2007-02-11: Minute Mysteries


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Jack and Eliana meet up at the Common Grounds after their night of dancing at club DnA's. A third encounter is planned. The nature of art in regards to truth is discussed in addition to professions.

Date It Happened: February 12th, 2007

Minute Mysteries

Common Grounds, Midtown

Normally, Eliana would have been thankful to get a phone call from a man she spent a considerable amount of time she can barely remember the night before. But feeling a little stupid, Eliana accepted Jack's offer to meet up for coffee with an unseen, wan smile. She looks a bit better in the shop, her hair pulled in a small bun at the base of her neck while part of it still frames her face on either side. She's not been here long, and is, in fact, still doctoring the tea she ordered. At least it's evening again, and Eliana has worked off what little hangover she'd been left with this morning. The pink-haired girl is dressed in a simple white button-up and dark jeans in addition to a pair of conservative, office-style heels. Her peacoat and scarf are draped over the chair behind her.

The door bangs open and shut, admitting Jack and a cold draft at the same time. His suit is gone in favor of a soft, dark maroon sweater, a pair of loose black slacks, and carefully shined boots. Despite the previous night's dosing, a slight red-rimming around his eyes is the only sign of the evening's excitement. He makes a beeline for the counter, which is blessedly lacking customers at this hour, and orders a cup of black coffee. After pausing to inhale its' rich fragrance, his roaming grey eyes scan the room. However, it's not hard to find someone with pink hair, even in New York City. When he spots Eliana he strides toward her purposefully and lifts a hand in greeting. "Oi. Good to see you again. Quite the night we had, yes?"

"Quite," Eliana lets out with an embarrassed sort of chuckle, but at least the smile seems real enough. "Can't have been too horrible," she adds, half for herself and half for Jack. "You wanted to see me again, I mean." Eliana couldn't have done anything too terrible that her hazy memory has fogged over. "How are you?"

Jack grabs a chair, flips it around, and straddles it. "Bah. Lovely time, lovely woman. Who wouldn't want to see you again? Only problem I had was the freight train that ran me over sometime between when I went to sleep and woke up this morning." He grins wryly, snags his coffee cup, and takes a careful sip.

Eliana leans back a bit in her chair, hooking an elbow on one corner. "You're not so hard on the eyes either," she compliments, her cheeks flushing a little before she tries to hide her face with a sip from her own cup. "And you've got the booze to blame for that." Not Eliana or her airborne psycadelics. God, no. "Maybe you should go easier next time. Anyway," she continues, shaking her head. "What do you do for a living, Jack the Irishman?"

With a flourishing gesture, Jack produces a worn deck of red-backed playing cards, which he arcs from hand to hand, then fans out smoothly on the table. Then he pauses, smiles sheepishly, and shrugs. "I suppose a stage magician is supposed to maintain his flair for the dramatic all the time, but I feel more comfortable on stage." With a quick pass of one hand, he orders the cards back into a neat pile. "What about yourself, miss Eliana?"

Both of Eliana's eyebrows lift at the display, and she can't resist setting her cup down and clapping her hands together a few times. "Bravo," she says with a slight incline of her head before she picks up her tea and takes another sip. "I write for a magazine here in the city." Telling a still somewhat strange guy which magazine is a bad ide. "But it's nothing special. You know those little sidebars and stuff? Not the articles, but the random stuff about…well, random stuff? That's me. It's bitch work, but it pays."

"Now, now. There's nothing wrong with bitch work. We've all seen a fair share of it in our day. I'm just lucky to have an aptitude for little tricks like… this." When he pauses, Jack closes his eyes for the span of several heartbeats, then produces a short-stemmed, midnight blue rose with a similar gesture to that he used for the cards. He sets it on the table in front of Eli, then gives a small shrug. "Baulderdash and chicanery. But it pays the bills as well." There's a hint of self-mocking amusement in his low voice now.

"You charlatan you," Eliana chuckles as she reaches out slowly and takes the rose, bringing it up to her face to sniff the bloom, letting her eyes close. "But I guess the stage is better than a cardboard box in a back alley, not to insult your lower-class brethren."

Jack grimaces distastefully. "Bah. Them three-card monte shufflin' bastards are no kin' of me and mine. There's a distinct difference between them and I. They just take your money. With me, someone else takes your money at the door, and I translate my share of the cut to pure entertainment." He nods solemnly, as if this revelation is one of the most serious sort. In the end he can't hold his straight face and a boyish smile creeps across it once again.

