2007-12-05: Red Rubber Ball


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Lee updates Joule on hating his powers.

Date It Happened:

December 5, 2007

Red Rubber Ball

Jones Apartment - The East Village

Lee invited Joule over for a late bit of dinner and wine the evening after Nima has finally departed back for Philadelphia. He cooks an elaborate meal, a sure sign that something's on his mind - he cooks a light meal, a sure sign that he intends a lengthy evening. Trust Lee to have found some new album to buy from a Czechoslovakian jazz website. Dinner past, they sit on the tiny couch watching out the sliver of the window as the cold night descends outside. Inside it is warm. As they drink the wine, it is warmer. "What a strange year it's been." he says, almost a question.

"It has," Joule agreed. "D'I tell you that I've got another offer of a gig for another crazy American sport?" She asks this with soft lips behind his ear.

Lee says, "No! Underwater kickboxing? Skydiving macrame?" He's pleased by her growing success.

"Brawling?" Joule says, as if the phrase is meaningless to her. "Is that like boxing or pub fighting, or summat? I've no clue. I haven't gotten a call back from the bloke since I replied to him." She shakes her head. "And they say artists are bloody flighty."

Lee says, "Brawling? Like…bare knuckled boxing, maybe? I don't know, I'll have to find out with you. If they'll let a disreputable person like me skate on in on your press pass. It's something new, anyway. Well, congratulations." He lifts his glass to hers. "Every little bit helps. So long as it's not celebrity stalking."

"Disreputable?" Joule laughs, and ruffles his hair. "Lee, luv, you look more like a member of the press than I do." She, with her jangling-jangling bracelets at all times, and her tendency to climb on things to get better angles for photos. "Paparazzi? Me? Bloody Sean Penn trying to take my camera? I'd break his arm."

Lee teases, "I have noticed that you do tend to baby those damned things." He ducks his head, as he always does, when she ruffles his hair. There are those puppy eyes. "Hey, uh, I have something to tell you. Well, show you. You probably saw on TV about the robbery at Seville Medical Center? The one they think might be connected to that weird outbreak?"

"Well, they're bleedin' expensive, they are, and until I can find somethin' proper steady," Joule ripostes, by way of defending her precious cameras. "I think I glimpsed something, yeah," she says, pausing to think about it. But she spots the puppy eyes. "What is it, then?" Her voice drops from its usual insouciant lilt to a note of genuine concern "Were you robbed? Did they hurt you? It's not you've contracted some esoteric bloody germ and have only six months to live, is it?" She's only halfway joking; he's worried her.

Lee joshes, "Wouldn't that be dramatic? Me pining away…everyone boo-hoo-ing as I forgive them all their trespasses? Just like one of those stories my students write on the Internet. No, nothing like that. I went down there…well, I go down there every so often because Cass - that friend of mine from up the street - works there and she did me a good turn there once, so I try to help her out. I found one of my students, you remember Cam? He was sick there, and his foster mom is sort of a dink, so I decided to get his homework and bring it to him. So I was actually there when the place was robbed."

"I know Cam," Joule breathes a small sigh of relief that he jokes in return to her stated fear. "He worked for me a bit. I was wondering where he'd got to." She nods, and goes quiet, letting him get on with his story. "I see. G'wan, then."

Lee says, "These robbers, idiots really, but they were well-equipped…" He leans forward, puts his wine glass down, picks up a small red rubber ball off the table in front of him, something you can get for seventy five cents at any street vendor. "…they threw some kind of grenade into the room where I was." He offers the ball to her. "Give it a toss." he suggests. "Bounce it off the wall, there above the window."

Joule takes the ball, but looks at Lee quizzically. Handball? Indoors? She wrinkles her nose at him. "What for?" She squeezes it, and rolls it along her fingers, Bowie-style. "It'll knock over our wineglasses on the rebound and make a sodding mess."

Lee says, "I wish it would. It would be a smaller mess."

Joule turns to stare at Lee with the most bewildered expression on her face. "…what?"

Lee lifts his eyebrows. "You'll see. Just give it a try. Since when are you apprehensive about playing in the house?" he says, almost daring.

