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Latest revision as of 15:55, 28 June 2020

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
Dramatis Personae

Karin, Leo, Polaris

2019-12-08


"Don't think there is a 'right' way to be a mutant, friend."

Location

<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.

Sunday afternoon just after the brunch rush is a popular time to sit and unwind at Evolve. So, despite the relatively large numbers of patrons, the staff isn't actually terribly busy. Polaris is in high spirits today--or possibly just highly caffeinated--dancing to Lizzo's "Good as Hell" behind the counter as she whips up the second of a pair lattes in the café's largest mugs. She doesn't actually toss her hair with "I do my hair toss", but only because her green tresses are twisted up into a wire-wrapped updo. She's dressed a close-fitting black babydoll shirt with a cartoon mug wearing a pair of round black glasses and holding a wand, captioned "Espresso Patronum!", a half apron that she is taking off as soon as the coffees are done, and tight black jeans. Her stompy black boots, black belt, and black wrist cuffs are all heavily decorated with steel buckles and studs and plates. Her makeup is subtler than usual, just a touch of pale green eyeshadow, glittery purple eyeliner, and iridescent purple lip gloss, her nails more dramatic in metallic green-purple ombre gleaming with uncannily luminous chatoyance. "Baby how you feeling?" she's maybe-asking or maybe just singing as she slips out from behind the counter.

"Good as hell?" Leo sounds uncertain about this, really! More curious than confident, but there is a small smile on his lips as he approaches the counter. He looks a bit *too* dressed up for a casual coffee, in fitted black jacket with red paisley lining and subtle red trim at the pockets, white broadcloth oxford shirt, red skinny tie with black pin dots in a neat half-Windsor knot, black slacks, and black loafers, a crisp outside chill still clinging to his clothes. There's a handled paper takeout bag in his hand, and he sets it down on the first empty table he sees, starting to unload the plastic containers from inside. "I haven't actually tried this place before, but Ion says it's great and he seems to know --" His brows pinch together. "Everything."

Karin is decidedly nervous in the city of New York, daunted by how it seems to stretch on endlessly from where she sees, thankful she isn't having to navigate alone to the address she had memorized but until today had never attempted the journey. One of the more experienced and older students gave her a ride, allowing her to arrive with no mishaps. She steps into the Cafe proper, pausing at the door (and body-blocking it) while she surveys the spacious main floor, her attention caught by the decor and style of fixtures, colour choices, the scents, and the sound of the door shutting behind her. That last sound prompts her to clear the way for anyone else that might want to enter, moving forward rather than sideward and on the lookout for familiar faces. Her hand draws back the jacket's and few other hoods that conceal most of her head from view, though the innermost one is pulled back up to cover her ears and most of the top portion of her head, leaving her face easily recognizable. Familiar faces, Karin sees. It's hard to miss either of the two for different reasons. Yet she hesitates, as though waiting to be addressed before she dares to approach. The hesitation lasts only a few seconds, then she moves with more energy as she rapidly closes the gap between herself and both the one she expected and one she did not, walking quickly, not running. She's also wearing a broad smile, unable to stifle it even if she either wanted to or even thought about it.

"Looking good as hell, too," Polaris supplies appreciatively, no uncertainty in her tone. She sets the mugs down and peers into the bag even as Leo starts to unload it. "Shit, if Ion recommends it, I'm sold." She gives Leo a tight hug, then flashes a sheepish smile. "Thanks, man. I feel so fucking ridiculous, I mean like--there's all this great food here, you know?" Maybe she intended to elaborate further, but right then she spots Karin, her smile brightening further. "Hey! You made it!" She offers the girl a hug, eyebrows uplifted to indicate she doesn't necessarily expect reciprocation. "How's school n' all?"

Leo's eyes widen for just a second, tan cheeks flushing just slightly darker, but then he leans into the hug, returning it brief and tight. "There's so much good food here, but. It's here *every* day." He shrugs a shoulder, folding the bag neatly after he's finished lining up the cartons of food in a precise row, napkins and plastic utensils laid at the end of the line. He's just starting to take the lids off the foods when Polaris brightens -- he looks up to follow her gaze, a quicker, brighter smile of his own appearing a moment later. "Karin. Um -- I don't know if you like --" He looks down at the containers he's been arranging. "Senegalese food. I have a lot."

As Karin gets close enough to be well within conversing distance, she is about to say something, hesitates to and allows the opening address to be made by Polaris and Leo. "Hi," she offers to both, "Yeah, I like, got a ride." There isn't really any hesitation with the arms spread out for her, moving in, putting her arm around Polaris. There she remains for a couple of seconds. "It's more like, advanced than I thought it would be," she admits about the school. "Not really like, hard just... I have to think more." She's soon to have a look at the cartons Leo has brought forth, "I don't know either," she responds honestly. "Can I try some?" Her hand goes for a pocket before she notices the utensils already set, then draws away to rest on the back of a chair at the wrist where sleeve can meet surface. "This place is so much bigger than I thought it would be," she then adds.