With another chuckle, Eliana leans forward again, setting her tea down before she rests her elbow on the small table and props her chin up with the heel of her hand. "So what is it you do? Make people guess cards? Saw women in half? Pull rabbits out of hats? Or do you chain yourself up like a masochist's nightmare and slip out of sticky situations like a herring in too much creme sauce?" All the while, Eliana's smile grows into a grin. "Come on, show me a trick." But even as she says it, the pink-haired woman carefully twirls the rose in her other hand.

Jack purses his lips pensively for a long moment and laces his long pianist's fingers together. Then he nods absently as if coming to some internal conclusion. "Who am I to say no to one as pretty as you? I'll make you a deal. Let me take you out again, and I'll show you something that should fit your request." He winks roguishly and scoops up his coffee cup for another long drink.

"Oh?" The woman's eyes widen a bit, but they soon settle to a casual, if not a slightly coy gaze. "I /could/ always look up one of your shows. How many men of the Irish persuasion named Jack do slight of hand for a living in this city?" Probably quite a few, but Eliana is in an offshoot of the information business. She could certainly make quite an effort to find out. "Or is that the date? One of your shows?"

"Heavens no, lass. You're welcome to see me for free anytime I perform, but I was after takin' you somewhere nice where I /wasn't/ working. Now if you'd rather pass up the date and pay to see the show, I'm sure we could arrange that as well." Jack's widening smile and his playful tone take the edge off of his statement. "As for Irishmen gettin' paid to do tricks? You might have a time tracking me down amongst them all, though I am prettier than most." He flutters his eyelashes and mouths a coquettish kiss, pulling a fair imitation of an escort working hard to snag a date.

Even so, it earns a sputtering laugh from Eliana. She drops her head to cover her mouth with her free hand as she turns slightly away, her face wrinkling with mirth as she tries not to guffaw out loud. Once she has her composure, Eliana nods, clearing her throat as politely as she can given her outburst. "Someplace nice sounds great." Breathe. "As for your shows, well, maybe I'll find you. And maybe I'll have to come see you backstage, afterward." Assuming, that is, that Jack performs in venues that would warrant him a proper dressing room.

Jack grins, breaking his pasted-on, feminine facade. "Well I'll not have you tellin' people I don't keep my promises… Here." He turns around for a few seconds, showing Eliana only the back of his sweater. When he swivels to his original position he's holding a crystal vase cunningly wrought to the shape of a woman's clasped hands. In the crystalline grip are twelve more of the blue roses. Altogether, the arrangement is obviously much larger than anything Jack could conceal on his person. Making no attempt to hide how pleased he is with himself, he sets it down on the table. "And there you are. I'm assuming that's enough magic for the inside of a coffee shop?"

Eliana wasn't even expecting the single rose, let alone a dozen in an unique vase. She's curious when Jack turns, but her eyes widen with wonder when he sets the conjured flowers on the table. And hers aren't the only eyes he draws in the shop, as slow as business is for this time of day. "How did you," she starts in a hushed voice, then shakes her head, looking from the flowers to Jack for some possible way he could have pulled them from his person. Eliana is, at her deepest core, a woman of science. "…that's impossible," she finally says with a defeated chuckle and smile, setting her chin back on her hand to peer at Jack with new interest.

Jack blinks several times, suddenly realizing that he may have overstepped the bounds of public propriety as far as his 'magic tricks' go. He lifts a fist to his mouth and give a soft cough, buying himself an extra instant to think before speaking. "Erm. Well, such is the nature of magic m'lass. If it seemed possible, people wouldn't pay to see it, yes?" His confidence returns as he conjures up a reasonable explanation, and he raises his grey eyes to meet Eliana's.
Huh? (Sylar ate the database, please try again later.)

"It's certainly better than a bunny," Eliana muses, utterly enraptured by the mystery before her. "But it /is/ a trick. It /is/ possible. The audience just can't figure it out, so it's easier to dismiss as magic." Now it's her turn to feel embarrassed, and Eliana averts her eyes for a moment. "Sorry," she adds not long after. "They're absolutely stunning."

"Don't be sorry, darlin' Though I'm modest enough, I'm also man enough to admit that I'm good at what I do. Most people have the same reaction from ten times as far away. Up close and personal, I can only imagine what it feels like." Jack smiles and reaches out to run the back of one knuckle gently along a rose's soft petals. "So do we have a date then?" His eyes never leave Eliana's face as he speaks, confident again now that the potential crisis has passed.

While before Eliana was able to brush off such flattery, she finds herself more vulnerable now, given her own foul. Her heart beats a bit faster with mounting excitement when she meets his eyes again, sending a thin cloud of gas into the air from her exposed face, hands, and neck. Of course, all of her pores expel the gas, but the unhindered skin's addition will be the most potent the soonest. "Just name a time and place, and I'll make sure to be there," she answers in the most demure tone she's uttered since she started talking to Jack the night before.

