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The Midnight Society Holiday Party (IC)


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The chill of winter had begun to settle over Freedom City, the night air now bearing the biting chill that would soon extend into the daytime. But even as winter arrived, the holiday season provided a festive atmosphere and energy to the city that helped to lessen the cold in the air. Throughout the city decorations and lights had gone up, giving the nighttime skyline a very different feel. The cold night air did not seem to dissuade the crowds in downtown Freedom as people went about their holiday shopping; or taking in the various decorations throughout the city; or, of course, attending holiday parties.

Just such an event was taking place this evening, at the very edge of Midtown. There, along 52nd Avenue, just across from Liberty Park, stood the mansion of the Midnight Society. Dozens of luxury cars and limousines were making their way into mansion’s grounds, delivering many of the richest and most powerful individuals in Freedom City to the Society’s annual holiday party.

The massive mansion was set back from the street, with stone walls sheltering its grounds from the sidewalk. Just inside the walls were large trees that had long since shed their leaves, and well maintained lawns and hedges. A large circular driveway lead to the front of the old stone mansion, which had several towers and peaked roofs. To the right of the front of the mansion was the entrance to its gardens, which stretched around the building to continue on beyond.

The large building, and many of the trees and hedges along the front of the building, had been tastefully decorated with lights for the season. Waiting along the circular driveway near the mansion’s main entrance were a number of uniformed valets, though they hardly had time to consider the cold air as they were busy opening the doors of limousines to assist their passengers, or parking cars driven by arriving guests.

A couple of those valets moved up to a dark blue Bentley as it came to a stop in front of the mansion. As one moved to open the front passenger door, the other opened the rear passenger door, holding out his hand to assist the young female occupant to exit.

Megan Howell shivered slightly as she left the warmth of her father’s car and stepped into the cold December air. The blonde young woman looked up at the old mansion, lit up by both the lights set up along its walls and those arrayed in the grounds in front of it. Megan had missed the holiday party last year, as she had been studying in England, and her family had decided to spend the holidays in Switzerland, and so she had simply gone to join them there instead of returning to the States. Though she had been to an event or two since, there was still something special about the holiday party that stood out from most any other of the Society’s events. The sounds of conversation and laughter drifted out into the night air from the mansion.

She was dressed in a sleek black V neck sleeveless evening gown. The dress was perfectly tailored to her lithe and athletic body. Tonight she had her long hair up in a side chignon, and around her neck was a platinum chain from which hung a deep red ruby. In one hand Megan was holding a shopping bag, which held several unwrapped articles of clothing that her mother had purchased as part of the Society’s charity drive for numerous needy families in the city.

Lowering her eyes from the sight of the mansion, the twenty-one year old moved near her mother, as her father came over to join them. Dressed in a dark green evening gown, with a slightly more conservative neckline, Erin Howell was carrying another shopping bag filled with clothing to be donated. Donald Howell, dressed in a tailored Italian suit, smiled at his daughter. "Are you ready Megan? Tonight you will not be able to avoid the business conversations all night." He asked as they started towards the door.

Megan gave her father a slight smirk, thinking back to past events she had attended at the Society with her parents throughout the years, where she dreaded enduring endless business and political discussions, and always sought out ways to avoid them. "Dad, I think I knew full well what I would be getting into when I started towards my economics major." She then replied with a small smile. "But, I certainly plan to do more than just listen to business conversations." She then added, her smile growing a bit broader.

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Amir al-Misri knew how to make an entrance. He possessed a certain dramatic flair that was known, even when he was being understated. However, a night like this, there was no point in being understated, which was why he drove up in the deep burgandy colored Aston-Martin Vanquish. It was known the mogul loved expensive cars, and that he had numerous high-end super and ultra cars (if one did not include the ones he had crashed). Pulling up, he waited a moment before getting out of his car. Dressed in an tailored tuxedo, though in far lighter shades than one was used to in this season. A light grey color, it was crip, and hard a stark white shirt, and vest that matched the color of the suit, the tie and the breast pocket were both a lighter pink color.

