Just the Tequila: The bar was the sort of place people went to drown their sorrows, to lose themselves in their drink of choice. It wasn't the sort of place Jenny Lewis frequented, but it suited her current mood.
Mark had left her. And the worst of it was, she wasn't even that sorry. She'd been expecting it, after all. How was she to keep a relationship going with a man she could share nothing of her life with, a man who wasn't interested anyway? She'd known for a while that she couldn't.
She didn't really miss Mark, and she doubted she would later. What bothered her was feeling like a failure, the thought of what her family would say. God, she hated feeling like she had to prove herself, but she always did. She'd never been enough for her parents, she was used to that, but it never stopped hurting.
Shaking off the thoughts, she drained her glass. "You know," a soft female voice said, "wine really isn't the way to go if you want to get drunk."
She knew the woman sitting on the barstool next to her. Ashley Stafford, the Torchwood liaison. Turning, Jenny glared into the younger woman's bright green eyes. "Piss off, Stafford."
To her irritation, Ashley just laughed, holding out a pack of cigarettes. "Want one?"
Jenny hadn't smoked since her second year of university. She'd told herself she would never smoke again, but… She took a cigarette and lit it with the lighter the other woman held out. "So," Jenny said, blowing out smoke, "what is good if I'm trying to get drunk?"
Ashley grinned and signaled the bartender. "Two tequilas, please."
"Tequila." Jenny's voice was very dry.
"Oh yeah. I know a girl who goes for vodka, and she's got a friend who swears by bourbon, but I've always been a tequila girl myself."
"Vodka and bourbon?"
"That's Americans for you. American redheads, which may be worse. I really couldn't tell you." The bartender brought their glasses and Stafford quit talking to take a sip. She grinned, clearly relishing the taste.
Jenny took a sip from her own glass, feeling the liquid burn in her mouth and throat. She didn't usually go for anything strong, but for once it seemed right to do so. The wine definitely hadn't been cutting it, and she'd been getting weird looks for it anyway. "I never do this," she said, for some reason feeling the need to justify her behavior, which she knew was nothing like the way she was at work.
"Didn't think you did. Care to tell me what's up?"
"Why the hell not? My fiancé broke up with me. He thinks there's someone else."
"And is there?" There was something in the younger woman's eyes, something Jenny didn't understand, so she ignored it.
"No. It's just this job. He never cared before, and he decided to start asking questions when I can't tell him anything." Jenny's laugh was bitter. "And the worst of it is, the thing I'm most upset is the thought of what everyone's going to say!"
"Well, Christ, Lewis, if that's your biggest problem, he wasn't the one for you anyway. Why care what anyone says? It sounds like you're well out of a potential disaster. Surely that's most important."
"It's so easy for you, isn't it? You don't seem to care what anyone thinks."
"I care… about a few people. People I trust, whose opinions I value. It's a short list, true, but there're a few names on it."
"Anyone I know?"
"Maybe. If there are, I'm not telling. Sorry Jen."
"What did you just call me?"
"Jen. Have a problem with that?"
"I don't know. No one calls me that."
"Well now someone does. It suits you. Well, this you, anyway. You should let your hair down more." Jenny's hand flew to her ponytail and Ashley laughed. "Metaphorically speaking that is."
"You're drunk, aren't you?" Ashley said, amused. While they'd talked, the two women had made their way through multiple glasses of tequila.
"Yes, I think so. Been a while. I think I like it."
Ashley laughed. "Yeah, it's nice to get buzzed now and again. Getting totally smashed, however, is not something I advise."
"Why not?" Jenny asked. "Though my memories of uni make me want to agree."
"Last time I got that drunk, it was because I caught my boyfriend in bed with my best friend's girlfriend. And we were all friends, so it just made the betrayal worse. So Ianto and I - he's the best friend – got completely trashed. It's just a good job he's practically my brother, or we may have ended up in bed that night. Well, we did, actually, but just to sleep."
"I do that a lot. Haven't you noticed? It's a scientist thing."
"Funny. Cutter's a scientist."
"He rambles too."
"No, Ash. He drones."
"You shorten my name, I shorten yours. Only fair, yes?"
"I guess so. And I wouldn't say Cutter drones. I mean, he does go on, at times, but still...."
"Drones," Jenny said again.
"You really don't like him, do you?"
"Hard to like someone who spends his free time shagging your mirror image. I've no idea what she sees in him."
"I think you and Claudia are textbook examples of nurture over nature. You were adopted separately, and you've turned into very different women. Despite looking identical."
"I'm glad someone notices that. Everyone else seems to expect us to be the same, and I can't stand it for much longer!"
Ashley blinked, a little alarmed by Jenny's sudden vehemence. "Hey, Jen, calm down," she said, putting a hand on the other woman's arm. Which was a stupid thing on her part.
Ashley's breath caught in her throat when Jenny turned back to her, her brown eyes boring into Ashley's own. There was a reason she had noticed the differences between Lester's assistant and the PR woman so easily; Claudia might look like Jenny but she'd never made Ashley's breath quicken, she'd never inspired fantasies of… Well, thinking about that with Jenny watching her wasn't a good idea.
