2007-02-21: Dramatis Personae

Starring:

Jack_icon.gif Eliana_icon.gif

Jack expresses interest in joining the heroic, world-saving "cast," and both Jack and Eliana end up expressing interest in each other as a roundabout result, making minor changes to the annotations of the cast of characters for their life stories.

Date It Happened: February 21st, 2007

Dramatis Personae


New York, Lower East Side - East Centennial Apartments, Apartment 301

It may be rare that Eliana cooks, but it does happen once in a rare while. And something like pot roast, which can go in early in the day and come out once she's home from the office, is pretty much fool proof. Still dressed in gray slacks and a pale blue argyle sweater over a white button up, Eliana is bent over to look in the oven and check on the meat. It's almost done, and so she slips a tray of pre-canned dinner rolls onto another rack so that the two can come out together.

The doorknob rattles, then an instant later Eliana's keys dematerialize. An instant later the smooth, metallic insertion and clicking of the lock opening can be heard. The door open, and Jack steps through. His neat, tan slacks and loose, light-cream shirt are the only things about him that appear to be in order. Hair wilder than usual, eyes red-rimmed and dark-circled, he's clearly seen better days. "Hey," he murmurs.

Eliana snaps her head up as she closes the oven door with a 'clack', but her usual salutatory smile is subdued by Jack's demeanor. She narrows her eyes a bit in concern, then turns and simply rests her backside against the counter, reaching over to pick up a clove that's been smoldering in an ashtray. "Hey," she answers, mimicing his tone. Due to his appearance, their recent troubles, and the fact Jack hadn't taken up his now usual spot on her bed last night, Eliana's imagination starts to tumble with ideas. But it's always better just to ask. "What happened?"

"A tiny Japanese man invited me to help save the world? Wanna come?" If this statement seems at all odd to Jack, he doesn't show it as he shrugs out of his coat. His tone takes on a more serious note as he continues. "I learned a few things about the paintings. Not Good Things." He pauses, still not having met Eliana's eyes. Should he admit to last night's mistake?

Eliana remains relatively calm, or at least, if her heart /has/ sped up, Jack is far enough away from her in the smallish apartment not to feel the subtle effects. While she doesn't fight to find Jack's eyes with hers, she does not let his insecurity escape her notice. But it's all wrapped up in his general behavior at the moment. As he speaks, Eliana lifts a single eyebrow a bit higher, then takes a drag on the clove before lowering it to tap ash into the glass receptacle. "I wasn't aware the world was in any major danger. Unless this tiny man has some sort of answer for the pump-up terrorism threat or global warming." Her tone is level. Almost too level. Still, there seems to be some validity in Jack's words, and so Eliana adds, "What sorts of things?"

Jack scrubs a hand across his visage, then leans against the door wearily and drops his coat in a puddle on the floor. Finally, he lifts his eyes to Eliana's face. Later. He'll tell her later. Besides, they've been sleeping in seperate rooms of the same apartment for days. She must not be interested in crazies. "High on the list? Some sort of biotoxin, a guy who cuts the tops of people's heads off, and a tornado in the middle of New York City. According to my new friend Short Round, the artist Mendez could paint the future." Again, Jack shows no hesitation in admitting to buying into so wild a theory.

"So," Eliana says slowly, her eyes narrowing with the skepticism of a good journalist, "you're saying that in the future, some girl is going to dance naked, and some guy is going to watch her from the shadows? Or is this…tornado, this lobotomist, …and this biotoxin…are these in other paintings? Did he /see/ the future, or did he only /paint/ it?"

"Signs still hazy. Ask again later," Jack replies. "There are more than a dozen paintings in total. Laid out like the pages of a comic book, they tell the future. And according to the comics, our future sucks." He crouches down and being to unlace his boots as he continues. "Hiro, the Japanese guy, tells me that Issac Mendez was one of The Lobotomizer's victims."

Eliana takes another drag on the cigarette while she listens to Jack, then rubs it out in the ashtray, opting to fold her arms across her chest instead. "I take it he wasn't a fan," she remarks dryly. "So this Hiro guy," she soon continues, shaking her head and lifting a hand to run through her hair as if to coax the thoughts from her head, "he thinks he can do something to change this future, huh? Save the world?" God, it sounds so silly and…well, the stuff of a sci-fi novel. "So will the pictures change? How does he know he even /can/ change them, assuming that they're legitimately prophetic?"

