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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 / Chapter Twelve

Assumptions Burst

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

Chapter Thirteen: Peace Found

The group was gathering once again, and the tension was all over the room. Olivio was pacing, his face drawn and smoking rapidly. He was sharing looks with every older man in the room, who found little comfort to give him.

The only ones absent were Elena, Innogen, Beatrice, Maria, and Benedick. The reason was natural, given that it had been over a year since the wedding.

Footsteps announced visitors. Leonato raised his eyebrows. “Who would come when he hath left word that none are to call?”

Titus, at the door, spoke. “Sirs, it is the Prince and Count Claudio. They say they bring proof that Claudio's penance is complete.”

All eyes looked to Leonato for guidance, uncertain how to act. None had seen either man since the wedding of Beatrice and Benedick.

The Governor remained calm. “Let them enter, for this day was coming.”

Titus and Angelo opened the door further, letting both lords enter along with a few attendants. The Messenger was right behind them, carrying letters.

“Good Senor Leonato, Viscount Olivio; I pray that I am welcome and not a burden.”

Time had allowed Leonato to approach with a welcoming smile. “Thy repentance was bound to be true, your grace: for though trouble came it was not of your doing, and your willingness to bend proved thy honour.”

Olivio nodded. “Fortune hath returned thee to her favour, Prince; though the cost was high it is plain that the Kingdom's trust hath never been misplaced.”

The Prince was grateful and accepted the sort of embraces he got a year earlier when he brought back nearly full numbers after the action. He drew back after the second and motioned to Claudio. “Here is the County with the final proof.”

Claudio presented a letter personally to Leonato. “From your friend in the Court of the King, the King himself, as you insisted.”

“'Tis his hand, I agree,” Leonato remarked through his cigar. “Let us see whether he agrees that thy command was honoured.”

All were silent as the two men read it together. Their attention to it was complete.

At length Olivio nodded as Leonato folded the letter. “Our friend hath always been one to reveal the worst things that a person sent to them does; yet he reports none. Even the Lord of Padua and the Doge of Venice respectively reported a change when the King visited each man. Claudio, thy penance is complete.”

Claudio breathed a sigh of relief and bowed in respect to both men. Only one was strictly speaking his superior in rank, but the Governor deserved the same respect even had he not been Hero's father. “Noble sirs, I have disposed henceforth of Claudio as I had been; much time have I spent watching what others do to see if it matches what I am told. I pray that I have managed to secure a keener eye on the world.”

“Time shall reveal the depth of thy new understanding, Claudio,” Olivio said, keeping the situation calm.

“I do pray thee to speak an apology directly to Hero, as little as I deserve to ask for her forgiveness.”

Hero, sitting with Margaret and Ursula, gave a little smile. “Months ago did I release my pain and I daresay anger, my lord; to hold on to it would have been as certain a poison on my body as the actual kind. You have been forgiven.”

He exhaled with a huge smile. “I dare not assume it can ever be forgiven, but I beg leave to speak again with thee.”

“I fear that I cannot do.”

Claudio then noted who was standing guard near her. He nodded, aware that he had to treat this man with more respect than before as he had aided in proving his own foolishness. “Good day, Duke of Venice. How dost your lord, the senor?”

“He is within with his lady, who is very near to bearing fruit. Her mother and aunt are with him in attending to her.”

Don Pedro was wide-eyed. “Within the birthing chamber?! It is unthinkable for a man to be present!”

“He would not hear of being parted from Beatrice,” Olivio explained. “Her cries as it began seemed to frighten him as nothing ever had before, and he vowed nothing could prevent him from being there to aid her in enduring the pains. None of us had the words to persuade him otherwise.”

“In exact his words,” Pietro put in to quote. “'That man doth plant, therefore he must reap'. My brother took it literally and has sidestepped all lesser argument against.”

Claudio's face could not have been more frozen into one expression. “I am all amazement, and yet it doth sound very like Benedick to carry on as he felt was right; convention he had little regard for when it stopped the right acts from taking place.”

Pietro nodded. “All this and more hath he done for his lady in helping prepare her for the day when they take her parents' place as the heads of the family.”

Don Pedro smiled upon thinking of another matter to discuss. “How did the Lord of Padua react to hearing that his son resigned his own name? I cannot imagine that he took the news kindly, although I cannot say that I heard the details even when I visited Padua.”

Pietro smiled. “Present was I when the letter was received. Offended was he that he was given no notice of the wedding taking place, and dismayed that his son would forsake his heritage. Had Benedick been exiled pain he would have felt on his mother's behalf; I believe his ways were born out of witnessing her own trials as the Lady of Padua, for the Lord is not known for being accepting of a woman being anything but meek. In short the Lady Beatrice is by disposition entirely unsuitable; and yet he could not argue with her giving her husband a large fortune, lands, an eventual title and children of a royal bloodline.”

