fearlessfan: (Saved By the Bell)
[personal profile] fearlessfan
Title: Bayside Revisited
Fandom/Pairing: Saved by the Bell
Rating: PG
Summary: Bayside High's Class of 1993 celebrates its 15 year reunion.
Length: 15,000 words.
Notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] oldromantic in the Yuletide 2008 challenge.



.i. zack

The only reason Zack agrees to it is because he doesn't know what he's agreeing to at the time. He's absorbed in the basketball practice in front of him when Screech poses the question and Zack responds,

"Yeah, sure," mostly just to get Screech to shut up so he can finish watching the game.

The only clue he gets that he might have said something dangerous is Screech's reaction; a hearty, "You will?!" uttered in a tone that still, fifteen years after he left adolescence, demonstrates the accuracy of Screech's nickname.

"Whoa, back up," Zack says, turning away from the court to look at Screech, who is making faces at the little girl standing on his knees. She's holding onto his hands for balance but still appears to be very impressed with herself. "What did I just agree to?"

Screech hesitates just a second. "Nothing."

"Nothing? That I doubt," Zack says, reaching over to tickle his daughter's belly, which gets a nice hearty laugh from her. "Seriously, what did I agree to? Because if it takes you much longer to tell me, you know I'm reneging."

Screech stares at Zack in utter shock. "You would never."

"Oh, I most definitely would," Zack says. "Have we met?"

Screech shakes his head. "Fine. It's just a small thing. A tiny thing, really, given the history of our friendship. I thought maybe you could sign the invitations to the high school reunion coming up this fall."

"Why? High school reunions and all things Bayside High are totally your thing, man," Zack says. "I left that place and never looked back."

"You came to the last reunion."

"Because so few people RSVP'ed that the bartender was going to keep your deposit if we didn't go."

"I still don't get why more people didn't come," Screech says, shaking his head in an exaggerated way, which makes Olivia laugh and grab at his nose. "The theme was awesome: The future is now!"

"I don't think it was the theme, Screech. More the costume requirement."

"Oh, come on! That was the best part," Screech says.

"For the people who showed up," Zack says, remembering the two full and twelve empty tables in the gym. The ones who showed up were all people Zack remembered as being on the fringes of his acquaintance, people Screech knew from Math Club, or Chess Club, or the AV Club, or (most often) all three. "Most people don't have a spare Star Trek jumpsuit in their closet, so you seriously limited your pool of responders."

"You found something to wear," Screech says. "Even if it wasn't completely appropriate."

"What? How was my costume not appropriate?"

Screech sighs. "The Star Wars opening narration clearly states that the story is taking place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Your costumes actually resembled the past, when the theme was 'the future.'"

"Well, it was the best I could do," Zack says, watching Olivia swat Screech on the nose two, three, four times, all without Screech's expression of amused interest changing. Screech is good with kids, great with Zack's, and always willing to babysit. These were the reasons Zack had put together something resembling Han Solo five years ago, and why he'll probably do it again this year, if Screech asks, which Zack really hopes he won't. "No costume requirement this year, man."

"Is that a condition?" Screech says, turning away from Olivia to look at Zack. "Implying that the deal is on its way to being done?"

Zack watches Olivia lean in and hug Screech around the neck, resting against his body, tired of standing for so long. "I guess so," he said.

"Great!" Screech says, patting Olivia on the back. "Zack, look, it's Maddie."

Zack looks in the direction Screech indicated, and sees a sturdy seven-year-old with brown hair and a mournful expression walking through. "Looks like detention."

"Mrs. Coulter?"

"No doubt," Zack says, waving his hand to catch Maddie's attention.

"I can't believe she still has it out for you," Screech says. "It's been, what? Twenty-five years?"

"Yeah, well. You know what I did to her. I can understand it."

Screech squints. "I can't remember - did you convince her you were an exchange student from Germany and couldn't speak English? Or was she the one whose desk you filled with snakes?"

As Maddie makes her way up the bleachers, Zack lowers his voice. "Both. But in my defense, most of those snakes were fake. And none of the live ones were poisonous," Zack says, and then raised his voice. "And that's why I always listened to the teacher, right, Screech?"

