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Revision as of 00:27, 14 June 2019

Dramatis Personae

Dusk, Marinov, Shane, Ted


"How about 'Creating a home for people who need one'?"


<NYC> Evolve Cafe - Lower East Side

Spacious and open, this coffeeshop has a somewhat industrial feel to it, grey resin floors below and exposed-beam ceilings that have been painted up in a dancing swirl of abstract whorls and starbursts, a riot of colour splashed against a white background. The walls alternate between brick and cheerfully lime-green painted wood that extends to the paneling beneath the brushed-steel countertops. There's an abundance of light, though rather than windows (which are scarce) it comes from plentiful hanging steel lamps. The walls here are home to artwork available for sale; though the roster of prints and paintings and drawings and photographs changes on a regular basis it has one thing in common -- all the artists displayed are mutants.

The seating spaced around the room is spread out enough to keep the room from feeling cluttered. Black chairs, square black tables that mostly seat two or four though they're frequently pushed around and rearranged to make space for larger parties. In the back corner of the room is more comfortable seating, a few large black-corduroy sofas and armchairs with wide tables between them. There's a shelf of card and board games back here available for customers to sit and play.

The chalkboard menus hanging behind the counter change frequently, always home to a wide variety of drinks (with an impressive roster of fair-trade coffees and teas largely featured) though their sandwiches and wraps and soups and snacks of the day change often. An often-changing variety of baked goods sit behind the display case at the counter halfway back in the room, and the opposite side of the counter holds a small selection of homemade ice creams. A pair of single-user bathrooms flanks the stairway in back of the cafe; at night, the thump of music can be heard from above, coming from the adjoining nightclub of the same name that sits up the stairs above the coffeehouse.

With the sun shining and warm, a pleasant breeze, an overall beautiful evening, there are actually tables set out on Evolve's tiny and little used front patio, today. Despite the weather, not many of their clientèle are taking advantage of these tables -- very possibly one too many bricks thrown at windows from passing bigots, shooting threats, slur-filled graffiti incidents, has left many of the customers muuuch preferring the security of inside walls and and vigilant staff and a lesser risk of gawking or passing hecklers.

Still, one of the tables is occupied! Only one, right now; one tiny and neatly-dressed blue youth is leaning forward over the table, frowning at a laptop there. Shane's pale vest and slacks are sharply tailored, his dress shirt crisply pressed, his tie tied in an impeccable trinity knot. The much taller slender young man beside him wears his black hair currently tied back in a short stub of ponytail; his own mandarin-collared blue and silver tunic just as well-crafted as Shane's clothes.

"I just don't think it would be feasible -- not to the end of summer, at minimum." The taller man is amending something in QuickBooks, sliding the laptop back nearer himself.

Shane slumps back in his chair, reaches for the large glass that stands near to hand. Sadly, his iced coffee is EMPTY. The glass gets a small scowl for its insubordination. "I don't suppose we could --"

"We've trimmed that as much as we can already." Daiki shuts the laptop, hands folding neatly atop it. "There's always another fundraiser."

Shane's claws click, restless-rapid, against the glass.

Never fear, help is incoming! In the form of a fresh glass of coffee, that is. Dusk has an iced mocha in one hand and something else piled high with whipped cream and drizzled with raspberry sauce in the other. Today's a day for dessert coffee, it seems. He sets the mocha in front of Shane and hoists himself up to sit on the top bar of the low railing that surrounds the patio.

Dressed in black denim shorts, a Blue Sun Corporation tee, dark aviator sunglasses, he does not measure up to the standards of finery set by the others. Seems unbothered by it, though! His wings drape behind him over the fence -- one is folded up neatly behind him, making its enormous span look fairly small, but the other sits at a bit of an awkward slightly-opened angle, The soft fur-lined skin is torn through in several places, one of the bones carefully taped and swathed up in a crude makeshift kind of splint. "I bet Ryan would --" he starts, then stops with a frown. A slump of shoulders. "Chimaera would definitely help."

Ted has been sitting on his Evolve application form for a few days, unsure what to do with it.

On the one hand, the cafe has become the de facto centerpoint of his unofficial investigation into Ben's murder... which is really just a pretentious way of saying he stops here for a cup of coffee when he's tired of walking around the Lower East Side having people tell him to fuck off, but it sounds better the other way... and he's become rather fond of the place, and the thought of working here appeals to him.

On the other hand, it's become clear that Evolve prefers to hire visible mutants, and on balance Ted approves of that, and the idea of taking a job away from someone who can't get another one as easily as he can leaves a bad taste in his mouth.

So it's folded up in his pocket, as it has been for a while now, as he approaches the cafe in the desperate need for a caffeine fix and some time off his feet. Not that they _hurt_, exactly, but still... he could use a break.