She was bisexual but she was pretty sure Jenny was straight, and she never wanted to make a fool of herself again. What Daniel had done to her had been more than enough. And damn it, hadn't Yvonne, her boss at Torchwood, taught her anything? Yvonne had been like Jenny, designer clothes, perfect makeup, spike heels… just like her college professor, the first woman she'd fallen for.
But Yvonne and Diane had both been cool and distant, perfect ice queens. Jenny tried to be, but working on the anomaly project meant she couldn't. Ashley had seen the other woman soaked after a fall in a reservoir, seen her with her dark hair tumbling loose after fleeing from a very determined cave lion. And somehow, somewhere, in that mix of the perfectly composed PR guru and tousled teammate, Ashley had tumbled harder than she ever had, even for Daniel.
Jenny didn't know why Ashley was staring at her, and to be perfectly honest, she didn't care. The other woman's eyes weren't quite focused, giving Jenny the perfect chance to study the young scientist. She really hadn't noticed how unique Ashley's eyes were, dark green, like staring into an emerald ocean. The thought sent a shiver down her spine.
What the hell was going on with her? She'd just lost her fiancé and if she didn't know better she'd swear she was attracted to a woman! She'd never even looked at another woman that way, so why now? Maybe it was the tequila? But no, she was buzzed but not that drunk. So if she couldn't blame the alcohol… Then it was just her. Just her, and feelings that made her feel like a shy teenager again. This was ridiculous.
Ashley saw something change in Jenny's eyes and looked away. She didn't think she could stand to see the disgust as the other woman realized what was running through her mind. She'd seen it before, and she just knew she couldn't handle it from Jenny. She pulled her hand away, cradling her empty glass in both hands now, staring down at the melting ice.
Jenny didn't like it when Ashley looked away. Something was wrong, she could tell. "Ash?" she asked, the nickname falling surprisingly easily from her lips. "What's wrong?"
"I… Nothing. Look, I really should go. You wanted time to think probably, and I just came over here, sticking my nose in, and I…" Ashley stood to go, her hands shaking as she grabbed her purse.
"Ashley." Jenny's voice was quiet but firm, and something about it made Ashley turn around.
"You're babbling. You never babble. Something's wrong with you too. What is it?"
"Nothing. I just… want something I can never have."
"Because. I broke a personal rule."
"And that is?"
"Never fall for someone who will never be interested." Ashley's laugh was sharp and bitter. "It's a stupid thing to do."
"Sit down," Jenny said, pulling the other woman back onto the stool. "How do you know this person isn't interested?"
"People don't change their preferences overnight."
"I like men and women, and I like a woman right now. A woman who's straight. So I'm stuck."
"Well, you're wrong, you know. People do change suddenly. Sometimes over the course of a few hours, I've found."
And Jenny did something then that she'd been wanting to do all night. She leaned forward and kissed Ashley lightly on the lips. Pulling back, she wondered if she'd miscalculated, but then Ashley moved forward herself, capturing Jenny's lips in another, harder kiss. When she pulled back, their eyes locked and neither of them had to say anything more.
They barely stopped kissing while making their way to Jenny's car, or on the drive to her apartment. It was hard getting the door unlocked while Ashley's hands danced along her body, but Jenny managed. She was actually quite proud that she pulled it off, and even prouder that she managed to get to her bedroom before tugging Ashley's clothes off.
The next morning Jenny woke up to a headache and an empty bed. What? Where? She sat up and saw a glass of water, two aspirin, and a note on her nightstand. Taking the pills and swallowing them down with the water, she unfolded the note.
If you just want to forget about last might, it's fine. You weren't sober, and you were going through a rough patch. It's fine, I won't blame you. We can say it was just the tequila.
Jenny crumpled the note in her hand. Damn it, why had she run off? If she'd stayed… If she'd stayed, what? What would have happened?
Jenny wasn't sure. She didn't know where this could possibly go. They worked together, they were both women… This was not exactly something she'd ever expected to find herself dealing with. But she knew one thing. It made no sense, it was foolish, risky, and completely unforeseen, but it was true. She didn't want this to be a one-night stand.
She found Ashley in the other woman's lab, going over some kind of readout. Ashley looked up when she knocked, clearly startled. "Jenny, hi," she said, taking off her reading glasses. "Um…"
Jenny closed the door firmly and strode over to Ashley, pulling her up and kissing her hard. Moving back slightly, she whispered against the other woman's lips, "I don't want it to be just the tequila."
"I don't know. Let's find out, shall we?"
"Fine by me," Ashley said, before closing the slight distance and kissing her softly.
A/N: Oddly enough, I think this might be one of my best pieces. And it's my first foray into slash of any kind, which makes me happy. Though since I'm not an expert in slash, as I said, I hope some people with a bit more knowledge of the area will share an opinion. (And yes, that's a slick way of asking for reviews.) For readers of Ripple Effect, this takes place in another reality – if you read it you know that story deals with alternate realities – where among other things, Jenny and Claudia are twins separated at birth and Ashley was sent to the anomaly project by Yvonne Hartman just after the first anomaly showed up.