The Incorrect Reflection
Tales of theft and adultery,
Tales of devilment and witchery
It's early autumn when Helle decides they ought to open the mansion for guests again. He's bored, he says, as if Pierrot hasn't been painfully aware of that hollow feeling at the back of their minds, waiting to be filled with little games.
"Why not wait for Christmas?" It's not that Pierrot is opposed to the idea of guests, but he was hoping to finish the entire fairy tale section of their library and that won't happen until the end of November. "There'll be more people then."
Helle seems to think it over, curling a stray lock of ginger hair around his index finger. "That would be great, but there's that ubiquitous feeling of contentment and goodwill around that time…"
Pierrot grimaces. They'll have to close off the house again quickly, lest the benevolence seep into the wood. It would probably hang around till late Spring and that's simply dreadful.
The mansion slips out of the mist somewhere near the end of the first week of October. The leaves aren't quite so orange yet, but that's fine. Pierrot likes to experience the change in the trees, the chill setting in the air and in their bones. Autumn is the best season, though unfortunately close to the yuletide. As always, the sky is partially clouded, but Helle says it won't rain, which is a pity.
Helle leaves to play the role of Lord, but since Pierrot opines that only one of them should stomach the other Lordlings and the pesky peasants at a time, he's happy to stay at home and play the role of mistress. It gives him more time to read, in any case.
He tends to their roses once he's finished reading the Grimm fairy tales. It's a wonder they aren't dead, Helle tells him. Pierrot scoffs but otherwise ignores his brother. Helle is ridiculous when it comes to their roses, pretty things that they are. Pierrot likes the feeling of the earth between his toes, delights in how the thorns prick his dainty fingers and make him bleed.
They need to hire someone to take care of some chores while they pretend to be proper Lords and such. Pierrot quickly finds someone, though he doesn't really bother remembering her name unless she happens to be in the same room as he. She's a quiet thing, pretty and somewhere in her late thirties. She can cook, which is all he really needs to know about her, and, more importantly, she doesn't ask about the mansion being completely clean without so much as one maid present. Just for that, Pierrot deigns to smile at her on occasion.
In the time that Helle spends away, Pierrot retreats into his wing of the mansion. On a whim, he refurbishes everything to shades of several pastel colours, though he leaves the dark brown panels for what they are. It's the dark greens and red and blues he has the most problems with. At least he needn't change the furniture completely, though he does sell a few because they're an eyesore. Remembering that people tend to eat regularly, he sometimes ventures near the kitchen to eat whatever meal the woman – Sandrine – has prepared at that specific time.
He ventures out once, for a new wardrobe. They need new shirts, and some new waistcoats wouldn't hurt either. The tailor confuses him for his brother, which is something Pierrot is always infinitely pleased with, and a few old ladies on the streets call him demon under their breaths. Adding in the heavy rainfall, that day turns out to be the most marvellous.
Ellington is a small, prosperous town, grown from a village that had the sole purpose of providing for the Synnett line. The Synnetts in turn would protect them from outside dangers. Industrial and modern eras changed some, but not all, of the rules, of course. The Synnetts owned the largest textile factory in the area, which is where most of the people find employment.
It takes only a week for the townspeople to be completely convinced that Helle and Pierrot have always been there, neatly interwoven with their own lives. They are merely the newest in a long line of successors of the Marquis Synnett of Ellington title, though most of that title is pushed unto Helle, since he's the eldest. Pierrot will take his place on occasion, but he has less of the patience needed to deal with official affairs. If he acts the part of Marquis, it's to organise events.
Helle returns early on the Monday morning at the start of the next week. Pierrot only knows this because he wakes up feeling complete; less like his skin has stretched out. He only sees his brother later in the afternoon, when he finally abandons his room through the window, using each balcony as steps until he reaches the patio at the ground floor. The door is wide open and the curtains billow magnificently in the wind, almost as if they were reaching to wrap him in their softness. The marble is icy beneath his bare feet so the soft carpet of the drawing room is a welcome change.
Helle stands in front of the hearth, studying a monstrosity that Pierrot abruptly realises is supposed to be a religious tapestry. "Burn it."
