(1311-05-18) Birthday Bunny
Summary: Before he sets sail for Tiberium, Eisande’s leading bunny rabbit has a very important date. (Don’t worry. He’s not late.)
RL Date: 14/05/2019
Related: Previous scenes with these characters; also, Beaten Paths.
emmanuelle jehan-pascal 

Courtyard — La Maison Sanglante

The labyrinthine dark and frescoed passageways of the Maison Sanglante debouche at length into a small sitting-room wherein each piece of distinctly upright furniture is black-lacquered and elaborately gilded with, at the farthest consent to comfort, a seat of woven cane. One wall of it consists entirely of a trio of wide pairs of glass doors which open outwards, shadowed by black-lacquered shutters which open inwards, and shielded by floor-length drapes of soft black velvet (in winter) or black tussore silk (in summer) edged in gold-embroidered Shahrizai keys.

Beyond is a rectangular courtyard of centuries-old, weathered stone: surely one of the house's original features. To the left its longer side is formed by a high wall of stone, set into which a niche houses a stone statue of Eisheth. From her open hands water pours down into a half-circle basin where water-lilies grow. Beyond the opposite wall to the right runs a corridor lined with black-lacquered shutters of the same make but half-length, often left open. At the courtyard's farther end the same arrangement of floor-to-ceiling windows and shutters gives onto a palatial bedchamber, into which the corridor also leads in the end.

The courtyard has no permanent features of its own besides the fountain and its pool, several old stone planters growing earthy-scented mandrakes (and a single cutting of oleander flowering pale-pink in their midst), and a solidly-built whipping-post set deep into the mossy flagstones just outside the bedchamber. But furniture may easily be carried out into it by servants.

Ropes run overhead, along which a white oiled-silk awning may be drawn in wet weather, or lanterns of coloured glass on dark evenings.

Beneath a twilight sky hardly streaked, in such balmy weather, by smoke from the city's fires, Emmanuelle's colourful lanterns illuminate her courtyard in shades of red and blue, purple and gold, and a new and particular blushing pink.

A carpet of deep purple velvet with a border of mandrake flowers edged in gold runs across the mossy flagstones, between the planters growing true mandrakes and the fountain-trough where the water lilies are coming into bloom. At the far end of the courtyard it detours past the whipping-post to arrive at the threshold of the jewel-box; in between it broadens into a precise square surrounding a circular table draped with crisp white linen and set for supper à deux. Comfortable gilded fauteuils upholstered in black tussore silk, mirror-bright silver and crystal exquisitely etched with Shahrizai keys, slender white beeswax tapers lit only moments ago in anticipation of his arrival. A shallow bowl of tiny flowers in Jehan-Pascal's own pink, arranged too low to impair lines of sight, unscented to ensure they don't interfere with the tastes and the odours of the meal to come.

Beyond, the doors to the jewel-box stand open, promising other pleasures later in the evening in a bower of coloured, long-stemmed roses— and then Emmanuelle appears, framed in a doorway. Unlike her courtyard she hasn't dressed up to honour her lover's pretended natality — she's in a loose lavender silk shirt tucked into comfy black velveteen breeches, and flat slippers to match — but then again she has: several undone buttons reveal the presence of a complex necklace of amethysts set in gold, which Aumande herself has been known to covet, and nothing else beneath her garment but skin. The cuffs of her sleeves are several times folded up to display bare forearms and wrists veined with blue. Her bound-back hair is her own, her maquillage— no more than the usual. Her own minimum of artifice.

Absent her high-heeled boots Emmanuelle's hips always move less and her stance always grows more squared. Her walk now, toward him along the shorter leg of her purple carpet, has in it a slight but unmistakably masculine swagger; her very feminine red lips form a sensuous slow curve as she looks him over. She comes very close and without looking away from his eyes she reaches to take his hand into her own, in an intimate lover's clasp, their fingers warmly twined. She brings it to her lips and greets him with a kiss upon his knuckles, gentle and lingering.

