Title: Not Real Good With Subtle
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.
Summary: As it turned out, coming back from exile with her name all over the news was even less comfortable for the ex-boss and the ex-friend then having Kelly around while they were making eyes at each other. 2400 words.
Spoilers: Lake Placid (1999)
Notes: Kelly/Jack fic, for alyse in Yuletide 2012. Because this is one of my comfort movies, too.
Kelly looked up as the bell rang over the door of the little café, cradling a warm cup of green tea between her hands. It wasn't exactly a cold day, but it wasn't warm by any stretch, either; she was up at the nosebleed end of Maine, and she was basking in her first day of unpaid freedom.
The man walking in the door wore a familiar Fish and Game uniform and a pleasantly delighted expression in his hazel eyes. "Kelly?" he asked, instantly distracted from what his errand there had been to wend a path toward her table.
"Jack. Hey," she replied, smiling warmly at him. Warden Jack Wells still looked just as handsome as she remembered; she hadn't expected to run into him so early in her visit, but she wasn't complaining.
"Hey," he replied, with a casual little goofy half-wave as he recovered from his astonishment. "What are you doing around these parts?"
"These parts?" she replied in amusement. "Why so surprised? Aren't you glad to see me?"
"Well, of course!" he blurted, stopping about an arm's length away. But his mouth ran on ahead of his feet; something they'd always had in common. "It hasn't been the same since you took your can of RAID and your butterfly bandages away with you. I just meant, what brings you back so soon?"
"No, I see how it is," she teased him back. "I can take a hint. But do you mind if I finish my tea before I exit stage right and return your county to its usual Kelly Scott-free condition?"
The fine lines at the corners of his eyes crinkled up as he tried not to grin in reply. "No, I'm serious. I haven't seen a single severed head since you left; I was starting to get a little bored. The museum send you back on another tooth hunt?"
Kelly's smile slipped a little at that. He was the only person she'd met on her original trip that she'd told the whole story behind that visit; not even Hector, who'd already been something of a friend, had known that Kevin had actually sent her to keep her from making waves about him dumping her for Myra, rather than because he gave a damn about prehistoric teeth turning up in Aroostook County. "Nothing so interesting, I'm afraid," she sighed. "As it turns out, coming back from exile with my name all over the news was even less comfortable for the ex-boss and the ex-friend then having me around while they were making eyes at each other."
Jack raised his eyebrows at that, looking flatteringly concerned – and curious. "Ex-boss?"
"Caught that, did you?" She took another sip of her tea, the corner of her mouth curling up. "Yeah, I finished up my two weeks' notice last Friday."
He sank into the chair opposite her at that comment, his eyebrows arcing further up under his windblown brown hair. "Taking a vacation in our neck of the woods, then, before moving on to the next museum?"
"More like contemplating a change of career," she shrugged. "I was offered a pretty significant advance to write a book about my experiences out here, and what with Myra constantly glaring daggers at me and Kevin talking to the reporters like everything I did out at the lake was his idea ... well. I thought it might be worth a shot."
"A book? Like something they'd make a movie out of?" He looked a little skeptical – though Kelly couldn't really blame him, after some of the unkind things she'd said before. She'd be worried, too, if someone threatened to write a book that might cast her home in a bad light.
"No, like a scientific study," she replied, rolling her eyes. "Though you're right, monster thrillers are pretty popular right now, from the looks of the bestseller racks." She gestured with her cup toward the little display rack over by the register. "If it did get made into a movie, who do you think they'd pick to play you?"
"Harrison Ford, of course," he replied in mock indignation. "What about you?"
"Julia Roberts, who else?" she grinned back at him.
"Oh, I don't know; I don't think I see it..." he drawled, looking her slowly up and down.
Abruptly aware of her sharp, narrow nose and the dirty blond color of her hair, Kelly blushed, scoffing at him. "Jack! And here I was so polite about your self-delusions."
