Just some completely pointless fluff between my favorite couple... It's kinda a follow-up to my other In the Heights fic, but they can both stand on their own.
Disclaimer: I'm still not a self-proclaimed 'ugly songwriter who can't get girls to notice him.'
Nina collapsed to the floor the second Benny closed the door to his apartment, locking it soon after. Her breathing was fast and burned her chest with each inhale. She leaned back and, feeling something very solid, allowed her head to rest against it. Her eyes closed as her breathing slowed slightly.
"You alright?" Benny asked, and Nina felt and heard him bending down to sit on the floor with her.
"Yeah," she said quickly between breaths. "I'm fine." She reached out into the darkness still pressing in on them, searching for Benny. Her hands found his, similarly reaching out, and their fingers entwined. She tightened her grip and pulled him closer.
Benny released one of his hands from hers and began toying with her curly hair, correctly judging where her head was resting and narrowly missing poking her in the eye. Nina's breathing was more relaxed now, as she was enjoying the feel of Benny's hand next to her cheek. His presence beside her was calming her, making her forget the terror the crowded street below had struck in her.
But when Benny scooted forward, his knee – or, at least she thought it was his knee – bumped her leg and she cried out in pain, doubling over to close both her hands around her leg below the scrape on her knee. Her head knocked into Benny's and he fell backwards with a loud thump.
"What's wrong?" Benny asked from the floor, grunting as he began propping himself up.
"It's my knee," Nina said dismissively, her voice enough to tell Benny that she didn't particularly care about it. "I fell earlier and got cut."
"I need a flashlight," she heard Benny's voice from above her; he was standing and his footsteps headed away from her. She heard him rummaging through his belongings and felt completely useless as there was no way she could help him.
Benny was rewarded when a small click gave him a tiny circle of light.
"Damn, the battery's going," he said softly as it began flickering. Nina could see his outline as he swept the floor with the light, trying to find her again. He paused and smacked it against his hand, which temporarily stopped the flickering.
"Now let me see it," he instructed as he came back to kneel next to her, the flashlight pointing at her legs. Nina looked down and hastily pushed her too-short skirt down so as to hide her underwear before pointing out her injured knee to Benny.
"It's nothing," she tried to say, but Benny cut her off with a whispered, "Shhh…" He slid one hand under her leg and kept the flashlight pointed directly on her wound with the other as he bent his head to get a better look at it.
"It doesn't look too deep," Benny decided, but his voice was uncertain. "I'm no expert, but it should be cleaned before you do anything else." The way he kept his sentence open-ended suggested he thought she would be going to her own home in a matter of minutes. Nina couldn't help but feel guilty when she remembered that, apart from the heart-stopping kiss the two had shared, all her actions that night suggested just that.
"Okay," Nina's voice was raspy, and she cleared her throat. She made to stand up, but Benny's hand on her shoulder restrained her.
"No, I'll get it for you," he said simply, standing up and following the dim flashlight over to his sink. He ran the water for a few seconds before cursing again.
"I'll never find anything like this. Why they can't get the godforsaken power back on is beyond me."
Nina squirmed in her spot on the floor, feeling that Benny was making too big a deal out of a little scratch. Sure, it hurt, but she had gotten into worse scrapes before and ended up getting less care. Had Benny forgotten that she had practically run all the way to his apartment with this cut, while trying to avoid running into everyone else running on the street? With difficulty, she held back an exasperated sigh. She hated it when things were done for her.
"Benny, it's okay, I'll be fine," she tried to reason with him. "It's just a scratch; just let me–"
"Here," Benny cut her off, returning with a dripping towel. He bent down again and placed the warm towel over her knee. Nina grimaced, for it stung – a lot. She reached down to take the towel away to examine the cit for herself, but Benny was already moving it for her. He thrust the flashlight into her hands, wordlessly telling her that he would be the one to tend to her cut.
It became harder and harder for Nina to hold the flashlight steady as Benny slid his free hand under her leg again, bending it slightly so as to put the cut in better light. When he removed his hand, he did not leave it to hang limply at his side, instead he let it rest on her leg right above the cut. He brought the still sopping wet towel back to her knee and became thoroughly involved in trying to remove each particle of dirt. Nina was so completely shocked by the care she was being given that she didn't notice the stinging.
"I don't have any band-aids," Benny said apologetically when he deemed her cut completely clean and dropped the towel to the floor. He did not remove his other hand, which made Nina blush. "I guess I'll just have to find something else…" Here he trailed away, unsure as to what he should do next. Nina offered him the flashlight, which he took before disappearing behind a corner to another part of his apartment.
"Benny, you don't have to find anything, it'll be fine," Nina insisted, standing up and trying to feel her way towards him without walking into anything.
"No, no, you should cover it with something," Benny argued back, his voice coming from somewhere off to the left. Nina followed in this direction, her face breaking into a relieved smile when she saw the dim and now flickering light behind his silhouette.
Benny turned, his flashlight beam falling directly onto Nina. She felt her cheeks flush as she realized it was shining on her chest. Benny also seemed to notice, for the beam moved up to her face within a split second.
"Sorry," Benny mumbled, making his way back towards her.
"It's fine," Nina echoed her previous answer as she held up a hand to block her eyes from the light's feeble beam.
"Here," Benny handed her the flashlight before bending down to tend to her wound again. Nina shone the light so he could see what he was doing, torn between loving the attention Benny was giving her and hating the way it made her feel helpless and useless.
Benny had found a scrap of cloth, though Nina couldn't tell what it had come from. He tied it around her leg, making sure it covered her scrape. She felt his hands linger for a few seconds after she was sure he had securely tied it, but she said nothing of this. When he straightened up, Nina handed the flashlight back, saying a soft, "Thank you."
"Don't mention it," Benny's voice was suddenly business-like as he took the flashlight back, his fingers brushing against hers. "We should probably get going."
"What do you mean?" Nina was confused.
"If you want to get home, we'd better start now before this flashlight dies," Benny elaborated.
Nina was suddenly seized with an overwhelming and uncontrollable desire to stay with Benny here, in his apartment. She didn't know if it was to avoid the crowds still shouting obscenities outside or to avoid her parents or just to stay with Benny, but she really didn't want to leave.
"Benny, look," she started, but Benny cut her off.
"There's nothing to talk about," he turned away from her. "You're going back to Stanford at the end of the summer and I'm out of a job. That's that."
"It's for the best," Benny said quietly.
Nina reached out and took Benny's hand into hers, forcing him to face her. The feeble light the flashlight provided did nothing to help her discern Benny's expression, and she could have screamed in frustration.
"I don't blame you," Benny assured her, lacing his fingers with hers.
"But… but… it was my fault!" Nina argued. "I lost the scholarship I needed. It's thanks to me that you lost your job. If I had just–"
For what seemed like the hundredth time, Benny cut her off. But this time he did it by gently pressing his forehead against hers, shocking her into silence. He chuckled softly, his nose brushing against hers.
"Quit the guilt trip," was all he said, but Nina could swear she had heard the Hallelujah Chorus. Benny tilted his head down to kiss her, and she could feel the smile tugging at his lips. Seconds later, the two were laughing, their faces barely a hair's width apart. Nina let go of Benny's hand and flung both of her arms around him, pulling him into a vice-like embrace.
Benny dropped the flashlight as he hastened to wrap his arms around Nina. The light flickered and went out, leaving them in complete darkness.
"Can you remind me of what it was like at the top of the world?" Nina whispered into Benny's ear.
And Benny obliged.