Logs:Cake, Poker and Politics

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Cake, Poker and Politics


Characters: Gretchen, Jack, Jules, Lilium, Louis, Nan, Natalya, Peter, Sheena and Tris
Date: 2019-12-12
Summary: Natalya's birthday party features many Lost with various gifts socializing and pursuing politics while playing poker.
Disclaimers: {{{disclaimers}}}

.oO( Birthday Poker - RP Nexus )Oo........................................o.

Some people are easily pleased. A back room borrowed out, and game tables; pretzels, beer, options for fancier food, a few board games but much more than a few decks of cards and poker chips and a cash-box, and a large sheet birthday cake on its own table with a single candle and fancy script reading NOT DEAD YET. That is all it takes for Natalya to have a happy birthday, however old she truly is.

There are no party hats.


Birthdays might be peculiar to people whose lives get disconnected and reconnected again in strange configurations, but there are some simple signifiers in place, even if there's a distinct lack of hats and balloons and the flavors of youth. Primarily, there's a party room reserved for the night, with tables available; there's a very nice-looking sheet cake with a candle and unconventional message; and there's something to do in the form of cards and games. And the birthday girl, if you can call her a girl, is carefully trick-shuffling in between making sure the options for snacks are freely available and there's room for some kind of crowd. There's really only one table set up for a game right off -- as if Natalya is not sure if the others will be needed, with perhaps a couple of arrivals, or if the word of Cake and Free Beer and Lost Money will circulate as it is meant. She's dressed down. Usually she's seen in professional clothes, looking the part of professor. Tonight it's jeans and a tight t-shirt and mirrored glasses. Now to open up the door and put the sign on: BIRTHDAY HERE.

--

Louis is ridiculously punctual. Like - he is looking at his watch and timing reaching the back room EXACTLY at the right time sort of punctual. He's wearing a fluffy holiday sweater with Santa's sleigh on a red background. There are tiny little bells on the reindeer, and he jingles as he comes up to the door. And its sign! He knocks politely with his free hand.

His other hand? Steadying a large, insulated carrying back. And inside the bag? Several bottles for people whose tastes run to things other than beer. Even soda! And on top, a wrapped present with a shiny, shiny bow on it.

--

It's hard to pick gifts when you don't know folks all that well. Still, Sheena, the green copper tinged Metaldancer just sticks with some rather expensive looking old scotch. The box left with wherever any other gifts might be stashed. Which Leaves her free to get in on the festivities. A black denim jacket, sleeves rolled up leaving most of her forearms free and the only things up them. A faded blue denim miniskirt with a studded leather belt looped through the waistband hugging hips tightly and terminating mid thigh with some knee high dock martens laced up snugly and only a bare hint of socks at the tops. Multiply pierced features bright and almost wicked as green eyes look around. "I kinda still remember the last birtday party I went to. But I was like six. I think. Lots of frilly dresses. That may increase here tonight." she says playfully.

--

Birthday where? Birthday here, okay. Punctuality is for other people. A bit later than some, Nan shoves the door to the reserved room open with little ceremony and as much regard for whoever might be standing behind it - if they're stupid enough to lurk behind a public door, they deserve the broken nose. "Come out come out wherever you aaare," she calls, singsong, as though Natalya might be hiding, as though she's not already heading straight for the birthday girl. There's more than a hint of bleat at the end of that little ditty. "I brought you a present, you ancient bitch. Did I tell you I got here? I got here. Thanks for the heads' up." There is most certainly NOT the trip-trap of hooves when she walks. "I brought a present for everybody else too, but you've got one special." And Nan brandishes a package at Natalya with malice aforethought. "Hello, kids," she offers the others already gathered.

--

Louis gets one knock only before Natalya sweeps the door open and keeps it that way. "Oh, it's going to be that kind of night," she observes at the early arrivals, only to have eyes go a little wide at the arrival of Nan. "It worked and you came. Well, it IS a birthday. We cannot summon the dark forces here, I'm sorry to say, so you'll have to save that for your day, Nan..." And then: "Hello! Louis, right? No frills, Sheena, hi, but maybe someone else will oblige you. I haven't set us up for losing money yet, just meet and greet. Do you all know one another? I'm not sure I will know everyone here, come to that."

--

"Professor," Louis says with a wide smile when the door is opened. "Happy birthday to you." He moves into the room and looks around, before turning to examine the people coming in. "I'm afraid I don't have the pleasure of knowing everyone just yet. I look forward to fixing that!" He grins in a friendly sort of way. "And yes, Louis. Louis Verte. A pleasure to meet you all."

--

"We tend to gather people who like frills. Sometimes they even look good." The metalfleshed woman adds with a grin to Natalya and the others. LOis and Nan get that wide expression aimed at them, extra glint from all those piercings. "Soo, I think I figured out how to play poker. So when dealing happens I'm down." Sheena adds and steps up to potentially lose the shirt off her back. Or at least the jacket worn over the top of it.

--

Parties are basically Tris' jam. This Millennial, whose absurd car did roar its way down the street outside to find parking, is swanning his way toward that reserved room on his designer loafers, in his habitual designer jeans and tee-shirt and a Dolce blazer much too nice for a party that includes sheet cake, but Tris himself is oblivious to that. There's a fancy wrapped box in one hand about the size of an expensive tablet (spoiler alert: it's an expensive tablet) and a bottle of top shelf tequila in the other.

"Aw, shit. Left my frilly dress at home," Tris' wry remark indicates he was at least close enough to Sheena's arrival to overhear and grin at the green-tinged Lost. He sweeps in toward the birthday girl, making himself some room even with Nan there to press a smacking kiss to her cheek and offer up his gifts, though dark eyes scan to see if there's somewhere more appropriate to put them then to dump them off on the host. That's when he catches sight of Louis and his grin redoubles, "Nice," he lifts his voice a little to make sure he's heard, the hand with the bottle indicating his own chest in appreciation for Louis' more festive choices.

--

Nan snorts, expressively. "I have chalk with me, Talya," she says a touch scornfully. "We can always summon the dark forces." She makes room for others - specifically Tris - to swarm the birthday girl, tippy-tapping to the side to find a flat surface on which to spread out the other stuff she's brought in a large canvas grocery tote. "But if you want to be a chicken about it, I'll wait." From the tote, Nan pulls a large plastic bowl, a shallow ladle, a bag of ice, and two gallon jugs of apple cider. "I'm terrible at poker," she asides to the extremely shiny Sheena. "If you've just figured it out, I welcome a partner in losing my savings to this cheating brat." She waves a hand in Natalya's direction. "You'd think I'd learn," she grumbles under her breath.

