2011 06 26: Breakfast with Alex

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Mission Name: Breakfast with Alex
Date of Mission: June 26, 2011
Locale: Birkhoff's apartment

Alex tries to establish a connection with Jack. She succeeds, as he ends up inviting her over to his place later.

Jack Alex

As promised, Alex texted Jack with an address — not her address, true, but an address — confirming their appointment for printer-help and breakfast. She waits now in said apartment, which is clean and well-furnished but a bit nondescript. There's a living room with open kitchenette, with a small bedroom featuring a desk and computer off of it, along with a bathroom. There aren't any posters on the wall, thankfully — there are, however, signs that posters were once there but have since been taken down. Perhaps the teen just hasn't been here very long. Standing in the kitchenette, she idly rolls a bottle of water along the counter, not used to having this sort of unstructured free time.

Three knocks at the front door would catch her attention, no doubt. Jack managed to come up with a good reason for having his, er, employer's subordinates drop him off at Alex's apartment. Something undeniably tech-related, and a whole bunch of abstruse jargon that went with it — which, of course, they couldn't understand.

The young hacker nervously licks his lips, waiting for Alex to open the door. Even though his hands are shoved into his pockets to prevent himself from fidgeting, he has a hard time keeping still, judging by the way he continues to shift his weight around either foot.

Alex stands up abruptly straight at the knock, and is on the verge of rushing to the door when one of Amanda's many, many lessons come to mind, and she forces herself to saunter over at a casual pace. Pulling open the door, she greets him with a friendly grin, stepping back and waving him into the apartment. "Hey. Glad you could make it. Thanks again for helping me out like this," she says easily. She wears her hair down again, but this time it's been straightened. A skirt that's short but not too short is paired with a short-sleeved blouse in steel-blue, lending a similar sort of shade to her grey eyes. "You find the place okay?"

Nice. Jack seems to be at a loss for words as he studies Alex, but he's not so rude as to openly gawk at her while she invites him into her apartment. Tearing his eyes away from her to take a quick look at her place, he just nods in response to her last question. "You look…great." He offers her another anxious smile. "So, about that printer." The teen clears his throat, then removes the earphone cords that are hanging around his neck. He pushes them into his back pocket, "Want to show me where it is?"

"Thanks," Alex says, giving him a grin for the compliment as she shuts and locks the door behind him — it is New York City, after all. She accepts the words graciously, like she's been taught, not trying to deny or downplay, but not making a big deal out of it either. "Yeah, it's right through here, I'll show you," she replies, moving to pass him so she can lead the way. The way to the bedroom, as it turns out, but there really is a desk with a computer and a printer there. Alex has no idea whether Birkhoff set that up on purpose or if it just happens to be where the desk usually goes.

Since Jack isn't cognizant of what Birkhoff did or didn't do, he simply trails behind her, quirking his dark brow at the most unusual situation he managed to place himself in. He should be used to it by now, considering all of the unpleasant events which had occurred prior, but this — this was something else. It may be obvious to Alex that he's never set foot inside a girl's bedroom before. Ever.

But instead of idly wasting his time, trying to get to know her like any boy his age would do, Jack focuses his attention on Alex's desk.

Specifically, the printer that's on top of it.

He bends over to pull the lid that's covering the cartridges. "Canon BJC-2100. Yep. It's pretty common; we can find these for you easily."

Jack's focus is both admirable and frustrating for a girl who's trying to get close to him in a hurry without being overly obvious. But rather than allow her frustration to show through, Alex just gives him a winning smile as he so quickly diagnoses her printer. "Oh good. I'm glad it's not some really obscure one or something. I'd have no idea where to find it then," she says with a little laugh, stepping in closer behind him to get a look at the cartridge herself — or at least under the guise of such an endeavor. "Maybe I'll try that place out by you again. The prices there seemed a lot better than here in the city." She looks to him with a slight question in her expression, seeking his approval on such a plan. Because he's the tech genius, of course.

"If you don't mind shopping around in a really shitty area, I don't see why not," Jack replies, trying to inject a little bit of humor into the situation, even though he's feeling anything but funny today. If there's bright light drifting into her bedroom, she might notice the deep shadows that arc below his eyes while he peers at her; it's pretty obvious that he hasn't been getting much sleep lately. Despite his nervousness and exhaustion, however, Jack manages another grin. Her winning smile seems to incite as much from the hacker as he sidles up to Alex, so he can show her the cartridges. "Just take them with you whenever you decide to go. They're practically empty."

