~~The original ORMI with a twist: instead of being disinherited, Danny's whole family has been disowned.~~
When he’d called their portafloo, Danny had been vague about why he urgently needed to talk to Holland in person. Only a few moments passed between his call and his arrival in the Keenes’ living room, where Holland was waiting for him. “What’s wrong?” they asked, automatically unnerved by his knitted brows. He was still wearing his work robes—he must not have been home since then—and he didn’t greet them with a kiss the way he usually did.
“You assume something’s wrong,” Danny joked, but his wan smile didn’t reach his eyes. He wouldn’t drop by uninvited while Holland was visiting their parents for anything less than a calamity: urgent good news was rare. “Everything is probably fine. There’s been a—a development.” Danny stepped from the hearth and shuffled toward them, reluctant to continue. Before Holland could perfect their expression of impatience, he said, “My father’s parents—they made good on one of their threats.”
The sounds of their parents cleaning up in the kitchen—low conversation, running water, and metal clinking on ceramic—suddenly deafened Holland, and the rest of the room was very still. Danny and his parents had been firm in their decision to defy Christophe Dubois, but this could change things for Alex and Ivy. Holland braced themself. “What did they do?”
“Worst case scenario. We’ve been disowned. All of us. My parents and Claudia, too.”
Holland felt, uncharacteristically, like swearing, but they didn’t have the vocabulary to express how bad this was. “Just like that?”
He shrugged. “I’m not an expert in how these things work. But essentially yes.”
Disownment—of either Danny specifically or his entire family—had never been outside the realm of possibility, but everyone had implied it was one of the less likely options. Apparently not. Holland took Danny’s hands. “Okay. Come sit down.”
He followed them numbly and sat down on the Keene’s couch. He didn’t know what shocked him more: his grandparents ranking bigotry above family, his own decisions having dramatic and lasting effects on his family, or all of Claudia’s worst fears being realized. It was overwhelming.
“It’ll be okay,” Holland said firmly. “We’ll figure this out.”
He held their hands and nodded. “My father assured me he planned for this, just in case. So my parents won’t struggle financially, and I’m… I’m okay, too. And Claudia,” his voice cracked on her name. He’d really ruined things for her, when his responsibility was to look out for her. Danny took a shuddering breath with his eyes lowered to the ground and couldn’t continue the sentence.
“There was nothing else you could have done to stop this,” Holland reminded him. The decision had been his grandparents’. “And Claudia is smart, and your parents will take care of her.”
Danny slumped towards them and rested his head on their shoulder. “I know we talked about it, but I didn’t think it would happen,” he murmured.
“I know. Me neither.” Holland released Danny’s hand to put their arm around him, and pressed a kiss to his ruffled brown hair. “I’m sorry it’s happening.”
He leaned against them and sighed. “I don’t know. I feel… in some ways it’s a relief. You know? But I—I’ve always been Dardanius Dubois. Now, I… I don’t know what to do.”
“You’re still the same person, were you not Dubois called.”
Despite everything, Danny smiled into their shoulder. “I just mean that there’s a part of me that… and we can’t exactly tackle the patriarchy now I’ve been cast out. And there are people I might not see again, and it… doesn’t matter.” He snaked his arm around their waist. “I’ve got you.”
“You’ve got me,” Holland agreed. “And if you want, we can find some other oppressive system to dismantle together. There’s no shortage.”
“Okay,” he grinned. He kissed their cheek as he sat up a little straighter. “I love you.”
“I love you, too. Stay for dinner,” Holland suggested. “Or—we can go home.”
“I want to go home. I don’t think I’d be good company. You stay, if you want to. I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“You’re not,” Bryony Keene said. She appeared at the doorway to the kitchen. “Sorry, this archway is not soundproof,” she reminded Holland, silencing their accusation of eavesdropping. “And we’re sorry to hear about what happened with your grandparents, Danny. If there’s anything we can do…?”
“I don’t think so,” he shook his head. An unexpected bubble of emotion rose in Danny’s chest and took him by surprise. Hours earlier, his own family denied him everything they’d ever promised. Conversely, the Keenes had nothing to give, but offered it anyway. “Although I really appreciate the offer, thank you.”
“In any case, you’re not intruding. You’re family.”
The exchange of his grandparents for Monty and Bryony Keene was a trade Danny was happy to make. Holland’s parents were good people; he was honored to be welcomed by them.
Co-written with Sophia