"That would be disrespectful towards the kind Father." Despite the amused tone of his voice, Pierrot knows the image of saints and halos unsettles Helle. The words Spes, Caritas, Fidas, dance before their eyes, making Pierrot want to scrub his skin clean. That may just be Helle, though, considering he's the one holding the thing.
"Nevertheless, it's an eyesore." Pierrot pulls it from Helle and throws it into the hearth. "You're not hanging that in my house."
Helle turns to him with a smirk. "Oh, your house, now is it?" He lets Pierrot pull him to the couch, leans back and lets Pierrot straddle his hips. He cups Pierrot's arse, pulling him closer so that their cocks rub against each other through the fabric of their trousers, making them both moan. Pierrot leans down to kiss Helle, holding him down by his throat. A hand slips down the back of Pierrot's trousers to squeeze his arse before cupping it again, and Pierrot bucks impatiently against his brother.
He's pushed back as Helle sits up, reluctantly putting an end to their kiss. "We can't have the cook catch us just yet, can we? We've only just begun this season."
Pierrot pouts, but he lets Helle slip away nonetheless. "I want a masquerade." Helle arches an eyebrow.
"People don't do masquerades anymore, sweetling."
Pierrot frowns. "A pity. I still want one." Helle flicks him on the nose.
"Leave it to you to start the season dramatically," he says woefully. "You ought to be talking to our new cook about this masquerade."
With one last, quick kiss, Helle leaves in the direction of the main study. Bastard, Pierrot thinks, which only serves to make Helle laugh.
He's not in the right mind-set to go find Sandrine, much less talk to her. For one, he's much too excited by Helle's touch after a week of not being in close proximity to each other, and he still needs to plan out the finer details of the masquerade.
Pierrot goes to the library and takes the thickest fairy tale book he finds first – Hans Christian Andersen. Mother used to read that to them. Satisfied, he retreats to his room.
Sundays were, as if following a cosmic rule, the sunniest (and therefore vilest) day of the week in Ellington. Inevitably, it occurred to their nana that they ought to go out and enjoy the sun. "Come boys." She said. "It's a beautiful day."
It was awful and dry, and their skins turned pink within the hour. Their nana didn't notice, naturally, since her nose was permanently stuck in one of those books she always liked reading; the ones with ladies in pretty dresses. Mother called them 'magazines'.
Cierra sat down upon the ground and glared at her. Cyril put his hand on Cierra's head, letting it slip down slowly until he reached the ribbon holding Cierra's hair back and loosened it. The wind picked up a little, pushing Cierra's curls into his face, but he didn't mind; it felt wonderful.
When their nana looked up, Cyril was gone, but Cierra still sat upon the grass. She closed her magazine and stood up quickly. "Where's your brother, child?"
Cierra shrugged, smiling. Cyril must've gone to explore; he liked to disappear only to return and tell tales of the wondrous things he had seen. Cierra stayed behind because someone ought to; Cyril would take him to those wonderful places later.
Their nana called for Cyril, but his brother did not return. Cierra was certain that he was fine and likely to return when he grew tired of the sun, but nobody listened. Their nana ushered him inside, leaving him under the care of one of the maids until their mother came to retrieve him.
"Oh darling, what happened to your skin?" she asked. "And where's Cyril?"
"Miss Joanna is looking for him, milady." The maid answered.
"She's lost my son?" Her fingers dug painfully into Cierra's curls. The maid winced, but had little else to offer.
"Cyril is fine, mummy." Cierra said. "But he'll be burnt from the sun."
She looked at him and his wide green eyes, but instead of calming, her ire flared up. "She took you outside? In this dreadful weather?" Her hair seemed almost lit, like fire.
Secretly, Cierra was pleased. When their nana returned, without Cyril, their mother was in such a state that the entire house could probably hear her and their ears would ring for hours. Cyril slipped in not long after, looking as ill and burnt as Cierra felt. He'd been in the forest a few yards away from the mansion, not that it had helped against the awful sun. "At least the forest was quiet." He whispered to Cierra.
When their mother's temper subsided, she hugged them both close and kissed them upon the brow. "I'm so sorry, my sweetlings." She said. "Oh, just look at you."
That night, both boys fell ill.
