Logs:I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)

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I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)


Characters: Odile and Tris
Date: 2019-12-06
Summary: Odile finds out more about the nature of Tris' durance, and vice-versa
Disclaimers: {{{disclaimers}}}

Ever since a certain TV show became a worldwide sensation, the prospect of the night being full of terrors has been ingrained in modern-day pop culture, but never has it been more true than in New Orleans in its darkest hours, where mundanity wanes and gives way to an otherworldly strangeness that even unaccorded mortals can feel in the air. The city has always been a cradle for the supernatural, almost from the moment it discovered its bones, where women freely practice witchcraft, and Baron Samedi is said to lurk in its elaborate graveyards.

There is a sudden scream from the back alleys that wind out from Salome and stretch into the area's labyrinthine heart, alive as it is with wild and frantic Blues - almost enough to drown out the exclamation of horror, but to those with sharper senses, it would be crystal clear. It is followed by the clatter of high heels as a young woman flees from the dark corridor, bruises mottling the side of her face in a red-and-purple nebula of pain, eyes bright with fresh tears. She nearly bulls into a crowd of younger men and women interacting with one another in front of the Jazz club, but she doesn't stop. She only slows just enough to remove her heels, and do her best to hail a cab.

The sound hadn't come from her, however, but rather her more unfortunate companion whose predilections for abuse had triggered the icy razor's edge of Odile Devereux's unique brand of fury. But as many tend to say, the aelegant woman doesn't get mad.

She gets even.

Perhaps nobody will ever really know what truly happened, why poor Jeremy Gates ended up the way he did, eyes blank and slumped on the ground in a dead-end alley plunged with enough concentrated darkness that it seems one with the night. He stares at the slender figure looming above him, unmoving, with the ball of a dainty foot and its dangerous Jimmy Choo stiletto stepping on his neck, the point of the heel pressing into the point where his carotid hammers as quickly as a hummingbird's wing, applying just enough weight to make a puncturing a very real threat. It follows along the line of a slender white leg peeking out from under a tight cigarette skirt that a pair of manicured fingers had delicately pushed up above the knee to give her room to do this, tapering over a narrow waist and tucking in a silk blouse; white, with black cuffs.

Odile has no hat today - a few minutes ago, she had wanted the man to see her face as it carried his worst nightmares come alive, the best illusion if not just because for a window of time, it had been real. But her countenance has returned to its cold, regal beauty, her blacker-than-night hair curled and styled in a manner reminiscent of the days of Hollywood starlets in its Golden Age, though it seems longer than its usual wont, seeming half-melted out of the surrounding shadows. Red lips are tilted in a haughty line, and her eyes burn like distant cerulean stars as wisps of precious sustenance curl over her limbs, and sink into her skin.

The Lost can feed off any emotion; the deeper, the better. But Fear is one of the most difficult to harvest, and when she needs it, she always makes certain that it counts.

--

"Don't let me interrupt." For a man so ruled by anger, Tris' voice is oddly nonchalant and laced with humor. Don't threaten him with a good time! Thankfully, that time is not being under Odile's stiletto, but a body-length away from the developing scene. Now that he's closer, the fact that his scars on neck and jaw are glimmering like starlight might be seen, but only by she who can see through the man's Mask. Only after he's announced his presence does he edge closer, lest Odile strike first and ask questions later. He's not getting too close to her, in this moment, but rather coming to look pitilessly down at the justly deserving victim.

It's with equal aplomb that he observes, "There will be such a mess," if there isn't already, given the man's terror, "but nothing a quick call to a cleaning service can't handle." Was the man hoping for rescue? The Millennial slips his phone from his slacks pocket, "I know a good one. Good at these sorts of things. We can probably just tip the body into the dumpster until they're free." The thing is, it rings hollow. Still, maybe Jeremy is too scared to notice. Tris is making the convincing movements on his phone. "Drinks after, darling?" At least that is true affection which will at least make sure Mr. Gates knows this is not his knight in shining armor.

--

He could have startled her, but Odile is a lady from the Ashen Court; Fear is internalized, and then weaponized, so save for a slight braiding of tension along the line of slim shoulders, he wouldn't know that he scared her by jumping out of the shadows. There's simply the slightest tilt of her head, a single glittering blue eye focused on his lean, broad-shouldered figure as he ventures into the darkened corridor, as nonchalant as he always is. There's no smile, at least, not immediately. For such an elegant creature who espouses poise and refinement in every moment, one can't be blamed to be slightly taken aback by the expression within that single, crystal-clear iris; the look within it is downright ferocious, tangled within the storms of her imbued with frost, and fire, and lightning.

And when he approaches her, he can smell it, what's on her skin - the subtle notes of cinnamon and citrus, laced with ozone.

"There's nothing to interrupt," she replies smoothly, her low contralto carrying the distant memory of Paris in every syllable. "Unless you, too, would like to partake? In this, I'm not opposed to sharing." Finally, there's a faint hint of a smile, touching on the corner of her ruby mouth. "Are you hungry?"

