(1939-02-17) Shall We Dance?
Details for Shall We Dance?
Summary: Tessa gets offered a vacation (!) and some pointers on what to do when she takes it.
Date: February 18, 1939
Location: Upstairs at the Three Broomsticks

According to the weather, it's a winter night. A cold winter night. A cold and -flurrying- winter night, even! It's not the sort of night anyone would want to be caught out in. As such, the Three Broomsticks is dead, dead, dead. So dead, in fact, that Tessa is not at her usual place at the bar, nor even cleaning up after the last patrons. Because there weren't any, as was established. Instead, she's upstairs, going about a couple of other items of business that she'd left for just such an occasion. She's not a maid, but she isn't above doing housework, and so right now, she's tidying the room a little. A twitch of the bedspread here, a straightening of a pillow there, and everywhere the removal of dust, apparently.

Fabia breezes in from a quick hop through the 'Floo to London, shedding coat and scarf and handbag and gloves and shoes and three parcels (one of which is very oddly-shaped indeed) — and the first sight which meets her eyes is Tessa with a feather-duster in her hand. "Oh, sweetie," she giggles. "Frid'll murder you if he catches you cleaning in here! If you've nothing at all to do in that mausoleum downstairs, why don't you just put your feet up?" She points, in her usual democratic fashion, at her own sofa.

The mention of Frid's potentially murderous intentions elicits a hint - just a hint - of a raised eyebrow. However, as she's turned away from Fabia at the moment, it can't be seen. When she does turn back, her expression is smooth again. "I was just taking care of a few things, Mrs. Fairfax," she says with a laugh, bending down to adjust one of the chairs. She steps back to survey her handiwork, then gives a single nod of satisfaction. "Hopefully he won't hear of my indiscretion. Did you enjoy your trip?" Her eyes move to the packages, "It seems to have been productive."

"Mmm? Oh, yes," Fabia declares gaily, having already forgotten what it was she was trying to disapprove of only a moment ago. "I found all sorts of lovely things, sweetie — almost everything on my list!" She trots back across the sitting-room in silk-stockinged feet to gather up the parcels she dropped into a chair almost the instant she crossed the threshold; and bears them all away to the sofa, where she curls up with her legs beneath her and commences to rip into the first one. Ineffectually. She can't just tear the string and hasn't at present the patience to un-knot it.

Frid is like a ninja. Somehow, at some point, he's made it back in through the floo unnoticed, crept up the stairs, sidled into the sitting room, and is there, ready, with his pocket knife out, handle offered towards Fabia. But then, after a moment, handle back towards himself and the blade out, and he just leans to cut the string for her. Never trust Fabia with sharp objects, after all.

Since there's really nothing else left to do in the room that doesn't involve opening packages, Tessa moves to the couch as she'd been instructed previously, perching on the edge as though she's a bird about to take flight. She begins to reach for the package to assist Fabia…but then Frid's there, and he's already doing it. "Oh, hello, Frid," she says, used to the man's sudden appearances by now. She's retained just enough youthful excitement to appreciate the opening of parcels, for she doesn't go, as she might otherwise, but waits to see what's revealed when the paper is removed.

Oh, look. A Frid. Fabia evinces not the least surprise — her experience of the past almost six years has been that there's always a Frid, whenever she happens to want one for anything. He's a Swiss Army Knife of a man, always ready to cut the string and mix the martinis and find the missing shoe. "Bless you, sweetie," she murmurs, flicking an absent-minded glance up at him, as she drops the sundered string upon the floor and unwraps… Well, halfway unwraps whatever it is, then thinks better of it, and puts it on the coffee-table still in its brown paper and reaches for one of the more regularly-shaped parcels, which is done up in the monogrammed paper and duck egg blue ribbon of a leading Parisian lingerie shop which just happens to maintain an outpost in Bond Street. "Might one have just a very small martini?" she asks both and neither of them.

Were they alone, Frid would probably express his doubts that she could have a very small anything, but there's a Tessa right there and so appearances must be maintained. He merely closes his pocket knife, slips it away into an inside pocket and dips his head very slightly in acknowledgement. "Very good, madam." Ever the professional in company. He gives Tessa a very faint flicker of a smile, a symbol of solidarity for working with Fabia without actually strangling her, perhaps, but a smile nonetheless, and he's over at the drinks trolley, already selecting the bottles and the cocktail shaker.

