Character Study


emily_icon.gif joaquin_icon.gif

Scene Title Character Study
Synopsis A study session with Emily and Joaquin reveals more history than what's in the textbook.
Date July 26, 2019

Cross Fox Coffee Co, Williamsburg

Recently re-established in the Williamsburg borough of the New York Safe Zone, Cross Fox Coffee Co boasts craft coffee brews made from blends of both imported and local grown beans. The food offerings aren’t as expansive, but a few creatively eclectic recipes are available. There’s also a mystery “Cross Fox Daily Special” that changes constantly depending on available ingredients.

The square footage is best described as cozy, but with enough elbow room for the locals to gather, work, and partake. Seating is limited to two-chair pairings with mostly metal and wood furniture. A few cushions strewn upon a four-chair array in one corner table makes for softer seating.

It’s been a week.

It’s been a week since the humid, mob-raising mess of summer heat has relented to less sweltering conditions.

It’s been a week in which Joaquin has debated whether or not he should postpone a Friday study session with Emily. He had an array of excuses ready in his mind. He had to work. He had errands that couldn’t wait. It was Friday and he wanted to party. All typical things a nineteen-year-old fresh into college could have said to get out of meeting up for a study session. But, it turns out, Joaquin isn’t very good at lying. Skirting around a truth, sure. Avoiding saying anything at all, absolutely. Trying to hide his black-eyed appearance with a pair of cool-styled sunglasses, certainly.

Which, is semi-countered by the fact that he’s leaned up on a light pole next to his bicycle, toying with the strap of a bookbag sticking out of the front basket. Behind him, the broad span of glass windows show the small coffee shop to be only half-full of patrons spread out over modern industrial decor.

When Emily steps off a bus pulled up to the sidewalk, she doesn’t have to look far to find the friend she’s come to study with, so there’s at least that. Less than half a block away he stands, leaning against the pole like that, with his bike that (so far) doesn’t look like it’s ready to tip over. “Joaquin,” she calls out while she approaches, not lifting a hand to wave. Overall, she just seems sluggish and maybe — tired? A state accentuated by the fact it’s nearly four in the afternoon and she’s yawning into the hand she might otherwise be waving with.

“Sorry’m late,” she mutters halfway into her palm, glancing up at him over the top of her own sunglasses. The blue of the aviators set on her nose reflect Joaquin’s visage back at him, angled as it is. She assumes, anyway, that she’s late given that he’s here before her and she only has a minimal grasp on the passage of time today. “Didn’t keep you too long, did I?”

Joaquin looks up from the bookbag strap when he hears his name, head turning in the direction of its origin. Her apology for lateness brings him to check a wrist watch just because of the time. Yes, a wrist watch. It’s not even an accessory for purely fashion purposes. “Nah,” he dismisses and implies forgiveness even if so. “But it looks like you got caught on a late shift or something. They working you that hard over at the Agency?”

Hefting his book bag up out of the basket and onto his shoulder, he angles his head in motion for them to head without further delay of caffeine.

Emily squints behind her lenses, briefly considering answering in the affirmative. But no. "I wish it were something that flashy." She moves to follow after him after glancing to check the bike is locked where Joaquin leaves it lying, shrugging her shoulders in an attempt at being evasive. "I've not been sleeping great for a while. Last night, though? Stayed up too late. Got a new game and I just sort of…"

Her mouth is drawn into a line when she pulls the door open for them both, the bell pinned to it jangling cheerily. Emily's look is not cheery, though.

"It was a good break. You know sometimes when you've been running on empty and you just spontaneously crash and sleep for fourteen hours?" she asks, trying to justify herself. "It's like that. But with video games." Fourteen hours and everything. She sighs at herself, glancing up at the café board to peek at the offerings. Anything seasonal? For now, she leaves her sunglasses on her face, her look less severe that way. "What about you?" she asks offhandedly. "What've you been up to?"

