CAPE & COWL COMICS
When a comic book shop near your neighborhood boasts a giant sign that reads Cape & Cowl Comics, is it even a question that you should go in? Absolutely not.
Nora had been out running a few errands with Pork Chop at her side. A quick trip to Target, then one to Trader Joe's, and as she rounded the corner to find parking for a coffee break, she spotted the comic book shop and a parking spot just a few feet away. She took it as a sign, made easy work out of the required parallel parking job, and just minutes later, she and Pork Chop were on their way to explore the shop.
She had been keeping him on a short leash in case something or someone suddenly caught his attention. A leaf blowing around outside, a scent he didn't recognize, it was all up for grabs. As Nora browsed a variety of titles in front of her, she tried to ignore the commentary that Kara was giving her in her head. This certainly hadn't happened in a while — ten months, to be exact — and to say that it had thrown her for a loop was an understatement. They had been doing so well, fully merged into one entity, each other's personality traits meeting halfway, but something had changed and Nora wasn't entirely sure what.
The petite blonde continued to skim the books directly in front of her when she met a pair of eyes peeking above the books on the opposite side of the shelf. Something about those eyes felt familiar, and it took a moment for Nora to figure out why. "Cara?" she asked, clutching Pork Chop's leash and rounding the corner. "Didn't think I'd run into you here. How are you?"
"Still standing," came the stiff, vague reply from the other side of the display. It could've been made, albeit warily, in reference to anything, and it was -- the dissertation, the self-made supernova, the.. Oh, who was she kidding?
Nora had been a part of the massive, three-way uppercut Cara had been dealt, and while two-thirds of the problem gotten some degree of closure (if several cautious conversations with Jules and exactly zero conversations with Parker -- at her own brutal request -- counted).. Encountering Nora Saylor in the middle of a comic shop while her own arms were full of Captain Marvel adventures wasn't exactly how she'd pictured the last round taking place.
Pork Chop was a welcome diversion, and Cara took full advantage of his curiosity regarding what was bound to be a whiff of Noodles and Chewtwo.
After the greeting though, part of her had wanted to turn and exit the unsuspecting comic shop immediately; the Skrulls and the Magnetron would always be there, for lack of better phrasing, but the rising temperature gauge of discomfort she'd been starting to feel would be immediately squelched. Nora had lost someone just as much as Cara had, no matter how it'd come about. Compassion and empathy, however, didn't soften any blow or cure the resulting bruises. Still an honest assessment. Still painful to try to rationalize.
She watched as Pork Chop playfully pawed at Cara and sniffed her out. Nora kept a close eye on the Samoyed, just in case he decided to go super pup on the other woman — not that his made-for-normal-dogs leash could really stop that from happening.
Even with her attention divided, she could feel the tension in Cara's response, and her brow furrowed ever so slightly as a result. "Um. About the same," she offered. It wasn't a lie; her fellowship interviews might've been over, but she was still reeling from getting whammied multiple times the week prior. Parker's news and departure, Max's move, and of course, Harry's death and the watchful eye she had tried to keep on Nat in the following days since then. A quick blip out of the country and flying solo for a few days had helped, but her return home had reminded her that those gaping holes in her NorCal life were still very much there. And the cold greeting from Cara — well, that was unexpected. Parker had mentioned that Cara hadn't wanted anything to do with him, and though Nora felt complicit in that at the time, she was unaware of the extent of...well, anything.
She eyed the books in Cara's arms and felt a small smile tug at the corners of her mouth. "Research?"
"If I'm gonna wear the suit, I might as well know all sides to the story before people start asking questions," she offered quietly, glancing around to ensure that no one had actually heard her. Cara glanced down. Infinity Gauntlet. Secret Wars. Secret Invasion. Avengers. Earth's Mightiest Hero. The Life of Captain Marvel. They were all stacked against her forearm to the point where a normal person probably would've been shifting uncomfortably, bending under the weight, but there she stood.. Books in hand and mightily facing down one of the most awkward exchanges she'd had in weeks, with someone who'd actually spoken to the subject. Maybe she was, quietly, more like Danvers than she was giving herself credit for.
It was a nice distraction, even if it'd only existed for a few seconds.
"What's on deck for you?"
A swing and a miss.
"Not a bad idea," she replied. She, too, looked around the bookstore to see who might've been in earshot, but the clerk behind the checkout desk seemed more interested in the issue of Deadly Class that she had in her hands. Cautious still, Nora lowered her voice and glanced at the titles Cara had in her arms again. "Sometimes they take some, uh...creative liberties with that stuff."
Why had she wandered into Cape & Cowl, anyway? "Just browsing," she shrugged nonchalantly despite the slightly confusing tension in the air. "Saw the sign and I couldn't not come in."
Nora wasn't entirely sure how to navigate her way through this conversation; small talk had never been her strong suit and she was quickly being reminded of why she chose to work in a field where half of the people she interacted with were heavily sedated. She wasn't one to dance around a problem, however, and she could barely stop herself when the next few words left her lips. "So...are you talking to Parker yet?"
