Dragon, 104

Family Relationships Are Always Complicated, No Matter the Dynamic

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“Why did the orgy cost so much?” Owen asked, frowning at an expense sheet.

“It didn’t.” Gavin was writing notes on another sheet.

“Uh.” Owen looked at the expenses again. “Yes, it did? The food cost more than it costs my parents to run their inn for a week.”

Gavin frowned, took the expense sheet and looked at it. “How much did your parents pay you to help at the inn?”

“They didn’t, that’s not how family works.”

“Yeah, my parents don’t pay me either, which is why I’m trying to acquire those river lands in the east. Anyway, I had to pay all the people who planned, bought, cooked and served the food, because they’re not my family and I’m not a slave owner. Also your parents should get better food.” Gavin put the paper back in its pile. “You really do need to get used to the fact that you’re rich now. This isn’t that much money for us, and I wasn’t going to make Edwin pay.”

Owen should fucking hope that Gavin wasn’t going to make Edwin pay for the orgy that had happened in his honour. “Okay, but it seems like a lot of money. I think you can get even fancy food more cheaply than this. People are gouging you because you can afford it.”

“That’s not a real thing that happens.”

“Yes, it is.” Owen’s parents had claimed that they were only gouging people who were assholes, but that was one of those polite lies they’d been trying to convince Owen that it was necessary to tell. After all, plenty of their neighbours had been assholes, and they got the same price as everyone else.

“Sure.”

“Where’s Twig, he’d back me up on this.”

“As if asking a miniature version of you is fair. He always backs you up.”

“Smart kid. That’s how you know we’re always right.”

Gavin snorted. “He ran away as soon as he saw expense reports.”

“Did I say smart? I meant genius. I should have had as much faith in his judgement as he has in mine.”

“Yeah, you could learn a thing or two. Take a look at this.” Gavin handed Owen another sheet.

Owen looked it over, pretending he understood all the parts of it, then coughed at the number on the bottom. “That’s a lot of money.”

“It’s a decent amount, yeah,” Gavin agreed. “It’s the income from your orchard last month.”

Owen imagined himself choking on a drink, then imagined himself putting the drink down. “Well,” he said. “That’s interesting, because last time I checked, it’s fucking winter.”

Gavin turned and looked out the window, where it was snowing. “Yep, seems like it. It’ll be spring soon, though.”

“What I mean is, how did an orchard…”

“I don’t know, you’re the one who owns it, are you laundering money or something?”

Owen looked at Gavin. Gavin looked back. Owen put the expense report down. “I feel like if I’m rich, there must be someone who works for me whose job is to understand this and explain it.”

“Yeah, it’s a full-time position.” Gavin looked at the sheet again. “It’s syrup.”

Oh, that made sense. “Still, that’s a lot of money. How many trees are in this orchard?”

“I don’t know, a lot? How many is a lot of trees?”

“I’ll ask Ron,” said Owen, sighing. He picked up another piece of paper. “What’s this?” It was just a list of names of a bunch of their friends.

“Oh, I kept track of everyone you owe sexual favours to since you lost the game,” Gavin said, only sounding a little bit accusatory as he took the list back. “Just in case you forgot.”

Owen scowled. His game of guess the dick against Isaac had ended in a draw between him and Isaac, with Denver winning. “I didn’t forget. The game was rigged.” All the asses had felt the same.

“If it was rigged, it wasn’t by me,” said Gavin. “Your losing made me lose wagers with Pax and Isaac. Anyway, you don’t need my permission to pay back those favours, but let me know when you have so I can keep the list current.”

Owen pretended that Eddie’s ear didn’t flick up from the other side of the room as he cleaned the windows. He was one of the people on the list. Fortunately, the door opened without someone knocking.

Gavin stood up, clearly prepared to be royally indignant, but his mom came in and he settled to royally petulant. “Hi, Mom. You’re lucky Owen and I are dressed.”

“You don’t get to use your sitting room for sex and then be indignant when someone walks in on you,” said Georgina, sweeping into the room and then taking a seat at the table with them. “Ah, expense reports. Has Owen displeased you?”

“Yes,” Gavin said, shuffling the reports. He’d claimed it was important to look them over so nobody robbed them, but clearly he didn’t actually mind as long as the people fucking him were his suppliers. Or if the person over a barrel was Owen. “What can I help you with, Mom?”

“Admiral Aerchon’s trial.”

Gavin shifted in his seat. Eddie only froze for a second. “Do you need additional testimony? More witnesses? Further evidence? I’m sure none of that is necessary, but I’m also sure I can get it for you.”

“Gavin, I need you to withdraw your charges against him.”

Gavin raised an eyebrow. Owen would also have raised an eyebrow if he could. “I fail to see how that achieves the goal of making him face justice.”

“Gavin, this is important. He’ll be punished for his actions, but we can’t have an admiral in our navy publicly tried for treason.”

Gavin looked at the table for a moment, pretending to think. Owen wondered if his mom knew his expressions well enough to see that, and then remembered that all moms had magic powers. “Well,” he finally said with a nod. “Good thing someone stripped him of rank and privileges, so he’s no longer in your navy. Scandal averted.”

“Gavin.”

“Mom, if he didn’t want to be tried publicly for treason, he shouldn’t have committed treason. It really is that simple.”

Georgina looked more stern than Owen had ever seen her. “Gavin, you are far too intelligent to believe that.”

“He tortured innocent people for years.”

