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Dramatis Personae

Desi, Gaétan, Lucien, Matt, Sera


"Let's go make some tea."


december 9, 2020. across the rift.

The lost children have been ushered into what remains of the 121st Precinct building with heaters, snacks, and promises from one Agent Maria (as she'd introduced herself) that they'll be going home within the hour. Sentinels patrol the building at a respectful if still unnerving distance, and some technicians can be seen checking the mountains of arcane scientific instruments that have been set up around an apparently empty space. Sera has not strayed far from her not-brother, shoulders hunched in tight beneath her thick duffle coat, fidgeting with a string of olive wood rosary beads. When Agent Maria approaches again, the children rouse themselves into nervous chatter and barely-contained anticipation. Sera turns to Gaétan, and hesitates just a moment before speaking. "So, when do I get to meet the other me?" There's something slightly fey and very familiar in the cant of her head and the conspiratorial hook of her smile, and she sounds almost casual. Almost.

Gaétan has been chewing his way through a Slim Jim as he reads over the tattered remains of an OSHA poster on one of the walls. He only gives the agent a brief glance at her announcement; it's Sera's question that really yanks his attention away with a sudden spluttering cough as he evidently attempts to swallow his next bite of cylindrical meat product whole. His eyes are still watering when he turns to look at Sera. Beneath his stolen coat his shoulders hunch tighter. "Not for a long fucking time, I hope."


december 14, 2020. xavier’s school, great hall.

Possibly Sera would have chosen to take her lunch elsewhere if she had anticipated the magnitude of the stir she would cause here. But there she is, crowded by curious schoolmates, while yet more strain to eavesdrop from the surrounding tables. For her part she has been doggedly picking at her food while fielding questions with a polite if thin smile.

"Is it true they brand mutants over there when you get caught?" asks a girl massively underdressed for the weather.

"No, it's tattoos," a gangling boy corrects her before Sera can reply, "like who brands people that's just weird."

"Show us yours!" the girl demands, and several kids mutter their support for this, leaning forward in their seats.

Sera opens her mouth, but no words come out. Her impatient interrogators are starting to press, their questions growing louder as they try to talk over each other.

At a nearby table, Gaétan has been nibbling his way through a third clementine -- the small pile of little fruits evidently all he has taken for lunch today -- while a taller freckle-faced boy across from him chatters excitedly about his Blaseball team. It doesn't much seem like he's been eavesdropping on the adjacent table until, abrupt, he holds an apologetic hand up to his companion's gushing and pulls himself up from the table, sauntering over to impose himself unapologetically beside Sera in the press of students. "What they actually do is implant everyone with an explosive that detonates when too many people ask dumbass questions." His head jerks towards his own table as he scoops Sera's tray up to help relocate her. "C'mon. Finn's telling me about some wack-ass fucking game you should join."


march 7, 2021. tick-tock.

It's quiet in the teahouse, nearly empty this early with mostly only the soft burbling of the fountain as a backdrop for the desultory few conversations happening in the room. Right now there isn't a lot of conversation coming from the table Gaétan is seated cross-legged at -- mostly, only, the quiet splish of tea into cups, a slow inhale, a small appreciative hum at the first sip of delicate milk oolong. "{And gods but Ms. Briggs definitely doesn't -- I mean, she thinks everything is just fine, you know, like my grades haven't slipped so there must not be anything that --}" This ends in a small shrug, his fingers pressing tighter against the little porcelain cup. A little softer, not exasperated now but hopeful: "{I know you've been -- really busy with things -- honestly probably a blessing you haven't had to see what a fucking shitshow things have been.}"

Desi holds her teacup delicately, and does not sip until after her brother has. "{I've been around enough to see, and seen enough to know I should be around more.}" The word "but" hangs between them, heavy and unspoken. "{I was hoping she wouldn't stick around too long. Not--your advisor, though you might be better off without her, also. I mean Luci and Matt's guest.}" Conspicuously not "our guest". She considers her tea very seriously, then looks back up at Gaétan, her expression softer. "{I know it's not her fault, but--how bad is it? If the shitshow gets to be too much, you know you're welcome at our place.}"

There's a momentary confusion that flickers across Gaétan's face, only partially obscured by bowing his head over his next sip of tea. "Oh -- I didn't -- Sera's been..." This trails off, his gaze flicking up to his sister and then back down. When he looks back up it's just with a small crooked smile. "{You're not missing much -- but oh my gods did you know Luci has started going to church with her?}"


may 3, 2021. chez tessier.

