Ace of clubs

Oz had been so grateful, so pleased by Gladstone's daring rescue at the gala, that he was only too happy to pay him back by taking the spotlight away from him.

Not that it was exactly a chore, it was a complete pleasure. So perhaps he felt he hadn't paid him back, not really. And that may have been at least some of the reason for why he had insisted Gladstone go to the Coatl club for dinner and drinks and put everything on his tab.

"We'll have a great show on too," he'd added. "Jazzy music, pretty girls, great dancing. Well, we always have that, but I'm trying out some new costumes and choreography." Of course you are. You always are.

And so, in the same way the ladle incident had led to the gala tickets, the gala incident had led to the club invitation. It was starting to look like a pattern, if you were a suspicious sort of person, but surely nothing bad could come of having a nice dinner. And Gladstone got invitations to free dinners all the time. If he got suspicious of all of them he'd never live his life.

The club was lit softly and already full of quiet music, the band on stage having already sufficiently warmed up in the early stages of the night when people were getting settled in. A crow in a sleek golden dress was singing warmly along with the tune, letting the melody complement the drinks coming over from the bar in the back as waiters ferried them silently to the tables, or the bartender slid them along the bar for the patrons on the stools.

Absolute peace. Elegant. It was almost shocking Oz could be responsible for it.

    • Lilly Teal
      Lilly Teal

      The scariest thing that's ever-

      She blinked. Yes, of course being dragged off by an alligator or crocodile or whatever it was would be a terrifying experience, and it wasn't her place to decide what Gladstone found the scariest of all the strange stuff that had happened to him in St. Canard.

      But really? Between Greenhorne getting her spectral hands on you and, walking a tightrope over a choppy sea, and just... just Hal showing up out of nowhere, you pick this to be the scariest thing that's ever happened to you?

      She gave him a weird look. But before she had a chance to ask him about it, Hammerhead struck.

      To a man with a hammerhead, everything looks like a nail.

      "Leave him alone!" the two women said, one a squeak and one with much more authority behind it. No prizes for guessing who was who.

      "What ruby? What's going on?" Celia eyed Oz, who raised both eyebrows at her and shrugged towards the mobster.

      "Something of theirs went missing."

      "If Gladstone had, it", and it wasn't unlikely to be honest, " he'd give it to you."

      Celia weighed this evidence. As bouncer she had to discourage rough-housing between the patrons. Lilly's testimony wasn't much, she thought well of everyone, but for now she considered the priority to be the thing in the freezer.

      "The animal's in there," she said, stepping towards Hammerhead and jerking her head at the door. "Probably got it in it's mouth. Why don't you drop him and help me deal with that first?"

      And, just in case he wasn't willing to cooperate when there were people he wanted to mash on the loose, she added "None of us are leaving the room. Lilly and Oz'll hold this guy up and you and I deal with the croc, what say?"

      • Gladstone Gander
        Gladstone Gander

        Hammerhead seemed to consider the proposal carefully. In all honesty it felt good to smack around this little light in the loafers loser, but then again he felt that way about most people. He slid Gladstone down to floor slowly his back scraping against the cold steel, he did this to get in their heads, but he also  didn’t like the way this putz was looking at him. He knew a guilty face when he saw one, he ought to,  he owned one.

        “If he gets away-“ he started evenly but stopped. He knew they’d get the point, he finally shoved Gladstone at Lilly. The goose staggered into her, his arm linking around her neck instantly, oh-oh yes still so weak.

        Hammerhead snapped his fingers at the bossy broad and motioned for her to open the freezer door. A small pistol was drawn from a concealed holster on the small of his back and he aimed it carefully at where he approximated the creature’s head would be. In the tense moment the noises started from inside the freezer again. This time it wasn’t the thrashing of a trapped beast, it was a shaking knock. Hammerhead narrowed his eyes at the sound. It had a strange musical quality to it, almost familiar, come to think of it, it sounded a bit like the song that purple dressed dame was singing before-well before whatever this was happened.

        “Open it.”

        Gladstone suddenly grabbed Lilly harshly by the shoulders to whisper urgently in her ear. It was a dramatic recovery as he seemed to forget his injuries.

