Title: Office Hours
Prompt: 36. Jordan leaves Becky with Jack.
Fandom: Studio 60
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Danny Tripp, Jordan McDeere, Jack Rudolph, Rebecca Tripp & others (including Kayla the intern!).
Warning: It's pretty long...
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the Studio 60 characters contained herein, nor any previous storylines referenced.
Summary: "You left her with that crypto-fascist jackass!?"Office Hours
A Man Of The People has to maintain equanimity in his dealings with those he encounters. Be a reasonable, generous and largely trusting and trustworthy fellow of charming mien. Danny Tripp was fond of his reputation as A Man Of The People (so far as it extended
which was about as far as the parking lot
) but he was also an Artist and a Producer as well as a Friend and a Man Of Morality And Also Conscience... which, predictably and once again, was having an impact on his ability to be a Man Of The People.
Well, maybe just one Person in particular.
“You left her with that crypto-fascist jackass!?”
The entire cast of the rehearsal flinched as Danny’s voice cracked around the theatre like a whip. Only, rather than ducking the next possible blow, every single one of the stagehands and actors quickly swivelled their heads to stare at the back of Danny’s as he wailed dramatically into his phone.
"I absolutely did, get over it," replied his fiancee.
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this. My daughter! Your daughter! Our only child!” Danny’s free hand shot up into the air and wavered around in utter agitation.
It was as though Jordan could see it. “Oh my god, Danny are you on the stage right now? Are the lights getting to you?"
“What? Are you implying I’m being overly dramatic?”
“No, I’m expounding that theory outright.” Danny could almost hear Jordan’s smile more clearly than the jet engines in the background as she gave him a beat to calm down. “Now, what are you implying about me?”
“That you’ve taken leave of your senses and gone insane!” Danny replied, not having calmed down in the least. “Wolves would be better! Wolves!”
“You know I tried the zoo, but they told me--”
“Nuh-uh! No! No clever retorts, no cunning ripostes, none of it! Why didn’t you bring her here? To the loving cast and crew of Studio 60, with their gentle and nurturing ways!”
“Danny, look around you.” Danny did. In the seconds he had turned away Alex had nearly impaled his foot with the broadsword taped to his hand and Tom had knocked a can of paint onto an open fuse box with his tail. “You’re airing a two-hour special to fill dead space that didn’t exist a day and a half ago with a cast dressed in twelfth century battle armour and lobster costumes, and a crew on the verge of striking over a pay protest.”
“It’s a normal day here!” he attested, ducking a wayward dragon tail. “And anyway, how do you know he’s fit to take care of Rebecca?”
“Jack knows how to look after a baby, Danny.”
“He does. I checked.”
“With a ouigie board! With him, Danny! Even with the... thing, he’s perfectly capable of taking care of Rebecca for eight hours. By which time I will be back from Seattle, and Rebecca will have had a fun afternoon in a new place where she’s safe, happy and entertained beyond the dreams of avarice. Plus it gives Jack something to do so he feels better.”
“While at the same time sending me to a new place beyond Seattle called Insanityville and making me feel like my brains are going to explode!”
“Like you said, a normal day. Love you, Danny. Bye.”________________________
Kayla was the longest serving intern Jack Rudolph had ever had, and he knew it. She didn’t, but that was quite deliberate and anyway it hardly mattered to her job performance. The reason she was longest serving was because she had a skin thick as walrus hide, selective hearing in all the right ways, and an uncanny ability to monitor and assist one of the most highly-strung men in the country without succumbing to the desire to force-feed him his potted ficus.
Though some days it was a very close thing.
Her voice rang ever-so-slightly wary as she strode back to her desk. She’d dared to leave her post for one of her contractually guaranteed bathroom breaks and now she returned to find the office door of the Chairman of NBS ajar. No doors were permitted to be ajar in Kayla’s domain, most especially not that one.
No answer to her call, so Kayla knocked once on the door and stepped in, taking an unusual liberty and not much caring given the peculiar circumstances of the day. The floor was all but empty, President McDeere was on her way to Seattle along with half the staff of her own office and most of the Chairman's staff as well. The Chairman himself shouldn't even have been in, but you couldn't tell that man anything, let alone that he wasn't allowed into his precious office, so here was Kayla - holding the fort while the senior assistants, secretaries and bureaucrats were elsewhere - and doing it with only one person for company.
Kayla paused and let the door swing behind her. Jack Rudolph was attempting to stand in the middle of the room. He was leaning drastically on a crutch, broken left leg bound to the knee in plaster, little baby peeping out of the crook of his arm, and an expression of contained panic on his face.
“I was only gone for three and a half minutes, sir,” she sighed. ________________________
Cal had to say that fatherhood didn't always wear particularly well on Danny Tripp. Well, no, that was cruel. What he meant was that it didn't always wear particularly sanely. Given that Cal himself had been a father for thirteen years he had more than a little experience with the signs of madness that came with it. The biggest one he'd noticed in Danny had been the way he approached fatherhood very much as he approached his job - and given that he essentially organized, inspired and looked after a hundred and fifty people every day, maybe Danny's job wasn't a bad template to work from.
