2007-06-29: Confessions


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It finally gets back to Jack - and in a moment of clarity, McAlister and the Irishman end up with two fewer secrets between them…

June 29th:


The Den of Iniquity:

Outside the bar, the weather's an indecisive thing this lazy Sunday afternoon, grey and overcast, drizzly with spurts of worse. It's keeping a few people at home, at least - one of the regulars is missing (that, or the spill of the barstool last night and the implied hangover are keeping him abed). Nevermind, though.

See, the Den is /rockin'/. Music bangs from the Juke - who knew that Fatboy Slim was in there? But it is. Oh, it is. The Jukebox is Praising You all over the place. Behind the bar, Ali's grooving with the mad tunes, dancing her way to cleanliness (much to the bleary amusement of one of the usual teamsters at a nearby table), singing along (not too bad!) with the electonic goodness. Her bag's in its usual spot behind the bar, while a new addition - a pack that's a little overstuffed - props up the front counter on the backside therepon. She does look a little more ratty than usual, her jeans in need of a wash, shirt wrinkled, and hair back in a ponytail? But she seems in a pretty fair mood anyway.

And not a drop of liquor-that-she-might-be-drinking in sight. If this is /normal/….

Jack's sneakers make wet, heavy squashing sounds as they slap down into puddles and across wet concrete in quick succession. Despite the weather he's wearing a pair of simple white track pants and a light grey sleeveless shirt. That's right, beetches. Jack is jogging. In the rain.

He's on his way home from Black & Bruised and it shows. His Sunday workout is a long-standing tradition. Go to the gym, do a bunch of push-ups, drink a bottle of Gatorade, and pick a fight with a completely stranger. Gotta love kickboxing. He's getting close to the Den now. With only a block to go he tucks his head low and picks up speed, flicking water from his heels with each step and pumping his arms. When he reaches the door he pauses to hold his hands high above his head like a winning marathon running. Sure, it's only three and a half blocks to the gym, but he smokes a lot of cigarettes.

He shakes raindrops from himself like a dog when he enters, then quirks an eyebrow and glances behind the bar. It's Ali. Of course it is. Who else would sneak a Fatboy Slim disc into his juke? He snerks and shakes his head as he wanders around behind the bar. "Throw me a towel, willya?"

She does, mid groove.. and she gets another. That one's not /completely dry/, but hey! I came easy to hand. Ali flashes him a grin - "You're /wet/." Praise you! Oh yeah! Groove. But! Trust she can state the obvious even mid groove, seriously. "Who jogs in the rain? I mean - that's an excuse /not to be fit/. it's in the /rules/."

Jack catches the towel on the fly, then rubs it between his fingertips and grimaces. After giving it a quick sniff to reassure himself that it's not been used to clean up beer or pee, he uses it to tousle his dark hair into damp, upturned spikes. "I like the rain," he replies, mock offended. "B'sides, I left Julia at the lockup." He chucks one thumb over his shoulder in the direction of his car's stash spot.

"Julia?" Blank. Utterly blank. Ali gives him an odd look as she fishes out another towel - tossing /that/ one too. "Uh. Okay. I just think you're insane. Don't mind me. I mean, you're the guy with the bar, and you're /allowed/ to be insane, if you want. So who's Julia, and why'd she get locked up?" And then? She grabs another towel for herself. Cleaning, good!

The wet towel is dropped into the hamper and the dry one snatched out of the air simultaneously. Jack wipes his face and his arms, then akwardly sponges water from soaked shirt and his thighs. "Julia's my car." Go ahead. Make fun of him for naming his Pontiac. I dare you.

"She's parked in a converted office space next door." Vaugely, he gestures to indicate the building that shares an alley with the Den.

"You.. named your car Julia?" Ali blinks. "Ohhkay. I saw the SNL sketch. That's as /far/ as you need to go. Seriously." Teasing, yeah, but it's light. And she sets to wiping down the far end of the bar. "As long as she doesn't have a /bra/. I've seen those. They're kinda creepy - like the front bumper needs support or something."

"SNL sketch?" Uncomprehending, Jack glances over at Ali and cocks his head to the side. Then he shrugs. "No bra. Those are some mighty stupid-lookin' pieces o' 'quipment. Anyway, Julia's a '67 GTO. Her titties are too big."

Ever been around somebody speaking Greek … and you don't? This phrase 'GTO' apparently enters the same mindspace as 'SNL' entered on Jack - and Ali seems just as blank in return. "Uh-huh." Brightly, "Does she know about Trina? I mean, you know how jealous cars can get." She tisks. "Two timing on your automobile. For shame." There's nothing in that distinctive alto but teasing - but darned if that far end of the bar isn't really getting rubbed a lot. It's been clean for a half-dozen passes now.

