When Jonathan says “Mr. Donaghy will see you now,” it’s with a little more venom than usual, but Liz writes off the eye twitch as some negative reaction to too much caffeine (she gets that – it’s pumpkin spiced latte season) or the stress of basing your entire existence around Jack Donaghy or something. It isn’t until later that she recognizes it as a glare of seething hatred with a dash of possible but-let’s-not-get-into-that envy.
So, as is, she doesn’t see it coming.
“Lemon, we have a problem,” Jack says matter-of-factly when she steps into his office.
“I know,” she replies with a sigh, because boy, does she (think she) know(s). “But don’t worry. I’ve got it all under control. And, hey, it’s not like it’s a huge deal. How much harm can come of a Putting Stuff In Your Mouth Contest anyway?”
Answer, secretly? A lot. She’ll be surprised if one of her writers doesn’t wind up in the hospital by the end of the day. When even Toofer gets infected with the competitive spirit, you know that things are gonna get grim. On the plus side, not everyone can boast that they can fit ten Mentos and a staple remover in their mouth all at once, right?
God, she’s surrounded by freakazoids.
“Excuse me?” Jack says, eyebrows furrowing.
Oh, great, Liz thinks. There’s another problem.
“Um, nothing,” she says as nonchalantly as possible, putting her hands into her pockets. It’s sort of hard – what’s up with jeans pockets being so tiny these days, anyway? How’s someone supposed to look nonchalant? – but she shoves ‘em in as best she can, because if there’s one thing she learned from improv, it’s that you gotta commit. Jack watches her struggle much in the way he might the amusing antics of a somewhat sentient animal – to be precise, with almost but not quite as much fascination as she’s seen him give that one pigeon that always hangs around outside on the roof and, for some reason, only walks backwards. Liz is okay with that. She’s realistic enough to know that she’s not gonna beat the backwards-walking pigeon. (Seriously, that thing is amazing. Sometimes she wants to trap it and keep it for a pet. Not that she’d ever actually consider doing that. Besides, Pete had theoretically refused to help when she’d theoretically pitched the idea. Whatever, that little rat with wings could make her millions. Take that, Taco Bell Dog. Which, what had ever happened to him anyway?)
“Are you done?” Jack finally asks, cutting short both her attempt at hands-in-pockets nonchalance and her mental rambling. She gets the eerie suspicion sometimes that he can hear her thoughts.
“Yep,” she says, and settles for crossing her arms.
“Good,” Jack says with a brisk nod. “And Lemon, we all love Sergeant Backtracker.”
“Commodore Backtracker,” Liz corrects.
“We changed it,” she informs him. “Calling a pigeon Sergeant Backtracker is lame.”
Jack contemplates this for a moment before agreeing, “Commodore. It suits him. More underlying magnificence.”
“I know, right?” Liz says, pleased. And then, because damn it, somebody’s got to agree with her on this one sooner or later— “He should be the new NBC mascot. What’s so great about peacocks?”
“That’s another discussion for another time.”
“Right.” One day, one day, she’ll win him over. “So, um. What’s the problem?”
“Lemon,” Jack says, “there’s something about you that’s been troubling me lately, on a personal level.”
“Oh,” Liz says, and cringes a little. Great. She’s been waiting for someone to notice this. “It’s the new shampoo smell, right? It was a mistake. Jenna was lecturing me about paying more attention to my hair, and I saw the label and thought, ‘Ooh, guava, tomato, and pomegranate! That’s exotic!’ But really, it’s just … bad. But the thing is, it was eight bucks for like one itty bitty twelve ounce bottle of this stuff, and there’s no way I’m not using it all—”
“It’s not your shampoo, Lemon,” Jack interjects.
“Oh,” Liz says, surprised. “Cool.”
“Although while we’re on the subject, I’d rethink it.”
“Rats,” she mumbles. She musters up the courage, then asks, louder, “Well, what is it, then?”
Jack just looks at her.
And … keeps on lookin’.
