The Jacket
By Missy RATING: PG
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CATEGORY: L&L romance, humor, drama
FEEDBACK: PLEASE?!
SPOILLER/SUMMARY: A jacket and its influence on a man, a woman, and their daughter, who can't understand why it's so special in the first place.

NOTES: Another fic that popped up out of nowhere.

FOR HAYLEY AND ASH
****

He had picked it up in Chinatown, cheap; so cheap that they had forgotten to stitch a letter on its broad, glowing red back. It embarrassed him to be so trusting, but it was one of the qualities that she loved in him. So he never gave up doing so. That was where she had come in, taking it from him in stealth. Like Wendy to his Peter Pan, she had sewed the missing L into its place and gave him an identity.

She'd been horrifed when he'd kissed her that first time, but for him it was an epiphany. This jacket, obviously, made him extra courageous.

He had wrapped himself in it the night his love for her bloomed to even bigger life; for a whole night, through the predawn hours, he sat, strumming his guitar and trying to come up with a statement that would let her into his heart and make her BELIEVE in this love as much as he did. He had failed miserably.

He hadn't been wearing it when she did so; that, he thought, was a key to his disaster. Still, he started wearing it less frequently. But it continued to make special appearances.

In a desert in Arizona, for instance, between California and Wisconsin. They had camped out one night to aviod paying for yet another sleazy motel room, and more importantly to give one another some breathing room (The disaster of Nevada was yet to occur). Somehow they had managed to light a fire, and while Shirley and Squiggy screamed at one another back in the ice cream truck, Laverne had crawled into his arms and fallen asleep under the red satin blanket of his jacket.

And she wondered why he painted her as a femme fatale in his fantasies!

The jacket went into almost permanent hiding after that; he wanted desperately to look like a big name Hollywood agent. That didn't work, of course, but at least he made a classy-looking ice cream man.

Years later, when Shirley fled Burbank to live with her husband, he accepted that he simply wasn't meant to be part of the LA crowd; he was different and it had taken him years to realize how good different was. The jacket was back with a vengeance after that.

It was there when he courted her, patiently drawing her to him, fighting against years of ingrained belief that he simply wasn't right for her. He won her over on the power of his own sheer belief; Lenny could be like an earthquake when he wanted to; she was not alone in being so shaken by him that all she could do was hold on to his body and reexamine her entire life.

On their wedding day, he wore it around his waist; she hadn't fought him when she saw his dress for the occasion (A Hawaiian shirt, jeans and the jacket around his waist), and he couldn't help but love her for that. Standing before a Justice of the Peace, they had simply gone out and done it, each secretly afraid of the dregs of time and giddy at the feeling of rebellion that had overtaken it. They had told no one.

When her father exploded in fury when he saw Lenny's diamond ring on her finger, she blamed it on the jacket.

It served as a pillow in subways for their honeymoon trip around Brooklyn; served as a blanket for more than one quick romantic encounter. He had been wearing it when she pulled him under a deserted overpass in the pouring rain and kissed him with shocking passion.

Did it surprise him that the rabbit died a few months after that? Nope; he was wearing the jacket.

She threw it in his face during their first married quarrel; he had made her cry, and nothing tore his heart as much. She had ran to her father's in the middle of the frozen night, sobbing from the hurt. An hour later, she had returned.

They collapsed into each other's arms on the stoop of the building. She explained how scared she was, but also how much she loved him. Even he couldn't believe the strength of the emotion he'd felt that night.

It is, after all, not easy to hear that your best friend has cancer.

A year later, they brought their sleeping daughter (Carietta Josephine, after their mothers) home from a party celebrating Shirley's remission wrapped up in that jacket. Now he began to believe it could work miracles of life. He wasn't shocked that their first dog chose to have a litter of puppies lying beside it; her head planted firmly in the lining.

She growled when anyone tried to take it away from her.

After that, it was treated like most special of occasions; brought out only to please their daughter. He still remembered the first time she had clomped out of their closet, wearing the jacket, Laverne's old poodle skirt, his porkpie hat and her own little initial-emblazoned sweater, announcing that she wanted to be a "Mommy-Daddy" for Halloween.

(She'd ended up going dressed in her Uncle Squiggy's old clothes and won first prize for Most Unusual Costume in her preschool class. When Lenny related that bit of news to Squig, he didn't know whether to laugh or cry).

Such beautiful memories; they were making him misty. He shifted into first gear, squinting up at the exit signs, looking for the turn-off to Culver City. Beside him, his wife sat, slumped against the seat and fast asleep; her hand had drifted over and lay limp on his thigh, touch-talking her affection without words. He smiled to himself; Laverne remained the prettiest, classiest woman he knew; her beauty glowed like a beacon in the dim van. His heart lept, knowing how it had simply been worth all of the heartaches, aggravations and pains. He loved her without equal and would love her to the grave.

He was amused that his daughter didn't understand that yet. But he would give it time.

***

In the backseat of the van, sixteen-year-old Carrie Kosnowski stirred against the red satin material of her father's jacket. A car with its brights on sent her to wakefulness and she turned onto her stomach, frowning into the material. She hadn't felt him slip it under her head, but she remembered little after leaving Aunt Shirley's house earlier in the night.

She fiddled with the worn white lettering; despite years of her mother's stitching and restitching, they still tended to come off at the least provocation.

Her mother told her often that she'd loved this jacket when she was a tiny girl. Carrie wasn't inclined to believe it. The faded-from-crimson color, the ancient lettering, even the style all screamed of an ancient history that she hadn't shaped and, therefore, wasn't comfortable with.

She loved her parents, but deep down she believed that they existed on this planet solely to embarrass her. Her father, for example, never failed to drape that thing around her shoulders like a victory mantle after her baseball games (home AND away, she shuddered to herself), and it simply was NOT cool for an 80's gal such as herself to be seen in something so...quaint. The giggles of her friends confirmed this.

But still...and she'd never admit this out loud to anyone...it comforted her. It reminded her of her father's warmth and gentleness, her mother's love and courage. When she buried her nose in the collar, it even smelled like an odd intermingling of her parents' very essence; chocolate and perfume.

As she drifted back to sleep, Carrie recalled that the last time she'd seen him wearing it was that very morning while they raked the leaves from Aunt Shirley's front yard. He'd worked proudly in that ratty thing, with its placed surreptitiously under the arm, where her mother had both ripped and fixed it. Carrie was hopelessly conscious of the Nouvelle Riche that her Aunt Shirley worked and lived among; the superior eyes of her "cousin" Todd Meeney were upon her and she felt embarrassment touch her heart.

"Daddy," She'd said, "That coat's so...old. Do you want me to get you a new one for Christmas?"

He looked up from his work, "Thanks, Punkin', but I ain't turnin' in the ol' Lone Wolf yet."

Her nose had wrinkled in distaste, "But Daddy, You should replace it."

He paused, thoughtfully, "I guess anotha guy would," He met her mother's eyes and they engaged in one of those stares that tended to make her friends burst out gagging or swooning, but she found...admirable, "But I ain't about to try."

To "We Belong"