1001 Nights: Courtyard — Clarke Street: South
Following the decadently Persian theme of the club, the lighted courtyard draws attention whenever the weather allows its doors to open. The floor is tiled with ceramic in ivory and gold, a large mosaic in the center of the area depicts a group of women moving seductively over a bare-chested man completely at their mercy. The walls are adobe and high, preventing anyone within from seeing the street beyond and vice versa. Strings of golden lights brighten the area, assisting the many brass torches that flicker in even the faintest breeze. Brass-trimmed tables with ceramic tile tops in mosaics depicting seductive scenes reminiscent of the Kama Sutra. Cold rain pours from thick grey clouds, driven by a howling northwest wind.
Speakers are hidden carefully throughout the courtyard and pipe in the heavy beat of the Arabian-based music that plays inside. Four large brass braziers are carefully arranged throughout the area, providing tantalizing hints of warmth on chill nights, and the heady scents of frankincense, myrrh, and labdanum. The mixture is pungent but not at all unpleasant, and at times can be almost dizzying to those near enough to seek the heat of the braziers.
It's Monday, April fourth 2011.
This early in the day, there's no crowd at the Nights, especially considering that it's not even open as of yet. But there are workers, dancers practicing their routines, others doing the glamorous tasks of cleaning. And then there's Lexine. She's seated out in the courtyard, an entire pot of coffee on her table. A canopy keeps the rain at bay, and an open door makes even more clear the orders given to her staff—when Ruby and Frank arrive, they're to be shown straight in.
Frank steps out of the taxi, holding the door for someone else to follow. The big man doesn't look more than thirty - but he hasn't changed much in decades. He pays the driver, then closes the door behind Ruby. Watching him is like watching something from a byegone age; he offers Ruby his arm before making his way into the courtyard. Lexine's table is noted with a smile, Frank heading towards it at his sister's pace.
Ruby follows, sliding from the taxi, looking much older than she was the last time the families met, since she is a grown up now. She gives her brother a smile, sliding her hand over the arm, leaning into him. The confidence is slightly undercut by the mild vibration of nervousness in her energy, and she lengthens her stride to make it more comfortable for Frank, unconciously.
Previously occupied with getting some sugar into her system, as the siblings approach Lexine sets down her glass and flashes them a smile. It's the same kind of smile she's had, all those times she's been in London, dancing with her burlesque troop or just visiting her father. The weight of leadership has added a worry line or two, and that may be a grey hair. "Frank, Ruby," she greets, and beneath the table, her feet push out two chairs.
Frank sees Ruby into her chair before settling into his own, his smile in response to Lexine's warm. "Lexine," he replies, then adds a wink and a gentle, "You've grown. How's life been treating you?" If he isn't fresh from the East End, he hasn't been away for long enough for his accent to have changed a bit.
Ruby settles, giving Lexine a curious look, a long time remembered. "Lexine." She gives the woman a dip of her head, dropping her gaze in a sign of respect, despite the friendly greeting and she glances at Frank, leaving the explanation to him, her own accent as strong as Frank's. "Your place is nice. Good security."
Lexine's accent is, at first, scarce. But it comes out more and more as the conversation goes on. "Well enough that any complaints would be minor ones. I have health and family, and all else pales compared to that." Ruby's dropped gaze brings another, fainter smile from the woman. "Thank you, I'm glad you like it. You're both more than welcome here at anytime." Aimed towards them both, she asks with a tilt of her head, "How have you been? What brings you all the way to Chicago?"
Frank relaxes just a little at the welcome. "Thank you," he says. "You remember things were getting a little tight for us? Juliette was killed on New Year's Eve, leaving just us two and Dominique." Juliette, the Nimir-Ra of the tiny East End gang that had once been the all-powerful Firm. "We pulled in some favours and left town. Hated to do it, but we couldn't fight any more. Not when the people who looked to us for protection were getting hurt. Tried New York - stupid mistake that was - so now we're trying here." A smile. "That and we couldn't stop too long in the States without dropping by to say hello."
Ruby lets him speak, her gaze sliding away from the table to roam over the club workers, a restless movement as she distracts herself from hearing their recent history. Unconsciously, without thought, she shifts her chair towards Frank, her hand brushing lightly against his arm, seeking and giving comfort silently. She glances at Lexine and away, and then repeats the glance, trying to judge her reaction.
Lexine gives a slow nod, and it is soon accompanied with a frown as Frank continues. Not happy by this news, at all, it would seem. "I am sorry to hear of Juliette's death, but glad to see that the two of you did not share her fate. It's never easy leaving home, but we do what we must to survive." Her shoulders slump slightly, but then she's chuckling at Frank's last comment. "Very kind of you to stop by. Does the local Pard know that you're in town?"