This leads to some serious mental panic. Oh, God, it is the shampoo, isn’t it? Is he gonna fire her over the shampoo? Can you do that? To be fair, if there’s any shampoo someone should get fired over, it’s this crap. Liz could do better with the contents of her apartment – Pinesol, expired orange juice left in the fridge, pour it all into the blender, maybe throw in a bar of Dove and some animal urine (not that she’d … have that in her apartment), and bam. Where’s her eight bucks a bottle? Damn it, she’s never listening to Jenna again, and she’s definitely never letting Jenna make her feel guilty over cosmetic stuff again. It’s just that she comes off so convincing, all blonde and Rapunzel-y, all, ‘Hair neglect is a serious issue, Liz, and one that’s tragically overlooked in today’s society. Your hair takes care of you. It loves you. It’s there for you when no one else is. Think about it, Liz – where would you be without it? Alone in the world, with a really cold head. …Did that sound good? Do you think Jack would let me do a The More You Know PSA? It’s time for the world to start taking this seriously.’ Liz shouldn’t have bought into any of that. If her hair loved her, she wouldn’t have to risk her life trying to shave her legs standing up in the shower once a week. Twice a week, when she’s feeling fancy. Her leg hair would be considerate enough to vanish on its own. And, dangit, why hadn’t she thought to just say that to Jenna? At the time, all she’d been able to come up with was, ‘Couldn’t you just wear a hat?’, followed by ‘Bruce Willis must be really lonely, huh?’, and now because of it, she’s in trouble with Jack, that special kind of trouble where he’s just quiet and he won’t stop staring, why won’t he stop staring—
And then he talks. And what he says is, “Lemon, over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself … compelled by you, sexually.”
Why did the staring have to leave?
Jack doesn’t start laughing too. She thinks he’ll eventually join up with a hearty ‘gotcha!’, because hey, maybe this is what he does for kicks – maybe the reason Jonathan’s so into him in the first place is because Jack pulled this fast one on him way back when and Jonathan unfortunately chose to believe it for real. Liz, Liz isn’t gonna fall into that trap. You can’t do that to old Liz Lemon. No sir.
Why isn’t he laughing?
Why isn’t he laughing??
“I’m not joking,” Jack says gravely. “I wish I was, but there you are. Lemon, I find you sexually appealing.”
Oh, jeez. No. No.
“Could you please stop saying that?” she asks weakly, sure to keep staring at the wall like three feet to his right. She can’t look at him. Ever again, actually, which she figures is understandable. And also practical.
“What?” Jack asks, clueless.
“The S-E-X word.”
“Don’t say it!” Liz interrupts, along with a really dignified strangled yell-type thing. “If you say it again, my brain’s going to explode. And then you’re gonna have to clean it up.”
“Nonsense. Jonathan will take care of it.”
“Well, in that case—” Right. She’s going to approach this logically. Rationally. Like an adult. Adults know how to deny other adults the right to view them sexually, right? She’s turned guys down loads of times. Like … seven, to be specific. If you count the handsy dudes on the subway. And her cousin. And Dennis.
In the end, all she can come up with to say is, “What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” Jack replies calmly. “Besides my unexplainable newfound attraction to you.”
Why is this not frightening him more? Why is she the only one scared here? Shouldn’t he consider this, like, a sign of the apocalypse? This is Jack, whose response to Liz suggesting he get with Scarlett Johanssan (as a joke) was, ‘No, no. It’s just as well she married that Ryan Reynolds fellow. She’s really let herself go.’
“Why …” Liz attempts, wondering why a buxom blonde twenty-three year old gets spared this agony, but she’s gotta suffer through it – where the hell is the justice in that? “…Where did you get this idea in the first place?”
“It started with a dream,” Jack replies. “I had a se—”
“Ah ah ah!” Liz points a hysterical finger at him.
“—a s-e-x dream about you last night. (Honestly, Lemon. Are we six?)”
“(Donaghys grow up fast. The longer you take to learn the ins and outs of the world, the higher chance you have of being devoured by it. By seven, I was fully informed. I knew the dictionary definition of fellatio and could recite it upon command. ‘When a man and a woman love each other very much…’ had no place in my world.)”
