"I think you got your dates mixed up there, Bud. The National Venison Taste Testing Convention isn’t until next month.” Hans replied with a forced chuckle, “But you should probably keep the bib handy. There are plenty of other, though slightly less exotic, delicacies to partake in here at the Grimmsvale Independence Day Carnival.” Small talk had always bored him, especially when the person on the receiving end wasn’t someone he needed something from, but if Gaston was going to make an effort to be cordial than who was Hans to deny him? Especially since the two of them had been butting heads like rams since they’d met, this was a big improvement. “I highly suggest that you try the funnel cake.” Hans added, with a nearly authentic smile.
The good stuff? Hans read to himself, suppressing a snort, before peering down into the tin Gaston held out to him. He nearly gagged and covered it up by clearing his throat. “What is that?” He asked, trying and failing to hide his disgust. The strips of meat had been cooked into charcoal, shriveled and blackened. He was almost certain that taking a bite of it would taste like taking a bite out of a piece of coal, and there was no way that it was made of your usual meat selection, like chicken or steak. It looked tough and chewy like how he imagined the meat of some kind of woodland animal would be, like a deer or a maybe even a raccoon. “I couldn’t possibly, I mean…it’s the good stuff.” He motioned to the words engraved on the tin and smirked. “Why waste such fresh game on someone like me?”
"Because you’re worth it, guy" he jokingly responded. It was strange still to see Hans smile, it was almost authentic this time. The young man had no reason to still be engaged but alas, he was still lingering around. "Are you hear alone?" Gaston curiously asked "I think I saw Anna around here somewhere" he continued as he let out a chuckle. Hans was all she ever really talked about.
It was nice to finally have a decent conversation with someone other than the drunks that filled his bar at night. Most of the patrons were chatty but they talked so cordially that one could never really get to know them. It was the drunks that he had the best conversations with. Gaston could not help but wonder about the tales Hans would divulge if alcohol loosened his lips.
Hans tried to ignore the nicknames, it wasn’t like they were foul or anything, but they were meant to degrade him. It was something his older brothers might call him in order to remind him of his rank in the family…the baby, the unfavorite, the last in line for the throne. When he looked across the court, it wasn’t Gaston he saw, it was one of his many siblings that had always stood in the way of what he wanted. He swung his racket with even more force, a soft grunt leaving his lips from the effort. It smacked against the side of the tennis ball and set it flying back toward the other side of the court again. His muscles recoiled, ready to spring on the ball the moment it was in his domain. “Come on, Slugger. Can’t you do any better than that?”
This time when sweat threatened to roll down the side of his face, he let it. It was obvious that Gaston thought he was nothing but a pretty boy, but he had a lot of fight in him. His circumstances had made him hard and callused, everything else was just a fluke, a tactic and stepping stone he was forced to use to get himself to the top. Gaston had nothing for him to gain, being connected to him wouldn’t further his goals in any way, so Hans would have a great deal pleasure in crushing the man beneath his heel. So few people in town merely tolerated the brute, winning the game would be something he could boast about in order to make new allies. He had to win.
The scowl, the intensity, the blind rage, Hans was definitely going to be a challenge. It was no longer a gentleman’s game of tennis. It had become a savage battle of wits and pride. All the gloating Gaston had done prior to this event was useless. Hans had transcended into a different level of competitiveness. It was a look he had only seen once. A undeterred glare that was present on Gaston’s face the day his father and him had a similar match. Although it was a wrestling match, the same elements were still present. Hans needed to prove something. It was like Hans had never won approval before. Gaston had the same drive to win but he was not filled with the same sense of urgency as his opponent. The slowly creeping idea of loss was now standing before him. The possibility of defeat was a reality.
It was a momentary lapse in judgement. Gaston reacted too slowly because the ball came hurling towards him and he was not ready for it. He stepped to his right as the fuzzy death object zoomed to his left.
"Good one Lad" Gaston praised, as he internally cursed the neglected Prince.
