(1312-04-11) Hook, Line, Sinker
Summary: Despite his best efforts, Hugo de Trevalion falls down a very elegant Night Court rabbithole. He may never be seen again, the lucky fellow.
RL Date: 10/04/2020 - 11/04/2020
Related: Other scenes with these characters.
emilie hugo 

Second’s Office — Le Lis d’Or

White boiseries, discreetly gilded with a pattern of lilies in which a sharp eye might discern the occasional camellia or dahlia, cereus or eglantine, panel the walls of this airy and well-proportioned chamber in which the business of the Lis d'Or is carried out in an atmosphere of impeccable elegance.

Long gilt looking-glasses mirror the positions of long windows framed by lavender silk drapes: each revealed and reflected prospect upon the salon's gardens seems more ideal than the last. Dainty mahogany or gilt furnishings are arranged in perfect harmony about a porphyry hearth, the tables topped with alabaster and the chairs and sofas upholstered some in white silk and others in lavender and white stripes. Flower-woven Akkadian carpets soften footsteps and lend the warmth of their own rich hues. Gentle light comes when needed from curvaceous glass oil lamps upheld by bronze-doré figures of beautiful nude youths of various sexes, for which some of the salon's earliest adepts are said to have posed.

In the corner farthest from the double doors leading out toward the salon proper stands a desk, in an unavoidable nod towards the chamber's more official purposes. The top of it is never cluttered, but laid out with fine parchment and a tray of pristine white quills, and a statuette of a golden lily from which one may draw violet ink like nectar. Above it shelves set in an arched recess hold ledgers leatherbound in soft shades of blue and lavender and yellow and rose.

Fresh seasonal or hothouse flowers bloom in a rotating array of priceless vases and bowls, scenting the air just sweetly enough.

The respectable and respected senior retainer of House Trevalion, whom the young lord Hugo of that ilk sends to negotiate with Émilie Perigeux nó Lis d’Or — after what happened the last time — returns to him bereft of paperwork, bearing only a verbal message that the lady in question does not consider it possible to arrange so intimate and sacred a matter as her contract, with anyone but the other party himself, in person.

… And, of course, a report that once she understood her caller’s purpose she was a tad shocked, that she blushed and turned away and hardly seemed to know what to say; but then she was civil. She sent him, the retainer, firmly away, whilst reiterating her willingness to receive Lord Hugo, should he wish to see her. (She was wearing pale blue silk and ivory lace and her hair in ringlets, and she smelled like a spring garden, if he’s interested.) (He is.)

And after this futile attempt to send in somebody to negotiate the details without being distracted into parting with every ducat of his money when faced with a flash of bosom, Hugo spends the entire week in heartbroken agony. Or what passes for it, for the youngster. The retainer is called in daily to clarify details — exactly what shade of blue, though? Which flowers were in this particular garden? And what about her shoes? It’s only after a week of this helpless moping about and gradual irritation of the most previously placid of household servants, that he finds himself once again, in his most dazzling, pressed uniform, at the door to the Lis d’Or.

The lady’s office has changed little, but for the addition of a costly chess board upon which carved ivory pieces face off against an opposing malachite army; her flowers have altered and her wardrobe has softened with the change of season, tending now toward silk and muslin rather than damask and velvet, with thin slippers in place of leather shoes… But any attempt our poor Hugo might essay to compare past and present impressions, is doomed before he can even begin, for Émilie’s hair is in perfect dark strawberry-blonde ringlets, and these ringlets are arranged low about half-bare shoulders and an expanse of curved and creamy décolletage that must surely cause his coin-purse to fall open from shock at the very sight.

The novice who conducted the littlest Trevalion to her door sort of shoos him inside and shuts the sacred portal behind him, with a bump against his elbow that may serve to propel him further across the carpet toward Émilie’s chair… Provided he doesn’t trip on the edge of it before reaching the rectangular pool of light where she sits, close by a window upon the Lis d’Or’s elegant gardens. Her heavenly complexion and her warm brown eyes are illuminated alike by the southern sunset over her shoulder, and by her pleasure in the book she was reading by its rays. Something leatherbound and slim, held by instinct against her bosom with her fingers curled in amongst its pages as she rises to greet her visitor.

