was fairly certain the ladies had been discussing tea blends.

“There are no copies of the books you want. You may, however, browse the originals in our library if you wish.”

Any other time Thaddeus might have been amused by his father’s grumpy tone – it was not often that Lord Grey bent to a compromise – but now, curious to see the next stage of the volley, he turned his attention back to the conversation just as Lady Grey smirked. “All save the Book of Grey, of course.”

Lord Grey smiled slightly, a hint of amusement around his eyes. So his father was not –truly- disgruntled. “Yes, quite right of course.” He turned to Thaddeus, his hard, serious expression back in place. “Perhaps you could show Miss Stannish the references she requests? You could likely answer any questions she may have; I will be the first to admit that I never bothered with Lady Jane’s poetry.”

Thaddeus, feeling suddenly rather ill and not a little annoyed that this had all come back to land on his plate, nodded in acquiescence and managed a polite ‘Certainly, Miss Stannish,’ before his mother (bless her, forever and ever) came to his rescue with a question about her uncle’s house.

After dinner, they walked in nearly tangible silence down the hall and Thaddeus could not help but feel relieved when they finally arrived at the library doors. Far too much of him was focused on the feel of Emma’s hand on his arm and the smell of her hair when she turned her head to look at a painting in the hallway – he was liable to go mad, he was certain of it.

Not, of course, that he was smelling her hair while she wasn’t looking.

He made to find the books Emma had claimed interest in, but she stopped him with a light touch on his arm.


Thaddeus turned back, hope flooding every inch of him but quite uncertain of what to say, and regarded Emma for a long moment before she apparently realized that he was waiting for her to speak.

“I just…wanted to know how you were.”

Thaddeus could not help but feel slightly incredulous about this question. God, how did she –think- he was? He surprised even himself by answering smoothly and easily.

“I’m fine. Plans for the university go well. We haven’t set a precise departure date as of yet but we’re considering the middle of next month.”

Emma nodded her head, her expression unreadable. “I am glad to hear it.”

Not having an answer for that, he made to go to the bookshelves once more, and again Emma gripped his arm, more firmly this time.


This time, he supposed, it would be up to him to speak, and he echoed the same sentiment that he had for the past few days.


“Your eye looks painful. Did you hurt your ear too? What happened?”

Thaddeus blinked, thinking that she should have seen what he looked like a week ago, and then grinned in spite of himself. It was easy, in that moment, to remember that she had been a friend before she became more.

“It’s a long story. And no, my ear is not damaged in any way.”

Emma shook her head. “I have time for long stories. You’ll have to tell me some day.”

Thaddeus bit down on his lower lip and studied his shoes until he felt slender fingers wrap around his chin. God, what was she playing at?

“Thaddeus…however I may have behaved, I do value our friendship. It is something I would very much like to keep.”

He pulled away, now deeply unnerved and confused and feeling a little intimidated under that gaze.


Gathering his nerve, he looked back up to meet Emma’s eyes, alarmed to find they were clouded with tears. He wasn’t proud of finding that a little vindicating; she –did- feel something, then.

“…I care for you far too much for that to be an option.”

Emma blinked once, and Thaddeus found himself wondering how, when her eyes were brimming, not a single tear fell. Her eyes looked so huge and liquid.

She blinked again.


It wasn’t until Emma asked that simple question that he realized what an idiotic thing he had just said. He pinched the bridge of his nose. “That’s not what I meant, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…I meant...I want more.”

The last was said almost helplessly, and he was inwardly berating his complete and utter failure with words when Emma took a step forward, fisting one hand in the fabric of her dress.

“’More’ is going to be more complicated than you think.”

Thaddeus laughed darkly, though behind his cynicism there was a ray of hope at her words. “Isn’t it always?”

Emma appeared to seriously consider this sentiment before answering, with a gentle smile. “I suppose I cannot argue with that.”

They stood together, thinking their own respective thoughts, for a drawn out moment before Thaddeus realized there was still a fair amount they should discuss.

Now that he was able to seriously contemplate the matter, though, outside the influence of romantic settings and away from his lonely books of poetry, he found his thoughts tended toward the pragmatic. It was completely unrealistic for the two of them to get married any time in the near future, even if Emma was interested, and the truth of the matter was that they didn’t know each other nearly as well as Thaddeus would like. Apparently Emma was thinking along the same lines, and since Thaddeus, even as young as he was, could appreciate that being on the same page very rarely happened in such situations, he was inclined to listen.

“I would like to do things properly; I understand now, that it’s important to you. There are some things I have to explain, about myself, and…I think we both need time. There are things I’m not ready for, and things you’re not ready for. But I think we can build the foundations.”

Thaddeus gave a slight nod of his head and smiled in what he hoped was an encouraging way. “I would like that, very much. Simply knowing that we’re both trying and want to make this work is really all I could ask for, all I need right now.”

Emma looked down for a moment, apparently fighting some inward battle before looking back up again. “Travel to the colonies with me, then?”

It did not seem as though she had intended her statement to be a question, and Thaddeus felt a wave of affection at that slight show of timidity. She went on, quickly, before he could answer, though he was fully prepared to do so in that moment.

