Beautiful People [Friends]: Literal Partners in Crime

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Beautiful People has returned to the blog! If you don't recall, this is the monthly linkup where writers get to talk about their characters. It's hosted as always by the incomparable Cait and Sky. Unfortunately, I missed it last month, but this month is Friendship Edition. (I'm going to be quoting Figment/Wattpad commenters all over the place because I can.) Cool, don't you think? Which means...
This month, I'm featuring best friends Finnegan Lyle and Renton Fuller, from the ever-present novel-in-progress On the Midnight Streets. They do highly illegal things together and love to snark all over the place. A short rundown:

Finnegan Lyle (usually called Finn) aka the hat boy aka the Midnight Hatter aka James: You can probably tell that Finn is a boy of many faces. His past is inextricably linked to that of protagonist Chantilly and also that of Resident Dork Charles, making for some very awkward character dynamics. (Actually Finn, Charles, and Chantilly are all dorks. Don't tell them I told you that.) He's eighteen years old and an incorrigible hat-wearer. He's what people in Peralton (the city the book is set in) call a 'thief lord', and the most notorious + successful one in the city at that. Additionally, he's basically the leader of a brewing revolution. Why? Because there are people who break the law, and then there are overachievers who break the law. A description from my always-on-point friend Alyssa (at this point you don't even really need the link to her blog but I GAVE IT TO YOU) (this is from a Figment comment):
[...] when he [Finn] was set up in the previous chapters, he's this cool-as-cucumber character and here he's a hilarious, colloquial mess of emotions [...] pretty phenomenal.
I also have a (slightly spoilery, make sure you're caught up on Figment/Wattpad; also, warning for language) description of Finn from my friend Sophia:

Renton Fuller aka Chauncey: Renton is kind of like Finn's criminal right hand. He's pretty much second-in-command when it comes to their thieving ring, and he's also a brilliant smuggler. He was kind of a no-name Lower City boy with no shelter or way to make a living until he met Finn, so he's very grateful to Finn for that. (He and Finn are actually friends because they met when Finn first came to the Lower City and they started looking out for each other—because Renton didn't have any power and Finn didn't have any street smarts.)

Renton descriptions from Alyssa:
[...] Renton is still awesome (have I mentioned I enjoy his snark? I have, haven't I?).
Renton's dark humor is perfectly on spot and I love love love his characterisation. 

How long have they known each other, and how close are they?

They've actually only known each other for three years—since they were both around fifteen—but they can no longer really remember a time when they weren't looking out for each other. Since they more or less live with each other, Finn and Renton are incredibly close—they have inside jokes with each other, have the same arguments over and over until the arguments themselves become inside jokes, and tell each other things they wouldn't dream of telling anyone else. Their bond is one that's been forged over the course of many run-ins with many very dangerous people and places in the city, along with grudging cooperation that eventually evolved into a steel-boned trust, and it's not one that'll easily be fractured. They're both very aware that the kind of friendship they have is a rarity in a place as cutthroat as the Lower City, and they're grateful for it and each other. 

What’s their earliest memory of being best friends?

Finn and Renton met when Finn almost got himself murdered on his third day in the Lower City and Renton happened to be by—Renton saved Finn's life, and from then on they stuck by each other. Renton taught Finn to fight, and Finn learned scarily fast, so it quickly became a mutually beneficial relationship. Although true 'best friends' status definitely came later, that's where it all started. And it hasn't shown any sign of ending since. 

Do they fight? How long do they typically fight for?

Oh yes, they fight. They clash a lot, but they've never been able to stay angry at each other for too long. Usually they've made up within two days, and in extreme cases, within a week. The reason for that is twofold: a) arguing too much when they're pretty much heading up the top criminal operation in the city creates instability that others can exploit, and b) they realize the importance of their friendship and they're not ever going to let a trivial disagreement jeopardize that friendship.

