2008-03-02: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Starring:

Christa_icon.gif Jack_icon.gif

Summary: New friends are made, lines are crossed, and it becomes apparent that there are still nice people in the world.

Date It Happened: March 02, 2009

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe


Sears, somewhere in NYC

In New York, stores might as well just grow on trees. Some are expensive, some cheap, some moderately priced and fair, with styles of all kinds to fit everyone's lifestyle. There's one store that just can't be beat for cost-effectiveness and selection, though, and that's good old-fashioned Sears.

It's a weekday and after working hours, so it's not too busy, but it's not deserted, either. There's a sale going on, but there almost always is in places like this. With red tags everywhere denoting new lower prices on the widest selection of items EVER, everyone here is sure to find something that they want. Tiled pathways run through the forest of clothing, though each rack is as close to the one next to it as possible, so the store can get as much in as they can. It's easy to get lost in here.

A woman with her black hair pulled back in a ponytail idly looks through some dresses near the aisle as she heads through the store. Christa just likes to look, really. Most of the time, her outfit consists of scrubs. Failing that, a nice-looking, albeit boring ensemble that enables her to appear professional. Finding nothing particularly eye-catching, she moves on through the store, intending to pass through the men's section so she can get to the more casual womens' clothing on the other side.

Deep breaths. Jack has been taking a lot of those lately. These ones are to prepare himself for one of the few situations he hasn't been trained to attack, disassemble, or make disappear.

Shopping.

He's no longer wearing a shredded suit that barely covers his injuries, much less his nethers. Thanks for that, Pete. He's traded up to sweats and a close-fitting white t-shirt that bunches up around his hips where it's slightly too long. Good thing Sears doesn't have a dress code. His face doesn't look much better. He's got a fresh pad of gauze taped over his bad eye and a new bandage across his nose. All the same, he's rough around the edges. Scrapes, bruises, and a heavy limp.

Immersed in the men's section, Jack is staring helplessly at racks of button-down shirts, denims, and coats of varying levels of cost and taste. Which is to say that he's lost. If it's not a t-shirt or suit that somebody else picked out and tailored, he's lost. Very, very lost.

"Oi," he calls, snagging the arm of a passing woman like a drowning man holds to a floating spar. "Help? Please?" The rest of his communication is non-verbal and comes in the form of a gesture toward the racks.

Please help me not look like an oaf.

Compared to Jack, Christa is the picture of good health. Uninjured, dressed well enough for the occasion, with a couple shopping bags from other stores draped over her arms. Jeans and a black sweater, over which - possibly so as not to look too proper while shopping at Sears - is a hooded sweatshirt that looks like it's seen much better days. At least she appears to be someone who can shop, when she wants to.

Then, her arm is grabbed. As it's not exactly easy to trust people in New York sometimes, her immediate reaction is that she's about to be mugged, so she holds her purse closer to her, only to meet Jack's eyes and relax a moment later. The 'Help, Please' is completely misinterpreted. After all, he looks meat-grindered. "Hey, just relax, I'm a doctor. What happened? Do you need to sit down?"

Jack wheezes out a laugh and holds a hand to his bruised ribs. "No," he replies, still chuckling. "Sorry I startled you. I just got outta… the hospital." A quick, affected cough into his hand covers the not-so-small untruth. "I haven't seen my lady since I went in. I wanna look nice for her."

The Irishman ducks his head to cover a faint blush and his shoulders slump a bit. "This stuff," he goes on, waving at the racks of clothing. "Man, I dunno. Could you help me pick something out?"

Her reaction is an odd look aimed in Jack's direction. But the… eye, and the nose, and… "All right," she finally replies, carefully, while chancing a smile. It's not every day that some guy decides to ask you for help picking out clothing. What can she do, though? Walk away? Okay, yeah, she could, but she's half-worried that he's going to collapse over himself if she's not here to save him, and then, well, she'd just feel bad.

"Okay, clothes. Well, you're in the right place!" Cheerily, she glances over at the racks of shirts and realises too late how absolutely stupid that sounded. "I mean, it's a — the section— I'm Christa."

