A/N: Again, this will be added to as I'm happy with the revised bits.Guido rescinded Hal's orders, and called a meeting at the house for the few among them he knew would have to be trusted and relied on, not caring as to how arbitrary his choice would appear to have been. He sent an unwilling Pitt to sit with Archie, pushed a random book that later turned out to be a fifteenth century treatise on astrology at him, and returned to the library.Someething inside him twisted and ached as he looked around. Hislop, still greyish white from pain and blood loss, but awake and sitting upright, not even waiting for an explanation that he, out of them all, deserved. Flanagan, still poking at his ears. Carr, hovering over Hislop in proof that the original idea he had considered, of partnerships within the system, had worked at least this once. Bulmer, who had just returned from France, looking at him with a faint dread, obviously expecting to be sent off again. The Academics, still immersed in their books, giving him only half an ear. Kate, silent for once, and as grim-looking as he felt, leaning against the wall. Elizabeth, who was going to hate him very soon, obviously wondering why she had been asked not to take notes. William Bush, who should never have been involved in any of this, a mildly interested source of calm amidst all the curiosity and anger. Edrington, thinking God-knew-what, his hazel eyes apprehensive.Guido couldn't even look at Hal, the bright hair that usually served as his touchstone now a flicker of danger at the corner of his eye. Dimly, he wondered if any of them would even go so far as to try and stop the violence that was threatening between them; wondered if they cared enough.Wondered if he cared enough, any more, or whether the knowledge that things had passed out of their hands and into those of their own personalised and fickle Fate would continue to numb him."There are matters now which must be addressed," he said bluntly. "However unfortunate the situation is, we are given no choice but to act according to the briefs given to us originally. This means that work as we have become accustomed to knowing will continue, except for the following instances. Mr Bulmer, you will look into the reasons behind the attack on the Rupert Street safehouse last night. I have nothing but theories to go on at the moment, and as we know, those will neither stand nor ever be perceived as acceptable. Mr Flanagan, Mr Carr, Mr Hislop, you will now be responsible for the Whitehall offices, and for conveying my orders from there. Your priorities to St. Vincent are, by agreement, cancelled. You will gather information on Monseigneur Boulestin, and you will use the /law/ to have him stopped. This is not permitted to become a personal vendetta, though I believe we will all gain satisfaction should he be brought to trial. In other words, gentlemen, do it by the book." He took a deep breath. "There are now more personal matters which must be discussed. Last night, as well as the attack on the safehouse, which I believe we /can/ assume to have been aimed directly at this organisation, two other events took place. Monseigneur Boulestin brought to my attention that I have a son. While I was unaware of this fact, this does not mean that I can now ignore his having become a factor. For this reason, I am placing him in the care of Lady Elizabeth Buchanan. They will both be leaving for a destination which none of you will know of." He ignored Elizabeth's startled look at him, and continued, "Grigor Ivanovich has not responded to my attempts to contact him. Kate, you need to cancel your engagements. I am sending you to Borodino to find him and request that he accompany you back to England. There are other matters which you will need to discuss with him - and I shall speak to you regarding those in private." Expecting a protest, he was startled to see a look of relief and gratitude flash across Kate's face, before she returned to her former half-angry impassivity. Hal made a sudden, sharp movement, and visibly stopped himself. "There is one other matter," he said slowly. "I assume most of you are aware that former-Lieutenant Kennedy, who was reported to have died from his wounds, was brought here last night. James, Stephen, when you are finished with your research here, I want you to try and trace his movements in London from the time he arrived from Jamaica." He waited for the acquiescing nods, and continued, "I also know that as things stand, Mr Kennedy lies under a sentence of death should his survival and his