Logs:Empty Chairs

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Content Warning

Iminir Guilt Trips

Cast

Jano Kills Crow, Orana Davis, Jolene Logan, and Darren Lynch

Setting

Wynnefield, Garden House

Log

Jano Kills Crow (James he/they)Yesterday at 6:45 PM

In a neighborhood of sprawling, multi-storied family homes with manicured flower gardens and hedges and broad driveways filled with pairs of cars, the little yellow house at the end of the lane, tucked right up against a sprawling golf course, stands out as being unusual. For one, it is the smallest house in the entire neighborhood, which makes the ratio of square footage of the house compared to the fenced yard almost comical looking. It also has a single laned, twisty, gravelly driveway that just ends next to the house--there is no garage. The most unusual thing is the fact that outside of that, and a stepping stone strewn path that leads to the front porch, all of the yard space is occupied with an only somewhat manicured garden. Although it is winter and many of the plants growing within it are either completely absent, or shriveled little things, it is still easy to see how vast the garden is, rows of hoed earth and beds bordered with everything from bricks to boards to bottles fill all of the space--except for where the massive, windswept looking black cherry grows in the middle of the garden, it's long, bare branches hanging far out over the fence and into the golf course.

They came together, to the surprise of no one, what may have been surprising was that she went through half a dozen outfits, which was the majority of what she owned now, to try and find the right one. It wasn't like her in the least. She'd settled on jeans over a dress, a floral blouse, and her normal over sized black leather jacket....essentially something she'd have worn most days of the week. Was she nervous? Maybe a little...and excited.

"I bet the backyard is even bigger." She offers to Darren as they pull up and she spies the mostly dormant garden with more than a passing interest, resting on her lap was a wine gift bag, full with ...well....wine, and a couple other treats. Her eyes flicked to Darren, a cheesy smile on her lips as they parked.

Darren was usually a very put together man. Clean shaven, well dressed. Tonight though he was a touch more so, if only because he recalled the years of growing up under Uratha parents and what respect looked like in all forms. It meant presenting yourself well. Freshly showered, shaven, his hair combed nicely rather than just let to dry as it naturally fell. He wore a dark button down, the sleeves neatly rolled back, and slacks. Still of course carrying, though rather than two, just one gun on his back. It was a measure against the world, not his hosts.

He’d park the car in their driveway, not reaching the house by a few car lengths allowing themselves the ability to back out easily, and stepped out, looking over the house, and then to Jolene with vibrant emerald green eyes. She was of course leading this little dinner party as she knew Jano and Orana better than he.

“Up you go then,” nodding to the front door.

A moment after the car engine dies, the screen door swings open--the front door already was. Jano steps out and rests one hand on the railing of the porch and beckons them over with the other. Tonight his somewhat wild hair is pulled back into a tight, slicked down ponytail and he wears a pair of thick-framed black glasses which Jolene probably only saw him wear while they spent hours ensconced in Ludwig's study. He is also wearing black denim and a pair of cowboy boots, a forest green turtleneck and an unornamented blazer.

"Good evening," he offers over to them, lifting his voice so that it reaches them as they approach, "be welcomed tonight. I usually would give you a tour of the garden, but there's not much to see right now." Despite that statement he pauses to turn and look at the leafless tree. His lips press into a bare smile as he stares at it for a moment, before he looks back to them and offers a broader smile, though he never has a very pronounced one.

At Darren's words she'd taken a moment, poised for the whole business of knocking, had even had a deep introspective moment about how this felt a bit like bringing Darren home to meet her family, as ludicrous as that was. Then there was the mental realization that was a moment she'd never had. Just when she'd been prepared to make the trek to the door, and knock, she took that first step and heard it open, looking up and giving an easy smile.

Still she moved to clear the distance between them "Jano, you are always a delight." before offering the glittering bag to him with both hands, a creature who had a sense of ritual worked into even the most mundane aspects of her life. The bage held a bottle of chilled champage in it, but also two little ziploc bags of seeds, each clearly labelled with a hand drawn, in color pencils, picture of what the grown product would look like and with instructions for planting, watering, and sun needs. One was the Lemon drop pepper, a spicy citrusy pepper, the other was for an heirloom tobacco. "It's not much, but I hope you liked it." she lied, but in the demuring fashion, the seeds had actually come from a stash she still had from her grandma's garden, her favorite pepper, and her brother's favorite tobacco, but he didn't need those details.(edited)

Darren walked behind Jolene a half step, a hand on her back as they approached, “Evening, sir.” giving Jano a nod. Like the Uratha, Darren wasn’t enormously expressive. His lips pressed in what passed for a smile. He wasn’t in a bad mood by any means, but he clearly looked reserved amidst showing respect.

