Disclaimer: still don't own it.
A/N: look at this! a chapter! see, i told you i wasn't going to abandon this. sorry for the long wait, and the shortness of it (usually i go for at least ten pages, but this one is only eight).
A/N 2: since i last posted i've gotten a new livejournal - to keep people updated on where i am in my stories, to post various writings that aren't worthy of this site, and to share with you what's going on in the lives of my muses. i'd love if you'd stop by and say hello. :)
(yourlovingfeta dot livejournal dot com)
Thank-yous: to last chapter's reviewers. LucyxInxThexSky, amatorius48, deadlyxTRENDS, rayychel infinity., and TakeMeOrLeaveMe2010 - i love you all. to those of you who have recently added my story to your favs or story alert without reviewing - you're also pretty awesome, and i'd love to have a review from any of you, if you're up to it.
When You Dance (Life Goes On)
Waking up in the morning was like entering a new world, one where your brother wasn't much of a mystery anymore, just a broken down lover who I would fix in any way possible. The two of us fit together differently; more tightly, with no space between us. Of course, you complicate things. You always do. It's part of why I love you.
Lucy catches her two lovers on their way down the stairs; it is Tuesday morning and they would never have gotten up so early if not for the persistence of Mrs. Carrigan. Neither of the boys has slept very well after their talk in the middle of the night, but both have managed to avoid having nightmares, for the time being. "You have an okay night?" Lucy inquires.
"Not too bad," Max answers evasively, sharing a look with Jude that his sister does not miss.
"Just thought I'd warn you," Lucy continues, "Mom and Dad aren't going to forget last night in a hurry. I think it's safest if we make a quick exit."
"Now?" asks Jude. He is all too happy with such a proposition.
"Well," she says uncomfortably, "there was one thing I wanted to do before we left. Ah… there's just an old friend I wanted to visit. You two can entertain yourselves for a couple hours, right?"
Max looks apprehensive but Jude assures her that it won't be a problem. They descend the steps, all three together, and enter the kitchen with apprehension written clearly across all of their faces.
"Judith!" Mrs. Carrigan greets warmly. "Good morning, good morning!" She smiles sincerely at him. "To you two, as well," she adds to her own children, a bit more coldly. "What a day. You have any plans?" When no one answers, she grins all the more brightly. "Splendid," she announces. "Maxwell, I was hoping you would do me a favor. You remember the Rigbys, who live next door?"
He does not answer.
"Well, I told them that you would go on a quick date with their daughter, Eleanor. You're supposed to pick her up in ten minutes. And Lucy – "
"I already have plans, Mom," Lucy cuts in quickly. "I was hoping you would drive me somewhere, actually."
"No problem, dear," her mother assures her without missing a beat.
"Ah, Mom?" Max questions uncertainly.
"I already have a girlfriend."
"Oh, that's not an issue," his mother tells him. "You had no problem cheating on her last night, you should be able to do so again this morning." A second or two later she puts a hand over her mouth in horror. "Jude, dear…" she begins unsurely.
He pretends to start in surprise. "Did you say something?" he inquires.
Seeming immensely relieved, the woman smiles at him. "No, no, not at all. Lucy, you said you wanted me to drive you somewhere?"
"Yeah, Mom, if you don't mind…"
"Why don't you all have some breakfast?" Mrs. Carrigan suggests, leading them over to the kitchen table and piling various boxes of cereal in front of them.
After a quick survey, Max appears distraught. "No Captain Crunch?" he questions in horror.
"Whatever will you do, Max?" Lucy teases, then adds, "It's probably for the best, anyways. I think the cardboard box is actually healthier than the cereal."
"I think I'll go pick that girl up," he says, sounding moody and just a bit annoyed. "See you later, alright?" He strides away without a word, and half a minute later they hear the front door slam.
Lucy waits until her mother has left the room to speak. "Did something happen last night?" she queries. "I thought I heard crying. But you know, it could have been Mom sobbing over her nasty incestuous children."
"No," Jude says carefully, "Max and I – we had a talk last night. Well, you know, he talked. I listened."
"He Talked?" Lucy inquires, clearly surprised. Jude can hear the capital letter.
Lucy gets a faraway look in her eyes. "I always hoped it would be me."
Jude shrugs. "I'm sure he's got plenty left to say."
I think I'm the only one of us who doesn't have secrets. You've both got hidden sides that you rarely let me see.