Helle brings along a guest on Friday afternoon, after he'd disappeared to Abyn's Gentlemen's Club. Since Pierrot is still on a mission to finish all the fairy tales they have in their possession, he'd stayed behind. Sandrine doesn't work on Fridays and Sundays, which is a pity because Pierrot had started to get an idea of what he wanted for the masquerade.
If he is to be honest, Helle has been incredibly patient, waiting until Friday to bring someone along. Pierrot decides not to participate just to spite him, because they could as well have used the day for a good, long, fuck. They ought have spent the morning in bed, naked, wayward limbs twining under the sheets.
Pierrot stays in his wing, locking himself in his room. He has a book, a thick, heavy book resting on his crossed legs. He turns to the first page and inhales the book's scent – old paper, old ink and, mother. With a beatific smile, he opens the book at an arbitrary page and finds The Old Church Bell. It's strange how he remembers all of these tales, yet can say nothing of them.
The low thrum of voices break his concentration halfway through Holger Danske, though it takes him a minute to realise that there are people in his wing. Helle is near and he's probably brought the guest along. They pass by his room, their voices low and steady, going in the direction of –
Helle hums at him. You've nothing to worry about, love.
Irritated, Pierrot pushes the book away and climbs out of the window. This time he merely has to go sideways, because he just knows Helle would dare. He slips through the window of his private study, careful not to step on any of his two hundred and seventy-seven porcelain dolls, and intercepts his brother before he gets to close the study.
As much as he loves his brother, Pierrot would like to hurl something at his beautiful, smiling face. "I was reading."
"You didn't tell me you had such a pretty sister," the stranger says. From the glance he spares the man, Pierrot sees that he is brown-haired and pale, with hazel eyes. Nothing worthy of interest, though he certainly must think himself quite a lot, if Helle is wasting precious time on him.
"We're twins," Helle says.
"And I was reading, so it would be much appreciated if you would take this elsewhere."
Helle's smile turns into a sly smirk and he tugs his guest away by the arm. Pierrot's eyes narrow, gluing themselves to that gesture, that point of contact. You have some nerve.
Pierrot stomps back to his room but he's too riled up to continue reading. Down below, on the ground floor, the mansion is reshaping itself, experiencing a beautiful metamorphosis, but this time Pierrot doesn't find any thrill in it. His mind is too focused on the gesture, on Helle's hand on the hapless stranger, long fingers curling around some plebeian's arm.
He falls unto the bed, counting to two hundred and seventy-seven, picturing each of the dolls in his study. They're not things to be put on display; they're his collection set up in his private study. What if the peasant had touched them with his greasy fingers, defiling them forever?
You ought to go to the boudoir, with that attitude.
He sticks out his tongue, just for the sake of doing it. There's no one to tell he oughtn't do it, seeing as all of them are dead and Helle wouldn't dare. He doesn't need to be a proper Lordling in his own room.
He falls asleep thinking of dresses and screams, and wakes when the bed dips under Helle's weight. In his sleep, Pierrot had turned on his stomach, but when he turns his head, he can see Helle. He's fresh out of the bath, which is a shame and absolutely delightful at the same time. His hair is damp, hanging loosely around his face, and he's wearing one of his shirts from the regency period, buttoned down. Pierrot turns away.
"You're being awfully obstinate today, love," Helle says softly. He places a warm hand on Pierrot's lower back, and Pierrot should loathe him, but it's a bit difficult. Helle pushes his shirt up and blows on the exposed skin before kissing it and dipping his tongue into the hollow of Pierrot's back. Pierrot bites his tongue not to moan, but a strangled noise makes its way from his lips.
Helle nudges him to turn over on his back, trails kisses on his exposed belly. He lays one tender kiss on Pierrot's hipbone before he goes lower and lower, pulling lightly at the elastic band of Pierrot's trousers to reveal ginger curls, but when Pierrot reaches to caress Helle's hair, intent on keeping his mouth just there where his cock is already half hard, Helle pulls away.
This newfound interest of his in abstinence is frankly appalling.
"Oh, of course, I'm the one being obstinate," Pierrot says tartly. "The cook has the day off."
"So eager, aren't you?"
"And you're a git, darling."