Inducted unto the threshold of the courtyard, one Jehan-Pascal Aumande Baphinol, a vision of dewy springtime in the palest of seafoam stockings below thin woolen breeches, snow-white with a dove-grey trim, that hug tighter to the back of his thigh than its fore, creating the briefest illusion of his silhouette's appearance in the manner of a sylphic, woodland faun. His shirtsleeves are seafoam, as well, below a pale grey waistcoat and white tails accented to match his breeches— tails which toy about behind his well-displayed gams when he turns at the opening and stands a moment there, marvelling mildly at the lanterns before the slight heel of his shoe hits against the pavers with an audible clip, one which accelerates slightly in pace until — it falls back again, his heart briefly fluttering at the powerful way in which she comes to overtake him, herself, slowing even to a halt when she comes up so close to him and has his hand. And kisses it so charmingly. She can hear the whisp of wind in past his lips and see him waver just a little bit as the edge of a swoon, from which he recovers only enough to issue forth, "Madame," along with the previously stolen breath.

Did he but swoon, practiced Mandragian arms would be there to gather him close. But custom, perhaps, has dulled the force of Emmanuelle's cold gaze and her warm cologne, and so her princess remains on his feet, to be drawn forward along the porphyry path to his throne one tentative calflike step at a time. "Let's sit, my love," she purrs; and she uncurls her fingers from his only to draw out his chair and tuck it in solicitously beneath him as he lowers himself in a flare of pale tails. Here he has his back to the jewel-box and the whipping-post planted before it; when his lover sits, which she doesn't yet, he'll see only her and the dim shape of open-handed Eisheth over her shoulder. The curvature of his freshly-shorn dark head is already, at this early hour, too great a temptation: standing behind him she runs a covetous hand over its softness, her lacquered nails scritching his scalp. "Shut your eyes," she murmurs, leaning low, "and keep them shut. I have something for you — for your natality, and for the sights of Tiberium."

Jehan-Pascal extends his arm, yes, with a true maidenly shyness, feeling the intensity of the courteous masculine presence Emman is exuding into the evening air, making the mere taking of breath a heady and tremulous experience. His hand freed, her lifts it to his chest at the chivalrous offer of a seat, and uses the other to sweep his tails charmingly so as not to e seated upon them. Once seated and arranged properly, he lifts one silken seafoam knee over a snowy white wool thigh, and murmurs about how everything is so lovely tonight, arching back his long, swan-like neck to run his head affectionately against the hand that grips it so forcefully and yet with such tender care shown for his comfort. With his face toward the evening hues staining the sky, he does, he closes his eyes without any explanation required, but, when one is given, does not open them again but gives a short squeak of a noise in surprise. A present, so early in the evening? "Yes, Madame," he smiles radiantly, head still back, eyes still closed, nostrils flaring to take in Emman's scents and those of the garden.

The hand at his head lingers whilst with the other Emmanuelle fishes out of the back pocket of her breeches the gift she has no choice but to bestow straight away, given that the alternative is sitting down on it. She huffs quickly upon the lenses and gives them an extra, unnecessary polish upon a lavender shirtsleeve, then, with both hands, lowers into place upon her maiden's nose a dainty pair of silver-framed spectacles. She hooks the curling arms of them behind his ears, her touch fastidious and gentle, and then circles the table and sits down straight across from him in the light of her kindly coloured lanterns.

"There," she pronounces; "you may open your eyes." His first sight, thus, through those twin circular lenses expertly ground with the aim of correcting his short-sightedness, is his lover's wry smile. "This is what I really look like," she drawls, at ease with her white hairs and the fine lines her maquillage doesn't quite hide. In their relation, truth is always beauty.

What a true bunny Emman makes of Jehan-Pascal, placing something strange … upon … the bridge of his nose, which causes his nose to wrinkle up in an instinctual experimentation with moving the item about. Then it's hooked behind his ears, and, confused as he is, he rightens his head when she leaves from behind him, brow aloft in puzzlement as he keeps twitching his nose to feel out the way it slides the arms of the device against his temples.

