<NYC> Strand Books - East Village
The Strand manages to pack a whole lot of character into one bookstore, but they have a lot of space to fit it in. They advertise themselves as having eighteen miles of books, and whether or not that is true, it certainly is true that they have an enormous number of shelves packed into their rows and rows and rows of books. A book-lover's haven, this East Village landmark boasts an enormous collection of volumes of all types among their stacks, crammed into the narrow aisles. Well-known for their rare and out-of-print collection, they have many hard to find volumes tucked away in their labyrinth of shelves as well.
It's a musty smell of pressed leather, crackling glue, old paper and ink. The difference between a new bookstore and a used is the substitution of the chemical smell of bleaching with something more organic and earthy. Two words from which a man of Jim Morgan's jib is cut; he stands not deep within the labyrinthine walls of precarious shelving, beside a rickety wheel ladder, upon the rungs of which are titles following a particular theme - A Snap in Time, Shutter and Click, Photography Unlensed. All dogeared and taped, he browses with his teeth sort of gritted. That might also be in looking at the price of his current find -- Chasing the Light. The price being fifteen smacks. Grimace...
The door opens, admitting a slight figure into the store. Cheerfully colorful in purple jacket, light blue hooded sweatshirt beneath (the hood pulled up over his head), slim-fit black jeans with shimmery silver pinstriping, chunky pink-and-grey sneakers, he is more colourful still in the blue shade of skin visible beneath the large hood. It's this latter more than anything that draws stares as Sebastian moves into the store, head ducked as he moves through the aisles. He isn't looking at the photography books, though he's only a short distance away, art tomes full of vivid pictures of paintings. Looking for something in particular, clearly, as he scans the titles with an intent frown, he maybe doesn't notice or maybe is just ignoring the conversation traveling from customer to cashier to manager. Frowning manager.
"We-ell. Jailbird," Jim isn't rushing forth to embrace the small young man - he's whispering with a bemused grin across his scruffy-grizzled face through a slat between shelves, where missing books make it possible to peek from Jim's aisle and into Sebastian's. "Long-time-no-been-arrested, huh?"
Through the slats of shelving Sebastian's head jerks up, pitch-black eyes widening first and then peering back. The noise he makes is small and strangled. "Oh, gosh. Did I get /arrested/ when did this happen." His tone sounds genuinely dismayed, enough so that when this is followed from behind with a gruff (but wary) "You. You're not allowed in here. Get out." he almost sounds relieved upon turning around and seeing the not-a-cop store manager. "-- I'm. Not?"
With an expression of growing confusion, Jim leans on side, trying to see the manager through the cracks in books. The confusion begins to ease into something that flattens his mouth grimmer. "-- great."
"Not after last time," the manager answers Sebastian, though the barely veiled hostility in his expression suggests something else entirely. Something that Sebastian voices, quiet, "-- /Was/ there ever a time you'd be alright with me in here?" The other man answers with a scowl, a firmer, "Out." Sebastian backs slightly against the shelving, scooting sideways to reach the end of the aisle. Peer around it, this time, for a longer look at the man who was talking to him before, focusing on Jim with a curious look. "I just had homework, sir," he is saying to the manager, even though he is frowning at Jim somewhat searchingly.
Jim is walking along the aisle from his side at the same time, so that he and Sebastian end up meeting at the end. Jim's eyes are slipped past the young man's shoulder to lay a neutral gazes on the manager with slightly tipped down head, "--guess you're the 'compos mentis' half, huh. Listen, kid, do this quick. Gimme the name of the book you want. And meet me outside. I got you."
Sebastian blinks at the offer, a set of clear inner lids sliding closed sideways beneath his blue ones. "Colorful Pain," he answers, at a beat of delay, giving the author's name as he reaches for his wallet, "It's --"
"Out," says the manager, clamping a heavy hand on the teenager's shoulder.
Sebastian startles at this, twisting hastily away with enough speed that the manager startles as well, jerking back with a wary eye on the clawed blue teen. "Sorry, sir," Sebastian is saying quickly, and mouths 'thanks' at Jim before scurrying quickly for the exit.
