A/N: Hello! And as always, I'm sorry it's been so long.
BUT. I have a bit of a something-or-other. If you are also a fan of Naomily (Skins), maybe you would be interested in another thing I've just started on over here: http:/www[dot]fanfiction[dot]net/s/7696891/1/A_Real_FixerUpper
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this chapter. As always, I'd love it if you left some feedback if you're enjoying this so far. Additionally, if you read this Author's Note and you're maybe thinking about checking out that other fix (no obligations, though) work the word "fixer-upper" into your feedback.
Thanks & Happy New Year!
Three days. It's been three days since Ashley and I boldly ventured to the other side of Manhattan. 72 hours I've spent chained to my desk and my damn computer, spouting answers to banal questions about catering, rewrites, union hours, and other soul-sucking administrative dribble. To say I'm in a sour mood would be an understatement.
Today is Thursday and its 9 p.m. I'm hardly in the mood to settle on a gray-ish frozen burrito for dinner. In fact, I'm relatively sure that those expired 3 weeks ago. All of this leads me to my current situation. I'm about half a block a way from our building with a leaky bag of greasy Thai food in tow. There is no doubt in my mind that I look ridiculous, carrying this bag at arms length like it's some kind of MSG-packed explosive device. But, these are new(ish) shoes and I know from experience that whatever divine special sauce they put on their chicken does not mix with fabric of any kind. The smell is persistent. And transformative. The stench of delicious Thai chicken might be bearable. But 48 hours and 3 washes later, my sweater smelled like cat barf soaked in pickle juice. Not pleasant.
"Hey, hi, sorry, this is gross. It's leaking. Yuck," I'm rushing past Grant the doorman when I remember that he is the most glorious, dependable man in my life and is always prepared for my miniature disasters. Like the time I was late to work but forgot my umbrella upstairs and he let me borrow his. And by "the time" I mean four times. And every time, he had one that matched my outfit. Who even does that? I'm hardly capable of finding pants that match my shirts. And then there was the time that I woke up late and had to get dressed in the dark because the power was out for some god-forsaken reason and he took one look at me before making me change into gray pants and the greatest, most comfortable sweater I've ever experienced. He just happened to have them in the cubby under the counter. Turns out I had dressed myself in green corduroy pants, a strokes t-shirt, and a bright orange cardigan. Of course, I was pissed when he shoved the clothes into my arms and told me to "get out of that hideous homeless costume" and put on some real clothes. But, I managed to forgive him when he didn't mention the fact that I never returned the sweater that was clearly crafted by the very hands of the sweater god.
Actually, I'm not sure how I never realized he was gay before this moment.
Grant relieves me of the leaky bag and mops up the excess grease before producing a plastic bag that he wraps around the rapidly deteriorating paper one. Handing it back to me, he gives me a wide grin. "What would you even do without me?"
I smile for the first time since I saw Ashley trip over Hayley's boots the other night on her way into the apartment. "Fair enough. I would look like a drowned rat on every rainy day and a homeless person every time the power goes out."
"And you'd be going barefoot every time you come down from your apartment, drunk off your ass on your way to the "bodega" for "mama's drunktime goodies"."
Right. I'd forgotten about that. "Grant, if you tell anyone about that—"
"Relax. I haven't saved your hide time after time to trash your rep now."
I shoot him an appreciative smile. "Thanks, Grant." I take the bag as he hands it back to me. I make it up to the apartment without incident, but my hands are kind of full and my keys are in my back pocket. So, I kick the door a few times, "Hayley, open the fu-"
The door swings open before I can finish. "Hey Spence." Ashley's on the other side, shooting me a small smile. "Hayley went out for a bit. With, um…"
"What's his face, yeah. He's the worst. But, her loss is your gain. I've got loads of greasy Thai food and I'm in a sharing kind of mood. Are you hungry?" I step inside the apartment and nudge the door shut behind me.
She picks up a book that's facedown on the couch, closes it and sits down. "I love Thai food."
