Title: God Put a Smile upon Your Face
Chapter title: Chris Martin Sings Again
Genre: angst, romance, whatever
Rating: well, PG. Mild violence, some scariness. But I think the Grace/Iris scene makes up for a lot.
A/N: well, this took me forever to update but what can I say? I love one-shots and I hate writing series. I suck at sequels anyway, just read the horrendous He Wrote Don't Forget to see what I mean. But I've gotten a lot of reviews telling me to stop cranking out the new dramatic one-shot stuff and start finishing things I've already started. Speaking of review, thank you all for reading my stuff but most of all REVIEWING it: Jane and Adam, Procrastinationqueen, Basia77, Aaron de L'Encre and Teejay, among others. So here it is, and expect updates at the rate of reviews received…so R&R, people, constructive criticism is fine by me.
The sunlight streamed through the window, jarring Joan from a fitful sleep. For a few seconds, she kept her eyes closed and snuggled up against her pillow—the night before blissfully forgotten. Then, suddenly, from the darkness the image of her attacker came back to her: his evil, gnarled face and she shot up, wide awake and breathing hard. She said the first thing, the first word, the first name that came to mind. "Adam?"
There was a sleepy groan from the floor beside her and she gasped. Heart rising to her throat, she looked over the side of her bed but the boy camped out uncomfortably on the floor wasn't Adam; it was Luke. Joan sighed deeply, suppressing tears and quickly reaching up to rub her still sore temples. "Luke…" she mumbled, "what are you doing down there?"
Her brother half-sat up, reaching for his glasses awkwardly and said: "Mom told me what happened. And since this always used to make you feel better…" he trailed off, somewhat helplessly. It was sweet, in a geeky freak kind of way.
Joan gave weak smile, to seem more okay than she felt. "But it was always Kevin that would do that. After I had a nightmare, to make sure the koalas in hats didn't come back." She yawned, pretending the tears that came to her eyes were from tiredness. Koalas in hats weren't what haunted her dreams these days.
"Well…" Luke looked away, "He can't do that anymore."
Joan looked down at her hands, her lips trembling all of a sudden and she remembered a hundred things from before the accident, the great before, when she didn't know anything about tragedy. Before God came and started dropping by with weird missions and before Adam, and before—last night. She put her head in her hands: she couldn't put what had happened into words yet. Maybe she didn't want to. "Yeah. Thanks, geek."
Luke got up, gathering his blankets and pillow together. "Anytime," he told her and left, wondering what had happened to his family and what they'd done to deserve all the terrible things that kept happening to them—probability-wise, the chances of so many accidents and life-threatening situations occurring in a single family in such a short space of time were incredibly low, weren't they?
He heard Joan sob quietly. As a scientist, Luke didn't believe in luck and he didn't believe in coincidence. Sometimes he wished he did.
Joan found herself scrutinizing her closet warily: jeans and skirts, tops and sweaters, scarves: lots of those. She picked up a scarlet halter-top she'd bought the week before, thinking of how Adam had told her in his spacey, sincere kind of way that she looked pretty in red. Skanky, she condemned the top, and it didn't even really fit.
She realized she was looking for clues: she, like Luke, wondered why she'd been attacked, why she in particular had been targeted. Then she forced herself to remember Adam's sincerity at the hospital, his eyes calling out to her to be all right, the softness in his eyes when he told her so adamantly: it wasn't your fault. "It's not my fault," she said to the red halter-top.
"No, it isn't," the top replied in her mother's voice.
Joan turned and saw her mother, looking tearfully at her, but smiling. "I know it isn't," she assured Helen but all she wanted was for her not to worry—being honest didn't really matter much.
"We could talk about this, Joan," Helen told her with a loving look, a protective, worried expression passing over her face. "I've been through this too." She seemed to choke on these last words.
