(1311-07-29) At Some Point
Summary: The way Iphigénie flirts with Raphael is perfectly disgraceful. It is almost as bad as the way Raphael flirts with her. (Warning: Mature, Mandragian themes, and the arrangement of an assignation.)
RL Date: 30/07/2019 - 31/07/2019
Related: On the Familiarity of Bees, Not Too Sweet, A Game Worth Having.
iphigenie raphael 

Garden — Maignard Residence

The garden is girded by a high wall of plain grey stone, lined with trellises which climbing roses and honeysuckle are being trained in the strictest Kusheline style to ascend. It is chiefly laid out as a parterre in which beds of colourful flowers are separated by low, angular, meticulous box hedges and raked pathways of dark gravel, about a bronze fountain celebrating a Maignard ancestor.

The spreading canopy of a mature elm tree provides shade over a small lawn and its own more haphazard growth of bluebells, crocus, borage, and nasturtiums, arisen during years of neglect, kept because of their great interest to the plethora of bees whose buzzing sets the air aquiver as they partake of their floral feast. Their home is a neat stack of wooden hives in the far corner beyond the elm, amongst bushes of lavender and fennel, rosemary and sage.

Spaced along the house's rear façade three sets of heavy dark doors lead into chambers well-lit by mullioned windows of thick, distorted glass.

Inviting Raphael to tea, Iphigénie again offers in courtesy to a busy man a choice between two afternoons. Whichever pleases him he'll find her under her elm tree, in a garden tamed at last to her ideal union of order and disorder.

The tea service's sprawl across white linen has been condensed to leave room for her lap desk at the corner of the table, and the number of cups reduced to two. She's writing: when she hears the doors open at the back of the house she glances up and greets his familiar dark figure with a smile flicked across the flower lawn to him, and then bows her head to finish her current thought. The bob of the quill suggests her hand moves slowly about its task, with deliberate effort rather than fluency. Still, when he reaches the shade of the elm's spreading canopy she has fastened the lid of her silver inkwell and tucked her quill away, and she's blotting the third page of what looks — for her — an arduously long communication.

"Monsieur. What a pleasure," she says easily, locking her papers away (blotter and all) in the drawer where at this same table she once secured the Rose Sauvage chirurgeon's dismaying report upon her health. "I hope I haven't beckoned you away from any business too grave or too amusing…?" she teases.

The Thorn has made certain concessions to recovery, although by this time the gravest danger of infection is well past, the wound has closed well and the healing proceeds appropriately. The concession visible in this moment is that he carries with him a walking stick made of polished dark wood and topped with a rose wrought in silver. But does he lean on it? In fact he makes quite a point of not leaning on it. Is it then an insurance policy against the unexpected appearance of pain, or a prop to in fact highlight recovery? Iphigénie is surely well qualified to guess. Raphael sends the smile back across the grass to his hostess, and when he is greeted replies, "Very few can beckon me away from what I do not wish to leave. And I wondered whether you'd imposed the satisfactory amount of order on your garden by now."

Of course Iphigénie's eye is intrigued by Raphael's present style of locomotion, and as he comes nearer she steals a glance or two between tidying up — at his gait upon his own two legs, and his marked independence of that precautionary third — but she makes no mention of his wound, nor voices any hope that he has quite recovered in the fortnight since last they met. Why, it would be the height of discourtesy to imply, at a friendly tea-table, that a Thorn might not be invincible! Instead she matches her pleasantries to his own.

"Yes," she says, glancing about as she draws the empty tea-cup and saucer toward her across the tablecloth, "I'm pleased with the state of it, but I should much like your opinion if you don't find the sun too warm this afternoon for a stroll." An alibi if he requires it. "Will you take tea," she suggests, "or shall I ring for something cold?"

"I have only known certain cats," Raphael says, without a hint of disapproval, "who worship warmth as you do." He nods at the teacup she makes available. "I will take tea and a stroll with you," he says, "On the condition that you don't mind me abandoning my jacket." He lifts an eyebrow fractionally at her, not going so far as to remove any article without the hostess's consent to the supposed bending of propriety.

On this balmy southern afternoon, indeed, Iphigénie is gowned in heavy dark red-black cloth, a modest and full-skirted garment well familiar by now to Raphael, over her usual formidable corsetry; the elegance with which her hair is dressed, the chiming silver earrings formed to suggest the tails of the other kind of cat, suggest she has been out into the city today, shopping or paying calls. An appreciative smile forms upon lips painted a few shades lighter than her gown, directed at first to the tea-pot as she lifts it in both hands to pour. Then, the dark floral honey yielded up by her own bees: she wipes the spoon fastidiously against the edge of the honey-pot, leaving only the discreetest taste of sweetness upon it to dissolve into Raphael's tea as she stirs it.

