From NOLA: The Game that Care Forgot
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Characters: Rain & Slip
Date: 2020-04-08
Summary: Who can say no to free lasagna?
Disclaimers: Minor discussion of abusive situations.

With the pandemic, there are a lot of stray animals, and no one really giving them, food, and Rain can't stand the thought of these poor creatures going hungry, so he's walking through town with a messenger bag full of cans of wet catfood, and similar cans of dog food, water, and paper bowls to put all the food in. He's literally walking down the street, greeting animals, talking to them like people, and setting them up with food and water, then moving on to the next alley to do the same with the strays there. "Sorry guys, best I can do, I can't take you all in or I would. My pack would not like having 30 dogs and cats around..." A pause, as a cat meows at him sort of indignant. "Well excuse me. I didn't mean to assume you'd want to stay with me, my deepest apologies." And then, setting the food down, the cat starts scarfing it making that cute growly eating noise they make sometimes as other cats crowd around--Rain immediately sets up a few more bowls for them. "No fighting. Plenty of food."

Slip might argue that not enough people are leaving food out for local darklings, too, but that's not exactly true. She's done alright for herself, enjoying others' generosity. Like last night's cupcakes. Which might've also been this morning's cupcakes. A girl should not survive on cupcakes alone, however, and so it is that she's ventured out into all too quiet world to find somewhere still selling take-out so she can snag some lunch. Eventually. She gets distracted along the way by a singular human voice--and a familiar one at that--holding a one-sided conversation in an alley. The darkling settles into a patch of shadow as she draws closer, the sneaking not precisely intentional, but a matter of habit, of nature. It would probably be appropriate for her to say hello. She doesn't. Instead, she lurks there at the alley's entrance and watches Rain work, listens to how he talks with the cats, curiously studying their interactions.

If Rain notices, he doesn't show it--probably too absorbed in what he's doing. One cat meows insistently at him, and puts paws on his leg. "No don't.." He starts, but the cat already started clawing its way up to his shoulder, to look down on the others. Like Rain was his personal throne and chauffer. "Fine, guess you're coming along with me for a bit then." He decides, walking down the alley to a dog that looks scared, showing defensive behaviour, growling, until Rain more or less shushes him gently. "Shhh here, smell. I'm alright. And I have food." The cat hops off of him--too much dog around, clearly. He pulls out two bowls, fills one with water, one with dog food, and stays kneeled down as the dog comes up to eat and drink, and Rain just kinda scritches him. "Know anyone else that's hungry?" The dog sort of looks up and lets out a small half-bark, like a huff noise, and goes back to eating. "Well, let me know. No reason you guys should all starve." A pause, as he combs through the dog's fur. "You could use a bath little guy." The dog apparently disagrees, growling a little about it. "Not now, don't worry. Maybe I'll come back for you later and drag you home for one...Did you have an owner before? Someone take care of you?" A pause as the dog looks up to him and seems to respond. "That's horrible. I should track them down..."

Some people are given to habits. For Rain, that's seeing first to the strays before worrying about the rest of the world. For Slip, it's enjoying the opportunity to observe without being observed, to listen to the multilingual conversations between the critters answering the call of food and the one providing it. She doesn't need to follow Rain to keep listening, her ears tilting much like a cat's might to focus more directly on the man as he moves from feline to canine care. She might be able to lurk at the entrance to that alley unseen indefinitely, really, if not for one of the cats who seems to think she might have a similarly kind heart or heavy pocket, a ginger tabby stalking up to rub against her leg and leave fur all over her dark denim. Her voice, soft as it is, might carry down the corridor, hard walls letting it echo. "I don't have anything, cutie. Best face your fears--" Getting near the dog, she means. "--and go ask him," with a nod toward Rain.

Rain has pretty great hearing. And sense of smell. He sniffs the air, and stands up, noticing Slip for the first time. He might have smelled her scent before but disregarded it--there's a lot of smells in an alley. A lot of smells covering up the scent of anyone that happens to be standing at the entrance. Rain moves back to Slip. "You caught me." He says softly, a little embarassed. That blush that he so often wears starting up again. "What brings you here? Looking for a pet?" He bends down to pet the little tabby, and pulls out some cat treats for him. "They could use homes. Some of them. Others are a bit too wild. This one seems friendly though."

Slip's scent, once Rain picks it out from the rest of the city, is pretty distinct: all the possibility of an early spring evening, the world opening up again, the promise of excitement on the horizon, a fresh breeze carrying notes of wine and clove, vetiver and poppy, the native notes of her verdant mantle amplified by her usual perfume. When Rain looks her way, she angles a look to the cat at her ankles, gently accusatory, like he set her up. She's smiling when she looks back up, though that sharpens with a hint of unmistakable mischief when he asks if she's looking for a pet. She doesn't voice what's in her head, though, readily redirecting back to what was surely meant. "I don't really have a place of my own right now either, wouldn't be much of a good friend to him." With a glance back over her shoulder, down the sidewalk in the direction she might've been heading, she notes, "I was gonna go pick up some lunch. Heard a familiar voice." Looking back to Rain, she asks, "Do you do this often?"

