A/N: So this is my follow up to "Young Blood". I'm hesitant to call it a sequel, because I don't want to set it up as comparable...YB covered nine years, and this one just covers a weekend. I didn't set out meaning for it to be particularly epic, just kind a DVD extra to the first fic, fulfilling a prompt I got multiple times when I mentioned on Tumblr that I was thinking of doing some deleted scenes set in YB 'verse. Hope you enjoy!
I saw her today at the reception, a glass of wine in her hand...
Alex closes her eyes, resting her forehead against the window, and spins the volume dial on her Walkman as high as goes. Her fingers absently tap out the beat, drumming across the cover of Mother Night. She'd closed the book half an hour ago, too abuzz with nervous energy to concentrate. For the past week or two she's been having bizarre anxiety dreams about the transportation aspect of this weekend. She'd dream she's sitting at the station and the bus never comes, or that she's been on it for hours and hours without stopping, finally looking out the window and realizing she's gone too far.
But of course it's only a three hour bus ride, and she'd booked the ticket a month ago, so there's little room for disaster.
Alex keeps her eyes closed for the next twenty minutes, until she feels the bus make a wide, slow turn. Out the window, a sign confirms their arrival in Northampton, and Alex is on her feet before the bus has fully eased to a stop.
Outside, she hooks her headphones around her neck and stuffs the Walkman into the pocket of her leather jacket, bouncing on the balls of her feet as the driver pulls bags out from under the bus and tosses them on the sidewalk. She isn't sure when exactly nervous became her primary emotion for this trip, but that needs to go away like now.
Finally her red duffel joins the pile of baggage, and Alex snatches it up, slings it over her shoulder and heads around to the front of the bus station, eyes roaming.
Her name sounds like a magic word. Alex turns and suddenly Piper's in front of her, smiling like she's swallowed sunlight, launching herself into Alex's arms, lips searching. Relief bursts open in Alex's chest and douses her insides, the sweet sensation of a craving satisfied at last.
For a few moments, her head is too full with the mere fact of Piper's presence to realize what's so significant about this moment, this very public display of affection. For the first time, she is seeing out Piper, Piper away from their hometown where anyone they see could know her parents.
When she pulls back, her face is flushed with pleasure. "I love that I get to do that."
One hand still tangled in Piper's hair, Alex grins. "Want to keep things public? I saw some pretty tall bushes over there."
"Tempting. But I've got a dorm room waiting. Polly knows to disappear for a few hours."
Smirking, Alex grabs Piper's hand and tugs, impatience only half feigned. "Then let's get the fuck out of here."
Piper giggles for no other reason then excessive happiness and allows herself to be led to her own car. They kiss again when they get there, slightly less hurried, leaning against the passenger side door, and then Piper gently pulls back and lets her forehead drop against Alex's shoulder, murmuring, "I'm so glad you're here," into the folds of leather.
Smiling, Alex kisses the side of her head. Her nerves are gone. All she's got is happy. "Me, too."
Fucking Jewel is playing when Piper cranks the car.
Alex groans. "Pipes. No."
Piper bites back a grin. "I knew I forgot to do something."
"You mean conceal your terrible taste?" Alex hits eject, plunging the car into merciful silence, and starts rummaging through Piper's glove box until she finds a cassette with her own handwriting on the label. "This is what happens when I leave you alone."
"Guess you'll just have to stay forever," Piper says in mock resignation.
The phrase I wish floats through Alex's head, pumped with regret, but she banishes the thought. Christ, she's been here less than ten minutes. Way too soon to start dreading leaving.
She pushes the mixtape into the deck and, predictably, The Cure bursts to life through the speakers. They both smile at the same time, and Alex rolls down her window and lights a cigarette. Piper throws her a fond look. "We've got great timing. The smoke smell from fall break just faded."
"Gotta keep you thinking about me."
It's shameless, and Piper smiles and says what she's supposed to. "Trust me, that isn't a problem."
Piper's car has to go in a long term student lot off campus, so there's a campus bus ride followed by a ten minute walk before they get to her dorm. Piper keeps their hands clasped together, and leans against Alex on the bus, and in general is so sweetly giddy Alex keeps having to bite back laughter. But she's happy to indulge, keeping her free hand swimming through Piper's hair or trailing teasingly along the back of her neck.
Along the way, they run into a few girls Piper knows and don't stop to talk much, but Piper introduces every one of them to "my girlfriend, Alex." They all seem to have heard about her before, even the one it's clear Piper only vaguely knows from a class. It feels good, to see Piper so eager to show off - or confirm - her existence, to listen to her firmly label the relationship to anyone she sees.
But then they're in her dorm, practically racing each other up the stairs, and Alex almost forgets anything but getting Piper to a bed.
Almost, until they actually get inside the dorm room, and it's hard to notice the bed in the face of the decor.
"What the shit?"
Piper rolls her eyes, looking like she'd expected this. "You really want to take time to make fun of this now?"
This is presumably referring to the posters for Titanic, Clueless, and You've Got Mail on the walls, or the plethora of the lime green, or the floral print initials hanging on the wall, or the cardboard cut out of some member of N*Sync or Backstreet Boys or something equally horrifying and blonde tipped.
Grabbing Alex's bag, Piper tosses it on the least offensive side of the dorm room. She presses herself against Alex's back, chin hooked over her shoulder, and turns her toward the standard issue wooden desk positioned at the foot of the twin bed. "See, just focus on this space. Not so bad, right?"
There's a cork board built into the wall above each desk. Piper's is covered with photos, mostly of her and Alex, and a couple of small posters of bands: The Cure, The Rolling Stones, and Joni Mitchell.
"I don't know," Alex murmurs back thoughtfully. "I almost don't want them in the room with all that other stuff."
Piper's quiet for a moment, and then her tongue traces the shell of Alex's ear. "I'll just have to distract you," she whispers.
Alex unfurls a grin, reaching her hands back, skimming them slowly over Piper's ass. Then, in a quick motion, she turns into her, bodies pressed together as they kiss.
It's been three weeks since Piper had been home for fall break. Their hands roam almost frantically over each other, like they need to lay claim on every inch they've been missing. "Bed," Piper gasps out against the curve of Alex's jaw, and Alex pulls back to smirk at her.
