Logs:Welcome to the Freak Show

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Welcome to the Freak Show


Characters: Gert, Jacob
Date: 2020-07-04
Summary: Jake, newly oathed to the Autumn Court, comes to speak with Gert about its tenets.
Disclaimers:

So. Many. Lemon. Trees. They were delivered and are being planted. Between that and the construction at the pool, Jacob's refuge has become quite... noisy. He needed a break. And while doing a little world diving was tempting, he has ongoing business in the real world. And things to come to terms with. And so he ends up down at the community center.

He's never been particularly fond of the place - it, too, can be so noisy - but something calls him today. He enters the changeling only area, leaving the door open behind him. He swings by the kitchen area, grabbing some lemonade (which he ensures is always stocked). And then there's a casual swoop around the room as he opens up every door he can find. Side rooms, closets, it doesn't matter. He's lost in thought, judging from his expression, and doesn't even seem to realize he's doing it.

He's dressed in his usual silken, tailored charcoal suit. A pale orange shirt accented it today, a break from the blues and greens. His hair is a mop of dark curls above those dark, depthless, endless eyes. As usually, he's somewhat difficult to look at. He seems to blur a little, as if out of focus. As if he's not fully /there/. Those eyes, though, are fully there. And now, there's a whiff of crisp air, a slight golden tinge to his not-quite-thereness. It's subtle, but those intimate with Autumn might catch it.

He finishes his round, ending up back at the kitchen, and refills his lemonade. He closes the fridge and then proceeds to stare at it for several long moments. He's still staring at it, his brow furrowed in thought.

"If you knew Susie like I know Susie
Oh, oh, oh, what a girl
There's none so classy as this fair lassie
Oh, oh, oh my goodness, what a chassis..."

Gert's voice is unmistakable, once you've heard it. No one else has that sort of witchy rasp to their tone. She's not a particularly great singer, but she is shameless about it nonetheless, her voice trailing off into humming as it approaches the kitchen. It's an old-timey sort of tune, sung in an old-timey sort of voice.

When the clown herself finally appears, she's obviously still in the process of waking. She's still in the process of buttoning up her suit jacket, and her bowler hat is tucked under one arm rather than atop her head. Likewise, her cane dangles from an elbow, unused - but she does still have her gloves firmly in place, and the greasepaint, obviously, never goes away.

"Oh, hello there, Mister Glad Rags," she says brightly, as she ambles in. "I was wondering when you'd decide to turn up." Her bright little eyes give him an appraising look, taking in that new Autumn tinge, and she nods once, apparently to herself, before setting off towards the counter. "You're just in time for a bit of breakfast," she says brightly. "You look as though you could do with it. Penny for your thoughts?"

A smile tickles Jacob's lips as he hears the singing. He /does/ recognize the voice. And, in a way, it was just the voice he was hoping to hear, even if he didn't know it. Still, he stares at the fridge a moment longer, as the voice comes nearer. Finally, he reaches out, opening it judge a crack. Satisfied, he turns towards the source of the singing, those dark eyes falling on Gert as she approaches.

He smirks, "Did you bring Susie with you?" His tone is teasing, playful. Because that's who he is - flippant, confident, smirking. Only after their previous conversations, she likely knows it for what it is. A layer.

He doesn't seem bothered in the least by the nickname, instead lifting an eyebrow at her question. "My thoughts are worth much more than a penny. Perhaps I'll trade you one for breakfast. Can you cook?" His expression indicates that he won't be surprised if she can't. But that she's such an enigma that he won't really be surprised if she /can/, either.

He moves to set the pitcher of lemonade down on the counter, which he was previously just drinking from, and gathers a couple of glasses, which he fills. He pushes one over to Gert. As he does, his gaze falls on her. As expressive as the rest of his face is, that gaze can be difficult to read. There's something almost alien about it.

"I thought about what you said the other night." Which is obvious, judging from those little wisps of Autumn around him. It seems the season has accepted him. "Do you have friends, Auntie? Real friends. Or just people you protect?"