“You don’t have to decide right now.” She laughed lightly. “And here I thought we were going to stop putting each other in these positions. Really, don’t answer now.”

Thaddeus lowered his chin in acquiescence, though he couldn’t resist interjecting his own thoughts. “I will keep my answer safe, then, until it is ready to be spoken out loud.”

He smiled lightly and watched as Emma’s expression brightened, though it was somewhat uncertain. They still had a great deal to learn about each other but Thaddeus was comforted by the fact that they had all the time in the world, that this was, in one conversation, no longer simply one wonderful summer. Leaning forward, he brushed Emma’s cheek with the back of his fingers before closing the distance between them and kissing her softly. He could feel her lips curve in a smile under his own.

He wondered, momentarily, just how realistic it was to think that they could keep from moving too quickly, and pulled back before either could deepen the kiss.

“It’s going to be more difficult this time. I’m hoping…we can trust each other, I think that will make this a little easier on those nights you can’t get away, or I can’t be there and can’t tell you ahead of time.”

Thaddeus nodded his head, still feeling somewhat lightheaded from the kiss, but eventually formulated a response. “I can do this. We can do this.” He smiled again, reaching out to take a curl of dark brown hair in his fingers. “Tonight?”

Emma frowned, considering. “Yes. I think that’s a good idea…there’s something else I need to talk to you about.”

Thaddeus’s forehead crinkled slightly at that, but his curious expression was met with firm resolution. “This isn’t the time or place. Trust me.”

He smiled slightly and lowered his chin in acquiesce. “I do. And I will.” Turning to the books as Emma’s comment reminded him that they likely had only a little more time before Lord Grey was liable to wander in, he gestured to a small table, inviting her to sit while he fetched the books. Emma patiently allowed him to retrieve everything they would need, then pulled him down into another kiss.

Fortunately for everyone involved, Lord Grey did not, as Thaddeus had feared, walk in on them. In fact, he rather thought his family was showing an impressive amount of discretion and wondered, not for the last time, just how much they knew.
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Nineteen

Normally when I find out some new information my immediate thought is that I should have known, but in this case I find myself believing that there was no way I would have figured this one out.

--Thaddeus Grey

I saw Eternity the other night
Like a great Ring of pure and endless light

--Henry Vaughan

Years of fencing had brought a certain lightness to Thaddeus’s feet, combined with a natural gracefulness that was ultimately quite helpful in sneaking out of the house at night. He’d become quite good at escaping, especially after meeting Edward, who was his normal co conspirator for such crimes. This was why it came as such a surprise when he heard the tell tale sound of footsteps behind him, just as he was opening the patio door.

Oh, hell. After all this time, this was how it would end. He was caught; there was no way he would get out of this. It was painfully obvious that he was sneaking off after dark, breaking the curfew with an appalling disdain for the rules. He froze, hoping that he imagined the sound and mentally berating himself for being such an…

“Idiot! Get over here, god damn it Thaddeus!”

Immediately recognizing the voice, he sighed wearily and turned toward Edward, wondering if he was about to get his other eye blackened as well. Perhaps if he turned at just the right moment he could take the hit on the same side; though that might be more painful at least then he would have one good eye to work with.

Whispering, Edward leaned close when Thaddeus came near. “What are you doing?”

Not having the heart to lie again and wanting to get the punch in the face over with as soon as humanly possible, he told Edward the truth, and was quick about it.

“I was going to see Emma.” He realized his slip a moment too late, though he still tried to correct it. “Miss Stannish. Hell.”

“Thaddeus,” Edward said, taking him by the shoulders and emphasizing each word as he continued, “Tell. Me. What. Is. Going. On! What is so hard about that?”

Thaddeus tilted his head to one side in confusion. It probably wasn’t advisable to be a wise ass right now but he really didn’t understand Edward’s point. “I thought I just did?”

Edward clapped his hand to his forehead, and Thaddeus winced at the slight sound it made. “Before, Thaddeus. Before you go off and do something stupid, tell me, so that I can cover for you without having to worry myself half to death.”

Oh. Thaddeus supposed that made sense, and felt tremendously stupid for not enlisting his friend’s help sooner. Of –course- Edward would help him – why had he for a moment thought otherwise?

“So,” his friend went on, “You’re going to see Miss Stannish, and you’ll be taking a trip to Hell. Will you be back by morning, do you think?”

Thaddeus shook his head. “I’ll be back well before sunrise, Edward.”

Edward nodded his head. “Ah, good. I would think Hell would be a good deal hotter during the daytime, don’t you? Do say hi to Satan while you’re down there, it’s been too long since I came calling.”

Thaddeus grinned lightly, understanding that Edward was very nearly incapable of doing something nice without blanketing it in sarcasm and jokes. Not wanting to embarrass his friend overly much, he nodded his head and turned to take his leave.

“I’ll do that. And thank you, Edward.”

Edward shook his head. “Don’t do anything stupid Thaddeus.”

Too late, Thaddeus thought with dry amusement before continuing on his way. Not wanting to speak too loudly over the distance that now separated them, he gave his friend a dismissive wave before continuing on to the gazebo.

