Closed RP I Think You’re Being Robbed

This RP is currently closed.


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By this point Nat was seriously considering buying stock in VULTURE’s business he found himself there so often. If he weren’t stopping in on his way to the Den he was there on the way home; after patrols the list of open venues during the smallest hours of the morning were spare enough. VULTURE became comfortable, one of few places where Nat didn’t feel he had to walk a line, to put on a metaphorical mask and pretend to be interested in what everyone else was. He had even dropped the air that he knew anything about underground music and started requesting songs from his own tastes, and while Mr. Kosuke might have shaken his head more times than he could count the man never made him feel as if he didn’t belong and greeted him with a smile and friendly conversation.

Of course Nat was a steady paying customer, so it was only logical that the business owner would appreciate his presence at any hour. It seemed Mr. Kosuke kept a similar schedule, though, as more often than not he was the only other person in the record store/ cafe during Nat’s late night/ early morning visits. He had told Nat under no uncertain terms many times that he was to be called Just Kosuke, but Nat refused to disrespect his elders; his grandfather would have his head if heard the way he spoke to Todd sometimes.

”Hey Mr. Kosuke!” Nat called out as he walked through VULTURE’s doors. There was a bell to announce his arrival, of course, but Mr. Kosuke had a tendency to get lost in whatever song he was listening to and would forget to greet his customers. Any regular knew that one had to snatch his attention away, if they wanted service at least. Nat didn’t bother to look around for him, instead walking to the cafe counter and setting a bill on the top, a bit more than what his order would cost but a fair enough tip after the sale. It didn’t seem that many people left tips for the staff either, so that might also have had something to do with Nat’s acceptance there.

Whatever was playing over the speakers was definitely Mr. Kosuke’s style, and Nat tapped his foot to the almost staccato beat in spite of himself. He had found more of the music from VULTURE leaking into his daily playlists than he cared to admit, particularly to Mr. Kosuke. It had become a sort of game for Nat, asking after mainstream artists and antiquated songs just to get a reaction from the musician. It wasn’t that reaction was hard to achieve, but that each one was always so entertaining. He often wondered how much of an act Mr. Kosuke put on for the people around him. Sometimes Nat thought they might be more alike than they seemed.

Another person walked in with, ball cap pulled low and the hood to their heavy coat pulled up. Nat smiled at the newcomer with a pleasant wave, leaning on the counter casually while he waited for Mr. Kosuke to make his way to the front.

”He should be here any minute now,” he offered politely to the new customer as they stepped in line behind him. They didn’t look up from the floor, but offered a small nod to indicate they had heard him. Nat’s eyebrow raised slightly; strange people frequented VULTURE on a constant basis, there was nothing that odd about a man hoping to keep to himself so early. Still, despite himself, Nat glanced back at the man from time to time while they waited. Maybe he was still tense from patrol, though it had truthfully been a slow night. He was just being paranoid.

There were certain faces around VULTURE that were recognisable not just to staff, but to fellow customers as well. Most of these were negative- matters of infamy, rather than respect. People who started arguments over coffee, people who yelled at Carrie after bothering her to the point of violence, people who hurled abuse at the other members of staff, especially newer ones- god, those were the most infamous of all, because they tended to actually get a reaction out of Kosuke, and Kosuke was fucking scary when he was angry.

And then, of course, there were the positives. Regulars, mostly, or fellow musicians. People who showed their face to VULTURE enough, in regular enough timeframes, that they became known amongst that particular crowd; friendly faces among strangers. Jordan had been one of them, and it resulted in him being hired, but not all of them were out for employment. A lot of them simply enjoyed the company, or the products, or the ambiance.

Nat seemed to enjoy all three.