--

Natalya answers Tris's kiss-on-the-cheek greeting with a moment of surprise and then an answered peck right back. "Hello, pretty. You don't need frilly dresses. We can just...pick an empty table for presents? Yes." Which she does by taking Nan's present with utmost and terrible care and setting it dead center on a table as if she expects it to...explode? Jump up and fly around the room? She treats it as if it's well-loved trouble. "I was actually anticipating playing dealer for quite awhile rather than taking everyone's money," she protests to the rather goatish new face in Nan. "But if you insist on me playing, well." She does not actually protest the 'cheater' label.

--

"Tris, hello," Louis says with a grin. He also starts to get out the bottles he brought. One of vodka, one of rum, one bottle of Coke, one of orange juice. And the present, which is put on the table Natalya sets aside for it. When it's opened, it's revealed to be a series of year memberships to various cultural things - the Museum of Art, the amusement park, etc. He grins. "I think it would be a shame if the birthday girl didn't get a chance to fleece us out of our money," he claims, cheerfully.

--

Things Jules is interested in do not so much include drinking and cards; it would not be too hard to infer the latter if one has any knowledge of the former. But here he is, anyway, go figure. He doesn't come emptyhanded, but what he has is quite small, not too far different from the size of all those decks of cards, wrapped in paper that looks like it might have been salvaged from circa 1970. Not only is he not in a frilly dress--please bear with that great disappointment--but he hasn't even bothered with his usual pretense of dressing up. Presentably tidy, yes, but no jacket, just an unfestively plaid shirt. A couple of nods of greeting here and there, but he'll just slip that item onto the table there without much ceremony.

--

"Wait, aren't we..." Sheena sweeps her arm among the gathered Lost. "The forces of darkness, so summoning already done ahead of time. Labor saved." she sort of jokes, adding a playful bounce of her hips under that denim miniskirt. being a dancer though it does get kind of hard to stop said bouncing, at least while there's any hint of a beat from the sound system audible. A beer is grabbed and once opened. The clink of a silver lip ring aggainst glass as Sheena takes a swig. "Think that's a challenge. Think most of us expecting to play, expect to lose. I mean it's only money. It comes and goes." the admitted thief shrugs and adds extra bounce to her upper body under the denim jacket.

--

Nan points at the package Natalya has put down, a crooked, sardonic grin curling her mouth at the corner. "It won't bite," she says. "Just don't use it before you have to be anywhere important. Or anywhere out of the house, really." With which cryptic not-explanation, the hircine witch nestles her plastic bowl into a nest of ice, and pours one of the jugs of apple cider into the bowl. "Well," she says to Sheena, "there are forces of darkness, and then Forces of Darkness, you know." She looks like she oughta know. With a little snort, Nan dips a fingertip into the cider and mutters something under her breath. It sounds like Latin, mostly. Syllabically. Tonally, it sounds like a New York cabbie swearing at a jaywalker. "There we go," she announces to the room at large. "Don't drink this if you don't want to be enormously fucked up."

--

Someone forgot to tell Jack the dress code was trending more towards the casual, it seems. When he shows up -- only a few minutes late -- he pauses at the door when he catches sight of those already in attendance. Tonight he's in a grey suit vest with a matching grey tie and slacks and a white collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up to just below his elbows. Then again, there's a fair chance this IS his casual wear.

He has no booze in hand, but he is carrying a square box about as big as his chest, wrapped in semi-glossy black wrapping paper with a large silver bow in the corner. "Where are we putting presents?" he asks by way of greeting, his Texan tones cheery as he looks for a place to deposit his apparently heavy gift. When he finds the appropriate table, he's careful not to place the box on anything small or delicate looking before he straightens and approaches the small group gathering around Natalya. "Happy Birthday, Professor," he offers with an amused ripple passing along his lower jaw, and then he turns his 'face' towards Louis and releases a mildly surprised: "Ah! Louis. I've been looking for you."

--

Ok, who invited Gretchen? Wait, did anyone actually invite Gretchen, or did she just suss out a gathering of changelings by scent? Does she even know what a birthday even is?

Really, you can probably blame Lily, and the choice of venue. Back rooms are always dim. So it would be, starting with a purr, a low thrumming sound from the comfort of the deeper darkness under the cake table, shrouded in the protective tablecloth. Then the appearance of a pair of blue slitted cat's eyes, shining with gathered and reflected light from the rest of the room, and the slow expansion like some sort of messed up cheshire cat, of a far to wide to be human grin of row after row of sharp, jagged, pearly white tearing teeth. Staring at Jules, at least for the moment.

--

"Well. Do the forces of darkness need introductions of any kind before I break out and start dealing people in? There are other games, if people wouldn't like to gamble," Natalya says. "But -- I'm a little overwhelmed. I wasn't actually certain you all would show up. That's honestly an amazing present. If I had a regular game, would some of you still arrive?" Normally, the Fairest's face is exaggeratedly drawn, but she's trying so hard to contain it that it has the opposite effect. A kid asking for her very most hoped for present...and it's apparently 'a regular gambling night'.

"Most of you probably don't know Nan," she adds after a moment. "Since even I didn't know she'd be here, and I nudged her to come to this city." She gestures at the goatish woman threatening to break out the chalk summoning circle and the very potent libations. "Can start there."

--

Nan waves an impatient hand in... greeting, probably, although it looks somewhat like she's shooing kids off her lawn. "Don't invite me if you don't want me to show up," she snorts at Natalya. "Hi, I'm Nan, and I'm an alcoholic." By the belligerent expression, she probably has no intention of changing that. Nan moves away from the table where she'd set up her... er, cider, pauses to scratch an itch on her shoulder with the tip of one elegant horn, then parks at the table set up for game playing. "You know I'm in for a regular thing, if you'll come to mine."

--

Tris trails Natalya to the newly reserved present table, sliding his onto the surface before the bottle is taken to congregate with the rest. If he notices the academic's careful handling of Nan's gift, there's only a little sidelong look toward that before he's letting his eyes go over Louis' offerings. In the end he opts to open and pour from his tequila, before turning to take in the faces of the other party-goers.

Doubtless, Tris' disappointment in Jules' lack of frills is as deep as the ocean, as boundless as space, but somehow he must carry on. And if he must carry on, then he should do so with a smile. This one is for Jules as he heads over toward the plaid-wearing Ogre. The look hiccups slightly because on his way, he catches sight of Jack and dark brows rise under the fringe of his hair at the Lost with no apparent face but the smile doesn't fade. There's a briefly thoughtful look but he doesn't immediately chance course, instead continuing to Jules to greet with a friendly, "Hey Jules."

