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fic: Consolations

Title: Consolations
Fandom: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (TV)
Rating: R
Content notes: Reference to era-appropriate homophobia
Pairing/Characters: Arabella/Jonathan; Drawlight
Length: 900
Author note: Written for the Cheating challenge at [community profile] fan_flashworks; this is a sort of prequel to Marital Disharmony, and is for [personal profile] lilliburlero, who said they would like to read a fic about Arabella getting hold of *equipment*.
Summary: She and Jonathan had not spoken of fidelity before they parted; it had not seemed necessary then.

“Odious, odious little man,” Arabella muttered, not for the first time, watching Mr Drawlight prink his way across the square. In addition to pestering her about Lady Pole’s state of health, the wretch had now taken to enquiring for news of Jonathan and asking – with a leer that made her want to slap his face – how she was consoling herself in his absence. How dare he?

Not that consolation would be unwelcome, she thought ruefully. It had taken many weeks before she accustomed herself to the emptiness and coldness of her bed without Jonathan, and she still ached for his presence there, sprawling and taking up far more than his fair share of the covers. She missed falling asleep with his nose in her hair, missed waking up with his leg thrown over hers and his cock pressing hot and hard against her back. She missed looking down at him as they rocked against each other, gasping and laughing as the pleasure overwhelmed them, familiar and new each time. She had known his absence would be like this, and dreaded it; but she had never expected him to be away at the wars for so long.

There were plenty of men in London far less odious than Christopher Drawlight who would be only too willing to offer consolation to a pretty grass-widow, some of them handsome and agreeable with charming manners; but it would not do. She did not want any of those fine gentlemen: she wanted her infuriating selfish impossible husband, and there was no knowing when he would return. (She did not allow herself to make that when an if.)

Gentlemen were not the only possible sources of consolation, of course, though she had affected not to understand Drawlight’s hints at some Sapphic motive for her continuing visits to Lady Pole. Arabella was thoroughly acquainted with the contents of her father’s library, including the classical authors; she had read the Sixth Satire of Juvenal, not to mention the epigrams of Martial, and understood these matters well enough in the abstract. But to have Drawlight assume that she would take advantage of her friendship and Lady Pole’s illness in that way – really, the man would stop at nothing in his attempts to insult her!

She and Jonathan had not spoken of fidelity before they parted; it had not seemed necessary then. But the longer she went on waiting for a letter that did not come, the more probable it seemed that her husband might have found consolation himself, perhaps with some friendly officer; it was oddly easier to imagine that than to let herself think of him with another woman. It seemed hard to grudge him that comfort amongst the privations of war, though she could not altogether suppress a pang of jealousy at the thought of him in another man's arms. If there were such a man, she hoped that he would be kind to Jonathan, and careful of him.

One of the incidental pleasures of residence in Soho Square had been its proximity to a circulating library, and in Jonathan’s absence Arabella had increased her visits to that storehouse of solitary pleasures. The volume now on the table before her, however, was not one she remembered ordering. If there had been any thing else to read she would have returned it to the desk. In her present vexed state of mind, any book was better than none, and she was not disposed to wait for someone to correct the error. Resigning herself with a sigh to accept whatever distraction fortune had tumbled into her lap, she opened the book and turned over its pages with growing curiosity.

The volume appeared to be a collection of pamphlets formerly owned by Tom’s Coffee House, some of which had a scurrilous air altogether unbefitting a library with any pretension to respectability. Arabella’s cheeks flamed scarlet as she perused the most outré of these, a self-proclaimed Heroic Poem of Three Cantos in the Ovidian Stile, “describing the Pleasures which the Fair Sex enjoy with each other, according to the Modern and most Polite taste.” Much of the poem (which was very bad) seemed to be devoted to condemning the Fair Sex’s use of an instrument of pleasure described in remarkable detail, along with the delights it was apparently capable of conferring. If the aim of the poem was really to deter women from using such a toy to pleasure themselves and each other, Arabella reflected, the anonymous author had chosen a very odd and ill-advised way of going about it. The effect on this reader at least was to pique her curiosity as to where such an object might be obtained.

Had Doctor Graham’s notorious Temple of Health still been in existence, with its Celestial Bed and other aids to Hymen, Arabella thought, she could have begun her enquiries there. As it was, the best place to start would almost certainly be Covent Garden, though she might first go home and borrow Mary’s cloak in order to be less conspicuous. This was an enterprise that would take some planning, and where the risk of embarrassment was anything but negligible. If the anonymous poet could be believed, however, the pleasure that waited on her success would be worth the trouble. Leaving the mysterious volume on the table, she gathered up her belongings and set off at a brisk pace for Soho Square.

Also posted at http://fengirl88.dreamwidth.org/190602.html with comment count unavailable comments.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 2nd, 2015 05:55 pm (UTC)
This is an excellent prequel! Arabella isn't unaware of the other ways in which she might console herself in Strange's absence, but I like that it's taking her a while to work up the courage to do something about it.

The bit about it being easier to imagine her husband with a man instead of a woman was really interesting, and her understanding of his need for comfort especially away at war makes her very sympathetic.

Nicely done!
Oct. 2nd, 2015 10:48 pm (UTC)
thank you! I'm very glad you enjoyed it.

I have known more than one person who found it easier to cope with a partner's infidelity in those circumstances (i.e. where their rival was a different sex from them), and it seemed to me plausible that Arabella might feel that way too.

[my headcanon in Marital Disharmony is that Strange does have an affair with Grant, and Arabella clocks this when she sees them together.]

Edited at 2015-10-02 10:51 pm (UTC)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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