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Should I Fast?

Chapter Text

The torturer was feared, and perhaps sometimes respected, but he wasn't loved. Julia recognised more than one face among the men tramping their dirty boots over her antique rugs. None of them gave her an apologetic look or hesitated to tear the pages out of her books.

As if she would hide evidence of guilt in her own house.

Julia sat on a hard chair, back defiantly straight, and clasped her hands neatly in her lap. Her fingers squeezed so tightly her bones ached, but nobody but her could tell that. She didn't know what was happening. They had taken Tom away, she didn't know where Jason was and nobody would tell what was happening. Since the militia still seemed to be in power, she assumed Monroe was still in power. Or perhaps Matheson had just reclaimed his position?

For once, she supposed, knowledge didn't matter. Neither man was known for their forgiveness of those who'd wronged them.

'Mrs Neville,' a young guard, his soft face scored with deep scars down one side, said. 'You have to come with me.'

'Where?'

He gripped her elbow and pulled her briskly to her feet. In her heels she was taller than him. It was a small victory. 'You'll find out.' He marched her out the front door of her own nice – she could hear the curtains twitching up and down the street. Her mouth firmed and she lifted her chin. Let them look.

A black carriage was waiting on the drive. The ones that came to take insurgents away and never bring them back. Julia supposed there was a certain poetic justice to that, as often as she had used them to remove opponents from the field.

She waited to be lifted in, like Cinderella on the way to the ball, and hoped that Jason had the sense to run. He wouldn't though; he was too like his father.

Tom was waiting for in Independence Hall, standing stiff and straight between two guards. Usually, she'd be careful of his position and image. Tonight she didn't care. She ran over and threw her arms around him, burying her face in his shoulder.

He couldn't hug her back, his arms shackled like a criminal, but he breathed in the smell of her and let her cling to him till her knees stopped trembling. 'It will be ok,' he promised her. 'Monroe will understand.'

'Will he?' a cold voice said.

Julia jerked away from Tom as Monroe strode into the room, blood drying in a patchy smear across his cheek. He threw his sword into the desk with a jerky, angry movement and turned to glare at them. His eyes were like glass.

'You cost me,' he said. 'Miles escaped, Rachel is gone and with her all her knowledge and even my hostages have flown the coop. I look like a fool.'

'I'm sorry,' Tom said, tucking his chin. He looked the picture of a good subordinate, but his voice was shaky with fury. 'I wanted Matheson dead.'

Monroe's lips twitched into a sneer. 'And so do I,' he said.

That was...unexpected, Julia registered with a twitch of her eyebrow.

Monroe wasn't just singing from a different hymn sheet in this, it was a while new book. The rule had always been to take Matheson alive, the 'or else' a silent, aim-spoiling threat. Any rebel that wanted to be long-lived just needed to dye their hair brown and do their best to look like a scruffy alcoholic. Not a bullet would go near them.

The panicking, plotty bit of her mind tried to seize on the change as leverage, but she squashed it down. The situation was too precarious and you never showed your cards till you knew what game you were playing.

Luckily, Monroe didn't seem to expect them to contribute to the conversation. He poured himself a glass of cheap whiskey and tossed it back, lips twitching as the bite hit him. Then he had another.

'I should have you killed,' he said conversationally, walking over to look out the window. 'I'd kill anyone else who let me down this badly.'

Julia reached out blindly for Tom's hand, clutching his fingers desperately. Her hands were so cold that his felt hot.

'I'd deserve it,' Tom said stoically. 'But sir, my family-'

'Yes,' Monroe interrupted, turning to stare at them. 'Your precious family. How lucky you are to have kept them safe this long, Major Neville. But then, you are a good soldier. Or were, until today.'

'There's no one more loyal to you than my husband, General Matheson,' Julia insisted.

Monroe gave her that glacial stare. 'More loyal than you, Julia? Should I doubt you then? Were you and Miles in cahoots, he always did have an inexplicable way with housewives.'

'Julia had nothing to do with this,' Tom said, stiffening. 'She would have let Matheson slit her throat rather than betray you.'

That hadn't been quite her reasoning.

'So,' Monroe said. 'We're back to you as the weak link, aren't we? That leaves me in a dilemma, Tom. I owe you my life for uncovering Rachel Matheson's plot; the Republic likely owes you its life for fetching the leverage to convince her to co-operate. Yet by allowing Miles to escape, you put all that in jeopardy.' His face twisted in fury, red blotching his cheeks. He snatched up half-empty decanter of whiskey and hurled it their feet, crystal shattering on the tiles. 'Do you FUCKING understand that?'

Tom had stepped in front of Julia, shielding her. She could see the fury in the tight line of his shoulders. Not now, she thought, squeezing his fingers and hoping he understood, not while he expects it.

'I make no excuses, General,' Tom said.

'Good.' Monroe muttered, rubbing his cheek sand looking away. 'Good, because I will accept none. If you want forgiveness, I don't want excuses or apologies or explanations. I just want the Mathesons' had on a pike outside the city gates. Do you understand me?'

'A second chance, General,' Tom said.

'Exactly,' Monroe said. 'And since I want you focused, I will take one worry from your shoulders, Major. While you are hunting Mathesons, I'll keep your lovely wife safe here in Independence Hall. She'll by my personal guest. A suite of rooms in the Hall has just become...unexpectedly...vacant.'

He paused and his voice was full of trip wires when he spoke again. 'Do we understand each other, Tom?'