The bike remains chained, easily still within sight lines of the large and open windows of the coffee shop. Joaquin doesn’t look worried about the possibility of theft, but most aren’t so optimistic about the base of human nature. Which is probably why he looks back over his shoulder at her for her description of recent activities. His eyebrows do, anyway. “I… No, I don’t really know that life. Not yet, anyway,” he notes with a shrug. “Work. Study. Nothing so exciting.” It’s a lie, some would say.

When they both leave their sunglasses on, they’re bound to get some funny looks by the noticers. The cashier behind the counter does, too, but doesn’t comment.

Joaquin’s gaze isn’t on Emily, but on the board of simple coffees in varying stages of strength and add-ins, all of it still at the over-inflated Safe Zone prices. “What’ll you have? My treat,” he offers anyway with a motion towards the menu. “Hey check it out, they even got a watermelon juice. It’s not coffee, but… is that the Special?” From the sound of it, he’s interested, weighing the need of caffeine versus a refresher.

From the side, the swelling around Joaquin’s eye is more obvious and tender skin catching the overhead lights. And in a moment of memory lapse, he pulls off the shades in order to have a better look at the menu.

“Mmmm…” Emily squints at the listed special, her own weighing of the matter finding the matter clearly wanting. Besides, watermelon juice. “Honestly, that sounds gross anyway. Even poorly-made coffee would be better than that.” Her nose wrinkles at the idea of it regardless, because it’s not like that’s appetizing. She starts to shake her head, turning to look his way. “Listen, I’ll grab mine, you grab yours, let’s not get involved in a perpetual game of…”

And she trails off, seeing the bloom of color that accompanies the swelling, her eyes widening in silence. She actually gasps, or at least the thin intake of breath she has at the state of his face is close enough to it. “The hell you mean,” she starts, at once sour and worried, “not up to much? Jesus Christ, look at your face.” Emily has a hand halfway lifted to prod at the damage before she realizes it, only barely stopping herself. She looks like she might offer a sympathetic wince, except she’s rapidly becoming too incensed for that. “What the hell happened?”

Coffee, even if it’s just momentarily, is forgotten.

Not aware of his mistaken reveal until it's too late, Joaquin is still stuck on, "But, watermelon juice sounds… what?" Squinted eyes switch off from menu-gazing over to Emily for the gasp followed by the interrogative tone. The same squinted eyes widen and he shies away from the hand out of twitchy reflex.

But he has no forthcoming explanation outside of the rise of color to his face. "Oh, this? It's…it was just a misunderstanding." The spoken half-truth leads to his gaze averting back to the coffee shop offerings. He almost returns the set of shades to his face, but ultimately they don't make it back on. It'd do nothing to hide the flush of his embarrassment.

Joaquin sighs. "Let me just get… an iced coffee, large, extra milk and sweetener please," he submits to the barista.

Insistence about the 'misunderstanding' is met with a scoff of a breath. Emily looks away rather than potentially make a bigger scene of it, though as her gaze wanders she catches someone quickly glance back to their phone to avoid openly being caught watching what had unfolded so far. She shifts uncomfortably at that realization, quickly pulling free her own sunglasses to avoid standing out for wearing them indoors. The light didn't bother her as much as it used to, so it's not a discomfort to do so.

And besides.

She taps the arms of the glasses closed against her palm, issuing a look at the back of Joaquin's head the whole time she waits for her turn to order. The request for a hot drip coffee no extras is made politely, and she even patiently waits as the order is filled by the barista at the register. Free from obligation once she's paid, she wastes no time in sidling back up to Joaquin while his drink is prepared.

"There's only so many misunderstandings that lead to people throwing punches. You don't seem like the type to go picking a fight, Joaquin," Emily ventures, voice kept even and mild. "What happened?"

Joaquin hugs his arms around him, looking closed off but for a moment while they stand at the pick-up side of the counter. “I disagreed with the opinions of majority,” he equivocates wryly, gradually shifting his averted gaze back onto Emily. With his face turned to her, she can see the cut on the eye ridge, the swell of his cheek, down from before and on the mend. At least he’d been taking care of it. “Remember that week, when it was really really hot? Some people, they were mad at one of their neighbors because… because he wouldn’t use his power to help them out. Like, SESA suggested. He was a cryokinetic, I think. And there was a group of people trying to get him to come out of his house.”

