2007-10-13: Wild Chords and Grace Notes


Joule_icon.gif Lee_icon.gif

Summary: Lee and Joule rehearse a song, then discuss more serious things that could jeopardize their nascent relationship.

Date It Happened: October 13, 2007

Wild Chords and Grace Notes

Location: Joule's Apartment, Brooklyn

The afternoon is pretty warm for October — at least now, while the sun is out. The rooftop is pleasantly warm. Joule has a pair of congas out and is lying on a big beach towel with the logo for Monster energy drink on it in black and green. She's also taking advantage of the sunshine by wearing a pair of cutoff jeans shorts, and a red bikini top. The cellphone she used to call Lee lies at her side, beside a glass of champagne. The bottle sits in an ice bucket at her feet with another inexpensive flute. An amp and wires lead down to the trapdoor to her apartment.

The other buildings are a little taller, but at this hour of the day, anyone who'd watch them or complain of the noise are likely still at work.

Lee gets Columbus Day off, although he doesn't wear his tie-and-coat combo, there's still a degree of retro in his off-day clothing, a shirt with a soft collar, a pair of suspenders. (He also might be dressing up just a /little/ to continue to impress Joule.) He arrives with his violin case and a guitar case, which he has to work up the ladder ahead of him, with considerable difficulty. "Hello? You up there, Joule?" he calls out. The guitar is cheap, the electric violin is…not.

"'Course I am," Joule replies, in a lazy, sun-warmed voice. "You think I left the security gapped for just anyone?" In fact, he probably heard the locks flip back over a moment or two after he got in. Too much expensive gear for her to trust to a chain and a deadbolt; which also explains why she wanted a long term gig. That couldn't have been cheap.

She sits up to regard his entrance with curiosity. She slinks like a cat to the trapdoor, reaching to help him up with the guitar case. "Hello, there," she smiles at him through her hair before backing up to let him finish climbing.

Lee stares a bit at the bikini/cutoff combo. "Hi." he says. "Made yourself comfortable up here, I see." he adds, recovering his stability with a half-smile. He puts down his violin case and embraces her. "Warm." he declares, with his long-fingered hands on her bare back.

"Hi, yourself." Joule winds her arms around his neck and kisses him at length before she shrugs. "The real estate guy made it out like such a chore to keep the roof swept off and to shoo the pigeons away." She shrugs. "Now you know why I picked this place. And it'll cool off as the sun gets lower. Promise. At least this way we won't fuss the neighbours."

Lee says, keeping his hand around the back of her waist as he seats himself near her lounge and the champagne, "It's a great venue. I've played a bunch of roof parties, they never get old, not to me anyway." he admits. "I brought my guitar and violin…the guitar is just to fuss around with melodies and maybe get some background chords in… How are you doing?"

"Brilliant," Joule tells him, folding herself beside him. "I spent Saturday night downtown at that little theater near Union Square. There's a wrestling league, wanted to try me out. I got some incredible shots. Your little student makes a good pack mule, too." She pours him a glass of champagne. It's nothing really expensive - just Cordon Negro.

Lee says, "Cam? I'm glad he has someone else looking out for him. The school just picked him and a couple of other shelter kids out to boost their 'community service' portfolio and get a few more grants. After they dumped them into the classrooms, they haven't done a damn thing more for them." His grouchy indignance fades as he adds: "He really likes the manager at the Lair, too, so every little bit helps. Tell me about the wrestling league, that sounds like a wild gig."

"God, your educational system is a bloody mess," Joule tells Lee, but not without sympathy. "Poor kid. Well, I'm glad I was able to do something for him. Twenty five bucks to cart around my stuff, take a few pics of his own with a disposable and watch the goings-on seems a good deal now I know that." She raises a brow. "The Tito bloke? He's not bad." Joule leans against Lee, as she chuckles from the throat. "It was. I'd always heard of the sport but never had the slightest idea what it was about until I walked in. It's like a cartoon."

Lee says, "No, the manager - name of Kory. Old, old family friend." He grins at her description of it. "More show than sport? Anything that keeps the theater alive, I guess. I never watched much wrestling, even when I was a semi-jock in college." He sips his champagne, gathers her close against his side. "Never more than semi-." he admits. "Made the second string of the baseball team one time though, which is not too bad for someone actually there to get an education."

"Oh, okay, her. Haven't had much chance to talk with her, but if she's a family friend, I'm sure we'll get along splendidly." Joule nuzzles under Lee's chin affectionately. "Very much more show than sport. Though the sport thing is nothing to sneeze at. The muscles on that bloody woman." She shakes her head. "Baseball? I should take in a game sometime, since I'm here. The Great American Pastime, and all that."

Lee looks surprised, "You've never been? Oh…well, of course, when would you have the chance? The season's almost over, but maybe we could take in some games next year." He anticipates still being together next year, it seems. "It's a very relaxing game to watch," he opines, "and the most poetic of all games." He chuckles at her description of the muscular woman, "Sounds a lot like my friend Rochelle, she plays the violin too. In fact, it might even /be/ her, I know she was looking around for some way to make some extra money, construction slowing down and all."