"Well, there's knocking over the furniture, and doing something silly." Joule shrugs, though, and raises her arm. "How hard shall I bounce it, then, hmm?" If he's going to /dare/ her…

Lee says, "Give it a decent bounce, like you were going to reach up and catch it when it came back. It doesn't really matter, but not too light."

"Awright," Joule says to him, still bewildered. But she draws her arm back, then gives the ball a somewhat-gentle underhanded toss so it'll bounce below the sill and come back to her hand.

Lee lifts his hand as if to intercept the ball - it bounces off the sill, then goes straight up, turns hard right in mid-air, not a gentle arc, a sudden, disconcertingly inertia-less turn, drops in a subtle parabola towards the right-hand wall, and halfway there halts and shoves itself down into Lee's hand. "Yeah." he says. It's not much of a 'ta-da', but Lee's response is fairly muted. "So the grenade went back into the room with the guys that threw it. Fortunately it was just a flashbang…anyway. I discovered this and…I wanted you to know."

Joule's eyes widen. Her brows lift, as her eyes track the ball's antics. She follows it to Lee's hand, then lets her gaze return to his face. "You can …you've…" She pauses, trying to find a way to describe it. "You're telekinetically steering round things?"

Lee says, "Doesn't have to be round. Just has to be moving. And sort of small. And fairly close by. I experimented a little just, you know, fooling around."

"Well." Joule folds her arms and nods, approvingly. "Not bad." If he was expecting more from her on this front, he'll be disappointed. She's neither disapproving, nor approving. It's just as if he showed her a new talent he discovered…which, well, it pretty much is.

Lee says, "Yeah. I, uh. Haven't told anyone else yet, other than the the people who were there." He's a bit embarassed, off his balance by the display. "Anyway. Enough said. Cam's back on his feet, the cure worked, and we're headed into finals."

"Glad to hear the kid's doing better, then," Joule tells him, seriously, before she regards him a long moment. "This is not sitting well with you, though, is it? That you can do this?" She thins her lips to a line, pensively regarding him. "You're not obligated, you know," she tells him, gently, "…to use it. You could just forget you have it. Not bother."

Lee grins a little, touches her hair. "You're right. I mean, I can't forget, exactly. But it doesn't matter, it really doesn't matter in the least. I've got a lot going on, good and…and challenging, and I can't let this get in the way." he says. "But there is one thing. My parents notes. See, they spent years experimenting on Nima and I, without us knowing it. Additives in our food, things like that. And it was unimportant craziness before, but now…well, now I know why people came after their notebooks. There might have been something real in there."

Joule's expression is wide-eyed, open-mouthed. "I…you mentioned, I remember." That night he came over and was weirdly, silently affectionate to her. Without explanation. That came later. "I…I see. Yeah. I guess both our parents were right. Your just picked a daft way to go about it." She shakes her head. "Have you put them away, then? Someplace safe?"

Lee nods. "I have. I'm…thinking about what to do about them. So long as I have them, someone might want them. If I destroy them…well…I don't think I could do that for a lot of reasons." He looks down as if trying to fathom them. He can't. "There's only one other thing that can be done, and it's dangerous. I can give them to everyone."

"Run them off at Kinko's then drop them from a tall building?" Joule smirks at him, though it's not entirely mockery; she knows his tendency for the theatrical. "But d'you really want /everyone/ to have access to something that could give them abilities like yours? Like mine? You know bloody well the grenade lobbers oughtn't have any more weapons than they already do, yes?"

Lee says, "If two comic shop owners could stumble across it, someone else surely knows about it by now already. I see what you mean, but what other choice do I have? I can't just put it aside and pretend it's not there. That's a sucker's game. Eventually the dice will roll snake-eyes, or, if you're my sister, a critical hit with a natural twenty. It's going to come out."

"So?" Joule shrugs. "You're with me. You think I'm going to let some daft buggers come try and take your stuff from you?" Nevermind she wasn't with him the night of the robbery. The night he discovered his talent. He probably needed her and she wasn't there. She's not going to dwell on that thought. "You can't just tuck them in a safety deposit box and worry about it when the time comes?"