"… My dear Monsieur Raphael," she murmurs then, lifting her gaze to his with a lively green sincerity, "you may remove anything you wish." One last tink of silver against porcelain, and she lays the spoon in the saucer and takes up his cup and saucer in both hands to make a formal presentation of it.

"Always the most generous hostess," Raphael replies with a smile, and passes the walking stick from one hand to the next while shrugging out of his jacket in a fluid gesture from shoulder to shoulder, draping it over the back of a chair before he occupies it. This is the moment where he uses the stick, subtly but perceptibly, to ease sitting, a movement that must still pull on the wound. Meanwhile he watches the graceful gestures of the lady's tea presentation. Accepting the cup and saucer, he nods gratitude. "It has been a little while since we last spoke. I hope you have been well the while?"

As the Thorn settles into his usual chair their eyes meet again, Iphigénie's frank and full of too much knowledge: but she says nothing of it.

"Very well, in the main," she confirms, looking away and topping up her own cup of tea, "with the heat still deepening— I've had to consider new dresses," she confides, as if it were a wickedness beyond compare; "the clothes I brought from Kusheth are all…" Her left hand gestures to her gown — its weight, its strictures — and then slips a fingertip inside its neckline where it encircles her pale throat, to show how little it gives. She shrugs, then, and reaches for the honey. "And Monsieur Lefebvre found me a masseur with the most remarkable," she purrs the second syllable, widening her eyes in emphasis, "hands."

Raphael does not avoid this gaze of understanding from his hostess. In fact he seems to both expect and appreciate her knowledge. He has, after all, already confided the injury to her. "Truly you have done very well in taking advantage of the city's bounties so quickly. You will find it has ingenious dressmakers as well, I am confident. You may discover a new southern style for yourself." He reaches out to pick up the tea cup and sample the day's brew.

There's a hint of peach in the tea today, and an aroma of summer flowers beyond anything contributed by Iphigénie's bees. A delicate Ch'in brew, another such bounty of Terre d'Ange's greatest port. "A southern style? I can't imagine what that might be," she chuckles, waiting till her visitor has taken a sip from his cup before she lifts her own to her lips. "Fortunately I needn't Monsieur Lefebvre chooses all my clothes, and tells me which jewels go with which, and how to paint my face… He's particular," she explains drily, "and I'm not. Though of course that means nothing can be done till he returns from Elua," a carefully casual admission, matched by the absence of a third hopeful cup from her tea-table.

Raphael sets the cup in his saucer, lifting his brows slightly. "Oh yes?" he asks. "Perhaps it will be difficult for you to dress at all in his absence. Though one can hardly be blamed for staying undressed on such hot days," he observes.

This is an excellent point— at least, Iphigénie is prepared to treat it as such. "Ah, indeed," she sighs lightly, and tastes her tea again, "I managed it this morning, to see him off on his journey — but if you call again in a few days you may find me wandering about the garden barefoot in my shift," she teases.

"May I?" Raphael returns, reaching for his cup but then lifting his eyes to Iphigénie. "And what will I do with you, so unbraced and unguarded? Bear you off on my shoulder to a deep, dark room like Hades reclaiming Eurydice?"

Iphigénie's eyes lower from Raphael's and her lips curve secretively against the rim of her tea-cup as she considers his interpretation of that ancient myth.

"… It’s quite light," she confides, a glance of her own directing his attention toward the nearest door to the house, a few yards to the right of the entrance to the main reception rooms through which he has always come and gone till now. It stands open: a dim rectangle framed by high mullioned windows of distorted glass that must admit sunshine in plenitude and all the garden’s green. "But I imagine you'll do as you wish," she suggests, her gaze steady upon him now, "and with better fortune than Orpheus enjoyed, for I’m not inclined to look back."

"I suppose when you want for literal darkness you may visit us at the Rose Sauvage," Raphael allows, sipping on the tea again. "Though it takes only a cloth to make any room dark. But I look forward to improvising in this new setting." He flicks his gaze toward the building in question. "New places are new possibilities." Not to mention new partners.

"Or dark for one," agrees Iphigénie, "whilst the other still has light to work." She smiles again into her cup, sips, and sets it down now almost empty, hot tea on a hot day in a thoroughly enveloping dark gown being rather in her style. Her long white fingers twine together and her hands settle on the edge of the table, between lap desk and cup. "You must have many demands upon your time," she suggests, "but I thought perhaps we might speak of a date, and a contract."

