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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 / Chapter Eight / Chapter Nine / Chapter Ten / Chapter Eleven

Assumptions Burst

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

Chapter Twelve: Listening to the Players

It was the following morning, and Claudio stumbled behind Don Pedro as they joined the assembly. The former was hoping no one would challenge him on his hangover, and the latter was praying that his commanding presence would be enough to silence any questions about the Count's behavior.

“Good morrow to this fair assembly,” declared Don Pedro.

Leonato stood in gravitas. “Good morrrow, Prince. Good morrrow, Claudio. Are you here to witness the marriage of Benedick to Beatrice, and then hear us further?”

“We are,” said both men after a moment's pause, for neither was expecting that. Claudio's reaction was more pronounced that Don Pedro's, but the latter's hid a great deal more feeling on the subject.

“Then sit yourselves with your men, for the wedding shall commence soon!”

The two lords did, just as Benedick and Pietro entered. They, like the rest of the men, were in black suits to attend to the gravity of the mourning of Hero. They turned to look at the assembly and Benedick frowned when he noted Olivio sitting with the Lady Elena. It was tradition for the father to walk his daughter to her new husband.

But he did not ask any questions. He wanted to reach the happy event of being able to call himself Beatrice's. He would not think of it the other way around, although he would say it to remind others that he stood as her sword against any who would defame her.

Don Pedro, seated behind Olivio, had no such restraint or reason for it. “Good Viscount Olivio, why are you not with your daughter?”

The man closed his eyes tightly to school his reaction. His pride had not learnt its lesson quite completely. “As she reminded me yesterday I have lost a good deal of her respect over my lack of care toward her wishes and needs. She gives herself away, my lord.”

Before Don Pedro or Claudio could give a shocked response the wedding march began. All stood and turned to see the procession. Those outside the family waited in wonder over what would be the case of the day.

Four ladies walked in a line, all with the pacing of a wedding. But three veiled, black-clad ladies trailed behind the one in white. Beatrice led the way toward the man who would be her lord by law, wearing her mother's wedding gown and veil. Many who remembered that day gasped at how much she looked like a slightly older version of how her mother did that day. None could remember her looking better, or with a brighter light in her eyes.

Beatrice and Benedick's eyes were locked on each other. Longing and the shared relief passed between them. It was almost over. Soon the words and rings would be exchanged.

Once she was at his side they joined hands, after she handed her flowers to the lady behind her. They stood behind to the side and watched with the others.

Friar Francis gladly spoke a simple version of the vows, in accordance with the appearance of Hero's being mourned. It suited the pair being wed, for neither wished for one moment's delay. Neither did they notice the surprise that Beatrice also placed a ring on Benedick's finger – and act meant to declare their equality in the marriage and her place as the blood heir of Olivio. She smiled as she gave herself to Benedick, with the one change to the vows being the obey part. Benedick himself had insisted that they switch it for the man's word, just in case his wife took any offence to the term. He had promised that she would only have to obey when they both knew it was needed for the family's sake. Their family's sake.

At last Friar Francis proclaimed to the assembly, “Now let all know that this man and this woman are married. Senor Benedick, you may kiss your bride – with her blessing, knowing her as we do.”

There was a scattering of laughter as Benedick and Beatrice at last locked lips, arms wrapped tightly around each other. The Applause was light, but heartfelt – especially from their families. Even Pietro found the ability to smile at the evident relief and love in the kiss.

Although there were scattered, soft laughter at how long the kiss lasted. It seemed like they were looking to find out how long could a couple kiss without needing to part for air. But no one seemed ready to challenge it, not willing to potentially endure the anger of either party.

At length the pair parted enough to look into each other's eyes in a dazed state. Slowly they turned to face the assembly, his arm wrapping around her shoulders and hers around his waist with her other hand taking the one resting off her shoulder. Both were still breathing heavily, and making faces as they sought composure again.

Then Pietro did find a small laugh. “Love ought not to be forced to endure such a wait. I fear it might kill them both yet.”

Benedick laughed. “I'll tell thee what, Pietro; a college of wit-crackers cannot flout me out of my humour. Dost thou think I care for a satire or an epigram? No: if a man will be beaten with brains, a' shall wear nothing handsome about him. In brief, since I do purpose to marry, I will think nothing to any purpose that the world can say against it; and therefore never flout at me for what I have said
against it; for man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion.”

They looked upon each other until Leonato interrupted. “I'm afraid that I must remind thee of thy challenge to Claudio. Know that I have demanded a penance and he hath agreed. Shall that suffice or does thy honour demand the challenge continue to a conclusion?”

