Party Etiquette
Roleplaying Log: Party Etiquette
IC Details

Sebastian Shaw, hardly content to go without his club parties, throws a social event at a vineyard upstate. It may not go according to plan, but he's certainly had worse parties, so…

Other Characters Referenced: Scott Summers, Emma Frost, Dick Grayson
IC Date: May 18, 2019
IC Location: A vineyard in the Finger Lakes wine country of New York.
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 19 May 2019 13:13
Rating & Warnings: PG-13 (Mild language and Skimpy Clothing.)
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits: Sebastian Shaw and NPCs by Emma Frost
Associated Plots

It's a bit of a drive into the New York countryside, to the Finger Lakes wine country. Here, the blinding and never-sleeping lights of the city are reduced to but a dim glow to the south barely seen above the rise and fall of the natural landscape.

It's lake-front property, of course, and the estate is styled to look like an Old World villa, complete with stone terraces and dry stone walls, marble pillars, and pergolas draped with small Edison lightbulbs. It is under one of these that a fancy sound system pumps chamber music just loudly enough that it fills the open space without dominating.

But, of course, this is a Hellfire Club event. And it's not enough to leave it at that.

No, tonight's theme is the Menagerie, and a small perimeter has been established around the largest of the terraces. Wrought iron separates stone from grass, and on the grass there are roughly a dozen women who have been dressed to provide the animal entertainment - a cheetah, a mare, a parrot, a butterfly, a fawn, a raccoon, a vixen, and more - in costumes that seem to have been designed to use the least amount of fabric possible while still conveying the spirit of the thing.

There are women passing through the crowd, too, passing out measures of the vintage that fetched the highest price at the area's most recent wine auction, along with other coveted wines. Because, of course, that's what Sebastian Shaw would choose to have offered at a party with his name attached.

Guards are posted at the end of the long driveway, and roam the grounds. Security is a bit tighter this evening than it has been at other similar parties. It doesn't keep Shaw's deep laughter from being easily heard from every corner of the terrace despite crowd and music both, as he happily drinks in his favored old-styled clothes with a dark-haired woman in a slinky black gown hanging off his arm.

One of the many limos pulling up contains one Elizabeth 'Betsy' Braddock, legacy member. She's been scarce at the New York events, more out of scheduling than any of the rumored disdain of the London club for New York. This was the perfect time to get away from the city and the things troubling her mind, and promised to be more interesting than the usual parties she goes to for the publicity.

Feet are clad in heeled silver sandals, more strap than substance, famed long legs exposed until the higher regions of what could be called mid-thigh, where shimmery black chiffon takes over, playing peek a boo illusion before more solid fabric takes over to cover up to her breasts. Chiffon forms the shape, gathered in a wrap around her waist before drifting over one shoulder to drape behind the shoulder blade. There's a small, glittering clutch in one hand, as she rises up fully out of the limo. Purple curls are styled to fall over one shoulder, makeup flawless. There's a small little pendant around her neck, an amethyst butterfly that's also an inside joke.

She'll move to circulate, not obviously looking for any familiar faces she may anticipate seeing here. A drink will be accepted from a tray, sipping at vintage wine like it's any other day.
You paged Starfire with 'You should feel free to wander, but some of them definitely are behind the fences.'

Warren Worthington hasn't bothered with his inherited membership in the Hellfire Club ever since its involvement in one of his best friend's deaths, and its past attempt to kidnap his girlfriend. It was the principle of the matter. But there's something to be said for keeping tabs on what the 'enemy' is up to, so to speak, and what's been visibly going on with the front-facing aspects of the Club lately have been suspicious enough that he suspects some unsavory machinations going on in beneath the surface.

Hellfire hasn't done anything untoward in some time, now. That just means they're probably ripe to do something.

To that end, he figures choosing to do some canvassing of the Club's status at a ridiculous party serves a few purposes; people may let something slip over the course of the evening, and a very public event is much harder for them to harm him at openly. Of course, there's always the chance of them reverting to their good old standbys and attempting a kidnapping later behind closed doors, but Warren has learned his lesson from last time, and has let people know where he was going in advance. Besides — he isn't alone.

He remembers attending a few Hellfire events in his teenage years, alongside his father when it was he who held the active membership. The look on his face as he moves slowly past the animal displays, politely distasteful of the gauche excess, looks quite at home on his patrician features.

Being that neither fighting crime with a bunch of miscreant teenagers nor being an exile alien Princess exactly pays the bills, Starfire has a well-established 'day job' as supermodel Kory Anders. From actual fashion shows to all manner of high profile functions, she gets around quite a bit on the New York society scene. Her on-again off-again public relationship with one of the Wayne heirs doesn't hurt either. But today, she's single and more importantly she's working. It's even sort of a relief, to get to live life up a little among such a ritzy crowd while putting aside the crimefighting. Naturally, she arrives a little early to get changed into her outfit.

Standing going through the rack of costumes, she pauses briefly at the fawn outfit. "Oh, this reminds me of that one time on Themys- theater. At the theater. Yes. At that play we saw." First rule of Amazon revels: don't talk about Amazon revels!

Leaving aside whatever memory of Grecian-themed debauchery, she pushes a few more outfits along the rack before finally finding the cheetah one. "Oh, a kitty! How wonderful." The lack of material seems no obstacle to the enthusiasm of a Tamaranean hedonist turned occasional lingerie model. After un- and re-dressing, she checks herself out in the getup in front of a long mirror, and then makes her way out.

