RATING: Suitable for older kids, just to be on the safe side.
SUMMARY: Missing scene for season three's Adventures in Babysitting. Sue and Jack meet up for breakfast.
DISCLAIMER: Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye is the property of PAX and Pebblehut Productions. No copyright infringement intended.
FEEDBACK: Very welcome.
Even in the stairwell, bundled up as she was, Sue couldn't escape the bitter cold. Fingers numb, she fumbled with the keys, anxious to get inside. At the moment all she wanted was a warm cup of tea and a hot shower, in that order.
When the keys finally slipped into the lock, Sue opened the door with a grateful sigh. She laughed when Levi raced passed her and headed straight for his favourite seat at the window.
"Not so eager to stay out long today, buddy, are we?" Sue grinned, removing her gloves, hat and scarf. She dropped them on the kitchen table along with the blackberry from her pocket before removing the warm, winter coat. That joined the growing bundle over the back of a chair.
With eager steps, she headed straight for the kettle, desperate to chase the ice from her bones. She was in the middle of filling it when Lucy plodded in, grey robe tied askew, eyes half shut, looking like she could do with at least another four hours sleep.
"Good morning," Sue smiled. "Tea?"
"Please," Lucy signed, looking sheepish when another yawn escaped.
"I think I better make some coffee instead," Sue grinned. She left the kettle to boil, watching Lucy as she moved around, gathering everything she needed.
"It's my own fault. The book I started last night was so good I couldn't put it down. It's going to take a lot to get me moving today."
"I don't think you need to worry," Sue began with a nod to the window. "I can guarantee you'll wake up as soon as you step outside. It's freezing. Even Levi was glad to get home."
"Wow, it must be cold," Lucy said, suitably impressed. "He'd drag you across D.C if you let him." With effort, she managed to drag herself over to the kitchen table and drop into a chair. "Thanks," she managed when Sue sat opposite and placed a steaming mug before her.
They sat together quietly, bathed in the first rays of soft, early morning light filtering through the window. Sue, with her hands wrapped firmly around the mug, attempted to coax as much heat from it as she could. Glancing over at her friend, she couldn't help but laugh at the picture Lucy presented.
"Maybe you should try a cold shower," Sue chuckled again as Lucy's head started to droop. "I think you need it more than I need a warm one."
Lucy glanced up, a wry look on her face. "I think you might be…" She stopped, unfinished, when they both realised Sue's blackberry was vibrating. Swapping the mug for her blackberry, Sue checked the screen and felt the familiar wave of pleasure when she saw who it was.
"It's Jack," she said absently, already focussed on the screen and too occupied to notice the fatigue vanish from Lucy's eyes.
For a moment she worried he had bad news about Howie, Bobby and Myles but the words that appeared had a lightness to them that soon dispelled any fears.
"I hope I didn't wake you. Knowing what an early bird you are I thought you'd already be up and about."
Sue smiled as she read.
"Levi and I just got back from our morning walk," she typed quickly, the mug beside her long forgotten.
"Feel like joining me for breakfast before work?"
The smile grew.
"I'd love to," she replied, keeping it short and to the point.
"Great. Pick you up in 30 minutes?"
"We'll be ready."
Sue stared at the screen a few moments longer. Warmth flared and flowed, melting the ice the coffee hadn't come close to touching. Suddenly her day seemed far brighter.
It was only the light touch on her arm that roused Sue from her musings. Looking up, she found her friend's curious eyes alight and now very much awake.
"Well," Lucy signed.
"Well what?" Sue signed back in jest. She knew nothing short of an earthquake could prevent the round of questions already bubbling inside Lucy.
"Well what, she asks." Lucy shook her head. It was clear she was itching to hear more. Exasperation and impatience danced across her face. "What did he want?"
Sue struggled to keep a straight face but didn't keep Lucy waiting too long.
"He asked if I wanted to have breakfast with him," she relented, saying it as casually as possible. She picked up the mug she'd set aside and did her best to hide behind it, bracing herself for the teasing she knew was coming.
