(1938-11-17) Drinking Alone
Details for Drinking Alone
Summary: Sensing a woman in need of a friend, Fabia counsels Bailey (a.k.a. Atalanta) in a time of depression, and learns some surprising things about her.
Date: 17 November, 1938
Location: The Three Broomsticks

The evening is winding down in the Three Broomsticks. Fabia Fairfax has been present in the taproom for most of it, serving drinks in a haphazard way which more or less evens out in the end ("Oh, you ordered such-and-such? That must be yours, then, let me just fetch it, and give this to— you, sir?") and chatting with people she knows like to chat with her (she remembers that it's someone's birthday, and that someone else has just been promoted in the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes, and is quite pleased with herself for these triumphs), with one brief break to put her feet up and eat a bite of supper in her own warm and cosy sitting-room.

But closing-time is almost upon the pub, and though some of the regulars will certainly stay for a nice little lock-in, with her blessing, there's one woman who's been drinking alone in the corner booth for going on two hours, whose face (such a gorgeous face it is, too) is unknown to Fabia, and whose tab has yet to be settled… Someone's going to have to have a word with her, at the very least to remind her that the clock is ticking… There's a brief conference behind the bar, the outcome of which is that Fabia shoulders this responsibility.

She hangs up her apron, smooths the dark blue velvet of her cocktail frock, and sidles up to the booth in question. "Everything all right, sweetie?"

Bailey has been staring at her drink — the fourth in her evening stint — for at least the past twenty minutes, completely unmoving. When the proprietress appears and addresses her, her attention snaps up, birdlike, to quickly assess the woman. "I'm…what? I'm fine," she nods, eyes darting away in a sure sign that she's not at all fine.

And what is there to assess tonight? Blue velvet, diamonds, henna'd hair in a sleek and chic style, and a perfectly-made-up face arranged in an expression of — curiosity? Concern? At any rate, Fabia is smiling softly, and she couldn't appear any less of a threat. "Do you mind if I sit down for a minute?" she says in a gentle voice. "My feet are murdering me, after all the time I've put in behind the bar tonight."

Bailey nods after a beat. "If you like. It's your place after all, isn't it? Aren't you Mrs. Travers?" It seems she can at least pay attention while drowning herself in booze. Tonight her long, flaxen hair is worn down, and slightly disheveled about her shoulders.

Fabia slides into the booth opposite Bailey; and makes a moue at her. "I suppose," she grants, lifting one shoulder in a helpless little shrug. "I was only really married to him for about five minutes; and now I seem to have a pub. Life is rather peculiar, isn't it? Fabia Fairfax," she says, extending her manicured hand across the table. A sort of test of the customer's co-ordination at this stage of the evening, as well as a friendly gesture she'd make in any case.

Bailey lifts her brow with a touch of surprise. "But everyone was calling you-…" She shakes her head. There's a bit of delay to her reactions, a sure sign of the extent of her imbibement. She takes Fabia's hand in a firm grip. Despite her inebriation, there is strength there. No feeble flower, this woman.

Is Fabia or is Fabia not too squiffy herself to recognise it in another? Well, perhaps she recognises but just doesn't mind. The handshake doesn't discomfort her, she returns it gladly, and isn't too quick to take back her hand. "Well, I'm used to Fairfax," she says, slightly apologetically, "but they call me Travers round here and I suppose I don't mind, he was a good man for a Slytherin, he did leave me a pub, after all. Now," she sighs, clasping her hands upon the edge of the table, "what was I going to say?"

Bailey cannot help a bemused chuckle. "I…have no idea. You were, perhaps, going to tell me why you chose to come sit with me." Pulled out of her meditation, it seems it's time to drink again, as she lifts the cup of mead to her lips.

"Oh, it must have been for the pleasure of your company" But the lifted cup jogs Fabia's memory, and she sighs. "Oh, blast, I'm supposed to remind you that we're supposed to shut soon. Not my idea, sweetie, I'd always have the party last a little longer. But they make laws, you know, so if you fancy another one you'd probably better order it now, and then probably" She sighs again, and rolls her big green eyes heavenwards. "Pay. How sordid it all is."

Without much of a thought, Bailey leans sideways to dip a hand into her cloak's inner pocket to fish out several coins, which she lays on the table. More than enough to cover the drinks. When her cloak parts, it's easier to see that it's not part of a full set of robes. Underneath is a simple blouse, reminiscent of what Muggles might call the peasant style. Were her legs visible, one might see that she favours trousers over skirts, and rather utilitarian, thick-soled boots over more feminine shoes. "This'll be my last. Can't afford another anyhow."

Fabia's French-manicured and diamond-bedecked fingers tap lightly against the coins Bailey has put down, in an attempt to reckon them up; whilst her carmine lips make another little pout at the suggestion that Bailey has reached the extreme end of her financial resources. It's very sad, after all. Drinking alone, and then not even having as much to drink as one would like. Her heart bleeds. With a fingertip upon each coin she draws them across to her side of the table, and raises a lazy, graceful hand to wave to one of her bar wenches.

