A/N: Sometimes I just have to write to maintain a shred of my sanity. Tonight is one of those times and this is what came out of it during a single sitting aided by half a pack of cigarettes. The title is a modified lyric from Menswear by The 1975, which is what inspired this story. It's unproofed because I'm too impatient and would put this in my garbage folder waiting for it to be proofed. It's really not good like at all but I hope it's at the least enjoyed by someone.
John Bennett knocks down his fifth shot as the cab he's in comes to a stop.
"Whoa there Benny," his friend Oliver states as he shakes the empty flask at him as they start to climb out of the car. "I only brought enough to pregame. We're still gonna have to buy drinks."
"I'm good," John stammers before he half stumbles into his friend.
"I think you've celebrated enough for now. We have bottle service inside though." Oliver states and gives a wink as he leads the way into the nightclub.
The thing is he hasn't celebrated at all. He's only drinking because his friend insisted they celebrate by coming to this nightclub. He feels underdressed in his jeans and polo shirt, every other guy they pass is dressed more like Oliver in a fancy button down, slacks and expensive shoes. It doesn't really make a difference because frankly he hates places like this. They make him paranoid, and he can never get comfortable any place he can't see the door. It's not even a disability thing. Three years as a prison guard and three and a half more on the NYPD would do that to just about anyone, or at least that's his excuse. Truth is he never really felt comfortable in places like this. The music is too loud and the crowd too big. He can't see how anyone could ever expect to have a conversation, let alone make any kind of connection. But tonight is about celebrating and apparently loud clubs and alcohol are how Oliver celebrates, so he's going to make the best of it... Even if the table he's being pushed towards doesn't face the door.
There's already girls waiting for them at the table, and he's sure it was prearranged for them to be there. All through law school Oliver had this theory about how getting laid on a regular basis made people smarter. He spent nearly every weekend for the last two years fending off Oliver's attempts to get him to come out to "clear his head." Which was code for hook up with any girl that would go home with him. But he didn't have time and wasn't interested. Work and law school were more of an excuse than a reason. Tonight he doesn't have either and the nod he gets as he sits down tells him he's expected to hook up with one of the girls at the table. Which is possibility at least until Oliver stands up to make a toast about them passing the bar and slaps him in the back causing him to spill his drink in the lap of the girl next to him. He's still profusely apologizing as both girls get up from the table and head toward the bathroom.
"I'm sorry, man. I'm just drunk and nervous and..." He manages to slur out the words before a hand lands on his back.
"No worries, there are plenty of other girls here. Our options are wide open and fuck we can totally use the lawyer line now." Oliver's face lights up like the lights on a tree during Christmas time. "Totally using the lawyer line on her, and her, and her and..." He's grinning as he points around the club. "And her... You'd better pick one Benny before I call them all."
The finger keeps pointing but he doesn't want to pick one, he doesn't care about hooking up. He's already drunk and he's already made an ass of himself. That's enough of a night for him so all he wants to do is leave.
"What about her? You said your last chick was Mexican or some ethnic shit right? So what about her?" His buddy's voice rings in his ear despite the loud music.
"She was Dominican."
He mutters more to himself as his eyes follow in the direction he's supposed to look. He's not even exactly sure he's looking at the right girl. But there is a girl where's looking. And she seems to look ethnic but he can't really tell in this lighting. Oliver seems sure she is but he doesn't know how the hell he can tell. She's turned with her back to them seemingly trying to say something to the girl next to her.
He can assume the girl is her friend and hopefully not her girlfriend.
"She a little thick, but you use the warm up," another hard slap hits his back as another shot gets pushes into his hand. "Go have a little fun."
And with a shove he's off to go talk to some girl he's never met and can barely see. He walks slowly, trying to role play a conversation in his head but his brain is in overload just trying to come up with an introduction. He can't even clearly figure out how to introduce himself and knows this is all going to be a horrible bust. There is no scenario in his head where this goes well for him. He's never been good at talking to girls, except the last one. It was easy to talk to the last girl he was involved with but the last girl he was involved with didn't really have a lot of other options. The last girl he was involved with was...
