"Life goes on" Part 2
Jack woke up the next morning to the sound of more water running in the bathroom as his eyes cracked open. He realized he'd rolled in his sleep and that the sheets were now tightly wound about his neck, making him wonder how he had managed to not suffocate during the night. He bounced his body a few times until the sheets loosened enough for his arms to move, and then slowly released himself from the trap.
"Pat? Are you alright?" He slid his bare feet over the brown, worn carpet to the bathroom door and knocked lightly as he yawned.
"Yeah, why?" Pat opened the door with a towel around her body, and her hair up in another. Jack's eyes were baggy and in small slits. He yawned rudely, trying only half-heartedly to cover his mouth. He had two silver fillings, one of his front teeth was chipped and his breath was slightly rank.
"Another shower?" He raised an eyebrow in his trademark McGee fashion and lazily flipped a hand in the direction behind her.
"A quirk of mine." A corner of her mouth lifted into a smile as she shut the door in his face. Jack groaned and leaned against the door, setting his forehead against the hallow wood. He could hear her moving in the room as she set plastic bottles on the counters and got dressed.
"Women." He muttered and dragged his body over to his bed and sat on the end. He stared at the blank TV screen until Pat walked out of the bathroom, the towel still on her head.
"It's so dark in here." She walked briskly past him and threw the thick shades open as he slapped his hand over his face in protest.
"Warn me before you do that, will you?" He stood up and went into the bathroom with a little more life in his tired steps. Pat had put all of her bottles and such back into a closed bag that sat on the countertop. Jack snapped the shower curtain to the side and turned on the shower, steaming water falling loudly into the tub.
Pat waited patiently as she dried her hair, when Jack finally came out of the bathroom, a towel around his waist, as he quickly grabbed his bag and dashed back into the bathroom. Pat smiled as his blushing face disappeared behind the door, and he came out a few minutes later, smelling of sweet flowers.
"Don't say anything." He grumped as Pat went back into the bathroom and took her shampoo off of the counter, and put it into her open bag. Jack gave her the keys to his car and he went to return the key to the manager of the little motel they had roomed in. Pat found his car and turned the key and shifted into gear, driving to the front of the motel, and moving over to the passenger side. She waited as Jack talked with the manager for a minute, and then came out of the motel's atrium.
"What did you guys talk about?" She looked at him as he pulled quickly out of the driveway and onto the street, remembering to put on his seatbelt when he reached a second light.
"What else? He asked me about the Hulk? He was wondering if it was real." Pat smiled as Jack merged onto the highway, starting the long six hour drive back to the National Register, with his window down, letting the wind blow his hair wild.
"Jack, I'm really sorry, but there was no shampoo in the shower to start with." Pat broke the long silence; Jack looked accusingly at her, and then brought his concentration back to the road, a smile creeping onto his face until he started to chuckle. Pat and Jack quickly exchanged glances and then looked back to the road again, both snickering until they couldn't contain themselves, and burst out laughing.
They finally pulled into the parking lot of the National register and Jack parked the car as close as he could to Pat's executive space. He carried her bag as they walked to her car.
"It was very kind of you to give me a chance, Patricia." He swung her bag a little carelessly. "And I'm sorry that I may have been rude to you in the past." Pat stopped and looked at his travel-worn face.
"Jack, of all people who should be apologizing, it should be me, not you." She smiled softly, and he returned the expression, if a little awkwardly. He handed Pat the bag and she dropped it into her car and walked with Jack up to his office, using the stairs. They reached his floor and Pat turned just before she started up the next flight and looked at him.
"Well, I'll be seeing you." Jack said nervously, pushing his hands into his blazer pockets.
See you soon Jack." Pat smiled and started up the stairs. "Oh
Jack," she turned in time to see the door hiss shut. She looked
down at her small feet tucked nicely in their uncomfortable heels,
and carefully made her way to her own office with the large window
and a view of the area around the National Register.