Jack? David? Zero? What the hell is supposed to call himself now that he's a self-professed "new man." Changing his name to hide from his past suddenly seems… childish.

"Jack," he replies, putting on his best crooked smile. "Relax, hon. I'm new to this, too. We'll be gentle with each other, yeah?"

How new he really is quickly becomes obvious when he picks out a shirt and holds it up to himself for inspection. It's rust red, polyester-ish, and spotted with quarter-sized graphics that look like a mix between flowers and mah jongg tiles. "Uh. Uh?" he asks plaintively.

Christa's seen all kinds of 'new men' in her field. People who've gotten themselves shot, criminals, druggies… Sometimes the best thing a person can do for themselves is keep their name, and work on polishing the tarnish off of it. New coat of paint doesn't hide the ugly rot underneath - not unless you get to the source of the problem first. "Nice to meet you," Christa says, relaxing considerably when he picks out the shirt. Immediately, she puts it back.

"Well, you don't have much colour in your eyes," she mutters, having absolutely no idea that there is only one. "Buuuut… There's a little. We're gonna try to bring out the blue. C'mon." Pacing herself through the forest of clothing, she looks for something reasonable, and not too fancy. After all, it'd seem kind of silly to dress a seriously injured guy up in a tux. 'Rugged' doesn't have to mean 'sloppy.' "So, what happened to you?" Christa asks as she sorts through some oranges that just won't go with Jack's skin tone. Her own dark eyes look up to meet his. She's smiling. "Look like you got hit by a truck."

"Um," Jack begins awkwardly. "I fell down some stairs?" Clearly, he hasn't quite reached the point where he has a story prepped for public consumption. Despite the fact that he's obviously lying, there's a mournful look in his eye that begs for no further inquiry. He ducks his head and turns slightly. It's not a dismissal. More like an attempt to hide and keep the thoroughly injured side of his body angled away.

"So," he says, shifting not-so-smoothly back to the topic of clothing. He fingers the fabric of a blue poplin shirt that looks like it would feel most at home on a Wal-Mart employee. "How about this?"

"I hear that one a lot," she says quietly, though she doesn't press the issue. Women come into the trauma center, bruise and torn to shreds, but the answer is, while their boyfriends stand staring at them nearby, that they ran into a door, or fell down some stairs. "Look, Jack, if you don't want to tell me, just say so, and I'll find somethin' else to talk about. None of my business anyway, right? But if you decide you want someone to talk to, well, I'm all for that confidentiality thing."

It's something that sounds incredibly rehearsed. But somehow sincere at the same time.

Back to the issue at hand, though. He doesn't want to talk, and Christa isn't going to press him. Especially when there's a fashion emergency forming right before her eyes. "Try this," she says, holding up a shirt that, while not silk, does have a similar quality to it. It's brown, but not too dark, and not too close to tan, either. Long sleeves, no pattern, button-down in the front, and loose-fitting enough so that he doesn't look like a pauper dressed up in prince's clothing without having any idea how to look presentable. "This is just for starters. This store's pretty big."

Jack smiles and takes the garment off of Christa's hands. "This I can live with," he says agreeably. "And thanks." He lays a hand on her arm briefly to emphasize his gratitude. It's a far more tentative and gentle touch than his original clutching.

It's clear that he's not thanking her for fashion advice. He doesn't elaborate, though. With the hanger dangling from his unbroken hand, he tips his head in the direction of some undershirts. "Er. Something underneath, d'you think? Other than pants, I mean." He glances down at his sweats and curls his lip. Half his fingers don't work right, he has a fistful of broken ribs, and one of his knees isn't particularly eager to bend. "Eh. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

"Well, ties are always nice. See, it's got a collar. You get something in a dark blue, maybe with some of those diagonal stripes, you'll look really nice." It's not really undershirts, but that? Is something that most people can manage on their own. Especially if they don't plan to go around wearing their tighty whities for the world to see.