"Daya?!" His words are lost on anyone else. It doesn't matter since he was talking to himself anyway. The girl he's been walking towards... The girl Oliver pointed him to... The girl he's been trying to work up the nerve to talk to... That girl just turned around and... "Daya," he repeats to himself. His heart stops or at least it feels that way. Because for a moment they lock eyes, or at least he locks eyes with her and there's no doubt in his mind that the girl over at the bar Oliver pushed him to go talk to is Daya. His Daya, or at least she was once. Now his heart is beating so hard he's starting to sweat and his mouth is all dry and he's pretty sure at any moment he's going to throw up. No he's definitely going to throw up. He forces himself to move and cuts through the crowd as fast as he can to the nearest bathroom.
This is not how this night was supposed to go. He was not supposed to be leaning over a dirty toilet losing the contents of his stomach while his ex... Whatever she was is standing at the bar all smiles. He knows she saw him, she has to have. Her eyes lingered too long and there was flash in them before she turned away. She has to know it was him she saw, just like he knows it's her out there. Another wave hits him and he leans against the door, really glad he didn't waste nice clothes on this. The conversation he was trying to walk through in his mind is completely different now. He's not walking up to talk to some girl; he's walking up to talk to Daya, a girl he hasn't seen in five years. A girl that once, for a little bit carried his baby. A girl he's never seen outside of penitentiary walls. A girl he's still madly in love with despite everything else. Where he does even start? It's not like he can just walk up to her and say, "hey how ya been? I'm lawyer now like we talked about. Sorry I haven't looked you up..." Or maybe that's exactly what he's going to say. Yeah, he nods his head to himself and kicks his foot out to flush the toilet. That's exactly what he's going to say, he's going to walk up and say that and act like it's no big deal to see her.
He's taking deep breaths to hold his nerve and build his confidence as he leaves the bathroom. He stops by the wall and waits to make sure his stomach is settled before he starts in her direction again. This time he can clearly make her out, it's like his vision is tunneled and all he can see is her... Well her and the guy she's talking to now, a guy that looks a lot like him except taller and better dressed, she must have a type, not that he would really know. But apparently she has one and both he and this dude fit it. All the confidence he built it the bathroom comes crashing down as he watches her laugh at something the guys says before he licks his lips at her and she puts her hand on the dude's chest. Her eyes drift around for a moment and he's not close enough to fully tell but there seems to be coldness in them. He wonders if she's looking for him, if she wants him to see the coldness as message that she's just fine without him. That she's over them, and that she doesn't need him in the real world. He blows out a breath and changes the directions of his steps. Walking to the other side of the bar and pushing his way into a seat tucked over by the corner so he can watch her without being noticed. It's stalkerish and he's not sure why he won't just go talk to her or why he wants to torture himself like this when really he should just go the hell home but he feels like he needs to see this. He needs to see her. So he sits and he watches as Mr. Tall, dark and expensive watch flirts with her and she flirts back. It's not sincere though, it can't be because he's seen sincere from her and this is not it. This is her acting, playing it up for the guy so he'll keep buying drinks. At least that's what he's telling himself. That and that she's doing fine. She's not locked up, she seems happy on the surface, and she's in a New York City nightclub so she must be totally free and doing okay so he's going to leave as soon as he finishes his 8 dollar beer.
But one beer turns into another, and he watches her go off to dance. Then another as he sees her fanning herself as she walks back to the for a moment and before he knows it he doesn't know how long he's been sitting there but the lack of cash in his pocket tells him it's been through at least four beers and he's had enough of the torture. He's seen enough of her having fun without him. He's seen enough to question if she's even thought of him over the years and he doesn't want to think that way. So he's done. He pulls himself off the barstool and makes his way back to Oliver's table.
"Hey man, I'm going to take off." He pats Oliver's shoulder as he looks over the two girls laughing too hard at something Oliver said that probably wasn't that funny.
"Suit yourself man, but you'd have a lot more fun if you stayed and left when we do," Oliver shoots him a wink and points back and forth between the two of them and the two girls.
"That's okay; you have your fun though. Text me in the morning so I know you got home in one piece and aren't stuck tied to a bed in the Bronx."
"Hey that only happened once and..."
Oliver's still yelling something at him but he's already halfway out the door trying to decide if it would be fast to catch a cab or take the subway. He looks down at his watch and decides a cab will be a faster, and with how drunk he is, a safer way home. It would just be nice if a driver would pay attention to him. It takes five; maybe six or seven cabs going passed him before one finally stops. He's got one handle on the door when a voice catches his attention.