“(I’m sad for you.)”
“(And how old were you when you were first enlightened about sex, Lemon?)”
Right. Topic at hand. “Hey, are you sure it was me?”
“What do you mean?” Jack’s still looking at her in this quasi-suspicious way, like he can somehow read her mind and tell that she’d thought ‘orgasm’ was just a misspelling of ‘organism’ ‘til age fifteen.
She’s pretty sure.
“Well, you do keep saying that stuff about me looking like Sarah Palin,” Liz says, deciding to stick to the topic at hand and get this crazy out of her life once and for all. “So, you know, I bet it was her! It was probably her.”
“That would explain the Minnesotan accent of inexplicable origin,” Jack agrees with a thoughtful frown.
Oh, thank God.
“Yeah, you see?” Liz says encouragingly. “That was it. It wasn’t me, it was just Sarah Palin. Who’s a nice lady. I think you should go for it. What does Tim have that you don’t have, right?”
“See?” Liz exclaims. “You’ll wipe the floor with him. Dude doesn’t stand a chance. ‘Cause you’re Jack. See, I remember your name. So you should really just … do it. Go for it.”
“Lemon, is the thought of me being attracted to you so repulsive that you’ll openly encourage me to steal away a married woman?” Jack inquires, eyebrows furrowing.
“Yes. Also, Todd could probably use a break. That lady is—” But, okay, maybe now isn’t the best time to butt heads with Jack. “—awesome, if you’re into that kind of thing.”
Jack spends some time silently contemplating. Liz watches the wall three feet to his right, hoping he’ll reach a conclusion that frees her from this gross weird wrong bad craziness as soon as possible.
“I don’t think it was Palin,” he finally determines.
“I have an aunt who kinda looks like me,” Liz ventures desperately, “so maybe it was h—”
“I think it was you dressed up as Palin,” he finishes.
“Yeah,” Liz says, wrinkling her nose, “I’d never do that. So clearly this dream Liz isn’t Liz at all. Hey, there’s another thought. Maybe it’s someone else who’s just wearing my face.”
“And body – jeez, really?”
Jack gives her an unapologetic little shrug.
Or, well. Don’t.
“Maybe,” Liz says valiantly, “I’m symbolic of … C.C. Or Bianca. Or Jonathan.”
“I don’t think so.”
“You know, people have told me more than once that I look a whole lot like Jonathan,” Liz persists. “They’re always coming up to me, all, ‘If you were a man of Indian ethnicity, you know who I bet you’d look just like? Jonathan.’ And I’m always like, ‘Thank you.’ Because, you know, he’s a good-looking young man. Very dapper. If anyone was going to, you know, like, change teams, it should probably be for him—”
“It’s not going to work, Lemon.”
“What’s not?” Liz says worriedly.
“Your – to be truthful, rather tragic – attempts to convince me that it isn’t you I’m attracted to.”
“But it can’t be. I mean, Jack. Come on. It’s me. We’re … pals. We’re coworkers. We’re not … you know. Datey.”
“I don’t want to date you, Lemon. Lord only knows what tedium that would entail. I want to do you.”
“Tough,” Liz retorts. “Because that’s not happening.”
Jack sighs. “I deduced as much.”
“And it’s good that it’s not,” Liz says firmly. “Jack, I am so not your kind of woman. And I bet when I’m not in your subconscious, dressed up like Sarah Palin, you don’t even like me like that at all. I mean, look at me today. Or last Thursday, when I didn’t get a chance to shower and I was wearing holey jeans and a Star Wars sweatshirt and I scarfed down that whole burrito in eleven seconds because that was all the time I had for a lunch break—”
“Ah, yes,” Jack says, sounding far away. “I remember last Thursday.”
“Yes! You see?” Liz says triumphantly. “I’m disgusting. I— why are you gazing off into the distance like that?”
“There was a reason I was holding my briefcase in that fashion, Lemon.”
“You mean in front of you?” Liz asks blankly. “I remember thinking that was sort of weird. Who holds their briefcase like – oh. Oh. Blerg.”
