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Pick Up The Pieces
(2013-01-02 - 2013-01-03)
Mercade tries to broker a peace between Max and Will. It doesn't go well.

If history is a messy hotel suite that's been converted into a makeshift office until they've resolved the issue of 'where to go from here'.


Right now, Mercade is sitting in a cheaply-upholstered chair, legs kicked up on a similarly cheap ottoman while he pages through yet more documents, scribbling intently. Someone's gotta do the paperwork. Celina uses her cooking to get out of it, Isaac is mystically never around when it needs to be done (Mercade swears he has a spell to detect it) and only a fool would trust Will or Tom to do it.

So it goes.
Maximilien Max just slips in. How he does so remains a mystery; one minute he's not there, the next he's leaning next to Mercade, arms crossed, cape (the nice blue-and-silver one, since his other one is getting dry-cleaned) resting against his legs. "Bonsoir, Monsieur Alexander. You look quite troubled tonight; is there anything I might do to assist you?"
Mercade Alexander Mercade does not immediately respond to Max.

"Will." Mercade's voice cuts through the air. It is not severe, but neither is it casual. "Please stay. It's about time we get this worked out."

He closes the manila folder and tosses it aside onto the pile next to him, glancing over to Max. "One day I'm going to figure out how you keep getting in here like that. Also, glad to see you like the cape."
Maximilien "Perhaps you will, Monsieur Alexander. Bonsoir, Monsieur Sherman. Comment allez-vous?" Despite Will's distaste for the man, he remained infallibly polite; he even tips an imaginary hat to Will. "I do indeed enjoy the cape, monsieur; the colors suit me quite well. It goes excellently with my black suit, as well; black, blue, and silver look stunning together."

Max pushes off the wall, moving to sit on whatever surface is nearest; he snatches the folder off the desk and pops it open, paging through it. "I agree, of course. The longer this...unpleasantness...lingers in the air, the more dangerous it becomes."
Mercade Alexander Mercade Alexander doesn't fall for the bait. He is quiet for a moment, his expression neutral, and gestures to a nearby seat. "Will. Please sit down. This isn't good for any of us, and threatens to cause problems for the Agency as a whole. We really have to deal with this or else it could very well destroy us."
Maximilien Max remains silent, still paging through paperwork. He's curious, after all; he might be able to help with some of these cases, and it's about time he did more than annoy the TDA.
Mercade Alexander "Were you under the impression that I was some kind of saint, Will?" Mercade replies. "I've broken the law to solve cases. I've stolen things myself. I've hurt people. I've just been lucky enough to never be caught when it mattered."

He sighs. "It's not always a case of white and black, right and wrong. What is it about Max that angers you so much? Is it that he targeted Rabanastre? I don't understand this. Please, Will. Help me understand."
Maximilien "I have never hurt anyone," Max points out after a moment of thumbing through the folders. "Nor do I wish to begin any time soon. If it becomes absolutely necessary to my survival...perhaps, but with great reluctance. I always plan my crimes to avoid people; ma chere Constantine was a...happy accident, and even then, neither of us hurt the other."

"Though, admittedy," Max's lips quirk upwards in a grin, "Not for lack of her trying, oui?"
Maximilien "How do you know what I do with my money?" Max asks curiously, looking up from the papers he's paging through. "How do you know whether what I steal helps anyone or not?"
Mercade Alexander The cases are an array of information, all of it from Mercade's voluminous memory since the originals are currently lost to the Darkness. Missing persons. Information gathering. More missing persons. More information gathering. There's also a folder marked 'Jasmine', one marked Heartless, and another marked 'Keyblades'.

Mercade rubs his temples. "The Darkness..." He sighs. "The jury's still out on that one. I want to think that not everyone who uses it is doing so for evil purposes." He shrugs. "I want to still believe. Maybe I'm being an idiot, but it's better than trusting no one. Who /doesn't/ have darkness in their hearts in the end?"

