In It For The Money

by TeeJay

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Author's Note:
This is for D. Cory Turner and Mike Mayer as much as it is for Chris Marquette, Aimee Garcia, Shannon Lucio, Chris Lowell and Riley Smith. Thanks, guys, for bringing a movie to life in a way that made me want to explore its universe a little further. Carl and Suzy, you are the cutest couple on the movie screen that I've seen in a long time! Chris and Aimee, again: thank you.

For anyone who doesn't know the movie Graduation, I'm not sure if this'll make a lot of sense to you. Besides, why haven't you watched it yet? Go get your butt down to the nearest video rental or DVD store!

Thanks to Deb for the beta-read!

Synopsis:
This is what's happening with Carl and Suzy that you didn't see on the screen—or at least my version of it. The first scene is right after Carl takes Suzy to see his mom in the hospital before they're off to Prom.

Rating:
PG-13

Genre:
Romance, Drama, Het

Disclaimer:
These characters and settings are not mine, nor am I claiming they are. They are property of D. Cory Turner, Mike Mayer,
Blumhouse Productions, Blueline Films or whoever else they might belong to. I'm not making any money out of this, although I wish I was.

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She was waiting for him at the end of the hallway, and, God, did she look gorgeous! Carl quickly wiped at his right cheek where a lone tear still clung to his skin. "Two more days, Mom," he had told her. Their plan better work, or else he wouldn't know what he'd—

No, he couldn't go there, not tonight. Not with a beautiful, smart, Iggy Pop-loving woman waiting for him to take her out and show her a good time.

She met his eyes when he approached her, and he could read in hers that she didn't know what to say.

"Come on," he mumbled and they walked towards the elevators.

She lightly touched his arm. "You wanna...?" She pointed at the visitor's restroom to their left.

He just nodded and went inside.

Leaning over the sink, he splashed some water on his face, drying it off with a scratchy paper towel. Catching a quick glimpse at himself in the mirror, he wasn't sure what he saw. But he didn't want to dwell on it, because he knew that if he did, the tears would come.

He turned on his heels and met Suzy outside.

In the elevator, she stole a glance at him. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, sure."

She just nodded and another awkward silence followed.

He lifted his head and looked at her. "Look, I know what you wanna say, wanna ask. But can we please not talk about it? Not tonight."

She surprised him by kissing him squarely on the lips, like she had done that night that he made Vegan Frito Casserole for her when they had snuck into Value Basement's lighting section.

His hands went up automatically, but before he could touch her, she drew back and grinned at him. "This prom isn't gonna suck, like mine, right?"

"Not if I can help it."

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Prom seemed like a lifetime ago, and Suzy didn't know why she suddenly remembered that weird dance with Carl. The one where everyone had gently swayed to the slow song, and Carl had just taken her hands and swirled her across the dancefloor as if they were dancing to a Stooges rock song.

A sharp breeze whisked a strand of her hair into her face and she woke from her reverie, standing in front of the police station. They had debriefed her for hours, or at least that's what it felt like. A quick look at her watch told her it had barely been two hours since she had gone to the bank in the morning and walked straight into the robbery in progress.

As she opened her purse to look for her car keys, she noticed something she'd forgotten having stuffed in there: Carl's t-shirt. His infamous Iggy and The Stooges original tour shirt. He had proudly shown it to her the night he had taken her home with him. A small smile spread across her face. He was a bit of a geek—but in just the right way. It was then that she realized she needed to see him, needed to know that he was all right.

Suddenly she wondered why she was looking for her car keys, her car was still at the bank. She looked around for a cab.

The ride to the hospital was strangely calming. Carl's t-shirt still in her hand, she paid the cab driver before she exited in front of the main entrance. At the reception desk, the lady told her she couldn't find any records of a Carl Jenkins in the system, but that it often took the admin staff a while to update newly admitted patients in the software.

Her next stop was the emergency room. Maybe he was still being treated. Or maybe at least they could tell her where she could find Carl and if he was going to be okay.

A middle-aged nurse showed her to a curtain area, which they found empty when she drew the curtain aside. She said, "I told him to wait here until the doctor was back."

"So he's all right?"

"Looks like he's up and runnin', don't it, young lady?"

She ignored the sarcastic comment and turned to face the nurse. "I think I know where he is."

The nurse glared at her. "Yeah, if you find him, bring him back down here, will ya?"

Suzy was already on the way to the elevators.

The air in the oncology department seemed just a little heavier and the gray linoleum floor just a little more colorless up here. It had already intimidated her the first time, when Carl had taken her to meet his mom. She still remembered Mrs. Jenkins' pale and lifeless face in her hospital bed. Even in those few minutes she had spent there in the doorway, she had seen how much it hurt Carl to see her suffer like that. It broke her heart to think that there might be nothing they could do for her.

She found the room she was looking for, and for a moment she feared the worst. The door was closed and the curtains were drawn shut. Hesitantly, she knocked on the door and opened it.

Carl's back was turned towards her, and she immediately took in the white bandage around his right shoulder. He was here, he was okay! Relief flooded her.

The noise of the opening door made his head spin around, and Suzy was surprised to see hopefulness on his face rather than sadness or desperation.

Carl couldn't believe it. "Suzy," he whispered. He got up, maybe a little too suddenly, because a shooting pain went through his shoulder. It didn't matter, she was... "You're here."

"Yeah," she said, smiling an uncertain smile. "I wanted to know if you were okay."

She took a step closer, and what she really wanted to do was to hug him, but thought the better of it and let her arms hang limply at her sides. When the t-shirt she was holding grazed her skirt, she suddenly remembered.

