1963-06-28 - Wine & Snark
Summary: Cecilia meets the new(ish) professor Louis King after a late night presentation and they take their wine outside. Much sarcasm is enjoyed.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
louis cecilia 

Commencement had presented unique opportunity to Cecilia Reyes. While the pomp and circumstance was hardly intended for the thickly curled head of black hair kept pinned carefully back, her curves and attire had captured the attention of a Professor of some renown from the department of Emergency Medicine. While Cecilia was hardly inclined to flaunt physical attributes, there were only so many tools available to her and feminine wiles happened to be the most effective. Hence she found herself at the after party for the Columbia Professorial staff after a lecture on the clinical aspects of immunology.

A small glass of wine perched on one hand complimented the geo print summer dress, both richly red with splashes of black contrast. She was a bright burst of color in both skin and cloth among a wash of propriety, a burden she bore with supreme confidence and an easy little smile. A nail tapped against the crystal as she tuned out the conversation around her and tried to ignore the gaze sliding down her figure from a man who taught English on the other side of the room. Her mind was wrapped up in the subject matter of the lecture; knowledge the only thing that could force her here after a long day of practicals and summer classes.


It's such a tired scene all told. It's the same crowd who goes to these things, with the same wives attached to the arms of various members of the faculty. There's that age old jockeying for position, the conversational games and gambits that were faintly veiled barbs aimed at shifting the pecking order in that incestuous series of relationships.

Across the way are the members of the English department, talking loudly and laughing, engaging happily with the theater individuals who seem to mesh so well with them. At the bar a handful of people have gathered from the cross-spectrum of the faculty, all having the predilection for booze as their common touch point. It's all a bustle there, despite the presence of the man who seems to be ogling Cecilia.

Yet there's a man amongst them who doesn't entirely seem to fit the mold. He's not someone she's seen before most likely, not even a frequent party goer. But for some reason as he stands at the bar talking pleasantly with the people at one end of the bar, the eyes of the conversation's participants are all on him. Not that token glazed over gaze of people waiting for someone to finish speaking so they get their turn to say the words they want to utter. Instead the gaze is something akin to… adulation?

He's a man in a grey suit, reddish brown hair, and the most animated green eyes as he gestures with one hand while he speaks. "I told her it was all a matter of perspective," He murmurs as he holds 'court'. "Related the whole idea of Plato's shadow allegory and she embraced it. But I'm not entirely certain she understood it. Then again…" His smile is wry, a touch sheepish and self-deprecating, "I'm not exactly a philosopher, am I?"

There's a token amount of laughter as the people around him appreciate the amusement, a woman in a long reddish dress rests her hand on his arm as she laughs gently, "Oh, Professor King. You know you could, archaeology truly does not suit you."

"And what does?" He asks off-handedly.

"Oh I wouldn't presume."

"Oh now I'm curious."

The woman leans in and whispers into his ear, then he bursts out laughing. He turns and relates whatever she must have said to those nearby and their laughter is heard as well.

"If you'll excuse me," He sets his empty glass down upon a tray as he steps away from the crowd and towards the bar.


There was always one in a crowd. Sometimes two or three, depending on how many rich white men could tolerate the presence of one another in confined spaces. Despite the presence that the stranger commanded, she found herself too preoccupied with the proposed theories of immunosuppression in connection with treating newborns to notice him. This is precisely why she turned into him and spilled wine down the front of that carefully tailored grey suit.

For a second, her dark brown eyes blinked in rapid confusion, trying to determine how he had appeared in front of her while the expression of shock flirted with indignation before she realized decorum required apology.

"Oh my, I am so sorry. I didn't realize you were-"

Going to walk right in front of me? That seemed improper, especially considering the baleful hatred that the women who had been fawning over him were fixing her to the carpeted floor with. She swallowed thickly and composed herself, snapping open the small purse at the clasp to look for something, anything to offer him.


