Logs:Send In the Clown

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Send In the Clown


Characters: Gert, Ian
Date: 2020-06-27
Summary: A night in at the CCC is interrupted by a very strange arrival.
Disclaimers:

It's late. That means it's Ian's favorite time, when the cats are fed and the rest of the massive community center is settled into bed and he can hang out and watch stupid movies on his laptop in the common area, snuggled up with three out of four main resident felines. Ian's up at the moment, though, in the kitchen, leaning on the bar and waiting for the microwave to ding, while the smell of hot buttery popcorn spills through the room enticingly.

He's got people who regularly keep an eye out for new arrivals in the city. Those new arrivals are given a card and if necessary a ride, and the CCC welcomes them with open arms. There's staff at night, monitoring security and making sure nobody has any reason to be anxious here. The CCC is fairly well known outside the city too - Ian was Spring King for a while, and he used the position to get the building on the map as someplace safe for the newly arrived Lost to visit and even stay, if desired. There'd be plenty of reason to know the place and arrive here.

It seems that the community center's reputation might have, indeed, drawn in someone new. There's the sound of voices from the lobby, soft and indeterminate, and then a... sound. It's not a laugh, really, because laughs are wholesome, happy things. This is a high, insane, shrieking cackle, something straight out of an old horror movie with a green-skinned witch stuffing children into ovens.

Then the door into the common area opens, and a small figure enters. It's a short thing in a brown suit, with a suitcase in one hand and a cane hooked over one elbow, looking back over its shoulder towards the welcoming area. "Thank you again, dearie," it says brightly. Its voice is high and chill, just like the laugh. "But I'm sure I'll find him- ah."

This, as it turns to look into the common area. There's a flash of brilliantly green eyes, but mostly there's teeth. Teeth and greasepaint. The new arrival is a clown, complete with bright red nose and a mouth ripped straight out of every child's nightmare, with its grotesque lips twisted into a small, horrifying smile. But it doesn't attack when it spots Ian. It just steps in, shuts the door behind itself, and grins - Christ, those teeth - at him.

"Easier than I thought," it - she - says brightly. "You'd be Ian, I assume?"

Feline ears swivel in alarm at the cackle, heads pop up. Charlie the half-feral kitten-father slinks back under his favorite chair. Nita pops up with a "Prrt?" because cackling clearly means 'petting'. Grace remains where she is on the couch, in Ian's spot, soaking up the warmth the dragon left behind when he stood. She will give up her seat if and when someone provides Lap.

Ian swivels too, brows shooting up, to watch the door with interest, his wings folded close behind him, too big now to bend and wear like a cloak. He's dressed in silk pajamas, the bottoms fine gray and perfectly ordinary, the top a pale pink backless thing that looks a wee bit like lingerie, of the top shelf and expensive sort. His eyes widen a wee bit at the sight of Gert, and the horns tip a bit as he studies her, top to bottom and back up again.

A moment must be reserved for that, but only a moment. After all, with those horns, Ian is a seven foot tall glass dragon man with slightly too-sharp teeth. The microwave dings, the popcorn smokes just a little in its bag, and Ian circles the marble counter to approach Gert with a growing smile and an offer of his glass hand. "Hi. I'm Ian, yes. Who might you be?"

There's not much to study, with Gert. Ian is tall. She is decidedly not. An immensely short thing, well under five feet. She has to reach up to tip the brim of her bowler hat back as the dragon-man approaches just to keep him in view. But her grin doesn't waver, and she shifts her suitcase to her other hand so that she can reach out and clasp his.

It's a perfectly ordinary handshake, warm and friendly, but... a bit odd. There's something off about the feel of her fingers under those gloves, but the touch doesn't last long enough to determine more than that. And then her hand is pulling away again, and she's moving to set her suitcase down beside a chair.

"The name's Gertrude Wexley, dear," she says brightly. The voice is pure wicked-witch terror, but the tone is actually quite friendly, and for all that those teeth are viscerally horrifying, the grin seems genuine. Even if it is broad enough to make it look like the top of her head might be about to fall off. The phrase "ear-to-ear" screams to mind. "Just call me Gert. Everyone does. I just blew into town and heard I should check in here, if I was planning to stay. I'm told you're the man to talk to about that."

