2007-04-13: Do Over


Jack_icon.gif Niki_icon.gif

Summary: While neither of them are having the best of days, Jack and Niki redo their meeting, sans Jessica.

Date It Happened: April 13th, 2007

Do Over

Brooklyn, New York

Jack's moving a little sluggishly tonight. That's what happens when you get hit in the guts by half of a flying car bumper. Outside the front door to the Den, he sags wearily against the pub's exterior wall and lights up a cigarette. Hugs from crying teenagers, carbombs, R2-D2 in the laundromat. It's been a busy day for the Irishman, and he's freakin' wrecked.

Two building over from the Den of Iniquity is a plain, unassuming brick building of several stories: offices, empty spaces, meeting rooms. There's always some kind of public outreach kind of thing going on in a place like that, support groups, rented halls, that sort of thing although not likely this late at night. In fact, the place looks next-to-dead. Nevertheless, a woman sits outside in the middle of the bland concrete steps that lead down onto the sidewalk. Hair pulled back into a taut ponytail, wearing jeans and a drab blue hoodie and doing little besides staring dismally at her knees, Niki manages to look considerably different from the blonde Jack has met before.

Jack takes a deep draw from his butt and blows a few smoke rings. Consumed with his own seemingly neverending issues, it takes a minute for him to spot the familiar blonde woman, and another for him to identify her as the one who took a few swipes at him across his own bar. At this point, a smart man would go inside and lock the door. Unfortunately, nobody ever accused Jack of being smart. Eyes narrowed, he unclutches his arm from around his bruised ribs and crosses to what he figures is a safe distance. When he's about twenty feet away he calls out, "Fancy seein' you in my neck of the woods."

Niki buries her face in her palms for a second or two, dragging her hands up over her face and back over her head. She's is in the process of pulling her sweater up over her shoulders from where it fell away when Jack calls out. Leaning over her knees and looking at the man, it takes her several seconds of staring and trying to determine whether or not she knows him before forming any sort of response. He's… vaguely familiar, at best. "Excuse me?" Tired, unsure, not to be confused with impolite. Not exactly.

The Irishman cocks his head to side quizzically and takes a cautious step closer. He peers down at the woman and lifts an eyebrow. "Name's Jack. You tried to kill me. Or at least hurt me. Ringin' any bells now?" If anything, he sounds more offended at the possibility of being forgotten than by the attack.
GAME: Save complete.

Niki fails to look surprised, although she does wince faintly at the introduction - one she doesn't offer in turn, it should be noted. This is the second person she's ran into today who knows Jessica, and let's just say she's not seeing eye to eye with her alter ego. "I'm sorry." For not remembering who Jack was, or for trying to hurt him? "It's been a rough day." Aren't they always. She looks up at the man and quirks a smile that bears little humour, but still manages to be soft. "Can you remind me again why I tried to kill you?"

"See, I was hoping you could tell me." Jack crosses his arms over his chest and takes another puff from the cigarette dangling at his lip. "Though for someone with no interest in denyin' it, you seem cool as cucumbers." Was that a hint of grudging admiration? I think it was.

That earns a slightly wary look from Niki; she eyes Jack with guarded criticism. Jessica always has a reason. What is it about this Irishman with his borderline cocky attitude and cigarette that spurred Jessica to lash out? "There had to have been a reason. If you see me again? You should probably just… stay away," she tells him, brow furrowed despite how casually she says it - there's a /knowing/ behind those words that makes them less flippant. "Hey — you were at Central Park." A memory suddenly clicks. "With … Lachlan."

Jack's visage darkens noticeably at the mention of the Scotsman's name. "I was," he replies briefly. "When the smartass kid asked you to marry him, right? You seemed a little more tolerant at the time." He tucks his hands together at the small of his back in a vague, unconscious aping of the military 'at ease' position. "You wanna tell me why you seem like a different person every time I bump into you?"

"Yeah," Niki answers at first, smiling very fleetingly at the mention of the silly young CEO at the park. As for Jack's question? "Because I— " She looks up at Jack dully, her response falling flat. She's tired, frustrated, and some part of her apparently wants to smack this guy whom she doesn't really know - none of that adds up to telling him anything. "Not really." Pushing her hands into her knees, she gets to her feet on the step, hitching a heavy purse over her shoulder. Maybe she was tired of looking up at Jack. More likely, though, she's getting ready to leave.

