Author Topic: One Big Family (unfinished)  (Read 171 times)

InterNutter

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One Big Family (unfinished)
« on: August 02, 2014, 08:08:46 pm »
Someone [possibly pandoraslittleblackbox or thefinespine] dropped a plot bunny on my dash that boiled down to: "Iris/Peter/Delilah poly relationship".

And now I have an AUFic going...

Enjoy.

=======8<=======

Disclaimer: Steam Powered Giraffe and all characters from the lore belong to the Bennetts. I just do ludicrous things with them.

                                 One Big Family
InterNutter

  Delilah had forgotten what day it was until she saw the pale, blue-matter-tainted flesh of Colonel Peter Walter in the lobby below.
  "Oh no," she moaned to her current fling. "It's Thursday, isn't it?"
  "No," said Chastity. "It's Tuesday."
  "...those bothersome creatures must be stepping up their schedule," Delilah moaned. "I'm starting to wish we'd never let them in..."
  "At least Walter's not as bad as Becile. Becile simply ignores every word that comes out of your mouth."
  "Yes, but Walter pays too much attention. I let it slip that I was rather fond of Giraffes and he built a mechanical one. God knows what he's done now."
  "...is he on fire?"
  "Miss Moreau! Miss Moreau... Please. You have to come at once! It's gone wrong. It's gone drastically wrong." He mounted the stairs between them three at a time, still smouldering. He clutched at the bannister like a drowning man clinging to driftwood. "It's the blue matter... I used it to power the machines and now... I need your expertise in chemistry to figure this out. Please... come help?"
  "Sir," said Chastity. "You're on fire."
  "Hm?" He appeared to notice the lingering flames on his shoulders and coat-tails for the first time and absently smothered them out with his hands. "That's really not important. I've left them alone, and I really shouldn't have done that. This is a matter *most* urgent, Miss Moreau. You're the only one who can help."
  She was only swayed by the fact that he seemed to be treating her as a person, and not a prize to be won. The fact that he was sweaty, dishevelled and formerly combusting spoke volumes about his need for her actual scientific presence.
  "If I haven't contacted you before sunset, summon the constabulary," she whispered to Chastity.
  She nodded. "In a heartbeat. I'll be sitting by the telegraph."
  Delilah sighed and said, "Lead me to your carriage, then, sir."
  A lost, haunted look. Like he'd forgotten something. "...carriage?"
  "Your horse?"
  A mute, horrified, shake of his head.
  "Automobile?"
  "Sorry, no. I ran all the way here."
  Delilah winced. Men had an enormous capacity for panicked stupidity that science had yet to isolate in favour of eliminating. "Then we'll take *my* automobile back to Walter Manor. And you can explain whilst I drive. This way."
  "Yes'm," he murmured and followed meekly in her wake. There was a distinct lack of groping, grasping, or poetic soliloquy. "As I said, I've used your miraculous blue matter as a power source. Well, partial power source."
  "It's not *my* blue matter," she corrected him. "The discovery belongs to Doctor Verato."
  "Sorry. Sorry. I've attended so many of your lectures on the stuff... I... I must have got confused." He was still out of breath and, by the looks of him, he hadn't had much in the way of nourishment, lately. "I've come to associate you with its miracles."
  She handed her token to the Boy and tapped her foot as she glared at him. "No more poetry, Mister Walter. Keep to the facts of this matter, if you please."
  He winced as if that 'mister' had physically hurt him. "Yes. Of course. Of course. I shall comport myself like a gentleman and scientist in all things, Miss Delilah."
  The car arrived and she tipped both boys a nickel each, before fussing in a compartment for one of her potions. Ah. There it was. She got him into the passenger seat and attached the safety harness to him and herself before handing it over. "Drink this. It'll help restore your vitality. Cease drinking it when it no longer tastes good."
  He took a swig, then a continuous and desperate succession of greedy gulps and tiny moans of joy. Walter came up for air after he'd drained the container dry. Licking his blue lips and viewing the rushing roads in an air of amazed confusion. "That is an amazing potion, Madam Doctor... None of it tasted terrible at all."
  "Compliments can wait," she piloted her vehicle around a horse-drawn cab. Beeped at an errant dog. "Facts. As many as you can divulge, sir. Now."
  "Well... I... built some automatons... And instead of running on one clockwork program, playing one song over and over, I thought I'd... well... get them to learn. Which required an alternate power source. And I recalled your lecture on the conductive properties between blue matter and aligned metals..."
  "You used blue matter to power them, you said. Moving on." She dodged a sheep.
  "Yes. Um. Well. It's had some unforeseen consequences... Uh... they... have a lot more personality than I initially coded into their gears. And -uh- they may have absorbed all the musical theory, but..."
  "Musical theory?"
  "...i heard you like music?" he squeaked. "And I can't play. Or sing. So..."
  "Mechanical musicians?"
  "...yes..."
  Sigh. "How many?"
  "Just two. I made them from the same plans. One's largely copper, and the second's mostly iron... but there's flaws. Despite being exactly the same -mechanically speaking- the iron one has heat issues I can't contain and the copper one... eh... is a handful... He talks too much. And I can barely get the other to talk at *all*. There's this leak... and he won't walk. And I'm vastly regretting teaching Rabbit -uh- the copper one... to walk at all. He's into everything. More curious than a pack of raccoons. It wasn't so bad. Really. And... this morning? They... uh... they got... something... from me. They're rather strong, you see."
  "Something like a knife?"
  It was a clear run to Walter Manor, now. All dark and foreboding with one lone window lit.
  "Uh. No. It was... It was, um." He hung his head. "It was something I was planning to give you. Under the correct circumstances. A tiny trifle, but... important. To me, anyway."
  There were no servants to fetch her valise. Colonel Walter offered to take it for her. Rather gallantly, actually.
  He lit a lamp with one of the newer sulphurous matches as if it were something that happened every day.
  "No servants, Colonel? Are you in dire circumstances?"
  "Not yet," he smiled for her. Leading her towards a cage elevator. "The boys tend to scare them off."
  Which was not the best way to introduce them, she would tell him later. Much, much later. For now, she observed that the elevator had a hook installed for such a lantern, and it wasn't a recent installation.
  It was telling that he operated the elevator like a practiced professional. Not a bump nor a stutter. Just smooth acceleration and deceleration.
  He did bow her out of the caged box before taking the lantern and her valise again.
  "I'd thought... with your insights... we might unriddle their enigmas together. Perfect the process before I completed the quartet."
  "You planned a quartet?" she chided. "You don't even know what music I admire..."
  He looked down as he took the lead. "That's why I wanted them to learn in the first place. So... I-they-I-they... we... wouldn't get it wrong."
  Panicked stupidity had many faces. And all of them seemed to settle well on Colonel Peter A. Walter.
  "There's a lot of non-mechanical anomalies. Twin phenomenon being primary. That's the reason I stopped production on the other two. And... well... they feel."
  And with that cryptic revelation, they entered the lab.
  It was organised chaos.
  Bronze and brass parts lay in semi-neat piles in different corners. Papers adorned every flat surface. A Frankenstein-eque slab dominated the middle and a small cot of a military bed was the sole nod to the fact that a human being also spent time here.
  "Rabbit? Spine? I'd like you to meet someone. This, boys, is Doctor Delilah Moreau. She taught me everything I know about the blue matter in your power cores."
  They were human-shaped... but immense. Even seated, they were taller than their creator.
  "He still won't let go, Pappy," said the copper one. Rabbit.
  The steel one -Spine?- bristled with sharp-looking chimneys out of his eponymous back. This was the one that cowered behind its copper twin and bubbled something on the very edge of hearing.
  "Naw, Pappy'd tell us if she's our momma now," said Rabbit.
  Delilah whirled to glare at the man.
  He managed a nervous rictus and a pathetic, "They kept asking what they were for... and... well..."
  She tisked and cut him dead. "All right. Let's get this nonsense over with. What are you two fighting over? Let me see it."
  The iron one had oil streaks down its metal face and a permanent hangdog expression. It was cowering like a child caught with something it knew it shouldn't have.
  Rabbit had the sense programmed into it to let go, but its steel twin whimpered and tried to shelter the thing in its massive hands from her gaze.
  Delilah figured that, since it acted like a child, she would treat it as such. "You'd better hand that over by the time I count to five, or *so help me*--"
  It worked. The giant metal man flinched and whimpered.
  "One. Two. *Three*..."
  Slowly, shaking and shivering and bubbling something unintelligible, the steel man bought his hands around to face her.
  "Naw, d-dummins, it won't hurt Pappy. Where'd ya get these ideas, The Spine?"
  "*Four*..."
  It deposited a small velvet box in her hands like someone gently placing an egg under a hen. Then it rapidly clung to its copper 'brother' as if it feared such a thing would explode.
  "Very good," she allowed. "Thank you."
  "Can we have the box when you're done?" asked Rabbit.
  The small velvet box carried a resplendent ring inside it. A diamond in the middle. Emeralds and sapphires surrounding it. All held tight in resplendent gold.
  She turned to find Walter down on one knee. His hands grasped in front of his chin like a child supplicating God. His blue eyes were bright with passion and adoration both.
  "I know this isn't the right time or place, but..." He took a fortifying breath. "Doctor Delilah Moreau... I would consider myself the luckiest man alive if you were to except my humble and wretched self by your side in all your endeavours."
  Well. He had the 'humble and wretched' part correct. And of all the proposals she'd received in her life, this was the first and only one she'd heard where the proposer valued her as more than a possession to own.
  She dropped the ring, box and all, like it burned her hands. "What the *hell* do you think you're doing?"
  She would later swear that she could hear his heart break.
  "Of course," he murmured. His raised knee slid to join its partner on the floor. "Of course." His rump landed heavily onto his feet and his hands dropped nervelessly into his lap. "Forgive me, dear lady. I find myself drawn to the light of your intelligence and creativity like a moth to a candle. All I wanted... Ah, but it doesn't matter what I wanted." He sighed. "Do forgive me, indeed. I'll not bother you... any... lo--"
  His eyes rolled backwards in his head and the rest of him succumbed to gravity.
  "PAPPY!"
  "Plbrlbrb!"
  Rabbit vaulted off the slab and knelt by its creator. Hands and arms twitching in uncertain agitation. The Spine got as far as sliding off the same slab before making its way to its creator on all fours.
  "What'ja do to Pappy?" Rabbit demanded. "You fix 'im! You fix 'im right NOW!"
  Slowly, carefully, The Spine jostled Walter. "Plbrlbrb... wrlbk blrblp." Black oil dribbled out of its mouth, down its chin, and onto Walter's lab coat.
  Delilah tried to reach past them to check his pulse, only to have Rabbit push her away.
  "NO! You broke Pappy! You broke him! YOU BROKE PAPPY!"
  The Spine made an extended squeaking noise as he gently lifted the Colonel into his arms. "Plbrlbrb... Plbrlbrb..." And, oil leaking from his eyes... The Spine started to cry.
  Which was when she learned that the automatons cried by sounding horrendous sirens capable of deafening an unprepared mortal.
  Hands over her ears, she fled the room and crashed into a stranger.
  A stranger in shabby-but-passable clothes. Probably the best she owned. A cascade of papers snowed around her.
 