"Everything all right at the flat?" Fabia asks Frid; for that's where he was, tending to little tasks about her real home, in Bloomsbury, slaving away to ensure her comfort whilst she was frittering away the rest of her winnings from the latest Thursday night poker game with her tulip gentleman. She's practically humming to herself as she unties the blue ribbon (much, much easier than the string, and will make a toy for Honey) and casts it and the monogrammed paper aside with the string and then the box lid in a different direction. "The— the— was it the plumber?" Big green eyes blink vaguely in his direction.

"All sorted," Frid assures her, the martini pouring into a glass before he sets down the shaker and digs out the jar of olives. The large jar of olives. It would need to be, the number of martinis she gets through. "And if I'm very lucky, I'll win the cost back from him at poker next week."

Tessa's begun to rise to do as Fabia asks, but it seems Frid's already there, and so she sits back down, returning the little smile, her own a bit wider than his, and giving a nod of thanks. As though she has to thank the man for doing his job; in fact, he would probably not thank her should she deprive him of it, so really, this is the best thing for everyone. Her gaze returns to the packages, and there's a little sparkle in her eyes as she watches Fabia open the next one. Apparently it's just as exciting even if she's not the one opening it.

Folded between layers of tissue paper (duck egg blue, to match the ribbon) are a number of dark red satin garments trimmed with discreet black lace, which don't appear as though even all together they might cover a woman comprehensively. Fabia, who has no shame, holds them up one by one for Tessa's inspection, whilst exclaiming: "Too delightful, aren't they?" And then the box is pushed onto the edge of the coffee table, with lingerie spilling out of it in every direction — Frid'll put it away later, when he picks up the string et cetera. Frid puts everything away, and sees to all the laundry into the bargain, no matter how distressing it may be for him personally. Fabia's hands are thus free to receive her martini — she takes it in both paws, as though it were a ceremonial offering, and drinks deeply, breathing out a sigh. She always makes some sort of little noise of pleasure when united with her first martini of the day. (Other pleasures, of course, warrant a greater cacophony.) "You never win at poker," she accuses Frid. She turns. "Tessa, do you like poker? Have I asked you before? I probably have, haven't I?"

"I never win at poker against you," Frid insists, lifting his chin haughtily, before his eyes settle on the detritus beginning to gather around Fabia and he can't help but kneel to begin to pick it up and tidy around her. "I've beaten the lads before." Not recently, but at some point in human memory. The underwear gets no comment as to whether he likes it or not. The undergarments exist only to be laundered, and are otherwise treated as though they aren't even there.

"Oh, lovely," Tessa breathes as she sees the contents of the package, and for once, she looks like what she is - that is, still a young woman - rather than a competent, rather matronly (though still pretty, let's admit) mother hen. She reaches for a lace confection as Fabia pushes it away, her fingers just brushing the edge of it, before she pulls back, cutting a bit of a furtive glance toward her employer like a child who's been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. As Fabia (or of course, Frid) doesn't seem to be paying attention to her at the moment, though, she relaxes, leaning back a little against the couch. "I like it," she replies, "but I wouldn't call myself an expert."

"I'm just awfully lucky," Fabia says complacently. Either she doesn't notice Tessa's covetous fingers on her brassiere; or she just doesn't mind. She smirks to herself and eats an olive, drawing it off the end of the stick with tender lips. It doesn't do to drink on an empty stomach, does it? "We ought to have a game one night, just the three of us," she suggests. "If you haven't anything better to do, sweetie," she adds to Tessa, suddenly aware that socialising with the boss might not be every employee's fondest wish. (Frid of course doesn't get a choice; when Fabia is bored he is expected to break out the cards and brace himself to be fleeced at a moment's notice.) "Christ knows you're pretty enough to have," she widens her eyes deliberately, "all sorts of other plans!"

Frid gives Tessa a strained, apologetic look from over by the drawer where he's putting all sorts of things away. Yes, she's always like this. Yes, he's sorry he can't keep her better under control. No, there's no chance he could. "Low stakes," he hastens to add, however. "I know I can't afford to lose the sort of money you like to play for. Unless you wanted to increase my wages?"

"Oh, sweetie," Fabia utters reprovingly, her eyes lingering upon Frid's — back. "We can play for chestnuts if you like, and roast our winnings. It's only that we have to play for something, or what a bore!" She nibbles another olive, nodding her head decisively.

Tessa nods, folding her hands demurely in her lap, perhaps so that she'll be better able to hold herself back from once again touching what isn't hers. She turns back to Fabia at she speaks, replying, "Oh, that would be lovely. As long as Billy's not here, I don't usually have any engagements." No doubt they've been around long enough to see her little brother visit many times, and also to understand why she doesn't always like to leave him alone. Namely, because of his penchant for mischief. "We can play for whatever you like; I don't usually play for much, though." It's pretty obvious why. After all, Fabia knows how much she gets paid.

