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November 2nd - 3rd: Why Can't He Be You

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Jackie Sullivan
The Hillbilly Belle
Ancient Wyrm
Ancient Wyrm

Joined: 10 Nov 2011
Posts: 912
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Jobs: Cook, Barmaid
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:19 am    Post subject: November 2nd - 3rd: Why Can't He Be You Reply with quote

Friday, November 2nd, 2012 - early evening

It was becoming a routine of sorts. Jackie liked to do her grocery shopping on Fridays and during that trip she always picked up an extra brown bag or two of things for Ben. Really, it wasn't just for him. It was for her own benefit as well considering she had been staying at his apartment more steadily and she liked having the option to make a quick meal or lunch on the fly. As off the wall as some thought Jackie was, when it came down to it she had her Mama's views when it came to food. It brought comfort and it was something to share.

A denim clad hip bumped itself against her truck door to swing it shut with a thump. With that, brown cowboy boots were moving up the walkway towards Ben's. Sure as hell there was a brown paper bag settled against her hip, bouncing with every swaying step. In front of his apartment she took all of a moment to comb her fingers through blonde hair, trying without success to tame her mess of blonde wavy locks before knuckles were rapped against the apartment door.

Jackie barely gets a chance to knock; after just the first contact of her knuckles against the door, it swings open. He's hardly even paying attention to where he's going, and he actually almost walks into her before he notices her, starts, gives her a sort of blank-faced look for a couple of seconds -- and then he's taking two steps back into the apartment, opening up the door wider for her in an invitation to come in, grinning at her. It's a little more crooked than usual, but maybe he's just happy to see her, maybe he was just amused that he was, apparently, on his way out as she was showing up.

With the quick open of the door she jumps as well then braces for an impact that never comes. It was only when he's stepping backwards into the apartment that she releases a chuckle laced sigh and she's stepping in right after him. "Goddamn, yer a man on a mission, sweetheart. Were y' headin' out t'see Will or what? Maybe I should've called 'fore I came over." She's returning the grin and once she's inside she leaning up on her toes to press a firm yet sweet kiss of greeting to his lips. Even when she lowers herself back down to the flats of her feet she's lingering close to him. "I jus' figured I'd bring some things over t'night so I was all ready t' cook fer tomorrow."

Pushing the door shut behind her, and then his attention is drifting back to her. His own laugh might be the first clue that something is amiss; it just isn't the same, something sort of dry to it. He's not quite fully engaged in the kiss when she presses her lips to his, like he isn't expecting it, but then, "I like a girl that can plan ahead," and he's kind of laughing at that too, though it's sort of short lived. It wasn't good that she'd stayed in close, because right afterward he's aiming a hungry sort of kiss to her mouth, pressing one hand against the lower part of her ribs, pushing her up against the wall. Her second big clue that this isn't right, one that should easily give him away? He tastes like whiskey and cigarettes.

The laugh was off but he wasn't expecting her. Maybe he was going to talk business with Will and didn't want to bring it up because he knew it made her uncomfortable? It was when he spoke, that needless laugh again, that's when her brows slowly began to crease. But before she could jump to any sort of conclusions her back was being pinned to the wall with his hand and his lips on her. The grocery bag automatically went tumbling out of her grasp and to the floor with a jarring thump so both hands were free to grip him by the collar. It wasn't to pull him in deeper though. This wasn't the way Ben kissed her, at all. This wasn't the way Ben tasted. This wasn't Ben.

Hands at his collar forced him back. Not pushing him away recklessly, but rather trying to hold him out at arm's length. If she managed that she would take the moment of air to put the pieces together. She was already kicking herself because she should have known it so much sooner. "Harry?" Such a flat question, something she already knew the answer to.

Harry might do a lot of really, really questionable things, especially regarding women, but he's never, ever forceful with them, so when Jackie grabs him by the collar and pushes him back, he doesn't really resist it, taking the half a step back to be at arm's length from her. "Uh, yeah," like it was a dumb question, though he is laughing a little, again. He's pressing his index fingers lightly to her cheeks, pulling up just a tiny tiny bit, like he's trying to get her to smile. "You were happy to see me a second ago, c'mon. Want a drink?"

Her lips press together, trying to hold back her frustration, but the action quickly comes to a halt. When she does that she can still taste a little bit of nicotine lingering on her lips. Any more of that and she was liable to get sick for a plethora of reasons. It's not a quick movement, but her head is rolling aside when he pokes his fingers into her cheeks. She's trying so hard to stay calm right now, but it's obviously not the easiest battle ever when she's still got such a firm grip on his collar. Like she's ready to shake him at a moment's notice. "I thought y'were someone else." Her head rolled back to settle her gaze on him seriously. "How long has Ben been gone? D'y' know when Ben is gettin' back? I was comin' here hopin' to see Ben." The offer for a drink was heard but ignored. Her questions probably sounded so repetitive, but there was a little bit of hope that she would be able to call Ben back. She did it once before without another success since then, but there was always a chance.

When she turns her head aside, he drops his hands -- believe it or not, he can take a hint. He's giving her another one of those blankfaced looks when she asks those questions, like he can't quite process them. After a moment though, he's squinting at her, like he remembers her from somewhere, but can't place where -- and then his eyes go wide. "You, you're that crazy broad that slugged me!" He doesn't sound angry, really, or even upset -- surprised? And maybe just pleased that he's been able to figure out why she looks familiar to him. "What was your name again? -- unless I should just get outta here so you don't punch me again." At least he's amused by himself, because he's laughing again, quietly.

She stared at him, just as blank faced. Waiting for that lull in eyelids, that shake of the head, the surprise and gravel of Ben's voice. She's squinting back. Is this it? No, she's being called a crazy broad. There was a heavy exhale of defeat and her hands sink to her sides along with her shoulders. "M'name is Jackie Daniels." She's looking at him, aside to the door, then back. It was a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. The last time she and Harry had been face to face she indeed punched him. She even roughed up his squeeze Lyla as well. But if she tosses up her hands and leaves? He's going to be heading out that door right after her to go do God knows what. "I ain't gonna punch y'. I had one or four too many in me that night." Her tone was like that of a child who was being told to play nice with their mortal enemy by a parent. A hand shoved through her hair, trying to think clearly and failing. "How 'bout that drink y'offered up? Y'got whiskey?" She was then sinking down to a knee, gathering up the fallen grocery bag and a few items that went rolling to the floor.