presence here be discovered. I want you, therefore, to behave as though I had already employed him, which means that there will be no mention of his real name outside these walls - and preferably not even within them. It is a courtesy I have extended to many of you, and as such I expect the organisation's rules to hold in this instance, as well as in your respective cases. It is, for obvious reasons, more imperative than before that his name be cleared - and until something requiring /my/ immediate attention arises, that is where I will be focusing my attention for the foreseeable future. I must also inform you that Mr Addington and Mr Pitt are both aware that this decision has been taken, and that while they do not agree with the reasoning, they are very much aware that it has become a priority - for reasons outside Mr Kennedy's continued survival." He swallowed. "Mr Bush, I would like to ask a favour of you. Your silence, I know, I can rely on, but I must ask you that it be kept /in all respects/. Again, I will discuss the reasoning behind that with you in private, should you require explanation."Bush shook his head. "I've got some idea," he said, his calm unruffled. "Anything else?""I need you to continue with any plans you had made as though last night never occurred. As far as everyone you know is concerned, you spent the night here, ate dinner with us, and continued home.""I think even I can manage to keep to that story." Bush smiled faintly. "And - perhaps I'll take that explanation, later."Guido nodded. "Of course. My Lord Edrington, I -"Edrington held up his hand. "I have some ideas," he said quietly, "but I believe that like much else, they would be better kept between as few of us as possible."Guido let his eyes widen slightly with surprise, but shrugged. "As you wish," he said lightly. "Any other questions?""I have one." It was Hal's most dangerous drawl. "What do you have planned for me, Conte?""I do not," said Guido curtly, lifting his shoulder slightly to block him. "You are all free to go, other than Lady Elizabeth. My Lord Edrington, I assume that your ideas concern her, also?""Well..." Edrington began, about to offer up an refutal of some of the things Guido's choice of words had implied, before visibly changing his mind, and simply nodding. "Some, yes," he agreed. "Thank you, Conte.""Just /go/?" Hal demanded."Not now, Hal," Guido said, and for one brief, terrible second, he looked as though those three dismissive words had taken every last scrap of his energy. "Later, please.""Oh, no. Nonono, you wanted to do this in a meeting? We'll have everything on the table, then."Hislop got slowly to his feet, shaking his head. "No we won't," he said brusquely. "Carr. Flanagan. Bulmer. Be off with you. I'm for me bed."James looked up with his slanted smile."We need the library," he pointed out. Guido rolled his eyes."Yes, yes, you never pay any attention anyway...""I need to set things in -" Kate began, and Hal whipped around to face her."Oh no you don't," he said softly. "You started this, sweet Kate of Kates, you can damn well see it through to the end.""/Out/," said Hislop emphatically to the other three, herding them to the door. He shut it behind him firmly."I'll take the explanation later," Bush said, still calm, getting to his feet as well. "Trevelyan, I'm sure you /won't/ forgive me for saying this, but as a senior officer? I doubt you'd have even passed your lieutenancy." He left unhurriedly, closing the door with equal firmness, though less emphasis.“Another quarter spoken from,” said Edrington, his mouth twitching.“You think so?” Hal glared at Guido. “Nice speech, Guid’. Except for the part you left out. The part where your illegitimate son belongs to your pet assassin. The part where we’re all fucking compromised, because you couldn’t -”The crack of Guido’s hand was so loud that it sounded more like a gunshot. Hal staggered back, wiping at his mouth and looking at the blood on it in shock.“Guard your tongue,” Guido said softly. “I won’t take that, even from you, Hal.”Edrington hissed breath between his teeth.“This -” began Elizabeth, and Edrington clamped his hand down on her arm, a clear warning to stay out of it. “You had no right, Guido.”“Really? I was supposed to always bear in mind that you /might/ want the same woman?” Guido’s laugh was bitter. “Yes, I suppose I should have listened to the voice of experience, shouldn’t I?”“You -”“Shut. Up.” Guido’s voice was cold. “You have no say in my past, Hal. Just as I don’t in yours. Now drop it.”