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Only Rock-N-Roll

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For Clive, it's a choice. Between loosing his senses and keeping his cool. Much as his blood is screaming at him to do something macho, to ram this idiot's excuses and apologies down his throat, that isn't what Lauren and Emma need from him. His pride is not the issue. This is the difference, he reminds himself forcefully, between being 'macho' and being a man. A man is calm in a crisis. Sensible.

The humor helps. The irony. The distance. “I was only out of the room for a minute,” he says (in the moment that might have been a shocked silence otherwise) while he tries to think of anything he can do that will help at all in any sense. “At least it means we'll have something in common now,” he answers rather than correcting Ed's assumption that he and Emma won't have met in 1971. It's irrelevant. She wasn't his wife then. He didn't own her, as she had been fond of pointing out. He hadn't even had the chance to rescue her yet then, to sweep her off her feet and make everything better as he wants to do right now.

When at last she opens the bathroom door, it's the end of joking. He'd toss her a lifeline if he could, but he can't toss off another oneliner. Calm and sensible may still be the order of the day, but it is getting harder. His wife and daughter are in terrible pain. Pain they never would have been in if Emma hadn't gone out and drunk herself senseless and gone home with Ed. Pain Ed doesn't seem to be taking into account in his off-handed, no-thought-required answer that he and Lauren will certainly not be splitting up. In fact, Ed honestly seems shocked when Lauren does not immediately agree. Shocked, and (Clive is forced to admit) in pain.

Paradoxically that doesn't help with Clive's temper. “They're vermin, Emma! Vermin!” he shouts of her beloved badgers, when she has the nerve to say something about his scrapbooking. But the next moment he is calm again. There is something he can do. Clive sets to work. Scrapbook Man to the rescue!

When the truth is revealed, the release of tension is almost physical, for the two women anyway. Lauren is overjoyed, giggly. “Oh, my clever Clive!” Emma fairly gasps, “I'll never criticize your scrapbooks ever again.” Clive wants to feel the same sense of relief, and yet his temper remains tightly coiled beneath his calm, sensible exterior. There's a knot in his stomach, as if this trap might swing shut on him yet. A male instinct he supposes, reluctant to let ones guard down once alerted.

Ed too seems to be having trouble letting it go. “You definitely got up on stage?” he asks Emma one last time. Still puzzled, still concerned.

“I wasn't the only one,” Emma reassures him, and suddenly thoughtlessly, she is gushing about Mick Jagger again. As if this is what her husband needs to hear right now. As if—a new thought grabs a hold of Clive and, mad as it is, it latched on tight. There must be a million men named Mick or Nick in England, but none that Emma is so clearly taken with. There's a picture of his ugly, talentless face in the scrapbook, right next to the faded ticket. Unable to control himself any longer, rashly, senselessly, Clive crumples the cherished forty-year-old souvenir photograph into a tight ball in his fist.

It's too much. He can't behave this way, can't feel this way in front of Ed, not right now. Clive hurries from the room. Emma follows. She is not embarrassed by his behavior, not angry about the keepsake. She is concerned. Solicitous. Nick or Mick doesn't matter to her. Not Jagger or the other one. “I'm sorry I've upset you,” she says, when they are behind closed doors. Clive folds her in his arms, and it is 1971 all over again. It doesn't matter where she's been, that weekend or any other weekend back then. She's here now, with him, and her love is all he needs.