"Jackie Daniels," repeating, like he's got to say it in order for him to file it away properly -- and even then, it might not stick. There's something sort of comical about his expressions -- they're usually more animated than Ben's tend to be, something exaggerated about them. The way he seems to be concentrating hard on committing her name to memory, like it's something of the utmost importance -- but then she asks about the drinks, and he's grinning again. "Yeah, Jack. Are you two related?" Hilarious, Harry. He seems to think so, because he's chuckling all the way to the kitchen. "Though I dunno, can you not hold your liquor? I don't wanna get punched again. Kinda makes the rest of the night a drag!" Over his shoulder to her. He's getting the bottle of Jack from under the sink (and he's already been in it tonight -- and other nights, apparently; it's only a quarter full at this point), grabbing two glasses from a cabinet, and filling them both up.

Jackie has only had a handful of run ins with Ben's boys, but it doesn't make it any more cut and dry. It's easier to disconnect Sam from Ben because Sam is outright cruel and acts in ways towards her Ben would never. Harry on the other hand, it's hard to put a finger on. He's not Ben. That's enough. "I think that might jus' be the one Daniels I ain't related to." She's hefting the grocery bag up and rising to her feet to follow after him into the kitchen. "I can hold m'liquor jus' fine. An' I promise I won't punch y' without reason." The promise doesn't go far because Harry more than likely would be giving her a reason sooner than later.

The grocery bag is set on the counter and she's unloading the contents into the fridge and cabinets, checking them here and there for damage from the fall. It seemed everything made it out okay. When she's folding the bag and setting it aside she turns to face him. Her brows are pinched in thought, lips moving like a question is hanging off them she can't quite get out. Well, until it tumbles at him. "Where were y'gonna go?" A pause and a gesture towards the door. "Y'were leavin' when I got here. Where were y'goin'?" There was already a frown on her lips. It might have been a horrible idea to ask that, but curiosity got the better of her.

"What was last time's reason?" He seems genuinely curious, not like he's being sarcastic about it or anything. There's not much booze left in the bottle, so he just picks it up, swigs right from it to finish it off, ditches the empty on the counter. He's going over to the fridge then -- not to get anything out of it, but to reach up and grab the pack of cigarettes and cheap plastic lighter that he'd stashed up there. He's lipping one cigarette out of the pack, ducking his head for a second to hold the end of the cigarette in the flame from the lighter, which takes him a couple of flicks to spark to life. Once he's got it lit, he's tossing the pack and lighter back up onto the fridge. "Where was I gonna go?" He doesn't seem to expect the question; he's taking a drag from the cigarette and picking up one of the two glasses before he comes up with some kind of answer. "I dunno, probably this dive I hit up sometimes? Drinks are cheap, women are easy," he's grinning around the cigarette, though then he's shrugging easily. "Haven't been there in a while though. I'm hoping I can-- wait--" Squinting at her again, scissoring his cigarette between index and middle fingers, gesturing toward her in a point. "Are you a cop or somethin'?"

"Y'looked like a guy who owed me money." Did Harry even remember everything that happened that night? Did he remember the way Jackie ripped out Lyla's hair in a fit? He always seemed to be lost in a perpetual stupor that for some reason she felt it was totally possible for him to take her at her word. She slides out of the way when he goes for the fridge and grabs the poured glass of Jack. It goes down easily as ever and she already knows it's not enough to prepare her for Harry's answer. She regretted the question the moment it left her lips, but part of her... wanted to know? Maybe needed. Or maybe neither.

It's a fine enough answer until he talks of women, then she feels sick to her stomach. She's tipping the glass back again, downing it much quicker than usual but the burn doesn't help. It's when he stops his explanation suddenly that she's lowering the glass and blinking at him. A cop. He accused her of the same thing last time. There's a roll of her eyes, though she can't quite get the attitude to back up her tone. "Do I look like a f*ckin' cop to you?" A sharp lift of her brows with the question and she was draining the remaining Jack from her glass.

He's squinting at her again, not moving other than that for a few more seconds, but then he's laughing suddenly, raising the cigarette to his mouth again. "No," and he takes a drag, exhaling the lungful of smoke upward, away from her, turning his head a little without taking his eyes off of her, "but I been burned by that before, babycakes. But you know, if you ask a cop if they're a cop and they say 'no,' then they can't arrest you." Which was utterly false, but Harry wasn't exactly bright.

Marlboro between his fingers again, he's downing most of what's in his glass, too. He barely winces; he must have already done a decent amount of drinking tonight. "Anyway, I was gonna say, I was gonna see if I could hook up with my dealer. Sounds like a good night, yeah? Drugs, booze, and women." Another one of those could-be infectious laughs, and he's finishing off the rest of his Jack too, ditching the glass on the counter, lifting the cigarette to his lips, leaving it perched at one corner of his mouth. "You didn't bring any booze with all that stuff, did you?" He's kind of looking her over, but it's not clear what answer he comes to, because he doesn't say anything about it, just idly leaning over to check inside the fridge in case there happens to be any wine leftover from anything, which there isn't.

She's narrowing her eyes at him in return, looking just a little sick but it has nothing to do with the whiskey. Babycakes? A*s. Her glass is set aside in the sink while she tried to process what he just said. Horrible, it all sounded horrible. "No, I didn't bring any booze with me." She's still staring down at the sink in thought, brows knit together tightly. There were a couple calming breaths wrapped in silence, she doesn't even acknowledge that he's looking at her. It's too hard to take it all in, Ben's face looking at her like she's a stranger. She's weighing her options and when the best worst solution comes to light she's finally lifting her gaze back to him. "Yer night sounds like sh*t." The quake in her voice is gone. Now it's simply scathing, full of boredom and disapproval. "Sounds like any other night. I got word on a poker game goin' down at a local bar I'm gettin' in on. Could try yer luck. Win a lil' cash, smoke some cigars. Run with the big boys." She's drawing her keys from her pocket, the loop hanging on her finger to give them a rattle like someone trying to attract the attention of a cat. "I'm gonna go party. You in or are y'stickin' with yer borin' a*s Friday?"

