Jan is sitting at the unfortunately non-smoking hotel bar drinking her second unsatisfactory dirty martini, which doesn't have enough olive-- olive stuff, whatever the hell it is, not oil, but the juice or brine or whatever you call the liquid that comes in a jar with olives. Highly unsatisfactory. Second one. She supposes that this ought to be a sign that she should either stop drinking, or go find somewhere else to drink. Her first mistake was probably not making it out of the hotel before she started drinking, but for God's sake the leadership conference had driven her to it. Her brain had cracked in half when she'd been part of a group of eighty-six middle-aged executives trying to learn how to juggle-- fucking well literally juggle, with those little leather beanbags-- to fulfill someone's lunatic idea that teaching them how to literally juggle would magically bring some kind of management skill in the metaphorical juggling that executives actually do. She can't get over the fact that her company has actually paid these people money for this farce. Ridiculous.
She orders a third dirty martini, because even if it's not satisfactory, it's still alcoholic. Fuck sobriety.
"Juggling," she mutters. "Juggling."
The guy on the next bar stool over stops with his drink halfway to his mouth and turns slowly to regard Jan. "I'm sorry," he asks in a gravelly voice, "are you talking to me?"
Jan chokes a little on her martini. "Oh. No, no I wasn't." She pats her mouth with a cocktail napkin and clears her throat. "Sorry. No, just... just talking to myself a little."
"Ah." He eyes her cautiously, gaze flicking from one key spot to another with precise timing. "Well. Good luck with that." He turns away slowly, keeping her in his line of sight like he's waiting for her to make some sort of sudden move.
It takes a minute, but it finally occurs to Jan that this guy with the dusty gunslinger voice is familiar for some reason. "I'm sorry," she blurts out, "excuse me, I'm so sorry, but-- were you just at the leadership conference upstairs?"
The guy stares at her through narrowed eyes. "Yes...?" He drags it out, leaning away from her. "Why do you ask?" He's using an icy polite tone that Jan knows well; she hears it in her own voice whenever she really, really wants to punch someone in the face.
"I was there," she says, waiting for a spark of recognition-- either real or feigned, doesn't matter. The guy does neither, just blinks at her, visibly impatient. Jan finds this annoying. "I was... I was at the next table over from you. I told the story during get-to-know-you about the documentary film crew?"
He shakes his head. "Doesn't ring a bell."
Jan gives up. "Never mind," she says into her martini glass and turns away. "Sorry to bother you."
The guy stares at her for another moment, then snaps his fingers and points his finger at her like a pistol. "Jan Levinson," he announces. "Corporate Manager, Dunder-Mifflin, Incorporated. A mid-cap regional paper- and office-supply distributor with an emphasis on servicing small-business clients. Branches in New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Ohio." He smiles and tips his head like he's waiting for applause.
Jan gapes at him for a long moment and then bursts out laughing. "That's very impressive."
He rolls his hand in a gathering motion. "Okay, now do me."
"Ohhh, no." Jan waves him off and takes another sip of her martini, looking at him over the lip of the glass. "My memory is nowhere near that good."
The guy just lifts his eyebrows a little and nods, as if he'd expected that. "Jack Donaghy," he says, offering his hand. "General Electric, Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming." They shake hands.
"That's beautiful," Jan says with a deep thoughtfulness born of gin and dry vermouth. "I need a title like that. I need--" she sighs heavily, blowing her hair out of her eyes. "I need a much, much better title."
"Corporate manager is a good start," Jack assures her. "You're, what, thirty-five?"
She eyes him. "Thirty-six. Good guess."
"I never guess," he says, "but apparently I'm getting sloppy."
"My birthday was two weeks ago," she volunteers in a chipper voice.
He tips his glass at her in thanks. "Almost right, then, that's excellent. My point being, Ms. Levinson--"
"My point being, Jan-- and if I'm calling you Jan, you must call me Jack-- is that at your age, corporate manager is a fine place to make your mark. I spent years toiling in various management positions before heading up the market research division that finally gave me the chance to move up the ladder. At your age--"
"You say that like you're looking down the barrel of retirement," Jan says. "You don't look that old. You look--" She squints at him. Jack helpfully presents one side of his face at a time, awaiting judgement. "Fifty. No, less than fifty. Forty-five... no, forty... seven? -ish?"
"Well done, Jan," Jack rumbles. "Spot on the nose. For future reference, the trick is not to say the first two numbers you think of. Think of them as radar pings that you use to get the range."
"I'll remember that." She takes the last sip of her martini and sets the drained glass down with a vast air of finality, gearing up to leave. "Well."