"This is to settle the young lady's tab," she explains to the girl in question, gazing up with her head thrown back, and her long neck even further elongated, pressing the coins into her hand. "And another of whatever she's drinking, and another martini for me, on my tab, sweetie, as quick as you can, mmm?"

The bar wench casts a dubious look at both women, but hastens to obey.

Bailey lifts her brow at Fabia. "That's…very generous. Thank you." She's not about to turn down another drink, even if she'd have preferred something stronger than mead this time. "So…Fabia, hm?" She winces, realizing she hasn't introduced herself. "I'm Atalanta. I'm sorry. I probably have had a bit too much…"

"Atalanta," Fabia breathes, letting her French accent take over, for the name seems to demand it. A soft laugh in the back of her throat, as though she's thinking of something pleasant. "You're welcome. And you'll forgive my intrusion, won't you? I didn't intend to stay, but I wanted another drink, and I thought you did too, and it's so miserable, isn't it, to drink alone…"

Bailey's laugh sounds almost reluctant, as if making such a sound is uncomfortable. "Sometimes it's just what the Healer ordered. But…I suppose it gets a little lonely at times, yes." As if a shadow briefly passed over her, Bailey's hair almost seems to turn a shade darker, then lightens to its usual hue again.

For the momentary alteration in Bailey's appearance, Fabia blames the booze. Her own distorted perspective. She knows not to trust it absolutely after the sixth martini, which is what the last one was. "I like having a pub," she confesses, "because I never have to pay anymore, but even more because I never have to drink alone… Sweetie, I noticed you here by yourself tonight, and I wondered whether I should come over, whether you were all right. Please tell me if you're not. I'll see what I can do about it, I really will. I was a little worried."

On cue, the next round arrives.

It can be difficult to remain reclusive and broody when someone is so kindly reaching out. After all, the alcohol was really a substitute for company anyhow, since most company just doesn't meet Bailey's needs. "I'm not alright," she says matter-of-factly. "But I appreciate your concern. The drink hasn't quite drowned me yet, so…thank you for," she gestures vaguely toward Fabia, "sitting down."

"You're very welcome, sweetie." The martini rises almost steadily to Fabia's lips; she drinks deeply, and breathes out her usual sigh of appreciation. Heavens, she's taught the bar wenches their business, and no mistake. She extracts the olives and catches one between her lips and nibbles it daintily. It doesn't do to drink on an empty stomach. "D'you want to talk about it?" she offers. "Or talk about something else entirely?"

Bailey pinches her lips thoughtfully, eyes narrowing. But finally she slumps back in her seat. "Fuck it, I'm drunk. Why not. My ex-husband is a son-of-a-bitch." She pauses to take a drink, perhaps implying that will be all she has to say. But she swallows and continues. "His mother was about the only good thing I got out of our marriage. She was a sweet old lady who didn't deserve to have such a brute for a son." She sighs heavily. "She lived here in Hogsmeade, but she passed away. Yesterday. I came to pay my respects. But I showed up to the house to find that Everett has already emptied the house of everything, and now I can't even find out where her body is. She wasn't buried in the cemetery here, and nobody seems to know what he did with her. So…here I am."

And Fabia's cocktail glass hits the table. Her hands surge across to find Bailey's; she takes them both, and holds tightly. So tightly Bailey can probably feel her fingernails and her diamonds alike. She looks into her eyes, suddenly so caught up in what she has heard that all her own concerns fall away… "My husband died here just a few weeks ago," she says softly. "Still my husband, we never divorced. The people who came to tell me he was gone — I can take you to their office tomorrow, to see if they know where she is… They must know. They must tell you. If you left him, it doesn't mean you left her…"

Bailey blinks in surprise at the older woman's display. But she doesn't feel threatened, so she doesn't pull away. It takes a few moments for the reality of what Fabia is saying to wade through the alcoholic pond in her brain. But slowly she nods. "I…thank you. Yes, that would be grand."

Fabia nods, deeply; as far as she's concerned, it's a plan. "She was good to you?" she says softly, her hands still upon Bailey's. "My mother-in-law was never very pleased with me," she confesses, "well, not the first one, and not really the second either…"

Bailey nods sadly, the lines in her face deepening, and again that shadow seems to pass over her. "She treated me like a daughter, even before Everett and I were an item. Of course he treated her like a maid. I was stupidly blind to it at first. But after we were married, I started to see how much he took advantage of her. But this…he knew she and I stayed in contact. He knew I'd want to see her. But not a word from him, and he pulls this." She frees a hand to toss back another swig of her mead, and then, unmistakably, as if the drink were a cup of dye, her hair turns raven-black from the roots down to the tips. When she opens her eyes, her hazel eyes have gone disturbingly equally dark.

Still holding Bailey's other hand (she has, as you may know, a very open personality) Fabia stares with wide and imperfectly focused green eyes at… "Your hair, sweetie," she gasps, "or am I drunker than I thought?" Less drunk than she's about to be; she brings her martini up to her lips for another sincere mouthful.

Bailey blinks and looks down at the tresses hanging over her shoulders. "Shit," she mutters, shutting her eyes. She visibly concentrates, and soon the blackness drains from her hair like liquid, leaving only blonde behind. When she opens her eyes, they have resumed their hazel hue. "I'm sorry about that. It's…probably the drink."