"No, never. You might have missed it, being a native and all, but this is an immense city, Lee. There's been a lot to see, and just as much I haven't had the chance to see, yet. " She tosses her hair out of her face with a casual motion. "Poetic? Interesting; that's not a term I've heard used to describe it." By her expression, some more colorful epithets have been used, particularly since the two hometown teams didn't make it to the playoffs. As for whether they'll still be together in a year; she doesn't touch that. "Rochelle? Yes. That was her. On the waiver allowing me to photograph her, I recall the name. Goes by 'Hippolyta' in the ring. Queen of the bloody Amazons. No lie."
By her tone, Joule thinks the appellation quite fitting.

Lee laughs with delight at the coincidence. "Awesome, well, I'm glad she made it in. Yeah, she's pretty impressive, isn't she? We jammed at this music workshop - you should come down with us sometime, by the way - and got into a yelling match because I was being a jerk, I don't know how I walked away from it without being bent into a pretzel." Clearly they've made up, by his tone. He finishes up his champagne. "Thanks, that was just what I needed." A fizzy kiss follows, and then: "Ready to go? I have the semi-final draft of the lyrics here."

"Muscular and musical prowess?" Joule stares at Lee, astonished by the coincidence and by being jarred out of her first impression. "The workshop sounds fun, and I could use something to drag me out the studio now and again." She returns the kiss, savoring it, and nods at him. "Okay. Let's hear it. Will these do, or am I going to need to rent a full drum kit?"

Lee says, "These should do for a rough draft. I want to run a rough recording by some people and see what they think. Starting with you! What do you think?" He opens up the violin case and produces some handwritten sheets, folded over at the edges by the latches on the case. He smooths them out and holds them before her. He's settled on "Represent" and focusing in on translating the worksheet demanding the kids describe /exactly/ what they mean in their interpretation of a map, a graph, and a political cartoon. These correspond roughly to three verses in an adaptation of "Word Up". The lyrics Lee has settled on are clever - quite clever, actually. The music might not be quite so catchy on paper.

Joule holds out a hand and takes them from him. She crinkles her brows and sucks her lower lip into her mouth thoughtfully as she peruses the lyrics. She pauses, finger hovering over a phrase here and there. "Oh, this is clever," she murmurs, pleased. "Very clever." She gives it one more quick once-over to make sure she's sealed it in her head for the short term. "We'll see how it plays. Let me get the video camera from downstairs, so we can see if it comes off smooth or awkward anywhere, hmm?" She ruffles his hair affectionately as she gets smoothly to her feet.

Lee says, "Absolutely. I'll get plugged in." Was he staring at her ass when she leaned over to climb down the ladder? Well, if he was, who wouldn't? The care and feeding of an electric violin is apparently a very finicky process involving static-free cloths, replacing a pickup for no apparent reason, muttering curse words under his breath, tightening the bow, tuning and re-tuning both the strings and the pickup with minute variations making dissonant screeches, until finally he gets it to the point where he's satisfied with the weird, blossoming, rich sounds that come from the strings. "I like the roof." he declares to her when she returns. "No feedback for a hundred yards in any direction."

Joule returns with the camera — it's a little one. The bag is strung over one shoulder. On the other is a tripod in an elastic. She gets back on the roof and smiles at him, pleased he's enjoying the practice space. "Yeah? Good." She takes a minute or two setting up the camera, peering through the viewfinder. "Stand next to my congas for a tick, will you? I want the shot framed right."

Lee stands next to the congas and strikes the typical pose of the Awkward Hipster Band Member - feet tight in close together, leaning slightly to one side, eyes wide, expression unreadable, holding up the violin to his chin and his long arm crooked out to one side.

"God, relax," Joule chides, looking from the viewfinder to Lee himself, and adjusting the focus on the lens. "You look like your pants are too tight." She continues to fiddle with settings until she's certain she has a focus she likes for the shot. "When we do the real video, I'll set up a number of cameras. For editing, so we can get creative. I can do a lyrics subtitled version too, if you need it." She gets into the shot herself, crouching behind her congas, and frowning pensively at the camera. "Not quite." She goes back to adjust it once more before she's completely satisfied.

Lee laughs despite himself at her quip, which actually does relax him. "We definitely need a lyrics-subtitled version. In case people can't make out the rhyme between 'diagram' and 'give a damn'." he says. "Do I need a mike or should we just count on replacing the singing later?"

"We can mic you when we're ready to do the real version. We can release this one as "unplugged" if need be." Joule grins at him. "What, as convinced of your own prettiness as you are, you're all shy in front of the camera? What the hell?" She's being playful, though. "Just play like there's no camera in front of you. Play to me."