"Your glass is empty," Jack interrupts. "Let me buy you another." He signals the bartender without waiting for Jan to answer. "Oh, my apologies; Jan, what are you drinking?"
"Dirty martini," she says, bemused.
A look of horror crosses Jack's face. "Good God. Here? I'm sorry, that's very unfortunate." He waves off the approaching bartender and stands up.
"Excuse me," Jan says, feeling like the brake line has been cut in this particular clown car, "what exactly is the plan, here?"
"I'm going to do something for you that nobody did when I was thirty-six," he tells her, taking her hand and helping her off the bar stool. "I'm going to show you the best place for drinking in this city, I'm going to get us both very drunk, and I'm going to allow you to pick my brain. What do you think?"
"What the hell," Jan concludes, and rescues the toothpick of olives out of her glass just before the bartender makes off with it. "I've got nothing better to do tonight."
* * * *
"I'm glad you could come," the neat little man tells Hunter, shaking hands briskly. "I hope I didn't interrupt anything important."
Hunter considers the high score he'd been racking up, playing Luminus on his PSP during the long bus ride home, before his cell phone had interrupted him. "No, nothing important."
"It's just that I've seen this happen before. It's one thing when Mr. Donaghy stays in one place to drink, but once he starts roaming there's trouble ahead."
Hunter nods. "Jan can be the same way. I'm sorry, I know you told me your name on the phone, but--"
"Okay, Jonathan. Where are they?"
Jonathan jerks his head sideways, motioning Hunter towards the archway. "In there," he hisses. "Stay low. Don't let them see you."
Hunter edges sideways until he can peer into the bar. "Oh, Christ," he moans, "she's got a martini."
"It's her fourth." Jonathan checks a small notepad. "Wait, sorry-- her fifth."
"Oh, Christ." Hunter rubs his forehead. "It's a good thing you called me. I've heard about what happens when she gets drunk with nobody looking out for her. Smoking, kareoke, sexual hook-ups with far-reaching unfortunate consequences..."
"Mine's the same way," Jonathan assures him. "Except it's not smoking, it's food. Once he ate a deep-fried cheese steak dipped in ranch dressing and ended up vomiting all over two different taxis, one after the other. I had to expense an extra hundred bucks in tips to keep the cabbies from killing him."
Hunter takes another look around the archway. "So," he says, "what do we do now?"
"We wait," Jonathan says grimly. "We watch. And then we clean up the mess."
* * * *
"Six years," Jan complains, hands spread wide for emphasis. "And it wasn't like it was just the six years, either. I've known him since I was twenty-four, so it was more like..." She stares at the ceiling, trying to remember how to count. "Okay, right now it's... twelve, so... ten years in that relationship."
Jack makes a sympathetic noise. He's facing her with one elbow on the bar, using that hand to prop up his chin. "I just got divorced, myself," he says.
Jan lifts her glass in a merry toast. "Congratulations!"
He tips his glass back at her. "It was the most disquieting moment of my entire life. One moment I was part of a normal-- albeit strained and distant-- marriage, and the next, poof!" He pops a fist open like a burst of fireworks. "No more marriage; no more cozy weekend visits, just us and our lawyers; no more fighting over who gets to use the vacation house in St. Croix for a tryst with a recent lover." He heaves a sigh. "It's like the whole thing never existed."
"Sad," Jan says, staring in an abstract kind of way at the far side of the room and only halfway listening.
"No, that's not quite the right word," Jack says. "I was thinking more along the lines of... intensely arousing."
Jan blinks at her martini glass. "Yeah... no, that's not what I got."
"The point is," he says, pointing at her, "you move on."
"I move on," Jan repeats dolefully. "God, you say that like it's a good idea."
"I don't see why not," Jack says. "I find sexual contact from a new source to be a refreshing experience."
"That would be one word for it," she mutters. "Just not the one I'd use."
He dismisses this, waving his hand back and forth like he's clearing away cigarette smoke. "Jan, Jan, Jan. You're thinking about new sexual experiences as if they're commitments just as binding as your former marriage. When I said 'move on', the key word there was move. The world is your sampler platter! Don't get stuck on the mini-quiches when there are... spring rolls, and stuffed mushrooms, and scallops wrapped in bacon."
Jan frowns. "Okay, now I'm hungry."
"Me, too." Jack snakes an arm out and snags the plastic stand-up appetizer menu. "You like cheese fries?"
* * * *
"What are they doing now?" Hunter asks, not bothering to look away from his cards.
