A Very Wolfhound Christmas Party


avi_icon.gif dearing_icon.gif devon_icon.gif emily_icon.gif finn_icon.gif francis_icon.gif

huruma2_icon.gif lucille_icon.gif nathalie_icon.gif rory_icon.gif rue_icon.gif scott_icon.gif seren_icon.gif

Scene Title A Very Wolfhound Christmas Party
Synopsis Someone's halls are gonna get decked.
Date December 8, 2019

The Bastion

The galley of the Bastion is festive. Garland festoons the exposed piping, twining around the metal cylinders and dangling where they disappear into the walls, like ivy creeping its way down the brickwork. Warm white lights twinkle, interspersed with the green faux-needles. Their multicolored counterparts frame every window and doorway, shining merrily for all to see.

In one corner, a large fir tree has been set up, surrounded by a blue and green plaid skirt, already collecting wayward needles. Mid-century modern-styled ornaments (plastic, because this crowd) hang off every branch in vibrant jewel tones. Instead of the traditional biblical star atop the tree, there’s a turquoise blue bulb with a long spindle that stretches up toward the ceiling.

Hung up along the edges of the island are stockings, each one red with fluffy white trim and bearing the name of one of the Hounds or their plus-one in gold glitter lettering. All laden with small gifts. The surface of the island boasts faux-crystal drinking glasses and two punch bowls. An empty of bottle of vodka sits next to one bowl to indicate which of the sparkling red concoctions is spiked.

The counter along the back wall of the room hold the plastic plates and cutlery, small sandwiches, salads (lettuce, fruit, or macaroni in variety), an almost obscenely large plate of ham, chocolate chip and sugar cookies, pumpkin pie, and a carafe of hot chocolate next to an orange enamel tree of coffee mugs and a small bowl of tiny marshmallows.

Music drifts through the space, mostly traditional tunes in bombastic styling that was popular nearly seventy years ago. Rue Lancaster is dancing through the middle of the room, admiring her handiwork with a glass of punch in one hand. The skirt of her off-the-shoulder forest green dress, made extra buoyant with a frilly red petticoat, twirls about her knees as she sways and turns to the music. A necklace bounces against her collarbone, miniature holiday lights that illuminate in random turn. Her earrings are little candy canes.

Just off from the center of the room, a piece of string dangles from one of the twists of garland and lights. The end of it is tied around a sprig of mistletoe. Beware. Or you’re welcome.

"Fffffffffffor the record," Emily Epstein murmurs, heavy from equal parts darkness and loathing. "I hate everything about this." It's commentary hissed somewhere between both Nathalie and Devon, her gaze slowly roaming the scenery, which includes Rue at this point. But she stops when she sees her name on a stocking pinned to the island as well. Now she's looking back to Rue in horror, and then to the garland twirled around the piping on the ceiling.

She's horrified. Maybe impressed deep on the inside, but horrified on the outside.

Seren Evans is decidedly not, wearing a warm smile while they linger by the food counter, arms folded over a stereotypical ugly Christmas sweater and a half-filled mug filled with spiked cocoa dangling from one fist. It's liable to spill, the angle it's being held at; attention to it foregone because they're watching Rue enjoy herself.

As they tilt their head, it sends the felt reindeer antlers on their head slightly askance, the tiny bells pinned to it jangling. And honestly, that just makes them smile even more.

Christmas Season is so great.

Some things are weirder for Nathalie than others. And there's something about the decor, the music, the cold and the holiday that wraps her in a sense of nostalgia that isn't entirely hers. There's a sort of sadness about it— how many Christmases can she remember humming this music while shivering on a battlefield?— and a certain distance to her.

Sometimes she wonders which parts of her are really her. But that's one reason she's grateful for moments like this one and her Wolfhound family being here. Something's that's hers without question.

So Emily will have to forgive her when she laughs at her sister's distress.

"Come on, Em. Relax. Have a drink. It's a party," she says, giving Emily's arm a gentle squeeze.

With any luck, Devon will not have told her much about previous Wolfhound parties.

When they arrived, Rory moved away from Nathalie with a small smile and started going around to the stockings, dropping small canvas wrapped bags into each one (excepting his own). A few had name tags on them, specific gifts, others did not, and just got dropped in the excess. He still had a few in the carrier bag he moved around with as he returned to Nat, but he kept glancing back in the direction of Seren and Baird, curiously watching the tiny creature, even as he says, “I feel like I’m surrounded by famous people,” in his obviously British accent.

He stopped trying to hide it a few months ago. He had never been very good at the American way of saying words anyway. He’d always sounded like those River Styx British actors trying to speak like the characters they were supposed to be portraying.

His eyes slide back to where Baird flits about, and then he reaches into his bag and pulls out one of the spare bags, dropping what looks like a stone cat into his hand. He pulls the tail off like it’s silly putty and not stone, and starts to roll it around between his fingers, making it slowly take on the form of a toothpick.

