Silvery trinkets hang from jewelry racks on a table out of the way. For the most part Tariq recognizes them as various symbols and talismans relating to the occult but from a variety of backgrounds. He's not particularly interested in them per se, but he was drawn to them upon entering for the simple reason that they glint and glitter. It wouldn't do, though, to go stealing these things. It would leave a bad impression upon the real reason he was here: Malie. He had yet to spot her, but he knew that she'd show her face eventually.
He had spent much of yesterday searching the city for information on his quarry. He'd done various divinations, scryed, and even consulted the library... but had ultimately found little other than superstition and rumor. It hadn't been very heartening, but Tariq would survive it. He had been through a lot with the curse, but his confidence in finding a way to break it was supreme. Which had led him back to the gypsy girl he met the other night on the streets.
Had Malie not been a gypsy, she might have ended up prey to Tariq's scheme's and his quick hands. She still might have if she had not caught him by surprise and attempted to befriend him. Altogether the Persian gypsy is highly distrustful of his magical race, after all they were the ones that had done this to him. And while he shouldn't hold it against all other gypsies, he does.
Tariq glances around, the store has a pretty good selection. Apart from the table before him, the store offers a wide selection: books in a number of languages, tribal wares (probably from the indigenous people of South America), herbs and potion ingredients, and other things associated with the craft. Anyone practiced in magic would be able to tell that this place was clearly the real deal and not just a tourist trap. It's reassuring, because Tariq is here to see the proprietor in regards to locating a creature, or being, or whatever the hell it could be, steeped in local legend: The Corpo-Seco.
Max stands across the room, peering at the back of Tariq's head. He doesn't turn his face in the other man's direction. No; that's a clear tell. The shapeshifter watches him from the corner of his eye. Call it voyeurism. Call it habit. The shapeshifter calls it one thing—
Tariq has strong posture. Striking features. His clothes are very causal. Moreover, he's too old to be a college kid messing around with the occult. Max raises a brow, intrigued.
When Tariq glances in his direction, Max shifts his gaze to the window. He could read the other man's mind to peg his status; still, that doesn't seem necessary. Max has been careful with his movements in Brazil. Extremely careful. He, on some level, knows he's in no danger. (Maybe I'm just distracting myself...) He inhales through his nostrils.
Max checks the time on his cell phone; it's five minutes to the time he and Matt settled on meeting. (Please flake. Please flake. Please flake.) He slides the phone into his pocket, suddenly feeling butterflies in the pit of his stomach.
When you live your life as a nomad, you become acutely aware that you're always the outsider. For Tariq, this means, that's how he looks at the world. Every situation he finds himself in, from the mundane to the mystical, it always boils down to a "him" and a "them". So even here, in this shop, he knows he's not alone. And while his main focus is on the merchandise before him (and resisting the urge to pocket something) he has a vague sense of the man looming within the store. As well, as a Thief, Tariq has also developed a sense for when he's being watched. There's always tells, if you know how to read them.
The man is ignoring him, almost studiously, and it makes Tariq smile. It's human habit to stare every once in a while, but then you quickly move on to something else. The fact that Riq is the only other person in sight and hasn't really seen this man's face even once, lends him to suspicion. He's clearly not a gypsy, or part of the magic shop's staff, but he is interested in the occult.
The man, cute but a little serious in his opinion, is checking his phone when the Cursed Gypsy makes his way towards him. He's decided to forego the game of who is stalking who, and just break the ice. That in itself is unconventional of him, but he's growing impatient with waiting on Malie... hell she may not even be working today, and this guy could be of some help.
He hopes Max can speak English, as Tariq's Portuguese is limited, and his Arabic is relatively out of place in this neighborhood. "Hey, I'm looking for some information?" he says in a deep Persian purr, his smile is a little crooked, his eyes a little dark, but he tries to come across as charming so he can get what he wants.
Frankly, it was for a job — infiltrate and kill the therapist for a blood sacrifice — yet, there were weekly sessions. He would sit down in front of the stranger. Look into his welcoming eyes. Take a deep breath. And, finally, talk. Initially, Max would dance around the truth. He would speak half-lies, painstakingly constructed to gain the man's trust. Then, very slowly, he found himself stopped cold with the questions that would come his way.
Are you happy?
What does your life look like? Ideally?
Well. Do you miss your brother?
