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☆ Round One!

Welcome to the first round of the Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Kink Meme at [community profile] jsmn_kinkmeme!

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Arabella/Lady Pole - anything!

(Anonymous) 2015-06-06 09:07 pm (UTC)(link)
I'd love anything with this pairing, maybe during one of her visits Arabella tries to calm Emma down and reassure her that she won't fall asleep and ends up kissing her.

FILL: La belle au bois dormant - Arabella/Emma 1/2

(Anonymous) 2015-07-14 03:53 am (UTC)(link)

[I'm afraid this turned out a bit angstier than I intended - apparently no one told Arabella that polyamory is an option- but I hope you enjoy it! Its sort of a blend of book and series canon]



--

June 1813


Arabella’s visits to Lady Pole had become a regular part of her weekly routine since Jonathan had left for the war. While most assumed her visits to be pure charity, Arabella genuinely enjoyed her company. There was something about Emma Pole that Arabella found enthralling. She was prone to dramatic (and often nonsensical) proclamations that would have seemed humorous but they were made with such sincerity that they often moved Arabella. She was an intelligent, bold and opinioned young woman, and her illness had not changed that. At times Arabella found she very much doubted the diagnosis of madness. She often felt a great sorrow that she could not understand them and be of any real assistance to Lady Pole. If Arabella ever voiced these thoughts, Lady Pole (who had taken to calling her “my dear Mrs. Strange”) would always assure her that her company was treasured and brought some comfort into her ladyship’s tragic situation, even if Arabella thought herself a very poor help.


Their meetings were surprizingly varied, despite Lady Pole’s illness preventing her from leaving her house, and upon occasion even her farther than her personal sitting room. Sometimes they would take tea and talk, as Lady Pole loved to hear about the going-ons of the world outside her doorstep. She did not care too much for idle gossip, but she was desperate for news. Most often they discussed world-affairs, though Arabella took great care to avoid the discussion of Mr. Norrell whenever possible, to avoid distressing her friend. Other days Arabella would discuss Jonathan’s latest letter. On days when her ladyship was too weak to carry much conversation or when there was little news to speak of, they had taken to pulling books from Sir Walter’s (modest) library and Arabella would read them aloud for their enjoyment. In the warmer months, Arabella had asked Sir Walter if it might be possible for herself and Lady Pole to take their tea outside, for she believed some fresh air might help her ladyship’s nerves, but she was turned down. After this conversation, Stephen Black, the Poles’ butler, began setting up their tea by the largest window in the drawing room and leaving it open as much as he could. Arabella made sure to thank him for this.


Other days Lady Pole was in quite a state and would plead with Arabella to help her with some problem that was causing her strife, only Arabella could not for the life of her understand what that problem was. On these days Stephen would help Arabella with calming Lady Pole. Sometimes they were successful, other times they were not.


Once her ladyship had been so distressed that Stephen, seeing no other option, had suggested that perhaps it would be best if Mrs. Strange were to come back another day. This had upset her ladyship so much that she immediately calmed and began profusely apologizing to Arabella for distressing her. Arabella quickly reassured her that she had done no such thing and that she only wished to help her ladyship in any way should could. Lady Pole shook her head and sadly told her that it would be best for her to come another time, before apologizing once more and asking Stephen to escort her to her room. As she passed Arabella, she did a very strange thing. She grasped both of Arabella’s hands in her own and said, “You must promise me you will keep yourself safe Mrs. Strange.”


Arabella asked her what she meant.


Lady Pole opened her mouth, then closed it and shook her head. She dropped Arabella’s hands and allowed Stephen to guide her into the hallway.


****


“I used to detest novels,” Lady Pole told her one afternoon when Arabella had momentarily paused in her reading. “Did you know that?”


“I did not, my lady. May I ask why?”