"I have," Raphael answers frankly, "But luckily I can afford to be quite selective. And therefore I can make time when I please for such a promising assignation. Shall we say three days hence? Plenty of time for each of us to be well prepared?" He gestures to her writing desk. "And seeing as I am Second of Thorns, we can draw a contract whenever and wherever you wish. You may visit us at the salon, or we may draw it up here."

It is no coincidence that Iphigénie elected to finish her letter at the tea-table this afternoon. "Three days hence would be ideal, monsieur," she murmurs, smiling serenely at Raphael, "and I thank you for not keeping me waiting past what I might endure." She extracts from her lap desk two virgin sheets of parchment — a copy apiece — and sets them on its ledge in the company of a fresh, trimmed quill, unstained by previous use. Then she turns the lap desk where it sits on the corner of the table, so that it faces his chair rather than her own.

"I had better not be your scribe," she suggests, "or who knows what confusion might arise out of my chicken-scratchings—? I have only two stipulations, monsieur. The first you know, that I don't care for suspension. The second is that I prefer not to be gagged." She shrugs, her frank gaze inviting his sympathy with this other small accommodation of her variable state of health. "I find a spoken signale more prudent. Otherwise — the usual form. I leave it all to your discretion." Thus the resulting agreement between them will be neither lengthy nor complex, and not unduly arduous for a practiced hand to compose over a cup of tea.

"My current position would go hard on me if I had objections to writing," Raphael replies, setting the cup of tea aside so that he may reach for the quill and lift the lid from the ink. "Easy conditions to honor," he says, writing the opening phrases of the document quite automatically in his confident hand. "I prefer the clearest possible signale for the sake of safety and pleasure. And of course I will bring my own judgment to bear." Since there are medical stipulations at play as well. "And you are sure that there is nothing else you would like to definitely strike from the realm of possibility?" At this, he raises his eyes.

He finds Iphigénie's green gaze resting easily upon him. "Nothing else, monsieur," she confirms. "I wouldn't place myself in your hands if I didn't trust your judgment," she elaborates, "and the knowledge of me you have already on record. I'm really not one of those submissives who prefers to dictate the terms of her own surrender." This with a rueful smile and a little shrug. "… My signale is 'Chrysanthème'," she adds, glancing at what he has written so far in a hand more legible and elegant than her own. Perhaps the flower, perhaps a name.

The quill makes a faint and satisfying sound laying ink on paper to add to all the other sounds of the garden underlying their conversation. The Thorn nods at this answer. "Then I shall bring you the best of my judgment." By now he is far enough along to write in her signale. He adds a line to acknowledge the medical report he has viewed, though he includes no details on the contract. And in a few more phrases, the document is nearly drawn up. "In some ways I've come to enjoy the smell of ink," he comments.

While Raphael writes, Iphigénie draws his cup and saucer toward herself and solicitously prepares him a second cup of tea to aid his labours. She sets it again within his reach and then pours another cup for herself, for the relief of having something to do with her hands whilst these rather promising arrangements are setting something secretly aflutter beneath the steel bones of her corset. "Ink and paper," she agrees, and smiles faintly. "I'd prefer to begin in the afternoon, if it wouldn't be too hot for you? I'm used to rising early and sleeping early… and you know how well I feel in the heat," she teases.

"I am not opposed to working up a sweat," Raphael replies matter-of-factly, though he soon follows the remark with a granite sort of smile. "I will come…at some point in the afternoon, then." By now he has finished writing his portion, and turns the desk to face his hostess. "Will you sign now?" The quill is placed before her as well.

Put a picture like that into a woman's head, and is it any wonder Iphigénie sits a moment with her lower lip caught between her teeth before she sets down her tea to accept the quill—? She holds it poised above the parchment while she takes the necessary moments to review what Raphael has set down: the Night Court of Marsilikos differs a little from Mont Nuit in its phrasing, but she has seen enough Rose Sauvage paperwork of late to be sure that all is in order.

She dips the quill and signs her full name, a slow and careful proceeding with reasonably creditable results; then she retrieves her well-marked blotter from the shallow drawer at the base of the lap desk and employs it with similar care. "I don't," she murmurs, placing it just so upon the parchment and unfurling her hand to press her palm gently against it, "keep so much gold in the house, but I will communicate tomorrow with my Marsilikos bankers… There," she pronounces, removing the blotter and yielding the desk again to Raphael. She hasn't turned a hair at his price, of course, she had all along an idea of what it would be.

"You are well known to us at the Rose Sauvage," Raphael says, taking the desk back for himself to begin drawing up an identical copy. "The sum need not be paid on the very day, of course, if it is not convenient." But if it is, all the better. "And I assume we will have servants at our disposal should they be useful?" He surely means for fetching water and the like, not for any participation in their sport.

