|City Mouse Country Mouse|
|Location||Oddball Coffee - Mutant Town, NYC|
|Summary||Carole and Nicodemus meet again, and this time everyone is wearing clothes.|
|Related Logs||2045-07-31 Streaker in the Park!!|
| Oddball Coffee sits on the edge of Mutant Town, near the northern 14th Street border, which may be why it's managed to keep its windows intact and its varied clientele happy. An eclectic, open-minded place, Oddball regularly showcases mutant artists and performers on its walls and on the tiny stage near the back. Framed photographs covering every spare inch of one brick wall show off wild feats that are only possible with mutation, and a few of their baristas make a show of using mutant powers in the making of their drinks.
It's made Oddball one of the few businesses which manages to appeal to both tourists and locals. The shop is nearly always busy, and it's not unusual for a stranger to request the empty chair at a full table.It is a summer day. The weather is warm and fair.
Carole is -- well, she's performing on that tiny stage in the back of the coffeehouse. She's on the raggedy end of performing, anyway, her guitar strums spaced farther apart, her voice softening. Bit of a melancholy strain to the denouement of her song, even though she seems to be singing about the tragedy of Jules's sandwich, fallen, oh, fallen on the floor, the dirty, dirty floor. She has a nice enough voice, and her guitar chords at least match the notes she's singing, but the afternoon coffee crowd is paying her only scattered mind, and she seems a bit distracted as she wraps up.
One more figure joins the crowd in for afternoon coffee. Nicodemus has clothes on this time, pants and shirt and even shoes. He tucks his hands into his pockets and he moves to the counter to place his order (small black coffee) and wait for it to be filled. His gaze slides around the room and comes to rest on the woman wrapping up a song on the little stage. He blinks a couple times in what must pass as surprise, when he realizes said singer is familiar and why.
Jules has retreated to the kitchen to make another sandwich and Carole's guitar and voice decrescendo down to nothing. She bows a little over the guitar, says a "thank you" to modest applause, then steps off the stage as another young lady with a guitar steps up to claim it. Carole's eyes lightly meet Nicodemus's from across the bar, her glance passes -- and then comes back again, steady. She smiles a bit and waves, approaching him and the counter.
Still waiting for his coffee, there's really nowhere to run. Instead, Nicodemus flushes faintly and ducks his head. "Uh, hey," he murmurs softly, more down to his shoes than over at Carole. "Again."
Carole does one her frank lookovers, her smile widening. "Look at you, all fit for public consumption!" she says brightly. "Your shoes are even tied!"
"I clean up nice," Nicodemus agrees quietly, collecting his coffee when it's set on the counter and looking around for a place to sit. "You're a musician."
Carole angles alongside Nicodemus. A couple of little tables are still empty, at least. "You sure do!" she says, with a quick laugh. Her guitar hangs loose from a strap over her shoulder. "And I'm not much of one. Nice to have a hobby, though."
Nicodemus smiles faintly as he drops into a seat. "Yes," he agrees for having a hobby, "it is."
Carole drops into the seat across from Nicodemus, her guitar lightly banging against her side. "So!" she says. "What's your hobby, besides turning up naked?"
"Um," Nicodemus murmurs, his fingers slowly rotating the coffee cup as he watches steam curl upwards from the surface and dissipate. "Camping. Kinda."
"I hope you don't count sleeping by a dumpster in Tompkins Park." Carole's hands steeple restless.
Nicodemus lifts one hand, wobbling it from side to side is a sort of 'mehhh, kinda' gesture. "Are all of your songs about Jules?"
"Arthur and Jules!" Carole's enthusiasm clearly spikes. "Haven't you seen it?" And she corrects/answers her own question. "No, you don't seem the, um, type. It's a soap opera. It's been running since I was a kid."
Nicodemus gives a shake of his head. "Arthur and Jules," he repeats. "No, never have. I guess it's about... what. Two people? And sandwiches?"
"It's, um, slice of life." Carole spreads her fingers wide. "Sometimes it's sandwiches. Sometimes, well, okay, so, Arthur's a mutant, and Jules isn't, so sometimes Arthur's mutation gets them into trouble." The fingers on her left hand twiddle. "You're a mutant, right? It is the town for it."
