this was going to be our last mistake Who: Nish and Rafe What: A date, and partial explanations. Where: Out about about. I'm too amped to find a real restaurant in LA. XD When: The next day after this thread.
Nish hadn’t used since yesterday, but the temptation had been overwhelming all day. Thoughts from last night, images from the video Abel had shown her, kept popping to mind on their own. She’d be doing something as innocuous as checking email, photocopying a report, answering the phone, and they’d be there, just behind her eyelids, taunting her and torturing her. Using would be...an easy way to forget. To not care. But she’d promised herself she would stop after that case was done, and she was fighting tooth and nail to keep that promise.
And then Rafe texted her, seemingly out of the blue. She got the text at work, in the middle of pulling together materials for a court appearance in the morning. She sat at her desk, looking at the words on the screen and really seriously considering ignoring it. But finally, just as she was about to leave for the day, she texted him back. Yes, she would meet him for dinner. Yes, they needed to talk. She needed to get this over with.
Six o’clock she was getting out of her car in front of a restaurant he’d suggested but she’d never been to, still wearing clothes from work. On the outside she looked good, put together, normal. On the inside, she was screaming. This was it - this was when he’d finally break it off for good. They got together in a restaurant, it was only fitting they broke up in one.
Rafael was waiting for her in a corner booth, his own thoughts running quite counter to hers. It had been some time since he had visited her, and he was concerned for her health; though he had sworn not to see her while she was using, he could not help but recall her sorry state when last they had met, and could not resist the urge to check up on her in spite of his promise. He was glad to see her arrive, and looking far better and more put together than she had before.
He rose from his seat as the hostess brought Nish to the table. He ran a hand down his shirt front -- a white button-up this time, pristine and pressed -- and smiled at her. "Hey," he said, his voice soft. He leaned over to her when the hostess had gone. His hand curled high around her arm, pulling her in for a brief, almost questioning kiss to her cheek. "How are you feeling?"
She leant into the kiss slightly, allowing herself to enjoy it, though aware it might be the last one. She smiled softly, but avoided his eyes at least for now. “I'm good,” she said, sitting in the booth next to him, though careful not to sit too close, not to touch him. She smiled awkwardly for a moment, grateful when the waitress came by with glasses of ice water and menus. She gratefully took a sip of water, glad of the distraction even if it was only a few minutes.
“I haven't been here before,” she commented cordially, looking around them at the rest of the restaurant. “Is this another favourite?”
He only shrugged. "I don't know that I'd go that far," he allowed, "but I do enjoy it. The steak here is excellent. They have decent salads, too, though, if you're not feeling something heavy." He shifted slightly closer to her, until his leg brushed soft against hers. There were questions he wanted to ask, but I'm good said so much; not least, that she did not particularly want to talk. He could understand well enough. It was a difficult dance, managing addiction and relationships, and sometimes topics had to be talked around rather than through. Or so he had once thought. Not he chewed his tongue and wondered what to say.
"Nish… are you sure you're okay? I haven't heard from you in a bit, and you seem distracted, or something. If this is a bad time…" She finally glanced up at him, but briefly, instead settling her eyes on her water with a slight nod.
“No,” she said to his last comment, “no, it’s fine, I just want to get this over with.” She hated the feeling of having something hanging over her head, and the sooner they got it out on the table the better. Maybe they could at least be friends. “It’s not the first time I’ve screwed up a good thing, I know how this goes.” It wouldn’t hurt any less, but it would be done. And it was why she’d been avoiding any attachments in the first place.
A deep furrow marred his brow; confusion was written stark on his face. After a moment the latter cleared somewhat, replaced by what might have been relief. "No, no. I didn't… I just called you to have dinner," he said. "Really. I've been worried about you. And then you didn't text or anything…" He shrugged again. "I thought it might be nice to get out of the house. See how you're doing, maybe have a real date." He reached out, covering her hand with his.
She looked down at his hand on hers, shock settling over her like a blanket. An awkward smile forced its way out onto her features and she closed her eyes, gathering thoughts. “I thought...after what happened...I thought you were done with me,” she admitted quietly. She opened her eyes, settling them on their hands, and she turned hers under his like he had that first night at the sushi restaurant, wrapping her fingers lightly around his. Relief was struggling to break free, but she held it back, needing to be sure.
