Rather Harmless


felix_icon.gif hokuto_icon.gif

Scene Title Rather Harmless
Synopsis Or, alternately, entirely depressing. Hokuto's tarot-card reading for Felix, that is.
Date July 1, 2009

Ichihara Bookstore

Felix really doesn't have a family, in the useful sense of the word. His parents live safely in Sarasota, Florida. He has no siblings, and if he has uncles or aunts or cousins, they remain lost across the water. Felix hasn't visited Russia in years, and he doesn't even often head out to the part of Coney Island he grew up in. Little Odessa is more a ghetto than ever, these days. But Brendan's mother lived out here….and even though she's gone, as well, he still comes, now and then. He's weary and melancholy, dressed in jeans and t-shirt and workshirt, that latter to hide the pistol at the back of his waist, and ducks into the bookstore as a welcome distraction on the way home.

It's a welcome distraction from the weather; the bookstore. For over two weeks now it's been steady rain through New York, a constant slate-gray sky and heavy drizzle coming down. Out here, out on Roosevelt Island, things could be better. Like so much of New York City, Roosevelt Island suffered during the bomb, and it's something Felix Ivanov's come to recognize well — the suffering, that is.

Electricity comes and goes here on the island, with the power grid overstressed from patchwork repairs made during the first year following the explosion. It's no surprise this tiny bookstore crammed between two highrise residential buildings is using candles rather than the overhead lights. Though the scent of lavender incense is a welcome surprise, mixing amongst the aroma of old paper and scented wax from the pillar candles.

Lounging something like a lazy cat behind the front counter, a pale woman with long, ink-black hair lays in one of the bay windows with a book cradled in one hand, a steaming cup of tea in the other, eyes half-lidded and reading glasses slouched low on the bridge of her nose.

When the sound of footsteps creaks the old wooden floor, she rises up slowly with one black brow raised, back arching like a cat waking up from a nap, legs curling beneath herself as her shoulders set unevenly. "Oh," there's a modicum of surprise on her face, seeing the lanky stranger coming in, "I— Well this is a plesant surprise. Welcome to Ichihara Books," she notes almost distractedly, laying her softcover novel down on the wood counter next to a defunct register as she stands fully.

He offers a lazy curl of smile in return. "Afternoon," he says, gently. "Looks like a good afternoon to have this job," he adds, glancing around. "I used to work in a bookstore, myself," Fel's apparently serious.

Pursing her lips, it's clear Hokuto is surprised by the consideration of this customer having worked in a bookstore, but something about his angular features and gentle eyes gives it some credence, once she gets past the sallow look of his cheeks and the dark circles beneath his eyes. "It's better than most jobs on a rainy day," she notes with a crooked smile, "I apologize for the dim lighting, we're supposed to get the electricity back on sometime next week." Her hair shows just a little too stringy for its own good, clearly with the power out the hot water has been too.

"Is…" The pale woman's dark eyes scan the store as she leans forward on the counter, folding her hands and resting her weigh ton her forearms, "there something I might be able to help you find? Browsing is a bit perilous in the back, what with the lack of windows." She puckers her lips into a lopsided smile, then with a touch of embarassment leans even further over the counter to the point where it's clearly uncomfortable, extending a hand in a slinking and awkward motion to Felix. "Hokuto, by the way," her brows kick up and a smile stays on her unpainted lips, "you look familiar."

And Felix lies. Sort of. "Nikolai," he says, taking her hand. It's partially true - Nikolaievich is his middle name, though the proper name is his father's. He shakes it firmly. "And I understand. Things're still rickety all 'round, these days. And I thought shit was bad after September 11th," he adds, lips pulling into that feline grimace of distaste."Not really. Just sort of wandering." He rocks his weight on his heels, forward and back, almost shyly.

"Longtime resident too?" Her small hand withdraws from Felix's after the shake, and she slides off of the counter and down on to bare feet, padding around the counter before boosting herself up to sit on the edge on Felix's side, one leg crossing over the other before she smooths out the velvet fabric of her black skirt with one hand. "You don't sound it from the accent, but— it takes all kinds here, doesn't it?"

