Log Title: Conversations of a Transactional Nature
Summary: Royal takes a trip to the Houses for a distraction and ends up having a meaningful conversation.
IC Date: Thu Feb 21 18:55, 2381
OOC Date: Thu Feb 21 18:55, 2019
Related Logs: None
maryroyal

 

 

"I'm seventy percent bullshit and the remaining thirty is pretentiousness."

Centuries ago, casinos figured out that people were more likely to make financial decisions in their favor if they pumped in certain scents into the ventilation system. This now ancient practice is the first note of welcome when one arrives through the pneumatic sliding doors. A gentle envelopment into a scent that eludes definition but conveys all the sentiments of suggesting that where you're standing is where you've always been meant to be. The retinal scans built in already registering the client's name- if they are something of a frequent flyer- so that the synth staffer at the reception desk is ready great them by name. It's all a seamless transition, designed with ease and to put one at ease.

Mary herself is at the opposite reach of the room, attentive to the blonde woman she's at nearly equal height with. Her hair is pulled back into a sleek, almost academic looking ponytail. Her dress today a royal blue- tight in the bodice and flaring out into an a-line in the skirt. Expensive and leaning towards shorter but without being short. The conversation is tones both quiet and friendly, their body language and proximity almost conspiratorial. In her hands, Mary taps her fingers along a tablet- each House member has one- and then shows her companion the screen in conference. Whatever there, meeting a certain amount of approval.

The door traffic has Mary's head lifting now and again to apprise who is arriving before she turns her attention back to her conversation mate.

* * *

There are two categories - there are the high rollers, but then there's the people with status. Sometimes these things overlap, but not always. In Royal's case, his credit is very high and very good, but his visits to the Houses of Bay City have been infrequent but not negligible. He has an impeccable client record, which means he's always been a gentleman and has never made any trouble. His history with House workers are varied, but he seems to have a type. They're all a refined sort of attractive with builds that lean towards the athletic. In fact, they could most easily be categorized as being similar to the models who walk for high end, mostly conservative fashion houses. Men, women, and those who identify otherwise are all on the roster, but there seems to be a preference for the well-spoken and the well-read, as well as the well-turned out.

He enters the House, clad in a classic and extremely well-fitted suit that he wears with ease. It's a soft slate gray with a slight sheen to the thread, over a pressed white dress shirt, with designer wing tips with orange soles. As is his personal signature, the soles of his shoes match his pocket square.

He's got enough of a profile to be handed his preferred drink soon upon entering - which happens to be an Old Fashioned. Appropriate. He exchanges a few polite words with the synth at reception, then moves to give a cheek-kiss greeting to a leggy and graceful woman with dark 1920s style pincurls, absolutely immaculate warm skin and lashes curls up to the heavens. But they only linger in each others' company for a moment before she wanders off to return to the side of a client who has engaged her for the evening.

* * *

Huh. It seems to quirk in Mary's expression, cutting through the distraction of the woman she's engaged with. She'd seemed to have expected Royal to be led on through a door into the House with the pincurled companion as the focus of his appointment. But instead - when he's left to his own devices…

She exchanges a few words more with her companion, whatever matter they were reviewing settled before she's gliding across the room towards Royal. And gliding it is - the neurachem enhancement gives her movements as a glossy element almost like floating as she approaches. "Your Grace," Mary says with a respectful and refined directness when she's nearly there, leaving no doubt as to whom she's talking to if looking directly at Royal wasn't enough. "Can I be of assistance?" That he holds a title of some note and that Mary knows how to address him as an inferior might propose that she has some measure of an idea as to whom she's speaking to.

* * *

That, and even here in the Houses, Royal doesn't hide his ONI broadcast that gives a minimum bit of biographical information to whomever cares to look. As much as he might prefer otherwise, it also contains his title, and the fact that he holds a PhD, though in history rather than anything immediately useful such as medicine. There's also the curious note of his GPPI license, which seems incongruous with everything else. "Your gracefulness," he says in response with a headtilt and a warm smile. "No, no. I didn't make an appointment. Rude of me, I know. But I came here on a whim. And I do know you're oh so good at catering to whims."

* * *

"It's hard to refuse the prospect most especially when someone who can hold a erudite position on history decides to grace us, today," Mary responds with a sweet, if knowing grin. Just the proud cat holding the canary behind its teeth in that smile - canny and focused, pleased at his decision to arrive.

"Can I interest you a drink?" The tablet in her hands is held behind her back, the stance more about professional graces than hiding anything from him. Her head turns to indicate a door beyond, the prospect of a drink in relative peace. "I suspect-," she says, her voice dropping in volume to make those nearby who might be listening more apt to work to hear her next. "-that you might find a setting where others are less apt to pry, more to your preference?"

* * *

"My darling, the way to my heart, or to my wallet, is not flattering my list of archaic titles. Don't fuss about protocol and proper modes of address. Save that for the gents who want to roleplay, yes? You can call me Royal. A little tongue in cheek joke the GPPI came up with, but I find it's best to own these things."

