A/N: To be perfectly honest, I haven't really been feeling like posting today, but I did promise you readers a new story. My best friend and co-author, Reyaa, is having internet issues, so forgive me if I seem whiny. I miss her. *pout*
So, here it is. For those of you who read, Get outta here, Greenhorn!, you should be aware that it was the first story in our 'Time' series. Thus named for the time it takes place and for future plot loops. Even if you haven't read it, (which you should cause Leon and Cloud as cowboys is just hot) you can still enjoy this fiction as they are not directly related.
So, please enjoy, read, review and there shall be five chapters in total, one chapter a day. We spoil you;)
Pulling my gloves off after I got into my car, I threw them onto the seat next to me. Gritting my teeth in frustration as I started it, I thanked the gods that it the engine caught and rumbled to life. Ever since that afternoon I'd lent it to my brother in law, it hadn't been running right. I'd have to send it in to be looked at. I just kept forgetting to ask the butler to do that until I was actually in the car. Looking forward to having an afternoon down at my gentleman's club, I'd been reminded that I was supposed to be having tea with one Kairi Ashdown as a potential suitor. I hadn't really been listening when my father had been rambling on about it at dinner a few nights ago, and I should have listened to my sister's warning about what would happen if I didn't find someone to start courting soon.
He'd taken things into his own hands and I was expected to fall in line and do as he said. It was the normal thing to do, but that didn't make it any less annoying to have my plans changed at the last minute. The drive to the Ashdown's manor was a pleasant one at least, and I started to relax as the wind blew in my face.
Deciding that if I didn't want to lose my top hat to the wind, I should take it off, which I did and dropped it on top of my gloves. As I drove, I tried to remember everything about Miss Ashdown that I could. I know I'd seen her before, at parties or at certain events, but I'd never interacted with her. If I remembered right, she had dark auburn hair, and was rather pretty in her own way. This shouldn't be too difficult to do.
Pulling into their driveway a few minutes later, I turned off my car and quickly put my gloves and hat back on. Grabbing my walking cane, an annoying contraption, but my father had given it to me for just this occasion so I couldn't just ignore it. I straightened my suit and rang the bell. This was just a formal introduction so it shouldn't take very long and I could swing by my club after. The door opened, revealing not a butler, but a footman. Very tall, lanky and lean in body shape, pristine uniform with the brightest red hair I'd ever seen tied back neatly, one rebel lock of it springing out of place before his right ear. He had a friendly face with green eyes, and he stepped aside and bowed down from the waist in respect.
"Lord O'Malley, we've been expecting you. Please come in and let me take your hat, gloves and coat." Nodding my thanks to him, I stepped inside and removed my hat, handing it to him. He took my gloves and my coat and I waited as he hung them up. I wasn't quite sure what to do with my walking stick, and since I didn't want to be awkward with it when I met with Kairi and her father, I handed it to him when he turned around.
"Miss Ashdown is waiting for you in the drawing room," Placing the stick in a vase beside the door that held other canes, he then gestured at the double doors on our right. Moving over to them he nearly pulled them open, but hesitated. "She wishes to speak with you before you speak to her father." A hint of a smile tugged at his lips. "She has her own ways..." He said, something a footman most likely shouldn't say about his better.
Blinking in surprise at the news that I would be meeting Miss Ashdown straight away, I licked my lips, nervous now about this entire episode. "Thank you for telling me that." This was probably going to be a disaster. Facing the doors now, I mumbled, "And so it begins." Even if I was not chosen as one of Kairi's suitors, my father would have me out and courting eligible girls from now on until I found one. This was the first step for the rest of my life. Giving me an encouraging smile, he pulled the double doors open and then walked in.
"Lord O'Malley, Miss." He announced me, gesturing for me to step inside. "More tea?" His question directed at Miss Ashdown. She sat properly on a sofa in the middle of a rather bright room, the sun streaming through no less than four giant windows, each with matching light blue drapes to match the wallpaper and furniture.
Each wall had at least two paintings, of which I'm assuming were family members as they all seemed to share varying shades of red hair. Each of the sofas in the room had matching side tables on either side and each one of those had a plant flourishing on it. It seemed rather stuffed with everything one could possibly need in a drawing room and despite the size of it, I felt slightly claustrophobic.
"No thank you, Griffits. That will be all." Miss Ashdown said with a very soft and delicate sounding voice, giving the footman apparently named Griffits a warm smile, leading him to give her a nod and exit the room, closing the doors behind him. Why was he closing them? "Anne, would you serve Lord O'Malley a cup of tea?" Ah, the maid was here. We weren't breaking any code of etiquette then.
Walking to the sofa across from Miss Ashdown, I bowed to her and then sat. I can't begin to describe the deceptive nature of that particular sofa. Sure it looked soft, but then so do porcupines before they get their spines in you. The cushioning had to be less than a centimeter thick and I suspected that the wood was rotting beneath whatever material was that covered it. Holding in my grimace as I sat, I vowed that if I were to marry into this family, I'd gladly burn every piece of furniture in this room.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Ashdown. You have a lovely home." As long as you don't plan on sitting on anything.