Running a hand through his hair, Joaquin sighs heavily, the sound set with an inward turned guilt and outward toned apology. “I tried talking them down, got roughed up a bit. But a nice lady pulled my ass out of there before I really got stomped on by the mob.” The arms around him hug a little tighter as he looks away, shrugging helplessly. “But like, everybody was hot, you know? What was he gonna do, burn his power out trying to keep them all cool?” The arched brows lift, then lower in a flinch at the throb of pain in the movement.

Somehow, Emily keeps her opinion to herself, if only just. Hearing him out— all the way out is something she knows she should do, so she makes that effort. His movements are monitored in her periphery, gleaning from his body language everything he leaves unsaid about the encounter. When he's done, she emits a soft note of acknowledgement, gaze flitting ahead again.

She mulls it over.

"You didn't tell them all to 'let it go', did you?" she asks deadpan, a glint in her eye as she glances back at him for just a moment. "I'd have punched you, then." A breath of laugh escapes her at her own jab, and then she's folding her arms quickly to keep from fussing over him. There wasn't anything she could accomplish in 30 seconds that his care routine wasn't already doing, she's sure, but sense doesn't quell the desire on its own.

"I'm glad someone was there to pull you out. You were just trying to do the right thing, you didn't deserve to get hit over it." Emily grumbles. "Though maybe you stopped something worse from happening." With an affirming nod his way, she quietly advises, "So don't feel sorry about it."

Lightening her voice, she teases with the beginnings of a smile, "You should have lead with the heroics, you know. Might have gotten a free coffee out of it."

Joaquin coughs in a cover-up of the awkwardness intermixing with the humor from her allusory phrase. "Don't look at me, I'm not the Elsa in this scenario." With a shake of his head, he nevertheless smiles faintly in response to her protracted offer and relaxes some, fingers brushing gingerly at the swell. "Bet Lance or Joe, or hell even Brynn would've made been able to do more," he muses with a look away back to the menu board. He's not really reading what's on the board so much as losing himself to thoughts for a few moments before pulling back into the present.

"I'm kind of worried about those other neighbors though," adds Joaquin, blinking and shifting his gaze to the pickup counter. "And, maybe that free coffee should go to the lady who pulled my ass out of the fire. The true hero."

Another blink, and he's looking right back at Emily, noting her very faint curl at the edge of her mouth. "Sorry if I worried you," he adds belatedly, the uninjured brow twitching up and down in an acknowledging, roguish waggle. Because he does note the concern.

At the comment about his Lighthouse siblings, Emily lets out a snort of amusement and lifts her coffee in preparation for a sip. "Yeah, Brynn would have given as good as she got, there's no doubt about that," she remarks, hiding additional commentary somewhere in her drink.

His worries about the rest of the mob cuts the action short, the thin teen's gaze darting back to him. Her brow trembles for a moment, tempted to knit together though it doesn't. All Emily can do is let out a quiet hm at him.

It's quickly followed by a dismissive scoff at the accusation she's worried. Her? Joaquin, you're out of your mind. (jk you're right on the money) "Just…" she sighs, long-suffering. "Try to keep from getting the rest of your face dented in, all right?"

"Honestly, I'm just glad it's not the result of another biking accident?" Emily confides in that same dry humor, slipping over to the nearest table. Her brow arches at Joaquin, daring him to challenge the likelihood of the statement.

"Pretty sure it's filled back out from the swelling," Joaquin says of the face-denting process, knuckling around the tender area but only for a second. He's not poking and picking at it, but Emily might be the type to consider a Cone of Shame for humans so he stops.

Her conveyance of concern earns an incredulous side-eye from the young man. How dare. And yet. "That was just the one time, and that bruise healed up in a couple weeks, no problem," he adds as he plops into a seat with his book bag thumped to the floor beside him. "Like everybody expects mortar-caused potholes in a bike lane these days…" The grumbling slows as he starts extracting textbooks and study materials from said bag on their claimed territory.