Not about to be caught off-guard a second time, the bruised Irishman takes a quick step back to maintain the same distance between himself and the blonde. His gaze is clinically curious as he looks her over head to toe, as if studying her closely enough will reveal her secret. Unlike most looksies that a woman of her stature must endure, there's no desire or innuendo to be found in his eyes. Finally he shrugs his broad shoulders. "S'up to you, I suppose. Just remember that I tried to give you a chance /after/ you took a swing at me."

Remember. Yeah, easier said than done. Try as she might - and she's certainly trying, evidenced by her narrowed eyes, and the fog of confusion that her gaze seems to harbour this round, also - Niki just has no idea what Jack is talking about. "A chance," she repeats, testing the word. "A chance for what?"

Now Jack ducks his head as he tilts from side to side, checking Niki out from various angles. A moment later, the smoldering anger in his eyes begins to fade. "You really don't remember." It's not a question. As briefly as possible, he outlines the odd and awkward circumstances at the Den that led up to their shared confrontation. He maintains eye contact through the explanation, and when he finishes he crosses his arms over his chest impassively.

Since Jack realized that Niki really /didn't/ remember, then her cluelessness will probably be even more painfully obvious when he retells the night at the Den. It seems difficult for her to maintain eye contact; she almost looks away several times, uncomfortable, almost embarrassed, but her need-to-know gaze wins out every time. By the end, she has her arms crossed, too — less impassively and more defensively. "I don't know what to tell you. I don't know… what that stuff with the marking on the bench means, I'm sorry that it happened."

"I believe you." And he does. Jack spent enough time as a grifter that he can recognize the signs of honest confusion. "Obviously, we got off on the wrong foot. Look, I don't normally do this for people who try to kill me and forget about it, but can I call you a cab or something? This isn't the nicest neighborhood after dark." As he speaks, he flicks away his spent cigarette and pulls his flask out of his coat. With one thumb, he deftly pops the stopper and takes a swig. After an instant's hesitation, he comes close enough to offer it over. "You want? It's good bourbon."

"No, I'll… I have a cell phone. I can call." Niki says with the vaguest hint of a gracious smile nevertheless. When offers the drink, she eyes it, eyes the building she just came from, eyes the bottle, eyes Jack - ultimately, several seconds drag on before she takes a heavy step down from the step she stands on, then another and another until her high-heeled boots bring her to the sidewalk. "I've never really liked bourbon." Which is totally why she reaches out to take the bottle, right? Something snaps. Breaks. Like, say, her willpower. Oh, Niki. This isn't your day.
GAME: Save complete.

For the first time since striking up the conversation, Jack smiles crookedly when the woman accepts the metal flask. "There's no better way to start over than sharin' a drink, and I've got no interest in squarin' off with you again. You're too bloody strong. Friends, then?"

Niki murmurs, mostly to herself, with the metal flask inches from her lips, "Starting over. Yeah, you've got that right." In what is a more monumentally bad decision than her unusually acquired acquaintance might realize, she takes a quick drink of the bourbon. "Mmh. It's actually better than I remembered." She hands it hurriedly back to Jack and, for a quuuick moment, looks like she's either going to either cry or scream, but never mind that — with a hard blink, it passes. The woman looks out onto the street. "I can't actually promise that she's not going to hurt you." There's no room for 'try to'. At least she's being honest.

When Niki squinches her face up, she reveals herself to be more than a girl who's too pretty and too burly for her own good. Instinctively, he reaches out to press a hand against her shoulder reassuringly. "Whoa. Steady-on, lass. You sure you don't want a hand gettin' home? Or you can come inside and sit down for a bit if you like." He waves vaugely over his shoulder in the direction of the Den. Then he freezes in mid-wave, and comprehension crawls over his features. "Waitasec. She? Were you not in control when you… y'know…" He pinches at his neck, pantomiming being choked. It might sound odd, but Jack's seen much stranger in the last few months.

Niki's arms wrap about her body again, and when Jack tries to steady her, she just looks down at the ground. "I'm fine," she insists quietly. Although she follows the wave in the direction of the bar - oh hey, that would be another monumentally bad decision - any answer is waylaid by the man's violent charades. She hesitates, slightly agape with indecision before she has another bout of honesty. "No, I… I can't control her." Niki focuses on Jack, earnest and … well, frankly, dire. "If she comes out again, if you give her any reason to want to hurt you, and she comes after you — you have to get away."

Though the thought of running away from a fight with a woman offends Jack's rugged, manly sensibilities, he knows that this is no ordinary woman. Rather than protest, which would fit well with his MO, he nods. "Ok. I will. I'll run away." With a sigh, he snaps his fingers. In the same instant he's holding a second cigarette and a lighter. "So.. Sometimes you aren't in control. That's fair, it happens to the best of us. It seems like things are little different for you, though." It's both a friendly reassurance and a gentle invitation to say more.

