Season Content Notes: Revenge plot, violence, boundary violations, sexual harassment, ableist language, blood, misgendering, self-misgendering
There is never a good time for anyone to come staggering in, bloody and calling for a surgeon. When a secret marriage — secret even to one of the people supposedly married! — is in the middle of tearing relationships apart and spawning screaming matches… well, it isn’t a good time, but in an odd way, everyone was a little bit relieved by the interruption.
Countess Olivia reluctantly dropped Cesario’s hand and moved toward Sir Andrew — though staying well out of reach. “What’s the matter?”
“He has broke my head across,” Sir Andrew moaned, digging out a handkerchief and holding it to the bleeding gash on his head. “And has given Sir Toby a bloody coxcomb too: for the love of God, your help! I had rather than forty pound I were at home.”
The wound was more blood than matter, for all that Sir Andrew seemed to think he was on death’s door.
The countess signaled for one of the servants to go for the surgeon and continued trying to get information out of the not-so-doughty knight. “Who has done this, Sir Andrew?”
Sir Andrew’s handkerchief was doing not much more than smearing the blood around. He fumbled to fold it, seeking a clean side. “The count’s gentleman, one Cesario.” If Sir Andrew had been less self-absorbed he might have noticed the sudden stillness surrounding him. “We took him for a coward, but he’s the very devil incardinate.”
“My gentleman, Cesario?” Duke Orsino, at his mercurial best, took two long strides to stand protectively between Cesario and the (to him) strange knight.
” ‘Od’s lifelings, here he is!” Sir Andrew jumped half a foot in the air and stumbled backward, holding up his hands in a warding gesture. “You broke my head for nothing; and that that I did, I was set on to do’t by Sir Toby.”
Cesario had had, one must admit, a very bad day. There is a point in time when one must choose: one can break down crying, break down laughing, or break down screaming. But one will break down.
Stepping around the duke, with a boldness that shocked the duke and his retinue (but was the first thing that made sense to poor Antonio) Cesaro advanced on Sir Andrew. At full volume. “Why do you speak to me? I never hurt you! You,” a finger stabbed Sir Andrew in the chest as he nearly tripped trying to get away, “drew your sword upon me without cause. But I bespoke you fair, and hurt you not.”
Sir Andrew backed away from physical confrontation with commendable speed, but his speech was as loud as Cesario’s. “If a bloody coxcomb be a hurt, you have hurt me! I think you set nothing by a bloody coxcomb.”
Before Cesario could respond, Orsino had him by the arm, pulling him away. When Olivia reached also for Cesario the duke’s expression froze, and he dropped Cesario’s arm as if burnt.
Cesario, on the edge of tears, shrugged away from Olivia and Orsino. He turned his back on the whole mess and everyone who was part of it.
Before either duke or countess could respond, Sir Toby came stumbling, clutching a wound on his side that was staining his jacket red.
Sir Andrew saw him and gestured. “Here comes Sir Toby halting; you shall hear more! But if he had not been in drink, he would have tickled you othergates than he did.”
Cautiously, still baffled as to what was going on, Orsino asked, “How now, gentleman! how is’t with you?”
“That’s all one.” Sir Toby Shrugged.”Has hurt me, and there’s the end on’t.” He turned to the Fool and asked, “Sot, didst see Dick surgeon, sot?”
“O, he’s drunk, Sir Toby,” the Fool replied with false solicitude, “an hour agone. His eyes were set at eight i’ the morning.”
“Then he’s a rogue, and a scoundrel! I hate a drunken rogue.” Sir Toby stomped toward the manor.
Oliva stared after him in wonder. “Who hath made this havoc with them?”
“I’ll help you, Sir Toby,” Sir Andrew called, hurrying after, “because we’ll be dressed together.”
Why it was at that moment Sir Toby lost all patience with Sir Andrew, who can say? But he did, calling his erstwhile companion the most wretched names. “Will you help?” he demanded, “an ass-head and a coxcomb and a knave, a thin-faced knave, a gull!”
“Get him to bed,” Olivia ordered, cutting off whatever response or defense Sir Andrew might have made, “and let his hurt be look’d to.”
The Fool and Fabian escorted the two knights away, leaving the garden much quieter.
But scarcely was the door closed behind them, when someone else can running up.
“I am sorry, madam,” Sebastian said, taking Olivia’s hand to kiss it. “I have hurt your kinsman. But, had it been the brother of my blood, I must have done no less with wit and safety.”
Olivia barely heard a word out of Sebastian’s mouth, being too busy staring at him in shock. Sebastian squeezed her hand in concern. “You throw a strange regard upon me, and by that I do perceive it hath offended you. Pardon me, sweet one, even for the vows we made each other but so late ago.”
Of course, it wasn’t only Olivia who was shocked. The Duke, looking to Cesario, spoke what all were thinking. “One face, one voice, one habit, and two persons. A natural perspective, that is and is not!”
Sebastian looked over at the duke’s words but did not respond. Perhaps he had been so inundated with confusing and nonsensical things that he had ceased to concern himself.