"Because he can bend time and space," Jack paraphrases Short Round. "I never told you this, but he was at Common Grounds the night of the explosion. I don't know about time travel, but he can certainly get where he wants to be in a hurry." He shucks one boot, then the other. "It's not all that different from what I do, really."

Eliana's icy wall is beginning to melt, and it's first evident in her face. She softens, and slowly nods. "Just with people, not things, and without so many limitations, huh?" Eliana pulls her lips tight, almost into a frown, and with a sigh starts over toward Jack, but takes a turn to go to the couch and flop onto it at one end. A few moments later, she speaks again. "I like this world," she murmurs. "And I don't want it to go away, by tornado, earthquake, or any other Godly wrath. But…well, I'm not exactly /useful./" Jack's useful. Handy, one might say.

Jack shrugs his broad, sloping shoulders expressively. He follows Eliana to the couch, sitting down near her, but not immediately adjacent. The look he gives her is long, curious and regretful at the same time. Then Jack shakes his head, returning his focus to the matter at hand. "You need to talk to Hiro. Somehow, that cheerful, busy little bastard makes it all sound so simple. Good guys unite, try hard, beat bad guys. Curtain."

"But what if you're not the protagonist?" Eliana quickly counters, her tone darker than before as she stares blankly at the television, the hand farthest from Jack cradling her head in its fingers. "Or what if you're meant to lose, not to win, in some twist of the typical plot structure? Real life isn't like fiction, hon. Just because you're the noble one doesn't mean that you're destined for victory." Enter Devil's Advocate, stage left.

"Maybe real life's more like fiction than you think. What happens if we're right, and we don't try?" Jack leaves the question hanging in the air for a long, ponderous moment. "I'm not going to sit by and wait this one out. Things have been too strange all at once for this to be nothing more than an Asian office worker's fantasy."

Eliana turns her head just enough to look at Jack, and it doesn't take long for the ghost of a smile to brush across her face. "Alright, gallant hero," she mumbles. "But promise me one thing before you go off to fight this metaphorical dragon?"

"Anything," Jack offers. He slides a long-fingered hand across the surface of the couch tenatively, then withdraws. It won't be long before he pops and sticks his foot in his mouth, at this rate.

But as Jack slips his hand away, Eliana turns and grabs it with one of her own, staring intently into his face. "Don't be stupid," she half-whispers, her heart pounding in her chest and sending a cloud with moderate potency into the air. "Don't be stupid and get yourself killed." Eli pauses, her eyes darting across his face before settling back on his. "I don't care how many of us there may be out there, but… but /you're/ the one I care about." It has to do with trust, secrets, and the more universal concept of friendship.

The word 'care' causes Jack to flinch visibly. T-Minus 3… 2… 1… ERUPTION. He disengages his hand from Eliana's and ducks his head. "What are we? Are we friends? Are we more? Have I been completely deluding myself?" Stress, injury, and anticipation have been leaning on Jack's psyche for days now, and he no longer has the presence of mind to phrase things tactfully. "I slept with a woman I met at the bar last night." His voice rises and his eyes widen at the admission.

Initially, Eliana is scared. She hadn't anticipated Jack pulling away so fast, and so her heartbeat quickens and doesn't seem like it's going to let up. The only thing she can bring herself to do, other than look at Jack with mouth slightly opened with confusion, is blink excessively. Once she gets a hold of this, she closes her eyes and lips and tries to calm down, but the effort doesn't do much to stop the unseen flow of gas into the air. "We…" but Eli can't come up with an answer that quickly. She can't help but feel slightly injured by Jack's actions, but at the same time she recognizes the emotion as irrational. "…deluding yourself?" she finally gets out, twisting her expression into one of befuddlement. Huh? What had Jack thought?

Aaaaaand… scene. Wait. It's not over? Jack, head bowed, remains silent for the moment. If there's a way to solve this while maintaining even a shred of dignity and self-respect, he's yet to find it. Finally he admits, "I… I wish I hadn't." Jack makes no attempt to qualify or justify what he obviously considers to have been an err in judgement. The addition of Eliana's ability to his own pre-existing stress and nervousness sends his heart racing, thumping near-visibly beneath his thin shirt.

