A Guppy Among Sharks

December 19, 2017:

Danny Rand visits the Hellfire Club for the first time. He has no idea what he's gotten himself into.

Hellfire Club

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

When the invitation came across Danny Rand's desk, he had two questions:
One, "What's a Hellfire Club?"
Two, "Why am I a member?"
Three, "Joy, do I really have to go to this one?"
The answer to question three was an exhasperated sigh from babysitter in chief, Joy Meachum. She explained how he'd received several invitations already, and that his membership was grandfathered in by way of his, um, father. He had to attend at least one and this one fit best with his packed holiday schedules of too many stuffed pastries and too many stuffed shirts.
It really isn't the best fit for the newbie socialite. These people know about wine, and there are women not wearing very much. It means the young man has been a such a shade of pink since he walked in that someone legitimately asked if he was down south and got a sunburn. He's cleaned up nicely, though he didn't shave his beard. Last time he did that before a shindig, there was a terrorist attack. So call it his version of a good luck playoff beard. He's wearing a very nice, impeccably tailored bespoke cool blue suit with a slight shimmer, a crisp white shirt, and a deep blue tie. As before, his shoes reveal both his youth and the quirky billionaire thing he has going on. They're chrome loafers with dark blue laces that match his socks and his tie. He's sort of jammed himself into a corner, away from most of the wine talk. He's examining a canape like it's a strange undersea creature. Which it might be. It does smell a little fishy.

*

Things can become very awkward very quickly in situations like this. The wine would perhaps remedy some of the awkwardness. That would, however, mean that one would have to consume said wine in order to receive that benefit.

Enter one Emma Frost.

In a bustier, long skirt slit entirely up one side, and a pair of dangerous stiletto thigh high boots all in her signature white, she's just breaks six feet tall. The blonde has a pair of wine glasses, one red and one white, as she makes her way, in a roundabout sort of path towards the scion of Rand. "Well, well," she purrs as she draws near. "Of all the Christmas surprises."

*

Which means they're just about eye to eye when they meet, though that's not where Danny's eyes land first. He might project a smaller man, but he's a solid six foot himself. He looks up, blinks, and one can almost hear him snapping name and face together. "Miss…" get it right get it right get it right, "…Frost. Hi. I should've guessed this would be your kind of place. Merry Christmas?" He really does make that last bit sound like a question. Somehow such a wholesome, family-friendly greeting seems out of place in this atmosphere.

*

"Mister Rand," Emma greets back, a hand stretching towards him with a glass of red wine on its fingertips for him to take, should he desire it. "Merry Christmas." She does not have the same questions of appropriateness plaguing her conscience; the words are offered easily enough.

"I'm so very glad you could make it. I do always like to see which new bodies show up. Keeps one on one's toes. It's been since…" Eyes lift ceiling wards in a pantomime of contemplation. "The… chamber of commerce event?"

*

Danny has to flip through a mental rolodex of parties and get-togethers and meetings and summits that he's been made to go to. He just nods a bit dumbly. He's not sure it's right, but he's willing to agree with her. He takes the glass with a smile and salutes her with it. "Thanks. This party is…" he watches one of the scantilly clad ladies walk by, then looks back at Emma. "…different from the other events. I'm uh, pretty sure that no one here is a secret reporter." Which is a danger he was warned about at more public events.

*

Frost smiles at the concern put forth, although the curve is not particularly kind. Her own pale, kohl-framed gaze drags briefly sideways towards that parade of flesh that catches Danny's attention, and then her ruby smile pulls uneven and wry. "Reporter? No, I should think not. A media mogul, perhaps, but not a reporter. That's part of the appeal, you see. No one wagging their little fingers at us."

*

Danny's sunburn-pink blush has calmed a little into a rosy hue that could be the fault of the wine. Speaking of, he takes a healthy mouthful, decidedly not savoring what is probably a very pricey vintage. "I just don't know what I should be doing. I'm not very good at the mingling thing." Gee, really?

*

A beat behind Rand, Frost lifts her own glass in salute and drinks. She is more careful about the sip, modest in its depth. In its depth, and little else. "I think the question, Mister Rand, begins with what you want to be doing." Pulling alongside him, so she can share his viewpoint, the blonde surveys the room at large. "You don't need to be the best at mingling. Simply at knowing what it is that you want. Aligning yourself accordingly."

*

The young billionaire looks perplexed, but that's a pretty common expression on Danny Rand's face. "What I want? You mean…business-wise?" He barely knows what he owns, let alone what he wants to do with it. "I want…to deal with people who care about people. Who invest in people." Such an idealist.

*

Bare, slender shoulders shrug as Frost continues to survey the room with only a couple of glances in Rand's direction. "Business, pleasure," Emma allows, with a soft chuckle. "It's all the same in the end. You can't get where you want to be unless you've some idea how to get there."

Her eyes lift again as though to take in the ceiling, although she isn't really. "I suppose we're a little more on the pleasure than business end here, but you'll find most of the membership excels at mingling the two." Leaning towards his shoulder, she continues in a soft murmur. "That's the secret to it, you see. You learn a person, forge a friendship over a bottle of his private vineyard's wine, and learn how best to frame that new joint venture you've been considering. Maybe you both like the same brunette, and it starts you talking. The point is, it's all uncomfortable and uncertain… Until you know where you're going. And then it becomes a game. I mean, you do like games, don't you?"

