2007-02-18: I Fell Down Some Stairs


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Summary: Jack stops by Enlightenment Books to pick up a copy of Activating Evolution and comes face to face with the woman he saved earlier.

Date It Happened: February 18th, 2007

I Fell Down Some Stairs

Enlightenment Books

Sitting behind the information desk, Cass is leaning back in her seat and is deeply involved in re-reading Activating Evolution. It's true, she's read it already, but what with everything happening lately, she feels like it's due for another skimming. This time, though, she's got a stack of post-its and is sticking them liberally on the pages and writing things. She's got a highlighter in her mouth, a pen stuck into her hair and post-it notes stuck all over her sweater. It's like med school all over again. Obviously it hasn't been a busy day for the store.

Despite his somewhat ragged condition, Jack is on the move today. The bruises, burns, and lacerations on his face have begun to heal, but he still carries himself somewhat gingerly as he slips through the bookstore's front door. With crisp movements, he reaches up and snaps the collar of his dark, calf-length wool coat down around his neck. One hand is pressed against his side through his maroon sweater, as if it pains him, but his attention is on the merchandise as he enters the shop. After making a slow, full circle and taking in his surroundings, he makes his way toward the counter. "Excuse me," Jack calls out, his voice hoarse and grating. "I was hoping you could help me find a couple of things…" he trails off when he sees what the clerk is reading, and his eyes widen slightly.

Even though she's quite absorbed in her reading, Cass still looks up when the door opens. She forgets what exactly she looks like when she stands up to help her new customer. Sticking her stack of post-its in her place, she smiles and lets the highlighter drop out of her mouth into her hand and tosses it onto the desk. "Yes, what were you looking for?" She studies Jack for a moment, a memory triggering from somewhere. This man looks very familiar. "You…do I know you?"

"Ahem," Jack coughs into his fist briefly and nervously, buying himself a moment. When he straightens, his poker face is back in place. "I don't believe we've ever met." Quickly, he changes the subject. At this point, fleeing would only draw more attention. "I'm looking for a copy of Lord Byron's collected works," he rumbles. "And a copy of what you're reading."

Cass gives Jack a measuring look. The memory's a little fuzzy, but she knows she knows him from somewhere. "Really? You look so familiar." She frowns, trying to think it through, trying to place him, but she can't. Not letting her confusion last too long, or get too pushy with a customer, she shrugs and decides to slide into the more professional topic. "Well, I don't have any Byron, but I definitely have Activating Evolution. It got really popular really fast." Stepping out from behind her counter, she gestures for him to follow her to a shelf nearby. Plucking a copy out, she holds it out for him. "That one's easy."

Jack takes in a long, slow breath as he accepts the book. "Thanks. Any way you might be able to help me get my hands on the Byron?" His grey eyes flicker briefly toward the door. Still, he manages to more or less maintain his composure. "I'd be most appreciative."

Cass smiles and heads back to her counter, tucking stray hair back behind her ear. "Sure. There's a Barnes and Noble a couple of blocks up. They'll definitely have it. I'd love to get you a copy myself, but it'll take awhile to order it." Watching Jack, she raises her eyebrows. "Especially since you look like you have some place you need to be."

Jack lets out his pent-up breath and closes his eyes. "My apologies. It's been a long couple of days. How much do I owe you for this?" He gestures with the book and drums his long fingertips against it's spine with a forced casual air.

Cass gives Jack the total, still watching him curiously. "That's alright. It looks like you've had a long couple of days." It's said sympathetically, not sarcastically. Taking in his state and his almost paranoia while in her shop, her brows furrow. "Are you…alright? Do you want me to call someone for you?"

"That is much appreciated, but unnecessary." Jack now seems to find reasons to look everywhere but at Cass. If she'd identified him as being at the scene of the recently foiled carjacking he could be in for a world of red tape, and this is a most inconvenient time for it. Awkwardly, he clasps the book in front of his midsection, almost like a shield. "How much, please?"

Cass can obviously tell that Jack doesn't want to be in her store any longer. Everything about his body language shows how uncomfortable he is with her. And the fact that he doesn't want to look her in the eye just cinches the whole thing. Confused, she responds, "I…just said. It's $26.70."