The blue half of the couple sitting at the outdoor table is a familiar face from his prison adventure, as is the waiter, and Ted waves a greeting to both as he approaches, but hangs back a bit, not wanting to interrupt whatever discussion might be happening.

Marinov steps outside, their outfit bright to go along with the weather. A tiger orange jacket with black buttons across the left side, several belts of fabric and a ruffly but light scarf. The shorts with a light lace skirt over them are a deeper red, with a couple of similar belts of fabric across the front to suggest continuity with the top. Despite all the details on it, it is cool enough, with Marinov's furred arms exposed up to the shoulder, and their legs showing up to mid thigh.

They take a sip from the tea they purchased inside, eyes drifting between the people gathered at the table, and then over towards Ted when he waves greeting to Shane (for just a moment looking as though they are about to wave back, before realizing the wave is not meant for them). "Hey. Help with what? Not that I'm eavesdropping, just." Their ears swivel demonstratively.

"I feel sure Ryan would help, still. Just -- not, maybe, in a musical capacity." Daiki is packing his laptop away, zipping up its case. He nudges Shane gently, nodding towards Ted at the small wave. The smile he gives Marinov is warmer. "Marinov. We were just talking finances." As it always does, his attention comes with its own warmth too, a quiet but certain empathic tug that leaves people just that much more predisposed to return it. The charismatic mutant is slinging his laptop over his shoulder, though. Standing, clearly in preparation to leave. "I suppose you could start Evolve a Patreon. Shane Holland is creating --" His hands describe a marquis shape in the air. "A neat target for local bigots to vent their anger? I'll workshop it a bit."

Shane just snorts, his clear inner eyelids sliding sideways shut over his enormous pitch-black eyes. "Yyyeah that might need fixing. Yo. Ted." A short upward jerk of his chin. "How's freedom treating you?"

The coffee he snags with a grateful gulp first, only second lifting his fingertips to his chin and drawing his hand down and outward to Dusk. Marinov gets a toothy grin at their Totally Not Eavesdropping. No hello, just, "You're a freak. About how often would you say people inside Evolve stare. Give you crap. Otherwise act a fool. Hm?"

"Mutant target practice should maybe not be your selling point." Dusk swipes a finger through the pile of cream atop his coffee, sucking it off with an appreciative hum. The tip of his uninjured wing flexes down in reciprocal kind-of-wave at Ted. "I get it on the regular, I can only imagine it's worse for you all. I don't know if it's all people who are human passing but would rather not have to rub elbows with us or actual humans coming in for the thrill of it. Tell their friends they came to see the freakshow. Think it's a bit of both."

"Beats prison," Ted replies with an attempt at replicating Shane's matter-of-fact greeting that isn't _entirely_ a failure... only mostly... as he approaches the table tentatively, then blurts out "How about 'Creating a home for people who need one'" before ducking his head apologetically, shoving his hands in the pockets of his ratty too-tight Fordham University sweatshirt, and looking like he's trying to disappear alogether. "Sorry," he half-mumbles.

He blushes even more at Dusk's discussion of human-passing customers treating Evolve as a carnival sideshow, uncomfortably not unaware that the shoe did not entirely fail to fit, and makes a mental note to drop his job application in the nearest trash before anyone saw it.

Marinov nods greeting to Daiki, their expression warmer as well as they do so. They chuckle at Shane's question. "Well, of course they stare, how could they not?" Marinov gestures towards themselves in a smooth downwards gesture with their free hand, more indicating their outfit than themselves. "But still a pretty pretty regular number who aren't just appreciating my personal style. Or are plain being dickheads. I figure it's a bit of both, too. Kinda hard to tell, on account of the whole human passing thing." They raise their cup slightly to Ted in a polite greeting.

"Hm." Daiki's head tilts slightly to one side, his attention coming to bear more fully on Ted. Thoughtful. "That does have a better sound to it, doesn't it? I think we can work with that." Like his smiles, his compliments come with a higher than usual attendant flush of magnetic warmth. He's not around long enough to dwell much on it, though. Squeezing Dusk's uninjured arm in passing and leaning in to murmur something quiet close to the winged man's ear as he slips from the patio, drawing his phone from his pocket as he disappears down the street.

"Yeah fuck his idea, Ted's is way better." Shane's hairless ridge of brow lifts as Marinov indicates their outfit. "Their loss, you're always killing it." He tips his glass to the empty chair Daiki just vacated in clear invitation to Marinov -- pushes the chair opposite him out with one shoe, claw flicking between it and Ted in the same silent casual offer. "The little space next door's been up for sale for fucking ever. Weirdly enough, nobody much wants to be our neighbor. If we could scrape together the money --" He doesn't yet actually finish this thought. Just sucks an ice cube from his coffee, teeth scraping against it as he rattles it in his mouth.

