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Allo ('Allo)

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His name is René Artois, third in an infamous line of them, from his great-uncle René to his uncle René, all the way to him, and though the first René came late to the craft, he ended his days pulling basting threads instead of pints.

There is, he will own, something comforting in this short tradition, unassuming brown-haired Frenchmen with facial hair operating fine tailor shops in the heart of New York City, catering to the few, the proud, the wealthy with something approaching taste. Not for nothing did René the Second, dear Uncle, refuse to serve "that orange gasbag", which is probably the most polite thing he has ever said about the current Commander-in-Chief.

René the Present came over from Nouvion just as soon as he could toddle. Uncle could always afford to educate him at home, so as not to interrupt his study of cloth and how it fell together around different forms. It was never a lonely existence; René had his nights on the town, often using exquisitely forged identification from a client who later went on to inherit some fine suits that just needed a little bit of tweaking.

Eventually, that client introduced him to an upstanding citizen whose tastes put Uncle to bed with a migraine. Hell of a first solo run, he thought at the time.

Other men have come and gone, some more powerful than others. Lawyers figure heavily in the Artois ledgers. René can track their rise and fall in the orders they've placed over the years. Harvey -- a steady ascent, a solid career, going absolutely nowhere once he reached the top. Ross, a first name? A last? Something tragic befell him, then something magnificent came to sweep it all away for a little while. Lately the two names have been appearing together again, as they did for the span of... about a year, if the ledgers are correct, sometime in the twenty-teens.

Rafael. There's nobody quite like Rafael, especially not his lanky protégé. They also come in pairs, now, though not as often as in Rafael's glory days. Oh, yes, René followed his career, once he realized who he was. What sorrow, to have lost his way so spectacularly. If not for an unexpected opportunity in civil practice (one learns one's bit of legalese) he might have been doomed to wear the same suits until his dying day.

As it is, he's got himself a perfect giraffe of a partner. René cannot and will not say just which sense of the word Uncle means when they're gossiping. Neither sense would do them justice. Between them, they manage to retrieve a treasure trove in damages for the true victims of New York's worst, and some of her finest, too.

They may or may not be the ones responsible for Sterling, who insists on custom everything. A good customer, to be sure, but not a comfortable one. Ray, who works with him, has privately confirmed he's as much of a fils de pute on the job as he is between the mirrors. Now there's a treasure of a man, Ray, with his tasteful moustache and easy Southern charm. His cousin is... Amanda, yes, who is friends with Rafa's jirafa. From time to time René sees them all in the same park, Rafael and Sonny -- what a name! -- put a cluster of children through their paces, giving Ray and the ladies a chance to catch up. It doesn't seem to matter whose children are whose, in much the same way that Uncle doesn't care that René is not his son. Families find each other.

René prefers that eventually they find their way to Atelier Allo. He may be a touch biased on that account. After all, he's waiting for his sister to produce René the Fourth; he wants to have a business to hand down by the time he retires, though that should, God bless it, be many years in the offing.

Perhaps one of those years, a client will turn out to be more than just a client, a steady man with a steady job doing something utterly boring. No belts around necks, no gunshot wounds, no repeated visits to the mad scientist for upgrades to his hardware, just a nice young thing with a taste for subtle plaids. A boy can dream. A boy can always dream. While he's repairing the most interesting rips and tears, of course.

Until that day, like his uncle and his great-uncle before him, he stands ready and waiting to serve, muscles tensed for the chime above the door --

"'Allo?"