(1311-10-17) It's My Damn Door
Summary: Raphael drops in to teach Philomène a little something about the proper use of front doors, and to receive instruction in return regarding free grub for vicomtesses.
RL Date: 10/17/2019
Related: Previous scenes with these characters; particularly Tea and Sausage at La Rose Sauvage.
raphael philomene 

Maison aux Herbes — Rue du Port


Raphael turns up at the Maison aux Herbes with a bottle of dark wine, but nothing from a butcher shop today. The temperatures being quite cool with a drizzle of rain going, he's wearing an oiled cloak so as not to drip all over his host's furniture once he is admitted.

Apparently Philomène has never heard the phrase that one shouldn't have a dog and bark oneself, as despite having hired what is turning out to be a quite satisfactory new maid it's she herself who opens the door. In the defence of said maid, she's on the heels of her mistress, one of her own hands on the edge of the door too, and judging by the tail end of the conversation still audible as Raphael is admitted, they're having a familiar argument about whose job it ought to be to open it. To argue with one's employer might seem contrary to maintaining one's employment, but there's a haze of pungent smoke loitering in the upper reaches of the room, an open box of what appear to be narrow cigars on the table, with an ashtray, a pair of glasses and a mostly empty bottle, and it doesn't take a great feat of deduction to establish that tonight has thus far been distinctly informal and peculiarly herbal, which no doubt explains away the familiar behaviour. Raphael's appearance is greeted with a highly unusual smile, the bottle with a wider smile yet, and he's ushered inside and to a seat while Caroline claims his cloak to hang. "Raphael! You're an unexpected sight! Come in, come in. Did you bring a pie? Oh, no matter, come on, sit yourself down. We'll find you a glass."

"No," Raphael replies, lowering the hood as he steps in and then passing the cloak to Caroline. "I brought wine. She's right, you know," he adds in support of Caroline, who seeks only to do her job. "It's she who will have to train you in the end."

Philomène waves him off with a little snort, already limping her way back over towards her chair. "If I can't do what I want to do in my own house…" The limp is more pronounced than she usually allows in company, and she grimaces a little as she reclaims her joint from where it rests on the lip of the ashtray and sinks gracelessly down into the seat. "…well, what's the point in being one's own mistress?" She takes a draw, the end glowing a warm, friendly red for a moment, then blows the smoke upwards and casually offers the cigar over to him, a brow raised. "Everything all right with you? We didn't have plans I've forgotten about, did we?"

"And why do you want so desperately to open the door?" Raphael asks. "You can think of nothing more diverting?" He waves off the cigar. "No, no plans," he says, lifting his eyebrows. "Would you rather be let alone?"

"On the contrary, it's always a pleasure to see you. The company is more than welcome," Philomène responds, casually letting the cigar dangle from her fingers somewhere off to the side of her chair. "You know you're always welcome here. But… the door? Well, it's all a careful strategy. If it's somebody at the door I want to see, I can let them in. If it isn't, I can claim that I'm just on my way out and they'll have to come back later."

"But you can have the maid do that," Raphael says. "She goes to the door, asks who is calling, and then comes to tell you who it is and ask if you want to be bothered. Then you can manage the whole thing without ever getting up."

"My legs still work," Philomène counters. "And I already ask enough of Caroline as it is. You won't win this one, Raphael. As long as I'm still able, I'll open my own damn door."

Raphael shrugs a shoulder. "Well, I am told the nobility are entitled to their eccentricities," he concludes, helping himself to a chair at last. "I hope you enjoy yours."

Philomène narrows her eyes at him for a moment, considering him with what shrewdness she can muster. "You sound bitter. Go on, what have we done now? What latest eccentricity offends your delicate sensibilities?"

Raphael laughs softly and waves a hand to dismiss that. "No grudges today," he says. "Except with the occasional inappropriate request." He smiles. "Really I have nothing to insult you with today."