"I don't need to ask what your answer was," Lucy grinned as she leaned forward. "You wouldn't be lit up like a Christmas tree if you'd said no."
"I am not," Sue laughed indignantly. "It's just breakfast," she shrugged.
"Uh huh." Lucy was obviously not convinced. "A guy who calls you up at," she broke off to check the clock, "seven in the morning to ask you to breakfast obviously has you on his mind from the moment he wakes up."
The words stained Sue's cheeks a light pink but secretly she hoped there was a hint of truth in what Lucy said. "It's just breakfast," she repeated. "We've had breakfast together before," she countered, but that didn't deter Lucy.
"You two have had more breakfasts together than some married couples," Lucy teased, delighting in the morning's developments. "So when are you meeting him?"
Sue checked her watch. "Oh, he'll be here in less than thirty minutes," and was up and running to the sink before Lucy could stop her. But wide awake and quick on her feet now that Sue and Jack were involved, Lucy was up and after her before she could pour away the remnants of her cup.
"I'll get that. You take the first shower. Now you need it more than I do." She slipped the mug from Sue's hand before she could argue and gave her housemate a gentle nudge towards the bathroom. "You don't want to keep Jack waiting."
Sue settled for a roll of her eyes at her grinning friend but made a swift dash for the bathroom.
The shower was the quickest of Sue's life. The steaming water she'd longed for not so long ago sluiced over her body but she barely gave it a second thought. Usually she enjoyed standing under the warm spray, letting her mind wander aimlessly, but since she'd received the call from Jack, her mind seemed content to focus solely on him, no matter how hard she tried to think of something else.
She tried to tell herself it was simply because what she'd found out the night before was still on her mind. But eventually, unable to fool herself, she had to admit that her mind often wandered in his direction anyway. It wasn't long before she gave up even trying.
Shaking her head, Sue finished washing and then dried before quickly applying a light touch of make-up and dashing back to her room to change. It didn't take long to select a pantsuit from the closet and dress, and even less time to run a brush absently through her hair and clip it up.
"Not bad," she said to herself when, after checking the clock, she saw she still had a few minutes to spare. Picking up her purse, she perched on the edge of her bed to make a last minute check of everything she needed, mentally checking off each item. Wallet, keys, tissues, aspirin, notepad and pen; everything was there except for the blackberry, which was lying beside her ready to go in her coat pocket.
"How about you? You ready?" Sue asked Levi, smiling as she stood. At the sound of her voice he jumped up, tail wagging, and ran to the door with her.
"I don't know how you do it," Lucy commented through a mouthful of toast when Sue reappeared in the kitchen. "You look immaculate and it only took you about twenty minutes."
"Luckily I've had a lot of practice," she laughed as she picked up her coat and shrugged it on. She dropped the blackberry into her right pocket, picked up Levi's leash from the console table at the door and hooked it to his collar when he padded over.
"I'll see you at work?"
"You will indeed," Lucy replied, licking some crumbs from her fingers, though the sound of Levi's bark soon drew her attention and had her laughing. "I'll see you too," she added, bending down to ruffle the fur on his head. With a smile, she opened the door for Sue but placed a hand on her arm before she could leave. "You and Jack have fun now, won't you." A mischievous grin spread across her face.
For the second time that day Sue rolled her eyes in exasperation but settled on a simple, "Goodbye, Lucy," before walking out the door.
There was a bounce in her step as she made her way down that hadn't been there on her earlier walk with Levi. She called out a cheery good morning when she passed a neighbour at the bottom of the stairs and this time didn't even notice the biting cold when she unlocked the door of the building and stepped outside.
The sidewalk was already busy with pedestrians rushing by on their way to work. Sue stood with her back to the wall, Levi at her heels, careful to stay out of their way. When the wonderful, rich aroma of coffee and fresh baking drifted by from the Starbuck's next door she took several deep breaths and suddenly realised that she was starving.