Rain picks up on what she thought just by the look, and the blush gets a little brighter for a moment. "I do...Like, all the time really. Feed strays. Talk to squirrels. Catch up on bird gossip. I talk to spirits too...they're not all that different sometimes." He frowns a little, considering. "If you don't have a place to stay, I'm pretty sure Marek would let you stay in one of the condos near us? I mean. Not having a home is fine for animals...some animals...but for humans and...humanlike creatures like you or I...it's too hard. I've been homeless, as a human. I know what it's like and it -sucks-." A pause. "Are you cold?" He takes off his jacket immediately and hands it to her. "Here." A pause. "As talented a woman as you surely are, how are you homeless?" A pause. "Oh. Lasagna. I have lasagna at home. I just made it earlier today. You said you were hungry, right? We can go there and eat. If you want. I hate thinking of someone going hungry. I went hungry too many times as a kid."

Slip drinks in that brightening blush with a lazy smile, appreciative, to be sure, but with no immediate intention of pursuing more. The offer of housing earns a prompt headshake, though she waits to see where the rambling lets out before offering any clarification, her smile growing by degrees as he goes on. She holds up a hand to refuse the jacket, the warm, humid day not demanding any extra layers even if she's only in a tee shirt and jeans. Today's shirt is a medium grey with stenciled black letters on the front declaring her HUMAN LIKE YOU. "I'm not homeless. Not at the moment. Luckily. Hostel I was staying at when I first got here has closed with all that's going on. But I've got a place. It's just not permanent, not really mine. Not pet-ready. Though I do appreciate the offer. I've gotten by on that kind of kindness in the past. It makes a difference." Chances are, she's had her hungry days, too, even if she doesn't elaborate further. "I won't say no to some lasagna, though. And I'm wondering what it is you think you know about my talents." There's that grin again, dark lashes dipping low with a hint of playful flirtation.

Rain talked himself into a corner with that one. He's flustered as he puts his jacket back on and starts walking. "It's this way." He starts to head home. They weren't that far away really, just a few blocks. Although chances are good Rain was planning on walking all over this city saying hi to all sorts of strays. But eventually, he does look up at her as they walk, and answer the question. "You're clearly skilled socially. I'm really not, unless I'm talking to animals or patients." He shrugs a little. "And I don't really talk to patients anymore since I quit my residency. But anyway I know when I'm outclassed. You can talk your way into whatever life you want for yourself, I expect. When you talk, people listen. I know very little about you, but I know that much." He takes a breath, lets it out slowly. "I'm not sure what other skills you have, but you're intelligent and social, and that means you can basically get anything you want in life. Or anyone. The world is yours on a silver platter. Add to that the fact that you're a changeling, and that probably means you have supernatural powers at your disposal. So you're basically like a femme fatale comic book character like...Storm or Jean Grey or...Spiderwoman or whatever. You're larger than life, and if you don't realize that, you should." He shrugs. "You know how many times I wished I had the right words, or the right charm, or the right supernatural trick to get something I wanted?" A pause, as he looks over. "Contrary to what you said the other day, I'm really not very charming."

Slip plays an okay stray, really, between being Lost and not exactly homeless, the way she drifts and lurks. When Rain hooks onto that acceptance of his lunch offer, she turns her attention to the orange tabby and blows it a kiss, parting with a finger-wiggling wave for the feline. Hands then push into jeans pockets as she falls into step beside the werewolf, an ear angled directly toward him, while her gaze remains sidelong, mostly focused on the sidewalk in front of them. Again, she doesn't interrupt while he speaks, hearing him out right to the very end before she notes quietly, "I think you're wrong." Possibly in regards to his self-evaluation, though it might apply elsewhere, too. She doesn't have much overt charisma, nothing that says look at me while out in a crowd. Once someone's attention is caught, however, she might do a decent job of holding it. "I think kindness goes farther than you think." With a little tilt toward him, enough to bring her shoulder just brushing his, she adds conspiratorially, "And I'm not as smart as I pretend to be," though who knows if that's true. But she doesn't refute his observations any further, no matter what she might actually think about his assessment. Instead, she wonders, "Wanna see some magic?"

Rain nods, and stops walking for the moment. "Sure. I showed you a trick last time. The other ones are less fun. And mostly involve..." He pauses. Shakes his head. "They aren't as fun." He considers. "If you aren't intelligent, you at least have the good sense not to prove it to everyone, anyway. But there are different kinds of intelligence. Social intelligence, emotional, musical, academic..." He rambles for a moment, before realizing he's sounding like a psychology professor at a junior college. "Anyway, I admit to having like...imposter syndrome pretty badly. People tell me I'm nice, I generally think I'm...just...the worst." He laughs. "The worst person."

Slip stills when Rain does, glancing at the storefront they've stopped in front of, the lights inside all off, a sign taped inside the window indicating they're closed until the pandemic threat abates, providing information for how to support them online in the meantime. While Rain talks, she reaches into a rear pocket and pulls out her wallet, a simple black tri-fold that snaps shut, and starts pulling at various business cards tucked into the slots to consider their suitability for her magic trick. Selecting one, she pulls it out and tucks her wallet away again. As she asks Rain a simply, "Why?" regarding his worstness, she also flashes him the business card. It's for a record store in Mississippi with somebody's number jotted down on the back. She makes an attempt to palm it, but it peeks past her fingers. Clearly, that portion of her trick still requires more study. She sets her other hand on the shop window, her eyes set on Rain. If there's magic happening, well. It's hard to tell. She's listening.