        “He’sss going to kill usss all, don’t you know who that isss tootsss?! That’sss Hammerhead Hannigan, ssso why don’t we jussst pussh him in that freezer asss sssoon asss that door opensss? It’sss the only way we’ll get out of here alive dollface. Whaddya sssay do it on three?”

         

        • Lilly Teal
          Lilly Teal

          Dollface? Toots? Who's acting like the mobster here? Lilly recoiled instinctively from the grip and the whisper right in her ear, though she wasn't sure why.

          "What's the matter with your voice?"

          Not the POINT, Lilly, did you hear what he just said? That's a mobster, he probably will kill us all.

          ... that sounded right, anyway. Well, the words sounded right, the voice sounded all wrong. Let's be honest, she knew what Gladstone's voice sounded like right in her hear.

          On the other hand, he'd been here before. Oz had told the girls not to pay any attention to them. Or rather, pay attention to them as guests, but not as... well, whatever you might recognise them as. He'd been, if not exactly the most polite, at least not actively flipping over tables and threatening to make people 'sleep with the fishes'.

          He looked like the kind of person who'd do that, though. And he'd made that meaningful pause after 'if he gets away'.

          Oh God, I'm responsible for keeping Gladstone here? She put an arm around his waist to both steady him and hold him for her own comfort, not sure if she should listen to what he was saying or not. "Gladstone, please..."

          That knock, though. Did crocodiles know how to knock? With faint musical ability? Nothing made sense.

          Things are weird again.

          While she was busy being confused, Celia had given Hammerhead a remarkably unimpressed look at his bossy snapping. Any and all comments about liking a man who knows his way around a gun were put aside, but filed away for when she was feeling cheekier and the moment was more appropriate, as she unlocked the door and swung it open.

          Hammerhead's back obscured the view inside the freezer from Lilly, Oz and Gladstone, but it didn't seem like a crocodile was coming out to savage them all.

           

          • Gladstone Gander
            Gladstone Gander

            BANG.

            One shot savaged the confined space as soon as the door opened. Shoot first, and who needs questions?

            Because of the obstructed view Celia and Mr. Happy Trigger Finger were the only ones to see the contents of the freezer. Frozen gourmet food on meticulously organized shelves and one practically blue billed Gladstone. At the shot he ducked on quaking legs and the bullet ricocheted off sturdy metal walls until it decided to reunite with its maker. So at the end of it, all Hammerhead had done was shoot the gun out of his own hand. How lucky?

            The firearm skidded to a halt on the counter  beside Oz with all the pomp of a cocktail sliding down a bar. Hammerhead responded to this bizarre chain of events by storming over to the crouched form in the freezer and glaring at him.

            “What in the-what is dis a twin act?”

            “Sha-sha-sha-shapeshi-shi-ft-er” Coldstone replied through intensely clacking teeth returning the glare.

            The Gladstone in Lilly’s grip suddenly lurched forward dragging her with him. He closed in behind the goat and rammed him with a shoulder. Seemingly caught off guard the goon pitched forward tripping over the shivering goose in front of him and he tumbled horns over heels into the freezer.

            “Watch out! Oh my ssscales, you heard it! That thingsss a ssshapessshifter! Look at how good it isss ssshe looksss jussst like me, we’d never be able to ssstop her! Better lock it up again!” ‘Gladstone’ grabbed the heavy metal door and tried to slam it shut with Celia still holding onto it. “Don’t lisssten to it’sss liesss! It will try to confussse you!”

            Gladstone tried to shove the dazed gangster off him but halted when he heard the voice, somehow he felt even colder at sight that greeted him. Oh Lilly you just can’t keep your hands off me can you? Even when I’m not really me? Get away from that thing you precious little creampuff!

            “Y-you s-s-suit wrecking, fa-fa-face st-st-stealing, n-no good h-hug th-thief, ge-get away fr-from him L-li-lilypad, th-that’s n-not me.”

            • Lilly Teal
              Lilly Teal

              THAT sounded like Gladstone. It was so strikingly familiar that it was actually scary. Scary because it hadn't come from the drake with his arm around her neck and her arm around his waist.