He smiles and inclines his head, then sips from his drink. "Half the reason I come here is you do make excellent cocktails." A dark haired young man walks by in gauzy clothing. He watches. "That's the other reason. And oh, yourself of course. Quite lovely." He glances around when she says that. He can see ONIs flashing as some of the other clients get a read on him. "Yes indeed. I'd prefer not to be cornered by one of your other clients and forced to recount my role in Queen Beatrice's coronation. Lead the way."

* * *

Mary's own ONI isn't triggering, disabled perhaps by firm election. The discretion offered by this House and the individuals employed with it perhaps a feature. "Of course, Royal," she offers in apology, her smile back valuing the correction. Her own head turning to note the gauzy drift of the young man who walks by, their exchange of smiles professional but friendly before she's focusing on Royal anew.

Her head inclines slightly in flattered thanks for his own paid compliment of her attractiveness before she's leading him on. The smart click of her heels on the marbled floor cuts off as they pass through the inner doors, transitioning for public space to the feel of a private sanctum. All sound deadened on purpose as a means of discretion. The walls are hard wood teak, the lighting low and tasteful. The long hallway seamless of the doors that are actually there. That smell of roses and jasmine and teak and status and class and so many other things that the finger can't exactly place present here too.

The walk is short, Royal lead into a parlor area. The windows one way and dimmable. The furnishings an implication of a study circa the Edwardian period, actual books upon actual shelves. The smell of old paper and binding materials present but only just so. And Mary on her tablet. "I'm sorry to say I don't know your drink of preference," she admits, the implication being 'yet'. The tablet in her hand and poised to fulfill his request, while she gesture for Royal to sit where he's so inclined.

* * *

Royal has been in this particular House before, but still he takes a moment to take in the details of his surroundings. "You know, what I appreciate about what you've done here is the scent. I have been in some truly ancient salons like the one you're emulating here. It isn't identical. It's hard to simulate history. But it's certainly as close as I'd expect to find on this coast." As for drinks? He salutes with the Old Fashioned in his hand. "I'm a man of predictable and classic tastes. Anything ancient, I've probably got a taste for it. I like to taste the alcohol. Nothing too sweet. Something with a little smoke, and a good deal of richness. Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Sazerac, or any variation therein. A nice glass of wine, naturally. Beer, but usually only when I'm feeling depressed."

He steps towards her, but doesn't enter her personal sphere. Gentleman, even in this transactional place. "And what is your name, my dear?" Sure, he could ONI scan, but he came here for personal contact.

* * *

"Mary." And truly, her smile is pleased to meet him more officially. Mary? But is it really? The lack of the ONI scan leaves it up for debate if this is the name she was graced with by birth or the name she holds forth in the illusion of fantasy. Either way, Mary it is. Her gaze slides away from it's directly held gaze into Royal's face long enough to tap a few things into the tablet. The translucent object showing the backwards scroll of staging his preferences.

"My father was an antique book collector. I've always liked the smell, to be truthful. I don't think a lot of people have ever considered that books have a smell, much less the idea that you might want to own one?" The tablet in her hand fades into sleep, it laid aside. Up close, Mary is as polished as she might be from far away. New details emerging. The suggestion of a small spray of freckles muted beneath her makeup across her nose and cheeks. Pearl earrings - a single pearl in each ear. Manicured nails, no polish. "What did you write your dissertation on?," she asks - this her next question. So many avenues of flattery and surface conversation available but Mary seems to want to dive in, interested in the finer details of his effort at research.

* * *

If Royal wanted pure reality, he would have stayed wandering around on the Ground instead of ascending to the House for a night of escapism. He polishes off his first drink with the speed of a man who wants to loosen up. He sets the glass down on the nearest surface and slides his hands into his pockets. "Comparative colonialism. The colonizing of this continent and others, compared and contrasted to humanity's move out into the stars to form the Protectorate. I've always been fascinated by patterns, and quite good at them." He glances over to see what books might be nestled in against the wall. "I've been dallying in criminology these days. Searching for the more immediate, human patterns."

Royal himself is rather well-manicured as well, from his expensive haircut, to the fine details on his designer suit, to the subtle musk of expensive soap and high-end aftershave. In fact, if he wasn't broadcasting his ONI, one might mistake him for an employee rather than a patron. Perhaps that's precisely why he leaves it on.

* * *

Just like that- a new drink appears. It's brought forth on a tray carried by another synth staffer, served with a respectful air before the staffer leaves as unobtrusively as they arrived. And not one to leave Royal to drink by his lonesome leisure, Mary is served one too. Sazaracs all around. "Interesting," she observes, the comment setting up to be droll in its response but then she goes on. "I've always wondered about that. The settlement of space in the early days was such a statement of socioeconomic disparity. Some still accuse the Musk Mission only creating a new space for the fortunate to plant their flag - no suggestion of race or competition, except perhaps the elite."

"Criminology is a bit of a shift though?" She smiles up at him, her glass raised to her lips to take a polite sip. "You already seem a student of the carnival of humanity. What new things are you hoping to discover?"

