|nishka//loki (nishka) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-12-10 21:52:00
|Entry tags:||loki, sigyn|
freeze frame, pause, rewind, stop
Who: Nish and James
What: Six years ago, Nish and James met for the first time.
Where: Fado Irish Pub, and later Nish’s apartment (Chicago, IL)
When: Friday, November 4, 2011, about midnight
It had been Nish’s biggest case so far. High-profile, press in the courtroom, sequestered jury and dramatic surprise witnesses. Her client, a housewife accused of the murder of her husband, had finally been proven innocent, and she’d been cleared of all charges and left the courtroom with her family and children, a free woman.
It felt good, beyond good, staring down that prosecutor, proving her case far beyond a reasonable doubt, saving her client from a lifetime of misery in prison. She’d had that jury wrapped around her finger, hanging on her every word, and she’d managed to sway them so effectively that their decision had been unanimous.
After a bit of a victory lap at the firm, with claps on the back, shots of whiskey and talk of promotion, she headed home for the day. But it just seemed...wrong to just go home and go to bed after all that. As she drove, she spotted an Irish pub on the way and made the split-second decision to spend the rest of the night enjoying life.
A few hours later she was sitting at the bar, half-watching a rerun of British soccer (or was that football? Rugby maybe? Who gives a shit?) and nursing a glass of whiskey. She’d started the evening with chatting up the bartender, then a nearby patron, but the more she drank the less interest she had in either, and she’d long since lost count how many she’d had. The room was spinning pleasantly, and everything was funny because nothing was really making sense anymore. And she was pretty sure that the solid wood bar in front of her was melting into a semi-liquid state.
She kept touching a little puddle of whiskey on the bar with fascination, her brain making it feel as if her fingers were pushing through the wood, her eyes telling her that it was rippling out from her fingers like it was made of Jello or something. It made her chuckle and murmur in amazement, wondering aloud if what she was seeing was real.
And that was when the bartender finally cut her off. “Seriously?” she complained, looking as if she might cry. She briefly pouted over at the guy sitting a few seats away from her as if he might help, then back to the bartender. “Uggh, fine,” she groaned, sliding off the stool (and swaying a little), digging in her back pocket for her credit card and handing it over. “Need a cab?” he asked her as he rang up her tab, but she shook her head. She wasn’t stupid enough to drive, but that didn’t stop her from making the unwise decision to attempt walk this off.
But she hadn’t gone two steps outside the pub when she had a sudden urge to be sick. She stumbled a few feet away, falling to her hands and knees and emptying her stomach contents into the small patch of grass.
James didn’t usually go to bars to pick up women - in fact, he didn’t usually go to bars at all; they just weren’t his scene, especially not the dingy ones. The ones with blinking neon lights in the windows, smelling like sweat and the inside of a bottle of booze. But sometimes, after a rough day, he would find himself at a fake Irish pub for the hell of it - because he just wanted a Guinness and to enjoy his own collection of cigarettes, dragon-breathing smoke as he nursed a drink all to himself and brought his reality back to this one while watching a football game. A reality that wasn’t waist-deep in the intricacies of his clients - he needed to, for the sake of his own well-being.
He’d noticed the intoxicated woman, who was alone, though since he wasn’t quite in the mood to play nanny hadn’t done anything besides keep an eye on her - he’d step in if any scuzzy fuckwad tried to take advantage of her, but that was all. Except when she turned down the offer for a taxi, that was when he sighed and stubbed out his cigarette. She wasn’t really attempting to walk anywhere, was she?
Clearly not, because when he went outside to check, there she was - puking her fucking guts out. Attractive. Being a good samaritan was such a bloody drag sometimes.
“‘Scuse me,” he walked up to her, crouching to hold her hair back. “Thought you could use a hand.” He had a bottle of water for when she was done throwing up, since dehydration was also a bloody drag.
