Coffee Clatch

August 19, 2016:

Hank McCoy was out enjoying a sandwich and a drink when he's suddenly surrounded by old friends and new.

A Cafe in SoHo

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It's a lovely day. It's warm but not oppressively hot, and there's a nice breeze. In general it's really a peaceful day, the perfect day to go out, order a coffee and a sandwich, and sit at outside under a canopy. Which is exactly what Darcy Lewis plans on doing. She earned it.

She walks slowly toward the cafe in scuffy comfortable shoes and a tanktop and sweat pants. Her hair is in a sloppy pony and her glasses don't hide the black eye or the split lip. She keeps a careful eye out on the sidewalk traffic, using her right hand to tuck her casted left arm into her side gingerly. Very gingerly. The sling is boring medical blue. Darcy's taken duct tape, in Hello Kitty!, and wrapped some of her cast.

Hank McCoy has already had that very same idea and is seated at one of the tables, a sandwich half-eaten and an iced coffee half-drunk as he reads a book. The appearance of another in the area has him looking over his book, his glasses perched on the end of his nose. It's actually rather nice out without the extra coat of fur and he's going to take advantage of that for the afternoon.

"I don't bake."

That was Carol Danvers' only explanation to Caitlin Fairchild when she took the younger woman's call and suggested they meet at a particular cafe not far from Carol's current location. The truth is simple: Carol can make coffee. Good coffee, thanks to those handy little automated wonders. But she cannot bake. Oh, perhaps she could learn, but she has never had the knack nor the interest.

Clad in a pair of USAF dark blue nylon running shorts and a NASA grey t-shirt, her blonde hair twisted up into a ponytail which extrudes through the opening at the back of SHIELD baseball cap, the visibly muscled blonde woman strolls down the sidewalk towards that selfsame cafe. Carol is in casual mode, her only concession to professionalism being the Bluetooth (tm) earbud in her right ear and extending halfway down her cheek.

Carol spots a woman headed the same way at a slower pace, and can't help flashing to a thought of 'domestic abuse survivor'. She could be wrong. May well be. But it's what she thinks when she sees the woman, and she makes a point of slowing her pace and stepping in to block and distract another sidewalk pedestrian to redirect him out of the other woman's path, so she won't get bumped. It's the little things in life.

"At all? C'mon, you can rebuild a P-51 engine but you can't make brownies?" Caitlin says, lifting a dubious eyebrow at the blonde aviator. Caitlin's clothing verges on casual, but the readheaded bombshell could probably make a potato sack look good. Wearing a sage green dress with a slender halter strap behind her neck and a skirt hem bordering on flirty, she's got inches to spare over almost everyone else on the sidewalk and her muss of tumbling red hair doesn't hurt, either. Even in flats few folks can meet her eye level. "It's just chemistry. Quantity X, Quanitity Y, agitate for 500 seconds, insert into oven at 350 for 45 minutes. Easy as pie. Well, it /is/ pie," she concedes.

Also, she's eating something— the remains of a milkshake, which haven't lasted the few blocks of their fast, long strides towards the cafe. It's not a small snack, either, it's one of those big thirty-two ounce jobs. Where does she /put/ it?

There's a squeal of tires and the sound of two people shouting at one another, as a sedan swaps paint with a sports car. Caitlin whips her head around, then frowns. "Weird. That's the third time today that's happened," she mutters, a little obliviously.

She catches what Carol does to help the girl with the cast, and she frowns with unconscious sympathy. "Ow," she mutters, spotting the visible bruise.

Nearing the door, Darcy hadn't noticed Carol playing blocker for her until Caitlin mentions. And it has Darcy smiling. It's be a broader smile but split lips hurt.

"Yeah," says the MUCH shorter brunette, starting to reach for the door. Her eyes return to the guy with the sandwich that had glanced her way. She had been trying to read the title of his book while avoiding foot traffic. She hadn't been as successful as she'd have liked and now her looking right at him is getting way more than obvious.

The book is a recently published book called 'Nothing: Surprising Insights Everywhere from Zero to Oblivion'. It came out a couple of years ago, but he was finally able to get around to reading it. When the beat-up woman catches his gaze, Hank actually flushes and looks away, as if quite embarassed that someone actually looked at him. After a moment, he peeks back over the book to see if she's still there or, gasp, still looking at him!