"Not a whit," Gert says brightly, as she starts withdrawing skillets and pots from a cabinet. "I'd burn water on the boil, me. But I've been a drifter long enough that I've gotten to the point I can at least make bacon and eggs without burning the house down. Keeps a body going, it does. And I can at least fix a decent cup of coffee, if you want some." She glances aside at the lemonade, then adds, "Not that I'm opposed to a little lemon squeeze, either."

She turns and ambles past the refrigerator, opening it the rest of the way and retrieving a few essentials. Bacon, eggs, butter, and such. Those get dumped onto the counter, the refrigerator gets closed, and then she strides off towards a nearby closet, from which she retrieves a step stool. /That/ gets kicked over in front of the stove, so that she can hop up onto it and begin the business of cooking properly. With the gloves still on, oddly, and taking great pains to keep them clean, using tongs whenever possible.

"I sussed you did, dearie," she adds, in response to his other statement. "I can smell it on you. Touch of Autumn on the breeze. Feels nice, does it? Feels right?" She gives him a considering look out of the corner of an eye, a very small smile playing about her grotesque lips. "Welcome to the freak show proper, love. We're happy to have you."

There's a sizzling noise as she cracks an egg on the edge of a skillet and dumps the contents in, and she turns away again to focus on the food. "Friends?" she says breezily. "Oh, now, that depends on how you think of 'em, dear. I've made a fair few in my time. Had a motley, even, once upon a dream. Lovely gals. Traveled with a little circus, for a few months. And, of course, there's the kiddies in the hospital. Love 'em to pieces, little darlings. But your old Auntie Gert doesn't tend to stick to any one show for long. Places to be. Clown business to attend to."

She reaches for the tongs again and begins placing bacon strips in another skillet. "Why d'you ask, love? And how do you like your eggs? I hope it's over easy, 'cause that's how you're gettin' 'em."

There's a little smile at Gert's bright honesty. Good, neither of them can cook. Still, as she continues, it becomes clear that Gert might havea the advantage, and so he simply stays out of the way. "I've never had the need to learn. And I still don't, which makes learning other things take priority." He shakes his head at the offer of coffe and smiles quietly.

As she goes about cooking, he holds up his lemonade, admiring the yellow glow of it, and murmurs, "The South. It's so different from where I come from. So much more colorful. The music, the food, all of it. Lemonade... Well," he draws back to the present, looking back at her with a grin. "This doesn't exist. Sweet and sour, refreshing, /pure/. I can't get enough. In fact, I've already started planting. Lemon trees grow well here, and I need a crop to sell."

As she continues, he takes a breathe, his gaze shifting towards the window a moment. Thoughtful. He looks back at her and nods, "It does. More than I thought it would. I feel as if... a curtain has been drawn back, and I stand behind it and can see myself fully. And I wonder why it took so long so simply push back a curtain. Only I know exactly why." Because of fear.

He shakes his head, clearing it, and smiles at her. "I've met been in a motley, but I'm about to be. Still, I'm sure that qualifies as /true/ friends. Friends, sure, but like you said, these things can come and go. I've only ever had /one/ /true/ friend, and she is not one of us. But she's caught up in it now. Perhaps I should have left her to her fate."

He chuckles, waving a hand, "Sounds great. So, how're you settling in? It's a different kind of place, New Orleans. What with the Accords. And, you know, the curse."

"Everyone needs their little hobbies," Gert says brightly. "If you want to start your own little lemonade stand, love, I doubt anybody's going to stop you. And there's plenty of things around nowadays that weren't there when I was a young one. Phones that fit in your pocket? The internet? Television? My stars. Enough to make a girl's head spin."

She has to raise her voice slightly to be heard over the sizzling. Her movements aren't particularly graceful; they have the appearance of something learned through rote repetition over years of practice, rather than the result of any actual skill at cooking. Still, breakfast this simple is difficult to mess up, and the smell is intoxicating. Less so, the sight of her tongue sliding over the points of those horrific teeth.

