Cookies Make Everything Better

November 22, 2016:

A mishap at a local Starbucks puts Eli Cox in a literal collision course with the friendliest goth girl he's ever encountered in his life.

Starbucks - Broadway Street - Brooklyn - NYC

It's a Starbucks, which looks like every other Starbucks in New York City.


NPCs: Giselle Of the Ludicrous Coffee Order, Corey the Aggrieved Barista



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The line in Broadway Street's Starbucks nearly went out the door.

It wasn't because the baristas were particularly slow, nor was it because it was inundated with an unusual amount of customers. Rather the source of the delay appears to be a young woman with chocolate-brown hair, nestled in all the usual trappings of Fall fashion - a fur-trimmed jacket, jeans and a knit cap, on top of others. She has spent the last two minutes rattling off what she needs in the perfect cup of coffee, that included, among other things:

"….half-whole milk, one quarter one percent, one quarter non-fat, extra hot, split quad shots, no foam latte, with whip, two packets of splenda, one sugar in the raw, a touch of vanilla syrup and three short sprinkles of cinnamon, please."

The aggrieved barista looks up from the pad of paper he has managed to scramble for this specific order.

"What's your name?"


He writes it on a cup, watching as the brunette saunters off. Turning to the next customer, he sighs. It's a long shift already.

"What can I get you?"

"…um…" Much like most of the people in line, Zatanna Zatara simply stares at Giselle as she walks off. "…just a tall hot chocolate with a shot of peppermint, please."

"Congratulations," the barista says with a relieved sigh. "You're officially my favorite customer of the day."

The black-haired young woman grins. "Does this mean I get the hot chocolate for free?"

"No, but how about a shortbread cookie?"


She is living proof that appearances sometimes don't reflect the reality, dressed as she is; a black tanktop pulled over a black-and-violet plaid short skirt, with over-the-knee boots that boosted her height three more inches. Much like those who have braved the Fall weather, she wears a jacket - a feminine, almost Edwardian-inspired affair with lace cuffs and hems. She wears so much black that it makes her skin look all the paler, and the small pops of color upon her more pronounced - the ice blue of her eyes, and the bold color of her cherry-red lip stain.

She almost smiles too much for a member of the goth fashion league, its members so notorious for anti-social tendencies.

"Your name?"

"Just Zee," the young woman replies. "Nice to meet you…" She squints at the nametag on the barista's shirt. "…Corey."


Someone calls out an order for "Eli." The coffee order itself is pretty boring and basic. The same might be said about the man reaching for it. This Eli gentleman is in a plaid flannel shirt, with long, dark-blonde hair pulled up in a loose man-bun. He's clean-shaven, breaking with the hipster code there, and it shows off his high cheekbones, bright blue eyes, and the fact that he has unusually full lips for a white boy. "Right here," Eli says, reaching for his coffee, unable or unwilling to muscle through the crowd of Giselles gathered around.

Eli loses his balance, though, and slips on a slightly wet tile floor. His fingers graze the coffee enough that the cup flips out of the barista's grip and onto Giselle, who shrieks, because it's hot. Eli himself faceplants into the countertop from the angle at which he fell. Normally, when someone's face impacts the corner of a Starbucks countertop with any real semblance of force, it goes badly for the face. This time, the countertop is the unlucky one, as his head cracks it like he'd just hit it with a hammer.

"Ow, Jesus," Eli says, stunned. He moves to push himself free from the face-crater he just made. "Is everyone okay—?" Giselle might not be.


She's about to reach out for her free cookie when it goes flying.

Instincts take over as Zatanna takes a few steps back, her lips parting in shock as a tall, blond man crashes facefirst into the the counter, spilling coffee everywhere, hot liquid splashing on the stone surface, the glass keeping not-so-fresh-baked pastries from the public, and the crowd of Giselles waiting for their coffee…and the brunette herself, who shrieks in several decibels higher than a regular human being could possibly hear.