* * *

Royal takes his drink and sniffs it in approval before giving it a delicate sip. "The history of the protectorate is the repeated history of our planet, with one class using the other as labour. I realize it may seem hypocritical of me to analyze this, but in a very real way, I'm exploring the crimes and deeds of my ancestors. The reason we're not allowed to resleeve and keep title is that each member of the House of Windsor can still legitimately claim shared blood going back hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of years, depending on which way you squit and tilt your head at the family tree." He chuckles.

As for criminology? "I had an inciting incident involving the sleeve death of a colleague. It made me realize that there were more practical applications for my penchant for patterns than comparing moments in history. History is being made at every moment. So I suppose I just switched my focus a little ahead in time."

* * *

Mary regards the 'why' of his current topic switch thoughtfully for a moment. Her head canting just slightly, her brown eyes looking at Royal with softening gaze. Empathy. Possibly the real kind. "My condolences for your loss, Royal," she states with a firm kindness that proposes to mean it. The corners of her mouth have tugged downward into something that threatens a frown. "You saw the need to take action, though. Some wouldn't feel that they necessarily had the pre-possessed courage or resolve to do so."

Her eyes flicker away from his face for a moment, in contemplation of some thought sparked in her expression before they re-fall on his face. There's a note there, brown eyes searching his face for something like she's trying to find some emotional thread therein. The success of her search unclear even as she smiles with a sweetness up at him, her nose wrinkling just slightly in an unstudied way.

* * *

"Oh, hmm? Loss? Oh! Don't feel too sorry about it. The mystery was in the man's missing stack and fear that he was experiencing some form of tortue. But it turned out he was trying to smuggle his stack off world to avoid gambling debts. But it was a cracking mystery while it lasted," says Royal with a bright smile. He holds her gaze only for a moment, before it flits off. "And I suppose I got a bit hooked. Though it did begin with concern for my friend and colleague."

He starts to poke at some of the books. He's a tactile person, especially when he's not entirely relaxed. He comes off as a man of great confidence, but that isn't always the truth of it. "I always find these conversations to be a bit masturbatory. No offense, you're carrying it beautifully. But I can't likewise ask about your life. Well, I suppose I could. But would you tell me the truth of it, or something to feed into my fantasy?" He looks back at her now, a bit of confidence returning to dark eyes.

* * *

She wanders a few steps back, giving him extra room to view the titles. Joyce and all his contempoaries, to match the theme of the room. Except one. Thackery. A copy of 'Vanity Fair'. Disturbed by the way its been pulled out its place and creases in the spine indicate read. Perhaps more than a few times. This unlike all the other books that on closer inspection might have not seen any attention in years.

There's no offense seemingly taken to Royal's observation. In return, she settles into a seat to watch him explore the room. Her mouth coiling thoughtfully at the way he calls her out. "No one ever wants the truth," she observes, her speech more relaxed - a cadence more like the person behind the mask of willing fantasy. There's a pause. "Mary," she continues. "My name really is Mary."

* * *

And of course, as a student of patterns, Royal's sharp eyes pick it out. He's got no neurachem, no modifications of any kind. Those kinds of mods for the monarchy are forbidden except in cases of health or greatly improved quality of life. But he's naturally observant. He tugs out the book and thumbs through the pages with neatly manicured nails. "I really haven't read as many of the classics as I should have. Too much time with my nose in dates."

When she says it's her real name, he smiles with some genuine warmth. "And a fine, classic name it is, my dear."

* * *

"It was my grandmother's name." She informs Royal with a genuine smile mirrored back, taking no credit for the considerable fineness of the person who originally owned it before her.

"And-" she exhales the word, watching him examine the book with interest. The book has been dog eared, the reader having marked passages perhaps of some importance to them. "-I like that one, because… it helps keeps me sane. The way people get so caught up in things that do them so little good." Her eyes tilting upwards to indicate the room. "It's not that this place doesn't do good. It can? It does. There are plenty of lonely people who probably go through their lives without feeling seen - there's no real warmth or human touch in their days."

"I wouldn't have imagined myself here, a few years ago but things change and you have to change with those things." She smiles though again. "And-," she exhales the word again, watching him closely. "-if that's too much fantasy ruined for you, please tell me."

* * *

"The fantasy I seek, Ms. Mary, is to be seen," says Royal. He sounds like he means it. He sets his drink down and holds the book in his hands, fingers sliding across the pages. "As this book is seen. Not as an archaic thing clad in history, but for its contents." He looks down, then inhales sharply, then smiles in a self-effacing way. "And apparently my other fantasy is to play at being a poet." His smile is a bit toothy.

"I find myself excessively lonely at times, and I'm sad, but not ashamed to admit that. We should all name our loneliness. It might urge more of us to do something about it."

* * *

Mary regards him, a serious air settling about her. Thoughtful, studying him closer now from her seat - his ginger handling and exploration of the book. Her legs uncross as she leans forward, her eyes squinting just a little. Her drink still in her hand but forgotten all the same. It's not the neurachem that makes it easier to pick up on fine detail with a little concentration. It's an efforted way of taking him in, instead.