Jack kept his hands shoved in his pockets as he walked hastily to his desk, praying that no one would notice the smell of his hair. He made it to his office without incident, and looked down at his desk. It was covered with notes about calls that had claimed another lead on the Hulk. He sat down and sighed, looking at his pile of calls to make, and pushed them aside. Beneath was a map of the States, and it was littered with markers of known Hulk sightings.
Mr. McGee." One of the office secretaries had an armful of files
she was barely able to hold. "I have some letters for you, and
also a couple of things from higher up." Jack looked up at her
half-dazed, tilting his head to the side a little.
"What?" He moaned, barely audible. It took her a few seconds to figure out what he had said.
"I have your mail." She walked in and set it on a relatively clean corner of his desk, less populated by stray papers.
"Oh, thank you Nancy." She smiled and nodded, then left the office quietly. If it weren't for the stack of files now on his desk, Jack would have completely forgotten she'd been there. He looked at his now perfectly covered desk, and thought about Pat. He remembered when he'd seen her for the first time, how she'd walked into his office with her father, and laughed with him at his ridicule of Jack's work. She'd changed since then, now she believed him, and most of all, she felt the same for him. Jack dropped his head into his hands at the thought.
"How utterly pointless." He mumbled to his self as he stared at the blurry map of lines and dots. "How sadistically ironic." He smiled to himself when he heard a knock on the wall and his head jolted up to see Patricia in his doorway.
"What's ironic Jack?" She stood in front of his desk with her hands on her hips. She looked at his swamped desk and sighed. "How do you get anything done?" She motioned with her head to his 'organization.'
"I don't." He scoffed and set his head back in his hands. He ran his fingers through his hair a few times before exhaling loudly and dropping one arm on the desk, some of the papers fluttering off to the ground. "Pat, what have I gotten myself into?" Pat got to her knees and set her chin on his desk.
"Jack, I think you're doing something worth following. I know a lot of false stories get printed in my paper, but this one is worth every word you put into it. This is a real story, Jack, and if you keep following it, I know you'll find that man." Jack lifted his gaze off of his desk and looked into her own eyes. Her smile was soft, and it made his heart flutter to see her looking at him like that.
"Thank you, Patricia. That means a lot to me, really." She took his hand in hers and squeezed it reassuringly. She stood up, smoothed her suit and walked to the door.
"Jack, it's been an hour since we got back. You look exhausted. I want you to go home for a little and get some rest. I'll take care of the Hulk for today." Jack watched as she lightly knocked on the doorframe as she walked out. He looked down at his desk, seeing his hand as it tingled with the sensation of her hand, the lotion-covered silkiness of her skin and the smell of her shampoo still in his hair. He gathered his coat and a few files off the top of his stack and walked out of his office, locking the door behind him. Jack slung his coat over his shoulder as he walked to the elevator and waited patiently for its annoying ring.
Pat watched Jack walk out of the front of the building from her window in the top floor as he walked to his car. She could see a little more life in his step, but he still walked like he hadn't slept in days. She saw him fumble with his keys until he opened the door to the car and glanced quickly up at her corner office, unable to see through the tinted windows, and got in. Pat waved lightly to his car as it exited the lot and drove away.
"Pat?" She turned around, startled.
"Don't sneak up on me like that, Jerry." She laughed lightly as he walked in with a small binder in his hand.
"I have the line-up for you. I'll just leave it on your desk." He stretched his arm to lay it on the desk as he watched her gaze out of the window.
"Pat, is something wrong?" He came up behind her and looked out the window, seeing nothing of any significance. Jerry shrugged and walked quietly out of the office, leaving Pat alone. She turned around and looked at the file, and walked over to it, sliding it across the polished surface as she sat down in her chair. She opened up the file and leafed through the articles slowly, making sure that the format looked correct, and the articles were in the right order. She came across Jack's article on the second to last page, and sighed.
"Even though it's the truth, it still gets put in last." Pat smiled weakly at his face next to the title, and moved his article to the second page.