“Yes,” Jack agrees solemnly. "Blerg. Lemon, something has to be done about this. I can’t very well go through life harboring some unrequited passion for you, of all people.”
“Gee, thanks,” Liz says sarcastically. “And, you know, Jack, it was only one dream. One dream that was probably actually about Sarah Palin. So I wouldn’t set so much stock in it—”
“Fifteen,” Jack says loudly.
“How did you know that??”
Jack frowns at her. “What are you talking about?”
“It wasn’t one dream, Lemon,” Jack explains. “It’s fifteen. So far. Unshowered jeans-and-sweatshirt Lemon. Naughty nursemaid Lemon. Strict schoolteacher Lemon, complete with ruler.” Liz makes a face. “Recently-former nun looking for a good time Lemon. Lady Jedi Lemon. Fifties housewife Lemon. Palin Lemon getting grilled by Couric Lemon, and me in the middle—”
“Could you go back to the Lady Jedi one?” Liz asks in spite of herself.
“You knew how to work a lightsaber,” Jack informs her.
“Cool,” Liz beams. And then it dawns on her. “You don’t mean an actual lightsaber, do you?”
“Darnit.” Great. Now all of her dreams of being a lady Jedi (not that she has any of those) are officially tainted for, oh, ever. Maybe it’s this that pisses her off enough to spur her into serious business mode. “Well, I don’t know what to tell you, Jack. This is gonna have to stop, one way or another, because I’m not – you know – gonna do that with you. Not ever. Because it would be unprofessional, and weird, and also, just as a general rule of principle, I’m not sure I can knock boots with somebody who got it on once with Martha Stewart.”
Jack nods. “Fair enough.” She knows he’s not done, though, and sure enough, a few seconds later: “What if, in doing so, some of her domestic skills would transfer magically to you?”
“Hey,” Liz says defensively, “I have domestic skills. I even remembered to buy paper towels this week so I didn’t have to bring a roll of toilet paper out into the kitchen.”
“You’re moving on up, Lemon,” Jack says admiringly.
“Damn right I am,” Liz agrees, standing up taller. “And that involves … not moving on you. So this is the last time we’re ever going to talk about this, and you’re going to go back to fantasizing about skanky twentysomething models with names I can’t pronounce and high-ranking Republican government officials, and you’re gonna leave me alone. In your brain. Deal?”
“All right,” Jack says after a moment’s pause. “Deal.”
“Good,” Liz says.
She can’t really think of anything else to say after that, so they’re just silent for a little while. It’s kind of nice. Relaxing. Her brain has been completely numbed by horror and therefore cannot process any thoughts about the whole Jack-digs-her-s-e-x-ually thing. So it’s like a little vacation from life, mostly.
“Jack?” she finally says.
“Why the hell did you tell me this, anyway?”
“You were the only person I could think of who would be as horrified by this turn of events as I am,” Jack replies.
“Oh,” Liz says faintly, sinking down into a chair. “That’s nice.”
“We’re in this together, Lemon.”
“Your support is appreciated.”
After more silence, he clears his throat and adds, all deliberately light and uncaring, “It had also been wearing on me considerably. And you tend to be the one I go to with my problems.”
“Yeah,” Liz says, feeling a flicker of – fondness? Whatever. This so isn’t the time for fondness. Fondness, right now, is way too close to nakedness. “Maybe you should have … not done that with this one.”
“I’m beginning to think that might have been wise,” Jack agrees. She thinks she might hear some actual embarrassment under all the growly-voiced stoicism.
“So, uh,” she says, “there was a great Baby Borrowers rerun on last night.”
“Really?” Jack leans forward. “Tell me about it.”
“Really?” Liz asks, surprised.
“At the moment, I’m more than willing to pretend that I care.”
Right. “So, that big skeeze Daton totally up and left Morgan—”
Unfortunately, the office doors burst open before she can hit her stride. Pete comes half-jogging-half-stumbling in. His mouth’s full of marshmallows. Liz’s first thought is that that’s pretty lame and conventional, as far as testing the amount of stuff you can fit in your mouth. Her second thought is OH NO, THAT HAD BETTER NOT BE MY EMERGENCY BOTTOM DESK DRAWER MARSHMALLOW STASH $&*(#&#&$#(--
“Jonathan,” Jack admonishes, “we’re in the middle of some very serious business.”