"What are you afraid of, Royal?" The question comes. It's quiet but focused. It wants to know. It cuts to a certain kind of chase in wanting to know.

* * *

Mary leaves, heading towards the RP Room Lobby O.

* * *

* OOC Time: Mon Feb 25 15:13:31 2019 *

* * *

  • * *

* * *

"Real death. Sleeve death. Death of any kind. Predictable, but true. I lose more than most if I lose this sleeve," Royal motions to himself. "Do you know how it works with the monarchy? That I'm disinherited and lose title when my sleeve dies? It's a way that the monarchy endures. But it ensures that when my sleeve dies, part of my identity dies along with it."

He handles the book gently and slides it back on the shelf, then returns one hand to his pocket. "It may seem strange then, that I court danger by moonlighting as a private detective."

* * *

Mary doesn't know how it works with the monarchy when it comes to sleeve death and her head slowly shakes at him in wordless denial of the concept as Royal continues on to the explanation. He renders from her a brief wince, the consequences of sleeve death to someone such as himself an escalated level of loss. His conclusion about why it's actually dangerous for him to be in this job is followed by her eyes pitching downwards into the contents of the drink in her hand. Contemplating the particulars, likely. "Most people consider sleeve loss traumatic enough? The sickness and the hardship of adjusting to a new sleeve - and, well, that's if they or their families have the resources. The escalated consequences for you…"

She shrugs lightly, resigned to a protocol she doesn't likely doesn't fully understand. "It makes sense that they have to be harsh given that the stakes are higher for you but that doesn't make it brutal, all the same." A brief silence extends, watching Royal's face before Mary's ONI activates. Her personal details on display for Royal to examine, such as they may be. Payment of truth in kind. "Only the meths seem to escape the high costs of dying," she adds, quietly - this more observation than any sort of indictment of the unfairness about the elevated advantages of being one of the lucky few.

* * *

"True enough. I don't know the particulars, but I'm fairly convinced that if my ancestors hadn't made a Faustian bargain with the meths to stop us from becoming meths ourselves, we would have gone slowly extinct. And I don't know about you but I find it hard to imagine a world where England doesn't have a monarchy. Even if it is just purely ceremonial."

Royal cants his head as the exchange of personal information dances on to his ONI. "That wasn't necessary," he says, but he glances nonetheless.

* * *

"No, it wasn't." Mary's agrees, quietly - her mouth briefly forming a small, fleeting smile at him. "But if trafficking in illusion isn't what you don't want…" She pauses, before adding, "And the stark unfairness of your position maybe needed a little re-balancing of fairness? You were truthful with me; shouldn't I do the same?" Mary- the real Mary- is a Bay City native. A denizen of the part of the city where moneyed and advantaged corporate employees live high above the acid rain and ongoing life as trauma world of the Ground. A country day school. A university degree. A medical degree. Now a member of this House. The incongruity of those last details presented without comment.

* * *

Mary says, "I think tradition is important," she agrees on that point, too. "And you seem to be doing something productive with your life as a member of the monarchy, which if the tabloids implications are correct - not all of your very extended family members do." She smiles at him apologetically before she shifts in her seat. "Are you new to PI work? I might have a friend who could help you establish better contacts. Good contacts are good for safety, he tells me.""

* * *

As a man with an incongruous detail in his biography, Royal is sympathetic. And he doesn't probe. But the detail is squirreled away for the moment. In some ways, he has the natural insticts of a PI. "If you thumb far enough back in those tabloids, you'll see lots of me. I've tried to clean up my act in recent years, but I had the youth one might expect of someone with money, privilege and too much time on his hands." He raises his drink to his lip, sips.

"No, not actually. A few months. And I'm always up for expanding my network. The GPPI see me as an interloper. I've met very few who see me otherwise."

* * *

"When I was younger, playing danger tourist down on the" Ground with other teenagers was my poor decision making drug of choice," she admits, her expression commiserate. "So, I understand the impulse but if it helps, I was locked into medical school until recently - any spare time I had was trying to steal sleep or see my family so you can be assured that I probably saw less about your exploits than you may think and if I did, the details immediately fell out of my memory."

"But- as for the GPPI? I can't claim to know more than what I'm told but their hierarchy seems more than just paperwork and beyond yourself, there are probably a lot of people who attempt a life in the GPPI and find out quickly it isn't for them. Sometime that seems to end badly? Your willingness to stubbornly ignore them will win out but friends help. So I'm happy to pass along my contact to you-" She finally takes a sip of her drink, her actual and real interest in it less so than what the fantasy version of herself might have otherwise lead a different patron to believe. "I imagine there will be uptick in GPPI registrations soon? All the strange stuff about the Longbows has people curious and opportunistic so doubly better to have a friend."

* * *

"That and the fascination with the monarchy is a niche interest on this side of the pond," says Royal. "For that I'm grateful. Why do you think I came here? It's actually somewhere I could start with something of a clean slate."

