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Still of the Night

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Omelette... or pancakes?

As he bears his emerald gaze into the depths of the breakfast menu, Jake English can not help but wonder one thing; when this sort of pointless decision became his most important aspect of every morning. Should he go with the ever-scrumptious omelette, stuffed with cheese and breakfast sausage crumbles? Or perhaps the sweeter, doughier alternative that is a freshly-flipped pancake...?

The thought makes him simultaneously face-palm and salivate. He is, admittedly, a bit disgusted with himself. The fact that a bloke born in the Pacific wilderness has been reduced to a town-dwelling factory man is enough to churn his stomach. His grandmother would be disappointed in him, bless her soul...

Shaking such thoughts from his head, he turns to the approaching waittress and orders a stack of pancakes with a tall glass of milk. No harm getting in touch with one's inner child.  "Golly, I'm starving..." he mumbles to himself, eyes flitting about the quaint, tiny diner in this Houston suburb. With the rise of suburban life came the arrival of new opportunities for middle-class gentlemen as himself, though he cannot deny that these blue-collar and white-collar jobs bore him to tears. Had he his way, Jake would much rather fend off rabid, wild critters than settle in this muffling outskirt. But such is just never the way the hypothetical cookie crumbles. 

He lightly runs a hand through his dark strands of hair, glancing at each of the speckled crimson tables 'round his own. This place is oddly crowded today, he notes in the back of his mind. Quite a head-scratcher, really. Normally this place has no business whatsoever, save for a few old-timey couples and the more unfortunate war veterans. Yet today is peculiarly different; every table, save for his own, is entirely full, and the idle chattering of many begins to thread itself through his ears.

Then again, he supposes there is much about this town that he has yet to wrap his head around completely.

His absent glances grow rather tiresome, and he dares turn his head once more before peering back down at the neatly painted table beneath his large tanned hands. There are times when he, admittedly, feels slightly awkward in social situations such as these. There are contributing factors, of course, such as his lack of experience in that aspect of life. Needless to say, living in near-isolation on an island in the Pacific doesn't give one much skill in socializing with anyone above a primitive level. On top of that, with the conclusion of another world war, he occasionally receives a glare of the irked nature; immigrants are not always approved of by all, and his skin tone and accent are hint enough of his alien origin.

"Your pancakes." The waitress' perky voice snaps him out of his reverie, refocusing his attention (and his stomach fluids) to the scrumptious sight of three fluffy white pancakes stacked atop one another, practically drowning in sugary syrup and glops of butter. "And don't worry, I made sure it stayed as far away from the nuts as possible."

"Heh heh, splendid thinking there, miss." Jake smiles a gentle, toothy grin at the waitress, who giggles lightly before slinking back toward the kitchen. Shrugging, Jake reaches out for his napkin and tucks it neatly in his lap. Bon appetite, as the French would say.

"I'm sorry, sir." The prior waitress' voice distantly meets his ears as he takes his first bite, muting out the euphoria of flavors in his mouth for a moment as he tries to determine the situation ensuing a few meters away. "But we're completely full this morning..."

It would seem that she is having problems seating all of the customers... Well, it would only be polite to offer the empty seat across from him at this table, since he isn't using it for anything... Shrugging, he waves his hand through the air for a moment. "Miss, I would be real delighted to share my table!" No need to be discourtious to whomever needs to sit down and eat. The waitress peers his direction and gives a hesitant nod before returning her attention to whomever is requesting a seat.

As the newcomer approaches the table, Jake cannot help but gawk slightly (and subtly) at this man's unusual appearance. He is average in height (not a whole lot different from Jake himself in this respect), but holds himself with a slight haughtiness. He wears the typical garbs for one of his status (a casual charcoal suit), yet shields his eyes 'hind what appears to be a pair of triangular sunglasses. His face is lightly dusted with a spackling of pale freckles, and he looks as though he has been urgently avoiding any form of direct sunlight for the vast majority of his life. He clacks against the checkered tiles beneath his shoes as his feet drag in a peculiar gait. Perhaps what Jake finds so off about this newcomer is his hair; rather than the typical neatness that most other men seem to style, this man dresses his wickedly blonde hair in a manner that spikes and slicks it back slightly, in a way that is perhaps too bizarre to fully explain. In short, he looks bloody outlandish.  

Yet for this much, Jake cannot help but revere him. This stranger, in short, stands out like a sore thumb.

And in this era, standing out can be nothing less than dangerous.

