Halloween Gala, Main Room


asi4_icon.gif castle_icon.gif chess4_icon.gif elliot_icon.gif faulkner_icon.gif ace2_icon.gif kaylee6_icon.gif

lucille_icon.gif luther_icon.gif marlowe3_icon.gif nova2_icon.gif poppy_icon.gif pride_icon.gif wright_icon.gif

Scene Title Halloween Gala, Main Room
Synopsis Philosophy, art, glitz, glamour, and danger. This gala has it all.
Date October 31, 2020

Brooklyn Museum, Main Room

The main room of the Brooklyn Museum opens into a square tiled floor dotted with standing tables and roaming wait staff carrying trays of food and drinks as they pass through the crowd. A bar has been set up, backed by arches that separate the center floor from the art that surrounds the room. The din of polite chatter mixes in with the soft classical music playing through the venue, keeping the tone gentle for the evening. It's a solemn cause— supporting those hurt by galvanized bigotry— but also a celebration of life and diversity. Many of the pieces here in the main room, as the plaques by their works explain, were created by members of oppressed groups. SLC-Expressives, yes, but also people of color, women, people with a variety of disabilities, members of the LGBTQ+ community. The food and drinks available come from cultures around the world, as do the fabrics and designs worn by the staff around the building. A showcase of how beautiful all kinds of people are, how enriched we can be when we embrace them.

Those present at tonight's event are invited to admire, enjoy and bask in all the differences the world has to offer.

Fuck she could use a drink.

It's about the tenth time Lucille Ryans has had the thought as she's working this evening. It might be better to not be inebriated though, a change of pace of the last few months. Her shin-high black boots click on the polished floor and she turns her head, surveying the people as they enter and then moving to look upon the people who were already arrived. Her black blazer had thick shoulder pads (perhaps an alteration on Lucille's part), gold embroidery along the front and on the left the gold is pressed into the Wolfhound insignia.

Her hand falls over the hilt of her weapons, nothing too large. This was a dignified event and they were security, but not here to scare the actual guests.

A thin line of leg can be seen in the space between her black capris and the boots. Lucille hated that she wished something exciting would happen tonight. Something that would warrant her doing some punching.

"Cel, come on!" Poppy's voice rings out clear as she motions to her friend to join her, upon turning around, though, the young woman finds that she is alone. "Ah… well. She must have gotten nervous." Celeste was dead, but sometimes Poppy had a hard time believing it. Didn't she drive with her here? Speaking to nobody in particular and turning back towards the room planting a smile on dark purple painted lips.

Her dress was of a shimmering silver with a plunging neckline, short platinum blonde hair slicked back and the mask she wears is just as glittery as the garment adorning her body, the ends of it like two curled pointed horns.

Poppy needed a drink.

The bold red-orange hair and red-and-blue lightning bolt associated with David Bowie are hardly among the most subtle of costumes in the gala, amidst so many dressed in more somber and traditional costumes of witches, vampires, and the like. The mask is a clever thing, covering the upper part of the face, while the lightning bolt continues its jagged dash across the cheekbone of the woman wearing it — surely if she were to remove it, the rest of the makeup would still obscure her delicate features. Faithful to the look, one eye is bright blue, and the other brown.

David Bowie’s lean, angular body, however, can’t be replicated by Chess Lang, whose curves in a sparkly striped jumpsuit reveal it is in fact a woman wearing the Ziggy Stardust — or Aladdin Sane, if one wants to be nitpicky — costume. She’s glad for the mask and the knowledge she doesn’t really look like herself, for those who still confuse her with a particular terrorist she happens to look a lot like. Simply enjoying the party is the task that Monica gave her today, but she looks like she isn’t sure how to go about doing that, and she looks around for her boss and friend for another set of instructions. Or maybe a drink.

Dressed in a patterned suit with frilly shoulders and a nice collar, there’s one person who might have made a wonderful Ziggy Stardust, but alas, that is not what they had decided to wear. They were tall and angular and skinny enough for it, though, even if their hair was short and dark and the mask they were was black with sparkles and sequins and very feminine with feathers on one side. Otherwise, they’re dressed quite masculinely. Except the shoes. Which are kind of a slipper-like thing with embroidery flowers in red and black. Like something someone might have bought over at Yamagato.

It’s an odd mix, but Castle was nothing of not a little odd.

“Ziggy! Old friend,” is called out in a surprised tone that's got a bit of an Irish lilt to it as this complete stranger in a mask approaches another complete stranger dressed up as Ziggy Stardust. “I didn’t know you were going to be here. You look absolutely stunning. I love what you’re doing with your hair. And those clothes have never fit you better.” Yes, this stranger just walked right up and acted as if they completely knew them, but— well— perhaps they knew Ziggy? Castle was very comfortable interacting with someone dressed as Ziggy Stardust. And there’s definitely a slyness to that grin, too.

Stepping into the gala is a woman draped in various shades of gold, from the blonde ringlets to the shimmery gold heels that peek out occasionally with each step. Kaylee lets out a nervous breath through deep red lips.

Kaylee’s outfit softly shimmers under the lights as she turns to look one way and then another. Sheer gold fabric and embroidery flows down over silky goldenrod colored fabric at her waist and arms. Golden vines of metallic embroidered leaves and roses’ buds made of crystals follow the lines of her waist and frame sheer windows of fabric at each hip allowing a hint of skin to peek through the vines. Despite that, the whole thing manages to stay modest, even with a small train of fabric trailing behind her.

Blue eyes stand out from the dark smokey make-up behind a delicate mask of metallic gold filigree, that has a glittery crystal red rose curled along one edge of it. How it stays attached to Kaylee’s face is a mystery. (Not really, it’s latex… probably.)

To bring the whole outfit together, Kaylee’s curtain of curls done up in loose elegant ringlets held back from her face with gold leaves and a few well placed glittering crystal roses.

Even the small clutch Kaylee carries is gold with roses created with crystals. As someone passes her, she gives them a nervous smile. Why did I decide to come to this? A red rose is clutched between the fingers of her other hand as she looks for a familiar face.

Thankfully, Kaylee hasn’t seen Castle… yet.

"Don't worry," murmurs a voice that's come up by Kaylee's side. "You don't stick out any more than the rest of them do."

Asi Tetsuyama is hardly recognizable dressed as professionally as she is. Her lengthening hair is swept back into a tight bun high on the back of her head, features obscured by a thin eyemask of black lace with tiny crystals of black teardropping either side of her face. She's dressed in a black suit, white collar neatly pressed. Her leather of her dress shoes drink in the light rather than reflect it, and look as though they might even be comfortable.

She was on the clock, after all.

What gives her away most, given the hue of her eyes goes unchanging these days, is the small, subtle pin of a white and red oni's mask secured to her lapel.

"Hang in there," Asi encourages Kaylee, turning to regard her out of the corner of her eye. They soften, even if she doesn't smile. "Enjoy yourself tonight."

For her own part, Asi doubted she would be able. Between their personal tragedy and the one she'd been involved in just last week, relaxing was far from her mind. What would give her the greatest sense of peace would be to ensure the safety of the event, and so here she is, uniform and all, gun discreetly available to her at her side, beneath the length of her suit jacket.

She'd be able to relax only when it was over.

“Ziggy” turns at the sound of Castle’s voice, and she tips her head at the sight of the odd costume, unsure of what to call Castle in return. She’s also not sure if they know her, or just appreciate a good David Bowie homage. Truly, it could be either, and so Chess smiles — friendly, with a little uncertainty.

The smile likely gives her away to anyone who knows her well, even if it’s been a rare sight.

“Thank you,” she says, offering a hand to this maybe-stranger. “And what should I call you tonight?” is one way to handle the question of whether she knows them when they’re not in a costume or not. “This is quite the look. Should I recognize it? I’m not always up to date with my allusions, so you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t know who you are.”

“Alas, no, we went with the eclectic look, rather than something sourced,” Castle says with a hint of disappointment in themselves. “We had a bit of a disagreement on what to wear and ended up just throwing something together. I quite like it anyway, but— now I suddenly want to go home and change.” They wondered if Reeves would be available for a quick phone call, but well— possibly too late now.

Even with that small but of consideration, though, there’s a moment where they seem to be having an internal struggle jaw tightening and then— there’s a small nod and he takes the offered hand, bringing it up to his lips and pressing a small kiss on the fingers, “Castle. Pleasure to meet you— again, Ziggy.” To play along with the Masquerade without breaking character, it would seem. “Could I interest you in a drink?”

A beastly face observes the interaction between Castle and "Ziggy" (we're not nitpicky). From behind a black and gold painted mask of a stylized lion's face, Luther watches the pair a moment before drifting in their direction and into Chess' periphery. The mask is all he has as far as a costume goes, as the rest is a black suit and tie, pressed white shirt. There's one other pop of color on him, a gold color kerchief folded into the breast pocket. But for the moment, Luther is content to observe the interaction rather than interrupt.

There was no way Marlowe Terrell would miss an event like this. What with being one of the injured in the heinous attack, she's determined to bring her A-game to the SLC-E and diversity positivity publicity game still, injuries be damned. The Yamagato tech director arrives to the gala in a fancy black corseted top and attached ankle length skirt. The skirt's fiery orange shimmer on sheer fabric reveals partly bandage-wrapped legs moving well enough in black strappy sandals. A black metal filigree half mask is ornately worked into her hair to secure it. A high top ponytail arranged atop her head with a metal ringlet accessory flutters down in a cascade of lavender purple and cooler tone highlights down to mid shoulders as she walks… and pauses as she passes by Lucille standing guard. "Hey you, long time no see," says the woman with a twist of a genuine smile on her lips. "Good to know we've got some top rate security tonight."

