Songs and Waffles

May 18, 2016:

A busker in Mutant Town is met by a black cat, that turns out to be a person, so they go for breakfast.

Street Corner in Mutant Town

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…


The district known as 'Mutant Town' in New York City has been hit hard of late — between Purifiers, Psyborgs and a host of other problems, the 'scars' of these injuries against the 'superpowered populace' living here are still apparent. There are buildings still showing signs of battle-damage, graffiti and vandalism — but for the most part, repairs have already been made.

On a street corner near one of the malls, relatively early in the morning, a tall, lean man with close-cropped blue-black hair sits on a chair playing a stringed instrument not unlike a mandolin: the tambura. A microphone rests on a stand in front of him, connected to an amp, although for now he only plays rather than sings.

He is clearly not quite human, given that his eyes are entirely blue-white in hue and glow rather intently; he stares ahead of himself as one who is blind, not seeing the people walking past, putting money in his guitar case.

He plays well.

Very well, some might say — notes like droplets of water spraying and foaming above a river in the mountains. For those who might recognise such things, the song is of Romani origin, and something to which one could easily dance.


A small black cat winds here through the people traversing the sidewalks from just outside the mall. She's clearly not a stray, her fur is sleek and healthy and if the collar of leather, bone and fang is a bit strange, she still wears it and most people ignore her, most don't even notice so intent on their own thoughts and navigating the crowded walking spaces. She's fast and adept at keeping to bits of cover, beneath a bench, a row of news paper stands, darting in and amongst people's feet and legs without ever touching them.

It's the sound that draws her, such lovely music and so different than the utter noise the people of this land call such. Rap? Rock and Roll? These are not things the cat enjoys. Finally she turns the corner and spots Israfel, and leaps atop a mailbox to watch him. Even without the eyes, She's got his scent on the wind and knows he is a mutant like her only friend in this land.

It puzzles the cat to see him show the signs of blindness and she's thrilled to discover something she remembers of her home before. The blind, like many others with disabilities and afflictions rarely survived for long. Not without a family of well means to protect them. Here, like so many other things this is different. Perhaps with his talent for music, he would have survived in her own land too, wherever that was. She watches a fur more moments before hopping down and approaching, darting beneath Israfel's chair and then slowly creeping out to sit next to the case at his feet and gaze up, her tail moving idly in time to the music.


It has never been Lucijan Dragovic's (Israfel's) intention to draw a crowd; it is the sound of people stopping to listen as they walk by — their footsteps too hurried or too heavy before they give them a rest — then the sound of their feet as they leave, lighter, happier, that brings a smile to his face as he plays.

And so it goes, the simplicity of a single moment of clarity and joy in a day that has already lost itself in the blur of the week, as people pass by. Some stick around, from one song to the next, but Israfel listens for those footsteps.

Sensing movement of a different kind at his side, the Croatian mutant turns his head to the side a little, mainly to direct his ear toward the cat that has chosen to wait by his side.

He smiles.

"I think he likes him!" murmurs a boy to his parents as they pass by, pointing a chubby finger at the black cat. The parents smile.

"It's a she, dear," says his mother, while his father ruffles his hair.

The boy stares at Israfel and blinks. "No he isn't! He's a he!"

"She meant the cat, son," says the father, smirking.

"Can I put some money in the case, Mommy?" The lad barely waits for a nod before running over and tossing some coins in the case. Israfel smiles lopsidedly, his face turned slightly upward.

"Thank you," says he, in an East-European accent.


Shakira straightens a bit at the attention from the small boy and his parents. She's a vain creature, the little cat. Her chest rumbles softly with pleasure at Israfel's music, being noticed by the family and the coins the blind man collects. She has little money herself but it were on her at the moment she'd spare some too. As a thanks for such lovely melodies.