Kosuke had decided he liked the kid, despite his quirks- or, in the music department, his lack thereof. He could tolerate a few (what was that word Cass used?) basic picks, but he couldn't help but feel a sense of duty to steer him towards more underground choices, if only to spare him from the wrath of their usual customer base. That, and his insistence to call him Mr. Kosuke hadn't been called Mr by anyone else who wasn't a cop of some description. The whole thing felt far too formal for his liking- he never was one for honorifics regardless, and in this context it just felt strange, considering Kosuke was typically a given name. Still, it probably came from a good place- respect or awkwardness, neither of which were particularly grievous crimes. If formality didn't suit him, then strictness certainly didn't either.

The song playing, as was typical at this hour, was his choice, and he was enjoying it, as was also typical at this hour, away from the service desk, over in the corner, next to his cat. Carrie had been very good today, but that was likely because she had spent most of it fast asleep, and it was quite hard to bite people when you were fast asleep. Kosuke had been able to shout down people who were going to touch her, sparing them her inevitable wrath. It was only now, when the crowds had died down a bit, that she had decided to wake up- though, he reasoned, that was less likely to be a matter of social anxiety, and more because this was the time he usually fed her.

She had finished her dinner now, and was thus acknowledging Kosuke as someone whose life was worth sparing- staring up at his sunglasses with her round, wet eyes, purring like a jet engine once he caved to her gaze and knelt down beside her, scritching her behind the ear and muttering something about how pretty she was, how well-behaved she was.

Their peace was shattered by Nat, reminding Kosuke that he was, unfortunately, still at work.

"Coming, coming!" He said, leaving Carrie to sulk in the corner, "My apologies- I have veeeeery serious matters to attend to. I hope you can forgive me."

Was he talking to the cat, or the customer?

Oh, well- it didn't matter. He slid behind the counter, leaning against the surface and smiling at this strange customer. He looked... anonymous. Shit, was he here about tax? Kosuke paid tax- they knew he did. It didn't matter that his personal records were sketchy-to-nonexistent; the business ones were all perfectly clean. Still, he wasn't going to jump to conclusions here. This could just be a normal customer here about normal things, and he should treat him as such: normally.

"How can I help you?"
Kosuke called back to Nat before sliding up to the counter. During the wait Nat had started tapping his finger in time to the music, the words in Japanese expressing a freedom of expression that suited the man who had chosen the song well. As soon as Kosuke was behind the counter, though, Nat’s tapping stopped and he adopted an expression of tolerant patience, as if the song weren’t as enjoyable as the proprietor believed.

”Hit me with a chai, Mr. Kosuke,” he said in response to Kosuke’s question, stepping aside as he did so the stranger could step up to the counter. Nat slid another bill on the counter. ”I’ll pay for his, too.” It was enough to cause the capped man to look to him, enough that he managed to see his face below the bill. A heavy brown, furrowed as if thoroughly confused, and thin lips set upon a pallid complexion and a ruddy nose. A patchy beard covered the man’s jawline, and there was look in his eyes that seemed almost dangerous.

Nat nodded once and the stranger turned back to Mr. Kosuke with a grunt. A thick fingered hand emerged from his pocket and Nat tensed, internally laughing at himself when the limb withdrew empty. He was clearly still worked up from patrolling the streets, still wound up from looking around every corner for danger. This was just a tired, unfortunate man looking for caffeination. Nat chuckled slightly, awkwardly as if the man had noticed his tension.

And then he blinked as the man slapped his hand onto the counter and slid the money Nat had placed there away. The other hand withdrew from his coat, and this one was armed with a long knife that glinted with a wicked edge. The money was shoved into the man’s pocket, and the knife was leveled at Kosuke’s nose menacingly. ”I’ll take everything in the register.” The voice was hoarse and gravelly, as if the prospective robber had spent the past few hours screaming at the top of his lungs. ”And whatever you have in your wallets.” The man turned to Nat slightly, the tip of his knife still pointed to Kosuke’s nose. ”Both of you.”