She smiled, "Kairi will do fine, and thank you." She handed me the cup that her maid, Anne, gave her. "How has your day been so far, Lord O'Malley?" She asked softly, thanking the maid when she handed her a cup of her own.
"Quite relaxing, thank you." Taking a sip of the tea, I relaxed just a tad as it soothed my nerves and became a sort of barrier between me and her. I tried to think of what exactly we were supposed to talk about and what she expected to have happen. Deciding that perhaps the best approach was the upfront one, I cleared my throat. "I am a bit surprised to be meeting you so quickly and without your father. It seems rather unorthodox doesn't it?"
The maid in the corner giggled, leading Kairi to roll her eyes. "Yes, I suppose you are right, but I believe it's prehistoric to let my father decide whom I marry. It's true, I won't be able to make the final decision on the matter, but I wish to have some say in the very least. So I am narrowing down the long list of suitors and will hand over the remaining I personally selected to my father, and he may then choose from thereon forward."
"How very...proactive of you." Still a little shocked at how much freedom her father had apparently given her, I took another sip of tea. My father wouldn't have listened to a thing my sisters had said outright. It had taken weeks of dropping subtle hints on both my mother and my sisters parts to get him to choose the men they wanted.
She chuckled softly. "I will have to live with the man for the rest of my life, not my father." She pointed out and then blushed. "I'm sorry, I let my mouth run away with me sometimes. Tell me, what will marrying me bring to you and your family? The O'Malley's have a grand business of their own, so it's not for the money. Your title is quite impressive too..."
A little shocked at her honesty, I didn't really think about what to say before I said it. "I suppose if we were to marry, it would bring you to our family. Quite honestly, my father was the one who sent me to your door this afternoon. Perhaps it is too early on for me to give you a more accurate response to your question."
She tilted her head, smiling, "Thank you. I appreciate that you aren't pretending to be interested in me in that sense. It's refreshing after all the knuckle kissing I have gone through this afternoon." She sighed. "I think I will call on you, Lord O'Malley. If you agree on this, of course."
Giving her a smile, I nodded. She seemed rather nice at least and my father would be pleased that she would want to call on me. "That would be fine, Miss Kairi. I look forward to hearing from you."
She nodded as she stood up, which I then did instantly as well while she smoothed out her dress. "Griffits! You can stop eavesdropping now. Come on inside and collect Lord O'Malley's card, please!" I blinked as she raised her voice quite a bit. She definitely didn't obey the etiquette to the point of strict.
The door opened and the footman gave Kairi a sheepish smile before turning to me, nodding so I would follow him out of the drawing room. Stepping out, he closed the doors behind me and then moved over to the hanger on the wall on the left, retrieving my coat, holding it up so I could get into it.
"You'll be happy to know that you are the only one I'm taking a card from this afternoon." Griffits said, smoothing the coat out over my shoulders.
"Thank you." I wasn't really sure how to take that information, but I guess I should appreciate that her footman was apparently rooting for me to win her hand.
Giving me a nod, he handed me my gloves and hat before moving over to the front door, opening it for me. "Have a pleasant day, my Lord."
"You as well, Griffits." I tipped my hat to him and walked out the door.
Closing the door behind the latest guest, I sighed, running a hand through my hair and tucking the loose strand back in place. I hope Kairi would settle on her suitors soon because I had better things to do than opening the door and taking hats and coats all day. This little plan of hers had gone on for a week now. Lord Ashdown wasn't even in the house; he was in London attending to business and his daughter was making use of his absence to go over the list of gentlemen her father had accidentally left lying around. Sneaky girl.
If Lord Ashdown were to find out, which I'm sure he would because this couldn't possibly remain a secret, he'd surely blame me for not being able to keep a proper eye out on Kairi. Straightening my jacket, I grumbled while returning to the drawing room, giving the maid, Anne, a stern look so she'd know she had to leave. Curtsying to Kairi, she took the tea tray and left, closing the door to give me and the miss some privacy.
"Kairi..." I warned.
She smiled in return, patting the couch. "It'll be fine, Axel! I promised I'd take the blame when dad comes back."
"I'm not allowed to sit in your presence." I reminded her.
"When has that stopped you?" She grinned.
Rolling my eyes, I got rid of the stiff footman posture and walked over to the couch to sit down beside her, groaning as I hung my head. "Are you really going to call on this one?" She had too. From what I knew about O'Malley, he wasn't completely terrible and his family's social status would make Lord Ashdown very pleased indeed if Kairi were to pick him. Going behind his back wouldn't be as horrifying if the match Kairi had made was above average.
She sighed, "Yes. He didn't lie or pretend. I liked that. Although, if I wear heels, I'll be taller then he is." She had this strange obsession where she wished the man she'd marry to be taller than her.