Nish wiped her mouth on the back of her sleeve - the same nice well-tailored suit she’d worn to court that day - and sat back on her heels. “I’m fine,” she murmured unconvincingly, though winced and rubbed her stomach at another wave of nausea. Stubbornly, she pushed herself up to stand, though had to concede to lean on him in order to make it to her feet. Her eyes met his for a moment, and through her drunken haze she noticed how damn attractive he was. “Thanks,” she said softly, but then forced herself to look away and let him go. The next step was to stand on her own and start attempting to walk in the general direction of her apartment, though the sidewalk was quite uncooperative and refused to stay flat.
“Aha, I don’t quite think so,” James tsked, catching the woman when she stumbled. There was no reason to be so stubborn when you were two seconds away from being drunk enough to piss yourself, but the keyword was drunk. Intoxication didn’t lend way to logical thinking.
He couldn’t just leave her out here - she’d likely never get home, and would wake up in a stranger’s car three weeks later or something. So, he’d suddenly become her personal taxi service. “Drink this,” he insisted, putting the bottle of water in her hands. “And come on, I’ll walk you home. Just point in the general vicinity of where home is and we should we alright,” he said, accent wrapping around the instructions, keeping his arm around her to help her maintain steadiness. And remain upright.
She couldn't help herself from leaning against him, her hand reflexively wrapping around the bottle he pushed at her. She pointed vaguely down the street with it, trying to remember her actual address. “I ...uhmm, I live in Chicago,” she said unhelpfully, watching where they were going and picking out a few familiar landmarks.
She uncapped the bottle in her hand and took a mouthful, swallowed, then grimaced. “That's just water,” she complained, as if he'd made a mistake. Even so, she took another drink from it.
“Yes, it is,” James replied, tone level and even - which was a damned miracle, because he was pulling from a well of patience that felt to be running dry at this point. “You need to rehydrate, love. Look - I’m just going to find your licence and see what your address is, that’s all.” She was probably too drunk to protest much, and he could easily deflect any swipes - so he just let her nurse the water while he found what he was looking for in her purse, then put it back a moment later. He simply needed to know if they could walk there, or if he needed to call a cab. Luckily, her place seemed to be a block or two away. So he kept his arm around her and soldiered on, helping her walk, until they reached her building. Now to get inside, that was always fun.
“Are you going to hand me your keys?” She downed a few more good gulps of water while he rifled through her purse, a part of her recognizing it as the good idea it was. Several times she’d drown herself in water after a night of heavy drinking, and that vague awareness was slowly drifting to the surface.
She frowned a little and looked over at him, doing her hardest to try for the ‘I’m not drunk, I swear’ look. “I’m not gonna drive,” she said, as if that’s what he was getting at, “I’m a responsible adult,” she said, but couldn’t help but laugh at that. It was all a lie, and everyone around her had bought it. Still, she clung to his arm, leaning a little against him as they walked. She looked over at him again, really taking him in this time. “God, you’re hot,” she sighed, leaning her head on his shoulder as they shuffled together into her building.
James snorted a laugh. “Thank you,” was all he could say, amused at the drunken compliment - he knew better than to be flattered, because he simply assumed that the woman was wearing beer goggles or something. Or she had no idea what she was mumbling about, that too.
He didn’t mind her leaning on him though, and he took the opportunity to find her keys since she obviously wasn’t going to help in that regard. And since he’d looked at her licence, he also knew the flat number - so into the lift they went, and he was able to actually open the door once they’d arrived.
It was a nice place, a spacious modern one bedroom with large windows and a cozy, lived-in feel. She’d left a few lights on, so at least it wasn’t pitch black when they entered.
“I’ll bring you to your room,” he offered, helping her inside and setting her down on her bed. The best thing for her to do was sleep it off, but what if she was sick during the night? It was highly possible, given the amount of booze she’d consumed - obviously, when she got to the bar, she’d already had a few drinks in her.
Bugger. He would sit on the couch, then. Just in case. To help a complete stranger, and be there in the event she choked on her own vomit. Nish, oblivious to these thoughts, sprawled where he guided her down onto her bed, reflexively shifting into the recovery position, and fell asleep almost immediately.
Bear, a pure white cat with pale green eyes, had been curled up in his bed in a dark corner of her room, and now got up and stretched, padding over to the stranger and following him out into the living room, sniffing him curiously. After several moments he seemed to decide that not only was this new person not a threat, but that he would be a great source of attention. He hopped up on the couch next to James, purring loudly and rubbing his head against the man’s arm.
