Ari (creature of dust, child of God) (wisdomeagle) wrote,
Ari (creature of dust, child of God)
wisdomeagle

[ficrepost] "Emily of Blair Water (variations for Sax and Strings)" (Emily Byrd Starr et al)

Title: "Emily of Blair Water (Variations for Sax and Strings)"
Fandom: Emily of New Moon series [fusion with Some Like It Hot]
Featured Characters: Emily Byrd Starr, boy!Ilse Burnley, girl!Teddy Kent
Featured Relationships, Emily & Ilse (Elias), Emily & Teddy, various romantic subtexts, all based on the canons in question
Rating: Teen
Spoilers/Timeline: AU of the books, but versions of the events of Emily Climbs have happened. AU of the movie, but basically covers all of it.
Disclaimer: Transformative work not created for profit.
Notes: Written for [personal profile] mardia in yuletide 2011. Originally posted here
Summary: When two musicians witness a mob hit, they flee the country in an all female band...
Additional Ao3 tags: Trans Character, Alternate Universe - Gender Changes, Alternate Universe - Fusion, Friendship, Alternate Universe - Power Swap, Musicians
Wordcount: 5362



Emily of Blair Water (Variations for Sax and String)

Blair Water, a quiet, provincial town near the Canadian shore, was the last place where one would expect to witness violence of any kind. Occasionally husbands who could not control their wives resorted to nonverbal means, but these incidents were hidden behind neatly whitewashed doors, and the rough music of the Charivari could persuade the most recalcitrant husband that whatever crime he imagined in his wife, his own was worse. There were hired boys who hit mules with more force than needed, and of course, teachers who kept order with a rod well applied, but this violence was petty. Murder, if it were done, was done in secret, and rumors of poison and non-accidental drowning (the latter a particularly flirtatious girl, the former a husband whom the rough music couldn't quell) whispered through the landscape like the little gusts of wind that Douglas Starr was chasing now.

If Blair Water was the place least likely to be the scene of violence, Douglas Starr was the person least likely to witness it. If he heard the human gossip the winds bore, he never gave any outward sign of it, for Douglas preferred the Wind Woman's own news, of faraway ships she'd becalmed and closeby fishing coves where she'd teased fisherfolks' children with the taunting gusts that were her daughters.

Douglas was lying on his back, listening to the wind's tales, and would happily have remained oblivious to everything else until long past suppertime had his friend Elias Burnley not ventured to interrupt him. Douglas's aunts, Elizabeth and Laura, considered Elias a providential person even if he was a bastard -- Dr. Beatrice Burnley would have married Allan Mitchell, but the latter had fallen into an uncovered well, leaving his affianced in the family way. The scandal was a terrible thing, but without Elias, well -- Laura and Elizabeth had suspicions that without him, Douglas would be permanently lost to the world of dream, and, more worrying to the aunts, would become an incorrigible "sissy," the only word they had for nameless fears. In both these suspicions the aunts – and Blair Water gossip – were entirely correct.

Elias laughed. "Dozing off again, Doug?"

"Douglas," that worthy corrected automatically. "I'm composing."

When they had gone to the High School in Shrewsbury, Elias had tested into advanced musical composition, and with a cohort of boys their age had formed a little band – a very little band, Douglas had reassured Aunt Ruth repeatedly, tiny, practically invisible, just a few friends who played at establishments that absolutely didn't serve any alcohol (Aunt Ruth, thoroughly anti-American in all her other sentiments, was nonetheless a longstanding member of the Christian Ladies Temperance League, and if she had to behave decently to Methodists to prohibit the creature, well, her soul was worth less than those of all the promising young men Lost to Drink. On the subject of alcohol Ruth could speak quite plainly in capitals and sometimes, to Douglas's astonishment, she used exclamation points, the demon punctuation no doubt suited perfectly to discussing demon water).

Douglas, of course, had been forbidden the band – and had the Murrays known that Elias had learned to play the saxophone instead of some conventional instrument, Douglas wouldn't have been allowed even the occasional concert – but nonetheless his musical inclinations were... well, quite plainly they were embarrassing to his kinsfolk and baffling to his friends, except for Cousin Jimmy, who had taught him to play the fiddle when Douglas had first come to New Moon.

