ptahrrific: Jon and Stephen, "Believe in the me who believes in you" (fake news)
Erin Ptah ([personal profile] ptahrrific) wrote2011-11-17 12:20 am
Entry tags:

Fake News: Castles in the Sand, part 2

Title: Castles In The Sand (2/10)
Rating: PG-13
Pairings/Characters: Olivia/Kristen, Jon/c!Stephen, Allison Silverman, Tad, P.K. Winsome, Amy, Starbeam and Rainbow
Warnings: Bad puns. (As if "de sea" wasn't bad enough.)
Disclaimer: Characters belong to the Report. Names of real people are used in a fictitious context, and all dialogue, actions, and content are products of the author's imagination only.

I don't think this 'verse has had enough gratuitous unicorns lately. Let's fix that.

Amazing beta job by [personal profile] queenfanfiction. Decorative capitals by Daily Drop Cap. Chapter index: Table of Contents

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Perfectly matched in size if not in palette, Jon's team pranced in place in front of the rental carriage, tossing their manes as if to say Get on with it!

"Easy, girls. We'll have the last of the baggage loaded in a minute," said Jon, stroking Starbeam's nose. It was as vividly snowy as the rest of her coat, except for the dappling of faint grey across her haunches; her mane and tail shone silver, horn pearlescent in the early morning light.

"Big critters, aren't they?" remarked Olivia. She had taken to heart the directive to bring practical clothing: it was the first time Jon had seen her in trousers. The translation crystal affixed to her belt was the closest thing she had to jewelry. Even her prized silver π earrings would be remaining at home. "Chocobos have all the pulling power with maybe half the size. Probably faster on mountains, too."

"Well, we're not going on mountains, are we?" demanded Stephen. "We're going to the ocean. Hah! Nailed."

"A little help here?" called Kristen from inside, accompanied by the sound of something heavy dragging across the stone. Jon ran to help her with her trunk before Stephen could quit his perch on Rainbow's back. The old war steed, named for the spectrum of a mane that fanned across her neck and around her golden horn, had taken a liking to him; and since her rich brown flanks would have borne plenty of scars if not for her healing powers, Jon figured she deserved whatever company she chose.

"Stephen doesn't know the way to En-by-the-Sea, so I was thinking you and me could take shifts leading the unicorns," he said to Kristen once the trunk was safely packed. When Starbeam whinnied in reproach, he added, "Yes, I know you two could probably get there on your own. But better safe than sorry. And, Stephen, if Olivia wanted a turn up front, you wouldn't mind...?"

"I'll stick to the carriage, thanks," said Olivia with a faint shudder.

Rainbow's ears flicked at her; Stephen stroked the unicorn's mane. "No, shh, that's good! We like this plan."


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The ride to the coast was long enough that Stephen did eventually have to retreat to the carriage and sleep, propped awkwardly against one of the trunks with only a pillow for cushioning. When they finally reached the town, he was glad he'd had the rest.

En-by-the-Sea was a thriving port and trading outpost, raucous and colorful, full of sandblasted wooden buildings and barrowfuls of exotic goods from everywhere in the world. Jon parked the carriage at a well-guarded inn and set off with the unicorns to find a royal stable that would be able to care for them for several months. Rather than sit through the negotiations, Stephen stuck a shopping list in one pocket and a map to their dinner address in the other, and bounded out into the streets.

Language would be no problem here. He had more than enough Commedien to properly conjugate "this is the fish of my brother Raoul," and was getting better every day; and a few weeks into practicing for the performance, he had been so saturated with Gi Foarese that he began to dream in it. He ought to be able to come up with something intelligible to any seller. Besides, they were all fluent in pidgin.

Sure enough, Stephen had no trouble collecting an assortment of travel-size hygiene-spell pearls or a bag of fresh citrus. Then he stepped into a shop full of scrolls and pens, and found himself facing a withered old woman whose ears tapered to points and who addressed every customer in shrill, shouted Vulpin.