With her stomach protesting its lack of food she decided there and then to treat herself at breakfast. She knew without a doubt that Jack would order his usual full breakfast, though she had no idea where he put it, and that he'd give the same excuse he always did; that he worked better on a fuller stomach.
It was the exact same reason he gave when, on the occasions he collected her, he came armed with a warm coffee or hot chocolate, a bagel or muffin. She knew however, since Bobby had been quick to point out one day, that she was the only one of the team to benefit from Jack's breakfast deliveries.
As she watched the passers-by, she remembered Jack's embarrassed cough when Bobby had happily let that piece of information slip. She was sure he'd received as much teasing from the others as she had from Lucy.
Her thoughts were broken, though when a slight tug on the leash had her looking up and into the traffic. She immediately spotted Jack's car already signalling to pull in. Weaving through the pedestrians, Sue reached the curb as Jack brought the car to a halt. She opened the back door for Levi, who jumped in without hesitation, well used to the routine. Sue joined Jack in the front and smiled at the scene before her.
"Someone's happy to see you," she chuckled. She'd just caught the last of the wet licks Levi had bestowed upon Jack.
"I think he's just glad to get in out the cold," he laughed, giving Levi one last scratch between the ears before the dog bounced back into the rear and settled down with his nose pressed against the window.
Her blue eyes meeting Jack's dark, laughing ones, Sue instantly felt the familiar hitch in breath and wondered, not for the first time, at the effect his eyes could have on her. "It's also possible that he's trying to soften you up in the hopes you'll share your breakfast with him," she replied, hoping she didn't sound as breathless as she felt.
"On second thoughts, you're probably right," he nodded and Sue was sure her heart skipped a beat when, after glancing in Levi's direction, he leaned closer. "I know Chinese and Italian don't go down too well with him, but my breakfast always seems to be a different matter."
Sue bit her lip but couldn't quite keep a straight face. "He knows you can't resist him," she settled on, as she reached for her belt to fasten herself in.
"Oh, I'm an easy mark, am I?"
Her eyes sparkled and she pretended to give serious thought to her answer. "I think I'll let Levi answer that one."
His grin widened as he sat back and brought the engine to life. When he looked over again he signed, "Hungry?"
The thought of breakfast at one of her favourite delis brought another bright smile to Sue's face. "Perfect. You spoil me, you know."
Embarrassed, though not sure why, she pressed her lips together and desperately tried to control the blush she could feel creeping up her neck towards her cheeks. It was only when a light touch on the back of her hand attracted her attention that she returned her gaze to Jack. At the sight of a warm smile teasing his lips, she relaxed. "Some people deserve to be spoiled," she read and felt the blush deepen.
Even if she'd wanted to she couldn't have looked away. The fingers resting on her skin were now moving in a soft caress, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, and was so distracting her thoughts scrambled. As her pulse kicked up a notch, she realised, somewhere in the back of her mind, that this was another one of those moments, the type she'd never shared with anyone but Jack.
Though reluctant, she struggled to regain some form of control, and while only partially successful, she saw the moment he realised what he was doing. Saw him look down to where his hand lay and draw it slowly away before looking back to her.
She felt the loss immediately but tried to quash her disappointment. Instinctively she knew the moment, like so many others, would not be spoken of. Clearing her throat, she sent what she hoped was a casual smile in his direction.
"Well," he began with only the slightest hint of hesitation, "Let's go," and checking the mirrors he looked behind and pulled out into the D.C traffic.
Sue was surprised to find the deli relatively quiet when she and Jack passed the floor to ceiling glass windows on their way to the entrance. With the temperature hovering only a few degrees above zero she'd expected to see crowded tables and a steady stream of customers going in and out.
"Looks like we got lucky," Jack said when she turned at the light touch on her arm. Holding the door open with his right hand, he guided her through with his left resting gently on the small of her back.
"You read my mind," she replied as she stepped through and he closed the door behind them.
Welcomed into the warmth with delicious scents that had Jack's mouth watering, he led the way to a dark wooden table for four at the far end. "Oh, that smells good," Jack grinned. "My stomach's been grumbling since we left your apartment."
