A Ducal Seat on the Neighborhood Watch

A Ducal Seat on the Neighborhood Watch

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Where: The In-Between
When: July 23, 2020
What: A Seelie and Unseelie have two different philosophies when it comes to leadership and power, not surprisingly.

Ultimately, there are as many reasons to belong to a community as there are members within that community, and as many reasons to avoid it as there are people who have voluntarily left it. - John

It's almost seven o'clock on a Tuesday night, which means the after-work rush has just broken. The In-Between's settled in for a quiet night, with a coterie of folk singers inside doing covers of Leonard Cohen's older works. This has the effect of overpopulating the inside and depopulating the outside, which may account for John's location at a table by himself — enjoying an evening cup of cappucino like a civilized being, and only intermittently grimacing at why anyone would choose to do a cover of anything from _Death of a Ladies' Man_.

It'd be easy — if it weren't for her telltale green aura — to mistake Max for a different person than the one John briefly met in the Japanese Garden. This time, she's not weary grubby gardening togs but instead looks like she's just come from the beach in a sundress and flip flops. She pushes a pair of sunglasses up onto her head as she steps inside from the still-bright sunshine outside into the dimmer light of the cafe.

She moves to the counter without a glance to the cover band, clearly intent on getting her caffeine on and not here for the show. She points at a muffin in the pastry display shelf and then waits for her drink to be made — an ice, coffee, and caramel concoction that she gets in a to-go cup before heading back toward the door to escape the music — but pauses as she passes John's table.

"Evening," is all she offers to the somewhat-familiar face.

Several different hues of indigo are thrumming around John, their shades merging with the shadows and the slowly-rising night. He pays it the same imperious disregard that he pays everything: since he doesn't think twice about it nobody else should, either (with an unspoken "if they know what's best for them").

He looks up at Max, nodding faintly. "Max," he greets, then cocks his head slightly in the direction of the chair opposite him. "Sit, if you will. I imagine you haven't had much chance to speak with the family lately — not if your life is much akin to mine, at any rate."

Her head tips curiously, and she slips into the chair, setting her drink and muffin down and unwrapping the straw to plunge it into the hole of her drink. She shakes her head — it's not an answer to the question, but a question in itself.

"The family?" she echoes, brows rising. "I take it you don't mean the attention whore who thinks she's my mother." She takes a long sip from the sweet iced drink. "Either way, the answer's no. I've never even talked to the one who made me after…" She waves her hand vaguely to fill in the blank. After her life was changed forever.

Black John gives a whatever-gesture with his hand. "None of us have. Or, at least, I'm not aware of any of us who have, and I'm arrogant enough to believe I would know were there any. As well as arrogant enough to not seriously question this belief." These words could easily be delivered as self-deprecating wit, but instead he delivers them with a droll seriousness that might be deadpan humor. "Yet, made we were, and there must be a question of why, for what purpose. The best answer I've come up with is they did not change us so much as they freed us — freed us to be more of what we already were."

Max takes her muffin out to set on the paper bag it came on, pinching off a little to bring to her mouth as she gives him a dubious look. "Okay, made is a bit of a strong word. I'm still me, after all. But I don't think I'm more me. I'm me, and then… something more. But not more of what I was."

Her nose wrinkles and she shrugs. "If that makes sense. But they're around. I mean, they talk to us… some of them do. And to normal people, too. Just not for some reason the ones they changed themselves."

She takes a sip of her coffee and searches his face. "Does it bother you?"

"The being-made, or the being abandoned?" Black John asks. "No, it really doesn't bother me. We're talking about beings that exceed us vastly: if they choose to uplift some of us into being more like them, my inclination is to say 'thank you', not 'how dare you'. And I don't believe for a moment we've been abandoned. I believe I don't want to give them a reason to come back."

"I didn't say abandoned," says Max with a finger in his direction, though the curve of her lips suggests she's teasing. "Might have been a Freudian slip there, pal. At any rate, I'm not mad about it. I love being what I am. And, the Seelie who made me, she rescued me. So yeah, she gets a big damn 'thank you' from me, you know?"

She leans back in the chair, picking off another mouthful of muffin to nibble on. "They're not gone. They're just… I don't know. Like you said. They're different than us, so it's hard for them to relate, even if some of them do a good job of acting like they do when they're on TV and such."

"We all deal with it differently. You have your set of beliefs; I have mine." He says it with a slight sense of finality, as if he was neither interested in moving from his position nor in dislodging her from hers. "Still, I do feel a degree of … let's call it polite inquiry. Is there a Seelie Court here, is it active?"