The holidays are such a mixed bag for feelings; her own, and that of everyone else. Huruma never really had anything to do with— any of it— for years. Then she came over to this side of the pond. It was a fascinating change of mood. Now, despite the years behind them, she's come to be accustomed to attending parties. It's basically just an excuse to be merry, and sometimes an Empath needs a Break.

Most of the arrivals Huruma knows, picking them out from the floor above. When she makes her way down a level, the unknowns draw her in the last few paces. Because of this, when she sticks her head in, Huruma's gaze seeks them out with no uncertain scrutiny. Rory for his delivery session, Seren for their quiet mooning.

"You were not joking around when you asked to decorate." One hand brushes easily against tinsel near the door when the tall woman steps in, fitted sweater dress a deep red, hair short and neat.

Tales of previous parties? From Devon who never shares anything? Actually, it’s likely the only reason his part in getting Emily to agree to attend was because he didn't stop to consider how these things typically go. “You know you're going to have fun,” he counters to the loathing, long suffering tone. He shoots a glance at Nathalie, then looks at Emily with a grin. “Besides, you know deep down inside you really want to be here with us.”

Somehow along the way, this turned into something with a costumed quality. When Scott Harkness, dressed in red and white, comes around the corner with an awkward smile on his face, it’s clear why they chose him of all people to be the Wolfhound Santa. It’s not that he has Santa’s proportions, he’s too thin. It’s not that he has a bushy beard, he’s too disciplined and clean-cut for that. It’s certainly not his holiday cheer. It’s that he’s a walking, talking, satchel of goodies.

As Scott goes over to the stockings, he tugs their necks open and holds one hand out. Latticework of blue light takes geometric shapes, rough polygons tracing patterns to become solid objects that — as soon as they fully materialize from his void — drop carefully into each stocking.

“I’m not doing this,” is mumbled on the other side of the galley, followed by a forceful shove sending a staggering Francis Harkness with plastic ears and bells on his shoes stumbling into view with arms windmilling. Face flushed red, Santa’s little elf freezes in sight of the other hounds, turning back toward the doorway he was practically thrown out of, followed by a whooping howl of laughter.

James Dearing is the one laughing at this lost bet, walking in to the galley with a lopsided smile as he scans the galley for Rue, a crisp $20 bill in hand. And she didn’t think he could stuff Francis into an elf costume.

Notably missing from the festivities are Majors Epstein and Allegre. The hole left by Hana Gitelman is also felt, a stocking with her name on it hanging unfilled beneath a small brass menorah; gone but not forgotten. Avi and Francois’ absence feels more immediate and it isn’t clear whether it’s simple lateness or business that has kept them away.

Rue stumbles in mid-twirl at the sight of Francis in his elf costume, her jaw dropped open as a prelude to the squeak of laughter that comes next. “Yes!” she cries triumphantly, one fist pumping into the air. Punch sloshes against the sides of her glass as she bounds along to meet Dearing halfway. She slaps her hand into his, to collect on the bet. “Amazing.”

Blue eyes sparkle with delight at this turn of events, and at how many people are getting into the spirit. It doesn’t need to be the Christmas spirit, just the partying kind of spirit. Tucking that twenty into the front of her dress (which is completely unnecessary because her dress has pockets) she motions with her free hand. “Haaaaave you met Seren?” Fingers wiggle, beckoning the antler-bedecked individual her way.

That's their cue. Seren leans away from the counter, more carefully minding the angle of their mug. With a lift of their other hand, they waggle their fingers in a greeting. "Hi there, I'm—"

Immediately cut off by a swooping creature excitedly intervening in Dearing and Rue's line of sight to Seren. Face of a barn owl and the plush body of a cat, a sweeping gold-ringed lemur's tail swaying behind him to steady him, Baird looks a gold-leaf Christmas tree topper come to life. And he screeches like an eagle as he says hello, wings on his back pumping to slow him down as he hovers just off of Rue's shoulder.

Seren's eyes flicker in surprise even as they smile warmly, moving to close the distance that much quicker. "That's Baird," is said quickly, gesturing with their waving hand to beckon the creature back. Baird's beak clicks, head tilting in a curious quirk at Dearing before he does as bid, pivoting midair to circle back to Seren's arm, alighting on their forearm and crawling to their shoulder. The tiny bells on Seren's antlers jingle as they follow Baird's movements with a chuckle.

"Annnnd… you are?" Seren asks, looking back to Dearing with an unphased smile. This is normal! Because for them, it is.

When Rory comes back over her way, Nathalie shifts to rest her hand on his arm. Affection without disturbing his work. His words, though, get a chuckle. "Don't worry. Some of them are a little famous, sure, but they're just like anyone else."

Of course, then the Harknesses make their entrance.

Which is totally normal.