The 'thanks' is met with a shrug. She's not really blowing him off, but he dropped the subject first, and she'd really just like to get a good look at his injuries herself. It bothers her, but… Hey. None of her business. "I do what I can. Here." Moving on, she heads toward some pants. They're dark grey, almost black, with belt loops. Almost like jeans, only slightly classier. "Not sure your size, but you can try this." Innocently - really - she looks down at him, before pulling out something that looks like it might fit. "I think you'll look great in dark colours, though I could see pink working out for you, if you're careful."

"Uhhhh." That's turning out to be one of Jack's favorite words today. "Tie— pink— what?"

More deep breaths. Don't panic. Pretty girls know best.

"'kay," he says, smiling gamely and accepting the slacks. "Those look about right. The thing is…" With much embarassed slumping of shoulders and headhanging, he holds up his injured hand. It's had several days to heal and has faded to a sickly mix of purples, greens, and yellows, but it's still swollen and clearly about as dextrous as a bologna loaf. Not only that, he can't even kneel to…

Well, it's easier to show than tell. Jack hikes up the cuff of his sweats high enough to expose a knee that's in even worse shape.

He can't bring himself to ask out loud, but when he looks up at Christa the request is there.

More help? Please?

She was kidding about the pink.

It's still fun to see him sweat.

Christa hadn't really considered the fact that she'd have to help him get dressed. Truthfully, though, all things said and done, Jack's kind of asking the right person. She'll be professional about it, at least, though there's a bit of a wince as she sees that knee. "Okay, tell you what. I'll help you pick out clothing, I'll help you make sure it all fits, but afterward, you come to Sinai with me so I can take a look at you." Before he can protest - because she's sure he will, she says, "Just… because — my friends tell me I'm neurotic, okay? And if you end up on the evening news dead from sepsis, I'll never forgive myself, and I'll probably… Join a cult or something. You don't wanna go there. I won't ask any questions. Besides. If you go home to your girl and you're all bloated n' pus-filled 'cuz you got a nasty infection? It's not gonna matter what you're wearing."

There are a lot of reasons that Jack can't say yes. Not only would he love to forget growing up in a hospital, somehow he doubts that the David Carthage identity will stand up to public scrutiny. He knows that his own identity won't.

"How about this?" he negotiates. "You check me over while you're helpin' me get dressed. If you think things are bad, I'll let you treat me. Not at the hospital, though?"

There are no words needed to show how uncomfortable he feels at the idea of being taken in. He's more tense than a man in his condition should rightfully be able to manage, yet somehow he's also managing to shiver.

The brief suspicious look that Christa gives Jack is … well, just that. Suspicious. She wants to ask more, but the truth is, she barely knows the guy, and probably doesn't want to know, anyway. She's still not going to believe him that he fell down the stairs, but that really doesn't matter in light of the fact that he'll let her look him over. "All right," she says, accepting the compromise. "I have a med bag in my car." Yeah, she drives! Kind of hard to be an on-call trauma surgeon when you can't get to the hospital.

That said, she pulls another shirt off the shelf. Similar, but this one is blue, with a striped pattern, and no collar. "What do you think of this one?"

Jack tips his head to the side and peers at the shirt for a moment, then back to the first one Christa had picked out. "I like the blue one better," he agrees. "Hey, you're not so bad at this after all."

Shirt. Pants. Check and check. With no collar he won't need a tie, which is much to his preference. He huffs in a deep, preperatory breath and jerks his head in the direction of the dressing room. "Might as well start the show, eh? I know it'll be hard, but try an' resist the urge to stuff money in my shorts."

Waitasec. Is he wearing… ? A quick, discreet wiggle reassures him. Underpants, check.

"Blue it is." With a smile, she takes the brown shirt back, and hands the blue one over. That'll still go okay with his eyes and skin. (While hopefully not accentuating the glaring Battle Damage he has all over the place.) "Trust me, if I can resist the charm of all the guys I see in the hospital every day, I think I can resist you. I'm an expert." There's a half-smile there, though, as she heads the other way. "You go find a room. I'll be right back with my bag.

