Coffee Talk

November 22, 2016:

Wanda finds a homeless busker on the sidewalk and gives her money, coffee, and a place to stay. The busker gives her mostly sass.

Brooklyn

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The streets of Brooklyn are a busy, bustling affair as the lunch hour winds down - or any hour even. Finding somewhere on the pavement to stand amongst the wide assortment of humanity flowing this way and that is a challenge at any time of day, doubly so this one. The smell of hot food and the occasional calls of shop vendors fill the air, along with the background noise of traffic, rubber-soled shoes on the pavement, and the occasional enterprising beggar looking to catch a morsel from the thick crowd. Street performers have set up as well, clothed in thicker regalia to match the growing cold of Fall, and small distractions are easy to find in or outside of the many storefronts.

On one side street overlooking the Manhattan Bridge with its sweeping view of the district itself, the light and melodic sounds of a flute float across a strong inland breeze. A blonde young woman is seated with her legs crossed on a wool coat and a plastic instrument gripped between pursed lips. She's dressed a little ahead of the season with a thick hoodie and jeans that bulge with enough layers beneath them to hide the slender youth inside them. A small bucket is set out beside her which by now has gathered a small number of loose change and bills. Letting her eyes drift open and shut as her melody wanders in a long, improvised chain, she seems more focused on making music than any passers-by. Snippets of old folk music, familiar sounds of home to nearby Little Italy, form the basis of her woodwind motifs.

Despite the hood, more than a few strands of her hair have been blown loose and sway like long spider silk on the breeze.

The flautist might not be paying too much attention to her audience but her twenty dollar bill makes Wanda the exception. Nerina's eyes climb up the red-head's arm until they find her face and she starts to take a bow, while seated with instrument, until the melody of her flute trills away into the sky on a surprised and puzzled scale.

The blonde's eyelids flutter in a double-take as the sunlight casts a thin shadow in her sockets, accentuating the little blue wells beneath them both. More notes follow, two short and crisp, followed by a little airy, bird-like tune that's set to the cadence of speech as Nerina turns her head quizzically. It's a short greeting and a question, transposed through a flute.
Wanda is a gypsy so she is used to musical questions…though she's not entirely sure what this one is. A curious quirk of an eyebrow before she peers a little closer at the flautist. "Do I know you?" She's met a lot of people on the streets in her time but this one doesn't seem to be one of them. "Oh! The thief!" Maybe she should not have yelled that out and she immediately looks embarrassed. "Sorry" she whispers. "But…why are you playing music in the street?"

Wanda is a gypsy so she is used to musical questions…though she's not entirely sure what this one is. A curious quirk of an eyebrow before she peers a little closer at the flautist. "Do I know you?" She's met a lot of people on the streets in her time but this one doesn't seem to be one of them. "Oh! You were at the club!" Now she looks confused. One moment hanging out at a Zatanna performance at a swish club, the next on the street? "But…why are you playing music in the street?"

Wanda's allowed to inspect, though not without Nerina's eyes looking right back. Twenty dollars has earned her that privilege. The flute comes to a stop at the bottom of a scale before slipping out of the blonde's mouth, its off-white reed glistening just a little in the sunlight as she sets it in her lap.
"If I play here, people give me money," the flautist reasons simply.
"I guess that makes sense" Wanda has to admit with a shrug. And it's as good a reason as any! "You do not want to play at a concert instead?" She glances around at the masses of people who seem more intersted in ignoring Nerida than praising her. "You might get treated a little better. Do you remember me from the club?" She offers her hand. "Wanda. I was a good friend of Zatanna before she just disappeared." Evident sadness at that state of affairs.

"I'm not ver-y good at reading music, and concerts are too crowded." Nerina takes the offered hand and grasps it in a short but firm shake. "I'm Nerina still." The flute doesn't get to spend long in her lap before it taps against the blonde's shoulder. Her off-hand wants to talk too.
"What happened to her? The gas?"