Ultimately, he'd murdered his therapist, in a quick and merciful fashion (he felt absolutely no pain); still, the phantom of those questions haunted him. Max folds his arms. This moment, he realizes, is what the older man would've called a "breakthrough." Max is confronting something from the past that upsets him. A large part of him is tempted to up and disappear from the shop altogether. This meeting with Matt won't be easy.
Dusky pink lips tug into a smirk. (The kid looked good.) He keeps recalling the fierce look in his brother's eyes. That rage, that attitude, is what gripped Max. It made him proud, regardless of how volatile things had become. Stuffing his left hand into his pocket, he runs his finger along the spine of a Portuguese spell book.
This is not a breakthrough. If anything, it's just—
"Hey, I'm looking for some information?"
Blue eyes cut in Tariq's direction. (Look who came out to play.) Max resists the urge to frown. In fact, he schools his face into a neutral expression. He studies the stranger closely. His dark mouth is pulled into a smile. There's almost something moderately rakish about it. Seductive, even. The bastard knows he's good looking.
Almost immediately, Max blushes and looks away. A smile, small yet affable, works it's a way onto his face. His character, he decides, will be a mixture of capable and submissive. Not too submissive; he suspects Tariq wants to feel he's earned something. Capable because he's friendly and open rather than exceptionally resourceful. Dragging his eyes back in Tariq's direction, Max combs a hand through his dirty blond hair.
Bright blue eyes linger for a second longer than required. Then, he looks off and tries to find a cashier.
"What kind of information do you need?" Max stuffs both hands into his pockets, "I don't work here but I could maybe help." He shrugs boyishly, bringing both shoulders to his ears. Regardless of what Tariq's goal is, Max has already made a decision to let the other man play the Alpha; it'll make decoding him easier.
(What game are you playing?)
Max creates a telepathic link with the other man. Is he an assassin? A hired gun? Is he merely looking to get his dick wet?
Tariq assesses the man's reaction, completely unaware that he's the one getting played. Max is an expert at his craft, obviously, and Tariq quickly falls for the well practiced nuances of flattery. It also doesn't hurt that the Persian does find this guy attractive. However, even recognizing this minor fact, brings him back to reality.
He's cursed, and until he can get that taken care of, any type of relationship, even a one night stand, would be futile. He'd found that even harmless flirting could be dangerous in the past, people tended to try and break the "touch barrier" when flirted with. As such he does remain a respectable distance from Max once he has approached him.
Riq has committed to this path now, and continues to flirt nonetheless. He judges that the shape-shifter likes him, and it does boost his ego, a little. ('Focus, keep your mind on the task at hand.') he tells himself. Within the span of a few moments, Tariq has a plan, ('You're doing occult research for a book of folklore... that's all he needs to know.')
He leans in a little closer, though, "Thanks, you look like you might know you're way around here. I'm new in town," he says, eyes trained on Max. "I'm just trying to find some good books about local legends, the real stuff. Everything I've found so far is tourist grade crap."
Task? His face darkens for a millisecond, then Tariq turns his head and Max's eyes immediately crinkle with laugh lines.
(You're doing occult research for a book of folklore... that's all he needs to know.)
Folklore? Interesting, that...
"Thanks, you look like you might know you're way around here. I'm new in town."
"That's rad..." Max chuckles, pink flushing his cheeks. His eyes flicker down, noting the distance between their bodies. It's less than a foot, nothing significant; still, he remains mindful of where Tariq's feet are planted. He never loses track of where he places his hands. Undoubtedly, it would be stupid to draw an athame here but he's seen rookies do worse. (What's your task?)
"I'm just trying to find some good books about local legends, the real stuff. Everything I've found so far is tourist grade crap."
"Got it." Max narrows his eyes and nods slowly. His character isn't the brightest when it comes to "this stuff." However, Max can guide Tariq along to accidentally stumbling upon a book — or trinket — that could help his pursuit of knowledge. Drawing a lip into his mouth, Max rubs the back of his neck and jerks his chin toward the other end of the store.
"We could find something over here." Hands in his pockets, Max pads to the other end of the store. Beat. He connects with Tariq's enchanting eyes.
"By the way, I'm Max."
A boyish smile works its way back onto his face. "What's your name?" He digs quietly into some of Tariq's memories.
Considering the weather, today Tariq has chosen an ensemble of "borrowed" clothing... they're nice but he stole these on a whim in a North America autumn. It is a simple logo tee, advertising some sort of reboot: The Mummy. Faded jeans, artfully ripped, and his own (paid for) worn out sneakers. No gloves, no scarf... and no protection.
