Saturday, February 14, 2004
Diane fled into the kitchen, idiot idiot idiot reverberating through her brain as she fished through her drawer for a corkscrew.
She had to face reality, no matter how unlikely it may be.
She was on a date.
She still wasn't sure how it had happened. But their week-end of jeans and ice-cream and things exploding had somehow morphed into an honest-to-God date. Sure, Jake was wearing jeans and a sweater. But then, she'd seen Jake on a date. That was what he wore on a date. And the jeans were clean, and looked like he'd maybe even ironed them and where the hell was her corkscrew?
She yanked open all three drawers where things lived in her kitchen, and surveyed them with dismay. She owned a corkscrew. She knew she did. She'd seen it.
Now when they ordered food, she'd have to think about what she would order. There was the whole garlic thing to consider, not to mention the fact that there was the whole messy food thing. She was okay with chopsticks, but not great with chopsticks. And tucking a napkin into her cleavage to block sweet and sour chicken should it head south wasn't really the sexy.
The sexy. She was actually seriously worried about looking sexy. For Jake.
"Oh my God, what am I doing?" she muttered as she dug around in the back of a drawer. "What am I"
"Everything okay in here?" Jake's voice behind her froze her in her tracks. She glanced back over her shoulder. He was standing in the doorway, looking amused and concerned all at once.
"Yeahyeah. No, my corkscrew is just hiding." She gestured to the drawers. "I know I have one. I've had wine. Here. Before. Before now."
"Were you on the phone?"
"No. No. Just talking to myself like... um.. you know, how people do," she finished lamely.
"Yeah. Yeah, I do that all the time." He looked down into one of the drawers, and pulled out a yellow plastic corkscrew. "This what you're looking for?'
"Yeah." She flushed. "Eagle eyes."
"Didn't even have to use the nanites."
She took two glasses from the cupboard, setting them down next to the wine. "Um... so... I was thinking about food. I mean, if you're hungry. For more than chocolate, I mean. 'Cause if we're gonna polish that off on our own," she pointed to the bottle sitting on the counter, "maybe we should eat first. So we don't fall down."
He raised a brow. "You might swoon?"
"I might. It wouldn't be pretty." She grabbed the glasses, and he took the bottle and elusive corkscrew and followed her back out to the living room.
She pushed the box of chocolates to the side, snagging another one as he peeled the foil away from the cork. She bit into the truffle, and then made a face.
Jake froze in the fact of twisting the metal corkscrew into the cork. "What?"
"Orangewasn't expecting it." She made a mental note as to what the mandarin orange truffle looked like, so she wouldn't get any more of those.
"You don't like orange?"
"Too sweet. Though these" she held up one of the dark chocolate espresso truffles, "these more than make up for it."
"I'll take your word for it," Jake laughed, and she realised she'd pretty much decimated the espresso truffle population.
"No, waitHere." She scooted closer, and since his hands were full with the wine, held the truffle up so he could take a bite. It wasn't until he cautiously bit into the sweet that it penetrated her fuzzy brain that she was feeding him chocolate.
"It's good, right?" she prompted, trying to cover the fact that she'd just crossed a line completely unintentionally.
Jake chewed, nodding. She licked sugar and cinnamon off her fingers, trying to act nonchalant as an awkward silence stretched between them.
"Sofood. Pizza? Chinese? Thai?" Jake said once he'd swallowed.
"How about, um, something that involves forks?"
"We can do forks," he said, nodding. "Or burgers. Burgers involve no utensils of any kind. And it's red winealways goes well with red meat." He wrestled the cork free with a "pop" and he poured himself a glass first. "Orthere's Italian. Or food from other countries we haven't sampled. Together, I mean."
"Yeah." She held out her glass for him to pour. "Italian sounds good."
His hand brushed her as he steadied the glass, and she almost jerked her fingers away at the sudden contact. Their knees were almost touching, and Jake seemed transfixed by the amount of bare leg exposed by the slit up the side of her skirt.
