20100201 - A careful conversation

GAME> Wednesday, Feb 02 10:46:42 2011



As with most Dojos, this place is impeccably clean. The soft dark mahogany of highly polished hardwood floors is the first thing to meet your eye, moments before the weapon racks that line the wall catch a glance or two. They are situated in such away that the more dangerous bladed weapons are farthest from the door and hang in a rack in the corner, as though awaiting the hand of a trained professional to use. Wing-Chung dummies sit in each corner, and a few heavy 400 - 500 lb punching bags hang from vaulted wrought iron rafters high in the roof. Off to the side is another door, this one also carrying paintings on its windowed front, a few more Chinese characters and the English word 'Office' set for all to see.



With a blizzard coming down outside, Jack has apparently decided to take an afternoon off - or maybe he's here for work anyway, it's always hard to tell. He's wearing the standard set of white pyjamas, tied with a pink belt, and he's warming up in front of a mirror.

Robert is here for work definitely, finishing a session with a younger male. He doesn't seem pressed by the man, his ease of practice showing as the two spar. He seems to be teaching, making soft comments to the guy each time they pause and, as Jack warms up, they finish, bowing politely before Robert clasps a hand onto his shoulder.

Jack's warmup is, to the experienced eye, somewhat odd. All his muscles are getting readied for combat, but it's all his muscles. There's martial arts stretches, fencing stretches and others combined to make sure that the man is ready for anything and not just a sparring match.

Robert's gaze flickers towards Jack as his companion leaves, amid promises to meet again next week. He moves slightly towards the other man as he abandons the space they were sparring in, heading to the side. His observation of Jack is thorough, unsubtle before he takes steps towards him, offering a brief inclination of his head as greeting. "Your warm up is thorough."

"I know who my sparring partner is," Jack replies amiably in an English accent, as he finishes the last exercise before turning to return the nod. "Either I warm up properly or she makes me wish I had. I'm going to guess that you're an instructor, then?"

Robert nods once more, a flicker of a wry smile showing as he offers a hand, formal and polite. "I am Robert Moye. I teach some self defense." His gaze flickers past Jack towards the door, to where his partner left. "He is not a challenge but he is learning rapidly. I suspect your partner will give you more challenge."

Jack's hand is just a little warmer than usual. "I hope so," he replies, then adds, "Some days I think it'd be nice to be able to teach people to defend themselves. Unfortunately most of what I know is a little, well, over the top." He meets Robert's eyes. "Does your student know?"

"I am open about my infection, yes. I am sometimes required to modulate my strength but most that seek my support are…" He hesitates, selecting a word, "Keen to prove themselves thus." Robert lowers his voice, a precaution as he folds his arms across his chest. "I believe that I can do more good to aid the more vulnerable in our community as an open werewolf than as a hidden one. That I am able to protect myself and promote understanding. You?"

Jack nods. "I'm open, but I tend not to broadcast it," he says, then adds, "Old habits die hard. I'm Jack, by the way." He offers a hand, and with it, a smile. "Jack Green."

Robert takes the hand, his own warm, calloused, and there is a flicker of a wry smile hidden in the beard. "Robert Moye. A pleasure to meet you." He hesitates, giving Jack a considering look. "Are your people organised in his city?" The question is abrupt, diret.

Jack's handshake is neither test nor challenge. "I'm not sure that 'organised' is quite the word I'd use," he says, "But we do have organisation of sorts. We aren't quite as rank-conscious are your people - we have the King, the alphas, and everyone else, and just a couple of rules. Any reason you're asking?"

"There is." Robert confirms, his own handshake confident but neither a test nor a challenge, formal as his words. "I have just spoken with a young lady, a vampire, who believes that we should have a council. A forum of communication. I myself have offered to join on behalf of the wolves." He hesitates, adding more slowly, cautiously, "I do understand there is some measure of bad blood between your people and those of the cafe."

