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Choking on Sapphires

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He was asked to lead the blessings by the staff and carried out the ritual. He was flocked to by everyone but you basically. You sat back, feet up on the end of the dining room table, sipping the wine in your hand. You glance over at him to watch him charm the pants off the maids as you chuckle at the sight unfolding before your eyes.

You know that he’s aware he’s charming, but you wonder if he’s meaning to make the young dears sigh as he also touches shoulders and swats his hands at the men he’s speaking with. You’ll give him the benefit of the doubt after you see him so smoothly and passively reject one of the girls advances as her hand moves to touch his chest. You laugh into your glass at the pouting face of the poor thing.

You find yourself in the kitchen after dinner, sitting on a countertop while people move around and drink wine and converse. You feel like you’re transported back to some of your fondest childhood memories. Except you sat on a potato sack back then, women didn’t sit on the countertops, you were told. Alfie has a glass of wine in his hand from dinner and so do you. He’s up against one of the pale tiled walls, talking loudly with his hands and rolling out entertaining stories all the kitchen boys are just dying to hear. It takes you back home to France for a moment, you stare into your wine glass, watching it swirl and dance, sticking to the edges of the glass and running down again in a daze, stuck in your memories for a nice warm moment, nights spent in a room not that different from the one you’re currently in come back to you vividly. You could see the smokey room and hear your uncles and cousins shouting at one another. All arguments ended in the oldest always putting the youngest in a headlock and then they’d all start laughing again. Your Uncle pointing his finger at you with a wink as he catches you holding a bottle of rum, laughing loudly he takes it from you as he pulls you into his arms. “Peu lis!” he’d shout at you in an affectionate scold, his eyes sparkling with love and amusement. You can still feel the scratch of his coat under your hands.The boom of his voice as he laughed and cursed while he retold stories of your mischief and it made you feel loved to be spoken of so endearingly. He always knew how to make you feel special when he saw your pre-determined life was starting to steal your smile from your face. No other male figure had done that for you growing up, certainly not your own father.Least of all him. Only those extended family members of your mothers. Your heart started to ache.

“Genevieve?” Alfie’s low voice rips you from your time travel and your eyes flutter up to his, sitting under a raised brow, a slight look of concern on his face for you. “You alright?” he says lightheartedly, he flinches to reach out to touch you but hesitates and decides against it.

You clear your throat and blink and wiggle your face around for a moment before nodding. “Yes, I’m fine.” you take a deep breath. “Deja vu of sorts.” you sigh, “Got lost in my memories there for a moment, didn’t I?” you give him a half smile, your eyes back to being set in reality.

“Well that’s fine from time to time, innit?” he says with a gruff tone that holds no judgement.

You nod, your eyes moving about the room, there were fewer people around than the last time you looked. “Must be the wine.” you say scrunching your nose, making an excuse for your daydream.

“You do look a little flushed, if you don’t mind me saying.” he nods his head to let you know he doesn’t mean anything by it, making sure you didn’t take offense.

“It’s fine, Alfie.” you say with a quiet chuckle, smiling and sliding off the counter. “Come, let’s get some air. Not going to get better sitting in the scullery.” you say, motioning for him to follow you.

You’ve set your hand on the stone railing across your back patio, overlooking your garden. The moon is high and the sky is black against her. Small lights peppered across the lush ground of your garden give off the only light in the dense flora that carries back and fades as you reach the far end of the garden, your bees, and berries lying beyond that.

“I’ve not had the opportunity to tell you how lovely your home is, Gen.” he says politely, his eyes focused, looking out into the garden.

“Thank you. I’m quite fond of it myself.” you say back in the same tone, as your eyes wander. You sigh contently, moving towards the stairs. Feeling encapsulated in the bubble of your very aesthetically pleasing garden, flowers in clusters all along the right, a trail to a small secluded lily pod off the path, closer to the line of the woods, a small pond. To the left your personal garden of herbs, vegetables, and fruit. Farther back still on the left is the barn looking building which functions both as a garage and also a home to the horses you keep to help on the farm.

You turn your top half back towards him, he’s already looking your way as you meet his eyes with yours. “Would you like a walk through the garden, Alfie? Seeing as you live here and all now I should show you around, shouldn’t I?”

“In the middle of the night?” he asks, his eyes moving up to the moon and back to you.

“Yes. Why not? It’s even more beautiful in the night. Are you frightened of the dark or something?” you give him a playful grin and a small laugh that shakes your shoulders just slightly. He purses his lips and lowers his brow at you.

“Scared of not being able to see a fuckin’ thing and wastin’ my time.” he says with a light-hearted mocking tone.