              "Glad... stone?" she asked, looking profoundly confused. She looked at Coldstone. She looked at Badstone. She tried to take a small step away.

              Celia reached in and dragged cold Gladstone out.

              "WHAT is going ON?"

              "I want to know the same," Oz said, giving Hammerhead a worried look. Not worried enough to get too close but he did want hin to walk away from this. Faaaar away. "Just... one of you. Give back Mr. Hannigan's property."

              • Gladstone Gander
                Gladstone Gander

                Gladstone winced at the molten hot hand that pulled him to his feet.  That's what it felt like at any rate, but there were more important matters to address than near hypothermia.  

                "Th-this is the fi-first time I'm wearing th-this suit!" He tried to point at the other Gladstone but his arm was trembling so hard it looked like he was poking holes in the air.  The audacity. AND HE'D PAID FOR IT.  Was there no justice in this world?

                "Ssso vain." Fauxstone's loose hold on Lilly suddenly tightened, pulling her back into place against his side. Nothing like a little insurance, because this was falling apart very quickly.  "People are going to get hurt if you don't ssstop lying." A blatant threat or a prediction? Both? " Yesss jussst give the ruby back to Missster Hannigan faker."

                 

                "L-let Lilly go you s-sn-snak-" wait what? "R-r-ruby? M-mister who?" 

                Mister who, (sounds like a knock off of a BBC show) made himself known by grabbing Frozestone by the scruff of the neck and practically throwing him at his double. They collided with much flailing of arms until they crashed to the floor. Taking  poor Lilly with them.

                "Somebody better cough up something or you'll all be put on ice!" the goat roared.

                 

                Gladstone used Fauxstone's face as a handhold to try to disconnect himself from all the limbs that weren't his own. Although all this forced closeness was doing wonders for his body temperature. He smiled weakly at Lilly.

                "You k-know? I th-th-think w-we're g-gunna r-r-r-run out of c-cr-razy things t-t-to happen t-to us s-s-soon."

                "Ugh-get a room. I'm sssick of thissss-" The irritable Badstone on the bottom of the pile started sprouting thick brown fur.. and was he growing?  Oh dear.

                 

                • Lilly Teal
                  Lilly Teal

                  She would have liked to respond, but all she managed was a squeak as she felt themselves being carried off of the floor by the increasing size of the thing under them.

                  Clutching at Gladstone's shoulders, she scrambled off and tried to drag him away... where exactly? Behind Hammerhead? He didn't look in a co-operative mood. But Celia was there, and there was a kitchen table. They could hide behind that!

                  That is, if the shape shifter didn't get them first.

                  The only one left on the other side of the kitchen was Oz. He looked around and picked up a cast iron skillet near to hand.

                  This was really Celia's department... he mentally sighed. He wasn't made for battle. He was made for beauty. There was no way he could swing hard enough to knock it out or hurt it too badly.

                  But hey, it could be distracting? And the creature was ruining EVERYTHING.

                  Gathering up his indignation, he swung.

                  • Gladstone Gander
                    Gladstone Gander

                    Gladstone was effectively dragged away from the warping form of... well himself.  It was like a nightmare seeing his beautiful face sprout such unsightly fleshy nostrils and the suit-oh the suit.  No, horrors of horrors, even if it was a facsimile of his duds his heart broke as it tore itself to pieces around the expanding chest.  That was going to keep him awake in the dark hours.  

                    That, instead of the massive gorilla who just seemed to keep growing, okay Gladstone.  Said gorilla saw the motion of a swinging frying pan and had presence of mind enough to grab the whole thing in it's massive hand.  And by whole thing, this of course included the quetzal as well.  What a dashing little damsel in distress he made too.  All they were missing was the empire state building. 

                    "Sssorry fancy pants but no onesss getting that gem but me. Why don't you all jussst sssit thisss one out?" The gorilla, completely ridiculous in this setting already was almost comedic with that voice.  But, the free hand that cut through the air like a freight train to try to knock the group of them off their feet like bowling pins, that wasn't so funny.

                     

                    Gladstone from his dragged position, shot both hands up and grabbed a hold of Lilly's head pulling her down, good thing too, she probably would have been decapitated by the blow and that was never a good look for anyone.  Ask any French royals during rebellion. 

