Arcadia High Class Of 2006
by Sisterdebmac & TeeJay
Sisterdebmac's Author's Note:
We have a rule around here. There is a character who has remained nameless for the entire run of this fic. Until now. Ironically, I insisted on the rule. Because I was so sick of reading about it. And I wanted it not to be a factor for Joan and Adam five years on. I guess this is an attempt to lay it to rest, finally.
TeeJay's Author's Note:
This one was mostly written and conceived by Deb, but it was fun adding to it. And it was more fun seeing some of these beloved characters again. Okay, not all of them are beloved, you'll know what I mean when you read on. Enjoy!
Special Additions by Laura, who brought the funny in a troublesome scene. And Carol who took it even deeper. You guys have been so important to the recent evolution of Butterflies.
We'd like to thank all the readers of Butterflies and especially those who have reviewed it. Your comments make us want to keep pushing on even when it's hard.
Joan and Adam attend their five year high school reunion and God gives Joan her first assignment in months. One that she is not too happy with. One that stirs up old demons.
Rated R for sweet smut.
Genre: A little drama, a little fluff. Mature Audiences.
They're not mine... blah blah blah. Barbara Hall... blah blah blah. CBS... blah blah blah. With apologies once again to all of the above and to the actors for turning the God show into porn.
The banner over the door read:
WELCOME ARCADIA HIGH, CLASS OF 2006 – 5 YEARS AND COUNTING!
Joan and Adam stopped for a second and glanced at each other as they drew a breath, staring up at it. Then he smiled down at her and slipped his arm around her and she felt her strength return.
So why was He the first person she should run into after entering the high school gym?
Adam felt her slump against him just a little and he looked down at her, concerned. Her eyes were on that Marilyn Manson guy she was always talking to back in school. He volunteered to help with the reunion? Must be. He was taking tickets and handing out nametags at the door.
Joan stared Him up and down. He didn't look much different. Same spiky hair, same black clothes, black nail polish, black lipstick and eyeliner. Were there still Goths? Not something she had thought about in oh, say, five years.
She approached him sheepishly, glancing at Adam, who walked beside her, his arm still around her waist.
"Hi Joan," Goth-God said, holding out nametags that read, Joan Girardi Rove and Adam Rove.
She took them and handed Adam his. They put them on. "You? I didn't realize You'd be here."
"Why shouldn't I be?"
Adam looked confused by the exchange, but thankfully he said nothing. She would explain later, if she had to.
The line at the door was backing up behind them, so Goth-God ushered them on in. "I'd like to talk to you later," He told her.
"Of course You would," she smiled sarcastically as they walked away.
Grace was already inside with Karen. Standing to the side of the large room, the two of them were chatting with Luke. Both Karen and Grace were glad to see that he'd been able to drive down from Boston in time for the reunion.
Luke looked around. The gym felt somehow both alien and familiar. It was hard to think of it of the place where they had run around in sports gear to the butch commands of Coach Keady. Now, darkly lit with colored lights and mirror balls, balloons and banners decorating the corners, it was like a completely different place.
He took a sip from his beer. He noticed that Grace seemed to be a bit preoccupied and on edge. He watched her as she left the two of them for a moment, ostensibly to get some refreshments for her and Karen, but really to walk off some excess energy.
"What's wrong," Luke murmured to Karen.
"She's preemptively annoyed," Grace's partner told him. "She's convinced that Friedman's gonna be an asshole... you know, about us."
Luke laughed a little and reassured Karen. "Nah, don't worry. I called him last week and made him promise not to be a jerk."
Karen smiled. "Cool. I appreciate that, Luke. She came here tonight fully prepared to 'tear him a new one' if he pulls anything. What's his deal, anyway?"
"He's got the highest IQ of any idiot in the world. But it's been five years since we've seen him. He's married, he's even a dad. He's bound to have matured a little bit."
"Let's hope so." Karen saw Grace coming towards them from the corner of her eye. "Here she comes," she told Luke. "Let's see if we can keep her distracted."
Grace rejoined the two of them and visibly relaxed as Karen and Luke kept the conversation light. Her tension returned as they saw Friedman approaching their group. He still looked the same old Friedman. Curly hair that was just a little too long and unruly and clothes that, had it not been Friedman wearing them, would scream Salvation Army. But somehow, on him, they almost looked trendy.
"Hi, guys," he grinned, greeting Grace and Luke.
"Hey, Friedman. How's life in Texas?" Luke said, touching fists with his high school buddy.
"Couldn't be better! Hey, Grace. Great to see you! How's it going?" Friedman's manner was completely natural, betraying no traces of sarcasm or his old abrasive personality.
"Um... I'm great." It almost came out like a question as she looked at Luke, puzzled by the seeming normality of Friedman. She watched him glance at Karen and smile, genuinely.
"Who's this lovely young lady?"
"She's... my girlfriend, Karen," Grace responded defiantly.
"Ah," Friedman nodded, reaching out for her hand. "Enchanté," he said, bending forward to kiss it. He grinned at his old buddy and his old verbal sparring partner. "The Friedman still has a little conversational French in his arsenal," he winked.