Frankly fascinated, Fabia gazes at her. "Was that… What was… oh, heavens, sweetie," she sighs. Some magical thing she doesn't understand, is too inexperienced to follow. And now it seems to have stopped. What were they talking about a moment ago? She sips from her cocktail glass, squeezing Bailey's hand companionably. "She sounds… like a very good woman," she opines. "Sometimes very good women do have bloody awful sons, though. Or bloody awful women have good sons. It's awfully tricky. I think it skips generations, you know, one never finds two really good ones in a row… I'm so sorry, sweetie," she remembers to say, "that she's left you. But we can find her, I'm sure of it. There must be a way; and those gentlemen who came hats in hand to my flat must know it."

Bailey arches an eyebrow at Fabia's confused response, nodding slowly. But then she is all reassurance and compassion again. "Thank you. I suppose I'll take a room here tonight. You said you could introduce me in the morning?" She does a decent job of not slurring her words. But she speaks more slowly than she might if entirely sober.

Ah, Bailey has said a dirty word. "Well, sweetie," Fabia breathes, "when you say 'morning'… oh, I suppose so," she murmurs. It'll probably work out. The rest of her martini oozes gloriously down her throat. She sets down her glass, pushing it aside. "Come on, then," she says, slipping out of her shoes under the table and setting her stockinged feet flat on the floor, "we'll find you a room…" She sidles along the seat to the edge, keeping a snug hold upon Bailey's hand.

Bailey is a little too tipsy to really object, and finds herself swept up in Fabia's wake. "Um…alright." It's closing time soon, anyhow…right? She stumbles after Fabia, the act of standing revealing a bit more to her about how inebriated she is as the world spins a bit.

The height, the build of the woman she's tugging along with her surprises Fabia, in a distant sort of way; she spares a couple of glances behind her as she leads the way across the taproom, and over to the bar. Ah, Tessa's on duty. God bless Tessa, who always knows just how things ought to be. Holding Bailey at the end of her arm Fabia enters into a brief conference with this most reliable of her lackeys; what she hears honestly surprises her, though if it's really the case that every single one of the rooms in the attached inn is occupied by a paying guest, how can she, into whose pockets the profits fall, really complain? She raises her eyebrows, passes a remark, isn't sure what to do with Bailey until — of course. There's always a solution. She turns to her, beaming, and says something which Bailey probably can't catch, any more than she caught any of the previous. Soon they pass through the Staff Only door and up the stairs.


Fabia's rooms. Warmth and soft light from lamps and the fireplace, and a burst (when she opens the door, and they step into the sitting-room) of the same exotic French fragrance in which she personally is drenched.

She pushes shut the door, and finally lets go of Bailey's hand, for the first time since she took it. Her destination is the drinks trolley. "Do you fancy another little something?" she asks over her shoulder.

As with everything else tonight, it takes Bailey a few moments to adjust and realise…this isn't an inn room. "Wait…where-…" But then drinks are being offered. Real drinks. "I'd kill for a scotch." Please, oh please have scotch.

This is much nicer than an inn room. And Fabia's by-now-familiar, and very considerate voice is asking, above the sound of ice clinking into glasses: "Laphroaig, Bruichladdich, Lagavulin…?"

Bailey lifts her brow, clearly impressed. "Lagavulin…please." She roams a bit while she waits for the drinks, looking over the pictures on the walls. "This is your apartment," she says in her usual factual tone. "Clearly a ballet fan."

The Lagavulin is Frid's favourite, not Fabia's. She pours about a treble into one glass — she was aiming for a double, but her aim is somewhat compromised — and then puts the cap carefully back upon the bottle, and pours an equal measure of the Bruichladdich for herself. It would be impolite not to keep one's guest company.

Paying heed to which glass is which — eyeing them, in fact, with the utmost care — she walks across to where Bailey is standing, and puts the glass of Lagavulin into her hand, and her hand through her arm. "Ballet fan," she admits, knocking back a decent quantity of her own whisky. "And ballet dancer." She gestures with the glass. "That's one's me — and that one — and that one…"

Fabia laughs softly, drunkenly, a sound which admits her own self-interest and yet doesn't apologise for it. Well, just look at her. She looked fabulous.

Bailey takes the scotch with very grateful wide eyes at how full it is. She looks back to the photos while sipping it down to avoid spillage. "Stars…that's really you? Beautiful." She leans in close to get a better view of the face in some of the shots where it is clearer, then looks back to Fabia, nodding, as if finally deciding that Fabia is correct — those pictures are, in fact, her.

The compliment produces the usual glow in Fabia. Or is that the whisky? Or is it both? "Would I lie?" she protests, as though Bailey ought to know her better, as though they'd known one another for more than ten or twelve minutes. "Of course it's me… A long time ago," and she sighs, squeezing her new friend's arm. "Come and sit down, I find I suddenly don't wish to stand up any longer."

Bailey allows herself to be dragged along toward the couch. She finds a place to set her drink down long enough to shrug off her cloak and toss is casually over a chair. Her mind turns momentarily to the matter of the room she was promised, but that might seem ungrateful after the gift of scotch. "By the way, I'm sorry. About your ex-husband. I know you said you weren't married long. But he sounds like he was a decent fellow."