Nothing wrong with science, but Caitlin would be a far better appreciator of the subject matter of that book than Carol. The blonde instead simply nods to Darcy and moves to hold open the door to the cafe, so that she can go inside to place her order without struggling with the arm. "I mean no offense. But I hope you busted his jaw to get that cast." she murmurs, with heartfelt intensity.

Carol glances up at Caitlin, then past her at the car accident, and smirks. "OK, Red. You got me. I can probably bake. But I'm not going to do it. It's just not me. And it's easier to come here and buy what I want. C'mon, I'm sure you're running low on calories, with that cup empty." Thirty-two ounces of ice-cold chocolate milkshake, and Caitlin has already consumed it all. And Carol thought /she/ had a blast furnace of a metabolism.

Once the young woman with the cast is through the door, Carol holds it for Caitlin and then follows herself, intending to order something ice cold - she's not sure what yet - and one of those double-chocolate muffins. Because she can. Then they can settle outdoors and enjoy the breeze, the sunshine, and the people-watching.

"/Lazy/," Caitlin murmurs, feigning shock. She queues up with everyone else, scrunching her nose at the menu. "I'llll have… the cheesecake. No—" she stops the fellow when he reaches for the display case. "I mean, the whole thing. Yes. That one. Thanks. Oh, and your biggest coffee." She digs in her small purse, which is comically undersized compared to her frame, and comes up with a credit card.

"/I/ got approved for a credit card," she tells Carol, proudly.

She catches Darcy scoping the man out, and follows her gaze to the book, then her eyes go wide. "Ooh! Nothing! That's a GREAT book," she exclaims, nevermind the fact the man's trying to read in peace. "I thought the bit about daydreaming was kinda silly and new-agey, but Hawking's bit about the potential heat-death of the universe was really good." She digs out a cell phone from her purse, chatting away. "I mean the math was a bit tricky but you know if you isolate some of the variables you can really see how the condensed heat death model works— in a general way— and y'know with just a little advancced calculus and some Diff EQ, and y'know, if you know some quantum physics is all starts sort of locking into place. Have you read Hawking's essay on the thermal…" she starts getting off on a tear— someone interrupt her!

Darcy, grateful as Carol takes the door for her, chuckles. The moment and the sound are cut short by a wince and Darcy shifting her right hand to her ribs.

"Soon as humanly possible, trust me. Gonna punch him so hard, Hawaii's gonna feel it," Darcy grouces in a tight grumble. The wince covers the motion of her looking back over at Blushing Guy. It's safe to look again since Carol's got the door. She loses sight of the title again because of some other patrons. She smiles lightly. It's mostly to herself, but considering she's still looking in Hank's direction. Well, Darcy just goes ahead and smiles at Hank. Light. Small. No need to aggrivate the lip. She turns then and heads to the counter and places an order. Iced coffee, french vanilla flavored. And a sandwich; but please cut it into strips?

"Dude… Red. Breathe. And spoilers," Darcy quips as she pays up, eyes then whole frame turning to Caitlin. Carol called the tall woman Red, so Darcy can too. A corner of her mouth kicks up. She reaches for her order when it's called out and ready, already playing the how to balance it on cast in a sling game.

Hank McCoy blinks from behind his glasses and peers back up over the book as the tall redhead begins to talk. He looks around first to see if she's actually talking to him. It seems that she is but he then looks at the spine of his book and back to the woman, "Are you sure it was this book? This is about the concept of 'nothing'…of vacuums and the very idea of zero. I mean, I -did- read Hawking's essay, but this has nothing to do…" his words sort of trail off as the young woman is still looking at him! He actually takes a moment to look down at himself and his hands to make sure that he's still flesh and not fur, which he is.

He might go hide back in his book again. Women just don't -look- at Hank! Or if they do, he just misinterprets so it's a lot easier just to forget about it.

"Well, you want someone to hold him still, give me a call." Carol off-handedly offers to Darcy, whom she doesn't know from Eve, but sounds utterly genuine in her offer. Hell, she'd punch him /for/ Darcy, but she's a strong believer that the abused needs the chance to return the favor personally. Carol believes in punching therapy.

"Whoa, Red. Whoa. Trust me. No one else in this room has three PhDs in physics and math, OK. Tone it down before they all roll their eyes so hard they head out the door and down the street without their owners." Carol admonishes, teasing.

