Author's Note: My life has been insane. Thank you putting up with the delays—at this point I have no idea when I'll be able to get this fic finished. I'm trying to work on it, but the amount of free time I have has plummeted.
Nina's plainly nervous when they sit down to dinner at a little restaurant-slash-bar. The lighting's dim, the tables are a comfortable distance apart, and the food smells delicious. Lily's mouth is already watering when their waiter brings them menus. "Order whatever you like, I'm paying," she tells Nina.
"I can't let you…" The poor thing actually looks distressed.
"We'll talk about dance, so it's a business dinner and I'll deduct it on my taxes," Lily replies firmly.
"No, really, Lily. I can't let you buy me dinner," Nina protests.
Lily looks at her over the menu for two full seconds, one eyebrow arched up. "Nina, I'm your boss. I'm ordering you to pick something delicious on my dime. Now stop arguing with me."
That very serious tone gets a faint snicker from Nina, and when the waiter returns she orders a fancy salad with strawberries and pecans. Sounds good, actually, but it's not what Lily's craving. When the waiter turns to her, she says, "I'll have the mushroom swissburger, hold the onions please, but extra mushrooms if you can. And no side order."
Nina's eyes widen, and Lily chuckles at her. "What, you've never seen a dancer order a cheeseburger before?" That gets a laugh, and they spend the time before the meal arrives in casual small talk. Lily makes sure to discuss business enough that it will really count for a tax deduction, and in the process enlightens Nina a bit more about her side of things.
When the food arrives, Nina is clearly shocked by the size of the burger. "There's no way you can eat that whole thing!" she exclaims.
"You're right," Lily says in amused tones. "Wanna share?"
"Oh God, I can't," Nina says, shaking her head. "The calories…"
"You'll dance it off," Lily replies, already cutting it in half. She gives Nina no choice, switching to the seat beside her (and noticing Nina's little gasp when she does) so she can more easily steal bites of Nina's salad and share the burger.
Nina has the choice of taking a bite of the sinfully rich burger, or having it bumped against her nose, so she takes the bite. And practically groans, rolling her eyes. Lily wonders when she last allowed herself to indulge in something like this. Probably never, given how slim she keeps herself. Of all the girls, Nina could actually stand to gain a pound or two of muscle.
Defeated, Nina takes her half of the burger while Lily demolishes hers with obvious enjoyment. The waiter drops back by to ask how it is, and flirts awkwardly enough that Lily has to resort to a blunt smackdown to get rid of him. As if anyone with half a brain couldn't figure out who I'm trying to charm here, she thinks, scoffing.
They're sitting just a little too close, sharing each other's meals, even laughing a bit, though Nina's still cautious. When she finishes the burger she looks ruefully at her slightly shiny fingertips. The burger was too juicy to be eaten neatly. "God, I can't believe I ate that. There's got to be a hundred calories in just the grease there."
"Damn the calories," Lily laughs, catching Nina's hand and licking a spot of mushroom-beef-swiss deliciousness off her thumb. The girl gasps, and Lily smiles as she sucks the rest of her fingers clean. And Nina lets her, unable to pull her hand away even though her pulse is racing hard enough for Lily to feel it on her tongue. Her eyes are dazed when Lily pulls away, and the director tries to keep the wicked, knowing smile off her face. "Mmmm, that's yummy. And the salad was pretty good too."
"I … I have no business eating that much," Nina says shakily, trying for normalcy and failing absolutely.
"Then there's only one thing to do," Lily says, catching her gaze. "Go next door to the club and dance it off before it gets a chance to stick."
"Oh, I can't," Nina protests immediately.
"Why not?" Lily asks, confident she can overcome any objection.
"Well, my mother will worry if I'm out too late."
"You're with me, Nina. She can't complain if you're with your boss—on business, no less."
To her shock, Nina actually laughs. "This isn't business, Lily."
"Of course it is," Lily argues. Life has taught her to regain her equilibrium—and control—very quickly. "Taking you out for some rest and relaxation, getting you to indulge a little, it's all about business, about making your black swan as perfect as it can be. You can't study for the most passionate role you've ever danced all alone in a studio, can you now?"
To that, Nina has no argument. It doesn't mean she's quite given in. "I don't even know if I can dance to, you know, club music."
And that's more of a wheedling complaint than a real excuse. "Oh please. You have how many years of training in ballet? And half the people out there have never had one dance lesson? You'll be fine if you can just let go."
"That's the problem, I can't let go. I never have, not at the studio, not at home, never," Nina says in a rush, her voice strained.
"Easy, sweetheart," Lily soothes. "I honestly believe you don't know how to relax. Here, I'll help you." With that she opens her cigarette case to reveal two white capsules. Lily plucks one out and offers it to Nina.
"Those don't look like the others," Nina says warily.
"They aren't the same. This won't make you sleepy like Xanax," Lily replies casually. When Nina still won't take it, she sighs with a hint of irritation and pops the pill into her own mouth, washing it down with a sip of water. Its effects will be muted by the antidepressants she's on, but she'll still feel most of the euphoria. "See, it's not poison. Now take the other one." As she speaks she's plucking it out of its place.
Nina finally takes it, but she holds the capsule cupped in her palm for a moment, still hesitating. "But what is it?" she asks.
"MDMA," Lily tells her, letting herself sound a trifle cross. "It'll relax you, make you less fearful, make you feel good… Take it, Nina." The only pressure she puts on Nina is the weight of her expectation; she won't force Nina or anyone else. Lead her astray, yes, oh yes indeed, but drive her there unwilling? Never.
And finally, Nina does yield, and swallows the pill. Lily smiles triumphantly, pays the check, and pulls Nina to her feet. "C'mon, let's go next door and have a celebratory drink."