|Characters:||Louis and Tris|
|Summary:||Louis and Tris each play Santa in their own special way.|
A temple to consumerism, festooned with lights and packed to the gills with people scrambling to get their holiday shopping done. There's a children's chorus performing in one atrium, and in another, a jolly Santa is giving selfies to shoppers.
The shops in this mall are on the high end, Brooks Brothers, Louis Vitton, a fancy steakhouse, and similar sort of things. Likewise, the patrons tend to be well-dressed and have the look of people with enough money to look down on others. There are numerous security guards, and they give anyone who looks too poor to belong a frowning look.
It's packed. Almost painfully packed. Children are running around, dodging through legs to scream about wanting the next hot thing, while harassed businesspeople try to pretend that the presents they're buying are going to make up for only seeing their spouses and families once a week or so. In contrast to the harried and stressed families, Louis looks quite happy as he dodges packages and browses at windows. He's dressed in a three piece suit - conservative, today, with dark blue blazer and trousers, polished leather shoes, and a waistcoat with a subtle herringbone pattern. One hand is carrying a few bags, but he doesn't look to be in a particular hurry.
In other words, it's a perfect night to be a glamour-hungry Changeling. With this much humanity teaming with varied strong emotions, is it any wonder that there's more than one Changeling without bags in hand but enjoying the delicious ambiance? Tris is dressed the part, classy khaki slacks and a matching blazer that could've been purchased from any one of the stores here that might sell that sort of ensemble, or their equally wealth-conscious competitors. It couldn't really be the season prompting the green, gold and red twining the scars under his chin, but maybe it's the festive lights helping create the atmosphere of pre-Christmas craze.
For all that the Mask looks like it belongs in dress, there's dark circles under the eyes of Mask and mien alike, as though the Millennial suffered a particularly bad night of sleep, and in fact, he's added to his blooms of glimmering scars in the form of a new slender tracery running from hairline down along the jaw, stretching thread-thin tendrils up along his jaw, under but not obscured by the not-quite-stubble beard. He steps around a woman as she drags a child away from one of the displays and spotting a familiar face, moves to come up along the other Changeling's side. "Evening, Louis," is a typically friendly greeting even if Tris sounds a little fatigued.
Even in a crowd, the Lost tend to stand out to one another, and when Louis catches a glimpse of a familiar glimmer in the sea of humanity, and he turns in that direction as Tris approaches. His smile comes readily to his lips. "And hello there, yourself. And happy holiday season! Isn't it glorious?" But even as he says it, the sharp eyes behind the glasses are taking in the other man's appearance with something like concern. "You look as if you've been quite busy. Burning the midnight oil?"
The gesture of hand rising to run fingers across the new manifestation of scarring on his face is practically automatic, like worrying a scab. "Just a few new horrors to add to my collection, apparently. I didn't know..." Tris makes a helpless gesture to the new additions. "I didn't know these things could change." He hasn't been Returned for long enough to find out, apparently. "Merry early solstice to me, I suppose." For all that he doesn't sound thrilled, nor does he sound especially broken up about it all.
The hand touching the scars moves to push across his face, rubbing at the fatigued features and then falling away. "I'm sure it will be fine. Just new elaborate dreams to share at my next therapy session." That's just how things go sometimes. "Oh, do you own fire extinguishers at Salome?" It's a dumb question, there's no doubt, and absolutely out of the blue, but there it is. "I was thinking about our cooking lesson." The upcoming impending doom of it all, probably. And if Tris seems a little on the scattered side for adding, "Are you well?" in genuine care but weirdly hindsight, perhaps he can be forgiven this once.
"Of course I do. It's required by fire codes, and in any nightclub, even if it wasn't, I'd have them. I live above the club, after all, and would prefer not burning down." Louis is about to ask 'why', but then he goes on, and it prompts a bright laugh from him. "Oh dear. Planning to burn things, then? I'll make a note." He looks surprised at the question. "Quite well. I love the holidays. All these people, yearning, hoping, wishing. It's lovely."
After a moment, he adds, "You and Jules seem to have formed a friendship? I'm glad to see it. I think he's a good man. Under the Winter chill."