Max brings up another thing. "This is a good point. We don't know why Max does what he does." He glances over to the thief. "Are you willing to share that information right now?"
Maximilien "Some of it goes to charities I've researched and approve of. Some of it I keep for spending. Some of it I save." Max shrugs airily, going back to reading through the file more carefully. Specifically, the ones marked 'Jasmine' and 'Keyblade'. Very very specifically those, in fact; he's left the Heartless one completely alone, untouched, like he's not really interested in it. Mysterious.
Mercade Alexander The information on Jasmine details what Mercade knows about her: Known whereabouts and where she came from, her habit of wandering and running constantly, how she is being chased by Heartless, and that she is apparently a 'Princess of Heart'. And that the Shadow Lords want her alive.

The Keyblade file also has everything Mercade knows about them, including current Keyblade wielders (Sora, Mickey), how Riku was apparently supposed to be one, a list of questions about how one might be obtained, and theories on where he might go to get some answers.

Mercade doesn't seem to care that Max is looking through them. The information is free for all members of the TDA to partake. "I don't know, Will. I can't say for sure either way. A lot of them are indeed evil, but what reason does Max have to turn against us? Hurt anyone?"
Maximilien "About a third each, depending on the take and the situation, oui. If I am strapped for money, obviously I keep a bit more; if I am doing quite well, I give more. I always save only a third for a rainy day." Well. Not quite for a rainy day, but...something very much like one, certainly. Max sets Jasmine's folder down, focusing solely on the Keyblade one; she was pretty and interesting, but he could always go find her himself. This keyblade, though...that was an entirely different thing. He turns through it, reading each detail carefully. Keyblade...he'd have to hunt down these people and find out more. For now, though...

Max closes the file and places it on the desk, then picks up the Heartless one and pages through it disinterestedly. "I should also point out that ma chere Constantine wields the darkness /far/ more directly than I do, yet here you are, proclaiming me a traitorous scumbag for daring to steal from her /employer/. Her extraordinarily wealthy employer, whose money and treasures simply sits there in a vault. Her extraordinarily wealth, aggressively expansionist employer."
Mercade Alexander "Yes. Riku." Mercade sighs. "So what do you want me to do about it? Hate him? Hate everything? On /your/ word? Yes, Will, I trust you and what you see, but Fate doesn't define a person. Additionally, Will..."

Mercade frowns. "If I have to judge Max for his darkness, wouldn't I have to judge you for yours?"
Maximilien "Your reason for disliking me is that you feel that I am bad, monsieur. My reasons for my occupation are my own, but know this - I do not target people who simply have money. I am not a petty criminal looking to get rich quickly; if I were, I assure you, I would be the richest man in all the worlds tomorrow."

% Max stands up and moves to sit in the chair that isn't being occupied by Will. "My point is, you are being quite the hypocrite. I have no reason to dislike you, monsieur; nor am I particularly interested in carrying on with some sort of internal feud. I have better things to do with my time and my life, and I am certain you do as well."

"If you wish to dislike me, then dislike me. If you wish to threaten me, or reveal my secrets to the world, know only that I will play by your rules of engagement, though I really do not wish that to be the case. But you are telling me that I am judging these people, and that is true - I do judge them. I sit in judgement of those I rob, and I deem them acceptable targets, just as you have deemed me an acceptable target for your hatred because of my ties. There is no difference."

"I am not the shadow. I do not have any desire to rend worlds in twain. I have my own desires, my own goals, and they are not the shadow's - that I can assure you."

"However, I appreciate your apology. I would prefer it were not coerced, that I could earn from you at least some awareness that I am not a common sneak-thief who skulks in back alleys with daggers, waiting to mug the desperate and downtrodden for my own personal gan, but I suspect that to you, a thief is a thief, regardless, so I shall not endeavor to run upon so pointless a treadmill, yes?" Max folds one leg over the other, resting his head on his hand. "Thank you for your apology, even if it is not genuine; that you are willing to do so for the greater good is enough for me to be satisfied."
Maximilien "That did not go as well as I had hoped," Max observes once Will has left, turning a bit to look at Mercade. "I am sorry that I have placed your organization in this situation, monsieur Alexander. Thank you for vouching for me regardless. It cannot be easy to argue for a thief against someone who is one of your oldest friends."
Mercade Alexander Mercade facepalms, sighing. He does this for a few seconds, perhaps to hide the turmoil of his emotions from Max. "It's irrational." Mercade says. "His dislike falls apart if you poke it with a stick but he just keeps clinking to it. It's going to sit there and fester in him, but I can't think of any way to deal with it."

