Night Court Fanfiction: Defining Normality - 7. Chapter 7
Chapter 7- The best laid plans are the ones never made!
Two things Dan realized after being slapped across the face:
1- His neck still kind of hurt
2- A lot of women didn’t like being turned down almost as much as they didn’t like being hit on in the first place.
As he watched the irate woman flounce off with an air of superiority, Dan rubbed at his stinging cheek. On several occasions he would have taken a slap as a challenge, not now though. How odd it was to be knocked around for being a decent guy! With a disdainful sniff (directed at the world rather than one party), the daily newspaper tucked beneath his arm, Dan started towards the Cafeteria. He came in nearest the wall covered in windows and stopped. Carelessly Dan scanned the room in search of a good place to sit. On the longest, and usually the most occupied of tables, he saw Harry conversing with the group. The Judge ran a coin between each finger, making it dance as he talked. Christine looked amused, her chin cradled in one hand whilst the other used a fork to poke at her salad. Mac leaned back in his chair with hands behind his head as he offered his own thoughts on “the matter” whatever it may be, with Bull and Roz mostly listening (the latter likely to add something sarcastic when her time came). Something about that scene nagged at him, like weights attaching themselves to his arms, trying to bring him down. With a quiet acknowledgment of his own need to be alone (though not really, so surrounded was he) the Attorney took a hasty turn towards one of the smaller, empty tables near the window. Dan sat. He leaned away from the table with his back near the wall to cross his legs because it was too short, then with a casual flick of his wrist the newspaper in his hands flew open. He had just gotten through the headline when he noticed, or rather, someone standing next to him.
“May I sit with you?”
Dan blinked at Hatti Digger, then with a welcoming smile took it upon himself to tut like a cheerful grandmother and continue in a voice very much the same, “You just sit down right now child, ol’ Dan’s gonna take care of you now,” if he could have reached he would have patted the chair across from him. Hatti sniffed, setting down her tray first (a grey, greasy burger and a collection of fries that were a little too golden) moving to sit across from him. She adjusted her skirt so that it properly covered her thighs then plucked at a fry listlessly. Dan tilted his head, “Just so you know, you don’t ever have to ask me.”
“Pardon?” she looked confused then immediately after she corrected herself, “Oh, yes… thank you,” the corners of her tastefully colored lips upturned, it pushed out her round cheeks. She really did have a sweet smile, even if in the long run it landed her with irreversible laugh lines. Dan waved a dismissive hand, the newspaper forgotten for the moment. Ever since their little sit down on the couch (and after his near strangulation, thank you very much), he’d become more and more… interested in her. It was quite bothersome, then, that she’d retreated like a frightened deer. He tapped his fingernails twice on the table before casually plucking a fry from Hatti’s plate, biting half of it as he mulled over the problem that continued to dog him. How was he going to make three months… turn into tomorrow?
Hatti, who had started eating her burger, showed no sign of acknowledgment that he’d stolen from her, she merely freed up one hand and pushed her tray his direction. Huh, doesn’t mind sharing her food. He cataloged it above “likes turtles” in his mind and moved on.
Something racious happened at the Judge’s table and Dan poked his tongue against the inside of one cheek, turning a glare on them for no reason he was willing analyze. Maybe it was jealousy? They were having fun without him! Or irritation that they couldn’t keep it down while others were trying to eat? Of course, if he were to be sitting with them his presence would have clearly shifted the mood, they probably wouldn’t have been laughing. He bopped his foot up and down, ignoring Hatti until she suddenly took it upon herself to steal the newspaper out of his hand. Dan’s eyebrows rose and he stared at her stupidly. She shrugged, shoving her plate completely to his side as though it were a form of payment. The Attorney fought for something funny or intelligent to say that would break the silence and finally settled on, “What, no pickle?” which in hindsight, sounded better in his head. Nonetheless Hatti snorted with amusement, “I ate it already, my apologies,” she let her head drop a little as though deeply embarrassed until a few seconds later she brought her gaze back up to meet his, “Or, is that a euphemism I never knew about?” Her boyfriend uncrossed his legs so that he could properly lean over the table (nearly sticking his tie in ketchup), “Only if you want it to be.” Flirtation rolled easily off his tongue, it was like breathing to him. What was odd was how it seemed to be nearly as natural to Hatti as well. The short Bailiff set down the newspaper and scoffed, offering nothing else. Dan breathed out slowly through his nose, contemplating the woman before him as she seemed to focus more on the table than anything.What Hatti Digger needed, was a way to properly come out of her shell. What Hatti Digger needed was an opening…
And what Dan needed, was a plan!