"You'll be needing something to clear your mind," Jimmy had said. "Something pure, now. And there's nothing purer than a tune on a fiddle by the boiling pigs' potatoes some frosty night."

"I have plenty to entertain me," Douglas had said, affronted, for the idea that a child needed any occupation other than play and exercise and his own thoughts had been foreign to Douglas Senior. "The ideas in my head are always good friends."

"Nevertheless, nevertheless. Time will come when you'll be desperate for some thoughts that aren't yours. So here's your player, little fiddle, and mind you be good to him."

"Don't you mean I'm to be good to it?"

"It's a she, little fiddler, and you're hers, now and always."

Jimmy could play, and taught Douglas – or rather, taught him the mechanics, for Douglas was born with music in his soul, and once he met his fiddle, the fiddle did more teaching than Jimmy could. Jimmy shook his head at that, but kept his peace and was not the slightest bit surprised. He too had been born for Continental concert halls and American speakeasies, but he was long ago resigned to the accident that had relegated him to the shores of Blair Water. He was less resigned to the gnawing suspicion that some terrible accident would prevent Douglas, too, from living the life he was born for, but he hadn't the words for that fear, and even if he had, he wouldn't have been able to tell Douglas, eyes alight at the first notes squeaking from his instrument.

Elias shoved Douglas and sent him rolling down the hill. "You're boring when you're quiet."

"I'm not boring to me," said Douglas.

"I'm bored with everything," said Elias. "I want to be gone from Blair Water, gone, gone, gone."

"So take your saxophone and go."

"Not without you."

"I'll be fine here alone," Douglas said, only half meaning it. Here of course, was home, and he'd never be quite perfectly contented anywhere else – some instinct told him that even the little house in the hollow, once dreamed of so often, would be too small for his soul now, and that some bitter memories would have grown up like ivy on the carefully whitewashed walls of the house where he'd lived with his father. But alone -- oh, where did Cousin Jimmy learn prophecy, that he should have known ten years ago that Douglas would learn to find his own company, not dull, but terrifying....

"Of course you'll be fine. You're such a homebody, Doug. But think what scrapes I'd get in without you to keep cool."

"Then I suppose we'll both stay here," Douglas said, and in a moment he constructed a life for himself and his bosom friend, living in the Disappointed House, playing at Shrewsbury concerts and Christmas fairs, earning a meager living from the New Moon farmland and the inheritance that would one day be Elias's – and then the shots. Soft percussive shots that goosepimpled Douglas's whole body and made him reach instinctively for Elias's hand, which he was still clutching when an ancient, weathered, evil looking man spotted them, glanced at a mound of rags that was, Douglas knew in his bones, a corpse, and glanced back at the boys with murder in his eyes.

"RUN!" Elias called, dragging Douglas after him. There was no need for the command. Douglas ran as if running from the devil, faster than he'd ever run while chasing moonbeams.

"This isn't the end of this!" echoed in their ears as they darted through the overgrown Tomorrow Road, taking paths that no foreign mobster would recognize, and found themselves in the Disappointed House, two lean, boyish bodies flung next to the empty hearth, panting for breath.

"We've got to leave town now, said Elias, who recovered his breath first. "You can't argue with that."

"He shot that man," Douglas said.

"I mean, with your fiddle and my sax, we could make a living, couldn't we, somewhere far away, out west – there's always a place for itinerant musicians, you read about it in stories."

"He shot him."

"And he'll shoot us!" Elias said. "A gun. A gun in Blair Water. Douglas, I'll tell you what, we might as well leave for the States, if there are guns and mobsters in Blair Water. No place is safe."

Douglas rubbed his eyes, trying to wipe the horror from them. "How will we get to America, Elias? How will we earn a living? Hiding from American mobsters in America? It seems..."

"We don't even know they're American. We don't even know they're mobsters!"

"Oh? Who else might they be? Radical Grits, I suppose?"

"All right," Elias said. "But listen, I have a wonderful idea... I can get us into America, and then you can write to Mr. Royal once we're there."