There was something constricting Joan's throat as she blindly grabbed a skirt and a top that probably matched. She hugged the bundle to her chest, keeping the crying deep inside and pretending not to feel the pain that was so clearly written all across her face. "No, Mom," she said, finally, "I just want to go to school and you know, be normal for a little while."
"You are normal, honey," Helen whispered and a tear went down her cheek, because she knew what it was not to be and really, she knew that Joan wasn't anymore, or wouldn't feel like she was.
And just wait, Helen thought, when the politically correct labels come: rape-victim, rape-survivor, rape whatever, rape, rape, rape. Quickly, she reminded herself that Joan had not been raped. It hadn't gone that far. They'd gotten the bad guy this time… but just wait till she loses it again and then, well, who could blame her? Her girl had gone through hell these past couple of years.
"Yeah," Joan agreed and went quickly past her to the bathroom, wanting to scream and scream and never stop.
Why? The question plagued her as she shakily applied make-up, as she trudged down the stairs, as she ignored her breakfast: why me? It was a miracle she managed not to cry into her cereal, or bang her head against the table or run out to the nearest church, to find God, to get some answers, to punch him. Only one single bit of hope sparked joy into her tired heart and that was Adam.
Adam, Adam: she loved his name.
He loved her. Joan smiled, for the first time in what seemed like years, and it felt weird: like she'd never used those muscles before. Adam loved her. A rush of excitement and hope, tinged with heady anticipation washed over her for a moment: and she loved him. God had given her something to hold onto. It was a promise that hung in the air and kept her from crying.
She remembered God's words from the night before: He said He'd given her the resources. Adam, Joan figured, was her only real resource, along with Luke and Kevin: her mother was freaking out—clearly—and her father had spent all night at the station. He hadn't come home at all.
Adam was what made Joan get up from her place at the kitchen table and Adam was what made her walk determinedly to the door, but when her hand grasped the doorknob, she remembered what it felt like to be trapped with your face pressed to the concrete, vomiting, gasping for breath while someone pulled down your pajama pants and she froze. She couldn't walk alone. Not today.
Helen was on autopilot, running around the kitchen, grabbing things for Joan to bring to school: suddenly overcome with the idea of packing her daughter a lunch. As if a healthy meal could somehow make it okay.
Luke was buried in a book, which, she happened to notice, was upside down and his eyes weren't moving—but Kevin had caught her freezing like that, had seen fear grab her and understanding dawned quickly in his big brother way. "Come on, kid, I'll drive you," he told her and as he passed, Joan thought Kevin hadn't called her 'kid' since she was about twelve. Freaky. And sad, because what happened (what happened, what was done to her, she refused to give it a name) had already changed things.
Luke looked up at her, frowning worriedly.
Joan bit down her on her bottom lip till she tasted blood, because she needed something physical, something real, to distract her from her gnawing emotions. Gratitude to her geeky, stupid, incredibly sweet brothers filled her up till she suddenly remembered that saying, from the bible, she guessed: my cup runneth over.
"Well, what are you waiting for, geek?" Joan asked, her voice a little too high, her eyes a little too wide: "Kevin's giving us a ride."
"What did she give you?" Luke asked from the passenger seat of Kevin's car and Joan glanced down at the brown paper bag, exploring the contents.
"Um, some fried chicken, potato salad, an apple and a…" she shook her head, smiling a little, "…a juice box." She laughed a little; she hadn't had a cranapple juice box since she was seven but her mother had remembered it was her favorite. She laughed but it was low, scratchy and it sounded kind of hysterical.
It was a strange thing. The very morning before they had been in this car, in these exact positions: Kevin driving, Luke in the passenger seat and Joan in the back, miserable. They'd been silent then too, groggy and sleepy, but now they were all three wide awake and the silence was thick with tension, those words unsaid. But it was still eerily similar, giving Joan the spooky feeling that everything was about to happen all over again. All that was really missing was Coldplay.