She looks up again, unhooking her cane from her elbow and leaning on it as she does so. She doesn't seem to actually need it, but it does complete the demented Chaplin parody aesthetic, at least. "Of course," she adds, as she returns his once-over glance, "I'm guessing you're not the one to talk to about swearing the freehold oath, at the moment. I'll need to be finding them as well. Can't go wandering about un-pledged, you know. Not with my face. It leads to too many... misunderstandings." And the grin widens just a bit further.

There's something fascinating about the contrast - pure evil, yet bright friendliness. Ian begins to look a little concerned about the point where Gertrude indicates he is the person to talk to - he just got done with that job! - but relaxes with obvious relief at the mention of oaths and freeholds. A broad smile curves across his mouth. "Believe me, I understand," the Elemental says wryly, and reaches up to tap the tip of one wickedly sharp horn. It clicks, a slightly disquieting sound of glass on glass. "You need a place to stay? We've got beds in the dorms and tiny houses out back, eleven of them. Come have a seat. Have you eaten yet? I just put on popcorn, we've got a lot of other stuff too."

"I imagine you do, yes." For a moment, Gert flashes even more sharklike teeth than usual. "But I've got a bit of an additional problem in that everyone can see my chompers. Tends to cause a stir. I've been chased down by locals demanding to know why I'm terrifying the mortals more than once, just for trying to go out and get a coffee. Oathing up as soon as possible tends to make things much simpler."

She glances at the popcorn, and there's another horrifying moment when her tongue flickers over her teeth for a second. "If you've got some to share, love, I wouldn't mind some popcorn meself," she says brightly. "Your old Auntie Gert has very simple appetites. Popcorn's one of 'em. But, for the record, when it comes to housing, I'm not expecting charity. Clowning doesn't pay like it used to - not that what it used to pay was much - but I'm not completely short on scratch. How much do your rooms usually run?"

Ian has to squint to see Gertrude's Mask, and he does so, studying her for a few moments. Then he nods agreement and notes, "The Queen comes around here fairly often, given she's decided to make this place a meeting spot for the Freehold, I'll text her and let her know you're around. There's a board in the hall with phone numbers." Ian turns away to fish a bowl out of a cabinet and dump the popcorn into it. "Our rooms are free. This place is like... think of it like a domestic violence shelter." Ian glances over, serious for a moment. "The last thing some of the Lost need is to worry about food, clothing, housing. Some don't remember what money is. Some just haven't had time to learn." He brings the bowl over and sets it within reach. "My Fetch was famous. He made a lot of money. I'm spending it on this place, and making sure no one else has to face the world alone." Ian coughs a little and looks momentarily sheepish, smoke swirling within his glass structure. "I hope that doesn't sound too pretentious. I really do just want to make sure people are all right and don't get Lost again." His wings flex and he moves carefully around to settle on his barstool, making sure not to knock anything over, and steals some popcorn for himself. Cronch.

"And good on you for it, dearie." Gert sounds entirely sincere when she says it, and the terrifying grin becomes, for the briefest of moments, a genuinely warm and approving smile. "A lot of us forget about that sort of thing. I work in charity myself. Hospital clowning for the kiddies, you know. Always good to share a bit with the ones who are up a creek - even if I am just a step above bindle stiff meself."

The... laugh... happens again. It's odd, watching it. What might be a brief laugh from anyone else becomes a shrieking, insane thing from her, and it ends with her pressing two fingers over her grotesque lips. "Oops," she says. "Got to keep the volume down, I think. It's a bit late to start off like that." And she steps over, hoisting herself, with some effort, onto the stool beside Ian.

"Never be embarrassed about doing a good thing, love," she says, as she reaches for the popcorn bowl. She doesn't take a handful, but instead pours a little heap of kernels out onto a napkin and pops them, one by one, into her monstrous mouth. A nod, perhaps, towards trying to keep the gloves clean. They don't seem about to come off. "But for the record, if you ever do find yourself needing some help around the place, I'm happy to pitch in." A pause, then: "After I'm oathed, of course. Not about to ask you to trust me without it, and I don't just mean 'cause of the teeth." She clacks them together theatrically once or twice, then grins again. "A healthy dose of paranoia can be a good thing, in our case."

