Disclaimer: Pretty sure Alex belongs to Dan Harmon, actually.
Warnings: Um. Shakespearean foreplay, ya'll.
Chapter Eighteen: Drink Me
Just a short time before the guests were due to arrive, Elizabeth found herself to be highly annoyed for a variety of different reasons, and towards a variety of different people.
Firstly: she was annoyed with her husband, because the whole thing had been his idea to begin with, and he thrust the responsibility of it onto her and that was largely unfair. Even though she could, intellectually, understand that since she was now a Married Woman (capital letters decidedly necessary) the entertaining of the guests and the maintaing of the house were her responsibilities. But he had married her, hadn't he? So - his fault. All of it.
Secondly, and consequently, Thirdly: she was annoyed with Mrs. Scott (the wife of a successful sugar plantation owner) for, upon receiving her invitation, inquiring as to whether or not Sir Thackery was currently married. And oh, by the way, Dear Elizabeth (Mrs. Scott had written at the very end of her note) my daughters would love the opportunity to see your new home. Which had annoyed Elizabeth to no end because Amelia and Millicent Scott were nasally, nosey, nettlesome young women whom she had spent the past eight years actively avoiding.
Fourthly, and finally: she was annoyed with herself for being in such a tizzy about the whole endeavor. It was just dinner, for goodness sake. Her first one, yes, in her new life with her new husband that she had planned and was hosting and…but that was hardly good enough reason to be in such a state.
"May I help you find something, my lady?" Esther asked in a soft, soothing voice as Elizabeth crashed through the kitchen. She had surveyed Cook's preparations which, as far as she could tell, looked fine. Honestly, Elizabeth knew more about swords than she did about stoves. It smelled wonderful, and she knew enough to understand that that was the most important part.
"What?" Elizabeth asked, rifling through the pantry. "Oh. No, I was just…" She sighed and gave the maid a small smile. "Would it be terribly inappropriate of me to have just a sip of sherry before the guests arrive?"
Esther flushed and mumbled something that might have been an apology, and Elizabeth rolled her eyes.
"Fine." She ran her hands down her skirts, smoothing out imaginary wrinkles and counting her breaths. She didn't bother to smile at Esther as she stepped past her to get out of the pantry and back into the kitchen.
Cook crooked a finger at her and Elizabeth, uncertain, arched a brow but obeyed. He turned his head to watch Esther leave the room before reaching behind a stack of plates and pulling out an open bottle of half consumed sherry.
Elizabeth sighed and poured herself a drink. "Thank you, Cook."
"My name is Alex," he told her, sounding moderately offended as he checked on the biscuits.
She raised her glass to him. "To my new friend, Alex, then."
Mollified, he grinned and offered her a refill.
Elizabeth was not drunk. At least, not very drunk. She had only had enough sherry to feel pleasantly warm, not obnoxiously tipsy. And as Millicent batted her eyelashes at Admiral Norrington, Elizabeth stared down at her glass of water and really and truly wished it was rum.
Which made her narrow her eyes at her glass because…why rum specifically?
Oh, boy. Maybe she was drunk.
Lord Beckett was at the foot of the ridiculously large table, directly across from her, and she watched his lips move as he spoke with Sir Thackery. She couldn't hear what he was saying over the conversations taking place closer to her (Oh, Admiral Norrington! You really must come by for tea! The plantation is lovely this time of year, isn't it, Father?) but she was absolutely transfixed on his mouth nonetheless. Because just the night before, his mouth…
Elizabeth closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
Definitely a might tipsy.
She turned her head and smiled at Mrs. Pennyworth who was seated on her immediate left. "I really can't thank you enough for coming," she said and meant it.
"Oh, it's our pleasure, dear," Mrs. Pennyworth returned her smile. "It was so thoughtful of you to invite us. You have a truly lovely home."
Elizabeth didn't mention that Cutler had given her basically unlimited access to his money and she had used the funds to her full advantage to redecorate the majority of the house, just like she didn't talk about the fact that all she could really think about was Cutler's mouth on her skin, Cutler's voice making her whole body hum, Cutler's tongue-
"I'm glad you think so," Elizabeth managed to say with a sharp intake of breath. "I would like to update the backyard, I think. More room for the horses, you know."
And sword fighting…and torn breeches and being pushed up against a wall and-
Mrs. Pennyworth nodded her agreement and Elizabeth bit her lip, forcefully pushing her husband out of her mind. She definitely had too much to drink.
"I only wish Maggie…" she let her voice trail off, knowing it was a selfish wish, but not quite able to wish something else.
"Oh, I know, dear," Mrs. Pennyworth covered Elizabeth's hand with her own. "But she's going to be all right, I'm certain of it."
