Lyrics used are from:
Sara Bareilles – City; Midtown – Give It Up; Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day; Empires – Under the Bright Lights; Red Hot Chili Peppers – Snow; City and Colour – Hello, I'm in Delaware; Empires – Valmont.
2700 words of Jack/Jordan Studio 60 fic.
'Cause these boys only listen to me when I sing
And I don't feel like singing tonight
Oh, the same songs
Here in these deep city lights
A girl could get lost tonight.
+ + + + +
And if you promise to forget
I'll try to find a way to make mistakes.
+ + + + +
Sometimes beginnings aren't so simple, she knows.
+ + +
She is being bold. She's being spunky, and she knows he hates it.
She has to remind herself sometimes that he's a good man, because occasionally she forgets. She wishes she wouldn't remind herself.
"Jordan," Jack says, disappointed again. "What are you doing?" He's behind a desk; he's always behind a desk and she's always on the other side.
"I'm pretending I only have a year to live."
"You're pretending that you only have a year to live," he repeats, slowly. He talks so much more slowly than everyone else around her.
"No, you're not," he says. "You're acting like you're never going to die."
He's angry, for some reason, when he should be cold and uncaring and smug. She thinks he has what's supposed to happen mixed up somehow.
"You're not pretending," he says, angry and not smug. "You're lying."
She looks at him, because every word to him is a lie, only he doesn't know it. "We work in television," she says.
"You can't live forever, Jordan," he says, and he means, You can't live like this forever.
"I don't want to," she says. And she means, I just want to live.
+ + +
He tells her about a new reality show. Sons and Mothers: The True Oedipus Complex. She fights the urge to laugh or to throw up.
"It's an instant hit," says Jack.
"It's despicable," she says.
"It's television," he retorts. "What did you think it would be?"
+ + +
Jack drinks orange juice the way other people drink scotch.
And if he also talks to her the way other people drink wine, well, she's not about to tell herself it means anything.
+ + +
They're always fighting, even when they're not. There's something to say about that, Jordan thinks, something about power and winning and the career ladder (and maybe, then, something about climbing ladders to stars, but she doesn't let herself think about that), but she's getting to be as tired as Jack's eyes, as set as the hard lines of his mouth.
But his collar is starched, and her hair is perfect, and he's angry and she's perky, so there'll be something on television tonight.
She tries to focus on the words coming out of his mouth, each biting and kicking its way out of him (he always speaks like it hurts, and she wonders if it's just because he always does), but finds herself focusing instead on just his mouth, on the jut of his chin and the hollow of his cheeks. His jaw grinds, skin tight over a seething energy. She doesn't know how he contains it. She doesn't know how he lets it out.
He's talking about product placement and ratings and schedules and people dying on TV. "Do you run?" she asks in the middle of a sentence.
"…and the – what?"
"Do you go running?"
He looks at her, and if she wasn't Jordan McDeere, she would look away.
"McDeere," he says slowly, "are you calling me fat?"
It wasn't the joke she was anticipating; it's more juvenile, less classy than she has come to expect. She's surprised into laughing, and he almost smiles.
+ + +
And the sun will set for you, he thinks.
+ + +
The problem is, she knows how this story goes.
+ + +
He rips into her about her past, as if she could change it now. He says things like "unprofessional," "disgraceful," "humiliating." She already knows this.
"What's this about?" she asks, and the words are edgier than usual. She breathes.
"It's about you," yells Jack, "with your –" he waves carelessly and deliberately, not saying what he means, not saying what they carefully don't say – "making this fucking company into a laughing stock."
"Is it about the network or about that I went to sex clubs when I was twenty-five?"
"What the hell are you – it's about both."
"How's your wife, Jack?" she asks, and there is suddenly absolute silence. Silence so she can hear the hum and crackle of electricity in the air. It feels like tension, but there's always tension and this feels different.
Jack says nothing.
"Why did you hire me?" she asks.
They are someone else's tableau, she thinks. Every object in the room is carefully placed, and they are a calculated distance apart but there is nothing between them. There is gray office carpet and she thinks someone is dying on TV.
"Jack," she says. "Why did you hire me?"
He turns and walks out, footsteps loud even on the carpet.
She doesn't remind him that it's his office.
He doesn't slam the door.
+ + +
Give it up, give it up, she thinks. Don't fall for mistakes that I've made.
Don't turn away.
It's not me you're waiting for.
+ + +
She is every bad cliché.
This, more than anything else, is what keeps her up at night.
This, more than anything else, is what stops her.
+ + +
It's a Tuesday night.
She doesn't know why that's important.
