(1311-09-08) Taking Up Dancing
Summary: Pies and banter in the Rue du Port; and Philomène enlists Raphael’s aid in an unusual new project…
RL Date: 08/09/2019
Related: Previous scenes with these characters; parenthetic references to the Incident at the Palace plot.
raphael philomene 

Maison aux Herbes — Rue du Port


A knock upon the door, confident and precise. It belongs to Raphael, who has of course brought things: pies from Marny, by the smell of it, and a bottle of wine.

The knock is answered by the young maid Philomene has taken on, who open the door apprehensively at first, then opens it wider with a look of relief when she sees who it is. Still young and inexperienced enough not to know any better, she just lets the man in without announcement or question, betraying her employer completely by chattily informing him, "Lady Philomene just got up, but I'm sure she'll be pleased to see you." all this offered in cheery, blithely oblivious tones as she gestures up the stairs where, presumably, despite the hour, the lady of the house might be found.

Adorable that this young maid has such faith in her lady being pleased. Raphael's smile lets on a suspicion that she may not be quite so sunny about his barging up so early. But he doesn't demur and instead forges ahead up the stairs where he's been sent. As he gets close to the top of the stairs, he raises his voice enough that he thinks he will be through: "I'm bringing breakfast; don't run me through."

There's a certain amount of thumping and scraping and swearing to be heard through one of the doors before it's finally flung open and Philomene stands in the doorway, having managed to find at least an oversized shirt to fling on and a pair of comfortable slippers, and a still sleepy look on her face. "Huh. It's you." That cheerful greeting done, she turns on her good leg, the lack of her customary boots accentuating her peculiar way of walking, and simply retires back into her bedroom, expecting him to follow. Clearly she just never put any XP into being a charming hostess, and on entry to the bedroom, it looks like Interior Decoration got the same neglect. There's a bed - not yet made - a narrow wardrobe, a single dresser with a few tins, jars, candles, books and a rather splendid looking pipe on it, and a repurposed footstool in front of a writing desk which doubles as dressing table. "I don't eat breakfast," she notes shortly, "but I'll leave my sword hanging on the back of the door for now. Is Caroline bringing tea?"

Raphael does indeed follow, not looking in the least perturbed by the rude reception. "She didn't mention," he says honestly. "But if it does not appear in a few minutes, I will go in search of it. And if you won't eat, then I will, and leave you your portion to do with as you please today. How is the pain?" He stays on his feet for now while waiting to see where his host will choose to sit herself down.

Philomène claims the footstool, leaning back against the writing desk with one arm flat on its surface, leaving Raphael in the awkward position of either sitting on the bed, the floor, her lap or remaining standing, none of which are particularly appealing concepts. "Fucking miserable," she admits bluntly, "but it always is in the mornings. Are you up early or stopping in after a late night? Give me a few minutes and we can sit downstairs like civilised people, you know. Or if you'd rather lounge about while I make myself ready for the world, feel free," she gestures to her bed. "But you're not eating fucking breakfast in my bed and leaving crumbs."

"You know, I've had a few quite diurnal assignations this past month," is Raphael's answer. He does not move to sit anywhere given Philomene's response. "I am quite patient if I wish to be," he replies. "But like you, I disapprove of eating in bed." Considering what Thorns are said to get up to in their beds it is perhaps surprising that they object to anything that could go on there.

Philomène arches a brow in mild surprise. "Really? Well, I suppose if they're into pain and humiliation then an assignation at five in the morning ticks a lot of boxes." She kicks off her slippers and begins the familiar rigmarole of pouring herself first into stockings and then into a pair of well-tailored if somewhat elderly in style breeches. This appears to take significantly more effort than one might expect, but then when one leg is all the wrong shape and angles perhaps the skill and deftness with which she dresses should be applauded rather than criticised. "You have news for me, or is this a social call?"

