(1938-11-14) Time, Unlimited
Details for Time, Unlimited
Summary: Deprived of the company she most desired, Fabia ends up having a drink or two in the Leaky Cauldron and striking up a friendship with the bartender, Reece.
Date: November 14th, 1938
Location: The Leaky Cauldron
Related: Fabia is still upset and on edge at the beginning because of events related in Family Emergency.

The Leaky Cauldron

This cramped, angular room is the taproom of the Leaky Cauldron. A long bar runs along one side of the room, plain wooden stools set out before it. Smoke from pipes and candles fills the air. The patrons of this curious little bar, many of them elderly, sit hunched over their mugs at the tables. Waitresses, sometimes coined "wenches", bustle back and forth bearing trays of food and mugs of ale. Many of the people seem strangely out of place, dressed in cloaks and floppy hats, as if they stumbled out of another century. Notably absent are any modern Muggle devices or electricity, the lighting all provided by lanterns and chandeliers.

A London afternoon. A telephone box in Charing Cross Road, and a woman in lustrous furs begging again and again to be connected with the same number. Not a number the operator would expect a woman to be ringing, at that…

Fabia's suede-gloved hand finally, tremblingly, replaces the receiver.

Her tulip gentleman is away in the country for the night; that was her first call, to the Dorchester Hotel. And now her best friend isn't answering. As well as she knows Corina's perfect white body, it isn't difficult to imagine her locked in the embrace of an unknown man paying for the privilege; when Fabia would have given… Well, whatever it is she has, that Corina Silver seems to find enticing. She isn't terribly certain, just now, what that might be.

There's a small queue next to the telephone box; two gentleman and a lady, frowning at Fabia, who wasn't aware of them until, clasping her little turquoise handbag tightly in one hand, she unlatches the door and steps out. She has the presence of mind to murmur "So terribly sorry—" as she passes.

It's but a few blocks to the Leaky Cauldron, and from there, home ought to be easy to reach. But as Fabia stands before the fireplace, with her extra larger glove pulled on over her good one, and her hand full of powder — she can't do it. The Floo always makes her so nervous. She must have at least one drink before she can manage it, and the martini which slipped luxuriously down her throat while she was dressing (in her darkest red lingerie, her most shimmering evening gown, stockings patterned with the silhouettes of a pair of hands adjusting her seams, tiny flowers in her hair and a fortune in diamonds — hardly knowing whether it was for Jasper or for Corina) has worn off. The powder crumbles from her fingers, onto the flagstones rather than into the flames.

A queue has assembled behind her here too, in the moments she's spent deliberating and losing her courage. "So terribly sorry—" She moves away, shaking her head, stripping off her Floo glove (an innovation of Frid's, after the first half-a-dozen right-hand gloves were wrecked beyond laundering) and shoving it into her bag, awfully cross with herself but knowing the remedy.

She slips up onto a barstool, the heels of her shoes hooking over its crosspiece. Small woman, big coat, very red lips. She waves to a figure behind the bar and, once this figure is opposite her, orders without quite looking into his face. "Would you please make me a martini, three parts gin and one part dry vermouth, very well shaken, and… and three olives in it…"

The barman smiles across the bar to Fabia, a calm warmth positively emanating from the man. "I can do the gin," he says in a voice as smooth as silk. "I may even be able to find some olives in the kitchen, and I will gladly shake all you like. I'm afraid we don't vermouth in stock, but if you're willing to take a leap of faith, I can substitute a mixture of nettle wine and daisyroot draught that might surprise you. What do you say?" Already, he is taking down the lightest goblet he can find — the closest thing the Cauldron has to a martini glass, and fetching a bottle of gin from the back shelf.

The complexity of his answer finally brings Fabia's eyes up to his, in the moment when he sets the bottle of gin on the bar: hers are large, emerald green, and unhappy. "Well… If it's similar, then, yes, please," she asks in a very small voice. Upper middle class British, with an accent on one or two words.

Reece nods perfunctorily, handling the bottles as easily as if he were waving paper kites in the air. The concoction is shaken and poured. But before serving it, he draws his wand and points to the kitchen. "Accio olives," he intones, and within moments, a jar of the blessing little green treats is sailing through the air into his hand. Impaling one, two, three olives on a long skewer, he places them delicately into the goblet, and sets the entire thing down before Fabia. "Your refreshment, mademoiselle."