Millicent giggled behind her fingers at something that Admiral Norrington said, and it was a loud enough, fake enough, that it stole Elizabeth's attention. The admiral, for his part, looked utterly confused by the outburst, before attempting to curl his lips in a polite smile.
It took a great deal of effort not to roll her eyes. Who knows - maybe James had said something exceptionally hilarious. But the look that Mrs. Pennyworth flashed her way suggested that Elizabeth was not the only one who thought the girlish giggle rang false.
The servants came and cleared the plates, changed the table cloth, poured everyone wine and set new dishes down. Elizabeth stared down at the her glass that was now filled with wine and not rum (instead of water and not rum) and thought about discreetly signaling Francie and asking for water instead but her father raised his glass.
"To my daughter, Elizabeth," he said, and everyone else followed his lead, raising their glasses and toasting to her health.
It was only her governess' lessons, her grandmother's voice, that kept her from blushing root to tip. She kept her chin raised, smiled gratefully at her father, and refused to let the Scott sisters see her sweat.
Lord Beckett caught her eye as he raised his glass, the corners of his lips twitching and Elizabeth could feel her cheeks warm. She took a sip of her wine and wished, yet again, for something stronger.
Conversation continued on around her. Weatherby and Mr. Pennyworth were chatting like old friends about fishing - which Elizabeth quirked a brow at but didn't speak into, because she was fairly certain her father had never fished once in his life. Sir Thackery was listening to Mr. Scott as Mr. Scott, presumably, either rambled on about his daughters or his plantation, both subjects Elizabeth found to be offensive. Mrs. Pennyworth and Mrs. Scott were valiantly trying to discuss the latest hat related fashions, even though neither women really kept up on such things, or even enjoyed the other's company. Amelia and Millicent were whispering to each other, casting glances Elizabeth's way, and she had to act like a good hostess who did not notice when she was being gossiped about.
She sipped her wine again and looked down the table. Lord Beckett and Admiral Norrington were speaking to each other, their voices so low she couldn't make out anything they were saying. Lord Beckett's fingers were absentmindedly trailing over the stem of his wine glass and her eyes were drawn to the movement.
He had such…distracting fingers. Long and warm and slightly calloused from writing and wielding a sword. She shifted in her seat, surprised by the coiling sensation low in her stomach. What was happening to her?
She glared at her glass. She would never drink alcohol again. Right in the middle of a dinner party had to be the most inappropriate time to be lusting over her husband.
Lusting. Elizabeth almost snorted. She was certainly not!
She took a delicate bite of her stuffed pork and decided she needed to collect her wits. Obviously, allowing Alex to refill her glass of sherry for the third time had been a mistake. In the moment she had just enjoyed the calming, warming sensation each sip had brought her. But now…!
She shifted in her seat again, but the movement only seemed to exacerbate her problem. She sniffed lightly and pouted her lips, resigning herself to the fact the this was going to be a very long night.
Lord Beckett caught her eye again - a quick glance, a slow smirk - before returning his attention back to James. Elizabeth frowned and noticed that what she thought had been an absentminded gesture of his fingers trailing across the glass were, perhaps, not absentminded at all.
She almost gasped. He was doing this on purpose! He knew - he knew! - what she was feeling and was not only acting like he did not know, did not care, he was purposefully trying to be distracting. Elizabeth glared at her husband and his stupid, distracting, brilliant fingers, took a deep breath through her nostrils and joined in on the conversation about hats.
A very long night, indeed.
"It is a lovely house, Eliza dear." Amelia's smile did not quite reach her eyes. "A bit smaller than what I'm used to, I'm afraid, but it does have potential. Doesn't it, Millie?"
Millicent nodded. "Will Lord Beckett allow you to redecorate, Eliza darling? Certainly you will be able to convince him how important it is to keep decor updated. I can only imagine how difficult it is for you to entertain in a house that is so behind the times."
Elizabeth swallowed her immediate reply. It would do no good to lash out at the Scott sisters. Only eleven months apart in age, they should have just been twins, so singular in their mindset and so practiced in the art of being extraordinarily insulting while acting supportive. They were pretty girls, having inherited their father's height and their mother's heart shaped face, but Elizabeth suspected they had yet to forgive her for receiving the attention of James Norrington. Even if the attention was, by and large, unwanted and rebutted.
"Now, girls," Mrs. Scott intervened with a smile that did not reveal any teeth. "Lady Beckett has only been married to the man for a few months now. And it takes a considerable amount of time and effort to get a man of means to part with those means. You will both surely learn that one day."
