TITLE: Easter Fogg
AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass
AUTHOR'S EMAIL: fishfolk@ix.netcom.com. Feedback is better than chocolate.
PERMISSION TO ARCHIVE: Sure, just let me know
CATEGORY: Gen, humor (and just a touch of angst)
RATINGS/WARNINGS: G
MAIN CHARACTER(S): Phileas, Rebecca, and a guest appearance by Ermintrude
SUMMARY: Easter plans make Phileas cranky.
DISCLAIMER: Phileas, Rebecca, Jules, and Passepartout belong to Talisman Crest Ltd., but I suppose I own most anyone else who appears here. Any resemblance to my or my husband's family is strictly on purpose...I mean, coincidental.
NOTES: This was originally going to be a Christmas story, but since it's April and all, I moved it to Easter. I should note that I'm Jewish, so almost everything I know about Easter (Victorian or otherwise) comes from the Internet. Thanks to Aspen and Ellen as always, and to Jill, Monique, and Avi for helpful suggestions. Jessica should be commended for reminding me what bunnies do best. Happy Easter or Passover or Spring!

********************************

Phileas was beginning to wonder if the League of Darkness had replaced Rebecca with a double.

"What do you think of this one?" Rebecca asked, putting yet another sickly sweet confection of a hat on her head.

"I think that if you wear a hat like that, your job will become much easier because your enemies will laugh themselves to death," Phileas replied.

"Phileas!" Rebecca said, smiling apologetically at the shopkeeper as she handed the hat back. "What has gotten into you?"

As they left the store, she eyed her cousin. He pursed his lips and refused to look at her, so she led him to the nearest café and ordered them tea.

"I know you're bored, but clothes shopping rarely makes you hostile," Rebecca said. "Perhaps I should have brought Jules with me instead." Phileas refused to react to the deliberate provocation. "What is bothering you?"

"If you must know, I'm not exactly looking forward to returning to England for a holiday spent with family. Aunt Beatrix will insist upon pinching my cheek. If the villains are taking some time off, why don't we go to Monaco?"

"Because I would like to spend Easter with our extended family. And besides, we promised Aunt Ermintrude we'd host the Easter meal this year."

"Rebecca," Phileas said patiently, leaning back to allow the waiter to deliver their tea, "at that point, I would have promised her the Crown Jewels if she would only go away. Surely you can't hold me to a promise made under duress."

"Actually, I can," Rebecca said, sipping her tea.

***************************************

Phileas eyed the activity in his London house (his, damn it!) with not-so-cordial loathing. If it weren't for Rebecca, he wouldn't even be here. Not that he could take the Aurora, with Jules, Rebecca and Passepartout allied against him, but the train could take him someplace else. But then she looked at him and...no willpower, that was the problem.

So, he sat in the dining room trying to eat, while Passepartout and Rebecca happily provided ideas and Jules scribbled notes.

Suddenly, he choked at what he heard. "No," Phileas said, dabbing at his spilled soup, "you are not bringing an Easter hare into this house."

"But Fogg," Jules said, "the children will expect it."

"Absolutely not. No animals."

"It's just one hare," Rebecca said. Phileas opened his mouth to say no again, and then looked at Jules and Passepartout, who looked downhearted at his refusal to join in the fun. No willpower.

"Fine. One animal. But keep it out of my way."

*******************************

The next few days tried what little patience Phileas had left, as deliveries of lilies, eggs, and the hare arrived. Then, Rebecca dragged everyone out to buy new clothes.

"If you insist," Phileas said through clenched teeth. "But I will *not* go to church, that is too much to ask."

Rebecca smiled. "I assumed not. But it works perfectly, because while we are in church, you can hide the eggs for the Easter egg hunt." Phileas was actually speechless, and Rebecca made a mental note of the occasion to cherish in later years.

Phileas disappeared to his room when they returned, leaving the others to continue preparations alone.

POP! Phileas looked up at the noise. "What the hell?"

SMASH! Phileas was halfway down the steps when he saw Rebecca run into Passepartout's laboratory. As he neared the door, he heard another sound. Dear god, let everyone be...laughter? Rebecca was laughing?