Niki looks ill-convinced of Jack's safety, although she's really not clear on what Jessica would want with him. When he produces the cigarette and lighter with nothing more than a snap, she squints at his hand, but says nothing. Some kind of trick. "Different," she repeats with a little laugh which, again, doesn't have much comedy. "Yeah, you could say that as an understatement."

"Shit." Jack peers down his nose at his cigarette, then shrugs. "It's something you've seen before. The other you, anyway. Admittedly, it was a little more spectacular last time. You didn't seem all that surprised, though. I get the impression that we might have more in common that first meets the eye. I've never met somebody as strong as Other You before."

Niki shakes her head subtly as if she doesn't follow what Jack is saying - but when she eventually clues in to what he's referring to, the little magic trick, she just gives him a vaguely questioning look. "She's really strong," she agrees reluctantly, accompanied by worry lines galore to get the message across. Really. Strong. "I guess… so am I now. I thought maybe— " Who knows, because she cuts herself off.

Jack licks at his lips nervously and glances about to make sure that no one has wandered up unnoticed. Then he pushes back the sleeves of his sweater and coat and presses both palms together. His brow furrows deeply with effort and concentration, and his clenches his eyes tightly closed. It takes a moment, but an immense boquet of roses pops out of existance at a closed florist's down the street and appears in his arms. After letting out a puff of breath and dabbing an imaginary spot of perspiration from his brow, he uses the boquet to gesture dramatically. "Whoo. That's bigger than I usually go for, but I wanted to make an impression. Sorry about the flowers, it's the first thing I think of when I'm dealing with a woman."

Niki, watching Jack cautiously - not because she's afraid of him or what he might do, but just because she doesn't know /what/ he's doing and it's making her curious - actually laughs, genuinely for the first time tonight (maybe /all day/) when the roses appear with a flourish. "That's… that's amazing. Granted," she lifts her brows, smiling one-sidedly as she reaches out to take the flowers, "I've seen flashier tricks in Vegas. Where'd they come from?"

"Three blocks away. A place called Tino's." Accustomed to disbelief, Jack shrugs and takes another deep breath. "Tell you what. Let's try something a little more personal. You said you've got a phone, right? It look anything like this?" The Irishman takes a few steps back, exaggerating the distance between Niki and himself. Then he snaps his fingers again, only this time he's holding the blonde's cell instead of a cigarette. Unfortunately, all this showing off is starting to take a toll on the already battered Jack. In the span of a half-second his face goes pale, flopsweat springs up at his brow and collar, and he sags backward until he plops down onto the steps gracelessly. Gasping for breath, he offers the phone back to its owner.

Niki didn't say she disbelieved! When her phone mysteriously appears in Jack's hand, though, that cinches it as more than a trick. Mostly. While she doesn't quite have the look of someone who's /astonished/, she definitely blinks a few times. "…Yeah. Okay, that is pretty amazing," she says through another laugh. But then Jack is down. "Are… you okay?" the woman with unsure concern as she takes the phone back, trading it for the roses (incidentally, the phone and bouquet are the same colour). "You don't look so hot."

Jack hold out one hand and nods raggedly. After sucking in a deep, shuddering breath he says, "Yeh. I think it was harder 'cause I've never seen the inside of your purse before. Sorta had to wing it, y'know?" With shaking hands, he pulls his flask out again and drains whatever's left in it. "The point of all that was to show you that you're not the only one going through wierd shit. I'm not gonna push, but if it gets to be too much for you, you can come talk to me anytime."

"I don't think that's a good idea," Niki admits with a dark look down the street to the Den of Iniquity, a hint of apology to her tone. "I try to stay away from places like the place you work. But thank you," she says, quite polite, and she means it. "You didn't have to show me that. And … you /really/ didn't have to believe me. So thanks." Before she tucks her cell phone back into her purse where it belongs, she looks for the number for a cab on it.

Laboriously, Jack hauls himself up from his seat on the steps. Swaying a bit, his wraps an arm around his torso and winces. "I'm not hitting on you, if that's what you're thinking. I can smell it when a woman isn't interested in me. I was just telling this kid earlier today that some people's demons are bigger and badder than others. There's no shame in accepting help." He glances at the blonde one more time, then shakes his head and turns to limp back toward his pub. "If you change your mind, you know where to find me. We can do lunch. Everyone's gotta eat." He doesn't slow, and the words are called out over his shoulder.

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