Rafael squeezed her fingers, smiling softly down at their joined hands. "No. I wouldn't do that to you. Especially not without saying something." He raised her hand to his lips, kissing her bent knuckles. "I meant exactly what I said: I won't come around if you're using. No more, no less."
She finally allowed the relief to hit her, and she sighed out the breath she’d been holding with a nervous laugh. His lips on her skin caused tingles to creep up her arm, feeling amazing now that her earlier fear and nerves have now been soothed.
’Don’t get too comfortable,’ the voice warned, marring her happiness, ’you dodged that bullet, but it’s only a matter of time before it hits.’
“It’s only a matter of time,” she echoed, agreeing with the voice’s comment but not wanting to. A part of her, maybe that voice itself, was thinking it was for the best to say it now, before they went any further. To warn him somehow of what he was getting into. Getting back into. “I ruin everything I touch. You should get out while you can.” She didn’t let go of his hand though, finally able to enjoy his touch again, although her worries were not completely gone. She’d still hurt him. She’d still used him. She’d still...seen that fucking tape.
The pad of his thumb traced light over her skin. He set their joined hands gently on the table, tugging slightly to pull her closer still to him. "Come on, Nish," he chided. "You're too hard on yourself. We have fun, don't we? It's not always perfect, but nothing is. We'll work it out. I just want to see you healthy and happy. You do deserve that, you know."
She let him pull her closer, looking down at their hands on the table as he spoke, listening to words she didn’t feel she deserved. “I used you,” she murmured, “the other night...I’m sorry...I’m so sorry…I don’t want us to be like that...” It was what had hurt the most once she’d sobered up. The knowledge that she’d made him do something he didn’t want. That he didn’t enjoy. And that she’d been too high to notice.
He was shaking his head, softly humming his disagreement. Somewhere deep down he knew she was not entirely wrong, but that was only a small part of him, one he had long ago grown adept at subsuming. "It's all right," he said. "I wanted… I wanted you to be happy. To enjoy yourself. And you did... didn't you?"
She paused, and then allowed herself a little smile. “I did,” she said softly, turning slightly so that there faces were inches apart. “I...always thought there must be something wrong with me. For wanting that.”
’And now you know that he likes it too,’ the voice drawled. She almost rolled her eyes.
’Can I have a moment, please,’ she said, slightly annoyed.
Be my guest,” it laughed.
He leaned into the small space between them, pressing a tentative kiss to her lips. "There's nothing wrong with you," he said. "And I'm sorry if anyone ever made you feel that there was. You want what you want. Don't apologize for that." He drew away, catching the waitress darting into their field of view, then just as quickly moving away. "I just wish it had been under… better circumstances. That's all."
’Sober, Nish, he wants you to be sober next time.’
’I got that, thanks. Get back in the corner.”
She kissed him back, a wry smile tugging at her lips. “It was mostly me,” she admitted, looking away as if embarrassed. “What sane woman likes being choked and restrained and...bruised...by their lover?” She followed the thought with a self-deprecating laugh, but even just saying it brought images to mind that weren’t at all appropriate for the dinner table.
She followed his eyes when he looked up and spotted the waitress too, pulling away from him just a little so they could grab her attention.
Given the turn of their conversation, Rafael wanted nothing more than to dismiss the waitress and continue their talk. But she had a job to do, and things would perhaps go more smoothly with a drink and a plate before them. So he ordered quickly -- Malbec, steak, and a sweet potato for himself, and Nish ordered the same -- and simply held his tongue until the woman had gone.
"Nish, I… do you really think that?"
She watched the waitress leave, taking the time to think, but all she could come up with was “yeah.” She paused, realising how that must sound to him in light of what she now knew about him, and knew she had to explain. She opened her mouth to continue, but the words got stuck in her throat.
“Uggh, okay…” she took a deep breath, holding his hand a little tighter. “I was with someone a while back, and...well, he was the reason I figured out I liked it. He was my brother’s best friend, and for a while it was great. He seemed to know...exactly how far to go without me having to tell him.” She bit her lip, suddenly awkward as the rest of the story formed in her mind. “Then he...started to go too far. He wouldn't listen, and...more than once, he put me in the hospital. My brother found out about it, and...well, he's in prison now.” She let that settle between them for a minute, and then cleared her throat.
