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Title: Assumptions Burst
Genre: MAAN
Rating: T
Author: tkel_paris
Summary: The lives of Beatrice and Benedick are made more complicated by the presence of her father, who has plans for his only child. Plans she does not agree with.
Disclaimer: Don't own anything Shakespearean. Also don't have anything to do with the Josie Roarke production that I adore so much. If I could make money off these...
Dedication: sykira, whose praise has inspired me to try writing even more MAAN fanfics. This is your fault, lovely. ;) Also dedicated to inward_audacity, whose comments were the basis for this idea. And thanks to tardis_mole for betaing.
Author's Note: Posted in sykira's honor. You know why. Sorry this is so late. But I think you'll like this one. I've created an OC, and I think I'm almost as in love with this one as I am with Benedick. You'll see why. :D

This was supposed to be a “just because” present, but given how long it's taken me it's turn also into a Christmas present. Enjoy and have a Happy Holiday season!

Fair warning: that pillow I mentioned last chapter? You'll really want it here...


Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three / Chapter Four / Chapter Five / Chapter Six


Assumptions Burst

Started September 2, 2015
Finished December 23-25, 2015


Chapter Seven: Social Murder

It should have been an absolutely joyful day. The assembly was looking around expecting nothing but joy.

Seeing the Prince and Claudio looking grim set many minds wondering what had happened to somber both lords. They should each have been looking supportive and nervous respectively. And many thought Don Pedro should have been looking around to see why neither Benedick nor Pietro were present.

But it was nothing compared to seeing Beatrice march in her heels, looking almost murderous. Or that she would not sit next to her parents without sending her father a deeply nasty glare. Never mind that her mother seemed to support her, whatever the dispute was; it was clear that Olivio, while lord and master, was unable to exert the control he wished to. And he seemed distracted by something.

Those who had witnessed the Constable trying to speak with Leonato were baffled as to what the man had meant to say. It was assumed that whoever needed to be examined was not accused of a serious crime.

Fortunately for the state of the peace the wedding music began, thus stopping any and all potential arguments.

Friar Francis began with the preliminaries. “You come hither, my lord, to marry this lady.”

“No.”

The answer threw a few attendees off. Leonato played it off as a language correction. “To be married to her: friar, you come to marry her.”

Friar Francis decided to carry on. “Lady, you come hither to be married to this count.”

“I do,” Hero said, her calm undented by the strange and somber mood of the Count.

“If either of you know any inward impediment why you should not be conjoined, charge you, on your souls, to utter it,” the Friar gently implored them.

Claudio looked at the woman he stood beside. “Know you any, Hero?”

“None, my lord.”

Friar Francis looked to Claudio. “Know you any, count?”

Leonato decided to speak, aiming to push things along. “I dare make his answer, none.”

“O, what men dare do! what men may do! what men daily do, not knowing what they do!” cried Claudio, quieting the assembly. “Stand thee by, friar. Father, by your leave: will you with free and unconstrained soul give me this maid, your daughter?” he asked Leonato.

“As freely, son, as God did give her to me,” came his easy answer.

Claudio looked at Don Pedro. “And what have I to give you back, whose worth may counterpoise this rich and precious gift?”

“Nothing, unless you render her again,” said the Prince.

“Sweet prince, you learn me noble thankfulness.” Claudio took Hero's hand, and then shoved her at Leonato. “There, Leonato, take her back again: give not this rotten orange to your friend; she's but the sign and semblance of her honour. Behold how like a maid she blushes here! O, what authority and show of truth can cunning sin cover itself withal! Comes not that blood as modest evidence to witness simple virtue? Would you not swear, all you that see her, that she were a maid, by these exterior shows? But she is none: she knows the heat of a luxurious bed; her blush is guiltiness, not modesty.”

“What do you mean, my lord?!” burst Olivio, standing beside Leonato as he stabilized the stunned Hero.

“Not to be married, not to knit my soul to an approved wanton.”