You walk down the stairs with a shrug to the stone path laid into the ground around the small fountain. “I don’t know…That sounds like something someone who’s afraid of the dark would say.” you snicker childishly and lower your head as you see him shake his.

“You serious?” he says, motioning with his hand to the air to emphasize his question.

“Yes! Well,” you say with a small shrug, "about showing you around, not so much the fear of the dark stuff.“ you call out, your shoulders slumping slightly and your expression is set in an easy going and teasing smile. "There are lights all over. C'mon, let me show you the garden.” you hold out your arms as he gives in and walks down the stairs.

Without the need for coats, you’re both dressed down, him in his white shirt that’s partially untucked over his trousers, braces still hanging by his hips, the wind rustles the excess fabric of his shirt. You’re in a navy sleeveless dress, the sheer fabric worn over a matching slip lets the cool breeze hit your skin and you welcome the sensation.

He mostly listens, although never short on words when asked for an opinion. You’ve shown and explained the sectors of the garden, told him what lands were around you and how far yours went. You, as usual, end up speaking of your flowers and garden like an old lover. He would always get oddly still when you’d start waxing poetic. He even stopped walking as you lilted on lavender at one juncture, watching you as you moved across the path, cooing about the lavender in the fields from your childhood and how currently, it’s oils made you want to sleep when added your bath at night. The moon reflective off his eyes as they moved with you, his mouth set into a pleasant expression. When you met his gaze there would always be a smile waiting beneath his shifting mustache, but you didn’t know if it stayed the whole time you spoke.
—————————————————
“WHAT THE FUCK YA DOIN’?” you hear him shout as you unfocus your eyes and turn your torso to the sound of his voice. Your feet are still firmly planted shoulder-width apart, taking aim at the statue on the other side of the pond. He sees you standing in an authoritative pose with a gun in your hands. The dress you wore made you look as if you were displaced in time. The Lady Genevieve Greene of some time long ago, much resembling the lavender of the fields near your family’s home in France you’d told him about the night before as it moved with the gentle morning breeze. The laced edges of the neckline of the dress worn down on your arms with bare shoulders, the sheer violet fabric billowing out before being edged again with tiny white ribbon. The dress was cut in an empire waist, cinching just below the swell of your chest, covering the slip of matching color you wore underneath. The dress swung about your ankles, moving as your hips did, reminding him of a Bellflower. A white apron with big pockets was tied around your waist, a ribbon was loosely holding back your thick dark hair in a bow at the base of your neck.

“Target practice.” you say obviously, your fingers wrapped around the pistol in your hands.

“You could fuckin’ warn a man, ya know!” he says, shaking his cane in your direction as he trots down the small downward slope that conceals the pond from your garden.

“I’m used to living alone. I’ll be more considerate next time.” you say with an apologetic tone, turning back to the statue.

“Why are you shootin’ at a statue anyway?” his tone is still slightly annoyed and his voice higher pitched in his animated words and hand movements.

“Because I fucking hate it.” you state matter-of-factly. He laughs at your response and squints his eyes to look at it from a few feet behind you. "Also because I need the practice.“ you let out a sigh and place the gun back into the pocket of your apron. "I’ve been using knives so much recently that I don’t want to get rusty.” you explain turning to him, wringing your hands.

“Why do you have this statue if you hate it so much?” he says, he continues around the pond since you’ve stopped shooting.

“Don’t bother with it Alfie,” you say in a groan, following behind him on the dirt path surrounded by dark green grass on either side. One side rolling up and into a tree line, the other side sloping down and into the water. You begrudgingly start to explain. “I had a statue commissioned in Paris before I moved here and I paid for it and it was shipped without me seeing it and I just,” you let out another sigh and put your hands on your hips as you stop behind him, both looking up that the statue. “It makes me look like a fucking horse or something, I dunno.” you start to mumble, your face frowning.

“That’s supposed to be you?” he asks, his finger pointing at the statue.
You move to stand next to the statue and pose in it’s likeness, one hand on your hip, the other up and bent behind your head. “You don’t see the resemblance?” you ask while making a contorted face and pushing the front of your nose up with the hand that had been on your hip. You roll your eyes and purse your lips in an exaggerated way to show your distaste for it. He lets out a low laugh and shakes his head at you.

“No, I ‘spose not. I mean I only know what you’re face looks like, right? So I can’t very well speak as to the accuracy of the rest of it now, can I? ” he smirks and shrugs and doesn’t look at you, his eyes remain mischievious and focused on the nude statue.