"What?" Screech says, incredulous, and then, off of Zack's pointed look. "I mean, absolutely, Zack! Hey there Mads, how's it going?"

Maddie sits down with a heavy sigh between Screech and Zack, leaning forward with her elbows on her knees. "Fine."

"Fine," Zack repeats, looking thoughtful. "The last time I remember you being fine, you'd just been assigned lunch detention for the rest of the month."

"That was totally unfair!" Maddie says, sitting upright, with fire in her eyes.

Zack agrees, but knows Kelly would kill him if he said it, so he just shrugs and said, "Well, them's the breaks, kid. What happened now?"

"Ms. Coulter hates me."

"Ms. Coulter does not hate you," Zack says. "How could anyone hate you?"

Screech nods in agreement. "That's right! You're most definitely unhateable, Mads. The one who Mrs. Coulter really hates is -"

"-people who interfere her valuable teaching time," Zack interrupts, sending Screech another warning look. "Was that what happened?"

"I was just trying to help Monica," Maddie says. "She didn't know what page we were on, so I was helping her find it, and Ms. Coulter said I was talking and I said I was helping and she said not to argue with her and I said but you're wrong and then Ms. Coulter said excuse me? And-"

Zack winces. "Maddie, see, this is the point where you should have apologized."

"But she was wrong," Maddie says. "And she's mean."

Zack can't argue with either point. "Yeah, but she's also the teacher."

Maddie sighs. "She made me stay after class and I had to clean all of the desks, which took forever."

Zack looks at the clock; Maddie has been out of school for forty-five minutes at the most. "And yet somehow you survived."

"Hmph," Maddie says, and then leaned forward again to glower at the basketball practice in front of her. "She kept saying I should be more like my sister."

"She shouldn't have said that," Zack says, feeling a flash of anger on behalf of the little girl sitting beside him. He looks down at the court where his oldest daughter was wrapping up basketball practice, her dark blonde hair back in a neat ponytail. Sarah arrived before Zack and Kelly were planning to have kids, and somehow the universe had known how unprepared they were and given them a break by giving them with a daughter who was easy-going, patient, and more likely to give up an assist than make the last big shot herself.

Zack looks over at his younger daughter's slumped-forward shoulders; she is the one in whom he saw his own impatience and youthful energy, his disrespect for authority, tempered by Kelly's good heart. Zack puts the palm of his hand flat on Maddie's back and feels her sigh again.

After a minute or two, she sits up, then reaches over to tug at Olivia's hand to say hello. Maddie gets angry quickly, especially at a perceived injustice, but she also calms down quickly, and rarely holds a grudge. "Is it almost time to go? I'm hungry."

"Almost," Zack says, looking at his watch. "Mom's making dinner, she should be home now."

"Are you coming over, Uncle Screech? Is that why you're here?"

"Sure," Screech says, and then looked at Zack. "That's all right, isn't it?"

"That's fine," Zack says. "Hey, how did you find me here?"

"Well, I called your office and they said you left. And I tried you at home, but you weren't there, so I figured you were here, so I stopped by."

"Most people would have left a message," Zack says.

"I did that too," Screech says. "And you know, this works out, because I have the invitations and stuff in my car, so you can just sign them after dinner and put them in the mail tomorrow."

"Awesome," Zack says, in a tone that implied just the opposite, and then got up because he sees that the girls on the court are moving toward the sidelines, picking up their bookbags and lunch totes. He holds out his hands for Olivia and sees her respond in kind, a gesture that never gets old for Zack, and as he hitches her up on his side and pats Maddie on the shoulder, he says, "Let's go."

~

"Okay, what really puts this over the top is the envelope. Most definitely," Kelly says, hours later, after the kids are in bed and Screech on his way home. She holds up one of the envelopes, which has a black-and-white version of Zack's senior photo to the left of the address, with the words A Special Message from Zack Morris running below it.

Zack slides another invitation down the table toward Kelly so she can put it in an envelope, and picked an unsigned one out of the box. He lays it flat on the table and reads, "'Many a time I have sat and pondered the halcyon days of Bayside High' - seriously?"