Later, as the guests arrive, the golden-skinned woman stands with all the other lady-critters, although her absurd height and skin tone does make her stand out even in that crowd. Absent any other tasks of yet, she mills about and speaks with some of the others ('What agency are you from?' 'Oh that looks so good on you!' 'Can I touch your tail?'), until the guests start filtering in and the festivities start to get under way. If anyone approaches the fence, she gives a playful 'rowr' and paws a hand between the bars.

It's a bit of a drive to Finger Lakes wine country, especially if you're starting from somewhere much further away like, say, Gotham.

Fortunately, this is the Hellfire Club, and anyone to whom the drive was an inconvenience for any other reason than 'time,' well… wouldn't be invited.

Katherine Rebecca Kane has mixed feelings on the Hellfire Club. It's absolutely a place she would - and did - frequent in her younger years, when she had a taste for something more expensive than local Gotham dive bars. That means there's a lot of bad memories associated with it she doesn't like dredging up. Also, it's the Hellfire Club, which amongst other things means Sebastian Shaw is usually there. On the other hand, the club gives her a convenient excuse to be in New York whenever she wants to keep a closer eye on the registration situation unfolding here, or any other, slightly more criminal movements.

On the other other hand, Sebastian Shaw is usually here.

Which is why Kate compromises: she drinks. A lot.

But, you know. Subtly, and with grace.

It's one of those semi-rare occasions that the Kane heiress has come to a formal event wearing an actual dress; this, of course, is by sheer coincidence, and not cheeky defiance of the party's very extremely animal-themed get together. A backless high-low halter dress of black silk with decidedly understated heels to match makes up her outfit for the evening, the longer skirts in the back tapering gradually into more voluminous, sheer materials towards its hem; the vicuna shawl that complements the outfit does very little to hide the nautical star tattoo on proud display emblazoned on her pale back, which is also certainly not intentional.

She's also drinking. A lot.

The astute might make a correlation between her taking a long sip of her drink every time Shaw's bellowing laugh rings through the proceedings and possibly assume she was entertaining herself with an extremely dangerous drinking game but, again.

Certainly probably not intentional.

Hors d'ouvres are passed, but skillful eyes among the serving staff are looking for the proper pairings among the serving staff. Someone with a red, offered this tray. Someone with white, that one. Someone with sparkling? Another tray altogether.

The guards let members through, though those who are more frequent flyers will note that they are given a little more scrutiny than normal. There is more than one complaint from an impatient socialite who is unaccustomed to the delay. The very careful eye might catch the plainclothes private security, drinking seltzer instead of the moscato d'asti. Cola straight, rather than used as a mixer.

Sebastian Shaw's keen eye filters the room, and it takes the broad man very little time to hone in on Worthington, in particular. The twitch of his lower lids is subtle, but - so as not to be accused of staring - he turns his face and consideration to Kory as she paws through the fence. "Well, my dear," he rumbles in her direction, his mouth half-turning upwards in dark amusement before disappearing behind his wine goblet. "Nice to see some new talent," he adds, just before sipping. Once he's taken that unhurried measure, the man then murmurs something in the ear of the woman beside him. She clenches her jaw, but then the woman - who some might know as Selene - unwreaths her arm from his and departs by way of a out-of-the-way path leading towards the estate house.

In contradiction to her more reckless teammates — the worst of such sinners currently on her arm — Alison Blaire has always erred circumspect.

Only Scott Summers ever outmatched her in sheer volume of buzzkill.

A creature of strict and practised caution, merited either through natural reserve or professional paranoia, she… doesn't do these sorts of things. She abstains, defers, avoids, and pretty much shouldn't be in the veritable viper's nest of the same organization that tried twice — twice! as she informed Warren earlier, because the frequency is the principle here! twice!! — to kidnap her when she was a back-club spectacle trying to apply the Dazzler's make-up on the stairs of the F line.

They know what she is. And she knows what they are: poison, Alison thinks, brewing up between the seams of excessive money and excessive indolence.

But Warren provided a good argument for her restraint: the HFC's hands are tied by their own chicanery. They could do nothing to them without revealing their own hidden hand to their membership, and being among the membership may be the safest place tonight. It also sends a point: the X-Men are watching.

And so, on Warren's arm, Alison Blaire wears her war face. Her gown is a deep, cobalt blue whose fitted, exacting lines cut her with austerity — and also bring what is holstered in her matching eyes. The look of someone who knows she is imposing on enemy territory — and does not care.

Warren notices Shaw noticing him. He notices the twitch, too. His eyes are his strongest sense, and he's honed them through years of being designated reconnaissance.

In response, he shoots Shaw a brilliant grin and a tip of his glass of wine. He wore the most modern cut of suit possible to this event, just for you.

Of note, his wings are also on display, albeit tightly folded at his back. The sole positive of being registered, really; he doesn't have to bind them down anymore to go to any of these things, which are already painful enough without his limbs being straitjacketed the entire time.

"I don't really know what they're up to," he asides to Alison. "Perhaps nothing. They throw these nonsensical events often enough just to keep the oblivious members busy. But the timing of those renovations is too suspicious." He scans the crowd, identifying faces. "But the sending of the message, by our presence, is the important thing — is that Katherine Kane in a dress?"

His gaze catches Betsy in the crowd a moment later, and if she's listening out on the psychic airwaves, she'll catch a directed thought from him. «On your left, Bets. Glad you're here in the event things go south, though I doubt they'd have the nerve.»