Phileas skidded into the room and was confronted with an extraordinary sight. Rebecca was collapsed against the wall laughing helplessly, and Jules and Passepartout were...well, colorful. They were both covered in splatters of red, yellow, and brown and bits of something gooey. Egg, they were covered in bits of Easter eggs. They looked extremely embarrassed. Phileas opened and closed his mouth as he looked around the room, festooned now with eggs and dye.

Passepartout spoke first. "Master, we had an idea how to be dyeing these eggs much speedier."

"We're very sorry, Fogg," Jules said, "but it should have worked."

"I see," Phileas croaked out. "Just...just clean up the mess, please."

He stalked out of the room past Rebecca, who had at last subsided to giggles. She sobered quickly when she got a look at his face.

"Oh dear. I do believe we've really annoyed him. We'd better get this fixed up quickly."

*****************************

Lilies spread throughout the house, the Easter hare was ensconced in a nest carefully placed to be out of Phileas' way, and Passepartout presided over a kitchen filled with roasting lamb, eggs, and hot cross buns. Family from out of town began to arrive and visit, and Phileas managed to be out all evening.

Easter Sunday dawned clear and lovely, and with Rebecca and everyone else safely off at the sunrise service, Phileas emerged from his room, relieved.

He had handed over the task of hiding eggs to Passepartout and strolled downstairs to enjoy a few hours of peace before everyone returned. When he entered his study (free of lilies after he complained), he was astonished to find Aunt Ermintrude, knitting needles clicking away, waiting for him.

Ermintrude looked up when he stopped in the doorway. "There you are. Come in, sit down, I've been waiting for you."

"Aren't you supposed to be in church?"

"I suppose so," Ermintrude said, "but I'm old. I doubt I'm going to hear anything I haven't heard dozens of times before. Besides, this was my best chance to find *you*."

"And how did you know *I* wouldn't be in church?" Phileas asked. Ermintrude just looked at him. He sighed, feeling predictable, and sat down in his second favorite chair (since Ermintrude was in his favorite.) "What did you want to talk to me about?"

"I was wondering what possessed you to make Rebecca's life so miserable recently," Ermintrude said.

Phileas stared at her. "What do you mean?"

Ermintrude looked him over, trying to decide if that question was meant to be facetious. Apparently not. "I mean, you have thwarted Rebecca's every effort at good cheer, scorned her decorations, grumbled at her food choices, and generally glared at anyone who dares to speak to you. In other words, you have made my favorite niece very unhappy. I do not take kindly to this."

She paused to take stock of the effect of her words. It was eminently satisfactory. Phileas looked stunned. He had not considered the effect of his mood on Rebecca.

"Talk to her when she returns," Ermintrude said. "An apology for your behavior wouldn't be amiss. Polite behavior during the party would be even better. Can I expect these things?"

"Yes, Aunt Ermintrude."

"Good," she said, gathering up her knitting and standing up. "I'm pleased you've come to your senses, and Rebecca will be even more pleased."

Ermintrude left Phileas sitting and thinking deep thoughts.

************************

Family and friends returned from the Easter parade, filling the house with sound and color. Phileas haunted the front hall, greeted relatives with reasonable civility, and looked for Rebecca.

An entire horde of children streamed past screaming, and Phileas winced, but didn't falter in his search.

Uncle Fitzwalter took up a great deal of the time, apparently feeling Easter was the ideal time to lecture Phileas on his various financial holdings. Phileas finally got rid of him by claiming to see Aunt Ermintrude on her way over.

A very elderly woman stopped in front of Phileas. She looked him up and down and asked, "Who are you? Are you related to us?" Phileas blinked. "I don't know you," she said and walked away. Very strange, he thought.

Finally, Rebecca appeared in the outfit he had so grudgingly helped her pick, a pale green satin with a bonnet that should have looked absurd. Except that she was so beautiful.

She came in on Jules' arm, laughing at something he'd said. Phileas was momentarily breathless at the sight, and he started to move toward her. Unfortunately, he was stopped on the way by Phoebe Fogg.

"Ah, young man, good to see you, you're Erasmus, aren't you?" she asked, grabbing hold of his arm with a grip to be envied by professional villains.