Frid knows how much she gets paid. Frid is the one with the little brown paper envelope every Friday, with a collection of silver and copper coins in it for each member of staff, and Frid is the one who sits down, usually every Monday morning while Fabia is sleeping off Sunday night, poring over the stocks and the cash accounts for the pub. It's such an exciting life he leads. "Perhaps for a couple of knuts a round, then," he suggests, looking to Tessa to confirm. "But no more. Or pennies if you'd rather, although…" He lifts his chin towards Tessa in mute question, brow raised.

Unquestionably, Fabia once knew how much Tessa was paid — she discovered that fact, amongst others, in her early days at the pub, when she was still trying to pretend she could take a more active hand in its management — but such numbers have long since been crowded out of her head by her shopping, her record collection, and her love affairs. She just signs whatever Frid tells her to sign. It is a system which has worked well for them for years now. She doesn't have to think about it; and he doesn't have to explain it in words of one syllable. Ideal. "Oh, do let's," she says simply, "it's such fun." A gulp from her cocktail glass. "Perhaps tomorrow night? We'll still be here, won't we, Frid?" And not gallivanting off to London, her to her lovers and him to his sitting at the Bloomsbury flat with his vinyl flooring catalogues and his dead butterflies.

Whatever her salary is, it's certainly not much, though it's enough to accept the terms Frid's suggested…provided she doesn't lose too much. She's a sporting girl, though, and not one to ruin people's fun, unless it's her little brother's and his idea of 'fun' is, 'let Honey loose again and watch the chaos,' which he's done numerous times, yielding results that vary from 'mildly amusing' to 'positively hilarious.' Either way, she gives the man a decisive nod, a smile playing on her lips, before she turns back to Fabia. "That sounds fine, Mrs. Fairfax," she says, "if you're not too tired, of course."

"Oh, I'm not expecting anyone to drop in tonight," Fabia utters blithely. Because of course Tessa is better-informed than most about her… social life.

A nice quiet evening planned, then. Scrabble, perhaps. Frid gives little away and simply settles into the background (another of his valet tricks), hands folded behind his back until he's next needed.

Scrabble, undoubtedly. Or perhaps a game of whist. Or a game of Fabia getting blind drunk and falling onto the bed with her frock still on and Frid steeling himself for the ghastly task of getting her into her silk pyjamas. "It's settled, then," Fabia adds, when Frid fails to offer any further objection. She beams at Tessa. "But do you really — sweetie, do you really rarely have any other engagements? A girl like you — well, it would be only natural…" She shrugs one shoulder at the Way of the World; and sips her martini. It's almost gone. Strange how that happens.

"Well," Tessa begins, settling back on the couch as she considers Fabia's question, "no, I don't really have time to think about any of that at the moment." She's a lot more open than she usually is; instead of evading the question (if expertly), as she might under other circumstances, she's actually answering. Perhaps it's the weather, or the little bit of fun the packages brought, that's lowered her defenses, but whatever it is, she speaks readily. "I have too much else to do. I don't mind it." Well, she doesn't mind it -much-, anyway.

"It is February," Frid points out, clearing his throat quietly and pointedly towards Fabia. "If Miss Tessa were to take a small holiday, now would be the ideal time, before… ah… it gets too busy?"

"You don't mind?" Fabia utters incredulously. To be a radiantly attractive young woman, to spend one's nights alone, and not to mind it, is beyond her ken. She misses Frid's pointed 'ahem', so deeply is she concentrated upon Tessa — and, let's be fair, let's be honest about this, the final fragrant droplets of gin and vermouth from the bottom of her glass. "Sweetie, you'll never look better than you do right now — you'll never be as sure of having just your pick — you ought to be… Frid, did you just say she ought to take a holiday?" she demands, as the words filter through to her at last. She glances up at him, and then back to Tessa, leaning forward to place an impetuous hand upon the girl's arm. "You ought. Why, you might do all sorts of things. Sweetie, a paid holiday. I insist. For your sake. You do so much here. You really do. You deserve it."

A quick glance to Frid, and Tessa's eyes widen. A holiday? It's been so long since she's had one of those that she practically has to stop and remember what that word even means. "A…holiday?" she repeats, with somewhat less intelligence than usual, but to be fair to her, this offer is unprecedented. "Oh…" And here, right now, without her brother here, in the cozy room with the snow falling so beautifully outside, it seems like she might even accept. She teeters on the brink, her eyes shining with girlish enthusiasm, until reality intrudes once more, as it always must. "But what if Billy should get into some scrape? You know he's always up to something at Hogwarts. I really couldn't…"

"That place," and Frid's tone implies that he's less than approving of That Place, "is like Fort Knox. If anything can happen to young Billy there, and can't be dealt with by some of the most renowned and respected individuals in their fields, I'd be very surprised. It's not as though we're suggesting you take time for yourself when the school holidays have all the youngsters running around. Besides, if you can't take a break now, when can you?"