There is a noticeable jump when Asi is suddenly there at Kaylee’s side, followed by an astonished wide-eyed stare of complete surprise. The blonde still wasn’t used to not knowing who’s behind her. “That obvious, huh?” she says softly to the other person, while watching the room. “I haven’t been around this many people since…” Her voice catches and eyes blink a bit too much. “It’s weird not having a headache or trying to hear over all the noise in my head.” But even though it would be a good thing for some, she sounds like she misses it.

Fingers tighten on the rose stem - good thing it is dethorned - as she tries to mask the trembling and not to jump again as someone else passes behind her close enough to feel the pressure change. “I could also find people faster,” she grouses watching people mill about, smiling to a familiar face that passes by. Possibly a rich business man she faced in business meetings when she was Raytech full time.

“Thank you, Asi,” Kaylee finally says with a weak but still appreciative smile. It was good to know she wasn’t the only of their group there. Then she spots who she was looking for and there is a small hitch of her breath. “There he is,” she says almost breathless, unaware that she sounds it.

Only to have someone clip her shoulder as they pass through the crowd. Startled, Kaylee grabs Asi’s arm in alarm. “I can’t do this,” she breathes out in a trembling voice. There is an apologetic look to Asi. “They mentioned a garden… I need air.” Grabbing the skirt of her dress, she turns for the garden entrance. Maybe she’ll get lucky and there won’t be as many people there.

Chess’ eyes widen at the name, and she smiles, glancing down at her hand before letting it drop back to her side. “Don’t feel that way,” she says quickly. “You look exactly as you should. Now I feel like I could have been more creative, rather than getting something ‘sourced.’ So we’re even, yeah?”

There’s a flash of a smile, before she nods. “I was actually just thinking I needed one. You must be a mind reader. Or I just look that desperately out of place and in need of something strong to make me forget I’m wearing what amounts to a leotard in public,” she admits, looking around and tipping her head when she sees that lion in the distance — there are only so many men with Luther’s build. She waggles her fingers in his direction.

“This is literally the first Halloween I’ve dressed up for in… nine years?” she says. “By the way — I don’t mind Ziggy, but you can call me Chess if you like. Ziggy’s fine, too. What’s the joke — just don’t call me late to dinner?”

Chess rolls her eyes, mostly at herself. Small talk isn’t her forte.

Perhaps fortunately, small talk is not something Castle has any problems with. “That always was a fun saying. I’ve heard it a few ways. One way was don’t call me late when there’s a scone about,” that part was said with more of an Irish lilt than he’d had previously, and it kind of sticks around as he continues to talk. The lion is noted, only due to the finger wagging really, but otherwise, all of his attention seems to be on the esteemed Ziggy, or Chess, or ‘not late-for-dinner.’

For a moment, Castle steps away from the young woman dressed as Ziggy Stardust, just long enough to pluck two drinks off of a passing waiter carrying a tray. With a spin, he holds them out in offer, letting her choose which one she wants of the two, even if they are pretty much identical.

“But no, not a mind reader. Thank Jesus. Could you imagine. That would be the worst. Especially in a place like this. Would just take all the fun out of everything.” No, talking is not something Castle has an issue with. “So what made you decide to choose Ziggy Stardust— Chess? If you’re already having second thoughts about wearing a leotard in public.” There’s a grin to the curve of his mouth, as he keeps watching her, eyes looking green in the light of the main room.

A pair of art lovers walk arm in arm around the perimeter of the main room, taking in the works displayed beyond the archways with no small amount of appreciation. She's clothed in what happens when Hollywood gets its hands on Victorian dressing gowns a long chemise with a slit up one side that exposes enough leg to show the top of her thigh-high stockings and some skin above that even when she angles just so. Worn over that is a tightly-cinched overbust corset, and a long robe with bell sleeves and a length that will billow impressively in her wake if she walked at a brisk enough pace. The whole thing is made of semi-sheer lace (save for the corset), layered over those stockings, and a strapless dance leotard.

The entire ensemble is white, while the mask on her face is a Venetian inspired thing of ornate antique gold edging and embellishments, a shade of brown over her eyes and sweeping down the bridge of her nose that's rich like blood, and ivory printed with musical notes scattered over the G clef. The piece looks as though it was fashioned from shattered and mended porcelain. Her blonde hair has been gathered into an artfully messy twist just above the nape of her neck. A circlet of dog roses, white and the faintest shade of blush, sits atop her head.

The costume may not be readily identified as something other than someone who has been waiting for just this party, until taken in with the context of the taller man at her side. With that piece of the puzzle added, she is clearly the Christine Daaé to his half-masked Phantom. While that gives away the identity of the costume, it's the walking stick with the crystal ball set in its pommel that gives away the identity of the wearer. Ourania Pride tilts her head up to regard her date, lashes heavily laden with mascara and smoky, purple-tinged charcoal grey shadow dusted on her lids. “Darling, I'm parched. Do you think we could find some champagne and a table?” she asks sweetly.

The left glass is taken with the right hand and “Ziggy” chuckles at his commentary on mind reading. “Sometimes I think it would be good, since I’m not particularly great at reading people,” she says, “but mostly it’s not something I would want to be able to do. And I’m not sure I want to know what everyone thinks of me, to be honest.”

Castle’s next question takes more time to answer, and she looks out at the milling people in their costumes and masks. Finally she lifts a shoulder in a shrug, looking back at him with her two-toned eyes. “I think because he symbolizes pretty much everything I’m not, to be honest,” she says quietly, and it is an honest answer, easier to give maybe because they’re both wearing masks.

After a sip from the glass, she adds, “And I just really like David Bowie.” She smiles. “He had to be expressive. Yes or hell yes?”

With a tilt of his head, Castle ponders the possibility of David Bowie being Expressive. Likely it wasn’t something that he’d thought too much about, but, now that it’s been said— “Oh definitely. I’m sure there were loads of us in the past that no one knew about.” Well, perhaps someone knew, with certain things known in the world’s history, but the blatant use of us is perhaps a hint that he includes at least himself in that us. Even if not knowing whether she was also included in that.

Or maybe he does know. Who knows! With a sip from the remaining glass, he continues to watch her, too much of his attention focused entirely in her direction.

“It’s good to reach inside for things that you’re not, though. Those pieces of others that you admire that you don’t have, but sometimes wish you could. Even if just for tonight, you get to be an androgynous alien rock superstar. And you look out of this world.” It’s said with a soft tink of glass against hers, still giving her a soft grin under that mask.

At Ourania's side, her Phantom leads her with a raised hand clapping her own. Harry Stoltz turns to regard her with a small smile, one that shines most brightly in the dark of his eyes. The white of his mask is a less perfect one than her dress, angular in its press against his face. The vest he wears is a rich shade of copper that sings of the accents she wears in her mask, worn with a bloodred ascot tie tucked into it, and a black overcoat that drinks in the light. His hands are likewise gloved in black, as is the rest of him.

He finds it all dramatic to the point of garish, and it fills such a need in him.

"I'll see what I can find," he tells his 'angel of music' lightly before adding, "Prepare yourself— it looks like the only seating in sight is meant for wallflowers." It might mean the both of them need to engage in some pacing for the evening. Harry doesn't intend to leave early— not when so much effort was put into their look.

Ourania frowns at that, glancing around to confirm for herself that there aren’t any seats at any of the tables scattered around the room. “Well… That’s inconvenient for me, I suppose.” Her smile is tight. At least with the rather visible mobility aid, she isn’t likely to have too much trouble securing one of those seats later when she needs it. Her expression softens as she turns her attention back to Harry. “I wore my comfortable shoes.” A pair of white sateen ballet flats. “But I promise I will rest when I need to. Don’t let me hold you back.” He’s still recognizable without her, after all. He can go see and be seen without her on his arm, as much as she’d like to stick to him like glue.

“And besides, once I have a couple of glasses of champagne in me, pain is something that exists outside of me.” That’s not entirely accurate, but she surely cares less about those aches and pains once she’s imbibed a little alcohol. A quiet sigh leaves Ourania as she smiles fondly while they begin to make their way past the archways that have separated them from the rest of the main hall. “Have I told you yet tonight how incredibly dashing you look?”

Once they’ve rounded one of those barriers, something shiny catches Ourania’s eye. She gasps sharply and looks suddenly dismayed. “Oh,” she breathes out, dejected, “I knew I should have worn sequins.” The blonde pouts as she sizes up Ziggy and her conversation partner. “They outshine me.” Glancing at Harry from the corner of her eye, she suggests, “Let’s go over there and find out how much I should hate them.” She doesn’t wait for his response before steering them both in that direction. Champagne will likely come to them eventually.

The compliment draws a short breathy laugh from “Ziggy,” and she glances down at her glass, before lifting it. “Slainte,” she says, before adding, “is that right?” She takes a sip of the effervescent liquid, before returning to the conversation.