It takes awhile for her to head to the parking lot and back. Presumably, by the time Christa's braved the cold, gotten her supplies, and returned to the store, Jack's already in the dressing room. "Hey, Jack. It's Christa. Which one are you in?" Over her shoulder, she has a black backpack with a red cross stitched into it. Not quite the medkit of legend, but it'll do. Especially because it doesn't look so hokey.

"In 'ere," Jack calls out from the stall all the way at the end. He cracks the door open and waves her in, apparently unconcerned by the idea of being caught shirtless by employees or other customers.

Once the door clicks shut behind them he uncrosses his arms from around his chest, exposing the ugly, scraped knot of bruises along his ribs. There's more. A great deal more. At one point he was peppered with shrapnel; leaving him with small, healing puncture wounds scattered across his chest. Lacerations in various states of repair crease his tattooed arms and neck. His injured hand is a ball of cracked knuckles and swollen joints. Thankfully, he hasn't taken the bandages off of his face.

None of this concerns him as much as his pants. They're unbuttoned and unzipped, but that's as far as he's been able to get. It's frustrating him and it shows. "Help?" he says again wanly.

Waving back cheerfully as Jack appears, Christa makes her way to that particular stall, and hangs the med bag on one of the hooks. This could be awkward for both of them, potentially, but hey. She's been treating patients for over ten years now, she'll just… see him as a patient. No problem, right? "Sit on that stool there," she says, even as she starts to provide the help he's so nicely requesting.

The injuries are a huge concern right away, partially because she's already thinking about the sanitary repercussions of allowing this guy to try on clothing he might not buy. To that end, her lip curls just a little. "Stairs did quite a number on you, huh?" she asks, pulling the bag down, setting it on the floor, and opening it. The glance she offers him prior to pulling out the necessary supplies says volumes: She would much rather do this in a hospital. A sanitary environment.

"You didn't do too bad taking care of yourself," she admits, even while eying the redness around a good portion of the injuries. Not irreparable yet, but they could get that way. "Gonna be honest. Doesn't look like you're any sort of stranger to pain. There's a couple of these I see that I'm going to want to stitch up. It's gonna hurt. You have to try to keep quiet, though… I don't have any anesthetic. I can't carry it."

This is hardly an ideal situation, it's true. Jack nods briskly. "Go for it, Doc. I can hack it."

And he can. Jack has stitched himself up more than once, after all. He still doesn't watch. Something about someone forcing two pieces of your skin back together makes it better not to watch.

He clears his throat and opts instead to focus his eye on Christa's face. "Thanks," he says quietly. "You didn't have to do this. Any of this. S'very kind."

"Well, there's this oath I took when I became a doctor." She waves her fingers a little as she quotes the "Do no harm" portion of said oath. "Letting you walk out of here with these injuries is just about as good as doing harm, so…" Pulling on some gloves, she locates the bottle of iodine she has in her bag, and starts scrubbing at the cuts and abrasions. It's going to hurt - especially over the broken ribs. And before stitching him up, she forces some antibiotic cream into the open injuries, too, which is also going to hurt. Ideally, he'd be on steady anibiotics from a saline drip, but that's not going to happen. It's only after that that she'll start the long process of stitching.

"Go to the drug store or something and get yourself some antibiotic moisturizer. Not alcohol or peroxide. It'll dry you out and you'll pop the stitches. You should be treating these at least three times a day - changing the bandages, everything." Meeting Jack's eyes, offering an encouraging smile, she pauses long enough to give the non-wrecked hand a squeeze. "Anyway, with that 'do no harm' thing, if I didn't help you with the clothes, I'd just be helping you sabotage your relationship, and I can't do that, either."

Jack squeezes Christa's hand back gratefully. Though Peter has been a calm, supportive presence, being locked up for more than a week with a Bible and withdrawal symptoms for company makes one appreciate the simple comfort that human comfort provides. Sympathy without pity is a priceless gift.