"One sec." Alex pulls Piper's sweater up and over her head, discarding it onto the floor, then slides aside purple bra straps, taking time to trail kisses across Piper's shoulder blades before reaching back and expertly unhooking the bra entirely. She catches it rather than let it drop, then practically skips over to the dorm room's door, eyes glittering with mirth.
"Alex!" Piper yelps in protest, turning her body away as Alex slips the door open just far enough to reach out and hook the bra over the door knob on the outside.
The door shut again, Piper relaxes. "That's completely unnecessary. I told you Polly knows not to come back until later."
"Who cares? If I'm having sex in a fucking dorm room, I want the full college experience."
"I think it's usually a sock or something."
"All girl's college. No need to be subtle."
"We should get dressed."
Alex grins and rolls onto her side, slinging a leg across Piper's hip, straddling her. "What? Tired out already?"
Looking up with an indulgent smile, Piper twirls her fingers absently around the ends of Alex's hair. "Not even. But Polly'll be back soon."
"You said she'd be hours."
"Al, it's almost six."
"Mmmm-hmmm." Piper arches off the mattress just enough to lift up and kiss Alex, slow and lazy. "And anyway, we gotta get ready for dinner."
Alex lifts an eyebrow and affects a voice of a fifties housewife that comes out slightly Southern, God knows why. "Ooh, are you takin' me out someplace fancy?"
"Depends on your definition of fancy. We're all going to that make your own pizza place I told you about."
"Who's the all?"
"Polly, Jenna, Grace and Haley."
Alex pulls a face. These are names Piper mentions on the phone, more functional than descriptive: they're always just who she'd been with at whatever party or dinner or study session. "We're with all of them tonight?"
Piper rolls off Alex and hops off the dorm bed, pulling a discard camisole on over her head. She tilts her head at Alex, looking surprised at the hint of negativity. "Yeah, is that not okay? I told you they all want to meet you...do a whole 'girl's night'. And tomorrow's the party at UMass, so we figured tonight would be best for the club."
The club is the one 18 and over place anywhere near the campus. When Piper recounts her weekends, the nights have usually been spent there or at a house party thrown by one of the surrounding colleges. Apparently all girls schools aren't great for the underage nightlife.
Piper opens the door to the dorm room, rescuing her bra; Alex makes a halfhearted attempt to pull the sheets over her bare breasts, just in case The Roommate walks in, but she doesn't make any move to get out of the bed. "Wait, so it's dinner or it's a club?"
"Dinner, then pre-game here, then club."
"That's, uh. Quite the schedule, Pipes."
Worry starts to seep into Piper's expression. "Is that okay?"
It's actually not, not really. Alex has negative interest in spending time with Piper's new friends. There's a distaste settling in her gut that's disproportional to what's actually happening, but before she can figure out a way forward, the dorm room door flies open and Piper's roommate walks in.
"Oh, sorry..." Polly blinks at Alex, lounging naked under the sheets, then swings a well, well, well sort of smirk to Piper. "Am I early?"
"No, we're, uh. Late." Adorably, Piper flushes, looking simultaneously embarrassed and pleased with herself. "Alex, this is Polly. Polly, Alex."
Alex flutters her fingers in a parodying sort of wave. Polly nods at her, looking like she doesn't want to come too close. "Nice to finally meet you."
"Yeah, you, too," Alex replies lazily. It doesn't quite sound like she means it.
As Piper's roommate, Polly's name comes up the most frequently in their phone conversations. But still, it's all function, facts without substance: grabbed dinner with Polly, just stayed in and hung out with Polly, started going to the gym with Polly, held Polly's hair back while she puked in the hall bathroom. Alex knows a lot of what Polly's been up to her first three and a half months in college, but she's completely clueless as to her actual personality.
And yet there's a vague scratching of resentment Alex has come to associate with Piper saying Polly's name.
Now, Polly raises her eyebrows at Piper. "You guys gonna make it to dinner?"
"Yeah, yeah, of course. Sorry, Pol, can you just give us like two minutes?"
"Sure." She drops her backpack next to the offensive boy band cut out and heads for the door. "Clothe yourselves."
The door closes behind Polly as Piper's hurrying around the small floorspace, gathering Alex's clothes, which she tosses unceremoniously at her. "So that's Polly."
"I gathered." Piper pauses to watch Alex wrestle her dark V-neck over her head.
"Are you okay with hanging out with everybody? Sorry, I probably should have asked."
Alex makes herself smile. "Hey, you're the host." She hops off the bed, grinning more sincerely as she leans close to Piper and says, "I'm at your beck and call."
With a light, habitual kiss, Piper shoots back, "That could get interesting."
When Polly returns to the room, Piper and Alex are safely clothed. Piper throws her roommate one more apologetic look before asking, "How'd the midterm go?"
"I fucked it right up," Polly says dispassionately. "Gonna need to get drunk tonight and forget how much I didn't know."
"Good plan," Piper says with a grin.
"Thanks, I'm pleased with it."
There's an easy, familiar rhythm to the way they talk. The resentment is snarling in Alex's chest. It makes her short and monosyllabic when Polly makes a concentrated effort to ask questions (How was your bus ride? What do you think of campus?). She can feel Piper watching her uneasily.
Alex doesn't like herself for it, but there it is.
When they leave the dorm room to meet the other girls at the campus bus stop, Piper takes her hand but also throws her a pleading look that seems to say, Be nice.
As soon as she's introduced to Grace and Jenna and Haley, Alex can already tell she's going to get them mixed up at least a few times. She can peg their type quickly: overeager straight girls (and really, leave it to Piper to find an all hetero crowd at Smith) who are totally cool with the gay thing but haven't had enough chance to prove it. She can tell in their wide smiles, in the way they throw Piper conspiratorial, approving looks. Alex can easily picture them in Piper's room, looking at the photographs on her cork board and saying in overly casual voice, "Ooh, she's hot." Like they say that about women all the time.
It's judgmental of her, but that seems to be an instinct.
Without even thinking about it, Alex's brain flexes another, newer instinct: picking a target. Grace, definitely. Jenna's got potential, too, honestly, but Alex could recruit Grace by tomorrow morning if she was so inclined.
They try to ask her questions, do the "get to know you" routine, but the thing is, they already know the facts. They know how she and Piper met ("I think it's the sweetest thing that you guys have been best friends since you were nine."), and that she isn't in school and is working at Sonic (okay, so they don't know all the facts, but to be fair neither does Piper). She's the one who could keep the conversation flowing. College comes with an expected slew of questions: what's your major, what's your roommate like, what do you want to do with your entire fucking life? But Alex can't dredge up the effort to even feign interest.