It's a Tuesday night, and at Studio 60, it's the night before the show comes together, and in the city, people are going home, and on the freeway, cars are crashing, and in the world and on TV, people are dying, and in Jordan's office, she is sitting on the desk, curling her hands into crumpled paperwork and getting paper cuts on her thighs.
It's a Tuesday night, and in Jordan's office, she is kissing Jack Rudolph.
His cufflinks knock against her cheekbones and her pencil holder is digging into the space below the small of her back. There is a thin strip of white skin encircling his ring finger, and his hand is encircling her upper thigh. It's all so Hollywood, she thinks, but it doesn't stop her this time. They are Hollywood – they are the face of it and the rotten soul of it, and it still doesn't stop her.
She fumbles with his belt and he slides her skirt up around her waist and she bites at his shoulder and he shoves two fingers into her and it doesn't stop, and it's just another kind of fight.
He rests his head against her shoulder as he slides into her, gentler than he has any right to be, and she pretends she can't feel his eyelashes flutter against her neck.
+ + +
The sun is too bright, and falls diagonally across her desk at the same angle Jack leans against doorways when he's trying to be nonchalant.
She knows this because he is leaning against her doorway.
"Come on," he says. "We're going for lunch."
"It's nine o'clock in the morning."
"Then we're going for breakfast."
"I have a meeting."
"No, you don't," he says.
"No," she says. "I don't."
He jingles his car keys in his pocket and she stands up.
For someone who has based her career on being rebellious, recently she's having a hard time saying no.
The sun's too bright in Jack's car, glaring up off the road and reflecting into Jordan's eyes from all the mirrors and the CD cases on the dashboard and Jack's keys. Jordan has forgotten sunglasses. She always forgets sunglasses.
"What are we doing?" she asks, squinting out the windshield.
"We're going to breakfast."
"That's not what I meant." A guy on a bike tries to cross the street, and a Prius almost hits him. It could be funny. Matt could make it funny.
"I know you know."
There's an awkward silence. Jack's cufflinks send shards of white light into Jordan's eyes.
"So what are we doing here?" she asks.
"I know what you're going to say."
"Do you, now?" asks Jack, and he's finally – finally – angry.
"I'm a pretty smart girl, Jack. And you know I am. So." She looks at him, for the first time. "What are we doing here?"
Jack pulls over and turns off the car. He rests his elbow on the steering wheel and leans the top of his head into his hand. "So, we just –" his remaining hand draws some vague pattern into the air – "assume the conversation already happened?" He's speaking into his shirt buttons. His voice is muffled.
"Yeah," says Jordan.
There are several long minutes of quiet. Jack raises his head and they watch L.A. go by.
"Now what?" asks Jack.
"Now," says Jordan, smiling a little and leaning back into the leather seat, "you take me to breakfast."
+ + +
There's a function, a dinner in New York, and Jack tells her to come. Books her a room, and then he goes home, because he can.
His house is empty.
She is not especially jealous.
The hotel room smells like a hotel room, which is true no matter how expensive it is to book a suite for a night. Jordan tosses her bag on the bed and passes the hours watching New York slide by forty-six stories below her.
She doesn't turn on the TV.
Later, there will be drinks and the clink of crystal on china, and waiters in tuxes and Jack sliding into the seat next to her, face uncomfortable above his bow tie. Later, she will be wearing a black Versace dress and silver four-inch Dolce shoes and carrying a silver metallic clutch. Later, Jack will sip his champagne too fast and stare a little too long at her neckline.
Later, she will be able to feel the heat of his hand as it hovers over the back of her chair as his gaze sends a matching heat through her abdomen and she will breathe in suddenly. Jack's stare will not shift from her eyes to her chest as it rises and falls, rises and falls, and he will pull her chair away from the table.
There will be a mirrored elevator where she will watch Jack kissing her neck, her shoulder, the corner of her jaw, and everything will be backwards. And suddenly she finds herself in her darkened hotel room, tripping over her high heels. Jack shoves her against the nearest surface to grapple with the straps of her dress, and the television flicks on against her hipbones before they collapse on the bed.
He slides her panties past her knees and she possibly rips a button out as she pulls off his shirt to start in on his belt. He pulls his boxers off and presses his chest against her own, and she whispers his name against his neck and imagines the breath condensing into the word "mistake" on his skin.
Mistake, she mouths against his jaw. Mistake, mistake.
Something is exploding on TV.
He thrusts into her and looks her in the eye (because he is a good man, she doesn't have to remind herself), but everything is suddenly slower. There are no paper cuts on the insides of her thighs, and this is no longer a fight. The lights of Times Square bleed through the window and ease the stress lines on his face, until he almost looks gentle.