Leonato stepped forward angrily. “Dear my lord, if you, in your own proof, have vanquish'd the resistance of her youth, and made defeat of her virginity,--”

“I know what you would say: if I have known her, you will say she did embrace me as a husband, and so extenuate the 'forehand sin: No, Leonato, I never tempted her with word too large; but, as a brother to his sister, show'd bashful sincerity and comely love.”

“And seem'd I ever otherwise to you?” pleaded Hero as Beatrice came to her side, trying to protect her.

“Out on thee!” Claudio exploded. “Seeming! I will write against it: you seem to me as Dian in her orb, as chaste as is the bud ere it be blown; but you are more intemperate in your blood than Venus, or those pamper'd animals that rage in savage sensuality.”

Hero shook her head. “Is my lord well, that he doth speak so wide?”

Olivio shook his head and spoke, the words numbed by the shock of the events. “The daughter of a gentlemen such as my brother hath no place to question the speech of a man, that it is perhaps just as well that Claudio said no now and not find out later that Hero is bestowed with even less virtuous talents.”

Elena, horrified that her husband would believe such words for even a moment, exploded with rage as she joined Beatrice at Hero's side. “Hold thy tongue; this is not thine daughter to trample on so freely as thou dost thine own!”

None could recall her speaking out against her husband and calling him in the wrong. Pleading with him to relent, yes; but outright defying him was unheard of.

Leonato looked at Don Pedro, hoping to some sanity to come from his honored guest. “Sweet Prince, why speak you not?”

Don Pedro was grim and tight with his speech. “What should I speak? I stand dishonour'd, that have gone about to link my dear friend to a common stale.”

The assembly gasped in horror.

Leonato looked at his brother. “Are these things spoken, or do I but dream?”

Don John saw his opening and stood. “Sir, they are spoken, and these things are true.”

“True!” breathed Hero, not understanding what she heard but sensing that things were going horribly wrong. “O God!”

“Leonato, Olivio, stand I here?” Claudio asked. “Is this the prince? Is this the prince's brother? Is this face Hero's? Are our eyes our own?”

“All this is so: but what of this, my lord?” Leonato said.

“Let me but move one question to your daughter; and, by that fatherly and kindly power that you have in her, bid her answer truly.”

Leonato's upbringing made him see only one answer to that request. “I charge thee do so, as thou art my child.”

Hero looked around, seeing the disbelief and yet unable to disobey her father. “O, God defend me! how am I beset! What kind of catechising call you this?”

Claudio was unmoved. “To make you answer truly to your name.”

“Is it not Hero? Who can blot that name with any just reproach?

“Marry, that can Hero; Hero itself can blot out Hero's virtue. What man was he talk'd with you yesternight in the open air betwixt twelve and one? Now, if you are a maid, answer to this.”

“I talk'd with no man at that hour, my lord,” she exclaimed.

Don Pedro shook his head and interrupted anything else she had to say. “Why, then are you no maiden. Leonato, I am sorry you must hear: upon mine honour, myself, my brother and this grieved count did see her, hear her, at that hour last night talk with a ruffian in the open air who hath indeed, most like a liberal villain, confess'd the vile encounters they have had a thousand times in secret.”

Don John interjected, as much to keep things simple as to avoid specifics that could be challenged. “Fie, fie! they are not to be named, my lord, not to be spoke of; there is not chastity enough in language without offence to utter them. Thus, pretty lady, I am sorry for thy much misgovernment.”

“Misgovernment?!” cried Beatrice, refusing to remain silent and ignoring her father's motions. She spoke too quickly to be stopped. “A proper saying from a bastard known for mischief! Often hath my cousin's brother, Pietro of Venice, spoken of the caution many in the army regard thee with; enough that thy words are little more than foul breath! 'Talked with a man in the open air'?! The grossest falsehood ever spoken of my cousin; never once last night was she alone, and for sure not with a man! Call me the only witness and thou still speakest untrue, for myself, my mother, and my aunt were all with Hero the entirety of the night; and last night was I Hero's bedfellow! As I have been since we were but babes-in-arms!”