Grace smiled sardonically. It wasn't smarmy. It was actually kind of cute. Good Lord! Had he really gone all human on them? He did seem like he'd grown up, but she wasn't sure she bought it. "OK," she said, "go ahead. Let's hear it."
"What?" he asked, in apparent confusion.
"You know what," she smirked. "Go ahead and say 'I told you so' or 'I knew she was playing for the other team'..."
Friedman gave her a sincere smile. "Are you happy?" he asked.
"Yeah," she responded, still waiting for the insults to come.
"Well, then I'm happy for you." It wasn't something she ever would've expected so she wasn't prepared to defend herself when he drew her into his arms for a big bear hug. While he was hugging Grace, he caught Luke's eye. Raising his eyebrows, he reached out his right hand. He rubbed his thumb against his fingertips in the universal gesture that meant pay up, buddy.
Luke rolled his eyes and withdrew his wallet from his pocket. Glaring, he handed Friedman a 50 dollar bill. Karen caught the exchange and stifled a giggle. Grace, at last convinced of his good intentions, patted Friedman on the back.
Joan and Adam approached their four friends, who were deep into their conversation.
"So, Friedman, what are you up to these days?" Joan asked him.
"Actually, I'm working for NASA."
Adam smiled politely. "NASA, huh? Impressive."
"I know," Friedman grinned.
"What do you do?"
"I developed a Space Waste system," he said with great pride.
"Basically, I get rid of space poop."
Adam made a face.
Friedman continued, unperturbed, "I guess you should know, the stuff on your car in the morning isn't always from birds."
Luke returned from grabbing another drink, "So, Friedman, what are you working on these days?"
Adam put a hand on his brother-in-law's shoulder and shook his head a little.
Luke took the hint and changed the subject. "I heard you had twins."
"Yeah, Isaac and Buzz."
"After Aldrin?" Luke asked, referring to the latter name.
"Lightyear," Friedman deadpanned.
Grace, Karen and Joan wandered around for a while until Joan spotted a young blond woman, talking to an older woman. Joan recognized her right away. "Glynis?" she asked.
Glynis turned around and smiled. "Oh, wow, Joan!" She hugged her awkwardly. Grace stepped back to avoid another unsolicited hug.
"Female Girardi, or should I say Female Rove," the older woman said, catching sight of her name tag.
"Ms. Lischak? Or Female Tuchman, so I hear," Joan smiled. "Are you still teaching?"
She nodded. "Chemistry and Physics."
"You mean we didn't ruin those for you?" Joan asked.
"Oh, no. Love of science can't be taken away by two years with a few surly students."
There was a groan behind them and they saw Price walk by in a neck brace, supporting himself with a cane.
"What happened to him?" Grace asked.
"Oh, he's principal now—"
"Say no more," Joan told her.
"I should go help him." Ms. Lischak, or rather Tuchman left and went quickly in Price's direction.
Joan turned her attention to Glynis. "So what have you been doing?"
"I'm a kindergarten teacher. I'm working to get my degree."
Joan nodded a little and then caught sight of her name tag. Her jaw literally dropped. "Friedman? You married Friedman?"
Glynis smiled. "Oh, yes. We have twins."
"That's right, Girardi, Friedman reproduced! Luke didn't tell you?" Grace looked about ready to throw up as she watched Glynis proudly pull out pictures of her little bundles of joy.
"Isaac and Buzz. Named after Asimov and Aldrin," Glynis explained with that same breathless energy she'd always had.
"Oh God. They're mini-Friedmans. Jew-fro and all," Grace said.
Joan quickly took the opportunity to sneak away from the group and head for the snack table. After surveying her choices, she grabbed a plate and started loading up various cookies.
"So, enjoying the reunion, Joan?" A voice beside her asked.
She looked up and saw Goth-God. "Sure. Aren't You?"
"Actually, I am. Very much."
"You're not here by accident are You?"
"OK, so what is it this time?" Joan huffed at Him.
"There's a nametag on the table over there that's going to be picked up very soon. Someone you really need to talk to."
"Is this an assignment?"
"You could call it that," he said knowingly.
"Who is it?"
"You'll know. Just remember how good things are for you. Not everyone is so fortunate." He smiled at her, a rare smile that almost looked out of place for his usual austere demeanor, and then turned away with a wave over His shoulder.
She watched Him walk out the door.
Half an hour later, when Joan returned with Grace from the ladies room, Joan's eyes scanned the room. Adam was nowhere in sight. They took a stroll around the gym, asking a few people along the way if they'd seen him. But he wasn't there. They waited a while, figuring he must've been in the men's room. He still wasn't back after fifteen minutes, and suddenly Joan had a thought.
She excused herself from her friends and walked down the empty hallway, around a corner to a door marked, "Roof - No Student Access". She tested the knob and found it to be unlocked.
Stepping out onto the roof in the crisp night air, Joan was hit by a flood of memories. He was here, just as she guessed he would be. He stood near the edge, holding onto the metal girders, staring out into the night. The door closed behind her with a thud and he turned toward the sound.
"Hey," she said.
"Hey," he smiled back at her, holding a hand out to her.
She moved in and took it. "What are you doing up here?" She threaded her fingers through his and stood by his side.