Or maybe it was. Cal thought about how far into his family's life his job had gotten and aside from the fact his hours were intense there wasn't much to say. Sure his kids always looked phenomenally filmed in home movies and stuff, and his family knew how to organize their schedules down to the minute like you'd never believe; but that was about it. Danny on the other hand was a producer, and if things were not 'just so' at the big moment he had a meltdown. It'd been four months since Rebecca had entered the world and Danny had yet to cecede to the fact that every moment in a kid's life was a big moment and that there was no earthly way he was going to be able to organize, cajole, contrive, bribe, beg or simply make situations be perfect every second of every day.
You had to admire his gusto, but you also had to mourn the loss of his sanity. Sanity that was very much needed all of the time by Studio 60, but most especially by them today. Which was why Cal was taking his non-existant coffee break and pinning Danny down in his office for five minutes. Jordan was a good mom, she and Danny worked hard and cleverly to always have Rebecca nearby and in the care of friends or family, so whatever she'd teased him about on the phone regarding their kid simply wasn't anything to panic about. No way.
Cal edged forward in the chair opposite Danny's desk and watched him thunk his head off the blotter. “So, I guess Jordan and Becky aren't going to be spending her afternoon off with us at Studio 60?"
"You guess right," Danny muttered into somebody's payslip. "She's lost her mind, Cal. Lost her mind. I knew she was crazy but I didn't think she was crazy-crazy."
"What? Agreeing to marry you didn't tip you off?"
Danny gave him a snippy false-smile once he managed to raise his face off the desk. "Jack Rudolph broke his leg and is forbidden to travel, which means that Jordan is journeying in his place as the NBS stand-in of authority from on high at some extremely major multi-network meeting in Seattle. And, I suspect to distract Jack from his apoplexy over that, Jordan’s left Becky with him in his office all day.”
It took Cal a long moment to process this information, then he gave Danny quite the curious look. “She thinks taking care of a four month old child for a day when he’s got a broken leg is going to make Jack Rudolph less psychotic about any situation, let alone that one?”
"Caallllll!" wailed Danny, dropping his face back to the desk and thumping a fist off of it rather pathetically.
Cal winced and remembered why he had come up here. "I mean, I'm sure it's gonna be fine. What can go wrong? Jack can't fire her or compromise her artistic integrity with financial considerations so... all he can do is feed her and let her take naps."
"Thanks, Cal. I feel so much better knowing that everyone's first consideration here is what bad things Jack can't do to punish my daughter!"
"It'll be okay, you need to stop panicking. Listen, they're both right across the street. If you want, you should just go over there and check up on them. Matty and me can hold the fort." Cal was putting on his best soothing/nonchalant voice, and fortunately Danny was so deep in the throes of parental-woe he didn't notice and only nodded instead. The haze of lunacy in his eyes began to clear slightly in the face of an actual option for action.
"Really?" he asked, hope peeking into his expression. His glasses slipped down his forehead to rest on the bridge of his nose, magnifying the determination in his eyes.
"Sure," Cal started to assure him, but he only got as far as the 's' because it was right then that Matt's voice blared over the intercom in a rictus of pure panic.
"I AM EATING IT! EATING IT LIKE A DELICIOUS PIE! WITH ICE CREAM! AND SPRINKLES! OH MY GOD I AM EATING IT!"
Danny slammed his head onto the blotter again, and groaned in exasperation so loudly it took Cal a moment to realize that it was partially because he hadn't taken his glasses off before he did that.________________________
Thirty stories up, in the NBS tower, Jack Rudolph was catching up with the reality of the situation he had landed himself in and wasn't entirely sure he hadn't hallucinated himself into it. A quick check confirmed he had not: Rebecca was in his hands, half-asleep and drooling; Jordan's Blackberry had copied a dozen emergency contacts onto his computer at the desk; and stacked around his feet were the five bags of stuff which were apparently essential to manage the maintenance of a small child for eight hours. The bags were Prada, which did very little to persuade Jack that they contained anything that might be useful, not that he could lean down to get at them anyway. Despite the analgesic drugs he was on, his leg was constantly paining him, as were the bruises that had accompanied the breaking of it, and if Jack hadn't known it would probably kill him to so much as look at a glass of alcohol right now he'd have been knocking back scotch and deliberately severing his ties with the reality that he could barely stand, let alone move.
Clearly that was what his intern thought had happened anyway. Kayla was still standing only a few feet in the door, hands on her hips, eyeing him with unmitigated concern. Jack might have been touched, were he stupid enough to think it wasn't the baby she was thinking about.
"Sir, what on earth were you thinking? You're seriously injured."
"I'm perfectly able to do this," Jack snapped back, his authority about as crippled as he was by the way he wavered on his good leg as he started laboriously crutching his way over to his desk. The recliner there was a good destination, it even had wheels so he could roll around on it. Jack was internally pleased with himself for applying his shewd buisness tactician logic to this new and alarming task.
"You shouldn't even be here, Mister Rudolph," Kayla pointed out rather, well, pointedly. She'd been saying as much every ten minutes since he'd shown up three hours ago, and he didn't know why he'd expected her to desist now that there was a baby involved.
