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Variations on an Ending

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It's the last place he ever expects to see Naomi Campbell by herself. His local lacked a lot of what she normally seemed to look for in pub, most notably the presence of her gal pal Emily. Not to mention she looked well rough. Cook knows what rough looks like and Naomi's teetering on the edge of bloody fucking miserable. Catching her gaze he motions for her to join him at the bar. She does so with no hesitation whatsoever and immediately orders a scotch, on the rocks, which would have surprised Cook (and also inevitably impressed him) had she seemed not quite so desperate. She says nothing to him specifically. For once, he can't figure out what he's supposed to say to her. He resorts to ordering a drink for himself.

 “Not right for a fit girl to drink alone, yeah,” he tries.

 She snorts a response and merely fiddles with the condensation on her glass. “Right.”

 He tries again. “Where's the missus?”

 For a moment, Cook is incredibly afraid she's going to burst into tears and he has no blinkin' idea how to deal with that insanity. Her eyes water but she quickly squashes that by taking an impressive gulp of her drink. She shakes her head, as if clearing away the sadness. She forces the fakest smile he thinks he's ever seen from her and that's saying a lot considering her regular attitude towards him. It's also when he knows something is actually wrong. Bad news is that she's come to the wrong person. He doesn't do talking. He doesn't do cheering up and he certainly doesn't do girly dramas. For some reason, he's 90% sure that's the reason she came to him. (She doesn't do the talking thing either.) But more importantly, unlike Effy, another person who doesn't do the talking thing, he doesn't silently judge and scheme. Fuck it, he'll give it a shot anyway.

 “So Blondie, you wanna talk about it?” He says it in such a way that it's clear he'd be of no help at all. Predictably she shakes her head and swirls the ice-cubes around what's left of her drink. Her gaze is completely fixed on that task alone. He's curious what's happening with Emily but not enough to push it, especially if it leads to tears. Usually girls crying is hilarious, most of the time because of something he's done but this time he's sure it wouldn't be funny. The last time he had made Naomi cry, it was amusing, until the guilt set in later just after she had given up her chance for school president for him. (Even if she was just --as she said to him much later-- “doing the right thing. Don't get any ideas.” He had responded then with the obvious jibe about her (at the time) hypothetical muff-diving tendencies.)

 He just didn't want to make her cry again. She was possibly the only person who had said out loud that he was a good person. Well, close enough to.

 Out of nowhere, her voice croaks out, “Got any pills?”

 For a second, he's confused, then surprised, then he laughs.

 “A bit of mandy? That all I'm good for?” He hopes it sounds like a joke, but he honestly wants the answer. Up until about 2 seconds ago, he was pleased that someone had actively chosen his company. She shakes her head adamantly and he's momentarily relieved... until she fixes her blue eyes on him. There is the slightest hint of tears pooling again. Shit.

 “I want either pills or a hug and you're too keen on affection it seems.” Her tone lacks both bite and humour so he's not exactly sure how to interpret it. A challenge sounds closest.

 “Babe, I'm not giving you any drugs.” Hoping it comes off as concerned, he smiles. The gesture isn't reciprocated however and a frown is set on her face and her eyes narrow. It looks dangerous. That's much more desirable than 'depressed' in his opinion.

 “Stupid tosser,” she growls.

 He laughs loudly. “Now that's more like it!” There is a flicker of a smile on her face, apparently amused at his audacity. Tilting back and finishing off his drink, he claps the glass down on the wood counter making her jump a little as a grin sneaks across her lips. He tosses a tenner on the bar.

 “Now stop being such a lazy cow and finish your drink so we can go have a fag, yeah?” His demand is not even close to reproachful and she takes a long swig of alcohol and slides off the barstool a little too quickly. She stumbles slightly until he catches her arm.

 “Fucking mint,” he exclaims in appreciation of her less than sober performance. She flips him off as they walk outside the pub, a smirk etched on to her face. A few steps away, she pauses and yanks a pack of cigarettes from her disgustingly large bag. Bloody girls and their shit. She lights up quickly and takes an incredibly long drag, one which would put Freddie to shame, if the fucker ever did anything fun anymore. This is more like the Naomi he's grown to know. She exhales directly at his face in a peculiar attempt to get a reaction, and he's struck with the memory of Effy doing something similar. He snatches the cigarette from her lips and tries to pull longer and deeper, and ends up coughing before he can complete the challenge. The resulting laugh cheers him up. He wasn't totally useless at being a friend. There is one girl in the would who can appreciate his attempts; just too bad she's a lezzer. It figured really.

 His mobile rings loudly against the darkened residential road. He answers quickly. Speak of the devil...or something. “Hey babe,” he answers. The voice on the other side rambles for a minute and he watches Naomi root around in that stupid bag like a badger, finally producing a tallboy of Carlsberg triumphantly.

 “No can do, munchkin,” he states. “Bit busy at the moment.”