--

"Hi, I'm Sheena, somewhat ironically." The Metalflesh offers in that tweaker looking cheer. Skin looking like tarnished copper, that pale greenish blue normally seen on a much bigger statue in New York. Just with wiggly hips in a faded tight fitting denim miniskirt and black denim jacket handling the covering of extra bounce. Dancers, sometimes they can't stop moving. At least the beer isn't beeing soshed about as it dangles from her fingers.

--

Winter mantle: apparently does not actually do anything at all to keep you from being spotted by people at parties. Jules is therefore forced to actually smile at people. Maybe not entirely forced in all cases. He claps Tris on the shoulder with some actual warmth. "Glad you made it." For Louis: "I think I will take a rain check on that one. Er. Should thank you, though, for the other day," he tacks on, with a gesture in Tris' direction as though Tris is in fact a returned escaped puppy and not necessarily a grown man.

--

With Jules called to her attention, and Jack's arrival, Natalya snaps out of her momentary hopeful-dog expression with a flick of the cards in another little trick shuffle. "I meant to introduce you, and you," she says, gesturing first to the Winter trying to stay under radar, and next to the Spring who greeted Louis. "Though there's my ulterior motive coming out again. We keep talking freehold, but wouldn't it be nice to have one by the solstice coming? Which is all the push I'm going to do on that count, unless people here decide they want to talk about it. In any case, both of you have expressed an interest without...certain flavors of red flag." While the birthday girl is working out her wish list, there we go: poker night. Freehold community. Next up, a pony.

Natalya takes a seat at the main poker-table as she brings over her cash box and chips. "How high are our stakes tonight?" she wonders most generally.

--

Jack glances towards Tris with some returned interest, though it's likely somewhat difficult to read on the alternately rippling and placid plane of his face. However it's merely two ships passing in the night, for the moment, as Jack turns back to the group gathered around Natalya. "How much are we playing for, tonight?" he asks, one mirrored hand coming up to pat gently at his breast pocket, "I wasn't sure, so I brought around two grand. Hopefully that's enough." He then leans in towards the 'fucked up' wine and considers it for a moment before he shakes his head and straightens, "Maybe after. Is there bee- Ah." He cuts himself off as he notes the beer and pretzels and heads that way.

--

The man who is not at all a puppy, except for those perplexed expressions he gets when faced with tasks any normal 28 year old would find routine, has to roll his eyes at Jules because he's just the generation that does that when something is absurd. "He means the thing," Tris explains for Louis, in case he didn't follow, a gesture vaguely toward his side. "If you won't take what Louis is offering, how about a swallow of mine?" The younger man tips his cup of just tequila toward Jules before knocking back a swallow and making the appropriately appreciative hiss for a smooth swallow. Anyone within arm's reach of the Summer can feel the heat of him; hot is just how he rolls. It's probably not helping Jules' attempt to stay invisible, even if Natalya weren't helping that along just fine.

Tris' expression turns dutifully attentive to the professor when she turns the talk to that magic word 'freehold' that goes floating around so many conversations. The scars under his chin and behind his ears, down the back of his neck are glistening violet and red tonight, glimmering happily in the light of the room. He does, however, shift his positioning in the group to be less by Jules and more toward Jack, leaning just a little toward the other man to offer, "Tris," and a hand to shake if he likes, though it's all done in faux-covert fashion, as though he's pretending to pay attention in the back of the class and no one will notice his figurative passing of notes.

--

Louis offers his hand to Sheena. "Delighted to meet you, Sheena," he says, with a smile. Jules is given a cheerful sort of shrug. "That's alright. I'll just keep trying until I find something that delights and distracts you." He winks. "And don't thank me. Tris is a friend." Natalya's cheerful little ulterior motive draws a laugh from him. "Well, I'm in favor of it, of course. The freehold. If not necessarily deep discussion of it at a birthday party. But if that's what the birthday girl desires..." a flash of a smile at her as he moves to take a seat himself. "I brought about a grand. I didn't figure we'd be playing for high stakes. I can spot people moderate amounts, if they wish. My interest rates are low."

--

Faerie cider, technically, but what's a technicality between friends? Nan chokes on her own drink when Jack mentions two thousand dollars being his own contribution to the evening's festivities. "Sweet infant Jesus Christ on a splintered pogo stick," she says, "I don't think I paid that much for my HOUSE." ...where does she live, then? But there's talk of a freehold, and there is a sharper glint in Nan's black-slitted, yellow eye. "New grounds," she murmurs. "New grounds. Here we go again."

--

Tough crowd. Gretchen continues to purr from under the cake table, but mostly she waits, watches, listens. Blue slitted eyes shine from their spot, and finally she speaks. "Statue speaks of freehold. Says neccissary. Courts need changing. Keep the others away." From the little cubby of darkness a long fingered hand extends, holding a tiny golden chain with a bright blue topaz in a simple setting. This of course, raises up several questions. Like... how did Gretchen know topaz was the birth stone for december. Or... where exactly did Gretchen get a present like that?

--

"Ah, no, I remember him, I think--he'd talked about acquiring some property." Jules is really, really bad at parties. So bad at parties. He's less bad at business talk, but when the target of the business is more interested in beer, that renders it terribly complicated. He will be forced to continue to nod along to Louis' offers in the way you do to missionaries at the door: yes, yes, I'm sure it's all true. "I reckoned I'd just rubberneck a bit at best. Not much of a gambler."

--

Louis takes a sip of the faerie cider, then another, his eyes immediately brightening. "Ah, this is the good stuff. Nan, was it? Thank you very much." Then he's relaxing back into the seat and only just noticing that there's a...person. Under the cake table. He tilts his head to the side. Then a little more. Then yet more. "Well, hello there. A freehold is a net good, I think. It doesn't necessary keep the others away, but it hobbles their Huntsmen in various ways. Which is," a long pause, "it's a good thing." He takes another drink as if to wash away an unpleasant memory. Then sighs at Jules. "Look. Play a hand. One hand. I will front you the money for the sheer pleasure of watching you do something fun. Nothing else owed in return but your participation in one round." He places his hand on Santa's sleigh. "My hand to Santa!"

--

Amusement once again ripples Jack's lower jaw at Nan's reaction as he briefly searches for a beer he likes the look of, eventually settling on something dark and bottled. "I didn't want to be short," he offers by way of an explanation that only pays lip-service to being genuine. He twists the top off his beer and then looks towards Tris as he approaches, the heat catching his attention first. As he tips his drink into his non-existant mouth -- and the brew does seem to get... absorbed -- he offers his other hand across his body to the Summer. "Jack. Pleasure." He mirrors the young man's almost conspiritorial tone, and seems about to add something else when Natalya offers Jules' name towards him and vice versa. "Oh, so this is Jules," he says with some affected surprise, looking briefly to Tris as if to express a desire to speak if he'll give him a moment. "That is essentially right. I'm willin' to put up the capital and all that. Might be worthwhile to talk about it in depth, but..." He looks to Louis then anyone else who seems even slightly interested in the conversation, "Maybe later? I leave it up to Natalya. It's her night."

