All Soul's DayAuthor: lareinenoirePlay: Richard II
(very loosely)Recipient: highfantasticalCharacters / Pairings:
Richard II, Anne of Bohemia, Robert de Vere; Richard II/Anne of Bohemia, Richard II/Robert de VereWarnings:
Pretentiousness, horrible exam questions, academics behaving like academics, Robert de Vere's tongueRating:
Richard Bordeaux sits the All Souls Fellowship Exam. Chaos ensues.Notes:
A vignette from the Crescive in his Faculty
AU, as per the prompt. Set in October of 1989, at the beginning of Richard's D.Phil. All the questions come from actual exam sheets. Yes, even the Nazi one. The last two sections are meant to serve as a frame narrative for gileonnen
's story, Reunification
, in the same AU.
Anne was dreaming in German again. Richard could only make out one word in roughly a dozen, but it didn't especially matter. He knew why.
He, on the other hand, was suffering from acute insomnia. The only way in which that would be remotely helpful would be if the essay prompt was in fact Insomnia
. Richard suspected the universe was unlikely to be that kind to him.
There was no way to prepare, not really. At least that was what Simon had told him, but Simon had never bothered to sit the All Souls Fellowship Exam. "It's a bloody waste of time, Richard. Time you could be spending in far more useful ways."
Anne didn't seem to have an opinion, one way or the other, but Richard suspected that had less to do with him and more to do with the fact that her mother and brothers were in Berlin--East Berlin to most; simply Berlin to her and therefore to Richard--and she could not reach them. And as for Robbie, he'd raised his whisky glass in mock salute and opined that Richard would likely be the first person to be thrown out of All Souls for snogging in the Codrington Library.
"Only if it's unauthorised snogging," Richard replied, before proceeding to do just that. Robbie's lips tasted of Talisker with an undertone of the chocolate bar he'd just finished. He wondered briefly what stance All Souls took on snogging in general. Possibly that could be an essay topic.
He did eventually manage a little bit of sleep, enough that the shrill scream of the alarm clock beside his bed came as an unwelcome surprise. He could hear the sound of the wireless coming from the kitchen, signalling even if the cold bed hadn't that Anne was awake. She was sitting beside the wireless, a rapidly cooling mug of coffee between her hands. Richard wrapped his arms round her and kissed the top of her head.
"None. I suppose that's good?" There was a distinct quaver in her voice. "They've shut down the Hungarian border, but Mutti
would never leave Berlin anyway, so I suppose it doesn't matter."
"It matters. Do you want me to stay with you?"
Anne set the mug on the table and turned, giving him a glare he recognised. "And the exam?"
"To hell with the exam. Simon doesn't want me to take it and there are more important things." He held her closer and bent to kiss her. "Like this, for instance."
"Oh, no, you don't," Anne said, ducking beneath his arm. "Not that easily. I've been hearing you talk about this exam all summer long and you are not
going to run away from it now."
"I'm not running!"
Anne crossed her arms and raised one eyebrow. "Really?"
He shuffled his feet. "I forgot to iron my shirt."
"Wash up and I'll do it. This time."***To what extent did considerations of reputation and honour determine the foreign policy of any one country in the period 1450-1750? (You may restrict your answer to a period of not less than fifty years, if you wish.)
Did 'legitimacy' matter in fifteenth-century politics?
What can a history of Treason tell us about political ideas and practice?***
Anne met him at Harvey's and they sat on one of the benches next to the Rad Cam with their sandwiches. "How did it go?" she finally asked, after he'd inhaled half a baguette.
"Very well, I think. I do worry that the questions were too closely related, but it's a specialist paper. I can't imagine they expect anything else." He took a sip of the tea she'd brought him in a thermos. "You are the most wonderful woman in the world. Have I told you that recently?"
"Hm." Anne smiled. "Last night, I think. But I don't mind." After a sip of her own, she added, "Mutti
rang. All is well, or so she claims."
She bit her lip. "Should I go, Richard? Something's happening, I know
He slung his arm round her shoulders and she rested her head against him. "It's up to you, love."
"I know that. You wouldn't mind?"
"Of course not. I know you'll be careful." He stopped for a moment. "You will, right?"
She laughed. "Of course I will."***Must censorship lead to tyranny?
What are the virtues and vices of patriotism?