Max shakes her head. "Hiding, like yours. We're court-less, as are the Unseelie, though it doesn't mean they won't suddenly come out of hiding. It's hard to fathom why they do as they do, like you said. The best we can do is live according to what we think they would want and hope not to offend them. I wouldn't want to make them angry, after all. They may be hiding, but they're still powerful."

He gives a brief shake of his head no. "Not what I'm talking about. You're talking about their Courts. I'm talking about ours. If the Seelie don't want to form a Court that's the lookout of your green selves. The Unseelie seem to constitute a very small number of souls — I haven't seen one in some time now — and that means if an Unseelie Court is to be formed here, I might as well declare myself its first monarch. Oh, I'm certain someone else is already technically present and already resenting me for even uttering that sentence, but… really, what sort of Unseelie would I be if I gave a damn?"

"That's not a court. That's … I don't know. The Neighborhood Watch," argues Max. "And there are Unseelie in this city. You'd run risk of pissing off Mykk, who they look to as a leader. Maybe you can be his … grand vizier or something along those lines. Or like the vamp Rexes have their Guard?"

She takes another sip of coffee, contemplating for a moment. "At any rate, I would be careful about just declaring yourself king, Simba."

"A king is not an absentee landlord," John answers flatly. "There must be leadership or else there is a leadership vacuum. Historically speaking, I don't like the things that have rushed in to fill those vacuums in the past. The question is not whether a leadership vacuum will be filled — it will. The only question is /with what/. Given that I am a far less horrific choice than some of the alternatives… it would be a disservice to my Court to not consider reaching for the Ducal Throne."

"Mmm," says Max noncommittally. "I suppose inventing a throne to reach for is a start." Her eyes sparkle with the jest, but she adds more seriously, "It's good if you want to represent your kind. There's safety in groups, so to speak, and the idiots out in the world can be fooled into respecting anything that resembles a hierarchy, even if it's all appearance. Not that you'd be all about appearance. Just saying. People that hate prey on what they perceive as weak, and groups, no matter how dysfunctional, can look stronger than the individual parts."

"I'm so glad to meet with your approval," he answers in a dry tone. That's definitely sarcasm he's using: clearly, her approval means quite little to him. "There are good reasons to band together, yes. There are also good reasons to go it alone. Ultimately, there are as many reasons to belong to a community as there are members within that community, and as many reasons to avoid it as there are people who have voluntarily left it."

"Are all Unseelie as … lofty as you, Prince John?" Maybe it should be Duke John, given his prior comment, but she's sticking with her Disney (and historical, in this case) allusions.

"Anyway, good luck with all that. Mykk's a nice guy — for an Unseelie — so I'm sure he'll be happy to see a newsh with such ambitions."

She seems actually sincere in the comment, no hints of sarcasm. "Me, I've got none, and am happier for it." She grins, as if to punctuate her words with her toothy smile.

"No. I'm really rather one of the nice ones. There are two epidemics of folly among our ilk, it would seem. On your side of the fence there are the ones who believe that all is hakuna mettata, circle of life, that if we just sit down and hug each other the world will be a better place, My Little Pony and Friendship is Magic. Idiots, every last one of them. On my side of the fence there are those who believe that with enough ambition they don't need anyone else, that all manner of treachery and backstabbing is permitted, that all that matters is the outcome. Idiots, the lot of them."

"I suppose there we can agree. It's somewhere in between the two that civilization thrives," Max muses, looking around at the coffee shop with a slight smirk. "Maybe that's what Emrys was getting at with the name of this joint. Since it's sort of no man's land for our type."

She takes another long pull of her straw, finishing the coffee. "Don't be fooled into thinking most of my kind are the hippies and pacifists. We have an ugly side. We just look prettier while we kill things."

"No," John answers with understated confidence, as if he was so certain of his answer that he did not need to be emphatic about it. "No, you don't."

He reaches for his cup of coffee and takes a gulp of it. After all, whether a cappucino has cooled or not it's still a cappucino, by God, and it's a crime to waste such. "The finest beans in the world are grown on mountainsides in Jamaica, most of them owned by the Wallenford family," he muses quietly. "Amazing beans. Hawai'i has kona, which grows in volcanic soil and is a close second for the title of world's best coffee. Scotland has this whiskey, Glenmorangie, a half-shot of which added to a cappucino gives it the complex flavor profile of a fine whiskey coupled with the complexities of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. It's an amazing world, Max. I only wish the world were anywhere near enough. Ah, but it's a place to start from, yes?"

"I'm more of a tequila girl myself," Max says, with a shrug. "It's amazing enough I don't need to go around dreaming of another. You have a good night, Prince John. Enjoy your coffee."

She rises from her seat, picking up her half-eaten muffin and empty coffee cup to carry to the trash bin on the way out. "Good luck with the Neighborhood Watch."

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