First In the Heights fic..if you can call it a fic. It's more of a ficlet because I love Benny and Nina and there's hardly any FanFiction for them so forgive me in advance for the brevity but I'm just starting to explore these characters.
"Are you okay?" Benny asked as soon as he locked the door to his apartment. The blackout was so absolute that he could barely make out Nina's silhouette. He'd been so hellbent on getting her out of that mob that if he were being honest, he may have all but dragged her through the neighborhood until they miraculously ended up in front of his building. The plan was to get a flashlight or a candle and get her home safely.
"I think so," she answered her voice timid. She didn't know how to talk to him now that the danger of getting trampled was gone. She was still upset about what he'd said earlier even if he was drunk. But, at the same time, she recognized the grain of truth behind the statement. She felt guilty and hurt and had she not been shoved to the ground by the people in the street she would have stubbornly continued to walk home alone after refusing his gallant offer to rescue her.
"Are you hurt?" he asked concern lacing his voice, she could feel him inches from her. "Of course you are,"
"Benny…" she tried to protest.
"You got shoved around and then I just dragged you around the neighborhood…" he continued as if she hadn't spoken.
"I'm…" she tried again.
"I think I have a first aid kit." he rambled turning away from her.
"...sorry." she finished reaching out and miraculously managing to grab his arm despite her limited vision.
"Huh?" he asked stopping in his tracks.
Now that she had his attention Nina was nervous again. She didn't know how to put all of her conflicting and complicated emotions into words so instead, she just pulled him to her and clumsily kissed him in the dark.
Mind reeling Benny reluctantly broke the mindblowing kiss and took a step away from Nina, "we need to stop." He gently reprimanded.
"Oh...yeah I…um I'm...sorry," Nina repeated lamely.
"Hey, if I had my way we'd be doing a lot more than kissing right now, but I promised I'd get you home before the night is over and I still need to dig out some kind of flashlight or something." He hated making her feel bad, but he'd said horrible things to her earlier and there was no way he could put that aside and take advantage of her fear without apologizing. But he was still hurt and admittedly not ready to let it all go, maybe in the morning if she wasn't too mad. "And stop apologizing, you didn't do anything wrong."
Nina felt her way around the tiny apartment and finally made it to the couch. Peeling off her painful shoes she assessed her bare legs for any scrapes from the fall. She sighed in relief not feeling any blood but sure there would be an angry bruise on her shin in the morning.
"Chingado!" she heard from the bedroom and couldn't help the giggle it prompted. Of course, Benny could easily remember the curse words in Spanish.
"Todo bien?" she called out knowing he probably wouldn't fully understand her.
"I found the flashlight." responded walking into the room holding a lit green votive candle, clearly a gift from Abuela to bring money and success. Noting Nina's confused look he explained, "The batteries in it, however, are dead. So we're going to have to pray this candle can survive the trip to your place."
"Or, I could stay." the limited light of the candle giving her just enough cover to be bold. She'd already been rejected by Benny several times tonight, what was once more she told herself.
"I promised, plus I'm sure once the shock of the night wears off you'll remember what a jerk I was and want to run as far away from me as possible," Benny argued feebly, hardly knowing why he was pushing her away when all he wanted was to keep her as close as possible.
"You weren't wrong, in what you said. Plus I've known you since we were six years old, I'm used to you being a jerk. And my feet hurt, my left leg is killing me so the last thing I wanna do is run." she reasoned.
"You were six, I was eleven." he corrected automatically before processing the rest of her statement.
"You acted six." she retorted earning a chuckle from Benny.
"I deserve that and why didn't you tell me your leg hurt?" he asked deciding to push the conversation they needed to be having to the back burner once again.
"It's nothing, just a bruise. But I'd rather not walk tonight if you don't mind. The only reason I'd want to get home tonight is to change out of this stupid dress." she admitted, practically begging him to let her stay. As awkward as staying with Benny could become, facing her parents seemed unbearable.
"Well that I can fix." to her raised eyebrow he walked back into his room and returned holding out a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off and a pair of sweatpants. "They'll be big, but the pants have a drawstring." He offered. "You can change out here so you don't have to walk, I'll go to the room just holler when you're done."
Taking a second to smell the shirt that retained a scent unique to Benny, Nina couldn't help but smile at his thoughtfulness. She'd been horrible to him earlier after she'd gotten him fired and he was still taking care of her like he always did. Growing up, no matter how cool or hard he thought he was Benny always made a point to look out for her, the nerdy little girl who he probably should have picked on. The barrio was sorely lacking in male role models and Benny always looked up to Mr. Rosario and now she'd ruined that. Feeling a new wave of guilt wash over her, Nina curled up on the couch and called out to Benny.