"Well, it's just as well I am since Jordan didn't have anyone else to look after Rebecca," he answered tightly, keeping his voice level for the baby's sake. Jack very carefully set Rebecca on his desk, then dropped with a low hiss of pain into his recliner and propped his cast-bound leg up on the matching footstool. The baby turned her head to watch him, blinked and then waved a chubby little fist in his direction with a giggle.
Jack couldn't look away from her, and felt - not for the first time since he'd met her - a sharp pang in his chest. A wish he hadn't been able to quit wishing for. He refrained from sighing and reached over to very carefully pick her up and set her on his knee where he could reach her. Kayla watched him and shook her head to herself with a roll of her eyes behind her glasses.
"Do you want help?" she asked.
"No," Jack answered flatly.
Kayla crossed her arms and just looked at him, one eyebrow raised. Rebecca stared up at Jack, who stared back at her.
Jack sighed quietly to himself. "...I'll take it, though."________________________
Seattle was chilly and Jordan thoroughly disapproved. Mostly because she'd realized on the plane that she must have stuffed her jacket into one of the bags she'd gotten Kevin to toss into Jack's office. Not that she'd be feeling the cold for long, the heat of a hundred firey hells was probably awaiting her at the other end of this car ride. The Chairs and Executive Boards of all the public networks along with representatives from half a dozen of the most powerful PR agencies in the country were gathering for some sort of unholy pow-wow that took place, for all Jordan knew, in line with the lunar cycle; and best of all was the fact that at least half of those guaranteed to be present hated her breathing guts.
They probably hated Jack too, but at least Jack was well-practiced in the fine art of bitchslapping them with legalese and sarcastic bitterness. Jordan was a supremely confident woman but she couldn't possibly be as much of a bitch as Jack knew how to be a bastard - she knew this to be fact, she'd seen him at work.
Thinking on that, though, prompted her to cowboy-up in no small measure. She wasn't worried about pulling NBS's weight, she knew she could do that; it was putting in a performance for Jack's sake that she had to aim high for. Jack had about a dozen fights on his hands, at least half of which had more than a little something to do with her and/or Studio 60, and even though Jordan had figured out within five seconds of meeting Jack Rudolph that he was the type to pick a fight with a hurricane there was only so much he could do at once without winding up hospitalized. Which he had done anyway a few days ago when he'd managed to get hit by a car.
"Jordan?" Kevin's voice was curious from the seat in front of her.
Her assistant balanced her folders on his knees as he turned to meet her eyes. Behind him the grey streets and green trees slipped past in a smooth blur. "Do you want me to call Mister Rudolph every hour or so to check on Becky?"
She nearly laughed. "Don't you mean to check on Jack?"
"I call Kayla to do that," he told her with a small smile of his own. "But I can do both, is that okay?"
Jordan nodded and glanced out the window as the conference center hoved into view. "That's perfect Kevin. Thanks. And in the meantime--" she shot her assistant a daredevil smile, "--are you ready for all of this?"
He tapped the files in his lap and grinned. "I am if you are, fearless leader."
"Damn straight," Jordan grinned back.________________________
"Could this possibly be any more damn convoluted?" complained Jack as he attempted to disentangle a baby blanket from where it was snagged on god-only-knew-what in of one of Jordan's bags. Sprawled cheerfully in his lap, Rebecca giggled at his exasperation as though it were utterly familiar and tugged curiously on his tie.
"Probably, Mister Rudolph," Kayla commented idly, busily fetching a laptop from the reception desk into his office. She couldn't help smirking slightly at the sight of him floundering like a bird caught in a fishing net.
Jack looked up over the bag and gave her a glare for the ages. "I've been meaning to tell you, you've got a smart mouth for an intern, Kayla."
Kayla shrugged inelegantly and plugged in the laptop. "You don't need to tell me that, sir. But if you're interested in firing me for it I should tell you that the HR department is in charge of my contract. You can't do anything except tell Shelley to fire me, and she's not here right now."
Unsurprised by this revelation, Jack groaned quietly - "Figures" - and leaned back in his chair. Rebecca flopped forwards and thumped her forehead off his stomach with a squeal of amusement. Jack bit his tongue to keep from yelping in pain as she hit a bruise and Kayla bit her own tongue to keep from smirking even more. While she settled down to work on the contents of the other Prada bags, Jack was being extra-careful to keep both eyes on Rebecca and both hands ready to catch her irregardless of what she might try to do. The baby for her part clambered clumsily up to sprawl on his chest, little shorts and t-shirt set clashing vivid blue on his cream shirt and red tie, then hiccupped once and eyed him just as intently as he was eyeing her.
"How old is she?" Kayla asked after about ten minutes of that, having spent the time tapping away at her laptop from the couch halfway across the room. Stacked up on the furniture next to her were three of the five Prada bags, their contents having been meticulously categorized and referenced by the intern's elite bureacratic skills in about five minutes.
"She's four months, three days old," Jack replied, sitting up and tipping his head to the side curiously as Becky waved a hand in the air after an invisible whatever.