Nathalie looks over that way, her eyebrows lifting in surprise. But she doesn't stare, maybe for Francis' sake, and turns back to Rory with a more sheepish smile. "Do you want to meet some people? I have to introduce you to Emily, at least." Of course, it's not like it would be easy to dodge anyone else, but she would give it a try, at least. There is a glance around— checking for Avi, since she both wants and doesn't want to have to introduce her boyfriend to him. She had a thought that doing so in a group might be… smoother, but now that they're here she's remembering that very little can stop Avi from going all…


Emily doesn't go so far as to growl in Devon's direction, but the hard look she gives him is nearly feral. It dissipates in intensity when she swivels to level it on Nathalie in turn, one reason likely being the invitation to get a drink. She will invite herself to that spiked punch before long, after all, without a doubt. In the meantime, she tries to avoid the spectacle being made, embarrassed on Francis' behalf even as she steals glances at the quiet wondrous acts Evo Santa performs.

Rory's nearing brings her head back around on a swivel, chin set and an eyebrow arched at him. Even without Avi to give him the evil eye, he isn't safe from an Epstein scrutiny this evening. She looks particularly severe in her slimming black turtleneck, eyes like ice.

He must pass some silent test, because Emily reaches across her body to offer her hand, even if it's done stiffly. "Emily. Not famous, if that's any consolation." Not directly, anyway, but that's a distinction not needing made. She looks away only for a moment to silently beckon with a glance for Devon to introduce himself too.

While there are more and more people arriving, Rory’s paying attention mostly to those closest to him, and Baird. After crushing the former cat statuette into a ball, he starts to run the small stone tool he’d formed out of the cat’s tail over it, sculpting it slowly into another form. His ability doesn’t allow him to just make the shape that he sees appear, but it does help him make it a reality.

With one wing already visible, he stops and glances back at Emily and Nathalie, offering a small smile to Emily and a nod, “Nathalie did tell me a little about you, though, so it is nice to meet you. I’m Rory. It seems like it’s time to meet the rest.” He smiles to the young lady with him and nods. He’s as ready as he’ll ever be.

Scott always has the goods. It's probably how he managed to win Huruma over- - at least in part. Just give her what she wants. She can feel whatever massive embarrassment wafts in long before Francis does, so her steps take her over to lean on the wall beside Scott, nosy and teasing as always.

"Do I get a peek?" Though when she does see the source of Francis' discomfort, both brows lift up and away from where the elder Harkness is delivering to stockings. "Ohhh, Scott, look, he's precious." Huruma coos, eyes narrowed with mirth.

Lingering there beside Scott, Huruma keeps her space as Nathalie shows her apparent plus-one her Found Fam, and as Rue does something similar. She will wait her turn, for introductions.

Rory is easy enough to skim, but Seren has a shadow consisting of… ether and animal parts. Baird quickly becomes a source of fascination for the Empath, pale eyes watching the critter from afar.

It's possible that Devon is ignorant of all the dirty looks being cast his way. It's also possible that he's fully aware of Emily's reluctance to be a participant in Christmas time shenanigans but he's going to playfully tease anyway. Presently, he appears to miss the growl, because he's spotted the stockings — and then there's Scott and Francis. The latter of which produces a laugh that he hides within a cough.

Attention may wander some, there's plenty of activity after all, but the look draws him back to the here and now. “Devon,” he offers to Rory, after returning to Emily’s side. “Nathalie and I work together.”

Back over by Baird, Dearing’s eyebrows have hit maximum elevation. Though his stare was locked on the feathered whatever the hell that is, he pries them up to make eye contact with Seren before glancing back down at her familiar. “Uh,” Dearing is a little caught off guard by all of it, at least for a moment. He glances over at Rue, briefly, then angles a look back to Seren and manages to lift a bit of a smile out of the awkwardness.

“I’m charmed,” Dearing says with a lopsided smile, offering a hand out to Seren, “but you can call me James.”

Someone else grabs Dearing’s hand, though. Not Seren.

Hey, man.” One of Santa’s little elves has insinuated himself into the conversation, slapping Dearing’s hand in a faux handshake. “Hi,” Francis says as he puts himself between Dearing and Seren, offering out a red-gloved hand. “Francis Harkness, and don’t mind Dearing he’s always like that.”

Francis,” Scott shouts from over by the stockings, “do you have Epstein’s gift?” Francis looks over, confused, then makes a soft aha sound and reaches inside of his puffy red coat and pulls out what is blatantly a Christmas-paper wrapped bottle of alcohol. It vanishes from Francis’ hand in a pop and appears over in Scott’s waiting hand, then tucked into the stocking.

“Anyway, sorry,” Francis says with a Cheshire smile to Seren, “I don’t think I got your na— HEY— “

Dearing, shoving Francis out of the way until he’s stumbling over himself and out of the way, nods in Scott’s direction. “Your dad needs you.” Dearing offers Francis a wink, and then looks back to Seren with an awkward smile. “Sorry about that, where were we?”

