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29 February 2004 @ 18:44
 
(story is also available here...)


Disclaimer: jake 2.0 and all related elements, characters and indicia © Roundtable Entertainment and Viacom Productions, Inc., 2003. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situations-save those created by the authors for use solely on this website-are copyright Roundtable Entertainment and Viacom Productions, Inc.

Please do not archive or distribute without author's permission.

Author's note: Thanks as always to my faboo betas, particularly yahtzee63 and lierdumoa.

"Status Quo"
by LJC

Monday, February 9, 2004
8:22 am


As he entered the medlab, Jake was greeted by the sound of breaking glass and Diane's sharp "Dammit!"

She was standing in the middle of the lab, a tray and the remains of a glass beaker at her feet.

"Are you okay?" he asked he grabbed some paper towels and bent down to help her clean up the mess.

"I'm fine." She crossed briskly to the waste bin, dumping a handful of towels and glass. "Ow!"

Blood oozed from a small cut on her palm, and Jake took her hand.

"Let me see." With his nano-enhanced vision he zoomed in on her palm. "It's no big deal. It's just a splinter of glass." He led her over to the sink and, dampening a paper towel, carefully cleaned the cut.

"That was so stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid," she muttered as she got the first aid kit from the shelf, digging through it with one hand for some disinfectant ointment and a bandage.

"Hey—hey, it's just a beaker. I'm sure the NSA will buy you a whole case. You're their star doctor, after all."

"Yeah." She let him take the bandage out of her fingers and peel off the wrapper. She hissed as he pressed it over the cut.

"Y'okay?" he asked, and she shrugged.

"I'm okay."

"You don't seem okay."

"It's just—I hate February." The venom in her voice surprised him.

"Is it the whole cold, wet, grey thing?" he asked.

"No, it's the two hours on the phone, listening to my mother go on and on about my cousin's kids, and dropping not so subtle hints about how happy Aunt Margie is to be a grandmother—never mind." She sighed, and picked up the tray from the floor, setting it on the counter. "Just—never mind."

"Your mom should meet my mom."

She sank into her chair. "She actually asked me if I'd thought about trying speed dating. She got on the internet and downloaded a bunch of D.C. web sites, and emailed them to me this morning."

She turned her laptop screen towards him so he could see. The subject line read THINKING OF YOU, HONEY!!! and he winced in sympathy.

"My mom has set me up on so many blind dates, I should get a free dog. Over Christmas it was her pharmacist's daughter. Thanksgiving was the girl who works as the receptionist at my dad's office. I guess I can understand, considering Jerry's her only other hope for grandkids. That's genetic material that should not be passed on, you know?"

"You think I would have been off the hook when my sister got married—but no. No, it's not enough that she's got one daughter married off. Now it's all 'What happened to that nice boy from work you were seeing?' What am I supposed to say? Gee, Mom, he seemed really great until he tried to kidnap me and sell my brain to the Russians. Oh yeah. That would go over great."

Jake took a seat on the edge of her desk. "I'm sure my folks would be thrilled that my last date was suicidal, homicidal, and ended up in a Federal minimum security prison. Bad enough Jerry knows about Sarah." He shuddered.

"It's like, unless you're with someone, you don't count. Like you're a total loser just because you're not half of a couple. And then for weeks there's just this—this... barrage from every side. The grocery store, and TV—"

"—flowers, cards, chocolate—" Jake filled in, getting into the spirit of her rant.

"Oh, and the stupid TV movies—"

"—constant commercials for perfume, diamonds... if I hear that annoying DeBeers song one more time—"

"Exactly! It's like the entire month of February exists to keep FTD, Hallmark and Hershey's in business."

"So I take it you have no plans for Valentine's Day."

Diane cupped her cheek in her hand, the picture of abject misery. "I dunno, does ritual suicide count as a plan?"

"You know, a friend was telling me about this disease. You might have heard of it. It's called the Single Syndrome?"

That got a glimmer of a smile out of her, which quickly faded. "I just want to crawl into bed and have somebody wake me when it's March."

"Seriously—what are your plans this week-end?" Jake asked, the beginning of an idea sparking in his brain.

"Shunning the world at large. Possibly while eating ice-cream."

"You up for company?"

"What do you have in mind?"

"We could rent some DVDs."

"The First Annual Losers In Love movie marathon?" Diane suggested, the ghost of a smile back in place.

