One Good Reason
Title: To Have and To Hold
Disclaimer: Whedon owns the girl, Stephanie Laurens owns the Cynster.
Summary: Who knew the Cynster family motto reached beyond the grave?
A/N: Remember when I said I sometimes live with the stories in my head long before they get committed to file? Apparently, that happened here, because I swore I wrote this down somewhere before. Hmm. I’m going crazier faster than I thought. Yay! *eye roll* To Have and To Hold
One Good Reason
It had had been two long weeks since Devil had brought him to the house in London. Two agonizing weeks of being utterly directionless. He’d met his ‘cousins’ - all of them bearing a striking resemblance to the Scandal, Demon, Gabriel and Lucifer he’d grown up with. Devil had wisely postponed all of his meetings with his ‘aunts’, ‘uncles’, and younger ‘cousins’. The elder cousins had found it hard enough to be face to face with him, and they knew the full extent of his miraculous recovery.
He winced at the throbbing ache that had been in his chest for days now - had
been there since the day he’d left the slayers and Kit. Devil had pestered him once about it, but Tolly had lied and pretended he knew nothing about what Kit had told him. Nevertheless, Devil had scheduled an appointment with the family physician for him. Tolly sat at the window of Devil’s study and felt utterly at loss in this new world he was in.
How right had she been, his Kit? He’d wanted to come here, with her, but this London was nothing like his
London. Those streets he could have navigated blindfolded. Half the buildings of his time had been destroyed by time, war, and necessity. And the technology that he had only begun to grasp back with her and the girls, seemed simplistic to all the accoutrements Devil had in his private study.
“Honestly, Sylvester, you’d think I was some sort of interloper rather than your beloved auntie,” a voice cried out from the hall. Tolly felt his chest tighten. He knew
that voice. God, how he’d missed it.
“Aunt Louisa,” Devil was saying, trying desperately to keep the woman who would have been Tolly’s mother from his study. “I told the aunts that I had a visitor and that I didn’t wish to be disturbed for a reason.”
“Which is why I am here to see that you haven’t installed a mistress in the house.”
Had Tolly not been panicking, he would have laughed at that. This Devil - much as Tolly’s own cousin had - seemed to excel in avoiding the parson’s noose, but that hadn’t quelled his attraction of beautiful women.
“A dear friend is staying with me, Aunt Louisa, not a mistress, so you can report that back to Maman,” Devil sighed.
But Mother - no, Louisa
Cynster was always trickier than she looked. She’d managed to slip around Devil’s body and into his study. She blinked owlishly at Tolly for a moment, and his heart ached. It was one thing to find out that your cousins and siblings had been reborn centuries later, it was another thing entirely to see the woman who should have been your
mother in this life looking exactly as the old one had.
“Tolly?” Louisa gasped out, tears clouding her eyes. ~*~
Kit wasn’t faring much better, but at least she was out of the house that she’d shared with Tolly for that too brief time. She’d moped through that last week and a half because she worried about him. Tolly had been all secretive about that new scar, and the girls had swore up and down that he’d only watched during their fencing lessons. Selena hadn’t let him join in because she knew the girls were still too raw in controlling their strength.
She sat stiffly behind her desk at the London HQ on a conference call with Carlos Trejo who was in Salem, and Rona Thompson in New York. Other than Dawn, she’d worked most closely with the Latino watcher and African-American slayer within the Council. They’d all trained in Cleveland under Robin Wood and Faith Lehane, who’d been a couple at the time.
That hadn’t lasted long, and they’d been reassigned. Rona’d been sent to New York to work under Xander Harris, who’d just come back from Africa - Wood had taken his place there. Carlos had practically begged to go back to Salem and his girlfriend Dani, and luckily, Kennedy Fletcher, one of the original Potentials had been assigned there after her own bad break-up with Willow Rosenberg. Faith and Kit had been stuck in Cleveland together, until Kit was transferred to England nearly six months ago.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Rona’s voice snapped Kit out of her thoughts about Tolly.
“Damn, Holburn, I thought Dawn was just exaggerating like always, but you are beyond bad,” Carlos chipped in.
“Fuck you,” Kit said half-heartedly.
“This over a ghost? Are you forgetting rule number 17?” Rona’s eyes bored through the video line and into her.
“Doesn’t really work with the alive undead,” Kit muttered, sinking deeper into her chair.
“Repeat it back to me, girl,” Rona snapped.