The juke gives Fatboy over to Jerimiah Bullfrog and his wine - and she sings along with the first line, "Jerimiah wuz a bullfrog! Was a good friend.." She breaks off. "How does a car have tits?"

"How?" Good question. Jack ponders the issue of vehicular tits for a long moment. Finally he shakes his head. "It's very technical. You probably wouldn't understand." The small smile tugging at his lips is an indicator that he might not get it either. When he's mostly dry he fishes a clean t-shirt from a shelf under the counter where he keeps a few nessescites stashed. Partway though unfolding it he pauses to glance at Ali again. "You okay, kiddo? You look a bit put-off."

Say what you like about Ali? But - she's forthright, anyway. She pauses, looking down at the towel, not once losing the smile, though it does get /really/ lopsided, there. "I dunno. I guess we'll find out in a little, huh? But I figure if you throw me out in a couple minutes, you'll at least have a clean bar." A slight shrug. "So you mind if I hit the glasses right quick? I gotta talk to you at some point, but - I guess I'm avoiding it."

Though the conversation has definitely taken a turn toward the intense, Jack's doing a good job of staying politely inquisitive without getting too confused. This is not to say he understands. Ali is a guuuuurl, of course he doesn't understand. "Um," he begins. "Yeah. Glasses. Go 'head. Now what's this about me throwin' you out, lady-o?"

Ali moves over to the small sink, there - keeping her hands busy. And she watches them, ayup. "Well, I figure you're either going to think I really /am/ crazy, or that I'm worse than that." She flashes Jack that wry grin, though. "See - I think I did something bad. To you. And it's not right not to /tell/ you I did - but I'm kinda not looking forward to it. You're a really nice guy." She adds, pointedly, "No. I don't want your body. Not my type. And Trina'd rip my spleen out through my nostrils." A low laugh, and she goes on. "But out of the blue you've been a pretty damn good friend. So yeah, maybe I'm all days-of-our-lives worrying or something, but can you blame me?" A pointed question, then, "How often does somebody know you like, a week or two, and you start handing out jobs and cash and advice and stuff? Honestly?"

"Honestly?" This is a serious moment and Jack knows it. He shelves his usual array of flippant replies, instead closing his eyes to review his past charity cases, or people that he's summarily taken under his wing and chosen to defend. People that he's helped, or given to, or rescued for no other reason than because he was present and able to do so. Sydney. Eliana. Tamara. Elena. Trina. When he opens his eyes again he smiles crookedly at his employee. "I've long ago lost count. Don't tell nobody, though. I've worked hard to cultivate my tough-guy image."

"Yeah? You kinda fail. No offense." Ali laughs, self-consciously dragging soapy fingers over her hair - it leaves foam. She doesn't seem to notice, nope. "Jack.. I found out…well. It's kind of hard to explain. Just.." She bites the bullet, and throws out there, "I think I made you give me this job. And the cash for bail."

For the first twenty five years of Jack's life, this statement would've made him scoff. Because really, nobody makes Jack do anything. He doesn't pay his taxes, he doesn't vote, he doesn't even do his laundry if he doesn't feel like it (as is frequently evidenced by the giant pile of t-shirts and jeans in his office.) But since he moved to NYC he's seen shit. Lots of shit. And he's had other conversations with Ali that have given him reason to suspect. Still, best to seek clarification. "And how would you do that?" he asks gently.

She shrugs, slightly - and just asks, "Do me a favor? Would you mind emptyin' the register and giving me all the twenties? I'd really appreciate it. I'm kind of short on rent, right now, anyway." She does glance at him, yeah, but looks away, back down into the water. "I never knew - well. Not until I kind of found out recently. Sort of messes with your head, you know? And don't ask me why. Sometimes, when I want something, it just.. happens."

As requested, Jack pops the ancient register open and fishes out all of the twenties. He doesn't stop there, though. He lifts the tray and pulls the large bills from beneath, then thoughtfully wraps them in the center of the wad so they won't be visible when she takes it out of her pocket. Wouldn't do for her to get mugged, after all. His fingers hover over the drawer and he peers across at Ali. "You want I should take out the small bills? You might need some walkin' around money." He's so caught up in following directions that he processes Ali's statement without replying meaningfully. Messes with your head, indeed.

McAlister shakes her head. "No, that's alright." She's /still/ not looking at him - "The big stuff's fine." There's something vaguely sad dragging down that light and airy tone, but she's just stacking glasses on the sideboard as they're cleaned. Resignation, perhaps?

"'K," Jack replies cheerfully. He folds the money up so he can discreetly palm it to his bartender. The Den might be slow, but its owner is always cautious where money is concerned. He takes a deep breath and blinks owlishly. Mentally drained, he leans his hands against the bar to support some of his weight. "What were we talking about?" he asks, more than a little confused.