Anna stood there, still close to him as he yelled but she felt in a fog. Not once before had she ever put alcohol even close to her lip and the only time she did, she was unaware she was. This time. She knew it—she should have known working in a tavern but the spiked fruit punch had smelled so sweet and she had no idea the taste of alcohol.
His threat hit her hard though, even if she felt too weak to understand. Three and a half, almost four glasses was too much. “Okay,” she said, wobbling a little bit as she backed away. “I d-don’t think is was wine, kay ‘cause it was in a pitcher and it was fruit punch—it smelled really very so sweet. You know? But it tasted expired.” She was almost as talkative drunk than sober but made less sense with word construction. “It was tasting funny that’s why I think it’s expired. Promise, I am verrrrrry sorz if i did that cos I don’t even know what alcohol tastes like. Okay, sorry so I’ll just go now.”
Anna turned away and started to walk or attempt to walk—clearly she was intoxicated— but halfway across the room she turned. “I’m under twenty-one, I can’t go out ‘cause you know they will see me and send me back to the crazy place and I can’t go there. Help, you gotta help. I’d r-rather be fired from the job which I love with all my heart than go back to that place.”
Her eyes, although far off had a glimpse of dread and terror.
"Your words have no effect on me Anna!" he blurted out to halt her babbling. The stain on the rug was the only subject occupying his mind. It did not matter to him if she was taken back to the Asylum, it wasn’t his fault she was in that position. He could easily find another waitress. Her words were unbelievably slurred. It was like she decided to communicate in grunts and moans. Her annoying tone of voice was somehow amplified by the "strange juice" which was only slightly spiked with vodka. Anna was either that much of a light weight or she was faking her drunkenness.
"So you want to stay?" he whispered. His breath still stunk of strong drink. "Prove it." he sneered.
The smell of sweets drifted throughout the town and violated her nostrils. The Carnival had put Drizella in a wonderful mood and a pep in her step. She stood in the middle of it all and looked around.
"Now what should i do first?"
"Me" he facetiously replied. She apparently hadn’t noticed him walking towards her. Which was shocking, given his new festive facial pattern. He noticed her however. The last time they spoke, he was completely exhausted but, this time he was ready for her. He was ready for the seductively beautiful temptress.
When she heard the call, she turned around quickly. For a moment she thought she was in trouble with Gaston although she didn’t do anything as far as she was aware of. “Hi?” she said once she managed to push through the crowd over to him.
One look at his facial hair and she smirked, “my, my don’t you look sharp.”
"You like it?" he mumbled. "I was thinking about keeping it" he continued "but, I don’t know, it took me like 3 hours to get the curve right". He pointed to his face as an ever so cautious blush graced his cheeks. It was not like he was a stranger to compliments but, given the fact that he took such a big risk in front of so many people he doubted himself slightly. "So, what are you doing here?" he asked.
Diablo stood in the middle of the carnival, looking entirely lost as he stared around at the flashing lights and throngs of people milling around. Clutching a small back of popcorn to his chest, he picked at the snack gingerly as his large, dark eyes soaked in the sights. He’d never been to a carnival, especially not one like this. The closest thing to this sort of excitement was when he and Maleficent would visit the Romani camps near her mountain during one of their festivals. They’d play games and put on shows for the children, which Diablo actually seemed to enjoy more than they did.
He saw a small crowd gathered around a very tall thing and, cocking his head slightly, wandered towards it. Dipping his hand into his bag of popcorn, he blinked a few times at the person standing there with a very large mallet in his hands. What was he going to do with that? Diablo frowned as the man brought the mallet up high before slamming it down onto the base of the tall structure. Something shot up towards the top were a round bell suddenly rang out, and all hell broke loose. Lights flashed, noise, the crowd around him cheered on excitedly, but Diablo was completely startled by it all. “Merde!” he blurted, stumbling backwards, his popcorn spilling over the sides.
The man reeled back a few steps only to collide into someone and, turning sharply, clung to his bag even harder as he pulled it to his chest. “Sorry! Sorry, I…I’m sorry,” he stuttered as he tried to gather his wits about him.