"The area seems to have its advantages," Alex points out with just the tiniest hint of suggestiveness to her tone. She's not just talking about cheap office supplies … but she holds back from laying it on too thick. Tucking her hair back behind her ear, she leans in to get a closer look at the cartridges, even if they aren't exactly all that exciting. "Good thing I ran into you when I did then. I thought the printing was starting to look a little funny." She looks back to him now, pausing as though she's only just noticed how tired he is now that they've gotten awfully close. "Thanks for taking the time to come over. I know you're really busy right now. Are you … doing okay? Really?" she asks gently, and mission or not, the concern is very much real.

Need to 'ls -a,' 'cd .ssh,' and 'rm known_hosts' from my Terminal as soon as I get back to my place, isn't going to be the answer that Jack gives her, even though he's thinking about it. Instead, he rubs his eyes and yawns, "God, I'm so sorry," before starting to walk out of her bedroom. Once he passes the threshold, he turns to address her again, "And no problem. It's just that, I've been up really late last night — you know, working on my thesis?" Boy, he's really getting better at lying his face off. Alex's genuine concern brings about another smile from Jack as he heads for her sofa. "Um, do you mind if I take a seat while I clear my head?"

"Oh yeah. I know what you mean. It can get really stressful when you start to get close to the deadline," Alex replies, going along with the thesis talk without letting any frustration show. She casts one last glance at the printer before following him out of the room, back to the living room. "Make yourself at home. I promised you some sort of breakfast or coffee or something, didn't I. Why don't you sit while I whip something up?" she suggests, starting to head towards the kitchen area herself.

"Thanks Andie," Jack mutters, while cradling his head between his hands. He closes his eyes for a full minute before he's able to open them again, and furtively glances in her direction. "I mean, I can help you with breakfast if you want," the young hacker offers, getting up from the sofa. "Honestly, I used to cook for my mom when I was living with her. She worked two jobs when I was a kid and didn't have much time to devote herself to anything remotely epicurean, so yeah." That last assertion catches him by surprise as he says it; he's really not one to divulge any personal details to someone he just met.

"Of course," Alex replies easily, giving him a softer smile as she leaves him to collect himself on the couch. Giving him some peace, at least for the minute he takes it, the only noises coming from her end are the sounds of the fridge and cupboards opening and closing, and things being set out on the counter. "If you want to help, sure, that'd be great. I'm, uh, not exactly a great cook myself," she understates with a laugh. "So if we want to be able to actually eat it, I think I'd better take you up on that offer." She gestures with a sweep of her hand that he can pretty much help himself to whatever is in the kitchen. "That must have been hard though. Two jobs. I can't even imagine keeping up with that."

"She's a survivor," Jack responds, smiling at the memory. Once he makes it to her kitchen, he pulls out a carton of eggs, some tomatoes, a packet of grated cheese, and bell peppers. He also grabs a tub of vanilla yogurt from the fridge. "I hope you're not a vegetarian, and um, do you have any granola?" Once that's asked, he starts to look for some fruit. There appears to be fresh strawberries in the back, and he reaches for it. The teenaged hacker then starts rummaging around for a bowl, opening up a few cupboards here and there until he finds one. He cracks a few eggs into the bowl.

"It sounds like," Alex agrees, finding herself just standing back and watching as Jack quickly figures out the kitchen and starts getting everything set up. She doesn't mind in the least. "Uhh, let me check if I have any left…" she murmurs as she moves to check the cupboard where she saw the cereal. "Yeah, looks like." The granola is pulled out and set on the counter beside him, where she comes to stand as well. "Not a vegetarian, no," she adds with an easy smile, watching him work. "So did you just sort of pick it up or did someone show you?" she wonders, nodding towards the eggs, but meaning the cooking as a whole.

He stifles a laugh at her last question. "Um, I learned how to cook from food-network-dot-com. Those video tutorials are epic." The kid then searches through her kitchen drawers and finds an egg-beater.

