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Written by Srebrna

2018/06/14 at 15:44

Posted in Uncategorized

Double Pride Double Trouble – CH 05

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Chapter 5: And then we run so fast

“Holding out until Halloween means that we’ll be spending our birthday in the wrong houses” Mina pointed out.
“What? What do you mean?”
“I mean that October twelfth is earlier than November first.”
“October eleventh” Rose corrected her mechanically.
“Twelfth.”
“Eleventh.”
Mina frowned.
“We were not born on the same day?”
They sat for a moment in stunned silence.
“That means she had to wait, like, hours until you were born.”
“And now I’m feeling guilty, you know. Considering all they told us during the Sex Ed last year… I wonder how long it took to… Eurgh” Mina raked her hair with both hands.
“Not your fault. But it still must have sucked for her.”
“Maybe that’s why mother always complains about me being up before her in the morning. She once said I was rather late on one occasion, so apparently I’m making up for it by being early ever since. Which made no sense then, but if you say we’ve been born one day apart…”
They both cringed a bit. Rose cast around for another topic, rather frantically.
“So, what does Mom do for your birthday?”
Mina shrugged.
“We can’t really invite anyone over, because the flat is way too small. Twice I had a birthday party at grandma’s, but that just felt like any normal family dinner without anyone from outside, so only family. So we kind of gave up. So we normally bake a huge box of cookies for me to take to school and maybe go to the cinema in the evening. And usually we go somewhere during the next weekend, like a museum or a climbing wall or a whole day at a pool. Last year we went to a trampoline park. It was glorious. And aunt Jane took me out shopping, because Mom got called in to some total failure of a server farm due to a DDoS and she was stuck at the keyboard for whole weekend, bringing them safely online.”
“That sounds… complicated” Rose frowned. “What does it mean?”
“Basically, someone managed to overload a bunch of servers somewhere and it made some bigger news services stop working. Mom spent three days checking them for traces of hacking.”
“At least Dad doesn’t have emergencies like this” Rose shuddered. “How do you do this? I mean, do you stay alone a lot?”
Mina blinked.
“No, never. Mom is always home. She sits in her bedroom, fires up three monitors and then works through the night. She only goes to the companies she’s working with like once a week, maybe twice. And not for the whole day. And f… Dad? What does he do?”
“A lot of different stuff” Rose worried the end of her braid. “He manages Pemberley, but also has an assistant who deals with most of small, everyday stuff. Dad interviews the people he hires to work on the grounds and in the house – students who need money, mostly. He always says he likes to give them a chance to earn an honest amount of cash during summer, so they don’t have to pick up that many jobs when they have classes. He usually hires from Lambton and neighbouring villages, because he says the more people with a degree in an area, the better. He deals with real estate around our place – sells and buys little plots of land, changing the property borders a bit every year. He owns a company that builds houses for people – in places where it’s hard to plan a new building. They check the area, put together some ideas on how the house should be positioned to make the best of the ground – like if there is a slope, to use the lower levels for garage and so on. And then they contract the required working teams and arrange all the permits, road planning and whatever. There are rich people out there who want ‘a little house, like a castle, over this stream’ and so Dad helps them set it up.”
“Cool” Mina nodded. “But is he an architect, or, I don’t know, construction engineer…?”
“No, not like this. He says he doesn’t have to, he knows well enough how they do their work, but he is the business manager. Like, makes calculations and says if something will pay off to install. Oh, and he runs a charity, too. I sometimes go to the events he throws for it. Aunt Catherine hates them, so I decided I’m going to try what they are like, and it’s sometimes really nice – like auctions of actual handmade stuff that some important people made. One of the MPs from the area crocheted a bunch of pillows once and Dad bought two, because he saw I loved them. And everyone tries to bid as high as possible, even on stupid stuff like postcards, because they know Dad uses the auctions to check what people really are. He told me so, it’s not like I guessed myself. He said the way they bid and they items they buy and the… the atmosphere they create, it tells him if they are bidding because they like the thing, because they want to support the charity, or because they want to draw his interest. He tries to avoid the last bunch, unless they prove they are really honest in their business.”
Mina sighed.
“Mom makes a lot of really pretty things” she said softly. “I guess she isn’t important enough for them to be added to an auction like this, though. But she can make most anything. Like, sewing, knitting, crochet… she just hates embroidery, unless it’s cross-stitch. Three years ago she even took a class in cake decorating, just to check what it is about.”
“Wow” Rose’s voice was full of envy. “The most Dad can make is the stuff we had to build for a workshop class. He helped me to make a bird feeder and a bee house. If it’s wooden and can be cut, he’s happy to help with it. He even installed a jigsaw in the shed, because once he had an idea to make a dollhouse for me, but it took him so long to learn to use it that I grew out of dolls. But he taught me and that bird feeder we made was really fancy.”