Helle hums, sending shivers down Pierrot's spine. He takes something from his trouser pocket and places it against Pierrot's belly; it's small, smooth and cold in some places, in others Pierrot feels lace and frills pricking his skin. He grabs the doll by its wig, holding it up for a better view.
"You made him prettier." Delicate and detailed, the doll almost looks real, despite its miniature stature. The hair is soft and deep brown; the cheeks are rosy and the lips pink. Its clothes are well tailored, Victorian and in hues of green to complement the hazel eyes. "Did you fuck him too?"
It's cruel, but it has the desired effect – Helle pulls Pierrot to him by the hair, bringing their lips together so that their teeth clash before they find the right angle. Helle tastes as he always does; of smoke and sweeter things, like blood and cinnamon. His come taste just the same, perhaps with a bit more salt.
"Never," he breathes against Pierrot's lips once they part. Pierrot kisses him again, tugging at his shirt, but Helle pulls back, turning away, and demons below, what does he hope to accomplish with this denial?
"You ought to be planning a masquerade, if I'm not mistaken."
Pierrot nearly digs his nails in Helle's arm, hoping they grow sharp and thin, and that the wounds fester horridly. Helle's skin is just too perfect to deserve such mistreatment.
"You ought to give me a date."
Helle stops at the door. "Why not hunt all throughout Hallowmas?" he says, smiling. "Start with a feast, end with a masquerade."
On Sunday, as soon as Sandrine sets her dainty foot into the mansion, Pierrot takes her by the arm and gives her a detailed account of what he intends to do. It has to be big, beautiful and precise, the meals have to be succulent and so sinful they'll lead the most saintly of priests astray. They'll hire people to help her of course, the poor thing can't hope to accomplish something of such astronomic proportions all on her own.
Pierrot sends some boy to restock the pantry with everything they need to pull off the banquet and another to buy the decorations he needs. Of course, the mansion already looks like a small palace, but it needs more of the splendour. He revisits the tailor for six new outfits, three for him and three for Helle. He has too much fun teasing the man and changes the design seven times before he settles for the final sketch.
A couple of the older folk cross themselves as he cruises through the streets of Ellington; one particular man even says, "The devils are at it again." Pierrot gives him a brilliant smile; he later hears the man dies from a heart attack.
Sandrine gets three other maids to help her and frequently asks Pierrot to taste the dishes. They need to be perfection, and by the end of the week she's nearly there.
"How many people should we expect, milord?"
Pierrot sits on the kitchen island, forgoing all rules of propriety ever taught to him. His feet swing as he licks chocolate mousse from a spoon, thinking of Helle.
"You'll have to ask my brother." He says. "He's hand-picking our guests."
Once, when they were thirteen, they cut their palms to watch them bleed, and drink it from each other. When they'd had their fill, licking it from each other's fingers and forearms, they'd held hands and laid naked on Cyril's bed. Their cocks were hard, mere inches away from each other, but they didn't dare move. They needed to lie there for an hour for their fates to be sealed but within half an hour, their nana found them and pulled them from each other, screaming about witchcraft and the devil's work.
Cierra cried. They were thrown into the baths, separately, clothed, hands bandaged, and dragged off to church. It was a Sunday and they had never been to church before. All through the mass, with their nana separating them from each other, Cierra wept; he wept so miserably that everyone around them was uncomfortable.
Miss Joanna had the Father throw holy water on them and Cierra wept even harder. Cyril stood still as his skin burnt, only crying out when they were forced to return home, exposed to holy water and Sunday's blistering sun and stay in separate rooms. He struggled, fought, called for his brother but none would have mercy.
"It is unnatural," Miss Joanna said crossly. "You shame your ancestors."
Lady Mireille returned to silence and grim faces; missing the sound of her sons' laughter, of Cyril playing the piano and Cierra singing, she asked if her boys were still sleeping.
Miss Joanna dutifully told her of the atrocious affair of the morning and proudly recounted the trip to the town church. "They've been punished for their sins, the good Lord be with them."
Lady Mireille held a hand to her heart. "You interrupted them?" she said, voice pitching. "You took them to church on a Sunday?"
