Al-Maskan – Tenement
Jack huffed out a sigh as he raked his fingers absently through his short hair. This job sucks, he thought absently though he didn’t genuinely hate his job. He just hated the paperwork and that Daniel was chronically late on his rent and that George insisted grad students get first dibs on any openings. Daniel was a perpetual student. Most of the kids were here three years then moved on. The building was currently emptying fast of the crop from a couple years ago when he took over after George fired Bert.
Jack was supposed to just be the night manager when he first came on, hadn’t even qualified for a paid for apartment from the building so he’d been still sleeping on Daniel’s couch for lack of a place to stay after his divorce. Sara had ironically tired of his perpetual short-term employment, so when he’d gone on a dig with Daniel because he needed a strong back and cheap labor he’d come home to a handful of legal papers and the door closed in his face. Love just didn’t conquer all and thankfully Daniel had figured the marriage wouldn’t last and offered him a place to stay for half the rent and keeping his head down.
It had been George who had asked him if he needed a job last year, initially offering him a night manager job that Jack suspected didn’t specifically exist prior to that moment, but it was a paycheck and all he had to do was answer the phone if someone had a maintenance issue. Other than the sketchy toilet in Janet’s apartment that Jack suspected had more to do with her daughter Cassie flushing things she shouldn’t than a real problem, it was an easy way to make a few bucks and it was stable.
So, when someone clued George in on Bert giving tenants crap over minor things and issuing unlawful eviction warnings suddenly, he had the day job Sara had harped on him at length to get. He also had a sweet new first floor apartment he had to muck out himself as Bert was kind of a pig frankly. Jack wasn’t sure who had told George about Samuels being a screw up but if Jack was going to put money on it, he’d have put it on Walter whose apartment was directly above the manager’s. It’s funny how thin the walls are when you live in a place like this.
A blond head bobbed into the open doorway to his office. “Hey, um, hi, I’m the person who called about an apartment last week.” She said with a small nervous smile.
“Lady, I get twenty calls a day on openings and you probably talked to George anyway. A name would help.” He groused but he smiled appreciatively. She wasn’t hard on the eyes at all. Tall, short blond hair, huge blue eyes, long legs and, holy crap, were those dimples?
“Oh, uh, sorry. Samantha Carter, I’m in the theoretical physics program.”
“Jack O’Neill. Got your campus ID?” he asked gruffly.
“Oh, um, yes, right here if you give me a moment-“ she started digging around in her purse.
Jack waved a hand. “You don’t need to give it to me right now. Just wanted to make sure you had it on you if you decided to fill out the paperwork today.”
“Oh. Oh, of course, yah. Sorry. I guess you would kind of need that, wouldn’t you.”
Jack shrugged. “All right, how about I show you around and see what you think of the place.” He tilted his shoulder. “I’ve got a couple floor plans. Were you planning on a double or a single?”
“It’s just me, but I think I’m going to want a lab room so a double would be nice if it’s in my price range.” She told him with a megawatt smile.
Jack forced himself to frown and look through her, not at her, because that smile was doing all sorts of odd things to his insides. “The doubles are five fifty, there’s a deposit if you want to keep a pet and electricity and cable are separate.” He told her by rout.
“I have a cat. His name is Schrödinger.” She told him.
“Cool. Schrödinger will cost you twenty-five and you don’t get your deposit back if he pees all over everything or eats the blinds.”
“Ok. That’s not a problem. He mostly just lays there and complains that he’s hungry.”
“Sounds like he’d get along with my uncle Dave.” Jack quipped and tried to ignore the back flip his stomach did when she grinned at him again.
“Is your uncle Dave red-haired and obsessed with milk jug rings?” She asked him.
“Bald, and if he is, I’d be very disturbed by that knowledge.” He admitted to her and decided this woman was a danger to his entire being. Every time she smiled at him, he wanted to lean in and find out where that delicious smell of sugar and exotic fruit was coming from on her. He shook his head slightly to clear it and raked his fingers into his hair again. “I’ll show you one of the units that’s been cleaned. Come on.”
She nodded and followed him to the elevator and tried to ignore the sexy spicy citrus scent of his cologne that was making her grin like an idiot at him or perhaps it was the nervous way he kept sticking his hand in his hair whenever he tried to guard his expression. He was an attractive guy, a few years older than her though it was hard to tell how many. Looked a lot like one of her professors now that she thought about it but there was an intensity to this man that Dr. Mac just didn’t possess.
“So, um, are you just starting the program, or did you decide you needed your own place?” He asked her.
“I just got accepted actually. So, um, I’ll be here a while.” She finished shyly.
He smiled at her, she was only a little over half a head shorter than him and suddenly he had a vivid mental image of holding her close with her head on his shoulder while they slow danced to Henry Mancini torch songs. Jack swallowed hard. “Well, that’s good. George likes tenants that stick around a while. It cuts down on the paperwork.” He said, his voice getting softer as he spoke to her as he got lost in her eyes.
The elevator stopped and the doors opened to Daniel looking distractedly at his notebook. “Oh, hey Jack. New tenant? Say, can I pay my rent next week? I’m a little short on cash until Maybourne pays me.” Maybourne was Daniel’s seedy Sociology professor who had Daniel running tests on unsuspecting undergrads for a small fee.
Jack rolled his eyes. He was almost positive in another couple of moments he’d have been kissing one adorably dimpled blond had they not been interrupted. “The elevator is going up not down Daniel.” He told the younger man with a flop of blond hair.
“Oh, is it? Crap. Hang on, let me get out.” Daniel said punching the button to keep the elevator from resuming its trip.
Jack shook his head. His best friend was one of the brightest guys he knew... and the densest. “S’ok Daniel.” He said with a shrug.