Ah, what was this? A furball for company? Well, why not. James chuckled under his breath, giving the cat a few scratches under its chin. At least he wouldn’t be entirely alone here, so, that was a positive. Now he just had to do his best to stay awake...
Nish floated back to consciousness around 9am with a raging hangover and a desperate need to pee. Bear had been sitting on her chest and batting her head insistently, demanding to be fed, but she wisely decided that her needs were currently greater than his. She groaned and forced herself out of bed, noting with relief that she was still wearing her clothes from yesterday, and stumbled towards the bathroom to take care of her more immediate needs. A long hot shower followed, after which she gulped down a fair amount of water, took some aspirin, and then wrapped herself up in soft flannel pajamas.
Yawning and rubbing her face, she followed her cat down the hall towards the kitchen, putting out food for him on autopilot and flicking on the coffeemaker to make herself a pot of caffeinated hydration. That was when she turned and spotted the man on her couch.
Nish froze, her eyes widening as he tried hard to remember what had happened last night. She’d been still wearing clothes when she woke up, with no obvious signs that she’d slept with anyone, so that was a good sign. And it seemed as though he’d spent the night on the couch with one of the several available throw blankets and couch pillows for a makeshift bed.
She watched him sleep, a small smile flitting across her lips as her eyes traced over his face, his sleeping form, enjoying everything she saw. She drifted forward into the living room, first wincing and drawing the blackout curtains to block the offending sunlight, then coming closer, settling herself cross-legged on the floor next to the couch. She watched him quietly, closely, admiring his peaceful, handsome face as bits and pieces of the night before slowly started coming back to her. He’d brought her home, made sure she was safe - even stayed the night to do that. She couldn’t help the warm glow of gratitude and...maybe something else...pooling in her stomach as she realised just what he’d done for her, while the rich scent of coffee began to fill the room around them.
James hadn’t intended to fall asleep, but he’d had a long day and was tired - so it was inevitable, really. He’d gone for a makeshift bed, just using the available blankets and pillows, and drifted off just a bit before the sun rose. He awakened when his senses perked at the scent of coffee, which wafted into his nose and had him stirring. Cripes, he hadn’t squashed the cat or anything, had he? Why was he even still here?
“Shite, I’m sorry,” he apologized, rubbing a hand over his face - which was prickly, and scruffy; he needed to shave and acknowledge the five o’clock shadow. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep, I just wanted to stay and make sure you were alright.”
Oh, right, he ought to introduce himself. A dark and swarthy stranger sitting on the couch, in his clothes from yesterday, must be a sight to wake up to. “I’m James,” he rumbled, clearing his throat - his voice was thick, and it felt like he needed both a cigarette and a whole six-pack of energy drinks to get himself going this morning.
Nish smiled warmly, almost amused at his discomfort. “Nishka,” she replied, her voice quiet, soft, so as to not aggravate her headache. Though, other than that, a bit of brain fog and ravenous hunger, she wasn’t all that bad off from her bout of binge drinking last night.
“Thank you,” she said, feeling they should be the first words out of her mouth, other than her name of course. “You didn’t have to do that; that was…” but words were hard right now, and she shrugged with a little smile. That, and she was distracted quite a bit by his eyes, and his voice, and his scruff, and his presence. And god, that accent.
Fortunately, Bear chose that moment to hop up onto the couch, walking across James’ back and settling himself down on him, kneading his shoulders and purring loudly. Nish smiled and reached up to pet him between his ears. “I see you’ve already been accepted as one of his people,” she murmured, turning her eyes back to James' and holding them for maybe a little too long.
And there was the cat. James laughed a little, plunking Bear in his lap so he could give the royal puss all the attention he was clearly craving - mainly scratches under the chin and between his eyes, which were all squinched shut from pleasure. Adorable little shit, he was. “He’s an alright fellow,” spoken fondly, of course, since James did like animals. They were better than people sometimes - and he’d seen the worst humanity had to offer, in his line of work.
