1964-04-17 - The Bold and the Brilliant
Summary: Rosemarie plays the piano, Lucian does it better, and rum solves everyone's boredom issues.
Related: The Bright and the Brave
Theme Song: "Piano Concerto No. 3", Rachmaninoff
lucian rosemarie 


Goodness, the man is stubborn about taking her money. Rosemarie doesn’t quite give an exasperated sigh, but the thought is clearly there as she puts away the bill once again. This rum is definitely more than two dollars in cost. She wasn’t born yesterday, even if she does have her naive and possibly foolish moments.

She’s currently sitting in a club with fingertips about yet another glass of liquor. This may constitute such a moment.

Ah, a different rum, and indeed, a more pointed taste and mouthfeel to boot. She savors it as best one can a shot, managing an action between a toss-back and a controlled sipping. Whoo. Ooh, this…

“That’s very good,” she breathes, cleaning her lips thoroughly as she sets the tumbler down on the marble. Lucian is given a beaming smile, full radiance, the one that seems to charm her patrons from across her own countertop. “Thank you again.” It fades to near absence as she spins the barstool again, completely putting her back to him.

Gosh, that Steinway is in the damn middle of the club floor. The middle!!! Like the sun slowly coming out from behind a cloud, she can feel the influence of the shot melting away the hesitance. The Otherness within her blood is quietly reveling in it; her inner psyche would react far too slow if any feathering appeared at this point. No tamping it down now. Well…it is in the middle of the floor…but maybe if she focuses on the piano and closes her eyes, she won’t feel like everyone is staring at her.

Wait, people will be staring at her. The blush is strong with this one and her shoulders shift up a little. Like an invisible companion, the Otherness seems to stroke down the back of her neck in a mimicked gesture not too unlike what she did minutes earlier. Shh, it’ll be fine. Her posture relaxes, gaining a further looseness, and she gathers the strap of her purse up over her shoulder.

“Just one song,” she throws back over her shoulder, utterly (and adorably) serious; the glitter in her eyes is all borderline inebriation.

Stupid boots. Stupid ground. It wobbles beneath her just slightly as she approaches the piano. Maybe people stare. Maybe the staff give Lucian a moderately incredulous look or two. She plonks herself down on the bench after pulling it out and adjusting its distance from the keys. A little higher…there we go. Adopting a pose of complete concentration upon the keys before her, she settles fingertips atop the ivory…and freezes up.

A hard swallow against a passing push of nausea in the back of her throat and she reminds herself that a good number of folk here will not know the nuances of this song well enough to judge her.

The first notes ring out gently, one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three, in melancholic key. Bolstered by underlying stately chords, one might be reminded of a moonlit surface of a lake. Utterly gloomy beauty, she attempts to take it at a slower count than one might normally, simply to let the notes linger in the air like the parting kiss of a lover long-gone.

*

Given the advantage of the afternoon hour, not nearly enough people cloud the landscape of the bar to make it feel remotely busy, though the very design of the place puts the piano dead center. A balcony in wrought brass and iron overlooks the stage from the mezzanine and the booths revolve around that as the hub of the wheel.

Had the designer any sense, he would have put the bar in the middle and consigned the piano to a nice corner. A Steinway of its particular size can fill a venue of over two thousand seats without need for amplification, and that says nothing to the hidden electronics or acoustic tricks.

Those in their own little worlds tend not to react fast or much at all when someone strides across the floor. Most had to pass the piano behind its sacred boundary, and what they saw with a hint of covetous interest certainly wasn’t privilege accorded to a mere chit drinking water.

Or throwing back rum too hot for a nice girl like her. A cold wind blows over those very few souls disengaged enough from conversation or their newspapers or novels to pay much notice. It shan’t be until the workmen’s labours are tested they really have reason to question their existence.

Lucian retreats slightly back towards the bar. He never quite vanishes into shadow, but in shadow, his eyes tend to glow slightly and afford him a deeper sense of the wrong. Let her see whatever musical possibilities she will from the rows of white and black keys, laid out like the building blocks of the genetic code to make whatever she will.

Is it going to be a sleek heron hunting in the shallows, or a gecko given the legs of a goat, the moist skin of a porpoise and a toucan beak atop its skull, and the rough assembly of distended vertebrae so it can barely stand without supporting itself on a sticky pad paw that chronically gets stuck to everything it touches?

Possibilities. She couldn’t possibly do worse than that one time with Raphael and Metatron on a bender, and a dare.

The Steinway is certainly as fine an instrument as any produced at the brink of creation. Warmth pours out and even the softest notes radiate to the ceiling and puddle on the floor in drops of molten gold. Their lustrous sheen leaves no stone unturned, a tide flooding out over the horizon line.

Quite the place to plunk out a simple scale.