“My lord Trevalion…” Her gaze travels upwards over his immaculate uniform, to his face— her breath seems to catch as she regards him, said bosom pressing against said book.

Hugo Trevalion is many things — naïve, painfully earnest, and narcissistic to a fault, among others — but he is not clumsy. The very idea that he might trip on his gently encouraged shove forward is as laughable as the concept that he might walk out of here with all his money, give up the sea for good, or win Marsilikos’s Tallest Man 1312.

Even with all his attention on… well, let’s be honest, it’s mostly on a pale, exposed area somewhere a few inches below her chin, his step is sure as he approaches, even if his mouth might be open and his eyes wide. The effortless (yeah, right) perfection of it all. Not knowing entirely what to do with them, his hands go to his lapels, hanging on to them like life-rings as he burbles out a return greeting.

“Mademoiselle… you look well,” he decides, then backtracks, unhappy that this truly conveys his delight. “You look wonderful, I mean. Radiant. I wasn’t sure if you were… you know… work. Things.” For a man who likes to talk so much, he ought one of these days to try learning to talk sense. “I mean I’ve been working. But you, too. You’re not busy now…?”

Émilie lowers her eyes and her book, revealing flesh briefly occluded by the latter’s expensive gilt-edged binding. “I stole an hour to read,” she confesses, as if Hugo has caught her in pursuit of some great wickedness. And, just as smoothly, she lifts her eyes and her hand and offers him the latter. Fine ivory lace falls away from the perfect curve of her wrist. Her rose-petal fingertips nestle into his hand. “… My lord, if you’ve come to apologise,” she suggests gently, “then I accept, and I hope you’ll take a glass of wine with me in token of being friends again.”

Well, of course he’s come to apologise! What a marvellous idea! Just because he’s completely in the dark over exactly what it is he ought to be apologising for, it just feels like the right thing to do right now, with her hand warm in his. Once again, Mister Brain has gone out for supper and left Hugo stranded with only Émilie’s suggestions to tell him what to do.

“Oh… of course, and thank you. I’m so sorry,” Hugo gallantly manages, unwillingly but gamely dragging his eyes up to her face to add to his sincerity. “I’ve no idea what I was thinking.” That much is clearly true now as much as ever.

He lifts her hand to his lips, lingering there just to inhale the floral scent. “I… brought some ribbon,” he offers tentatively, as though waiting to be patted on the head and told what a good little Trevalion he is. “For the kittens? I thought they might like it.” No gift for her. Another faux pas.

Or it would be, if Émilie didn’t vastly prefer kittens to patrons…

“How thoughtful of you, my lord,” she declares, beaming at the most thought-free young man to have crossed her threshold in at least a handful of days. (She gets everybody else’s tripping in and out too, so they do add up.) “I’m sure the girls will have great fun with it.” Her fingertips press tenderly into his palm before she reclaims her hand, fragrance and all. “In fact…”

And she keeps up an easy stream of anecdotes about the articles of furniture Miel and Figue have taken to climbing upon, the specific books they’ve knocked off her shelves, the box of sweetmeats they chewed their way into, the novices they’ve seduced with their soft ears and swishy tails, and the charming postures in which they sleep upon her every single night, as she glides across to the cabinet where she keeps wine and uisghe, decanters and glasses, chilled water, plentiful crisp linen napkins in case of spillage, and— well, only another Camellia could guess what else. (Kebabs, probably. No wonder her office smells so good.) She gives up her book, laying it down closed atop the cabinet with a pang considerably ameliorated by the fact she wasn’t reading it anyway. Then, still kittening volubly, she pours two cut-crystal glasses of something heady and red — for once, she hadn’t her own already on the go — and rustles back to Hugo bright-eyed and smiling, with laughter still upon her lips.

