Closed - Content Warning All in the Golden Afternoon
#1
Today was more like usual, and as such he felt brighter. More motivated, he'd brushed and braided his hair, he'd went to the park and made flower chains for himself and some of the more inclined men. Mazarin sat in the kitchen at tea with Rose, and it nearly felt like a home. They chatted like ladies lunching. Rose wore an expensive hat indoors - a monstrosity with ostrich feathers and three stuffed hummingbirds, wings splayed to look like flowers with beaks. The glass eyes made him queasy, and it made him laugh. He'd treasure the moment forever.

Hearing the bell, Rose went to answer the door. There weren't many in and out today. The golden afternoon outside was more tempting, it seemed. Mazarin stayed in the kitchen and hoped it wasn't one of his clients.

"Bonjour laddie!" Said Rose to the young man. A jolly woman, and very tall, who looked nothing at all like a bawd. "Welcome to Rose's, tell me your pleasure!"
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#2
It had been three weeks since he had met that nasty bastard … and he had plagued his thoughts since. Not in the sense that Miriam’s brother had – persistent and heady without the threat of his nature being acknowledged. No. There was something dangerous about a man in but a robe, equipped only with a sharp tongue and the carnal knowledge of other men. Few men went to a molly house with pure intentions, after all.

He had paid more attention to the sporting menus being passed about.

There was just enough of a breeze that he could still justify a scarf on this bright, Sunday morning. Shabbat was well past, and all the goyim were out having their church lunches. He was not buried within the scarf like he had been the last time, and his stride was more akin to a man on an errand than a mouse surrounded by cats.

“Good afternoon, madam,” he answered levelly, keeping enough distance to meet her eyes without having to lift his head. “There was a... gentleman,” he managed to keep a straight face calling him that, “freckled, dark hair and eyes, foreign mother – is he in?”
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#3
She guffawed at 'gentleman', then scrunched up her face, thinking. "We've several dark ones." Then turning to lead him in. "Close the door, dear." She shuffled through some papers on a side table. "Now we have photographs, mind. It was such a lot of money but well worth it." Sorting through the dark ones like collecting a suit of cards, and shoving them at the fellow. "Take a look through them, love. I've got mad itch in this hat." She tossed it on the sofa in the parlour and scratched her head.

The tintypes were framed rather cheaply with paper card backing. Mazarin's depicted him naked on a chaise lounge with his hair placed carefully around him like black flowing water, but the serenity was undercut by his stern stare and his hand gripping the edge of the chair.

He tried to listen in as he wound his flower chain through his hair. That accent...
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#4
He closed the door quietly, clasping his hands behind himself to keep from fidgeting.

The scarf was different, and men in black suits did not exactly stick out in a crowd, but the bowler hat was the same as last time. He flipped through one card immediately, though his eyes drifted up at the mention of her hat. He met a poor hummingbird’s eyes for a staunch second before returning his attention to what seemed to be the playing card deck of mollies.

“I forgot to ask his name,” he said offhandedly, flipping through with a rather clinical expression.

More like he hoped thought he would never have use of it.

He only paused when he finally landed on it. Even in photograph, Nasty Bastard had a certain menace to himself. He felt rude looking without him even being there to see. Wordlessly, he tapped the edge of the frame and slid it to the madam.
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#5
[warning: racial slur]
Rose was looking upset at her hat and nearly walked away before he could identify a boy. “Oh! Yes. That’s Mazzy.” She whirled around and took the photo. “Come with me.” and then led the lad to Mazarin’s room. “Take a seat inside. Mind your manners. Pay first. And say ‘thank you’. Oh, and don’t be a savage.” She ran through those like a laundry list, then hollered for Mazarin and wandered away back to the kitchen.

“It’s not a curly Bohemian, is it?” Mazarin finished his tea with frustration and slurping.

“Is that what a Bohemian looks like?”
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#6
It was cleaner than last time, and the bed was already made. He went to the dresser, and put down a middle price between what he had seen to be a standard amount for ‘oral’. For women, at least – he had yet to see a molly house sporting guide passed around the same way.

