(1310-10-05) Help With Girls
Summary: Gal still somehow has a lot to learn. Oriane is willing to help.
RL Date: 04/10/2018 - 06/10/2018
Related: The Lady Doesn’t Quite Say ‘No’.
oriane gal 

Salon — Maison de la Porte Bleue

Two square chambers are united by broad sliding doors of black-painted wood, creating a double cube lined with simple white boiseries and floored by squares of dark and light parquet in an echo of the marble downstairs.

The resulting combined salon is sparsely furnished with a few small chairs and tables light enough to be rearranged at will, their styles mismatched but harmonious, all of them painted white. In the rear chamber a single large sofa covered in deep sapphire-blue velvet is placed against the wall to the left as one enters it, across from the fireplace to the right.

The small balcony overlooking the Rue du Port, is echoed by a much larger one on the opposite side of the double cube, between the sofa and the hearth. Sliding doors, similar to those in the middle of the salon but set with diamond-shaped panes of leaded glass to let the light in, give onto a fragrant bower suspended amidst a magnificent view of the harbour. Small orange trees grow in pots, scenting the air with their sweetness; the blue wrought-iron railings are festooned with windowboxes planted with such useful household staples as rosemary, thyme, basil, sage, and lavender. And, for pleasure's sake, every white flower that might hope to thrive in the climate of Marsilikos has a place here, whether in a hanging basket or a pot moved inside at night. Overhead stretches a black and white striped canvas awning, the angle of which can be adjusted by lever to provide shade to plants and persons resting beneath it as the southern sun moves in its course.

Next time Gal calls at the house with the blue doors in the Rue du Port, carrying a bundle of his own clothes, he's admitted by the guy with the eyes who is apparently not Oriane's — except in the sense in which, indubitably, he is.

Quintavius Toluard in his white-piped black tunic with the embroidered crescent moon over his heart shows the visitor correctly (but with some dubiety) up to the salon, where they discover Oriane writing letters. Several small white tables are pushed together near the presently-shut balcony doors; she sits there surrounded by the paraphernalia of an active correspondence, a lap desk and a tray of quills, a row of a dozen bottles of different coloured inks, and Daisy the kitten romping on the table with a broken stick of silver-blue sealing wax. She — Oriane, not Daisy — is dressed exquisitely in the sort of black silk gown Gal has known her to wear before, with a lacy white fichu filling in a lower than usual neckline and that glittering diamond brooch of hers, shaped like a crescent moon, to fix the latter in place.

"Gal!" she exclaims as though the sight of him has taken her utterly by surprise, and provided a welcome though temporary diversion in the midst of her busy, busy day. "And you did bring us your mending," she observes, beaming down grandmotherly approval upon him. She turns to Quintavius: "Quinquin, will you be an angel and take the mending down to Isabeau?" she suggests, laying aside her quill as she rises from her chair and favours her pastry chef with exactly her usual sort of gently imploring glance. Nearer to her visitor, looking him over without the parcel in his arms, she lifts a hand and suddenly adds: "But you must take off that tunic and give it to Isabeau too. The sleeves — they simply won't do, will they, Quinquin?"

And she solicits the opinion of the one relentlessly immaculate fellow, even as she gestures urgently for the disrobing of the other, untidier specimen before her.

"… Yes, those sleeves must be let down an inch," she decrees in obedience to the dictates of her own exacting eye for style. "Isabeau has attended upon me for a long time and she does all my sewing — I’ve told her about you, and she knows your arms and legs are just a little too long all over for the clothes you have, and that your buttons all need strengthening! I'm sure it won't do you any harm to sit in your shirtsleeves a little while — we have such a lovely fire going, such a comfort with the days drawing in — no, dear boy, you needn't fret too much over the proprieties," she chuckles; "I don’t mind, and surely it's better to attend to everything at once and see you looking a credit to the City Guard… Let's spare him any more blushes, though, shall we?" she suggests to Quintavius, thinking out loud as if such a course were occurring to her on the spur of the moment. "I shan't be at home to any other visitors till all the mending is done… You might send up wine, the ‘03 or the ‘04: I do think you’re right, Quinquin, that I ought to have a rest from my letters every so often, and now Gal has come along to make sure that I do.”

She smiles charmingly at them both.

With that firm note in her voice as she affects to take his very own advice — and with a spectator so close at hand — there's little for Quintavius to do but utter, "Very good, my lady," in a nuanced, speaking sort of tone, and withdraw carrying the majority of Gal’s wardrobe.