She had only left them for a few hours, she thought. She had left them so that they could have their moments of privacy, when she traditionally used to take them out to the park, to picnic under the protective shade of a tree. This Sunday, she had left them to their own devices – condemned them, more like.
Still clutching her heart, she rushed to Cierra's room first. She found him on the ground, parts of his perfect white skin burnt.
"Mama," he said, eyes filled with tears. She took him in her arms, whispering "Oh, Sky, my sweet child."
They found Cyril much more composed, though his eyes were red and his clothes torn. His room was in an equally abysmal state; priceless vases were broken, his pillows were a ruined heap upon his broken bed. She had them change and tucked them both into Cierra's bed before releasing her temper upon her servants.
Within two days, the upcoming Hallowmas celebration at Synnett Mansion is the only thing spoken of in town. It's not strictly an elitist party but only certain people receive invitations (hand-written, made of red perfumed paper and tied with a golden ribbon).
"We need more diversity," Pierrot says on the third day after they've sent the first invitations. He's on Helle's lap, feeding him red grapes. "We may not be able to have all of them, but it would be a sad thing if none would remain to tell of our grandiose feast."
"It wouldn't do us much good if the peasants remember all of our parties," says Helle. When he's not eating the grapes or squeezing Pierrot's arse, he's writing invitations. Pierrot would do it if he weren't so busy with other important things. He's sure that one of Sandrine's lovely little helpers is lurking somewhere nearby, but Helle has yet to say anything.
"Who doesn't want old ladies calling them demons on the street?" Pierrot says, grinning. "It's absolutely delightful." Helle looks up from his writing to bite into the last grape; it bursts and its juice trickles down his chin. Pierrot licks at it and kisses his brother briefly. "It's no party if we don't debauch saints."
"Isn't that the whole reason behind feasting during Hallowmas?" Helle pulls him in for another kiss, not expecting him to push him back, smirking and grinding against him once. Pierrot can tell how hard it is for Helle to hold back that moan. "The Father, then?" Helle asks, after a deep breath.
"Nuns too, if you can find any."
He stands up and leaves for the kitchen. It's rapidly becoming his second favourite place, replacing the private study with its precious treasures. The kitchen smells like all of life's delights; the herbs and spices fill the air and he wants to bathe in them. Lure them in with a feast, he thinks, and make a feast of their flesh.
Sandrine sometimes tells him a bit about herself. She has a recently widowed mother who is very concerned about everything her children do or don't. Sandrine thinks it's nice, but unnecessary. She has her own daughter, whom she hopes to send to a good college in two years.
She tells him about the others too: Sarah lives with her boyfriend and their little son, but there have been many arguments lately. Lucille is hoping to graduate from community college next summer and move to one of the big cities to try her luck. Then there's little Evangeline, the youngest, more devout than all of them combined and hoping to become a nurse at St. Peter's Hospital.
He likes to hear them talk while they work; they're thoroughly human, with vain concerns and ambitions. They talk about their favourite foods; Sandrine adores those American things called brownies, while Sarah only likes French cuisine, which causes arguments between her and Lucille, who prefers Italian. Evangeline has no favourites, for which the others seem to pity her.
On their third day of work, Evangeline had accused Lucille of being a painted whore. Pierrot's eyebrows had nearly managed to hide behind the fringe of curls falling on his forehead.
"Better a painted whore than such a piously frigid twat," Lucille had spit back. Pierrot had decided he likes her best. Since that incident, Sandrine makes sure to keep the two working on separate things. Lucille and Sarah get along just splendidly; Pierrot even sees them leave the mansion together every Saturday.
Evangeline looks at him oddly, now. Pierrot smiles with as many teeth he can manage, knowing it makes him look silly and a bit like the Cheshire cat. Helle despises that smile; his favourite is Pierrot's coy, almost innocent smile. She looks away quickly, almost nervously, but he knows what she's seen.