"I had a moment like that as well," she says, nodding. "A long time ago, now. A very long time ago. Before I got back to Earth, even - but then, I'm sure you guessed that. I found Autumn before I even knew what Autumn was. I didn't so much join the Court as walk in and say 'hello, darling, I'm home'." There's a moment's... chuckle... which doesn't /quite/ metamorphose into a full cackle, thankfully. "It was quite nice, really. Honestly, as much as I despise Them and everything that they do, I'm quite happy to be Gert, now."

She reaches for a spatula and slides the eggs out onto a plate. "Glad to hear you've found a motley, of course," she says. "Everybody needs some support, now and again. Especially you, I think." She looks back to him, and the look that she gives him is penetrating indeed. "You ought to let down the mask more, love," she says. There's a note of gentleness in her voice now. "You're very high strung. Won't go away unless you talk about it, you know. So long as you're not willing to face it, it controls you." And she taps the side of her red nose with the tip of one gloved finger. "That's the thing about fear. You can make it yours, make it work for you - but first you've got to deal with it honestly."

There's a faint smirk and he murmurs, "Oh, no one ever stops me. And I've worked hard to ensure that no one will.. The smirk fades into a smile then and he lifts a glass, taking a long, savoring swallow of the lemonade. "Because why else do /any/ of this?" He lowers the glass, then, looking over at her as she cooks. "I remeber it all, vaguely. TVs. Computers. I wasn't taken so long ago that I don't, but the memories are faded because..."

Why is he talking to her so openedly? It's pretty much the opposite of everything he stands for. Trust no one. Keep your secrets close. Even friends can become enemies in this world. He listens to her talk about finding Autumn, even /before/ she escaped. Something about that has him murmuring, "Because I was taken young. You'd think I'd be completely lost, now, except... I broke the rules. I came back when I could." A pause, and he swirls the lemonade in his glass a moment before continuing.

"I always felt that I could never join a Court. Because I /feel/ them all. How do you dedicate yourself to one emotion when you feel them all so strongly? I think, though, I didn't fully understand that one emotion is nothing more than a... perspective. Like looking at a diamond from different angles. But you're all still looking at the diamond."

He chuckles, catching himself. "You're easy to talk to." Just a truth. His gaze shifts towards the eggs and he smiles, then looks back at her. There /is/ something almost boyish about him. He's rich, he's powerful, he's a potential force to be reckoned with. But at the same time, he's just finding himself. Or what's left of it.

"How did you make yours work for you? At the beginning?"

"Now, none of that, love." Gert's voice is momentarily sharp, and she reaches out to pluck up her cane and prod Jacob sharply in the chest with its tip. It's not enough to hurt, but there's a definite note of warning in it. "I can't be having with this smirking shiv business. It's either an act, dearie, in which case you're not scaring me, or it's not, in which case you need to put a lid on it."

She lowers the cane, hooking it lazily over the counter's edge, and her expression softens somewhat. "If you were taken young, that'd explain it," she says. "I saw what happened to the little kiddies who ended up at my particular circus, and that was bad enough. But just so's you know, love. This whole business of trying to make sure I know you're dangerous is a bit silly. We're not on stage right now, dearie. We're in the clown alley, and you haven't got to keep your face on. I much prefer you when you don't, anyway."

She gives him a crooked little smile, then turns back to the stove and begins retrieving bacon from the skillet. Her other hand moves to start the toaster. "I'm all for a good act in its place," she continues. "But you don't see me walking about telling people I know exactly how to cook 'em up so's they taste almost like proper pork. It's true, of course, but they don't need to know that. And something you're going to learn about fear, dearie, is that it's much easier to cause when it's measured. You keep the claws hid, until you need 'em. If the audience never knows when the scare's coming, they're /always/ tense. If you're always acting like you're about to haul off and knife someone, well. They don't really get scared so much as they just get annoyed."

Bacon, toast, eggs. She loads them all up onto a plate, piled generously high, and slides it across the countertop towards him. "But you're right about the perspective," she adds. "Just 'cause I'm Autumn in my bones doesn't mean I don't understand the others. It's just the way I find lookin' at it most useful. And most fun." A real grin, then. "I do love me a good spookhouse. But as for how I made it work for me- that's a long story, dear. A very long story. If we're going to talk about it, we may as well get ourselves eating first." And she plucks up her own plate, turns, hops down from her stool, and sets off towards the table. "Come. Let's sit."