When he is bidden to open his eyes, he rather expects to see nothing at all, having come to the conclusion that this was some sort of blinding device she had decided he might enjoy. But, instead, the world in every edge and line sets suddenly upon his vision and startles him half-back out of his chair, the furniture tipping back onto its hind legs and only with a flailing of his arms tipping forward again instead of back with the accompaniment of a sound somewhere between a squeak and yawp. When the front two legs of the chair are reunited with the ground, Jehan-Pascal's hands fling to the sides of his head and he feels out the arms, the sides of the frames, leans forward and stares at Emman in a look of sheer bafflement. He's seen her lines, her whites, of course, from up close— they've had certainly enough time at close quarters for him to be aware. But this level of detail at this distance is something out of the ordinary, and he cautiously unhooks the item from his face, taking it off to look at it from a third-person perspective. "I don't understand… a sort of… magnification lens— like a telescope, for seeing at a distance?"

Oh, they'll get to the blinding device later in the evening. Never fear.

For now, Emmanuelle half-rises to go to her wobbly princess's aid— and then, when he recovers himself a few inches shy of overturning, she sits down again to bask discreetly in the pleasure of upsetting chairs, expectations, and the status quo alike.

"Similar," she agrees, nodding; "though they derive also from the reading stones that have been used for centuries by scribes who ruined their sight. It was a man in Caerdicca Unitas who first had the idea of wearing lenses — I thought I might have to send all the way to Padua for a pair, but then I found a Siovalese here in Marsilikos who was acquainted with the art. A Monsieur Duvernay," she supplies, "if you find that you desire to commission any further pairs. I did describe to him what I know you can see well and at what distance — how close to your face you hold books you're reading — and so on, to allow him to judge the magnification as best he could without meeting you. You may find it a strain to look through them for any length of time," she adds in conscientious warning, "but there will be moments, surely, in Tiberium, when you wish to see all that you can see."

Jehan-Pascal is, at length, taking a moment to admire the silver frame itself, reserving his ears for Emmanuelle's explanation— yet, when she makes mention of the scribes and their ruined vision, he glances up, maybe a little wounded in his pride. He had never much considered his eyesight in ruins, in fact. It had crept so slowly away that he hardly had thought anything of it, becoming accustomed to it over the course of so many years that he could swear he saw as well as the next man. Or, well. Close enough that it didn't matter.

To hear that Emman has been marking his deficiencies in visual acuity, of all things, makes his ears redden to know that his capacity is so far diminished as to be noticeable to the outside observer. He doesn't know, somehow, how to go on with the moment. Indignation rises, eager to claim he has no real need for such an aid, but his constitution was never much apt to the sustenance of indignation. Denial, next— that he can't possibly be as bad at seeing things as Emman seems to think, that his eyes are probably alright— they might do with a rest from the grind of his correspondence, if he took on the aid of a scribe for a month or two, but that's all. Here's where he settles, letting the heat dissipate from his ear-tips, Emman herself allowing him to think of the items as something for the aid of occasional long-distance sight-seeing, and he draws up an eager smile at the thought. "Yes— to look at the details of the architecture high up— these will be very useful!" And certainly not for the day to day things that go on just out of range of his noticing them. At all.

He lifts them once more to his eyes, drawing the hooks carefully behind his ears, and begins an experimental survey of the interior walls of the courtyard, in the middle of which he's arrested by the sight of a star or two becoming apparent opposite the sunset. "Oh, gosh," he whispers. "Look, there."

<FS3> Emmanuelle rolls Empathy: Amazing Success. (4 2 1 5 7 8 7 8 4 7 1 6 7 5 3)

How far outside an observer is Emmanuelle, really? This woman who from their earliest meetings saw him so clearly without the aid of any special equipment but her own senses—? Even now as his pages turn she's reading them with her usual deftness and speed, which may be why she proffers so sensible a recommendation for the spectacles' usage, and which is certainly why she drawls, "You look very sweet wearing them, my love. Sweet and studious," she elaborates, "as you are." Then, in her finest piece of calculation yet, she suggests: "I had those made plainly to be certain they would suit everything in your wardrobe, but if you find them useful we might have others made with stones of different colours… Little amethysts, like so," and with the tips of her index fingers she taps the empty air before her temples, where unseen arms meet phantom lenses.

