(1312-06-08) Ready To Heal
Summary: Raphael escorts Alienor to tea and truth in Iphigénie’s garden.
RL Date: 08/06/2020
Related: An Owed Apology, This Season Shall Pass, White Rose Fallen, Sitting Quietly Now, some others too.
iphigenie raphael alienor 

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.

In these final in-between days in which she is no longer an adept, but not quite a marqued courtesan — no longer a true part of the Rose Sauvage, but not yet free of its authority or its suddenly stifling protection — Alienor is forbidden to leave the salon without proper chaperonage. But who could be a more suitable guardian of her modesty and her safety than a Second of that very salon which holds her still in bondage? And what could be a more unexceptionable outing than afternoon tea in the garden of a mutual friend?

The usual table is laid in the shade of Iphigénie’s favourite elm tree, with tea already brewed and four cups waiting to receive it; and she too is in her accustomed place, seated upon the sofa, absolutely upright in her steel-boned corsetry and a heavy dark red gown. The newer of her two walking-sticks, the one elaborately carved with flowering vines, is propped against the sofa’s arm should she require it. She has in her hands a small prayer book, which she looks up from at the sound of the house’s back door opening. Knowing at once her expected visitors — Raphael tall and dark and moving with quiet purpose, Alienor small and white and light-footed beside him — she smiles to herself and shuts her book without marking her place (she knows it too well for that), and tucks it between the sofa’s arm and one of its plentiful cushions.

As she looks up again her painted smile widens and becomes something shared.

Raphael is perhaps a forbidding guardian to those strangers who might cast a glance at a White Rose adept from afar, particularly if they know Raphael's identity. But to his charge he has made gentle conversation along the way on topics he thinks might interest her. Whether he is always strictly correct or not. Now in the garden of the residence they aimed for, Raphael sends Alienor ahead to make greeting to their host.

Throughout the journey, Alienor made cheerful if quiet conversation with the Second, telling him about the shops she's wandered through this week and the tour of the bakeries in the city she's conducted and other generally mundane things. She seems glad to talk to him, glad to have him for a chaperone, and when he sends her ahead, she breaks into a skipping run gleefully, her white dress billowing in a fairly shapeless summer cut that allows the air to filter properly against her healing back. "My lady!" she calls with enthusiasm as she pulls up short to curtsey to Iphigénie and takes her hand, beaming at her before stepping aside slightly so that Raphael can make his greeting.

The sight of Alienor bounding ahead over the flower lawn in her summery white dress, with the language of her body open and carefree and her veil already lifted back to show her own smile, is so delightful a prospect that it even distracts Iphigénie from Raphael. (Briefly.)

“Alienor, what a pleasure it is to see you again,” she declares warmly to her young friend, offering her hand as she rises from her curtsey, “and looking so well…” Then Raphael’s shadow falls across her; she looks up to meet his eyes for an instant, then lowers her own as she murmurs, “Monsieur Raphael, good afternoon. Won’t you both please sit—?”

Raphael stands back to allow Alienor and Iphigénie to have that moment of joyful greeting. In time, he steps up to clasp Iphigénie's hand. And he helps himself to a seat in a chair. "Thank you."

If Raphael is going to sit in a chair, that means that Alienor gets to sit on the sofa next to Iphigénie, which she promptly does so, with more grace and care than she usually shows. She is, in particular, careful not to sit back, and so her posture is uncharacteristically perfect for the moment, because leaning back too much will get salve from her back on her dress and also make her itch. "I love to come to tea," she tells the older woman with a grin.

Each of her visitors’ hands receives a subtly different kind of pressure from Iphigénie’s neat white fingertips; and then, as they sit down, she curls both her hands around her blue and white china teapot and begins to pour. “I’m glad you could come, my dear,” she says civilly to Alienor beside her; “and you too, monsieur,” with a gracious nod to Raphael opposite as she restores the pot to its silver stand and the nurturing warmth of the candle-flame beneath.

“I have a very important question to ask you,” she goes on to Alienor as she opens the jar of honey, the lid of which has already been thoughtfully loosened for her by Nadège. “So important, in fact, that I should quite understand it if you wished to take a little time to think before answering…” In the succeeding portentous pause, silver chimes against porcelain as she stirs a taste of honey into the first cup of tea. She lays down the spoon and picks up the cup and saucer in both hands, and inclines forward over the edge of the table to place it as near as possible to Raphael, bowing her head to him as she does. Then she sits back and inquires of Alienor, gravely but with sparkling eyes, “My dear, what is your favourite colour?”

This is a difficult question, and Alienor goes wide-eyed for a moment at the enormity of it. "All of them," she decides instantly, even though she was told that she should take a little time to think before answering. She laughs, then, knowing that she's being silly, and she watches Raphael get his tea. "Um. Green?" she suggests after a moment's thought. "Maybe yellow. But probably green."

Raphael reaches out to take this tea, and bring it nearer to him, glancing from it to Alienor with the faintest smile hovering somewhere around his expression.