So she tells them her bus ride was fine, confirms the details of her history with Piper that they parrot back at her. She can hear herself sounding bored, like this is some inconvenience she's suffering through, but she can't seem to make that stop. Piper's squeezing her hand like it's some sort of message, and her expression starts to look like she's fighting an uncomfortable grimace.
With Alex making no effort, she quickly slips from being the focus of conversation, and the group of friends starts swapping life updates that have, apparently, accumulated since they saw each other yesterday. Listening to them talk, feeling the unit there, only makes Alex more sulky and removed, and thus even less inclined to participate than she already was. Vicious fucking cycle.
When they get off the bus and file into the pizza place, Piper pulls Alex back and says in an undertone, "You good?" Her voice is straddling the line between concern and admonishment, and Alex just gives a neutral nod. Then Piper adds, "Seriously, just try, okay? They really are great."
That, right there. That's the problem.
Back in high school, before they were dating, Alex and Piper had their completely separate friend groups. Piper in particular had a pretty established crowd - Alex just had smoke buddies - but she'd never attempted to sell Alex on them. Piper herself barely seemed to like them. When Alex would see her at school with them, Piper was barely recognizable. Fake toothy smile, overly polished laugh, slightly desperate eyes.
But now, with these people, Piper's just herself. Her smile is her smile, she laughs because she really thinks they're funny. She genuinely likes them, and that shouldn't scare Alex but it does.
They crowd into a big wraparound booth in the corner of a restaurant teeming with college kids, not a single patron over twenty-five. The waitress takes five orders for water, but when it gets to Alex she smiles and orders a Blue Moon. Piper's head whips around too fast, and she openly gapes as Alex smoothly produces an ID. The waitress accepts it without question, but she's barely three steps away from the table when Piper demands, "When'd you get a fake?"
"Fuck, Pipes, a little louder, I don't think the cooks in the back quite heard you."
"Why do you have one?"
Alex rolls her eyes. "To buy drinks."
Specifically, to buy drinks in bars near colleges closer to their hometown than Piper's. More specifically, to buy drinks for potential drug mules or clients, most of whom are actually older than her but oh so easy to charm.
Prissily, either Jenna or Haley says, "They're actually really strict about sniffing out fake IDs around here."
Alex levels her with a stare. "Did you see me have a problem?"
Piper kicks her under the table, as if they're ten years old again and Alex is cursing in class. Jesus.
Haley and Jenna, whichever is which, exchange quick, covert glances. Polly's scrutinizing Alex with narrow eyes. Grace, bless her, tries for a nervous smile.
When she's finished her second beer and most of her pizza, Alex starts feeling more talkative, and the others seem encouraged to try to include her again. Grace asks, "So, Alex. What are your plans for when you move here next year?"
"Oh, that's right," Jenna-or-Haley says. "You looking for a job? Or are you gonna take classes?"
"No big plans for me," Alex says brightly. "More likely to become a degenerate criminal than start taking classes."
Piper groans and hits Alex on the arm, probably less playful than she intends it to seem. "Shut up."
Alex smiles at her, placating, then says to the group, "I was telling Holly earlier - "
Piper's roommate is leveling a glare her way. "It's Polly."
Gun to her head, Alex couldn't say for sure if that was an accident.
"Right," Alex smirks. "Polly Hobby."
Polly slides her eyes to meet Piper, giving her a skeptical look. It's the universal look for: Really? Her?
In that instant, the hazy sense of ill will Alex has been stewing in all evening coalesces into a hard knot of specifically directed loathing. She wants to tell Polly that she was here first. That she isn't some new girlfriend grasping for the approval of Piper's friends. If anything, it should be the other way around.
But the disappointment practically radiating off Piper in waves is most definitely directed at Alex.
She just had to be an asshole.
They take the bus back to campus and split up. The plan is to reconvene in Polly and Piper's room in an hour for pregame, which apparently involves everyone getting good and drunk before they go off to an 18+ club that won't serve them alcohol.
Alex follows Piper and Polly to their dorm building - that's what it feels like, that she's following them - but pulls up short just outside, and tugs on the sleeve of Piper's jacket. "I'm gonna have a smoke. Wait with me?"
Piper nods at Polly to go on inside. She does, taking her pinched, disapproving expression with her. Alex lights up and takes a drag; Piper leans against the building with a neutral expression. She's quiet.
"Sorry," Alex says at last. It seems to be required.
Piper's eyebrows shoot up. "For what?" She doesn't say it like there's nothing to apologize for. She says it like she wants to hear Alex admit exactly what she's done.
It actually makes Alex less sorry.
"Never mind." Piper sighs. She's got her long-suffering look on. That fine, I'll be the rational one look. "You couldn't have turned on all that natural charm and charisma at least a little for them?"
Alex scuffs the toe of her shoe against the sidewalk, not looking at Piper as she mutters, "Why waste it?"
"Hey." She finally sounds pissed. Shit. "Come on, Al. You don't even know them."
Alex doesn't answer. Piper sighs, again. Lots of sighing from her tonight. "Look, what's the problem? Just tell me."
"Nothing." It slips out like a reflex. Fucking liar. But it sounds a hell of a lot better than: I don't want to like them. I don't want you to like them. I don't want you to like it here without me.
Selfish childish asshole.
Piper rolls her eyes heavenward and, yes, sighs one more time. "Well. Maybe you'll warm to them when they get wasted."
That earns a grin. "You think I prefer drunk people?"
Piper smiles back. Thank God. "There's something to that. They're more primal. Uninhibited. Sounds like your thing."
Alex's eyes light up, and she smirks crookedly, dropping her voice slightly, leaning a little closer. "Well. Primal at least."
The last traces of tension melt away from Piper's expression, eyes hooded with unrestrained wanting. Alex loves that she can do that; spend hours in bed with Piper and still leave her craving.
They kiss, Alex caging Piper in against the side of the building. It's warm and it's good and it makes everything better.
Piper's sitting backwards, straddling her wooden desk chair in front of the full length mirror hanging on her closet door, putting on her makeup. Alex lounges on Piper's bed waiting her turn.
There's music playing from the CD player on Polly's side of the room. She'd inflicted it upon them just before breezing out of the dorm room to get ready in the communal hall bathroom - which seems unnecessary, but Alex isn't complaining. Alex gets the sense that this god awful girls' R&B group is a standard part of the getting ready ritual. There's probably another CD specifically for the pregame.
