Liz entered Jack's office just like she always did: with an excuse on her tongue and a protesting Jonathan nipping at her heels.
“Hey Jack, just wanted to let you know I put the kabosh on Tracy's Twelve Days of Christmas Food Wars. Literally. Side-salad-bar: kaboshes make excellent weapons. Or was it kabobs? Anyway! You'll be happy to know all the cats have found good homes.” She frowned. “Well, except Stinka, but that's because she's evil incarnate and the only person willing to look after her was Kenneth.”
Jack waved Jonathan off, raised his brow, and waited for her to continue.
“She peed in my shoes, Jack! My shoes! While I was wearing them!” she sputtered. “How? For the love of Christmas cookies, how?”
He cleared his throat. “So I take it 'Misanthropic Cat Lady' has finally been crossed off your list of future aspirations.”
“Whoa, buddy, let's not be hasty here.” She tossed both hands up to hold off his suggestion. “I'm not gonna throw the baby out with the bathwater just 'cause it's full of cat piss, if you know what I'm sayin'?”
He shook his head. “Lemon, it never fails to dismay me that I do know what you're saying, but that's beside the point.” Firming his jaw, he nodded for her to have a seat. “I'm glad you're on time for our meeting—”
She plopped into the chair. “We had a meeting?”
“—because the sooner we get this over with, the better. There's no point in dragging out this torture, this unimaginable agony, this indignity of the human condition. We're going to get through this. With my focus and drive, coupled with your uncanny ability to remain sane-ish in the face of constant, utter chaos—I promise you, we will survive this.”
She bit her lip. “Don't you think there's the teensiest chance”—she raised her right hand and nearly pressed her thumb and index finger together—“you're maybe overreacting just a tad”—then followed suit with her left hand—“to the recent Obama legislation—”
“Dammit, Lemon!” He slammed his fist on his desk. “I don't have time to discuss how our nonsensical political leadership is flushing this country down the crapper." He paused, then shook his head. "No, what those pinkos have done to this once-great nation is so much worse: America's become the lesbian Frankenstein shoe being slowly and excruciatingly filled with cat piss.”
She shuddered. “And let me tell you, that is not pleasant.”
He squared his shoulders. “But I'm afraid we have a more pressing emergency.” He stood up from his chair, walked around his desk, sighed, then knelt at her side and clasped her hand. “Liz Lemon, will you honor me with your presence at a dinner date which can in no way be described as business, professional, or platonic?”
She snatched her hand back with a gasp. “What the what?!”
“I know! I know!” He shot to his feet and started pacing his office. “You think I don't realize how horrifying the very idea of—of this is.” He waved at the space between them. “It goes against all laws of nature and man. It defies the foundational order of society. It's madness! Sheer madness!”
“Okay, I think that's overstating it a bit, don't ya think? I happen to be quite the catch if you're looking for a partner who's proficient at Level 3 Sudoku and expert at peanut butter foreplay.”
He stood at his brooding window and heaved a great sigh. “Oh, Lemon.”
“It can never be, Jack.” She rose from the chair and walked to his side. “I'm dating Carol, and you've got a very pregnant Avery on your hands. Sure, the thought has occurred to me when I'm feeling lonely and the closing credits roll on The Mentalist, but that's all it is: thoughts. Crazy, crazy thoughts.” She grasped his bicep, then dramatically turned away, clutching her hand to her heart. "Our love can only exist in our imagination.”
“Well, clearly,” he said, gently detaching himself from her grasp. “Lemon, if we do this, the only reason would be to quell Avery's hormonal pre-wedding fears that there's something between us. A failed date is the only way to convince her we're completely incompatible. Did you even read the memo I sent you and copied to the costume department?”
Her jaw dropped, but she quickly pulled it together. “Ha! Memo! Of course I did!” Her laugh held a shrill edge, so she followed it up with an overzealous punch to his shoulder. “I was just joshing ya. Liz is secretly in love with Jack—pull the other one, right? Liz and Jack, sitting in a tree—”
“Pfft, I would never sit in a tree.”
“K-I-S-S-I-N-G.” She stuck out her tongue and waved it in the air.
He cringed in horror. “Dear God, how long is your tongue?”
“Long enough to fit all the way into the peanut butter jar,” she said with a smug grin, “and then do a few laps with the power of an industrial strength mixer.” She twirled her finger in a circle to demonstrate.
He scoffed. “That's both obscene and biologically impossible.”
Throwing her arms wide, she bowed grandly, then began blowing kisses, calling, “Thank you, thank you!” as she backed away towards the door.
“Just so we're clear, don't even think about bringing peanut butter to our fake date," he said with a stern scowl. "I won't stand for those shenanigans, Lemon. I won't stand for it.”
Hand on the door handle, she saluted him on her way out. “Hey, don't knock it till you've tried it, Donaghy.” Once the door was closed, she huffed out a breath. “Blerg.”
