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Family Reunion - Evening, 15th September


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A pretty Tudor style home with four bedrooms, a dining room, parlor, and library.  A small stable that can hold 3 horses and tack and carriage resides on the property as well.  A walled garden, most of it settling down to slumber for the winter, completes the rental. Perfect for 5 females.

It had been grand to see Catriona and Fiona again, at the opening reception, but it only emphasised to Douglas how much he missed all of them, including the younger three whom he'd not yet seen. Two sisters and particularly his niece, whom he'd doted on since she was an infant. He doted on them all of course, but they did have a tendency to become rather more strongly opinionated with age. That was MacBain women for you, and some might say Scottish women in general. To say nothing of the Scottish men...

Of course, Douglas wasn't silly, so being well aware of the usual rhythms of Cat's household, he timed his visit to just before dinner. He didn't doubt he'd get invited to the table, and the cooking in Cat's own household was infinitely better than whatever he usually managed to find for himself. But he didn't arrive empty handed, his man Aed carrying a large wicker basket as Douglas knocked on the door. 

Edited by Douglas FitzJames
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  • Douglas FitzJames changed the title to Family Reunion - Evening, 15th September

One of the guardsmen Cat hired from the Veteran's Hospital was outside when Douglas approached.  There may have been a moment when he gave Her Ladyship's brother a full look over.  He'd heard that the bastard had been made a Baron, which was quite impressive to him.  A self-made man.  And his soldiers didn't bandy around things about other people's family.  "Good evening, milord.  Do you need a hand with anything?"  Lowland's Scot flavored his speech.  

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Douglas remembered the old soldiers in his sister's employ, fellows from the Veteran's Hospital who were still able to take on such duties. Having been a soldier himself - a real soldier - he appreciated the charity she gave those men. He only hoped that they were still up to her defense, should such be necessary. Not that his sister was exactly helpless in that matter either. Still, it was both heartening and mildly amusing that the man gave him the once-over first.

He acknowledged the old soldier's greeting with a nod. "Nae so'jer, jus' here tae see my sisters." He replied with the manner of an officer, quite confident that he'd been recognised, and would be understood given the man's own, lighter accent. "Haps yer'd let thaim ken I'm here?" He suggested, hoping that his younger sisters, and his niece, would be pleased to see him. He knew he'd be pleased to see them. 

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This soldier was not one of the obviously injured ones that Cat took into her employ.  Even while he spoke to Douglas, he kept up a scan of the area, obviously on the alert.  The suggestion to notify the house of his arrival had the man replying, "Aye, Cap...milord,"  He went to the front door and knocked three times.  The door was answered by another man, who's bearing would also denote military background.  He was part of Cat's main employees, so he would be familiar to Douglas.  "Good evening, milord.  Please come in.  The ladies are still getting ready for supper.  Shall I take your basket?"

 

Douglas wouldn't have much time to respond as just then, Cat walked into the foyer.  "Who is it, Jack?," she started, then grinned.  "Why am I not surprised you'd show up right at meal time.  Come on in,"  she said before the smile left her face and she turned her head up towards the ceiling.  There was still plenty of noise up there as 3 fashionable girls got ready for dinner.  Nessia would be with the nanny.  "We need to have a word first."  Her tone was serious.

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If there was one thing that Douglas would never be offended by, it was being called 'Captain' by old soldiers. He might be a Lord now, but he was a military man first, and still felt that was his core, however proud he was of Dundarg, that little scrap of Scotland he called his own. Inside was another veteran, and both of these looked reasonably spry, which was heartening to Douglas's protective instincts. Indeed, the man actually looked familiar. One of the more trusted guardsmen, presumably. The man asked if he could take the basket, so Douglas reached inside and pulled out a largish bundle, carefully wrapped in in cloth, then nodded to his man Aed to hand the basket over. "Tha's fer the cook."* He said bluntly. It held a healthy supply of dried, smoked fish, kippers and Moray cod, produce from his new smoke house and a taste of home, if they cared for it. 

Why am I not surprised you'd show up right at meal time?

Why was it no surprise that Cat couldn't wait for the doorman to finish the formalities? But the lack of formality in their family was something Douglas always enjoyed. "Cause ye're aye tellin me I'm ower thin, sae I micht an aw tak ye up on yer threats." He said with a grin, deliberately broadening his Scots because he knew he could and she'd still understand. Threats to feed him up of course. He did tend to put on a bit of weight when living the more sedentary life at court, but burned it off during the off season, having an active disposition and the Devil's own metabolism, the natural male extrapolation of the MacBain tendency to be tall and slim. "'Ay lassie."** He added affectionately, moving to give Cat a hug if permitted, whilst juggling the soft package in his hands, possibly the only person who might get away with calling her that. 