Somewhere along the way she recollects herself. “… But let’s drink to your return to the Lis d’Or, my lord,” she declares, confiding a glass into his grasp and raising her own.

And to give the boy his credit, he listens, entranced, to this outpouring on behalf of the pair of kittens. He probably wouldn’t be able to repeat any of it if he were asked, but even the tone of her voice is enough to captivate him. But then she stops speaking and is looking at him so expectantly, so up goes his glass in reply, his smile broadens to show those little dimples, and he offers by way of counter, “To you, mademoiselle.”

He takes a gulp of wine. This does not help in any way with his current mental capacity. The wine, her scent, her admirable expanse of exposed flesh along with a promise, in his imagination if not in practice quite yet, for more.The well crafted combination guaranteed to open his heart and, more importantly, his purse.

And this is why he attempted to send a proxy to negotiate on his behalf.

It’s also why an experienced courtesan such as Émilie would never do anything so foolish as deal with a go-between — even aside from the indignity of having a servant sent out to procure one, as if one were half a dozen handkerchiefs or an ounce of pepper.

Émilie drinks, too. “My lord,” she murmurs, more or less fondly. “Shall we sit down…?” And the scent of her washes dizzyingly past him as she takes her favourite place upon her favourite sofa, in the confidential light of a glass oil lamp upheld by a nude bronze-doré figure she herself somewhat resembles. “It seems so long since we met,” she muses, infusing a note of genuine regret into the cultivated tone of her voice. She runs a casual hand over her lap, smoothing her skirts, and takes another deep mouthful of wine. Thus composed to listen, she invites his talk: “I do hope you’ve been well…? And busy, I imagine, with all your naval duties…?”

Hugo nibbles on the inside of his lip as he watches her hand. It probably doesn’t take a psychic to work out exactly where his imagination is leading him. He does have a very active imagination, prone to wide-ranging voyages.

“You came to the house,” he reminds her, when she mentions how long it’s been. In case she’d forgotten, or somehow ripped that page from her accounts-book. “We studied the Principia together, if you recall…?” And it cost him another small fortune for the dubious privilege, as he recalls, which prompts him to take another long draught from the claret in hand.

“As for my duties… I’m rather aching to get away to sea again,” he confides earnestly, reaching for her hand in case she might choose to use it again to smooth her skirts, and he might be able to help with that. Helpful sort of chap that he is. “It’s all very well being ashore for a while, but I’m starting to forget what it’s like out there. And that’s before we even go into the joy of living with one’s family, all of whom have very clear ideas about what a young man ought to be doing with his life and his copious amounts of free time. And,” he mentions casually, as though this might excuse his lengthy absence, “precisely how I ought to be spending my allowance.”

“Yes,” Émilie murmurs, her smile deepening as Hugo recalls their fully-clothed and very improving afternoon of study, “we made such progress together, didn’t we? I hoped we might go on…” But he’s the one who goes on; and though she could on the whole do without it she permits that handclasp, and twines her fingers through his with practiced ease. This, too, the Night Court teaches. Likewise how to present an ideal appearance of hanging upon a man’s every word, orienting one’s body in subtle way towards his, gazing at the bridge of his nose if one can’t meet his eyes, varying the pitch of the soft sounds of interest one exhales…

Oh, wait, he’s stopped talking. Émilie presses his hand and sips her wine. Hang on, hang on. “Yes,” she agrees again after a moment, “I think that’s often the way, isn’t it? Those who watch someone grow up sometimes see only the child, and not,” her gaze flickers lower over his solid, well-toned, tidily-uniformed self, “the grown man he has become.”

Hugo almost imperceptibly straightens at that glance, using the forgiving nature of the sofa to give himself an extra half inch in height. “Well,” he decides, taking a quick breath to steel his resolve, “this grown man would like to spend his free time here. With you. If that might be arranged?” That last begins to lose some of the bravado, but he’s giving it his best shot, bless him.

