Synopsis: (From the Amelia Peabody Series by Elizabeth Peters) Seth Emerson, alias Sethos, contemplates his marriage to Margaret Minton, and his past (or are they?) feelings for Amelia Peabody Emerson. Takes place during the ceremony.
Author's Note: I haven't posted in a while, though I have dozens of fanfics saved on my computer. I just didn't want to really start any until I was sure I would want to go on with them. I thought I owed something to myself to get a piece on the net. This is only a one-shot, and though the theme is unpopular, I just had to do it. Warning: Will not make sense to those who have not read up to "The Children of the Storm".
"Some concessions to a temperament are necessary if the martial state is to flourish."
–Amelia Peabody Emerson
"If you had told me twenty years ago that my family would be attending my wedding," I said bemusedly, "I most probably would have laughed you out of Egypt."
"If someone had told you twenty years ago that you were going to be married, you would have laughed them out of Egypt," Ramses replied dryly, brushing off my jacket and inspecting me critically. I always had difficulty thinking of him as my nephew; he was more of a close friend or a brother. The war had made him seem even more of an adult, and if I didn't know any better, I would have believed he was my age.
We were standing in a shady part of the gardens, just outside my brother's Egypt residence in Luxor, where the ceremony was to take place. Where I would marry Margaret Minton.
"Right then," Ramses said, looking satisfied. "That'll have to do. If mother complains, it's your fault." By 'mother', he was referring to Amelia Emerson. He turned and we approached the 'aisle', formerly known as the pathway between the elder and younger Emerson's households. Ramses and his wife Nefret lived in the newer addition, while my brother and his wife lived in the larger.
My brother and his wife. It still startled me whenever I thought or said those words. Never in all my years did expect to speak of them so intimately, as though we were all a proper English family. I held back a bark of laughter. One does not think of the Emersons and a proper English family in unison.
They were all there; Emerson, looking irritated to be in formal dress, but pleased, I guessed because of the event taking place; Amelia, at her husband's side, smiling fondly at the people around her, with a satisfied sparkle in her steely grey eyes, knowing this was all her doing; Nefret, Ramses' beautiful wife, not to mention clever and courageous, sitting next to their two children; Walter and Evelyn, my other brother and his wife, along with their children, and son-in-law David; David and Lia's children; and the entire family of their former reis, Abdullah; grinning Selim, teary Daoud, serious Jumana…
So many, I thought wonderingly. Who knew a master criminal could have such a bountiful collection of friends? I smiled, catching Amelia's eye as I passed. She understood me the best of all of them, and she knew it well. Though, in all her pride and self-confidence, she had overlooked one very important detail…
Ramses stood beside me, and I saw his eyes flicker constantly back to his wife. The connection between them was one of the strongest I had ever witnessed, and I couldn't help thinking how well they were for eachother.
"I feel like a fool," I whispered to him out of the corner of my mouth.
"You are a fool," He replied quietly, grinning.
"Are you always so supportive?"
"You should've seen David before his wedding."
We were silent, and my thoughts drifted. How pleasantly ignorant you all are, I thought, observing the audience. How good it is that it is so. I knew if these people knew the truth, I would be too ashamed to look them in the eye ever again. These people who opened their hearts to me, a murdering criminal, and these people that I was deceiving so completely. But I could not avoid who I was. Lying was my job.
There was a stir in the crowd, and I looked down the aisle to see my daughter, Maryam, in a pale green frock, smiling shyly and glowing. She had adored Margaret as soon as they had met, and I knew she was extremely pleased with the union. She gave me a proud look before stepping to the side and revealing the woman behind her.
I had met Margaret over five years ago, when I rescued her from an interview gone wrong, thinking she was Amelia. Their resemblance to each other was shocking. The same steely eyes, thick black hair, and admirable figure. Margaret was only too much like Amelia. I was surprised that people didn't become suspicious. Why they didn't wonder how I had suddenly lost my love for my brother's wife, and turned to another. The reason was, quite simply, Margaret was the closest thing to Amelia. As close as I could get.
Oh yes. I was still in love with my sister-in-law. Madly. Inescapably. Horribly. Traitorously. And Margaret was my surrogate. Any other man would have felt guilty and humiliated in himself, but I was not any other man. I was an orphan, thrown out of my home in my early childhood, a witness of my mother's death, father of a bastard child, and most feared criminal in all of Egypt. But, another part of me protested, you are also a war hero, a rescuer, a lover, and an affectionate father, if out of marriage. You have righted so many of your wrongs. You could stop this now. You should stop this now.
I did nothing.
Margaret came and stood beside me, her pale green gown simple yet elegant, her eyes for once warm and defenseless. She loved me more than I could ever comprehend. The priest, a member of Abdullah's vast family, started into an eloquent speech. Yet again, my mind drifted.
I thought of the day, so many years ago, when I had Amelia in my grasp. When I could have had her as mine. But I was too slow. I dawdled. And she was rescued by her husband. I didn't see her for sometime after that, but when I finally did again, I knew my love had not left me, and never would leave me. I had even told her once, when we were on friendly terms. She had not understood, though she thought she had. I had not meant her to, and so life went on.
I hadn't quite realized what was going on. Some how, the rings were on our fingers, and the priest was finishing. A shame, I thought idly. No memories of your wedding. Only of the woman you love.
You should be marrying the woman you love, another voice said.
That's impossible, I answered.
I leaned forward to kiss my new wife, glancing at Amelia before our lips touched. I imagined it was her I was kissing, holding close, going to live the rest of my life with. I kissed Margaret harder. Would that it were so.
We pulled apart amidst cheers and applauding. Margaret held my hand tightly, smiling at the people in front of us, while I lowered my lashes and gazed at Amelia. She was cheering with the rest of them, grinning smugly. You idiot, I thought. You ignorant, lovable idiot.
Later on, while everyone was talking amongst themselves and drinking fine wines, Amelia came over to me. Margaret was talking animatedly with Nefret across the room, and I was speaking with Emerson.
Amelia took the arm of her husband and smiled. "How rare it is to see everyone so happy," She commented.
"I'm sure you're very pleased with yourself, Amelia dear," I said teasingly.
"She's going to lecture soon," Emerson grumbled. His wife glowered at him.
"Now, Emerson, I was not-"
He patted the hand on his arm. "Don't be an ass, Peabody," he interrupted, his tone amiable.
She sighed. "Emerson, some things are necessary if the martial state is to flourish, and a friendly talk from a friend, especially a friend like myself-"
"-Would be damned annoying," Emerson finished for her. "Come along, Peabody. I believe Selim is getting rather drunk." He steered his wife away with a wink at me.
Some things are necessary if the martial state is to flourish. How very true, my dear, I thought as Amelia walked away. But, I am certain, the things necessary are not at all what you would imagine.
It was necessary that I imaginged Margaret as Amelia if I was to act as though I loved her. It was necessary that I lived far from the real Amelia, so that I would not get so lost in my illusion, that I might mistake her for my wife. It was necessary that I kept my mouth shut when Margaret and I made love, for fear of calling out another woman's name. It was necessary that I lived a lie to save myself.
Grinning, I walked over to join my wife. Some things are necessary, indeed.