“I’ve recently learned Jean-Paul Sartre was expressive. Not that he was one, but I wonder how many people we think were prodigies were — Beethoven, Mozart. Or geniuses in general, if they had some sort of ability that helped them do the things they did. Mine’s not mental, not by a long shot, so no extra boost to get into Mensa for me, I guess,” she says, a small shake of her head as if she’s disappointed.

She tips her head to consider Castle for a moment. “If I were trying to be psychological about your costume, not that I’m at all equipped for analyzing anyone, I’d say you might be more comfortable with who you actually are and didn’t need to reach for something you’re not, which,” she returns the clink of her glass against his, “is also commendable, and I’m probably jealous. Especially of the shoes. They look way more comfortable than mine.”

Her boots are high heeled and sequinned, but definitely not as comfortable as Castle’s, or the approaching Christine Daaé’s. When Chess looks up, she sees Broadway’s famous couple heading their way and she smiles, giving them a nod. “I never got to see that, but very iconic,” she offers.

With an amused laugh, Castle looks down at himself and his outfit almost as if seeing it for the first time really— obviously it’s not the first time, cause he put the damn thing on, but, “I’m more uncomfortable in a suit and a tie than something like this,” he admits, still smiling at her. But he backs up enough to raise up his leg a little, pointing his foot like someone might in ballet to show off the embroidered shoe with the hard bottom and slight heel. “It is pretty comfortable. I have another outfit that goes better with it, but this matches the mask better.” The sequins matched the dark red, the feathers matched the black. It had been a thing.

Even if it still was eclectic. He didn’t mind talking about himself a little, he had complimented her outfit plenty.

He still kept his attention and eyes on her, until her eyes drifted elsewhere, then he followed, looking toward the Phantom and the Opera Singer. They had all been wearing masks before, but now they were wearing them literally, and at first, Ourania doesn’t immediately recognize the empathic sensations coming off of this man. Because they’re not quite the same as they had been before. It’s as if a good portion of what they had been at the bar those weeks ago was— not quite there. Absent. Asleep.

Previously they had felt like they, a contradiction and blending, rather than a singularity. Now he felt like a him.

“This last year they’ve brought back the aquarium, an amusement park and the museum now— I wonder if an off-broadway is next?” he suddenly muses, at the mention of not having seen that. “I heard there was a dinner theater boat at least, but I haven’t been there yet. I don’t know if they’d do Phantom of the Opera, but I’ve always been more of a Shakespeare person, myself.”

The ego-boosting gesture from Ourania elicits exactly the desired response from Harry as he turns her direction with his head lifted just a touch higher, his posture a grade bolder. Like a bird, proud after it preens.

The bolster is such that there's no argument against the spotlight being removed from him, or even her assumption that someone is dressed better than she is. He simply knows that's not true.

And yet his interest rises all the more at seeing just who it is that's flashy across the room. His brow lifts, and he steps forward first to lead them in the direction of Ziggy, and … just whatever or whoever it is Castle's playing at tonight anyway.

"They say all the world's a stage, dear Castle, but I do hear that there's an active scene just off campus in Sheepshead Bay. A few community theatres striving to be something more." The Phantom tilts his head as he rather demurely suggests, "Perhaps they're just waiting for the right talent to grace their stage."

The mask hides the mild look of surprise from Ourania when Harry recognizes the curly-haired gentleman on their approach before she does. A quick sweep up and down pieces it together and she determines, after he speaks, that yes, that is him.


She’s quite confused, actually. With this many people in the room, her emotional scan is kept short-lived, shut down once she determines there’s no overt threat to either herself or her beau, sagging slightly against Harry’s arm, but only briefly. Ourania’s recovery is a swift one and she turns a broad smile to Ziggy. “I absolutely adore your costume. I just had to come over and tell you.”

Then she’s back to studying that ruffled suit. “I’m getting the impression that your sense of fashion is always delightfully eclectic, Castle,” Ourania compliments. Her attention shifts back to Harry, smile almost a little dreamy as she considers what he says. “Do you know, I’ve never seen a play performed? I do wonder what Broadway must have been like.”

To Castle’s talk of being comfortable, Chess huffs out her short monosyllable laugh and shakes her head. “Well, glad one of us is comfortable at the moment. I’m more of a jeans and leather jacket type, but I’m trying to broaden my horizons a bit, and not just dress the way I did for the past nine years.”

Her duotone eyes behind the mask soften at the mention of Shakespeare and she looks away for a moment, a moment of silence for her lost book, as well as all the memories of reading the book throughout the years of the war. “I’ve never seen a Shakespeare play performed, just the movies. I would love to someday.”

Her lips beneath the smile curve at Ourania’s compliment. “Thank you. Yours is lovely, and probably more comfortable so I’m sort of jealous. Wanna trade?” Harry is included in the smile, and then she gestures to the three of them with a sweep of her champagne glass. “Do you all know each other?”

Green eyes watch as the two get closer and enter into the conversation flawlessly, head tilting to the side as Castle makes notes of the location that he should look into in the future, to see what kind of performances they might be putting on. Especially since Ziggy, sadly, has never seen Shakespeare performed on stage. That’s something that surely even a small up and coming community theater district would attempt. “I never saw a play on Broadway either, but there’s just as good of performances off, really.” His accent is more consistent now, just like that sensation of self is.

Almost as if whatever made him eclectic was just a little more stable for the moment, for some reason or another.

“I wouldn’t say know,” he answers Chess’ inquiry. “But we’ve met before. I guess my mask isn’t really a very good disguise.” But then he really wasn’t trying that hard to disguise himself, really, he’d been wearing a heavier mask when he’d gone and seen them than when this, really, all clean shaven and with his curls tamed. “You and your singer look lovely, Sir Harry,” he adds, to Harry specifically for a moment, before looking back toward Chess, going back to something she’d said earlier, “It’s fine to broaden your horizons, but don’t try so hard to change who you are. It’s fine for tonight, that’s what Halloween is for, but if you’re more comfortable in leather and jeans, then I’m sure you look fabulous in that too.”

Harry's smooth, pleasant demeanor flickers with a note of shock as he blinks and turns back to Ourania like he's seeing her for the first time at the realization she's never seen a play performed. "Well," he says mildly, an understatement for the light that plays out in his eyes. "Pack your bags. It's time to watch someone else grace the stage, don't you think?" It's clearly a crime that it's not happened yet, at least.

He squeezes her arm in his before turning back to the conversation at large.

The Phantom seems considerably less charmed at the topic of drab fashion, putting on a polite air that's a little obvious given his prior, genuine enthusiasm. It swings a little more enthusiastic as he leans into a purr of, "Oh, you must go see a proper production. There's nothing like it."

When Castle notes him, specifically, and avoids addressing Ourania directly, Harry lifts his head slightly in acknowledgement. He's pleased, of course, but there's the omission.

He notes it.

"It sounds as though you could use the excuse to dress well again, to me," he says with a sudden swivel of his head back to Chess. "You pull it off so well, after all. Clearly you just require the occasion to rise to." A faint smile pulls his lips back. "My name's Harry. This is Ourania. I feel obliged to fix this problem we all mutually have … you'd not be opposed a theatre night in the future, would you?"

With his free hand, he produces a card from within his cape. Because of course he does. It's offered out to Chess. "It'd be a pleasure."

Ourania similarly blinks with her own surprise at Harry’s response to her admission. She clearly hadn’t expected him to react quite so strongly — even if it is still subdued for him — and seems a little stunned for a moment. Then a broad grin breaks out across her face that lights up her eyes in a way he hasn’t seen since he told her they’d be attending this party together. He doesn’t seem upset with her for this bit of culture she lacks, and wants to rectify the situation on top of that. She refrains from asking if he really means it, if only because she’s assured by the squeeze. She’d layer her hand over his to acknowledge it, but her cane rather gets in the way of that. He’ll have to settle for her shoulder nudging against his lightly.

There’s a slight dimming of her light as she too notes that she’s been glossed over by Castle, but it doesn’t entirely dampen her spirit. She turns her attention to Chess and leans in just a little as she does so. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you should wear whatever brings you happiness. If a burlap sack makes you happy, you’re going to glow.” Ourania gives Chess another quick once-over and smiles with a renewed twinkle to her eye. “I bet you look smashing in denim and leather.” Clearly her opinion on what drab means differs from Harry’s. “I do enjoy the sparkle, though. It suits you.”

The smile fades slightly as she watches Harry procure one of his business cards, passing it to Chess and inviting the others out for a night of the arts. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she demures, glancing to the other gentleman in their little knot. “And to see you again, Castle.”

The directive to not change who you are draws Chess’ two-tone eyes up to Castle’s and the uncertain smile gets pressed into a straight line, her eyes dropping as she huffs a small laugh out. One shoulder lifts.

“That might be a little of the point these days, but I’ll keep that in mind,” she murmurs, turning her attention back to the other two. “It hasn’t exactly been easy to get to theaters for a bit, depending where you’ve been living, but it’s good to know that it’s growing again,” she adds, taking the card when Harry produces it, and glancing down at her streamlined spacesuit for a place to put it.

“Will you hold this?” she asks Castle, handing him the champagne flute, so she can tuck the peel back the case of her iPhone, tucking the card behind the device. “I used to carry a huge bag with me wherever I went. Sometimes I miss it, but traveling light has some perks,” she adds.