Quirking a dark brow, Hokuto smirks slightly at her own thought, leaning back on the countertop some. "I get a few people ever week or so that wander in here. There's… a lot to be had, my mother kept this place well stocked. It's been hard to afford the newer releases as of late here, but we've got a lot of used books." Her eyes flit to the darkened shelves, then back to Felix, "you strike me as a romantic." She awkwardly lets the notion hang for a moment, before clarifying with a nervous laugh, "I ah— mean period-wise. Victorian stories, fencing, matters of the heart…" she nods over to a shelf by the front windows. "I've got a nice used copy of the Count of Monte Cristo."

His utterly nonplussed air would be comical, really, if he weren't in earnest - Fel abruptly has the confused and forlorn air of a Persian who's just seen his owner whip the crystal saucer of Fancy Feast right out from under his waiting snub nose. And then he assembles a smile about as convincing as a polyester geranium, and offers it to her. "Hahahaha," he chuckles, weakly. "Good eye you've got there. I do fence, actually. Not as much as I did. I….not a resident of here, really. Queens, after Brighton Beach."

A quirked smile creeps up on Hokuto's lips, "you've the build of one. Maybe the personality, hard to say." She glances out the rain dappled windows, staring out at the gray streets of Roosevelt Island for a moment in thought, "not too far away, then, just a hop across the bridge." Sliding off of the counter, as if unable to truly stay still for too long a time, Hokuto lands bare feet against wood floor again with a soft thump. Upturning her gaze to Felix, Hokuto meanders over towards one of the shelves, tugging at the corner of a book, then pushing it back in place with two fingers.

"If you're not interested in books," she notes with a thoughtful expression, one finger tapping against the side of her cheek. "I have an potentially odd question for you," her lips begin creeping up into something of a Cheshire smile, "are you a superstituous man?"

He's immediately skeptical, gaze hardening into the stare of a cop who suspects a scam incoming. "I can be," he admits, keeping his tone light. "Depends on the situation. I've lit candles to my share of the saints. Why d'you ask?" he wonders, gaze flicking to the sign that declares tarot readings are for sale.

Pursing her lips into a curious little pucker, Hokuto makes a quiet ooh noise at the comment to the candles, but she follows Felix's gaze to the sign, a sly smile replacing the playful expression. "I think you see where this is going. I did a reading a few days ago and… well, I could use someone else's concerns to clear my head over how it turned out." Perhaps if she knew Felix, she wouldn't be so inclined to delve too deeply into his futures.

"It's rather harmless," Hokuto admits as one hand threads a lock of black hair behind one ear, "as harmless as knowing something can be, anyway. It could be a good way to pass the time before you step back out into the rain."

Well, why not? If she's got a true gift, it may be useful. If she doesn't….well, it's pocket change spent for a few minutes' entertainment. Better than the whores on 7th avenue propositioning him for the umpteenth time. Fel hesitates, and then shrugs, narrow shoulders clear under his shirts. "Sure, why not?" he says, smile deepening a little.

"Now I know who you remind me of," Hokuto notes with a wave of one hand as she turns her back to Felix, padding barefoot down the narrow aisle between two bookshelves towards the more darkly lit back end of the store. She turns, halfway there, crossing her arms as her head tilts to the side, "mind your step over there," her nose motions to a few cardboard boxes full of books, "I haven't gotten the new paperbacks up on that shelf yet. Don't want you tripping."

As she turns back around, Hokuto finishes the short walk to the back of the store, by a round table tucked away in a small nook, an old tea set situated atop it; two old and well-worn chairs flanking the table. Hokuto moves to sit down at one, quietly pulling out a slim cardboard box, tapping a stack of dog-eared and weathered cards out as her eyes upturn to Felix. "A reporter," she finally explains, "old friend of mine, he works for the Times. You two have similar…" her lips purse into a fond smile, "quirks!"

There's that canine furrow between his brows, the expression of a German shepherd confronted with a command it doesn't understand. "Oh?" he says, more cheerfully. Hey, she didn't say 'cop', at least. He picks his way past the heaps of books with the delicacy of his namesake, and fits himself into what space is available at the table. Used to moving in cramped confines, clearly.