A glance was given to the tree that Jano looked over fondly and then back to Jo as she presented the minor gifts in thanks for the invitation. He took zero credit for the idea, that much was clear. This was all Jo’s thoughtfulness.

Jano adjusts his glasses before taking the offered bag and peers inside. His smile curls one side of his mouth at something that he sees in there, but he does not offer more insight into what that might have been. Instead, he only says "Thank you," before holding the screen door to usher them inside.

The communal room that they step into is nothing to write home about, though it does have a lot of space which can lead someone to guess that the actual bedrooms in this small home are not very large. All of the lighting is in dim warm shades, giving an orange cast to everything and everyone inside. There is a couch and a loveseat tucked around several mismatched and overfull bookshelves. The couches are draped with Pendleton blankets and a once inside, it can be seen that Pendletons stand in place of curtains over the windows, covering them entirely. On the other end of the room--the end with a hall leading deeper into the house, there is a rough hewn dark wooden table that looks like it could seat four comfortably and six intimately. In the corner of the room there is a black wood stove with a kettle sitting on top of it.

"Seat yourself wherever you like," Jano offers. "I am going to get some glasses for the champagne." And with that he disappears deeper inside.(edited)

She couldn't help but grin the smile that curled the corner of her lips, feeling a bit victorious that the present was so well received. Stepping in, was a bit like watching a cat in a new space, her eyes flicked around, and she started to take a step here or there, but restrained herself from touching every little thing that interested her. She eyed the book shelves, then the blankets, those she could resist, they were on couches, clearly they were meant to be touched. And so she settled onto the couch, touching the blankets for a moment before looking back In Jano's direction. "That sounds delightful." It was definitely an unconventional choice, but she had yet to meet a situation that champagne couldn't help.

Once he was out of view, she'd give Darren a big smile that landed between giddy and nervous.

Darren stepped in, the house making the 6’4 man look taller than he was, but he fit comfortably. His gaze roamed over it all taking in the room and its details. The tiny little efforts they made for comfort and intimacy. He made sure the door was closed behind them - of course it was, Jano had come in last and then quietly joined Jo on the couch, a glance thrown at her giddy smile. “Stop it,” he smirked a touch at her behavior.

“S’nice touch, the seeds..” he said of her gift as Jano was in the other room. “Y’did good,” he’d give her hand a squeeze and lean back.(edited)

Though the wintering exterior belies it, the interior of the small home is startlingly alive. From the moment the front door is opened, the warm light that spills onto the porch is accompanied by the heady aroma of spiced food and muted music from somewhere inside and the sensory experience only expands upon stepping indoors. The depth and richness of the cooking smells in the home - savory and spiced and with some hint of citrus - combined with the sheen of moisture on the cold glass windows suggests something has been stewing for several hours at least.

The volume of the music retreats further into a background noise at the sound of unfamiliar voices conversing and a few moments later, a woman in her late twenties or early thirties emerges from the kitchen with a stack of plates. She’s tall and lithe with the long, muscular limbs of a dancer. She’s dressed in a linen shift dress that barely skims her body, rendering her fashionably shapeless and with a hemline that would be professional on a shorter woman. The dress is cut simply and with classic lines but is a decidedly loud, brilliant ultramarine color.

“Good evening and welcome,” she offers without stopping, moving past her guests to finish place setting the large, dark-wood table.

Not long afterward Jano joins them as well, carefully balancing an array of glass stems between his fingers and Jolene's bag tucked under his arm. He hands off glasses as he can, carefully prying them out of his own hand, and at one point he puts the bottle on the table and then quietly hangs Jolene's bag beside the door. Compared to both Darren and Orana, he is rather small, though still broad-shouldered. Nevertheless he seems to command his own space without much effort. He begins to help Orana with some of the dishes, but still somehow keeps his attention focused on the two guests as he does so.

"I don't usually drink, but I like to make exceptions for events like these and I'm glad I'm making it tonight because this is good." He then takes a moment after putting down a napkin and some silverware to make an encompassing gesture with his hand. "This is where we live. There is not much to say about it. I found it for a steal a couple of decades ago and you can tell that it is older than most of the others around here--there are a lot of more modern homes now," he presses his lips together tightly, "or at least they've been remodeled to seem like it." Once all the settings are out, Jano pulls out the seat at the end of the table with its back to one of the walls, near the wood stove. "Do you like golfing?" he asks both of them seemingly, but interrupts a chance to answer with "I hate it." Then, he sits down.

