(1311-11-21) Offering Honesty
Summary: Not that that’s unusual fare at the Maison aux Herbes, where Raphael goes to drink with Philomène and discuss the difficult truths of partners present and past.
RL Date: Sat Nov 23, 1311
Related: Other scenes with these characters.
raphael philomene 

Maison aux Herbes — Rue du Port


Summoned by the customary terse note, signed only with a large, looping letter P and the stamp of the Chalasse bull, Raphael is cordially invited to the small house on the Rue de Port this afternoon. The note, of course, just reads 'Drinks? PM?' because why would Philomène bother writing more than she strictly needs to. She's not a scholar.

When the door is opened (yes, by Caroline, that's apparently a battle Philomène has finally surrendered), it's to the smell of fresh bread and hot meats. Either Philomène is hosting a dinner party or her famously tiny appetite has finally picked up a little. Not that the table is currently groaning with food - it's currently the domain of a pale off-white waistcoat, where the belligerent Chalasse is… uh… embroidering buttonholes?

Raphael could never mistake these signs, however abbreviated, and he turns up in the chilly afternoon, carrying two bottles of black-red wine, necks gripped between the fingers of his left hand. He settles a hard, approving smile on Caroline to see her doing her proper work at the door. The smells in the air are also quite welcome. "Well, well," he says, finding Philomène at this unexpected task. "It has been a while. Is that a new waistcoat?"

"Repurposed," Philomène admits, "but it might as well be new." She grants her guest an easy smile, that broadening and her eyes lighting up at the bottles in his hand. "It's been far too long since we've caught up. I did poke my head in the other day but it was all go go go for that young thing's debut, and it's not as though we can just sit and get uproariously drunk in front of all your little roses, is it?" She flicks a grin, stabbing the needle into the bulk of the cloth and whisking it off to one side. "You're looking well, though," she notes, eyeing him with a small nod of approval. "Something's agreeing with you. Crack the wine open, and we'll start with that and you can tell me all about it?"

"I'm afraid not," Raphael says, smiling. "Particularly not the White Roses." He sets the bottles on the table and starts to work the cork out of one of them. "I do not sit idle much, that is certainly true," he says. "And what of yourself? Are you being agreed with?"

"You know I can't stand being agreed with," Philomène retorts, turning to call over her shoulder, "Caroline, might we have some glasses, please? And a couple of bottles of mead?" She shrugs as she turns back to Raphael, flicking a small smile. "If mead will suit you, that is? But no, I'm… I think quietly hopeful is the best way to describe it. I've made my peace with the decisions which need to be made. I have, at least mostly, a clear path in front of me, and the parts I can't influence I've accepted. Sit," she commands simply, gesturing to the seat beside her. "And tell me how hopeful your own life is, hm?"

Raphael does sit down. "You cannot possibly say such mysterious things and then turn the subject to my life," Raphael protests. "Tell me this path you are about to tread and then I will drink your mead and tell you my own."

Philomène eyes him for a moment, considering carefully. "I'm not certain… well, I hope you might not think me too callous. I don't think I ought to sound quite so chipper about it, but it's not the act so much as the decision. I intend to return to Gueret this winter, to see to things which need to be seen to, and then make myself scarce so that Eleanor has no trouble taking over the management of the estates. I've considered it from all angles, and I do believe that it will be the kindest way for all."

"I understand very well that decision is much preferable to uncertainty." Thorns are, after all, called upon to make a great deal of decisions, including on behalf of others." When the glasses appear, he gestures to the bottle he has opened. "Wine first, or mead?"

"Wine to begin with, then on to the mead?" Philomène suggests with a small smile. "The harder stuff first, and then we can move to something sweeter?" The drinks, or her decision making, either way. "And," she adds casually, although there's a brightness in her eye, "I followed your suggestion and had a little tilt. There are potential plans to go riding together. Perhaps seek out some highwaymen to quietly and forcefully suggest to them a change of career. Hope, you see. On all counts."