"Corbin Ayers," Hokuto notes with a thoughtful tone of voice, shifting her weight against th eback of the wooden chair with a creak of its old and loose frame, "he's done a lot of political pieces in the last few months. I don't get to see him as much as I used to, but reading his articles — it's a nice way of having some connection." She shuffles the cards a little, straightening the crooked corners with her thumb, smoothing over the textured material as she talks. "It's funny, we all share such a comparitively small space of city, and people don't end up finding the time to visit someone ten minutes across town from them…"

The cards are laid down in a stack in front of her, and pushes across the bare table top towards Felix, her brows rising as she gives a few moments of silence before telling Felix to, "shuffle those, please; however much you want."

A little larger than he's used to handling, in terms of decks. But he cuts, shuffles, and bridges neatly enough, seven times in quick succession, face studiously blank all the while. before handing them back to her with a faintly challenging expression. Something almost impish, like he expects her to do card tricks rather than read his fortune. "I know the feeling. Something about this place being all islands and peninsulas makes it feel more insular."

Nodding to what Felix said, Hokuto seems surprised by the articulate nature of the man. "I'm…" Hokuto trails off, squinting at Felix as she begins to pick up cards and lay them out, one by one slapping down five cards from the top of the deck into a forked arrangement. One central card directly in front of Felix, face down, and then a pair of paths of two cards each branching out from it, "I'm going to use the two paths spread here. I don't… really know much about you, but everyone is presented with choices, and you seem like the kind of guy who deals in black and white a lot." This, coming from a woman solely dressed in black and white.

"It's a pretty simple setup… this first card here," she motions to the one the others branch off of, "is your starting point. It's the critical decision that will make either of these two outcomes a possibility… I like to start the reading here, some people go the other way." One shoulder shrugs slightly, and then as if absentmindedly, Hokuto quickly glances to the tea kettle. "Did— you want tea while I did the reading? Some people find it comforting."

"Sure," Fel says, somewhat more loose-jointed than before, hands in his pockets and a decidedly imprecise slouch to his spine. He nods at her, as if to go on. "So long as you got sugar," he adds, with a hint of Brooklyn to his accent, and a reluctant grin.

Leaving the cards on the table, Hokuto slides up from her chair and grabs the kettle, tipping her head in a nod as she backpedals away from the table. "I'll just be a minute," she notes, following the back wall until she ducks away into an open back room. There's some clicking and clanking, followed by a quiet sloshing noise before Hokuto comes back out, brushing off her hands. "I can't wait until I have running water again, having to take the bus out to Queens to get bottled water is a hassle. Not to mention lighting the pilot on the stove," she adds with an anxious smile before coming to sit back down in her chair.

"Now… let's— hope this is a bit less ominous than my prior reading." Wrinkling her nose, Hokuto slides dark nails beneath the card closes to Felix, the one she described the purpose of, and flips it over. There, to Felix's perspective is the upside-down image of a robed man seated in a chair, holding a chalice in each hand. Inverted text on the card reads, King of Cups.

Pursing her lips, Hokuto seems marginally surprised at that being the beginng choice. "That's… interesting. The, ah— the king of cups?" She arches one dark brow, "Reversed like this, an easy interpretation is inclement weather, like," she glances over towards the storefront and the gloomy gray skies and wet streets beyond. "It implies a person, mature and patient… hiding a deep insecurity and indecisive nature." She's not talking about Felix is she? The thought crosses his mind.

"But this individual, he can be a schemer, someone who lusts for something — sometimes power, sometimes people — but lacks the power or resolve to make it happen. It's like— a charming seducer figure. Your choice, the one that creates the two paths?" Hokuto glances up from the cards to Felix, "it begins with whoever this person is. Whoever the charming seducer in your life is."

Not him, clearly, by the way his lips quirk in response. "I see," he says, gravely, slowly losing the air of one humoring another. He cranes his neck to get a closer look.

Watching Felix's reaction a bit uncertainly, Hokuto moves her hand to one of the first branching cards. "This card here, it represents the first force drawing you to the first possible outcome of the choice." Her nails hook under the card, turning it over on the table to lay flat, revealing a garden scene, and an enormous hand emerging from a cloud, carrying aloft a single coin marked with a five-pointed star. This one, unlike the other, is viewed upright to Felix.

"Huh," a thoughtful sound, and an intrigued reaction from Hokuto. "This is the Ace of Pentacles, it mostly means opportunity at this point in the spread. It's… sort've the foundation of success, the ability to plant the seeds of prosperity and let them grow. Stemming from the original individual, it's like there's a chance either through or with him, for you to make a good way with your life, or at least set plans in motion to do that."

