Curb Your Enthusiasm


everleigh_icon.gif seren_icon.gif

Scene Title Curb Your Enthusiasm
Synopsis Everleigh steps in when a bad encounter on a day out together threatens Seren's sense of security.
Date May 13, 2021

Pop Some Tags Thrift Shop

Sheepshead Bay

"Oh my god, get a load of these!" Seren's voice climbs an octave, a grin preemptively on their face as they reach for an absolutely garish, sequin-drowned eyemask on a stick sitting in a pile of miscellany. They lift the black and red sparkling thing, dramatically flipping it over their face as they look back at Everleigh. As much as they try to look serious and mysterious with the pose they strike over their shoulder, they can't get rid of their smile. "Hey, maybe we find great Halloween costume stuff out here. Wouldn't that be something?"

The mask is lowered and set gingerly aside to not damage it. They're still carrying on with all kinds of bright excitement as they begin to idly look through other curiosities in the thrift shop. "Did you hear about that charity event they had last year? I feel like that would have been so much fun to go to… I keep holding out hope they'll do something like that again this year, or I get invited to some other party. We do Halloween back home, but it's not quite the same… not as much of a, um, cultural thing, you know?" Seren looks back over their shoulder again with a persistent smile.

There definitely are more costumes or costume-adjacent clothing here than one might expect, what with it being in the middle of the surrounding "little Broadway" theatres. It might be a case of catering to their neighbors in providing a place to find props quickly, but Seren is in love with it all the same. They see opportunities and excitement and stories here, even if they haven't put together two and two regarding the thrift shop's location.

"But, ah—" Suddenly self-conscious, Seren looks up. "Was there anything particularly you were looking for here? Anything we should keep an eye out for?"

We. Baird's wandered off somewhere in here.

There's a laugh from Everleigh as she watches the dramatic pose, then peeks towards a rack of brightly colored clothing—definitely more of the costume variety. "I usually end up making my own costumes, but a lot of the time they end up being things I've just altered from stores like this. A lot easier than finding the right fabric most of the time… and it saves a lot of work."

She turns away from a garish tropical shirt and sets her gaze in Seren's direction. "I absolutely love any excuse to dress up, I just find that the opportunities are few and far between. Clearly we need more parties and charity events." She pauses for just a moment.

"Or we could have our own party."

Seren's eyes glimmer with that thought. "Our own party?" they repeat, intrigued. "Oh, man— what would we even do? Like— a murder mystery? Or just a costume party? We need an occasion, don't we…?" They run their hand along the shoulders of several shirts while they hang on the rack in front of them.

"But what I'm hearing here is anything is gold, if it looks good," they acknowledge and then circle around an aisle, looking down at a chair set at its end. "C'mon, bud, we're on a mission," Seren tells a pooled scarf, and a scaled nose pokes free from it, a wriggling, thin eastern dragon wiggles free and into the air with all the visual panache of a slightly-more graceful eel. The fuzzed, small antlers on his head butt against Seren's shoulder as Baird streamers around them excitedly. His yellow body and light green accents of velvet and fur speak to his excitement.

"Well then, you show me what's your favorite then," Seren laughs to him, oblivious to a trio of older women across the store who are staring at them. They twist in a circle to chase Baird's tail as it unwraps from them, running a hand along his lower back before following after like he's pulled.

"Do you see that?" one of the women murmur to another.

"We could do whatever kind of party we felt like," Everleigh notes. "Costume party, dinner party, something with a particular theme…" She ticks off ideas on her fingers, though catching sight of Baird gives her pause—he never ceases to delight her with his colors and designs. The older women are noted, though they're paid no heed. At this point, she's starting to notice that stares are always a thing when Baird's out to play.

She offers Seren a wide grin. "You find something with potential and we can make it into something amazing. Maybe I can teach you a few things about creativity." She can barely say the words before she's already laughing.

With a gasp of delight, Seren spins back around quickly and as they turn their being blurs. When they still again, striking a pose with a hand on their hip, they're dressed in a slouchy black and gold flapper's dress and a sagging hat, nose slightly upturned. "We could do a twenties party," they suggest, teeth appearing before long in the beginning of another grin. "Since it's the twenties again."

Clearly, they find themself very clever. Baird less so. Hovering in the air, he lets out a hiss to beckon their attention. "Yes, yes, hold on," they promise, turning back. Tiny beads on their dress swish and turn with them, the glamour not disappearing from them just yet. They find they like the way the outfit feels.