"Better?" he asked taking a seat next to her.
"Much." she smiled, but it didn't quite reach her eyes.
Letting out a sigh before biting the bullet, Benny draped his arm around Nina and pulled her to his side, expertly avoiding eye contact. "It was all me."
"Huh?" she asked trying to look at him but he kept her pinned firmly at his side, knowing he would chicken out if he looked at her.
"You have nothing to be sorry or guilty about, it was me. I was angry and hurt so I took it out on you. Instead of manning up like I wanted to, I was an ass to the one person in the world who didn't deserve that."
"You had every reason to be angry, I got you fired! But I promise I'll…" his humorless chuckle cut off her rant.
"That's not why I was mad or hurt. Sure I need the money, but I could care less about a job. You know I never really knew my pops?" he asked changing the subject.
"You never talk about him," she said following his lead, after all, it seemed they now had all night to talk.
"There's not much to say. He wasn't around much when I was a kid. He'd pop in every few months, beat the crap out of my mom and me then he'd leave again." Nina was spared coming up with something to say when he continued, "I was eleven when I finally stood up to him. Got the beating of my life, but I never saw him again. After a couple of days of waiting for the other shoe to drop I decided to have some fun and bust open the fire hydrant." Nina smiled knowing what came next, "What I didn't count on was the cops so I ran my black behind through the first open door I could find...Rosario's"
"You were a soaking wet mess!" Nina reprimanded, remembering the bruises on the little boy she assumed he got by roughhousing or doing whatever it is boys do.
"Yeah, and Mr. Rosario said as much when he gave me the chewing out of my life! But he let me hide, and he didn't hit me. For thirteen years, your dad has been the only father I've known and now he can't stand to look at me. I've spent my life trying to make him proud...but it seems no matter what I do, I'm just not enough." Finally understanding the real reason behind his outburst that night, Nina sat up, took his face in her hand and forced him to look at her in the dim candlelight.
"Are you serious? Benny, all I ever hear when I call home is how you've really stepped up and what a great man you're becoming," she argued hoping he'd believe her despite the night's events pointing to the contrary.
"Were you at the same dinner as me?" he asked her chuckling.
"I know tonight was a mess, trust me I stormed out of there even more vivid than you were, but I think my dad felt betrayed too," she said even though it pained her to defend him while still so angry.
"Benny, all this time you were his guy. You were this big tough knucklehead he took under his wing hoping you'd keep all the other boys away from his little girl." she laughed at his incredulous expression.
"Too bad the lights are out, we could have shown him the security footage of the club! I punched a guy out for dancing with you."
"I remember." she laughed shaking her head. "I don't think protecting me because you had a thing for me was what he had in mind though. He was trying to fulfill some weird Latino desire for a sun and give me a protective older brother, you weren't supposed to be interested in me."
"You got all that from one argument?" he asked skeptically.
"One argument and about five hundred sappy books," she admitted.
"Now that I believe." he laughed pulling her into his arms as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Nina was reveling in how right his arms felt around her, and how he would have to man up and kiss her the next time when she heard him quietly ask, "So, do you think he'll ever not hate me?"
"He doesn't hate you." she could practically feel his eyebrow raise even though they weren't facing each other, "I don't think he'd be okay with me dating anyone especially right after I told them I got kicked out of school." to Benny's shrug of concession she continued, "Eventually I know he'll be happy it's you and not some random jerk from the barrio or worse a spoiled California guy who speaks different English!"
"He would prefer it if I were Dominican or Puerto Rican though," he said far too casually to actually be casual.
"You're honorary Latino, plus you can already say chingado, what more do you need?" she asked with a smile.
"How do you say store?"
A few hours later found Benny laying on the couch willing himself to stay awake as Nina happily snuggled into his side. "This is my favorite time of day." she sighed.
"Does it even count as day?" he chuckled sleepily craning his neck to look out the still dark window.
"Yep, it's just before sunrise. When I was living at home I would sit on my fire escape with my cafe con leche and just watch the neighborhood wake up."
"Well without power I'm hesitant to offer up anything in that kitchen, but I do have a pretty spectacular fire escape if you're interested."
"And I'd have to move?" she asked reluctantly, not willing to let the feeling of his arms around her go. They'd been together all night, and while he was definitely his usual flirty self and never let her out of his arms for more than few seconds despite the blistering heat he hadn't made any real move. She thought he's at least have kissed her by now, he did after all say he wanted to do more than kiss her earlier.
"Well the fire escape is outside...so yeah. But I'd go with you, we can watch the world wake up together." he offered. Reminding herself that anything can happen before sunrise, especially on a fire escape, Nina disentangled herself from Benny before offering him her hand.