2009-11-02: Out Of The Lion's Den



Guest-starring: MacMillan

Date: November 2, 2009


Someone runs from the Passaic School with her internet boyfriend. Lee and Joule end up chasing.

"Out of the Lion's Den"

Morristown, New Jersey - Before Sunrise

Morristown retains some of its small-town charm by virtue of iron-fisted zoning and paranoiac City Council members keeping big box stores and mall developments to the outside of town. Nevertheless, the Morristown Branch of Bank of America is a boring island in a mini-mall parking lot, and in a few hours, when it opens, someone is planning to rob it.

Up the street a short distance is the Morristown Motor Lodge, an old-style motel with tiny duplex cabins among the trees, in need of significant upgrades to even bring it into the 1980s.

Lee's crummy Volvo comes into the gravel parking lot, lit mostly by the glowing 'VACANCY' sign, but he parks it a distance back from the cabins and, despite his red-rimmed eyes from driving all night, he is unbearably light-footed, virtually impossible to hear as he peers around, searching for something, anything, almost desperate for a clue.

"Oh, for god's sake." Joule's rented black SUV pulls into the same parking lot but from the north side of the lot. She glances down at her cellphone. Stupid Tommy thinking he could rip off one of the cards the band uses and not be tracked down. "A no-tell Motel, yet. Ah, to be young, stupid, and in love," she murmurs to herself with an almost nostalgic smile as she steps out of the car and locks it manually to avoid the chirp of the alarm.

She looks much the same, Hair is black with fiery red highlights now. And she's more muscle than soft litheness. Dancing on stage is a workout, and so is rehearsing. "If it wasn't for the fact that I remember this," she mutters to herself, "I'd kick his arse." It's all a facade, though. To cover how worried she is, given what she's heard since she got back to New York.

Lee figures out which cabin it is - the one with the light on and the 'I BRAKE FOR ROCK!' bumper sticker on the car - at about the same time as Joule is, and they almost run into each other as they approach. "You!" he hisses, leaping back, eyes widening. "What are you doing here?"

Joule very nearly judo chops Lee in the throat because it's dark, in the woods, and quiet. But that face. That motion like an underwater sleepwalking ballet dancer. "Lee…?" she says, incredulity in her voice. The accent's thicker. She's been spending time in London again. "What're you doing here?" She doesn't look unhappy to see him; just surprised and a little startled.

Lee, by contrast, goes straight past annoyed to pissed off. "It's none of your business, it's about a student. You're not going to call the cops on me, are you? You came within 50 feet of me, I didn't even know you were here." he insists.

Joule quirks a brow at Lee, confused. "I didn't come within — wait." She squints at him, those words ringing oddly familiar. "What're you talking about? Fifty feet? Student? I'm here because my accountant's son is here." She gestures hotly, with a flash of a ringed hand, at the car. "Took off to be with his bird."

Lee says, "Oh, don't play innocent. Fifty feet. Your goddamn lawyers served me a restraining order saying I couldn't call or come within fifty feet of you. Not that calling you was getting me anywhere, I couldn't even get past the first layer of assistants without lying and saying I was from the label. A restraining order, it's a hell of a lot better than a note left on the mantel, I guess, no fucking way I could misinterpret that, right?" The wound is raw. Very raw.

Joule blinks at Lee in confusion. "You're not making any bloody sense. As usual," she snaps. "Did someone throw you out another window and you hit your head?" She always did light up like a firecracker fuse at the least display of hot emotion in him. "Because you're bloody bonkers. I did not draw a restraining order against you." Her lawyers? They never said a word about such a thing. And then there's that barb about the note on the mantelpiece. "Wot, Lee? Wot would you have wanted? A big dramatic scene? You hopping past the crazy Yank security to tell me not to go?" She throws her hands up and stalks away from him, back toward the SUV. "This is too much bloody trouble. He can get his own bloody son."

Lee says firmly, "Joule. You did. I have it in the glove box of the Volvo. I can't even throw it away, you want to talk about a scene, I can barely look at it without losing it. I'll show you…" As she turns, he blinks, "Wait, what? His son? Screen name of 'studiotrack182'?" He fusses with some papers out of his pocket to show her. "I think he may have run off with one of my students. And I think they may be in big trouble. Hold on, hold on. Stop, stop. Joule. Stop. Look at me. I'm not lying. I'm not."