Kayla rained taps down on the keyboard and nodded officially. "According to this, she can't sit up on her own yet, but she can grasp and pull."
"Right," Jack acknowledged, wondering what Rebecca could manage with those simple skills and not liking what he came up with.
"And as for comprehension, she'll recognize familiar voices, shy away from strangers and cry to demand food and attention."
"Huh," Jack murmurred, looking at Rebecca a bit suspiciously. He supposed he wasn't quite a stranger, they'd met many times before and maybe she wasn't hungry or anything yet.
"Oh, and she won't understand concepts like 'danger' or 'no', even when people say them to her, yet."
"If she's anything like her mother she never will," Jack sighed, making Kayla snerk behind her computer screen as she closed it down.
Smiling wryly, Jack looked down at Rebecca, who looked up at him with dark and daring little eyes. "Which you are. You're just like your mom," he told her firmly, as though there had been possible doubt which needed crushing. Rebecca hiccupped again, smiled, then pitched randomly to the left for no reason Jack could comprehend - prompting him to jar his elbow against the desk making sure he caught her.
"Exactly like your mom," he winced.________________________
"How did Jack break his leg?"
Tom repeated himself for Danny's benefit, lowering his sandwhich from the bite he was about to take. He, Danny and Simon were all sitting in the Exec's office for a quick bite to eat while Harriet attempted to manage Matt and Cal took his shift managing everybody else. It had given the two of them the chance to hear about the latest misadventure at NBS, and Tom had found himself curious and a little concerned about one thing in particular.
"I said, how did he break his leg?"
"Jordan said he got hit by a car on Sunday." The way Danny said it implied that this was reason enough to never trust Jack with a hamster, let alone a baby.
Not that Tom noticed. "Wh-really?"
Simon lifted the ice-pack off his forehead (soothing a bruise acquired during Lobsters of Camelot) and gave Danny a confused look as well. "Really?"
Danny glanced between them. "Yeah."
Simon shook his head, "Is he actually okay?"
Tom nodded, looking quite concerned, "Yeah, he is, right?"
Danny rolled his eyes drastically. "His leg's broken because he got hit by a car this weekend, Sim. He should probably still be unconscious, but he's in his office doing his best to set fire to artistic expression in broadcast television anyway, so let's call him a trooper and stop speculating."
"How'd he get hit by a car?" Tom inquired, ignoring the stopping speculating part as though he hadn't heard it. He gestured curiously with his lunch, showering Danny's desk with sesame seeds.
"I don't know. He just did. It happens." Danny said, quite unconvincingly. He hadn't actually thought about it, beyond being sure Jack was going to be okay - the show and his family had sort of drowned that out.
"Yeah, but... he got hit by a car." Simon pointed out.
Tom's face quirked into a frown. "I'm kinda worried now."
"Why?" Danny asked, somewhat exasperated. They weren't even slightly concerned about Jack being in charge of Becky. Didn't they have any sense of priority?
"Because... it's weird that Jack got hit by a car. What was he doing crossing a road? Doesn't he have people who do that for him?"
"Doesn't he have 'people who cross the road for him'?" Simon repeated skeptically.
"Well, yeah. Think about it."
Danny and Simon looked at Tom as if he'd grown a third eye, but after a second they sort of came round to seeing his insane point. Jack Rudolph was the Chairman of NBS and he had about twenty people who ran across the road to get him stuff. Huh.
"I guess we could go over and ask him," Tom suggested, far too curious to let this go.
Danny seized on the chance, bounding to his feet and scattering sesame seeds like confetti. "Absolutely. Let's go!"
Simon levered up to his feet, still holding his ice-pack to his head; and Tom bounced up like an overly worried puppy dog. And just as they were halfway out the door to Danny's office there was a buzz, a click, and then a massive snap as every single light in Studio 60 went out.
The three of them stood there in the dumbfounded darkness, and Danny buried his face in his hands while Tom and Simon rushed to the bannister and yelled for whoever had pissed off Harriet to stop it, for the love of god, before she did something even scarier than make the lights go on and off by themselves.________________________
It was afternoon and getting after-nooner, and Rebecca had finally fallen asleep. There had been almost half an hour of discontented wailing from the little thing around two, when she'd been crying for somebody to walk her around the room and bounce her in their arms. Unfortunately the somebody she wanted for that was Jack, and she had cried even more harshly when Kayla had separated her from her new best friend (or favourite toy, depending on your point of view) for a change of scene. Eventually, Jack Rudolph's shrewd tactician's brain came up with the solution that worked: he put his good leg to good use and pushed the wheeled recliner with both himself and the baby in it around the room in a long and arduous circuit with one heel digging into the plush weave. It was taking every scrap of energy he had, especially since Rebecca would fall asleep while they were moving and wake up with a sob every time they stopped.
Jack could see the rut they were wearing in the carpet, in fact he was lining the wheels up with it for easier going. Kayla was still perched aristocratically on the couch, eating her late lunch and holding out items for Jack to grab and consume as he scooted past on his never-ending circuit of the office. It was quite the scene to behold, but the three of them were sticking to it with the kind of bloody-minded perseverance for the sake of... well, whatever, something to do with babies and rainbows... that had sustained NBS through its years.