Lee grins at her bravado, charmed. "I feel better already." he says, and just as she did before, he's not entirely teasing. "I sort of feel like if I do that, I'm just…waiting for the worst. I like to take action. I'm a man of action, I don't know if you noticed that about me. I should have it on business cards." he joshes, then turns a bit serious. "But if you think it would make things worse…I just am not sure what to do."

"Didn't you say your father was made to try to burn the place down before?" Joule asks, thoughtfully. "That means somebody wants them destroyed. But what sort of proof d'we have, then, that those notes are anything more than your parents' mad ramblings? D'we have any proof a'tall? That the notebooks contain anything worth anything? D'you know anyone who might be able to sort out what their notes actually mean?"

Lee says, "The rubber ball's the proof. I'm the proof. What kind of crazy coincidence would it be if they just happened to have a kid that had these abilities after working their ass off to get one?" He admits: "I've looked it over and most of it is pretty straightforward except that a lot of the stuff they put in our food and…injected us with when we were babies…was coded. 'Compound B-9' and stuff like that. Someone out there must know what it means, but I'm guessing they aren't looking to explain helpfully."

"My father never fed me weird crap or experimented on me," Joule points out sensibly. "So you're not really the proof. If their experiments caused it, then how'd you explain me? As for helpful explanations — you might have to chat up your science teacher friend and bury hatchets."

Lee mulls it over. "I don't think it's a coincidence. Even Dickens would guffaw at that obvious a cheat…" He stops himself, corrects himself: "Well, maybe it's not too coincidental to be true, given the stuff I've seen. But whoever is after the notes…they must think there's something in it whether they know about me or not."

Joule takes a turn to turn that over in her head. "Or maybe they just want to see - to know if there really is anything there. I mean, didn't your father work for someone? If his experiments were really worth anything, he could've replicated them for whoever had him under the thumb, no?"

Lee says, "I don't know what kind of deal they might have had. Maybe they didn't even know. They were so desperate to have something in their kids that they never had." meditatively enough. "Wow, heavy stuff for one red rubber ball. I won't do anything rash…do you think you'd know what you were looking at if you leafed through them? From your father's work or anything?"

"Not at all," Joule says, with a note of apology. "I was so livid, so bitter with him for devoting his energies to this, to Mum's memory rather than me — alive, right there — I got as far from science as I bloody could. But I suppose this would be a good time to hit the 'net and see if anything matches up."

Lee says, "Nothing on the net. If it goes there, it all goes there. What if someone found out? I don't want you to be in danger. I can't stand the thought of something bad happening to you." He leans up close to her, takes her in his arms. "I freaked out pretty bad when that grenade went back in that room. I was angry. Really angry and tired." he says quietly.

So he's looked on the net. Joule nods, approvingly, and lets that line of thought drop. "Lee. Luv. This is New York. I'm in danger every time I step foot out of my apartment." She allows him to gather her close, and rests her head against his shoulder. "It was a grenade," she points out reasonably. "I'm pretty sure anyone would've been angry. And scared shit."

Lee says into her ear, his own lips close now, "That…and having this thing inside me. I was angry at that. Why did that have to happen? I didn't need it, didn't want it, never asked for it. But it saved me anyway. What right did it have to do that?" he murmurs quietly, vulnerable, as verbally naked as he has ever been with her. Lee has a hard time accepting grace, or good fortune, or fate, whatever you want to call it.

"Then think of it this way," Joule says, turning abruptly in Lee's arms to stare right in his eyes. "It saved you. Whether it had no right to do so or not, it kept you alive. So I would still have you." She punctuates this statement by gathering his face between her hands and kissing him. Hard.

Lee isn't angry at that. How could he be? This grace he accepts. This fate he belongs in. This good fortune he takes into himself, and then returns to her - perhaps more tenderly, but no less passionately.

Later, when she is asleep, he emerges and turns out the lights, locks the doors, puts water in the wineglasses. The red rubber ball rests inert on the table, gravity pulls it down, the table holds it up.

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