The Fine Line

Title: The Fine Line
Time Period: March 12, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: There's a delicate balance between prying and gathering a bit of information. Luna walks the tightrope with Algernon upon her return.

A gunshot in the middle of the night within the city limits isn't something the watchmen usually have trouble with. Tonight, the lights have all burst on at the Dovetail, except the one at the top, the one where the flash occurred and the window has been broken. Outside the shrieks of two women and the hollering of a man can be heard. Inside, Luna has her hands full.

Of Florentine's hair.

"Get out of my room you fat cow! Who gave you permission to sleep in my bed… to entertain in my room?!" Luna's grievances are the loudest. She's not a solidly built women, like the whore she has by the hair, but she caught her by surprise. Naked and sobbing, Florentine's bright red locks have met the iron grip of Luna's fist as she shakes a finger of her other hand at the man still in her bed. "How dare you shoot at me! I'm Luna Owens and you're sleeping in my bed."

It doesn't take long for the man to scramble out and tumble down the stairs. Pistol or no, the one he didn't sleep with has a reputation for not letting things go lightly. Right now the only thing she's letting go lightly is the fist full of bright red hair as she sends the other woman down the stairs after him. "I'll wager you haven't paid nearly enough for the privilege of setting foot in here!!"

It's been established that security at the Dovetail's front door is somewhat lacking.

Algernon and one other enter unhindered into the first floor, and it's the former — to no small amount of tightly framed, teeth grinding chagrin — who's more familiar with the way. He takes lead once his companion falters past the first turn, down one hall and into another, with truncheon twisted free of belt as the ruckus blossoms from hollow echo through the walls into present reality.

At the base of the stairs that lead to Luna's attic paradise, first the bowler and then a scruff of dirty-blonde hair, both sets of eyes squinted upward into the dark.

Someone is having a fit.

Perfume bottles containing various amounts of liquid act as grenades as they're tossed out the door after Florentine. Some smash against the wood panels, leaving a strong scent that's unmistakably Luna. "Get out and stay out, you classless whore!" Her slim silhouette passes by the doorway, one thin arm reaching out to grab the edge and slam it when she stops.

Normally pristine blonde hair is muddy and stringy, her face is clean if only because the dirt's been rubbed away by a dry sleeve. Her clothing is a bit off and because it's been freshly shed. The dull material is host to no sheen and no lace adorns it at the neck and cuffs. For once in what could be her entire life, Luna is as plain as Dornie. "Mister Fogg…" she breathes as her cheeks turn a bit red. The same sentiment has her glancing down and to the side rather than meeting his squinty eyes.

Algernon's associate turns squinty eyes on Algernon. Algernon turns his eyes pointedly aside. One need not see or hear his sigh to know that it exists, hot air buffed out into the dark to the tune of bare footfalls slapping away down the hall beyond an overturned vase.

"See that they aren't injured," 'Mister Fogg' asks without actually asking. It's a favor. One that he will doubtless be expected to repay on a later date, if the ongoing Look he's on the receiving end of as his brother in arms withdraws is any indication.

There is perfume everywhere. The inevitable headache is already taking hold. "Who fired the shot?"

Already, Luna has her back to the door and is walking away. Pride keeps her from staying in his line of sight but her door has been left open. Near the window, a slosh of water can be heard as she snakes a cloth through it and brings it to her face. "He did, thankfully he couldn't hit the broadside of a bear up close or I'd likely be on my way off." She just got back.

She's not shy about peeling away the first layer of her dress. The dark blue material is handled without care as she tosses it into a heap in the corner. Underneath, her clothing isn't much better. Mud stained stockings and skirts are slowly stripped to join the first. "I'm sorry for the commotion, really I am but they were using my bed."

The open door is perceived as invitation, for all that Fogg is slow to follow up on it. A creak at the bottom stair marks his progress upward when he finally concedes to make it, right hand at the bannister steadying when his boot crushes splintered glass.

The fact that he doffs his hat out of natural propriety upon entering the room proper doesn't quite mesh with his watching her undress. Not that it's anything he hasn't already seen; a glance aside marks the space where a bullet put itself through the wall.

"Of course," he says. A screaming, flailing, hair-pulling rage is the natural approach one takes to trespassers.

"Of course," she repeats, untying the laces of her bodice and pulling it carefully from her torso. "Can we leave the investigation until the morning?" Underneath, a folded rectangle of paper that's been pressed between plastic is gently pulled from around her waist and laid on her desk.

There's a certain spark to Luna's eyes as she glances at Algernon again, not one of lust but another sort of excitement. Leaving the precious bit of paper behind her, she weaves her way toward the door and closes it gently. A brief reprieve from the obnoxious scent of the perfume she's not wearing. "Tell me about England?" she utters quietly, a request, polite only in its delivery. The washrag is taken up again and she moves it over her pale arms. The cold water wipes away grime but in its wake leaves tiny goosebumps. "You said it's very grey but I'd really like to know more."

Because all he needs is his partner returning to see the door closed. Protest stifled into a slow blink and a jut at his jaw, Algernon shifts his weight when she passes him again. Like a restless horse. Anxious to be on his way.