"Planning might be taking it a bit far, but let's just say it turns out that you shouldn't take what they do on television very seriously, as it turns out." Tris does look appropriately sheepish for the admission, a touch of a blush stealing across his cheeks, but then he's already radiating heat like his own personal furnace, so what's just a little more of a different kind? He clears his throat, "I really am trying to learn. I'm just... terrible at it, apparently. If you end up hearing of any of us who are looking to cook and clean and be paid for it, you send them my way. Not that I don't still want to learn." Because he does, earnestly, says the look that's cast to his will-be instructor.
There's amusement that touches Tris' face in the next moment though. "You would like that. All the yearning." He has to roll his eyes himself, "But I can't really fault you," especially given Spring. "You know I like something else best about all this. That slow burn of frustration that the days can't count down fast enough, or that wait in the line is the worst. I can't say as I like the anger and resentment that's obviously coming from parents in need, but... sometimes I can balance a trade that way." He gets something from them that they don't need, and maybe they find that special something they couldn't afford secretly Santa'd their way.
"You know Jules. He likes to pick up strays." There's a self-depricating smile from Tris. "I'm pretty sure he's just concerned I will just keep eating Cup O' Noodles and tuna without proper adult intervention." There's humor there, but it's really not an unfounded fear. "He's putting up his first boarder. Did you know? Have you met Molly yet?"
"I don't, actually," Louis murmurs. "Know Jules. We've only spoken a couple of times, to be honest. What I do know, I like, but it isn't much. But I'm glad he's taking an interest in your wellbeing." Which isn't quite agreeing that Tris needs a minder before he breaks something important, but it's also not a disagreement, either.
He chuckles. "It's convenient for the Court, it's true. But I've always liked being at the heart of groups of people. Not the center of attention, mind you. But where I can see and enjoy as they enjoy themselves. It's refreshing." Not that everyone is enjoying themselves right now. To one side, two exquisitely coiffed mothers are having a showdown over the last Baby Yoda toy in a display, trying to cut each other apart with their eyes.
Tris' lips press briefly together, thoughtful but reserved for a moment and then he opens his mouth. "I could tell you about Jules. Some. Friend to friend." And whatever that seems to imply to Louis. "Though I'm not unbiased." There's a pause, "But you know Jules doesn't want to wear the crown if he can avoid it." One hand rises to scratch those new scars again. "Have you met Miles Norwood?"
"I can see that," Tris offers of the other man's temperament and it's probably these things that prompts the Millennial to inquire with a tilt of his head, "What did you do Before?" A glance toward the pair of mothers distinctly putting off just his preferred flavor of emotion has his lips quirking, his dark gaze flicking back toward Louis with a little inviting raise of his brows. There are two mothers involved after all, and just one toy: the ultimate holiday horror.
Louis shakes his head. "I doubt he'd like that. Winters tend to be particular about who knows what. Besides," he leans in to add in a stage whisper, "it takes the fun out of pestering him until he tells me things himself." He winks cheerily behind his glasses as he straightens back up.
He follows the look to the women, who have moved on to verbal cutting about whose child deserves the toy more. He laughs, softly. "Oh, don't let me interrupt. Just don't start a riot." A little flourishing gesture of invitation.
Apparently Louis, if he has an opinion on Miles, isn't sharing it just yet.
"Oh, well, you know I'd never want to ruin your fun." Tris allows, though there might me more humor than fact in that. He is a helpful sort for all that Summer lacks in subtlety and finesse. "But you'd get more out of him if you show up at his place and offer a hand with his house." That much Tris can recommend to the other man with a grin. "And you have to be more helpful than I am." A safer bet may never have been placed in the history of life.
The playful smile Tris tosses to the Spring might be for the last remark or his next move, which is a casual stroll away from Louis that turns rapidly into a purposeful stride. It carries him right between the arguing women and sees Tris picking up the toy, purring a, "Perfect!" as he turns around meaning to step right past the feuding women (who don't deserve the toy anyway) and toward to where payment is being accepted for just such items, as if he doesn't even see them. Though the angriest of the pair loses some of her edge as Tris harvests it for himself, a little extra spring coming to his step as he moves past.
"And you rarely do ruin my fun. Which is one of the reasons why we get along so well, despite your lamentable lack of cooking skills." Louis' observation is dry, well aware of the mischief in the smile he receives. "And Jules hasn't invited me to his house, nor asked for aid. It would be rude to impose." Not to mention against Louis' own rules on volunteering work without pay.