After taking a few breaths while Eliana speaks, Jack is already beginning to feel the effect of her ability. However, after already succombing willingly (if unknowingly) once, it doesn't bother him initially as it did the last time. Instead he smiles broadly as the relaxing, liberating effects wash over him. "I know a maitre'd at Tabla. Nice place. It's at the head of Madison avenue, can't miss it. Meet me there at eight o' clock tommorow night. That's when the piano player arrives, and he's got the devil's own hands when he tickles the ivory. We could wait a few days to add to the mystery and all, but I'd rather see you sooner than later."

Nice /indeed./ Eliana certainly wasn't expecting something like that. "I wouldn't want to take the risk of you disappearing on me," she says after a moment, a soft giggle lacing her words. She's silent for a moment after that, lost in thought as she studies the man across the table. "So what else do you do, Jack? Or is every bit of your life as magical as the next?" Translation: workaholic?

"I like to think of myself as an explorer and an adventurer. I like what I do and it'll keep paying for many years to come. However, it leaves me with a great deal of free time, so I fill it with what fun I can find," Jack rumbles. He takes another sip of his coffee, then props his elbow on the table and leans forward to rest his chin on his palm. "And you? I imagine you spend your days chasing the next big story, yes?"

"Because if I don't describe that new leather bag by whoever's the newest, hottest French designer /fast/ enough, somoene else will get the lovely task of writing about it in twenty-five words or less." Eliana's getting more comfortable again, and the gas is starting to die off a bit. "I write," she answers more solemnly. "Fiction. But the industry is pretty brutal. I haven't been published in anything since college." And even that stuff didn't really count.

Jack gives his head a minute, disoriented shake, then his eyes find their way back to Eliana's. "Sorry. Got a bit foggy for a sec, there. Writing is an admirable persuit, as are any of the arts. I'm no good at it, but I find that dabbling in fiction can be good for the soul. Like baking, or playing the piano." Jack's mouth curves up crookedly at one corner. "We all have to relax somehow, eh?"

When Jack shakes his head and apologizes, Eliana grows a bit pale, though she does her best to hide it with a quick smile. "Well that just shows my big-city side," Eliana chuckles. "I think the most complicated thing I've ever made in a kitchen was kugel. And my bread never…well, rose right." The woman laughs again, and it's a mix of embarrassment and comfort. What other interesting things does Jack have up his sleeves?

Jack reaches across the table, he free hand seeking Eliana's without moving his eyes from her face. "Then what say for our third date, I'll teach you a little something in the kitchen? I make a mean chicken marsala, and my raspberry cheesecake is to die for." His thumb glides lightly over the back of Eli's knuckles as he speaks.

Eliana leans her head away from her hand to allow Jack to take it, blushing once more at the touch. Another slight increase in her heart rate brings the gas out in the smallest percentage, but it's the last thing on her mind. "You're lucky I don't keep kosher," she almost whispers. "Are you sure you're not an illusion?" Too Good To Be True is becoming more and more likely with each passing moment.

"No illusions for the moment, m'lass. And I'm not likely to dissapear, either. I'm still working on that trick." Recieving another dose of airborne pleasure, Jack's pupils dilate slightly and his grip on Eliana's hand tightens a fraction instinctively. "It's only fair to say that of all the people I see working nights in this city, you're the first I've felt fond of in the months I've been here. I'm pleased to have met you, lass."

Looking so intently into Jack's eyes clues Eliana in to the effect she must be having, with a little help from the squeeze of her hand. Her own smile falters for a moment, but she's soon returning the firmer grip with a brief tightening of her own, doing her best to force herself back into a calmer state. "I…well, I'd be lying if I said you haven't had a similar effect on me." Given, the whole thing could be chalked up as Eliana's fault. Oh well.

Jack smiles broadly, oblivious to any discomfort, percieved or otherwise. "Well, it pleases me to hear it. It shames me to admit that I spend most of my time surrounded by women I wouldn't care to.." He pauses and clears his throat briefly. "Let's just say that my buisness doesn't often attract clientele of your calibre, yes?" His thumb resumes it slow, gentle dragging across the backs of Eli's knuckles as he speaks.

Eliana lowers her head back onto part of that hand, placing it near Jack's hand but not asking anything from it. She continues to look at him, a laughing sort of sparkle in her eyes. "What? Uncredited magazine writers are out of your league? Sorry, Jack, but I don't think /that/ magic will work on me." Still, with her face flushed and her battle to control her heart, it's clear the magician's words are working /some/ sort of trick.