Raphael simply smiles at Philomène's reply. "Social," he replies. "I doubted you would yet be up to our walks in the garden, so I thought that I had better do you the courtesy of stopping by where it is convenient to you, as you have so often done for me." Or so he chooses to see it this morning. He looks neither embarrassed by nor particularly curious about her change of clothing or any of the body parts she reveals.

"I've been taking a few curtailed walks," Philomène admits, tucking the tails of her shirt into her breeches before doing them up and reaching for her boots. "My stamina is still… not wonderful. I've ridden some, but only in town, and nothing above a walk. But then it would appear that walking isn't enough. I've been thinking about… don't laugh… taking up dancing..?"

"I suppose it also does me well to walk here," Raphael further observes, "Following your advice to be sure I exercise my own leg after its wound." The intelligence she shares doesn't produce laughter, but it does pull his eyebrows upward. "Dancing?" he repeats. "Will you study with—" He pauses and restarts the sentence, "With whom will you study?"

Philomène laces her boots tightly before pushing herself to her feet and over to the wardrobe, there to pull out without even looking the all too familiar chocolate brown riding jacket she's rarely seen without. Slung over her shoulder, the repairs to the inside are clearly visible, and the random meanderings of the embroidered vines on the outside begin to make sense as matching scars. "If I'm honest, I hadn't really considered that far," she admits, limping heavily to the door where she leans against the door jamb for a moment to gather her breath and her strength, before her shoulders go back, her proud chin lifts and she gestures outwards, ready to face whatever the day has to throw at her. "I'm hoping it might improve my speed and flexibility. For the next time it's needed."

Raphael nods faintly, watching Philomène. "Marsilikos cannot possibly want for dancing masters," he reasons. "You shall have your pick. I doubt it would do you any ill, though it might make you sore." He nods at the door. "Would you like to not-eat your pastry downstairs?"

"Mm, then I can not-leave crumbs on my table instead of my bedroom," Philomène agrees, holding the door for him before raising her voice a little, "Caroline, can you arrange breakfast things for Monsieur Raphael, and a pot of tea?" because apparently she's not yet experienced enough to do these things of her own volition. "The thing is," she returns to Raphael, "it's going to be a damn sight harder to find one I can tolerate, and even harder to find one who can tolerate me. Any suggestions are most welcome. Nobody who's going to turn their nose up at my lack of training in the matter, if you can think of anyone. I didn't learn to dance when I was younger. I had better things to do with my time."

Raphael nods again, another muted gesture. "I can imagine that being somewhat difficult. What type of dancing is it that you would prefer to learn? Social dancing for nobles, or artistic dancing for performers? There are those who could teach both, but if you have an interest in one particular type…" He moves past back toward the stairs, descending ahead of his host.

Philomène follows awkwardly down the stairs, her footsteps uneven and her weight heavily on the banister. "I told you the aim," she points out. "It's not to stand and look pretty at a ball, it's to improve my flexibility and speed. So next time some little shit half my age threatens me, it'll be them in the damn infirmary. Does that count as artistic?"

"No, the exact opposite," Raphael says lightly. "But if you cannot take any interest in the activity itself, then you are right that you will come into conflict with almost any dancing teacher in the city. How would you respond to someone who asked you to teach them how to fight but only had any interest in whether it would make their dancing prettier?" He sees himself to the table, knowing where it is. But he stays on his feet to await his host.

Philomène stands on no ceremony with Raphael, dragging out a seat and lowering herself heavily into it, with a slight wince of pain and a brief touch to her most recent injury. "So first I need to gain some sort of interest in the art itself, you mean? I do see your point, but…" She shrugs. "The girls at the opera, though. Whatever style that was? That's something I could get behind. Who teaches that?"

"I think it would be helpful," Raphael says, sitting down as soon as she is seated. Perhaps in addition to politeness, he harbored a certain concern that she might need help. But he certainly says nothing about that. "And it will keep you from being dreadfully bored in the process." The question of who might teach stage dancing provokes a brief silence. "I am certain there are retired performers in Marsilikos that make their living by teaching dance. Probably active ones as well. You might make inquiries with patrons of the opera as to who has retired from the stage recently."

