Disclaimer: The characters and concepts in this story are the property of Stephen Spielberg, George Lucas, and their wonderful affiliates at Lucasfilm and Paramount. This is an amateur writing effort meant for entertainment purposes only.
Summary: A family's more than blood and bones. Part 11 – Nine months is a small price to pay.
Author's Notes: I apologize that it's been taking me so long to get these chapters written. My schedule is pretty hectic right now. I'm going out of town next week, and the week after that I'm back at school. Bear with me! I promise neither Anatomy nor Sleeping Dogs is going to land itself in fanfiction limbo. It's just going to be a little while before I find the time to write consistently. Thank you for being patient! I hope this instalment was worth it.
I'm kind of on a first-person stint right now. This time it's Marion's turn.
Sincere thanks to my beta, who checked this over despite her schedule. Your corrections and concerns are always appreciated, as are your comments. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this through.
"Okay," I tossed the dish towel on the counter, unable to ignore my pouting teenage son slumped on the bottom stair in the foyer of the house any longer. He had stared enough holes through the door for one day; I was worried he might get a migraine or sprain some of the muscles in his face he was focusing so hard. Approaching him, I finally posed the question I knew he had been waiting so desperately for. "What's wrong?"
"It's nothin'," he shrugged, every inch a greaser to the bitter end. The look of petulance on his face must have just been there for decoration or something. I folded my arms across my chest with a sigh. So we're going to play hard ball, I thought, rolling my eyes at the classic Mutt response. Okay, I'll play hardball.
"Nothin' looks a heck of a lot like somethin' nowadays, pup," I took a step next to him and gave my head a slight toss as a gesture. "Scoot over."
"I don't want to talk about it."
Which is clearly why you've been sitting in the foyer, in my ear shot, making as much noise as you possibly can for the past half hour, I wanted to scream, but I suppressed this, and my eye roll. Mutt was hard enough to work with when he was riled up over someone else. I didn't need him getting riled up with me.
"I never said I wanted to talk, I said scoot over," I gave his calf a little kick with my foot. "I wanna sit."
The look of indignation on his face was priceless. I wished I had the camera. But the look of hurt was painfully evident underneath it all; it always was with him. One glance into those eyes of his and you knew something was the matter, something deep.
He shrugged his shoulders so sharply he might have cut holes in the universe. All this to make it look like you're being forced, I nearly laughed, but managed to hide my amusement. You've been waiting for this since you stormed in the door, mister. Don't go pinning it all on me.
With a slight smile, I sank down next to him on the bottom step. He had left the front door open, I noticed, which was good. I needed to keep my mind occupied while we played this little game of his.
The game didn't have a title, but it didn't need one. It was something that was as old as the hills for him and I; well, at least as old as his disposition anyway, which I suppose was brewing about as he was growing inside me. When Mutt has something on his mind, we go through these same exact motions every single time. For a moment, neither of us says anything. We stare into space and I twiddle my thumbs as he mulls things over a little in his brain and finds the right words to describe the situation at hand. It take a minute or two of mulling for him to realize there are no better words than just words in general, that I'm his mother and don't need all the bravado, that he can just be whoever he wants to be around me and I won't think any less of him for it. And then, just when I think I'm going crazy from counting the number of tiles on the floor or making shapes out of the shadows on the wall, he finally breaks and just starts spilling his guts.
Today, I'm lucky. Beyond the front door, it's summertime. Bright sunlight and a perfectly mowed lawn (after days of reminding Indy that it needed cutting; he finally got the message when I accidentally left a stack of bedding on the couch yesterday morning). It was a perfect picture of summer bliss, and it was mocking the storm clouds billowing around my son. So long as I focused on that, the silence didn't bother me. I could have sat for two days just waiting for my son's patience to finally wear thin, which it inevitably did a second later.
He broke the silence with a little stomp on the floor. "It's Chloe, okay? I just…she can…I don't…GOD! She can be so selfish sometimes!"
Well, that's news to me. My eyebrow rises ever-so-slightly, enough to show that I was interested but not so interested that I would pry the answers from him. Cornering Mutt when he was in a mood like this was just asking for a tantrum, and I was not in the mood for that, not at all.
Inside, I was a little more interested. All Mutt ever talked about was how amazing Chloe was, how incredible she was, how stupendously, awesomely, brilliantly, beautiful and wonderful and superlative-in-general she was. I had been meaning to have the puppy-love talk with him eventually. I had been running through the words in my head, emphasizing all the important parts (like how it eventually comes to an end), but it looked like my time was up a lot sooner than expected. Worse, Mutt had found out for himself; which may have been the Jones's favourite way of learning, but I'm his mother - I have to hold out hope that particular genetic trait is receding.
Mutt finally noticed my eyebrow. "Okay, okay," he leaned forward and looked me straight in the eyes. "I met up with her at the library, you know?" Yes, I did. 'Library' becomes a redundant fact when discussing Chloe. "Anyways, we were walking over to the arcade to meet up with Tony and Claire, and we get to talking about the future and what we're going to do with the rest of our lives."
My heart sank through the floor, all the way to China. I didn't like where this conversation was going. I didn't like it one bit.