Which, not coincedentally, was the first thing Wilson White thought when he opened the office door to find Jack laboriously wheeling past the couch, where his assistant handed him a half a sandwich in exchange for an empty water bottle and continued filing reports. Curled up on Jack's shoulder, chubby fist gripping his tie, was a quite adorable dark haired baby deep asleep and happy as a lamb.
"Even when you're legitimately crippled you work too hard, kid," Wilson pointed out, trying not to smirk as Jack poked himself in the eye with the sandwich he'd been about to bite into and automatically tried to stand up. His tired blue eyes flicked over to the head of TMG's face and if he could have, Wilson was reasonably sure NBS's Chairman would've fallen out of that chair at the sight of him. The one thing that had endeared Wilson the most to the younger man was how utterly complete his confusion was whenever it got him good, and this was a nice reminder of how funny it was.
"Hello, Jack," Wilson said, waving at him to not try and stand (seeing as it would probably break his other leg) and striding into the room as though he owned it. Which he did. His eyes shifted to the girl on the couch, who was looking at him from behind her glasses with a look that combined quiet annoyance with a hint of suspicion. "Aren't you going to introduce me to your lady friends?"
"Ah," Jack pushed his heel around until he was facing both Kayla and Wilson. He saw the look Kayla was giving the head of TMG and realized she had no idea who he was with a surge of concern. "Wilson White, this is Kayla Jones - my intern, and this is Rebecca Tripp - a baby. Kayla, this is Wilson White the head of TMG."
Kayla's eyes widened and she bolted up to her feet so quickly Wilson didn't see it happen. "So sorry, Mister White. I had no idea who you were."
Wilson gave her an inscrutable look. "You didn't?"
"No, sir. And if you hadn't been Mister Rudolph's superior I was going to toss you into the elevator. This office is closed today and you'll have been told that by security down stairs."
Jack looked like he might take off his shoe and hurl it at her, but Wilson laughed heartily and shook his head. "I like her, Jack. She's got a sense of priority."
"She's got a sense of something," Jack muttered, giving Kayla a look which she summarily ignored. On his shoulder Rebecca woke up with a burble since they had ceased moving, and gave a stroppy look to Jack as he shifted her to sit in his lap. Wilson put his hands in his pockets and regarded the little girl curiously for a moment, then looked at the somewhat wary and parental look Jack was giving her - then it clicked.
"Is this Jordan McDeere's girl?" he asked, knowing the answer.
"Yes. Rebecca's staying with us today since her mother had to... attend the conference in Seattle."
Wilson nodded sagely. "The one you were supposed to represent the interests of NBS in. The very important cross-network conference which establishes boundaries between the various stations on an annual basis."
Jack was trying not to look like he was being clubbed with each word, and the only reason he was succeeding was the fact that the little baby sitting in his lap was tugging plaintitatively on his tie with an unhappy frown. "Yes," Jack confirmed, a bit quieter than he usually would. Behind his back, Kayla shot Wilson a look that would've stripped paint off a barn. Not that she was overtly attached to Jack Rudolph, but he was having a trying enough day without being reminded of this.
Wilson nodded once, eyed Jack for a long second more, and then waved a hand to dismiss the whole thing like dust on a shelf. "Don't worry about it, it isn't as important as your health, kid."
Once again, Jack's confused look appeared - prompting a giggle from Rebecca. "Wh-okay?" Clearly Jack had been torturing himself about this state of affairs since breaking his leg, and now he wasn't quite sure what to make of things.
Kayla rolled her eyes behind Wilson White's back and declared her intentions to fetch them all some coffee, departing to give them a little time on their own. As the door clicked shut behind her, Wilson sat down on the couch she had vacated and looked at Jack - who still seemed quite confused about the forgiving nature of this visit. "I didn't come to upbraid you about Seattle, Jack. I came to see how you were doing." He peered at Jack's face, picking up on the traces of exhaustion on his face. "Why wasn't I called immediately when you were hit by that car? I heard about it this morning from Darius Wells in the News Division, three days after the fact - which I was sure to mention to him given the crusade we're on with regard to time delaying the news."
"It's not a big deal, Wilson. I just didn't look where I was going and some idiot kid ran a light. They discharged me in ten hours and the cast comes off in a month."
"It is a big deal, you were hit by a car." Wilson said, spelling it out quite clearly for him. "That kills people most of the time, and you don't have to be back here pushing yourself as normal when you should be home recovering."
Jack clicked his tongue behind his teeth, his non-verbal equivalent of rolling his eyes. Nobody else had dared give him the lecture about this yet, not even Jordan, but he supposed if anyone was going to it would be his boss. "I'd rather be here, Wilson. And there is work I can do. See?" He looked down at Rebecca, who was staring in fascination at Wilson and his voice. "You doing okay, Rebecca?" he asked her. Rebecca looked up at him and flailed her arms happily before tossing herself back against his stomach again, making him wince.