"I'll even bring the rocky road," Jake said with a wink.




Wednesday, February 11, 2004
11:37am


The canteen at the NSA was pretty much like any government cafeteria, with long steam tables of the sort of food that made airline meals look appetising. Jake watched Diane grab a pre-packaged chicken Caesar salad from the stack in the refrigerated case, and fell in behind her in line for the cashier.

"Okay," Diane said as she set her tray with her salad and water bottle down in front of the bored-looking girl (with a startling number of ear piercings for the NSA) at the cash register. "Ground rules: Nothing directed by Nora Ephram, or involving any A-list actor dying beautifully from a fatal disease."

"I think that sounds do-able." He fished a five dollar bill out of his pocket as Diane collected her change from the little plastic tray. "Never been much of a Meg Ryan fan, or—what's that one? The bad remake of the bad movie with the blonde from The Astronaut's Wife?"

"Oh, God! Oh my God, that's so bad!" Diane laughed as they started walking towards their usual table, which had a great view of the parking lot behind the Operations building. Outside, the grey skies of that morning had started to give way to weak winter sunlight, patches of blue appearing between the heavy clouds that threatened snow that would no doubt melt the second it hit the ground. Jake was always amazed how mild winter in the District was, compared to Ohio.

"Yeah, but what's it called?"

"Sweet November," she said as she popped open the plastic to-go container and poured the tiny cup of dressing over the grilled chicken, lettuce, and croutons. The seating area was only half full, as techs from all over the building took their lunches in shifts and it was still relatively early. Since Diane tended to come to work at the crack of dawn, and Jake usually skipped breakfast, they'd fallen into the habit of eating together a few times a week. On the other side of the canteen he could see Carver, with her habitual tray with nothing buy yoghurt and a banana. Behind her, making small talk, was Tech Agent Hart.

"Yes! I love Keanu, don't get me wrong—"

"You don't love Keanu. You love The Matrix," she pointed out around a mouthful of chicken.

"Hey—I am a devotee of Mr Reeves career," Jake insisted. "Bill and Ted? Classic. Speed? Kick-ass, and gotta say—I have no issues with Sandra Bullock. Johnny Mnemonic, however... bit of a mis-step. Bit of a career mis-step."

"I always get that one mixed up with the one with Denzel."

"Yes. Everyone made bad cyberpunk movies that year. I think, freshman year at Georgetown, I saw every single one of them a hundred times. Never work in a movie theatre. I mean, it can be cool. Or it can really, really suck."

Jake inspected his burrito with something approaching scepticism. He opened his can of Mountain Dew, which fizzed, forcing him to quickly sip off the violently-green liquid which covered the lid of the can to keep it from spilling. He'd sworn off the soda a while back, only to discover that even the nanites were useless against caffeine headaches. And at the rate he burned calories, thanks to his souped-up metabolism, it wasn't like he really had to worry about the sugar any more.

"God, where was I in—what year was Johnny Mnemonic?"

"1995," Jake replied without even having to reach for it, a fact that might have embarrassed him, had he been in different company.

"'95 was my... sophomore year? Junior year? Something like that? Of undergrad. Oh my God, that was so long ago. That was nine years ago. No wonder my mother is on my case. I'm old."

Jake almost choked on his first bite of lunch. "You're not old!"

"I'm so old—my cousin Cathy has three kids, and I haven't had a boyfriend that wasn't evil in... in way too long."

"Wait a sec, you were a junior in '95? Were you, like, twelve when you graduated high school?"

She shrugged, wiping her fingers on a paper napkin. "I skipped a grade. Or two. And then I kinda fast-tracked into my graduate program."

"You were lecturing me how quote-unquote normal nineteen year olds have no focus—and you were all Wonder Woman at nineteen."

"I don't know that I was all that focused, exactly. I mean, I was. Sorta. I took all these classes and everything. I didn't have anything better to do than study, I guess. You know?" She suddenly seemed way more interested in her salad, pushing pieces of lettuce around with her plastic fork.

"Yeah. I kinda do." He gave her a sympathetic smile. "So. Saturday—no Meg Ryan. Rocky Road. Got it."




Friday, February 13, 2004
6:41 p.m.


"I can't believe you're vetoing The Godfather Trilogy," Jake said into his cellphone as Kyle came up behind his workstation in Sat Ops. "Okay—okay. We'll do a St. Valentine's Day massacre marathon some other week-end..." Jake looked up into Kyle's expectant face. "I gotta go. Talk to you soon."