And quite abruptly, Felix figures out who the enthroned figure might be, and -blushes-. Deeply so - color floods up from his collar, try as he might to ignore it. "Someone offering me a business deal?" he says, voice deepening a little in embarassment.

"Maybe," Hokuto notes the color rising in Felix's cheeks with an aversion of her eyes, a slight smile creeping up on her face. "It could be a business deal, or if the figure is a romantic interest, the seeds of a propserous relationship— family, the works." This reading seems so much better than the one she gave for Abigail, and with that confidence in the reading's quality, she moves to the next card in that path. "This card here, represents the first possible outcome. It's the culmination of that possibility, it's what the seeds of prosperity turn into."

When her nails dig under the card and pale fingers flip it over, it is an inverted heart Felix sees, a heart run through by three swords against heavy clouds pouring with rain. The smile fades immediately on Hokuto's lips, teeth pressing down into them as she leans back to her chair for a moment.

"The ah… that's the Three of Swords, um, inverted." Her eyes cast away briefly, unfocusing and distant as she talks. "It's not entirely bad, but it is unfortunate. It's— mostly a painful revelation. A realization that a relationship you have been in has become harmful or negative. It's— everything you tried to lay down in the beginning? It was for naught, in the end everything that seems golden is truly ruinous, and something you hear about, something negative, allows you to distance yourself from this relationship before it truly hurts you…"

Fortunately for Hokuto, the whistling of the tea-kettle allows her to distance herself from the reading, offering a mild smile before rising up from her chair.

He snorts to himself at the aptness of it, looking momentarily rather grumpy. The whistle of thekettle startles him a little, and he looks up, curiously, as if also pleased to be diverted.

Coming back with the kettle, Hokuto seems to have evened out her disposition, offering a slightly apologetic smile to Felix, adding, "They can't both be bad, right?" There's a somewhat wan smile there, as she pulls aside two ceramic cups, setting one near Felix before offering out a tin with an assortment of teabags inside, the blend of scents from it overwhelming the scent of jasmine from earlier. Hokuto plucks out an Earl Gray teabag, dropping it n her glass as she pours steaming hot water into the glass, then sets the kettle down on an earthenware plate.

Letting her eyes wander over to Felix, she offers a slightly more honest smile. "After you get yourself situated, we'll see how wrong the other branch of cards wants to make me." One finger distractedly motions over to a sugar bowl and small decanter of milk, depending on how Felix takes his tea. Hokuto, apparently, takes it black and sugarless.

With lots of sugar but no milk, when we're discussing Earl Grey. "I hope not," he says, morosely….clearly not quite sanguine about all of it. Evening there, Captain Mercurial.

Managing something of an optimistic smile, Hokuto reaches down for the next card. "This is the force drawing you to the alternate outcome," and hopefully one less grim. As she turns the card over, however, Felix is greeted with another enthroned figure sitting upside-down. This one bears a heavy crown and holds aloft a single sword skyward. Hokuto looks, notably, nonplussed by the result, evidenced by her sigh. "The King of Swords… inversed," she's been getting a lot of that in readings lately.

"Another gray sky, another ominous weather-related card…" her eyes flick to the windows again, then back to Felix. "This is someone who lives their life by the letter of the law — a valiant police officer, an uncorroptable judge, someone who isn't swayed by things like emotions or mercy." Her eyes seem uncertain as she takes in the picture of the sword-wielding king. "It can also represent a tyrant who rules through fear and inspires obedience… but, from the rest of the context, I want to say it feels more like something in legitimate legal authority… they're the one leading you down this other path."

Fel looks startled at that, peers at her more narrowly. "Are you Evolved?" he asks, bluntly. And for a moment, there's the unmistakable ring of the interrogator in his voice - the firmness of someone oh so very used to having his questions answered.

The question makes Hokuto jump a bit, eyes wide and lips parted slightly. She looks to one side, then another, and somewhat stammeringly lies through her teeth, "I'm— it's not— it doesn't work like that." There's an awkward smile that plasters itself across her face as she picks up her teacup and holds it to her lips, hiding her nervousness. "I'm… I take it this is accurate?" Deflect the question, of course, it's the absolute best way to handle these things.