Rue’s eyes narrow and she looks to Dearing and Francis in turn from the corner of her eye with the most dubious expression. “What are you two clowns doing?” There’s a warning undercurrent to her query. Ultimately, it’s a question she doesn’t expect an answer to.

“Well, James,” Rue rolls her eyes goodnaturedly and continues, “this is Seren Evans. My…” she pauses, not uncertain of her choice of words, but uncertain about the revelation itself. She looks over to the walking imagination factory and a smile slides into place without conscious intent. Her arm slips around their waist, feeling bolder. “My paramour.”


Seren is attentive, smiling, politely reaching for James Dearing's hand to shake — when an intervention occurs. Francis is in turn offered a smile, Baird leaning forward on Seren's shoulder to sniff delicately at him. It's a small whirlwind of activity, one which ends with Rue's arm about their waist. Her smile is returned at first, until—


The imagineer's brow twitches ever so slightly in a tell of their confusion. The more obvious manifestation of it comes in the shockingly neon orange hair that suddenly sprouts from their head, long and in a style better suited to the aughts. Oblivious, Seren only peers at Rue.




Baird's gold-ringed tail flicks back and forth behind him, the white spaces between those rings patterning in feathery pink hearts abruptly. Seren's brow lifts as the orange hair is gone in the space of a blink and they look back to Dearing and Francis with a renewed smile. "What a way to put it," they say, a laugh following after that might just be at their own expense.

"Don't say that!"

Can be heard from the direction of the Wolfhounds sleeping quarters. The sound of heels clicking on the floor proceed the pair that enter, laughter announces them as well. Lucille Ryans doesn't have guys or girls over for that matter, not in the time everyone in this room have known her. Huruma being the only one to remember a time where Lucille herself was that out there.


The feeling of butterflies drift into Huruma's senses coupled with a bundle of nerves. She wants everyone to like him, it's silly to think they won't. Is it?

The look on Lucille's face is anything but nerves, light gray blue eyes bright and cheeks rosy and not just from the soft brush of blush applied to her pale cheekbones. Whatever her date said to her clearly had her hysterics but she straightens up mostly as they enter the room. "Don't worry, they're nicer than me. Won't beat you up on the first meeting." She looks and feel airy, light, free. Not broody or focused on a mark, facing down a fighter in the Crucible or hunting down a new source of intel.

Her long legs show from the medium length dress, a deep red number. Hair tousled, almost to perfectly. Lucille might have just did a messy look for a quick turn in front of the mirror in lieu of hours of trying to do something fancy with her hair. There's a bit of a sheepish wave from the tall woman, she wasn't totally sure if she was ready but then again, she was the one that asked him to come.

Last minute nerves, at least her dad wasn't here. Or her sisters. Or god Russo.

"Hey guys. Merry fucking Christmas." A look to her left at the man she's leaning against, "This is—"

“Finn,” supplies the man on Lucille’s arm. Together they make a festive pairing, as he’s wearing a hunter green dress shirt and tie, though the sleeves are rolled up, and instead of dress pants, he’s in dark gray jeans. At least they’re clean — if they knew where he lived most of the time, they might be surprised at that.

Now that he’s supplied his name, he looks around, brows lifting in his frank, boyish face as he considers the rest of the partygoers. He tips his head thoughtfully, before turning to reply back to his date.

“Well, I’m glad they won’t beat me up, because I’m pretty sure most of them would kick my ass. This is a dangerous and good looking group of people.” He doesn’t seem nervous — either on the outside or to those with the ability to sense the inner workings of his psyche or aura. He offers a hand to whoever’s nearest. “Nice to meet you.”

Huruma's features fill with a quiet mirth, a sort of contentment for her; Scott and the Boys being themselves is heartening, in that weird Christmas way. She snorts audibly at Scott when he deposits the not-at-all mysterious gift to the stocking. On her way to the refreshments Huruma does steal a more obvious look at Baird, then Seren, not quite tempted enough to bump both Francis and Dearing out of the way to meet them.

Luckily she knows her way around the room without looking, because she stares, bemused, at the ensuing reaction from the sweet little stranger. Rue having called them a paramour in itself is- - new, but not weird. Huruma knows what well enough. As well as that Lucille and butterflies, however, kind of are.

The dark woman strays aside and lingers once she pours herself a drink, brows lifting up in observation across the room. Of the man that Lucille has brought to the door.

"Do not count your chickens." A smile, closed and smug. You never know if one of them will decide to test his mettle. Though the glance to Lucille as Huruma's mind passively investigates Finn's says that she won't. Not at a party. "Hello, Finn."

….Not at this party, in any case.

