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 Love and Marriage

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Aviaris_Sevanthis
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PostSubject: Love and Marriage   2013-06-15, 5:16 am

Graham supposed that he should have seen this coming. He's gotten plenty of offers over the last year and a half since he not only took over as head of the Stanford family, but also led the resistance against that madman Ravich, and more than a small amount of loonies claiming to either be pregnant with or to have had his child. And try as they might to force the issue and to bring support to their sides, he knows that these are nothing but lies. He's only been with one person, and even as flighty as Chelsa can be, Graham is pretty sure she would've noticed a baby.

But he can only stare at the notice in his hand, a letter courtesy of Nobus, who on occasion, handled legal matters of this significance. A marriage contract. He hadn't expected this at all. As intelligent as he was, and as 'crazy prepared' as he tended to be according to Nadia, this had come from his blind spot. His father, that sorry excuse of a man; someone he'd tried to push into the dark corners of his past.

He did not regret taking his birthright as head of the Stanford family, as well as control of it's various businesses. But some small part of him always wondered if it would one day come back to bite him in the ass.

And apparently, that day is today. Or to be more exact, it is a week from now on Thursday.

He can see the worry flickering in Chelsa's eyes as she reads and then rereads the words so clearly written on the paper. A scorching sense of resolve cements in her expression as she sets down the letter and just gazes at him across their kitchen table. For once, her almost childlike smile is gone, and she's focused on the here and now in a way she hasn't been since their world erupted into chaos and she was forced to do things she truly did not wish to do. There's a reason, after all, that Nobus is so keen to have her. Just as there's a reason she chose to commit to being a 'housewife', when they were not even married yet.

"We'll get through this," Chelsa says then, deep blue eyes bright but determined.

And as he always does now, Graham believes her. She hasn't lied to him once. Hasn't been wrong once, when she speaks so calmly and assuredly.

Her face is set, a steely sort of fierceness and the last thing many of Ravich's followers ever saw. It still was somewhat unnerving to him, the things such a sweet woman had done. Then again, it was war...

"We'll find a way," she adds, already reaching for him.