That Fabia was less than contented at That Place is no secret to anyone who knows her; she gives Tessa a sympathetic look, obviously imagining that any dreadful thing might befall a young boy within those crenellated walls. And then Frid draws her attention and she deflates slightly. Yes, yes, respected individuals in their fields. It all ought to be all right, oughtn't it. The thing is that she doesn't recollect being all right herself, and— oh, but Tessa must be persuaded to escape from behind the bar and have a deliciously sordid love affair. Or two. "Sweetie," she insists. Her hand glides down Tessa's arm to clasp hers, firmly, encouragingly. "He'll be quite all right. You ought to gather your rosebuds, or whatever the saying is. You do work so awfully hard — your diligence does you such a lot of credit, almost as much as the way you take care of Billy — but there are limits, you know."

Both Frid's sensible assessment of Hogwarts and their adept handling of troublesome students, and Fabia's more feminine appeal, melt whatever last resistance Tessa might have had to the plan. After all, it -is- quite an appealing plan. She looks down at her hand in her employer's, then back up to meet the other woman's gaze, and a smile comes easily to her lips now as she says, "Well, I suppose I could, then. A short one," she amends quickly, then continues, "Thank you, Mrs. Fairfax." She glances toward Frid with what can only be called abject gratitude, for, generous though her employer might be (and she is quite generous, after all, when she remembers), Tessa knows just how likely it would have been for Fabia to come up with the plan herself, if he hadn't planted the notion in her head first.

Frid dips his head, just very slightly, barely even noticeably, in acknowledgement of that glance, adjusting his collar briefly before his hands fold once more out of sight behind his back. "Might I suggest York, perhaps, or Edinburgh? Lovely cities. Wonderful architecture. Assuming you're happy to blend in with the Muggles, that is?"

Fabia squeezes Tessa's hand for a long moment, and then lets go, reaching forward to deposit the empty glass on the coffee table as she crunches the last olive between happy but hasty white teeth. "The north is so bloody freezing at this time of year," she objects the instant she has swallowed. Her views on the subject are well-known. She doesn't set foot outside the pub unless her small frame has been rendered almost spherical by silk and cashmere and fur. "What about France?" she suggests, eyeing Tessa. She likes France.

Of course, the -idea- of a vacation is a nice one, but once her companions start suggesting the destinations, it's not hard to see the somewhat provincial young woman that Tessa actually is show through her carefully cultivated veneer of worldly competence. After all, Hogsmeade's about as far as she's ever travelled. "Oh, yes," she replies to Frid, waving a hand to punctuate this, "that's no trouble. I'd like to see the Nelson monument; the view from the top must be wonderful." She is, after all, quite brainy, and these more bookish suggestions appeal to this side of her, though she is torn when Fabia suggests France. Because, well…-France-. "Maybe someplace a little warmer would be better," she acknowledges, "but could I get along without knowing any French?"

"It is possible to get along without speaking any French," Frid allows, running his tongue over his teeth and risking a glance towards Fabia, almost a warning glance. "But France is rather full of French people. Excellent wine, though, you've got to allow them that." And with the mention of wine, he drifts back over towards the drinks trolley, one keen eye on the level of Fabia's glass so he can perform his most marvellous trick of providing fresh one just as that one empties.

Alas, Fabia misses the warning. She misses such a lot of Frid's warnings. It's a wonder he still bothers to issue them with such frequency. "Oh, you hardly need any French to get by on a little holiday," she's already insisting. "Frenchmen are wonderfully receptive to one's efforts at international co-operation. Just… Tu as de tres beaux yeux," she pronounces. Exquisitely. Playfully. "That means, you have beautiful eyes." She flutters her lashes. "Je t'adore. I adore you. Je t'aime. I love you. Embrasse-moi. Kiss me. Baise-moi. F—" And then the noise Frid makes is such that she stops in the middle of the word and turns around to see whether the poor man is choking to death at the drinks trolley.

