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Welcome to Charming, the year is now 1894. It’s time to join us and immerse yourself in scandal and drama interlaced with magic both light and dark.

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Queen Victoria was known for putting jackets and dresses on her pups, causing clothing for dogs to become so popular that fashion houses for just dog clothes started popping up all over Paris. — Fox
It would be easy to assume that Evangeline came to the Lady Morgana only to pick fights. That wasn't true at all. They also had very good biscuits.
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Ghosts of Christmas Present
20 December, 1891 — Greengrass Home

Normally Ford liked Christmas, but since they'd put up the tree this year he'd been avoiding the parlor whenever he could. It was easier said than done; the house was too small for the lot of them already, and there weren't many spaces to just exist beyond the parlor. He could only spend so much time in his room, and even then he could see holiday decorations outside his window if he glanced that direction. Twice in the last week he'd even heard caroling from the street, so there really was no escaping it.

He liked Christmas. He'd even managed to get the money to work, supplying Grace and Clem with their allowances to go buy presents, by picking up extra afternoon shifts earlier that month that no one in the division wanted. So he'd been screamed at by a few ghouls — worse things had happened. If it was just the money and he would have been over the Christmas anxiety the minute he handed allowances off, because in the past two years he'd found enough tricks to get his own shopping done for next to nothing. There was something still gnawing at him though, something unresolved that was brought to mind every time he glimpsed the tree or heard bells or smelled something laden with cinnamon from the kitchen: he hadn't bought a present for Macnair. He didn't know if he was supposed to, and didn't know if Macnair was planning to get him anything. They hadn't made any firm plans to see each other the rest of the week, and Ford had been avoiding the club except for his conversations with Cash so that he had less of a chance of running into him by accident. Maybe he was overthinking it — but he couldn't stop overthinking it.

They weren't supposed to still be together. Macnair should have broken things off by now. Ford was starting to worry that he wouldn't.

What was Ford going to do if they saw each other on Christmas Eve or something and Macnair had some wonderful, thoughtful (probably expensive) gift to give him, and Ford was empty handed? On the other hand, how would he ever recover if he spent hours trying to find the perfect gift, and handed it off just to be met with the breakup he'd been expecting for so long?

He'd been in his room for an hour after dinner, but it was too early to go to sleep and he wasn't tired yet anyway. He headed to the parlor and tried to avoid looking at the tree while he poured himself a drink. Noble was there, though, and he couldn't just leave after making a drink. That would be obviously weird, when he didn't have any good excuse for where he was going. With a short, internal sigh, he moved to one of the armchairs and dropped down.

"Finished your gift shopping yet?" he asked, without much enthusiasm.
Noble Greengrass Cassius Lestrange

Set by Lady!
Noble was drinking a hot chocolate with brandy in it, having given up on productivity for the evening. He was reading an academic article on different antidote-brewing methods, even though he didn't expect to change anything about the way he brewed potions. All this was to say that he was bored, and so when Ford walked into the parlor Noble tucked the magazine away, secretly hoping for conversation.

"I have a bit left," Noble admitted, no more enthusiastic than Ford was. He was going to have to sell something expensive to be able to cover it — he could write to his more wealthy clients, and see if any of them were in need of a beauty potion or other nonsense. (This was why the idea he'd been kicking around was so bad — he wasn't sure he could afford it.)

It seemed odd for Ford to be like this, with the whole tone, although there were plenty of reasons for him to be. (The finances, the wedding, whatever else it was Ford did with his time.) Noble raised his eyebrows at his brother.

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set by MJ
For a second he thought he was going to get away with a superficial conversation about holiday shopping and nothing more, but then Noble raised his eyebrows. That was as good as a question, where the two of them were concerned, and it wasn't like Ford could just ignore it. If he ignored it, that was only an invitation for Noble to bring it up more forcefully; ignoring was like lighting up a beacon that said no, I'm not okay! So he had to say something, but he didn't know what he could say. He wasn't going to tell Noble the whole story, but there was no partial truth that made any sense with the rest of the context missing. No one would be this anxious about whether or not to buy a gift for a friend or acquaintance.

