A/N: Because I'm thoroughly convinced that Edward is the type who can't be bothered to do such daily tasks as...sorting, organizing, accounting, or...y'know...eating. ART DOES NOT WAIT FOR LIFE.
This was...a by-product of holiday fic, and I decided that I had to run with a certain joke that started several months ago and write this one instead. Rest assured, there is holiday fic coming as well, lol.
A Flower for Your Thoughts
I have been informed that pining for an inspired melody is not an appropriate use of my time, and have been advised to find a new hobby—and quickly—for the sake of my court. Or perhaps, merely for Harley's sanity. I wonder, does she wear those spectacles for her own benefit, or to hide the full brunt of her scowl...
Harley had known, coming to work for the king of Damcyan, that his head was on a more ethereal plane than most, but she had hoped he had some proclivity for his kingdom's business and trade. She was woefully underwhelmed by what she discovered. Funds divided every which way, accounts with gaps, and trade documents left unsorted in abandoned piles for years.
Three years she had been his personal accountant; and she recalled, with dubious hindsight, the day she'd shown her competence with numbers and figures. She had been stuck with the books ever since.
Edward was not, how to say it, terribly good at remembering things. He was wonderful with the populace, always much desired company at gatherings and among his subjects, but amidst his scribes, advisors, and quartermasters, he was lost to composing and daydreaming.
Thank goodness he had her to sort out the rest.
She was used to sitting in the lower annex of the castle at her desk, sliding beads across her abacus while she figured out if there would be enough money in the coffers to support Edward's consumption of paper, or his particular need for strings. Strings milled from mythril, which he had imported from Silvera twice a month, cost more than she had ever realized. Before she had come to work for the king, she'd had no idea the cost of music or its sister disciplines. They could feed all of Kaipo with the money they spent on his divulgence.
"How else shall I capture the intricacy of, say, the beat of a butterfly's wings, if not for proper tension of the strings!" Edward insisted, when pressed.
Harley had stomped off, and slid a whole avalanche of beads across her abacus. Very well. They would take funds from their military budget. Not that Damcyan's "military" really served much of a purpose, anyway.
Edward, as if to prove a point, poked his head in one afternoon and plucked a few chords for her while she did sums; making a questioning face once he had finished.
"A minor, or F sharp?" he asked.
"That depends," Harley asked, barely removing her eyes from the ledger in front of her.
"On how much longer you insist on torturing me in this manner."
He paused long enough to draw her curiosity, and she lifted her eyes to witness a face ladened with pity. "Harley, it would truly do you good to smile once in a while."
She glared at him fiercely, and with all the matter-of-factness she could muster, stamped her last ledger with the official seal of her office. It pounded firmly on the desk like a gavel, and in its tone was a note of impending finality. Edward winced.
And thus it was, that on a Thursday in April, an emergency meeting was scheduled and attended, and each of the king's advisors and clerks came up with a plan.
"This really cannot go on. There is no money to be made from minstrelsy," Devlin Keystone announced to haggard faces. Faramund Shore, the chief archivist nodded numbly.
"He has spent more time in the hills between here and Mist playing for sheep than people," Guthrie Mendelssohn pointed out.
"For weeks, we haven't had the funds for oil to light our lamps. How is anyone supposed to view us as a viable trading nation, when we have nothing to fund our most basic needs? Why will the king not perform anymore, and why does he spend all of his time and wealth funding a hobby that has lost its inspiration?" Doyle Purcell, the castle quartermaster, inquired.
"What are we to do about this?" Faramund asked.
"The king must be encouraged to find a new preoccupation," Keystone summarized.
Everyone in the room looked meaningfully at Harley.
"Oh, right," she complained, looking at all of the desperate faces . "I will be the one to hide all of his instruments."
And she did.
Dark is the hour in which music has been taken from me. I have found my cases empty, and the strings that angels weep to hear, gone from their pegs. It is a sad day in Damcyan. I believe I shall spend my time in nature—my first muse, and perhaps my best—in the hope that it will soothe my piqued sensibilities. Oh, cruel mistress...
Harley slumped in her chair with a sigh. Four months had brought up the kingdom's coffers from a pauper's wages, to that of a noble's inheritance. Damcyan had been in and out of deficits for years, largely due to the scale of its reconstruction. At last, without the king's costly expenditures, the money coming in was not being exceeded by the money going out. Harley was pleased.