"No."

"But Douglas, you know he'll be glad to help you --"

"No. Elias, Mr. Royal is not ... nice ... to young -- men -- like me."

"What do you mean, young men like you?"

"If you can get us to America, I suppose that would be the last place mobsters would look for us, but I am not writing to Mr. Royal. Not for this. Not for any reason."

Mr. James Royal had cooed over Douglas in Shrewsbury, lavishly admiring both his playing and the fae little musical compositions he'd begun to write, and he'd insisted that there were speakeasies in New York where Douglas would be much admired, even sought after, that he would find happiness that would ever elude him in the backwaters of Canada.

"There are men there --" Mr. Royal had said, and trailed off suggestively. Douglas had blushed, hating himself for it, and pretended he didn't understand, even when Mr. Royal had trailed a finger down his cheek.

"We won't write to Mr. Royal," Douglas repeated. "But tell me your scheme for going south."

"I saw an advertisement in the Shrewsbury paper," Elias said, excited now despite his fear. "A musical agent, looking for a saxophonist and bass fiddler to join a touring band! Needs us right away, and all travel's paid for."

"And the very small complication in this plan?"

"What complication?"

"The one I know you aren't telling me about."

"Well...," Elias said, preparing to wheedle.

"What?"

"It's a girls' band."

Elias, who was straightforward and manly in most things, and boyishly mischievous in all else, was puzzled by Douglas's response. Douglas didn't speak for a minute, then when he did he said, choking, "Girls?" and then he seemed to go a queer color -- not red with anger or shame, but white, paler than ice.

"It won't be so bad," Elias said, responding to what he wished Douglas had said. "We'll gig ourselves out in the aunts' old clothes, snitch some of Mum's things, maybe buy some new hats with your Christmas money, practice speaking squeaky -- no worries. And once we find a nice place to crash we'll give up the girls and revert to ourselves, free and clear, and no one will trace us from Blair Water to our new home."

"Girls," said Douglas, who'd never, as far as Elias knew, glanced at any girl twice, not when he was eleven and utterly ignored vile Rhoda Stuart's blatant flirtations, not when he was fourteen and made an enemy of Evelyn Blake by telling her coolly that her dress was lovely but her face never would be until she stopped scowling.

"I know it won't be easy for you, playing the gentleman --"

"Playing the lady."

"Well, sure, playing the lady. Keeping your hands to yourself."

"That's not the part that will be difficult," said Douglas.

"What are you afraid of, walking in pinchy shoes? Wearing makeup?"

"Makeup? You know Aunt Elizabeth would never -- "

"Let you dress in girls' clothes anyhow, so why does it matter?"

"A Murray of New Moon does not paint her face," said Douglas. He sounded just like Aunt Elizabeth, but he wasn't quoting.

++

"So," Elias said, staring at the long line of very girlish girls who were struggling with instrument cases and trunks full of clothes that were doubtless far nicer than the ones that he and Douglas had managed to alter from the collection that the Misses Murray and Elias's mother had outgrown (in the case of the practical Laura), grown too old for (Elizabeth, of course), or grown tired of (Dr. Burnley; no one at New Moon wasted good clothes). "So, I think I'll go with Ilse. So if you slip, and start to say my real name, you'll just sound shy. And you can be Dorothy."

"Girls!" Sweet Sue waved them over. "Ah, sax. And bass. Oh, thank goodness you're here."

"I'm Ilse." Elias grinned warmly.

"I'm Emily," said Emily, and there, on the platform, feeling wobbly in shoes that Aunt Elizabeth would never approve of (and wobbly in her stomach, thinking, what would the Murrays think? Am I disgraced beyond redemption?, the flash came to her, vivid and sharp, and for an instant she could have described it, if only she'd had her fiddle at hand. She could have replicated that chord that reverberated through her body --

right

right

right.

"Hello, Emily," said Sue, "Welcome aboard."

"Hurry, 'Emily,'" said Elias, nudging her, his energy and fear buzzing around his blonde wig like a halo. "Let's find our berth."