"Excellent." I set the bag down on the coffee table. "I'm just going to change into something that needs to be donated anyway in case of a special sauce mishap, but go ahead and get started."
My bed looks like the 8th Wonder right now. It's odd, but sometimes I kind of cherish the time between finishing a particularly long, boring, gruesome day at work and going to bed. Right now, the only thing standing between me and reruns of Star Trek in my bed until I fall asleep is some delicious Thai food. It's all good.
I wriggle out of my pants and toss my sweater onto the chair before slipping on the world's most comfortable plaid pajama pants. Before I can grab my shirt, I remember the most important element of a Thursday night.
"Hey Ashley?" I step back out into the living room. "Could you open a bottle of wine?"
She looks over the couch at me. "Yeah s—" she trips over the word for a moment. This is why I think she might have come to us brain-damaged, not lonely. "Sure." Her eyes are doing this something odd. They look like they have some kind of weird shit going on.
This is exactly when I realize that I've walked out of my room shirtless. I mean, I do it all the time when it's just Hayley and I. It's no big deal. But suddenly my face feels hot, my palms are a bit sweaty, and I shiver a little bit.
"Right. Cool. I'll be, um, right back."
I duck back into my room and throw a sweatshirt on over my head and pop back out into the living room before I have too much time to dwell on the prolonged falling feeling in my stomach. Feigning interest in my fraying shirt sleeve, I sit down on the couch and wait for Ashley, who is in the kitchen opening that bottle of wine.
"So, um, other than having to interact with Hayley's tool of a boyfriend, how was your day?"
Ashley emerges from the kitchen, two glasses of wine in her hands and, if I'm not mistaken, a blush on her cheeks.
"It was decent. We signed a new band. I've been working on bringing them aboard for awhile. Decent deal. National tour with a series of one-offs on holidays. Then another studio release with the label. It was a good day, I guess. How about yours?"
"Shit," I respond before thanking her for the glass of wine she hands me. "Over budget, under-funded, over-crowded, yet somehow under-staffed." I take a generous sip of wine. "I love my job, but not during post-production. It's just been one of those weeks. So which band did you sign?"
I hope I said that right. I have little to no idea what the words she said mean. One offs, releases, labels, studios. But, astonishingly enough, I do seem to be holding a bona-fide conversation with my lonely brunette roommate.
"This little Brooklyn folk-pop project. Not especially unique, but they have a good sound."
"And yet you sound morose," I observe, employing a stuffy British accent, lest I halt my so-far impressive conversation with a too-serious prodding question.
Ashley chances a glance in my direction and looks a little surprised that I'm a) still listening and b) haven't said anything mean or inappropriate. Frankly, I'm surprised too.
"It's fine. I just get tired of signing rip-off bands, you know?"
I don't know. I literally don't have any idea. I know what a rip-off band must be, but what they're ripping off I have no idea, and I couldn't name a rip-off band if you slapped me across the face with a dozen times with a ten-pound salmon.
"Oh, yeah. Definitely." I hope that's a correct enough response.
"But the label has to sign what pays the bills, not what or who's significant to popular music sucking less." She takes another swig from her glass. "Sorry. Unsolicited bitching about my perfectly cushy but creatively draining job."
I shake my head. "Don't apologize. Everyone needs a good bitching now and then. And in my case, "now and then" usually comes around at least 3 times a day."
She chuckles, maybe just to be polite.
"What do you say we dig in to some magically delicious Thai food and watch whatever's on SyFy?" I suggest.
"That sounds excellent."
"Are you sure? I mean with SyFy, it's a bit of a gamble. It could be great, like The Blob or Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It could also be beyond awful. Like Tremors or Deep Space Nine. But the rule is, if we turn on SyFy, we accept the dangerous game of roulette we've entered into and we must leave the channel on and view the program until it ends."
Ashley looks thoughtful for a moment. "A serious gamble indeed. But I'm feeling adventurous tonight. Challenge accepted, Carlin."