Until she closed her accounting book and noticed a sprig of thyme resting beside it. She gingerly picked it up, and then frowned. She crumpled it up, releasing the savory scent, and thrust it into her pocket. Were the cooks playing a joke on her, to be leaving their herbs in her office? It wouldn't be the first time.
She shelved her book and stalked up the stairway to the castle's main floor. The hallways were cool despite the desert's hot sun, and her hard soled boots clicked rhythmically on the stone flooring as she walked past the other clerk's offices and then the servant's quarters; to the second level which housed the offices of the king's advisors. She had been meeting regularly with the king's advisor on public affairs, Devlin Keystone, and she had a few final details to iron out before the following week's events.
Keystone looked up when Harley entered, and then nodded to the door, indicating she should close it.
"Potter," he addressed her.
"Keystone," she answered, striding across the room. "I assume you received my note?"
"I did," he said, as he scrawled a hasty note on his page and then dotted it with an ending punctuation. "Are you sure having guest musicians from Mysidia perform for the king's thirty fourth birthday is a wise idea?"
Harley grinned. "I most certainly do. They're affordable and they suit my purposes."
"To annoy him?" Keystone asked with a slightly arched brow.
"I'm not sure which is worse—his whining, or the fact that only with his whining are we able to maintain a positive balance in the ledgers. His usage of paper made and molded in Troia for notations, his strings milled in Silvera, and the lyre frames crafted in Eblan—at least we've managed to make everyone else in the world wealthy with his habits of song-writing. Why can't he use charcoal and stone and write on the walls, and not create more stacks of paper that need to be stored and archived?"
Keystone chuckled. "I know many advisors questioned the ethicacy of charging a fee for the king's performances, but as it seems he's in a creative rut, perhaps a little competition is what he needs."
"It's only been four months since he's stopped making music," Harley argued. "Three years, if you count the time he's spent trying to hunt down his elusive melody. Either he begins plying his trade in earnest, or I force him into other pursuits that don't interfere with the running of this country."
"So tell me, do you prefer the humming or the insanity?"
Harley frowned, considering this. "I haven't figured that out yet."
"You've got guts, Potter. It might be your sanity that goes next," Keystone warned her with a shrewd smile, shooing her out the door.
Harley returned to her office and sat down at her desk, sliding another ledger in front of her. A bit of color made her glance to the side, only to discover a houseleek beside her papers. She threw the leek on the floor—who knew of her aversion to them?—and vowed to have a discussion with the kitchen staff next.
A week came and went, and the birthday preparations were underway. It was to be a small, intimate gathering, and the Mysidian musicians arrived with their tambourines and flutes.
As the musicians set up their instruments and began to play after dinner, Harley watched Edward squirm in his seat, making sour faces at missed notes, sharp pitches, and off-beat rhythms. He was writhing and twisting, and by the end of the evening, looked sorely put-out. She had not expected the Mysidians to perform so poorly, and this dashed her hope of inspiring the king out of his creative block. Instead, it seemed to have done the opposite.
The next morning on her desk, Harley received a gift from the king. An audit of all funds in Kaipo for the last two years.
She thumped her head on the desk, and glanced atop the unbelievably high stack of papers. An unusual sprig of flowers, resembling a pansy or a violet, lay atop her pile. She sat up and twirled the delicate flowers between her fingers. Birds foot trefoil. She frowned, knowing that it couldn't have been the kitchen staff leaving plants in her office again. She had already questioned the entire staff.
She shook her head, and was about to throw the flower aside, when footsteps drew her attention to the door.
Edward walked in carrying a bundle of heavy bound books that hid most of his face. He huffed as he dropped them on her desk with a loud crack.
Harley stared up at him, flabbergasted.
"I found these in a stack from last year," he informed her.
Her brow arched a little higher. "More?"
"Yes, but it seems that some entries and receipts are missing, and you might have to travel to Kaipo to retrieve them."
Harley stared at him, nodding slowly. "Uh-huh."
"Well, good luck!" he said brightly, sauntering out of the room.
Harley pulled a sheet of paper out of her desk drawer and slid her inkpot closer; brandishing her pen like a sword, and began to compose a letter.