Despite the tension, or perhaps because of it, another chuckle bubbled from Nat’s throat.
Kosuke returned the man's stare from behind his sunglasses, cold and hollow, despite his casual smile. He didn't look at Nat when he spoke- just nodded vaguely, keeping his eyes on the customer before him. It was important to remain neutral when dealing with difficult customers. Don't get too worked up, don't get to their level, just stand there and smile and let them sort themselves out. Of course, this man hadn't proven difficult yet, but Kosuke recognised the look he was giving him.

Hence, when the knife was shoved in his face, he didn't seem surprised.

"Woah, hey-" He said, voice level, "Let's not resort to violence, yeah? I'll... I'll give you what you want, just let me get it for you, alright?"

Slowly, he backed away from the counter, arms raised.

"But you leave the kid out of it. A big guy like you doesn't need to be taking some high schooler's lunch money, do you?"

He looked over to Nat, and gestured for him to leave, a look of panic marring his face. His motions were careful; meek and nonthreatening, trying not to provoke any further action from the robber.
As Kosuke backed away from the counter and drew the knife wielding thief’s attention Nat also did his part to placate the man, though his act was probably a but less believable than Kosuke’s. In fact, with the manager’s demand and look toward Nat the robber also turned his attention, though only his attention, to the teen. Nat looked to his raised hands, and the wallet padded thick with money he held.

”Heh,” it felt like the most awkward laugh he had ever barked. ”Yeah! You don’t want my lunch money!” Nat slowly motioned to replace his wallet. ”Go back to your armed robbery, sir.”

Perhaps it was the disingenuous way that Nat had spoken, but the robber’s face became a splotchy red, jaw clenched and teeth grinding so hard that Nat could practically hear the crunch. The knife at Kosuke’s face shook with the violent rage that the thief seemed to be barely suppressing.

”SHUT UP! I said give me the money in the register, and your wallets!” A slash through the air in front of Kosuke punctuated his words.

Gingerly Nat lowered his hands slightly. ”Really, man? I just put it back.”

Another explosion of spit and rage turned Nat’s way. ”You stupid fucking kid! Give me your money, NOW! Or My Chemical Romance here is gonna have some new scars to sing about through his slit throat!” More slashes and a stab into the air, the last motion coming wildly close to bring the thief’s words to reality.
Nat was not helping his case. He was casual, too casual. It was as if, like Kosuke, he had seen this sort of thing before- as if he had dealt with it before. You don't backchat an armed robber unless you're confident you can get out of harm's way, and, though Nat wasn't the one being directly threatened here, Kosuke doubted the kid disliked him enough to let him die. That confidence was earned. Well, either that, or he was just completely oblivious- which, given what Kosuke knew about Nat, was also a possibility. He wasn't the most aware.

Either way, it wouldn't hurt to be careful.

An armed robber threatening a customer--a kid--would be enough to make anyone act. Kosuke wouldn't be an exception. Everyone at VULTURE knew he wasn't one to take things lying down, despite the copious amount of lying down he did against that front counter. Things were getting worse, now. Things were getting scary. It was only responsible to take them away from the public shop floor.

"Nat," He said slowly, "I want you to latch the front doors. If anyone comes by, say we're closed because of water damage, or something. Just... just make sure you stay by the entrance, alright?"

He turned back to the robber, barely flinching at the knife as it carved the air before him.

"How about I take you to the cash office, hm? We haven't had a collection this week, so there's a hell of a lot more in there than there is in the counter."

His voice, as before, was calm and level, in a way that could either be reassuring or deeply unsettling. He slowly lowered a hand to pick up his coffee, then stepped out from behind the counter, pointing towards the staff door at the back.

"You come with me, yeah?"
Mr. Kosuke’s voice was like smooth silk, strangely calm and collected despite having a knife so perilously close to his throat. Whether he had been through this before as the owner of VULTURE or his demeanor was brought from a different kind of experience was hard to tell. There was a tension in the way he moved that suggested worry, and just as Nat was trying to figure out what was the cause of that worry Kosuke laid it out plainly.