He'd intended to just turn enough to slip past her, to slide by with no event. He'd seen her, of course. The dark young woman who seemed to keep to herself, who was an island of tension amongst a sea of ease and blithe assurance. Yet he did not expect her to suddenly turn into him and there's that fateful splash of wine upon his grey suit and he smiles downwards a bit awkwardly. "Oh do forgive me, terribly clumsy of me."

That apology is given with such an ease, and such a calm sincerity that it might take her aback. But then again it's also paired with that precise British accent that speaks of Cambridge or London and the cultural elite of that nation. It's almost too perfect as he brushes a hand over the small droplets even as he reaches for a proffered white napkin that a passing server extends towards him.

Lightly he begins to dab at the stain but then looks up at her with a small embarrassed smile. "Luckily, I have a few other suits. This will be fine."


Cecilia was surprised by his response. It was evident in her features, which carefully manicured appearance belied the honesty of. It was a rarity in these times, perhaps a byproduct of wearing her vulnerabilities without means to disguise gender or dark skin. The purse snapped shut and she wet her painted lips with a quick dart of tongue, glancing between him and the entourage he had left in his wake. The weight of their attentions doubled as he looked down at her, and she forced a smile to her lips.

"I'm sorry, I don't think we've met."

It seemed only polite after she had ruined his suit, and slinking out the back door was no longer an option with every eye on her.


Her hand extended in the offering of a shake, or a kiss gracing her knuckles, whatever his inclination was. What did British people do? At least she thought he was British.


His hand takes hers and his touch is warm, then his fingers give a faint squeeze as he leans forward in a faint bow while lifting her hand just so. It seems almost courtly in its execution as he maintains eye contact the whole while, then straightens as he lets her fingers slip free of his. "Louis. Louis King. Quite the pleasure." He says this with that gentle and casual ease as if it were the most natural thing in the world to have wine splashed upon one's coat jacket.

With that movement and that calm exchange, the people behind them give a small laugh and turn back to their conversation between them, and as easily as that the attention falls from her and them for the most part. Though he does continue to dab lightly at his jacket. "Please, let me be so kind to get you another drink, what were you having?" He says this with the open magnanimity of such a samaritan that it might be surprising. But then again those from the sceptered isle have a way of making good even in the most trying of circumstances.


It wasn't that men had made no effort to woo Cecilia before. Plenty had, varying in their methods from suggesting they were truly forward thinking for lowering themselves to bed someone of her complexion to simply attempting to take what they felt entitled to. However, the grace with which he took her hand and met the introduction raised her head just a slight, curiosity piqued because for once the man offering up his name was doing it to be polite. Even in intellectual circles, most men didn't see women as an entity deserving of that respect.

"I think it would be more pleasurable under different circumstances, but we take what we're given."

Her speech was easy, no tittering laughter or batting of eyelashes. It was hard enough to keep her posture tight and her ankles from rolling at the end of a long day; flirtation was too high of a demand. Still, there was a competent grace to her movement as she fell into step beside him in moving towards the bar counter that suggested either finishing school or combat training.

"Wine. Red. There's a 1961 Bordeaux that they've opened back there that's a real treat, if you enjoy that sort of thing."

The small clasped purse was set upon the counter as she turned quietly to face him, letting him order up their drinks with a demure patience that did not match her confidence thus far, before she had to ask, "I'm sorry, but do you teach or-? I don't think I've seen you before and you seem like someone I would remember. Even if I hadn't spilt wine all over you."


Two fingers are lifted to the tender as the tall man places the order, his smile still in place and shared with the server as well. "Two red wines, please. The Bordeaux." Once that's set into motion he turns back to look at her, leaning upon the bar with one arm upon the chrome railing. It lets him be on more even footing with her, his gaze level and his features crinkling slightly with the smile. She could almost imagine in the years of the future how those smile lines would become more and more pronounced, along with the faint lines in his brow.