A slim hand plants on the curve of a cocked hip, turning her eyes down on the prostrate form of Mr. Gates. "As long as said cleaning service doesn't murder him," she says at last; she doesn't even hesitate, always so decisive. "I'll tip them well if they manage to convince him that it's all just a distant nightmare brought about by too many interesting cocktails. These deplorables aren't completely useless, provided they're alive. We can't, after all, harvest from corpses."

The man does nothing but choke a gurgle, unable to move. His eyes are wide, and pleading, but there is very little life behind them - a common affliction, while someone is being drained.

"Drinks," she agrees after a pause. "As my attempt at a cocktail this evening was so rudely interrupted." She slowly starts to lift her foot from the man's neck. "Shall we?"

--

Ferocity is knit in every fiber of Tris' being now. Just because his past nurtured a civility he can tap doesn't change the essence of what Arcadia has made him become. The only twitch the look of that single eye inflicts upon him is the subtle reflexive tension of preparation, not fear. Maybe in this moment as his dark gaze meets hers, she can see that in him more clearly than in moments before: he's a predator, feral under the facade of humanity.

"Famished, but I have to watch my figure, you know. Can't go around eating any old thing you find lying in a back alley." The young man doesn't miss a beat, letting his hands glide down his Versace blazer as though showing his trim muscle as though Odile or Jeremy himself might be concerned by what fat consuming the unfortunate mortal whole might add. "Besides, I think you've had the best of him." That much is probably true.

Tris wrinkles his nose, "Murder him? Oh, I thought you might take care of that." There's no hint of judgment in his tone. "Well, leave him here with the rest of the garbage, I guess. Drinks, dinner, lady's choice." He offers his arm to the elegant being of shadowy horror (and beauty, can't forget beauty), with every intention of leading her to the mouth of the alley when she's ready. "What suits you best?"

--

"Me?" The single word leaves Odile's expressive mouth with such disconcerting innocence, it would be convincing if he hadn't just witnessed what he did. "And ruin these shoes?" She bends a knee, to examine one dangerous heel. "I love these shoes." Said with all the affection a normal person would reserve for an old friend. But with the man left behind, slim fingers are already retrieving her coat, draping it over her shoulders and fitting her waiting hand into the crook of his elbow when he offers it. With that, the pair exits the alley.

It isn't often that anyone sees the woman's face - she is always with something to obscure it, a hat, or large sunglasses that dwarf most of her alabaster features. But the night serves as a shade well enough, only glimpses of it visible to those who might turn their heads in their direction as they walk. Salome again, perhaps, with its growing reputation as a haven for those who are Lost; its entertainments are always agreeable.

As usual, she never hesitates asserting her preferences, being so particular; after placing drink orders on the way, another uniformed employee of Louis' lifts the velvet cord that leads into the VIP section of the club, because of course there would be one. There is a fully-stocked bar, with another bartender manning it, but for the most part it is empty. There are views turned towards the stage, the music is still in the air, but there is privacy here.

She removes her coat when she enters, handing it off to a staff member who hangs it up carefully, before slinking into one of its comfortable seats and crossing long legs by the knee. "We barely had a chance to converse last night," she tells him, face tilting upwards to look at him. "Given our interesting companions. How are you liking New Orleans, Demitrius?"

--

It isn't so much that Tris is one to be easily led as it is that, at least at present, his goals and preferences align perfectly with the Autumn courtier's. Dominant by nature does not, in every instance, and in Tris' in particular, lead to a need to assert that dominance at every turn. Even more now than in his youth, Demitrius Kesel picks the important moments.

This is not one of those, so going along with Odile as the charming arm candy he still can be, despite years and experience, he arrives with her in the VIP section to get settled. It's a long-standing reflex to unbutton his blazer as he takes a seat, right into that familiar sprawl, although he chooses a chair beside the woman and not across, allowing for a more intimate exchange, even in this place of privacy.

He doesn't apologize. It's been known to happen, but rarely with sincerity (rather than exercise of a useful tool for social maneuvering), but this isn't an occasion that really requires it. "Some stories get to me more than others. It's one failing I haven't grown out of." 'Failing' would be a word right out of his parents' lexicon to describe the journalism student who couldn't stay detached enough from some of his case studies. Odd though it may be, Tris has always cared for people, individuals though, not the whole of humanity, or now the supernatural world. He doesn't immediately offer an explanation as to just what it was about Peter and Lilium's story that tipped his calm into chaos, but obviously it was something.

"New Orleans has its appeal." Tris responds, which might sound generic but is, in tone, thoughtful. "A little lacking in excitement. The freehold seems to be just about the only thing anyone wants to talk about, though with Solstice upcoming, I can see why. I've... decided to lend a hand with that, whatever use I can be." He doesn't sound entirely happy about doing so, but then it is boring by comparison to so many other things. "What have you been keeping yourself busy with, Odile?" As though they hadn't seen each other in weeks instead of only recently. Maybe it just feels like too long, the previous evening notwithstanding.

