by Yuismoon (mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/130750.html)
by 74Clarity (mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/131048.html)
by Tsuwamono Satomi (強者 聡美) (mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/131100.html)
by Syouryuushi (翔琉子) (mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/131422.html)
by Shouga Naiko (生姜ないこ) (mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/131753.html)
September 19, 1918
I’ve never been one able to spin words – Ma’s always said my writing was akin to a bull in a tea shop, eating dainties on china – but I’ll do my best to make this bearable. Mary is doing well, the town’s been busy. Everyone’s doing something for the war effort, even the women have gone off to the factories to sew their nylons into planes or something. But since everyone else is too busy, taking care of Mary has fallen to me. Robert’s good at managing the farm, and I manage the finances – I’ve found out I’m actually good with numbers. I know; it surprised me too.
Gabriel hated the New World. Not from the very first day; the first day, he had been too blessedly relieved to be freed from the rocking, shuddering, damp and salt-encrusted menace that was the Reina Del Mar, the cursed wooden prison that had carried him so far from home. No, at first he had been too perfectly overjoyed to see green again to notice the violent profusion of it, and too busy falling over himself on legs too used to that hateful rocking to realize how the air was barely breathable for the wet heat.
I had never met anyone so interesting before. Perhaps I was biased, jaded from my father’s position, the privilege I had known all my life, but to meet a man, one who’d worked himself up from a peasant background to become the tutor of the second son of the Duke of C—.. Truly, that was something to be admired.
Yet, I was young, only just sixteen the summer we met. I didn’t know how things would turn between us, but did anyone? I know if my esteemed Lord Father had seen it coming, he would not have suggested such a course for his precious son. I only knew some uppity commoner dared to presume to be my tutor.
Ietaka’s legs hurt. At least he could still feel them and had not lost one, or worse: both. He had seen how Ootani lost his feet, two clean cuts directly under the kneecaps. That had only been a minor quarrel in Nagoya, and out of petty revenge had ended in Ootani’s death. This, now, was a war.
Ietaka tried to move his left hand, but it was bound somehow, pressed against his ribcage. His right hand was free, and carefully he moved it to touch his hips, his stomach, his chest, heaving from the slight exhaustion. Everything was still there. Ietaka breathed a sigh of relief and finally opened his eyes.
Lugh sighed and then forced his eyes open. The night was clear and the moonlight bounced off the water and onto the ceiling of his cabin. He had to get more sleep. He used to sleep well, back before Jamie. Lugh gently slid from beneath his lover. Jamie grumbled, but didn’t wake up. He snuggled into the warm spot Lugh left on the mattress. Asleep Jamie was pretty, as lovely as a woman, as an angel. His dark curls were tousled and his cheeks cherub round. He looked young, even younger than he was, like some innocent child who had just happened to wander into Lugh’s bed.
If there is anything more frustrating to a young man of independent thought attempting to establish his place in the world, it is to fall in love with a young lady of whom his mother would approve.
“It’s all off,” said Cyril, swanning into the sitting room and prostrating himself on the settee with dramatic flair. “The girl is polite and deferent and would make any man a lovely wife.”
Alistair put aside the letter he had been writing and assumed a sympathetic air. “You surprise me. I thought you described her as a quick-witted and gay young lady with nothing but contempt for the trappings of modern society.”
What is it the pulps always say? It started with a dame.
God-damned pulps. Ruined my life. Fresh out of the war, barely twenty, looking for something to do and thinking that those private eyes in the pulps were awfully swell. Well. They were. On pulp stock. In real life the gig stank, and by the time McCrae came around looking for a PI who could maybe let a few things slide, I didn’t have a damn left to give. Sure, he took care of me well enough while I dug up his dirt and did his slightly-soiled work, but a couple of months ago McCrae caught himself a bullet and died of it. Left me out in the cold, and stinking of poison, to boot. I had a rep as being one of McCrae’s crooked little pets. I was legit, but just barely, and I sure as hell wasn’t clean, and nobody would touch me unless they were cheap, or desperate, or both. What little I still made from divorce work and the occasional missing-persons case wasn’t enough. I was living out of the back room of my office in a sleazy building just barely on the right side of the tracks, and I needed to trip over a cheating husband soon or I’d lose that, too, and then it would have been just me, and the gutter, and the bottle, like it was for a million other poor guys out there right now. The end of the war nearly killed Seattle, and then the Depression nearly killed it all over again. It was a hard place to be in those days. Still, I stayed. I didn’t have anywhere else to go.
The grass scratches against the back of Shinsuke’s neck. He should stop lazing about in the grassy spot next to Kamiya’s house and go home to study, but he doesn’t much want to – it’s warm, and the sun feels good on his skin.
There’s music coming from somewhere. He opens his eyes, leans up. There’s a boy, maybe a little older than himself but not much, sitting on the other side of the street on one of the benches outside Chiyo’s shop, plucking listlessly at a shamisen. It sounds like he doesn’t really know what he’s doing, but his head is tilted towards the handles as he twists them. Tuning it, then. Shinsuke lets his head drop, then has a thought and sits up all the way.
“Isn’t that a woman’s kind of instrument?” he shouts over.
Suppose that a fine, honest-looking young man, walking through the streets of the West End one afternoon, should stop suddenly and make a loud exclamation of surprise. A wealthy gentleman nearby might see the young man bend down to pick up a diamond ring. The young man, eager to share the news of his good fortune, tells the gentleman that he might well get five pounds for the ring at a pawnbroker’s shop. Believing the ring to be of far greater value, the gentleman offers to save him the trouble and purchase it himself on the spot. The exchange takes place and both parties walk away satisfied.
Agnolo knew that Daniele Bugiardini wanted him dead. He was sure of it. He had been sure of it since ten years ago, when he had married Daniele’s favorite cousin. This had been too much for Daniele, who was so used to being attractive and successful and better than Agnolo. He was tall and fair with strong shoulders and good legs. Agnolo was short and spindly with poky black hair. Daniele’s father was a friend to the Medici, the finest citizens in all of Firenze. He worked for the bank and traveled across all of Italy. Agnolo’s father was Daniele’s father’s notary. They had been good friends. They had been such good friends that when Agnolo’s father died when he was eight, Signore Bugiardini had been so kind as to take him into the Bugiardini house to be educated with all of the Bugiardini brothers and sisters and cousins and Daniele.