What Happens When The Stars Go Out
He walks into the smoky bar just after midnight. A metal band screams into the void as drunken bar goers drown their lives in the liquid pain relief. And truthfully, he is here to do the same.
At a small booth in the back, sits his brother. A man he loves and hates and resents all at once. At least ten years his senior, his brother did his best to guide him as a child. Though his best often included getting into fights, stealing, and using drugs. He spent time away. A lot of time. Locked up, is what he would say. The police would come knocking and his brother would be cuffed while a little boy would cling and cry and scream.
“I'm not your Daddy!” He would yell. “You ain't mine! So fuck off!”
He just didn't want to be left. Left with him.
That little boy would creep past a dark room in the hall, stinking of Winston cigarettes and malt liquor, with a black and white television squawking and chattering loudly at all hours. That room meant a beating. That room meant the belt. So he did his best to absorb into the floor and melt past it. Anything to be invisible. Anything to keep Daddy from noticing.
Because Mommy was gone. Burnt herself down to nothing with a Virginia Slim, and she was never coming back.
And there wasn't anyone left to protect him.
When he sees his brother, he feels the sting on his back. Phantom pains of moments past.
“Hey there little brother. You're late.”
“Yeah well, I got held up, your boy was late with the package.”
Meth. Moving meth was easy money at a high price. But he didn't have anything to lose, though he knew he likely had nothing to gain either. His brother was there, and that felt okay. That felt safe, though it was anything but.
“Can I get you anything?” A feminine voice brings him out of his thoughts.
“A Budweiser for my baby bro, and hell, you can just go ahead and bring one for me too little darlin’” His brother says, in an oily voice he knows to well.
He hopes to God he doesn't try to fuck another waitress tonight. For her sake.
She turns and leaves, saying nothing, and the band plays on.
They sit in silence, and he watches their surroundings. A mosh pit forms at the stage, people pushing and pulling. It is anarchy. It looks like the way it feels to be in his own head.
He pulls out a cigarette. A Parliament and a silver lighter. The waitress appears as he lights it. She sets his brother’s beer down and turns to give him his. He looks up to offer his thanks and it is then he actually sees her.
Dark wavy hair casts a halo of obsidian around her pale skin. Bright amber eyes meet his and he feels something. Something strange he can't quite name.
“Thanks.” He mumbles, and she offers a nod.
He watches her go.
“I seen the way you're lookin’ at her. You gonna try and fuck her?” His brother asks.
“Nah. She's pretty, but I ain't tryin’ to deal with a mess tonight.”
“She's pretty.” His brother mocks. “She's gutter trash. You could fuck her real quick and then be gone and she wouldn't think twice. Bitches like that make the real money that way, in the alley.”
He watches the way she slinks around the bar. Like a wounded animal. The other waitresses flirt for their tips. They wear more revealing clothes and are more inviting in their conversations. But she, she gives curt answers. She wears black high waisted jeans, and a looser grey v-neck, with Converse. The door catches her attention every time it opens. No matter what. He's seen her grim expression before. It is the face of his mother. It is the face of the little boy of his past.
The owner of the bar, an older balding man, lowers his head to catch her eye as she makes a drink behind the counter.
He mouths, “Are you okay?” and she nods weakly.
He gives her shoulder a quick rub and she flinches just slightly, before she moves to attend to her tables.
His brother has since given up trying to talk with him and moved on to a red headed waitress with giant breasts at the bar. He had scoffed and mumbled something about making puppy dog eyes at just a piece of ass, before claiming his waitress conquest.
But it's more than that to him. The young waitress is afraid of something. Someone. And aside from the balding man, he seems to be the only one that notices.
And the band plays on.
Last call pulls him from his thoughts and he notices his overflowing ashtray and collection of bottles.
His brother has his arm around the red headed waitress, and they stumble outside. He'll be taking her home tonight. But he hardly notices them leave, as he's spent his time watching the girl with the raven hair and the sad smile. She wipes a table near him and trudges over to collect his bottles.
“Last call.” She says. “Can I get you anything?”
“You smoke?” He asks.
She nods. And he offers her a cigarette from his pack.
“I can't. But thank you.” She says, with a very small, but genuine smile on her face.
Her eyes shift around the room, and before he can ask her what she's looking for, she's gone.
He finishes his warm beer and tucks one hundred dollars under the bottle, paying both his and his brother’s tab, with enough for a solid tip. He stubs out his cigarette and makes his way to the door, looking back one last time for the girl.
Finding no one but the balding man at the bar, he pushes out into the night.
His old 1973 F-250 sits parked toward the side of the building. It had been much busier when he arrived, but the crowd having cleared, it is now a ghost in the darkness. He can hear laughing nearby, and notices his brother leaning against his motorcycle, hand on the ass of the red head. They speak in low tones, but he already knows what they're discussing.
Movement in his peripherals distracts him, and the sound of a man speaking through gritted teeth, causes him to look behind the bar.
The waitress. His waitress. Stands there, eyes downcast, shoulders slumped, the epitome of submission. And a man. He grips her shoulder so hard, his white knuckles can be seen from the old truck. He mumbles something imperceptible and gives her a shove.
“Best not get involved, little brother. That ain't gonna end well for you. Or her. Let him deal with his woman.” His brother says, before returning to his one night stand.
The man shoves her again, and his blood boils.