Mac Robinson was an overtaxed, enduring sort of a man. He went in to work, he did his job, he listened, he joked, he laughed, he went home and prepared to tolerate it all again. He recalled once, taking a bullet to his calf. Luckily, it hadn’t hit anything important (more of a graze really) and had healed within as short a time as possible. That didn’t mean, however, that it hadn’t hurt. Mac’s whole leg had throbbed for ages, switching between burning and the awful sensation of restless, twitching, muscles. He would’ve given anything to never go through that again! And yet… as Harry pulled a coin from behind his ear for the fiftieth time that week, he considered returning to Vietnam to find the guy that shot him to ask for a moment’s reprieve! The Judge’s reuse of the same trick (that alongside juggling, card tricks, and the old whoopie cushion gag) was brought out of boredom mostly, the cases were light, dull, and droned on for longer than they should have . The Clerk managed a tight, cheesy smile and forced out a chuckle as well as a kind, “Good one sir”. Harry still smiled at him crookedly and with understanding beyond him, leaning back in his chair. His thin body swam in his black Judge’s robe, making him look bigger than he actually was. Less fragile.
Mac plucked a file from the bench and tucked it between his upper arm, “Looks like we’re all done here sir,” he said. Harry sighed long windedly, “Gee Mac,” he huffed, rubbing at one eye with the quarter still tucked between his fingers, “I guess we could send everyone home early.” A few members of the staff perked up at the prospect. “Your choice sir,” Mac hummed. He’d learned it best to let the other man come to his own conclusions with the help of minor suggestions. It was how he got little Renee to take baths after all, even though she didn’t quite speak the language yet.
“Well folks,” The Judge addressed the crowd, all half asleep, “It seems we’re done for the night! Go home to your loved ones… or your not so loved ones, whatever the case may be,” he banged his gavel. The first to spring up was Dan Fielding (of course) who grinned almost evilly, eyes squinted and directed at Hatti Digger who appeared unimpressed. She tugged at the bottom of her uniform, squaring her shoulders as the ADA approached. He then leaned down and met her mouth in a prolonged kiss. “Would you look at that,” commented Harry who had removed his robe and come up beside his friend. Mac nodded, crossing his arms, “Kind of makes you want to upchuck, don’t it sir,” he smirked. Harry punched his shoulder the shoulder, “I’ll be in my office for a bit,” he said, then walked off at a steady, upbeat, pace.
Dan parted with Hatti (to breathe most likely), then he looked down at her adoringly. Mac had to admit the other man had been… slightly less obnoxious the past few weeks. He hadn’t come clammering into the courtroom declaring loudly that he’d snagged a date with anyone at the very least. It seemed Mac’s decision to go with “One week” for the bet hadn’t been a smart one.Hatti said something to Dan softly, then departed alongside Bull. Probably off to get something from from the Bailiff’s Lounge. Mac turned his attention to his own work, sitting in his chair to properly shutdown the computer.
A loud clap startled Mac away from the screen and towards Fielding whose hands rubbed together and whose mouth formed a dastardly grin. He chuckled to himself, approaching the Clerk. Ah yes, this was the man Mac knew, a man with a scheme. “Do you want something Dan?” he asked, feigning disinterest. The ADA pushed fingers through his hair, “Nah,” he used the same hand to wave away the other man’s inquiry. “You look quite pleased with yourself, anything I should know?” Mac pushed, threading his fingers together atop the desk just before the keyboard. Across the room Christine had collected her things in her briefcase and walked out, leaving the two basically alone. “Oh, nothing. I just have an evening of wining and dining planned for the delicate and lovely Hatti Digger,” Dan lifted his leg so that he sat on the edge of Mac’s desk, one foot still firmly on the floor. Mac wasn’t sure delicate was quite the correct word to use regarding Miss Digger, but let it slide. The Court Clerk tilted his head, “And?””And!” with one hand the ADA reached into the inside of his suit jacket, removing from it a flat velvet box. Mac raised both eyebrows in surprise when Dan opened it before him, revealing a silver necklace. Three deep blue opals (real or fake he wasn’t sure) hung at even intervals across it, strung together by thin, shining silver threads. Mac’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head, “Wow,” he said in a whisper. “I hope that’s her reaction, this sucker cost me a pretty penny I can tell you. But, if everything goes to plan it’ll all be worth it tonight,” Dan snapped the box shut.”And what exactly do you mean by that?” Mac stood up, buttoning his sweater without looking. Indecision crossed the ADA’s face just for a moment, but the need to brag seemed to overtake him and he leaned in conspiratorially.