Next to Bailey, just a few decorous inches between them, with stockinged feet curled up beneath herself and glass firmly in hand, Fabia breathes, "Thank you, sweetie. You can't imagine how few people remember to say that. It's always been, oh, you're the widow, are you, or something like that — no one seems to think that, though it was a long while ago, he might still have mattered to me…" She sighs. "Not an ex-husband, though, not really. I was always too pre-occupied to divorce him, and he never troubled to divorce me. I'm a real widow, I suppose. The genuine article." Which thought inspires her to knock back rather more whisky.

Bailey lifts her hand and drunkenly pats Fabia's knee in a rather masculine gesture of sympathy. "It's alright. We're alright now. Death is…peace. So they say." She leans back on the couch, crossing one leg over the other and staring into her glass. A touch of glumness seems to overcome her, and again her control falters, her hair shimmering to a faded brunette, and her face seems to age a few years right before Fabia's eyes.

Fabia's knee inclines instinctively toward Bailey; and then her head tilts to the side, while her eyelids blink several times, very rapidly. "It's all right," she repeats. Her hand wanders across, looking for Bailey's, a blind animal gesture of comfort and companionship. "How — how do you—?"

Bailey tilts her head at Fabia in her birdlike fashion. Then she looks down, and sigh at her hair…again. "Damn." She shrugs apologetically. "I'm a Metamorphmagus. Sorry, sometimes it just does its own thing." As a light blush touches her cheeks, her hair follows suit, turning outright ginger.

"A Metamo—" Fabia breathes. Scotch raised promptly to lips. She gulps down a little more. A very rare magical ability, about which she's currently being obliged to dredge up facts heard along ago, via her gin-soaked brain, and… "Heavens. No wonder you're so beautiful," she says quite frankly, as Bailey's hair comes into full flower.

Bailey's brow lifts in surprise, even as the lines in her face recede just slightly. "I…don't try to make myself beautiful." She takes a quaff of scotch, letting it warm her inside. "This is just what I am. Sometimes with 'fun' side-effects." She gestures to her hair, which she isn't bothering to try to control anymore.

"Well, then, perhaps you just are." Finally, after that last gulp of her Bruichladdich, Fabia is sufficiently intoxicated that she isn't in a hurry to finish what's in her hand. Of course, what's in her other hand… Bailey's own. She has twined their fingers together, casually but pleasantly; she's always such a friendly drunk. "Everyone's hair changes colour without her wishing it eventually," she points out, though hers is a fierce henna red. "How… how much do you change? Oh, dear, shouldn't I ask? I think I may have had one too many…"

Bailey doesn't seem particularly put out by the question as she shrugs. "Most everything. My body is malleable. It's not just colours." She glances down to their intertwined hands, and though it raise an eyebrow, she turns it into an example, as her own hand morphs and shifts to resemble Fabia's. Perhaps not a perfect copy, but she's rather drunk, after all.

Lips parting, eyes wide with fascination, Fabia lifts their hands — two such suddenly similar hands — she's far too far gone to tell the difference — she draws Bailey's hand nearer, then stretches out her arm to its limit, pushing it away, studying it from every angle. "Oh, change it back," she insists at last, "it was lovelier before… Young and strong, like all the rest of you. I can't think why you'd ever wish to be any different."

Bailey chuckles and shrugs. "Why wouldn't I want to be different?" Even as she says it, her hand reverts to its normal shape. "I know, there's comfort in familiarity. But…taking on new shapes, new faces…it's always been part of my life. It sounds arrogant to some, but I have a hard time understanding what it's like to be bound to such a slowly changing body."

As a woman who has been bound for… how many years? … to such a slowly-changing body… Fabia drains the rest of her whisky and reaches behind herself to set the glass somewhere or another. "A struggle every day," she says drily. A beat. "Will… will you not age, if you don't wish it?" she asks, drawing her lower lip between her teeth in very raw inquiry.

"It doesn't work like that," Bailey explains between sips of scotch. "I still age. I still have a 'natural' shape that I revert to. But if I wanted to, I could make myself look younger." Her eyes narrow in concentration, and in another display of metamorphic magic, the years seem to fall away like autumn leaves. Suddenly, there is a girl of perhaps fifteen or sixteen on Fabia's couch, sipping scotch.

The hand Fabia is now holding seems… almost beyond comprehension. She can't disguise her curiosity; she leans closer, gazing at Bailey , as though trying to find the cracks in a flawless facade… "You have… a natural shape," she says slowly, "but when you wish to, you can choose…" Her kohl-edged eyelids lower slightly and her concentration deepens, as though she's trying to think what this must be like. Her mental capacity is not at its most acute, after this many martinis; but her imagination runs like a colt freed of the rein. "Heavens," she breathes after a moment, "if I could choose…"

The blush returns, along with the red hair, through which Bailey looks meekly toward Fabia. "It's made life…interesting. I'm sure it played a part in why Everett and I couldn't settle our differences. But I wouldn't trade it. I've tried being 'normal', if you'll excuse the term. But it tends to make me a little crazy."