Kelly shakes her head, grinning, but keeps stuffing envelopes, because he signs faster than she stuffs and she has a serious backlog piled up. "Do you want to know what halcyon means, Zack?"

"I know what it means," Zack saus, thwapping Kelly on the top of her head lightly with the now-signed invitation. "Or at least I think I do. What I know is that it's a word I'd never use. And why do I have to sign these, anyway? Why couldn't he do it?"

"I'd tell you, but it would only inflate your ego," Kelly says.

"I like the sound of that."

"What a shock," Kelly says, rolling her eyes. She stuffs another envelope and puts it on top of one of the three unsteady piles in front of her, and pulls her hair back into a ponytail. "The truth is, back in high school, everyone knew Zack Morris's signature. Every girl wanted Zack to sign their yearbook."

"Every girl?" Zack asks.

"Just about," Kelly says. "I remember in tenth grade Bio, Clara Jones and Beth Wasliewski got detention after they got into a huge argument over which of their messages was more meaningful. You told one to have a great summer and you told the other to have an awesome vacation. There's no way Screech could fake your signature because many girls spent many hours studying those messages. Hard to believe, but true."

Zack watches Kelly stuff a few more envelopes, and remembers how many times he read the note, "Zack, We R 2 Cool 4 School, have a great summer! -Kelly!" during the summer after ninth grade. Trying to figure out if the 'we' actually meant something, why she used a heart instead of a dot in the exclamation point at the end of her name. He looked at it twice a day every day that summer, and can picture clearly where she signed (in the top corner of the second-to-last blank page in the yearbook).

"Yeah," Zack finally says, smiling. "Hard to believe."

.ii. jessie

Gloria is supposed to put messages from the Washington office on the top of Jessie's incoming mail, but when Thursday's pile arrived on Jessie's desk, there's no DC postmark in the upper-right-hand corner of the envelope to catch her eye; instead, Zack Morris stared up at her.

"High school reunion time," Gloria says in a sing-song tone while Jessie takes the envelope off of the pile and examines it. "Are you going to go?"

"Doubtful," Jessie says, putting the envelope aside. "I'd have to fly out to California, and since my folks don't live there anymore, it seems like a waste."

"Come on, it's not a waste," Gloria says. "Seeing old friends, seeing old non-friends, seeing people you hated and looking down on them - it's a time-honored American tradition. And come on, you look great, you've got a very impressive job, you live in a great place, you've got - you've got it all."

Jessie gives Gloria a doubtful look. "Including a pending divorce."

"You're better off rid of him," Gloria says, with impressive conviction.

"Yeah, well," Jessie says. Four months after she came home to find his things gone, and still the unexpected mention puts her off-balance. She picks up another piece of mail and looks up at Gloria again, this time all business. "Did we hear from the state party on McClenehan?"

~~

Jessie ignores the invitation for the rest of the day, and for a while after that, looking at it only when she moves a pile of files off of her desk and sees it lying there underneath. She hugs the files closer to her chest and looks down at Zack's face, at his familiar, slightly smarmy smile, and feels a surprising rush of homesickness.

After dumping the files on Gloria's chair, she comes back into the office and picks up the envelope. Enough time has passed that the reunion is probably over, which somehow makes it easier for Jessie to consider opening the envelope. Her name and office address are handwritten on the front of it in careful cursive she recognizes as Kelly's handwriting, memorable from all the notes she'd been tossed in study hall, like

Jessie-

Max after school?

Kelly!


Jessie sits down in her office chair, trying to remember the last time she spoke to Kelly. Right after she eloped with David, maybe; she remembers sitting up late in her old apartment's tiny kitchen, listening to Kelly tell her what married life was really like. After that, she always meant to keep in touch - had promised to - but didn't.

The invitation inside the envelope doesn't have Kelly's handwriting on it. Zack's signature is at the bottom-right-hand corner of the card, and the blank, left side of the card is covered with his messy print.

Jessie,

I am your oldest friend, which is something you should think about when you consider this invitation Basically, if I have to suffer through it (which I will), then you should, too.

If a reference to our long friendship doesn't work, I also urge you to remember the considerable blackmail material I have at my fingertips.