"You're awful nice," he says, smiling lopsidedly. "My fiancee'd be grateful too, but I think I'll just not tell her about— oooch." Though he's been sitting through the first aid with appropriately manly stoicism, one tugging stitch stings enough to elicit a wince. "I'll take good care of 'em, promise."

"It was kinda fate, yeah? Of all the people you pulled aside, you picked a doctor. You might be psychic." Helping people is what she does! "Don't worry. I don't think I'll be offended if you don't tell your fiancee that you were sitting in a dressing room mostly naked with someone you just met.

"Well I never," comes from a stall somewhere down the line.

"Oops," Christa mutters, going silent as she finishes the stitching. She's also quite red, notably. "Y—yeah, sometimes, the keeping quiet thing is a little difficult.

Embarrasment to capitalize on. Now Jack's in familiar territory. "Oh?" he queries innocently. "Are we a screamer?"

Shamelessly, he leans back and pounds his shoulder against the wall seperating the dressing rooms. At first it's slow and irregular, but it soon picks up to a fast, rythmic tattoo.

"If you've never, you should try it!" he calls out to their unseen commentator. He pauses to wink at Christa incorrigably and then continues with his voice raised. "Hold on, baby. Ho-hold on. Flip it over now, flip it over. That's what I'm talkin' about."

It's moments like these where everyone must make a decision. First: Be completely mortified, or Second: Go with it. At first, she's practically biting through her lip to keep from laughing.

Keep in mind, she's tying off stitches as she's doing this, but she adds her own interjections into Jack's performance, notably the grunts and moans one would hear while watching a bad soap opera.

Down the row of stalls, the door slams open, and whoever commented before can be heard stomping her way out.

"Oh man. She's leaving. C'mon, we should give her a big finish. Ready?"

She'd better be, because Jack isn't waiting for any confirmation. He holds his hands out to halt the stitching, but only long enough for him to slam his back against the stall in high pornograpic fashion. Yes, he's injured. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it's worth it.

"That's it, baby. Do the freak. Do the flyin' squirrel. Do that funky thing."

It gets worse. A lot worse. Eventually it ramps up to a crescendo of dirty talk that's so comical even he can't keep a straight face.

"Oh my god!" Christa squeaks, which is more at what Jack is doing than playing the part, but, you know, it works. Apparently, that must be the flying squirrel. Either that, or the giggles that overtake her at that moment. Hey, some couples laugh during… Stuff like this. It's not unheard of, and with a 'flying squirrel' in the mix, it might just be appropriate. "WHAT?" she hisses, using her shoulder to dry the tears from her eyes. Thankfully, Jack is saying enough for both of them.

"They're gonna kick us out of the store! I thought you wanted clothes!" she laughs. Hopefully, Ms. Cranky Snooty Customer will be too embarrassed to tell anyone about what she heard. But Jack's voice? Yeah, that'll carry. At least if they come knocking on the door, Christa can prove that she's a doctor, treating a patient. "Let me bandage you up, c'mon, cut it out!"

Stifling his own laughter, Jack winds down the tempo of their 'humping' and holds up his arms so Christa can bandage him properly. A few stitches and some antibacterials have already done him well. He knows the sting of fresh dressings and he knows that unlike what he was feeling a few minutes ago, this is a good pain.

"You a fun one," he comments glibly. "That's the best sex I've had all week. You were especially good at the flying squirrel."

It's because millions of bacteria are EXPLODING PAINFULLY as the antibiotic does its work. "Now we really better keep this to ourselves," Christa mutters, grinning at Jack with heavily-lidded eyes. If he wasn't attached, she might consider asking him out, but there's obviously some serious baggage with this guy. No, not her type. Still, he seems nice enough, and she hasn't had this much amusement in a long time. Really, how much fun can you have in a hospital?

"I'd give you an eight-point-five," she says with utter seriousness. A beat later - "It's 'cuz of the injuries and all. Okay… There. You look better." After finishing the bandaging, cutting and taping off the cloth, and tossing the supplies back into her bag, Christa stands. "Now! Let's get you dressed."

Aaaand this prompts more stifled giggles.