With a grin on his face he tossed the keys to the valet, before walking around to the passenger side door, gently rebuffing the attendent who walked there. Then opening the door, he leaned down, just a little, and extended his hand in for Agnus to take. "You look lovely tonight, Ms. Stone." Murmuring when she took his hand, lifting it up and kissing her knuckles softly.

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Megan and her parents had made their way into the Society mansion, the warmth that greeted them as they crossed the threshold a welcome change from the cold night air. Classic holiday decorations graced the interiors of the mansion, helping to bolster the festive atmosphere of the season. Given the numbers of people just inside, either having just arrived themselves, or making their way from one part of the mansion towards another, Megan's father and mother did not get very far before they were stopping to talk with various people they knew.

Choosing to remain with her parents for the time being, Megan stopped to join in the conversations as well. From time to time, the young woman would discreetly scan the crowd around them. Over the years she had dated a number of young men whose parents were members as well, and as it was likely she might run into a few of them, it never hurt to have a few moments to prepare for such an encounter.

After a few stops, Megan noticed that they had managed to work their way in far enough that they were close the large Christmas tree set up near the central staircase, where the charity presents were being collected. After exchanging pleasantries with the current couple her parents were talking with, one of her father's clients, Megan excused herself, as she took the other bag of donations from her mother and started over towards the tree to deposit them.

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Of all the stupid, pig-headed, ill-judged and really really sweet thing that Amir could have done was to ask Agnus to a party like this. She knew they’d agreed to try dating again, but did he have to start in such a dramatic fashion?

It had taken her most of the week to find just the perfect dress, not to posh but not to casual. She’d almost considered doing a Lady Gaga and just going for something outrageous, but in the end she’d gone for an asymmetrical floral gown.

With a day spent doing her make-up and taming her hair, which took most of the time, she hadn’t had a chance to relax. Only now she could finally relax, at least until had to face the press when the fact that they would dating would become public knowledge. It had been a while since she had to face people in any kind of numbers and the first that she since had become stuck as Young Britannia. It was especially noticeable as in her heel the two of them were about the same height.

“Why thank you Mr Misri. You scrub up quite nicely yourself.†Out of habit she adjusted his tie; much like how her Mum always did to her Dad “Shall we go face our fans now?â€

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Jennifer Owens pulled her white Mercedes-Benz up behind the burgundy Vanquish, giving the leading vehicle an approving glance. With a bit of a smile to her companion for the evening, she glanced back at the sidewalk where photographers were clambering for the perfect shot of the right socialite. "Hounded by press, just like when we first met," she chuckled with a shake of her head, "At least this time they're being kept back a safe distance."

After opening the doors to step out, she handed the valet her car's smart key before collecting a trio of shopping bags. They contained various new clothes and a few unwrapped toys. Rounding the car, she held the bags in one hand as she helped her date for the evening out of the passenger seat.

As they walked up the short distance from the valet station to the gates where she opened the clutch, one that matched her blue dress perfectly, to produce the invitation that had been addressed to her. "Jennifer Owens," she said to the doorman, "And guest."

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A smile on his face as he helped Agnus out of the car, doing so easily, and when she was on her feet she greeted him by fixing his tie, which made his eyes light up with mirth. Amir was impeccable as always. He ignored the press and the cameras, which by his presence had escalated to a small circus. Turning he put a hand, gently, on the small of her back, and he lead her away from the car as it's V-12 engine roared to life and pulled away behind them, a great photo op. Then he moved his hand to brush against hers and lightly take a hold of it, giving her a small reassuring squeeze. "Ah, our adoring public." His amused tone no ceasing, though he lifted his free hand and waved to them as he walked with her towards the front door. "I was thinking," leaning to her to murmur softly, just loud enough for her, "I know owe you several normal dates for this, three or four easily." His tone light, and teasing, but he was being somewhat serious, he understood how this wasn't the ideal kind of date, but they were busy.