The trio’s compliments, Ourania’s echoing the others, seem overhwelm her a little, and she looks away, though the mask hides the flush that comes over her cheeks. “Thanks. Everyone looks wonderful… I literally haven’t dressed in a costume since 2011, unless you count the odd disguise.” Like the black wig she had worn at Eve’s festival — a night she doesn’t want to think about at the moment.

“I’m Chess,” she remembers to say, at last, offering her hand to the pair in front of her.

For a moment, Castle watches Ourania and her date with a tilt of his masked head, watching them together as he stands there with his champagne flute held between two fingers, and Chess’s held between two other fingers— all deftly on his left hand. He’s barely even paying attention to it with just his pinky finger sticking out, while still keeping one hand free in case he needs it.

“Those trousers don’t really have much room for things like pockets,” he gives a small jest as he looks back at Chess, having to juggle her phone and the card around now. That was the downside of form fitting clothing, oftentimes, no room for storage. “Likewise, Ourania, you look marvelous. I’m sure you and Sir Harry will have a wonderful night. There’s some interesting pieces up for auction. I bet you could find something that would look wonderful in the Rossignol, and it will be going toward a good cause.”

Everyone knew about the tragedy of Xpress Yourself. Even if not everyone knew exactly what had happened there. “Lady Stardust,” he suddenly adds to Chess, referring to her costume once again, “Would you mind if we find someplace to sit? I’d love to keep talking to you, but my feet could use some rest.”

Well, and that's that, it'd seem. Harry is in no hurry to find the corner so soon. To Chess he remarks, "Drop me a line and we'll arrange a night sometime soon." But it's clear that for now, he's more than content to part ways. Later mutual enjoyment of performance art is later. There was a different type of partaking of the fine arts happening tonight.

"Why don't we take a stroll," he suggests to Ourania as he turns them away and toward the exhibit hall. "See just what else there is to see in this lovely museum…?"

Ourania shifts her cane to tuck under her arm so she can take Chess’ hand briefly. “What a lovely name,” she remarks softly, then shifts her gaze to offer a small smile in return for the compliment paid to her. “Thank you, Castle. I hope you both enjoy the party. Hopefully we’ll cross paths again soon.”

Once both parties have turned away from one another, the good cheer falls immediately from Ourania’s face. Reclaiming her cane properly, she plants it against the floor with more force than is strictly necessary. After a deep breath that she might as well be saying is meant to cleanse her of her negative energy, she makes sure the face she shows to her partner is a pleasant one. “That sounds lovely. Lead the way.”

“My parents didn’t think so,” Chess says with a wry smile to Ourania, given she took one syllable of the three they gave her to go by. “It was nice meeting you both.”

When she turns back to Castle, she reaches for the glass he’s babysitting. “Thanks. Lead the way?” Her feet glance down to his comfortable shoes, and she makes a soft noise. “Right, your poor feet. You were barefoot the other day,” she murmurs as she follows Castle to whatever table he’s aiming for.

“I should say thank you for that, more properly. I’d be-” she shakes her head, looking away a moment. A small shiver runs through her visibly, and she clears her throat. “Thank you.”

Two tall people stand before a painting on the room’s outer wall, both dressed in immaculate black, tailored suits. The taller, right arm in a discrete black sling, wears the Mask of Comedy, while its partner Tragedy leers from the back of his head. The shorter of the two is masked in the upper portion of a short-horned bull’s skull, eye sockets cut to extend from the sides to the center. She wears a metal pendant of two interwoven serpents over a paisley tie of bright greens matching a crown of ivy extending from her mask, ringing her wave of short blonde hair.

“This one’s not bad, should I steal it for my living room?” Elliot asks, giving a not serious shake of his head to a server bearing two brightly colored drinks as Wright chuckles. Elliot lifts a glass and breathes in the scents of the exotic beverage, prepared free of alcohol at his request. He takes a sip through Comedy's wide grin and lets it linger on his palate, briefly feeling Wright’s pull on his senses to taste it herself followed by her pull on his memories of flavors to identify the ingredients. She picks up the other glass with a warm hum and a smile to the server. Elliot says, “Exquisite, thank you kindly for the trouble.”

The pain in his arm is fading slowly, and Wright’s expeditions into his sensation are becoming more regular, though each is brief. Dull pain and painkillers alike wash from Elliot along the link, lapping against Wright in a way that makes her feel simultaneously exhausted and rested. Sharing despite those feelings makes her feel simultaneously home. “Ehh,” Wright responds to the joke with an unimpressed shrug, “More of a guest bathroom kind of stolen painting.”

“What, you— oh.” Castle seems taken aback as Chess first comments on his bare feet from the other day and then thanks him. There’s definitely a surprised look under the mask for a moment, as if he certainly wasn’t expecting that at all. Sure, those who had been at the event had been able to see it up close, and even if he doubted most anyone understood what happened— they would still remember it. “You were at the park.” There had been so many people there, it had been hard for him to keep track of everyone that they had helped, and even if he could have remembered the faces of everyone that they had saved…

He wishes he would have remembered hers. “Yeah, my feet are still sore after that. I really regretted not at least wearing sandals when suddenly I was running around on exploded nails and pieces of glass.” He had gone into it expecting to maybe have cold toes and some sand between them, but things had taken an unfortunate turn. “You don’t have to—” he starts, perhaps planning to dismiss her thanks, when suddenly he winces a little, as if someone might have smacked him in the back of the head, preverbally. And instead he chooses to say, “I’m glad you’re okay.”

With a gesture, he leads the way toward the edge of the hall, where there’s a few sets of benches that are unattended, where they can talk in some relative privacy for a time.

Chess lets out a soft breath that’s much like her laugh, but this one holds no real humor in it. “I was. In a long series of unfortunate decisions I’ve made recently.” Her eyes drift over to where Luther stands, and she offers him a small smile across the way, to let him know she’s fine.

She drops onto the bench, setting the half-full glass beside her. “Okay is probably a strong word, to be honest,” she admits. “It’s a weird thing to have something like that happen and then un-happen. But I’m glad it did.”

Her gaze drops down to the floor for a moment, before coming back up. “Un-happen. That you were there.”

Wright pulls on Lucille's attention to say, “Hey Basilisk, what do you think? Dahaka says we should steal this painting for his living room. I said steal it for a guest bathroom, maybe, but now I’m thinking it should be stolen but then banished to the garage like a Sublime poster some guy had in his college dorm room that the wife won’t let him hang in the house anymore.” When she takes a sip of her drink the fruit concoction is carried, sweet and somewhat bitter, across the link with other sensations.

“Rude,” Elliot says, moving toward the next display. “This one I like. I would definitely steal this for the wall opposite the kitchen range. These colors really pop.” Wright laughs shortly and derisively.

“Only someone with a sneaker collection as abominable as yours would think that,” she says, “But otherwise I do like this on a ‘stolen to accent the recliner in the reading nook’ level.” Elliot hums in agreement before shaking his head, Not serious, to another passing server.

A shoulder bumps Castle and Poppy stumbles forward into Chess with a startled shriek, "I'm- Chess hi." The bartender of Cat's Cradle lifts her long arms and drape them over Chess body, interrupting the greetings and the young woman sniffs. "Sorry I… I had the strangest daydream as I was walking in… I haven't been in the right frame of mind I guess," She finishes that sentence weakly and hangs her head.

A moment passes and she lifts her head to stare back at Chess, she hero worshipped BOOM a bit. "Have you heard from Eve?"

"Much too dignified for him. We'll give my little sister a large canvas be have her paint him something." To call Avi childish at times would be like calling water wet. Lucille grins and looks away, nudging Marlowe with a wink. "I wish I could be having about four of those right now."

From where Asi remains on the edge of the party, more than content to seemingly be alone, she speaks evenly her reply across the network. "You know, I wasn't expecting the sudden outpouring of kleptomaniac tendencies all while we're supposed to be guarding this event… How do I put this?"

"Weird flex, kids," Asi murmurs deadpan, though her eyes hide her amusement. "Or do you just really hate art that much?"

“It probably is strange, to experience something that happened, but didn’t,” Castle admits with a nod, understanding it, even if the ability didn’t work the same for him as it did for others. He still had to watch everything change back around him, and sometimes that was a good thing, but maybe sometimes it wasn’t good. What if some of the triages that had been undone hadn’t happened fast enough the second time, and the person actually died because of that? It was always a risk, but—

At least he had stopped that final round of explosions from having a full impact. That was what mattered really. Or at least that’s what they thought.

At the sudden appearance of Poppy, they blink with sudden surprise, pulled out of the moment and back into the location, the area, the main hall once again. “I’m sure she’s fine,” they respond cryptically at the question about Eve, perhaps a little too knowingly. Their accent seemed slightly different too, a little softer, less lilted, more “American”.

“Not the first time,” Chess says softly, glancing down, then looking up again when Castle seems pulled away into his own memories of the night in Cheesequake, wrestling with his own demons she can’t see.

She knows that look in his eyes, though, even shadowed and obscured by the mask he wears, because she has seen that same look in the mirror.

“Hey,” she says suddenly, reaching to touch their forearm, but it’s then that Poppy knocks into them. “Girlll,” Chess says playfully, turning to hug the bartender in her Dragon Age costume. Not that Chess has any clue who she’s supposed to be. Still, she knows the voice and demeanor well enough.