"Psh. There are beautiful people in this city, and interesting ones, but rarely do you find both in the same package. One must be greatful for what one finds," Jack purrs. Still gripping Eli's hand, he presses the back of his own against her cheek and looks into her eyes meaningfully. "It's not what we do that matters, but who we are. I could just as easily ask if a mostly drunk, piano-playin', gamblin' charlatan was out of your league, my pretty."

This is certainly not where Eliana saw herself when she first accepted the invitation to meet, but that doesn't mean it's unwanted now. "Haven't played the game in awhile," she whispers, her eyebrows furrowing upward slightly. "So we'll just have to see."

Jack nods knowingly. "Aye. I know how that is. But I can be patient when the need arises. There's also no need to spoil such a thing with haste." The pink tip of his tounge trails along his upper lip unconciously. "But I also see no need to keep the way I see things from you. We're both adults, after all. I'm confident that you can handle it." A ghost of Jack's boyish smile reappears as he speaks.

The writer in Eliana is overjoyed at the bit of metaphor - the ability to see the man behind the mask rather than simply the show he puts on, but there's a nagging, foul thing at the back of her mind. She didn't earn this; she cheated her way behind that mask last night, if that is in fact what she did. "Jack the Amazing," Eliana muses, squinting her eyes as she smiles. Huh.

"Amazing? You were paying attention when I said I was a gambler and a lush, weren't you?" Though his tone is light, a sudden tightness around Jack's mouth and eyes betray his momentary surprise. "And more," he adds quietly, his confidence evaporating. Beneath his armor, the little boy who's never quite been accepted or understood peeks out in search of a kindred spirit.

"You weren't drunk last night," Eliana blurts out, dropping her gaze for a moment, then holding it there when she realizes what she's said. But more important than trying to think of something to say to cover is trying to keep her heart rate down, and Eliana struggles between the two feats. "I mean…" she starts, forcing saliva down her tightening throat. "Everyone has vices. And… well, artists like us live in hyperboles."

Jack takes a slow, steadying breath. If he's connected his repeated bouts of euphoria with Eli's presence, he isn't showing it. Far from it, in fact, as he now looks most concerned. "Have I said somethin' to upset you, m'lass? You seem touch startled, all of a sudden." He and Eli's hands move together as he gives her cheek a brief stroke with the backs of his fingers.

Eliana slips her hand out of Jack's, tracing the tips of her own fingers down his arm to the table and resting them finally near his elbow, though she does pick a few back up to gently touch his sweater. She keeps her eyes down for a moment, and only after a deep breath does Eliana lift them to Jack's once more. "You haven't done a damned thing," she says with a small laugh. There's guilt there, despite Eliana's best efforts to hide it. "Wilde wouldn't have been Wilde without his booze and boys," is her attempt at another cover.

Jack furrows his brow in contemplation, then lifts his chin from his palm and reaches forward with that hand to briefly brush his thumb along Eliana's cheekbone before dropping it back to the table. "Is it something you've done then? If it turns out you did slip me the mickey last night, I promise I'll not hold it against you. It would've worn off by now, and I'm still here aren't I?" Jack queries guilelessly.

Eliana stares at Jack for a long time, her expression lost somewhere between unsure and thoughtful. Jack's touches move across her face as if over slightly more forgiving stone, leaving no mark behind. After a minute that seems much longer than it actually was, she swallows again and shakes her head. "That'll just have to be my little mystery. And if you want to hold /that/ against me, I completely understand." Jack's too nice to lie to, but the bond of trust Eliana needs to share such a deep and guarded secret just isn't there yet.

Jack blinks thoughtfully, then shrugs with his free arm. "That was just jokes, lass. Either way, we're all entitled to our secrets. The good Lord knows that I have my fair share." He pauses and gives Eliana's hand a quick squeeze. "I had plenty of time to think last night and this morning. Rest assured, I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to be." His voice is a gentle murmur, and he smiles reassuringly as he speaks.

"You get paid for yours," Eliana says with an embarassed sort of smirk, swaying in her seat and looking away again, if only for a moment. Still, her eyes find Jack's again soon enough, and that smile twinges a bit wider. "Okay," she whispers back to him before repeats the word in a more confident volume. "Okay."

Jack lets out a long-held breath with obvious relief, grateful that this rare closeness isn't going to evaporate just yet. His eyes bore back into Eliana's, for an instant revealing the depth of lonliness and pain that is the foundation of his existance. Then he blinks, and once again his mask is firmly in place. "Getting paid for a secret doesn't make it any less difficult on the soul, darlin'." His voice rings with false basso profundo confidence.

