Something Wicked This Way Comes
This is my little contribution to the glory that is the Jarida ship. Direct sequel to Ill Met By Moonlight.
All things considered, it was a good relationship. It ticked all the boxes.
Sure, they fought from time to time when Jack's natural instinct to tease clashed with her hair-trigger temper, but the make-up sex was the best sex he'd ever had in his (short) life. The both worked long hours but they were comfortable enough in each other's houses to sink into something of a domestic routine in the evenings, one of them cooking dinner while the other flipped channels and checked their messages.
All the same, Jack knew that Merida was finding it difficult to adjust to life in Pennsylvania. She didn't complain (unless she was really annoyed) but she hated the food and the humidity. She was worried about getting sick and having to pay huge medical bills, and swallowed handfuls of supplement pills to avoid this. She couldn't drive and the streets weren't very pedestrian friendly. She liked the countryside (on the rare occasions when they got out of the city) but couldn't understand why they had to drive for so long to get there.
He could tell most of the unhappiness was down to being homesick, especially after long phone conversations with her family (where her accent would become broader and more unintelligible until Jack was convinced she wasn't speaking English anymore.) She would get used to it, over time, she told him.
So he could tell it was really bad when she showed up at his house and the first words out of her mouth were:
Jack sighed and called up the stairs to his sister.
"Emma! Put the kettle on, would you?"
Emma thundered down the stairs to comply, because the only time the kettle (Merida's kettle, she'd dropped it off at their house the month before) was turned on was when Merida was in the house, and Emma adored Merida almost as much as Jack did. Jack ushered Merida into the den as though she were an invalid, pushed her gently onto the couch and took in her white, drawn expression.
"Here you go," Emma said shyly, popping two mugs of tea on the coffee table.
"Thanks, sweetheart," Merida mumbled.
Okay, actual words. That's not too bad.
"So, you wanna tell me what happened or do you need a minute?" Jack prodded.
Merida threw two spoons of sugar into her tea and tossed it back like a shot, and it seemed to brace her.
"It happened again. I didn't want it to but it did," she said darkly.
"What? More silverfish in the rare books? What?" After that incident she'd stayed in the shower for close to two hours.
"No, it's worse," she muttered. "Anna roped me in again."
"Oh, another play? That sucks," he agreed. "Why did you agree if you hated it so much last time?"
"She begged me again," Merida told him, throwing up her arms. "She actually came all away across town to the shop and begged me. In public. She wouldn't let go of my leg. And she promised to buy this damaged old Canterbury Tales we've been trying to offload for ages, so I said yes. That's not the worst part, I figured I'd just get it over with. I know the plays inside out, bloody cakewalk."
"So what's the worst part?"
She took a deep breath.
"Okay," Jack nodded. "Right. And?"
She glared at him. The effect was oddly sexy.
Not the right time to be thinking along those lines, Jacko.
"It's Macbeth!" she re-iterated.
"Yeah, I got that. Is that a bad play or...?"
"Otherwise known as The Scottish Play."
Oh. Oh dear.
"I'll go make more tea," he mumbled.
It took five cups of tea to get the full story out of Merida, and Jack was surprised that she hadn't tried to hurt anybody once he heard it all. He would have had a hard time showing restraint himself.
Since talking her into being in the play, the other cast members had more or less followed her around trying to engage her in conversation so they could pick up her accent. Several of them (including Hans, which really made Jack's blood boil) had taken to recording her talking on their phones and playing it back to the room during rehearsal. They had good intentions, sure, but unsurprisingly Merida found it all a bit dehumanizing.
The last straw for her had been when Rapunzel, ignorant of how homesick Merida had been, recorded her talking on the phone to her mother and played it back to the other girls, remarking on her considerably stronger accent. Merida managed to conceal how upset she was until she got home, and she admitted that she had a little crying fit under the duvet.
"Don't feel bad for that," Jack muttered, holding her close and rubbing soothing circles around her back. "That's really low."
"She didn't do it to hurt me," Merida grumbled. "I'm just a bit sensitive right now. Too many feels."
Of course, the feels were a result of just having spent her mother's birthday thousands of miles from her family. She had just the right amount of feels, probably.
"It's not too late to quit," he told her.