“Not yet,” she says, glancing at Castle — she knows Eve went with them and the other agents. They’d know more than she does. “But I’m sure they’ll sort it all out, yeah? They didn’t keep me after Detroit after all,” she adds in a wry tone. “I’ll testify on her behalf if I have to, that Eve wasn’t there.”

Castle earns another cant of her head — Chess wouldn’t be able to put her finger on exactly what’s changed in that moment, but that something has.

“I like art,” Elliot says, pulling Asi’s native Japanese across the link, “セーラームーン見たことがあるよ1。” There’s a heavy American accent to the words. While the language exists as shareable data, Elliot possesses none of the muscle memory which comes from long practice using phonemes not used in English. Most of it is covered by a giggle he has difficulty suppressing as he borrows her words to set up his joke.

Asi brings her arm up, covering her mouth with the inside of her wrist as she nearly chokes on the drink of water she was taking from a bottle she's carrying with her. "何だと2?" she berates Elliot in a quiet, reproachful scoff. "アニメは美術館の事ではない3。"

He's done it now, apparently.

And she'll get back to it once she's done coughing.

“And in all fairness, I’m not guarding this place today, all of you are. I am in fact a guest of honor and honestly I’m feeling really attacked right now.” Sarcastic affrontedness radiates through the link as he tries to cross his left arm around his right in the sling. “Ow.”

“I’ma stuff you in that vase you baby,” Wright says, jerking her head in the direction of a vase too large to be useful for a house plant. Elliot turns to examine it, then himself, sizing up if it would be possible. He shakes his head not serious; Wright nods, I can make it work.

"I sure in the fuck hope so…" Poppy sighs and hugs Chess again tight before backing up and eyeing Castle.

"What would you know of it?" She doesn't mean to be rude but she just witnessed the last person she knew from growing up die and this random person was talking like they knew Eve. Which isn't to say much seeing as how popular Eve or infamous around here. Instead of issuing an apology get just frowns and sips her drink.

“I don’t think you’ll have to,” Castle responds after a quiet moment, but there’s definitely something cryptic and deceptive about their tone of voice that hadn’t been there when he had been talking to just Chess. It had been there a little once others had arrived, but— even then it wasn’t quite like this. They still seemed different. Even the way they sat seemed slightly different, the way they held their drink, the way they looked back at Chess. They weren’t quite as focused as he had been before.

However, that returns within a blink, and it’s almost as if his face softens and relaxes again, eyes catching the light in the main hall to be a little greener under that sparkly feathered rimmed mask. “Oh I don’t know much about a lot of things, really. I’m just hoping I can get Lady Stardust’s number before the night is finished.” That part is punctuated with a grin— and that Irish lilt is back again, the posture becoming more relaxed once more.

“God, I hope not,” is Chess’ answer regarding testifying. “Somehow I’ve lucked out and haven’t had to do anything too public like that yet, but…” But, she has shitty luck and she expects it to run out at some point.

She watches that different demeanor for a moment before Castle slides back into the posture and accent they had been using a moment before. Her eyes stay on the little of their face she can see for a moment, then drop at that little flirtation, fingers finding the stem of her glass once again. What little of her face can be seen seems to be a little rosier.

“There’s a lot of it left,” she murmurs before taking a sip of champagne — an attempt at banter — but she looks back up at Poppy, then at Castle.

“Castle was there that night, helping,” she says softly, catching the other woman’s hand and giving it a tight squeeze. “Things would’ve been a lot worse if he wasn’t.”

That understatement is also a resounding endorsement for the stranger, given how skeptical Chess can be.

To Castle, she adds, “You may have to give me yours, too. I have a habit of blowing up my own cell phones so sometimes I miss calls.”

“Thanks for the heads up on the exploding phones,” Castle responds with a grin, shifting to the side enough to reach into his pocket and pull out a small flip wallet. “One of my colleagues kept pulling out these cards of his and I got jealous, so I made my own.” What is pulled out is a small printed card that doesn't look very professional really. It has the drawing of a castle on it instead of a name, in multiple colors to abuse the printer ink, and a phone number.

No names, no titles, no agency listed, just the little drawing of a colorful castle and a number, but since she knew the name he’d given that should possibly be enough as he holds it out, between the tips of two fingers. “I don’t mind being the one to give my number first, you are right, there is a lot of night left, but the way things have been, anything could happen. And you know what they say about once-in-a-lifetime encounters.” That is punctuated with another of his grins.

Chess reaches out to take the card, glancing down at it, then smiles. “Well. I’ll definitely remember who it’s from,” she says, before peeling her phone case back to add it to Harry’s there. It’s a strange night for the woman who spent four years as a wandering hermit, followed by a year in hiding, and another year in Praxia.

She glances over to Poppy, eyes a little wide, as if to say ‘what even is my life right now?’

“What do they say about once-in-a-lifetime encounters? That they happen,” she pauses, looking back at Castle, brow lifting visibly behind her mask, “once in a lifetime?”

“Actually I do like that vase,” Elliot says, “So if you do end up stuffing me inside it, take it back to my place for me.” Wright huffs out a laugh before returning to her circuit of the room.

Elliot wanders off on his own, though keeps Wright’s senses tapped, experiencing everything she feels simultaneously to his own sensation. Not overlapped, thankfully, the two perspectives are kept separate in the same way his own vision and hearing are distinct for each other.

The anxiety of the catastrophic separation from Wright during the festival still hits him with occasional flutters of anxiety. Sharing provides a constant background reminder that she’s not far away. He floats around the outskirts of the room for a while, occasionally savoring his drink but not injecting himself into any ongoing conversations.

“Okay, this one’s actually very good,” Wright says of a painting on the opposite side of the room. It makes her feel hopeful, and Elliot returns the emotion.

“Yeah, kind of,” Castle says with a grin as she makes the once in a lifetime punchline, and he shifts his hand to lightly brush fingers against her hand. “There’s a saying, an old family friend taught me when I was younger. Ichi-go ichi-e. One time, one meeting. It essentially means that every single moment and every single meeting between two people, even if you meet them again, is unique and will never be repeated and needs to be treasured and cherished. There’s a bit of Zen Buddhism to it, too, with everything in life being transient. I tend to live by that. And I bet Bowie did too, in his own way.”

Going back to the conversation that had brought him to engage Lady Stardust in the first place.

“I died once,” he says quietly, as he looks off into the main hall, watching the people milling about, discussing the artwork and other things. “Not the same, really, I know, but afterwards I saw things differently. Everything just looked different, after. For a lot of reasons.” There’s a small laugh, and he looks back at her then, “So, Lady Stardust— now that you’ve gotten a second shot at life, is there anything that you haven’t done that you’d like to do? Besides Shakespeare.”

Chess glances down at their hands, then back up at Castle, smile a little uncertain. “It’s a lovely thought when it comes to the good moments,” she says quietly. “I believe it. Even… well. The couple of moments I have relived were different, in their way.”

Her eyes grow sadder when they speak of dying, too. “I’m sorry,” she says quietly, but doesn’t say more or pry into the hows or whys of that event. They are strangers to one another, after all, despite the serious nature of their discussion.

“Have you read Kierkegaard?” Is probably not something Castle’s been asked before while chatting up a girl.

“There’s a quote by him you might like — his discussion on time is a bit confusing but I always liked this one,” Chess says, turning her phone to type a few words into the glass, before she finds the quotation she’s looking for. She reads it quietly to herself first, then looks up to read it to him:

“The moment is not properly an atom of time but an atom of eternity. It is the first reflection of eternity in time, its first attempt, as it were, at stopping time,” she reads aloud, then shakes her head. “I don’t quite get most of what he says, and I can’t really even explain what he means here, but it feels…” she shrugs. “True, I guess.”

That leaves the question to be answered, and Chess shakes her head. “I guess try to start living and not just surviving one crisis after the next.” It’s an echo of what she and Lene had talked about in Praxia. “Smile more. Hurt less.”

With Wright having chastised Elliot already, once Asi set aside her water, she went back to sweeping the room. A check of the exits provided nothing, and her review of the room leaves her gaze wandering back to familiar faces within it. At this point, she sees that Chess has been engaged in conversation with the same person for a long time now.

It's now that she comes up by her friend's elbow, hands clasped loosely behind her back, fingers of one looped around the wrist of the other. "Good words to live by," she encourages Chess, lips thinning into a line rather than a proper smile when she's looked at. It doesn't reflect in her eyes either as she looks to the woman at her side. She okay here? Or would Asi's appearance be a needed handhold out of the conversation, potentially?

Asi looks to Castle next, her taking in of his appearance cursory. She doesn't immediately recognize him from the other night, not in such different garb and such different light.

As he listens, Castle presses a hand against his chest and has to watch her through his mask with a sense of surprise. There’s definitely surprise there in those eyes that seem to change color depending on how the light hits them. The shadows of the mask make them a darker amber for the moment, as he lilts in the same soft Irish accent, “David Bowie, Shakespeare and now philosophy— you’re a woman after my own heart. Careful, I might just fall in love with you before the night finishes.” Thankfully, it’s said with a jesting tone of voice, a quirk of a grin as he regards her, before he looks past to the newcomer—

Who doesn’t recognize him, but, well— with a small tilt of his head, he might just recognize her. “A friend of yours, Miss Stardust?” he asks, face still mostly covered by the mask, as he takes a moment to sip on the champagne that he had been ignoring for a while once again as he— well— flirted. Cause that’s what he’s been doing.