The smells, and the lighting, the decoration, all lended to a very homey feel. Like the vibe you get when you went to your grandparents, or great grandparents as a child, and there was fresh baked bread, or some sort of stew. She made a pleased sound once she processed the scents, and when the purpose driven woman appeared she chimed in "Let me know if I can help." but then she was moving past them, and she was still smiling like a little fool. Though she reigned it in when Jano reemerged.

As the activity moved toward thedining table, she rose from the couch to join them there. She reached for her glass of champagne "I know most people try to pair to the food, but I like to pair to the moment...champagne felt right." she admits with a playful little grin, and took a sip, before sitting the glass down. She paused for a second in some thought or other, before slowly slipping the jacket off and moving it to rest on the back of her chair.

There was a reason she always covered up, her arms were decorated in thick ropes of scarring, and too many people liked to think because they saw the remnants of a story, they were entitled to the whole of it. That done, she'd let Darren pull her chair out before taking a seat. "I've never been, but I hate the idea of it, big swaths of land made tame..." and then she'd look to Orana "You must be Orana, I have to say, it smells amazing..."

He looked up as Orana made her way through the room, following her with his gaze as she went for the table. “Evenin’ ma’am,” his words quiet but clear. Loud enough to be heard across the room and not confused for shy. Shy wasn’t the word for Darren. He studied her directly for a long moment as she set the table, his attention cut only by Jano’s return, rising as he came into the room, realizing he should have done so already for Orana.

He floated behind Jolene, pulling out her chair as she sat which meant he was on her right. He’d wait though before sitting, offering a hand to Orana, “Darren Lynch,” a moment of eye contact as he shook her hand if she took it. “Eh, no sir. Can’t say I’ve ev-..” affording a small huff of amusement as Jano interrupts his own question.

“The both of you’s have a lovely ‘ome.”

While her housemate finalizes setting places for dinner and their guests migrate to the dining table, Orana disappears back into the kitchen, re-emerging with a steaming enameled pot she places on a dark metal trivet in the large table’s center. Hands free, she pivots graciously to discharge her duty in ritual greetings. “Orana Davis,” she confirms to Jolene while taking Darren’s offered hand in her own. Her hand is finely boned and her fingers are almost delicate but they close around his palm with an air of carefully managed violence, like talons grasping a falconer’s gauntlet. The topography of her knuckles is strange somehow and perhaps recognizable to the young man, as he’s likely had plenty of reason to interact with individuals who’ve inadvertently permanently disfigured their hands through blunt force trauma. She holds his hand only briefly before releasing it.

“Thank you for your gifts and your company,” she smiles and it almost touches her eyes. “Please have a seat.” Orana takes a seat only once everyone else is settled.

It is difficult to say if Jano notices the scarring or not--if he does at all, he does not draw any attention to them. Instead he spends a moment praising the food and the cook and also quickly thanks Creator. Once that is said and done, he reaches up and removed his glasses, tucking them into the front pocket of his blazer, and begins to look over the table as he speaks. "Never live next to a golf course. They sell you on the quiet, but you'll spend twenty years digging golf balls out of your garden. If I resold them I'd have an empire."

He seems content to continue the thought process over the introductions being had. "Do you know anything about solar panels?" He does not ask either of them in particular, his conversational shift somewhat jarring, even if he could follow it himself. "I have been wanting to get them installed here just in case," he pauses, looking over at Darren for a moment, and then past him, "uh, for the worst winter storms. This winter has given us a lot, and who wants to be without power when it's that cold." It is cold, but not in this tight space, occupied by the four of them, with a wood stove going near by.

She watched the introductions, for a brief moment wondering if she should stand, wondering if she should offer her hand, rise to her feet, but the truth was, there was a moment of feeling vulnerable, while she adjusted to losing her bit of armor, and she hoped manners would forgive her for not knowing what direction to go on proper introductions. "Thank you for having us, It's been a bit since i've had a homemade meal." She admits a bit sheepishly.

Janos however gets a tiny laugh from her. "So...I suspect the solar panels are likely to have the same problem as the garden...are you allowed to put up some netting?" She was a solution oriented, spirit touched girl apparently. "...I had a friend with them in California, apparently it went something like ...their energy goes to the company, and you get a credit in turn? Not sure how it'd work here, I'd have to research, but if you were looking for winter assurances, maybe a generator to start?" says the girl, who has read probably 20 different home improvement books, and bares all the knicks and cuts on her hand to testify she's put some of what she's learned into use.