His hand rested on his hat, briefly considering minding the madam’s words and then just as quickly deciding ‘nah’. He did unbutton his coat this time, but that was only to retrieve a book from his breast pocket: Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Setting an ankle on his knee, he habitually skimmed the author's note and flipped to the first chapter.
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#7
Mazarin appeared after some internal hemming and hawing. Dressed for once, in a thin shirt that was too large for him and linen trousers. He moved silently to the dresser and counted the coins. He’d learned to write prices down properly this time. It was roughly enough for a mouth job. But it was surely something far worse: more talking.

“Good afternoon.” Presuming any familiarity, prickly or not, was unwise. He’d risked enough being snide with his fairy story last time.
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#8
Content Warning: Homophobia.

His expression was neutral when he first looked over to Nasty Bas-... Mazzy. He had a name... the bastard.

He could have sworn he had heard him lingering out the door – but then, such would presume he even remembered him. Zechariah may have only seen one sodomite in his life, but Mazzy probably saw dozens every day. Quite intimately, at that.

He watched him count the coins – could have sworn he saw dread on his face, even, but whatever it was passed quickly enough to be a trick of the cheery afternoon light.

“Good afternoon, Mazzy,” Zechariah answered glibly. “How are you?”
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#9
Sighing. Rose. “It’s Mazarin.” Sweeping the coins off the dresser into his hand, balling them into a fist. Then holding his fist up to King Greenleaf of Bohemia. Momentarily like a threat, but then he turned his palm up to open it. “If you have come here to belittle me more, I refuse.”
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#10
There was not so much as a flinch when Mazarin presented his fist, instead staring back in challenge. When Mazarin spoke, however, Zechariah did flinch. He remembered him. Oh, did he remember him. He thought there was no way he could possibly spare a thought for him, but he filled the man with humiliation. Here was the only sodomite he would ever meet, and he had driven him to hate him.

He tucked his book away, then stood. Gloved hands cupped Mazarin’s from the top and bottom, urging his fingers to close around the coinage again.

“Sorry, Mazarin,” he murmured, looking more the sheepish Greenleaf of their first meeting. “I can go.”
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#11
It wasn’t that he feared Greenleaf would grab or pull. He was just prepared for it too much, and shuddered when he held his hand gently instead. At once suspicious, but the wheels turned in his mind and he didn’t quite nab the intent like he usually could.

“What’s your name?” Not moving to be let go.
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#12
The last time he had had physical contact beyond a handshake was over the holiday: hugs from his sisters and mother, and one almost-fight with his younger brother. His grip – already gentle – immediately loosened with a cautious look, feather-light and silken on Mazarin’s skin.

Immediately, his face went poker-blank at the askance of his name.

“Jonath-,” he started, then paused before an exasperated look flitted over his face.

He was a man with plans. He had a name ready for if it had been required at any point in the shadier side of London – a name so British and goyish that it would have been odder to question it than not. A name for protection... protection he did not deserve.

“Zechariah.”

That uncertain look was back, and his hands still remained on Mazarin’s.
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#13
Finding anyone attractive at work was difficult. Sometimes it made the whole idea of any kind of romance unpalatable. Even when they were handsome, the idea that a mutual longing could be shared wouldn’t be possible even if he wanted it. So he seldom wanted. A willing unwanting.

But truth-sharing was catching. “I was born in Whitechapel, and I am a bastard. Those are true.”
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#14
“You have never boarded a boat,” he said more than asked, and there was a note of envy to his statement.

He smoothed his top hand over Mazarin’s before letting his hands fall to his side.

“Prague,” he admitted, dropping his gaze to straighten his sleeve out. “Ruined kiddush.”

This was suddenly very uncomfortable. Back home, he had all but perfected changing the subject from himself – he figured he would live and die unseen but for what he provided, rather than who he was. A fate he rather preferred. As long as he kept telling himself that, he was confident he could even grow to believe it.

Golden rays filtered through the aged window. He tried to straighten a flower in Mazarin’s hair, but the glove just ended with him mussing it further.

“Favorite flower?”
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#15
"What's 'kiddush'?" Mazarin put the coins on the vanity, still considering what he should do with them. Lip twitching as he mussed his hair. "I like tulips."
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