Jack frowns briefly, then reaches out and passes one hand over the counter. When he withdraws, there are two crisp twenties in front of the register. "Of course," he replies. He bows his head briefly, silent for a long, ponderous moment, then he meets Cass's gaze squarely. "I was there," he says simply. "Are you ok? That mess on the street was pretty bad."

The memory finally clicks into place for Cass. The weird euphoria, the carjacker, the man who smashed him on the head. "You…it was you." She keeps her eyes focused on Jack. "I knew I knew you." Looking at Jack, she's a bit wide-eyed. "Thanks for what you did. Really. I'm fine now. Still a little freaked out, but, you know." Pause. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I guess I overreacted a bit when I saw what was happening. I'm not sure what came over me." Jack's voice is gentle and soothing now, and his manner far more relaxed now that he has little left to hide. "I'm sorry I lied to you when I came in. I was afraid you'd think I was crazy or something. This is the last place I expected to bump into you."

Cass relaxes a bit herself, seeing that Jack is relaxing. "I…know what you mean." After all, she was the one hugging a carjacker. "Me? Think you were crazy? I'm the one who tried to stop a man with a gun with love." Looking down, she realizes she's still sort of covered in post-it notes. Some of them have things scribbled on them. Blushing, she starts unsticking them and lining them up on the edge of the desk. Then, she realizes she hasn't rung him up. Quickly, she takes care of the receipts and the cash and hands back the change and the receipt. "This is the last place I expected to see you, too."

Jack nods knowingly. Cass's fast-handed behavior with the post-it's doesn't escape his keen, gambler's eyes. "Apparently we have similar curiosities," he comments. Though he can't read the notes from where he stands, he gestures both to them and to Cass's well-read copy of 'Activating Evolution.' "If I may ask, where did your interest begin?"

Cass smiles a little. "My father sent me a couple a couple of months ago. But the last couple of weeks it's like this book keeps coming up in the strangest places." The smile fades a little, turning more into a pensive frown. "So, I figured I might want to re-read it. See if I was missing something. What about you? Why are you picking up a copy?"

"Loaned mined to a friend," Jack replies. "Thought I'd buy her a copy of her own so I could have mine back." His answer is evasive, but honest. "Fascinating reading." He leans his right elbow on the counter, sighing appreciatively as some of the weight and pressure is lifted from his battered muscles and joints.

Cass nods understandingly. "Fascinating, for sure. Where's your interest come from? It's funny, I'm getting all sorts of people who I never expected to be here coming in just to get this book." Hearing his sigh when he leans against the counter, she gives him another evaluating glance. "Do you want some aspirin or something?"

Jack smiles and shakes his head wearily. "Trust me," he rumbles. "If Percocet won't do the job, I don't think aspirin will. Thanks, though." He sets his newly acquired book down on the counter and rakes his fingers through tangled, dark hair. "As for my interest? Let's just say I have a family-inspired thirst for knowledge concerning the human genome."

Cass raises an eyebrow, unable to keep a broad smile off her face. "So an interest for genes runs in the family?" Yes, it's a bad pun, but she just can't help herself. Then, she schools her expression into something a bit more serious. "Alright, well, just offering. I don't like seeing people in pain. What'd you do to yourself?"

Jack smirks at Cass's small joke. "I fell down some stairs," he intones, his voice completely neutral. Then he smiles once again. "In truth, it's a very long and uninteresting story. I'll bore you with the bloody details some other time."

Cass gives Jack a strange look. "You do realize that's the excuse anyone being beaten up by their significant others makes, right?" She's not sure if he's trying to make a joke, yet. But when he smiles, she realizes that he is. "Well, I'll take your word on that one. Though any story ending with bruises and percocet does not sound like it would be boring."

"Psh. The truth is just an excuse for a poor imagination. Sadly, I don't have the energy to spin you a tale just now." Grinning, Jack leans more heavily against the counter. He obviously far prefers evasive sparring to anything like telling the truth.

Cass can tell that. Of course, she doesn't mind. "Well, then I'll just have to hold you to that colorful tale at some other time." Matching Jack's grin with one of her own, she sits back down into her chair. When another customer comes in, she smiles at the new woman. "Pardon me. Hopefully I'll see you soon. I'm Cass, by the way."

Jack lifts his hand in a brief salute. "Jack. Pleasure to meet you in a less stressful environment. Thanks for the book, too." Smiling, he tucks 'Activating Evolution' under his arm and strides out the door.

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