"You clumsy jerk!" Giselle rails at Eli. "Are you insane? This is /Prada/!" she gestures to her jacket.

"Oh my god are you okay?" Zatanna says, already reaching out to help the taller and much bigger man. What was all the more confusing about the present predicament is the distinct lack of blood….Eli has just managed to take a stone slab to the face, and he doesn't seem to have broken his nose or anything.

"You're totally paying for the dry cleaning!" Giselle continues.

"Chill out, it was an accident!" Zatanna interjects, attempting to check Eli over, her arms outstretched to help him get back on his feet should he need it. "Do you need to sit down? An ambulance?" She eyeballs the face-crater on the counter with some semblance of increduility.

A look, in fact, that mirrors the one on Corey the Barista's face. "Holy shit, how…"


Eli rolls over to sit on his butt. He rubs his face, but as noted, there is no blood. His cheekbones aren't even out of alignment. In fact, the rubbing at his face appears to simply be him brushing crumbled stone out of his eyes. "I'll pay for it," he says. The words come out on reflex. Perhaps he's used to having to say things like that.

When Zatanna goes to help Eli up, he accepts, but only enough to get himself moving. He finishes the job himself. "Thanks." Eli looks around at the patrons and the baristas staring at him. His cheeks are red. He might as well have just been caught with his fly open. "Sorry, everyone," he manages to say, unconvincingly. "Sorry."


Corey is still staring at the counter and the impression that Eli's face has made upon it. "…I think I could see his eyebrows and everything…" he mutters, stupefied as he inspects the damage.

Giselle slaps a slip of paper with her contact information on Eli's hair. "Hmmph. You better," she huffs; she even looks somewhat disappointed that he didn't bother to fight it. Instead, she pivots so she could stomp over to the back of the coffeehouse, where she could attempt to banish the scent of coffee on her clothes.

"…well," one of the customers at the back of the line says. "Thanks a /lot/, big guy. Now she's just going to come back out here with another ridiculous order. Hope nobody who's waiting for coffee is pregnant."

The remark generates a few chuckles from the line - then again, this is New York, and these are New Yorkers. By this point, they've seen some shit.

Zatanna swallows her own amusement at the remark, instead, once Eli manages to stand, she ushers him, whether he likes it or not, towards a chair. The look of embarrassment does not escape her notice, but she attempts to fix the problem by putting the young man in a place where nobody can stare at him without craning their necks. "So what were you trying to order before your tumble?" she wonders, gesturing for him to sit down. Not like she could push him down, given his height and the fact that he feels like more than a ton of bricks. "Are you sure you're okay?"


Eli shrugs to the heckler with spread hands. He sees the humor in it, even if his head is probably ringing like church bells right now. He only takes the card from his hair AFTER the shrug.

Eli does in fact feel more dense than the average bear. He might as well be made of stone himself, albeit stone carved into the shape of a not particularly bulky urban man. "I'm sure, really," he says, waving off concerns about his head. "I was just getting a Pike Place roast. It's no big deal." Despite his apparent power, Eli does not stop Zatanna from ushering him around. "Mostly I just don't want someone to call the cops about the counter…"


"Are you kidding, this is New York," Zatanna tells him blandly, giving a wry glance out one of the huge windows in the coffeehouse, ice blue eyes catching the crush of traffic and pedestrian filling the streets. From a distance, the various skyscrapers that housed the city's more famous superhero groups catch her eye. "If they haven't thought of adding clauses covering acts of God in their insurance policies, they only have themselves to blame. It's not like this city hasn't seen its share of ridiculous property damage these days."

With him seated, Zatanna seems to prefer staying on her feet, her arms crossing over her chest as she leans against the table. "Your brew will have to wait though, I think the other people in line have waited long enough." A small pout curls on her mouth. "I lost my cookie, though. I'm going to have to get a new one."

She watches the crowd; with the one crazy order out of the queue, the baristas are working much faster. "So I take it this happens often?"