She glanced from the glass back down to her leg. Had she cut herself this morning? Was there a run in her nylons? Did she have any weird bruises? She was always barking her shins on something, which was one of the main reasons she wore pants to work.
"Um, Jake? I think that might be enough" she began, as wine sloshed over the side of her glass, spattering the hem of her skirt and her ankle. "Whoa!"
"God, I'm so sorry!" He blinked, as if emerging from a trance.
"It's okay," she insisted, glancing around her for something to mop up the spill. If she hadn't cleaned that afternoon, there would have been a stack of napkins on the table from the previous night's take-out. This was why she didn't usually obsessively tidy, she decided. It was more trouble than it was worth.
Jake pulled a wad of tissues out of his pocket, and began blotting her skirt. "I don't know what the hell I was doing, I'm so sorry"
"It's just a skirt." She stilled his hand with hers, a flush creeping up her neck when he didn't move away. "Um... I'm gonnaI have jeans in the other room"
He jerked back as if her touch had burned him. "No. yeah. God, I'm so sorry."
"I'll just be a minute."
She ran to the bedroom, shutting the door behind her. This entire night was just spiralling out of control, and he hadn't even been here for a full hour yet. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been this nervous. Even her first night out with Steve had been less fraught with trauma. It felt like everything she said or did was coming out wrong. As she fumbled with the zipper on the skirt, she heard something beeping. Hopping out of the skirt, she located her bag on the floor next to the bed, and began fishing through it.
She came up with the JMD, the readouts and displays on the tiny screen scrolling data so fast she could barely read it. She stood in the middle of her bedroom in her underwear, staring at the information streaming in from Jake's nanites.
Suddenly many things became clear.
Saturday, February 14, 2004
Jake got a sponge from the kitchen, and began wiping up the droplets of wine he'd managed to get all over the hardwood floor next to the coffee table, all the while mentally cursing Kyle in every language he knew swear words in. His Serbo-Croatian lacked the usual epithets, but he could make up some new ones with the nouns and verbs he did have. You could do a lot with "mother", "cheese," and "gun" if you were really motivated.
So she'd shaved her legs. That didn't mean anything. Not a thing. Womenin his limited experienceshaved their legs all the time, without it being a harbinger of anything dire. But thanks to nerves and the nanites, he'd zeroed right in on her calf and had been unable to tear his eyes away.
She'd fed him chocolate. Okay, that was new. And unexpected.
This was all Kyle's fault. Somehow, someway, he was going to pin this on his mentor and concoct some elaborate revenge that would take days to unfold. Slowly. Painfully. Perhaps involving LaFortunata. Yeah. That would work. Rocket launchers and guys with throwing knives didn't make Kyle pale and run away like a girl the way just mentioning Seymour did... This was a plan.
He was still on his knees, sponge in hand, when Diane emerged from the bedroom. She'd changed into jeans, and something about her was different. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but it was making him even more nervous than the whole truffle incident had.
"We need to talk," she said, taking the sponge from him and pointing to the couch. "Sit."
"Okay." He took a seat, hands folded in his lap. She dropped the sponge on the table and wiped her hands on the legs of her jeans as sat down next to him.
"Jake, are you nervous?" she asked flat out, and he swallowed.
"Nervous? No! Nowhy would I beyes. God, yes." He closed his eyes. "It's that noticeable? That you're noticing it?"
"Yes." She took a deep breath, her eyes sliding away from his guiltily. "Also, I kinda snuck a peek at the JMD while I was in my room"
"Diane!" He felt utterly betrayed, that she would be monitoring them on a date.
"Well, it was in my bag all blinking and beeping!" She crossed her arms, lifting her chin a fraction in defiance. "Kinda hard to ignore."
"Great. So, here I am, all trying to be smooth, and meanwhile the nanites are sending you instant messages telling me my heart rate and blood pressure are up"
"Well, yes, actually. And your adrenals were allYou were trying to be smooth?"