The problem is, she knows how this story ends.
He is married and he is her boss. And she has a past that follows her around and bites at the most inappropriate times. They have a network to run, a network with an unsealed merger and falling ratings.
(And she is falling, falling against him, and he moans and she moans, and he whispers her name like the beginning of a fight and the end of a point, and she comes and he whispers her name again, and again, and again, and the problem is, she knows how this story ends.)
+ + +
There are people dying on the hotel TV.
Oh, don't you mind the war tonight, she whispers. We'll watch the sky exploding high.
+ + +
Hours later, they lay on the bed, tangled in the sheets.
Deep beneath the cover of another perfect wonder, Jordan thinks, and then she stops herself and turns to Jack.
"Why did you hire me?" she asks. They call doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result insanity. She wonders what they call fear. She wonders what they call ruining every good thing she's ever had.
Jack turns away from her.
There is a strict rule between them, unwritten: no touching except during sex, a last, desperate attempt to keep the halves of their lives separate. When she touches Jack's shoulder, hesitantly, she wishes that rule is the reason he turns back over and they fuck again.
She doesn't think it is.
She wonders what they call fear.
+ + +
L.A. is dawn sun to New York's twilight. In L.A., it is always midmorning and in New York, it is always midnight.
Jack's office is warm, and comfortable in a way it should not be.
"CBS is beating us with housewives from six to eight on Tuesday nights."
"You know how ridiculous that sentence sounds, right?" asks Jordan.
"Can we have some focus, McDeere?" Jack's voice is edgy, but this is nothing new. He stands, paces, walks towards her.
"I am focusing, Jack. But the world's not exactly ending over here, so can we…?" Jack is right in front of her.
"It's ending, a little bit."
"It's always ending a little bit where you are," she says, and by the time she finishes the sentence, she's whispering against his lips, and the sunlight is streaming through the window, and it's all she can see when she closes her eyes.
+ + +
"I had this dream the other night, about… I don't even know." Jack raises his hands, helplessly. This is a lie: Jack is never helpless. "Car crashes and moonrises."
He looks down at the surface of his desk and winces. The only reason Jordan doesn't raise an eyebrow is because embarrassment is radiating from him in pulsing waves.
"And the thing was?" Jack looks up again. Her eyes follow the lines of his arm, from his elbow on the desk to the hand on the back of his neck. "I couldn't tell the difference."
+ + +
She tries not to dream too much anymore.
+ + +
Jack drinks scotch the way other people drink orange juice.
And, she whispers to her office window, he talks to her like it means something.
+ + +
"I think I should quit my job," Jack says.
It's running on towards twilight, gray late afternoon light diffused through the rain and the soothing sound of water on windows. They are in Jack's office, and Jordan suddenly wants to touch him, to lean her head against his shoulder. She makes an abortive move forward and locks her hands behind her back.
"Yeah?" she asks, casually. She doesn't ask why.
"I got an offer," Jack says. "More money, a little more control over programming."
"You should take it," Jordan says, and she means, I can't be here without you.
"I was thinking about it," Jack says.
"It's a good opportunity," Jordan says, and she means, Please don't leave me.
"Yeah," says Jack.
+ + +
How many hearts will die tonight? he wonders.
But I will see you again, she thinks, even though there's no reason to, a long time from now.
+ + +
Jack resigns, and she stands in his empty office.
It smells like leather and scotch and him.
The TV is off.
+ + +
She takes her orders from a pouchy, graying man in cheap off-the-rack suits who always smells like cigars.
She has him charmed in under a minute, and she's almost disappointed.
It's a little sad.
+ + +
So damn tragic, so fantastic, she thinks.
To the great heights of vanity.
+ + +
After a week, she finds that she's angry more often.
The TV in Jack's old office is almost always off.
She drives in circles in the midnight dark and looks for the sun. It isn't forthcoming. She's unsurprised when she finds herself in a quiet neighborhood with sprawling houses and a cool breeze.
There's a blue, flickering glow in his window.
She rings the bell, and he answers the door in jeans and a white t-shirt. She is surprised into silence.
Jack looks at her.
She wishes she hadn't come.
He's barefoot. "What took you so long, McDeere?" he asks. He steps close to her, and his hands hesitantly find her hip, the small of her back, the side of her face. "Jordan," he whispers against her lips.
"Hi," she says.
The door closes behind them.
+ + +
She knows how this story goes.
This is not how this story ends.
It's how it begins.