A smile on his face as this was happening and when they made it up to the front door he spoke to the man standing there. "Mr. Amir al-Misri, and guest, Ms. Agnus Stone." And then they waved through, without the list being consulted. Honestly, he knew he was always the list, if he wanted to be. It helped being known, sometimes. Of course Agnus didn't have to go too outrageous as they both were really 'out there,' compared to the other people there, who had stuck to more staid and familiar fashions. "Look a black suit. And another black suit. I should have worn that Santa suit." Glancing to Agnus out of the corner of his eyes, "I think I would owe you are least two romantic comedy movies without a single complaint. More if I embarrass you tonight." Winking to her, he moved with her towards the thick of the crowd, having to the gladhanding.

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Kristin took Jennifer's hand and allowed the older woman to help her out of the car, then smoothed down the skirts of beautiful black dress that she had chosen for the evening. "I think I like them better when they're all the way down there," she decided as she looked out towards the throng of photographers. "Much less annoying that way."

She followed Jennifer over to the doorman, although the bags prevented her from linking arms as she felt a proper date should. "And guest?" she asked in a quiet, teasing tone as they moved past the doorman together. "I don't get my name on the list? Is that in case I died during that torture that you called 'hair and makeup' and you needed to find a quick replacement?"

In truth despite her protests she was quite pleased with the results - in the lovely dress, with professional-quality makeup and her short hair nicely she didn't look at all out of place. That didn't stop her from frowning slightly as her eyes swept across the other guests. As much as she looked the part she still felt completely out of place at an expensive party like this.

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As the pair walked into the mansion, Jennifer's high heels clicking on the hardwood floor of the entry way, she replied, "Admit it, you loved it. Besides, a few hours of hair and makeup is easily balanced out by the rest of the day at the spa. And besides, the results speak for themselves, you wear black better than I do."

Scanning the room, she spotted the well lit tree where dozens of bags containing donations were being collected. "First things first, put the gifts with the others then perhaps a few introductions? I think I saw a few of my father's friends by over there by the bar."

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Lord Steam pulled up outside the Party in Bessie, driven by his trusted chauffeur, Singh, and accompanied by Blakely, his butler.

"Lets see what all this nonsense is about!" he said to Blakely, stepping out in his finest garb, a splendidly cut top hat and tails, with silver tipped cane and bow tie. It would be fair to say that Blakely was dressed in no less elegant a garb.

"One simply cannot attend such functions without ones own manservant!" he explained to the door man.

He straightened his bow tie and sharpened his cuffs before striding indoors, grabbing the nearest champagne but not touching it.

He had been to several such functions before, and, whilst entertaining, he felt they sometimes lacked the crisp banter of London aristocracy, all snide remarks and witticisms, all elegant thrust and parry of social warfare.

Of course, that meant he could relax here. But his natural instinct could not be denied! he scrutinised faces, memorised names, and studies mannerisms like an automaton.

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Megan had almost made it to the tree to deposit the donations her mother had brought when a familiar voice called out. "Megan Howell!"

Glancing in the direction of the voice, Megan spotted Thomas Keller, a drink in hand, emerging from the crowd, a smile on his face. Thomas had been in her class at North Bay Academy, and Megan recalled the party he had hosted aboard a yacht owned by his family for many in the Senior class following graduation. "Hi Thomas, it's great see you." The blonde replied with a warm smile of her own.

"You look fabulous, as always." Thomas stated as he came up to Megan, leaning down slightly to give her a kiss on the check. Standing back up straight, he glanced down for a moment, before focusing back up to her eyes. "Though, I have to admit, I think I still prefer the North Bay cheerleading uniform."

"Why thank you. You are looking great yourself." Megan replied, reaching up to softly smooth out one of the lapels on his suit. "You're up at Dartmouth, right?" She asked.

"That's right, and you, I recall, are at Yale?"

The two former classmates chatted briefly, before Megan excused herself to get the donations dropped off and Thomas spotted someone he wanted to be sure to talk with. Both promised to try to find the other again and catch up a bit more.

Megan managed to cover the remaining distance to the tree without much problem and soon her mom's donations were added to the impressive collection already there.

