2007-12-27: Just Business

Starring:

Jack_icon.gif Lachlan_icon.gif Niki_icon.gif

Summary: Jack and Lachlan conduct separate business at Therapy and discover Niki to varying degrees and levels of surprise. Jack and Niki catch up. Warning: slight adult situations/conversation ahead!

Date It Happened: December 27th, 2007

Just Business


Therapy (Exotic Bar)

Queens, New York

This Queens strip club has been a hotspot lately. An abundance of publicity and good reviews has it packed tonight. It's a constant party zone, seeming to only get more happening the later it gets — and it's already pretty damn late in the night. Shooter girls, wearing almost as little as some of the dancers, as well as waitresses and bartenders are stretched to their max, keeping up with the various groups around the club. Women easily picked out from the crowd as the strippers come and go with customers into what must be the VIP rooms in the back. The DJ is playing a mix of atypical songs, heavy and industrial.

The vodka/rocks rattles audibly in Jack's hand. Grimacing, he squeezes his glass harder to still the tremors. Withdrawl isn't being incredibly kind to him. He's continued to drop weight, leaving him thin to the point of being gaunt. His cheekbones jut prominantly and his eyes are sunken. Despite all of this, he's dressed himself well for the evening. A black suit tailored to his newer, sparser dimensions clings and flows around his lean form, though he's passed on the opportunity to wear a tie.

His contact has come and gone. The delivery he'd been expecting went exactly as anticipated. The only business he has left here is to make a show of enjoying himself so it won't look like he came to a strip club for any other reason that to enjoy the titties.

It pays to be inconspicuous, after all.

Ironically, a contact is the reason Lachlan came to the bar, too, and it's almost related. He doesn't look so hot either: sluggish, eyes reddened and deeply shadowed, and now complete with a certain sense of latent paranoia, the Scot sits at a table speaking in a low and heated voice with a small Chinese man seated across from him. By the look of things, it's not a friendly sort of conversation. Lachlan's hunched over the table with several cigarettes tamped out in the ashtray and another burning between his index and middle fingers. He's staring intently at the little man with his free hand clenched tightly into a fist, looking like it could swing at any minute. The other man is much less on the verge of cracking and looks more annoyed than anything. After several words pass that escalate in intensity, the Chinaman gets up, throws down some money, and walks out. Lachlan slides back against his seat and cradles his head in his hand.

Jack fishes around in his suit pocket and comes up a moment later with two small, white ovals. Nobody's eyes are keen enough to see the 'V' for Vicodin printed on them both, but the insignia is there all the same. He tosses them in his mouth and washes them down the with last of his drink.

"Okay…" he mutters grimly. "Time to have some fun." Abruptly straightening, he points at a knot of girls situated between himself and the bar. "You! No, not you. You with the clear heels. I guess that's not very helpful. Okay. Short redheaded broad with the titty tattoo. C'mere. I've got some money."

Lachlan continues to remain where he sits, but eventually brings his head up to take a pull from his cigarette. His hands are shaking, but he's not doing too bad in keeping his face neutral. That is until he spots Jack. The man sorta did call attention to himself. The Scot's eyes widen and he hunches down in his chair again, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. Goddamn it. No one he knows is supposed to see him here.

Meanwhile, Jack is calling as much attention to himself as possible. This is what we in the business refer to as 'creating an airtight alibi.' His crass honking earns him a predictable lack of response from the ladies, most of whom are probably waitresses anyway. His second attempt involves heaping small bills onto the table in front of him until they resemble nothing so much as a tiny green haystack. This is more successful. Soon he has companionship, a fresh drink, and a crooked grin that conflicts with the dispassionate coldness in his eyes.

As happens every so often, the stages empty after a few songs, dancers busy with hustling for lap dances — like the redhead Jack targets. Another dancer is called up by the DJ, the noise of the club drowning out his announcement save for "JESSICA". The music shifts into a harder tune, even heavier and almost ominous, violent, yet not at all out of place with the atmosphere tonight. Stalking onto the center stage, into the staccato of blue, flashing lights, covered in a slip of a white-silvery robe, is a tall, trim blonde. A dime a dozen, around these parts, but not exactly run of the mill — because it's Niki. While she may be dolled up with more dramatic make-up than she wears in the every day, it's hardly a disguise.