Accustomed as she is to Frid's ideas on a myriad of topics (after all, she has been aroudn him for several months, and he's not exactly shy about voicing them), Tessa isn't surprised at his statement, though it does elicit what can only be described as a giggle. She covers it by clearing her throat, shifting a little on the couch and crossing one ankle behind the other. "Well, yes, but there is so much to see there," she begins, but is stopped by Fabia's impromptu French lesson. Can it really be that she's able to be shocked by Fabia at this point? But no, because she begins to laugh in earnest, looking quite fondly at her employer. Madam Tabitha is certainly never such fun. "You shall have to write them down for me, Mrs. Fairfax," she says, "otherwise I'll be sure to forget them."

"I really, quite strongly, don't feel that would be appropriate, madam," Frid insists firmly, swallowing once now he's managed, thank goodness, to stop her before she went on any further. "Perhaps phrases like how to buy a ticket from the railway station, or ordering a loaf of bread..?" he suggests. Clearly Frid is the sort of man who designed French textbooks and filled them with these inane details, and not the sorts of things that every young girl really wants to know how to say to a Frenchman, particularly a young, attractive Frenchman.

"Je vis d'amour et d'eau douce," Fabia goes on, for Tessa's benefit, "I live on love and fresh water!" Though in her case, it only appears to be water. From a distance. When one is too far away to catch the whiff of juniper. She gazes appealingly at Frid. No pen and paper, no martini, what has become of his standards? What can he be thinking of?

Though Tessa isn't aware of just -exactly- why Frid's attempting to silence Fabia, she's aware enough, or at least can make an educated guess. "I'm sure Frid is right, Mrs. Fairfax," she says, running a hand over her braid absently as she glances toward the man with a bit of an apologetic smile, like one might give a favored but rather stodgy uncle when one has provoked him. "Those would probably be more useful. One can't rely completely on the kindness of strangers, after all." Well, one -can-, as has been established, but one mostly shouldn't. Probably.

With Tessa clearly seeing the sense in his suggestion, and therefore gaining an ally for his side, Frid finally allows Fabia a piece of paper and, rather excitingly, one of his new Hungarian ballpoint pens. She must be in his good graces to get to play with one of his newfangled gadgets. "Railway tickets," he reminds her drily, quite aware that she'll probably ignore him anyway, "and loaves of bread. Perhaps wine."

"Wine," Fabia nods, fastening upon the only interesting word he has managed to utter. She notices the nature of the pen in her hand — one of a box of such pens she gave him for his last birthday — and smiles faintly. How good Frid is to her. Mostly. There is soon red lipstick on the end of the pen, as she nibbles at it, deep in thought.

"And, 'How much is this?'" Tessa supplies, her usual practicality supplanting the whimsy she'd allowed herself. She's clearly still excited, but she knows exactly how likely it is that Fabia would think of telling her how to say -that-. In fact, she might even be horrified at the very suggestion, but it's a risk that Tessa's willing to take.

Frid's eyes widen as Fabia soils his beautiful new pen with lipstick (which can be wiped off) but also teeth marks. Teeth marks! It's with definite haste that he reaches to take both pen and paper from her, practically snatching the pen from her hand, no matter how unlike him the behaviour. "Please. Let me write."

What? No pen? Fabia looks infinitesimally hurt. But, of course, another martini has arrived meanwhile; and she is happy enough holding that and just doing what comes naturally. "Oh, well, all right, sweetie," she murmurs, snuggling back against the couch cushions. "How about… Je prends un gin." I'll have a gin. "C'est ma tournee." It's my round. "Je vous offre un verre." I'll buy you a drink. (This last offered with a glint in her eye.)

"Je voudrais, je pense," Frid corrects very quietly. Even in French, he's all about the manners.

"Oh, don't be such a stick," Fabia retorts.

The exchange between Fabia and Frid has Tessa in danger of laughing again, though she manages to control it this time, merely settling back and enjoying the new game. Still ever sensible, her suggestions are very much more in the vein of Frid's than Fabia's. "'Where's the loo?'" she asks, then pauses thoughtfully, "Oh, and I suppose I ought to know how to know how to say, 'Help, I'm lost.' Just in case." Though hopefully it won't come to that.

Really, how disappointing of Tessa to think of only things like these. "I think you'd better write the list," Fabia sighs to Frid, toying with her olives. "She's obviously not intending to make it a real holiday."

Frid gives his employer a reproving look, rolling his eyes and flicking the ghost of a wry smile as he begins to write. "I think it sounds like an eminently sensible holiday, madam. I can't imagine the use it would be to be able to order all the wine in the country, and then be caught short with the consequences without being able to ask directions. Do you dance, Miss Tessa?" he adds, apparently adding at least a few of Fabia's suggestions to the list. "I'll put that on here anyway."