The back garden is looking absolutely picturesque for a small teatime chat, flowers in bright and fragrant bloom with several butterflies flitting among them, ornate floral wreaths hung on the kitchen door and door to the street, pastel ribbons hung from trellises and wrapped in spiraling bands around the huge old oak tree. It's under this tree that Msgr. Flores is seated, in his black-on-black and stiff clerical collar managing to look perfectly at home among the cheerfully pagan decor. His brow is just slightly pinched -- not on account of the delicate Darjeeling or the flaky almond croissants, both of which he has been partaking of with relish. Only, mildly quizzical: "-- I had the distinct impression you are not -- actually, ah, Catholic."

Lucien certainly does not seem offended by the mention of this minor failing. He sets his tea down, an earnestness in his green eyes as his hand turns up. "I have been baptized and confirmed. Those are the, ah, prerequisites for a Confirmation sponsor, no?" And then, just a touch of anxiousness creeping in at the edges of his words: "I have gotten through the Catechism and Bible and many of the works of Aquinas and Augustine but I will gladly add to my reading list if you have recommendations for how I can be better prepared --?"

Sera has all but forgotten her tea, her attention bouncing with only occasionally palpable nervousness between Lucien and the priest. All but, though not quite. She raises her cup, takes a sip, and sets it back down, her posture as still and graceful and perfect as it's been through this entire discussion. "Please, Father," she says, her eyes wide and sincere. "I don't want to just go through the motions with this. I want a sponsor who's going to dig into the texts with me, challenge me, and really think deeply about my questions instead of projecting their own beliefs or how they think this process should go." She folds her hands together primly, but there's a touch of whimsy in her smile when she adds, "Besides, he's one of the most spiritual people I know. Our faiths aren't so very different, right?"


july 10, 2021. tokio 7.

The shop is tiny, but contains a surprisingly large selection of dresses, eclectic and meticulously curated -- just like the last boutique and the one before that. Sera is standing in front of the floor-length mirror mounted outside the tiny stall of a dressing room, tilting her head one way and then the other. She's wearing a slinky emerald green number that accentuates her eyes and doesn't try to draw attention to curves she doesn't have, but she doesn't seem much more enthusiastic about it than she was about the last dress she tried on, or the one before that. "I don't know..." She's successfully suppressing her powers, though not her slightly underwhelmed moue. "I think I'm just too pale for this one. It's a lot of green."

Gaétan has been sitting on the edge of a bench in front of a wall of shoes opposite the dressing room, looking kind of indifferently between his phone and Sera's dress woes. He studies the green dress now, his mouth twisting slightly to one side. "You look good in green," comes out a little critically. He pushes himself up from his seat, disappearing in between the rows of dresses. He's returned soon enough that it's likely he wasn't quite as disinterested in the clothing search as he has seemed. The dress he is holding is not green -- a silk swing dress in black and white floral scrollwork -- but the wide satin sash he has draped over an arm is a deep hunter green. "Kinda -- goes with the tux I have. And if we're gonna look like a family..." This trails off as he offers the dress out. "I think it'll suit you."


october 30, 2021. xavier's school grounds.

Though she's only searching for a secluded pre-gaming spot much like any number of her schoolmates, it does feel thematically appropriate that Sera is wandering the wooded grounds in the costume she'd chosen for the dance later. Though she'd decided to forgo a wig in favor of an Alice with short brown hair, the blue and white dress is iconic enough, and she has a grinning Cheshire Cat plushie tucked under one arm just in case that doesn't cut it. The path she's following has grown vague from disuse, partially blocked by a bough torn down by a late-summer windstorm. She ducks carefully under it, tangled now with vines using it to reach up toward the failing light, and starts to apologize when she sees the little clearing is occupied. But then, she sees who's occupying it and blurts, "Oh, that came together really nice!"

"Thanks. S'a costume to die for." In deference to the autumn chill, Gaétan has blended parts of his costume, soft burgundy sweater vest pulled on over top of a satiny blue sequin-dotted dress, mismatched fishnet tights; he's kicked off his similarly blue heels to tuck his feet warmly beneath himself. He's just accepting his flask back from the older Māhoe (dressed in grey schoolgirl-uniform jumper dress with an unsettling face of china-doll makeup) to take a deep swig when Sera arrives in the clearing. He studies her costume for a moment before reaching to swipe Nanami's purse from where it sits under his discarded bright-blue wig, rummaging in it until he comes up with a receipt. He tears a hole in the top of the paper, pushing it down around the neck of the flask before he writes (in eyeliner-pencil) on the blank side: 'DRINK ME'. It's only then that he offers the flask (smelling strongly of cinnamon) over to Sera.