"Arthur's a mutant?" Nicodemus repeats, his brows lifting with sudden interest, though that expression shutters when Carole asks her rather more direct question. Instead of replying, he returns, "Are you?"
A flash of concern and/or wariness crosses Carole's face. Then she's clearing her throat, smiling again. "Oh, sure. It's not flashy or anything. You got a coin on you?"
"Um..." Nicodemus reaches into one pocket and then another, coming out with a quarter. He sets it on the table and looks to Carole.
Carole takes the quarter and spins it wobbly on her palm. It flops over. "Okay," she says. "Call it."
Nicodemus shrugs and offers, "Tails."
Carole flips the coin. It hits the table. Tails. She waits just long enough for Nicodemus to notice, then snatches up the quarter. "Call it again." Her voice has gone a little flat.
Nicodemus looks down at the coin and then back up at Carole. "Tails," he calls for a second time.
Carole flips the coin. It lands tails. "I can do that all day. Kinda pathetic, huh?" Her voice retains that hint of flat discomfort.
"Not really. Do you only affect coins?" Nicodemus asks, picking it up and turning it over as if it's suddenly been imbued with cosmic power.
"Um, no. Not exactly." Carole's fingers drum on the edge of the table. "I could make a buttered piece of bread fall the right side up. Small stuff," she hedges.
"So you... you can..." Nicodemus squints as he tries to find the right words, "you change probability? Chance?"
"Right. Little things," Carole keeps hedging. "Like don't expect much if you drag me to a casino, but I can sure slightly improve your changes at skip-bo." Another flicker up of her hands. Jazz hands. "But that's enough about my parlor trick, yeah?"
"Okay," Nicodemus replies, his nostrils flaring as inhales a short, sharp sniff. "That's neat. That's a neat thing you can do."
Carole shrugs. Pointedly, she gestures back-handed toward Nicodemus. "So . . . you?"
"Uh..." Nicodemus lifts a hand to scratch at his eyebrow with his thumb. He looks down at the coin in his other palm for a beat before he offers, softly, "Werewolf."
"Oh." Carole's eyebrows spike, her eyes widen. For a weird second, she looks almost ashamed. Then the throat clear, a return to the smile. "Oh, haha. So, that's why the-- naked. Sounds kind of fun, though."
"It's nice. Freeing," Nicodemus agrees. "Not real city friendly, though. Why're... why'd you..." he sets the coin down so he can gesture in Carole's direction. "That face you made."
"A lot of things aren't city friendly. Why are you--" Carole looks to start a barrage of questions again, but she stops. Her shrug is tiny and caught. "Oh, um." She scratches her elbow across herself. "I just-- you're sharp, huh. I just was downplaying my shit," the 'shit' has a touch of an accent, "and you're just all whoop, werewolf, like it's no big deal."
"You're a mutant, too," Nicodemus replies. "Why would you hurt me?"
"I wouldn't." Carole lays both hands flat and emphatic on the table. "Of course not, not ever. Not-- But not everyone's cool with everyone's powers, I guess?"
Nicodemus blinks, his brows furrowing and his head canting to the side, a bit like a dog who's heard something and doesn't know what to make of it. "What? Why?"
"It's just-- I don't know, ever met a telepath? I train-- I mean, I knew a couple really well, and I'm cool with them," Carole's smile swift-brights again, "but some people are just terrified of the idea of someone being able to read their mind. Does that make any sense?"
"Yes. One," Nicodemus replies, smiling softly. "Wait, no. Two. Humans are terrified," he agrees, "of all of us. And angry. And..." he shudders and looks down at his cooling coffee. "I didn't know we were like that to each other, too."
"We try -- not to be." Carole's hands relax on the table. "But we're still people, too. Some mutants look down on mutants who can't do a whole lot. Others get freaked out by dangerous powers same as humans do. We want to be a big community, but I admit I hide bits. Just in case." She blows out her breath. "Maybe you're from a gentler place."
Nicodemus's smile is soft and sad. "No," he replies quietly, "not really. Just not anywhere there were others. Or, at least, others I knew of. Except for..." he shakes his head. "I'm not really from anywhere. Guess I was just hoping."