"Oh! Well, a little," Tessa replies, a faint blush coming to her cheeks, though the reason for it is not immediately apparent, as it's a perfectly reasonable question. "Not much. I like to, but I'd be afraid to disgrace myself." She laughs, "Of course, I'm sure there will be plenty of people there who could teach me." This last is not really said suggestively, more like she's stating a fact. After all, practical though she is, she's not unaware of the fact that she's quite good-looking. She then attempts to get a -bit more into the spirit, and offers, "And, maybe…'Thank you for the lovely evening?'" 'Attempts' is the key word here.

"Oh, sweetie," Fabia utters, training big, reproachful green eyes upon Tessa over the rim of her cocktail glass. "If you wanted to learn to dance, you ought to have said. I do marvelous lessons. I know all the new Muggle dances — I'll teach you anything you like, any time you like! … To help you be ready for your holiday," she adds hastily, "to be certain you'll stun all those lovely Frenchmen just as much on the dance floor as you shall whilst you're simply sitting quite still and gazing about you with a soignee air… Oh, do let's," she says again, for she likes dancing to jazz records even more than she likes poker, "it would be so amusing."

"Now you've done it," Frid warns her drily. "She won't let you go until you can do thirty eight fouettes in a row." See. Even when glazed over at the ballet, he does listen to Fabia.

"Oh!" This option had clearly not occurred to Tessa, and she doesn't respond right away, looking from Fabia to Frid as she gathers her thoughts on the subject. "Well, ah…if it wouldn't be too much bother," she replies, her eyes then wandering toward Fabia's martini glass, the suggestion perhaps engendering a desire to have one of those, herself; after all, neither of them have seen her dance yet. "I shall try not to step on your feet," she continues, and now that the initial apprehension has worn off, the proposal is even welcomed. Of course she's aware of her employer's previous, and she's also seen her dance a time or two (or several), so she knows that Fabia's not exaggerating.

Those wide eyes are turned suddenly upon Frid. "It's thirty-two fouettes," she protests. The man never listens to her. Not once. Not ever. "Thirty-eight — Christ almighty, no one could do thirty-eight. No one who was human." She shakes her head at him and shifts her gaze to Tessa, taking just a moment to imbibe that marvelous concoction of gin and vermouth held still, held delicately in her French-manicured paws. "Of course it wouldn't be too much bother," she promises her. "And you can take off your shoes so it won't matter if you do step on me a little. My feet have put up with much worse. Shall we — do you want to have a go now? Frid, sweetie, put on a record," she pleads.

Frid, make the martinis. Frid, run the bath. Frid, write dirty words in French for Tessa. And now Frid, put on a record. The man's work is never done. Still, it's without complaint that he carries out this last request (not that he'd complain about the others. Not really), and within a few moments the sounds of Mr. Benny Goodman and his orchestra ring out throughout Fabia's rooms. It was always going to be Benny. It's Frid.

Right -now-? Oh, seems like Fabia's serious. Of course, once she gets an idea in her head, she's very energetic about seeing it through, a fact which any who've seen her in both this state, and her state of exaggerated exhaustion, would probably chuckle at. "Well…all right," Tessa does finally say, bending down to unbuckle her shoes and slip them off, pushing them to the side of the couch. She stands, moving toward Fabia and waiting for instructions. She does glance toward Frid momentarily, and perhaps she's a bit apprehensive having an audience (no matter who it is), but hopefully the man's uncanny ability to study the wall molding will assure that she doesn't make too big a fool out of herself.

Of course Fabia springs up at the first notes from the gramophone. She adores this song. Frid knows she adores this song. Bless him for choosing it. He receives a grateful glance; and then her attention swings back to Tessa as she smooths her full-skirted velvet frock and then stretches her arms up above her head, striking a very slightly saucy pose.

"Do you know how to foxtrot, or shall we—?" she asks eagerly, holding out a hand to Tessa. "The time signature is just right for it — 4/4."

"I've watched it done," Tessa replies, stepping forward and taking Fabia's outstretched hand, "but I've never tried it." Her own pose is nowhere near as alluring as her employer's, but she isn't completely lacking in grace, and she doesn't seem confused by Fabia's discussion of the meter, merely nodding, "That should be easy enough to follow." Well, one hopes. She positions herself in a reasonable facsimile of a correct stance, though her form could certainly stand to be corrected, and waits for Fabia to begin to lead, looking own at the older woman's rather more graceful feet.