"Now where are the mushrooms," he mumbles to himself, pacing back to the refrigerator. "Mushrooms, mushrooms, ah." Jack grabs the package of diced mushrooms and throws it over the counter, but then something in the fridge seizes his attention. "Red Bull, huh?" He grins at Alex as he pulls the six-pack out and shows it to her, "Nice. I never would have thought you'd be a Red Bull person."

"I'll have to remember that one," Alex says with a grin. "If I get tired of microwave pizza and TV dinners, anyway." She leans a hip against the counter, just continuing with watching him work for the moment. When he pulls out the Red Bull she hides any surprise behind another smile. "A habit I picked up doing all-nighters. I'm sure you know how that is," she lies without so much as a pause to think. "It kind of grows on you. Or maybe that's just the caffeine addiction, and whatever else they put in there." Speaking of caffeine reminds her about the coffee she promised to make, and she stirs into action. After opening the wrong cupboard on the first go, she gets the coffee on the second and then begins filling up the machine. "So what is it we're having exactly?"

"Yeah, I hear you. It's the staple of all nerds, but I think it's gross," Jack points out with a laugh, though not in a disdainful way. "I dunno. Pretty girl like you drinking Red Bull; it's unexpected, but cute." Those latter words come out before he has a chance to truly stop it, and he blushes. "I mean — um, n-nevermind, that was really stupid of me," the boy stammers. He takes her egg-beater and starts whisking the contents inside the bowl until the consistency becomes more uniform. "We're having an omelette with veggies and cheese, and some fruit and yogurt," to answer her, at the very least. It takes a few seconds for his blush to subside, and he turns to face her, a little embarrassed. "Would you mind passing the salt and pepper please?" Jack then opens a few more cupboards until he sees a frying pan, and places it on top of her stove.

Alex can't help but grin when he calls it cute, and even if pressed, she'd have a hard time saying how much of that is cover and how much is … otherwise. "It wasn't stupid," she assures him, still smiling as she shakes her head, looking at him for a long moment before she looks abruptly away, returning her attention to the coffee, which she'd left off half-done. Another scoop of grinds is added, and then the water, so she can take a moment to quickly figure out how to turn it on and leave it to gurgle away on the counter. "That sounds good," she replies, as she picks up the salt and pepper shakers, moving a little closer so that she can hold them out to him, supporting them until he's ready for the condiments, rather than just setting them down on the counter. "And very well-rounded," she adds with a grin.

Taking the salt and pepper shakers away from Alex, Jack exhales quietly and sets them against the counter, right next to his bowl of beaten eggs. He then grabs the peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms, dumping them into a colander that was conveniently located next to the block of kitchen knives. Once he pulls up both of the sleeves of his sweater, he turns the faucet on and washes his hands with hot water and soap. "It's nothing fancy, but — definitely better than microwaved food." Jack finishes scrubbing, then reaches behind Alex to move the colander towards the sink, cleaning all the contents therein. He grabs one of the kitchen knives and starts chopping all of the ingredients — save for the mushrooms — as soon as he's done putting them on the wooden board that's sitting over the counter.

Alex hands over the shakers easily as Jack takes them, and as her holding duty is done, she slides back a few inches to give him back his personal space. "Hey, the classics are classics for a reason. I don't really do a lot of fancy anyway," she admits with a one-shouldered shrug, remaining in the kitchen even if that puts her just a little in his way — though she does try to keep it to just a little. "If you weren't here, I'd probably be having cereal or a Pop-Tart, so you've saved me from that." She gives him a grin, lingering there a moment before she moves away, checking on the coffee. It's still brewing, the pot slowly filling up as the scent wafts over the apartment. Alex begins getting together a couple of mugs. "How do you like it?"

"Pop-tarts are tasty, though. It's just about the only kind of processed junk my stomach can tolerate," he laughs. "I'm not the greatest fan of coffee," Jack admits, shamefaced. He glances back towards Alex with a smile as he sets the chopped veggies aside, then moves again to turn on the stove. "But if I'm gonna drink it, it would have to be loaded with cream and sugar." The fire heats up the bottom of the pan, and Jack opens another cupboard to pull out a stick of butter. He slices a quarter-inch of it, and tosses the greasy bit over the pan's heated surface. "I have a thing for sugary drinks, so long as it's not packed with corn-syrup."