"Delusions? You just keep thinking that," Jack replied, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms over his chest. But he didn't follow that up with any further jabs; instead, something pained came and went in his expression, and he eyed her again, cautiously. "So ... uh. Does this mean you're seriously thinking about staying here? I kinda thought you'd been glad to see the back of this place."
She blinked at him at that, trying to assess the change in mood, then suddenly realized just why he might be so dubious. "This is about me not calling, isn't it?" she said, sheepishly. "I, uh. I didn't really think, I mean, I didn't know what to say..."
He cut her off, waving a dismissive hand. "No. You don't have to explain..."
"Yes. Yes, I do!" she overrode him, finally setting her cup down and leaning forward over the table. "It was just so busy at first, what with getting the crocodile settled in Portland, and the media, and then back in the middle of all the drama at the office, suddenly cranked up to eleven – I mean, you can laugh, but I caught Myra putting laxative in my coffee my second day back!"
His gaze dropped to the pale yellowish liquid in her cup, then. "I wondered," he broke in. "I mean, I didn't want to insult you, but..."
"Yeah, I've sort of lost my taste for it at the moment," she snorted. "So you see what I had to deal with! I was just sick of it, I mean, I couldn't help but wonder if that's the sort of thing Hector has to deal with all the time, have you ever heard him talk about the downside of being famous? I'd certainly never taken him seriously on the subject before. So, I thought ... but then ... and I wasn't sure, so I..." She tapered off into an awkward shrug, giving him a hopeful look. "I thought I might just make it a surprise?"
Jack went through several different facial expressions during her little half-confession, from amused to faintly derisive to flattered and finally something a little more promising. "Yeah, well. It is a nice surprise," he said, leaning forward again so they were only a couple of feet apart across the table.
"Yeah?" Kelly replied, then cleared her throat and collected herself; she couldn't make it that easy for him. "I mean, besides, isn't it the guy's job to call, anyway?"
He immediately put his palms flat on the table, pushing himself to his feet – though the little tug at the corner of his mouth said he was definitely playing along. "Mmm, yeah. You're right. It's completely my fault. So I'll just take my clearly unworthy self back out of your intimidatingly hygienic presence..."
She giggled, then gave in, pushing her own chair back to stand and grab him by the lapels. "Oh, you. Come on over here," she said.
The press of lips was firm, warm, and just a little scratchy – clearly, someone hadn't been moisturizing properly. It wasn't the awkwardness of a first kiss, though, nor the perfunctory peck of a couple falling into habit together, either; they were still in that magic getting to know you phase, even better than Kelly had remembered. They might have gone on acquainting themselves with each other for quite awhile for all she cared, regardless of whoever might be watching from the other tables or from behind the counter—
—but after a minute or so, the bells over the door rang again, and an all too familiar voice intruded on her little patch of Cloud Nine.
"Oh. Oh! Hey, Hank; check out the lovebirds. Looks like the gang's all here!"
A surly, drawling voice replied. "Yes, I can see that, Hector."
"Oh, come on, they're not shy!" Hector Cyr, mythology professor and crocodile enthusiast, replied as Kelly and Jack broke off their kiss to greet the new arrivals. "They don't mind us interrupting. Hey, Kelly; long time, no see. Jack! I'd say I missed you, but it wouldn't be true. I've been too busy following this guy around to miss much of anything about your fair little corner of the country." He jerked a thumb in Sherriff Hank Keough's direction.
Hank, wearing an Aroostook County uniform not too dissimilar from Jack's Fish and Game outfit due to the workday hour, rolled his eyes at him; but for all he'd probably deny it to their faces, he looked just as pleased to see them as Hector. They both approached the table, creating a little knot of overeducated officialdom at Kelly's corner of the café.
Jack looked pleased to see their fellow survivors, too – but Kelly saw the frown line come and go between his eyebrows as his professional side struggled back to the surface. "Hey, Hector. Hank. Why didn't you tell me you were back? Is something else going on out at the lake?"