"She disappeared before the gas. Lots of my friends disappeared before the gas. So I got to be all lonely again" Wanda smiles faintly. "Though my brother did return…and became Death…but got better…and…you're not really interested in hearing all this. So don't read music at the concerts. Just play. I think that is all that jazz is. Jazz flute…perfect, da?"

There's a small but noticeable dip in the flautist's mood at the mention of loneliness, a little bit of the light goes out in her eyes. There might be a lot for her to take in at once but what catches Nerina's ear most is, "Da? You speak Russian?"
"A little" Wanda shrugs. "Enough to get by but Transians also say 'da'" she explains with a smile and a shrug. "Did you want to go and get a coffee? Tea? Vodka? Or should I leave you alone to play on the street." She pats her pockets. "Hmm…I might have to use a credit card. Do you know how to use them?"

Nerina glances around indecisively, at the street, at her bucket, and at her coat mat. Despite the weather, she seems pretty well settled in.
"Do I know how to use a credit card?" She echoes with pointed indignantly, her blue eyes narrowing in a sharper expression. "What do you think I am, a dog?"

"No. Why would I think you were a dog?" Wanda looks confused at this comment. "I do not know how to use it so I was hoping that you did. I did not mean to offend you. Sorry." She looks like she's about to flee as she nervously wrings her hands.

"How… do you not know how to use a card?" Nerina asks, indignation giving way completely to bewilderment. She takes a moment to look the witch over again, as if expecting green antenna or a tail. "You just-e slide it." Her hand pantomimes the gesture.

"We did not have a credit card in Transia" Wanda shrugs. "And then I lived on the street and did not have one then. Alyse makes them for herself - she is a witch too - and the people I work for gave me one for expenses but I do not spend a lot of money. No need to." A nod at the gesture. "Do I need to know a pin number as well? I think there was one of those in the letter."

A light blonde eyebrow raises as Nerina repeats the gesture. "No… you just swipe. You're a witch? Like with magic and flying?"

"Da, a witch. That is one of the nicer things that I have been called in my life" Wanda smirks. "I think that Alyse is a better witch. I can fly but not with a broom. Sometimes they try to tell me why I can do what I can do but I do not really understand it. I just let it flow when I need it. Sometimes it works how I want it to."

The flautist rolls her eyes. "Fortunato," she mumbles before gathering the money from her bucket and sorting the bills, then stuffing them inside her pants. "It would be nice for you to magic coffee," .oO(Or vodka) Nerina admits as an acceptance of sorts to the red-head's offer. Pushing herself up to her feet, she brushes off her jeans, slips her coat open over her shoulders, and grabs newly-emptied her bucket.
"My powers do not work like that…not exactly" Wanda replies as she waits for Nerina to sort herself out. "I cannot make something out of thin air. Not how you would think of it. Sorry." She looks around before gesturing to a nearby cafe. "But we can get coffee there with my credit card. And maybe some pastries. Do you like pastries?"

Nerina follows Wanda's gaze and nods in acceptance - and even smiles a litte. Yes, yes she does. "I need a minute to put away my bucket," she asks as she turns to walk away, the Transian's dialect rubs off on her. English isn't her first language either and all those nuances were just so *messy*.

"E that was uno scherzo - a joke," she adds over her shoulder. It's only a short walk, as the flautist crosses the street and walks out along the Manhattan Bridge. She slips her flute down the hood of her sweater mid-stride and produces a bike lock from her pocket. One end of the chain loops through her bucket, then the nearby railing, and clicks shut before the metal container is unceremoniously chucked over the side. A dull clang drowned out by the sounds of passing cars betrays the bucket's fate.
"Have you had your bucket stolen before" Wanda asks sincerely as she watches this one head over the side of the bridge. "You live on the street?" Her eyes glance upwards at the sky. "The weather will be getting cold soon. Maybe you should think of a place to stay that is warmer? There are plenty of rooms empty at X-Red." It is no secret that Wanda is a superheroine…just that most people don't recognise her.