The blonde accepts the iced coffee drink and her sinful muffin, smirks a little at Caitlin's order, and then gathers up her own and pays, heading out to the outdoor tables. And if she just happens to sit somewhere close to Hank? So what? But Carol does a double-take when she catches his blushing face free of his book for a bit. She takes a few seconds, and then she says, "McCoy?" She sounds uncertain, but curious.

"I don't have any PhDs!" Caitlin squeaks in protest. "I have a Master's. I just… y'know, I read a lot," she mumbles, defensively.

Darcy chastises her, too, and Caitlin's ears turn a vibrant shade of pink. She turns away to get her cheesecake (she really wasn't joking, it's an entire 8" cheesecake on a plate) and she reaches for a fork. Spotting Darcy's fumbling problems, though, she steps forward to help the woman juggle her food/transport it as needed, following her to her seat— which seems to coincide with where Carol's planted herself.

How fortuitous!

The offer, and the heartfeltness she can sense behind it, has Darcy starting to laugh, only for her to wince again. She seems torn between holding her ribs and touching her lip.

"HA-ooohh. Thanks. I appreciate it. He was just doing him. Can't be mad about it, really," Darcy demures as she gets her sandwich tray balanced, with Caitlin's help, and collects her iced coffee. "Thanks, Daquiri," she says to the red-head, because it makes sense to her. And yes, she heads to Hank's table. Because she really did want to look at the book title and maybe talk to him. He had that safe-feeling of a shy, uncoordinated academic who if shown bare breasts would get a nose-bleed. Given how wrung out Darcy was refusing to admit she was feeling, such a guy was just the kind she wanted to sit next to.

So, she does. Gingerly, because her ribs are bruised at best fractured at worse. And she looks between Carol and her tablemate.

"Hi. I'm Darcy and I just wanted to look at your book and maybe fumble my way through sounding just as dumb as I am," she introduces herself and her public intentions. because she will not be admitting to wanting to hide away in a science convention. Science conventions have, thus far, proven themselves to be nice and predictably uneventful.

"Actually…" Hank starts, but then realizes they really aren't talking to him. Right. This is why he just needs to read his book and keep to himself. He starts to do just that until he's actually addressed by name. That causes him to turn to look at the blonde woman at the nearby table, "Yes?" It's not the first time he's been recognized in public.

Blue eyes slowly turn to look at the young woman who sits at his chosen table and he just watches her for a moment before remembering to talk. "Uh. Hank. And, sure…" he marks his spot in the book and slides it over for her to look at. "You don't sound dumb at all. A little surprisingly forward, but not dumb." There's even a beginning of a smile there before he remembers himself and takes a bite of his sandwich. Two women are talking to him. It's so much easier when he can just snarl and look growly.

"Good to see you again. Hank, right? I'm Carol. I spent some time at one of the research instutions you frequented upstate, a little less than a decade ago?" Carol offers to McCoy, by way of explanation. Because 'research instition' sounds so much better than 'mutant training academy.'

Once Caitlin is seated, Carol makes brief introductions. "Caitlin, otherwise known as Red or Daquiri." Carol teases. "Good to meet you, Darcy. And seriously, I don't care how much 'being him' explains all of that. You still need to shatter his jaw." Because no man should ever get away with doing that to a woman without paying the price. God bless the assumptions. "I'm Carol, by the way, Darcy."

"When did you go to a research institution?" Caitlin asks Carol, with an oblivious frown. "…/Why/ would you go to a research facility?" she adds, looking thoroughly perplexed.

Everyone gets a small, almost girlish wave from around the shoulder, the tines of Caitlin's fork glinting with the motion, along with a million-watt smile. She attacks her cheesecake with a fork like it's a fluffy serving of much lighter fare— the dense cheesecake must be well over 5000 calories, and it doesn't look like it's going to slow the big redhead down one bit. She's built like a professional athlete, even moreso than the fit blonde addressing Hank. But how she stays that fit on that kind of diet is anyone's guess.

"Are you in school?" Caitlin asks Darcy, giving the other woman a friendly smile and quick once-over. Caitlin hunches down, just a little, as if self-conscious of her height differential.

"I've been called that," Darcy retorts of being called forward. She seems unapologetic about it as she slides the book over to read the back summary. She nods and sets it back down for Hank, glancing at Carl as she does so.