"We had some... good times up here."
"We sure did."
He leaned over and kissed her very softly, like he did all those years ago. Right here.
"I remember the first time I found you up here," she said with a sigh. "You told me you came here to get away from the noise and the people."
"And then it changed from running away from them, to running away to you."
She slid her arms around his waist and laid her head on his shoulder, feeling his arms close around her as well. "Hey," she whispered, smiling up at him. "Wanna make out?"
He answered her with a kiss and she instinctively pressed their bodies together. He deepened the kiss automatically. Until he wasn't pretending anymore and it was no longer the kiss of a young boyfriend, until it was the kiss of a husband. He knew she wanted him too when her hands went up into his hair and so his hands slipped down to her ass.
Were they really going to do this? If they didn't, he was going to be in trouble because his arousal was very quickly becoming irreversibly critical. And she could feel that as he squeezed her bum. Oh God, the idea was so exciting.
Their kisses became almost unbearably intense as he reached down to slip his hands under her dress. She felt his palms, flat on her thighs, caressing and squeezing as he pushed the dress up, up over her hips. His fingers were in the band of her panties now and they were being removed. All the while, he continued to taunt her lips with his tongue. She was losing her balance so she reached back over her head and grabbed one of the girders for support.
With her other hand, she reached for his belt. So adept was she at getting in his pants after a year of practice, that she had him released in a matter of seconds. He gasped when he felt her rub him against her wetness.
He couldn't believe it. Just downstairs, all their old friends were partying and catching up, and here they were sneaking off to be alone in their old make-out spot. Getting ready to christen it like never before.
"We used to get pretty hot and heavy up here," she whispered.
"Yeah," he sighed against her.
"Do something for me?"
"Fuck me now, the way you wanted to then."
Whoa! His eyes grew wide as he gaped at her. She was looking right at him, her pupils huge and dark, her lips inviting him to taste them. As she guided him inside, he devoured her mouth. She reached up with her other hand now and braced herself with the steel girder so that she could wrap her legs around him. Desire overwhelmed him and he held her tight and kissed her hard as he did just as she said.
"Oh, yeah," she breathed, holding on as he drove her near to madness with long, slow, deep thrusts. Her breath came out in rhythmic gasps.
And then he started to speed up. "Ahhhh-hhhh."
It was all just so deliciously dangerous. Anyone could walk in. And then what? Adam wondered. They were married, for God's sake. And it wasn't like they were really doing it in public. No one ever came up here. Well, someone was about to. He couldn't stop a tiny laugh from escaping him.
"What?" she asked, puzzled by his laughter.
"This is crazy," he laughed joyfully and held her tighter, never slowing, never missing a beat.
"Yeah!" she smiled, pressing her forehead to his as she came.
He wrapped his arms around her ass, holding her up as she threw hers around his neck and buried her fingers in his thick, dark hair. All it took was one hard, final push and he came, too. They breathed into each other as he gently lowered her to her feet, somehow managing to support most of her exhausted form with his own wobbly legs.
"You... make me so..." Adam sighed near her right ear.
"What?" She asked him with a very warm, moist kiss on his jaw.
"Happy," he sighed against her.
"I love you too."
Back in the gym, Joan rejoined Grace as Adam ducked into the men's room.
"Where the hell did you disappear to? I had to talk to people," Grace said accusingly.
"Sorry, uh, I went to find Adam."
"Yeah," Joan laughed. "Uh, he was..." she wondered if she should confide the little adventure of the Two-Story High Club to Grace.
"He was up on the roof," Joan said, giving her a kind of tilt of the head with a little eyebrow action.
It dawned on Grace pretty quickly, "OK, don't share."
"Grace, you're reverting to type here, going old school on me. You're not that uncomfortable with this stuff anymore."
She nodded and shrugged in gruff concession, "So... um, you actually got it on up there?"
Grace smiled in spite of herself, wondering where Karen was at that very moment. For a fleeting second she wondered if her girl might like a tour of the biology closet. Then she saw someone across the crowded gym that gave her a chill. A very unpleasant one. She couldn't pull her gaze from the curvy brunette in the designer dress. Her hair was way too coolly coiffed. From her sophisticated clothes and hairstyle to her professional mani-pedi, everything about her boasted of grooming that no one had ever known her to possess. She was damn near elegant.
Joan followed her suddenly silent friend's blank stare to its subject. "Who's that?" she asked.
"You don't recognize her?"
"No. Should I?" Joan narrowed her eyes.
"Yeah you should! She screwed around with your husband back in the day."
Joan did a double-triple-quadruple take. "No way!"
Grace nodded. "Talk about an extreme make-over, huh?"
"I'll say!" Joan whispered. "Wow. She's almost pretty now."
"And successful. She's had three books of her paintings published. Her stuff shows all over the world."
Joan was about to ask Grace why she knew so much about the little skank when Adam rejoined them then and wrinkled his forehead at their strange, frozen expressions. "What are you guys talking about?"
"Your... first," Joan choked out.
"My first what?" asked sweet, oblivious Adam.
"You know... your first lay," Joan clarified pointedly.