--

Since his arrival, this would be the first time he'd be able to see her face in full view, bathed in the dimness of the VIP lounge's ambient light. Her mask is unchanged; the long-lived are what they are, Odile Devereux hasn't aged a day, with her marble perfection and glittering blue eyes - a living, breathing chiaroscuro portrait inundated with pops of vibrant color focused around her stare and the shades she chooses for her lips. Her mien, however, would be relatively new, hidden in the years in which he was mortal, bands of shadow and smoke curling over a decidedly feminine silhouette - but now that they're alone and away from prying eyes, she allows these wisps and shrouds to fall away, to slip over her figure and make her seem as if melting out of the darkness, always; shadows embrace her like jealous lovers, describing every elegant line of her until their coalition pools into the floor, like a dress made out of the darkest ink. Her hair, too, looks like smoke and shadow, darkening further and spilling in whorls over shoulders bathed in moonlight. Her eyes are tilted in this form, much like a cat's, silver instead of blue and carrying within them shards of frosted lightning. She is close enough to her humanity that her origins from that species would be apparent....but otherworldly, also.

She lounges against the seat as if it was made for her, and she doesn't object to Tris' election of sitting close. Her chin tilts to regard him under this new light, eyes tracing the gossamer cracks that fragment his skin like puzzle pieces. "Fae are creatures of stories," she reminds. "Whether we like it or not, we carry some of their beautiful, terrible curse now." It's smoothly said, but marred by bittersweetness and no small measure of subsumed fury. "What about their plight touched you?" Always so straightfoward with her questions.

The hints that it simply isn't New York tug her scarlet mouth upwards, the curve mischievous. "So you decided to support that movement after all? Who convinced you? Anything worth the investment carries some manner of risk, I suppose. As for what I'm up to..."

She pauses when the bartender deposits their drinks. Her fingers reach for her glass of robust Brunello. "Louis and I exchanged favors a few weeks back. I'm assisting him in looking into a matter - a mysterious flash drive that's put a man in the hospital and has already been the motive behind the deaths of a few others. Whatever's inside it, people have placed enough value to kill for."

--

Through the lens of Tris' camera, the lack of change in the Changeling's mask would be obvious to him. Here, with his opened eyes, he can only take in those changes that woman's mien is manifesting. And take them in, he does. His head cants slightly, the scars under his jaw catching some new light and knitting in blues to the present assortment. When the shadows have fully settled, he exhales, perhaps not realizing that he'd been holding his breath. A bitter amusement twitches onto his lips in parody of a smile. "It never ceases to amaze me when the evidence of torment end up holding so much beauty." Surely, he is one such case, even if she's yet to see how extensive those gossamer veins of scarring extend.

There's a long moment of consideration before Tris shifts forward in his seat and slides out of the blazer. As is typical, he's wearing one of his designer tee-shirts beneath and as the flesh of his forearms is revealed, the complex patterns of scars there catch up light, in blues and coppers tinged with yellow. He sets the jacket on the back of the next chair over and extends his arms for her, that she might touch, if she likes, the raised lines of crystalline thread, woven to capture the light and reflect it back in glimmers and gleams of light. The heat of him is there, of course, it's never not. That summer heat that sizzles but doesn't burn. Tit for tat, in a way; it clearly wouldn't be appropriate to strip down here, despite the privacy of Salome's VIP section.

"What is it you most want to know, Odile?" There's an offer in his quiet voice: ask her most important question, and he may gift her the answer. "The worst wounds aren't ones I bear on my body. Are yours?" That must be his most important question as his dark gaze searches her face with quiet empathy and earnest concern.

None of this more intimate exchange on the nature of durances stops the Millennial multitasker from moving on to the other topics. "Jules Landry," is an honest pair of words. "He's very passionate about the need for one. And I appreciate that he wants to see all the seasons represented in the discussion when it might be easy in such a void to take a less traditional route. Jules was the first one to mention Louis' being in town to me. The first time we met he tried to send me to Louis about freehold matters." There's some amusement there, as if Tris finds it as funny as anyone else might that someone thought he might be someone worthwhile to involve in the conversation. Still, when Tris puts his mind to things, it never turns out all bad, historically.

As for the rest, that's enough to spark interest in the young man's face. "Well, darling, you know I'm always ready for a good time." In the life of a photojournalist, perhaps even particularly for one who spent good time in the sewers of the gossip rags, things like flash drives worth killing for definitely qualify as a 'good time.' "If you ever need backup, I'm only a text away." Or a call. Pfft, Millennials.

--

"Arcadia is a land of beauty and horror," Odile replies with a smirk, inclining her head at him that's akin to an inquisitive bird, though by the way lashes lower, the expression on her face is decidedly feline. The ghosts of an acerbic bitterness and terrible longing play on the words she utters, however, and when he points out that her physical appearance hadn't suffered much under the toils of her durance, those eyes flicker faintly, affording him the flitting shadows of memory. "My brethren tend to be pale, gaunt and thin - like creatures stretched out on a rack," she tells him. "My Keeper wanted to maintain what drew him to me in the first place." And hoarded her jealously; her affection, her attention, her pain, her everything.

