Oct 31, 2020 4:12 AM
Jaime discovers a masquerade.
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“Have you ever noticed me being polite to someone I dislike.”

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"If you can manage even just stalking out of any room that contains the both of you I think that actually still might be better than depriving her of her chance to show off from afar her shiny new.....grand...fledgling - that's not an actual term, I was making that up - that she's been so generously sponsoring, oo-ooh, look at how graceful she is, I'm so nice in indulging my niece on this, I have definitely mentioned her to some people before and it would be weird if she's not here now.  - I guess if you can't avoid insulting her to random partygoers that would in fact be worse."

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“I’m still planning on attending the actual masquerade.”

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"Oh.

"I'm - before all this, I was going to wait for Hana to get back, have a talk with her, and go have that chat, and aside from that I was not actually expecting to have to interact with her aunt at all?  Like, I don't actually think you'll have trouble avoiding her.  - I'm not trying to get you to stay if that's what you'd informedly think is best, just.  Trying to help out with the 'informedly'."

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“People who are in different hotels are marginally less convenient to spy on.”

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"Okay.  I guess - I'll probably stay here at least until I've had a chance to talk to Hana."  She gets up from the chair, puts the pillow back on it, and uneasily starts making her way to the door.

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Jaime follows her out, unless she fails to actually exit the room for some reason.

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She's kind of halting about it, like maybe she's waiting for Jaime to say something or stop her, but does in fact go out in the hall once it becomes clear that that's not happening.

Her and Hana's room is only one door over.  "I guess....I'll just wait out here then?  See you later."

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“Goodbye.”

Aaand she hasn’t actually meaningfully unpacked - she gathers her belongings, informs the front desk that she’s leaving, yes she’s aware that her deposit is nonrefundable - and she’s gone for another hotel.

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And Ari will sit down, criss-cross applesauce with her back against the door, and after a few minutes alone with her thoughts, bring her legs up and curl into herself, and - maybe if she takes her hair down so it falls around her face and tucks her head into her knees and is very quiet and prevents her breath from hitching by virtue of not breathing at all, anyone who happens to walk by won't know for sure she's crying.  Which is probably the best she can hope for right now.

 

 

 

Eventually, Hana comes back.  She makes Ari some plain hot water and in general does her best to be comforting.  It sort of works; she's wrapped up enough in the cause of Ari's distress that there's a bit of an upper limit, but at the same time having sympathy openly expressed is really nice even when you don't actually seem to have the ability to talk about the problem.

It's about two hours after Jaime left that Ari manages to text:

I'm not sure what to do but I think we're good staying here

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I hope that you’re generally okay. 

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Thanks

She's still typing after that, but doesn't send anything for several minutes.

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(Jaime strongly considers sending something else during that time, and ultimately refrains. She continues reading a book on philosophy which is mostly vague and uninteresting but does still manage to contain occasional insights.)

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I haven't said anything to Hana yet
About the thing
Idk how to bring it up and also like
What if it's not safe to do til later
But I can't tell whether that's actually the thing or if I'm just chicken

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Hana is currently under magical influence and wanting to avoid speaking to her isn’t unreasonable.

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Lots of fits and spurts of typing with occasional long pauses between them.  Several more minutes later:

k

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Possibly some of Ari’s current incompetence and failure to share information is the result of lingering mind control, that seems like a charitable explanation. She should probably work on being more charitable if she’s planning on taking over substantially improving the world.

 

She does various interesting stretches, and gets dinner, and goes to bed.

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Ari stays up late into the jetlagged vampire night fretting and trying to phrase something that gets at - a thing she needs to know, that she doesn't even know how to label to herself, let alone put into a message that'll productively get her an answer instead of making things even worse.

do you hate me  are you mad at me  how mad at me are you  I'm sorry for being so terrible  sorry for being so useless lol  I don't actually know what you meant by that last thing. Or any of the things.  is it  how much of this is my fault do you think

The thing she eventually hits send on is 'Is there anything I can do to help?', because it's not the right question but she can't find the right question and it might get her the right answer, if Jaime responds with something either curt and dismissive or sympathetic.  - But aaaa no actually that makes no sense and is terrible; there are so many more ways that could go and dealing with any of the other ones is going to suck is it too late to delete it?  Probably Jaime is asleep and she can just delete it.  Okay.

