(1939-09-04) Egg in a Nest
Details for Egg in a Nest
Summary: Xander finds Katie exhausted after a long day, and offers her some comfort and distraction.
Date: 4 September, 1939
Location: Hind's Fish and Chips

It's official… War has been declared in the muggle world. The culmination of the evacuations and the preparations was still a shock to many who had been hoping fervently that it would be avoided even at the final hour.

Business has been slow enough at Hind's Fish & Chips that the shop closed early three days in a row, but Katie was hardly there even for the open times. She'd been given leave by her parents to go add her hands to those serving King and country, and she's spent three days now toiling in various parks for hours on end. Citizens and soldiers have been working side by side, filling bags with dirt to be carted off and used to shore up buildings that are likely targets for bombings that are anticipated any time.

It's still early evening as she makes her way home, all but unrecognizable in her odd clothing. Borrowed from Jack, she's wearing a pair of his old trousers, rolled at the hems to clear her sensible shoes, and one of his old dress shirts, tied at the waist and tucked in, to keep it snug to her body and out of the way of being caught and torn as she's worked. A kerchief tied around her hair barely tames the red waves, and she should have used it to wipe some of the smudges of dirt from her face. She's weary and sore, and as she turns the corner into the alley she stops and leans on the building, putting off the moment of going upstairs and the risk of more bad news.

It's been a strange few days for Xander, in so much as it's mostly been business as usual. The Ministry of Magic feels fairly safe underground, and the Spirit Division isn't exactly in high alert. Of course, there have been some advisements that if violence comes to London, there may be a rise in new ghosts, in which case Spirit Agents might be dispatched to perform exorcisms or help the ghosts get accustomed to their new existence. But until that time, nothing much has changed.

All of this has Xander feeling a bit useless as he walks the streets in his suit, surrounded by weary Muggles preparing for the worst. Suddenly he doesn't feel like such a big man in his nice attire and well-kept hair. What he wouldn't give for some grubby clothes and some sweat on his brow. When he spots Katie outside the chippy shop, his heart sinks even further. Obviously she's doing her part, while he's been sorting old reports on banshee sightings. But she looks a bit miserable to him, and he can't simply leave her in that state. So he gives his hair a ruffle so it doesn't look quite so styled, and hurries his steps, calling out to her, "Katie! Blimey, you've been working hard."

The call brings the bowed head up, and Katie turns to seek out the source. Even weary, the sight of the tall young man approaching brings the girl's smile out. She waits for him to near before calling back, but suddenly she realizes how she must look. In addition to the dirt on her face, it's now been further smeared by wetness that glistens on her cheeks in the afternoon light. Reaching up quickly, Katie tugs the kerchief from her hair, using it to hastily rub at her face and erase the evidence that her stiff upper lip got a bit wobbly for a few minutes. "Cor, I must look a sight," she says, looking a bit embarrassed to have been caught in such a state. Her wiping, for it's good intentions, has only made the dirt a bit more smeary.

Xander pinches his lips sympathetically. Her dismay is plain enough to see, in spite her effort to cover it. "A little smudge can't hide your sunshine. You're alright?" he asks with enough of a casual tone to allow her to save face if she wishes to. Though there is the private hope that she'll lower her defences and lean on him, letting him play the part of the strong, supportive man.

Katie's smile sobers, her head tilting back to look up to Xander's face. It's been days since someone has asked after her well being, it's been so busy and rushed and scary. Having to simply be brave can be so scary. Her lips part, but no words come, and she blinks rapidly as she presses them closed again. She's a proper young lady, but in extreme situations, surely propriety can be bent just a bit? Her eyes drop from his as she ducks her head, both hands holding the kerchief all but forgotten at her chest, and she steps forward, going so far as to bump against him lightly if he doesn't think quick.

Xander does think quick, but not to avoid her. He takes a chance, and opens his arms, wrapping her in a comforting hug. A bit of guilt stings him, as he realises he's taking advantage of her state to "make a move". But surely it's permissible if he's gentlemanly about it…right? "I think you've worked hard enough for today. Let me take care of you?"

There's a light lean against him and no protest to the hug Katie had so boldly sought. She wraps her arms around his waist, in fact, letting her cheek rest warmly against his chest, taking a deep breath that hitches, but there are no tears. There's relief, heard in her voice as she quietly says, "Thank you."