Possibly fucking Jewel.
"Okay, I'm good if you need the mirror," Piper tells her, turning around.
Her makeup's heavier and more dramatic than Alex has ever seen it, obviously adjusted for the new activity of going out: slightly smokey eyes and thick dark lashes and coral lipstick. To Alex, there's something sweetly self-conscious about it, and she finds herself thinking of middle school, pulling Piper into the bathroom every morning before first period and helping her put on eyeliner.
Alex's heart pinches unexpectedly. "You look really great."
Piper's smile, pleased and almost shy, crinkles the corners of her eyes. "Thanks."
Grabbing her makeup bag and sliding into the place Piper just vacated, Alex pushes her glasses up on her head and leans close to the mirror, darkening her existing line of eyeliner and adding a new one below the eye. She puts on bright red lipstick, occasionally distracted by the reflection of Piper in the mirror, pulling off her clothes and changing into a dress.
When she finishes and spins away from the mirror, Alex's breath catches in her throat. Piper's in a short red dress and sheer black tights, stepping gingerly into heels, and God, Alex has never seen her dressed like this. It sure as shit doesn't remind her of middle school.
"Fuck, you're gorgeous."
Piper grins with self satisfaction. "Yeah?"
"Mmm-hmm..." Alex struts over to her, gaze narrow and focused. "I have a very important question." Piper tilts her head expectantly. "Is Polly sleeping elsewhere tonight?"
Piper shakes her head. "No, sorry. She couldn't find anywhere for tonight...tomorrow, though, she's almost definitely gonna crash with this guy at UMass she's kind of hooking up with."
Alex hadn't even been seriously asking - had, for some reason, assumed it to be the case - and her surprise and disappointment must show on her face, because Piper adds in an undertone, glancing at the door in case of Polly's sudden return, "There's a decent chance she'll be drunk and dead to the world though. Major lightweight."
"You're one to talk."
Piper shoves her. "Hurry and get changed, they'll be here soon."
"You mean Polly might come back soon. Wouldn't want her to accidentally ogle the lesbian tits."
"Shut up," Piper tells her, but there's no real annoyance in it.
Alex pulls off her shirt and flicks Piper with it before digging in her duffel bag for her dress (black, with long lace sleeves) and tights (also black, also lace). Like Piper's, this is a new addition to Alex's wardrobe. Her bar clothes, recruitment clothes, work clothes. Whatever, whatever, whatever.
She changes quickly, then spins around with a sarcastic little ta-da! gesture. Piper's eyes drink her in, and she breathes out, not sarcastic at all, "Wow."
"Maybe we should have gone to prom after all," Piper's voice is soft, and slightly husky; she runs her hands slowly along Alex's hips. "We look damn good in formal wear."
Alex laughs out loud. "Babe, either of these dresses would have gotten us thrown the fuck out of prom."
"Although the music is giving me a prom vibe. I don't mean that as a compliment."
"Sorry it's not up to your standards," Polly's frosty voice cuts in from the doorway.
Alex and Piper spin around. "Oh, um..." Alex catches Piper's eye and shrugs. "No saving that one."
Piper gives Polly an apologetic look, then says, overly cheerful, "Polly's always giving me shit about my occasional music snobbery. I told her it's all on you."
"Must be a 'daughter of a bastard rock star' thing," Alex says blithely.
"Oh, right, Piper told me about that."
Alex gives Piper a startled look, thrown off. She's not sure what that means, if Piper had just told Polly the bare facts about her girlfriend's father...or if she'd related the shit show that was the Death Maiden concert. It had been just a week before the semester started; had that been a story swapped during some early roommate bonding session?
Piper looks guilty, which makes Alex worried it's the latter. Her stomach pitches uncomfortably. Unfairly, Polly knowing this about her only makes Alex hate her more.
Alex walks back over to the mirror, pretending to study her eye makeup so she doesn't have to look at anyone. Piper follows her, trailing her fingers silently across Alex's back, an apology.
"Pipe, that dress looks awesome," Polly says a minute later, oblivious to the tension in the room. "Aren't you glad we talked you into it?"
At that, Alex has to bite back a smile, gathering the dress is a recent purchase. Possibly, probably just for this visit.
Alex turns around. Piper's studying her closely, searching for a trace of softness. Alex offers the tiniest fraction of a smile and a little nod: it's okay.
"Let's pregame this pregame," Polly declares. She's bent down in front of her closet, where a second minifridge has apparently been placed. She emerges with two handles of Smirnoff, while Piper pulls a carton of lemonade out of the other minifridge set against the window - the one allowed to be in plain sight.
Alex smiles a little. "Is that a chaser or mixer?"
"Little bit of both," Piper says.
Polly's at the CD player, changing out the music. Not Jewel; Mariah fucking Carey. Fabulous.
Piper hands Alex a full shot glass. "Cheers."
Grinning, Alex dutifully clicks the glass with Piper's and tosses it back, well acquainted with the almost antiseptic taste of super cheap vodka. She's never seen Piper do shots before; it's chased within nanoseconds with a long, generous gulp of lemonade in a red Solo cup, and even when she emerges her lips are amusingly pinched with distaste. It makes Alex want to kiss her, so she does.
"Shit, now I gotta catch up." Across the room, Polly tosses back a shot on her own, then refills.
They're two shots in when the others arrive, all with backpacks and bulky purses that quite glaringly don't go with their outfits. They've all got their own handle of vodka, and Alex decides not to point out the unnecessary hassle of this possessiveness.
"Hey, Alex," Polly says loudly after shot number four. "You gonna buy us drinks at the club with your fake?"
"No." Alex smiles benignly, not offering any other explanation. She opens the smile up completely and leans into Piper. "Pipes can share mine though."
Predictably, Piper's already tilting over the edge of buzzed into drunk, so she only smiles delightedly at the news and cranes her neck to kiss Alex's jaw. She's oblivious to Alex's diss to her friends, or the way all four of them are throwing each other looks of the what a bitch variety. Their shots are making them even less subtle. Alex's shots are making her give even less of a flying fuck.
The possibility of drinks at the bar snatched away, they all set about reaching the highest possible level of intoxication that will keep them physically able to enter a public place. Piper joins in out of habit, and it starts to seem like her hands are physically incapable of existing away from Alex's body. The way she's looking at Alex feels downright elicit, and Alex completely ignores whatever conversation the others are having, though Piper gamely tries to join in.