Raphael pours the wine out, and then puts a glass in front of them each. "Riding and a fight sounds very promising," he says. "My own situation…" he says, not to put her inquiry off indefinitely, "Is complex. We spent a very fine night, but I do not know when we shall be able to do so again."

Philomène takes up her wine, watching him thoughtfully. "And I suppose just asking is out of the question?" She shrugs, leaning back and propping her good leg up on her bad. "Is there any way I can help?"

"There is a third person involved," Raphael says, "With whom I am not close but whose stake in all this I do respect, as it comes before mine." He picks up his glass, too, and lifts it as a casual toast to his host. "So I don't think there is anything I can ask you to do about it."

"Well, I know what Leda's advice would be," Philomène notes drily, lifting her glass likewise before she takes a sip. "Just sleep with them both. But then she never did have an understanding of the concept of 'enough' of anything. Still, it's an option to explore. Why queue if you can share?"

Raphael laughs softly at that, certainly neither startled nor offended by this phantom advice attributed to an Orchis. He drinks a mouthful of wine and sets the glass down again. "Those of my canon tend not to mix terribly well," he says. "It causes great confusion with the direction in which power flows."

The smell of bread and meats becomes stronger as the door opens and Caroline backs her way in with a tray of small, crusty rolls, still steaming, and rich pink slices of what might be lamb but is probably hogget. Philomène gives a pleased smile, gesturing to the table where the tray might be set down, and then to Raphael. "Please, help yourself." She sets down her wine and steeples her fingers in front of her. "I do forget sometimes that you have quite a distinct canon, and these things might be more problematic. It's not something I'd thought to consider. Well, perhaps a time share if not a bed share, then?"

Raphael does serve himself up heartily, not put off his feed by troubles of the heart, as it appears. "But I'll bet you can imagine it now that I say it," he says, with a note of humor. "The trouble is, I don't know if I shall get as much time as I might like. Those of my canon do tend to call the tune as suits their own desires."

"Ah, then the only solution is to call this other fellow — I assume it's a fellow? — out and murder him," Philomène decides in a decidely dry tone. "Or either learn to share or go without." She leans forward to claim a bread roll, tearing it in two. "Which will it be?"

"Oh, I don't think it would be very nice to murder him," Raphael says lightly, taking up cutlery to slice into the meat. "I have no particular enmity with him, and I don't think she would like that very much, either."

Philomène smirks. "Cancel that option, then. We'll save the murdering for bedridden husbands instead."

"You know, I've never killed anyone," Raphael mentions. "I've inflicted a great deal of pain. I've been in fights. But I've never killed. It is, when you consider it, terribly far from the work of a courtesan in most cases. But I presume you have killed?"

"Never anyone I knew the name of before," Philomène admits more quietly, breaking off another piece of her roll to pop into her mouth. "Never a d'Angeline. Certainly never the father of my children before." She sets her jaw, squares her shoulders and fixes her gaze on him. "And I've no intention to cause any more pain than strictly necessary."

"I hope not," says Raphael, a man who makes his living on causing pain for mutual enjoyment, quite solemnly. "Is his illness very painful for him now?" he asks, pausing in his eating to acknowledge the seriousness of this conversation.

By contrast, Philomène reaches for a slice of the lamb to add to her roll, to give her something to distract her from the topic even as they speak. "I only have the reports to go by," she admits, "as I've been keeping out of the way here as much as possible. We can only guess, though. Louis-Claude isn't able to tell us." She folds the bread around the meat, letting it hover somewhere near her mouth. "He's a good man, Raphael. He wouldn't want to be reduced to this. He doesn't recognise us, he's lost control of bowel and bladder, one entire side of him is completely paralysed, and the other has a mind of its own. It's the right thing to do." She pauses, then nods more firmly. "It's what I'd want somebody to do for me, and Louis-Claude is no less proud than I. Was. Is. I don't know."