"Actually," Ian says cautiously, stealing some more popcorn for himself, "I kinda... haven't been too concerned with who oaths before they're let in here. So long as they abide by the rules of Hospitality, they're fine. I have a staff who runs the place, protects people from eachother and deescalates confrontations. So far it hasn't caused problems, though I suppose it only takes one. I just... don't want to leave people without backup. Honestly, though, I don't think I've ever had anyone stay who didn't eventually swear the oath." The popcorn crunching commences.

The Siamese from earlier - Nita - appears at their ankles to contribute to the conversation with, "MYAAP!" Ian sticks his bare foot down to pet her out of pure habit.

"Well, I'm hardly about to tell you how to run your business, love." Gert doesn't sound particularly concerned by the news. She just crunches her way methodically through the little popcorn heap, working with deceptive speed; she doesn't seem to be moving quickly, but the supply is dwindling quickly, and she shows no sign whatsoever of slowing down. "I'm just glad to see that there's at least one butter-and-egg man in the area who's not a complete skinflint. Always glad to see someone willing to stick their neck out for a good cause. Better if they actually take the proper precautions while they do - which it seems like you have."

She glances down as the cat approaches, and a grin reappears. This one's different from the slightly prideful one she wore on arrival. This is simple and saccharine, or at least as close to saccharine as any expression could ever be on that face. "Hello, puss," she says, leaning down to offer her glove to the cat for sniffing. "Aren't you a pretty kitty? Yes you are. Yes you are."

Then, without looking up and without taking her hand away from the cat, she adds, "You mentioned the old queenly-queen comes through here. Anything I should know about afore I go and ask about an oath? I've know a few of 'em go funny with the crown, you know. Find it's best to ask beforehand. Saves a lot of trouble, sometimes."

The cat, naturally, thinks Gert is far better than Ian's foot. Cue immediate arch and lean for further pettings. "Myar!" She is now being properly attended to; she'll just soak the affection right up.

Ian, for his part, watches with concern - and then approval, because the kind of person who treats a cat well is someone he can trust to stay in his home. "Stasya's the most practical queen I've ever met," he says honestly - and with a bit of humor. "When I got crowned, I took each oath individually. It took all day. She had them all swear at once." A faint chuckle. "The first thing she said was something to the effect of 'crap, now I need to find a new Quartermaster.' She served as the Freehold's Quartermaster for Spring. Lovely lady, makes incredible desserts - and swords and such as well." More popcorn gets stolen and crunched, and Ian grins. "She also took the power out in a four block radius when the Summers were tossing spears in the back yard. We got to test out the building's generators."

Gert seems more than happy to supply as much affection as the cat might like. Gloves may not be quite the same as hands, but the clown pets the cat happily, even leaned over on the barstool as she is. Her feet don't even reach the ground. "Oh, good," she says. "So she's one of the practical strongmen, instead of the ones who go about beating their chests and trying to turn the whole place into a barracks. Had a few of those in my day. Always irritating. Your old Auntie doesn't like the front lines. She prefers the shadows, where a clown can do her proper work."

She straightens up, after a moment, with a parting pat to the cat's head. "But that's for another night, I think," she says. "For now, I should get settled, I think, and stop jawing loud enough to wake the dead. I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to chat more in future, dear, but I do actually have to wake up in the morning. Got some paperwork to file at the local hospitals, so's they know I'm here and I don't get hassled by security when I turn up to make balloon animals for the kiddiewinks."

She hops down off the stool and moves to retrieve her suitcase. "You mentioned having options," she says, looking back at Ian. "And I appreciate it. But, for the night, if you don't mind me staying, I'll take whatever's easiest for you. No need to worry. I'm quiet as a church mouse, me. And we can talk about more permanent arrangements later, once I've gotten properly signed up and all."

"Whatever's easiest... let me walk you to a cabin," Ian says with a thoughtful nod. "They're private, secure, and already stocked with everything you might need." He straightens up and hops down, one wing clicking against the granite table. He winces. "Can I carry your bag?" He does have manners, after all! "No kitties in the yard, Nita..." And out he'll guide her, towards the small houses in the dark of the New Orleans night.