Jacob looks properly surprised as he gets a jab to the chest. Not offended, or mad, just surprised. And it does its job of getting his attention. He looks at her, listening, and his brow furrows a moment in thought. "I wasn't /trying/ to scare you." And that rings true. The smirk, the demeanor, it has nothing to do with trying to scare or intimidate people, although it's quite possible he has the capability to put it towards that goal if he wanted. He seems more surprised than anything, though. He has a talent for it, and has used it, but he hasn't come close to unlocking his own potential.

When she mentions the kiddies, he looks away a moment. Those brows furrow again. He looks to be around thirty, but he has a lot of lines. Laugh lines, stress lines, and it's becoming clear why. There's a lot coursing through this man. "They made a mistake. They took me, but not my sister. A loophole They created without even realizing it." He looks for a moment as if he wants to say more, or at least explain how that applies to their conversation, but he chuckles instead, looking back at her.

"It's not as much of an act as you think, you know. It might be, except acts are like the facets of the diamond. maybe you see one thing, you read into the reflection, but it's much more simple than that. Maybe there's no act at all, just a glare, a mirage, that allows you to see what you want to see." His words are mostly pondering, but it's clear he's put some thought into it, and isn't /done/ pondering. He's clearly smart, smarter than most, but processing.

At her words, his smile widens and he reaches to pick up his plate. "I could show you a spookhouse. Ravenstone has a history, just like the rest of us. Let's eat, though. I want to hear your story. And I'm hungry." He winks at her, then moves over to settle down into a couch with his plate. A quick glance back at her and he smiles quietly. "Thank you."

"Oh, I did say it might not be an act, dearie," Gert says, as she hops up onto her chair. Her plate clunks down onto the tabletop, and then she's reaching for a knife and fork, and the salt and pepper, and- she frowns for a moment as she realizes she forgot the coffee. "Hm," she says. Her beady eyes drift towards the lemonade. "Mind sharing with an old lady, love? I'm parched."

Without waiting for an answer, though, she reaches down and begins buttering her toast. "But like I said," she continues, "it's not really so much whether or not it's an act that's the problem. It's that, whether or not it's an act, it's best for you if you change it. Seen it firsthand more times than I can count. Usually from Summers. They're not very good at subtlety, the poor dears. They like to flex their muscles, and they tend to think that's all it takes to get what they want. It's not, of course. That's not how it works. Fear is a tricky thing. You've got to /think/ about it, if you want to make it work for you."

There's a crunch as that wide mouth chomps down on the slice of toast, swallowing more than half of it in a single bite. Her tongue darts out to snatch up a stray crumb from the corner of her lips before she continues. "It's good that you're taking steps to make sure you can get what you want, of course," she says. "And that no one can hurt you too badly. But just flappin' your gums about it all the time, droppin' little digs about how you're always ready to hurt someone... that doesn't do you any good at all, dear. It just makes you look unhinged. Doesn't scare anyone. Might make them stand a few steps back, but that's not /fear/, really. That's just being wary. If you want to really scare people off so's they don't try anything funny, you've got to keep the claws hidden."

She lifts her free hand as she says it, and, grinning hugely, waggles her gloved fingers at him across the table. "Got to measure it," she repeats. "The more of a scary thing people see, the less scary it gets. They start to think of it as normal. Loses its punch. It's like stage magic, dear. A good magician never does the same routine for the same audience twice. The first time, they're all starry-eyed. The second, they're /thinking/."

She opens her mouth again, pops the remainder of the toast in, and swallows after a few seconds of horrible crunching sounds. Immediately, her hands move for the rest of the food. "Same with fear," she adds. "That's lesson one. You want to scare someone, you do it deliberately, and you don't keep it in the light longer than you have to. You're a smiley goof until the time comes, and then you hit them where it hurts as quick and fast as you can, and then it's over. The more they get to see, the more they start to think. There's some fancy words for all this somewhere, I'm sure, but I tend to think of it as just keepin' the lights off. If there's a monster in a room and they can't see it, but they know it's /somewhere/, they're losing their little minds. You turn on the lights and let them see it, though, and they start to work out ways to fight back."