Kory really gets into the whole feline routine, and her performance is pretty convincing! And appropriately suggestive, for that matter. Still, a bit of acting and performance odd themed shoots are all part of the biz, after all. Plus? She's kind of cheating, what with ancient Tamaranean feline heritage and all of that. Mostly, she seems to be having fun with it, letting loose in a way she doesn't often get the chance. Sebastian's comment earns a pretty bat-bat of her lashes over her striking (but at least not presently GLOWING, thankfully her team hooked her up with gadget contacts for that!) green eyes, and she even gives a convincing purr. "Why thank you, sirrrrr."

That said, she doesn't nose in too hard on whatever bit with him and his date (heck, the batted eyes are probably aimed at Selene every bit as much as Sebastian!) She knows better than to stir up trouble by hitting on the boss in front of his lady, when she's just the hired help!

Once the pair have gone onto whatever business, she soon scampers to join a couple ladies who, with a little ceremony, are 'released' from the 'pen' to go and frolic amongst the guests. This soon sees Kory bounding (and bouncing- what? lets be real) into the crowds. She peeks here or there, noses curiously at food plates held by guests in imitation of her totem beast, and after a few moments comes up behind Warren and Alison and starts batting at the former's wing.

Birb vs. Cat!

In a crowd like this, Betsy does have just the lightest awareness lingering about her. There's not much anyone could really do to stop her, the way she's feeling. She will pick up on that directed thought, hiding her smile against her glass of wine, as she turns to the left. Compared to Alison's austere elegance, Betsy feels downright like debauched decadence, but.. she's worn far less for far larger crowds on catwalks.

Violet eyes warm as she approaches the golden pair of blondes, smiling softly. "A pleasure as always, Warren, Alison." She is slightly surprised to see Alison here, and no, these events don't seem like her sort of thing. There's a frown at the model-cat batting at Warren's wing. "No, kitten. Don't make me declaw you." She's seen her before, and not at a show or shoot. She remembers back to that day shortly before Yule when the blue giants appeared in Manhattan, looking for a certain Asgardian.

One hand tucking into her purse, Kate pulls free her phone and sifts through texts with the faintest of frowns pressing at her darkly-painted lips. A soft sigh breathes out between them a moment later as she looks up.

Which is just about when Katherine Kane's green eyes lock on to the silhouette of one Warren Worthington.

She knows it's him; besides the obvious reasons, well.

Over time, you start to develop a sixth sense for these things. Kate thinks the technical terminology is 'a migraine.'

To her benefit, her grimace is a truly subtle one, because she can just hear Warren's words, but also she's a class god damn act. The way she drains the rest of her (current) glass is slightly less subtle, though, as she passes off the fine and emptied glass to a passing squirrel and immediately plucks up a fresh one from the woman's furry grasp.

"Shit," she mutters, half to herself. "Now I lost count."

Drinking game - failed.

Thanks, Warren.

Green eyes flit towards Warren, then to his date; red brows inch upwards a fraction in mild recognition, but the first thing she says is, of course,

"I wear lots of things, Warren. I just happen to make suits look better than anyone else."

And then she very sublimely takes a sip of her wine mentioning in between sips,

"On your left."

Seconds after the Starfire-assault begins.

Because she cares.

For those who know the club's inner workings a little better, they might be able to notice that there are a number of familiar faces that are missing, Frost among them. While not perfect in attendance at these soirees, she is certainly rarely absent. Easily enough chalked up to the much greater distance, perhaps.

It doesn't seem to bother Sebastian Shaw in the least to be left to his own devices, and when Worthington salutes? He lifts his own glass in kind. Kory flirts with the host, with his companion, and there's a half-formed bit of laughter for her trouble. In the wake of Selene's departure, he watches her go - and then the feline go - and turns his head with its once-thick black curls tied back in the direction of the congealing pool heroes. He makes little secret now of his watching.

Because nothing good can come of that.

He considers an approach, the gears of thought visibly turning as he takes a deeper draught from his glass. The consideration is cut short, as another member slides in and begins the game of small talk and gushing about the wine. The jest about the terrible tasks they could put the evening's models to, and Shaw's rowdy laughter makes a triumphant return.

And Betsy alone, perhaps, might feel the palpable lightening of the psychic realm as Selene gains some distance from the party and disappears into the dim light and shadows that shroud her chosen path.

"Hello, Betsy," is Warren's out-loud greeting as the psion approaches, with a lift of his glass. He has his 'ridiculous socialite' face on for this event, clearly, judging by the fact his small talk is even more inane than usual. "Absolutely dreadful being here, isn't it? They truly outdo themselves every time to be as absolutely gaudy as possible. But I suppose dad would have wanted me to at least try to keep up the traditions, so, here we are… with poor Alison a victim of my sudden sense of responsibility." He slips Alison a sidelong, apologetic look.

His voice lowers a moment later, between the three of them. "I think they're up to something. I don't buy this 'clubhouse closure for renovations' thing. Let's see what we can overhear tonight, shall we?"

He might have said more, but then he's interrupted. First, by —

I just happen to make suits look better than anyone else.

Warren's brilliant smile attains a truly impressive wattage. "You're as wonderfully unpleasant as ever, Katie Kane," he says, because he called her that once at a fete years ago, and discovered she disliked it. He turns to Alison brightly a moment later. "My darling," he says, "this is Miss Kane, of the Gotham Kanes." Stage whisper: "If she says anything alarming, it's the alcohol."