The air seemed to still as Dan excitedly chattered, “I have this problem with Hatti, she doesn’t want sex for three months,” he crossed his arms, rumpling his suit and tie, “I got the idea though that if I can’t make a move on her, maybe she could make a move on me!” he moved back an inch, smiling like an overjoyed toddler that had just been given candy to top it all off, “So, I’m going to give her this necklace, treat her to an expensive dinner, then take her back to my place for coffee and Beethoven… Maybe Chopin, I haven’t decided. Ha ha! She’ll be putty in my hands, or vice versa,” he grinned full on. Mac allowed himself to smile at the other man, unsure of how to feel. On the one hand, he expected no less from Fielding, and on several occasions had derived amusement out of the Prosecuting Attorney’s wild tales. On the other, manipulating Hatti Digger’s feelings was low and petty even for him! It all came down to Hatti Digger though, didn’t it? So there really wasn’t a problem. The shorter man clapped his coworker on the shoulder, “Well, uh, good luck with that Dan,” he managed awkwardly, clapping him on the shoulder and nearly sending the taller man off his perch and onto the floor. Dan scoffed, standing, “As if I need it,” he then, with more energy than should be in anyone over thirty, twisted around and walked to his table.
Mac looked disparagingly at Fielding’s back and sighed, a low bone weary sound that came from having to deal with difficult people all day, even if they were his closest friends (yes, even Fielding). All well, he huffed, turning to leave the other man to his own devices. If there was one thing Mac was sure of it was this: When it came to Dan Fielding, once a creep always a creep.
Dan thought of himself as a highly desirable man. The past ten or so years had done little to dissuade that thought. That didn’t mean, however, that the women he dated didn’t need a little reminder of said desirability. Hatti, for instance, seemed to be one of those people.Of course he didn’t want to force himself on her, which was why he decided nudging her in the right direction was the better option. Dan cautiously traced a hand over the hidden velvet box hugged close to his chest. He felt a sudden tug inside of him, uncomfortable and surprisingly emotional as soon as Hatti reentered the room. She’d changed into her civvies, this time a forest green sweater and jeans. He wasn’t accustomed to seeing her wearing pants, the way it accentuated the curve of her hips all the way to her knees. Her hair had been pulled back into a ponytail again, showing off how long her neck was. It made her look kind of awkward, he thought, being a short person that was more neck than legs. Still he smiled with genuine fondness, his body reacting before his mind did to bring him to her. He met her lips with his, paying no mind to the ache in his back when he bent down to kiss her. She pressed the palm of her hand against his cheek, cold but soft.
Hatti was the first to remove herself from their embrace, one hand rising to tuck an ever unruly curl behind her ear. “I have serious plans for us tonight,” Dan explained, brushing fingers over his tie. Hatti opened her mouth to reply, only to be interrupted.
“Alright Hatti I’m ready to go!”
Dan looked incredulously at the galumphing oaf that entered from just to the right of the Judge’s stand. Hatti cleared her throat and he snapped his attention back down to her, “I promised Mr. Shannon that I would go to the Natural History Museum with him. Perhaps tomorrow?”
Dan’s mouth fell open, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” he yelped indignantly, “C’mon, it took me almost an hour to get those reservations! Now you want to dump me for Hong Kong Junior over here?” he waved a hand at an affronted Bull. The tall Bailiff stepped forward only to be stopped by Hatti’s hand on his chest, a warning look in her eyes for both men. “Bull asked me first,” she replied coolly, not appearing in the slightest swayed. Dan spluttered, “But-“”Would you like to come with us?” Hatti cut him off, taking one of his hands in her own. Her fingers were cold, impersonal to him in that moment. He felt…betrayed almost, unsure. “No,” he scoffed, his selfish desire to have her to himself overtaking any promise of spending time with her, “There is no way I’m hanging out in a dusty old Museum with you and- and-” he hesitated to give Bull another rude name- he had enough sense of self preservation to avoid going any farther. Instead he uttered a pained, “Tonight was supposed to be special!” and almost immediately realized his mistake.