“Don’t fall or fornicate with the dead or undead, because then you’re no better than Buffy,” Kit huffed.
That had been Rona’s twist on the rule. She really had not liked the blonde slayer, whom she blamed for splitting up the Original Potentials after Sunnydale imploded. Rona, Vi and Kennedy had been the originals, along with Molly, Chloe, and Amanda - who had all died at the hands of the First evil. Rona hadn’t minded separating from Kennedy, but she and Vi had been tight. Rona often said that the red-headed slayer was the only reason she walked out of the hell mouth.
“Anyway, that doesn’t signify,” Kit continued. “He was dead, then miraculously came back to life.”
“After two hundred years of being a ghost,” Carlos said slowly. “That doesn’t normally happen with ghosts
“And why the hell do you sound like a Jane Austen movie?” Rona frowned at her.
“Hey, what did I miss?” Dawn chirped from behind her.
“Kit’s gone crazy over a boy. We’re petrified.”
“Did I harp on you two when you went bat-shit over Dani and Oscar?” Kit huffed.
“Yes,” Carlos narrowed his eyes at her.
“You slept with Oscar,” Rona glared at her.
“Before you met him! When I was on vacation after Wood and Faith imploded!”
“Plus, Kit’s got a past life with this guy,” Dawn said out of the blue.
“I’ve got a what now?” ~*~
Days later, and Louisa was still looking at him as if he’d descended from the heavens. Devil and Vane had explained the situation fully with her. Both Louisa’s and Devil’s mother had been supporting the council privately, as their mothers had before them. Louisa knew Tolly wasn’t her son. And yet she went along with Devil, Vane, and Martin, her husband’s plan. Bartholomew Cynster - the one he would have matched in age but who had died as a child - would be ‘found’. The childhood illness that had claimed his young life would be forgotten in favor of a kidnapping.
Tolly was to have been abducted and only just now found his way back into the family fold. He had no idea how the younger siblings would take this. But he would not inherit whatever had been young Tolly and now his younger brother Simon’s birthright. He did not want that - that had been what had caused Charles to loose what few wits he’d possessed in the first place.
“I’m not him,” Tolly said vehemently.
“I know that,” Louisa smiled sadly. “I buried my son.”
“Then, pray, madam, please do not look at me as if I am him returned.”
“How can I not?” Louisa sighed. “I see him in you. It’s uncanny.”
“I did not wish for this,” Tolly looked away then, aware too deeply of the connection they did
share. He’d lost his mother - she had lost her son.
“Sometimes, what we do not dare wish for is exactly what we need, Tolly,” Louisa smiled at him again. “He would have looked just like you. But your road will not be an easy one, I can see it in your face, son.”
“I am not your son,” Tolly all but sobbed it out. He would remain composed if it killed him.
“You are now. I dreamt of her - of who I must have been back then, and do you know what she told me, Tolly?”
“Take care of my boy, as I am taking care of yours,” Louisa’s eyes shone with tears, but she kept on smiling. ~*~
Kit stared at the portrait for two days, her hand pressed to her chest to stop it from beating so very frantically. Lady Katharine Hollis had died when she was seventeen, a year after her come-out in 1816. She died, presumably, of heart failure. She’d survived a heart murmur at birth, but had her health had been significantly with a bout of Scarlet Fever as a young teen. She’d died shortly after recovering from the flu. And she’d been hopelessly in love with Bartholomew Cynster.
“How did you find all this out?” Kit said woodenly the day after she’d stopped staring at the portrait.
“I kept thinking ‘why Kit’ after you left here,” Dawn shrugged, looking guilty. “I thought maybe that it was because the family might be in some danger. Tolly had been the one to save them previously, you said. So I thought maybe I could figure out why he was needed this time.”
“And you thought that you needed to compare my face to portraits from the early 1800’s why?” Kit frowned.
“Because the family’s solid. There’s no Charles,” Dawn shrugged.
She’d broken down and told only
Dawn the truth about Tolly’s death. That his brother had killed him in a case of mistaken identity. Charles had meant to kill Devil
and gain the title as he and his dead mother considered his
right as eldest Cynster male.
“So then I thought, what if it’s all about Kit?” Dawn finished.
“It can’t be all about me,” she scoffed. And then Dawn had handed her that damn diary. Oh, Diary, the most wonderful thing has come to pass! Mr. Cynster requested a spot on my dance card this evening at Lady T-----’s ball! Mama says that he is a second son, and to not pin my hopes on a son that will surely not inherit, but Mama is much mistaken if she believes I care at all!