And then — Warren's wing jumps a little bit as Kory bats at it, because Kate didn't warn him at all. The feathers puff up in startlement in a most satisfying way. The rest of Warren is more circumspect in reaction, glancing over his shoulder with an arched brow — and then adjusting his gaze up, and up, and up. The other brow lofts to join the other in a transparent 'well hello there' expression.

"My dear," he says, amusement coloring his features, "you're really getting into character. Take care this bird doesn't carry you off; some are known to do that with cats." His smile turns thoughtful. "Kory Anders, isn't it? Working the event?"

That universal look of recognition is a daily thing for her; Alison Blaire feels like she's long common law with notoriety.

Truth be told, she doesn't like it. She never realized years ago, in her ambition to have the world hear her music, what a damning cost it is to lose her anonymity. And once taken, it stays gone forever.

Tonight, she weaponizes it the best way she can, especially when the mingling din of the Hellfire Club know her as much as songstress as exposed mutant — and with another mutant at her side, flexing his full wings on display. Some are curious, others neutral, calculating, and the rest barely able to mask their disgust.

No problem. The disgust is mutual, she assures; there's a flicker of it ghosting across Alison's face as her eyes linger on Sebastian Shaw.

Fortunately, there are welcoming faces hidden among the lion's den.

Alison does not lose the Dazzler's forbearing smile as she favours Warren's aside. "It's always something," she replies. "I think you ruined Shaw's night, by the way. Good show."

A pause, when Warren talks about someone Alison can recognize by name alone but has no idea about — never her job to keep track of the pedigrees of antidiluvian money. "Warren, stop teasing the —"

And Kate answers. And seems well-honed to defend herself against Warren's remarks. Alison can't hide a smile.

Nor hide her surprise to see a second familiar face, the X-Men on full trespass of the Hellfire event tonight. Alison welcomes Betsy with a look of undisguised relief, happy to see another comrade. "Betsy!" she replies, delighted. "How beautiful you look!" Playing the part of the innocuous singer.

And then, mentally, she emits a very pointed, directed thought: «You're here too to see who's drinking Shaw's koolaid? Mind if you opened us all a psi-link? I'm looking around — I haven't seen sign yet of Queen Elsa, Mother of Corsets. Wasn't this sort of thing her food and drink?»

Her covert thoughts, however, distract as the performance demands attention, and Alison shines the Dazzler's smile to Kate's introduction. "Lovely to meet. I'm Alison. And I'd need alcohol if I had to suffer this out every day."

And then, there was a Kory, unable to resist the feathers of Warren's wings. Alison's expression lights with recognition. "Nice to see you! It's been — since Christmas time! When —" monsters exploded on everyone. Her expression crinkles. "When events… occurred."

"Alison." Betsy's smile is warm, as she leans to air kiss beside the singer's cheek. Then she turns, violet eyes running over Kate Kane, left brow ever so faintly lifted. There's a nod of greeting, before she's sipping at her wine. "You look lovely, Alison. The blue works so well with your coloring, especially your eyes."

The small talk is more cover than not, as Alison and Warren will feel a possibly familiar sensation, as she easy mentally links the three X-men. « It could be too far from her business stuff? I was actually sort of hoping to see her here. Her absence actually worries me.» Violet eyes will glance at Warren, so he may understand why. « I had hoped to ask her if she'd been feeling the psychic disturbances, but now I have to worry that she's been hurt by them. Oh boy.»

There's a soft laugh at Kori's behavior, and her discussion of things happening. "Events occurred, hmm?"

There is no doubt some shared, scheming look with Kate she fails to rat Kory out on her stalking approach. In any event, she looks very satisfied with Warren's reaction. Like the cat that got the man-sized canary, as it were.

"Meow!" she answers as he turns, as if confirming just how seriously she takes her cat-play, although thankfully she doesn't stick with it any longer than that. "Yes, that's right! We met at that hmm, what was it… was it the police ball?" And then Alison nails it. "Yes, that's right!" she exclaims excitedly. "The Councilman's Christmas ball. It was really quite the party, was it not?" It did, indeed, involve fighting exploding demon criminal things, though she does her best not to look like she thinks it was anything special, even as Betsy joins in on the topic. "Oh, Miss Dazzler…" A title she uses rather reverently. "Did Richard ever find you? He very much wanted to get your autograph, but in all the… fuss, he did not get the chance!"

And she turns to another semi-familiar face, from those Gotham circles, her erstwhile partner in ambush. "And you are Miss Kane, yes? I think we might have run into each other at one of Mr. Wayne's charity events." On Dick's arm, no doubt.

But then she seems to remember that she's got a job she's supposed to be doing.

"I am working," she answers, now somewhat belatedly, although really it's pretty obvious. That, or she has some really *special* taste in clothes. "Is this not all fantastic? I hope you are all enjoying yourselves? Is there -anything- I can get for any of you?" Does she make that sound like a little too suggestive of an offer? Yes! But it's probably in her contract or something. So very professional, or something!

You're as wonderfully unpleasant as ever, Katie Kane.

Katie Kane


Katie… Kane. It's just a step above calling her Katherine (don't call her Katherine; similarly, don't ask why you can't call her Katherine).

Which is why follow up can only be a winning smile as she lifts her glass into the air, taking solace in Warren's impending cattening.

"What can I say?" she muses, voice laced with a suitably subtle sardonic sting. "You must just bring out the best in me, Renny."

