Work Header

Argument the Fourth: Class

Work Text:

They are standing together, watching the dancers in the main ballroom of the Winter Palace revolve like so many beautiful dolls.  Bull looks at Dorian out of the corner of his eye and grins when he sees the mage sneer.  He can feel Dorian getting uncomfortable under the weight of some opinion or other, and he waits to see what he will say.  Sure enough, as Dorian’s eyes follow a man dressed in a short cut blue velvet dress coat, he mutters, “I don’t know how you could even stand to be in the same room as it, let alone dressed in it.  It’s so… tacky.”  He sniffs and looks askance, catches Bull’s gaze upon him, and looks up, surprised.  Bull says, all innocence, “Tacky?”


Dorian waves a hand at the man, still looking at Bull.  “You know, tacky.  Without style.  No taste.  Exhibiting a lack of class.”  He shoots a glare at the man, and says pointedly, “ That .”  Bull chuckles, decides to try and goad Dorian a little, needle him into a better temper.  “There’s no lack of class around here, Dorian.  You’ve got enough for this whole room.”  Dorian preens and makes a smug moué.  “Thank you,” he says to Bull, and then seems to think about the stress in Bull’s sentence, detect the challenge under his words and narrows his eyes before asking, “Ehm… what?”  Bull grins down at him and says with a raise of his eyebrows, “I mean that your so-called good taste is only a kind of social conditioning.  There’s nothing that makes your taste inherently better or worse than mine, or anyone else's.”  


Dorian bristles, and takes the bait, telling Bull with a shake of his head, “Oh, that’s simply not true.”  Bull laughs, a fondness creeping over his features.  He puts out a hand, meaning to ruffle Dorian’s hair, but that would be a step too far, with things as they stand.  There are places and times for that kind of thing, but those are not here and now, in the middle of the grand ballroom when they are meant to be looking out for an assassin.  He curls his fingers slightly and allows his hand to fall on Dorian’s shoulder instead.  “You’re not giving me much of an argument there, Dorian.  Are you telling me that you don’t think that ‘taste’ is just another method for a ruling class to establish power over the ruled?  When you consider how the rulers establish everything that is ‘tasteful’, and that they themselves are the barometer of that taste? I woulda thought it was kind of obvious.”  Bull says casually, “But then again, as you so often tell me, I am King of Obviousness.  I notice the same thing with Vivienne too.”  Dorian has folded his arms across his chest, though his facial expression is more one of a man considering a rare and weird bug than one who has taken offense to a new idea.  He finally looks at Bull again and asks, “What, because she’s stylish?”

“No,” Bull answers, “because she goes on about it.  Her own taste, and how superior it is to everyone else's.”  He pauses, looks from the dancers to Dorian again, frowning slightly, “And hey, this isn’t a criticism of you.  You look good.  You just don’t need to rub it in everyone’s face.  I’m just saying that maybe you wanna exercise a little cultural critique next time you get the urge to put down someone’s clothes.  That’s all.”


Dorian is silent for a long time, appearing to be mulling over what Bull has said.  He looks to a far off corner of the room, then gazes at the floor for a while.  Bull thinks that he might have taken it a bit hard, and is trying to think of a way of apologising without saying he is sorry when Dorian raises his head, looking hard at Bull.  He purses his lips, frowning and says, “So… you think I look… good?”  It’s all Bull can do to keep his face straight; a bright smile wants to flash across it.  “Yeah, Dorian,” he tells the mage, “I do.”