"I don't go back on my word," she said. "It wouldn't be so bad if it was a different play. I know it's a masterpiece but I fucking hate Macbeth."
"Why, 'cos it's Scottish?"
"No, because it's stupid. Macbeth gets into trouble because his wife double-dog dared him to kill the king. It's supposed to be a tragedy but it's ridiculous."
"I have an idea," Jack said, pulling away to look her in the eye. "Can I audition?"
"Yes," she said uncertainly. "But why would you want to?"
"If it's as ridiculous as you say it is, maybe we could skew it, perform it like a really dark comedy. Get a sneaky knife in."
"That does sound like fun," Merida admitted. "Have you ever acted before?"
"Not since high school, but come on, who's going to do a better Scottish accent than me? I spend more time with you than anyone, I know what you sound like."
She scowled, mouth scrunched, but there was a dart of humour in her eyes.
"It's not that easy," she told him.
"Please," he scoffed. "Whiy-zit soo fahcking hoomeed oot heeyer? Whut's thees utt-her shyte suppoosed to bae? Oh aye, that's reech cooming fram yeoo."
"Not bad," she grudgingly admitted.
"Ooh coome ohn Jack, hoorse it intae me..."
She smacked his arm, blushing furiously.
"Your sister's in the kitchen!"
"Yoor wee sistar's in the ketchen, stoop that shyte right noo!"
"All right, you made your point," she grumbled. "Auditions start proper in two days. You'll have to learn off the whole play before then."
"Good thing I have a Shakespeare scholar to help me out then, isn't it?"
Jack nailed the audition for the lead role, as he knew he would. Nobody was able to grasp the Scots accent more accurately than he had. Merida auditioned for and instantly got Lady Macbeth, so they could mess with the play from the inside together.
The three witches were played by Rapunzel, Anna and Elsa, who all had to don fake beards and hunchbacks. Elsa was somewhat put out by this but the other two relished their roles and adopted moustache-twiddling villain mannerisms that were out of touch with any witch in existence.
Hans took the role of Duncan, and Jack was very pleased about this because it let him stab the guy, and if he actually hurt Hans in the act it would look better to the audience. Banquo and MacDuff were taken by the boyfriends of Rapunzel and Anna respectively, and though Eugene was charming and charismatic as Banquo his accent slipped constantly into his natural Midwest drawl. Kristoff managed to keep his accent steady but he was lumpen and uncomfortable as Macduff right up until he was told of his family's deaths, whereupon he threw himself around the stage in a pantomime of grief.
Naturally, Jack and Merida stole the show. They shamelessly flirted during their scenes together, and when they were apart Jack played the part like a mildly confused grunt who'd gotten an unexpected promotion.
"But screw your courage to the sticking place and we'll not fail," Merida cajoled. Just do it, you big girl's blouse, it sounded like.
"Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him?" she queried with a casual shrug, looking over Han's bloody corpse with Jack. Jack nodded solemnly, and a wave of giggles swept through the audience.
"Is this a dagger I see before me?" he wondered, and she tilted her head and squinted, then gave him a 'not this shit again' look. Now the audience were laughing openly.
"Life is a tale, told by an idiot," he moaned, cradling her corpse. "Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." He promptly ruined the touching scene by dragging her offstage by her feet.
At the very end, when Macduff admitted that he had not been of woman borne and therefore was able to kill Macbeth, Jack turned to the audience and raised his arms in the ultimate gesture of 'what the hell?' The audience roared with laughter and clapped as he died.
Although the director was initially annoyed, the play itself was a roaring success and played for four more nights to a full house. At Jack's death scene some enterprising soul played the theme to Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Satisfied that he had earned himself a permanent place in Merida's good books, he went back to enjoying his time with her and put his foray into acting at the back of his mind. Until one day, as they were lounging in bed together on their respective phones, Merida suddenly tossed hers across the room.
"No," she muttered. "No, no, no, no, no. No."
"What's up, sugar puff?" he asked her.
"No, it's not happening," she said, diving under the covers.
Curious, he went to her phone and found the message that prompted the freakout. It was from Anna.
Hey, so, the director picked the next play already and he REALLY REALLY wants you and your boyfriend to be in it, he's got big plans. It sounds way better than the last one...
She rambled for a while before she got around to naming the play.
"Hell no," Jack growled when he saw it.