*

The Steinway is the instrument in perfection to play said piece. The music flows from muscle memory in her hands and carries along while her logical forebrain floats in its rum-sweetened doldrums. Oddly enough, the woozy disconnect aids in helping her convey the haunting lassitude so central to the piece. The piano resonates with deliberately struck chords while the softer ostinato triplets dance overtop, carrying along the movement like the breeze beneath a slowly-falling leaf.

She leans a little into each transitory moment, her brows quirking together as the fragile dreaminess of the initial opening melts into a moody yearning for something that isn’t there — wasn’t there, hasn’t been there for a long time — questions unanswered and lingering hopes slowly graying out.

It’s a perpetual favorite of hers; the edge belongs in sweet love for its flowing emotional state penned to manuscript one hundred and some years ago.

*

Well over that if she's playing Ludwig von Beethoven. He of the tumult wracked in the Romantic era soars on broken wings, two centuries separating him from the fated era. What noble compositions rattle with fury and restrained vigor, a testament to the man’s creative ecstasy and fervent creations.

Humanist plagues, dramatic fugues; they are the hallmark of a choice such as this, where fingers slide over the keys with unabashed ease. He can mentally follow the notes in his head, imagining where a fingertip slips off the key or holds down too long. A Steinway has responsiveness like few other instruments short of electric.

What one needs for accompaniment is simple. A stiff drink and a violin, if that.

“One hopes that Guicciardi appreciated what he did for her. Doubtful,” he murmurs in passing to that dark-skinned server creeping up. More drinks to be had. Wine, as ever.

Serve herself. He isn’t particularly given to pouring, listening instead to what might be unraveling in a dark fantasy. He listens through the adagio, eyes narrowed slightly. What’s this but the languid sigh of nocturnal despair, a stately procession with all the quality of a requiem mass.

Delicacy has ever been the bane and joy of artists. Those passages that speak to the human soul do not, in a sense, resonate quite the same for someone who has none. One who stood on the pillars of creation and beholds the monumental fury of existence still, wrapped up in an ostinato; likely to bend his preferences, if any asked, to the pomp and unbridled wrath of the storm crashing through the last movement.

His eyes narrow the further. Mouth a line, he doesn’t give much to the rail of musician against the demands of reality. Let her work out the complications in the arpeggios; he has his own ideas to follow.

*

Climbs and elaborations upon the initial theme give an impression of awaking from some discomfited fancy and finding that nothing has changed. Her teeth dimple her bottom lip as she takes the piece onwards through the plunges in pitch while attempting the delicacy that engenders the primary feeling in the moment. Countering these seemingly rollercoaster shifts is the ponderous melody. It anchors the piece, gravity to keep the swirling leaf from drifting to the night skies.

The whirlwind settles, slowly and surely, back to the lazy drift of the initial poignant triplets overtop the solitude of the chordings. The fragile hope, a candle burning in darkness, is yet another aspect to the piece she attempts to convey, leaning not too heavily upon the keys and pedals.

Restraint brings the impression of a lullaby in the final few stanzas, of tiptoeing in silvery ripples across the surface of the water with Fae-like grace. The final chords in pianissimo mark the end of the piece; the Steinway collects and distributes the sound like the final sigh of a dreamer falling asleep. Perhaps the rafters and alcoves echo back the soft notes.

Regardless, the piece is done. Rosemarie sets her hands upon her lap and smiles to herself, having forgotten — at least, in this moment — where she is. It’s when she looks up across the piano’s waxed outer surface that it all crashes back in on her. With cheeks a-reddening, she sighs and accepts the fact that she had — has an audience and might as well take a bow.

The bench scoots back as she stands and turns about, back to the bar. It’s another flash of a bright smile, freckles and all, and the beginning of a curtsy that…isn’t quite as graceful as she intended. Three shots on an empty stomach does not endear one to balancing properly on one’s feet.

A stumble, brutally obvious, needing to catch herself on the bench with one hand, and she laughs because really, what else can she do? Cry? No, not in public. Laugh — laugh at oneself. With hand over her mouth, she weaves her way back to her barstool and plunks down. Oh yes, plunks — jilting her entire frame for the motion.

“There…we go,” she opines, nodding her head curtly and ignoring the heat on the back of her neck. Mmm, the world is all fuzzy and she’s fuzzy and this barkeep has the bluest eyes. They even seem to glow. What an amazing trick of the light.

*

Where, where to begin?

Musicians present in these temples lay their souls bare to the unsuspecting, and their connoisseurs behind alcohol and fancy suits are willing to listen with considerable care to those who dare present themselves to the slaying light of the stage. Fate has a hand in performance, true, and there may be much that one risks.