Mistrust, anger, resentment, smoldering frustration. Those are things that Huruma picks up from far across the Bastion. It isn't so much someone in another room, but someone at the back of the corridor leading to the stairs, which happens to have an unobstructed view of the main celebration through a windowed partition. Huruma can't see Avi Epstein from here, not with the lights off in the hall and the vertical blinds partly closed, but she can feel his presence.

It swelled and overcame everything else when Finn entered his line of sight with Lucille. It also arrested his movement, kept him in the back ground-floor offices in silence.

Oblivious to everything playing out in Avi’s mind, Scott Harkness — or Harkaclaus as Dearing just shouted at him from across the room — is ambling his way over to where Lucille and Finn are talking to Huruma. “Now I don't think Santa’s got your name on his list,” Harkness says with all of the dry affectation he's known for and none of Santa’s jovial enthusiasm. He eyes Lucille, then looks back to Finn.

“Scott wants to know if you've been naughty,” Dearing calls over to Finn without really having heard any of the rest of the conversation. He just wants to make Scott feel awkward.


“As for this,” Dearing makes a circular motion with one finger at Rue and Seren, “that's a crying shame. But, I can't fault your taste.” Dearing in no way indicates whether he's talking to Seren or Rue, but he buys her explanation whole-cloth.

“Mr. Epstein, uh, Commander— Major— Sir,” Francis mumbles as he tugs at his awkwardly-fitted elf costume, walking in the direction that Avi is loitering in the darkness by the offices. “Look, I'm all for a prank but this costume really itchhey!

Then, unceremoniously, Francis is discreetly yanked into the darkness and out of sight. Huruma senses, a change in Avi’s mood:

Secretive, Guarded, Cautious.

He's up to something.

"Emily," Nathalie laughs gently at the scrutiny, her head shaking, "please be nice. He's gonna be meeting our dad tonight, too. You know, if Avi decides to show up." Which she is increasingly worried about. Both him showing up and not.

Especially when Lucille brings in her boyfriend. Perhaps Avi won't be focusing on Rory at all.

"Luce!" she calls as she comes over to give her friend a warm hug. And she reaches up to fix her hair a little bit, giving her a look before she turns to shake Finn's hand. She and Rory have been around Providence before, and even though it's been a while, she remembers him well enough. "Finn. Nice to meet you. Nathalie. This is Rory. Rory, you remember Luce, right?"

When Nathalie tears off, Emily glances aside at Rory. "Good luck," she advises drily. There's really no words of wisdom to impart for meeting their father aside from not flinching, but he seems… sturdy. Like he'll make it all right.

She turns to Devon, her brow lifting. "Do you think we scoop the stockings on our way out, or is there going to be some awkward sit-in-a-circle-like-a-family thing that happens? I don't fucking know Rue to begin with, but she seems a little too fucking into this holiday. I just want to be …"

Her ears had opened at the sound of her surname, her attention sharpening. And now there goes Francis, out of the corner of her eye. "… prepared."

Emily doesn't look hard in that particular direction, but there's a concerned expression on her face as she looks somewhere between the stairwell and Rory. She doesn't know enough to know that father Epstein's ire isn't directed at that particular plus one, but it doesn't stop her from mumbling to herself wearily, "Easy there, Krampus, it's not the end of the fucking world."

The dad. Rory seems to set his shoulders for a moment like someone had just told him he was about to meet the boss of the company funding one of his jobs. He’s been anticipating this possibility since he found out that Nathalie had another identity, a whole family she had not known about, and all the other things going on in her life. He’s taken it mostly in stride. Sturdy was a good way to describe him, either way. He keeps toying absently with the small piece of rock in his hand, poking at it with the tool as he follows after Nathalie and goes to meet eyes with one of the few he actually had met before.

“Nice to see you again, Lucille.” He nods his head in greeting, then looks up at Finn for a long moment. He didn’t remember him well but he remembered him. “And you too. Glad to see you’re still kicking.” Things had gotten weird down in New Jersey, so he had heard, but he hadn’t visited Providence since they left after the short time they’d stayed there as guests of Eileen.

“He’ll be alright.” Devon turns from Rory and Nathalie when they wander off to look at Emily. He grins, as if to say I survived. Even if he did get slammed into a wall before they'd even started officially dating. “Leave it to the holidays to plus-one the family.” That seems to be a common theme for the Epsteins, at least in as far as two in as many years can be seen as common.

Following Emily's gaze over to the stockings, he lifts a shoulder. “Rue’d be okay with whatever. I'm for collecting on the way out — ” Cutting himself off from that thought, Dev glances toward Harkaclaus and the shenanigans at play there, then angles a look at Emily again. “Krampus?”

Huruma can sense the hardening of Rue’s emotions into something sharp around the edges, in spite of the bright smile that stays plastered on her face. Seren can feel the arm around their waist tighten just the barest bit. It could easily be a squeeze of fondness. “Try not to cry yourself to sleep over it,” Rue teases Dearing affectionately.