Claudio's emotions were too heightened, his honor too impugned to allow this to go unchallenged. “Thy words are of a harridan; a shrew who abuses men of honour.”

“My daughter speakest not lies!” cried Elena. “Husband, hath I ever spoken an untruth? Hath Beatrice? Brother, hath Innogen? Or Hero?!”

From her chair, Innogen raised her voice to be heard. “Not once did I leave our daughter alone where she could be importuned; the only vile man stole a possession of hers, and after that did we all depart for home!”

Neither Leonato nor Olivio, each standing numbly, spoke.

The shock of neither man being able to speak allowed Claudio to speak further. “Oh Hero, what a Hero hadst thou been, if half thy outward graces had been placed about thy thoughts and counsels of thy heart! But fare thee well, most foul, most fair! Farewell, thou pure impiety and impious purity! For thee I'll lock up all the gates of love, and on my eyelids shall conjecture hang, to turn all beauty into thoughts of harm, and never shall it more be gracious.”

Leonato finally spoke. “Hath no man's dagger here a point for me?”

Hero could not bear the thought that her own father would not defend her and her mother, and swooned.

Beatrice, Elena and Innogen all flew to her side, the former crying, “Why, how now, cousin! Wherefore sink you down?”

“Come, let us go,” said Don John. “These things, come thus to light, smother her spirits up.”

The Prince led the trio out, and others in the assembly left. Word of what happened was sure to spread rapidly.

Innogen looked to each man in her life with dismay, the horror of their refusal to act sinking her more deeply into disbelief. She saw that Elena shared in the state completely.

Beatrice looked upward to the only male who looked on Hero with any empathy. “Help, Friar!” And he knelt to check on Hero.

Leonato slowly picked up the bouquet Hero had been carrying. “O Fate! take not away thy heavy hand.
Death is the fairest cover for her shame that may be wish'd for,” he snapped, tossing it at his daughter's body before walking away, Olivio following.

That act was enough to revive Hero. Elena and Innogen cried in relief.

“How now, cousin Hero!” breathed Beatrice.

Friar Francis aided Hero to a seated position. “Have comfort, lady.”

Leonato turned on his heel. “Dost thou look up?”

“Yea, wherefore should she not?” asked the Friar.

Leonato railed at his child, the Friar taking some of the venom by proximity. “Wherefore! Why, doth not every earthly thing cry shame upon her? Could she here deny the story that is printed in her blood?”

He reached to strangle Hero, but Elena threw herself in the way. Olivio acted on instinct, pulling Leonato away.

“Do not live, Hero; do not open thine eyes: for, did I think thou wouldst not quickly die, thought I thy spirits were stronger than thy shames, myself would, on the rearward of reproaches, strike at thy life!”

He tried again, but this time Innogen added herself into the midst. Three women stood between him and Hero, and Friar Francis raised his hand to urge caution.

His anger went in waves from then on. “Grieved I, I had but one? Chid I for that at frugal nature's frame? O, one too much by thee! Why had I one?” He kicked a chair, breathing a while before continuing his fury. “Why ever wast thou lovely in my eyes? Why had I not with charitable hand took up a beggar's issue at my gates, who smirch'd thus and mired with infamy, I might have said 'No part of it is mine; this shame derives itself from unknown loins'? But mine and mine I loved and mine I praised and mine that I was proud on, mine so much that I myself was to myself not mine, valuing of her,-- why, she, O, she is fallen into a pit of ink, that the wide sea hath drops too few to wash her clean again
and salt too little which may season give to her foul-tainted flesh!”

Hero cried into her mother's arms.

Beatrice, the most accustomed to speaking out, had to protest again. “O, on my soul, my cousin is belied! And us with her! For I spoke the truth!”

Olivio shook his head. “Would the two princes lie, and Claudio lie, who loved her so, that, speaking of her foulness, wash'd it with tears?”

