2010-03-25: Table For Two. Off-Duty Hero And Ex-Demon?


Keld_icon.jpg Nathaniel_icon.jpg

Summary: Fate throws Keld and Nathaniel together over lunch

Date: March 25, 2010

Table For Two. Off-Duty Hero And Ex-Demon?

Rating: PG-13

NYC - Life Cafe

Located in the East Village, the Life Cafe displays the vibe of area. This sidewalk cafe has a Bohemian feel with posters on the wall, a small bar inside, tables shoved everywhere, and even a secret garden tucked away in back for people to dine. The menu features burgers, chicken sandwiches, and quite the vegetarian enclave.

Lunch time. Just in time for Crowd (tm) Part 2, Hump Day Second Lunch, when everyone who doesn't take lunch at noon comes in. Just being seated at one of the tables, Keld Jonahl is in some kind of thuggish looking civilian attire: James Dean leather jacket and pants, biker boots with metal decoration, bits of metal on the outside, shiny gold-tint sunglasses and a red teeshirt with a white, dripping-paint-styled circle-A. (For avengers. Honest.) This gets him funny looks from a few businessdroids, but only mildly in passing; NYC after all.

Nathaniel is a fairly unassuming figure on his own, particularly compared to the first time Keld saw him. The tall youth is wearing his own black leather jacket over a simple grey tanktop that hangs on his slim, athletic frame, and a pair of ratty looking grey jeans that could probably benefit from a few patches or mends. His boots are still combat boots, but simple black; only his piercings and sunglasses remain. He glances once around the cafe as if checking for hidden assassins, then makes his way for the counter, sliding between people when necessary, his hands stuffed into the tight pockets of his jeans. He just came here to eat somewhere away from school for the day. He lingers for a while trying to decide what to eat, ultimately chooses a vegetarian burger.

The place is fairly full, and the table where Keld sits is the most obvious open spot. The waitron (it's hard to tell whether that androgynous figure is male, female, neither, both, or all of the above) brings a green milkshake and some sort of soup-du-jour to Keld's table, and asks him if he minds them putting others there. He shakes his head, "It's fine, as long as they don't try to eat my food."
He gives a tentative sniff to the green shake. Wheatgrass and kiwi with starfruit icecream? Well, it smells … interesting anyway.

Fate has a funny way of making fun of people. When he asks where he can sit, he winds up sliding into the open seat across from Keld, the young man glancing at him awkwardly with a small nod that may be recognition, gratitude, or both. His pale green eyes flick up to Keld for a few seconds, then take to wandering over the entirety of the restaurant while he fiddles with his own fingers in a sense of nervous agitation. He strokes them together, wedges fingers between others in order to slide them apart, massages his own knuckles - anything to remain relatively active while avoiding being noticable or interesting.

That fidgeting is of course the one thing that makes Keld notice him. Predator sense? Sort of. Military training from a very young age. Keld glances at the young man and says, "Hi, you eat here often? This is the first time I've tried the place, and this milkshake has me pondering existential mysteries. You think it's safe to drink?"
The babble covers a moment of "where have I seen that face before?" followed by a quick tap into the Acanti starsong… this time the phrase that sharpens his mind rather than body. A few seconds of pattern matching, a bit of color subsitution. Oh. Demonboy. Let's see what happens then.

Nathaniel isn't exactly a predator. In all truth, he looks more the opposite, though there is definitely a sense of physical deftness to him. He blinks when Keld begins speaking to him, tilting his head to the side and smiling wryly as he leans forward to look at the drink, "Not really. It seems good, but… really healthy. I imagine it won't kill you. Maybe just take a small sip to test it out? If it goes tits up, I'll call an ambulance for you…" He drops back into his seat, brushing his hair away from his face - it seems to have a penchant for falling right over his forehead.

Well. This is better. No attempt to push his emotions, no slaves, just a young man. Abstractly, he considers, the young man is actually more attractive than when he looked like a phistian too, but part of that might be the 'not trying to maim you' effect.

"I would appreciate the ambulance if it does," Keld says, and takes a tentative sip off the shake, then whiffling air over his tongue as if he had tasted wine.
"Intriguing. Star fruit seems to mostly be sour, the grass gives a nice edge, the other fruit shores up a basic lack of flavor elements. The honey makes it almost too sweet. I'd say, not poisonous, but the buffalo buffalo-burger really needs to be good to make up for it."
He smiles, tipping his sunglasses down to look directly at Nathaniel. His eyes are a bright, not-normal-for-earth green, and if one looks closely it's not contacts.