They had been reading Madame d’Graffigny’s Letters from a Peruvian Woman. The golden sunlight of the late afternoon streamed through the windows, warming the drawing room. At the start of the visit, they had both been sitting side by side on the sopha, alternating between reading aloud and simply reading in silence, each one noting when she had finished the current page. Currently, Emma, who appeared much more fatigued that usual, had removed her slippers and laid down, her legs curled up at one the end of the sopha while her head rested on Arabella’s shoulder, while Arabella read aloud. There was a comfortable and casual intimacy between them, like two sisters, or…Like lovers, Arabella’s mind unhelpfully supplied, but she ignored it. It was only when Lady Pole spoke, had Arabella even noticed she had been absent mindedly running her fingers through her friend’s long, loose hair.


Now Lady Pole was no longer looking at Arabella. She had a far off look in her eyes and gazed aimlessly at something at the other side of the room.


“I always avoided them before,” Lady Pole placed a very distinct emphasis on the word, and Arabella understood immediately. She rarely heard Lady Pole speak of her life before her resurrection. “I preferred to read histories and books on politics and philosophy. I wanted to learn everything I could about the world. If I dabbled in fiction it was always poetry. It used to make my mother very happy, she thought novels were for the frivolous and the shallow. It was one of my only habits that please her.”


Lady Pole paused momentarily. She did not often speak of her mother, but Arabella always noticed that when she did it was with a hint of distain. When Lady Pole collected herself she continued:


“But now I find myself desperate for novels. I long to forget myself and my current troubles. I want pretend that I am an adventurer who will return home victorious and happy, or a silly girl whose only troubles are which suitor to marry. Such vapid escapes are much preferable than to be constantly reminded of my suffering.”


Her speech concluded, Lady Pole turned back to Arabella. Her eyes searched Arabella’s for some kind of understanding. While Arabella could not speak for her friend’s illness, she could relate to the desire to lose oneself in a good book. She ought to say something in response, but she found herself entranced by the intensity of Lady Pole’s gaze. Her eyes were wide and appeared aged beyond her years. In that moment Arabella did not doubt her friend had seen some true horrors, be they real or some symptom of her illness. The very thought of Lady Pole suffering so overwhelmed her. Before Arabella had any chance to think about the implications of her actions she abruptly embraced Lady Pole. At first Lady Pole was stiff and startled but soon melted into the hug, closing her eyes.


They stayed like this for several minutes. Arabella stroked Lady Pole’s hair and wept into her shoulder. Lady Pole massaged small circles into Arabella’s back. Then Lady Pole pulled back and rested her forehead against Arabella’s. She wiped Arabella’s tears away with part of her own dress.


For her part, Arabella was terribly embarrassed.


“I beg your pardon, my lady. I do not know what came over me,” she stammered. “I should not have- It was very selfish of me too ask you to comfort me in your present state. It is I who should be comforting you and I fear I have done a rather terrible job of it.”


Lady Pole shook her head and said “You cannot always be the strong one Mrs. Strange. You have brought me so much comfort these past months, it is the least I can do to provide some in return.” She placed a tender kiss to Arabella’s forehead before pulling away. Arabella wanted to stop her, but knew that was out of the question.


“You are too kind, Lady Pole,” Arabella said, still quite flustered.


“Oh I wish you would not call me Lady Pole.”


“What would you have me call you?”


“I would have you call me Emma, if that is not too forward. It has been such a long time since anyone called me Emma. It is always ‘Lady Pole this’ or ‘Lady Pole that’. I am afraid one morning I will wake up and find I have forgotten my own name.”


“But surely Sir Walter calls you by your first name?” Arabella asked.


“My husband can hardly bear to be in the same room as me let alone hold a conversation with me. I am ‘his wife’ or I am “Lady Pole’ or I am not spoken of at all,” she replied.


There was an inherent weariness in her voice that gave Arabella pause. It reminded her of her own husband. With Jonathan away at the war, she had not her heard her Christian name spoken aloud in over a year (when her brother had last visited her). She sympathized with Emma’s loneliness and though she did not wish to dwell on it, she knew that she was just as lonely as her friend.


“If it pleases your ladysh- If it pleases you, I shall call you Emma,” Arabella said.


Emma smiled. “Thank you Mrs. Strange,” she said.


