Joe signs autographs for Nico and Maya. Sort of.
<NYC> Pandemonium Games - Lower East Side
Two floors of geekery, Pandemonium Games in the Lower East Side is, at first blush, a bookstore rather than a gaming store, small and cozy with aisles dedicated to sci-fi and fantasy books. The glass counter opposite the bookshelves, admittedly, does hold a wealth of cards from various collectible card games, though binders of Magic cards predominate. Bins of dice in a wide variety of colours stand at one end of the counter. It is the lower level of the store that is usually the busy one, though. The stairs leading down to the basement head first into shelves and shelves of games; board games, RPG sourcebooks, Warhammer figurines, battle mats. Beyond the shelves of goods, a much larger room is mostly bare save its many wide tables, filled at all hours with people playing tabletop games of all kinds.
It's Monday night which means Joe doesn't have a show. However it /doesn't/ mean he's not working. However unlikeable and unpleasant he is, the man hustles.
Tonight he's doing a cheap engagement, brought in by Pandemonium to do a short magic act, sign some of the posters from his stage show, and also promote the store as a patron - a cross-promo gig. Not a terrible way to drum up some extra business on an otherwise quiet Monday night.
He's set up at a long, rectangular plastic folding table, standing behind it with a pile of posters and a few props from his show. There's no line or anything, but every once in a while someone recognizes him, or just comes up to ask why he's there. He's not famous, he /is/ a dude with some stuff.
He stands at his little table wearing the tuxedo from his show, a top hat and he holds a magic wand which he holds out in various poses when people want pictures with him. This is admittedly not a large number of people.
Maya has been here down in the lower levels of the store, browsing through the games with the vague uncertainty of someone really /not/ a hardcore gamer herself and here on a mission of /presents/. Eventually she does ascend with her hands full of Present. A copy of the Discworld: Ankh-Morpork board game, a copy of Chrononauts, both things held to her chest like a /prize/. She's still drifting a little wide-eyed as she makes her way back up the stairs. The colours outside may have faded but /she/ is still bright. Pink and green salwar suit with glinting inlaid mirrorwork, soft grey and pink dupatta, her purple jacket slung over an arm, a large green tote bag over her shoulder. She is derailed en route to the checkout by Joe's table, lingering behind another couple momentarily before they move aside. "Magic?" She sounds enchanted rather than skeptical. "Really magic?"
Nicoleta is here too! Though, incognito. Large hoodie over her head, baggie jeans, shoes with black stripes. She's poking around a shelf of board games, shifty looks so that no one who she knows that actually matters recognizes her. She eventually ends up grabbing a thing of Cards Against Humanity, and is heading towards the register when she spots Joe, who she approaches. Because he doesn't matter, apparently. "Heyyyy, Magic Man. Been a while. Haven't been to your show yet, hectic fucking year. What's the haps?". Nicoleta has a grin on her face, whilst most of her head is still concealed by the hood. "Is your act really tanking so bad you have to go to a nerd fest? I think you have the wrong kind of Magic in mind, man. We still need to talk shop, by the way.".
Joe nods and smiles as the previous couple leaves, showing off his mouthful of crooked, yellowing teeth. "Hey, yeah," he says to Maya. "Although, /all/ magic is real, if you believe." He grins, and seems like he actually believes it, even if there's also a tired note to the line. He's probably said it a dozen times tonight alone at this point. Which doesn't make it any less true for him, but he definitely seems tired.
He draws a deck of cards from his jacket breast pocket, pulls out one card and flourishes it, making a show of pretending to be frustrated as the card keeps trying to go /up/ his sleeve as if it has a mind of it's own. Finally he gives up and it seems to shoot up his coat sleeve, and when he sticks his finger in after it, he just pulls back a flower, which he presents to Maya. "Just believe," he says with a wink.
He raises an eyebrow when Nicoleta approaches him. He shakes his head gently when she talks about his act 'tanking' for him to be here. "Nah, not really. These are my roots," he explains. "And these are the only people left who still believe. But that offer is still open. Come to a show, stop by after. We'll talk." He offers Maya an apologetic smile.
"Oooh, I played that game once," Maya comments, at Nicoleta's box. "With my /students/. Bad plan. Bad plan, it took a week to look at each other straight again." But she's laughing, bright and warm as she shakes her head. Her eyes light at the flower, taking it from Joe and dipping her head to draw in a breath of its petals. "Oh," she says with a warm laugh. "I'm nothing if not a believer. It's amazing the things that can happen if you wish hard enough. You just have to pick the right stards, hmm?"
"Pff, magic's not real. He's a cheater. Cold readings and sleight of hand and all that shit.". Nicoleta says this /firmly/, crossing her arms. Inside her pockets is her regular switchblade, her wallet, and maybe a die she swiped. MAYBE. "But, I'll still attend the show, shit's still entertaining.".
Joe snorts at the idea of Maya playing CaH with her students. "Shit, I hope they're /college/ students." He winces when he catches himself cussing in the store and glances over to the registers but they're busy enough for the moment that they didn't hear him. He extends a hand to Maya and says, "I'm Joe, by the way." The posters on his table suggest he may also be known as 'The Amazing Zerah'.
