Title: Saving Face
AUTHOR: Laura H fried_flamingo
FANDOM: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
CATEGORY: Character POV, D/J
SPOILERS: Season 1, up to ep 10 B-12
Hugest thanks in the world to salr323 for her beta, as well as coloneljack for
The cap of the bottle pops open without resistance, no satisfying rush of bubbles towards the neck. She sips and the coolness hits her tongue, soothing her raw throat as she swallows. For a moment, despite how sick she’s feeling, Jordan wishes it was something stronger than water.
Wouldn’t that just complete the image, whispers a voice, wouldn’t that just give the ‘talk amongst people in the industry’ extra juice for a couple more weeks.
Not that she’ll be around for the pay off.
Her eyes burn suddenly and she knows it’s not just the flu, so she takes another sip of water, bites her lip and tries not to think about it. Down on the floor the show’s just wrapping up and she’s vaguely aware of music coming from somewhere. She tries to remember what musical guest they had on tonight, but her thoughts swarm and sputter through her aching head and the name escapes her.
‘I used to be good at this,’ she thinks. ‘I used to be able to name the fifty top selling artists in the country without blinking.’
You used to be good at a lot of things, kitten. Time was you coulda shot a reporter down at a hundred paces and still left him thinking he might wanna marry you. Remember when you were good at that?
But then it had never been about her before. Stupid stupid stupid. A hairdresser and a cockfighter? Was she serious?
Jordan looks out across the now familiar set and tries to think of a time when she hadn’t been here. When the faded art deco studio hadn’t felt like home.
Maybe it had been her fault from the start. Maybe she’d been too blinkered, using Studio 60 as the yardstick by which to measure every other pitch that passed through her office. Was it wrong to want shows that didn’t appeal to the lowest common denominator, that didn’t bear names like 'Dude, Pimp my Grandma'? Was it a mistake to prioritise art over revenue? Was it even possible to compromise?
Studio 60 had been her hazing, her trial by fire. Wes had left her with a big ol’ barrel of manure to clean up, but every instinct she’d had told her that this show was worth it. That it could marry creative excellence with popular appeal. This was the one. Her standard bearer. Her baby.
Her chain of thought jars at the image and, once again, she realises how stupid she’s been.
The lights on the set seem too bright and it’s a struggle for her to stop the water in her eyes from overflowing and running down her cheeks. Looking around she takes in the sleek geometric shapes of the studio, shapes whose flowing lines are punctuated by cracks in the plaster, formerly bold colours now washed out and jaded. Tarnished glory surrounds her and it saddens her in a way she finds difficult to explain. Her Fortress of Solitude. But this wasn’t a comic book and she was certainly no superhero. What had made her think she’d find comfort here?
A week ago she’d thought she was in control. Sure the ground was a little shaky but she knew could still steer it right as long as she kept a clear head. Just one week earlier and she’d been in this very office, waxing lyrical about budget cuts and debt to equity ratio. The independent woman on the fast track to the top. Now it’s a lifetime later and she’s pregnant, unemployed and ‘independent’ suddenly reads as ‘single‘. She thinks that maybe it’s time to just rent the trailer, stock up on boxed wine and call it a day.
The song’s still playing and it seems like there’s no end to it. The words, though, are hazy and indistinct and Jordan doesn’t have the energy to concentrate on what’s being sung. Movement on the floor attracts her attention and she looks down to see Danny heading towards the stairs. Her stomach shifts and she wonders if it’s panic or…
Think about it later. Think about it later.
As he climbs the staircase he’s gone from her sight for a few seconds and suddenly she’s lost, like she doesn’t have an anchor; she’s just treading water and waiting for the sharks to circle.
The sharks were circling from the start, cupcake. Now you’ve given them their first taste of blood.
She knows he’ll want an explanation, want to know why she allowed herself to make such a royal mess of things. Jordan pictures the disappointment on his face and for some reason this, more than anything else, makes her want to cry. She was the reason he was here. She forced him into this and now she’s not going to be around to see it through to the end.
You still talking about the show, kitten?
And suddenly he’s there, walking through the door and he’s smiling like he doesn’t know. For a second she baulks at the prospect of him not knowing, of her having to confess the whole sorry story of what she’s done. She imagines that smile disappearing from his face when he discovers what a big fat screw up she is.
Why would he want to keep you here? He’s got enough on his plate without having to deal with a hysterical female who got herself knocked up and then single-handedly destroyed her career. What, you think he’s gonna be your champion in this?
For a moment she clings to the vain hope that she can pass off the moisture in her eyes as just another symptom of this crappy flu, but she knows he won’t buy it. He’s too smart for that.
“What’s up?” he asks and his voice is so damn gentle she wants to scream. Let him be mad, for God’s sake! Let him yell at her and tell her what an idiot she’s been. That’s she’s jeopardised everything for the sake of one-upmanship. For the sake of winning an argument with a stupid reporter who, by next week, would be printing a story about Britney and her marriage to the guy who details her Prius.
Jordan takes another drink, trying desperately to swallow the sob that’s found its way into her chest and makes a play for small talk.
“Hi, I just got here. Was it a good show?” Her lips form the question but five seconds later she’s forgotten what she asked because she’s partly listening to the song and partly thinking about how much her head hurts. Danny’s saying something about the show, how it got crazy, but the music seems louder now and between that and the buzzing in her ears it’s difficult to hear.
