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The Proposal

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Since Gideon’s resurrection, everything had been so chaotically busy, she wasn’t sure if she even breathed yet. 

Sure, she was alive; she could swing her two-hander all she wanted and bicker with Harrow like old times. But there was killing her deadbeat dad-god, universal implosions, and naturally, the political negotiations that followed catastrophic wars, which left very little time for much else. 

As she crunched through the knee-deep snow of the Fifth, she began to realize just how tired she was. It wasn’t the sort of welcome soreness after a good training session, but something that lingered deep in her soul. Where she would have normally tried to toss Harrow playfully in a snowdrift, she just simply didn’t have it in her, so she stood and watched the remaining houses walk and talk their way to the meetinghouse.

Harrow stood in the snow, both mittened hands clutching a mug of something warm. Gideon wasn’t sure what it could be; she hated tea, and the Fifth was quite into their “spiritual enhancement” herbs. Perhaps she was drinking it to be polite. Perhaps she learned politeness after Gideon’s death.

Probably not.

She was mouthing something to herself, her pale face all scrunched up and concentrated, so Gideon knew better than to poke her, though she desperately wanted to know what was going on. They may have succeeded in a Perfect Lyctorhood, like the Sixth, but that didn’t mean Harrow kept Gideon in the loop with what was going on in her personal life. 

Hell, Gideon barely knew why they were on the Fifth. She knew they returned to the Ninth briefly after the war, but without Harrow’s influence, everyone had passed on, so there was nothing left in Home Shit Home. Harrow had instructed Gideon to pack up anything she wanted to keep, so Gideon filled a trunk with all her favorite classics, such as Sensual Sixth Librarians--UNCENSORED!!!, Titanic Titties of the Third, Svelte Sirens of the Seventh, and a new personal favorite unillustrated romance novel, Romancing the Necromancer. Harrow met up with her shortly at the surface of the Ninth, waiting for their shuttle, struggling to carry all her luggage. She had apparently kept all of her ancestors’ bones in little boxes like a weirdo and dragged a trunk bigger than her full of her robes and paints.

When they arrived at the Fifth, Harrow had Fifth House attendants carry their belongings to their temporary quarters, but said very little to Gideon upon their arrival. Her only word to her was, “Behave,” before heading into a nearby adjacent building with some other nerds.

Now she was outside, shivering despite all the layers. She looked like some sort of dark burrowing animal underneath all the scarves and coats. Gideon wondered if she could even stand back up if she was knocked over, or if she’d just roll away. 

“Think fast!”

Gideon turned, but the attacker was not aiming at her. Camilla Hect, clad in a grey ski outfit, had made a snowy hideout and a stack of artfully-crafted snowballs beside her. Her target was Palamedes Sextus, who was pacing and muttering to himself in an equally nerdy fashion to Harrow.

“I always think fa--waaaaah!” 

The onslaught was stunning, in Gideon’s opinion. Cam left no part of Palamedes un-snowballed, and at the end of the assault, he was covered in white powder, looking dazed.

He took off his glasses calmly and dusted them off. The scowl on his face would’ve made Gideon think he was angry, but once the glasses were back on, she discovered it was just his game face.

“I can go loud, too, Camilla!”

Cam’s fortress discovered, she ran off as Palamedes hurled much-larger snowballs back at her. Gideon thought of joining, but it seemed like some sort of Perfect Lyctorhood bonding time, so she watched as the two faded into the distance of the vast property.

Gideon decided to trudge her way over to Harrow. Moving in her swishy snow pants and the deep snow was hardly subtle, so Harrow noticed her pretty quickly. The golden eyes were still jarring on her skull-covered face, but the look on her face was surprisingly gentle, as though she were genuinely a bit happy to see her cavalier.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Gideon said. “You looked really concentrated. You raising the dead from under all this snow or something?”

Harrow snorted, which was a mistake, as the cold weather made her blow snot all over her scarf rather inelegantly. She wiped it off, looking a bit flustered, before replying, “No, you’re not. You always interrupt me.”