--

Natalya only sneaks a look at Gretchen under the table when the little hiding Lost speaks. She wiggles fingers in what might be a thank-you both for words and the topaz, and then suggests: "First two hands are friendly? No buy-in until the third hand. Maybe go less than thousands tonight...just for tonight." It's not that she's greedy, not at all. Money is just the sign of winning. Some people have their drugs and vices, and Natalya has WINNING emblazoned on her so loudly it may as well be written on her t-shirt. "Jules, you lose nothing by playing the first two hands, though I would hardly like to see someone forced to play. It's...against the spirit." And somehow as uncomfortable as the winning feeling is so appealing to the birthday girl. "I don't mind, however, if you sit out and talk business. Or sit down and do it around the cards. Anyone object to Texas Hold 'Em? Basic, classic."

--

Nan lifts her drink in salute to Louis, the connoisseur. "Pleasure to meet someone who appreciates the finer things," she calls over to him, although her attention is also drawn down...down... to the under-table lurker that were she anymore goatlike, Nan would be tempted to name bridge troll. Things with lots of teeth that stay in the shadows underneath things... there's a trope, for someone with horns and DEFINITELY NOT hooves. "Deal me in for three," she declares, and lets her chair thud down onto four legs from where she'd tipped it to get a better look at Gretchen. "I have enough to at least ante into the big one."

--

"Hold 'em works for me." Sheena nods to Natalya, turning and tilting to spot Gretchen under the cake table. Still smiling, the greenish Dancer shrugs her shoulders and shifts about in her seat to try and get comfy and not be fidgety. "Wouldn't be playing if losing was gonna be too much a problem." Sheena points out and flashes another one of those big wide grins of hers at the people gathering at and around the table.

--

Tris' 'be my guest' gesture gives his blessing for Jack to go ahead with the exchange, although he does glance back to Jules and Louis to toss over, "If money's wanted, you know..." They know, right? That Tris has it? And is probably doing absurd things with it? They could probably have it instead? At least for a cause like the one under discussion. "Jules, you can play a hand with my cash." He offers, not helping at all. Unless... maybe that was Louis he was helping this time. Who can keep track?

Dark eyes get distracted by the direction of the Spring's address and find... Gretchen. He unconsciously mimics at least some degree of Louis' tilting, then he dares step closer. "Need a drink?" He offers the Changeling under the table. Perhaps this new distraction is why he doesn't answer about the cards for his own place or lack of it.

--

Gretchen at least seems very comfortable with her current placement, but well it is a sad fact that some folks come out better from their durance than others. Slitted eyes adjust, as she tilts her head back at those that peer at her, though it is Tris that directly addresses her, and so it is to him that she responds. Her voice slightly whiny, pleading in tone almost. "I am very very hungry."

--

"Nothing to lose but dignity, you mean." And here Jules waves off Tris with a scowl that suggests, more openly than his court would usually find optimal, that this is not the first time Tris has tried to throw money in his general direction. Of course, normally people would not look quite so indignant about it. "Anyway, haven't got the faintest idea of the rules, except that I don't think it has much in common with Canasta."

--

Louis takes another sip of the cider and, despite the fact that the alcohol has gone straight to his head with alarming (or pleasant) speed, his voice remains unslurred. "I worry a bit about buying a central and official gathering place. People tend to become complacent about places like that. Also, if there is ever a falling out between those who fronted the resources and the rest...well, we're no less vulnerable to being petty and vengeful than any mortal. More vulnerable, probably." He raises his free hand. "And before someone says, 'but Salome', a privately held place that happens to welcome people is a bit different. If something happens there, I bear responsibility. And if I lead bad guys there, you know who to execute." A glance towards Jack, then back to drinking. "It's just a thought. And Hold Em' is fine. We can teach you the rules, Jules." He visibly brightens at the idea that the man might play; winding, thorny vines of green light writhe under the back of his head.

--

Natalya turns in her seat, the shuffling of that first hand going suddenly still so she can turn too-wide eyes on Jules. "You play CANASTA? No one does anymore!" If that was meant to get him out of poker, it may only have been a frying-pan-to-fire dodge after all. You can bet more securely that Natalya will chase him down to play canasta than you can be assured to win a hand at this particular table, it seems. Still, the pressure is no more than that. "Take your seats if you're playing. And there is that, when it comes to centralized locations. But common areas may be worth the risks of having them, if there can be rules. Like a buy-in at the table," she suggests. So it's THAT kind of poker, with communal Changeling talk happening underneath. "I would think if we could arrange a good common pledge and have a quorum, Winter might be ready in...ten days? Give or take. It's always give or take."

--

Peter enters, arriving unusually late. His suit is a full brown tonight, with a chocolate tie and brown Oxfords. As he scans the group, he can't help but say, "Peter arrives as innocuously as one.... Or so he -thought-." Perhaps a tic he can't shake. Regardless, he carries his old battered and dented briefcase and heads straight for the table, taking a seat. He glances Natalya's way and offers a quick wink. "Happy Birthday, Lady Valentine. Excuse my tardiness, have we already done gifts?" Nods here and there are offered to those he knows already.

--

"Hungry," Tris repeats, tilting his head ever so slightly more to regard Gretchen where she is under the table. "Okay." Sometimes the Millennial's best quality is his ability to lift and carry things. In this case, it's going to be a bowl of snacks from the snack table. On the way, his hand's going to pull his cellphone out to operate one handedly with all the aplomb of a life-long user as he walks his way back and offers the bowl down to the cat-eyes in the darkness. "I'm Tris. Let me know if you need more help." It's a friendly enough offer and maybe, just maybe, the Summer whose heat comes with his arm when he offers that bowl (setting it down if she doesn't take it) knows a little something about Lost with limitations.

He doesn't linger with the grue by the cake table though, moving back toward Jules and those gently encouraging him to cut loose. It might spell more trouble for the Winter, but when he arrives, all Tris does is finish his drink and finish whatever text he was writing. When Peter is spotted, Tris flashes him a friendly smile and nod, though he moves toward the playing table, settling into a chair. His attention is reclaimed by Natalya when she speaks of a quorum and a pledge, expression turning thoughtful.