The music comes in an onslaught, and like the song, the dance starts out hard and fast with a bang — that is, the robe doesn't last long as it's thrust off. The resulting reveal is— well, revealing, what do you expect? It's white lingerie, made up of slim strips of precariously positioned fabric like suspenders. There are far too many faces in the crowd for Niki to pick out any she recognizes, even though her smoky eyes pass by a few times, it's no doubt an act, only really seeing the customers closest to the tiprail.

Perfect! A crowd in which to lose himself. As customers rush to the tip rail for the new stripper's performance, Lachlan, too, evacuates his chair and shoulders his way in. He's so intent on hiding himself from Jack that he doesn't really notice who is onstage — but after a little while, he does turn his gaze upward with a five dollar bill extended for show, and he freezes dead cold. Oh god, oh god, oh god.

Minutes pass, dollars change hands, and Jack's suit jacket comes off. The blaring crescendo of the new song bleeds over his whispered small talk with the stripper, leaving her words hissing in his ear like a foreign language.

The flurry of activity on and around the stage is enough to grab anyone's interest, even that of a twice-occupied Irishman. He glances over, then away, then back again. One of his eyebrows slowly creeps up into a curious, incredulous expression. Then he snorts, shakes his head, and mutters, "God, I love this town. You. Rehead. Vamanos. Arriba." The dismissal comes complete with an imperious shooing gesture.

The sultry come-hither-if-you-dare eyes and the nearly vicious moves up and down and around the pole call up visions of the stage name Niki happens to be going by. The difference is, as she dances, it's a sexy persona, a show; her smile isn't quite devious enough, her demeanour as palpably dangerous as Jessica. After spiralling down off the pole with a sweep of her leg, she doesn't recognize the Scotsman with the five dollar bill until she's arching her back off the floor of the stage. The thumb that she has hooked under one of those white lingerie suspenders — yeah, it stops what it was doing. Hi, Lachlan.

Lachlan just stares. Gapes, really. Slack-jawed, wide-eyed, utterly abjectly horrified. He's had nightmares like this. He really has. Maybe this is a nightmare too. He very quickly withdraws the fiver and his arm and then himself from the tiprail. Then he starts to muscle his way toward the door. And he makes good time for a guy whose heart stopped about five seconds ago.

Once his lap has been vacated, Jack stands, picks up his drink, and makes a beeline for the meat rack. A little more than halfway there he collides with the fleeing Scotsman, spilling vodka on his own suit in the process. "Oi. I'm gonna carve your jacobs off an'—Lachlan… ?"

A moment passes while Jack reviews his memories of walking in on a nearly-nude and ready-to-go Cassandra Aldric. "You're the last person I expected to see at a skin bar. Well. You and everybody's favorite MILF."

Lachlan was a face Niki would have expected to see here over the other faces she's seen in the last couple of weeks - what can she do but watch him go with a slightly dumbfounded look? That's exactly what she does, but there's only a bit of a delay before she gets back to business. Oblivious to Jack being around too, she can only assume Lachlan split the scene; she can't spend any more time finding out, she has a stage show to finish. So, on it goes with a toss of long, pale hair in an artful mess of waves and a lot of leg and dollar bills up there on the stage floor.

Shit. Lachlan looks first like a jumpy dog, and then like one that's about to wet the rug. Yes. This has to be a nightmare. "'M no' here fer tha'," he manages to stutter weakly, pointing toward the stage. "'M just … business. Had some business. Client." Paraplegics aren't nearly as lame as he sounds right now.

Jack squints one eye shut and peers at Lachlan through the other one, then shrugs and slaps him heartily on the shoulder. "Look, I won't tell if you won't. I'd rather park my organ in Trina than on one of these stools. The sacrifices we make, eh?" He smiles mirthlessly and down the dregs of his vodka in one fast gulp. "You on your way out? I was about to go enjoy a soccer mom if you'd care to join me."

While Lachlan and Jack are … reunited, Niki skilfully climbs the pole with the help of clear heels and the bare arms and legs that pull and wrap the metal with strength. And with strength like that— she makes it look easy, even hanging upside-down by her calves. The song changes, slowing down into a less industrial style in a cover of Depeche Mode's "Stripped," and it lives up to its name. And the club's reputation. Niki isn't exactly fitting the bill of a "soccer mom" during the few steamy minutes that follow, suffice to say, and if she sees any more familiar faces, she doesn't make a show of it.