  Iris blinked. This was the worst of first impressions. "M' sorry m'm," she said, scrabbling for her notices. "I come here t' see the Master of the 'ouse? A Colonel Walter? Are you 'is lady, m'm?"
  "Do you know any physic?" demanded the woman opposite her. She wore a tailored lab coat that seemed to double as a dress.
  "Enough t' patch up four brothers, m'm."
  "Great. Sort out that mess in the lab and you're hired."
  Iris left the lady her notices and took a good look at the mess.
  The metal men were making the commotion. One was cradling an insensate and pale man. Colonel Walter? And they were both very upset.
  They were acting like babies.
  Therefore, they needed mothering.
  She plugged her ears with wadding from her carpet back and set to work. First order of business, calm the children. She rolled up her sleeves and found a rag. And gently cleaned the oil off their metal faces.
  "There now," she cooed. "There now... hush. Sshhh-sshhh... Hush now. Calm down, dears. Ssssshhhhhh..."
  Tenderness worked, and she reached a point where she could take the wadding out of her ears.
  "There. I can try to help. What happened to the man?"
  "Pappy fell," said the copper one. "Other lady broke him."
  "Let me have a look at Pappy. Let me see. It's all right. I won't hurt him."
  He was cold, but his heart was beating. His skin was loath to move back to where it belonged after a gentle pinch and -yes- his nails showed evidence of malnutrition.
  "When was the last time Pappy ate or drank?"
  "What's 'ate'?"
  "Glrb?" managed the iron one.
  The woman of the scene poked her head in. "Excellent. You got them quiet. I've sent word to the Cavulcadium, but nobody else wants to be here. We're stuck with each other. More's the pity. Need anything?"
  Iris, though she floundered in confusion, knew where she was with physic. "This man has a chill bought on by malnourishment and dehydration. We need to get him comfortable and warm, and then get some broth and water into him."
  "Is there a chemical lab in this house?" the stranger-woman asked. But she wasn't asking Iris. She was asking the... machine babies.
  The copper one pointed. "Nex' door. We ain't allowed in there. Dangerous."
  All right. Next problem. "Where does Pappy sleep, dear?"
  "I ain't a deer, lady, I'm Rabbit. And this dumb baby dummins is The Spine."
  "Blb," said The Spine, nodding.
  Okay. They could talk, but they took things literally. "Where does Pappy sleep?"
  The Spine helpfully pointed at a small, canvas cot favoured by military expeditions to the tropics.
  That would not do.
  "Nowhere else?"
  "There's th' big bed, up the hall. He don't like it. He cries there a lot."
  "That will have to do," Iris allowed. "We'll keep him company so he doesn't cry. How's that?"
  The Spine seemed happier about that, and drooled oil in his enthusiasm.
  "All right, up you pop. Carry Pappy to the big bed."
  The Spine whined and his briefly happy mein faded.
  "He can't walk, yet," said Rabbit, carefully putting the man into its own copper arms. "I don't mind carryin' Pappy. It's easy."
  Iris made certain he wasn't in any danger or discomfort. "All right. Let's get him to that big bed."
  Rabbit lead the way. Iris followed and The Spine crawled along behind. She left a lamp for the woman in the lab and a hasty note in block letters.
  This house was dark, even in broad daylight. It was as if a malevolent spirit had overtaken the entire edifice. Light didn't seem to want to come inside. The gloom made the walk to the bedroom halfway down the hall seem longer. She helped Rabbit ease the man through the door, and scurried ahead to turn the bed down, and helped again to maneouvre Colonel-Walter-I-Presume into relative comfort.
  The Spine had just enough time to achieve verticality with the help of his copper brother by the time she managed to remove a shoe.
  Both baby machines shrieked and panicked.
  "What?" she demanded. "What's the matter?"
  "Take Pappy apart," Rabbit whimpered, clinging fast to his weeping 'brother'.
  Oh goodness. "No. No. This isn't part of Pappy, this is... this is clothing. Something Pappy puts on. Here. Watch." She put the shoe down and undid her coat. "This isn't part me. It's cloth. It's not flesh. See? I can open it up, and my arm is inside. And I can take my arm out."
  Worried beeping.
  "It doesn't hurt. I'm fine, see?" She waved her coatless arm, and used it to take the rest of the coat off. "You can try it on. Sort of. Mostly." Only their arms would fit. "I'm just trying to make Pappy comfortable, so he can rest. So he can get better."
  The Spine managed to get her coat from Rabbit and put the sleeves on over his chimneys. Which made Rabbit laugh. She gave the shoe to Rabbit, who couldn't make it fit anywhere on his awkward-looking body, so he turned it into half a puppet.
  Iris shook her head at them as she smiled at their antics. "It's all right, now. I'll get Pappy comfortable, and then we can work on bringing him some healthy soup."
  He was still worryingly cold. "He needs a bed-warmer..." A frantic search of the room and the closets couldn't even reveal a hot water bottle.
  If it wasn't for the mechanical children playing with the discarded clothes, she never would have conceived of it. But there they were, blubbing nonsense in the case of The leaking Spine, and bickering a counterpoint in the case of Rabbit, about how they made the clothes 'warmer than Pappy'.
  They were heat sources. They ran on steam.
  "The Spine... come on up here and help keep Pappy warm." She dug in her bag for a scrap of cloth and some wadding and made a little pillow with some quick tack stitches. It didn't have to last for long, it just had to last for long enough. She retrieved her coat and a sock from his pipes and got him snuggled carefully next to Colonel Walter.
  "Now you stay right there and keep that pillow under your leak and I should be back soon enough. Rabbit and I are going to the kitchens, okay? We won't be gone long."
  The Spine nodded solemnly.
 
  Something hot next to him. By comparison, the rest of the world was a chilly circle of Hell. Hot fingers invaded his senses. Pried his mouth open. Introduced some volcanic liquid.
  He opened his eyes as he swallowed. Barely.
  Two lovely ladies sat nearby. One on the bed, spooning hot broth into him. And the darling of his eyes, Delilah, sat in a chair imported from one of the many empty rooms in this house. She held a large caraffe of unnaturally yellow liquid.
  "There," said Delilah. "Colonel Walter is awake. You can stop your fretting about 'Pappy', please."
  A third shadow emerged from the gloom of the room and revealed itself to be Rabbit. "They said ya run outta fuel, Pappy," said the copper automaton. "Why'd ya l-let that happen? Y'always made sure we have water an' oil."
  "Where's The Spine?" he asked. "You didn't leave the poor fellow alone, did you?"
  "...no, pappy," The Spine gurgled. "...here I am..."
  Ah. The furnace by his side was the very automaton he worried the most about. "Oh, good," he murmured.
  "Y'need more soup, sir," said the darker-hued maid on his bed. Everything about her was brown. Her hair was brown, a few shades darker than her sun-touched skin. Her dress was a simple, economic cut in the sort of brown that spoke of poverty and little choice.
  "And... you are?"
  "Iris Tonia, please, sir," she spooned more broth into him. "T' lady of the 'ouse hired me on the spot, as it were. You're tasting my cooking and to be fair, it's right simple. I know my physic and your poor constitution can't handle more'n simple, forgive me sayin' so."
  The cushioned, hard weight under his shoulder-blades was The Spine's hand. Helping him stay upright. His hand trembled with the effort of holding a spoon when he tried it. And he felt dreadfully... so dreadfully weary. Someone had put his dressing-gown on backwards, in an effort to keep his upper body warm.
  "He's fading again," said dearest Delilah. She poured a small glass of the horrid-looking yellow fluid and bought it, alone, to his side. "Drink. You need to rehydrate."
  It was the same potion from her medical packs. He gulped it down greedily. "You... decided to stay?"
  "I decided to assist in your care," said Delilah. "And with those two automatons around, you need the help. Why not program them to be *useful*? It's plainly evident you need servants..."
  "But... they're my boys..." He leaned his head against The Spine and accepted a few more spoonfuls of broth from Miss Tonia. Each one made it a greater effort to keep his eyes open.
 
  "Down again," sighed the Lady. "And I'm sorry I gave you the impression I live here. No. Colonel Walter asked me here to see to his... creations. My background is in chemistry, and I was fascinated by the properties of the blue matter that runs these... things... I never knew he'd try... Ugh." She rolled her eyes. "The man's impossible."
  "I take it he likes ye, m'm?" Miss Tonia resettled the Colonel.
  "Everyone who's partial to women finds me... attractive. I have to be guarded about who I choose to date. And one of the better qualities I admire in anyone is the ability to *listen*. You may be surprised to find how few men use that quality when a woman is talking."
  "Oh aye," Miss Tonia agreed as she tucked in both man and mechanical monster. "I don't understand it, meself. You've got the kind of voice anyone'd listen to in rapture." She bit her lip, blushed fantastically, and hurried with tidying away the soup and bed-table.
  The Lady smiled warmly. "well, that is good news," she purred. "My name is Doctor Delilah Moreau. And I am *very* pleased to make your acquaintance."
  Iris nervously took her hand, surprising herself with the pleasure at those words. "So... t' master of the 'ouse is... indisposed. The machines are babies. You ain't nuthin' t' do with the 'ouseold... F'give me for bein' rude, m'm, but... how's I s'posed to get paid? I come all this way an' I ain't got nothin', no more."
  "There's plenty of rooms, here," soothed Lady Doctor Moreau. "I'll see if I can find his papers. The Colonel must have a lawyer on retainer. And if he doesn't, I'll pay you until such time as he recovers."
 
  Rabbit watched, trying to work it all out. One lady was the Delilah that Pappy kept talking about, and the other new one was an Iris. According to Rabbit, they were both very pretty and equally interesting. Rabbit liked the Iris more. She was friendlier.
  The Spine was pretty good at keeping Pappy warm, and, after a few lessons, Rabbit was getting good at operating the elevator. Which opened up most of the rest of the mansion for the curious copper automaton.
  It was a game. Find something interesting to play with and just look at how fast the ladies turned up! One or both of them would either yell at it or try to find something helpful Rabbit could do instead.
  It particularly liked the old lady dresses. Rabbit knew it couldn't wear them, but it still played with them, trying to imagine being able to fit inside and look pretty.
  Iris found it, this time, tutted and helped Rabbit put the clothes back away.
  "You're getting better at keeping your oil off them," the Iris noted. "Good job. Do you like the patterns, or the colours?"
  "Patterns," said Rabbit. "Pretty flowers. Pretty lines."
  "Well... let's leave those alone, hm? I'm sure I can whip something up from the old flour sacks someone stacked in the kitchen. Would you like to learn how to sew?"
  "Naw, that's boring," Rabbit followed the Iris out into the hallways. "D'ruther play."
  "Yes, I've heard you playing your squeeze-box."
  "Not that play," said Rabbit. "Bein' pirates an' cowboys and injuns and all'a the other stuff."
  "Ah, Of course. You are very young, aren't you."
  "I ain't that young," Rabbit snorted. "I'm five days old!"
 
