2008-03-31: One Thing To Be Sure Of Mate

Starring:

Joule_icon.gif Lee_icon.gif

Summary: Lee and Joule have a quiet evening, celebrating his present, and at least one possible future.

Date It Happened: March 31, 2008

One Thing To Be Sure Of, Mate


Joule's apartment

Lee has been a little nervous about the impending arrival of the state achievement test scores that will determine if he still has a job next year or not. He even took a part-time job working as a GED instructor two nights a week in case he needed a bit of extra to tide him over while he got his substitute teacher application in order. Yet on the day it's due to come in, there isn't an exultant phone call - just a little text: "38 percent passed! I stay!" (Lee's text messages, be they obscene or modest, are always punctuated and capitalized scrupulously.) A few minutes later, a followup: "Would mademoiselle care to go dancing tonight? I do…" Again, relatively low-key, perhaps surprising for how much hinged on that number, or perhaps it's just dawned on him how much was at stake and that winning only means he gets to do it all over again next year. It's all a bit mysterious, until he arrives, at least.

Joule, being a woman of caprice, texts in response — this time the grammar's good. So's the punctuation. But that's not always the case — Dancing? I'll think about it. Come over and persuade me.

Of course she's pleased he won that battle. And 'Represent!' will live again when the tests come around next year.

But since he's victorious, she's decided a hero's welcome is in order. The afternoon is spent darting in and out of wine shops until she finds someone selling the most obscure little winery's most obscure little Pinot Grigio. And after that, Balducci's. Dean and DeLuca. A little flea market in SoHo. So when he arrives, the apartment is lit only by several dozen votives, and Joule herself is barefoot in a long, airy linen dress. Flowers are on the kitchen table. And a fine dinner lies prepared on the sideboard, waiting for the first course — chilled ginger tomato soup in a cordial glass.

Warmed with a candle in a chafing dish? Lobster tail on a bed of saffron rice and tomatoes, and an ourzo salad with spinach and capers.

"Right on time," she greets him with a small smile as she hears the door open.

Lee is not only right on time but he himself is dressed for the occasion. His black vest hangs open, his coat has the lapels turned down, beneath it his own off-white linen shirt is casually rumpled in a way that Upper East Side stockbrokers pay many thousands of dollars to obtain. He even has a soft felt hat in his hand and a new-to-him pair of shined, crisply shoe-tied black shoes. In his other hand is one wine-red rose, extended to her wordlessly - on his face is an expression somewhere between serenity and acceptance. If their lives ended with a fade to black here, Hollywood would call the ending too shmaltzy. Fortunately for them, it does not end.

"Hey," he says, and "….wow." The preparation bowls him over, but her barefoot appearance in a new dress is what he can't stay away from looking at or touching. "It's incredible." he says, not an exclamation so much as a conclusion, and perhaps it is a conclusion on several levels. It is incredible to come here. If he told someone he came here and saw this, saw her, they would find the story not to be credible. They would look at his beak-nose and his long horrible history of treating people badly in general and women badly too, and say, 'no, Lee, that is not credible.' But it is here, and it is real. He holds the flower out to her only a couple of inches, so she must come and get it.

Joule's hair is tousled and fragrant. A bit of the saffron scent clings to her hair along with the spicy perfume oil on her skin. "You look lovely," she assures him, threading foot by graceful bare foot through the path of candles. "I hope you're hungry."

She reaches to curl fingers around the thorny stem, using the other hand to cup his chin as she tilts upward onto her toes to greet him with a soft kiss.

Lee kisses her back warmly, relief flooding his features as he draws her into an embrace. This means he gets unexpectedly stuck with the thorn. "Ow!" he blurts, shocked out of his romantic reverie. "Very hungry. I missed lunch today. For obvious reasons! I feel like I'm walking through a….is that lobster? I must be dreaming. I feel like I'm in a dream."

Joule lifts his thumb to her lips to kiss away the droplet of blood. "Awww. There, there," she cajoles, lifting her gaze through her lashes to regard him. "Yes. That's lobster. You've been through so much this past month or two, innit, that I think a little pause-and-reflect time would do you good. Unless you're really absolutely heart set on dancing until we both drop."

