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Vanessa takes the train down from Boston on Deniz's last night. She's shoved what she hopes will pass for a clubbing outfit into her gym bag, not sure what people wear in New York but pretty sure whatever it is wouldn't suit her anyway. Not that it matters; Deniz has always had a knack for getting in wherever he pleased, and enough charm to pull her behind in his wake.

She's debating whether to change in the tiny bathrooms on the train or wait until she gets to Penn Station when Deniz calls.

"Do you mind if we just go somewhere quiet tonight? I'm not in much of a partying mood."

"No, that's fine." Just weird as hell, coming from Deniz Öztürk. "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah," he answers, and Vanessa wonders why it took her so long to recognise his lies, when now they're obvious in a single word. "It's just been a long day."

A cab takes her to Deniz's hotel and then the receptionist sends her up to the top floor. Finding his door ajar, she steps into a room smelling of air conditioning and aftershave. The bathroom door is closed tight, so she steps past it, picking carefully around the mess that's a sure sign Deniz has been there. Most of the floor space is occupied by a suitcase, gaping open, and a small round table and chairs shoved into the corner. They're covered almost completely with piles of sleek sports outfits, dull blues and greys that should look drab but instead shine like the morning sun sparkling on the ocean. The bed is strewn with more outfits, looking rumpled and worn so she suspects they're from his day's work. Pushing aside the soft piles of cloth, she sits down to wait.

Deniz emerges a few minutes later, but she almost doesn't recognise him. As he comes towards her, arms stretched wide, she thinks how pale he is -- as pale as she probably is, but he hasn't had the excuse of exams keeping him out of the sun. He hugs her and smiles a real Deniz smile, but she sees the shadows circling his eyes, and she wonders how much makeup they've used to hide them. "This isn't how you look after one long day," she thinks.

"Dude, you look like crap," she comments with enough jest that he'll know she's teasing. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were doing real work or something."

"Says the woman who does nothing but sit in class all day. Such a tough life."

He grins, but it's thin; still beautiful but just… less there, somehow. She wonders when he ate last. Probably not today, not if he's had one of his typical shoots. She thinks of Max and how he believed models survived on air alone, with maybe a sprig of celery to revive them at death's door. That didn't work, not for Deniz.

"I'm starving," she says, although she's really not. "What are you in the mood for?"

They settle on a little Mexican restaurant close to the hotel and Deniz insists they order a pitcher of margaritas to celebrate finishing her exams. Even as ragged as he looks, his charm still works on the waitress, and the drinks come extra strong and sweet. Vanessa drinks them too fast and starts talking faster still, about the people she's met in med school, about how everybody is so single-minded that sometimes she wonders if she's doing something wrong, about how the best times she's had were when she was lost in some old bookstore. Deniz asks enough questions about her classes to remind her that he never paid attention in chemistry; she teases him about it, and he laughs for the first time since she got there.

Their dinners come, huge platters of melted cheeses and sauce, steam rising from them and tickling her nose. She feels too relaxed to even eat now, like she hasn't felt in as long as she can remember -- definitely not since she started this crash course in medicine that's left her brain as bruised as her arms always were after a brutal hockey game. She's not sure why, if it's the relief of clearing the first hurdle, or the tequila, or the ease of speaking her mother tongue, or if it's all of those things mixed together, topped with cheese and served with beans and rice on the side. Or if it's because of Deniz, who always could make her feel like herself.

Deniz, who before she knows it is ordering a second pitcher from the server.

She raises an eyebrow, questioning without having to say a word. "Celebration," he shrugs, but this time she knows that's not the reason.

"Okay," she concedes, leaning forward in case he dare think he can get away, "so what's really going on?"

For just a second Deniz seems to flinch, like she's hit him; but that's not as surprising as seeing his jaw harden. "Nothing's going on. Roman says everything's fine and I need to just concentrate on work."

She should have known it had to do with Roman. "It always did," a small part of her sighs in frustration.


"But there's this other guy…"

"Oh, no, Deniz, tell me you didn't…"

There's a lecture perched on the edge of her lips, full of things that she's said to him before and things she'd wanted to say but never got the chance. There's the merest slip of an instant when she realises it's for Roman's sake that she'll finally get to say them. The irony of that holds her tongue just long enough for her to read the affront on Deniz's face.

"Oh," she stumbles, "you didn't."

He fills her glass from the new pitcher, clumsily spilling green ice over the side. But his words sound coldly sober. "No. I didn't."

She's surprised by how her practiced lecture vanishes. "Roman?"

More than once, Vanessa has imagined the comeuppance that Deniz Öztürk would get when his heart was well and truly broken. She's wanted him to know what it feels like to have your heart crushed, your trust mangled. She's pictured him completely broken, his tears unstoppable, with someone else's meaningless "sorries" ringing in his ear. And once, she knows she would genuinely have welcomed that. But those days are long gone. Now, as Deniz tells her about Marc -- and more, about Roman -- she can't find it in her heart to gloat.

"But he's not answering his phone now and I just…"

"You just know."

Vanessa remembers that feeling. She can still sense the twisted feeling in her stomach as what she knew warred with what she wanted to believe. Those lies she told herself back then, they turned out to be bigger than the lies that Deniz had told her. They turned out to be so much harder to recover from; she's still not sure she can trust her own intuition, even now. Strangely, she doesn't want Deniz to have to feel that.

But she knows he does. He looks up at her, eyes ringed red, not windows to his soul but to his heartache. No tears of course, not here in the middle of Manhattan. Those will come later, after they've stumbled back to the hotel, warmed by tequila and the shared camaraderie of the displaced. After they've made it back inside his room and she leans against the door, and Deniz leans against her and kisses her. After she lets him unbutton her blouse, out of detached curiosity mostly, and too much inertia to stop him. Perversely she remembers looking for her CharlieCard that morning, opening her wallet repeatedly and each time hoping the next time she looked it would have miraculously appeared. But of course it never did.

She wakes up many hours later as a siren wails from the street below. Through the still-open blinds, the city's night haze casts enough light that she can see she and Deniz have somehow made it to the bed, with both of them still wearing enough clothes to reassure her that nothing happened. His back presses up against her and he makes fretful little noises in his sleep.

Vanessa remembers a bad dream she had once, long ago, one that she tried to forget, of Deniz making love to her and Roman at the same time. It's lost its sting since; now, it feels like it must have happened to someone else.

She falls asleep listening to Deniz's fitful breath, and hoping that this time, karma will be merciful.

~~~ The End ~~~