"Maybe," he admitted sheepishly. "A little."
"Why were you trying to be smooth?" Her eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"So you wouldn't think I was an idiot?"
"I never thought you were an idiot," she protested. "Except for those moments when you actually were being an idiot, and I actually called you an idiot."
"Well, yeah. But that was at work. Not... not at work."
"Jake, what are we doing?" Her eyes searched his, and he felt his stomach do flips.
"Um... spending an evening together?"
"No. I mean, what are we doing?" She spread her arms wide, taking in the flowers and the chocolate and the awkwardness and the whole evening in the simple gesture.
"I dunno. One minute, it was all Die Hard and solidarity. And the next minute, Kyle was all 'Are you gonna wear a clean shirt?' And that was itthat was the beginning of the end."
She looked confused. "Kyle asked you about your shirt?"
"And I started to think about how disappointed you would be, if you thought we were going on a date, and then it wasn't a date, and then suddenly it was a date"
"I'm still unclear on where the shirt comes into this."
"Then when I got here, you just looked soI mean, really great, and that shirtJust-just great." He tripped over the compliment, and she was just looking at him, her expression unreadable. "And you were wearing contacts, and the only other time I'd seen you without your glasses was at the wedding and then when you were at the carnival with Clemensand that was definitely a date. And you wore that skirt"
"You remember what I was wearing? You were on a date with Sarah, and you were noticing what I was wearing?"
"Well, you looked so nice," he shrugged, feeling his ears starting to burn with an unwanted blush.
She buried her face in her hands. "No wonder Fran thinks we're dating."
"Hey, I'm not the one who started feedingFran thinks we're dating?" Jake blinked. Somehow, it had never occurred to him that Kyle might not be alone in his suppositions regarding his and Diane's relationship.
"I kept telling her it wasn't like thatbut then I wasn't sure, and I changed clothes something like four times"
"How long has Fran thought we were dating?"
"Then you show up with flowersreally, really gorgeous, expensive, date-like flowers. And you brought movies where people kiss and stuff, instead of blow up office buildings! What was I supposed to think?"
"So you admit that Han and Leia are, like, the couple"
"Don't change the subject!" She waggled a finger at him, all cute and fierce. "Do you see? Do you see why I might be thinking this was a date?"
"I only thought it was a date because I thought that you thoughtokay, I think my brain hurts."
"I think I need more wine." She reached for her glass, and drained half of it in one swallow.
"I thought you said you'd fall down?"
"Oh, I will." She tipped the glass back, draining it, and he laughed.
"What's wrong with us?" he asked, some of the tension draining away. What had started feeling like the worst first date of all time was slowly settling back into the comfort zone he'd been so desperately missing since she'd first opened the door, and he'd stepped into the Twilight Zone.
"Other than a potentially terminal case of Single Syndrome?" Her smile was rueful and slightly self-mocking.
"This whole day has just been so weird, and not..."
"Yeah. Not." She sighed, cupping her chin in her hand.
Jake turned slightly towards her, serious and sincere. "Look, Diane, the thing I like the most about hanging out with you is that it's not all weird, and confusing, and awkwardI had Sarah for awkward. And that ended really, really badly. I don't want that. God, I so don't want that."
He knew he was entering frightening territory, with the whole honesty thing. But he had to tell her, because it was too important to him. He didn't know what he would do if he managed through his ineptitude to damage their relationship.
"I don't either," she said quickly, reaching for his hand and giving it a reassuring squeeze.
"I mean... What is so weird about being friends?" he asked, feeling frustrated. "I meanwhy can't a man and a woman be friends? It happens all the time, right?"
"All the time," she echoed.
"I mean look at Kyle and Lou. Okay, maybe they don't spend the amount of time outside of work that, um... you and I do. Butbut they're friends. Friendly. Without, you know, the wholeI mean, nobody gossips about them." He sighed. "What's so crazy about two people who work togetherokay, really closely together. But work together, and are friends, doing stuff together outside of work?"