Benedick let Beatrice go to step toward Claudio, who stood to meet him. “I would still think to beat thee, but I believe thy honour will be tested enough by whatever devices Leonato and any others who hath cause to demand a penance from thee can think of. So... live unbruised...” He still slapped him, and cautioned over the aftermath of the squawk, “And remember to learn who a woman is before you ask for her hand!”

Claudio chose to merely nod, remaining silent.

“With that said, I do not speak for others of this House or Leonato's that you have wronged.” Satisfied with the nervousness he observed, Benedick stepped back to his wife's side. “I believe my wife wishes to reveal something to the assembly.”

“Indeed I do. Uncle, shall I?”

Leonato was one of the few who knew that the words were an act, for she had earned the right to state what truly happened. “Proceed, niece.”

Beatrice stepped to where all eyes would see. Once she knew she had everyone's attention she began. “Whilst Hero's slander lived there was little we could do. But now that it is proved false and that my and her words were proved the truth, I wish you to learn another truth.”

Many frowned as one of the ladies stepped forward when Beatrice beckoned her, back turned to the assembly and facing Beatrice before she removed her veil. She took a deep breath and turned to reveal her face. It was Hero.

Many gasped. Claudio nearly passed out against Don Pedro, and Benedick barely caught Pietro before he fell over from shock.

Innogen stood to stand by her daughter. “Whiles her slander lived, Hero could not. But with it proved false can she be restored to her rightful place. I can't bare that I was forced to pretend her dead, all because I and my sister and niece were not believed when we defended Hero's innocence. In essence murdered before all of society. A pox on anyone who would dare discount all they hath seen of a child once she is grown, who dare not challenge a man who knowest not the lady he accuses or knows her not enough!”

Don Pedro and Claudio felt the pain of her words. Claudio more so, because he knew he could have been calling Hero his Countess had he not believed or challenged Don John.

Pietro's shock became noticed by Hero, and she looked also to Claudio's shock. The level of surprise seemed similar, and yet the emotions behind the former was a surprise even with the overhearing of the other day. It made some things about his actions toward her suddenly make sense. She knew she would have to consider it later, when she was able. Instead she turned to the assembly. “I died in every sense except the physical upon realising of what I was accused. But I do live, and sure as I live I am a maiden.”

Friar Francis stepped forward. “All this amazement can I qualify. Meantime let wonder seem familiar, and to the Viscount's let us presently so the marriage which hath ta'en place may be celebrated.”

Leonato stood. “Let one thing be clear. Claudio, thou cannot even consider approaching Hero again until thy penance is over, and in the meantime thou cannot even exchange a single word with her. On this am I firm. None may act as a proxy for thee, for I expect any man who seeks her hand to seek it himself. If I find he feels the need to have another speak for his tongue I shall dismiss his suit out of hand.”

Claudio and the Prince accepted this silently. There were no words that could make up for what Don Perdo's idea of helping his right hand had permitted. Had Claudio indeed tried on his own it might have all turned out differently.

Neither wished to think for an instant that Hero might have actually turned down his suit had he done so.

The Prince's Messenger hurried into the room, snapping a salute. “My lord, two urgent messages. First, your brother, Don John, is ta'en in flight and brought with armed men back to Messina.” He handed the Prince the letter of proof.

Benedick spoke over the murmurs of the assembly. “Think not on him till the morrow: I'll devise thee brave punishments for him.” The look he shared with Beatrice, who he held in a mutual embrace, suggested that she at least would be consulted on said punishments.

The Messenger was not finished. “And this message is from the King, thy father.”

Don Pedro flinched subtly but promptly took the second letter. He opened it swiftly and stilled as he read it. With a pale face he turned to Leonato. “Governor, my father, the King, calls me immediately to Aragon to make account of my part in this sorry matter. Benedick, I shall inform him of thy insistence of a say in the punishment of my brother. Claudio, thou must accompany me: the King hath been in communication with the Lord of Padua and the Doge of Venice, and he thought of a penance that made both lords agree to not seek further recompense against thee for the offences to their respective Houses.”

Claudio stiffened at the mention of Pietro's father, but knew he had no right to protest. “I submit to whatever invention the King sets before me.”

“I pray for thee, Claudio of Florence, for the King, my father, hath decreed that for thy failure to see through my brother's cunning and for the offences committed against Benedick of Padua, and Pietro of Venice, and for carrying on the slander done by thine own father against the Doge of Venice's wife, thou shall spend one year working thy way through his personal household starting as a footman.”

The shock was nearly universal, but Claudio's was the greatest. “A footman, the lowest servant position; where I could be beaten for merely speaking?”

