2007-02-21: Trading Favors

Starring:

Max_icon.gif Alyssa_icon.gif

Before the fight, there was a perfectly harmless conversation between two people about motorcycles and taking advantage of young women. Also, a drawing.

Date It Happened: February 21st, 2007

Trading Favors


Noodle Heaven

It's a vague time between late lunch and too early for dinner, meaning most of the inhabitants of the Noodle Heaven those who just enjoy lounging there or those who have forgotten to eat before. Alyssa falls into the latter category but the way she's pulling away from the counter with half a tuna-fish sandwich already in her mouth and cookies in her hand suggest she's remedying that. The backpack she's wearing is also holding an iPod whose earbuds she's attempting to re-fix into place. Precarious, if ever there was a situation to be called that.

**

It doesn't take a trained eye to tell that Max has seen better days. He's shrugged off his long, loose overcoat and draped the dark, woolen garment over the back of his chair. Beneath it he's wearing simple black slacks and a sleeveless shirt that reveals a thick wrap of bandages around his left upper arm and shoulder. Fresh cuts at the corners of his mouth bespeak more scars, and there is a faint, faded purpling just to either side of his nose.

Despite his injuries, Max tackles a pastrami on rye with apparent relish. Several empty coffee cups, juice bottles, and sandwich wrappers speak volumes about the length of his visit.

**

Bumping along tables, Alyssa is almost to hers when her precariously placed lunch slips from between her teeth, prompting her to put out a hand to stop it. A hand aided by a muttered demand for the sandwich to stay nearby. Luckily, the act of grabbing it would've given similar results, just not as much precision perhaps. It smashes into her catching grip about the same time her backpack falls from her shoulder and makes her lose it /and/ the cookies. Matters probably could've ended there, but, no, she also has to stumble forward and rattle the table of some poor guy who just wants to enjoy pastrami.

**

Max pauses his chewing, watching the young woman somewhat akwardly approach. When she begins to fumble her belongings, his good hand snakes out whip-fast to snatch the backpack by a shoulder-strap before it hits the floor. Unfortunately, he's not able to do much to save the cookies. Max swallows his mouthful and smiles apologetically. "One man can only do so much."

**

"Jeez!" Alyssa sputters as she looks for a place of refuge and finds said guy rescuing her backpack from the hard, deli floor. Now that the cookies are on the floor, she can use her right hand to pull out a napkin from her back pocket and lay it across the guy's table. The heartily destroyed half of sandwich is placed (or smeared) onto the napkin so she can wipe her hands on her pants and reach out to greedily reclaim the backpack with both of them, "You chose wisely. I think I drop my laptop one more time and it's lights out."

**

"Glad I picked the way I did, then. Still, pity about your lunch." Max waves a hand at the mess of crumbs, crusts, and filling that had once been sandwich and cookies. "Want to sit down and collect yourself?" he inquires. "No offense, but you look a bit scattered." As he so often does is his day-to-day life, Max throws up large, impenetrable mental walls around his sociopathic tendencies. One must observe the rules of cosmopolitan culture, after all.

**

Alyssa hums softly to herself, her teeth gnawing at her lip, before shrugging in a 'what the hell' manner and using her ankle to snag an extra chair closer. "I'd go with the five second rule and all that but I don't trust the guy on sweeping shift these days," she admits as she flops onto the seat in front of her sandwich remains, "And scattered is me. What does that make you… Fight Club?"

**

Max grins crookedly, his hand coming up to touch the corners of his mouth and the bruises across his jaw and face gingerly. "That's accurate enough. Would you believe I'm pretty under all this black and blue?" After a final flick of his thumb along the raised welt of a fresh scratch he picks his sandwich up once again.

**

Alyssa sits very still a couple of seconds at his question and then slowly leans forward, careful somehow not to rub her shirt all in tuna-fish. She squints her eyes in examination of Max's face as if looking for something she doesn't believe is there but then… a slight lip twitch. A larger one. And then she's forced to rest herself against the table because she's breaking into giggles, "I can't do it," she sighs, "I'll never be clever because I can't even… agh, the smiling."

