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18 February 2012 @ 05:53 pm
Connecticut/Pride  
TITLE/PROMPT: Connecticut/Pride
AUTHOR: mkrobinson
RATING: PG-13
WORDS: 4546
TABLE: http://babysitters100.livejournal.com/53582.html#cutid1
SUMMARY: Jack's come to the conclusion that he's competing with a man he's barely even met.
WARNINGS: language, mild sexual content
NOTES: This is a standalone fic-and I know I said I was taking a bit of a break, but I think that's up. Also this is the first time I've written from Jack Schafer's POV, but from the limited canon sources we have of him, I think it's accurate.


“Hey, Connecticut!”

Jack remembers her from the fraternity mixer the night before, where she'd gotten drunk and told them all about how much better Connecticut was to California before passing out on the couch beside him.

She shoots him an angry look, approaching him with a look of mild curiosity on her face. “My name isn't Connecticut,” she snarls. “It's Sharon. Sharon Porter.”

“Darn. I was really hoping you were named Connecticut, because my name is California.” He replies, obviously flirting with her. She simply blinks at him, and he realizes that she thought he was actually serious.

“You're really named California?” She sighs, slipping her sunglasses off her face. “Were your parents hippies, or something?”

“Nah. I was just teasin' you. I'm Jack. Jack Schafer.”

“Oh,” she responds, her long blonde hair glinting in the Californian sunlight. She smooths down her skirt, looking rather out of place. “Hello, Jack. It's nice to meet you.”


***

Though at first they're merely friends (Jack is dating Misty, a girl that he knew from back home in Sacramento, and Sharon is dating Richard, a guy that still lives in Stoneybrook), soon enough those relationships dissolve. He catches Misty in bed with his roommate and Richard has met a girl named Alma, not that it really matters, and soon enough they start to date.

Jack's friends don't really like her, and she is a bit more conservative than them, but she seems to not notice. Sharon doesn't have many friends, so that doesn't matter to him. All that matters is that he loves her and that she loves him. And that's true.

His parents approve of her, too, and hers approve of him.

He doubts they'll do anything like getting married, but, hell, he does love her. They're just having fun, that's all.

Besides, marriage is for squares.

He tells her that one night, as they lay in her single bed together, curled up under the sheet, and she starts to laugh. “I love you, Jack,” she whispers, trying not to wake her sleeping roommate. “Don't ever change.”

***

“What does this mean,” he asks her, picking up the used test on the bathroom window sill. “Are you pregnant, Sharon?”

Her hysterical sobs are enough to convince him of that fact and he crawls into bed beside her, holding her close, all thoughts of 'having fun' and 'marriage being for squares' flying out the window. He wants to do things right. He doesn't care what anyone else thinks. Sharon's pregnant, with his baby, and he loves her.

When she finally stops crying, she rolls over and stares at him, seeming surprised when he plants a kiss on her lips. “You're not pissed?” She manages to ask, snuggling closer to him.

“Of course I'm not,” he whispers. “I love you. And I love babies.”

“I love you too, Jack.”

They get married in Reno that week, much to her parents' annoyance (and Sharon's amusement).

When Dawn's born, she's beautiful.

Things are perfect.

***

Jack's first visit to Stoneybrook is for a wedding.

It happens that one of Sharon's best friends is getting married, and therefore what should have been a simple week at her parents house with the baby turns into a three week parade around Stoneybrook, Connecticut.

It's there that he meets Richard Spier, and his wife, Alma. Sharon is content to coo over his newborn daughter during their visit, while Jack finds himself making awkward conversation with him and his neighbor, Patrick, about sports and California. Mostly about California. It comes out that he and Richard are both in the process of completing their law degrees, and they discuss that for a few minutes, before Patrick (quite rudely, in Jack's opinion) announces that he's bored, and goes to bother their wives.

The letters start to come soon after. At first he doesn't mind. Sharon and Richard are just friends, after all.

***

Jack's come to the conclusion that he's competing with a man he's barely even met.

He's taken glances through Sharon's high school yearbooks, seen the pictures of her as the head cheerleader, the ones of her as a member of the Stoneybrook High Young Republicans, and he's seen all the pictures of her and him. 'Sharon Porter (homecoming queen) and Richard Spier at the SHS Homecoming Dance', 'Richard Spier (president of the Young Republicans) and Sharon Porter at city hall' (just two of the numerous examples that Jack could provide). He's seen her senior will, in which she promises him that she'll 'always love him and will return home'. And, of course, he's seen that stupid Camus quote.

He remembers meeting Sharon's beloved Richie (he thinks that's a stupid nickname, but who is he to judge) once, during one of their unfortunately all too frequent trips to Stoneybrook, when they were in town for her best friend's wedding.