"In every cry of every man, in every infant's cry of fear, in every voice, in every ban," he recites — blandly — "the mind-forged manacles I hear. How the chimney-sweeper's cry, every blackening church appals, and the hapless soldier's sigh runs in blood down palace walls." A vague lift at his hand suggests he could continue on in that vein, but suspects it unnecessary. "You have seen Fletcher's people, Luna. Have you any doubt of Dornie's superiority, you need look no further than their condition to estimate the overall state of Great Britain."

"I'm not asking because I wish to affirm any superiority, Algernon," behind closed doors. Her hair is pulled up at her crown and the washcloth moves over her neck as she turns to stare at him. "I'm going to go, I found something while I was away. Something that'll give me everything I've ever desired. Adventure, fortune, a name of my own, they'll all be mine."

Once the cloth is dropped on the dresser, she pins her hair in place and turns to face him. Leaning heavily against the piece of furniture, it's clear that she's fatigued. The dark circles under her eyes a small testament of what she's put herself through. Not to mention the clothing. "They're not all like Fletcher's people though, are they? Aren't there some places like Dornie?"

"And I am not telling you this to hear myself speak." Interjecting crosstalk at a flat affect that may, against his will, be construed as argumentative, Fogg grinds his teeth and uses the time it takes her to finish to collect himself.

In the end he's quiet, cognizent of the fact that she is not likely to be convinced. Or deterred, more accurately. Left to brood with his hat between his hands, he watches her lean not-quite-pointedly. "Not exactly like Dornie," he allows, eventually.

"I'm not trying to be contrary," she says, pushing herself from the dresser. The beloved nightshirt is found in a drawer and Luna doesn't make a show of stripping the rest of her clothing to pull it over her head. She runs her fingers over the soft fabric as if trying to map out its lines by touch. "I've never been away from here, not really. I'm curious as to what I'll find when I go."

The soft padding of her feet as she crosses the room toward him might be heard from below in a series of creaks. She places a hand on his hat and tilts her chin up to look at him, meeting his gruff expression with a meek smile. "Not exactly like Dornie, in the way that we've a munitions factory and power? Or not exactly like Dornie in that I shouldn't pack my prettiest things?"

"Settlements successful enough to become established are not built on hopes and dreams," is all Algernon has to say on the subject, leaving her to draw whatever conclusions she will. He doesn't tip his chin down to meet her eye to eye either, preferring to look down his nose until he looks flatly up across the room again instead. As interested in her nearness as his hat is, snow melted dark and damp into the felt.

Her other hand runs palm flat against his waistcoat, brushing over the ever present ring and remaining there for a moment before dropping again. "I see, you make it sound so brutish. Like I should be afraid that I might not survive the journey there."

When her hand falls back to her side, she steps back a pace and angles her head slightly to the side to gather a better view of his profile. "Are you married Mister Fogg? I don't wish to pry, but I find that sometimes I'm jealous of the woman you melt for. I see fleeting glimpses of what lays beneath the ice but they're gone again as soon as I try to look closely."

"You won't."

Trust Algernon Fogg to put a fine point on it even as he swallows against the brush of her hand, latent irritation bristled through the trim of his chops within the same beat.

A carefully metered breath filters inscrutable after the step she takes back, only for fresh tension to cut across his jaw when a rapid replay knits feel to question. "Not anymore," he answers, truthfully, and with a heavy kind of reluctance. Uphill resistance to even acknowledging that he's been asked lingers in knuckles paled across the brim his hat.

"I'm sorry," the apology carries a weight of sincerity that Luna's not usually known for. She retracts completely and folds her hands behind her back, a demure posture acknowledging the breach of privacy.

Her head turns towards the window at a sound from the outside. A yell, likely from the man that took a shot at her, angry at being expelled from the house. "I'll surprise you," her voice gains a measure of strength and confidence. "I'll surprise everyone. Baizey said that I'd not survive a night outside and I did. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I found something that'll do. At least for now."

"She left," disregards the need for apology and smothers (some) curiosity in the same fell swoop of limited elaboration. "It was my fault."

The shout from outside is well-timed in tandem, as it (in the company of this admission) provides him ample excuse to turn his hat back down onto his head. Doing so allows him to look even less convinced by her reassurance than he might otherwise.

Following his gaze toward freedom, Luna swallows before glancing toward the door. "Will you come back when you're done?" She seems worried, possibly that he'll refuse, and she takes a step forward again toward the door. "I'll not ask any more questions, I'd just like to spend the time with you. I'll be all cleaned up by then," because it is added incentive, at least from the way she presented herself upon first sight.

"I could show you the map, if you'd like to see it. I think it's wonderful."

Her worries are well founded — mention of 'just wanting to spend time' doesn't help her cause, either. Algernon makes approximately no effort to disguise wary disinterest, in fact, until she mentions the map. A step back for the door stayed long enough to weigh the odds of whether or not she is referring to something ridiculous — an old map of the globe. Europe perhaps. A teaching tool, an advertisement, a —

You could stand to get laid.

Drawn blank, Fogg is slow to nod bland agreement. With Luna, according to appearances, for all that the tilt of his brows doesn't quite line up when he turns to follow her to the door.