Rain shrugs. "Mostly because that was beaten into me as a child, I expect." He says it very softly, seriously. "Spend enough time being told you're worthless and you start to believe it. I can't really shake it. My...therapist more or less told me not to trust my inner voice because I don't have the perspective to give myself an accurate measure of who I am, it's too warped by trauma. I have to try to believe people when they say good things about me even if it feels..." He isn't sure what the word is right away. "Blatantly false." He looks at the window as she performs her trick. "I also am trying, fairly unsuccessfully, to live in the moment instead of recalling past trauma or worrying about terrible futures. It's not super easy. I can't take anxiety meds. The dose wouldn't be right. Werewolf metabolism. Plus like, I think a blissed out werewolf might not be super effective. It's probably good for me to be anxious all the time. Because my life is basically always in danger."

Slip pulls her hand from the shop window somewhere in the middle, as she listens, the payout of the trick left in waiting as she takes Rain's very reasonable explanation in. When he falls quiet on that note about perpetual danger, she offers no words. Instead, she lifts the hand that the business card didn't quite effectively disappear in and flips it back into view. The original printing has been removed, the style completely changed to match the design on the shop window, though the text in that red-and-purple embellished font is something else entirely. 'Slip' dominates the top of the card. Below, it reads: 'Stalker, Talker, Lasagna-Lover' A local cell phone number and email address are provided. On the back, the hand-printed number has been replaced with, 'You're nice, Rain.' It won't last long, her contact information sure to fade if it takes him more than the span of their lunch to save it somewhere else, the card returning to its original form, once more for that record shop in Mississippi, but it's an attempt, anyway, to give him her number.

"I think there's a difference between actually buying into what somebody else says and simply accepting their words. Like when someone apologizes for something they don't need to apologize for. When you say 'okay' and accept that apology, they know you've heard them. And you accept the intention, even if you disagree on the specifics." She pauses just for a beat. "So, if someone pays you a complement, you can let it stand at that. Just say thanks. Let them feel heard. You don't need to believe it. You don't need to fight it. Just... okay. Thank you." A darkling's lesson in grace.

Rain smirks. "I definitely need to get better at that." He takes the card, and just...laughs. "See? That's smooth right there." He pulls out his phone pretty much immediately to put in her contact info. "I assume it's temporary illusion stuff right? Glamours don't tend to last, so let me just save it before it reverts." He knows enough about magic of various kinds to suspect that much about it. "I think..." He puts away his phone, and keeps walking. "I think I have an overdeveloped sense of empathy at the very least. And perhaps I try to be fair and just as possible with people, animals, and spirits, because my life wasn't...particularly fair. I understand suffering intimately, so it makes me sensitive to the suffering of others." He looks over at her, and puts his hand together in a sort of prayer--palms together. "Please don't think I'm saying this for attention, I'm not. It's just hard to talk about who I am without mentioning it at least in passing. Rough childhood, abusive father, neglectful mother, you can basically fill in the blanks. But it's made me want to do good in the world. That's why I wanted so much to become a doctor. But being a werewolf really messed that up. All of it." He crosses his arms, and walks to the door of the apartment he shares with his pack. There's a broken window in front covered with cardboard and tape. "My fault." He says quietly, as he unlocks and enters, moving immediately to the kitchen to put the lasagna in the oven to warm up. "I have meat and veggie...I assume you're a meat eater, but tell me if I'm wrong and I'll throw in the other one?"

Slip's smile goes warm for the laughter, for the appreciation of her trick, and she quietly confirms, "Yeah, a glamour," of that illusion placed on the business card. Her hands go back into her pockets while he gets her information down into his phone. She falls into step beside him as they finish the last little bit of their journey. True to the advice she offered, she issues no evident judgment for anything Rain says, but she does issue a counterpoint, noting, "Not everyone who's suffered turns that pain into empathy. I think you're giving your past too much credit for who you are now." Which, by her already expressed measure, is a nice person. She breathes a quiet laugh for the broken window, for the easy admission of blame, but other than a curious look, doesn't pry about it. "I'm pretty omnivorous," sounds like ambivalence. Who's picky about their free lasagna? Her hands fall on the back of a chair as she looks around the place. "How many of you live here?"

Rain leans against the counter, then decides to pull down some glasses and a bottle of wine. Not top shelf but not bottom of the barrel either. Red. Goes with the lasagna. He pours two glasses, and offers one to her. "Marek. Hudson. Sage. My pack. And uh. River, if she counts." He says somewhat mysteriously. "The window...if this were a cartoon, there'd be a wolf-shaped hole in it." He shrugs. "A spirit tried to ride Sage and I...took care of it. Got it to leave, then chased it out the window...and uh. Ate it. Mostly. I left it barely alive." He sips wine as he waits for the lasagna to warm. "I like the taste...I can't really get drunk very easily. It would take...Oh.. 3 or four bottles I guess." He estimates. "Kind of a big downside to being a werewolf."

"Lunchtime wine?" Slip's judgment is wholly feigned, approving amusement peeking out from behind her insincere disbelief. She moves closer, wondering, "Why wouldn't she count?" of River, a brief interjection before the window story. Taking up the offered glass, she draws it close to breathe it in as she listens, as she leans a hip against the counter, facing Rain while they talk. She laughs, quietly, at the comment about taste, giving her head a little shake. "I thought you might've meant the spirit," she admits, for how quickly the one thought followed the other. "Sounds like you need some other vices," she poses with an impishly helpful grin, if drinking is so difficult. "Or a budget just for wine." Which one might guess she couldn't manage at the moment, given what she's said of her circumstances. "What's it mean for a spirit to ride someone? What do they taste like?"