*

"I like Playstation," says Danny dumbly. "Or…I did. And mahjong. But I'm not very good at it." He looks into his glass of wine and then sighs. "I'm sorry, Miss Frost. I'm not very good at any of this. I took back control of Rand because that's my family's name. It's what I think my father would have wanted me to do. I didn't do it because I want to be a businessman." Which is exactly what makes him chum in the water.

*

Playstation. The answer draws one perfect sculpted eyebrow upward and a gaze to the side, and then Emma frowns. This conversation, she blames not on the naive pup that is Danny Rand. No, this she blames wholly on Emery Papsworth and his stupid coaxing of her help.

She lets out a long and quiet exhale before continuing. "I… wouldn't trot out the Playstation thing in front of any of the other women here as your opening gambit, between you and I," she advises dryly. She then continues on, "But. You shouldn't apologize for taking what is yours. That is something that commands respect, spun the right way. It's only the first part, however. The first step is claiming. The second, sustaining and growing. How do you think you continue to hold onto it when someone comes along who may want it more than you? I'm fairly certain your father did not want you to take over his company, just to lose it to the wolves." Of which she is one, but she ever-so-helpfully leaves that part out.

With her chin moving to hover near Danny's shoulder, she subtly points out a young man in the distant corner, toying with one of the evening's servers. "He devoured his siblings' interests in the family business with an admirably savage stockholder distrust campaign. Got a vote called in the course of four months once he'd gotten the wheels of the machine turning." And then to an older man. "Divided his ex-wife's corporation in half before he left her for the secretary. Scandalous." Oh, yes. The blonde in her bustier sounds downright scandalized. "And those are two of the less salacious stories floating about."

Pulling back, Emma sips again from her wine. Her nose turns up disdainfully as she lifts and turns it in the light. "Arizona grapes really just are not the same." As she turns it and continues to consider it, she speaks more casually to Rand at her side. Who has not asked her opinion, but continues to receive it. "Anyway, even if you appoint someone to steward your company, you should know enough-should want to know enough-to be able to know when their stewardship is no longer serving your interests." She shrugs, then, and glances back over. "Do you?"

*

Danny listens to what Emma has to say with wide-eyed attention. He's the young man who faced down a dragon - but he's not ready for the monsters in the boardroom. And the board and shareholders know this. The only reason they haven't already torn him apart is that he's more or less been leaving the big decisions to them and has been maintaining the status quo. Sure, he's shaken up a few things - most notably the wholesale chopping off of funding to Dartmouth Pharmecuticals after some 'forensic accounting' found discrepancies as part of his independent team's review of their holdings. But that's the very public explanation for going after a criminal enterprise.
He takes a rather healthy swallow from his wine glass, completely ignoring what kind of grapes it might have come from. "Joy has been taking care of a lot of details," Joy Meachum, former co-CEO with her brother, Ward, until Danny took back control. She's like family, almost, but someone who is torn between her real family and some fuzzy feelings for Danny. "But…she grew up in this world. She's lost sight of some things. Made compromises I don't think my father would have agreed with. I mean, she's done the best she can, but it's my responsibility to make sure things get back on track. It's not Meachum Industries, it's Rand."

*

"So why are you here?" Emma asks, her bare shoulders shrugging as her lips curled up. "The business contacts? The wine? The fabulous scenery? Certainly, those are all very good reasons to be here. But…" Pale eyes affix themselves on Danny without apology, her mouth pulling up even more unevenly as her amusement grows. "Inquiring minds want to know… Are they your reasons?"

*

"This party fit into my schedule and Joy said I'd refused too many invitations already. She said it would be rude to keep saying no. That you didn't have to honour the legacy membership of my father." Danny is, at least, straightforward. Whether or not this is a virtue depends on who you ask. He smiles a bit sheepishly at Emma. "Sorry. I mean, this place is fancy, and I understand why businesspeople come here. Not having the press all over the place is nice. But I didn't even know what you were til this morning."

*

"I rest my case." A hand comes up, moving - if Rand so allows - to stroke a fingertip along his jawline. Emma doesn't linger, either way. But rather is onward. "But now that you're here… You should make the most of it. Find a someone worth the bedding. Find a wine you appreciate and appreciate it until you don't. It's not just businesspeople. It's the wealthy. And it's the wealthy who understand what it's like. To always have someone watching. Someone judging. This place provides… the quiet we don't get elsewhere to enjoy the things that bring us pleasure."

Emma turns and leans her back against the wall. "I mean, everyone needs somewhere like that, yes?"

*

Danny allows it, because it confuses him. And it's over before he figures out what's happening. Worth the bed…oh. There's that bit of pink again. He looks around the room, then looks back to Emma. "I do uh…recognize a few people. From meetings. And other parties. Maybe I should go say hello?" That's not a great start, but it's something, at least.
To the last advice, he nods a bit, and actually seems to understand. The difference is, his happy place isn't in a fancy private club - it's out on the streets, doing what he's good at - fighting. Still, he can get the concept.

*

Maybe I should say hello?

The question draws a smirk onto Emma's lips and an upward tick of one eyebrow. "Yes," she agrees, remaining right where she is against the wall. "I think that is an excellent idea, Mister Rand."

Looking at the wine glass in her hand, she comes to her own conclusion. "I'm going to hunt down a bottle of decent French vintage." She turns her attention back to Danny just long enough to offer a few parting words in an amused tone. "Just find me if you run into any trouble, hm?"

Not that she's hanging around waiting for him. "If I don't see you again before you go, do have a pleasant evening." Standing up straight at last, she lifts up her inferior Arizona red to salute him, turns, and disappears back into the crowd with her swaying stride.

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