(2018-05-17) Disreputable Company - Act II
Disreputable Company - Act II
"Sometimes, you just have to let things happen because they seem to want to happen, maybe."
In which Cesare tests Antonella's threshold for disreputable.
Following the first act, stable abandoned for brothel.
Misc Info:
No whores were stolen at the conclusion of this log.

Having loitered about while Antonella did whatever she was doing (really none of his business), Cesare doesn't waste any more time afterward with things like explaining where they're going. He weaves easily through the early evening foot-traffic, making small-talk noises but more focused on getting from here-to-there than on keeping up idle chit-chat. And then they're here, familiar turf, and he holds back the tapestry to let Antonella pass ahead of him into the alcove, where the games haven't hit their stride quite yet, it being still early. "You get the cards, I'll get the drinks - do you need a hooker?" He asks this like it's a perfectly reasonable question.

Antonella's magnificent at small talk. She could almost certainly manage most of it without any external input. It's all idle nonsense which reveals little about anything beyond her exceptional capacity to chatter. They nearer they get to where they're going, however, the quieter she grows, almost certainly because the initial excitement has tapered into something more readily contained. That the sky's turned such lovely pastel shades which reflect so prettily upon the water may help distract her as well. With a gracious dip of her head in thanks for that gentlemanly gesture — whether it was meant as such or not — she heads on in and starts right for the cards, as directed. "No," she answers, a touch puzzled by his word choice. "I don't need a hooker. Do you?" Not that she lingers near for answer, finding cards and a nice empty table where she settles in, her hands busy with shuffling, her gaze tracking Cesare.

Cesare answers with a flip of his fingers back over his shoulder, dismissive, and is distracted briefly with procuring the drinks, chatting easily with the staff while he waits, shrugging off the inevitable confusion about this particular pairing: wtf are these two doing in each others' company? He swings back around to the table, settling a little glass in front of Antonella, a little glass in front of himself, and a bottle in between them. "Why do you know how to play cards?" he asks bluntly.

As soon as the glasses are down, Antonella is dealing cards, deft digits familiar with all the appropriate motions. "I'm not sure if you mean how," she starts, commentary rather than inquiry. She waits until the cards are dealt and the deck is down to actually answer the question, though. "I found I took to cards and dice and other games of logic, scrutiny and chance a little bit better than… other things." Her lips part like maybe she's gonna say something more, but instead she reaches for the bottle, pours. And she'll pour for him, too, if he'd like.

Although he denies the assumption with a head-shake - no, he did not mean 'how' - Cesare doesn't press the argument, instead letting Antonella answer whichever she chooses, how or why. He accepts the drink and the cards, quickly emptying the former (eyes water) before gathering the latter. Before he even checks the cards, though, he makes a circular motion with one index finger in the air, easing it into a more thoroughly beckoning gesture with his hand: keep going to whatever she's clipped off the end there.

Antonella follows suit with that drink. Or, well, she tries to. She's not quite so graceful with it, coughing once she's got it down, cheeks coloring quickly. Not that she complains, save for the face she makes, but that's reflexive and can't really be helped. On the bright side, it's difficult to guess at what she might think of her cards as she draws them up seeing as her face is already screwed up. She looks at that wordless instruction, considering her options for a second. Before just going right on ahead and complying. "There came a point when scrapes and bruises and torn dresses were… increasingly difficult to talk my way out of. I'm a young woman now and should know better than to go getting myself into whatever. I should know how to comport myself and control my impulses and haven't I got lessons this afternoon?" Surely a lecture she'd heard far too many times. "Some risks are easier to hide than others. Easier to explain away."

"They might have a point," Cesare says quietly about the whole 'should know better' parts, turning his eyes briefly away from Antonella and to their surroundings: liquor, gambling, brothel. By the time they get back around to her, he shrugs off his own point save for the quirk at the edge of his mouth. "So now you're a well-groomed young woman with a knack for poker. Do your sisters know that you frequent houses of ill-repute?" The actual playing of the game is just a pretense - or maybe the conversation is the pretense for playing the game. Hmm.