“I wish I had a workshop. Or, well, that Mom had a workshop. She has to keep everything on the living room table and in boxes everywhere. She can’t really work on anything bigger, unless it’s crochet, because we don’t have space for it. She takes some things to special shops to be finished – like quilts, to that place that has quilting machines.”
“I…” Rose shrugged and played with the end of her braid again, winding it between her fingers. “I think I should learn to sew. I mean, it sounds like a reasonable thing to do. Like something that is useful for everyone.”
“It is! I mean, I can only sew in a straight line, but that’s enough to fix up a pair of trousers, or sew a pillowcase. That’s how I got my bedsheets – Mom let me experiment on some Disney fabric she found on a sale online. So don’t be too surprised, but I have Merida-patterned duvet cover.”
“You made your own duvet cover? How?!”
Mina shrugged.
“Mom helped me with the cutting, and then it’s mostly sewing straight. Not a lot to do. The biggest hassle were the buttons.”
“I really have to learn to do that. There was a time that I would have gladly sold a hand for a Disney-patterned whatever. Not so much these days” she immediately corrected. “But, you know. A year ago or so.”
“A year ago I wanted a pink Ariel dress. Mom laughed for, like, twenty minutes when I told her. Then we went through comprehensive review of all Disney princesses and I ended up choosing to dress as the only one who matches our colouring – much better than Ariel.”
Rose frowned.
“You discussed the merits of various Disney princesses with mother?”
“Of course. She says they are a valid and vital element of modern girl’s upbringing, and so should be considered carefully and analysed in order to derive valuable lessons from both the successful and less lucky ones.”
Mina delivered the whole sentence with perfectly straight face, trying to contain her giggling at Rose’s outraged expression.
“A what element?! Derive lessons?!” Mina’s snort made Rose splutter even more. “Are you five?!”
“No, actually, I’m almost fourteen, thank you very much” Mina smothered her laughter. “But Mom says that because all kids watch Disney, the least she can do is to review the tropes in the movies with me and make me see the failures of models they present. Like Ariel, who sacrificed her voice to catch a man.”
“OoOkkk…” Rose inhaled heavily. “What am I getting myself into?”
“Into meeting your mother, dear sis. She is a second of five girls, has an engineering degree, works as a programmer and system administrator and I assure you, you’ve never met a more forward-thinking and decided feminist in your life.”
“But she watches Disney movies. And analyses princesses.”
“Oh, yes. You should hear her arguing with aunt Kitty about pros and cons of Rapunzel and Merida as the strongest female lead in recent years. I mean, until Moana appeared and completely changed the whole hierarchy.”
Rose flopped on her back on the picnic blanket they had covered the grass with and groaned.
“So, well. You’d better be prepared to defend your – my – favourite, you know. Accidentally, the only one I could reliably dress as at the time” Mina poked her ribs.
“Which is…?” Rose’s voice was weak at that point.
“Obviously, Rapunzel. After-haircut Rapunzel.”
“So you like bad boys, sister? Is there an Eugene waiting somewhere, ready to surprise me when I arrive to London?”
Mina giggled.
“No, no. No Eugene – and no Flynn, or Philip, or Eric, or whatever else they were called. No. I can promise you more little cousins than Merida has brothers, but no Prince Charming. And” she smiled widely. “Now that we found each other, you can be Elsa to my Anna!”
“Wait, what? Anna has way more fun!”
“Phh. Elsa is older. You are older. By default, I am Anna.”
“No way you are Anna! I’m not getting stuck with some oldest-child duties!”
Mina grimaced.
“Actually, you are. And I mean, you are the oldest, of all of us. Because on the Bennet side, I’m the oldest… well. You know. And if you are the older twin… You are the prized first grandchild. Destined for great things – depending on who says it, either to be the first British woman to walk on the Moon – the next Helen Sharman, at least – or the embodiment of domestic perfection that our mother fails to be. Me too, so grandma will focus on you, once she knows there is two of me. Of us.”
Rose shivered all over.
“Our grandparents are crazy.”
“Oh, yes. You have no idea.”
“Grandpa really wants you to…?”
“He says the pinnacle of an engineering career is discovering new places in which to apply knowledge already acquired. No idea what he means, really, but he said again and again that the least I could do is to try to learn enough to be accepted to the space program, because he is slightly disappointed with Mom not having advanced in the academia. Or in space exploration” she rolled her eyes at her sister.
“So he wants you to fill in for her? Why didn’t he do anything in that area?” Rose rolled to her stomach and looked up at Mina, who stretched and winced.
“No idea, really. He always said Mom was destined for greatness and he hopes I will, you know. Step into her shoes. Bah. I don’t wanna go into space. I’m happy with this island here. I’m not very fond of planes, even. Trains are very fine, thank you. And Mom hates flying.”
“I am getting a bit anxious about that switch” Rose bit her lip. “I mean… It is a bit, well. Weird. Are you sure we will manage to fool all of them effectively?”
Mina sniffed.
“I will do my best to keep them from catching me on anything. I really hope we manage to keep it up until Halloween. We could make a big reveal out of it, you know. Like, dress up in our normal clothes…”
“And when they ask you, who are you actually dressed as, you say ‘Rose’!”
“As long as they don’t cart me off to Bedlam, it should work quite fine.”
“Grandma will probably think I’m mad – you’re mad – when I do the same.”
They sat up, looking at each other with wide eyes and even wider smiles.
“I wish we had an instant camera, to catch their faces when we tell them.”