See you next month-

Zack


The right side of the card consists of the advertised special message from Zack Morris, which Jessie can tell at a glance he didn't write, and the date and time of the reunion: tomorrow, 7PM. Bayside High Gymnasium.

She can still go, if she wants to, which she doesn't, she immediately decides. Too much work, too many files to review, too much research to-

"Hey, did you hear?"

"Hear what?" Jessie asks, looking up from the invitation. Gloria stands in the doorway with Jessie's files in her arms, which are so huge in relation to Gloria's petite frame that she almost disappears behind them.

"Marcia got the rug guy to agree to come in this weekend, so everyone has to be outta here all weekend." Gloria shifts her weight and the files tilt one way, then the other, but ultimately stay in Gloria's arms. "I think you may actually be forced to enjoy yourself this weekend."

Jessie feels a rush of panic. "The office is completely closed? All weekend?"

"All weekend," Gloria says. "And don't even think about taking work home, because I'm going to hide these bad boys where you will never find them. We assistants have our tricks and secrets, trust me."

"Gloria-"

"Seriously, Jessie, I know you're my boss and all, and I guess in the end I have to do what you tell me, but please, I'm begging you. Take a day off. Or even two! I hear some people do this regularly. They call it a weekend," Gloria says, backing out of the office and turning down the hall.

The office being closed for the weekend isn't a big deal. Jessie can and does work from home a lot, she just likes working in the office better. Her office computer is better, there's an excellent library at her disposal, and the occasional colleague around to ask for advice or input. Most importantly, there are no reminders of David anywhere at all, as long as you don't count the place on Jessie's hand where her wedding ring used to be.

Jessie unfolds the invitation again, reads Zack's note another time. I am your oldest friend. They'd become friends by necessity, their bond formed by geography more than anything else, since Jessie and Zack were two kids in a neighborhood of aging families. Still the friendship had survived past the first summer after his family moved in; Jessie remembers her second-grade surprise over the fact that Zack sat next to her at lunch, even though he'd heard all day the way the other kids laughed at her for having bushy hair and being too smart.

Zack sat down at lunch with her that day and every day in Bayside after that. Other people would join the table later; first Lisa, then Screech, later Kelly and Slater, but it began with Zack and Jessie. Thinking of it reminded Jessie of other things, like the view of Zack's bedroom from the tree outside his window, which she'd climbed to go visit him more times than she can count, and how he always got the bus driver to hold the bus for her when she overslept.

"Seriously, Jessie, they're coming in here in like twenty minutes," Diana announces from the doorway. "Marcia wants everyone out, you included, so if you really want me to pull some files for you to work on this weekend, now would be the time to tell me."

Jessie looks up into Diana's worried face and thinks of the files she should request, and is about to rattle them off when she thinks of the weekend in front of her: hours working at the desk that used to be David's, sitting on a couch he picked out, trying not to notice all the places where his things used to be.

"No need," Jessie finds herself saying. "Looks like I'm getting out of town."

Jessie's confident pronouncement almost doesn't make its way into reality; flights are booked, traffic is terrible, and she barely makes her way onto the last direct flight with an open seat available. She sinks down into her seat, pushes her hair off of her face, and leans back, eyes closed, while she listens to other people settle into their seats and secure their luggage.

Suddenly there's a hand on her arm. Jessie's eyes fly open and she finds herself looking at the most attractive man she's ever seen in person.

"You are Jessie Spano?" he says, in a European accent Jessie can't identify.

"What? I mean, yes," Jessie says. "Who are you?"

"That is not important," he says, waving his hand in a dismissive way. "I have a friend, she wishes for us to switch seats. She is in first class."

"Who-" Jessie leans into the aisle, looks toward the curtain to the first class section, and sees a familiar face peeking out at her; a face she recognizes from years of childhood friendship and her recent appearance as a guest judge on Project Runway. "Oh my God, Lisa?"

.iii. lisa

The first thing Lisa notices about Jessie is her tragic outfit, which doesn't get better upon closer scrutiny: an oversized, shapeless gray suit with a white button-down and - most tragic of all - no accessories at all. The second thing she notices is Jessie's face, which is familiar in a way her face will always be familiar to Lisa, who spent hours of every day for something like ten years hanging out with her, but also changed by the time that's passed. Her face is thinner, her hair straightened, both of which are fine, but what really gives Lisa pause is the expression on Jessie's face: exhaustion mingled with a sadness that doesn't quite go away even when she smiles and greets Lisa with a hug.