Hector and Hank looked at each other, and Hank shrugged. "Just a precaution. John down at the feed store noticed that Mrs. Bickerman's been buying an unusual number of chicks lately..."
Hector broke in over him at that, whistling appreciatively. "Some gorgeous ones too. Never would have guessed the old biddy had it in her."
Hank rolled his eyes expressively, but otherwise ignored the interruption. "Like as in baby chickens. And there've been some confused reports from the last few canoers out there. So we've been back out to have a look around. Just as a precautionary measure."
Jack was wholly focused on them now, though he had at least reached out to thread his fingers through Kelly's. "And have you find anything else ... unusual?" he asked, avidly.
"Not yet," Hector shrugged, fingering the crocodile tooth he wore on a leather thong around his throat, "but I'm confident we will. After the necropsy results came back from the one Hank plugged, we had ourselves a look up the live one's skirts. They're both male, of course, as I figured given the size – this species has the greatest sexual dimorphism of any modern crocodilian – but I do believe that they may have had nesting mates out there. Crocodiles may opportunistically take any prey that wanders into their range, but they can go months without food; the ones we saw were very vigorously defending their territory, a behavior typically seen in nesting parents."
Kelly's eyes went wide, and she felt Jack's grip tighten around her fingers.
"I'll send someone out to take a look right away," Jack said, sounding shaken. "You think we may have a couple of dozen juveniles to deal with?"
"Potentially a lot more than that," Kelly told him, dismayed. "Females typically lay 40 to 60 eggs, but some clutches have been recorded with up to 90. They'll be small when they hatch – maybe ten to twelve inches long – and a lot of them will be eaten by other predators, but the ones that survive will be three feet long within two years. If Mrs. Bickerman keeps feeding them..."
"Ought to put that woman back under house arrest," Hank said, looking sour.
"Not that it would stop her. That woman is sassy," Hector noted. Then he eyed Jack and Kelly both, speculatively. "Hey, forget about sending someone; why don't you both come with us? Get the band all back together again."
Kelly swallowed, thinking about it. She had felt more alive out there on the lake than she had in years, and the real monsters were gone; not that the females wouldn't still be more than large enough to kill humans, but they'd be a lot more manageable in size, and they'd be prepared this time.
She turned to Jack, trying to read his expression. "I suppose I could get more material for my book," she said, speculatively.
"Or another chance to get bit by mosquitoes, fall out of boats, throw yourself at fish and game wardens..." Jack drawled, cocking an eyebrow at her.
That wasn't a no, she noticed. "Throw myself!" she replied in kind. "I'll have you know, there's only one fish and game warden I've ever embarrassed myself in front of, and he's the one who invited me out for a beer in the first place."
"Is that so," he replied dryly, his expression shifting to something with a whole lot of male pride behind it. She was tempted to remind him she'd never responded well to that sort of stereotypical behavior – but it was kind of difficult to stick to her guns when she was just barely holding herself back from climbing him like a tree in public.
Hector cleared his throat then, loudly. "Well, we'll just be over there by the Jeep when your mating rituals are complete. Though it might be a little public for the actual mating. Not that I'd object, mind; but it might disrupt our schedule if Hank has to arrest you for indecent exposure first."
"You're still a Mental," Hank told him, with a long-suffering sigh.
"Why, thank you; it's good to hear I'm not slipping," Hector replied brightly, his voice receding a little as he and Hank headed for the door. "Now you, on the other hand, my oversized friend..."
Not that Kelly was watching them go; she was much more agreeably occupied.
"Mating rituals?" she murmured after a moment, grinning up at Jack. "And who were the ones pulling each other's pigtails?"
He chuckled at her, reaching up to tuck a lock of loose hair behind her ear. "I think it might just be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, there."
"Good thing I'm at Black Lake then, huh?" she said, then bit her lip, leaning into his warmth. "So what do you say? How do you feel about wading into another adventure with yours truly?"
Jack pretended to think for a minute, then grinned and bent for another kiss. "I think the water's gonna be just fine."