Gideon didn’t grace that with a response, because she was right. “What are you drinking?”

“Coffee.”

The one flavored beverage Harrow liked--black coffee. She should’ve known. “Where did you get it?”

“They serve it in the residential building in the lobby. I thought I should be...awake for this meeting.”

“Wait. We’re here for a meeting?”

Harrow rolled her eyes. “Yes. We’re here to discuss with all Nine Houses our alliances, living situations, and other affairs.”

“We’re having a formal meeting in snow clothes?”

Harrow raised her eyebrows, as though she were in awe of Gideon’s stupidity. “I assumed you brought nice clothes.”

“I have a tanktop that says, ‘I Flexed and the Sleeves Fell Off.’”

Harrow simply shook her head. “Please do not wear that to a meeting.”

“I’m gonna wear it.”

“Do not .”

Gideon ignored her. “So what are you gonna talk about at this meeting?”

Harrow’s ears turned pink. “None of your business.”

“But I’m gonna be listening to you talk.”

“More than that,” Harrow admitted, “You’ll be on the stage with me.”

“And you chose now to tell me?”

“I assumed you knew. And that is why you are not wearing that tanktop.”

“But how else will everyone on the Fifth know that your cavalier is super hot and strong?”

Harrow huffed. “By using their eyes.”

“So you admit that I’m super hot and strong.”

“Griddle…”

“I should’ve known my penumbral maiden had the hots for me.”

“Griddle, I swear…”

“Maybe your super secret speech is actually about your dashing cav and how she saved the Dominicus system and got all the ladies.”

“Griddle!” Her ears were red at this point. “You’ll find out in time what I’m talking about!”

“You’re not denying that it might be about me.” 

“Let me practice my speech!”

“I’m listening.” Gideon sat on one of the snow-covered steps of the meetinghouse and put her chin on her gloves. “Go on.”

“Ugh!” Harrow simply stomped up the stairs, around Gideon and inside the building.

Gideon liked to push Harrow’s buttons. It was her favorite activity, really. After all, if Harrow was exasperated with her, at least she knew she had Harrow’s attention. 

After all, it wasn’t like her necromancer loved her.

With a sigh, Gideon stood and made her way to what Harrow referred to as the residential building. A warm drink did sound nice. Maybe she’d have one of those fancy Fifth House teas that made you see orbs or whatever.

She stood in the drink line, thinking about Harrow in her oversized snow coat. Gideon knew she was in love with Harrow, and she knew it well--she wouldn’t have thrown her life away for just anyone, cavalier or not. But she didn’t dare tell Harrow, even though she had awoken her frozen soul in the Tomb with a gentle kiss to bring them both back to the realm of the living. She was reasonably certain Harrow didn’t remember it. Though there was the kiss Harrow gave her when Gideon took her first breath, back in her own body, 

Still, they were definitely friends, and it had taken so long to get to that point that Gideon didn’t want to ruin things. Harrow acted as hard as obsidian, but Gideon knew she was more made of frost flowers, cracking at the slightest breeze and melting to nothingness in the sun. Gideon had to treat her lyctor gently, even after everything.

Especially after everything.

Gideon ordered a massive mocha full of all sorts of diabetes-inducing sweets. At first gulp, she wanted to inhale the entire thing, but decided it was better to savor her warm dessert. Still, she took another sip just as the intercom went off, saying there was thirty minutes before the meeting.

Gideon sure felt unprepared. After asking reception where her room was, as servants had taken their belongings away, she headed up the stairs to the Ninth Quarters, feeling a sinking familiarity to Canaan as she walked.

The room had one king-sized bed, which Gideon found interesting. She wondered if Harrow requested it. Did she want to be held? Did she want...something else? Gideon decided to push thoughts like that away.

She will never love you, Gideon. You’re not a ten-thousand-year-old frozen corpse.

Gideon changed into dress slacks, her beloved tanktop about flexing Harrow hated so much, and decided to put an open button up over it so it looked passably dressy. After a pass through her hair and a quick touch up of her face paint, she threw her snow coat on over it and headed into the meeting hall. 