Lee laughs. "I've never intentionally been filmed before." he admits. "Just people holding up cellphones drunkenly waiting for the real band. What the hell, I'll give it a go. Ready?" His awkwardness returns once he starts playing, like he practices that way, and actually it makes things a little bit more fun. Otherwise it might come off as bombastic - the violin swells and charges at power chords as if it were a guitar in the shape of a lightning bolt in 1986. Or worse, it might be fake-cool, but instead, Lee's clean-cut voice is just like an earnest guy who has something to say and this newfangled electronical "rock and roll" is the way he wants to say it. He does forget about the camera, quickly, in the focus of rehearsing. The first time through is a bit jumpy, of course, every little misstep seems magnified, to each of them, although to the other, they may be minimal.

Joule is nowhere near as awkward as Lee, and as such, her missteps don't show to her nearly as much; she's a photographer. She expects them, and barely bats an eye. But she plays fromt he heart. Hands move across the skins in gentle strokes, or fierce strikes. Her voice tends toward alto, but she can manage contralto when she stretches. She goes from kneeling at the drums to crouching at the drums, letting the rhythm flow through her whole body. By the time they've finished the song, she's dancing. The lyrics occasionally trip her up, but they're new to her.

Lee can't, or doesn't, dance during the time he's playing, perhaps for fear of stepping on his cord, which swooshes across the floor precariously near his oversized feet due to being a bit more in front of him than a guitar cord would. The concluding part of the song ("What does it Represent? Who does it Represent? How does it Represent? Let's all just Represent…" and so on) leaves him leaning vertiginously over, swaying wildly, and when he lets the last chord ring out,sweeping the bow back one more time, he's spun himself halfway around and the bow to the camera comes naturally. "I definitely think we need to fix the second verse transition. Going from high A to low C flat is really just too, I don't know, it's too far. Either we need to make the transition longer or shift the next key up so we don't have as far to go. What do you think?" He's quite serious about this, it seems.

"I agree," Joule nods, wiping her brow with the back of her hand. Her midsection's all sheened with sweat now. "It's awkward, and too quick. If I had a proper drum kit, I can fill with a rhythm riff. On congas — not so much. Bongos, maybe." She paces pensively. "Of course we could probably pull in a handful of little kids banging on cowbells and triangles."

Lee says, "A rhythm solo…that could be great. We could even add in on the subtitles: 'This Rhythm Solo represents the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act' or 'nuclear non-proliferation' or something, and have a little 5-second skit about it while the cowbells and triangles and you are going crazy. Wow, you really work up a sweat on those things!" He approves, and is quite impressed.

"You can't play the drums like a big girl's blouse," Joule tells Lee, pointing at him to drive the point home. "You have to play them like you mean it." She considers his idea, and laughs, heartily. "You really are enjoying how creative you're getting to be with this. You could probably get the music teacher involved, too, hmm?"

Lee says, "Oh no, no way. If any of the other teachers find out about this they'll rat to O'Donnell and my goose will be cooked before it can lay the golden egg." He deftly turns that phrase without apparent difficulty - no wonder his lyrics are good. "So what exactly /is/ a big girls' blouse like, other than big?" he says - that phrase not being one of the ones he learned in his Roddy Doyle phase.

"That's too bad," Joule says, crestfallen. "No allies at all." She laughs, though, banishing the disappointment, as he inquires of her phraseology. "Y'know. Big coward. What d'you say in the States? Wimp? Scaredy-cat?"

Lee says, "Aha! Yes. Whatever else, that certainly wasn't timid. I have a couple of allies. William in math is in the same boat as me, virtually the identical boat actually…only thing is, I don't think his methods are working out that well. He's a former Navy SEAL, so he's of the 'yelling and detention' school of student discipline. And the librarian, Harry, he's put himself out there for my class, I get the picture that he's too close to retirement to care what they do to him. The nice thing is that the library's in the main building, and so Harry has keys to damn near everything." he explains. "Ready to go through again and try to work in a bit of a solo in there?"

"When have you ever seen a drummer play all dainty and careful? Watch any Def Leppard. Even old school Beach Boys. Even Ringo wasn't timid." Joule scoffs at the idea of timid drumming with a breath of air let out through her nose. "Well, the yelling and detention, prolly not what we need. Your Harry, though. He know anything musical, then? Two of us aren't going to make much of a workable tune unless you want to synth in all the tracks afterward. And that's a little outside my knowledge, that is."

Lee says, confidently, "I know how it's done - Nima and I synthed in a /lot/ of stuff because our band was pretty much just the two of us. If we can get the basics in, I can remix it up to a full-on production. I bet she'd even throw in from Philadelphia, e-mail tracks back and forth. If I need to, I can recruit someone from that workshop who is in need of some exposure."

"Brilliant. Your plan's really coming together, then," Joule says, approvingly. "I do hope your sister visits from Philly. She sounds like the sort of girl I'd get on with." She settles back behind the bongos, and laces her fingers over her head to stretch. "Ready to have another go, then?"