Adam looked to where they were looking, his eyes still in a squint. His face fell when he finally recognized her. Bonnie. "Oh. Uh... Wow," was all he could manage.
Joan and Grace both looked at him.
"She's... sure different, huh?" He fixed his gaze on Joan, softening, "Is this gonna be a problem for you? Seeing her?"
Joan looked at the other woman from so very long ago and then back at her husband. "Nah. You're mine now." She smiled at him.
From across the room, Bonnie turned and laid eyes on the subdefectives for the first time just as Joan pulled Adam in for a nice, long kiss, oblivious to Bonnie's attention.
Adam and Joan stood at the bar, waiting for a fresh round of drinks when they suddenly heard a familiar voice from behind. "Joan. Adam. You made it, too."
They both turned around to face Steve Ramsey. Adam hadn't seen him since he left high school after he was arrested, but he looked about the same. He just nodded as Joan said, "Totally. Wouldn't want to miss this freak show. Would you?"
"Not for the world," Steve chuckled, and Adam was pleasantly surprised at how open and friendly he seemed now. Joan was right, it did seem as if he had changed a lot for the better.
Steve looked from Joan to Adam. "I saw Joan, what, three months ago at that conference? She told me you two were together."
Adam lifted his left hand, to show his wedding ring. "We're married, actually."
"Yeah," Joan said, indicating her nametag.
Steve lifted his eyebrows when he read it. "Wow. Congratulations are in order. Here, let me get your drinks," he told them just as the bartender put a beer bottle for Adam and a wine glass for Joan onto the counter. Steve paid for them and handed the drinks to the two of them. He looked at Adam, "I guess the beer is for you?"
Adam nodded and smiled at him. "Thanks. I hear you're not doing so badly yourself. You're a—"
"Joan?" came a familiar voice, cutting in. "Joan G-Girardi?"
Joan turned towards the voice, recognizing the person right away. "Scott. So glad you could make it."
"Y-Yeah, I flew in from Con...necticut."
Joan had to hide a smile. She was so glad to see him. She'd heard he was working for a big news site and she wanted to hear all about it. She lightly touched Adam's shoulder. "Excuse me, honey. I'm gonna go talk to Scott."
She looked at Ramsey. "Steve, we'll talk later."
"Sure," he nodded. And she was off.
Adam turned his attention back to Ramsey. "So, you're a social worker now?"
"Yep. Guess I kinda found my calling."
"That's great," Adam said. "I'm glad things worked out for you."
"Yeah, you know," Steve hesitated for a moment, "I did a lot of stuff I'm not proud of. I was mad at the world back in school and I was such a dick. Bullied people and all. I wailed on you once, didn't I?"
Adam absent-mindedly touched his lip, even though that incident was years in the past. He gave Steve a small smile. "Yes, you did. But I think I was much more upset about Joan going to that dance with you, and running off with you, than I was about a fat lip and a sore gut. I thought you were stealing her away from me, you big mook," Adam nudged him. "I didn't know she was—" Oops. He froze. What was he about to say? Working for God to save your hide?
"What?" Steve asked, encouraging him to finish his thought.
Adam only shrugged. How could he explain?
Steve saw the wall going up so he let Adam off the hook. "Hey, I didn't even know you liked her, man. Not that it would've made any difference. I was out of my mind that night."
Adam gave him a conciliatory slap on the shoulder, "Forget it. It's in the past. Let bygones be bygones. I believe people can change."
"Yes, they can. But, see, I don't wanna forget about it. Things changed for me that night. Joan saved my life."
"She... she does that," Adam said very quietly, relieved that he didn't have to expand any more. Ramsey already knew all he needed to know, that Joan had been his angel once. And that was enough.
Even over the din of the party music, Steve caught what Adam said. He simply nodded.
"How did you get invited to this anyway? You weren't exactly part of our graduating class."
"I still had to go to school in lock-up. After I served my time, I lived in a halfway house, got counselling and did the summer GED program here. We all got invited to the reunion, which was pretty nice of the school really. Most of us didn't deserve it."
"How'd you get into the social work thing?"
"My probation officer enrolled me in a state program at Arcadia Community College. I did two years there and then went into a paid internship with Maryland CPS. Nowadays, I work for Hogan County DFACS," Ramsey explained.
"Very cool," Adam nodded.
"Joan tells me you work for a design studio?"
"Yeah, Liquid Designs. Actually made partner earlier this year."
Steve whistled, clearly impressed. "Wicked. Congratulations are in order again, I suppose."
"Well, it's not like it was my ultimate goal when I started working there, not in my wildest dreams. It just kinda happened. But the money's good and I like the work so I'm not complaining." And maybe it was the influence of the two and a half beers Adam had already, but he asked Steve a little bluntly, "So, no female company for you tonight?"
Steve smiled a bit ruefully. "Nah, no one's on the horizon right now. Although..." he scanned the room, "quite a few women here I wouldn't mind dating."
Adam chuckled. "I hadn't really noticed. My hot chick radar's been switched off since I put on the ring."
Steve gave him a good-natured thump in the chest. "Come on! Getting married doesn't mean you stop looking at women."