“I don’t need the litany of charges.”

“Some of whom were Dolovin citizens,” Gavin kept going. “Our citizens. Some of those children never saw daylight, Mom.”

“I’m aware of that,” snapped the queen.

“You never saw the cages they were born in,” Gavin said, much more quietly. “He appropriated crown resources to this project without permission, stealing not just from us but also from the navy itself, which I can’t say I personally care about, but it seems like the sort of thing a government ought to get upset over. He conspired with an enemy of the crown.”

“You have no proof of that.”

“I have his confession.”

You aren’t a judge, son.”

Gavin smiled, which meant Owen could take a breath. “I know. It’s why I think it’s helpful to have a trial. He also did all of those things without the knowledge or consent of the rest of the navy or of the Dolovin crown. He was operating without the consent of the crown, right?”

Georgina stood up. “Gavin, I understand you are angry, but I will not stand for you insinuating such things about me and your father.”

“Nobody made you stand. And I notice you didn’t answer my question.” Owen had noticed that too.

Georgina was looking at Gavin so intently that Owen felt like he should have his armour on. “I am not denying the truth of anything Aerchon did, nor am I denying its horrible nature. But a public trial will undermine faith in the navy, and further, news of it will get out.”

“Would you have preferred for me to just execute him on the spot?” Gavin asked. “A lot of people would have preferred I’d done that instead of just considering it. I really hope I wasn’t being foolish in trusting that he’d be brought to justice without me cutting his throat.”

Owen saw the look flash across his face and remembered something Gavin had told him once, after he’d first killed another human. Nobody got to hurt other people and then act like they were entitled to protection. But killing even those people wasn’t supposed to feel right.

He was glad Gavin hadn’t killed Aerchon. It would have been wrong, even if it might have seemed easier.

“Of course you weren’t. But the Empire will hear that we’re so disorganized that we’re allowing our admirals to commit treason.”

“Yeah,” said Gavin, sighing. He finally put the stack of papers down. Owen put his hand on Gavin’s leg under the table. “And they’ll think, ‘wow, those Dolovins are really confident they can beat us if they can afford to hang one of their most important admirals at a time like this.’”

“You aren’t naïve enough to believe that.”

“Right and wrong are real things, Mom.” Gavin hadn’t broken eye contact with her this whole time. “They just are. And our navy isn’t going to be destroyed because Elias Aerchon isn’t there any longer. Even if the Imperials are paranoid enough to care who he is, they won’t know his replacement. People might lose a little faith in the navy, but if we let someone get away with this, they’ll lose more faith in us. The only reason not to have the trial is because it’s going to be embarrassing when it gets out that House ven Sancte let this happen. And it should be, because it’s a fucking embarrassment. There are dozens of witnesses to his crimes. There are dozens of victims to his crimes. They deserve justice, and I will not allow anyone to hurt them again, which is what silencing them would be.”

Shaking her head, Georgina sighed. “Fine. We’ll do it your way. It’s not going to be pretty, and it’s not going to end quickly.”

“We’ll get through it,” Gavin said. “We’re objectively not the victims here.”

“I understand that. I’ll see you at dinner,” said Georgina, and she headed out without another word.

Once she was gone, Gavin sighed, slumping in his chair. “For fuck’s sake,” he muttered. “Tell Drew I want to know what her servants are talking about. She’s not going to let it drop that easily.”

“Okay, I’ll tell him when he gets back from the library,” Owen said. “Will her servants really talk to him?”

Gavin shrugged. “He knows things sometimes. And she’s up to something. Eddie, can you go get me some tea? I have a headache.”

“Yes, your Highness,” said Eddie, looking around the room quickly. “And…thank you. For standing up for us.”

“Right and wrong are real things,” was all Gavin said. Eddie nodded and left the room. Then Gavin sighed. “I want extra security put on the house and anywhere else Eddie’s friends are staying.”

Owen frowned. “You don’t really think your mom would do something to them.” Georgina was intense, but she was Gavin’s mother.

“She killed Turner.”

The silence that fell after that was loud as a heartbeat. “What?”

“She was the one who ordered Turner’s assassination. As a message to Lord Orwell so he and everyone else understood not to mess with our family. Gabrielle and Franz found out about it while we were away. I’d known him since I was three years old. So yeah, I do think she’d hurt people she doesn’t know or care about to protect the family, and as I just fucked up by reminding her, the Calvinists’ testimonies are going to be critical in the trial.” She had already known that, but Gavin didn’t need Owen to tell him that.

Owen couldn’t help but think about his own mom and dad. He couldn’t imagine either of them doing anything like this. He was sure they were capable of it, if it was to protect him or the rest of their family. But he couldn’t imagine it. And he didn’t know what it must be like to know, to know for absolute certain, that his parents were capable of murder.

So he just held Gavin’s hand. “Okay. I’ll make sure they’re protected.”

“Thank you.” He put another expense sheet in front of Owen. “Okay. This is a summary of unpaid taxes against some land we own near the mountains. This column here shows the amount owed as a gross figure…”

Gavin kept it up for another hour, outwardly totally back to normal. The only sign he gave that he was still bothered by the conversation with the queen was that he didn’t let go of Owen’s hand all afternoon.

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2 thoughts on “Dragon, 104

    1. It really is, and though I suspect Georgina doesn’t want to end up like her, it does seem like she plans to not end up like her by doing all the same things she did. An interesting strategy, really.

      Thanks!

      Like

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