He was both pleased and relieved to see Emma was already there waiting for him, reading a book with a cover he didn’t recognize. He approached quietly, though he guessed that she was aware of his presence, and smiled when he realized she was reading her own copy of Vaughan. When he got close enough, she set the book down and returned his smile, though Thaddeus could not help but notice that the expression was thin and tense.

“Why don’t you sit down?”

Thaddeus joined her on the bench, and Emma made to speak, but fell quiet almost immediately. He realized with curious apprehension that the calm, collected woman was more than a little nervous about speaking with him, and reflected that this ‘new start’ couldn’t be going all that well if they couldn’t even talk to each other.

He considered coming out and asking her what was on her mind, but he knew that he certainly didn’t like to be rushed when he was trying to think and struggling for words, and so he waited patiently, looking up at the stars and taking the moment to simply enjoy being near Emma. He was, after all, supposed to be trusting her, and had faith she would come to things in her own time.

When she finally spoke, it almost startled him, and it was as though she were starting in the middle of a conversation only she could hear.

“You’re likely going to wonder why I waited until now to tell you, though I hope you understand.”

He raised one eyebrow, but kept quiet, wanting her to continue. While not thrilled with the idea of being told how he was going to react before he had ample opportunity to do so, he again remembered to trust and also gave her the benefit of the doubt for being so obviously nervous.

“Well. In any case, I couldn’t tell you before, in fact I shouldn’t be telling you now, but I think we have to meet each other halfway and I really am trying.” Emma took a deep breath before going on. “I had this all planned out, I didn’t think it would be so hard.”

She met his eyes and suddenly everything became clear to Thaddeus. It all made such perfect sense that he was almost shocked he hadn’t realized it before. The sudden trips, the tension at the ball with the four guests.

She was already married.

“My God.”

Emma tilted her head to one side, her eyes widening. “Thaddeus…”

Thaddeus could feel an odd constriction in his chest, as though he were wearing a waistcoat several sizes too small. It was difficult to breathe and he would never know how he managed to speak.

“My God. When exactly were you planning to tell me?” He laughed almost lightly, though in reality he was simply too short on breath to manage more than that. “I mean…good lord, what was the plan? We arrive in Nachton and…what, we meet your husband and you say ‘hello darling, this is Lord Thaddeus Grey….’ I can’t even think of a way to finish that statement without sounding absolutely ridiculous.” Looking up at Emma and taking in her horrified expression, he tried to soften his reaction at least a little, feeling inexplicably guilty. “Of course, I don’t really need much help there, do I?”

Unsurprisingly, Emma did not laugh at Thaddeus’s attempt at humor. Instead, she spoke calmly and flatly.

“I’m not married. Now will you listen?”

Feeling immeasurably stupid and completely relieved at the same time, Thaddeus mutely nodded his head at Emma’s request. In response Emma’s expression softened and she reached out to gently touch Thaddeus’s knee before returning her hand to her own lap.

“I suppose I can’t fault you for thinking…well, really, that wasn’t very charitable, was it?” Emma gave him a withering look at that, which he quite appropriately shrank from. Sighing, she went on. “I suppose you must have been wondering a good many things. Where I go when I’m not with you. Why you never see me in the daylight. Why my arm healed so quickly. Goodness…this must all be so confusing for you…you were wondering how I managed to sneak up on you and…I’m sorry, I’m terribly nervous…in any case, I’m going to try to explain all of that, and I would really like it if you just listened quietly and just…put up with my rambling, I really am trying my best here.”

Thaddeus nodded his head once more, not wishing to distract her with his own words or dig himself into more trouble, though he did take her hand in his, rubbing little circles over her wrist with his thumb in what he hoped was a calming gesture.

In all honesty, there were things on Emma’s list that he had noticed, and others he had not. He was surprised, for example, to realize that he had never seen Emma during daytime. At all, not even for a sunrise or sunset. Now that he thought of it, that was odd; they had managed to never stay a little late, or arrive a little early. And how often might they have been able to see each other at various social functions or chance encounters in town if not for the fact that they tended to stay up so late that there was little time for such things?

After a moment, though, she began again.

There was, Thaddeus believed, nothing in this world that could have prepared him for what he heard that night. He did as Emma asked and remained quiet more out of shock than anything else, finding that his mind simply refused to process some of the information.

She told him that she was born, by modern reckoning, two hundred and thirty years before Christ, and it was only because she kept going that Thaddeus did not react with incredulity to that particular statement.

There was little time to even think clearly as she continued, her earlier inhibitions fading away. He was still doing the math in her head and realizing just how long Emma was claiming to have lived as she went on to explain just what she had become. That the terrible stories, distorted by fear and ignorance, were in fact true to some extent. That she lived by feeding off the blood of the living. That there were others like her. That they could not stand the sunlight, that they had abilities that humans could not possibly understand. That with that gift of immortality came great costs; that they were shunned and hunted and feared by humanity at large, that they were afflicted with a need for blood, that they developed strange fears and behaviors that myths were built up around.

And now she was kneeling in front of him, looking up, regarding him with worried eyes. For a moment, the xenophobic side of him looked down and saw –one of them- before the thought faded and he saw simply Emma, the same woman he’d known these past few months, looking back at him.