Yes, Gal’s sixteen-year-old moves may have served him well up on the battlements of the Citadel, but these are sixty-six-year-old moves: a game of chess with human pieces, whom Oriane by a word here and a smile there manipulates according to her own secret will from behind a façade of ordinary good manners, till her eager young swain finds himself alone with her in her salon, already minus one of his garments, and with wine on the way.

Gal doesn't actually own many clothes. He has a pair of trousers, his red tunic, his duty trousers, his padded tunic, and now the shirt and coat he just got to show Oriane around the citadel. The lattermost are left at home, new enough to fit properly, and so he just brings his duty trousers and padded tunic over tossed in a sack over his shoulder, while dressed in his old faithful brick red tunic, which has other problems yet besides being a little small on him. He tries to make some idle conversation with Blue Eyes on the way upstairs but finds a chilly reception— and once he's upstairs he's caught up in one-woman whirlwind of sensory overload, sufficiently rendered incapable of doing much but half-opening his mouth to protest. He glances briefly between Oriane and Quintavius when he's instructed to remove his red tunic, but— not shy, in the least, he finally peels it off of himself, airing out the rather odoriferous garment with a few brisk shakes before he hands it over with an apologetic glance to Quintavius, then sets his hands on a table behind him, subtly flexing his arms as he leans there all contrapposto, with no shirtsleeves to speak of, nor shirt to connect them. Just his trousers riding half-low on his hips and the supple development of abdomen and pectorals above, should Oriane turn to look at the masterpiece she's created.

<FS3> Oriane rolls Composure: Failure. (4 1 2 1 1 5 6 4 2 5 5 5 3)

When rising red cloth reveals a first glimpse of taut young muscle and it dawns upon Oriane that Gal has, in fact, no shirtsleeves to sit in, that her improvised scheme for their rendezvous has somehow already managed to get away from her and into realms undreamt-of and unknown, instincts developed during a lifetime's graceful fidelity drive her gaze elsewhere. She turns away from the striptease toward her improvised writing table, affecting to recall one last note she must make before devoting herself to her visitor… But she has seen. Oh, she has seen. There's a high, hot colour in her cheeks that Quintavius, in turn, must not see. Has he gone yet? He must have gone. Please let him have gone. Those are surely his footsteps retreating. She risks a sidelong glance toward the doorway, only for her gaze to be sublimely arrested before it can get there. Her disobedient quill bleeds blue ink across two different sheets of closely-written parchment, a few drops more with each tremour of her hand. In a stillness broken only by the crackle of the fire so warm upon her back, two or three breaths pass before she can even lift her (somewhat abashed) eyes to Gal's face.

She saw. Oh, she definitely saw, even though — or maybe all the more obviously because of how she's inspecting that last note of hers. Gal will wait. He can look her over from behind, meanwhile, once Blue Eyes disappears, observing the effortless way she carries herself in grace and rectitude. Not to mention that ass. Oh, but now she's even looking at him, looking at what terrible trouble she's wrought, and a smile slowly creeps into a big, cheeky grin when her distraction is evident. "Not what you had in mind? … Not even a little bit?" he goes on to ask her, maybe teasing just a little as he slinks away from the table and his picture-perfect pose, treading slowly closer.

<FS3> Oriane rolls Composure: Good Success. (1 6 8 5 3 6 2 1 7 5 7 6 5)

Oriane draws in another breath as Gal prowls toward her, and finds her stays somehow too snugly-laced to conduce to her ideal comfort. "… Perhaps more than a little," she breathes out, her low voice carrying a ripple of laughter. She's utterly still as she watches him come nearer, nearer… Daisy meanwhile tires of the stick of wax and steals the quill right out of her mother's hand. A last few droplets of blue ink wreak their havoc, staining otherwise pristine white fur.

Gal sidles right on up alongside, resting a hip against the writing-desk and breaking his gaze from hers just enough to look down to her hand and cover it with his, then trace his fingers up her lower arm, letting loose a tremorous giggle when the kitten gets into the ink and it steals his attention from the moment at hand for just the instant needed to alleviate the tension. "You were amazing on the Citadel. When you talked your way past the guys on the way out again, I thought I'd die grinning. You have a magic when you speak— you— I feel bewitched, like I can hardly help anything at all," he tells her. "That's how much strength you have to you," he puts to her his admiration while toying with her sleeve.