Wilson just rolled his own eyes and stifled a long laugh. He supposed there really were worse places and things Jack could be doing. He watched Jack straighten the baby's shirt and the baby pull on Jack's tie. And he guessed there was a good reason Jack would rather be here, with his colleagues and his responsibilities, than home in his empty house.________________________
It was four in the afternoon and Wilson White had been long gone from the largely silent thirty-first floor of the NBS building. Kayla and Jack had worked on re-arranging various meetings he was going to have to places without huge flights of stairs or long stretches of corridors for the next month, and Rebecca had remained curled up on Jack's lap and mercifully asleep. To keep himself from following suit, Jack decided to turn on the television and check the news for the day. Kayla passed him the remote controller, then packed up her laptop and excused herself to her desk so that she could make the calls to reschedule those appointments.
Jack sighed, looked at the sleeping baby, then flicked the remote at the small TV that unfolded from a wall in his office. Volume swelled in the room so he hurriedly hit mute, then flicked on closed captioning before proceeding to hop channels until he found CNN. He wouldn't stick with it, he'd watch at least three others to get the actual goings on in the world, but it was a place to start.
He was changing over from MSNBC to BBC World Service when it started, a sort of muffled and haunting screech that sent a horrible chill right down his spine. Jack quickly looked down to Rebecca, who was still asleep with her head on his knees, and realized there was something else in the office with them. He turned the chair around (still hobbling it with his heel) and realized the noise was coming from the couch where Kayla had been sitting. She'd been gone for at least twenty minutes, and she wasn't there now... so what the hell was going on?
Jack's eyes narrowed, he glanced back to Rebecca, and then back to the couch. With a determined nod he picked the baby up in the crook of his arm, got his crutch in the other hand, and jostled himself up to his feet. Rebecca was settled back down in the recliner and Jack hobbled over to the couch to investigate the sound, which was getting louder and shriller and reminding Jack forcefully of a scene from The Exorcist. He balanced precariously, then lifted his crutch to poke the bags until he found the one the noise was coming from.
It was the middle one. Jack set his teeth, grabbed the bag and tipped it and its contents out onto the leather couch. Suddenly a cacophony of infant screams assaulted his ears, and a baby's arm twitched out of the pile of bottles and toys that scattered the couch. Jack cried out in shock and grabbed the arm, only to discover it was made of plastic as he lifted the baby - the toy baby - from the carnage. It screamed bloody murder at him like something from a horror film and then, just as Jack's heart stopped arresting in panic, the eyes and head popped out at him and Jack reacted purely on instinct...
...Kayla burst through the door just in time to see the Chairman of NBS wind back his arm and hurl a screming baby bodily at the open thirty-first storey window...
...Jack didn't even have time to hear her scream as his intern tackled him in a slam to the floor an instant after the plastic arm left his grasp - sailing through the window in an arc true enough to be godsent - not that he got to watch much of it as his head hit the carved teak foot of his coffee table and everything went black...
...Kayla bounced off of Jack's prone form on the carpet and slammed against the window, watching in horror as the baby whistled - still screaming shrilly - through the air as she gathered maximum velocity and crashed with hideous accuracy into a gleaming green humvee in the valet section of the NBS parking lot.
"OH MY GOD!" she screamed, mouth utterly agape in complete horror.
Jack groaned weakly on the ground, one hand stirring faintly. Kayla didn't even look at him, still staring at the shattered top of the humvee - which was now blaring its car alarm at maximum volume and being swarmed towards by parking attendants. "OH MY GOD! REBECCA! REBECCA!"
"Aaah aaarp hee!"
Kayla stared at the window. Then blinked. Then turned to look at Rebecca, who was peering over the arm of the recliner by the desk and waving her fist in the air at the excitement.
The confusion lasted half a second. The relief lasted half a minute. Then the cold, dripping horror of what she'd just done took control of Kayla Jones as she looked down at the man sprawled face down in the carpet at her feet, groaning quietly and bleeding slightly from a brand new knock to his forehead. A cup of coffee teetered over and spilled its cold contents onto his left sleeve, eliciting a whimper of discontent and not much else.
"Oh my god," repeated Kayla, quickly shutting the open window and formulating a plan of action. Any plan of action.________________________
Dinner time had come and gone, and still Danny had yet to get away from the self-destructing Studio 60 in order to check on his daughter. The state of affairs was wearing worse and worse on him throughout the day, and it reached a head in the middle of a meeting in Matt's office - much to the unsurprise of everybody in it.
"He doesn't know anything about taking care of kids!" Danny declared, thumping his fist off the desk.
Harriet made a soothing sort of noise and tossed her script onto the table. "Neither did you until four months ago, Danny. I'm sure it's alright, Jordan wouldn't have left Becky with him if she didn't trust him to take care of her."
"Yeah, well, Jordan trusts a lot of people to do things," Danny shot back, pacing back and forth.
Matt yawned and propped his chin up in his hand. "And then they do them, have you noticed that part?" He took a sip of Red Bull and looked from Harriet to Danny and then snapped his fingers and summoned a gleam of comprehension to his eyes. "You're jealous, is that it?"
Danny scowled at him. Matt knew he was on to something.
"You are. You're jealous that Jordan trusted him with Becky. Why?"