Jack can't help it, he laughs along as well. His words mirror Christa's thoughts. "Y'know, I'd be tryin' to speak for you right now if I weren't already spoken for. S'been a pleasure to meet you, Doc. I hope you'll let me take you out to coffee sometime. Repay you for the—ow!"

It's probably good timing on Jack sliding his pants down awkwardly over his banged-up knee. Though there's nothing there but bruising and swelling, there's enough of it that his mobility is extremely restricted. "This is the fun part. Now you've gotta figure out how to help me into the new ones without getting my stuff in your face. Good luck. And don't worry 'bout the size, I already checked."

"Charmed," says Christa, leaning back on the wall. Actually, she's met some interesting people in her life, but this … is probably one of those things that'll stick in her mind for a really long time. Coffee sounds good, though, and besides, it'll give her an excuse to check up on the guy and see how he's doing, because, damn. "I still think you should get to a hospital. You're pretty broken up, but this'll help, at least. Here."

Back into her purse she goes, and withdraws a business card. 'Christa K. Morris, M.D.,' along with her office phone number and places of employment. "If I'm not there, voicemail'll pick up.

Normally, she's not the one helping patients in and out of their clothing. However, back in her intern and resident days, she did her fair share of it. "Shouldn't be too hard," she says, removing the pants from the hanger."

With Christa's mind already in the gutter, it's not really a stretch for her to take the comment about 'size' way out of context. "Well… I'm. Glad you checked."

"Yeah. It'll be a snug fit, but I'm sure you'll manage." This statement comes to you courtesy of lecherously wagging eyebrows and a minute pelvic thrust. It a bit absent-minded, though. Right now, Jack is busy looking over the card.

"M.D.?" he asks aloud. "A beautiful doctor just faked an o-face for me while she was stitching me up and not asking too many questions? Christ, where have you been all my life?"

It's a playful statement. Not quite flirtatious and more than a little wistful, just like his smile. There's no ring on his finger, but he's already married in his own mind.

Eventually, she's going to hit him. The tolerance extends far, but the rolling of her eyes and the following silence indicates that perhaps this amusement might be coming to an end. Still good-natured, though, Christa works on getting Jack into his new clothing. "Just don't tell the chief of medicine," she says. Really, though, she's not in the office, so she can have a little fun. It seems to be a horrible stereotype that All Doctors are Boring and have Horrible Writing. Well, her writing isn't so great, but she's not so keen on the boring part of the job.

Once the pants are on, the shirt should be easy! Except for the fact that she's just stitched him up without any anaesthetic or anything. Yeah, that might grate a little. Even so, she pulls that off the hanger, too. "You know, a dressing room at Sears is about the last place I expected to meet good company. We should stay in contact. I mean, it's not like we can't use another friend, right?"

"I was just thinkin' the same thing," Jack murmurs. It's a rare moment of vulnerability for him. He's made a new friend. One who doesn't look like she wants to shoot anybody or hurt anybody or do anything illegal. A nice, regular person.

He clears his throat and takes the shirt from Christa's hands, shrugging into it as smoothly as his injuries allow. Doing up the buttons is more complicated with half his fingers jammed and swollen, but he's giving it the good ol' college go. "Ahem. Thanks again. S'been a while since I met somebody who was nice for the sake o' being nice."

"Just don't forget to have 'em take the security tags off," she says as Jack buttons up the shirt. She reaches for the plastic tag that will leak ink all over the place if not removed by a qualified professional.

His comment gives her a little more insight into where those injuries may have come from, and while Christa still isn't asking, she doesn't automatically think the best of anyone. Maybe that's why she relates so easily… Who knows. "I think you need to meet more nice people then, Jack," she says, and it's about that time that the pager on her side goes off. That thing? It'll be her lifeline 'til she dies.

Checking it, she says, "Look, I have to go. Give me a call when you want to get that coffee, huh?"

"You can count on it, Doc. Go on, get outta here." Jack gives Christa a final smile and blows her a chaste kiss. "I can find my way to the door. Be safe out there, 'kay?"

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