The fact that she probably does need help is beside the point. This is Philomène and when is she going to let a little thing like needing help get in the way of her pride? An elbow goes on the table and she takes a moment to steady her breathing, lifting a hand to flutter it vaguely towards the table when the maid appears with a tray of tea, two cups, and a plate on which is a hurriedly constructed bacon sandwich with a suspicious slice taken off the end. The instructions to provide a breakfast plate were, admittedly, unclear, and given that the lady of the house so rarely eats, well, anything at all, let alone breakfast, Caroline has made do with what she can find, that being her own bacon buttie, repurposed before she'd taken more than a bite. "It's that, or… well, can you honestly see me gavotting?"

Raphael however has his own bacon concoction to eat, which he finds more appetizing than what is being offered up to him now. "My dear girl," he says as soon as she has put it down, "Will you take this away again? I've brought some food with me, so it won't be needed. See that it's not wasted." It's perhaps rude to order a host's servants, but Raphael doubts Philomène will object to such practical instructions. He meanwhile withdraws from his cloth bag two triangular hand-turned pies, placing them on his napkin. "You're certain you won't be wanting yours until later?" he asks Philomène. Only then does he reply. "I cannot think that you would enjoy clasping hands with just any person you happened to find yourself stood beside."

Philomène can't help but smile as her maid rather delightedly reclaims the plate and disappears with it, acknowledging Raphael's kindness with a small nod. "Marny's pies? She does make an excellent pie. If you don't object horribly, I think I'll split that with Caroline later for supper." She eyes the sandtimer on the tea tray, hands hovering by the teapot ready to pour the moment the sands run out. "The thing is," she continues thoughtfully, "that social dancing does sort of require other people to touch you, hold you, and so forth. I don't appreciate other people touching me without my express permission."

"Naturally I don't object," Raphael replies. The pie smells of bacon, cheese, and perhaps spinach. Or at any rate, something green. "And no, I cannot pretend to be surprised to hear it," he says. "There is of course," he acknowledges, almost a shade reluctantly, "The option of hiring a retired Eglantine for artistic or performative dance. Although a retired woman of the opera will be cheaper, I would think."

Philomène eyes the pie with casual disinterest, pouring out the tea into both cups, then sets the teapot down and almost without even thinking goes to her inside pocket for her flask to add a little pick me up to her first cup of tea of the day. "Probably easier to find, too," she agrees, pursing her lips. "Although the harvests are coming in now, so I can afford to indulge a little if the opportunity arises. The joys of estates filled with wheat and barley. I might treat myself to an early birthday present."

"You almost certainly should, in honor of survival," Raphael opines, and he has a bite of that pie, which he holds in his hand rather than bothering with flatware for such a humble food. "It will benefit your teacher as well, who can put something by before winter."

"Assuming I can find a teacher who'll take me, yes," Philomène agrees, replacing the cap on her flask and tucking it away once her tea has been doctored to her liking. She nudges one cup over towards him and takes her more alcoholic cup for herself, cradling it in both hands. "Would it be asking too much if you could put the quiet word out with whatever contacts you have? I don't think I fancy much being laughed out of the middle of a salon when I present my master plan to dance."

Raphael takes the tea, which may by now have cooled enough to drink. He takes his time over a sip as he considers the request. "I'll send a boy in a week or so with a list of willing instructors," he says. "Ones not prone to frivolous laughter."

Philomène half smiles. "In a week? Send a girl, I'm feeling flush, and the exercise will be good for me."

Raphael looks amused. "A girl, then. But you must send her back promptly; she is my most promising novice."

"I promise not to stab her, then," Philomène insists solemnly. "Although based on my most recent record, I'd probably be too damn slow anyway. Hence the need for dance training. How's your pie?" she adds, taking a sip of her tea and arching a brow at him over the rim.

