Hi, all. I've never posted here before, but wandered over here and thought I would give it a shot. This is a fic I posted a couple other places in the last couple days, it was originally written for the SD-1 April challenge. Title: "A Tale of Fools, Love, and Sporks." Author: LegalBlonde Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Pairing: J/L Spoilers: None, really. Pre-Alias. Category: Romance. Summary: Jack, Laura, and an inadvertent date. Fluff. Disclaimer: JJ Abrams, Bad Robot, and lots of other people own Jack, Laura, et al. I own nothing. Really, nothing. Suing won't help you much. Author's Note: This piece of insanity was prompted by SD-1's April challenge. The elements: rain, April fool's jokes, and sporks. Yes, sporks. ************** "You know, your chances of getting laid increase exponentially if you actually talk to the girl." "Is this what they're teaching you over in the physics department?" Bill shrugged, taking a seat across from his friend. "At least my tuition's not going to waste. Or is this some kind of brilliant game theory scheme -- pointedly ignore her until she walks by and stumbles into your arms?" Jack sighed and slammed his book shut. "You know, not all of us can run off for a weeklong mission and come back with a gorgeous French wife." "Of course not. That one's Russian." "What?" "Oh, come on, Jack. The brunette. Teaching assistant in -- something to do with the humanities. Speaks with an accent. All the men and half the women have been staring at her." Bill leaned across the table, dropping his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Including you." "I'm not staring. I'm working on my paper." At which Jack pointedly flipped his book back open. Bill laughed, throwing his head back and lounging in the plastic cafeteria chair. "You know, I caught her looking back." Jack's head snapped up. "What?" "Guess that disproves the non-staring theory, huh?" Jack slammed his book shut a second time, glaring at his friend. "Three things you need to know. One, lower your voice in public. Two, you run like a girl. And three, my personal life is my business. I do not need your help in getting me involved with some Russian." "Spoken like a true patriot." "Spoken like someone with a presentation due Wednesday. So are you actually doing work, or do you get paid to loaf around campus and comment on my social life?" "You know, I really shouldn't talk to you after the whole 'running like a girl' comment, but, yes, I am doing work, and no, the commentary is just a perk." Jack grunted. "Well, we're back to primeval communication. You know, your Russian humanities professor could help with that. Ah, we're back to the glare. I'll make you a deal," Jack lifted his eyes from the notebook for just long enough to prompt his friend to continue. "Come by my house on Thursday night. Caroline's cooking, I know you can't resist that; we'll have a nice, shop-talk-free dinner, and I promise to stop all commentary on your love life." "Done." "Great." ********** Jack parked his car in front of the small suburban house, allowing himself a moment to relax, take a breath, and enjoy the prospect of an evening away from his dissertation, away from any talk about the CIA, and away from any discussion of his personal life. The last part was particularly important. He could see the lights in the living room through the filmy curtains, and could just picture his friends relaxing in the living room, or bantering in the kitchen, cooking together and waiting for their friend to arrive. The picture was oddly inviting. He shook his head, clearing away the intrusive thoughts. Grabbing the keys, he stepped out of the car and crossed the small, neat yard to the font door. A note was taped to the handle, with "come on in --we're in the kitchen" scrawled across the front. He pushed open the door and was welcomed by the soft lights of the living room and dining room, but the house was strangely silent. His training kicking in, Jack flattened himself against the wall, pulled out the only weapon he had, and crept down the hallway toward the kitchen. He heard nothing but his own quick breathing. He finally reached the kitchen, pressing his hand lightly against the swinging door. With one motion, he flung the door open and jumped into the room, brandishing his swiss army knife. The intruder shrieked and dropped the piece of paper she had been reading. Jack was eye-to-eye with the infamous Russian brunette. "Wha -- what do you want?" Jack dropped his hand back to his side, trying to hide the useless pocket knife. He could feel his face burning. "I wa -- who are you?" "Laura, Laura Prozorov. Who are you?" "Jack Bristow." They stood