"Oh, look what you've found, actually." That hint of surprise given, Seren unfishes the hook of a hangar from the rack before them to pull up a criss-crossing blouse with billowing sleeves. To them, it looks like something straight out of Phantom of the Opera. They hold it up for Everleigh's purview as well.

“I think that dress is even better than I could have made,” Everleigh notes with a delighted grin. “It looks positively roarin’.” While she’s still grinning, this time at her own joke, she only pauses for a second to contemplate her wording. “It was the Roaring Twenties, wasn’t it?” It’s almost a bit more of a rhetorical question as she quickly moves on by following to see what treasure Baird has uncovered.

As Seren holds up the blouse, Everleigh beams at them, then turns the bright smile towards Baird. “Oh this has potential. Very dramatic. That’s what you wear if you want to really make an entrance.”

Seren preens for a moment over the compliment they're paid before they lower the lifted blouse. "Yeah, I'm gonna keep an eye on this one, I think," they hum blessedly, then set it back on the rack for now. When they look back up, they see the two women looking their way, the third having just glanced away. Their expression falls, smile wrinkles about their eyes fading.

The outfit they wear is in a moment dispersed, becoming mundane again, and they lower their eyes back to what they were looking at, obsessively fixing the lay of the blouse on the hangar. "I-I might, um…" Seren starts to say, and the women across the shop might as well scent blood on the air, looking pleased.

"Maybe she'll learn to flaunt it less," one murmurs to another without really meaning to keep it between themselves.

Seren's eyes narrow a touch, trying to steel their spine even though they feel very much seen. And judged. They turn to Everleigh with a much smaller smile. "I might have something like this at home already we could alter— I helped a friend put together a haunted house two years ago. It was neat. Baird dressed up, too." They look to the nearby streamer of a dragon, who perks his head up. "Show 'em, Baird."

The amber shade of his eyes glow and intensify, body flecking like dark ash and turning into a black mist that clings and hovers over Seren's form like a menacing ghost. One that has eyes that glint in the direction of the trio of women, bringing them to start. The third lifts her phone, finally snapping openly the photo she'd tried to take surreptitiously of the strange duo.

Everleigh offers a warm smile in return to the small one she's offered, doing her best to try and distract them with an excited demeanor at both the clothing and Baird's haunted look. "Oh, now that would make for a spooky haunted house. I think I've only been to the ones that had shoddy props and costumes but somehow that made it endearing. Not terribly scary. Nothing like this. I'm pretty easily frightened, so this is a job well done." She doesn't hide her praise of Baird's appearance, beaming.

Her eyes don't fully smile, though, as she looks in the direction of the three ladies gawking. There's tension there, but she clearly doesn't plan on poking the sleeping dragon. Instead, she focuses on the positive. "So perhaps we should think of a great costume for Baird and theme the whole party's color scheme and theme around it?"

"Oh gosh," Seren says, looking back up at their ghost. "It's so hard to tell what Baird's going to show up as any given day, but maybe he'll—"

That's when they notice Baird isn't playing or showing off anymore. The glower he has for the women across the shop is very real, and alarming them. They feel threatened, visibly, because they're meant to be. Seren lifts a hand up to wave it through the shadow behind them to get his attention, saying, "Hey," demandingly.

He doesn't respond, a low rumble emitting from nowhere. The women start again. "I'm calling SESA," one of them says in a trembling voice. "I won't stand for being threatened in broad daylight!"

Seren looks nowhere near threatening, even if their familiar is taking every bit the advantage of his form to spook the judgmental strangers. In fact, they start a step back and turn away, one hand closed around the mist of Baird's form to drag him despite his lack of physical form. "No, no, come on."

He drags along with, thinning and wisping into a more solid thing. His summoner stumbles for a second as he stops fighting them, and then they continue quickly for the door. One of the women says, "Hey!" when she realizes Seren is making an escape.

"Sorry, I'm sorry," they mumble to Everleigh as the cloud of Baird melds into them directly, blackness splotching their skin as they rush for the shop door and shove it open to head outside before they can either harass or be harassed any further.

Oh no. This isn’t a situation that Everleigh expected to be in, not with there being yelling and anger, two things she was particularly not fond of. Despite that, however, the situation was tense and forcing a fun day out to make Seren and Baird need to retreat. Bravery is not one of her strong suits, but the fact that she certainly felt a friend being threatened, she steps forward to put herself in the path between the ladies and the door.

