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fic: The Only Love-Gods

Title: The Only Love-Gods
Author: fengirl88
Fandom: Much Ado About Nothing (dir. Joss Whedon)
Pairing: Beatrice/Benedick, Don Pedro/Claudio, Claudio/Hero, it's complicated
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: none, but some spoilers for Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing
Wordcount: 1028
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine.
Summary: Don Pedro reflects on the success of his plot, and on its unintended consequences.
A/N: Fill for the "Love-hate" square on my love_bingo card; this fic was inspired by a discussion of Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing in [personal profile] legionseagle's journal. I'm grateful to [personal profile] legionseagle and [personal profile] kalypso for letting me borrow their theories about Don Pedro, and to [personal profile] kalypso for beta brilliance, as always; this is for both of them.

It begins as a joke to pass the time while they’re waiting for Claudio’s wedding, a challenge fit for a slightly bored prince. Leonato’s a good fellow, but a week is a long time to be anyone’s houseguest. It’s a venture set afloat on a sea of alcohol, at a party that seems to have been going on for days. A rare amusement in prospect: to make a match between two such sworn enemies and bring them into a mountain of affection with each other.

If we can do this, Cupid is no longer an archer, Don Pedro says, filling four shot-glasses to toast the enterprise. His glory shall be ours, for we are the only love-gods.

His co-conspirators – Claudio, Leonato, and the lady Hero – drink to seal the bargain. The strength of Leonato’s grappa makes their eyes water, but such a task requires ardent spirits to carry it off.

Benedick claims to be loved of all ladies, but he’s never had a serious relationship with either sex in all the time Pedro’s known him. The press call Signior Benedick a confirmed bachelor, and everyone knows what that means. His public image makes him the ideal person to test the waters on his prince’s behalf: to make sure the young man in question is amenable to a closer relationship with Don Pedro, and also discreet. The fashion for sworn brotherhood is a pretty thing, and Benedick wears it well, changing his companion with the seasons as others change their hats.

As for the lady Beatrice, her uncle says she cannot endure the idea of a husband, which makes the game all the more fun. Pedro even makes a show of proposing to her in front of her uncle and cousin, secure in the confidence that she’ll say no. (With the amount they’ve all had to drink, he could pass it off as a joke if she said yes, but the risk of that seems infinitesimal.) Her hatred of Signior Benedick leaves no room in her heart for any other man; that much is clear.

It doesn’t occur to him at the time that two people so obsessed with one another’s faults might have a different history. He has a vague recollection of Beatrice making some joke about having once lent her heart to Benedick, but Pedro can’t remember the details because he was a bit drunk and not really listening.

Of course Leonato falls in with the plan: he wants to stand well in Don Pedro’s favour, and Benedick’s a good match for his determinedly unmarried niece. Claudio – well, Claudio’s never yet said no to anything his prince asked of him, in bed or out of it. It’s one of his many endearing qualities. And what Claudio and Leonato say yes to, the lady Hero is hardly likely to refuse. She’s a biddable girl, which is just what’s needed. Pretty, too, if you like that wide-eyed modest look. She’ll do very nicely for Claudio: a thoroughly plausible choice, with a useful dowry into the bargain.


It is – notoriously – easier to convert hatred into love than it is indifference. Even so, the success of his practical joke surpasses Pedro’s most confident predictions. The next thing you know, Benedick has shaved off his beard and is moping about and writing poetry. Priceless.

But Pedro and Claudio hardly have time to congratulate themselves when the Hero business blows up in their faces. The girl is damaged goods, it seems; she won’t do at all now, and the only escape route is to announce her disgrace themselves before the press get hold of it. It’s a pity about her death, but these things happen.

Benedick’s defection is a piece of collateral damage Pedro hadn’t bargained for. If he believed in love, he’d think love had addled the man’s brain. He’s clearly just trying to get in Beatrice’s good books with this nonsense of challenging Claudio to a duel. It’ll all blow over; the three of them are too good friends to let a woman part them.

He should have known better than to trust his bastard brother, should have realized that John was out to make a scandal that would spread to him as well as Claudio. Now John has fled, and it seems the lady was innocent after all, which puts Pedro in an impossible position.

Still, Leonato’s a sensible man, thank heavens, and this plan of marrying Claudio to Hero’s identical cousin is as satisfactory a scheme as he could have devised himself, once he’s clear that they’re not talking about Beatrice. That would have been a disaster: the lady is too sharp-witted not to see at once how she was being used, and too outspoken to keep quiet about it. Leonato’s other niece sounds just as good as Hero, dowry and all.


The woman lifts her veil, and Claudio looks at her as if she’s a miracle. Relief, of course, after the guilt of thinking he’d caused her death; but it’s easy enough to confuse that with love.

He hears his own voice saying flatly The former Hero; Hero that is dead. The words taste like ashes in his mouth.

And then there is Benedick, bursting with smug self-satisfaction, hugging the woman he’s supposed to hate and mocking him with advice: Prince, thou art sad; get thee a wife. Get thee a wife!

He remembers the exhilaration of the challenge, the fiery burn of the grappa as he swallowed, and wonders how it could have come to this. If he believed in the gods he might call it punishment for hubris. But there’s no justice in this world; only a house full of people dancing, a feast of happy couples.

Beatrice’s words from that drunken night in Leonato’s kitchen echo in his head: Thus goes everyone to the world but I … I may sit in a corner and cry heigh-ho for a husband.

He won’t do that, of course. He’ll find a replacement for Claudio, which should be easy enough, and for Benedick, which may be more difficult. But he’ll think about that tomorrow. Tonight, he stands and watches the dancers, smiling for the camera until his face aches.


Also posted at http://fengirl88.dreamwidth.org/121085.html with comment count unavailable comments.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 9th, 2013 10:11 am (UTC)
Serves him gladly, huh? Poor guy. *snicker*

My God, Tom Lenk and Dominic too, this I really have to see.
Jul. 9th, 2013 10:21 am (UTC)
yes, I think he got what was coming to him! very glad you enjoyed the fic, and you should definitely see the film - it's a lovely thing.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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