there for a moment, neither moving. Jack said the first thing that came to mind. "Prozorov -- like the three sisters?" "You know Chekhov?" He shoved his hands in his pockets, studying the floor. "I studied some Russian literature in undergrad." He looked up again, meeting her dark eyes. "Laura isn't a Russian name." She smiled, her cheeks just a little red. "No. My father wanted to distance us from Russia after we defected. He gave us all American names, but kept Prozorov. I never knew why." He smiled back at her, and she continued smiling at him, and it was a moment before it dawned on either of them that this was a most unlikely conversation, in a most unlikely situation. Laura bent down, picking up the piece of paper she had dropped to the floor. "They left us a note; I was just looking at it. Cryptic, at best." Jack took the note from her, his hand lightly brushing hers as he did. His pink cheeks deepened into red. The single, unlined sheet contained two sentences in his friend's familiar scrawl. Dinner's on the table, bread's in the oven, dessert is in the fridge. Plates are in the third cabinet. Enjoy yourselves, and, Jack, remember the date. Jack glanced from the note to the analog display on his watch. The date? The meaning dawned on him, and he clapped his hand to his forehead in embarrassment. "Jack?" "The date." He shook his head. "It's April Fools." Laura laughed, a deep, rich sound, tossing her head back until her long, dark curls bounced against her shoulders. Jack couldn't do much but grin, and stare, and continue shaking his head. "This may be the last time I speak to either of them." Laura's laugh subsided to a deep chuckle, and she glanced over her shoulder toward the dining room. "We should at least see what they've been up to." They had apparently been up to a lot. The tiny table was filled with a plate of delicate pastry-wrapped appetizers, a tureen of delicious-smelling soup, a caesar salad, and a large dish of homemade lasagna. To complete the evening, a bottle of rather nice cabernet sauvignon sat to one side, a corkscrew and two glasses arranged in front of it. Laura stood over the table, eyes wide, and Jack hovered just behind her, suddenly aware he was standing far too close. He backed away slowly, but it was still enough to catch Laura's eye. "They didn't overlook a thing." At a complete loss for words, Jack stared at the table. "No, they didn't." Laura turned around to face him, and he found that he was once again standing just a little closer to her than he preferred. She smiled, her dark eyes searching his face. "What should we do?" "I'm not sure." Jack tried to remember the last time he's uttered those words. He couldn't. Her smile deepened a bit, a mischievous glint in her eyes. "Our friends have opened up their house, prepared this wonderful meal...it would be rude to overlook such a generous offer without proper consideration." "Consideration?" "We should at least think about it." "We should." His gaze never broke away through the long silence. She finally glanced down, lips turning up, to brush some imaginary lint from her sweater. Jack cleared his throat. "We should at least see what's in the oven." Laura smiled. "We should." Jack was glad for the excuse to retreat to the kitchen, away from her bright smile and dark hair and mischievous eyes. His escape was short-lived, as she followed right behind him. He bent down to open the oven, and the heavenly smell of fresh bread filled the kitchen. "Well," he said, "they certainly did do a lot of work." "It probably would be rude just to leave." "Probably." Without waiting for another word, Laura walked to the cabinet and pulled out two plates. Jack's eyes followed her out of the kitchen, into the dining room, where she arranged the plates meticulously on the table. His eyes were still following her as she returned. If she noticed, she didn?t seem to mind. "They did overlook one thing." "What?" Jack spoke more loudly than he intended, startled from his reverie. "Silverware. They told us where to find the plates, but not the silverware." "Oh, yes -- I'll help." Jack whirled around, quickly digging through the nearest drawer. No luck. He moved to the next one, and the next, but there was no silverware in sight. Finally, he pulled on the very last drawer, and was rewarded with the infamous kitchen junk drawer. Still no silverware. "I can't find them. You're sure they didn't leave any out?" "No, I don't see any. They may be put away, perhaps in the china cabinet?" Jack shook his head. "That won't help us any. They keep it locked." He continued digging through the junk drawer, and finally found what he was looking for. He marched triumphantly