“Alfie.” you scold in a laugh and reach out the playfully smack his arm but he leans out the way easily as you’re pawing very slowly at him. “You cheeky boy,” you say with a very amused scoff, it coming out higher pitched that you intended. You cross your arms over your chest, shaking your finger at him. “Don’t you worry yourself with those resemblances,” you say while walking past him. He can’t help but let out another small chuckle before turning to follow you, being relieved he had found that you could, in fact, take a joke at your own expense. “What are your plans for the rest of your morning since it seems my practice roused you early?” you ask, not looking back at him, you could hear him walking behind you, the pattern of his steps and barely noticing his cane hitting the ground. Did he even need that thing?

“Well, since you decided to go shoot yourself so early in the day I hadn’t had time to consider yet.” he says, his voice back to it’s even and gruff sound.

You let a huff of a laugh out at his choice of words. “You have a spare moment to give me now?” you ask, now stopping and waiting for him as you stand in the fork in the path.

“What d'ya need me for, eh?” he asks with no hesitation.

“I don’t require anything but your company,” you say your shoulder slightly rising with a polite smile. “I was wondering if you’d like to take that tour now. Know what’s in the house, see where what I sell you comes from.” you state, your hands clasped together at the end of your fully extended arms.

“Well I did start my day off earlier than intended, dinnit I?” he asks rhetorically. “And I would like to meet these bees of yours. What with the way you talk about 'em an all.”

“House first. Then breakfast and to the Apiary before swinging back around and I’ll let you go.” you suggest, turning to move towards the house he motions with his hand for you to continue on your way as he falls in behind you.

You take him into the house through a less obvious backdoor into the cellar and up and into the kitchen leading into the main hall. You skip the guest wing and the dining room as he’s already familiar. The ballroom at the side of the house opposite the dining room, separated by a large entryway and lobby into the house, the embossed with white and gold designs on the ceiling starting to twinkle in the early morning light that came in through the large window above the front door and the window in the top of the domed ceiling over the entryway. You show him your wing. You elect not to show him your bedrooms, didn’t want him getting too friendly too soon or being given the impression that was what this was about. You lead him through your study that serves as an office when needed. You lead him up the metal spiral staircase tucked away behind a large bookshelf that leads to the second floor of your wing. You do a casual peek at your leisure room, some dance, some singing, and music when the mood struck you.

You come to your studio. You’re excited and he can read it in your body language, but not much on your face. But as you finally turn to open the door, exposing the large space, large windows with heavy velvet curtains pulled back to let the light in. A circular raised platform in the middle where your stool and an easel, currently holding your work in progress sit. Workbenches across the wall, a desk, fainting couch and room divider placed around the other side of the room. The wooden floor was covered with various colored ornate rugs, with furniture upholstered in various jewel tones. Canvas and tarps propped up against walls, in the far corners of the room, a male and female set of statues stand in recessed sections of the wall.

You stand by the door as he walks into the room, his eyes wide as he studies the currently mostly dark background covered canvas in the room, it was large and called all the attention to itself.

“You painted these?” he asks, his chin pushing into his neck, eyebrows furrowed with curiosity as his hand slices through the air, directing your attention to contents of the room.

“One of my hobbies.” you nod proudly.

“Why steal 'em at all if you can just paint them yourself?’ he asks in an amused tone, shrugging his shoulders in a huff.

"Not as much fun to have an imitation of the real thing is it?” you answer his seemingly rhetorical question as he comes back to you, not wanting to pry too much into a room of such personal significance to you. He didn’t want to show his greed for information about you. He lived in the house now so surely he could find the time to have a look at what was covered from sight in this room.

“S'pose you’re right on that, yeah?” he nods with an agreeable face as his hand comes out to show you to lead once again.

Your main discussion over breakfast was your personal garden. Telling him about what was used from it in the meal and what you would be having coming up with the seasons changing. He finds himself not holding his tension in his shoulders for the first time all week. Your voice is soft when you’re at home he finds. It’s been speaking about things you loved in a sweet tone that had lulled him the entire morning.

Now he’s listening to you greet your hives, you spill compliments to them in French, the way you have such a calmness to your actions in the midst of the seeming chaos of movement and noise make a heavy sigh build in his chest. You were a bit hypnotizing, he’d thought when he would watch the way your eyes would go intensely focused and almost command things from their target. They were currently showing the fast way you took in information from sight alone. You’re speaking softly to the man in the full netted suit. Your face lights up as you point to another hat and shuffle your way excitedly towards him.

“Don’t be shy, Solomons, come introduce yourself.” you grin, placing a hat and net on his head. He adjusts it as he follows you towards the source of the buzzing down the path between the numerous short stacks of hives.