Don Pedro's expression was mournful. The only position lower was a scullery maid, and if he read between the lines his father had contemplated it. But he would spare the Count that knowledge. “It is the King's will, Claudio.”

Claudio lowered his head. “Very well, my lord.”

The assembly removed slowly, following the trail of the wedded couple who walked hand in hand to the party of Olivio's home where the celebration would take place. With their deception revealed Beatrice could smile as widely as she wished, and Benedick felt at liberty to be as merry as he felt. He knew how fortunate he was, and wished that everyone knew it.

To see him and Olivio embrace as father and son was a shock to many. Although none were surprised that there was some lingering tension, as Benedick would not forget the pain caused by the older man, and Olivio could not forget his own dismissal of a man greater than he. Nor would Beatrice, but perhaps her heart would forgive sooner as she would not have been the person she was without Olivio's influence.

Don Pedro and his men excused themselves, although the invitation was open to all but Claudio. The Prince could not celebrate even if he were not expected to return home. His honour had been tarnished by his own actions, and he also found he did not wish to witness much further the joy that Benedick found in being the recipient of Beatrice's smiles and embraces. It was now evident to even the most blind person that the pair were madly in love and had eyes for no one else.

He felt grateful that he had insisted on the lady giving her free acceptance, for he had heard a hint that Olivio had intended to try to force the marriage upon Beatrice had this not happened. In that he felt that his brother had done one good deed by accident. It might be a blight enough on his joy, especially once he was forced to make account to Padua and Venice. Instead, he shed one tear at his lost chance with Beatrice and let that be butter enough for his grief, and vowed to bear the rest as a soldier bears the loss of brothers in war. With dignity, silence and fond memory, and perhaps a poem if he could but concoct one without a beer to drown it. He would feel as keenly the loss of his own brother, Benedick, but was glad he had at last won happiness with a fine woman.

Escorting Hero and her gentlewoman was Pietro. He walked close enough to speak softly whilst observing all proper behavior. “My lady, words fail me to express how pleased I am that thou live. I had been sure I would die with thee.”

She was stunned, and then realized from his flush that he had not intended to say quite so much. She immediately felt a need to put him at ease. “I am pleased that others have wished for my health. Alas that not everyone would have ta'en such care toward myself.”

“A lady should be cared for, protected so none can impeach her honour. Yet I see a point to how the Lady Beatrice believes. Perhaps we do a little too much and prevent the ladies from ensuring their own honour's safely as a man is expected to do.”

She looked in curiosity at him, blinking as she considered the level of care he was showing. He had not just spoken quite so much as quite so openly. She could do nought but wonder at what else he had to say, but kept his tongue and left her intrigued.

Chapter Thirteen: Peace Found


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 4th, 2016 04:32 am (UTC)
I can't thank you enough for writing and sharing the story. When I started I didn't know what to expect but I'm always pleasantly surprised with each update. This has been a lovely story and I'm a little sad that it's coming to an end. I want to see more of Benedick and Beatrice.

Also, I'm sorry to not have commented on the previous chapters. I've had a long week.

EEEP! Benedick and Beatrice are married! Finally. I can only imagine how long their kiss lasted, but they did have to wait ten years for it so I guess they earned it. I wonder how their wedding night would be...

I love that Beatrice walk down the aisle by herself, giving herself away. It was so symbolic. She finally had that independence she deserved.

Claudio deserved his punishment. I think it was the right thing to do, although I still wish to see him fight Benedick. There's something about fight scenes that entertains me endlessly.

Pietro needs to confess his love to Hero now. He's better for her than Claudio will ever be. Will Hero ever find out?
Jan. 6th, 2016 02:31 am (UTC)
Thank you. That means a lot to me, and to my beta.

It's okay. I'm guilty of that for a few stories recently.

Eh, I figure at least 30 seconds. And the wedding night... Oh, dear. I foresee sykira asking for a DVD extra. *jots down ideas*

Olivio KNEW he'd screwed up, and stepping aside was the only way to make it up to Beatrice. And to Benedick.

Trust me. This will be more of a long-lasting reminder than a fight. All and sundry will know of his disgrace and shame. That makes a bigger mark on a man's ego given the circumstances this is set in. His lands will likely suffer from losses of trade.

Final chapter is up. Hope you drop reviews on it and the previous two chapters... when you can. :)
Jan. 6th, 2016 03:07 am (UTC)
I vote for the DVD extra! Ten years of waiting could lead to a very passionate and interesting wedding night.
Jan. 6th, 2016 05:10 am (UTC)
Lord knows I've shown that. ;D
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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