Fabia draws her lower lip between her teeth as the olives are so ruthlessly speared; and then lifts the goblet to her carmine lips and sips from it. The taste is… more than satisfactory, to her desperate palate. "Thank you, sweetie," she says at last, looking straight up into Reece's face; her expression shifts, as though she has suddenly become aware of something which hadn't been apparent to her till now. The goblet is in one hand; the other sits loose, wrist up, upon the edge of the bar, next to her turquoise handbag. "It's a very clever substitution. I shall have to remember it, in case…"

Reece dips his head graciously. "I'm just delighted that it satisfies. I get the feeling you could use it. In fact, I can offer a little something else to add to your drink, if you would like it." From somewhere beneath the counter, he has palmed a few tiny vials, each bearing a small, parchment label with elegant hand-written calligraphy upon them. "Relaxation Draught, perhaps? Or a touch of Liquid Mellow? Maybe an Introspection Infusion, to lend some clarity to tackle a problem on your mind."

Fabia's green eyes blink. She hadn't anticipated; although, in a magical pub… She lets her eyelashes fall to her cheeks, shutting herself away for a few seconds in an inner world, trying to think as clearly as she can about the sensations still rushing through her and making her heart beat so quickly in her chest… "Liquid Mellow?" she asks softly, as though seeking Reece's opinion. "I know what's wrong, I just don't want to…"

Reece nods in understand. "Ahhh. Then you've chosen well." He puts away the other two vials, holding up the one full of pale yellow elixir. "It can help your troubles seem a little less daunting." He pulls the stopper from the little bottle, holding it over her drink, awaiting a sign of approval.

An instant later, a wholehearted nod; when has Fabia Fairfax ever refused an interesting new substance? She has rushed through the Leaky Cauldron at top speed so many times these past few weeks; as she raises her glass to her lips and drinks deeply, the gin and its various additives sliding easily down her throat, she almost wishes she'd lingered before now, to taste of the equilibrium offered her by this rather nice-looking young man…

Half the martini gone, all at once, she sets her glass upon the bar and says to him, "Thank you. I needed that rather badly, I'm afraid…" But what is that sensation stealing through her body? Her shoulders seem already to be relaxing beneath her furs; perhaps it's the potion, perhaps it's merely the thought of it.

As he puts away a wine bottle, Reece watches Fabia with a smile that hints at triumph. Another satisfied customer, indeed. He takes a moment away to refill another customer's drink. But the bar is fairly empty at the moment, and he has soon returned to Fabia, leaning up against the partition separating one half of the bar from the other. "Care to talk about it?" Like any good barman, he swings that door wide open, inviting the troubles of strangers to be laid out before him.

"Oh, sweetie," Fabia sighs, with a roll of her eyes and a curve of her lips which indicates appreciation of the gesture, "there's nothing to talk about… My evening shan't be all it might have been, that's all."

Reece reaches under the bar again, producing a wooden box filled with long, hand-rolled cigarettes — likely filled with some sort of magical tobacco…or other herb. He lifts his brow, offering the box toward Fabia. "Are you sure? Forgive me if I'm prying. But I'm an old hand at this. I can usually sense when someone is carrying a burden."

Normally Fabia wouldn't smoke so early in the day — but if a gentleman offers her cigarettes… Yes, she takes one. "I'm all right," she insists, "it's just that — people can be so complicated…" She brings the cigarette to her lips, and looks about for a light.

Reece draws his wand, holding sideways so it is pointed at the end of the cigarette, but not at Fabia's face. "Incendio," he murmurs, and there is a brief flash of fire. He offers a sigh of understanding, nodding. "By their very nature, yes. Though, I suppose people wouldn't be so interesting if they were otherwise."

At the sudden flame Fabia smiles, drawing deeply upon the cigarette; and then unfastens the clasp of her handbag to fish in it for a cigarette-holder. She didn't pack the bag herself, Frid did, she has no idea what's in it, but… There. Twelve inches of ebony. After breathing out two perfect smoke rings she fits cigarette into holder, and keeps it between the second and third fingers of her left hand whilst lifting her glass to her lips with her right. Once more, she drinks deeply. The sense of calm deepens within her. She's slow to put down her glass. "You are," she breathes, finding Reece's eyes again, "a most talented gentleman. I mean, if this is a sampling of your efforts…"

Reece dips his head again as he closes the box and tucks it away. "Grazie. I cannot claim credit for the herbs," he gestures to the cigarette, "but the elixirs are my own concoctions." He braces his elbows on the bar in a casual lean, and offers his hand to her, palm angled slightly upward. "Reece."

She puts down her glass; her hand, long-fingered and elegant, manicured and diamonded, though it shows her years — slips into his, and will remain there as long as he cares to hold it. "Prego. Fabia. How do you do, Reece?"

Reece takes a guess that Fabia is the sort of woman that enjoys having her hand kissed, and lifts her hand to do just that. "Fabia. Of course your name is Fabia. A beautiful name for a beautiful lady." Perhaps sensing her inclination, he continues to hold her hand for the time being, albeit lightly, that she might easily draw it away without awkwardness. "I would ask where you were headed tonight, but you look so natural in diamonds that I am forced to assume this is not uncommon attire for you."