“Telly has found a virgin queen and I can’t have you miss this.” He laughs silently behind you at your enthusiasm as your hand is firmly wrapped around his, tugging him along despite his lack of defiance.

“Virgin queen? Didn’t know bees cared about such things.” he kids. You snort in response.

“Means she’s new.” he sees your shoulders moving as you quietly chuckle at him. “She’s piping and I want you to see what I meant when I said they sing.”

“I remember you saying that, yeah.” he nods, eyes wide and now very aware of the buzzing around the opened hive you were approaching.
You keep hold of his hand even though you’ve stopped. You don’t even notice in your excitement as it feels natural to do such a thing.

He gives a polite nod of acknowledgment to Telly. “There’s the little lady.” you coo, touching the bees so delicately with one bare finger, moving them just slightly. He’d never seen someone do such a thing. Who sticks their fingers into a mass of bees? Especially in the fearless, tender way you did. The difference in the queen and the others was so slight that he wouldn’t have noticed if he’d been given hours to look at the vibrating and constantly shifting mass of tiny bodies. He sees first hand now that you really do know what you’re talking about with the buzzy buggers. “Look at her go, now she’s singing.” He can hear the sound. But the pride on your face is what he’s really interested in. He hears the intervals of melodic buzzing. Piiiiiiiip - pip-pip-pip. “Her little wings rub together to make the sound. Much like a cricket,” you explain softly, looking up at him for a moment while you speak. “Can you hear her?” you ask, still doe-eyed at the bee.

“She’s got a lovely voice, Genevieve.” he grins as you meet him with a pure, closed mouth smile.

You stand and clasp your hands together, sighing. “I’ll get out of your hair, Tel. I know you’ll be as busy as they are with new queens.” you eyebrows raise and the man nods back at you with a kind expression. “Don’t want to scare off Mr. Solomons now do we?” you smirk as you turn to walk out of the fenced area. Once you’re at the gate, you take his hat off of him, hanging it on the fence post. “If you’re around them enough and they get used to you, you won’t have to wear the hat anymore.” you explain, turning back to walk down the path to the house.

“Genny and her bees.” he hums in amusement. “I’m surprised you allow other queens to share your space.” he jokes.

“Well I’m a very gracious ruler, aren’t I?” you laugh with a swivel of your chin in jest.

“Very gracious indeed, Genny bee.” he says with a nod and a mischievous grin. You felt like you’d be hearing that nickname again from him whether you acknowledged it or not. You let him have his fun.
—————
You are in your study, looking over blueprints for a proposed job. It was late but you weren’t going to bed. If you tried you would lie in bed and be thinking about doing this so it was useless. The house has been quiet for some time now. You’re in the middle of solving the maze of hallways when you hear a noise shift outside your door and in your focused state you instinctively reach for your gun under your desk and pull it and hold it to the door before you look up to see who is on the other end of your aim. You hear a shuffling noise followed by a clearing of a throat as he rounds the doorframe and into view.

The look he gives you is not immediately of worry as you’re used to and the almost offended but still amused look on his face makes you roll your eyes before lowering your gun and laying it on the far side away from him on your desk.

“Lovely to see you as well Genevieve, yeah?” he says in a mocking tone as he holds out his arms and walks towards your desk.

You tilt your head but hold out your hand for him to not come closer and he gives you a puzzled expression. “I was focused and forgot you lived here for a moment. The maids know not to bother me in here.” you shrug implying he already knew the rest of how that story played out.

“Right.” he says, nodding, chin down, looking at your hand, still unsure of the gestures motive.

“Before you get any closer to this desk I’m going to need a very honest answer to a very serious question.” your face loses the amusement at him it held just moments before, now reserved.

“Then a very honest answer you will receive.” he nods, moving his hand for you to continue, welcoming the question.

“Are we at a place in our professional and personal relationship where I can allow you to see or know things that are not involved in your personal business affairs and not have to worry about you selling or giving, by any other means, my information to anyone, ever?” you rest your hands back on top of each other, your forearms on your desk.

He nods with a thoughtful face at you, impressed by the many situations your words covered. “You are aware there is a man that is out to kill me, correct?” you push your chin out in reaction to the strange answer.

“Yes, I know that.” you narrow your eyes and shake your head in a desire of a more thorough elaboration.

“And you’re still letting me stay here in your home, innit ya?” he says, motioning towards the chair in front of your desk. You frown and motion back for him to sit.

“Yeah, I leveled up my security, so? What are you on about?” you command of him, your shoulders slumping.

