"I suppose it just goes to show," he says and takes another sip from his pint. She cocks her head at him, waits. "People can't really change," he finishes.
She smirks at him. He's at that stage where he's drank enough to go all philosophical on her. It's cute. The ever-starchy Jacob Thorne waxing on abstractly. She likes this stage, even if she can't always follow his stream of consciousness. "How's that again?"
"Mrs. Gardner. Even after twenty years, a marriage, kids, building a life? She said Dr. Gardner saved her, but inside, way down deep, she's still the same troubled, emotionally unstable person she was at fifteen. People don't change, not really."
She taps her fingernails on her own glass. "You don't think so?"
"Nope," he answers succinctly in that way he gets when he thinks he's made up his mind for the rest of time. "Do you?"
"Well… You used to wear a backpack." Now he's the one cocking his head, confused. "You used to wear a backpack to the office. Alesha Phillips told me."
"Uh oh, the ex-girlfriend and the current girlfriend have been talking…"
His dark eyes are flashing, amusement almost tugging a smile to his mouth. She lets his comment float by, pretending she didn't hear it because he's been drinking. "And!" She wags her finger at him. "And…you used to ride a motorbike. So don't tell me people can't change."
He suddenly bends down, his head disappearing below the table, and for a horrible split-second she thinks he's going to vomit. "You may be right, Miss Barker," she hears him say just before he pops up again. "I haven't seen those…slippers of yours in ages."
Playful Jake Thorne now? Surely not. "Uggs," she corrects, trying not to smile.
"If that's not proof people can change, then I don't know what is."
He holds the door for her as they leave the pub. They stand there on the sidewalk and he's eyeing her steadily. Is there something on her face? Is he laughing at her? Those coal black eyes of his…she can never read them, never read what hints may lay in them. That's probably what makes him such a good lawyer. She's not sure if the stretching silence is supposed to be comfortable or not…or what. She self-consciously swipes a gloved hand across her nose and breaks the silence, seeking familiar ground. "So, we have that pre-trial hearing tomorrow morning—"
"Y'know, truth is," he starts, interrupting her. "Even if no one wants to take the credit for how things came down today in court—"
She tries to preempt whatever compliment might be coming. "Let's call it a team effort—"
"-the truth is, you did exceptional work today, Kate, thank you," he says, leaning down and kissing her on the cheek. It happens quickly and catches them both off guard at just about the same moment. He straightens up stiffly and steps back, and she feels blood pulsing into her cheeks. "Sorry. I—that was—"
But she's already shaking her head, cutting off his apologies. "No, it's okay."
"Please excuse me," he says again anyway, backing away another step.
"Really, it's fine."
He nods, avoiding eye contact, backing up down the sidewalk. "Um. Tomorrow, eh?"
"Yep. Tomorrow," she repeats back.
"Good night, then." He backs up a few more steps before finally turning from her. She watches his tall figure walk away. Absently, her gloved fingers touch her cheek, as though to hold there the feel of his stubble on her skin, the warmth of his lips.