Antonella laughs for that look around the place, a light thing, gone quickly. Her smile lingers longer as cards are switched out and the game moves along. "I imagine not," but it sounds like she's not entirely sure. "I expect I'd have a constant guard— " Shouldn't she anyway? " —and barred doors if they did. It's hard enough slipping free some nights. I appreciate their concern. I understand all the greater implications. I also know that I am almost certainly destined to be married off sooner rather than later, and there is no way I am just going to sit around and play pretty for that when I could be out doing something and enjoying whatever approximation of freedom I can find."

Cesare folds without comment, flicking the cards away. Were they even playing for money? Anyway, he refills glasses and collects cards for a re-shuffle, nothing fancy, no tricks, just cards. "You could always just keep at it until you're unmarriageable. Tarnish your reputation beyond repair and - " He tosses a card to her, smiles a hapless smile. "No one will have you, and you can go on enjoying your freedom forever."

Antonella tsks at the very suggestion, even as she… warily takes up her glass again. It was much easier the first time around, before she knew what she was getting into. "Where's the challenge in that? Ruin is easy. A couple of shoves until the world's toppling down." Her nose crinkles at that. Or maybe at the fumes coming off of the drink she's holding. "There's an art to keeping up appearances while having your fun. I—I don't know that I've really been tested yet." And down goes the firewater. The cough's a little shorter this time.

"Doing what you're told is easy. Doing what you want?" Cesare shakes his head, checking his cards with a quick scrunch of his nose in displeasure. "It would've been easy for you to stay home, doing whatever it is nice young girls do." He has absolutely no clue. "But you're here instead, and it cost you effort, and you may get caught and get berated. And next time, it'll be even harder, and then harder still. Eventually, it becomes so hard that you either break or you break away. These cards hate me." The last is added without even a pause between one thought and the next, and he drowns his sorrows in another hard drink.

It's like Cesare's talking another language, the way Antonella stares at him, plainly perplexed. "I don't think you understand the effort it takes to stay still," she counters, glancing at her cards. Then giving them a better look, lips pursed. Either she's not buying that his hand's that bad or hers isn't spectacular either. She trades three, hoping for better. "Why are you here? Tonight, with me. Other nights in general." Whichever, she's not fussed.

Cesare smiles, a benign smile, and agrees, "Maybe I don't." Her question has him looking across the table at Antonella, straight into her eyes, his own drab ones serious and steady, pinpoint focus on this precise moment. "I don't know why. With you. Sometimes, you just have to let things happen because they seem to want to happen, maybe. Other nights?" He deals those three from the bottom of the deck, not so terrifically slyly, easy to catch as long as she's looking at his hands when he does it. "People get drunk, then get so busy looking at the eye-candy." Hookers. "That it's easy." He smirks when that word resurfaces.

Antonella smiles for that honest admission. It's not one of those blushing girlish smiles either. It's the smile of someone grateful to be seen, understood. Just letting things happen? Yeah. She gets that. If she sees him dealing from the bottom — she does — she offers no tell, taking up those cards like she's supposed to and giving them a moment of critical consideration before she raises. "Other nights, there are other places. Different views. Different corners of the city. The conversations change the darker it gets. Scarcer. Hushed." It shoulds like there ought to be more, but there isn't.

He's given her a better hand now, and Cesare resumes scowling at his own. Grudgingly, he also raises, a put-on, drumming his fingers across the backs of his cards as if in nervous anticipation for the end of the hand. "Don't go to those places, is my philosophy. Go to the brightly lit ones, with loud laughter and people spilling things. Those dark, quiet parties - it's like sipping tea and eating cakes in the garden, everyone's on edge the whole time."

"Were they?" Antonella asks — all too honestly — as she sets her cards down to call. Though, really, she's paying more mind to Cesare than whatever he's lying down. He'll tell her everything she's interested in knowing. "There's an art to that, too. Softening those edges. Though it's different for garden tea parties than it is for late night quiet places. But maybe I'm wrong." That comes with a smile. "Maybe I'm the only soft one. Slipping about all that sharpness. Maybe I'm the only one who knows how to relax." Wide-eyed, she shrugs, accepting this make-believe burden.

Cesare loses with a disgusted psssh, flipping the cards unhappily to the pile and then retreating back into his chair to find solace at the bottom of his glass. "How to relax but not stay still. Must've been a hard art to master." Wiping the corners of his eyes with his thumb, chasing the liquor-tears, he notes as if apologetically, "Alas, we can't go to any quiet, dark parties tonight. I've got no money left, and those are the kinds of places where you always need money, I find."