It took all Stephen's strength to buy a jar of waterproof ink in his native language without his native mindset rearing back with a vengeance. At last he stumbled out, head bowed and nerves shaken. There was one more item on the list, but the letters danced before his eyes: it could have been a jewel, an herb, or an infusion of dragon excrescence for all he knew.

Not daring to ask, in case it was obvious and would make him look stupid, Stephen wandered down the street, hoping to catch the word in a shop window or chalked on one of the notice boards. Besides, it would give him a chance to see the sights while he took the time to calm down.

He was staring openmouthed at the intricate peacock crest above what looked like the offices of the local paper when he collided with a walking pile of boxes.

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Look! Limited edition custom hand-painted Femme Fatale figurines!"

"We can't buy things like that now," protested Kristen, trailing Olivia down the aisle with alternating glass display cases and cardboard shelves of instant ramen. "There isn't going to be much room on the ship for luxury items. We have to stick to things that we'll make use of. Maybe if she vibrated...."

"The point is not to buy them," said Olivia loftily. "The point is to look at them. The point is to remember that you're going to be heading out tomorrow no matter what you do now, so it makes sense to fill the time with something that's fun. Like this one! Someone replaced the molded lasso prop with an actual tiny golden rope! Tell me that's not cool."

It was cool. And Kristen knew it. She also knew, from catching her own reflection in the glass, that she looked as unconvinced as a kid to whom some hapless soul was trying to explain the glories of opera.

"I'm sorry I'm being such a downer," she mumbled, staring at a row of exquisitely carved Sailor Knight figurines in multicolored swimsuits. "I know we're on the right track and everything, I have no idea what it feels like to not be able to set things on fire anymore."

Olivia pulled her into a light hug, chin resting on her shoulder. In a far more subdued voice, she said, "You're stressed. I know. Don't worry about it."

"Thanks," whispered Kristen.

They leaned into the embrace for a few silent moments, until Olivia spoke again. "We can keep hanging around here if you want. I've got perky to spare. Or if it's too much pressure, we can go somewhere else. Your call."

"I kind of want to find the local chapel," admitted Kristen.

"Great! Let's do that."

"There's a catch. They don't let non-mages in."

"So leave me here." Olivia pulled out of the hug and gave Kristen's shoulders a bracing squeeze. "I'm sure there are enough action figures in this town to keep me occupied until dinner."

"Are you sure you'd be okay with that?" asked Kristen, unable to suppress her skepticism.

Hand raised as if taking an oath, Olivia leaped to reassure her. "I solemnly swear not to drink anything I've looked away from for more than a few seconds. Or accept any kind of food from a stranger. Or act under the presumption that every non-Gi Foarese person I meet is friendly and only cares about my well-being."

"So you'll be safe," countered Kristen. She wasn't so wrapped up in self-pity that she couldn't hear what Olivia wasn't saying. "Will you be okay?"

The princess folded. "Won't know until I try," she pointed out, making an intense study of a Sea Wars poster hanging over Kristen's shoulder. "And I have to try some time. I can't go the rest of my life needing a chaperone. So it may as well start now."

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Jon Stewart, as I live and breathe!"

Jon spun on his heel to see a familiar face, tricorner hat tipped jauntily at an angle over its mane of dark curls. "That's Sir Stewart now, you scurvy sea dog," he said, mocking a roguish grin before lapsing into his natural warm smile.

"At least call me Captain Scurvy Sea Dog," chided Allison, striding down the boardwalk to meet him. "So the Lady finally got around to giving you that knighthood? Mazel tov! Took her long enough."


"Not my place to question Her Majesty...although honestly, I don't think I could have slain that dragon if it wasn't about to die anyway," said Jon sheepishly. "How have you been? I didn't see the Muse in this lineup."