Matt's curious face was the last thing Danny needed to see right then. "I'm not jealous. It's just... look, I'm not! What is there to be jealous of? Just because Jack sees Jordan twice as much as I do, and he sees Becky just about every day too, and he's absurdly rich and powerful, and he just got divorced from his wife and Jordan's always fussing about him when he can't hear her and... oh damnit!"
"Yeeah," Matt said, cringing a bit as Danny dropped into a chair pathetically. "That's a pretty sturdy line of logic--"
Harriet manged to interrupt Matt before he could say anything to make it much, much worse. "Danny, Jack and his wife divorced because they couldn't live together any longer without making each other miserable. And Jack's sure it's his fault and it's really torn him up. It honestly has nothing to do with Jordan."
Danny and Matt blinked at her. "How do you know that?" Matt asked.
"Simon told me, and you're not supposed to know so shh."
Danny nodded. Then shook his head. "Wait, how does Simon know that?"
Harriet shrugged. "How should I know?" She smiled then and waved a finger. "Though it's adorable you think she's good enough to unwittingly split up relationships all around her." She looked to her boyfriend. "You stay away from her, Matthew."
"Sure, but only if I can tell her that's the reason why."
That got him a slap on the shoulder from Harriet, and raised a wan smile from Danny - who didn't feel entirely at ease, but admitted it was mostly because he felt stupid. Jordan was a good person and Jack was somebody she knew, of course she worried about him when he hit a rough patch; and as for Jack's childcare skills... well, he must have picked up something from Jordan and anyway, Harriet was right. Danny smiled slightly and looked up to the ceiling, thinking of Jordan's practice baby.
"How bad can it be?" he murmurred to himself as Harriet and Matt bickered playfully at the desk. "He's got an IQ of like, two hundred and something, and he knows not to stuff Becky in a Prada bag or stick her head in a guillotine..."
The door to Matt's office swung open and Suzanne stuck her head in with flushed pink cheeks from running. "Guys, I just saw the weirdest thing ever coming back from dinner. Nobody here parked their car in the NBS parking lot, did they? Cos apparently its raining automatated babies over there and I just saw one total a humvee."
Danny closed his eyes, counted to five, then screamed and took off running for the thirty-first floor of the NBS building.________________________
"So, I tripped?"
Kayla nodded firmly, carefully applying pressure to the bag of frozen peas she's grabbed from the kitchen to press to her superior's swelling forehead. "You did, sir. It wasn't your fault, though."
"And you tried to catch me?" Jack looked up at her from where he was sprawled on his back on the couch, still not certain how he'd gotten there or why he had a rattle stabbing him in the spine. His leg had been shrieking with pain until a few minutes ago when the painkillers Kayla had tipped down his throat with half a bottle of water had taken effect. Now nothing hurt, though that wasnt quite the comfort he'd assumed it would be. Mostly because he was also wondering where his shirt and tie were.
"Mmhmm," Kayla answered, toeing the blood speckled and coffee-stained shirt she'd taken off of him further under the couch. Rebecca was guarding his tie. Well, not so much guarding as gnawing contemplatively on it as she sat on his chest watching him blearily work out where he was and what was happening. "You were a bit too heavy though, sorry, sir."
"It's not your fault," Jack assured her, voice carrying less of a slur with every new word. He looked at Rebecca and realized that was where his tie was. "I didn't scare Rebecca, did I?"
Kayla bit the inside of her cheek guiltily, "Not at all. I think she was glad that screaming toy baby was gone quickly."
"Ah. Okay." Jack nodded, convinced now that the fall was potentially worth it.
"Nice throw, by the way, sir," Kayla commented truthfully. She hadn't dared so much as look out that window again since closing it, half expecting the police to be calculating the trajectory of that toss and eyeing the side of NBS with binoculars.
Jack smiled with his characteristic smugness, "Good."
Before Kayla could say anything else, there was a distant ping that signalled the arrival of the elevator. Panic reeled up her spine, but she held her ground - not that there was an opportunity to do anything but blink as Danny Tripp threw himself into the office panting like a hooked trout and flailing his arms like a crazed muppet.
"Where's my daughter you demented baby-hurling psychopath!?" he demanded, pointing at Jack's desk - realizing belatedly that Jack was not there, and then finding him lying on the couch. His hand dropped as he blinked at the sight of Jack in a white t-shirt with a bag of frozen peas on his forehead, his cast-bound leg propped up at an angle, Rebecca sitting on his chest speculatively licking his tie, and his assistant leaning against the arm of the couch with an air of forced nonchalance that nearly convinced Danny that all of this was perfectly normal.
"She's right here," Jack said, pointing to Rebecca and giving Danny a stern-but-woozy look. "And who are you calling... whatever you called me?"
Danny took a few steps over, looking at Jack again and blinking. "What the hell happened to you?"
"Zombie baby toy thing. It's eyes popped out."
Danny's mouth fell slightly open, and he looked to Kayla, who blushed a bit and rubbed her elbow. Picking his way over the scattering of toys on the carpet, Danny reached down and picked up Becky - who gurgled happily and nudged him with her new tie. He wasn't sure if he imagined it, but Jack's face seemed to fall a little then, so he said something to fill the odd silence.