Nish caught herself watching him a little too closely, and forced herself to back off, awkwardly pushing up off the floor. “What do you take in your coffee?” she asked, heading towards the kitchen and listening for his answer.
“Oh, ah - “ Right, coffee. He really needed to wake up - though the caffeine would help with that, surely. “Just cream, love. It’s nice to meet you, Nishka. Feeling better, then?” He hoped the hangover wasn’t too bad.
Nish smiled as she filled two large mugs - 16oz was a proper mug of coffee - and added cream to both. She padded back into the living room and handed one to him, then sat cross-legged next to him on the couch, cradling her mug in her lap. “Yeah,” she said quietly with another smile. “It’s not the first time I’ve had to nurse a hangover.” She sat back against the couch, burrowing into the soft pillows and watching Bear soak up all the new attention. She took a good sip from her mug and then chuckled softly at Bear’s loud purring. “He really likes you,” she said, reaching to stroke his fur with the back of her hand, “unless you’re carrying around catnip in your pocket.”
Another sip of coffee, and then her stomach rumbled, demanding solid food. “So, Knight in Shining Armour,” she smirked, catching his eyes, “after last night, the least I can do is feed you. I don’t cook, but I have frozen waffles and a toaster,” she said, “and real maple syrup, none of that fake shit.”
“None of the fake shit, but you’ve got frozen waffles,” James returned with a laugh, and a distinct eyebrow raise - he was gifted with that ability, quirking one at a time and raising it high in an amusing sort of way (or villainous way, depending). “What a delightful contradiction, love. Sounds delicious though, I could go for that.”
She didn’t cook. Of course not. Nishka seemed like a busy type of woman - single, if the appearance of the flat was any indication (only in the sense that she didn’t appear to be sharing it with anyone) - and perhaps focused on her career. James was curious, against his better judgment. “I do cook, however. I’d be glad to show off my skills sometime.”
Her brows rose at the offer, and she smiled again, despite the headache. “I'd like that,” she said, watching him carefully, that quirk of his eyebrow charming her. “Something that doesn't come in Styrofoam is quite welcome in my life.” Left unsaid was that someone who had those skills was also quite welcome in her life. And if that someone was attractive and charming and funny, so much the better.
She took another long drink from her coffee and sighed, leaning back against the couch with her eyes closed for a moment and then forcing herself to get up and head to the kitchen, pulling out waffles from the freezer, plates from the cupboard, butter and syrup from the fridge. “I have strawberries too,” she called out, pulling them from the fridge and setting them on the counter, along with a can of whipped cream.
He joined her then, so she wouldn’t have to yell into the living room - a good thing, perhaps, since loud noises tended to exacerbate any hangover headache. Holding his mug of coffee and letting the heat seep into the palm of his hands, James sipped carefully - the addition of caffeine to his system was a welcome one. He usually liked to start off the morning with a cup of coffee or Irish black tea, a cigarette, and reading the news in an effort to catch himself up on the depressing state of the world.
“Strawberries and whipped cream, how fancy,” he smirked. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to top that, but I can certainly try. I make a pretty good shepherd's pie. The food of my people.” But anyway, he was interested in learning more about her - since he’d crashed at her place, he felt it prudent to not be a mere stranger who conked out on the sofa but rather a friendly person whom she now somewhat knew. “And what is it you do, Nishka? I’d guess businesswoman or attorney.”
Yes, the small talk, the ‘getting to know you’ talk. Always a treat.
“Bingo,” she said with a chuckle, pulling waffles from the package and tossing them in the toaster. She glanced over her shoulder at him. “You may have heard about the Patel murder trial in the papers?” she asked, watching for recognition, and then she pointed her thumb at herself. “Counsel for the Defence,” she finished with a smile. “Case ended yesterday, and I was feeling...celebratory,” she chuckled. She was still riding that high of success the morning after; it was such a good feeling to know that because of her, an innocent woman won’t have to be separated from her children and spend the rest of her life in prison.
While the waffles toasted, she started washing and cutting up berries into a bowl. “So what about you?” she asked casually. “I have no clue at all what you do. Serial killer, right?” she smirked.