#

He looked at the list of limitations he had to adhere to when renovating anything in the house and groaned. He really didn’t want to break any more rules, and with the house registered as a proper national monument the amount of changes he was actually allowed to make was minuscule. He would have probably been better off starting a new construction somewhere on the grounds and keeping the main house as it was, using a few rooms for official occasions and record-keeping. 
He opened his contact list and searched for an appropriate person to address the problem. If he planned this correctly, first workers could be on site in January or February, making it quite possible to have the whole thing finished by the next school year. And it would give them the chance to decorate and air the house in warmer months, instead of being stuck inside, inhaling paint fumes.
He checked Rose’s room again. No, no way she was going to spend any more time than necessary in this gloom and darkness. This year he would deal with it by exchanging the furniture and window curtains, to make it all a bit lighter. He would store all the current furnishings anyway – could be used to embellish some of the public rooms downstairs, unless Rose wanted to keep anything specific.
He would make an appointment with a landscape architect and a designer and start picking the place for the new house. Maybe he’d even manage to put some work in this year budget, if he economised. If they could break the ground in the fall, the whole plan could be done so much faster.

#

Rose sat nervously fiddling with the hem of her t-shirt as Mina wielded the big scissors they’d lifted from the craft room.
“Last moment to say ‘no'” she warned. “Once I cut, they stay cut.”
“Cut” Rose nodded. “First the braid, whole, then cut it up to look like yours. I hope we’ll manage to get it to look similar enough.”
With a swift crunch, the braid fell down and Rose caught it quickly, wrapping it up in a handkerchief. She sat motionless as Mina made quick work of cutting the rest of her hair even shorter, to match her own close cropped head.
“Aunt Catherine will scream when she sees me.”
“Well, it will be me, actually. Unless she keeps screaming until November, but then it won’t be our problem anymore, because someone will get her committed.”
“Let’s hope she does. I’d say a few weeks of being consistently screamed at are not a big price to pay for getting rid of her for the rest of our lives.”
“If we can get her out of the way, and, well, aunt Anne too, then at least you’ll have a chance to do things they always forbid you to. I mean, come on. Would Dad take away aunt Jane’s pliers, if aunt Anne hadn’t intervened?”
“No, don’t think so. We even used them in the shed at some point, to pull nails when I hammered them wrong.”
Mina’s hand dropped to her side and she looked at her sister accusingly.
“So you know how to use a hammer, and still you looked at me like I was weird for hitting these nails correctly!”
“I… Well, I did it in a workshop. Not fixing up a whole house. Or a cabin. Or whatever. It was a bird feeder!”
“The same principle, sis. It’s still a hammer, some nails and a bit of wood. Really. I felt like I was some McGyver from the looks you were giving me.”
“Because you are so… so self-reliant. I mean, if I got a splinter, Mrs Reynolds would take it out for me. Or Dad. And you, you have these… tweezers. Specially for that. And other things like this. I feel like I’m the younger one, sometimes, you know” she sniffed. “I’m sure Mom will find me out in minutes.”
Mina sat on the table and looked down on Rose, biting her lip.
“It’s because it’s only Mom and me” she said finally. “I had to learn that stuff. Like, taking public transport on my own. Adele still rides everywhere with grandma, when aunt Lydia can’t take her, because they live in the same house. And I can cook, because Mom started showing me how to do stuff after that one time that she had flu and couldn’t cook, so we lived on pizza and Chinese takeout for three days.”
Rose nodded slowly.
“I help Dad with cooking when we’re hiking” she said, hesitantly. “But it’s usually me chopping stuff up, or bringing in more wood for the fire, or stirring whatever it is in the pot.”
“So you’re fine cooking stuff over open fire on a hike, but not with cooking on gas?”
“Wood doesn’t blow up” Rose pointed out. “It’s not the fire I don’t like, it’s the idea of the old installations, like the one at school.”
Mina sighed.
“We have a lot of stuff to cover. And only two more weeks left. I really hope we can keep this up.”
“I hope I don’t get lost on the Tube.”
“I hope wolves don’t eat me in the woods.”
“I hope our little cousins won’t find me out.”
“I hope aunt Catherine won’t find me out.”
They breathed deeply in synchronisation.
“Enough” Rose said finally. “Let’s make sure we don’t trip on the basic stuff, and we can deal with everything else. We are twins, after all. Unless I suddenly start speaking with the Derbyshire accent, we should be able to survive until November.”
“Try not to. Mom always corrects me if I use any of the London slang, so…”
“Let’s not give them too much material.”

#

The kayak in the middle of the pond was isolated enough. They conferred quietly, making sure there were no interested gossipy faces looking at them.
“So… do you think we could get them, like, back together?”
Mina sighed.
“Mom is always saying that she doesn’t need a man in her life to feel complete. And sometimes she adds that she has had enough of male interference with her work and career, thank you. Grandma is then always spluttering that there is nothing like a proper man to fill in the hole in her life, and then aunt Lydia is making noises about her also needing a proper man and Mom…” she grimaced. “Mom usually goes a bit white then. I hadn’t noticed first, but then aunt Jane asked her once if she was feeling well, and uncle Ted said that she was so pale he could probably count all freckles on her face. And then I saw it again, and again. Every time someone raises the topic, she looks ready to be sick. Worse than last time on the plane, and actually was sick then.”
“God. That sounds… bad. I just hope it…”
“I really hope it’s not Dad she’s thinking about.”
“That would have been… no. No way.”
“If it was, she would have told aunt Jane.”
“And then uncle Charles would have stopped coming to see us.”
“Or they would have done something to get you out.”
“Instead, they just manipulated us into coming here.”
“That’s… a relief.”
They sat in slightly sickened silence for a moment, prodding the water with one oar or the other to keep the kayak in place.
Rose rubbed her nose and sighed.
“Dad doesn’t really, like, need someone more – he always says he has aunt Georgiana, because she will never move away, she loved Pemberley too much. And every time aunt Catherine tries to press him to declare he’d marry aunt Anne and says that the house ‘needs a woman’s hand’ he says that the house needs a bloody museum curator, not a woman’s hand. That was a direct quote, mind you.”
“Pemberley is that old?”
“Pretty old. Some Middle Ages D’Arcy apparently staked the claim to the land and built a hold there. Dad says the hold is a myth, because it is a lousy place for a stronghold, but every year we have a bunch of history students running across the estate, looking for ruins and sometimes finding a coin or two. Two years ago Dad actually paid them for some work they did in the meanwhile, because it turned out their research grant was cancelled and they were left without money. So he said if they are history students, they can order the house accounts from like, hundred years ago. We have like rooms and rooms of household records, staff lists and so on. They took over the music room and sorted it all by years, divided by categories, added little notes as to what links to what. And when they were done, they put the records all in order in the old housekeeper room and old Master’s study and the account books in the old servants quarters, because they made so many notes that they couldn’t make it fit in the old place. But Dad was happy, because they helped him to track down some ancestors’ names that hadn’t been recorded in the family Bible.”
“I wonder they still allow you to live in there” Mina picked up a bit of grass from the surface of the water. “They probably should have covered it all with glass and not allow you to play, run around or even breathe in there.”
Rose shrugged.
“Dad has it documented somewhere, what we are allowed to do and what not. But I like it there. The only lousy part is it being so far away from everything. Even cinema is like half of an hour drive, because it’s on the other side of Lambton. And it’s always like three weeks late with everything.”
“Sucks. At least there are no big movies coming in the next two months.”
“And… I know! I will ask Dad to take me to London to see the Star Wars! This way I’ll be there for Christmas!”
Mina smiled widely.
“That is something we could definitely do together. Maybe we could make it to the premiere even!”