He steals one of the strudels and goes to the ballroom. Of all the rooms that are to be used for Hallowmas, it has proven to be the most difficult to decorate. He needs to be more distracted to come up with something magnificent, but Helle refuses to fuck him so he's taken one of the chaises longues (the prettiest and most decorated one he could find) and spends most of his time reading. It's just off the dining room, and the dining room is just off the kitchen, so he keeps all the doors open so that he can smell all of the sweetness from the kitchen. He reads The Elfin Hill twice, and wonders if he can get away with discretely placing children's fingers in the banquet, but decides that it'll be too much work. While he reads The Snow Queen, thinking of glass shards and what he could with them, the chandelier above him transforms into a most beautiful combination of gold and pearls, in the form of a very elaborate teardrop. He hears someone gasp, but he doesn't bother to see whom was spying on him.
Helle only comes to see him once. It's a welcome interruption, not that that sentiment stops Pierrot from behaving as churlishly as he can. Sexual frustration tends to bring the worst out of him. "I'm reading, love." He begins when Helle kneels next to the chaise and plays with his hair.
"I know, sweetling. You're scaring the staff."
Helle plays with the band of Pierrot's trousers, teasing them down just so. Pierrot pretends he doesn't notice, though his prick certainly disagrees. Helle pushes up his shirt, carefully tracing spirals from Pierrot's stomach up to his chest, until Pierrot dumps his books on Helle's hand.
"That's foul," he says, even as he smirks. "It's a heavy book."
"What's foul is your teasing," Pierrot tells him. "Hasn't daddy taught you never to start things you don't intend to finish?"
"Mummy taught me to play the long game."
Pierrot scowls, even as he remembers that particular lesson. There had been tears, most of which, he notes with pleasure, had been Helle's. "Oughtn't you be off doing some important things? I know I've got a party to plan."
Helle leaves, which is disappointing because Pierrot wanted to banter. It requires less focus. He reads The Little Mermaid just for the sake of old memories and is halfway through The Wicked Prince when Sandrine interrupts him with news of supper. They're having curried pheasant as the main dish, with a bowl of rice on the side; Pierrot's been waiting the entire day to sink his teeth into the pheasant.
Helle is already there, sitting at the head of the table. It's only a portion of what used to be a long, hand-carved wooden dining table; they'd had it shortened because it feels silly to sit such a huge distance apart.
"Aren't we missing a girl?" Pierrot asks. He's certain there'd been three aside from Sandrine, but then, they all tended to look about the same.
"Evangeline asked to go to evening church, milord." Sandrine says. "I didn't see why she couldn't go. I don't need the help until tomorrow morning."
"Ah." The Father will invite himself at this rate, but he supposes they'll send the invitation nonetheless. It's only polite. Pierrot decides to write that one himself, and kiss it while he's at it.
The pheasant is marvellous, so Pierrot regales Sandrine with compliments until even the tips of her ears are pink. He kisses her hands and calls them blessings, and tells her loyal helpers that they are truly angelic. The word almost twists his tongue, but it's worth it for the sour look on Helle's face.
The kitchen is eerily quiet on the 30th and Pierrot retreats to his room. At least the fast will make the feast seem even more spectacular to their guests, which is the only reason why he condones it. He doesn't see Helle either, but he's starting to count that as less of a loss than the rich smells of the kitchen.
Should I be offended, I wonder, Helle says drily. Pierrot has a vague impression of Helle lying on his bed, with his dress shirt unbuttoned, and shrugs.
He spends most of the 31st in the boudoir adjacent to his bedroom, mostly because that's where all of his clothes are. Some of Helle's are there too, but then it's hard to distinguish their clothes when they can and will always wear much of the same. Helle tends to prefer darker colours around their hunting season.
Pierrot's not sure what he ought to wear, even though he tormented the tailor for hours with his demands, but he hadn't had a clear picture of the decorations when he was thinking of clothes. The tailor's been invited, of course, and he'll live to tell the tale, so his clothes escape with minimal changes.
They've got a pretty boy named Jason to receive their guests and lead them to the dining room. Helle had made sure to extend the table. From his spot on the balustrade, neatly hidden behind a pillar, Pierrot spies on Jason. With the way the guests are dressed, no one would know that they had just come from church, but Pierrot can smell the stench of it as it clings to them.
Most are wearing a columbina mask, which is much like the old tradition. Their local church banned Trick-or-Treating some years ago, not that it made any difference; only a handful of people had followed the American tradition and it died quickly enough. He sees one volto mask and briefly wonders how that particular person is going to eat, but that's a trivial concern at best. His eyes trail back to Jason; he's wearing a thin thing that barely passes for a mask, but it's cute.