Lee says, "You'd better hope you get along with her, as twins we have license to sabotage each other's lives." but despite his stern expression, the twinkle in his eye shows he's joking. "Yes. Let's do it." This time around it's much smoother, they know a little of what the other is going to do, and the rhythm solo actually gives Lee a chance to pull a few dance moves of his own, in remarkable sync with her improvisation on the drums. Adjusted for sound, it will function perfectly as a demo track. Even Lee has worked up a sweat by the end of this one, with that big circular bow right on the last downbeat.

"Mmm. So no showing her the nude photos I plan to take of you for my …personal collection," Joule says, faux-innocently. "I'm sure we can come up with something artistic to impress her instead." Joule nearly misses the skins once, watching Lee. She's all wolfish smile by the time they get to the end of the song. "Mmm. I do love to watch you dance."

Lee replies with a more exaggeratedly arch tone but equally desirous eyes: "I love to watch you play. But I think we best turn off the camera before we go any further down that particular road. Satisfied? Musically, I mean. Artistically." with his violin cocked on his hip with casual confidence.

"We probably need just one more go-round to get the proper polish on it," Joule says, after a moment's thought. "And then we can break for dinner. And dessert." She chucks him affectionately under the chin, and tugs playfully on his collar before checking the camera one more time. "Plenty memory to pick it up. We're good to keep shooting. Choreography, not my forte, but I kind of think your moves speak for themselves."

Lee says, with that same slightly unbelievable modesty, "It'll be better this time around, now that I sort of know what you're going to do in that section." And - perhaps miraculously - it is better, he's able to actually get right up behind her and sync with both her rhythms and her movements, at least for that part of the song. And the music is firmly on-target now - not without room for improvement, but at least free from mistakes.

"Oh, yes. I think we've got it," Joule exalts, throwing her hands skyward after Lee's final violin flourish. "I think we've got something we can work with." She glances up, frowning as a wind has kicked up and the lowering sun has been occluded by scudding, pregnant clouds. "Just in time, too. Looks like we'd better get inside before the storm breaks."

Lee blinks upwards. "Uh oh. And me holding up an electrically charged stick high into the air." He quickly corrects this, disconnecting everything and packing up with the practiced hurry of the perennial 'opening act' that needs to clear off for the headliner quickly.

Joule too moves with a quickness born of having to set up and break down shoots in a hurry. She loops a nylon rope around the drums and lowers them down the trapdoor, then tucks everything else into a backpack she straps on. Grabbing the champagne bottle, she beckons to Lee. "C'mon, before you get soaked." The first fat drops of rain are already beginning to fall, muttering thunder in the distance, lightning purpling clouds over the skyline.

Lee ferries the violin case in like a favored child and dumps the guitar case down the ladder like a mover who was under-tipped. Sure enough the rain starts in earnest just as he's starting to clamber down the trap door. "That was close." he joshes in the cramped confines of her bathroom-closet as they try to get everything back into her apartment.

Joule braces with the shower curtain and slides the guitar somewhat safely to a landing, then backs up so Lee can come down the ladder. "Pish tosh," Joule tells him, laughing. "As if you don't enjoy working under pressure, that thrill of having to get everything down to the minute." She shrugs out of the backpack, and shoves the drums up against the wall. "I'll have to practice a little to lay down a harmony track. What about your sister, she sing?"

Lee says, "She sings great. Actually she's kind of more talented than me in every possible area. Not that I am biased or anything." joshingly. "You know, she's the one that pushed me back into music when I came back from college and had a lot of time on my hands, it's funny that she's gone now and I'm still working on a project." He stacks his own stuff by the door.

"So she got the brains, and the talent," Joule jibes playfully. She's already gotten used to Lee's displays of ego, and learned to consider them charming, mostly. "Really, it's great you have someone in your family you're so close to. I didn't get a chance for sibs. Dad never remarried." Which sort of takes the heady glow off the moment, but it's a natural enough progression of the conversation.

Lee says, in all seriousness, despite her bikini top, "When our parents disappeared, I don't think there's any way either one of us could have coped with it alone." Despite the seriousness of the topic, he says it in a positive way, keeping things upbeat. "Want a bit more champagne?"

"Better finish it off before it goes flat," Joule agrees. "Dad and I kind of leaned on each other in the beginning. But then he decided to immerse himself in work. Which led me to turn into becoming a bit of an attention whore." Joule's face flashes a brief blush. Generally, she's not embarrassed by her over-the-top personality, but apparently there was a little left unsaid between her and her father before she lost him.

Lee chuckles gracefully, bringing bottles and glasses to a big steamer trunk full of photo equipment, which will have to serve as a love seat if they want to watch the rain. "So you hook up with the guy trying to pay more attention to things past the end of his nose. I see how this goes." he says teasingly, but also introspectively, like perhaps this is one reason they were attracted to each other - he was giving away what she wanted. "To 'Represent'." he says, lifting his glass to hers. "And all the metaphors the kids will mangle while they're trying it out - may they rest in peace."