#
“I’m sorry we couldn’t drop by, but Jane wanted to be in London earlier. The kids were a bit cranky, too, so, basically, the only person social enough would have been me.”
“That’s fine, I understand it perfectly” he stretched on the windowsill, trying to find a warmer patch. “Anything in particular happening? It’s the middle of summer, so Jane doesn’t have any lessons to prepare for, I thought.”
The silence on the other end of the line was a hint by itself.
“What happened?” he said softly, head drooping slightly.
“Jane promised she will be at the court today, there is a case… well, it’s not very easy. Some higher-up idiot thought paying a female programmer the same money as men…”
He rubbed his temple.
“Is it…? I mean, do you… do you need anything? Can I help?”
“No, it’s rather clear-cut. A very nice lawyer decided to pick it up, and she’s as ferocious as they come. Jane only promised to be there to hold her hand. You know. They do it all the time, both of them. Last time Jane got stuck at the uni because of the fire drill and I was in Vienna, all the kids were picked up on time and in the car by the time the drill was over. And you know what she thinks of driving in London.”
He sighed.
“Charles, I… thank you.”
“No problem.”
“And how is…?”
“Perfectly well, the last I saw her.”
“Thank you.”
“Anytime, Will. Now, tell me about that project of yours, it sounds challenging. Will you need anything special?”
“I planned using only locally-sourced materials, but obviously, can’t have everything from Derbyshire. If you could give me some contacts to that lovely lady from Scotland who made the rugs Jane loved so much, I’d be grateful.”
“William, I meant something more substantial. At least tell me you’d be using good quality roof cover, and not… wooden shingles, or something equally rustic.”
“I was considering thatched roof, actually” he tried to sound thoughtful “but now that you mention shingles, I could try for something more modern. I mean, I wouldn’t go so far as to pick slate shingles, but wooden…” Charles snorted. “To be honest, I’d be happy to have your input on a full-roof solar panel installation, considering the weather in the area. Does it make sense, from the economic point of view?”
He heard Charles putting down the tea mug.
“Well, that depends on the placement, solar exposure and what kind of construction you will have to support them…”
“If I put you in touch with the main architect, could you put together a proposal, if we assume that the main goal is to have the house both insulated and as self-powering as possible? Maybe aiming at covering the whole roof with panels, as the basic target?”
Charles coughed.
“You definitely found yourself a challenge for the quiet summer weeks.”
“And a nuisance for the fall, winter and spring, if all goes well.”
“OK, let me dig up these specifications I’ve received last month and we’ll see what can be done to make your little house of dreams the shining example of power efficiency.”

#

“Any ideas how to make them at least consider the possibility?”
“We won’t have a chance until we know what really happened. Maybe they had a huge row about something totally insignificant and now they are too ashamed to just start talking?”
“Or maybe they argued about something major and there is no way for them to reconcile?”
“Like what? If uncle Charles is still talking to both of them, then at least none of them had killed someone. Or hurt the other one.”
Mina nodded slowly.
“We can probably assume that, yes. But if they quarrelled about something personal, something that he doesn’t know about?”
Rose added another piece of paper straw to her basket.
“I suppose we have to understand what it was. Because we can’t properly plan without that.”
“So… which one do we ask for what?”
“I’d say both. Because until we know what Mom thinks, we can’t convince her to talk to him, and the other way round is valid, too. He can send aunt Georgina to hand you over and pick me, if he decides he doesn’t want to talk to Mom. Or they even could ask aunt Jane and uncle Charles to switch us, and avoid contact completely!”
“OK, so we interrogate them – carefully – and text the outcome to each other.”
“We have to put our own numbers in the other’s phone. And label them so that nobody can guess.”
“Easy. We’ve met so many kids on this camp, at least half will be exchanging numbers. You can put mine in your phone as… Sharon. And I put yours…”
“I know a Sharon, so better not. But something starting with an S, just to make sure we have it in more or less the same place?”
“Susan?”
“Susan is fine. No Susans at my school, at least.”
“And now when we text, adults will think we’re just gossipping with a girl from the camp.”
“Which will be perfectly true.”
#

The courthouse was cool and the corridor provided a place for them to sit and lean on a stone wall. They waited in silence as Andrea prepared her documents.
“It will be all fine, Lizzy” she said finally, smiling slightly. “This should be quick and neat and we’ll get your money – and appropriate compensation – in no time.”
Jane smiled at the lawyer, looking over her sister’s bowed head.
“Now, we’ll be called in like, maybe, half an hour” Andrea checked her watch. “I’ll go and fetch a coffee, OK? Anything for you two?”
“A black tea? Lizzy?”
“No, thanks” came a quiet reply. “Thank you for coming with us, Andy.”
“It’s my job, Liz. And I love pulling their whiskers. All these old men with their suits and important faces and then you and me and our perfectly collected evidence. Now, latte for me, tea for Jane?”
“Yes, thank you. And… pick a bottle of water when you are in the cafe, could you? The fountains here look nasty.”
“Sure will” the young lawyer placed her binder on her seat and marched down the corridor jauntily.
“Good thing Mina is at the camp and she doesn’t have to witness all this… crap” Elizabeth ventured quietly. “Thank you, Janey.”
“It will do her good, I’m sure. She is very self-sufficient, you know it. She needs a chance to spread her wings without our whole family making remarks and holding her down.”
Elizabeth sighed and leaned back.
“I don’t want to hold her down – or back, or whatever. She has to have space to grow.”
“Lizzy, you are not the one holding her down. You are the one lifting her up and giving her the needed push.”
The younger woman traced a line down the length of her skirt.
“And what about…”
“She is fine. She is OK. Growing up like she’s supposed to.”
“Maybe I should…”
Jane’s cool palm caressed her cheek.
“Think about it, Lizzy. It may be good for all of you.”
“It’s just that…” she trailed off. “I maybe hoped he would answer, one day.”
“What do you…”
“Tea!” Andrea handed her the paper cup. “And your water, icy cold. Straight from the freezer, so it still has actual ice inside. And Lizzy, I know you didn’t want anything, but I can’t have you fainting on me when it’s our turn, can I?” she pressed a small cup of very milky tea into Elizabeth’s hands. “And it’s our turn in a moment, because apparently someone didn’t show up, so they are moving the schedule by fifteens minutes.”
Elizabeth took a long sip and nodded.
“Thank you, Andy. It wouldn’t look very well if I collapsed in front of the judge when I’m trying to prove that I’m as capable as any guy in the industry, now can I?”
“Would totally spoil your image as a self-sufficient and independent modern woman. Drink your tea, ladies, and let’s go and fight for equal compensation.”