Rain considers. "River is. Uh..." A pause. "Spirits have a certain smell and taste depending on the resonance of the essence that makes it up...This was an anger spirit and it tasted sort of...spicy and bitter? Not great. But the essence wasn't the point...I needed to make a point about what happens when you cross the line and try to mess with my pack. This little anger spirit will hopefully rant to all the other spirits about it and they'll figure out 'Hey maybe it isn't a good idea to try to cross the gauntlet and ride his packmate'. That's my hope anyway. It could be it's out there getting stronger and plotting revenge. In which case I'll just have to kill it for real this time." He shrugs. "Chances are good it will just rant and then find something else to be angry about though. It's a spirit of anger, not vengeance or...I don't know, planning." He smirks. "Being ridden...it's when a spirit crosses the gauntlet and possesses someone, anchors into their flesh. Then the person is 'Hithimu' or 'Hithisu'...spirit-ridden. There are three types of possession...With the Spirit-Urged, there's a spirit latched onto them guiding their thoughts. The Claimed result from spirits who manage to merge entirely with their host bodies. Then there are the spirit thieves that simply shut down the host's consciousness and take control. This little anger spirit was making Sage really pissy about everything. It felt wrong. It's not who he is. I figured it out, and I took care of it." He shrugs. Then, considering. "I don't know if I'm any good at vices, really. I'm demisexual so sex is mostly out. Other drugs are pretty much just as diminished as alcohol. What vices are left?" He grins. "Cuddling? Is that a vice?" He considers the matter of River. "Hm. Um. River. She's uh. Me."

Slip listens attentively, nothing stealing her focus from Rain while he speaks, save her glass of wine, once or twice. The left corner of her lips ticks upward at his story about teaching the spirit a lesson, one dark brow arching curiously as she wonders if he sees what she does, the inherent good in protecting another, the mercy of sparing the anger spirit. But she doesn't ask. She listens. When he speaks the words in the First Tongue, she tries to shape them out, the unfamiliar terms filed away with their descriptions, useful information to have. His very short list of possible vices and the question about what's left earn a widening of her pale eyes; clearly, she could name several right off the bat. "It could be," she allows of cuddling. "If done to a point of indulgence. If you skip work to stay in and cuddle. If you coax people into cuddle puddles and waste hours doing nothing else. Same goes for anything done to excess. Food. Shopping. Video games. Trashy TV. Whatever. There are a million vectors for vice." Like the world is just full of glorious possibility. Someone might be a gluttony demon in disguise. "Is River the Disney Princess to your Prince Charming, then?" Yeah, she caught that note the other night.

Rain laughs. "Excessive cuddling." He shrugs a little. "Well, cartoons then, are probably my vice. I watch...a lot of cartoons. Lots of disney. Lots of anime. Lots of rick and morty and Castlevania, and Adventure Time and Steven Universe..." He reveals, with only a little shame. "But yeah she's..." He considers. "You'll meet her eventually. I've been feeling pretty male lately but eventually, inevitably, I'll slip back into girl mode and she'll come out. I could change into her now but the clothes would all fit wrong and I'd feel dysphoric and weird. Werewolves...are good at shifting. I'm better than most. See?" His human ears become wolf ears. He tugs at them a little. "A lot of wolves can't do partial changes, but I can. And I can be female. With everything that implies. Like, fully, biologically female." A pause, as he moves over to the oven, to pull out the lasagna and dish it up. "You're talking to a man with a LOT of knowledge of make-up and women's fashion." He reveals, with some amusement, handing her a plate with what looks to be excellent meat lasagna. "And...cooking." He says with a blush. "River is less...unsure of herself, too. So that's nice...I like to pretend she had rich, fashionable parents in LA or something. A good childhood. It's a fantasy but it's a nice one."

"That sounds like an excellent vice," Slip declares, approving of Rain's chosen indulgence. When he assures her that she'll meet River eventually, her smile flashes wider, reading some intention behind it, a suggestion that all of their meet-ups won't rely on chance run-ins. The appearance of wolf ears sees her free hand lifting to tuck her hair behind one of her unusual ears, metallic and batlike, too wide and open, utterly inhuman. Like they could be in a Weird Ears Club together now. If only for a little while. Something she seems to appreciate. With the lasagna coming out of the oven, she moves toward the table to set her wine down, freeing up her hands to help or, at the very least, accept her plate when offered. "A lot of make-up artists and fashion designers and definitely chefs are men. So, ya know. Fuck gender roles?" Another flash of a brighter smile. Plate in hand, accepted with a quiet murmur of, "Thanks," she sits with her wine.

"I think that's a good sign that you know who you are and who you want to be," she says as she cuts into the steaming pasta, giving it a moment to cool before she tastes. "That you have a backstory that lends itself to building a life for yourself. It's something I struggle with. A lot." She falls quiet for a moment, considering how to explain before making the attempt. "I have a lot of history that's disconnected from who I am now. I'm not that person anymore. But I don't really have anything else to readily explain who I am now. Or to help me get where I wanna go." On that note, she falls quiet, setting into her lunch.