The face he's making after she says his night sounds like sh*t is a little taken aback, leaning back a little with a slight tilt of his head downward, his eyes wide -- but then she goes on, and there are seem to be some magic words in Jackie's plans, because then he's grinning. "Poker, yeah. Sounds like a good Friday, right up my alley." He's terrible at poker, really, though he'll play whenever he gets a chance. Unfortunately, it's how Ben's lost lots of money, watches, cell phones. His wedding ring, once. "Especially," he's grinning wide then, plucking the cigarette from his mouth to ash it into his empty glass, "if it means partyin' with a hottie like you. You're sure you wanna go out? We could just party here." He's trying to look sly, but it's way, way too obvious. Harry's not very good at subtle.

"Good. Poker." She's just glad he's agreeing to it. There was always a game going down on Friday night at a local dive, not the Knuckle, that one of the bouncers would try to get her in on. Jackie could play poker. Actually, Jackie could play poker well. But it was too much sitting around, too much having to be still for her to call it a successful Friday night. But in this instance it was exactly what she needed. Harry's a*s in a seat where she could keep an eye on him for the evening.

His offer to stay here and party earns another deep eyeroll and a snort. She's trying to bite back the worst comments considering insulting him won't much make him want to stick around with her. "Y'jus' try t'keep up. Alright, darlin'?" She's reaching down to pluck the cigarette from between his fingers and bringing it up to her lips to tuck it in the corner, just as second nature as he had done. Jackie wasn't a smoker by any means, but you sit around a bar long enough and it becomes a social habit to pull out now and then. She wondered if she would be able to steal an entire night's worth of cigarettes away from Harry without him realizing she was going to stomp it out at the first chance. "I got me a man. Reckon he could kick yer a*s, but he ain't 'round tonight." A nod of her head and she's stepping backwards to ease herself out of the kitchen. There's that rattle of keys again. Here, kitty kitty. "You comin' or what?" The cigarette bobbed between her lips with the question.

Obvious surprise when Jackie steals the cigarette from him, but he's not offended or anything, laughing that same laugh he always does, grabbing the pack of cigarettes and the green plastic lighter from the top of the fridge. "Keep up -- I can keep up." Following after her while he's lipping another cigarette out of the softpack and lighting up, stowing the pack and the lighter in his coat pocket afterward. "He ain't around tonight?" Exaggerated sympathy that only lasts a couple of seconds before he's grinning around the Marlboro tucked at one corner of his mouth. "Well, what your man don't know can't hurt 'im, sugar. You just keep that in mind tonight." Harry's got even less understanding of personal space than Ben does, and if Jackie isn't careful, he'll end up very, very close, enough where putting a hand on her waist might almost seem natural.

"Yeah, trust me. I don't think m' man is gonna wanna know 'bout any of this." The words come out flatter than intended, but she doesn't have time to linger on them long. She's spent enough time around handsy men to know that twitch of fingers, the little pick up of speed to inch closer. She's turning on her heels, shifting aside out of reach to bring her to the door and pull it open. She's ready to go racing out to the truck when her movement comes to a jerking halt sending her torso lurching forward. Shoulders slump and she's turning back to look at him. "You got keys on you? In yer coat maybe?" A hand was already held out to him, waiting for him to cough them up.

If Harry was a little smarter, he might've thought it curious that Jackie knew better than he did where the keys to the apartment were on his person. He stops right behind Jackie, giving her a quizzical look, but after patting himself down for a half a moment, he does find a set of keys in his coat pocket. Just two on the keyring -- one to the apartment, the other to Ben's car. "Yeah, what d'you want 'em for?" But he's handing them over to Jackie anyway, without waiting for her answer.

This was her only saving grace for the entire evening. The fact that Harry wasn't a little smarter. The entire plan was flawed, everything she said could easily have holes poked through, she was barely even tapping into that Daniels charm to win him over. Harry was just so set on having a good time that she didn't have to try. She takes the keys and stuffs them into her pocket for safe keeping. "I'm gettin' y' so hammered tonight that y' won't be able t' find yer a*s with both hands. Don't want y' gettin' behind the wheel an' gettin' pulled over by a pig." Nevermind that they were taking her truck. "C'mon." She locked the door and left it hanging open so he could follow after her. "Close it behind y'." She was already making her way towards the truck, dropping the cigarette from between her lips onto the cement and grinding it out with a boot as she went.

Not that handing his keys off to her had put Harry in a bad mood, but when Jackie said she was going to get him hammered, he certainly perks up further. "You," and he's pointing at her, wagging his finger, chuckling, "You are my kinda girl." Following after her and shutting the door; he doesn't notice that she's dropped her cigarette. His own, he's still nursing absently, automatic. "And whatever ends up happening tonight? Promise I won't tell your man." From anybody else, it might not come off so presumptuous, but from Harry? Yeah, he thinks he knows how tonight will end, without question.

"Yeah? Try sayin' that when I whoop yer a*s in poker." She's unlocking the driver's side door of the truck and pulling it open. There's a wave of her hand at him then on his approach to the truck. "No smokin' in m' truck. Put it on out." Two cigarettes down. How many were in a pack anyway? If she kept this up she might make him finish it out faster than she had hoped. "Thanks, Harry. Yer a f*ckin' pal." Irritation over her evening edged into her tone when she slid into the truck and slammed the door behind her. She figured he wouldn't even notice. With a push of a button his door was unlocked and the engine roared to life a moment later.

Last edited by Jackie Sullivan on Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:23 am; edited 1 time in total
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Jackie Sullivan
The Hillbilly Belle
Ancient Wyrm
Ancient Wyrm

Joined: 10 Nov 2011
Posts: 912
See this user's pet
Jobs: Cook, Barmaid
Can Be Found: Ramblin' through RhyDin
0.00 Silver Crowns


PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012 - early morning

When Ben opens his eyes the next morning, the first thing he notices is the hangover -- usually an extremely bad sign. Next, though, he's realizing that he's in his own bed, which isn't really standard procedure for hangovers for him (not anymore, anyway -- not since he stopped drinking), but it's encouraging. Slowly, he's becoming aware of other things -- that he'd apparently passed out in his clothes last night, and that he smelled like cigarettes. Cigars. Blearily, he's reaching outside of the cocoon of his blankets to grope for his phone on his nightstand, and when he doesn't find it there (and why would he? Harry's not mindful enough for that), he's making vexed little noise, leaning further out of his bed to grab his coat from the floor, check the pockets -- and, mercifully, there's his phone. He's squinting at the display, not just the time, but the date too; the realization is a little slow to come through the haze of the hangover, but when it does, "Happy f*cking birthday," in a murmur to himself.