“It’s alright, calm down,” Dr. Madison’s tone is firm but gentle, the slightest hint of lavender filling the air. It’s almost like the shop is going to transform into a spa at this rate. “He was all bark and no bite, no worse than a chihuahua making a bunch of noise at your feet. No one’s been hurt and now you’ve got a strange story to tell when you get home.”

While the words are trying to be a bit of an assurance, it’s not the words she’s hoping will bring a sense of calm to the situation.

"People like that shouldn't be allowed to just walk the street menacing…" The most rattled of them say, trying to hold onto that feeling of righteous anger, but devolving merely into an exasperated repetition of, "Menacing!"

The second woman with her phone still wielded as a camera huffs and looks to the door before back to Everleigh. "Dogs bite," she warns. "The little ones, especially." She starts to turn, miffed and feigning disinterest. But she asides to the third, "We'll stop by the field office later. That was completely unacceptable." On hearing that, the fight leaves the third and she reaches for the first by her elbow.

"She left, Shirley," she murmurs kindly to the woman who's still staring at Everleigh, wondering why it's so hard to be angry now. "It's safe, she's gone. Let's go back to browsing."

Outside and just out of sight of the storefront window, Seren visibly struggles with themself, skin blotched with clouds of black where they're trying to still hide Baird inside their being. They try to talk themself down and through the stress, only agitated half-sounds escaping them as they pace back and forth. They left Everleigh, and anxiously both talk themself into and out of going back.

The smile from Everleigh continues to be gentle, soothing, and she somehow manages to keep it up despite the fact that her own anger is welling within—these women were being mean. To Seren. "Dogs, as it turns out, often only bite if you get too close," she glances at the camera, unafraid of it. "As someone who has worked with SESA, I don't think a complaint about someone exhibiting an ability in public with no danger to anyone around is going to go very far." The scent of lavender becomes stronger, the smile continuing to be there even if it doesn't follow to her eyes.

She seems unsure about continuing for a moment before she firmly adds, "They left."

The significance of that doesn't land on the woman still staring in growing confusion at Everleigh. She's pacifying some, not understanding why in the slightest. Her head turns for the calming scent, like by locating it it'll somehow nullify it, but she doesn't find it. The break in the staredown, though— having unintentionally been the first to blink— makes her will to carry this on diminish, though.

She huffs nonetheless. "Whatever," she decrees, and looks skeptically at Everleigh. "When you finally get hurt, don't say good people like us didn't try to warn you." Sage advice dispensed, she turns her back on Everleigh. The other woman narrows her eyes for a moment— accompanied by a surreptitious tap on her phone screen— and goes on her way, too.

All's well, thanks to the intervention.

Almost well, at least.

Perhaps most of her words fall on deaf ears, but Everleigh doesn't seem to mind. "Good people don't have to claim they're good," she says, though her voice is a bit softer. That's probably meant more for her own gratification than for a real retort to the trio. "I'd rather be hurt than never experience life."

Situation is resolved and that means Everleigh is primed to go find Seren again. Once she's certain the women aren't coming for Seren's blood, she slips towards the door and out of the shop. It takes her a good moment or two before she finds them. "Things are alright," she says in a reassuring tone. "They won't bother you or Baird now. Are you feeling okay? I know that was a little tense."

Though she had managed to use her ability to calm the emotions inside, Everleigh isn't trying the same trick on Seren. The scent of lavender and the calm it produces still linger about her, the effects slowly fading. "I'm a little bit rusty at that, I don't often have the opportunity to…" She trails off, realizing just how strange it sounds out of context. "… er, to use…"

She's not entirely sure how to say it—she can count on one hand how many people she's really seriously talked to about her ability usage.

"Oh, good, you're here," Seren immediately says with relief on seeing Everleigh. They sag back against the wall in relief, hands on their knees. Processing what's said to them takes a few seconds longer than that before they shake their head, tears staining the immediate area around their eyes. "N-no, I— we try so hard all the time to not ever…" A hard blink later and they wrap their arms around themselves. The black smudges of Baird's presence merged with their own manifests on their face, arms, and clothes. "B-because people can come, and they can just take you, and they'll separate us, and I can't lose him, Everleigh."