“Oh but you must call me Arabella,” she blurted out without thinking. She had the decency to blush as she hurried to correct herself. “I mean to say, it would be very odd for me to refer to you by your Christian name, and for you to refer to me so formally.”


“Of course.” Emma nodded as though that was the most sensible thing in the world, quite oblivious to Arabella’s nerves. “My dear Arabella,” she said trying out the name. She paused, as though she was savouring the taste of the name. She gave Arabella a small smile, and laid her head back on her shoulder. “Would you be so kind and indulge me in a little more of Madame d’Graffigny’s delightful satire?” she asked softly, as though Arabella could ever deny her anything.


Arabella, her heart fluttering and her thoughts in a whirl, nodded and continued.


****


That evening Arabella was in quite a state. She hardly ate any dinner and readied herself for bed far earlier that she would normally. Her maid, Mary inquired as to whether she was ill. She replied that she was not, thanked Mary for her concern and then dismissed her. She was not in the mood for conversation or company.


Arabella was troubled by Emma Pole. More accurately she was troubled by her own actions around Emma. Arabella was a practical woman. It was something she prided herself in, if she felt inclined to pride herself in anything. It was practical and good to comfort one’s friends. It was practical to spend most of one’s time with one’s lonely housebound friend while one’s husband was away at the war. It was not practical however to begin to develop romantic feelings for one’s friend.


One’s married friend.


married female friend.


It was one thing for her to be married and feel attracted to another man. That was sin enough, and it hurt her heart to know that she was torn between Jonathan and another, when she had promised to devote herself completely and wholly to Jonathan. A promise she had fully intended to keep. And still do, she reminded herself, but a small nagging part of her was no longer sure how true that was. It was not that she did not love Jonathan, she did. She loved him with all her heart. Her affections for Emma did not dull these feelings, which only served to confuse her more. She did not think it possible to feel such affection for more than one person. She tried to explain it to herself, but no explanation made sense. Her feelings for Emma did not seem to come from Jonathan’s absence; they were not the result of simple loneliness and a desire for intimacy. Nor were her feelings a result of boredom or unhappiness with married life, which are the cause of many such affairs. She was forced to conclude that she simply had the misfourtune of falling in love with two people at once.


Of course, even if she was the kind of woman who felt comfortable engaging in extramarital affairs (which she was not), that did not even begin to cover the dilemma that the object of her affections was a woman. Arabella was from a religious family and she knew how the church and society frowned upon such things. For a man it would mean prison or worse. For women like herself (and Emma, should she reciprocate) it meant the madhouse. It was that thought which distressed her most of all. She would not have Emma sent to a madhouse on her account. She had started visiting Emma out of the desire to help her cope with her illness; to help keep her from being locked up in such a place as Bedlam. The thought of her dear Emma locked away, where one might pay to mock her sickness disturbed her. She decided that her personal feelings were of no importance. She had to keep Emma safe and she would not allow her emotions to get in the way.


FILL: La belle au bois dormant - Arabella/Emma 2/2

(Anonymous) 2015-07-14 03:58 am (UTC)(link)

After being accosted by the insufferable Mr. Drawlight three times in as many weeks on her way to the Poles’ Harley Street residence, Arabella decided she needed to find a different route. All she had succeeded in doing was getting herself quite lost in a confusing tangle of unfamiliar side streets and alleyways.


As she tried and failed to find her way to the house, she passed a tiny, yet charming book store. She went inside, not only with the intention to ask directions but with the faint hope that she might have found the one bookstore in all of England that Mr. Norrell had not purged of its magical texts.


Unfourtunately, she had not and the kind store-owner told her that he had no such books. Disheartened, she turned to leave, only to have a pretty little book on one of the top shelves catch her eye. She asked the owner to get it down for her and discovered it was an ornately illustrated collection of fairytales. Remembering Emma’s remarks about escapism, she thought it might be just the thing to lift her spirits. After all, thought Arabella, what could be a better escape than stories of faraway lands and mythical creatures?


“That’s a very fine book you have there, madam,” a familiar voice said from over Arabella’s shoulder. She turned with a start to find the silver haired gentleman from Sir Walter’s house standing behind her. “I have always been quite fond of fairytales myself.”