“You don't deserve his attention,” Jonathan snapped, typing away furiously while shooting sidelong death glares.
“Double blerg,” she grumbled, before knocking Jonathan's collection of pens into the trash.
The ride to the restaurant was painfully awkward, so Liz distracted herself by blowing against the car window and drawing frowny faces with angry eyebrows, big ears, and fancy hats.
“Buck up, Lemon. If nothing else, you're getting a free meal and the finest booze money can buy.”
“That's been my personal mantra for the past four hours. It's the only reason I didn't lock myself in the bathroom with a box of tissues and a jar of... Nevermind.” She fiddled with her gloves resting in her lap. “Where did you say we're going again?”
“Chez Ertzloff: the refinement of French cuisine coupled with the hearty efficiency of Gestapo-style service. I hate to admit it, but those Nazi bastards got one thing right.”
“Do you have to use that word? You make it sound dirty.”
“What? Service? Refinement? French? Hmm, you may have a point.”
“No, 'coupled'. Yeesh!” she said with a shudder.
Jack laughed. “You think saying 'bagel with cream cheese' sounds dirty.”
“Well, when you say it like that, you bet I do.”
“Cream cheese,” he repeated, his voice dropping to a husky cadence. “Cream. Cheese.”
“Gah! No more!” She lunged for the door handle. “Let me out of the car! Want out now!”
She struggled with the door only to find it opened for her by the driver. Then Jack was there offering his hand with a smile. “Welcome to your dream date, Lemon.”
“More like welcome to my nightmare.” She eased out of the car and eyed Jack suspiciously. “FYI, my dream date involves three different kinds of pie, canned spray cheese, TV reruns, and the occasional shoulder nudge which may or may not lead to elbow bumping, depending on the mood.”
“God forbid we make physical contact of an intimate nature tonight,” he said, placing his hand on her lower back as they walked across the sidewalk towards the entrance of Chez Ertzloff.
“Hey now!” She jumped. “Watch the hands.”
“I was only touching your back." He rolled his eyes. “It's polite for a gentleman to guide the lady inside. Besides, that's not even one of the seven most erogenous zones on a woman's body.”
Her jaw dropped. “There's seven?”
He smirked. “Now you know why seven's my lucky number.”
“Seven? Really? But where? No, don't tell me.” She shook it off, then whipped around to jab her finger into his chest. “And I'll have you know I have a very sensitive spine. Some of my discs were dislodged during a freak rollerskating accident, so I've got a sexual Spidey sense between the fourth and fifth vertebrae. You better watch yourself, mister.”
He held up his hands, palms facing out. “I promise not to take advantage of your bizarre psychosexual medical condition. Now shall we?” He held the door open for her and followed her to the maîtré d's podium. Recognizing Jack on sight, a host stood at attention, saluted him, then marched off in the direction of their table. “Hurry up, Lemon, they cut you loose if you're too slow to keep up. They don't abide weakness. Nor should they.”
“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow,” she muttered, hopping along to keep up with Jack's firm grip on her elbow.
“Why in the world are you limping?”
“No reason. Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.”
“Your table, Mr. Donaghy,” the host said with a salute, then marched off.
“Here, allow me,” Jack said, pulling out a chair and helping Liz ease into it. “You know, you didn't have to wear high heels if it was going to leave you disabled. Though I appreciate you going above and beyond. That's the spirit.”
“Haha, yeah, high heels, that's why!” She quickly buried her nose in the menu, but she could feel him watching her like a shark who'd scented blood in the water. “So, I guess I'm the only one drinking tonight since Avery's still got you on a tight leash.” She grabbed a passing waiter by the belt and yanked him back. “I need wine. Lots of it. And keep it comin'. Chop, chop, sieg heil.”
Jack cleared his throat, raised his brow and angled his head forward.
“Okay! Fine! Enough! I can't take it anymore!” She took a deep breath. “There may have been a slight grooming incident earlier in the evening and I'll just leave it at that.”
He raised his brow even higher, then intensified his gaze to the level of piercing blue.
“Fine. You wanna know? You think you're ready to know? You think you can handle it?” Raising her head high, she bravely continued. “I was doing what I like to call the lady works and I noticed a callous build-up on my feet, but when I reached for my stone rubbing thingie, it was gone. Gone.” She covered her mouth to hold back a sob. “So I did what any self-respecting woman would do. I went into the kitchen—”
“Dear God,” he whispered, horrified.
“—and I used... I used the... I... I... I...”
Leaning forward on his elbows, he insisted, “Spit it out, Lemon!”
“I used the cheese grater!” Hanging her head in shame, she dropped her face into her hands and sobbed through her fingers. “I'm sure that part of my heel will grow back any day now. And if it doesn't, who needs a fully formed heel anyhow?”