Beneath his hand Oriane's fingertips curl, nails scritching against the parchment in counterpoint to the soft sounds of Daisy's paws and claws. "Whereas you don't even need to speak," she acknowledges drily; "though when you do…"

Her head inclines toward his; her lips part as though she might speak, or might indeed not speak— But their steps in this dance have been so deliberate and so unhurried, that now the dainty tread of huge feet in polished boots sounds again on the pale stone steps leading up to the first floor. "Pas devant," the lady of the house chuckles softly, and holds Gal's gaze another instant before depriving him of her eyes and her arm both. She’s in command now. With a distracted glance down at the table she turns over a few sheets of parchment to hide the mess from Quintavius. One large blue ink-blot has soaked all the way through, necessitating a second paper-shuffle which is still in progress as the wine arrives. Another piece of the mess is romping about on a quartet of white paws, which gives her an idea…

She greets her poker-faced pastry chef with a warm: "Quintavius, thank you," which under other circumstances might serve to re-affirm the loyalty between servant and mistress. "Why don't you put it…?" she suggests, gesturing to another of her occasional tables, placed near the sofa.

Then she glides across to him with her blue and white baby Daisy held tenderly in both hands. "Oh, just leave the tray and I'll pour. Quinquin, I'm afraid Daisy sat down on one of my letters and it wasn't quite dry… Would you do me the most tremendous favour, and give her another little bath?" she inquires, pressing the delinquent bundle of fur into his large and manly yet inexplicably light hands. "She does like you so much," she adds, coaxing. There's an exchange of looks, unreadable to an interloper like Gal. At the end of it Quintavius leaves with the baby in tow, Oriane following along to remind him of which especially mild soap to use, and how to test the temperature of the water with his elbow. These instructions are interspersed with gentle flattery and appeals to his trustworthy nature — who else, after all, could she rely upon to tend to her darling? — which carry them as far as the salon doors.

The match made between their two interruptors, she shuts the doors and turns back to Gal. Her eyes sparkle across the salon at him; he must know he inspired her.

"Everything is ruined," Gal predicts the completion of her sentiment, half tongue-in-cheek, half truly self-deprecating. But he doesn't get much further than that when Blue Eyes is back, bringing the wine and setting it out for Oriane to pour— though Gal might get there first while Oriane is handing off the kitten and giving such exacting instructions as to her care. He smiles at Blue Eyes over the tray of which he's taken some impromptu possession, considering it well enough to pour for Oriane and himself and to have the drink ready when she returns from her distraction— or clearing the room of distractions.

Oriane's feet in black velvet slippers hardly seem to touch the well-polished chequerboard floor of her salon as she returns to the half of it presently containing the writing-table, the sofa, the fire, the wine… the half-naked youth, offering the wine… She curls one hand about the stem of her glass and the other about his waist. Her skin is infinitely softer even than the fine black kid gloves of last Sunday night. She lifts her eyebrows at him as though daring him to challenge her; and holding his gaze over the rim of the glass she inhales the bouquet of a Bordeaux wine almost as good as the one she served him on her balcony, that day when he restored her locket, and slowly sips it.

Gal relinquishes the bell of the glass with his hand once her hand is secure on the stem. The hand thus freed lifts itself to her shoulder while her off hand claims his half-bared hip, and he holds his own wine glass out to the side while he angles his torso just so, neither challenging her nor issuing challenge, but yielding his person to her expert will in an eminently amenable fashion. "I guess I should just be quiet, then, huh?" and yet he doesn't, punctuating the thought by joining her in a sip of the wine. The good wine. It makes his eyes lid into an earthy, bedtime stare.

Watching that change come over Gal's expression at the taste of wine from her very own grapes, so rich and fruity even now upon her tongue, another of Oriane's inhibitions crumbles (she hasn't got many left after that moonlit night on the battlements) and she pilots him a step backward till his calves hit the edge of her wide, deep, cushion-strewn blue velvet sofa. She doesn't push him down — they wouldn't want to spill the wine! — but her hand shifts from his waist to his hip, suggesting with a firm caress that he might like to sit down… And she sits next to him, turned slightly in towards him with her hand trapped now behind his back. "I like the way you talk to me," she says simply. "You're straightforward, and you're kind. But we needn't talk if you don't like to."