Being the gentleman is always a novelty for Fabia (who is really all girl) despite the frequency with which she resorts to it even when she is dancing with gentlemen, who find themselves slowly losing control of the situation if she considers they're not doing it properly. She takes hold of Tessa's hand and her waist and — whilst explaining the first few steps of the dance in her usual impressionistic style — pulls her rather close, as though it were quite natural for an employee to be held like this in her employer's arms. "Are you ready to try?" she asks. "I'll count them out for you. It's not too quick. Don't worry about where you're going, just think about your feet. They'll end up where they ought to be, I promise."

Tessa's not all that disconcerted by the positioning; after all, having seen Fabia naked in a variety of situations somewhat dulls any embarrassment she might have had. She listens the instructions, her eyebrows drawing together thoughtfully, then nods. "Yes, I think so," she says gamely, her eyes still on their feet. This is not from any sort of awkwardness, but only because she is, in fact, a little worried about where she's going, despite Fabia's assurances.

"Now, remember, left foot first — slow… slow… — quick quick," Fabia beams; and, without further ado, she exerts a gentle pressure upon Tessa and the game is afoot! However drunk she is — really, probably not very, it's only her second martini or possibly her third — her confidence is cast-iron, and her own movements surpassingly graceful, as befits such an elegant, gliding dance. She counts out instructions to Tessa, just an instant ahead of the music, nudging her backwards and to the side and then forwards again, her hand at the younger woman's waist providing all manner of instructions of its own.

Though Tessa was telling the truth when she said she wasn't very experienced, she has a good sense of rhythm, and is intelligent enough to remember the instructions and follow them as they're being dictated to her. It's easy enough to follow when you have a partner who's a strong leader, and Fabia is certainly that. Through some combination of these things, Tessa soon finds herself moving along quite well, enough so that she's comfortable enough to look up without worrying that she's going to tread on Fabia's feet. "Oh! It's not so hard," she comments, more than a bit amazed at the realization. She's even able to relax a bit, now that she's not thinking so hard about it, which of course makes it that much more easy. "How do you remember all of the steps to the different dances, though? Do you never get mixed up?"

Tessa seems to be going on well enough; Fabia interrupts her recitation of the steps (really, how many times does anyone need to hear them for the foxtrot?) and utters a bright, blithe, "Really never, sweetie — my body has a marvelous memory of its own quite apart from mine — and I used to dance steps such a lot more complicated than these every day, you know." Of course Tessa knows. There are framed ballet photographs on every wall of the sitting-room — they've been there since the morning after Fabia moved in, when Frid got busy with a hammer and a packet of nails — and ninety percent of them show Fabia herself, in the glorious and balletic days of her youth, because what, really, is more appealing to her eyes? "I have all the choreography I used to dance still in me — I just hear the music and it's there, though of course I can't do most of it anymore — and this, well, it's so easy, but such fun! … D'you want to twirl?" she demands suddenly.

Is Frid still present in the room? Difficult to say. There's a darker patch against one wall, but that might be only a shadow unreachable by the light from fireplace or oil lamps. The sitting-room is never very brightly lit. Fabia is rather pleased by her appearance, all in all, but she's still strategic.

Indeed, there isn't much to a foxtrot, and so even when Fabia stops reciting the steps, Tessa's still able to do them. "Oh, of course," she replies (and she's more than a little proud that she's able to do so and manage not to trip herself or her partner up!), "you wouldn't. After all, it's such a talent of yours." It's said in the way that all the best compliments are; that is, mostly completely truthful, though -just- exaggerated enough to flatter. An exhilarated laugh escapes her as they whirl around the room, and there's a hint of a most becoming blush in her cheeks. Fabia's really never seen her quite like this before, freed of the many and varied cares that weigh heavily on her young shoulders. The suggestion of a twirl doesn't even phase her, and she nods, "Yes, please!"

They're much of a height — Tessa is a shade taller, but Fabia's back is so habitually straight, it rather compensates — and so it isn't difficult for Fabia to lift their arms high up and spin Tessa around. She catches her again with a slight confusion of hands and waists and shoulders and faltering feet which just for an instant can't recollect their proper direction — but a firm touch sorts the girl out again, and nobody's toes suffer from the incident. "Oh, you did rather well," Fabia pronounces generously, "shall we do it again?"

Luckily, Fabia's talented enough to make up for Tessa's inexperience, for though the younger woman is willing and capable, as has been pointed out, she is basically a complete beginner. However, her slight mishap doesn't phase her, as much as she's enjoying herself; it just elicits another laugh. "Thank you!" she exclaims, putting a hand to her chest, her breathing a bit labored but nothing to be concerned about, as she's of course in pretty good shape from running around the bar all day. "That was lovely." She pauses at the question, but then nods once more, her smile bright, "Yes, do let's!"