Oh, Fabia's hand stays exactly where it is. Having smiled rather smugly at the touch of his lips upon the back of it, she laughs quietly. "I had hoped to meet someone — but it wasn't a plan agreed in advance, only a hope… And a mistake. Alas, he has gone into the country; and now what am I to do?" She shrugs extravagantly, and brings her glass to her lips with her left hand this time, the cigarette still held neatly in the same hand though the ash is burning, burning.

"Unfortunate for you, but fortunate for me. Now I get to enjoy the charming company of Lady Fabia." Reece smiles. But at the sound of a gruff voice grumbling back in the kitchen, Reece reluctantly lays both hands flat on the countertop, giving her an apologetic wince. "I've seen you come through here before, but I never see you stay. I'm glad you've finally decided to slow your steps for an evening."

Her eyes widen; she sips again, quickly, sets down the glass, then draws upon the cigarette. Upon her smoky breath, the words: "I'm dreadful, aren't I? I just use the Floo and run straight out… But I'm always late to meet someone or another… At least, I was," her shoulders shift beneath her heavy for coat, "till I had no one to meet at all, and met you instead. Heavens, do you get in trouble for talking too long to one person? I shouldn't like to get you in any trouble…" Her lips make a little 'o'. "I seem to be in trouble so much myself lately that I know just what it's like…"

Reece shakes his head, waving a hand. "No, it's fine. We're slow, so conversation is expected." He leans in conspiratorially, lowering his voice, "Holding a customer's hand, however, might raise old Mick's bushy eyebrow, though." He gives her a mischievous smirk. "Surely you cannot be in so much trouble. People must fall all over themselves trying to please a woman like you."

"Oh, if only they did," Fabia breathes, shrugging again. Mirroring Reece, she leans a little closer over her smoking cigarette to murmur, confidentially, "But no one seems to think of it… Instead they quarrel, or misunderstand one another, and I'm left trying to explain and make peace, when I had much rather have a drink and be comfortable." She is, by now, two-thirds of the way through her drink, and quite comfortable. Bless Reece's elixir.

Reece offers a sympathetic frown. "That is a precarious position to be in, between feuding friends. I don't much about the dynamic of your circle, but I strongly suspect you are the center of gravity among your friends. They will orbit you regardless of their own issues. If you wish for peace, it may be that only you can make it happen."

When her hand was relinquished a moment ago, Fabia didn't reclaim charge of it quite immediately; she was reluctant in transferring her drink into it, and now that only a mouthful or two remains in the goblet, she sets it down upon the bar and lets her hand uncurl palm-up upon the bar. Her eyes haven't left Reece's face. "I hope I can," she says frankly, "but not tonight… It sounds awfully selfish, but tonight I wished only to amuse myself."

"Everyone must occasionally tend to their own peace of mind," the gentle bartender assures her. "We cannot be of help to others if we, ourselves, are unbalanced." Taking note of the hinting hand, and hearing the sounds of Mick growing more distant, he obligingly goes to place his hand in hers again, but pauses just short and points to her goblet. "Would you care for another? Or perhaps something else?"

Fabia's fingers were decorously limp and unresponsive the first time; now, without too much of an excuse, they curve snugly about his, so that he can just barely feel her manicured nails against the back of his hand. "Oh," she breathes, "just the same, again… Please." She flashes him a very encouraging smile. Oh. But she must let go in order to obtain another drink. What is she to do?

Reece glances down at his hand 'ensnared' in her own. Chuckling softly to himself, he takes out his wand once again. With a few Summoning Charms, carefully timed to drop his wand to catch the flying bottles, he summons the various ingredients he needs, and mixes her drink one-handed.

It may in the narrowest technical sense be the bottles upon which Reece is working his magic; but it's Fabia who is enchanted. The martini ingredients floating in the air entertain her so thoroughly (eyes dancing, lips parted in a widening smile, a faint sheen of perspiration upon her face) that she forgets to look at him, and simply squeezes his hand once or twice as her drink comes closer and closer to its completion… And then the glass is before her; and she raises it to him. "Bless you, sweetie," is her toast, after which she drinks delightedly. "Heavens. It's just the same. I'd say you were a positive wizard but that would positively be belabouring the point. Do you do everything so deftly?" She blinks at him. "I wonder sometimes, you know, how it can even be possible…" Another sip. "Oh, heavens, it's marvelous. I was going to go home but I'm not sure I want to now that I've tasted your drinks…" She lifts just one shoulder; her coat shifts, revealing a little extra sparkle.

Reece's face colours slightly, though it is barely noticeable through his darker complexion. Still, the boyish smile gives it away. "You are very complimentary. Thank you. I work very hard to always improve my technique, particularly when it comes to mixology. So, I can look forward to keeping your company a bit longer, then?" Before she can answer, his attention is drawn down the bar, where an empty glass awaits a refill. "Excuse me for just a moment."