The sound of feet came from the floor above, and Douglas glanced up as he heard them pattering back and forth, before Cat caught his attention with her serious tone. Clearly she meant before the girls came down. "Aye?" He acknowledged, equally serious. "Whit's it?"*** He asked, knowing that Cat wouldn't say such for something trivial. They might have had their differences and their initial reunion when he first came to court particularly rocky, but the ruffled feathers had settled over time. Like most Scots they might be inclined to fight between them, but would rally together to smite any threat to the Clan. 

Subtitles
* "That's for the cook."
** "Because you're always telling me I'm too thin, so I might as well take you up on your threats. Hey girl."
*** "Yes? What is it?"

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The guard took the basket from Douglas and with a nod of his head, headed towards the kitchen.  Cat traveled with her cook because of her dietary issues.  Onions and garlic were so prevalent in most cooking, so she needed to be careful.  No one would appreciate it if she suddenly broke out in hives and struggled to breathe.  It was already hard enough in a tightly cinched corset.  

 

Douglas would hear the door being locked behind him as Cat moved him towards the parlor.  One brow rose at his teasing as she gave her head a little shake, a smile on her lips.  “Finally, a man who takes my threats seriously.  Besides, by the look of you, you should be hung in some vegetable patch, scaring away the varmints,” she teased back.  She accepted the hug and gave him one in return.  While their adult relationship had started off rocky, the elder siblings were getting along fine now…for the most part.  

 

Once in the parlor, she walked over to where the spirits had been stored and lifted a bottle of whiskey?  “Care for a glass?  I’m having one.”  He would know it was serious if she was already ready to take a drink before the telling.  Once drinks were settled, she tossed back the glass in her hand, steeling herself for announcement.  

 

“Someone is trying to kill Fiona.”

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The front door was locked behind him as he followed Cat into the parlour, something which the soldier noticed. Locked doors and guards, ones that actually looked sprightly and competent. One might almost think that Cat was worried, or at least more cautious than usual. "I cuid sit on my arse and luik like Lauderdale if ye prefer."* Who was grossly fat and ugly to boot. Plus he was getting old, and without an heir. And was generally a nasty piece of work. No one liked Lauderdale, at least not in this house. He tried to think of some similar insult he could chuck back idly, but the truth was that Cat looked fabulous. She usually did. 

In the parlour Cat went straight for the bottle of whiskey and he answered her question with a nod. He'd never say no to a whiskey, but it worried him as he watched her toss her glassful back, seeming to feel the need of fortification. Douglas took a modest drink from his, wanting to enjoy the flavour, which was perhaps a shame as not much of it stayed in his mouth when Cat made her sudden announcement. Fortunately there were no candles nearby. 

"Damn it Cat, ye made me waste guid uisge!He snapped as he fished a kerchief from his pocket and wiped his face, his blustering a cover for the shock he felt. Who the hell would want to kill Fiona? And why? Looking around he picked a random chair and sat down, muttering something offensive in Gaelic. "Fook." He rounded it off. "Tell me whit's happened."** And Cat could be certain that she had her soldierly brother's full and undivided attention. 

Subtitles
* "I could sit on my arse and look like Lauderdale if you prefer."
** Damn it Cat, you made me waste good whiskey. Fuck. Tell me what's happened."

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A look of pure abhorrence lurched over Cat's face at the mention of Lauderdale.  While she had successfully maneuvered out of either her or Fiona becoming his mistress, he still had a hold over her beloved homeland.  The man needed to be taken out of the picture, whether politically or permanently.  "I feel the house needs to be cleansed now that the name of the Devil has been spoken," she muttered.  

 

She looked on as Douglas started swearing after anointing the rug with good whiskey.  Cat understood his Gaelic swearing perfectly and couldn't find fault in his words.  That was almost exactly what she thought at the time of reading the letter.  She did pull a handkerchief from her bosom (that ever handy storage facility for ladies) so he could wipe his chin of the remaining spittle and whiskey before getting him a new glass.  "I felt the same, though at least you're getting it from family.  I had to learn about it in a letter from Langdon."  Douglas knew that Cat and Charles were friends, but he might note there was a less than friendly tone when she said his title.  "It seems after we both left London, someone started leaving 'gifts' for our sister.  It started out innocent enough, but the last one before I was written was a poisonous snake.  Fiona ran to Langdon, because, she said she didn't want to put her sisters in danger."  There might have been a bit of a sneer in her voice, the idea of Cat not being able to protect herself and her siblings completely insulting.  She'd killed for them, for Heaven's sake.  "She was locked up in that Palace of his until we came here."  Then, she stopped. It wasn't that she didn't have more to say.  Just that she wasn't certain if she should tell Douglas about the rumors.  That might distract him from the current danger.  Besides, she wanted to take care of confronting her 'friend' herself.