                     

                    Hammerhead, although he did not lose his head, was hit square in the chest and he sailed back into he freezer with a series of clanging announcing his probably very painful introduction to the formerly organized shelves.

                    • Lilly Teal
                      Lilly Teal

                      Oh this mobster is USELESS. The angle had clipped Celia on his way into the freezer, and she went spinning to connect hard with the kitchen counter.

                      She did not look happy at all. Grabbing a heavy chopping board that her hands had fallen on as she tried to steady herself against the counter, she tried to brain the beast with a swing of her own, powerful and angry. She wasn't stupid enough to try and throw it. At best it would just miss and she wouldn't be able to get past and pick it up again, and at worst it would catch it and be just one weapon stronger.

                      My shelves nooooooo. Oz wriggled and kicked out in spiteful annoyance, hoping to connect his shoe with a soft and fleshy part of the gorilla.

                      Lilly, on the other hand, nearly found her head smacking against Gladstone's chest, and she tightened her grip on his shoulders so they wouldn't both go tumbling on the ground again.

                      "Gladstone," she whispered hurriedly. "There's some wine bottles just behind you under the counter. Do you think it we rolled them at the thing while it's distracted, it'd slip?"

                      • Gladstone Gander
                        Gladstone Gander

                        "Wine bottles..." he turned , accidentally bumping his head against hers in the process. A hand covered the point of impact on her forehead lightly as if in apology but he had his mission. "Sounds good to me!" 

                        He kicked his leg out and with the delightful sound of tinkling glass, a smattering of bottles rolled merrily across the floor.

                        The gorilla was trying to hold Oz out of kicking distance but he was tenacious.  After the second blow connected she decided he was too much trouble and tossed him aside, not caring where he landed as long as it was somewhere other than near her. Because she was so distracted dealing with the squirming club owner, she herself was clubbed. There was a small moment where nothing happened until suddenly the gorilla wasn't a gorilla anymore and a strange looking woman with messy blue hair, an equally unfashionable sweater/cardigan/skirt combination, and ... a lizard tail (?)  staggered on the spot holding her head. 

                         

                        "What'sss the big idea?" She hissed at Celia as if this attack had come out of the blue.  "Thisss was sssuposed to be a sssnatch and grab and you're all making thisss ssso difficult!" Almost as diffcult as standing when a wave of wine bottles took out your ankles. "Wah!" Down she went, clinging to the only thing near at hand, which was Celia. 

                        • Lilly Teal
                          Lilly Teal

                          Celia fell right on top of her, which did nothing for her mood as she tried to pin her down and look for pockets in that horrible, unfashionable outfit. Knocking her down wouldn't do them any good if the mobsters were going to order them all shot for not giving their stuff back.

                          "Hi, have you met me? I'm the bouncer of the place you're causing trouble at. That means you deal with me."

                          Honestly this is your own fault, you picked the worst possible venue for this escapade.

                          Oz had gone flying, rather far considering his slight build and the size of the gorilla that had been throwing him, and he sailed straight into the open freezer door and impacted with Hammerhead Hannigan just as the goat was trying to find his feet.

                          "Oof!"

                          "Should we... call the police or something?" Lilly whispered, hoping Hammerhead wouldn't overhear them. It didn't seem like the safe thing to do with the mobsters still here, but at the same time she honestly didn't feel certain that Celia could pin down something that could change shape at will. "Or... um, get a net?"

                          • Gladstone Gander
                            Gladstone Gander

                            Gladstone finally got to his feet, the numbness wearing off into pins and needles and pain. He tried to shake the feeling back into his fingers, and tried to ignore the single tooth puncture in his forearm.  Luckily the blood had solidified in the cold so he wasn't bleeding everywhere.  He glanced at Lilly as she pitched him her ideas and then the struggling mass of women.  

                            "You know..." he said quietly. "-yesterday I didn't do anything at all.  I slept until three in the afternoon, ordered room service, and then went back to bed." He shook his head lightly and looked back at her with a smile. "It was pretty boring. I just want you to know that it can, and does, happen. Keep that in mind won't you?" He kissed her cheek softly before he grabbed a fallen wine bottle and started to creep toward the pair fighting on the floor.