"Anyway," he says as he spreads his notebook and papers out, "SESA has their own position on Expressives volunteering. I didn't think I was going to say anything, but when I saw the group out there, I don't know… I guess it's 'cause I grew up with the family I did. We helped the Ferry where we could." A flicker of sadness passes by in the squint of his eyes as he looks down to the textbook. He dismisses it with a mild shake of his head and flips open the cover, taking one defiant sip of iced coffee.

Emily is all noncommittal noises and hums while they get settled in, each comment causing a different emotion to be behind it. She sighs as she flips her notebook open, flipping the cover back to take up less space on the table.

It's an action paused a bit abruptly, punctuated with a glance back up at Joaquin as she notes the shift in him suddenly. She'd been listening, but not engaged as she was getting her books out, but now she reflects on that. Her brow twitches into the beginnings of a furrow and she slowly lays the notebook down. "Was it weird—" she asks, the tone of someone who regrets prying but can't help themselves anyway. "Growing up around people with… with abilities, and you not having any?"

Her mouth purses into a hard line, both reprimanding herself for what she's done as well as trying to figure out what to say to soften it. "You've—" It's hard to put it into words, but she does her best to keep her voice gentle, eyes averted from him. "You've got this big heart, you know? I feel like some people in your shoes, they would have been bitter at it all. But you…"

She looks back up at him, a smile at the corner of her mouth while she leans to one side to pull her textbook from her bag. "You go and do things like that." Emily doesn't have to point at his injury, or even stare to metaphorically gesture at it while she speaks.

Joaquin leans askew as he considers her question, head cocked in the same direction as the mild tilt of his hair tips. “I don’t know if it was weird. Mom used to joke I wasn’t real New Yorker, because I’d want to help out people instead of ignoring them. Anybody and everybody. We all deserve someone who supports us, no matter who we are, what abilities we do or don’t have.” He lifts a finger, idly itching a spot on his jaw. “But it was her idea to help in the first place, so.” There he trails off, blinking away the initial urges of emotion. “What about you? You’re not… bitter. If you were, you wouldn’t be interning at SESA right?” The return volley sent, it’s at least done so with genuine interest in her opinion, her experiences.

"I— 'm… mm… I…" Emily suddenly looks away, stammering as she tries to reply easily but somehow can't manage it. Her shoulders curl upward in the discomfort caused by the return volley, fingers curling a little tightly around the pencil she's picked up. A hard blink passes before she's able to recover. "I'm registered Class U, actually." It's apologetic, said like she doesn't mean to pry away potential common ground between them. Said quietly, like she doesn't want anyone else overhearing.

It's her own damn business, after all.

"So it… I've…" She closes her eyes for a moment to regain control of her voice, and on opening them again, forces to look back up at Joaquin. She can't hide from this— hide from herself, after all. "I've not got as much to be bitter about, you know? I mean, the war kept my dad from coming home for years, but it'd been years before then even, and— I didn't even want to talk to him then anyway, so it just…"

Her jaw moves in silence, lips parted. Sharing isn't a forte of hers, likely never will be, barring certain scenarios. "I-I'd just gone into remission when the war first started kicking off, so as much as I liked to pretend otherwise, it all felt… removed. I was very much wrapped up in my own shit." She only realizes she's looked away again because she has to glance back at him when she shrugs. "We had to move, find some place quiet in the suburbs to try and ride it out. We settled in at my grandfather's place out in Rhode Island."

Rather than sit in the awkward silence that lingers, her brow starts to knit, her gaze softening. "I'd have loved to meet her," Emily asides in a near-murmur, affection for a person she's never known and never will know hiding in her tone.

Brows lift in surprise at the reveal of her Expressive status. Joaquin reaches a hand up to rub at the back of his neck, thoughts visibly churning - not with judgment, but with worry for her health and safety. He nods slowly, noting certain bits of her share, and eventually his hand resettles around his coffee cup. "I guess that's the right attitude to take," he says while his fingers toy with the paper protector. "When Gillian and the others took us north into Canada to hide out, we didn't have much else except each other to rely on."