"Maybe I am," Joule agrees. "I like to think Dad would have approved of you. You teach. You help young minds expand and spread their wings." She leans against his shoulder. "To 'Represent', and all it does. To it going viral and us maybe ending up on SNL in ten months."

Lee looks touched by her remarks about his teaching career. "If you'd told me that a year ago, I would have made some nasty comment, but I don't think you would have thought that about me a year ago. I complained about the kids and the administration then but I didn't do anything about it. I practically wallowed in my ineffectiveness." he confesses. "So thank you, that means a lot to me that you think of me that way." He kisses her, eagerly, cooled sweat and champagne on his lips. A rumble of thunder peals out.

Joule is surprised at the solemnity of Lee's response. "Good thing I didn't know you a year—" she is cut off by him kissing her, though, and doesn't finish the thought. The lightning flash follows the thunder, and Joule blindly finds a place to put her glass down — on the sill — so she can link her wrists around his neck.

Lee puts his glass down on the table, but it's a bit too close to the edge and it tips over a second later - without looking, or breaking his kiss, his hand whips backwards to catch it before it shatters or spills, and puts it back up on the table, further from the edge this time. He does this without any real conscious effort, though, as the kiss concludes, he glances at it weirdly like he wasn't sure it actually happened. "…I'm just hoping that I can make new habits. SNL appearance or no."

"Positive reinforcement, then," Joule says, as if it were as simple as that. "Reward you when you're on the right path, and…hm. I don't like the idea of negative reinforcement, but how else will you know if you're backsliding?" Joule settles against his chest, falling silent to think that over. "Dad'd have an idea on that, I bet." She allows herself a sigh, then murmurs, "I'm sorry. Weather like this always makes me a little maudlin."

Lee says, "Melancholy is very sexy." He wraps an arm around her, strokes her neck beneath her hair. "The word itself is sexy. Melancholy." He's joking, but encouraging too. She doesn't have to be sorry.

Joule looks up with eyes that are suspiciously bright. "You're good," she says, with a quavery smile. "Thanks, Lee." She seems surprised, after a moment of reflection. "I…I must really trust you, y'know. To show it off like this. Normally I work to be as hard as your friend. Well. I thought so, unti I saw her. She is, like, a new definition of that word."

Lee says, "I hope you can trust me." reflectively, and laughs at her quip. "Rochelle is something else, yeah. They have me stuck in an office about as small as this corner of your apartment, and she visited me one time. Broke the chair, half-kicked over my bookshelf…it was funny enough with just me squeezing in there, the both of us, it must have looked like, well, a cartoon."

"I don't doubt," Joule gasps, eyes widening as she must be envisioning what Lee describes. "I hate to say it, but that bull and china shop metaphor seems a bit appropriate for her. Not exactly a delicate flower, that Rochelle." She chuckles, the maudlin mood beginning to leave her again as they chat against the rainy window.

Lee says, "Mm-hmm. Well, neither are you most of the time. There's strength in coming to New York, doing what you're doing. Courage." he points out, giving her a squeeze.

"I followed my father, because I wanted to keep him out of trouble," Joule confesses. A beat, and she adds, "And because I didn't want him to leave me alone. That doesn't take courage." She finds her glass and tosses back the rest in a gulp. "Nor does just sitting around talking about him. I should get off my arse if I really do mean to honor his memory."

Lee chuckles a little. "Well, what's your first move going to be?" Again, more encouragement rather than argument. He refills her glass, tops off his own, which kills the bottle.

"I have no …bloody idea." Joule shrugs. "I suppose I could contact the publisher, find out where Chandra Suresh is. Talk to him. Show him my father's discs. See what he makes of what my father thought." She sips this glass, rather than gulping the whole thing.

Lee says, a little reluctantly, "There's a kooky bookstore up the street from the Lair, Enlightenment Books. I know they had some copies there at one point, that's where I ended up reading it. The owner, Cass, is a good friend of Nima's. If you talk to her she might be able to give you some leads."

Joule pauses with the glass halfway to her lips at Lee's reluctant tone. "You really hate this subject, don't you?" It isn't really a question by the tone of her voice. "This …this isn't going to be something that comes between us, is it? I …I really should…" she trails off, and looks away, clutching the glass tighter.

Lee admits, "It's caused me a lot of heartache and aggravation and /annoyance./ I don't want to see you end up the same way. I'm trying to be protective, and, well, I guess," he shrugs helplessly. "I really don't have any right to be. What you're trying to do is noble, and natural."

It's a long, silent moment before Joule looks back. "I owe it to my Dad, Lee. I know your parents were loopy mad and they took their crazy out on you. I…" She takes a deep breath and shakes her head. "Lee, I thought my father was crazy too." The last three words, 'but he wasn't' are almost audible, despite the fact that she doesn't actually say them.