Jim winks blandly at Sebastian - it might also just be a random eyetwitch spasm - because he stays right where he is, leaning against a bookshelf and watching the summary eviction with what to all accounts looks merely like idle curiosity. Then rolls off the edge of the shelf to browse up the other side. Incidentally, this is the side the young man had been so recently, running blunted fingertips along titles, squinting. ... He emerges about ten minutes later, with a book under his arm, tucking his wallet into an inner coat pocket, scanning up and down the street, sucking his teeth.
The streets are less busy than evening might find them in other seasons, lingering slush and lingering freeze pressing people to get to and from their destinations with haste. Sebastian is unhasty, though, a short way down the block from the bookstore's door and across the street, standing at the base of the iron-fence grating that discourages passersby from heading down the basement stairs of a building opposite. He has one arm hooked against a fence-rung, his height not added to much by the fact he is tipped up onto the toes of his chunky sneakers. He isn't scanning the street, or hasn't been, but as a chill breeze carries down the street towards him he turns his head towards the bookstore hopefully, hopping down onto the sidewalk proper.
"I got no idea," Jim this while making his approach, and it's with a growled exasperation as he flips through the books interiors, "why anyone would do this shit to their body on purpose. Can you imagine going through life with this on your chest?" He holds the book open, showcasing a two page spread photograph of a man's naked torso, tattood over with a legion of red-eyed demons. He snaps the book closed and dangles it in the air for a moment like he's going to make Sebastian /jump/ for it, "Guess I owe you my gratitude. You and that brother of yours." The book lowers, free of incident, towards the young man.
"My pa's a tattoo artist," Sebastian says with a quick warm smile that does not seem at all offended by Jim's rejection of his father's trade. "You should see some of the stuff he gets asked for. Some things he just refuses to do. M'doing a report for art history on the history of tattooing." He doesn't jump for it, but he does pull out his own wallet while Jim is talking, pulling a twenty out from it to offer it towards Jim while he takes the book with a chirruped, "Thanks, sir!" -- and then a confused blink. "Me? /Shane/?" Each is said with a note of surprised. Slower and more cautious, he asks, "What did he -- I -- we do?"
"Guess whatever makes a buck," Jim settles into a truce easily enough, taking the twenty and fishing out his wallet to riffle through and pull out five wrinkled ones to hand back. "Ehhh, no reason to really spill a story. Let's say I got in a tight spot. Your brother was around, some guys thought he was you and did him a solid, so he turned around and stuck his neck out for me while we were at it. So call me a parasite on your charming disposition. How is old Shane." So old.
"Back uh -- spring or two ago some guy wanted a huge American flag with a bald eagle in front. Clutching Bin Laden's disembodied head in his claws. 'Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue' beneath." Sebastian wrinkles his nose, though his smile is amused. "Pa said no but I'd've wanted to watch that." He slips the bills back into his wallet, pocketing it with a rattle of its chain. "Well --" He tips his head back to squint up at Jim, in the end just shrugging. "I'm glad I could, er, help! Accidentally-help. Glad you're okay, anyway. Shane's --" For a moment he hesitates. He is leaning back against the fence again, mostly just in the process of /backing/ away, not from Jim but from the sidewalk. Occasionally people walk down it. Sebastian shrinks off to stay on the sidelines mostly out of notice. "-- good. Are you --" Another hesitation, Jim given a little bit longer of a look. "--friends?"
"Ehh. I only met him the once." Jim waves a hand, "I'd sure call /him/ a friend, anyway, and you can take that to the bank. I still owe /him/ one. Even if he was only doing a solid for another. Y'know." YOU know. He pulls a pack of cigarettes from his inner pocket, absently offering the pack to Sebastian once he's mouthed out one for himself.
"For a --" Sebastian's head tilts, gaze skipping longer over Jim. Only after a short stretch of silence does he shake his head at the cigarette, hand waving. "No, thank you, sir, I don't." Smoke, presumably. He unshoulders his backpack to tuck the book inside, saying as he zips it back up, "Shane can be a good friend. And I mean. No matter /who/ you are it's never bad to have folks who'll stick their neck out for you. M'Bastian." Backpack re-shouldered, he offers a webbed hand outwards with this introduction. "By the way. Though I'll answer to Shane often enough too."