“I thought I might buy it for dear Lady Pole,” said Arabella.


“A very fine idea!” said the gentleman with rather toothy smile. “I can personally assure you that her ladyship loves fairytales.” He gave a small laugh as though he had told a very funny joke. Arabella did not understand, but she valued his opinion and he seemed to know Emma very well, so she purchased the book.


“I wonder sir,” Arabella said as they left the store, “If you might accompany me to the house? I’m afraid I’ve gotten myself quite lost trying to avoid a rather persistent acquaintance.”


“Why of course, my dear lady,” replied the gentleman. He took her by the arm without hesitation and guided her back to Harley Street, chattering all the way.


When they reached the door, Stephen opened the door and looked somewhat startled to see them before composing himself. If Arabella had been playing closer attention, she would have found this quite odd. Stephen invited them both inside, but the gentleman politely declined, stating he had so urgent business to attend to and would return that evening. He bid farewell to Arabella, and she went inside.


“Mrs. Strange, may I ask a favour of you?” Stephen asked as he guided her through the house.


“Of course you may Stephen,” said Arabella.


With all seriousness he said to her, “I would ask you not to mention your meeting with the gentleman to Lady Pole.”


“Why ever not?”


“She…She finds his presence upsetting. Much the same as her reaction to bells and the like. I would ask him to leave, but he is here on important business and it is not in my power to do so.” Stephen said with a heavy sadness in his voice.


“What business could be so important that Sir Walter risks his wife’s fragile health?” asked Arabella, for she assumed his business must be with Emma’s husband, if it was not with Emma herself.


“I could not say, madam.” Stephen looked most apologetic, so Arabella agreed not to mention the man.


Emma was delighted to see her, but it was clear that she was exhausted. She swayed slightly when she stood, so Arabella quickly put her arm around her and guided her to the sopha. Stephen excused himself to go and prepare their tea. When Arabella asked her how she was, she replied quite cheerfully that she had not slept at all the previous two nights. Arabella was momentarily taken aback by her declaration before remembering that Emma’s aversion to sleep was a symptom of her illness. They talked happily for a few moments, until Arabella mentioned the book.


“I passed a book store on my way here and I thought we might read this together, since we finished with d’Graffigny,” she said unwrapping the book. Emma took one look at the book and her face fell; Arabella’s heart fell with it.


Arabella hurried to apologize, “I’m very sorry Emma, I do not mean to upset you. I was told that you enjoyed fairytales-“


“Who told you such a thing?” said Emma cutting her off.


Remembering Stephen’s warning, she silently cursed herself for being so careless. She considered coming up with a lie, but when she met Emma’s gaze, the truth tumbled out before she could stop it.


“Why Mr – Well I don’t actually know his name, but the gentleman who lives here.”


“The gentleman?” A flicker of fear appeared in Emma’s eyes, that Arabella couldn’t begin to understand.


“Yes, the one with hair like thistledown.”


Emma leapt to her feet, still swaying dangerously, her eyes alight with a maddening flame, alarming Arabella.


“He’s here? He’s in this house? Stephen! Stephen!” she shouted. “He cannot be here, I’m supposed to be safe, he cannot- not now not- not-“she began to sputter as if she were choking on the words. Arabella immediately rushed to her side and tried to steady her. Emma clutched at her arms and stared at her in growing terror. She found her voice again:


“There once was a Christian woman, with two daughters, one as white as snow and the other with hair as red as a rose and so she named them Snow-White and Rose-Red – No, no, no! That is not what I mean to say! Arabella! You must listen to me, you must please! It is of the upmost importance, I beg you!” Arabella nodded, completely unsure of what else to do, she had never seen Emma is such a state of distress, even on her worst days.


Emma began again “One winter’s night the woman and her daughters were visited by a great brown bear-No!” She collapsed, her eyes full of frustrated tears. She began to search the room desperately, until her eyes fell on the book of fairytales. She stumbled towards it and began flipping through the pages at an alarming speed. She stopped suddenly and thrust the book at Arabella.