"You'd think!" Adam teased. They both laughed and it made Adam remember when they were kids. They had been great pals then. But around the time his mom died, Adam remembered Steve growing sullen and angry, lashing out at anyone and everyone. In his own agony, Adam had not been able to reach out to him. So they drifted apart. It was a shame too because Steve had been pretty cool up 'til that time. Years later, Adam learned that the trouble started for Steve when his mom married a man who had no interest in raising her son as his own. And Steve's dad had moved to the other side of the country and started a new family. No wonder the guy had become so lost and full of rage.
But now he really seemed to have turned his life around. Adam made a mental note to give Steve his card so they could get reacquainted. Maybe they could go out together some time. Hell, he might even fix Steve up with one of his single colleagues from the studio.
"If you don't mind me asking," Steve said, "how exactly did you and Joan get together? Last I remember from high school, you guys weren't even talking to each other."
Steve shrugged. "I've got time."
Adam didn't know if he really wanted to go there, but he supposed he could give him the Reader's Digest version. "Well, the first time we got together was shortly after the semi-formal. We were together for about a year, then we broke up. We kinda stayed friends when we went off to college. I mean, we always tried to stay in touch, you know? Didn't always succeed. Then I came back to Arcadia two years ago, and we saw each other once in a while, got together with Grace occasionally. You remember Grace?"
"Polk? Yeah, sure."
Adam nodded, continuing. "It was pretty casual, but there was always, like... this connection, you know?"
He didn't, actually. He'd never experienced anything like what Adam was describing, but he nodded as if he understood completely.
"Then, last year... well, we sort of found each other again."
"Sounds like quite a roller coaster ride."
Interesting choice of words. "Man, you have no idea," Adam smiled, thinking of some of the more adventurous experiences he'd had with Joan since they got back together. He was accumulating stories to rival Brody's. Except he'd never been the type to share the intimate details of his love life the way his buddy was.
There was a short pause in the conversation before Steve asked, "So, how's your dad doing?"
The question hit Adam a little unexpectedly, and there was that tiny jolt of pain in his stomach, but he swallowed it down quickly. How was Steve supposed to know? Adam's voice was more sombre as he said, "He, uhm..." He had to clear his throat. "He died last year."
Steve's expression was immediately compassionate, even a little embarrassed. "Oh Jesus, I'm so sorry to hear that, man. He was a real nice guy."
Adam gave him an encouraging smile. "He was."
"Can I ask what happened?"
"It was a stroke, he died very suddenly, at work. I know it's only a small comfort, but at least he didn't see it coming, wasn't in pain or anything."
"Yeah..." Steve sighed, not knowing what else to say.
"One good thing came out of it, though," Adam said in a hopeful tone. "I was kinda lost when it happened and, I don't know, the only place I could think to go was to Joan. She was really there for me, pulled me through it. We've been together ever since. Guess you need to take your tragedies and cherish your blessings, huh?"
"Definitely. I'm glad you guys are doing so well."
Just at that moment, out of the corner of his eye, Adam spotted Bonnie just parting with a threesome that she had been talking to for the last fifteen minutes. To Steve, he casually said, "Uh, can you excuse me? There's someone I need to talk to."
Steve's eyes wandered to the woman Adam was looking at. He didn't recognize the pretty brunette, but she made him wonder a little about Adam's supposedly switched-off hot chick radar. "Okay, sure," he said.
"It was good to see you, man." He moved away from Steve and slowly approached Bonnie. Her back was turned to him and he walked up without being noticed. "Uhm, can I get an autograph?"
Bonnie turned with a slight start at the sound of his voice. She could hardly believe it. "Adam!" she said, genuinely glad to see him, even though she was absolutely certain he had always hoped she was long gone.
"In the flesh," he smiled awkwardly.
Was he being... nice? "I wondered if you were gonna speak to me," she said with a sheepish little glance into his eyes.
"Felt wrong not to," he said honestly and shrugged slightly.
She nodded. That was Adam. Giving him a quick once-over, she said, "You look great."
"You too," he told her, and he meant it. "Grace tells me you've taken the New York art scene by storm. Congratulations." He meant that, too.
"Thanks," she smiled at him, and it was a beautiful smile that really lit up her face. She didn't look so much like a broken doll anymore. She was simply a pretty young woman now. "What about you? What are you up to these days?"
"I made partner this year at Liquid Designs. You know, the big studio over on Harvard and East. I'm the youngest one ever, in fact."
"Excellent. What about your stuff? You still do that?"
"Yeah, sure. It's in the blood. I've had a few shows... Nothing like what you've done, though."
She watched him shrug like he didn't really want to talk about that so much. Was he a little... jealous? "I've been lucky," Bonnie said, carefully. That wasn't what she was really curious about anyway. "So... you and Joan? How'd that happen? After, you know... everything."
Adam looked down, then back at Bonnie, trying to focus on where he and Joan were now, not where they were then. "We... kinda went through hell to get here."
Bonnie involuntarily looked down at his hands. She had always liked Adam's hands, even for the short time she had known him. The silver rings he used to wear were gone now, replaced by a glinting gold wedding band. "Wow, you're married?" she blurted.