"Oh, I find that hard to believe," Philomène insists with a slight smile, lifting the joint to her lips for another long, drawn out breath, eyes briefly closing. "Where would be the fun in that?" She glances around for a moment, wrinkling her nose. "Caroline's gone and hidden away again, hasn't she? Just when I thought we were starting to get her out of her shell. Ah well, the more wine for us, then. Will you pour?"

"Perhaps you'll manage to provoke me," Raphael says as though to cheer his host up. He leans forward when asked to pour but finds no opener immediately to hand, so he stands to take a wander in hopes of spotting one. "Had any good fights lately?"

"Not a one," Philomène admits morosely, her gaze following him as he moves away again. His purpose is yet unclear, but on the other hand she's sat down now and for all her protestations about opening the door because her legs work she's no intention of getting up again if she doesn't have to. "Although I did have a very earnest young man who, I think, was trying to chat me up…?" She sounds both bemused and pleased with herself. "Am I an awful person for rather looking forward to shooting him down?"

"Oh, I don't think so," Raphael replies. "Shooting for sport has a very long history, after all." After a bit of a hunt, he turns up an implement to pry the cork from the wine without danger of breaking it. "Giving him a head start, are you?"

"It's important to give them enough distance to be satisfying," Philomène agrees with a little laugh, settling back quite comfortably in her seat now she's identified exactly what he was nosing around for. "The only question is whether I'm the one being strung along as some sort of joke, in which case it's all just a little awkward all around."

"Stringing you along?" Raphael says doubtfully, pouring the two glasses with a confident grace and putting one in Philomène's hand before he sits down again. "Is this man new to Marsilikos, then?"

"The new Barrême," Philomène explains, waving him off with a hand. "As far as I can gather he doesn't do any of his business himself, as I've always dealt with the steward. But then the lad's about twelve years old, barely out without a nanny. Still, it does give the self confidence a little boost, doesn't it?"

Raphael picks up his glass and sits back with it. "Is he handsome at least, this callow youth who finds you so interesting?" he asks. "Not, of course, that you have any interest in pursuing him, only to judge the exact level of the boost, you understand."

"Oh, absolutely," Philomène agrees promptly, lifting her glass to her lips for a sip and watching him over it. "He's a really very handsome young man. I get the feeling he's not used to being turned down, so that will be a lovely surprise for him, hm?"

Raphael lets out another faint laugh. "Perhaps he'll learn he likes the cruelty and you can send him round to the Rose Sauvage," he says, lifting the glass in a sort of toast to the idea.

Philomène laughs in kind, returning the mute toast before setting down her glass so she can concentrate on smoking the joint which continues to add its particular pungent sweetness as well as a somewhat relaxed feel to the atmosphere. "Well, if I'd known I was offering a primer for your salon I should insist on royalties. Business slow, or are you just looking for more patrons with noted titles to claim as your own?"

"Not for me, necessarily," Raphael says. "But the salon could always prosper the better. We'd have so many potential jilters for him to choose from."

"But surely none with the sort of class I offer in these things," Philomène insists amiably, offering the end of the joint over again. It's possible she's flat out forgotten that he's already refused it once. "And how's your young woman? Have you reached some sort of satisfactory arrangement?"

"Oh no?" Raphael asks, gaze falling on that herb for a moment before he waves it off again. "Well, if you want to go into business I'm afraid you'll have to be independent." He drinks from the wine again. "My…? Ah. Well, satisfactory enough, I suppose."

Philomène smirks as she takes another draw from the last of it, before stubbing out the end in the ashtray and blowing out a series of smoke rings. "Independence," she notes drily, "is hardly something I lack. I think if you were to try to describe me in a single word, discounting those of four letters which shouldn't be spoken in front of children, that word might well be independent. I'd make a bloody awful courtesan, though, so perhaps I'll leave you to it and stick to pigs and pigheadedness in equal measure."

