Grayson arrives at his lesson looking a bit paranoid. (The girls, for him, have managed to drop off the face of Kolvir... Makes him a little nervous.)
Ariana looks concerned. "Are you all right Grayson? You seem a bit jumpy today."
He smiles. "Maybe just a bit tired, that's all."
She nods. "If you've been running around with Rinaldo, I'm not at all surprised. That child always had entirely too much energy."
"Child?" he asks with a curious expression. "He doesn't seem much younger than me."
She looks briefly pained, but then hides it. "I can remember swinging him around by his heels at the ocean when he wasn't more than two, before your siblings were even born. He and Foster used to run around together, when he was a boy. It's hard not to think of him as a child when I saw him growing up, I guess."
Grayson shrugs that off easily. "Makes sense. Well, I'm ready if you are."
She nods, and begins the lesson, figuring that with four small infants in the house, eventually he'll hear one of them. :)
And when the first one cries, all of the color drains from his face. He gives Ariana a wild-eyed look.
Ariana stops the lesson and looks at him curiously. "What's wrong, Grayson?"
"What was that?"
"What was what?"
"That mewling, wailing sound," he answers, nervously looking over his shoulder. The baby cries again. Grayson holds a finger up. "That!"
She gives him an odd look and raises an eyebrow. "That's a baby, Grayson. Haven't you ever heard one before? I'm sure they have them in Chaos."
"Actually, I've heard quite a lot of them of late," he says distractedly, more to himself than to her. "Why, Mother, do you have a baby in the house?"
"Well, he'd be awfully uncomfortable outside right now. Bright sun isn't good for children that age. They burn so easily." Her tone is rather dry.
He cows physically. "They actually did it. They actually came to talk to you, didn't they?" he says very quietly.
She nods. "They did. What else were they supposed to do? None of their families will have anything to do with them now. Would you rather they starved to death on the streets?" She doesn't appear to be angry, more like disappointed in him.
He is a man who looks utterly defeated. "I was trying to cobble together a way to support them all, they just didn't give me enough time." Now that he's dropped his facade, he looks utterly exhausted.
Ariana looks relieved and gives him a reassuring hug. "It's all right. I think they just didn't realize that. The culture here doesn't really leave women in their situation many options. Men usually simply abandon them."
"I couldn't do that, but I couldn't marry one of them, either! Heck, I'm not made for marriage. I'd make an awful husband, and I'll probably make a worse father." He coughs a bit with the last sentence.
"I doubt that very much. But I did tell them that I wouldn't try to force you into marriage. I don't believe that's ever good for anyone concerned. So, given that that's not an option, they're going to be staying with me."
"St-staying with you?" His face is a blend of relief, and horror...
She nods. "I have plenty of room. I was expecting to have grandchildren someday, after all, just not quite so soon. And this way I can see them often. And so can you, if you wish."
He trembles and looks a bit faint.
Ariana frowns. "What's wrong?"
"Tired. I'm just very tired."
"Yes, I imagine you are. I wish you'd come to me about this. It must have been terrible to try and deal with it alone."
"It was my problem, my responsibility," he says, as he loosens his collar. "Could I trouble you for a glass of water?"
Ariana conjures one and hands it over, looking concerned. "I realize that, but that doesn't mean you can't ask your family for help."
"And admit to a drunken binge of gigantic proportions? No, I'd rather not. I've made enough mistakes in my life. And I haven't touched a woman since I found out they were all pregnant, if that makes you feel any better." Bitterness is setting in rapidly.
She gives him another hug. "Grayson, do you think you're the only person who's ever gotten drunk and made an error in judgment? I wouldn't have held that against you. And I honestly don't see what abstaining from sex will accomplish, other than to punish yourself. If you're worried about getting any more women pregnant, there are ways to prevent that, so long as you don't walk the Pattern again."
He nods. "I think, if you don't mind, we'd better cut things short today. Now that this is all taken care of, I need some sleep."
Ariana nods. "I had rather assumed that lessons were over for the day. You're welcome to stay here, if you'd like. Unless you need a little distance, right now."
"I think that would be best, yes."
"All right." She looks him over, assessing whether he can make it back to his place on his own. "I know that you probably still have trouble thinking of me as your mother, but I really do want to help you. You needn't be afraid to come to me for help, no matter what you've done."
He looks wretched, and strangely weak. "Sorry. That's just not something I'm used to."
A sad expression crosses her face. "I know. And I'm sorry for that. I wish it had been otherwise. I wish I could have prevented it.
He waves her off. "That is hardly something you have to apologize for, as it wasn't your fault. Is it hot in here?"
"No..." She checks his forehead to see if he feels feverish.
He is very warm. "I'm fine," he says, as he moves her hand away.
"No you aren't, you feel feverish." She looks concerned. "Will you let me examine you? It will only take a moment."
He makes to protest, and finds himself lacking in energy. He nods his consent.
