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2045-09-13 All That Sugar

From X-Factor

All That Sugar
Date Posted 2015/09/13
Location Oddball Coffee - Mutant Town, NYC
Participants Orianne, Jeremy
Summary Jeremy shares whipped cream secrets.
 
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 hot and drizzling.


What a difference a few days can make; instead of heading home bleeding and mugged, Anne's heading into the coffee shop with cash in her pocket and a smile. Her hair's a little mussed and her cheeks windburned, but a good run can brighten any traceur's spirits. It's nice to feel self-sufficient, instead of like a victim waiting to happen. And of course, such days call for celebration. This is why the dark-skinned young Ivorian makes her way over to the counter to order something far too sugary, in an accent that suggests she's not from around here.


A few feet away, waiting at the pickup counter, there is a tallish but slouchy longish-haired man half-watching a news feed on his Eyes and half paying attention to the world around him. He's wearing a faded T-shirt over jeans with a few spots of rainwater drying across the shoulders, and a pair of sunglasses have been propped in his hair like goggles, or a headband. Nothing about the ensemble suggests aspiring entrepeneur. One of his sneakers is untied. "They'll do an extra sauce drizzle on the whip if you get double whip," is his entrez to conversation. Jeremy is a mature adult in his drink ordering practices.


"Oh! I'll have to remember that for next time." The young woman -- she can't be more than in her early 20s at most -- turns from the counter to smile at Jeremy. His general attire doesn't seem to raise an eyebrow, save for the untied shoelace; she glances down at it for a moment longer than might be polite. But she says nothing, perhaps deciding it would be impolite. "I'm still learning all the drinks. Every coffee shop that isn't a chain has its own selection."


Too recent an ex-patriate from teaching high school to think much particularly about how weird it is to talk to random girls half his age in public, Jeremy opens a hand. "This is a pretty good one if you like it sweet. They also do weekly specials with silly names, if you're into that. Helps you get to know the menu. New in the area?"


"Yes. To both New York, and this part of the world," Orianne replies, as she moves to the waiting area of the counter. Have to keep traffic moving, after all. "I'm staying with my sister for a bit. It's... different than back home. This coffeeshop feels a little more familiar." Clearly, she's from an area where mutants aren't quite such persona non-grata.


"Boomer," is the name that Jeremy answers to when he picks up his drink, which, true to his advice, appears to be smothered in a ridiculous amount of whipped cream with a drizzle of chocolate sauce over it.


"Aw man," Jeremy says, "should've asked for a curly straw." He sucks through his red straw instead, taking a step back. "Where you from?"


"Abidjan," Orianne replies. As if belated realizing that's not necessarily going to help an American, she adds, "Republique de Cote d'Ivoire." The call out for 'Boomer' causes her eyebrows to raise, and she asks, "Nickname?" When her drink arrives shortly thereafter -- the whipped cream has sprinkles, but lacks the drizzle of extra syrup -- she's addressed only as 'Anne'.


"You could say that." Jeremy uses his straw to eat a glob of whipped cream and then sucks a little that escaped off his fingertip. Totally a mature adult. Slipping to the nearest unoccupied table he flops down at one of the chairs, looking up at her with upswept eyebrows as he smiles. "So, welcome to New York. You and your sister here in Mutant Town?"


"My sister's apartment is here, yeah; she works with a group in the area." Orianne considers this for a moment, but if there's anywhere safe to show her hand, it would be a coffeeshop like this one. A second copy of herself appears next to her, seemingly out of thin air. Fishing a couple of dollars from her pocket, Anne hands them to her duplicate, who walks off to put them in the tip jar before vanishing. Anne, meanwhile, takes a sip of her sugar-laden coffee-like drink, and raises her eyebrows as if to underscore the little demonstration. There's a reason she's here too, more than just visiting her sister.


"Yeah, uh, I'd show you mine, but it's not very subtle. We were just talking about the nickname, right?" Jeremy's smile is wide and bright before it fades again. He draws a long suck of the drink through his straw, and then leans forward. "I used to know a guy with a mutation kinda like that, but mostly you had to hit him."