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The mention of Lauderdale got exactly the reaction he'd expected from Cat. Douglas had no particular reason to love the man, but his sisters had plenty of reasons to hate him. A brother's ability to annoy his sister might have been terribly amusing, were it not for her revelation. Accepting Cat's handkerchief, Douglas cleaned himself up, annoyed that he'd been so caught out, but he'd never expected to hear such words spoken. 

And she wasn't finished. Accepting the new glass the big man decided to sit down, draping himself bonelessly over one of the comfortable chairs, in case there were more shocks to come. Which there was, but only a mild one. "Langdon?" What the hell? He was Cat's friend and Douglas's colleague, but how was he involved with Fiona? Even as that thought crossed his mind, he wondered whether 'involved' was the operative word. "Weel, if neither ye nor I were in London, I kin understand but she'd gie tae abody closer." Though like Cat he thought little of the protest of not wanting to endanger her family. They could cope with danger. But something had sent her to Charles instead. And she'd spent the rest of the recess in Langdon's house. "I wuidnae hae picked Langdon thou'. Is she fuckin' him?" He asked, bluntly. It wouldn't surprise him. If rumours were true Langdon was sleeping with every young woman he could manage, and always had done. 

Whether or not Fiona was sleeping with Langdon, that was the least of their problems. She couldn't fuck him if she was dead. "Can I see the letter?" He wanted to see exactly what Langdon had written. "An' do ye ken wha it is, or micht be?" Did they have any suspects to go on? If Fiona was in danger then they needed to deal with that as a priority, and to do that he needed more information. Cat would recognise the preoccupied look on her brother's face; he was already working on the problem and wanted all the facts. He might not be academically gifted, but he would worry at a mystery like a dog with a bone and he had some understanding of the criminal mind, probably because, had things been different, he might have leant that way himself. 

Subtitles
* "Langdon? Well, if neither you nor I was in London, I can understand that she'd go to somebody closer. I wouldn't have picked Langdon though. Is she fucking him?"
** "Can I see the letter? And do you know who it is, or might be?"

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On 11/6/2022 at 5:44 PM, Douglas FitzJames said:

Is she fuckin' him?

And with those words, Cat's expression turned down right dangerous.  "As much as it pains me to say it, that seems to be the rumor going around," she all but growled.  She could lose her temper with family.  In public, she TRIED to stay calm and pretend not to be the hot tempered woman she was, but Douglas wouldn't believe calmness from her in this situation for a second.  "Seems talk between his soldiers and my guards infers such a situation.  There's a reason I didn't seek him out at the reception.  I wasn't certain I wouldn't stab the bastard."  He was supposed to be her friend, but that was obviously not the case.  A friend wouldn't sleep with their friend's unwed little sister.  

 

"It's upstairs in my things," she replied in question to the letter.  "As to who, I have no clue.  Fiona hasn't named any possible names either.  As to why..."  At this, she shrugged.  Who knew why mad people did anything?  "I think the three of us should sit down and really go over everything.  You know how it is when it's just Fiona an I."  Yelling, yelling and more yelling.  

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The dark expression on Cat's face suggested that not only had he hit the mark, but he possibly shouldn't have done so quite so bluntly. But Douglas was blunt by nature, and around family he could be. His upper lip curled back as his sister confirmed his suspicions, a quiet growl deep in the back of his throat. Both siblings had tempers, and both had learned to curb them in public, but they weren't in public now. "I swear he doesnae think aboot whaur he puts his dick." He growled. Sod, that complicated things. "D'ye recall that Winchester lassie whit drownit hersel? Rumour had it he'd git her pregnant." She'd been some rich heiress; why he wouldn't marry her and have the money and the child Douglas couldn't fathom. "Thair weel be a few souls on the scales when God came to measure Langdon's".* He muttered darkly. 

He could well imagine that Cat was ready to take matters into her own hands. "Yer a model o' restraint." He said, a kind of commiseration. "D'ye want me tae talk tae him? I hae tae work wi' him sae prolly shuidnae kill him."** Though, lets face it, that was an option. If Langdon was into assignations then he had to spend a fair bit of time in places where there would be no witnesses...

But, as Douglas had mused earlier, Fiona couldn't fuck Langdon if she was dead. This threat was far more important right now. "Let me read the letter, then aye, lets aw sit doon taegether an' talk this throu'."*** Oh yes, he knew how things could get with Cat and Fiona. He'd never say as much but he was sure it was because in some ways they were too alike. Not in all ways though, Fiona had this selfish streak that he wasn't sure where it had come from. But if Douglas could be the calming agent in the conversation - God help them all - then he would be. Egos and bickering aside, this was a threat to family and thus to the Clan. They had to be united against it. 