Eli rubs his forehead. He seems more like someone who bonked his head getting out of the car than someone who just broke rock with his skull. "Not that often," Eli replies. "Usually I'm not so clumsy. I guess I just had other stuff on my mind, before my mind decided it needed an up-close look at the serving counter."

Eli offers an easy smile. He seems embarassed, but not crushed. "I'll get you a new cookie," he says. "It's my fault. I'm really sorry. Thanks for trying to help me up, by the way. A lot of people just go for their phones and want a picture of the guy who accidentally pulled off the taxi door."


"Aw, rough day?" Zatanna wonders, at the assertion that her present companion was preoccupied with other things. Toeing the seat next to him to the side, she moves so she could sit on it backwards, straddling the seat with her long legs. Certainly not the sort of position a young woman should sit in, considering her skirt, but the black-haired girl either doesn't seem cognizant of it, or is indifferent to what others might say about it - clearly one who isn't all that perturbed about appearances.

But the offer of a new cookie puts a brilliant smile on the young woman's face, white teeth contrasting sharply with her dark red lipstick, her usual expressiveness peeking through like the sunrise over clouds. "I'll take it," she says shamelessly - not out of the genuine desire to have a cookie, but rather the excuse it provides to prolong a conversation, triggering her typical, genuine desire in interjecting herself into the lives of others. "Anyway, that's not me. You're a person, not a spectacle. Now /me/, I'm a spectacle, but only when I'm performing. And before you say it, no, I don't headline any goth-rock or metal bands."

She sticks her hand out to Eli for him to shake. "Zatanna Zatara," she introduces. "Mistress of Magic, Princess of Prestidigitation, at your service. I'd do the stage bow and stuff, but I don't have my hat…it kills the flair if I do it without it."


Despite the hazards of that skirt in that position, Eli is too much of a gentleman to take a look, or simply too concussed. Just because someone's skull is super-strong doesn't mean that their brain slamming into the inside of it does less damage somehow. "I've had better," Eli says about his day, with a kind of wry acknowledgment, punctuated by brushing some stone crumbs out of his hair. He unties his man-bun, and runs his hands through his long hair to make sure there's no lingering rock bits.

Eli pulls the hair elastic over his wrist and reaches out to shake. "Eli," he says. "Eli Cox. That's the only title I have, since it's the one on my birth certificate and all." He doesn't sound like a New Yorker. He must be a transplant from somewhere. When his hand takes Zatanna's, the mistress of magic would be able to easily tell that he's holding back. He shakes her hand like he might try to hold an egg while running. Even his bare, slight, loose grip conveys his strength. If he wanted to, he could probably squeeze and turn her hand from a solid into a liquid.


"Well, I look as far away from a priest or nun as someone gets, but if you need to unload, you can pretend I'm a seriously underaged bartender at a bar somewhere," Zatanna offers, her smile broadening to the point that a covert dimple on her left cheek manifests for a split-second, before hiding again inches underneath the apples of her cheeks. "Come on, big guy. I promise it makes a person feel better. Sometimes. If it turns out that you accidentally cannonballed yourself through a Farmer's Market and it took three tanks to stop you, I won't even bat an eye, or laugh. I'll just nod very sympathetically."

The lack of an accent isn't all that atypical of those in New York, but there is something about his demeanor that tells her that he isn't from around here; while not a local herself, she has been around plenty of the city's denizens enough to know that they aren't typically this friendly. Not in a place where 'watch where you're going, asshole!' is a more common greeting than a typical good morning. But his restraint is evident - her fingers close around his, giving his digits a hearty squeeze.

"Titles nothing, being in showbiz basically means being willing to assert yourself with a certain degree of cheese. But it's nice to meet you, Eli Cox."


"Showbiz, huh? I was in showbiz for a minute." Eli starts pulling his hair back to re-do his bun. "If it counts to be one of those guys in Times Square going… hey, you like stand-up comedy?" He smiles again. At least he's got a sense of humor about himself. It makes being able to crush hands and countertops less threatening to a lot of people, probably.