Nerina returns with a … well it would be a springy step if her legs weren't stiff from so much sitting. Instead the blonde walks back with some fresh perkiness above the bags of her eyes and a small but pleasant smile that seems, if anything, like it should be the expression most natural for her soft face.

Wanda's line of questioning strains it almost immediately as the fishwife's jaw clenches a little before her smile falls back to neutral - closer to her more true norm. "X-Red is the scherzo… friendly mutant group, si?" She asks with mild derision.
"I like to think I am friendly" Wanda shrugs, "But I cannot speak for all of X-Red. It does not sound that you like mutants." That makes the witch frown. "You would not be the first person to feel that way. I think we are the public group rather than just friendly. We are trying to show the world that mutants are human too. Nothing to be frightened of."

"What's good about evil people with power?" Nerina asks simply as she stuffs her hands into her pockets, tucking them against her stomach and causing a distinctly un-ladylike tent to form at her chest. The flute's still in there after all.
"Nothing" Wanda shrugs in reply, "But I am not sure what that has to do with mutants. Not all mutants are evil just like not all people are good. I make mistakes but I like to think I am good or I try to be." She tries to hide her little smile at the appearance of the flute before she gets serious again. "But I do not think you are interested. You do not like mutants, for whatever reason, and I do not think I will change your mind in one day."

"You are smart at least," Nerina admits, perhaps realizing bridges are best burned after she has a hot drink in hand. She heads towards the front of the coffee shop but opens the door for Wanda, letting her enter first. "People are evil too."

"Yes, they are. And full of hate…and fear…and ignorance…what would you like?" Wanda nods to the board above the counter. "Coffee I mean." Her hand fishes around in her pocket before she proudly draws out the credit card and thrusts it at the girl behind the counter. "This will pay for it" she announces. "Can I have a caramel thickshake?"

"Expresso with steamed milk." The answer comes perhaps a little too quickly from the thirsty blonde, although by omission it might be up to Wanda to choose the pastry. The bangs that were playing on the wind earlier have clung themselves to the front of her hoodie, but having finally found a warm home to get cozy the flautist's hands aren't coming out to fix that.

The order given…and pastries chosen…Wanda watches as the credit card is used before she indicates a booth in the back. "Did you want to sit there? If you do not want to be seen with someone like me then at least it is dark back there." A faint teasing smile before she is making her way towards it.

"You mean…?" Nerina trails off, leaving the word unspoken as she follows beside Wanda, not making any special efforts to avoid the self-confessed mage and mutant. "Why? You're not glowing green."

"Does it matter what I look like? People who hate mutants will hate mutants even if I was pretty. And everyone hates witches, da?" Wanda sits at the booth. "I am in X-Red. People know who I am. And so they hate me."

"Hehe," Nerina laughs under her breath, mostly suppressing the noise and smile. "Be happy you are not too pretty," she jests. "Too pretty mutants are too popular, ''da''?"

"They are popular but they are also hated" Wanda shrugs. "Looks do not make a difference, only actions can change a cold heart. What would it take for you to like me? Why do you not like mutants?" The drinks arrive and the waitress rushes off once more.

Nerina's hands come back out of their little cave when the coffee arrives to cup the sides of her mug. She lifts the cup to her face and takes a deep breath of the steam, soaking in the aroma and warmth. There are a few moments while the prospect of the life-giving beans lifts her countenance where the witch no longer exists in the blonde's little coffee-coloured world.

"I meant the wrong kind of popular," she corrects, trying to explain her off-color joke. "Why do you want me to like you so much?" she asks with honest curiosity.