“K, well, it was nice meeting you?”
“Sam! Jack, let’s have a welcome party when you fill the empties.” Daniel suggested and left the elevator.
The doors closed and Jack stared at the ceiling for a few moments.
“He seems very nice.” Sam said with a shy smile.
“Yup. He’s a great guy.” And the reason I can’t get a date around here because they take one look at Daniel in his tweed jackets and big blue eyes and thick blond hair and average-Joe Jack of ordinary light brown hair and average brown eyes and black t-shirts was chopped liver. Jack hunched his shoulders and shoved his hands in his pockets.
“Not really my type though. I work with absent minded professors all day. I don’t really want to date them.” She told him with a shy smile that widened when realization crossed his face that she was saying what he hoped she was.
“So, what is your type exactly?” He asked her with a grin.
“Oh, it varies.” She said vaguely and her expression turned mischievous.
Jack coughed. “This is our floor.”
Sam grinned as she walked out of the elevator. “So, should I be expecting all new or very clean vintage here?”
“In this case, it’s a reno though I can knock a few bucks off if you take one of the ones that needs work. I’ve got a lot of units to update this fall as about half the residents graduated this summer.” He admitted.
“Why don’t you show me both and I’ll decide then? Sound fair?”
“Yah, sure.” He fought a grin. He wasn’t sure if she was looking for an excuse to talk to him a little bit longer or if she was just indecisive, but he’d take it. “So, the laundry is in the basement, most of the first floor is the rec-room that has a gym and a pool table, ping pong, Daniel pitched in for a tabletop gaming table that didn’t fit in his apartment. D&D league is Thursday nights. We have Viking night then too. There’s a dining area with vending machines where you can grab a sandwich at midnight if you need to. They aren’t the best sandwiches, but George makes the vending company keep the prices down. It has a full commercial kitchen too if you want to throw a party, just warn George or I ahead of time so we can make sure the cleaning company scrubs everything.”
“Viking night?” she asked him perplexed.
“Yup. If you want a costume, hit up Siler in the penthouse on 12th, his wife is a professional costumer and will either have something you can buy or will make you something to your taste if you want for the cost of the fabric as long as you let her take pictures of you for her website.”
“Ok…. That doesn’t really explain what it is.” She reminded him. A furrow between her brows.
“Oh! Well we all hang out playing D&D and then we pig out on Viking style food so roast turkey legs and mutton and bread and mead and lots of other stuff. It’s great. Janet organizes the food every week. She takes donations in food or cash but make sure you check on what food she needs before you buy. Oh, and everything you eat you have to eat with your hands.” He told her grinning.
“Isn’t that messy?”
“Yah, that’s why we do it after playing D&D and not during.”
“That seems perfectly logical.” She grinned. “I like to play an Elvish Mage.”
“Cool. Rogue half-Orc.” He said smugly.
Sam giggled. “Really?”
“Do I look like the kind of man who lies about their D&D characters?” He asked her in an injured tone, but his eyes twinkled as he unlocked the door to the empty apartment.
She tilted her head and chuckled. “I guess I’ll find out.”
Jack nodded and grinned. She’d already decided about the apartment sight unseen. “So, the kitchen isn’t much, but it’s got a full-sized fridge and a garbage disposal. There’s a balcony on the ones in the back of the building. Doesn’t have much of a view but the cat will like it. Master bedroom is pretty big, walk-in closet with a washer hook up if you want it but like I said, there’s a laundry in the basement and George doesn’t charge for using them like most places. So, what do you think?” he asked after he’d led her through the place describing the obvious to her.
Sam looked around the family room. It was small but she didn’t have all that much stuff. She’d left all the furniture with her ex-fiancé, so she really only had her clothes, computer, and such. She’d have to rent a truck and hit up the resale shops in the area to get a bed, dresser, table and a couch. “I can make this work.” She told him.
“Great. I have one more thing to show you.”
His eyes had lit up and Sam caught her breath. She could lose herself in those rich brown eyes if she wasn’t careful.
Jack seemed oblivious to the reaction he’d caused as he spun on his heel, grabbed her hand and tugged her back to the elevator. Once inside he punched the top button. “The elevator only goes to the top floor where the penthouses are. There’s four of them and a stairwell to the roof.” He said excitedly.
She looked at him in amused astonishment. “What’s on the roof?”
“You’ll see.” He told her cryptically. His eyes twinkling again. This time he did see the look in her eyes and his face stilled as he looked at her. This wasn’t like him at all. He never had this reaction to women, not even Sara. He needed to get control of himself before he got too invested and consequentially, hurt again.
Sam didn’t know why his expression suddenly closed off and she sighed a little sadly. Perhaps the instant attraction had been too much to hope for after all. She looked away. Disappointed.
Jack jammed his hands back into his pockets. He’d been gesturing with them while he’d talked to her moments ago. “This is our stop.” He said lamely and walked out of the elevator to the stairs, not daring to look and see if she followed, afraid his panic at feeling so attracted to her had ended things before they began.
Sam did follow him though and when he reached the door at the top, he opened it with a flourish to reveal a rooftop garden complete with small fruit trees, a raised vegetable patch made up of several beds and a picnic area. And off in one corner stood a Celestron CGX 800. Sam’s mouth gaped. “Is that what I think it is?” she asked him in awe.
Despite his earlier shift in moods, Jack grinned like a kid. “Yah. She’s beautiful, isn’t she.” It wasn’t a question. The pride in his voice was evident. “If you take the apartment, I’ll let you check her out.” He offered her. It was a bribe and they both knew it.
“All right.” She said grinning back. “You’ve got yourself a new tenant.”