Joaquin swallows a sip for the memories, blinking around the brim of the cup's cover at Emily. His smile is small, appreciative rather than weak. "She would've liked you. You're tough. Not a pushover," he observes despite the softened gaze from the other party. It follows another almost passing thought when he manages to snag it and turn it into a verbal askance. "So, you talk to your dad now? Or he's busy doing… whatever he's doing?" Oh how little does he know.

Emily is much better at living politely in the moment and keeping everything surface-level. Despite that, she doesn't shut down the conversation or find some way not to answer. She lets out another hesitant note, her eyes dropping to the page of her notebook. "I've been trying to talk to him recently," she admits quietly, in the same tone she'd spoken about her SLC-E Registration. It's a topic that brokers the same level of secrecy. "A lot happened that made me realize I'd regret it if something happened to him and I'd never got to have a relationship with him. So many people I know don't have that chance, and— I'd be stupid if I didn't try."

She bites her tongue for a moment, trying to stop the words from flowing. But they come easily— almost off-handedly now. "Not that he doesn't make it hard. Not that I don't make it hard on him in return." Pencil to paper, she starts to add on the notes she'd last left. "Nathalie really wants us to have a relationship, I think. All of us. She wants us to be a real family."

"For her sake, if nothing else, I'm willing to try." Emily looks back up at Joaquin, never quite making it to shrugging. "I don't think he'll ever be off his bullshit, though. He fought with the Ferry, now he's with Wolfhound… and I don't think he'll ever give that kind of life up. He doesn't know how." Her thoughtful look hardens. "He doesn't know how to have a family, and it's not the war that did that to him."

She catches herself then, directing her gaze back down. "Sorry," she mutters brusquely, uncertain where all of that had come from. "None of that has to do with the history we're supposed to be talking about."

Shaking his head, Joaquin is all instant forgiveness and dismissing the apologies for impromptu confessional. "Wolfhound huh, so Berl— I mean, Nathalie, she's working with your… wait you said…" Little by little, the edges of the puzzle fill in and the piece drops into place. He straightens rapidly in his seat, mouth parting but silence being the only thing exhumed from within. For a hot few seconds.

"You're sisters?" The question tumbles out after delay. And after several blinks, the surprise wears away and loosens into a backwards flop against his chair back coupled with black-eyed stare at Emily's features. Joaquin tilts his head this way and that as he does. Huh.

"That's— still technically news to everyone, including both me and her," Emily mutters, intently focused on the page without actually paying that much attention to what she's doing with it. "So don't feel like you're behind on the times or anything." In fact, she winces, the last of her ability to withstand talking about herself being met with the painful urge to either find some other topic to talk about, or become invisible.

Given that the latter is impossible, she clears her throat instead. "Hey, I'm, did you happen to find the answer for that fourth question yet? I swear I've read the chapter like twice now, but I still can't find where that one's hidden at."

“I, I didn’t know,” Joaquin murmurs, fingers squeezing the paper protector around his coffee cup. Even though she says it’s news all around, there’s still a sense of guilt around the matter. “She always felt like she had it all together. Nathalie. I can’t imagine what it must feel like for her to find out about having a sister,” comes his additional comment before he looks up and at Emily. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean like that’s bad.” He drops his gaze down to the texts and notes in front of him, finding and embracing the more empirical facts before them.

“Question four… is, uh, oh, here…” Figures, dates, history. Because those aren’t biased, right?

The focus returns to actual productive study, and Joaquin keeps his notes disciplined to the subject matters covered. There’s enough time for a couple refills if they so chose, he partaking in one as the session goes on. All in all, a nice and normal time of study, no further bombshells dropped or black eyes revealed. As their session winds down to the final hour, he’s visibly weary from the brain exercising to the point where even the caffeine can’t help. Sitting back, he exhales a long sigh and sets his pencil down, checking the near empty coffee cup and his watch. “Think my brain power’s as empty as this cup. Think we’re good here?”

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