The explanation of the 'nickname' earns a grin in answer. But then Orianne pauses, before admitting, "I think I might know who you mean." Then she shakes her head. "But my power's not quite like that; I can make the puppets look like almost anything, but they're not autonomous. I have to control them myself."


"If we're talking about the same guy, I'm pretty sure he'd've /loved/ to exert some control over some of it," Jeremy says with a distant look in his expression, staring briefly at the wall or, more likely, at something in the distant past that he'll never unsee. Smearing a hand over his face, he looks back toward her with a slightly quizzical expression. "You planning on going to school? Or work? Something?"

"But if he could've, I wouldn't be here," Orianne replies, as if Madrox has something to do with why she's in town. She doesn't elaborate on that, however, choosing to answer Boomer's question instead, gesturing with her drink as she does so. "I don't know yet. I decided I should see more of the world before I thought about college or something. I thought I'd come and see what New York was like, maybe learn something new."


Though there's a faint pinch between his brows that lingers for a moment as he considers that, Jeremy doesn't push on the subject of Madrox. Looking to the future rather than the past, he smiles, and toasts her with his ridiculously sugary iced coffee beverage. "Well, better be careful out there if you're exploring the world," he says. "Round here you're likely to be okay, but parts of this city can be pretty bad for people like us, especially since ... well." He breaks off and shakes his head. "Gets worse, year by year, seems like."


"Even this one can be bad," Orianne admits, perhaps a little sourly. "I got mugged the other day by three kids with powers." She shakes her head, finishing a bit more of the drink. "But I know there's lots of New York that's nice, too, so I'm not going to let it get me down." Even if she's drinking her drink /in/ the coffeeshop today, instead of near the park.


"Aw, man. There's not--" Jeremy looks pained, and scruffs a hand back through the fluff of his hair. "Xavier's used to keep an eye out for that kind of stuff, try and help them, but even when we were active, that kind of stuff could happen. Now ... well, there's no X-Men anymore, and Mutant Affairs is just basically oppression these days. When I was a kid it wasn't so bad." He sets his cup down and scrubs at the heel of his hand with the pad of his thumb. "Where were you at? Here in Mutant Town?"


"Yeah, right outside the park." Orianne says this almost distractedly, seizing on something else in Jeremy's comment. "You were at Xavier's? My sister went there, that's why she was around here instead of Abidjan. I didn't, though."


"Sure. Up until the State bought it and turned it into a kind of sad orphanage I was a teacher there." Jeremy scratches blunted nails along the line of his jaw, looking a little hangdog and sad. "I wonder if we could like ... do a walk home service. When I was at school there were people who would walk girls home on campus wearing special coats to show they weren't rapist jerks. Like ... cheap rental bodyguards ... ounce of prevention? No?" He slumps back in the chair. "Of course, we'd have to prove we weren't mutant jerks, and I don't know how you'd price that one. Also, it sounds like a literal mutant escort service and I don't think I'd want to go there, would you? No."


"I think it would turn bad pretty quickly," Orianne agrees, a little sadly, as she toys with her increasingly-empty coffee cup. "Not just the perception, but... people could abuse it. Pretend to need a walk home, have their big thug friends waiting to beat you up along the route, so they can have mutants come to /them/ to get beaten up."


Jeremy's smile changes in a flicker of something a little warm, a little dry, contrasted with the bright effervescence of so many of his smiles. "Somebody might try that /once/," he says. And then: "That's why you work as a team."


"That sounds nice. Having a team, I mean. From everything Carole said." Orianne pauses, and then laughs a little ruefully. "Then again, other than being mugged, I haven't really gotten in a lot of fights to start with."


"I've been in ... a few," Jeremy says. "I don't look it, but I'm scrappy." He eats a mouthful of melting whipped cream and somehow contrives to get a little of it on his nose.


"With a nickname like Boomer, I figure you'd have to be," Orianne answers. Then she covers her mouth, trying not to laugh at the whipped cream on the former teacher's nose. "You've got..." She gestures, a little bit.