He followed her gaze, then lifted his hand and wriggled his fingers a little. "Yeah," he said, looking at the ring. He loved Jude's bands, the weight and the feel and the bond they signified. "We got married just last month, but we've been back together for about a year."
"And you're—? I mean, you seem really ha-happy."
"I am," he smiled, recalling his words to Joan on the roof only a short while before. "We are," he corrected.
"I'm glad..." Bonnie sighed, looking down at her shoes. "It's kind of a relief."
"That you're together after all."
Adam drew her eyes to his, locked her in. "I lost her for five years because of you." It sounded harsher and more accusing than he wanted it to, but those were years he would've given almost anything to spend with Joan, years he could never get back. He couldn't help but still be bitter about that sometimes. About how Bonnie once told him, back in high school that she had targeted him because she wanted to lash out at Joan.
"OK, I guess I deserve that," she acknowledged, forcing herself to maintain eye contact with him, as hard as it was. Her eyes filled with tears, but she sniffed them back.
Watching her, he knew she had been right, all those years ago, calling him an asshole and an easy mark.
He was an asshole. Maybe she came on to him, but he'd made a choice. It was the worst one of his life, the one that still stalked him in his weaker moments.
Drawing in a breath, he knew he needed to finally talk about it with her. "Look, I know it was my fault, too. But I never would've even... thought about that... I just liked your art and I thought you were a cool person. I would never have hit on you. Ever."
"I knew you wouldn't. I knew that part was on me. I never came on so strong with anyone. I never had to... We both knew it was wrong. And we both did it anyway."
"Yeah." She hit the nail square on the head. That was the thing that haunted him still.
She briefly looked away, toward the others, his friends, his wife? Wow. Then she focused on Adam again. If they were talking openly, she might as well be candid after all these years. "I lied to you when I got mad and said that I never liked you. I knew who you were way before we met. I always liked you. I know it's ridiculous, and I had no right, but it hurt, the way you treated me."
"I know," he acknowledged flatly, impassively. He hadn't just hurt Joan with his behavior, he'd hurt Bonnie too. And he had never really considered her feelings in any of it.
She nodded. She hadn't expected an apology from him. Did she deserve one? "We're different people now," she said. "Maybe we're better?"
"We're better," he agreed. And then he stopped for a second and amended that, "Or trying to be."
He stuffed his hands in his pockets and glanced away and then back at her, trying to figure out how to say what he knew he needed to say. "I did treat you like shit. And I'm sorry."
She was so stunned, she couldn't respond.
"I really am."
Still speechless, she merely nodded.
"So, are you... with someone, or...?" he asked tentatively.
"My relationship just crashed and burned actually. He was too controlling. I was over it. Don't ever be like that with her, OK?"
He laughed a little. Who could ever control Joan? "I couldn't if I wanted to," he admitted. Besides, her unpredictable nature was one of his favorite things about her.
"Good." Bonnie said with a friendly smile. Glancing over to where Joan was standing with Grace, the smile gave way to a more troubled expression. "Do you... do you think she'd talk to me?"
Adam looked back at his wife and his best friend, hesitating a moment. "I don't know. Want me to ask?"
Bonnie nodded slowly. "It's cool if she says no."
"Let me see what I can do." He thought about touching her arm encouragingly. At the last moment he realized how weird that would be. He turned around and walked over to join Joan and Grace.
"There you are," Joan chirped at him. "Finally managed to tear yourself away from her, huh?"
He gave her an almost condescending look. "Jane, it's not like that."
"I know." She sobered quickly.
He looked at her, intense, with a dumbfounding question in his eyes. Could she possibly ever agree to this? "Actually, she's... she's asking for something. A favor."
Joan had to fight to keep from snorting. "Oh. She's asking me for a favor?"
His voice dropped a full octave as he looked at her. "She wants to talk to you."
He shrugged, looking back over his shoulder at Bonnie. He hadn't asked. "Is that really my business?"
Joan shrugged. "What if I don't want to talk to her?"
"I don't know... She said it was okay if you didn't want to. It's totally up to you." And then he remembered something a really nice woman told him once. "I guess that's why it's called a favor."
She didn't respond. Didn't budge.
"Jane, you can finally say whatever you need to... It's time."
Movement in the background caught her eye. She watched Goth-God walk across the room, close to where Bonnie stood, as if He was trying to remind Joan of something. So this was it, huh? Bonnie was her assignment? Again? That had worked out so well the last time, hadn't it? Oh, this was just ridiculous. So He wanted her to talk to Bonnie. Why should she?
Joan looked across the room at her again—standing alone, probably having spoken to all seven people she knew during her whole high school career. Pathetic. What could she possibly do for this girl who had stolen so much from her?
Stolen? She still had the subdefectives, for the most part. And she had Adam. Forever. Who did Bonnie have? Could that be what He meant? Joan knew she was very fortunate. No denying that. She sighed and finally whispered to Adam, "Okay."
"Yeah?" he asked, seeking out her eyes to make sure she was really okay with it.
"Yeah," she answered, looking back at him reassuringly. "Now. Before I change my mind."