"Err..." Jake coughs lightly and sets his fork aside for a moment. Well, this is mildly... awkward. The newcomer slides hesitantly into the empty seat and scoots himself into the table, staring intently at Jake to the point of causing the latter severe discomfort. "... H-Here's a menu, mate..." He hands the blonde a breakfast menu with a slight shiver as those gaudy shades bear their eyes into his face.

"I'm not hungry." He speaks with a voice slightly deeper than Jake is expecting, though it also contains a twinge of Texan drawl, to the point where Mr. English has to stifle back a small chuckle. His voice makes him seem, perhaps, even more ridiculous. Breaking his fervent stare at Jake, the blonde orders a cup of coffee, setting the menu aside and returning his gaze to Jake's face. 

At least, that's where Jake believes his eyes are staring. Behind those clunky glasses, it's hard to tell if this man even HAS any eyes. Hell, Jake even admits to staring a bit himself, mostly because of the blonde's peculiar appearance. But the way those spectacles fixate upon his face just makes him quite uncomfortable.

"Strider." The stranger speaks again, not once lowering his assumed gaze at Jake's tanned mug. "The name's Dirk Strider." He does not hold out a hand for a shake, and instead lifts a pale eyebrow slowly above his shades.

"Ah... Jake English." He swallows. "Delighted to meet you, old chap." His eyes widen slightly as the briefest, subtlest of smiles curls on Dirk's lips, though it disappears so quickly that Jake wonders if, perhaps, he had imagined it. "S-So... Um, what do you do for a living?"

The waitress places Dirk's coffee in front of him; he grabs the glass of ice water beside it and gulps down all of the water before startling his company and pouring the coffee into the ice glass. Jake's jaw drops. Black coffee over ice? This Dirk fellow truly is insane. Dirk explains simply that he has trouble stomaching overly hot drinks, which Jake finds to be a bit odd but makes no attempt to press further.  Dirk speaks again. "I'm unemployed."

"... Oh..." Jake's gaze falters slightly, cheeks pinkening a little. Whoops. "Gee, sorry about that."

"Don't be." Taking a brief sip of his iced beverage, Dirk glances back up at Jake's face. "I'll get a sweet deal somewhere. Just gotta give it time."

His mannerisms still baffle poor Jake, but he doesn't press any further. "I work down at the Chrysler factory, a few miles away. Blimey, do I hate it..." He shakes his head. "Miss the good old days of wrestling down wild creatures every morning just to survive. Miss the adventure of it all..." His voice begins to fade as he notices Dirk's stare upon him once more. Blimey, this guy is making him nervous...! "... Gadzooks, look at the time! Sorry to leave you here, mate, but I've another adventure in the factory business to get on with! So... Er, so long!"

Without awaiting another word from Dirk, Jake rises and makes his way to the exit, dropping some money on the bar to pay for his meal. He shuts the diner door behind him and exhales slowly, placing a hand to his forehead. 

Wow. That was probably the most awkward social interaction he has ever had with anyone, and coming from someone who lived with next to no human contact prior to World War II, that's saying something.  Not only had Dirk himself been peculiar beyond reason, but he had gotten Jake's old speech patterns out at a ghastly rate. Then again, under pressure, he supposes that's just something that occurs from time to time... But still. 

Unexpectedly, his stomach gives a low gurgle, and a twinge of hunger nestles in the pit of his abdomen. Oh, his pancakes...! He had completely forgotten until now. Well, blast! There is virtually no chance of going back inside to get them and risking another strange encounter with Mr. Strider. A frown taints his dry lips, broken by a deep sigh. Shrugging it off, he begins trudging down the sidewalk, wincing at the idea of yet another day in such an unsettling environment. Oh, how he detests his job...! He wants nothing more than to travel the world, adventures at every turn... Perhaps it is childish, or unorthodox, but his priorities seem so different from everyone else's. Other men seem to rather enjoy the simple life: working all day, chasing dames all night... None of that appeals to him at all, really. Standard jobs are a bore, and as far as ladies go, he really only knows two well enough to even hold casual conversations with. And there is absolutely no way he would ever consider settling down with Roxy Lalonde. Jane, maybe. Roxy? He would sooner marry a Tasmanian Devil. 

Heh, now there is a thought. Settling down with a Tasmanian Devil? The mere thought makes him chuckle. Imagine, little buck-toothed, bespectacled hairy things crawling around on the floor. Why, that's simply absurd, though the idea is enough to snap him out of his prior slump.