Eliana's own eyes flicker a bit at the brief revelation, but it strengthens her own confidence. She reaches for his hand then, just to hold it across the table. Leaving the rose on the table near the vase full of its fellows, Eliana picks up her tea for a final sip before she answers. "All representational art is a lie - that's why Plato wanted to throw all the artists out of his Republic. But how many functional artists do you know, honestly?"

Jack gives Eliana's hand a gentle squeeze in return, reassured by the contact. He lets out another long breath, seeming to deflate a bit in the process. "Functional artists…" he muses. "I'm not familiar with that concept. The only artists I know are in the buisness to make money, much like myself."

"Those dirty sell-outs," Eliana whispers in a mock-hiss across the table before letting out another soft chuckle. It's strange how quickly she's reassured by Jack, but she doesn't let the thought linger long. "We all have to pay the rent and fill our bellies. Not everyone gets to live in Paris in the 1830s and suffer from tuberculosis." Eliana's a purist when it comes to opera (and musical) plots.

Jack lets out a rich laugh, the last of his own trepidation now dissolving. "You've a clever wit about you, m'dear. It's most enticing. Few things are less engaging than a pretty face with nothin' between the ears." He lifts his coffee cup and drains the last of it's contents, then grimaces at the beverage's utter lack of heat.

"Only child with a professor and what amounts to a doctor for parents," Eliana chuckles. "It couldn't really be helped, in some ways. You either learn run really fast, or you find yourself left behind a lot." Her voice becomes emptier as she continues, but with a shake of her head, she perks up. "Killed them when I didn't go into some sort of engineering. But you seem pretty sharp-tongued for a self-proclaimed country bumpkin," she adds with a smirk on the good side of roguish.

"An act, I'm afraid. People seem much more surprised when a simpleton amazes them than a cosmopolitan gentleman such as myself. " Jack smiles back, his tone self-depricating. "My policy is that unless among friends, I never tell the truth unless it's so outlandish, no one would ever believe it anyway." He shrugs again with his free shoulder. "It's kept things moving smoothly so far."

Eliana laughs freely then, but rather than lean back, she hunches forward to help keep the secret. "Then I'm honored," she finally says, lifting her free hand and pressing it to her chest. "Not everyone can pull off the Graham Greene. Soon you'll be carrying around dead babies in purses, and cabbies will be offering you advice on where to store the thing before you get around to burying it."

A slight widening of the eyes is the only betrayal of Jack's surprise at this new conversational turn. "I'm afraid that's one I'm not familiar with, lass. But I've all the time in the world if you'd care to inform me." He winks and give Eliana's hand another meaningful squeeze.

"Sure, sure," Eliana laughs again, shaking her head. She then unfolds the short tale of Greene's strange, transatlantic traveler who is playing courier for his wife's dead baby in an overnight bag. She doesn't give away too much, but the point that the truth is so outlandish that everyone takes it for a lie is easily made. "I promise my stuff isn't as…macabre," she assures with a nervous smile and a brush of her thumb against the inside of Jack's hand.

Jack reaches forward with his other hand to lightly caress Eliana's wrist, just below the base of her palm. "Life is macabre, darlin'. That's why the darker bits of reading can be so compelling. It's easy to relate." His wry smile reveals that this isn't mere theory, but personal opinion. "Still, anytime you'd like to share some of your writing, I'm yours. I might even be persuaded to share a bit of my own."

Eliana's eyebrows go up once more at that, and her smile twinges. "Is the pen mightier than the… black wand with white tips?" It's not her best joke of the evening, but it's an attempt. Almost as soon as she says it, she's shaking her head somewhat apologetically. Eek.

Jack lets out a soft chuckle, warm and unmocking despite the admitted poor quality of the joke. "I like you, darlin'. You're unique, like me. 'Tis rare." He pauses, then forges on. "Erm. Well. It's high time that I should be going. I've still to meet someone this evening, and if things go well I may open up another venue. As before, it's been a singular pleasure." He raises Eliana's hand to his lips and brushes the whisper of a kiss across it.

One final burst of euphoria flows from literally every pore of Eliana's being when Jack kisses her hand, and she has to work at not exploding in a girlish giggle. "Tomorrow night, eight o-clock, the Tabla on Madison Avenue." She gives his hand a gentle squeeze before she releases it. Even after Jack has slipped out the door, undoubtedly with enough of the mood-lifting gasses to carry him to the nearest cab stand, Eliana sits with a wide smile on her face, forgetting all of her former guilt for one more blissful moment.

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