#

“Mom always helps me to unpack, so let’s make sure we didn’t mix up any of the clothes.”
“I’m not sure I can remember what is mine at this point” Rose picked up a pair of panties. “OK, I will make a heap of what I’m sure is mine, you make yours and we’ll discuss the leftovers.”
“Each of us packs herself, picks the outfit for tomorrow and…”
“And then we swap. It’s just a bit weird.”
“Just make sure we also have all the right cables and connectors. Or it will be a very awkward time before we find replacements.”
“And shoes, don’t forget about shoes.”
“Guitar” Mina said with trepidation. “Oh, Lord. I forgot.”
They stared at the instrument they had managed to ignore for the past six weeks.
“How could we have forgotten a whole guitar?” Rose asked, sitting down heavily.
“Well, I happily did” Mina shrugged. “Good thing I was supposed to learn playing it this summer. So you’ll just have to explain that… you didn’t have time. That’s all.”
“She will be disappointed, won’t she?”
Mina sighed, puffing out her cheeks.
“A bit. But tell her about something else you’ve picked up at the camp. Like, I don’t know…”
“Plushie sewing” Rose provided with distaste. “I can ask her to help me make some for the little ones. Not that I’m a fan of sewing, but if I have to…”
Mina patted her hand.
“Mom will love the idea. Don’t worry.”
“Now, let’s make sure we don’t mix up the t-shirts. Too many white ones here…”

Written by Srebrna

2018/02/28 at 22:29

Posted in Uncategorized

My accounts at FF sites

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Written by Srebrna

2017/11/24 at 20:14

Posted in Uncategorized

Tough Ladies Society

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The bar was full and noisy.
Ellie Bishop sipped her drink and deftly moved out of the way of a group of chatty young women in black jumpsuits.
The bar was full of women.
Ellie wasn’t exactly clear on how she got there and it was worrying her a bit. She was a special agent and she was supposed to know better than to find herself in a strange place, with no familiar face in sight and drinking something she wasn’t sure she ordered.
Fortunately the “no familiar face” was resolved in a matter of minutes as the ball of black lace and ADHD that was Abby approached her and started chatting in excitement about some friends she met.
OK, so I came here with Abby. That’s a relief. At least I hope so.
Abby’s friends invariably turned out to be a bit weird, but usually they were safe. Girl had good instincts.
“And you have to meet Kate” Abby gushed finally. “I kind of didn’t expect to find her here, but she is, and you will love her!”
Ellie blinked.
“Kate?”
Abby smiled wider than usually.
“Caitlin Todd. She worked with us like ten years ago.”
Ellie blinked again.
“Caitlin? The one that was…”
“Shot” unfamiliar voice supplied from behind her. “Yeah, that would be me.”
A smiling face, very fit body and… a band-aid in the middle of her forehead. Scull-and-bones bandaid, obviously from Abby’s supplies.
“I needed to cover the hole” Kate noticed Ellie’s gaze. “Ducky did a good job sewing it up and covering the mark before the funeral, but here it stayed as it was at the moment of my death, unfortunately. I don’t want to scare anyone by leaking something by accident. Caitlin Todd, Secret Service, NCIS, whatever you pick.”
“Ellie Bishop” she put away her drink and shook proffered hand. “NSA, NCIS.”
“Gibbs still in the business of stealing agents from other places?”
Ellie snorted.
“We even have an MI-6 guy now.”
“Wow” Kate sipped her own drink. “Any other gals from NCIS around here?”
“Aaa…” Abby hummed to herself. “I am pretty sure I saw the other Abigail, although she’s Coast Guard, actually. And Kensi.”
“Kensi?” Ellie asked, waving the barman for a refill.
“The one from Los Angeles branch” Abby explained absently, as her eyes scanned for something in the crowd. Her hand went up to cover her mouth.
“Abby? What is it?”
Ellie strained to see over the heads of taller women when suddenly the crowds parted enough for her to see two figures hugging. Finally they disengaged, revealing one of them to be, in fact, someone known to her – Special Agent Borin – but the other…
“ZIVA!”
A woman on the opposite side of the room winced, but Ziva fluidly turned towards Abby and accepted the enthusiastic Goth with a hug of her own.
Ellie moved a step towards them, greeting Agent Borin and surveying the two brunettes in the middle. Suddenly there was a lot of movement, and a flash of red hair joined the two, then another redhead run past Ellie and hugged Kate with ferocity.
“Rachel” Ellie could only hear before others separated them. She and Borin silently toasted each other and watched Abby try to hug the last breath out of Ziva with pleasure.

Kate twirled her glass between her fingers as she watched the throngs of complete strangers. She wasn’t exactly sure what happened to get her here, but she vaguely remembered an invitation delivered to the precinct for her and the captain. The boys wanted to know what was going on, but as she herself wasn’t all that sure, she hid the envelope in the one place they’d never dare to touch – her purse – and ignored it until she got home.
Now she wasn’t all that sure she made the right choice to accept it. She felt more and more alone, despite the amount of women around her.
“Weird, huh?” a raspy voice asked from behind her.
She turned, smiling already.
“Detective Rizzoli” she greeted the taller woman.
“Ah-ah. Agent Rizzoli” the other corrected her. “As of last week, I’m officially working for FBI.”
“Been there, done that” Beckett quipped. “Now, is there anyone familiar here, or is it just a random party… just for girls?”
Rizzoli shrugged.
“I’ve seen a few I know – from the force – most look about as bewildered as you just were. I think I even identified a few Brits, just by the accent. Not sure what the theme is supposed to be, but the very fact that there is a limited number of people here who would be looking down my blouse and drooling or trying to squeeze my ass is a relief.”
Beckett nodded and looked around them.
“Play a game?” she whispered.
“What kind?”
“Spot-a-cop.”
Jane snorted.
“Easy. Me first. The brunette with a clip on the top of her head… is it for her fringe, or what?”
“Probably. Tall Latina in the corner.”
“She is wearing an uniform” Jane said in mild reproach. “That’s cheating.”
“Never said civilian clothes only.”
“Mhm. So, the pretty Afroamerican by the other bar.”
“Nice. Blonde in red leather jacket.”
“You sure?”
“Looks like it. Also, she forgot to take off her sheriff badge.”
“Mh-hm. The other blonde, just next to her. Either police or military.”
“Military, definitely. Look at her posture. Like a ramrod up her…”
“So the two tall ones at the table. One if definitely British, I can hear her accent from here. The other is American. Both look like they could pound a guy twice their side into ground. Maybe not police, but I’d bet they both have service weapons.”
The couple in question obviously barely had eyes for anyone else, as the taller woman looked adoringly at her companion.
“Add the wavy-haired, short one alone there by the pillar” a new voice said from behind them and Kate all but jumped, almost spilling her drink.
“Alexis!”
“Hi, Kate” redhead kissed her cheek. “Sorry to sneak up on you, but you didn’t react when I weaved.”
“How do you know that last one is a cop?”
Alexis rolled her eyes.
“She told me. She used to be a WPC, from Manchester. Very old-school, but she was just promoted to detective and she’s very excited about it. Her boyfriend is a detective, too, so she is worried about consequences of dating someone in the office. Kind of spills almost everything when prompted.”
Kate nodded and hugged her stepdaughter just a bit.
“Does your father know you’re here?”
Alexis sighed deeply.
“I’m, like, twenty, Mum. Also, I’m drinking soda.”
“OK. Just keep away from…”
“There are no guys here, Kate. I think I’ll be quite safe.”
As Alexis made her way towards a group of younger girls, chatting quietly by the far wall, Rizzoli nodded in appreciation.
“Your daughter?”
“Rick’s. I got her as a package deal, and I’m trying to be the best possible stepmother for her” Kate shrugged. “Her own mother is a bit of an idiot, so Alexis attaches herself to stronger role models in her life. She loves Laine and had already assisted at the coroner’s office for some time. And she had a short period of following me like a worshipper in the religion of Kate. Managed to get her to loosen up a bit, but it took time. She’s trying to balance Rick’s stupid ideas by being a grownup of the family.”
Jane raised her glass and clinked it carefully against Kate’s.
“To girls with great role models.”
“Yeah.”