"I understand," Raphael says softly. "And will your daughter know?" he wonders. But he does pick up his fork again to eat with. Only to exchange it, after a bite, for the wine.

"I think," Philomène responds, delicately taking a bite from her roll, chewing and swallowing before continuing. "I think it would be kinder if she did not, don't you? I suspect it will be easier for her to believe he simply passed in his sleep. She'll have a hard enough time as it is, without any sort of guilt keeping her awake, too."

"Yes, I very much agree with you," Raphael says, voice still low. "It is a kindness to bear that for her." He does go on eating despite the talk of death and bereavement.

Philomène flicks a slightly morbid smile. "As long as she doesn't walk in on me in the act. I suspect I'd never be forgiven, which would be less than ideal. Which means I'll have to do it in the early hours of the morning, when the house is asleep. I don't yet know how, but I've reconciled that it must be done, it must be me to do it, and I know it's the right thing. Even if it feels wrong."

"I don't think I could possibly advise," Raphael says. "It seems to me a journey that you will have to take yourself. I would not intrude upon it. A terrible illness…the answers to such a thing are in no way easy."

"Mm, and sadly I don't have any serial murderers among my acquaintances, as far as I'm aware, to ask for advice," Philomène notes drily. "I am sorry, Raphael, I hadn't intended to bring you here just to unload on you yet again. I was hoping we could just get drunk, have a bit of a laugh and catch up. You can mock me for my complete lack of skill in trying to convey to my young lady exactly how giddy she makes me, and I can mock you for your serious, super confident public persona when you're so stymied with your own lady friend."

"We can," Raphael offers in return warmly, lifting his glass and draining it. "But it doesn't sound as though you are really such a failure, if you are planning brawls together."

"I think we're planning brawls together," Philomène admits after a moment. "Unless… well, unless it was a very rapid change of subject to avoid embarrassment. I don't think I shall be winning any awards for my seductive technique, put it that way."

"Well anyone who wants award-winning smoothness will go to a courtesan, surely," Raphael says, perhaps speaking out of a courtesan's bias. "But I imagine you offer a great deal more than effortless seduction."

"I offer honesty," Philomène counters, meeting his eye. "I'm not sure what else, but I'm going to hope that's enough. Experience, as an equal, maybe. If nothing else, at least I can offer some training in cavalry tactics and swordsmanship. She's a mace sort of girl," she explains, shrugging a shoulder.

"You are rather entertaining, you know," Raphael reminds, pouring his glass full again and then gesturing to Philomène's to offer to do the same for her. "Mace," he repeats. "So I imagine she can appreciate directness."

Philomène eyes him. "I flat out told her that she was welcome in my bed. And then, for some stupid reason, tried to stare her down as though this were some sort of argument I had to win. There's direct, and then there's downright idiotic." She takes up her wine for a sip. "But she's said she'll drop by, and we'll ride out together to look for trouble, and she…" she smiles a little self consciously, "she touched my shoulder, don't you dare fucking laugh. Just because you'd have had your smooth talking and had your lady friend eating from the palm of your hand, probably literally. I haven't… well, Leda doesn't count, she'd sleep with a rock if she thought it was funny, but… I'm not exactly prolific."

Raphael smiles at this tale. "Not an argument," he says. "But perhaps she prolongs a battle for the pleasure of it," he suggests. He keeps his face neutral as she relates touching on the shoulder, but he cannot help but smile at the suggestion that his lady friend eats from the palm of his hand. "If she answers a call to your bed with a touch on the shoulder then it is unlikely that she means to turn you away, even if she may wish a longer chase."

"I think, in all good conscience, though, the battle may have to wait until I'm returned from Gueret," Philomène allows, considering her half eaten roll for a moment before simply pushing it away. Still, she ate half of it, which is probably more than Raphael has seen her eat in some time. It's a good thing she's drinking her calories, put it that way. "And then be postponed as a matter of taste and decorum for a while. Once again my timing appears to be completely off."