Like a toast to Warren's generous nature, of course.

As dry as the Sahara as her words for Warren are — the kind of dryness that comes from years of knowing a person at both of your respective worsts — the expression Kate adopts when she greets Alison is a much more charming affair, coupled with a casual air like someone greeting an old friend rather than strangers or - perhaps more damningly - celebrities.

"See? She actually gets me," she declares, her grin a much warmer thing. "Pleasure, Alison. Call me Kate. And don't worry; no matter what Warren might say, I'm pretty sure I'm the charming sort of drunk."

To wit, the way she asides, in a way that'd be conspiratorial if she weren't pitching it /just so/:

"I just hope he appreciates how completely out of his league you are."

There. She thinks that was appropriately alarming.

Sharing an amused smile - complete with a secretive finger lifted to her lips - not seconds later, Kate leans back. Her green gaze turns Betsy's way, tilting her glass towards the lavender-haired woman in greeting before draining the rest of that glass. It's only then that her gaze makes its way back to Kory, and then up — up — up to Kory, her smile a lopsidedly friendly thing. Her wink, a much more conspiratorial kind.

"How could I forget? I've never seen Dick looking so starry-eyed before. You definitely know how to make an entrance." She offers her hand out to the model-turned-cat-enthusiast, head cant just slightly in greeting. "Kory Anders, right? You can call me Kate."

Another case of wine is being rolled out to the bar now, and the tinkling of bottles mingles mingles on the lakeside breeze with one of the Brandenburg concertos and the murmur of voices.

And now, as if summoned, the dark haired man with the vicious widow's peak - Sebastian Shaw himself - finally begins to weave his way through the crowd towards the group. His smile slips away somewhere along the way, buried under the weight of his disapproving frown. The transformation is a magic all its own: the jovial host to something far more worthy of nasty reputation that precedes him. His chin subtly slips upwards, a hand slips into his waistcoat pocket, and his broad shoulders straighten.

By the time he nears the group, he looks as though he's properly hated them all their lives. "Well, well, well," he offers as he barges into the conversation, with his dark eyes landing squarely and heavily on Alison. "Look what the cat dragged in."

A cursory glance follows after an uncomfortable beat to take in the rest of the group, not even bothering to hide the fact that he's sizing every last one of them up. "I trust you are all enjoying the party." His half-empty cup sweeps in Kory's direction. "I mean, how could you not? Wonderful, isn't she? All of them, really. Talent manager outdid himself this time."

Psylocke turns slightly on the heels of her sandals, chin lifting as she completely the small motion. There's a nigh complete transformation of the model's facial expression, as warmth and humor disappear, replaced with a haughty high society disdain, as she looks at Shaw as if she is not at all enthused with his proximity. There may be a subtle shift of shoulders, as if she can slide between him and Alison without it being obvious. She can not, alas, so she doesn't.

"The wine is passable, the venue a lovely change of pace." What's left unsaid is any compliment of the host, her words delivered in that crisp British accent, in the manner of the set-down from the noble class. " The models are lovely, though the costumes could have used more imagination. But I suppose some people don't understand that, with old fashioned taste that's quite passe. " Was that a flicker over a violet gaze over Shaw's outfit?

"Then we've already accomplished something great for the evening," is Warren's sage remark, as Alison observes that he seems to have ruined Shaw's night.

His outward demeanor is at definite odds with how he sounds across the psychic link Betsy establishes between the three X-Men, however. There's none of the nigh-foppishness to be heard in his mental 'voice' as he muses, «Distance never stopped Frost before. I'm surprised too that she isn't present; she's typically glued to Shaw.» He glances at Alison. «Ah, the disturbances… some of our psions have been catching some strong disruptions over the psychic airwaves,» he explains for her benefit. «You know, I hadn't thought on asking Frost about if she's felt those disturbances, because…» A grimace. «…Frost. But it's true they might have taken her out too, given her absence.»

His mental 'tone' echoes her lack of enthusiasm about the potential of having to worry about Emma Frost, of all people.

The rather serious mental discussion is put briefly on hold as Kory and Kate make themselves known. Warren smiles indulgently to Alison's small talk with Kory about That Time At Christmas, and whether Richard ever got that autograph (no). "It is very fantastic," he assures Kory. "You've all quite outdone yourselves."

Kate gets a markedly less enthusiastic response — especially at Renny, which narrows his blue eyes. "Do I?" he muses, when she opines he brings out the best in her. "We should have gone through with the betrothal, then." As for Kate's follow-up jab? "I do agree Alison's quite wonderful," he says blandly. "Though really, absurdist remarks are the lowest-hanging form of humor, Kate."

Of course, Shaw decides to ruin everything, then, and Warren's feathers lift the tiniest amount as he makes that remark towards Alison. Betsy's return fire brings his mouth to quirk, though his amusement is probably more strongly felt across the psychic link the three X-Men are sharing. "Mister Shaw," is his cool reception. "Truly, it's as if nothing's changed since the last time I chose to come to one of these. That must have been… oh… at least fourteen years ago, now." He scans the venue blandly, before his piercing blue gaze settles squarely back on Shaw's. "It appears I haven't missed much."

"Is he not most adorable when he gets like that?" Kory wonders back at Kate, her expression sparkling both with her own obvious fondness for Dick and a touch of mischief at the opportunity to gossip in his absence.