The second twirl, coming so swiftly upon experience gained in the first, is almost seamless — Fabia's smile is nothing but genuine as she pulls Tessa in to face her again, piloting her ably around the area of the sitting-room left open for these purposes. So what if the rest of the furniture is a trifle cramped? Fabia hasn't very long legs that might be vexed by the coffee-table's proximity to the sofa, and she loves to dance. "Marvelous," she declares, "d'you fancy a quickstep? It's the same but quicker, sweetie. Frid!" she calls out, without looking, because he's certain to be within earshot, "put on a quickstep."

The shadow on the wall coalesces into a valet; his hands go immediately to another Benny Goodman record, and manage the transition with commendable swiftness. Tessa isn't really given a vote. But that's quite usual around here.

She doesn't seem to mind; she's quite used to her employer's ways, and as has been established, she knows when to give in to them as much as she knows when to demur. It's certainly a pleasant way to pass an evening, and there really isn't any other work to do that might cause any guilt to intrude on the interlude. 'The same but quicker' may be easy enough to understand, but it's not -quite- the same thing to do it as it is to hear it, and Tessa's expression sobers a little bit as she concentrates, though she's still clearly enjoying herself. "Like this?" she asks, a bit more clumsy now but not quite enough to tread on anything but the floor.

"Just like that," Fabia confirms; and returns to uttering directions — in abbreviated form, given the increased tempo of the music. Her hand at Tessa's waist is holding the girl rather snugly against her now. It's just the way she is — unconsciously intimate with anyone she likes, particularly when indulging in an activity she finds so delightful. It's possible she doesn't even realise it — no, no, she probably does realise it. And what an unconscionable waste if she didn't.

Well, Tessa isn't complaining, though whether it's from enjoyment of the closeness or appreciation of the assistance it provides to her steps is unclear. Most likely it's a little bit of both; Fabia is quite beautiful, and her personality is magnetic, as well, as evidenced by the staggering number of PCs falling all over themselves to sleep with her. "It's not as difficult as I imagined," she comments, as she's finally comfortable enough with the quicker steps to look up at her partner, the smile on her face telegraphing her enjoyment better than a…well, telegraph. "Do you think I'll do all right?"

"You'll do beautifully!" Fabia exclaims, with that usual touching confidence in anyone she — well — likes. She beams benevolently at the girl in her arms, and, because she's mischievous beyond description and never knows when to leave well enough alone, lets go of Tessa's waist and holds tighter to her hand and spins her out and pulls her in again.

Tessa lets out a little gasp that's most unlike her as she spins out, then in, her dress swirling around her legs. It's followed by a merry laugh as their bodies meet again, and her cheeks are really quite flushed now, in a manner that's -most- becoming, setting off her features to excellent advantage. Indeed she probably will do beautifully, though it probably won't really be due to her rather dubious dancing talents.

This is much the thought in Fabia's mind. No gentleman (she knows perfectly well, having observed the behaviour of the species with other ladies besides herself) minds how a girl dances if she happens to look like that. And if she has two left feet, how pleasant to sit out the next number with her at a cosy and dimly-lit table, with the champagne flowing… "Lovely," she pronounces, though without applying the adjective to anything very specific. "Let's have another quickstep after this, Frid, I'm really rather in the mood now," she calls lightly, knowing he'll hear. He always hears when she calls. Even at moments when answering must make him give an inner sigh of absolute frustration. Not that she'd know anything about that, of course. There's nothing the least bit unreasonable about her demands. Of course not. "And next time," she promises Tessa, with that light pressure of her hand at her young partner's waist guiding her to and fro and then round and round, "we'll do something much more entertaining."

It's really a shame (and probably Fabia has often thought so) that Tessa hasn't had the chance to experience much of the life of a young woman with no responsibilities, but how much she has to look forward to! And how little she knows what it will bring, for whenever she'd daydreamed about another kind of life, it had always been rather vague, not quite in focus, overshadowed by the knowledge of her duty that she couldn't quite forget, and the intense love she felt for her baby brother. Thus, she has formed no expectations, spun no castles in the air, and is simply able to enjoy the bits of pleasure that come her way when they do, holding their memory close during more difficult times. This is certain to be a particularly fond memory. "More entertaining?" she repeats, raising an eyebrow, a twinkle in her eye that hints at mischief that has never quite been allowed to escape, "What might that be?"

"Why," Fabia breathes, looking upon her shanghai'd dance partner with enormous, absolutely innocent green eyes, "I suppose we shall have to see, shan't we?"

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