I'm just Jude.
The car ride is silent; as soon as Lucy announces their destination, Mrs. Carrigan knows better than to speak. As always, however, she an idea that she can't keep to herself. She pulls off to the side of one road and parks the car. Lucy looks out the window to observe a tangled mass of wildflowers and thorn bushes. "I thought it might be nice for you to bring him something," her mother suggests.
Lucy nods and leaves the car. She stoops in front of the flora and begins to gather blossoms, one by one, messily breaking the stems so that each is a different length. It's untidy, disorganized, and she wishes it could be perfect, but life rarely is. She curses at herself for forgetting to wear black. Reaching for another bloom, she scrapes her knuckles against a thorn, and lifts it to her mouth, tasting the coppery blood. The flowers she has dropped to the grass, and it is a moment before she takes her hand away from her lips to gather them up again.
She enters the vehicle once more, wordlessly, and Mrs. Carrigan starts the engine. In the five more minutes until they reach the cemetery, neither of them speaks.
When her mother parks outside the gates and makes to get out of the car, her daughter says softly: "Do you mind if I… do this alone?"
Her mother gives her a reassuring look. "That's fine, dear."
It takes her nearly ten minutes to find the grave; and when she reaches it, she kicks awkwardly at the grass in front of it before sitting herself down. She is silent for a few seconds, unsure of what to say; then settles with, "Hey."
She half expects him to answer, and so is mildly surprised when her greeting is met with silence. She bites her lip, fidgets, sighs. "I've still got your ring," she says at last, softly. "I mean, now it's supposed to represent this thing I've got going on with Max and Jude. But when I wear it… I think of you, too.
"Max and Jude… well, I'm assuming you can see us. And, you know, you were always old-fashioned, you probably don't approve. But I had to move on, you know? And they were there. And they love me. And I… I love them, too."
She sets the makeshift bouquet down in front of his headstone. She does not know what else to say. "Just because I don't support the war… doesn't mean… that I'm not proud… you did something brave." She drifts back into a restless silence. At last she murmurs, "I'm not going to forget you," and strokes the gravestone like she would a lover's cheek.
It must be at least an hour of stillness and quiet before she makes her way back to the car.
Your brother is the heart of us. We exist to complete him.
Max rings the doorbell with a martial briskness, no trace of uncertainty. The girl who appears in the doorway is older than he remembers her; her dark hair is twice as long as when they last met, and her neckline pleasantly low. "Eleanor?" he asks uncertainly.
"Yeah…" She blushes. "I'm really sorry about all this. Our moms set it up. It was not my idea."
"Don't worry." He puts an arm around her and guides her off the porch. "It's no problem at all… what did you have in mind for this date of ours?"
Eleanor shrugs. "Up to you."
Max grins. "Well, I have my dad's car and a wad of cash… so the sky's pretty much the limit. I hardly even remember what one does for enjoyment 'round here."
"Well," she says slowly, "the bowling alley's being renovated, or some such shit… what that leaves is: coffee from that place in the center of town, or we could egg or graffiti the school…"
Max grins as he opens the passenger door of the car, ushering her inside. He sits himself in the driver's seat. "How about both?" he suggests.
They reach the town center within moments, park the car, and get inside the coffee shop before Max realizes he has left all the money in the car. It ends up not being a problem, because he knows the woman behind the counter from sometime in another life, and he and Eleanor sit down to talk at a table in one corner with their free lattes in hand.
"So you live in New York?" Eleanor confirms.
He nods. "Best fucking city in the world… not that I travel much."
"I've been considering running away to there," she admits. "I should have started college this year, but I didn't get in anywhere I applied… I could have set my standards lower, you know, community college, but it's such a big fucking embarrassment, my parents can hardly stand the shame. I'd do better without them."
"A sound policy," he agrees mildly, sipping his drink. "You know, my old landlady has some couch-space… I'd totally vouch for you if you wanted to take it."
"Really?" She is grinning with a delight he has not seen since his engagement party.
"Of course… and I'd just be a street away. Lucy and Jude have got their own place, and I'll be moving in with them after the wedding."
"The coolest limey since Shakespeare… he's my best friend. Well, more now."
"And Lucy? Your sister Lucy, you mean?"
"That's the one."
"So which one is it that you're marrying… that guy, or your sister?" She says it jokingly, like she's sure she's misunderstood him.