Applause comes from a smattering of corners in the high and the low realms, the audience scattered in their booths and tables taking the opportunity to show approval. A kindly thing, really, that the acoustics can lend the sense of a phantasmal collection of witnesses rather than the five to ten people about the lower levels. In the upper, it’s too hard to count from her current position.

A stumble at the bench has Lucian stepping out, his expression composed back to the neutral lines it normally has. Quagmires of frown or smile come later; for the moment, he is lost in a contemplative shadow all his own.

Nonetheless, he offers a hand to stabilise Rosemarie, should she not have her own hastened escape in a fluttering of feathers and flustered ark-ark-arks all the way out the door. It would entail climbing a fair number of stairs.

At least he can see her to her stool and the water; though not the drink she slugged back like there was no tomorrow.

Choices. The Number 5? Too obvious. Liszt? Oh, yes, opportunity there, but his fingers are itching for something essential, more primal a thrill than that. What has he in mind? He escorts that enigmatic person of such good cheer, and then turns about on his heel.

Somewhere across the bar, motion freezes. Appraising eyes watch. Competitiveness isn’t in his spirit, not a part of it, because that would imply he sees anyone as an equal, and Lucian most certainly does not. Not living, likely. He drifts up to the bench in front of the dark, glossy expanse of fate.

Settling in takes a moment, a long step. He stares past the lyre prop for the pages he does not need. Memory inscribed itself on a passage’s practice, and maybe, if one tips their head just right, they still hear the fading sounds of Beethoven as yet.

He strikes one note idly as he sits, and the downstrike gives very little indication of direction. D minor, the simplicity of a plain melody begins when he lowers his hands and his fingers splay to catch the complexities required to match the diatonic interlude plunging out. If hers was restrained, then he is not, not at all, crashing headlong into the storm surge and buoyed up by raging tides and crashing froth around the boulders of a jagged and deliriously cut coastline of fjords.

Lush, passionate, vigorous: that is ever the hallmark of the bloody Russian who so many a player breaks their fingers trying to master the notes round.

He slides his feet forward to the pedals for a better footing, capturing the cannon shot of replies and retorts across a languid battlefield. Toccata strides plant him solidly in place, speed and precision used to nail down every last note.

Rachmaninoff, the third. Convention goes right out the window along with conversation, to speak nothing of the arresting discussion he might be holding with himself at the moment. Unfortunately, all participants seem to be holding to a status quo.

*

The offered hand was taken for all of a passing second, but his touch lingers on her skin. Even the glass of water remains ignored for the moment in wonderment at how it tingles — or maybe it’s the rum talking — or maybe even the Otherness speaking up in mute confliction.

Mayhaps even he felt the draw of warmth to her, the chill left in her wake. Mayhaps not — the alien compulsion in her blood has an equally-alien logic in its influences upon her physiology, including that of stealing away heat.

Leaning her elbows back on the marble countertop means crossing her legs in accordance with society’s standards, even if the entire rest of the look is slouched indolence in her sweater-dress. Rosemarie is going to pretend that she’s not impressed, down to the slip of a smile and half-lidded eyes; she can spot what she considers to be a “show-off” anywhere. She works with quite a few of them, even if it seems like a library isn’t a collecting place for such a personality quirk. One elbow slips enough that balance becomes an issue. Hopefully no one sees how she scrambles to keep upright on the barstool, one booted foot flying into the air as counterbalance all for a passing second before skirt is smoothed down.

Like as not, no one noticed. Lucian at the piano commands everyone’s attention with his mad-cap choice in music.

Impassioned? Oh yes.

Her Sonata of Moonlight seems restrained in comparison to how his fingers fly across the ivory and black keys. Unfortunately, she can’t put a name to the piece or the composer who dashed the tight smattering of notes across the staffs. She can, silently and grudgingly, admit that this is…one hell of a fascinating piece.

*

It's not Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. The contemporaries of the vibrant Russian may be more recent than Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven; the classical B set has a few others to add to the canon, to be sure.

But this one, this belongs to Lucifer Morningstar in that moment, and no one else. Not even the man who penned the notations on the scraps of parchment as the fevered creation stepped forth in spurts and tumbleweed notes gets to own it. He does.

He and the piano, a match made in places purely terrestrial. Memorial scores of an allegro roundel chase the tail of the beat, his fingers no sooner teasing out one conversation point than replying to the riposte from the opposite hand. He has to constantly adjust his position, the success reliant on limited use of motion. Poisoned distractions might ruin the perfect run of twinkling sounds across the staff.

And still it is not moody enough, doing little to transport him. Focus narrows down on a laser beam suitable for the research into such arcane and elaborate things as light’s nature. He could tell them a thing or two, being made of it.