Lucille’s entrance is enough to banish whatever darkness was seeping into Rue’s mental state. Raising her hand with the glass, she toasts the arrival of Ryans, and that of her beau. “Happy fuckin’ holidays to you too!” she calls out, waiting for introductions to be made before she interjects, “You’re late to my party, bitch!”

They’re friends. It’s fine.

“Speaking of late to the party…” Blue eyes narrow and scan those gathered, lips moving around the shapes of numerals, a silent headcount. “Lafayette! Aviators! I swear to fucking Christ—” Rue drops a kiss on Seren’s temple and slithers her arm back to her side. “Dearing, would you be a — well, a dear, and introduce Mx. Evans around?” She’s not going to tolerate anyone else showing up late, unless it’s fashionably.

Huruma appears to be absorbed in the others for a short time, until she shades her eyes over her drink and pinpoints a vague target at the wall. Long before Francis gets sideswiped, and it lingers after the fact too. She tips the last sip of her cup back, and rolls her eyes just ever so slightly. Between Rue and Seren, and the communing of the others, there is a buffet of feelings for her. And yet one is a lemon in the punch.

Empty cup still in hand, Huruma slinks past the others and steps out into the corridor, disappearing behind the wall too.

"Drop the elf or Santa Claus gets it."

“I won’t,” Finn agrees with Huruma’s warning. There’s a lift of Finn’s brows when Nathalie steps forward and he takes her small hand to shake in his larger mitt. “Enchante,” he says with a well-delivered Pepe Le Pew accent.

Rory’s next, and Finn glances from him back to Nathalie, then laughs. The laugh is genuine, though the next words may not be.

“Yeah, that’s the last time I do hot yoga after all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue,” he says, with a (feigned) rueful grimace and shake of his head.

The call from the retreating Rue also draws his attention that way. “Oh, it was my fault. I take hours to get ready. Can’t just roll out of bed looking perfect like Luce here.” Lucille gets a quick kiss to the temple as Finn scans the rest of the people.

Embracing Nat back just as warmly she gives a sheepish smile to the young woman, uh huh. Lucille would have loads of tea to spill later. For now she leans into Finn's weight, tilting her head upwards and snorting.

"Yes blame Finn please, you should see how long he stands in front of the mirror with his hair." All in good fun though she gives Rue a wide eyed look of mock terror as she floats around and out of the room. "I guess we'll have to settle this with shots!"

A challenger approaches!

Her emotional state wide open for Huruma, the nerves chipping away slowly. This was already going better than she could have expected. "Oh you've met," a pleasant smile on her lips as she looks between Rory and Finn. That was a relief. "It's great to see you too Rory, let's… do a double date sometime?" Lucille feels childish but words from Huruma and her father echo in the back of her mind. Doing normal things was good, it was okay.

"Yeah," Emily affirms to Devon, without really explaining. "Krampus." She's just got a bad feeling about this one. She leans slightly closer to him by her side, brow furrowing.

"Ssssssuddenly not too sure about Rory's long-term safety. I mean, he seems nice and all, but," she shakes her head, wondering just what even is on its way. Emily could be sorely mistaken. Maybe something festive is on the verge of happening.

But knowing Avi? And knowing there's already one Santa out here?

Krampus. Definitely Krampus.

Behind the partition, Avi does not appear in a gaming mood. He has Francis in stern lecture range and fixes a one-eyed squint on Huruma when she steps in. “Dunsimi,” is said like when a parent calls you by your middle name. Except when Avi breaks into surnames it's business. Which can also be a form of trouble. “The creep with the five o-clock shadow?” He motions in the vaguest of directions with his chin. “Who’d he come with?”

Releasing Francis, because it apparently wasn't him, Avi stalks over to Huruma. “That's one of the Horsemen’s operatives. Gitelman and I saw him down in Staten Island when he got lured into a trap at the boat graveyard. That little cocksure twat just walked right the fuck through the front door.

“Avi wants to ruin Christmas,” is Francis’ retort. “Possibly for legitimate reasons. I don't know.”

He's a spy,” Avi grouses.

“He's a Labrador retriever in pants,” Francis reiterates in a whisper-shout, motioning with both hands in Finn’s direction.

In earshot but purposefully ignoring the drama playing out around his son, Scott Harkness has finished filling the stockings with presents and cracks a smile, scratching at his chin under his fake beard. He squints, looking around at everyone, then snaps his fingers on realizing what's missing. Moving over to a doorway, Harkness manifes a hammer and nails from thin air, then drives a nail in the door frame over the entrance. The hammer vanishes in a gridded flash of light, replaced by…


Hanging it over the doorway, Scott smiles proudly. “Now it's Christmas.”

"…Epstein." Huruma meets his business with a mutter and a raised brow, arching high, lips pursed as he grumps closer. What now?