Jack hehs. "Last time we tried an all-species meeting, every species united in hatred of us the moment we set foot inside the room," he says drily. "Forgive me if I'm not enthusiastic about going to meet with people who haven't bothered to get in touch or even tell me why they're so upset, even though the crown's changed hands."

Robert's nod and wry smile is understanding and he speaks slowly, "I understand. I was unable to find the cause of their dislike of your people. However, I have no grudge with you and the Pack has not told me of any they hold." He shifts, folding his arms once more, a habit rather than defensive. "I believe MJ, our Geri, may be open to lines of communication between our people."

Jack blinks. "MJ? Mary-Jane? The doctor? Sure. Heard about your Ulfric, by the way - my condolences." A nod. "I swear, the pack goes through more leaders than I can keep track of. As to the crocodiles, I don't particularly care what their grudge is, if they can't be bothered to remember. There's plenty of places to get a brew."

The young woman who emerges out of the changing rooms is short, compact, and could quite easily be mistaken for male at a cursory glance. Broad-shouldered, possessed of calm self-possession that's reflected in the way she carries herself, she looks rather like a willow next to Jack though she's nothing of the kind. Her gaze drifts to where the two men are talking with a measure of speculative interest - her demeanour might be thoroughly nonchalant but her eyes are keen and alert.

Robert hesitates, his discomfort showing briefly, a flicker across his face. "I regret our Ulfric's passing. He was a man of good sense. I am new to the Pack." He doesn't comment on the question of MJ's profession, slipping past it, "I only discovered their grudge with you when a friend of mine was chased from their cafe under threat of death." There is a hint of disapproval in his tone, a flicker of a frown on the impassive features.

Jack smiles faintly, shaking his head. "Pillocks," he says of the crocodiles. "They kill one of mine, they'll have their heads in their hands to play with. Then again, all of mine know better than to go in there, or at least I thought they did. God alone knows what the crocodiles are trying to prove, and to be quite frank, I don't actually care. So who was it who got chased out? Sounds like I need to have a word with someone." Pierce gets spotted in the mirror the moment she emerges, and when she's close enough, he introduces them. "Pierce, meet Mr Moye of the Pack. Robert, this is one of my people, Pierce."

Pierce, thusly introduced, inclines her head to Robert and extends her hand. "Mr. Moye. It is a pleasure to meet you." Her voice is distinctly accented, slightly sing-song with accents on the first syllables of most of her words. A careful little half-smile as she glances at Jack. "You see what you can do with hair that is longer, Jack." The smile widens into a grin. "But it would look very wrong on you."

Robert hesitates, a moment of fleeting expression hidden into impassiveness, the uncertainty repressed quickly. "I am not at liberty to name him. He is not at ease with his beast." The words are blunt, with an edge of apology. Pierce's arrival is met with that formal inclination of his head, and a hand offered. "Robert, please." Her comments about his dreadlocks startle him slightly, his gaze flickering between them. "My please."

Jack gives Pierce a smile for a few moments, but when he looks back to Robert his smile vanishes. "You mean there's a rat out there I don't know about?", he says quietly. "If he's not one of mine I can't keep him safe. If he's under the Independant banner and one of Charley's then that's fair enough, but with the amount of people in this city who'd just love to get a pet rat to play with, being without some sort of protection is just plain daft." Jack's eyes meet Robert's again, and this time there's a confident, broad-shouldered rat looking out too in an eerie double-act of quiet power. "I want your word, Robert Moye of the Pack, that you will persuade him to find a protector. And that you will make him understand that if he deliberately harms one hair on a human's head his life is forfeit."

Pierce shakes Robert's hand; her grip is firm and non-testing, but however sleepy and languid she appears to be, there's the impression of immense energy held at bay that could be released whenever necessary. A quick look passes between herself and Jack at the mention of the new rat - it feels like some sort of non-verbal question and answer. That done, she glances back to Robert again and purses her lips thoughtfully. "There is good reason to worry, Robert," she says after Jack's comments. "There are odd rules and even stranger histories in this city. Smaller things than a drunken spree have caused things which are not good. People do not like us, you understand? It has been excuse before to start violence."