Frank nods. "We survived," he says, but the cost is there to be seen in his expression, though Ruby's touch lightens the burden. "They probably do now. I was hoping you could give us some contact details, and some decent gen on the local situation? So far we've walked out on a mountain lion who claimed to have been the second, and we found a leopard in the cafe we went to for breakfast." Frank *really* wasn't impressed by the cougar.
Frank's expression gains him a more solid touch as she leans lightly against him, Ruby's gaze on Lexine's expression. "The cougar told us a load of shit about killing their Nimir Raj's lover for his own good." She elaborates, giving Lexine more information, more cause for the expression of distaste from Frank. "They don't seem to know any manners." Her own lack of amusement shows, respect to live and die for back home.
Lexine smirks. "I've met the cougars," she says in a tone that suggest she's not overly fond of them, either. "Lenore and Jacobi. Neither of them seem worth the breath needed to say their names." She lifts the pot of coffee, refilling her mug as well as the two empty ones she had brought out, then slides them towards the two in offering. "Hadn't heard about what they did to the Raj's lover. Lenore was the lover of one of my foxes, to the point of being mated, but once she got a sniff of a male cougar she told Jessy to fuck off." She /definitely/ doesn't sound pleased about that, nor the next words that come out of her mouth. "The local Pard seems very good at discussing their business with strangers, and in public. I have little to do with them, but I do have the Raj's, Forest, phone number."
Frank visibly winces as he takes the coffee with a nod of thanks. His fingers don't fit through the handle, but he's apparently used to that. "And you didn't kick her arse for Jessy's sake?" He shakes his head. "Strange place, this. Pard business in public is just a bad plan. If we could have that phone number I'd be obliged. Lexine - don't hesitate to call on us if you need to? It's a lovely place you've built yourself here, and if you need some quiet help…" Quiet, discreet and utterly brutal at need.
Ruby takes her coffee, curling her hands around it, echoing Frank's nod of thanks. Her expression echoes his words too, her gaze flickering between the two. "We'd be willing to help out." She finishes his sentence, her voice holding an undercurrent that could cut glass, despite the smile she offers, friendly and warm. "What is the Raj like?" The question is abrupt, an tiny hint of nerves in her energy and one hand drops to brush against Frank.
"Believe me, Frank, I've wanted to. And if I ever see her again, I just might. But my main concern has been Jessy. He's young, and doesn't deal very well with broken hearts." Lexine pulls out her cellphone, then jots a phone number down, offering it to Frank. "I appreciate the offer of help, greatly. I may even take you up on it sometime. I know that you do…quality work." There's a grin there, but it's brief, stopped by Ruby's question. "I honestly don't know, luv. I've not really been able to talk with him."
Frank takes the number, offering it to Ruby. His hand touches his sister's in the process, Frank used to making reassurances look almost coincidental. "She was in last night," he informs Lenore offhandedly; he tries to look innocent, and fails dismally. "Far as I'm concerned, Lexine, you're family. And that extends to your folks." He leaves that hanging. "So, the Nimir's a bit of a recluse, then?"
Ruby's energy eases at the light touch, the physical communication between the pair muted but there, as she takes the number. She draws her cell phone from her pocket, dialing it in, adding it to the memory before she screws the paper up and looks for a place to dispose of it discreetly. She lets the pair talk, listening, but silent for the moment.
Lexine frowns, deeply. "I'll have to…politely inform her that she's not welcome here." There's an edge of steel to her voice, in the flashing of her eyes. Protective, but then again she's always worn her heart on her sleeve. "You are both family to me, as well," she says, weight in those words. "He is, or at least was. I think that he's begining to learn that no leopard is an island, and that strength comes in unity. It's been a while since the Pard here was healthy by most people's standards."
Frank nods slowly. "Thanks," he smiles quietly. And then, of the Pard, "Reckon they're worth bothering with?" Frank's usually-mild blue eyes sharpen, giving the lie to the strong-as-brick, thick-as-brick image he usually presents to the world.
"If you want help with that conversation?" Ruby lifts her gaze with a glint in her eyes, a relish for trouble that shows, her mouth curving into a grin. "Is he strong?" There is a double edge to that question, as she asks it softly, discreetly lowering her voice. "Strong enough to hold the territory?" She glances at Frank, the look speaking.
Lexine lifts a hand and makes a 'so-so' motion with it. "There are a few good seeds in the group. I think they need firmer hands to turn them into something beyond just kittens. Every group has their omegas, but…" She shrugs. "Forest seems to be growing a backbone. But it's not my place to test it." She looks to Frank, there, before sliding her gaze back to Ruby. "You know I'm never one to turn down conversational help, Ruby."
Frank nods. He may not be academically smart, but he's cunning enough to have survived this long. He glances to Ruby, then nods to Lexine. "We'll let you know how it goes," it says, then smiles. "Great conversationalists, us two," he says with dark amusement. "Never a dull word when we're around."