"It was a practice baby, you... you're supposed to use them to learn stuff so you know what not to do with the actual baby."
"Well, now I know not to throw the baby from a high-rise window and total a Hummer," Jack asserted flatly, at which point Danny couldn't help but grin against his daughter's cheek and had to admit it...
"You knew that already, Jack."________________________
True to his word, Kevin had been calling Kayla's cell phone every hour to check how things were going with Rebecca (and, he supposed, with their boss) and, as the conference came to a racous and heckle-studded close three hours later than it was supposed to, he passed the phone to Jordan on their way out the door.
"It's Jack Rudolph," he said, swapping the phone for a folder with Jordan as they all but legged it for the car.
Jordan took the phone and didn't turn back to view the carnage lest she turn into a pillar of salt. "Hi, Jack."
"Hey, Jordan. How did it go?"
"Fine! We ran a little late, but the jet's fired up on the runway so I won't be too much--"
"Are you running?"
"A little bit."
"Are they chasing you?"
"They would be, with pitchforks and torches too, if it didn't clash with their Armani and Gautier," Jordan suggested, slamming the car door behind her.
She heard Jack huff out a that quiet amused sound he made oh-so-very rarely. "Then you did fine," he told her.
Jordan grinned despite herself. "We're gonna be a few hours later than I said to pick up Becky," she apologized as the engine revved and they took off for SeaTac. "Is that gonna be a problem?"
"No, we're alright. Do you want me to put Rebecca on?"
"She can't talk yet, Jack," Jordan told him, wondering if she was imagining that his voice sounded a little thicker than usual.
"Really? She sounds about as articulate as your fiance," Jack said - and before Jordan could reply to that she heard a stream of happy babble that made her heart swell up despite anything. She laughed and told her daughter she loved her, too; and got Jack back on the phone after a moment. "Danny was here, but he asked if I could look after Rebecca for a while longer until you got back because of the special they're doing over at Studio 60."
"Thanks Jack," Jordan smiled, unable to wait to get back to L.A and suddenly very proud of both her boss and Danny. "Has she been behaving herself?"
"She's been fine. Better behaved than that screaming zombie baby you had stuffed in one of those bags."
"I had a screaming zombie baby?"
"Yeah, the eyes flew out its head and now my intern thinks I have a concussion."
Jordan's hand flew to her mouth. "Oh my god, the RealCare Baby." She took a breath and a calming sip of water. "What happened?"
"I RealCared it out a thirty-first storey window and through the sunroof of Micheal Bay's Hummer."
The spew of water from Jordan's mouth shorted out the phone on contact, not that she noticed - busy as she was laughing in hysterics for the next five minutes. ________________________
It was late by the time Jordan and Danny made it to NBS to pick up Rebecca, but the night was lit nicely by the floodlights beaming down their extra security onto the NBS parking lot so it wasn't quite as noticeable as it might have been that darkness had fallen. The two of them made their way up to the thirty-first floor, listened to the ping of the elevator, and stepped out - straining their ears and hearing a familiar voice telling the best approximation of a bedtime story he knew.
"Okay, and then at the end of the world there's a spaceship. I guess the name of the spaceship is Apocalypse, or something. And it's got four horses that pull it. Then I guess the spaceship or the horses pick everybody up who wants the sky to fall and they leave."
"And the world lives happily ever after even though I suppose it's meant to be on fire by then."
"Sir, stop telling her bedtime stories about the Rapture," Kayla's voice was drowsy, but firm from the other side of the door.
"It's a good story, it has ponies. Girls like ponies."
"Sir, they're not ponies. They're death beasts from firey hell."
"They can be both."
Danny knocked, Jordan pushed the door open and they smiled at Kayla - working away at Jack's desk on her laptop - and Jack and Rebecca, who were sitting on the couch and competing for the title of who was most likely to fall asleep any second.
"Hey, Jack. Hey Kayla."
Kayla got to her feet. "Good evening, Ms McDeere. Mister Tripp."
Jack opened his mouth to say something but wound up yawning. Rebecca did the exact same thing half a second later, then flopped over and fell asleep on Jack's knee. He looked up at Jordan and Danny and resisted the urge to rub his eye. "You're here to pick her up?"
Jordan nodded, and walked over to lift up her sleeping daughter and rest her against her shoulder as she smiled at Jack. Behind her, Danny picked up the bags she'd left here in the morning - all neatly packed and ready to go by the office door.
"Thank you, Jack," she said softly, hugging Rebecca gently.
Jack nodded, but his eyes were on Rebecca. "No problem, Jordan. Thanks for taking on Seattle."
Jordan's smile deeped a little, and she nodded again. "Anytime."
Kayla walked them to the elevator, given that Jack wasn't able to, and gave Rebecca a fond little smile as they waited. "You both showed up just in time," she remarked, just before the doors swished open.
"Was it that much of a hassle for him?" Danny asked, looking at her curiously.
Kayla shrugged. "Sure, but if you'd been much later he'd probably have tried to keep her." She waved them both away. "Goodnight Ms McDeere, Mister Tripp." A smile. "You too, Rebecca."