For I know I am not as comely as many of the girls in the Marriage mart, and my health has kept me much in the company of wallflowers and matrons. My dance card is rarely filled, and oh, it was heaven in his arms! Oh, to have such a gentleman as he to choose me as his bride - see then, if I care a fig for what he stands to inherit.
That had been that hopeful night she’d dreamed of - that ballroom dance and Tolly being courteous. Kit read the next stained entry, her feelings confirmed. What a fool was I! The other girls clucked behind their fans - Lady Katharine Hollis, the only dances she receives are because her Mama bemoans her daughter’s fate to the gentlemen’s mothers. I should have realized that it was only pretend. Why would a handsome gentleman choose such a creature as me to wed? I am sickly, my dowry and beauty are paltry compared to the beauties who would flock to such a man as Bartholomew Cynster.
Kit’s heart broke for the girl. Tolly might have danced with Katharine because her mother asked his mother, but he had
enjoyed it. His heart had quickened, and he had wanted more
. The final entry left Kit with tears in her eyes. I shall never wed. No gentleman would have me, and I would have none of them. Mama says I cannot go out in mourning simply because a young man who danced with me once has died, so I cannot wear the black muslin gowns my heart wishes I could. But how I wish now, that it had been I to go in his stead. Mama would be appalled at such words, but - I can feel it coming upon me. Perhaps Mr. Cynster would be so kind as to direct my way to heaven when it comes…
“She died a month and seven days after Tolly did,” Dawn had said quietly.
“I had a heart murmur when I was a baby,” Kit breathed.
“I think you were her
“God,” Kit let her head hit the table as tears for Katharine, Tolly, and little Bartholomew streaked their way down her cheeks. ~*~
She dreamt of a younger version of herself with much longer and lighter hair sitting at an old fashioned desk, a dark leather book opened in front of her. The girl dipped her pen in an inkwell and scribbled out a few lines. Kit tip-toed forward, reading over her shoulder. I fear things will not end well for them, Diary. He is weakening -
Her head jerked up and eyes so familiar bored into Kit’s. Pain and fear swam in those eyes and Kit’s stomach churned.
“You have to get him to a doctor
“Do you mean Tolly? He didn’t listen to me before - back when he was
speaking to me!” she cried.
“He will surely die and you will lose him again this night, Katharine Holburn, if you do not go to him immediately!
” Katharine’s eyes watered.
“What are you talking about?”
“The bullet - Charles’s curse on him - his mother’s family placed a curse on Tolly’s soul for being the cause of Charles’s downfall. That is why Bartholomew Cynster of your age died! That is why you never met him and my Tolly was needed. You overcame our illness, but Tolly cannot overcome that bullet - not alone. You
must go to him, Kit.”
Kit jerked up in her bed, sweat coating her skin. Her eyes flew to the clock on the nightstand. It was only ten-thirty. She’d gone to bed after dinner, exhausted by everything she’d learned that day. She shoved the covers back and raced into her clothes. She ran down the stairs and out the doors without a word to anyone. Her feet slapped against the pavement as she run blindly. She didn’t head to Devil Cynster’s house - Katharine had given her the knowledge of her path to Tolly - he wasn’t there.
She ran the twelve blocks to Louisa and Martin Cynster’s home - and she was not a big runner. She would feel it in the morning, but right now she felt nothing but the frantic beat of her heart. The entrance to the townhouse was blocked by a short iron fence that she clamored over, despite the protests of passers-by’s. She was about to run up the steps when the door opened, and Tolly emerged with an older woman that could have been his mother.
Kit’s heart stopped at the sight of his paleness. Bags were under his eyes, and sweat dotted his brow. His steps faltered a bit, and his eyes seemed to roll back. She darted forward and pulled his arm around her shoulders. His breathing was ragged and his mother gave a small cry.
“Katharine!” Kit’s eyes jerked up to the woman’s face as Tolly registered who was supporting him.
“Mrs. Cynster, we need to get him to the hospital fast. He’s been shot,” Kit panted, the run and Tolly’s weight catching up with her. “I’m Kit Holburn -”
“Devil told me that Tolly saved you in the woods. I have a car waiting. We were going to meet my husband and children for dinner.”
“You might want to call Devil, give him the heads up.”