"I can't believe it's you," Jessie says.

"Same here!" Lisa says, pulling her out of the aisle to sit next to her. "Kelly said you didn't RSVP-"

"It was a last-minute thing," Jessie says, pushing her hair behind one ear. "I thought I didn't have time in my schedule, but then this weekend opened up, so-"

Jessie cuts herself off to listen to the flight attendant, who's directing them to watch the pre-flight security announcements. Of course Jessie listens with her full attention, leaning into the aisle to see the way to the nearest exit. Lisa never pays attention to these things, and watching Jessie nod at what the flight attendant on the video is saying, and then check under her seat for the flotation device, makes Lisa grin.

"What's the smile for? You find potential air disasters amusing?" Jessie asks, leaning back against her seat.

"No, it's just - you're still so you," Lisa says. "You know?"

Jessie doesn't say anything at first, but the way she's staring at Lisa reminds her of what she's wearing: a purple sheath dress that matches the purple hairpiece she clipped into her sleek, angled bob, and knee-high boots with transparent heels. "I think I do."

Lisa pats her hair. "I assume you're referring to the fact that I have not aged a day since we left Bayside."

"Of course," Jessie says. "Speaking of ages, how old is your boyfriend?"

"Massimo? Twenty-five," Lisa says, sighing. "Ah, Massimo."

"Lisa. He is-" Jessie doesn't finish the sentence, appears lost for words. "Wow."

Lisa pats her on the arm. "I know. He gets that reaction a lot. It's a shock he's still as sweet as he is, given the fact that he's ridiculously beautiful. I mean, he actually asked to come to the reunion with me. He said he wanted to see my 'place of origin' and seriously, I was not going to turn down the opportunity to show up with him on my arm."

"I don't think anyone would."

Lisa nods, and watches Jessie's face, which has frozen up a little in the last few seconds. "You're here on your own?"

"Yeah, just me," Jessie says, and then after a long pause. "David and I are divorcing."

"Oh, honey-"

Jessie waves away Lisa's words. "It's fine, it's absolutely fine, I mean, we got married right out of law school, were practically kids. And I'm very lucky. Financially, I'm fine, and he's not being acrimonious with the divorce proceedings, so it should be pretty painless."

"That's good," Lisa says, remembering the last time she saw Jessie, how she had leaned on David's arm on their way out of the benefit they'd all been attending, one of the rare times Jessie and Lisa's paths had crossed in New York City. It was only a year and a half ago, and Lisa remembers being jealous of their casual intimacy as she left the benefit alone. "Still, I'm sorry."

"Thanks," Jessie says, with a tight smile that says that the topic is off the table.

"So, let's get to the important stuff," Lisa says. "What are you wearing tomorrow night?"

Jessie blanches. "I actually didn't have time to pack, so all I have is my gym bag and what I'm wearing, so I guess I'm wearing this."

"Oh, honey," Lisa says, pressing her hand against Jessie's arm. "No."

~

The problem with finding something for Jessie to wear isn't that nothing looks good on her - most things do - but because she's so picky, a fact Lisa had forgotten.

"I'm remembering why Kelly was my shopping sidekick in high school," Lisa says, leaning against the wall outside the changing room. "You are impossible."

"I am not! I just know what I like."

"Which is nothing short, nothing bright, nothing ruffled, nothing with sequins, nothing fitted - "

"Nothing tight," Jessie corrects from within the changing room.

"Jessie, you have a killer bod, it's criminal to hide it in a sack of fabric," Lisa says, and then sees a salesgirl approaching with a black dress over one arm. "Oh, you found it?"

"Found what?" Jessie asks.

"Not you," Lisa says, and then smiles at the salesgirl. "Thank you, this is great."

The girl flutters her hand and says, in a breathless way, "Can I just ask - are you Lisa Turtle?"

Lisa feels the same rush she always does when someone asks the question. "I am."

