"How did you and Daddy meet, Mommy?" little Joshua asked one day.
Summer smiled at him. "We were on a TV show together. You know that."
The boy frowned. "Oh, that's right."
His older sister wasn't go to be satisfied as easily, though. "But how did you fall in love?" she insisted.
"Well, it was your Aunt Jewel," Summer started doubtfully, not sure how she was supposed to tell this particular story to a five-year-old. . . .
. . .
When Jewel was in L.A., and away from the comfort of Vancouver and Matt and their marital bed, Nathan was always available for any necessary stress-relieving. He would provide the same services to Joss or Alan, she knew (although since they lived in L.A., she was less sure what the logic there was supposed to be), and would bemoan the fact that neither Morena nor Gina ever seemed particularly eager to take advantage of the offer.
Still, there was something to be said for having a warm bed to come home to in a city which, despite having been a second home to her ever since she was a little child in a technicolor wig, was strange and alienating even to the people who had been born in it. She was grateful to Nathan for the shelter.
She particular appreciated it one particular night in March as she made her way back from Fox. The last thing she needed was to spend the night alone in an empty hotel room.
"How did it go?" asked Nathan as she entered the apartment.
"Not good," she said. "They're looking for younger." She let loose a sign which was closer to a groan, or possibly a moan. "Only in this city can you not be barely thirty and still be too old."
Nathan walked over to her, put his arms around her, wrapping her in him, and already she felt better. "You can't let it get to you," he reminded her, kissing her lightly on the neck.
"I know," she said, relaxing as she leaned against him. He kissed her again, and she even smiled. It wasn't as if she didn't know the way the city worked. It was just easier not having to face it alone. "I heard some news while I was there."
Nathan raised his eyebrows. "Anything juicy?" he asked. She was pretty sure he was just playacting his excitement at the possibility of gossip, but she could be certain.
"Not really," she answered. "Summer's show is going to be canceled."
"Again?" he asked, idly, as he began to unbutton her blouse. The show had been a hair's breadth away from cancellation pretty much the entirety of the five years it had been on television.
"This time I'm pretty sure it's for real." She grabbed his hand and held it still. Not that she didn't want to be comforted in the best way Nathan knew how, but, well, it could wait. There was business to take care of; they had to look out for their own. "Her boyfriend broke up with her last month. She's going to be pretty shook up by this. You should have her over."
Nathan pulled away, walked around her so they could look into each other's eyes. "Have her over for dinner?" he asked. This time she knew he was playing dumb.
There'll probably be eating involved. Hopefully. "You should have her over," she repeatedly firmly, staring him in the eye. "She needs to be reminded there are people who love her."
She was more than a little surprised when he squirmed under her glare. "Why do we need to be the people who remind her we love her? Why can't Joss do it?"
"Because that's a disaster and a half waiting to happen and you know it. Seriously, what's the problem? Does she have an STD or something I don't know about?"
"It's just like, it's Summer," Nathan said with a shrug. "It'd be like your kid sister."
Jewel rolled her eyes. "She's older than I am, Nathan." And she's still playing a teenager--a teenage robot that doesn't age, even--and I'm too old?
Nathan shrugged. "You grew up fast."
Yeah. L.A. would do that to you.
. . .
Summer made her way up the staircase to Nathan's apartment, listening to the Dr. Horrible 3 soundtrack on her iPod as she did so. It'd been about a month and a half since she'd seen Nathan last, at one of Joss' Shakespeare readings, and even longer since she'd seen Jewel. Which made it a surprise when Jewel called her up and invited her to dinner at Nathan's. She was surprised by the sudden invitation, and more than a little confused as to why Jewel was inviting her to Nathan's.
Still, she was sort of still reeling from the Sarah Connor news, and she knew it would do her good to see a couple of friendly faces who weren't current co-workers. Nathan and Jewel both were between projects at the moment, so they would be able to commiserate.
Summer reached the door, quickly knocked; Jewel answered the door and ushered Summer in. Dinner was delicious chicken francaise that Jewel and Nathan each claimed the other had cooked; afterwards they put Cabin in the Woods into the HDVD player and MST3K-ed it for the umpteenth time, mercilessly ripping it to shreds ("thanks, guys," Joss would tell them everytime they told him about their new favorite pasttime) and insulting each other at the same time. It was a game that Jewel and Nathan were experts in, but Summer did her best to give as well as she got.
The couch across from Nathan's TV wasn't that big, and Summer was very conscious of the warmth of the two bodies pressed against her as she was sandwiched in between them. But as the movie went on, all three of them got into the game, and for the first time since she had heard the news from Josh Summer finally felt relaxed. It was a good feeling.
And then, during the big love scene during the movie's third act, Jewel, instead of tossing off the barb that Summer was delightfully expecting, turned and kissed her on the lips, which Summer was not expecting, with delight or otherwise.
She was so not expecting it that it took Summer a moment to convince herself it was really happening, a moment which Jewel exploited by using it to try to push her tongue past Summer's teeth. As soon as she had a handle--no, not a handle, this was so out of control, not how it was supposed to be, not safe and predictable like watching Joss and David's movie and bashing it was supposed to be--as soon as the reality of the situation registered in Summer's mind she was pulling away, falling off of Nathan's couch, making her way out of his apartment as quickly as possible and not looking back.
. . .
Two years later, on the set of Dollhouse. . . .
"Summer," Eliza said, staring down the other woman, "there's no way you can skip Comic-Con this year. You just can't."
Summer tried to avoid eye contact with her co-star. "It's your TV show. They're not going to want to see me."