"The timing of these things is usually wrong," Raphael replies. "That is why it is so miraculous and special when they work. You won't forget your feelings in your time away. If she has them, she won't either." Or so he predicts, easily, with wine in hand.

Philomène slides her glass forward for a top up. "You know I don't have feelings," she insists, a glint of amusement in her eye. "Had them all shot off in the war."

"Oh, my apologies," Raphael returns sarcastically. "I am sure you pursue her purely out of curiosity, as an experiment. I am sure you will not think of her on your long journey at all."

"Oh shut up and give me another drink," Philomène grumbles, rolling her eyes. "At this rate I'll be doodling little love hearts in a notebook. It's fucking sickening."

Raphael refills Philomène's glass. "Perhaps," he allows. "But you might possibly…write her a letter in your absence. More productive than the hearts, I should think…"

Philomène simply arches a brow at him. "I can write a tactical plan or daily orders, and I can write a contract for trade, but writing letters? What should I write, exactly? Hope you're well, bring in a highwayman for me, by the way I'm thinking about you when I touch myself at night?" She pulls a face. "It lacks a little… something."

"But only a little," Raphael says with an amused smile, having another swallow of his own wine. "In fact I think your tendency to brevity might serve you well. A message reading only, 'I am thinking of you,' has set many a heart a-flutter."

"Perhaps I ought to employ you to write on my behalf," Philomène suggests drily. "While I content myself with the heart doodles."

Raphael snorts air from his nostrils. "You are capable of a sentence," he argues. "You needn't tell her everything you feel. Only remind her that she still matters to you. It makes a difference."

"Perhaps," Philomène allows, lifting her glass to drain it in one, gulping the wine down before holding it out for more. "Without coming off as creepy, though. Ideally."

"In my experience, the line between romantic and unsettling typically depends on her interest in you. If it is strong to begin with, she will find such a gesture exciting." Raphael fills the glass. "If she does not then the sooner you learn, the better. But it sounds to me as though she might like to be remembered by you during an absence."

"The whole thing is really very silly," Philomène insists, not for the first time. "Are you writing to your young lady?"

"No," Raphael says. "I go to see her and we converse rather often. But you must remember I am also a courtesan, and that itself can be a complication, as I am sure you can appreciate."

"Mmm," Philomène agrees as she runs her thumb absently around the rim of her glass. "You're expected to play a part. But how fond is she of courtesan-Raphael, and how much of Raphael-Raphael?"

"Difficult to say where the line may rest," he says. "And perhaps that is true for us both in a certain way, though we are friends beyond our contracts. And to reveal the line could be troublesome in itself."

Philomène takes another sip from her glass. The sips get bigger over time, it might be noted, and the first empty bottle stands as proof. "Courtesans and feelings don't mix," she decides flatly. "Separating the professional and personal is too problematic. And that is why I have my opinions of courtesans in the first place, as a whole. Present company excluded."

"I'm not sure if I always am excluded," Raphael says, but not bitterly. He too is drinking relatively liberally, especially by his standards. "I usually have no trouble," he says. "And in all honesty, I do…feel guilt, about…being moved, so quickly."

"You," Philomène reminds him, tilting her glass in his direction, "are always welcome here. Although not in my bed," she adds with a half smile, "unless it's a particularly cold night and you've no other option. So tell me about your mystery woman, at least. Make me jealous of you."

"That is difficult for me to do," Raphael says with a note of apology. "It is a part of my duty that I not reveal the identity of a patron. But I find her very clever. I find she appreciates the subtleties of my art. She is certainly beautiful. And she is complex." Though his gaze has drifted with his description, he now looks to Philomène see whether that satisfies the request at all.

Philomène flicks her fingers vaguely towards the window. "I could throw a stone and hit a dozen beautiful people, this is Terre d'Ange," she points out drily. "What makes your beautiful, clever, complex lady so special?"