Phileas gritted his teeth. "No, I am Phileas. Erasmus is dead."

"Oh dear, that's right. I never could tell you two apart. Well, in any case, you can help me find a seat."

"Of course," Phileas said. As he led Phoebe to a chair, he looked over his shoulder at Rebecca, now smiling at newly arrived cousins.

Phileas settled Phoebe down and set off to find Rebecca again. He heard snippets of conversation as he made his way through the house.

"And he raised the price of coal, practically doubled it," said middle-aged Uncle Carswell, eating a pastry and leaving most of it smeared across the front of his shirt.

"Can you believe the behavior of her children?" asked a woman whose name was Amelia (or maybe Cordelia) of her companion. Phileas seemed to recall that her children were part of the screaming horde he'd seen earlier. He shrugged and slid past a group of giggling young women.

As he left the room, Cousin Sarah called after him, "Phileas dear, have you gained weight?"

Phileas nodded his way out, intent on his goal of finding Rebecca. In the hall he passed Cousin Caroline. "Phileas, you look like you've lost weight, are you eating properly?"

Phileas was confused, but kept going.

He was sorely tempted to stop in the dining room and join Uncle Branson's card game, but he knew he would face Ermintrude's wrath if he did.

He found Jules in the parlor and was about to ask if he'd seen Rebecca when he noticed someone else in the room. "Good lord," he said to Jules, "is that Thaddeus over there? Who invited him?"

"I'm not sure," Jules said. "Rebecca was going to remove him, but she noticed that he was carefully keeping most of the room between the two of them. She decided that was enough."

"I suppose that means she would be upset if I removed him now," Phileas said.

"Very likely."

"Damn," Phileas said. "Which reminds me, have you seen her?"

"Not recently."

In the hallway, the horde of children stampeded past him again, this time carrying eggs and heading for the backyard. They must have found them and be ready to start the egg roll. That seemed like a good place to find Rebecca.

Indeed, she was there. On one end of the flat yard she and Jules had built a hill to roll the eggs down. A young woman--probably another cousin, practically everyone here was, either by birth or marriage--was organizing the rolling.

Rebecca was at the other end of the yard and she was, Phileas blinked a few times, apparently teaching several young women how to throw knives. When did that become an Easter activity? Probably when Rebecca was put in charge of organizing. Phileas supposed he should be grateful she wasn't conducting her target practice with guns.

He didn't want to interrupt, so he found a spot on a bench near several of the knitting grannies. They smiled at him and continued their conversation about the teenage exploits of several of his peers. Phileas was impressed. *He* hadn't even heard some of these stories.

"So, when Peregrine arrived, apparently the young lady had invited several of her brothers to come along..."

"Phileas?" Rebecca drew his attention from the story. Phileas made a note to ask about the ending.

"I'm glad you decided to join us," Rebecca said.

Phileas was preparing to launch into his apology when Aunt Beatrix bustled up. Sure enough, she immediately pinched his cheek, and Phileas wondered if anyone would *really* mind if he killed her. Slowly.

"Phileas, darling, you look wonderful. So *rested*," Beatrix gushed. "And Rebecca, my dear, you are so lovely these days, you've really filled out since you were a teenager. Don't you think she has, Phileas?"

Phileas choked on his first three responses, but managed to say, "She looks lovely."

Aunt Beatrix smiled and bustled off again, leaving them with a final thought. "Both of you really need to spend more time here if you're ever going to get married. You're not getting any younger, you know."

Phileas valiantly resisted the urge to say "I told you so," to Rebecca, even as her jaw twitched.

"Can we go somewhere a little...quieter to talk?" Phileas asked, looking at the knitting ladies, who had stopped talking to watch the show.

Rebecca led him inside to Passepartout's laboratory (now clean) which was one of the few unoccupied rooms.

"Is there something wrong?" she asked.

"It has been brought to my attention that I have been less than helpful recently," Phileas said.

"True," Rebecca said.

"Well, I wanted to apologize for my behavior."

"Apology accepted." But Rebecca didn't look any happier. "I don't suppose I get an explanation to accompany the apology?"

Phileas flushed. "I dislike family events, you know that."