Finally! The blonde thought, as she turned away from the tree to regard the nearby crowd. Now it's time to find a drink and get back to socializing.

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“Great I’ll hold you to that. I’ll rent us a copy of Hannah Montana, you can bring the popcorn.†She gave a little smile.

She looked around at all the stylish women, and men, a sea of elegant stylish clothes. “I should have listened to Coco, I look like an explosion in a floral shop. I’m going to teleport home and get my LBD. I can pick up your Santa hat of you want?†She sighed “You know that most people here earn more in a month than I do in an entire year?â€

Still she gladly added what she could to the donations, there were unfortunately still people less fortunate than herself.

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He glanced at her sidelong, and he smiled just a little. "Caveat to that, has to be in my theater room at my place, and we get take out from that little Indian place near your studio." Smiled turned into a sly smirk as he reached under his coat and fished out an envelope and placed it with the others.

"Do not worry about the dress. It is an open bar, and trust me, someone always make a social faux pas at these events when open bar are involved, I have been around for more than one tirade that entirely too honest. Worst case scenario you end up on a worst dress list. And I am still wearing tan and pink, at a Christmas party in a nontropical clime, so at least we'll be on it together. And I like your dress. Fireworks are always more interesting than sparklers." Giving a small, though genuine smile. "Come on, let's mingle."

As if on cue he noticed someone else standing there. "Megan? Megan Howell, I should have expected you to be here, I am sorry about Yale." Smiling at young lady, keeping his hand near Agnus'.

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Before Megan could move away from the tree where the donations were being deposited another familiar face appeared from the crowd and greeted her. "Good evening Mr. al-Misri." Megan replied with a warm smile as she gave a playful shrug at his comment about Yale. "It may not be Harvard, but I have not regretted my choice so far. In any event, Summit's recruiters did not seem overly bothered by my choice in Ivy League schools."

"But you know my parents, they try to get to as many functions here as they can. Since starting school I just have not been able to join them for as many as I used to." Megan added. "They should be nearby, I was just dropping off our donations."

Turning to the woman with Amir, Megan gave her a friendly smile as well. "Hi, I'm Megan and…" the blonde young woman began before stopping as a look of recognition crossed her face. "Your Annice Avebury! I love your songs. Some friends I made while studying at Cambridge last year introduced me to them."

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No matter how often it happened, and it was less common than in her heyday, she always felt both proud and embarrassed when someone came out as a fan.

“Now, that's a name I've not heard in a long time.†She gave a friendly smile “I record under that name Annie Stone now, and most people who know me call me Agnus.â€

Well if Asad had taught her anything it was to seize any opportunity.

“I own a little studio here in Freedom City, Zenith Studio’s, and your welcome to visit anytime you want.â€

She hoped it sounded more like a friendly invitation that a business proposition.

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Jennifer lead the way over to the tree and the collection of donations. Placing the trio of bags at the base of the tree she could not help but overhear a somewhat familiar voice. "Ah, excellent, I was afraid she wouldn't be here tonight," the African-American scientist said quietly to her date.

Taking a few steps over she stood a politely to the side for a second to slip into the conversation. As one of the wait staff passed, she requested a pair of sparkling cider flutes for herself and Kristin. Smiling she stepped closer, "Merry Christmas Megan. I was afraid we were going to miss you again this year."

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Looking between the two women, he made an elaborate gesture of bringing palm to his forehead. "Ah, well, I see my manners have taken a turn. Sorry not properly introducing you two. One moment, I need some champagne, would either of you two like some?" Despite him known to be a prolific drink, truth be told he just nursed one or two drinks during the course of an event, and tended to hold off drinking now, if he could help it, as he never knew what he was going to have to fly off and do heroics, and for him to do that with his judgement impaired... well that would not be pretty.

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Megan's smile broadened as Angus mentioned her new recording name and extended the offer to visit her recording studio. "That sounds wonderful Angus. I've never had a chance to visit a recording studio before." The blonde replied. "I will be sure to keep an eye out for your new album as well."

