The Guy In A Flannel:

Jess sat dejectedly on the stool opposite Cece, placing her purse down with a loud thud on the bar.

"Okay, okay. Drinks. We need drinks, gotta get some alcohol in that body of yours, babe."

"I don't think all the alcohol in L.A would help me right now, Ceec." She moaned, turning to face out towards the dimly lit establishment Cece had bought her to, several round booths with their dark leather seats just across from her looking decidedly more comfortable than the little stool she was currently perched on.

"Oh, it will help. Trust me. Now, if only they had some bar staff around. Where the heck did they all go?" Cece rapped her nails on the mahogany counter "Aha! There we are, the guy in a flannel definitely looks like he works here..."

Jess continued to stare into the distance as Cece waved someone over to take their order. Biting her bottom lip to stop her eyes from watering and ruining her make up for the third time that night, she huffed out a big breath.

"What happened, Cece? I just don't understand. I thought he loved me. I was a good girlfriend - at least I thought I was a good girlfriend!"

"You were the best damn girlfriend that idiot will ever have..." Cece laid a hand on Jess's knee "...and believe me when I say that boy will regret this for the rest of his pathetic life!"

"But, why Cece? Why would Spencer do that to me? Another woman in our home?!

"Because he's a man. And men are trash."

A deep, gravelly voice came from behind the bar.

"Uh...I can come back...?"

The Guy In A Flannel was stood with a bar towel over his shoulder and a brow raised in question.

"No need." Cece said bluntly as she hopped off her seat "Two very large glasses of your best pink wine."

"You got it." He sighed, used to the lack of pleasantries from certain customers. Especially the ones he'd never seen in the bar before.

"Jess, sweetie, I'm just going to freshen up but I will be right back. My money is in your purse, remember? This one's on me."

"Uh-huh..." she replied quietly, twirling the strap of her purse between her fingers and staring hard at a speck of dust on the bar surface.

It had taken a lot of convincing to get her to come out tonight, but Cece was very persistent. All Jess had wanted to do was hide under a blanket in her PJ's and gorge on ice cream while sobbing at Dirty Dancing, but after the third viewing Cece had hauled Jess into her bedroom and glammed her up in the sexiest of little black dresses she could find after raiding the wardrobes of the other models. She'd pulled Jess's hair up in to a messy bun, and used her best make up skills to ensure that Jessica Day looked spectacular for when they hit the town. In fact, Jess was beginning to feel decidedly guilty at being such a Debbie Downer all night. Cece was trying to help, so the least she could do was throw caution to the wind and get crazy drunk with her best friend trying to forget the hideous day last week when she came home early to find Spencer with Rochelle.

"Two glasses of pink wine, if you'll accept being served by a piece of trash?"

Jess looked up to see The Guy In A Flannel tentatively place their drinks on the counter.

"Oh, no - she didn't mean you men...Cece just meant all men, like, in general." She tried to explain.

"Well, sure - because that's much better." His bottom lip pouted into a face that reminded her a little of a turtle.

Jess waved a hand towards Cece's empty seat "Don't take what she says personally. We're just two jaded ladies with some really crappy experiences...really crappy."

"Then allow me to take the chance to apologise on behalf of all men. Trash, or otherwise." He smiled warmly, rolling his sleeves up his forearms and looking as though he was about to say something further, but changing his mind as Cece sauntered towards to her stool.

"Okay, I'm back! So where were we? Oh yeah, men are trash...let's elaborate!"

"I'll leave you to it." said The Guy In A Flannel as he nodded in Jess's direction and held her gaze for just a second longer than necessary before disappearing to the other side of the bar.


The third set of cocktails Cece purchased them were the fruity kind Jess loved, and following her two glasses of pink wine, she was now in a slightly less coherent state - although still aware enough to pretend she was half-way sober. She sat alone in their booth, Cece having been accosted by a tall, well dressed gentleman by the juke box. At first she appeared irritated by his corny chat-up lines, and Jess was ready to intercept, but somewhere along the road Cece seemed to warm to this guy. Her smile appeared genuine, and she actually laughed at one of his jokes - which surprised Jess enormously. Giving up hope on getting her friend back for the rest of the night, she decided to head to the bar for a refill.

Settling herself on a stool, she ordered another boozy, fruity concoction adorned with mini umbrellas from a guy she heard someone else refer to as Big Bob. It certainly suited him. Jess then became acutely aware of a slightly older gentleman watching her as she sipped her drink. She nodded politely before turning away and inwardly hoped he would move on to something else soon.