"Likewise Carol, but as much as shattering his jaw would be lovely it would only make him write down his orders. And then I'd have to keep him in notepads and pens, and really.. It's just not a hassel worth dealing with. PlusI don't think my SO would take kindly to me just smashing his face out of the blue, you know?" Darcy says to Carol, not yet seeming to have realized the assumption made or the way it might get worse. She smiles lightly at Caitlin, a hint of jealously in her gaze.

"I swear to jesus, woman. I am going to gain like four inches on my ass just watching you eat that!" Brain to mouth filter is still missing! "And no. There are mixed feelings. Relieved that there is no more homework, no more research, no more drafting the thesis paper, no more defense… Utterly depressed that in five months I will have even more student loans to pay back. Almost makes me want to go back again just to get them to stop, but what the fuck does one even DO with a PhD in politics, seriously? I just can't. Besides.. work. My degree feels almost useless enough as it is," she replies just as she takes a much more dainty almost nibble of her finger-width sandwich. Tuna salad. Because the chicken salad had walnuts and Darcy is not up for crunchy yet.

Hank McCoy looks back to Carol and nods, "Yes…" and as she explains how she knows him, his eyes widen, "Oh…Oh!" It might take him a moment as it was a while ago and he was a bit preoccupied when their time overlapped. "I remember, it's good to see you. Have you been in New York all this time?" Some of his shyness dissipates for the moment. Caitlin is given a nod when she's introduced, "Nice to meet you…Hank McCoy." It's said both to Caitlin as well as Darcy.

The question has him looking to the other to hear the answer about school. What he hears is a bit different. Maybe it's the mention of a useless degree, but most likely it's the mention of an SO. Of course. There's a little sigh as he takes the book back and looks back to his sandwich, "There is nothing useless about education. It's what you do with it that matters."

Carol sips her iced coffee and then works on opening up the paper around the freshly baked muffin. Then she starts breaking off little pieces of chocolate-chip-bearing fudgey muffin evil and gobbling up those tiny bits with delays between. Not nearly as many calories as Caitlin, but still sinful enough many would avoid it rather than risk it.

"New York? No, not all this time. I've been all over. You know. Space. a few different galaxies. And all over the planet, really. I live in Metropolis right now. You?" Carol answers Hank, not bothering to pretend she isn't exactly who she is. He was at Xaviers', so it shouldn't shock him to the core, and Caitlin knows. If Darcy understands, great. Maybe it'll help her to understand Carol is serious about this abuser business.

"You know, Hank's a bit of a brainiac, from what I remember. But he's right. Education is never a waste. If nothing else, you've learned /how/ to learn, and how to defend a premise. Those are skills useful in a wide array of professions." The trick being to find a profession that speaks to something that matters to you. And Carol is well aware of what a challenge that can be.

To Caitlin, closer at hand, Carol explains, "You know a bit about my history. There've been times of radical change in my life, and during one of those, going to that research facility helped me to put things into perspective, figure out what was going on, and what to do about it." It's also where she learned that she actually liked teaching.

Caitlin pinks at the tips of her ears, shifting imperceptibly at the accusation from Darcy. The chair squeaks protest, but at least doesn't collapse— either it's very rickity or the woman weighs a lot more than she looks. "This might tide me over for a few hours," Caitlin tells Darcy. "I have to eat a lot. I've got a really fast metabolism." She wiggles her shoulders at the other woman and keeps digging into the cheesecake with a polite but cake-eating pace.

Her phone rings, then, and blinking she checks a text— then makes a face and rolls her eyes. "Bleeeergh. I'm sorry, I gotta step away to take this," she apologizes to everyone. She flashes the phone at Carol— no Big Emergency. Probably something from the Baxter Building, then.

So, Emergency Yet to be Announced? She waves apologetically and slips to the side to take her call.

"I know that, Mr. McCoy. I'm no belittling education in general, but there is absolutely no correlation between setting trolls on fire with molotov cocktails while wearing roller skates and being able to discuss the potential socio-political impact of new and emergent technologies gleaned from the reverse engineering of artifacts of unknown origin on any subsequent laws crafted in the current atmosphere of Congressional and Senate subcommittees," Darcy replies with no lack of passion and conviction in her voice. She turns to look at Carol, grinning past the split lip.