"I do not care if you like me" Wanda shrugs, "But if you want to dislike me I would rather it was because of who I am not what I am. Do not hate me because I am a mutant. That hate was there before you even met me. That is not fair." Her lips wrap around her straw and she sucks up, eventually, some of her shake. "Mmm…yummy" she sighs before looking over at her guest. "Why do you hate me so much?"

Nerina grins a little when Wanda drinks - a muted, lopsided expression - and gives her a chance to enjoy herself before replying astutely, "When did I say I hated you?"

"You gave the impression that you hated mutants" Wanda shrugs before wincing at how cold her drink is. A little brain freeze for a couple of seconds before she goes back for another mouthful. "You do not hate mutants?"

"Mutants are like people with guns, but you cannot take away their guns, si?" Nerina replies as she unclips a thermos from the side of her jeans and unscrews the top to take a sip. For now her coffee is left to cool… just a little bit.

"They do not take away guns from people either" Wanda notes. "So it is up to the responsibility of the owner, da? Maybe the only reason that some mutants are 'evil' is because of the hatred and fear that is sent their way? I have been subjected to a lot of that but…" A shrug. "I like to think that I am a good person and do not have to react badly."

"I think they should," Nerina disagrees calmly. "Do you trust the people that hate you with guns?"

"Not at all" Wanda replies with a shake of her head. "They try to shoot me. But it is not that they have a gun that makes them hate me. That is just a way for them to express it. If they did not have a gun then they would throw a petrol bomb. It is the hatred and fear that I worry about. And if they no longer have hatred and fear then maybe they no longer need a gun either."

"You know that people - normal people, not mutants - shoot other people all the time, si? A person with a knife can hurt… maybe five people? A person with a gun can hurt a lot more. People can always find other reasons." Nerina pauses and takes a testing sip of her coffee.

A quiet hum of relief wells up from deep in the flautist's chest. She's been out in the cold long enough that the hot drink is felt all the way down.

Her eyes return to Wanda's just a little brighter and the blonde giggles - a lyrical noise reminiscent of her flute. "And did you say that your brother was Death? That makes this a funny subject."

"He used to be Death…but he got better" Wanda replies without any trace of making a joke. "Yes, they shoot each other for the same reasons they want to shoot mutants. Fear and hate. So that is why I would prefer to remove that from their minds so they would not need a gun anymore…or a knife…or a sharp stick." Another suck on her straw. "This is very thick. I like that. Too many thickshakes are just milkshakes that cost more. Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

"You keep using those words," Nerina notes, but the rest of Wanda's statement derails her. The flautist shrinks in her seat, the shoulders of her hoodie slumping as she averts her gaze.

"Something I should not have asked?" Wanda looks apologetic for a moment. "I am sorry. You do not have to answer that." Then back to her thickshake for a few sucks as she watches the other woman. "What do you want to talk about?" she smiles sweetly.

Absent-mindedly, a few strands of Nerina's loose hair find their way into her mouth and the flautist gnaws them unconsciously. Eventually her attention returns to Wanda and the hair slips back out.

"How does your brother "get better" from being a super-terrorist?" She asks plainly.

"It took a lot of us to make him better…actually…it only took one person" Wanda replies softly. "He is in love and when she was hurt, he came to his senses. When I talked to him…he did not change. But when she did…then it mattered. I guess we are not as close as we used to be but that is just part of growing up, da?"

"So now he is a mass murderer with super power and an ego as big as Brooklyn… who loves someone," Nerina dead-pans. "Congratulazioni?"

"He was not himself…but maybe that does not matter" Wanda shrugs. "Maybe he should be punished for what he did but you cannot expect his twin sister to be so unforgiving." A faint smile at that before she sighs softly. "It is not easy being a superhero."

"You do not look like his twin," Nerina considers over a sip of her coffee… she stops considering to make it two sips and the second one's a long one. There's an audible gulp when the hot brew is swallowed before she continues. "Maybe it was the flaming eyes. Can you do that too?"