"Oh, I've found mine," Emily said, and the slow smile that curled her face to the tips of her ears, the one that gave Elias the creeps, met an answering smile from a fluffy blonde.

"Teddy Baehr," she said. "Welcome to the circus." Though she kept smiling, there was no humor in her eyes.

"Emily Starr. And Ilse Burnley."

"You gals want a little comfort?"

"I'm pretty broken up over heading out of Canada," said Ilse. "I might need a big glass of comfort."

"Oh that's not what I meant," said Teddy, but clearly it was. Ilse moved on, bored with innuendo, to exchange ribald jokes with the other girls, and Teddy found herself a seat toward the rear of the car, false smile gone, despair coloring her face.

"What's wrong?" Emily asked, scooting in beside her.

"I don't fit with these girls, is what's wrong," said Teddy. "Never fit in with any of the girls."

Emily was appalled to realize that Teddy's breath smelled of liquor, and she shrank back, but asked, "Have you been traveling with them long?"

"Not long," said the girl. "Just long enough to know they're like all the others."

"What do you mean?"

"Jealous of a pretty face," said Teddy, who had a very pretty face, although Emily noted disapprovingly that it was painted garishly and that her mascara was smearing with tears. "Ready to throw me to the dogs."

"The dogs?"

"Men," said the girl. "I used to go around with mixed groups, but the men were all pigs and the girls were more than willing to let them be -- to me. They stuck together okay."

"Why don't they like you?" Emily asked. "You seem very -- kind."

"Boys like me. And I like them. Ever since Daddy -- " she offered a half-smile. "You probably know, being so pretty yourself."

"My father loved me," Emily said, wondering if it was a lie -- if Douglas Starr Sr. would have loved his only daughter, if he'd have thought her beautiful -- or only ridiculous. "But he loved other things too. Beauty, and poetry, and music, and the memory of my mother."

"And he named you Emily Starr," the girl said, shaking her head. "And you've got purple eyes and pointed ears." (Emily, in the spirit of friendship, did not grimace. She did not enjoy her ears, which had led to the teasing and laughter and occasional fisticuffs that elfin boys often encounter.) "You're some kind of magic, aren't you? And my father loved nothing but me, but I'm just Teddy Baehr."

"You're really named --?"

"Well, no. I'm Theodora Kent, but I changed it, because --"

"I understand," Emily said hurriedly. She'd also changed her name. (Although, no, she hadn't. She'd always been Emily and just hadn't realized it until that moment on the platform.)

"Listen, Emily, we should pal around. You're new with the group, you don't know how things are yet. You can bunk with me when we come ashore in Florida."

"I think I'd better stay with El -- Ilse," said Emily regretfully. "This is all so new for us."

Ilse was leaning across three girls' laps, singing in a passable falsetto a song that Emily was quite sure she'd never heard in Blair Water.

Teddy lowered her eyelashes and grinned. "Shy, huh?"

Emily practiced the trick with her own eyelashes and though the effect was ruined a bit by Teddy being the recipient, she could feel power growing inside her. Someday, people wouldn't wonder whether her eyes were gray or purple -- they'd know that they were magic.

(Once we settle down, we'll go back to being boys...)

"You okay?" Teddy asked, and rested a hand on Emily's shoulder, a playful, comforting gesture.

Douglas had hated girls with a passionate jealousy and flinched from their touch, certain that someone would put a hand on him and know every secret. But Teddy, despite her flirting and the pocket flask of bourbon that she now revealed, was utterly innocent, and Emily could have kissed her. She smiled at herself and did, gently, on the cheek. "I never had any girlfriends, back home."

"What about Ilse?"

"Well, except for Ilse," Emily agreed, observing that Elias was now in the middle of a pile of girl musicians who were tussling playfully over some desirable and undoubtedly alcoholic object. "She's always been... good to me."

"I never had any girlfriends neither," Teddy said. "First cos Daddy kept me home, and then cos the boys kept me out."

"But we'll be friends," Emily said, fervently. Some part of her wanted to swear an oath to it, to seal this moment forever, pure girlhood between two pure girls, but she was too old; she'd missed that moment.

