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Aug. 9th, 2009

Luck was with them, it seemed, as the next morning proved utterly beautiful. The opportunity to get out of the house and see the surrounding countryside, as promised, was one that they could not waste, and so not long after they'd all finished breakfast, Henri, Thom, Lucie and Celestine set out into the fresh air. The scenery did not at all disappoint; Thom found it as charming as she had been told, and even if it was nothing new to the others, the chance to see it in full bloom and sunshine was still welcome.

Thom slipped her hand into the crook of Henri's arm as they strolled, the two younger girls walking a few yards behind them. "It seems to be going well, don't you think?" she asked quietly, hoping he thought the same. She'd thought they'd managed to avoid disaster thus far, but of course Henri knew his family much better than she did. Perhaps they were very skilled at hiding their antipathy. She rather hoped not. At the very least, she and Lucie had gotten on quite well; she could only hope that things would eventually be as natural with Celestine and their mother.

Aug. 3rd, 2009

A long time had passed since the night that Thom had come to find Henri on a Paris rooftop, not knowing whether or not she would be turned away; a long time since they'd embraced their present and the possibility of the future that lay ahead. They'd spent a long, hot summer in his tiny flat, waking late in the morning wound up in the sheets, spending afternoons walking along the Seine and exploring the city, spending evenings cooking for each other, talking late, and sleeping little. When the time had come for her to start her studies at Girton, tears had been shed, yes, but they both knew that it was the best of all possibilities, in the end. They'd exchanged pages and pages of letters, phone calls when they could manage, and visits as frequently as they could justify them. The distance had done nothing but make the time they had together more sweet.

Now it was years later, and Thom had just arrived in Paris, their reunion as sweet as they ever were. This time, though, Thom found herself more nervous than she had ever been, for what she considered was a very good reason. That morning, they were due to travel to the town where Henri had been born and raised, and she would meet his family for the very first time. The morning was bright, and as Henri got out of bed Thom sat up slightly, drawing the sheet up around her and watching him, anxiety sitting heavily in the pit of her stomach. "You're very certain, then, that this is a good idea?"
It had been a few weeks since the weekend that they had passed in Sidley Park, and the term at Cambridge was drawing to a close. Thom had marked the days passing with a growing sense of dread, knowing that the moment Henri was to go back to Paris was rapidly approaching, and that she had a difficult task to see to before it arrived. Finally the day came that she knew it could no longer be delayed, and with an increasingly weighty sense of foreboding, she made her way to the train station.

It was the same journey she'd taken months before, after receiving that letter from Eve, and Thom tried resolutely not to dwell on thoughts of that night, of how so much had changed. Everything was different now, she reminded herself sternly, and she had only herself to blame for it. In a week's time Henri would be gone, back to Paris, she would be settled in London, and that would be that. What-ifs and wild speculations would lead to nothing but difficulty for them both.

The train reached the station, and Thom disembarked, making her way down the same streets that she and Henri had walked the first time she'd come to visit him here. In the grand scheme it was not so very long ago, and yet when she thought of all that had happened since, it felt like an impossible amount of time had passed. Certainly the position she found herself in now was not one that she'd ever dreamed would come to pass. Still, it made sense, and silly girlish dreams aside, she knew it was best for her. The only trouble, she feared, would be getting Henri to see things the way she did.

The walk went more quickly than she'd expected, and soon she found herself outside Henri's door. She hadn't been able to bring herself to write or call with news of her arrival, so she would not be expected. He wouldn't mind, she told herself as she steadied her nerves to ring his bell. Everything would be fine.
Yes, this had been a good idea, Thom told herself as Jellaby brought in the afternoon tea. A weekend away from the bustle of the city, away from the buzz of society, away from the solitude of study - it was what they'd all needed. Lord and Lady Croom had indeed absented themselves from the house for the weekend, so it was left to the run of their small company. She'd brought Henri, Septimus, and Hannah; Chloe and Val had already been here at the estate, rounding out the group nicely.

The train from London and the car from the station had both been slightly awkward rides; Henri and Hannah, she could tell, felt uncomfortable making conversation about Cambridge that was likely to exclude herself and Septimus, while the two of them were faced with a similar dilemma. In the end, they'd all mostly just enjoyed the quiet of the ride. When they'd arrived, the estate had been in fine form to greet them; the gardens would be looking their best, she could tell, and she was pleased for Henri's sake. Septimus had, of course, made himself right at home; it was far from the first time he'd visited, and he'd headed straight for the kitchen to greet Cook and then to his usual room, in that order. For her part, Thom had taken the time to give Henri and Hannah a bit of a tour, so that they would not be entirely lost, and then introduced them to the cousins. She'd strongly hinted to Val that Hannah might be interested in the hermitage out in the gardens, and had watched not without a certain sense of satisfaction as they'd gone off to investigate. Generally she wasn't in the business of meddling, but it couldn't hurt much this one time, could it?