"Sometimes my eyes glow scarlet but that is not really fire" Wanda replies with a shrug. "It depends what I am trying to do. I do not know I am doing it or intend to do it if that means anything. But we are definitely twins. He is the older one, I am the smarter one…and the prettier one."

Nerina considers the witch for only a brief before nodding in agreement. "And the nicer one," she adds with a gentle smile. "Hehe, you gave me twenty dollars and coffee, he threatened to kill me."

"He didn't threaten you. The thing that took over him did. If he met you now he would be nicer. Be thankful he has a girlfriend or he would be /really/ nice" Wanda giggles. "Like I said before, he always got the women."

"Did you make competition for him?" Nerina asks as her smile tilts teasingly. "You must have gotten some, si?"

Wanda blushes as she shakes her head. "I was no competition. Too shy and it is hard to compete with a force of charming nature. No, I did not get any of the women. I was just the weird girl in the caravan who danced sometimes but no one was interested like that."

Nerina laughs at the gypsy's discomfort before drinking some more of her coffee. "But you tried though," she prods. Thinking for a moment, she changes tact - and language.

(Did you like the eastern foreign women?) she asks first in Russian, <Or the western?> then in Italian.

"I did not try very hard" Wanda admits. "It is not easy having those kinds of feelings in a Traveler camp. So I did nothing." To the questions she considers before replying in broken Italian, <I do not have a preference. It depends on the orange>. Her Italian may be more broken than she thinks.

Nerina puts a hand to her mouth to cover a snort. "Donne, women," she corrects. "Your Italiano needs a little practica. But maybe my Russian does too."

"Ah…sorry." Wanda has no idea what she actually said and perhaps that is for the best. "But I did not have a preference. I did not have much choice either."

"At least you have choices here," Nerina mentions, tilting her head towards the door and by proxy New York City. Seeing the witch not turning any redder, the flautist returns to her coffee - Wanda has won a reprieve.

Wanda follows the look out the door and nods slowly. "Da…more choices. But then they leave me without a word." A nervous laugh. "I do not think I am much of a…catch?"

Nerina stays quiet for a little longer as she works down to the bottom of her coffee. The cup is tipped completely upside-down as she waits open-mouthed to catch the last drops, looking a bit like a blonde turkey.

Setting the thoroughly empty cup down, she grins a little as her sea-blue eyes wander over Wanda's face - studying her.

"I thought you were the smart one," she reminds.

"No one likes smart" Wanda grins. "Not if the other option is large breasts. It is okay. One day it will happen. And if it does not then I can go and be Sorceress Supreme and not have to bother with these things."

"I mean too smart to think that," Nerina clarifies. She looks pointedly down as Wanda mentions her chest before facing out the shop window and lightly biting a finger, trying to phrase what's unfamiliar territory for her.

The flautist shrugs, giving up, and casually adds, "Oh who cares? One day you'll die anyway, with or without love. You should have fun while you can."

"You should be careful thinking like that" Wanda replies with a sly smile. "That way leads to not doing anything ever because you're going to die anyway. I try to have fun but… Maybe my problem is that I care too much?"

"Da," Nerina agrees immediately. Without any more coffee to drink, she reopens her thermos and takes a drink from it instead. "You are very much not that small," she continues between swallows, still watching Wanda out the corner of her eye.

Once the metal thermos is lowered, it gets resealed before disappearing under the table again. "And dieing at the end does not make life more fun."

Wanda's blush is back as she glances at her breasts before quickly looking anywhere but. "Dying does not make anything more fun…unless you are an undertaker. So you go without love? That makes you happy?" A sly smile forms. "Or are you just enjoying yourself with whoever you like?"

The flautist coughs into her hand and joins Wanda's window-gazing for a moment. That one struck a glancing blow. "I never said I was happy - but I am still alive," she replies with less of the witch's joking cheer.

"It's hard to be happy like this," her hands fan out to indicate herself, "But… hot coffee does help…"

"Grazie."