back into the dining room, two white plastic sporks gripped in his hand. "I found these." He held them out to her, feeling inordinately proud. She looked at them, and her lips began twitching. Before he realized what was going on, she was doubled over with laughter, and he joined her, suddenly seeing the ridiculousness of it all. Here they were, two strangers, alone in their friends' house about to enjoy a romantic dinner with sporks. ******* Four courses and two glasses of wine later, Jack found himself sitting at the table, openly staring at one of the most beautiful women he'd ever seen. He knew he needed to say something terribly intelligent and exceptionally witty, but every time he tried to be serious, he would remember the sporks and the swiss army knife, and hope was pretty much gone. Laura smiled at him, lounging back in her chair, dark eyes openly staring back. "I should probably get home soon. I have to teach tomorrow." "Your grad students?" "No, the undergrads. Which means I actually have to be on time." Jack sighed. "Yes, I have an early morning, too." "Class or the...is it an aerospace company?" "Yes, Jennings Aerospace. I have to be there all day tomorrow." "Well, then we had better leave." "We should." Neither moved. After yet another pause, Laura pushed her chair back and stood up. Jack followed suit. "I'll have to remember to thank Bill and Caroline tomorrow." "I'll have to remember to stop speaking to Bill." Laura stopped, looking at him. "Was it that bad?" "No," Jack said, a little too quickly. "No, it wasn't bad at all." Laura made her way down the narrow hall to the coat rack, and Jack had the presence of mind to help her into the light cardigan. She graced him with another smile, one he couldn't help but return. Feeling chivalrous, Jack stepped around her to open the front door. They were greeted with a whoosh of cool air and the splatter of falling rain. Jack, always prepared, reached for his umbrella, opening it as he stepped onto the porch. Laura shrank back into the hall. "Um, Jack?" "Yes?" "How did you get here?" "I drove, why?" "I walked." He nodded in understanding and, truth be told, a little jubilation. "Here," he said, offering the umbrella. Instead of taking it from him, her fingers closed around his and she stepped in close enough for them to share. Jack suddenly found himself wishing for a smaller umbrella. They crossed the small lawn to his car, taking perhaps a little longer than necessary in the driving rain. Jack opened the car door for her, letting her keep the umbrella while he ran around to the driver's side. He was careful to turn up the heat, noting her flimsy shirt and thin cardigan. And noting it again. On second thought, the heat might not be such a good idea. He hoped it would be a short ride, or somehow a very long one. Laura directed him out of the neighborhood and to her apartment a few blocks away, close to campus. The drive was painfully short. Jack pulled into a parking space near the door, and turned to face his date. He belatedly realized he didn't have a clue what to say. Laura rescued him by breaking the silence. "This evening was...completely unexpected." Jack swallowed. "It certainly was." "I enjoyed it. Particularly the sporks." He couldn't help a chuckle and a sheepish grin. "Next time I'll find a place with silverware." Laura's dark eyes lit up. "I'd enjoy that." What the hell? For the first time in his life, Jack had managed to ask a woman out without even realizing he'd done it. But she's said yes. Sort of. "Saturday, then?" "Saturday would be nice." And without realizing what he was doing, or even a clue why, Jack found himself leaning in, closer and closer to those dark eyes and full lips. She didn't seem surprised, or move away. Instead, her eyes fluttered shut just as he brushed her lips with his, and brushed them again. The second kiss lingered for a moment before they both pulled slowly away. The heater had been a very, very bad idea. Jack shifted in his seat, hoping for a blast of cool air but unwilling to move an inch further away. Laura reached toward him, hand brushing his chest as she plucked the pen from this shirt pocket. "Call me about Saturday. I'll give you my number -- oh, no." "What's wrong?" "My planner. I left it in my car. Here." She pulled a scrap of paper out of her purse and scribbled her number on it. "Your car? I thought you walked?" Laura smiled, dark eyes glittering. "That's twice you've been an April fool." With that, she was out of the car. He watched her until she disappeared into the building. At that moment, Jack knew precisely two things: he had no clue what had just happened, and he was incredibly happy that it had.