Title: B is for Bad Balance
Couple(s): Carley Nagisa x Jack Atlas
POV: Carley
Language: Mild
Maturity: None

"Do you often find yourself tripping over your feet as you walk?"

-- Wii Fit

"... The roads are slick with ice this evening so be sure to be careful when driving tonight. That's all for the weather report today. Back to you, Angela... "

Carley hardly paid attention to the drone of the television set as she stirred her coffee idly. She hated this news channel, partly because half of the stories were based loosely on rumors, (or to say it journalistically, if that was a word, slander) and partly because her rival reporter was the star of the station. Carley snorted inwardly about the irony of it all; she wrote about the truth, but unfortunately, Angela's lies were much more interesting to the general public.

The raven-haired woman sighed and rested her chin on the palm of her hand, her aquamarine eyes staring at the reflection of herself in the drink in front of her. She hadn't even taken a sip of it since she ordered it. It was probably cold by now. Carley pushed the cup away, and shuffled through her bag, looking for money to pay her untouched coffee.

She felt her stomach knot when she realized she was broke. Carley bit her lip. "Damn," she muttered under breath, closing her purse. She wondered if perhaps she gave the waitress an IOU, Carley could quickly drive back home and grab just enough to cash to pay for her drink. This was, after all, her favorite café, and she didn't want to be barred service simply because she forgot her wallet one evening.

Carley moaned and rubbed her temples in frustration. "I'm such a klutz," she mumbled to herself.

"That you are," said a familiar voice in a matter-of-fact tone behind her. Carley jumped in her seat slightly from surprise, and turned her neck just enough to see the one and only Jack Atlas, looking smug as ever. The reporter felt her breath get caught in her throat for a moment, feeling his violet irises scan over her menacingly, like a lion stalking his prey. "You forgot your money, didn't you?"

Carley nodded, looking slightly bewildered. Jack smirked and reached into his back pocket. "Let me get it then," he said, pulling out his own wallet, "How much was it?"

"I don't want you paying for me."

"I'm not paying; Crow's paying."

"Oh, well that makes it so much better," she said sarcastically.

"Do you want me to help you or not?"

"Not if you're stealing from you're friend!"

"I'm not stealing, I'm temporarily borrowing," said blonde duelist plainly, pulling out ¥900 and placing it on the table. "There, that should cover it. Now, thank me."

Carley blinked, shocked by his arrogance... his oddly kind arrogance. She swallowed and smiled weakly while spluttering a feeble, "Thank you." Jack smirked smugly, looking quite pleased with himself. The former King then waved her off and left. That got Carley's blood boiling; the nerve of him! To do something nice for her, and then to just leave her without anything further--

The reporter sighed. It wasn't worth getting worked up over. She reached into her open bag again and pulled out her keys. Carley then stood up, gathered her things, and went outside.

Almost immediately, a chilly breeze shook the raven-haired woman to the bone. She pulled her coat around her tightly and re-wrapped her stripped scarf. The snow that fell was only half-way frozen by the time it reached the earth, nearly providing illusion of rain; that and the feeling of it as Carley's clothes began to dampen with melted ice.

She opened her car door, and discovered with great disdain that the inside of her car was as cold, if not colder than the outside. She breathed slowly, watching her steamy breath dissipate as she stuck her key into the ignition and tried to start the engine; tried, being the key word. The car spluttered and rumbled, but it didn't budge. Carley cried out in frustration when she realized that the gas in her car's engine must've frozen from the low temperature.

"This is not my day," she moaned, leaning her forehead up against the freezing steering wheel. Carley stayed there for a moment longer before she pushed herself into the back of her seat and exited her car, supposing she'd have to walk home and worry about her vehicle in the morning.

The street lights flickered dimly as Carley journeyed down the icy sidewalk, melting snow filtering into her shoes. The reporter hastily stuffed her hands into the front pockets of her jeans, silently wishing she had some gloves or mittens on her person.

"So, I guess that piece of crap that you call a car failed you." The hairs on Carley's neck stood up, fear gripping her in that single instant. She jumped up and spun around, only to discover that it was actually just Jack who had frightened her.

"Geez, Jack, you scared me!" she said in exasperation, though relieved. He cocked his eyebrow at her.