"Lee. I didn't," she insists. "Or rather if I did, my bloody lawyer did it without clearing it with me." Her hands drag through her hair, and she sighs. "It would be like him. He can't make up his mind whether he wants to be my father or —" Whatever the rest of that thought was, she doesn't voice it.

He offers her a paper and she glances at it. "Yeah. TrackGenius on MySpace, same kid." She looks at him, silent and expectant before quietly pointing out, "I'm not accusing you of anything, am I?"

Lee takes a deep breath. "No, I…no." He swallows. He tries very hard to put his student first. It's a struggle, his limpid green eyes drink her in like a dying man at a desert oasis. "I'm… working at this school. And one of the students, she's seventeen and having a really hard time. She has what we have…" He says it a little like it's a persistent condition, like eczema or diabetes. "…and it's pretty, um, dangerous. There was an… incident at her old school, which is why she's at the school I'm teaching at. And she ran off, and she wasn't supposed to be able to leave, so I need to get her back in before the… administration notices she's gone, or she might not be able to stay. I got into her school Internet account and found all this stuff about how they're going to rob a bank together?"

"…so does Tommy." Hence the Track Genius moniker. She listens, bobbing her head. Tommy was very big on the girlfriend in the states. Age of Majority in England is, after all, seventeen. She frowns at the idea of a school and accidents with powers. And then — "Rob a bank?" she inflects it like an indignant, shocked scream, but only puts enough breath in it to make a whisper. "Oh cor bloody lumme and Gordon Bennett, is he out of his mind, god damn it!"

Lee says, "I know, it's crazy, it's absolutely crazy, but she…she might hurt someone. I don't have a lot of details about the incident but I know she put someone in a coma. Not intentionally, not what you'd call intentionally…but if you know him, and I know her, maybe we could, you know, put our heads together? Get them to reconsid…" Another car pulls into the parking lot, a black sedan. A pale young man with no red-rimmed eyes, and a scarf thrown around his neck jauntily, gets out. He has a black coat, black gloves, a black turtleneck, black trousers, and a pair of black shoes. Lee grabs Joule by the arm and pulls her back into the shadows quickly. "Oh hell. That's MacMillan. My so-called teacher's aide. Spy, really. If he catches her out here, that's it." he hisses, loathing creeping into his voice as he looks at the weaselly little runt. "We've got to get them out of here, and fast."

"that isn't a problem, luv," Joule says, shrugging. That puppy dog look — as if she could refuse it. "Really." As if enough time has gone by he's forgotten what she can do?

The 'spy' looks around, distastefully. While he's doing so, it gives Joule time to get in range and drop him like a rock with a little neuropathic manipulation that simply puts him to sleep. "You were saying?"

Lee grins wickedly. Yes, he is grinning at the use of powers. Her use. "I've never been happier to see someone do something like that. This asshole deserves it and a hundred times worse. Come on." he says. Things have changed, yet shoulder to shoulder it feels a little like old times. He heads up to the door of the place. He knocks. "Angelita? Angelita, it's Mr. Jones." The scuffle of hurried, panicked feet inside shows they're not coming out the front door. The back window makes a 'thud' sound as it opens that carries into the still dawn air. Lee takes off around the cabin at a run towards where the pair are tumbling out. "Lita, Lita, wait!" he says.

Joule quirks a brow at Lee. He's smiling. At her using powers. Powers he hates and has always hated. It's one of the things that she couldn't handle. One of the things she let drive her away. "Thomas Brendon Wyndham-Price," Joule says, racing on Lee's heels. She had the sense to wear trainers, and not rock star clothes. "Have you gone absolutely barmy? Yes, she's terribly cute, but hullo - boss with large bank account! You could've bloody asked for a loan, you silly arse!" All in that same shriek-whisper.

Lita, a Latina girl, a little on the heavy side, whips around like she's a fist at the end of a punch and Lee flops onto his back, almost spasming. "Oh shit! Oh my god! Mr. Jones!" Lita yelps. To Joule's sensitive mind she can see the girl's a walking stun gun wired direct to the nervous system, but she does have at least a bit of control and didn't blast Lee with a brain-damaging lightning bolt.

"I'm…I'm okay, Lita, it's all right. You didn't hurt me." Lee says, fudging the truth just a tiny bit. He's not hurt now. He slowly clambers to his feet, taking his time, brushing himself off.