Rain grabs his own plate and takes it over to the living room. He puts on some disney in the background--Something he's seen a million times so it's not super distracted. Mulan. Genderbendy disney. Appropriate. He then brings over the bottle of wine, and his glass, and looks seriously over to Slip now that he's settled. After a moment, he gets his mind in order enough to respond. The amount of empathy he has is apparent, and it seems difficult for him to speak, but the silly wolf ears probably undercuts the seriousness of the situation. "I think I know what you mean. Who I am now is so different from who I was. I was an abused child, then a streetkid briefly, then a foster child to two people I thought were well meaning but turns out they just wanted a paycheck...Then a med student, somehow, and now...a werewolf shaman. And a woman half the time. My history is so scattered and disconnected it feels like...I've become several completely different people. I mean. River notwithstanding, she basically IS an entirely different person." He shrugs a little. "There's a connecting thread through all of that though. The journey I took to get here. It just feels sort of lost and fractured. As to the future...I don't know anymore. My plan for so long was just to escape that now that I have...and my dream of becoming a doctor sort of fell through...I have no idea where to go anymore."

Slip eats as she listens, not wasting a good meal no matter how sober the conversation has grown. Her fork stills toward the end of Rain's words, as he talks about his journey, her gaze set on her plate without seeming to really see it, thoughts momentarily turned inward. "I don't know how much you know about people like me. Why we call ourselves Lost." She looks up, a question implied in both her tone and the slight lift of her eyebrows. "Our journey takes us through trauma we can still feel, but can't really remember. Glimpsed in nightmares or strange behaviors. A lot of us lose time, a disconnect between our starting point and where we end up. Years, decades. A world that went on without us. Very literally lost and fractured." Her expression flattens out, lips pursed apologetically. "Which isn't meant to diminish your struggle." But if she was making a particular point, she doesn't summarize. Instead, she musters a rueful smile and wonders, "Why does being a werewolf prevent you from also being a doctor?"

Rain nods. "I know you guys all went through trauma. It's actually kind of...I feel a little kinship with the Lost for that reason, although our trauma is different. But if you knew the full details of my childhood it might start to sound similar. I don't know though. I've made sure not to press any Lost I've met about their traumatic experiences, so I can't compare." He takes off his shoes, and sits cross-legged on the couch. "Mostly it's because I'm called to the spirit world. There's a balance between spirit and flesh we maintain. And occasionally, as I learned, that balance briefly tips one way or another. I was with a boy, briefly...And fell for him hard. My first love. At 25. I know. I'm something of a late bloomer." He considers. "He...It didn't work out. And it was just like a couple weeks, really, so I shouldn't have fallen so hard for him, but I'd never met anyone before I could love so easily. When it didn't work out--not his fault, just things don't work out sometimes--I dropped my mortal life entirely and spent months running around the hisil. I ate and slept on this side, but other than taking a self-defense class I stopped engaging with this side of the gauntlet and focused exclusively on the other side. Apparently that's a thing that happens to werewolves all the time. The balance shifts. We lose ourselves to one side or the other. I can't be reliable as a doctor if I disappear for weeks or months at a time." He pauses. "Anyway I think...we're all a little lost. And maybe that's fine."

Slip doesn't reiterate how very little the Lost bring back with them from Arcadia, the half-glimpsed, Hedge-torn fragments leaving very little for actual comparison. Instead, she notes quietly, "Your trauma isn't what makes you relateable," between bites. Her attention settles on her food--and, intermittently, the television--as she listens, her nearer ear turned toward Rain while the other angles toward Mulan. By the time he reaches that conclusion, she sets her plate down and plucks her glass up, relaxing into her seat as pale eyes resettle on her host. Silently, for a few seconds, like she's processing possible responses. A nod, greatly belated, precedes her words as she says, "I can understand why that's complicated, how split responsibilities like that could complicate your ability to satisfy either. Especially when circumstances might pull you sharply one way or the other for a while." Smile returning, she tips her wine toward him and notes, "I think you're wrong about love, though." It almost sounds like a question, an airy lift at the end. "About it having any sort of time-table that you've missed. The heart does what it wants, and it's our duty to follow it." With a vague gesture with her wine glass, she allows, "Potentially tempered by our better judgment now and then, but I find that a hindrance more often than not. Better to just rush in when we feel the urge. And to wait when nothing calls to us. Even if we feel like we aren't fitting the script. Especially those of us who feel lost, for whom the standard script just no longer applies." Whether she meant it as a toast or not, she lifts her glass, then, and drinks.

Rain considers. "I've no doubt I'm wrong about a great many things." He admits, with gentle self-deprecation and amusement. When she raises her glass, he laughs and raises his own, drinking to...love? Being weird? Unsure. "What makes me relatable?" He wonders, briefly. "Trauma doesn't define me, but I'm sure I'd be a very different person without it." He pauses. "Maybe. I mean. I assume I would be. Hard to tell at this point. It was so pervasive I don't know what I could have turned out to be with a loving family." He shrugs. "No point considering I guess." He pours more wine into Slip's glass, and then his own. "Let me know if you want me to stop...And take a couple bottles with you if you like. We always have wine here. Sage is a bit of a lush, as you recall. Not that I mind. I've been enjoying having wine around. I enjoy the taste, it goes well with food." He starts eating his lasagna, having more or less forgotten about it. He doesn't wolf it down, but that's probably taking a very conscious effort on his part. Wolf instincts are going EAT IT ALL QUICKLY. Like they do. "So, leaving trauma aside...What defines you these days? How do you spend your time? Sometimes to stay positive I try to add beauty to the world or just relax and enjoy the beauty I see. I spend time in the woods looking at the stars. I garden, a little. I cook. Do little art projects. I enjoy talking to the birds--even though most of their birdsong boils down to 'Get the fuck out of my territory', I still enjoy the sound of birdsong. What are your hobbies?"