She heard both her name and surname called a few times, but every time it actually was someone else who was wanted. Small table hidden by a bit of a wall made a good hiding spot and so she alternated drinking her beer with gnawing on a fingernail.
“You really shouldn’t do it” a low, furry voice came from the other side of the short wall.
Abbie’s head shot up to see a slightly amused woman looking down at her.
“Joss” the woman weaved slightly. “You prefer sitting alone, or would you rather join us?”
The company was a bit strange. Abby was working very hard on understanding the group dynamic between Joss – who was obviously a police officer, which was a relief – Zoe, Shaw and Root. They seemed very… integrated, and that included Root and Shaw holding hands, in a rather desperate manner, for the whole time. When they left for a moment to get new drinks from the bar, Abbie managed to shoot Joss a questioning glance.
“Root died” the older woman explained quietly. “And Shaw had issues. I’m happy they can meet sometimes, like this.”
Abbie blinked and considered that for a moment.
“I died, too” she whispered. “I didn’t notice it until now, but…” she trailed off. “Oh, my. I died.”
“Well, so did I” Joss shrugged. “One crooked cop left and he managed to do so much damage.”
Zoe patted her hand.
“The boys were devastated” she said quietly. “But Harold managed to secure a scholarship for your son and get him out of the city.”
Joss inhaled, closing her eyes.
“It’s good this is only ladies’ evening” she said, shakily. “I don’t think I could have managed otherwise. Say ‘hi’ to John for me, ok?”
Zoe nodded slowly.
“I… I will.”
As Root and Shaw made their way back to the table, they were trailed by a hunched figure in a hoodie.
“I think we’ve found something you’ll like, agent Mills” Root giggled slightly. “And she looks exactly like you.”

“Would you stop doing that?”
“What?” she smirked and her eyes flashed gold again.
“That. Every time you do that, I start looking for a Dalek.”
“Come on. You’re just jealous.”
“Sure. I’m the only at least superficially normal one.”
“Oi! Who are you calling crazy!”
“Shh.”
“And why are your eyes flashing? Are you making fun of me?”
Groan.

Moira hugged herself in slight discomfort. Her clothes visibly contrasted with much clingier and skimpier fashion of obviously younger women around her. She leaned on one of the pillars and tried to locate any familiar face, but the only one she could actually hope for was Raven – and that meant she could search for hours. She really hoped she wouldn’t see Jean or Ororo, because that would have been a bad end to that evening. Hauling home two protesting under-21s would be hard anyway, and Jean and Ororo in particular…
“FBI?” someone asked from her left.
“CIA” she smiled. “You?”
“FBI” the redhead handed her a glass. “Looking for someone?”
“Ah, a sister of a friend. But it may not be exactly her type of place.”
“She wouldn’t be interested in this kind of company?” a British-accented suggestion came from the right. “Myself, I’m quite happy to see that many law enforcement females in one place. At home, I just have one girl on the team. I was hoping for one, maybe two more, but our department didn’t really get the memo about equality hiring.”
The FBI agent snorted.
“My department had exact fifty-fifty. Me and my partner, the wacko.”
Moira shrugged.
“I actually got demoted to steno pool after a short stint as the only woman in the whole division. Because they didn’t like my results.”
“Didn’t do so good?”
“Too good” she shrugged. “But I got amnesia so they could kick me down the ladder without even giving a good reason.”
“Ouch” the other two emitted in unison.
“I almost got demoted for being crazy, but, well, amnesia is also good. I’m Alex, by the way.”
“Moira” she shook the offered hand.
“Dana. The normal one, supposedly.”

“Look at her.”
Martha strained to see in the direction pointed.
“Which one?”
“The stressed one by the bar. Do you see her clothes? She’s like what, World War Two?”
“Looks like it. Did they have women soldiers?”
Shrug.
“Jack would know. Also, he would drool.”
“What are you two blathering about?!”
“Argh.”

Laine was making a schematic of her latest autopsy on the table covered with paper napkins, drawing in red wine, as Maura and Camille leaned in to see better the details.
“And there was a cut, all the way through the lung, up to the trachea. We spent hours trying to work out what kind of blade would do this kind of damage.”
Camille looked at her expectantly.
“A sleigh runner. Someone unscrewed a metal runner from kids sleigh and rammed it up the guy’s stomach.”
“That is something which would never have happened in New Orleans” a remark from behind them made them look around at Loreta’s smiling face. “We can get all sorts of things, but not a sleigh runner.”
“Well, we in New York don’t get Mardi Gras murders” Laine remarked wryly. “I’ll take sleigh runners every day if I don’t have to deal with the freaky stuff that you get in N.O.”