“Sorry, sir,” Jonathan says, but it’s all snippy and Liz can tell he doesn’t really mean it. He even has the sass to shoot her a little ‘so there!’ look. Please. Like she cares.
“Li’,” Pete says though all the marshmallow, “we go’ a pro’l’m.”
“Is that problem the fact that you broke into my emergency bottom desk drawer marshmallow stash?” Liz snarls.
“No’ the issue ri’ now,” Pete replies urgently. A marshmallow pops out and lands on the floor. Jack eyes it with vague distaste. “Jenna—”
“Jenna found out about the contest??” Liz yelps.
Pete nods gravely.
“Gotta go,” Liz announces, standing abruptly. She’s so panicked – Jenna’s had too much practice putting things in her mouth, and yes, mostly in a dirty way – that she forgets to stare at the wall to the side of Jack instead of at Jack. Oh well. Too late now. “Bye, Jack. It’s been … bye.”
“Good luck, Lemon.”
She’s taken like five steps after Pete, who’s hurried out of the room already, when something occurs to her and she pauses.
“Um,” she says, turning back, “don’t watch me walk away, okay?”
“All right,” Jack agrees sagely. He even spins his chair around so his back is to her.
Yeah, that’ll work.
She’s got a few steps left between her and the door when she hears the telltale creak of the chair spinning back around.
Oh. Ugh. Well. Whatever.
“Wha’s goin’ on with you ‘n Jack?” Pete asks once they’re out. Another few marshmallows go flyin’.
“Nothing,” Liz says firmly.
Liz looks up from her laptop to see Jack standing in the doorway of her office. It’s nighttime – she’d stayed late to work on the Closeted Tapdancing Narwhale sketch – and she’s got Billie Holiday going on iTunes and her emergency bottom desk drawer marshmallow stash totally untouched by all but her.
“Jack.” His name sounds good when she says it – all smooth and uncaring and old film starlet-y. (Thank you, mood music.) She tosses her hair. Catches the scent of it – which, for the record, is great, like flowers in a garden from heaven. Or maybe just a normal garden. Which would still be good. “What can I do for you?”
“Nothing at all,” Jack responds. “In fact, I’ve done something for you.”
“You have?” Liz asks, surprised. But in a poised, effortlessly sophisticated way. She throws in another hair toss for effect. Damn, her hair smells good. Billie keeps on crooning.
“I got you this.”
He steps inside and sets something on her desk – a big, square something covered by a red velvet sheet. He pulls the red velvet away, and there’s a birdcage, and inside of that birdcage is—
“Commodore Backtracker!” Liz gasps, elated. Even that manages to sound glamorous. Which, that’s just skills.
“I got the feeling you might like to have him around,” Jack says, eyeing her hopefully.
“You felt right,” Liz responds, looking back at him with a little thing she likes to call smolder. She gets up, raises her arms above her head for a little bit of sexy stretching. “Gosh, I’ve been sitting in this desk chair for so long.”
Jack watches her, rapt.
“I just wanna … walk a lap around the room,” she continues, stepping out from behind her desk. “Just … keep walking, and walking, until my foot wakes up …”
“Lemon, you must know you’re torturing me,” Jack says, all desperate. She likes that.
“Maybe a little,” she answers airily.
“I can’t live like this,” he persists, nearing her.
She levels him with a cool stare. “What about Sarah?”
“Even she couldn’t distract me from you,” Jack informs her urgently, placing his hands on her hips. “Winning her was the easy part. But once I had –”
“Yeah?” Liz breathes.
“—I had her dress up in sweatpants and a Star Wars t-shirt with flecks of old food on it. Even that didn’t do it for me.”
“Well, I don’t know how to help you, Jack,” Liz says, leaning in closer. All the better to torture him.
“I think you do,” Jack growls, and then kisses her. Big Deal Kisses her, as a matter of fact. There’s some tongue action and everything.
