2007-12-21: A Cup Of Kindness

Starring:

Joule_icon.gif Lee_icon.gif

Summary: Lee visits Joule, finds her in a sorry state, and works hard to get her back in the holiday spirit.

Date It Happened: December 21, 2007

Log Title: A Cup of Kindness


The Dahanukar Studio (Joule's Apartment)

Here it is. The Winter Solstice. Four days left until Christmas. Three shopping days. And Joule is sitting on the trunk she uses as a window seat. On the sill is a little rosemary tree she bought at Dean and DeLuca. It's the right shape, but it bears no lights, nor ornaments. Beneath it is the single present she's purchased. Carefully wrapped. With a pretty ribbon and a bow on top. A simple tag reads "Lee."

The rosemary is fragrant; useful, as the room has a stale miasma. She's been drinking tequila — and not the top of the line stuff. The amazing bed is unmade. Her hair hasn't been brushed today, though she otherwise looks tidy. She has on a battered pair of jeans that have seen both autographs and better days. Over that she's wearing a Kinks T-shirt and an incongruous cuddly flannel shirt. Her omnipresent jingling bracelets are not in evidence, though.

Lee called ahead, got no answer, but dropped in anyway - he knock knock knocks, full of energy for the end of the year and eager to unwind after the stress of finals and grading. "Ho ho ho!" he says cheerily. "I am the Ghost of Christmas Present. Look upon me. You have never seen the like of me before!"

Joule glances up, surprised. She and Lee have been playing voicemail tag at best. Mainly her choice. No great urge to talk to anyone. No great urge to call anyone back. She rises and plucks two shot glasses from the dish drainer. Pours them full and holds them between her first and middle fingers, and her ring and pinky fingers. With the free hand, she unlocks the door, and pulls it open wide. At which point, she offers Lee one of the shots. "Hey."

Lee takes the shot, lifts it grandly and says, "Sixty percent passed the final exam. If I can get half that on the…hey, are you okay?" He's not so caught up in the spirit of the season that he can't notice when something's wrong. "…is everything all right?" he adds, concerned. It's not really a question - he knows the answer from her face.

"Congratulations, then," Joule says, dredging up a weak smile from someplace. It's weak, but it is sincere. She knows how hard he's worked. As for the answer to his questions? "Yeah, sure. I'm fine. Bloody brilliant, I am." She tosses back the shot. "C'mon in, close the door, it must be freezing out." She steps back to give him room to come the rest of the way in.

Lee takes his shot, then steps in and closes the door. "It is. It's freezing." he says. "Hey, I like your little tree here, I…" He spies the present, and his eyes warm a little. He pauses, falling silent for a minute. "Oh." he says, realizing. "First Christmas since…" Her father. He had one of these first-Christmases-since, once.

"Thanks," Joule says, but isn't quite able to manage a smile this time. At least not at first. She does smile as he cuts right to the heart of her malaise. "Are you always this irritatingly perceptive, then? It's not endearing. Not at all."

Lee turns to her and attempts to give her a quick embrace. "Yeah, well…. I've been there, so don't give me too much credit. I just remember how hard it was, even with a sister." he murmurs. "Come have Christmas with Nima and I this year. She'd love to meet you and we'd love to have you. You don't have to be alone here."

Joule is stiff for a moment as Lee's arms wrap around her. Then she folds into his arms and rests her forehead against the nook between his neck and shoulder. "Prolly not like I have," she says, but the words are muffled against him. The shot glass clunks to the floor as she wraps her arms around him in return, and hangs on as if he were a pier piling keeping her from being swept out to sea.

Lee just holds her tight, says nothing for a long moment, strokes her slightly too-tangled hair. "…it's okay." he says. "I can't tell you when it will be okay, but it will. Eventually it will. It comes and goes. It comes and goes."

Lee may feel a tingle or a headache being this close to her. She's had so much tequila, she's forgotten she's not wearing her bracelets. "Not for a while," she tells him, pulling away and returning to sit by the window, fallen shot glass forgotten. "This isn't just the first Christmas since…" She puts her face into one hand and closes the eye left visible by the gesture. "God damn it."

Lee says, "…what is it?" He picks up the glass and puts it aside gingerly. He unconsciously rubs his forehead, but puts aside his own discomfort for her sake, chalking it up to the cold outside and the warmth (and smell) inside.