"We're talking about the usual stuff, right? She wants to move to New York, become some big shot editor. I want to own a garage, maybe travel a little, do a little treasure hunting, you know, if Pops ever gets off campus." Midterms – Indy's favourite time of year. "And then we get on the subject of marriage and kids, and that's when she tells me she doesn't want to have kids and that if it came down to a choice between a job and a family, she would take the job."
My eyes widened a little on that one, I think, partly because he managed to say that all in one breath and partly because of Chloe's confession. Those were some big words coming from a little girl, even a girl who used as big of words as Chloe. "She said that?" Mutt nodded and continued.
"I mean can you believe her? A choice between a job and a family? She didn't even hesitate! Not even for a second! A job is more important than anything else to her. More important than kids, more important than a future…more important than us? Than me? You know, she said we oughta break up if I felt this way?"
"Well, do you feel that way?" I asked seriously. He shifted uncomfortably under my gaze and refused to so much as glance in my general direction. "I don't know how I feel," he wanted to say, but he did know, I could tell. His eyes were telling me everything language couldn't, just as they had always done.
"I just don't understand how a job could be more important than anything," her finally muttered, "Especially m…us."
It was the briefest of sounds, the faintest hint of a consonant that didn't belong. I watched his lips close around it and drone the sound. "Mmm…" like he was appraising a taste. "Mmm…" like he was humming a tune. "Mmm…" like he was trying his hardest not to say, "Me."
I nodded, understanding. God bless Mother's Intuition and Abner's Brain. I would never have been able to learn Jones-speak without them. "This isn't about Chloe, is it?"
His silence was the only answer I needed. Everything else fell into place. If things had happened the way they were supposed to twenty years ago, we wouldn't be having this discussion right now. Chloe's decision would be something he could handle. As luck would have it though, things didn't go according to plan way back when, and every now and then, Mutt reminded me that as happy as he is, he still has a ways to go before the hurting stopped.
"You know, Mutt…"
"This isn't about Dad."
"No, it isn't," he declared, but for a moment, all he could do was consider what he had just said. "Okay," he finally relented, "It's not entirely about Dad."
It was about his dad, but I managed to keep this assessment to myself.
"I still can't believe she said that," he added.
"Well, I can understand it," I told him softly. "I may not know Chloe very well, Mutt, but it's obvious that she cares about you. And I think she genuinely wants you to be happy. Don't you think it would be more selfish of her to keep those dreams to herself? To lead you on into a relationship you might not want to be in?"
Mutt finally managed to meet my stare. He knew where I was going with this. He was a smart boy. He could read between the lines as well as anybody. What he knew he couldn't express, of course, not in words, but in those moments I saw the realization dawn inside him, and I felt my heart lift a little, rising back from its trip through the centre of the earth minutes before.
I placed my hand on his shoulder. He didn't even flinch. I had him there, my little boy; my little, wounded, baby boy. Okay, not quite 'little' and not quite a 'boy', but most assuredly not a man. I'm his mother; I would know.
"I think you're very, very lucky to be with someone who knows what she wants in this world, and even though what she wants is a little unorthodox, at least now you know."
He shook his head. "I hate knowing. I'm so sick of knowing. I wish I could just go back to not knowing. Ignorance was bliss compared to this."
I rubbed his shoulder, sighing deeply. Even I couldn't deny that.
Mutt brought his head to rest in his hands and stared at the floor, lost in thought. I kept watching his eyes, waiting for a sign that he was ready to let me in again. Just a little longer, I urged him mentally. Just one last time, and then you can go have a private breakdown in the garage.
"I really wanted it to work," he commented noncommittally. He could have been talking about anything – a broken record player, a new invention, his bike…anything else except this. "I really, really lo…"
The word died in his throat, and I was left to wonder which four letter 'l' word he was about to utter.
"Should I end it? Is that what I should do?"
It was…is impossible to describe how lost he sounded. I can only find the words because I remember them from two decades before. I remember discovering them the week Indy disappeared. I remember repeating them in my mind over and over for the next two weeks. I remember them sharpening to blades as my stomach started to swell. I remember the pain of their abuse as our baby took shape and came to life within me. I remember every wound they left on me, every scar that still remains.
But to this day I cannot remember the pain as clearly as I could then. Not after Colin, and certainly not after Mutt. In his own miserable way, Indy had given me happiness as a parting gift. Nine months was a small price to pay. Afterwards, I came up with another mantra, a better mantra, one that gave me the strength to carry on with the Jones of a son I'd been given.
I ran a hand down my son's shoulder and repeated the mantra to him. "There's still time. There's always time."
"But what if time doesn't change anything? What if she still feels the same way?"
"Then that's for her to live with," I told him. "You have to do what's best for you, Mutt. If she happens to be it, well, I guess you know what the answer to the question is."
"But what if she's not?"
His eyes were back on me. My little boy's big brown eyes. Wide eyes. Beautiful eyes. The eyes that gave me the mantra I just gave him. I tried to hide my smile and failed. Nine months was a small price to pay for my son's eyes.
I patted his shoulder. "Then she doesn't know what she's missing."
Happy reading everybody!