Though he knows it's rather irrational, as he knows that she loves him, and not the nerdy guy from Connecticut, he still harbors feelings of jealousy.

Every time he sees his return address on envelopes addressed to Sharon he actually loathes him. It's not that he doesn't want her to have friends, it's just that he's a bit annoyed that he's the friend she chooses to keep in touch with. He wouldn't mind the letters so much if she didn't treat them like they were some sort of secret.

He really ought to tell his wife she's an awful liar, but he can't. He doesn't like to think about her past, about how easily she still fits into life in Connecticut, despite having lived in California for years at this point, about how if she wanted to she could just up and leave him. Rita and Charles would take her back. He knows they would. They'd let her move back with the baby and then where would he be?

So he keeps quiet. It makes her happy, and that's all he wants.

***

“Richie sent me a letter,” she announces to him one day, while his parents are over. She hands it to him, looking like she's about to cry. “I don't understand what he's saying.”

His mother and father momentarily distracted from their granddaughter, whom is babbling brightly at them, turn their attention to them, obviously interested in their private conversation. He opens the folded up piece of paper, reading the bit she's pointing to to himself, under his breath.

“I admit, things could be better, but the doctors have hope that Alma may be able to come home soon. I don't know why Edie and Rioko don't seem to be as happy as I am (don't you think that she's getting better?) but I'm assuming they have a healthy disbelief in our medical system. Mary Anne misses her mother, as do I, but Mrs. Yamamoto enjoys watching her and Rioko's daughters, Claudia and Janine, while I work and visit Alma at the hospital. I do hope she comes home soon.” Jack looks at his wife, debating what to tell her. He really doesn't want to have to drop everything for this guy, but he will if it'll make her feel better. “I don't think his wife's well, Sharon. Do you want to go to Connecticut?”

He hopes that she'll say no, of course. “I'd like to, but Richie probably won't want me to. He's very proud of doing things on his own.”

It's then, and every time Sharon complains about Richard Spier not letting her come visit, that Jack starts to think he isn't that bad of a guy.

Even he draws the line at her blindly following his decrees when his wife actually dies and his wife actually says, “Well, we don't have to go to the funeral, Mom and Dad said they'd make it.”

Sharon actually thinks this is a good idea until he reminds her about why she moved out to California in the first place.

***

Jack still can't believe that Sharon manages to remember to write to him on a semi-regular basis and is more than a bit annoyed when she makes noises about wanting to move back to Small-Town Connecticut, and that she's actually serious. He's a California man through and through, and hates that she's still not happy there. He hates Stoneybrook, with all of Sharon's pretentious twit friends (he's pretty sure her friend Marjorie barely has two brain cells to rub together) and all her friends from what Rita and Charles call her 'dark period', which he presumes is a way of telling her they still don't approve of her decision to attend a public high school. Hell, he doesn't really like Rita and Charles that much-he hates how they treat Sharon and doesn't understand why she insists that they've gotten better.

They have their first knockdown argument about it and he half promises that they'll go back someday, not intending to go through with it.

***

“Of course I write to Richie,” he hears her talking to her friend Miyoshi, who's visiting for the week, and he grits his teeth, annoyed at the jealousy he feels. “Not all that often, but I do when I remember. Why, has something happened?”

“No, I don't think so. Mother hasn't mentioned anything to me,” Miyoshi replies, shrugging her shoulders as she and Sharon drink their wine coolers and eat sushi. “I think that he's getting better, though. Mother says that he's struck up a friendship with Edie Thomas. She lives next door to him.”

His wife lights up a cigarette, taking a quick drag. “I know. I saw him the last time Jack and I were in Stoneybrook. Not for very long, just for a minute after I saw your mother.”

He reminds himself that it's foolish to be jealous of her visiting her old boyfriend, after all he's seen his old flames, but somehow he still feels that it's different. He chances a glance at the clock, hoping that it would be time to go get Dawn and Sunny at Vista-or even Jeff at Rob's-but it isn't. He rationalizes that he can't ignore them forever, tempting though it is, and so he joins his wife and her best friend on their deck, beer in hand. He kisses Sharon on the lips, playing the role of doting husband, like she hadn't been talking about visiting her ex-boyfriend mere minutes before.

***

Dawn turns nine.

Jeff turns six.