Subtitles
* "I swear he doesn't think about where he puts his dick. Do you recall that Winchester girl who drowned herself? Rumour had it he'd gotten her pregnant. There will be a few souls on the scales when God comes to measure Langdon's."
** "You're a model of restraint. Do you want me to talk to him? I have to work with him so probably shouldn't kill him."
*** "Let me read the letter, then yes, lets all sit down together and talk this through."

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There was no argument coming from Cat as Douglas listed the 'sins' assigned to Charles as she normally would.  He'd crossed that line.  Not only had he crossed it, he'd danced on it and left a mess.  It was all she could do not to track him down and have what would later be known as a "Come to Jesus" talk.  That could wait until after Fiona's stalker was dealt with...permanently.  "No.  Not until the threat to Fiona is gone.  After that, I don't think it would be a bad idea if we both sat him down."  Perhaps the smile that slid over her face was a slight bit evil.  But just a tiny bit.

 

She nodded at the request for the letter and turned to leave the room.  She stopped a maid, who returned to the parlor before Cat with a plate of profiteroles shaped like swans.  "Her ladyship said you'd like these," she offered.  They were the ones Cat had picked up at the pattisserie that afternoon.  It was a minute or two later Cat returned with the letter.  Douglas would be able to see it had been handled many times by the worn edges and creases.  It was obvious Cat had read it more than once.  It was a very plain message, just stating facts.  After handing off the letter, she poured herself another dram of whiskey but only sipped it this time.  "Fiona swears she doesn't have a clue and she and Langdon seem to think it's a commoner, but I can't imagine that to be true."

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A nod and a grunt of acknowledgement was Douglas's response to Cat's declining his offer to talk to Langdon in favour of solving Fiona's problem first. He was of a similar mind, but the slow smile that crossed his own features as Cat suggested that they talk to him together afterwards echoed her own. Each sibling was formidable in their own way; the two together, in a bad mood, might be enough to put the fear of God - or at least the fear of the MacBains - into him. 

Cat disappeared for a moment, presumably to fetch the letter he'd asked to see, and a maid appeared with a plate of treats which she offered him. Her ladyship said you'd like these. Well, Douglas hadn't met much food he didn't like, but he also knew that his sisters liked them too. He took one of the treats from the plate with a thank you to the maid, and was just licking the filling from his fingers when Cat returned. Wiping his hands on the handkerchief, he accepted the parchment gravely and began to read. "Whit's this aboot a bluidy snake?" He asked after a moment, re-reading the section of the letter that mentioned it. "A black asp?" That name rang a bell. "They hae thaim in France, ye ken."* He muttered, vaguely remembering one of the French soldiers talking about them whilst he was serving on the continent during the Third Anglo-Dutch War. 

"Do we ken whit these gifts were? An' whit's this aboot a threat tae ye?"** It was awfully odd, for someone to send a woman gifts, and then try to kill her. And her family. He could feel his hackles rising. Nemo me impune lacessit; no one provokes me with impugnity. 

Subtitles
* "What's this about a bloody snake? A black asp? They have those in France, you know."
** "Do we know what these gifts were? And what's this about a threat to you?"

Edited by Douglas FitzJames
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The MacBain siblings could say and do horrible things against each other, but if anyone outside of the family did something to hurt one of them, they'd act like a pack of wolves and take down the offender.  So even if it was just the elder MacBains, it wouldn't be a good thing to have them show up on your doorstep.

 

When Douglas mentioned that the particular snake sent to Fiona was from France, she sneered.  "That country and its snakes.  Whether they have two legs or none, they all are deadly."  Cat really had no love for the French.

 

"I know of chocolates filled with glass.  One of the maids went to have one before delivering it to Fiona..."  Her voice trailed off.  "I don't like the idea of anyone being hurt like that, but if it hadn't been for that girl's theft, it could have been Fiona."  Cat hadn't bothered to sit down, pacing the parlor, back and forth.  "And there was an incident when she went out riding where the saddle strap broke.  There's no way it would have been anything but cut."  They both had mounts which were hard to handle at the best time, so all tack was checked thoroughly after each use, even that of the more calm creatures.  "Then there were threats when the girls' and my name were specifically used.  I do have to wonder, what idiot threatens the acknowledged child of the King and her mother and aunts?"  They'd have to be demented.

