2007-02-17: Suspicious Minds


Jack_icon.gif Paige_icon.gif

Summary: Jack spies Paige in a sandwich shop and stops to say thank you. Of course, things go a little south after that when Paige's curiosity gets the better of her.

Date It Happened: February 17th, 2007

Suspicious Minds

Noodle Heaven

Though her last foray into a small cafe in the city went horribly awry, it hasn't dissuaded Paige from going out again the next day. Seated in a booth near the back of the sandwich shop with a novel in her hands, she looks significantly better than she did when last she encountered any of the other would-be rescuers. In fact, she looks as if… she wasn't even directly involved in a fire. And on fire, at one point. There's a plate sitting in front of her, on which sits a sandwich made with a bagel, and a carton of chocolate milk beside that.

Jack, on the other hand, looks a bit the worse for wear. His thick black sweater is pushed up at the left sleeve to reveal a thick wrapping of bandages along his forearm, and there is a scattering of small bruises, cuts, and abrasions across his face, neck, and hands. Somewhat gingerly, Jack slips through the door and limps to the counter, where he orders a club sandwich, a bowl of tomato soup, and an iced tea.

The jingle of the bell on the door draws Paige's attention briefly, and there's a flicker of recognition on her face as she spies the man whose life she saved. Well, okay, that might be pushing it; but she stopped him from getting hurt more than necessary, at least. Though it's clear she recognizes him, she doesn't call out or do anything that might call attention to herself. Turning back to her sandwich, she frowns slightly, stuffing the bagel into her mouth for another bite.

Sandwich and soup of the day isn't a particularly complex offfer, and so moments later Jack is stepping away from the counter with his order balanced on a brown plastic tray. For an instant he makes eye contact with the young girl who bodily dragged him out of a raging inferno a scant half-day prior. He steels himself and strides purposefully toward her tableside. "Excuse me.. Mind if I sit down?" he queries.

The voice doesn't startle her, suggesting that she might have been keeping an eye on him in her peripheral vision - or at least hadn't forgotten he was nearby. Paige looks up to Jack, offering him a swift, albeit faintly anxious, smile. "Go ahead," she replies, shaking her head and gesturing to the seat across from her. "God, you look… bad. How're you feeling?"

"At least as terrible as I appear, I'm afraid," The man smiles and shakes his head ruefully. "But you seem to be more or less intact, which pleases me. The moniker's Jack. Thanks for helping me yesterday." He takes his soupbowl up in both pale, long-fingered hands and blows steam from across the top to conceal the tightening around his mouth and eyes.

"Yeah. Guess I got lucky," Paige replies, offering him a smile that's apologetic. She seems hesitant, at first, to accept the recognition for the rescue, her eyes dropping to the table. Her cheeks flush just a tiny bit. "You're welcome, Jack," she says finally, looking back to Jack. "I'm Paige."

"Lucky? I'll say, Miss Paige. It's a pleasure to meet you." With his gratitude freely given, Jack seems at a bit of a loss now. "Err… So, some mess at the coffee shop last night, eh?" He chuckles weakly, then takes a sip of his rich, creamy soup. All the while his grey eyes remain on Paige, gauging her response.

"That's one way of putting it." Glancing back towards the door, Paige frowns slightly; her eyes pass over the sandwich shop in a cursory look before returning to Jack. "It's all kind of a blur for me." Tilting her head slightly, watching him carefully, she's silent for a few seconds as she considers the best way to phrase her next question. Evidently, the best way she can come up with is, "What the hell were you thinking, getting into that van?"

"Trust me, it wasn't my bloody idea. There were people in there, and someone had to do something." Jack's voice is a bit more guarded now, and he pauses to take another sip of soup. "What about you? What the /hell/ were you doing? Not that I'm compaining, mind you."

Rolling her shoulders in a noncommittal shrug, Paige takes advantage of her sandwich to buy a few minutes of time before replying. In fact, she'll draw out how long it should take her to take a bite and swallow, her frown lingering. "I guess I felt the same," she says finally, though even she doesn't sound convinced of what she's saying. "I don't know. I wanted to help. I couldn't just stand there and watch."

Jack downs the rest of his soup, then nods and wipes his mouth on the back of his hand. "Fair enough, lass," he murmurs. He takes up his sandwich next, crunching through bread, turkey, and bacon with a soft, satisfied moan. After he finishes his mouthful he turns his attention back to Paige. "That's a mighty brave thing for a little bit like yourself to do," he comments, his voice carefully neutral.

The colour in her cheeks is easier to see this time when he speaks, and Paige shakes her head. "I didn't even think about it," she says, toying with the straw in her chocolate milk instead of having to look at Jack. It's easier that way, to keep up this strange little dance. "It wasn't that brave. I was scared out of my /mind/." A sideways glance looks back up to Jack, and she appraises him for a second, clearly hesitating. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure, lass, I can answer a question for you, I owe you that much." Jack sets his sandwich down and meets Paige's gaze levelly. He laces his fingers together and leans his hands on the table, wincing as his injured arm takes weight.

"In the van," Paige begins, finally turning back to Jack and giving him her undivided attention, "when I went to get you. Your hands were empty." He has to know where this is going, and that's precisely why she watches him, unblinking, to ascertain his reaction. "Right before you grabbed my hand, I thought I… saw you do something." She sucks in a breath, another frown flashing across her brow. "How did you get that painting?"

For an instant, Jack's finely-honed poker face slips, betraying fear, anticipation, and anger. Then, just as fast, it's back in place. With a scrape, he shoves his chair back from the table, leaving the rest of his meal behind. "You know, it seems I'm not hungry after all," he says, his voice cold and extra-polite. "It's time I should be going." With effort, he's able to keep his pace to a dignified scramble as he flees from the table.

Paige watches Jack as he runs through so many different reactions to her one question, doing very little to interrupt him as he suggests he might leave. She doesn't stop him, when he gets up from the table. There's a moment where she quietly says, "Bye, Jack." But she can't even be sure he heard her, and she doesn't raise her voice. Still, her eyes track him to the door with a look of concern. When he's gone, she murmurs to herself, "Thought so."

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