Over, over, over, the whispering admonishments soar up again, scaling the stairs not one or two risers at a time, but bounding like a cheetah in full leap to six or eight. Rungs suspended overhead are proverbially seized and unwound as fast as he can take the course. Which is a bit ridiculously fast, all things said and done.

*

Wow. Really, just…holy smokes. Rosemarie’s eyebrows steadily climb up her forehead again until they risk disappearing into her hairline. She’s never heard the piece played with this level of skill.

And here he demurred so politely about sitting down and tickling the ivories earlier in the night. Hmph. Turns out the man requires a challenge in order to goad him to do so. Slouching again, this time mindful of where her balance settles out, she watches him with that faint, impressed smile.

The animation is wonderful — he seems to be putting full-effort into chasing down each run of notes that echo and counter-chatter and ringing stridently from the Steinway. Off-handedly, she wonders if it is his piano, bought specifically for his amusement rather than for the club. It does make a lovely decorational piece, don’t get her wrong, but it’s…not the perfect fit, somehow. Almost unnecessary sprinkles upon an ice cream cone. Although who’s going to complain about more sprinkles?

Not her. Not if it comes with the barkeep and his eyes that seem to glow in the right light and —

WHOA. Slow down, girl. Even the Otherness swirls through her psyche in passing: slow down. You’re not being cautious.

*

Without the accompaniment of a full orchestral string section, one must make certain allowances for the emotional turmoil embodied in the Piano Concerto number two. The moderato scorns anything less than utterly unleashed emotions, a skillful illusion of directing those mad yearnings rather than being swept down course with them.

The lyrical diffusion of words requires him to selectively mark his keys, flying into the upper register and descending in rapid arpeggios, scorching a towering line across the auditory sky. He bends into the music rather than permitting it to master him, taking on the herculean task of wrapping his arms consciously around the enormity of its promise and condensing it. The first movement breathes and lives through his invested playing, flying around the range that covers very few held notes and roaring codas on their way to rise. Even now he expects the world to hold its collective breath as it did for him in the first dawns.

Interconnections may be absent without the howling violins and the moody cellos to buoy him up, but in this stripped down version, something has to hold the center together. It's neither the strings absent or the man, but the bend of light from overhead around him to capture every certain fall of his hand or bend of his arms.

Akin to watching a ballerina move through her positions or a Japanese ninth-dan black belt in a duel, Lucifer Morningstar makes high drama of the pursuit. He scours out a hollow space to accommodate all he has to built yet, and upon those grandiose foundations may a tower of wonder assemble. Craftsmanship links the staggered crescendos to long runaway processions binding dreams in enchanting glory. Diminished to a whisper, those seductions are meant for all. They are entitled to none. They are a calling with aching glory, interacting with the melodies, beckoning someone out to dance or debate in a brewing whirlwind.

Forget however hushed the pauses may be, the riot lurks behind the luminous stretches of glittering grace that draw his arms fully forth from left and right, and then suddenly racing inward as the tempo strikes a double of what went before. Argument never quite sounded the same of speeding at a blistering lightning stroke, then unaccountably quieted again.

*

It's admittedly impossible to continue leaning back against the bar top as she is. Rosemarie finds herself slowly sitting upright, even squinting slightly as if to figure out precisely what musical argument is occuring within the confines of the expressive piece. Not only that, but…Lucian himself.

He seems part of the lyrical rise and fall of the lilting, charging melodies. He is part of the piece, what is she thinking?

Beware that sigh. That's a rather longing sigh. Hopefully she's not the only one in the room doing it.

*

Blame the furiant acoustics, the surging stream of movement forcing him into the second movement. The adagio dips into waters untested, currents deep and fathomless reaches full of a blistering degree of emotion. By merely skimming down like a kestrel on the wing, pinions brush along the foaming waves. What emerges in a shape of inchoate grandeur is primordial, seething and rushing headlong for a collision to the exquisite third.

But he lives for the storm of the cadenza, does Lucian. Acknowledging its demands, he bows over the keys slightly without arching his back, straight-laced to the end, crashing through the runs along the invisible staff. She sits away from him where he cannot see, and even if he could, the spotlit beam burns out any possibility of his eyes adjusting once to light and then to darkness simultaneously. One can assume, anyways.

He races into that raging storm, joints of his fingers articulating every statement of Rachmaninoff's great masterpiece, painting flourishes of rapidfire colour in all the hues between the spectrum. Hardly a moment passes when he does not seem to be playing three keys in the space of a second, yet the collective voices of the Steinway draw forth in a chorus that soars, almost screams in lyrical abandon.

Infernal complexities to a languid simplicity as he answers the kinetic force that would not stopping him. Is he part of the piece? The piece is part of him, a symbiotic relationship of ends and beginnings blurred. For Rosemarie, for the world. None of it exists beyond the swell of the musical web, but rather sticky auditory cobwebs entrap them all inside his creation. His borrowing, as it were.