The women just...gape. For a long moment, they just stare as if they cannot believe that Tris did that. Then the anger comes. "Hey!" While one woman is suddenly too tired to make an issue of it, the other is rarin' to go, and she storms after Tris in four inch heels. "That is my doll. You can't just steal it! Give it back!"
Despite the onslaught, there's Tris' most charming smile as he turns toward the woman. He doesn't bother to act now as if he hadn't seen her; the fight has been brought to him. "It would only be stealing if I didn't pay for my purchase," he tuts. See? This is that privileged ass proving its worth as he takes a step back from Ms. Stompy-Heels toward the cashier. "Have a happy holiday, darling." There's another brilliant smile toward the woman, but little else to try to dissuade her from her rightful claim to the toy. The muscles are coiled, of course, should the woman decide taking on a larger man is the right answer to all her holiday problems.
She really looks like she might just lunge across the space between them and Force Lightning that smile right off of Tris' handsome face. "This is theft! You smug sonofabitch!"
Just then, Louis sidles up and reaches into his bag to pull out...a Baby Yoda toy! He clears his throat. "My apologies, miss? I can't help but notice that you seemed to be looking for this. I just happened to have gotten one earlier, but my niece isn't actually that much of a," he looks at the front of the packaging, "Yoda fan. Maybe your son and daughter would get better use out of it. Please, take it. In the spirit of the holiday. It's already paid for." His smile lacks the wattage of Tris', but it doesn't matter. The woman just wants the goddamned toy. She snatches it from his hands, looks down at it. Then bursts into tears and throws her arms around him and proceeds to squeeze him until he wheezes for breath. And in the meantime, he just syphons off a little of that relief and excitement.
Truly, Tris is good with people. Except when he doesn't like them. This woman falls into one of Tris' 'I don't like you because you exist' categories, so he is the epitome of just what she calls him. A smug son of a bitch. He bats his lashes at her and everything.
Still, he flashes a grin at Louis that's more in line with his usual line of personality, and takes advantage of Stompy-Heels' distraction to pay for the toy in hand and loop back to the first woman, already wandering away - the one all out of fight to hand it off to her with a, "Happy holidays," of his own. Thankfully, the original wrath donor doesn't have the spunk to have that degree of reaction, but still some gratitude can be summoned for the Summery Santa.
All of this gives Tris time to even swing past a little kiosk with beverages, to pay for a pair of hot cocoas with whipped cream before angling to rejoin his original companion and proffer a cup, if he's managed to disentangle himself in the meantime.
Louis hugs the woman back, tentatively, then eels out of her grip with grace. "Please, don't thank me. Just returning the same spirit of generosity and joy that you've shown. Merry Christmas, miss." He gives her a cheerful wave, then goes to look for Tris.
The recent infusion of glamour has put a shine on him. Literally. The lights under his skin are glowing just a bit brighter, their twists and turns more elaborate, the flowers giving off a faint perfume. He blinks at the offered cup. "How much do I owe you?" he asks, reaching inside his jacket for his wallet.
The question makes Tris laugh, though it remains a low chuckle. Maybe it's his recent influx of rich emotion that makes him seem brighter, lighter and less tired, or just the amusement he got out of the whole played out farce. Maybe it's a trick of the light that makes it seem there's a slight heat mirage playing around his outline.
What is real is his fond smile toward the Spring, "You don't even accept hot cocoa from friends as a freely given act? 'Tis the season and all, Louis. But if you're really bent on nothing owed, I can tell you a number or you can owe me a soda at Salome. I'm sure I can make good on collecting if it bothers you." It clearly doesn't bother Tris, but then Tris has never once had to worry about money. That's not what's valuable to him. But friendship? That is.
"A free soda it is," Louis says, easily. He takes the offered cocoa with a smile. "I'll have it noted on the logs, so I don't have to be around when you claim it." He seems entirely okay with being teased about his peculiarities in this regard, and takes a sip without hesitation. "Mm, this is good. I do love hot cocoa in the winter. Even down here, it gets a little chilly. Nothing like the City, though." A pause. "So. Want to tell me how you got the new scar?"
