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A moment's Wimsey

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He's old enough to know that one doesn't conduct along to the music - sitting bolt upright with his head tilted to one side and pale blue eyes intent until the climax, at which he closes them and lets a small smile settle on his thin lips - but he's young enough to be exasperated, outraged, at the actions of others. Were this still the age of duels he'd likely have demands of satisfaction for his poisonous looks and open hostility; instead he has a corner of the room entirely to himself, a glass of champagne dangling loosely from long, elegant fingers.

He ought to be a musician himself. He's certainly not beautiful but has a touch of the fey about him - not romanticised or in any way welcoming like fairy tales and children's stories, but pale blue eyes that are a little too cold and a little too sharp, as though he can see a dimension to the room and the people within it that goes beyond the poor and threadbare human concept of 'sight'. It's details, too: he is dressed like a gentleman but insouciantly so. Given time and experience (and an able manservant) he'll be immaculate, no doubt, but just now he has hair a little too long and coat sleeves a fraction too short as though they were designed with someone else entirely in mind. It's just different enough to be interesting, to set the mind whirling with stories, and a musician is only half songs. The remaining is the legend that grows up around him.

Torquil likes him immediately.

"You look bored stiff," he says cheerfully, his own filched glass ringing to the rhythmic tap of his fingers.

"The music was divine."

It's a more diplomatic response than he was expecting, and his mouth twists a little in disappointment. Humans never quite live up to his hopes.

"The music always is," he says, without a trace of irony, "but the company -"

The man - barely more than a boy, really - smiles, a flicker of darkness to the edges of it that has Torquil leaning against the wall beside him, not quite ready to give up just yet.

"They do lack a certain something." He takes a sip of his champagne and shoots Torquil a sidelong smirk. "Brains, possibly?"

"Exactly!" He's delighted, wishing his brother was in earshot. "Archer does like sheep, so."


"It's his little shindig. He made me come because he hates me."

He gets another of those sidelong looks for that, which he suspects is more a reaction to his tone than his words; he and Archer have been at loggerheads for long enough that there's no longer any self-pity in what he says. In fact it's developed more into a kind of mischievous delight, enhanced by the memory of quite what he's being punished for, this time. Archer had been angry enough that he'd obeyed orders and let this concert run smoothly. He'd worked very hard at inspiring the second violinist, in fact, since even Handel didn't deserve what the fellow was doing.

"You'd rather be at cards?"

Torquil makes a face ugly enough to set the other chap laughing.

"Saints preserve us, no. They're Shine's, and last time I sniffed around her business she threatened to set fire to my wardrobe."

"A dire threat."

"It works so much better than castration."

He gets an entirely different flavour of glance for that, one that lingers just long enough to be intriguing without edging over into dangerous territory. This fellow gets more interesting all the time.

"I can't say I've a mind to try it," is the eventual response, and he laughs and places a hand around the man's wrist where the coat doesn't cover it, leaning far closer than is necessary or suitable.

"I'd not recommend it, it's really grossly overrated," and he turns his head enough that his lips barely brush the skin below the man's ear. It's ridiculously tempting to seek more, but the scandal and Archer's anger - which is always enjoyable - isn't quite worth breaking his plaything for.


"Oh blast it," he says, scrubbing at his lips and looking accusing, for which he gets a look of confusion which is emphasised becomingly by the high flush on pale cheeks. "You're Dillion's." He can feel his lips curving downwards into an unbecoming pout, and that just makes him even more cross. "She always gets what I want."

The chap looks entirely lost, now, but his pulse is racing under Torquil's palm and long fingers have hooked into his sleeve.

"What -"

"Just promise me you'll go to music halls," Torquil demands, all in a rush. "Promise you'll ignore the right thing to do in favour of your piano, on occasion, and you'll - you'll fall in love with an Italian dancer and you'll patronise the opera and you'll misbehave for me, every now and again."

"I think I can promise that," he says, and Torquil smiles brilliantly, lifting the man's hand to press a kiss to the back with a quite ridiculous flourish.

"Good," he says, "good."

He likes to make investments for the future; Dillion will be furious.