Title: Small Gestures
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Julia, Willie, and Barnabas.
Setting: Somewhat early in Julia and Barnabas' acquaintance.
Summary: A teacup holds an unexpected surprise for Julia.
Disclaimer: They belong to Dan Curtis Productions. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompt of "Favorite" at Fan Flashworks.
"Here's your tea," Willie announced in a mumble, appearing at Julia's side with a cup and saucer. He acknowledged her thanks with only a vague jerk of his head, and promptly slouched away to go on about his business.
Picking up the saucer, Julia inhaled the fragrant steam rising from the cup—and her eyebrows raised at the unexpectedly familiar aroma. One taste of the hot amber liquid confirmed that it was not the generic, slightly bitter tea she had come to expect on visits to the Old House. Instead, it was her own favorite kind; perhaps with a bit less sugar than she liked, but the flavor was still unmistakable.
The pleasant offering immediately set her thoughts in motion.
This change of the tea being served to her was certainly not Willie's idea. He never touched the stuff himself, buying it only on his master's instructions for the enjoyment of houseguests. He wouldn't know good tea from what was merely average, and besides, Julia had already noticed that he was almost obsessively frugal with the allowance he received for household expenses. (Perhaps out of fear that overspending would incur his master's temper… and while Julia wanted very deeply to believe that things were changing, she could not deny that she had seen too much of that temper to blame Willie.)
Yet if it wasn't the nervous manservant's doing, that only left…
Furtively Julia glanced at the vampire who sat across from her in a wingback chair, brow furrowed in concentration over a book even older than himself. Ever since she had inspired him with the hope that his condition could be cured, he had taken to collecting any ancient volume of supernatural lore he could track down, and now spent most of his evenings combing through them. A part of Julia was dismayed at the hint that he did not put full trust in her scientific efforts, but at least he was taking the initiative to look for other possible answers.
At least he was here in his sitting room, placidly reading, and not… out there. Not roaming the night, lurking on the docks, seeking satisfaction for his need.
Hastily Julia's mind fled from the thought of other fluids to the innocent subject of tea. Yes, it could only have been Barnabas who prompted the upgrade—but how and why had he landed on her favorite? It had definitely never come up in casual conversation. Unless he was inadvertently cornered into the topic by one of his Collins relations, he would not chat about food and drink that he couldn't partake of himself. (Which thought was enough to make Julia feel an unwelcome wistful pang, much as she tried to stifle it and quickly move on yet again.)
No, Barnabas had not heard from her about what kind of tea she favored—which could only mean he had invested the time and effort in finding out. Even if the means was as simple as asking Elizabeth or Carolyn, that act represented a small conscious gesture of kindness, a moment in which he had deliberately thought about…
About pleasing her.
Julia's heart bounced off her ribs, and she felt a sudden bloom of heat rush into her face… at the very moment when Barnabas raised his head and looked at her.
"…Is something the matter?"
Don't stammer. Don't stare. For the love of heaven, act professional and stop blushing like a fool.
"N-not at all, Barnabas."
The vampire arched a heavy eyebrow, but after a brief moment, he turned his attention back to his book; and Julia quickly raised the teacup to hide her smile.
Her favorite tea had never tasted sweeter.
2021 Jordanna Morgan