"That's because she isn't there! You're not the only one who's moving up in the world." With a sweep of her arm Allison indicated the vast lineup of ships laid out before them, masts jutting up towards the clouds like a forest of spears. "Which of these do you think is mine? Go on, guess."

Four guesses later, she resorted to whispering hints in his ear. At last Jon picked it out: not the biggest vessel in the harbor but certainly larger than his memories of the H.M.S. Muse, with an oak frame that shone deep red where the sun hit it and a gold-plated eagle poised to spring from its prow.

"Tremendous ship," he said, and meant it. "Odd name, though. Where'd you get it?"

Was it his imagination, or did Allison wince? "That...was thenewboss'idea."

"Boss? Captain Silverman, I'm shocked. Shocked!"

"He's a decent guy!" protested the captain. "Knows nothing about the actual business, so we get to run our own ship for the most part. He coordinates some of our jobs, he's the face of the company, and we all make more money. Look me in the eye and tell me you'd turn down a deal like that for a chance to handle a craft like this."

"It wouldn't be easy," admitted Jon.

"Besides, it could be worse. We had to talk him down from plastering his own name on the thing."

It was Jon's turn to wince. "Narrow escape. So, the bit that he did put on...what does it mean?"

"It's his idea of a good luck charm," said Allison with a self-conscious grin. "This is port, right? So, every time we leave port, our eventual goal is to re-port."

"That's terrible."

"It helps if you pronounce it with a mole-manic accent."

"So it does," said Jon, after trying it. "Well, Captain, it just so happens I and some friends are in town looking for a ship. What are the chances we could come on the Report?"

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I'm sorry! I'm so sorry. Please forgive me!"

Tad's Vulpin was pretty rusty these days, but it was definitely good enough to pick up the repeated apologies from the pointy-eared stranger who had walked right into his shopping. "Let it be," he stammered, trying to remember textbook phrases marginally more useful than This is the fish of my brother Raoul. "It is all of the good. Um...I don't suppose you speak Commedien?" he added hopefully.

The stranger looked as if Tad had just handed him a birthday cake, a puppy, and a suitcase full of gold all rolled into one. "Yes!" he exclaimed. "Yes, I speak. I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about it. Can you help me pick these up?"

Instead of putting down his own hefty-looking sack, the man held it under one arm while stacking Tad's boxes with the other. Between his deferential bearing and the way he jumped to attention, Tad wondered briefly if he was a slave. But no, the trading ships in from Vulpis weren't that stupid. They had just lost a war; this was no time to be bringing illegal goods (as it were) through a Commedien port. "Are you lost?" he guessed instead.

"No! Yes. Sort of." The stranger carefully balanced the small boxes on top of the larger ones Tad had already picked up, then held out a scrap of parchment, middle finger tapping against one of its lines of ink. "I'm looking for this."

"Silphium?" read Tad, raising an eyebrow at the quantity. "Herb shop's just on the next street over." When the other man looked blank, he added, "Want me to show you?"

"I couldn't—you're busy."

"I like to be useful," said Tad, shrugging as best he could with the load in his arms. It was why the crew had him do all the esoteric shopping whenever they made port. Sometimes he wished they would ask for slightly tamer cargo, but it wasn't in his nature to complain about odd jobs, just to do them the best he could. "My name's Tad, by the way. Navigator of the best craft on the sea. Pretend I'm shaking your hand right now."

"I'm Stephen," said Stephen, following him down the road. "I like to be useful too. Is it really the best? Because we're going to need a good one."

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Good, aren't they?"

Olivia let out an unprincessly yelp and wheeled to face the man who had sidled up behind her in the shop. He smiled in a blankly charming way, as if that kind of reaction didn't perturb him in the least.

"They're okay, I guess," she stammered, though she had in fact been marveling at the tackiness of the printing on what were apparently meant to be commemorative plates. "Are you the one who's selling them?"