They slid into seats at a table by the window, draping their coats over the empty chairs beside them. As Levi settled comfortably on the floor between them, a waitress arrived, coffee pot in hand, and began pouring when they nodded.
"I'll be back in a minute to take your order," she said with a quick smile.
Sue relaxed immediately and picking up her cup, let her eyes wander briefly before bringing them to rest on Jack. She watched as he placed his scarf on the bundle beside him and realised, not for the first time, that he'd been careful in his choice of table, making sure she had the best possible view of the restaurant. And he did it so casually that she knew most people wouldn't even have realised what he'd done.
Distracted, she was a little late to notice that he was speaking, and puzzled at what she thought he'd said, she leaned forward with a questioning look. "Sorry?"
"I can be tough," he repeated. "I'm going to enjoy my breakfast today and not give in to a pair of big, brown eyes." His own eyes shifted down at the same time Levi glanced up, their eyes meeting in a look that Sue found adorable.
But rather than share that particular thought, she pretended to study Jack through the rising steam from her cup. "Uh huh."
"You don't think I can do it?"
She sent him a lop-sided grin. "I know how hard it can be to resist a pair of big, brown eyes." She froze as soon as the words left her lips, mentally kicking herself for saying that aloud. She tightened the grip on her cup and cleared her throat as her eyes slid in Levi's direction. "He can be very hard to resist."
Self-conscious, she watched as Levi's eyes darted between her and Jack and desperately hoped Jack hadn't caught on to the real meaning of her words. She gulped down more coffee as Levi settled on the floor again, hoping the caffeine would wake her up and stop words slipping from her lips that shouldn't.
Before either could say a word, the waitress returned, and more than thankful for the interruption Sue released a quiet sigh of relief. When Jack nodded for her to go ahead and place her order there was no mistaking the flash of humour in his eyes. She knew without a doubt he hadn't been fooled.
Doing her best to ignore the feel of Jack's eyes on her, Sue ordered the stack of blueberry pancakes she'd been looking forward to, along with an orange juice. When the waitress turned her attention to Jack, she let out a long breath but chuckled and forgot her slip when she saw him place his usual order.
"What?" he asked, when the waitress left with the promise it wouldn't be long.
"Hmm," he responded, eyes slitting and watching her with suspicion.
Knowing she couldn't contain her laughter much longer, Sue deftly changed the subject. "I wonder how Bobby and Myles are getting on."
With a quick grin, Jack responded, "I dread to think," but carried on quickly. "Which reminds me, I have a bone to pick with you."
Sue's brow furrowed but she and Jack looked down when a furry head popped up. "Sorry, boy, not that type of bone," Jack grinned. "No, I was thinking more along this line," and he signed, Don't encourage him.
Sue felt her cheeks colour as she recalled the scene, and her friend's reactions, in her apartment the previous morning. The words saying they'd check out Howie's story had slipped out almost before she'd realised it.
"I know my ASL has a long way to go yet but I'm pretty sure this," and he signed the three words again, "means don't encourage him?"
Her cheeks flushed even brighter as Jack continued to watch her through eyes that sparkled with amusement.
"It does," she admitted, looking sheepish.
"You mean I didn't sign that we'd go and take a look?" Even through her embarrassment she found it hard not to laugh at his look of mock surprise.
"No, and you know you didn't," she finally laughed, pointing a finger in his direction for emphasis.
"Well, I'll forgive you this time" he joked as he picked up his coffee. "Though If I'd been the one to get babysitting duty instead of Bobby or Myles I don't think I could be so lenient."
"You're cruel," Sue signed, shaking her head.
"I know," Jack admitted. "But I don't think I could handle Howie for long periods of time. He's too…"
"Perky?" Sue supplied when Jack groped for a word.
He snapped his fingers. "That would work."
Their laughter drifted through the quiet deli as they wondered how their friends were getting along; neither could quite decide who would come out ahead after the forced enclosure. Their talk of work gradually drifted to other topics and it wasn't long before their breakfast was set in front of them.