                             

                            Camille smacked any hands that tried to invade her pockets.

                            "Yesss we met earlier, in fact I wasss you earlier.  That'sss a nice body you've got there. sssuch a ssshame to hurt it but..." with considerable speed, the humanoid figure became a porcupine it's quills poking a prodding hand before it attempted to scuttle under the central workstation with a shiny little gem in it's mouth.

                             

                             

                            Hammerhead was just about to straighten his clothes out when he was knocked back into the shelving again, his horn tangling in the wire racking and nearly taking it down off the wall. 

                            "Oh I'm gettin' real tired a' dis!" He jerked his head to the side and the frosty metal snapped releasing it's hold on him.  "I'm gunna pound the daylights outta you." He made to grab for Oz but a little glimmer caught his eye.  The ruby! Without a second glance he dashed out of the freezer and scooped up his lonely gun.  He aimed it at... Celia? "Yanno, I think I'd be better off dealin' with this mess alone!" He grinned, his finger tensing on the trigger.

                            Pop.

                            The wine bottle burst as it bludgeoned the goat from behind.  Hammerhead had been so distracted by reclaiming his gun he hadn't even seen Gladstone.  Stars danced before his eyes until he slumped forward onto the workstation. Out cold, if you will, for now, but in his line of work you didn't get far by staying down for long. 

                            • Lilly Teal
                              Lilly Teal

                              With a cry of pain, Celia unfortunately had to release the porcupine and watch it scuttle away, deeply considering trapping it under a colander or something. But then something happened.

                              Did you just-

                              Coldly picking up the gun that had slipped from his unconscious fingers, Celia emptied it of its bullets and threw it as hard as she could at the opposite wall in disgust. I hope it breaks.

                              "Nice timing." She shot Gladstone a terse smile, clearly still completely furious. Oz, for his part, was trying to coordinate with Lilly to try and get a packing crate in such a position that the porcupine's only exit from under the workstation would be to walk into the crate.

                              "Oz, I don't think this is going to work. We don't know what to do with her."

                              "I say we just lock her in the freezer and call the police."

                              "The police? But-"

                              Celia wasn't the only one who looked furious. "He tried to shoot one of my girls!" I mean, I MEAN, the usual mobsters we get here have MANNERS. Who tries to SHOOT someone who was literally taking the blows for you?

                              Khan may not appreciate it, but at this point Oz was more worried about risking the lives of the people who worked for him.

                              And if it got hashed out without the police, well, he was still going to complain about this behaviour.

                              "Hey cutie." That's you Gladstone. "Want to find some rope and tie the goat up before he tries to kill me for helping him again?"

                              • Gladstone Gander
                                Gladstone Gander

                                Gladstone mugged a brief motion to himself -cutie oh who me? Stop, but no, do go on- but he started digging through the drawers, what's this? Butcher's twine?  Well... it would have to do. He started binding Hammerhead's hands behind his back. 

                                 

                                The porcupine was not easily caged.  It zigged, it zagged, it... turned into a blow fish.  The fish inflated and still keeping the shiny thing in it's mouth started rolling rapidly toward the doors.  Try and catch me suckers! But no, that would be too easy, what if there were more high heeled vixens out there to try to stop her? Before the blow fish hit the double doors it expanded into a giant frog, spun in mid air and eyed them. A hostage... a hostage... well... she already knew one of them hardly made a fuss before.

                                A big pink tongue lashed out, encircled Gladstone and retracted quick as  a shot. He let out a startled cry as he was clamped in the soggy jaw.  Goose and ruby in mouth she hit the doors and hopped out into the club.

                                 

                                • Lilly Teal
                                  Lilly Teal

                                  "I thought your boyfriend was supposed to be lucky."

                                  "Oz, this is not the time!" Picking up her skirt a little, she ran out after the frog. "Will you just drop him! Um. Please!"

                                  Celia and Oz came out behind her, but the tall woman was a lot more hesitant to attack with Gladstone in the frog's mouth. He wouldn't be able to avoid any blow. The most she could do right now was try to head the frog off before it reached the doors, and block them.