That admission could mean anything, but Eliana takes it to mean both. "It's not like it was /wrong,/" she murmurs, sliding to sit a little closer to Jack, hesitantly resting her far hand just above his knee. She's starting to calm down, but 'normalcy' is a bit off yet. "Jack," she says in a softer voice which erupts into a small laugh once she takes another breath. "I don't think you could handle me, to be completely honest." It shouldn't be hard to figure out why. "So… so it's good that you found someone." It's hard for Eliana to say, and it more than shows.

Jack gives his head a quick jerk, shaking it before lifting his eyes to Eliana's. Despite this, much of the tension bleeds from his muscles as he leans in closer, too. "I was frightened, and confused, and I didn't find anything I couldn't have found on late-night cable." He bites his lower lip hard. It's obvious that this admission is taking a lot out of the normally stoic Jack.

Eliana lifts her hand from Jack's leg to his face without even thinking, pressing her palm slightly against his cheek. She takes a deep breath, the receding gas diluting slowly in the air. "I'm not mad at you, Jack," she whispers, looking from one of his eyes to the other in turn. "I don't have a right to be mad." It's not like his broken a promise or anything. Still, behind Eliana's words is a slightly less than silent wish that she did have such a privilege.

Jack reaches up to press his hand against the Eliana's. A long, explosive exhalation later, he looks as if the weight of the world has been lifted from his shoulders. His eyes shimmer with a silent question, but prudence urges him to by thankful for small miracles, and be happy that he hasn't alienated one of his very few friends. Then, despite the voice of prudence, his fingers curl snugly around Eli's and his body sags wearily against hers.

Eliana leans back so that Jack's head lies against her chest, letting out a ragged sigh of her own before she slides one hand up and into Jack's hair. Even with the ebbing airborne drug, proximity to Eliana's skin, even though covered by two shirts, is a slightly more dangerous position. Eliana is fighting to keep her heartbeat, the loud thumping now audible to Jack, under control, but she's only having some success at it. She closes her eyes and smiles softly, pressing a gentle kiss against her temporary roommate's upturned temple.

Jack sighs appreciatively, leaning into the press of Eli's lips. His own heartbeat slows, but only marginally. Relaxed for the first time in days, her lets out a near-purring rumble and the stroking of fingers through his hair. Turning his head, he returns the kiss with one of his own that lands far back on her jaw. He's had some time to grow accustomed to the effects of Eliana's presence. Maybe too much, as all traces of the nervousness he showed on the first occasions he encountered this eupohoria is gone.

While the returned affection is welcomed, Eliana can't help but stiffen slightly. She narrows her eyes a bit as she looks down as best she can at Jack, rubbing her other hand against his cheek in an effort to gently get his attention. "I'm not the drug, Jack," she whispers almost apologetically. He'd described himself as a lush, and addictive personalities aren't something Eliana is sure she wants to tango with.

Jack blinks several times as if he's suddenly finding himself after being lost. He peers back up at Eliana, then pulls back slightly. "I'm sorry," he apologizes as well. "There are so many things going on that I never would've imagined… It's hard to keep up sometimes." It's not an explanation, really, but it's all he's got.

Eliana remains where she is, but it's clear she wishes Jack were still resting against her and her arms were tighter around him. She draws them slowly back, laying them both on his shoulders instead. "Do…do you wish sometimes that you didn't have it? That you were like everyone else? Do you ever think that'd make things so much easier?" Eliana can't imagine Jack answering in the affirmative, as his abilities are much more useful and much less hindering, but she has to ask. There's a chance, after all, and if she can't express the soft, subconscious wish to him, to who can she?

Jack watches Eliana closely. Her desperation is a mirror image of his own, though it stems from a different cource. One of his hands reaches up to toy with a lock of her hair as he shakes his head only one time. "I wish that people were smarter. Kinder. That being different wouldn't mean we'd have to /feel/ different." Jack halts, obviously frustrated by both his inability to explain the concept and the slim chance of it ever occuring. With a sigh, he melts back against Eliana. "I'm not making any sense."

Perhaps it's the pressure of Jack on her chest once again or perhaps it's relief that pushes a sigh out of Eliana. Regardless, she seems happier once she's able to hug him gently to her again, and she deposits another kiss on his hair. "You're just answering a different question," she replies, her heart rate almost back to normal again. Being able to relax around Jack and recover somewhat quickly from tense situations sure helps.