One redhead to another, Fabia confides, "I don't know what 'normal' means… who are the normal people, where do they like to drink? I'm a half-blooded bastard who still hasn't made up her mind whether she likes men or women, what do I know about being normal?" she sighs, letting loose Bailey's hand in order to clasp her own together and lean her cheek against her wrist, before collapsing back against the sofa with a soft, hopeless laugh.

Bailey slowly resumes her previous shape, the years once again showing. She gives Fabia a smile. "Thank you for that. Some people don't handle my abilities well, when they really start thinking about what they could mean." She shrugs. "But, I can't change who I am. Well…I can…but not like that."

"Well, you are who you are," Fabia says, pretty sensibly for someone so afloat, "and what you look like is… well… If one knows it's you, how much does the rest matter? I rather," she giggles, lifting a hand to hide it, "I rather have to think the outside doesn't matter so much…"

Bailey shrugs. "It matters to me. My appearance is how I express myself, when I choose to." The topic is serious enough that Bailey seems to have latched onto a thread of sobriety, though her motions are still a bit wobbly. "Want to know something interesting?" She smirks, the drunkenness showing itself again.

"… Yes," Fabia says.

Bailey leans toward Fabia, whispering loudly. "When I was born…they couldn't tell if I was a boy or a girl for at least a few hours." She chuckles internally. "Took a while for the changes to stop."

This requires a moment to sink in. The — the possibilities. Fabia's eyes run up and down Bailey, lingering, briefly but inevitably, in her lap, before rising at last to her face: "You mean you could be… either?" she gasps.

Bailey shrugs, and nods. "I'm legally male, since they had to put something on the birth certificate, and that's what I seemed to settle on at the time. But…well, yes. I'm whatever I want to be." She puts it out there so casually, which could be the drink, but she seems entirely comfortable all of it.

"This world," opines Fabia, with an expansive and balletic gesture of one arm, "is a bloody marvelous place. Whenever I think I know just how marvelous, someone like you, or should I say not at all like you, comes along to surprise me." The hand at the end of her arm goes on a quest. It finds her glass. She brings it to her lips to celebrate victory — but there's no whisky in it. Good God, how unfortunate. What to do, what to do. "Does what you want," she asks, putting her hand down on the sofa between herself and Bailey, and leaning toward the younger woman to ask this urgent question, "include another wee dram? We are after all I hasten to point out in Scotland."

Bailey sniffs a chuckle, lifting her glass, which is still more than half full. "If it provides you the necessary doorway to get yourself another, by all means, fill mine as well." She watches the other woman with guarded curiosity. Quite lively, this Mrs. Fairfax-Travers-Whatever.

"… Well, just a tiny one," Fabia compromises in amiable mood. She sets the glass on the coffee table and pushes herself upright feet first; she sways, undeniably she sways, on her way over to the drinks trolley; the Bruichladdich and the Lagavulin are still standing out in front, and she brings them back with her and sets one in front of Bailey and the other in front of herself. They're back to front. She switches them. She pours, truly, just another dash of the gorgeous stuff into her glass, and clinks it against Bailey's. Job well done.

Of course, she's still thinking about it. "… Whatever you want to be," she sighs, looking wistfully across at her guest. "What a gift. What an astonishing gift. But you say your husband… it made things more difficult between you?" Her meticulously-shaped eyebrows draw nearer; she really doesn't follow this.

Bailey shrugs and sighs. "I can't say for sure. He swore it didn't matter to him. But any time my male childhood was brought up, it seemed to make him uncomfortable. It was my fault, too." She sighs, taking a long, nursing sip of her Lagavulin. "I was trying to live as a woman only. For him. I just-…. There was no way I could live happily like that. Trapped in one form. It was like Hogwarts all over again."

"Hogwarts." The name of the world's premier academy of witchcraft and wizardry is uttered by Fabia Fairfax as though it were a filthy word. (And not even one of the filthy words she likes.) "The coldest, grimmest, most suffocating place I've ever…" She drinks deeply. "Everyone speaks of it as though it were Shangri-La and the very best years of their lives, but I couldn't wait to get out, could you? One has to be oneself. One can't be anyone else, at least not for long, not without bits of things starting to snap. One must either be loved for oneself or loathed for oneself, but oneself."

Bailey blinks in surprise at Fabia's reaction, apparently a bit more extreme than she was going for. "Well…it wasn't all bad. I had friends, and Quidditch. My days on the pitch really were some of the best times of my life. But no, it wasn't some paradise. That's when I had to choose for the first time, you know. Boy or girl. They don't have dormitories for question marks."

Alias set.

She's overdone it. Fabia realises this. But, ah! It's too late to take back what the whisky insisted the gin should say, so she settles for sinking against the back of the sofa with a charmingly penitent mien while she listens to Bailey. Then she sighs; "Boy or girl. How could you bear to be just… one half of what you might be? When you could have been… everything?"

Bailey taps the rim of her glass, shrugging noncommittally. "Well…I only had to look and dress like a girl. What happened under my skirt was nobody's business." There is a faint blush at the admission, and, of course, a flash of red hair.