Darren’s own hands were covered in his own scars. Mostly around the knuckles and between them suggesting he used them often and broke them open repeatedly under years and years of abuse. Tonight of course the spirits of violence that normally clung to him like greedy leeches were scattered, not daring come into the house of Storm Lords, but for a moment Orana felt Darren’s gaze taking her measure, not as a woman in some leering gaze, but as a warrior he likely had much to learn from if ever he could. The tattoos under said scars went over the back of his hands and up under his sleeves, likely creating full sleeves of celtic and gaelic imagery with Uratha symbolism and lore woven between it for those that knew how to see it. A reverence for the Blood Talons on one hand, and Bone Shadows on the other.

Darren looked back to Jano at that, and became painfully aware he was shit at small talk. “Jo’s workin’ on home improvement ‘erself.” he added, unhelpfully and took his seat. “She’s the better one to talk to ‘ere.”

Orana smooths a cloth napkin into her lap with one hand and mindless muscle memory. She dishes herself first, modeling the appropriate “order of operations” and passing warm serving dishes to her left as she does, while explaining in general terms what her guests ought to expect. She begins with a small bed of rice that she nearly drowns in a dark, aromatic soup-like puree that she identifies as something that sounds like sos pwa in a sudden accent change. She tops this with some animal protein - pork probably - that’s simultaneously falling apart and all crispy edges.

“I’d tell you to be cautious here of heat, but your gift suggests that you can handle yourself,” she murmurs across the table to Jolene, making and holding eye contact for several seconds before passing the dish and dishing herself a handful of golden and caramelized fried plantains. She allows the small talk to continue without her participation until everyone has served themselves and then heads it off with the smooth abruptness of a flanking predator eliminating an exit path. “You’re from California, then. What brings you east?”

Jano continues to speak as he serves himself when it comes to him, and the order of operations ensures it comes to him last. He does not even glance at his food until both Darren and Jolene are trying their own. "I know a thing or two about handling repairs but I don't really do big projects--at least nothing you can't handle with twine and a slip knot. I don't think lashing down some solar panels to the roof would please the HOA--but they haven't tried it with me for the last couple of years. You can imagine they do not love the garden. I don't have a lawn for them to dictate the height of--oh the nets, I haven't bothered for a long time. They don't last. But I've got a couple of generators in the basement but the noise--now they'll definitely come hunting for my pelt if I leave those running. It's not important, though. None of it is. The golf course is a spiritual blight--the monstrous amalgamations of astroturf and greed, of the real stuff and blades and clubs--it's all a horror. The nets get in the way of the seeds."

What.

What...

She however nods as if it all makes sense, and while the house feels like Jano, the location does not, and she wonders, no, suspects!.....he was here first. "I rather like the garden and can't wait to see it when it stops sleeping." First tongue was her first tongue, and some words she liked better than others, the plants were not dead, just resting.

However her attention turns to Orana at the question. She's already feeling a touch more vulnerable than normal. This all feels familiar, and comfortable, and not at the same time. There was a long moment when she worked through what to say, and then how to say it. The first time she'd really said it outloud, and bluntly, was the other day with Janos, and as if to remember that moment her own hand moves to the shoulder he'd clasped and she presses a bit of weight as if to relive the reassurance of that moment.

"...I lost my family and pack....to a war of attrition-" There is a moment where she takes a breath, a sip of the champagne to settle herself before continuing. "They saw me off in the final moments, and I traveled for months..." It's slow going, each word is picked, and her accent, otherworldly as it is, grows a touch heavier. "then I found a shit hole of a house here, and I thought, if I could fix that, I could fix anything....word was around that there were more Uragarum here than normal, seemed a place I could disappear in." A ludicrous notion, she was a walking locus, those with the eyes to see it would find she even had Renown markings, that in the hisil would light up silver just as any wolves would, she had eyes that could see, a tongue that could speak, and she had utterly deluded herself that she could hide in the woodwork let alone do it and maintain any sembalance of safety.

Now food… that he could get behind. He took the offered plate and there was a glimmer in his eyes that real food was more than appreciated. His lips curl at the edges in a pleased little smile, excited for himself to enjoy this. In fact his desire for a glass of whiskey and a cigarette ebbed as the dish took his focus away.

He looked up briefly at talk of HOAs and generators and for a moment he feared he was the wrong man for Jo to have brought to such a meeting. Thankfully she was capable of doing the heavy lifting in such conversations. One of her many talents he was beyond grateful for and continually impressed by. He let his hands rest just below the table line, tapping at his knees silently while the conversation continued on.

Moving his hand to her knee as she struggled over the path of her past. He scoffed gently as Jo talked of disappearing. “And then she proceeds to be the friendliest creature in the room. She’s ‘orrible at not being seen,” he said with a shake of his head.