”Mr. Kosuke, no!” Nat spoke a few octaves higher to give the impression he was afraid. The robber had continued to keep his knife on Kosuke, following his step away from the counter with a twist of his torso. At the sound of Nat’s voice he turned back to him, this time with the knife pointed at Nat’s chest.

”Man told you to lock the door, boy.” The robber’s voice was pure venom, and perhaps more threatening than it had been so far.

Nat looked over the robber’s shoulder’s to meet Kosuke’s dark eyes. ”If you give him what he wants he is just going to go rob some other person, and someone might get hurt.” Nat’s focus shifted back to the robber.

”I mean just look at how he is holding that knife.” The robber couldn’t stop himself from looking down to his own blade, and Nat struck like lightning. With the barest of movements the boy’s knuckles smacked the back of the robber’s hand. The knife flew free, spinning through the air to bury tip first in the counter while the robber cradled his fist.

”Imagine if he had actually tried to use that thing!” Nat might have sounded a bit smug, were it not for the angry growl that came from the robber’s throat. As quickly as Nat had disarmed him the robber sprang forward, diving toward Nat’s midriff in an effort to tackle him to the floor. The robber had some size on Nat, though mostly in height, and would have been more than enough to bring down any other teen. Nat, however, just stepped to the side as the robber dove. Instead of soft flesh the man met face-first with the hard floor of the cafe.

”Besides, I want to make my song request before you deal with this customer.” Nat grinned mischievously and winked toward Mr. Kosuke. He had been working on his crime-stopping quips.
Yeah. Nat really wasn't helping his case. It was clear even before the disarming evade that the kid had enough combat experience to warrant concern; he had practically been yelling it from the rooftops, with all these passive remarks and action-movie quips. He was too calm, too comfortable, only pretending to be scared when talking to Kosuke, and not to the person who actually posed a threat. He was lucky the robber was unable to see what was laid out in front of him. He was lucky the man was impulsive. Impulse was a lot easier to deal with than thought. Kosuke would know.

Oh, god, and he even winked...

"What the fuck are you doing? Nat?"

Kosuke sounded panicked- darting out from behind the counter to assess the situation, then darting back in for safety. His movements were quick and cautious, sticking to the shelving, the desks, anything he could quickly step behind for cover. His posture was defensive, coiled like a spring, ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble. His eyes darted between the two, at the robber who looked like he was about to explode, at Nat who was a child caught in the middle of an armed robbery. The only thing that went against this facade of fear was the coffee in his hand, but like hell he was going to give that up.

"I think- okay. Okay."

He pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing heavily. Then, in an instant, all panic fled his voice.

"Right, Nat, you've pissed him off now."

His tone was flat, judgemental- the kind of voice he used when his bandmates weren't pulling their weight.

"He knows you're capable, so he's going to be more careful- use his size against you, try to hit you in a way you can't evade. You got a plan for that? Or am I going to have to call someone in?"

He reached a hand beneath the counter, slowly as he could, subtly as he could. They kept their ceramic mugs there- the largest size. Should Nat provide a good enough distraction, Kosuke would be able to do something with it.
The robber was red faced and furious, or perhaps simply red faced from his collision with the the floor. Nat watched Kosuke dart back behind the counter with an obvious air of amusement, practically standing over the robber as he held his nose. Slowly Nat’s smile started to fade as Kosuke’s tone of admonishment sank in.

”Wha-“ Nat stuttered, mouth open for a second incredulously before he looked down at the robber with a fiery look in his eye.

”What! No, I’m good!” Nat wasn’t listening to the robber’s pleas as he savagely kicked him over and twisted his arm behind his back. ”Arrrgch! Fuck, okay!” With Nat’s thumb pressed into the tendons of his wrist the robber’s hand went numb. A few agonizing wrenches from Nat’s surprisingly strong grip brought him to his feet.