What she's getting at — it doesn't sink in all at once. It has to float across a thundering river of whisky, and an ocean of gin and vermouth, before being washed up upon the shores of Fabia's understanding… "You mean you— and— at the same time?" Fabia tucks her face against the palm of her hand, covering her mouth; but not in horror or distaste. In awed fascination.

Bailey looks down at her drink, avoiding eye contact as her blush intensifies. "Everything…at the same time…that's tricky. Not impossible…but difficult. But…well…I usually look like a woman, but have the…" She gestures roughly in the vicinity of her lap. "…of a man. It's just easier, since my body apparently decided it was going to be a boy first."

Would it amuse Bailey to know — if she even remembers any of this in the morning — that she has just joined a very exclusive society indeed? She is one of the few, the proud, the highly unusual, who have by words alone successfully turned Fabia Fairfax's face a fetching shade of — there's no doubt about it — crimson… "Not," she exhales between her fingers, "not impossible…" Her hand creeps round to the back of her neck, to pat needlessly at her hair. "But usually… Sweetie," she utters, and sips her whisky. "I'm so used to being the person in the room who has the best naughty stories, but I imagine you could put me to shame."

That requires another heavy quaff. Bailey drains most of her drink in one go, gasping and coughing when she comes up for air. "Aheh…maybe not as many as you'd think. I'm not really…well, it's not naughty to me, and I don't really go out of my way to experiment, I suppose. Sometimes I'm in a more masculine mood…sometimes more feminine."

Oh, but that does rather make sense. Fabia wilts for just a moment. Not long, of course. "Perhaps it's just your lovers who have the naughty stories they'd love to talk about but can't; and you have the nice stories. Oh, I hope so."

Bailey shrugs, chuckling. "I'm sorry to disappoint you. Even my lovers…many of them had no idea what I am. To them, it was just an evening with a man or woman. Only a few…ah…stars above, why am I telling you all of this?" She laughs at herself, head swimming to remind her exactly why she's telling Fabia all of this.

"Oh," Fabia explains, "because we're drunk, and — perhaps you wanted to tell someone?" She tilts her head interrogatively. "People do so like to blame the booze for things they say and do that they feel they oughtn't to have said and done, but I always think, you are who you are, the booze only makes you more so… It makes you do the sorts of things that when you're sober you wish to do but don't because you hear that cautious and prudish little counselor on your shoulder telling you it's too great a risk to speak your mind, to express something in your soul, to trust someone, to…" She finishes the thought with a Gallic shrug, rather than any further thought.

Bailey gives Fabia a bemused stare, followed by a, "Hm." She lolls her head back, staring up at the ceiling. "You're probably right. Whatever you said. I didn't entire get all of that, and that I'm blaming on the booze." She flops her gaze over to Fabia. "So, seeing as I'm feeling confessional, is there anything else you'd like to know? We may as well just get it out of the way." Even drunk, Bailey can be rather practical.

Fabia blinks at her. "Oh, lots of things," she says at once. And then she can't think of any. "I can't think of any." The last sip of whisky vanishes down her throat; she half-reaches for the bottle, then for once in her life thinks better of it. She puts down the glass and picks up a small sofa cushion instead, cuddling it in her lap. "Well, I thought of one," she admits. "What if… you met someone while you were a man, and then met the same person again later when you were a woman? Or the other way round? Would you find a way of saying? Or are you usually careful about — not saying, unless you know someone quite well, or are blind drunk on her sofa, or something like that? And how," she sighs, holding the pillow tightly, her wrists crossed over it, her hands clasping her forearms, "how could you… be with a lover who didn't know? Always have to be worrying about whether your hair had changed or something like that? Not be able to be — easy, and comfortable? It just sounds so awfully lonely to me… I mean," she goes on, shrugging slightly, "most of my life I lived with Muggles, had Muggle lovers, of course they didn't know I was a witch. But simply not casting spells in front of people is very different from…" She can't quite phrase this. She tries, valiantly. "Having to take care to hide part of your soul, from someone who…"

Bailey's smile is less strained, more genuine as Fabia shows such concern and compassion. "It isn't that I hide what I am. I don't. At least not in my personal life. But this is me. This is the face I choose to show most of the time, and other than minor variation, I don't usually see the need to change it. Being recognized is a nice thing, after all. But I don't go around announcing what I am, and usually I don't lose control so easily." She shakes her near-empty glass. "That, I'm also blaming on the whisky. So, it's pretty rare that I meet someone twice, and if I do and I want to have a relationship with that person, I'll tell them. Sometimes they understand, sometimes they don't."

"Rare that you meet someone tw… oh, I didn't mean just," yes, Fabia wasn't actually specifically talking about sex, everyone please make a note of the date and time. "I just thought, if I see you in the street next week, will I still know it's you?" She shrugs again, a little apologetically. One of her hands has strayed away from her arm and is tenderly petting the cushion, toying with its fringe. "Of course," she adds, "you might not know it's me! You're drunk, you know. I'm drunk, too, but I know I remember just about everything…"

Bailey pinches the bridge of her nose. "I'm sorry, I'm probably not making very good sense. Drunk. I mean that it's rare I meet the same person while wearing a different face. This is my face of choice." Not a stunning beautiful face, like one might expect of a person that can choose their own appearance. Though not ugly. She wears the lines of her age — even a few more than her actual years would imply — apparently quite willingly.