Yet from bonding over their various shared social circles (and shared demon hunting), things take an abrupt turn. For Kory, it's all a bit strange. While she's rather the trusting soul (as evidenced by even /taking/ this job!), its hard not to pick up on the tension as Shaw approaches. It's less a sense she gets from him, even, than from those around her. As much as she wears her own heart on her sleeve, its hard not to feel the negative vibes just radiating off the rest of the group, how their own hearts harden. Those jabs at Shaw are different than the ones they make bantering back and forth with one another. Concerned, she glances among them, as if trying to pin down what's happening.

Unfortunately, she has precisely *zero* of the history or context for it, so things woosh over her head a bit.

"You're really all too kind," she offers, instead focusing on the compliments, whether they come more conditionally from Betsy, generously from Warren, or with the just slightly leering tone that Shaw seems to inflect. From her, everything is pure positivity! "I quite enjoy the outfits, and the theme is very much fun! Are there going to be games? I thought with all the different animals, maybe we would have to chase each other around or something." And now she's trying to give him ideas!

"You flatter," Alison laughs against Betsy's compliment, feigning a demurral, though there's a tinge of pleasure in her face.

Frivolities on the outside. On the inside, however, she engages the psi-link with a ready interest. «I'm not going to trip over myself to shed tears for Emma Frost,» Alison transmits back, her thoughts vivid with the grudge she bears — directed at the Hellfire Club's sordid past with Jean, «but I suppose we can't pick who we get to protect. And if something is up — it definitely won't end with her. How are you handling all this, Betsy? I can't imagine what psions must go through.»

Schmoozing and psi-link multitasking. One of the most esteemed skills of the X-Person.

It helps, however, when the company at hand is as fantastic as this. Alison answers Kory's recollection with an undisguised smile, the expression crooking graciously beyond the limits of the Dazzler's feigned affection. "That night was — I had to 86 that dress. And I liked that dress. It was a gift, that dress. And Richard, Richard — oh! Unfortunately, I don't recall! And possibly for the best. I was a bit weighted with… viscera."

Alison's eyes drift with reverie. It was so gross. Her mouth twitches, and she sobers, eyes back on Kory. "And, please, call me Alison—"

Her attention, however, averts between the repartee between Warren and Kate Kane, who are quickly revealing their hands to the curious Miss Blaire — who gets it the moment 'betrothal' is spoken aloud. Kate, however, wins with the remark about being beyond the Grand Prince Worthington's league.

Alison laughs at that, aloud. "Renny?" she asks Warren. "Really? You've been keeping secrets from us. And, please, don't let me get in the way of a betrothal. I wouldn't dare impose." Oh, she'll be weaponizing this for joke fodder for weeks.

Unfortunately, the festivity doesn't last long. The moment Sebastian Shaw cuts in, all the amusement bleeds out of Alison's face. She doesn't react, not outwardly, but there is no mistaking how she seems to tighten like a knotting noose. His words come met with a long, protracted look.

Over the psi-link, her thoughts transmit a wordless sort of relief to Betsy's interception, and Warren's frank words.

Alison shouldn't be a smart ass. But she can't help it. Cat dragged in, her ass.

"Wonderful party, Mr. Shaw," she forces out through a hundred-watt smile. "Though, where's your better half? You dress differently when she's around to correct it."

The look that Shaw levels on Betsy is at once patriarchal and unkind, but in that dressed up way that will only make itself best known in the hardness of his gaze. "Ah, I would trust a member of the London chapter to be the best authority on old fashioned. We're just so new here in the colonies."

When his attention returns back to Warren, muttonchop-covered cheeks dimple in amusement. "Well, you know it goes, Mister Worthington," he rumbles on with a shrug of one brocade-wrapped shoulder, "You try to force a little change, and there's always someone ready to take umbrage with it, isn't there? All the same, even the comfortable habit still draws a crowd, so I suppose there must be something to it. Damned either way, which brings us to…"

His cup-bearing hand indicates the company of the vineyard, "The best damned place to be if you're going to be damned. And," His eyes turn to Kory, "If you want to run, I very much think you should convince the others to do the same."

Kate seems to be next on the docket for attention as he turns his head and opens his mouth as though to speak, until Alison speaks instead.

And then his attention is drawn back to her with the slowness of a sunning crocodile. "Worthington, perhaps now might be a splendid time to remind your guest of her manners."

Psylocke tosses her hair, her smile brilliant and sharp (and probably would make Warren and Alison worry), as she looks at Shaw. "You're right, we brits are just so old-fashioned with our notions of fighting fascism , and universal healthcare.. but even we stuffy English nobles wouldn't dream of that brocade jacket being deemed fashionable." She sniffs. "Even you can't seem to get the smell of mothballs out completely. You should talk to your dry cleaner, and think about temperature controlled storage, if you insist on wearable antique." She says this sotto voice, as if it's a secret.

There's a turn of her head towards Alison, and that look from violet eyes would be damned near flirtacious, if Alison wasn't with Warren. "Oh, I don't know. I find her manners fairly above board, all considered." There's a fingertip out to trace along Alison's arm for a moment, before she looks at Shaw again, violet eyes as hard as the amethyst around her throat. "After all, she didn't insinuate herself into a conversation group without invitation… and didn't stay after not being welcomed."

Betrothal. Kate just makes a face. You know the one:


"Yeah…….. no," she begins, when words find her again after the return of memories unbidden,

"That wouldn't have ended well. We're just not in the same league either, Warren."