"Well... I don't know, it's late and it's dark..." her voice trailed off, hoping he would catch her drift; unfortunately, Jack was not so smart, and stared at her blankly. Carley sighed and rubbed the back of her head sheepishly, a faint, embarrassed blush spreading across her cheeks. "Never mind," she added shyly. Jack hummed to himself, looking slightly irate, but he dropped the subject.

"So, your car... ?" he inquired expectantly, causing Carley even more humiliation.

"It wouldn't start," she mumbled in a hushed voice. Jack smirked knowingly and extended his arm to give her a little push forward, encouraging her to walk alongside him. Warmth filled the pit of her stomach, and she realized that this meant he intended to walk her home. Carley pushed a strand of hair behind her ear, side-stepping a inch to be closer to him.

"I thought so," he said, sliding his hands into the pockets of his pants, much to Carley's disappointment; this dampened her chances of possibly getting to hold his hand. However, her mind remained clouded with the wonderful fantasy of Jack turning on his supposedly legendary charm that had dazzled so many other woman; except now it would be used to enchant herself, so that he could capture her heart and they could run off and get married and have a beautiful son and--

Carley shook her head. She knew she couldn't get carried away; this was Jack Atlas after all, who in reality was simply an indifferent man with extraordinarily handsome looks.

"When you come back out of whatever world you're in right now, just let me know, okay?" grumbled Jack, snapping Carley out of her thoughts.

"Huh?" she asked, her eyes wide with confusion and her cheeks red with embarrassment; she couldn't believe he had actually caught her day-dreaming! Jack rolled his eyes, and averted his gaze from hers. He found himself staring aimlessly at the thinly iced street, listening to the crackling of the ice and sloshing of water as a car occasionally drove by where they walked.

"So how far is your place anyway?" he asked as the silence started to grow uncomfortable on both ends. Carley blinked and gave him and odd look that was even visible through her thickly-rimmed glasses.

"I live in the same apartment that I've always been in," she replied. Jack shrugged.

"That doesn't necessarily mean I remember where it was," he said nonchalantly, casting her a furtive glance. In perhaps any other circumstance, Carley would've been irked by this; she had warmly opened up the invitation to stay in her home to him for an entire week after his ungraceful end as king, which he readily accepted and milked for all it was worth. Beyond that, he had visited her on several other occasions after the whole Dark Signer incident, so how could he forget? Was he trying to get at something she didn't understand?

Carley remembered, however, that he was providing her with the kind service of escorting her home at such a dark and dangerous hour, so she kept her mouth shut about it.

"It's only about a block away now," she said, sounding surprisingly calm. Then, in a single instant, an awkward step on a particularly slick section of sidewalk caused her to lose what little balance she had to begin with, and fall backward--but impact never came. Instead, she found herself wrapped securely in Jack's right arm, whose quick reflexes allowed him to catch the falling girl.

"God, you really are a klutz, aren't you?" he said, helping her to standing evenly on her two feet again. His grasp on her never left, however, and Carley found herself looking directly into his intense, amethyst eyes. Her entire world seemed to freeze, and the only two that remained in it were herself and Jack. She noticed a rapid change in her heart rate, its beat growing louder and more impassioned until she felt as though it would punch out of her chest. She no longer felt the painful tingling in her fingers, or the icy water that surrounded her toes; nothing but warmth in her gut.

She could almost feel reality pause as his lips went to meet hers, and then all was lost. Nothing else existed, and Carley was just fine with that. She rose to the tips of her toes and tilted her head back, reaching to wrap her arms around his neck while encircled her waist with his. They kissed each other soundly for a moment until the met a pause for a break of fresh air, and went at it again.

When the moment ended and the world came climbing back in, Carley found herself still caught in the stupor that Jack Atlas had actually just kissed her. Jack chuckled and patted her on the shoulder, saying, "Come on, let's get you home before you trip again and I have to take you to the hospital for a cracked skull."

Comments: It's shorter than I wanted it to be, but oh well. I can only stretch a single idea so far.

This took forever to write though. I don't even know why, I just had to keep chipping at it day by day until it was actually finished. Go figure. By the way, Train's song "Something More" kept playing in my head as I wrote this; not so much the lyrics, but the beautiful guitar... I love music.

Review because you love me. Probably.