A pause as she wolfs down a few bacon strips. "Glad to hear your sister helped you out, at least, though," she adds. "That's the worst part, for most of them. The kiddies. No family. No friends. No real grounding. Tends to cause problems, even if they get out. As for my story, though... tell me, love." She pauses in the act of salting her eggs, and fixes him with a piercing, curious stare. "Have you ever been to the circus? A /real/ circus?"

Jacob moves to refill Gert's glass, his own glass, and then sets the pitcher nearby, within easy access of them both. He watches her as she butters her toast, as she speaks. There are a couple of moments he tenses, he grins his teeth, his expression grows darker. But they pass. He experiences a wide range of emotions as he listens, but none of them overtake him. His years of being courtless show. And more than that, it's proof that he /is/ listening.

He doesn't answer right away, either. Instead, he munches on some bacon. Some eggs. He washes it down with some lemonade. A lot of people might feel pressured by the silence in between words, but it doesn't seem to bother him. He simply takes a moment to think.

"It's never been a threat, untill I wanted it to be. And that's not... common. No one has ever claimed to take it as one, or an attempt at one, but I wonder now. Would they say it if they did?" The question is rhetorical, absent, and he doesn't seem to expect an answer. Perhaps that is my problem. I've never tried to pretend. I never had to know. That's why they chose me. I never had to pretend because I wanted them all destroyed. And because they never caught me." He smirks at that. He really can't help it. He's growing, but he young. Powerful, but young. Younger than he looks, perhaps.

He chuckles, then, dipping some bacon in his eggs. "Scaring people is the easy part. It's convincing people you don't want to scare them that's difficult. Like you. You think I'm putting on an act. And perhaps I am, although it's not the one you think it is. You /expect/ to be scared, for that to be my goal, because it's familiar to you. Because you're afraid not to."

He holds up a hand, "It's true, but it doesn't matter so we won't talk about it again. What we should talk about is... a circus?" He pauses a moment, reflecting, and then shakes his head. "No. Can we?"

"We can't," Gert says. "More's the pity. There are no real circuses any more, dear, and even if there were, they wouldn't mean what they used to. They couldn't. You'd never be able to make them the same thing that they used to be, when you were young and lived in a town where everyone knew everyone else's name, and nothing ever happened, and the most interesting thing you'd ever done in your life was to go to a state fair and kiss a boy from another city behind the bleachers."

Her eyes seem to gleam, for a moment, in lights that aren't actually there. Orange halogen, eerie and distant, and a broad, wickedly curved grin spreads across her features as she gazes at nothing. "There were elephants," she says. Her voice is slightly breathy now. "Oh, love. Can you imagine it? Being so young, and seeing elephants for the first time? In all their finery, the red and the gold, surrounded by dancing horses and clowns and bears, and food like you'd never tasted, and a man so covered in tattoos that you couldn't see so much as an inch of skin beneath? And a house made of mirrors, and music and games and prizes and magic tricks? And you, you, this plain and boring little girl, who came from nowhere and was going nowhere- can you /imagine/ it?"

She stares for a moment longer, then shakes her head to clear her thoughts and picks up her knife and fork again. "Could you blame her for running away, dear?" she says, rather more seriously. "It was a fair sight better than the life she knew she would get else. And for all that she learned very quickly what a circus is like behind the scenes, she never forgot, either. What it was like. To be a child, and suddenly have the world shown to you, with trumpets and cymbals and glittering like gold."

He wasn't expecting her first words. Why ask about a circus without one available to go to? There are many reasons to ask that, of course, but Jacob's thoughts don't process like that. He's surprised, for a moment, but he's listening. And soon the surprise is forgotten. He focuses on her, on her story. There's an absent smile as she begins, and when her eyes begin to glean he only looks deeper into them.