What did concern Sebastian was the familiar face he saw standing near Orsino — Antonio, still held between two guardsmen. “Antonio, O my dear Antonio!” he ran over to his friend and lover and embraced him. “How have the hours rack’d and tortured me, since I have lost thee!”
If he had been expecting an equally enthusiastic greeting from Antonio, he was to be disappointed. Antonio pulled away from Sebastian and looked at him as if were a stranger. “Sebastian are you?” he demanded.
“Fear’st thou that, Antonio?” Sebastian laughed, but the laugh was strained.
Gesturing with his chin to where Cesario still stood off, Antonio asked, “How have you made division of yourself? An apple, cleft in two, is not more twin than these two creatures.” Almost plaintively, “Which is Sebastian?”
“Most wonderful!” Olivia murmured, staring between the two.
Sebastian turned and froze. “Do I stand there?” He shook his head and took a step closer to the stranger, who still had not seen him. “I never had a brother; nor can there be that deity in my nature, of here and every where. I had a sister, whom the blind waves and surges have devour’d.”
If anyone had been paying attention (which of course no one was) they might have seen Orsino’s eyes narrow at this last.
Oblivious, Sebastian raised to voice. “Of charity, what kin are you to me?” Cesario turned, and his eyes widened. “What countryman?” Sebastian asked, “What name? what parentage?”
“Of Messaline,” Cesario answered. “Sebastian was my father. Such a Sebastian was my brother too.” He plucked at his suit, modeled on the one Sebastian had always preferred to wear — was wearing now even. “So went he suited to his watery tomb.” He — no, she, for if this was true Cesario must be she again, and the agony of that battled with the hope and joy in her heart. She had sworn that she never again answer to ‘Viola’ unless the dead walked the earth, and… “If spirits can assume both form and suit you come to fright us.”
“A spirit I am indeed,” Sebastian said with a watery smile, “But am in that dimension grossly clad, which from the womb I did participate.” He took a breath and another step toward Cesario, who still had not moved. His eyes moved over the figure, remembering all the times he and his sister had disguised themselves as each other. “Were you a woman, as the rest goes even, I should my tears let fall upon your cheek, and say ‘Thrice-welcome, drowned Viola!’ ”
She opened her mouth, but couldn’t bring herself to say it. But she had to say something. “My father had a mole upon his brow.”
“And so had mine.”
“And died that day when Viola from her birth, had number’d thirteen years.” There, she’d said it. She’d said the name. Sebastian’s eyes lit up with joy even as Cesario struggled to breathe.
“O, that record is lively in my soul! He finished indeed his mortal act that day that made my sister thirteen years.”
“If nothing lets to make us happy both,” Happy. How could she be so happy and so destroyed? “But this my masculine… usurp’d attire, do not embrace me till each circumstance of place, time, fortune, do cohere and jump that I am,” she stopped, swallowed, “Viola.” Sebastian reached out then and wrapped her in his arms. She hugged him back, relaxing in the safety she had not known for three months or more. Her tears fell on his chest even as his dripped into her hair.
When she finally pulled away she glanced at Orsino. There was something in his eyes, something hot and hard that she could not yet face. Dropping her eyes she said, “Which to confirm, I’ll bring you to a captain in this town, where lie my maiden weeds. By his gentle help, I was preserved to serve this noble count. All the occurrence of my fortune since hath been between this lady and this lord.”
His attention once again directed to Olivia — to his wife of all three hours — Sebastian looked to see the stunned, almost horrified, look she wore. A great deal of the past week’s confusion suddenly came clear.
Giving Viola a last squeeze he turned to his lady and offered his hand. “So comes it, lady, you have been mistook: but nature to her bias drew in that.” He chuckled and leaned to whisper in her ear, “You would have been contracted to a maid.” She jumped and finally turned to look at him, a plea in her eyes. He answered that plea, bending to kiss her. “Nor are you therein, by my life, deceived, you are betroth’d both to a maid and man.” He grinned cheekily at her and she surprised herself by laughing.
Duke Orsino has a well-earned reputation for being less than steadfast. But in one thing he was true — the giving of his heart. So some might have been surprised by how he smiled at the new couple. True of heart, yes, but not hard-hearted. And with some measure of wisdom. To Olivia, he said only, “Be not amazed; right noble is his blood.” Then he looked to Sebastian and with raised eyebrows and a slight question in his voice continued, “If this be so, as yet the glass seems true, I shall have share in this most happy wreck.”
Sebastian and the duke looked at each other for a long moment. Then, Sebastian nodded. Orsino returned the nod and walked over to the one he had known only as Cesario.
In his heart alone could Orsino be relied upon, and that heart spoke true. He put a hand under a chin, urged eyes soft with tears up to look at him. And said one word. “Boy.”
Viola — Cesario — took a sudden breath, as one released from too-tight clothing. She — he — clung to the duke with his eyes, begging for something he dared not say.
In the background, one might have heard an old retainer mutter a quiet prayer of thanksgiving.
“Boy,” he repeated, “thou hast said to me a thousand times thou never shouldst love woman like to me.”
“And all those sayings will I overswear, and those swearings keep as true in soul.”
“Give me thy hand,” Orsino asked gently. Cesario gave it, and for a long moment, they clung together, like survivors of a shipwreck.