"Oh my God. I, like, love your stuff. I bought a T-shirt that's just like one of yours at Steve & Barry's because I can't actually afford your stuff, but I totally absolutely LOVE it and the first thing I'm going to buy once I save up enough is your signature purple sweater dress. You are, like, the best."

"Aw, thank you," Lisa says, leaning over to give the girl a hug. After the girl leaves, Lisa tosses the dress over the door to Jessie and says, "Did you hear that? I am the best, which means that when you put this on, you are coming out here to show it to me even if you don't think you like it. Okay?"

"Fine, all right," Jessie says, and continues in a slightly-muffled way as she changes out of one dress and into another, "I can't believe I'm actually shopping with the real, infamous Lisa Turtle."

"Shut up," Lisa says, leaning against the wall again.

"Oh, come on, you love it."

"I do," Lisa says, smiling. "I won't lie about it. I was meant to be fabulously famous. Or maybe famously fabulous. Either one."

Jessie opens the door and steps out into the hall, saying, "Clearly, because-"

Lisa cuts her off. "Oh my God. This is the dress. This is most definitely the dress, and I'm not giving you any time to think about it, or consider it, or even finish what you were saying, because I am getting you to the register and out of this store as quick as I can, before you change your mind-"

"I haven't even decided to buy it!"

"Oh yes you have! Don't you remember saying, 'Lisa, this is fabulous, thank you SO much for your help and expertise, I couldn't have done it without you?'"

"No."

"Well, that's what you should be saying," Lisa says, pushing Jessie back into the changing room. "Now, get back into your regular clothes, and let's get that dress bought. You are going to turn some heads."

There's a pause long enough for Lisa to think Jessie isn't going to respond, but then she does, with a quiet, "You think?"

There's a hesitance in Jessie's voice that cuts Lisa to the quick.

"I know it," Lisa says, when Jessie opens the dressing room door, back in her sweatpants and T-shirt, dress hanging over one arm, her hair a mess from changing so many times. She looks younger dressed like this, reminding Lisa of all the nights they spent sleeping over at each other's houses, staying up all night, watching scary movies and talking about boys. Well, mostly Lisa talking about boys, and Jessie listening and then telling her that she should focus on non-boy-related goals, like picking a college and focusing on a career.

"Let's get out of here," Jessie says, striding toward the exit. "These places give me hives."

"Why were we ever friends, again?" Lisa asks, walking speedily to catch up with her.

When they're standing at the cash register, Jessie looks over at her. "How big are those heels? You're almost as tall as me right now."

"These?" Lisa lifts one foot and examines them. "Four-and-a-half inches, I think."

"Have you read about what those things can do to your feet?" Jessie says, and then starts digging through her purse. "I heard this segment on NPR about the relationship between ultra-high-heels and Chinese foot-binding, and I know it sounds ridiculous on its own, but when you consider-"

Jessie goes on, but Lisa doesn't listen, because she's distracted by something she sees in Jessie's purse: an eyeglasses case embossed with a familiar silver turtle, the trademark of an authentic Lisa Turtle design. Jessie's rants have never bothered her because even in high school, when it counted, Jessie came through for her: proof-reading her application for FIT, taking her out to dinner the night she got her first job in a showroom, referring her to a lawyer who specialized in contracts when she closed her first big deal as a designer.

"Hey, where'd you get these?" Lisa interrupts, pulling the case out of Jessie's purse.

"Bloomingdale's, I think," Jessie says, signing for the purchase. "I really like them!"

Lisa opens the case, takes out the sunglasses, which are the most expensive pair she designed: teal plastic, with asymmetrical frames. Totally amazing, and totally not Jessie's style. "You are such a liar."

"I am not!"

"You so are," Lisa says, taking the dress bag from the salesgirl, and waiting for Jessie to get organized so that they can leave the store. "These are so far from your style, they're not even in another zip code, they're in another area code. That's the bigger one, right?"

"Yes," Jessie says, snatching the frames back. She carefully folds them up and puts them back in the case. "And I think they're great, which is why I bought them."

"If you say so," Lisa says, and doesn't press the matter any further, because she knows the real reason Jessie bought them, even if she won't admit it out loud.

----
Continued in Part 2

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