At one point, with Piper nipping lightly at her ear and everyone else trying not to watch, Alex loudly interrupts whatever else is being said and asks, apropos of nothing, "Can Polly stay at one of your dorms tonight?"
Everyone goes silent, gaping at these apparently unexplored depths of human assholeishness. Finally, Polly says, "Piper."
Piper's twirling a lock of Alex's hair around her finger. "Mmmm?"
"Piper." Sharp and loud and slightly slurred. Piper looks over. "We already talked about this."
"I know." Alex's hand grazes across Piper's ass and she giggles. "But could you?"
"Are you fucking serious right now?!"
The genuine fury in Polly's tone seems to strike some lone sober cell in Piper's brain. Her expression neutralizes. Contrite, she says, "No, no you're right. Sorry. Sorry sorry sorry." She looks back at Alex. "We did already talk about it."
"That's fine," Alex says calmly. "I was just asking."
Uncomfortable, Grace asks, "Should we go?"
"Yes, please," Polly grits out.
Alex asks, "Is this another bus situation or what?"
"We bus to the other side of campus. Then it's about a fifteen minute walk," Haley-or-Jenna answers
"Getting too cold to walk," Piper whines, burrowing herself against Alex's back like she's already anticipating the chill.
"That's what happens in winter, Pipe," Polly snaps. "Suck it the hell up."
"Hey, shut the fuck up." Alex takes a step forward, glaring down at Polly. "Don't talk to her like that."
"Al, it's okay," Piper mutters in slight alarm, tugging her back. Polly looks downright murderous.
Alex looks back at Piper: sexy in her nightclub clothes and make up, beautiful the way she always is, wide eyed and drunk and obviously nervous as her eyes flick back and forth between her friends and Alex.
A wave of possessiveness ripples through Alex, a growl in the shape of the word Mine forming in her throat. She takes Piper's hand.
"C'mon," Jenna-or-Haley insists nervously, storing her vodka under Polly's bed. "Bus is every fifteen minutes, it'll be there in three."
Polly follows her out of the room without another glance back, and the other two follow. Alex grabs her leather jacket from Piper's desk. "Here, Pipes."
Piper's face lights up. "Are you sure?," she asks even as she turns around and shoves her arm into one of the sleeves.
Alex helps her finagle drunk, loose limbs into the jacket and smiles. "I'm sure."
"Are you guys fucking coming?," someone (no points for guessing who, that goddamn bitch) yells from the hallway.
At the club, everyone but Alex gets an Under 21 armband. She smugly flashes her fake ID and gets a stamp of approval on the back of her hand. It's a standard nightclub - red tinted, over crowded, shit music - save for the slightly younger than usual crowd. Though most of them, like Piper and her friends, seem to have arrived pre-intoxicated.
"I'm gonna head to the bar," Alex says directly against Piper's ear.
Piper nods for too long and yells, "Okay! We'll probably be in that corner! Somewhere!" She points vaguely in some direction, and Alex nods.
When she finds them, beer in hand, they're all sitting in a corner booth way too low to the ground. Polly and Haley-or-Jenna are whispering in undertones, while everyone else looks varying degrees of awkward and uncomfortable. Piper looks miserable, and Alex's anger flares again at whatever the hell Polly said to ruin her drunken bliss.
Alex doesn't even bother making eye contact with the others. Just extends her hand to Piper and nods toward the dance floor. Piper takes it gratefully, lets Alex pull her up, but she also looks back at her friends with a beseeching expression. "Coming?"
Grace and Jenna-or-Haley follow immediately, and with evident reluctance the other two follow as well. Alex leads the way, pulling Piper expertly through the sweaty crowd and shouldering out enough space for them to stand. She passes over her bottle of dark beer; Piper takes a generous pull, and Alex puts a hand on Piper's hip and steps into her.
They dance. The sort of dancing that's basically just touching set to music; face to face at first, their noses two inches apart, cheeks flushed with alcohol, eyes hooded. It's seductive and teasing, the sort of tease that can only come when the want is guaranteed to be fulfilled. Alex's whole body is thrumming, and she can't tell if it's the pounding base of the music or her own eager pulse. Piper presses even closer and kisses her, clumsy and frantic and drunk, her teeth scraping against Alex's chin, tongue scrambling for purchase. Alex cups her jaw gently, taking control. Their tongues vibrate against each other in time with the pounding bass of whatever the fuck hip hop song is playing. When they pull back, Piper turns around, letting Alex grind against her from behind, but she keeps her head turned, like she needs to maintain eye contact as long as possible.
All at once, for no real reason, Piper's seductive, self-possessed smile, breaks open and tilts toward something sheepish and self-aware. Her mouth is laughing, the sound lost under the music. She digs her top teeth into her lower lip and looks up at Alex from underneath her eyelashes.
It's so goddamned pretty. Almost painfully so. One of those sweet, nothing moments that never fails to unstitch something in Alex's chest. Alex isn't sure what she did back then as a stupid nine year old kid that gave Piper Chapman lifetime access to her heart, but it clearly happened.
She feels a wave of a different sort of possessiveness, something softer, something that feels reciprocal. Something where mine goes hand in hand with yours.
Placing her lips close to Piper's ear, she says, "I love you," because it's suddenly occurred to Alex she hasn't said it today, not this whole trip. Piper turns to look at her, smiling, and her mouths form the words to say it back. Then she laughs again, seemingly for no other reason than that she's drunk and happy, and because Piper and Alex used to dance around Alex's living room to Baba O'Riley and here they are drunk in a nightclub dressed like adults.
They dance. Like goofy, silly little kids playing around. They stay close, and they don't stop laughing. Alex gets another beer and they split it. They dance more, until they're sweaty and sore, not to mention dizzy from alcohol and flashing strobe lights. Somewhere close by Polly and Jenna and Haley are dancing in a semi-circle and Grace is attached at the tongue to a remarkably tall black man, but they may as well be any other strangers in the crowd.
When they're leaning against each other more out of exhaustion than anything else, Alex gives Piper's hand a tug and yells close to her ear, "Let's get out of here!"
Piper automatically scans their immediate vicinity. "We can't leave everybody!"
Rolling her eyes, Alex retorts, "Why not?! It's not like we're their ride."