Leonato burst to standing. “Hence from her! Let her die!”

Friar Francis grabbed him, holding him back. “Hear me a little; for I have only been silent so long
and given way unto this course of fortune. By noting of the lady I have mark'd a thousand blushing apparitions to start into her face, a thousand innocent shames in angel whiteness beat away those blushes; and in her eye there hath appear'd a fire, to burn the errors that these princes hold against her maiden truth. Call me a fool; trust not my reading nor my observations, which with experimental seal doth warrant the tenor of my book; trust not my age, my reverence, calling, nor divinity, if this sweet lady lie not guiltless here under some biting error.”

Leonato shook his head. “Friar, it cannot be. Thou seest that all the grace that she hath left is that she will not add to her damnation a sin of perjury; she not denies it: why seek'st thou then to cover with excuse that which appears in proper nakedness? And bring her other relations with her?!”

Friar Francis stood and approached Hero. “Lady, what man is he you are accused of?”

Hero's eyes indeed shined with fire. “They know that do accuse me; I know none.” She went to her father, who withdrew his hands, making her fall to her knees. But she held herself up strong. “If I know more of any man alive than that which maiden modesty doth warrant, let all my sins lack mercy! O my father, prove you that any man with me conversed at hours unmeet, or that I yesternight maintain'd the change of words with any creature other than mine own family, refuse me, hate me, torture me to death!'

Friar Francis frowned. “There is some strange misprision in the princes; I cannot fathom what would make them also go against the word of three other ladies whose honour is known for honesty.”

Leonato at last spoke. “I know not. If they speak but truth of her, these hands shall tear her,” he vowed, reaching for her.

Innogen flew to grab his hands despite her dress and heels. She pleaded with him, pushing her face between his and Hero's.

But to everyone's surprise, even Olivio's, Leonato's hand didn't do more than touch Hero's face. The look in her eyes touched his heart. “If they wrong her honour, the proudest of them shall well hear of it.
Time hath not yet so dried this blood of mine, nor age so eat up my invention, nor fortune made such havoc of my means, nor my bad life reft me so much of friends, but they shall find, awaked in such a kind, both strength of limb and policy of mind, ability in means and choice of friends, to quit me of them throughly.”

Friar Francis held up his hands. “Pause awhile, and let my counsel sway you in this case.” He checked to see that no one was listening outside. Satisfied, he returned to their side. “Your daughter here the princes left for dead: let her awhile be secretly kept in, and publish it that she is dead indeed; maintain a mourning ostentation and on your family's old hang mournful epitaphs and do all rites that appertain unto a burial.”

“What shall become of this? What will this do?” asked Leonato, pulling his tie loose.

The Friar composed himself an instant more to present his argument in the best and most convincing light. “Marry, this well carried shall on her and her relations' behalf change slander to remorse; that is some good: but not for that dream I on this strange course, but on this travail look for greater birth.
She dying, as it must so be maintain'd, upon the instant that she was accused, shall be lamented, pitied and excused of every hearer: for it so falls out that what we have we prize not to the worth whilst we enjoy it, but being lack'd and lost, why, then we rack the value, then we find the virtue that possession would not show us whilst it was ours. So will it fare with Claudio: when he shall hear she died upon his words, the idea of her life shall sweetly creep into his study of imagination, and every lovely organ of her life shall come apparell'd in more precious habit, more moving-delicate and full of life, into the eye and prospect of his soul, than when she lived indeed; then shall he mourn, if ever love had interest in his liver, and wish he had not so accused her, no, though he thought his accusation true.

“Let this be so, and doubt not but success will fashion the event in better shape than I can lay it down in likelihood. But if all aim but this be levell'd false, the supposition of the lady's death will quench the wonder of her infamy: and if it sort not well, you may conceal her, as best befits her wounded reputation, in some reclusive and religious life, out of all eyes, tongues, minds and injuries.”

“It protects Hero, perhaps; but what of our own honours?” demanded Elena. “We have been dishonoured nearly as much as she. Must we all retreat with her because a man believed a snake's word?”