As if on cue, Luke turned on the radio, probably desperate for something to distract them from the silence that seemed to emphasize the thing they were trying so hard not to talk about. And who else but Coldplay would be on the station, singing gently, singing Joan's misery?
And I could write a song
A hundred miles long
Well, that's where I belong
And you belong with me
And I could write it down
And spread it all around
Get lost and then get found
And just like yesterday, the car pulled up in the same parking space right by the school's steps and, just like yesterday, Adam and Iris were on them. Joan looked out, seeing him with relief, with joy. He had his hands on Iris' shoulders but obviously that meant nothing, not after yesterday, it just couldn't and then Iris leaned forward—
Or swallowed in the sea…
and she kissed Adam right on the lips, like it was the most natural, normal thing in the world. Like she hadn't just taken the last shred of hope Joan had, like she hadn't stomped all over her broken heart and spit on her soul.
In one fell swoop, Iris' action brought back the pain that had been muffled at the sight of Adam and Joan's demons were breathing at her neck, hissing: she remembered the weight of her attacker's body, his stench, his hands and she remembered footsteps, she remembered Coldplay, she remembered thinking she was going to be raped and killed and Adam would never know…how she felt…
Joan stared at her hands that shook like trembling leaves in the wind.
You cut me down to size
And opened up my eyes
Made me realize
What I could not see
But she'd told him later that she loved him, at the hospital and gloriously, magically, he'd said it back. And now…but Joan could not look back up at the happy couple, not while her insides churned and withered. Oh, God.
"Joan?" Kevin had half-turned in his seat, watching his sister tear up. Luke glanced at him and they exchanged a short, slightly frantic look.
"Should I tell Lishek you're gonna be a little late?" Luke asked. Kevin punched him in the arm and Luke glared at him, rubbing the sore spot and then looked back to his sister.
"I'll drive you home," said Kevin, as if the matter had already been settled.
Joan looked up from her hands, out the window for one more painful glimpse, but both Adam and Iris had disappeared. Maybe they'd never been there, maybe her mind was playing tricks on her because he wouldn't do that to her, would he? He couldn't. Could he? Not Adam, not Adam who'd held her and begged for her to be okay, just last night. Not Adam.
But eyes didn't lie.
Kevin, interpreting her silence as acquiescence, turned the engine on. Joan felt the vibration of it travel up her spine. The drawing, which this morning had seemed unimportant in comparison to everything else, loomed up in her mind: that terrible likeness to her. He was still punishing her, he was still angry about Ascension.
There were so many things that she didn't know. Why she'd been attacked, who her attacker was, if God wanted her to find out, if she could ever look her mother in the eyes again… But this—this she could figure out. Adam was right there in the building, with all the answers to her questions. She'd be damned if she'd sit back and wonder when she could simply find out, not when there were so many mysteries already. Screw everything else, how dare he? How dare he tell her he loved her and then let Iris kiss him like that?
Joan opened the car door while it was still in motion and Kevin slammed on the breaks, his head snapping back to stare at her: "What the hell, Joan! You could've been—"
But she slammed the door shut on his answer and ran up the steps, her shoulder bag bumping against her side in her hurry. Her heart pounded in her chest. She heard Luke exiting the car behind her, running to catch up to her and she broke into a dead run.
She reached Chemistry class a full minute before Luke. Slightly out of breath, she leaned her head against the door for a moment and when she felt semi-recovered, she went in, eyes bright and determined. Absently, she apologized for her lateness with a quick, "Bus broke down," because her real excuse was very long and very private and she ignored Lishek's irritable response.
Amazingly, she got away with that.
She sat down between Adam and Grace, but she ignored the latter, turning directly to Adam. Joan opened her mouth to demand an explanation and was struck silent.
Adam was gazing at her, his mouth very slightly open, as he took her in with sheer adoration glowing from those eyes: those eyes that seemed to gain a simple pleasure just from her presence beside him and when he looked down at her mouth and bit his lip longingly, she didn't think she was capable of breathing, let alone speaking.