Feeling as though they hadn't eaten in days, they dug in, Sue savouring her first bite while Jack attacked his with gusto. "This is so good," he said a few minutes later, loading his fork with another mouthful.
"You look as if you haven't eaten in forever."
Jack laughed, fork stopping half way to his mouth. "I feel as if I haven't eaten in forever. Between finishing up the paperwork for the Holburn case and ah…a few other things, I've only managed to grab sandwiches the last few days. I can't survive on sandwiches," he joked.
As Sue drizzled a little maple syrup over a pancake, his words brought to mind what her friend had told her the night before. She wasn't able to pass up the opening.
"I met a friend I hadn't seen for a while at Deaf Club last night," she began. "Amy Humphreys?" Her gaze landed on Jack as she took a bite.
Sue hid a smile when he shifted in his seat.
"She spoke to me about the sign language course she's been teaching, that it's a good group of people, mixed." When his only reaction was a raised eyebrow she realised she'd need to be a little more direct. "She happened to mention that one of her students is an FBI agent. She thought I might recognise the name." Head tilted to the side, she sent him a knowing look.
Picking up his napkin, Jack dabbed at some imaginary crumbs on his mouth before answering. A rather guilty expression flitted across his face when he finally met Sue's eyes. "I was hoping to surprise you. I, ah, started the ASL classes a few months ago."
Her smile came automatically and while there was a lot she wanted to say, all that came out was, "I thought you'd improved."
Jack barked out a laugh at her honesty. "I'm glad it shows." He placed his forearms on either side of his plate and leaned forward slightly, a little uneasy. "You don't mind, do you? That I didn't mention it," he clarified.
"Of course not," she answered immediately. "I'm sorry your surprise was spoiled."
He shook that off. "It doesn't matter. At least now I don't need to worry about letting something slip."
"Is that why you didn't join us to celebrate closing the Holburn case the other night?" Sue asked, suddenly recalling the disappointment she'd felt when he hadn't been able to make it. She'd thought it curious when he'd rushed out of the bullpen. It hadn't been the same without him.
Jack nodded. "I'd missed a few classes because of the overtime on that case. I didn't want to miss another."
Comfortably full, Sue took one last bite and then pushed her plate aside. "And Bobby helped cover for you," she replied, the whole picture clear to her now.
"You ever need someone to cover for you, ask Bobby," Jack laughed. "He can come up with an excuse before you have time to panic."
Sue's laughter joined his. "I thought you two were spending an awful lot of time at the courts recently."
"I take a class a week, more when I can, and Troy's been helping me now and again. He's a good teacher," he added.
"Troy?" Surprise filled Sue's voice. "Does anyone else know?" she asked, amazed that the team would be able to keep a secret for that long, that well.
Jack shook his head as he handed a piece of sausage to Levi. It was so instinctive he didn't seem to realise what he'd done but Sue did. She stifled a giggle as he continued. "Just Bobby and Troy," he replied. "Actually, it was Troy who recommended Amy. I met up with him for a while last night," and then half speaking to himself added, "Though I signed something I shouldn't have and it took him about five minutes to stop laughing."
"What did you sign?" Sue asked intrigued, lips twitching.
"I don't know," he answered dryly. "Every time he tried to tell me he'd start laughing again. He said he'd let me know the next time we meet up."
Picturing Jack's indignant look only too well, Sue couldn't stop her laughter escaping. It rang throughout the shop in a way that brought a delighted smile to Jack's lips, completely unfazed by the fact that it was at his expense.
"Sorry," she managed eventually, but Jack's self-deprecating chuckles had long since joined her own.
As their laughter faded away, Sue's gaze flickered to the street outside, caught the sight of two business men arguing over a cab. Emotions that had swamped her the night before suddenly returned full force, leaving a lump in her throat she couldn't dislodge. What she'd felt on learning Jack was taking ASL classes had just intensified tenfold on having him tell her himself.