"Your kindness." Slip doesn't need to think about it. "How easily you engage with people. You're gonna say that you're better with animals and spirits, but." She gestures with her recently topped off glass, to her plate, to herself, to the room as a whole. Here he is doing engaging people things in a place he shares with other people he does well by. The offer of take-home wine is certainly considered if not commented upon, something to keep in mind for when she leaves. Which isn't just yet. She breathes a quiet laugh for the translation of birdsong and nods. Sounds legit. "Right now, I've got a job at a nightclub. Bartending. I can mix a decent drink." Which merits a pause for another sip of lunch-wine. "I serve the freehold as courier." Another pause, though this one to determine whether or not she cares to elaborate on that. She doesn't. "I am very much a creature of vice. I enjoy indulgence. Expanding my experience. Doing things that make me happy." It's just maybe harder for her to pinpoint what those things are when she's not actively experiencing them. "Good food, good company, stolen wine." She flashes a smile that goes unexpectedly dopey. "Poetry. Especially when someone else reads it to me. Collecting gifts from pretty people I've just met." That smile takes a decidedly flirtatious turn, for just a moment, before she relents. "People watching."

Rain blushes again, and laughs. "I do art, not so much poetry." He considers. "Maybe I'll draw you sometime." He offers with amusement. "Been a while since I did that, honestly. I've been so busy with..." He sort of gestures around vaguely. "Everything. I used to do it daily, but now I have a million things demanding my attention." He smiles. "Not that you don't have my attention. You definitely do. You're interesting. And...honestly you've tolerated a lot of negative self-talk from me and responded kindly, in a thoughtful way--not just platitudes. I appreciate that more than you know. Everyone tells me either that I'm wrong, I'm different now, to stop talking about it, or whatever. I don't have many that just listen and respond with genuine advice and thoughtfulness rather than a kind way of saying 'I don't wanna hear this.'" He breathes out slowly. "I feel like you might be the only person I've met that I've felt truly at ease around. Rather than thinking I'm...dragging them down or whatever. Or feeling like a failure around or...whatever." He shrugs. "Not living up to their expectations, or my own. I don't suppose you used to be a therapist or something?" He smiles, and shrugs. "I used to go to therapy but it's really impossible now since I can't talk about most of my life." He pauses. "Do you think...Would it be okay to hug you?"

Dark lashes dip low over pale green eyes as Slip teases sweetly, "Are you asking me to undress?" as if the only drawings that Rain could've possibly are nude figure studies. There's a decent chance that she's only trying to brighten his blush. She might be hiding her own behind another swig of wine, the rosy color on her pale complexion surely just the red in the glass reflecting on her cheeks. "Are there no werewolf therapists?" is wholly sincere, her brow knit at the thought that they don't have that sort of infrastructure to support their own. "Most Lost freeholds have at least someone who can help where normal shrinks can't. Not necessarily licensed, but skilled." As she tilts aside to set down her wine, she adds, "Not that I'm that. I'm just..." Built for taking in information without bias or judgment? Bound to the season of renewal and hope? A manipulative creature who understands that kindness will bend a person more reliably than cruelty? "Good at listening, I guess." She flashes a small smile then holds out her arms in the universal gesture of welcoming a hug.

Rain looks away, blushing harder than ever at that. "Um.." He's lost for words for a moment. "I mean. I wasn't, but...I mean no buts. No." He laughs again, awkwardly, and kind of pulls at his collar. Feeling overheated suddenly. But after a moment to recover, he sets his wine down, scoots closer to her, and hugs her. He's very warm--partially her fault, but also just because werewolves run hot. And this close to him you can smell his cologne, or is that perfume? It's a soft scent, chamomile and vanilla. Nothing that you'd pick up from a distance. And, it turns out, he's a really good hugger--warm, affectionate, and that sort of secure and protected feeling you get from really good hugs. But he does pull back. "There...aren't, really. Each pack sort of handles itself. Our roles vary by phases of the moon...I'm a crescent moon. An Ithaeur. I handle spiritual matters. I deal with spirits and spirit magic. Elodoth and Cahalith would be the ones to handle stuff like this. Elodoth for their role as arbiter, mediators, communicators...Cahalith for their role as morale-boosters, as celebrants, as storytellers." He pulls back a little, and considers. "But we don't have either in my pack. Yet." He looks down. "It's not like that's the only option. I have a little spirit of compassion that reminds me to be kind to myself. Or I could seek out and speak to a spirit of therapy I guess. They must exist. Or personal growth, or whatever."

Delight dances in Slip's eyes at the deepening color on Rain's cheek, shamelessly enjoying the reward of her teasing. She laughs, too, when he settles on that decisive no, though it's hard to be sure where a self-proclaimed creature of vice falls in terms of posing preferences. She returns the offered embrace without any awkwardness, leaning in to wrap her arms snug around Rain and take full advantage of his warmth and affection, squeezing gently in comfortable reciprocation. Their scents complement each other well, vanilla teasing out the cherry in her perfume, chamomile playing with the promise of spring in her mantle. When he draws back, so does she, sinking into a relaxed posture once more, her smile a little brighter now. "I like that your compassion spirit reminds you to turn that compassion toward yourself. The outward compassion seems to come easily." With a thoughtful cant of her head, she poses, "Our courts might be similar?" with some uncertainty. "Spring--" She brings her hand to her chest indicatively. "--is the court of desire, of remembering that our lives are our own, that we can have everything we want. It's also healing. Renewal, hope. Moving past the things that hurt us." Her smile skews crooked for a second. "Autumn feels like our complement. Fear. All the trepidation that precedes taking the first step toward something new. Mind, they use it differently. Warnings to steer people away from what would hurt them. Keep us all sharp, informed." She doesn't go through the others, instead wondering, "How did you find your pack?"