The fringe of the cushion is dropped. Fabia's hand seems to float toward Bailey upon an invisible current of air, wrist turned slightly upwards, curved in a beautiful line. All her years can be seen in her hands — yet so much also of her character, and the years of hard and disciplined training which made her, in her youth, the living embodiment of music… She catches her hand just shy of Bailey, and brings it back to the cushion. "I keep wanting to—" she bites her lip, and laughs softly, apologetically. "I'm sorry for treating you as a mysterious and exotic creature. You probably don't like that, do you? But I think it's probably inevitable at first, isn't it? You're used to yourself, you've had time to be so, but everyone else needs — to think about it a little, really, don't we…"

Bailey shrugs, unbothered and inebriated. "I'm used to it. Really, it's fine." She leans a cheek toward Fabia. "Go ahead. Touch it. It won't mold like clay, or anything. It's real, I swear." She smirks, perhaps even getting some amusement out of Fabia's fascination.

"If you're sure…" But Fabia really needs no more invitation. Her eyes have lit up just a little at the prospect. She drops the cushion on the floor and edges nearer; and then her silken fingertips brush across Bailey's face.

At first her touch is high upon her cheekbone, but then, because she can't quite help herself, her fingers part and drift further down over her cheek, before reuniting to trace the strong curve of her jaw. She's slow to remember she's supposed to pull away. "Very real," she says then, gently, folding her hands in her lap. "Not that I really doubted it."

Bailey nods patiently, as if she's gone through this process many times before. "Smooth too, hm? You'd hardly believe I can grow a beard, would you?" She's definitely starting to enjoy this. There's just something about this Mugglish woman — and her alcohol — that helps Bailey feel more at ease.

Fabia giggles rather much at that. "Oh, sweetie," she says, "what would you look like? … I saw, once, actually quite recently," and she leans nearer again, for she's whispering a secret, "in a sort of — waking dream, what I might have looked like if I'd been a man…"

Bailey wrinkles her nose, shaking her head. "I hate having facial hair. It itches madly when it grows." And in her cases it grows within seconds. "So, it sounds like you've had a little taste of being a Metamorphmagus."

"Have I?" Fabia ponders. "I wasn't… I only saw myself, from the outside… I was," she draws in a breath; and exhales it as though she has just been caressed by an exquisite thought, "young again, dancing again… And then… For a few minutes, I was a young man…" And the colour which faded by and by from her cheeks, returns in lesser measure. "Heavens, he was a gorgeous boy. I'd have liked to know him a little better."

Bailey chuckles, turns to lay one bent leg on the couch, so she can actually face Fabia. "I'm sure he was quite dashing. But that's a bit how it is for 'my kind'. If I want to take a shape, I have to be able to envision it clearly, or I won't end up looking like anything I'm trying to."

Fabia obligingly shifts a little, to give her guest more room to manoeuvre; she's sitting sideways, with her legs curled beneath her, leaning one arm on the back of the sofa and her head upon her arm. Perhaps a little sleepy. "Goodness," she says in a subdued sort of voice; this hadn't occurred to her. "Do you… could you… incorporate things you liked in other people? Or do you just have a very, very vivid… imagination?"

Bailey arches an eyebrow. "I don't understand. Do you mean, do I borrow others' features? Only if there's a purpose to it, and only ever temporarily. With my job…I work as a security witch…sometimes it's useful if I need to go unnoticed, or be mistaken for someone else. But it rarely comes up."

"Oh," Fabia breathes, "a security witch? … I meant, you said you had to envision something clearly in order to — I wondered where you got your ideas… You did my hand for a minute," and she glances down, rubbing the hand in question with the other one. It unsettled her a little, perhaps, but it can't have really bothered her, she's been perfectly warm and pleasant ever since. Thank you, gin. Thank you, whisky. "You are quite noticeable," she remarks, looking at Bailey slightly sideways.

Bailey's brow lifts and crinkles skeptically. "Noticeable?" She smirks and shakes her head, clearly not buying it. "Anyhow, no, I don't have to borrow from what I see. But I suppose everyone I look at is some kind of reference."

But Fabia insists. "Noticeable," she repeats. "I noticed you, didn't I? I kept wondering about you, or I'd not have let the girls stick me with the job of reminding you we were about to shut… If I hadn't noticed you earlier I shouldn't have worried later that you might be—" And the humour of the situation draws a conspiratorial little giggle from her. "Drunk."

Bailey snorts in amusement. "Well, I was. I am. Drunk. Very drunk. So…are you going to tell me why you brought me to your apartment, instead of an inn room?" Apparently not so drunk she's incapable of critical thinking.

The snort draws an answering giggle. It goes on rather a while, and Fabia puts the back of her hand to her cheek, gasping, "Ah!" And then, "Sweetie, did you not hear what she said downstairs? There are people in all the rooms… But I couldn't just send you out into the cold, in the state you were in, so I thought you might as well sleep up here." She spreads her hands expansively.