For a moment, he barely exists. He's lost between worlds - the current one and the one made of memories. He basks in it. He /listens/, soaking up every work. He smiles, "Elephants..." It's whimisical - he's never seen one but would like to. And dancing horses, and clowns, and bears. Finery and and tattoos, food he's never tasted. Everything. He imagines is all, and it's clear from his expressions. And still he looks deeper, as if he might find more.

"I can. I can imagine it." And he is. He revels in it. For a moment, it's as if he's there, through her. And then, like that, it's gone. The moment breaks and he's sitting with her there, eating some eggs and bacon. He takes a deep breath, as if he doesn't want to lose it, and then he's peeking at her with those depthless eyes. The only thing /solid/ about him.

"No. I wouldn't blame her at all." Because, in a way, didn't he do the same thing? It wasn't a circus, no, but he went through that door willingly. Drawn in. He's quiet a moment, and it's not an uncomfortable silence. He eats a piece of bacon, drinks a little lemonade. After a moment, he murmurs, "My ballroom is set up for trapeze artists. I might have a magician. It will never be the same, of course, but... why not? There's no shame in enjoying some things. They win when you no longer do."

"That would be lovely, dear," Gert says, glancing back over to him. "I met your friend Prism the other day, I believe I mentioned. Lovely girl. Very talented. Far better than the drunken layabouts we had at our little circus. Not one of the reputable ones, you know. Lots of drinking. Lots of unpleasant business in general. Plenty of good people in the mix as well, of course. But quite a few I'm damn glad to see the back of, nowadays."

She reaches for her glass of lemonade and slurps down more than half of it in one go, then reaches immediately for the pitcher for a refill. "Of course, that's only where it starts," she says. "The rest isn't too important, except to understand that she was Taken, she was well fed up with her boozehound of a boss. No amount of pay could make that kind of treatment worth it, and she wasn't paid much at all. When she wandered into the /new/ circus, she was relieved, at first. She was just a clown, there, one among many, but the Ringmaster was all flash and smiles and glad rags- kind of like you, love."

A bit of a sharp look, there, for a moment. "He was a holy terror, of course, but it took her a bit to realize," she continues. "And he was far from the only terrifying thing there. But it was all... hidden, of course. Like I said, the claws only come out when you want 'em. Otherwise, it was all glitter and glamour. And if you spoke out of line, or didn't do your act, well... you were made an example of."

She takes another bite of egg before saying, "So she was terrified, of course. Rightly. Out of her absolute mind with it, for a long while. Became the best damn clown in the business, because she was afraid of what would happen if she didn't. Whiteface, obviously. Even back then, she couldn't be having with all that auguste nonsense." She waves a hand dismissively. "She'd had enough of playing the fool, so if she was going to be a clown, she was going to be a whiteface. But that's as may be. Point is- she was terrified. Because she was never sure when someone was going to get hurt. Until she stopped, and saw the kiddies, and realized that they were even more scared than she was."

A thoughtful expression crosses her face, then. "That's where I come in, dearie," she continues. "She was no one particularly special. A decent clown, but not much else. But /Gert/... oh, your old Auntie Gert could be /better/. So she picked out her costume, and she put on her greasepaint, and she grabbed all that fear tight. Hoarded it in her chest. Made it hers. Became Gert." And a slow, evil smile flows across her face. "Became somebody worth being."

Jacob lifts an eyebrow as Gert says she's met Prism. He nods, murmuring, "Talented, yes, and I think she's out of her league. The best we can hope it to protect her, but I feel it's only a matter of time. But I suppose it is for any of us... or..." There's that little smirk, hinting at coming out. He's learned a lot, but he's still Jacob. "But perhaps anything that comes for her will be unpleasantly surprised."

He leave it at that, more interested in Gert story as it unfolds. He listens. His gaze focuses on her, although it darts here and there now and then, always aware. Always waiting for something to spring forth. Yet she never loses his attention. Adn he never interupts her. Instead, he listens. He digests. He doesn't rush to respond, he doesn't try to say the 'right' things, he simply processes it.

He studies her a long moment, thoughtful. Finally, he murmurs, "I may be understanding this front, but you were /out/ before you were free. Is that right? It was secret, you said. Secret because you were out here, or secret because you were in places you weren't meant to be in /there/?" His tone indicates he knows both well. Knows what it's like to touch reality without being able to be a part of it. To be so close, and yet so far away.