"As someone who recently went through the process of becoming an investigator, it isn't quite so easy," he says. "The paperwork alone is a pain in the arse. If people are nosy, better for them to pay someone for the access that we have available than to go through all that trouble." He shrugs. "What's your friend's name, then? We may have come across each other. The GPPI working in this district, well, there's fewer of us than you'd think."

* * *

"I think for some - the idea of being a position of usefulness to a meth equates to access to meth money. That is, until as you say - it's a lot of hoops to jump to wear the appearance of legitimate interest as a potential place to solve the problem." She states thoughtfully, sitting back slightly in her chair as her legs recross the knee. Her hand smooths down the hem of her dress absently. "Truthfully, when it comes up around here? It's mostly clients who already have an idolization of GPPI work or a fetishization of how exciting it seems to be from the outside in- and most people who visit this house aren't GPPI of any measure of success. They just like the idea because it's exciting compared to the excitement they already know."

"But- Eoin Welch is the individual I'm friends with who is registered with the GPPI," she continues, looking at Royal. "He's been in the business for a while - he seems to know what he's doing, when it comes to the job?"

* * *

"Trust me, I'm currently the tool of a meth, and it's no picnic." Royal swallows a big mouthful of his drink. "Meths expect people to jump when they say and to do what they ask. If you get a job and you do that, they just feel you're doing them a duty, not a favour."

He purses his lips together and examines the bookshelf again idly, poking at spines here and there. "I suppose it is a bit exciting. I mean, more exciting than teaching university history, certainly."

He raises the cup to his mouth again and ends up spit-taking a bit of sazerac up the back of his nose. Which hurts like hell. He starts to laugh and daubs at his face, first with the edge of his hand, then he pulls a kerchief from an inner pocket of his jacket. "I just had a drink with him the other night. I don't think he likes me much. But then I get the sense he doesn't like many people."

* * *

The quirk in her expression is pronounced with the revelation that Royal had already pre-contracted with a meth. It looks surprised - though why exactly isn't extant there in that raise of her eyebrows before it slides a bit towards concern. "I suppose you don't have a choice but- are you okay with that?" The question- almost half irrelevant in it's asking- is asked anyway, Royal's safety in this equation apparently of concern to her.

She leaves the question there, offering no more context or color as to why she might be concerned with his well being as he views the book spines. "Excitement like beauty is in-" She'd begun to say idly back before Royal's spite take reaction to how small the world of Bay City had suddenly become shifted the conversation over. Her eyes going wide for the reaction for a moment, confusion for the gravity of his response flickering before he's explaining and then she's letting out a small laugh, shaking her head as her drink is set down on the side table to the right of her. "I think he skipped any short course offerings on how to win friends and influence people," she agrees with a grin, looking at Royal and nodding a moment before her head bobs side to side in a mild state of unsettled opinion on who Eoin actually likes and doesn't like. "Unlike most people, Mr. Welch lets you know where you stand with him- so I'd say that if he had a drink with you and it didn't end in tears, you're likely counted as tolerable." Her mouth curls into a slight smirk, the more wry parts of Mary as she may actually be and not the polished doll as she may be marketed peeking through then. "I'm not sure he operates under the classic conventions of friend."

* * *

"Ah, well, the Longbows are friends with Her Majesty, Queen Beatrice. So when this case fell on my proverbial doorstep, and seeing as I was actually there that night, the Longbows, in their infinite wisdom, decided I would be an ideal embedded investigator in the taskforce." Royal sets his glass down on a nearby surface. His sinuses are burning with absinthe and rye.

"His exact words were something poetic about it being too much work to resent me. Which I took to be a marginal win. That and he accepted my invite for a drink, despite it not going the most swimmingly. How do you know each other? Or would the answer to that go against client confidentiality?"

* * *

"No, it's fine-" Mary smiles quietly at him, watching him finish off his drink. "He helped resolve a family matter. I don't know that it would have gone half as well or as quickly with someone else handling it. But… it is the case that he's not always very polished with his social skills. He is, however, effective."

"But did I hear that right?" Her head cants at him, watching him more pointedly now. "You were /there/? You don't mean - the fight?" Mary pauses, and seems to recognize the better of not asking specifically only after the fact. "That - don't answer that if you…," she gestures errantly at him, the whole of it stuck between begging pardon and giving him the space to shift away from the details even as her expression seems more than mildly horrified that he in fact was there.

* * *

"He does give off the air of a very capable investigator, and he wouldn't be the rank he is without a high success rate. He's also assigned to the case as an adjunct of the GPPI, so my invite for a drink was an attempt to nip any tension in the bud." Royal pauses, then adds, "Not sure I succeeded on that front. I may have overestimated the power of my charm."

As to the night, he winces a little and nods. "Highly unpleasant. I am a fan of fightdromes in general. It's pageantry, and you know the people are there by choice. But this woman, if it was indeed a woman, fought and then slagged her own stack with chemicals. It was…deeply unsettling to say the least."