Then he broke the spell. His eyes flickered back up to hers, his eyes darkening with soft worry: "I didn't think you'd come," he whispered, "Are you okay?"
Scowling, Joan looked away, finding herself unable to be angry while looking at his face and she needed to be angry. If she confronted him while looking into his eyes, she'd cry and she wanted to yell and scream and shake him.
Luke suddenly appeared in the doorway, breathless and red. The class tittered and Lishek turned to him, quizzically: "Mr. Girardi, I'd hate to mark you down as tardy after such a supremely clean record…do you have an excuse?"
Luke paused, looking at Joan, who gave him a slightly threatening look. Adam looked from one to the other, his confusion heightening to distress. Grace sat back in her chair, slightly confused herself: it was rare that Girardi managed to look more irrationally angry than she did.
"I don't have an excuse, per se, or at least not one that I'm at liberty to…um," he glanced at Joan, who now looked murderous, though this had nothing to do with him, "…divulge."
Lishek nodded curtly. "Then I have no choice than to put a stain on your record, Mr. Girardi, what a shame." She waved her hand dismissively.
Luke went and sat down, frowning and Grace leaned toward him, since both Joan and Adam seemed totally engrossed with each other, in one mysterious way or another: "Hey! Atom Boy, what's up with everybody? I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone."
Luke just shook his head, looking bitter that he was passing up an opportunity to speak to Grace, when for once; she wanted to speak to him. But this wasn't his secret to tell.
Adam leaned into Joan: his breath tickled her ear and made her shiver pleasantly. "Please, Jane…tell me what's going on." His voice was thick with fear, wondering what could possibly make her seem worse this morning than when he'd left her at the hospital.
She looked at him and found he was no more than an inch away. Her eyes filled unexpectedly with tears. With a sudden sick wave of memory, she remembered being rolled off the sidewalk, remembered the taste of vomit and nearly choking on it. The sound of the man's raspy breaths and his erection pressed against her.
With cruel vividness, she remembered being helpless and alone until he, Adam appeared like an angel in the dark. His arms around her had held her tightly and as long as he'd been there, she felt as if her soul was still in place.
"Adam…" she whispered, feeling a tear roll down her cheek with that name she held so sacred.
His eyes widened, his mouth quivered and when his lips parted, she thought he would make an excuse, explain Iris away and she wondered if she'd believe him, if she could afford not to with everything else.
Instead, he closed the small distance between their lips and he kissed her, nipping at her lips till they opened as if of their own volition. A shock of pleasure went through her when his tongue entered her mouth. She felt his hand cup her face and she couldn't breathe as they kissed hungrily; both desperately seeking answers, both more in love than they could bear.
"Excuse me! Mr. Rove and Miss Girardi, while I too find the process of osmosis to be extremely erotic," Lishek said matter-of-factly, "I won't stand for this. Watch the PDA's in class, okay, kids?" And with a sarcastic little laugh, she added: "We wouldn't want to be separated, would we?"
Joan looked catatonic, completely thrown off by the kiss, and Adam shook his head, dark eyes on his Jane. "No," he said, clearly barely hearing the question.
Fortunately, the bell rang.
Joan walked out, still in tears, with Adam at her heels and Grace, though she hesitated, decided against following them. Instead, she approached Iris in the hall a few minutes later, wondering somewhat devilishly if there was any way she could find an excuse to mention Adam kissing Joan in the middle of Chemistry.
She leaned against the wall of lockers beside her and Iris glowered. Grace smirked: that was all the reason she needed.
"So…did you and Rove break up?" Grace sounded bored by her own question, let alone Iris' answer. But secretly she hoped they'd seen the last of the clingy, whiney Cousin It.
"No, we didn't 'break up'." Iris made quotation marks in the air and Grace deftly resisted the urge to punch her, "I dumped him."
"Ah. Well, see you around," Grace said with as close as she got to a smile and started to walk away, when Iris called after her, sounding squeakier than usual.