Jarring, shuddering melodies collectively pile up in a waterfall, one that careens between planets and swings back around the disturbed gravitational field of mighty Jupiter to be shot further afield. To hell with quiet, to hell with forgotten forces. Where others might rise from the bench to tackle head-on the trickiest measures, he stays nailed. No posterior shaking for him, no tramping along in a stuttery, epileptic fit for the audience. Rattling lines roar right along when he should be tiring, a pride of lionesses on the hunt, taking down the titan of the savannah by dogged intention and choreographed strategies that aim right for the throat. Glissades pour out the essence of what he is as a musician, embroiled in the battle, surging skyward and crashing through the firmament, beckoning for the responding braggadocio of an orchestra that simply isn't there. But no matter. In its spaces, he fills the void himself.

*

With toes pointed and heels nearly tucked parallel to the base of the bar stool, she's able to rest elbows upon her knees and then chin upon hands. All about her rings the beauty drawn forth from the Steinway and it would be an utter lie to say that she isn't moved by it.

Her heart seems to rise up in her chest, beating like a trapped bird against a cage, because she can taste the freedom that he squeezes from each stanza in frenetic runs and impossible chordings. Her own eyes bleed a noticeable amount towards raptor-gold in unconscious reaction by the Otherness, sensing a call beyond the pale through Lucian's imbuing of passion. Another lie to say that she isn't nearly holding her breath. There seems to be a cataclysmic ending in store here given the drive of the piece.

*

Evocative strips be painted by the broad, furious strokes of a master artist. Lucifer attacks the canvas of fairly formed music, jabbing at the vital points until the Steinway resonates with the full thunderous aplomb and bombast of a Soviet choir. No corner of Lux is spared the puddling tides escorted by shepherd moons that further agitate the weighty gravity borne upon the man's broad shoulders and conjured under his hands. Surgeons show less acute skill dissecting the body to mend it than he gives to full bursts of arpeggio notes seesawing high to low and high again.

If he misstrikes one, how is anyone to know? By choice and providence, he might choose not to worry so much about the one off, a touch too light giving the minute tonal adjustment that sticks out to him as a blackbird among swans. No matter. Perfection is perfection, a demanding beast.

The storm wreaks havoc, a rotational force around him, and any quiet of the eye lasts but a few measures and no further. He doesn't so much as break a sweat despite these exertions or the light forgives, but his forehead is absent a sheen that another florid performer might possess. Perhaps the art of the barman is concealing the moisture, but no one will be mopping his brow any time soon.

Three apocalyptic strikes put an end to the pent-up breaths, the duel of the composer and the instrument, a final blow through the heart. Let them collapse together in abandon, the piece slain, the victor before its ashen remains that burn out like cigarette ash on a nor'easter wind. Conquest be achieved, at what price?

The befuddled and bemused crowd seem not to know whether to breathe, much less clap.

*

If anyone knows of missed notes on that, they certainly won't be piping up anytime soon. The final wind-slash of the trio of chords has her drawing up tall slowly on the bar stool. She's part of the enamored, one of many in the flock of thunderstruck attendees; if someone stood in front of her and blocked her view of the piano and its tamer, it would take her a noticeable amount of time to process the presence.

Rosemarie lets out the lungful of air she's been holding for…how long? Too long judging by the sparkling of stars in her vision and she blinks as if awakening from a trance. Ooh, woozy still, the rum holds strong in her system.

"There we go," she whispers as she continues to look upon him, perhaps a deliberate echo of her earlier presentment.

*

It might be a communal reaction. People reach for glasses possibly emptied or cigarettes burnt down to nothing. Food is rare here, but not impossible to get, and perhaps they mechanically stuff it into their mouths. Giving the piano a loving pat, Lucian pushes off the bench. He rotates a quarter turn and rises to his feet, tugging on his cuffs. The coin cufflinks flash lightly in the light as once more he retreats to his place, likely a sensation that Rosemarie might understand. If anyone feels comfortable understanding.

He might expect a flood of orders, and that gives reason to hasten; but nothing short of Death herself showing up would really change his course, or shorten his gait to speed it up. Back to the marble slab, past the stools where few patrons are ensconced. "More water, Miss Piper?"

See? All is totally normal. None of that happened. Time starts again.

*

Rotating on her stool is even a delayed reaction. Her gaze follows him in a nearly owlish manner as he takes up his place. Water? Wait, what, water? Wasn't he just…? And now he's…?

He might take amusement at the fact that she really does gape for a moment before shutting her mouth because open mouths catch flies and all those sayings reminding folk about not showing off their tonsils.