Ali quietly raises the folded bundle - studiously not looking at him. "Uh. This." And her phrasing is oddly cautious, "Do you want to put this back now, or you wanna wait for the evening rush?" There's no confusing it for an order - more a quietly resigned question… she keeps her voice low. No sense advertising to the clientele. "I'm so sorry, Jack. I don't know how I'm going to pay you back - but I will. You watch. And if you want me out? No problem. I'll walk."

It takes several seconds for Jack to collect his thoughts and connect the dots. When he does, both eyebrows shoot upward and his jaw drops slightly. "Oh man," he murmurs, his grey eyes locked on the wad of cash. He reaches out to take it slowly, staring at it and what it represents. "Oh man," he repeats. "Why? How? I mean… Wait a sec." Time for some mental efforting. Jack might not be the brightest, but he's got experience on his side. It helps that his head is growing clearer as the seconds tick by. "I wanted to do those things, though. How can you make me do something I already want to do? Except for this…" He waves the money from the till. As silly as the question sounds, it's an honest one. He's thoroughly confused.

Frustrated, worried, Ali offers a quiet, "Did you /really/, or did you want to 'cause I asked? Ten /thousand dollars/, Jack. I mean.. seriously. Who just gives somebody ten grand they just met a couple of weeks before?" SHe leans hard on the sink edge - no. She doesn't look up. Doesn't look anywhere but at the water. "I've been getting better about /not/ doing it. I slip sometimes - I don't know when I did or didn't, you know? And maybe you wanted to because /I/ wanted you to - I just don't know." A breath. "I don't really know how it works. It does, though."

Jack isn't looking at Ali either, but it's for entirely different reasons. As a man's man, he can't help but wonder if letting a woman tell him what to has compromised his masculinity. Forget for a second how proud he is of his sparkly tights.

He takes his time putting the money back into the register. When everything's properly stowed and the drawer is closed, he turns and leans back against the counter. "It's only money. There's nothing easier for me to come by, which is why I give it away all the time." He frowns, creasing his forehead and wrinkling the corners of his mouth. "I have a secret, too. We probably have more in common than you think."

It's a feeble joke, but damn if it's not a /joke/, Ali murmering, "…if you tell me you're super-charming, or something? I'm going to be upset you never went after /my/ panties. I'd tell you no, but c'mon, that's a blow to the ego, you know?" A slow breath. "And I'm so tellin' Trina."

The Irishman lets out a snort of laughter and the frown eases from his face. "I'm crushed." Pleased to have moved past a tense moment, he grins. "She'd kill us both, anyway. And it would hurt." He glances left and right to reassure himself that the customers are still entranced by their mamosas, then meets Ali's eyes. "Sadly, no panty-charmin' for me. But watch this."

Jack fancies flowers for a debut act, especially where women are concerned. He's flashy and old-fashioned in a Fred Astaire sort of way. He rubs his palms together and gathers his will, then produces a single, thorny-stemmed yellow rose, something that even the most dedicated magician wouldn't dare to keep in his sleeve. He tosses it on the bar, then turns to smile crookedly at Ali. "Don't get the wrong idea. Like I said. Trina, painful death. It'd be a bad thing."

McAlister looks up. She watches… and okay, it's a flower. She reaches over to pick it up almost involuntarially, smiling - eyes wide. "It's.. beautiful. And that's a neat tric.. Ow!" Sucking on a finger, she blinks and looks. Thorns. Hmm. "You said you used to be a magician. I didn't know you did .." Things add up. "Where were you keeping it? It's real. And it's.. huh?"

Jack frowns again. He's frustrated, but also accustomed to this reaction. As flashy as his ability is, it's still one that can be easily dismissed as chicanery. "It's from the florist two blocks down," he explains. "You tell people to do stuff, right? I move stuff with my mind."

Ali sniffs at it, lightly, finally moving away from the sink. "You're serious?" She shakes her head. "She said there was more than me, but I wasn't really willing to believe her, you know?" She accepts it at face value - hey, in Ali's World? People don't lie, you know? Well, not often, anyway. "Move stuff.. I haven't seen things floating around, though, you know?"

"It's nothing so barbarous as that. The best I can figure, it's like the teleporter from Star Trek." Jack wiggles his fingers dramatically, pantomiming the beam. "As long as I know where something is, I can just," he snaps his fingers. "Poof. As for people like us, there's lots more than you'd think. Plenty o' nice ones, too. I'd be happy to introduce you."

"Oh. Hey. Nice meeting you," Ali puts on a vapid expression. "Yes, I'm the chick that can make you walk in front of a bus. Don't mind me." She offers a wry, sad smile. "Think that'll go over well?" She sniffs at the flower again. "So.. you're not too pissed?" Oh, that's hopeful.