The Prince sighed and shook his head. “All this doth not surprise me; he is indeed the sort of man thou hast described and it was to free Benedick from a situation where I thought he would suffer that I implored to secure his service. It was to father and son's mutual pleasure that I offered, and my father had hope that the Senor's conduct in war would be enough to please the father. Alas that it hath ta'en so long!”

“His brothers are equally dismayed, but I believe there is some hint that they would be glad to let him have the charge of looking after their mother once the eldest is the Lord of Padua,” Olivio noted, his disapproval there for a blind man to see. “To care for an elder is an obligation, and they neither will take their own parts in it.”

Claudio nodded. “But I again ask; Lady Hero, might I be permitted a chance to speak on my own behalf?”

“That would force me to be disrespectful to my lord.”

He straightened, as did the Prince. “Your lord? Do you mean your father?”

Hero sighed and stood. Her left hand had been concealed by her right, and now displayed a ring on her finger. And her figure was showing a slight increase in her middle in the front, an increase that Pietro placed a hand over protectively and she covered with her left hand.

The widening eyes of both Don Pedro and Claudio nearly made Leonato smile. Instead he enlightened them. “Benedick and his men have joined in the defence of Messina and the surrounding lands, and with them Pietro of Venice. He stood by Hero, watching over her as she healed from thy betrayal, Claudio; and five months ago did he approach her with a wish to court her for marriage. Long had he adored her, he said, and kept silent because he could see that his suit was unwelcome when Hero's heart was thine. But his steady presence and care for her honour led to her accepting him, and she became his Duchess not two weeks later. With great joy did we greet the proof that she is quick with child.”

Pietro could not help himself. He had to add. “Such care did I earn her complete trust, giving her the proof that I should rather die than let her come to dishonour by any man's words; certainly never my own.”

Claudio swallowed. “Didst thou learn this at Benedick's example?”

“Nay; I learned from the woman you called a gutter-snipe because my father's homeland chooses to educate its daughters, and mine was unusually informed even for Venice. The surprise child that I was, she was perhaps more attentive to my learning to care for all women's honours than she was my elder brothers. My father calls her the sunlight of his life, the one without whom he would not have a secure succession and the wealth he hath long enjoyed. Wealth that would be greater had thy father not been so narrow of mind as to insult both my parents and cause trade between our lands to halt, much less the unlawful imprisonment that followed my father’s letter for my employment in your father’s house, and your dismissal of me these sixteen years hence.”

Claudio stilled and paled. He bowed his head. “I am proved even more unworthy than I had ever thought possible. I am now ashamed of my father's actions as much as my own. Clearly thine own mother is a woman worth more than all the rubies and jewels of the world if she raised a son far worthier of a noble and sweet lady. The better man won in the end, your grace.”

He bowed for the first time to him, acknowledging him as his superior.

Pietro nodded with a sympathetic smile. “I no longer hold you ill will, nor do I turn my back on your words. It would be unwise as I have gained my greatest wishes from the dreadful events of last year.”

Maria burst into the room from the inner sanctum. “My lords, ladies, and equals! Oh what joy! My Lady Beatrice hath borne a son and a daughter in the rudest health; lustier cries you could not hear from babes! My Lady Elena says she is better off than any woman she hath seen after bearing fruit.”

Hero, Margaret and Ursula squealed. “Begging thy pardon, my lords,” they cried together, hurrying inside to greet the newest arrivals.

Olivio fairly bounced off his feet for joy and found his hands grasped by his brother to keep him on solid ground and not float away. He had lost all decorum and learned speech, shouting in hullabaloo with thanksgiving and laughing tears.

Don Pedro nodded. “We shall wait for supper, if you are willing to receive us then; we would be happy to celebrate the new heirs to the Viscounty.”

“Thy presence is welcome so long as you are both wishing it,” Leonato promised, shaking hands with each.

The two men and their attendants bid them adieu until dinner. As soon as they had departed for their quarters Leonato and Olivio joined the others going in to greet the newest additions to the extended family of the Governor.

Olivio's tension increased as he walked deeper into the old room. “Still do I recall when Beatrice was born. So close did we come to losing Elena.”

Leonato nodded, a hand on his arm. “I think the angels watched over her, and I cannot imagine life without her these past years.”

Further words were not possible. Cooing was coming from the room, given by several different women in the room. Adoring sounds and praises could be heard all at once.

They entered to an orderly chaos commanded by Innogen and Elena. The two ladies directed the servants and gentlewomen in their tasks to see to the aftermath of the delivery.