“When your past puts us all in danger -”“The only one in danger here is Vittorio.” Guido was hanging on to his temper by a visible thread. “And I’m not having a child harmed because of your ridiculous jealousy.”“It’s not about that, and you know it!”“No?” Guido’s cool inspection of him was like another slap to the face. “Enlighten me, then. What non-existent scruples have I brought to light this time, Trevelyan?”“You should have told me what she was!”Guido moved fast, but it was not to strike, this time, it was to intercept Kate. “No,” he said to her levelly, holding her arms and looking straight into her eyes. “He’s not aiming for you. This should never have been said in front of anyone.” He looked around the room. “Get out. All of you.”“Damn it, I’m not covering up -”Guido released Kate and turned on Hal. “/You/ can say what you like to who you like,” he said grimly. “But /I’m/ not airing my past for your vitriolic amusement. Not now, not ever.” He slammed his hand on the table next to him with a force that even startled James and Stephen into attention. “Now get out, the lot of you!”“I’m not -” Elizabeth, protesting.“You are.” Guido’s eyes were unforgiving basalt. When she shook her head, he simply breathed out a short, unamused laugh. “No? Then I’ll take the obvious course of action.” Before any of them could say anything, he was gone.*“Out.” Guido’s voice left no room for manoeuvre, and came as a distinct surprise to Pitt, who had managed to read himself into some sort of peace as he translated his way through a decidedly odd interpretation of the effect of the stars’ course on human behaviour.He wondered rather wildly if it might give him some guidelines to whatever this was, if he kept going through it.“I hear and obey,” he said dryly, putting the book aside. “I take it the meeting did not go -”“The meeting went as planned.”Pitt drew a deep breath, and prayed for patience. “And this has pushed you over the boundaries of joy and into rage through the resulting transport of ecstasy?”“No. The resulting conversation that Mr Trevelyan forced on me /following/ the meeting would be responsible for that.” He blew out an irritable breath, and sat down in his chair. “Pitt, have you ever wondered whether no matter what you do, and no matter what everyone else may do that is worse, it is you who will be held accountable?”Pitt shook his head. “I rather assume that,” he said dryly. “In fact, the last year has been the first time when I have not, in fact, been expected to take entire responsibility for a country.”Guido laughed sharply. “I’d rather /have/ a country,” he said with sudden weariness. “Pitt, Christ, what am I going to do?”“Endure,” Pitt said simply. “Endure and pray that it will all pass over those you love.”Guido nodded. “Can you leave, now?” he asked softly. “Please?”Pitt got to his feet. “Would you like me to return tomorrow?”Guido shook his head. “I think it is best if you stay away from us for a while.”“Ah. It will be that bad, then.” It was not a question.“You say it must be endured,” Guido said, and his eyes were sad. “If prayer is the answer, Pitt, then pray now. Pray for us. Pray that it /can be/.”*“It’s so unfair,” he said to Archie, what could have been hours or minutes or maybe even days later. With Pitt gone, time had done him the courtesy of stopping for a while, leaving his mind a relieved blank. “I know, I know. Life is not fair. What fate’s hand deals out to us is not fair. But this is - outside that. I would have given anything.” He took a deep, shaking breath. “I have shot my arrow o’er the house,” he murmured, “and killed my brother. But my son will be safe. Kate will be safe. Elizabeth…” He dropped his head onto the side of the bed, and whispered into the counterpane, “Hal.”The tug on his hair startled him, and he raised his head with a flinch. “What -”“/Don’t tell him/,” Archie whispered, his blue-grey eyes intent. “/Promise me/.”“I promise,” Guido said automatically. He never refused anyone that, if requested.Apparently searching his eyes for some kind of truth, Archie held his gaze for a few moments longer, before his eyelids shut as though they were on hinges, and his hand fell from Guido’s hair.“Archie, what - wait -”There was, of course, no response.“Don’t tell Hal? Don’t tell - don‘t tell who?”/I have shot my arrow o’er the house…/Don’t tell Horatio./And killed my brother./"I promise," Guido whispered again.*
Ah, but if you weren't writing about this lot -- the story might be very very boring *tries to imagine a story featuring Buckland, Hobbs and Eccleston . . . nah, can't*Checking back soon!