                                  Oh gosh, oh gosh, oh gosh. Sher Khan might still have been around, Lilly didn't really register, and she didn't want to as him for help in case he tried to shoot them as well.

                                  What, lost all faith in the good manners of the mob, Lilly?

                                  She looked around for something, anything, that might be useful in delaying the frog's breakneck getaway towards the door. Pleeeaaase, Gladstone's luck. Help me out here.

                                  There was a line of freshly cleaned glasses on the bar.

                                  "... oh you can't be serious," she sighed to herself. But it was the only thing to hand, so she grabbed one firmly and attempted to the bean the frog with a well-aimed toss. It wasn't a bread roll, but it might do something.

                                  • Gladstone Gander
                                    Gladstone Gander

                                    The frog's legs splayed a bit as it steadied itself once inside the club properly, tables tipped over in the process. This was better, she sunk down low and took a huge leap toward the exit. Gladstone wriggled furiously.

                                    "Aren't there supposed to be superheroes in this city?!"  he fumed. Where were they when they needed them? Hmm?  

                                    The frog croaked  a sort of laugh in reply and he felt the unsavory sensation of saliva drip onto his shoulder. Luck, what are you doing? Any minute now? He thrashed again angrily and within the pink oozing coil that held him something slid into his hand. For all the good THAT did him.

                                    A glass whizzed over head and smashed onto the ground in their path.  The frog skidded to a halt and turned one bulbous eye to look at Lilly, it's mouth chomping down on it's captive as if to dare her to try again.

                                    "I'm curious." Purred a voice in Lilly's ear as Shere Khan removed himself from the shadows to prowl up behind her and slide the next projectile out of her hand. "-as to what you hope to do with such, fragile missiles my dear?" 

                                    Gladstone let out a little wheeze as the breath was forced out of him but his eyes were on Lilly and the predator who had so smoothly disarmed her.  His hand clenched around the hard little rock shaped thing that was in this pink prison with him... wait.

                                    "I have your ruby!" He managed to yell to the tiger.  "Come get it!"

                                    The frog seemed frozen on the spot under the gaze of the tiger, providing plenty of time for industrious bouncers to try and trip her up.

                                     

                                    • Lilly Teal
                                      Lilly Teal

                                      She squeaked, flinching away for a moment until she realised the glass had been pulled out of her hand.

                                      "I have to do something!"

                                      Oh no oh no oh no it's him. Her eyes widened as she looked up at him, wanting very, very much to run away.

                                      "Please." Please what? Please let me do something? Please help? Please don't hurt us? Please realise this wasn't our fault and we're trying very hard to contain the situation oh God oh God please don't hurt us?

                                      Any and all of them, and it was obvious on her face. Gladstone's intimation to 'come and get it' added an extra, horrified level of 'please don't hurt him either.'

                                      Did someone say trip? That's an excellent idea.

                                      Celia had, somewhere in her running, managed to get her hands on a microphone. The long wire was yanked out from where it was plugged, and left the weight of the mircrophone hanging as she began to spin the thing like an improvised bolas. She stopped running, taking a firm stance and a very careful aim, not wanting to miss her shot.

                                      Swing swing swing, the microphone hummed near her ear, and she sent it flying at the frog's legs (heh, frog's legs) hoping she had gotten the angle right for the weight to whip around its limbs and tangle them together.

                                      "Oz, I want a raise."

                                      "This is not the time."

                                      • Gladstone Gander
                                        Gladstone Gander

                                        Shere Khan narrowed his eyes for a moment at, well, at everything. But at the end of his mental journey he smiled and took Lilly’s hand gently as he loaded it with a heavy bottle of 151 rum.

                                        “Let’s start with this shall we? Mr Gander is counting on you after all.” And... that was that? The tiger leaned back against the wall watching her like a coach at pitching practice.

                                        The frog and “Mister Gander” on the other flipper seemed to be on the less calm side of the spectrum. The makeshift bolas cinched the frog’s legs together with a wave of feedback. The amphibian tried to leap free but just sprawled out on the floor instead. Gladstone let out another startled cry as those gummy jaws closed down again.