Rain smiles at the description of spring. "Wanna meet him? My little compassion spirit? He's around here somewhere...Along with Jester. Although Jester might be outside. I moved him in, but he still needs to go outside now and then." He considers. "Well. Hudson found me, and Marek, and sort of brought us together. And Marek's cousin, Sage, moved down to help out. The pack is new, but. ... A lone wolf is a dead one. I've been a lone wolf for a couple years and I don't know how I've survived. The pack is strength." He considers. "You don't happen to have a fear of adorable bunnies, do you?" He smirks. "I don't know if the courts are similar to our auspices...Auspices are determined by when you first change. It's not a choice, it's a sacred duty, sort of outside of our hands. Although there are similar personalities to each auspice--It's hard to say if that's the influence of the auspice or if it's somehow destined that someone first change under a certain auspice based on their personality? There IS an effect, I mean...Certainly the auspices incline us toward certain behaviour, but...Sometimes you see wolfbloods that you just KNOW are destined to be Rahu or Elodoth...We have tribes, that are our choice...with our own tribal vows, and our own missions...Do you choose your court or are you sort of born into it? Or reborn into it I suppose?"

"Should I be?" Slip asks with a grin, of whether or not she's afraid of rabbits. There's a nod, though, to express a willingness to meet the spirit, a curiosity, perhaps, about what spirits even are. This will be a new experience. Her lips purse thoughtfully as Rain explains auspices in more detail, nodding her understanding. "It's a choice," sounds slightly uncertain, "but it's usually a choice that reflects who we already are, an oath to the very idea of spring that says I'll live up to the tenets of spring and, in exchange, spring will bless me." That thought gets cut short as another rises, a tilt of her head as she very cautiously offers, "Would you like me to show you what spring lets me do?"

Rain nods. "I'm always interested in seeing supernatural things, and I'm actually sort of expected to have an understanding of the supernatural anyway, so yes, please. Afterwards I'll grab Bunbun and you can meet him." He considers. "It's too bad the only flashy thing I can do is the...you know. Rose thing. Well. Sculpt...thing. I can sculpt things like they were clay. Doesn't have to be glass, can basically be anything that's an object, or part of one." He considers. "The other stuff I can do is...sort of..." He looks mildly uncomfortable. "Dark." He admits with a shrug. "Or passive things like seeing ghosts or talking to animals. Or...knowing where my packmates are, and their relative health..." He shrugs. "Things that are hard to show, really."

"As if that rose trick isn't slick as fuck," Slip murmurs as she leans in toward Rain again, hand extended, asking for his. She holds his hand as if she might mean to read his palm as she explains, "I prefer subtlety myself. Utility." With a glance up to catch Rain's eyes, she adds, "Though a few of my tricks do lend themselves well to flirtation." Flashing a smile, she nods back down to his held hand then uses her other hand to guide his attention lower, to the shadow his fingers cast on the cushion between them. Her fingers curl, cupped to catch that darkness, working at its substance to tug a little bit of it away. Not that anything appears missing when she pulls that small puddle of gloom in her hand closer, as she releases her hold on him. Studying the little patch of uncast shadow, she tells him, "What you want, more than anything, is love and acceptance. Security. A feeling of worth reflected in another's company." Her gaze flicks upward, her smile gone, serious now as she meets the ithaeur's eyes. "I want you to try something else on. Just for a little while." She curls her hand around the shadow and, in doing so, gently nudges Rain's desire for outward acceptance toward self-acceptance, a desire for romantic love toward a desire for self-love. It won't last long, much like that business card trick, but it maybe it will plant a seed. When she opens her hand, it's empty of any unnatural shadows, and she sinks back with a shrug. No way to know if it worked, if he can feel it. "How did you meet Bunbun?"

It's odd to hear the truth of his heart spoken so easily. And even harder to hear because it means he hasn't found his desire with his current relationship. There's a deep sadness at the realization. Maybe in time. The gentle change to his own desires feels a little like his heart being tugged on, and thoughts realign inside him, into a different formation. It's deeply strange to realize your greatest desire, something you didn't even realize you had, is now something else, at someone else's whim. She could have made it anything. A desire for pie. A desire to stab someone. He's momentarily sort of taken aback by the implications of that power. His eyes look a little watery. But he doesn't actually generate any tears for now. "I uh..." It takes effort to bring his focus back to the moment. "Bunbun found me. He's a spirit of compassion. I named him. I was 4. I was locked in a closet and he just showed up and starting talking to me. I thought I had an imaginary friend." He stands, a little unsteady on his feet at first, and goes to his room, grabbing the little bunny and bringing him out. It is the most adorable bunny, soft and fragile--meant to inspire compassion. Big doe eyes and the gentlest demeanor. He sets Bunbun in her lap, and the bunny immediately cuddles up to her, nuzzling at her and being generally sweet and kind to her, as is its nature. "He's been on this side of the gauntlet since then. I protect him."