“Ah, right, I have heard of it - job well done,” James nodded. “As for me, aye, I’m a serial killer. I’m just biding my time until I can harvest your organs.” Or use her skin as a lampshade - no, certainly not that! He was teasing. Though he may have counseled a couple serial killers in his day, but that was a whole other story.
“Well, I doubt my liver will be much good to you,” Nish commented with a playfully apologetic tone, “sorry.”
He sipped his coffee, the scent of thawing waffles filling the air as they cooked in the toaster. Mmm. Almost seemed domestic and homey in here. “I’m a psychiatrist,” he shared. “At the clinic over on Michigan Avenue. Studied in Dublin for uni, then moved to the States to attend medical school at the University of Chicago. Pritzker School of Medicine.” He’d also done his residency at the University of Chicago Medical Center; it was one of the best hospitals in the country, but he was happy where he was now. Felt like he was making a difference, at least.
Her brows rose as she shut off the water, just in time for the waffles to pop out of the toaster. She quickly pulled them out and replaced them with another batch. “That’s...impressive,” she said. Words were suddenly hard again, so she busied herself by spreading butter on the hot waffles on one plate. “I went to college in Oregon, and then moved here for law school, and just sort of stayed on when I got a job,” she said, trying hard to remember exactly which courses she took and which university; though her mind was still stuck on ‘psychiatrist’.
She finally looked up at him again with a slightly nervous grin. “I bet you have all kinds of ideas about me now, with your training and all.” The fact was, she’d seen a psychiatrist for a while after her explosive breakup with Stephen. For a long time she’d thought her official diagnosis was tattooed on her forehead for all the world to immediately know the second they met her. Especially other doctors. Relationships were next to impossible after that; it was like the worst kind of AA meeting. ‘Hi, my name is Nishka and I’m a recovering Borderline; please try not to run away screaming’ would be constantly on her mind.
People tended to assume pretty much exactly what Nishka brought up, about those in the field of mental health - that they were just watching and waiting for the perfect moment to psychoanalyse everyone they met - so James was rather used to that sort of thing. He didn’t even flinch, just smiled casually. “Not really all kinds of ideas,” he shrugged. “Just chatting more over frozen waffles and perhaps having dinner some night soon, one I made. In return for the breakfast and the chance to cuddle with your cat, of course.”
He was off the clock anyway. And believe it or not, sometimes psychiatrists just wanted to live their lives separate from diagnosing and writing prescriptions.
She was so relieved and delighted by his response that she flinched when the other waffles popped out of the toaster. She didn’t immediately reach for them though, she was too busy looking at him; a smile she couldn’t hide crept across her face, so much so that she had to turn away from him to not look like an idiot.
“I’m sure Bear would like that,” she said, focusing on the food and trying to not get overly excited. She buttered the second batch of waffles and then handed one plate to him, unable to avoid catching his eyes as she did. “It’s been a while since he’s had anyone to cuddle him,” she said, her voice a little softer, her eyes searching his, the true meaning of her words plain in that look. But then she snapped out of it and shrugged, “besides me, anyway,” she added with a laugh, hoping to just shrug it off. She collected her plate and fork and the syrup, bringing it out to the dining table and then quickly scooped up the berries and cream.
She sat down across from him and poured syrup on her waffles, handing it across to him. “This is the real stuff from Canada,” she said proudly, pointing at the red maple leaf on the bottle. “I don’t have many food related demands, but that’s definitely one of them.”
“The real stuff, excellent,” James rubbed his hands together, sitting at the table and also adding some syrup to his waffles - he did like these better than flapjacks, because each groove in the waffle was like a hug for that syrup, right? Though really, any carb-laden breakfast food was alright with him. The authentic, traditional Irish breakfasts were mostly grease, and he missed those sometimes. “Just let me know what other food demands you’ve got and we’ll be good to go.”
They could talk about that over breakfast, and whatever else too - surprisingly, he wasn’t in a rush to be anywhere today. A relaxed morning after a night of drinking was perhaps just what the doctor ordered.