"Oh, shit," Jeremy says. He smears it off on the back of his hand and then steals a napkin from the table to use and then crumple up. Crinkling his nose, he smiles again, and says, "Getting mugged sounds pretty scary. Look, I realize this is a kind of weird thing to say to somebody I just met. You can blame Xavier's for it, sorry. But if you ever want walked someplace. I can kick you my contact information. I live in the neighborhood and I'm a really good deterrent for violence."


"Well, I won't say no; it might be useful. And Carole -- my sister -- has said she'll help, too." Orianne shakes her head. "But I do think I need to learn to watch out for myself if I'm staying here at all."


Jeremy taps a fingertip to his temple, keying up a digital card's worth of contact for himself, which is not currently on a business card because he hasn't quite figured out what his business is going to look like yet. He turns it out in offer, saying, "Probably not a bad call."


Orianne doesn't send back a business card, per se; just a mail address, nothing more. Perhaps she doesn't even really have a permanent stateside phone yet. But at least now Jeremy has her name. "On that note... is there anywhere around here that teaches good self-defense courses?"


"I-- don't know." Jeremy looks quizzical, and then offers an apologetic shade of smile. "I'm sure there's someplace, but it's not really my area. Wouldn't know where to look."


"Oh." Orianne sounds a little disappointed, but shrugs it off. "Well, Carole's said she'll help teach me. Maybe that's enough."


"Sorry." Jeremy slurps more of his coffee and hooks his knee against the edge of the table, leaning back in his chair. "I taught drama, not self-defense."


Orianne seems momentarily bemused by this admission. "Carole said it was a normal school, too. But it always seemed like it must be more exciting than my school somehow. Like, instead of algebra homework, it was 'intermediate world-saving' or 'power control in stressful situations' or something."


"Power control yes. World saving, no. I mean, I guess there's some overlap. If my powers ran amok, it wouldn't help the world any." Jeremy sights down the line of a finger gun at nothing in particular, making a bang gesture that ... doesn't appear to do a damn thing, before dropping his hand. "And there was plenty of algebra homework. Professor Xavier's educational standards had me pretty well prepped for college. We even had Latin, and I had an Economics course, which I don't think anyone else in high school I knew did."


"Man. Even without the power stuff, it sounds like it was better than my school," Orianne admits. She goes to take another sip of her drink, and discovers the cup is well and truly empty now. Sadness.


"It was a pretty good experience, when I went," Jeremy says. "Lot of water under the bridge since I was a student, obviously." He scrapes some of the chocolate and whipped cream leavings from the side of his cup with the straw and licks it. "Of course there was the problem of getting /into/ a college with a diploma from a mutant school, and I think a lot of my kids are feeling that one."


"Ugh. College." Orianne says this with the full force of feeling of a teenager who is between secondary school and higher education, and somewhat disgusted by the entire process.


"Aw, best time of your life once you get there," says Jeremy, in the voice of ten million other adults who also don't want to be back in the real world.


Orianne makes a face best described as 'skeptical'. "Really?"


"You never heard that before?" Jeremy widens his eyes at her. "I mean if you feel like you want to see the world first, by all means. But I wouldn't give it a pass. Unless you come up with something way more awesome to do."


"But I feel like I've been in school my /whole life/," Orianne laments, proving she is still very much a teenager.


"Yeah." Jeremy laughs. "So was I, and I was out, and then I was out /again/, and then I ended up going back again. I mean, other side of the desk." He rubs his cheek. "Now I'm just working on figuring out the ... part that comes next. I think I was supposed to have gotten it worked out like twenty years ago, too."


"This conversation is not encouraging me about adult life," Orianne remarks, a little wryly.


"Don't worry. I'm going somewhere fast." Jeremy gives her a thumbs up, and then swipes his cup from the table en route to standing up.


"Well, I hope you enjoy it when you get there, Boomer," Orianne answers, moving to stand herself. "And thanks for the talk."


"Good luck out there, kiddo," Jeremy says, further dating himself by addressing her as 'kiddo' rather than using her real name, which she totally gave him. He smiles, puts the cup in the appropriate recycling receptacle, and heads off toward the door and the street

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