Her vision clouds and she turns away, unable to look at him, searching for a point on the wall on which to focus, looking for a way out of a situation she’s just not ready for. It would be so much easier if he got mad. A shouting match she could do right now. That’s something she and her warring hormones could handle with ease. But it seems pleasantries are the order of the day and she wonders whether that’s part of her punishment too.
Those tears are going nowhere, baby.
So she turns back and tries to play nonchalant but he’s looking at her like her soul’s been spread out right there on the cherry wood coffee table, like he knows every fear that’s passed through her mind in the past twenty-four hours. Even worse than all of that, he’s looking at her like he’s her friend.
And for a second she thinks how easy it’d be. Let the tears flow, watch him flap as he tries to soothe the crazy pregnant woman, listen to him tell her it’s all going to be alright. Let the man take care of everything and make the nasty, mean old network go away.
But that’s not how this is going to play out. She hasn’t been that person since she was 16 years old and that’s certainly not the Jordan she wants him to know. So she stretches a tight smile across her face and makes an attempt at indifference.
“I screwed up so bad.”
“No, you didn’t.”
Words are tumbling out of her mouth and she thinks that, yes, maybe she truly has lost control.
“I fell into every stereotype…”
“… every cliché…”
“You were funny!”
“… of what happens when a woman is…”
Her voice hitches and she’s glad because it acts like a firebreak and stops her talking before she says too much.
“What?” He has this smile on his face, like all this is nothing, like he admires her for what she did and the dismal thought, she realises, is that this actually makes her proud.
“I was hormonal.”
Shut up, shut up!
“What are you talking about?” He’s still not listening and she wonders, momentarily if she actually spoke out loud or if she just wishes she had. And still that song is playing.
Danny’s saying something else now, something about the internet but Jordan’s still thinking about the revelation that almost spilled out just then and how, when eventually she does say the words, more things will change than just losing her job. His words mingle with the mellow voice of the girl on stage as the tune floats through the speakers and she knows he’s trying to be supportive but it’s difficult to muster anything other than a half-hearted smile. Her head hurts more than ever and she wishes this song was over, wishes this night was over.
He raises his hand and there’s something scribbled there - a quote, he says, from an online post, praising her for what she did and Jordan laughs at the sweetness of the gesture and also at its futility; wonders what the chances are that dilbert27 is the CEO of TMG. She feels light-headed, on the cusp of laughter and tears, like she’s at the top of a cliff face and all she has to do is take one step over the edge.
“Oh hell,” she says, aiming for detachment, but falling short somewhere along the way. She decides it’s time to leave; let this world turn without her for a little while, whatever will be will be and all that crap. So she stands but suddenly the room’s too hot and the music’s too loud and she’s aware of every single bead of sweat running from her hairline down the back of her neck and instead of making it to the door she’s heading for the carpet. She’s falling, falling and has just enough presence of mind to brace herself for the impending collision with the floor…
…which doesn’t happen. Seconds pass and she knows someone’s holding her because she can feel arms gripping her gently lowering her to the floor but only one thought runs through her mind like the glaring red LED of a news ticker.
Why didn’t you try and protect your stomach? Why didn’t you think about the baby? What sort of person… what sort of mother are you?
And that’s it. The word her brain has been avoiding ever since that little stick turned blue. She’s going to be a mother. She’s going to have to make decisions for another human being when she couldn’t even make the right decisions for herself. For a second, in the fog of semi-consciousness, she’s struck by the most bizarre recollection of a refrigerator magnet her sister had enclosed with her last birthday card.
WHERE AM I GOING AND WHY AM I IN THIS HANDBASKET?
For a moment the arms around her make her feel warm, like an eiderdown comforter on a cold morning. She feels like sinking into them and going to sleep.
Lucidity snaps back like ice water and she realises with a start that it’s Danny who’s holding her and this situation is seven kinds of wrong and, oh my god, that damn song is still playing. Jordan’s hand moves to his shoulder, partly to push him away, she doesn’t need help, she can stand up on her own. But there’s another reason she touches him and she knows that’s not a place she can let herself go right now.
In calming tones he talks to her, trying to soothe her and his hand is on the back of her head, stroking his thumb once, twice across her hair and she never wants him to leave her but wishes desperately that he would just go away.
“I’ll get the nurse,” he says and she concedes to this because it’s not just her health she has to think about now.
“She’s gonna give you a B-12 shot.” And this is the moment she’s dreaded. The moment where it has to come out. She can’t let them give her that injection but what if she passes out again and the nurse gives her the shot without checking? Would they do that? Are they allowed to do that?
“I’ll be right back.”
And he’s out of the door and how the hell can she get out of this without having to say it?
“I can’t have the shot!” Oh God, what words is she supposed to use?
“Just sit here.”
“Make sure she doesn’t give me the shot!” And she’s going to have to say it ‘cause he’s just not getting it and, good God Almighty, how long is this girl going to sing for?
Then he turns and fixes her with a gaze.
At that moment Jordan knows that he’s got it. He’s not stupid and she’s not exactly been a closed book tonight and his face…. She doesn’t know what his expression means but she can’t leave it just hanging, let the big reveal go unrevealed, and those two words have to be said out loud at some point. She understands then that it was always going to be Danny who heard them first.
“I’m pregnant”, she says, as he simultaneously makes the statement for himself.
The song ends and Jordan curses the silence.