Title: Hidden Beauty
Feedback: Very much wanted.
Distribution: Please do not distribute or archive without permission.
Disclaimer: Barbara Hall is the creator of "Joan of Arcadia" and CBS owns it. I own nothing of importance in this matter. Please don't sue me, I'm broke enough as it is. : )
Luke had always been gifted with a mind of surprising clarity and recall. Ask him to recite Newton's laws of motion and their ramifications on the progress of science, and he'll ably rattle off a five-minute explanation. Demand of him a logical progression from hypothesis to conclusion, and he'll outline it with bullet points for your benefit. But lying in bed at home late that May night with Mom and Dad away at the hospital with Joan after her collapse, the events of the past hours tangled in his mind like a skein of yarn fallen from its reel, looping back on each other in an endless jumble of thoughts and emotions and experiences.
"Why did you give me that rock?" she had asked impatiently.
"It's a geode."
"To me it's a rock. Why?" Curiosity hid behind the impersonal gaze she turned on the world at large.
"It was a, a gesture of ... friendship." He stumbled over his reply, hesitating, unsure. "Possibly courtship."
He remembered the glare in Grace's blue-grey eyes when she'd first asked her question, that confrontational stare that she turned on virtually everyone. Remembered the doubting words she'd offered him in response to his confession, the half-cynical, half-joking expression on her face, the disbelieving smile, the shell of disdain she'd summoned to the fore against his impertinent questions.
He remembered voicing his arguments to her, overriding her protests that it was ridiculous, that she was Joan's friend, that she was older than him, that she was "anti." How she grew more nervous and uncomfortable as he put forth his logical and scientific arguments against her disbelief, arguments to try to rationalize something he'd felt for months, something that he couldn't quantify with all the knowledge at his command. Remembered her glancing away but always looking back into his eyes, and her getting angrier the longer he had babbled. He remembered how he couldn't stop speaking, couldn't stop pouring his feelings out, and remembered her vehement declaration that she wasn't into him.
And he remembered how in the next moment she'd reached out to embrace him, the way her lips had seemed molten against his, the line of her jaw under his hand, the clean soap-scent of her cheek, the cool black slickness of her leather-jacketed arms wrapped around his shoulders as they kissed.
Hours later, he still felt as though he'd never sleep again, the energy that had crackled between them in the endless, dizzying minutes of that kiss still coursing through his body.
But for all his semi-coherent explanations as to why he'd given it to her, he'd never really told her why he had given her that as a gift. He wasn't entirely sure he could quantify it in sentences, provable evidence, logical progressions. It had been... a hunch. Intuition. The kind of thing that science discounted under normal circumstances.
He had seen the geode only in passing in a storefront down at the mall, the day after he broke up with Glynis, while on his way to meet Friedman at the arcade. On most days he'd have hardly given that display window a second glance. His primary interests lay in exploring the boundaries of theoretical physics or experimenting with reagents and compounds, rather than digging in the earth for long-hidden mysteries. But that day, he'd collided with some brown-haired guy in a corduroy coat and blue jeans coming out of the bookstore across the way, scattering the guy's books all over the manufactured wood floor. It only seemed polite to help him pick them up. The guy had thanked him, and walked off, and when Luke re-shouldered his pack and looked up his eyes had inexplicably been drawn to the geode in the store's window.
Geodes weren't extraordinarily rare, but each was unique in composition. Something about this one simply caught his attention -- polished, hard, greyish stone exterior, hiding an air bubble where glimmering beauty had been sheltered through long years of chthonic heat and pressure. Intuitively, but for no reason he could put words to, his thoughts immediately jumped to Grace – the drab, harsh exterior she offered to the public, the shield of her cynicism and standoffishness disguising her intelligence and fiery spirit. He'd bought the geode impulsively, despite it taking most of the money in his wallet, somehow knowing that it was meant for Grace, and tried to put aside his fears of embarrassment for a core of certainty he could scarcely understand.
He tried to explain it, to himself and to her, both then and now. He remembered fumbling with explanations before he'd wordlessly given it to her one afternoon in the cafeteria, as they studied together for Lischak's chem final. He couldn't find the phrases that would logically explain it, take him from hypothesis to proof, why he'd simply known that it was meant for her. It was something that he had to take on faith, something with the most meager of rational foundations – a state of events that, only a few days earlier, he might've discarded as meaningless or paradoxical.
Not everything is about science. Kevin's words from months ago, suddenly given new meaning. Relationships that work don't always make sense. Mom's words, just a few short days ago.
Feeling the ghostly memory of Grace's lips on his, he dreamt of the beauty he had found inside the cold, hard shell she showed the world.