Grace, who had only observed as her two best friends negotiated this weird powwow, gave Adam a pointed glare as he watched Joan walk over to where Bonnie was now talking to Hank Kroeger. "You really think this is a good idea?" she asked.
"Grace, we're all grown ups here."
He didn't answer, but the look he gave her said it all.
She was in no hurry as she made her way over. By the time Joan reached Bonnie, she was ending her conversation none too subtly with Hank. Joan remembered Hank as the Quarterback jerk who had taken over the varsity team in their senior year. Joan watched Hank move on to some other currently unattached former trollop.
Trying to sound casual, Joan said, "Hey," but it came out very stiffly.
"Hey," Bonnie responded, turning her full attention to Joan but remaining reserved.
Uncertain where to start, Joan awkwardly said, "So you flew in for the reunion from New York, huh?"
Bonnie nodded and cleared her throat, fiddling with her fingers in front of her. She said nothing.
Odd, Joan thought. But then she got it. Bonnie was nervous. This must be a pretty big deal for her, daring to show her face here.
"Joan, um... This is probably gonna sound really hollow to you, and I don't blame you if you tell me I'm full of crap. But I need to say it. When I heard about this thing, at first I didn't really give it a second thought. I was miserable here. Why would I ever wanna come back? But then it started eating at me."
"The fact that most of my misery was of my own making," she said matter-of-factly.
Joan had no answer for that. She was sure it was true. But then wasn't that the case for most people?
"I—I really wanted to talk to you and Adam... It's kind of why I came here tonight."
"Yeah, that and throwing your success in everyone's face," Joan said snarkily.
Bonnie almost laughed. Joan was certainly right about that. "A little," she acknowledged.
After a breath, it came out in a flood, everything she had been going over in her mind from LaGuardia all the way down to BWI. "What I wanted to say... is that I'm really sorry about what happened in school, what I did. It was a pretty shitty time in my life. I hurt a lot of people. I know it's too late to make amends. I don't expect that, or anything, from anyone. I just want you to know that I understand the damage I did to you..." A chill washed over her and she shuddered. "I'm so sorry."
She met Joan's eyes, not sure what she would find in them, adding, "And I uh, I wish you guys the best." Having said her piece, she turned to walk away, maybe a little afraid of how Joan would react.
Joan was completely surprised by the mini-speech. It certainly wasn't what she had expected. She thought she might get a lame, cursory, mono-syllabic apology. She never dared imagine a seemingly heartfelt expression of empathy and remorse.
Before she could get too far away, Joan called out to her, "Hey... Bonnie? Thanks... And, um, congratulations... on all your success."
Bonnie turned and smiled at her, not breaking her stride, walking backward for a step or two. And then she disappeared into the crowd.
Joan rejoined Grace, who was just basically standing there gaping. Adam was off talking to Luke and Karen.
"Well?" Grace asked, eyeing Joan skeptically.
"She apologized. Said it was the main reason she came here."
"And you buy that?"
Joan looked toward the area where Bonnie was last seen. She finally spotted her, at the coat check, collecting her long, elegant leather duster. "Look, she's leaving. Guess she was serious."
Joan almost burst into laughter when she saw Steve Ramsey stop Bonnie near the door. She watched him smile and shake her hand, turning on all the charm she knew him to have. He could be a very sweet guy.
For half a second, she wondered if Bonnie was still easy. And if maybe Adam had told Ramsey about her. Bonnie spoke to Steve for a moment and then very politely shook his hand again and left. Alone.
"Poor guy," she whispered to herself.
"What?" Grace asked, looking from Joan to what she was watching.
"I think Ramsey just hit on Bonnie."
"You're kidding. How messed up is that?"
"Who knows? They might actually have stuff in common."
"Yeah, maybe too much. You wouldn't seriously wish her on anyone, would you?"
"Not really up to me," Joan said scrunching up her nose a bit. She glanced around the room, looking for Adam as she wondered, "Man, how did she get to be so polished?"
"You mean clean," Grace specified.
"Dude, her publisher got her a life coach or something, so she'd be publicly presentable. Doesn't necessarily mean she's any different on the inside."
Joan shrugged and her eyes finally fell upon her husband. It was all just too strange. "She seems different." Was that why God wanted her to talk to Bonnie? Everyone could change, right?
"So she apologized... You forgive her?"
"I didn't say that... I think I might need a little time to process this. But, I mean, yeah, maybe I could... We were kids. Kids screw up."
Adam turned and saw Joan watching him. He excused himself from Karen and Luke, and walked over to where she stood with Grace. But he didn't say anything.
"How did it feel, seeing her again?" Joan asked him.
He shrugged, but he knew she'd never let him off the hook that easily.
"Come on, Adam."
Grace, as always, would rather be anywhere but in the middle of the Girardi-Rove freak show. "Later," she said, jumping at her chance to escape to the safety of Karen and Luke's company. She almost laughed. Hanging with her lover and her ex-boyfriend was less awkward? Yep. It was.
When Adam didn't say anything, Joan cocked her head and gave him a glare.
"What?" he replied. "I don't know. It was really weird. I hoped I'd never see her again. I thought it would feel rotten. But we actually kind of cleared the air a little."
"Yeah. What about you?"