Lee says, "They weren't just crazy, they were crazy in a particular way related to this particular material. And there's a lot more like them out there, I found out." He shakes his head as if trying to clear it. A gulp of the champagne. "I'm not trying to discourage you, I'm just saying, step lightly and keep an open mind. And run like hell if you even get a hint that something's wrong, because it can go bad fast."

"You know more than you're telling," Joule says, voice dropping to almost a whisper. She tilts her head and sets the glass down decisively, unfinished. "Go bad, how? What would my father have gotten into? What am I going to be getting into?" She sits up straight, and meets his eyes, emotions simmering beyond her gaze.

Lee says, "I'll tell you, but it's coming from my point of view." He leans back and looks out into the rain. "Somewhere along the way my parents learned about either Suresh's theories, or more likely, they learned about what was behind the theories, the things that led him to make those theories. I don't know how exactly, or what exactly, but they did. And what they wanted for Nima and I was that we would be part of that next step in evolution." He shrugs slightly. "We weren't. I mean…/I/ was rebellious. I don't like comics, I didn't play Dungeons and Dragons, I don't like Star Trek, I liked sports and Balzac novels. I /wanted/ to disappoint them. It made sense that I disappointed them.

"But Nima was everything they could have wanted and more, she loved everything they loved, and she was smarter and better at running the business than they ever were, but in their eyes we were both the same because we didn't have supernatural abilities. We were both the same and we weren't good enough. When they disappeared, they disappeared into this world of people that have those abilities and those that are trying to control them, or profit from them, or suppress them, or teach them, or study them, or whatever." That last 'whatever' is awfully dismissive, like he considers the whole list of options trivial and perhaps somewhat offensive. "They became freelance operatives for whoever would hire them. And at some point someone hired them to spy on a really nasty character who, it was thought, could control people's minds." Other than one little slip, he's kept it all in the realm of theory. Like it /could/ happen, /could/ be real, but he's not committing to it.

Joule's hands were folded in her lap. Now they're a pair of fists in her lap. "I see," she says, a chilly note working into her voice. She looks down, seeming to realize this, and opens her hands again. She gets up off the steamer trunk to take the glasses back into the kitchen area. "Are you hungry? Fancy a bite?" Immediate, dramatic subject change. "I could call in for take away. I haven't been to the market yet."

Lee says, "Delivery might be a good idea, given the rain. Uh…do you want to hear the rest? I haven't gotten to the actually dangerous part yet, the part that worries me. I don't think your father had the same kind of neurosis as mine did, that's not what I was trying to get at." he asks.

"Pizza, Chinese, Mexican?" Joule fans a handful of menus out, including a few she hasn't mentioned. She freezes as Lee goes on to explain there's more. "No, Lee, you're right. My father didn't have the same sort of neurosis yours did." She hands him the menus to peruse, going back to the kitchen and running the water into the glasses. "He never suspected," she murmurs, most of that possibly lost to the sound of the water and the moaning and clanging of the pipes before she shuts the faucet off again.

Lee says, "Chinese is good…oh, I've eaten at this place before, they're excellent. Let me pick it up this time. You got the champagne." Dating at their income level does require a bit of discussion about money." He is about to continue his story, shuts his mouth and instead says: "…never suspected what?"

He heard that? He heard that. Joule dries her hands, and turns around to face Lee. "Never suspected Suresh would blow him off. Never suspected he'd follow the man here only to die because some bloody crackhead wanted his watch and mum's diamond necklace." She answers just a touch too quickly; her eyes don't waver from Lee's though. She's telling the truth, though perhaps not answering exactly the question Lee asked of her. "Okay, Chinese, excellent. I'm dying for pot stickers and Mongolian Beef."

Lee nods a little. "Throw in some house fried rice and it's a meal." He rises, crosses to her phone, places the order, gives the debit card number, and so on. It lets her catch her breath, lets him gather his thoughts too. Maybe a bit of distraction is what the story needs.

"They're not whingeing about the walk-up?" Joule jokes, as he calls. "And tell them Fortune Cookies, not those bloody awful almond cookies, all right?" She does seem grateful to be off the subject for a moment, though her eyes remain a little pensive.

Lee says, "Yeah…fortune cookie…you heard her? Okay, good…yes, I mean, I'll be happy to go downstairs and run out to the street to get it from you but it will affect the tip, you know that, right? All right. Goodbye." He hangs up. "Everybody looking to cut corners, I guess." he laughs.

"Next time we'll order Indian. They don't mind the walkup, and I always tip them for it. Plus, their lamb vindaloo is to die for." Joule plucks a sweater out of her closet and tosses it on over the bikini top; the rain has to have cooled it down some … not to mention the fact that night is falling. "Come on, let's go downstairs and wait for the food, hmm? There's a store around the corner if you want Coke or summat."
Lee nods a little, "I'm good, thanks." He escorts her down the stairs, offering her his warm arm. To some degree he's just following her lead, seeing if she /wants/ to hear more. The nervousness and pensiveness is his now. He can't tell if he said something wrong.