Iphigénie, with every intention of paying scrupulously in advance rather than incurring even a brief debt, murmurs that Raphael is very kind.

Then, tilting her head, she outlines certain other arrangements with a fluency indicative of prior scheming. "I will wait for you here," she suggests, "and once you arrive the garden and my chamber will both be secured in privacy, with my other door locked on the inside and the key of it tied to the handle by a ribbon so that it can’t be misplaced,” this with a flash of amusement. “The bell hanging there also will summon my maid, if she is needed. Around sunset she will knock at the door in warning, and a quarter of an hour later she will knock a second time to signal that our supper has been laid out in the antechamber beyond. Is there anything you don't eat?" she inquires, arching an eyebrow at him.

Raphael smiles as sharply at his hostess as she might expect. "Oh," he answers, "I eat everything." Omnivorousness attested to, he glances once more at the house. "That all sounds tremendously convenient. I expect we shall enjoy ourselves immensely."

Yes; and Iphigénie's gentler smile deepens in answer. "I trust so, monsieur."

She watches the quill in his hand, moving rapidly along to the conclusion of a second copy more swiftly written even than the first. After a moment she offers an open and upraised palm toward him and asks, "May I see your cane?"

"Certainly," Raphael replies, moving it with his left hand from where it leans against the table, so that the topper points in Iphigénie's direction for her taking. But he does go on writing to produce that copy. Which is no struggle; so much of the language is standard. "A gift from a patron," he says. "Long ago. I brought it back with me when I returned to Marsilikos."

"I wondered if it might be," murmurs Iphigénie, taking hold of the offered stick and lifting it and her eyebrows both when the heft of it exceeds her expectations. "… How powerful," is her first comment, as she tests its weight and its texture with hands that move admiringly along its dark hardwood length. "Of course I prefer something lighter for my own use… and what an attractive tip," she pronounces next, holding it higher to study the silver rose which forms its handle. "I see it was finely made indeed." She glances across to Raphael's face and explains, with an innocence which doesn't reach her eyes, "You may well imagine Monsieur Lefebvre has taught me a new appreciation of such things."

"It is not quite made for practicality when it comes to being a true aid for walking," Raphael mentions. "But thank you. I am sure you know more of silver work than I." Naturally. "I happened to apply it offensively to my assailant as well," he adds casually, eyes on the paper as he finishes writing a sentence. "Useful in other capacities as well, as you can imagine."

Yes, silver work. That must be what she meant.

"… I can imagine," agrees Iphigénie lightly, with a last caress for the petals of that fine flower before she restores the stick to Raphael's reach and accepts in its stead the quill with which to inscribe, once again, her name.

The second copy is duly blotted and tucked away in the lap desk's drawer; the first is folded and confided to the pocket of Raphael's doffed coat. And then Iphigénie cocks her head and suggests, "Shall I show you my flowers, monsieur?"

"I would like to see them," Raphael agrees, now that the paperwork is concluded. He turns both hands over, looking to be sure there aren't any smudges of ink before he palms the top of the walking stick with his left hand once more, other hand resting on the table top.

"And I to show them," his hostess suggests, smiling faintly. "Shall we?" And then with exquisite tact she turns away and rises from her chair to the other side of the table, providing him a moment of privacy in which to stand.

Raphael gets himself up well enough, though with less grace than he would prefer to muster. Still, the important thing is not to put excessive strain on the wound and reopen it, and that priority is preserved. He comes to stand alongside his hostess. "Certainly," he agrees.

Absent a stick of her own — and what a pair they'd be, if she had it! — Iphigénie slips her hand through Raphael's other arm in what is more a token of companionship than a plea for real support. She is the one who leads, leisurely and subtly, taking him on a tour of the parterre garden's fresh-raked dark gravel paths and pointing out all manner of native Eisandine flora with which she has lately become acquainted via the pages of that monumental tome they admired together in Raziel's. Her bees are busy everywhere about, of course, gathering nectar and giving rise to gently flirtatious remarks upon their habits and desires, their own slow progress through the air sometimes slowing their keeper's stroll in consequence. The garden seems on this hot afternoon to have a scent as honeyed as Iphigénie's own, save when after not too strenuous a bout of exercise they step again beneath the elm's canopy and into its bitterness.

"Monsieur, you're a pleasure as always," Raphael's hostess declares as he reclaims his coat. "I shall look forward to seeing you on Thursday afternoon… at," she quirks an eyebrow to signal appreciation of his tease, "some point."

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