"Hey." His eyes sink closed and he really hopes he's not imagining the voice he's hearing. When he opens them she's standing there in front of him. "Whatever happened to buying me a drink and chatting me up?" He's frozen in place with a hand on the cab door handle and his eyes locked on her and he just he can't come up with anything to say. She walks closer and leans her head into the cab, "we'll take the next one." She tells the driver before she looks back at him. "We ended up in the same club, so what happened to buying me a drink and chatting me up?"
He told her that's what he would have done, years ago when asked if he would have liked her in the real world that's what he told her and she remembered it. He actually kind of impressed, doesn't help him to keep from stumbling over his words though. "I, umm... I umm..." He takes a swallow and collects himself as he finally makes real eye contact with her. She looks at him with that same wide eyed, surprised innocent look she always had with him. It's look that made him feel like he hang the moon and the stars for her and it still makes him feel that way. He jams his hands into his pockets and shrugs, "I was going to actually. I was on my way to and..."
"Then you saw it was me and what?"
"I panicked, went to the bathroom and threw up. Came out saw you talking to some guy, sat in the corner watching you like stalker until I decided I needed to home." He didn't mean to tell her all that but he's too drunk and to caught off guard to come up with anything clever and he's almost expecting her to slap him because she can do that now. But she doesn't, she shakes her head and laughs at him.
"That guy was lame. My friends wanted me to keep talking to him so he would keep buying drinks. I saw you. Been waiting for you to talk to me all night."
"I wanted to. I just-,"
"Didn't know what to say? Me neither. Then I saw you leaving and..." She pauses as she pushes and reaches for the hair that's fallen in front of her face at the same time he does. Their hands brush together for a second before she smiles and turns her head to shy away. "I never thought we would be in the same club. Not even now. But you were supposed to buy me a drink a chat me up. In the outside world that's what you said would happen."
She's right, that's almost verbatim what he say, it might even be an exact quote but he's drunk and even if he wasn't his brain would still be all fuzzy. He's surprised he can even remember his own name right now. "I could," he says and nods at her before tilting his head towards the bar. "We could go back inside and I could but you a drink like do over." He feels like a dumbass now because he actually just said the words "do over."
"I'd rather just go home with you." Her face is questioning as the words leave her lips. Like she's not sure what he's going to say and like she's waiting for rejection.
"I like your idea better," he gives her a nod and a grin that's met with a slow forming smile on her lips before they hit his. Her hands land in hair as her tongue pushes against his with a reckless abandon they weren't allowed the first time around.
How they managed their way into the cab and up the stairs to his apartment is beyond him because all he knows, and at this point all he ever wants to know, is how soft her lips feel, and how warm her skin is and how he can enjoy it without fear now. They manage to fumble their way into his bedroom and his world is spinning right now. He could blame it on alcohol or disbelief that this is really happening, the latter would be the truer of the two because he's dizzy and drunk and it doesn't have a damn thing to do with alcohol.
Her hands move to his belt as she sinks to her knees, "Daya, don't..."
She lets out a small laugh and shakes her head, "Again? I know you got a fake leg you don't gotta worry about that." Her eyes are soft and looking up at him as she runs her hand over his prosthetic. "It made a difference to me."
His eyes closed as her hand trails up and runs over his stomach. There aren't any words to explain how good it feels to have her touch him. A sigh leaves his lips as he reaches down and stops her again. "It's not that." He whispers and pulls her back up, "it just... We can do this the right now. We don't have to hide in closets or sneak around. We don't have to rush. We can talk," he barely has time to give her a half smiles before her lips are against his and her hands tugging at his hair and pulling him back towards the bed.
"We can talk later then," he mumbles between kisses as everything else disappears. As the world fades and it's just him and Daya and the way it feels to be with her. A way he never thought he'd really get to feel.