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The big man pinched the bridge of his nose as the contents of the letter coalesced with what his sister related to him. Who on earth would do this, and why? "Groond glass doesnae kill." He grumbled. "And ye wuid feel both it an' sharp shards in yer mooth afore ye swallered, lest ye were a complete guts."* As he assumed the maid had. But a lot of people believed it would lacerate a person from the inside out, causing them to bleed to death. But ground glass didn't cut, and sharp shards would stick into one's gums on chewing; no one would swallow it. No, he was quite certain that there was no such thing as glass poisoning, but there were plenty of other ways to kill someone. Still, clearly someone who ascribed to that fallacy had tried to use it. 

Someone who had also obtained a poisonous snake, and who themselves or their agent had access to Cat and Fiona's saddles. "Sae, wha wuid hae haed access tae the saddles?" He asked, thinking that was the easiest way to start to narrow down suspects. "Either they're the culprit, er thair agent. The culprit alsae haed access tae a snake frae the continent; either directly er through a dealer. Such wuidnae be cheap."** So the person had money. He wondered whether there had been any branding on the chocolates; they'd have to ask Fiona. Then there was the question of why. Why would someone want to try to kill Fiona? Was it a spurned lover? Or perhaps someone jealous of one of the lovers she had taken?

"T'may alsae be worth considerin' wha Fiona's been sleepin' wi', an' ony she's turned doon." Which wouldn't be a fun conversation but was probably one that they needed to have. But he saw little point in beating about the bush when the lives of his sisters were on the line. 

Subtitles
* "Ground glass doesn't kill. And you would feel both it and sharp shards in your mouth before you swallowed, unless you were a complete guts."
** "So, who would have had access to the saddles? Either they're the culprit, or their agent. The culprit also had access to a snake from the continent; either directly or through a dealer. Such wouldn't be cheap."
*** "It may also be worth considering who Fiona's been sleeping with, and any she's turned down."

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"It might not kill, but it can still damage a person's mouth. And neither of us can say Fiona is one to keep her mouth shut," she replied.  Once said, she paused in her pacing.  "Could that have been the message?"

 

Just then, the new nanny walked in, carrying Nessia.  The little lass spotted Douglas and began waving her arms, chanting "Doggie, Doggie, Doggie".  The nanny looked down and around, but there were no dogs present.  Aileen likely had him.  Cat chuckled at the nanny's expression.  "She is saying Dougie.  Agnes, this is our brother, Douglas Fitzjames, Baron Dundarg.  Douglas, this is the girls' nanny, Agnes MacDonald."  Nessie was wriggling so hard now, there was no choice but to deposit her on the floor.  The little girl toddled up to Douglas as fast as her chubby legs allowed.  "Up.  Up," she demanded, raising her arm and almost dancing in anticipation.

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Cat wasn't wrong. A mouthful of glass would definitely make one think twice about opening it. "Haps t'was."* He agreed. God knew that Fiona was often non too careful about what she said, though he'd noticed that she'd been much better behaved at the reception. 

He'd been about to say as much when his attention was completely derailed by the animated little figure who had just arrived in a servant's arms. No one called him 'Dog' except his family, some out of affection, some because they couldn't yet say 'Doug'. He gave a moment's glance and nod of acknowledgement to the new nanny, "Agnes," but it was the little girl who commanded his attention as she toddled over to him and demanded he pick her up. Which of course he did, because her uncle was putty in Nessie's pudgy hands. "Is it up ye be wantin'?" He asked, grabbing her firmly around the ribs and lifting her right up over his head for a moment, to delighted squeals, before he settled her in his lap. "An' just whin did ye git sae mòr, my wee uilebheist?"** He mock-demanded of her. 

Douglas had doted on Nessia since he'd met her when she was about three months old. Once Cat had trusted him with her, she'd often come into the parlour at her house in Chelsea to find Douglas asleep on the settee by the fire, Nessie asleep on his chest, on one of the big man's fingers in her mouth. He'd missed her whilst he'd been up in Scotland, and somewhere in that time she'd learned to walk. He'd missed a lot of his sisters' growing up; he resolved that he wouldn't miss any more of Nessie's. 

Jigging his niece on his lap, he looked up at his eldest sister. Cat was five years his junior, and already she was twice widowed, once mistressed and a mother. "Sae apart frae stoppin' onybody killin' Fiona afore ye do, d'ye hae ony plans fer this season?"*** He asked her. He might as well know what the family was up to, so he could help or at least not get in the way. 

Subtitles
* "Perhaps it was."
** "Is it up that you're wanting? And just when did you get so big, my little monster?"
*** "So apart from stopping anybody killing Fiona before you do, do you have any plans for this season?"

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The introduction to the nanny was more for the nanny's benefit.  Agnes had been told that if something should happen to her, she was to take the girls to Douglas.  She already had her will filed with her solicitor.  Too many people had died in her life for her to leave anything to chance.