* * *

Mary nods quietly, listening to the details as Royal saw it. Her expression was squeamish, though maybe not for the alleged meth's choice of exit. Or maybe not just that. "It's a topic of discussion everywhere, including here. The reactions to it are varied." Her eyes slide away from Royal's face, looking out the high stack of windows with an absent note of the view as she thinks aloud. "I think people aren't willing to admit that it scares them on a premordial level… what happened, that is." Her eyes shift towards Royal again, eyes settling directly on his face. The topic shifting back, for now.

"Mr. Welch seems allergic to attempts to charm. I can't say for sure, but I don't think he's the sort to be coaxed with flattery. My impression is that he likes a straightforward approach with minimal bullshit. I don't know if that helps? Likely, he encounters a lot of being told what he wants to hear so he appreciates it when people don't attempt to do that?"

* * *

"And I'm afraid I'm roughly seventy percent bullshit. But I have an English accent and nice hair so people let me get away with it." Royal tips at the waist and grins toothily. Despite the joke, there's a thread of self deprecation through that, a little twinge of self-awareness behind his eyes.

"And yes, it was…rather disturbing to see certain people revelling in the supposed death of a meth. Or even if they didn't believe it was her, the real death of a fellow human. It's made me rethink my whole enjoyment of fightdromes, if the callousness to sleeve death could lead to a numbness to the real thing. Then again, for me it's a titch closer to home. People quite often consider me akin to a meth, when I'm infinitely more vulnerable than they are. It's easy to project and imagine someone revelling in my death." It's clear that this honestly unsettles him.

* * *

"What could possibly go wrong with that combination of personalities?" Mary's response is dry but warm, recognizing the basic mismatch between Royal and Welch as future crime fighting team or future success as a buddy-PI duo.

The shift back to the events at the fightdrome quells the mood - going from wry to somber. She frowns empathetially at Royal's unsettled state. "I think…," she begins, reflecting on the forthcoming statement. "I think it's gallows humor, if that helps? Seeing someone die like that is enough but…," she shakes her head slightly. "Meths are stitched into the fabric of everything and a lot of people are awful about them, because aside of resenting their money and power - they're safe. Reliably always meant to be part of things. So, her death was like watching a god being killed. It's existential dread, in a way. Also, if it wasn't her and it was… a stunt or some kind of revenge act for Longbow politics? That's not any better." Mary's head shakes in agreement with how much better it isn't. "It makes a statement that meths are subject to being gotten to publically now, in a way they weren't ever before. No one should feel safe either as a consequence, since we're all worse off for this."

* * *

"It certainly wobbles the social order, doesn't it?" Royal draws in a sharp breath. "Sometimes the order does need wobbling, but things tend to fall and break in the meantime. And for all some people rage at the meths, I'm not certain they'd be prepared for what would actually happen should they be unseated. But yes, there seems to be blood in the water."

He's not good at keeping still, or keeping his hands still, at least not in situations like this. Long fingers stroke over the spines of the books, tugging out one here and there before tucking it neatly back in. He also spends a little time lining a few up just so. "Just between you, me and the wallpaper, I think this is a concentrated effort by someone off-world to show the meths can be gotten to. Whether it's what's left of the rebels on Three Moon or something else is an open question. The meths are also experts at playing subtle games with each other, while still appearing untouchable to those of us under their feet."

* * *

"I wouldn't call this subtle," Mary responds, still frowning - still watching Royal's face with that same look of empathy even as he flits and fidgets, not commenting yet on his lack of capacity for staying still. "And worrisome about what people will take of it as permission when it comes to meths."

She's silent though, meditating on the between Royal and she small bit of imparted information. "If I were in an off-world position to cause trouble, the Three Moons situation is convenient. It's unpopular enough - even this now this long after the fact - that people won't give it a second glance. I wouldn't, personally, be ready to accept it but-" Her shoulders shrug upwards, indicating the room at large. "My life is here. And I'm not likely to solicited for my views outside this conversation any time soon." She pauses, though - her focus on Royal suddenly sharpening. "I would hope nothing happens to you, though. This all sounds dangerous for just being approximate to it- even professionally?"

* * *

"Yes, and that's the reason why it might not be another meth. That, and showing that one of them can be gotten to is bad for the collective. But some of the youngest children of the most powerful meths who will never inherit and are stuck in a sort of protracted childhood might…just might want to watch the whole thing…burn." Royal moves a few books around so they're more lined up and aesthetically pleasing as well as alphabetical.

He looks back over with one book in his hand that was sitting upside down. He slides the thick volume it over in his hand and sets it back on the shelf. "I have no doubt some of your clients will be talking about this. It's the talk of just about everywhere at the moment. And I am…aware that as the appointed representative of a meth on the investigation…" he fidgets a little more, "…I might become a target myself, yes." He smiles awkwardly.

* * *

"Extensively," she admits - on the volume of chatter. "Some of it concerned, some of it taking pleasure. Most of it blowing off steam one way or another about it?" She gestures again, showing him the palm of one her hands briefly and tipping it to one side and then the other. "It's both surprising and not surprising to hear that their younger children would spite their privledge but also, how would you really know what you have if you believe yourself the latitude to do that?"