This careful dissection of the drink makes Nathan laugh, the sound light, easy, and pleasant, his voice an even baritone. He ruffles his fingers through his hair in a habitual fashion, shrugging helplessly, "I've never tried star fruit. Mind if I have a taste of it?" He can't help it. Such a description does nothing but feed curiosity. He blinks when the glasses are tipped down to reveal the unnaturally green eyes, but beyond that moment of vague surprise, he seems to take the oddity in stride. He doesn't withdraw his hand from the center of the table, poised in hope of a milkshake sip, nor does he suddenly flee for his life. He also doesn't reveal his own powers; from the sheer fact that there doesn't seem to be anything projecting from him, it may be worth a guess that he isn't using them at all.

"Go ahead, I'll back you up on the ambulance if you need it," Keld says, sliding the strange drink forward. As he does, he lets the starsong segue into the one that opens a
shared mindspace, and fills that space with a sense of zen tranquility. If they touch, that awareness will be there if the former-demon permits it; it would also confirm for Keld that this isn't just a clone-brother, though there are far fewer of those here than at home.

Nathaniel accepts the drink, though he is careful not to touch Keld for his own reasons; careful, but not so much that he doesn't at least brush the other man's hand. His initial response is to try and jerk his hand away, if only because the link feels too much like his own powers reaching out to others. It'll be there, a sudden blossom of emotional content, mixed and mingled, like a flower filled with too many colors. It is clipped off at the head, the youth killing his own powers, and that is part of what Keld will likely realize. Without the demonic influence, Nate is a creature of fire and light, pinned down by a life of endless needless cruelties, small and large. Passionate, headstrong, heartsick, affectionate, protective, lonely - there's no way to say exactly what Keld will receive as the link upsets his own internal sensors, making it hard to figure out what is and isn't his doing. Most importantly, Nathan isn't a person who holds a lot of specific ill will towards others, which is a large difference between who he was and who he is now. The younger of the two doesn't stay in the link, though, withdrawing his hand, along with the shake, and leaning back in his seat to sip on it while staring at Keld so hard you'd think he could bore a hole in his head with sight alone.

Keld doesn't move. "Wow. That's a huge amount of pain you're carrying," he murmurs. "Yes, I recognized you. It's good to meet you without the parasite."
He glances down, and picks up the soup cup in both hands and sips from it, as if mulligatawney were supposed to be drunk like a broth.

During that contact, along with that deliberately cultivated sense of Zen Tranquility (soldier's meditation, more like) is a rather complicated weave: a dedicated, rather over-focused soldier, almost as though there wasn't much more to him than being that soldier … but over the top of that, a sort of music, an awareness of and care for other people that is totally at odds with the dispassionate soldier. As a sort of accidental single-flute melody line, there's a weave of remembered friendly affection that displaced slightly and resonated against Nathaniel. Oddly, it's still there. Which mixes with a well-hidden sense of surprise and confusion.

"I remember you, I think. You looked different before," Nathan says quietly, staring at Keld still, only to offer a wan smile, "So did I, though, I guess." He shifts forward to return the shake to Keld, shaking his head in the process, "That… isn't for me." He folds his arms on top of the table, more uncomfortable now than he was before, broken only by the arrival of his burger. He focuses far too much on putting ketchup on it as well as his fries, his own drink a simple glass of ice water that he chooses now to take a drink from. Licking his lips slowly, he finally looks back up at Keld and murmurs, "So… are you an alien or someone from another dimension? I'm pretty sure you're not a mutant. There's… it's too complex." He furrows his brow, wiggling his hand at Keld only to fidget again and, in a sudden rush of words, defensive and tinged with something more pained, "I'm not like that. The thing that I was - that wasn't me. Not really." He stops talking just as abruptly, sighing and stabbing the ketchup with a fry. Nomnom.

Keld accepts the shake, the calm expression not changing.
"I know the parasite wasn't you. I helped someone named Christopher, at the end of that incursion. He explained what happened. And yes. I'm an actual alien from outer space. I've been with the Avengers for less than a year… Wait, what do you mean, 'not for you?'"