"I'll grant you our family is not always the most congenial company and I know you're not fond of religion," Rebecca said, "but something else is bothering you. Please, Phileas, tell me what it is." He looked away, but she turned his chin back to face her. "Tell me."

"Why is this holiday so important to you, anyway?" Phileas shot back, idly moving glassware around the lab bench.

Rebecca pondered the question for a moment. "I think that we spend so much of our time defending England that sometimes I like to remind myself what we are saving and why. This is England, Phileas, this is what we protect. It may not be a life we will ever live permanently, but we can visit."

Phileas sat down. He hadn't really expected an answer to his question. Rebecca leaned against a table. "Now then, you were going to tell me why you are acting like a bear dragged out of hibernation."

Phileas looked away again. If anyone would understand, it would be Rebecca, he thought, but he couldn't bring himself to say the words.

"Phileas, what about Easter..." Rebecca started, trailing off as a thought occurred to her. She should have thought of this before. "Family. Life after death."

Phileas shot her one of those indecipherable glances. "Life after death."

"It's a reminder," Rebecca said, "that your parents and brother are dead." She sat down in another chair. "Phileas, I'm sorry..."

"I remember," he said, not really listening to her, "the Easter before my mother died. I can remember the dress she wore, the lecture about responsibility I received from my father, the lecture about irresponsibility I received from Ermintrude."

Rebecca looked distressed. "I didn't think. I just wanted to be normal for a few days."

Phileas groaned silently. Ermintrude was not going to be happy, he'd just upset Rebecca again. "No, Rebecca, I'm the one who should be sorry, it's not your fault. I was being selfish and I've ruined your holiday."

"So, you forgive me for reminding you?"

"Only if you forgive me for my behavior."

"Of course I do," Rebecca said. "Shall we rejoin the family?"

******************************

Passepartout found Phileas a few minutes later watching the activity in the garden. He was especially enjoying the sight of a young woman pursuing Jules. Jules seemed rather embarrassed by the attention, but he couldn't shake her.

"Master, it is time for the eating."

"Wonderful, Passepartout, make the announcement," Phileas said, "and we'll set up out here."

There were too many people to fit in the dining room, so Rebecca had decided they would eat outside. Faster than Phileas thought possible, tables were set up, places were set, and Passepartout and an army of young cousins were bringing out the food.

Of course, there were the usual problems, such as how to keep Cousin Darius away from Uncle Bartholomew, because they had never patched up a decades-old argument. Phileas seemed to recall it involved a broken teapot. Foggs were certainly cantankerous, he mused, and unwilling to let go of a grudge.

Phileas was amused by Ermintrude, who was holding court with the young women who had been throwing knives earlier. Did this mean there would be a whole generation of Ermintrudes and Rebeccas? He wasn't certain this was a bad thing, but was the world ready?

The meal, he found, was actually rather pleasant once he stopped sulking. Rebecca's approving glances as he politely conversed with various relatives didn't hurt either.

Granted, he could have done without Aunt Margaret's yearly retelling of the time he and Erasmus used the Easter eggs as ammunition in an otherwise realistic war game. But what could you do?

********************************

Eventually, the party ended and relatives trickled out of the house to head home. Ermintrude stopped to pat Phileas approvingly on the arm, and he nodded at her. Perhaps the old bat wasn't as bad as he'd always thought.

House finally emptied, Phileas headed to his study. His thoughts on a drink and a good book, it took him a few moments to realize there was something wrong. In fact, he was just about to sit down, when he looked at the chair. There was something gray on his chair. Something gray and furry. In fact, there were several gray and furry somethings scattered around the room. Hopping somethings.

"Rebecca!"

Responding to the urgency in his tone, Rebecca appeared in the doorway within moments. At the sight of Phileas glaring at (quick count) six baby hares, Rebecca fought back a grin.

"This isn't funny," he said firmly.

Mouth twitching, Rebecca said, "No, of course not."

Phileas sighed. Then, he picked up his book and the decanter, and with great dignity left the room. Rebecca carefully kept a straight face as he walked by.

Outside the door, he paused and looked back at her. "Rebecca?"

"Yes?"

He grinned suddenly. "Happy Easter." And with that he disappeared up the steps.

"Happy Easter, Phileas."