Xander holds her a little tighter when she welcomes the embrace, his confidence bolstered. In fact, it's all he does — simply holding her in silence, shielding her from the ugliness of the looming war, if only for a few minutes. After some time has passed, he finally speaks softly. "Can I walk you to your door? Unless…you're not ready to go in."

Katie spends the minutes listening to the beat of Xander's heart, her eyes closed, some of the tension she's carried for days unwinding. There's another moment of silence from her after the question, and she doesn't move as her voice drifts up. "Da's off t'a meetin' about th'air raid wardens, an' Mum an' Jack should be upstairs. Come in th'shop, an' we'll have somethin' t'eat." Her head finally tilts up so she can look to Xander's face for confirmation on the idea.

Xander glances down the alley first, but then smiles down at Katie with a nod. "That sounds grand. If it's not too much trouble, of course." He looses one arm, but keeps one around her shoulders to walk her to the front of the shop; the only entrance he knows. "But you've got to let me help if I can. You're been working hard enough."

Katie does the same, letting one arm fall but allowing the other to linger lightly at Xander's waist until they reach the door. It was obviously the right assumption, as she makes no move to change their course. "This time, I'll let yeh help," she says agreeably. The door proves not to be locked, as Katie simply pushes it inward, barely halting their progress. She steps in first, only now drawing her other arm away. But she reaches back for his hand to guide him through the shadowy interior to the kitchen. The chairs are overturned onto the tables and their path is mostly a clear shot, with only a step around one table. She doesn't turn a light on until they're into the kitchen.

It feels a bit like they're sweethearts sneaking about — a thought that appeals to Xander. When the lights come on and he finds himself in the kitchen, he smirks and pauses. "Sure I'm allowed in here? Don't want to set off any charms. I mean alarms!" He corrects himself quickly, chuckling to play it off as a silly slip of the tongue.

There's a grin, genuine and much more what's accustomed to being on Katie's face. "I'll keep yeh safe, big man." The words come fondly, like a pet name. She wanders to the icebox to see what's left from the day's supply. "Butter an' eggs," she looks up and across to a worktable, "fresh bread. Egg in a nest?" She turns with eggs held in her hands, already holding them out toward him so she can turn back for the butter.

Xander had been looking around the kitchen curiously. He hasn't spent much time in Muggle kitchens, and there are so many unfamiliar appliances. Her question startles him out of his musings, and he hurries after her to take the eggs. "Right…ah…what's egg in a nest?" Ask him about the state of Muggle governments, or the history of Muggle Russia, and he can carry on a conversation just fine. But Muggle chippy shop recipes? He's out of his element.

There's a fairly modern gas stove and oven, a second-hand but good condition fryer for the chips, and pans stacked all over. Butter in hand, Katie looks surprised, but pleased, because it's something so simple but it can be impressive to someone that's never had it before. And she doesn't mind the thought of impressing Xander with her cooking skills. "Cor, yeh've never had it, truly? It's a good thing for yeh that I'm here t'expand yer horizons. C'mon here." She leads the way to the work table, putting down the butter, reaching for the bread, and then twisting to get a rather large bread knife from the counter. "Set the eggs in that bowl?"

"I don't think I have. I'm guessing it's not a real nest." Xander smirks playfully, obeying her and setting the eggs carefully in the bowl. He then strips off his coat, finding an unusued pot hook to hang it from, and rolls up his sleeves. "Right. What's next?"

The knife is also set down, and Katie crosses the kitchen to take two aprons off a hook. One gets slipped over her head and left to hand for a moment, the other held in both hands. "Duck down, big man, we don't want yeh t'get somethin' on yer nice clothes." She'll drape the strap over Xander's head if he complies with her request, playfully ruffling his hair before he can straighten.

Xander laughs at her playfulness, and runs a hand through his hair to smooth it. Though by now it's hopelessly uncombed, giving him a more unkempt look. He ties the apron behind his back and smooths it down. "I feel like a proper cook now. Look out world. I'm here to burn your meals."

Katie crosses to the sink, taking a moment to wash the dirt from her face and give her hands a scrub in case there's any lingering dirt from the outside work lingering. A quick dry with a towel, she pauses as she looks at him assessingly. "Yeh'll do." The tiredness from the day is forgotten for a time in the comfort of a warm kitchen and good company. "I'll buy yeh a fancy chef hat for Christmas," she promises lightly. She grabs a butter knife on her way back to the work table, and hands that off to Xander. Then she quickly ties her own apron. "I'll cut th'bread if yeh'll butter it, please." She's obviously done this before, cutting fairly thick slices of bread.