He feels like hell when he drags himself out of bed and pads over to the door of the bedroom, and he's actually thinking only of throwing up and taking a shower, in that order; he's halfway into the bathroom when he pauses and does a double take, realizes that somebody -- Jackie, it must be Jackie; that hair, those boots -- is curled up on his couch. Hesitating there in the hallway, scrubbing a hand over his face and then up through his hair, because he can guess, now, more at what happened last night, and it isn't particularly something he wants to confront with her -- but after a moment, he's sighing heavily, heading into the living room, perching carefully on the arm of the couch, the one closer to her head. "Hey, Jackie." His voice is wrecked -- smoking and boozing all night is tough for him to bounce back from at his age -- and his trying to be quiet doesn't help it out any. The way he sinks one hand into her hair is careful too.

She's curled into a tight ball beneath the throw blanket she had found, that telltale blonde he's brushing his hand through sticking out of the top. A knee here and a shoulder there, she obviously fell asleep in her clothes as well. His touch causes her to stir, a soft groan rumbling in the back of her throat. It doesn't sound like her usual purr, there's a little more rasp to it and it's a little more worn. Her head is turning to looking up at the source of the voice, but she's only peering out through the slit of one eyelid. It seems to take her a couple extra ticks before the previous night sinks in and engulfs her without mercy. A sharp inhale through her nostrils, and on the exhale she's speaking in a groggy sigh. "Ben?" It was obviously tentative, not trying to get her hopes up.

"Yeah, sweetheart." Slowly, he's putting his hand through her hair; his eyes are focused there for a few seconds before he finally shifts his gaze to her face. He's trying to smile, to look reassuring, but he's only marginally successful; it's too tired, and he's too hesitant. "It's me."

There's another sigh, this time out of relief. "Thank God." Somehow, even if she had just woken up, it looks like tension she's been holding all night long is finally being released. Her body sinking just a little further into the couch. A hand is lifted to her hair, to take his and draw it to her lips to press a lingering kiss to his palm with eyes squeezed shut. Then there's a pause, the sweet moment broken when she's drawing her head back to look up at him again. "I ain't sure if I stink or you stink." She had that same scent going on that he did. Booze, cigarettes, cigars. "Probably both." It's with that statement that she's shoving herself to sit up, turning to lean back into the couch cushions while still keeping her hand wrapped around his.

Jackie squeezes her eyes shut when her lips are against the palm of his hand, and his own eyes fall closed for that moment, too, the uneasiness leaving him in much the same way that her tension is. When she turns to gaze up at him again, though, he opens his eyes to meet hers. "Probably both," he's echoing, and once she's sitting, he moves down from the arm of the couch to sit between it and her, making no move to pull his hand away from her, actually curling his fingers around her hand, too. "You can have the shower first, if you want." A faint hint of amusement, a ghost of a smile, and he's giving her a sidelong glance.

When he's seated on the couch beside her she's leaning her body towards him, tucking herself further against him and resting her head on his shoulder. "I think I might take y' up on that in a minute here, but I jus' wanta moment first." True to her word she's going quiet after that, simply reveling in the fact that it was her Ben. That she could touch him, hold him, kiss him, that he looked at her like he knew her and without leering.

After her moment seemed to pass she was lifting her head to peer up at him. "Yer head's probably killin' y'. Sorry 'bout that. Y' got tylenol I can grab in the bathroom?" She was already uncurling her legs from the couch and setting her feet on the floor to fetch it for him.

Ben didn't really realize the level of apprehension he still felt about the situation until he notices how much better he feels when Jackie curls up against him. He's trying not to disturb her head on his shoulder when he turns to face her at least partway -- and in case she's not sure if he's trying to pull away from her, she should be reassured when he lifts the hand she's not holding on to and brushes the backs of his fingers lightly against her cheek before putting his hand into her hair again, encouraging her to keep on leaning on him, even if she doesn't need the encouragement.

When she's picking up her head, though, he's disentangling his hand from her hair, letting it fall to his lap. "Don't be sorry," this time, the smile isn't so wan, even if it doesn't come as easy as usual -- though, that should be understandable, given all that had gone on the night before. "Yeah, there's some in the medicine cabinet." Since it seems like she's about to get up, he gives her hand one last squeeze before letting go, and then he's shading his eyes with his hand. "You're not hungover?" She didn't seem as bad off as him, anyway (at least not physically). Maybe she just handled her liquor better than he did.

Even with the release of her hand after that squeeze she's still lingering next to him. She's leaning in and pressing a kiss to the corner of his lips and it's with a small yet satisfied smile that she's rising to her feet. It was his question that brought her to a halt even before she got moving towards the bathroom. Hands folded in front of her with a fidget, her nose scrunching thoughtfully while she watched his expression carefully. "Exactly how much d'yah wanna know 'bout last night, Ben?" It didn't answer his question, but it would tell her if he was looking for the long answer or the short of it all.

While he pondered on that she had to move, she was fidgeting too much and it was obvious standing in front of him like that. Off to the bathroom first followed by a rattle of pills from the medicine cabinet. Then to the kitchen to fetch a glass of watch and bring it back out to him.

He does peek through his fingers at her after she asks the question, just for a couple of seconds. The little bit of a wince that that draw together of his brows might've been, the little bit of tightness in his jaw -- could be from her question. Could just be from the hangover. Hard to say. Either way, when she turns away he covers his eyes again, and he's only dropping his hand from his face when she comes back with the glass of water and bottle of Tylenol, which he's taking from her with a murmured 'thanks.' He pops two of the pills before capping the bottle and tossing it lightly her way. "I don't know. I guess all of it. Do I want to know all of it?" My, how the tables had turned, and that doesn't escape him, clear from the faintly bemused look on his face.

Oh, she noted that look. Maybe she was making it out to be worse than it was. Maybe it was worse than she thought. It was hard to tell. The bottle is caught and rolled between her hands at his counter question. "There ain't really nothin' that's gotta get edited out, no." She's turning to sink onto the couch beside him. The bottle of Tylenol is set on the floor beside her boots then she's re-curling herself against his side. "First off..." She waited until he was done with his sip of water to brush a few stray kisses against his jaw. "Happy birthday, sweetheart." It wasn't really the breakfast in bed she would have liked for his first birthday between them, but at least she got to see him bright and early.