"Lucille." First things first, who he came with. Despite the situation, Huruma still makes an attempt to be subtle, eyelids hooded over pale eyes as she considers Avi's expression. They lift briefly to Francis beyond, then back.

"He walked in the front door because she invited him. Considering where they have been, spying is very likely the last thing on his mind." For her subtlety, it's as subtle as she can get. Having others in earshot seems to be something she keeps in mind. Huruma's voice is low but placid, for what it is worth. She manages to not be as accusingly critical as Francis, with the waving and the whispering.

"What is he going to spy on, precisely? She knows the guest rules." A short pause, before the empath adds with a sigh, "Avi… If you really think he is up to something, go in there and ask. You very well know how I am with bluffing."

“He’ll be fine.” Devon rolls a gauging look in Rory and Nat’s direction. “Krampus or not.” And likely missing — blissfully unaware? — that Avi has been labeled as the grinch this evening. Just in case, though, he turns that look to Emily. Brows lift and he grins with mischief. “We could go arm ourselves. You know, for if he needs backup.”

Blissfully ignorant of being recognized by Avi, Finn the spy (or not) preens when Lucille says he takes forever to get ready.

“I mean, it’s not like I can just wake up looking like this. It takes work,” he says, hand gingerly patting the short-cropped waves that definitely don’t look like they’ve seen a brush in the last several hours.

He glances at Lucille, then the young couple before him and raises a brow. “A double date? I don’t think I’ve ever actually been on one. Will we go to a drive-thru? Can I pin you later?” he says teasingly to his date, with a good-natured grin. “Are we ready,” he gasps slightly, “to go steady?”

"Don't worry," Nathalie says to Rory, giving him some reassurance even though she has no idea what to expect from her father in this situation. She should have consulted Emily before. Of course, she's also unaware that it's Luce's date that is likely to have the worst of it. So maybe they got lucky.

"Let's see how tonight goes," Nat says dryly to Lucille, as if the party were some sort of double date test run. But she gives her friend a smile which probably means she's up for it. Whatever a double date looks like, especially with these particular four. If they all survive the night.

It isn’t long before Rue comes stomping back into the common area. “My drink’s empty!” she declares, clearly dismayed.

The Christmas tree is lit, and so is Rue.

Also, Francois didn’t respond to literally any of her bellowing, so fuck it. He can miss Christmas and Christmas booze all he wants to then. Not like she doesn’t have a bottle of wine for him later anyway. It’s fine. She’s fine. This is fine. Not hurt at all.

That’s definitely not at all related to why she’s frowning into the punch bowl as she ladles out another round into her fancy-esque glass.

There’s a glimmer off the window and Rue turns sharply to stare at it. She can see the shapes through the blinds and the glass. Her eyes narrow. She points at her eyes with two fingers, points to the glass with one, and scowls.

Yeah, she can’t see shit, but fuck you anyway, she’s watching. Get your ass in here and party, Holiday Spectre.

With her refreshed drink in hand, Rue slides up behind Seren again and wraps an arm around their shoulders from behind. With heels, their height difference is more than half a foot. She does not, however, rest her chin atop their head. She’s not rude. Or not drunk enough to be, anyway.

“So,” she starts, pointing along Seren’s sightline for their benefit, “that’s Lucille. And Lucille’s date, Finn. And then there’s Emily. Nathalie… Uhhhh… Nat’s date. Devon.” She changes directions. “Scott’s over there. You met Francis and James. Huruma is— … Where the fuck did she go? She’s like seven feet tall.” Not quite, but she does make Rue look a bit more average height. “She doesn’t just disappear.

A frown. Lancaster is put out about not being able to account for all the partygoers. “A-vi-a-tors!” she shouts again, like that might summon him instead of strongly encouraging him to stay away. He does not want her to go looking for him.

Rue behind them pointing from one face to the next, Baird curled up against the front of their ugly sweater, Seren leans back into Rue while receiving the instructions on who's who. It's a good thing they abandoned their spiked mug, it looks like they might need to provide a shoulder to lean on before long. Oh, dear.

They're beginning to turn, on the verge of asking for a drink from Rue's glass when she shouts out. Seren's brow pops. "Like these?" they ask, face covering over in too-large two-toned aviators. Red and green with gold rims that gleam as much as their smile sit perfectly over their nose as they turn back around. Baird's ringed tail sways with interest, owl head turning on a dime to keep Rue in his sights.

"Your drink looks really good, mind if I try?" Seren asks with a touch of wryness. Dazzle, grab, and dash in progress. Rue's got the rest of the party to finish throwing, then she can get as sloppy as she wants. Baird chirrups silently at her, beak snapping in a stutter. He would like a sip, too, please.