He pauses. "No, it's not easy. Not at all. But just leaving you out to dry like that would be worse, in my opinion."
Maximilien "No one ever said that dislike had to be rational, monsieur Alexander. It may simply be that he holds old prejudices about the French, mmm? He is quite old, after all. He probably lived through many unpleasant things involving France." Max isn't actually from Earth, so he doesn't really know if that's true, but it's not a bad guess for someone who doesn't know the history of the world he's pretending to be from.

"Perhaps. I admire your willingness to stick to your principles, however, if that is any comfort. You are a good and trusting man; whether it backfires on you remains to be seen, mmm?"
Mercade Alexander "Somehow I doubt it, but..." Mercade shrugs. " I have no idea anymore."

At the rest, Mercade nods. "Well... It already has, once. I'm not so arrogant to think that it's the reason why Manhattan fell, but... I like to think I might have helped somehow." He rubs his stubbly chin. "Even so, I have to keep believing."
Maximilien "You are neither a mind-reader nor a god. You cannot know the mind of someone who is unwilling to share his true feelings with you. They will come out in time, or they will not. Things must run their course."

"Similarly, you are still not a god. You may not believe you are so arrogant as to believe that you are the reason Manhattan fell, but you do regardless."

"'If only I could have helped. If only I could have done more, been there. If only I could have saved one more person.' Oui?" Max looks at him, right at his eyes - very, very carefully, studying him quitely, studying his face, his eyes, his reactions. Max's own face is a perfect mask, as it usually is. "You may not believe you are so arrogant, but I am willing to bet that you are."

"Imagine how much worse it must be for him. I heard about what happened, you know. A little bit here, a little bit there; I put the pieces together. You are just one man, monsieur Alexander; only arrogance holds you responsible."

"How much worse must it be for him, to hold true responsibility in his hands, I wonder. We cannot know; we are, after all, not ancient gods of destruction." Max shrugs his shoulders, sending his cape rippling.

"Perhaps in me, he sees some way to atone, by preventing events he fears from occuring again. Perhaps he sees the darkness and he thinks that I will fall to it - and perhaps I will. We cannot know what the future brings. Perhaps he feels that if he does something this time, that if he does something /this time/, he will be able to stop it before he is forced into such a situation again. And perhaps he is even right."

Max turns away from Mercade's face, to look at the door again. "There is something in this universe that I would sacrifice a world for, monsieur Mercade Alexander. I do not hope, nor do I expect, that it will ever come to that, but one day, you and I may be enemies. But I suspect that you too have something you value so highly that you would sacrifice a world for it, too. It is a very easy thing to say that you would not in our situation, that you would never...but we cannot ever truly be sure of who we are in the dark until the lights go out."

Max smiles, his eyes sinking shut. "On a more cheerful topic, I believe you need assistance with this Hearts International murder case. Would you like me to get involved?"
Mercade Alexander Mercade's jaw clenches a bit as Max chides him and promptly punches him in a psychological weak spot for massive damage. "... All right. Maybe I am being arrogant. But you know what? I like to believe that I can make a difference. Because if I can't... Why should I even bother trying?"

Mercade point out, then, "Except he /isn't/ responsible. Riku is. Will didn't /force/ Riku to do what he did. Riku destroyed Manhattan, not him. There's no reason for him to be beating himself up over it other than trying to take responsibility for something that isn't his."

Max brings up some pertinent thoughts. What /would/ he sacrifice a world for? He knew why Riku thought he did it. He thought be sealing away Will, he could prevent the destruction of far more.