  Five days. Which meant that he'd been less than four when she'd met the poor creature. "And your brother? He's..."
  "He's a whole day younger'n me an' he still can't walk or talk. Baby dummins."
  Iris sighed. "That isn't very nice of you. You should be kinder to your brother."
  "Why?"
  She bit her lip and forced herself to *NOT* say, "Because your Pappy might not be around for very much longer," and instead said, "The poor darling obviously needs help. Now obviously Pappy need more help, right now, but... maybe The Spine wouldn't be scared of everything all the time if you... were nicer to him about being scared."
  "Aaaawwww..." Rabbit made a rude noise. "But it's all trash, Ma..."
  Iris nearly tripped over herself. "My name," she said gently, "is Miss Iris. Please remember that, Rabbit."
  "You ain't our mom, neither?"
  "Sorry," she said. "I came to be a maid, and ended up a housekeeper. That's more'n I could 'ope for. 'Sides, Pappy has his heart set on th' lady Delilah."
  "I don't like her," said Rabbit. "She broke Pappy."
  Oh dear. "Rabbit... Pappy broke himself. He wasn't looking after his own needs and... Disappointment turned out to be the final straw."
  "...she could'a been our ma," Rabbit mumbled. "What's wrong wit' us?"
  "Wrong? How do you mean?"
  "We're made for her. And she don't like us. She yells all'a time."
  "Your Pappy forged a bad impression, there. Delilah may yet warm to you. It's... difficult to be suddenly in charge of two ba--" she stopped herself. Just in time. "Young children." She juggled her current load of laundry to pat the copper automaton's shoulder. "Just keep being nice and she'll see that you're wonderful."
  "Thanks," said Rabbit. And then it whispered, "...ma..."
 
  Dinner was a chilly affair, with two opposite worlds sharing a kitchen table between duties. It always happened after Colonel Walter had been fed, taken to the indoor privy and cleaned for more healing slumber. A process that also involved reading to the automatons from a huge tome of collected fairy tales so that they, too, could relax into what passed for sleep.
  Iris did her best to make food for herself and the Lady Delilah that was suitable for her refined palette and Iris' own meagre origins. And to fit it within a modest budget.
  The broths and fortifying temptations went directly to Colonel Walter.
  "What do you call this?"
  "It's Lamb's Fry, m'm. Wi' extra. An' wi' a side of vegetables."
  "Lamb's... fry..."
  "...yes'm."
  "There's a lot of meat in it..."
  "...yes'm."
  "What *is* in it?"
  "Liver an' bacon an' kidneys an' onion, m'm. Beggin' yer pardon, m'm, but I saw th' red in yer laundry an'... well... reckon we both need th' iron..."
  Five days. She'd been working here for five days and still... *still*... this woman was as unpredictable as a mercurial despot.
  "Interesting," said the Lady Delilah. "That was very considerate of you."
  "Thankee m'm."
  "Miss Iris, if I could beg one favour?"
  "M'm?"
  "Please stop calling me 'm'm' all the time? My name is Delilah. Please use that."
  Iris blushed furiously hot and tried to be interested in her peas and carrots. "...have ye found that lawyer, yet?"
  "Sadly, no. That idiot Peter evidently didn't do anything sensible with his affairs at all."
  "Beggin' yer pardon, m'mmmMiss Delilah," Iris dared look up. How could this woman work all day, coming up with chemicals to fortify an ailing person, and still look like she just stepped out of a Salon? Iris blushed harder. "But if 'e come up with them machines, he ain't so much of an idiot t' my mind."
  "You can keep him if you want him," Miss Delilah said, stabbing some kidneys.
  Iris sighed, finding her peas fascinating as she chased them around the plate with her fork. "You an' I both know 'e wouldn't look at me," she murmured. "Not wi' you around."
  "And this is where I hear about how beautiful I am," miss Delilah rolled her eyes. "Can you imagine being tired of hearing it?"
  "Yes'm... Miss Delilah," she mumbled to her plate. "But you'n th' Colonel... y're t'only people in the 'ole world as made me feel stupid *and* ugly."
  There was a rustling of petticoats as Miss Delilah left the table. There was an extended silence. During which, Iris imagined the whole world dying. It was one thing to be invisible to a man both ill and in love with another. It was another thing entirely to be walked out upon by an individual one desired. Iris bit her bottom lip to stop it trembling.
  There was a hand on her shoulder.
  "You stop that at once, Miss Iris," advised Miss Delilah, suddenly and inexplicably by her side. "You have a unique and remarkable talent for solving problems, and the smartest people I know have trouble with that. I'd have never thought of soothing those... mechanical oddities the Colonel made. I'd have probably yelled at them and made them cry harder."
  "Don't tell 'em I said, but the poor things is babbies... They needs a mother." She sniffed. Wiped her face with her kerchief. "And bein' ma t' things bigger'n me ain't nowt new. I mothered brothers twice my size."
  "Oh? And I suppose using one of the automatons as a heat source was nothing new, either."
  "T' be outright honest, they done gave me the idea. Playin' with t' clothes and all," Flustered by the attention, she looked down.
  Miss Delilah's fingers gently raised her chin. "Then you have the singular genius to pay attention to things. And that's rarer than you might think, Miss Iris." She leaned in. Moistened her lips. "And I have a great admiration for rare genius."
  Her lips looked so kissable. And they were so close to her own. Iris let Miss Delilah draw closer. Hardly daring to breathe for fear of shattering the miracle about to happen.
  "Gotcha flowers," said Rabbit.
  They sprang apart like teenagers caught by their chaperone.
  Rabbit had somehow crept away from its mechanical sibling, and Pappy, operated the elevator on its own, and sneaked out into the gardens to uproot an entire rosebush; to present in grinning and muddy victory to Miss Delilah.
  Iris saw the oncoming storm and quickly hustled Miss Delilah into the pantry by clapping her hand over the learned woman's mouth and a rushed, "Give us a little minute, please, Rabbit. There's a darling."
 
  "MMF!" Delilah glared indignantly at the woman she'd almost kissed. What in the world could she be thinking?
  "Please, please, *please* hush an' listen, dear," Miss Iris urgently whispered. "You were about t' break a heart, all permanent-loike."
  "MMF!"
  "It's important, please, love."
  Love? Delilah blinked in confusion. She'd been delicately feeling Miss Iris out for Sapphonic tendencies, but now this woman was all but holding a parade to announce them. She stopped struggling and managed an, "Mmf?"
  "Rabbit wants you t' like it. I tole th' poor thing to jus' keep bein' noice t' ye, and... well... y'ever picked a posy o' weeds fer yer mam?"
  Oh. *Oh*... OH! All of the automatons' peace efforts had been the kind a child would attempt towards an adult. Not the promptings of an amazingly socially inept, but adult scientist/engineer.
  Delilah gently removed Miss Iris' hand from her face. "I'd been thinking this whole time that that idiot Peter had been telling them what to do..."
  "They come up wi' all'a that 'emselves, Miss Delilah."
  Sigh. "Very well. I'll be gentler to the poor beasts."
  "Babbies," corrected Miss Iris in an urgent whisper. "They's babbies, Miss Delilah."
  They emerged from the closet with mutual, almost-artificial smiles pasted to their faces.
  "They're wonderful flowers, Rabbit," Delilah managed. "However, I do think the rose bush would be better off back in the garden where everyone can see it."
  "I'll teach you how to pick just the flowers, tomorrow," promised Miss Iris. "Let's get the poor bush back to where you got it, eh?"
  "D'you like us now?" Rabbit asked. "No more yellin'?"
  Babies, indeed. Delilah remembered trying to appease a particularly stringent nurse with some of her candies. Some of her candies that she had 'saved' by extracting them from her childish mouth and hiding them in her dollhouse. The honest effort had been lost on the nurse, she recalled.  "That's right," she cooed. "I'm very sorry I yelled at you all those times. Miss Iris explained a little something to me and it's going to be all better now."
  There was an expedition to put the rosebush back into the garden bed from whence it came, and another to clean the mud and sticks and grime from Rabbit. And another story to calm The whimpering Spine from his state of abandonment-related anxiety.
  They crept out of the room where three adult shapes slept like criminals in possession of something more materially valuable than mere peace and quiet.
  Though, right at that moment, there was little more valuable than peace and quiet.
  She ushered the darker woman into the bedroom they took shifts in for slumber alone and sat her on the bed. "Congratulations, Miss Iris," she murmured, lest she wake up either the ailing gentleman under their mutual care or the giant metal babies he had constructed. "You have given me a solid kick to my ego and made *me* feel the dullard. And I find that very. Singularly. Attractive."
  A soft kiss. Testing. Seeking no more permission than lips upon lips.
  Miss Iris returned it with a devouring hunger-for-touch that Delilah recognised as loneliness seeking comfort. She was far from home and had ****d everything. She thought she was the worst kind of alone, and doomed to remain so.
  Delilah didn't escalate her affections beyond that of simple comfort. Let the smaller woman cling and weep silently into her shoulder and she would coo gentle nothings into her sun-touched ears.
  She smelled of sunshine and uncomplicated soap and a lovely, rich under-scent of companionable humanity.
  Miss Iris needed someone to hold her. Someone to hold.
  And Delilah reminded herself hourly to supply only that.
  Nobody fell in love in the passage of less than a week. Not the lasting kind of love, anyway.
 