This guy?” Nat addressed Kosuke again, pulling up sharply on the robber’s arm to elicit a staggered breath. Nat shook his head solemnly. ”Look at him. Sunken eyes, dark circles. Unwashed, wrinkled clothing, and a hint of recent weight loss by their bagginess.” Nat pointed to each clue individually, as if giving a lecture. ”This is just a desperate, pitiful man.” Nat shoved the man forward, toward one of the stools at the counter. ”They only do this sort of thing when they think its safe.” A small twist and the man winced again. ”Why don’t you sit down and tell him?”

The robber sat down obediently and gulped. ”I have a gambling problem.” Tears welled in the man’s bloodshot eyes.
He ducked behind the coffee machine, carefully placing the cup over the grate. They brewed their espressos hot here. It went against his guidance, but it was what people were used to drinking, and it wasn't like Kosuke would be having many himself.

"Desperate and braindead aren't the same thing, Nat. A desperate person can still think- if they're using everything they can to kill you, then they're not going to stop at their head."

He unscrewed the filter and turned a dial, making sure the pressure was high enough to not take all afternoon.

"Plus, looking like shit doesn't mean he's weak. I mean, look at all these meta--humans; they look like normal people, but they sure as hell don't fight like them. Fuck, Nat, look at yourself! You're a kid, able to take down a man twice your size- shouldn't that be enough to teach you not to judge a book by its cover? You got lucky with this one, but this is Pittsburgh; you've gotta be more careful, man."

God, the robber was a wreck. Nat was clearly trying for non-lethal, but it seemed almost excessive, almost indulgent. Kicking him around, twisting his arm, ignoring his cries for mercy; Kosuke always found that weird, how the good guys seemed to like doing that so much. Still, it set a precedent. Kosuke pulled down on the lever and filled the mug with boiling water.

Then, he stepped over to the side, and threw it in the robbers face, grabbing him by the shirt with his spare hand and pulling him close. It was easy, now that he was still- now that he had given up. His grip was firm. His stare was lifeless. And, when he spoke, his voice was quiet and tainted.

"Gonna take a lot of wins to pay for those skin grafts, isn't it?"
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Nat’s mouth opened and closed in vain attempts to debate Mr. Kosuke’s continued lecture. There was space enough for him to interject, that wasn’t the problem. Anything the teenager thought to say was held back to avoid suspicion, any argument he could have made would have risked revealing his status as a meta or a vigilante. Mr. Kosuke, though eclectic, was simply a business owner and musician. It was best to keep him away from the dangers he spoke of.

Unless, of course, Kosuke became the danger himself. Nat had barely had time to step away from the failed robber before hot water sizzled across his face. The robber screamed, hands instantly covering his cheeks and trying vainly to wipe away the scalding liquid. The damage had been done, flesh reddening angrily against such treatment and blisters beginning to prickle where the water had first made contact. Through his hands it was hard to tell how extensive the burns were, but from the gurgling, choking cries that were all the man could muster Nat suspected the damage to be severe.


It took Nat a moment to realize he had been the one to scream the vulgarity, a word so completely out of character for him that he instantly dissociated his own voice speaking it. There were always alternatives, more fitting and respectable words that could communicate his thoughts, though he couldn’t find any replacement to fit the current situation. All he could find were more profane exclamations that begged to leap from his tongue.

”Why!?” Another single word, but it was at least respectable. The robber’s sobs seemed to echo Nat, soft and questioning whines against pain he kept hidden behind his palms. Nat stepped back toward the man, hand outstretched in concern, but the robber slid from the stool and bolted for the exit at his approach. Sobs echoed down the street as he tore away from the vinyl cafe that was sure to leave a lasting impression on him.

”That was too far, Mr. Kosuke! All you have done is breed more animosity! Inga ouhou! Aite no nai kenka wa dekinai!”
"Shizuka ni shite."