"Me? Oh, no, not at all. But I do deal in collectibles, and it never hurts to scope out the competition." He offered a well-manicured hand to shake. "P.K. Winsome. You've probably heard of me."

"Uh, no. I don't think I have."

"Really? Shame." His smile never wavered. "Say, haven't I seen you somewhere before?"

Olivia gave his hand the most cursory shake she could manage without being rude, and was relieved to find that he didn't try to hold it longer. "Nope. I just got in town this morning. Also, I'm a completely average and un-extraordinary person. Nothing to see here."

"I'm pretty sure there is." Winsome stroked his thick, dark beard in what might have been an ironic gesture, if Olivia didn't have the unsettling feeling that he never did anything ironically. "Almost positive I've seen you in the paper...Aha! The illustration in the Journal's theater review! Aren't you Olivia Munn, the up-and-coming jutsu performer?"

"Oh, that!" Olivia stammered out a laugh of relief. "Yep, I'm her. She's me. Did you want me to sign something?"

"In a manner of speaking. I have a proposition for you, Ms. Munn. Have you ever considered licensing? Your work on the stage is starting to gain quite a fan following, especially among what you might call, hm, the geek population. Now, if you were to offer these fans a chance to purchase some limited edition items bearing your autograph...say, a run of five hundred individually numbered watercolor prints, each guaranteed by a certificate of authenticity from P.K. Winsome's Authentic Office of Certification...."

"Look, I appreciate the offer," interrupted Olivia, "but I really can't commit to anything right now. I would need to talk to my agent. Also, I'm about to leave on a pretty long boat trip, and I'm not going to have time to sign five hundred things beforehand."

"A boat trip!" Winsome perked up. "How exciting! Have you settled on the boat yet? You see, I also happen to run a very fine shipping company, with vessels of every size and build for all your travel needs. My card."

"Thanks," stammered Olivia, pocketing it without looking and starting into a discreet backward shuffle. "I'm not the one in charge of choosing the ship, but I'll put in a good word."

"Excellent! You might also mention that, if you're willing to enter a simple short-term licensing deal, I can offer you and your companions a substantial discount."

Olivia stopped shuffling.

Winsome beamed.

"You know what?" said Olivia, glancing at the clock. "Maybe you ought to come talk to them in person."

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You see our dilemma," finished Jon, once the entire situation had been laid on the table. Literally. The placemats here came with maps on the back, with every feature to scale except for the cartoon pirate ships and sea monsters, and Allison was using two of these to improvise a course.

"Sounds like a two-stein problem," she said at last, putting the first one down.

With a sigh that was only half in jest, Jon forked over the coin. "Am I going to have to take you out to a show next?"

"Just dinner will be fine, thanks. Besides, I can always get your boyfriend to put on a show later." She glanced up from her scribbled columns of numbers to see Jon's look of horror. "Not like that! I'm talking about this Ring Cycle thing of his. The ship's been in port for a couple of days now, you know. Give me some credit for reading the papers."

"I guess I didn't realize he was quite that big," admitted Jon. When Allison smirked, he added, "Not a word, you. Back on topic. Can the Report make the trip?"

"Maybe. She's a tough ship, and we managed to pick up a talented air mage last year, so if nothing else we won't have to worry about falling off the End of the World. But it all hangs on us being able to stop and stock up at the Eagles. If we don't bring any supplies to leave with them, the Duchess won't take it well...."

Jon coughed politely. "Knight, remember?"

Allison stared for a beat, then grinned. "Right, right! Say, any interest in staying with us when all this is over? It would make the job a lot easier."

"Allison? You know me, right? You know I love you, and that I mean you absolutely no will by saying this: never in a million years."

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Although she had started for the restaurant well ahead of schedule, Olivia hadn't bargained on it being up an unpaved hill. Luckily her time at Castle Central had given her calves of steel, even if it had spoiled her with the expectation of stairs. As a bonus, a cool breeze off the sea was finally cutting through the day's heat.