Are you ogling his arse, darling?
Pierrot giggles as Helle wraps an arm around his waist and pecks him on the cheek. "It's not as magnificently well-shaped as ours, but a treat nonetheless."
They wait until all of the guests have arrived to descend, holding hands. As they enter the dining room, Pierrot sees Father Jeremy clutch his heart. Unfortunately, Helle and he have to sit across from each other, so further indecencies are out of the question for tonight.
As the Vol-au-vent is served, Lady Trent, who is sitting on Pierrot's right, says, "I've never been to a multicourse dinner before. It's so exciting!"
Pierrot smiles charmingly. "Well, I do hope you like it, milady; our lovely Sandrine and her angelic helpers laboured for hours to prepare our meal." He winks at Sandrine as she passes by. Before the main course is served, he's got all of the ladies closest to him wrapped around his pinky. He shudders at the thought of having to dance with them on All Soul's Day.
"I noticed neither of you attended the Vigil of All Hallows." Father Jeremy says during the main course. Pierrot dips his roasted chicken in the exquisite chocolate sauce and waits for Helle to come up with a clever answer.
"Oh, do forgive our absence, Father," Helle drawls. "My brother and I are hard-pressed to enter churches; our Mother died in one."
Most of the ladies gasp and Pierrot can almost taste the words of pity ready to be released from their lips. He remembers the day clearly; it had been their fifteenth birthday.
"We use the chapel in the right wing, the one adjacent to the solarium." Pierrot adds after a sip of wine. There's no chapel, of course; Mother had burnt it down during her pregnancy, claiming her belly had accidentally knocked over a candle. Father had never bothered rebuilding it, but once Edison and Swan had made electric power accessible, father took a lot of pride (and a lot of money) in replacing the candles with lamps.
Father Jeremy does not seem so convinced of their plight, but Pierrot can hardly care. In two days, it would matter little whether they'd gone to his services or not; the season would be over and they would return to their hermetic life for another few years.
Please choose a better season next time, he tells Helle. Not that Autumn is bad; he adores Autumn and it's beautiful gold and red, but this time they'd been too close to Christmas. Their seasons tend to last three months, not just one.
The guests leave full and sated. Father Jeremy casts them another suspicious glance but he's polite enough to bid them good night. Pierrot scowls at his back.
"I never liked priests," he mutters.
They danced with many ladies, but mostly they danced with their mother. She was as possessive of them as they were of each other and of her. As toddlers, they would play at her feet as she stitched and as young lads they would sit each at her side, either leaning on her shoulder or resting their weary heads on her lap. Their father found it revolting, but he never could win an argument against his wife.
For their fourteenth year (a very special occasion, said Lady Mireille), they had a masquerade. They each danced with their mother first before they could choose from any of the other girls of their age. Their father thought to secure a wife for each, though he did not mention a word of this to his wife.
Cierra danced the most, but after three waltzes, Cyril would not rouse from his place on the couch. He had the look of someone who'd rather commit murder than stand, and two dances later, Cierra joined him. He rested his head upon Cyril's shoulder, intending to fall asleep and forget, but there were too many voices around them.
"Do cheer up, boys." Miss Joanna told them. "You ought to dance some more. There are many ladies-"
"We are tired," said Cyril.
"I have turned and twirled with all of them, is it not enough?" said Cierra. "I care not for any of them; none of them are pretty, or have a decent soul."
As they would not listen to her pleas, she thought their mother would put some sense into them. Lady Mireille cast but one look at her sons and said "Oh, my lovely boys, what bothers you so?"
"We never dance together, Cierra and I," Cyril whined. "Not like we used to."
Smiling, she reached out her hands to them and pulled them up to the dance floor. It was an odd sight, mother and sons dancing, and spoken of for weeks after, but her boys had never smiled so blissfully.
In the morning, Pierrot wakes to the scent of earth and roses. He snorts when he finds an errant petal and kisses it before he sends it out through a window. It ought to find its way back to Helle on its own. He spends the morning rearranging his private study and waving away some cobwebs he'd not noticed before. He finds a petal there too, and swallows it without chewing.
