Name: Weather the Blame
Prompt: Taking the blame.
Rating: T, because when has an Aranel fic been much less? My girl swears.
Spoiler Rating: Four out of five elf ears. Seriously, the only thing I’m bothering to conceal in this one is exactly why these events are occurring. Which… well, you might do the math, but then, you won’t know how it happened anyway.
Characters: Aranel (Elvensong) Roanoke, touches on Bastian, Anariel, Lydia, Haldir, Viridia, Ariadne, Achenar and Calla.
Summary: The tabloids have a field day at the expense of the Elvensong extended family, and Aranel is powerless to stop them.
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It wasn’t enough, Aranel knew now, to change things. You had to make people want them to be changed.
That was the hard part. There was always someone who preferred to stick their nose in other people’s business, to cling to whatever power they might have at the moment, to clutch their sameness to their chests and refuse, like a toddler, to let go.
She’d made a speech, once, about the politics of the word no. She’d stirred up the crowd – such a young crowd. She’d been so young. Half of the attendees hadn’t even been old enough to vote yet. They’d been the ones who papered the town, their schools, the clubs, with the red and green flyers. Vote, said the flyers, vote for anything so long as you vote for change.
And there had been so many who had. A majority. Enough.
But it wasn’t enough. There were always those who whispered, always those who said the cutting words that were weapons in their mouths, poison to the ears. They hadn’t been happy: and now the ones who screamed the loudest were the tabloids. Scandal. Curse.
Why couldn’t they leave her the fuck alone? What business of the press was a politician’s kid sister? They’d never been interested in Aranel’s family before. They’d only wanted pictures with her children, to prove that she was a mother, prove that she was a “family friendly choice,” whatever that meant.
There was something wrong with the whole family, the tabloids and the opposite campaigners, the commercials, yelled. An illness ran in it, a strange destiny. The middle daughter was a homewrecker, living with a newly-divorced actress. The mother had broken down in tears at a public event. The father was going senile, forgetting names and faces, forgetting to put the milk back in the refrigerator, and had been retired gently from the hospital when it became clear that his forgetfulness was a danger to the patients. The only people who seemed to be holding it together were the son and heir, and the oldest, the politician with the problem daughter, the one who could no longer make speeches, had no energy left. Why should she? Grass had grown over the grave, dirt piled over the emptiness that the river had snatched from them, rushed out to sea.
They’d looked into her birth certificate for the fourteenth time. She was a citizen, for god’s sake, they had her records on file. Just because she had pointy ears they assumed that she somehow didn’t truly belong here, as if her whole life had only been passing through, not stopping. And it wasn’t enough for them to attack her – she’d grown a skin of steel, not for nothing in the last two terms – oh no. They had to go after her family, her sister, her husband, her children. No, they hadn’t used money from Bastian’s job as an architect to fund her campaign. Despite the fact that it was, technically legal – despite the fact that her opponent had used his inherited profits from a massive canning factory – that had been the safety money, the if this all goes to hell we’ll still be able to put the kids through school money. They attacked his work, his art. They swarmed the campus to get a picture of Tanith’s newest piercing, headlines with her face popping out of news racks like demented daisies. Politician’s Daugther Goes Bad. Politician’s son tells reporters to fuck off and leave his sister alone. Politician’s nephew seconds the statement, and tells them where they can stick their cameras. Politican’s brother: Successful on His Own or Riding Sister’s Coattails? Sister-In-Law of Aranel Roanoke: Elected due to Family Influence? Recently Divorced Actress Living With Society Reporter, Sister of Politician: Their Affair and How it Shook the Film World.
She could see the headlines on her eyelids. They burned in her sleep.
Not as much as the gravestone, marking nothing, not even enough left to bury. They couldn’t find a thing. Even after the note, she had hoped.
Aranel needed to find the energy that had fled from her and poured into that grave as if it could reanimate the odds and ends they’d elected to bury in a tiny box. It was a time capsule of sorts: in her dreams for weeks, they’d dug it up together, like the box in the corner of the house that they’d laid in with the handprints of her children and a few laughing, irreverent lines. They had sworn that someone, someday, would want to demolish or remodel the house. Aranel had told her, give it fifty years. We’ll be old women when they open that box – you’ll have to bring it to me in the nursing home, I expect.
No, she’d said. They’d declare the house a monument, the historic house where the governor had lived, and they’d never tear it down in either of their lifetimes.
Such a short time to hold out hope for. They hadn’t had fifty years, and never would.
If she could get that energy back, just for a moment, she’d do something. She’d been chafing in silence far too long, dying to write blisters out of her fingers, dying to speak, to thunder, to rally the hue and cry and say it again.
We must work for it, but in the end we will make it all allright.
The energy and the joy of it was gone, the sense of sorting the world back into place. She could no longer see the wall that would grow from the brick she had laid. Still, she had the anger, but the anger was less and less of a bulwark against the overwhelming tide. Tomorrow, if she took the pitiful page she had penned, and railed against the newspapers, defended her family and her honor, they would take it and tear her to shreds on her own words. Defensive. Guilty. The innocent would never protest.
The innocent lay at the bottom of the river.
Of her bones, no coral was made, and no sepulcher to the breath of youth snatched away. Aranel still tended, on the wall of her office, that painful shrine to the past. It was the least she could do. If she had been less concerned with saving everyone, with changing everything, she might have been the hero. No matter what else she’d done, she had always protected her family, keeping them well away from the ugly side of politics, forbidding them knowledge of the hate, of the threats, of the mail passed through an x-ray scanner.
If she could have stood on the bridge and reached out, she would.
She had been the one who listened, and if she’d paid more attention, she would have seen the warnings, would have known what to say to make everything dark in the world, all the secrets, melt away. If she could go back in time to that day, when she had first stood on the stage, triumphant in presenting herself to the world, trapping an innocent hand in her own, she would have shut everyone she loved out of the political world for good. She’d even have given it all up, if she could only be sure. Aranel could only tell herself that it was the hate that had killed her, the casual malice and the cut-and-paste letters of fear and anger. And then the flood of tabloids had been unleashed, and all that Aranel could do now was grieve, and weather the blame.