But it wasn't really about the present. It was really about whether or not they were staying together. Macnair had given every indication that he wanted to keep things just as they'd been, but Ford still couldn't believe it. No matter what Macnair said or did, Ford was still always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It had to be coming sooner or later, because there was a baby coming. Surely Macnair wouldn't want to sneak out to spend the night with him when he was a father — and if he hadn't realized it yet, then presumably he would when it actually happened. The pregnancy had put an expiration date on their relationship, even if they were both trying to deny it for the moment. It did have an expiration date. Macnair wouldn't keep seeing him in a year, or two, or three.

Ford didn't like thinking about Macnair and his wife, or Macnair and his child. He didn't like picturing them being a happy little family together. But the alternative was even worse, somehow; he couldn't stomach the idea that Macnair would keep this up, skipping out on time with his child to come cuddle with Ford in the evenings.

"I've been thinking about things," he said in Noble's direction, though he was actually looking at his drink as he spoke. He tilted the glass to one side until the ice in the drink shifted and caught the light at a different angle. "This, ah, might seem like sort of an insane question, but... do you think someone can be a bad father and still be a good person?"

Set by Lady!
Noble watched Ford play with his glass, and frowned to himself. "No," he said, almost right away, when Ford asked the question. He didn't even have to really think about it. He thought of their own parents, who were glaringly flawed but had certainly loved them — even with Noble's anger towards their father, he knew Papa had loved them — and he thought of Henrietta's parents, her mother, who did not seem to love her children as anything more than a means to an end. She was a bad person.

"I mean — how are they a bad father? But no —" he shook his head even as he posed the question; it was less that he actually thought there was nuance, and more that Noble thought he was perhaps being too rigid, too quickly. "— people who have children owe it to their children to be good parents."

Children were little blank slates who hadn't done anything wrong; they deserved love and care from fathers who had chosen to inflict the world on them.

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set by MJ
Ford frowned at his drink. On the one hand, if he'd been hoping for a different answer, he should have asked someone else. He knew how Noble felt about their father, at least after he'd died and Ford had told Noble about all the debts. If anyone was going to equivocate in defense of bad fathers, it wasn't going to be Noble. On the other hand, there wasn't anyone else to whom Ford could have asked a question like that. It wasn't just that he trusted Noble and valued his opinion, though of course he did. It was precisely because Noble knew everything Ford did about their father. He'd grown up with the same experiences — being cared about, cared for, loved — and then experienced the same whiplash after their father had passed on. He'd been instilled with the same set of values. For all of his outward anger at their father, Ford thought he must have still been conflicted, somewhere deep down. Ford had said this was an insane question, but it was probably one Noble had considered before at some point, just as Ford had. The answer had just never been as immediately relevant to his life before as it was now that he was in the unenviable position of enabling someone to be a bad father.

"Yeah," Ford said with a sigh. He curled into the chair a little more. "That's what I was thinking, too."

Set by Lady!
Noble watched Ford curl into the chair, and frowned again. He leaned back in his own seat and pushed his free hand through his hair. "Someone can do bad things and still be a good person," he said after a beat. Noble knew that well enough — he'd done some bad things, some unforgivable things, with Henrietta. But he was trying to make up for them, so he couldn't be a bad person, right? Just a — neutral person, and maybe he would know he was a good person again when the dead stopped clawing at him in his dreams.

"But not to their children, I don't think."

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set by MJ
Ford also privately considered himself a good person who had done bad things, so he was relieved to hear Noble agree that it was possible. Macnair probably wouldn't have agreed, because he apparently didn't feel any sort of moral qualms at all about carrying on an affair with someone after marrying his wife, but Ford was still conflicted about it. Not conflicted enough to call things off, clearly, but he wasn't about to argue that his seeing Macnair was a good deed. But things were different between Macnair and his wife, apparently — they didn't love each other, and they had no expectation that they ever would, which made all the difference in Macnair's mind. While Ford couldn't put all his moral qualms on the subject to rest, this explanation had at least muffled them enough that he could keep on with their relationship. He wouldn't be able to do the same if Macnair tried to equivocate about why he didn't need to spend time with his child.