--

There's a brief rolling of sleeves on Sheena's jacket as she settles in to play. No outwardly obvious attempts at maybe playing less than honestly for now but maybe that might change. Fingernails painted in a deliberate green compared to the tarnished copper of her skin rap against the table top while things get set up and eventually the cards get dealt.

--

"Centralized locations, as anything in life, have their pros and cons," Jack offers in response to Louis' thoughts, nodding slightly at Natalya's contribution. He approaches the table after a brief glance towards the creature hiding under the table, apparently assuming Tris' attention has been pulled again. "I'm in," he offers probably unnecessarily as he takes a seat, setting his beer just off to the side to give him room for his cards. "As for your concerns about a fallin' out..." He just shrugs at that, "Not sure there's any rebuttal. It's possible, I suppose, but you'll have a hard time takin' all the risk out of any venture of worth."

--

Hot on the heels of Peter, Lilium arrives. He may have run late due to having to herd her away from a bird or a store window. God knows. Hair hanging in a long fishtail braid between glassy little wings so the pointed ears beneath the dainty horns are visible, she's got a thigh length chocolate colored sweater dress slouching off one shoulder above a pair of boots covered from knee to ankle in fringe on. And in her arms is a big block of one of Natalya's vices. Ah, Spring. There is somewhere around a dozen cartons of the Autumn's cigarette of choice all tied together with velvet ribbons but left unwrapped. She beams a smile at the birthday girl and wanders into the company of others present.

--

While there's talking going on, Nan shrugs out of her black leather coat, letting it drape unkempt over the back of her chair. Bare-armed, she leans her elbows on the table in defiance of every frothing teacher of etiquette, and wades into the topic of the freehold, and communal space. "Centralizing is stupid. Winter taught me that much, at least. Multiple spaces, none of them any more favored or frequented than the others. We survive because we keep Them guessing."

--

Louis's phone buzzes. He frowns, fishes it out of his jeans, and - slowly, laborously - checks whatever text he receives. "I only bring it up because we need to be quite certain that we don't claim more than we can hold. Right now, whatever Freehold we create is going to be small. We don't know the players or the game in this city, and if we put up a bastion, we may just find that someone wants to test that. Do we even know which vampires and which packs claim which parts of the city?" he muses, as he type type types. "Safe places are good. But strongholds...well. One must be strong to hold them." He smiles. "I'll go along with whatever, so long as it doesn't overly burden my own operations. But they are things to consider."

--

At least for the moment, Jules attention is not on new arrivals, because--well, because apparently he's playing cards? He seems to be moving in the direction of playing cards. "Everybody plays--well, everybody used to play Canasta. One. I'll try one," he is grudgingly willing to concede to. "I don't like the idea of it being owned by anybody, but I don't like the idea of going without somewhere predictable and accessible. Anyway, none of that has to be decided right off. We aren't leaving it until Solstice."

--

Aaaaaand, the bowl is gone. It is like a magic trick. One moment Tris has a bowl of snacks, then POOF, where did they go? Also, I hope he didn't plan on seeing said bowl ever again. Gretchen shifts a little underneath the table. Her eyes blinking slowly for a moment, then raising upwards as she tilts her head back to sniff. "Seasons change, food comes, food goes." A pause. "But the ones that wander away from the fire?" A slow, slow thrumming purr. "They are the ones that get eaten."

--

Natalya is seated as dealer at the poker table, though the chips aren't out yet -- the game in progress seems to be starting as merely friendly hands to get people situated before any sort of buy-in. There is a sort of careful, casual chatter on the topic of freehold as she starts dealing around the two cards that starts a Texas Hold 'Em hand to those who have joined the first game. She grins at Peter and Lilium, and calls, "Beware the little friend under the cake table, but take what you like. The punch bowl has very VERY potent fairy wine, courtesy of my friend Nan." A gesture to the wicked one near her. "And there's a presents table." Unopened, so far. "You can join after this hand if you like, or grab some of my board games." Other than this, she only passes out the cards and gives Jules a very little nod of acknowledgement to 'no waiting until Solstice'.

--

Nan slides her gaze sideways, unsettling yellow eyes narrowing thoughtfully as she considers the beastie under the cake table. Or, well, the implication of a beastie. She's yet to lay eyes on it. "Waiting's also stupid," she says more quietly, distracted by whatever she's thinking, there. "We do need to have something in place." Which side of the argument is she on, anyway? After a moment, Nan glances down at her dealt cards. Poker face? What poker face? The tiny smirk she's wearing seems to indicate she's happy enough with what she's got.

--

Sheena nods her head and points towards Nan in agreement. "What's that saying, eggs in one basket before they hatch?" she says with a shrug. Sure she might be studying how things are since the mid seventies but that's a whole lot to learn. Somethings are gonna get scrambled. "Keep things spread out. Try to avoid heat from well anyone that might want to see us not be here." she says and peeks at her cards, making a deliberate attempt to appear curious with her pierced eyebropw arching before cards are laid flat and she goes back to watching cards get dealt and others poner their hands.

--

There's a peek down at his cards from Louis, and one corner of his mouth twitches, although it's hard to say if it's down or up. For the moment, though, he ignores the cards other than that, and leans to explain to Jules the rules of the game. In this, at least, he's brisk and clear. More loudly he says, "The only thing a Freehold needs to start is hearts and an oath. Everything else can be added later, as we need or desire."

--

"To be clear," Jack offers as he settles comfortably into his chair, adjusting the roll of his sleeves to more easily sit on his reflective arms, "I'm not suggestin' I'd own it. I'd just be putting up any resources needed to see it done. If anything, I'd imagine others would be looking to contribute in their own ways as well." He glances over as Natalya addresses Lilium and Peter and there's a very slight, uncomfortable ripple that plays across his 'face.' He nods to them -- mostly to Lilium -- then slowly turns back to the table. "Maintaining multiple locations takes even more resources. I'm not particularly invested in either approach, but there are things to consider either way."

--

Peter settles into his seat, folding his hands together and listening to each person's input quietly, uncharacteristically reserved tonight. His blue eyes shift from face to face, subtly tilting his head this way and that. Lilium's gift brings a smile to his face, and Gretchen's quote draws his attention, brow furrowing slightly. Abstaining from the actual game of cards, the Fairest opens his breifcase and pulls out a stack of paper.

Pen produced from a pocket, he begins writing, and the periodic way he glances up indicates he might be taking notes, but anyone peeking at the paper would see something else entirely.