Jonathan leans over discreetly and peers over Hunter's shoulder. "Still drinking."
"Are they touching each other?"
Jonathan checks again. "No."
"Good." Hunter ponders his hand. "Got any eights?"
* * * *
"I get my best ideas when I'm this drunk," Jack says confidentially, waving a cheese fry around in the air like he's directing traffic. "Once I prank-called Lien Chen, the president of Taiwan. Asked him-- in flawless Mandarin, by the way-- if he had Prince Albert in a can, and he says--"
"Calling, right. I should call Michael." Jan digs around in her purse for her cell phone. "Tell him. Dump me, I don't think so. Not like a million women are lining up for him. Maybe the realtor chick, but she dumped him." She finds her cell phone and points it at Jack. "I am a catch. He should appreciate me."
"Obviously," Jack agrees.
She sighs, long and exhausted. "No, no, I shouldn't call. He'll just be all... be all Michael at me."
"And this is bad?"
"You have no idea," Jan tells him, slumping over the bar. "Six years with my ex-husband put me into therapy. Six weeks with Michael put me on Prozac."
"Ah." Jack purses his lips thoughtfully. "Just so you know, if you ever want to upgrade to something stronger..." He makes a rapid clicking sound like he's pulling back a trigger. "I know a guy."
"Really." She shouldn't be considering this.
"Let me find his card," he says, pawing his wallet out and going through a large set of business cards. "Physical therapist, masseuse, psychiatrist, traffic cop, hairdresser, marriage counselor--" he tosses that one out of his wallet, behind the bar-- "personal trainer, therapist-- ah, here we go." He hands her a card. "Leo's the best. If you ever need any specialty Guatamalan pharmaceuticals, he's the one to call."
"Huh." Jan barely looks at the card before tucking it into her purse. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Look," Jack says. "Jan. Do not let this man get to you. Relationships are just like every other business encounter: it's all a question of power. What you do here is you find his weak spot, and you exploit it. Simple as that." He watches her for a long moment, his eyes drifting halfway shut. "You do... know his weak spot. Right?"
Jan sits up straight, startled into momentary alertness. "What? Yes."
"And that is..."
She nods decisively. "Yes. Boobs."
"I see." Jack considers her chest while he consumes a few cheese fries. "Well. If I may say so, yours are quite nice."
"You think so?" Jan looks down her blouse. "I feel like there's something lacking there."
"No, no, no, no, no. Well, maybe if one is discussing size, but--"
"Aha!" She points at him. "This? This is what I mean. The size thing."
Jack wags a pair of fries at her sternly. "Jan. Jan. Size is something that can be adjusted, if you so choose. The quality of your breasts, on the other hand, is something innate. Any idiot with a good credit rating can get herself, or, for that matter, himself, large breasts, but a surgeon can't give their breasts grace, or delicacy, or strength of character." He pops the cheese fries in his mouth. "Quality," he says with his mouth full, which sounds more like kwaawwigy. "It can't be replicated."
"Well, thank you, Jack." She lifts her martini, hesitates, and puts it back down. "Weren't we supposed to be talking about business, instead of boobs?"
He blinks at her. "My dear Ms. Levinson," he says, "boobs are business."
"Yes." Jack drains his highball glass and slams it down on the bar in a decisive manner. "Anyone who tells you differently is full of shit."
* * * *
Jonathan is practically dancing in place when Hunter gets back from the men's room. "I thought you'd never get back," he snaps.
"I had some stuff to take care of," Hunter protests. "Why, what's going on?"
Happily, their respective bosses are apparently in a mood to stagger around Midtown on foot, and Hunter spots them easily less than a block away. Jan has stopped to take her heels off, which seems like an extremely poor judgement call, and has a hand on Donaghy's shoulder to support herself while she's standing on one foot.
"Oh, God," Jonathan groans. "Touching. Touching!"
"Shhh!" Hunter hauls him back around the corner of the building, into the alley. "You're going to get us caught."
Jonathan snorts. "I don't think so. Those two are so drunk, a parade of giant clown puppets could go down Madison Avenue and they wouldn't notice a thing."
They're very close to each other. For an endless moment, that suddenly becomes the most significant element in play. Hunter finds himself staring at Jonathan's mouth, and finally manages to force himself to look somewhere else. "Um," he says, moving away. "We should. Follow."
"Right, right." Jonathan shakes his head a little, like he's trying to wake up. He peeks around the corner. "Oh, hell, they're gone."
"Fuck," Hunter says, and they head out in the direction where their bosses were last seen. "Any idea where they might be going?"