But he didn't really want to believe that they'd get that far. He wanted to think better of the man he'd professed to be in love with. He didn't want to think Macnair was a bad person — he didn't want to be in love with a bad person — and so he was currently wavering between the ideas that either Macnair hadn't realized the depth of commitment required to raise a child yet (but would, certainly, once the baby was born) or that he knew things were ending and was unwilling to lose out on any of the little time they had left. If that was the case, though, things might continue on in this way right up until the day the child was born. Was that what Ford wanted? And what if Macnair tried to continue on after the child was born? He might conceivably make the argument that a baby didn't need much time and attention, when one had nurses and they weren't even forming real memories anyway, but in that case where did the finish line move to? The child's first birthday, the third, the fifth? Would it ever end at that point, or would things just slide into a new sort of stasis where Ford kept muffling his feelings about the morality of all this in order to hang on to Macnair? What if he was in love with a bad person?

"Do you think they know what's good and bad all the time?" he asked Noble, with a heavy frown. "Or do you think someone could be a bad father by mistake?" And then the next question: did the intention matter, if the impact was the same?

Set by Lady!
Noble tilted his head and considered. "If they're a bad father without realizing," he said, "Then they're careless." Their father, certainly, had been careless — even Noble did not believe that he had maliciously lost all the money, but what difference did intentions make, in the end? That didn't count for anything; the Greengrass' pockets were just as empty whether their father had intended to screw them over or not.

"That doesn't make a difference, to me, with children."

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set by MJ
They may have been talking about Macnair, but the word careless stung as though it had been directed at Ford. Perhaps it ought to have been, after his conversation with Cash earlier that month. Noble had been interested in a girl and had broken things off in order to focus on their family, so he was unlikely to have much sympathy for Ford prolonging the inevitable here in the hopes of squeezing a few more days out of the relationship. Ford could tell Cash things weren't fair, but Noble wasn't going to be deflected by such a paltry statement — he knew it wasn't fair, and he was still here in the thick of things all the same.

"You're right," he admitted with another sigh. Careless was the kind of word that stung, but it was an apt way to label the kind of person Ford was describing. He didn't want to think of Macnair as careless, and it was hard to reconcile it with how thoughtful and attentive he'd been to Ford at various points in their relationship, but Noble was right. If he was a bad father on purpose, he wasn't the sort of person Ford could stay with; if he was a bad father on accident, he was careless, and Ford couldn't be with someone careless. Not when there was so much at stake. And even when they were being careful, Cash had figured it out, so maybe it didn't matter in the end anyway. Maybe this wasn't as much of a dilemma as he was making it out to be in his mind. The answer had been staring him in the face the whole time, he just didn't want to see it.

"Most of the time when I talk to you, I already know everything you're going to say," he continued, half making a joke of it. "I don't know why I keep doing it."

Set by Lady!
Noble grinned. "We know each other too well," he said. His earnestness on the next statement was unplanned, and it surprised him: "But you're always the person I want to talk to when I need to talk to someone real." He didn't know what the difference was between Ford and other people — obviously other people were real — but no one else would be honest with him when Noble needed it like his brother would.

And maybe that was why he hadn't told him what he was thinking about his career — saying it out loud would make it real, and he thought he knew what Ford would say, because Noble was being ridiculous about it and he knew it, too.

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set by MJ
Ford smiled wistfully at the crack about knowing each other too well, but it fell away as Noble continued. Ford knew exactly what he meant by someone real. He couldn't have articulated it to anyone else, but it resonated with him right away and he knew he felt the same. Sometimes he wished he didn't have to talk to Noble about so many things — often, really, because he knew that all of this was too much of a burden on Noble and he didn't deserve the weight of it any more than Ford did. All the same, if he had to talk to someone about something important, Noble would always be his first choice.

"I'm glad you're my brother," he said earnestly. Circumstances being what they were, Ford probably would have had to confide in his younger brother no matter what sort of relationship they had — but having a brother like Noble made it easier.

The following 1 user Likes Fortitude Greengrass's post:
   Noble Greengrass

Set by Lady!
This last year hadn't been easy for either of them, Noble said, so he grinned at Ford's comment. He lifted his drink in his brother's direction like a mock-salute. "I'm glad you're my brother, too," he said, and meant it. They were lucky to have one another — maybe they weren't lucky in anything else, but Noble didn't think either of them could have handled the family situation if they were alone.

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set by MJ

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