--

Fairy wine? Glossy little wings between Lilium's shoulderblades stir as her interest is perked. Mention of someone under the table, however, leaves her torn. First she ducks under the table to pull the darkness wreathed Gretchen into a hug. She looks from Peter to the wine and back again, hope bubbling up in her like the world's most elven teakettle. "I've never had fairy wine before," she says, hanging back from the card playing, for the first hand at least. Sorry, but, wine. She offers Nan a delicately finger wiggling little wave, before all 6'4 of her (once the horns are accounted for) glides over to the table with the wine. How poor a job she does looking nonchalant about it bodes quite poorly for her likely poker face. She beams a smile back at Jack, waving at he and Sheena, and, honestly nearly everyone there. Girl is friendly and outgoing and she has at least met most of those present, and countsmore than half as friends.

--

Tris' attention is a little like a YouTube rabbit hole. One moment he's talking with people about things that matter, the next, he's feeding grues and about to play poker with probably very little idea how he managed to end up any of the places beyond the first. Such is life as a Millennial. He does flash Jack a smile as the other Lost joins the gaming table, which is not the same as an apology, but at least it's friendly.

For all that he's not the puppy Jules is sometimes inclined to speak of him as, Tris does have the bouncy energy of one tonight. His foot taps the floor, bouncing his leg under the table. His eyes lift and find Lilium, shortly echoed by his hand in a small wave toward the elfin looking woman. His attention is quickly pulled away by Nan's remarks though, and a there's that thinking look that is intense enough that it might mean smoke's about to come out of his ears. (It doesn't, though.) The scars curling around his ears and down his neck do continue to glow a cheery red and violet line. His cellphone takes a turn to buzz, twice in quick succession, though it's evidently not a call, or not one he'll take because he doesn't step away. Though, given the game he only glances, without moving to touch the device. Cheating after all, or the perception of it, is to be avoided, apparently.

His dark blue eyes the cards that come into his hand and he ends up folding at his first opportunity. "Excuse me," he offers to the table, picking up his phone to indicate it before meandering toward a private-ish spot away from the crowd for the moment.

--

"Winter crown will no doubt have ideas about how to handle the rest of it," says Jules, who is looking at the card in his hand like--well, you know, if he looks really baffled, then at least chances are good he'd look like that no matter what the card was. "Tomorrow. Saturday. We could have people together that soon. Shouldn't take more than, what, an hour to hash out something. Freehold oaths don't differ by all that much, far as I've ever known."

--

"Had a crowning then, have we?" Nan's voice is amused. One might be forgiven for thinking she's about to cackle. She doesn't. But the sense is there. "Sure who the monarch'll be? That's a rare thing. Last first-steps freehold I stumbled on, it wasn't nearly so clear-cut." The words are... sharp.

--

Gretch is assaulted, assaulted I say. Though Lily at least manages to keep all her parts from the hug. Apparently the snack bowl has kept her slightly saited. Her eyes blink once more, and her voice is slow to return. "Others, missing. The Word, Statue, Tasty one. Will have to be told. Found."

--

"The nice thing about interacting with other dangerous magical sorts is that we don't have to share all our business with them straight off, but we might do better in dealing with them in collective fashion than fishing one-on-one for information like, oh, territories and dos and don'ts. And why we all stayed away from New Orleans for a notable age," Natalya points out. "I concur, Louis, and Jules as well," she adds with a grin that produces a strange dimple. "If we're a 'we' first, we can make decisions for that 'we' better than if we're all trying to decide ahead. And we could all get together. I dropped 'there's poker and beer' and got a large chunk of us without half trying." She burns the card before the flop, then spreads the three communal cards out before her -- nine of spades, eight of diamonds, two of spades.

Hilariously, the only player this truly would have helped is Tris, who folded, possibly. None of these are bad for current players, but none will set the metaphorical pond on fire.

--

"I swear to follow the rules, not screw over, so on, but like super more formally and not yabba dabba do." Sheena chimes in with that ever present tweaker grin. She might actually know she's getting her references wrong. Peter and Lil get waggles of fingers in greeting, the grin widening when elf girl hugs grue. Much dorbs. Even with so much teeth. And said elf. Back to the game and the cards being flipped on the table. Curious pierced eyebrow arching once more.

--

Peter sets his pen aside and rises slowly, moving over to the snack table. Wisely keeping his hands and arms away from the vortex of teeth, he kneels beside the table and fixes his attention on the Gretchen. He opens his mouth to speak, surely words of soothing comfort only an inspiring Author could weave together, most certain to cajole intelligible information from her.

"I'm sorry, do what now?"

--

Nan's comment gets a bit of a chuckle from Jules--look, something can amuse him. "My point is that we haven't, and I've got no intention of making decisions that belong to someone else." Jules is completely unsure about the identity of this future monarch, except for having been screaming about being not-it at the top of his figurative lungs for a month or so already. He does spend a moment looking after Tris with furrowed brow, but there's no actual comment to go with it.

--

"Fair enough," Nan replies to Jules with a wink. "I'll be making contact with the other preternatural types," Nan says, giving a one-shouldered shrug. "Lots to learn. A general policy of cautious friendliness has served me well in the past, and I see no reason to avoid it now. If I get fucked by it, well... I take that responsibility on myself. For what that's worth." She eyes the river, eyes her cards, purses her lips in a tiny pout, then with a very 'oh fuck it' shrug. "If we were betting I'd throw something in here. But since this is all friendly-like, just...take that as read, I guess."

--

"Oh, I've already heard a rumor about that. From a Spring who lived just out of town until things changed. I," Louis frowns, "haven't seen him in a while, though. But the rumor is that one of Them was a signatory to the Shadow Accords. When it...left, or got bored, or whatever, the hold it had broke." He waves a hand. "It's just a rumor, mind you. I have the name of a Keeper of the Accords, but haven't had a chance to ask for confirmation." He nods to Nan. "Same here. Salome is explictly open to anyone who wants to have a good time and isn't going to tear apart the fabric of reality or kill anyone. Or break anything they can't afford to replace," he adds, dryly.

--

Jack must have gotten to the table too late for the first hand, so he simply relaxes somewhat in his chair, arms crossed easily across his chest as he nurses his beer and watches the early stages of the game unfold through eyes that don't seem to exist. "I've met exactly one Vampire here so far. She was... friendly. Something of a surreal experience." Though to the assembled company, surreal experiences are a fact of life.

--

Breaking stuff at Salome, that gets Sheena grinning and eyeballing Peter and the Lilium with Gretchen. Bullets were dodged. "Honestly. I'm not a fan of the idea that there are Keeepers of anything in this town. Little too real. So uh, if it turns out these Accords are ran by gentry. I am so gonna be gone." she adds, sounding somewhat concerned. "Serious gonna nope the fuck away."