I flip on the TV.
"Oh hell yes. I love this movie."
"Right? So great. And it just started. Looks like our gamble paid off."
She smirks, "I would say so."
We dig in as Ripley insists that the quarantine protocol dictates that her shipmates must stay outside of the airlock for 24 hours.
"Doomed. You're all doomed."
The rest of the meal is spent in silence with the occasional editorial comment along the lines of "Don't go in there!" or "Don't follow the cat!" or "Kill the robot!". By the time we finish, Ripley and the last of her shipmates are preparing the shuttle for an escape.
"What do you think would've happened if Ripley'd gone for the coolant instead of these two?" Ashley asks.
"Ripley would've kicked some serious Alien ass, that's what would've happened."
We fall back into a comfortable silence as the alien picks off the last of Ripley's comrades. Soon, she's shoved him out of the airlock of the shuttle and is barreling back towards Earth. When the credits start to roll, I look over at Ashley.
Her cheek is resting on her hand and her breathing is slow and steady. Actually, her mouth is open and I think she's drooling a little. Pretty amusing sight.
The credits come to an end, making way for SyFy's next selection.
"One more glass," I mutter. Not that anyone's listening. "Ashley, do you want a pillow?"
No response, as expected.
I blow out a sigh and settle back into the couch for a moment, savoring the wine's blissful influence. A little bit of alcohol and some old sci-fi is maybe the very best way to wrap up a Thursday.
"Alright, I'm only doing this because I know how much neck pain can fuck up a perfectly good Friday." I grab a pillow from my chair and set it next to me for a moment. Figuring it's worth one more shot, I try to rouse her again.
She stirs for a moment, but only long enough to shift her position from leaning on the arm of the couch to curling up on the cushions and resting her head on the pillow next to my left leg.
"That works too."
I sit quietly for awhile longer, watching The Twilight Zone reruns. One more glass turns into two. Ashley shifts a few times, but not much. She mumbles in her sleep and moves her hand, occasionally grazing my leg. I try to ignore how awkward it would be if she was awake.
Before long, the bottle of wine is gone, The Twilight Zone is almost over, and I can feel myself nodding off. Attempting to shake the drowsiness off, I stand up from the couch and stretch a little. Ashley sprawls out a little further without waking up.
I move to the bathroom and brush my teeth, then decide it's probably time to hit the hay.
It's been at least an hour. It must've been. At least.
I'm lying on my bed. Awake. Staring at the damned ceiling. My TV is on the fritz and I can't watch a damned thing while I try to fall asleep. So here I am, at 2:30 a.m., staring at the ceiling and trying to get some sleep.
That's it. I can't watch TV in bed, so Ill take my bed to the TV. Well, the other TV. I'll go in the living room.
I get up, grab my sleeping bag from under my bed, and trapse into the living room. Surely if Ashley slept all the way through Twilight Zone she can sleep through a bit of something else. I flip on the TV. SyFy's a bust at this hour; all infomercials. I give USA a shot.
Covert Affairs marathon.
I'll write a letter of appreciation to USA tomorrow while I pretend to get my work done.
I move the coffee table and roll out the sleeping bag next to the couch while keeping my eyes on the TV. Ashley isn't a snorer, which is a point I'll definitely put in the "win" column for her.
I grab my pillow from my bedroom and settle down into my sleeping bag. As Piper Perabo gets herself out of one relatively unrealistic jam after another, I feel my eyelids start to get heavy. I hear Ashley shift slightly and her right arm falls off the edge of the cushions. Her fingers graze my right shoulder blade and come to rest with her knuckles just barely making contact with my upper arm. I chance a quick look to see if she's still asleep.
Maybe it's the alcohol (let's be honest, it's probably the alcohol) but I don't move. Her hand twitches a bit as I nod off but it never moves much. So, neither do I.
A/N: As always, thanks so much for reading, and you know what to do with the feedback. Much appreciated! Happy New Year!