From X-Men: rEvolution
Dramatis Personae

Matt, Yuehai


"My familiar what?"


<NYC> Paper Moon - Harlem

The bay window beside this door is filled with brightly colored tapestries, candles, dreamcatchers, crystals, and a little wooden altar with seasonally rotating decorations. This window is truth in advertising, as the inside of the shop looks much the same, if /slightly/ better organized. The entire space is suffused with a powerful melange of pleasant scents: herbs and books and essential oils. One entire wall is taken up by candles from plain, solid-colored sticks to fragrant jars covered in fantasy art. One corner is packed with hundreds of jars of dried herbs, and near it are brightly lit glass showcases full of semi-precious stones and symbolic jewelry. Between these sit several rows of tall bookshelves crammed with volumes of ancient magical lore and modern occult manuals alike.

The other side of the store is slightly less busy: a counter with registers (perennially buried in knick-knacks and charms and the like), a small cafe serving locally roasted coffees, locally brewed kombucha, and a rotating selection of teas and herbal tisanes. The back of the cafe has a curtained-off area for divination by the Amazing Lala, who plays up her 'Gypsy Witch' gimmick just enough to seem ironically kitschy.

It's a pleasant, warm afternoon in New York City, for the first time in over a week. The streets teem with pedestrians, now that they're not all hurrying from destination to destination to stay out of the wind and rain. The door to the shop opens with a cascade of tinkling bells and Yuehai peers in, dark brown eyes wide. She's wearing an asymmetrically cut teal tunic dress with a generous hood, its hem hip-length on one side and thigh-length on the other, tight blue jeans, and heavy black 14-eye boots. Her longish black hair lies loose and a little messy about her shoulders, pooling down in the hood against her back.

Once inside, she stares around her in wonder, turning completely around and gaping at the shop's decor and merchandise. She trips over a heavy cast iron cauldron full of small, colorful stones ("$0.50 each!" reads a neon pink sign hanging from its lip) and catches herself on a table, knocking over several candles and candle magic books propped up on stands. Somehow, nothing breaks, though the girl looks very startled and it takes her a while to right all of the candles with shaking hands. A furry blue-gray snout pokes out from her hair and snuffles at the air in a flutter of whiskers.

Matt sits alone at a small round table in the cafe area, nursing a cup of tea in a black mug with a faintly iridescent sparkle where the light hits it and reading a hard-bound library book. A plate of cookies sits on the table before him. He looks up when Yuehai stumbles, eyes widening slightly in alarm. Neither the young woman at the sales register (deeply absorbed in the computer screen) nor the barista seem to have taken much notice. He hesitates, then, seeing how much the young woman has to pick up, closes his book (/The Night Circus/ by Erin Morgenstern) and stands, moving to assist. "The place is /kind/ of booby-trapped," he offers, stooping to retrieve a copy of /Candle Power/. "Not intentionally, but--" He breaks off, startled by the sudden appearance of rodent snout in Yuehai's hair. "Were you aware," he asks, his voice low and conspiratorial, "that you have a small animal on your shoulder?"

Yuehai keeps knocking over more items in her bid to stand the ones she had already knocked down upright again, though she does seem to be gaining on the chaos a bit at a time. Matt's timely arrival and assistance speed the process quite a bit. "Ah -- oh, you don't have to -- oh, I --" But the man's question brings her up short. Her mouth opens, but no coherent words come out. Her hands lift up, and flap rhythmically in the air next to her head, as if she were attempting to feel out where this small animal might be but missing her actual shoulders.

Perhaps the fluttering piques the creature's curiosity, for the snout emerges further until the rat's entire head is visible, ears pricked up, nose twitching, eyes bright like beads of obsidian set in its downy gray fur. Yuehai glances aside at it. "Oh! That's Justin." She says this very calmly, but then begins to look panicked. "I did not mean to, I forget that they were on me, {sorry, sorry!}" her whisper comes out level despite her wide, worried, eyes, Mandarin interspersed with her English. "{Please} don't tell the shopkeeper."

Matt's expression goes from perplexity to sheer delight when the rat pokes its head out. "Look at that adorable little face!" He goes on righting the items Yuehai knocks down. "Justin? Good name for a rat--have you read /Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH/, by any chance?" He flashes her a boyish smile. "Don't worry, I'm not going to tattle, though I suspect they'd be alright with it as long as Justin isn't running loose on the floor. You can just claim he's your familiar." Then, with a slight lift of one eyebrow, "Did you say 'they'?"

Yuehai's expression slowly arranges itself into a smile. "Oh! Yes that is the first book I read in English." Then, tilting her head (Justin had started grooming her hair and looks slightly put out when the hair /moves/ in his grasp). "My familiar what? I have two -- rats. Nicodemus is sleeping, maybe." She reaches back with one hand to palpate her hood. A sleek black rat pokes his head out from the curtain of her hair on her /other/ shoulder. "Now he is awake."

Matt takes the opporunity, while Yuehai's hands are occupied with locating rat, to finish straightening up the display table. "I love that book so much. A familiar--well, I suppose it's short for 'familiar spirit'--in the Western magical tradition is an animal who serves as an magical assistant."

By now, an employee has finally wandered over to to check on them. "Oh, please don't worry about this, I've got it." She flashes a dazzling smile at Matt, and does not even notice the rats peeking out of Yuehai's hair. "Are you looking for books about familiars?"

"Merci." Matt ducks his head in a small bow. "No, but I'll be sure to ask if we need help finding one!" He waves Yuehai aside, toward the little cafe sitting area.

Yuehai, for her part, just receives the store employee's arrival and words with wide-eyed concern. She does not move from her spot at all until Matt gestures for her to follow. In a low whisper as they move away, "Are you a...magician? Do /you/ have a familiar?"

"Witch," Matt replies with a wink, "but basically, yes. I don't have a familiar, though--at least not yet! Maybe I will, in the not-so-distant future..." He leaves off this musing and sweeps a hand toward his table. "C'mon, have a seat--and a cookie, if you'd like--and I'll tell you all about familiars."