The first thing Gideon saw was confusing as all hell. In a darkened hallway to her right, Harrow was talking to Palamedes, who had apparently cleaned himself up and dried off. They were little nerd friends, so this in of itself wasn’t weird. But the way they were ducked and how Harrow’s eyes kept darting around frantically made Gideon wonder what the two were plotting. Gideon’s stomach clenched with concern, and then Palamedes gave Harrow a box.

It was small and grey, inconspicuous, and he opened it for her. Something glimmered inside, and Harrow’s eyes grew wide, and she beamed . She took the box, nodded her thanks, and tucked it in her robes.

Gideon hadn’t the slightest idea what was going on. Why did Palamedes give her a box? Why was it a big deal? Why was it shiny ? As far as she knew, Harrow liked bones, not jewels. 

Harrow made her way through the crowd then, and that was when Gideon noticed the second weirdest thing: half of the meetinghouse’s audience was transparent. She recognized some people, too; Dulcinea in a wheelchair with some sort of tubing stuck up her nose, Abigail and Magnus talking to a few people, even the dreadful teens running around with ghostly firecrackers.

“You made it,” Harrow said to Gideon after walking through a few people. 

“I mean, you said I had to be, like, official and shit.”

Harrow looked down at Gideon’s shirt, huffed, and buttoned it up. “You’re impossible.”

“You know I had to.”

Harrow rolled her eyes as she adjusted Gideon’s collar. “This will do, I suppose. Do not unbutton it.”

“Fine, my unholy overlord. But why are there all these dead people?”

Harrow opened her mouth to speak, but she was interrupted by Abigail and Magnus, who half-glided over.

Magnus said, “I heard dead people.” He looked around, feigning panic. “I can see them, too…”

Abigail gave him a playful shove. “Oh, stop!” she laughed, just as cheerful and musical as ever. Then, still smiling, she turned to a very confused Gideon. “Hello, Gideon. It’s been a while.”

“Uh, hi. Aren’t you two, like….mega dead?”

“Oh yes, very and completely,” Abigail replied, in a tone that suggested talking about the weather or the price of shuttle fuel. “But we were, essentially, heads of this House, so until a new heir is appointed, we haunt the place. It is how the Fifth always has been.” She sighed. “Ordinarily, this would be a...direct descendant, but we never…”

Magnus put an arm around her. “We’ll find someone.”

She gave a stiff nodd. “Yes. We will. But we are also here to support little Harrowhark--”

Harrow looked away, the unpainted back of her neck red.

Gideon felt like she clearly missed something here. “Why specifically Harrow?”

Magnus and Abigail exchanged looks in that grossly married couple way that suggested they were communicating telepathically, then burst out laughing. 

When Abigail had calmed down, she said, “Harrow, we also invited some friends who really wanted to see your speech.”

“Wonderful,” Harrow said in a way that was not at all wonderful. “I can see that.”

“Why is Harrow’s speech so important?” Gideon asked. “I know the Ninth is in a weird state right now, but…”

Abigail’s eyes sparkled behind her spectacles. “You will see.”

Before Gideon could beg Abigail to elaborate, she felt something cold wrap around her waist. She looked down to see Jeannemary and Isaac with grins practically wider than their faces.

“GIDEONNNNNN!” Jeannemary beamed. She tried to hug tighter, but that made her phase slightly through Gideon’s skin, making her cold ghostly form phase slightly into her organs. Gideon felt too bad for Jeannemary to complain.

“We’ve missed you so much, Gideon!” Isaac added, backing away.

“We told Abigail to tell Harrow to tell you we say hi--”

“--but now we’re here so we didn’t need to!”

Jeannemary finally peeled herself away from Gideon, shifting from foot to foot. “We just also wanted to say that we wish you two luck with everything.”

Isaac fidgeted with his sleeve. “Harrow’s kinda weird, but you make her happy, and we want to see her smile, like, ever.”

Jeannemary frowned. “Can she smile?”

“It’d probably mess up her paint.”

“She smiles sometimes,” Gideon informed the teens. “But what do you mean, good luck?”