She waits patiently, while she has never denied herself anything after crossing the hedge, she has never been in a hurry to obtain what she wants. Irises watch with attentive sharpness once the blazer is discarded and the strings of whipcord musculature find the light. And she does touch, because curiosity spurs her on, her manicured nails and butterfly-light fingertips roaming over the web that the Aurora Borealis seems to have stitched into his skin. They start on his inner wrists, one of which contains the rose tattoo that she remembers used to be on his shoulderblade. She remembers it well, is familiar with its colors and nuances - the hours she spent tracing its lines with her mouth.

"I want to know everything." A Fairest in facade, but a Darkling by nature, and those always go where people fear to tread. Her head lifts to meet his darker stare. "But I'll settle for what you're willing to tell me about what happened. What took you, Demitrius?" Her touch sweeps upwards over his limbs, stopping at his sleeve until finally, that white wrist turns to brush her thumb against the line of his jaw. The gesture is painfully intimate, but careful - as if he could shatter at any moment, his heat banishing the moon's luminous chill from her skin, and flushes it pink.

She leaves the subject of the freehold for now, and the mysterious flashdrive. She finds the flare of genuine interest in his eyes - unsurprising, given his trade. But his abduction is a subject which she places her present priority upon, at the exclusion of everything else. They can always circle back to the rest of it later.

--

"A monster without a heart," comes the man's soft answer. Muscles tense and release under her finger tips, a tremor passing down skin still capable of rising to goose flesh save for where the luminous ridges run. There doesn't seem to be any intelligible rhyme or reason to their placement, save for whatever the artist's eye saw in the stitching. There are more tattoos than just the rose. Perhaps ones that she didn't know, and some have been torn asunder and repositioned, creating new nonsensical images with ribbons and cracks of shifting, shimmering light running through them. For a moment that might seem briefly to stretch forever, Tris doesn't move when her fingers touch his jaw, but then he does, leaning first into her touch and then turning his face to press a kiss to her palm, one of his hands coming up briefly to aid in the capture and release.

"I don't remember much, Odile. The nightmares are real and unreal and surreal. How does any one of us really begin to separate one from the other and the other?" His soft fingers curl themselves into fists, clenching briefly. "I can tell you I loved him." It's always a painful admission. How could he love a creature that turned him into what he is? "I would have done anything for him. Did. Impossible things." His Adam's apple bobs and his dark eyes are distant for all that they rest on the alabaster skin of her face. He's briefly a lost Lost, mind in another place, another time. "And I abandoned him when I grew strong enough, fast enough, clever enough."

His breath catches and he looks abruptly away, tension rippling through his body. It's... almost a panic attack. It's something he has to struggle with to control, to hold his breath and force it into rhythm, and maybe he listens to hers, a lifeline to the present. If she'll give him a moment, surely he can pull himself together. He has to have had practice at this, though there's certainly the sense that this isn't something he readily shares, even with other Lost.

--

"Monsters often don't," Odile murmurs. She doesn't just listen to his explanations, but watches every change in his handsome profile when his story unfolds; the tightening of his jaw by the hinges, felt under the delicate press of her thumb and how emotion seems to play over the spectrum of color that criss-cross the visible portions of his skin. There are other images on him that are unfamiliar, now - maybe they came after her. She wasn't always with him, whenever she returned to New York. The tender flesh of her palm glows with additional color when fingers aid in the press of its cup against the side of his face, eyes lidding faintly when his mouth finds her, banishing more of the impressions of Autumn from her complexion, letting his season invade her for just a moment.

Her hand lowers after that, eyes gravitating momentarily to his clenched fingers, and then back up to his face. His confession is a familiar one, remembers the messy tangle within herself; her very own Hedge, teeming with thorns and brambles and blood-red roses, enticing others to touch it, only to bite deep, and shred mercilessly. "Good," she tells him, her tone without pity for the monster he had left behind. "He didn't deserve you."

As tension threads an ephemeral layer over the network of beautiful hurts displayed over his complexion, the woman refrains from touching him. She knows something about pride, though the heavy sense of honesty in the air lingers and enables her to know despite their estrangement that this is a story he rarely ever shares. "I won't force you to revisit the nightmares if the burden is too great," she tells him - it isn't just an out, but a shred of feeling from a woman who normally doesn't display such things, that she may harbor some remorse for asking, and causing him enough pain to shorten his breath. After the briefest silence, for she never truly hesitates, she adds, whisper soft: "What can I do, Demitri?"

--

There likely is not a single Lost who has returned without triggers for post-traumatic stress, given the extreme trauma of their experiences There and little things like anxiety and the panic attacks are just a routine part of that experience. It also means that it's not a foreign thing to encounter nor to coach oneself through. There is only his breath, uneven and struggling for cadence for some beats as the struggle extends. After the first few moments, Tris turns wide blue eyes up to her face and latches on as though the unfamiliar look of her is still a lifeline.

"Distract me," he manages to speak the two words that have to steal out of the locked up chest that wants to hold the breaths back from their natural path. In another moment, Tris can summon and expel a few more, "Tell me what you want your place here to be like." But this is still Tris so he doesn't mean just the shapes, colors and designs he means, "The essence of it. What do you need it to be for you."