The book was opened to a beautifully illustrated page of a story entitled “The Beauty Sleeping in the Woods”. The illustration shewed a beautiful mediaeval castle where a king and a queen were weeping by a magnificent cradle. They were surrounded by thirteen figures that could only be fairies. Twelve of the fairies were beautiful and were cowering in fear of the thirteenth, who was dressed in dark robes and appeared to be casting a power spell. Arabella did not understand what this had to do with the gentleman who upset Emma so.


When she voiced this thought, Emma pointed desperately at the picture. She pointed first at the child in the crib and said “This is me.” She then pointed at the wicked fairy and said “And this is he.” Seeing that Arabella still failed to understand, she turned the page to another illustration. This one shewed two panels, the first shewed a young woman picking her finger on a spinning wheel; the second shewed the same young woman now fast asleep her finger still bleeding.


Arabella thought perhaps she was beginning to understand. “Is this about your fear to sleep?”


“Yes!” cried Emma, but she was still unable to elaborate.


“You fear some nightmare? You fear that you shall never wake?” She still had no idea how any of this could relate to the gentleman who had seem so kind, if a bit eccentric. Nonetheless she could see Emma beginning to calm at her words.


“That is - a part of it,” she managed to choke out.


“But Emma you must sleep!” You will die without it. This part Arabella did not say aloud, but the words hung heavily in the air between them.


“I cannot. I die as I sleep.” Emma looked so dejected that Arabella felt her heart breaking within her chest. She took one of Emma’s pale delicate hands in her own. It was at this moment that Stephen rushed into the room.


“I apologies miss. I heard shouting is everything alright?” he asked looking startled to find the two women siting on the floor, rather than the sopha where he had left them.


“It’s alright, Stephen. There’s nothing you can do, or I know you would,” said Emma. Stephen seemed to understand this and nodded politely.


“Could you please help me carry her ladyship over to the sopha? I fear she has overexerted herself,” Arabella said to him


“Of course madam.”


When Emma was lying comfortably on the sopha, she dismissed Stephen. Arabella went to sit in one of the chairs opposite her, but Emma shook her head and held out her hand, beckoning Arabella towards her. Dutiful as always, Arabella went over and sat on the edge of the sopha, careful not to disturb Emma.


“You must not let me fall asleep,” implored Emma. “You must promise me you will keep me awake.”


“Emma, I can promise no such a thing,” said Arabella softly, “You are unwell, you need to sleep. I could not bear to do anything that would bring you further harm.”


“To let me sleep would bring me further harm,” Emma insisted. “Like the princess in your book.”


Arabella had no doubt that Emma believed this completely, and she felt a pang of sympathy for Emma’s plight. Whatever night terrors plagued her, it was clear to Arabella that they must be truly horrible for her to endanger herself rather than revisit them.


“But the princess is awoken, is she not?” asked Arabella, “I will watch over you as you sleep. If I see that you are too distressed, I will simply wake you, like the prince in the story.”


Emma smiled weakly at her. “The princess was awoken with a kiss,” she said.


Arabella’s face turned an alarming shade of pink. “I- Well- That is to say-“she stammered.


“Arabella.” Emma sat up, took one of Arabella’s hand into her own, and placed her other hand on Arabella’s cheek. “My dearest Arabella, nothing would please me more.”


In that moment, staring into Emma’s sincere and tired eyes, Arabella completely forgot any and all reasons why she should not kiss her. She leaned forward closing the distance between them. Emma’s lips were soft and though the kiss was gentle and chaste, it made Arabella’s head spin. She felt as though she was floating away, and was glad that Emma was still holding on to her; her hands were the only thing grounding her in the Poles’ drawing-room. As the kiss deepened, she could not help but let out the smallest gasp. She felt Emma smile into the kiss at the sound, making her heart leap again. She had not felt so free and light hearted since before Jonathan had left for war…Jonathan…


At the thought of her husband, reality abruptly returned to Arabella and she broke the kiss. She immediately regretted this action, when she met Emma’s eyes.


“It has nothing to do with you, Emma,” said Arabella, still clutching Emma’s hand. “Please believe me when I say I want this very much. It’s just…Jonathan…I do not wish to be unfaithful to him.”