"More water? But you just — that was — that was amazing!!!" She splays her palms across the surface of the bar, entreating him with those oddly-colored eyes to understand that her word choice is far less than suitable for the treat they just received in his playing.

*

Water comes from a jug that might need refilling, but nothing that a fresh scoop of ice won't replenish. Lucian grasps the handle to carry it over, setting it down on the inside shelf of his workspace. Pouring himself a glass might be on the table, once all the patrons are seen. Already the ravens are coming down from their roosts to croak their requests. At least the performance might up the tab a bit.

Slack-jawed patrons coerced to fumble for a response may be the norm. Rosemarie is filed among them without any trace of derision or irony. He shall not be filing reports about her dental construction either.

"Are you not thirsty? The light can be fairly hot and you were playing a rather lengthy sonata," he reminds her gently. "I would have a hard time explaining you fainted at the bar and I had not cast you out on your ear for bad press." Mischief in the solemn facade.

*

"I don't faint," she responds with rum-fueled tartness. "I lose consciousness." But she doesn't stick out her tongue. She simply wobbles on her chair, rather loose-jointed but for the anchoring of her hands. The surface of the marble seems so cool against her palm. "But…water does sound like a good idea, yes." Truthfully, the top of her mouth seems tacky now that she thinks about it.

"Really though, you played beautifully." There's a brushing of anguish that she can't properly describe it. "How did you learn? Where? From whom?"

*

"Self-taught," he answers, the simplest course rather than a particularly elaborate story. Ice clinks in the glass, fading shards reduced to a fraction of their original size and shorn of their hard edges by time. Lucian pours several. "Your teacher does you credit. You have diligence and skill, though still tight in places." It's not meant as criticism so much as constructive observation. "Confidence loosens up posture, mostly."

Satisfied the glass is full enough, he returns it to Rosemarie. A pause requires him to adjust his collar slightly rather than allow even the hint of it being askew to besmirch his reputation.

*

What a peacock, she thinks to herself even as she sips gratefully at the chilled water. Much better. Even the Otherness within her system agrees and the metaphorical feathers settle flat. It always surprises her to find herself somewhat wearied after playing as she did. How he hasn't pitted out that gorgeous white dress-shirt is something akin to a miracle.

"Tight? In what places?" She leans her chin on one palm again, refraining from batting her eyelashes simply because deep down inside, she knows that her grandmother would be appalled at this behavior. It's the rum, honestly.

*

Said the peafowl to the peacock: ummmyeah!

The white dress shirt is French in cut and weave, better than those transparent, blousy smocks that do nothing but shield the skin behind a sandpaper blast. Polyester is the scourge of all humanity. Lucian moves behind the bar to prepare two more glasses, anticipating wine correctly when a different server — olive-skinned, dark-haired, taciturn — comes by with her request. Whisky, neat; white wine, chilled. Easy enough to prepare even if he is required to stoop and select the right bottles by touch instead of sight.

"You keep your arms to your sides rather close, guarding your flanks. They need to flow when your hands move," he explains. "Imagine pins in your elbows and shoulders. Too tight, movement is impaired. How you set your hands, too. Versatility comes by loosening the grip a little. Control is still there whether you throttle its neck or guide it around by the pinkie."

*

Peafowl manages to not roll her eyes at the complete lack of playful response to her teasing, but hey, it was heavy-handed. Perhaps a more subtle approach…wait. Was she just teasing him?! Clearing her throat, she adopts a far more serious air as a whole. Of course, with three shots on an empty stomach, it's exaggerated mildly.

"I see. I'll have to work on this. Maybe my neighbor has some free time this week. She'll let me borrow her piano. Oh wait, I told you that already, sorry," and she pinks beneath her freckles because it’s true — she’s already mentioned it. Silly rum, doing silly things in her brain.

*

Does she insist upon pushing? Lucian has the patience of a stone, but he looks up from pouring out the whisky and sneering at the notion of adding ginger, no matter what his partner in crime suggested. A skim of his thumb across the knuckle of his pointer finger constitutes a calm point. "You're too tight because you've never had a proper teacher or sufficient patient self-discovery, Miss Piper. An unconventional line of thinking, but ask any seasoned expert rather than a dilettante dabbling now and then."

Exaggerated threat of fainting or not, diluting the rum is going to take more than a glass of water. A sop of bread might help, too. "Repetition is hardly a sin. Else we'd all be tormented by a lack of ingenuity."

*

She draws back ever so slightly at the extended finger towards her, pinning her to the spot metaphorically as he delivers his oh-so-blithe suggestions. All well and good, except…the rum. Sweet heat kicks the chair legs out from under her propriety and it lands with a thump on its rump.