"You're looking tired. We'd better turn in for the night. Long day of practicing tomorrow, and Sweet Sue is a slave driver. Nothing sweet about her. Not like me -- or you."

++

For Ilse, Florida was an adventure -- bathing every day, in such a skimpy bathing dress that Emily blushed for her, and playing sax every night, and the pert bellboy to flirt with -- his name was Perry, he was putting himself through law school at night by carrying bags by day and wouldn't they tip him extra for his honesty? -- Ilse did, and kissed him for his troubles.

But for Emily, every sunbeam taunted her, reminded her, you're lying; you have to go back. Loud sounds startled her, and reminded her of faraway gunshots, and Dean Priest, the hunch-shouldered, leering millionaire "on loan from the Orient, where my heart belongs" frightened her.

"I think he can see through me," she told Ilse, late one night. (All of Ilse's altered frocks had been in the room all evening, but Ilse had been mysteriously absent).

"So long as he doesn't share your secrets with any mobsters, we're golden. Speaking of golden, isn't Teddy's hair the prettiest --!"

"I can't believe you're dead gone on someone named Teddy Baehr," Emily said. "And I can't believe you're thinking of giving up your disguise that easily."

"It won't be easy," said Ilse, and then the wig came off and he was Elias. He was always Elias, really, with a wicked twinkle in his eye. "I have designs on that girl, but she's so damned --"

"Language! And in front of a lady." Emily was honestly shocked.

"Douglas." Elias frowned. "You're not a lady."

"My name is Emily," said Emily. "Tell me more about Teddy. Politely."

"Well, she's... she's a honey, is what she is. She's been bruised so much her heart's black and blue, but inside she's pure sugar."

"Can't you talk sense?"

"Only when I play," said Elias, and it was true. When they played -- when Emily's fingers found the strings of her fiddle and she closed her eyes, when Elias bent deep into his sax -- it felt like they were telling the truth, and were the friends they'd always been. "And when Teddy sings, oh boy."

"Oh dear."

"What about you? Dolores is a pretty number, isn't she? And funny. You could use someone funny, Doug."

"My name is Emily."

"Well then... well, what about Mr. Priest? He hangs around you often enough."

"I told you, he can see through me. It terrifies me, Elias."

"I notice you aren't protesting that he's a man?"

Emily bit her lip.

"Listen, Douglas... it was fun, right? And it's a little bit necessary, and it's nice to fool men, like poor Perry, who thinks I'm meeting him this evening for cocktails on the roof. But it's not real. You know that, right? I'm starting to think..."

"It's real for me," Emily said, looking at her hands. "It always has been. You're cutting your hair, right?"

"Course I am. Had to get Perry to drive me two towns over to do it, too, and then lost him in a crush of tourists, changed in a back alley, hid the wig in a dumpster, got myself covered in soot, overtipped the barber, and by the time I was back with Perry I was so confused I let him take liberties."

"Why?"

"Well, you know, he's not a bad looking fellow, and when you're wearing a skirt, it's almost like it's begging to be pushed up..."

"I don't feel that way at all," Emily felt obliged to say. "And I know that your mother would be quite disappointed."

"Dr. Burnley, arbiter of convention, really? The woman doctor who bore me out of wedlock?"

"Well, maybe not your mother. But still... aren't you a bit ashamed?"

"To be teasing him, maybe," Elias said. "But he's enjoying it almost as much as I am, if you want the truth. And you know he wouldn't know what to do if he landed me."

"You see, I'm growing my hair," Emily explained. She removed her wig. The dark black hair that framed her face was neatly trimmed in a shaggy pageboy. One day, it would reach her shoulders, and then the wig could be discarded.

"I... I don't know a thing to say that isn't a swear, and if I think about it I'll probably fly into a temper and I know I'll regret that in the morning. So I'd better shut up."

"And I'd better go."

"Go where?"

"I'm going dancing with Dean Priest. He asked me, and I'm glad. He knows I'm a woman."

Dean certainly did know Emily's womanliness, and she let him admire all of it that evening. She had become quite practiced at the eyelash trick, and had learned a few things she could do with her hands, and of course her smile wasn't learned at all. It had looked strange on a boy named Douglas, but was enchanting in a woman named Emily.