Through the sheer power of G.A.E., that nautical star on her back seems almost two times more prominent in this moment. And she doesn't even have her back turned to them! It's truly remarkable.

She might have followed this up with more — probably would have, really. Years of experience has her locked and loaded. But before she can arm Alison with scandalous gossip about Pigeon Prince Renny or even indulge in more Dick-based anecdotes with Kory —

Suddenly, a Wild Shaw appears.

The energy is different in a matter of seconds. Barbs exchanged with Warren were ultimately light things; when Kate speaks next, it's more a more reserved, clipped affair. Are they enjoying themselves?

"I was," she answers, and sets her glass aside. A second passes by before Alison speaks, and Shaw rebuts. Her lips purse.

"… I think she's just giving voice to what we're all thinking," she begins, cordially, letting that insinuation hang just so before adding, "About our absent hostess, I mean. I noticed I was down a drinking partner tonight. How's Ms. Frost doing, Shaw? I'm surprised she isn't here."

But Kory speaks, and that positivity is practically infectious; Kate can't help but smile a bit more sincerely.

"You look perfect," she asides. Did she —

— did she roll her r a bit there??

must have been your imagination

(She's really spending too much time with Julia.)

We're just not in the same league either. "We most certainly are not, Kate," Warren answers slyly, swirling his wine with sneering patrician disdain. It's all an act, of course, the barbs a game in and of itself between the two. "But then you've never appreciated me nearly as much as… well, literally every other woman."

…he still doesn't know. God bless him.

As for Alison? Warren cuts her a warning look. "Don't you dare, Miss Blaire."

But Shaw appears presently, to rain on everyone's parade. His remark on how there's always 'someone ready to take umbrage when you try to force change' gives the winged man distinct pause, his eyes tightening about the corners in a telling way. It seems that phrase is a little too pertinent to things going on in Warren's own life at the moment.

But soon enough, of course, however, everyone starts raining right back on Shaw's parade. Warren snorts a quickly-repressed laugh at Alison's smart-ass retort. In fact, overall, he's frankly being thoroughly entertained by watching the assorted ladies in his company have a go at Shaw in retaliation for his rather nasty greeting. "Tit for tat, Mister Shaw," is his cool reply. "And to be frank — I certainly don't own any of these ladies, nor claim the authority to brank their tongues. They will remind themselves — if they wish to."

«Though,» he notes over the link, «we might have some difficulties digging up information if we're all tossed out.»

Betsy's lack of response to Ali asking after her is also noticed. Warren lifts his brows briefly at Alison in a wordless 'it's not good' signal.

"Ah, well. So terribly glad that you've come to drink wine on my private tab and insult me. Class act." The Black King's voice stays at a low rumble. He would, perhaps, turn to go with a bit of return fire. He would, except that Kate intercepts his barb.

His dark gaze turns down towards his glass, and then there's a snort that escapes his nose. It echoes a little louder than he intends, perhaps, as he had the cup in his hand ready at his lips. "Ah, Miss Frost was the unfortunate victim of a last minute business trip abroad."

A long drink follows, Shaw emptying the glass. It hovers near his waist after that, and the man himself turns his back and calls over his shoulder, "Do enjoy showing yourselves out."

"Oh, that is very much a shame. Mine also was not in the best condition, after everything that happened." Kory commiserates briefly with Alison on the shared fate of their eveningwear back on that fateful night. One of the prices one must pay for the heroing lifestyle! "It was unfortunate the night turned out like that. But I am sure there will be other gatherings." Like this one! Well maybe not like this one. "Maybe next time I can introduce you both. I am sure he and Warren would get along very well, also."

Then talk turns to fashion, and her bright green eyes do another round of ping pong tracking. Here, she can't help herself: "Is it really an antique, Mr. Shaw?" she wonders, echoing after Betsy. Of course she's not being intentionally insulting. She's curious! "It is a very interesting look. I find the great variety of hu-" Pause. "H-hungry! Yes! Does anyone need anything to eat?" Save! Plus, maybe she should at least act like she's doing SOME kind of work, even if her job description is mostly just 'stand around in next to nothing,' which she's clearly acing.

Kory manages to find a passing waitress with a tray and snags that, to hold up this charade. "Running would be difficult in the heels," she goes on, as Shaw seems to call her suggestion. Of course, the animal lingerie is worn with heels high enough to violate zoning laws. "But this is a lovely property. I just meant if you had anything more in mind for us, as we entertain your wonderful guests!"

For now, it's more radiant smiles, and she offers around the tray, ultimately sidling up next to Kate. Maybe it was the purring?! "I do not think I have met this Miss Frost," she also adds, a little more quietly, as the absent woman takes the conversation spotlight.

Despite her valiant effort, Alison Blaire's body language is not what it was before — all thanks to Sebastian Shaw. She keeps her smiles, acknowledges his returns with transparent amusement, but internally —

Over the psi-link, her mental signature knots with virulent dislike.

All the more she appreciates the mitigations; Betsy's retort and nigh-scandalous touch sharpens Alison's smile, though she doesn't answer it — Shaw's demeanour speaks volumes, and she's aware that a few drops of gasoline have already been applied to the fire. They showed up to nettle him, to play their hand at the X-Men's renewed strength, but there needs to be a limit. She can feel the spectre of Scott Summer looming over her shoulder. Don't antagonize needlessly.

There's also Shaw's effect on Warren for that matter; Alison does not grant those vexing words acknowledgment with outward show; discreetly, she touches his arm. You're better than him.

