An Exchange of Favors
Fandom: Ugly Betty/30 Rock
Pairing: past Jack/Wilhelmina
Disclaimer: None of the characters belong to me; don’t sue.
Summary: Wilhelmina calls in some favors to continue her evil plan; Jack calls some favors to dispel ugly rumors.
“Wilhelmina Slater,” Jack said, raising his glass of scotch. “Still dry?”
Wilhelmina laughed, and it was a for-real laugh, not her fake, oh, that’s clever hateful giggle. Marc was impressed. “JD, only you can make me not want to claw your Irish eyes out when bringing that unfortunate incident up,” she said, smiling.
Oh, they had so done it in the past sometime. Marc couldn’t wait to tell Amanda.
“What’s on your mind, Wil?” Jack asked, gesturing for them both to sit down. A glare from Wilhelmina told Marc he didn’t get to sit at the big boys’ table, and so he discreetly sat behind them.
Wilhelmina sighed. “Meades,” she said with a forlorn sigh. “There are so many of them. Free and alive. And running my magazine into the ground with their Meadishness.”
“I hope you aren’t thinking of trying to take any of them out,” said Jack with a rakish grin. “Unless you want to have your own version of the Scandinavian Insanity perfume incident, and you wouldn’t look good dead, Wil.”
Wilhelmina’s head tilted curiously. “Your wit has gotten amazingly polished, Jack,” she said lightly. “Oh, that’s right. You have that new little mentee, Limeade or whatever her name is. How’s that going?”
“Lemon,” said Jack. “And it goes. She sold NBC to the Germans for me and is trying to purchase property in the city. Soon, I’ll teach her about hostile takeovers.”
“For business or pleasure, JD?” asked Wilhelmina archly. “I heard that you two had Christmas together. With both sets of parents in tow. And festive sweaters!”
Jack snorted and shifted, somewhat uncomfortably. Marc felt for him. Festive sweaters? That was something that not even a pre-nup could make HIM do.
“That is a gross misrepresentation of what happened,” Jack said. “Lemon’s parents and slightly retarded brother arrived and invited me to go ice skating. It was mere good manners. I may have left Colleen behind — you know Colleen, so you understand — and she may have descended upon them unaware and caused a family breakdown at a mid-priced chain restaurant.”
“But what of the festive sweaters, JD darling?” Wilhelmina persisted, clearly knowing very well that it was true.
Jack rolled his eyes. “True,” he said.
“Bianca’s right; you are going to marry little Limeade,” Wilhelmina said with another genuine laugh. Jack’s eyes narrowed irritably. “Lemon, excuse me. Does your fruity mentee have a first name, JD?”
“Liz,” Jack said. “And you and your scandal-mongering ilk are, as usual, exaggerating. On occasion, the psychological damage caused by my mother results in me behaving strangely. Lemon’s parents are stridently supportive and perky; I found myself drawn in.”
“And then you’ll simply grow accustomed to her face, blah blah blah,” Wilhelmina said. “But more about me and why I’m here. Bradford and I are having a baby.”
Marc coughed to hide his laugh, because Jack’s face at the combined announcements really was something else. Probably because Jack thought of himself as Henry Higgins, benevolent and training up middle management to pass as executives.
Marc could really use a Jack if Wil didn’t get a new job soon. He was so not up for being a glorified manny, even if he was fabulous and would teach the Wil-spawn how to dress. Maybe he could kneecap that cringing little fawner outside and become the new Donaghy assistant.
“Congratulations. You’re not showing yet, which is curious given that Bradford’s been dead a month or two,” Jack said, raising a debonair eyebrow.
“Oh, I outsourced the pregnancy. Hostile womb,” Wilhelmina said airily. “The surrogate…well, she needed a hundred thousand dollars to save her husband’s life, and I need you to put my story on the air. The Meades have taken my baby’s future away from him or her by dispossessing its mother.”
Jack began to laugh. “My God, I’d forgotten that you were an evil almost as pure as my ex-wife,” he said with a smile. “You want to use NBC as a platform to weasel in on the Meade empire with this entirely cooked-up pregnancy that Bradford Meade probably wasn’t involved in until he was safely dead.”
“Think of the ratings, JD,” said Wilhelmina. “Crying Scottish surrogate saving her husband’s life. A chance to stick Dateline cameras in Meade faces. And it’s a favor to an old friend which I will owe you until you need it, atop the spread in Mode to promote NBC actresses and shows that is of course part of the deal.”