They spend both the kids' Christmas and February breaks in Stoneybrook, Jack gritting his teeth the entire time, just to appease his increasingly irrational wife. He discusses banking with Charles, gardening with Rita, all while counting down the days until they can go home. Much to his annoyance, Dawn and Jeff enjoy visiting their grandparents in Connecticut. In fact, they love it. They love the snow (Jack hates the snow), they love the fact that Rita and Charles constantly indulge their love for sweets and movies (Jack wishes they wouldn't do that), and they've even managed to make friends (Jack can't begrudge them that, but he wishes they hadn't).

It amuses him to notice that the friendships Dawn and Jeff have struck up with Shannon and Tiffany Kilbourne annoy his wife so much, and they have many a whispered argument about it. He's sure the only reason that Sharon bothers to whisper at all is because they're at her parents house, because the fights they have in California certainly don't involve whispers.

He doesn't mind Ted and Kathy, which leads to Sharon calling him an 'misogynistic ass' over the dinner table.

That night they go out, leaving the kids with Rita and Charles, ostensibly to go out to dinner. In reality, it's to have a screaming match that the both of them think the other deserves.

“You are an ass, Jack!” She screeches, hands on her hips. “Why are you trying to ruin Stoneybrook for me, too?”

“Ruin? You're the one who doesn't want to try to enjoy yourself,” he responds. “Your mother said you were friends with the Kilbournes.”

“My mother's a liar!”

“Then why do you want to come back here so badly?”

“At least here in Stoneybrook I fit in!” She responds, looking near tears. “Where do I fit in in Palo City? Where, Jack?”

“You have friends-”

“Bullshit! I've lived there for nine years, Jack, we've been married for almost ten, and you have friends! You are happy living there, because it's what you're used to! I'm used to this, Jack! I'm used to having steak without people trying to guilt me because I'm killing cows! I'm used to not being looked at like I have three heads because I don't want to be involved in asinine protests and heaven forbid I express any vaguely conservative opinion, Jack, because they act like I should be committed!”

“Betsy Win-”

She cuts him off. “Oh, yes, Betsy. My only friend. Jack, the only reason we're friends is because of Dawn and Sunny.”

“You only want to live here because of Richard!” The accusation slips out of his mouth before he can process the fact that his wife is already in tears, that their fight is drawing the attention of the children that had been playing at the park, that for all he knows Richard Spier is in earshot.

“You really think that little of me, Jack?” She whispers, wiping at her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater. “You really think that Richie living here is the only reason I want to come back? How can you even say that to me? Richie's my friend! You act like we're having some sort of torrid affair!”

“Sharon, I-” He tries to hug her, immediately feeling guilty.

“No. Leave me alone.”

***

Dawn is 11 and a half. Jeff is 8 and a half.

Jack is 35. Sharon is 32.

It's their wedding anniversary when she makes the announcement he's been half expecting for years now, at least since their last trip to Stoneybrook.

They've been to couples therapy, she's been to therapy, and he's been throwing himself into his work, determined to deny the fact that they've been on their way to being a statistic for years.

Surprisingly, they manage to have a nice dinner. She mentions vague plans to move to Stoneybrook when the divorce is finalized, he agrees that that would probably be for the best, and for the first time in awhile, Jack notices that his wife is happy. Despite the reasons for it, it makes him happy too.

“I am sorry, Jack,” she whispers. “I know you tried.”

And he had-minus that whole 'accusing her of having an affair with her widower ex-boyfriend' thing-they both had. He could be bitter about the fact that their marriage is ending, but he doesn't want to be. In fact, the finality of the separation seems to improve things between them. They stop having bitter fights behind their bedroom door while Dawn plays at Sunny's and Jeff plays at Zeke's. They actually start to get along again, for the most part.

They announce the separation to the kids together. It could have gone better.

Dawn responds first, full of anger. “You don't have to get a divorce, you know! Look at Maggie's parents! They're still together!”

Jeff looks like he's going to cry, and Sharon hugs him, while he deals with their oldest. “Mommy, is it my fault?” He hears their son ask, and hears her whispered denials.

He knows that Dawn blames him. And likely Sharon as well, though she doesn't say anything to either of them. She protests in her own way, by becoming a vegetarian, despite not having any interest in that lifestyle before their announcement.

He knows it kills Sharon to have to embrace vegetarian food, but she says that she'll do it for Dawn, and he doesn't dare dissuade her.

Jeff simply withdraws into his video games and his friendships with Rob and Zeke, determined to deny the fact that he'll have to leave California.

He finds himself helping his soon to be ex-wife with things like updating her resume and attempting to find a house, which is not easy to do when you're moving cross-country. Part of him hopes that she'll give up and stay, but he knows that she likely won't. It's bittersweet, but he just wants her to be happy.

***

Well, Sharon is happy, he'll grant her that.