Ziva combed back her hair, looking at Kate in fascination.
Ellie couldn’t get her eyes off Ziva and Kate.
Rachel couldn’t be separated from Kate, there seemed to be no place even for a prybar.
Abby couldn’t decide if she wanted to hug Kate or Ziva more.
Abigail and Jenny knocked back a bourbon each and were sitting there quietly, looking in contentment at the younger women.
“I wish I had a chance to watch them work all together” Jenny remarked quietly. “They would have knocked the boys flat on their collective ass.”
Abigail chuckled.
“They did anyway. Both Ziva and Ellie, at least as far as I’ve worked with them. Ellie can run circles around them with all her smarts, maybe slightly less with McGee, but still.”
Jenny nodded slowly, but stiffened suddenly at the sight of a tall blonde in the middle of the doorway.
“Macy?”
Abby’s head shot up.

“Now, mother, how are you doing?”
“Reasonably well, considering. Do you have any idea how I possibly got out of the time lock in Manhattan?”
Shrug.
“Probably they same way I am out of the Library.”

“Cassie, don’t be nervous. Just lot of people. I know you aren’t very happy in the crowd, but…”
“Eve, it’s not that. It’s something wrong about the room itself” Cassandra’s eyes unfocused. “It’s like… someone had warped the space here, to make a normal room not only be big enough for however many people, but…” she weaved, arranging her visualisation. “Ah. There is a time continuum problem, too.”
“Do we have to do something about it?” Eve sipped her drink, still observing her surroundings suspiciously.
“God, that sounds so like me” someone joined them without Eve noticing, which made her flinch uncontrollably.
“Excuse me?”
The newcomer raised her glass to them.
“I’ll drink to time continuum problems” she laughed. “Susan, Susan Ivanova. General. Earth Force. ”
“Eve Baird. Major. NATO.”
Susan smirked.
“Guessed so. Cheers.”
They drained their glasses, looking on as Cassandra tried to reorganise the hallucination of the room’s schematics.
“That’s a nice place” Susan remarked casually. “Come here often?”
Eve shrugged.
“Mostly I’m stuck with the team of crazy scientists – and a thief – so I don’t really have time for socialising. But it’s nice, really. Probably good for Cassie, too. She doesn’t socialise at all.”
“She OK?” Susan nodded towards Cassie, who was obviously fascinated with whatever she saw in the air in front of her.
“Quite. Just doing magic.”

“Dear me” she whispered, watching the crowd around her. “I might have seen the Loch Ness Monster, but this is something new.”

Annie held onto her beer carefully and tried to make her way across the floor to the redhead she spoke to before – at least to find a slightly-familiar face, when her ears caught a bit of conversation she just had to follow.
“…and that neanderthal says ‘I’m bigger in every department’. You know, three minutes after meeting and he’s already spewing innuendo. And it’s been like this for next three years. Bloody Gene Hunt.”
“Wow” another woman breathed. “That’s some crappy boss. At least Mulder never ever said stuff like this. Others may have, of course, but never Mulder. And our actual boss would never… FBI had very strict rules. They might have treated me like an idiot and, of course, paid me less than Mulder ever got, but at least no sexual advances.”
“Gene Hunt was one big, smoking, suspect-hitting narcissistic sexual advance.”
“Excuse me” Annie managed finally. “Are you talking about DCI Gene Hunt?”
The woman looked at her in surprise.
“Is there a chance for more than one Gene Hunt in police force? I hope not, because that would probably break some natural laws.”
Annie smiled finally.
“DC Anne Tyler, nice to meet ya.”
The other’s eyes widened.
“Annie? Annie Carthwright?”
“Yees?”
“Wow” she breathed and suddenly pulled her into a hug. “And you married him? Sam?”
Annie frowned.
“Do I know you?”
“No, no, sit down” she patted the place next to her. “I’m Alex. Alex Drake, DI. 1981.”
Annie nodded.
“So you came after we…”
“Went to the pub, yeah.”
“Never met you there.”
Alex shrugged.
“I suppose I’m still stuck somewhere near the door.”
One of the others made a small sound.
“Ah. Sorry. This is Dana Scully, from FBI. And Moira MacTaggert, CIA.”
“Nice to meet you both” Annie nodded, but her focus came back to Alex.
“Why would you be near the door? We’re in the back, everyone is in the back, actually.”
Alex cringed a bit.
“I’m still counting on him finally coming through.”
Annie’s eyes went even wider than Alex’s.
“You mean the Guv? Why would you be waiting for the Guv? He’ll never come…”
“Well, than Nelson will keep serving me margaritas on the doorstep.”

Ororo watched Hermione wave her wand in fascination. The girl had skills. Maybe with someone like this their school would have been in less trouble from outsiders.
“And all your facilities are hidden from surveillance?”
Hermione nodded, still swirling the wand.
“Cloaking spell” she explained shortly. “You have to know the thing is there and to know how to get through the cloak. Even planes fly over our school and they just can’t see it. There are whole sections of London blocked from external influence.”
Jean made a face and fixed her hair.
Ginny straightened a bit and shook her tresses back in a gesture vaguely resembling Miss Piggy.
Jean snorted silently.
Ginny rolled her eyes.
“You two, knock it off” Hermione warned. “You’re disturbing my spell.”
Ororo glanced at them.
“What were they doing?”
Hermione gave the spell the last twirl.
“Probably trying to play the reddest redhead. Also, you’re both kind of second place. That one” she pointed out a slender, short-haired woman in a group next to them “wins every redhead contest, for me.”
“That’s a dye job” Ginny protested.
“It is a very good dye job” Hermione shrugged and tapped her wand against the glass three times. “Now, this is ready. A sip each and we can party until the dawn and not regret it tomorrow. No-hangover potion, coming up.”
Ororo looked at the sparkling fluid with suspicion.
“Oh, come on” Ginny seized the glass and took the first sip. “Let’s have some fun!”

Maggie watched her sister in worry, hoping for the frown lines to finally relax. Mere never seemed to relax anymore, and that worried Maggie more and more. Suddenly she saw her sister’s face crumble and eyes tear up. She scanned the crowd for anyone even vaguely familiar – bloody Derek, or what? – but couldn’t understand what might have shook Meredith so. That is until the crowd parted strategically and a thin, tall, weavy-haired brunette pushed herself towards them.
“Alexandra Caroline Grey, what the hell are you doing here?” Meredith’s voice quavered slightly and broke on the last word.
Maggie’s eyes widened as she watched her sister hug, well, her sister.
We’re one messed up family.
“GREY!”
Meredith visibly winced, but turned slowly around to stare at the tall redhead.
“Ah. Addison.”
Suddenly Mere found herself swept in a hug.
“You should have called me” Addison complained softly. “I’d have been there for you.”
Scratch that… It’s more than just one family.

