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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!


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


Assumptions Burst

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


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

Benedick and Pietro were each pacing in the area outside their shared quarters, neither wishing to look at the clock. The former finally spoke after a long silence. “Surely by now Hero is Claudio's Countess. What shall you do if ever called back to Messina?”

Pietro swallowed hard but answered promptly. “Keep my distance, but look out for whatever I can do to ensure her comfort. What more can a man of honour do? What about thee? How shall you find a moment to speak with the Lady Beatrice?”

“With great difficulty, as her father has demanded my absence from the wedding and the celebrations. I must wait for night to find a moment to approach without hurting her honour. It may be my last chance, and mayhap I could only explain mine actions.”

“And if she seems pressed to the state of thinking of doing an outrage to herself over her father's wishes?”

Benedick paled. “Then I may have to accept her old wish and take her with me, for her life and happiness is more precious than her honour; what good is the latter when you lack both of the former? Although how to do so when her father must surely have a tight watch set upon his house and lands?”

They heard footfalls and stilled. “That sounds like the Messenger. What news could he have?” speculated Pietro.

The Messenger entered, pale and drawn.

Benedick frowned and stood, and his friend followed suit as he spoke. “My good man, you look not like you came from a nuptial.”

The man was shaking. “My lords, I know not what to think. Never did I think I would witness such.”

“Speak plainly!” Benedick commanded.

He shook to get command of himself. “Lady Hero... was accused of being a common stale.”

“What?!” Pietro exploded. “Hero?! Impossible! No lady could be more with honour and virtue!”

Benedick could find only slight fault with his friend's words, but decided not to say so. “I agree that any who say so would wrong her.”

“Sirs, she was accused by Claudio!”

Both men stilled.

Benedick was first to find his voice. “Claudio? How could he say so of the woman he went mad over?”

“Claudio seemed unnaturally grave before the lady and her father came before the Friar, and so did the Prince. After some words I did not make sense of, Claudio tossed Hero back to her father, made the accusation that he saw her with another man; an accusation supported by the Prince and Don John.”

“Don John?” Pietro growled, more because he felt able to direct anger toward that man, although the Messenger stepped back nonetheless from its force. “Count Snake himself?! My good man, you must know his word is as stable as the coastline of Venice!”

“The Prince?!” Benedick breathed. “How can this be? He swore not two days ago that Hero is worthy!”

“All I know is that the accusation reached a point where Hero swooned, and later I heard that the ladies of her family were seen carrying her body out of the church. Given how the Ladies Innogen and Elena were crying and the Lady Beatrice shouted about 'O that I were a man!' I think Hero is dead.”

Pietro fell backwards, and only avoided hurting himself thanks to a large chair being in his way. Even then it merely halted his fall but a second before he sank to the floor.

Benedick was stock still. “Dead? O God! Is it certain? Do the Prince and Claudio know?”

“I know not; orders I was carrying out when I saw part of the events myself, seen after I went to discharge my duty.”

“And did none defend the lady?”

“Her cousin, mother and aunt all swore they were with her and that she was elsewhere, but the Prince and Claudio refused to hear them.”

“And did not Leonato and Olivio defend their word, their honour in speaking so?”

“No.”

That silenced Benedick more than anything could have. “None? A father would not defend his daughter's words when he must know her character?”

The Messenger shook his head. “My lords, the Prince has commanded that we must pack and leave soon. There is nothing keeping any of us here, he said. I beg leave of you whilst I inform the rest of the camp.”

Benedick waved him off silently, aimlessly. The Messenger bowed and left.

Pietro choked. “I cannot believe it. A thousand lashes could not cause the pain my heart feels. O sweet, noble Hero! A jewel among women is lost forever because of one man's foolish belief in another's words!”

“Peace, Pietro!” Benedick snapped, his face growing graver by the second. “You may yet act on her behalf.”

“What right have I?”

“Support me in my next action.”

“And what can thee do?”