--

Gretchen's eyes turn to Peter, and his wonderful, and eloquent question. A tilt of her head, and a wide grin full of sharp objects that should totally be allowed into Louis' club without a second though. "We are not all here. Need to tell everyone to come. Statue spoke of coming together. I did not eat tasty, so she is still around. The word is..." She pauses for a moment, her brow furrowing, though that is easy to miss in the darkness, just a slight narrowing of her eyes. "...Molly..." She continues. "Is not here. They will have to be told, yesno?"

--

"Hi, Nan, it is a pleasure to meet you, I'm Lilium," she offers to the vintner of the alcohol she does not even realize how drunk she is going to get off of. At Louis's words, her bright blue eyes drift ever so slowly to Peter, and then back to the drink before she tips it up for a long swallow of it. She tells Jules, then, "I'm Lilium, don't believe we've met," guileless smile warm and sincere. She nods then at Gretchen's words, "It certainly doesn't look as if she's here, but with some of us, you never know." Whatever that means. Her brow knits as she considers Sheena's words.

--

Peter clears his throat, brow knitting together as he tells Gretchen, "Molly. I haven't met her, and unfortunately, the logisti-.... Getting ALL together at Once is hard. Maybe not even smart." Still sitting on his haunches, he tilts his head to one side, almost a little bird-like, "What do they need to be told? That a Freehold is forming?" Concern like that which paints Peter's face is often found there. It's as if he's found a wounded child who has informed him an entire orphanage is missing.

--

Nan snorts, a highly unladylike expression of amusement or scorn or maybe just a slight early-winter cold. "Jesus," she mutters. "I have never seen a place more desperately in need of a Brim." More loudly, she replies to Lilium, "Lilium. A pleasure. You should SEE the stuff I can make out of lilium candidum. Sells really well in Maine."

--

Louis nods to Jack. "I've met...two. Wait, three. But only one to more than speak with. So far, they've all been," he thinks about it, "reasonable. Of course, they probably weren't hungry. And at least one of something I couldn't identify. But they were very old. Before the fall of Rome old. So, there's a lot of," he grins, potential here. He seems oblivious to all the SIGNIFICANT LOOKS going in Peter's direction. "And I don't think the Accords are run by Gentry, no. But it's worth noting that they seem to be entirely amoral. If we aren't participating in them, then no one will be there to raise objection if another wants to sign the dotted line." He shrugs. "Gotta have skin in the game to play the game." He taps the top card.

--

Natalya hmmms, and burns another card. Then the turn: two of clubs. "Pair of twos to anyone still in it. Could be good for someone sitting on a deuce. When it comes to assembling, it might be the responsibility of those who will first hold power." Jules might hate that she looks at him, but she does clarify: "Winter. Who might not want us all in one place. I don't know. Could be more of a rolling meeting, or some other way. But they make a lot of the first rules. Solstice might be a good time if only to give time to spread the good word." Then she peers at Louis. "I would really like to know the real story if you learn it. Sounds like you're ahead of the curve. And does anyone care if I serve cake before the next hand? I suspect the one sitting under it would like cake."

--

Gretchen nods to Peter, on the concern of spreading word that the freehold will form. But if she has any response, it is cut off by Natalya talking of cake, and not the cake on her viewing level. There is a tilt of her head again, and that pleading tone once more. "I am very hungry."

--

There's more curiosity as she lifts up her own cards and flattens them down. There's no folding yet. Not like there's money in it yet. "I'll stay in." she says and makes her eyebrows bounce together with her grin while she idly wiggles her hips against her seat. Almost hyperactive this one. Green eyes do roam over the other players.

--

"Cake would be much appreciated." Is Jules having fun now? Is this what fun looks like? Not that he seems to be wallowing in abject misery here, either, of course; it's still somebody's birthday party. But it does seem like the magic of the game has been lost on him. "I need to talk to Miles about organizing something for Solstice. Guess it'll be mostly us. Haven't seen Jet, or--have any of you heard from Roz? Anybody else?" Maybe he'd be enjoying the game more if he was paying better attention. Possibly.

--

Peter rises and takes a step back, smirking a little at Gretchen, "Maybe we can get you some pots and pans afterward if the cake doesn't fill you up?" There's a soft chuckle and he almost pats Gretchen's head before he seems to think better of it. He returns to the table and glances from Louis to Jules, specifically, "The Gretchen has brought up a good point. How do we do mass communication? I tried using the world wide web, but I think I gave the computer a sex virus. Pictures and advertisements keep popping up and won't go away unless I pay someone fifty thousand euros." This obviously bothers him, though he suddenly smiles, "I think I won an iPod nano. Whatever that is, though." He lifts a palm, "How do we inform each other of important things as a group?

There's a pause, and he asks, a bit anxiously, "Let the coming monarch figure it out?"

--

"Jet. That's the kid with the ears, right?" Louis hums to himself, thinking. "He was slinging drinks at a dive bar last I saw him. Oh, and I'm in," he says, with a cheerful wave at his cards. He, at least, is enjoying himself. But really, when isn't Louis enjoying himself. "My vote for mass communication would be a tech savvy Winter with a burning desire to set us up a web forum. I'm lousy at computers myself, but I can read e-mail. I mean. I learned. Eventually." A huff of air. "Surely there's someone in this city who didn't get snatched before World War Two?"

--

Cheeks flushing as she sips at the wine, Lilium regards Nan curiously, "Lilium Candidum?" she asks. She tells Peter with a big, booze flushed grin, "There's a flower with my name on it." Yep, pretty pretty princess elf, go figure, has a terribly low tolerance. She leans against the table near Sheena, looking at the cards laid down and the ones in her hand. She furrows her brow at Jules' words then gives Peter a questioning look, mouthing "Is that the one?' and slanting her eye toward the winter in question. The one what? We may never know. If the Winter would prefer not to introduce himself or acknowledge her introducing himself to her, she barely notices, gravitating toward the cake. Because mixing cake and tipsy can't possibly hurt, right? Right? She tells Louis, "Jet is a cat. Very fluffy." She got snatched right about that time, so no word there.

--

"After, near as I can piece together," Jack replies to Louis, "Though... not much after, I don't think. I remember... Soviets, and not as allies." If he had a face, his halting tone suggests it'd be crumpled up in thought, but whatever he's trying to recall is fleeting and stubbornly resisting his attempts at bringing it back. "Either way, I'm not your man if you're lookin' for tech savvy."

--

Sheena puts up a hand at the being snatched before World War: the Sequel. "I can use a computer, actually I'm kinda good but I kinda cheat cause power." she admits further. Lilium gets a big warm smile. "So it would probably lead to being a less than happy girl. Not really my thing setting up forums and internet stuff. Plus uutumn, not winter."