Raphael pauses, looking upwards as he considers what he can say within the bounds of respect for anonymity. "She says novel and thoughtful things," he gives as one quality. "And she almost never fails to appreciate the finest points of the games we play. I find that when I go to meet her, I bring with me not just tools, but a new concept. And she rises to meet it, always."

"But you've enough in common outside the bedroom?" Philomène worries on his behalf. "She does see Raphael-Raphael as well, I hope?"

"More than I allow most any patron to," Raphael answers. "We were friends before I ever touched her. I see her often outside of contracts, only to share the pleasure of company."

"But," Philomène points out, pressing her fingertip down on the table to make her point, "She's still a patron first. It's that line. Well, you gave me fair advice — go for it. Give up the line. Cancel the contracts and see her, in her bed or otherwise, as a friend first."

Raphael considers this advice for a moment. "There are…other complications," he acknowledges. "I believe…she may be ill, perhaps in a significant way. I am not sure exactly how, or how serious the condition may be."

Philomène eyes him flatly. "Then, and trust me on this, make the bloody most of it while you can, you stupid bastard. Fuck, I should stop inviting you to waste your afternoons with me if your time with her is potentially limited." She aims a punch for his arm. "Take some mutton and go and see her. Tell her that your friend told you you're a twat for not going to see her sooner."

Raphael shakes his head faintly. "I think you miss my point. I've only just— My wife is just barely dead a year. I…cared for her for…" He shakes his head slightly.

Another punch. The poor man'll be bruised before he's gone today. "All the more fucking reason to grab what you can when you can, Raphael! And for her to have what she can, when she can. Don't be so fucking chicken. And so selfish!"

Raphael slaps Philomène's hand away this time, not especially lightly. "That's enough," he says. "The matter is not entirely mine to decide, at any rate. She has a commitment that deserves to be honored."

"You're making excuses," Philomène points out shrewdly. She pulls herself to her feet, wincing visibly as she's beyond trying to disguise it right now, and reaches for one of the bottles of mead. "Take this, and some mutton, and… wrong time of year for flowers, hm… she's clever, you say? Take her a book, wait one," and she's already busying herself over to the sparse set of shelves on the wall from which she claims a book seemingly at random. "The moment her other gentleman isn't there, go deliver this. Go and show her you care, for fuck's sake. Don't wait."

"I do not need some unknown book from your shelf," Raphael says, eyeing Philomène's motion with some disdain. "She is certainly clever enough to know if I selected a gift for her or if I did not. I will handle this matter in my own way, not urged on by you to some rushed folly."

Philomène raises the book as though about to throw it at him. "You are really the most exasperating man I know," she insists, glowering at him for a moment before lowering her arm. "Please. For the sake of… whatever… don't waste any time. Despite whatever it might look like, I do want to see you happy, even if it's only briefly. Don't fucking wait until… like Louis-Claude. Just… for fuck's sake, Raphael."

"You are not respecting things I have been through," Raphael says softly. "Look, I…" He rubs a palm over his forehead. "In some ways I agree with what you have to say, but in other ways… You called me selfish, but you are also suggesting I run roughshod over the wishes of two other people without any plan or consideration for their own love."

"Selfish was uncalled for," Philomène allows, thumping the book down solidly and extending her hand towards him. "I apologise." It's really magnificent, the way she can fix that look on him, lift her chin, set her finely sculpted jaw, and turn even an apology into something belligerent. "And I recognise that perhaps I'm the last one on earth who should attempt to give advice about love. But I've enough experience with regrets, at least. Take the damn mutton, will you?"

"I am not bringing her mutton," Raphael says firmly. "I…agree with you that matters must be addressed in some way soon, however. We shared…truly a special experience in our last meeting. I already crossed boundaries I would ordinarily keep." He heaves out a short, sharp sigh. "You know you are a very difficult woman to talk with."