Jeannemary covered her mouth. “Ohhhh, Isaaaaaac….she doesn’t knowwww…”

Isaac rubbed his hands together. “This is gonna get hella interesting.”

With a giggle and some sort of salute, they disappeared in the crowd, leaving Gideon feeling colder and more confused than ever.

“Ordinarily, you wouldn’t be able to see the ghosts,” Abigail said to Gideon, “as you are not a necromancer who has studied spirit magic. But this building is enchanted so everyone can interact with them. It’s one of my life’s greatest works.”

“We actually lived where you’re staying right now,” Magnus added.

“I added the coffeeshop for Harrow.”

Harrow covered her face. “Please, for all that is holy--”

“Awww, she’s just like the teens!” Abigail attempted to ruffle Harrow’s hair, and surprisingly, Harrow didn’t flinch. 

Gideon couldn’t help but wonder what Harrow went through in the River, and what she experienced with Abigail. They seemed oddly close now. 

“Anyway, you should prepare.” Abigail gave Harrow a peck on the forehead, and Harrow froze. “Good luck, Harrowhark, and remember: even after this, we’re only a seance away!”

“Thanks,” she mumbled. Her voice was soft, which told Gideon she was, deep down, grateful for Abigail’s support. It wasn’t like she had a mother figure before.

A Second house representative shouted for everyone to find their seats, and the ghosts scattered, leaving Gideon to spin around confusedly.

“Follow me,” said Harrow, tugging on her hand. Her fingers were warm from her coffee, but oddly clammy. 

They followed some stiff-backed Eighth house representatives. As they turned, Gideon noticed they wore pink rose pins on their breast, and as Gideon realized what they represented, she swallowed acid.

The Nine Houses all sat in an arc around a massive stage, facing an audience full of ghosts and civilians of all houses except one. Gideon hadn’t realized how big the auditorium was from her position before, but as she sat in her designated Ninth Cavalier chair, she noticed it arched around the stage like a colosseum. Gideon suddenly felt dizzy, but Harrow squeezed her hand.

The Second house necromancer stood beside her silent cavalier and discussed a numbered list, complete with an accompanying slideshow, of where Cohort forces were needed and what directions to follow, with God dead. Gideon would’ve found military planning interesting a few years ago, but watching her dad-god blow up changed some things for her.

The remaining necromancers had previously decided to continue their necromantic legacies without God, treating themselves as independent nations unified against other planes of existence, galaxies, and solar systems. Gideon knew these were very real threats, but emotionally, she just wanted to take a nap. She didn’t care about violence anymore.

She just cared about Harrow.

The Third house made some jokes and talked about allocation of funds, offering some to the Ninth house as an apology and a favor. Harrow looked like she was going to vomit, but said nothing. Gideon rubbed her back.

The Fourth echoed what the Second said and discussed some entities made of pure thalergy in a parallel galaxy. 

“They’ve never heard of necromancy before, but they have mad tech! We should blow it up!”

“You’ll do no such thing,” the Second house necromancer interrupted.

There was some arguing and a smattering of giggling, but eventually, Abigail herself took the stage.

“I have come home,” Abigail began, but she didn’t finish over the roaring cheers. Gideon always figured her House loved her--she was nice and unmatched in her skill--but she didn’t expect this tier of enthusiasm.

Eventually, Abigail cleared her throat, and the auditorium fell eerily silent. Clearly, she was everyone in the Dominicus system’s mom.

“If I may,” she continued, “I am here because Sir Magnus Quinn, my husband and cavalier, and I failed to produce an heir before our...untimely expiration. I shall remain here until an heir is found. Naturally, I would pick someone from my own house--a spirit adept to take my place, so I would like to host a Fifth House contest to choose the necromancer and cavalier to take our place.”

The auditorium exploded again, and Abigail waited with the patience of a necrosaint for it to die down. Once the opportunity arose, she continued to list off contest conditions--in-House spirit adepts only, must be actively in education or have graduated, and so forth--but did not detail the contest itself. Gideon couldn’t help but wonder what Abigail would make her House do.