She had thought it would be difficult to relearn dancing, when Aunt Laura had drilled her and drilled her and reminded her constantly that she must always lead -- she hadn't wanted to, and now she knew why, as she fell back into the old and childish and infinitely comfortable habit of letting someone else choose. When she closed her eyes, she could forget that it was Dean who was leading her. The beat of the tango took control of both of them, and Emily forgot to worry that her aunts would disapprove. Music, wild and elemental.

"You belong to the dance, you know," Dean said, between songs. "It owns you utterly. If any man could learn to play like the celestial chorus in your head, you'd belong to him forever."

"My friend Elias is the best musician I know," said Emily, honestly, for the moment not worrying about their disguise. "And he doesn't own me in the slightest."

"That's what you think," Dean told her, and gestured for her to rejoin the dance. But the spell was broken, and she was feeling tired.

"Take me home," she said, and for a moment Dean's eyes lit up, and he thought she meant, and she had meant, for a moment, but then better sense and good breeding and a thousand lectures took control. "To the hotel. To my room."

Sounds of splashing and laughter came from her room, though, and though Emily was glad Elias was enjoying his bath, she thought it would take Elias at least till morning to be on speaking terms with her again, so she knocked on Teddy's door instead.

"What's wrong, honey?" asked Teddy. "Boy trouble?"

"I suppose," Emily said, and a confession was on her lips, but the sweet, round, bubbliness of Teddy's laughter made her change her mind. Instead she said, "When I was a -- girl, I thought the Wind was alive. I called her the Wind Woman, and chased her through forests and across fields and almost to her home, but I never caught her."

"I grew up in Kansas," said Teddy. "Wind's a scary thing, Kansas way. You know what a tornado sounds like?"

"What?"

"A freight train, coming right for you, bearing down, closer and closer till wham, you're dead." She was quiet a minute. "Let's not talk about home."

And Emily realized, with a rush of pain that almost became tears, that she was more homesick than she'd ever been in Shrewsbury, more homesick than she'd been in all the weeks that she and Elias had been traveling. She'd never dared admit it before, but she'd wanted to be here, wanted to escape, wanted to wear this dress and grow her hair and be called Emily and be petted by a sweet girl who'd had a hard life, but now more than anything she wanted to be at New Moon. But Emily could never return to New Moon, not now, not like this, and not because of the mobster, either.

"What will you do after the tour?" she asked.

Teddy shrugged. "Find another band, I guess. That's what I'm always doing. Finding another band."

"You sing beautifully. You're good enough for something... real."

"What's realer than Sweet Sue?"

"I mean, something more cultured. More prestigious." (Something like James Royal had promised her.)

"Sounds nice. That what you want? To fiddle your way to Carnegie Hall?"

Emily thought for a moment. "I want to play, I know that. I never wanted anything else. Or... everything else I wanted was a piece of the music, and I just wished I could live in the fiddle strings, or make the tune come alive. I want to be the song I play."

"That's... that's a nice thought, Emily. Singing was never like that for me. It was just a way out of Kansas, and now it's just a way into saxophonist's hearts."

"Sax, huh?"

"Like your friend Ilse. Isn't that funny? She's the first saxophonist I met I didn't fall madly in love with."

Emily wanted to offer counsel, comfort. She said, "Don't you think men would respect you more if you had an ambition beyond finding a husband?"

This thought proved too impossible for Teddy, who burst into tears. When her sobbing subsided to sniffles, she said, "It'd be easier to think that way if I weren't so lonely, though."

"You've got the girls in the band. And me. We're friends for always."

"I mean a man and you know it."

"Teddy, you don't need a man --"

"Don't you ever get lonely at night? When it's cold out, maybe, and when you're tired of traveling and smiling and flirting with cheap tourists, and eating lousy food?"

"Of course I get lonely, but not for that. I'm lonely for home." Candles instead of electric lights, and the good, wholesome smells of Aunt Laura cooking or Aunt Elizabeth baking. Her mother's bedroom, stripped of all the feminine fripperies that Aunt Elizabeth had found, but still imbued with the essence of Juliet.