And he knows that they will.

~~~~~

He should feel panicked about what he's going to do – what he's about to do – a week later as he walks hand in hand with Chelsa through the Nobus HQ hallway and into the meeting room. However, Graham only feels a strong sense of calm. Of complete acceptance as her fingers squeeze his affectionately.

Between the four of them – Eirin, Nadia, Chelsa, and Graham himself – they have a game plan. Though honestly, it was Graham's plan and he had simply run it by the others to get their thoughts, but he still felt it was 'their' plan. It might not be the most tenable solution. The most diplomatic. Or even the most humane. But it'll have to work. It will work. Anything less than his complete freedom of choice, than the rest of his life with the woman beside him, is completely and utterly unacceptable. He isn't even twenty years old, but Graham Stanford, and more specifically his mind, is already the stuff of legends. Nothing short of death itself is able to stop him. This won't come close.

Even four years ago, he might have just given in. Gone along with it because he could see no possible way out without hurting anyone. But war has a way of changing a person. Making him see reality for what it really is. Making him hard. Deadly. Allowing him to realize that violence and death aren't the best answer, not even close. But they are an answer. One he's willing and able to use.

Graham's had far too much already of people trying to manipulate him, to use his fame and name to their advantage and harm him irrevocably in the process. He's not the world's whipping boy. Or its savior. And he doesn't have to put up with this bullshit anymore. He didn't put up with it from his father. Or from ChimeraTech, or Ravich and his hostile takeover of... everything. From the cowards who buried their heads in the sand and allowed the people around them to be tortured and killed while they did nothing but look on.

He certainly doesn't have to put up with it from the Briarhearths. From Cassius and his sociopathic wife, Gardenia. Who didn't fight for Ravich but who also didn't help Graham's side either. Who just stood on the sidelines, content to watch the world burn. From Denise, who didn't even join her so-called friends in defending their school. Who fled and hid while her classmates and friends died doing what's right.

They are three of the most useless and casually cruel people alive. Considering he lived his formative years with his father, that's really saying something.

And now, they want him to marry Denise. To sign away his freedom and his future and his life on a girl who didn't even attend her best friend's funeral. Who didn't watch as Penny Lavek was sent into the earth, a teenager who gave her life fighting in a war that should never even have happened. Who didn't see young David Nordin's face as his girlfriend's mother wept out her heartbreak onto his shoulder.

These people aren't worth the air they breathe. And they're about to find out exactly how much Graham thinks of them.

Darrien, the Nobus representative on this case, reads the contract out loud and in full. All the clauses and subclauses and explanations for why it was established by Graham's father prior to his death, and the penalties on Graham's side if he were to renege. If they weren't so steep – a good portion of the Stanford family fortune, the house he gave to Yukine and Solomon last year, his inherited business shares that he has major plans for, and a number of other things – Graham thinks it would almost be worth it just to wipe that smirk of triumph from Cassius Brairhearth's mouth.

They want his money; that's a given. But they also want his family name. His connections. His status as the leader of the resistance, and as an up and coming star in the political and tactical military fields. But they also want his power. His inventions. And his Nalga heritage. Plus, any child between Graham and Denise would have not one, but different chances to be a family head. With all the rights and privileges therein.

Not that they'll ever be having children. Chelsa has a corner on that market.

So Graham just holds her hand underneath the table as Darrien finishes and waits for any questions. When there are none, he brings out the last page of the contract. All of the Briarhearth's have already signed it, and it's just waiting for one final signature as Darrien slides it over. Graham doesn't reach for the pen he is offered, however. He just grins and gives Darrien a sly wink. What he's about to say isn't just meant for anyone, but Nobus has assured him of their discretion and the fact that nothing said in his room is admissible in any legal sense of the word.

The garbage in front of him have no idea what's about to happen.

"Why are you smiling?" Gardenia Briarhearth all but demands as the seconds tick by and he still doesn't reach for the pen. She is obviously smart enough to know that something's up, but even that isn't enough to prepare her for what she's going to hear.

Graham gives Chelsa's hand one final squeeze before leaning back and steepling his fingers in front of him.

"Because Denise will be my wife in name only."

Cassius snorts. Under normal circumstances, he could almost be called an attractive man. But Graham knows exactly what sort of person he is, and that kills any good looks he has.

"She'll be your wife by rights, and you will treat her as such." His eyes narrow, as if daring Graham to argue.

He is more than happy to oblige.

"It just says I have to marry her." Graham taps the contract with his index finger. "Not that I have to do anything else."

The older man rises to the bait wonderfully.

"Oh? And what exactly are you going to do then? Divorce her? That violates our contract as surely as if you hadn't married her in the first place." He sits back, smirking once more as his wife gives a fierce nod.

But Denise suddenly doesn't look so sure. She's right to be worried.

"I won't divorce her," Graham assures them, knowing that Chelsa has a innocent smile on her face next to him as she twirls her hair on her finger. "I'll just dump her off on one of my properties. There's this lovely little cottage on the sea that she'll just love. It's right on the edge with nothing around for miles. Very simplistic. All that back to nature crap." He waves a vague hand. "No phone. No television. No internet or mail service. Doesn't even have indoor plumbing. Just four walls and a roof."