**

Far from offended, Jack grins wider at his new conversation partner's comments, then winces as one of his fresh cuts drags wickedly from the pressure. "Ow. And touche." He sets his sandwich down, wipes his good hand on a napkin, then offers it across the table. "Name's Max. What's yours?"

**

"Aww, a name," Alyssa bemoans as she slips her hand into his, squeezing it and then pulling away quickly, "Names make things so much less interesting. Maybe I should keep mine to myself a little bit." Her head tilts and some her hair loosens from underneath it's cap, "And 'ow' because my lack of self-control sucks or because it hurts to grin? Should I talk about something depressing? Because I can. My life is very depressing."

**

"Ick, no," Max protests good-naturedly. "I'd rather just control myself, if it's all the same to you." He gives a quick squeeze of his own, then scoops up his sandwich and takes another large bite of rye bread, pickle, and fresh-cut pastrami.

**

"Good," comes the quick retort as Alyssa begins to scrape with four fingers at combined bits of tuna and bread, "because I lied." An innocent shrug as she pops the fingers into her mouth. Munching, she leans over to rescue some broken cookie from the floor. A muffled 'thump' and "Sonofa—" mark when she misreads how far under the table she was and smacks her head. Appearing back top, she drops the cookie bits to the side of her 'sandwich'. "This is my best first impression /ever/, Max."

**

Max nearly chokes on his bite as he lets out a low, friendly laugh at Alyssa's antics. "Careful. If I start dying because of you, I think you're required to give me CPR." He sets his sandwich down on it's wrapper and slides it partway across the table. "Watching you eat like that is already killing me. You like pastrami?"

**

Alyssa shifts back in her seat, her arms lightly crossed across the musical theater logo printed on her t-shirt's chest, "Oh, am I? Well… I suppose, ya know, because you're so gosh-darned pretty." She's got the determination to look insulted when he shifts the sandwich her way, "What, something wrong with well-ground breadn'tuna? Maybe I always eat it this way." That might sound more solid if she wasn't peeling little pieces of crust off Max's lunch. Yeeah.

**

"Rest assured, your oddness is very convincing," Max replies wryly. "But it's been my experiences that pre-blended foods have charm, too." He reaches inside his cumbersome overcoat as he speaks, then withdraws a narrow sketchpad and a handful of pencils. Max sets his equipment down neatly and looks up from under his lashes. "May I draw you? The memory of you with smushed tuna sandwich on your hand begs to be captured."

**

Alyssa's face freezes a second before her eyebrows begin to draw slowly down— she's processing. She glances over her shoulder briefly but she appears to be the only one here with smushed tuna. "I mean," she finally continues-it seems part of her response was started in her head already, "you really can if you want." She sits there, shifting, and then pushing the acclaimed tunabread around before, "Wow, you always kind of wait for a line like that but then it comes and, hey, you're elbow deep in food crumbs."

**

"Don't worry, it's not my first time," Max murmurs as he quickly sketches a rough, stylized outline of the sandwich shop's counter, tables, and patrons in the background. Frowning thoughtfully, he puts together the first few pencilstrokes of the young woman's face, bust, and hands and continues. "I know how to be gentle."

**

The near spastic movement of Alyssa's cheek tells of how much she's trying not to snort with laughter. "Oh, I see," she manages with all that humor tainting her voice, "You say it to allllll the girls." Though she's intrigued by the moving pencil, Alyssa attempts then to stay casual through the drawing investigation. Absently, she reaches to her ear where a cheap pen is stored and begins to nibble the tip.

**

"Of course I say that to all the girls," Max responds without lifting his eyes from the paper or cracking a smile. "How else do you think I get them to sit still long enough?" Max's pencil is swapped out for another, and the detail of her facial features slowly begins to take form. As always, he pays special attention around the eyes, this time to capture the humor and sparkle of his subject. A button nose, widely smiling mouth, and cheekbones quickly follow.