"I don't usually like to talk to girls," Gal admits. "But most girls only talk about… stupid stuff, really. You're different. You've got… depth, soul. I like talking to you. I only hope I don't bore you too much," he answers back, kind of prone to prattling on, even as he welcomes her guidance down into a seat, welcomes her presence next to him, playfully twists toward her to slide his hide-clad calf up over her leg, tangling them together just a little bit on the couch, grinning over the rim of his wine glass and then taking another luxuriating swallow. "Mm's really good."

"… I remember you said the same the other night," Oriane chuckles, her trapped fingertips scritching just a little at Gal's lower back, "and I meant to take you to task for it. Girls in general aren't as dull as you suppose — I used to be one, you know, and I knew many others, so you must own that I have a degree of expertise — but young girls," she sighs reminiscently, "have all sorts of worries of their own, and it would be charitable in you to forgive them for being tongue-tied in the presence of a body that takes even grown women's breath away. They have souls too," she reminds him, drinking again before reaching out across his leg to restore her goblet to the table whence it came. "I don't think I'm so different. It's only that I've had more practice," a beat, as she settles back against the cushions and lifts her eyebrows at him again, "at talking to men."

It's very true that Gal is sometimes unkind to girls— poor Bernardine, whose face he's been avoiding this last month or so, must certainly not be his girlfriend anymore by now, for example. But, then, as much as his loins stray toward the feminine, his strongest emotional bonds have always been with other guys. Even Cole, like— they fight, but they're still close. And probably would be even if they weren't forced by necessity. But when his unkindness is pointed out to him, he doesn't jump to its defense, nor sulk, as he loved to sulk when Oriane threw his lineage at his face, but he opens up his heart to the advice and sets his mouth into a pensive little line while feeling comforted out of his comfort zone, the wine and her fingertips conspiring to make him a better pupil to her teachings, of which he is in sore need. When she settles back, he follows her, leg-first, almost drawing himself onto her lap as she moves and he moves with her. His elbow slides in aside her cheek and holds his mostly empty wine glass behind her head. "Maybe you can tell me what's going on with them. It's a mystery to me. But I feel like you and I really have a connection, you know? Like we were talking about before. Is it OK if I kiss you?" he thinks to ask instead of just doing so, no matter how drawn in toward her he already is.

Oriane answers his question with a cat-like smile and a sidelong look from where her head is resting back against his forearm. She reclaims her arm from about his back and her hands combine to remove one of her pearl earrings, which she slips into a pocket somewhere amongst her skirts. Well, if he wants help with girls… She takes hold of his chin with gentle fingertips and draws him nearer to where her empty earlobe is now tilted toward his lips. Then she's letting out a harder breath and resting her hand on his thigh, just above his knee. "The first thing you must remember," she mentions — the first thing, that is, after how much the female of the species enjoys having her ears interfered with, "is that it isn't — what's going on with them. Girls aren't all the same, any more than boys are all the same. They're all different. They— we have our own thoughts and wishes and desires, just as you…”

The female servants are all on their mistress’s side. A boy like that, and no strings attached—? They wouldn’t mind if they did, thank you very much, and isn’t it time the old girl had something to smile about besides those infernal kittens? Conversation belowstairs turns much upon what they’d do if they had the chance, what they hope she’s doing, and which of them is going to take up the hot water and the extra towels and get a proper look at him and report back to the committee. Madelon is disqualified by reason of having already seen him with his shirt off, treat enough surely for one day, though she receives a vote of thanks for providing such a poetic description of his abdomen. Matters are settled at last when Isabeau, Oriane’s personal maid and the longest in her service, pulls rank over Nicole (a junior laundress, no more) and a mere local cook like Germaine (who doesn’t take it too personally).

Such talk is just within the household’s own circle, of course, and the women keep their hands as busy as their tongues. Trusting that they’re in no hurry and that Oriane, at least, will appreciate their hard work, Isabeau and Nicole see that Gal’s few clothes are not only mended but laundered and dried and ironed with lavender water — even that appalling red tunic they prefer to handle at first with tongs. Madelon mops up the spilled wine in the salon and does wonders lifting the mark from the sofa. And Germaine pops out to the market to buy a few dozen oysters and some especially delicate fresh-caught fish to serve as the centrepiece of an intimate supper. Nothing too heavy, you know, in case they want to go back to bed after…

It’s a busy evening all round, though Isabeau is eventually obliged to concede that there’s nothing to be done about Oriane’s gown except cut it down into some smaller garment. It won’t be till next year’s spring cleaning that they find the last of its tiny silk-covered buttons.

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