Even so, nothing about this conversation has her looking even more at ease. "I… well, we barely know each other but I'm willing to admit that it worries me that you're in such a strange, possibly dangerous position in all this. I don't know how you could have said no, given who appointed you." She sits up, sliding forward in her chair a touch. "I… I can help filter back what I might hear, if you- think it would help?" The question, awkwardly stated - indelicate in its offer and precarious in its proposal.

* * *

"Miss Mary, are you offering to spy for me?" some of Royal's bravado comes back with that, and a sly bit of a grin, foxlike momentarily. "But wouldn't you be more likely to give such information to Mister Welch?" He steps a little closer to her, rubbing one hand into the other in the absence of both a drink and books to futz with. It seems he's not going to confront her on the ethics of what he thinks she's proposing.

* * *

Mary looks visibly squirmy. Even if there's no forthcoming dressing down for the ethics lapse contained in the proposal, there's a green quality to symbolic gills. Despite that, she nods slowly but definitively - yes, she's offering that. "I don't… know that it's spying though?," she offers carefully. "As I'd be very surprised if anyone ever said anything half-way credible? Bragging to impress, yes or saying something unkind out of resentment at how well meths live? That seems more likely, so I doubt I'd ever…"

She goes quiet, self-arresting the slide into uncomfortable justifications of her offer. She looks up at him a little more pointedly, grit-summoning in mid-effort. "Mr. Welch has likely far better developed contacts than anything I'd ever offer him. I just-" She pauses, her eyes drifting to Royal's fidgeting hands for a moment. "I just know what its like to find yourself in when you're doing what you have to because other people depend on you and you have no other reasonable choice," she concludes, her eye shifting away from his hands and drifting towards their surroundings as though this finely appointed parlor stands for everythign a House might be.

* * *

"Ah so yes, just reporting back on the general temperature of conversation as opposed to…anything that may get anyone into a sticky situation. I understand. And it would certainly be appreciated," says Royal with an incline of his head.

He laces his fingers together and holds them in front of him, defaulting to posture he was no doubt forced to hold as a child during various ceremonies. He leans in a bit and says, in a wry tone, "I get the sense we're not entirely speaking about me, here. Shame shame. Off one of my favourite topics and spoiling the fantasy." He may say the words of an egotist, but it's clear he's doing a parody of one. He pulls it up like a mask in certain situations

* * *

"I think I can manage… that," Mary agrees thoughtfully, her smile light but more relaxed at the reassuring incline of Royal's head towards her.

The same smile brightens and deepens, turning wry as it grows. "I'm sorry, you're absolutely correct that I have overstepped," she agrees, her tone that careful polish of engaged and personable without being a person that the fantasy traffics in. It doesn't match the smile on her lips, playing into the theaterical parody of Royal's presentation. His lean forward nets her own lean forward, this one of singular focus on him in response to the one he affects as a loom. "My apologies," she states, eyes attempting to catch his as her wry smile curls slightly.

* * *

"Are you mocking me, my darling?" says Royal with a twitch of his lips. "Because I've been told I need to be taken down a peg by virtually everyone I meet. So you'd be doing the world a favour, apparently." He half-shrugs, then sinks to sit in the chair next to hers so there's not a six foot plus man looming awkwardly.

* * *

"I'm too busy taking you seriously to mock you." Mary's response drops the act of polish and fantasy traffic, she's instead just looking over at him from the seat next to his with- no wry quality to her smile and no real smile at all. Her quiet statement direct, instead. "The world doesn't need this favor done, I'm fairly certain."

* * *

"You're too kind," says Royal, edge of his lips twitching upwards. He looks at her a long moment, then looks away and clears his throat. "I feel like we may have made a real human connection. I'm not exactly used to that happening in a place like this."

* * *

Mary can't help but fail to stiffle a small laugh - it come out as exhilation of breath, self-consconciously amused. "It's probably rare," she admits with a nod that seems to agree that yes, this is happening and yes, it's pretty rare. "But I appreciate it happening, as I don't know when it may come again." Her eyes watching him while he's watching any other point in the room.

* * *

"Which probably means we shouldn't sleep together. That tends to ruin it, at least from my experience." Royal's smile is a touch self-conscious, but he manages eye contact again. "Or maybe that's just me. Sounds like a sickness, doesn't it? Sex ruining human connections instead of strengthening it." He leans forward, elbows on his knees. He flicks his fingers off each other in the absence of having anything to fiddle with.

* * *

Mary watches him thoughtfully for a moment, the laugh having faded from her lips. "Here and now?," she asks, a question and a response in one. "I think sleeping with you right now might ruin it more than any threat of human connection. It's the setting, I think. You seem to be struggling with the sentiment of fantasy and this place is pretty pointedly built on fantasy…"

Her eyes roll upwards to the ceiling. "I don't think it would be net positive for you. Or me. I'm told though that human connection is built on cultivation, as some point - it becomes impervious to sexual connection. It's timing." She pauses, thoughtfully. "And you seem to actually want that? Perhaps deeply. I would feel guilty about getting in the way of something you deserve to feel and have."