Sera's power, which had been firmly tucked away until now, unfurls far enough to let slip her amusement and relief at Gaétan's antics. She curtsies before accepting the bottle and joining the other teens. The face she makes when she quaffs the cinnamony "potion" suggests she's perhaps not the most experienced drinker. She's laughing, though, when she replaces the cap on the flask and produces a bottle of pear brandy from her heart-shaped purse. She writes 'LAUDANUM' in bold over the label (with her own eyeliner pencil) before delivering it with a flourish to Gae. "In case you're not quite fucked up enough for the role."


december 21, 2021. chez Tessier

From lights twinkling in the tree to the warm smell of cookies to the crackling fire, this house has been looking a lot like Christmas since Advent. Ensconced beside the fire, Matt is looking pretty festive himself in a bright green and red sweater with a snowman popping out of a gift box, bracketed by the words "Snow time like the Present!" He has a gift box himself, wrapped in red and gold, not currently emitting any snow or puns, just balanced casually in his hands. "{I could hold onto it until Christmas, if you'd prefer.}" He breaks into an easy, encouraging smile, his emotions opaque to unfamiliar biokinetic senses. "It's a lovely ritual, the opening of gifts.}"

Sera is sprawled on the hearth rug, draped over their quietly dozing dog. The lift of her eyebrows is very slight, but she's surprised enough to broadcast it, just one quick pulse. "{I do like opening presents on Christmas morning,}" she admits, her brows slowly scrunching up, "but is it still be a Yule present because that's why you giving it, or is it a Christmas present because that's when you're giving it?" She hesitates. "I'm sorry if that's an insult to your religion. I know they're not the same."

"Mm, they may not be the same, but they are somewhat like siblings, no?" Matt's smile softens. "'Tis no insult at all, unless you intend it so. Let me tell you a secret." He leans forward confidentially. "I love Christmas. It may be gauche, but I'm a sinister sort of witch, I do what I like. {All that being said, it's still a Yule present.}" He sets the box aside and leans back, looking smug. "{Your Christmas present is much cooler.}"


february 2, 2022. greenwich village

The shallow water in the alley didn't need a deep freeze to be skateworthy, but the frigid ground does make for a quicker flood-and-resurface process. It's due for another layer soon, to judge by the stuttering uneven skid-stop Sera just performed. But then, she was not really attending to her braking technique, her wide green eyes fixed on the police officer duck-walking toward them from the mouth of the alley. Both her hands tighten on her stick as she reins in the quiet ripple of fear that her power let slip.

"Hey there," Officer Mackenzie says in what he thinks is a stern yet friendly tone, "you should really be careful playing here, you know this is still a public lane, right? Not that anyone should be driving right now." He scoffs as he pulls his toque down and the collar of his jacket up to shield that much more of his face from the chill. "It's too damn cold to be outside at all."

Gaétan is barely looking at the officer. His eyes dart to Sera at that ripple of fear, but just as quickly move on instead to lock on the upturned old Slurpee cup/half-a-bike-tire combination that is currently marking out the goal behind her. "Oh! Appreciate your concern, sir!" he chirrups bright and nonchalant. His stick clacks against the puck as he sends it shooting out past his frightened-wary not!sister to slide solidly through the makeshift goal. "We'll keep a real good eye out for anything dangerous."


march 5, 2022. chez tessier

The knock on Sera's door is almost too light to hear, but then, the door is ajar and whatever her misgivings, Desi isn't trying to hide. At least not today. "{Hey.}" She pauses just a little too long, but not quite long enough for Sera to make a full reply. They end up both speaking at once, Desi's "{Do you want to go shop for...}" and Sera's "{You don't have to force yourself...}" both fizzling awkwardly out.

Sera pulls her knees up to her chest and presses her cheek into them. "{I feel like,}" she says at last, a little stilted, "{we are stuck on this endless anxiety loop of not wanting to make each other miserable. I don't know if this helps, but I'm a lot better at not feeling other people's pain now, and I can manage my own.}" Despite this, her pain and anger and hope flutter ghostlike through Desi's mindscape before retreating. "{I'd love to go shopping. For whatever honestly.}"

Desi hugs herself, and looks for a moment almost like she might just turn and flee. But then she takes a deep breath and steps inside--just inside--the room, leaning back against the wall next to the door. "{I keep thinking it's too late for me to even try. That I should just--}" She tilts her head back and looks at the stars on the ceiling, taking one slow breath, in and out. "Clothes. I was going to say 'shop for clothes'."