"Hey…um, could you tell Adam that I'm like, totally okay with getting back together if he's into it?" She blinked twice, Bambi-like.
Grace cocked her head to the side in mock-contemplation of this. "Hmm…I don't know, I. When Adam kissed Joan in the middle of Chemistry he seemed kind of preoccupied. But I'll let him know." With that, she turned on her heel and started toward English.
The look on Iris' face was priceless.
Meanwhile, Joan was crying.
Adam always hated it when she did that. Even when they were tears of happiness, just seeing her, wracked with an emotion that seemed to take her hostage, made Adam want to cry with her, or take away the pain, by feeling it twice as badly himself: seeing her crying and not knowing why was even worse. He didn't know what he was up against.
"Please, Jane…" he dropped to his knees beside her, where she sat on the steps outside school, her quiet sad gasps coming out in frosty clouds. "Don't cry, just… what do you need me to do?"
Joan looked at him, her eyes shiny and gleaming with accusation. "Are you still mad about me destroying your art?"
Adam's eyes widened disbelievingly, "No, no." He frowned, shaking his head and staring at her, "I forgave you for that."
She sobbed. "You're lying," she hiccupped, "you drew a picture of me with the folding chair a few days ago!"
Adam sat down beside her, his body seeming to give out. He put his head in hands. "Jane…"
"What?" she whispered, because her sorrows drowned out her anger pretty easily. He looked so miserable there beside her, with his head down like that, suffering her sufferings.
"Jane," He looked up, took her hands in his, threading his fingers through hers, "I didn't draw that picture. After sixth period Art, Iris started talking about how I…" he avoided her eyes but tightened his grip on her hand, "how I'm always staring at you and stuff. And I couldn't really…I couldn't deny anything, it was all true."
Joan leaned toward him, tasting his breath where it came out like a wisp of white mist in the cold air, "Adam, you…" she started to say.
"Shh," he whispered and put his forehead to hers, eyes closing. He sighed and she bit her lip, closing her eyes too, relishing the contact, a little overcome. Then he broke from her a little and his eyes were open as he said, softly, "I've been teaching Iris how to improve her sketching and she showed me…" his mouth twisted in remembered anger, "the one you mean. She threw it in my face. When what happened at the art show was…" Adam's eyes were so bright, so full, they were a caress on her skin, "It was between us," he finished.
Joan nodded, her forehead brushing his.
"She dumped me." His face broke into a smile.
"But you kissed her…" she whispered, eyeing his lips. "Today, on the steps, here."
Adam sighed, disentangling his hands from hers and cupping her face as he promised with eyes that didn't lie: "I didn't kiss her. She kissed me. I pushed her away, didn't you see that?"
Joan shrugged, tears running down her face, smiling. "Then you do…"
Adam nodded immediately, earnestly. "And you…" he gazed watchfully into her eyes.
"Yeah." She smiled lopsidedly.
A tremor went through him and with Adam so close, Joan could feel it herself. She closed her eyes, still smiling, all her pain and fear at bay for just one moment. For just one moment, the attack was far away, it never happened.
Adam leaned in carefully, almost with trepidation, as if he expected her to draw away. "Jane…" It was a sigh and his eyes were screaming all those contradicting things, confusion and longing, desire and fear, love and desperate, terrified hope. They brimmed in the hazel of his eyes and when she kissed him, he closed them, his heart hammering, his head light, his body trembling.
And when the kiss was the best they'd ever had—lip-to-lip, desperate and hungry and happy and filled with longing and life and promises unspoken—they weren't surprised. After all, she was Joan and he was Adam.
It was always meant to be this way.
At home that afternoon, Joan lay on the couch, a mess of emotion. She was still afraid, still sick with her doubts. But her heart was slowly mending. It wouldn't be very long before she'd be able to sleep without dreaming the attack or feel someone behind her and not feel terrified.