Elizabeth did not sigh, but she did chance a glance at Mrs. Pennyworth from across the drawing room. Maggie's mother's face was one of polite disbelief and it helped calm Elizabeth's nerves somewhat. She hated that the women were forced to leave the dining room as soon as dinner was concluded, allowing the men to speak freely over wine - a rule that her father had always been particularly lenient on, but her husband had simply raised his eyebrows in a silent dare to make a scene in front of their guests.
She hated her husband, too, while she was in the midst of hating things. Her husband and his fingers and his mouth and his voice-
"Sir Thackery does seem like a generous man, does he not?" Amelia asked, forcing Elizabeth to wonder if she had missed part of the conversation.
Millicent wrinkled her nose. "A little old."
"Now, now, Millie," Mrs. Scott chided, "he can't be much older than our gracious host!"
Elizabeth twitched. There was at least a fifteen year age difference, but she didn't trust herself to clarify without being exceptionally rude. She crossed the room to sit next to Mrs. Pennyworth.
Amelia giggled. "I can't very well picture Sir Thackery holding an umbrella."
Elizabeth set her hands in her lap. She had been wondering how long it would take for the Scott sisters to start talking about her wedding.
"Honestly, Eliza," Millie giggled with her sister. "It was so, so endearing to see your groom holding an umbrella. For your comfort, I'm sure. Just like your father, hm? Such thoughtful men in your life. So caring. You are a lucky girl!"
Elizabeth smiled a little too broadly, bearing all of her teeth. "I've never been much for luck, myself."
Mrs. Scott sighed. "I had been hoping the next wedding I would be attending would be for one of my daughters. But, if Lord Beckett can drop into Port Royal out of nowhere and swoop little Elizabeth up, than nothing is impossible, is it not?" She smiled at her hostess, but it looked like it hurt to do so. "He is a handsome man, Lady Beckett. And very well connected. I suspect you will be happy for a long time."
"Any man who can forgo keeping up appearances for solely a woman's comfort is quite a husband indeed," Amelia agreed with her mother. "Lucky, lucky Eliza."
Elizabeth's nostrils flared and she leveled Amelia with a quelling gaze. "Lord Beckett is not concerned with keeping up appearances because everyone else is concerned about keeping up with him." She raised an eyebrow, dared them to suggest otherwise. "And luck has nothing to do with it."
Mrs. Pennyworth touched her cheek. "Oh my."
A butler closed the door on the last guest and Sir Thackery excused himself to his room. Elizabeth kept the smile on her face until he was out of sight. She sighed heavily and leaned her arm against the foyer wall.
"I hate them."
Lord Beckett turned his head in her direction. "Just how drunk are you?"
Elizabeth glared at him as best she could in her tired, partially drunken state. "Not. Drunk. Enough," she stressed. "Those girls are direct decedents of Lucifer, make no mistake. I wouldn't be surprised if it came to light that Mrs. Scott was Lucifer, actually." She sighed again and pouted her lips. "Of all the plantation owners in the Caribbean, and you just had to invite the Scotts."
Lord Beckett opened his mouth once before snapping it closed quickly. His eyebrow twitched when he replied, "There's small choice in rotten apples."
Elizabeth bit back a grin and tried, desperately, to find her tired glare. "Oh, just, wonderful, Cutler. Really." She crossed her arms under her breasts and raised her chin. "How did I get so lucky to have so thoughtful a husband?"
"Come, come, you wasp; i' faith, you are too angry." Lord Beckett stroked the back of his right hand down her cheek.
Her mouth dropped open. She grabbed his wrist and he raised his eyebrows and she hated herself for how easily she took up his dares. "If I be waspish, best beware my sting."
He pulled his wrist out of her grip fast enough that it surprised her before wrapping his hand around her forearm and pulling her flush against him. "My remedy is then," he whispered in her ear, "to pluck it out."
After having spent a grand total of four hours in the back yard training with her husband, Elizabeth had very little trouble removing herself from his hold. "Ay," she all but giggled, stepping around him and walking to the stairs. "If the fool could find where it lies."
"Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting?" Lord Beckett drawled, following her up the steps. "In his tail."
He goosed her and Elizabeth gasped. She spun around and loomed over him, enjoying the height difference the steps provided. A coy smile played over her lips when she set her fingers on his throat, her thumb softly caressing his adam's apple. She could feel him swallow and he tilted his head until their noses touched. Her smile grew as his lips parted and pushed closer to hers.
Elizabeth trailed her hand down to his chest and gently pushed him back, her dark eyes sparkling so brightly as she hurried up the stairs they were almost golden. "In his tongue," she teased.
"Whose tongue?" Lord Beckett called after her when she reached the landing, his voice delightfully husky.