Joule takes his arm, and pads down the stairs with him, having tucked a pair of slippers that pass for shoes onto her feet. The rain has eased up to a mist, leaving them to huddle at the stoop under the flickering dome light. She's quiet for a long moment, just watching the traffic go by. "So — your friend, who owns the store…?" she asks, prompting him to keep going.

Lee leans against the cold wall so that she can lean against him and stay warm. And also, well, so they don't necessarily have to be face to face. "Right. Now what exactly happened when my parents were following this guy, we don't know. There's those that say he was using his ability to help him in his avocation, which was serial killing. And maybe that was true. But around about that time was when I figured out what had happened to them, and that's when I read Suresh's book over at Enlightenment. I didn't think much of the book, really, but I'll be fair, the guy wasn't a writer, he was a scientist, and… my natural inclinations were not to be charitable to it." That's as nice as Lee can bring himself to be, even with Joule in his arms. "My father was eventually recovered, suffering from an overdose of drugs and the alleged serial killer disappeared. The theory was that by drugging his victims, the guy could control the minds of his victims longer or more severely. As soon as my father was able, he disappeared again, drugging me with a dart gun so that I couldn't follow." Ouch. Now that's rejection.

"I'll tell you, Joule, I believe Suresh was on to something, I've seen things that make me believe that what he was observing was really happening, /is/ really happening. There are people that can do those things, I've seen it with my own eyes. Unfortunately the ones who seem to have gotten the tightest hold on the issue are not exactly the sanest, let alone the best and the brightest. And that's my worry for you in a nutshell." Lee joshes: "Probably where it belongs."

Joule listens, nodding her head, and gasping, in the appropriate places. Murmuring little half-syllables repeating him with something akin to horror and incredulity when Lee speaks of his own father shooting him, even with a dart gun. "Cor bloody lum," she murmurs, when he finishes. She is silent in his arms a moment longer, but before she has turned all the way around to look up at him, the sullen teenager with the food has arrived on a bicycle.

Lee is eager for the distraction this time, to let him, and her, mull things over, so he signs the receipt, tip and all, passes it over, and ducks back under the roof to lead her back upstairs, paper bag in his hand, his other hand underneath to support it. "Anyway, Cass believes in it too, she was able to point me to the book, and so she seriously would be a good contact for you to start with. I wasn't saying that to mislead you or anything, I wouldn't do that." he says.

"I know you wouldn't," Joule says, and there's a note of solemn certainty in her voice as she says that. She takes the bag from him and sets it on the kitchen table. She takes a deep breath, and turns back to face him. "Right, then. It's like this. I've read the book. And you're right. He was on to something. He was right, Chandra Suresh was. So was my father."

Lee nods - he agrees with that. "Actually I sort of admire what you've told me about your father a bit more than Suresh. Suresh got his book published without any serious peer review, which is one reason I didn't really go for it." he points out. "Someone taking it seriously enough to pick apart is making things better, not worse, in my view." Lee does still count himself as an academic even if his job these days is a lot more like a cat-herder, and things like peer review actually matter to him.

"His peers thought he was barking," Joule says, going to take the plates down and dish out the food. They threw in egg rolls. "That's why there was no review. Colleagues he knew in England and India both laughed at him, or tried to talk him out of his pursuit. That much my father knew from our time in India. He was all but a bloody laughingstock. But Dad still believed. That's why he wanted to talk to Dr. Suresh."

Lee nods slightly. "Hey, egg rolls. Good for them, I'll have to toss them a few extra bucks the next time I stop in." He dishes out his own food and listens carefully, delicately avoiding comment on the failure of academe to accept data that invalidates virtually the whole of human knowledge since the beginning of time.

Joule looks down at her food, and up at Lee. "The thing is, Dad died not knowing he was right." She leaves the plate on the table, and walks over to the window again. "Dr. Suresh and he could've done great things together." She regards Lee's reflection in the window. "And if what you say is true, these …people, these mad blokes who want to control others are out there? Maybe I should talk to him directly. Maybe I can…I dunno." She drops her face into her hands. "Life was not supposed to be more confusing after Dad died, damn it."

Lee follows her to the window when she despairs, and turns her to face him gently taking her cheeks in his hands. "Joule, whatever you decide to do, you've got more going for you than they do. They're just jobbers. Clockpunchers." 'Idiots', he doesn't say. But sure, he implies it. "You're an artist. An /artist/. There's more power in that than in fifty shadowy corporations or a hundred secret government projects. One artist can make them all shake in their shoes." he says encouragingly. He kisses her forehead lightly. "If you decide to put everything away in a box and leave it there, it won't make your father wrong, and if you decide to keep pursuing it, it won't make him right. He was right. You have that, you'll always have that."