“I’m sure you can understand why telling humans this is taken extremely seriously by our kind. It is…well technically it is against our laws to speak of these matters at all, but I saw that this couldn’t go on, that you would work it out for yourself eventually…”

Thaddeus privately thought that she was giving him far too much credit, but kept that to himself. He knew, though, that he would have never conceived of this, even with all the evidence lined up.

He also knew, oddly enough, that he believed her absolutely. He tested other theories in his mind; she could be mad, she could be lying to him to cover up something or somehow take advantage of him…but none of them felt true. He bit down on his lower lip, trying to be rational and think things through, to really internalize everything Emma had told him, when the lady in question interrupted his thoughts.

“Thaddeus? Say something? I understand if you’re…if you don’t want to…Thaddeus I really need to know how you feel.”

Thaddeus tilted his head to the side for a moment, parsing her jumbled statement, before realization struck. He took her hand and pulled her gently to him, wrapping his arms around her shoulders.

It was at that moment that the stress of telling Thaddeus everything, of essentially jumping off a cliff with no idea where she would land, finally caught up with her, and she promptly burst into tears before he could say a word.

He thought it was quite fortunate that he remembered a handkerchief, but Emma ignored it completely, pulling closer and burying her head in his shoulder. Uncertain, he did his best to reach up and wipe away her tears without doing something truly disastrous like poking her in the eye at this awkward angle.

“Shhh, shh, I’m still here…”

He didn’t feel it was the right time to say anything else, what with her crying and upset and all, even though she had asked him to speak. Eventually her hitched breathing slowed to something a bit more regular and she pushed back, taking the offered handkerchief at last.

“I’m sorry. This was…tearing me up, you have no idea…”

She dabbed delicately at her face, and Thaddeus found himself considering the fact that she shed perfectly normal tears. He doubted he would have ever realized there was anything amiss…then he amended that thought, realizing that there was nothing wrong at all.

“Thank you. For telling me. I tend to prefer knowing.”

Emma smiled softly at this. “Yes, I know this of you.” She leaned back into his arms, simply resting comfortably with less of the urgency of before. His hand strayed to a dark brown curl of hair, and he took it between his fingers, running down the length of it.



“The other night…”

Emma sighed, but did not move from her current position, which Thaddeus was quite pleased with. “I was telling the truth about that. I missed you. No ulterior motives.”

Thaddeus nodded his head. “I believe you. It occurred to me that perhaps you were…hungry. I’m not sure how that works exactly.”

Emma smiled slightly, thought the expression was nearly lost completely in Thaddeus’s chest. “It is similar to hunger, I suppose. But no, I had no other intentions that night.”

He continued stroking Emma’s hair for a long moment, thinking over what she had said. She had gone through great lengths to assure him that her kind did not have to kill humans, and in fact most made every effort to see that they were left in good condition, less only a small amount of blood that they would be perfectly fine without. She had even gone as far as to explain how some humans gave over their blood willingly, and a close symbiotic relationship was formed.

“Now I know, though, and…if there is something that you need, I am willing. It would be safer this way, wouldn’t it?”

“There are always choices, Thaddeus. I have other ways.”

That was said with a heavy weight, and he wondered what else that statement might mean to Emma. Further answers were not forthcoming, though, and he supposed he could not expect everything to become clear at once. He nodded his head before tilting it to one side, biting down on his lower lip. He realized after the fact that his thoughtful gesture could be taken in a quite different light, but found he didn’t mind at all.


Emma reached out and tucked a strand of hair behind his ear, letting her fingers linger along his jaw line.

“What is it?”

Thaddeus smiled, not without uncertainty but he was, nonetheless, resolved.

“I truly am willing.”

Emma raised both eyebrows as her hand wandered toward Thaddeus’s neck, then smiled gently. Thaddeus was surprised to realize that he could see elongated canines in her smile, and wondered with a thrill of both fear and a pulse of something he might later be able to identify as passion, how he had missed that before.

“I don’t think you understand…it is somewhat difficult to explain, how this would make you feel, and I don’t want you to do anything you would have cause to regret.”

There was a slight lisp to her speaking now, and Thaddeus was certain now that her fangs were getting longer. He felt a queer thrill of excitement at the realization and nodded his head, his expression going serious. Meeting Emma’s eyes, darkened with something Thaddeus hoped was desire, he started on the buttons of his shirt before leaning forward.

There were some things that would need time, that he was willing to keep stored away to brew over, or simply thoughts to hold onto until Emma was ready to hear them and he was ready to say them. This, at least, should be simple; her needs, their desires, in all this complexity everything should be so easy, so certain on both sides. He wasn’t sure how he was so confident that Emma wanted this as much as he did, that they had enough trust for this, that everything would be okay, but he wanted so badly to have faith in that feeling.

“Show me.”
Thaddeus Grey 17 years ago
Chapter Twenty
And now, in front of me I can see my every wish come to fruition.