  The fortifying soup was taking effect, at last. Colonel Walter was starting to fill back out from his former, alarming emaciation. The strength slowly returning to his body with helping after helping of fortifying broths, medicines and tinctures from both herself and Miss Delilah.
  The chill that afflicted him remained. Worryingly so. Miss Delilah checked him for infections by analysing a phial of his blood under a microscope. Iris just checked him every four hours using the physic she knew. Helped him regain his strength with small exercise.
  Rabbit insisted on aping her motions -in supporting the Colonel's lanky frame- by assisting his steel brother in walking down the hall. Chirping and twittering and chittering with his automaton sibling the entire time.
  It served a dual purpose, in the end. It kept Rabbit occupied -and Rabbit needed that help, since he had a singular determination to investigate everything in the world with his hands- and it helped The Spine learn how to balance himself on two legs.
  She'd been here at this empty and dark mansion for slightly more than a fortnight... and painfully in love with both the excruciatingly handsome Colonel Walter and the breathlessly beautiful Miss Delilah.
  And she couldn't decide between them, either.
  Not that she had much of a chance. Once they actually began communicating with each other, she'd be left in the dust. A neglected little dullard whose only merit was being able to blend into the scenery so well that people tripped over her and still never noticed she was there.
  "Ma," said The Spine. He was pointing to her.
  "No, dear boy," mumbled Colonel Walter. "Daren't propose. I have this effect on women. They tend t' say no."
  He lolled and slumped immediately thereafter, so her sole battle became wrestling him into his bed with him halfway able to help. Once there, once he was properly tucked in and muttering gibberish in his sleep...
  Iris surrendered to temptation and laid a single, gentle kiss on his brow.
  His sleepy smile broke her. Bought forth a small fountain of fat, thick tears from her eyes and some definite wobbling in her lips. He'd never smile at her like that once he had his full faculties returned to him.
  Miss Delilah was watching her. She had turned into a marble statue, stiff and pale in the doorway.
  Iris couldn't tell if she was envious, furious, or merely gassy. She tried to say, "Miss Delilah, I do apologise..." and try to think of a rational explanation for her indecisive heart. But all that came out was a mouselike squeak of, "Mi--*" before her voice utterly failed and helpless tears obscured the other love of her life from view.
  Rabbit, always hovering in one of their wakes, said, "Broken... Ma?"
  "No, Rabbit," Miss Delilah began.
  And then the copper automaton had her in his arms. Carried her over to Miss Delilah in a few, easy strides. "Momma, you fix Ma," he said. "You make Ma smile with the lip-lip thing."
  How in the world--?
  The alabaster facade of Miss Delilah coloured magnificently.
  "How did you--"
  Rabbit grinned. "I see you an' Ma do lip-lip after story-time. Ma makes biggestest smile. No more sad."
  Darn that mechanical child! Iris struggled to regain her composure enough to speak. During which she dared not look at either Delilah or Rabbit or the slumbering form of Colonel Walter in the gloom beyond.
  "I promise we'll talk," she managed, her voice a reedy ghost of its former self. "Please put me down and go back to sleep. Before The Spine gets alarmed."
  Rabbit very reluctantly set her right and, in an effort to show what he thought must be done, pressed the near-skeletal front of his face to her brow with a squeaky little noise like a mouse taking fright. Only then did he slink into the gloom to take his customary place inside The Spine's field of view.
  Which left her trembling in the unreadable glare of the lovely Lady Doctor Delilah. Iris was certain the entire world could hear her teeth chattering and her knees knocking in the force of that unrelenting gaze.
  "If you had to choose," murmured Miss Delilah. "Which way would you wander?"
  Only then did she notice that she was just as far from Colonel Walter as she was from Doctor Moreau. Her legs would take her neither way. "...couldn't..." she mumbled. "...don't make me, please..." Sniff. "...'druther step out th' way, m'm..."
  Doctor Moreau sighed theatrically and said, "Really? Both him *and* me?"
  Miserable, Iris nodded.
  "He talks of you when I'm nursing him," she complained. "I never thought it would get me jealous, but... When he isn't rhapsodising my physical qualities, he's praising your skills."
  "...'es been sellin' you t' me, m'm. When I already done been sold," She could stare at Doctor Moreau's elegant feet, so she did. "An' then 'e turns 'bout an' gets poetic 'bout me. Compliments I never thought I'd 'ear from a man... 'S fair turned me 'eart an' twisted me into knots."
  "And just how does he sell me to you?" wondered Doctor Moreau.
  "He sells your brains, m'm. All 'e talks about is how smart you are an' how you're unriddlin' consumption an' workin' on chemicals t' be out wi' that plague. He said he reads every one o' your papers he can get. Five times, minimum. And he said he regrets..."
  "Out with it, woman."
  "...he regrets makin' you stay an' care for 'im like a common nurse."
 
  Peter woke to someone shaking him like a rat in the jaws of a terrier.
  Delilah. Lovely. Marvellous. Brilliant. Criminally overlooked Delilah.
  Bloody furious Delilah.
  "...d'no what I did," he mumbled thickly, "..b't I 'pologise profusely an' soon as I know wh't it is 'll stop..."
  "WHY THE HELL DON'T YOU COMPLIMENT MY WORKS TO MY FACE AND HER SKILL TO HERS, YOU STUPID INFURIATING LOVELY MAN?"
  "...momma...?" murmured The Spine. "It's past bed-time..."
  Delilah dropped Peter into the cushions and said, "Yes. It is past bed-time. Go back to sleep. We'll all talk in the morning."
  Peter rolled over and huddled into the warmth of his perplexing steel son.
 
  Delilah turned to see Miss Iris staring at her in terror.
  "See?" she demanded of the maid-turned-nurse. "He's an idiot. He doesn't even know how to give a compliment properly."
  "...so you love 'im too?"
  She should have heard the mourning in her voice. "Regrettably... yes. Unfortunately... yes. RRRRGH! I *never* thought I'd fall in love with a man."
  Miss Iris turned to stone. It was a horrible transformation. All the life and colour in her... all emotion... fled like the life bleeding out of an executed man. She was alive, surely, but whatever was inside of her was dying by slow degrees. "I understand, m'm. I'll... I'll stop my impertinence right away..."
  Impertinence?
  Oh dear powers of observation, NO!
  Delilah caught her as she began to slink away. "Don't you dare!"
  Confusion. "M'm?"
  "Don't you dare turn yourself off and leave me alone to deal with that obtuse maniac. I need you. I need you as Iris. Lovely, smart, talented and genius Iris. Passionate and loving Iris. I need all your facets, dear. Stay with me?"
  Absolute and utter befuddlement. "'Scuse me, m'm, but I thought you was in love wi' Colonel Walter?"
  Sigh. This was no time to kiss the poor woman and confuse her further. "I love you. *And* I love Colonel Walter. Despite every reason not to. You love him and you love me, yes?"
  "...'es'm..." Fat tears once more spilled from her eyes.
  "There now, darling. Don't cry." Delilah used the edge of Iris' own apron to dry her tears. "From the sound of things, Colonel Walter finds himself amenable to the both of us, too."
  Blink. At least the tears stopped. "You... you mean th' three of us...?"
  "...could enter into a mutually agreeable arrangement. Yes!" At last, she drew her into a hug. "I knew you were clever, lovely girl."
  "...but..."
  "Mm-hm?"
  "How's it s'posed to work? 'Tween the three of us?"
  Delilah kissed her, softly and reassuringly. "Dear, talented Miss Iris... you are going to learn so much, tomorrow. I am going to open entire worlds for you." A solid and passionate embrace. "Shall we begin, tonight, with what my esteemed colleagues and occasional lovers like to call 'a bit of the old hysterical'?"
  The lie that women lacked a sex drive had lead to flourishing Sapphonic relationships and many delightfully scientific discussions on the many and glorious ways to bring a female lover to orgasm. Including the distinction between clitoral and ****l climaxes. It didn't take the few men admitted to the halls of the Cavulcadium long to discover this and... some of them turned out to be amazingly attentive and quick studies.
  ...and it was then that she recalled writing an intensely descriptive paper on the varying techniques of cunnilingus versus penetrative stimulations and the varied techniques of bringing about 'hysterical paroxysm'. And the intense bonds that could be formed as a direct result. Including helpful diagrams and details on varying positions.
  Peter Walter had read all her papers. Five times each. At a minimum.
  "D'd I do som'mat wrong, Miss Delilah?" said little Iris, snug in her arms and returning the arduous embrace Delilah had initiated.
  "No," she blushed. "I just remembered a paper I'd written."
  Miss Iris' nipples were hard little rocks peeking out beyond her corset and jutting through her clothes. Delilah could feel them under one wandering hand. "Must be a good paper t' turn you that red..."
  She was smiling. And out of breath. Desirous of more. And with her smile, the halls seemed a little brighter. Light travelled further in the gloom of the mansion.
  "Shall we begin," Delilah proposed, "with a detailled analysis of kissing in the French style... with flirting tongues?"
  Their lips were once again about to touch when...
  "Ma? Momma?"
  The Spine. He sounded... taller... than any of the times he'd come literally crawling after them.
  "It's all right, dear," said Miss Iris, moving away from their almost kiss. "Miss Delilah and I are having a *very* good--" gasp. "You're walking! All by yourself! Clever boy! Such a clever boy!"
  Delilah turned, embraces and kissing forgotten, to gawp in amazement at the automaton who had once declared he would never walk. And all she could think was, _Good grief, he's *tall*._
  He constantly re-adjusted his balance. Making him look like he needed to pee. A sensible tactic, considering how immensely top-heavy he was.
  "Pappy," he said around the constant gargle of leaking oil. "He's gone hot."
  Miss Iris said something very uncivil and raced into the room she had just vacated. Delilah ran after her, good mood diminishing.
  "The Spine's right. He's running a fever. Send out for feverfew, willowfine, and as much ice as can get here inside half an hour. Where's that hydration formula?"
  Delilah snatched it from its former keeping-place in a wardrobe. Helped her pour a glass.
  "Bugger the glass. Go and send for the things! And the ice! RUN!"
  Fear gave her feet wings. Sent her flying to the house telegraph and urgently trying to find both an apothecary and an ice-house willing to deliver to what many people called a cursed house. Now she understood why he'd run for her. The elevator was right there, but she ran up and down the entire flight of stairs between the floor where the Colonel rested and the foyer a grand total of three times before exhaustion helped her remember it was there.
  And then she ran to fetch the ice, though she had a helpful pair of automatons tromping along in her wake. They easily carried loads she struggled with.
  But in this instance, it had to be her hands.
  It wasn't fair!
  She'd just come up with a genius solution to their mutual problems and he had to ruin everything by coming down with a fever.
 
  They'd dragged the cot from the lab into Colonel Walter's ensuite so they could take turns napping while the other plied him with every remedy known to science and superstition both. The automatons, kept stocked with oil and water, became useful by the simple fact that they filled the rooms with steam, and eased the Colonel's breathing.
  He raved interesting things in his sleep. Mistook Iris in her water-soaked rumpled exhaustion for a queen of the Indies. And mistook Delilah for an empress of the stars.
  He proposed to them both, in his addled confusion, and asked if they'd like to marry each other.
  Iris knitted to stay awake during her watch. A skill she managed to pass on to The Spine and somehow solve his heat issues through simple distraction.
  Dinner for all of them was frequently stew. Kept bubbling in the chemical lab on a gas burner. Simply because a trek to the kitchens would take far too long.
  It seemed an eternity before his fever broke. Before they both fell -naked and damp- into the bed they shared, across the hall from the Colonel's suite. Before the mechanical babies conspired to ease a quilt over them and attempt to read them a story. And kiss them each good-night.
 