Tris can't help but still grin as the details of the deal are exhaustively listed, but he nods his acquiescence to the terms, sipping on his own cocoa as his blue eyes travel the crowd. The question must register; he's not one to ignore people, generally, nor Louis especially. "I honestly don't know, Louis. Went to bed like a normal night, had nightmares," like a normal night, it's heavily implied if not stated outright, "but they were new. New... details... new... I don't know." He stops, the jumble of thoughts too much of a crush as he tries to sort through it all.
"It all felt more like memories than dreams. Maybe they were. It was worse than most nights. Everything closer to real." Whatever that is. "And when I woke up and finished my run, I showered and looked in the mirror and," his free hand gestures. "New ones in a couple of other places, too. Maybe not new. Maybe just things that didn't come home with me before? Have you ever heard of these things changing on their own?" His brows lift in earnest inquiry of the more experienced Lost.
Louis hisses through his teeth. "I'm very sorry, Tris," he says, quiet and frowning like he hardly ever does. "And...yes. I have." He pauses to take another drink and organize his thoughts. "Sometimes, as we get older, we get stronger. Some people chase it. Some people it just happens to. Our connection to the Wyrd deepens." He can barely be heard over the hubbub. "When that happens, we remember a little more. We become a little more fae, and a little less...human." He takes a breath. "Be careful, hm? You'll have more power, but there's always a price."
Tris' expression is somber as he hears out the explanation, cocoa just a handwarmer for the time being. Dark blue eyes search Louis' face as he speaks and, in the end, it's all met with a sigh. "Not by any conscious choice of mine." But those words must spark some kind of notion because the photographer's expression pinches. "Maybe it's because I've been... well, there's just more connections here than I expected to have and to care about."
He takes a careful sip in the ensuing beat of silence only to cut his swallow short with speech instead. "It's in my nature, especially Since, to want to protect the people I care about. I'm finding I have more friends here than I was expecting." A single arch of a brow implies Louis is among them, but the one he singles out is, "Odile wasn't sure she wanted to include me in danger more pressing than what we talked about the last time we spoke alone." At least Tris has some sense in not bandying about words like 'murder' and 'flashdrive' in a mob of Christmas shoppers.
"I'm waiting for her to decide about including me, but that among other things have me worried." He turns slightly more toward the other man to address more directly, "If there were something I could be doing to help more directly with the freehold business, you'd tell me?" Given the professed purpose of mutual protection, it's not, perhaps, that large of a topic leap.
"That's a good thing, Tris. To be more connected. That will help offset the various challenges we face. Just--make sure to make some," he waves at the sea of mortals, "other friends, too. Not just our type. That's what worries me about some of the people I've been meeting, you know. They're damaged enough that they have trouble functioning in the real. An established Freehold can protect them. We don't have that capability yet, really. They stand out wherever they go. They draw attention. If you want to help the Freehold, look at helping to keep them safe, and helping them to integrate a little. Learn how to be human again. Catch them up, as you can."
The remark about Odile, though, makes him laugh. "She is who she is. The fact that she wants to protect you means she likes you. Usually she's a bit more ruthless than that." He gestures, encouraging Tris to walk with him towards the children's chorus. They're singing 'Rocking Around the Christmas Tree'. "And let me ask you in turn. What do you want to do, Tris?"
"I'm working on that, too. I've met a very interesting man. Not sure Salome would be his usual scene, but he's very interesting and might be someone to know. A local. With local knowledge." Surely Louis can appreciate just why Tris' eyes flash with such interest. "I'd be glad to make introductions sometime, if you like." There's some laughter on his lips, but maybe he's just imagining what that meeting would look like.
"You're right about some that are struggling. I'm not much one for charity work, but I do feel for some of the more troubling Lost I've been meeting recently. I've been making connections where I can, but..." There's not much Tris can do for a lot of them directly. He's not running a halfway house the way Jules is. He reaches up to rub his forehead and leaves the sentence to hang.
As they walk, Tris easily accompanying where Louis chooses to lead, he purses his lips, surely taking in the Spring's words about his Autumn friend, though he doesn't immediately pursue it. "I've been thinking on that. I'm slowly working at setting up a photography studio for myself here, but I'm not sure I want to pursue that as more than a hobby. I don't need to work for money these days. Not with the inheritance. I... wasn't initially sold on what a freehold could offer, but I'm coming 'round. Slowly."