“Green and yellow,” Iphigénie repeats, regarding Alienor sidelong, “but probably green. Very well, my dear.” Though the purpose to which she intends to put this weighty intelligence remains obscure: in lieu of an explanation she offers her the second cup of tea, more liberally sweetened. She glances at Raphael and judges him by no means discontent to be left out of their talk for now. Her next solicitous question is, “How is your marque coming along?”

"I am told that it'll only take a session or two more, depending on how much pain I can tolerate, but I've got to give it a bit longer to heal," Alienor replies to Iphigénie with a slightly wrinkled nose. "They've been helping me put salve on my back, in the dormitory, and the swelling's going down. I have to sleep on my belly, too, or I itch too much."

Raphael is surely judged aright by Iphigénie. He picks up his tea, has an unhurried sip, and looks from Iphigénie and Alienor out toward the garden.

Stirring honey into her own cup of tea — the fourth cup stands empty, as seems to be the custom — Iphigénie nods along sympathetically with Alienor’s progress report. “We do all heal at different rates,” she observes, and sets down her spoon, “and a wise marquist takes that into account… I’ve never seen a finished White Rose marque,” they’re not displayed as wantonly as the Night Court’s more colourful blooms, “but I imagine you had quite a bit left to do, my dear. How weary you must be of everyone telling you just to be patient,” she says wryly, “and it will all be over sooner than you think. Shall I come with you next time?” she offers. “Would that help? I think Madame Lanthenay would permit a little company,” she speculates, as her vivid green gaze just happens to wander across the tea-table to meet the pale eyes of Raphael. She’s still looking to him as she lifts her cup of tea to her lips and scalds her tongue.

"Yes, a little less than two-thirds," Alienor replies with a little nod, sipping her tea and trying not to be suddenly ridiculously upset. "I don't know that I'll ever want to show it off, as it might give people the wrong idea, but I will be happy to show it off to you. And you were there at the beginning. It would be poetic, I think, if you were there at the end." She manages to smile as she puts down her teacup, but there's a bit of an edge to it, too.

Raphael returns a faint smile to Iphigénie. "Only don't encourage her to take more than she can bear," he cautions, but he must mean it playfully, for he is never one to cast much doubt on Iphigénie's judgment.

<FS3> Iphigénie rolls Empathy: Amazing Success. (2 3 3 3 1 7 8 8 8 8 8 3 4)

At that note in Alienor’s voice Iphigénie turns from her covert flirtation with Raphael, and sets down her own cup next to hers that she might take her hand instead. “Then we’re agreed. Your marque will be the sign and symbol of your freedom, my dear,” she reminds her, “and as I care for you, so I’ll be very pleased to see it in bloom.” Her fingertips gently press Alienor’s. “… It sometimes happens in life,” she adds, as if musing aloud, “that our Blessed Elua and his Companions send us blessings, or honours, or rewards, that seem to us for one reason or another to be premature— or even, undeserved. But it would be great hubris in us, I think, to reject such gifts and to set up our own judgment over the divine will which grants them. Better to accept one’s fortune with a humble and loving heart and strive all the more to be deserving, even if it seems to us to be a little after the fact, a little after the time.”

Which is rather similar to a piece of advice she gave to Raphael, once.

Alienor takes a deep breath and lets it out in a slightly dramatic sigh as girls her age are wont to do. "I suppose that, as Monsieur Raphael says, I have plenty of time to live my life, and this is just a starting place for it," she concedes as she holds Iphigénie's hand for the moment. If she's noticed the two flirting, she makes no comment on it or even acknowledgement.

Raphael sips his tea, holding his peace while Iphigénie offers a religiously-grounded point of view, to which he simply offers a single solemn nod.

<FS3> Iphigénie rolls Persuasion: Good Success. (3 3 3 5 5 7 1 7 5 5 4 4 5)

“Monsieur Raphael is correct,” maintains Iphigénie, upholding his wisdom in turn; “you’ve a great deal of life ahead of you to be lived, my dear. And whether your path leads you back into Naamah’s service one day, or whether you pay homage to her in the other ways your heart may dictate, what matters is that you’ll do so freely. Your marque will guarantee that freedom,” again she squeezes Alienor’s fingertips gently in her own, “and perhaps become too a reminder of your resolve to exercise it. I think I said, when we met that day at Madame Lanthenay’s, that it was a purposeful pain— perhaps it’s even a purposeful itch,” she suggests wryly.

"I should be thankful for freedom," Alienor says quietly, biting her lower lip. "Freedom is kind of scary, though, you know? It's like… all the things you could ever want for the future, but also not a lot of security. But I am extremely excited about getting to stay with you. My own room! That is so neat!"

Raphael nods a little over his tea. "A new step comes with uncertainty and excitement," he says. "I think that is usually the way of things. But so much will be possible."