"Exactly! It's not like we're going out dancing"
"Or to the movieswatching movies at home is totally different." She was really getting into the spirit of the discussion now, tucking her feet up under her, and gesturing with her wineglass.
"Totally. A completely different sensory experience. And easier, you know? You don't have to stand in line for popcorn. The floor isn't sticky"
"Sticky?" She laughed, and it came out almost as a snort. "What kind of movie theatres do you go to?"
"From soda," he clarified quickly. "The floor isn't all sticky because some kid four rows behind you spilled his 42 ounce Cherry Coke, you know?"
"Ah. Yeah. No, I hate that." She reached for the wine bottle again, and this time he took it from her, refilling her glass without any mishaps.
"And-and we order pizza, but we're not out every night, table for two at some restaurant"
"Or we go to the pancake house," she pointed out. "It's not a date if you go anyplace where the menus have pictures."
"Yep. It's a law."
"And Hart and Carver eat lunch together all the time, and nobody is gossiping about them, right?"
"Well, after the Christmas party, a little," Diane admitted. "Hart was drunk and kept grabbing her ass."
"Okay. Okay. Bad example. Um..." He wracked his brain for a common point of reference. "Kelley Mitchell and Mark from the lab?"
"They actually dated for a year or so, I think."
"Oh." Jake deflated a little, and Diane patted his hand.
"I totally didn't know about it, until Carver told me."
"Um... Mulder and Scully?"
She laughed. "Okay, I didn't even watch the last three seasons of X-Files and even I know that's a bad example."
"But it happens all the time, right?"
"All the time. Absolutely."
Jake's eyes narrowed, and a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. "You're humouring me, aren't you."
"You bet." She raised her glass, and he clinked it with his own, smiling.
"You know what we need?"
"Couples therapy?" she suggested, and he wondered how fast the wine was hitting her system.
"Ha ha. We need to start tonight over. Just... rewind to before the weirdness"
"And tape over the weirdness?" she suggested with a chuckle.
"And tape over the weirdness," he agreed.
"You know what else we need?"
Jake froze. "Oh, God. I got so caught up in trying to find a florist I could actually afford, I totally spaced on the rocky road."
"See, if you really were my boyfriend? I'd so be kicking you to the kerb right now."
"Over ice cream?"
"I was promised ice cream, and I have been denied ice cream. If you're ever going to have a successful relationship, you have to learn how to keep your woman happy."
"I'll bear that in mind." Jake felt a rush of almost giddiness, now that the tension had dissolved completely. It was like being punch-drunk, and he guess that even more than the wine was contributing to Diane's returned good humour. Shared relief that they had not only survived what could have been a disastrous experience, but come out the other side a smidgen closer than they were before. "Okayso... how 'bout this for a plan... You call for a pizza with no anchovies or artichokes, because just... ew."
"Diane? They're hairy little fish," he gave her a look, and she held up her hands in defeat. "You call for pizza, and II walk to the 7-11 down the street, pick up two pints of whatever ice-cream they have that has the most calories and chocolate content, and we relax and watch movies until we fall down?"
"I like that plan. That's a good plan."
Saturday, February 14, 2004
As the final strains of John Williams score reverberated through the apartment, Diane dropped her spoon into the empty Ben & Jerry's carton, and leaned back against the throw pillows on the couch. "Okay, you know how I always say there's no such thing as too much ice cream?"
"No, but I think I get where you're coming from," Jake said around a mouthful of Chunky Monkey. "Banana and chocolate seemed like a good idea..."
She surveyed the detritus of their little binge currently littering the coffee table. The leftover pizza was wrapped in tin foil in her fridge, the empty pizza box was crammed into her kitchen garbage, and gold foil and brown paper cups were all that remained of the 2 lb. box of Godivas. They'd finished the last of the wine during the Cloud City betrayal scene, and Jake had switched to the free litre of soda the pizza place had sent along with the large half-veggie half sausage deep dish pie. She was wishing now, as her head felt pleasantly stuffed with cotton, that she'd not had quite so much of the wine. But what was done was done.
