Wineglass Conversations

Set a few months before the third book.

He sipped from a fluted, crystal wineglass, following her with his eyes, running a slim hand through his cropped hair. He idly contemplated standing up and following her, but decided against it, content to watch her progress across the room.

There she was, smoothly sidestepping the dancing couples and speaking to a fat, red-faced magician who was gesticulating wildly with his hands, looking extremely flustered to be speaking with the beautiful woman. She stood there, tall and elegant, lazily and completely in command of the situation. She spoke a few inaudible words, nodded at the man, and stepped away.

She glanced about the room, her piercing eyes like a hawk's, searching out new prey. He continued to watch her covertly, fascinated. Almost he could follow her train of thought as her gaze flickered from one person to another. That man was much too old to be of use, his words mumbled through a mouth often riddled with drink… That magician, Harris, was little more than a boy, a junior assistant in Security and going nowhere… That woman, Clarke, a magician with iron-grey hair, had once offended Devereaux—it wouldn't do to mingle with her… Makepeace was giving an enthusiastic monologue on a play he was in the process of writing that she would prefer to skip…

She caught him directly, her dark eyes boring into his, and a mocking smile began to take form on her lips, almost as if to say, I know you were watching me. She brushed back a piece of hair that had fallen into her eyes, and with a soft clickety-clack of heels, she began to walk towards him. He immediately adopted a supremely bored expression, moving easily in his chair, smoothing his dark suit down. He, too, fixed a smile on his face to match hers just as she arrived and delicately seated herself on another chair.

"John."

"Jane. Would you care to join me in a drink?"

"I would like that very much, if you wouldn't mind."

He raised a languid hand and hailed a waiter, who brought another wineglass filled to the brim. She took a sip and slowly licked a drop of the red liquid from her lips.

There was silence. More to break it than anything else, he asked, nodding towards the red-faced magician, "What did Hughes want?" Farrar gave another sardonic smile, and Mandrake could have hit himself. Now she knew for certain that he had been watching her.

"Nothing too important," she said, tinkling a pretty laugh. "The usual… asking whether the rumours were true… though I don't doubt he knew the answer to that already…"

"The rumours?"

"The rumours," she repeated with a dismissive flick of her wrist. "About the children who see demons for what they are. About the people who aren't blasted apart by magic."

"Ah."

"Indeed."

There was silence once more.

"… and you answered?"

"I answered that lending your ear to rumours comes with a choice," she said, raising a perfectly-stenciled eyebrow. "Believing, or scorning. He understood that I didn't wish to discuss the matter with him." She smiled a little, her teeth very white.

Yes, you usually manage to make your point clear, he thought.

Out loud, he said, "It was unwise of him to ask." They smiled at each other, cold, calculating smiles they often exchanged, coolly sizing the other up. They were both nearest to Devereaux at the moment, they knew, what with the war in America and the disorder in the country itself, and they were both in similar political positions.

He cast about for a new topic, and settled on a nondescript enough one. "Quentin seems quite excited; he has begun writing a new play."

She rolled her eyes. "From Wapping to Westminster. About the PM himself. I only hope it isn't another God-awful musical."

"Well, we can do nothing but hope and perhaps throw him subtle hints that Devereaux might not appreciate the music, can we not?"

Farrar gave a sweet little groan. "He's in far too deep with Devereaux; you know as well as I that Makepeace can do whatever he pleases, and that we have no choice but to attend."

Of course. That was what it was, what his whole life revolved around—a struggle for power, and looking out for one's own interests. That was why all magicians who wished to advance attended Makepeace's dreadful plays—they were working for their own benefit. When had it ever been otherwise?

Quick as a flash, he heard a vibrant, vivacious voice; dark hair, whipping to and fro and in disarray in a struggle; shining, impassioned eyes, blazing in their belief and conviction of what was right and wrong. His utter surprise at the resurfacing of her memory and the guilt that always accompanied such a recurrence caused him to give a little start, spilling some of his wine onto his trousers.

"Mandrake? John? Are you all right?" Farrar's voice seemed to come hazily, from a distance, and he stared, unfocused, for a second or two before taking in the meaning of her words. When he finally shook his head to clear the mist, he saw her watching him curiously and a little apprehensively, as one would eye a person with a contagious disease.

"I'm fine. I'm sorry, do continue." But even as he spoke, he could see her face and hear her voice in his head. As he looked at Farrar, he compared the two women; both dark-haired, one sleek and elegant, the other disorderly and even bloody, but with those glowing, intense eyes… Mandrake's stomach swooped, and he didn't bother attempting to understand why it had done so. He simply knew he had to rid himself of his dangerous reminiscences, at least for that night.

"Would you care to dance?" he asked abruptly, unexpectedly standing up and causing Ms. Farrar to look even more surprised than she already was. She, however, took it all in stride.

"Of course," she answered, a smile playing on her lips. They took to the dance floor, and Mandrake left his disquieting memories of Kitty Jones with his wineglass.


I wanted to capture his feelings for Kitty and show that perhaps even he didn't understand them, while struggling to live his life of power. If that makes any sense at all. Thanks for reading! It doesn't take much time to drop a review if you're so inclined. :)