DISCLAIMER: I own very little, and nothing that is related to this show, apart from this story.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: No spoilers in this chapter, but potentially to the end of Season 3 later. This is a collection (not in chronological order, so perhaps incorrectly titled) of the Alice/Dana relationship, which seems so much deeper than the credit its given. Big thanks to Michelle and the good people on Livejournal.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"A man walks down the street
He says why am I short of attention?
Got a short little span of attention and, oh, my nights are so long
Where's my wife and family?
What if I die here?
Who'll be my role-model now that my role-model is gone?"- Paul Simon
Saturday, June 30th 1990.
Weather is a humid evening 80°. Sun all day. Pavement slabs still hot at night.
Dana sits on the back porch steps of her neighbour's Orange County home as their pre 4th of July party soldiers through into the night. There are burnt-out sparklers strewn around her and empty cardboard rocket shells on the lawn in front. Dana had missed the sparklers, turning up to the party late from training, and she'd never really liked the fireworks too much too loud, too sudden. She sips a beer. Mostly just those screaming firecrackers that she hated. Roman candles were okay
Footsteps behind her on the concrete clip smartly and stop. Dana knows who it is, hides her half-empty bottle between her thighs, sucking in her breath when the cold glass touches her skin.
"Dana, honey, don't stay up too late, will you? You've got practice tomorrow."
"Okay, Mom," she says and doesn't move until she hears the shoes clip away again. Her hand slips back to the bottle, but freezes on the neck when a shadow slinks down from the house to stand beside her. When she risks a glance up, a skinny girl with long, pale legs lights a cigarette on the steps beside her, flicking her strategically messy hair away from the lighter flame. Dana pauses, says nothing, can see more of this girl's legs than perhaps the short skirt intended.
The flame catches, skinny girl sucks the Lucky Strike and surveys the long garden laid out in front of her, stretching from her tattered sneakers into the darkness, seemingly unbounded.
"Holy shit, you O.C. people are fucking loaded," she mutters.
"Huh?" Dana says, and winces to hear herself sound so gormless. The girl looks down at Dana, as though she didn't know she was there. She surveys Dana's face with a careful consideration that Dana finds embarrassing, wondering if this girl can see her blushing in the angled porch light. Then the girl smiles, and sinks to sit beside her.
"I mean look at this place," she continues. "It's fucking huge." She takes another drag and notices with a grin when Dana tries to subtly swipe the smoke away. "You live here?"
Dana shakes her head quickly, takes a swig from her beer bottle trying to feign nonchalance. "No, no do you?"
"Shit no," the girl says. "But I'm friends with Greg from college. He's in my band." And she pushes the hair from her eyes with a coolness Dana fell for completely. Dana's eyes move to Alice's slender fingers, can imagine them plucking deftly at guitar strings, can imagine them plucking deftly at the clasp of her bra. "How do you know Greg?"
"Uh - I, uh, I live next door." Dana says. The girl glances to the equally-sized OC home over the fence and laughs.
"Holy shit." she says again and Dana's blushing once more in the dark. "The girl next door, huh?" Dana risks a look to her side and notices that the girl is leaning closer and that she can see right down her top and she can't stop looking.
"I'm Alice," she says and smirks, following Dana's eyes. Alice wasn't wearing a bra.
Dana glances up, guilty. "Dana."
"So, Dana," Alice begins and has a mischievous glint in her eye. "Did Greg ever get with you?" And she loves it when Dana tenses up, coughing a little on her drink.
"What? No no, Greg? No. I don't No, really, no." Dana blurts. She pauses, her eyes travel back to study the smooth contours of Alice's breasts. "Did he uh with you?"
Alice shrugs her slender shoulders casually, not noticing the strap from her thin tank top slip down her arm. "Sure. But we broke up, because I started going out with this girl."
Just like that, no biggie. Dana's mouth falls open.
"A girl?" she repeats, hears that too, hates herself for how ridiculous she sounds. She sounds exactly like the straight-laced, Orange County-living daughter of Republicans that Alice had probably already pegged her for.
But Alice doesn't seem to care. "Sure," she chirps. "You go to college?"
"Uh no," Dana says, recovering. "No, I play tennis."
Alice stares for a moment. "Oh you mean, like, all the time?"
"Yeah I play professionally."
"Shit. You must be good."
Dana shuffles awkwardly on the step. "Uh yeah, I guess. I'm not the best, but yeah I'm alright."
"You must be really fucking good."