"I think it is excellent," Raphael answers frankly after another bite. "I do approve of the idea, though," he says, though she didn't really ask. "I think it likely will help you."

"Anything I can do to get back to some semblance of fitness," Philomène agrees, watching him eat as though that will suffice in place of eating, herself. "There's no way, not even ten years ago, that some youngster would have ever got the better of me. I've grown soft and lazy. Neglected to keep my skills up. And apparently the whole damn city could see it. That's what really galls me, you know. Everyone just expected that I'm some kind of crippled old woman who can't handle a damn sword. Never in my life do I want to be in that position again. What does it say for Aiglemort blood that some casual foreign bitch can spill it so easily?"

"In my experience," Raphael says softly, pausing for a sip of tea, "the nature of blood is that it is easy to spill. But speaking for myself, I do not take you to be weak, incompetent, or an easy target."

Philomène exhales heavily, then leans to briefly touch the man's elbow. "You're a good friend, Raphael. I'm very fortunate that you put up with my self-indulgent ramblings of a morning. Especially when you're so much in demand, I hear…?"

Raphael lifts his eyebrows at this unexpected acknowledgement of friendship. "It is no hardship on me." He eats a second-to-last bite of the breakfast pie. "Hear from whom?" he asks. "Or do you mean my own reports."

Philomène eyes him for a moment, then settles back with her tea in both hands. "You were just saying you had a number of patrons who like to visit early in the day," she reminds him, "and I don't for one moment think that reduces the demand for the second of Thorns," this stated with a combination of pride in his achievement and mockery, "in the evenings, too. And you already told me you intended to put your prices up, due to demand."

Raphael smiles in response to Philomène's repetition of his own statements. "Trusting of you to believe my own claims to success," he comments, picking up his teacup. "Though as it happens they are true. It has been a busy season for me. I have been blessed in that regard."

"Excellent, then you can splash out and get me an early birthday present, too," Philomène jests, flashing him a quick grin as she enjoys her tea. "Same as last year, only this time in blue?"

Raphael sips from his tea, eyeing Philomène. "Be careful what unspecified items you request from a courtesan," he warns lightly.

Philomène laughs, wincing a little as the sudden effort causes her most recent injury to give her a sharp reminder. "I don't believe," she manages after a moment to steady herself, "there's much left in the world that could shock me now, but you're welcome to try. I suspect your efforts might be better directed to your patrons, though."

"Almost certainly," Raphael replies. "I did have one faint not long ago, but I was not entirely the cause of that. I do try to keep them conscious, you know."

"Pft, I can manage that even without a courtesan. Amateurs," Philomène scoffs drily, draining the dregs of her tea and setting the cup down. "Fainting is child's play. Another cup of tea?"

"Yes, thank you," Raphael replies, pushing his cup forward. "I'm sure many people can do most things without a courtesan, in a basic fashion. But it's much more enjoyable with one than without." Or so he claims.

Philomène takes up the teapot and strainer again, letting the liquid pour smoothly through into his cup. "Drinking tea, for example? I had a pair of them staying here, remember. For the most part I found it prudent to leave them to do their own thing, and trust that Brigitte would have it all cleaned up by morning."

"I do remember," Raphael says, and his tone suggests that he was already thinking of that before she mentioned it. "Indeed there are people who are kind enough to invite me to tea because they find it so." His smile suggests he includes Philomène herself among their number. "In fact I spend more time drinking tea than watching anyone faint. Although if you'd like to do so while I'm here, I'd be happy to evaluate your faint against the others. Could give you a score." He's being playful, of course.

"Marks for technical difficulty and artistic merit?" Philomène suggests with a small smile. "You know how competitive I am, though. I'll stop at nothing to achieve a perfect score. Should I ought to do it to music?"