And then, right as she’s getting into this, he pulls away.
“Wait,” he says, anguished. “Lemon, we can’t. It would be unprofessional. And besides … Commodore Backtracker is watching.”
Liz throws a glance at the wonder pigeon. He blinks docilely back at them. And she makes her decision.
“Let him watch.”
Jack doesn’t put up a fight.
“Lemon,” he murmurs huskily against her neck, his hands creeping around, “are you wearing a bra that’s not held together with tape?”
“Why don’t you find out?” Liz purrs.
He gets right on that. And she’s not gonna lie – it’s not bad. Not bad at all…
Liz wakes up with a start. Her cursor is blinking away, right under the line where the Straight Closedminded Walrus says a lot of mean, insensitive things about the Closeted Tapdancing Narwhale’s lifestyle choices. Her foot’s asleep. Her emergency bottom desk drawer marshmallow stash has been ravaged beyond repair. (Dammit, Pete.) And Billie Holiday keeps on singing. ‘Maybe I'm wrong dreaming of you / Dreaming the lonely night through / If it's a crime then I'm guilty / Guilty of dreaming of youuu—’
“I can’t blame you, Lemon,” Jack says. “Under those circumstances, I’m not sure I would have been able to resist myself, either.”
Ugh. “Shut up. Not the point. I never would have had that stupid dream if you hadn’t told me that … that thing in the first place.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Yes, I’m sure about that!”
Their good buddy awkward silence hangs out for awhile.
“Why did you tell me about this?” Jack asks then.
“What do you mean?”
“I’d assume your sex dreams—”
“S-e-x dreams,” Liz mumbles.
“—about me aren’t the sort of thing you’d typically want me to know about.”
“You did it to me first,” Liz says sharply. “This is a little thing I like to call revenge, buddy.”
Jack doesn’t say anything. Or really seem at all like a victim of revenge. Stupid sex perv.
“Also,” she finally admits with a sigh, “you’re the person I go to with my problems. I went to you when I got fake-pregnant from Mexican cheese curls, and I’m coming to you now.”
“You know, Lemon,” he says thoughtfully, “maybe it’s a shame that we’re too smart to fall prey to our carnal urges. We each seem to be the person the other looks to for support. Comfort. Guidance. When one of us has good news, the other is the first we want to tell. When one of us has a bad day, the other’s is the shoulder we want to metaphorically cry on.”
“Like when Kathy Geiss wanted to make you her love puppet,” Liz reminisces.
“Yes, Lemon,” Jack says, clearly not exactly thrilled with her for bringing that up. Whatever, he deserves it. “Like that.” He’s pensively silent for a couple of seconds. “I’m loath to say it, but it almost seems as though we could have … a healthy relationship.”
“Yeah,” Liz says after taking this in. “Don’t say stuff like that.”
“’Cause it makes too much sense. And that’s freaky.”
Jack sighs. “Fair enough.”
They both return their undivided attention to Commodore Backtracker. He moseys on across the roof, pretty much making all the other pigeons look bad.
“It’s like he’s moonwalking,” Liz marvels.
“He’s a man among men,” Jack agrees. “For a bird, I mean.”
They watch Commodore Backtracker do his thang some more. Liz tries not to think about the If Michael Jackson Was A Pigeon sketches that are all being wasted just because no one’s willing to domesticate this little dude. She also tries not to think about the fact that apparently all it would take is Jack making the effort to domesticate this little dude, and she’d suddenly be willing to jump his bones.
“You’re thinking about our dream sex, aren’t you?” Jack asks knowingly.
“Not because I want to be,” Liz grumbles. After a moment, she adds, “You?”
“Yes,” Jack replies, then throws in, “More voluntarily, I’d imagine.”
Liz makes a face. “Great.” She gives him a little glare. “Stop smirking.”
“Only if you stop making your I’m Not Thinking About Sex face.”
“What? I don’t have an I’m Not Thinking About Sex face.”
“Oh, Lemon. You’re fooling no one.”
“Am too,” Liz says grumpily.
Jack keeps right on smirkin’.