His voice was quiet and stern, but it wasn't stable- at least, not as stable as it had been. Kosuke didn't look up at Nat, nor at the fleeing robber. He just calmly set the mug aside and sat down behind the counter, staring blankly at the coffee machine as he composed himself. He was shaking. Nat could probably see that from where he stood; Kosuke was shaking. Was it anger? Excitement? Fear? That much could not be gleaned- only that, whatever it was, it was enough to force him to take a breather.

After a few moments had passed, he looked back up.

"And humiliating the guy like that wouldn't?" He frowned, "You had him pinned, you were about to break his fucking arm, he was begging you to show mercy- would that not also paint a target on your back?"

Kosuke shook his head, running his hands through his hair in frustration.

"I didn't want him going after you, I- I had to make myself a bigger target. You're- god, you're not even out of high school yet, are you? You think I'm going to let an armed robber hold a vendetta against a fucking child?"

He let out a sound- somewhere between a laugh and a sigh.

"I can handle myself. I trust myself to- im thirty-five, able-bodied, and I've dealt with this sort of shit before. As much as I trust you to hold your own, I don't know how I could live with myself if anything did happen, if anything went wrong."
Nat was momentarily stunned; his arguments too many to sort through, his points too jumbled to utter. With his eyes cast downward he stood with his mouth open for several heartbeats before he managed to choke out some semblance of coherence.

”I wouldn’t have broken his arm! It would have been a dislocation at worst.” Well, it wasn’t the best or even the most important of the points he could have made, but it was a beginning that gave him the courage to continue. Nat was raised to defer to his elders, so his eyes remained fixed on the floor. ”And I am capable of taking care of myself, too! I’m not a child! Nat stopped himself before he uttered those classic teenage words. He wasn’t a child, though, even if he wasn’t quite an adult. For a moment he felt as though he were shouting at someone else, trying desperately to make the same argument.

Finally Nat raised his eyes, looked at Kosuke with a defiant expression that quickly fell away to one of concern. He could see the man shaking, the twist of his mouth and the set of his jaw drawing light to the concern he must have just barely held at bay. With the robber gone it seemed as if he were about to fall apart.

”Oh, Mr. Kosuke,” Nat’s sympathy overrode the indignation that had just consumed him and he was instantly around the counter with a hand on the man’s shoulder comfortingly. ”I’m sorry, Mr. Kosuke. I wouldn’t have stepped in if I knew you would be so concerned. I’ve trained in martial arts my whole life, but I imagine that sort of thing must be really scary for someone who isn’t used to it.” Violence was a poison that one grew acclimated to after surviving varying dosages. He hadn’t considered how little immunity a musician and a shop owner might have against such venom, even if he claimed otherwise. It wasn’t like Mr. Kosuke regularly wore a mask to take down armed criminals.
"Do you think that fucking matters!? You are a child, Nat!"

It was unclear which part of the outburst Kosuke was referring to; the claim that it was a dislocation, or the claim that he could take care of himself. The boy looked uncomfortable. He looked guilty- not for the violence, but for Kosuke's involvement with it. The fact that he permanently scarred a surrendered man, that was somehow Nat's fault, now, for dragging him into it. He pushed the sunglasses up his nose and walked away from the bar, grabbing a mop from the side to soak up some of the water on the floor.

"Look, it- it's fine." He muttered, "What's done is done, yeah? And you don't have to worry about that guy anymore- like I said, I can handle shit like that. Been doing it the whole damn time I've been here. Got a lot of valuable stock in here, and I'm hardly anonymous, am I?"

He looked over to Nat, his expression unreadable behind the sunglasses.

"Why d'ya get so much training, anyway? Is it, like, a sports thing? You seem a little too adept for it to be a sports thing."

A frown fell across his face- brotherly and disappointed.

"And- what do you mean used to it? I take it they don't teach arm dislocation at high-school level."

His voice dropped quieter.