It is staggering. Terrifying. What an unscrupulous spring courtier could do, how easily one could manipulate another without their knowing, with just a little tug and trickery. Slip's smile flashes apologetic, for both the violation and the change, but she says nothing more of it. She listens, watches, only a faint wince registering at the mention of where he was when the spirit came to him. In the brief moment that he's gone to fetch the rabbit, she lets herself frown, allowing that feeling some momentary manifestation, gone by the time he comes back out, absolutely obliterated beneath the bright smile that Bunbun earns. She inhales sharply, quietly when he sets the spirit on her lap, breath held as the fuzzy critter cuddles up so sweetly. Gingerly, she pets the bunny, slowly relaxing into this odd contact. "He looks real," sounds confused. How does he know this is a spirit? Except that it's been with him since he was four. Duh. "How..? How many animals are actually spirits?"

Rain shrugs. "Well. He IS real. But I take your meaning. There are differences. He's made of essence...I feed him essence now and then, but mostly he thrives on his own by sort of inspiring compassion--I think he actually gets a lot of essence from me just from me doing compassionate things. He doesn't eat food, doesn't age, really, although his existence is fragile--were it not for his having a werewolf benefactor, he might have been eaten by other spirits. Some spirits take weirder forms. His form is...Well, there's a reason he's so adorable. What does it inspire in you?" He shrugs. "There are spirits of fertility and such that take the form of bunnies too, but they're less fragile, soft, adorable." He sips wine. "Animals are mostly animals. Some spirits take animal forms but not all. There are fox-shaped spirits of cleverness for example. Or housecat-shaped spirits of independence. Spirits of terror are usually things that inspire terror. Giant spiders are popular with them..." He considers. "There's a certain smell to spirits...Maybe hard to pick up without werewolf senses. And there's a certain exaggeration to them. No real bunny is -this- cute. Plus he speaks. In First Tongue, and you'd probably just hear it as little chirpy soft bunny noises, but. I can understand him."

Slip is probably listening to Rain. She's sincerely interested in everything he's saying. It's just... really, Bunbun is the epitome of adorable and deserves all her doting attention. As a little nit of petting proves acceptable, she offers more, happily delivering the softest of scritches. It's exceedingly easy to see what sort of feelings the spirit inspires in her, all that warmth and joy and a desire to share it. "He's very sweet," seems directed directly down at the fluffball in her lap, but she looks up after. "You keep good company." With a cant of her head, she wonders, "Is Jester a spirit?" trying to get a feel for all of this.

Rain shakes his head. "No. Just a very funny little squirrel." He smirks a little. "Who seems to find humans especially curious and interesting. He's honestly pretty special for a squirrel. The others don't care that much for humans, but Jester finds all the little dynamics of human behaviour fascinating and funny. He imitates us sometimes, like it's the most hilarious joke in the world. That's why he bows and does little dances. He's an exceptionally smart squirrel. Just like humans, some are eccentric geniuses. That's him. To other squirrels, he's basically 'that really weird guy'" He laughs a little at that. "It's not often I develop such kinship with an animal, even though I have lots of little animal friends in the city. He's basically become family. And I will surely be crushed when he passes. All I can do is give him a good life." Bunbun is of course loving the attention, and reciprocating with nuzzles and little bunny sounds. Or so you'd think, except Rain understands him, and translates. "He likes you. You're a good person. So says Bunbun, anyway. Although he does tend to look through rose-colored glasses, being a spirit of compassion." He smirks. "He'd happily give people second chances. Third, fourth, eighteenth, two hundredth...His compassion is limitless. He even feels sorry for my dad sometimes. Reminds me he has reasons for doing bad things. Bad things must have happened to him." He shrugs. "Probably so. I suppose he affected how I view the world."

Slip issues a thoughtful, "Mm," at Bunbun's judgment, neither agreeing nor disagreeing with his ruling. People are certainly more complex than spirits, never just one thing. Still, she murmurs, more for Rain than the rabbit, "There's a limit to how much understanding we can give those who hurt us. Think about what you've done with your history and your hurt. Would you let your pain justify horrifying behavior?" Her hand runs over the fuzzball's back as she looks up to offer a sad smile to Rain. "I should probably head out. I've still got a few things I should probably maybe see to before work tonight. But... I'm really glad we shared lunch." Her smile grows. "It was delicious. As was the company."

Rain gently takes Bunbun from her, and lets him down to go hop around the place. And then, without asking this time, he gives her another hug. "Anytime. I'll text you, when I'm River we can go shopping or something." He laughs. "Not that she doesn't have enough clothes as it is. She has like 5 times the amount of clothes I do. Although that's partially because of how they make women's clothing." He sort of rolls his eyes. "Super thin, so you have to layer. Fragile. Sizes all over the place. No pockets so you have to carry a bag with you." A pause. "Uh. Anyway." He stands, and gently helps Slip to stand as well. "Be safe. Don't take candy from strangers, all that."

Slip inhales sharply at the sudden hug, a hint of surprise that gives way to melting into the affection readily. She gives him a squeeze, head tipped against his, before releasing. Once on her feet, she glances down at herself, the tee shirt and jeans thing she rocks habitually, and turns a dubious look toward Rain. She must have something else hiding in her wardrobe... right? Who knows. "I always take candy from strangers. And I'll trade them my wine. Or follow them home for lasagna." Maybe she's something of a stray herself, in that regard. Her smile goes wide, and, on that note, she sees herself out, back into her afternoon and its unspecified obligations.