Of all the little bits and pieces of her homeland she remembers, music is the thing she has missed most, despite not being able to recall any specific melody or song, she feels the blue-eyed man's is rather similar in tone. Shakira moves to twine about Israfel's legs, purring ever louder. She hopes he is not one who isn't fond of cats, if so she'll just resettle on the mailbox to listen. Even in M-Town she's wary about changing forms while amongst a crowd.


Israfel starts to sing.

There are no words, only sounds, threaded through every chord as it is played, but the moment he begins to sing his eyes glow a little more and he able to turn and look directly at the boy. "Blessings of God being upon you, Mister…"

"Liam!" says the boy, now reaching over to try and stroke the black cat. Then he points a finger at the singer. "You can see!"

"Can I?" Dragovic retorts with a smile as the light from his eyes fades a handful of seconds after he stops singing. He also stops playing, and reaches down a hand for the cat to brush up against if she wishes. "Go with your parents, Master Liam," he tells the lad, now no longer looking directly at him. "Tell them thank you, from me."

And the performer leans over to put his tambura away in its case.

"Is that your cat?" Liam inquires, despite his parents' efforts to lead him away. "I like him! Byee!"

Dragovic chuckles, then leans to the side to direct his voice toward the ebony-furred feline. "You are getting this a lot, yes?" he asks with a smile.


Shakira allows the sticky-fingered child to pet at her but it's Israfel's questing fingers she eagerly brushes up against. Perhaps touch is important to him, it would make sense. It's also important to her though for different reasons. Yellow eyes roll after the departing child and she makes a soft almost chuckling sound. Somewhere between a purr and a rumble.

Shakira sits back on her hind legs and then stands to put her tiny paws on Israfel's knee.

Her next move is a bit unfeline, she bats at his hand with one of those paws and then turns and jumps on the case of the man's tambura, landing with a loud enough thump for him to hear it before returning to pat at his hand again. Will he understand she's trying to thank him for the music?


Dragovic laughs.

"You are welcome," says he, quite content to stroke the cat's face. "I would offer food, but am not yet having had breakfast myself." His nostrils flare as he takes a breath and he looks down the street toward a cafe.

The smile returns.

"I let you in on secret, yes?" he asks of the cat and starts to sing. Again, he does not use words but instead recreates the principal melody of his earlier song, vocally. The light returns to his eyes and suddenly he busies himself with packing up his equipment — displaying the dexterity of someone who can see where everything is.

Either that, or he has merely memorised where he put it all, which is entirely possible regardless of what his singing does for his sight. The tambura gets slung over his shoulder, while the amp and other equipment fits nicely in a case he can pull on wheels behind him like luggage.

Once he is all packed up, Dragovic squats down in front of the black cat, and strokes its head once more. "I am seeing you in song…" he sings, exchanging sounds for words while he hums. "You are for being… too beautiful to hide in darkness."


Shakira steps out of the way and eyes Israfel with interest. At his words she takes a few steps back, looks around and decides no one is studying the pair too closely now that Israfel has stopped playing and she transforms. First her eyes start to go from yellow to blue, it's always the first thing to change, the rest happens between one breath and the next.

One moment she's a tiny yellow eyed black feline with soft, sleek fur. The next she's a tall and lithesome blue-eyed beauty. Long dark hair just as soft, collar turned to a necklace of bone and fangs. Her clothing at least doesn't draw so much attention now that it's warmer. A fur bikini still isn't a common thing to wear though. "I was not hiding exactly. I am a cat. I am also a woman." Which is she truly? She'll never tell. "You're music is very beautiful. The best I have heard since travelling to this land. Country." Shakira hastily adds. "This country." She is learning, slowly and stubbornly but the words and phrases that weren't common to her before are slowly becoming so. It is partly his comment on her beauty that caused her to take a chance and show her other side, she does love to be admired.. but also because she thinks he perhaps see better than most of those gifted with ordinary eyes.