* * *

"Isn't there a sex dungeon behind the bookcase? I specifically ordered a sex dungeon. Why do you think I was pulling out all the books?" says Royal as he motions behind him. It's a joke, but it's also deflection. He rubs his hands together. "Clearly I just need to shag someone I didn't have a conversation with first."

* * *

Mary smiles at him, the edges tinged with an empathetic sadness. She says nothing for a long beat, just watching him thoughtfully. "Can I propose something, Royal?" she asks, finally.

* * *

"Go on," says Royal a bit quietly, with a small upnod. He rubs the back of his hand against his palm. He's not avoiding eye contact at this moment like he was before.

* * *

"There's no shortage of House members that can see to your desires, and if you want that today, I can help recommend someone that I think you might like? But maybe consider also coming back to just have conversations with me- about anything, really?" Her eyes shift off him, indicating the room as they roll ceiling ward again. "It won't be in some place half as pretentious as this room, either." Her eyes shift back down to his face, grinning at him.

* * *

"I'm seventy percent bullshit and the remaining thirty is pretentiousness. I'm deeply, deeply offended," says Royal as he touches a hand to his chest. "Why do I feel like you're offering me therapy in the kindest possible way? You did go to medical school, so this doesn't seem a stretch."

* * *

"I was a general practioner, which in one sense does make me a therapist but-," she grins at him. "But I'm not offering you therapy, I'm offering you the chance to make a connection with someone else. A therapist just lets you talk at them. This is a two way street, you may sometimes be forced to hear about my life and how I feel about things. So, really, I'm offering you the chance to survive being bored to death if I ever decide to share something with you- it's practically a near death experience."

"But I'll make sure there's scones on a tiered tray, so there is some pretentiousness involved," she adds, dryly.

* * *

Royal sits back and places a finger to his lip. "Mhmmm. On one condition." He's stopped fidgeting. "That we occasionally have these chats outside of these walls. Usual fees apply, of course. I'm not looking for a free ride. Even if we shan't be…riding." There's a touch of playful lasciviousness to those words.

* * *

"I'm not certain," Mary admits carefully. "They usually just put me back in my dollbox when you leave so I'm not sure they'd just let me out of the building."

A dark grin slides his way. "I proposed here because I didn't want to assume that you wanted to meet any where else. I do have a home. Outside this building. I am allowed to leave."

"Maybe," she adds, with a dry, baiting grin.

* * *

Royal rolls his eyes a little and curls up the edge of his lip. "I am aware, my dear. I have hired some of your coworkers to dangle off my arm at events on a few occasions. Especially in my socialite days back in London. It was so much cleaner and the expectations for the transaction were understood plainly by all." That and there's not a stigma attached to engaging the services of a proper House.

"If we met outside of these walls, it would feel more like…a conversation rather than foreplay with no sex. Not that I'm complaining. As you pointed out, there's plenty who can engage me in that manner."

* * *

Mary angles slightly where she's sitting, as if focusing more in whole will perhaps distill her words. "I'm not opposed to sex with you, Royal. I'm just also able to see when the timing of it won't be kind to your head or possibly, your heart. I want you to feel better, not worse." Mary's mouth isn't smiling but her tone is light, the smile perhps contained in there.

"You're more complicated than that, whether or not you'd like to admit that you are."

* * *

" I wasn't expecting my heart to be catered to when I visited this establishment. Just my lower anatomy." Royal smiles toothily. There's that deflection again. But he goes quiet and ducks down, perhaps shyly at her last words. He picks at a bit of lint on his trousers. "My life is complicated. I suppose that would necessarily mean I am as well. But you don't meet too many uncomplicated humans these days, as we live in challenging times."

* * *

"I meet a lot of complicated people," Mary observes in counter, watching him toy with the lint on his trousers. "They go out of their way to smoother that sense of complication, because it's easier. Distraction makes it easier to never have to encounter yourself."

The observation is perhaps meant to be pointed by the way her head inclines towards him as she smiles at him. "For now though, you know how to reach me. I look forward to seeing you soon," she states, leaning forward toward him. Her lips aiming for the meet of his cheek - affectionate and warm.

* * *

"Mhmmm, yes, true enough. I spent the first part of my life buried in distraction. It's only now that I'm trying to see what else there is. But I am dogged by the ghost of frivolous deeds past."

Royal lives up to his record as a gentleman, and doesn't try to use the cheek-kiss as an invitation to anything more. Instead, he reaches for her hand and kisses the back of it. "A pleasure, Miss Mary." He looks up at her, holds the gaze a moment, then, "Now, if you could point me in the direction of some of your colleagues so I could not have a conversation with them, that would be lovely. I feel the need to work off a little energy."

* * *

Mary stands up, withdrawing her hand as she grins warmly at him for the gesture. "I believe the ghost of frivolous distraction can be coaxed into this room," she stands, grinning at him as she takes a few steps towards the door. "I'll send in a few agents of its chaos - and then you can decide from there."

"See you soon, Royal," she says, looking at him directly after a brief pause before she exits through the door, intent on gathering a few to present themselves for a lack of conversation.