“That’s slightly ominous,” Rory admits with a small grin tugging on the corner of his mouth while his eyes slide from his date back down to the piece of rock in his hand. It’s malleable by all appearances as if a piece of clay instead of solid rock. At least one of those there knew what he did, but now so might everyone else. His gifts in those stockings won’t be much of a surprise anymore, but it’s not often he sees something like Baird.

“Rory Karrington,” he adds on to the introduction, filling in the name that the tall pretty one he knew must be Rue from descriptions, nodding toward Seren as he glances toward Baird again. The longer he toys with the object in his hands, the more it begins to look just like how Baird happens to look at this moment.

Only made of a solid pale gray stone with tiny chunks of shiny crystal.

"Stop being so fucking cute," Lucille's cheeks turn a shade of red as she stands closer to her date and gives him a look, steady. "I don't know…" Teasing with her tongue poked out at the man, "Are you sure you can handle… drive in movies." If that's a euphemism, who's to say.

Nonetheless she's laughing and bumping hips with Nathalie, "Yea yea, we should drag em both to a bookstore. I know one not too far from here," said as an afterthought but Lucille's attention is grabbed by Rory's display of power. She's always intrigued at other people's abilities, his being no different. Mentally taking notes something she found herself doing often.

Still, completely oblivious of Avi's treachery.

Someone has Mambo Number 5 as a ringtone.

I’m at a work thing.

It’s Dearing.

“Yeah, hold on, let me just step outside I’m getting a pine tree enema in here,” Dearing grouses into his phone as he makes his way out of sight and toward one of the side exits of the Bastion. At the same time, Avi breaks away from Huruma and Francis and starts storming across the floor toward Finn. Whatever Huruma had said, whether it made sense to him or not, has apparently sprung the tall old man into action. As Avi crosses the floor, he briefly makes eyes with Emily and Devon, but then finishes his path toward Finn.

Meanwhile, Scott and Francis share a meaningful look between one another. The Senior Harkness eyes Huruma, then looks at Avi. There’s a brief flash in Scott’s palm, immediately followed up by an underhanded toss to Francis, just out of sight.

As Avi comes up to Finn, he raises one hand up as if to grab him by the collar except—

—there’s a Santa Claus hand puppet on his hand.

Avi freezes in place. Staring down at the red and white puppet sitting on his hand, presently shoved between he and Finn. Avi’s expression flattens, color drains out of his face, and he opens his mouth to say something and only a breathy gasp escapes him.

Lucille who’s your date?” Avi asks with a tense timber to his voice, as though he were about to break straight the fuck down here and now. He flashes a smile back to Finn, but his eyes say anything but Merry Christmas.

The santa puppet does, though. Mechanically. Loudly. Avi closes his eyes, sucking in a breath through his teeth.

Fucking Christmas.

Excuse moi? Huruma's head swivels after Avi as he brushes past her, mouth thinning and expression just a tad put-upon. The things she deals with. She steps after Avi, backtracking and standing just inside with a hand at her hip. There's something else- - Scott catches her eye, and she narrows a look back before she feels the tickle of mischief in her mind. Scott. Scott- - nope, there it is. Whatever he does, she doesn't see the first step, but given the flicker of something on Epstein, Huruma has an idea of the second.

"Mungu nisaidie…" Huruma's voice is a stifled one, unsure of amusement. She loses that particular battle as the scene plays out, a laugh caught in her chest.

By the end of his puppet show, she is coming up behind Avi to put both hands on his shoulders and steer him away. A look spared to Finn, a smooth smile, then the others. The Hounds can see the exasperation in her eyes easy enough. "I thiiink the Commander may have had a little too much hot cider." Her voice turns to a hissed whisper at Finn, exaggerated on purpose. "He gets a bit …fussy. Excuse me."

“Of course!” Rue chimes as Seren asks for a sip of her drink. But then they abscond with it, leaving the redhead to stand in place with her head tilted and mouth agape, wondering what the hell just happened. “He- Hey!” An indignant little squeak sounds from the back of Rue’s throat as she goes to give chase.

But then Dearing’s phone goes off and Rue stops in mid-step, turning an expert pirouette on one foot so she can stare incredulously now at him.Really? God, I’d hate to know what your ringtone for me is.”

And as she’s about to laugh that off and move in pursuit of her stolen beverage when Avi comes storming through. It’d be comical watching her pivot back again on the ball of one foot if anyone were paying sole attention to her right now. “Oh, no. Avi, no!” She takes two steps after the man, expecting to need to grab his arm before he can let fly, but then there’s that…

Fucking puppet.

Unexpected and startled laughter bubbles up from Rue’s lips, delighted little squeaking sounds as she doubles over, pointing at Aviators, as if anyone needed a clue as to what she’s laughing at. She owes Francis a beer. Or a case of them. The party is safe, for now.

“Okay, shut up!” Rue half-laughs and half-shouts to get the room’s attention, grinning from ear to ear. “It’s time to check out our stockings!”

Whether they like it or not.

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