2007-02-06: Bad Directions

Starring:

Job_icon.gif Sydney_icon.gif

Summary: Job makes a stop at The Back Alley and runs into Sydney, who is just as surprised to see him as he is to see her.

Date It Happened: February 6th, 2007

Log Title: Bad Directions


The Back Alley

It was turning out to be a wonderful evening. And then, Job faced the unfortunate incident in Central park, prompting him to return home and change clothes. The pants? Probably okay. The coat? That remains to be seen. Nevertheless, why let it get him down? The night was young enough for a little outing in town, and Job made the mistake of electing to go some place he'd never been before. The Back Alley was perhaps not the best idea, as he doesn't frequent strip clubs. However, determined not to look like an idiot, he continued inside and made getting a drink his top priority, in the hopes that a vodka tonic would make the experience less painful. Drink in hand, he now sits at a table, well away from the stage, quietly observing. Maybe this won't be so bad after all….

Working at The Back Alley isn't just about taking your clothes off for money; it also involves sweeping floors, serving drinks and flirting with the customers (though not necessarily in that order). The time that Sydney spends on stage is miniscule compared to the time she spends making sure that everything else is going smoothly - which is exactly what she's doing right now as she moves from table to table, checking in on the club's clientele. A fresh layer of makeup covers her face, but fails to completely conceal the dark circles under her eyes or the mottled bruise on her cheek that she received while trying to put on her lipstick and get dressed at the same time. The click of her stilettos against the hardwood floor underfoot announces her arrival at Job's table, though she's too distracted by everything else to be looking at his face when she addresses him. "Hey you," she greets, dark eyes scanning the small crowd scattered around them, "that tonic treating you all right?"

Job glances over when he's addressed, but only briefly. He likewise does not get a good look at the woman's face, and it doesn't bother him terribly. "Tonic's fine," he says over the background noise, not recognizing Sydney's voice for the same reason. "Looks busy tonight, so don't worry about me too much. Don't need much attention at all." Yes, strippers, don't mind Job. leave Job alone, in fact. It's all good.

A smirk curls at the corners of Sydney's mouth. Job's choice of words seem to have the opposite of their intended effect, because she removes her hand from the back of his chair and uses it to pull out the one across from him. "Why?" she asks, taking a seat. "You don't want to be seen here or something?" Way to pique her curiosity. "If it's 'cause you're married, don't worry - everybody else is." Rather than look at his face, her eyes drop to his left hand - and his ring finger. A causal glance is the easiest way to tell.

Nope. No ring. "Not married, sorry," Job replies, "Sorry to get your hopes up." She's sitting down. Great. No use fighting it now; the misplaced psychologist turns his head to look at the stripper who seems destined to engage him in conversation. And then he has to look harder, because there's something very familiar about her… "Have we met before?"

For the first time, Sydney looks up, and unlike Job, it doesn't take her long to place the person sitting across from her. "Oh god," she groans, bringing both her hands up to her face, "it's you."

For a few moments more, Job contemplates this turn of events, resting a finger against his lips before raising it to the sky as if to say, 'aha!' "I've got it," he says, "Central Park, right?"

Realizing that covering her face isn't going to spare her the embarrassment, Sydney sighs and lets her hands drop back to the table. "Right. Look, if you came here for an apology…"

"Hey, forget about it. Like I said, we're even." Job doesn't really think they're even, of course. But there's no point in arguing over it. Certainly not here; this is her territory. "Just, don't worry about it."

Pleasantly surprised, and maybe just a little bit bewildered, Sydney leans back in her seat and folds her arms across her chest, sizing Job up from what she feels is a more comfortable distance. She didn't get a good look at him at the Park, but the lighting of the strip club triggers another memory - one that she totally missed before. "You were at DnA's the other night, weren't you?"

"Yeah." But Job doesn't remember seeing Sydney there. Must have been in the crowd somewhere. Certainly not the woman he was talking to.

As if sensing the man's confusion, Sydney sighs again and rolls her eyes, though the look of disdain isn't directed at Job. An almost sheepish note enters her voice when she says, by way of explanation, "I was sitting next to you at the bar. You were trying to pick up the chick with the Tom Collins and the funny teeth."