“Focus, Dumuth Kuk” Orana says to the meandering Ithaeur in the language of The People, her voice quiet but firm. “I did not cook all day to listen to you talk about grass.”

When obvious emotion enters Jolene’s voice, Orana observes her with the quiet discomfort of someone unsure whether an acquaintance is going to vomit, her nose wrinkling subtly. As the young woman steels herself and marshals her composure to get through her story of great personal loss, Orana’s features resume their neutral set. She lifts her champagne glass and her chin and says evenly: “To our family who wait in death.”

"You are right. She is horrible at not being seen," Jano says, his tone sincere--not necessarily critical, though it could be taken that way--he takes bites between thoughts and while he listens to others, but never speaks with his mouth full. "That is why you need to cleave to a unit, that is why you need to walk as a pack, whether or not you are one. That is--" he stops, listening for a long time as Jolene speaks. As the story continues his eyes drift down the hallway that leads deeper in the house. Adept eyes might notice that he stars at a pair of chairs, just like the ones they are sitting at, stacked atop one another at the end of said hallway, tucked out of the way so as not to be inconvenient.

"Loss is the way, and this land knows blood better than most. There will be more, I have no doubt." Whether he means loss or blood or both, he does not clarify. He lifts his glass with Orana, taking his first sip of the champagne since he sat down. He frowns slightly afterward, silent for a moment of consideration before he says, "I am not talking about grass, and I am not talking about the garden. I'm making a point and it is an important one. The garden is not asleep. It is never dormant. It is loud and vibrant and magnetic. It makes itself known--either of you could see it if you look closely enough--and you are the same. The tree has guardians. It has protectors. It needs them. It is an honour to the tree. You are the same."

She lifted the drink to that, steeling herself, and pulling her smile back on like armor. "To our family who wait in death." She agrees steadily, and eventually her eyes follow his, to the chairs, and she slowly nods. Though she has the sense not to sing it, or say it, the song comes to mind none the less.....

There's a grief that can't be spoken
There's a pain goes on and on
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone

As she is compared to the tree, she smiles faintly at that "It didn't take Ludwig long to remind me of why we are the people, and the value of being with the people....and the reality of it, the safety of it." She was the same, she did need them, she did need to be kept safe, she knew that better now than she ever had. She pauses and finally manages another bite of food. "Sos pwa, I like it." practicing the word again.

Jo’s bite was interrupted lightly as she was nudged by Darren. “I’ve been tellin’ er the same since we met. She needs a pack, sir. She needs to be protected and by more than jus’ I can give ‘er.” he set his spoon down. A careful eater anyhow, he’d not take bites as he spoke, no matter how good the food smelled. Seemingly thankful for conversation switch to something real, or at least the protective conversing of small talk to be lifted away. He was direct and blunt and horribly unpoetic.

“I realize that choosin’ a pack isn’t a light a decision. But in meeting the two of you’s for less than ‘alf an hour, I can see you’re ‘er best options. She’s too polite to say the same.” he reached for a drink of the champagne and took it back in a swig rather than a sip. It didn’t have the same hit as whiskey and he frowned for that, but set it back down.

With what is perhaps uncharacteristic mercy, Orana turns her attention from the woman in whom she inadvertently kicked up an internal dust cloud of grief and eats two bites of her meal in contemplative silence. As she chews, she fixes her intense and critical gaze on the Wolfblooded girl’s companion, Darren. She listens to his assessment of Jolene’s best tactical steps and overture on her behalf. She dabs her lips with her napkin before speaking.

“You’re astute in your assessment. Jolene is not safe here. You’re lucky she’s not dead or worse already,” she says with the unflinching bluntness of a Rahu. “And what about you, Mr. Lynch? Are you running from your death or running to it?”

Despite a propensity to ramble, Jano listens to others carefully. He is expressionless as he considers words, but he is attentive--only interrupting to eat, or take a sip of water from the other glass beside him. Eventually, however, after watching Orana for an extended moment, he sets his fork and knife down with a quiet clatter.

"Choosing a pack is not a light decision, you are right. It is also not for you to make for anyone but yourself," Jano's tone is firm, though far from unfriendly. He looks at Orana again for another overly long moment. He is still watching her as he speaks, "The Cardinal Wind has blown lightly since the Wounding. How many of the Packs have you assessed, Darren?" Jano asks, not bothering with formalities or surnames of any kind. Just Darren. "And why is your assessment of ours so certain?" His tone suggests that his own assessment of his pack is certain too, it is not a question being asked for reassurance.