"But nah, nothing that dramatic. Just usual stuff. People stuff. Accidental property damage was just an outlier capping it all off." Eli gets his man-bun how he likes it, which really doesn't take much work, because it's pretty loosely done. "I appreciate the offer, though. It feels extra special coming from someone in show business." He grins.


"What? Really? I know those people!" Zantanna banters back. "Were you good at it or bad at it? I normally just ignore them but there have been a few who managed to convince me to come on a whim. It's just one of those magical happenings where circumstance and poor impulse control meet in a perfect storm of….well, a surprisingly good time, since I tend to like comedy shows." She plants her cheek on her hand, her elbow angled against the back rest of her chair. "Life's too short not to indulge yourself if you're curious."

There is a pause at that, before she laughs. "I sound like a tremendously bad influence, I'm so sorry."

"Anyway, no worries. Consider this momentary bout of good will as something you purchased with a cookie and a handsome grin. If your indirect involvement in the stand up comic business doesn't work out for you, you should see about maybe becoming a hair model, so Times Square can be full of jumbotrons of you tossing golden locks in slow motion and I can look up and be like 'oh hey, I know that guy, he bought me a cookie once.' "


To Zatanna's bad influence comment, Eli nods. "You kinda do," he says, without any true judgment in his tone. Just calling it like it is. "I was pretty bad at that job, though. I think to be good at it, you have to not really care if you're bothering people. I never quite got over that hump." He laughs. "And if my face is ever gonna be up in Times Square, I hope to God it's for something good. Otherwise it'll be immortalized in about a million tourists' random photographs of those big screens…"


"I'll take that too," the Mistress of Magic says, with her blatant lack of shame. "Besides, it's boring to be the good influence all the time. I like to think of myself as everyone's Ferris Bueller. The sort who would go 'Cameron, you /know/ you want to take your dad's Ferrari out on a crazy but ill-advised joy-ride.' "

She leans back on her seat, linking her fingers together. "What's wrong with shampoo commercials? Everyone needs to wash their hair," Zatanna points out, though his laugh only causes her to direct her full blown, stage-worthy megawatt smile in his direction, inwardly relieved that he seems to have forgotten his embarrassment and has foregone worrying about the damage he caused for the time being. "Think about it, you'd be providing a service. Make America beautiful again." Her hand comes up, her fingers spreading as she emphasizes every word of the last, to mimic glowing letters underneath an advertising slogan.

She pictures it - what tourist photographs would look like if Eli's face were plastered on said multiple jumbotrons. She can't help but laugh. "No, see, that's perfect. You'll be famous in Japan instantly!"


If Eli is still harboring embarassment and worries about damages, he's at least pushed them to the back of the line for the moment. He just laughs and rubs his cheek. "Hey, if being famous in Japan can pay my rent, I'm all for it," he says. "It'd be a lot more fun than being the Cameron in your analogy, I guess, because I don't think anyone wants to be Cameron."


"Nobody ever wants to be Cameron," Zatanna replies with a laugh of her own. "But he could be useful if the quote's taken literally - how does it go? Something something, shove a coal up his ass and it turns into a diamond, yadda yadda. That's okay though, I think if you can laugh the way you do, there's absolutely no danger of you being a Cameron."

The line appears to be dwindling. Turning back to her companion, she lifts a finger.

"In the spirit of that, here…let's do this. I'll show you a trick, if you can figure out how I did it, I'll buy /you/ a cookie. Though really, now that I've said that, I already know how this is going to go though. We're just going to end up buying each other cookies, because we're nice like that."

She lays her hand flat on the table, withdrawing it to reveal a deck of cards that wasn't there before. At that, she flashes Eli another cajoling grin, wiggling her eyebrows mischievously.