- She's not quite crying again, but her breathing is uneven enough that Hana wakes up, comes over to her, takes and massages her hand in the way that's been helpful in calming her down in these sorts of situations before, and suggests that maybe she should try and go to sleep, possibly with magic if she can't manage without.

(Ari has a brief moment of 'aaa does this count as more mind control is Jaime going to judge me even harder for this if she finds out', but, no, she does this on a fairly regular basis and it always helps and probably if Jaime judges her for it, that's on her.  Probably.  Aaaaa.  Aaaaaaa.)

Hana leads Ari to the other bed, the one Hana was in, and gets them settled in.  Ari knocks herself out.  Hana holds her girlfriend and does a bit of fretting of her own before eventually falling back asleep.

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(Jaime, having failed to witness magically induced unconsciousness used as a coping tool, can’t comment on whether she’d be vaguely judgmental about it.)

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In the (jetlagged, vampire) morning, Jaime gets a text from Hana:

Good afternoon, Jaime.  I hope your stay here is going well, although I suspect it is not.  Ari has requested I refrain from trying to guess too much about what is upsetting her so, and I have decided to keep from pushing on any suspicions I may have, even if I can't keep from putting a few things together.

However, the fact remains that she's alarmingly distressed about *something*, and I'm hoping you might have a better idea than I both about what it is and how to reassure her.  Even if whatever situation is going on is very serious, I think this level of anxiety is probably unwarranted and unhelpful, especially since it specifically manifested as staying up very late trying to text someone who I would be fairly surprised to learn wasn't you.

Having known Ari for as long as I have, this seems to have more the flavor of an interpersonal stressor than a concrete external one, and I dearly hope it's something which can be worked though.  It's awful to see her like this.  She's sleeping now, and hopefully for a few more hours still, but if you could reach out to her at some point I'd be very grateful.

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She told me about Rohner’s relationship manipulation habit, as context for their interaction, and she seemed more distressed by the fact that I dislike mind control than by the fact that you and her have spent a very long time being mind controlled. I expect that this is the result of mind control.

I’m not upset with her; I continue to be myself when surprised and frustrated and it’s possible she interpreted that as being upset with her.

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I'll pass that along; see you tonight.

 

Once Ari wakes up, that does approximately satisfy what she'd been worried about, much to Hana's relief.

They start getting ready for the ball; in the middle of it, Ari finds the question she was looking for ("Remember that scale you didn't know where I was on at first?  Where do you think I am on it now?  But expanded from 'I'm being mistreated' to like, 'all of everything is horrible' and from 'somebody was kind of mean at me' to 'I'm a terrible, terrible person, who you hate'.") and kicks herself for not coming up with it when it still mattered.  Whatever, it's totally fine and now she can just have a fun time at the party.

 

Her outfit for said party is an A-line gown in dark wintergreen, a layer of lace on top of satin in nearly the same color, with just enough difference to make the details a bit more visible.  It's sleeveless, with a swan-necked illusion collar and the part covering her chest above the bodice only in the lace.  Matching lace glovelets loop around her middle fingers and go two-thirds of the way up her forearms.  Her mask is in both layers; her hair is twisted back voluminously from the temples to meet behind her but mostly hangs freely.

Hana's is a slitted sheath dress in midnight blue.  It has fitted full-length sleeves and a bateau neckline that flares slightly off the shoulders, with white abstractly-wintery embroidery and beading swirling up from the hemline up to the waist and at the ends of the sleeves.  She has lots of matching accessories: a few bracelets on one wrist, jeweled earrings, a necklace, sandal-style heels, a few hair ornaments that draw attention to her elegant updo, and of course the mask.

 

They, along with a fair number of other vampires and their occasional attached humans, are already in the ballroom when Jaime gets there.  Immediately noticeable are -

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- Kimberly, at the far side of the room, engaged in conversation and easy enough to avoid -

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- two girls in what seem to be literally prom dresses, one of them with only the token mask to distinguish the event, the other with at least something interesting going on with her shoes; one's a basic sandaled heel and the other's a boot that goes above her knee and disappears under her hemline -

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- and one unusually-young person in a simple sleeveless black dress and mary janes, expressionless despite her conversation partner's animated demeanor.

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