"A chef's hat. Grand!" Xander grins excitedly. He may not really want a chef's hat, but the thought is amusing all the same. He takes up the bread as she cuts it. "Buttering bread. That much I can do without ruining a meal. I hope, anyhow."

Just one slice each for right now, they can always make more if they're still hungry, and Katie grins back at the young wizard. "I'll ease yeh inta' it, big man, don't yeh worry." When the buttering is done, she pulls each slice over and uses the bread knife to cut a neat circle from the center of each, which gets set aside. "Now, mind yeh don't eat those," she says with a teasing scold. The young woman points to a pan behind him, "Can yeh bring that over?" As she asks she's putting a gas burner on.

Xander spins to fetch the pan, but when he turns back around to see the flames emitting from the burner, he pauses in wonder. "So…how does it keep burning?" He's certain she didn't use a charm, and that's clearly no normal fire. He offers over the pan, but his eyes are fixated on the little jets of flame, marvelling at them.

Katie doesn't think it very unusual, for a man to be unfamiliar with the workings of a kitchen. "It's a gas stove, no wood." The pan is taken from his hands as he watches the dancing flames, and she sets it over, blocking his view. As it heats, she fetches the buttered bread, including the little circles from the centers. "Bring th'eggs over?" she requests. "First," comes the instruction as Xander steps near, "The bread goes in th'pan." It's large enough to accommodate both slices, side by side, and the butter sizzles lightly. She puts in one slice and hands him the other, taking one of the eggs from him.

Eggs. Bread. Simple enough so far. Xander imitates her, laying the bread down to the hiss of the frying butter. Eyeing the eggs, he thinks he getting the idea. "So…we're going to fry these in the bread, aren't we?" He smiles, rather proud of his deduction.

"Who's the clever boy?" Katie teases lightly, grinning broadly. "I wish I had a prize t'give yeh, but at least yeh'll eat well. That's exactly what we're gonna do. Can yeh crack an egg then, big man?" She leans and gives the egg she holds a quick rap on the side of the pan, pokes her thumbs into the crack, and pulls the halves of the shell apart, dropping the egg into the center of the bread.

"That much I can do. Mum loves to cook. I used to help her out in the kitchen. Though I'm pretty sure I hindered her more than I helped." Xander chuckles, cracking the egg into the hole in the bread. He does manage to drop one small bit of shell into the whites.

Katie watches him without really seeming to watch him, not hovering as if he's helpless. She says nothing at the bit of shell, but instead encourages him. "Not bad for a bloke," comes as she leans and lightly bumps her arm against his. "How d'yeh like yer eggs, big man? Sunny side up? Once over? By the dozen?" There's a giggle as she watches the pan, giving it a little shake by the handle.

Xander gives her that charming lopsided grin of his. "I like them…medium, I suppose? A little runny in the middle. Just enough to dip some bread into without making a bloody great mess." He tries to keep his eyes on the pan. But heaven help him, he can't seem to stop glancing at Katie.

Another shake and Katie says, "I think they're ready t'flip. C'n yeh bring th'butter, love, an' we'll add a bit here t'the pan." When another dollop is plopped in it starts melting immediately, and Katie picks up the pan. "Here we go then," she says before she jerks the pan deftly, tilting it to kick up the back, giving the eggs in their nests a flip onto the other side. There's a shake to spread them around in the butter, and she glances to Xander with a grin as the pan settles back onto the grate.

She called him 'love'! Okay, so even Xander knows that it's just a colloquial term…but still a term of affection, right? He hopes. "Whoa-ho!" He exclaims, impressed at her dexterity with the pan. "I'd have definitely started a fire trying that," he laughs. "How do you do that without breaking the yolks?"

Katie smirks, her answer simple, said as if she's trying to verbally dazzle him. "Maaaagic." She giggles again, the sound clear in the still air of the kitchen. "I'll teach yeh how, if yer very nice t'me." It seems days away from all the work she's been doing, cares forgotten for even a little while. It's frightfully domestic. "Plates are on the shelves above," her statement more a request again for his help. She turns to the work table, waiting for him to set them each a plate out.

Xander laughs brightly at the claim of magic. "I believe you." Muggle magic! Take that, Muggle-haters. At the mention of the plates above, he's right on top of it. Ever since his growth spurts began, he's gotten more used to be asked to reach high things. The perils of being tall. "You really love it in here, don't you?" The transformation from the world-weary girl outside to the domestic goddess in here is not lost on him.