Lexine's response brings a broad grin to Ruby's face, a piece of familiar ground for the woman at least. "You let me know where and when." Her voice is a low purr, the family resemblance with her father showing. "What about the others here? Anyone we should watch?" She returns Frank's glance with one of her own. "Oh the best conversationalists around." She murmurs, her eyes reflecting his amusement.
"I've always enjoyed watching you converse," Lexine says brightly, with a wide grin plastered on her face. "Very…enlightening." At the question of others, she pauses, considers. "The Lions like to try and throw their weight around. The new Ulfric is a good sort. All about organization and working together. Rodere have been fairly quiet since the crazier of Rat Kings got himself killed. The Master of the City isn't bad for a leech. Keeps mostly to himself and out of the shifter politics."
Frank's sudden grin matches Ruby's and Lexine's. "It's the sheer amount of practice," he says with a trace of self-deprecation, and then another grin, followed by nods to each of the Others mentioned. "Think the Ulfric's got other motives? Or is he a genuinely nice guy?" Weight-throwing, quiet, keeping out, those are obvious, but the prospect of someone nice is intriguing.
Lexine's grin sparks Ruby's and hers widens, her eyes dancing. "The amount of debate growing up." She murmurs softly. She listens and notes the mentions, her eyes narrowing, the grin fading and revealing the more serious, thoughtful side. "Any vampires with cats to call?" She asks softly, glancing at her brother quickly, and then to Lexine.
Lexine considers briefly. "He hasn't tried to absorb my people into his pack, nor has he ignored me completely, which puts him above two previous Ulfrics here. He seems to genuinely want what's best for his people, and is making them stronger without trying to take any of the other groups out at the knees. Oh, and the Hyenas are starting to organize, I'd heard." She thinks about Ruby's question, gnawing at her bottom lip for a moment. "The former Master of the City, Koray, could call the leopards. But he's left town. I'm not sure if there's another, currently."
Frank nods, probably taking 'left town' to have another meaning. "Thanks," he says, then adds, "We owe you one." He sips his coffee. "Anything else we should be aware of? You know, odd laws, Firm stuff, that sort of thing?"
Ruby's gaze rests on Lexine's face, her mind ticking over the politics, the game to be played here, and her eyes narrow slightly. She sips her drink, curling her hands around it, listening to her brother's questions as her mind travels the same route.
Lexine shakes her head. "There are a few crime rings, of course. Some whisper that InTellect's office here is just a front for something less legal, but I've never heard more than just whispers. Don't go crawling through the sewers, or the Rats will be after your throat. Watch out for a human woman named Nance, she's got a thing for staring in films that involve her partner shifting on her. And Human's First has been fairly active, recently."
Frank again nods to each point. "You're sounding almost like a legitimate businesswoman," he winks to Lexine. "Running a nightclub, too. Traditional." Another warm smile. "And if there's no-one really major in town, that makes it even better."
Ruby listens in silence again, clearly knowing when to keep her mouth shut and when not to, her gaze flickering between the pair of them. "That cougar mentioned the Human First people here. The murders." She comments softly, but Frank's comments draw her down a different route, a sparkle appearing in her eyes. "The Firm comes to town?"
Lexine chuckles lowly. "I /am/ a fox," she says with a grin, "And I learned my lessons when I was still young." She drinks her coffee, smile still firmly in place. "The city could use a little class. Gangs just aren't what they should be, anymore." The mentions of death make her frown, nod. "A few of the community were murdered, and a few were as unlucky to have survived what they were put through."
"We'll have to see," Frank says to Ruby; he's not sure if it's a good idea, and won't be until the trio have a feel for the city. "A little class, though, that we can do. I always wanted to see a real old speakeasy, like in the films." Another nod. "Problem solved, or am I going looking for trouble?"
Ruby returns the look to her brother but she drops her gaze, a subtle gesture to tell him she'll not start anything. Yet. She sips her drink, her gaze watching them over the brim, a relish in them that reveals her eagerness to settle, to set up. She listens though, paying attention.
"Mostly settled, I believe," Lexine says with a nod. "At least the largest part of the threat, for now. You know how those bastards can be, though." She lets out a quiet, slightly fustraited sigh at the thought.
Frank nods. "Land of the free, provided you don't do anything with that freedom," he replies. "Well, thanks very much, Lexine - it's been good to see you again, but we can see you've got stuff to deal with." There's someone standing by the doors, hoping to catch the boss's attention. "Thanks for your time, and let us know if you need us."
Ruby follows his lead, putting her drink down on the table and giving Lexine a broad grin. "Let me know when you want to have that chat." Her offer stands and she rises from the seat, glancing at her brother, waiting to take his arm when he rises, to leave as they arrives.
Lexine rises as they leave, to see them off and deal with the employee by the door. "I'm glad that you stopped by. Don't be strangers, hmm? I'm sure that we'll have plenty to talk about in the future." She gives Ruby a wink that speaks of trouble, and watches the pair make their exit.