He may not be dressed as one of the security officers, but Asi, at least, is probably observant enough to notice a small radio situated in one of his ears as if he could be called on at any moment. It’s almost invisible, really, mostly hidden by the black feathers on that side of his mask.

After glancing away at that jest, Chess huffs a small breathy laugh before looking back to Castle. The small amount of her face below her lightning bolt mask flush a little but she bats away the compliment.

“Don’t be that impressed. I don’t understand most of it. I just read a lot of it,” she says wryly. She startles slightly when Asi steps closer and touches her wrist. Chess looks up, mismatched eyes sweeping what she can see of Asi’s face. That along with the voice are enough for her to know it’s her friend, and that fleeting look of surprise shifts into one of recognition, capped by a smile.

“Asi, hey,” she says warmly, then turns back to Castle. “One of the best, but I don’t have that many, so don’t be too impressed there, either,” she tells them with a small smirk back up at Asi to let her know the qualifier is a teasing one.

One hand gestures from Castle to Asi and back again. “Castle, Asi. Castle was at Cheesequake.” She doesn’t quite fill in what Castle did there, either because she expects Asi to already know or out of discretion, it’s hard to say.

Recognition flickers in Asi's eyes now. "Ah, so it was you," she acknowledges of them. There were mixed feelings regarding Eve's absence after a run-in with the non-SESA agents who had been on-site, but they're also the reason many are alive. Including her.

From what she can see of the conversation, it doesn't sound like Chess is being held hostage in it, at least. She remarks to Castle, "No one anticipated Pure Earth would go that far. Perhaps we should have. But thanks to you, some of that damage is able to be come back from." Asi doesn't have a drink to lift, so she gives a deep nod of her head in appreciation.

"On-duty again this evening?" she asks in a deadpan, noticing the shape in his ear even through the feathers. She wears one too, but the earpiece on her isn't hard to spot. The black-lace mask with its tiny teardrops on her cheek sport no additional frill. "I have to say, working security at an event you've shown up at doesn't give me great feelings about how the night is going to go."

She's joking. But she's also not.

"I suppose you're just on stand-by in case of a repeat," Asi remarks, attempting to curve back abrasiveness with a softening of her tone. She doesn't look away, though. Does he know something about tonight the Wolfhounds should also?

“I don’t believe you’re ever supposed to really understand philosophy. It’s supposed to make you think and form your own ideas based on it. Or that’s what I believe, anyway,” Castle says with a smile, not planning to let Chess dismiss her interest in the subject that much, because, well— that she reads it is impressive enough to him, it would seem. As he looks back over at Asi, there’s that subtle shift again, as if something changes in his demeanor, like the mask coming back down that hadn’t been there before.

They shake their head a little, touching the radio at their ear, “It’s just in case,” they assure. But as they talk their accent is shifting again, less light and carefree, deeper. “So I have a warning if something does start. It’s also the easiest way to get them to let me go to these things. I do love a party.” And apparently they’re off duty enough that they can at least sip on some alcohol, even if it’s as weak as this champagne and spend the night flirting— but they were still there— just in case. “And terror attacks have been ramping up quite a bit, unfortunately. Election tensions, new Expressives, the events of Detroit— it’s just bound to happen, really. Any high profile target is always a potential risk.”

“It is nice to meet you— Asi.” There’s something about how that is said, like they wanted to call her something else entirely. Or add an honorific, or something else, but then— his eyes shift back to Chess once again, “But,” his voice has returned to those carefree sounds again, “since everything seems to be quiet for now, I’ve been enjoying Lady Stardust’s company. There’s going to be some books I’ll have to recommend later, if I can find any you haven’t read yet.”

“That’s a little less pressure than Socrates’ view of it, so I’ll take that,” Chess murmurs to Castle’s interpretation of philosophy and its purposes, but she quiets to let the Wolfhound agent give her thanks and talk “shop” with the DOE agent, her mismatched eyes moving from one to the other as they speak.

At the mention of Detroit, she looks away, one gold-painted thumbnail finding the other to scratch at for a moment. But when Castle pulls her back to the conversation, one corner of her mouth turns back up into a crooked smile. “I don’t know. I read a lot of books last year. It’s amazing what having nothing to do in what amounts to a foreign country while waiting around not to be told anything for seven months does for your reading time,” she says wryly.

That’s probably TMI. She takes a long drink of the champagne, before adding, “But I’m open to recommendations.”

Asi doesn't seem entirely sold on Castle's argument regarding his work-readiness, but neither does she argue with them. She lets her look linger when he hesitates before addressing her by name, but then she moves on.

She doesn't have all evening to spend here, and if Chess is fine, well…

"I'm going to go before I get jealous of all this drinking I can't participate in," she asides to Chess in a dry humor, looking off across the room. "You two enjoy yourselves."

If Chess is opening up about her experiences, far be it from Asi to stop her. Hopefully, it's only to worthy parties who won't use the information against her, but she's not about to insert her opinion. She simply flashes a small smile before breaking off from the conversation to find somewhere else to watch the floor from.

“And that’s one reason why I’m glad I am not officially on duty tonight,” Castle says, raising the glass in Asi’s direction, because, well, she isn’t technically allowed to drink and they can enjoy the moment, thankfully. But it’s not something that really made the night, though. The conversation seemed to have his attention far more than the drink, even if it was a good champagne.

As Chess says she’s open to recommendations, he responds after a brief moment of thinking with, “Iris Murdoch. She wrote a lot of fiction as well, but she did some papers of philosophy that I always found very insightful. Her views on morality and perceptions— they were revolutionary for the time. And she wrote some pretty sexy books, too.” That’s said with a laugh, because, well—

After a second, he glances in the direction Asi had left and suddenly says, “It’s a shame there’s no dancing. I barely got to dance at the festival, and I doubt you got to either. But this might not really be a dance type thing…”

“I’ll grab a bottle of the excess if there’s any for you later,” Chess promises Asi. “I really hope you have a boring evening — when it comes to the work side of things.” She reaches for Asi’s hand to squeeze it in appreciation — she may not need rescuing but the subtle attempt on Asi’s part is appreciated. “Sake date soon, yeah?”

The recommendation from Castle draws Chess’ brows upward. “I’ve seen the name but never picked up anything by her. I’ll have to look into it. Sounds pretty heady though so no promises I’ll understand her any better than I understand Kierkegaard — or any of it really.”

She smiles, something a little sad lurking behind it. “I’m really the worst of independent-study philosophy students, but at least I don’t have to write essays or pass tests on the material. I probably only get about 10 percent of anything I read.”

Her gaze trails his. “There might be at some point, I’m not sure.” She hadn’t paid attention to those details. “I wasn’t really planning to at the festival anyway, just, you know. There to support Eve, not actually trying to express much of anything,” Chess adds wryly. “I probably should have expressed some more concern about security earlier on.” Hindsight’s always 20-20 though, and what’s done is done. And also undone, thanks to Castle.

“You can think of things you should have done forever, but even if you had it may not have made any difference, or might have made something worse happen,” Castle says quietly, a hint of something different in the tone of their voice, something far off. Oh, the accent is definitely different, too, softer tones, even, with different vowel sounds. Not Irish, but definitely something else. “You do what you can, when you can, and be grateful for what you could do, learn what you can and do something different next time, but dwelling on what you should have done then doesn’t make any difference. It just traps you in an endless cycle that cripples you the next time that fate calls on you to do something.”

After a moment, he stands up, offering his left hand down to Chess, and the Irish accent back, “I’m not really a big believer in fate, though. I think you make your own. And it looks like Wolfhound has this place under control so I don’t think they need me tonight. I volunteered cause I wanted to dress up, but I’m not getting paid to be here— so what do you say— want to go someplace with some better music, less interruptions, and probably better drinks?”

No offense to the expensive champagne, but— it wasn’t very strong.

The sage advice elicits another raised eyebrow from Chess, and she tips her head. “Have you been reading my psych profile or something?” she says in faux suspicion, before she smirks it away. “Kidding. I don’t really have one, though I’m sure I should. I mean, they may have cobbled something together in Kansas City, but probably not.”

She doesn’t look like she’s certain about that, either.

The invitation to leave, Chess regards for a quiet moment that’s a little too long to be polite. Finally she puts her hand in his and stands. “I mean, I do owe you a drink, I think, and free-flowing champagne doesn’t count,” she says, with a smile. “This mask is also making me a bit claustrophobic, too. I never can keep hats or sunglasses on for very long,” she adds with a shake of her head. The wig will probably go sometime after that, too.

She holds up a finger to indicate one sec as she types something into her phone — the requisite “heading out, don’t worry” to her friends. No one really expected her to last much longer at a large social gathering, did they?

“Not your profile, no. But I know the type,” Castle says in that same sage tone of voice again, with a small quirk to their lips, her lips? There’s even a moment when he frowns as if not liking the words coming out of his own mouth but then distracts himself by dropping off the champagne glass on a nearby tray of empires circulating around and plucking the ear-piece out and pushing it into a pocket after flicking it off. The fact he doesn’t even give a warning might show that, no, they weren’t really counting on the Castle being available—

But he had said he wasn’t even getting paid to be here, whereas Wolfhound was. Without much else to say, they head outside, leaving the main hall and the gala behind.