Friar Francis thought quickly. “The most each hath been accus'd is with lying to protect Hero; a mourning state would require all of thee to remain within according to rites, and so the time should ensure that when Claudio repents his accusation then none shall speak against any of thee. On the one hand, I being a man and knowledgeable of the law, am full aware that a woman's word cannot be taken as honest when it is contrary to that of a man's testimony which would under any other circumstance require I side with the law. On the other hand, I being first a man of God must side with God and impart the natural law, that woman should be protected and have God judge whether the dead are innocent: that to judge would be to cast the first stone, which is contrary to God's law. That in Hero's death from shock she hath gain'd innocence from the justice of men and is surrender'd to the justice of God, which is pure and unbiased. Men, even those who profess to be the mouthpiece of God, must accept Heaven's justice. Thus, with her death, Hero is judged innocent and God has saved her to himself away from the hurts of man; as such innocence would extend to the family who spoke in her defence, for they would be recognised as seeing God's truth of Hero.”

None of the ladies liked it, but none could find anything else to suggest.

Leonato looked at Olivio, who had no better idea and shook his head. So the Governor merely said, choking on his emotions as he walked out with his brother trailing him in just as bad a state, “Being that I flow in grief, the smallest twine may lead me.”

Sighing, the Friar turned to the ladies. “'Tis well consented: presently away; for to strange sores strangely they strain the cure. Come, lady, die to live: this wedding-day perhaps is but prolong'd: have patience and endure,” he urged Hero.

Beatrice choked on a cry. “Ah, how much might the man deserve of me that would right her!”

“And how might a man right her now?” Innogen asked. “Her own father cannot; better to say he would not when he ought to have.”

“By killing Claudio.”

Hero gasped. “Is Claudio my enemy?”

The disbelieving Beatrice burst with anger. “Is he not approved in the height a villain, that hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman? O that I were a man! What, bear you in hand until you come to take hands; and then, with public accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour – O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place!”

“Cousin-”

“Sweet Hero! She is wronged, Friar; she is slandered, she is undone!”

“Good lady, I beg patience of thee.”

“What good doth patience do for ourselves? Princes and counties! Surely, a princely testimony, a goodly count, Count Comfect; a sweet gallant, surely! O that I were a man for his sake! Or that I
had any friend would be a man for my sake! But manhood is melted into courtesies, valour into
compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and trim ones too: he is now as valiant as Hercules
that only tells a lie and swears it. I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.”

“If there is a man who will speak for thee then thyself, thy mother, and thy aunt may be restored to everything at once. Perhaps he can ensure Hero might be brought into the light again.”

“But there is such a man,” Elena said flatly. “Alas, it is the same man my husband sent away; Senor Benedick would defend Hero as he is our witness that we were with her, but I fear that my husband's distrust of him of a suitor – and all due to his rank! – would not permit such a defence!”

“If he is of the honour I think, and if he would do anything for me out of love, then he would kill Claudio. This I think as sure I have a thought or a soul!” Beatrice cried.

Friar Francis knew not what words he could offer that would be accepted.

Chapter Eight: Going to War For a Lady's Honour

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
inward_audacity
Dec. 30th, 2015 02:40 pm (UTC)
What is wrong with men?! Men and their egos.

Thanks for the pillow warning. I did want to punch something.

I hope Beatrice finds Benedick soon. He'll be more than happy and ready to help. And maybe actually fight Claudio. I know you've written a fight scene for the both of them in a previous story and I loved that. And I especially loved Beatrice fussing over him after the fight.

But whether or not that happens, I'm excited/nervous for the next chapter. It's been a great story so far.
tkel_paris
Jan. 20th, 2016 06:38 pm (UTC)
Gah! I forgot to answer this one! :(

Yes. Although woman's ego can be appalling, too.

I think my beta wanted to punch Olivio here.

Again, so happy you commented. I hope sykira will soon be able to as well.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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