He didn't.

Before she knew it, he was stood next to her close enough that she could smell the gag-inducing mix of cigarettes and whiskey on his breath.

"You fancy another of those, darlin'?" He slurred, resting an elbow on the bar and positioning himself in a way that meant Jess was now incapable of making a swift exit. She glanced around in the hopes of meeting Cece's gaze to signal her desperate need for rescue, but couldn't catch her eye.

"No, I'm doing just fine with this one - thank you though." She tried to be polite, but the man persisted.

"Then how 'bout I just sit right here and keep you company?"

"Oh, um, actually I'm just waiting for my friend..." Jess angled herself away from him as best she could.

"Nonsense! A pretty lady like you shouldn't be sat here all alone."

"Honestly - I'm fine by myself, please."

The man's face soured and his body language suddenly made Jess uncomfortable.

"Damn, you wanna learn some manners - I'm out here trying to be a gentleman and all you do is act like you're too good to even share a conversation with a decent man. You should count yourself lucky I even offered to buy you a drink you stuck up_"

"Okay, that's enough - the lady said she's not interested, pal." The Guy In A Flannel interrupted, and Jess had never been more happy to see a lumberjack shirt in her life "Now, why don't you move along and stop hassling my customers before I throw you out on your ass myself, huh?" His words were definitely more of an instruction than a question.

Mr Halitosis Breath held both hands up as an act of submission and stepped away from Jess, muttering to himself about 'chicks these days' and getting a dose of karma in the form of tripping on the step of the exit - much to Jess's amusement.

"Thank you." She nodded as she turned back around.

"No problem. That guy's a well known grade A dick - I'm sorry he was bothering you."

"Do you make a habit of doing that?"

"Doing what?" His brows knitted together in confusion.

"Apologising on other people's behalf. That's the second one you've offered me tonight."

"Force of habit." He chuckled softly while using the bar towel from his shoulder to dry some glasses.

"Well, you should stop."

"Duly noted."

"I'm serious - it's like you're used to taking responsibility for clearing up other people's mistakes."

"Something like that..." he smiled sadly "...but, honestly? I should have kicked that jerk-off out an hour ago. So this one's kinda on me."

"Rather you than Cece - if she'd have gotten her hands on him then boy, would he be sorry!"

"Is that so?"

"Oh yeah. She's a force to be reckoned with alright!"

"So, what happened to your friend? Where'd she get to?"

"Oh, she's over in the corner sucking the face of some overly manicured dude with shiny hair who seemed to think he had a way with words..." Jess screwed up her nose and sucked on her straw loudly, draining the last of her cocktail.

"Hmm. This 'way with words'? You wouldn't happen to describe it as 'douchey', by any chance?"

"Yes! That's exactly how I would describe it!" Jess grinned "How'd you know?"

"Just a good guess..." he lied "...he's a regular, but I don't think I've seen you ladies in here before?"

"Nope, we're virgins!"

"Pardon me?" He spluttered.

"To the bar!" She laughed "Poor choice of words. I should know better, being an English teacher..."

"Oh yeah?"

"Uh-huh. I'm Jess, by the way. Jessica...Jessica Day."

"Well, hello to you, Jessica...Jessica Day."

"Jess is fine." She rolled her eyes and picked at the ice in the bottom of her glass with her straw "So...do you have a name? Or shall I continue to refer to you as The Guy in a Flannel?"

"I'm Nick." He looked up and gave a small, lop-sided smile.

"Just...Nick?" Jess tilted her head "Or can I call you Nicholas for long? Nick-Knack? How about Nicky?"

"Only my Ma calls me Nicky." He grinned, and Jess noticed the softness of his eyes in the low lighting. She wasn't sure if it was the alcohol talking, but she was starting to think he was kind of cute. In a grumpy old man-ish way. He had an easy, unassuming charm about him as he served customers that she liked, as if he was right at home. Like he belonged here.

"Nicholas it is!" Jess raised a brow, waving her now empty glass in his direction which he dutifully took from her and replaced with a fresh drink.


"Another wine, stat!" Jess slammed a hand down on the counter "That means quickly...you know, right now...like, super duper fast..."

"I thought you'd gone home?" Nick shook his head as he walked over.

"Nuh-uh. I've been sat patiently waiting to find out who I need to do to get a drink around here!"

"You might wanna re-phrase that..."