"Hey," Jake said as casually as he could as he flipped his cellphone closed.

Kyle raised a brow. "You got a hot date?"

"No—Diane and I are just gonna watch some movies. Me, I say in the spirit of the season, we should do the Die Hard trilogy. Counter the whole sappy romance thing with some good solid gunfire and explosions and Bruce Willis thing. But she's kinda pushing for the new Hitchcock box set. I mean, we did North by Northwest a while back, but she really has a thing for the Jimmy Stewart ones."

"You guys do this a lot?"

"I dunno, every other week or so." Jake shrugged. "It's been a rough couple of months, what with the whole Sarah thing and that jerk Clemens and all. You know how it is. It sucks to be single in February."

"I hear ya."

"What happened with Megan?" Jake asked, lowering his voice slightly, since he wasn't sure that Kyle's love life was—or should be—common knowledge.

"Perils of the job," Kyle replied, more sanguine than Jake would have been had the situation been reversed. "After I cancelled the third date in a row during that whole mess with the Albanians, she stopped returning my calls."

"Ouch."

"So—movies?"

"Yeah. Maybe order some food, have a bottle of wine. I'm trying to teach her to appreciate the genius that is Rush. She's more of an angry piano chick kind of girl than power bands. But I'm working on it."

"Your place or hers?"

"Hers."

"You gonna wear a clean shirt?"

"Of course I'm going to—Kyle! What the hell?" Jake suddenly realised that, in his own special Kyle way, his mentor was teasing him.

"You do realise that what you've described would, in most civilised countries, be termed a date, right?" Kyle said, laying a hand on Jake's shoulder, his expression one of infinite patience and understanding as he instructed his protégé in the realities of life.

"A date—no. Kyle! I mean, we just—She was having a really bad day, and we were venting about how much Valentine's sucks when you're single, and I just asked if she wanted company."

"Uh-huh."

Jake shook off Kyle's hand, annoyed. Having been the older sibling in his own family, he wasn't quite used to the reversal of fortune yet. "We're just hanging out."

"So, you're telling me that if I were to come over some night after work to hang out, you'd crack a nice bottle of wine, maybe put on some music?"

Jake closed his eyes in pain. "Okay—that is a mental image I did not need."

"Which only underscores my point," Kyle said smoothly.

Jake opened his mouth to reply, then shut it again. He took a deep breath, trying to be Zen about this. "It's not a date," he said simply.

"Okay."

"It's not a date!"

Kyle held up his hands in a placating gesture. "I heard you the first time."

Jake suddenly paused, bringing an hand to his mouth as the implication hit him. "Oh my God, what if Diane thinks it's a date?"

"You could always ask her," Kyle suggested.

"No!" Jake said perhaps too forcefully, and then dropped his voice down to barely above a whisper, as both Carver and Hart's heads swivelled in his direction at the outburst. "Are you kidding me? If it's not a date, and I ask her if it's a date, then she'll think I'm like the biggest moron in the western world, and if it is a date and I don't know that it's a date—"

Kyle nodded, ponderous. "It's a lose-lose situation."

"How do I tell? How would I tell if she thinks it's a date?"

"If she shaves her legs, then it's definitely a date."

"What if she's wearing jeans?"

"Good point. Too bad the nanites don't give you X-Ray vision."

"Kyle? I'm serious. How can I tell without contriving to feel up her calves?"

"You may be over-thinking this."

Jake shook his head, suddenly feeling panic welling up in his chest. "No. No, I'm really not. I don't think I've given this enough thought. If I had, then I wouldn't be in this predicament in the first place—"

"Well, when you asked her out—"

"I did not ask her out!" Jake hissed. Jake swore he heard a snicker from two rows over, despite the fact that he was pretty sure Carver hadn't actually heard him.

"When you made plans to spend Valentine's Day with her," Kyle corrected in low tones, obviously amused, "what was going through your mind?"

"Solidarity."

"How very Cold War of you."

Lou materialised behind Kyle, arms crossed. "Is there a problem, gentlemen?" she asked, glancing back and forth from Kyle to Jake.

"No. No problem. Not a single thing—" Jake said quickly.

Kyle cut him off with a look. "We're fine, Lou."

"Good. Then cut the chatter and get back to work." She included Kyle in her sweeping gaze.

"Yes, ma'am," Jake said meekly.
 
 
 
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