Lachlan is still completely sick inside. And pale, haggard, rather not in the mood to see boobs (which is some sort of a miracle), and most especially not Niki's. The last thing he needs is Niki slipping a note to Cass. "She'll tell Cass," he mumbles to Jack. "An' I'm no' exactly in any position ta have Cass get pissed at me."

Jack is distracted. He's eyeballing Niki the way a butcher eyes a particularly promising head of cattle. Clinically. "Eh? Sure, sure. Go on, get outta here before anybody else spots you. If Cass gets wind of it, just tell her you followed me in because I was doing something reckless."

Speaking of reckless, he's advancing on the tip counter with a mischevious glint in his eye. Considering the show and the size of the crowd, it's no easy feat to find a stool, but he manages.

And then he waits. Hello, soccer mommy.

Hello indeed. By the tail end of her show, Niki sees Jack, all right; and she's very aware that she definitely sees her. But this isn't the place to be bashful or modest, and she's not. Aside from a barely perceptible roll of her eyes on seeing him (because seriously why is everyone here), she doesn't change anything about her dance. She pointedly doesn't pay any attention to Jack, in fact, while the rest of the crowd at the rail gets her attentions and vice versa. Even after Niki's show is over, and she's off the stage, she doesn't reappear right away.

And that is when Lachlan makes his getaway. After a grateful nod to Jack, he turns and disappears outside, vowing never again to let someone arrange to meet him in a strip club. Ever. Again.

Jack puts on an exaggerated face of woe when he's thoroughly ignored and passed over by Niki time and time again. When she ambles off the stage he heaves out a heavy, heartbroken sigh. "Whoever said blondes were more fun never knew one with a kid in private school," he pouts. "Where the hell is my redhead? I need someone to vacuum out my wallet."

Some time later, when Lachlan's dust has long since settled, and Jack has had time to talk to himself (and maybe rediscover his redhead), Niki weaves her way from the back … somewhere. Dressing rooms, VIP, both, who knows, but she's at least as clothed as she was when she stepped out on stage, which is to say, all she's showing is a lot of leg. "I'd say I wasn't expecting to see you here, but since you own a place called the Den of Iniquity, I'm not really surprised," she says flatly, coming up beside Jack. Wherever he's found himself.

As soon as Niki left, Jack lost interest in the meat rack and found his way back to his hastily vacated table. He's alone, though there are two drinks set out. One is vodka and the other is whichever fruit juice the bartended deemed girliest.

When Niki approaches, his unabashedly appraising stare comes out to play again. As before, there's nothing sexual about it. It's more akin to sizing a racehorse at the line. After a few seconds he snorts out a laugh and waves to an empty chair. "Nice stems," he comments blandly. "But if you needed a job, all you had to do was ask me."

As she sits down in the empty chair, Niki brushes her hair off of one shoulder onto the other, sweeping it around the back of her neck. "At the bar?" she questions with the tiniest hint of incredulity. "Thanks for the late offer, but I'm doing okay here."

"Not necessarily," Jack replies quietly. "Look… if you ever get tired of taking your clothes off, you call me. I'm sure I can find something for you to do." Now the first hint of emotion he's shown without snickering comes to the fore. Concern. His grey eyes are calmly fixed on hers. "You okay?" he asks simply.

Crossing one leg over the other, Niki glances off into the busy club in the general direction of the bar before giving Jack a briefly curious look. If not at the bar then where— ? She doesn't ask for clarification, though; she meets his gaze. "Yeah," she answers with a glint of sincerity and a smile — gracious, for Jack's concern. "Things could be better, they could be less upside-down, but you know, I've— " She pauses, fixes her phrasing. "I'm coming to terms with it."

The corners of Jack's mouth tug upward into a small smile. "It seems like the more upside-down you are, the better things go for you around here," he teases. "And your son is far too bright not to know that you're naked-ish right now, isn't he? Is that weird for you? Because it's weird for me." He gives a quick shiver and lifts his glass for a swig.