Eventually, Abigail said, “Additionally, I would like to offer Reverend Daughter Harrowhark Nonagesimus and her w--excuse me, her cavalier , the first Perfect Lyctorhood our System has seen to our knowledge, an opportunity to stay here whenever they like. I’m well aware of the state of the Ninth House, and it will need time and repairs to bring it to the glory it deserves.”

Harrow inclined her head. Her ears and neck were red. She noticed Gideon looking, scowled, and pulled her veil over her face.

“I will extend to Master Warden Palamedes Sextus and his cavalier, Camilla Hect, the second Perfect Lyctorhood our System has seen to our knowledge, the same offer for the purpose of bringing greater archives to the library. After all, we as people are nothing without records, without history.”

Palamedes stood then, a full head and shoulders taller than Abigail, even with her as a ghost, and Abigail let him take the floor.

“I shall accept Abigail Pent’s offer, for I agree. There is much work to be done here, especially with the contest and the aftermath of the war. I am humbled by your invitation, Lady Pent.”

Abigail waved him off.

He went on some bookish rant then that Gideon didn’t care much about--her tastes were in much higher quality literature than dead necromancers. Harrow seemed to be listening intently, so she figured she could lay back and close her eyes for a moment and ask Harrow for any important notes later.

It seemed only moments before she felt Harrow stand, and Gideon instinctively stood, too, wiping the grogginess from her eyes. Harrow adjusted her veil as she glided forward, as intimidating as a wraith and as small and shaky as a child, and Gideon followed. She even took the trailing hem of her cloak. It was what her lyctor deserved.

The microphone was taller than Harrow, so Gideon lowered it. Harrow muttered something and clenched her knuckle rosary, but Gideon hadn’t the slightest idea what Harrow could pray to. She was basically a god, after all. 

Before Harrow said anything, there was clapping. Gideon scanned the crowd to figure out where it was coming from and saw Dulcinea, wheeled close to the stage, pale, translucent face full of excitement. The claps continued through the auditorium until it became an applause and Dulcinea’s cheer of, “ We love you, Harrow! ” followed by horrific coughs. Gideon didn’t know ghosts could cough.

Harrow scoffed, but Gideon knew she was pleased. “I haven’t even said anything yet.”

The crowd laughed lightly. 

“It will come as a surprise to some and not one to others that the Ninth House is a glorified grave,” Harrow began. “We housed, for ten thousand years, the Locked Tomb. The apocalypse we were supposed to stop ended here...but we are alive. The Tomb remains in the state it was before, but empty. However, the rest of my House is dead. I have no family, no descendents, no disciples. It is a wasteland of bones and snow leeks.”

The crowd murmured a bit then. Gideon saw the teens make their way to stand beside Dulcinea, each leaning on one arm of her wheelchair. She squeezed their hands. 

Harrow seemed to freeze then. Her mouth was shut, eyes glassy, and Gideon recognized what was happening almost viscerally: she was panicking. 

Harrow didn’t usually panic. At least, not in front of people. Gideon had only seen it a few times before, most notably the first time she had to puppet her parents. Even though they hated each other at the time, Gideon remembered, desperately, wishing she could pull her in an embrace and whisk her away from the hellacious rock they were stuck on.

Of course, at the time, she pushed that thought away.

Now, she wished she had.

Harrow’s golden eyes pooled with tears, and she instinctively squeezed them shut. She clenched the microphone with a vice grip, and Gideon wondered if she could break it.

Something moved out of the corner of her eye, and Gideon saw Ortus Nigenad, Harrow’s former cavalier. Gideon instantly felt horrible--he died in her shuttle, after all--but surprisingly, he gave Gideon a kind smile. He then put a ghostly hand on Harrow’s shoulder. 

“We’re with you, Harrowhark,” he said, voice soft as ever. 

Gideon expected Harrow to slap at his spirit, to cry, or even to become angry, but instead, she took a breath, and said words Gideon never expected.

“I have a few confessions to make.”