"Precisely," Raphael agrees. "But I think if you are going to do it to music you had better have at least one dancing lesson first. I can judge it then." He smiles and sips his tea.

Philomène tops up her own cup, not bothering this time to add anything from her flask. At least for now it's contained to just the first cup in the morning, it would appear. "Will you forgive me, then, if I don't collapse on command? I can see how it would be a shock to you for anyone to fail to obey your orders, but I do think it's important to get these things right. And then perhaps I'll be able to manage the appropriate level of dramatic swooning later on after some practice. You'll have to content yourself with second rate swooning until then."

"I don't think I've ever made you an order," Raphael replies pleasantly. "I've no need to waste them on those who would not appreciate them." He sips his tea with one brow slightly raised.

"By an odd coincidence, I don't think I've ever obeyed one," Philomène counters cheerfully, lifting her tea towards him before putting it to her lips to drink.

"Ah, then how could I judge an amateur against experts?" Raphael returns in an equally light volley, though there's a joking challenge implied.

Philomène presses a fingertip down on the table. "Because," she points out, "it's art, Raphael. You just know. It's just down to you to be in the right place at the right time to see it." She quirks a slight smile. "I have a habit, when asked to do anything, of going out of my way not to. I suspect that's the only reason I've survived this far. Too bloody stubborn to die like I'm supposed to."

"Well, that is perhaps why I never ask anything of you," Raphael replies. "But I am stubborn, myself."

Philomène grins. "Ah, be still my beating heart. I knew I liked you for a reason, and not just because you bring pies. A few little tweaks and you'd be the perfect man."

"Oh yes," Raphael replies with equal dryness. "I can tell you are so very close to infatuation with me. I'll have Marny bake a knife into the next pie and that will cement us."

"Probably best stick to bacon," Philomène suggests practically. "Everyone knows southerners can't handle a knife to save their lives."

"I assure you that I handle my knives with great expertise," Raphael says with a smile. "A journey I may have begun on bacon, but not ended there."

"In which case, let me pen in a regular date for a spot of fencing," Philomène suggests, eyeing him. "Between dancing and a regular, live opponent, I ought to pick up most of what I've lost."

"You conceive of only a narrow set of uses," Raphael critiques, sipping the last of his tea. "And a sword against a knife strikes me as rather bad form for fencing."

"I'll just use my off hand," Philomène suggests, raising both brows at him. "Make it a fair fight."

"You are showing me a world of honor and strategy of which I had never dreamed," says Raphael, leaning his shoulders against the back of his chair.

"And now you're just mocking me, and that's unkind," Philomène reproaches him, sipping from her tea and eyeing him. "But you know, if you're scared of an elderly cripple, I'll see if I can find a twelve year old child to fight instead."

"Ah, now you trade on those stereotypes," Raphael observes, looking amused. "This morning you were worried that Marsilikos sees you that way, but just an hour later you use it to your advantage."

Philomène lifts a hand in recognition, giving a small nod as she concedes the point. "Fair, fair. So perhaps I ought to go to the guard and see if they'll train with me. At least they ought to be able to handle a real weapon for its intended purpose, not for peeling fruit or willing victims."

"Most likely that is so," Raphael answers, ignoring that last dig. "Perhaps they would be of the greatest help to you. There must also be nobles looking to hone their swords."

"Then our regular date shall have to be for just tea," Philomène responds, reaching again for the teapot and raising a brow. "Tea and insults, maybe. I'd feel cheated if there wasn't at least a little mockery."

"That does seem to be integral," Raphael agrees solemnly. "And perhaps a stroll when you are feeling the desire for it. I know the snow does not deter you."

"I was going to ask Caroline to join me today for a short walk, but you're welcome to take her place if you want," Philomène mentions, adding, "When you've finished your tea, of course. And provided you don't have pressing business to get to. You know those paying patrons won't whip themselves."

"I am finished," Raphael confirms. "And I have time. Let us have that walk."

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