"Dearest Charles, when you said this would be a job suited to my nature, were you secretly plotting my death? I have been nothing but attentive, and have found myself over-worked, underpaid, and eyeing the vintage bottles of wine laid away in the cellars more and more each day. Anyway, it would seem that I will be coming home in a few weeks, and would like to make sure my room has been cleared of father's boxes. Do you think anyone would notice if I returned to Kaipo and never came back? I'd even rather spend my time in Mist sorting their burnt records. They are probably better organized."
"My dearest Harley,
Stop whining. And of course your room will be ready for you."
Harley spent the better part of a week preparing for her journey south by hovercraft. She had wooden crates filled with ledgers and leather bound tomes, and all manner of receipts. She had made lists of all the people she had to inquire after and whose signatures and seals she required; and finally, she was ready to depart.
She had grown up in Kaipo, but she had no real fondness for the small city. Indeed, she had spent much of her childhood in Troia being schooled, and she had more memories there than Kaipo. It was her mother's desire that her daughters make something of themselves in the wide world, and so she'd sent them away. "You weren't born with an overabundance of looks or opportunities to meet nice men, and so you must rely on your wits alone."
Harley's mother had been a vain and beautiful woman—right until she'd been pulled underwater by a Sahagin and drowned while admiring her own reflection. If only her mother had had enough wit to educate herself. She had, however, imparted an indelible lesson on Harley—looks without brains led to an early grave. This was Harley's own belief, of course, and she was glad to have been born unremarkable.
The hovercraft deposited her at the gates of the desert city, and she had help carrying her crates to the dwelling she shared with her father and sister. Just as her eyes were searching for the cactus she had planted as a child in the stone garden around their house, the door to the house was thrown open, and her sister was running down the path to meet her.
Harley snorted. Her older sister Charlotte had inherited their mother's fair hair and personality, and she held Harley in a choke hold masquerading as a hug, until Harley wheezed out an indecipherable whimper.
"You've finally come home!" Charlotte was gushing, beckoning the porters toward the house with all of Harley's things. Her sister's expression became dubious when she saw how many crates the men were carrying. "Did you bring all of your records with you?" she asked.
"Only the most important ones," Harley replied, stepping into the house and being greeted by her father with a curt nod.
Harley's father was a man of few words, and she was appreciative of this. They got along perfectly—both of them simple and to the point. He wouldn't waste her time on inconsequential conversation and details about her life at the castle.
Charlotte, on the other hand, was talking a mile a minute. What was the king like—was he as handsome as all the people said? Did he sing in the hallways during the day? How did he take his tea?
Harley wearily arrived at her bedroom and had the porters stack her crates into the small room beside her bed.
"I'm sure he's handsome enough," Harley finally informed her sister with a sigh. "Yes, he sings at all times of the day, and no, I have no idea how he takes his tea."
Charlotte pouted at her disappointedly. "For being the child whose education served her the best, you certainly know how to waste a good opportunity."
"I have no idea what you mean."
"If I had an ounce of your talent, I might have gone to Damcyan and made a name for myself. I might have even met a nice scribe or clerk by now."
"None of them would meet your criteria," Harley said absently, sorting through the top crate and pulling out her journal. "Besides, their social skills are well below mine, and you would bore yourself with one-sided conversation after only one afternoon."
Charlotte sighed dramatically. "How I've missed you."
Harley looked at her sister and tried to smile. "Haven't you just?"
"I'll let you unpack your library," Charlotte said dryly. "I'll call you when dinner's ready."
Harley watched her sister leave and then turned to her crates, prying them open and pulling out their contents in an efficient and orderly fashion. After all, she had many interviews to conduct in the morning...
One thing Harley did not miss about Kaipo, she decided, was the overabundance of songs heralding Anna. It was bad enough that the king's repertoire of songs featured her almost exclusively, but every halfwit who fancied himself a minstrel sang a ballad to Anna when he came to Kaipo. This meant, of course, a great number of songs about Anna's many fine features, and sadly, some renditions were painfully bad. Harley felt her straight hair curling at some of the performances. And then she sighed on the occasions she was forced to listen to the words.