Thomas Brendon Wyndham-Pryce is baffled by both Joule's approach and his cohort's sudden defection. Clearly neither of them are running anywhere.

"Hullo, Lita. Nice t'meet you. Sorry about the circumstances." Joule sketches a quick nod. "Here's the thing, though. Pencildick is sleeping off a bit of a nap in his car. When he wakes, you two? You can't be here, all right?" She looks at Thomas, and although she's clearly fiercely angry, there's still no small amount of affection in her tone. "I should donner you good for what you've put your mother through."

And then her attention turns back to Lee as she offers to help him to his feet. "Speaking of mothers — what's going on with the gel's?"

Lee accepts the aid with natural, or perhaps unnatural grace, says, "Her mother's fine. I haven't told her about Lita leaving. Yet. I haven't had the chance."

"Don't you get it, Mr. Jones?" Lita whines. "None of them understand my situation. I've heard what's happening. People talk. The government, the Company…they're all after people like me. Tommy's the only one that understands."

"Angelita," Lee says. "I'm responsible for your safety. I'm responsible for what you do. What happened to me…what do you think would happen in the bank if that happened? You could really hurt someone, or you could be hurt, or Tommy could. You're a good person. You don't want to hurt people. And your mother…if you just disappeared, what would she do? It was hard enough letting you come to Passaic."

Joule is Joule, and doesn't much do the thoughtful reasoned approach. "No, luv, he's not." She gestures slightly to flood both kids' systems with relaxing endorphins to take the edge off their distress. She figures they're clever enough to pick up how that happened with no other outside stimulus. "But if you're afraid they're going to snatch you and lock you up in a box somewhere…" she trails off and looks expectantly at Lee. That's a valid thing to be concerned about, really.

Lee says it out loud. "It's a valid concern, it's a real worry. It might happen. You've got to be prepared for it, ready to respond, to assert your rights. That's what I'm trying to teach everyone." Everyone? He has more than one student like this.

"It's just algebra and bullshit, Mr. Jones." says Lita, crossing her arms.

Lee doesn't go off the handle, doesn't point and yell, doesn't smirk and snark. He just looks at her.

"Sorry." she says after a moment. Tommy looks almost incredulous at her apology.

"Thank you. It's understandable, you're upset." Lee says quietly. "But this isn't going to fix anything. If you're afraid of being locked up, my number one piece of advice is to avoid robbing anyone, stealing anything or running away." He says it like it's the end of the conversation. And…almost to his surprise, it is. Angelita nods.

Joule gives Lee a surreptitious wink. Calm kids aren't kids who are going to fly off into typical teenage hysterics. "Okay. Tell you what. Let's all pile into the SUV, find a Denny's, get you two something to eat, then get Lita back to Passaic, hmm? We can work out an action plan on the way." She whips the keys at Lee and gestures the teens should follow her so she can make sure Mr. Weasel with the red scarf isn't sniffing about again.

Lee snags the keys out of the air - of course they go right into his palm like a professional key-thrower threw them - and says, "I'll pull around to the road on the other side. Cut down the path there. MacMillan already saw my car, let's let him try to figure out what's happening." he says. "I'll work out a way to get it back later." Typical New Yorker, if he has to leave his car out here as a decoy for a day or two it doesn't bother him.

Denny's is refreshingly normal. Seeing Lee with a student…it's interesting. He's not Angelita's friend, exactly, but he treats her with respect and is interested in what she has to say.

Joule was already planning to get the car removed. She has a couple texts already flying into the aether under quick thumbs. "Tommy's folks will have it towed back to the old studio for you," she tells him.

The ride is uneventful, if a bit awkward. Joule's own ability puts Tommy and Lita into snoozing cutely on each other's shoulders, and she simply sits straight in the passenger seat, belt tight, glancing uneasily at him until they get to Denny's. "My treat," she insists, and expands the generosity to all the diners once people start recognizing her. Thankfully, there aren't any reporters, and there is a quick imploring look to the manager — the older woman nods understandingly and gives the hairy eyeball to her waitstaff. They sulkily put away their cellphones. And while Lita darts off to the restroom, "So what your student's worried about — the rumours I've heard. They're true, then, are they? Gifted getting snatched?"