"The Hammer of Thor" Gaston thought to himself as he picked up the large mallet. He absolutely adored public displays of his brute strength. If it were possible for the entire town to watch him hunt or workout, he would be in heaven. The only place he ever really gloats is at his Lounge. However on this night, with the crowd gathered around him, it was his time to shine. "I’m going to send that little metal part to space! Do you think I can do it?" he yelled at the crowd, trying to get them excited. "Yeah!" they responded.
With all the force he could muster sung his hammer at the structure and it let out a promising crack. The small metal piece raced toward the top with an incredible amount of velocity. He actually thought for a second that it could pass right through the bell on the end, while on its trajectory into space. *Ring, Buzz, Wooooo* The metal piece collided with the bell and the crowd went nuts. His instantaneous joy was short lived however, when his ears zeroed in on a remark from the crowd. He immediately turned around to see Diablo stumbling around like a drunk. “Diablo!” he yelled, “A little too much drinking tonight aye?”
He had been apprehensive at first, but the moment he cut a piece of the oddly shaped ‘cake’ with the corner of his fork and stuffed into his mouth..he was absolutely positive that he’d discovered the most delicious food in the entire world. Sure, there were loads of decadent and rich desserts in Denmark, especially served at the castle, where the chefs were trained at the best culinary schools available, but he was certain that none of those dishes could hold a candle to the thing sitting on the paper plate in front of him covered in powered sugar and fresh strawberries. Funnel cake. He had another piece, and another, each bite was more flavorful and sweet than the last. Now that he had discovered all of these amazing carnival foods he wasn’t sure how he’d lived without them his entire life. God, he was going to get so fat.
Once he’d finished eating, he tossed the plate in the the garbage, he probably would’ve eaten it too if thought he’d be able to digest it, as it was he licked it clean like some kind of animal. He’d planned to walk around the park and find shelter from the hot afternoon sun beneath one of the large oak trees, but those plans changed when his gaze fell upon a familiar face. Damn. For the briefest of moments he considered pretending he hadn’t heard Gaston…but WWMMS? What would Miss Manners say? He reluctantly trudged over to the other man and plastered an oh-so-friendly smile onto his lips. “I didn’t think carnivals were your thing.” He said in way of a greeting, quirking a brow.
"Carnival?" he quickly responded, "I thought this was the National Venison Taste Testing Convention. I brought my own bib and everything.” Small talk about something other than himself was unbearable but, he pressed on. To Gaston, Hans wasn’t really someone who delighted in small talk. In his eyes, Hans was a sweet-talker. It was apparent that he was great with words because Snow and Anna would talk about him all the time but, he didn’t see the big deal. Every conversation with Hans was one of hostility. Gastons was surprised that the Prince even acknowledged his call but nonetheless Gaston was delighted that he returned the gesture.
It was then the burly man reached into his back pocket and pulled out a small tin. It was a small silver tin with “THE GOOD STUFF" imprinted on the face of it. Gaston pried it open and moved it towards Hans. "Want some? It’s super fresh" he admitted.
It was still strange to him, this town, which was complied of strange people. Everyone one had a secret to keep and a lie to tell. Back home, he was the only one who was truly capable of manipulation because the townsfolk were hardworking simpletons and he thrived off of it. Grimmsvale was truly rampant with Aichmomania. Everyone had a knife in their back. It was amazing, the stories he would here from the people who came into the Lounge. Alcohol loosens the lips, the food made them trusting and his waitresses easily distracted them. It was all useless information though. He didn’t really want to interact with the malicious multitude of conniving scoundrels. His one true hope was finding Belle and capturing her heart. However, at this point in his stay in Grimmsvale, he hadn’t exactly earned a honest reputation. Although honesty wasn’t exactly spewing from the residents here, he wanted Belle to know she could trust him when she got out. His idea was simple, kill them with kindness. Which was not a plan that was closely followed.