It was afternoon, now, and the six of them had found themselves in the library, poking about various volumes but mostly contenting themselves with a afternoon in which there was nothing required of them besides relaxation. Thom fixed a cup of tea for Henri, who had predictably enough not looked up from his book when the tray was brought it, and touched his shoulder lightly before handing it to him with a little smile. "I've brought a couple of books for you, don't let me forget," she said to him quietly, so as not to disturb the others in whatever they'd occupied themselves with. "It's a lovely library here but not the most modern, when it comes to the sorts of things we like."
When Thom woke up late the next morning, with the sun streaming in the windows and the birds chirping entirely too cheerfully outside, it took her a moment before she realized where she was. She had never seen Henri's bedroom before, but it was plain to see the man himself in it; in the stack of books on his bedside table, his carefully kept wardrobe, the neatness of the room. She smiled to herself for a moment before she realized two things: one, that her head was pounding hard enough that she feared it would soon split entirely, and two, that she was entirely naked under the covers. In a flash, the events of the night before came back to her: taking the train from London in a hurry, cooking him dinner, sharing wine and scotch, and then... For a moment she thought she could still feel the marks his hands had made on her body, the paths his mouth had taken over her skin, and she flushed to think of it.

But she was here, in his bed, alone. The other side of the bed had not been slept on; Henri must have passed the night in the living room, on the couch. Which meant... well, what did it mean? She mused on it with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. What must he think of her, after all that? Well, what could one think of a girl who, upon hearing that her 'competition' had dropped out of the race, rushed immediately to a man's side and plied him with food, alcohol, backrubs and then threw herself into his arms? Her cheeks burned to think on it, how desperate her actions must have seemed. To take advantage of Henri in his grief, to know that he must be lonely, longing for companionship, and to provide what he had so politely and consistently avoided in the last months... good god.

It was a struggle not to put her head under the blanket and wait for the universe to shift around her, get her out of this situation, let her pretend none of it happened and that she hadn't just entirely ruined the most important friendship she'd ever had. There was no point, though, she knew it, and the longer she put it off the more difficult it would be. No, she had to face him, and soon. Her clothes, she realized as her cheeks burned even hotter, were still in the living room where they'd been so hastily discarded last night, and she couldn't very well go out there wrapped in a sheet. In the end she settled for shrugging on Henri's robe, which she'd found hanging on the back of his door; it looked far too large on her small frame, but it was the best option, and tied tightly was at least decent. She opened the door to his bedroom and leaned against the doorframe, almost nervous to enter the room, at least until she knew how he was taking things.

Apr. 22nd, 2009

The coincidence had, in retrospect, really been stunning. Thom had gotten to the hotel, calmed herself down, cleaned herself up, and forced herself to realize that the situation she'd found herself in could not now be altered, and the best thing for it would be to soldier through and embarrass herself as little as possible. To that end, she'd phoned Henri, and they'd all agreed to meet near the university for dinner that evening.

There had been a saving grace, however, and it had come in the form of the least likely person Thom ever would have expected. As they'd been walking to the restaurant, she had spotted none other than Septimus Hodge on the other side of the street. It had been such a relief to see a friendly face that she'd dashed across the street with not a word of explanation to Henri and Eve, who must have thought her mad. Thom had explained the situation to him as briefly as she could, and begged him not to leave her as the third wheel, promising all manner of repayment once they got back to London if he'd only do her this favor. He'd laughed, and of course agreed, and she'd dragged him back across the street to make the introductions.

Dinner had passed rather uneventfully, to Thom's mind, and now they'd found themselves - at Septimus's recommendation - in a smoky little club not in fact so different from the one Thom and Henri had found in Paris. Not that she was thinking such things, of course, nor about the fact that Eve and Henri must have been there together a dozen times since. They had drinks, and there was music, and overall Thom thought that the evening could have been much more of a disaster, really.

Of course, it wasn't over yet.
The sun was entirely unnaturally bright that morning, Thomasina decided as she stumbled from her bedroom into the parlor, pulling her robe on over the slip she'd fallen asleep in. They'd gotten in terribly late the night before, of course, both drunk - though Thom rather suspected, from the way her head was pounding now, that she'd gotten the worse end of it - and even as late in the morning as it seemed now to be, the sleep she'd had couldn't have been terribly restful.

There was breakfast, though, and that was a godsend; though she didn't feel she could stomach much more than toast at the moment, coffee would be a curative unmatched by any other modern medicine. Except aspirin, perhaps, but she'd swallowed those dry almost as soon as she'd woken. It wasn't the first party she'd left in such a state, and she'd learned the tricks by now.