Enough years had passed for truth to become fiction, and a fiercely independent woman like Anna had been reduced to a shy and loathsome limpet who sat around and sighed. Yes, Harley thought, right up until the arrows had pierced her. She rolled her eyes, stamping another ledger with the mark of her "office" as she sat with the town magistrate going through his records. She had known Anna, or known of her, to be more accurate. What a bit of work it was, for the king's ballads to have been subverted by the lesser minstrels; and a woman she had once respected, to be turned into such a damsel.
"Will that be all?" the magistrate asked her once she had finished reviewing a stack of papers a foot deep.
"I believe so," she said with relief, ignoring the strangulated chords floating through the open window.
They both winced.
"My next order of business will be to remove all these talentless sacks out of this city," the magistrate announced with a sour look.
Harley shook his hand, ending their visit. "I wish you the best of luck. Musicians are an entirely difficult breed to eradicate."
Later that afternoon, Harley sat on the patio behind the house, wearing her wide brimmed hat while she made piles of the accounts she had finalized and those she still needed to audit. Her father was reading in another chair across from her, and her sister was fussing with the house. It was about time for an interruption, and like clockwork, Harley heard the pitter patter of her sister's bare feet on the warm tiles. A long skinny shadow spread across Harley's book of receipts and Harley looked up after she had saved her spot on the page.
"Harley, do you get any sun in that castle of yours?" her sister remarked with her hands on her hips. "You look like a wraith. No, in fact, you look paler than a wraith."
Harley frowned indignantly. "Of course I get sun—but I burn too easily and find the practice of bathing in it an abysmal use of my time."
Charlotte flicked Harley's hat disdainfully. "Stop telling me you spend all of your time buried in your books. You are prettier than you think, Harley, and you should make the most of your circumstances."
"You should announce yourself to some of the men—get your name out."
"For what purpose, exactly? To embarrass myself?"
Charlotte stared sidelong at their father who lifted his cup of tea to his mustachioed lips without a word. When her sister realized she had no ally in their father, she made a disgusted sound in her throat. "You will never have a husband," she said, turning back to Harley.
"Why on earth would I want a husband?" Harley demanded. "That's one more person's accounts I'd have to manage."
Charlotte rolled her eyes. "You really have no ability to find the joys in life."
"I have plenty of joy."
"I'm—good at what I do," Harley said defensively.
Charlotte straightened her lips into a firm line. "Some joys are simpler than others, I guess."
"What is that supposed to mean!" Harley shot back, as Charlotte strode back to the house.
Harley glanced at her father who was doing an impressive job of pretending not to be interested.
"Well, are you going to weigh in on this or no?" Harley demanded.
Her father cleared his throat, setting down his tea. "I've heard it's common for sisters to be jealous of each other," he told her frankly. "Give her a day or two and she'll settle down."
Harley looked back at the house. "I feel as though it will take a lifetime for her to settle down."
"For some it takes longer than others," he agreed, and took another sip of his tea.
Harley spent the rest of the evening with her papers, and fell asleep on top of them with less to finish than she'd started. The next morning, she awoke to a violent sneezing fit. Harley was beside herself, gasping for air the instant she was conscious. She flung herself onto the floor, scattering papers every which way, and when her sneezes had subsided, she scoured her bedroom with watery eyes for the source of her aggravation. Hanging in her window, was a wreath of morning glory's.
"What in the nine circles of hell," she complained, finding a broom in the corner of her room and batting the wreath away from her window and out of the breeze. When it was eradicated, she let out a deep breath of relief, wiping her eyes. "Who keeps leaving me plants!" she fumed, flinging her door open and stomping into the kitchen.
"I'm being stalked," she announced to her sister and father who were sitting to an early breakfast. They stared at her, blankly.
"What?" Charlotte asked.
"I'm being stalked," Harley repeated, exasperatedly. "By plants."
Charlotte sputtered out half of her morning tea as she laughed. "By plants?" she asked.
"Yes, and they're trying to kill me."
"Please explain before I become genuinely concerned," her father said mildly, gazing at her with a perplexed expression.
Harley pointed dramatically toward her bedroom, still sniffling. "Someone left a wreath of morning glory's hanging in my window last night. I'm terribly allergic to morning glory's! I learned this my first year in Troia!"
"A wreath of them, you said?" her father asked with a frown.