Bailey blinks, pinches her lips in mild embarrassment. "No…I didn't hear. I'm sorry. I didn't mean-…. Thank you." Ever the skeptic, she cannot help but wonder if there is still an ulterior motive to Fabia's kindness, and while there may be hints of it in her eyes, she holds her tongue.

"Anyway, it's not a bad sofa, is it?" Fabia says encouragingly. "Unless — God. Are you too tall for it?" She looks up and down the sofa, and up and down Bailey, unable to make up her mind. "Try it and see," she urges, levering herself upright with the assistance of the sofa-arm, "I'll go and… find you some pillows and what have you. You're definitely," she observes, peering down at Bailey from above, "too tall to borrow my pyjamas." She sashays vaguely off through open double doors into her bedroom.

Bailey smirks. "I'm never too tall," she comments, letting Fabia figure that one out for herself. She knows she's too drunk to go anywhere, so it seems she's making the best of it here. Bailey is nothing if not adaptable. She starts unlacing her thick-soled boots, apparently getting ready to settle in.

In a couple of minutes Fabia returns with a mountain of bedding; she and it collapse together on the sofa next to Bailey. Two silk-encased pillows, both slightly fragrant of Fabia's own luscious French scent, one folded blanket and one unfolded, both of them thick and warm as is only prudent in Scotland — and, extracted from amongst the rest and dropped into Bailey's lap, a neatly-pressed white linen shirt. "Nothing of mine would fit," she explains, leaning her elbows upon the pile, "but I pinched that from a gentleman friend the other day and haven't been able to remember to take it back to him." She rolls her eyes, at herself really. "So if you want something else to put on. The loo's through there. Don't worry about waking me, it's bloody impossible."

Bailey takes the shirt, admiring it. She considers trying to explain more fully how anything of Fabia's would fit. But it's late, and she's intoxicated, and frankly, the masculine shirt appeals to her. "You're lucky. I wake at the drop of a feather." She looks up and gives Fabia a muted smile. "Thank you. You've been very kind to me."

"Oh," Fabia breathes, in that manner of hers, as though surprised and terribly gratified that someone would be so kind, but somehow not really surprised; "of course, sweetie. You're very welcome." She pats Bailey's hand, disentangles herself from a fold of the loose blanket, and gets up again. She stands very still for a moment.

The tulip gentleman's shirt was offered, rather than anything else, because although Fabia realises in some sort of way that Bailey can change — why should she, for someone else's convenience, when there's another possibility?

Bailey's eyes warm at Fabia's manner. "I owe you one." Then she points toward the bedroom. "The loo is through there, you said? I should change. Clothes, that is." She lifts the shirt indicatively.

Thank God, Fabia has found her bearings; "Don't be silly, you don't owe me anything really," she protests, waving her hand, and then, "Yes, I'll show you."

Two careful steps round the edge of the coffee table, and then through into her softly-lit boudoir, where the covers on the bed are turned down for her and fresh flowers bloom even more profusely than in the sitting-room. As she walks, just ahead of Bailey, her hands curve up behind her back, feeling for her zip; she knows in general where it is and she's very flexible, so she's soon drawing it down, revealing a hint of slate-grey silk beneath the parting blue velvet. "In there," she says, pointing at an open door, just beyond the long looking-glass in front of which her waist-high wooden barre has been set up. Probably a mysterious object, to someone who isn't a dancer.

"I owe you one," Bailey insists. "I always repay my debts. Somehow." She eyes the barre curiously, indeed having not a clue what it might be for. But soon she is disappearing into the bathroom to strip down. It doesn't take long before she steps out again, with bare feet and legs emerges from the bottom of the tulip gentleman's fine shirt. "I see why you claimed the shirt," she smirks. "It's cozy."

By that time Fabia's frock is in a heap on the floor, likewise her camisole, and she's sitting quite unconcernedly at her dressing-table in her brassiere and petticoat, stitched from the same luminous slate-grey silk and edged in black lace. She's slender, lithe, with a musculature surprisingly well-defined for a woman of her years. She has unpinned her henna's hair; it hangs thickly halfway down her back, and is being combed halfheartedly. She smiles at Bailey in the looking-glass, but doesn't turn round. "I'd stayed an extra night with him, you see," she giggles, "I hadn't enough clothes…" She puts down her comb, and pats the lids of various jars of face-cream, trying to identify the one she's looking for. "Oh, dear, how drunk am I?" she sighs. "Do you know?"

Bailey smirks back at Fabia, chuckling. "Oh…over the years I've procured a few additions to my wardrobe like that." She shrugs. "Trophies, I suppose." Her old clothes bundled in her arms, she makes for the door. "Well, good night, Fabia. Thank you again."

Ah, it's this jar. Fabia thinks it is, anyway. She unscrews the lid and sniffs. No? Well, better luck next time… "I don't take trophies, really," she says, "I just… remember…" She stands up, with a long sigh — it's a chore, it really is — and pats Bailey's arm as she pads scarcely-dressed in the direction whence her guest just came. "Goodnight, sweetie. Try not to look so gorgeous in the morning or I might think improper thoughts. Christ, did I say that out loud…?" And that last trails off as she shuts the bathroom door.

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