<FS3> Émilie rolls Perception: Amazing Success. (1 5 7 8 1 7 8 4 7 3 1 7 4 3 8)

Yes, Émilie perceives that it’s working, even before Hugo — having thus drawn himself up to meet her idea of him, and never mind those pesky relations — at last voices his desire.

At which her eyes, having again found his face, again lower into her own silken lap.

“My lord,” she sighs, letting him see just a hint of a wistful smile if he happens to look high enough, “I don’t know whether I ought to say yes.” Another press of his hand in hers sends an appropriately ambiguous message. “You keep raising my hopes,” she says simply, and brings the full force of her warm and luminous brown gaze once more to bear upon his face, “only to dash them. I never seem to know quite where I stand with you — and, you know, in my position especially,” she confides, “a woman can’t be at her ease in such uncertainty.”

Well, it’s official. Women are just such maddeningly confusing creatures. Hugo just gives a sort of hesitant, perplexed smile, doing his best to interpret exactly what she’s implying and coming up blank. He just doesn’t have the training or the experience.

“You ought to say yes,” he urges, because clearly that’s going to be all the persuasion necessary. Look at him. Sharp uniform, reasonably good looking, a gnat’s bawhair away from a highly respectable title, and a winning smile. And that’s before we mention his willingness to part with his money. “Where do you want to stand?”

His urging seems to broaden Émilie’s smile; she looks away as if to hide it, deliberately ineffectually, behind the crystal rim of her wine-glass as she takes another mouthful.

Then she sets down the glass next to the oil lamp — incidentally drawing Hugo’s eye by her gesture to that bronze-doré Aphrodite so oddly reminiscent of the dreams he’s been having the last few months — and relaxes back against the sofa and its cushions, nearer to him. Her hair gleams red in the light; her ringlets shift softly about her throat and her shoulders. Her other hand lies artfully idle now in her lap. And she looks up to meet his gaze, always assuming that’s even possible when she’s just drawn so deep and glorious a breath.

“.. My lord,” she murmurs, ”between the demands of my duty to the salon, and of my own dignity, I have accepted few assignations since I came to Marsilikos. There was a time when I hoped,” and she squeezes his hand in her own, “you might become my first regular patron here, and that we might indeed see one another more often. But then I began to wonder whether I was alone in such a wish, whether you had less regard for me than I’d supposed. Nothing would please me more,” she confesses, “than to hear from your lips that I was mistaken, and that you too would count it a blessing to enter such an arrangement together.”

“I assure you, mademoiselle, I have the utmost regard for you,” Hugo earnestly addresses her chest, the natural panic induced by such a statement of long-term commitment and the alarm bells ringing in his purse quelled by her nearness, her scent, and the way her hair flashes red in the dying sunset. “If I were able to spend every hour of every day with you, I would,” he promises. It’s not exactly the wording she’s asked for, but the sentiment is there. “It would be a blessing.” That part he manages, being able to remember and repeat at least a few words while otherwise distracted. It’s close enough, right?

Those ringlets do seem to be growing steadily redder and more touchable as Émilie inclines her head nearer to that of her would-be swain; and as the sunlight gives way to lamplight, so does her artful uncertainty segue into the gentlest of contractual negotiations.

Really. So gentle he’ll hardly feel it.

“Every hour!” she repeats, her flawlessly-drawn eyebrows aloft as she almost, but doesn’t quite, laugh at the compliment. She knows Hugo doesn’t like being laughed at. “Ah, my lord,” she teases, her silken hand tightening evanescently upon his, “you’d quite wear me out… But, of course, I do know,” and she sighs distractedly, as if only just recollecting such tedious and mundane facts, “we both feel the pull of our duties, and I wouldn’t have you neglect yours for my sake, any more than I ought to neglect mine for yours. But if you’re sure it would be your pleasure, my lord, we might contract to spend, oh, two or three evenings here together in each month—?” she suggests. “After all, if we left it to chance, other circumstances might cheat us of our time together. It’s better for us be sure of one another, don’t you think?”