"Jesus, Nat, don't tell me you're used to this sort of danger..."
Despite himself, despite the gravity of the situation and the clear weight of Mr. Kosuke’s worry still hanging in his every word, Nat grinned. There was just something about Mr. Kosuke that Nat had immediately recognized, though it was difficult to explain. The man was simply too fun to mess with. It was perfectly reasonable that Mr. Kosuke would see Nat as he did, would worry for him in that instinctive, almost paternal way that adults had. Nat was a model student, after all, and as far as the world was concerned he had never been anything short of a “good kid.”

”Everyone has their secrets and depths, Mr. Kosuke.” Nat put his hand on the top of the mop to bring his elder’s full attention back to their conversation. ”I learned martial arts as a family thing, from my grandfather, but I was told I could never fight at school. I don’t think I need to tell you how cruel kids can be to someone who is… different.” There was truth to what Nat was telling the musician, though he was using it to mask where his real experience with such situations came.

”You know what we need after that?” Nat’s grin became a beaming, full-powered charming smile. ”Therapy! Think you can close the shop up or call someone in? I know exactly who we should see.”
"That doesn't-"

-explain why he was able to take down a man twice his size. Though, at least Nat admitted it was a secret- he admitted he had something to hide, that there was something more to this. Kosuke felt it was safe to assume he was used to this sort of danger, that he had been targeted for something--this difference, perhaps--by people a little stronger than high school bullies. It wasn't enough to tell him anything specific about the kid, but it was enough to catch his interest.

He had met a lot of intereting people lately.

"-never mind."

Kosuke shook his head, smiling sympathetically.

"Oh, don't worry- I know what kids are like." He said, leaning against the mop, "It's always the same, as well. One group of little shits starts something, then the whole damn school is following their lead, just tearing apart whoever was unlucky enough to be their target this week. Once your name is tainted like that- well, it's poison. You're fucked."

He paused.

"You just gotta remember that high school isn't forever, yeah? There's a life outside it- people outside it. Once I got to college, I found people who were normal about abnormality."

He laughed. Than, the subject of therapy came up, and he laughed again. Happy as Nat seemed to be with the idea, there was no way in hell Kosuke was letting it pass. He was the type to pour his troubles into his music, rather than develop any other sort of coping mechanism- and, hey, it had worked for him so far. The occasional outburst was just... the result of residual trauma, or something. Work stress. His mysterious past- the one he didn't talk about, except to those he trusted- and he would not trust a stranger.

"Good one, good one." He said, "I will shut the shop, though- seems like a good excuse for it."

Kosuke walked over to the door, flicking the switch to roll the shutters down. Then, once again, he paused, and turned back to Nat, the look of concern returning to his face.

"Though- ah, if there's anything you want to talk about, I'm always here to listen, yeah? I know there's certain things you can't really share with therapists- like, y'know, dislocating a guy's arm. Or throwing boiling water in his face. That sorta thing. We can keep this between us, if that'll make you feel better."
It wasn’t that Nat didn’t appreciate Mr. Kosuke as an adult. He gave him all of the respect his age and position afforded him, honored the way he was raised and listened to his near lecture with the patience of a student. Of course Mr. Kosuke’s words were correct; high school was just a short stretch of his life, and the cruelty that he had experienced in his past would probably wash out with the joys he would find later in life.

He respected the veracity of Mr. Kosuke’s speech, but he couldn’t help the mischievous grin that remained plastered on his face. Once the shutters began to lower the grin stretched even wider, almost a madman’s smile by the time Mr. Kosuke offered a sympathetic ear even as he spoke a denial to Nat’s offer. It wasn’t unexpected, but the frank dismissal of the idea of therapy was far more humorous than Nat had been prepared for. Even as the last words fell from Mr. Kosuke’s lips Nat’s laughter began to ring through the store.

”Mr. Kosuke thats super nice and all,” Nat said once he sobered enough to speak, an entertained tear wiped from his eye as he stepped toward the door as well. ”But I am going to need you to trust me on this one.” Nat clapped a firm hand on Kosuke’s shoulder as he drew closer, his free hand reaching for the door. ”How about I make you a deal?” He stepped to the side a bit, to face Kosuke squarely.

