I didn't so much need a break from writing as I needed a break from pressure. Fanficking myself is a lot easier than having to write within a tight framework on a tight schedule.
Anyways, I love the Wash backstory, so this week brings us back to the Five Points. So it does.
Is that him? Is that the same Irish thug I met last week? Dorcas tucked her violin under her arm and squinted hard at the back of the man’s head as he leaned forward against the bar. Almack’s was crowded and noisy, a swirling vortex of music and dancing feet and sweat and whiskey. That’s not the first or only head of red hair that’s been in here. It was true that Amack’s was a black dance hall, but the Irish came here as well. It was an uncomfortable and volatile alliance, but even Dorcas had to grudgingly admit that the mish-mash of musical influences was doing wonders for the tavern’s success.
She studied the broad expanse of his shoulders, the narrow waist and long legs, and raised an eyebrow. That’s not him. I don’t remember him being so well built, she told herself. And he wouldn’t dare come here, anyways. She gripped her bow and held it close against her body, stepping tentatively towards the bar. Would he?
After last week's encounter with the red-haired man outside her tenement, Dorcas couldn’t decide if she ought to be afraid or not. On one hand, she’d let him play her violin. In fact, she’d been shocked to learn that a member of the Roach Guard could play, much less play well. And he hadn’t hurt her. In fact, he’d defended her against his own brother’s leering aggression and had helped her with the stuck door on the building so she could get inside. On the other hand...well, on the other hand...I did hold him at knifepoint, call him a filthy Mick, and threatened to gut him and leave him for the rats...
She stared harder, stumbling as someone jostled into her. Seemingly alerted to the weight and heat of her gaze boring into the back of his skull, he put down his glass and turned, his vivid indigo eyes lighting up when he focused on her.
“That was some fine playing, so it was,” he said, his freckled face dimpling as he broke into a smile. In the warm, smoky light of the dance hall, his pale skin seemed less ghostly than it did when she’d first met him on the street. His face was softer, and color bloomed in his cheeks. But it's unmistakably him. “No more troubles with the front door, I take it?”
Damn it. Dorcas felt her temper flare. “Did you follow me here?” She snapped. “Why are you here talking to me? Why do I keep running into you?”
He shrugged, picking up his glass. “No, lass, I wasn’t following you before, and I’m nae following you now. I was coming here long before last week. And I’d be here now even if we’d never met, so I would.” He took a sip of beer, the foam clinging to his upper lip. He licked it away. “I’m here for a bevy, maybe a little dancing, and some nicely played fiddle.” He gestured towards her violin with his glass and took another sip.
“Violin.” She tersely corrected him.
“Aye, that too.”
She glared at him, looking around warily for others like him. “Where’s...your brother?”
“Sent him off to the Red Door for a pint, so I did. He doesn’t like it here. And I don’t like him here, either.”
“Never you mind why, lass. Look.” He put his glass down and gestured absently at it, waving over Brother J, the bartender. “Let me buy you a drink.”
If my brothers see me drinking with an Irishman...an Irish gang member....”No, thank you.”
He swivelled his chair around to face her, cocking his head with a look of amusement on his face. “Miss, Brother J will tell you I come here all the time. Love the music, so I do, and the dancing. I’m nae some sort of debauched tosser lurking about after the lasses.” He leaned back with his elbows on the battered wooded edge of the bar. “I can’t help it if this is the first time you’ve seen me here. Neither of us knew we lived in the same building until last week, either.”
Her mind went back to the incident, remembering how his eyes had closed when he’d fitted the bow to her violin, how every note had seemed to seep into his soul as he played. How wet and bright his eyes had been when he finally opened them and handed her violin back to her, longing and gratitude and bittersweet regret etched across his pale features. She frowned, at war with herself.
“You ain’t buying me a drink.” She said defensively, striding to stand beside him at the bar and dropping a coin in front of Brother J.
“Dorcas?” Her brother’s voice cut sharply through the smoke and noise.
Did you really have to say my name out loud right now, Ethan? She cringed and turned to face him. Ethan had shouldered his way through the crowd and stood scowling at the the Irishman, invading his space, wordlessly warning him off. She knew if Ethan took a swing at the man, he’d get away with it. Nobody in Almack’s would have seen a thing when the coppers showed up and started asking questions, if they even bothered. An potato-eating thug getting beaten up by a negro at a black dance hall in one of the worst neighborhoods in the Points would hardly be of interest to anyone. She also knew if said thug went limping back to his gang after said beating, he’d be hard pressed to point her brother out. They think we all look alike. His gang wouldn't do anything.The Irish come here, too, they’re not going to cause trouble here over a petty squabble. I could get rid of him pretty easily right now...he’s on our turf, this time...
She took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. “I’m fine, Ethan. It’s alright.”
“Who’s this Paddy you’re talking to?”
Dorcas turned, looking the Irishman over, remembering him squabbling with his menacing brother over her. Telling the man to leave her be, shouldering his brother’s insults and threats. Had he not been there, had his brother been alone that night and came upon me struggling with the door in the dark...
She shook her head and sighed, ever-so-slightly relaxing her grip on her fear and dislike of the red-haired man. “Hmph.” She shrugged and and gave them both and exasperated smirk. “This is Jargie Feckin’ Washington, so it is.”