Really, Ben figures a lack of editing is the right way to do it (even if really, on some level, he'd just prefer to stay ignorant to it all, but he knows that isn't fair), so there's a little twitch of a smile when she tells him so. Automatic, he's putting one arm around her when she tucks herself against his side again and smudges those kisses against his stubbled jawline, and he's letting out a little huff of sort of, kind of amused laughter when she wishes him a happy birthday. "Thank you, Peaches." He doesn't mention that this isn't how he would've liked it to start either -- she must already know that. He chugs down the rest of the water in his glass, and when he leans down to put the empty glass down near her boots and the bottle of Tylenol, he never really straightens up again, ending up sort of slumped into one corner of the couch, and he's putting both arms around her then, keeping her in close. "It's nice of you to remember."

"Least I can do." She's following him when he sinks against the corner of the couch to drape herself against him. Is this the conversation she really wants to be having right now? No, not at all. He probably doesn't either. But on some level she needs to get it out and he needs to hear it, right? What if she went about things all wrong? What if it was the worst thing she could do? She needed to know.

"I dropped by yesterday to bring over groceries fer dinner tonight so I didn't have t' worry 'bout bringin' 'em with me. When I got here... Harry was gettin' ready to head out." There was already a little twitch to her nostrils at the name. "I didn't want him leavin' out on his own an' there was only enough booze here fer a glass each. So... I took him to a dive, bought us both into a gamea poker the bouncers from the Knuckle talk 'bout." She tipped her head to look up at him seriously. "Harry ain't bright. At all. I was nursin' beers all night long while pourin' shots down his throat." Her expression became sheepish with that tidbit and her gaze moved away from his face again. "I jus' got 'im liquored up enough t' drag him home an' drop him in bed without havin' to worry 'bout him wakin' up in the middle of the night." She gave a little shrug, wondering if she had covered the basics for now. "Oh, an' he hides his cigarettes on top of yer fridge." There was a stern little bob of her head.

As soon as she eases against him, he's closing his eyes, but it's not like he's falling asleep or anything. As she speaks, he's sifting one hand lazily through her hair, though it stills for a moment when she mentions that she ran into Harry on his way out, and when she goes on, he just puts his arm around her shoulders, his other forearm settled across the small of her back.

He can feel her head moving when she turns to look up at him, and he opens his eyes for long enough to meet her gaze. Really, for the most part, he's sort of expressionless -- but that's through careful practice, and when she mentions how dumb Harry is, how she'd plied him with alcohol, he actually does laugh a little. When she looks away, he's tilting his head back and shutting his eyes again. It's her last statement that gets the most reaction out of him, obvious irritation -- not at her, obviously. Picking up his head and opening his eyes. "Are you kidding me? What a--" But he's cutting himself off with a sigh, more of that sort-of-amusement. "I guess that's what I get for throwing out his half-finished packs all the time. Uh, that... You did a really good job, Jackie." He doesn't sound surprised or impressed, which would mean some kind of implication that he'd thought she couldn't handle things like this -- he only sounds thankful. "How much trouble was he..? Or did that keep him pretty distracted? The poker and drinking, I mean."

A laugh is good. She'll take a laugh. When he lifts his head it causes a faint shift of surprise, but she's settling against him comfortably when he says she did a good job. There's obvious relief in her expression. She did good. She did the right thing. She gave him a hangover, but considering the other possibilities? The unknown? It was the right call. "I'm jus' sorry yer sufferin' the consequences of it all t'day. Wakin' up with a hangover isn't somethin' I had planned fer you fer yer birthday." Her head is turning, peering off in thought at his question. "He's slick. Or rather he thinks he's slick, but he ain't much worse than any other sorry drunk I've managed 'round the bar. His favorite phrase of the evenin' was remindin' me that he wouldn't breathe a word of the evenin' to m' man I told him I had." There's a smile and a kiss to his chest with the statement, but just as quickly something seems to click in her head.

There were lots of parts of the evening that she was going to be attempting to block out for a while now. The entire thing really. But it was the first part of the night, the very beginning that she worked so hard to erase. It rushed back to her and sat on her chest like a rock. Now she was frowning and she pushed herself to sit up again. She had to be able to look at him for this part, because... really? She didn't know how he was going to react. Hell, she barely even knew how she was supposed to feel about it. "There was... one thing."

"The hangover isn't your fault, sweets. I think I would've had one this morning no matter what." He's a little slow to say it, choosing his words carefully -- careful not to point out that he would've had a hangover regardless, but at least this way, he's not waking up in somebody else's bed.

He doesn't laugh again, but it does make him smile too, faintly, when she tells him that Harry kept telling her he wouldn't say anything to Jackie's man about the evening. At least he's got a sense of humor about it -- and at least she does too. When she pulls away, though, the smile fades; he's letting her go without a fight, but the frown on her face is mirrored on his. "One thing?"

"One thing." She's repeating to give herself a second to sort her thoughts. "When I first got here..." Her hands are working as she speaks, like she's drawing some sort of diagram in the air about the situation she's trying to explain even though it doesn't make a lick of sense. Or maybe the hand movements were to distract herself, because she's looking at them rather than him now. "When I first got here I didn't realize it was Harry. I knocked at the door an' he came on out. Stopped, stepped right back into the apartment an' let me in. I shoulda known by the way... I dunno. He don't look like y'do. Not really. But it's hard t'peg 'less you hear him talk an' he wasn't sayin' anythin'." Okay, she was rambling now. She brought her hands together to clasp in the air and drop them down into her lap. Dark eyes shifted back to him, a mix of worry and confusion in her expression. "I kissed him right when I got in the door. Jus' a lil' thing while I was sayin' hi. Then... he kissed me back. Had me up against the wall." Her frown deepened. "I realized then it wasn't you. He wasn't holdin' me the same way an' he..." She was going to say he didn't taste right, but she decided too late that might be too much information. "He wasn't you. I'm sorry." She finished before pressing her lips together.

Ben is actually sort of distracted by her hands momentarily, too, because he's choosing to look there as well. He's looking her in the face before she looks at him, though -- it's when she says that Harry doesn't look like him. That's something he hadn't known.

It's strange, the surge of jealousy that wells up in him, but it's gone as quickly as it comes on, though the slight furrow in his brow remains. Sure, it wasn't Ben that had kissed her, not exactly -- but who was it, then, really? Even the jealousy, though, doesn't come with any negative feelings toward her. It's Harry he's upset with. He still hasn't sat up at all, and now he's taking her hands in his and tugging on them, barely, to try to get her to curl up with him again. "Don't be sorry, Jackie. C'mere."