Lee says, "I am. I really am. But I don't exactly have a timetable." He can't help it, looking through the lashes makes him kiss her again, and not quite so soft either. It might as well be a law of physics, like the one that says the proper and potentially inevitable place for his long-fingered hands is at her waist.

The kiss lingers. She's missed him. And there's a part of her that fears for him, after what he's been through; though she'd deny it if he asked, in the strongest possible terms…and oh, does Joule know the strong terms. Her wrists link behind his neck, and she guides him toward the table with unerring backward steps through the candlelit path.

Lee has never really been off balance ever since she's known him, and taking his seat, still holding her, although a bit lower than her waist, is no exception. He looks up at her with his limpid green eyes. "I've got two things I need to tell you, both a little frightening for me, so you have no idea how happy it makes me to be able to say them over dinner." he murmurs.

Joule twirls gracefully out of his grasp, settling into his lap. "Yes?" she asks. "You know how I love things that make the heart pump faster, yeah?" And they do have cool soup to cool them if the topic gets too hot to handle.

Lee laughs a little and squeezes her. "I got a visit from a guy from the future." he says. "I know, I know. How do I know he's from the future and not just crazy. How did he get here from the future. How far in the future is he from. How can I trust that he's telling the truth about the future. If he is telling the truth how come him coming back in time didn't already mess up him coming back in time. I know. I have no idea about any of that." he says. "But he did, and he came to see me."

Joule tilts her head at Lee, uncertain what he's driving at. And then he launches into disassembling his own sentence, answering questions only Lee would've asked in the first place, and she settles in to listen, twirling her little cordial glass between her fingers thoughtfully. "So — he has some important thing for you to do? Or did he just tell you to steer clear of lunatics?" Not that he'd need such advice. "Why did he come to see you?"

Lee says, "I don't know why exactly he picked me. I know the guy, the present-day version of the guy, I mean, and he seems all right, pretty harmless, a little nutty. Gave up a solid nursing job to jockey a register at Cass' Bigfoot bookstore. Anyway, apparently we had some dealings in the future, he seemed to know me a lot more than he would now. He joked that he expected me to tell him he was doing everything wrong. Actually I kind of did, you know how I can get annoyed." An understatement. "What he said was, keep doing what you're doing. At first I was surprised, I mean, aren't time travellers from a terrible dystopic future supposed to be criticizing how we're doing things, in order to avert their terrible dystopic future? But then it dawned on me what he was saying." He looks up at Joule, and wrinkles his nose a little. "At some point in the future, I blow it. I stop doing what I believe in. Someone stops me. And that's what he wants to prevent."

"Lee. Luv. You tell everyone they're doin' it bloody wrong." Joule darts her tongue into her little glass and laps up a tongueful of tomato soup sorbet. "And people other than yours truly," she adds, after savoring the icy bite, "are generally too polite to tell you to shove it, sit and spin." She lets the condensation on the glass make trails on the table. "So … your little corner of the future he's from is worse because you blew something? Blew what?"

Lee grins at her saucily. "Another reason I'm crazy about you." he points out, before returning to being thoughtful: "I don't know. He implied it had something to do with kids. Maybe a class, maybe outside of a class. Something. But after he left it set me to thinking. What could compel me to betray kids who are counting on me?" Lee's quite serious, and, when put that way, it's a very serious question. She knows how important his class is to him. He put his whole career on the line to just protect them from a crappy administration memo. To really betray them… "…it would take leverage." Lee says, completing the thought. "Leverage over someone I love. And that could be you."

Joule returns the smile, quirking her head at him. "Daft but wise. They do say there's a fine line." Between genius and madness. But she falls quiet again as he speaks seriously of his future, or what it might become. "Leverage?" she repeats, expression darkening into a frown. "Who'd want to use me for leverage? Who…who bloody could?" Her palms smack flat onto the tabletop. "D'you think I'd stand still for it?"

Lee says, "I don't know, but I wouldn't voluntarily betray my kids and that's the only real way someone could get me to do something like that, by going after someone I care about. So…we're going to have to work something out. Make some contingency plans to protect you. Nothing too dire, like you say, anyone who tangles with you, I'd not like to be in their shoes. Nima has some ideas - she's one of the other potential targets, and pretty much anyone who tangles with her is in serious trouble too. But there's no sense in not being prepared, not having a few ideas of which way to go." He's reassuring and cool-headed, confident in her abilities, and his, to beat whatever is coming down the timestream at them at one second per second. It helps that his arms tighten around her. It helps that he searches her eyes for her reaction even when she's cross.