The performer's eyes flash in surprise, his chin tucked in and a slow smile stealing its way across his face. He stops singing for a moment, but the light remains for a little while, giving him the chance to truly notice the woman now standing in front of him. He memorises the image.

"This is being place for surprising changes," says he, laughing. Extending a hand, he introduces himself: "My name is being Lucijan Dragovic — some call me Israfel. I am Luc to my friends."

The light fades to a muted sheen in his blue-white eyes, and gone is the sense of having someone look into one's face. Instead, Luc's chin comes up as he uses his ears and nose to picture this woman-who-is-also-a-cat (or vice versa).

"What is being your name?" he asks. "And do you like tea, or coffee?"


Shakira returns the man's smile with a genuine one of her own. "I have found that about this area of town, yes. I am called Shakira. It is my pleasure to meet you.. Luc." She hopes he will be a friend. In the months that she has been here she has made only one and while her nature is a rather solitary one, she does prefer some companionship and the ice mutant leads a busy life. She doesn't see him often.

She smirks a bit though Lucijan probably can't see it as she remembers Bobby's and the magic Goddess's reaction the last time she'd done this and fishes a twenty dollar bill out of her fur top. "I have access to the paper money I brought with me now. I hope you will allow me to buy you breakfast. I have not eaten yet either and would enjoy your company. Very much I think." After a moment she adds in an honest voice. "That does not happen often." She has a difficult personality she's been told. More than once. And her view of things is a lot more barbarian or catlike than not and that also doesn't help her make friends.


Lucijan bows a little (he is one of old-fashioned manners, after all), smiles and nods, and motions with a hand in the direction of the cafe. "This cafe I enjoy," says he to his new friend. "They know me; I am thinking there will be some… uh, talk — seeing me with… guest." And the smile turns into something of roguish grin.

As they walk along the sidewalk, Lucijan with his tambura and equipment, the man occasionally breaks into humming — primarily to steal glances at this strange cat-woman who enjoys his music. His cheeks colouring faintly, he clears his throat and remarks: "You are… how these Americans say, 'from out-of-town', no?" He motions to himself by laying a hand over his breast. "Me, my home is Croatia — very far away. You?" And he motions with the same hand toward her.

The cafe itself is of modest size, quite busy — there is a queue, as everyone wants their morning caffeine-fix — but has some empty tables both within and without. It is staffed by a mix of mutants, metahumans and 'regular' humans, who seem to have good chemistry.


Shakira grins. Yes she can see that, and with her clothing.. or lack of it.. well. If he doesn't mind then she's certainly not troubled. "Croatia." She repeats the name, it's another new one to learn. "I.. I am not sure. I woke in a park in New York sometime during the winter months. I don't recall much of my homeland or past." She has learned to stop telling people it was another world. They either think she's crazier than she already appears to them or laugh in her face and then she punches them. Neither things she desires to happen here.

"It's not as terrible as it might seem. I don't miss what I can't remember but I.. it does get lonely sometimes." It's a hard confession for Shakira and not something she'd usually admit aloud but her meeting with Bast and the admonitions she'd received and the long months of being utterly alone have Shakira willing to be more open in the right circumstances and Lucijan is.. very easy to talk to she's finding. "It smells very nice in here. I have found I like the strength of coffee more than tea."


As they stand in line, Lucijan nods knowingly to Shakira's story, idly humming to himself at the same time. Of course, there is nothing really 'idle' about it, as he projects his astral self further into the cafe, on his voice, where it hovers by one of the baristas.

"The heart yet feels the pain the mind cannot place…" he sings, very softly but loud enough for Shakira at least to hear (and anyone standing close by). "Agony in memories forgotten, yet to face…" While he 'converses' in song, his astral self /whispers/ to a barista — who suddenly turns to look at Israfel and Shakira, nods her head with a grin and goes about preparing two coffees.

Israfel… smirks.

He is indeed 'jumping the queue', but it does not appear to bother him. IN fact, most in the room would not notice anything strange, except that the man is singing. Some, however, see the projection and give the performer wry looks.