She's watching him intently, the little changes in his expression. Waiting to see if he gets up. Even after getting all of that out she's still not sure how she's supposed to feel. They were Ben's lips on hers. It shouldn't be an issue. But it wasn't Ben. What the hell do you call that? Her thoughts are racing but they came to a rather sudden halt when his hands are curling around hers. It only takes that faint invitation for her to lay herself against him again, curling herself to him and squeezing at his hands. "I jus' shoulda known. Shoulda been payin' more attention." Maybe that's why she held so much guilt over it. The idea she could confuse Harry and Ben. While anyone else would laugh and say it's an easy mistake to make, nothing in her for a second felt that Ben was anything like Harry. It was an insult to the man she cared so much about.

Truth be told, for a second, he worries that she'll leave too -- that this is too much for her to deal with, too confusing, too much to work through. But it's only for a second, and by the time she's tucked up against him and squeezing his hands, he's letting go after a return press of pressure, only to put his arms around her, brush a kiss to her forehead. "Sweetheart, don't worry about it. It's ... I mean, you said he looks different than me, but..." It's brief confusion that flickers over his features. "How different can we really be?" How can he understand? Shaking his head a little then. "Don't worry about it," repeated.

After the night she had? Hours and hours of wanting nothing more than to be home with Ben quietly curled on the couch? She wasn't going anywhere. When his arms go around her she's draping her own over his shoulders. Her cheek is resting against his chest, but it's the kiss to her forehead and his questions that make her tilt her chin to look at him without lifting her head. "It's all different, Ben. The way he holds himself, the way he smiles, his laugh, the way he talks. When I first look at 'im I see y', but the more time with him wore on it's jus'... different. It's the same with Sam. Everythin' 'bout him is different. I can't see y' ever holdin' yerself the way he does, or lookin' at me like he does." There was a soft sigh. "I ain't even sure I'm makin' sense." He still smelled of stale smoke, but she was positive she did as well. It didn't stop her from tipping her head to bury her face against his neck, an additional squeeze to him following the movement.

He's clearly listening to her, but his brows knit a little further when she explains -- not because she isn't making sense, but because it's just so hard, at least on one level, for him to comprehend, to believe. But still, when she doubts herself, "No, you're making sense." Even scented of last night's smoke, when she hides her face against his neck, he's tilting his head toward her, turning his head a little, cheek pressed to her hair. Smoke and all, he's taking a couple of deep breaths before saying anything else. "It doesn't hurt me, that you did it. It was a mistake. --if that's what you're worried about." He's perceptive -- she'd already apologized for it, seemed avoidant at first, and then rambling when explaining it, the slightly heightened level of affection, the mood of it -- he thinks it's a fair guess. "All the same, I'll try to talk to him about it as soon as I can," quieter than he's already been, the rawness to his voice exacerbated even more. "I don't want to share," and if she happens to pull away from him then, there's a ghost of a smile there at his mouth.

She decides with his agreement that it's best to stop explaining there. It's already been a lot and the day had barely begun. With his confirmation that he isn't hurt she's pressing a kiss to his neck, her next words muffled against his skin. "Last thing I wanna do is hurt y'." Apparently he had hit the nail on the head and it's easy beneath his grasp to slowly feel that tension leaving her shoulders and back. "He's gonna call me a tattle tail." The words are still buried against his throat, but it's his quiet final statement that indeed makes her lift her head to catch that barely there smile of his. She's giving one in return before pressing a firm kiss to his lips. Then she's barely pulling back when she speaks, "I'm all yers." Just enough to get the words out before kissing him again.
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Jackie Sullivan
The Hillbilly Belle
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012 - early evening

As tempting as the idea of a shower had been, Jackie opted to simply grab her boots and leave Ben's as is since she had to get ready for dinner later that night. As badly as she wanted to stay, she figured he was looking forward to scrubbing off the stink of the previous night as much as she was and she wasn't going to get in the way of it. Besides, the faster she got a move on the earlier she could come back over to start prepping dinner in his kitchen.

Hours passed, but Jackie's truck was finally pulling in front of Ben's apartment once again. The engine was killed, two boxes in the seat beside her were gathered. One was a flat box wrapped in blue and grey striped wrapping paper. Below that was a plain white cardboard box tied with a piece of red string. Then she was slipping from the truck and hip bumping the door closed behind her.

Heels. She had promised heels. And it was a pair of rose colored mary janes tied with ribbons in the front that clicked their way towards his front door. She was getting better at walking in heels. If asked she would laugh it off and say she was a natural. In reality it was hours spent in heels tottering around the house as she went about her business. A cream colored wool coat was buttoned up around the rest of her, fighting off the bite of cold that shouldn't be allowed this early in the Fall. Once at the door the boxes were briefly shifted aside to one hand, carefully holding them steady so knuckles could rap against the door before both hands were firmly on them again.

Jackie was right to think that. As much as Ben didn't want her to go, he also wanted to take a shower and try to sleep off the hangover before tonight. He's mostly successful at overcoming it, too, though he still looks just a little bit haggard when he gets the door -- he hasn't shaved, and while he is wearing a tie (because he'd promised, and he keeps his promises), it's loosened slightly and the top button of his shirt is undone. But he must be feeling pretty good, because the smile he gives her, while as crooked as ever, comes easily. "Hey, sweetheart." Stepping back from the door so she can come in, and after he shuts the door he's holding out his hands to take the boxes from her so she can take off her coat -- and yes, he does take a second to check out her shoes, and yes, his grin goes a little wider when he sees that she's followed through. "You look nice."

A little haggard, unshaven, loosened tie. After he opens the door, smiles and calls her sweetheart it's obvious those are the last things on Jackie's mind. Well, the tie is given a look of appreciation, but more than anything she's just happy to have Ben opening the door. It was already a great start to the night.