"I guess "
A pause as a soft Pacific breeze rustles the leaves and touches their ankles. Dana glances again at this Alice girl: the sharp determined line of her jaw, the penetrating blackness of her eyes, and her breasts... 'Fuck!' Dana wants to yell. Why did she fall for every girl once she knew they were gay? As though their confidence and surety would save her from her own fear. As though they'd want to take that burden off her shoulders and let her tongue between their legs in a shroud of secrecy and self-preservation.
"Which one's your tennis elbow, then?" Alice asks. Dana looks her blankly, wondering how long she'd been staring, wondering if Alice knew.
"Sorry," Alice says. "That was a dumb joke."
Dana still can't think of a word to say, but swallows in her dry mouth as Alice flicks her dying cigarette at the lawn.
"You want another drink, Dana?" she offers, springing to her feet. "Can I get you another beer?"
A broad, grateful smile breaks onto Dana's face and Alice can't help but smile back at the sight of her. One thing about Alice that Dana notices is that the girl just can't stay still. Even waiting for her answer, she bobs on her tiptoes and swings her arms.
"I'd like that a lot," says Dana.
"Okay okay, cool. I'll be back in a second. Wait here," and she half-skips back into the house.
Dana feels the thump of music, the sudden rush of sound when Alice slides the patio door open and shut. The song is Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al." and for eight years afterwards, she still associates this song with the feeling of letting something wonderful slip away. It still makes her feel a little sick, makes her stomach lurch. It's only eight years later, when she's taking a road trip to San Francisco with Alice driving her, Melanie and Brooke for Dana's first Pride that she can finally hear the line, "If you'll be my bodyguard / I can be your long-lost pal." without feeling that aching pang. It's on Alice's mix-tape when Melanie's hand travels between her legs in the back seat of the car and Dana doesn't notice Alice looking, and looking away, in the mirror as they accelerate up the I-580.
Six minutes after Alice disappears inside, the door slides open again and Dana turns with that same huge smile, only to see her mother standing there.
"Dana, really, it's almost one am. I want you to go to bed right now." In that tone of voice that Dana's never had the courage to defy.
"But Mom "
"Dana. I mean it. This is your future."
And through the glass, Dana notices, in the seethe of people inside, Alice dances with Greg and a beer in each hand. She probably didn't stand a chance anyway. Defeated, she drags herself to her feet and slouches past the stern silhouette of her mother.
"Well, I've had four beers, Mom," Dana utters, bitterly. "So don't expect greatness tomorrow, or anything."
"Dana!" Sharon Fairbanks' outrage isn't well-hidden in the dark.
"Fuck it." mutters Dana and tries to dull the wrenching in her chest when she scuffs her shoes on the steps up to her front door.
Out on Greg's back porch, Alice finally wrestles her ex-boyfriend's drunken hands from her ass and escapes through the back door to find her gone. She sighs, setting down one beer on the step Dana had been on, and downs the other before heading back indoors.
When Dana peers out of her bedroom window into Greg's back yard, she sees the scattering shadows of her little brother Howie and his best friend George as they flaunt their pre-teen freedom and delightedly discover Dana's drink on the porch steps. They snatch it up, tiny thieves, and chase each other over the fired bottle rockets into the darkness at the end of the garden, crouching in the bushes, sharing the bottle with both hands. Dana goes to bed, doesn't sleep, and barely finds the energy to serve the ball from the baseline the next morning.
Eight years later, at the San Francisco Pride, Alice says,
"I totally knew you were gay from the first moment I met you." She's painting a rainbow onto Dana's face in the hotel room, gently with the paintbrush over Dana's high cheekbones.
"You did?" Dana wants to move her head to look at her more closely, but knows Alice would kill her if she moved now and fucked up her careful artwork.
"Sure. I have a very acute gaydar," she says proudly. "And I knew you were totally into me."
Dana coughs. "Uh, well, yeah I was so in the closet then, I was pretty much instantly in love with everyone who wasn't."
Alice nods her head and unsuccessfully bites back a smirk. "Right sure. I probably won't need this paint, though." And she tosses the little pot of red face paint into the equally red-faced Dana's lap, laughing.
"Shut up, Al," Dana says, giving her a little shove.
That's the same night Alice gets that tattoo on her arm and then gets wasted as amateur pain relief, finally passing out in the hotel elevator. That's the same night Dana leaves a smudgy face-paint rainbow on the inside of Melanie's thigh.
To Be Continued
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