Hugo takes a final, fortifying sip from his wine, then reaches across her to set his glass down beside the Émilie-esque lamp and her own remnants. It is, of course, an excuse for him to twist towards her and as his hand withdraws again, to go searching out her other hand lest it feel left out in all this heartfelt (his heart, her felt) negotiation. “Nothing would please me more,” he assures her, seeking her eyes for once in his life, “than to know we can see each other — and the kittens, of course — on a regular basis. Do you think every week is too much?”

Her other hand, which is resting upon her thigh. Smooth, Hugo. Smooth.

But Émilie surrenders her paw to Hugo on account of it being such a significant moment in their negotiated courtship — and anyway, he’s so clean and so wholesome (and so rich!) — and when he confesses his pleasure in seeing such a picture painted for him (kittens inclusive), she looks steadily at the bridge of his nose (look, she’s trying) and gives him a luminous smile. “Then we’re agreed, my lord,” she says softly, “to be pleased with one another.”

A beat; and her smile turns wistful again as she glances down at their entwined hands and then back up to his face, turned so eagerly and unprecedentedly toward her own. “Every week, though,” she repeats, “I’m not certain if I ought to agree… I have duties to the salon several nights in each week, as you know— do you recall,” her smile blooms again, “that night when you called me the first lieutenant of the watch?” she reminds him. “And of course I must rest sometimes… I could hardly see anyone else,” she admits, sounding as if she’s mulling over the possibility anyway, “if once I settled such an arrangement with you.”

Hugo’s face doesn’t fall entirely, but it certainly sobers at the mention of duty. The one argument against which he can’t rail. “Perhaps every other week?” he counters, squeezing her hands. Never mind that this is actually less often than the initial suggestion of twice or three times a month, it’s the routine that appeals. “One week on duty, one week off. Barring emergencies, of course,” he allows, pulling a face briefly at the thought of being dragged away from his fortnightly allotted pleasure.

Émilie returns that squeeze, her hands warm in his. “Every other week, Lord Hugo,” she repeats softly, as if sealing a sacred compact— well, but that is what they’re doing, isn’t it?

And, as if impulsively, she leans in across the few inches of sofa currently separating them, and presses her impossibly soft lips to his cheek. Only for an instant. He’s never before received such a tribute from her— he must hardly know what’s happening, before it’s over, and she’s leaning away and smiling at him as if he’s done something splendid indeed and she really couldn’t be prouder of her little Trevalion. “Shall I draw up our contract, my lord?” she inquires, tender-voiced. “… I had one or two such arrangements before, in Elua,” she confides, “so I know the usual language, I think, or I might refer to the Lis d’Or’s own tradition.”

As well she might be proud. After all, it’s a marvellous idea he’s had and she’s agreed to, isn’t it? What an excellent negotiator the young Trevalion is. The peck to his cheek is greeted by an even broader smile, dimples deepening, and he takes a moment to lift both her hands to his lips by way of reply. For once in the young man’s life, he is blessedly silent. Silent, agreeable, clean, willing… it’s possible he’s the perfect patron. He’s even got enough savvy left about him when she mentions the contract to release her hands from his grip and settle back, admittedly a little closer into her side, but freeing her to begin the necessary paperwork.

The contract thus signed is slanted in Émilie’s favour — how not? If Hugo dies tomorrow, House Trevalion will still be paying her agreed stipend for eighteen months to come.

But to a confident and lordly young sailor of twenty, accustomed since his birth never to count the cost of anything he sincerely desires, it’s all just numbers, devoid of any particular meaning. Whereas the opulent redhead pouring his wine and consulting his views and resting her manicured hand upon his arm whenever she looks up into his eyes with a question, is a very real creature, fragrant and warm, full of a promise he’d just as soon have down on paper. Surely, in making such a commitment to him, she deserves every protection. And surely, by naming for him the next night they’ll spend together, she deserves his true gratitude.

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