"Ah. You, were the ear I shouted in while I was trying to get a drink." *Now* he remembers. "Wasn't worth the price, if you ask me."

"That's because nobody goes to DnA's for the drinks, if you get what I mean." Sydney seems to relax now that she's sure Job isn't here to make her pay for the clothes her coffee ruined. She looks around and, seeing that her co-workers are on top of the other tables, stretches out her legs and gives a quiet moan of satisfaction that belongs to someone who's been on her feet for a long time. "My heels are killing me. What about you?"

"My heels? Not particularly. Comes with the profession. I get to sit down for hours and a time and tell people why they want to kill their fathers and marry their mothers." No, Job isn't cynical at all. "Not exciting at all. Definitely not real, think on your feet sort of work, like here."

"A therapist, huh?" Under the table, Sydney discretely slides out of her stilettos. Apparently she plans on staying for awhile. "What're your rates?"

Job thinks about that for a moment, before deciding that the appropriate answer is, "Enough. But not so much my patients don't come back again. It's worked out so far. You looking to have your head shrunk?"

"Dunno," Sydney says, reaching out across the table for Job's vodka tonic. "That depends." Unless he stops her, she picks up his glass and leans forward, resting her elbows on the edge of the table as she takes a drink and ponders his question. Only after she's drained half the glass does she lower the rim from her mouth and - almost as an afterthought - wipe the lipstick off with her thumb. "How do I know if you're any good?"

Job quietly watches Sydney steal his drink, and while he makes no verbal protest, he mentally adds a tick mark next to her face. "Well," he continues, "I've had the same office and changing flow of patients for four years. Top five percent of my class at Cornell. That's, a place to start?"

Sydney shakes her head. "Education doesn't mean a damn thing. These days, anybody can get a fancy degree to hang on their wall so long as their parents' pockets are deep enough. Far as I'm concerned, you went to school with a bunch of Georges and Jebs, and brown-nosed your way into that top five percent. Impress me."

"Impress you. Right." Job thinks for only a second, exhales through clenched teeth and makes his admission. "Nope, can't do it. Closest I can get is the fact that my PhD is in social psychology, instead of general. Essentially, I went to an expensive private university, paying out-of-state tuition to study how people interact with each other in society and why they do it, instead of going down the road to Harvard and visiting home on the weekends. If that's not good enough, well, I don't think I can help you, then." Hm. "And I did say psychology, which means I don't have a degree in medicine and cannot prescribe anything to anyone for any reason. And that's the way I prefer it."

"What?" she teases. "Can't you just psychoanalyze me or something?" Sydney sets the glass down on the table, slides it back to Job, and raises both her dark eyebrows. "Come on, Mr. Doctor-Man. We've been sitting here together for five minutes, and you can't tell me anything about myself to prove you're worth your salt?"

For a moment, Job looks squarely at Sydney, scrutinizing. After a few seconds, he likewise leans forward on the table and speaks. "Well, you came in late for work," he says, "Which doesn't really mean anything by itself. But then, we factor the fact that you were out at DnA's at a fairly late hour. Now, I wasn't paying that much attention, but you looked like you were there alone. Like you said, no one goes there for the drinks, which means it was a social outing, I would say. You weren't out socializing, but were content to sit at the bar, so I am led to believe you were meeting someone there. I'll, go out on a limb and say they never showed, and I'll go further to say that this didn't sit well with you, because you look like you lost sleep over it. In the less than ten minutes I've known you, that's what I got."

As Job speaks, Sydney's expression gradually changes from a smug grin to a tight-lipped frown of disbelief before finally settling into a scowl. "You're good," she concedes, "but I don't think I can afford your rates if you're from Cornell." Beneath all the foundation, concealer and blush, her cheeks are burning a bright, shameful pink. "Can I see your card?"

Job fishes out his wallet, and from it, one of his cards. He does not, however, surrender it immediately. "Let's make a deal," he says, "no lap dances, and you get one session free."