In the bed in the center of the room, lying like a Queen receiving visitors, was Beatrice. Sweat glistened off her face even though she had many wet cloths clean her, and a smile brighter than any her father had ever witnessed graced her face.

The causes were held in Benedick's arms. The senor was speaking softly to each child, and the two could only be told apart at the distance Olivio had by the colors of the blankets.

“There, there, my little loves; thou art both born to a mother with the greatest heart in all of Christendom, and together we shall teach thee more than even she was granted. Son, you will protect your sister's right to her education and help her find a man who will protect her and her honour more dearly than life itself. Daughter, you shall remind your brother that he should seek a wife who shall be more than an ornament in his court; I cannot abide a daughter with no spirit of her own.”

Beatrice laughed softly. “Wouldst thou wish her to challenge thee as much as I have even if she is not thine by blood but by marriage, Benedick?”

“I would wish her to be exactly as it pleaseth God; it pleased him for thee to be the most spirited lady, and I suspect our daughter shall be very like thee. I expect our son shall be rather like me, for I fear he is already showing my expressions.”

Elena noticed the arrivals and beamed. “Husband, come and meet your grandchildren,” she said softly.

Benedick and Beatrice looked up at them, and then at each other. Some silent communication occurred and then Benedick carefully stood. He walked to meet the two elder men in his life halfway. “Father, may I present your newest heirs: Giacomo and Luciana.”

Olivio sucked in a breath, not just for one of his names being used, but more as an instinctive reaction once he got a good look at them. The girl's name he knew was for Benedick's grandmother, but he had not expected to be honored given the history between him and his son-in-law. “O they have such the look of Beatrice; your daughter is almost the very image of her as a babe.”

Leonato smiled. “Even though the boy hath her hair I daresay he is clearly his father's son. That face cannot be mistaken; and it seems that way her lips have moved is one I cannot recall Beatrice ever making.”

“Yes, she is already looking to be a thief of hearts,” Innogen said indulgently, her smile belying the chiding nature of the words. “Are they not the handsomest babes ever seen? Only Hero's can possibly be able to overshadow them.”

“Nay, that cannot happen,” Benedick teased. “Mine wife is the fairest in the land, and so our children shall be too as long as they take after her.”

It got the laughter he was aiming for. Then he looked at Olivio. “Do you wish to hold them, sir?”

Olivio noticed that Benedick motioned for him to take Luciana first. He suspected the reason; to remind him that daughters were just as important as sons. The Viscount carefully accepted the bundle, letting his wife help make the handover an easy experience for the girl, as much as to remind her husband who had been long bereft of the skill in holding babies.

The moment he had her completely in his arms she opened her eyes slightly, fixing his gaze upon her. He drew a sharp breath and his eyes became watery. “Welcome, fair Luciana. Never shall thee have any cause to feel neglect in these lands. Thy father shall never permit a need of thine to go unnoticed. Blessed art thou, the image of thy mother. I now find myself impatient to learn how you shall be different from her. What sort of lady and lord you shall each make I hope to live long enough to see for myself.”

He looked up at Benedick and Beatrice. “O haven't you both done so well. I only wish these two were not thine eldest now.”

Benedick allowed Leonato to hold Giacomo and placed a hand on Olivio's arm. “I cannot dwell on the past, for only a fool permits that to consume him; nor shall I let the future command my complete attention. The present must be my focus, but holding their future and the lands' in my thoughts.”

Olivio nodded, but he still could not help but wonder what might have been had he permitted Benedick to make his suit back that first time. Perhaps there would be an entire brood of little ginger-haired chicks roaming his lands.

He prayed that these two would be just the first of the grandchildren he would get to know. And that he lived long enough to know them all without having to wait until the end of time.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 6th, 2016 06:06 am (UTC)
You're right. This is definitely more satisfying that a fight. It's what I've always wanted to see happen for Hero. She shouldn't have to marry Claudio after what he did to her and find someone more suited for her. I imagine Claudio feels like he's been slapped in the face when he finds that the woman he was supposed to marry married someone else and is with child!

Oh Olivio. I can feel his regret. If only he had allowed them to marry all those years ago, he would have been a grandfather many times over.

It is a perfect way to end the story though. Beatrice and Benedick deserve their happy ending and hopefully they'll have more kids.
Jan. 6th, 2016 06:10 pm (UTC)
And he endured a lot of humiliation on the way to just seeing Hero again. More than in the last time I made him live as a servant. I imagine the Lord of Padua and the Doge of Venice were equally delighted in the matter.


I'm sure they all hope so, too.

Thanks for reviewing, and for helping inspire this one!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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