 

"Must you call her a beastie?  My angel is no monster," Cat chided, while a smile beamed out.  This was a different Douglas that she remembered from childhood, but her mother had been poisoning her against her brother by that point.  It was plainly obvious that both man and child adored each other.  A pang that she was trying to keep calm rang through her, telling her she wanted another baby.  She did, but there was no father currently available and she sometimes wondered if Nessie was missing out on not having a father figure.  Then again, her own father figure had been a piece of excrement wiped from the bottom of Satan, so maybe not.

 

She didn't refute the idea that she wanted to kill Fiona before anyone else, but they both knew she'd never do such a thing.  Continue to treat her like a child?  Yes.  Do bodily harm to her?  Probably not.  "Well, aside from that small problem, I've decided I've allowed my mourning to go on way too long.  I'm going to aim towards being a more fun Cat instead of the old woman I've been behaving as."  There was 'mature for her age' and 'crotchety old lady'.  She needed to stop being the latter.  "And yourself?  Going to be looking for a Baroness?"

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Douglas winked at his sister. "Aye, she's my wee beastie. Yer the one that named her 'Nessie'."* He replied, referring to the monster in the Loch as he grinned affectionately at the little girl. It was an old argument and one that would probably persist until Nessie's wedding day. Did Douglas occasionally do things just to get on Cat's nerves? That was what brothers were for, right? But there was no doubting the deep fondness of the big man for his little niece. If anything did ever happen to Cat, she and the younger girls would have no stauncher protector. Fiona he'd marry off as quickly as he could because she was a pain in the arse; then she could be someone else's problem. 

I've allowed my mourning to go on way too long. It was a poignant statement. Douglas had met Adam MacGregor. He hadn't liked him much but he'd made an effort to get along with him, for it was plain how much the man loved his sister. And the marriage had not only been sanctioned by the King, whose mistress she had been, but enacted by it, to their surprise. Somehow the whole complex situation had worked. And then Adam had gone and got himself lost at sea on a voyage whose ship never made port, and suddenly Cat was a widow again. At least Charles Rex had named their daughter Adam's heir; as a dowager Countess Catriona was able to be independent. Yes, for one of the King's impromptu marriages, it had worked out very well, until it hadn't. Now there's a thought. "Ye ken, ye cuid speir His Majesty tae wed Fiona tae Langdon. Sin they're sae fond on each other an' he's sae keen tae protect her."** He pointed out. It wasn't like Fiona was a bad match. She was a Viscountess in her own right, so her husband would gain the lands of Lochend, and his heir the title. There were few women who came with an extra title that wasn't already spoken for. And Langdon was an Earl, so also a good match. It might also warn off some of the young ladies rumour suggested Langdon might continue to do wrong to. Douglas glanced at Cat, wondering what she thought of the idea. 

Still, he wondered what, exactly, Catriona meant by not mourning any more, and being 'fun Cat'. Being more libertine? More merry? Remarrying? Probably not the last, he knew how much she valued her freedom, even after Adam. Still, she was young and beautiful; if she wanted a lover he didn't doubt she'd have plenty of options. And him? He gave her a suspicious look. Cat had a nasty tendency to meddle, which she thought of as helping. Did he want her sticking her nose into it? Then again, she might well know more of the ladies who would be within Douglas's reach. "Aye, I am actually." He conceded after a moment, glancing down again with a Gaelic apology as Nessie complained that he'd stopped jigging her. "Yer'll rattle yer wallies oot." He told her, settling for patting her on the back instead. "Ye prolly saw me wi' Bridget Osborne at the Reception."*** He pointed out, though that was probably how Cat had guessed the direction of his thoughts. 

Subtitles
* "Yes, she's my little beastie. You're the one that named her 'Nessie'."
** You know, you could ask His Majesty to wed Fiona to Langdon. Since they're so fond of each other and he's so keen to protect her."
*** "Yes, I am actually. You'll rattle your teeth out. You probably saw me with Bridget Osborne at the Reception."

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If Douglas was going to continue to call her precious baby a beastie, she'd reinforce Nessie's calling him Doggie.  He was growly, after all.  Cat gave him a frown, which Nessie saw and started her giggling.  It seemed bedeviling Cat was a family affair.

 

Douglas' suggestion that she speak to the King about Charles and Fiona was met with a wrinkle of her nose.  "That would bring the King into the Fiona Fiasco.  Once He's involved, I worry that by thinking there's a danger to Nessie, he might take her into the Court of Wards.  I don't want to chance that."  She didn't want to chance any of the girls being drawn back in there.  That's why she hadn't written the King as of yet.  Everyone was well protected with her and the guards who were with them at almost all times.  