  The babies had the run of the house!
  Iris startled into a sitting position with a shuddering gasp and a lurid recollection that all her clothes were wet from the bathing, and scattered all over the floor. All there was to wear was a dressing-gown and she barely had time to slink into it before an explosion rocked the house.
  Clinching it shut, she joined the metal babies in the main laboratory. Blue light flickered and illuminated a laughing Colonel Walter and three mechanical forms. Lightning arcing impossibly between all three of their blue matter cores. And, just as she went in, it ceased. An ominous, hungry silence and a hungry darkness enveloped the lab for a terrifying extension of time.
  "Colonel Walter?"
  "Pappy?"
  "It's all good. I'm fffffiiiiine..."
  Light returned by degrees as The Spine chittered and chirped with a new automaton made of brass. He -or she- did not currently have legs, so the steel automaton used the bright red handles on its torso to lift it up.
  "Three of them?"
  "It's a gift!" Colonel Peter Walter was still in his underthings and looking decidedly peekid. "Two f'r you. Two f'r lovely Delilah. They'll sing at our weddings..."
  He was still delirious.
  "That's very nice of you, sor, but I'm sure I don't need more babies t' look after, just now. You've 'ad a hard few weeks, now. Y' need your rest."
  "But I haven't finished the other one. It ain't fair..."
  "What nonsense are you up to now, Peter?" said Miss Delilah. All she was wearing was some gaudy, oversized kimono someone had evidently bought in a drunken episode of Japonisme. And she looked fabulous in it.
  "We've been building more automatons," Iris chirped. "Colonel Walter wants things to be *fair*."
  "Oh. Then he'd better be fair in bed because *we* all need our breakfast. Scoot."
  Colonel Walter saluted rather smartly, considering his addled mental state. "At your earliest convenience, m'lady."
  Iris felt the blush conquering her skin as she gently shoved Colonel Walter back to his suite. "I don't think you meant to say it that way," she urgently hissed to Miss Delilah.
  Her sleep-addled mind caught up with what her mouth had said and her face coloured. "Just get him tucked in and get one of the babies to hold him down or something. I need food. I can't think."
  Colonel Walter blew Miss Delilah a kiss.
  "Y'need your rest, sor," she insisted, hustling him further on. "And we all needs our breakfast. You just give me and Miss Delilah a chance to hustle that up and then we'll see to the rest of the day.
  Now there were two and a half automatons standing in the hall. The Spine carried the third, owing to his lack of legs.
  "Hey Ma! Hey Momma! When's our new brother gonna get finished?"
  "Oh, sort it out for yourselves," huffed Miss Delilah.
  She really should not have said that.
 
  Delilah felt better after a good, strong cup of coffee, some clean, dry clothing and some secret fingering in the privy. The last of which, nobody needed to know about.
  Miss Iris insisted on teaching her cookery, dressing it up as chemistry in another hat. Delilah found it infuriatingly fascinating that common elements she had shunned had lives and interactions of their own.
  Miss Iris handled all of it as if she had done so her entire life. She never made Delilah feel stupid, wrong or bad for not knowing her 'little tricks', and would often use her own, work-calloused hands to gently manouvre her through the necessary moves.
  She came up from inspecting some baking in the oven to discover a lanky brass beast hovering over her shoulder.
  It had a perpetual smile and evidently no concept of personal space.
  Delilah shrieked.
  "Oh my goodness..." Miss Iris sighed. "Hello, dear. Did your brothers fix you up?"
  "Yeah," said the new mechanical baby. "Got new legs on." He presented one for inspection.
  "Very nice," managed Delilah through gritted teeth. Maintaining a desperate rictus of a smile. "Did they teach you to walk, too?"
  "Nup." The brass automaton chirped. "I got wheels in my heels so I can do this..." He demonstrated an unearthly combination of shuffle, dance and... creep... like he wasn't meant to exist in this reality and merely chose to interact with it when he pleased.
  Miss Iris adopted a similar rictus. "That's... nice..." she allowed. "Did they teach you to use the elevator?"
  "Nup."
  "Do you have a name?" Delilah asked.
  "Nup."
  "And why did you come here?" prompted Miss Iris.
  "Dunno." His gaze roamed around the room in idle speculation. "Wanted to see," he added with a shrug.
 
=======8<=======

I'm not familiar with The Jon at all, so I just have him randomly channeling Cheese [FHFIF] and coming up with childish nonsequiteurs.

And yes, there will be smut. Eventually.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2014, 09:35:34 pm by InterNutter »

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InterNutter

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Re: One Big Family (unfinished)
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2014, 04:54:12 pm »
MOAR!

=======8<=======

  Delilah felt better after a good, strong cup of coffee, some clean, dry clothing and some secret fingering in the privy. The last of which, nobody needed to know about.
  Miss Iris insisted on teaching her cookery, dressing it up as chemistry in another hat. Delilah found it infuriatingly fascinating that common elements she had shunned had lives and interactions of their own.
  Miss Iris handled all of it as if she had done so her entire life. She never made Delilah feel stupid, wrong or bad for not knowing her 'little tricks', and would often use her own, work-calloused hands to gently manouvre her through the necessary moves.
  She came up from inspecting some baking in the oven to discover a lanky brass beast hovering over her shoulder.
  It had a perpetual smile and evidently no concept of personal space.
  Delilah shrieked.
  "Oh my goodness..." Miss Iris sighed. "Hello, dear. Did your brothers fix you up?"
  "Yeah," said the new mechanical baby. "Got new legs on." He presented one for inspection.
  "Very nice," managed Delilah through gritted teeth. Maintaining a desperate rictus of a smile. "Did they teach you to walk, too?"
  "Nup." The brass automaton chirped. "I got wheels in my heels so I can do this..." He demonstrated an unearthly combination of shuffle, dance and... creep... like he wasn't meant to exist in this reality and merely chose to interact with it when he pleased.
  Miss Iris adopted a similar rictus. "That's... nice..." she allowed. "Did they teach you to use the elevator?"
  "Nup."
  "Do you have a name?" Delilah asked.
  "Nup."
  "And why did you come here?" prompted Miss Iris.
  "Dunno." His gaze roamed around the room in idle speculation. "Wanted to see," he added with a shrug.
  "And now you've seen," said Delilah. "Please go upstairs and play with your brothers."
  "Why?"
  Miss Iris had the better tactic. "Kitchens are dangerous places. There's lots of hot things and lots of sharp things... and some poisonous things... We don't want any accidents happening because we were more worried about where you were."
  At least the wheels in his heels made it easier to literally push him around. Miss Iris had a remarkable grasp of centres of gravity and a solid grip on the red handles that Peter had installed for unknown reasons.
  Delilah admired the way she kept the new automaton distracted all the way to the elevator and even had him headed upstairs with a final, "Off you pop, now."
  The instant he was out of sight, Miss Iris ran for the kitchen to save their cooking before even the slightest char managed to happen.
  "How do you do that?" Delilah asked honestly. "I've studied psychology and thought myself at a loss for ever understanding the male of the species..."
  "Ah, it's all in talkin' em into thinkin' it's their idea all along. Four brothers, remember? And I was mother to the older ones so I know how t' handle 'em good and proper."
  Delilah found herself rather proud of the tray she assembled to tempt Peter into heartier eating.
  And the new automaton was at their elbows again.
  "Smells good," he said. "Can I have some?"
  "Don't you dare. This is for your Pappy. You're a machine, you only need oil and water," Miss Iris scolded.
  "I'm hungry," complained the brass automaton.
  "Impossible," snapped Delilah. "Let's have a look at you..." she opened the thing's chest-plates to reveal...
  A vortex. Swirling and stable where its power core should have been.
  In it, swam a fish. Not just any old fish, but an Asian ornamental goldfish.
  And, for some bizarre reason, there also floated a dachshund bun. Sausage and all.
  Delilah prodded at the vortex. Felt a slight pull, and withdrew her hand.
  "That's where the hungry is," said the machine helpfully.
  Delilah carefully closed the doors of his chest and re-set the latch. "You, sir, are a riddle for another day."
  "Yay!"
  "Right now, we all need to look after Pappy," added Miss Iris.
 
  The Colonel was not in his bed, but making another automaton in his delirium.
  This one appeared to be mostly stove.
  "Hel-lo ma-ma," it chirped from the slab.
  "The engineering's a little lacking," said Colonel Walter, who swayed dangerously as he moved. He had found a lab coat, but still paraded about in his socks and underdrawers. "But the boys are excellent help. Excellent. *Excellent* help."
  "We make a brother!" Rabbit cheered.
  "Hatch boy," bubbled The Spine. He had taken to carrying around a very soiled lab-rag to catch the dripping oils from his mouth.
  Miss Delilah sighed. "Colonel Peter Alexander Walter, what in the name of all that is holy could you POSSIBLY THINK YOU ARE *DOING*?"
  "You're cross with me," he slurred. "I can make a better one, tomorrow. Would you like a girl? I can arrange a girl. I had some feminine plans set aside, but for the life of me I can't find where I put them down."
  "Peter..." said Miss Delilah in the tones of a burning fuse quite close to the gunpowder barrel.
  "I only seek to impress..."
  Iris cruised in and began gently escorting him back to his suite. "We're impressed. Honestly we are impressed. And four automatons is plenty, my dear Colonel..."
  He giggled drunkenly. "...my dear..."
  "You most definitely don't need to make any more. D'you understand, sir?"
  "Oh. Oh yes. Four should be significant." He bumbled back into bed. "I finished the quartet! This is a fine day for science."
  "Just don't build an entire orchestra, thank you," said Miss Delilah. The burning fuse was edging out of her voice, but still perceptible.
  "No, no... I'll have an orchestra for the wedding..."
  Iris grabbed his face and glared him down. "No. More. Automatons. Yes, Miss Iris."
  "...esmissiris..."
  "Good boy," she sighed, tucking him in and setting up the meal tray and bed table.
  "For future reference," said Miss Delilah. "Making babies is not terribly impressive. And giving a lady *more* babies is unlikely to impress further."
  "Oh," he seemed so crestfallen. "Not even miracles of engineering?"
  "Save the baby-making for after the wedding, hm?"
  "Ah."
  He seemed content to eat and, more tellingly, to settle for healing rest and actually stay there.
  "It's a remarkable man," said Iris, "Who can give a gal four babbies wi'out so much as a kiss."
  "Hmph," said Miss Delilah. "I think it's going to take both of us just to keep him busy."
 