There are a few heartbeats of silence at his admission. The Briarhearths look like they've been slapped with a dead fish. Darrien just seems mildly impressed.

"You! You can't do that!" Denise inserts furiously, speaking for the first time as she grips her fingers around the edge of the table.

Graham gives her all the consideration she's worth. Which is none at all.

He turns back to the Briarhearth parents.

"The minimum of care," Graham tells them. "That's it. That's all this says I have to give. I can't legally kill her, but by the time I'm done with her, she'll want to kill herself."

"I don't believe you," Gardenia states with rising anger in her almost-lovely voice. "You can't do anything to her." She has dark hair like her daughter, and it frizzles from the force of her ire.

Graham can't help but shake his head at their ignorance.

"But that's just it. I won't do anything. Anything at all. To her, or for her."

He rests his chin on his fist in a scripted move that was guaranteed to annoy them; just as planned.

"She'll spend her days alone. Only her in that cottage. Without her phone – because I'm definitely taking that – and with security systems that prevent her from ever leaving. An android will come by once a day to deliver food and maybe do a little bit of cleaning, but it will have firm instructions never to speak to her or even acknowledge that she exists. It'll just be Denise and whatever furniture I give her. Perhaps some books if I'm feeling really generous."

Chelsa's grin widens beside him at that, and she starts to hum a jaunty and naughty little tune. His eyes only linger on her for a few seconds before flicking back.

"But nothing else," he comments with complete sincerity. "Not even a radio. And certainly no visitors. You definitely won't be seeing her again, and you'll never have grandchildren from her since the only time I'll touch her will be to shove her away."

The three Briarhearhts just gape at him, while Darrien makes a sound that is dangerously close to a snicker. It takes a full minute for everyone to recover.

"And what will you be doing?" Cassius demands and gives a furious gesture. "While you have my daughter locked away in some hovel?"


"Me?" Graham repeats as he sits up properly. "I'll be working on whatever my latest invention is, and enjoying the company of this lovely lady next to me." He motions to Chelsa, who beams back at him.

"You can't marry that whore next to you as long as you're married to my daughter, and any children you have will be bastards anyway," Cassius throws that out like it really means anything.

But Graham couldn't possibly care less.

"Chelsa and I don't need to be married to know that we love each other, and we're not ready to start a family yet anyway. And even if we were, I'm head of the Stanford line. I can name anyone legitimate or even my heir."

His tone is enough for them to know he means every word. The smirk is just icing on the cake.

However, he's still got one final move. And it's the killing blow.

"She," Graham indicates his girlfriend with all the warmth he possesses, "thinks that your daughter will commit suicide within five years, but I don't believe it'll take that long. And if I'm feeling really charitable, I might even give her a way to do it fairly quickly."

Graham just grins then. Face open and honest and that much more menacing for it.

War changes people, but love changes them even more. Makes them willing to not only die but to kill. To burn homes with people still inside. To send men to their deaths without guilt or remorse. To risk himself and all that he is so that the children they don't even have yet can grow up happy and in a world full of nothing but wonder.

And Graham knows that he must be a sight. Eyes sharp and jaw set. The look he gives them is the same Ravich saw as he died and his twisted body crumbled to the floor. Not by Graham's hand, but he certainly paved the way. It is more of a promise than an expression. A guarantee that they'll not just be defeated, that they'll be conquered. That they'll be crushed. And that they'll most definitely be made to suffer in the process.

The dawning horror he gets back doesn't even make him cringe. Graham has no pity left in him. Not for them. It is gone, all used up. Meant for people like Lucas Kurzwell as he dies from a shot that would've hit Nadia had he not blocked it with his own body. For Madoka Ikaruga as she spends her last moments telling her mother that it'd be alright and that no, it didn't hurt at all. For Damon Kenzy who buries his wife, daughter, and nephew all on the same day and still manages to fight on. For all the little girls and boys who now only have memories of their parents and a lifetime spent wondering why they were taken from them.

He pushes back from the table then and offers Chelsa a hand once he rises to his feet. Their fingers intertwine on automatic as they turn as one to the people before them. The unsigned contract still lies on the table in front of his chair, a glaringly obvious sign to everyone in the room exactly what Graham intends.

"I really think you should consider what I've said," Graham inserts with a tilt of his head. "So let's meet back here the same time next week." When no one disagrees, he continues, "Well, now that that is settled, I have a date with a beautiful woman. Darrien." Graham nods at the man. "Tell my sister I said hello, and you can expect Chelsa and myself for dinner tomorrow." He looks at the three Briarhearths.


With that, he and Chelsa walk out the door. They don't look back.

~~~~~


Two days later they receive notice that the marriage contract has been permanently and completely dissolved. If the Briarhearth family doesn't come within fifty feet of him for the rest of their lives, they'll count themselves lucky. Graham smiles and feels vindicated as he shows the letter to his girlfriend, while Chelsa just laughs.

And it is still the most beautiful sound he's ever heard.

_________________
"There is no such thing as 'Coincidence'. Only 'Inevitability'." ~ Yuuko Ichihara

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