When the man puts his hands on her neck and slams her against the dumpster, he has had enough and begins to rush over. But then, he stops. The back door to the bar opens and the balding man steps out with a shotgun.
“The fuck outta here Donnie! Not at my fuckin’ bar!” He yells, pumping the shotgun, aiming it at the man. “Don’t you fuckin’ touch her again now, ya hear me! I gotta right mind to call the law on your stupid ass.”
The man, Donnie, lets go and storms over to his Jeep. Peeling out of the gravel lot, he is gone in a cloud of dust and a faint glow of tail lights.
The girl takes deep, gulping breaths, as she clutches her throats and wipes away tears. The balding man puts his arms around her and leads her inside.
So he climbs in his truck, sitting there a good long while. Long after his brother and the red head have left. Until he sees her leave with the balding man.
Only then, does he feel right about driving home.
The trailer he calls home is just outside of Alpharetta, roughly a twenty minute drive from the bar in Roswell, Georgia.
He slams his keys down on the card table, before going straight to the kitchen sink and drinking straight from the tap. Looking in his cabinets, all they contain contain are a partial loaf of bread and some peanut butter, so he makes what resembles a sandwich and eats it over the sink.
Looking out to his brother’s trailer, he notices his motorcycle out front, and a single light on. Loud music plays and he can only assume he's in there with company. He scoffs, shuts out the light, and heads for the bathroom.
He showers quickly, letting the day roll off of him in the scalding water. Then he settles in bed, staring out the dirty window.
The old digital clock reads 3:45am and he allows sleep to take him.
And her face plagues his dreams.
She is beaten by the man, Donnie, and there is nothing he can do but watch. His arms and legs feeling as though they are encased in concrete.
She takes the cigarette from him at the bar, and they sit and talk until the balding man is turning the lights out and reminding her to lock up with a gentle, knowing smile.
She is his. He picks her up from work. They come home, shower, and fuck until they both come hard together. And she sleeps, safe and protected, in his arms. In his bed.
He wakes, sweaty and aroused, struggling to push away thoughts of the girl that isn't his. Of the girl he will never have.
At 6pm the next day, he can no longer take his curiosity.
He moves past his brother in his living room, feet propped up on the coffee table, cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon all around him, smoking in front of the old television.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, little brother. Where are you off to in such a hurry?”
“I forgot my lighter at the bar last night.” He lies.
“Mmmhmmm… well maybe you'll come to your senses and get some pussy while you're there. That pretty one seemed kinda tied up, but I'm done with the one with the tits. She'll let you fuck her in the ass if you wanna.” He smiles up at him menacingly before bursting into cackling laughter.
Grimacing, he throws the door open and walks to his truck with a purpose.
His lighter stashed in his pocket.
In the early evening light, the bar is nothing more than a dilapidated old house. He didn't see the sign at the road the previous night. On it, is a large squid type creature, holding a ship with one of its many tentacles.
He reads it twice, and he almost laughs at the sight of it. Almost.
He pulls into the spot he occupied the night before and turns off the engine. Sitting there for a long moment, wondering why he's even there. He almost leaves.
Then he sees her.
She slips out the back door, and leans against the wall lighting a cigarette. She lets her back slide down the wall, and she sits, knees pulled to her chest. Her thick, black hair is pulled into a braid, and he is mesmerized watching the loose pieces dance around her face. She wears a white shirt tonight, with similar black jeans, and she aimlessly colors on the bottom of her Converse with a pen as she smokes.
He talks himself into getting out and walking up to her, and then talks himself back out again.
When he notices her lighting another cigarette, he musters the courage.
She looks at him a moment, trying to place where she had seen him, as he walks toward her.
Stopping a foot or two in front of her, she shields her eyes from the sun with her hand, as she squints up at him.
“You have the asshole brother who took Marla home last night, right? Booth closest to the bar, $40 tip?” She asks.
“Yeah, guess that's me.”
“Well, are you gonna sit?” She asks awkwardly, after a minute or two.
He steps over and takes a seat against the wall, roughly a foot away from where she sits. Her phone and a pack of Camels rests between them. His eyes travel to the faint, makeup covered bruises around her collarbone.
Her cigarette rests between two thin fingers, nails decorated with black polish. Her hands shake, and she works to steady them with each drag she takes. She hopes he won't notice the tremor, but he does.
“I um… I saw you, last night.”
She looks up, and her face is unreadable
“He your boyfriend?” He asks.
“You don't deserve that shit.”
“He gets drunk sometimes, and he forgets himself. He doesn't mean it. I just stay at Wilson’s until he sobers up.”
“You ain't safe. No matter what you think, or what he tells you.”
“Look, I'm sorry you had to see that. But you don't know him, and you don't know me.” She says irritably.
He falls silent, and remembers the dream where she was his, and she had never been bruised at the hands of a man.
“I'm sorry, it was a bad night. I knew he was pissed and I pushed him too far.”
He grimaces and nervously flicks his lighter open and closed.
“What's your name?” She asks.
“I'm Ali.” She stubs out her cigarette and stands. “Come sit in my section. I'll buy you a beer.”
This is an AU companion to another story I have on AO3. I plan on posting it here at some point, but it sticks pretty closely to the main plot of the show, whereas this one has a life of its own.
I hope you enjoy, let me know what you think!