The certain calculation of that last sally draws Jehan-Pascal's sights down from the heavens and to the firmly edged Emmanuelle across from him with a look of blushing hopefulness. And, well, she's not lying; look at how the stormy seas of his eyes are just slightly larger behind the lenses, his lashes better pronounced, giving him a distinctly doe-like expression that trains all of its wonder across upon Emman. His cheeks pinken. "They are very pretty. The silver is so fine and simple. Do you think, studious?" he wonders, "Oh — as one who has spent a long time at reading?" he wonders, "And has loved his work, perhaps, somewhat better than his eyes?" he adds with a shy, bashful smile, tipping his chin across toward one shoulder and— what's that on the ground? Moss?!

Yes, Jehan-Pascal. The courtyard's centuries-old flagstones are a little mossy, especially in the corners. The water lilies in Eisheth's pond are opening, many-petaled, and a new cutting of pale pink oleander nestles among flowering mandrakes in the planter at the left. The lines along which the lanterns are strung overhead are dyed a dark violet, as Madame's ropes so often are. The lanterns themselves are more intricate than they appeared before, in Elua on the Longest Night: their panes of tinted glass are separated by finely-wrought iron bars, narrow, barbed, twined with flowering mandrakes. Another star has just come out high above.

"You love your work as it deserves," Emmanuelle agrees, taking up a decanter to pour their wine with her own hands. "Leave it to me to love your eyes," she teases, "and to present them with such sights as you have not imagined."

Jehan-Pascal was not marking the moss with criticism, he was merely marking the moss. And then the lilies, the hue of the lines, the barbed details in the ironwork. A star. The world is distractingly full of details, as it turns out. But none of them will tarry the eye so long as to keep it from returning to its tender. And Jehan-Pascal's arm slips out along the table, possibly to take back his wine glass, once it's full — but, no, he offers it out to her, instead, for her to take, or touch, or… ignore, entirely. "Thank you," he issues forth, for the glasses, for the moss and the rope and the star and the spike— for her care in giving all of this to him and caring for his eyes more than he ever has.

They are not now seated together in the wine cellar for all the drunkards and revelers of Marsilikos to spy upon the tendernesses of a Mandrake Dowayne— and so Emmanuelle's fingers thread again silkily between her lover's, but at an angle, pinning his hand open and defenseless upon fine white linen. She holds him there, with her hand and with that diamondine blue gaze which seems only sharpened by the mediation of glass, and smiles at him, deliberate and slow.

Her hand lifts again only when she discerns Baltasar's soft-shoe’d footsteps upon stone. He comes carrying a tray laden with their first course — a spiced consommé with langoustines and fresh spring vegetables — the beginning of a succession of airy little delicacies, served in small portions and under silver, calculated with a veteran courtesan's gift for pleasuring every sense, and for fueling rather than prohibiting a parade of desserts yet more extensive and piquant.

Jehan-Pascal's hand may be pinned, but there is nowhere else it would rather be— and Emmanuelle's gaze may be sharp enough to cut steel, but Jehan-Pascal feels save under its charge. Cared for and quite loved, allowed to be safe and at peace. She knows his appetites, where food is concerned, run as scarce as his appetites for wine run heavy — the little morsels suit him very well, something he can taste once or twice and be done with, one-handed, as needs, his other palm kept fast upon the table where it has been set. He prattles, after his usual, pleasant, but quite empty fashion, how beautiful the new pink lanterns are, how well-flavored the sprouts, this and that and nothing of particular gravity, except that some minutes through he will indeed be dizzied a bit by his new lenses, and beg permission to put them off for the remainder of the meal and find a safe place to put them down upon the table.