Lips purse together against a smile and it’s obvious, even through the creep of blush down her throat, that she’s giggling madly inside. It twinkles in her aureate eyes. She downs a third of her glass of sweating water and ensures that it sits within its own ring on the marble rather than spread more rings elsewhere across the clean expanse.

“And…I suppose you would be the seasoned expert with ingenuity abounding?”

*

The abundance of water under a heavy glass does not assure it will slide along the marble bar and crash over the side, all things considered. Threat of destroying a perfectly fine glass slips past, diminished odds against a thing.

He has a towel ready all the same. "I don't care to repeat myself ad nauseum. The spirit of innovation lies not in grand changes, but consequential, small ones." Lucian transfers the other drinks onto a tray and waits for one of the wraiths to come and whisk it away to the patrons who take their fill of liquor and decadence in equal stead.

*
"Ah." Sensing that she might have been rebuffed somehow causes the librarian to withdraw her outgoing nature to some extent. She sips at her water, choosing to see who precisely comes to collect the readied drinks. It means rotating on her stool and being very careful as to not unbalance herself.

After a time of consideration, slowed as the process is by the sweet rum, she turns back, aligning herself to the barkeep once again. "Have you always worked here?" It's a safe enough topic, she assumes.

*

Rebuffed by the call of business, no more, one that lasts perhaps the space of a minute and a half. His behaviour speaks to the routine long established though the place hasn't been here half so long. It shows in telling ways, reaching for bottles unseen or gauging the entry of someone to the place even though the serpentine barrier of sliced glass panels blocks a clear view. Comfortable with where he must stand to approach the pomerium, the sacred boundary between his space and those claimed by the public. Factors all in returning to proper conversation.

"Mind you do not fall off. The water will help but your head may be swimming more than you realize," he comments under his breath. With the bartender right there, a fool rather than a louche might think of coming up to make a request, but interception by the staff — well-trained, if nothing else — keeps that from happening. "Always? It's been open barely a month or so. So yes."

*

"But…that shouldn't constitute 'always', if it's only been a month." Her puzzled expression follows, granting her a little divot between her brows as she considers precisely what his sharing entails. "And I'm not going to fall off of the stool. But thank you," she adds, dipping her head in a bobbling motion that clearly indicates no real logical processing of her inner ear. "You concern is appreciated."

Oh dear, a little laziness in her lips forming the words now. The glass of water is eyed with a passing interest, nearly finished as it is. Blink-blink. Whoa, the world is rather…spinny. Wobbly? Everything's…delayed.

*

"Always since it took shape. Not always ever," Lucian clarifies that for the brunette chit, agreeing on this point. He does not sound as though he intends to chastise her about the business of the stool or her own wobbliness. Let her make her own path then, without need for him to babysit her. His own nature does not favour guiding others by the hand. It smacks of a certain… something, too close to that which he despises. Denies.

"Do you require a taxi cab, Miss Piper? Perhaps a pastrami sandwich?" They're popular things around these parts, at least.

*

She nods, but it's some distant motion carried along by social propriety. The lag of her vision skews and she blinks hard a few times as if this might reorient her in the general space around her.

"I'm…not sure," Rosemarie admits very quietly, looking up from the water droplets pooling in fascinating shapes on the marbletop bar to him. "I've never had this much to drink before. Maybe a taxi…? Walking is probably not a good idea." In general, at this point. She's not lost to the rum, but it's making the world considerably more difficult to process.

*

Oh, screw social propriety. How many things he might have to say about that. The conscientious objection to mortal restraints devised by tacit consent to bind together a relatively homogenous group — do not get him started.

"It would be better than struggling to find a bus or whatever conveyance pleases you." Not everyone uses the conventional ones he knows. "Better assured you end up where you need to be safely. I won't have it said you were accosted against your better judgment because of me." Summer sky eyes narrow a slight fraction. His jaw sets, some old memory there and gone into the void, a leviathan sunk by the harpoon of truth.

*

She smiles at Lucian, rather woozily. "I appreciate your concern. You're awfully nice." The liquor has clearly put a major dent in the thesaurus of her general word choice. "How would I get a taxi? Are you going to call? Or…should I call? I have change somewhere in here…" the librarian mutters, beginning a rather futile task at finding the loose change floating around in the bottom of her small purse.

The size should make her task easier. Numbed fingertips do nothing to aid in her cause. Her brows dip in a ferocious frown in marked contrast to her bubbly persona as she fishes about. Setting the purse atop the bar should help. Should.

*

"If you cannot walk on your own two feet you are hardly going to be able to operate a phone, madam, and I am not going to ask it of you." Lucian is pragmatic if nothing else. The shadows hold their own counsel. He wraps up his hand in the towel and skims it over the bar, and then makes a subtle gesture. One of the servers will soon enough come up to him, and words are exchanged in quiet measure, a private discussion with a terminal purpose.