  The sun had deigned to come into his rooms. Birdsong warbled through the air and a faint perfume of good cookery filled his nostrils.
  Peter opened his eyes to the blue-glowing photoreceptors of a stranger.
  "Hel-lo Pap-py," it said.
  He startled away, only to find another stranger with its face way too close. This one was brass.
  "Pappy's awake! Yay! Can I have your pancakes?"
  "You're not allowed," said Rabbit. "Them's is Pappy's pamcackles."
  "Pancakes," corrected The Spine.
  Peter sat up. Took stock.
  Delilah was watching from a corner while... a vision of loveliness tended to the setting of a bed table. Iris. Her name was Iris.
  "There's four of them, now?" he asked the room. "Where did the other two come from?"
  Dear darling Delilah started sniggering into her hands.
  "You put them together when you were delirious," said Miss Iris.
  "We helped," added Rabbit.
  "Apparently, you were trying to impress us," supplied Delilah. "From what I've been able to derive, since the first two fell in love with Miss Iris as a mother, you endeavoured to make the other two to stimulate my scientific curiosity."
  The pancakes were as light as clouds. Like biting into heaven. "I... don't remember that... Does he--" he made the mistake of gesturing to the brass one with a pancake-loaded fork. It returned to his gaze empty of even a crumb, "--eat without harm?"
  "*Yummmm*," said the brass one.
  "We can't find no trace of where it goes, sor," said Miss Iris. "Go stand in the corner, naughty boy! No eatin' food as meant for others."
  "Aw..." the brass automaton trudged to the nearest corner like a man about to face his own execution.
  Delilah, in a practiced motion, began a stopwatch.
  "He'd eat the whole world bare and still have room for the sun and the moon," opined Miss Iris.
  "Do they have names?" he worried. Two new baby machines who didn't know who they were, bumbling about with only their older brothers and two beleagured ladies for guidance...
  "The little bronze fellow seems to like 'Hatchy'. He's been a godsend," said Iris. "He can pull just about anything he likes out of the vortex in his hatch."
  "If you put raw ingredients in, a cooked meal comes out," added Delilah. "As for the other one..."
  The 'other one' was making gurgling, sucking noises and meeping the beginnings of a solid cry.
  "No name seems to settle on him," Iris shrugged. "We've taken to calling him 'Three'. Or Unit Three if you want to be formal."
  "We're friends now," said Hatchy. "You can call me Hatch-mei-ster."
  T'k'cht. Delilah stopped the stopwatch. "All right, Three. You can go take a walk in the garden with one of your brothers."
  Oil was streaming down the brass automaton's face. "...m'ver' sorry..."
  "We know," said Miss Iris with a sigh. She watched him go, in the company of The Spine, and added, "but that still won't stop the next time..."
  Peter stared in mute and adoring confusion. He thought he'd been in love, before... Now his heart felt fit to explode for wanting both these lovely ladies and their admirable qualities in his life.
  "You... you handled them... and me... and me making more of them? And... whatever my illness was?"
  "Miss Iris is a champion improviser and a phenomenal doctor," endorsed Delilah. "Despite -or perhaps because of- her lack of formal training."
  Peter shuddered. "I remember doctors from before my introduction to the Cavulcadium. When it came to kill or cure, they excelled at the former."
  "Ugh, just do lip-lip already," said Rabbit. "Hurry up. We wanna play."
  "Rabbit..." sighed Delilah through gritted teeth. "Why don't you go show Hatchy the duckpond. And don't throw anything in there again."
  "Aaaaawww... Splashes're fun."
  "The ducks don't agree," said Miss Iris.
  Peter waited until the automatons were gone. "Lip... lip?"
  Miss Iris hung her head.
  "The machines saw us kissing," said Delilah. "They invented the term. They seem to think it makes us happy."
  The light began to fade away. "Ah. Of course," Peter managed. "I... should have known." Half a laugh. "There's so many wonderful ladies in the Cavulcadium who are married to other ladies. Would you both forgive my impertinence at dreaming that you may have... you both may have... made an old soldier deliriously happy..."
  There was a deathly silence. Delilah turned away.
  "Y'mean... you'd take us both?"
  "Of course. There's many trios in the Cavulcadium as well. And more than a few -ah- quartets. And one quintet, as I recall. After that, it gets... tricky... to maintain happiness."
  Delilah was laughing. "All this time," she snorted. "All this time I thought you were one of those horrible, traditional male martinets..."
  "Why ever would you -- oh. Yes. You met my father the Admiral." He shook his head. "No. I've done everything I can to divorce myself from that man's horrible attitude towards the wonders this life has to offer."
  "I never met th' man," murmured Miss Iris.
  "Count yourself lucky," said Delilah. "He'd condemn the both of us and demand the children be rounded up for scrap."
  "He's made a lifetime hobby of condemning me," said Peter. Delilah's virulent yellow concoction finally made itself unwelcome to his tongue. Remembering the instructions from - how long ago, now? - he set it aside and sipped from the orange juice provided.
  Delilah nodded approvingly.
  "But enough on odious topics. Miss Iris Tonia? Doctor Delilah Moreau? Would you be amenable to joining with me in a co-operative trio?"
  Miss Iris looked to Doctor Delilah, who had turned emotionless and unreadable. Stiff and almost... afraid. Miss Iris hung her head and murmured, "I'm in if'n t'Lady Moreau is in."
  Delilah had made herself blank. Neutral and empty as a blank, clay pot. The lingering darkness clung to her. "The first man who said he loved me took what he wanted and left me and my reputation in tatters. The second man who said he loved me denied my refusals and hurt me until I was beyond fighting back. Since then, I have trusted no man. Know this now, if you hurt me, I will disappear."
  Peter looked her in the eyes. "Dear lady... if I hurt you, I will end myself. The very same holds true for Miss Iris. If I hurt either of you... I will have failed as a human being."
  Sigh. "Trust from me will be slow in coming, sir. Actions will speak louder than words. And I've already heard you talking of your automatons. You treat them like people. Anyone else would treat them as things. Just as many gentlemen treat ladies as things. That's a positive mark in your favour."
  "Understood," said Peter.
  "I shall give you a chance to earn my trust."
  He bowed at her from his seated position. "As you will, dear Delilah."
  "And I include sex in your audition."
  He almost choked on his scrambled eggs. Certainly, he was used to Cavulcadium openness and honesty, but never at *him*. He found it personally telling that both delightful ladies twitched to guard his health. He rallied for them valiantly and managed to recover himself. "Once I'm at my full vitality, I trust? If I have the choice, I would much rather only give you the best I have to offer."
  That earned him a Mona Lisa smile. "Don't wait too long," she said. "I have consumption."
  The darkness that clung to her seemed to blot out all the light in the room but that seemingly coming from Miss Iris. Warmth fled him. "How long...?"
  "Have I been sick? Some significant time. Why do you think that I've been fascinated by the life-invigorating properties of both blue matter and green matter?
  "All those revitalising potions..."
  "Originally concocted for my own use. Yes. But they're failing. Very slowly, but they're failing."
  "I'll find something... I need time to think... to plan... There has to be a way."
  "We'd need a miracle," said Miss Iris. The light that shone just on her flared outwards as she sat up straight for all of two seconds before bolting from the room.
  Peter wisely finished his victuals before attempting to leave his sickbed. Attempting was as far as he got, because a vital accoutrement was conspicuous by its absence.
  "Er. Where are my pants?" he enquired at a murmur.
  "Why do you need them now?" Delilah smirked. "You've been leaving your bed without them for weeks, now."
  The tides of unbounded mortification flooded his face with a burning heat that only surprised Peter by not causing spontaneous human combustion. "...please tell me I at least wore my longjohns..."
  Delilah laughed. "After the first time we tried to stop you by stealing them, yes. And for the record, you wore your dressing-coat rather admirably cinched shut. With a bonus safety-pin."
  "...deus..." If it wasn't for Delilah's smile, he'd have hidden under the covers and waited for the world to go away. "You have a vicious streak, don't you?"
  "Only where men are concerned."
  "I apologise on behalf of my entire gender. Now can I please have some *pants*?"

=======8<=======

Obviously I am having WAY too much fun with this. MWAhahaha...

InterNutter

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Re: One Big Family (unfinished)
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2014, 01:47:17 am »
Warning: Here there be smut :D

=======8<=======

  "Er. Where are my pants?" he enquired at a murmur.
  "Why do you need them now?" Delilah smirked. "You've been leaving your bed without them for weeks, now."
  The tides of unbounded mortification flooded his face with a burning heat that only surprised Peter by not causing spontaneous human combustion. "...please tell me I at least wore my longjohns..."
  Delilah laughed. "After the first time we tried to stop you by stealing them, yes. And for the record, you wore your dressing-coat rather admirably cinched shut. With a bonus safety-pin."
  "...deus..." If it wasn't for Delilah's smile, he'd have hidden under the covers and waited for the world to go away. "You have a vicious streak, don't you?"
  "Only where men are concerned."
  "I apologise on behalf of my entire gender. Now can I please have some *pants*?"
  Delilah folded her arms, her face had gone cold again. Peter gained the sense that he was being tested as she simply said, "No."
  Peter deflated, rearranging his empty plates. He was used to his father denying him even the most simple of things. He made himself finish his meal despite the tight feeling in his stomach and let himself have thinking time as it all settled. "May I ask you to turn your back whilst I fetch some variety of coat or covering so I can look for my pants?"
  The very knife-edge of a smirk. "No."
  He pondered her observing him, trying to imagine the lecture she would give. "Would I come to harm if I did rise from my sickbed?"
  "No."
  He made a toga out of a bedsheet and, thusly costumed, went seeking Iris. Who was, incidentally, on her return trip with Hatchy in tow.
  "Now," she said. "Get something out of your hatch that will make Mommy all better, please."
  Hatchy obediently opened the porthole in his bronze ribcage and rummaged around inside. His hand came back out with three yellow cylinders containing pills. They had written instructions on them in a serious lettering.
  Thrice a day, following meals, and the entire collection of pills had to be swallowed.
  Iris was the one who took one look at Peter's bedsheet toga, glared meaningfully at Delilah, and scurried off to fetch the missing pants. Significantly cleaned of their accrued stains and pressed to within an inch of their metaphorical life.
  Delilah followed him all the way into the bathroom, arms still folded.
  "Please leave while I change?" he begged.
  "Why? I've seen everything."
  "Now that I have regained my full mental faculties, I do not feel proper about exposing myself to you. And I evidently did not feel so during my illness. Please... I love you beyond reason, but... please... respect my need for this?"
  This earned a warm smile and a, "Very well. I'll wait in the hall."
  Weighed in the balance, indeed. Peter found himself wanting to locate the two cads who had hurt her so abominably and give them the drubbing of a lifetime. Perhaps for the rest of their lifetime. But he doubted such sentiments spoken out loud would impress her.
  The key would have to be honesty intertwined with respect.
 
  During the first week, Delilah adored the pills despite their ill effects on her appetite. Because they drove away her symptoms like none other of her potions could accomplish. During the second week, she noticed the Smell that issued from her urine and, coupled with her nausea, it drove her to distraction.
  She would have thrown the pills away, then and there, were it not for the doting attentions of Peter, Iris, and the four mechanical children.
  During the third and final week of the course, she counted the days remaining.
  She was certain she reeked, though she bathed once a day, of the stench she smelled on the toilet. She was positive her complexion had suffered. She knew her figure had undergone the trials of attrition. All the things that made her attractive and valuable to others, she was positive, had faded out of existence under the influence of this loathsome medicine.
  And yet, without fail, Peter bought her flowers.
  Without fail, Iris bought her tempting foods to tantalise her appetite.
  And the boys... they tried so hard to make her happy.
  Three would find shiny things or paint blobby pictures with assorted things... some of them paint. Hatchy would offer her sandwiches. The Spine read to her -painfully slowly- from penny dreadfuls, all containing cowboys. And Rabbit... Rabbit tried his utmost to make her laugh.
  Peter, the sneaky old cur, also bought her something to do. Papers and miscellany involved in running the house. Things he usually didn't get involved with until someone chased him down about it. He knew that even a temporarily infirm lady of science preferred nothing more than a problem to solve.
  Solve it, she did. Delilah knew people. She knew the kind of people who knew all about the kind of people who were so needful of employment that they would not complain of a single thing. Not even - for example - a household with four adult-sized metal automaton babies, two wives and one husband. Well. Potentially the last three.
  It did mean employing the sort of people who were so desperate for employ that they'd put up with all that nonsense, but at least the house was properly staffed.
 