"I didn't ever want to have to see her or think about her again either," she said. "I don't know how I feel about it. I've deliberately pushed it away, forced myself not to remember, ever since we got back together. But that's part of our history, isn't it?"
He nodded sadly.
"Still, you know, in the grand scheme of things, it just doesn't matter anymore. It was a million years ago. We were kids. I love you with my whole heart and I know you love me just as much. That's not in question." She looked him in the eye very seriously. He nodded at her and smiled, urging her to continue. "I don't know... I think... I think I'm starting to feel a certain amount of... closure. I guess... I'm glad everyone turned out OK."
His smile never wavered as he simply nodded and said, "Yeah, me too."
"How much have you had to drink?" Joan asked breathlessly as Adam kissed her lips and her neck, pushing her against the wall as soon as they were inside the door of their house.
It had been ages since they did this. Since one or the other of them was so urgent. She pulled him in, relishing his affection, as always. He pushed the door shut and rammed her up against it with his whole body as he did so. Then he suddenly stopped and looked her directly in the eye. She felt him, already rigid and ready against her thigh. Ooooh! What in the world was this?
She had driven them home since Adam had a nice little beer buzz going. What had he been thinking about over there in the passenger seat along the way that he would be so turned on?
At the moment, she couldn't really be bothered to care. She pulled him tighter still and suddenly neither one of them could wait to get upstairs.
He turned her around and backed her up. Before she knew it, she was on her back.
He took her right there on the sofa. They barely even got their clothes out of the way before he was inside her, his hands kneading her ass and pulling her hard against him.
She was in ecstasy, pushing back against him with equal fervor. But she couldn't match him. For once, she couldn't nearly keep up with him. It was a hell of a lot of fun trying though.
All too quickly and totally without warning, he exploded.
He collapsed on her and she held him tight, didn't want to let him go, sever their connection. He sighed in her ear as she did so because he had to. "I'm sorry," he said.
"Hey," she said, taking his face in her hands and drawing him back to look in his eyes. "Don't apologize," she smiled at him, moving her hands down now and sliding them under his shirt to feel the skin of his bare back, still holding him inside. "It feels so good when I make you come. I love it."
"Shhhh..." she kissed him. "It's okay."
He acquiesced, but she watched his brow knot up like he was troubled.
"What?" she asked. "I didn't... make you?" Somehow, it felt awful when he rolled off of her and sat up. And he hesitated in answering just a few seconds too long. "Wait, was that... because of her? Because you saw her?"
"She was better at it than me."
"Oh God, no," Adam said, scrunching his face up as he leaned toward her. "Look, you got that all wrong. What happened with her, it—" he struggled to explain, "aside from the fact that I was actually having sex, there was nothing sexy about it."
She seemed a bit skeptical.
He softened, looking at her, and wrapped his arms around her again. "Jane, if it's not clear when I make love to you that I'm making love to you, I'm doing something wrong."
"No!" she said instantly, touching his face. "You so are not."
"Get this straight, OK? Nobody is better than you. You're amazing."
"Because you love me."
"Sure. But also, you're an incredibly sexy woman. You knock me out. I mean, wow! Sometimes, you just make my brain like rotate around in my skull."
She giggled at his weird imagery.
"You wanna know why I got so, um..."
"Wow, really?" He'd never thought of himself that way before.
She nodded. He had been, indeed. "Totally."
"Remember what you told me to do on the roof?"
Again, she nodded, a smile spreading across her face.
"It carried over."
Ah... That made sense. "OK," she whispered, snuggling up against him.
"We went back there to that place, and we conquered it, you know? We christened the roof," he grinned shamelessly.
"Yeah," she grinned too, her whole body remembering it.
"We faced down a demon together and gave it leave."
"Yes, we did."
"Being back in that place, I don't know... it showed me... I'm a different person, Jane."
"I guess I just feel like... a grown-ass man, as Jamal would say. Finally."
She laughed and he did too.
"And just now... I was overwhelmed. Because I have you," he said, pulling her tight against his body. "You're all I ever wanted and you're mine. My wife. My heart."
"Baby?" she murmured, snuggling closer to him.
"I think maybe we faced down more than one demon tonight," she whispered.
He took her hand and held it to his face, then kissed her palm. "You and me, we're all that matters," he sighed.
The gentle reverence in the gesture made her quiver. "Mmmmm, honey, you keep that up and I'm gonna have to overwhelm you again," she whispered.
He pressed the tip of his tongue into her palm, kissing it again. "Promise?"
"Oh, you need to come here right now." She pulled him over on top of her, wrapped herself around him and sought out his lips.
Before he was even aware that he was ready, he was inside her again. On his back, reaching up hungrily. Together, they removed her dress so that he could cup and squeeze and caress her gorgeous breasts. She tickled his lower abdomen with her fingernails because she knew it drove him crazy and she rode him long and hard, lying down on him and covering his face with her hair when they were both on the edge. He rose to sitting and held her tight as they fell into an ecstatic rhythm and then finally slipped over the cliff, together.
They collapsed against the sofa pillows, Joan lying halfway on top of Adam.
All doubt obliterated.
And the past finally relegated to the place where it belonged—the past.