"Oh I haven't been here for very long. I transferred recently from the Cambridge Archaeology Department." There's something terribly disarming in his manner as he smiles to the side, his tone a touch self-deprecating as he murmurs, "Though I am not entirely sure if you can say that what we've been doing is teaching these days. It seems like half the time I'm in the lecture hall hardly any of the students recognize I'm there, let alone speaking."

Then he lowers his head slightly, looking up through his lashes slightly as if trying to get a closer look at her. "And yourself, Cecilia? What takes up your time of late?"


Cecilia accepts the glass when it arrives and waits to take her first sip for him out of deference. It was a delicate line to walk between being herself and being acceptably genteel enough to not alienate members of society. She listened with the nods at expected places, the smile still staining her red lips although his admission forced her to take a swallow of vino to mute a laugh.

"Once you are teaching classes at the four hundred level or higher, the size gets smaller and the purpose of higher learning better defined. At least that's been my experience."

She paused in the midst of venturing another question when his attention focused on her, and her head tilted despite herself. What was he looking at? Did she have something on her face? It took a moment for his question to register, and when it did, she took another swig of wine. Had he taken his first sip yet? She had stopped keeping track.

"I'm in the medical program, actually."

With a bit of alcohol in her system, she felt better braced for the inevitable shock if not outright dismissal of her career choices. Or the suggestion that she must be looking into pediatrics, as that was truly the only place for a woman in medicine.

Even with the wine in hand, the expected answer wouldn't be any easier to swallow. It was getting to the point she felt stupid even saying it.


Without missing a beat he responds to her statement, "Are you training to be a surgeon?" His question is open, tinged with that slight lilt of curiosity and the up note at the end. Perhaps from someone else that might have been a mean joke to make, considering the difficulty one would have in her position becoming a surgeon in that traditionally male profession.

But before embarrassment or awkwardness can set in he pushes on by adding, "I couldn't help notice the deftness of your hands." His lip twitches slightly as it's then her turn to suffer one of his small pokes at humor, "When they're not hurling crystalware at me that is, of course." His smile is a touch sly, wry as he takes a sip of his own wine.

"But the way you hold the stem of the glass, and the manner in which you move. It's clear you've perhaps trained yourself." He asks this calmly with an easy aplomb. But then he smiles, giving her an out should she so wish, "Or you could just be naturally graceful. I am far from an expert."


Silence reigned for a long moment after King's words, the idle conversation of other occupants in the room and the chink of silverware and accompanying glassware filling the cracks fissuring from her shock. It was the quiet that had protected her before, when she had eagerly dived into her professional interests only to have them routinely mocked or redirected into sexual entendre. Now the reserve was worn as a quiet dignity while she weighed the intention of the question.

And when it became apparent, she raised her eyes from the contents of her glass to meet his own gaze with alert intensity.

"Yes, actually, though that specialization is a long-term aspiration. I'm currently pursuing Emergency Medicine and trauma my focus."

The compliment he paid and the veiled inquiry into her training rolled off her shoulders as she smirked just a bit and shook her head, seemingly still in shock.

"I'm sorry, what kind of archaeology do you specialize in? I didn't ask and now I find myself-"

She trailed off, looking for the right word before finally settling on, "-Intrigued."


"Ah, now here is the part in the evening where I tell you, and you stifle a yawn politely before you check your watch and realize how terribly important it is that you get home in time for My Favorite Martian." But as he says this he smiles lightly even as he takes another sip of wine at the end of his words. He looks down, touching a fingertip to the lip of the glass, then lightly causing it to clink with the touch of a nail.

"But if you're truthfully… intrigued." His voice lingers on that last word before he takes a deep breath as if readying to take the leap on a terribly final plunge, "I did my thesis on the Roman invasion of Britain in the year 43 AD and its connection to the Arthurian mythos."

For a time he watches her reaction and then his smile slips into a grin as those green eyes drift away from her. "A bit of a flight of fancy, I agree, but… I am at times given to romantic notions no matter how silly they might seem from the outside."