  No-one else would go up to the third floor and Colonel Walter's laboratories or all the robots who spent most of their time there. Which meant that the third floor quickly became the place to do the things they most wanted to keep to themselves.
  The robots had a music room, and a succession of tutors with low standards and varied interests to keep them busy. On the plus side, they were learning how to play properly. On the minus side, they were learning very quickly.
  But while there was music...
  Iris gasped and giggled as Lady Moreau embraced her from behind. "I take it you're back to full health, then."
  "And for a change, I smell better, too," the Lady purred into her neck. She was doing very unladylike things with her hands. Caressing Iris through her clothes in ways that made her weak in the knees. "I've been waiting to show you my secrets for so long..." Kisses, now. Kisses up and down her neck. On her ear. Against her jawline.
  Iris put her folding down, laying her hands above Lady Moreau's and slowing her only a little. "I'll faint," she whispered.
  "If you do, I'll have to take you to our bedchamber," Lady Moreau murmured between kisses. She slipped her way into Iris' arms and gently kissed each eyelid. "Revive you... and undress you... and show you the paradise of your..." kiss, "...beautiful..." kiss, "...body..."
  Her lips tasted sweet. Their tongues brushed briefly and tickled each other's lips.
  "You were goin' t' do that anyway, m'lady."
  She had a wicked gleam in her eyes, and a fiercely delighted smirk. "True." She kissed her way around to the other ear, and down the other side of Iris' neck. "You've worked so hard for us. Isn't it time you were rewarded?"
  "What about Peter?"
  "He's with the babies. He'll be fine. Besides, he's still getting his strength back." Clever, skilled hands seduced her bodice open from the neckline down. "Even he'd acknowledge our right to entertain each other."
  Iris hummed in delight as Lady Moreau made her excruciatingly slow way down to her breasts. "Not here," she managed. "We'll muss up the laundry."
  They crept like thieves towards the boudoir and fell, giggling, into the bed that they had spent many an exhausted night merely embracing in. Now she had the chance to unwrap Lady Delilah, just as much as the beautiful doctor had an opportunity to unwrap her. And, oddly, her hands were shaking and shy. She didn't know what to do and feared getting it wrong.
  "First time with a woman?" breathed Lady Moreau.
  "First time with anyone," whispered Iris.
  Lady Moreau stopped cold. Retreated. "You? A virgin? But you know so much..."
  "Just 'cause I been taught don't mean nowt about... And anyway, I'm s'posed'a stay..." The blush that had once felt so nice burned her face. And her neck. And her shoulders.
  "Oh no. Ssh. Ssh. It's all right, now," Lady Moreau whispered. "It's your first time. It should be memorable in all the right ways."
  "But... what about you?"
  "You can show me what you'd like to try, if you like. Do to me what you'd love done to you. Experiment."
  Experiment she did. It began with kissing and cuddling. Two things Iris was comfortable with and could handle. When her hand drifted down to caress Lady Moreau's neck and shoulders, the lady's did the same. It was exciting. It was delightful. It was everything Iris wanted and then some. It was glorious nakedness and innocence and deviltry and a slice of heaven.
  She grabbed for all she could get. Certain that she'd never have another chance. Desperate to feel every last speck of her, lest they never touch again.
  And Lady Moreau was eager to help her to that goal. Especially when curious fingers lit inside her moist split. Then Lady Moreau-- Miss Delilah... became the guide.
  It was a world of their own with no need for any borders larger than the bedsheets and their mutual delirium. A symphony of lips and fingers and breast and bodies, seeking nothing more than joy in each other. Iris felt like a bubble of light was building up inside her. Filling her body from head to toe with etherial aether. Making her float to heaven itself with Delilah as her pilot.
  And then the bubble burst, scattering that light all through her. All through Delilah. All through the room that had become their Eden. And bled away like the sparkles from fireworks.
  She held tight to Delilah. Gasping and sighing and kissing what pale flesh she could reach.
  "And that," panted dear darling Delilah, "is what we call The Old Hysterical."
  "O God," Iris managed. "No doctor could do that... 'Pon my oath."
  Delilah looked up. Froze. Took on a more defensive posture. "Like what you saw, Mister Walter?"
  Iris found the energy to turn her head. There, in the doorframe, was none other than the lord of the manor. He was blushing indigo.
  "I -uh- heard your moans," he said, looking everywhere but at their naked bodies. He finally found focus on their breathless faces. "I was initially concerned for your health. Um. Once I realised what -uh- that you were... entertaining each other... Um. I stayed to make sure you... were completely all right." He coughed. "And to make certain the boys didn't -uh- complicate issues."
  Delilah's challenging eyes raked over his body like she wished she could rake him over hot coals. Her gaze lingered on his pants. "Huh. So you weren't watching for *your* entertainment."
  Now he leaned inside the room. "If I'm not impertinent... May I ask... did the two of you come to... a satisfactory... Um... A pleasant... Er..." He took a deep breath, looking at the ceiling with moisture in his blue eyes. "Diditendwithoutpain?"
  Iris could see all the fire inside Delilah quench like a white blade into water. The clinging shadows that lingered around her fled to mere blurs of their former darkness. "You... were actually afraid *for* us?"
  Now he turned away. Now a hand reached up to his face to -she knew the movement well- dash tears from his eyes. "Yes, damnit," his voice was thick. Clotted with emotion. "I didn't want either of you t--*"
  "Colonel?" Iris panted. "Are you--?"
  Delilah sat up, idly arranging a shift over her body. "Your first time wasn't... amenable at all. Was it, Colonel?"
  He didn't speak, but his face spoke volumes. It screamed, Yes! Yes it hurt like a thousand knives and it hurt more beyond my body!
  Iris found the strength of her words. "For the record, I had a wonderful time with darling Delilah."
  Delilah caught on, "And I found dear Iris to be eminently delightful."
  His knees almost went out from under him. "Oh, thank God." He slumped into the doorframe, but kept himself upright. He levered himself into complete verticality and bowed for them. Eyes still damp. "I'll keep the boys occupied while you two... enjoy each other."
  Delilah waited until he was out of earshot. "That idiot expects us to just-- carry on with round two? After dropping a bomb like that?"
  Iris found her shift. "He was worried for us."
  "Yes. Because someone hurt *him*." She vented a sound halfway between a sigh and a growl. "Damn that man!"
  Iris smiled, hugging dear Delilah. "What's he done to you, now, hm? Made you realise you'd assumed the worst about him?"
  "And he *let* me!"

=======8<=======

...is anyone reading this?

InterNutter

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Re: One Big Family (unfinished)
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2014, 11:01:55 pm »
Moar!

=======8<=======

  Iris smiled, hugging dear Delilah. "What's he done to you, now, hm? Made you realise you'd assumed the worst about him?"
  "And he *let* me!"
  Iris found Delilah's drawers, and handed them over before scooping up her own and sliding into them. "Just out of curiosity, m'lady, but would there have been anythin' he could'a said to convince you otherwise?"
  Sigh. Glare. "You know... there are times when I despise it when people are smarter than me."
  Iris tried her utmost to not feel like her heart was being crushed and burned to cinders.
  "No. Wait. No. I didn't mean it like that." Delilah kissed her impending tears away. "I love you, I do love you. And you have a point. I was determined that he was like all the others and nothing would have turned my head." She added a hug. "I'm so sorry I hurt you after all..."
  Gentle kisses soothed her fears. Chased away the last of her bad mood. They helped each other get dressed. A scene of such mundane normalcy that Iris found it easy to believe that their former efforts had been something of a dream. At least, she could have, were it not for the gentle attentions that dear Delilah lavished on her.
  "I need to think," announced Delilah. She strode off without another word and left Iris to her duties.
 