Today, she still felt the man just in the back of her mind and the demons at her heels, but she felt pretty sure that she would outrun them eventually. If not now, then soon or someday, with Adam.
The front door slammed open and Joan bolted upright. "Daddy?" she called, thinking she recognized his heavy footsteps among those she heard.
Then there was a crash in the hall and she heard a quiet, almost inaudible cry. Stiffening, Joan listened for a moment and hearing a suspicious silence, she picked up a phone, prepared to dial 911…
The line was dead. Her cell phone was at school, in her locker.
"Joan!" she heard her father yell, "just go up—" but he was cut off by another scuffle of movement, another sudden crash followed by that same soft cry and now she recognized it as her mother's.
A weird thing happened.
Joan went on autopilot, knowing three things only: her parents were in some kind of danger to the extent that her father sounded scared for her (definitely a bad sign) there was a man out there in the world who wanted to hurt her, her specifically, and she knew where her father kept his spare gun, the one he thought no one knew about.
Rising up quickly but silently, Joan padded from her place on the living room couch to the kitchen and reached into the back of a cupboard where she retrieved a gun and then made her way back to the couch, clicking the safety off and crouching behind it: all this she did in silence, in just a few moments.
Then something occurred to her and she stood back up, trembling head to foot but with a simple, straight-forward idea in her head: hurt the guy before he hurt them.
"I'm going upstairs, Dad, do you want something?" she called back and her voice sounded pleasant and cheerful. It was an ordinary, casual voice but anyone that knew Joan at all would know that something had to be up—Joan was a lot of things, but cheerful wasn't one of them.
Shaking, she pressed her back to the wall behind the door to the hall, holding up the gun and remembering when she'd first been taught to use it, at twelve: how disgusted she'd been when her uncle, a smiling Southerner who wanted to bring his moody niece out of her shell, had taken her out shooting…how completely sickened she'd been when she turned out to be a good shot and ended up killing a doe that looked just like Bambi. She'd cried three nights straight.
Joan sucked in a hissing breath and listened, feel panic slam out a beat in her chest.
"Honey…?" her father sounded strange too, pleasant but uncharacteristically so, and he emerged from the hall and was framed in the doorway, his eyes searching frantically for her. Joan had a feeling there was a gun pointed at his back. He didn't see her where she was hiding right beside him, armed and ready.
She motioned with her gun and he glanced at her from the corner of his eye without moving his head: his expression froze when he saw the gun she held in trembling hands.
His hands jerked a little toward her and she understood him: he wanted her to give him the gun. She reached slightly forward, her arm shaking so hard that she nearly lost her grip on it, her hand slippery with sweat, her mind screamed: quick, quick, before it's too late, before we run out of time and we're all dead.
Music drifted into the room from outside. It was Coldplay. The song was familiar; one that Luke had played again and again, one of the few Coldplay songs she knew word for word.
on, oh my star is fading
I swerve out of control
If I'd, if I'd only waited
I'd not be stuck here in this hole…
Joan hesitated. Somehow, she knew not to hand her father the gun. She couldn't be sure it was God speaking through Coldplay, or if the song meant for her not to give him the gun, that they still had time: she only knew what her instincts told her, and what faith whispered in her ear.
So she shook her head at Will, just once. He understood, his eyes widening in panic as he saw his daughter deny him what was, in his eyes, his only way out of the situation.
There was a low, evil whisper from behind him somewhere and the sound of it nearly made Joan's legs give out from under her: "Call her again," said the whisper and she knew it, she recognized it from the obscenities he'd shouted when the police had restrained him the night before.
He was back. He'd escaped.
The doorbell rang. When no one answered, it rang again. Joan suppressed a sob, pressing her lips together. There was a pause, and then an uncertain knock.
"Jane? It's me, Adam."
A/N: oooh, cliffhanger. Review if you want another installment, review lots if you want it soon…mwhahahahaha. Ahem.