"Please," Eli says with a slight wave of his hand. "If I wanted to make a diamond, I have plenty of body parts I can use before I have to resort to my butt." He clenches his fist, and it makes his forearm tense. Zatanna has felt the density and power of him already, so the little display is pretty unnecessary.

"Sounds like a deal to me," Eli says, shifting in his chair to watch Zatanna perform her trick. He still keeps his eyes above the equator, not even sneaking a look. His eyes meet Zatanna's, and he gives a subtle lift of his own eyebrow, like he's game for the challenge. Then his blue eyes drift down to watch the cards.


The challenging look is reflected on her own. Zatanna grins, moving to shed her jacket to make it even more blatantly obvious that whatever she's about to do, it does not involve hiding her cards up her sleeve. Pale fingers and their black, flawless manicure reach out, shuffling the deck quickly, cutting it thrice before melding them again into a single deck with just one hand. She fans them out, flips them so he could see the colors, numbers and suites - the better to show him that it is a legitimate set, before reshuffling them back into a single pile in the middle of the table.

She presses her palm flat upon it, spreading them out with a sweep of her hand.

"Pick a card, any card," she tells him. "…ugh I /know/, it's so cliche but humor me a little. It'll dazzle and amaze you, I promise."


Eli's own hands look like man hands. There's really no other way to describe them. They're big and broad and as strong-looking as the rest of him. They don't look like they've been weathered much by hard work… but how do you weather a guy who didn't even take a scratch from breaking a counter with his face? He reaches out to gingerly take one card, going along with the bit without any witty commentary of his own. He's the audience participation part of the bit, there to make the trick go.


"Alright, now take a look at it, and put it back anywhere in the deck, face down."

She waits for him to do it, and once those big, rough man hands do their work, Zatanna takes the deck, shuffling them quickly between her fingers. The dexterity of her fingers alone make the act appear like fine performance art, flourishes and flicks of her wrist enabling her to move the cards to her whim, slipping in between one another and fanning them out in a seemingly effortless display of blacks and reds, hearts, spades, diamonds and clubs shifting over one another in a dizzying array. There should be no way that she would be able to find his card, not when she's confusing the deck so thoroughly on her own accord.

"Is this your card?"

The young woman shows it to him.

It's definitely….not his card.


Eli hoods his eyes as he looks at the card, and sucks on the inside of his cheek for a second. It's a look that should be very familiar to such as a Mistress of Magic: the mark trying to think two steps ahead of the illusion. "That is not my card," he confirms, looking up from the card to Zatanna's eyes. He doesn't make any kind of victory celebration. He knows there must be more to this.


"What? Really? Are you sure this isn't your card?" Zatanna asks, turning it over and frowning at it. At Eli's confirmation, she sighs, clapping her hands and sandwiching the Queen of Clubs in between her palms.

It's only a split second, if even that, when she spreads her hands again, a soap bubble appearing in place and the card nowhere in sight. She releases it to let it float in between their table, her expression a convincing show of absolute confusion.

"Huh. I guess this really isn't your card," she confirms with a small, pouting turn of her dew-clung mouth. "Maybe if I…"

She reaches out to poke her finger into the bubble, letting it pop, a small shower of moisture scattering over the table as something flat and rectangular falls at the destroyed bubbles wake, landing face up on the table.

"There!" She leans back, a satisfied smile at Eli's direction. "Did it work?"

His card stares at him from the wooden surface.

"Because if it did, well….ta-daaa!" She gestures dramatically to the card with both hands.


Eli's reaction to the soap bubble trick is to go a bit wide-eyed. He doesn't run away screaming, like teenagers from David Blaine, but he definitely is impressed in a way that he can't really keep off his face. He checks the card, waits a moment to keep her in suspense… then gives a thumbs up.

"That's crazy," Eli says, turning the card over in his hands. "I do not even have the slightest idea how you did that. All of the answers that come to mind are too ridiculous to even say out loud, because it's stuff about holograms or something." He hands the card back to her. "What kind of cookie do you want, by the way?"