"Oh. That sounds--" Carole's smile nearly winces, "nice. I mean." She spreads her hands wide. Active, active hands. "I like cities. I've always lived in cities. Like the bustle. But being alone sounds safer. Sometimes." She half shuts her eyes. "Did you come here because you were tired of it? The quiet?"
"It... it was. Much safer," Nicodemus agrees. "Just lonely, too. And I guess it was time. To learn how to be..." his hand lifts and falls to land softly on the table, "normal. Or, at least, less me."
"I don't know that you need to be less you. You seem pretty okay to me," Carole says with her readier, fuller smile, leaning over the table a fraction. "Sure, our first meeting was a little /unusual/, but not /that/ unusual."
"Heh," Nicodemus huffs softly. "Thanks." He smirks faintly as he asks, "then you've met people in even more unusual circumstances?"
"Yeah, I mean, I've been in New York City for seven years. You meet people in craters." Carole mimes scooping out the wood on the desk. "You meet people who're hamsters half the time. And I-- well, my powers. They facilitate meeting people in weird ways. I'm just used to it."
"Craters and..." Nicodemus huffs a soft laugh before he adds, "You're the second person to mention hamsters to me this week. Didn't think they'd show up so often in conversation."
Carole cups her hands around a nothing. "Well, they're sweet, fat little mice. I don't have room for pets, but if I /did/-- no, seriously," she half-segues, "turning into rodents or birds is super useful. Um. I'm sure wolves are, too. Even if they stand out more."
"Less likely to be eaten," Nicodemus agrees, "more likely to eat rodents or birds, though. Pretty sure none of them were other shifters. I mean, I hope not." His brows furrow at the thought, not previously considered. "I think we smell different. Or, anyway, I do."
"Goood to know. Think you're safe, though. If /I/ could turn into a mouse," Carole lays her hand on her chest, "I sure wouldn't do it in a field in Michigan, you know?"
"Assuming you had the choice," Nicodemus points out, nibbling lightly on the nail of his thumb. "I've hunted rats in the city, too. Only caught one the once, though."
"Sure. I'm just saying, running around as a rat would be weirder than running around as something as, um, charismatic," Carole hastens, "as a wolf. It'd be more of a utility thing." She seems to have quite missed the point of his 'choice' comment.
"Charismatic," Nicodemus repeats, and then there's another soft "heh." He blinks slowly before asking, "What's your name?"
"Wow, we didn't even cover that." Carole's hand is back to drumming, her smile flashes sharp. "Carole Dembele. What's yours?"
"Nicodemus," he so named replies. "Um. Barns. Nicodemus Barns. Nice to meet you."
Carole stills her hand long enough to reach across the table. "Well, great to meet you, too."
Nicodemus looks down at the offered hand before resting his own in Carole's. "Do you live in Mutant Town?"
Carole shakes once, twice, then releases. "Yep," she says. "Hard to afford anywhere else. I, uh, trained at Xavier's School, but I'm a bit old for that now."
"I've heard about it," Nicodemus replies, "never seen it, though, or met anyone who'd gone. Did you like it?"
"Oh sure," Carole casuals. "It's great if you want company, um, being a mutant. Great for learning not to get too crazy with your powers. I don't know that it's for everyone." Carole grimaces slightly. "Even if we weren't all getting our DNA checked anyway, it kind of marks you."
"I guess it's moot, now," Nicodemus agrees. "We'll all be marked by the end of the year. Well, almost all. Did it hold you back?"
"I'm not really a college girl anyway." Carole thumps her guitar. "And it's -- it was a fair trade off. My powers are a little less easy than I implied. I had to go to get a handle on myself." She nods in Nicodemus's direction. "I can see where self-teaching'd be just fine for plenty of people."
"Sometimes there isn't a choice," Nicodemus replies with a return shrug. "I guess I'm lucky, my mutation just affects me. Makes it easier to manage, probably."
Carole laughs a bit. "No, there isn't always a choice. I didn't actually get to /not/ go, but my dad going forever ago made it a lot easier to get in." Two beats. Carole watches Nicodemus closer. "You like your mutation?"
"I..." Nicodemus frowns faintly, looking down, once more, at his now tepid coffee. "I don't know how to answer that. It's probably the best and worst thing about me."
