Quot estis in convivioAuthor: kerrypolkaPlay: Henry IV
Kate Percy, Harry Percy, Doll Tearsheet, Prince Hal, Falstaff, Mrs Quickly, PistolWarnings:
Swears (including misogynist ones)Rating:
Modern AU (City of London, Eastcheap)Summary:
That was the problem with working with Harry Percy. For some reason, within ten minutes of starting a conversation with him, Kate's brain short-circuited and she was always left either mouthing wordlessly or finding herself saying things like, "So you thought it would be a good idea to punch Mervyn King at the Budget announcement?"
You couldn't really know where you were going, to get to the Boar's Head. It was down one of those little streets from the Monument, barely inside the Square Mile, and at 10:47 am on Tuesday when Kate pushed open the wooden door, she was pleased to see it was serving real people and not City ones like herself.
She hadn't realised she'd been looking for a pub when she walked out of her office on Cannon Street fifteen minutes ago. At the time she had been thinking, in no particular order:
1. Shut the fuck up
Okay, there hadn't been a 2. That was the problem with working with Harry Percy. For some reason, within ten minutes of starting a conversation with him, Kate's brain short-circuited and she was always left either mouthing wordlessly or finding herself saying things like, "So you thought it would be a good idea to punch Mervyn King
at the Budget announcement?", or "I'm not approving you to supervise another graduate until you can explain exactly what you
think 'insider trading' means", or, when he'd awkwardly got down on one knee at the Christmas party as he had for the past four years, "Did you think the Duchess of Cambridge just wouldn't notice
her engagement ring was missing?"
So when he walked into her office that morning and noisily shut the door, she'd been expecting another proclamation of love. Even after he pulled out the flip charts. Kate was almost disappointed when he started talking about strategic initiatives and forward-thinking tactics and aggressive seizure of market share. She slumped a bit. Then quickly straightened up. And found herself doing it again. The blood rush to the face. The three to seven seconds of fish-mouthing.
He stood proudly in front of his final diagram, a pie chart: Northumberland LLC, 40%; Mortimer PLC, 30%; Glyndwr LLC, 30%.
"Are you proposing using my
money for a hostile takeover of Coutts
? The oldest bank in the country? The one with the black cards made out of titanium? The one the Queen
"Henry Bolingbroke to Henry Percy," he said cheerfully. "They'll barely have to change the letterhead."
That was when she'd stood up, looked straight at the door, opened it and walked out, not consciously looking for a pub.
And now that she was in one, she could see why City workers were famous for daytime drinking. It was impressive it had taken her this long, actually, but she'd always been too concerned about the rest of the day's work to write it off with a bottle of red. Now that she had discovered her chief financial officer was determined to drag her and the rest of the company into insolvency or jail, the afternoon's TPS reports didn't matter so much.
Kate stood at the bar and surveyed her options. The coolers were buzzing gently but otherwise appeared to have given up, eliminating white wine or cider, and the red was sitting next to the kettle, obviously slowly turning to bitter sludge. She glanced at the ales and gambled on what looked like the least bad. "Pint of your guest, please," she said. The woman behind the bar looked approvingly at her as she pulled it.
"Don't often get women drinking ale," she said.
Kate sighed inwardly. "I know."
"Didn't mean anything by it. It's nice. You get a hard time for it sometimes--"
"It's not right." A loud man sat in the corner booth, one foot propped up on the seat, wearing a spectacular ensemble Kate vaguely recognised from her brother's brief stint as a pick-up artist 'peacock' in university. "Girls drinking ale. You know. Perverting the course of nature. First drinking ale, next munching cunts."
Kate held back a giggle and the publican rolled her eyes. "There's more seating upstairs," she said, nodding to a back staircase. Kate picked up her pint and wandered up, now just hoping for a quiet room. She tried to remember everything her yoga teacher had said about mindful breathing before she'd stopped going. It didn't work. Kate passed the gents', where loud snoring came from behind the door, and found herself in a room just big enough for two tables and a darts board. It was occupied by a blonde woman in her bra and pants and a very naked Henry Lancaster, Jr -- media darling, Formula One star and, in his spare time, vice-president of the bank Kate's dappy CFO was trying to take over. He carefully aimed and threw a dart, which fell just wide of the bulls-eye.
"That's another sock for me," he drawled, bending over. It was a pretty fantastic bottom, Kate had to admit. "Where's fat John got to?"
The girl turned, and Kate saw her red lipstick was smeared on the left side of her mouth. She looked annoyed. "Stop calling him -- oh!" She'd seen Kate. Kate realised she probably should have said something when she entered the room, but, well. It was a pretty fantastic bottom.
"I'll make sure he hasn't passed out in anything too wet," Henry said, and slouched out of the room while Kate pretended to avert her eyes. The girl plunked herself down at the nearest table to Kate and began pulling on a tight, electric blue dress. "Well, that was embarrassing," she said happily. "Sorry about that!" She zipped up a long black boot and Kate thought she saw a knife glint. "I'm Doll."
