"We’re listening, Charles," his sister hummed. She settled down against his side and sighed softly, crossing her legs one way, then the other, then back. It was a warm, lazy sort of day, and she was quite comfortable with Francis and Charles; but perpetual restlessness won out, and she rose abruptly from the sofa, plucking Charles’ drink from his hand with a flourish and twirling in place where she stood.
They were pretty together, her brother and Francis. Very much her boys. All of them were, in a way - well, perhaps with the exception of Bunny - but she and Charles were obviously part of the same whole, and Francis had assimilated himself into their mass with only the faintest seam of separation.
She realized how studiously she’d been staring and shifted, beginning to sway slowly to the music. Rolled her neck, cracked her knuckles behind her back, cocked her ankle into the L she so often resorted to when she couldn’t seem to make herself focus. Finally she flounced off into the kitchen, glass still in hand, and topped it off again, pouring two more for Charles and Francis.
"You know, Charles, it’s awfully rude not to offer people drinks if you’re going to have one yourself." She settled herself delicately across their laps, need for motion apparently satisfied.
The whole scene felt fluid and heavy, like a lazy Southern river ambling through fields of yellowed grass under a burnt orange sky. The violin music creaking from the old turntable turned the corners sepia as if with age, like a photograph, but, no, there was too much movement for that; perhaps an old film. Camilla swaying, then darting out of the room, then sprawling across him and Charles; the swagger and intent in all of Charles’ movements that Francis could never seem to understand, or anticipate.
Francis always felt stiff with the twins.
Alcohol never loosened him up like it did the others. It made him laugh easier, and his words came faster, but his chest remained tight as always. Thus, the rhythm of the twins was comforting; he could be a stick as usual, a stone stuck in a rut, and the flow of the Macaulay twins would pull and tug and move him along, Charles darting ahead and scoping out new territory, Camilla’s hand in his but her eyes glancing back with a playful lilt, daring Francis to follow. Sometimes, the other way around. That was another thing about the Macaulays; they shared the same little quirks.
Being alone with the pair of them was nice, once you learned to ignore the perpetual feeling in your stomach that you’d missed a step on the stairs, or you’d taken a slide’s descent too fast. A sudden gulp of empty air, that was the twins. Like a golden, perfect high that lasted until you thought about it. Addicting in its own way. Intoxicating. Francis was content to melt into it—loved the sharp, high sound of violins, of Charles’ fingers on keys, of Camilla’s soft laugh. It felt like home, in the way that only the things that hurt a little too felt like home.
It was a few moments before Francis registered that he’d barely spoken since he’d gotten here. Swept up in the twins’ flow as usual. He accepted the new glass from Camilla, finishing off his first drink too quickly so that it made him even dizzier, and then tipped his head back, letting the couch cushion him and the music and the alcohol muddle his thoughts.
The meandering violin and the dark liquor on his tongue made him feel like he was coming apart at the seams.It was good, though. He balanced his new glass in one hand, setting the emptied one down on a table, and let his other arm rest lazily on Camilla’s legs where she’d thrown them across his lap. “I like it,” he murmured, watching the liquid slosh in his glass as he shifted slightly on the couch. “But you have to admit Stravinsky’s work is more interesting. Really gets the blood pumping. This is just—haze.”
"I did too offer,”
His protest was wrought in an ill-hidden whine, reaching after his sister’s quick hands with a little swipe into clear air; useless, of course, so he settled to wait for her return and sat back—he felt like a stream of running water, liquor in his veins and a rosy haze about his companions—near Francis, sliding an arm behind him, nonchalant.
(he hadn’t offered, he realized, but it hardly mattered now that Milly had glided back to them: Charles accepted the newly full glass with his free hand.)
It was a slight distraction from the music, but Charles was right back in the thick of it when Francis began to speak. What began as a blithe statement of assent quickly became bemused shock, only half-faked.
"Yes, I do t— what!” He wiped the trickle of bourbon that had dribbled from his lips in his surprise, and gave a quarter-turn to look Francis in the face. “Haze?”
He pinched one of Camilla’s toes, having just noticed her feet in his close vicinity.
"You can’t mean that, Fran. Haze? I mean, Stravinsky is excellent, of course, but Christ—”
He placed his glass down on the side table and crouched, thumbing through the collection, lips pursed.
"Sporting, maybe, yes, but you have to admit: Tchaikovsky. He’s good at more than Christmas ballets."
Famous for a reason, more like, but he wouldn’t say that aloud. His knowledge of classical composers was average at best, and he didn’t make a habit of listening to classical music (the radio stations were all too sleepy, clinical calm voices, that was Dvorak’s symphony number nine- divine, wasn’t it? now for a Romantic change of pace-) but he’d played piano since he was six and knew a thing or two about it.
At last, after a moment of quiet rummaging, he pulled a record from the heap: a violin concerto. Pulled the record from the package and placed it on the rack, put the needle clumsily down; the sound sputtered and crackled a moment before the orchestra began, and Charles turned with his eyebrows aloft, looking to make cheeky eye contact with whomever he saw first.
He took his drink with a flourish and dropped lazily again into the sofa between Francis and Camilla, one arm draped carelessly over the back.
Pointedly, he glanced at one and then the other.
"Just listen. Listen to that."
He wouldn’t call it divine— foolhardy adjective it was, too easy and too saccharine— but it was. It was divine.
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