"Maybe you have an admirer?" Charlotte ventured.
"An admirer who's trying to kill me?" Harley insisted.
"They might not have known!" Charlotte replied.
Harley began to pace. "First the herbs in my office, then the peculiar flowers, and now this. In my own home, no less!"
Charlotte scrunched her face as she thought something over. "I did notice a peculiar gardener about town recently. He was selling flowers in the market yesterday morning. Perhaps you caught his fancy?"
"I want no one's fancy!" Harley said firmly.
"Why do you have to be so sour!" Charlotte retorted. "You take every nice thing and trample it."
"I almost died," Harley repeated. "My lungs could have closed up and then where would we be?"
"Maybe then you might have met a nice young healer!" Charlotte suggested, sounding hopeful.
"Why don't you go find yourself a nice young healer?" Harley remarked with a raised brow. "You're better suited to marriage than I am. Besides, you're older."
"Oh please, just rub it in," Charlotte huffed, as both sisters stormed off in opposite directions.
Later that morning, however, Harley decided to ensure that no one would be disturbing the sanctity of her window sill again. She solved all her problems with a wasp's nest, and woke the next morning to a sharp yelp of pain out in the yard, but nothing more. With a smile, she simply turned over and returned to sleep.
The sting of a woman's spurn is likened to a hundred furious wasp welts. The stab of its stinger is deep, and its poison, potent. E'er shall the sun shine on she who hides under her hat of disdain?
Harley had spent a week in Kaipo finishing her errand for the king, and at last she had gotten her last signature. She was ready to return to her quiet quarters in the castle—to her solitary office, and her solitary life.
Her father and sister saw her off at the city gate, as the porters re-loaded the hovercraft with all of her things.
"Let us know whenever you'll be deigning to grace us with your presence," her sister told her.
"Oh, please, Charlotte. Don't be so dramatic," Harley replied, hugging her father and then her sister.
"You could find more reasons to steal away from that job of yours," her sister insisted.
Harley waved absently. "You try working for the king and then tell me that."
"At least find yourself a man—or better yet, find me one and send him this way!"
"Will do," Harley intoned, climbing onto the hovercraft, and fully intending not to do as her sister had asked.
The hovercraft drew near to the castle, and it was just as Harley had left it. Her return was not marked by much to-do, which was just as she liked it, and she returned to her quarters first, and then to her office.
The moment the door to her office swung open, she knew this room was definitely not how she had left it. She stood gaping at it for several long minutes, holding back a scream.
Her shelves. All of her neatly organized things. They were—why were they—
"Oh!" King Edward said at her side, having come up behind her without her noticing. "Mushrooms!"
Harley felt her eyes begin to water as the king walked into the room ahead of her and inspected the delicate tiers of mushrooms that had grown into the wood of all of her shelves.
"There were heavy rains," Edward explained. "The kind we get once every ten years. I had thought we'd checked every room for damage, but apparently your office was not as waterproof as we'd thought."
"My—my," Harley sputtered, envisioning weeks of cleaning in her future.
"It's a good thing you took so many of your papers with you when you left," Edward observed.
"My papers," Harley finished in shock, as Edward steered her away from the room.
"You absolutely cannot work in there until we've rid it of fungus," he was saying, walking suspiciously fast.
"Where am I supposed to work?" Harley wanted to know.
Edward didn't say anything at first, and led her instead to a brighter part of the castle—to the newly built library with its high windows and domed ceiling. "Will this do?" he asked.
Harley raised her brows. "The library? You're giving it to me?"
"If you want it, of course," Edward said. "That does mean you'll be in charge of keeping it orderly."
It was then that Harley noticed small dollops of ointment on his hands and arms, and she frowned. "What happened to you?" she asked.
Edward hastily lowered his sleeves. "Had a—bit of an incident on Mount Hobbs," he huffed anxiously, turning pink in the ears.
She raised her brows, suddenly curious, but knew he would do everything in his power to avoid answering her question. "I'll take the library," she replied.
Edward clapped his hands together and took off. "Good!" he called back to her.
Harley stared at her new project, and then at the shelf immediately to her left. Her eyebrow twitched when she realized none of the tomes had been put into alphabetic order.
"You did this on purpose!" she shouted after the king who had already fled through the door.