There's a slight shrug to the question as Katie slides each little nest onto a plate, then turns back to the stovetop. "It's alright," her voice drifts back as she puts each of the little circles into the pan, giving them just a moment to brown before she flips them, this time with quick fingers. "Maybe it's the nice company."

Xander looks about for some utensils, but he's quicky overwhelmed by the professional kitchen. "Yeah? Well, I know it's the nice company." He glances back at her, then quickly adds. "I mean you. Not me. I'm not conceited, I swear. So…we should have forks, yeah?"

Katie turns and puts a little circle of toast onto each plate, and grins at Xander. "Least conceited bloke I reckon I've ever met. Third drawer t'yer left. Milk alright? There's just enough." She already going to pull down glasses, filling them from a pitcher that she leaves empty in the sink. They get put onto a tray, then plates are added. "We'll sit out in th'shop, there's enough light comin' in yet." And the habit of lights out is already beginning.

"Milk would be great." Xander fetches the forks and follows Katie out to the seating area of the shop. He takes down a chair for her, and once she is seated, turns over one for himself. "This looks excellent. I love crispy food. Which…I guess is a good thing, since that's mostly what you do here."

Carrying the tray easily, with the grace of years of practice, Katie balances it as she takes off the plates and glasses, then sets it aside. "I'm glad yeh like it, Xander. It's simple, but it's fillin'." Judging where his chair will land when he sets it down, Katie hooks her own with her foot and drags it around so she won't be sitting across from him, but will be closer. He also gets the glass that has a bit more milk in it, and she deftly swaps the plates so that she'll get the one with the little bit of shell in it. As he sits, her eyes settle on him, her hands in her lap. "Thank yeh, Xander. I feel worlds better."

Xander beams as she moves to sit closer. He even blushes a little. He's still not entirely accustomed to dating, and his last relationship was…different. "You seemed pretty down. I didn't do much. Just trying to be a friend." He goes pale as soon as the words leave his lips. "More than a friend! I mean…I'm your friend, but…I…I do want more than that. Stars burn me, I'm babbling again. How about I shut up and eat?"

There was a flash of disappointment at Xander's choice of words, but an easing as he quickly tries to clarify his meaning. "We should both eat, it's been long days an' they'll not be gettin' much shorter." It's a gentle suggestion, giving them both a few minutes to let the blushes the moment brought to burn less brightly. "I've never heard that sayin' before," she says finally, breaking what was, to her, a companionable silence as they ate. "Stars burn me." She speaks the words speculatively as if trying to get a hidden meaning from them. Then she just asks, "What's it mean?"

Xander swallows hard, his mouthful feeling a lot larger as it goes down. For a moment he stares at her like a deer caught in a car's headlamps. "It meeeeeans…you know, sort of like when someone says, 'well blow me down'. Or…cruder things. The stars are great, powerful things. So being burned by one is pretty intense. So…it just means, 'this is intense'."

Katie wouldn't have been surprised if he hadn't had any answer at all. Sometimes what things mean get so far lost in time that they're just said out of habit. "I like it," she decides after a moment. "Jack an' I go up to the roof sometimes. We're not supposed t'," she confides, "But we like to look at the sky from up there. Some nights, there's so many stars, an' it can be so peaceful." She lets the thought trail off, taking another bite of her simple meal.

"I wish I'd done better in Astronomy class," Xander sighs. "I was always more of a history buff." He ponders a moment, and smiles. "But still, I do remember some things. Maybe one night we can go up to the roof. I can show you my favourite constellations."

"I'd like that," Katie agrees, without even giving it a thought. "I don't know what any of the stars are called." She puts her fork down, stopping eating for a moment, but she's nearly done already. All the work did give her a healthy appetite. "Xander, when I was workin' t'other day, I got t'talkin' t'Private Ferguson. Remember him, th'bloke from the park that got attacked by th'ducks? He was with the soldiers brought in t'work at shovelin' dirt."

Xander is devouring his egg in a nest as well. After all, he didn't get the fish and chips he wanted for a late lunch, as the place was closed by the time he got to it. He lifts his brow, swallowing a bite, and nods. "Oh, yeah. I remember him. He didn't want my seat." He gives a little chuckle.