There was a brief moment of surprise, though she of all people shouldn't have been, they'd talked about her looking for a pack, about his inability to protect her in a dangerous city, about what would be important, but more than that, she knew Darren, and knew his words were few and usually direct. She tossed back the rest of her champagne and almost started to speak but she rather liked that both wolves had turn their attention and questions to Darren, and so she too angled a bit in her seat to watch him, and how he'd react to the questions.

....there may have been the barest hint of amusement in the gleam of her eye and the corner of her lips, that he was now carrying a good bit of the weight of their attention.

Darren took back the rest of his champagne and set the glass aside. “My life isn’ what’s in question here. I’m not the colorful beacon of promise she is. My own business puts my day to day at a fairly high risk aside from jus’ being in the life of the People. It’s not a matter of runnin’, ma’am. I’m sure I don’ ‘ave to tell a woman like you that at some point, it serves more of a purpose to turn and do the killin.”

He leaned back, seeing formalities were off the table and he could relax a bit. Without lookin to Jano, he replied, “In truth, because I ‘aven’t sought out the People until this one come along,” nodding his head towards Jo, “not many. But from what I ‘ave seen, sir, are people more desperate to impress with their clever tongues or chances at gettin’ in one’s pants than actually focusing on what’s important. Seeing what’s right in front of ‘em. I knew the moment I met Jo what a …. And for lack of a better term … rare combination she was. She’s a fuckin’ trap set out for those that are too stupid to realize and for that she’ll never be safe.” he huffed lightly as if the thought it frustrated him more than he could explain. “You twos ‘ave nothing to boast about save for what you tell with your posture, what’s sittin in that dark gaze a yours when you chew your food… when you look down the end of the hall for those that aren’t sittin with ya. It’s not my choice who she packs with, but if it was, I’d ‘ave those that have dealt with a struggle before take her on, than those that are jus’ itching for a good fight to come their way.”

And that was probably the most he's ever said at once since he reached Philadelphia.

A thoughtful pause after he finishes his appeal, the woman says, “Don’t dictate to me what is of interest to me, Darren Lynch.” She allows this to hang in the air for a moment, just long enough to be contested, and to grow more powerful in the absence of challenge.

“Your care for this woman is admirable and your feelings make you bold, which is brave and foolish,” Orana continues. “If you know anything about the blood that has been spilled here in the last year, you know enough to warrant your humble assessment that you are inadequate to the task of being her sole shield.”

She picks up the final plantain from her plate with her fingers and pops it in her mouth with a casualness that is a little jarring, but at least she finishes chewing before speaking again.

“It is not enough to name your weakness, you have to kill your weakness. If your best is not good enough to protect what you love, get better.”

For the most part, Jano seems content to let Orana's words stand for the both of them. He continues eating, each bite earning a quiet grunt of appreciation and a genuine, if brief, smile. He nods as he eats--particularly in response to what Orana has to say, backing up her position with enthusiasm, unless that enthusiasm only belongs to her cooking--adding finally, "No. You're wrong. Your life is also in question. Blood is blood. Blood is family. You cannot escape your heritage without being haunted. Put your ghosts away, Lynch." Oh, now he switches to a surname, and there's no prefix to soften it either.

He waves his hand dismissively suddenly, "You're right about the rest, though."

She watched Darren, with eyes that were a bright sea green, so bright they nearly glowed in dimmer light. She watched him, as he spoke of his life, his place here, and his assessment of the locals. He was quiet, always so quiet, and few were the people who realized the sharp mind, and blunt tongue that resided behind keen eyes that saw everything, ears that heard everything. The little locus of a girl looked at him with open interest, but there was no mistaking the adoration in her eyes.

She hadn't been as convinced as he was that she needed a pack, as if the peripheral connection to the people would be enough. She wasn’t even sure she was ready for one, she’d only began to pick at the scabs of her loss, and hadn’t done anything like dealing with her feelings or processing her grief. But some part of her was practical, surviving came first and she knew what they all knew, safety in numbers. Her eyes lingered only a moment longer when Orana began to talk before she turned them to her. At the words of weakness and love, she couldn’t resist looking to Darren, the man was never seen as weak, and they had never voiced their feelings quite like that....