"Mmm, yes," Fabia admits, her keenly attentive eyes noting that she seems to have had some sort of effect, "a little—" And then he's called away, and her fingertips curve up into the palm of his hand as it draws away. A parting caress, if he cares to take it as such. Well, his presence is awfully pleasant; and his drinks just heaven… She's somewhat relieved to have one before her, to keep her company, between drags upon her rather unusual herbal cigarette, while she looks at nothing in particular and yet is somewhat alert to his whereabouts. How long it takes him to come back, that will mean something to her.

Reece does have a job to do. But blessedly, that job isn't very demanding tonight. The other customer's drink is filled, but he seems content to sit alone with his thoughts…especially after a dash of Reece's Introspection Infusion. Suddenly, there he is again, letting his hand linger near Fabia's on the bar-top, presuming nothing. "Where were we?"

And Fabia stubs out her cigarette in the ashtray which he has thoughtfully left close at hand. It's her left hand, rather than her right, which Reece held before; she lets it fall next to his, their smallest fingers just touching. "Where?" she repeats, and laughs softly, a sound which begins in the back of her throat and progresses as far as his ears and no farther. "Well, I'm not quite sure…"

A glow shines in Reece's dark eyes, and for a moment, his utter enchantment shows through his relaxed demeanour. "Fabia…if I didn't know better — and it's like that I do not — I would think you've been flirting with me." He gently takes her hand in his. Leaning on his elbows again, he clasps both hands around hers, lightly stroking his fingertips along her palm.

"Well, Reece…" Her hand curves within his grasp, responding instinctively to each stroke of his fingers. "I'm pleased you noticed — eventually." And she sits up straighter on her stool, the low-cut silver lame gown visible beneath her sable coat brushing against the bar as she murmurs to him, so discreetly, "It's all right, you know, if you're just being polite. But tell me now, if you are…" It's safe to say it, because she rather thinks it's not true. A polite man might hold her hand, but only a curious man would… Mmh. Her hand tries to close; it's a reflex, and she deliberately opens it again.

Reece frowns, though his eyes keep smiling. "Fabia, I make it a policy to be polite. But I also make it a policy never to deceive." He lifts her hand again to place a gentle kiss just above the knuckle. "Of course, I am on the job. So…my time is limited."

Fabia catches her breath as his lips touch her skin; it's not difficult to see that her appreciation of the touch is real and physical. She exhales, and suddenly isn't sitting quite so straight upon the barstool, as though a little of the amusement has gone out of her. "What a shame," she says lightly, "my time is unlimited tonight, as I think I mentioned." She lifts the goblet to her lips, and drains what's left in it. "I really don't know what I'm going to do with it all."

Reece continues to rub his fingertips against her palm, tracing little circles there. "As it happens, my shift will be over in another hour. If you can find the patience, I should very much like to spend some time on the other side of this bar with you. I find I quite like your spirit, Fabia. It glows… radiantly."

Oh, Fabia has already made up her mind. The glow he admires so much, she feels just at present she owes entirely to his mixology; and now the shapes drawn upon her skin have crystallised her feelings for him. Namely, that he's a pleasure she'd like to indulge in for much longer than the time it takes to knock back a drink or two. But it's a rule of femininity that she can't grant such a concession — an hour of her time! — without exacting a price… What can she ask for? The moon? Sixpence? No… "I'd like to kiss you, Reece," she says, "just once, if you'd like to kiss me too, if there's somewhere you might go, and then I might go, to be mostly out of sight for a handful of seconds… And then I'll decide." She smiles gently. "Or else I'll go home and no more said."

The unflappable Reece Jones blinks in surprise, caught quite off guard by the demanded price. Still, his smile never falters, and even broadens. Who wouldn't be flattered? "You mean now? Before my shift ends?" His gaze flickers toward the far end of the room, where the space under the stairs has several pillars and nooks one might go unnoticed in for a brief few moments.

At last Fabia's hand draws slowly, exquisitely away from Reece's. She turns her head to see where he's looking, and nods slowly… "Well, when better?" she asks, shrugging again, her lips curving into a mischievous little smile. She returns her cigarette holder to her little turquoise bag, which hardly seems big enough to hold it; and pulls out a handful of money, Muggle and wizarding currency mixed, which she frowns at as it rests in her palm. More things Frid has packed. All a bit beyond her. But she knows what people usually give her for cocktails when she serves them on the other side of the Floo; and she inflates it somewhat to account for the elixir which has put her into such a pleasant frame of mind. She hopes it's more or less correct. Neither an insult, nor an insinuation.

And then, when she doesn't see anything of dismay in Reece's face, she unhooks the heels of her shoes from the crosspiece of the barstool, tucks her turquoise bag under her arm, and wanders in an unhurried and indirect manner toward that space under the stairs…

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