Five minutes later they burst out of the club into the sharp, thin November air. Piper's hand is warm in hers as they clatter down the sidewalk in heels that have become more painful than sexy.
Alex bursts out laughing. "Pipes, this is your school."
"Oh, right! Over there." In a burst of confidence she pulls Alex insistently toward a crosswalk, then lets go of her hand to zip up the leather jacket. "It's so fucking cold. And my feet hurt."
"Take off your shoes."
"I'd get frostbite! And ruin my tights!"
"At least your priorities are in order."
"Lemme get on your back."
"Fuck no! Like my feet don't hurt?"
"Nope, nope, nope, fuck no, get away, get back, don't even try..."
Piper lets out a shriek as Alex ducks out of her grasp and takes off down the sidewalk. She hears Piper chasing her and slows down slightly so she doesn't topple off one of her high heels and faceplant on the sidewalk.
When she catches up, Piper loops both arms around Alex's waist like some overeager player in hide and seek. Alex tugs on her elbow until Piper straightens up, then slings a steadying arm around her shoulders. "C'mon, kid. Team effort. We can do this."
When they reach the edge of campus, they're heading toward the campus bus stop, but suddenly Piper gasps like she's spotted something amazing. "Alex, wait, c'mere..."
Piper leads the way toward a large brick building with white columns in the front. "This is where my psych class is," Piper informs her without breaking stride, pulling Alex around to the back of the building before she finally stops and leans against the wall next to an empty bike rack.
Alex raises her eyebrows, impatient. "What are we doing?"
Piper doesn't seem to hear. She pulls Alex against her and gasps out, "Fuck, Alex, it's cold." Like she isn't the one who wanted to stop. Like she isn't the one wearing Alex's jacket.
They're both laughing drunkenly, the sound bursting into small clouds of condensation in the air between them. Alex fumbles awkwardly into the pocket of her jacket, which Piper's hugging tightly against herself, until she pulls out cigarettes and a lighter.
Piper gasps. "I didn't even know that was in there!"
Alex flicks the lighter and cups a hand over the flame, craving the warmth, then lights a cigarette and takes a long drag. Piper snatches it from between her fingers and props it haughtily between her lips. She breathes in, wheezing and coughing almost instantly, somehow still smiling. "I taste like you."
Alex seizes the front of the jacket like it's anchoring her to earth, swaying unsteadily forward, their chins bumping. She takes the cigarette back; it's stained with two distinct rings of lipstick. She smirks. "Oh, yeah?"
"Well," Piper starts giggling and it doesn't stop. "Like your mouth at least." As if to make her point, Piper pulls Alex across the tiny gap between them and slides her tongue along the seam of Alex's lips before urging them open.
Alex lets her knee press against the wall of the building, Piper's legs bracketing either side of hers. Their silliness is gone now. The cigarette falls forgotten to the ground. Alex slides her hand up the inside of Piper's thigh, ducked under her dress.
"Your fingers are cold," Piper gasps out in a thin, shaky voice.
Her tongue flicking at Piper's earlobe, Alex whispers, "Well warm 'em up."
She peels Piper's tights down just far enough to get them out her way and slips chilled fingers into Piper's wet warmth. Piper's hands twist almost painfully in Alex's hair as she sets a pleasurably rough rhythm.
Rearing her head back against the brick, Piper lets out a stuck, mewling sound, and Alex grins, pressing the fingers of her free hand tightly against Piper's lips. "Campus police are gonna think you're being attacked."
Piper's eyes widen, like she's only now remembering where she is - backed against an academic building - and she strains toward Alex, tightening and throbbing around her hand. "Hurry."
Alex smirks. "Why? Not enjoying my Human Sexuality course?"
"I know it's an elective, but I think it's really gonna benefit your education."
When she comes, it's all heat.
Alex wakes up the next morning, half naked and alone in Piper's bed. Somehow they'd made it back to the dorm last night, feet sore, bodies shivering, and barely managed to discard dresses and heels on the floor of Pipers dorm room before crawling into the tiny bed, pressed against each other and huddled under the comforter for precious, relieving warmth.
But now Piper's gone, and after a few seconds of disorientation, Alex hears voices, hissing in stage whispers. She keeps her eyes shut and tries not to move.
"...fucking looked for you for an hour."
"I'm sorry, seriously. I was drunk - "
"So was I! And I still tried to make sure we didn't leave you."
"C'mon, Pol, you knew I was with Alex."
"Don't even get me started on her."
"She's not always great with new people."
"Sorry. Are you seriously gonna make this a huge thing?"
"Okay, okay, it's fine. We're fine. Do you still wanna go to UMass tonight?"
"Do you want us to come?"
"Yeah. Well. I want you to come."
"Stop. It'll be better, I swear. It was the first day, we hadn't seen each other in awhile...I told you the college thing is kind of awkward with us."
"Whatever, Pipe. Unless something goes horribly wrong I'll be staying at Jake's tonight, anyway, so you making it home isn't my problem."
"Is Haley still okay with driving?"
"She better be, it's her turn."
"Are they mad?"
"They'll get over it. I'll get over it. We'll all get over it."
"Good. Thank you."
"I'm gonna take off. Pregaming at Haley's place at nine."
"I know. I'll probably see you back here to get ready..."
The voices disappear into the hallway for a moment, and then one set of footsteps reenters. Alex tilts her face a little further into the pillow, keeping her breaths slow and even. She can hear Piper moving around, probably picking up the mess of cups and shot glasses littering the dorm room.
She gives it about ten minutes before she rolls, stretching ostentatiously. "Morning."
Piper glances up from scrubbing away a spill on the floor. Her legs are bare under a slightly oversized Smith hoodie "Hey." She smiles at half mast. Damn it. They'd ended on a good note last night, but Polly or sobriety or both had apparently erased all that good will. "How do you feel?"
Alex sits up, assessing herself for hangover. "Not so bad. How about you?"
"Fine. Well. After I puked in the bathroom."
Wincing sympathetically, Alex grabs her glasses from Piper's desk, asking casually, "Did Polly get back okay?"
"Yeah. She went to meet some people for a group project." Piper pauses, hesitating. "They were pissed we left."
"Why?" She's not being a dick. She genuinely just does not get the drama.
"It's just...it's not what we do. They looked for us."
Scoffing, Alex asks, "What, none of them have ever left to hook up with some dude?"