  Peter found Iris when it was time to put the automatons to sleep. The machines had spent the entire day learning music from anyone willing to come upstairs and earn two dollars an hour.
  Or, more correctly, she found him. Reading to his dear boys and helping them get settled. Once again, they had difficulty with the concept of 'bed' and snuggled into a gigantic cuddle-pile in the middle of the floor.
  "...and wherever they did wander," he finished the story, "they lived happily ever after." He carefully closed the tome and put it away in a locked cupboard. Then he tiptoed away from the boys like a thief.
  "Ah, Miss Iris. I trust you're feeling well?"
  "My health can bide," said Iris. "You and I and Miss Delilah need t' have some talkin' done." She lead him away from the boys and into a little drawing-room where she sat Peter just so and ordered him to sit put and not move a muscle.
  Then it was a mad dash around Delilah's favourite walking route, counter to her usual rotation, to catch her up and fetch her into the same room.
  Odd, now, that she only needed one lamp to light the place.
  "We need to talk things out," she told them. "Love don't profit much from secrets, and it don't profit none from anger. So anythin' you're hidin' or anythin' you're mad about... out with it. Here and now. I love you both, and I ain't hardly got no secrets. I s'pose you already know I'm bog Irish."
  "I knew," said Peter. "It's the accent. And your gift with potatoes. And I can promise that your status amongst society doesn't matter a mote to me. I love you."
  "I saw that you'd changed your name and I heard that you were trying to sound more -ah- upmarket..." allowed dear darling Delilah. "I felt that you were doing nothing more than fighting the criminal suspicion against your people. And I'm glad I'm correct. I love you, too."
  Iris sat down with a sigh and opened the floor for volunteers.
  Delilah cleared her throat. "I suppose you could say I've been... wounded... by my previous experience. I've learned to be suspicious of men and to trust them to be the worst. And... ever since I began learning about *you*, Peter... I've been angry with you for proving me wrong. That's... that's incredibly unscientific. I *should* be delighted to be wrong and excited to discover more... but I'm finding that more than difficult. Around you, Peter, I have no idea how to feel. And that scares me."
  "Any time I become an ogre for you," he offered, "do tell me how I may amend my behaviour. I adore you, Delilah. I wish... to help cement that concept into your psyche. In any way I can."
  She reached across to touch the nearest of Peter's hands. "I promise, the effort is mine. Simply allow me to accept you as you are... and not as I believe you to be."
  He turned his hand around so he could support her fingers in his in a gentle almost-grip. Not holding her... not exactly. Cradling her fingertips gently with his own. "As you wish," he whispered. He offered his other hand to Iris, and echoed the grasp with her fingers, as she did for Delilah.
  Now it was Peter's turn. He cleared his throat and began to blush. "I... too... have been wounded by love," he began.
  He got no further, because an unholy ruckus carried up to them. Someone smashing and crashing about like a furious bull.
  "Sounds like the foyer," murmured Peter.
  "If it's Rabbit smashing things to hear how they sound again..." Huffed Iris.
  The circle broke, but they moved together in a rush to the foyer.
  There, at the centre of a pool of darkness was a short and bulky man with a greenish hue to his skin. He was unkempt, his clothes were filthy. And he was very clearly as drunk as a skunk.
  "DELILAH!" He roared. "Get away from that *scum*! I'm much more of a man than he'll ever be."
  Then Peter said something to make Iris' jaw drop. He said, "Taddie..." and he said it... lovingly. In the same breathless adoration that he usually reserved for Delilah.
  "You shut up!" 'Taddie' hollered. "You've no right to her! You've no *right*. I'm the better man. I AM! She belongs to *ME*."
  "Who is that?" Iris whispered.
  "Thaddeus Becile," Delilah whispered in return. "Peter invited him into the Cavulcadium. I've often wondered if that was a mistake."
  Peter was descending the stairs, simply repeating "Taddie... please..." as he moved.
  But Becile's focus was on her and Delilah.
  "Ah... *AH*! Bribin' 'er with a woman. Never've thought of that. Get 'er some strumpet from the gutter and sneak y'r way in that way. Huh! I should've expected perversion from *you*..."
  "Taddie..." Peter chided. "It doesn't have to be that way." He reached the parquet floor and opened his arms as he crept closer to the inebriated Becile. "There are threes in the Cavulcadium. There are fours, too. We could all be happy *together*. We can make it work. We both love Delilah and with time and gentleness, we can help her trust us. Remember how I kept showing you? Tenderness is *key*, Taddie..."
  "STOP CALLING ME THAT!"
  Peter inched closer. Wheedling. He was wheedling for Becile to calm down. And, like a snake charmer, it was working. Sort of. At least he wasn't throwing things any more. "All you have to is surrender this notion of owning people. One can only ever share that which is offered freely." Then he made the mistake of cupping Becile's face in his hands. "For example... like I'm yours."
  Becile moved faster than any viper. Laying Peter flat on the floor in one quick and vicious strike. "You'd rather **** that scum than *ME*?" he bellowed. "Or is he too busy watching you and that other **** to get it up?"
  Iris only had a lantern, but she held it between herself and Becile. And she held herself between Delilah and Becile. "When I say 'run'..." she murmured.
  One quick movement would be all she'd need. To smash the lantern on him and set him aflame. She had to strike true, though, or the whole mansion would be ablaze.
  But her preparation proved unnecessary. Rabbit stepped out into the foyer and said, "Bad man hurt Pappy." He very simply marched over and lifted the offensive Becile into the air. "You need a time out."
  Now she bolted down the stairs to check on Peter. "Summon the police," she ordered Delilah.
  Peter moaned and moved at last. He had a wicked bruise forming already. Iris sent one of the newly-roused staff to fetch a steak from the ice box. And another to brew some mint tea. And a third to go with a lantern to bring the policeman in when he came. All over the terrified hullaballoo kicked up by Becile as Rabbit held him aloft.
  When the constable came, Peter was sitting up and alternately sipping tea and sniffing at smelling salts as both Iris and Delilah both tended his bruised and swollen face and the small bleeding in his nose. And, because Constable Rourke's beat included the Cavulcadium, he took in Rabbit, Peter's blue pallor, the struggling Becile, and the ever-curious Three without turning a hair.
  He also took Becile away and politely asked Peter to press charges.
  "He used to be my... friend," croaked Peter. "I tried to teach him. He didn't need to be so..." a sigh. "Yes. Take him to trial. I can't-- I tried my utmost. Perhaps it's time that life teaches him."
  Only once Becile was lead away in cuffs did Rabbit kneel and reach towards his creator. "Pappy broken?"
  Peter summoned a smile and said. "Just a little dented, dear. I'll patch up quick." He forced himself to sit straighter and look more energised than he really was. "You go take your brother back to bed, eh? You all need your down time."
  Reluctant. "Yes, Pappy."
  "He'll be fine by tomorrow," promised Iris.
  Only then did Rabbit eagerly scoop up his brother and rush him back into the elevator from whence he had originally come.
  Three waved them bye-bye as they ascended.
  Iris helped Delilah haul Peter up to his room.
  "One day," he sighed, "it will be a happy occasion in which I find myself in both your arms."
  "Well, for now, we need to walk off that concussion," said Delilah.
  "Keep talkin'," begged Iris. "Tell us how you knew that man..."
 
  Peter couldn't remember a day when he didn't know Taddie. He was a fact of life like Mama and The Admiral His Father and the big old house he lived in that had many secrets.
  Peter taught Taddie how to feed the ducks, and could get them to come to his hand for vegetable scraps and soggy bread.
  Taddie would throw his handfuls at the birds and set up a howl when they flew away.
  As the years passed, Peter would try taming foxes for the boy. Leading the docile animals for him on a string.
  That ended when he found Taddie skinning one of the poor creatures for his mother.
  Where Peter was gentle and indrawn, Taddie was rough and tumble. The Admiral His Father spoiled Taddie as ruthlessly as he punished Peter for being soft.
  Peter's life with his friend was full of him trying to soften Taddie's rough edges. Showing him again and again how to be kind and win the hearts of all the Earth's creatures.
  Taddie saw no value in it.
  But it was the war that cemented Peter's feelings. He hadn't known he was in love with the rough boy until they were trapped behind enemy lines. Scurrying from shelter to shelter in a desperate attempt to get back to their troop.
  Footsore, travel weary, and more than a little ill, they'd holed up in someone's root cellar. There was a well. Which was fortunate because Taddie's fever demanded water. And there were preserves. Which was fortunate because he couldn't get Taddie to eat any of the hardtack.
  He nursed Taddie in hushed whispers as intermittent footfalls clattered over their heads. Enemy boots.
  And when Taddie took a chill, Peter used his own body heat to warm him.
  In the height of madness, they kissed. And Taddie came alive for him. Conquered him. Pushed himself roughly into Peter in a frenzy of hard passion.
  His illness broke, that night. And then Taddie broke one of Peter's cheekbones.
  Peter told himself it was the last of his paroxysms.
  But ever after that, whenever they were alone... Taddie would come and conquer him again. Peter didn't care how much it hurt. He thought it was normal. And he gladly surrendered his comfort for his friends' ease.
  Peter loved him. He'd loved him forever. And he thought he would love him forever.
  It wasn't until a friend and mentor invited him to the Cavulcadium that entire worlds opened for Peter. He learned, for example, that a loving male-to-male congress did not have to involve pain.
  And when he tried to teach his learnings to Taddie... that was when it all went sour.
  Taddie demanded to learn these lessons for himself.
  And Peter, in love, could not refuse him.
  He brought Taddie to attend a lecture on mutual enjoyment by none other than Doctor Delilah Moreau.
  Peter fell in love again. He feared his heart would burst.
  Taddie only said two words, "She's *mine*."
 
  The swelling had gone down a little by the time Peter finished his story. His wooziness was evaporating.
  Delilah walked with him and Iris in a gloomy silence.
  "When did you realise you were raped?" she asked in a hushed murmur.
  "I gave myself willingly, Doctor Moreau. Every time. I didn't care that it hurt... I loved him."
  "You need tenderness," Iris decided.
  "I would be very willing, Miss Iris... but the flesh is still weak."
  "Who said anything about you reciprocating?" said Delilah. "You need to learn that a caring touch is not necessarily rough."
  Iris beamed her a huge grin at those words. Like she'd been waiting to hear them for a very long time.
  "Patience, dear," she soothed. "Tonight will probably be all snuggles."
  "I'm amenable to snuggles."
  The beginnings of an eager smile began to grow on Peter's face. It was lopsided, and shaky and shy. And a breath of a giggle floated out between his blue-tainted lips. "May," he stammered. "May... May I kiss you each?"
  "Of course," said Iris instantly.
  Delilah felt compelled to add, "You won't hurt us at all."
  And that was the first time he turned away from her. So he could plant a soft and tender peck on Iris' cheek.
  Delilah tried not to let jealousy ride her. But there was a burning sensation in her cheeks that remained until Peter turned back to her.
  And...
  Very hesitantly...
  As if he were afraid he would spook her..
  Laid the tenderest kiss that had ever caressed a cheek, onto her face.
  She was left entirely breathless by the encounter, and proceeded towards his bedroom in a hypnotic haze. Perhaps Becile's howling about magnetic mesmerism had some element of truth in them. He certainly had a knack for generating love. The automatons adored him. The staff worshipped him and wished him all kinds of happiness. He had Iris in his thrall since she'd first laid eyes on him and now...
  Now she felt the fall happening, at last.
  She hadn't wanted to be in love with him. Through necessity, she'd cared. And she told herself that she was staying because she loved Iris. And bit by bit, his gentle mein and simple adoration of herself had won her over.
  He was a loveable man.
  It had to be that simple.
  "Just so you know," she said, "Not every lady of sapphonic inclinations has been hurt by men."
  "I know," he said. The smile had finally settled evenly on his features. "I do pay attention."
  She chuckled. "It's hard to tell when you're constantly moony-eyed at my lectures."
 
  These women had seen him in the depths of fever and delirium. They'd seen him wandering the halls in just a dressing-coat. And yet... when it was time to prepare for bed, he came over with a crippling bout of shyness and retreated to the ensuite to change into his nightshirt.
  When he emerged, both ladies were only wearing their shifts and pantaloons. He covered his eyes out of an instinct beaten into him by the Admiral his Father.
  "Honestly," tisked Delilah.
  "You think we wear our corsets and petticoats t' sleep in?" clucked Iris. She was the one who took an elbow and guided him to bed. "They're right uncomfortable, take my word."
  He peeked only so he could settle into the middle of the bed. And blushed up a storm when both lovely ladies bracketed him in. Iris on his left. Delilah on his right. There was not even a bedsheet between him and them to protect them from his animal lusts.
  "Do you plan on sleeping with your hands over your eyes?" teased Delilah.
  "'Ow can we kiss you if you're hidin'?" asked Iris.
  The fire in his cheeks spread to his entire face. "Oh, my darlings... I'm so afraid. What if I get like Taddie?"
  "Then we'll fetch Rabbit to hold you up and out of harm until the fit passes," soothed Iris.
  "Clever woman," Delilah cooed. "I'd never have thought of that. Put your hands down, Peter. I'm certain you won't be overcome by looking at us."
  Iris started kissing his hands and gently caressing his arms. "Come on out of there, m'darlin. I won't bite."
  "I might," Delilah volunteered. "But not for a good long while." She, too, kissed his hands and teased at his arms.
  Slowly, he emerged from hiding to find two entirely delightful ladies smiling for him. And not one atom of much-feared aggression or rage in his heart.
  He put his hands to good use, that night. Revelling in his ability to remain as tender with them as they were with him.
  It was glorious.

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