"Oh wow, I actually pulled it off this time!" Zatanna says, sounding amazed herself, clapping her hands together. "What you just saw, my dear Mr. Cox, is a culmination of hours of effort, practice and crying into my Cheerios. I'm not even kidding, I can't even look at a bowl without being weepy-eyed anymore, this took /so much work/!" She tilts her head back and laughs. "Ahhhh I'm so glad I didn't embarrass myself in front of someone I just met, not that I embarrass easily mind, but you know. I mean come on!" She points to the card. "Hours of maximum effort!"

She stands up at that, plucking the card from his fingers and flashing him a grin. "Shortbread, please," she tells him. "Why, what cookie would you like? I told you what was going to happen in the end anyway, right? Because aside from awe-inspiring Harry Potter-type stuff, I'm also psychic."

She really isn't, and she makes it obvious by the way she's grinning at him, all smiles and dimples. Grabbing her jacket off the chair, she shrugs it on before taking his arm and dragging him to the counter.

"Really, I'm serious. Are you a chocolate chip or snickerdoodle kind of guy?"


"Whichever looks like it has more calories," Eli says, standing up himself. "I get hungry after I wreck a Starbucks." Nope! He hasn't forgotten doing that. He hooks his thumbs into his pockets to walk back towards the line. "So I could have won that little challenge of yours if you had asked how you did it and I answered 'very carefully,' huh?" He rubs the back of his neck. "See, now you have me thinking it was a Gordian knot kind of a puzzle all along."

Eli stands in line, but takes the spot in front of Zatanna. It would be gentlemanly to offer it to her, but since she's buying something FOR him, it would negate any innate gentlemanliness. He does seem like the sort of guy who cares about that sort of thing, at least a little bit. "Any chance you can use your psychic powers to help me out on Powerball this weekend?"


"That would definitely be the Paradise cookie," Zatanna says, leaning forward and squinting through the glass that contains the cookies. "I looked it up once on Google. Seven hundred and fifty whopping calories. For one cookie. I'm so glad I actually go to the gym, all of this…" She gestures to herself, hand drifting up and down with such effortless grace it would put professional game show host assistants to shame. "…doesn't just magically happen, you know. Trust an expert, I've tried."

She pays for said Paradise cookie, and even orders his spent Pike coffee from earlier, stepping aside so he could return the favor, even while his face-crater on the counter beckons them.

His last question about the lottery earns him an appreciative laugh, nudging him with an elbow. "I wish I could help you out, but I'm seriously not all that good with numbers. Here you go." She hands him his coffee and cookie.

The telltale bzzt-bzzt of something vibrating turns her attention momentarily from her companion, taking her phone from her jacket pocket. "Hello? Oh, hey Miss Jones." She pauses, letting the other line respond.

"What? Really? Right now? Okay…I'll be right there." She flashes Eli an apologetic glance, pocketing the device.

"I promised someone I'd go to Chinatown with her today."


Eli seems understanding of the sudden call away, especially with a cookie and coffee in his hands. He bought Zatanna her own cookie, of course. He's not some kind of cad or bounder. "Considering you were only here to get coffee, I can't exactly hold it against you that you might have somewhere else to be. This was nice, though. Thanks. I really mean that. Thank you. I mean, I wouldn't mind doing it again sometime."


"Sure, we can hang," Zatanna says, grinning faintly as she takes her cookie. "I go back and forth between here and Gotham a lot, but I'm never too far away. Text me, okay?" Wiggling her fingers in a wave, she turns to head out of the coffeehouse, that momentary, haunting bout of loneliness evaporating just a little. She winks at him over her shoulder as she pushes the door open, and after a few moments, she is gone, swallowed up by the ever-present rush of bodies that marked New York's beating, nonstop heart.

It would probably later occur to Eli that she hadn't given him her number, but later in his day, he would find it; tucked into his blond hair is a small business card.

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