Lee says, watching out the window as the early morning highway traffic passes the Denny's by, "Yeah. I've got a few irons in the fire about it, but you know. One shmoe from the Village who everyone thinks is wrong." He sounds tired of it all, isolated. He looks back at her, catching her eyes. "Thanks for helping out, you're a lifesaver." He looks down at his long-fingered hands. "Why, I mean…I think I'm entitled to an explanation. We were together… we moved in together. I swear I won't make a scene. I just want to know why you left me. Why you left everything."

The kids have settled into a booth, though Tommy is glancing at Joule now and again, a silent promise that they just want to talk, but they won't bolt again (especially since Tommy's car is not nearby anymore).

"I …" Joule pinches the bridge of her nose with her fingers. "I'm not meant to be settled down, Lee. And you — you're meant to be settled down. You want a normal life. You hate what about you isn't normal. I love what about me isn't normal. And the lack of normal — it's going to get you killed and you don't even care and I just couldn't take one more phone call from the bloody hospital because someone blew you up or tossed you out a window or only God knows wot!" She looks toward him and away, toward him and away, toward him and holds his gaze, her own eyes a little too bright — and not the sort of bright that comes with a rock star's lack of sleep.

Lee listens, unflinching. "Yeah, I." he says. "It did get pretty crazy there. Not all of it I could control, but…okay. I…you could have told me. You didn't have to just…screw me in the VIP lounge and never speak to me again." he says quietly. "Joule, I don't hate any part of you. Not any part. I don't believe for a second you didn't like being with me, that you thought it was settling down. When that first record got bought, did we celebrate or did we celebrate?" he says, smiling warmly with the memory. "As for danger…" He looks over at the teens. "Joule, I can't just abandon them, and I guess as long as that's true someone's going to be stalking me with a tranquilizer gun or throwing me out a window. It's a ridiculous state of affairs but the alternative is giving up on them and I won't do that. You would never have loved me if I were that sort of person, not for a half a second."

"I did tell you," Joule says quietly. Sobbing on him after thinking he had dumped her that Valentine's day. Trying not to sob on him after picking him up at the hospital when he'd been thrown through a window. "The …never speaking to you again part. I'm sorry about that. Honestly. I had no idea they'd drawn up an order against you with the barrister." Sincere, there, her expression. She hadn't known, and she is really displeased that it was done without her say-so. Really displeased. Staff are going to be very chwed out.

They celebrated. She can't help but smile in response as well. She follows his gaze to the kids. "True enough, I wouldn't have. But I don't want …I can't… you still think it's ridiculous. You think it's ridiculous and you sneer down your nose at it even as you walk — open-eyed and aware — into it for the sake of the children. But …you still think it's ridiculous." She spreads her hands in a helpless sort of gesture. "You still think — you honestly believe — it doesn't really matter when our entire world is treating us like it very much does matter." And her gaze drops apologetically, or regretfully perhaps … to the table. "Your Grand slam thingummy is getting cold," she murmurs, reaching for a napkin. Waterproof mascara is a rock star's best friend, but still.

Lee obediently takes a bite, then another, more hungrily. He actually is pretty famished, having rushed around almost all night trying to figure out how to save his student. "Joule, if I didn't believe the way I did about how this is all going to play out, I wouldn't be so desperate to help the kids deal with it." There's no question he means both his mundane and powered students. "If I thought, oh, Primatech, Pinehearst, they're right, or oh, the government is right, or oh, my parents are right, I could just let it go, trust it's in good hands. But none of them are right, Joule. You know they're not right. I don't want to stand alone against all of that, it's a silly notion to think that one guy is going to do anything against that, but what else do I do?" Nervously, he admits: "I do think it matters, just not remotely the way everyone else does." He laughs quietly, shakes his head. "It's a little late for me to try to argue you out of breaking up with me, I'm sorry, I just…" He looks at her calmly. "I want to try again."

"Your parents …I know they're crazy. I know they hurt you. I know they —" experimented on him, as she recalls, and oh, was she angry. In point of fact, it's probably a good thing they've vanished. "You know how the government treats anything that might be a weapon," she says gently, shrugging. "S'why my performance at the Beacon's going to be the last one. Can't run around makin' music while friends an' family are endangered. Plus, a high profile may not keep me out of the cross-hairs."

She sits back, and braces her hands at Lee's admission. "Why?" She shakes her head, confused and uncertain.

Lee says, "Because we were phenomenal together. Don't tell me we weren't." He leaves some things out of that statement, perhaps they can be found in his eyes, as he looks up from his plate. "Or maybe it's out of the question." he murmurs, giving her an out, if she wants it.