"Yeah. Can't argue that," Darcy replies to the blonde, looking over as Cailtlin gets a text telling her to go. She's about to comment when her own phone goes off. She answers it: "Lewis. … Eating, why? … Are you joking? … May, I'm injur-… Yes… Seriously? I have to write a… You know what, I'm not even surprised anymore. I'm on my way." Darcy hangs up and drops her phone into the pocket of her sweatpants.

"I'm so sorry. Carol, Hank. A pleasure to meet you really. But I gotta go to work," she says as she pushes herself up from her chair. She waves with her right hand, takes her iced coffee, and makes her way out.

Hank McCoy looks to his sandwich and takes another bit out of it, "I'm still upstate," is the answer to Carol, but he looks to Caitlin when she takes a phone call. Then, to Darcy, as he's addressed, he starts, "Actually, it's 'Doctor'…" but then she's on the phone as well. Right. He can't help but give a wry chuckle, "And I even showered this morning." But it's par for the course, really. He even looks to Carol as if expecting her to take off as well. "It was good to see you again, Carol and I'm glad to hear you're doing well."

Carol nods to Caitlin, letting her friend step away to take her call, and settles to turn herself more fully towards Hank and his table companion, as poor Darcy is then promptly summoned by life and must depart. "Take care, Darcy." she calls after the other woman. Then she catches sight of Caitlin making her departure, and rolls her eyes. "Go. I'll have them box the rest of the cheesecake. It'll be in the fridge. Shoo."

That said, Carol turns back to Hank and continues nibbling on bits of broken-off muffiny chocolate evil. "I'm glad to hear you're doing well, too, Hank. I admit, I haven't been back upstate for a while. I still run into some of the gang here and there, of course." The costumed hero business is what it is.

Carol signals one of the staff. "Hey. I need a box for that cheesecake, please. And if you wouldn't mind, I'd like another whole one, also boxed. I'll take them both with me when they're ready."

That said, the blonde does not immediately bail on McCoy, but actually moves over to take Darcy's abandoned seat so as to allow her to lower her voice. "I have to admit, it took me a bit. I didn't see your … non-blue … look often while I was there."

"Most likely, you didn't see it at all. I've only been able to do this about a year or so," Hank points out. But no doubt others looked him up out of curiosity. "And I apologize, I don't even know that I would have recognized you if you didn't introduce yourself." There's a little smile then, as if in apology. "I was a little preoccupied when you were at the Institute," and as she wasn't a student, he probably wouldn't have had as much contact.

"Nothing much has changed, actually. Students come and go, some stay and work at the school…most head out on their own, as you did."

Carol nods. "I saw it once or twice. Some photos and such. Or I never would have recognized you to introduce myself." she corrects him, gently, but with a tiny frown thrown in. Something about how he said what he did doesn't go over well with her.

"I was a bit preoccupied myself, at first. But quality time with Charles helped." Carol admits. When she first showed up, she had no memories of who she was. Even after the time with Charles, though she could then remember who she was, she couldn't feel it anymore. It's why she changed everything, after that. The grey hats are still irked she wouldn't come back into the fold.

"It's cool to see you out and about, being social." She knows that would be challenging for him, given the circumstances she recalls.

"Well, Charles is good that way. I'm glad that he was able to help," and there's that little smile again. Hank looks back to his sandwich and finishes it off, "Oh, I'm out and about every now and then. Otherwise, I think I'd go stir crazy…but it's not often. Not often enough for some…" sometimes too often for his own preference. "It's usually just running errands or, in this case, eating out and reading." But he's set the book down as he's in conversation.

"I don't know about 'being social'. Happenstance made it that way."

"Well, you should try to be a bit more social about it, proactively." Carol comments. "Maybe something like heading to the park's chess tables for a few games. Things that would engage that big brain of yours and let you meet others with similar interests." Carol can be as anti-social as the next loner, but she knows people need people contact. She's a heroine; she has to stay in touch with who and what she's trying to save, or she'll lose it. Besides, she's staying clean and sober, and that's never something someone can do alone. Ever.

Hank McCoy chuckles, "Now you sound like Jean. Maybe I should, but it will only put someone else in danger, potentially. That, and I don't particularly like the fact that I have to hide what I am. I understand the reasoning, but it's a moral dilemma and I'm not terribly firm on where I stand on it. I think that if I could be out and about as myself, then I might be more willing to do as you say." Apparently, now he defines himself as his furrier appearance. It's a change from five years ago.

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