"Very well, I accept the charge," Raphael replies, bobbing his head. "I agree that it would probably not be to your interest."

"If there's some sort of anti-courtesan," Philomène muses, taking another gulp from her wine before reaching across to the inlaid box containing another two or three ready rolled cigars, "then perhaps that's more my style. People pay good money to go to you, whereas they do everything in their power to avoid me. With you they know exactly what they're getting, whereas with me I can always guarantee to let them down. Fuck, it's no wonder I live alone and have to bribe the maid to have a damn drink with me every now and then, is it?"

"Maybe if you let her open the door she'd make a deal with you," Raphael returns in a tone of gentle humor. "But if you want to have more people around you, you've every capability to attract them. Is that really what you want?"

"It's my damn door," Philomène responds in the same tone, flashing the man an easy smile. "And I'd like to have some specific people around me, but apparently I only attract eighteen year old boys, so I'm not certain that's quite what was intended."

"All right," Raphael says. "Then how has your progress been going on that front? You never will tell me much."

Philomène takes a moment to strike a flint and light up, drawing on the cigar until the end is glowing good and red before she slips it from her lips back between her fingers. "Nothing to tell," she admits resignedly. "I'm not certain if it's just poor timing, or if she's genuinely avoiding me. I'd like to say I live in hope but it's not really my style. Perhaps more accurately I live in the crushing fear that she thinks I'm some kind of creepy stalker who camps outside her house for a glimpse of her and the dinner invitation was just the polite courtesy one ought to extend to crippled old ladies out of pity."

"Do you get such voluminous invitations, then?" Raphael says. "If it is the sort of thing people must do out of politeness then I should think I would rarely find you at home."

Philomène eyes him, grey eyes significantly darker than usual, and carrying the solemn gravity of the well and truly stoned. "I usually get precisely one from every individual who first meets me, Raphael. It's expected. I'm a fucking Vicomtesse."

“And I've never even invited you to my chambers for dinner," Raphael observes. "I hadn't realized I'd been ruder than everyone else in town." He drinks from his glass, then contemplates the dark color of the wine. "I don't suppose I can help, being that I don't even know who the person in question is…"

Philomène balances her joint on the edge of the ashtray before leaning back and folding her hands behind her head. "Oh, come on. How many noblewomen have you seen in this city who fit the bill? It's hardly an obscure one to guess, is it? You know my type as well as anyone."

"How would I know your type?" Raphael asks, lifting an eyebrow. "You've only told me that it is a noblewoman of interest to you. I don't think you've said much more. You probably said she was clever."

"Well, you haven't told me who your young lady is, either, so fair's fair," Philomène retorts, rubbing a hand through her hair before returning it to the back of her head to interlink the fingers of both hands. "But since you're being a brat about it, it's the Lady Cerdagne. Lady Adeline. Tall, blonde, could snap most people in two, ringing any bells?"

Raphael considers this description. "I've heard the name, but I don't know that we've been introduced," Raphael says. "But she's a Mereliot, is she not? In that case, of course I know some of her family…"

"She is," Philomène confirms with a small nod. "And unmarried with no apparent husband on the horizon, which certainly implies to me that there's a good chance she bats for my side. Or," she acknowledges with a faint smirk, "that she's merely very driven to her duty and hasn't wasted any effort with men who aren't worth her time. I suppose I could introduce you, but I'm rather terrified that would give her the wrong impression."

Raphael smiles and shakes his head. "If I intend to meet her, I imagine I can find many ways without involving you." He looks curiously at Philomène. "Should I arrange to see her and learn about her tastes?"

"It is only polite to invite a Vicomtesse to supper at least once," Philomène reminds him with a wry smile. "If it turns out I'm wrong, though, do let me down gently, won't you? There are only so many times a brittle old heart like mine can afford to be broken."

"I only torment people who enjoy it," Raphael replies, draining his glass and setting it on the table.

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