"Good. Don't start." Smoking, also presumably. Jim lights his own cigarette and transfers lighter to left hand, freeing up his right to clasp Sebastian's firmly, giving it a nice solid pump. "For a, y'know." It's not said with discomfort so much as extra /emphasis/ this time, and the texture of his hand seems to change for a moment, in Sebastians - grows rougher, harder, darker and flakier in appearance. Then it fades back to normal dry skin, and he's never once paused in his blunt-friendly tone, "James Morgan. Jim. Don't think your brother ever caught my name. Give him this, huh?" He hands over a rather cheap business card, detailing only some information - James Morgan. Private Investigating. A phone number. A fax. "Remind him he met me in the back of a car, gettin' a ride home from the shelter a few weeks back. You're probably doin' him a favor, taking his name time to time."
"Oh, gosh, /that/?" Sebastian groans like maybe he /has/ heard this story after all, wincing slightly. "He was /supposed/ to be at school. Of /course/ he'd be at a riot instead." His hand squeezes just a moment harder in Jim's, less casual-friendly and more curious at the shift of skin, but it's only a moment. Then he's taking the card, looking it over and slipping it into his coat pocket. With abrupt concern: "Oh, gosh, /you/ weren't -- getting kicked out of -- I mean at the shelter, I know they kind of screwed a lot of us over --" His black eyes are darting over Jim again. Maybe looking for signs of /homelessness/.
The pressure finds a treebark like texture withstanding it, and Jim doesn't seem to mind, save a kind of resigned slant of his mouth, more for the state of himself than the exploration of the other person. Unfortunately, Jim's fashion sense tends to run hobo-chic, today in tatty brown corduroy jacket and thrift store men's shoes that haven't seen a polish in this decade. If he was coordinating it to match his days-old face scruff or scruffy graying hair, he pulled it off well. This /also/ means Jim is Scowling, "/No/." Flat No. So pointedly said. "I'm not. I was just passing through and got dragged into it." He scratches behind an ear, scanning up the sidewalk.
"Oh, phew," Sebastian seems genuinely relieved more than apologetic at the mix-up. "I mean so many of us are. Lots of my friends have --" He shrugs a shoulder, lips pulling to one side as he gnaws absently on a corner of one. "Sucks to get dragged into," he finishes, head shaking. "It's been kind of a rough month, yeah? And I mean I know the city's been talking about /housing/ discrimination but nobody really seems in favor of /ending/ it. For us. I think there'll be a lot more people /needing/ those shelters. And the elections --" His brow furrows, a little bit of worry crossing his face again. Just a bit, there and gone. "You been okay, sir?" he wants to know. "I mean since that -- what he helped you with."
"Yeah, doesn't seem t'be getting better, the more of us turn up," Jim sniffs, his cigarette stuck out one side of his mouth like a mini tree branch, leaning against the fence as well with hands in pockets. "Almost easier in my day - few enough running around no one knew /what/ to make of it, coming down more to anomaly than /minority/. Consuetudo pro lege servatur -- custom held as law, and there wasn't a lot of /custom/ about it either. Even this is kinda hinky to me," he gestures between himself and Sebastian absently with a finger, "having so many gathered in one spot feels like you're asking to have your house burned down. Guess it's easier for me to keep my head down, though." He snorts, bitterly, but bitterly amused, "Don't even get me started on the elections. 'When the republic is at its most corrupt the laws are most numerous' - Tacitus, eat your heart out." He pulls /hard/ on his cigarette, his exhale following seems intent on blowing smoke in the face of all of New York.
"Some of the things I've seen people bandying about in the news. That senator from Arizona was talking about /camps/ that -- I mean, people get scared. When people get scared terrible things happen," Sebastian answers, then quirks a smile wryly. "Though I guess Tacitus had a thing to say about that, too." His shoulders sink down against the fence, cheeks puffing out and a heavy plume of air following. "I've seen some of us do some pretty terrible things out of fear, too." His head turns slightly, eyes flicking towards Jim and his smile a little wider. "Y-eeeah, I guess gathering us all together kind of paints a big, uh, target. But it can be nice, you know? 'cept my brother I didn't know anyone was even /like/ us till I left home. The schools back in Montana wouldn't even let us in. But out here things have been --" His nose crinkles, hand lifting from his pocket to flick towards the bookstore. "Not easy, maybe. But not terrible either. Keeping your head down's useful! But. So's having folks who get it. Have you been in New York long? S'kinda like Mecca for freaks."