"Not without telling anyone."
Alex has the vague sense she's being implicitly blamed for this, even though Piper had only hesitated for about two seconds before agreeing to go. She waits, but Piper doesn't push it. Finally, Alex says, "I had fun with you last night, though."
Slowly, Piper's lips curve into a tiny smile. "Me, too." She groans suddenly, covering her face with her hands. "I can't believe you got me off outside of Wright Hall."
Alex mimes taking a bow. "Up against Wright Hall, if you want to get technical.
"God, I was wasted."
"Such a champ. And a lightweight."
Piper pokes her tongue between her teeth and grins.
"I had a goal to fuck in a library while I was here, but really outside on campus is even better."
"Good, cause we aren't fucking in a library."
"Why not? I thought all college library's have a particular spot where no one goes except for for sex?"
"Maybe that's not a thing for women's colleges."
"Um, Pipes, are we both women?'
"Would we enjoy fucking in a library?"
"I don't necessarily think a library - "
"Would we enjoy it?"
"There ya go." Alex smirks, triumphant. She swings her legs free of the tangled sheets and gets off the bed, wrestling a Rolling Stones T-shirt from her duffel bag and pulling it on. "So what's our deal today?"
"Thought we'd just hang out downtown for awhile, then maybe come back here and walk around campus." Piper flashes a smile. "I wanna give you the tour."
Nodding her head at the door, Piper asks, "Wanna shower?"
Both of them only half-dressed, Alex follows Piper down the dorm corridor to the hall bathroom; they pass a few girls, most of whom nod blearily at Piper and appear to be recovering from the same sort of night. The bathroom is hospital white, comprised of a row of bathroom stalls parallel to a row of showers covered in plastic curtains. Alex lifts her eyebrows. "Looks like a prison."
"That's a little dramatic."
Alex grins and playfully seizes the pink plastic shower caddy's Piper's toting her shower supplies in. She moves to the shower stall at the end of the row, pushing the curtain open and leaning in the frame, crooking a finger seductively.
Piper looks like she might protest, but after only a moment's hesitation she smiles, glancing around surreptitiously, and follows Alex in. "Couldn't do this in prison."
"It's, like, really fucking cute that you think that."
They take a bus to downtown Northampton and get coffee and sandwiches at a place Piper knows, then spend a few hours exploring shops downtown.
Piper's talking about her English Lit class, the one that's all about short stories by female writers. She'd brought Alex copies of her favorites over fall break, and they'd spent a rainy afternoon in Alex's bed, limbs tangled, reading out loud to each other during breaks between sex.
Today Piper's obsessed Recitatif by Toni Morrison and Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates, saying she already made Alex a copy of both she can read on the bus ride home if she wants.
"It's dedicated to Bob Dylan, isn't that funny? Before we read it the professor played us this song, 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue'. Have you heard it?"
"I have." Alex grabs a blue and white scarf from a rack and wraps it around Piper's neck, tilting her head to study the effect.
"It's good. Supposedly that specific song is what inspired the story, and it's so weird when you listen to it and then read the story, how well it fits. Even just the mood or something."
Alex smiles, just listening; she's always loved the way Piper lights up with knowledge, the way she consumes words like they genuinely matter. She likes the way Piper can't wait to tell her about it, how Piper always knows what book or story she would love.
And she likes this, wandering around secondhand bookstores and thrift stores and record shops. It's just like Sunday afternoons back home except with more shops to choose from, and it's easy and comforting and familiar.
They catch the bus back and then head on foot across campus. It's cold but not unbearably so. Piper's in her blue coat and a red beanie Alex hasn't seen before. She looks almost unfairly adorable, eye bright and cheeks flushed as she points out every building she has a class in, every spot she meets up with her friends to study or, back when it was warmer, lie on the quad between classes.
It's hard to be interested.
Piper seems so excited about it. For three months she's been walking Alex through her days over the phone, vaguely describing her movements about this place, and now she's presenting the visual, making it real.
Alex doesn't care about it being real. She'd actually prefer it wasn't.
She can feel herself only half paying attention, can hear the boredom creeping into her one note, indecipherable responses of, Mmmmm-hmmmm.
She doesn't ask question, doesn't quip, doesn't banter. She acts like a bored high school student, forced on a campus tour by her parents, utterly uninterested in the tour guide's information.
It's pure asshole. She should just bump her shoulder against Piper's and say something teasing about how none of this is new information, or maybe just change the subject, bring up the library again, flirt and seduce like crazy until Piper agrees.
But Alex can't get there. She's stuck on this passive aggressive, condescending bullshit. Like Piper is something she's tolerating.
Piper slowly stops talking and starts passing buildings in silent. She doesn't let go of Alex's hand, and she doesn't stop walking until they reach the student center.
"I don't guess you want to go in," Piper says finally, a razor's edge to the words.
"Nah, that's okay. Unless you need something?"
Teeth gritted, Piper shakes her head. She finally pulls away, and immediately sits down on the long, low concrete steps leading up to the building, like Alex is physically exhausting her.
Warily, Alex sinks down beside Piper, hugging her knees, hunched against the cold. She waits.
It takes a minute before Piper says, with the sort of forced calm she's probably proud of herself for maintaining, "You know, I'm going to be home for Thanksgiving in less than three weeks anyway. If I'd known you had zero interest in seeing where I live, where I have classes, or even in getting to know my friends, we didn't have to plan this visit."
Alex whips her head to look at Piper, stung. "Wow, really? That was the whole point of me coming? So, the difference between three and, what, six weeks of us not seeing each other, that's not even a factor?" The words are all harsh sarcasm, but that doesn't much them any less needy. Fuck.
Piper closes her eyes. "That's not what I meant."
They're both quiet, sitting inches apart but not touching. Less than two hours ago Alex had Piper practically breathless with laughter in a music store, satirically picking out the most offensive mainstream pop she could and forcing the CDs into Piper's hands. They just can't seem to stay on even footing this weekend.
When Piper speaks again, the root of the problem - well, her side of it, anyway - becomes clear: Alex hasn't been forgiven for her disinterested, condescending attitude toward Polly & Co. last night. "Well, you've just spent the past hour treating me like you treated literally everyone at dinner last night. Like I'm boring the fuck out of you and you can't wait for it to be over."
"They were boring the fuck out of me."
Piper scowls. "You didn't even try! It's like you wanted to hate them!"