The man's grip in reply is firm, but his energy is controlled, held back, cautious. Robert's face is equally serious, his understanding of the problem complete. "I give you my word, Jack Green of the Rodere, that I will do so." The formality after he does give an oath eases and he adds, more softly, "I have persuaded him to a safe place of accommodation but he asked that I give my word not to tell anyone of his infection." He hesitates, narrowing his eyes slightly, a glance between the pair. "I will speak to him on the matter. Perhaps you should join me for dinner sometime." The invitation is not a light one, Robert's gaze intent on Jack's face for a moment, heavy with meaning.

With Robert's agreement, the rat in Jack's soul ducks back out of sight, the eerie double presence departing as though it had never been. "We'd be glad to join you for dinner sometime," Jack says, the lightness of the reply not exactly matched by the gravity of his eyes. "If I had my wallet on me I'd give you my card - I'll leave it at the desk for you, if that's okay? As for your friend, I know it takes time to get used to everything, but if he's not at home with his Beast I need to be sure he - and everyone around him - is going to be safe. Last thing I need is a warrant with a rat's name on it."

Pierce nods slowly. "Jack is with the police, like me," she says quietly. "But for him, it is…difficult to say no to a warrant when it is given to him. And it is not always easy to find peace with one's Beast. Some hate it very much - I can understand this. If your friend needs to talk to someone who was not -always- comfortable with being what he is, he can come to me. The only reason I am still here is because I had Jack to talk to, and it made all the difference."

"I will give you mine." Robert's words are chosen with care as he adds softly, "It has my cell number and my address on it." The words are loaded with light meaning, as he reaches for his pocket, offering the piece of card to Jack. "He claims comfort with his Beast, control but I believe he dislikes the nature of his Beast. We had discussed it." He exhales slowly, a brief flicker of frustration in his eyes as he nods slowly to Pierce. "He tells me my Beast is easier to accept because of its nature."

Jack chuckles. "Yup," he says. "Who in their right mind would want to be a rat, when there are so many more glamorous and beautiful things out there? Trust me, I know that one. But I also know that of the animals we turn into, there's only rats and foxes that aren't facing real problems. Rats are survivors, and really, while I'd *like* to be a wolf or a leopard or something a bit less squeaky, I've got to admit that surviving is what I'm all about. And if no-one wants my territory, that just makes it easier to hold. But Pierce is the one for him to talk to, she lost a lot more than I did." He takes the card and pockets it with a slightly deeper nod than would normally be required. "Thank you."

Pierce smiles faintly as she acknowledges Robert's words. A glance at Jack, another of those wordless communications, and she nods slowly to Robert as well. "In Hong Kong, rats are vermin. They are not taboo, but even if they are animals of the Zodiac, they are not…well-regarded. There is a lot of stigma attached to someone like me, like Jack, who are rats. Your friend may not like what he is, that is a normal reaction. But he cannot change it or try to be something he is not. Here, at least, he has a chance that people will -not- look at him the same way people looked at me, when I was still in Hong Kong. As I said, if he needs to talk, he can come to me, if he is comfortable."

Robert chooses his words with caution as he adds softly, "I informed him that rats, as creatures, are not weak, they are predators in their own right." He inclines his head to Pierce, giving her a look that is deeply thoughtful, "I will suggest to him that it may aid him but I suspect my efforts would be a waste of effort. He is not open to my comments." He listens to Pierce's comments thoughtfully, with a flicker of a frown. "That must have been difficult to overcome."

Jack nods. "The way I had to look at it is that over the years I hunted wolves, leopards, and a couple of others, as the warrants required. The only one who managed to do anything to me before I killed him was a rat. Even when I was cursing the entire species, I had to admit that the rat had done what nothing else had managed." A moment's pause, and then, "Is he called Eden? Because if he is, he bumped into one of mine last night." The implications are left for Robert to realise.