She also shares her boyfriend's glance, telling a hidden story beneath Betsy's failure to disclose. Alison's eyes tighten at the corners. She gets privacy; she respects privacy. She is one of the biggest proponents of it, really, and knows not to push. Instead, over the link, she retreats to business.

«It was destined to happen, anyway. Too much history, and I don't think any of us want to play Handmaiden's Tale long enough with Slimy Shaw. Something is up, though. Wasn't anti-Emma skulking around here?» One guess who Alison is talking about. «If not, maybe there is some way — I'm a layman here, but some sort of psion seance to try to find out where Emma's psychic signature might be? She wouldn't be letting Shaw court the club in her absence.»

One detail of note, however —

Alison can't help but catch Kate Kane's ice-cold dressing down of Sebastian Shaw. From what she can assume, old money should be in fisticuffs for invitations like the HFC, and here is a woman openly… speaking her mind. In loyalty to people she's just met.

She already likes her.

And, on top of it all, the perfect closing to the moment — Kory and her absolutely sincere compliments about the party. Alison's waspy last look peels off Shaw — good riddance — and she transparently warms. "I'm sure Miss Frost would adore you," she promises, already cherishing the mental image of Emma Frost dying inside next to the most bubbly alien EVER. "And if you think this is a party, we'll have to show you something better at the Institute sometime."

One day, Warren will find out. That day might well be when Kate tells him, 'Warren, I'm extremely, unbelievably gay.'

… Then again, it might not.

Still: when you dedicate yourself to an insane life choice like 'fighting an impossible war against crime to fill a gaping wound left behind from past trauma,' you learn a few things that really only experience can teach. Investigation is second nature to Kate Kane; she's spent weeks — sometimes months methodically building up information for cases. It's comfortable, but more to the point, it's reinforced a belief she's held since she was young: always trust your gut.

And right now—

"Really? Damn. That's too bad."

— Kate Kane's gut is telling her Sebastian Shaw is full of every kind of shit.

"Here I was, hoping for some stimulating conversation."

Technically speaking.

A hand lifts in offering of a glib, two-fingered salute for Shaw when he departs not moments later. After that? Kate looks to the others, pale shoulders lifting in a hapless shrug. "Like I said: I was hoping for some stimulating conversation."

With a sidelong glance Alison's way, a small smile follows on Kate's part afterwards as Kory settles in besides her; she graciously takes up some finger food when offered because she probably shouldn't be living off a purely liquid diet (yes she absolutely should) before she looks up at the other woman. That still takes some getting used to. Really, there was a time when Kate used to be the tallest woman in a room on any given day. And then she met Karen. And now, Kory. And now, Kory, in heels. It's — an adjustment period. But it's not all bad, she decides.

"You'd probably like her," she asides. Because Kory seems the type to like just about everyone. It's endearing; sometimes she wishes she was like that.

"She's got a real way with words."


"Yes, well," Warren muses, after Shaw's haughty outrage and retreat. "He absolutely started it."

His gaze turns to Kate at her hapless observation. "A futile hope when it comes to Sebastian Shaw, I fear."

Putting aside his wine on the tray of a passing server — he seems to have lost his taste for it — his eyes narrow slightly as he contemplates the news that Emma Frost is on a 'business trip abroad.' «That's almost certainly a lie,» is Warren's thought on the matter. «And Emma Frost is one of those people who… I don't want to know where she is, but it's infinitely preferable to not knowing where she is. You know?» His eyes turn between Alison and Betsy. «And I don't like that Selene was here. No. Well — this might be the most we can divine for now, until we can get a bead on where exactly Miss Frost really is.»

Aloud, to Kory, with a warm smile for her innocent joy: "You'd absolutely remember her if you met her. She leaves such an impression."

But then Alison is telling her if she wants to see a real party, she should stop at the school. "Really, Alison," is Warren's mild remark, "I wasn't going to advertise the Institute as a party school." His smile gains a mischievous edge. "But if you insist…"

"Oh?" Kory wonders back at both Kate and Alison, who both seem oddly enthusiastic at the prospect of her meeting their unseen friend. If only she knew! Yet before there's really much time to settle in on that particular thought, it seems like everyone is being kicked out!

Here, the alien Princess does finally express something other than constant thousand-watt cheer. She looks very disappointed that her friends, new-found and otherwise, are being thrown out! But she has (barely) the sense of discretion not to pry too deeply into the situation, at least in the moment, with all the other guests still milling about. There's obviously a story!

"I… am not sure what all that trouble was about, but I am sorry you were not able to enjoy yourselves here more. I would certainly enjoy to meet up again sometime. The Institute?" With it being sold as a happening pad for parties equal to this one, she probably has completely the wrong idea about what kind of place it is! "Let me…"

Here, while balancing the tray in one hand (she looked VERY satisfied when Kate actually took something from it, too!), she makes as if to reach for something… and only then seems to remember that she is wearing clothing only by the loosest definition of the term. Thus, she lacks her phone. "Ah, oh, right. Kate, perhaps if you message Dick or young Timothy, they can give you my number? Regrettably, I have left my communication device in my other pants." Earth humor! "Please do travel safely and enjoy the rest of your evenings."

Unfortunately, she's still booked for a few hours, so there will be no escape from the oggling. Then again, once they're gone, she promptly returns to sneaking up on people and making cat-noises at them, so it seems like she's not going to be too traumatized by the whole affair!

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