"So your home is being far, even if not in distance…" he murmurs after the 'song' fades. "Between memories lies a sea, endless, when the mind cannot remember. I… am sorry for to be hearing this, Shakira."


Shakira watches this, blue eyes glinting in amusement. "There is nothing for you to be sorry for." Shakira hesitates a moment, then works carefully to keep the raw hope from her voice and project confidence instead. "My new friend." She smiles and reaches across the table to touch his hand briefly.

"I live yet, the morning is fine and I have met a mysterious and enchanting man." Her day is looking much better indeed. "Things are not so very bad, hmm?" She takes the coffee from the returning barista with a nod of acknowledgement. Not quite a thanks, she doesn't see the purpose of thanking a person being paid to do a thing but does see the rudeness of ignoring them altogether. Which isn't to say that she wouldn't at times. This is Israfel's place and these might be his friends. So she is attempting to be on her best behaviour towards the others.


Lucijan thanks the barista in Croatian, chuckling as one who knows the person with whom he is talking. Then, coffee nestled comfortably in his hand, he arches a single blue-black eyebrow — staring straight ahead, sightless — and utters a 'hmmm…'

"A 'mysterious and enchanting man'…" says he, a roguish smirk tugging at the corner of his lips. "Fortunate, yes, to have met such a man — tell me name and where he is being, and I shall make him to go away. I feel… competition, no?"

A melodious chuckle comes from his lips.


Shakira gives Lucijan a low, sultry laugh. "Since he is sitting across from me and I do not wish for him to leave, I think you have nothing to worry about, Lucijan." Her voice changes a bit when she says his name, and it falls from her lips like a note of song. His name is a beautiful sound to her and she pronounces it as such.

She brings the coffee to her lips and has a tiny taste, it's still very hot. "Oh this is good, strong and fresh. What is the best to eat here? She watches Israfel with a fascinated expression. She hasn't met anyone quite like him before. Of that she is sure. "I am not familiar with your homeland. Are you only visiting New York?" Is there a bit of sadness in her voice at the question?


"I live in Metropolis," the performer replies. "With the…Cities-Three so…" and he gesticulates with both hands as if holding something like a ball between them. "Ah, connected, yes? Is easy for travelling between. I am having… many friends here, in New York. I am being here… often. In Metropolis I am physical-therapist as well as performer. When needed, I am X-Red — this team, you may have heard."

To answer his new friend's other question, Lucijan hums briefly and picks up one of the menus on the table. "American food is…" and he chuckles, putting down the menu once more. "Different. But waffles are… very good. I prefer croissant — is French, but they make nothing of Croatia here."

He pauses, sips his coffee and smiles lopsidedly.

"For real Croatian breakfast, I should have to cook for you." Was that flirting? Quite possibly, considering the playful look on his face. He drinks more of his coffee and then inquires: "What is that Shakira does when she is not entertaining mysterious and enchanting man?"


Shakira listens to Israfel and then grabs his hand in excitement. "X-Red yes! I know of them. My.. I know Bobby. He is a friend." She manages not to blurt 'my one friend' in her joy at knowing someone who knows the ice man. It is a sad thing to admit and somewhat humiliating and that is a thing she hates.

"What is.. this thing, physical therapy?" She very much hopes that doesn't make her sound stupid. "Much of the food here is.. different yes." A very polite way of putting it and Shakira isn't a picky eater at all but things have so much salt in them, enough for the entire seas of this world. And very few people hunt their own food. It's very strange.

"I have a room at an Inn and it is run by a… an unusual person. I work as a.. a bouncer she called it. Sometimes I also dance. She gives me the room and a little money in exchange and one meal a day. Food that is good and not.. processed into inedibleness." Shakira considers for a moment and then adds, if Israfel knows X-Red it might not sound so unbelievable. "During the nights I have off and sometimes the day, I wander the city. Catch the criminals and drop them off at the lawmen's offices. I owe a debt to the.." She has to stop referring to Fenris as the Warlord of the Tri-Cities. People also look at her strangely for that. "To someone of power and I do this to make amends and.. because I am a hunter and need something to do or I will surely go mad."