The other scribes made several remarks to Harley over the next two weeks, how the library actually looked worse than it had before she'd started organizing it.
"I have a process," she retorted, finding the tomes each person required and sending them on their way again.
Truthfully, the library did look a terrible mess, but that was because she'd had to remove each book from the shelves, group them by subject, and then alphabetize them.
"By the way," Keystone informed her when he visited one day. "Those changes you suggested to the budget have helped us immensely. We've a surplus! We might be able to chart a proper road between here and Kaipo, or at least pay guards to clear it of fiends for travelers."
"Good!" Harley replied, glad that she'd accomplished something in recent weeks, as she organized a pile of books on philosophy.
Keystone suddenly made a face, and Harley turned to follow his gaze. "What is it?" she asked.
"Were you planning on eating that?" he said, pointing to her desk that was barely visible amidst the piles of books.
Harley narrowed her eyes, seeing a bright green cabbage laying there. She walked over and picked it up, cradling the vegetative orb in her fingertips. "Who keeps leaving these for me?" she demanded. "This is the second cabbage this week."
"The second?" Keystone inquired.
"I'm going to find the culprit behind this one way or another," Harley vowed with a scowl.
Keystone chuckled. "You already questioned the kitchen staff, didn't you?"
"Yes!" Harley fumed. "Evidently, I must cast my net elsewhere."
Keystone's laugh deepened. "I wish you luck," he said as he left her to her plotting.
Harley pursed her lips and pushed her glasses back up her nose. She wasn't sure what practical joke she had become a part of, but she would be sure to find the person responsible. All it involved was a little planning.
It took three days—several nights of no sleep, and many dark circles under the eyes—for Harley to make any headway on her quest to find the cabbage gifter.
She had made herself a fortress of books, making sure she was visible from no angle, but leaving several portholes for herself to look out of. Just before dawn on the third day, her efforts were rewarded.
A lithe figure cloaked in gray tip-toed across the library. Harley watched with anticipation.
In the intruder's hands were several chutes of calendine—the yellow flowers the most striking thing in the room in this dark hour, reflecting the light of the moon. The man approached her desk and left the flowers there; and, feeling victorious, Harley sprang from her hiding place.
"Stop right there!" she commanded.
The intruder jumped back, and then bolted, his gray cloak billowing out behind him like a wraith's costume. Harley bowled through a wall of her fortress and ran after him, finding it remarkably difficult to keep up.
She frowned. Only one man in Damcyan could possibly run so swiftly.
"Edward!" she hollered, sprinting around several sharp corridors and into a less frequented part of the castle—the part whose infrastructure was still a shambles from the war. She hurdled beams and piles of stone, to a strange building built into the east side of the castle's new wall. The door was slammed on her foot, but she had prevented it from being locked and threw the full force of her weight against it, budging it open.
"Edward!" Harley seethed, poking his shoulder with her finger as she drove him further into the room. "Explain."
"You are such a frustrating woman!" Edward admitted, pained, as he threw back his hood.
"I'm frustrating!" Harley shouted, flailing her arm in the direction of the rest of the room. "When you're the one who—what in the—" she trailed off, staring at what was surrounding her. "Edward what is this place?" she demanded.
Edward made a face. "It's my greenhouse!" he said defensively.
"Your what?" she repeated.
Edward sighed, exasperated. "My greenhouse!" he repeated.
"Why on earth do you have a greenhouse?" she insisted, completely distracted.
"You took away my music, what else was I to do?" he wondered.
Harley was flabbergasted. "You—of all the hobbies—botany?"
"Nature is my first muse!" he replied, his tone rising.
"But why did your muse invade my office?" she demanded, getting back to the matter at hand.
"You have been nothing but a destructive force on my music since you arrived!" Edward sputtered instead.
"What?" Harley said. "How could I have any influence on your music?"
"What kind of affront to nature, is a woman who does nothing but scowl? I tried for months to get you to smile—to bring you any joy, and you did nothing but stamp out my efforts like a fragile flame!"
Harley was beginning to feel affronted herself. "You caused me nothing but grief! Do you have any idea what affect your spending habits had on our budget?"
"I thought you liked having things to do!" he countered. "And you're good at it!"
"Liked having things—you almost ran this country into the ground!" she retorted.