If Cara had been waiting for the other shoe to drop, Nora had just flung it, with all her super strength, at (and potentially through) the ground.. And Cara, watching it fall, just stood there, dumbstruck.
"He told you," she observed, without an ounce of hesitation nor scorn. It was disappointed hum that housed little regret, and when she watched for Nora's reaction, she steeled herself for incoming disapproval.. Waiting to take it full-force in the chest.
Cara wasn't flinching, but she did cross her arms over her chest, tucking the books in a bit closer. "No," she continued, only a tiny brow furrow offered as her emotional tell. The wound was still fresh, but she was determined to keep that in the stack that she held closer and closer to her heart. Right next to a bound set of Ms. Marvel comics. Cara averted her eyes and felt her nostrils flare; she'd become a terrible, terrible liar. Even worse when she wasn't saying anything at all.
"Yeah, he did," she answered. Her brow knit ever so slightly and contradicted the casual way in which she spoke. "And he said that you didn't want anything to do with him, so I didn't tell you about the going away party — which I'd meant to tell you about the day before," she added quickly. Nora looked around again and made sure that no one else was eavesdropping. "But I got distracted by Jess and her kid." She blinked a few times. Discretion. Right. "That was on me."
"Nobody told me about anything," Cara confirmed, trying her hardest to nod and match Nora's tone with both steely determination and nonchalance, doing her best to keep the bitter and pained edges away from her words. "Which.. I mean.. I get, I guess, but.." She shrugged a shoulder; ".. It sucks when you think you know people really well, and something like this happens."
She bit down on the inside of her cheek.
"I don't know what to think anymore, really, so. Adjusting."
"Adjusting," she repeated. "These aren't normal times, so." Her brow furrowed more visibly and she glanced over at Pork Chop, who'd made a curious noise as if he was trying to read the humans in the room himself. Nora let out a heavy sigh. "I'm not going to make excuses for him," she started. It would've been too easy to do so — the timing and circumstances around everything had made sure of it — but that had never been her M.O. Relationship or not, Parker was an adult who could take responsibility for his own actions. "He knows that he should've told you himself, and he gets why you're upset. But that's between you guys."
"Nora, don't.." Make it worse. Cara shook her head. "Parker made his decisions, and I made mine," she explained, shifting the books in her arms again; ".. He made it pretty clear that he had nothing to say to me, so.. I have nothing to say back." Never once did she shy away from how she'd handled the situation, but never once did she seem fully proud of it, either.
It was a call made in pain and self-preservation.. The same way she'd been guarding herself from Nora since she'd spotted her over the book rack. Warm, but never closer than arms' length.
"Okay." Nora arched an eyebrow and felt her own defenses go up. Was she a little bewildered? Yes. Was she going to push the issue right now? Hard pass. She suddenly had plenty to say, but now was not the time or the place. Clearly.
"Anyway, I better get going. I have groceries in the car. Take care, alright?" She was ready to turn on her heel when she remembered she had a leash in her hand and gave it a gentle tug to convince Pork Chop that it was time to go.
Cara's heart settled itself at the back of her throat, and her stomach had flopped down to her toes. Despite the nauseating coupling of sensations, she nodded, and let out a long breath when Nora had moved to turn, flipping her eyes downward to Pork Chop. He got a weak half-smile from the taller of the two blondes, even if her face'd lost an imperceptibly small amount of color.
"See you around," she offered, shifting the books in her arm and moving to step around the Samoyed in an attempt to get her books and go home. She'd had enough of reliving this mess for one day.
Nora was well on her way out of the comic shop when she stopped in her tracks. She hesitated for a moment and shut her eyes as if she was actually thinking that hard about her next steps. Her mouth was two steps ahead of her, and before she knew it, she had turned around again. "Cara. Wait." She all but jogged over to the other blonde. "Little Giant. It's just a few blocks away, and they have pup cones," she suggested, gesturing at Pork Chop. "We can sit down. If you want to, I mean. My treat."
She'd been in the middle of thanking the distracted clerk and taking the paper bag of books back into her arms when Nora'd reappeared.. And every furrowed brow and quizzical look that she'd given Saylor was matched in kind with concern. A painful degree of acceptance soaked her to the bone, and while she hadn't let Parker get in a word edgewise -- not that she would've listened to it at the time -- the radiating ache from that decision still reverberated. The least she could do was to not offer a repeat performance.
There was a beat of deliberation while Cara tried to figure Nora out, looking between Pork Chop's grin and the eyes of his human.
"Sure," Cara replied after a few seconds, wary, but willing.
Before she knew it, they were on their way to the ice cream shop. Nora didn't say much; at this point, it seemed best to save any conversation of substance for when they arrived at their destination and had their orders in hand. Awkward silence was a little more tolerable when there was ice cream as a distraction. The shop was a short four and a half blocks away, though the walk was longer than it needed to be thanks to Pork Chop's insistence on stopping for sniff breaks along the way.