They want to respond, they want to be calm, but despite every attempt the panic attack manifesting itself is clawing its way deeper in. If Seren is breathing at all, it's not nearly enough. "I'm sorry," they whisper-speak in distress, unable to use their voice beyond that without it breaking. "I'm sorry you had to see that. I'm sorry."

“You have absolutely no reason to apologize to me, Seren. I’ve seen how cruel the world is firsthand and seen what it does to people,” Everleigh replies, her attention fully and squarely on them. “You did nothing wrong and you have no reason to be sorry for anything.”

The distress on Seren’s face is plain and the breaking voice and shortened breath is a reaction that Everleigh has seen dozens of times. Not usually, however, within the experience of helping a friend. She swallows back whatever words she was about to speak, instead concentrating on calm. It’s not her calm, it’s never affected her, but it’s serenity for Seren.

The floral scent of lavender is impossible to miss, especially with Everleigh within arms reach, a shield between them and whatever nebulous forces might want to separate them from Baird. Her voice is softer than before. “No one will take him from you, because you won’t let them. Your will is stronger than you know and it is so important to you that you’re together that there’s no way any force in the universe will break you apart. You won’t let it. You. You can do that. And that’s amazing.”

Seren takes a deep breath, the calming scent in their nose and sinking into them. Their eyes are still widened but their pupils start to ease back from their panicked pinpoints. Everleigh tells them they're strong, and they believe it. And maybe that belief is enough.

Maybe that will is so powerful it can't shake the bond between them. After all, Seren and Baird were able to find each other again even after the summoner's ability was entirely broken and rebuilt.

They take in another deep, calming breath. One hand comes up to smear the side of their hand against the corner of their eye to dry it. "It isn't like things were ten years ago," Seren reminds themself in a still-shaky voice, but one that's no longer a whisper for all that it's quiet. And that reminder gives them additional comfort, so on their next deeper breath their shoulders begin to relax.

Looking up, they meet Everleigh's eyes with a much greater calm even if their underlying fear isn't entirely erased. "It's just hard to remember. And still, we try so hard to never do anything that could be considered threatening, because… people don't need a reason to hate, but it's even easier if you give them one. Me and Baird, we're— we do amazing things, but never ones that should scare people."

"What you and Baird do is absolutely amazing, and those who are scared of it because they don't see the beauty in it don't really deserve to see how creative and unique it is. People are scared of a lot of things, they're scared of things they don't understand and that's why they lash out at the people who don't deserve it. They aren't really scared of you, they're scared because they don't know what could happen and you and Baird stand out. It's not you."

Everleigh moves to put a hand on Seren's shoulder, should they not shrink away from it, as an added comfort. "If you ever need to be reminded that things are better, that there's hope, you call or text me, okay? It's what friends should do for each other." While she's seen the ease in Seren from the effects of her ability, that's the artificial part—she's hoping her words do the rest. There is, however, always that lingering bit of insecurity regarding her non-verbal calming, and her brow furrows. "How are you feeling? Are you feeling alright?"

Breathe in, Seren tells themself, and they feel their posture begin to right. The dark cloud marring them physically also clears, Baird's invisible presence blooming into something paler than the black ink that occasionally surfaces on Seren's skin. They nod once, twice, repeatedly in response to Everleigh's encouragement.

They feel like they might cry again, but more than anything, they feel relaxed. Safe. They trust Everleigh's word more than anything and it shows.

They lean forward and throw both arms around her shoulders in a grateful hug. "I feel— I can't thank you enough. I don't know— you just said what I really needed to hear, I think." Seren leans back and lets out a self-conscious laugh as they swipe at their eye one more time with the pad of their thumb to clear it.

"Really, I'm feeling okay. Maybe like we should check out some place else for costumes, but I…" As much as they try, they can't put words properly to it. They shake their head and their next words fall with the weight of catharsis, "I'm really glad you were here. I thought I was going to have to call a ride home."

As the scent of lavender fades, so does Everleigh's confidence. "I'm glad I could help, I was really worried," she says, the smile she offers a little less bright. "I don't think it was the words, though. It's not me." She lets out a deep breath, glancing over her shoulder as if afraid of being caught uttering words she doesn't normally.

"It's just an ability. I calm people. It's not really my words or anything, it's just… a thing I can do. It was important for me to help, I wanted to make sure you were okay and safe I just…" She gives a very deflated shrug, insecurity fully seeming to take over. "Anyway, you're fine and that's good."