I shrugged, "Then don't wear heels. Or have him wear heels when you wear them."
Kairi scoffed delicately, "Men would never wear heels to accommodate a lady."
I raised an eyebrow, "You're being serious..." I muttered. "If he's not taller, you'll lose interest."
"I'm not asking for much, Axel! Love clearly won't be on my side, but I at least want to look good when I go out on the arm of the man I marry. I think that if he's shorter, it'll look plain ridiculous." She smoothed out her skirt. "Now, don't even begin the lecture. I promise I'll behave. Don't you have duties to attend too?"
I pressed my lips tightly together, quickly standing from the couch and resuming my working posture. "Yes, Miss." Bowing slightly, I then turned and let her be so I could return to my routine. Once the doors were closed, I turned to make my way to the kitchen, but was startled by Anne standing right there. Giving her a pointed look, I walked passed her, not wanting to talk about it. She followed though, using her duster to poke me in the side.
"You can't let her do that, Mister Griffits. Either she's your better or she's your sister; she can't have both, it's unfair and confusing to you." Anne hissed, opening the door below the stairs, revealing another staircase going down, leading to the kitchen.
"Although that may be, I can't exactly tell her this, can I?" I groaned, walking down the stairs, Anne on my heels. "And she's my sister, I love her and although sometimes she abuses the power, I know she loves me too." Jumping down the last three steps as the last two ones were rotting and could cave in any moment, I turned and then helped Anne down, grabbing her by the waist.
While in my arms, she muttered. "I suppose she does manage to show her care for you a bit better than your father does."
Grinning, I set her down, opening the kitchen door for her. "Careful, Anne, he might hear you."
"All the way from London?" She giggled. "You've been running around all day, Mister Griffits, I'll take over dinner duties tonight and attend to Miss Ashdown's need." I shook my head, but she just smacked me with her duster, leading us over to the left of the room to sit down around the kitchen table. "I insist, Axel. You look worn out." Patting my cheek with a smile.
"Very well, but you can sleep in an extra hour tomorrow then." I bargained. "Anatole?" I turned my attention to the cook, "Is there some tea left?" I needed whiskey, truly, but tea would have to do. The family chef turned away from the stove, nodding with a smile as he set about to serve me and Anne some tea. He was a very short man, in his late fifties, and although he cooked food all day long, he was neither too fat nor too thin. He was French; Lord Ashdown having had him imported from France many years ago. He still had a heavy accent even after all this time in England.
As he and Anne began talking about the irritating little things that occurred every single day in their lives while attending to the households needs, I muted them out, sighing as I sipped my tea and let myself relax for just a while. It was confusing to have Kairi treat me both like her brother and equal, but then the next moment she'd switch back over to the lady and servant dynamics. Anne was wrong to worry though, Kairi cared about me and even though she used her position over me sometimes, she never did it to the extremes. There was nothing she could do anyway, if anyone was to blame for the strange situation it was her father, who by blood, was mine as well.
The only reason I was still in this house working for them is because my mother had made sure my father, Lord Ashdown, would give me a good and stable life. She hadn't asked him to recognize me as his and tell the world I was his bastard son, neither had she demanded I be his heir, which technically I was... She'd just made sure he'd give me a job and that job would last my whole lifetime. Not many people had that security and I was grateful for it.
"Alright, we've been sitting here long enough, back to work." I said firmly, getting up and making my way to the garden so I could start smacking some carpets to get the dust out of them.
A week or so later
Standing at the back entrance of the O'Malley mansion, I sighed. Lord Ashdown was back, but Kairi wasn't done with her tricks yet. She hadn't lied though, she'd called upon Lord O'Malley and they'd had tea together two more times over the last couple of days. There seemed to be no chemistry between them, but apparently that wasn't needed for a good match and marriage, so I wasn't going to dissuade them from giving this a chance. Of course Kairi, being her unusual self, wanted to get to know him better and she strongly believed she wouldn't be able to in her house or his, as their parents were always close by to keep an eye out.
So, she'd decided on an outdoor secluded picnic, which was wrong on so many levels and could ruin her reputation as well as his, but that was her wish and I wasn't in a position to tell her otherwise. Lord Ashdown was though and I was upset he just let her do whatever she wanted, it would get her in trouble one day and effectively him as well.
Knocking on the servant entrance door, I waited for someone to open and tell them I had a message to deliver from Miss Ashdown to Lord O'Malley. That would raise plenty of gossip in the servant community... The lords and ladies had absolutely no idea what went on behind their backs. If scandal was broken out, the source usually was a chatty servant who knew too much.
The door opened and I smirked as it was none other than my best friend. "Didn't think one day our households would come in contact." I said. "It's been a while! Where have you been, Demyx?"
"Axel! How are ya man?" Pulling me into a bone crushing hug, Demyx laughed and slapped me on the back before releasing me. "It's been crazy around here the last few months, what with Lord O'Malley marrying off his last daughter. What are you doing here?"
