A/N: The Chronicles of Chrestomanci and all characters and settings appearing in this fic are the property of Diana Wynne Jones's estate. This references my other Chrestomanci stories but can be read alone. This was written for the prompt 'Some People Stay' and could be considered a tag to Eyes I Dare Not Meet in Dream.
Some People Stay
Rosalie met him as he left Gabriel's office. "Congratulations." It was actually not quite the iciest commendation Mordecai had ever received, but it was very close. Of course she would have learned of the Government's decision beforehand. There was little Gabriel kept from her.
An interview with Chrestomanci could leave a Buddhist monk on edge, and Mordecai was a long way from enlightenment. "On talking myself out of a prison sentence?" He snarked back. It was mildly refreshing to do so after weeks of walking on eggshells.
She coloured slightly which told him he'd guessed correctly. "On the freedom to go where you choose," she replied coolly.
Something twisted beneath Mordecai's ribs. This whole business of souls could be excruciating at times. "I admit," he said airily. "The notion of not having my every move scrutinized sounds heavenly." Six weeks of house arrest had chafed. Even if it hadn't been so oppressive as being always a summons away from the Dright's representatives, there had been less illusion of freedom.
There was a pause. "I suppose it would," said Rosalie, slightly subdued. More briskly, she added, "I imagine you've a great deal of packing to do, although I warn you the staff is quite busy, and we are rather short handed. We may only be able to spare enough footmen to load half your wardrobe."
Mordecai glanced at the floor. "Not so much, actually." He looked up again and gave her a sideways smile. "It's mostly out of season by now."
Rosalie sniffed disdainfully. "Perish the thought." She lifted her chin. "Well, this isn't a London warehouse, so you needn't expect us to store it for you. If it's here more than a month while you're off spreading your wings, the housekeeper is to have it sold." Mordecai flinched, about to protest the harshness of this. It must have sounded so even to her ears because she spoke first, holding out a hand like an olive branch. "I wish you well, Mordecai."
It was painfully sincere. Mordecai hesitated before taking it. "Thank you." He hesitated again. Gabriel's terms had been very clear. "Heaven knows how long it will take to save up to replace it all. My funds were confiscated, you know."
Of course she did know, and Mordecai could hardly say it wasn't warranted, but it gave him something to say.
She withdrew her hand. "A man with your skills should have no difficulty finding an employer for them," she replied. "Possibly even a reputable one, if you can limit your ambitions to one."
There had been a time when she accused him of having no ambition at all. That stung rather more than he wanted to admit. He gestured expansively with his now empty hand. "Preferably. Espionage is exhausting. They usually like their employees to at least appear respectable, and it's a dreadful line of work for settling down.
That provoked less of a sniff than an actual snort. "Settling down?"
Mordecai shifted from one foot to another. "Well," he said defensively. "One can't."
Her lips pursed in that evaluating way they sometimes did. "That would suit some men, I imagine."
He shrugged in concession. "Some, but I do like to try new things."
A longer pause followed that statement, and Mordecai almost wished that he were back in Chrestomanci's office.
It seemed like a very long time before she said, "On the other hand, some might wish to atone for their sins. Of course, respectability is far more difficult to earn than a bespoke suit." There was a challenge in her eyes.
Mordecai met her gaze with a wry expression. "So Gabriel said. 'A supervised probation' were his words, I believe. So much for not having my every move scrutinized." He shifted again, slightly more easily this time. "He also said the team is still in need of a bowler."
"Oh," Rosalie demurred. "Philip is-" She hesitated as if the words pained her. "-an adequate substitute." She shrugged off what had to be a gross exaggeration (Mordecai might not have been allowed off the grounds, but he had heard reports of the footman's performance) and added with greater conviction, "and Christopher is proving quite a reliable batsman."
"Touché." He granted her that one. "But he can always use more coaching. Besides," Mordecai added, "I'd hate to add to the work of the footmen. I've a hope Gilbert might forgive me in a year or two."
She sniffed again. "One might hope."