"Both," he announces proudly.
She opens her mouth, and then closes it again. "You're serious?"
"I get the feeling your parents don't know about this?"
He laughs outright at this. "They've actually caught Lucy and me a couple times… that was pretty uncomfortable. But I'll tell you what; I'm bringing Lucy and Jude on a quick road trip, and then we'll pick you up on our way back to the city. You can come to the wedding yourself. Sound like a plan?"
What's that you said? Before any of this threesome business. You said that if ever we got married, it was going to be as far away from your relatives as we could get. Well, I had only met them once, then, and I thought it was a pretty good idea. That sentiment has now been increased rather drastically.
Jude has climbed out Lucy's bathroom window and scurried like a mouse up onto the roof, whose slope is gradual enough in the back that he can sit there with a sketchbook on his lap, pencil in hand, and stare around at the quaint neighborhood, to which he thinks he will never become accustomed. There are so many trees here – so many trees – he could never get used to it. He begins to scrawl away at the paper, something that resembles a cross between Lucy and a tree; uprooted, floating in the sky, amidst stars like diamonds –
"Judith! What in God's name do you think you are doing?" It is Uncle Teddy. Having heard stories of the man but never been alone with him before, Jude feels a rush of gratitude for his lofty position.
Unsure of what name he is supposed to call the man by, he keeps his answer vague and simple: "Drawing."
"Drawing? Art, you mean."
"I didn't know you were an artist…" An awkward pause. "Well, out with it. What are you drawing?"
That is an easy enough question. "Lucy." Her name seems to glow.
Uncle Teddy's interest appears to have been sparked. "Oh, really!" he exclaims. I don't suppose you'd think of selling it? Lucy's aunt and I have a collection of family portraits, and this would make a splendid addition: Lucy Carrigan, by her then fiancé Mr. Judith – what did you say your last name was?"
"Feeny, but – "
Uncle Teddy is not listening; he has already moved on: "We'll frame it in silver and hang it just below the grand staircase that leads to the mezzanine where my grandfather used to take his tea in the afternoon. It will require just a touch of blue to set off the silver frame and the gold in Lucy's hair…"
"Well, there'll be a bit a blue in it, 'cause we'll have ta' see the sky…" Jude mumbles, but still his fiancés' charming uncle pays him no heed, seeming altogether distracted by the thought of a new family heirloom. Jude scrawls a bit more on the paper, adding emphasis to Lucy's hair. He had planned to fit Max into it, but this no longer seems an option, and making enemies of his lovers' family is not an intention of his.
"Come on down, then," Uncle Teddy calls, heedless of Jude's discomfort. "Maybe I can offer a few suggestions; they always did say I was the artist of the family."
Seeing that he really has no other option, Jude carefully slides over the edge and climbs down to the window from which he had come; then, spotting latticework on the side of the house, uses this as hand- and footholds to scramble down to the ground, landing on his back.
Uncle Teddy watches this uncomfortable journey with eager eyes. He holds out a hand; Jude scrambles to his feet and presents his masterpiece.
There is utter silence for a moment, during which Uncle Teddy's eyes grow to twice their size and Jude realizes belatedly that the tree-Lucy in the picture is naked.
"What in God's name… we can't – we can't have this framed in silver and hanging beneath the master staircase! What the hell is it?"
Caught between artistic indignation and a desire to stay on the man's good side, Jude mutters, "It's, ah, Lucy… in the sky."
"I can see that. With… diamonds, apparently."
"Yeah, with diamonds." Jude hopes very much that the other man has caught on, but no such luck.
"Well this won't do – you'll have to change everything – get Lucy to sit for you in the parlor, where the sunlight comes in… let her wear some diamonds or something, for Christ's sake, you can't have them flying about like that, it'd give anyone a headache." There is another silence, in which Uncle Teddy seems desperately to try to process the image before him. "Reminds me of that 'modern art' shit you see in museums nowadays… maybe it was symbolic or something… you are the tree and Lucy is clinging to you for support, much as woman has cleaved to man throughout the ages?"
The obvious move would be to say "yes," and leave it at that. Jude, however, has always been protective of his art, and he cannot bear to let it rest. "Alright, picture yourself in a boat on a river…" he begins tentatively.
Uncle Teddy does not appear to hear him. He is still examining the picture and musing aloud to himself: "Yes, now I'm beginning to get it… the sinewy branches… the strength…."