Sydney cups one hand around her ear and tilts her head toward Job. Did she just hear him right? "Say again? No lap dances?" That same hand makes a haphazard grab for the card. "I don't know where you think you are, buddy, but most of the guys here would jump at a chance for that sort of thing."

"No, you heard me right," Job replies, "See, that could produce a conflict of interest, and that would mean no free session. Now, if you really want to shell out the money for one…."

"Okay, okay," Sydney concedes, "no lap dances." As soon as the words have left her mouth, she pries the card from Job's fingers and turns it over, silently mouthing his name as it appears in print. "How do you pronounce that?"

"Blut. Like the color blue, with a 't'." Yes, that's simple, Job.

"Who names their kid Job, anyway?" Sydney folds the business card in half and tucks it into her cleavage for safe keeping. It's not as though her outfit has any real pockets. "You don't act like you were raised by religious nutjobs."

"I wasn't, really. I think they were trying to get even with me for some perceived slight," Job replies, "What about you? You have a name?"

"Not one that I'm going to tell you, you sneak. If I do, you might find some way to bill me." Nonetheless, she puts her hand out across the table and offers it to Job. "You can call me Amber, though. That's how everybody knows me around here."

Job gives a nod. "I can remember that," he says, "Just the same as I'll remember not to bump into you in the park anymore. That went poorly for both of us. Especially you."

"Hey, at least my jeans only cost me twenty bucks." Sydney isn't sure if he's teasing her or not; if he is, she's not about to let that jibe go unpunished. She smirks again, grinning like a cat with a mouth full of sharp little teeth. "How much does that coat retail for?"

"Honestly? A lot more than it's worth. At the very least, it could have had a stain-guard." Even Job can whine. "I'll let you take a guess at how much it cost."

"So you can rub it in my face? I don't think so. Besides, this is New York - if it isn't overpriced, nobody'll buy it." Elsewhere in the club, the music changes and another dancer takes to the stage, drawing whistles and catcalls from the audience. Sydney pauses, waiting for the leering cacophony to pass before she continues. "By the way," she says, "why visit a strip club if you aren't interested in the women?"

Job's answer is a simple, "Bad directions."

"For a guy who makes his living off the dirty little habits of other people, you're a really rotten liar, Job. You could have just turned around and walked right out the door as soon as you came in." Sydney angles her head as though it might let her see him differently. It doesn’t work. "Try again."

"Okay," Job says before trying again, "Bad directions, and I decided to sit down and have a drink instead of turning around, leaving and looking like a jackass who got himself lost."

Sydney purses her lips in thought and watches Job from under her lashes for what seems like a very long time, but can only be a few moments because the song in the background is still just getting started. "Professional white male in his thirties, scared of wounding his pride?" She nods. "Sure, I'll buy that. Can I get you another drink?"

"Well, I think that depends on how much longer you're going to sit here talking to me," Job says simply, "Because if you've got to get back to wandering around, I think I may be going and eagerly awaiting a phone call so I can pick your brain apart properly."

"I probably should." Sydney grasps the edge of the table, using it as an anchor so she can slip back into her stilettos. The last thing she needs is a matching bruise on her other cheek. "Seeing as I'm on in twenty. You can stick around if you want - I don't mind."

"I'll consider it," Job replies. Maybe it would be another conflict of interest. Maybe not. Only he can say, and he's not telling.

Sydney stands up and, waving to someone else on the other side of the club, begins moving around the table. As she passes Job, she gives his shoulder a friendly squeeze. "I'll send Charisma over with another vodka tonic, okay?" Without waiting for an answer, she trots away, surprisingly unsteady on her feet for someone who spends so much time in such high heels. But before she disappears completely into the crowd, she turns and calls back over her shoulder, "You'd better not disconnect your phone!"

Job doesn't bother calling after Sydney to answer, certain she won't hear him. He just offers a wave and a half-smile in her direction. A deal is a deal. Besides, he can't disconnect his phone. What if there's an emergency? He'll stay to finish his drink, but whether that takes more or less than twenty minutes, well, that will be seen. Soon enough.

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