"Believe it or not, Kairi is interested in the second Lord O'Malley of this house." I waggled my eyebrows, figuring he'd like that tid bit of information. The guy loved gossip. "I'm here to deliver a personal message from the little miss to your boss' son. Some more of this and you'll have another wedding to go through."
"Oh really? A personal message?" Scratching his chin, he looked a little skeptical for some reason. "Well, come inside and tell me about this whole interest thing before I go and get little Lord Brat."
Chuckling, I stepped inside and let Demyx take my coat and hat, knowing he'd want me to stay for tea after having given the message. "She was on a suitors hunt the last couple of weeks, little Lord Brat," That was the official nickname we'd given Lord O'Malley. Or, Demyx had, I had just gotten very used to hearing it. "is one of the few that managed to stick around for the second round and with this message? The third round as well. Kairi appreciates his honesty." I rolled my eyes. "But she might not keep him as he'd be shorter than her if she were to wear heels." I shook my head at Demyx, giving him a confused look. "Women are strange..."
"You're just figuring this out now?" Shaking his head and smirking, he led me into the kitchen and pointed to a pair of stools and a small table in the corner. "You can deliver the message in a minute; I want to hear about how Roxas could possibly intrigue any woman at all. He's such a jerk about everything he does. If he was honest, she couldn't possibly have liked him."
Sitting down, I shook my head in amusement. "You know, after all these years of hearing you blabber on about how terrible the boy is, I'd have expected to meet a monster when I heard I was to open the door for him that one afternoon." I frowned. "He looked a tad green about having to meet his possible future wife. Not like the pit bull you made him out to be at all." But then, I had only taken his coat and hat, I couldn't possibly know what he truly was like. Demyx, being his personal servant, most likely knew him better than anyone. "Kairi is a strong girl, I know she'd be able to take care of herself. Should I worry about her?" He knew she was my sister. "You think he's just acting to be the nice and honest guy Kairi believes him to be?"
Flapping his hand, he shook his head. "He's not acting. And that's the problem. The guy sees everything in such narrow vision, that I can't even see him caring about anything. He ignores everything around him and treats his servants like dirt." Giving me a disgusted look, he reached over to the counter and snagged a fruit tart that was sitting there. "Not to mention that he's spoiled rotten. Gets everything he wants without having to work for it."
I raised an eyebrow, and leaned back in my chair, relaxing as I remembered I wasn't exactly on duty for the next couple of minutes. "Dem, they're lords, they'll never have to work and will always get what they want. Is it fair? Sure it's not," It really wasn't, "but just remember that without them we wouldn't have the cozy lives we have." I snorted, "I don't like waiting on people hand and foot either, I mean, I'm my father's personal man servant, how twisted is that? But I'd rather help him clip on his suspenders and open doors because apparently they aren't able to do it themselves, than sitting on a London street corner begging for money while my teeth are rotting out and my stomach is starving."
Snorting at that picture, he took a bite of the tart. "Good point."
Sighing, I straightened, "Okay, let me just deliver the message and be done with it. Kairi wants to go shopping later today with her girlfriends and since they can't open doors and put on their own clothes, they don't know how to carry their shopping boxes either." I gave Demyx an apologetic look, "Cross you fingers and hope we'll be around for the day everyone will be equal to one another."
Standing up, we moved over to the stairs that would lead to the first floor. "I'd give you the message, I trust you, but Kairi told me to hand it to him myself without fault." I groaned. "Fine. I get your point. They're spoiled and it would be very nice to have the possibility to knock it out of them."
"That's right." He chuckled. "It's not that I really have a problem with someone have a lot of money and living in comfort. It's just that, well, it would be nice if they didn't act like they were entitled to every little thing."
I laughed, "But Demyx, they don't act like they are entitled, they actually believe they are..." I clapped him on the back as we made our way up the stairs. "Clearly we need to get drunk sometime soon." I muttered, leaving him the space to open the door. Demyx shook his head, giving me a smile as he guided me into the hallway, passing a couple of doors before reaching the one we needed to be at.
"Now, don't expect anything spectacular and I'll be waiting to see you out when you're done delivering the message. Ready?" Sighing in resignation, he straightened his shoulders and knocked quietly on the door.
A muffled, 'Enter' came from the other side and Demyx opened the door and cleared his throat. "Axel Griffits on behalf of Miss Kairi Ashdown to see you, my lord." Holding the door open and not meeting my eyes, Demyx let me enter the room.
Entering, I saw little lord brat sitting on a comfortable looking sofa by a large window, his feet pulled up onto them, not looking as neat as he did when coming to visit Kairi. His blond hair was clearly uncontrolled and at some point his collar must have been too tight as he'd loosened a couple of buttons, his vest was off as were his shoes, randomly lying on the floor, telling me they'd been kicked off.
He had a book nestled in his lap and he seemed very concentrated on it up until he'd heard who I was, probably surprised Kairi was contacting him in this way. I knew Demyx would be my best source when it came to information on this guy's behavior. He was his personal servant. But despite what Demyx had told me on O'Malley, I couldn't help but think he looked... cute.