"Jacob, too. Like Gert, he learned he could be better. He becae Jake. Someone no one was meant to like, just to learn from."

Gert returns his stare levelly, still grinning that broad, demoniac grin. "Oh, I wasn't /out/ out," she says. "But I was free all the same. Freer than any of them knew, though I was right under their noses the whole time. Because they didn't understand fear, really. Not like I did. By the time she put on the proper greasepaint for the first time, fear was an old friend to me. I'd lived with it for so long that it wasn't something I kowtowed to. It was something I /understood/."

She finishes off the last of her eggs, then folds her gloved hands on the tabletop in front of her. "They'd kept the claws out for too long," she says. "The lights were too bright. And Auntie Gert was working things out. I wasn't afraid of them, and I didn't act it. But I still followed orders, so the little dewdropper fella in the Ringmaster costume liked me. Thought I was the bee's knees. A clown that did what she was told perfectly, every time, without havin' to be threatened into it? Thought I was /enjoying/ myself. So I let him keep on thinking that, and they started letting me into places other clowns couldn't go. Flappin' their gums about things the other clowns weren't allowed to hear. And I learned things, oh yes I did."

Her fingertips drum against the tabletop in an unmistakable rhythm, and for a moment she whistles "Entry of the Gladiators" reedily between her teeth. "And I kept my clowns safe," she adds. "I wasn't scared any more, but they still were. Out of their minds with it. They hadn't been around as long as I had. Didn't understand fear the way I did. So I used it. I kept 'em on the straight and narrow. Any of 'em went astray, it was Auntie Gert they were going to answer to. And because he liked me, the Ringmaster let me get away with it. The old Doctor wasn't happy - he wanted 'em for his factory - and the clowns were terrified of me, of course. But that's how I wanted things. Like a magic trick. They were all watching my fangs. None of 'em were watching /me/."

She spreads her hands open on the tabletop demonstratively, grin widening. "The actual getting out took some doing," she says. "Had to do some things I'm not proud of, though I don't /regret/ 'em. Getting into the Ringmaster's room at night wasn't something I enjoyed - but I knew where he kept the keys, by then, and it was worth it. And then I went back, and I gathered my clowns, and the trapeze artists, and the lion tamers and the cooks and the poor little kiddies who were trapped there, and I told them the score. I showed them the keys. And we legged it. Fought our way out through the Factory. Made it home safe."

She looks unabashedly proud, at that, a steely glint in her green eyes at the memory. "And it wouldn't have been possible, dear," she says, with an air of finality, "if I hadn't gotten a grip on meself. The fear never went away, 'cause I was always worried about how things could go wrong. But that kept me sober, and reminded me why it was worth doin'. I mastered it. Tamed it like a lion and made it work for me. Made it an engine and rode it to freedom. And /that/-" she stabs a finger at the tabletop "-is what Autumn is about, love."

It's a lot to process. Jacob doesn't say a word, doesn't interupt, as she tells her story. He finishes his breakfast, pushing the empty plate aside out of habit. And then he's simply watching her. With a very poingnat gaze set in a face that threatens reality to the point that it's sometimes difficult to look at. Those eyes, though, they never waver.

He listens to it all, and then he murmurs "We are not so different." There's a pause before he continues, "And not alike, either, which can only be a good thing, because I don't think there should be more than one of either of us."

He twirls his lemonade a moment. "I was alone. I had my tasks. To go places I should go. I was it's best infiltrator. There was no where I couldn't. I was given freedom, because I couldn't have done what it asked without it. It didn't expect me to use it to my own advantage. It didn't expect me, taken so young, to remember anything. But I did. And I saw her. Many times, over the years. She even tried to kill the fake me. She failed, but it was a good attempt." He smirks a bit, then grows serious once more.

"I didn't save anyone, though. There was no one to save, except for dozens of others /just like them/. Oh, but I left my mark. Subtle things that coudn't be traced back. Things they are suffering still, and will be even if I disappear. That, I suppose, is what I will be remembered for." His tone has a certain lilt to it. Something that indicates that what he's rembembered for has nothing to do with what he actually is.