--Thaddeus Grey

Thaddeus ran his hand over the mark on his neck, which was this morning little more than a bruise, and smiled softly before pushing himself up on his elbows. Sunlight streamed in from a crack in the drapery and he took a moment to bask in the warmth before letting his thoughts turn more serious with the reminder of what Emma had told him.

His neck, as it turned out, was not the only thing bruised last night, as he discovered when he sat up all the way and felt the slight sting in his back. He stood and walked toward the mirror, turning this way and that to examine the finger shaped marks on his back and on his shoulder.

Emma had, he reflected, an impressive grip.

He would admit that perhaps things had gone further than intended last night, though he was absolutely unwilling to concede to any sort of regret. There was, however, a sense of disbelief that still lingered even after everything he knew. Not over anything Emma had told him; he truly did believe her even if it was difficult. No, his distant astonishment came from another source; a disbelief that those were his hands wrapping around her slim waist.

Smiling, he dressed and walked out into the hallway, thinking that he would get an early start on fencing practice and perhaps indulge in a little time for himself. As it seemed the house was all but deserted, he made his way to the ballroom, where there was sufficient space to handle a rapier.

He could not, however, quite keep his mind on his fencing; it kept drifting back to last night.

Last night. It hadn’t been at all what he expected, with Emma’s fingers sinking into his shoulder, her fangs pushing through his skin…he had not predicted that sweet ache, that intoxicating need to be closer, to have more. He had buried his face in her neck, smelling her hair and her skin, holding her tightly even though it was much too hot to be this close, unwilling to pull away even after she stopped placing soft kisses along his neck. She’d had to guide his chin to look at her, to ask if he was alright, and in response he had kissed her so thoroughly they might have melted, because people surely couldn’t stand this much heat. He had expected to taste his own coppery blood on her lips, and while at the time he wasn’t concerned in the least, he was surprised to find only more sweetness in her kiss.

Shaking his head as he realized he was daydreaming instead of thinking over very important and serious matters, he decided fencing was simply not in the cards today and put away the bated blade before he managed to hurt himself with it.

It was at that moment that Edward strolled in, wearing a distracted expression. Thaddeus turned, grinning – it would seem he was not the only one looking to clear his head and mull things over with a sword in hand.


Though he had only just put his sword away, having a potential partner had made him reconsider. Edward, however, was apparently not in the mood for company – a rare but not unheard of occurrence that was indicated by a shake of his head. Still, Thaddeus was concerned and pressed the issue.

“Is everything alright?”

Edward, apparently realizing he’d been caught, plastered his usual broad grin on his face.

“Of course, I’m just not always in the mood to gracefully accept defeat at the hands of a blonde midget.”

Thaddeus gave an easy chuckle and picked up Edward’s usual practice blade to hand to him.

“Seriously, though, is—“

Edward cut in. “What did you do last night?”

Thaddeus froze, unnerved and not knowing quite how to answer that. He realized just as Edward nodded his head that that was the point.

“You see?”

Thaddeus nodded. “Just so.”

This time Edward’s grin was more sincere as he took the blade from his hands. Oddly enough, Edward then turned toward the door – Thaddeus’s curiosity was of course piqued but now he couldn’t very well just come out and ask where his friend was going.

He suspected that Edward had planned this and wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of showing his frustration. Instead they exchanged polite goodbyes, and Thaddeus left shortly after to find his parents and discuss prospective fellow investors for the university, to pass another day always half counting the hours until he could see Emma once again.


Thaddeus took his time walking up the narrow pathway to the gazebo, his bag of clementines in one hand and his jacket hanging from the opposite shoulder. There was something about the atmosphere tonight that leant itself to calm, and in spite of his eagerness to see Emma he found that this evening felt better when taken in slowly. A cricket jumped in his path and Thaddeus gave way to him, stopping in his tracks and waiting until the insect made his way across.

He hadn’t set out to give Emma little gifts when he saw her; that pattern happened quite by accident. In fact, he had once been disgusted by the sort of man who would shower a new interest with presents, cynically feeling that he would be ignoring the poor girl in a week. To him it had looked like bribery, or simply showing off. He didn’t, however, much mind his new found hypocrisy, preferring to believe that he had simply learned from experience. Had he known what it was like, to see something and think of her immediately, even the smallest thing, perhaps he would not have been so judgmental. He could not even work up the proper note of self distain upon seeing a flower that Emma might like and picking it, or writing down some small thought for her to read. She confessed once that she kept all his little trinkets in a drawer, and the thought had kept him smiling for days afterward. It took that long for him to realize that she had given him a subtle hint as to what she would like her next gift to be – the next night he had brought her a modestly sized cedar box.

The bag of oranges he brought because he thought they might please her, and he might be rewarded with a smile or a kiss on the cheek. Things that would have made him feel nervous and shy as well as pleased at the beginning of summer, but now seemed the most wonderful of simple pleasures.

At last he made his way to the gazebo, walking quietly so as not to disturb the evening itself. His care proved beneficial in another way, though; when he peered through the entrance he saw that Emma had her back turned, and his arrival had not disturbed her. He was thus afforded the brief opportunity to simply watch Emma unawares, and he took it with grateful silence. He was studying the way the dark curls of her hair swirled at the back of her neck when she twisted around to give him a solemn nod.