I glanced up and saw the same red haired servant who had taken my coat and gloves every time I had tea with Miss Ashdown standing there. It was definitely not a normal occurrence to be receiving a private message like this from a young lady so I was rather surprised to see him here. To say that I was happy would be an overstatement. Courting a woman seemed to be a rather messy business these days. I couldn't be too forward or she could reject me, I couldn't act disinterested for fear she would drop me as a suitor and above all, I must not offend her in any way. It seemed that after every occasion of having tea with her, my father would sit me down again and again, explaining the rules and how lucky I was to have peaked the interest of a girl like Miss Ashdown. I still say it was a giant pain in the ass.
"What message does the lady send?" I asked quickly. He cleared his throat, sticking his hand in his pocket to then pull out a piece of paper. Walking over to me, he offered it, Kairi Ashdown's initials written onto it in delicate calligraphy.
"She, ehm," The servant smothered a grin or a smirk. "perfumed it."
I wrinkled my nose. "Perfumed it?" I suppose I should be flattered. Taking it from his hand, I put my feet on the ground and opened the letter.
"She wishes to invite you to a picnic." The servant explained while I read the note. "The Lady wishes to get to know you better and believes this won't be possible in either yours or her home. I was to tell you clearly that her father is aware of her proposition and does not oppose. If you were to agree to the outing, you shall be accompanied by myself, serving as chaperone." He mumbled out, masterfully smoothing over a cringe that I'd caught only because I'd peeked up.
This was most improper. I think. Had I missed some new social thing that girls were doing to single out suitors? I suppose I might have, seeing as how I could hardly bring myself to pay attention to the dancing around that our level of society was bound to do.
"Why are you accompanying us? Should it not be her maid or a relative of some kind?" He obviously wasn't happy about going with us, or at least I think he wasn't. It was possible that he just didn't like me.
He frowned for a split second, confused maybe that I'd asked him why he was the one to come. "My Lord Ashdown asked me specifically to attend to this. I did not question the why of it, my lord." He said and I wondered if he was lying. Sighing, I stood up from my seat and walked over to the desk in the corner. Opening the drawer and digging around to find a pen and ink so I could write a reply, I pulled the chair out and sat down. I hated writing out my answers. Normally I asked my servant, Demyx, to handle the answering of correspondence as he had nice handwriting. Not wanting to go and find him, I pulled out some stationary and tried to think of a proper reply.
"What am I supposed to say to this?" I muttered, pointing at the note sitting on my desk. "My father will be overjoyed, I'm sure." Licking my lips, I addressed the beginning of the message. To Miss Kairi Ashdown...and then what?
"Well that depends, my lord. Do you wish to accept her proposition?" Snapping my gaze up, I was surprised that her servant had answered me. The only thing I could think of was that Demyx never answered my rumblings and I guess it was nice to know that someone was even listening.
"Um, I'm supposed to say yes, aren't I? So, I guess I should just say that, right?" Axel, I think I remember Demyx announcing him that way, was part of her household so perhaps he could help me out here.
Axel walked closer to me, nodding his head, "If you wish to court her, then it would indeed be most preferable for you to agree to this. Tell her you appreciate the offer and would be happy to go out on a picnic with her." He paused, "You may want to thank her for the flower smell as well as it took her two whole hours to decide whether or not to spray some of it onto the paper."
"Oh yes. The perfume." Taking his word for it that it smelled like flowers, I started writing. Trying to remember everything he'd said, I concentrated on my handwriting. One of my teachers had once told me I'd better hire a servant just to respond to messages because it looked like a cat had scratched it's way through my ink and paper. Needless to say, I tried harder after that.
"Okay, so I accept and I'm happy to go out on a picnic. Should I put anything else?" I looked back at him, hoping he was going to share some more information that could help.
"Unless you're besotted and wish to write her a poem, I'm sure that'll do just fine." Was that a joke? Or was he making fun of me? Or was he just being funny?
Shaking my head, I put the pen down and opened another drawer to grab an envelope. "No, I'm not one for writing poems, besotted or not." As if I could write poetry. Who did he think I was? Folding the note, I stuffed it into the envelope and put my name on the outside. Standing back up, I walked over to him and handed him the note.
"Here you go. And thanks for the help." I smiled and waited for him to take it.
Taking it, he put it into his pocket. "Unless the date is inconvenient for you, Miss Ashdown would like for you to meet her in the serenade park on the other side of town in two days at twelve o'clock in the afternoon." Etiquette demanded that courting took place over any other things that you had planned. Trying not to roll my eyes at the fact that this girl seemed to have a gift at disrupting any fun I was planning on having, I just nodded. I guess the afternoon I'd planned on to spend shooting and what not would have to wait.
"That will be a perfect time. Please tell her I'll see her then." Maybe I'll be lucky and she'll fall madly in love with one of her other suitors and I can spend a few more years wife free.