"There are tangerine trees and marmalade skies," Jude continues, very slowly, as though speaking to a child.
"Of course!" the older man exclaims, not hearing the Brit at all. "A family tree… and the diamonds are its offspring…"
"And there's a girl, a girl with kaleidoscope eyes," Jude says intently, trying to get his message across.
A very smug Uncle Teddy has not heard a word of this. "You are drawing your future with my niece, and your place in her family," he announces proudly. "I understand exactly. Fabulous work, Judith, a true masterpiece. Name your price."
Your family are all cracked. Seriously.
They are armed with eggs – these being significantly cheaper than spray-paint – and have left the car parked nearby. The school looks a lot smaller than Max remembers it. He supposes that this is because he has seen far greater things since he has last been here. Class is in session, which makes their mission all the more dangerous.
"Suppose we should go for the unused classrooms, then," Eleanor comments.
Max makes a face. "Aw, c'mon, I thought you were a badass." Sometime between this pastime being suggested and the actual drive here, he has realized that school represents establishment and that establishment has screwed him over rather badly.
"Maybe if we came back at night…" Eleanor suggests halfheartedly.
"I'm not going to force you or anything," he says, and finds to his delight that after loading Jude with his story, or at least a part of it, he no longer feels the need to equate his every action with some aspect of the jungle, "but I feel the need for some entertainment, and petty revenge. And it would be really cool if you would help me."
In the end, they are quite cowardly; they toss one egg at the wall of the gym, leave the rest lying in the parking lot, and drive off. Max laughs. "I thought I'd had enough adrenaline for a lifetime," he affirms, "but man, that felt good."
His date seems just as pleased, until they reach her house. "I'll see you soon?" she questions.
"Promise." He smirks at her and departs.
He finds Lucy wandering through their yard looking rather dejected; nearby, Jude appears to be making some kind of business transaction with his uncle. As the older man is walking away, Jude approaches Max, waving a wad of cash and looking quite pleased with himself. After glancing around to make sure that Uncle Teddy is quite gone, and no other unsavory family members are approaching, he pecks an excited kiss on Max's lips and grins triumphantly. "How was your date?" he inquires teasingly.
"Fabulous." Max glances at the money again. "Whoring yourself out to my uncle?"
Jude slaps him, lightly. "Sold him a drawing. Of course, now I'm going to have to redo it, but I've never seen so much money in my life." He glances over his lover's shoulder. "What's up with Lucy?"
They approach her uncertainly; she appears to have been crying, but smiles warmly at them. "You ready to go?"
"Sure," says Jude.
Max perks up. "I was thinking we could take a quick roadtrip before we head back to the city."
"You know, since we don't appear to have a hell of a lot of parental support here, I thought we might check another source."
"That'd be a bit difficult to do without a boat, mate," Jude says, looking at his lover as though he's gone mad.
"Are all Brits such dumbasses? Princeton is less than an hour away. And I'd like to see some old friends, anyhow. We've just got to steal Dad's car, and we're all set."
That is exactly what they do. They gather up belongings in record time and pile them into the trunk. Lucy takes the backseat, Jude takes the front, and Max, fortunately not having returned the key to his father, is the driver.
As they pull off they hear Mrs. Carrigan calling, "Where are you going… darlings…" but they have sped down the street and out of earshot within seconds. Max being used to New York taxi driving, he finds no need to heed the speed limit; the resulting ride makes Jude slightly nervous, but this he keeps to himself.
Max begins to sing, first under his breath, then louder, some song about cars and driving that both Jude and Lucy find too ridiculous to join in:
"Baby you can drive my car,
Yes I'm going to be a star…"
Jude takes out a charcoal pencil and begins to scribble on the window, complaining each time they go over a bump. On the glass appears the hazy ghost of the picture now in Uncle Teddy's proud possession. Jude could happily never come into contact with his lovers' family ever again, but he is glad to have made his mark.
They round another corner, and leave the oppressive town behind. Between Max's song and Jude's exclamations of exasperation each time his makeshift work of art is damaged, there is no room for awkwardness or silence. Lucy snakes an arm over the back of Jude's seat and underneath his shirt, followed by her lips against his chin, making their way up toward his mouth.
Max looks over and complains that they are having fun without him. Jude tells him to keep his eyes on the road, and kisses Lucy back.