Is there anytthing he'd sacrifice a world for? Something in him... recoils at the thought. It shows in a flash of distaste across his face, before it goes blank, his natural expression control reasserting itself. "If there's some way you believe your talents could help, I'd appreciate it. You could probably find a way to insinuate yourself within and gain us advance knowledge before we went to confront them. It could put us at an advantage."
Maximilien "Of course he is not responsible. No more than you are. But...he has power, monsieur Alexander. Real, honest power. Moreover, a world was sacrificed to attempt to seal him. Do you think that would not make him feel responsible? Look at you! You were not even present, and your presence would have changed nothing, and yet you feel responsible nonetheless. Imagine being the reason a world died, monsieur. Imagine what that would do to any man."

Max waves his hand. "You might have made a difference, perhaps. But regrets are chains; they blind us to the world as it is, to the world as we must see it. For a normal man, this is a waste. For a detective, it is inexcuseable. What is important is to watch, to listen, to think for yourself; not to be blinded by regret's weight. If you think you can make a difference, then next time, make a difference. If you are not capable of it, for whatever reason - being held up, being held down, being swayed away from it, or simply not being strong enough - then you are not capable of making a difference, and can only try harder next time. We cannot relive the past; it is our burden and our blessing, for if we could, we would never stop trying to right every wrong, banish every mistake."

Max notes that flash of distaste; he doesn't say anything about it. He simply moves on, like he said he would. "Happily, monsieur. Are you certain you wish me to do so? It should be no issue; if even an amateur can make his way inside such an organization, well..." He smirks. "I do not wish to sound arrogant, but I am, after all, no amateur criminal with a forged identification, oui?"
Mercade Alexander He can't argue with Max about this. The words cut like a knife. He has nothing he can really say in response to counter his arguments, as much as he'd like to. The silence stretches on as he tries to think of something to say, but... His shoulders slump. "For a man who lives in illusions, you pride yourself on stripping people of them." Mercade comments with a note of resignation. He sighs, putting a hand up to his head, as if fatigued. "Then next time... I'll try harder."

He looks back over to Max. "If you have a better plan on how to deal with it, I'm all ears. I'm not used to having the services of an infamous phantom thief at hand. I normally have to deal with, well..." He gestures in the direction of the next room, where Tom's snoring is probably audible even through the wall.
Maximilien "That is because the illusions I live inside are crafted to fool others, not myself. I know the truth from the illusion quite well; I am its architect. The lies you are holding are lies of your own making, but they exist to fool you and you alone." Max uncrosses his legs and crosses them the other way as he checks over the postcard Will slipped through the door.

"I can think of a few. It may be easier if two of us investigate; you and I would be the least conspicuous, and the least likely to draw attention to ourselves. We would be able to cover far more ground that way. Besides-which, they know you are coming; they will expect you to arrive in force, not walk through the front door in a cleaner's outfit. We may need to get you a pair of glasses, however; change the shape of the face and the way your shoulders are held, soften your voice and stutter a bit, and no one will even care that you are there. The art of theft is that of hiding in plain sight until you have what you want, after all."

Max shrugs again, handing the postcard off to Mercade. He lays back in the chair, tapping his fingers together. "I truly pity that you have had to deal with such amateurs. I can only imagine that their idea of breaking into an establishment involves driving an automobile through the wall or somesuch other nonsense."
Mercade Alexander "God, did Tom hear that? I hope he didn't hear that." Mercade actually looks concerned as he looks in the direction of the snoring. After a moment, he relaxes. "Okay, I think we're safe..." He takes the postcard, and frowns at it, thinking for a moment before he looks back up. "All right, the two of us look into this. I'm pretty sure I can manage that. We can get to work on disguising and all that tomorrow."
Maximilien "Then we shall," Max agrees, rising from his seat. He heads over to the window, sliding his hands into his pockets. He stares out of it for a bit, looking up at the stars; there were fewer of them, now, as worlds were swallowed one by one. What he would sacrifice a whole world for...


"Don't be so foolish, monsieur Alexander. There is nothing to worry about."

"I do not think he even knows what an automobile is."

This scene contained 26 poses. The players who were present were: Will Sherman, Mercade Alexander, Maximilien