When Joe winks at Nicoleta he says in a mock-hurt tone, "Real? What's /real/? Is that carnation real?" The carnation he gave Maya is indeed 'fresh as a daisy' as they say, nicely scented and apparently not crushed or any worse the wear for being up his sleeve.
"Well, okay, like he said, what's real. Maybe it's not /magic/ but it's still certainly nothing I can do. It's still /impressive/." Maya's cheeks tint as she admits, "-- High school. It was a senior retreat last year." She takes Joe's hand in a quick gentle squeeze. "Maya. I'm not," she glances over at his table, "really the amazing anything. But I'm pretty sure," this comment is directed more to Nicoleta than to Joe, "that it's just a little bit of magic just about any time you can get people to smile."
"Smiling's overrated.". Nicoleta frowns, before she glances over at Joe, and then Maya, and then back to Joe. "Nicoleta. All you getting out of me. Other than the fact that I think you can do better than flirting Houdini over there.". This is given with a teasing grin, possibly malicious, towards Joe. "The carnation is real, but you hid it. Sleight of hand. You've done this trick before, so let's see you do it again. What's in my pockets?".
It's Joe's turn to be enchanted this time, when Maya talks about making people smile. It's almost as if he's never considered this particular part of performing magic. "I um..." He's still thinking about her point when Nicoleta pipes up again, which makes him look properly embarrassed. "Oh, I wasn't flir-" Joe clears his throat and refocuses on Nico's request. "Yeah, well, it was /real/ sleight-of-hand, wasn't it? But your pockets? You know I love this game..." He winks at Maya and then touches his forefinger to his temple in obvious stance of mental focus, turning his gaze fully on Nicoleta. "Alright, I'm getting something here... Your wallet of course... a pocket knife. And... what is that other thing? Is it, a die or something?"
"Flirting? Is sex really the only reason you think people are ever nice to each other?" Maya doesn't look offended by this implication -- just /amused/. She lifts the flower to sniff at it again, a wide smile crossing her face. Her /eyes/ widen, too, as Joe turns his attentions to Nicoleta. "Woah! How do you know all that?" She looks over Nicoleta curiously. "Is he right." She pats at her own pockets, thoughtfully. "Because if he's right, /that's/ cool. And look, /I'm/ smiling, now." Nicoleta is silent. And then shifty looks, as she puts her hands in her pockets, whispering. "Yeah, he's fucking right. How the fuck do you do that? You a freak? Heh, wouldn't be surprised. Physically mutated probably too.". Nicoleta /snorts/, grinning. "I'm kidding, relax. But yeah, nailed it completely.". At Maya's question, Nicoleta shrugs. "That's why I'm usually nice to people, don't know about most.".
Joe chuckles and says, "Well, sex isn't a /bad/ reason to be nice to someone," he says with a rush of words. No one will accuse him of being suave. He nods at Nicoleta then, and says, "It's all about observation. The wallet is easy to see. The line of the knife in your pocket can only be a few things and you seem like the type to carry protection. I wasn't totally sure about the die, but then you're shopping in a game store, so it was worth a shot."
"Close enough to magic for me." Maya shakes her head in some small dose of amazement. "You don't have to be a mutant to make people smile." Her nose crinkles up at that, head shaking again. "/Or/ to be good at reading people." Her hand tips outward to Joe when he explains how he surmised what was in Nicoleta's pockets. "Just -- wow." Her cheeks puff out, and she blows out a heavy breath. "I should totally come to your -- what is this, Amazing Zerah? Where do you do this? I mean, this is fun. I should bring my roommate sometime she'd get a kick out of this too, I know. Do you have maybe a card or something? I'm always up for more smiling in my life."
"You remembered the knife from last time, cheapskate. Just a lucky fucking guess.". Nicoleta snorts again, before beginning to depart. "Take care of yourself, Magic Man, smiley chick whatever the fuck's your name.". And then she's taking her game to the counter to buy it.
Joe just shrugs at Maya's evaluation of his talents. "I've had a lot of practice. But sure, you should come to a show sometime." He pats his pockets, making a small show of not being able to find a card and being flustered about it until he looks up and sighs a slightly melodramatic relief. "Oh, /there/ is," he says, reaching out to take the business card that was lodged in Maya's hair just behind her ear. "Here," he says, flipping it over to write on the back with a pen from literally nowhere. "This'll get you two-for-one tickets at the box office, if you bring your friend." He nods and gives Nicoleta a tiny salute as she heads off. "Lucky guesses all around. Take care!"
Maya actually claps her hands together with delight -- which unfortunately leads to dropping her small Chrononauts box onto the ground. She takes Joe's card with a laugh, shaking her head. "Klutz tonight. Oh, goodness. Thank you! I'll be sure to stop by some time, then. Honestly after the fall we had -- I'd say /anyone/ bringing New York more smiles is doing /everyone/ a favour." She bops up onto her toes to drop a very light /peck/ onto Joe's cheek before rocking back down to pick up her fallen box. "I should go pay for these, too. You have a lovely night, yah?"
Joe moves to help pick up the box, but doesn't get there in time. He smiles, and just blinks for a moment when Maya kisses his cheek. He pauses a moment and says, "I wish I'd thought of it that way before." He's clearly dumbfounded by the concept that his job is basically centered around making people smile. And then she's leaving. "Oh yeah, have a good night!"