"They'll probably be heading for someplace with food."
"That could be anywhere."
"Crappy food," Jonathan elaborates. "Something fried, or unidentifiable, or both." He snaps his fingers suddenly. "Wait, I think I've got it."
* * * *
Jack gets hot dogs from a street vendor, and they sit on a bench in Bryant Park to eat.
"Here's a question," Jan says, spreading the relish on her hot dog into an even layer with her index finger. "Is there anything useful to be learned from the juggling thing today?"
Jack chews thoughtfully. "For the most part, I find that there is something useful to be learned from even the most banal and idiotic of experiences. In this case, I learned that there is no such thing as a management seminar so stupid that someone can't make money off of it."
"That's just what I was thinking." Jan is filled with a fuzzy feeling of pride. "We paid money for that. For that."
"I'm not sure if the money we paid was worth the lesson learned," she says.
"I'm almost positive that it wasn't," Jack sighs. "Which is another lesson, in and of itself. On the up side, it led us to encounter each other, which some might argue is an experience beyond price."
"That may be," Jan muses. She keeps looking at her hot dog, but it seems like it would be a great deal of work to eat it, and she's too tired to do that kind of work. "I think this has been pretty okay."
"Right back at you."
Jan tips her head back to look at the sky, that metropolitan sky that's almost entirely about the pattern of the city light glinting off the clouds instead of involving any light coming in from space. "We should do it again sometime," she says, yawning, and leans against Jack's shoulder.
Jack moves his arm around her shoulders. "A fine idea," he says, and yawns back at her.
Thinking back, later, Jan will realize that this moment is the last one she remembers for the night.
* * * *
"You got her?"
"Yeah, she's fine." Hunter adjusts Jan's arm around his shoulders, trying to keep her weight balanced. She mutters something that sounds like 'boobs', but he's pretty sure that can't be right. "What about you?"
Jonathan turns to regard Jack, sitting on the bench with his face turned up to the sky, eyes closed, and a beatific smile playing over his lips. "I'll have the cabbie help me, it's fine. I'm a big tipper when it's Mr. Donaghy's money."
"Okay, then." Hunter walks Jan over to their cab, step by lurching step, and gets her inside. She immediately curls up on the seat in a fetal position.
"Make sure you get a seatbelt on her, even if she stays like that," Jonathan advises. "If the cab stops too fast and she slides onto the floor, it'll be pure hell getting her back up. Trust me on this."
"Thanks." Hunter buckles the middle belt around Jan's waist; she just snores. He straightens up and looks at Jonathan. "Well, this has been fun." He can't help smiling, though; in a weird way, it has been fun.
"Yeah." Jonathan is smiling back. "You got my number? In case, you know, she lost something." He shrugs lightly. "Or, you know. Whatever."
"Yeah, I got it." Hunter holds up his cell phone as if to prove this. "So."
"So," Jonathan echoes. "See you around, right?"
"Yeah," Hunter says. They shake hands awkwardly, letting the contact linger a little longer than is strictly necessary. "See you."
Jan sleeps the whole way back to her place, including the time spent with Hunter and the cabbie hauling her up the steps and onto her couch. Hunter leaves her keys with the doorman and makes an executive decision to get himself a cab ride home on the company dime.
Halfway home, his phone rings. It's Jonathan. "Mine's home," he says. "How's yours?"
"Flopped out on her couch and snoring like my grandmother," Hunter tells him, leaning back into the weird-smelling backseat of the cab. "I've already told the office that she won't be coming in tomorrow."
"What about you?"
Hunter is a little puzzled by that one. "Well... if she's not there, I feel like I have to be. Hold down the fort and all that."
"Right, right." Jonathan sort of sighs. "I was just wondering. Um. If you were hungry. ...'Cause I'm hungry, and I was thinking, now that the bosses are all tucked in and dreaming sweet dreams, it might be good to go get some dinner."
"Sure," Hunter says, grinning into the phone. "No, yeah, that would be really great."
"Great! Do you know the Turtle Bay Grill? Up on--"
"Oh, yeah-- I know it, and I'll meet you there."
"See you in a few," Jonathan says, and hangs up.
"Change of plans?" the cabbie asks, sounding sarcastic.
"Oh, right. Sorry about that." Hunter gives the cabbie new directions.
"Good place," the cabbie says gruffly. "Date?"
"What? Oh, no, no. Well-- I mean, I don't think so."
"You're flustered," the cabbie points out. "It's a date."
Hunter doesn't have anything to say to that, but he finds himself smiling quietly at absolutely nothing for the rest of the cab ride.