Winsome's smile never wavered throughout the walk. Olivia was pretty sure he hadn't even broken a sweat.

Stephen was already waiting on the haphazardly trimmed lawn of stiff sea-grass outside the building, deep in conversation with a man she didn't recognize. He switched automatically into Gi Foarese when he saw her: "Olivia! Good news, I've found us a ship! We went down to the harbor to see it, and it's beautiful. Who's your friend?"

"Not so fast there," panted Olivia. "I've found us a ship. Or possibly our choice of ships, it wasn't quite clear. With what promises to be a fantastic discount."

"I don't care how fantastic it is! None of the choices can top this one."

"I thought I heard familiar voices," interrupted Jon, appearing in the doorway with a dark-haired woman in a tricorner at his elbow. "Are you coming in? Our table's already set."

Before Stephen or Olivia could launch into making their cases, Jon's stranger exclaimed, "Tad! Find everything all right?"

"Hey, Captain," said Stephen's stranger. "Can't complain."

"Fantastic." She turned to Winsome. "Hi, boss."

Olivia's companion nodded warmly. "Allison. Good to see you back."

"Well, this is convenient," Olivia said—

—or would have, if the breeze hadn't chosen that moment to whip up, flinging sprays of sand in all directions and sending chill fingers of wind through their light summer clothing. Olivia ducked, shivered, and shielded her eyes, opening them just in time to see a matched set of curly-haired women touch lightly down from the sky. One was her familiar pale brunette; the other, a sun-bleached blonde with a healthy tan.

"Sorry I'm late! I got sidetracked at the chapel." Kristen nodded to her companion. "I don't know if you've set your heart on a ship yet, but hear me out. This is—"

"—Amy, meet my old friend Jon," interrupted Allison. "And his comrades Stephen and Olivia, and I see you know Kristen. Jon, everyone, this is Amy Sedaris. Our air mage."

queenfanfiction: (LateNight TDS cast eyes)

[personal profile] queenfanfiction 2011-11-17 05:46 am (UTC)(link)
...omg, that last fanart makes me 'ship Fire!Kristen/Air!Amy FOR-FUCKING-EVER. #hngh

Also, I can't believe I got the joke only now:

"I guess I didn't realize he was quite that big," admitted Jon.

*groans* *hands over Card Of Membership for The Jack Harkness Innuendo Brigade*
queenfanfiction: (Torchwood CJH/IJ dirty limerick)

[personal profile] queenfanfiction 2011-11-18 03:48 am (UTC)(link)
Now I'm tempted to do quick sketchy drawings of other random pairings, just to see how many suck you in XD

I will warn you, that will be pretty much EVERYTHING because I 'ship with the same discrimination that Jack Harkness has when he chooses partners. xD
kribban: (Default)

[personal profile] kribban 2011-11-17 09:30 am (UTC)(link)
Wow, you cram a lot of people into this plot! And they all know each other; how convenient!

I've a hard time understanding how En-by-the-Sea reads as NYC. Help a sister out?

It's interesting that Stephen still reads as slave to a trained eye.
kribban: (Default)

[personal profile] kribban 2011-11-17 05:09 pm (UTC)(link)
Ah! Now I wonder what Castleverse!BriWi is like!
queenfanfiction: (Pundit RE Engelstan)

[personal profile] queenfanfiction 2011-11-18 03:49 am (UTC)(link)
Augh, dangit, I should have poked Erin for more Castle!BriWi and Castle!RichardE. :D
ladyjaderains: (Default)

[personal profile] ladyjaderains 2011-11-23 09:23 pm (UTC)(link)
I am in love with this story Erin!!! I can't wait to find out why Stephen is bothered by his native tongue and the thought of all of them on a ship for months is absolutely delicious;) I know that stories like this are sometimes called crack doc, I'm not sure if it qualifies but either way I'm hooked!