--

She recognizes the signs because she is not wholly inexperienced with things like this, and as a lady of the Ashen Court, it's even moreso. Odile's long white fingers lift upwards towards those wide blue eyes, the gentle pads of them pressing against her skin until she's able to coax him to close them, if he allows her. "Shhh. It's alright, darling." Her voice is a tangled whisper, but one that manages to slip and carry into his ears, adopting the illusion of something softer, warmer, but still herself. "Listen to my voice." Her choice of endearments are either superficial or rare, but in this instance, it is more the latter than the former.

It's only when he's complied that she continues to speak, weaving a dream simply through words, and draw him from his present terror - as if fishing him out with her net, and out of the sea. "It's rather large," she continues. "Old world charm with new world conveniences, modern twenty-first century technology acoutrements, but hidden and camouflaged over the panels. The floors are dark hardwood, the walls pure, pristine white, with marble columns veined with the faintest blue. I intend to transform it into my personal oasis, a piece of Paris in the heart of New Orleans and a mirror of what I had back there, in the City of Lights. Mirrors were always important to me, Demitri..." Her lips curl upwards in a small smile. "And not solely due to my vanity."

She picks up her wine glass and offers it to his lips; he'd feel the cool, gentle press of the glass against it, to sip at slowly. "I intend to have a studio built, also. With floor to ceiling mirrors. We're both artists, Demitri...but in different ways."

--

There's a moment in which it seems Demitrius will not surrender his sight at Odile's urging; she means well. For some, the shutting out of the real might be a comfort, but it is not so for this man, this Beast, who relies upon his senses to not only keep him grounded in this reality, but also to defend against what must feel like inevitable and often unforeseen dangers. But after a struggling moment, Tris' lashes flutter... though a shrewd eye would see that they are, in fact, still open. She has enough of his trust for him to still be sitting here, but not enough to beat the primal instinct to stay aware. The appearance of his lashes being closed proves enough for her to go on.

The slits of his dark gaze latch onto one of the stretches of scarring still exposed to her, and as she speaks, the story provides a mental thread to pay attention to. It's not just what Odile is saying though, not just the reality that she's presenting that helps him find his way back to balance. It's the way his jaw tightens, his forearms flex in visible tension, his fingers curling tight into fists. The heat of him kicks up a slight degree as anger suffuses him. Not anger with her, but with Them, with all she's lost because of them. That is the thread that tethers him to this reality, that bolsters his certainty about escape, about being here, staying here, not going looking for the not-life he abandoned in a place that only tells pretty lies with horrors beneath (and sometimes, not even beneath).

His breath comes in a gust as he opens his eyes properly to bring his eyes back to her face, once more in command of himself. "Tell me about the mirrors," is a request for all that it might sound a touch too much like a demand in the face of the anger that he's still slowly pushing back to where he needs it to be. He collects his arms back to himself though he makes no move to put his jacket back on yet. "When your studio is complete... will you let me watch you dance?" He must be feeling more himself because he has to know that this is a bold question, given the length of their on-and-off relationship.

--

She notices the trick; Cunning is a Darklings' vice, but for reasons of her own, Odile lets this stay - already consideration, from an overall selfish and domineering creature who almost always expects that her demands be met. Weaving the picture in the air with her words, all she intends to do is transport him to a different place - her place, however much it's not even complete or procured as of yet. Its dark wood and marble columns, the double-doors that lead out to a private terrace that enjoys the relatively temperate climate New Orleans has year-round with the exception of its scorching Summers; virid grass and multi-colored blossoms perfuming the air. But for all of the diversion that she presents to him, she is fully aware of him and his state, and how lean, athletic musculature forces tendons in his forearms to bunch, highlighting the harder lines of him and what it means to be a predator transformed by the whims of Arcadia.

Tell me about the mirrors.

There's a faint incline of her head, causing the midnight spill of hair and smoke on a single pale shoulder, curling briefly before it drapes down with the rest of the shadows that embrace her. Long lashes lid; she must know that in the demand lies the request, but Fae are creatures of stories and bargains, and he had answered her questions to the best of his ability at the expense of shattering his composure, and leaving him, in many ways, vulnerable. She turns slightly away from him then, to nestle the curve of her graceful spine against the back of her seat, and crossing long legs the other way, pale skin cutting through pure black and leaving the line of her lower thigh exposed, but no further.

"When my Keeper's guests decided that they were hungry for more of my charms than what I had already presented on his stage, he would open up the Maze to give me a chance to escape them," she tells him, her voice absent - an almost dreamy lilt in an effort to smother all incriminating emotions out of it. "A grand, gilded hall of mirrors, crystals and reflective surfaces. It happened night after night, losing myself in them, chased by indescribable monsters with appetites equal to their predatorial inclinations. And through them, I would see everything...even the states I was reduced to every time I was caught. It was how I learned to evade them - Desperation and the will to survive is like that. It forces you to evolve. Since then, I attribute my fortune and survival to such things."

She swirls her wine in her glass, lashes lowering and those glittering eyes finding the rim. "He would never let me die. He would sweep to my rescue in the last moment, repair my hurts and reiterate while taking me that he is the only thing in the world who would ever see and love me for what and who I am so long as I kept panting, moaning and screaming his name." Her thumb flicks against crystal, depresses against the rim...so hard that it almost cuts through skin. She doesn't even seem to register the pain as she watches the act of it dispassionately. "There's something almost human about it, the way he encouraged me to believe that all of it was true."