june 25, 2022. washington square park

The march won't arrive for a while yet, but some early revelers have trickled in, their rainbow and glitter drawing for the most part no discernable reaction from other parkgoers, with a scattering of bewildered staring and friendly greetings. "Happy Pride!" Matt chirps at a knot of queers wandering past the chess tables, who echo the sentiment back in varying degrees of sobriety. He returns his focus to the game in front of him and the girl sitting on its other side. After another moment's consideration, he advances his queen. "Mate in five. You know, it's going to get rather crowded here soon, darling." He sounds casual, matter-of-fact, but there's a warmth in his smile that invites confidence. "{We don't have to keep playing.}" Here a measured pause, a minute tilt of his head. "{We don't have to go home, either.}"

Sera has been paying steadily less attention to her (previously quite tight!) strategy and more to the brightly dressed newcomers. At Matt's move she affects a small grimace. "Marde, how did I fall for that? But yeah, I know..." She looks up from the board and searches Matt's face. "{We could have played at home, if I was worried about the crowd. Or if you were.}" When she topples her king it's almost perfunctory, her gaze already straying to a pair of teenagers laughing as they pose awkwardly for a selfie in front of the fountain. Her eyes flick back up to Matt's, wide and uncertain, though when she speaks again it doesn't exactly sound like a question, "Maybe just one more game here."


september 4, 2022. st. martin de porres. pastoral assistant's office

"'Saint Gregory's Patchwork Antiphonary'..." Amanda looks up from her laptop, its screen reflected in the lenses of her cat-eye glasses, hesitating momentarily. "I'm afraid that class is full." Her gaze slides from one of the parishioners to the other, then back. "I'm sure it wouldn't have been very interesting to you two, anyway," she adds, plainly meaning to be conciliatory in her condescension. "It's a seminar on sacred music, which is not as exciting as the kind that your brother...performs."

Sitting demurely on the other side of the desk in her Sunday best, Sera tilts her head at the pastoral assistant. "Wow, these classes never used to fill up," she says quietly, almost to herself. It's clear she's talking to Amanda again, though, when she continues with a winning smile, "I'm glad more people are taking interest in them!" Her power extends, more delicate than when it slips her control. It's more focused, too, pressing Sera's disappointment and anticipation into -- well, not just Amanda, though she certainly bears the brunt of it. Sera keeps her smoldering anger well in check, but some minute traces of it still cling to the emotions she's intending to project. "But won't you try to squeeze us in, please? I'm sure the room is big enough, and we won't be so terribly obtrusive."

There's a flutter of surprise that stirs in Lucien where he's seated beside Sera, when he feels that gentle curl of power, sensible to Sera though it does not register in his quietly neutral expression. It's chased by a complicated mixture of feelings -- worry, uncertainty, the faintest wisp of fear, all of which quickly melt away to leave instead an odd and curious pride.

The shift in his emotional landscape after this brief unguarded flash is far more careful, a mechanical rearranging of his mental landscape. It is at root a similar mix to the disappointment and anticipation Sera projects, but gone is any trace of that anger -- in its place, a murmur of softening contrition. Sera can feel the deliberate teasing out of the engineered feelings he allows to surface, a delicately adjusted neurochemical blend held up in silent and practiced demonstration. Gently earnest, to the church worker – nominally, at least: "I assure you, I can be quite unobtrusive when the situation calls for it."


february 1, 2023. le bonne entente. le sanctuaire

Tomorrow, this place will be bustling with eager glitterati and curious culture writers, overstaffed and full of music and conversation. Today it is all but abandoned, even the staff temporarily sent home. It has had that sort of sanctity peculiar to places designed to be full of human life that now stand empty of it.

The delighted curious questions, racing footsteps, breathless commentary taking place now don't seem to break the spell so much as accentuate it -- one earnest explorer just a tiny reflection of the activity this place should hold. Gaétan -- is not that explorer. He has settled himself in a plush couch in the empty cafe, frowning down at the table in front of him and very determinedly not looking towards where Sera has scampered off with Lucien on a personal tour.

Matt descends the stairs from the gallery, pausing at the rail to watch Lucien and Sera depart before crossing the platform to sit beside Gaétan. He gazes up at the towering stained glass portrait of Apollo as though tempted to start expounding on the hotel's patron god. Perhaps he would have, if Desi hadn't wandered out onto the ground floor just then, trailing her fingers along the cafe's long, gleaming counter, not yet noticing her brothers above.

Matt averts his eyes from her to, as if by unspoken agreement, the table in front of them. Then turns to study Gaétan sidelong, his expression inscrutable. His voice is soft when he finally speaks, and it's a credit to the acoustics of the place that the emptiness does not swallow his words. "Let's go make some tea."