                                        • Lilly Teal
                                          Lilly Teal

                                          But... but if I hit it on the head it'll just clamp down harder and Gladstone will get hurt.

                                          She shot the tiger a helpless look. Why oh why did you say he was counting on me? Nobody should count on me. I can't make decisions with confidence. I need someone to be confident.

                                          ...

                                          If...

                                          If. I.

                                          Hit something soft.

                                          An eye.

                                          The belly.

                                          Something.

                                          It might hurt enough that she. It. Will cry out? And Gladstone wouldn't get hurt? He could wriggle out?

                                          Maybe?

                                          Oh no. I don't know.

                                          It might actually be amusing to the tiger to see this very worried thought process play out clearly on her face. She weighed the bottle in her hands and turned back to look at what she had to aim at.

                                          She wasn't sure what Celia was doing. Or Oz.

                                          She wasn't sure what she was supposed to hit.

                                          A big, bulbous eye looked at her, like a target.

                                          Oh gosh, I'm so, so sorry, this is going to hurt.

                                          She didn't even try to lift it overhead and throw it. The weight swung on the end of her arm, gathering momemtum almost like a shot put, before she flung it, and almost instantly put her hands over her mouth in terror of both hitting or missing. Both were dreadful options.

                                          • Gladstone Gander
                                            Gladstone Gander

                                            It was a nice arc. The bottle tumbled end over end in the air almost hypnotically.

                                            Khan laughed, probably predicting what was about to happen but he patted Lilly amicably on the shoulder and leaned in to whisper to her softly.

                                            “You know as well as I that he doesn’t need anyone’s assistance with that absurd luck of his. But my, oh my, if the boy doesn’t fancy you.”


                                            The bottle shattered square on the frog’s crown in a soggy explosion drenching the further dazed creature in its prone position, but Lilly had been right, the impact had struck at just the right angle for the jaws to close. Instead of being crushed Gladstone popped out of the sticky traction to come to a rolling stop just short of the wall. He blinked in surprise, gripping the ruby in hand and let out a happy cry pointing enthusiastically at Lilly.

                                            “Very taken indeed.” Chuckled the voice in her ear. “It’s almost as if he thinks this good fortune is amplified by you Ms. Teal, do you dare tell him otherwise? Or maybe you’ve both earned a bit of luck after your hardships?” He pushed a loose curl of hair away from her face. “I would hold onto him hard in your position, after all he has tried so hard to impress you. Knowingly or not... now, please fetch me my ruby Ms. Teal.”

                                             

                                            • Lilly Teal
                                              Lilly Teal

                                              That. That's not why. He's not just nice to me because he thinks I make his luck better!

                                              If anything, it's probably a lot worse whenever we meet up.

                                              ... he did kind of assumed I'd solve the whole situation at the gala, though. But that didn't mean anything.

                                              She didn't fully understand everything Sher Khan meant, nor did she care to, but her self esteem wasn't strong enough for doubts to wash over her without a little wavering.

                                              She shivered as he moved her hair aside, not wanting to think about anything right now. Her friends were okay. It was all going to be okay.

                                              Right?

                                              Probably.

                                              And anyway. Just because his luck would help him, didn't mean you should stand aside and not try to help someone. If she was firm on nothing else, she was rock solid on that. You always try to help people. You have to. Especially if they're your friends. Even if it's just you being their friend.

                                              Rushing forward, she threw her arms around him and held him close in relief, not caring about the disgusting slime all over her once lovely dress.

                                              Oz made a pained sound somewhere in the background. He cared.

                                              Still holding him, she tried to pull him as far away from the frog as possible "Oh God. You're okay."

                                              I'm still shaking. We have GOT to stop meeting like this.

                                              "I have to give this to him," she said softly, looking down at the ruby still clutched in his hand. She didn't miss the phrasing that she was to fetch it. That meant she couldn't just ask Gladstone to hand it over.

                                              She shot the tiger a worried glance.

                                              Or better yet, toss it from a distance.

                                              "Please give it to me?"

                                              I'm just going to walk back over there alone and hand it over, I can do this, and then we'll all be done and we'll all be just fine.