She saw the oranges, and smiled, and gestured for Thaddeus to join her, and all was right with the world. They could sit for a bit and peel their fruit and throw the peels and seeds out over the rose hedge and into the lawn beyond, for the squirrels to investigate and the gardener to puzzle over in the morning. They could remain untroubled by the fact that last night everything had changed, and simply remember what they were to each other.

Of course, that moment couldn’t last.

“I was half afraid you wouldn’t come tonight. Now that you’ve had time to think things over.”

Thaddeus smiled and shook his head, pushing a curl of hair off Emma’s cheek. “Were you really? After everything?”

Emma nodded her head, looking at his shoes. “I’ve lived a long time, Thaddeus. It occasionally makes me cynical.”

Thaddeus wrapped one arm around her waist and pulled Emma close, speaking into her hair. “I’m here.”

Emma laughed a little at the sudden move, wrapping her arms around his neck. “You certainly are.”

Still smiling, he nuzzled Emma’s hair, speaking softly. “I want to go to Nachton with you.”

He felt her swallow hard, her shoulders tighten, and in spite of being aware that she was tense he couldn’t help but think of how alive she felt in his arms, and how small, how fragile. She had explained that vampires were a good deal stronger than humans, but there was no evidence of that in her fine bones and pale translucent skin. After a moment, though, she pulled back, reaching up to run her fingers over his jawline.

“Alright then.” She smiled. “That’s settled.”

Thaddeus raised one eyebrow, profoundly surprised that she had actually agreed. “But?”

She pulled all the way back, to his regret, and nodded to what Thaddeus fondly called ‘their’ bench. “Well. Now there are more choices to make. In spite of all of our best efforts this is moving quickly.” She must have noticed Thaddeus’s smirk, because she amended her statement with a grin. “All right, perhaps I cannot in fairness say we’ve been making our best effort. Even so.”

She sighed softly and looked away, and now Thaddeus was curious to the point of wanting to ask. He waited, though, trying to understand and remembering when she had said she needed time. After all of this he didn’t want to scare her away, after all.

His patience ultimately paid off, however.

“You’re in a different world now; that’s not something you really have a choice about. I wish I could say I was sorry about that, but I think we both know that I’d be wasting my efforts by apologizing for what we both believe is a good thing.

Even so. It’s complicated now. And this is the last time I want to put pressure on you, it truly is, but for a variety of reasons we’re dealing with a somewhat limited window of time to make our choices. Your choices.”

She turned at last and met Thaddeus’s eyes, her expression serious and worried. “Don’t answer now.”

Thaddeus didn’t think there was much chance of that, considering he had no idea what she was asking. He had imagined, in spite of her explaining that she was not technically supposed to be telling him any of this, that she knew what she was doing. That she had some plan in mind, that the consequences were understood.

He was beginning to suspect that matters were not as much in her control as he had previously believed.

In any case, she seemed to realize that more explanation was required.

“I need you to think about how you want to step off that boat on the other side. As a human, as you are now…or as someone like me.”

Thaddeus blinked. He supposed he should have realized that vampires were able to make other vampires, considering Emma had once been human, but he had not realized this was an option for himself.

This time, he was glad she had asked him not to answer, though he gave her a smile that hopefully did not reveal his surprise and anxiety.

“I will.”

Emma nodded her head and seemed to relax, though the lines of tension did not entirely disappear from her face. That she changed the subject soon after was indicative enough of her frame of mind, and Thaddeus did not press her further. He did, however, express some curiosity regarding the abilities she had spoken about briefly when explaining her kind. She was charmingly mysterious about her own talents but explained a few of the possibilities.

“So you’re telling me I could make myself disappear?”

Emma crinkled her nose and considered that explanation, then shook her head. “Well, it’s not really the same thing; it’s a little more complicated than that.”

“Still,” Thaddeus insisted, “No one would be able to see me…hmm, the trouble I could get into!”

Emma laughed at this and gave Thaddeus’s shoulder a little push. “Yes, you could sneak into the library at any hour and not get caught.”

Laughing in response, he nudged her shoulder back and shook his head. “All right, you know me all too well. Though I’m certain I –could- get into greater mischief if it occurred to me.”

They spent the rest of the evening and the early hours of the morning discussing said ‘mischief’, their laughter and sighs entertaining whatever wildlife hid itself in the bushes and trees.
Thaddeus Grey 16 years ago
Chapter Twenty One
It is ecstatically romantic, really, to pretend that we can be together and have nothing else matter. It is also decidedly untrue, and I cannot help but feel the pain of that.

It is the sharp and flawless sort of pain that comes with being certain.

--Thaddeus Grey

Have I become a reckless fool because I am not afraid? Have I become a horrible person because I am, not filled with remorse at my own deceits, but indescribably happy to be beginning my future?

--Thaddeus Grey

Yesterday I wrote of the pain being certain can bring. There is joy in it as well, though; a unblemished surety in the world and the people around you. This will happen, then this, and this. This is what I am, this is what my life will be, and I know it without a doubt.