"Hmm. Right. Wondering WHAT I need to do to get a drink around here. But now you've arrived! So, pink wine it is!"

"No can do, blue eyes." He crossed his arms over his chest.

"What?! Why?"

"I'm cutting you off, you've been knocking 'em back all night and now you're wasted - it's not worth my job to keep serving you booze so you can drink yourself into oblivion."

"You can't do that!" She challenged, pointing at him angrily.

"Oh, I really can..."

"I'm a paying customer. Just take my money, man!"

"Nope." Nick leant forward and rested his hands on the Mahogany bar, face serious.

Jess narrowed her eyes at him but he glared back unfalteringly. Their stare off was broken when she hiccupped violently and wobbled on her stool so much that she nearly lost her balance, finding herself steadied only by Nick's firm hand gripping her elbow as he reached across the counter. Righting herself and looking at the floor sheepishly, Jess cleared her throat and swept her hair back away from her face, trying to mask the mild embarrassment she was feeling. She heard Nick sigh heavily as he stood across from her and was pretty sure it was accompanied by a disapproving shake of the head, but screw him. He didn't know her pain. He had no idea how she felt or how much she really, really needed that last drink of wine to help her forget about Spencer and his treachery. She became vaguely aware of the sound of some ice being scooped up and a drink being slid across the bar towards her.

"What's this?" Jess curled her lip.

"Can I interest you in a glass of sobering water instead? The finest in the establishment?"

"You're a terrible person." She scowled, pushing it away.

"The worst." He agreed, smirking.


Nick had just finished changing a barrel when he became aware of some commotion towards the restrooms. Signalling to Big Bob that he was off to investigate, he walked around the corner to find a queue building up outside the ladies room, and a pair of high heeled feet sprawled on the floor. Nick didn't even need to finish making his way past the other customers to know who it was.

"Excuse me ladies! Coming through! Oh, man...really? You're just gonna lie in the doorway?"

"It's comomfortabubble..." she slurred incorrectly.

He directed the other patrons to the men's toilets, to much disgruntlement, then turned back to look down at Jess with his hands on his hips and a heavy sigh.

"Well you can't stay there, kid."

"Go away. Leave me to wallow in my misery_"

His arms hooked under hers before she could argue, and Jess felt herself weightlessly bought to her feet. It made her head giddy, and pretty quickly the room began to spin uncontrollably.

"I'm gonna throw up!" She declared, staggering past him and only just reaching the toilet stall in time.

To his credit, Nick stayed stood in the doorway. He glanced back towards the bar a couple of times to see if he could find her friend to come and help, but to no avail. He was used to drunk customers, people coming in to drown their sorrows and drinking until they could forget.

But this seemed different, and he didn't feel right just leaving her there alone while she was throwing up and looking so vulnerable.

Jess wiped the back of her hand across her mouth, then stumbled to the basin to splash water on her face and wash her hands before sliding down against the wall and sitting on the floor.

"You don't do this much, do you?" Nick chuckled as he handed her some paper towels.

"What gives you..." she paused to hiccup "...that idea?"

"Years of experience."

"I just want to forget this whole past week ever happened. Is that so bad?! So what if I'm so drunk I got vomit in my hair?!"

Nick grimaced and took a step back.

"I wanted to remove it all from my mind. I need to erase HIM from my memory. Stupid Spencer." She said sadly.

"I get that. We've all been there - but, this isn't really the best way to do it."

"You don't understand..." she interrupted.

"Caroline." Nick sighed.

"Uh...my name's Jess..." she scrunched her face up in confusion "...I thought I was supposed to be the drunk one."

"Oh, you're certainly that." He cocked his head, exhaling and crouching on the floor next to her "Caroline is my ex-girlfriend."


"We were pretty serious, until she broke up with me, for no reason."

"For no reason? There's always a reason, Nicholas..." Jess waggled her finger in what she hoped was vaguely his direction.

"Well, I never found out what it was. I tried to - I called, left messages, sent emails...but I got nothing."


"Yup. It sucked. I was left guessing, and it made getting over her ten times more difficult. So trust me when I say I've been where you are. I understand how it feels to constantly question every little thing you did. Was I not good enough? Should I have done something differently? Could I have been better at x/y/z?"

Jess nodded sadly.

"It hurts when you're always the one who loves more." She whispered, her voice cracking and leaving them both sat in silence for a moment.

"Well, I started this conversation trying to cheer you up, but all I've done is depress myself..." Nick ran a hand through his hair and gave a rueful smile.