"There seem to be some undeniable advantages to organizing, even if that's not my strong suit and being... bound..." Just the word sounds bitter on his lips. "None of that much appeals. Being better able to keep safe those I care about... that does." He exhales a breath, "I was giving some thought to..." He glances to Louis with furrowed brow, "It's probably too soon to talk about it, really. Once the freehold is settled and there's a monarch, then maybe we can talk about things with any hope of actually acting on things." Whatever all that means. He frowns at his cocoa like the fact that none of this is Now enough for the Summer Beast is its fault. Maybe it is.
Louis strolls. He doesn't really seem to have a goal in mind; he just enjoys the humanity. And the thought that the angry woman, somewhere, is probably checking her bags and realizing that the Yoda doll is no longer there. He gives a happy little sigh. It's the little joys in life that makes the season, isn't it?
"Freeholds are important. They can be bad. Same as anything. But they give us extra tools to fight those who will come for us. And they will come for us." A sidelong look at Tris. "There's always an opportunity for action, if you want it enough." His eyebrows arch. "Or are you just drawing out the tension to give me delightful little shivers of anticipation?"
"Tools are good," Tris can agree easily enough, "Weapons are sometimes better." That's wry though. Perhaps even this man knows that a tool is as good as weapon in the right hands. "I want action plenty, but it's been quiet where my ear is to the ground." He shrugs his shoulders, though some of his own frustration bleeds through. "You know I never object to anyone taking delight where they can get it, but if I am, it's hardly intentional. This time."
There's a slight hesitation before he goes on, toying with the cardboard hug on his cocoa mug, "I was giving thought to that one Summer Courtier back in New York. You know, the one who issued bounties and tracked the rewards. Thought it might be a good system to ultimately have here. I'm getting bored of waiting to get ambushed." Since it has to be coming. "And if you're going to have bounties, you have to have rewards..." He looks to Louis, tilting his head. "It strikes me as that might be a place where the two of us could find a way to work out some kind of mutually beneficial system for the freehold." Or for themselves. Tris probably doesn't really care which.
Louis thinks about it, but not for long. He nods. "Sounds good to me. A freehold needs a way to enforce its will, and we're not...very good at laws or enforcement. Bounties work. As for the other?" He takes a breath. "I have to meet my supplier for fruits, soon. You wanna go with me? We could do a little scouting of the land over there. And you might find action. Or it might find us. I could pay you in a fruit."
It's no coincidence that Tris' hand rises to his cheek to scratch at that new scar. Over there. Over there. There's an understandable moment's hesitation but he nods. "Sure. Just remember I'm not as good as a body guard. That's not my gift." Feralness may linger in his eyes, but this Beast isn't built like so many of the rest. Still, surely he's not useless when there's action. If nothing else, there is that owed favor should it need to be called upon, so proximity for that if nothing else probably counts for something.
"I'm not expecting violence," Louis assures him. "But it's wild Hedge, and without a freehold, none of it is safe. I'm lucky my supplier even agreed to arrange for deliveries here, and I don't want to disrespect that by being tardy or demanding." He reaches out and squeezes Tris' arm, if the man allows, just briefly. "So, thank you. I appreciate that you're willing to risk it." A beaming smile.
"We're friends, Louis." Tris replies, reaching a hand to pat the hand just as briefly. "I'll take payment just because you'll be more comfortable that way. But if you want just the pleasure of my company," evidently he's offering his services for free. There's some amusement in the Millennial's expression, but he doesn't seem anything other than earnest in the offer. "If you decide you'd like to meet my werewolf friend, let me know." His phone is briefly produced from his pocket to check the time before he glances down the way toward a particular store. "I need to get going. I have a purchase to make and it's going to take forever." Even the Lost have to deal with lines. Too bad magic doesn't just make everything better.
--"I appreciate that," Louis says, cheerfully, which means the payment will continue to be offered, no matter what. He raises the cocoa in a toast. "And I love to meet new people. If they're not going to eat anyone, bring them to Salome for drinks sometime, and we'll chat. Good luck with the line," he adds, a touch dryly. There's a cheery wave, and then Louis breaks off, heading back into the crowds for something or another.