Is the inheritance of wealth unjust?***
"You would have been proud of my general paper," Richard told Anne that night, the words mashed round his toothbrush. "It wouldn't surprise me if they mistook me for a small Communist German girl."
"And you thought that would appeal to dons at All Souls?" Anne shook her head in mock despair. "For such a clever man, liebchen
, you are an idiot."
"Yes, but you see, I am too brilliant for them to ignore. And there must be some hidden Communists. What better place to hide than All Souls?" Laughing, he launched forward and tackled her across the bed. "I think it went very well."
"Yes, but you've still got two days left," she pointed out, prompting a groan from Richard. "What, your brilliant mind is tired after all?"
is tired," he corrected her, holding out the offending hand as if expecting to find marks. All he could see were a few stray inkstains on his fingertips. "I even wrote about the injustice of inherited wealth. Just for you."
"No doubt they'll call you for a viva just to find out why a respectable Eton boy such as yourself is writing such awful things."
"And then I can prove to them that I do know which fork to use at dinner and you will be forced to sleep with a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. Can you live with that?"
"So long as they don't expect me to know forks."***To what extent were lordship and kinship antithetical in early medieval societies? (You may answer on one country if you prefer.)
How was homosexuality analysed in ancient Greece?
Account for changes in the image of the prince in medieval and/or early modern Europe.***
"Greek queers?" Robbie nearly spat out a mouthful of sausage. "They actually asked you about that?"
"Why wouldn't they? It's Greek, therefore it's safe. Or so I suspect."
Robbie rolled his eyes. "Bloody hypocrites, the whole lot of them."
"You're just jealous. Don't think I don't know you sat last year and didn't even get a viva." He ducked as Robbie snatched up one of his chips and threw it at him. "What, you thought you could disappear for three days and I wouldn't notice? I saw you smoking outside the gate, looking petrified."
"Are you sure I wasn't just smoking?"
"I'm told I look stunning in it, darling." He struck a pose, broken only when Richard snatched up the offending chip and threw it back at him. Robbie popped it into his mouth before sighing, "My God, I'm bored to tears."
"You're working in a solicitor's office. What else do you expect?"
Robbie stuck out his tongue. "You know I never wanted to study the law."
"The only subject that ever interested you was the college bar. Law seemed like a perfectly reasonable alternative." Richard grinned and held up his hand. "No more chips. You'll get grease on me."
"It wasn't the only
subject," Robbie retorted, all but pouting. "I did have a great interest in anatomy. And, speaking of anatomy, I don't recall your ever having objected to grease before."
"You're a filthy man, Robbie Vere."
"Try to sound a bit more disgusted, please. You couldn't convince my senior tutor and he believed that implicitly."
Richard glanced at his watch and yelped. "Fuck! Why didn't you tell me the time? I have ten minutes to get back."
"Then you'd best run."***Should historians seek to explain events?
‘Historians pay too much attention to radicals and heretics, and too little to the orthodox majority.’ Is this criticism fair?
To which other academic disciplines does yours have most to contribute, and from which does it have most to learn?***
"'Does the moral character of an orgy change when the participants wear Nazi uniforms?' Are you actually serious?" It had taken Robbie at least ninety seconds of nonstop laughter to reach the point where he could ask a question. "Please, please
tell me you answered that one."
"Of course I didn't, you prat. You know I couldn't." The air had grown cold and Richard stuffed his hands into his trouser pockets to keep them warm. "Anne would kill me."
"Are you going to tell her about it or should I?"
Richard punched him in the shoulder. "Neither of us is going to tell her anything related to Nazis while she's worried about her mother and brothers on the far side of the Berlin Wall. Do you understand?"
They entered the flat to find Anne in a flurry of activity, dashing back and forth between the bedroom and the parlour. Richard watched her for a moment before picking up a pair of discarded knickers from the armchair and holding them out to her. "I take it you're going?"
Anne looked slightly guilty. "I was going to tell you earlier but I didn't want to distract you. I promise, darling, I'll be careful."
Robbie, in the meantime, was eyeing the knickers with distinct suspicion. "You're going somewhere?"
"Berlin," Anne replied, stuffing them into a rucksack. "The world is changing and I don't think I could forgive myself if I weren't there to see it."
"When are you leaving?" Richard asked. "I mean, of course you can leave whenever you'd like, but..."
Anne took his hands in hers and, rising on tiptoe, kissed him. "Not till the day after tomorrow. I wanted to wait till you'd finished."