"Yours, if you talk of tails," she answered, glancing at him over her shoulder, enjoying how he looked so wonderfully frustrated as he followed after her. He deserved to be the frustrated one for once.
Elizabeth opened the door to their bedchamber and leaned a shoulder against the frame as he approached. "And so farewell."
Lord Beckett stopped so close to her in the doorway that she had to press her head against the frame to look him in the eyes.
"What, with my tongue in your tail?" He whispered, and she could smell the wine on his breath. "Nay, come again, Good Elizabeth; I am a gentleman."
"Well," she whispered back, pushing into him until their chests touched, "the lord doth protest too much, methinks."
Grinning, she swept into their bedroom. It was not even close to being from the right play, but she could hear the distinct - and very rare - sound of Lord Beckett chuckling as he closed the door. She felt an incredibly annoying surge of pride over the fact that she had made him chuckle and bit her lip to keep from smiling too brightly.
Struck by a sudden idea, Elizabeth rolled back her shoulders and glanced coyly at her husband. He was untying his cravat, eying her with very subtle curiosity.
"Would you…help me, my lord?" She asked, dropping her gaze the best she could to indicate the fastens of her gown running down her back. "Or, shall I send for one of the maids?"
Lord Beckett paused, his curious look losing any subtly, and slowly slid his cravat off his neck. He took a deep breath through his nose before nodding his consent and Elizabeth turned her head to face the wall, forcing herself not to watch him approach.
His hands rested on her hips for a too short moment before trailing up her back to the dip in-between her shoulder blades where the hooks and and laces started. He pressed a kiss against the base of her neck and then ripped the fastens apart, so suddenly and with so much force that Elizabeth gasped.
"Cutler!" She reprimanded, spinning around to face him. The dress started to fall and she frantically grabbed it and held it up to her chest. "I liked this gown!"
He smirked at her, completely and totally unapologetic.
She glared. "You are developing an unhealthy obsession with ripping my clothes off my body!"
He shrugged a single, delicate shoulder. "I can certainly afford to replace them. Besides, there are worse vices." Lord Beckett dropped his voice to a near whisper when he said, "And many willing participants."
Elizabeth's mouth dropped open - again - and she could feel heat rush through her face and up to her ears and down her chest. She raised an index finger and thrust it at his nose. "If you are suggesting that you would simply seek out other women, I will-"
"You'll what?" Lord Beckett interrupted, brushing her hand aside and stepping in close to her.
She licked her lips and stared into his smiling eyes, as blue as the ocean. Murder them, she wanted to say. Kill you in your sleep, she thought. But there were flecks of green in his eyes and words caught in her throat at the sight of them. She let her dress fall to her ankles, leaving her only in her shift, and threw her arms around his shoulders, covering her mouth over his.
He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him, pressing himself fully against her. The kiss was little more than a fight for dominance - desperate and angry and demanding. How dare he suggest what he suggested! How dare he think he has the right to rip her clothes off her body! Or invite people into their home she despises! Or give her The Taming of the Shrew! Or hold an umbrella for her in the pouring rain!
Their teeth clicked together and she laughed into his mouth.
Lord Beckett lifted her off the ground and grinned against her lips. "A convincing argument as always, Lady Beckett."
Author's Notes: In Case You Missed It: Lord and Lady Beckett were reciting lines from Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, which is why the quality of the dialogue in this fic drastically improved there for a moment. Don't worry - by next chapter the quality will be back to its usual substandard level.
I had originally written this with Cutler getting the best of Elizabeth during their recital, but then this gif of Tom Hollander and Gemma Arteron from the movie Byzantium showed up on my Tumblr dash and it inspired me to tweak things a little. Because Elizabeth's right - he does deserve to be the frustrated one for once!
Anyone here on Tumblr? I am admittedly new and bad at it, so I mostly just reblog pretty things. Follow me and I'll follow you, yeah? Atouchofviolet because I'm totes orig.
My representation of a dinner party is probably only halfway accurate, but, I don't know. I kind of like it even if it is wrong, lol.
And about the Scott Sisters v. Umbrellas - they were considered a girly accessory at the time according to that there google.
Thanks: to DemonicSymphony, Lady Bluebelle Beckett, Lady Elizabeth Beckett, and the guest for taking the time to review. Won't you review as well? ;p
"Petruchio: Come, come, you wasp; i' faith, you are too angry.
Katherine: If I be waspish, best beware my sting.
Petruchio: My remedy is then, to pluck it out.
Katherine: Ay, if the fool could find where it lies.
Petruchio: Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail.
Katherine: In his tongue.
Petruchio: Whose tongue?
Katherine: Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell.
Petruchio: What, with my tongue in your tail? Nay, come again, Good Kate; I am a gentleman."