"It…" Joule clenches her teeth, and shakes her head. "We…y'know, we didn't speak. For years. Until I was done with college, almost. After Mum's death, it was as if he'd forgotten he had a child." She pauses, lower lip quivering with the threat of tears. She bites off what she was saying viciously and works to master her emotions before she continues. "So growing up, Christmas was, y'know, tinned ham. Tinned spotted dick if Dad had even remembered what time of year it was. Or I'd beggar an invite from a friend." She takes a slow, deep breath. "This would've been…" and she can't finish the sentence.

Lee comes up behind her and wraps his arms around her tightly. "…the year you reconciled?" he murmurs. He's really not sure if that's it or not.
"Close enough to it, yeah," Joule confirms, looking up. "We'd started talking again and all, and I followed him to India while he was chasing Suresh. But it was all …y'know, kind'f formal. Distant. Assistant stuff. Not father and daughter. When we came to New York, and I came with…" She reaches up to wipe her eyes with the back of her hands. "That's when he realized he really had a daughter willing to see his dream through. And he started treating me like one again."

Lee says, "It sounds like he missed a lot of opportunities. But he did have some time with you when you could be close again. And you loved him all along." It's more words to be comforting than to change how she feels.

"We both did," Joule admits, voice a bit hoarse. "And no. During m'teenage years, I hated him. Hated him for loving mum's ghost more than me." She turns in his arms and clings to his coat lapels. "God damn it," she repeats.

Lee lets that go for a minute, he understands, at least by his expression, the hate a stifled adolescent can feel. He finally says, gently, hands at the small of her back, holding her close. "You're here now. You're not alone, either. People care about you. I care about you. Come and have Christmas with Nima and I."

Joule looks up at Lee and is surprised to see understanding reflected in his eyes. "I…not sure I'd …I'd be such good company," she warns.
Lee says, "I…haven't told you what we're doing for Christmas yet." with a wry smile. "We spent our Thanksgiving at the southern Village street shelter serving dinners all afternoon and evening, and we had such a great time doing something good together we decided to do it again. It'll give you dishpan hands and you'll need to bring a hairnet, but…seriously, half an hour in and you've forgotten all your woes." And, he doesn't say, you won't be inside here alone.

"Oh…" Joule says, a little dumbstruck. "That…that's very good of you both." She bites her lower lip thoughtfully. "I…I'll think about it."

Lee says, modestly deflecting the compliment: "Honestly, we sort of were at loose ends. We thought about doing regular holiday things but after what we found out this year…" About how crazy and all-around horrific their parents are. "…the last thing we wanted to do was be around the house. Okay, think about it." He gives her one last hug, kisses her on the forehead. "Now go get cleaned up, bundle up, and I'll take you to this great place where they serve hot, fresh cider all December."

Joule gives him a startled look, and then really does begin to cry in earnest. But now it's not those harsh, grief-and-anger sobs. She's touched. And she's surprised. The daft hipster teacher she got involved with on a lark has turned out to be a very decent person. "Yeah…y-yeah. I think…mebbe that does sound nice." She drags her hands self consciously through her hair. At which point she realizes there's no accompanying jingle of bracelets. "Oh, bloody hell!" She breaks away from him gently and rushes to put them all back on.

Lee says, "…uh…what's the story with those bracelets, Joule? You know your wrists look just fine without them…"

Joule finishes getting them back into place, and glances over her shoulder at him. "Related to my odd talent," she says, and leaves it at that. She does recall he hasn't really much interest in that. And she's grateful to him for being so sweet, so pushing the issue would be a terrible thing to do just now. "Let me just go …" she gestures toward the bathroom. "Brush my hair. Clean my teeth. Quick shower. Make yourself at home. I'm sure there's some bollocks chirpy movie on to keep you occupied."

Lee doesn't push it, but he does look somewhat surprised. He hasn't met anyone with 'props' before. "…can do." he says warmly.

"If you're really curious," Joule says to his surprised expression, "I'll explain it. Over dinner after our hot cider. But for now, let me get presentable, hmm?"

She is no stereotypical woman. She is in and out of the shower, looking like her old self — if perhaps a bit puffy-eyed — in twelve minutes. Then on goes the earwarmer, and she's shrugging into a too-big old peacoat. "I'm dragging you up Fifth Avenue first," she decides, now that she's in better spirits. "That woman at the Wrestling League says the decorations are not to be missed."

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