"Evenin', sweetheart. Yer lookin' handsome as ever." She's stepping inside and giving up the boxes when he reaches for them. "Thank y'." Once her hands are free she's unbuttoning her coat and carefully slipping it off. Beneath it was a simple enough dress in a washed out pale blue. Cream colored lace accents draped around the neckline, at the waist, and closer to the hem. It looked like the dress could have passed for something worn on a summer Sunday morning, but it was that hemline ending a few inches above the knee that told a different story. Not short enough to be too risque, but enough where it probably wouldn't be smiled upon by the Lord. Unless he was a leg man. Just as she had seen him do before she was tugging the closet open to tuck her coat away on a hanger before turning back to him. "Want me t' take them again?" Hands held out in offering for the boxes.

It was a very, very good start to the night. It's dresses like those, the ones that make Jackie look a little sweeter, that really get him -- not that he hadn't really appreciated the way she'd dressed for their date here a couple of weeks ago, but there's something about the softer side of her that really does him in. When she turns to put her coat in the closet, he lets himself look her over more obviously, but it's only for those few seconds; by the time she's asking to take the boxes back from him, his focus is on her face again. Wordlessly, he's handing them back to her, but then he's catching her by the chin with one hand, pressing a kiss to her mouth before letting go. "Okay, 'nice' wasn't accurate. You look beautiful." Some of the crookedmouthed smugnessleaves his smile then; he's just looking simply happy. "All set to get dinner going? Did you want me to help out?"

She takes the boxes back with a grin, but before she can say 'thank you' her face is gently captured and his lips are on hers. Even though it's brief and just as quickly she's being released, her eyes are still lingering shut for a few extra moments. Her smile is soft and wide when she looks at him again. "Thank y', Ben. It's sweet o' you to say. An' I meant it when I said y' were lookin' handsome." A flicker of her gaze to his chest then back to his face. "Nice tie." There's something underlying beneath those words, but before anything can really be worked out about it she's moving on. "Yep! I dropped groceries off yesterday. It'll be easy 'nough t' put together. Steak, green beans, an' roasted potatoes. I ain't so cruel t' make y' cook yer own birthday dinner, but if y' wanna help I won't be opposed." She's on the move to the kitchen, a woman on a mission.

Jackie might be moving on quickly from that compliment about the tie, but something just a little bit sly creeps into Ben's expression when she says it, and it doesn't ever really leave it completely, not even when he's putting his hands in his pockets and casually following after her. "Sounds great, sweetheart. And of course I want to help. The more I help, the quicker we can eat, and the quicker I can find out what's in those boxes." As much as he'd tried not to mention them, his curiosity was bound to get the better of him eventually.

Those said boxes of mystery were set aside on the kitchen counter so she could move to the fridge to start pulling out the groceries she had left behind the night before. A small bag of red potatoes were pulled from the pantry and set on the counter with a knife placed beside them. With the way Jackie was moving around it was very possible that she might just be more comfortable in Ben's kitchen than he was.

Thankfully with the preparation of dinner underway it kept their hands and wandering gazes busy for the most part. They talked, laughed, teased, and still had those innocent moments of one brushing against the other. But for the most part they were able to keep themselves contained enough to get food on the table. Steak, green beans, and potatoes. They even managed to eat majority of it while keeping the same light air about them. Did it mean all of Jackie's wandering thoughts had been wrangled and kept at bay? Not by a long shot, but she refused to do anything to force them to have to cut the evening short before she could reveal what was in those boxes she had caught him eying so curiously.

With her last green bean popped into her mouth, chewed, and swallowed she was leaning forward to peer at his plate. "Whatcha think? Does this get a birthday dinner seal of approval?" Smiling wide. "I'm so glad yer a steak an' potatoes sorta guy. It's my forte after all." She was trying to determine if his plate was safe to clear. Now she was getting overly excited to get dishes out of the way so she could give him his gift.

That was what Ben had been hoping for, that making and eating dinner would keep them distracted -- not put the temptation out of mind completely, not even close, but at least give them something else to focus on for a while. Nights like this, spending time with her is so easy, effortless.

He's actually finishing up his last bite of potato when she's peeking over at his plate; he notices she's finished too, so he's getting up to take her plate, meaning to beat her to at least taking dishes over to the sink. "One helluva forte. Yes, this gets a birthday dinner seal of approval." The grin he gives her in return is just as wide. "And I've told you before," over his shoulder on his way to the kitchen so he can put the dishes in the sink (or just following after her if she insists on cleaning up), "I'm a simple kind of guy. It doesn't take anything more than this to make me happy, sweetheart."

She's lifting her hands with a helpless little flail when he takes her plate. "Hey, c'mon now! It's bad enough I made y'cook yer birthday dinner with me, but now yer gonna clear the table, too? Yer makin' me look real bad here." She verbally protests, but there's no point in physically wrestling the plates away from him. Instead she takes the moment to follow him into the kitchen. Two small plates are pulled from the cabinet along with two forks and a knife from the drawer. They are carefully stacked onto the boxes from the counter and she's on the move back to the table. He could busy himself with the dishes long enough to give her time to get everything in order. "Well, I'm glad t'hear yer so pleased." Called out to him from the other room. "But how 'bout you get out here so I can impress y' jus' a lil' more? Please an' thank you." That polite Canadian thing was rubbing off on her.

He's just laughing it off, her protests for his clearing the table. He means to wash the dishes while he's at the sink, but he doesn't get very far, because he's eyeing Jackie with the plates and the boxes out of the corner of his eye. But he lets her go into the other room before he leaves the sink, and he's only turning off the water, drying his hands on a towel, and heading into the other room after her after she asks him to. He's not meaning to draw attention to it (or maybe, subconsciously, he is), but he's got one hand up at the knot of his tie, and he's loosening it just a little when he's coming through the doorway into the other room. "Oh, please and thank you? I like that."

"Y' act like I boss y' 'round the resta the time." Her voice is sing-song with that playful laughter following it. When he steps into the room she has the forks and plates set out in front of their respective seats, the gift-wrapped box sitting at the edge of the table. In the middle of it all seems to be the contents of the second white box. A stout chocolate cake with white chocolate accents and 'Happy Birthday' scrawled across it in cursive. One blue candle is stuck into the top, already lit while Jackie pulls a Vanna White pose standing beside it. "Happy Birthday, sweetheart." He might not mean to bring attention to his tie, but the movement does cause her to pause briefly. Just a moment of quiet before she's picking back up. "I would sing t'you, but I think I might save y' the torture." Grinning she gave a delighted little clap, rocking up onto the balls of her feet. "Make a wish."