Five Minutes Later

The glass doors that lead out to the garden suddenly open and close, as if by the wind or a ghost — but a moment later, Becky and Nova become visible. Unaware of Becky’s status, Nova looks for security, finding the nearest person who seems to be operating in that facility, and points to the garden breathlessly.

“Someone’s attacking us,” she says, pulling off her mask so she can wipe her eyes, stung by the smoke bombs. The masks-required rule can probably be broken in times of an emergency.

So far, no one else seems to notice anything’s amiss, the music and chatter of the party keeping the sounds from penetrating the building.

Wright isn’t startled by Nova and Becky’s sudden appearance, but she’s immediately attentive. “Armed intruders in the garden,” she says into her microphone. She silently points the two retreating women toward the front of the building and draws her pistol, eyes locked on the door leading to the garden. She sends out a series of pings across the network, inviting Asi and Lucille to share her senses as she waits for backup to come to her.

Elliot is already sensing with her from the opposite side of the room. Falling into the relaxed state that facilitates his control of the network isn’t as seamless as usual. There are fits and starts as he pulls Asi’s senses and, with difficulty, Lucille’s as well. The hall momentarily breaks, jarred by the other perspectives, before they settle into a single perception from four points of view. “Overwatch,” he says into the earpiece he’s only wearing to communicate with those not in the network, or those who can’t be expected to share the pain in his arm.

Wright takes a moment to grab a glass from a startled patron and upends it onto a cloth napkin, giving it a squeeze in preparation to cover her face in the smoke.

Suddenly the fire alarm begins to blare, the blinding-white lights flash above the exits to herald the party goers to safety. The museum staff helps to usher them toward the front doors rather than the garden, though a few employees decide they don’t make enough to go down with the ship and hurry out themselves, leaving any orderliness to the security team hired for the evening.

Guests pour out onto the courtyard at the front — many stay to watch and linger, thinking it likely to be a false alarm that will be lifted in any moment. Others take their leave, making for the valet stand or pull out their phones to call cabs and Ubers. “Why can’t we have nice things,” one woman laments to her partner as they make their way out.

Honestly, lady, same.

Asi makes her way through the crowd, shouldering her way through and lifting away the mask over her face. But when she breaks for the garden door, she notices one of the guests heading that direction with her. "What— no, exit at the main entrance," she tells the woman, growing tense as the order isn't immediately followed. She jogs the rest of the way to the other entrance.

"Hitchens, can you redirect anyone who comes this way?" The question is posed with a touch of sympathy. It's not that she's asking him because he's the injured teammate on site, but it's also precisely that. She lifts her eyes to Wright and then looks out the exit, sees the smoke. She pulls a handkerchief from the pocket of her suit jacket in an echo of the other Hound's foresight, then draws her sidearm. Her calm is practiced and sure, of someone who leans into moments like these to rise to the call.

The self-doubt about her capacity without her ability is a momentary flicker of feedback, replaced with the sureness that connectivity to Elliot's network will give her as much if not more information than her drones would in this situation.

"Ready?" Asi asks, glancing to her teammates for their signal.

It isn’t quite total chaos, but emerging from the exhibit hall, Ourania still finds the crush of people overwhelming. She’s slower than flow of traffic, like an underpowered vehicle lagging in the fast lane. She’s jostled by others pushing past her to make their way to the exits — whether it’s the one that will lead them to safety or the one that will lead them toward danger.

Ice blue eyes scan the room, determining for herself the best direction to head. Security is easy enough to spot. Not that way, she determines. If they’re headed for the garden, then she needs to head for the courtyard.

A careless collision sees the blonde’s cane knocked out from under her. Her grasp fails to hold and she tries to catch it before it’s caught up in the wave of partygoers looking to escape. It skitters across the floor, kicked around by shuffling feet. Ourania goes tumbling after, her knees hitting the floor hard enough that she yelps. Her arms come up quickly to shield herself as best she can manage from the possibility of getting stepped on.

Special Agent Byrne directs Christine Dowe’s security team calmly, but swiftly, through the crowd exiting the building. Eyes on faces looking for bad actors, but everybody’s masked. When a cane clatters in front of his feet he kicks it up into his free hand, scanning quickly for an owner. When he spots Ourania lying defensively on the floor, he pushes the cane into the chest of a museum employee asking for an orderly exit. Byrne merely points back to where Ourania can be seen, curled up against the trampling guests.

His hand stays on Christine's shoulder for the length of the retreat until she steps up into their SUV, the door held open by another agent. He slides in beside her as the door is closed. The vehicle rolls into the night.

The white-gowned Nova is still in a daze, looking over her shoulder with worry toward where she left Kaylee and Yi-Min, but the crowd pushes her along. Unlike Ourania, she manages to keep her feet, which bring her to where the other woman curls up.

“Hey, I got you,” she tells the other woman, reaching down to offer a hand to help pull her up. A man bumps into her and she turns around, chin lifting as she stares up at him. “Go around, asshole,” she says through gritted teeth, the unladylike language juxtaposed by the fairy-princess getup she wears.

Like river water around a rock, the crowd makes it past them at least, until most of the party members are outside in the courtyard — with the exception of those outside in the garden with the gunmen and the security team rushing to help them.

Faulkner makes his way towards the exit, trying his best not to get run over or stepped on — the purple suit was probably expensive and was definitely a gift, so he'd rather not get it torn or damaged if he can help it. This, too, is an obstacle course of sorts… though given the choice, Faulkner would much rather be running on rooftops than weaving and dodging through the press of people.

He sidesteps just as a man in front of him is brought to a sudden halt… then he hears a rather familiar voice, growling from someone in a white-gowned fairy-princess attire.

No. Surely not. Surely that's not — oh, but it is. And in the company of Doctor Miss Pride, no less. Faulkner waits for the asshole who'd bumped into Nova to move on, then steps forward. "You two need a hand?" he asks, regarding Ourania and Nova; under any other circumstances he'd be sporting an amused and/or sardonic smirk, but right now appreciation of irony can wait until they're out of the madness of crowds.

While Nova may be dressed as a fairy, she looks much more like a guardian angel to Ourania at the moment. She grabs hold of the offered hand with both of hers and it might be surprising how difficult it is for her to get up off the floor. It’s with a grunt of effort, but once she gets there, she’s steady enough. “Thank you.” Her gratitude is expressed with a quiet desperation.

Faulkner’s arrival is met with a similar sense of relief. “I don’t know where my cane is,” Ourania cranes her neck to try and find it, but ultimately getting out is most important to her. “Can—” Blue eyes dart between Nova and Isaac behind her mask, which does nothing to hide the way her cheeks burn with her shame for needing continued assistance. “Can you help me make it to the exit?”

It’s about then that the museum employee has worked their way upstream through the crowd. “Is this yours?”

Ourania gasps and reaches out to take her cane, relief evident in what’s visible in her expression. Moreso in her posture. “Thank you, yes!” Pressing the tip to the ground, she leans against it gratefully. This will save her from having to lean heavily on either of her saviors. “If you can help me block, I can make it on my own.” The last thing she needs is a repeat of this same incident. Fortunately, there isn’t far to go now.

Elliot walks alongside the rush of exiting traffic, heading through the clearest route to the door garden. It’s difficult to move any faster than a meander while this much of his attention is focused on his co-host’s sensations, so he momentarily lets go of Lucille’s. “Go,” he says when he gets within range of Wright and Asi. He turns his back on them to keep his eyes on the room. Wright holds the napkin close to her face and nods to Asi, heading for the garden.

“Isaac!” Nova’s voice is filled with equal parts relief and surprise, but Ourania’s question draws her attention back and she nods in the affirmative. “I think the worst of it’s already outside,” she says with a nod toward the surging crowd, most of them well past the stragglers now.

Of course, the real worst of it is on the other side of the museum, in the garden, and Nova casts a glance over her shoulder with a frown, before looking to Faulkner. “Yi-Min and Kaylee are here too. In the gardens. Small world,” she murmurs. There’s far too much worry in her expression for it to be about a possible false alarm. And her gown is in far less pristine condition than his purple suit, the silvery-white fabric marred by dirt and grass stains that suggests she came from the direction of the gardens — the same direction the Wolfhound agents seem to be headed.

It’s just a few steps to the doors and the relative safety of the front of the museum. In the distance, fire sirens wail.

Faulkner does let out a single chuckle at that. "It is," he agrees, shaking his head… though Nova's expression is worrisome. He glances to the exit, then to Ms. Pride, considering. Right. First thing's first. He moves a step forward, positioning himself to block for Ourania if need be… though his gaze strays thoughtfully towards the gardens for a moment. "Let's talk while we walk, shall we? What's happening out there?" he asks Nova, pitching his voice low.

She had been perfectly content to make her way to the door without even giving a second thought to those left behind in the gardens, but the names catch Ourania’s attention. There is instant worry for Dr. Yeh, but it’s the name of her first friend that slips past her lips.


All at once, she wants to break away and find her, but what can she do? Ourania feels so helpless in this moment. She hesitates, but the forward momentum of the other two keeps her moving. Her eyes squeeze shut briefly. The mask hides and holds the tear she’s shed. Kaylee would want her to get out, wouldn’t she? She can hear her terse directive in her mind. Kaylee’s always cared for her when Odessa hasn’t cared for herself.

