bitten_notshy: ([neu] pacing)
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Even though they’d left London via portal early that morning, it was long after sunset Saturday before Jack and Sebastien were settled in 1901 Baltimore. Jack had forgotten how confoundedly long travel in this time took.

He supposed he had forgotten other things, as well. It was no matter. He was fresh from a meeting with a revolutionary leader he'd known while he was in school, and his head was full of ideas.

There were three others arranged around the hotel room they'd taken refuge in: the sorceress Lady Abigail Irene Garrett with her small dog on her knee; Mrs. Phoebe Smith, the noted novelist; and Doctor Garrett's servant Mary, whom Abby Irene had insisted be included in their councils.

Mrs. Smith was a frail, vaguely pretty woman of perhaps 40, and (of course) another blonde. Jack scarcely remembered her from their trip to the colonies and the months in Baltimore, but Sebastien had made it clear she was also in the court. That had to be enough for Jack; he’d get to know the woman later.

For now, there were plans to make.

"I think," said Jack. "We should go to Paris."

He gazed steadily at Sebastien when he said it; Sebastien was staring at the backs of his own hands, his fingers interlaced like a dead man's.

Which, Jack supposed, he was.

Sebastien didn't answer the suggestion, but Doctor Garrett was not shy of words. She never had been, not that Jack saw.

"Paris," Abby Irene said. "What would we do in Paris?"

"As a former servant of the Crown, and a member of the peerage, and a bonded sorcerer, and an émigré to the colonies--" Jack shrugged. "You are in a unique position, Doctor Garrett, to negotiate for diplomatic recognition of the Colonial home government from the French."

"There is no Colonial home government," she said.

Jack answered her with a smile, and he knew she would read the answer in it.

"You mean to tell me your friends have set up an entire shadow government."

"We’re not alone," Jack said.

Another risk, because if Abby Irene had suspected, before, that the revolutionaries rioting in the streets of Boston and New Amsterdam, stoning redcoats and inscribing graffiti, answered to a central authority, now she knew it. She had known since they met that he had revolutionary friends, but he doubted she had any idea how deep and how high ran disaffection with the Crown.

"You"-- she paused, in order to get her thoughts aligned--"wish me to offer an alliance to the French. Against our own government."

"The English."

"Our own government. Our own King. Tell me you're joking, Mr. Priest."

He'd asked her to call him Jack, and sometimes she remembered. Not right now, however, and he didn't blame her.

Jack expected her to be his greatest challenge. Loyal as her terrier, but Abby Irene treated the dog far better than her masters had ever treated her. He could see her formulating objections--but that's treason, Mr. Priest--and hearing his replies without having to ask--for you, Doctor Garrett, and Mrs. Smith. It is. But aren't you a traitor already?

He could mention, if he would, that he'd chosen not to condone murder among the revolutionaries, and had helped her resolve that case--but she knew that already, as well. She sucked her lower lip into her mouth and chewed it, staining her teeth with the waxy red from her rouged lips. She already knew every argument he would make, and while he thought she stood on the edge of open revolt, only she could decide if she would step over. She had been a loyal subject of the Crown all her life, and it had cost her everything.

Jack didn't think a personal betrayal alone would turn her against her old masters. But here she sat, having seen how the powerful would sacrifice anyone to their political aims, and he thought, just possibly, that Abby Irene held justice in better regard than patriotism.

It was because Abby Irene had chosen her principles over both her loyalty to the crown and her love both for Sebastien and for Richard, the soon-to-be-former Duke of New Amsterdam, that Jack thought she might listen. "I don't need to argue with you," he said, after a long quiet consideration, which she permitted him to take in silence. "You've seen what your king and his lieutenants get about, Doctor Garrett. They kept your lover Prince Henry from satisfying honor because it might be an embarrassment, and they've done the same to you."

"And is revolution a better choice? Or joining the French in a war against England? War is a pain in the ass, Jack. People starve. People die."

He smiled to hide his own passionate nausea, and to bite back his urge to say Yes, and there are other wars coming. Worse ones. This was his single best chance to secure her aid, as he had secured Sebastien's. "What would your prince say?"

Doctor Garrett stared at Jack, her fingernails picking at the arm of the chair. "Damn you."

"Besides that," he said.

A risk, but she stared a moment longer, and then dissolved into tears and laughter. Her terrier gave her a dirty look when her knee started to shake, but then jumped up, planted both small feet on the lip of her corset, and licked her face and eyes while she fended him off unsuccessfully. "Henry would say," she said, when she finally got hold of the dog's collar and wiped her face off on her sleeve, "that it is the duty of the great to police themselves, for there is no other to do so."

"And if the great will not?"

Her lips compressed, and she pulled the little dog close against her chest and let her chin fall on his head. She closed her eyes. "That is what I was sworn to," she said. "When I was sworn to anything."

And so, somehow, it was decided.

[OOC: Taken and lightly edited from New Amsterdam, by Elizabeth Bear. NFI, NFB, and I apologize in advance for the many days of spam ahead.]


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Jack Priest

January 2017

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