“I would not have you do anything that made you uncomfortable,” Emma assured her.


“Do you suppose it’s possible for a person to be in love with two different people?” Arabella asked.


“I would not know,” said Emma, not unkindly. “I don’t see why not,” she added as an afterthought.


Arabella stayed silent for a moment, deep in thought. When she spoke, it was with a hesitant sureness, as though she was still trying to convince herself of the truth of her words. “I cannot promise much of anything. I cannot promise tomorrow or what will happen when Jonathan returns. There cannot be a future for us. But I can promise that I will be here when you wake.”


Emma squeezed her hand slightly. “I know. I do not need tomorrow. You have given me so much, Arabella Strange. You have given me companionship and compassion when no others would. You are a light in the dark labyrinth that I am forced to wander.”


They kissed one final time. Knowing it may well be their last, Arabella savoured every second. This kiss was different from the others. They had been sweet and innocent; this one was slow, but passionate. Emma’s kisses were tinged with desperation, as though she was worried Arabella might disappear from underneath her fingertips. She buried her hands in Arabella’s carefully styled hair and Arabella couldn’t even bring herself to care that it would be ruined. She held Emma as tightly as she dared, scared to her hurt her or overexcite her in her delicate condition.


When they parted, they did not speak to one another. Emma rearranged herself on the sopha that she was lying with her head in Arabella’s lap. She looked at Arabella with eyes full of nervous trust. Arabella took her hand gently and Emma clutched it like a lifeline. Arabella slowly began to read from the book, falling silent only when she felt Emma’s grip loosen and saw that she had fallen into an uneasy sleep.


Re: FILL: La belle au bois dormant - Arabella/Emma 2/2

(Anonymous) 2015-07-14 04:45 am (UTC)(link)
Not OP but [joyous screams] MY SHIP MY LOVE THIS IS BEAUTIFUL. It's so sad and sweet. The scene where they're reading the novel, oh my gosh, so domestic and lovely and adorable.

“I cannot promise much of anything. I cannot promise tomorrow or what will happen when Jonathan returns. There cannot be a future for us. But I can promise that I will be here when you wake.”

AAAAAHHHH so beautiful. I love this so much.

Re: FILL: La belle au bois dormant - Arabella/Emma 2/2

(Anonymous) 2015-07-14 08:30 am (UTC)(link)
I love it! I lovehow you write the characters, including Stephen who is very himself with only a few lines.

I can understand Arabella's angst about polyamory. She's too honest with herself to justify herself with "only a close friendship and also we kiss".

The book was a puunch in the gut, and I love how it was not only to make Lady Pole angst, but also to have her trying once more to explain without words. Too bad Arabella can't understand. I loved also a lot how you describe the kiss, and how you justify it with La belle au bois dormant.

About Lettres d'une péruvienne, they have good reading taste! But it's by de Graffigny, not d'Graffigny, if one day you want to change it if you put it on AO3 - which would be awesome. Also, it's about Inca genocide and eternally unrequited love, so it's not a happy book. ^^

I was very happy to read this!

Re: FILL: La belle au bois dormant - Arabella/Emma 2/2

(Anonymous) 2015-07-14 11:45 pm (UTC)(link)
A!A here, thanks for catching that mistake! I am planning to post it to ao3 so I'll make sure I fix that

Re: FILL: La belle au bois dormant - Arabella/Emma 2/2

(Anonymous) 2015-07-14 08:49 am (UTC)(link)
I loved every line of this. Arabella's conflicting emotions were beautifully rendered, and I love how you brought in the Gentleman, a hint of what is to come. Simply lovely fic <3

Re: FILL: La belle au bois dormant - Arabella/Emma 2/2

(Anonymous) 2015-07-14 09:23 am (UTC)(link)
This fill is wonderfully bittersweet, thanks so much A!A

Re: FILL: La belle au bois dormant - Arabella/Emma 2/2

(Anonymous) 2015-07-16 03:52 am (UTC)(link)
aaaaah this is so great!!