He pauses, looking inward, and makes a sort of sour face, "Ah, sorry about that creeping in there. The parasite physically resembled a very close acquaintance I knew once, on a world we were defending. A phistian, they have the horns and wings and tail, and a sort of pheromone emotional suggestion power. That thread, that's only because of a coincidental resemblance."

The "Buffalo buffalo-burger" arrives with a mess (the proper denominational term) of fresh french-fries, and a large pickle. There is a dish of blue cheese dressing on the side, presumably to further the over-spiced burger's use of the "buffalo" term.

Nathaniel laughs suddenly, shaking his head and pointing at the milkshake, "That. It isn't for me. I don't like it. Not fond." He looks more amused now, though he rests his knuckles against his cheek and his elbow on the table, lifting a brow curiously, "Oh… I'm sorry. It must've been sort of, um, sad, to realize none of us were really phistians."

Nathaniel shifts into a proper sitting position for the waiter, staying that way until he (or she) has left and then returning to his relaxed position. He eats his fries first, curious about the burger that Keld has taken up with, though he speaks about something totally different, "I'm glad you know. My friends, my boyfriend - ex-boyfriend, I guess - all… didn't really get that." He glances to the side, but it's too crowded for anyone to bother hearing, "I raped someone while I was demonic. I… that is not something I would ever do, but… but my boyfriend didn't agree. He figured everything I did was just my latent personality, something I would do again if given the chance. He broke it off with me." There's that heartsickness, it would seem, the young man stabbing his fry into the ketchup again before popping it into his mouth.

Keld laughs at his own mistake. "Oh, yeah, that's … too much. Yeah. I … OK, yes. It was a surprise, and it would have been marginally better if it had been phistians. But only marginally. They have their own issues."

He thinks about what Christopher had said. He frowns a bit, cuts the burger in half and takes a bite. HOT. Very HOT. The shake is recruited immediately and it does a very good job of killing the death-by-pain.
"Oh man. That's intense." A slow smile spreads over his face. "Very nice. I love this planet. You have the best food."

Then something nags its way through his mental filters.
"Wait. No. You did not rape anyone. The parasite did. You were raped as well by being forced to participate. If your boyfriend thought otherwise, then you're well rid of him."
That's military thinking in action!! Keld is so annoyed that he doesn't even remember to question the assumption that ALL of Nathaniel's friends blame him for the parasite's actions.

Nathaniel watches the tasting of the burger and the immediate response, only to burst out laughing in spite of himself. He presses the back of his hand against his mouth, then shakes his head at Keld's smile, "Masochist." He picks up his own burger, subsequently shoving lettuce back under the bun, and takes a bite, listening to Keld speak. He shrugs slighly, chewing and swallowing heavily, "Some of it was influenced by how I feel. We all reacted differently because of that. You saw inside my head; I'm sure you saw how easy it was to manipulate me. As for Leo, well…" There's a soft frown, then a sigh and he nibbles forlornly on a fry, "Leo is… this great power for good, someone who literally channels a living light. He lost some of that when he changed me back. He blamed me for that, too, but the basic idea is that there is no grey area for him. There's good, there's bad, and that's it. What I did was Bad, so I must be bad, in a sense."

It's a simplified version of the thought process, but there you go. Picking up his burger again, he continues eating thoughtfully, watching Keld through half-lidded green eyes, "So… you're an alien. Does that mean you're anatomically different from humans?" A sly touch of amusement to his eyes indicates the question is born from amiable mischief, especially since he's smiling behind his burger.

The second question everyone asks! Keld smirks a little, while thinking about the other thing. "Did you have any choice at all? Could you fight it?? Any choice? Or were you a just a tied-and-gagged passenger?"

Let's not get into the things you learn to do as part of a military black-ops task force. No need to dwell on learning how to use high-tech equivalents to what the demons do, just be glad you never had to use them.
"Yes, I'm very different in some ways. I'm engineered to be a soldier. Think about what that would require."

