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she grabs me, she has me by my heart

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It’s like this: dark, dingy, musty; a little dangerous and a little seductive all at once - while he’s holding his breath sometimes Benny has the fleeting thought that they belong here, that they belong to rooms like this where their gilded charade might be as plain as the nose on your face, if only one were to squint a little cross-eyed. 

Today’s chump is a rather naive-looking businessman that Beth met in a previous lifetime: Harold, Benny thinks his name is. 

The dealer’s burning the deck when she walks in. She’s clinging onto his arm, laughing at something he’s said, glowing in her red evening gown that makes her hair look all the brighter. Every man in the room looks up - how could they not? - and Benny forces his gaze to lower after only a second. In this place, they don’t know each other, not like at the other speakeasies where it’s just Beth and Benny, where everyone knows them for who they really are rather than who they pretend to be. 

Tonight’s particular establishment is more than a skosh classier than the others they frequent, with a matching list of clientele. Surrounding them are expensively-clad gentlemen and their equally expensively-clad companions: men in double-breasted suits, women in silk frocks and velvet cloche hats. Were he a more insecure man, Benny would perhaps feel a tad out of place in his slacks-and-suspenders getup, but he’s been assured by his fashion-minded partner that he looks rather smart, and he’s inclined to believe her. How could he not, with her looking the way she does? 

He watches the two of them with his peripheral vision, taking note of every tiny way Beth reacts to Harold’s company. She’s an old pro: all her standard ripostes and quips are locked and loaded, and Beth navigates this man’s company with practiced, delicate grace: a swat to the arm when a joke is made, a coquettish moue when his attention strays from their conversation, a giggly grin when drinks are offered. Benny feels almost sorry for this man - it’s impossible to remain impervious to Beth’s charms, particularly when one isn’t aware they’re being dazzled in the first place. He seems especially taken, and Benny can’t help but wonder if perhaps Harold was already sweet on his girl, when they knew each other before. 

Before evokes imagery of empty coffee cups and long, long nights spent alone sitting next to the dealer. Before means life without Beth, meant aimless wandering in big cities with a biting sensation on the soles of his feet, like he could never rest for too long. Before meant endless gambling and empty pockets, eventually evolving into little systems - perhaps some would call it cheating, were they so inclined - just so that he could stay ahead, stay up. 

And then there’s after, when Benny’s little systems became big systems and they learned to stay ahead and stay up together. 

He found her - or, more accurately, she found him - on a night much like tonight. Beth had walked in on the arm of a wealthy, faceless man with the initial goal of emptying his pockets while he was otherwise occupied. 

Instead, Beth had become preoccupied with Benny. 

 




He tries not to become unnerved by the wiry figure in a willowy dress standing behind him - it’s Benny’s job to be focused on the game, and his concentration has been tuned like a fine pocketwatch. 

It’s not like he’s not used to spectators. So what is it about this stranger that makes him want to turn around in his seat and stare back? 

Eventually, the hand ends, and while Benny is checking his earnings, she slides into the newly vacant seat beside him. He plays coy for a minute - he’s counting his cash - but all the while, he can feel the weight of her stare on his profile. Benny can tolerate it no longer, he lifts his gaze to tell her to knock it off only to find the redheaded stranger smiling gently at him. It’s disconcerting enough that he can only close his open mouth and stare. 

It takes a minute; he’s been drinking. “You know, don’t you?” 

She smiles wider; says nothing. 

He has to be astute - if he lets onto his act in front of the bouncer (conveniently only a few yards away) he’ll be in for a world of hurt. Benny has to choose his words strategically. 

“How?”

The redheaded dame tilts her head, still smiling. “You need to be more careful.”

“Careful?” he scoffs back, though it’s an act. She’s not the first person to figure him out, but she is the first to catch onto his game without being told what to look for. 

“You do this thing, with your hair -” she reaches out and grasps a tendril between her pointer and middle fingers - “where you tuck it, here, behind your ear, whenever you use a pocket ace.” Her fingers follow suit, taking a moment to linger on the dot of skin there. 