She held it out to him. "I... I hung onto this for you. Your tour shirt, I know how much it means to you, and I knew you'd want it back. I mean, it's kinda bloody and it has two holes in it now and—"

Suddenly, his lips were on hers and for a split second she didn't know what to do. Before she could decide, he drew back and all she could do was stand there and look into his eyes.

He looked a little baffled. "What's wrong?"

It all came back to her, that night in the home furnishings department, with all the lights around them. "You just kissed me."

He understood and smiled at her. "You want me to do it again?"

She leaned in and their lips met in a sweet, soft and sensuous kiss. Her body momentarily tingled and she had to pull back to catch her breath.

"Carl," she mumbled and they both took a step back.

At that moment, Mrs. Jenkins stirred in her bed, murmuring something, drawing both their attention. It only lasted a few seconds and she lay still after shifting her position slightly.

Suzy watched Carl's brow furrow in worry. "Is she gonna be okay?"

"Yeah. I mean, I hope so. They're gonna do a bone marrow transplant, once we find a suitable donor. That should help a lot."

A transplant? Wait, he couldn't afford that. Or had something changed? She had so many questions, but she figured they could wait. "And you?" She gestured at his shoulder. "Will you be okay?"

He nodded. "Yeah, it was a through-and-through, just some minor damage. It'll be sore for a while, but I guess I got lucky."

"Do you have to stay in the hospital?"

"I'm not sure. I kinda... I bailed from the ER when they let me wait for half an hour."

"Actually, the nurse down there told me to take you back there if I found you. Let's go find out."

He nodded, taking a last concerned look at his sleeping mother.

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He looked exhausted, she noticed, the way he was sitting on her couch, stroking her cat in his lap with his good arm.

She carried the two mugs filled with coffee into the living room and put them on the couch table. She smiled at him. "I see you and Asheton have already made friends."

"Asheton? Really?"

She shrugged. "Yeah." He was the only one she knew who would get that it wasn't referring to Ashton Kutcher.

"So, did you spay her the other day?"

"What?" It was such a bizarre thing to ask.

"In the bank, when I asked you out, you said you were gonna spay your cat."

She laughed, suddenly. "Oh. Uh... she's actually a he."

Why were they talking about her cat when there were so many more important things to say?

It had been such a strange day. They had convinced the doctor in the emergency room to release him into Suzy's care. Originally they wanted him to stay overnight for observation, but Suzy had insisted she would take him home with her and monitor him closely. Where else did he have to go?

She sipped at her coffee, relished its bitter taste on her tongue. As she put the mug back on the glass table top, she said, "Carl, I... I guess I should thank you. You know, for... saving my life."

He looked at her, his eyes alert and maybe a bit shocked. Had he not realized he had done so? "Yeah, I... uh—" he stuttered.

She sensed he was uncomfortable, but she needed to know. "What happened in there? You broke in to steal the money to save your mom, didn't you? Jackson said you did it for your mom. I mean, I get that." Her voice suddenly went up a pitch. "But, jeez, I can't believe you actually did that. What if... what if someone else had come in? Would Chauncey have shot at that person too? And there were all these SWAT guys out there. You could have gotten killed, all of you! I mean, what the hell were you thinking?"

"It wasn't supposed to go down like that," he muttered.

"No, I bet it wasn't." She couldn't hide the bitterness from her voice. Did it matter now? He was okay. Hurt, but okay. They all were. She softened. "You said your mom was gonna get a bone marrow transplant. How?"

He swallowed, but he knew he couldn't hide it from her. He didn't want to, especially after what she had done for them. So he told her everything—their plan, their preparations, the break-in. And eventually he told her about Great-uncle Manfreddy's bequest.

"So, what now?" she asked.

"I'm gonna have to get that money from the safe deposit box." He fingered the key around his neck. "I... I think I should talk to Polly."

"I think you should rest. Tomorrow's another day."

He nodded, suddenly realizing just how tired he was.

Suzy suddenly got up and went to her DVD shelf. "Hey, uh, why don't we watch a movie. You know," she pulled a DVD from the row of cases and showed it to him, "for old times' sake." It was the movie Tank Girl.

"Sure," he said simply.

Asheton purred loudly in Carl's lap as if to give his approval as well.

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"I'll wait over there," Suzy said, stopping her green Nissan across from Forge Hills National Bank and Trust.

He nodded wordlessly and got out of the car. Polly was waiting for him in front of the café they had pulled up next to.

Suzy watched the two of them entering the bank, Carl still wearing the gray sling that immobilized his shoulder. She pulled out into the road to park the car on the curb around the corner from the bank.

The bank was going to be closed for a week to fix the damage the fire had caused in the vault and the water from the sprinkler system had caused in the lobby. All the employees had been given the week off, including Suzy. It made her a little uncomfortable that she was being celebrated as a local hero of sorts, having saved the hostage that had been shot by the perpetrator. Little did anyone know that they couldn't be more wrong in their assumptions.

She was still trying to process the last few days. Her life had taken a turn for the... she didn't want to say good, because it had been good before. Unexpected, maybe. She never would have thought she would want to hang out with Carl Jenkins again. She never would have thought they would go back to their secret hide-out. She never would have thought they would make love below the tree again, and proclaim their union by carving another mark into the tree trunk. She never would have thought she could ever be a willing accomplice to an act of criminal offense either.

The passenger car door opened and Carl got in, putting his bulging, military-green bag on the floor. He closed the door and leaned over to give her a quick peck on the mouth. He was smiling, all the way through the kiss and all the way afterwards. She started the engine and drove towards the hospital. Uncle Manfreddy would save his mom.

And not only that, Uncle Manfreddy had also given her something that she hadn't felt in a long time: A tingling sensation in her belly that she thought could very well become true love.

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THE END