A deep flush of red rises to Dusk's cheeks at Daiki's words, a very low growl rumbling in his chest. He nods, taking a long gulp from his coffee, a ribbon of whipped cream smudging onto his lip. "I think there's a decent number of just. New. Baby -- closet cases dipping their toes into the world and getting overwhelmed as fuck when they realize not all of us just make pretty lights or float things and they're suddenly in company with monsters. My sympathy only goes so far when their eyes are falling out of their head like I'm about to bite them, though." His grin is warm and bright, not bothering to hide the long sharp fangs that glint beneath his whipped cream mustache. "Just how *much* scraping are you talking here?"

Ted is obviously surprised, and left kind of dazed, by Shane's approval -- whether because of the other man's empathic projection or his own internal conflict, who can say? -- as he accepts the silent invitation to sit, then looks over his shoulder at the indicated space.

"Do you--" he starts, talking over Dusk for a moment and going quiet to let the other man speak. Then "He's right, you know. About the closet cases, and the, the baby mutants. I should know, right?" He shrugs self-consciously. "I mean, I'm about as newbie as it gets around here. And it's, well, yeah, it's overwhelming. And it's like Taylor was saying, last week... it's less of a jolt if you don't feel like an outsider. And, I mean, you guys do a _lot_ to help your customers not feel that way. You're like a community center, sort of. But, well..." he trails off, embarrassed at having talked so much, and remembers what he was going to say before. "Anyway, do you just want to expand the cafe?" he asks, intrigued, "Or are you looking to open a new kind of space?"

Marinov's ears twitch just slightly at the whispering, but without comment they take a seat in Daiki's vacated position, placing their cup on the table and looking out to try and get a better look at next door. They nod to Dusk in agreement, and then look towards Ted. Their tail curls up and then thuds back down against the leg of their chair, "Yeah, I guess it can be sorta overwhelming... It can be a lot to learn about and adjust to." Their ears swivel over towards Shane before their gaze turns his way as well, in a silent seconding to Ted's curiosity.

"A lot like one," Shane agrees, "but I wish we didn't have to be. Still, as long as I can keep the doors open --" He shrugs. Crunches down on his ice. "Man, buying a whole second unit? How much do you think? I thank God any month we break even. But --" He glances toward the door of the cafe. "It'd be really nice to have the extra space. I want to have a space that's just for visible mutants to chill out in without the staring. And actual showers so people don't have to keep taking sink-baths in the bathrooms. And a dedicated space for community activities so we don't use the nightclub half the week. That would help with the costs, I think. If we keep it open more nights -- longer hours -- it brings in so much more money than the fucking nothing we make down here." His grin is a little wry. "I don't subsidize anyone's booze."

"The learning curve's real. But how do you balance --" Dusk hesitates, thumbclaws twitching. "People who need a safe place to explore against people who need a safe place just to exist? Dedicated space might be nice. I certainly don't want to shut out the people who are finding their feet. But sometimes you just want a coffee and not to be someone's tour guide to Life As A Mutant." He dips his head, tongue lapping at the slowly melting raspberry swirled cream on his drink. "Would the extra nightclub income be enough to cover the extra mortgage, if you got the downpayment together? Doesn't sound like that new space is going to be a big, uh, earner."

Ted ducks his head and nods. "Yeah. That makes sense." It's not a comfortable realization, that he himself is part of the problem here, and that space devoted to his education is being taken away from other people's lives. Nor is it an _entirely_ new one, though it's not something he often thinks about explicitly. Thinking about it now, he muses "Maybe timeshare? Like, most of the time it's a safe space for you all, like, a private club kind of thing maybe, and, and, you know, and folks like me leave you be, but, like, on weekends you have a kind of open house, or something? So... I mean, like you said, you get to balance that, so, you know, so, so we, so we don't just... take over?" He doesn't meet anyone's eyes.

Marinov's ears perk and face forward at the talk of how the space would be used. "That'd be great. Sometimes it's good to just... yeah. Just chill... Sounds like that kind space really would be like an actual community center sorta thing." They scratch under their own chin lightly and turn their gaze again to Teddy. "I don't like that. Like... I love the space in Evolve, I met lots of people here. And I value that. I don't think I would stop coming to this space," they gesture around with their cup and then back at the building, "if there were some visible mutant zone. But I would probably come by even on days where I am feeling. I dunno, real self conscious or whatever and don't want to be an ambassador or whatever. And I can't really schedule how I'm feeling..."