The social dancing of the people was unlike any other, where it was always a bit likefighting, a give and a take, a sharpness, a bluntness. “He has keen eyes, a sharp mind and he listens to everything, but this is the most I've heard him talk outside of us..." she ran the tip of her tongue over a canine. "Where I have a foot here, and another in the shadow, he has a foot here and another in...another dangerous world, and one he intends to grow in." oh if he was going to make her case for being in a pack, she was taking him with her. "He's clever, resourceful, a leader of men, and knows the ways of medicine, even if it is from taking people apart more than putting them together." She looked to Orana at that, because Jano had been there for that conversation.(edited)

Darren looked back up to Orana, no stranger to being called by his first, last and full name when people felt ways about him. It didn’t seem to bother him much. “Ma’am. I was raised from a child knowing what’s what. What you take personal interest in, I can not claim to ‘ave any knowledge of, but the brass tacks are what they are. I’m obviously not ‘ere to shine a penny for you.” He said and looked between them. “I’m also not ‘ere for love. This girl might ‘ave made of fool of me, but my upbringing would ‘ave my ‘ead if I didn’t keep ‘er safe. You want me to kill my weakness? I’ve choked my pride to death that it’s not me who can save her just yet. I’m askin’ for help until I can.”

He licked his lips and glanced to Jano then, another name change. “I don’ ‘ave ghosts sir. And blood is not blood as you say. Not for me. Family is more than bloodline. Bloodline can be dismissed. Family is who you bleed for."

Jano raises hi eyebrow over a sip of water, listening to Jolene's appeal thoughtfully but without affirmation or condemnation. He licks his upper lip briefly as he sets his glass down and puts both palms on the table as if he were going to push himself up to stand. Instead he holds that position for a moment, turning his head to Darren so that his ear is tilted toward him, but he does not look at him. "No ghosts," he says finally, slowly, drawing each word out like a stream growing choppy over hidden stones.

Then, he pushes himself to stand. He tucks in his chair and takes a log from a bundle near the wood stove, tucking it in. A few stray sparks burst out of it and he reaches up to stroke rough, dark-skinned hands over his long, slicked back hair. He straightens himself again and looks over between the Wolf-Blooded, weighing...something. "I see your ghosts. I am crescent-eyed, which is something you can begin to understand. I see the secrets you see. I am well aware of what sorts of ghosts slip into my territories." There is another long pause, "You are right about that, though. Bloodline can be dismissed." He takes the kettle off the wood stove and begins pouring coffee into an empty mug at each placement that has been there since the start. "It can be. It often is." He is frowning thoughtfully to himself.

Orana makes eye contact with Jano across the table, her expression tired. She watches him without turning her head until the Ithaeur’s path to the woodstove carries him out of her eyeline. She holds a hand up in request for pause.

The Iminir redirects her attention to her guests. “You don’t have to convince me of anything,” she says flatly. “I didn’t invite you here so you’d each display the other like a portfolio you were trying to use to get into a competitive art school.” She takes a slug of her champagne in a way that seems incongruous for the beverage.

Speaking at first to Darren, she says, “I asked Jano to bring you here because you almost died and whether or not you feel like there’s anything of worth to you-” and here turns to Jolene, “or if your survivor’s guilt is getting in the way of your self-preservation, whatever this is...” She gestures with one hand as if waving off a particularly noisome gnat.

“The only thing that will benefit from your doubt or distraction are the enemies of The People,” she says tightly. “Let this be your wake-up call. You don’t get to disappear. They will find you. It is up to you whether that is with eyes open or closed. It is up to you whether they find you alone.”

Jolene (FoxFire- She/Her)Yesterday at 11:07 PM She frowned a little, realizing this really wasn't Darren's natural state to admit he needed help with something, let alone with her. That would be a talk for later though, hell, tonight was going to give them a lot to talk about... She looked back to Jano remembering the first time she saw him, or rather the first time he saw her. He knew, just knew...and she knew she'd been seen. "Thank you." She offered to the pour of coffee.

"I confess....I thought this was just dinner..." to the surprise of no one, glancing back to Orana, and giving a sheepish smile, which faults as she calls out the fact the girl had almost died. Waking some memory or other...

Are we dead?....No....not yet

Her face held stoic this time, as Orana cut to the quick of her feelings, not even just feelings, but her flawed coping, her perilous struggle between recklessness and self preservation. Laying it out like she'd just flayed her open with the most casual of gestures. Finally she spoke again. "I don't want them to find me..." There was every liklihood they would, again. "Not alone, and not eith my eyes closed." Softer, her voice steady, determined.

Darren’s demeanor eased back as he watched the other man rise, following him across the room with his eyes before dropping his gaze back to the table with his thoughts and apparently his intentions laid bare. Perhaps Jano saw ghosts he didn’t.

