Murphy's Second Law: Everything takes longer than you think.
Inside Louisiana’s door was an ivory moiré-draped dressing room with a thick gold carpet and plush, ivory upholstered couches and chairs. There were six stalls, three on each side of the room, with mahogany doors and brass handles.
After being stunned by the full effect of a lot expensive gold and ivory décor, Louisiana stepped all the way into the room and heard the hiss of the point of entry closing itself. To the right of the front entrance were several pristine white garment bags, each embossed in gold with a name emblazoned on the front.
Valentino started firing off questions and speculations the second the latch clicked, “So, why would Selene be hanging around on Earth? Last you checked she was chillin’ on one of Saturn’s moons doin’ the call girl thing, right? Why would she leave all that easy money to join the Society? Do you think it has something to do with the Doc?”
“Hmm?” Louisiana was pulled out of the confusion of her own thoughts to answer the confusion of Valentino’s. “Oh? Nah, man. It doesn’t fit his M.O. I think it’s just Selene being Selene and doing whateverthefuck she wants, regardless of what other people think of her. We’ve never been anything like each other, so her joining SOP actually does make sense.” Too tired to keep up appearances longer than was strictly necessary, she switched back to her usual northwestern-American accent as she spoke.
York, in a voice that hinted at raised eyebrows, “Are either of you going to explain any of that?”
“It’s… complicated. Maybe some other time, if you remind me,” answered Louisiana, distractedly, as the bag with ESSEX written in bold, capital letters caught her eye.
“Right, after you show me a picture of you with a platinum-blonde faux-hawk, right?”
“How the hell did– Ah, of course! Valentino. Hey, in my defense, I was fifteen and in a vaguely rebellious phase. But, um, yeah, remind me when we get back to the Mother of Invention.” She walked towards the bag cautiously, knowing that SOP had some kind of fetish when it came to ridiculous themes.
“Hey! If I can’t call you ‘Catie’ because it’s not your name anymore then you can’t call me ‘Valentino’ because that’s not my name anymore!”
Her Stop arguing because I always win sigh was more than enough of a response but she spoke anyway. “Dude, just give it up. Your name is Roman Valentino. You just want to sound cooler than you really are. In actuality, I can call you ‘Valentino’ because it is your real name and you can’t call me ‘Catie’ because it isn’t even a respectably nickname. At least, not anymore it ain’t.”
“What, because any of your chosen monikers are so much better than mine?”
Sigh, accompanied by rolled eyes. “Okay (A) my names are actual identities with driver’s licenses, I.D. cards, and passports while yours is can only barely be considered a nickname. And (B) all of my names have character while yours makes you sound like you’re trying—and failing, might I add—to pick up chicks.”
There was a short silence before Valentino harrumphed and muttered “Bitch” under his breath. Louisiana grinned at the small victory. A victory that was evidently destined to be short-lived.
“So, if mine is just a nickname then, technically, your ‘real’ name is actually just a nickname, too.”
Sigh, accompanied by an Ugh! and a fierce glare thrown in what she thought might be his direction. “No! Mine is obviously… it’s a—well, it’s basically a… Oh, fuck you Valentino!”
Valentino cheered at Louisiana’s huffy stutter and she could have sworn that she heard York and Wyoming chuckle as well at having her own logic turned back on her. Muttering about her own reasoning being used against her by the Forces of Evil, she turned back toward the bag.
And unzipped it in one swift moment.
Louisiana clapped her hands over her mouth again, “Oh, my god…”
Bursting out of the bag was a—what she suspected to be vintage—black corseted Victorian gown, black damasked and complete with layers upon layers of gauzy silver petticoats.
“Wow. That dress got fucked up. They do know that this is you, right? I mean, you’re still you no matter what your name is.”
Louisiana’s head jerked away from the borderline-frightening article of clothing, “Wait, what? How can you see the dress?”
“Oh, that’s easy. Kale hacked the camera feeds for me. No audio, but there’s video.”
“Fuckin’ pervs,” she said without any real heat. Then she looked back at the dress. Sigh. “Even in a sanctioned, specialized government program my mother wins again.”
“How does your mother factor into this, Lulu?” Obviously she no longer had to wonder who picked up on Jules’ pet name.
She didn’t know where Valentino was geographically but she hoped that he was close enough for the dead-man-walking to see her expression. “York, just a little friendly warning here, if you ever call me that again, I will personally make sure that your charming wit and good looks are never passed down to future generations.”
“Duly noted. And how, exactly, will you be achieving that incredible feat?”
Louisiana smirked. “Simple. I’ll castrate you.”
“O… kay. Backing up now and let’s start again. So, how does your mother factor into this, Louisiana?”?
Her smirk morphed into a smile. At least he was obedient. “She’s… pervasive. This is exactly the kind of crap she’d want her me to wear.”
“A ball gown from the Victorian era?” York asked, doubtfully.
“… Okay, so maybe not exactly but it’s the same principle. In fact, I made a deal with her that if she left a certain issue alone then I’d always wear lace underwear. She’d been bitching at me about how she wants grandkids and shit and my attitude detracted from my ability to get a man. Or keep one. Her solution: always wear lace.”
She stood there, just staring at the voluminous dress, when York’s voice echoed over the radio at the same time Valentino’s did,
Valentino, “You know your mom would make a nice pimp.”
York, “You’re wearing lace underwear?”
This, in turn, made her throw back her head in mirth at both the tone of York’s voice and thought of the elegant, dark-haired woman who’d donated genetic material to her, being a pimp.
“That she would,” Louisiana agreed, still chuckling. “Especially with her doctorate in psychoanalysis. And yes, York, it’s scarlet. Didn’t you see back on the roof?”
“I do my best not to spy on women in the middle of a wardrobe change,” he answered, amiably. “Wait; let me see if I’ve got this straight. You are an ex-con working for the UNSC in an experimental program. Your mother, who, I’m assuming, is a micro-manager in the most extreme sense, has a degree in psychology and criticizes your lingerie. And your friend has decided to crash a top-secret, UNSC-sanctioned mission. For the sole purpose of annoying you. Which, of course, just so happens to coincide with a social event of a secret society that you’ve been invited to and are a part of. Did I leave anything out?”
Louisiana was very cautious about answering him, positive there was a land mine somewhere in the upcoming conversation. “Um, you left out the part where the guy you’re working for neglected to give you almost any information…”
Immediately followed by more silence.
“… So, are you really wearing scarlet underwear?”
Sigh. “Way to focus on the important part, dude.”