"Lee, we were," she confirms, dragging her hair out of her face. "We were. But is chemistry all we've got? I don't know if I …if we…neither of us has really shifted positions on this whole 'ridiculous thing'." She shrugs, and glances at the teens, who are making out in a low-key sort of way over a plate of chocolate silk pie. "We were phenomenal together, though. Yeah. I admit it." It's not a no. It's not exactly a yes, either.

Lee says, "I think we both know we had a lot more than chemistry." but doesn't press his luck. "C'mon, let's get paid up and hit the road. Man, all my friends are getting rich these days." he teases gently.

"Eh, it's not all it's cracked up to be," Joule offers. "A lot of crap with the record company, to say nothing of the culture. Staying clean is not supposed to be a challenge. To say nothing of dealing with people who treat me as a status symbol than a person." Which Lee never did, and the recollection of same brings a smile to her lips. "Let me just get the bill, and we can go." A jerk of her chin informs the kids they're about to get back on the road. The entire diner's bill is paid, with generous tips all around in thanks for not splattering them all over TMZ and Gawker.

Lee alternates driving back with Joule back to Passaic. He tells her a little about how things are going, reveals that Primatech is in charge of the school that Lita is attending. ("In the lion's den." he says ruefully of his involvement.) Something has changed with Lee, it's hard to identify straight off. They get to the front gates of the Passaic school and Lee escorts Lita in, saying he'll be right back. She is almost hyperventilating at the guard gate, but Lee just coolly breezes her and him past. Inside, Joule can see Lita throw herself at Lee with a desperate, thankful hug. Lee hugs her back for a moment, but when it breaks off, he is saying something to her she doesn't like as much. She's wiping away tears, nodding in shame as she hustles back across the tiny courtyard towards one of the buildings. In that moment, Lee looks almost…paternal. Joule's heard him say something has to be done, heard him complain about nothing being done, but it's the first time she's seen him do something, seen him be strong, be the grownup.

He returns to where she stands next to the SUV. "You're a hero." he tells her quietly, and gives her a hug he might have intended to be merely friendly. "Thanks."

Joule is mostly silent during the drive, listening to Lee. she doesn't have much to catch him up to speed with — her life for the past year has been public consumption, after all. She remains in the car with Tommy. There's a fierce hug between him and his girl before Lee takes Lita back inside. "It'll be all right," she assures him. "Lee takes his vocation very seriously. He's the one who wrote Represent." At which Tommy's eyes widen with surprise and new respect.

She's a teense stiff returning the hug. "Me? No, I didn't do anything. It…it was all you." She seems almost surprised to be saying that. It's beginning to dawn on her that maybe the days of pointless complaining and snarkery for snarkery's sake may be coming to an end.

Lee says, "MacMillan definitely would have tranqued me if he'd have seen me." Unless Lee deflected the dart, but who's counting? He's grateful, he's smiling his charming, self-deprecating smile. His best smile. "Look, I know you have to go, but…once you get the restraining order sorted, maybe we could get together. You'll be bored once you're not on tour anymore, I bet."

"The bastard would've shot you?" Joule hisses indignantly as she takes her turn driving the SUV back toward lower Manhattan. "And you're …you seriously are willing to work with people who will shoot you?" She shakes her head, incredulous and infuriated.

And as Lee self-deprecatingly turns on the charm, she smirks faintly. "I'll have it sorted in 48 hours," she promises. "And I've never considered us — you — merely an alternative to boredom, Lee." She leans out the window to kiss his cheek. "I am sorry for the misunderstanding. And for fleeing." Which explains her sympathies toward the teens.

Lee says, "I won't lie. It hurt like hell, but I'm not going to guilt you. I understand why you did it now." He offers her a wave, turns back towards the school.

That afternoon, MacMillan storms into the security office: "Angelita snuck off grounds last night!" he raves.

"Mr. Jones here says you stole his car." says the security agent.

"Wh…what?" says MacMillan, derailed.

"You could have just asked me for it, MacMillan, I mean, a prank's a prank, but leaving it all the way in Morristown?" Lee says, feigning good humor. "The towing bill's going to be huge. The Company will have to take it out of your paycheck."

"Jones, you can't get away with this," begins MacMillan, but as it turns out, though that was only the beginning of his long, shouting rant, Jones can get away with it, and he does.

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