"Everybody wants to bloody protect me!" Joule snaps, struggling in his grasp. "I'm not some delicate flower that needs a hothouse, and partial shade, and water from a fountain in Nice, France that has seen the light of the full moon after a bloody eclipse!" Her eyes glitter with anger. "There's no need for a contingency, Lee. This is bollocks! No one'll come after your sister. No one'll come after me, and if they do—" She raises one braceleted arm, as if she were one of his students, waiting permission to answer a question.

Lee lets her go, "That's not what I mean. This is to protect the kids. Not you, not me. Hell, one of the ideas I had was for if Nima got targetted, how we could somehow have you cause havoc. Another is how we…Joule?" Oh, that, calling on her, that amuses him.

Joule raises a brow at him, and then smirks, lowering her hand. That wasn't what she had made the gesture for, that much is clear. She jingles her bracelets, intentionally bleeding off the nervous energy rather than giving into the urge to do what she actually intended. "Havoc? You actually want me to cause havoc?" She shakes her head, and chuckles, throatily. "Did you hit your head very hard in the smash up, luv?"

Lee laughs. "No, it's just one possibility. If some black-clad corporate goon thinks he's going to get me to turn over, say, some kid with powers to him, or information, or whatever it is, by threatening Nima, let me just say that between a measured, reasonable response and havoc? I will take havoc. Times nine million." he says. "Potentially the same in reverse. Someone is going to come after some child or student or something in my care and I want them to be racing right into a trap so humiliating they'll regret ever even thinking about doing something so amazingly stupid." He reaches a hand out towards her: "Can you handle that even if it does end up protecting you just the tiniest, tiniest bit?"

"Oh, I think I can handle that, yeah," Joule purrs, pleased. "Fishing line, and eye drops in the teacup, and that's even before we get near my own onboard talents." She flings herself against Lee's chest, then pulls away. "Sit. You're letting this incredible feast get cold."

Lee replies, "It smells delicious." and turns back towards the table, not even saying anything sarcastic about already being seated. He takes a sup of the soup and smiles widely. It is as good as it smells. "So then there's the other thing. Do you have any particular plans after dancing to exhaustion with me tonight?" he says, and yes, it's flirtatious.

"I said you'd have to persuade me," Joule reminds him, scooting her own chair around to sit catty-corner to him rather than across from him. "So if we do end up dancing ourselves into exhaustion? My plans after that include making you late for work."

Lee helps get the plates laden with food, and he likes the catty-cornerness, because he can lean a bit towards her and say: "The reason I ask is because I'd very much like you to move in with me. Tonight. When we get back, let's pack up a suitcase with the stuff you'll need for the next week or so and go. We can do the rest of the work this weekend." Wow, an impulsive move from Lee, he must have thought about it a lot beforehand. He is probably about to say 'I thought about it…' and ruin all the spontenaity.

"…what?" is all Joule can say in response. He's rendered the mouth that roars speechless. That's quite an accomplishment.

Lee says softly, "I had to think about what was important to me today. What I couldn't stand to lose. And you are so…so incredibly important to me. I love you, I think about you all the time. I would love to have you living with me. Will you?" He gracefully reaches out to rescue her wineglass from her drifting, frozen hand.

"No," Joule says, but it's not a refusal. She's nodding, actually, in thought. "I …I believe I could live with you, yes. But not under that roof. Where memories have seeped into the walls, like smoke and sweat and sorrow. That little apartment that holds your childhood horrors, and your grown-man revelations? It's no place to build a future. You move in with me."

Lee blinks. "Uh…but where would we put my books? Oh god, wait, are we going to talk about logistics? Because I don't want to talk about logistics yet. Let's kiss first, all right?" he says gleefully. "The answer's yes, no matter where it ends up being, here, there, or somewhere else, it's yes. Isn't it?"

"Let's eat first," Joule grins at him through the haze of candlelight. "You're gonna need your strength." For dancing? For moving all those books? For something else? For all of the above? With Joule, it's never a sure thing until she's in the midst.

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