 

Glad to have a distraction via Douglas' possible marital status, she wrinkled her nose at the mention of the Osborne girl.  "That family is out of favor currently.  She would not be the best match politically," she said.  She walked over to take Nessie off Douglas' hands, but her daughter had other ideas.  "No Mama!  I stay Doggie!," she announced.  "No Mama!  No Mama!  No Mama!"  Douglas might figure out that this particular phrase was a favorite of his niece.  Cat looked at Douglas to see if he wanted to be free of his 'wee beastie' or was content to continue to play with her.

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He didn't care if Nessie called him 'Doggie'; the little girl could probably call him anything and still get a smile. Cat had called him 'Dog' when they'd first reunited, and that had also been his nickname in the Regiment du Dumbarton. At least to his face. Behind his back it had been 'The Bastard King of Scotland' owing to his habit of bemoaning all that he felt should have been his if his father had just married his mother. He'd grown since then, though in some ways he hadn't changed all that much. But Nessie wouldn't have to worry about not getting her due; the King would see to that. As a bastard that's what happened when your father was alive and powerful, instead of dead and forgotten - if not actively cursed - like his. Cat might not realise it, but even though Nessia wasn't officially illegitimate like he was, he felt a kinship with her on that level too. Douglas was all too aware of the bad hand that those born on the wrong side of the covers could be handed. 

Cat was resistant to the idea of telling the King about Fiona, and whilst he understood her concern about losing Nessia - something he didn't want to happen either - he still rolled his eyes. Sometimes his sister overthought things. "Dinnae tell The King aboot the threats. Jus' tell him that Fiona is madly in love wi' Langdon." He advised. "Ye ken hou he is fer hopeless romances, and t'wuid solve twa problems at coort." As far as he could see, wedding the two of them together would be a win-win situation. Besides, the King had his spies. Who was to say he didn't already know, and was waiting to see what they did? "Sides, wasnae he giein' tae wed her off if ye didnae?"* And yet somehow Fiona was still unwed, almost a year later. He understood Cat's wariness of getting married after her own experiences, but she had to make arrangements for the girls, that's what being in charge of them was all about. 

Douglas was a man of action; if he saw a problem, he wanted to solve it, right now. If something needed doing, why not do it now? If there was one thing about Cat that tended to annoy Douglas, it was her apparent preference for doing nothing unless she absolutely had to. Fiona had been at court for seasons and was still unwed. Now she was also in trouble. In his eyes, she needed a husband. And he needed a wife. He'd considered the problem before, and each time he'd revealed an interest to her Catriona had rejected the girl for some reason, yet not offered any suggestions of her own, and it was starting to annoy him. "Then wha wuid ye suggest?" He demanded irritably. Did she actually have any better ideas? "Wait a few years, er till His Majesty passes; the Osborne family weel be back." He pointed out. "Bridget Osborne is the dochter o' th'Earl o' Danby, an' the niece o' the Earl o' Linsey." Both of whom were powerful politically, or had been in Danby's case. "The family is wealthy." He pointed out. "I'm a bastard Scottish Baron. Th'ainly reason I hae a possible chance wi' Bridget is precisely acause her family is oot o' favour richt noo."** And if they hadn't been he doubted that she would have given him a moment of her time. 

Cat moved to take Nessie, likely thinking he was tired of her, or possibly as a power move, but the little girl rebelled, wanting to stay with him. Just as opinionated as the rest of the Clan. "Luik lassie." He said to the little girl, regarding her sternly. "Ye dinnae tell yer Mama 'nae'." He warned her since it was obviously a much used phrase, waving a finger in his niece's face. "She ainly wants whit's best fer ye." He told her, then looked up at the girl's mother. "I'm happy tae hauld her if ye want."***

His irritated mood somewhat broken by the distraction of his niece, Douglas leaning back in his chair. "Luik, Cat. Thairs verra few men as wuid consider me for thair dochters." He acknowledged honestly. "I'm nae the King's bastard, nor Buckingham's like yer friend Kingston, sae the chances o' me getting an Earl's title are nocht. But wi' the richt wife an' a guid amount o' money, my sons an' dochters cuid gie a lang wa' further thain me." He was trying to be realistic, because reaching for things that were beyond him had only earned him enemies. "Ideally I wuid want a lassie wi' money, frae a guid family, an' a father wi' either political poower er influence we' His Majesty. I think twa oot o' three is a reasonable goal." One out of three was probably more reasonable, but he still had to have some ambition. "But cause I'm a bastard m'sel, I need tae luik fer a lassie wha isnae giein' tae be soucht by weel bred laddies." Otherwise he'd have no chance. Just as Lord Melville had chosen the Earl of Belcarres over him for his sister, and Douglas couldn't even blame him. "Either cause her family is oot o' favour, like th'Osbornes', er she's haed some scandel hersel'." Like being a mistress or having an illegitimate child, not that he'd say that to Cat who'd done both. "Else my options er a Doolittle girl er Sophia de Castelo."+ One had money, the other had breeding but no standing, and he wasn't ready to settle for one out of three just yet. Cat had already expressed her opinion on those two. 