Maybe he'd expected a cake -- he certainly should have -- but he's touched by it anyway, how thoughtful it is, and that shows in the crookedmouthed grin. If he notices her brief distraction, he doesn't let on at all. After a few seconds to admire the scene as it's set from afar, he's crossing the room over to the table. "Thanks, sweetheart. --for the cake and for sparing my ears."

Normally, Ben's not the type to get excited about his birthday, but, as usual, Jackie's enthusiasm is infectious. Once he's close enough, he catches her around the waist, brushes a kiss to her cheek. "A wish, huh?" The smile fades a little then -- not too far, because it doesn't leave entirely. Just softens a little with thought. That especially, the wishing, is something he'd never put stock into or ever really done. Tonight, though? Tonight, he needs this. All the help he can get, to have lots more days like this to come -- and for them to include Adam, too. It's a dream, probably unattainable, but that's what wishes are for, right? So it's with the image in mind of the three of them together that he loosens his hold around Jackie's waist, leaving his hand pressed lightly against her lower back when he leans over and blows out the candle. "Really nice of you to only use one."

While he's admiring she's diligently holding her pose, letting him savor it as long as he wants. "Don't thank me too hard. I figure it'll make yer expression of surprise the first time we go to karaoke that much more t' savor." It's when he joins her near the table that she's dropping her hands to fold in front of her. She's captured in his grasp, leaning into it and happily tipping her head into the kiss. Again, she's letting him linger in his quiet and relish in his thoughts. While Ben didn't seem the type to get head over heels excited about birthdays she felt this was important for them and especially for him. To have these moments with someone who cares about him. All the bits and pieces.

When the candle is blown out her hands raise for a rapid little round of quick clapping. "I figure the one is..." a sweeping gesture at the cake. "All encompassin'." With a snicker she left it at that. Her attention was already fluttering around and landing on the giftwrapped box at the table's edge. It was lifted and presented to him. "Not sure how y' usually do yer birthdays but I'm antsy and like openin' gifts right after the candle goes out." It looked like Jackie was just as excited to give the gift as Ben might have been to open it.

He can't help but smile a little more when she claps after he blows out the candle. Just really loves her enthusiasm. "All encompassing. I like it." He lets her grab for the present, and when she holds it out to him, he takes it in both hands. "Honestly? I usually end up working. Just my luck, right?" A one-shouldered shrug -- he doesn't seem upset at all about it, actually sort of amused. "Thank you." Maybe it's the Canadian in him that he's thanking her before he even opens it up. After he tears off the paper (and balls it up and throws it in the direction of the kitchen, to pick up and throw out later), he opens up the box to peer inside.

Jackie can obviously tell that Ben's enjoying himself, that he's smiling, but she's not so much aware that it has anything to do with her enthusiasm over it all. It was a birthday, people liked birthdays. She liked birthdays even when they weren't her own. "I got a way with words." Snickering, the box is given up to his grasp then her brows were rising. "Workin'? Y' gotta ask fer that sorta stuff off. Make a holiday outta it." Her hands are refolding in front of her again and she notices the thank you before he even unwraps it. "Yer welcome." A playful lift of her eyes while she actually accepts the thanks instead of brushing it off as per usual.

Inside the box is a tuft of white tissue paper. Tucked within that is a chunky mound of knit yarn in a light grey. With a little more investigation Ben would see it was a scarf, even with little tassels of the same yarn along each end. It's soft yet new, with a few little imperfections here and there that make it clear this wasn't simply a store bought scarf. That also might have come through in the way Jackie had her fingers pressed over her lips excitedly, almost holding her breath while waiting for his reaction.

It takes Ben a moment to figure out exactly what the pile of knit yarn really is, but when he does, there's another crooked little smile at his mouth, touched, but a little wry. "I'm gonna lose it." Something a little warning in his tone when he lifts his gaze to her for a couple of seconds, but the way he's still smiling, it's probably just a tease. Without any more hesitation, he's picking the scarf up, looping it loosely around his neck after putting the box down on the table. With his hands free, he reaches over to cup Jackie's cheeks, press a kiss to her mouth -- a soft one, tender. "Thank you, sweetheart. I'll do my best to hang on to this one." Genuine, he means that; there's something of a promise in his voice.

Fingers slide down off her lips. "Yer gonna get emotional?" A pause then she's waving her hands about, realizing what he meant. "Oh! Lose it." Maybe it was supposed to be a warning, but with the way he's smiling it's so hard for her to be upset by the possibility. "If y'lose it then it jus' means I'll make y' another one." She's beaming brightly when he puts the scarf on and she allows her face to be held within his grasp, tipping her lips in gently to meet that kiss. "Yer welcome, sweetheart. I'm jus' glad y' like it. Took me a lil' while t' get back into the swing of knittin', but once I had it I was golden." She lifted her hands to adjust the fabric of the scarf around his neck and smooth it to his chest. "I know you'll take good care of it. Yer good at doin' that fer the things y' really like." Her own smile softened and she leaned up to press another light kiss against his jaw. "Happy birthday, Ben." The words were mumbled against the spot in an exhale.

Actually laughing, just a little, quiet, when she doesn't understand him at first, and when she says she'd just make him another scarf if he lost this one, he's smiling a little wider. "It looks good to me. I love it."

His smile softens a little too, when she says he's good at taking care of things he really likes, and after she stretches up to aim that kiss to his jaw, he's letting go of her cheeks, putting his arms around her instead to pull her in close, one arm around her ribs, his other hand buried in her hair. He's brushing a kiss in return to the top of her head, but then he's tilting his cheek against her hair, shutting his eyes. "Thank you, Jackie," murmured, voice low. Maybe he's getting just a little emotional after all.

"It looks damn good on you. All the guys are gonna be askin' where they can get one an' you'll get t' say 'oh, does your girlfriend not knit fer you?'. An' y' could even flip yer hair if y' really wanted." No, he probably didn't want to but the good mood floating around was enough to make Jackie just a little goofier than usual.

When his arms encompass her she's returning the gesture by sliding her arms around his torso to let hands clasp loosely at his back. Jackie's more than happy to stay like this, held against him with her cheek buried against his scarf and chest. She can hear the emotion in his voice and it only makes her hold onto him that much firmer. "Anythin' fer you, sweetheart." There was still cake to be eaten, at some point dishes cleared, and candles would go out as they did. But for now she stayed like this, in this moment with him. Simply wrapped together, Ben's first birthday they had spent together. And hopefully the first of many.
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