”All you have to do is come with me. If we get to Joe’s and you don’t immediately want to walk through the door and jump right in then I will work for you, here, for an entire month. Pro bono.” Nat’s grin began playing at the corners of his lips again. ”But if you do decide you want to join me then you will have to admit that therapy can be a good idea sometimes. I’ll even sweeten the pot. If I lose I’ll not only come work for you for free, I’ll also pay for any instruments or equipment you might need for your other job.” There it was, the return of the mischief he was trying to suppress. Of course Nat had no intention of losing; he could hardly spare the time to work at a vinyl cafe when he was already juggling school, vigilantism, and the consequences of a hastily snatched cover story.
Nat was not taking this seriously at all, was he? Fuck- he really was used to this sort of thing. The quips, the laughter, the fact that he was more bothered about the guy going after Kosuke than the guy having to go to the hospital- what the fuck did this kid get up to after school? If he wanted Kosuke to trust him, he was going all the wrong ways about it.

"Look, that's real sweet of you, Nat, but we don't- we don't need any new staff at the moment, paid or not."

He shook his head.

"There's no need for me to meet your therapist- I'm fine, really, I'm fine." He frowned, "You see all sorts of shit like this around here. Fuck, it could've been a lot weirder- given all these meta--humans."

That pause, the gap between the word, was still there. It seemed as though, no matter how many times he heard it said aloud, Kosuke would never be able to pronounce it correctly.

His face looked serious now.

"Besides, I'm not sure it's safe. If he's gonna be coming after me, then I don't want you leaving yourself as an open target. It's probably best you stay as a customer- at least, for my peace of mind. Despite everything, y'know- I don't think I could stop myself worrying about you."
”Metahumans,” Nat corrected automatically, eliminating the unnatural pause in the way Mr. Kosuke has said it. It was a knee jerk response, like when an older person called a gif a jif. Though it was entirely plausible that Mr. Kosuke had spoken the word in such a way as evidence of his age, Nat’s eyes narrowed slightly at the pause. A hand that had hovered near Kosuke’s shoulder fell away without making the intended contact.

”Gee, Mr. Kosuke, I guess I can’t change your mind.” For a moment Nat simply grinned at Kosuke sheepishly, scratching at the back of his head. ”Well, I think I will go by Joe’s later either way. Nothing helps me get over the things I don’t need to talk about better than shooting aliens or stomping the hell out of the tiles on Dance Dance Revolution.” The sheepishness of his grin turned back to its usual mischief.

”Gotta say, though. I’m not sure how safe we will be holing up here in the shop. If he does come back I’m willing to bet he will have more than a knife next time. He might not even be alone. After what you did to his face I probably won’t even cross his mind.” Nat turned away from Mr. Kosuke and took a few steps toward one of the booths. ”I appreciate you looking out for me Mr. Kosuke, in this dangerous city.”

He had to turn away, if only to hide the barely suppressed snickering that threatened to break through his act. The joke had honestly gone farther than intended, but once started Nat couldn’t find it within himself to stop, and although there was serious gravitas to the worry that Mr. Kosuke spoke of there was something else lingering just beneath the surface of their conversation. Something that perhaps, with an extra bit of teasing, might break free of Kosuke’s seemingly intentional mysterious persona.
"Metahumans. Sorry."

He spoke in a mimicry of Nat's voice- copying the sounds he made, rather than the words themselves, breaking it down the same way he did when he heard a new word he didn't quite understand. Me-ta-hu-mans. Even spacing, different emphasis. Though more correct, it didn't sound as natural coming from him as the way he usually said it.

"I meant- it's not safe for you to work here." Kosuke shook his head, "I don't want you getting hurt on my watch. I can handle a gun- I can handle a group even better. Like I said, you get used to this sort of thing."

Okay, this laughter was starting to get really weird. Was the kid okay? Was he insane? Was he okay because he was insane?

"Can I ask what's so funny?"