“It's not normal...for someone who's...been through that...to still want those things.” She had never brought it up I therapy, never breathed a word of it to her brother, because she was ashamed.
Rafael was silent for a moment. He did not let go of her hand; his thumb passed over her skin again and again, writing wordless compassion over her. He squeezed her fingers. He understood better than he cared to admit. His own thoughts shied away from this recognition, and when he spoke again, he made no mention of it.
"I'm very sorry you went through that," he said. "And I don't want you to take this the wrong way. But you aren't alone, Nish. And you shouldn't tell yourself it's crazy or wrong or bad of you to feel the way you do. More people than you think use… play, or experimenting, or whatever you want to call it, to cope with things like that. It doesn't help everyone, but it can. If you do it right." He twitched a small smile. "Trust me, okay? You aren't crazy. You aren't weird. At least, not any more than anyone else."
She smiled with a soft nervous laugh at his last comment. ’If only you knew,’ she thought to herself, though she felt the tension starting to leave her with his assurances.
’You're my kind of crazy, Nish,’ the voice chided. She let her other hand fall on top of their clasped hands. “I've always been bad at finding ways to cope,” she admitted, though by now she was sure he already knew that. “But I do trust you,” she said, looking up at him for the first time since her confession. “Maybe more than I trust myself these days,” she added with a shrug.
"That's okay, too," he said. "At least at first. I'll help how I can, okay?" He smiled down at her, leaning over to kiss her temple. "And I know you're going to hate this, but maybe think about talking to someone. It really can help."
She leant into his kiss, taking the comfort he offered. “As in, ‘this is a safe place, you can say anything?” she asked with a little smile. He chuckled, but he nodded all the same. “I wasn't very good at it. I just told them what they wanted to hear so they could tell my brother I was no longer a suicide risk.” Ever since their parents’ death, her brother had been her power of attorney. But this conversation was prompting her to make an amendment. That in mind, she looked up at him and smiled softly. “I’ll think about it.”
Rafael nodded. "That's all I ask," he said. "I really think it might help."
He pulled back a bit when the waitress returned, two glasses of deep red wine in her hands. She set them down before the closely seated couple, smiling down at what she assumed were two lovebirds markedly comfortable with public displays of affection. She flitted away after assuring them their meals would arrive shortly.
After a small sip of wine and an approving nod, Rafael shifted in his seat, facing Nish at what angle the booth would allow. "So what else is going on? Any word on… that case?"
Nish took a sip of her own wine, smiling at his good taste. “It’s over, thank god,” she said with a sigh. “I made an offer at the pre-trial on Monday, and the State accepted it yesterday. He’s in prison now, and I can finally sleep.” The absolute last thing she’d wanted was a long drawn-out trial. If the case itself had pushed her to start using again, a trial would kill her.
But now she was a little over 24 hours sober, though she still hadn’t cut her ties with drugs completely. Even now the rest of her stash was sitting in the bottom of her purse. Another crutch she couldn’t completely eliminate. She put her wine down and took his hand again, squeezing it and smiling. “Thanks for this,” she said, “I didn’t realise how much I needed it.”
"It's my pleasure," he said, and he sincerely meant it. He laced his fingers with hers, clasping her tight. He licked rich red wine from his lips. "I'm glad we both found the time for it. We should do this more often." He smiled softly, his free hand toying with the stem of his glass. "I do enjoy cooking for you, though." She smiled, ducking her head slightly.
’Are you...blushing?’ the voice taunted, only making her smile more.
’Shut up,’ she returned playfully.
Of course, a night out had the benefit of full service and cleanup afterward, a boon demonstrated with the return of the waitress bearing two steaming plates in her hands. She set them down before the couple, smiling pleasantly at them both.
"Is there anything else I can get for you two?"
Nish watched the woman put the food in front of them, the smells coming from their plates making her mouth water. “This looks great, thank you,” she said, pulling her napkin from the table and draping it over her lap. She waited until the woman left, and then put her hand on Rafe’s again, meeting his eyes and then leaning forward to plant a soft kiss on his lips. “We definitely need to do this again,” she agreed, smiling happily, finally feeling that things were starting to go right for her.