The things they usually argue over are more or less consistent. The biggest one is Finn's persuasion methods—Renton thinks Finn could afford to get his hands dirty, use force, but Finn doesn't want to. He can't be a ~nice~ person if he wants to keep the power that he has, yes, but the thought of going overboard with violence or bloodshed is honestly kind of sickening to him. Renton thinks that Finn's merciful streak may end up getting him killed. This excerpt from OtMS, from Finn's PoV, says it best (cuts and brackets added):
My methods, I know, aren’t traditional for this part of Peralton—Stiefvin [another thief/good friend of Finn's] says it’s my Middle City upbringing in its death throes—but I have to believe there are better ways [...] We should deserve to be helped before anyone helps us.

Are their personalities similar or do they complement each other?

On the surface, they're very similar; typically, Finn and Renton both exude a deadly, devil-may-care kind of confidence that comes in handy in a surprising variety of situations. They also share a near-caustic sense of humor, which they use liberally and to great effect. Even their street fighting styles complement each other, especially since they've worked together so often. Their external personalities and certain parts of their inner ones are so similar that they've become attuned to each other's movements. 

But when something really strikes Finn to the core and rattles his nigh-unshakeable composure, or when Finn's around certain people who confuse or fluster him (*screams* CHANTILLY, the protagonist), it's possible to see where his and Renton's characters diverge. By nature, Renton is much more flamboyant—his soul just has a flair for the dramatic, and he's very extroverted. He's larger than life, if you will. In contrast, Finn is actually naturally inclined to be an introvert: much more reserved and soft-spoken, with a mess of internal emotions to sort through. In those instances (though they're a rare thing, mind you), when Finn's walls have been broken down, Renton tends to take the helm a bit, steering conversations with his sly wit and infuriating flirting habit.

In short: Renton's panache is simply who he is, while Finn's is a front he's developed in order to hide what a sensitive, awkward, nice dork he is (because being a sensitive, awkward, nice dork is a very quick way to get robbed and murdered in the Lower City). The lovely Adelyn said it best in a Wattpad comment:
I like James' [Finn's] reserved nature and how it complements Chauncey's [Renton's] bravado.

Who is the leader of their friendship (if anyone)?

It's probably safest to say that Finn is the leader, since he runs their crime ring and is the Midnight Hatter. Yes, I know what you're thinking—odd as it might sound after reading my answer to the previous question, Finn (and not Renton) is actually the notoriously flashy thief lord known as the 'scourge of the city'. Besides, although Renton has a much stronger natural presence than Finn and is much more bold, he almost always defers to Finn because he knows that Finn has a better mind for strategizing and adapting and picking up new skills. Finn's also much better at reading people and dealing with them effectively, as well as cultivating his external image to make himself seem like the picture of lethal, snarky condescension. While it doesn't fit his natural personality at all, Finn's grown into an unflappable thief lord, handling both allies and enemies with ease. Renton's content to let his friend take the lead because he knows that he's in thoroughly capable hands. Most of the time, anyway, except for when Finn is being the dorky teenager that he is.

Also, don't tell either of them, but Finn would likely end up on top if he and Renton were ever to come to blows.

Do they have any secrets from each other?

To oversimplify things: yes. Unfortunately. They confide in each other a lot, but there are still things they don't talk about. I think just about every character in OtMS has a thing or two they don't talk about, to be honest.

Renton's secret from Finn: he's attracted to boys and not a soul has ever known but his late mother. This is for safety reasons mostly—the Mendlands overall is a horribly bigoted, backward kingdom that's strongly prejudiced against LGBTQIA+ individuals, and according to the deplorable laws there, same-sex relationships are capital crimes. (Which is part of why the government needs to be enthusiastically defenestrated.) Renton is also nervous about telling Finn about his sexuality because he's not sure how Finn will react; they've never really talked about anything remotely related to the subject. 

Finn's secret from Renton: there are a few. I think Finn has kept at least two big secrets from every person he's ever known. 

First, Finn's never told Renton about Chantilly. Those of you reading OtMS will be aware that Finn and Chantilly have actually known each other for around eight years, but in all that time, Finn's never told Renton about his Middle City bookshop friend. He's kept Chantilly a secret because he's felt obligated to keep her out of his life as a criminal in order to keep her out of danger (OtMS readers will be aware of exactly how badly that backfired on him, haha). It feels odd, yes, because Finn and Chantilly were almost as close as Renton and Finn are currently. But Renton still doesn't know about Finn's friendship with the strawberry-haired bookshop girl.  