Roxas - two days later at the park
My car was still making a slightly funny noise and this time I swore to myself that I wouldn't forget to tell Demyx or someone about it. This was entirely ridiculous. Was it so bad to want a car that would work right? Whatever. Trying to smother the scowl I could feel on my face, I spotted the park up ahead and I turned into the parking area. At least it was a nice day out. I could play nice with Kairi for an hour or two, then I'd have the whole rest of the afternoon to myself. My parents were in London for the weekend at our town-home and that would mean more freedom until they returned.
Pulling into the parking area, I spotted Kairi's servant waiting there. That was...odd. Parking my car, I shut it off and stepped out and walked over to him. I didn't see anyone else around, just him.
"My lord." He clipped out, not even bowing as he gestured for me to come over and away from the couple of people that were strolling the sidewalk close to us.
"Axel." Wondering what on earth was going on, I simply followed him to wherever he was going. Feeling a little apprehensive about what was going on, I pulled off my gloves and stuffed them into my back pocket. As we walked out of earshot anyone around, I decided that my curiosity was getting the better of me. "Where is Miss Ashdown? Was I not supposed to meet her here at this time?"
He cleared his throat. "Yes. She-" He peeked down at me, giving me a frown. "She's ill." When I frowned, he shook his head. "She fell off her horse." Didn't they have a car? "Food poisoning." He groaned, stopped walking and rubbed his temples, muttering, "She'll pay for this..."
Feeling my anger rise, I stepped in front of him. "What is the meaning of this? Which is it? Is she ill? Did she really fall off her horse? Or is it food poisoning?" Crossing my arms and scowling at him, I tried not to raise my voice. "Where is she? And this time, don't take me for a fool and tell me the truth." If this was some sort of way to remove me as a suitor, I was going to have something to say about it. A simple note would have been just fine instead of dragging me out to a fake picnic.
"Take you for a fool? She takes all of us for a bunch of idiots." He growled out. "Would you give me a moment, my lord," The way he said the title didn't sound all that respectful right now. "Just a small moment so I can calm down and avoid crossing hundreds of servant rules and risk loosing my job because little miss spoiled rotten, did whatever the fu-" He shut his mouth. "whatever she wants." He said, avoiding the very bad curse word this time around.
I was surprised to say the least. I'd never heard a servant bad mouth their employer in this way and it seemed as though he was taking this whole mess a bit personally. More personally than I was, really. I should be livid or at the very least be contemplating contacting her family with an official withdrawal from courting her. But I was more intrigued about what had Axel so upset about this. I licked my lips, not really sure if I was supposed to be talking to him on the level of familiarity about his employers, but I figured I had some sort of right.
"Where is she? I promise I won't repeat what you tell me. I guess I'm just curious about what on earth is going on."
Axel sighed, rubbing his eyes before giving me a nod. "Clearly I can't avoid telling you the truth of the matter anymore, so..." He let out an irritated noise and then gestured for me to walk with him, into the park. "Miss Ashdown has attended balls, like all other girls her age, to show she is available." Right, that happened every year around spring, big events held so the girls of age could come out and present themselves to society.
"She caught the eye of a young gentleman, they danced a few times and she fell in love. Unfortunately, he's the type of bachelor we'd categorize in the scoundrel department, so Lord Ashdown wasn't exactly favorable concerning the match and made sure neither of them could see one another again." He looked at me, frowning. "Lord Ashdown then gathered the names of well respected bachelors, such as yourself, creating a list he would then go over and choose from, effectively finding the person he'd wish his daughter to marry."
He cleared his throat, "Lord Ashdown was out of town when you came to visit. Miss Ashdown asked me to set up the meetings with the suitors on the list she thought worthy in her own opinion and so the..." He groaned, running his hands through his hair, "plans began. She's been going behind her father's back, but of course Lord Ashdown found out when he came back and I was the one blam-" He cut himself off, shaking his head. "That doesn't matter. The point being that he agreed to the suitors she picked out herself, you included, and now that she's finally narrowed the list down to two people, again, you included, this gentleman shows up again and they..."
Axel shook his head, shrugging. "She's my better, I can't tell her what not to do, so I was forced to let her go talk to this gentleman. Of course I couldn't just let you come to the park without being informed of her absence in any way whatsoever, so I came here to, well, lie. I just forgot to come up with a proper excuse."
Leaning my head to the side, I tapped my chin thoughtfully. "So, you're telling me that she's in love, but she's trying to marry herself off to someone else? Doesn't that seem rather sad? I mean, I guess I might be out of line, but I figured that once a woman loved some guy, he didn't stand a chance in hell in getting away." Shaking my head, I muttered, "At least that's the way it seemed to work for my sisters."
Looking at him, I felt a little sorry for Axel. Which was weird. I'd never really thought about being put in a position where you were damned if you did and damned if you didn't. He had to listen to Kairi, but if she told him to disobey her father, he'd have to do that and then get in trouble. That seemed to be a nasty situation for one's servants. At least my parents knew where to place the blame.