The crowd instantly went silent. Gideon’s heart fell in her stomach, and she looked frantically at Dulcinea, at Ortus, Abigail, anyone who could give her reassurance. Dulcinea was beaming. Ortus nodded to Gideon. Abigail was leaning in her backwards chair, chin on her hands as she stared directly at Harrow. 

“My existence is possibly one of the worst war crimes committed in our System. My parents sacrificed two hundred children to create me.”

Gideon had heard the story before, but she knew most people in the audience didn’t know that. Most people didn’t move. Dulcinea had pulled her hands away from the teens and was giving Harrow a thumbs up.

“Their sin...is not mine, but I committed a sin, too. I opened the Tomb when I was a child.”

Now the audience began talking. Abigail stood, and they instantly shut up.

“This means the Tomb had been open for ten years before the war. When my parents found out their perfect war crime had done the exact thing she was created not to do, they hung themselves. They wanted me to as well, but...I couldn’t do it. I was ten.”

Dulcinea had pulled out a piece of flimsy from a side pocket in her wheelchair and waved for Jeannemary to grab her something to write with. The rest of the audience didn’t dare move. Gideon figured Abigail was glaring them to silence.

“I should’ve asked for help. Perhaps...none of this would have happened otherwise. But I was ten. I was scared. My parents taught me to fear the world outside of the Ninth, and I did. So I made them look as...alive as possible, and puppeted their bodies until I left the Ninth. I recognize that this was a crime in of itself, too, and would be more than enough to exile me as well as destroy what remains of my house.”

“Absolutely not!” shouted Abigail.

Gideon turned. She had never seen a ghost flush with anger before.

“I must be honest about my crimes,” Harrow said. “This is what our God didn’t do. I am the first Perfect Lyctor, and I aspire to be nothing like our dead God.”

Abigail gestured for Harrow to move. “Of the representatives of the Nine Houses, raise your hand if you are in favor of Harrowhark Nonagesimus remaining the leader of the Ninth House.”

All Houses but the Third raised their hands. Gideon expected that. 

“Of the civilians from the Nine Houses in the audience, raise your hand if you are in favor of Harrowhark Nonagesimus continuing to lead the Ninth House, despite her parents crimes.”

“But--” Harrow began.

Abigail put a hand to Harrow’s mouth. It was hardly enough to actually keep Harrow silent, but the gesture itself shut her up.

The audience was a sea of hands. Gideon could pick out a few clusters of golden-clad people who just whispered to themselves instead, but the slimy bastards were a gross minority.

Dulcinea lifted her paper then.

You are not a war crime. You are a survivor.

A few tears spilled down Harrow’s cheeks as she read it. Gideon wondered why Dulcinea was so invested in Harrow. 

After all, the two never really met--not the real Dulcinea, anyway.

Abigail stepped back and motioned for Harrow to take the microphone again.

“I-in that case,” Harrow began, voice cracking, “then there are things for us to discuss.”

Dulcinea began another note. 

“The remaining members of my House perished upon my leave. My...my presence was all that was keeping them alive. Before Gideon and I arrived here, we packed all of our belongings. There is nothing for us in the Ninth House except for bones for bone adepts...but I am the last. The legacy of the Ninth will die with me...unless.” 

Harrow paused for a moment. 

Dulcinea held up her next note.

You can do this.

“Unless I have a partner to keep the line alive. Together, we could revive our House, with the help of our…” Harrow emitted a shuddering sigh. “With the help of our f-f-friends.”

Friends was clearly a very difficult word for Harrow to say, and a younger Gideon would’ve found that hilarious. All it did was make current Gideon sad. 

But wait. Gideon was beginning to connect the dots. Harrow needed a partner. Harrow was going to ask for someone to marry her. This was it. This was when Harrow would leave her forever, for the glory of her House, for some mysterious necromancer.

“I would like to plan the intricacies of making the Ninth House inhabitable privately, but there is something I must do publicly. Gideon, can you come here, please?”

Gideon shuffled a bit closer. Abigail, who was grinning rather strangely, took a step back, followed by Ortus. Gideon could hear someone squealing and noticed it was Dulcinea, who was wiggling in her wheelchair.