It takes another minute for Benny to react to what she’s said, so focused on the fingertip barely grazing his flesh, when his reaction finally catches up to him. He hisses, a swallowed shushing noise, and throws a glance at the bouncer, who by the grace of god is not paying attention. His companion makes a small noise of shock, and it’s only then that he realizes his hand has grasped hers - the fingers that had, moments ago, touched his hair so gently are now being tightly squeezed with his own. 

Benny freezes. The dame freezes. Time itself freezes while they stare at each other, both of them gaping slightly, before she composes herself and pulls her hand back, only to push it forward a moment later. 

“I’m Beth.” She presents her palm facing downwards, the way that women do so that men can kiss their knuckles. 

Benny slides his hand under hers, only to tilt it sideways so that their palms are pressed together, perpendicular to the floor. “I’m Benny.” 

She smiles.

 


 

She’s like this: gale-force winds through a grassy plane; a shock of ice cold water sprayed through the faucet early in the morning, an entire force of nature onto herself as she whips through his life, taking whatever she wants. She’s ruthless, lawless, relentless; he’s helpless

“If you call me crazy one more time, I swear to god -”

“It’s a crazy fuckin’ idea, Beth.” He paces across the tiled kitchen floor, turns on his heel when he reaches the sink and heads the opposite direction. 

“So you come up with a better one.”

“Ha ha.”

“Benny.” Slender fingers fold around his wrist, and his gaze follows the natural trajectory up to meet hers. She’s full of earnest anticipation, she’s too excited for him to dismiss her insane idea outright like he wants to. “We can do this. We have to do this.”

And she’s right - they’re running out of time in this godforsaken city. There are only so many corners they can hide, so many chances they get to start over before they’re run out of town for good. Not only that, but funds are running low, which is terribly inconvenient timing considering the fact that Beth wants a big rock and a wedding to match. 

She’s got terribly expensive tastes, his girl. 

He waits for a moment, his eyes darting across the planes of her face. He knows her, knows that she thinks she’s telling the truth; he knows that she believes this is a possible stunt to pull off. The honesty is written in the corners of her mouth, in the way they’re drawn down ever-so-slightly in a concentrated frown. 

Frankly, he’s inclined to trust her, despite how skeptical he is. She’s the cleverer one of the pair and they both know it, and as much as Benny would like to think himself the mastermind behind their plans he knows the truth - Beth is in charge. 

He sighs, resigned to her powers of persuasion; the fact that she only needs to look at him with her doe eyes and her pursed lips before he’ll give in. “Tell me about it.” 

 


 

It’s like this: 

They fall into bed together - the way they do everything together. There’s a mad dash to remove clothes; illicit hands below waistbands and belts. She grips him under his trousers and he winces, nearly - it’s all so much.

He gets her naked, nearly; takes a moment to admire the sweep of her skin as it stretches across her collarbones and decolletage; takes the opportunity to lay kisses there in a row going downwards. He pulls first one, then the other nipple into his mouth and she keens under the pressure of his tongue and the graze of his teeth. 

There’s a tumble of tongues as he pulls his pants down the rest of the way, kicks them off the edge of the bed, and holds himself in his hand, spreads her legs with the other. She laughs at his eagerness, but he knows his eagerness is matched in the way she surges up to meet his lips, climbs into his lap. There’s a long moment of silence as their sexes meet, followed by a long sigh as Beth lowers herself down on Benny’s cock. 

It’s like this:

They chase their releases, rocking together, Beth holding onto Benny’s shoulders, Benny’s face buried in Beth’s neck. He wiggles a hand between their bodies; rubs against her most sensitive place and she moans

Beth comes undone first, with Benny following, his lips locked on her neck in a way that will surely leave a blotchy stain, visible in a few minutes. 

They lie together, her head on his shoulder, her fingers tracing the creases of his chest. “You really wanna do this?” he asks, looking down at her. “Go after the Russian?”

There’s a pause where Beth leans forward, planting a lingering kiss on his lips, and then smiles up at him - so sweetly. “Yeah,” she responds. “I do.”