"I'm sorry, that was very rude, please forgive me," he says, English gone suddenly a little stilted. "I know. I'm letting my own paranoia override my manners. Yes, thus far, it is, really. Do go on?" There's fiddling with the tea, then, since it's equally neatly a blind to hide his own nervousness.

A wary look is given to Felix across the table as Hokuto sets down the cup. Normally, given the content of the reading, she'd ask if the person she's giving the reading for would want to continue. Given that Felix already told her to, though, Hokuto decides not to turn back, scraping beneath the last card with dark nails. "This is the alternate outcome, the result of the influence given by the King of Swords." As she turns the card over, there's anxiety in her expression, a look which only worsens as another inverted card is revealed. This one is busy, a detailed depiction of a man leaning on a staff of knotted wood, with eight other staves rising up from the ground behind him.

The sharp sigh that comes from Hokuto is a precursor to the definition of the card. "It— the nine of wands, inverted isn't… the best card possible." It's better than what Abby was given, at least. "It— I think in this instance I'm going to read more into the failing health aspect of it. But overall the card is sort've the realization of the phrase 'all that hard work for nothing'." Her brows furrow, eyes wander to the steam of her teacup, "or, 'all the best laid plans fail'."

"Given its influence by the King of Swords, I— I think this means that whatever you and the King try and arrange and put together, inevitably will fall apart by merit of its own design."

Felix's face falls. For all his years of mastering a cop's pokerface, Felix can be amazingly transparent, at times. He eyes the card accusingly, trying not to pout. Not that he didn't know that'd never go anywhere, but it sucks even worse when fickle Fate confirms it.

"I'm ah…" Hokuto exhales a softer sigh, bringing her hand up to her brow where an errant lock of dark hair is swept aside. "I'm sorry, about the results. This— the weather I think is to blame. The reading I did for another customer was decidedly grim as well," her hands move to cradle her teacup, shoulders rolling forward in an uneasy expression as her dark eyes lift up to Felix's, searching him for some measure of understanding in the wat he seems so crushed from the cards.

"I'm— there's no charge for this," she notes with eyes closed and a shake of her head, "I always feel bad charging for bad readings. It's— like opening a fortune cookie and finding a spider, or something." Her nose wrinkles slightly, eyes settling back down to the reflective surface of her tea.

He waves it away. "No, no. You made the effort, spent the time. It's not your job to gild the truth, it is what it is," Fel heaves himself up, careful not to dislodge the piles of books around him, groping in his pocket for his wallet.

Managing a thankful if not embarassed smile, Hokuto sweeps the cards into a pile and straightens them up, laying them on top of the deck before tucking the cards away back in their box. "My, ah… my mother always said that this was a particularly receptive deck," her eyes wander from the cards up to Felix, "I guess that's true. I never used to believe in things like this — fortune telling, working at a bookstore." She laughs, awkwardly, shaking her head.

"When I quit my old job, and took this place over after my mother passed away, I never thought I'd be enjoying it like I do." Her teacup is lifted up, nursed between both hands. "It's.. a refreshing change of pace."

"I kind of wish I could go back to working in a bookstore. I didn't make a living wage, but I didn't need to, I was only a student," Fel says, wistfully, contemplating the curve of his teacup. "What'd you used to do?" he wonders, even as he slips the relevant number of bills on to the table.

"Oh, it was a glamorous job," Hokuto notes with ome practiced sarcasm, "I worked in research and development at the Primatech Paper Company in the Bronx." There's a crooked cast to her smile, eyes going distant as she says that, "nothing more glamorous than sitting in a research archive all day and getting papercuts." Her head tilts to the side, "and yet somehow the texture of that job is leagues different than working in a bookstore, despite the similar trappings."

Lips pursing together, Hokuto leans forward in her chair, inspecting Felix for a moment. "You're…" she lets that word draw out, linger some as her eyes narrow and lips creep into a smile, "a teacher? High-school history, maybe?"

Cue the record scratch noise. Felix gets the annoyed Persian face again, lips thinned out. "Nah. I used'ta be a cop," he says, easily. "Walked a beat for years." That, at least, is true. "Got pensioned off after I got shot."