"Clearly it's working that way for Kairi as well. Unfortunately, that means more work for me and a waste of time for you." He said.
"Better than me following her around for the next few months and wasting my time, let me tell you." I chuckled, feeling quite a bit lighter. I didn't want Kairi to be my wife and constantly pining for some random gentleman. "I'm withdrawing my courtship as soon as I get home and find a piece of paper. Thank you for telling me." I glanced down at the ground, not sure if I should ask him but... "It seems as though you dislike working for her family for some reason? Is everything all right?"
"Dislike? Oh no, my lord. I don't dislike working for that family." He said nervously. "They're my betters. They treat me very right."
Frowning, I didn't miss the way he avoided my question. I didn't like that. "I don't like it when people avoid answering my questions. It makes me think they are hiding something." Standing as tall as I could, which was quite a bit shorter than he was so the effect was lost, I tried to give him a stern look. "Is everything okay? I'm sure I could find you a better position somewhere else if you needed it." I don't know why I was concerning myself with Miss Ashdown's servant, but he'd gone out of his way to give me information and I felt obligated to offer him assistance in return.
The previous nervous air about him faded as he turned towards me, giving me a funny look. "You may not like it when people don't answer you, but sometimes people just don't like giving you the answers. You cannot always get what you want." He cringed, "My lord. Shit, my manners are completely gone today. Forgive me. Yes, everything is fine. It's just been hectic and I suppose it's taken it's toll on me."
Blinking in surprise at his harsh words, I nervously licked my lips. I wasn't used to being chastised for my behavior and I was finding it uncomfortable. "If you would like, I can find you a better position like I said. I often wonder why some servants stay with masters that they cannot stand."
He chuckled all of a sudden, looking at me in amusement. "Because we're lucky to find a master to begin with and as we tend to enter a household at a young age, we bond with those who work alongside of us. The maids and cook in the Ashdown household are my family, my lord. We stick together and make sure the master we cannot stand doesn't bring us down." He explained carefully.
"If we were to stop and find another master, they would ask for references. It wouldn't affect the master's lifestyle whatsoever to give a bad reference on a servant's previous behavior, while for us? We'd be out of job for the rest of our lives. What we have is all we have and we cling to it rather dearly." He breathed out, bowing just slightly. "This moment seems to be completely out of context, I can't seem to reign myself in." He gave me a tight smile. "I won't oppose your word if you wish to inform Lord Ashdown of my behavior." He took a step back, "But, while I'm at it, you may want to pay more attention to your personal servant. He falls into the category of servants that remain with masters they aren't particularly fond off."
"What? You mean Demyx?" I flushed and ducked my head. "He hates me?" Somehow, knowing that he hated me and still served me with a smile and respect...God, how horrible.
"Hates you?" Axel grinned, "No. He just thinks you're spoiled." He laughed then, "I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't be this forward, my lord, but it's quite exhilarating even if I'm to be fired by the end of the day."
Sending him a confused look, I asked, "Why would you get fired? I'm not going to say anything to the Ashdown's, if that's what your worried about. And, if I may ask you something." I paused, dropping my eyes, before asking nervously. "Demyx wouldn't leave our service, would he? I wouldn't want that at all." He was rather interesting and very good at his job. I did not want to be the reason that he quit. My father would be very upset with me.
"You're not going to say anything?" Axel said, "Well, thank you, Lord O'Malley. I'm not sure I understand considering the way I've talked to you for the passed couple of minutes, but I appreciate it. As for Demyx..." He shook his head. "He wouldn't leave your service. Like me, his family are all the other servants running around your house." He looked away, smiled and then looked back at me, "Although, I do wish to say that he might be exaggerating, he likes to do that sometimes. But don't mistake it for being nothing, there's something that bothers him in your actions, definitely."
"My actions? And please, stop calling me Lord O'Malley right now. I'm more interested in understanding what you are saying. You may call me Roxas, or Lord Roxas or whatever." I'm sure that was against some sort of rule, but I didn't care about that right now. This was too interesting to be concerned about the little details. "What is it that I do that upsets him? I cannot think of anything in my actions that he would find upsetting."
He wanted me to call him Roxas? "You must be the strangest lord I've met." I muttered. "I think it's the fact you ignore him, he often says-" I eyed... Roxas... That would take some getting used too. I eyed him warily. "You're not going to use the things I tell you against him, right? I wouldn't want to be the source that gets him fired."
He looked at me, a little confused and shook his head. "Oh no. My parent's would never get rid of Demyx. And they would be most upset with me if I was the cause of him leaving our employment. My father says that his father was the best gentleman's servant that he had ever employed and that Demyx had taken on the role with ease. Rest assured, Demyx is one of my family's prized servants."