Benedick was firm and unyielding, full of conviction. “I will challenge Claudio.”

Pietro at first did not hear, but once the words connected in his ears he raised his head and stared in awe. “When Olivio will not permit thee to court Beatrice?”

“No one else will even think to do't. I shall do what is right to make Claudio and the Prince see that they were in the wrong, even if it means I must kill Claudio.” He went to his writing desk and had pen and paper out quickly.

“My lord, you would turn on a man you called a friend in spite of his dispute with myself?”

“He cannot be my friend if he is so lost to observation as to know not Hero's character; he hath proved himself a fool worse than I had feared he would make of himself. Too easily is he led by his sense of what honour is, too easily led by a superior in rank. He and the others shall learn the price, and feel the burden of killing Hero as surely as if he had done so with his sword.”

He paused a moment, as a thought entered his mind and wrenched a quiet hitch of his breath. “O Beatrice. She must be in a most wretched hour now. And her mother and aunt, but mostly Beatrice. They more than cousins. They were like sisters, Pietro. Not even night has ever parted them. They slept in the same bed as children, shared all of nature’s changes into womanhood. They held each other’s dreams and secrets. And now the lady Beatrice is bereft of her right hand, as real as if a man had ax’d it from her arm.” He sobbed softly, but then his countenance turned bitter. “And such a man hath done it, with his tongue and sundered her honour no less than he hath sundered Hero’s life. O God, I cannot stand by with such thought in my head and heart and do nothing when I have but breath in me to put it right! My love, my Beatrice needs a man. And in the hour she stood alone, I am come to her aid! I will be that man, and care I not that her father denied me that right!”

Pietro stood. “But what about thy duty to the Prince? Will this not place thee in danger with him?”

“No; for I shall discontinue his company. I cannot in good conscience stand beside a false truth and follow the tongue from which it came.”

The young Duke's eyes had never been so large as to compete with the dinner plates. “Thou art in the most profound earnestness of thy life. My lord, you shall shame them all! Leonato, Olivio, Claudio, the Prince; none shall have the honour that is thine after today. Shamed am I that I did not think of acting to avenge the wrong to the ladies; and in that do you prove to be my superior still.”

That gave the older man pause. Benedick stood, halting his writing as he could not forget this moment. “My good friend, I cannot command any soldier of mine to follow me in this. If thou or anyone else wishes to remain in the Prince's service, you shall go with my best wishes in war and life.”

Pietro was appalled and stepped directly into his commander's way. “Dost thou think so poorly of our loyalty? Think us capable of leaving the only man with the purest honour in the kingdom for the service of one who has tarnished his own? Nay, Benedick; where thou goest, we shall follow even to Hell and back. I do not need to ask the men this, for their answers shall be the same. Claudio's men cannot feel the bonds we do as thou hath bleed with us where the Count has not and would not. Feats of a lion he did, but not to the extent that you would if given half the chance. O God! You and I might be brothers, but why, why did you allow me to stop you leaving when I could have wrung his neck when you had the chance?!”

“Because thou spokest in reason; to make myself known would have been a problem, and more so with thy at my side. We had no knowledge that silence was not the best course.”

Pietro shook himself back into the present. “So cease this talk of my or any in thine service leaving thy company; what shall I tell the men?”

Benedick found a small smile and clasped his hand between his. “Thy loyalty shall be my strength, whatever comes. Inform my men that they are to ignore any orders to prepare for a departure; say that they are to state they will not act without my command, as they are to answer directly to me. The Prince shall have nothing to say to that once I have spoken with him. Now, come! We shall dress in the garments we would have worn to this terrible nuptial had it ta'en place. Thou shalt stand at my side when I challenge Claudio.”

Pietro snapped a salute and hurried to his room. Which allowed Benedick to hurry through with his writing; straight and to the point, it was done quickly so he could dress for the verbal battle of his life.

Perhaps more than one.

Chapter Nine: Friend Against Friend

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