Gaston was accustomed to the bustling of his Lounge but, being around this many people at once was slightly off-putting. He stood near the entrance of the event. His muscles were fully flexed and his facial hair was cut in a manner that was new to even him. “Festive” he thought to himself as he shaped and carved the curves into his face that morning. Looking around for someone he knew even slightly, he finally caught the eyes of someone. “Hey” he yelled out into the crowd with a smirk on his face.
Hans’ eyes zeroed in on the neon green tennis ball as it sailed through the air at top speed. If nothing else, Gaston had an incredible serve. He ran across the court and swung his racket with as much force as he could manage, which probably wasn’t the best strategy. He really shouldn’t use up all his strength on one return, but he was much too eager to prove that he was a worthy opponent. Gaston was just too confident, confidence practically oozed out of his pours. He probably thought he had this match in the bag, but soon he’d realize that Hans could give him a run for his money.
His tennis racket collided with the ball with a sickening 'crack' and traveled back toward the other side of the court. It hadn’t been purposeful but the ball zoomed straight toward Gaston’s head and a smug little smirk spread across Hans’ lips. "Two can play that game." He muttered under his breath, settling back into position. His heart was beating against his chest like a mallet, not from exertion but from excitement, possibility. He wasn’t going to get cocky just yet…but god, would it be nice to knock Gaston down a few pegs. A bead of sweat was already beginning to form at his brow, so he used the sleeve of his sweatshirt to wipe it away before it could roll down the side of his face.
Gaston wasn’t expecting a return but when Hans sent the ball back to his side, he almost tripped over himself in confusion. The ball came whizzing towards his face and it was almost near the same velocity as which it was sent. “Maybe this princess isn’t as fragile as I thought” he mumbled to himself. “Great return Buddy" he grunted as the ball was sent back to his oppositions side. There was a creeping sense of doubt that stalked Gaston. Hans could be his beast. Hans could push him off his castle of glory and send him into the depths of despair like the beast did. With all the people who fall over themselves for Hans, Gaston’s minuscule reputation was sure to be reduced even more if he lost. There was just something about Hans that screamed rat but, there was no turning back. Maybe it was time Gaston learned a bit of humility, maybe it was time for hell to freeze over.
"Are you suggesting that I should forfeit?" He asked incredulously, he nearly laughed out loud. "Or perhaps you’ve finally realized exactly what you’ve gotten yourself into and now you’re attempting to find a way out before I win this match and wound your precious pride?" He inclined his head to one side and eyed his opponent, his gaze unwavering. He was no stranger to intimidation tactics and this clearly wasn’t going to work on him.
He hadn’t planned on trash talking, it just wasn’t good sportsmanship, but the onslaught of adrenaline and testosterone had him speaking without thinking. He gripped the tennis racket so firmly that it almost hurt. He’d always considered jogging an appropriate outlet for his pent up aggression, but maybe, just maybe, the way to get over being in a competition you were sure to lose, was to get into one you might actually have a chance at winning. Gaston didn’t have the advantage that his older brother’s did and it felt good to have the playing field be level for once. “Are you going to serve or not, Tiger?”
“No one serves like Gaston” he thought to himself. His opponent was quick and nimble like a small rabbit. It would take strategy to win this game. Brute force was his forte and yet this game may come down to stamina. If Hans were to catch on to his tactics, it would actually become a challenge. Gaston was certainly not lacking in the stamina area, he had chased many animals down on foot but Hans was slender and lean like gazelle and he has never hunted gazelle. He glanced down at the neon sphere, gripping it ever so carefully. It was nothing more than a rubber ball wrapped in fabric and yet, it would be the deciding factor between shame and victory.
"Tiger?" he smiled, "Cute". Gaston tossed the ball in the air. The round object went a bit higher than he realized. The idea of possible loss was starting to seep into mind. He must maintain his composure he thought. The racket whistled as it traveled through the dense air. Gaston felt his entire body tense up as the ball made contact with the tool. He eyes were wide and his feet were light. The ball left his side of the court with an incredible amount of speed. For a brief second, even he lost sight of the orb. His arms returned to a tennis ready position. "Hit that back, Princess" he muttered.