"You don't understand," Joule murmurs, muffled. But she looks up at him, eyes bright again. He kisses her forehead and in response, Joule closes her eyes and murmurs, "Oh, damn it all." She looks up at him. "I'll…this is…" She sighs. "Sit down for a minute, okay?"

Lee says, "Uh…okay…" He goes back to the table and seats himself at his food.

"I …" Joule folds her arms around herself, as if cold. "Look, it's …I've spent half my life cultivating the hard thing. Not needing anyone. Not letting anyone close. And you. You waltzed right past my defenses like they were never there." She gives a little humorless, shaky laugh. "It's a new thing for me. Trusting someone. Getting close." She reaches up and pinches the bridge of her nose with her right thumb and forefinger. "Probably about time, I suppose. We're not meant to be solitary creatures, people."

Lee listens, "If it's too fast, I can ease back." he says, then chuckles softly. "Imagine saying 'too fast for Joule'. That doesn't sound right at all." He keeps it gentle, but wants to make it clear he doesn't consider it a bad thing.

"Maybe that's it," Joule says, still keeping her distance. "That it's not too fast. Or too slow. Just that it's something I can't control." She takes a deep breath. "The thing of it is, we've been at this, what, three weeks? A month?" The brightness of her eyes finally gives way, and one tear slips free, down her right cheek. "I think …I think …I'm only inches from falling in love with you, all right? And …I already learned the hard way I can't play games with people I love." She closes her eyes, as if afraid to see his reaction. Her hands are trembling slightly.

Lee is surprised and touched, but not dispeased. He reaches out a hand towards her. "Joule, I don't…I don't know what to say. That's wonderful. You can trust me, I won't play games with you either." And on that note, he looks rather pensive himself, his hand falls a bit: "I…feel like I should tell you that…I'm a bit on the rebound. It was a nasty breakup, a few weeks before we met and about two months before we got serious… and I haven't set it straight yet. So I'm really psyched about us, really think it's great, but…I've been around the block a couple of times. I know how 'rebound' things go, and I can't promise that isn't influencing me a little. I don't want to tell you something that won't turn out to stand on its own two feet once a little time has passed." Implying that he would tell her something if he could. "It's not a perfect answer." he says, somewhat dispiritedly.

Joule opens her eyes as Lee begins to speak; she gives him that much. She's silent, while he speaks to her, chin lifted, and lower lip quivering a little. "I …appreciate that," she says, after he is done. "And it may not be a perfect answer. But it's an honest one." She remains where she is, though clearly she just wants to fall into his arms and have this awkward, tense moment she stated over with already. "Since we're being honest…I…you'll need to know this about me."

She makes certain she has his attention. "I'm one of those people. That the bad guys from your story want. To chase after. Fairly sure I can take care of m'self. But if it's bad juju for you — well." She smiles faintly and gestures at his dinner. "We can finish the video, and you can be on your way."

Lee listens, is about to chuckle uncomfortably, sees how serious she is, and leans forward. He puts his own face in his hands. But he's not despairing, he /is/ laughing. "Oh god." he says. "That's just my luck." He looks up at the ceiling as if blaming God personally. "That's just great." he says, shaking his head and grinning. "Fucking perfect." He gathers himself up out of sarcasm, and says, in all seriousness, back to her: "I'm fine with that, Joule. I am. It's not an issue. It's so full of dramatic irony it leaks out from under its fingernails, but it's not an issue. Not between me and you. That I can tell you right now. It won't be bad juju, even a bit."

Joule blinks at him, wiping her own eyes. There's a moment where she's coiling up to let something fly at him — words, or hands. But then she realizes he's not laughing at her, so much as the situation. Which leaves her gaping, mouth slightly open, in stunned shock. "You're…you're sure." She's already taken two steps toward him, barely realizing it. "You …we're okay?"

Lee says, with the growing confidence that not only is this what she wants and needs to hear but that he actually thinks it's true: "Okay? Joule, we're fucking awesome, I don't know if you've noticed yet, but you and I together are nitro and glycerine."

"Yeah, we bloody well are," Joule replies at once. "That's why I didn't want to lose it. You. Us. Whatever we are, we're glorious. But I didn't want to turn into some sort of emotional scab-picking so your own hurts don't ever heal over. I don't do the hurting people thing if I can help it." She finally makes it all the way to him. "Y-Your dinner's getting cold." Hers too. Not like there isn't a mini-microwave. She's still a little shaky, like she's just broken a fever.

Lee says, looking slightly up at her from where he sits, "I'm glad you told me about your ability…" (Whatever it is - he doesn't seem too interested.) "…and I'm glad I told you about my rebound. But I really could care less about my dinner right now, if kissing you is at all a feasible alternative."

"We can do that," Joule tells him, and obliges his request, energetically. Oddly, she doesn't seem inclined to press the issue of her ability just now. Dinner will definitely end up needing to be microwaved.

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