--Thaddeus Grey

Days went by, and Thaddeus, living for the nights now, passed them in contemplation. Most of the time he was alone; Edward had made himself scarce as of late, for reasons past his understanding, and his parents were busy making arrangements for his voyage.

Not that he wasn’t busy planning his future as well, a future made much more complicated by the idea that it could possibly be lengthened considerably. Emma’s question was never far from his mind as he interviewed team members and wrote contacts in the colonies. She never pressured him for an answer, though he could see that she was anxious for one. Instead, they spent their nights getting to know each other, oftentimes physically as well as verbally, and she only told him more about her kind when he asked.

Thaddeus supposed he should have more questions than he did, but in spite of being a very thoughtful sort of person, he knew this choice would have to be made intuitively as well as intellectually. This needed to feel right; that was not something that could be obtained by asking questions. If Emma was surprised at his relative silence on the matter, she never showed it.

There was no sudden epiphany that led him to his ultimate choice; it was a slow evolution, one small realization after another, that brought him to the point where he understood that all things being equal, the change was what he wanted. Of course, all things never really were equal, and he spent several days thinking over his life and wondering if he could make the choice that was right in his heart mesh with everything else. He was both more and less troubled during those days; it was a relief to know what he wanted, but a burden to wonder how he could possibly bring it about. He asked more questions of Emma now; would he be able to tell his family, and Edward? Was he wasting his time planning a school that he would never be able to build? Emma’s answers were mostly assuring but vague; in time, she said, he may be able to tell his parents, though only with the utmost caution. And he could pursue whatever interests he wished, but he should be prepared for the fact that people’s interests and priorities often change under the circumstances he was considering.

And then, upon deciding that he must do what he believed was right and face whatever consequences that brought, he had to decide how exactly he would tell Emma. Some romantic gesture, he thought, should surely be involved. In the end, though, he had to settle for a discreet sort of charm rather than indulging in his large scale whims. He dressed elegantly and practiced his speech. He picked flowers, packed a picnic, and generally made as much ado as he thought he could get away with. If anyone thought he was behaving oddly, they did not mention it, and in truth his lovesick actions went almost entirely unnoticed, save a questioning look between the gardeners.

He stood inside the gazebo and watched the sun set, thinking he would forever associate the twilight that followed with waiting for Emma. He cherished that time of transition between one life and the other, when he could gather him thoughts and simply be for a few precious moments. When he could anticipate fair company and leave his troubles behind.

Closing his eyes, he breathed in the early evening air, going over his words for tonight and trying to rid himself of any last minute nerves. This was right, this was what he wanted, but there was a finality in telling Emma that made the whole choice seem that much more real. He was truly certain, though; he would have to be in order to speak his mind.


His eyes snapped open and he whipped around, embarrassed to be ‘caught’ so lost in his own mind that he hadn’t noticed Emma’s arrival. Emma, meanwhile, was looking down at the spread out picnic, complete with flowers, with an expression between bemusement and joy. Recovering from his startlement, he gestured for her to make herself comfortable, (which she did after some mysterious arranging of her dress) and sat next to her.

He had wanted to tell her his decision right away, but he was thrown enough by being caught unawares that he instead focused on the food, offering her one delicacy after another. She licked cream for the raspberries off his fingers, and he marveled at how comfortable they were with one another. Much later, well into the night, when Emma rested her head on his chest and reached up to toy with a strand of his hair, he had much the same thought.


She shifted her weight just slightly to better look at him, and stilled her hand.

“What is it, Thaddeus?”

He grinned stupidly. “Nothing. I just like saying your name.” This much was true; he said that simple name as though it were some exotic foreign word that meant everything good and right in the world. At her skeptical expression, though, he quickly went on. “I was just thinking that I’ve never known anyone who made me feel this alive.” He winced internally at his own remark, thinking it sounded contrived even though the sentiment had come to him entirely spontaneously. Emma, however, seemed to appreciate it if the light kiss to his chin was any indication.

“That’s…ironic. But very sweet,” she added, quickly.

It took him a moment to realize exactly where she found the irony, but when he understood he smiled, showing teeth, and squeezed her tightly before relaxing his hold and regarding her more seriously. “Emma.”

She frowned, but he held up his hand, not letting her speak. “Yes.”

Hadn’t he had a speech? He’d forgotten until he said that one little word. He realized quickly that it didn’t matter – Emma wouldn’t have allowed him to speak much more than he had anyway.


Thaddeus had believed that making the choice to change would be the easy part of all of this, but it seemed this was not to be. Over the next week Emma wavered countless times, enough that Thaddeus began to worry she would rescind her offer entirely. First she wanted to wait until their voyage, which Thaddeus was amenable to, but then she began to insist that they move the trip up. Thaddeus tried, in vain it seemed, to explain why this wasn’t possible – there were still arrangements to be made. They might have come close to quarreling over the matter if not for the fact that Thaddeus was not inclined to be argumentative in any way and so all the frustration was largely one sided.

On his end, there was only worry – worry for his own sake, naturally, but he was also becoming concerned about Emma. This decision seemed to be causing her a great deal of stress. He thought that odd considering he would be the one being turned but supposed upon reflection that it was reasonable to have cold feet on both sides.

