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Story Data

Posted August 19, 2008

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Series: Eureka Moments

Title: Ulterior Motives

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not. I claim nothing but the plot.

Rating: PG.

Summary: Henry questions Zoe over a cup of coffee in Café Diem. 1000 words.

Spoilers: Eureka post-3.3 "Best in Faux"

Henry smiled as Zoe approached his table with a fresh pot of coffee, and nudged his empty mug toward her. "How was your Physics quiz?" he asked with a smile.

Café Diem wasn't especially busy at that hour of the evening; more people were staying home than venturing out in the steamy weather produced by the lava currently venting into the lake. Zoe glanced around to double-check her other customers, then smiled back and took her time about refilling his cup. "It wasn't easy, but I think I did all right. Thanks for helping me with that demonstration, by the way."

"No problem," he replied. "It's been awhile since I had a good excuse to demonstrate a little applied physics; it was as much a favor for me as it was for you." And far better as a use of his skills than Eva Thorne's steel-fisted, velvet-gloved requests for favors, he thought sourly.

"Well, thank you anyway," she said with a grin, then tilted the coffee pot back as she finished the refill.

Henry retrieved the cup, wrapping his hands around its surplus warmth, then took a deep breath. There was a question he'd been meaning to bring up that might be more appropriately raised in private, but he didn't know when else he'd be able to catch her without involving Jack in the conversation. "Zoe... there's something I've been meaning to ask you. Why do you pretend to be less intelligent than you are in front of your father?"

Zoe flinched visibly, her eyes widening in surprise-- and defiance. "What do you mean?" she asked sharply, frowning at him across the table.

"You don't even understand enough to explain what it is you don't understand?" he chided her gently, bringing up the deliberately airheaded excuse she'd used in front of them both the day before.

Zoe rolled her eyes and huffed, teenage mulishness evident in the tilt of her chin and the hand propped on her far hip. "Look, he pushes me enough as it is. You think it was my idea to enroll in all these advanced classes? All I wanted to do was coast through school-- maybe even enjoy my education-- not try for the Nerd Queen crown. But no; if I want his permission to do anything else, even work at Café Diem, I have to take all the hardest classes available. I don't know why he keeps expecting me to succeed."

Zoe's lack of drive in the classroom was something she had probably inherited from her father, Henry suspected. Jack was a hands-on problem solver; detailed explanations and planning sessions always bored him, even when the subject matter was limited to topics he clearly understood. If he'd ever put forth more than the minimum effort required to earn a passing grade in the classroom, Henry would be very much surprised; and the good sheriff was definitely self-aware enough to realize that was a bad habit to be passing on to his daughter.

"He's proud of you, Zoe," he said aloud. "You've faced a lot of challenges since you came to Eureka, and you've surmounted every one of them; I'm sure he just wants to see you continuing to do your best."

"Yeah, well how does he know my best is good enough?" she objected. "What if it isn't? You know how smart the people are in this town, and it's not like I even told him what my real IQ is."

"And why is that?" Henry asked, pinning her with an intent, questioning stare. They were approaching the heart of the problem now, he suspected; and the sad thing was, her attitude was entirely unnecessary. However much of the vanished four years Jack did or did not remember around the effects of Henry's memory eraser, he did clearly retain some impressions of that time; Henry had seen the effects in Jack's reactions to the people around him, including himself, though they had yet to discuss the memory erasure in specific. Jack might not recall his daughter's valedictory speech, but anticipatory pride in her achievements had obviously long since become habit.

"Well-- it's just--" She scowled. "Being smart was never cool-- and never mattered-- until we came here. I had a life, not a 4.0 GPA, and that was just how I liked it. Besides, you've seen how people treat my dad, especially lately; it's like because he's only a 111, they can talk down to him like he's an idiot. I don't want him to feel totally alone here, okay?" She glared at him a moment longer, then seemed to realize she was preaching to the choir and rolled her eyes, summoning up a faint smile. "Not to mention-- you've seen what being raving braniacs does to the people around here. I'd like to have at least some chance of turning out like a normal person."

"Hey, I think I resemble that remark," Henry replied, allowing a chuckle. "Just remember he loves you, Zoe, and I think he'd much rather you were honest with him. This might seem like a small issue, but the more you lie the easier it gets, and trust me-- not matter how good your intentions are, you will regret that lost trust very much once it's gone."

She nodded slowly at that comment, then looked down-- and blinked, startled, at the coffee pot still in her hand. "Well! As much as I've enjoyed this way too serious conversation, I'd better get back to work," she said, brightly. "Thanks again for the help."

"And thank you for the coffee," Henry said, saluting her with his cup.

Whether she listened or not, at least he'd made the effort. He cared very much for this town, and most of its residents; and he still found it somewhat miraculous that he was there at all, after almost losing everything.

But only somewhat. Thorne obviously had an ulterior reason to spring him; the sooner he could figure out exactly what it was, the better.


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