"Good point! I guess I just feel vaguely ungrateful and picky--like it beats the shit out of Prometheus food so I should just suck it up. Which is bullshit." Polaris shrugs, waving Karin over to the table. "Oh good, I think you gotta transfer to get here on the subway, which probably sucks on Sunday train schedules." She picks up one of the two mugs--the foam on the latte has a distinct light pink tinge--and takes a long gulp. "I didn't add any extra sugar to that, Leo, just the rose cream, which is a bit sweet anyway. I dunno anything about Senegalese food, but I will eat pretty much anything if Ion says it's good. You want some coffee, Karin?" She stops short, considers the teenager for a moment. "Or cocoa, whatever? That shit about coffee stunting your growth is totally made up."

"Please, yes. There is plenty. I haven't actually tried this place before, but Ion says it's good and he -- usually knows these things. Um -- this is a marinated -- lemony chicken dish, and this has lamb in a peanut sauce on couscous, and there's some kind of stuffed pasta, and fried plantains." Leo points out each dish in turn. He shrugs out of his suit jacket, draping it carefully on the back of a chair before he takes a seat. "This is only half," he adds, sounding a little bit impressed himself. "Upstairs, there is an entire nightclub." He's just using one of the plastic lids from the large square cartons to eat off of, tucking a spoon into each dish and scooping out a little taste of each onto his makeshift plate. "Is it a good kind of thinking? Are there classes that you enjoy?"

"I haven't tried coffee," Karin replies. "It has a weird smell, and it's like, controlling. Everyone who drinks it acts weird." She shifts uncomfortably about it. "I mean like, stumbling around then they have it..." She kind of trails off, going quiet momentarily. Eyes on the food. Mimicing Leo's method, she draws one of the containers, the so-called lemony chicken dish, nearer, using lid as makeshift plate, drawing out a very small portion, and then sliding it back into its orderly place. "It's just all new stuff. New kinds of math. English is harder than anything else. I like the painting class. It's pretty fun. Jax is the teacher."

"Oh man I fucking love plantains." Notwithstanding, Polaris is taking a bit from each container herself. "Yeah no, this place is awesome. I pretty much live here Friday and Saturday nights, but you're a bit young I'm afraid." She pauses, studies Karin for a moment. "Come to think of it, maybe not your scene right now, anyway." The girl's observations about coffee brings her a bit up short, and she blinks, picking up the mug again and drinking deep. "I mean, caffeine is a helluva drug, but I wouldn't say it controls anyone. Still a totally legit choice to avoid it, though, no matter your age. Glad you're having fun in school, even without stimulants, and even with English going around Englishing everything up. Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with this language?" She chuckles, takes a bite of her food, then gesticulates excitedly at it in Leo's direction until she swallows and can exclaim, "This couscous is amazing! What's this place called again?"

"Oh!" Leo's smile is a little bit softer, here. "Jax's art is very --" He hesitates a few beats as he pulls his coffee closer. "... skilled. -- And this place is Le Baobab." He quiets a moment, he bows his head in silence over his food, looking up again shortly after as he lifts one hand to cross himself. "English," unlike most everything else he's contributed, this is said very decisively, "is full of nonsense. I never much liked that either." He nibbles on a plantain, studying the pink swirls in the top of his coffee. His finger traces against the edge of his plastic un!plate, teeth catching briefly at his lip. "This winter I will going back to school, too. Soon."

After sampling from the lemony chicken, Karin repeats the small portion partake with a second carton, each step made just a little bit longer with the exclusive use of her right hand, but she manages well enough. "English is like, easier to say than to like, write. I'm not really like, creative. I'll figure it out." Her eyes turn upward as she ponders the nature of youth versus access. "So like, what's a nightclub?" She turns an excited and hopeful face upon Leo the moment she hears back to school, "Are you going to be at Xavier's too?"

Polaris pauses with a piece of plantain half to her mouth. "A nightclub?" she repeats blankly. "It's--you know, like--I guess most of them are kind of just bars with more space for dancing." She's struggling and failing to keep the incredulity out of her voice here, an effort helped when she glances at Leo and snickers. "I uh, think he's a bit old for your school. sweetie, though it was a hilarious mental image. He's going to grad school." She tilts her head and studies the man for a moment. "You know, you could probably teach at Xavier's. It seems like the kind of high school that would have a marine biology class."

Leo's brows hitch upward with the nightclub question, but his blank confusion at this doesn't have time to resolve into an answer before the next wave of bemusement hits. "At Xavier's? Oh -- um." His cheeks darken, and he lifts his mug for a sip, briefly obscuring his smile. "I'm -- going to be getting my Ph.D. I hope. At least that is my plan." His brows pinch inward, and he lowers the mug slowly. "I do miss teaching. I don't know if I'm cut out for teaching at, um." His voice drops a little quieter, uncertain. "That kind of school."