Pierce furrows her brow slightly as Jack mentions Eden. She doesn't comment on that, however, merely responds to Robert's remarks of earlier. "I died a little, when I became a rat. I was doing my duty, but we did not know that the suspect was infected. By the time we found out, it was too late. My husband filed for a divorce six months later, and his family wanted nothing to do with me. It was…not easy, trying to find a reason to like what I had become, you see? I might not have. But I called Jack, and I am glad that I did. So that is why I am here now - I could not live in Hong Kong any more. I miss it, but here, at least, I have a life now."

Robert's reply is made after a long pause, the man's eyes narrowed in thought as he speaks slowly, picking his words with care. "I am familiar with Eden. He rents a room from me." He doesn't confirm or deny the man's status, "I believe that there are few of our kind that choose this path. I believe that those who struggle with it, are vulnerable, should be helped. Perhaps despite themselves." He speaks carefully, choosing each comment with a precision that shows.

Jack nods. "Provided someone isn't a danger to himself and others - or herself and others," he says, "For me, I think it's up to them." A faint smile. "I'm all about personal freedom, unless someone makes me care what they're doing with that freedom. Which is, incidentally, another bonus about being a rat, we're a lot more easygoing than the pinnacle predators. But I'm also about offering people help. If someone decides to stay vulnerable, on their own heads be it, but the offer's always there for them to join the group, and I've agreed with the Independants that if rats would rather be with them, that's fine too."

"It is up to your friend, in the end," Pierce says with a faint smile. "It is safer in numbers, that is a definite especially in this city. But then, there is also the fact that rats by nature are very social and they need companionship. It is very difficult to get used to, when someone is by preference a…Jack, what is the word? Loner? Something like that, but you understand, I think, Robert. So…whether he comes to us or he stays with the Independent group, it does not matter as long as he is in a support network that he can feel comfortable with. That is the most important thing, at least in this city. The social structure is…very fragile in a way. There are rules, many of them unwritten. If he does not know them, the chances of him accidentally breaking them is quite high. Unfortunately, the stakes for that are even higher so…"

Robert nods slowly, his face impassive, the man keeping his thoughts to himself. He listens, without comment at first, his gaze moving between the two as they speak. "It is his choice." He agrees softly. "His safety concerns me." The comments are brief as Robert works around his given word, cautiously separating mention of Eden and the rat friend. "I do believe a dinner at my house would be a neutral way to introduce you to our new Ulfric. Should the New Moon go as I believe it shall. For discussions about future relationships."

"His safety concerns me too, but as long as he knows about and obeys the main rule, I've got no quarrel with him," Jack replies. "But yes, I do think a dinner would be a wonderful way to get to know new people, and discussions about the future are entirely polite and appropriate topics for conversation. Wouldn't you agree, Pierce?"

Pierce chuckles softly. "It is always a good thing, to discuss things over food," she says firmly. "I think it is a very good idea, Jack." She rests her hand lightly on Jack's arm, then looks at Robert.

"I will arrange it. After the New Moon." Formal and precise, Robert's nod is one of confirmation. "Food generally makes tempers more even, I find." A burst of his wry smile, appearing inside the beard, creasing the corners of his eyes, is gone almost as soon as it appears. "I should leave you to your work out."

Jack nods to Pierce, then offers Robert a warm smile. "Thanks," he says, "And thanks again. Feel free to watch, but try not to get too alarmed."

Pierce chuckles. "We do not -try- to kill each other, but it is a distinct possibility if we are not careful," she says with a twinkle in her eyes. "We just…come from slightly less civilised places that required us to learn to survive."

Robert chuckles, a warm, friendly sound as he shakes his head. "I have business elsewhere but I would take pleasure in meeting either of you to train with." The glance towards Pierce holds a flicker of the wry sense of humour, and he nods slowly. "The city is a dangerous place." Dry, with humour, and the man inclines his head before he turns to reclaim his belongings.

Jack hehs. "Yeah, you might want to actually see us training before you volunteer to join in," he says, and then he winks at Pierce, heading for the centre of the mat. "Shal we?"

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