Niki smirks, laughing quietly under her breath at the tease. The pleasant expression fades as she glances down on Jack's other comments. "It wouldn't be the first time he's figured it out," she admits — obviously, it's not the most comfortable subject. "I keep this part of my life separate. We don't talk about how I pay my share of the bills. He just knows I do whatever it takes."

"That's fair," Jack acknowledges. "I know you're just trying to take care of him. Sorry I brought it up." He stifles a yawn against the back of his hand and rolls his neck to loosen muscles that haven't been properly worked or stretched in far too long. He dips into his pocket and comes up with a second dose of Vicodin, which he devours unceremoniously. "Any word on your husband?" he asks after another gulp to wash them down.

Niki watches the short-lived trek of the medication from the bottle to Jack's mouth with watchful, unspoken concern. "I spoke with Agent Ivanov," she comments quietly a moment later, only just loud enough to be heard, at least to Jack, over the music. "He wanted to help, he said he was going to try, but— D.L… he won't have any of it."

Jack squints his eyes closed for reasons that have nothing to do with his aches. "Of course he won't," he sighs. "He'd rather rot in prison than take help from me or that damnable Cossack." The frustrated statement is punctuated with another dose of painkillers, this one swallowed dry and straight from the bottle. "Ahem. Any idea what you're going to do?"

"I'm not going to do anything," the blonde answers, not without a hint of bitterness. Even more prominent, perhaps, is regret. Even as she talks about her husband's predicament, she watches Jack with a certain amount of caution and concern. "He's convinced that staying in there without charity, even in the worst possible place— " A cringe furrows her brow, thinking of the particular prison, no doubt. " — is for the best. That being away from … us, is … better. And, as much as I want to help him— I don't really disagree."

"Sounds serious," Jack murmurs, his lips and tounge just barely having difficulty forming all those 's' sounds through veils of vodka and Vicodin. "I've gotta admit, I'm kind of worried about you, kid. You've taken a lot of knocks since I met you, and that was less than a year ago…" He trails off and shrugs. "I guess that's why I keep sticking my nose in your business."

And those were only the most recent in a string of knocks, but Niki only gives a mirthless laugh through an exhale, tucks her chin in and glances down again. The mousy gesture doesn't really mesh with her current attire and the persona she's supposed to uphold, but it doesn't last long, anyway; her expression is more determined, once she looks up again. "I'm okay," she says — again. "If it wasn't for this whole mess with D.L. and… that social worker…" She tries to mentally shove away the guilty cringe that instinctively comes up, only half succeeding. "I'm getting help and…" Enough about her! Niki lifts worried brows at Jack. "Are you okay, Jack? You're downing those pills and booze like there won't be a tomorrow."

"What, these?" Jack shakes the pill bottle and sets it down on the table. "I have a… problem. These help. They're supposed to be for pain, right?" He sticks his lower lip out in a boyish and overly pouty fashion. "I hurt. You wouldn't begrudge me a little relief, would you?"

"It's not my place," Niki concedes with a shrug that would be easy-going, under the satiny fabric of her robe, if it weren't for the concerned look that stays locked on the Irishman. "Pain before sobriety and pain before serenity," she tacks on as if reciting word for word from an invisible book — an AA mantra. Flattening a palm against her stomach where the sash of her robe ties, she starts to get to her high-heeled feet. "I have to get back to work."

"Right. Of course. Real quick, though?" Jack swivels around so Niki can see his lower body and gestures to strip around his pubic area. "Is all that down there optional, or is it part of the uniform?"

He almost keeps from cracking a smile. Almost.


Outtakes

<OOC> Niki says, "http://www.girlielingerie.com/product_detail.php?vid=116 'cause it reminds me of http://alilarterfan.com/coppermine/displayimage.php?album=436&pos=2 which is the best ever. :>"
<OOC> Jack asdjgh
<OOC> Jack says, "Ali Larter's breasts just ate my pose."
<OOC> Lachlan says, "But what a way to go."
<OOC> Jack says, "True that."
<OOC> Niki dies.
<OOC> Jack says, "My pose will be in its bunk."
<OOC> Lachlan will too.
<OOC> Niki :)
<OOC> Jack says, "Jesus. You realize that somebody got paid to spritz her so she'd glisten?"
<OOC> Jack says, "That's just not fair."
<OOC> Lachlan says, "Man, you're not making this posing any easier."

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