It hurts her to do it, but she continues for the door.

Seeing Ourania’s worry, Nova tightens her grasp on the other woman’s shoulder, reaching across herself to take her hand as well. “She’ll be okay. I think security is Wolfhound and they’re heading in that direction,” she says, the younger woman’s voice suddenly confidently reassuring.

She looks over her shoulder to where Isaac is using his taller body to play defense, and she glances around to make sure no one is close enough to hear her words — she doesn’t want to get stampeded, after all, especially with Ourania already struggling to keep her feet.

In a low voice, she murmurs, “Smoke bombs and gunfire. People with gas masks. I made it out with the help of someone invisible to alert security.” The college student makes a face, glancing over her shoulder. “Lost my phone as a decoy.” It was for a good cause.

Ourania's concern for Kaylee is apparent from the sound of her voice alone… and it almost instantly draws Faulkner's eye. Nova's answer, however, is enough of a shock to momentarily suspend that train of thought. "Jesus," he murmurs under his breath.

Then he lets out a single rueful chuckle, turning his attention back to the path ahead. "I guess life in New York never fails to be interesting," he observes drily. Then, half to change the subject from gunfire in the gardens and half to sate his curiosity, he glances back to Ourania. "So. Doctor Pride. You're acquainted with Kaylee as well?"

What?” Worry gives over to proper fright and it takes Nova’s arm around her to keep Ourania from ignoring her own good sense. The struggle she puts up is only momentary and half-hearted. She has to trust that Wolfhound will be able to handle the situation. And even without her ability, Ourania would be the first to insist that Kaylee is far from helpless.

The shakiness of her breath and the tremble of her lip betray the urge to cry, but the blonde keeps it together. Faulkner’s address pulls her out of her own fretful thoughts and she turns a look upward to him. Ourania nods her head quickly. “Yes,” she admits freely enough. “I— Ah… I work at Raytech.” As if that should be enough to explain her concern. And it would explain some, but not this level of it. She clutches tightly to Nova’s hand now, feeling as though she can siphon some of the younger woman’s resolve to keep moving forward.

“Seems that way,” Nova says dryly to Faulkner’s assessment about the city. She lifts a brow at the mention of Raytech, glancing at Isaac since they both have appointments there tomorrow to do things that are fairly illegal.

“Small world,” is all she has to say about that, lest she get Yi-Min or Kaylee in trouble. (She really doesn’t know that’s very unlikely). “I’m sure they’ll be okay,” she says, but looks back over her shoulder anyway, worry etched in her face despite her effort to sound so-very sure of herself.

Once they’re safely outside, Nova steers Ourania to a bench — most everyone else have already dispersed, demanding their keys from the valets or simply running to get further away from the building. “Rest a second — did either of you bring a car or…?” she asks. “I’d call us an Uber but I threw my phone into the bushes. Rest in peace, new phone.” Whatever she had before the crash had been replaced already.

Small world sums Faulkner's sentiments up on that rather nicely. Ourania's day job being at Raytech doesn't quite explain her concern for Kaylee by itself — her worry seems significantly more than professional to Isaac — but this isn't an interrogation. Besides, pressing on that one might be a little awkward, considering their own plans for tomorrow. Faulkner slips a brief glance to Nova.

Nova's uncertain reassurance draws a frown. "They'll be fine," Faulkner says, echoing Nova's sentiment but with more confidence. He has neither grounds nor basis for this assertion, but that doesn't matter; what matters, in this particular situation, is that Ourania and Nova worrying about Kaylee is going to have exactly zero impact on the situation beyond stressing them out, and that therefore it's better if their cause for concern is kept to a minimum.

Nova's question about a car, though, draws a sidelong glance and a definite smirk. "I do not have a car at the moment; they're high maintenance. I drive like I run," he says, grinning wickedly.

More soberly, he pulls his phone out of a pocket. "I do, however, have my phone. I can call a ride if need be." He glances to Ourania and frowns. "Where did Mr. Stoltz get to, though?" he asks. "I assume he's your ride, Dr. Pride?"

Ourania sinks gratefully down onto the bench Nova’s directed her to, “thank you,” comes as a heavy sigh. For a moment, all she can do is stare down at the pavement and recollect her thoughts. “I hope you’re right.” About the situation in the garden being under control and her friends’ safety.

Mention of her partner has her head lifting again. Ourania turns her head this way and that, as if scanning for some sign of him. And she is, but moreover she’s counting heads, trying to get a sense of how much interference exists in her range. There’s a frustrated little huff of breath when she determines there’s still too many people around for her to make use of her ability to try and sense if Harry’s still nearby.

“I sent him on ahead,” she murmurs almost distractedly. “I think he must’ve— Maybe he went further down?” There’s an instinctive reach for her waist, where she’s met with the sensation of steel boning under her fingers. Ourania’s shoulders sag, her chin dipping down a little. “He has my phone,” she groans quietly.

There is literally no place to put pockets in that costume of hers. But she hadn’t counted on being anything but fastened to Harry’s side. “We took a cab,” she adds belatedly.

“Best you stay on the passenger side, then,” Nova says with a small grin — she’s still scared but she appreciates the effort Isaac’s putting in to make both herself and Ourania less so.

At Ourania’s announcement she’s also lost her phone to her missing friend, Nova nods. “That’d be good, if you could call a cab.” To Ourania, she asks, “Did you have a rendezvous point or do you think he just went home? I can run ahead and look for him if you describe him to me — or maybe Isaac can since he knows what he looks like and is, well, a runner.” Running in the meringue of a dress she’s wearing seems a bit of a feat.

Speak of the devil, and he shall appear.

Harry navigates through the narrow space between two loitering groups of people further down the sidewalk, a deadened expression worn in his thinly veiled impatience to traverse the crowd back to Ourania's side. She's familiar with the unimpressed look he wears any time they need to venture into public and he isn't entirely on. Gone is the personable man from earlier, something sharper and a shade more covetous in place.

"There you are," he sighs, looking neither at Nova nor Faulkner. A darkly-gloved hand sweeps out from under his cloak, looking every part the Phantom he portrays this evening. "Come," Harry bids Ourania, his look not straying from her. "The car should be around in a moment."

Because that's definitely what he'd been up to the entire time— stepping out and flagging a Pryr for pickup. He definitely hadn't been lingering in ghostly intangibility in Ourania's orbit, frustrated by her fall.

“I— I don’t know.” Would he have just gone home? Surely not. Harry wouldn’t just—

Ourania lifts her head at the familiar voice, and the relief in her is instantaneous. There he is. While he only has eyes for her, and she’s very quick to offer a grateful smile to him first, she takes a moment to pause and look between Nova and Faulkner even as she’s reaching for Harry’s hand. “Thank you both. Thank you so very much for helping me get out of there and looking out for me. You’re very sweet.” They didn’t have to and it certainly says something about her expectations of people that she’s surprised that they didn’t just leave her there to focus on getting themselves to safety instead.

It’s only with the smallest difficulty and a whine under her breath that Ourania gets to her feet with Harry’s hand up and the leverage of her cane. She loops an arm around his waist to help take some of the burden off her aching frame. “If— If you see Kaylee or Dr. Yeh, please… Please tell them to reach out to me. Tell them I was worried.” It kills her to leave not knowing. She wants to ask her partner to go and find them, to ensure their safety.

She’d likely have more luck squeezing blood from a stone.

Christine leans heavily against her Phantom, eyes closed for a moment as she sags with something that looks like gratitude but feels like defeat. “I’m ready,” Ourania murmurs softly.

Isaac frowns slightly at Nova's suggestion of his running on ahead; the thing with running is that there's always the chance of a fall, and he'd really rather not do anything to scuff this suit if he can help it. Luckily, the Phantom's impeccably timed reappearance neatly resolves that issue; also, Christine and the Phantom are now back together again, which is aesthetically pleasing as well. "Excellent," Faulkner pronounces, nodding.

Ourania's thanks catches him off guard, though. He blinks, momentarily surprised — isn't that what people are supposed to do? He recovers quickly, though, and smiles. "Think nothing of it; I'll pass your concern on to Kaylee, as well. In any case, Dr. Pride, Mr. Stoltz, it's been a pleasure; take care," Faulkner says, inclining his head to them… then, with the matter of the Phantom and Christine resolved, Faulkner's gaze turns to Nova. "And I'll call a ride for you and I," he says, mustering a charming smile. This night has been a truckload of unanswered questions; maybe comparing notes with Nova will let him lay at least some of those to rest.

When Harry suddenly appears at Ourania’s side, and doesn’t give either herself or Faulkner so much as a glance, Nova’s brows dip. She looks to the frail woman, Nova’s blue eyes flicking left to right, as if she’s trying to read if there’s any hidden messages in Ourania’s — to no avail. She lacks the empath’s ability and it seems the woman is grateful to be reunited with her Phantom.

“Sure thing,” Nova says kindly to Ourania, then lifts her chin. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Stoltz,” she says in a sweet voice with a sweet smile that would charm most people, but the sentiment doesn’t reach her eyes.

She’d make a great customer service representative, telling asshole customers to “have a real nice day” after telling them that they can only exchange their item and not get any cash back.

Thank you,” is much more sincere to Faulkner, and Nova casts yet another nervous look over her shoulder.

Down the road, flashing lights can be seen as the sirens draw nearer, louder.

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