Hatti’s brow furrowed, “Special how?” she asked, letting his hand drop and putting space between them. He could almost pretend that the hopefulness in her gaze wouldn’t go away if he told her the truth. That she would smile brightly at him and tell him what a good idea it was! “Uh,” Dan laughed awkwardly, “Well, you see,” he scratched the side of his nose with one finger. Why was coming up with a lie so hard all of a sudden?!
Hatti turned around to face Bull, “Wait for me near the elevator, please?” she asked gently, “I won’t be long.” Bull spared one last glare to Dan who smiled cheekily in return (because he could) before he marched off.
The shortest of the Bailiff’s turned back to Dan with reproach in her gaze this time, the silence surrounding them making it all the more piercing and uncomfortable. Dan shuffled his feet a little bit, waiting for her to speak. When she didn’t for some time he clenched his jaw, “What?” he snapped, more aggressively than he really felt. Hatti shook her head, “I do not believe you. Tonight was supposed to be special? Am I meant to believe that was an innocent suggestion?””Well you might have if I had said anything beyond that,” he returned with a shrug, another uneasy chuckle. He didn’t really have a defence for this one, “Look, I just wanted to… you know.””Oh yes, I know,” Hatti practically snarled, “How dare you treat me like a child, guiding me along by the hand as if I don’t know my own mind!” She stormed over to the bench and then swiftly spun to face him again, her ponytail sticking itself on her shoulder so that it brushed against her right cheek when she looked straight on. Dan planted his fingertips atop his briefcase, “I was not treating you like a child, I wanted to- you see- but it doesn’t matter now does it?” he attempted to force all of his emotions down like a bug beneath one’s thumb. He could hardly handle confrontation, especially over a half-baked three-day-to-create plan! Hatti’s oceanic eyes inexplicably softened, turning from a full blaze to the flicker of a candle flame. She looked down at the floor, it’s surface scuffed by all manner of different shoes.
“I could have shot you, you know.”
Dan immediately flashed back to several near death situations. Being chased with an axe by a “scorned” lover especially came to mind… “Oh yeah?” he forced a smile, “When?”Hatti quirked her mouth into a half smile as she sensed his thoughts, “When I held the gun to Oscarson’s head. If I had shot him there was a chance I- I might of shot you. I care about you-“”And that’s why you didn’t shoot me? I’m flattered,” Dan shot back sarcastically with a nod of his head. He was glad her anger had dissipated so quickly, but found no solace in the seriousness of the conversation. What had been a romantic plan had turned into a far worse reality. Hatti let out a sharp puff of air through her nose, crossing her arms so that she looked to be hugging herself. She seemed surprisingly vulnerable, which only made things worse. “No,” Hatti said, “I put the gut to his head because I care about you. I wanted to do anything to make him stop, because I care about you.” Her face turned a delicate red. Dan stepped towards her, “And I care about you, which is why I want this to happen,” he explained. He wondered if this was a whole truth, if he really wanted to have Hatti Digger because he cared about her or if it was only… the way he was. Hatti let her hands drop to her sides, “I care about you Dan… but I don’t love you. I explained this to you already, didn’t I?” Dan sighed, an almost wistful sound to his own ears. “Yeah,” he replied, “Yeah you did. Look, I don’t want to ruin this…” He could quite bring himself to apologize.
Hatti approached him, then much to his surprise, wrapped her arms around his middle. Her head rested on his chest, right next to the necklace. Dan let his hands rest on her lower back, his chin falling to the top of her head just like he’d imagined it. Oh but this did feel nice! “Three months.” she muttered, one side of her mouth partially smushed against his chest. Dan raised a hand to stroke the back of her head, letting a loose lock of golden hair tangle between his fingers. “You bet…Three months.”
This chapter took me way longer than I thought it would, and to be honest I kind of hate it (maybe because I spent so much time working on it that I got sick of it?). I don’t know if it’s rushed or if I feel like I forced everything or what! Just that I don’t like it. BUT, don’t let my own feelings on this chapter influence your own, let me know what you feel! And, if you have any suggestions to improve this I would be glad to listen 😉
Thank you to Guest and anneviktorr for their reviews (they’re a good kick in the pants I need sometimes to keep writing Lol)!