"He must have exaggerated a whole lot..." I said in surprise. "Or it's all one big misunderstanding. Alright, well, he often says he feels part of the furniture when he's around you and that you act as if you are entitled to everything." Those type of words could get me killed... Well, fired and then on the streets and then killed. But death was implied. Not here though, this short, blond and blue eyed little lord seemed mighty curious about the servants' point of view. "I think if you stopped ignoring him, it would fix everything." I suggested.
"But, I thought that the servants preferred it that way." He sounded so very confused and he looked at me, obviously trying to figure it out. "When I was a child, my father told me that I was to let the servants do their work and never interfere with them. They knew their jobs and I was just in the way. Are you telling me that I should talk to Demyx? How very intriguing..."
He was intriguing. "He will still know his job even if you talk to him from time to time." I licked my lips, daring... "You don't seem to mind talking to me, yet I'm a servant and I am working right now, pretending to be chaperoning Miss Ashdown. You're no longer a child, you'll know when you are interrupting and when not."
"Well, I don't really mind talking to anybody, I just thought I shouldn't interrupt them while they are working. This is all so new to me." Looking up at me again, he smiled. "And no, I don't mind talking to you. But, perhaps you mind talking to me?" Looking sheepish for a moment, he ran a hand through his hair. "Perhaps you feel as though I am pressuring you to talk to me. Isn't that what some lords do?"
"No, no," I reassured him quickly, not wanting him to cut this short. This was probably the most interesting moment I'd had in days... weeks. "I don't feel pressured. But yes, some lords do this..." Like Ashdown, my father. "But generally we don't feel comfortable enough to speak our minds. You are the only lord that has allowed me to speak so freely." Aside from Kairi, but I figured it wouldn't be a good idea to tell him about the scandal that was I.
"I don't blame you for taking what's given to you." I would, if I had the chance... "And I don't believe age has anything to do with intelligence." I murmured, standing beside the bench where he'd sat down, because calling him Roxas was one thing, but sitting next to him was another altogether.
"I do not want to get you into trouble, Axel. But perhaps you could sit down so that I don't have to strain my neck while trying to speak with you? You are so very tall." He smiled and pointed to the bench. "How long do you suppose that Kairi will need chaperoning?"
Gosh, I'd thought him cute cuddled up on the sofa reading a book, but right now... I shook my head, but gave Roxas a quick unsure smile before seating myself beside him, clearing my throat as sitting next to Kairi, my sister, was definitely different from sitting next to a lord.
"I suppose a couple of more hours. She told Lord Ashdown she was to go shopping after meeting with you." I murmured, wondering if he was going to spend that time with me while I pretended to chaperone the miss.
Looking around the park, he looked thoughtful. "Then perhaps I could stay here and speak with you some more. I must say, I am learning a lot and maybe you can give me some ideas so that Demyx will not find me so upsetting."
I looked at him curiously. "You wish to understand us?"
"Well...yes, I suppose. I was going to offer you the chance to understand us lords, but perhaps as servants you know more about us than we do about ourselves." His blue eyes were honest and open, seeming to have no issue whatsoever with spending time with me.
"Well, how about I show you first and then you can decide if I need to know more about you-" Dammit. "The lords."
"That sounds most interesting. But what is it you wanted to show me?"
"Well," I stood, smoothing out my vest and pants, gesturing for him to stand up as well. "Normally I run my personal errands during my free hours on Saturdays and Sundays, but since I have some time now, maybe you'd like to come?" I cleared my throat, "Unless you have more important things to do."
Shaking his head and standing up, he put his gloves back on. "I had only planned on going shooting. But when Kairi sent me that message, I'd had to empty my entire afternoon of plans on the off chance she invited me to dinner as well. But now that I don't have to worry about that anymore, I can spend my afternoons as I wish to spend them." Sounding a little smug and relieved, he headed towards his car.
I walked after him, "We don't need the car. We can just go through the park and enter town via the back." Lords never went through the back as they didn't have to worry about buying food, linen and everything else that needed to keep a household running. So, effectively they didn't show up in that part of town as their servants did in their stead. "I'm going to be a tad bold and suggest you remove the hat, gloves and maybe the scarf and overcoat as well, unless you want everyone to stare at you."
He glanced down at his attire and blushed. "Oh, yes. I suppose you are right." Removing the items that I'd suggested, he gently laid them in the back seat of his car, and turned to look at me. "Perhaps you could tell me if I could pass as a servant? I'm feeling rather awkward." Tugging on his shirt, he shifted his feet nervously.
No, he'd never pass as a servant... With that blush, he was something different from everyone here altogether. I cleared my throat, "Here..." I shrugged out of my vest, handing it to him. "Replace it with yours. It'll be a bit big, but in that part of town we're not looking to impress anyone." He took off his vest, replacing it with mine, still looking a bit uncomfortable. Smiling, I reached up and put my rather simple hat on top of his head. "That should work."
A/N: You like? We thrive on reviews people. THRIVE! And no, I'm not going to have another contest for this story, to guess who the next couple will be. Because it becomes so blantantly obvious later on, that I can't justify it. lmao.