**

"It just defines you, that's all," Alyssa notes, leaving the pen in her mouth as she gives up on casual and starts to lean forward to see over the top of Max's paper. "Thoooough, I feel like you're gettin' more out of this than me." She pulls the pen out, pointing it near him and attempting to wag the utensil near enough to the paper that he can't properly continue, though the gesture is lacking in aggression since she doesn't want to seriously screw with his drawing, "How about something more about you for all those line strokes there?"

**

Max looks up and grins crookedly. "I'm /unreasonably/ dangerous," he admits candidly, but melodramatically. "And I work with metal." Max rolls his eyes in an exaggerated gesture, but never loses his grin as Alyssa continues to interfere with his view. "You're right about one thing," he agrees. "I am getting more out of this than you."

**

"And do you always start off with the kicker?" Alyssa scolds good-naturedly, meanwhile hefting her body further onto the table for better sketchbook viewage, "That's like— hey, I'm an international spy wanted in twelve systems— oh, and I like toothpaste." At his agreement she pauses her pen-swinging and bites her lip, "Well, glad to hear. What're we gonna do about that?"

**

"Of course I do. The kicker is far more interesting," Max says as he resumes his drawing. Now he's focusing on the hands, bringing an incredible amount of detail in such a short time. And sure enough, there's a gob of tunabread on the end of one finger heading for sketch-Aly's smiling mouth. "As for how we even the score? I'm open to suggestions."

**

Alyssa is supposed to be the imaginative, clever one, but the suggestion of /making/ suggestions has her momentarily stumped. She slides back towards her own seat, rubbing an ear in thought. Unsure what else to do, she adds, "And, anyway, if you like the kicker so much then you should give it some space. Haven't you ever heard of anticipation? It deserves some build-up. People want to guess what's coming. 'Hey, this guy likes toothpaste, I wonder what that /means/,'" Absently, she grabs a crumb of old dropped cookie and pops it into her mouth. "Even the score," she mutters, "Sounds all epic. I don't know if I can rise to that."

**

"You must be very disappointed in me," Max muses. His blue eyes narrow as he shifts to a third, fatter pencil, and he begins to shade the sketch to add depth and definition. "Besides, what need do I have for anticipation when the truth is so /interesting?/" Max looks up at Alyssa, a smile on his lips and a mischevious sparkle in his eyes.

**

"Only a little," Alyssa grants distractedly, having caught some shiny knickknack or another of the most recent people to enter the shop. As he mentions the truth, she's called back to the conversation with a raised eyebrow of skepticism that contrasts the obvious interest in her eyes, "Oh, the truth, huh? Have you killed somebody with a motorcycle or do you just ride one?"

**

"How'd you know?" Max queries. "My Softail is out front. You gonna start asking questions about the tattoos you shouldn't know that I have next?" With a few last, crisp strokes, he completes his tiny bit of artwork. After studying it for a long moment, he swivels the sketch around to Alyssa. "What do you think?"

**

Alyssa perks up with honest surprise as she glances to the door as though the vehicle would be waiting there— ooh, a Transformers motorcycle— and then attempts to cover her own reaction with both hands clasped together in front of her face. "Only if you'll show them to me," she quips for the tattoos, uncharacteristically coy instead of giggly for once. It all melts away, though, for the viewing of the picture, which she gestures towards but refrains from touching, "Well… it's /me/," she says with a nod to the tuna, "Which is probably it's only flaw."

**

Max grins as he tucks away his drawing impliments. "I don't know, akward and clunky looks kind of good on you," he comments. For the moment, he allows the topic of tattoos to remain unexplored, instead lacing his fingers together and leaning forward to prop his chin on them lazily.