He returns to the business of a conversation, another flutter. "Sit still. Food will be tricky."

*

She quits searching for the errant change in the bottom of her purse simply because Lucian makes perfect sense. Well….perfect-enough sense. It's true. If she can't make her way to the taxi, what's the point in calling one? Wait…so he is calling one?

"I am…sitting still?" Questionable statement. She undulates on the spot easily enough, even wrist-deep in her purse as it is. "I…um, food? What food? A sandwich?" After all, he did mention pastrami sandwiches.

*

“You wiggle about like a nesting tern unaware its tail feathers are on fire.“ Lucian never lacks for a visual metaphor, though they can trend irreverent. It would be impolitic to suggest she looks ready to fall out of the nest, a fledgling about to bounce off the leaf litter and careen past a log to the amusement of all the adult birds.

Closer to the truth than some know.

He tips his head and draws on a breath unneeded. “Food absorbs some of the alcohol. You will not escape your lightheaded state. It may help. Water will, and two aspirin before you go to bed.” Praise be to Bayer for aspirin.

He does not suggest she extricate her hand from the purse that ate it. “Can you sit up long enough for me to call the taxi?”

*

“Yes, because I am sitting up,” she insists because, at least in the basic concept of the idea, she is. The whole wiggling bit has more to do with the dulled neurons and distant discomfort of muscles uncertain about their state. Crossing her feet at the ankles seems to help anchor her more in the present.

The hand submerged within the purse retreats empty of change, since Lucian seems to have everything under control. “So water. Aspirin. More water than food? Water.” Musing aloud, the thoughts are up for anyone to grab for how she stares half-lidded somewhere beyond his shoulder, towards the bottles and jars on the bar wall behind him.

“Food,” she repeats with a hard blink, focus back on him once more. Attention flits about not too unlike a pert avian, but there’s a noticeable effort to keep him within her line of sight. It’s respectful, after all. He’s been so helpful. “Who’s the owner? I’d like to tell them about how nice you’ve been. If I could? Please?” She flashes a grin, surprisingly without any hint of self-recrimination showing in petal-flush about her cheeks.

*

This is the moment a nice person retreats to offer their assistance, a gentlemanly arm.

Not the case with Lucian. He absconds from his post to attend on a phone call, reliant on no note left by a helpful waitress. Numbers are punched into the newest fangled design of push button phone, and he covers the speaker with his hand until the call connects. Dispensing with directions and a request is simple enough.

Less than five minutes later, he’s back at the bar, mulling over the instruction. “Five to ten minutes before the taxi arrives. The driver has instructions to come inside rather than honking. I have no tolerance for those infernal devices.”

But collecting sorrow to make into a drug, that’s another matter altogether.

His organizational needs are minimal and the return of soft jazz music in the background proves all is well. Well as one can be, anyways.

*
Having received no answer to her question means a rather puzzled Rosemarie sitting on her barstool. She wonders to herself woozily about the niceties of being a barkeep versus the general annoyance level of the patrons he serves. At what point do the tips outweigh the task of babysitting, in a distanced manner?

She’s still musing, blinking owlishly at some bottle across the expanse to the back wall when he returns. She sits up carefully, only shifting dramatically once atop her perch. The instructions are simple enough, the insinuation that she should remain there until the cabby shows and perhaps quietly.

“Thank you again,” she murmurs, disengaging as to let him return to his task of receiving and fulfilling orders. Not five minutes pass — whatever Lucian said or implied must have made that driver book it — and the man is entering the club. She identifies him by the leather jacket he wears bearing the patch of the taxi company and slips her purse up onto her shoulder.

Placing her palms atop the marble, she carefully lowers herself to the floor, swaying until the cabby places a careful hand upon her elbow.

“I gotcha, chick, nah worries.” Lucian is given a somewhat wary nod. Mayhaps he’s been here before, picked up other patrons, likely been rebuffed at least once for being outside of the allotted time for arrival. Rosemarie beams at the cabby before glancing back to the man with the crisp white shirt, polished buttons, and those summer-blue eyes.

“Lucian, thank you for the nice night. It was much better than spending it alone. Please tell the manager that I commend your professionalism and attentive care. And piano playing,” she adds, biting at her lower lip for all of a split second. The cabby is patient while she straightens her dress skirt and she takes his offered arm. One last smile, this one tending towards shy and definitely still within the warm wrap of rum, and she departs.

— but not before slipping that twenty onto the marble countertop of the bar while the barkeep’s back is turned.

“He wouldn’t accept a tip,” she whispers to the cabby conspiratorially as they make their way up the stairs. Outside, the cab awaits and the librarian is whisked back to her apartment, with its quiet and feline companion.

*

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