He checks in on Sandrine before he goes looking for Helle. She's too busy ordering her girls around to pay him much thought, so he steals a profiterole and dips it in chocolate when her back is turned to him. One of the other girls does see him; she must be the one that went to tattle-tell to Father Jeremy because she looks frightened. He smiles and bites down on the pastry.
"We've got to finish this quickly," Pierrot tells Helle once he finds him. His brother lounges on the chaise longue Pierrot placed in the ballroom. "I've got two hundred and seventy-eight and it's unsettling."
Two hundred and seventy-eight isn't an aesthetically pleasing number. He sees Helle shudder as he says it. There's just something off, though Pierrot can't put his finger on it. "Is two hundred and eighty-five better, you think?" Helle asks.
Pleased, Pierrot joins Helle on the chaise longue, which is difficult. He ends up mostly on top of Helle and they need to wiggle around a lot before they're both comfortable. Helle makes Pierrot tell him a story, so Pierrot weaves as many tales as he can think of into one ridiculous tragedy until Helle is shaking uncontrollably under him. He draws little circles within bigger circles on Helle's chest and lets Helle play with his hair and dig his nose into it.
"You smell of Autumn," Helle whispers in his hair. "Of rain and freshly fallen leaves."
Pierrot smiles against Helle's shoulder. "You smell of Autumn," he says softly. "Of mist and roses."
Their kiss starts slow, like the songs Pierrot would always ask Helle to play. They're in no rush; Pierrot wants to enjoy the taste of Helle's lips, wants to tease him with his tongue and draw low purrs out of him. Helle's been holding back for weeks though, so he grows impatient too quickly. Pierrot has to sit on him to keep him still; even so, they end up grinding against each other like starved men.
They spend too quickly, like they used to when they were much, much younger. It's a pity, but it's enjoyable nonetheless; the nostalgia is heart-warming. They go upstairs, draw a bath and spend an hour swimming around in its opulence. Pierrot keeps the water warm and it almost starts boiling when he wraps his legs around Helle's waist and kisses him. They keep the slow pace for much longer this time.
They look like prunes when they dry each other off. They dress simply; both in cream coloured shirts from the Victorian era and camel-coloured fall front trousers. Pierrot laughs at the thought of the affront on their grandmother's face should she see them.
Sandrine brings them tea when they go to the patio. It's a beautiful, clouded day, with some chance of rain. They eat their biscuits first but drink their tea faster, and then walk through their garden. Dew covers all of the roses, which look beautiful in the blue haze that covers them.
They lay down on the grass and Helle calls for rose petals to fall around them. The one Pierrot had kissed in the morning is bright red and lands on Helle's cheek, sitting there until Helle picks it up and swallows it, like Pierrot did with the other one. They curl into each other, fingers twining, and lie for another hour, talking of nothing in particular. Mostly, they reminisce.
The first time they kissed, they had lain in the grass too.
Mother had always smelled warm, and of Autumn.
The first time they had held hands, they had still been in their mother's womb.
Mother's eyes had been hazel.
They'd always burnt their tongues on tea, just to have an excuse to kiss.
Eventually, they quiet and stare at each other. Their cheeks are rosy and their lips less swollen from their kisses. Their palms are warm against each other and the dew has sunken into their clothes and their hair. Pierrot wants to stay until the rain soaks them, but it's getting late and they ought to prepare for their All Saint's feast.
"You've got a visitor," Sandrine tells them when they're inside and shaking the dew and grass from their wild curls. Pierrot thinks they ought to hire Jason to act as their door attendant during the day too; Sandrine can't do two jobs and only get paid for one.
Father Jeremy waits for them in the parlour. Pierrot wants to roll his eyes but that isn't proper behaviour around guests, and they're already receiving him in their simplest clothes, which have been ruined by their frolicking.
He eyes them warily, eyes narrowing. They must make quite a pair; their curls loose and framing their faces, their cheeks still tinted pink and their fingers a tangle. Pierrot's not sure which fingers are his and which belong to Helle. He realises he's happy, which is a first for this month.
The Father takes a deep breath and says, "I know what you are."