He pretends to be surprised when he worms out of Dawn that she's back dating Richard Spier, shaking his head as his oldest talks about how 'she and her best friend Mary Anne got them back together after years of not speaking', because at least she seems happy. He listens to her tales of the baby-sitting club she's joined, about how she's the only vegetarian in her group of friends, about how she really doesn't mind living in Stoneybrook.

Jeff is another story entirely.

True, he does have friends, (apparently identical triplets), and he doesn't seem too upset when they talk on the telephone, but he can tell he's not getting the entire truth from any of them. From his son. From his daughter. Or even from his ex-wife. Finally, the call he's been half expecting since that January comes, and with it comes a hysterical Sharon, who can't believe that Jeff really hates Stoneybrook that much that he'd leave her. He holds his sarcastic tongue, promising that she isn't the problem, and just like that his bachelor pad days are over.

***

He meets Carol at a bar, and he's attracted to her immediately. She's everything that (let's face it) Sharon wasn't: she's confident, his friends like her, she loves California, and most importantly, she genuinely loves him. She wasn't his first real college girlfriend whom he had to marry, unlike his first wife. She doesn't even mind that he has kids.

The fact that he has Carol makes the news that Sharon's marrying Richard a bit easier to stomach, though he half wonders if she's gotten herself in trouble again.

Jeff doesn't really like Carol, but he doesn't really like Richard either, and Carol doesn't seem to mind.

“It'll take time, Jack,” she convinces him over dinner. “And at least Jeff calls me by my first name.”

That statement reminds him to try to talk Jeff out of that particular somewhat jerky move, and he's only partially successful.

He's pleasantly surprised when he spots his son and girlfriend rollerblading together one day, relieved that that particular problem is dealt with.

***

Jack and Carol return from their weekend away to hear the telephone ringing off the hook, and she answers it. He returns with their luggage and hears her half of the conversation, which sounds very confused.

“I'm sorry, miss, you're going to have to slow down. I can't understand you,” she's saying as he takes the phone from her.

“Hello?” He asks, annoyed at what he's sure is a prank call.

“OhmygodJackJeffandDawnwentmissingwecan'tfind-” Shit, he thinks. He goes away for the weekend and Sharon has some sort of breakdown.

“Sharon, what happened?” He tries, certain that she's just overreacting because Carol answered the phone. He can hear muffled sobs from her end of the line, the sound of someone taking the phone from her, and he repeats his question. “Sharon? Are you okay?”

“Mr. Schafer?” The person on the other end, who is most certainly not his ex-wife, responds, and he sighs. “This is Mary Anne. Dawn and Jeff's stepsister.”

“Hi, Mary Anne,” he replies, uncertain about why they'd called. “What happened?”

“Well, what Sharon was trying to say is that Dawn and Jeff,” she dropped her voice to a whisper “have gone missing. We've been trying to call you all weekend.”

“What?”

His children have gone missing? How did that happen?

“Hold on, Mr. Schafer. Dad just walked in. I'll put him on the line.”

All his feelings of animosity towards Richard Spier disappeared when he heard him say that Dawn and Jeff were okay. That was all that mattered to him.

***

Dawn moves back to California too, seemingly for good, and Jack finds it in him to welcome Mary Anne to his house for visits, despite the fact that she was his ex-wife's stepdaughter. She's surprised when he refrains from joking about her father, but he figures that he doesn't want to be seen as a complete jerk, even though he doesn't entirely consider Richard anything more than a mere acquaintance, and he knows that it had taken a lot for her to admit that his jokes were hurting her feelings when they went on that disastrous cross-country trip. (Him and Jeff with a bunch of thirteen year old girls in an RV together for two weeks-what had he been thinking?)

Jeff notes that Dawn actually seems happy with their stepsister around, and Jack has to concede his point.

Carol even points out that she's making Sunny less manic, and he considers that a near miracle.

Richard is the one who calls to tell him his daughter wants to move back to Connecticut.

***

By the time Dawn's graduating from high school, Jack's complete and utter hatred of Richard has basically disappeared. At Dawn's actual graduation ceremony, that is quickly replaced with a hatred of Rita and Charles, who spend the entire ceremony making uncalled for (and this was in his opinion) comments about his ex-wife and her new husband and her stepdaughter. Oh, and the baby that Sharon and Richard had together that had started this apparent family feud. Even Sunny is behaving, though that mostly consists of her sitting there silently between Carol and Sharon. After the fifth pointed glare he sends to them (they are separated by Dawn's friend Stacey's family) he leans over the McGills and actually says something.

“You know, you could be a bit nicer to Richard and Sharon,” he hisses, annoyed that he's managed to learn how to navigate the new dynamics of his family while her actual parents can't be bothered to. “You ought to put up or shut up, okay?”