His request is a bold one, indeed, and she finally meets his eyes when she lifts her head to look at him. There's a faint twitch of that lush red mouth. "I've not performed for anyone in years. It's a passion I keep to myself, these days." Not a yes, but not a no, either. Her hand lowers to press into the cushion between them, leaning forward slightly to look directly into his eyes, to dive into the darker blues in an attempt to get to the heart of him. "And I've yet to discover the monster that you've become."

--

Tris has always been a good listener; it's part of the trade, after all. But as his parents always pointed out, he got too attached to the story to see it clearly. He gives his skill of listening, of hearing and witnessing what Odile chooses to share with him all of his focus save for that which always functions at a basic level for ready-for-anything Summers like him, keeping their surroundings and the dangers therein in the back of his mind. He doesn't touch her while she speaks of the maze, nor even of her Keeper's mockery of the human temperament. Perhaps he senses that this is not a moment where contact would help.

It's possible, of course, that even after she's finished speaking that contact might not be what Odile needs to gain any sense of comfort from her companion - it's true enough that some of these wounds are not anything that can be helped by any worldly comfort - but still, he reaches to take her hand up in his heated one. With her cloak of Autumnal weather, the heat shouldn't hurt, but the warmth might, in this instance, help, along with the tender touch of his soft fingers along the back of her hand in small, soothing circles. Maybe he doesn't do it as well as he could, but he tries and that might be worth something.

Her sharing seems to have unlocked something more, and without the same panic that had gripped him; maybe for a moment they are Lost together, lost and Lost, but in some similar haze of awful memory and shared-but-same experience. "I was always caught," too, he can say this, carefully, quietly. His voice is raw as he goes on. "I remember how often he would tell me that my pain was the only thing that could make him happy. That he wouldn't love me like he did if he didn't have my pain. If I loved him, I would let him have one more slice, one more stitch, one more hunt, one more fuck, one more--" He breaks off abruptly, his voice clipped of in a huff of air that is the physical manifestation of his early attempt to stave off another brush with panic.

"Always more. That's not what love is. None of that is what love is." Maybe Tris doesn't know what love is, and his assertion quavers like it's on knife's edge, like he's telling himself again and again, but he's afraid it isn't true after all. "We..." he can't say it, that awful platitude about them deserving better, but it's palpable in the air. What he says instead after a moment and a bob of his Adam's apple is, "I have to believe that there's better than what we had, here. If we can find it. Win it. Take it." Whatever. "Give nothing back." That last is quieter, but more firmly resolved.

For the dancing, he seems to accept her not-yes/not-no answer, and he's certainly shared more, but perhaps he finds the words she speaks to require a different kind of answer. "Do you want a resume?" He murmurs, though the tilt of his mouth invites the conversation back a more playful if not less serious direction.

--

There's no resistance in her when Tris takes up her hand, the results of her ridiculous skin care regimen warming under the heat of Summer; her color is too pale to affectuate any sort of physical indifference to it and thus, he would be rewarded by the flush of it seeping out from underneath the hidden, deeper layers of her, blossoming like roses over snow. Her response isn't non-existent, and neither is it limp, when these graceful appendages shift under his touch to remind him that she is alive, soaking in the patterns he traces over the silken white lines of her knuckles and wrist, the back of her hand. Lips curl up in a smile so faint, it is barely perceptible.

"What is it that they say in Las Vegas?" Odile says, at last, the line of her mouth a touch more sardonic there. "The house always wins? It's never been truer than in Arcadia where the games the Gentry play are rigged from the start against you." Her fingers curl in at last, to gently squeeze his fingers and permits herself to be held in this way. It isn't easy, this - she is more accustomed to Louis' comfort, who can be just as manipulative, but altogether platonic. But his familiarity and the gentle, determined way he wishes to be present, softens these usual defenses and paves the way for more of her replies.

"It isn't love. Not to the human perception. Many of their machinations and the nuances of their logic are unknowable, in the end and perhaps that is Their way." It is habit, this old justification, but it is ingrained on the truth - their former masters were alien. "That doesn't mean, however, that we have to accept it lying down. I certainly did not, otherwise I wouldn't be here, and neither did you." Her voice is as always firm, imperious, and oh-so-decisive, and so convincing of its confidence that it may very well be that she doesn't fear Them at all anymore, though nothing could be further from the truth. "But yes." Finally, that brilliant, teasing smile emerges, head tipping to regard him in a way that makes her look so delightfully mischievous. "Taking. Winning. I have been, since I returned. I hope you are doing the same."

The bold quip that follows the audacity of his request has her shifting her hand in his, turning it over so she could examine his fingers. "Are you inclined to give me one?" she asks, lifting her eyes to his, and bringing his knuckles up to brush the dew-clung softness of her mouth against them. She would never say it, thank him for his attempts at comforting her from the snares and traps that she doesn't acknowledge out loud, but she was a dancer in her former life - and in the world she loved and left behind, actions are just as evocative.