The words encouraged her eyebrows to rise, as if she was getting ready to bat aside imagined affront. However, as he dived into the answer to her inquiry, she let the bottom lip loose that she had been chewing to hold back her own interruption. Her dark eyes looked up at him through thick lashes as she shrugged idly and nodded,

"It was a selfish inquiry, I suppose. I was curious where you came from, what brand of academia spawned a man like you. Maybe there were others. Do you come in a blonde model?"

And her voice held a dry edge that made it hard to discern she was teasing, even as she tipped back her wine glass and continued with all the confidence that had brought her this far in life despite immeasurable odds,

"Though I don't even have a television, so I suppose I find the dull quite intriguing without modern technology to distract."


"Actually," Louis returns her casually indifferent look with one of amusement, "I do have a brother." He offers that as a casual admission as he takes up his glass and starts to walk aside, turning his shoulders sideways as he slips around a small circle of people talking and laughing. He turns back towards her, continuing the conversation as if hoping that might be enough of a temptation that she'll follow him towards the large glass doors that lead outside onto the deck. He takes the handles, one in each hand, then draws them open and letting the brisk warm breeze of the night's air enter the room. The next moment he's outside.

"Tall, blonde, muscles out to here." He gestures as he walks as if to emphasize the difference between him and his sibling. "Tall as an oak, broad of shoulder as an ox, and almost as smart." He takes a sip of his drink and then looks back towards her. "If you like I can perhaps put you in touch with him. Would take some doing…"


The wine was still good, and the evening still young. Plus, it was rare she could actually enjoy conversation at one of these events. As he turned away, she paused for a moment as if unsure of his reason for departure. It wouldn't be the first time she had offended in an effort at humor, though his trailing words drew her after him as soon as it was evident his ego remained unbruised.

The wind engulfed her, chasing away the cloying heat of conversation and propriety with the scent of the city. For a moment she even smiled, before the emotion caught and slipped back behind her mask of propriety.

"He sounds lovely. Don't tell my mother or I'll be married off before noon and never have a scalpel between my fingers again."

Her elbows settled on the banister as she leaned quietly forward, the stem of the wine glass subject to one finger trailing up and down thoughtfully before she shook her head and looked up at him.

"Do you have plans to stay here long? Or have the disinterested students and the clumsy women scared you off?"

The wind buffeted them once more, a warm Southern gust that chased her carefully pinned curls out of their bounds in little threads of black silk.


"That would be a travesty," Louis shoots a mildly disappointed glance towards her, one eyebrow lifted and the corner of his mouth twisted slightly. "Give up your dreams, wander off into the sunset so early, embrace a fate of being someone who stays at home instead of making your own way." The tall man's smile returns, but remains a touch subdued if only to maintain the facade of him chastising her for such a thought. "Perhaps I've read you entirely wrong."

But then as quickly as that he moves on to the next topic, his continued presence. Leaning back against the railing, with the university's quad behind them, the professor meets her gaze and smiles over the lip of his glass. "Well. I have made my appearance. People will remember I was here. I suppose I could be convinced to dash off into the night."

He takes a sip of his drink, but then his lips part after he swallows, as if realizing she meant something else. "Ah, or you mean here in the States." He grins easily enough as he looks to the side, across the greenery of the park behind them, and even at this time of night a few students wend their way down the sidewalks. "I tend to make a lot of plans, only some survive contact with the world. Currently I feel rather pleased with the city, the people. The company."


"Oh now you're ridiculous. People like me don't become wives. We become housekeepers for wives."

She offered up with a devious grin that finally slipped over her polite mask, something about his candor beguiling, the same presence that had drawn a crowd to hanging on every syllable that left his lips finally beginning to affect her. His mannerisms, the way his attentions rested on her eyes instead of her figure, his words prone to barbed quip as frequently as her own; it set her at an ease she often didn't indulge in around such company.

"That sounds so poetic. I was just curious if you were on contract or not." Came her response with a shake of her head, another sip of wine taken as she followed his focus towards the distant dark trees and the paths that wound around them.