She was stirring the sugar into her coffee when Henri entered, and she looked up with a smile - as much of one as she could manage, anyway. "Morning," she said, and wasted no time in proffering the coffee pot. "Coffee?"

Thread summaries!

20s AU of doom threads:

- meeting in Paris (done)
- saying goodbye in Paris (done)
- Henri arrives in London and they catch up (done)
- Henri meets her friends (La Vie En Rose *g*) (done)
- Arguing over friends/girlfriend/differences, kissing and making up (in progress)
- Thom goes to visit at Cambridge, they begin talking about her taking classes there
- Thom meets Hannah, they talk about women @ Cambridge and her friends
- Henri breaks up with girlfriend, Thom goes to 'comfort'
- Morning after awkwardness!
- Awkward night out with friends leads to more arguing about Cambridge
- Fighting about Henri going back to Paris for socialist stuff
- Thom accepts proposal, big huge fight w/confessing feelings and awesomeness
- Thom goes to Paris, making up, loviness, happily ever after

Somewhere adjacent to timeline: Hannah/Val thread of Thom's meddling and extreme cuteness
A month had passed before Thomasina had opened up her suitcase and retrieved Henri's address, from where it had been secured in the pocket of a handbag during her trip home. As she'd predicted, the sorrow at leaving him behind had lessened considerably day by day once she'd returned to England; they had, after all, known each other only three days, as happy as those days had been. Still, there was something in her that could not forget the remarkable way they had connected, and so when she came across a new publication by Einstein, titled On the 200th Anniversary of Newton's Death, she could do nothing else but find his address, an envelope, and scrawl a note to include:

Henri,

Saw this and thought of you, of course.
Hope all is still well in Paris, and
with you. Find a cafe with good cafe au lait
to read this in and be sure to have
a cup for me.

Fondly,

T


She'd send it off, not knowing whether to expect a reply, and tried to think no more of it. But he did write back, including an article of his own, and his own letter. After that, there was hardly a week that passed where they did not exchange correspondence, more often than not with snippets of things they'd come across that they knew would interest the other. Over time, the notes they included became letters, and the letters grew longer and longer. They began to annotate the articles they sent with notes in the margins, writing back and forth to one another, sometimes posting the article three or four times before they'd finished.

Over time, a real friendship had grown between them, something built on a basis much more solid than the few days they'd shared in Paris. And so when, a year after they'd met for the first time near the bank of the Seine, Henri had written to Thomasina to tell her that he would indeed be spending some time at Cambridge to study, she had not spent a moment in hesitation before writing him back to tell him that he must, must, must make his way to London. In fact, she waged a veritable letter-writing campaign, sending a new note every day until he relented and told her, with a letter in which she could almost hear him laughing, that he would be down at his first opportunity.

The day had come, finally, and Thom waited at King's Cross, watching engine after engine pull in and trying to figure out which came from Cambridge, wondering which door he would step from. Her stomach was in knots, but that was, as she told herself, entirely natural; it had been a very long time since they'd last seen each other (and that last night in Paris was something she'd not allowed herself to dwell on) and how much better did she know him now? How much better, for that matter, did he know her - the inner workings of her mind, thoughts that she had not even dared share with the people she'd known all her life? No, it was entirely natural to be nervous, she thought as she watched another train pull in. Perhaps this would be the one.

Apr. 5th, 2009

It was a jazz club that they'd found their way to in the end, long after they'd left the restaurant, and the final curtain call at the theater had come down. They'd stumbled in hardly knowing what the place was, but the low ceilings, the crowded dance floor and the votive on each table had called them in just as surely as the smoky-voiced woman standing on the stage.

They'd found a table, and had drinks, but it hadn't been long before Thomasina hadn't been able to wait a moment longer and had tugged Henri up, pulling him to the dance floor before he could even consider protesting. That had been some time ago now, and they'd taken breaks, gotten another drink or two, but the lure of the music had been inexorable, and they'd returned to the floor again and again.

Both last call and last song of the evening were finally announced, and Thom looked up at Henri with regret in her eyes, even as the band struck up again and the singer took the stage one more time.

"Des yeux qui font baiser les miens,
Un rire qui se perd sur sa bouche,
Voila le portrait sans retouche
De l'homme auquel j'appartiens

Quand il me prend dans ses bras
Il me parle tout bas,
Je vois la vie en rose."


It was impossible for her to ignore the fact that it was her last night in Paris, and the last night that she would be able to spend with Henri, but for the moment she banished it all from her mind and stepped just a little closer to him, so that they were nearly cheek to cheek, her hand clasped in his warm grasp and her arm about his shoulders. In this moment, at the very least, there was no room between them for sorrow.

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