The young woman chuckled slightly as Amir elaborately chastised himself while apologizing for not properly introducing her and Angus properly. "Thank you, I would love a glass of champagne." Megan replied to Amir's question.

It was just then that Jennifer stepped into Megan's view to greet her. "Merry Christmas to you Jennifer." The blonde replied with her own smile, giving the other young woman a small hug. "I know, I missed everything last year being off at Cambridge."

Megan then stepped back slightly so the small gathering formed something of a circle. "Jennifer, allow me to introduce Amir al-Misri, the owner and chief executive officer of Summit Transnational Group, and Annice Stone, recording artist and studio owner." She began before looking back to Amir and Angus. "Jennifer is the daughter of Marcus and Karen Owens, the owners of Owens Enterprises. She is also part of Owens Enterprises' scientific research staff."

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Kristin did have to admit that the day at the spa had been wonderfully relaxing. She wasn't about to admit it though.

She took the glass Jennifer handed her, but regarded it suspiciously rather than taking a sip. With no idea if the drink was alcoholic or not she elected to simply hold onto it for the moment. Being ejected from the party for under-age drinking definitely didn't seem like a good goal for the evening after all. The young Australian stood next to her date and smiled politely at Megan, Amir, Agnus and Annice in turn as they were introduced. She nudged Jennifer subtly in the ribs, then spoke up herself. "Well are you going to introduce me?" she asked innocently, then continued with the slightest hint of an edge to her tone. "You better not call me 'and guest' this time either!"

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Ignoring the rib jab, Jennifer's hand slid down Kristin's back to rest on the small of her back as she began introductions, "And this lovely lady is my girlfriend, Kristin Jones."

Jennifer nodded politely at Amir and Agnus, "Your reputation proceeds you Mr. al-Misri. Dad's shared some stories about the time you two raced prototypes for that Red Cross charity drive. Such a shame the schedule didn't line up so I could get in and take a look under the hood of your car." Her disappointment was clear in the last words and she mentally kicked herself away from her gear-head tendencies.

After taking a sip from her sparkling cider she added, "Speaking of whom, I think he and mom are going to be a little late. They're making a stop in Boston on their way back from Rome to pick my sister up for the holidays."

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It was time like these that Agnus felt a little uncomfortable, when Amir started talking shop with people of his own wealth bracket. Despite a little bit of cash she was still a simple girl from North London. Whilst they talked she looked at them trying to remember if any of them had appeared in the kind of magazine or blogs she tended to read.

There was something about the young Australian girl, she was sure she remembered her from somewhere. Maybe she was famous in some way? It was at least something she could understand.

“Hi there, Kristin wasn’t it? I know this sound terribly clichéd, I’ve heard it enough myself, but do I know you from somewhere? It just I’m sure I’ve seen your face before…â€

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Asad was aware of Agnus' discomfort over these sorts of things, and he cut back on the shop talk, and she had heard worse on a phone call where he was having a discussion in regards to the feasibility of micro-loans in South America. It was like another language. But then, if she talked about the more complicated back end of music making he really had nothing to say. "Well then, excuse me a moment, I will make myself useful and get everyone booze. Ah, everyone who is legal." He returned in time for Jen and Kristin to be there, making their introductions. Handing a champagne glass to Agnus, and then one to Meagan.

His free hand listed down to brush against Agnus' glancing to her, and giving her a small reassuring dip of his head, before leaning in to murmur into her ear. "Just think of how much I will owe you. Without you being here the paparazzi vultures would have descended on dateless me." Flashing her a small smile, and a wink. "Besides, I like seeing you in a dress. It is how we met."