 The second he says “munchkin” Naomi's face whitens noticeably and she stares at him, her eyes boring into him so hard it actually makes him uncomfortable. She knows the only person he ever calls that is her fucking girlfriend. It's the first time that evening that he realises whatever is going on between the two girls wasn't their usual drama. The blonde's regular reaction was more along the lines of an exaggerated eye roll, a snort, or a heavy sigh, some form of annoyance really. She never went ashen. It makes him nervous and he ends the call quicker than usual.

 “What'd she want?”

 He waffles between telling the truth and lying. He doesn't see how it even matters. “Same as you.”

 The answer satisfies her and a small amount of colour returns. However her smirk doesn't. Stuffing the device back in his packet, he shuffles over to her and takes the can of lager, helping himself. He leans back against the wall and studies her for a moment.

 “She sounded like shit.”

 Naomi has no immediate reaction. She reaches for the can instead. Finally she snarls, “Good”. It comes out so coldly that Cook is taken aback. It reminds him of JJ that night in the woods, or Freddie or Effy or any number of people in his life. So full of anger and resentment towards someone else (normally him). Since he had met Naomi, he's never heard that tone, not even directed to him. Not even to Emily when the twin was practically stalking her. Impatience, yeah. Frustration, yeah. Confusion, yeah. But never hate. He wondered if now is a better time to ask about her problems. She seems less likely to burst into tears and more likely to just put her fist through a nearby windshield.

 “Lover's quarrel, eh?”

 The accompanying glare makes it completely clear that she isn't pleased by his flippancy on the subject. She doesn't even need to tell him to fuck off this time. Grabbing the lager back he swallows huge gulps before tossing it onto the sidewalk. There's nothing more he can think to do and she's not making it any easier. Fucking girls. He has no bloody clue how to deal with them. Never had been a strong point, unless they need a fucking good shag. He guesses that isn't even close to what she wants, even if it would do her some good.

 “Oh come on, princess.” He opens his arms. “Give us a hug then. Cookie Monster'll make the bad go away.” There is the comfortably familiar roll of her eyes but she moves towards him anyway and he's not sure if it's because she's drunk and miserable or because they are actual mates now. As he sees her holding back the smallest smile, he's pretty sure it's the second one. He hopes for once that he's wearing a moderately clean shirt.

 It isn't until they're standing there a good minute that he realises that her shoulders are shaking slightly and her hands are tightly clenching at the fabric of his t-shirt. She's crying. Like really crying. It's so fucking different than the last time he saw her breakdown at the student election, and he's positive even that Naomi would never have shown this kind of weakness in front of him (or anyone else). She's different and softer and sort of falling apart everywhere. The only thing he can think to do is hold her tighter. It seems like the right thing though he's not sure when she starts absolutely bawling into his shoulder.

 “Fucking hell,” he murmurs. “She fucked you over good, yeah?”

 It surprises him when she shakes her head. Girls make no flippin' sense.

 “I'm all alone now,” she manages to sputter out between sobs and she sounds completely broken. It reverberates deep inside him, reminding him how similar they've always been. It's hard not to think about Effy being a stupid slag, or Freddie being the worst fucking friend in the world, not to mention his own dad fucking off and being a complete asshole. For once he could empathize with her. It is fucking shit to be feeling what she is, or being ambushed by every single friend you have in the span of a minute. It didn't matter who did the leaving; it all felt the same. Utter loneliness. He wants to blame her flood of tears on the alcohol but he knows full well that it doesn't make a fucking difference. All she needs is a good mate to cushion the fall. For some reason that person had been Freddie for him after his dad turned into the world's biggest cunt and buggered off again. Great fucking choice that was considering it was Freddie and his indestructible lust for Effy that had got them all into the situation in the first place. Now, it's his turn to return the favour (The being a friend part, not the ruining everyone's lives by salivating like a dog with two dicks over Effy part). He figures Naomi's pretty damn lucky that he's not after Emily, and he had nothing to do with their obviously fucked relationship.

 He pulls back, shimmying out of her grip. He takes an old balled up tissue from his pocket and timidly hands it to her. She dabs at her eyes, not once looking him in the face. 'Course she wouldn't. She needs a distraction. He claps loudly and it obviously startles her.

 “Well, Blondie, fuck them! You're alone, I'm alone. Let's forget those wankers and get well fucked up, yeah?”

 She finally meets his eyes, accompanied by a terse smile. “Alone together? How poetic of you, Cook.”

 He grins widely, letting out a huge laugh. Grabbing her and locking an arm around her neck, he plants a sloppy kiss on her temple, that any other day she would have slapped him for. She pushes him off instead, but there's a smile on her face and she marches back towards the pub door. He's right behind her.

 “So, this mean I get a blowjob then?”

 He narrowly dodges her fist and grins at the solitary finger waving in the air behind her as she continues inside.