**

"Hmm, I just thought that was my stylishly amazing newboy cap," She replies, eyes still drawn to the pencilified version of herself as she seems to memorize every line as best she can. Words are hers to manipulate, not so much lead. Or whatever they put in their drawing things these days. Long seconds pass where it's unclear whether her mind is still in this shop or not and then suddenly her head jerks up and she blurts out in a moment of inspiration, "You're gonna take me on your motorcycle. I mean, you have one, right? You weren't just playing? I'd hit you then."

**

"Not playing. But if I did that, I'd have to sleep with you." Max's grin is wicked now, and the sparkle is back in his eyes. "Sorry, biker law. After all, I should get something for not killing us in this weather." When he laughs, it's unsure wether or not he actually means what he says. Apparently Alyssa isn't the only odd one at this table.

**

It's a good thing that Alyssa's hands are still pressed to her mouth because then her surprised sputter is somewhat lost in them. Those big brown eyes are pretty wide and telling, though. Still, she composes, brings her hands down to be folded in front of her, and prepares herself with deep breath. "Weeelll," a long pause here to stop the itch in her cheek from becoming speech-hindering, "We /are/ trading up favors. Seems only—" Crap. Her lack of cleverness under pressure breaks her brain until she can't find the word she was looking for. Hesitating, she blinks rapidly and then slaps on, "Natural. Like a natural progression." Oh, smooth and shit.

**

Max lets out a rumbling chuckle, obviously enjoying both the content and the delivery of Alyssa's response. He lifts his head from his hands and steeples his fingers into a triangle. "My goodness, you /are/ sex. I must have you. I can't wait a moment longer." The old scar at the corner of Max's mouth twitches, a counterpoint to the forced stillness of his fresher cuts.

**

Alyssa is doing better now, see, because now he's obviously just being silly. With a flourishing gesture, she grabs the front of her newsboy cap and yanks it off. Her hair is messy and hat-smooshed but at least it does some sort of cascading thing down around her ears. "I need you, I want you, I can't live without you," she counters drolly. It doesn't last long, though, for soon she's scooping all that hair back into a bun in the most practical manner she's shown all afternoon. "So, come on, you going backsies on me?"

**

Max pushes back from the table, scoops up his jacket, and gestures grandly at the door. "My lady, your chariot awaits." He leans down over the table, his piercing blue eyes finding Alyssa's. There is a hint of menace mixed with the mischeif there as his less stable nature peeks out to be noticed for an instant.

**

Alyssa shies away from that look, averting her eyes once they're found and concentrating on stuffing her last brown waves underneath the hat. Maybe this is dumb. /Maybe/ she shouldn't be pushing strange guys into rides on their strange bikes. Dumb in New York ends up in the newspaper the next day with a big 'too bad you sucked at living' headline. Though she grabs her trash, her backpack, and hurries to catch up to him near the door, she also pauses, casting an eye around the safe and familiar place before the street, "I-I.. was probably kidding. I mean, what do we know about each other, right?"

**

"You should probably reconsider this," Max comments agreeably. "I mean, if I take you somewhere seedy and have my way with you, you wouldn't even be able to say I didn't warn you." His grin shows white, even teeth and he slings his heavy, cumbersome woolen coat around his shoulders. After a long pause, the kind in which all surrounding activity even seems to hush, he queries, "Coming?"

**

Don't do it, Alyssa. Don't, don't, bad idea. Bouncing from foot to foot, her hands stuffed agitatedly in her pockets, Alyssa regards Max in the quiet which seems to have prevailed. As if everyone in the Noodle Heaven wants to know what's going to happen next. Instead of just slurping noodles. Don't, don't— "Of course I'm coming," /What?/ "At least I'll get to ride on a bike before I go."

**

Max shakes his head, both surprised and pleased by Alyssa's boldness. "I met let you live, yet," he murmurs playfully. "Just remember, this ride isn't free." That said, he slips out and leaves Alyssa to follow or not, as he chooses. But she will. They always do, after all. See: megalomaniac.

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