"The world won't change in the meantime?" Robbie remarked, the eyeroll evident in his voice. "Sorry, sorry, low-hanging fruit."
"Right, Vere. Out." Anne pointed to the door, the order undercut by her smile. "He's still got the essay tomorrow."
"Oh, of course
, the essay!" His grin was wide as a Cheshire cat's. "I'd nearly forgotten. You may want to make a sacrifice to Minerva beforehand, just to be safe. Safe journey, Anne. If the wall goes down, make sure to save me a piece."
"Only if you're willing to carry it back," Anne retorted as she closed the door behind him. "Oh, Richard, don't look so worried."
"Can you blame me?"
"No, of course I can't, but you do understand, don't you?" They both knew he never would, not entirely, but he nodded all the same. There were some lies that made sense. "How is the wrist?"
"I think I strained it."
"Well, tomorrow's the end, at least for now." She hugged him close. "They're fools if they don't take you."
Richard smiled wanly. "I'll try to remember that."***
Richard was sprawled on the sofa with a bag of frozen peas on his wrist when Anne came in with the shopping. "You're back early."
"Early? It felt like an eternity."
"What was the word?"
"Mercy," Richard groaned. "It was all I could do not to write a De profundis
"Oh, I'm sure they're used to those." He could hear the sounds of cupboards being opened and closed. "There are jacket potatoes in the basket and a new loaf of bread and some milk." She was silent for a good fifteen seconds before Richard realised she was watching him, an odd smile on her face. "Will you be all right without me?"
"I'm not the one going to Berlin in the middle of a revolution. I'll be fine." Wincing, he levered himself off the sofa and handed the now-dripping bag of peas to her. "Are you sure you don't want me to come with you?"
Anne tossed the peas in the freezer and closed the door, pausing there for a moment. "I don't know if it's wise, darling. You don't speak German, remember?"
"No, I suppose not," he sighed. "Just listen to me, Anne. If you change your mind, I want you to tell me. I want you to ring me from Berlin--reverse charge if you need to--and tell me, and I swear to you I will be there."
When she looked at him, there were tears glinting in her eyes. "I promise."***
In the end, it was all terribly anticlimactic. Anne's flight was cancelled and when Immigration got wind of her travel plans, they informed her in no uncertain terms that it was unsafe to travel to Berlin at this time and that she would do well to stay in the United Kingdom.
Anne, naturally, was having none of it. Richard accompanied her on the bus late the next week to Dover, where she caught the ferry to France instead. She still insisted that he stay behind, promising yet again that she'd tell him if she needed him there.
A fortnight later, he had a postcard from Baden-Baden written in Anne's perfectly formed engineer's hand. She'd left her mother's telephone number and Richard nearly forgot about the viva altogether, caught up in the intricacies of ringing East Berlin where telephones did not always work.
The day of the shortlist announcement came and went, and Richard's pigeonhole remained free of any correspondence from All Souls. Robbie met him in the Jesus College bar and they drank their way through two bottles of champagne ("Ironic," according to Robbie) before wandering into Radcliffe Square and snogging enthusiastically in the shadow of Wren's towers. Not quite the Library, Richard allowed, but it was as close as they were likely to get.
"To Richard Bordeaux and Robbie Vere," intoned Robbie, holding up the bottle containing the last of the champagne, "the two most gorgeous men that All Souls never admitted."
The dust was slowly settling on the Friedrichstrasse. Most of the crowds had dispersed, carrying blocks of concrete. Anne and Richard sat on the blocks they'd claimed, arms linked, Anne's head resting on Richard's shoulder.
Suddenly, she stiffened. "The exam! I never asked you about the exam!"
"The fellowship exam, silly!" Anne's cheeks were still rosy from the wind, her eyes alight with triumph. "Weren't you to have heard by now?"
"I didn't get a viva." His voice sounded strange--not quite disappointed so much as vaguely perplexed. "How did I not get a viva?"
"Well, you did have the temerity to write about the virtues of communism in Mrs Thatcher's Britain, and even All Souls must toe the party line," she suggested. "I'm sorry, liebchen
"You needn't be. I'm not." Richard grinned. "It all seems terribly far away."
"I suppose it does, doesn't it?"
They looked out towards the Brandenburg Gate as the sun set on a whole new world. - Fin -