--

Tris has always been a creature of the moment and that nature has only been intensified by the nature of his durance. It's why the laugh that Odile's words about Las Vegas invokes joy, not bittersweet pangs. It's a terrible truth, but it's humorous and though it may be dark humor in a way no mortal would understand, Tris appreciates it. There's warmth in his expression as he looks at the dancer. His fingers give one final caress of her hand before he's relinquishing the contact. The rest of the words do prompt a more serious expression settling over his features, but no longer pained, nor dour.

His blue eyes rest on her face while she speaks of love, willing to all appearances to listen, to hear her, and, possibly, even to internalize. It may be that some of the opinions she shares resonate with ideas that already found harbor in his mind to help wrap his head around just what happened. But then... he's only been back about seven months; hearing the longer Returned share her insights can only help him, if he gleans the right things from them.

"I'm working on all that. Winning. " The flash of the smile there is brief, but bright. "But I am still bored, so why don't you tell me what kinds of exciting things I can help you with, Odile?" More quietly, with a slight tilt of his chin and a little lean of his body toward the other Changeling, he makes the earnest statement, "I'd like to help keep you safe while you do your dangerous things, if I can." There's a beat before a smile tugs at the edge of his lips and he's adding in an even lower, richer voice, "What are friends for if not to lend a hand?"

This leads naturally to him back to the resume. He settles back in his chair, into that sprawl again, considering a spot in space before he flicks his eyes in her direction again and shrugs his shoulders, "I'm inclined to give you what might be most useful to you to know about how I could help. If you don't know, you won't call me when I would be useful." It's reasonable and even if Odile doesn't consider them quite friends, Tris evidently does.

--

There's something almost feline and satisfied about her expression drawing that laugh from Tris; an elegant wrist turns to draw the robust red wine back to her lips as she watches him radiate mirth, appreciating her dark humor for what it is. She was never one to pull back from using her tongue to great effect, a multi-tool that can be as gilded or as barbed as she wants. The fact that he does both amuses and endears him further to her, her hand relinquished and settled back on her lap.

"Good. I'm glad to hear it," Odile replies. There are no doubts there, to answer his reassurances that he is doing his best to win. The expression of his boredom, also, is no surprise; lips part to quip, but whatever is there fades at what he says next. She doesn't doubt that either when she regards him over her glass - any modern woman would perhaps wonder just what about her screams that she needs protecting, but she is a creature borne of a different time and place. She tends to find such overtures more charming than not, and the sincerity behind the sentiment makes it all the more so. Lips press against her glass in an effort to hide a smile...and poorly. She wants him to know.

"Is that what we are?" It would be convincingly innocent, were it not for the presence of her subtle mischief and the way those striking eyes gleam from her luminous face. There is nothing barbed or inquiring about it, but speaks of more intimate memories.

This is when she, too, leans back, manicure playing against her glass. "The flash drive I'm pursuing belonged to an anthropology professor in Tulane University. Recently deceased in a very convenient automobile accident. My excursion to her abode yielded me the discovery of her personal papers, documents and a collection of dictation tapes, the latter of which I'm still reviewing. The contents of the flash drive are still a mystery, but it's clear that there are elements in the city willing to kill for it, so there's no saying what its value is. I intend to retrieve it. It's interesting enough, I promised Louis I would assist him there, but even with its rising body count, it's not as dangerous as another problem I stumbled across recently."

After another sip, she watches him with her hooded, assessing gaze from over the crystalline rim of her glass. "I understand you're a journalist of some skill with the know-how and connections that often go hand-in-hand with such a career, an artist, so a fine eye for detail...and I know from personal experience you're not without your wits. Is there anything else I should know?"

--

Whether or not Tris is aware of her subtle play, the intention for him to see that look behind her glass, it's hard to say. That he appreciates the look is obvious from the way his eyes soften a little, the warmth reaching them. Given this Millennial's outlook on life, it may be likely that he, at least, isn't making statements about her abilities to take care of herself and more about his inability to watch a friend (regardless of gender) be alone, facing danger without him (either for protection or for the fun he's missing; one or the other or both). Still, that's the kind of conversation that can always be had at some later date if it comes to it.

Tris tips his head slightly, one hand coming up to let fingers scratch that not-quite-stubble on his face and then idly trace the glowing line under his chin. "Well, never less than friends, unless you count our fights, but you have to admit those ended well." He means in bed. What better way to resolve differences in a relationship not meant to deepen or last? "Friends seems as fitting as anything, now, wouldn't you agree? " He flashes her one of his more charmingly rakish smiles.

The look doesn't last though. As the talk turns to business, Tris' expression changes, displaying a fair amount of focus on the information she's relaying. She might know the look, remember it from the times he was working during university on the only topics he ever excelled at (journalism and photography). It's the same look he might have worn when sifting though information provided by a source.

"If you want a second set of eyes on the documents, I'll be rubbish at the academics of it all, but personal things did have a way of being very useful in my former trade." Perhaps two heads could be better than one, but he doesn't push that issue. "What's the more dangerous problem?" That would be more important to him. More dangerous means more important in the immediate and more exciting; that stir of interest in his face isn't just concern after all.