"What? Oh. Kate. Hi."
A thump sounded in the corridor and Doll looked up, concerned. "He's not dead so far," Henry called, and Doll grinned and looked up at Kate.
"That's my John," she said proudly. "He drank four litres of ale this morning and then when he had, Hal said he'd give him £10 for every minute he didn't have a wee. Made us nearly £90!"
"Nearly?" Kate asked before she could stop herself.
"He docked him five quid because he'd started to dribble a little out of the--"
"I see," Kate said quickly. She had the absurd thought that she'd be better off with Harry back in her office, but she had nearly a full pint to finish and Katherine Mortimer had never been a woman to leave a drink unfinished. Instead, she sat down, trying carefully not to stare while Doll finished dressing and pinned her hair up, and exhaled deeply. Doll produced a pint from the windowsill and gulped it. She seemed perfectly happy to sit in silence, which Kate appreciated greatly.
After a few minutes of companionable, quiet drinking, a thought struck Kate, which she voiced before she could stop herself. "Does that mean -- are you and Henry --"
"Lord, no!" Doll laughed and crinkled up her nose. "He's not my sort. A bit hard, you know what I mean? No round edges. Anyway, I'm not even sure he likes girls, I've never seen him with one, but I suppose he wouldn't bring one here, would he? I mean, you wouldn't, would you?"
"No," Kate said. Her speaking seemed to have broken the spell, for there was thunder on the stairs and the rude man in the ridiculous clothes staggered into the room. He addressed Doll and seemed not to see Kate. "I left my best hat up here last night and I know you've nicked it, you salted minge," he said.
"Fuck off," Doll said placidly. The man growled, wheeled around looking at the room, stared briefly at Kate, reached up to adjust an invisible hat, dropped his wallet, swore, picked it up, and tore off down the stairs, his plaintive cry "It en't up there and she told me to fuck off!" echoing behind him.
"Sorry about that," Doll said. She sipped her beer as if nothing more had happened than a window blowing shut, or a pint glass breaking.
"That was...effective," Kate said.
"Mmm. He's no trouble really, even though he likes to think he is. Just, some people just need to be told when to fuck off. Do you work around here?"
Kate hated to say it under normal circumstances, but especially right now when she didn't even want to think about work. "I'm chief executive of Mortimer."
"The sandwich shop?"
Doll's eyes widened. "That's pretty good, I didn't know a lady ran there. You know," and she looked proud again, "Nell downstairs runs this place on her own, even before her husband died. No landlord. And she owns the freehold."
Kate was actually impressed. Land in this part of London wasn't cheap, and hadn't been for hundreds of years. This place must do better business than it looked - or Nell or her husband had family money, which was the usual way of getting property in London now. She doubted a medieval pub would have been included in Mrs. Thatcher's right-to-buy scheme.
"That's really very good," she said, and Doll nodded.
"It's much nicer than the others I've worked at. Things just go better with girls in charge," she said confidently. Kate opened her mouth, all sorts of rejoinders about gender essentialism and simplifying the issue and quotas and Christine Lagarde and, yes, Mrs Thatcher jangling in her head, but they fought with memories of Harry's earnest puppy face and Henry Lancaster Junior playing strip darts in a pub and someone named 'fat John' passed out in the loos at 11am. She looked down and her beer was empty.
"Yeah," Kate said.
Doll saw where her eyes went, and her demeanor instantly shifted from friendly confidante to businesslike server. "Another?"
Kate rested her head on her hand. "No, thank you. I've got to go back, I think." She breathed. "I'm going to go back and Harry is going to do a really stupid thing, and I'm going to end up doing it with him, and we both might actually end up in real proper prison, but probably not because we're rich and rich people don't go to prison, but we definitely won't get to keep out nice jobs and I'll have to sell my lovely flat in Clerkenwell and share a two-bedroom ex-council with him in Balham and I might actually say yes the next time he asks me to marry him and it'll all be disgustingly suburban and one of us will end up strangling the other over the rocket salad in Waitrose."
Doll nodded slowly. "You could just tell him to fuck off," she suggested.
"I don't think I can," Kate said.
She hadn't realised it until she said it, but there it was, and it was true.
"Ah," Doll said. "Well, that's a bit shit. Sorry." She looked like she meant it.
"Thanks," Kate said. She stood up. "Also, good luck with. Um."
"Oh, John'll be all right," Doll said, cheerful again. "Last week, you should have seen it, it was a straight eight minutes, we clocked it--"
"Thanks," Kate said again, rapidly standing up, not wanting to be rude to Doll but even more wanting to avoid hearing more about this stranger's urinary habits. She passed quickly through the downstairs bar and made her way back up Cannon Street, picturing Harry waiting in her office exactly where she'd left him; the thought made her steps almost bounce.
couldn't wait for his presentation to the board.