"Square meals and a stomach that can't handle much junk food — you're really putting me to shame," Alex says with an easy laugh, beginning to cross to the fridge and then pausing when he admits about not liking coffee. "You should have said something," she chides lightly, not seeming at all put out by it, really. "I've got juice or milk, I think, if you want something else. We can just, um, enjoy the smell?" she suggests, as she finishes crossing to the fridge and pulls out the non-coffee-related beverages, setting them on a corner of the counter for him to pick. "I have some soda too, but I don't know. It might be a bit early for that. Then again, you look like you've been up all night, so maybe it's not that early for you."

"Nah. Don't go out of your way to grab another drink for me." Jack looks a lot more relaxed now than he did a few minutes ago. "I could probably use the caffeine anyway, like you said." He heads back on over to the fridge to take out some milk, and adds a little of it into the bowl of mixed eggs. "Besides, a nice hot beverage to go with your breakfast? Much better than soda or juice." The hacker does his best to convince her; after all, it would be rude not to drink it after all the work she did prior. Jack then whisks the contents of his bowl with the eggbeater again, and puts the metal instrument inside Alex's sink. A layer of gooey egg mixture sizzles as he carefully pours it into the frying pan. He grabs his chopped vegetables and sprinkles it over the top, then opens up a packet of grated cheddar cheese. "You want pepper on your omelette?"

"Jack," Alex says in a kind but almost firm tone. "What do you want to drink?" She stands between the selection of juice and the coffee, quite willing to go either way once she gets an answer to her question. "This is supposed to be my thanking you, and you're the one who cooked. The least I can do is get some juice out of the fridge," she points out with a quiet laugh. "If you weren't so busy, I'd offer to take you out for a meal or something," she adds, letting that hang there, watching him closely without making it too obvious that's what she's doing. "Sure. Pepper would be good," she replies after a moment.

Jack dumps a generous portion of the cheese over Alex's omelette and reaches for the pepper shaker. He adds a fair amount — not too much though, or else he might sneeze into her food. "Er, Andie? It's really not a big deal." The teen smiles as she uses that tone of voice on him, and he laughs. "Soda will make my insides crawl since it hates artificial anything, unless we're talking about Hansen's or seltzer water. I drink tea in the morning." His lips quirk to one side, trying not to smirk, while he looks for a plate. Jack finds one at some point during his searching around her kitchen. He takes the frying pan over to it and carefully slides her omelette on there. Then he proceeds to make his own, which doesn't seem to take more than 6 minutes.

"Tea," Alex confirms with a grin. "I can do tea." She thinks so, anyway. Moving back now, she gives a quick search and comes up with teabags and an electric kettle. "I guess you must eat and drink really healthy then," she notes, putting the kettle on before he can try to talk her out of it. "But it seems kind of … not very much fun either." While the kettle warms up, she turns back to him. "Anyway, I only put on the coffee because that was the deal. But I'm open to renegotiating." While he finishes up his own omelette, she has more than enough time to finish making whatever drinks are necessary, pouring some of the coffee for herself, so that it doesn't go to waste — not really.

"Call me a health nut," Jack ripostes, though his tone is more teasing and self-deprecating than anything. "I guess it comes from living in Los Angeles, the land of endless sunshine and drive-by shootings." Once he's done with his omelette, he grabs two more glass bowls, and this time, they're much smaller. A large spoonful of vanilla yogurt goes inside one, once he figures out where the silverware is located; then he dumps the rest over the other bowl. The strawberries, thankfully, are already pre-washed inside the package as he rips open the plastic top. He drops the slices into the two yogurt bowls, then adds granola. "And, voila. Guess it's time to eat?"

"At least you've got endless sunshine with your shootings?" Alex points out with a little grin, shrugging her shoulders. "Not like New York is exactly all that safe either. Seems like you've just got a thing for danger, I guess." Her tone is light and teasing, even if her words are designed to strike closer to home. When he announces the meal completely, she picks up the two mugs in one hand, and reaches to grab a plate with the other, moving them around to the island counter, where some stools make for an eating area. "It smells great. I should get you to show me some tricks some time. Technology and cooking. My two big weaknesses," she notes with a laugh.