Rita and Charles Porter look positively stunned, but he doesn't care. It had been embarrassing enough when they'd had to be separated by three complete strangers (at least to him, though judging by the mortified expressions on Sharon and Richard's faces..) they really needn't be commenting on everything. Who the hell cared if Richard and Mary Anne had both been Valedictorians? It wasn't like that was a bad thing.

Gracie climbs on his lap to watch her big sister cross the stage, whispering excitedly to him about her new 'Stoneybrook friend' and about how she's just like Dawn and Jeff.

He can't help but smile.

***

“Thank you,” Richard says, approaching him at the party Dawn's friend Kristy's family is holding after the ceremony.

“For what?” He asks, popping a handful of chips in his mouth. Carol is having an animated discussion with Dawn's friend Claudia and Stacey's stepmother (it's amazing how quickly he picked things like that up) and Gracie is off playing with Olivia and some of the other girls. “Talking to Rita and Charles?”

“Not just for that, though that was appreciated,” he responded. “I don't know what exactly it is that I'm thanking you for,” he adds. “I just know that I want to thank you.”

“You're welcome,” he responds, drinking some of his beer. “Thank you.”

“What are you thanking me for?” Richard seems genuinely perplexed, but Jack just shrugs.

“You make Sharon happy,” he says, “and I couldn't do that any longer. So thank you.”

“You're welcome. She makes me happy, too.”

They stop talking, lapsing into a somewhat comfortable silence, and he looks around the backyard, wondering who all of the people were. Despite all the visits he once made to Stoneybrook, he doesn't remember many of them. Charles and Rita managed to disappear after the conclusion of the ceremony, and he was secretly grateful. Not that he was happy he'd been correct about them – he had warned Sharon that they wouldn't be too happy about her coming back a divorcee and dating Richard – but because he didn't want his Sunshine's day to be ruined.

Dawn approaches them, Sunny Winslow following her around like a lost puppy. “Hi Dad, hi Richard!” She chirps, giving them both a hug. “I'm glad you're getting along.”

“I am too, Sunshine,” he replies. Sunny looks at him, momentarily confused, before focusing her gaze on the ground. He feels like an ass, forgetting that that was Sunny's actual name for a moment.

“Sunny, are you still a vegetarian?” Richard asks and she stares at him, finally shaking her head. “Well, then, would you come with me and we can tell Watson not to bother to make the veggie burgers?”

Jack sighs with relief as she follows behind him, looking like a storm cloud.

Richard wasn't all that bad.

***

“I bet you never thought you'd be in Stoneybrook again after last time, did you, Jack?” Sharon asks him, as the party's in full swing, and she shoots him a wry smile. “Thank you for coming,” she adds, smoothing down the skirt of her dress.

“Eh, it isn't that bad here,” he replies, smiling back at her. “Besides, it's good to see you happy again.”

“It's good to see you happy again, too,” she says, twisting a lock of her blonde hair, which is now long and straight, sort of like it was when they'd first met. “I'm sorry for how we ended.”

“Don't worry about it. We're both happy, aren't we? That's all that matters.” He actually believes it.

She takes a sip of her wine cooler, changing the subject. “Gracie's beautiful. She's been really good to Livvy – the whole day.”

They watch their children play together, and he thinks about how ironic it is that they aren't watching their children, but he smiles anyways, glad that they at least get along. He sips his beer.

“I know. She told me that she's her 'Stoneybrook friend', like how Dawn and Jeff have them.” He snorted, looking at his ex-wife to see her reaction. “I didn't know what to say,” he admits.

“I'm fine with that,” she answers, shrugging her shoulders. “Why wouldn't I be? They don't know any differently. Besides, I still like you, Jack, even though we aren't married any more. You're a friend.”

“Then I'm okay with it, too,” he responds, taking another sip from his drink. “Richie ain't that bad either.”

She blushes profusely. “Jack! Don't call him that. He'll think you're making fun!”

“I know. I won't.”

She smiles at him. “Thank you. California.” She starts to giggle.

“You're welcome. Connecticut.”
 
 
 
automatic doorautomaticdoor on February 19th, 2012 06:39 pm (UTC)
This is really interesting! We don't get Jack's perspective often, so this was really refreshing.
mkrobinson on February 19th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad you liked it! I know, it's really rare to see Jack's perspective in fanfic.
xariana on February 20th, 2012 02:21 am (UTC)
This was so great - it was really enjoyable to read what with the pacing and Jack being a lot like how I imagined him. Loved the California/Connecticut theme!
mkrobinson on February 20th, 2012 02:23 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it!