Eliza just rolled her eyes. "Yeah, there's no way the horny fanboys at Comic-Con would have any interest at all in seeing you. Come on, Summer, you might have gotten away with not going last year because you weren't working, but Joss spent half the con being asked why you weren't there. Who exactly are you avoiding?"
"Nobody," Summer answered, looking hard at the white of the table's surface, knowing quite well that her response might have represented the worst acting of her entire career.
"Bullshit," Eliza answered, crossing her arms across her chest. "You haven't been to Joss's to do Shakespeare in almost two years. It's obviously not me, Joss, or Amy. Is it Alan? Alexis?"
"It's not Alan," Summer answered reluctantly. "Or Alexis."
Eliza got up from the table. "Well, you're going to Comic-Con, Summer. That's final. So whoever it is, you better figure out what you're going to say to them when you see them."
. . .
And of course Summer had to run into Jewel the very first day of the con. "Hey, Summer," Jewel said when they passed each other in some hall or other. "Haven't heard from you in a while." She didn't mention that the reason she hadn't heard from Summer was that Summer deleted Jewel's messages without listening to them. She didn't mention the kiss two years ago, either.
"Hi, Jewel," Summer answered uncertainly, unable to say anything she really wanted to say by the presence of the con volunteers who were acting as their handlers. If she really wanted to say it, which she wasn't sure of. Which was a large part of the reason why she had avoided both Jewel and Nathan for the last two years, despite the fact that everyone from Joss to Eliza to Julie fucking Benz (who, mind you, she never had had a scene with ever) had noticed that Summer was avoiding her fellow Whedonites. "I see Sarah more than I see you," Felicia Day had pointed out to her once.
And the rumors had even gotten out to the fans; some of the speculation she found in the comments of a Whedonesque.org post she had come across while googling her own name alongside Jewel's was disturbingly close to the truth. Somebody had noticed that Jewel and Nathan never insulted Summer in public anymore.
. . .
Summer paced across her hotel room agitatedly. She couldn't see, hear, feel, or taste Jewel, so why was the knowledge that Jewel was in the same hotel one floor up distracting her so much. As long as she stayed in her own room, Jewel might as well be back in L.A. or Vancouver or wherever.
Which made perfect sense logically, and satisfied her not at all. Frustrated, she made her way out of her room and took the elevator one floor up. After Jewel didn't answer her door to Summer's knocking, Summer made her way down the hall to the room she had been told was Nathan's.
Sure enough, Jewel answered the door.
Jewel's smile lacked the smirk she usually had whenever she, Summer, and Nathan were in a room together, and Summer irrationally found herself missing it. Instead it was what seemed a genuine mix of pleasure, surprise, and relief. "Summer," she said. "Come in."
Summer obliged, still not sure what she was doing there. "Sit down," Nathan offered. He was already sitting on a hotel bed watching the television. Summer didn't even have to look at it to know it was Cabin in the Woods; despite not having seen the movie in two years, she still recognized the score.
Summer sat in the armchair in the corner of the room, and Jewel sat down next to Nathan. There were several minutes of silence in which no one said anything. Cabin in the Woods played on. It felt like it was missing something without the improv MST3K track.
"You want something to drink?" Nathan finally asked. Summer shook her head.
What had she expected would happen if she came? That Jewel or Nathan would molest her as soon as the door was shut? The two of them were--well, maybe not reasonable people, but they could get a hint, and it wasn't exactly unreasonable to take Summer's running out of Nathan's apartment immediately after being kissed by Jewel as a sign that Summer didn't want to be kissed, and thus would be extra careful this time around to respect her boundaries.
The fact that Summer wasn't nearly so sure herself that she didn't want to be kissed, or that she wanted her boundaries respected, didn't really come into it.
"Oh, sure, go into the cabin alone," Summer said, breaking the silence after a glance at the TV. "That's subverting the genre alright." It was lame as far as zingers went, but she hoped that it would be the effort that mattered.
"People expect the genre to be subverted," Jewel fired back. "They're simply subverting the genre-subversion genre."
Nathan made the next quip and within minutes they were back in their groove, as if the two intervening years had never happened. Before long Summer got up from the armchair and sat down on the bed on the other side of Jewel from Nathan, snuggling up against the other woman.
The three continued that way for most of the rest of the movie, Jewel's body nice and warm and her arm wrapped around Summer.
Until the love scene in the third act.
. . .
"Uh--" Nathan started then broke off, as if for the first time in his life considering the possibility one of his jokes might be tactless.
Jewel didn't say anything either; the movie played on, un-MST3K-ed, as the hero and heroine made love onscreen.
Summer turned her head, looking up at Jewel from her position on Jewel's shoulder. Then she rose it slghtly as she brought her lips to Jewel's.
. . .
The doorbell rang.
"I'll get it!" Joshua cried as he raced through the house to the front door. "It's Aunt Jewel!" Summer heard him cry out from the parlor.
Jewel was in L.A. for a week on business, and as always she was staying with Summer and Nathan, whose house would of course always be open to her. She helped Jewel carry her bags into the guest bedroom, then carefully closed and locked the door behind them. "The kids were asking how I fell in love with Nathan today," she told Jewel.
"Oh?" asked Jewel, who was already undressing. "You didn't tell them the truth, I assume?"
Summer took over the job of pulling off Jewel's skirt, Jewel responding by beginning to unzip Summer's blouse. "Well, I couldn't exactly tell Gemma she was conceived during a menage a trois at a comic book convention, now could I?"
Jewel just shrugged, then kissed Summer hard and pulled off her panties.