“Almost too much possibility,” agrees Iphigénie sympathetically, “but you’ll be safe here, my dear, whilst you decide what to do with it. Your room is nearly ready for you,” she assures Alienor, “there are just one or two details remaining to be seen to— but before you come to occupy it, perhaps we ought to warn you about something,” she proposes, with a glance toward Raphael from which she gathers his willingness to keep following her lead.

Then to Alienor she explains in a mild and matter-of-fact manner, “Last summer, after Monsieur Raphael and I had been friends for a time, I became one of his patrons. He sometimes visits my house for reasons beyond a cup of tea.” A wry smile, in which she includes her Thorn as well. “Now, that in itself is not a secret you’re obliged to keep for us. But it might be better,” she suggests gently, “not to mention to anyone that he sometimes sleeps here as well. That isn’t something he shares with his other patrons, and so we must consider their feelings.”

"I understand confidentiality," Alienor says with a delighted laugh as she leans towards Iphigénie to put her head lightly on the woman's shoulder for a moment, looking immensely pleased with herself. "You two are perfect and I am very happy that you are his patron and that he is your friend. Did he tell you about the thing I gave him?" She giggles as she straightens and sips her tea for a moment. "You just tell me if you need me to go to town to get cakes or something. And if it should take like… I don't know, two hours."

Raphael nods to confirm this story, and he sips his tea, then looks up again to Alienor. "I have not been to see her in that time," he says softly. "But Alienor presented me with a lovely painting of you which is now in my chamber," Raphael informs Iphigénie. "So it is possible she suspected all along." He seems amused to relate this.

As Alienor’s head rests upon her shoulder Iphigénie looks down at her, amused; and then to Raphael as he elucidates this little mystery for her. “I see we’ve been very discreet,” she remarks drily, and squeezes Alienor’s hand just once more before letting go to reclaim her cooling cup of tea instead. She takes a sip. “I’m putting you in a chamber upstairs and on the other side of the house,” she confides to Alienor, again intending to reassure, “even though it wasn’t a very pretty one to begin with,” it’s going to need cheerful green and yellow curtains, for instance, “so you needn’t worry about overhearing anything as one sometimes does in a house of the Night Court… The cakes need not take so long to fetch,” she pronounces, solemnly but with the light of mischief returned to her emerald eyes, “unless you enjoy a leisurely walk, my dear.” And, speaking of pâtisserie, she leans forward to uncover the contents of a promising-looking basket and begin filling plates for her guests. Today the lemon cakes are shaped like stars rather than hearts. For Raphael, of course there are sandwiches.

"I wanted to know if you like liked him, and you were all coy about it, and he just shows up for tea, and so I thought maybe… y'know, but I wasn't sure, and anyway, I only suspected but now I know," Alienor explains brightly, and her eyes light up at the lemon cakes and she looks quite eagerly at them. "Oh! Can I paint you a mural in there? If it's not a very pretty room to begin with?"

Raphael seems to quietly approve of Alienor's insight, even if it was seeing into his own business. He certainly doesn't seem to consider it anything to be ashamed of. "What would you put in a mural?" he asks.

“Coy,” Iphigénie repeats with a lift of her eyebrows. She sighs lightly. “You’ll forgive me that, I hope,” she murmurs; “it was simply more than I had thought to discuss in that moment.”

But then the enthusiasts are off on another track, which she follows more slowly, and with due diplomacy. “Perhaps we might put canvas over the paneling,” she suggests, “to make something pretty but not too permanent… the house belongs to my niece, the comtesse de Maignard,” she explains to Alienor, “and I am only a custodian for her. I wouldn’t like to make any irreversible alterations without her leave, lest she regret her generosity in lending it to me.”

"Admittedly, things were complicated at that time," Alienor admits with a serious nod to Iphigénie, taking this all in stride. "I mean, things are still complicated, but they're a different sort of complicated." She shrugs once. "If you will allow me to get a panel to hang in there, I will paint that, instead. Maybe I'll do a countryside. With horses!"

"City and country views all at once," Raphael comments, reaching for a sandwich. "A fine way of living, indeed."

“I think that would be lovely — and suitable too,” Iphigénie pronounces, nodding. “Everyone from Kusheth is fond of horses,” she explains gravely, “myself included. Another lemon cake?” she proposes, already reaching for the basket in the anticipation of an affirmative answer from Alienor. She deposits the said cake upon the girl’s plate; then, for herself, she claims one of her favourite fresh, flaky croissants, and draws toward her side of the table a saucer of sweet and oozing honeycomb. This she smears tenderly upon her pastry whilst watching Raphael bite into his sandwich. Not for any particular reason, you understand. That just happens to be the way her eyes are pointing. “This week you’re becoming a work of art,” she remarks to Alienor; “next week, perhaps, you’ll be ready to create a new one of your own.”

"Yes, please," Alienor replies eagerly, and if she notices the adultier adults flirting, she makes no indication of it. That's their business, and she prefers them to be pleasantly happy with one another, after all. "Maybe next week I shall itch less, too. It shall be a huge relief when all of this is healed. I am ready to heal.”

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