"Well, you already walk with a lopsided gait. Look on the bright side: maybe it'll fix your posture. Just think of it as corrective surgery without the expensive medical fees." His attempt at humor failed to get the desired reaction and she continued bleating into her hands. Sighing, he laid his hand on he arm, squeezed and lifted, helping to straighten her posture, then said, “Here, Lemon, drink this,” offering her a glass of wine.
“Wow. When did that get here? Who knew the Gestapo were so sneaky?” She took the glass, then gave a weak smile. “Hey, maybe they moonlight as ninja servers.”
“It's best not to ask too many questions in a place like this. Now drink up.”
She sniffled, then wiped away the tears on her cheeks. “Is it okay if I get wasted on our first date?”
He nodded, his eyes warm when he smiled. “It'd be an honor.”
“Hey, I'm walkin' here!” Jack shouted, using his free hand to flick off the cab who'd driven through a huge pile of slushy snow and sent it flying on the sidewalk.
“Yeah, he is walking here! And I'm half-walking, half being carried here!” Liz shook her arms at the cabbie disappearing down the block, a move that could only be described as flailing. Unfortunately, she nearly flailed out of Jack's arms.
“Whoa, easy now!”
Firming his grip, they made their way to the elevator, Liz's head resting against Jack's shoulder, his arm circling around her waist, holding her steady as she wobbled on her heels.
Once inside the elevator, she lunged forward. “Push all the buttons!”
“No!” he cried, pulling her back into his arms. He sighed when he looked at the panel with every single button illuminated. “Oh, the adventures we'll have with the opening and closing doors. How could you resist?”
“S'funny,” she snorted into his collar.
The doors opened on the second floor. He sighed, then he caught a tantalizing whiff in the air. He leaned closer to Liz, breathed her in again, then closed his eyes in bliss. “You smell like a cask of Château Latour. Superb.”
She groaned. “Urrgh, I don't feel so good. The elevator's spinning.”
“Yes, only the best wine makes the elevators spin. Lucky girl.”
“Oooh, not good, not good. I couldn't fit my hurling bag in my freakishly tiny purse.” She frowned. “Seriously, what is the point of having a purse if you can't put anything in it?”
“Hmm. I can think of a few things that would fit.”
“Oh yeah, like what?”
“Prophylactics, lipstick, prophylactics in the shape of lipstick.”
“Gross, Donaghy. Get your mind out of the gutter.” She shook her head to drive home her disapproval, then immediately regretted it. “Ooh, spinning. Bad spinning.”
“It's all right. We just have”—he glanced up and grit his teeth—“four more floors to get through and you'll be home.”
She dropped her forehead on his shoulder. “Maybe I shouldn't've pushed all the buttons.”
He cocked his head to the side, lost in thought for a minute, then he said, slowly, “Sometimes, you have to push all the buttons to get where you need to go in life.”
“Huh. That's deep. That's like Deepak Chopra deep. Heh, Deepak. Deep, get it?” Giggling, she tucked her forehead into the collar of his wool jacket, her laughter devolving into piggish snorts.
“And here we are,” he announced, helping her to the door. “Keys?”
Frowning in concentration, she squinted up at him. “They're in my teeny, tiny purse in your big, black, big, expensive car.”
His left eyelid started to twitch. “Lemon, adding more adjectives to that sentence failed to make it somehow charming.”
“Wait! Maybe I didn't lock it?” She tried the door. “Nope, I locked it. Wait! I've got an idea.” She banged on the door, twice above where the deadbolt was located, then once below it. Then she turned the handle and the door opened. “Ha! Blammo!”
He shook his head. “It's a miracle you haven't been murdered in your sleep. You're calling the locksmith first thing in the morning.”
“Uh huh, but I've gotta go hurl now. Thanks for the date, Donaghy,” she said, reaching to shake his hand.
He rolled his eyes. “Come on, I'll help you get settled in first.” Then he looped his arm around her waist and guided her inside.
“Hurling, hurling first, bathroom for hurling.”
Fifteen minutes later, he lifted her off the tile floor of the bathroom and carried her into the bedroom. He gently laid her on the bed, removed her shoes, unzipped the back of her dress, and went in search of suitable sleepwear. His search ended when he caught sight of the havoc that was Liz Lemon's closet. Shuddering, he returned to her side and helped her slide underneath the covers.
Eyes closed, she murmured, “Thanks for holding my hair back,” then turned on her side and snuggled deeper into the covers.
His hand ghosting through her hair, he whispered, “Anytime, Lemon.”
When Liz woke up with the mother of all hangovers, she found a jar of peanut butter on her bedside table and a note that read, “You spun me right round, baby.”
Come Monday morning, she'd tease Jack by calling it the perfect hangover snack, then proceed to pantomime how she licked the jar clean for five glorious minutes of physical comedy gold—an act she'd later encore whenever she needed to make him leave the room in a hurry.
He'd never know she kept the note and the unopened jar hidden away in her closet.