Alex could say the true thing. That of course she wanted to hate them. That there was no way she couldn't hate them. That she'd felt like the outsider, and she's not used to feeling excluded in anything involving Piper.
Here's the thing: when they talk on the phone, Alex is the one to end the conversation. She hangs up first, always. When they've said goodbye to each other (three times so far: the beginning of the semester, Labor Day weekend, fall break), Alex is the one to start it. She pulls away from the last kiss, she nudges Piper toward the car, she tells her to go. Every. Single. Time.
It's the illusion of control she likes, the way it makes it seem like the goodbye is on her terms. But strip away the surface, and it doesn't change the fact that Piper's the one doing the leaving. Piper's the one with the shiny new life. And sometimes the reason Alex is hanging up the phone is because the smile in Piper's voice when she talks about college hurts. And maybe the reason she tells Piper to go is so she can pretend Piper isn't even a little happy to be going.
Alex could say all of that. It would end the argument, would make Piper's eyes soft and her voice sweet and she'd say all the right things. But it would also sound pathetic and weak and sad. It would be admitting that all this is happening on Piper's terms.
So instead, she makes a derisive, snorting sound and says, "You're didn't seem to care last night."
"I was drunk. And distracted." Alex starts to smirk, but Piper isn't smiling even a little bit. "I've already had to apologize to Polly for you - "
"Oh, fuck Polly."
Piper's jaw clenches, and her head whips around, lips parted to let some angry retort fly, but then she frowns slightly, squinting at Alex. "You know, you got pissy every time I talked about Polly even before you met her. What's the deal? Are you jealous or something? Because she's straight."
Alex lets out a bark of a laugh. "Oh, I know." She manages to make that sound like an insult. Polly, she can guess, is the type of girl to maybe, maybe, get drunk and make out with one her female friends between peals of laughter. She'd wake up the next morning ridiculously pleased with herself, crossing Be A Lesbian For, Like, Five Minutes off her list of essential college experiences. "I'm not jealous of Polly."
But there's another true thing she won't say: she isn't jealous of Polly as Piper's girlfriend, sure. But as Piper's best friend since fourth grade...yeah. She's jealous. But that's incredibly fucking stupid. It doesn't even make sense.
"So you're just being an asshole for no reason?"
Alex groans. "Christ, Piper. We just had a really fun morning and now you're ruining it over this?"
"No. I was gonna let it go, show you around campus so you can see where I spend every damn day of my life, no big deal, but apparently that's not fun enough for you either."
Figure it out, Pipes! Alex wants to scream. Figure out the common denominator here. Figure out what I'm thinking, guess what the problem is even though I can't seem to tell you.
She rests her chin on her knees and stares broodily forward, refusing to apologize or excuse herself. Finally, Piper sighs loudly and stands up.
"We should probably head back."
"Why?" Alex mutters, still hunched on the low stone stairs, Piper towering over her. "Do we have a pre-pre-pregame to go to with everyone you know?"
"No. I made a dinner reservation at this Italian place downtown. I wanted to take you on a date. One that actually looks like a date."
That was great timing. Perfect to hurt, perfect to make Alex feel like even more of an ass.
Alex stares up Piper, framed against the grey winter sky, her beanie too low on her head. It feels, suddenly, like one of those random, snapshot moments Alex is going to have to remember forever. Piper's expression is so goddamned tired. Like Alex is draining her of something. Alex thinks of Piper's face when she first got off the train, that brilliant unfettered sunshine smile, and how in only one day it's turned into this. Unbidden, Fahri's voice floats through her head.
Most people are better in the abstract.
Alex is afraid she's becoming one of those people.
Piper isn't. Piper, somehow, is always even better than she remembers.
There is more to the story of this weekend. More to the story of Alex's asshole behavior.
She had been planning to tell Piper. About Fahri, about the drug ring, about trips to nearby colleges to recruit drug mules. She was going to tell Piper about all of it.
So there's that.
Alex had managed to convince herself it was Not A Big Deal. She'd been prepared for some unpleasantness, some premium Piper ranting and concern. She figured she'd get it out of the way the first night, they'd fight through it and then make a conscious choice not to let it ruin the weekend.
She'd been pretty fucking stupid.
About eight minutes after seeing Piper, when they were driving back to the dorm, The Cure singing through the speakers (Friday, never hesitate), Alex changed her mind. A weekend wasn't enough time. She'd wait until Thanksgiving. But actually, Christmas would be better, and it wasn't much later. They'd have weeks to work it out at Christmas. Definitely better to wait.
So she'd changed her mind. And suddenly there had been no more room to deny how fucking terrified she is to tell Piper the truth. Piper, who always follows the rules, who never let Alex so much as copy her homework. Who now has a shiny new life full of shiny new friends. The more Alex sees of it, the more she starts to believe Piper doesn't need her. That she'll be okay, with her friends waiting to comfort her if she finds out what Alex is doing and ends things.
Fuck, she might actually end things.
Alex isn't doing much, right now. Not yet. She recruits. Occasionally makes small, local deliveries. Right now, it's about learning. A drug cartel internship, ha fucking ha. She isn't really moving product yet; she's sending the mules to other, more important people to work out the details. She's not told too much about what happens once they get there.
But Fahri has plans. Fahri thinks she has potential. Fahri knows about Alex's plan to move to Northampton next year, and he think it's perfect: affluent town with five colleges. He's talking about the future. About traveling. About money.
When Alex first stood in her kitchen staring at a coaster scrawled with Fahri's phone number, she'd told herself it would only be for a little while. Just a year, just to make enough money for the apartment by Piper's sophomore year. But she's stopped thinking of an end date. This thing is dangerous. Not because of the drugs, or the criminal element, or even the life or death stakes high up on the ladder. No, it's dangerous because it's handing Alex hope.
For the first time in her life, it has Alex constructing careful plans. It has her wanting things. She wants to travel and see the world. She wants to never wear a nametag or an apron or a fast food uniform again. She wants to get her mother a house...not rented either, something that's all hers.
But she also wants Piper. She wants to wake up with her in an apartment that's theirs, every day. She wants certainty and permanence and no more goodbyes.
The fear that Alex can't have both is threatening to break her.
A/N: I'd originally intended this to be a oneshot, but apparently I'm supremely bad at estimating fic length because it was getting out of control. I've written beyond this stopping point, and am actually almost done, so the update should be fairly quick. Love to hear what you thought!