His lips press together for a long moment before he nods. "Connections less than the rest. Back in New York, but I'm as new here as anyone. If you want contacts of our kind, and maybe one or two others, I might be of help, but you're as versed in that way as I am, I'm sure. Although comparing notes might make for a very entertaining evening," over alcohol no doubt.

"Journalism, photos, and don't forget my driving," he is quite skillful in that area as mundane as the skill may be to many. "I'm not the clumsiest or loudest, though probably nowhere near your grace," he tips his chin in conceding nod to the master. "I am, however, quite fast..." He considers her a long moment before adding, "and if you were to get into a confrontation, I could probably help get you out or give you better odds, though not necessarily without notice." He also isn't so confident as to tell her he could handle anything, so that's important.

Then, almost an afterthought that isn't really an afterthought, he murmurs, "And if you're injured, but not too badly, I should be your first call. Or your second, if you have someone for that who can handle anything." Still, he could be helpful that way, in a pinch.

--

His charming, rakish smile is met by a more cryptic own, lashes lowering partially over her gaze; there's nothing cold about it - if anything, it is the opposite, no matter how less forthcoming she is about the internal landscapes of her. "We didn't squabble all that often, did we?" she wonders, though that, too, is innocently impish - given his youth and her particularness, they certainly did, but nothing that couldn't be resolved, ultimately, by a night or weekend out together in more idle days. Lips drain the rest of her wine glass, and she sets it aside with a deft flick of her wrist.

"We have an idea regarding the academic's tapes," Odile reassures. "The personal documents, I've kept just in case." Passports, birth certificates, she had been utterly shameless in obtaining and keeping them, they would find good use in her hands, eventually, but these are things she doesn't say. But as he pokes at the more precarious problem, the turn of her smile takes on a different bent. That cool, marble perfection returns, impassive and impenetrable for a heartbeat or two. She is unaware of it, the way a single dainty fist starts balling tightly on her lap, nails raking into tender skin and leaving crescent-moon impressions upon them.

"It might be a discussion for a different time," she tells him simply. "We've only started our reacquaintance, Demitrius, but I already know that it is something that you'll desire to be folded into if not just because of what it means...and it is precisely why it's so perilous. And delicate. Give me time to think on it?"

Her expression brightens, suddenly, banishing the darkness lingering from it in remembrance of the Problem. "You are especially talented behind the wheel," she tells him with a laugh. "To the point where I wish I learned whenever I watch you. That'll certainly come in handy. And occasionally, I could use someone who isn't afraid to assert his dominance, so to speak. Those of the Summer court are particularly talented in physical endeavors, in my experience. Sometimes all I really need is a quick getaway. I'm not particularly hardy." She tilts her nearest hand to him, to demonstrate the fragility of her joints. "Were I less clever, I suspect that I'd have been twisted and broken and dead a thousand times, but I wouldn't be exercising much practical foresight if I didn't prepare for that eventuality."

But it's his soft murmur, that last pitch, that prompts her to regard him, surprise coloring her abalaster mien. Her first call. "...you can heal?" she wonders curiously. He was already fast, but to cross such distances and to be able to pull someone from the brink? Something changes in her face, as if forced to reassess his present form.

--

The smile that twitches into being to answer her first coy remarks shows that his memory of their times together hasn't faded all that much. Still, rather than give her a verbal retort, he winks. It's a throwback to his days of young and cocky playboy, before he learned to pursue a hunt with more decorum. After all, the hunt has always been a part of him... and now more, in an entirely different way. He wouldn't make the gesture now as part of a flirtation, except to recall those very early days of being society affair arm candy, when he was ten years younger by mortal accounting.

Tris is either smart enough or not interested enough to press for a look at the documents Odile seems content to keep for herself; maybe there's nothing there to find. As a journalist, one does rather learn to scent a promising lead and since Odile, with all her craft, experience and wisdom, isn't concerned about giving the papers another going over, neither is he. In this he can readily trust her judgment.

She must know he's not so immediately distractable (usually) as to drop a topic as important as that which might be putting her in danger, so the skip must be deliberate on Demitrius' part, because the next he addresses is: "I'm only mundanely fast in a vehicle. On my feet is a different story, but carrying you and doing it..." He considers her slender form and tips his head back and forth, "We'd have to try it to see how practical it could be. I might serve as a punching bag while you make your getaway, though." There's a devil-may-care grin for that, but the ring of seriousness to it. "But I'd put my bet on your wits in any case, so it may never be needed." Still, he'd do it, if it came to it, and that's valuable to know.

Then he's shifting out of his seat to stand. He dips down as though to press a kiss to her cheek, the heat of him radiating to be the kiss his lips never deliver. Rather, he says softly to her ears. "Some. I don't work miracles. But I'd try." For her. That's implied, but it's also a good playboy line, isn't it? Fortunately, he means the words said, even if the implications may be cloudier.

When Tris straightens, he's reaching down for his jacket, making deft moves to pull it on and button it. "Take the time you need. You know how to reach me for that, or anything else." He lets that rogue's smile touch his face again before he's bidding her, "Goodnight, Odile," waiting only long enough for any response from her before he's heading out into the night that is still dark and full of terrors.