"Well I'm not an adrenaline junkie, if that's what your implying," Jack laughs, in response to her comment about him having a thing for danger. "I just — I dunno. I grew up in a rough neighborhood, so I'm used to it I guess." He goes silent at that, not wanting to remember all of the bad things he came across while growing up as a child.

"And, sure. I'd be happy to…" As Jack trails off, he remembers why he came here in the first place. The young hacker frowns while he grabs the two omelette-laden plates, setting them over the table. "Maybe when I finish my thesis and get all of my personal shit taken care of, you know?"

The frown is replaced with a more neutral expression soon enough. "So enough about me. What's your story? Have you always lived in New York City?"

"I was only teasing," Alex assures him as he goes quiet, looking like she feels a little badly for bringing it up. She does feel badly, as a matter of fact, but it wasn't entirely by chance that she stumbled onto this topic either. She sets out their drinks, one by each place, and then slides onto her own stool, turning to look at him again. "Yeah, okay. I know you're really busy right now. When do you think you'll be free again?" she asks, canting her head slightly to one side. "Me? No, I, uh, I moved here after I lost my parents," she replies with a bit of a frown now of her own. While having a grain of truth, it's chosen especially to avoid prying follow-up questions.

"Wow, I'm sorry to hear that." Jack really doesn't want to intrude upon Alex's personal familial history, so he leaves it at that, reaching for some silverware to set upon the table as well. "Here you go, Andie." He offers Alex a fork and a knife, then seats himself so he's facing her. "Um, so are you going to school?"

"Technically, but I'm taking a bit of time off right now," Alex replies, leaving aside talk of her family, now that the story has done what she designed it to do — even if it does stir up some actual feeling within her. She takes the utensils with a nod of thanks. "I needed some time to, I don't know, find myself, or something like that. Something less cheesy and cliche, I hope," she adds with a wry grin. "I'm not sure how well it's working out for me though. I don't really know anyone in the city and, well, it's a little harder than I thought it would be, I guess."

Jack's eyes widen just a touch when she mentions that she doesn't know anyone in the city. "Hard to believe you don't have a mob of guys beating down your door just to get to know you." He quirks an eyebrow at her, "I mean, you must have one friend, at least. Didn't you say you had an acquaintance in Brooklyn or something?" The teen idly digs into his omelette, taking a small bite.

Alex gives a little laugh at that. "You're sweet," she informs him in that easy, careless way cute girls have. "I guess I do know a few people, but I wouldn't exactly call them friends, you know?" she clarifies a bit reluctantly. "We just sort of ended up in the same circle. But we don't really talk much or anything." She takes a bite of her own omelette, and her eyes open in pleased surprise. "This is really good. It's been awhile since I've had real food like this."

"Glad you like it." Jack peers down at his own omelette and takes another forkful of egg, munching quietly, eyes glazed over. Whatever's spinning inside his head seems to take control over the conversation, because he's silent for almost four full minutes.

Then his cellphone rings.

"Yes?" Jack answers the phone, his brows knitting into a frown. "Gimme five more minutes and I'll be out." He presses one of the buttons to end the phone call, and looks to Alex. "Hey, I have to go." He looks incredibly contrite. "If you want, you can come over to my place later? I'll email you my address, but make sure you use the directions I specifically give you, because I live in a pretty dangerous neighborhood. If you drive, don't get out of your car until you see me, so I can escort you upstairs," Jack blurts all of this out, rising from his place at the table so that he can leave. "I'll explain later; I sort of have an emergency right now."

Alex seems surprised by the suddenness of everything, and she begins to move from her stool as well as he rises. "Oh, uh. Yeah. Okay. I'll come by later then, if I have time," she replies, playing it cool. "I … hope everything is okay?" She doesn't really expect to wait for an answer though, ready to follow him to the door to see him out. "Good luck? I'll see you later."

Jack finds an empty notepad and pen on top of her coffee table. He scribbles some random email address onto it — he has many — and rips the paper from its binding. "Just, whenever you're up for it. I'll work it around my schedule," he fibs. More like: figure out a time and place that she can come by, without having to run into the assholes that just 'employed' him.

"Bye Andie." He opens the front door and lets himself out.

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