"This is feeling I know well," Luc replies in a soft murmur, laden with grim emotion. The moment passes and he smiles with another nod. Humming to himself, he projects his soul-self away through the cafe so that it whispers in the ear of someone in the kitchen.

"Two croissants as Luc like them…" he works into the little tune, smirking at Shakira. "Waffles on the side… Is this sounding right to you?" The singing abruptly ends with a chuckle, no matter how Shakira responds to his 'question'.

"You are knowing of X-Red then," says he with a smile. "Good! Very good." Then a sudden frown of sympathy crosses his brow as his sight fades again and he stretches a hand across the table as if to take Shakira's in his own. "And you are knowing Bobby… Is okay — I understand. I am sorry. I know him also."

He cannot quite keep a straight face as he says it, and thus is clearly joking in his lamentation of knowing the Iceman. "Bobby is good soul — pranks and jokes drip like water from a defrosted freeze, but is good soul. Good X-man."


Shakira senses the dark emotion and gives Israfel a soft glance. Not a thing she should ask about yet though. "It sounds good to me, I think. Waffles I have had, they aren't bad." Especially if you use them to hold freshly roasted meat. "He was very cold when we first met. I did not understand why til much later. He is good, yes. I was a stray cat lost in the woods and he let me in and fed me though he had little. He also let me stay when he caught on I was not just a little lost cat." Shakira looks, slightly embarrassed. It was a foolish mistake to focus so on the strange little fish sticks and her empty stomach that she'd shifted in or order to eat faster and forgotten to look out for him.

She manages to give the impression of rolling her eyes with her voice when she continues. "He keeps taking me to this Wal-Mart for more clothes. I have tried to explain that they do not change with me and I do not get cold easily. I do not understand people's need here to cover themselves so much."


"You would love Croatia in the winter then," Israfel replies jovially. "It would be simple thing to tour more of Europe all in the one visit. Personally," and he lays a hand over his breast again. "I like the Autumn. Mornings, evenings — always the 'time between times', when change is…" and he makes a motion with his free hand as if he were feeling the texture of leaves or pages between his fingertips. "How you say… palpable."

A waitress from the kitchens brings out Luc's and Shakira's orders, smiles at them both, and then leaves. Lucijan wastes little time in eating his croissant. "You spoke of hunting, and debts," says he after finishing a mouthful of his meal. "This… you feel you must do? I understand. What happens to those you hunt?"


Shakira looks interested at the idea of travelling. She should see more of this new world that is her home and thinks she roamed about often before. It feels like that it true at least. "I do not mind the cold but I hate the wet. The snow is not so terrible when it is good and frozen but the rain.. or the wet kind of snow." Shakira shudders. Some cats love the water, clearly she is not one of those.

It takes her a few moments to answer his last question. Shakira starts on her croissant too, making a pleased sound at the texture and taste. She also considers her answer and decides to be honest. "I do not kill them but I have hurt the worse ones rather badly. I leave them for the police to sort out. I think in my life it was different, but I do not live that life any longer and killings here, even if justified are frowned upon."

She takes a sip of coffee to wash down the bread before going on. "When I first arrived I was frightened and confused. I knew something was wrong and didn't know where I was or how I'd gotten there. The first two people I encountered were a God and his.. companion. He was not pleased to see a stranger in his territory and I took offense at his tone. I was very.. rude." It's still not an easy admission even now. "It was later pointed out to me that while I had reason to be shaken there was no reason for me to ignore the fact my point of view is not the only one there is. I was an invader to another's lands whether purposefully or not. I should not have been so disrespectful. So now I help to protect the non hunters in his domain from the wicked, or the predators who shouldn't be hunting here."