"Not long," Jim grunts, and just as soon adds, "Long enough. No where to really go to get away from it, unless you got cash to buy a farm. And even then, farms mean small communities. And small communities have a way of not /reporting/ you if you go missing. Tic-tac?" No, really he has Tic tacs. Cinnamon. He rattles them at Sebastian as though passingly annoyed to have found them in his pocket.
"My pa's got a farm," Sebastian says, lighting up as he reaches to take the Tic tacs. Pour a pair into his hand. Pop them in his mouth and hand the box back. "Well, not /him/ but his folks, he grew up there. Theeeey -- yeah are not too keen. Never too pleased when we visit. But there's places! You can't really get /away/ so much but you can kinda. Mmm." Sebastian turns his eyes up towards the sky, searching. "Tune it out for a little while. My school --" There's a moment of quiet, searching Jim's face and then searching the sidewalk around them before plowing ahead, "-- I mean, there's safe/r/, at least. M'school's kind of a haven. For --" He gestures with a clawed hand towards his own blue face. Towards Jim, too. "There's not a /lot/ of places. And they keep themselves quiet. But they're out there."
"Good, that kids got a place to go," Jim says with a brief moment of intensity, eyes narrowed towards the bookstore. "Wouldn't mind finding me a place like that. This is," he looks past the end of his cigarette at one of his hands, opening and closing it, "a pain in the ass sometimes to keep up."
Sebastian studies Jim a moment, then studies the bookstore as well. "It's hard?" he asks, quieter. His teeth scrape against his lip slowly. "My school's got a lot of grounds," he says, eyes still ticking alert-slow around their currently-empty stretch of block. Quieting as it becomes less empty, a couple getting out of a cab at the corner and hurrying off into the apartment building behind them. "And a lot of people who aren't gonna care whether you keep it up or not. It's kinda out of the city a ways and they're a little careful about letting people /in/ but we can bring guests. I can introduce you. They're -- good people. To know." His teeth flash, just once, bright but /brief/ before he self-consciously closes his lips around the shark-sharp points. "And it's just good to have a /place/. Where you don't have to worry."
"Rmgh." Jim grimaces, running a hand up the back of his neck, knocking loose a few flaky bits of dandruff, watching the cab pull away. "Yeah?" It's not exactly skeptical, but it's cautious, going through two drags and exhales of smoke and one businesslike ashflick of thumb before he edges, "This isn't gonna be the kinda place that's gonna end up like the shelter, is it?"
"Oh, gosh, I'd hope not. There's nobody /there/ but us," Sebastian says with an easy laugh, "if they kicked us all out they'd just have a big empty building. Lot of pretty land. I guess they could make it a park. Campground. Retreat center. It's a nice school building. Here," He straightens to unhitch his backpack again, pulling a notebook out of it ('ASTRONOMY', it says on the cover in thick block-letters in purple permanent marker; there are doodled stars surrounding it in metallic shades of blue and green) to flip it open, jot something down in a blank corner of a very not-blank page of notes. Sebastian Holland, he prints in very neat wide letters, firstname.lastname@example.org. He traces in a neat rectangle around the words with one claw, after which it tears off clean and easy. "I don't know what your schedule's like. It's a little bit of hike from the city but we could arrange a -- thing. If you at least want to see."
"Yeah, let's," Jim squints at the bit of paper he's given, while fishing out his wallet to tuck it into, "do that. I'll stop by the library. I have an email." An email... address. He means. /Mostly/ confidently said. "See where uh," he pats his wallet in his opposite open palm, "it goes. Tell your brother I said hey, yeah?" He flicks his cigarette into the street. It dinks off a parked car.
"Sweet. Maybe I'll hear from you soon, then." Sebastian smiles; it's warm and bright and carefully closed-lipped this time. "Sure thing, sir. Y'take care. And thanks!" This is with a pat towards his backpack, where the book has been stashed. "You're a lifesaver. You can use," he says, with amused /magnanimity/, "my name as a get-out-of-jail-free card any time. Though," this is conspiratorially added with a slight lean in, "I think in /most/ crowds that'd hurt more than it'd help. See you!"
Jim laughs. Or more, makes a "Pfff" sound through his lips, but it serves the same purpose. "See ya round, kiddo." He ambles off up the street, where he'll cross and head back into the bookstore. Where it's warm.