"You should go back then," Teddy said, sadly. "Even though I'll miss you heaps. Besides, I've got something... secret."

"Secret?"

"One of the tourists, he's been coming around every other evening or so, and he's... not like the others."

"Oh?" Emily had the strong suspicion that Teddy said words like these about twice a year.

"His name's Elias."

And again, Emily almost let out the truth, but something dark in her mind pulled her back, and she left the room quickly after a few more pleasantries. She longed to be able to stay and giggle over Elias, but even if it hadn't been Elias, even if it had been a stranger, she didn't have it in her. Not with Teddy. Not about any man, not with with any girl, not until she was certain.

"Good night, Emily. Thanks for listening. You're the sweetest girl in the world," Teddy said tiredly.

But then again, she was certain. She'd always been certain, and if Ellen Greene's God thought she was going to hell or if Aunt Ruth thought she was disgracing the family name, those were only minor objections voiced by mean, petty women.

Emily was a woman, and not a petty one, and when she slept that night, she dreamt of herself for the first time the way she ought to have been.

She was small, with perfect white hands and long, dark hair -- and yes, with pointed ears, alas -- and she was in a strange town, but somewhere in Canada, she knew, by the shore, watching men quickly loading a freighter with enormous wooden kegs. A sound like a tornado filled her ears and hurt her head, but when she looked around, the sky was clear. She shook away her fear, and stared at the man who was supervising the loading. She watched as he barked orders, watched as he shot his cuffs and adjusted his spats, watched as he pitched headfirst into the bay, two bullet holes in his back.

In the morning, she said calmly, though her heart was ice, "It's safe now. He's dead."

"You can't know that, Dou -- Emily."

"I do," she said, and in a few short words described the dream.

"I guess it's the same way you knew the truth of what happened to my father?"

"Yes."

"And the Bradshaw baby?"

"Let's not speak of it anymore, Elias. I know that he's dead, and you can -- you can throw out your wig and your mother's old clothes, and go back to being what you want to be."

"And what will you do?"

"I'm going to go tell Perry that you've gone off after another beau and see if he'll let me heal his broken heart."

"Really! Emily, you're a regular --"

"I'm just regular," Emily said. "And one day, I will return to New Moon."

Elias frowned. "You know that my mother would be -- well, if you need something. You could do worse than looking in on Mother, before you... before you try to face the Murrays."

"I'm not afraid of facing them. I'm afraid of.... I might have to leave, and if I knew I couldn't return to New Moon... I wouldn't be able to bear it. I simply wouldn't."

"So wait," Elias said. "Dance with Dean again. Dance with Perry, gossip with Teddy, tell her what a swell catch I am, tell Perry the truth and he'll probably just smile at you like it's an early Christmas present, hang out here until --"

"Until Aunt Elizabeth is dead and Aunt Laura is senile and someone named Douglas Starr inherits my home? No, Elias, it's a thoughtful offer, but I have to go home now."

"Even if it will break your heart? Emily, I --" Elias paused. "I've loved you like a brother, and I will love you like a sister, but I don't understand about you and New Moon. Haven't you enjoyed Florida? Dancing and flirting and swimming --"

"It's disgusting, your bathing dress."

"Well, then, not swimming. Still, Emily, it's been like a dream --"

"Yes. But I don't want to wake up."

"So don't. Stay."

"I can't live in a dream. I can't live with 'Emily' being a disguise I wear, and I can't live with people who never knew -- who never knew springtime by Blair Water, who never knew Jimmy boiling the pigs' potatoes, who never heard me fiddle the way I was meant to, underneath the moon in autumn and inside a warm kitchen on Christmas evening while Aunt Laura bakes Christmas cookies and Aunt Elizabeth knits. I belong there, Elias. I always have."

"So you're going home."

"Yes."

"As Emily."

"Well, yes. Emily's the only person I've ever been."


Also at DW: http://wisdomeagle.dreamwidth.org/1093311.html. Comment here, or join the conversation there, where there is/are comment count unavailable comment(s).
Tags: books: emily of new moon, movies: some like it hot, my fanfic, transgender, yuletide
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