Karin is on sample carton 3, and may eventually have a complete meal by the time she gets through everything. Only a hint of disappointment at Leo for certain never being in her class. Then the topic shifts to one of teaching, and her expression veers back into excitement again, "oh my god yes!" before Leo does not seem at all thrilled at the idea. "oh..." Karin gives it thought, and asks, "What can't you like, do that the teachers there can?" Her tone is inquisitive rather than challenging.

"This guy is gonna study the mysteries of the deep," Polaris says, setting down her food and waving one hand in the air to underline the drama of what she just said. "Pfft, I bet you could do it. Maybe after you get your degree, then you could write Dr Concepcion on the blackboard, like a fucking boss."

"I don't really know much about your teachers there," Leo admits slowly. "But Jax and Matt both seem so --" His finger traces against the side of his mug, his eyes focusing intently on the pink-tinted coffee. "They just get things that I don't. Jellyfish biology, fine, I know that fine, but I feel like if you're teaching at a mutant school you ought to --" The small frown on his face is slowly deepening, more thoughtful than upset. "Know something about being a mutant? It all still just feels surreal to me. I think, wouldn't they, want someone who could be a better example?" Slowly, though, a hint of smile is creeping in to displace the abstracted look. "But being able to teach kids as Dr Concepcion would be amazing. My mama would hardly believe it."

Karin ends the train of samples from the cartons, noticing the mess she has created, and setting to using napkins to clear off the bulk of it. Not entirely clean with the sauces still present. "Sorry," she offers, showing more worry than is typical for guests. She tells Leo, "They aren't teaching us how to be mutants. It's more like, how to be people who are mutants. But not like, in other classes." Mild amusement. "I'm not like learning mutant math or something."

"I mean, I'm sure they had to learn all that stuff somehow," Polaris hazards, nonchalant. "Shit, I learned mostly off the freaking Internet, to begin with. You can learn it, too. Got a lot of people in your life now who'd be down to teach you." To Karin she waves her free hand. "Don't even worry about it, hon, these tables have seen way worse. I'll wipe it down when I'm done my break." She arches one dark green eyebrow. "Man, they're not? Seems to me kind like they're falling down on their jobs then, cuz you're all gonna have to go on and be mutants for the rest of your lives."

"I've been reading a lot online," Leo admits with a small blush, "but the Internet is very divided about the right way to be a mutant. I wouldn't want to -- go to a school and teach -- the wrong thing." He shakes his head firmly. Waggles his plastic spoon out toward Polaris as he nods in agreement. "It does seem important to learn. Like -- what if all you know about the right way to be a mutant is on TV? You'd think we're all terrorists -- no offense." His blush has gotten even darker as he glances quickly to Polaris. "Or if you only know how to be a mutant from -- from in a lab..." This just trails off, his shoulders a little tighter. He scoops up some of the lamb, stuffing it quickly into his mouth.

"There's also learning how to control," Karin nods slightly. "It's just not like, part of the term. It's also not like Blackburn. They give me a lot of space and they don't push me. I haven't figured out how to control it yet but like, I want to now." She rests her head on the palm of her hand. "I guess they are teaching us how to be mutants too. It just doesn't feel like it's more important than schooling." She looks a little uncomfortable as she goes on. "I learned how to hate us from my mom and da..." She trails off, and goes silent.

"Don't think there is a 'right' way to be a mutant, friend," Polaris says, her tone gentle and sincere. "I-M-O, the fact you know that, and have the humility to be worried about it makes you the best kind of person to teach it. I mean, sure, it's important to know shit to teach, but it's also important to teach that adults don't actually have it all figured out, either. You know, just my two cents..." Her grin brightens. "...as an uneducated mutant terrorist." She nudges Leo gently with an elbow. "C'mon, you know I'm proud as fuck about it." But here she sobers, nods. "You both got a point, but my conclusions stand. We got no better people to learn that shit from than each other--students or teachers."

Leo winces, shakes his head slightly. "I'm sorry. That's what I worry about, though. Before the labs I -- barely knew anything about mutants, just -- from the news and that's. Um. Never good. And now..." He picks slowly at his food. Looks up with a very small quirk of smile. "No, you're right. I'm glad. To have --" The small gesture of his spoon encompasses Karin and Polaris, first, but the cafe as a whole more broadly. "People to learn from. With? Better people to learn with. I -- wish it had happened differently, but -- but I am glad to have found you all."

Karin is silent for a good minute, letting Polaris and Leo speak, just nodding to show she is listening and hasn't shut them out, attentive. She's looking at Leo when she speaks again. "i would be happy to help you if you had trouble as a teacher."

"Oh, geez, you guys are gonna make me cry." Polaris actually does look and sound like she might burst into tears, but manages to hold them back, at least for the time being. "May we always have people to learn from and with." She lifts her coffee and drinks deep.

Leo does not quite look so close to tears as Polaris, but there is something gentler, warmer, in the slow curl of his smile at Karin's assurance. He lifts his drink, too, relaxing back into his chair as he takes a long pull.