Unsurprisingly, Little Giant was empty on a Thursday afternoon. After careful deliberation, she finally settled on Moonpie for herself, a suspiciously colorful ode to Mardi Gras, while Cara had settled for a Mexican Rocky Road.
Once they had been served and seated, she made sure that Pork Chop was busy with his pup cone before speaking again. "Sorry if I upset you at all," Nora began. "That wasn't my intention at all. Everything happened so quickly, and...well, that's no excuse."
"No," Cara agreed, dipping her spoon into her ice cream and carving what'd looked like rose petals into the chocolate. It took some thought before she looked up again, fixing Nora with a look, unafraid of the directness of the gesture. People made mistakes; Davies herself was no exception, but that knowledge didn't provide her with any solace. Forgiveness, maybe, but not solace. "I understand being overwhelmed by life, Nora," she started, feeling her brows furrow as her tone started to tilt; ".. But I got caught in that quickness, and I reacted to it in a way that cost me a friendship. It's not even upset; it's grief and it's pain and.."
Cara sighed. Rocky Road filled a few seconds of silence while she spooned off one of those self-made rose petals. She wasn't exempting herself, but she wasn't having any mercy on anyone else involved, either
Nora crossed one leg over the other and poked at her ice cream with her spoon as if the over-processed and over-colored coconut flakes were suddenly the most interesting thing in that room. "I had your name pulled up. I was about to text you, and then Jess started talking about Gerry and I got confused by that and then suddenly it was Sunday morning." Her tone was remorseful, and she finally dug her spoon into the purple, green, and yellow dome with intent.
"It's not too late to salvage that friendship," she suggested once she had finished her spoonful and began to ramble. "If you want to, and if you're ready to. He'll be in town next weekend. I guess his mom's doing well enough that he's comfortable with traveling for a couple of days."
"I'm not," Cara offered quietly, honestly, eyes widening just a little to emphasize her point. She hadn't heard about Jessica Drew at all, and to hear there was something going on with Gerry.. Automatic worry crossed her face, unbidden, but she continued. "Nora, accidents happen, but that doesn't mean that they don't affect people because they were unintentional. And I don't.. I'm not mad at you. Hurt by what happened, but not mad at you. Parker did what he did intentionally, and I said what I did intentionally; that's very different."
"I hope he travels safe, and I'm glad his mom's doing alright, but.." She shook her head, taking a half-spoonful of ice cream.
"Well. I'm sorry to hear that." She chewed on her lip quite literally and then bit her tongue metaphorically, unappreciative of the lecture about intent but refusing to say as much; Nora knew that it made little sense to make a difficult situation any worse. The knot that had been sitting in the pit of her stomach seemed to tighten and she was suddenly regretting the olive branch that took the form of a few scoops of ice cream. Fight or flight was kicking in again, but she willed herself to fight, albeit quietly, while she turned her attention back to the scoop in front of her. Though she wasn't entirely sure what had happened between Parker and Cara, she wasn't exactly all that curious, either; she had learned long ago not to meddle, and this accidental encounter was all that she could really handle at the moment.
Davies watched Saylor work into her ice cream again after a solid few seconds of working at her lip.
"Maybe things'll change someday. I wish they'd never happened in the first place," Cara explained, putting her spoon down; ".. Nora, I want to be able to forgive him, but I can't do that the right way right now. I don't expect anything like that from him either. I appreciate the ice cream, but.."
The spoon handle was bent. Slightly, but it was bent. Nora caught the slight bend in the spoon too, and a glimmer of recognition crossed her face.
"Shit.. I should go," Something swam in Cara's eyes then, and the spoon rattled on the table between them as she reached down for the bag of comics.
She furrowed her brow again. "Um, alright. And...I understand that. I wasn't trying to—" She stopped mid-sentence and mumbled to herself, fully aware that Cara could still hear her. "This is just weird, that's all."
When Nora's brows went down, Cara's lifted.
She looked up at Cara after shooting a quick glance over at Pork Chop, who had parked himself at her feet after happily demolishing his own snack. "See you around."
Cara nodded in reply, hoisting the bag with little-to-no effort onto her hip -- but not before she'd given Pork Chop a quality goodbye that Noodles'd deem appropriate. This was difficult, but she respected Nora for trying. For apologizing, and trying when no one else had. She looked at the woman across from her and took a breath, pausing in her discomfort to speak one last time.
"I'll get the ice-cream next time, okay?"
Nora fidgeted in her seat, crossing one leg over the other get again. A hug didn't feel right at the moment, so she stayed seated. "Sure, whenever," she nodded. "Don't be a stranger."
"You don't either," Cara responded, shouldering her purse and tucking the paper bag against her body as she scooted her way around Pork Chop, toward the exit. "I'll tell you if I find anything good," she added -- indicating the bag full of books with a weak smile before she leaned on the door, out and into the flow of sidewalk traffic.