She lays a hand on his head again and runs a diagnostic scan on him.
And she discovers the price Grayson has paid for being born of uncle and niece. He has a very shoddy immune system, and by running himself ragged for months, has manage to contract pneumonia.
She was wondering how he managed to get sick. Once she's figured out what's wrong, she begins to work on healing him.
He relaxes under her touch after a few moments.
She leans back when she is finished, looking somewhat tired but relieved. "You'd managed to give yourself pneumonia, but it should be all right now."
His eyes widen. "I see. I suppose this shall be your rallying banner for me to relax?" he says with a broad grin.
She laughs, since she was about to say just that. "Good guess. Unless you particularly enjoy having pneumonia."
He looks thoughtful. "No, it's a bit too tiring for my tastes. I still feel like I need a nap."
"That's because you do. I've taken care of the pneumonia, but restoring the energy you used up to get you into that state in the first place would take a lot more out of me. I prescribe lots of rest until your body's recovered its equilibrium."
"Well, perhaps if you have a guest room left that I could hide in?"
She smiles. "I think I can find one, yes." She leads him to a room on the other side of the house from where the babies and their mothers are quartered. "Shall I wake you for dinner?"
"No, but if I wake up in time, I'll wander over. Thanks," he says, laying a hand on her shoulder.
She smiles and gives him a quick hug. "You're welcome. Now get some sleep."
He nods, and she hears him flop onto the bed shortly thereafter.
She instructs the servants not to disturb him and then goes back to fuss over her grandchildren.
They're a rowdy lot, they are, being boys.
Heh. At least as infants, they can't get into too much trouble. Just make a lot of noise.
Ariana explains to the girls what Grayson told her about trying to scrape up enough money to support them and just not having had the time yet, as well as the fact that he made himself sick worrying about it. Not that they still aren't free to make him suffer a bit, but she wants them to know that he hadn't been planning to just abandon them.
They seem game to make him suffer.
Grayson sleeps straight through until morning before shuffling all frumpy into the kitchen and sheepishly saying hello to the girls that happen to be there, who ignore him completely.
Ariana smiles at Grayson as he sits down and asks how he's feeling.
"Better," he says, smiling despite his reception.
"Oh good." There are several of the rich items that he likes on the table, since she's had breakfast with him before. "Help yourself. I'm afraid your siblings have already come and gone."
He nods, and is more than happy to dig in. The girls sniff and leave, which allows him to relax during the meal. He has quite a hardy appetite.
She figured he would. She eats a goodly amount herself, topping things off with a chocolate-covered doughnut, which she consume with great relish, licking the frosting off of her fingers when she is done.
Which makes Grayson giggle and look around for his own doughnut...
There are several, of course. She chuckles. "I've always had an appalling weakness for chocolate."
"Me too," he says with a devilish grin. He takes three doughnuts.
She outright laughs at that. "So I see. Now I understand why Lucien always teases me so much about it."
"Why?" he asks, before taking an enormous bite of pastry.
"I think it's the expression I get on my face."
"Oh?" he asks, mouth completely full.
Which just makes her laugh again. "I doubt it's that expression, though."
He chews thoughtfully, looking down his nose at her.
"Nope, not that one, either." She grabs another doughnut and begins eating it slowly, savoring every bite.
Grayson gets a mock horrified look. "I don't think a son should see his mother make a face like that."
She pauses for a moment and grins. "I guess I hit the expression, then."
She chuckles. "That's the first time I've heard that word used to describe eating a doughnut."
"This is the first time I've seen you eat a doughnut."
She smiles. "Like I said before, it's not the doughnut, it's the chocolate."
"I'm scarred for life..."
"Hmm, in that case, I guess I'd better not ever eat a chocolate bar in front of you."
She chuckles again, looking remarkably content. She does let him eat the rest of his breakfast in peace, however.
"Well, I suppose I should return to my quarters and bathe, for a start," he says with a brilliant smile.
She chuckles. "I imagine. You're welcome to use the facilities here, of course."
"Save that I have no clothes."
"There is that, although there's always conjuration." She pauses for a moment, her expression more serious. "I hate to mention this, but... I don't suppose you've told Br...your father about his new grandsons?"
"Um, no. But I guess I should, right? I mean, better me than you." He looks horribly uncomfortable now.
She shrugs. "I can do it if you'd find it uncomfortable. It's...not so difficult to speak to him, anymore."
"Really?" The relief and hope in his voice is quite evident.
She nods. "He's not really the same person that he was...before. Would you like me to talk to him, then?"
"Are you sure you're okay with it?"
She nods. "I believe it will be much easier for me than it will for you. Do not worry about it."
He gives her a warm smile. "Thanks."
She returns his smile with one of her own. "You're welcome."
Grayson heads out after this, lest she change her mind. ;)
All text on this page is © 1998-1999 by Kris Fazzari and Wendi Strang-Frost.
Last modified on February 26, 1999 by Kris Fazzari.