"You don't walk like a cop," Hokuto suggests as she takes a sip of her tea, "I guess that's a good thing — or maybe you weened yourself off of the stride after…" her eyes narrow slightly, thoughtfully, followed by a subtle frown. "I— don't mean to make light of you getting shot, that's— it's a very noble sacrifice. I— don't really have the head for doing things like that, for— you know— danger."

Casting her stare back down into her teacup, Hokuto's lips creep into a hesitant smile. "You're rather good company, Nikolai," the alias comes of a bit awkwardly said, "and you took a bad reading in stride. It's— nice to see people who have a level head on their shoulders."

He laughs at that, that rather rusty sound. "I don't walk like I think my holstered .45 is my dick, is what you're saying," he retorts, cheerfully. "No, it was stupid shit. And I lived, which is what mattered. Just couldn't stay on the force, after the lung damage." Fel's grin is genuine, broad. "Thanks," he says, tucking his hands in his pockets.

Dark eyes drift up and peer across the table at Felix, followed by a crooked smile and an awkward laugh at his choice of analogies. "Well— I guess that's reassuring. I don't see too many cops out here, but the ones that do come by are nervous. When you have this many abandoned buildings and a population this small, we only get so much police attention…" her head cants to the side as she takes a sip of her tea. "Which borough were you out of? Queens?" It's an honest question, though the raise of her brows makes it just a little more interrogative feeling.

"Queens, Brighton Beach, some of the really awful parts of the Bronx," Fel says, looking a little embarrassed, but declining to reassume the mantle of shyness he wore earlier. "And I'm sorry. The NYPD got nothing but fucked by the bomb, and they still won't give us enough to get us back on our feet."

"Policing out of your home? That must be rough, most cops I know work out of different boroughs, so they don't become recognized in their home as problems." Hokuto sips at her tea again, giving a slight nod of her head. "It is hard, managing to keep the city running. It's amazing it's going half as smoothly as it is…" eyes distant for a moment, Hokuto manages a faint smile. "My father always wanted to be a police officer. He never did get to do that," she looks up to Felix, with a faint smile, "I think it's fortunate that he's not here to see what's happened to this city."

Felix just nods. "I wish I….I hadn't come back. I was outta town when it all went down," he explains, turning to finger a little porcelain incense pot adorned with goldfish.

Hokuto's eyes shut and her head dips down into a nod. "I… I was at work when it happened, here at the Library. I— it was the single most terrifying thing I've ever experienced in my life. I was here for 9/11 too, I was at work at Primatech when the first tower fell, and— and watching everything that happened on the day of the bomb was a hundred times worse."

"I wish I had ran," Hokuto says in a hushed tone of voice. "I… lost my father in the explosion," she adds as an afterthought. "I couldn't bring myself to leave the city. To— to abandon it. It needs people, good people."

"I was here for 9-11," Felix says, and there's a little note of misery in his voice as he says this. "I was at work, too," And reduced to nearly mute-keening, knowing his lover was among the dead. "YOu're braver than most, to stay," he adds.

"Or I'm too scared to run and have to start over somewhere else," Hokuto notes with a self-depreciating smile. "I'm not sure which is true— if I'm a bigger coward or not." There's a wry cast to her smile before it fades, and Hokuto settles her empty tea cup down on the table, staring into it for a moment before looking back up to Felix.

"I guess, in the end," once more she's threading locks of inky-black hair behind one small ear, "the only way to tell if you're brave or not, is by what you manage to accomplish, right?" There's a hesitant smile as she tries to keep a positive footing. "Hopefully in the end people will see me as brave, but it's not something I'd ever see for myself."

"Bravery is not lacking fear," Fel says, soberly. "Bravery is being afraid and doing it anyway. It doesn't feel like anything. There is no wizard who can give you your courage. I wish there were," he says, putting down the incense pot, gently.

That choice of literary allusion makes Hokuto's nose wrinkle slightly, "Maybe we're surrounded by bravery, then," she opines with a thoughtful look in her wandering eyes, "anyone left behind here fits that category. Afraid, but going on regardless… I think that might actually be the only thing that we New Yorkers have in common these days," her smile turns bittersweet, "we're united in fear."

Felix suggests, with a tilt of one brow, "United in fucking stubborness, is what. Let me tell you, there's nowhere else like it. Thank God for that."

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