"And there are being predators aplenty…"

Israfel nods his head, his meal temporarily forgotten as he listens. He does, however, continue drinking his coffee. "This is good to hear," he goes on to say. "X-Red is… public," and he motions in front of his blind visage with his hand. "Face. We help — we must. There is being too much pain not to help. Even as physical therapist, I help those injured return to their lives. Yesterday I said good-bye to client who was…in car-crash. He walks now. So many surgeries he had to have… I admire his strength."

Having eaten all that he wants to, Luc dabs at his mouth with a napkin and puts down his knife and fork. "Your strength I can hear in your voice, when I am not singing. When I sing, I can see it in your face and body. It takes strength for /not/ to kill, when the moment comes. Is very good, inspiring to me."


Though she doesn't give any sign of it, it had made her nervous admitting the last part. Whichever she truly is, woman or cat, or both, she is a predator and even though she doesn't remember much of it, Shakira knows the world she came from was very different and far more brutal than most of this one. Killing is and was a necessity there. He is right and he understands. It's often not easy for her to refrain from it, especially when dealing with the more heinous criminals of the type she prefers to hunt.

"It is a rare pleasure to meet someone who feels that way and understands. I am not.. like many of those I have met here. My nature is different and I think where I came from only the strongest survived and they did not so by living peaceful lives. Even so, a predator doesn't kill simply for sport, it does so to in order to live. It might love the thrill of the chase and the rush of victory when tasting the prey's blood but that is not the reason for the hunt. I would like to think that whatever I was before, it was something more than a barbarian. Even if it was less than what is considered human here. So I work hard to find a balance between the two."


Leaning back in his chair, countenance raised and smiling, Lucijan Dragovic reaches into a breast pocket and withdraws a business card with his details on it, in English one side, Braille on the other. "Here," says he to Shakira as he slides it across the table in the direction of her voice. "Should you ever need help or wish to talk — is my information on that card."

He smiles a bit more, and the expression turns into one of curiosity. "And where does a lady work as… bouncer? And dancer? Is a man allowed to know? A man might pay a lady a visit — providing she does not, how you say… kick him out for not having identification, no?"

The smile becomes a grin, pure rogue.


Shakira grins and laughs delightedly. "You would be welcome. It is a tavern. There are also rooms there for people like me, who have no place else to go or are different in some way. I have stayed the longest of any of the guests since I have been there but I like it. It is not like other such places in the city." The owner being a water nypmh and the guests rarely mundane humans, it's much wilder and closer to the little she remembers of home.

Shakira gives Lucijan the address, she can strangely, read English. She knows someone must have taught her though why someone in her world would have know it.. the woman has no idea. She's not too good at writing herself though. "It was much more exciting at first, but now I rarely have to show any strength save for when the odd new person or someone from out of town comes to drink.

Most have learned not to disobey the rules if they wish to stay, or not be in need of services such as those you provide. A healer, that is very noble work." She does not mention, though it is a source of pride, that several of those new customers come solely to see her. The nymph offered her the room and position once she'd seen Shakira in action, hoping that would be the case. Or perhaps knowing. Shakira is trying to keep her vanity in check since her meeting with the Cat god however and so she leaves it unsaid, if not unthought.


As soon as Lucijan has the address, he starts humming again — not so much to give him back his sight for a few moments, but rather to commit the address to memory. It is relatively easy to do, and leaves him smiling and nodding his head.

"I will visit. I promise. Is not 'everyday' I meet a cat who turns into a person and intrigues this much. I am not always performing on the street — this I do for fun. And for the footsteps. They change, footsteps, upon hearing. I sing to see them — but I like listening to them more."

He moves his hands away from the table when a waitress comes to take away the dirty plates and mugs. "I shall listen for yours," Lucijan adds after a moment.

And orders another coffee.


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