"In other news, water is wet," Philomène retorts, rolling her eyes and resuming her seat with another hiss of pain and a wince. "You can't tell me about her, which makes it even more difficult. What do you need from me?"

"You do not listen," Raphael says with a hard expression. "When you are intent on your own feelings you take no notice of another person's though you claim to advocate for their best interest. It does not inspire me to confide in you, Philomène."

"Well, you know where the fucking door is!" Ah, yes. Philomène's famous patience. Zero to angry in 0.2 seconds. Really, it's little wonder that she's so much to regret.

Raphael does not move. "Is this really how you want this to go?" he asks, more quietly. "Philomène, I did not kill my invalid. I lived with her every day. As much as I have great sympathy for you in your own path, I think you do not understand what I have been through so recently." In so saying, he wears less of his granite mask, showing instead a slackened jaw and tired eyes.

"And don't you regret every moment you wasted?" Philomène replies, anger slowly subsiding as she reaches for more wine. Because that will always help matters. "No, I don't fucking understand what you've been through. I've never had to watch anyone I love die slowly. Deaths in Camlach tend far more to the sudden and quick. But I regret every wasted fucking minute. How can you not?"

Raphael looks across the room rather than at Philomène. "In truth we…did not waste so very many. I am angry that we had no longer to spend, but…I feel we gave a great deal to one another. I would rather not think of it by tallying the moments missed." Now his eyes cut to Philomène. "I spent many moments with her that were incredibly painful. While I do not regret those, they do come at a great cost."

"Everything comes at a cost," Philomène insists pragmatically, draining her wine and going for the mead next to open. "If you don't want to pay it, walk away. If your lady friend is worth it, then brace up and take it. And if she's not ready to pay whatever costs she has to pay, then that's down to her to decide, too. Same goes for her fellow."

It is plain from his expression that Raphael is considering this advice seriously. And he does nod. "We shall see," he says, perhaps seeking a close on the matter for now. "So you see really my matter is no more entertaining than your own."

"Mine at least is a decision made," Philomène agrees after a moment, gesturing for him to finish his wine so she can top it up with mead. "I don't know necessarily that it's the best decision, but I am confident that it is the right decision. Although there will be that cost, even greater if my daughters find out. Or the people in general," she adds as an afterthought. "I've no great wish to be remembered as a murderer."

"It is difficult for most people to understand the largest decisions," Raphael says. And he does finish his wine. "But I know why you would make such a choice. I am sure it has not been easy."

"But it's not the decision you would have made," Philomène guesses, brows drawing. "Well, perhaps I have the advantage of greater objectivity. I've grown fairly fond of Louis-Claude, but… well, it was never a marriage for love. I can't imagine that I could reach the same conclusion so assuredly if it were one of my daughters."

"The situations cannot be compared," Raphael says. "They are entirely different in too many respects. That is why I have neither judgment nor help for you. But I can understand…I can understand the thought of it, when someone is suffering." That much he allows.

Philomène slides over the mead. "You can understand, but you don't approve," she guesses, pursing her lips. "But, unlike me, you don't feel the need to interfere in anyone else's business. Noted."

"No, I would not say I disapprove, either," Raphael says solemnly, making clear eye contact as soon as he receives that mead, which he leaves alone for the moment. "I just don't think it is my place to be involved one way or another. I think it is right that you should make the decision you alone are best placed to make, and to see it through."

“I had not intended to be quite so frank with you," Philomène admits. "And I apologise if it put you in a difficult position. In case I am caught."

"I don't think so. But don't be caught," Raphael advises. "I don't think this is the business of anyone else in the world but your family." At last he drinks from the mead.

"I'll put that on my to do list," Philomène responds drily. "Number one. Don't get caught."

"Just don't write it down," is Raphael's equally dry reply. He'll share this mead with Philomène, but not a second, and say goodnight without taking the mutton.

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