She was giving serious consideration to unbuttoning her jeans, but decided that even if this wasn't a date, that would strain the bonds of their friendship too much. Somehow, the black silk top had survived the experience, though there had been a moment of panic regarding an adventurous green pepper determined to escape her slice before she'd gotten it to her mouth. Jake had, however, caught it on a napkin during the climactic lightsabre battle, thus sparing her the humiliation of having to go change clothes for a third time since their non-date had begun.
There had been a dodgy non-date momentduring the Millennium Falcon scene, where all the sexual tension of the first two films resulted in, what she had to admit, was one hell of a first kiss. She'd snuck a peek at Jake, who had paused, pizza halfway to his mouth, transfixed as Han had massaged Leia's wounded hand. It was indeed quite the romantic moment. They both chosenwisely, she decidedto let the moment pass without comment. She'd even found herself tearing up at the end, when he was sealed in carbonite and delivered to Boba Fett. Jake had handed her a paper napkin, so she could blow her nose. He hadn't even made fun of her, which she appreciated.
"Wanna do Jedi next week?" he asked as he dropped the video into the remaining plastic bag.
"Ugh. Ewoks?" She made a face. She'd never quite understood George Lucas' insistence on adding kiddie elements to the final filmeven thought she'd been all of eight years old the first time she'd seen it, and had even begged her parents for a stuffed Princess Kneesaa for Christmas. As an adult, however, the giant walking teddy bears just made her cringe and reach for the fast-forward button.
"Well, I was thinking Princess Leia in that metal bikini." Jake's eyes glazed over, apparently at the memory which had launched a thousand teenage male fantasies.
She rolled her eyes. "Of course you were."
He shrugged. "I can make no apologies. I'm a product of my generation."
She laughed, and walked him over to the hall closet. As crazy as the night had been, and she was not lying to herself when she admitted that it had been crazy, she was sad to see it end so soon. Once they'd gotten past the crippling embarrassment, the night had reminded her why she enjoyed spending time with him outside of work. It was nice to have someone with whom she could be herself. Just relax and joke and laugh and not feel the sheer weight and pressure of having to hide her occasional complete dorkitude, or be pretty and poised and perfectthe three Ps she wasn't particularly skilled at.
"I had a really good time," he said, unconsciously echoing her thoughts as he shrugged on his coat.
"Even with the wine stains, panic, and over-indulging in ice-cream?" she asked, tucking a stray curl behind her ear.
He grinned. "Wouldn't trade it."
He opened his arms for a hug, and without giving it a second thought she stepped into them, resting her cheek against his chest as her arms went around him. The embrace was warm, familiar, and completely comfortable. She pulled back and he pressed a kiss to her cheek. The touch of his lips at the corner of her mouth was feather-light.
When one of his hands slipped up to cup her cheek, it felt like the most natural thing in the world to kiss him. All she had to do was turn towards him that little bit and there was his mouth, no thinking required. No awkwardness. No time to second-guess or contemplate what exactly it was they were doing. Her eyes drifted closed as his lips brushed hers as if they'd been rehearsing this scene for months, just waiting for the right moment to play out.
As if it were inevitable.
She got up on her tip-toes, both hands pressed flat against his chest before they slid up and she wrapped her arms around his neck, fingers toying with the dark curls that brushed against the collar of his coat. His hand curved around her neck, fingers tangling in her hair as his mouth opened beneath hers, and when they parted, they were both blushing.
This time, Diane didn't need the JMD to tell her his heart rate was elevated.
"You know," she said as she zipped his coat up a little tighter, fighting to keep her voice normal, "if I didn't know any better, I'd say I was just on a date."
"Yeah?" His breath was warm against her cheek, and he looked slightly dazed.
"Yeah. Got a kiss good-night, and everything."
"Me too." He smiled and traced the curve of her jaw lightly with his thumb.
"So... What are you doing for President's Day?"