Carole's expression sobers hard. "I get that," she says, quieter. "Is it just that it's hard being -- different?"
"I don't know. I mean, that's a lot of it," Nicodemus replies. "I got arrested, kind've," he adds with a weak laugh. "I have to go to court."
"What, seriously?" Carole's brow crinkles. "What'd you do?"
"Be a wolf," Nicodemus replies. "I went to animal control, once. They freaked out when I changed into a person. I guess the second time, they called the mutant police. I woke up in a holding cell and got charged with, uh..." he squints... "'disorderly conduct'."
"In Mutant Town?" Carole's attention and attitude immediately heighten - toward indignation. "That's crazy! They can't pull you in for being who you are. That's not fair at all. This should be-- /you/ should be business as usual."
"I don't know where I was," Nicodemus replies quietly. "I don't pay attention to things like street signs when I'm wolf. It could have been anywhere, I dunno."
"It's still stupid," Carole says, all cranky. "Even outside Mutant Town. We shouldn't have to-- to /ghetto/ ourselves to make other people comfortable."
Nicodemus arches a brow and simply blinks at Carole. Really, does anything actually need to be said?
Carole sits back. She settles. Her laugh is embarrassed. "I guess that was dumb," she says. "I kinda lied to you about my own powers so you wouldn't-- I don't like it, though. I really don't." She scratches the back of her hand. "I mean, you don't hurt anyone as a wolf, right?"
"Not usually," Nicodemus replies, "not unless I'm cornered. I don't, like, hunt people. Just rats. And chickens. Other animals, when I wasn't in the city. What's so bad about your power, then?"
"I don't see why it's a big deal, then. There's coyotes around, too-- although I guess people freak out about those, too." Carole sighs, and interlinks her hands. She stares down at them. "My power's okay, I guess. I'm a precog, too, which is only useful if I'm in danger. Or simulated danger. Otherwise it's just--" Another little shrug. "The probability's fine as long as I don't try to do anything big. I'm very controlled now, you see," she's speaking softer. "But I really can't try to do anything big. Just gets out of control. That's all."
"I guess it's like that saying about a butterfly flapping its wings," Nicodemus supposes. "If you change something too big, it must change a lot of other things besides what you intended. That's a lot to carry around, knowing that about yourself."
"That's exactly it. But now I know how to not go crazy with it, it's not a big deal." Carole's smile has returned. "I do think it's unfair you're more likely to get into trouble than me, though. Is, um. You have a choice about becoming a wolf?"
"Sort've," Nicodemus replies. "Sometimes, if I'm hurt or upset, I'll just change. And if I've been a wolf for a while, I kind've... get lost in it, so changing back can be, uh, less predictable. But, in theory anyway, I can go back and forth by choice."
"Oh." Carole's hands respread over the table. Again again. "So you didn't get a chance to spend a lot of time controlling it. It's hard to do alone." She sounds neutral, uncertain.
"I'm better than I was," Nicodemus replies, "and I travelled for a long while, it mattered less, then."
"Cool. So you're just transitioning to not traveling so much." Carole coughs. "I mean, far as I'm concerned, if you're happy wolfing, go for it, but you seem awfully nice as a guy, too."
"Sure," Nicodemus agrees with a small smile, "let's go with that." He huffs a quiet breath, giving up on the coffee and gently nudging it away. "Thanks, I think. You, uh, seem nice as a girl."
"Oh, you don't know me yet." Carole's grin resurfaces all wide, and she stirs to her feet. "But we should meet up some more! You live around here? Er, anywhere?"
Nicodemus nods. "Yeah. Few blocks from here. Avenue B."
Carole brightens even a little further. "Hey, me too. Kind of a flophouse situation, really. Makes it cheaper."
"Then I guess we will meet up, some more," Nicodemus agrees with a faint smile.
"Maybe even in a hallway! I gotta get gone for now," Carole flickers a preemptive wave, "but I'll see you soon. Stay safe! And legal, I guess." She starts edging toward the door."Yeah," Nicodemus replies with his quiet laugh. "You, too. Bye." He lifts a hand in a wave to the departing Carole before looking over to the stage to watch whoever's playing on it, now.