Nish cut a piece of waffle and popped it in her mouth as she thought about it. “Hmm,” she mused, then swallowed. “Olives are a must on pizza, but never pineapple, pickles are good with tuna, and I can’t stand raw onions in any context,” she said with a grin. “Other than that, I’m pretty easy to please.” She scooped some berries into the syrup on her plate and then topped it with a healthy amount of whipped cream. “Uhh, this is perfect hangover food,” she sighed happily, taking a bite of strawberry and cream.
“Olives are a must on pizza,” James repeated, an amused deadpan. “Remind me to get you your own separate pizza, if the chance ever comes up.” This one was definitely not a fan of olives, but he supposed pineapple was alright - honestly, he wasn’t a pizza aficionado to begin with and he could always pick off disgusting toppings anyway, so it didn’t matter much. And pickles with tuna was just...off.
It made him laugh though, as he tucked into his waffles - they were frozen, sure, but they seemed to hit the spot. And were nice and crunchy. “I honestly don’t know anyone who likes raw onion - it seems against the laws of nature somehow.” It was just too strong, and the stench stuck in your mouth for days - no, cooked was definitely the way to go there.
His reactions made her laugh, covering her mouth so she wouldn’t spit out the strawberry she’d been chewing. “I guess now is the time to tell you I also occasionally like anchovies?” she said with a wince, as if anticipating a dramatic reaction, though she was still grinning. “It’s the salt; I’m a sucker for anything salty and tangy. Don’t worry though, I can eat a pizza,” she said, patting her stomach, “and if not, I like it cold for breakfast sometimes.” She was basically still living like a college student, subsisting off ramen, takeout, various fruits and bagged salads.
“So...not that I’m holding you hostage or anything,” she said, “but I do have a large DVD collection, and I was planning on spending the afternoon on the couch with a bowl of popcorn or something. You’re welcome to stay if you want,” she said, her smile softening into something almost hopeful. “I mean, you don’t have to,” she quickly added, “you did your good deed by dragging me home last night, it’s just…” she paused, resisting the urge to look away. “I like your company,” she said with a smile and a shrug. She wanted him to stay, but only if he wanted to stay. She was a disaster at relationships, but...they could be friends, right? A friend she was slowly admitting to herself she was very much attracted to.
“I’ll stay,” James agreed. “Or actually, mind if I pop home and change clothes first?” He also needed a shower, since he’d worn these clothes all day yesterday, then to the pub, then here - it made one feel a bit slovenly, and that wasn’t a feeling he particularly enjoyed. “After, I’ll come back for popcorn and films. I’ll bring something else too, maybe cinema candy.”
Like those chocolates candies with the little white dots, the sno-caps? They were officially called non pareils, but Christ, they were delicious. Those, junior mints, fake cookie dough bites that were really just processed sugar - there was a lot to choose from.
Nish tried really hard to not look overly excited at the fact that he wanted to stay, but probably failed miserably. “That’s quite alright,” she said, “I’d offer you my shower, but I don’t have any clothes for you,” she added with a shrug. The only male thing in her apartment at the moment was Bear, and it had been that way for quite a while.
“If you bring me candy, I may never let you leave,” she said with an impish grin, cutting off another piece of waffle with her fork and dipping it in whipped cream. “Except to get me more candy,” she added as an afterthought.
“Good to know,” James laughed a little. “In that case, I might just wait until you’re in a sugar coma and make my quick escape.” There was a wink from him then, as he got up to bring his plate to the sink and give it a rinse - he was a polite guest, at any rate, and wouldn’t just leave a mess to clean up.
But alright, a brief sojourn to his place it was then. And probably the store for sugary treats - places like Target seemed to have a good selection of movie candy, and it was at a normal price too. He found his coat, slipping it on, and gave a parting scritch to Bear’s chin before he headed for the door. “Be back in a bit, love. I don’t live far.”
She followed him to the door, gave him her cell phone number in case he needed it, and then wandered back into the living room to sit down, letting out a long, slow sigh. Bear hopped up on her lap and stared her square in the eyes, judging her. “Ohh, don’t look at me like that,” she said, “I’ll be careful.” She had no idea where this was going, all she knew was that it was somewhere she wanted to be.