They're tangled up in his sheets with her head resting against his chest, and her breath warm and humid against his skin when the words finally start to come to him. "I'm sorry." He says softly and looks down at her. "I'm sorry that after you lost the baby and got moved to Bedford I didn't find a way..." He starts to say keep in touch but that's just not the right term and he's not sure what is. "I'm sorry I didn't find a way. I waited and I put for a transfer but it never happened. When I left Litchfield and moved here you were still in Bedford and I tried to ask around about visitation but I had been a guard and basically got told that it didn't matter which prison I'd guarded I would be too much of a security risk for it to even be considered. After that I joined the NYPD, and started working my way through law school. Figured if I couldn't see you, I'd least do what we talked about when we played us in the real world game." He stokes his fingers through her hair and laughs at himself, "Guess I failed at the first part of that tonight."
Daya rises up, props her elbows against his chest and leans her face into her hands. It causes her hair to fall in her face and this time he gets there first and pushes it away. Her head moves slightly to look away before he catches her under the chin and turns her back to him. "You're beautiful." He whispers. It's the first time he's gotten to see her like this, totally free, nothing holding them back. And he's not going to let her insecurity stop that. "You are beautiful." He repeats before he cranes his neck to give her a quick kiss.
"Stop it," she laughs and slaps at his chest. It feels real, it feels normal, and it feels natural. "I been out over a year. I got my GED in there, even some college credits. I'm working waiting tables right now. It ain't easy finding a job when you gotta a record. But I'm working, saving money so I can go back to school. I think I wanna do something with kids, like maybe a teacher or counselor or something. But I don't know if I can even do any of that with a record. Still getting my feet under me out her but I'm out free and clear. No parole, no probation. No nothing. So it's not just your fault. I coulda looked you up."
"Why didn't you?" There's a part of him that's not sure he wants to know the answer to that.
"I don't know. I lost the baby, got moved and I hadn't seen you in so long that I think I was just scared. Like maybe you'd moved on and didn't want to see me." She shrugs and her eyes go wide again as she looks up at him. "You really a lawyer now? Like we talked about?"
"Well I mean when we talked about it was a fantasy to figure out how we could ever make things work..." He lets out a sigh. "Sorry that was a shitty way to put it. But I mean I just found out I passed the Bar exam but yeah I'm really lawyer, just like we talked about."
A silence falls between them as she nuzzles against him. There's something on her mind she's not saying he can feel it in the air between them. But if she's not ready to talk about it, he's not going to push it. She's free and he's going to let her be free in every possible. That includes not forcing her to talk about whatever is on her mind. "So a counselor? I could see that and you could do that with your record." He doesn't get the reaction he expected or much of any reaction other than the sullen look she already had on her face. He knows he probably sounds overly optimistic especially to her.
"Yeah, maybe," she says in a voice barely above a whisper before she hides her face against him and goes quiet.
And he lets her be quiet, stroking his fingers through her hair and waiting. He used to waiting for her, he didn't know that until tonight but he's been waiting. So waiting a little bit until she's ready to talk, that's nothing. So they stay silent for what might be hours, or maybe it's just minutes. He doesn't really know because watching a clock is the last thing he's concerned with. But the stay silent while she trails her fingers over his body like she's trying to memorize him and then finally...
"Do you think we can work out here? Out here it's like real... Not that we were real cause what I felt for you it was real. I knew it was real then and I know it more now cause I feel that way about you now. But it's different out here. And we ain't from the same world. We barely got anything in common out here. You think we can work out here? Be a real couple?"
There it is. What kept her quiet, the thing she wasn't saying there it is. And she's right about everything. It is different out here. And they are from different worlds. And they probably don't have much in common. But they really did. And their backgrounds were different from the start. So that's not new information to him either. But she's free now and she had the most important thing right. What they had was real, even if it was under bad circumstances it was still real and he knows how she feels about him right now because he feels the same way about her. He doesn't want to give her false promises, he doesn't want to build her up and then have the real world fuck it all up and make him seems like a liar. She was right about everything she said including that the real world is different. He reaches down and pushes her face to look at him.
"I don't know Daya. I don't if we work in the real world; it's different because we don't know what's going to happen day to day now." It the most honest and sincere answer he can give her and the way she turns away tell him it's not the answer she's looking for. "Hey," he catches her face and turns it back to him. "I don't know if we work in the real world yet and neither do you. But I sure as hell want to try. We can try. And that's the best we can do until we figure it out. I want to try with you."
Her chest moves with the heavy breath she releases and he knows that she feels the same way. She doesn't have to say it but she does anyway.
"You're right. We can try. I want to try with you too."