Also, Finn hasn't ever told Renton the real reason that he came to the Lower City. (Finn is actually from the Middle City by birth.) It has something to do with a bit of backstory I mentioned in my last Beautiful People post about Charles Mareil and his family (brackets and emphasis added):
A few months later, though, his [Charles's] father decided it'd be advantageous to make it look like Talia [Charles's illegitimate half-sister] was a ward of the family, and she came to live with them. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), Charles's time with her was abruptly cut off by a... certain incident that forced the family to send her away again.

// can't say more because important backstory spoilers

// hint: may have to do with a certain hat-wearing rapscallion
I won't say more than that because yes, it's still a SPOILER (but you probably won't find out the truth until at least the planned sequel to OtMS).

How well do they know each other’s quirks and habits?

Again, they do more or less live together, so they know each other's quirks/habits a little too well, if anything. Renton knows that Finn likes to have things organized, so his room is always neat and rather utilitarian. Renton also knows that Finn's first love is books—Finn's always reading, especially novels and history books. Actually, Finn knows just about all there is to know about the Laceblade Uprising, the revolution that established the Mendlands. One of the Mendlands' first queens, Rosalind, is basically his hero. Renton's very aware of all this, as well as Finn's other habits. Finn knows that Renton really enjoys working with his hands: mending old machines, making knickknacks to give to people, even knitting. Renton doesn't show this a lot to people he doesn't know well, and he doesn't exactly put his other quirks on display, either. So Finn and Renton are in a very interesting position in regards to each other—each knows a lot of fascinating, startling, and sometimes embarrassing things about the other.

What kind of things do they like to do together?

Obviously, they like committing crimes together. (I mean, they've kind of made a career out of it.) They try not to get into fights when it's not necessary, but when they are forced into combat, they love fighting as a team. They're secure in the knowledge that they're looking out for each other to whatever end, and they move together almost seamlessly. They also like eating cake together—their personalities, as well as the hardships they've gone through, have left them with a deep appreciation of food. And another not-yet-introduced member of their crime ring, Esmeralda, bakes mind-blowing cakes when she can get her hands on the ingredients. So of course that makes eating cake together a Very Fun Thing Indeed.

(Also, being able to bake cake as well as Esmeralda is on Finn's list of #lifegoals. He's vowed that he will someday learn to bake like a pro. He hasn't made much progress, being a wanted criminal and all, but make no mistake, he's bent on doing it.)

But hmm, what about normal-person hobby things they do together?

Yeah, no, sorry. They don't really have normal-person hobbies. (Actually Finn loves to read, but he doesn't have as much time to find books anymore.)

Describe each character’s fashion style (use pictures if you’d like!) How are their styles different/similar?

Truth be told, Renton has impeccable fashion sense, whereas Finn isn't naturally inclined to give much thought to his appearance in general. Finn does realize the importance of style in making an impression on people, though. He prefers to just let Renton guide him when it comes to picking things to wear—when they can afford to pick, that is. Living in the Lower City, as well as not having a lot of money to spend, doesn't exactly give them a breathtaking range of clothing options.

So they do end up having similar styles. While in the Lower City, they ensure that they're dressed simply enough not to draw attention and that's good enough for them, but here's what they'd wear if they could choose whatever they liked. (And by that I mean if Renton could choose because honestly, Finn doesn't know a thing about fashion. Except hats. Finn has a weird thing for hats.)
ignore the face (neither of them would ever grow a mustache), but you get the general idea / [via]

How would their lives be different without each other?

They'd have such drastically different lives without each other that it doesn't even bear imagining. In fact, now that I think about it, they'd both most likely be dead. They're invaluable in keeping each other safe from the threats that run amok in the Lower City. They've saved each other's lives too many times to count. But even if they managed to survive separately without their friendship, Finn would probably still lack a source of comfort and grounding in his times of need, especially when his composure is shaken in front of others. Renton, meanwhile, would probably be rudderless without someone to talk to him or guide him. They'd be much lonelier and much more prone to fatal mistakes.

They're incredibly fortunate to have met each other, really.

So that's all! What do you think of these two? Did I overuse my parentheticals (yes, I did—look, I'm doing it again)? Did you link up with Beautiful People? Let's talk in the comments!

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