"Sorry...oh, look - my turn to apologise to you!" Jess giggled drunkenly and bumped her head against the wall as she lost her balance.

"Listen, Jessica...it's Jessica, right?"

He turned to her and she nodded quietly. Something about the way he said her name sounded different. It made her smile.

"No man is worth sitting on a floor of questionable sanitation in a bar bathroom."

"You think?" She sniffed.

"Sure - they're assholes! And I can say that because I am one."

"An asshole?"

"A man!"

"I just felt that needed clarifying..." Jess smirked, gazing up at him from under the longest eyelashes he'd ever seen.

"Look, I've only just met you - and there's no reason for you to pay any attention to what I say, but...don't let this affect you too much. One thing my Dad always used to say to me was not to overthink things. It stops you from enjoying the here and now, and you never know what opportunities might be right under your nose."

"That's deep..." She hummed.

"You seem like you've got your head screwed on, so fuck Spencer_" Nick saw Jess go to open her mouth but he cut her off "_not literally. But fuck him, you know. Let yourself move on, find something - or someone - else that makes you happy."

"Is that what you did after Caroline?" She asked pointedly.

"I'm a work in progress..." he chuckled "...but, I'm getting there. I barely think about her anymore. Honest."

"Apart from when you're saving damsels in distress in the ladies room."

"Exactly. Apart from then." He smiled at her, sincere and warm, and Jess felt the tug of something stirring in her gut. It was possibly just another wave of nausea, but before she could let herself wonder further, another patron entered the bathroom and stared in confusion at the two of them as they sat on the floor.

"Don't worry, we're just leaving...right?" Nick got to his feet and offered a hand to Jess.

"Right..." she nodded, slipping her fingers into his and finding his warm grip surprisingly reassuring. His hand rested lightly on the small of her back and he steered Jess back out to the bar, helping to keep her upright when she wobbled. Which was often.

"Hey!" They heard an angry voice call as it approached "What are you doing with my friend?"


"Jessica, sweetie, are you okay? Do I need to tear this guy a new one?" She glared.

"Oh, give me a break!" Nick rolled his eyes "I'm just helping her out."

"I was talking to her." Cece scowled and pointed a finger up and down towards him "I don't know you, I don't trust you."

"I work here. I've been serving you drinks all night!" He said, exasperated.

"Are you one of those creeps who likes to prey on women too drunk to take care of themselves? Because let me tell you something_"

"No, Cece!" Jess waved her down "No, no, no, no...this is Nick. He took me in the bathroom!"

"He what?!"

Nick's eyes widened and he shook his head vehemently as Cece shot him a terrifying look.

"Wait..." Jess giggled and raised her hand "...wait, wait...scratch that. Rewind, let me start over!"

"Please do!" Nick insisted, aware of the fact she was still clinging to him to keep her balance, his hand sitting on her waist steadying her wobbly stance.

"Cece! This is Nick! He took me into the bathroom...so that I could throw up...he's one of the good guys, and definitely not an asshole!" She tried to smile at him but it was more of a lop-sided grimace.

"I thought I was a 'terrible person'?" Nick said softly towards Jess, then allowed himself a second to look smugly in Cece's direction.

"I changed my mind! Woman's prognative...I mean purgoratave...no, wait - prerogative! Got there in the end..." Jess snorted and stumbled slightly against him.

"Okay, well, either way - I think it's safe to say I need to get you home to sleep this off."

"Sleep? Yes! I would love to sleep right now. Sleep is good..." Jess rested her head against Nick's arm as she babbled.

"Wow, girl, you are wasted." Cece chuckled, slipping her arm around Jess and gently extricating her from Nick's side.

"I stopped serving her drinks a while ago." He stated, a little defensively.

"It's okay, I believe you." Cece propped Jess up and began to turn them towards the exit.

"You do? I thought you didn't trust me?" He raised a brow skeptically.

"If Jess says you're a decent guy, that's good enough for me." She nodded.

As they went to step away, Jess reached back for Nick's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, making him stop still.

"Thank you..." she mumbled.

"Of course." He smiled "No problem."

"See ya, Nick-Knack..."

Jess turned back to hold on to Cece and allowed herself to be walked outside.

"I hope so..." Nick replied quietly, waiting until she was out of the door before he looked down at his hand, flexing it into a fist, and swallowing thickly at the way his fingers still tingled from the mere touch of her skin on his.