That's for damn sure. Far from the wreck he was when he arrived, Jack has finally settled in. "Eli.." he whispers, his hand sliding down to the nape of her neck. "You never answered my /first/ round of questions. What is this? Us, I mean. Most women who proclaim they're too much for me usually follow by giving me a six-digit phone number, not snuggling closer."

Eliana swallows, then presses the side of her face against Jack's head, partly so she doesn't have to look at him. "I don't know. I think I know what I want, but I don't want to…I don't want anything bad to happen to you." Eliana is quiet for a moment, inwardly debating something. But if she can't be candid with Jack… "I told you it's been a long time. I… well, unless you count drunken one night stands that sometimes result in ambulance trips as relationships, I haven't dated since high school."

"I've never dated, as it were." Another rare admission of vulnerability from Jack. "I grew up knewing I was different. If I couldn't tell someone that…" He lets out a sigh. "I guess you know what I mean. Growing up must've been a lot harder for you."

Eliana breathes out a soft chuckle. "Maybe. I certainly had to learn self control pretty fast, but growing up is part of life. You never really stop, you know? Anyway, I…well, /this/ is one of those times I wish I were like other people."

Jack nods and reaches up to run his fingertips lightly down Eliana's cheek. "I understand, I think." He leans up farther to brush another kiss against her jaw, this time on the other side. "For what it's worth, I like you as you are for the right reasons, not the wrong ones."

Eliana angles her head so she look at Jack again, her lips pulling into a self conscious sort of smile. "That's worth a lot," she whispers, "especially from a guy so great he wants to try and save the whole world." Speaking the last of this in the slightest bit of a rush, Eliana leans forward just enough to stop her mouth against Jack's in a physical punctuation mark on the end of her sentence.

"Than—" Whatever else Jack was going to say, it's muffled by Eliana's kiss. Both hands slide aruond to the small of her back and press gently and he meets her lips with his. This is trust. This is acceptance. This is /good./

Whatever battle with her heartbeat and its more dastardly side effects Eliana was waging, she runs up the white flag as she holds Jack close in the kiss. Still, the exhilarating feeling that runs through her is only due in part to her slightly elevated heart rate. Kisses can't last forever, but not long after her lips have parted from Jack's, Eliana is searching his eyes for some sort of response to her boldness, hoping that whatever tolerance he may have built up to the gas is enough for him to see through the invisible fog around them both.

It seems that Jack finally has the answer to his question. He lets out a quick, low breath, steadying himself as a wide smile crosses his face. Fingertips trail up Eliana's spine as he looks into her eyes. "You're a special kind of girl, you know that?" he asks, his voice light and teasing in an attempt to diffuse the moment.

That smile is back in full force, brightening Eliana's face as it gets slightly pinker. "Well, when you put it that way," she answers before she leans forward to kiss Jack again, curling her fingers into his hair and arching her back in his embrace.

Jack's hands tug insistantly at the bottom hem of Eliana's shirt. His gaze flickers in the direction of the bedroom meaningfully as his lips trail a whispery line around the curve of her ear.

BEEEEEEEP. The timer on the oven proves to be the bell that tolls for Eliana and Jack, and the pink-haired girl falls back with a grumble as the sound rings through the small apartment. Maimondies has been stalking the kitchen, undetected, for some time now, impatiently waiting for the scrumptious smelling food to come /out/ of the oven. Mumbling an apology, Eliana wiggles off the couch and practically runs to the kitchen to take care of the roast. It's pulled out of the oven along with the tray of rolls, and then the oven is shut off. With desperate speed, Eliana whips out the plastic wrap to secure the meat and vegetables before the whole pan is pushed into the fridge, and the rolls are unceremoniously dumped into a plastic baggie which is then zipped shut. The cat is more than a little upset, and yowls in protest, but Eliana ignores him as she moves back to the couch to run a playful and urgent hand through Jack's hair before she disappears into the bedroom.

Jack lets out a low, satisfied whistle, turning his head to follow Eliana with his eyes as she steps into the bedroom. Then, remember himself, he starts after her. "Err," It's obvious that when he arrived he expected to be tossed on his ear, not welcomed with open arms.

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