In any case, if they couldn’t depart early, Emma next argued that they should turn Thaddeus sooner, before the trip. Thaddeus did not object to this but thought it might be difficult to keep the matter a secret. Emma seemed doubtful about this plan as well and that didn’t exactly put his mind at ease.

Finally, though, they worked out a solution. While Emma was not entirely certain about Edward being an accomplice in all of this, Thaddeus knew they needed help and he couldn’t think of anyone he trusted more. They wouldn’t tell him everything…in fact it seemed they weren’t really telling him –anything-, and Thaddeus had to admit to feeling a bit guilty about intentionally misleading his friend, but once the plan was made it was easy to believe that this was the only way.

The next step, though, was convincing Edward of the inevitable. Thaddeus quickly had to amend that thought, however – it seemed the next step would be –finding- his friend. After going two rounds through the house, Mrs. Huxley came rushing up to tell him that Edward had only just returned and was in his bedroom. He had then told her that he was going out again shortly and had only returned to change his clothes, but the housekeeper thought perhaps Thaddeus could catch him yet.

As luck would have it, he did; Edward was still working on his shirt buttons when Thaddeus knocked on his door. After being rather abruptly ushered inside and told to help him find Edward’s good shoes if he wanted to talk so badly, Thaddeus found himself flinging things out from under a bed while he explained himself.

“Edward, do you remember telling me that you wanted me to tell you before I did something stupid?” Wait, that wasn’t what he wanted to say. “I mean, not that I am, or anything, but I’m doing something…”

Edward waved his hand almost impatiently before going back to the buttons on his shirt.

“Yes, yes, I know what you mean. What do you need?”

Thaddeus crawled fully out from under the bed, a shoe in one hand. Really, what was Edward’s problem? After making a somewhat indignant noise and pushing his hair out of his eyes, he went on.

“I need a few days with no questions.” Oh that sounded wonderful. “It’s not what you think. I’ll be here, as much as I can be, but I need you to cover for me should my parents come looking for me. Say I’m under the weather. Or whatever comes to mind.”

Wondering if he would need to give Edward any more than that, he paused in his rambling to let his friend interject. Unfortunately, Edward seemed more focused on getting his cravat in place than in their conversation, and gave Thaddeus a dismissive ‘yes, that’s fine, I can do that’ in response. Was he even listening?

“Also, I’m going to need you to strip naked and sing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen in the front lawn. I’ve some investors coming over and really want to show them what this household is all about.”

“Strip naked, sing. Right.” Seeming satisfied with his appearance, Edward turned to get his shoes, making an irritated face when he saw only one in Thaddeus’s hand. Brushing past him, he walked around to the other side of the bed and began rummaging through a linen chest.

“This…thing of yours. It will have to be very soon if you want my help.”

Oblivious to the implications of that remark, Thaddeus picked up his rambling again. “I know we haven’t…well. I’m grateful, is what I’m trying to say. And…wait, why soon? I thought you weren’t leaving until the fall.”

Edward looked up and shook his head, looking both exasperated and a little sad. “I’m taking Elizabeth and going to India in three days.”

He said it so abruptly that Thaddeus’s reply caught in his throat. The silence stretched out, filled with unasked questions and frustrated remarks. Why India? Why not America? And why on earth was he just hearing about this now?

Edward looked down and cursed quietly before going back to his search. “I wasn’t going to tell you. When you wouldn’t come with me on the tour, I thought…please don’t…” He waved his hand, apparently not knowing how to finish that thought. It was a mannerism he had no doubt picked up from living in the Grey’s house, on and off, for so many years. Thaddeus didn’t really notice that, though.

Edward never said please.

Thaddeus sat down heavily on the bed. He didn’t have to ask for clarification; Edward’s words, and the way he said them, were enough to tell him that he was leaving for India in secret, and leaving for good. The thought that he should have seen this coming crossed his mind, along with another:

This would break his parent’s hearts.

Shaking that extremely unfair thought off, as Edward certainly didn’t owe the Greys anything, Thaddeus swallowed and looked to his friend, who was sorting though the chest for the third time and didn’t even seem to realize it.

“You should tell Christina.”

No one could argue that Christina couldn’t, or wouldn’t, keep his secret, and Thaddeus firmly believed that Edward should not give up on a chance at happiness just because he was trying to salvage his family’s future.

Edward shook his head, adamantly, and stood. “Can’t do it.” With that, he went back around the bed and over by the door, easily finding the mate to his shoe behind the coat tree.

“You can. That’s…that’s the deal, Edward. Tell Christina everything you can. So we can send you letters.”

Edward snorted. “See, I knew if I told you…”

Thaddeus set his jaw. “That’s the deal.”

A pause, while Edward put on his shoes, and then, to Thaddeus’s great relief, his friend smiled. “You know, I –am- covering for you. Your silence is rather expensive, I’d hate to see what it costs to get you to speak.”

Thaddeus grinned in return. “Talk is cheap.”

Edward waved his hand in a gesture of disgust, though he was still smiling as when he left a few moments later. Thaddeus suspected that it came as something of a relief to tell him what he was planning; keeping a secret like this must have been a terrible burden.

He would know.