"Thank you." She turned back to Jack but rushed on before he could reply. "Not many people I've known have tried to learn ASL. When you can lip read a lot of people don't see the need. Mostly it's only been close family, and then Lucy when I came to D.C." She looked down as she swirled the last of the orange juice in her glass and struggled with the effort of putting at least some of her thoughts into words. "Learning ASL isn't easy, it takes a lot of time and patience." She hesitated again, carelessly shrugged. "And most people don't think they'll know me long enough to make it worth their while." The hurt rippled through her as she quietly uttered the last few words, confining in him what she'd never told anyone else. "It means a great deal to me that you want to try."
Head still lowered, Sue missed the affect her last few words had on Jack. Normally gentle hands fisted and crumpled the paper napkin he'd been holding, eyes darkening as he tossed it on his empty plate.
Long seconds passed, Sue attempting to push the pain back to a place where she could try to ignore it, while Jack, unable to respond just yet, determinedly worked to unclench his fists.
"You shouldn't be thanking me," he began eventually, when he'd urged her to meet his eyes. Her own widened in response at the anger he still couldn't hide and for the second time that day he placed his hands over Sue's. "I should be apologising. I should have started classes a long time ago rather than getting by with a few signs. The fact that you can lip read isn't an excuse."
Stunned by the raw emotion written across his face, she realised he wasn't only angry with himself but also with the others she had spoken of. She hadn't seen him truly angry often, but there was no mistaking it now. She watched it war with regret and what she thought was guilt as he kept his gaze firmly fixed on hers.
The power of it was like a physical blow and only the gentle squeeze she felt helped her relax, allowing some of the pain and tension to slip from her body. "And I can guarantee I plan on knowing you for a long time." His grip tightened before he released her and slowly signed, "You'll have a hard time getting rid of me."
His eyes held hers, urging her to see the truth. When she did, the last knot of tension dissolved and left in its place a calm that held both relief and hope.
"You picked up more than a few signs," she pointed out with a rather watery smile, trying to ease the regret she could still read on his face, all the while trying to tell herself that that was enough.
"It's not the same," he answered immediately, almost echoing Sue's thoughts. His serious eyes, still focussed on her, sent her pulse rate soaring again.
Not able to trust her voice just yet Sue signed, "Thank you," repeating her words from earlier. "Thank you," she signed again, incredibly moved by his words and actions. She hoped he could see how much it meant to her because she knew she couldn't possibly explain.
Eyes locked, the space between them seemed to hum with emotion; it almost felt to Sue that she could reach out and touch it. Instead, using a great deal of willpower, she sent Jack a warm smile, her earlier joy returning when the calm, clear eyes she knew so well made a reappearance.
Those eyes flickered towards his coat now, though with what she hoped was reluctance, and she realised his cell was ringing. Searching his jacket pocket he found his phone and from the way his eyes tracked back to her she knew it was work. She watched his side of the conversation closely but garnered very little from it.
Sitting back in her chair she reached for her purse, intending to get some money for their breakfast. With effort, she tried to draw herself together, attempting to put the morning's events behind her for the moment and focus her thoughts on work.
"Is everything okay?" she asked when he disconnected seconds later.
"That was D. An unidentified floater was found washed up on the banks of the Potomac this morning. We've to pick up the others, see if Howie can make an identification."
Sue winced. "He isn't going to like that," she replied as she started to place some bills on the table. A fleeting touch on her arm stopped her.
"This is my treat. You can have the honour the next time."
About to protest, she hesitated when Jack merely raised both eyebrows, so instead happily signed "Deal," already looking forward to it.
Standing, they grabbed their coats and pulled them on, quickly wrapping up against the chill outside. As Jack dug into his wallet, Sue's eyes drifted back to him, once again grateful for the direction an out-of-date directory had sent her in two years ago.
Bill paid and ready to go, they shared one last quiet look before Jack's hand unconsciously reached for her.
Making their way towards the exit, Jack grimaced and repeated Sue's words. "Howie really isn't going to like this."
Copyright © Diane 2009
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