~*~*~*~

Ah, lunchbreak. Needless to say, it never comes soon enough for poor Jake English, who now sits off to the side with his companion and coworker Roxy Lalonde, snacking on a baloney sandwich and trying to get his mind off of everything. "-and then this morning, I went to breakfast, and there was this guy, Strider, who seemed really off his rocker..."

"Strider?" Roxy gazes at him from behind her own food, peculiar magenta eyes glossy and inquisitive. Smoothing out her skirt, she leans herself further back against the wall. He cannot help but note how this is probably the most sober she has been in quite some time. Then again, if she managed to stay in the factory after the war ended, she must be pretty resourceful, despite her frequent tipsy days. "Did you say Strider? Dirk or Dave?"

Jake's eyebrows rise slightly above his glasses. "... Dirk..." His head cocks to the side a little. "You know the Striders?"

"Know them? They're my cousins." Somehow, Roxy's relation to Dirk doesn't surprise him all that much. She has always been a bit bizarre as well...  "Didn't know they were still around here. I haven't seen Dirk since he left for the war..."

So he's a veteran? Jake grunted in surprise, taking another ravenous bite of his sandwich. Baloney has never tasted so good. "He seems to be a bit of a loon..."

"Oh, Jakey, you and your weird words..." Jakey? Okay, perhaps she isn't as sober as he had given her credit for. "Nah, he's not a "loon". He's kind of weird, and wears sunglasses all the time, but he's actually pretty selfless. He's nice, once you get past his-"

"Does he always stare at everyone...?" Jake interrupts, remembering the intense gaze that had been glued to him earlier this morning.

Roxy gives a little "hmm", tapping her chin in thought. "Not that I remember. But the war could've changed him. It changed a lot of people, anyway."

Somehow, he doubts that the staring is due to Dirk's experiences in WWII, but he doesn't dwell on it too much. It was only a chance encounter, after all. It isn't likely he'll ever see Mr. Strider again. As he parts his lips to speak again, the bell goes off, signaling the end of lunch. Stuffing the rest of his sandwich into his bag, Jake rises from his seat and, politely offering Roxy a hand, heads back into the factory. 

~*~*~*~

"See you later, Rox."

As evening falls on the horizon, the work day comes to a close. Giving a tiny yawn, Jake bids farewell to Roxy and begins the walk back home, lost in an array of disorganized thoughts. The workday always seems to leave him with a feeling of disorientation. Rubbing his aching shoulders, he trudges onward, peering up at the sky as it darkens to an indigo shade. He passes the diner, as it happens to be on the way home, and idly gazes inside at the table he had been sitting at earlier that day. Sure enough, the pancakes are gone, and so is Dirk. But he can't say he really expected either to remain there at the table, because really, that's plain absurd. 

Darn it all... He just can't get this morning off of his mind.

Sighing gently, he runs his fingers through his hair and continues onward, eyelids growing heavy with exhaustion. "Drat..." Perhaps Dirk has been on his mind because of how rudely he had left the blonde earlier. That's truly the only explanation he has for himself. Be it that or something more, Jake feels downright guilty, and this is something he can hardly stand.

It isn't long before he reaches his abode. It's a simple, ranch-style home, with a faded orange paint job on the outer walls and a neutralized green upon the roof. He daresay his house looks somewhat akin to a pumpkin, though this has never bothered him all that much. Opening the door, Jake steps inside and removes his hat, inhaling the comforting scent of English. He relishes being in his own house, if only for the familiarity of it all. This is an English household, nothing else, nobody else's. Shutting the door behind him, he places his hat and coat on the coatrack near the wall, all but collapsing on the floral-print sofa and sighing deeply. Once this is out of his system, he sits reluctantly back up and reaches forward, turning the dial on the television and trying to find something to watch.

He can't help it; these little moving pictures are, perhaps, his greatest weakness.

He winds up settling for an episode of Americana, sitting back in his seat, and fixating his eyes on the tele. He isn't much of a fan of this show, though it does help with his knowledge of America, to a certain extent. He curls up, bringing his legs to his chest, and lying lazily across the couch, setting his glasses aside on the floor. Letting a breathy yawn slip past his lips, Jake's blurred vision fades away, his eyelids glide shut, and his breathing regulates.

Thus it is that Jake English delves into a deep, dream-ridden snooze, lulled by the gentle hum of the television.