This evening as dusk turns to deep blue night and her lanterns come into their full splendour, Emmanuelle's beneficence knows no bounds: she allows her princess to employ both his hands when the menu renders it needful, to take off his spectacles when the stormclouds in his eyes threaten so beauteously to pour forth their rains, to chatter and giggle as he likes without fearing to hear a single chilly word from her in reply, to get himself deliciously blurred upon vintages a cut above and a generation older than the excellent wines she does always serve him, and then to absent himself discreetly to the privy somewhere between the fourth and the fifth such treasure excavated from the lowest level of the Maison Sanglante. (The wine cellar adjoins the downstairs dungeon, you understand: an extensive suite of cool stone chambers in which Emmanuelle warehouses her treasures…)

He returns from answering Nature's call to find the table cleared of the previous course, and Emmanuelle's finest tea service laid out in its stead. The shining silver teapot reflects the flickerings of the candle-flame beneath it; the first cups have already been poured out of it, and fragrant golden-brown Ch'in tea is cooling to a civilised temperature in wafer-thin, gilded blue porcelain. How refreshing and restorative an interlude it promises, halfway through one's unbirthday… Though to her princess Emmanuelle offers neither milk nor honey. When he has sat down again she draws out of quite a different pocket in her breeches a tiny silver vial engraved with something botanical. Gazing serenely into his eyes she unscrews the cap of it and empties its contents into one of the cups of tea, creating no splash but a faint clouding in its depths, which soon dissipates. She replaces the lid and lays down the vial next to Jehan-Pascal's neatly folded spectacles.

"Drink this for me, my love," the mistress of the Maison Sanglante directs, in a voice gently and inexorably firm, as she takes up the adulterated cup of tea in both hands and sits forward to place it directly before her lover.

Jehan-Pascal returns to the courtyard in fine spirits, or with fine spirits within, or— 'tis all the same. He notes the tea service out, and thinks nothing at all of it except for how lovely a cup of tea sounds just now, and how refined the porcelain lies as he settles in before it — he's saying something cheerful and complementary along those lines, when the extraction of a vial from a pocket garners notice, and, subsequently, a shift away from the loquacious and toward the taciturn. He can't quite make words happen, anymore, until the most delicate porcelain is in front of him, the cloud fading away until he can only imagine its presence, like the chime of a bell fading to silence — it's hard to mark the point at which the silence truly begins. His hands have been at rest at his sides — he was arrested in the midst of getting comfortable at table, again, such that he's at the edge of his seat, knees together and toes on the ground, thumbs near his thighs— or they were.

When told to drink, his hands are at the porcelain, feeling the heat through that wafer-thin fabric. His eyes skirt to the lenses, and the vial left beside them, seeing what he can decipher of the symbol, then they rise again, to Emman's eyes, in time with his lifting the cup in his hands. He would not disobey her. And, yet — a dry-lipped whisper: "What is it?" — he would know.

Opposite him Emmanuelle claims her own cup of tea and draws in a breath full of its scent — so warming and so soothing for them both, where bounded by stone walls they've just begun to feel night's chill nibbling at ears and noses and fingertips. Her painted lips part to take a mouthful and then another.

Her cup clinks into her saucer and she smiles across the table at her princess. The picture of stern Kusheline compassion, knowing what is best and never fearing it. "Ah, my love," she breathes, tender and low. "Don't I always take care of you? You must trust me to open your eyes — or, when the time is right, to close them. You'll drink your tea," she explains with the serene confidence of one whose word is law, in this house, "and then you will come to bed with me."

Jehan-Pascal moves his chin down, a mite sideways, upward by half, a half-waking nod of assent when she asks after the assiduous nature of her care. He grows pale— and yet feels a fire run down just under his skin, a primal prickling of some general disposition toward survival the sheer taming of which draws him close to a state of silent ecstasy.

Lips parted, he breathes in the scent, closing his eyes for the length of a breath which tames a racing heartbeat to its proper pace, or perhaps even a little slower. But when it's time the porcelain touches his unstained lower lip, his eyes are open again, at peace, holding Emman's gaze in his, sharing the moment most deeply between them, the moment at which her steady eyes help him overcome the last of his physical form's natural hesitation and let the tea upon his tongue— and all its consequences.

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