Katie nods, remembering that now, and how Xander had been fidgeting around. "Yes, that's him. Nice bloke, tried t'teach me t'smoke, but I think it's not for me." She grins, not choosing to mention that she thought she was going to cough up a lung. "He asked me t'go out with him, t'the market in Dover." Her fork is picked back up, a bite carved from her egg and toast. She doesn't even know if Xander will care, but it's not something she wants to keep from him.

Xander looks more comfortable back when he had to explain a wizarding turn of phrase. This has him frozen in place, paralyzed as he tries to sort through what she's trying to tell him. Finally he manages to stammer out a response. "So…oh…then…um…" Or something resembling a response, until he does find his words, "When you say 'go out'…you mean…on a date?" He's making an effort to play it cool, but he's terrible at hiding the worry on his face.

He does care, it's plain to see, even for Katie. Part of her is delighted. He cares. "I was surprised as well," she admits. "He said we could just go as mates, a day out for a lark. But I think… if it bothered yeh…" She pauses, her head inclined down but her eyes raising to him. "I think if it's bothered yeh I'd tell him so."

Xander takes a slow, deep breath. He must consider his words carefully. "Well…alright, here's the thing. My people…I mean, my family…and the people we choose to associate with. We believe pretty strongly that a woman is a man's equal. It isn't a man's place to decide things for a woman." He swallows, wetting his lips as he feels them drying. "But…I think you feel similarly. So…thank you for being concerned for how I feel. But, I think…I think that the only reason for you to tell him it bothered me would be so he wouldn't try to make you his girl. But that would mean…or it could mean…that you're my girl." He lifts his brow at her, silently chiding himself for his apparent inability to just say what he's thinking directly.

As Xander speaks, Katie's eyes get increasingly direct, perhaps not really putting him very much at ease. She gives his words due consideration, or perhaps has to puzzle though their round about path. Finally she says, "It could mean that. So it would be best, then, if I explained that t'Gavin. It wouldn't do for him t'think I could be his girl. He's grand company, but it wouldn't do."

Xander blinks…then blinks again…and a few more times for good measure. "So…are you saying that-…" He stops himself, shaking his head. Say what you bloody well mean, Xander. "I suppose, what I'm saying is that I really, really like you, Katie. I know we've only been on a couple of dates. But I think we've got this great alchemy between us. So…will you be my girl?"

There's a long pause after the question is out there in the air. Katie's not had an 'official' steady fellow before and she's not entirely sure what it entails at this stage of the game. But she knows that her interest in Xander is different. Finally, she smiles, lips parting, and she says, without fanfare, "Yeah, alright."

Xander's eyes go wide, as if he didn't expect her to agree. But his grin spreads wide, and it's not even lopsided! "Yeah? That's fantastic! So…wow. Just…wow." He seems out of breath all of the sudden. Feeling emboldened, her reaches for her hand to gently lift it to his lips for a gentle kiss, if permitted.

There's no resistance to the tender show of affection, and the warm press of lips makes Katie's hand tingle. Before drawing her hand away she's bold enough herself to brush her fingers lightly against Xander's cheek. Then she looks down, and can't think of anything better to say than, "Finish yer milk." But it's not the words, it's the tone. Affectionate in return. And she doesn't pull her hand out of his.

Xander smiles tenderly back at her, with a softly spoken, "Yes, ma'am." He downs the last of his milk a little too quickly, inadvertently leaving himself with a milk moustache. "Listen…if you want to go with the Private to Dover, really just as friends, I won't be jealous. I trust you, and if you trust that he'd be a gentleman, I don't want to get in the way of your fun."

Katie's eyes linger on the milk mustache, until she reaches back and unties her apron, pulling it off over her head. She scoots toward Xander and says softly, "Be still." before moving to free him of the white adornment with a gentle dab of the fabric. As she straightens, she nods, "I do trust that he'd be a gentleman." He's never been anything but gentlemanly, as has Xander. "But I don't think it'd be right to go out of town. Not when I'm yer girl. I'll see if he wants t'stay in town, an' we can have a laugh." She pushes her chair back, gathering the dishes back onto the tray. "Want t'go see what's for afters?"

Xander isn't accustomed to being doted upon, but he's finding he rather enjoys it. Who wouldn't? He rises to accompany her, insistently taking the aprons to at least help a little. "You're wonderful, you know that?" He grins at the thought of dessert, thinking back to fond memories of sponge and custard slipped into his bag. "Yeah, let's go see how else you're going to spoil me."

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