"Well perhaps that is for the good in a way, as my brother is far from the marrying kind." One hand pushes through his hair as he tries to brush aside the wisps out of place, as if he were trying to give some depth of thought to the moment. "He still has his first girlfriend running around chasing after him I believe. And they've been together for ages… and ages." So curious sometimes how despite dissembling being something he's so skilled at… the truth often serves him.

"But I could not envision you as anyone's servant. At least not willingly." His green eyes lift upwards thoughtfully as if considering exactly what it might require, but he tilts his head and looks back towards her. "But under contract… I am afraid I am bound these next two years in service to the good people of Columbia University."

His nose crinkles slightly as if the idea of such bothers him, but then he adds. "And you? Will you disappear before we've had enough time to step beyond casual wry comments and slip into something more deep. More intimate." He leans closer and then whispers almost conspiratorially to her, "Perhaps, dare I say it, to social mockery?"


A hand waved through the air, somehow the wine glass it contained spilling naught a drop.

"Enough about him. He sounds boring. Even more boring than Arthurian mythos."

To his weighing of salary and contract, she glanced up to meet his green eyes, an honest, "Congratulations" bestowed. Not that he needed her approval, but she could hardly know that. The weight of her hips shifted on the heels, the closure of distance quietly noted and unflinchingly received. Not a toe turned to face him, her gaze lifting over a shoulder as she felt the webs of energy that knit her skin together pulse and twist in reaction to a perceived threat at the sudden proximity. Her smile faltered and she swallowed the reaction, easing her nerves with a practiced care that served her well on a trauma floor, and the mask slipped back into place with practiced ease.

"That is a bit more of a commitment than I can dedicate myself to at this time. I'm sure you understand, Mr. King."


That subtle change wasn't lost on him, and it was perhaps the very fact that it existed that piques his curiosity. He settles back into the previous posture, leaning against the railing that holds up the side of that porch, the aluminum a touch shiny with the light from the party inside. "Well then if we're not to embark on social mockery…" He quirks an eyebrow as the corners of his mouth ease down as if he were frowning but more affecting a frown than feeling one with sincerity. "Then what shall we discuss?"

The glass of wine, now empty, is set down upon the railing beside him, the crystal catching the moon in its reflection. He crosses his arms over his chest and looks upon the medical student. "I get the feeling that you are gauging me. Trying to figure out what my game is, or my motivation. You wear suspicion like a suit of armor and in some ways it adorns you as well as your dress."

The smile returns, for she does strike him as interesting. He adds quietly, "Ask me what you will and I will endeavor to answer you as I can."


"What shall we discuss, the man asks."

Her own wine was finished with a final sip, and the glass tipped sideways to dangle from a finger as she balanced it without caution for the potential downfall of glassware.

"Of course, why not him! A brilliant suggestion!"

Something nudged at her conscious to reign it in, and she flinched as if her own words hurt her more than him. Glancing up at him apologetically, she seemed to be approaching verbalizing one before his observation cut her off. An owlish blink met it, a momentary distraction passing down her appearance before she flushed. It was visible underneath the dark complexion, even in this lighting.

"I apologize. I've just never met someone who offers kindness without corresponding consequence. I'm not suggesting that people are not good or capable of altruism. I just like to be honest with people, and it's a rare man that treats me with respect. So rare, perhaps it is now kindness that must be treated as suspicious."


Rather than cutting him to the quick, her riposte merely causes that smile to broaden and something entirely sly enters that expression, it's a curious look to him, almost devilish as if Lucifer had heard such a terribly amusing joke. But then his voice lifts and the liquid smooth accent of such a refined individual couches these words with no shortage of amusement. "Well, to be fair, I am entirely my own favourite subject."

But then he waves away her apology as he says gently, "Cecilia, you must never apologize it is a sign of weakness." His lip shifts a touch more gentle from that amused smile, to a more commiserating turn of feature. "But if there is one individual in this universe who has become somewhat… used to people being suspicious of his every motive. Well he and I most likely run a close race."