“Well, I see that you understand the art of the deal,” Jack said. “A favor owed AND you come and meet ‘little Limeade’ so you and your harpies can see that there is nothing between the two of us. Lemon is simply one of my showrunners who needs a great deal of training and is a good ROI.”
Wilhelmina snorted. “Jack, darling, I’ll tell you this because you’re my friend and we spent that unforgettable weekend in Aspen together, even if you did turn around and bed my sister later,” she said. “Rumors are hard to quash. Remember how long it took Fey to live down that secret pregnancy rumor? And that was in 1981.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “That also turned out to be true.”
“Funny, isn’t it?” Wilhelmina said airily.
“Lemon!” Jack called, followed by a tall, hot black woman about his age and a clearly gay assistant. “I want you to meet someone.”
Liz tried to smile. Ever since the German incident, Jack was treating Liz more and more like she gave a damn about the business side of anything. She was thinking about buying pants that weren’t jeans so she didn’t have to wear the Laura Bush outfit so often, even.
“Elizabeth Lemon, this is Wilhelmina Slater, formerly the fashion director at Mode magazine,” Jack said, smiling as brightly as anything. “Wilhelmina, this is Lemon.”
Wilhelmina simperingly stuck her hand out, and Liz took it, wondering why a fashion magazine editor was on her set. Fashion was totally not spoken at TGS.
“Lovely to meet you,” Wilhelmina said. “Jack’s told me so much about you. Your family likes festive sweaters, I hear?”
Behind her, the assistant did a snort-laugh, and Liz narrowed her eyes to glare at Jack. Why? Why did he blame her for these things? Jack was the one who insisted they get matching sweaters during his two hours of being obsessed with her parents. And if Wilhelmina was here to teach Liz what not to wear, well…maybe she’d do that, because even Liz wasn’t immune to the idea of having a Mode editor dress her. It was still wrong and inappropriate, though.
“It was Christmas and they’re not from here,” Liz said, looking down at their shoes. “You have really bitchin’ shoes. I’d fall down if I wore them.”
“Oh, my God,” murmured the assistant, sotto voce. “Amanda, why aren’t you here?”
Wilhelmina swept the assistant a glare that would have dried paint, and Liz swallowed. Okay, she was totally being judged for some reason. Darting a quick look at Jack, she noted Jack was being judged, too. He kept slicking his hair back and smiling creepily.
“Ignore him,” Wilhelmina said. “Marc is occasionally too gay to function.”
“Thanks, Darth Slater, I love you, too,” Marc replied with a catty flutter of his eyelashes.
“Um, okay,” said Liz with a hopeful expression. “So, are you a future executive here? Did Jack trade me to you for cigarettes and a Mode cover?”
Wilhelmina’s expression got savvier. “Are you available to be traded?” she asked. “Or for freelance work? I could use a brilliant remark for when my current condition is revealed. I’m pregnant, you see. Well, my surrogate is pregnant, but with my genetic material. What would you say to that?”
“Behold your babymama, the handmaiden of evil?” Liz said, now thoroughly confused as Wilhelmina’s face split into a smile that was even scarier than Jack’s. Marc the assistant looked rather impressed, too. “Thanks, I’ll be here all night.”
“Lemon, Ms. Slater is here because she needs my help,” Jack said, stepping into the fray. “You may see a great deal of her over the next week or two. If she needs a line or two, it’s okay.”
Oh. They were doing it. So that meant total indentured servitude for Liz, apparently. Though why Jack would… “Are you the babydaddy?” Liz asked.
Jack and Wilhelmina busted up laughing. Okay, apparently not the babydaddy.
“Priceless,” said Wilhelmina, wiping tears from her eyes. “I approve, Jack.”
She squared her shoulders, put on a pair of sunglasses, and gestured at Marc. “We’re done here for now,” she announced. “JD, always a pleasure to see you. I’ll tell Bianca you’ve gotten fat.”
“Thank you, Wil,” said Jack, clasping her hand with an insincere smile as she swept away. “Nicely done, Lemon.”
“I told a bad joke,” Liz said. “How was that good?”
“Don’t worry your head about it, little Limeade,” Jack replied mysteriously. “It was great.”
She swore to God, he was humming ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ as he walked away. Because rich people were all crazy.