"Anytime you need a coffee then you just ask. It's the least I can do. And what I was going to say earlier, before I realised you don't like mutants much, is that there is room at the X-Red HQ if you need a place to stay out of the cold." Wanda shrugs bashfully. "Just an idea. If you need something. No pressure."

"Is that where you live? Not an apartment?" Nerina asks curiously.

"Da. I live at the HQ. Everyone else moved out but I am happy there" Wanda replies. "It is better than living on the street like I used to do though I think that was safer. There are many people who want me captured. Now they all know where I live."

"Disguising you would be easy," Nerina considers. "If you get free money and your friend can magic more, rent a room at the Beauty Rest Motel in the south near Gotham."

"Why would I do that? People need to find me so I can help just as much as want to hurt me" Wanda replies. "It is too late to hide. Things have changed so much since I first arrived here." A nod. "Da, I think I could hide myself in others' eyes but why should I hide? I have done nothing wrong. Let them come."

Nerina raises an eyebrow. "You are reckless for someone who was homeless. How long did you live on your own?"

"About a year? When my brother and I arrived here he disappeared and I was left to fend for myself. Then I met the people at X-Red and eventually joined them. I did not mind the streets" Wanda smiles, "Though I am not in a rush to go back."

"That long and you're not worried about anyone finding you? You must be a good witch," Nerina quips. "They are nicer when the weather is warmer - still too crowded."

"So you live alone at X-Red?"

"They have found me already. They tried to extradite me once but it did not work. Back to Transia to answer for my 'crimes'. The X-Red people helped me stay here" Wanda explains before nodding. "Da, I pretty much live alone at the HQ now. Doing my best to help where I can. Answer fan mail…for other heroes and heroines."

"Nobody visits?" Nerina asks curiously, and more attentively than she's been for much of the conversation.

"Sometimes the government visits. Other X-Men. Fans…not many of those But most of the time I am there alone with the security system. It talks." Wanda slurps on her thickshake, making a lot of noise as she gets the last of it.

Nerina grimaces lightly in thought and belatedly pulls her pastry towards herself. "It's not too smart, si? Or has too many cameras?"

"I don't know where all the cameras are" Wanda replies. "I hope they are not in my bedroom" she laughs, blushing once more. "But it is probably smart."

Nerina's lips twitch into a little smile at Wanda's joke before she can pull them back to neutral. She studies her pastry for a moment, then looks back up. "How smart?" She asks pointedly.

"I really do not know. Why, do you want to rob me?" Wanda asks lightly though she does have a curious look for the Nerina. She was homeless once. She knows the appeal of unprotected goods.

"No!" Nerina refutes, rocking back in her seat. "I would have to be stupido to rob you, you're so nice."

Catching what she might have just implied, the flautist adds, "And I only rob from people who do worse to me first. I am onesto."

"See…being nice is a good thing to be. Would you like another coffee? Or maybe one to take away?" Wanda asks sweetly. "I should probably be getting back to HQ soon." There's a little sadness to that - it has been a pleasant day after all.

Nerina needs less time to decide on the second one and readily offers her thermos. "One more in here, per favore."

"And if there is no one else for company there… maybe I can follow you back," see weighs with false reluctance as she looks airily around the room. After letting the statement hang, she glances back out the corner of her eye and her lips turn up in a smile.

"You want to come home with me?" Maybe Wanda shouldn't have put it that way but she seems unaware of what she said. "Okay." Taking the thermos she gets it filled once more before returning to the booth. "Let's go."

Nerina holds up a hand and gestures to her plate, looking up to Wanda and smiling with a touch of genuine cheer at the prospect of a warm room and a warm bed. It does more to soften the bags under her eyes than all the coffee in her empty cup. "After I finish this. You can wait a little longer, da?"

"Of course. I am in no hurry." Wanda returns to her seat and picks a pastry for herself. "Eat. Drink. Be merry."

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