Harrow took both of Gideon’s hands. Her hands were slimy. 

“Gideon Nav,” she began. “Years ago, in that pool, I told you that you were my only friend. That wasn’t...necessarily true.” She dropped her gaze. “You are...more than my friend. All I’ve ever done is because...I love you, Gideon. I’ve been in love with you for as long as I can remember. I kept you alive because I wanted you to live more than I wanted my own life. When we achieved lyctorhood together, I knew in my very soul that you were my soulmate. We were made for each other, Gideon. I was the lock to the Tomb, and you were the key. Together...we’re whole. So…”

She went quiet. Gideon’s head was spinning. Her mouth was dry. She had no idea what to say, or what was happening. 

Harrow rummaged around her layered cloak and pulled out the mysterious grey box Palamedes had given her, and that was when it clicked. 

Harrow sank down onto her knee, making her impossibly tiny. She looked so cute and small from down there, just a little painted face surrounded by ink-black robes. She opened the box, and Gideon’s breath caught in her throat.

There were two rings inside, one much smaller than the other. They were simple black bands, but glinted in the light perfectly. Gideon saw that, inscribed in tiny jewels, one ring read one flesh , the other one end .

“Gideon Nav,” she said, “will you marry me?”

Gideon favored herself a woman of action, so she decided to listen to the heart hammering in her stomach and do exactly what she wanted. 

She tackled Harrow, right there on the stage in front of everyone. Harrow lied beneath her, surrounded by black, veil askew, golden eyes wide. Before Harrow could respond, Gideon kissed her for the third time. 

It was clumsy and messy and probably gross for the thousands of people to watch, but Gideon couldn’t help herself. She was so enthusiastically saying yes that the words couldn’t even form the words to say yes. 

Gideon scooped the tiny lyctor in her arms, allowing Harrow to wrap her legs around her waist as she held her up, kissing her gently. She felt Harrow slip her tongue in her mouth, and Gideon just about exploded, but it was then she realized she hadn’t actually said anything. The audience needed to know just how much Gideon wanted this, needed this.

Nothing mattered in the entire Solar System as much as Harrowhark Nonagesimus. 

So Gideon separated and set the confused-looking necromancer back on her little feet and grabbed the mic.

Fuck yeah.”

The crowd burst out laughing. Dulcinea held up a rough sketch of what had just happened--Gideon pinning Harrow to the stage and kissing her.

Gideon decided to push further. “Harrowhark Nonagesimus, my gloom mistress, I’m gonna marry you so hard, you would’ve thought Dominicus exploded. Let’s see these rings.”

Shaking, Harrow stumbled over to Gideon, holding open the little box. Leaning to the mic, she said, “I commissioned them from Palamedes. He had the designs in his archives and, well, he’s a man of many talents, so he...made them.”

Gideon held out her hand. “Well, put it on, then!”

Harrow laughed and rolled her eyes. “You’re impossible.”

“I’m very possible. You’re marrying me.”

For once, Harrow’s face shined with genuine, real happiness. “I am. I really am.”

And she slipped one flesh right on Gideon’s finger.

“So,” Gideon added, holding her ring up to the light. “If you’re wanting to continue the Ninth House bloodline...”

“Griddle…”

“That means we’ll have to work on making an heir, huh?”

“Griddle, I swear--”

“That’s enough.” Abigail actually walked through Gideon, which was so unpleasant that Gideon made a mental note to never annoy Abigail again. “That wraps up our meeting! Thank you!”

As people departed the stage and talked in the audience, Gideon leaned over to Harrow, who was fidgeting with her own ring. Gideon took her tiny, scarred hand and slipped the ring on a waiflike finger. 

“I am very interested in making an heir, bone goddess.”

Harrow sputtered, but once the ring was on her finger, she interlaced their fingers. Leaning closer, she whispered, “We do have a bed.”

“I noticed the one bed. Did you...know this was going to happen?”

Harrow’s eyes sparkled and without another word, she dragged Gideon away, back into the world of snow outside and to their new private quarters.