                                              • Gladstone Gander
                                                Gladstone Gander

                                                Gladstone was ready for her when she threw her arms around him.  I'm so gross and you're so dazzling and this is a crime to fashion but- YES. Hugs! His arms closed around her tight, try and steal this hug you lousy-he felt himself being herded out of frog range.  Oh... yeah that was a good move. 

                                                The instant she mentioned the gem it was pressed to her palm without hesitation. She hadn't even finished the request.  Although for his quick compliance  it was clear on his face he didn't like the idea, and he said as much.

                                                "Not sure who Mr. Kittypaws is, but I can tell he scares you." He scares most people Gladstone. Why doesn't he scare you? "I'm guessing it's not an option for me to just chuck this at his head? I mean... isn't this all his fault?  Toadie here is after this thing and he was the one who picked the Coatl Club to do his shady deal.  Him and Ramrod or whatever his stupid name is. I mean-" He stopped mid sentence and his eyes widened as if he just recognized her. He grabbed her gently by the biceps and gave her a quick visual inspection. "Oh Lilly are you okay?  Are you hurt at all?  That should have been the first thing I asked you. I just-" 

                                                 

                                                There was a soft deflating sound as the giant frog started to shrink. Shere Khan lit a cigar his eyes passively moving between Lilly and Gladstone and the frog.  He met Lilly's eyes and smiled, revealing just a hint of his dagger like teeth.  Move it along please, said the smile.

                                                • Lilly Teal
                                                  Lilly Teal

                                                  "I'm fine. Gladstone, I'm fine," she said soothingly. "I should be asking you if you're alright, you were nearly eaten. Twice."

                                                  Even for you, that's ridiculous. But his contact and concern did wonders for calming down her adrenaline shakes.

                                                  Sher Khan's smile caused a different kind of shiver, just like a minute ago. But let's pretend it's all just adrenaline and fear. She closed her fingers around the gem and leaned her forehead against Gladstone's own to speak softly. "Shh. Don't say it's his fault. Let's just give them what they want so they'll go away, okay? I'll be back."

                                                  Now, let's not waste any more time. This is the final thing we have to do. Well, minus cleaning and fixing up the club again. Oh dear...

                                                  And it had started as such a lovely night, too.

                                                  Ruby in hand, she trotted over obediently to the tiger, clearly trying to show nobody was going to cause any more trouble, and held it out to him.

                                                  • Gladstone Gander
                                                    Gladstone Gander

                                                    Gladstone sighed softly as she walked away.  None of this felt right. What it was supposed to feel like he didn't know but... this certainly wasn't it.

                                                    The frog twitched, and morphed into the blue haired woman again, her legs now normal sized were not tangled in the microphone wire and she sat up, rubbing her liquor soaked hair. Gladstone looked around for something to arm himself with but only found a briefcase forgotten on the floor.  He grabbed it anyway, better than nothing.

                                                    Shere Khan allowed a tense moment to pass before he plucked the cigar from his lips and closed Lilly's entire ruby laden hand in his own. He pulled her in close and spun her around, still holding her hand captive so that her back met with his chest.  She was pinned so smoothly, so easily.  And that grip?  It wasn't letting up.

                                                    "Thank you Ms. Teal." Spires of smoke coiled out of his mouth as he spoke and he ashed the cigar in his free hand.  "Now I think it's time that we take care of our adaptable friend don't you?"  He flicked the cigar at the prone form of Camille.

                                                     

                                                    Wait. WHAT WAS THE PROOF OF THAT RUM SHE THREW?!

                                                    • Lilly Teal
                                                      Lilly Teal

                                                      Lilly let out two shocked gasps in quick succession. Once when she was pulled in and pinned, and oh lord, there had been absolutely no chance to fight against it, and he was far too close, and once, much louder and more horrified, when the cigar went flying towards Camille.

                                                      You can't just- you'll kill her! She tried her best to struggle, but she could barely move. With the proof of that rum, we'll be lucky if things only go up in a fireball. Celia and Oz were gratefully out of the way, though Celia had taken a few steps forward the second Sher Khan had taken Lilly's hand, and she looked like she wanted to physically drag her away.

                                                      But there was still someone a little too close.

                                                      "Gladstone! Watch out!"

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