--

Peter glances briefly to Louis, commenting with an edge of sadness lacing his voice, "Nineteen sixty-five. I was sixteen." He looks down at his hands, "I hadn't realized I had aged until we got out this August." He gives a small shake of his head, then chuckles, "I had this... admittedly silly idea of signing up for one of those 'Send loved ones greetings cards' web sites. Use cryptic language, secret codes..." There's a dismissive wave and Peter eyes Lilium curiously, then frowns. "You should eat something, little love."

--

"Louis, do you actually know when World War Two was?" Is Jules the Winter with the knowledge of how to install some magical version of phpBB? He is not. He is, however, apparently a little bit of a pedant when it comes to his own age. "I tried to talk someone I know up north into moving but all I got for it was a lecture on climate change." This is, from his tone, on a level with a lecture on the fall of the Roman empire in both his interest and general awareness. "We'll... figure something out."

--

Nan raises her hand. "Post-war," she says, but doesn't elaborate. She glances one more time at her hand then shoves the cards away with a little noise of disgust. "Fold," she snaps. "That was a crap hand, Talya, deal me something better next time."

--

"And now we find a winner," Natalya announces, and it's a Jack of Spades. Curiously, this means jacks and deuces -- the best hand goes to Jules, if he's still in, though Tris WOULD have pulled it out if he hadn't folded early. "Nan, I dealt you what I dealt you. It's not about the cards, as you quickly learn when there's something of value involved." She doesn't share exactly what her time frame is, but says: "I get through the computer basics without letting crooks steal my information and valuable time, but it's not my natural space. Jet and Roz? I haven't met either yet, though no surprise. I haven't been as social as I've wanted until maybe tonight for the first time." This said, she rises, the better to fetch the little paper plates and cutter. "I'm going to blow out this candle." No ceremony, no invitation to sing, there.

--

Louis gives Jules an amused look. "I was taken in 1939. I remember listening to the newscasters talking about the invasion of Poland. All the boys at the corner store, huddling around and talking about if we were gonna get involved, and if there'd be a draft." He snorts. "Did get drafted, I suppose. In a way." He laughs, but it's lost some of his amusement, and for a moment he looks melancholy. Only a moment, though; Natalya's announcement jars him out of it, and he reveals his hand when called. Far from being disappointed, he looks delighted at Jules' win. "You're a natural!"

--

Text. Buzz. Buzz. Text. Text. No one mind the Millennial with his fancy smart phone over in that corner. If nothing else, the floppy haircut and all the eyerolling that goes on so routinely can mark him as not only post-World War 2, but also recent. The phone is pocketed after some minutes. Alas for what would have been for Tris; bragging rights he'll never have. Ah, but he probably doesn't need any extra ego since he comes back like he never left. When he does return, it's probably because someone said "cake" loudly enough to penetrate the tech haze and force his stomach to make an argument for continued social interaction. Since he happens to hear Louis' declaration, Tris can, in fact, chime in, "2016." He drops a hand to Jules' shoulder rather than retaking his seat, which might just be a congratulations. "Someone said cake?"

--

Gretchen shifts again, her eyes looking to the poker table, there is a pause, and an annoying sound in her voice, and the jitter of her eyes. "I do not remember..."

--

Nan sings anyway, loudly and with a cheerful disregard for melody, pitch, or rhythm. She finishes with a discordant, "Now cut the caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake!" and sits back. There is a certain flavor of smug that is unique to the hircine breeds, and Nan is wearing that expression now.

--

"I was four," Lilium tells Louis, eating exactly three and a half pretzels when Peter tells her to eat. "I was four, I think. I know it was before the age children start to attend school. Red monst- Men. Soldiers. Red soldiers came, and I almost died." If anyone's been to Estonia? The faintest ghosts of an Estonian accent cling to the edges of her words. Barely there to notice. She reaches to lay a gentle hand on Gretchen's shoulder at the grue's words, tells Peter, "If it helps, you aged very handsomely, at least."

--

"Also mid-early seventies. Think I was about six. Wonder if time was ever not screwy for some of us. Real time, real aging, or real short durance." Sheena says and tries to sound somewhere between TV show narrating and then spooky voice. "Think I've actually been out about a year now." she adds with a shrug. When cake is expected o be cut. Now that she's lost the hand she points again. "Yes, cut that bitch up!" she encourages.

--

Well, Jules, just kind of automatically going along with this, is as surprised as anybody else. "Hey, I have one of those." Finally, he sounds pleased! Though he has probably been this pleased at hardware stores. He's probably been more pleased than this at hardware stores. "I was born in '41. Sort of remember the fuss when my father came home." When was he Taken? Well, he's not commenting on that part. He reaches up to pat the arm attached to the hand on his shoulder. "Cake," he affirms to Tris. "Everything okay?"

--

Peter looks around the group, then to the cake, nodding to himself, seeming pleased. When Lilium begins her story, he bears a pained grimace, before looking up at her at the touch, responding, "Why thank you, Little Love. Why don't we have some of that cake?" He beams for a sudden, "Isn't this positively normal? Birthday poker, friends, politics and cake?" This just lights up the smile on face, eyes wide and almost Innocent for a second. He rises to get himself a plate.

--

Natalya lights the candle on her cake with a small silver lighter. "Next year I'm eighty. This year, seventy-nine." A laugh, and that next breath blows out the candle. "I got wishes this year. Hopefully there's no jinx to that." And with that, she starts dishing up and handing around cake pieces, starting with a very large corner piece that gets offered below the table, revealing the chocolate-gooey center of the thing.

--

Speaking of phones...

Jack's suddenly goes off in his pocket, and he pulls it out to inspect it. Despite having just claimed to not be an ideal candidate for the sought-after tech person, his device looks like it's the sort of thing high-priced tech companies make exclusively to sell to people with way too much money. So... maybe it just reinforces his claim.

"Crap. Something's come up and I'm going to have to run," he declares as he pulls away from the table and offers an apologetic glance towards Natalya, his skin rippling in mild distress. "I'm sorry about this. Enjoy the rest of the night, and if you've already got one," he says, indicating his gift with a wave of his hand, "Let me know and I'll get you something else." With that, he hurries out the door, dialing as he goes. The box in question contains a very nice mahogany shogi board with jade pieces, all of which have been engraved by hand with their associated kanji designations, but alas Jack won't be there to see it opened.

--

Annnnnd, the cake is gone. And the plate. Luckily not any of Natty's fingers. They may be wet however. There is a small pleased sound that comes from under the table. The Gretchen apparently approves.