“Not that I’m complaining, Regina, but do you have any idea what this may all be about?”
The brunette shrugged, downing another drink.
“Not my curse, this time.”
“Well, unless it included another memory charm.”
“And a wish to be surrounded by all this… femininity.”
“You’d rather be here, now, for an evening, or at home, trying to work out all the mess we’re stuck in?”
“Also, your mother apparently isn’t here to talk at us.”
Emma’s eyes widened and she quickly turned to the bar for another drink.

“A bloody ballgown” she snickered. “What I’d give for a normal dress!”
“I could magic you one. But blue is really not your colour.”
“What I’d give for a normal pair of slippers. Everyone thinks that glass ones are my signature and that joke stopped being funny years ago.”
“What I’d give for a walk in the woods when I’m not being accosted by some wild animals trying to be my best friends.”
“What I’d give for a haircut!”
“What I’d give for… Actually, I think I’m fine. Finally, I don’t have to clean and mend everything anymore” the brunette at the end of the table remarked and knocked away a shot. “You have no idea how much mess seven little guys can make.”
“Ouch. Tough. At least customers in my restaurant finally learnt there’s a limit to what they can do in establishment co-owned by kingdom of Molvania. Apparently royal guards, even retired, do make for effective calming force.”
“Try travelling with a military camp. These guys aren’t just messy. They take messy to a new level.”
“At least if someone makes mess on the deck of a boat, it’s washed away” the next girl shrugged. “And either they learn to put their stuff away or they lose a lot.”

“Doctor.”
“Colonel.”
“How’s the base?”
“Still keeping above water. How’s SGC?”
“Still not invaded.”
“How’s…”
“He’s fine. We’re fine. And…?”
“Fine, too” Elizabeth nodded, smiling. “At least you don’t have to worry about chain of command anymore” she added.
“You two never had to.”
“Well, technically. Imagine what Rodney would have done, had he ever found out.”
“Really, bringing up McKay, at such a lovely event.”
“He remains the bane of our existence, and also probably John’s best friend.”
Samantha sipped her beer.
“You should find John some better friends.”

A group of four by the large window stared at everything in awe.
The mechanic summed it up in one fascinated word.
“Shiny.”

“I suppose many of you are wondering what is going on here” a voice came out of tall speakers and suddenly whole room was hushed. A tiny woman at the top of a dais was now highlighted by a strong lamp. “As the secretary of state Madeleine Albright once said, ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’. With this in mind, I organised this meeting – and this meeting place. With a lot of help from our friends from across the pond” she gestured and Bad Wolf cheerily waved to everyone “and certain other places” there was a moment for Susan Ivanova to give a short bow, just as she was joined by a regal-looking Minbari “we’ve managed to set up this corner of the universe that meets all of our homes at the same time. And you can stop trying to work it out, miss Cillian, it can only make your migraine worse if you try.”
“Hetty!” Abby grinned happily at her.
“Yes, Miss Sciuto, that is most definitely me. Now, as I was saying. This is a gathering place for all of us. For each of us female companionship is scarce, and some are rather lonesome in their daily life between men only, or, even worse, under someone’s direct and unwelcome control. We will try to make the invitation reach more and more persons interested, but for today, this is how fat the word had gotten. You can visit here any time you wish. You can come and just… be together, without being judged or having to prove yourselves. Everyone is welcome here, from a scullery maid to a… Ah. Welcome, your Highness.”
Two newcomers joined the crowd and Hetty was addressing the taller of the two, all swathed in white and with a probably a very uncomfortable hairdo resembling a set of headphones.
“I’m glad you could come. It is true, after all, that you live so far, far away.”

“What are you going to call this place, my dear Hetty?”
The tiny woman swallowed her tea and considered the point very carefully.
“I was thinking of something along the lines of ‘Tough Ladies Society'” she said slowly. “But it doesn’t really sound that well.”
Jessica grimaced and shuffled the cards.
“I’d go for “Tough Bitches Society”, but that’s me. Now, who’s in for a round of bridge?”
Hetty leaned back.
“I’ll just watch, but that may be interesting. However I’m sure Mrs Steward would gladly join you.”
“Kate, you interested?”
Tall blonde in an impeccable business suit turned briefly towards them.
“Sure, how could I not be. Just give me a minute” she turned to her bespectacled companion and pointed out someone in the crowd. “Go and bother her for a bit. She was all over space and time, after all. She may have better answers than UNIT can provide.”
“So, that would be Kate and me against the two of you” Jessica started dealing the cards. “Hope you’re up to the challenge.”
The other two glanced at each other and smirked.
“Now, Miss Rosenberg” Hetty patted one of them on the shoulder. “No powers. You know what I mean.”

“Tough Bitches Society” Olivia smirked at Olivia. “That sounds about right.”
Olivia punched her lightly on the shoulder.
“And you’d get a senior citizen discount, with all this gray hair.”
Olivia spluttered for a moment.
“You, you… You young person.”
Olivia rolled her eyes.
“You two are not actually arguing, are you?” Astrid asked, stressing the last words. “Because, you know” she nodded towards Astrid.
“You are referring to my lack of ability in social situations, but don’t worry. I am doing much better recently, thank you.”
“Still. You two better not argue, or I will tell Lee and Peter.”
Olivias groaned.

“Mm. Do you think Claudia is somewhere…” Myka trailed off, leaning on the bar and watching the women in the room.
Helena handed her a glass and raised her own in toast.
“I hope so” her tone was genuinely concerned. “That girl doesn’t get out enough. Here, at least, she has a chance to find someone her own age and get some girl bonding time without Pete interfering.”
“He does take the big brother thing a bit too far” Myka agreed. “A propos, I was wondering…” she smiled at her companion. “What could we do, making use of a Pete-free evening.”
Helena smiled in an altogether wicked way.

Written by Srebrna

2017/11/22 at 09:34

Posted in Uncategorized