Subtitles
* "Don't tell the King about the threats. Just tell him that Fiona is madly in love Langdon. You know how he is for hopeless romances, and it would solve two problems at court. Besides, wasn't he going to marry her off if you didn't?"
** "Then who would you suggest? Wait a few years, or until His Majesty passes; the Osborne family will be back. Bridget Osborne is the daughter of the Earl of Danby, and the niece of the Earl of Linsey. The family is wealthy. I'm a bastard Scottish Baron. The only reason I have a possible chance with Bridget is precisely because her family is out of favour right now."
*** "Look girl. You don't tell your mother 'no'. She only wants what's best for you. I'm happy to hold her if you want."
+ "Look, Cat. There's very few men that would consider me for their daughters. I'm not the King's bastard, nor Buckingham's like your friend Kingston, so the chances of me getting an Earl's title are nothing. But with the right wife and a good amount of money, my sons and daughters could go a long way further than me. Ideally I would want a girl with money, from a family with political power, and a father with influence with His Majesty. I think two out of three is a reasonable goal. But because I'm a bastard myself, I need to look for a girl who isn't going to be sought by well bred men. Either because her family is out of favour, like the Osbornes, or she's had some scandel herself. Else my options are a Doolittle girl or Sophia de Castelo."

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A sudden commotion was heard in the hallway and a few moments later, three teenage girls flew into the room in a flurry of silk, ribbons, auburn curls, and perfume. “Dougie!” Aileen exclaimed. Both she and Shona tried to hug him at the same time, being more careful than usual as their little niece was sitting on his lap.

 

“That’s not how you greet a gentleman.” Fiona stepped forward and playfully held up her hand to be kissed. “This is how you do it. Shona, you should definitely take note if you want your debut to be a success.”

 

“He’s our brother.” Aileen rolled her eyes. At thirteen, she had grown since Douglas had seen her last and was almost as tall as her sisters. “We don’t have to be formal with Dougie.”

 

“Are you going to stay with us?” Shona asked with a shy smile. She was heading toward sixteen and proving to be a beautiful young woman. Her hair looked a bit redder than it had been before.

 

“Can he, Cat?” Aileen asked, hugging her sister too.

 

Fiona was unusually subdued and looked a bit wary as she took a seat. How long had Doug been here, she wondered? She hoped it had not been long enough for Cat to tell him that somebody was trying to kill her. She would rather tell him herself.

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Cat sighed.  "It'll be which ever lady can get him brought to task first.  There are some rumors about attaching him to other unwed women," she told Douglas.  "I just hope he hasn't given her anything."  She wasn't completely tossing out the idea of a suggestion to the King.  Who ever was most in favor with the King would likely be the one at the altar.  

 

And of course, he took her warning badly.  "I'm simply pointing out current issues.  Yes, having them on the outs with the Royals would make your proposal more attractive than it normally would to such a family.  Uncle to one of the King's children.  Don't dismiss her outright.  And we don't know if those others ARE your only other choices.  I noticed several faces I wasn't familiar with in the crowd at the reception.  Plus, there's no real rush.  It isn't like you're teetering on old age," she pointed out.  "Don't rush into anything yet.  Yes, it would be nice for you to get your nursery set up.  You'll be an amazing father.  But men can get married later on in life."  Her first husband had been of an age with their father.  

 

She chuckled as Douglas tried to be stern with Nessie.  The child got stubborness from both sides.  "If you're not tired of you, go right ahead.  I was just worried she'd wear you out."  

 

The lecture continued.  Just as she was about to respond, the room filled with females.  She looked on with pride.  While she hadn't been as active in Fiona's childhood, thanks to the spawn of Satan they called father, she'd been much more active in Shona and Aileen's.  "I doubt they're planning on throwing themselves on every man they meet," she said to Fiona's attempting to tell Shona how to be proper.  She didn't even ting her words with sarcasm.  "Doug is family.  And if Doug wants to stay, Shona, you'd be staying with Aileen and Nessie."  She turned her eyes to the aforementioned male member of their little clan.  "Know that the offer is always open.  And you know the doors, including the kitchen, are always open to you."  As if it would ever be any other way.  

 

She noted how Fiona looked wary as she took a seat.  "Doug knows what's happening," she announced.

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