It isn't as if he is averse to using his curse as a weapon. He enjoyes it in a way. It is a small act of rebellion against the Gypsies that had bequeathed it to him. But he is all too well aware of himself when he dressed like this. ('Careful. careful.') he tells himself.
The first reason leaps to his mind, unbidden, but there no less:
His hands are chained and twisted around so that his arms bring his back to a tall wood pole. Gypsies surround him, with varying degrees of fear, hate, and sympathy in their eyes. The Shuvani he betrayed stands before him, only a breath away.
"You will be cursed."
"You will be cursed from now until eternity"
She backs away and begins to chant what sounds like a lullaby. As the other clan members join in, the spell changes. Tariq isn't sure of what to make of it until at last he sees his Father, then his Mother and Sister come forth. There is regret in their eyes, and also hatred.
He doesn't say he's sorry, he wants to say he did it for love...
But did he do it for glory?
Simple: It's terrible to curse someone, especially someone who might not deserve it. Riq, definitely feels that he does not deserve this.
The second reason is that he is not yet that cruel. And it seems cruel to inflict it upon the undeserving.
As Max's face continues to blush, Tariq takes an emotional step backward. The man is helpful, kind even, and possibly wants to connect further, but towards the back of the store. The gypsy keeps his grin and open demeanor though, as he says, "Well, I am to meet the shopkeeper soon, do you know her, Malie?" he asks, it's truth and lie tied all together, and at last he replies with his name, a play on their current locale, "I go by Riq. Like Ricco, minus the o"
Max betrays nothing with his expression. Dusky pink lips remain fixed into a kind smile. Blue eyes remain jovial. Nonetheless, the shapeshifter sees the crowd through Tariq's perspective. He smells aged bark and sage. He hears chanting that begins low like a prayer, then grows ferocious; haunting, even. Without realizing it, he hones in on a woman with dark eyes like Tariq. Is that his mother? Her biting glare gives Max pause.
(Is that how my own mother sees me?)
A bit overwhelmed, Max ENDS the telepathic link. Enough. He's seen enough. This gypsy is no threat. Still, he's uncertain about whether or not he can be turned into an ally.
"Well, I am to meet the shopkeeper soon, do you know her, Malie?"
Max cuts his eyes to the left, racking his brain. "Uh... I can't say that I do." He checks his watch. "It's also noon. She could be out at lunch." (But why would she leave the shop unattended?)
"I go by Riq. Like Ricco, minus the o"
He grins. "I like it." Beat. "It sounds suave."
"Maybe I could help you if I knew more about what you're looking for?" (Or who.)
Tariq has not paid much attention to the time, and as Max points it out, it does seem to make sense that he might have just missed the shopkeeper. It serves him right for just dropping in after all. She had given him her card, if he had just called, then he could simply have set up a meeting with her. ('Makes more sense,') he broods to himself.
His real attention, though, still lies with his new acquaintance. He seems eager to please, a trait that Tariq once found endearing, but now just appreciates for its value in manipulation. "Thanks, Max..." he pauses a moment and looks back over his shoulder to look around the shop once again.
Part of him surviving so long on his own in this world has depended on remaining aware of his surroundings, and after he's given the shop a further once over, he obliges Mr. Johnson further, "Well, folklore clearly, but more the stuff of nightmares." His eyes widen with a tinge of excitement as he affects a passion for the subject. "The stuff that goes bump in the night. I'm particularly interested in this one legend, something called the Corpo-Seco?"
Tariq is drawing back, creating boundaries between them. A smirk flashes across his face. (Good.) Clearly, Tariq is no fool; he has the uneasiness of someone who's been thrown to wolves. Yet, Max senses his ruse, a man-child caught between lamb and conquistador, is tempting. Interesting. Is Tariq afraid of being touched or wanting to be touched?
"Well, folklore clearly, but more the stuff of nightmares."
"Nightmares?" He widens his eyes, mirroring the passion Tariq displays. "Whoa..."
"The stuff that goes bump in the night. I'm particularly interested in this one legend, something called the Corpo-Seco?"