"Water does it all the time," says the philosopher. "As do lazy little breezes." Antonella sways to and fro a little, all sinuous and silly. She collects her winnings quietly after a considering look cast between Cesare, the bottle and her empty glass. Will she go for a third, wobbly as she's feeling already? Of course, she will! And hey! No coughing this time. Just a scrunched up face, eyes clenched tight for a few seconds, and a quiet little why-did-I-do-that-to-myself whine. With a shake of her head, she opens her eyes, refocuses on Cesare, leaning forward to his leaning back, and asks, "Then where do we go next?"

Cesare starts - and stops. He barely leans forward, then quickly adjusts back the way he was, and lets Antonella pour herself another glass, not interrupting, not even passing her a look. He moves on like the start never happened at all, right into answering her question with a quick laugh. "Nowhere. We stay here till I win my money back, and then most of yours, too, then I ditch you and word gets out in the morning that the youngest Capello girl was found unconscious in a dockside brothel." He opens his hands, dipping them as if graciously. "That's how it usually goes, anyway. Do you want some water?"

"No," Antonella denies. Maybe about the water? She holds up a single finger to beg a moment as she tries to get her watering eyes to properly focus on Cesare. When that moment's passed, that digit tips forward to point at him, as she repeats, "No," clarifying this time, "You'll have the decency to buy me a warm bed and a pretty girl and some little illusion of discretion." Blinking, she looks down at the cards, collects them and adds, "And yes, water might be wise. Thank you."

"No," Cesare denies. He hasn't got the theatrics down correctly, though, no finger held up, just his arms folded high across his chest, making it easy to shrug. "No, I haven't got any money left, I just told you that. I have a hazelnut and - well, you took the earring earlier, so I haven't even got that any more." He quits his chair suddenly and walks off. Either abandoning Antonella ahead of script… or to get a pitcher of water.

Antonella's already shaking her head at his correction before he finishes, her smile bright and wide. She might even tell him how carefully she's paid attention to the plot, but he's up too quickly, leaving her staring at his back for a moment. For longer than is necessary, really, to see where he's going. Blame the booze. That's all it is. Slower processing time. If she's lucky, she'll still have time to deal out the cards — poor form, doing so while her opponent isn't at the table! — and make sure to give him a decent hand. Her own collected and considered before Cesare gets back. If he gets back.

As gangsta as it would be for him to just abandon Antonella there, Cesare does return, plunking a healthy-looking cup of water down in front of her. He scrapes his cards together and drops back into his seat, saying resolutely, "Sober up, sweetheart, the night is young and we need to earn something before it gets old. Drink that." He calls for cards, please and thank you.

Antonella knew he'd be back. Not one little lick of doubt. She'd probably feel the same way about that sober, too. She takes care of the cards first before reaching for that cup… losing herself to it for a few seconds as she drinks deep. It's not quite entirely empty when she sets it back down and flashes a brief, bashful look across at Cesare. "You use that word strangely. Need." She'll raise only once, eager to see how he plays out the hand.

Cesare plays conservatively this time, risking what little he has in small bites. His, "Oh?" is a touch distracted in the back-and-forth of the hand, also in his reaching across the table to look into the bottom of the cup and then set it back down in front of Antonella. Directly in front of her. "Maybe you just don't really know what it means?"

That willingness to keep up with what little he's got left has Antonella smiling—but, really, what doesn't right now. When the cup's set back in front of her, she sets her cards down, face up, not bad, that she might take it between both hands, give him a look that says 'see?' and down whatever's left. "Why don't you tell me what it means," comes as she swipes the back of her wrist over her mouth.

"Why don't we just play cards." His turn to call. "Someone will come along sooner or later and want to join us, and we can win a little, then we'll buy you a lovely whore, and you can sleep it off in the arms of bliss." Cesare smiles expectantly, confident enough in that hand that he's already walking his fingers to the pot.

Antonella stares at Cesare as if she's weighing her why-don't-we against his, deciding how much she might want to press the issue. All while ignoring the cards. He's won, to be certain, but she doesn't seem to care right at this particular moment. Eventually, she declares, "Only because I like you," and lets it go. For now. Maybe she'll remember when she's sober. For now, she's happy to get back to their game, to play the pretty and tipsy bait for whatever strangers might happen by to make their evening a bit more profitable.

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