Nathaniel picks up his fork and knife and, for no apparent reason, goes about slicing his burger into a number of smaller burgers. This appears to be largely for his own amusement more than just making them easier to eat. Once he has, he picks up one of the new smaller burgers and goes back to eating, "I'm not sure… I know other people did have choices, they fought against it, but… I think it was too much for me. I'm usually really tightly controlled, you know? I don't let anything escape if I can help it. I've been mistreated by a lot of people, too. It was just… too much to try and fight off. It sounds like an excuse, I know, but I was… happy to be free, in a weird way." He sighs softly, tugging on a lock of pale hair only to blink at the question, "Mm… better senses, compact muscular physique without any extraneous fat, chemical or physical castration, heightened mental capabilities." Pause. "I've seen a lot of science fiction movies about engineered soldiers."

Keld watches the gerrymandering of the burger, and dips the half he started into the dressing, smiling when the HOT comes again, but this time mellowed to a safer point by the cheese and milkfats.
"You were a passenger. What the parasite did was solely so it could feed on your misery, inducing you to give it more of your … self, or soul I think is the word in your language. Despair and capitulation. It doesn't matter whether you had or have the capacity to do what it did. Most sentients do have the capacity to do incredible harm, but it's not until they do so that they can be judged. You have not done this."

Keld picks up a fry, dips it in the blue cheese dressing, and chews it contemplatively. "So for an engineered soldier, so far you have a good cross-sample of some of my differences, but why do you think of castration?"

"I don't know. It was always posited that castrating soldiers was one of the ways to focus their minds, like, completely on what they were doing," Nathan says with an idle shrug, leaning over to dip his fry into the blue cheese as well, with a quick grin. Bwaha! He takes a bite, watching Keld curiously and tilting his head to the side, "I appreciate your view on things, though. It's… it's good to know somebody doesn't just think I'm a monster. There's only a couple other people I know who can bring themselves to look at me, even." There's a calming of his mood, an internalizing that draws in his expression, making him more difficult to read while, at the same time, giving off a melancholic air. He nibbles on his fry once more, eating it slowly and absentmindedly, and when he's finished, he brushes his knuckle against his lips and asks, "So what are the differences?"

Keld looks steadily at Nathaniel. "I don't know why anyone would have trouble looking at you. You're a handsome man. Are you certain they are doing that, or are you turning them away from you because you were maybe accepting that judgement too?"
His third bite of burger (the last of that half) is unintentionally without the mellowing sauce, which results in an urgent sipping of the wheatgrass shake. It's probably the wheatgrass that Keld dislikes; so much like Basic Military Fodder #2.

When he recovers, he switches to the other track of their conversation. "So, armor. I have that. And accelerated healing. The ability to turn off pain, or ignore it. But castration is a bad idea. Sex is a bonding thing, and if a soldier is successful? You want to keep his or her genome. Instead, you use other methods for focus. All my race is slightly, you might call it autistic, but actually we're simply capable of intense focus on one thing for a long time."

He smiles a semi-evil smile, but in his own bodyparlance it's supposed to be wistful and innocent. "People who see me naked might think I've been castrated, but they don't think it through. Why leave something that can cause crippling pain out in the open where anyone can kick it?"

Nathaniel actually blushes faintly, laughing again and shaking his head, "Aesthetic value doesn't mean much in the face of distinct dislike. They think I'm evil now." He shrugs mildly, picking up his glass of water for another drink, listening to what Keld has to say. He eventually sets the glass aside so that he can continue eating, though when his small burger falls apart, he takes the time to reassemble it before continuing, "It is a bonding thing, I guess. I've had sex for lots of reasons, though, and it wasn't always about bonding with somebody, and probably only once about genomes of any kind, since I don't sleep with girls." He licks ketchup off his thumb, folding one leg up over the other and wincing minutely when he bangs his knee. Mmf. Shaking his head, he focuses back on Keld and scratches the inside of his wrist, "So it's… just shielded up? Like a codpiece, the things people used to wear over their, uh, genitalia in medieval times?"

Keld thinks about this. Codpiece. He pokes at the word, but his language was taken from She-Hulk. The word unpacks itself along with the references. Great screaming Porn Star Nebula there's a lot of them. He laughs, a little dizzily, eyes not seeing the world around him.

"That word just exploded in my head. No, codpieces were actually more like… advertising. They were also used as purses. And apparently at least one person kept a dagger in there." His focus returns. "Ah, the thing you're describing is called a dancer's cup, and I have a biological version of that."

Players had to take off for work. Scene ends with fade to black.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License