Darren licked his lip and took a breath to thoughtfully argue against Orana’s message, “I didn’ almost die.” Assuming she’d meant his run in with the magath, or perhaps she’d meant that for Jolene, “ And I ‘ave plenty a worth, aside from being one of The People. That alone does not make me worth my weight in salt. There’s more to us than bein’ born to this life. If it wasn’t so we’d not ‘ave brands the they saw fit to mark us with.”

He leaned forward a bit, “I will admit, I am jumping at the opportunity for someone to see ‘er for what she is, because she’s dangerous. And they’re comin’. They always are. This was never jus’ dinner. Or I wouldn’t a come.”(edited)

The spare expressions of many Storm Lords don’t leave you very much to work with and here Orana is not much of an exception, though it’s possible to tell that she’s received Jolene’s response positively by the way the left side of her mouth quirks upwards in the shadow of a genuine smile. It doesn’t take any special skill at reading people to tell that something Darren has said has the absolute opposite effect.

Orana stands with alarming immediacy, rocking her chair an inch backwards onto its rear legs. She collects her flatware onto her dish and steps deftly around the table collecting Jano’s plate in a similar fashion. She pauses across the table from Darren and smiles at him, her lips pulling tightly back until they show her white teeth.

“As long as you nurse the fool’s prayer that there is any obligation, or passion, or vow, or skill you might possess that is more important than the work you were born to do in this world, you will be beyond my help,” says Orana. "Jano will see you out. Good night.” With that, she turns and disappears into the kitchen, her stride impressively long and purposeful.

With mug to his lips, not sipping, but blowing on the steam, Jano's gaze lingers on Orana as she takes the dishes into the kitchen. He stares at the spot where he last saw her for several long moments before setting his mug down, reaching into his pocket, and putting his glasses back on his face.

"I don't think she made dessert, but that's what the coffee is for," he says, tapping his index finger against his own mug. He does not lift it again. Instead, he remains standing by his own chair, slowly shifting his gaze away from the hallway and back toward the Wolf-Blooded. "This may help you. It may not. In the end, only you can help you. But I will offer you this. You mentioned those empty seats," coincidentally, they are in the same direction that Orana went in, and he could have easily been staring at them instead, "each one of them died for their divine purpose. Each one of them bore the marks of blood and heritage and pride," when he says this, he glances down at Darren's arms before looking up and between the two of them, "and their glory will be sung to the heavens for generations if I have any power of it." A beat, "And I do. Power is what you make it. Just like its lack."

Alarming was the right word. Her guard was down, and had been from the moment she was willing to take her jacket off. The rapid motion, made her jerk back in her chair. There were times she had more than a little in common with a feral stray, but she reigned it in quickly, and gave a little nod to the woman as she disappeared into the kitchen. There is a moment of settling herself before she reaches for the coffee and takes a sip from it despite it being a bit too hot.

She slowly considers Jano's words and finally looks up from under heavy lashes "...the next time we meet, there is a book I'd like to show you...." She says it softly, a wound fresher than the rest, but she keeps her voice steady.

The blooded didn’t move as Orana’s anger bubbled against her expression. His eyes quietly mirrored the rage as if to say ‘Yes, I feel that too.’ He didn’t look up to watch her leave the table, only patted himself down gently for his smokes and rose as his untouched food was taken away from him. Shame, it was a fine meal.

He pulled out a pack and tapped a smoke free, setting it unlit into his lips. “Mm,” he nodded, to Jano’s words, readying himself to leave. “The problem is with all this..” he gestures vaguely upward, to…. The sky? The moon? All of it? “Is that it’s very easy to say just what you should be and how divine your purpose is, when it chooses you. And when it doesn’, you face what’s left. Whether or not you laid your soul bare and devoted all you ‘ad. Sometimes it’s not what she’s lookin’ for.” He nodded once and glanced down the hall.

“I thank you for the invitation. It was …. An evenin’,” he said, and headed for the door.

Jano nods once to Jolene, "I will be glad to read a book you think I would enjoy." The small library of worn out paperbacks near the couches evidence of that particular passion. He walks around the table and then toward the door, though he does not do so with enough intent to try to reach it before Darren. He does, however, say to the much taller man, "Consider another perspective." He says it in a quiet, but fervent whisper. "When it chooses you, and you meet your divine purpose, you do not get to say anything at all. Their only voice left is mine, and hers."

She nods and moves to stand, eyeing the dishes she'd normally offer to help with, but this was not that night. She moves from the table towards the door as they make their way to leave. "...Dinner was delicious, tell Orana thank you for me." Looking between him and Darren, she starts to speak, but stops herself. She didn't hand over her past, secrets, feelings easily, she wouldn't hand over anyone elses. "We should do this again sometime." Clearly feeling they weren't done with these possibilities.