Shane listens to the others speak in mostly-silence, except for the continued crunching of his next ice cube and the quiet scritching whisper of his gills, flexing open and closed slowly against the crisp collar of his shirt. "I don't know. We're still figuring out the money shit. Don't think I'd know until we got a chance to change up nightclub hours exactly the impact it would have. Probably not enough," he admits with a bit of a pinched look, "but I guess that's where. Fucking. Patreon might come in." Practicalities out of the way, his tone is more thoughtful for the next. "We're definitely not changing the current space we got. This place'll always be open to anyone who needs it. And I don't think --" He nods toward Marinov, "that there'd be some kind of mass exodus either. I think it would just give people who might need it the space to decide themselves what kind of vibe they can handle. Certainly I'd keep eating in the main dining room even if I didn't own the place." His grin is sudden, wide and stretching impossibly big on his face, an overabundance of dagger-sharp teeth on display. "I mean after all, some of my best friends are human-passing."

Dusk snorts at that last, a brief laugh rippling his wings (his sudden wince, sudden clench of shoulders as he holds the broken wing more stiffly again, suggests he's somewhat regretting the mirth.) "This place is great," he agrees. "Probably most of the time I'm still just gonna want to sprawl on the couches with Hive or Flicker or whatever the fuck. But somewhere to duck away from the people who just want to come gawk or get cool points on Instagram or bag a freak cuz they got a fetish." He shakes his head hard. Swipes his tongue lightly against his lip to clean off the whipped cream. "That, I could do without. I bet there's people who would help you fundraise. Or donate to your Patreon. Whatever. Ryan might be a little broken right now but he's sure as fuck not broke." His non-injured wing stretches out, offering a gentle nudge to Ted's shoulder. "Hey. Dude. You belong here, alright? It's just -- growing pains."

Ted nods along as Marinov explains his objection to the timesharing plan, and as the others talk about their preferences, and grins at Dusk's reassurance. "Oh, sure, I know. And, I mean, you all" gesturing to encompass the building as a whole "have been great. I just... well, I mean, I've seen what happens when straight folks 'discover' gay clubs. And it's not that they aren't welcome, just... they have a way of crowding everyone else out, even when they mean well." He shrugs. "So, I just don't want to be part of anything like that, is all."

Privately, he acknowledges that it's also that he hasn't completely gotten used to the more unusual physical appearances of Evolve's patrons, and he's pretty sure it shows no matter how hard he tries for it not to, and that can't be any fun for them, and he feels guilty about that. Not that there's anything to be done about that beyond him getting the fuck over it, which he's working on.

"Speaking of pains, though, I'm suffering hunger pains and should get a sandwich," he adds, standing up. "Can I get anything for anyone while I'm up?" Which, OK, yes, is kind of a presumptuous thing to ask given how many of the folks around the table _work_ here, but, well... it's still polite, right?

Marinov also laughs at Shane's declaration, and they roll their eyes at what Dusk says, "Yeah, fuck, I forgot about. Chasers chasing literal tail. I definitely don't always have patience for that." They nod and take a drink from their cup, eyes on Ted when they look up again. "Yeah. Not so much like straight people invading the gay club, 'cause you're as mutant as anyone else. So it'd be like gay folks invading the gay club, which is like... how it is supposed to work, yeah?" They raise their hand to decline Ted's offer, and remark, "I would donate. A little. Or tweet it out. My social media's been blowing-" They wince slightly and rephrase, "been getting attention."

"Yeah. I don't know how to analogize this, really. Every community has their own --" Shane's webbed hand waves a vague gesture in the air. "Maybe it's more like being trans at a gay club, I don't know. We all belong, but people's needs don't always exactly align." He shrugs uncertainly, clearly not entirely satisfied with the comparison. "I think I'm good," he dismisses Ted's offer with a shake of his head. Looks to Marinov, brows wrinkling. His voice has dropped softer when he veers off on the evident tangent: "He just finally came home this week. I bet he'd be glad for a visit, now that he's -- sort of -- intermittently upright."

Dusk watches Ted rise, his tongue absently swiping across his teeth again at the offer of food. It stirs a brief grumbling in his stomach, a brief growling rumble in his chest. A moment later he's shaking his head hard, turning his attention intently down to his coffee. "I'm, uh, I'm good. Thanks." He slides down off the railing he's sitting on, holding himself stiffly as he does so. "I should get back to work. He's right, though." A thumbclaw jerks down towards Shane. "Dude would be climbing the walls if he had the energy." He tips his chin up to the folks at the table, caaarefully making his way around the chairs with a determined attempt not to bump them too much with his awkwardly positioned wing. Definitely banging into one anyway on his way out and away down the street.