He takes a breath and chuckles. "I know what you're thinking. 'That kiddo hasn't heard a word of what I've said'. I have."

He turns those dark eyes towards her once more. Alien, but there's intelligence there. Far more than does him any good. "You can't tell me you were never afraid again. /You/ taught me to know better than that. And that's why I trust you. People are lost, right now. The newness of New Orleans. The mysteries. The changing of the seasons. Doorways opening right and left. People need to be reminded to keep their guard up. For all the children we once we and once knew." <Pose Order> It is your turn to pose. Beep!

"Oh, I'm afraid all the time, love," Gert says airily. One of her hands waves through the air, as though dismissing the thought. "But the difference is that I know it, now. I can stare it in the face, and accept it, and swallow it whole. Use it, rather than let it use me."

She pushes her own empty plate aside, then kicks her chair back, balancing on its back legs with one knee against the table to keep her balance. "You can't get rid of fear," she says. "Fear's what happens when something you care about's threatened. Only way to stop fearing is to stop caring. But you /can/ choose not to be scared. Not to scream and hide when the boogeyman comes a-knocking. Or-" a slightly crooked grin, now, as she looks back at his face "-to immediately start making threats, and give the game away. Got to keep your cards closer to your chest, dear. Be frightened all you like. Take as many precautions as you can. But don't give in and start showin' it. That lets 'em know you're vulnerable. That you can't control it yet."

She reaches up and pushes the brim of her bowler back by a few inches, letting its back rest against the tight bun of her hair. "But now you're on the trolley," she says. A definite note of satisfaction in her voice, now. "That's what we're here for, love. That's our job. Sometimes the others forget how useful it can be, fear, if you keep it under control. Sometimes they go wandering into the dark places they really shouldn't be. They need minding. They need somebody to remind them why it's important to be afraid - and why it's important to keep going anyway."

Jacob doesn't answer right away, but he gives a slight nod. And the smirk isn't present at the moment. Just that furrowed bow, thoughtful look of his. He doesn't answer right away, instead finishing off his lemonade, and then moving to refresh both their glasses. As he settles back, he looks at her once more.

"Once you feel it, there's no escape. It will never end. But... all knowlege comes at a price. The more we suffer for it, the more they suffer as well. I'm ok with that." Another pause, his fingertips running across the edge of the count a moment, and then he continues.

"You're right. You're wrong, too. I am not an act. That might make it worse, really. Because I think I need to learn to act. So, like you say, they don't see me coming. So they don't know it's a trap." He takes a breath, leaning back ins his head, looking up at the ceiling. "This place, it needs a lot of help. They are eager to embrace something. And I'm just as guilty as the rest of them. But they won't listen. Because, like you said, I gave myself away too soon. But they should listen."

Gert folds her hands over her stomach, watching as he thinks. When he finally speaks, she grins again. "Oh, now, dearie," she says, "I did say it might not have been an act. But yes. You do need to learn. It's a vital skill, for us. We're vulnerable people, as much as we might not like to admit it. Always will be. Everyone is, of course, even the ones who haven't seen what we have - but for us, we've got to hold on tight."

She lets her chair fall back to the floor with a /thunk/ and reaches for her refilled lemonade. "So you've got to learn to keep a poker face," she continues. "All that lashing out - it's a dead giveaway, love. Fear doesn't always mean you're going to scream and run away. Usually doesn't, really, though I love it when it does. Point is, though, for those who know anything about how fear works, that sort of thing is as good as screaming. Tells 'em right away, /this is how to hurt me/. More'n that," she adds, "it means you're not in control, which means you're even more vulnerable."

She drains her glass, then stands, reaching for her cane. "But you'll get it, dear, I'm sure," she says, as she settles her bowler hat back into its usual place. "You're new, but you'll learn quick enough. We'll make a proper Autumn of you yet, dear. For now, it's a promising start." She steps around the table, one hand outstretched, offering a handshake and a grin.

"Welcome to the freak show."