(Well.) Max nods thoughtfully, maintaining his act as a bright-eyed man with aplomb. (I'll be damned.) It appears fate has thrown him a useful ally. If Tariq is looking for the Corpo-Seco, then there's something to be gained from a partnership. His mind, dark and opportunistic, spins with possibilities. How experienced is Tariq in the use of his abilities? Has he considered becoming an assassin? Is there anything to protect Max from that lethal touch? All these questions, carefully concealed beneath his cute exterior, whirl about in his skull like a hurricane. He cuts his eyes off to the side, contemplative...
"Corpo-Seco?" He rolls the powerful name off his tongue like it's nothing. "I've heard rumblings about that." Then, he reconnects with Tariq's eyes. "Some people around here think he's real.
"I'm beginning to think the same thing." A blush appears in his cheeks again. "Isn't that weird? Not bad weird, but..." Max reaches to "touch" Tariq's arm, then tactfully draws it back at the last moment, rubbing his left bicep.
Tariq immediately picks up on the clues that Max's body is giving off. He can tell, before the other man even speaks, that he's lucked into conversation with someone who knows what he's talking about. It's a good step in the right direction. Still the gypsy thief plays the game, "Yeah, I'm toying with a title... The Darkness Among Us. Kinda sounds like a bad horror movie..." he says with a laugh, and oddly finds that he's enjoying the human interaction.
Which, of course, means that it's time to come back down to earth. ('You're cursed. You'll be cursed until you can break the curse. Curse. Curse. Curse. Now, Corpo-Seco.') he tells himself, trying to re-orient his brain. "What? So I take it you know about this thing?" Tariq asks next, even as Max comments on the weirdness of the situation (which is almost to coincidental.)
Max moves in then, and for a moment, Tariq does nothing. He stares at the approaching touch, almost in an out-of-body kind of way. He does and says nothing, and then, in the same moment that Max pulls his hand away, apparently thinking better than to break the contact barrier, Tariq pulls back as well, stretching his arms back and flexing his shoulders as if he's stiff or tired.
The moment passes and Tariq eagerly resumes their conversation, "So, if he's real... what can you tell me?"
"Well..." Max's eyes flicker skyward. It's part act, part legitimate concern. Shit. When is Matt gonna show up? If he gives Tariq too much information, then he risks exposing him to his brother. Then again, if he gives Tariq too little, he'll lose track of a powerful weapon. Max bites the inside of his cheek, frustrated. (That's not happening.) He fully intends on using the gift that's been thrown into his lap.
Finally, Max locks eyes with Tariq again. "Can I answer that question for you later today? Maybe..." He releases a small chuckle. "Over dinner?"
He looks at Tariq, every inch the boy with a crush.
"I mean if you don't have any..." Max raises both brows, waiting for the other shoe or (hopefully) Tariq's number to drop.
Tariq stares into Max's eyes, overcome with a hunger for the knowledge that the other man holds. It could be nothing, in fact the guy could just be leading him on, but it's close enough to a real clue that Tariq is willing to do just about anything to see how it pans out. The dark gypsy might just be desperate, jumping at every little chance. Tariq knows, somehow, he'll eventually find what he's looking for.
He has just never thought it would come with the proposition of a date attached to it. That, in and of itself, is problematic. The idea of going on a date with anyone, logistically, is normally out of the question. People are physical and intimate creatures, and Riq can't really afford to experience either of those things in his current condition. Still, it is a testament to how much the gypsy values this knowledge that he opens his mouth to say, "I'd like that very much..."
He forces his face to soften and lets a slow smile creep across his face. This turn of events, Tariq feels, is a measured risk, but it's a risk he'll have to take. As far as things go, a dinner date is a lot less dangerous than a movie or "just hanging out." With that in mind he reaches into his back pocket and pulls his phone out, "We can swap numbers and figure out the details... I'm sure the shop-keep will be back any minute now anyways."
The door to the magic shop swings open as the rueful thought passes through the younger Johnson's head. A quick surveillance of the room and the young Shaman catches sight of his sibling. Matt is about to call out Max's name, his lips instinctively parting in anticipation of producing sound, but then he pauses. Max, it appears, is already engaged in conversation with someone.
Closing his mouth, Matt quietly enters the shop and begins to walk over to join the two men. Upon his approach, he watches as the stranger pulls a cell phone from his back pocket.
"We can swap numbers and figure out the details... I'm sure the shop-keep will be back any minute now anyways."
The unnamed man's thick accent, which is definitely not native to Brazil, is unexpected. Matt arches a brow and adopts a curious look. (Figure out what details?) With arms crossed, he positions himself to Max's left. He looks over at his brother and asks, "What are you doing?"