Jack shakes his head slowly. "Pissed? Hardly. You're a good employee, and I can't think of anything that's easier for me to come by than money. If you took anything from me, it was nothin' I wouldn't have given freely." A wry chuckle slips from between his lips. "Trust me, I've been on the receiving end of less pleasant abilities. Don't worry about the others, either. Anybody gives you a hard time, I'll knock some heads. In the meantime, maybe me and you can work on your control so's you won't have to worry so much."

Oh, that does it. Unless Jack does something remarkably heroic? He gets a hug. A fierce one. One that comes with a bit of sniffling and likely a mess made of a shirt, if he's not careful.

It'd probably be a lot nicer if she didn't need a bath. A bit. But hey! it is what it is.

"I promise. If I can help it? never again." Snuffle.

Welcome to squashy, damp, smelly hugs. Grinning, Jack wraps Ali up in his arms. "All we can do is our best, kiddo. I'll never ask more from you than that. Deal? Eww. You're all snotty." Rather than displeased, he's laughing. Most people would probably be freaking out right now, but Jack had to give up on freaking out when Hiro came to town. It's the only luxury he can't afford. He gives the girl a final squeeze and releases her, then passes her a towel. "Go on, clean yourself up."

She does. Apparently, Ali /knows/ she's a mess when she's all maudlin - she even spares the world by turning away and using sink-water to repair most of the damage done to her face by the ravages of tearful hugging. Ugh. "You know what sucks?" A bit shaky, but - hey, the humor's back. "Knowing I can apparently talk people into anything - and have been for a while without knowing? - and remembering that I still can't get a date to save my life." A pause, then - "Thanks. For not throwing me out. So how'd you find out? That you could. Do. The.. star trek thing."

Jack gives Ali a friendly clap on the shoulder. "Don't worry, we'll getcha laid. Everybody's plumbing's gotta plumb sometime." Honest sympathy. Moving on. "I figured it out pretty young. When I was a lad, all I ever wanted to eat was cookies. One day my ma' wouldn't let me have any and sent me to my room. So I'm thinkin' about how bad I wants me some chocolate chip goodness, right?" He glances over at Ali to make sure she's still following him. "Next thing I know, I've got some. Took a little experimentin', but I've been doin' it well since I was ten or so."

"So." Ali acquires a bit of a crafty expression. "Do you still /like/ chocolate chip cookies?" A pause. "And don't you dare. 'cause - seriously. Your friends? They scare me. And.. I guess I'm one of them. It doesn't change how I feel. /I/ scare me."

Jack holds both hands out in a gesture of helplessness and laughs. "Fair enough. And yes, I love chocolate chip. To this day, nothin' turns a frown around faster for me than a glass of milk and a plate of cookies."

"So. Can we? Get some. I have a couple bucks." Oh, now /that's/ a different kind of hopeful. "Suddenly, I want chocolate. And music. And I'm apparently really selfish, but I don't care." Ali grins. Widely. "And it's the least I can do, right? Treat you to a cookie?"

Jack knows that while Ali may have a couple of bucks, it could be the only couple of bucks she has, so he hesitates just a fraction before he nods. "Sure, kiddo. Just don't tap yourself out on my account, okay? I'm not pissed at you. Yet."
The last bit is punctuated with a wink. Remember, taking Jack seriously is usually a bad idea unless he's pointing a gun atchoo.

"I don't like the 'yet'." Ali heads for her shoulder-bag anyway. "call it bribery against future pissed, if you want?" Rummagerummagerummage. "So stupid me, I went in this bookstore, right? One of those psychic places - and they had this book. I guess somebody out there took this stuff seriously, right? 'cause it's a pretty good read." She grins up at him - relief apparently gives her bounceyness or something. "You're going to have to point me the right way, you know. Only bakery I know about is up near Greenwich."

Jack grabs a light jacket from under the bar and tosses it around his shoulders. "There's a nice little place about ten minutes' walk from here. They have great coffee, too." When he's made his way out from behind the bar he peers around Ali to get a look at the book on their way to the door. "Glad you found a little reading material. Were you up in the Villages when you picked it up? I know a great lady with a shop in the area."

"Yeah. That shop, too." Ali is /smug/. A battered envelope is stuck in her jeans.. and she follows Jack around and out from behind the bar. "And I'm not telling you how I know. Estrogen conspiracy. They'd kill me in my sleep." Brightly - "But they did talk about you. A lot. You may want to keep an eye out behind you for a month or so."

"Uh oh," Jack murmurs. He knows from experience how dangerous large quantites of estrogen can be when crammed into one location. "I don't think I wanna know." He waves lazily to the cocktail waitress, who responds in kind. She's accustomed to being put in charge while Jack is out not-working. Then he tugs his collar up, lets out a quiet groan, and shoulders through the door. He might like the rain, but nobody's thrilled when they get soaked twice in one day.

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