And then he nodded a bit, reinserting him back into the conversation without skipping a beat. Amir was not really a financial wizard, however he was a people person to an obscene degree. "Oh, I did not expect to see your father here, he bas been avoiding me since he welched on a bet. Admittedly, I do not really believe he knows Journey's 'Don't Stop Believing,' but he did agree to the stipulation." Managing to look like he was taking the bet deadly serious, before a smile cracked through the facade. "It is a uniquely odd experience to see the children of colleagues whom I remember seeing in pictures with pigtails and mary janes." Laughing a little, and shaking his head a little. "I saw your car Jennifer, I admire it's... avant-garde look, but then I am not much of a Merc man. Though really, you should be asking to see my entire collection and racetrack." Grinning just a little, Amir was a known car fan, and he had a semi-public track outside of the city he used, and where some of his sportier vehicles were stored.

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"Thank you sir." Megan said as Amir handed her one of the glasses of champagne. The blonde young woman took a sip as the teenage girl with Jennifer spoke up about being introduced. Megan was pretty sure she recognized her, a suspicion that was confirmed when Jennifer introduced Kristin.

One of the benefits of Megan's powers was the ability to finish tasks such as studying in a fraction of the time it would normally take. As her friends at college were not so fortunate, that generally left Megan with a lot of free time to fill up, which she often did by reading periodicals and newspapers in the library. Like all of them.

Though Megan had not attended Claremont, she knew other heroes who had. She felt a good deal of sympathy for the teen. Being a teenager and superpowered was generally far more than most teens had to deal with. Having someone who could barely be termed a journalist write horrible things about you all the time had to be tough.

"Very nice to meet you Kristin." Megan said with a warm smile. Megan left it to the teen to answer Angus' question about her looking familiar, instead looking back between Amir and Jen as Amir mentioned Jen’s dad welching on a bet between them. "I deny any such phase ever happened." Megan commented with a small laugh of her own as Amir mentioned pigtails and mary janes.

She took another sip of her champagne as she listened to Amir and Jen as the continued to talk about cars. While the blonde young woman certainly appreciated the aesthetics of various cars, it had been some time since she had viewed cars as in any way "fast." But, seeing as after the New Year Amir would be her ultimate boss, at least until the end of Spring term, Megan was more than happy to listen to talk about cars and racing.

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"Lovely to meet you too," Kristin replied to Megan with a smile, then grinned at Agnus and her oh-so-familiar question. "I get that a bit," she admitted. "I managed to make the news with my fifteen minutes of fame when I had an accidental telekinetic outburst after a car accident, and I think there's a phone-camera video starring me on youtube with about half a billion hits. Of course there's a journalist who wants to stretch out the fifteen minutes - he'd love you to believe that I'm a walking disaster zone that wrecks cities left right and center."

She smiled again and glanced at Jennifer. "Of course maybe you've just seen a photo of me holding hands with Jenn," she said with a smile as she reached over and slipped her arm through the gap between the older woman's elbow and hip to do just that. "If you try hard enough you can make it into a scandal!" she grinned, her tone still good-natured but with a hard edge of sarcasm.

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Jennifer returned the smile, "If that's an invitation, I would love to take a look at your collection. Mechanics is something of a hobby of mine. And while I do enjoy a good drive, I'm not on the level of, say, The Transporter. As for my car, normally I'd have come in my Tesla but I didn't put it on charge early enough."

Squeezing Kristin's hand as their fingers locked, "Let them try, I don't have anything to hide." Taking a sip of half-empty flute of sparkling cider she added with a chuckle, "Well, except the things I had to sign non-disclosure agreements with the government to consult on."

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Agnus managed to hide her wince once she’d realised who she was. So she’s TK girl?

She downed in one the champagne she was holding and helped herself of another from a passing waiter. Unfortunately with her enhanced constitution it would take quite a few of them to have any effect

I could excuse myself now, teleport home and be on the sofa in a comfortable clothes with a glass of wine, catching up on EastEnders before they even realised she was gone.

But instead she drew a deep breath and drained the second glass, just for luck.

“Well if it help any I have a whole channel of my misdeeds, I stopped checking at a couple of million. And unlike you my bad reputation was well deserved, I’m afraid I was a bit of a Diva back in the day, and I’m talking full on Naomi Campbell. And you wouldn’t believe half the stories that were written about me in my fifteen minutes.†She lent in and whispered conspiratory “And between you and me you make a lovely couple.â€

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