"I kept trying to write songs full of light and love, and all I kept seeing was your droll expression!" Edward volleyed.
"No one asked you to make me your muse!"
"And then you took away my instruments and left me with no means to express myself!" Edward barreled on.
"If you'd performed for profit like we'd asked you to, we might not have had this problem!" Harley informed him.
"So I sent you home to your family to see if that would lighten your spirits—but it seemed to do the opposite!"
Harley's brows narrowed. "The audits—all that paperwork!"
"I even got you out of that dank cellar you called an office, and you've done nothing but complain!"
"You left me with a years' worth of work to do!" Harley screeched.
"I was told you studied floriography in Troia, and thought you would find my messages ironic," he lamented.
"So it was you all this time?"
"You even attacked me with wasps!" he warbled, sounding woefully pathetic.
"I'm deathly allergic!" Harley rebutted.
"All of this because I wanted to find the reason behind your cold demeanor!" Edward pouted. "You're like a half-finished melody, all minor chords, and no variety!"
"Who are you calling a half-finished melody!" Harley said coolly.
"First, you crush my muse, and then you take away my instruments, and then you shun my gifts! I tried to please you, and all I got was misery!"
Harley took a deep breath and closed her eyes, feeling very much like screaming. "You thought communicating to me anonymously through flowers and vegetables was a good idea? Why did you never just address me in person?" she seethed.
Edward stared at her and poked his two index fingers together. "Oh."
Harley sighed, feeling most of her catharsis achieved. After a long pause she asked: "Will you start making music again?"
"If only you'll tell me how to cure that scowl of yours," Edward told her.
"I want an actual office. Not a library, an office," Harley answered immediately. "And I want the keys to your green house. And you will have a monthly budget on strings and paper until you can bring in a profit on your own and begin playing for those willing to pay. Sheep and small children do not count. Nor do I."
Edward nodded gravely. "Those are acceptable terms. If you'll allow me, I have a few of my own."
"Oh?" Harley asked.
"You must come out of your cave at least several hours a day, and especially for the major meals. And you must stop hiding beneath all those overbearing hats."
"You are demanding that I socialize with others?"
"For what purpose?"
"Accounts are soulless pieces of paper—how is anyone supposed to find you amidst those endless stacks of paper? You are a living, breathing woman! Start acting like one!"
Harley was stunned. For a full minute, the two of them stared at each other.
"Done," they both agreed in unison.
A week had gone by since their argument in the green house, and already, the castle had undergone a change.
The king had begun performing music again—real music—and no longer was he beset by writer's block.
Harley, on the other hand, had developed a nice tan, and spent more time out of her office than ever before. She had even, much to her sister's delight, learned the names of at least five eligible bachelors—not that she had any idea what to do with them.
The ledgers and accounts were all in order, and music poured through the castle hallways like a sweet balm from heaven.
All of the advisors agreed at the next meeting, that whatever deal Harley had struck with the king was working.
Harley returned to her—new—office, and sat down happily at her desk. She was about to open up the week's ledgers, when a vase on her windowsill caught her attention. In the vase was a single pink rose.
"Well, I suppose there's always room for compromise," she decided.
So. Haha. I've decided that Harley in this is my crabby quartermaster alter ego. And also, part of the inspiration for this stems from middle school when a certain orchestra director took it upon himself to get me to smile by the time I left eighth grade, lol. In fact, scrawled in my yearbook from that year is a large note—SMILE!
What—I was a particularly angsty teenager!
Also, Moonclaw and I were trying to figure out what purpose Harley serves...anywhere. And then we were discussing Edward and his apparent love of delicate blossoms as seen in several screen caps from TAY. I'm not joking. There is an image where he sits, twirling a flower in his fingers and contemplating its existence. Therefore—Edward plus flower equals OTP. And then...we combined the two of them together and THIS happened, and...well...lol.
And yes, there is a joke attached to her last name. And yes, there is a joke attached to her sister. And yes...this entire fic is a joke.
Thanks for reading, everyone!
For those of you wondering what the flowers mean in floriography (which is a real thing):
Houseleek- Domestic economy
Birds Foot Trefoil-Revenge
Morning Glory—Love in vain
Fungus- Resilience, loneliness, solitude, disgust
Calendine—Joys to come; a good education