There's a moment as he leans forward and takes the glass from her should she allow it and then place it beside his behind and to the side of him. "If I felt you were amenable I would entirely press you for more information about yourself. To find how you reached this point in your life. Why it is you carry yourself as if you were ready to draw steel at a moment's notice, and how you came upon such a strong will to reach this point intact."


Quietly his words were measured, her lips pressed together in a faint remnant of humor that had long since drained away. His smile and gentle assertion that her confidence was not misplaced with veiled insinuation that he also found himself oft misunderstood were both received with a distance reinstated between them that had been carefully laid from the start. For a moment, she seemed to hover between excusing herself under the excuse of another drink and meeting his candor with similar.

"It would be wasted breath. Look at me."

And the way she told him to do so asked him to re-evaluate not how he saw her, but how the world likely did. The breeze whipped aside a curl and it danced across her dark eyes as she met his gaze as her tongue carved out the truth with that steel he had mentioned,

"I wouldn't still be intact if I wasn't those things. If what we are doesn't unmake us, then growth is the only option."

The heels snapped against the cement as she shifted her weight, turning to face him as she folded her hands across her front with the faint click of her purse snapping together in preparation to leave.


"Ah, paraphrased Nietzsche." The words are murmured lightly, as if sharing them with himself as he looks towards her. As she makes ready to depart he rests his elbows upon that railing, with his long-fingered hands lacing over his abdomen as he watches her with those green eyes. No judgement is heard in the phrase, nor a follow up phrase given to pronounce some sort of admonition. Instead he looks on her and then lifts his voice again. "It's a pity that the aspect of you that is so compelling also makes you an individual who must stand strong and apart."

Looking to the side away from her as the wind brushes past them, he cocks an eyebrow as if considering the night's sky though his thoughts wend down the line of possible futures as if considering what part she might play. He looks back. "I'd ask for us to spend more time together, but in part I would be afraid that such a thing would change you for the worse."

A small smile is given to her as well as a light shrug, as if this moment of fate is in her hands. For truly it is. To rob her of agency in some form, to afflict some aspect of magic upon their meeting would be an affront unless there was some greater good to be served.


"You have quite the high opinion of yourself, Louis. I've yet to meet a man that influences me that significantly, no matter how artful his tongue or striking his eyes."

It was the closest thing to a compliment she had paid him, delivered in practiced deference to his offer of pursuing familiarity. A pause stilled her preparations to leave, and she considered him with a sigh finally slouching her shoulders.

"I think you have been too long accustomed to meeting women without anything to busy their time but shopping and idle gossip. My studies keep me busy. While I wouldn't decline another meeting, I fear if I attempted to schedule one, it would constantly slip through our fingers with excuse after excuse. It would be a waste of both our time, and you are far too charming for that."


"I believe we can leave it up to fate." Louis remains where he stands, watching her with an openness that is at ease with itself, as if on some level he was piecing together aspects of her in his mind at the same time as he were letting his thoughts drift about the future. "If we meet again perhaps time will be more convenient. If not then at least we will have small memories to keep close."

But then his smile returns as he jibes idly while brushing that setting wine stain upon his jacket, "Every time I wash this suit I'll remember your begrudging smiles and the gleam in your own eyes that whispered to me in silent words about how you wished you could come and play. But the world won't let you."

With that having been said he takes up her glass and his own in hand as he says, "I'll take care of this, if you must be off then please don't let me hinder you."


A hand rose to tuck errant curl behind the ridge of one ear, regarding him with a humor that had escaped the careful constraints she kept it fettered under. It was difficult to discern if his dramatics were honest or theatrical in nature, and she found herself uncaring either way. It was refreshing, even if the honesty was under the veil of sarcasm and pithy retort.

"The world is changing. Perhaps our mischief will have a place in it someday, but tonight it would be most improper."

She turned her slight frame then, all grace and precise heel crack despite two glasses of Bordeaux, and left him with whatever thoughts occupied the mind of a man such as him. A man who wasn't a man at all.


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