Seren's brow arches slowly as Everleigh reveals the help she provided that they didn't even know about. Their eyes begin to widen for a moment, silent— politely waiting!— even if they are abruptly filled with an energy that wants to escape.

"Everleigh!" they finally explode quietly. Excitedly. "No, that's absolutely you, and even more than that, it's awesome." They take a step by her side and hug her with one arm this time, slinging it around her shoulder and bicep and squeezing her firmly. They enthuse more gently, "That's an amazing gift, and I'm really glad you have it, and that you trust me enough to be the full you around me. You helped me out just now so much, you— you have no idea."

Their smile flickers uncertain and tight, all those negative emotions still there even if they're not being granted a stage anymore. "And it's definitely not just your ability. You were being so sweet to us I nearly started crying all over again." Seren lets out a laugh that sounds a little too much like it might break, and— whoops.

They look quickly to their other shoulder, clearing their throat. "Baird still feels bad and he's gonna be shy for a while," they report. "But he thanks you too."

By the look on her face, that's not a reaction Everleigh expected—or perhaps even received before in regards to the "gift" she never really brings out. She blinks a few times, leaning into the hug before the faded smile brightens a bit. "That's very kind of you, thank you for not laughing at it," she notes. "I'm a little embarrassed about it. I don't really use it but I didn't like seeing you so upset."

There's a shy look and she casts her gaze downward for a moment. "You really think it wasn't just… it? I'm always worried that it's…" The words are clearly hard and it's her turn to clear her throat. "I'm glad Baird's okay too."

With a shake of their head like it could dismiss any negative thoughts away, Seren starts to steer them both away from the storefront. "It's the farthest thing from laughing material," they insist more softly. "You were worried enough about us you stepped outside your comfort zone. For us, to help us— to help— me."

Now who's embarrassed. They work through the warmth on their cheeks, head lifting proudly to lend Everleigh some of their confidence, maybe. "And so what if you used it and it helped! That's part of you, too, the same way Baird is a part of me. Isn't it?" They swing their other arm up, hand pressed to heart. "It's our other way of interacting with those around us, and it comes from right here." Self-conscious, they let their arm slip away from Everleigh's side and smile quickly.

"I know you didn't ask before you did it, but I still— I'm really glad you helped me out just now. I probably would've refused, figuring I was a burden, and that would have just made things harder, wouldn't it?" Their head dips sheepishly, eyes down on the ground rather than the path ahead for a moment. "So, don't feel bad, don't give it a second thought."

"Our only job right now is to find something so fun or delicious to wrap ourselves up in that Baird has no choice but to stick his nose out again," Seren posits with a grin that swings their gaze back up again.

Everleigh’s smile is slow, but when it does come, it’s warm and friendly. “I’m really glad you understand. I’ve always been really self-conscious about it.” It seems that with Seren being so excited about it she’s able to move past the self-consciousness and focus on the suggestion that Baird might need their help. After all, coaxing Baird out was way more important than being worried about something like an ability.

“Fun or delicious. Both of those sound like great options, I'm certain we can find something. After all, I know Baird wants to come join us, he's just shy right now. I can't blame him, finding just the right appearance to go out on the town with is hard and I'm sure he's busy making himself look amazing."

The corner of Seren's mouth kicks back in an even wider smile. In the short time they've known each other, Everleigh's dove straight to the heart of him, hasn't she? The prideful scamp, loving to show off. A pleased catlike purr emanates from precisely nowhere around them, like such a feline might do when kneading its paws pleasantly.

"Maybe if we find some place nice to grab lunch at, he'll decide he wants a snack after all," they propose knowingly. "How's that sound?"

"That sounds like a delightful idea, I'm certain he'll come out for a snack," Everleigh agrees, her own smile broadening as she looks over at Seren. "Maybe something sweet or something colorful. I imagine Baird would want to make sure no food outstaged him." She can't hide the bit of a laugh she's holding in, gesturing down the way. "I'm excited for whatever food adventure awaits."

Seren at first can only nod, their smile serving as an answer. The last bit of tension in their shoulders relaxes away— the soothing nature of this moment not supernaturally-influenced, but purely found in companionship.

Just like that, Everleigh's made the world right and bright again.

"Yeah," they enthuse softly. "I think I know just the place."

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