“I’m a guest in your house, having been personally invited by you, right?” he points his finger at you as his words pass to emphasize it’s importance to you specifically. “With this invitation, you knew you were possibly putting yourself in harm’s way on my behalf. I don’t know what awful things you’ve heard others say of me and the way I handle my business, but I would like to assure you that I can recognize a debt when I see one and it seems that I am now the one in debt to you, aren’t I?” his hands clasped together as he finished speaking, resting on his stomach as he leans back in the plush chair.

Your lips pout as you look away from him to your desk in thought. He was right, it had not occurred to you that he would think about the situation in this way but you were oddly relieved at his mature admission.

“So just so ya know…ya know.” he nods animatedly at you. “With me being here, yeah? You don’t have to worry about what I see in this house. Ya just don’t, Genevieve. I may be a fuckin’ piece of work but I’m not gonna fuck ya over, not when you’ve done nothin’ but right by me since I met ya, yeah?”

You watch him as he speaks. You’re surprised that you feel like he’s telling the truth. Your previous life experience wants you to reject the notion. “And for my own piece of mind,” he says, his hands touching his chest, his tone lighter, “Ya don’t have any plans on servin’ me up with an apple in me mouth, d'ya?” his eyes blink slowly at you.

“I have no current plans for that, no.” you can’t help but grin in response.

“Then I’ll keep behavin’ myself and you keep not killin’ me in my sleep and we’ll be good as gold, mate.” he gives you a flash of a charming smile with a gruff chuckle, full of amusement.

“Then that’s the plan.” you meet his smile with one of yours you found disarming in hopes to incite the same feeling in him as he was trying to draw from you with his. “Your cooperation as always is very much appreciated and does not go unnoticed.” you say with a warm smile and polite nod of punctuation.

“You’re very kind, Genevieve, yeah?” he leans forward with his elbows on his knees, “You know that? Not something I expected from ya with the stories I 'eard about ya.” his grin returns in full but his eyes are less sentimental.

“Well luckily for me, you just agreed to not tell anyone my secrets so that will just have to stay between you and I, won’t it?” you look back down and speak with raised brows and a smug expression, moving your hands across the papers on your desk to smooth them.

His gaze drops after you share a look of agreement. His head tilting and his shoulders relaxed. He clears his throat to speak, “Now it’s my back that ’s got me up at this late hour.” He shifts his weight, now on one arm, resting on the chair. “May I ask what’s got you awake or have I gone and interrupted you?” he asks politely.

“No, your intrusion is welcome, Alfie.” You reply, your lips pursed and as you went ahead and stacked the papers neatly to look over later. “It’s a job I’m thinking about taking. Trying to get a good study of it before I accept or decline. Nothing that interesting to be honest.” you half smile, stretching in your large chair, rolling your neck. “I don’t need to chance my eyes staying foggy from reading in the low light for this long anyway.” you yawn, rubbing your eyes. “Might need to get glasses like yours if I keep up these late hours.”

“Oh, you takin’ a piss outta my glasses now?” his lip shoots up in a reactionary grin.

“Never.” you laugh, shaking your head. “It allows you to wear glasses that also function as jewelry,” you state in an obvious but enthusiastic way. “I wouldn’t know what hell to give you about them. Seeing as I’m fond of them myself.” you shrug and roll up the papers as you speak, your mood back to friendly with ease. “Who has picked on you for your glasses, Alfie?” you say, lowering your head to tease him just slightly. “You’re defensive of them. Do I need to go give some rude men a talking to?” you offer with a grin, shutting the papers inside your desk.

“More like rude women if I’m being honest, mate.” he says, shaking his head with a small laugh, his hand moving out in the presentation of the joking statement.

“Girls been making fun of your glasses?” you say in a genuinely surprised, higher pitched voice, your elbows are on your desk, your hand to your chest in tandem with your statement.

He nods with his mouth open, brow furrowed as if he’s trying to think of where to begin with his thoughts.

“How very rude,” you say with a nod of your head to interrupt his thoughts. “Making fun of a man’s glasses.” you tsk, shaking your head dramatically, seeing his grin slowly build as you carried on your animated task of cheering him up from the idea. “All terrible I’m sure. Self-loathing, projecting, feral mannered tarts.” you continue your insults until you begin to laugh at your over the top delivery.

“Not nothin’ like you, are they Gen?” his voice is lower than you anticipated but the praise immediately goes to your head and projects itself onto your face loudly.

“I’ve yet to meet a woman that is.” you flash a beaming, pride-filled smile at the statement. A laugh that sounds ill-intentioned bubbles out through your shapely lips.