The Girlfriend ~ Chapter Two

A multi-chapter Benedict Cumberbatch/OC fic.

Chapter 2

Diana was mixing drinks for the night and as she served a Manhattan, someone sat at her bar. She looked up at the dimpled grin of Dean O’Gorman.

“I was wondering if you’d make time to physically see me before you left town.” She smiled. “All I got was a call asking for a favour three days ago.” It had been three whole days since her fake date.

The man chuckle. “Yeah, I’m horrible. But it went well, yeah? Were you horrible, break up with him? What?” He asked.

She arched a brow. “I was supposed to be bad? Woops. Martin and Amanda love me. I scared Benedict when I sat down, for sure, but I was a good date.”

“What? No! He needed to get rid of his fake girlfriend.”

Diana shrugged and stocked her bar shelf with clean glasses. “He will. In a little bit. If I had known I was supposed to be bad, which you did notmention, then I would have been. Instead we’ll go out, pretend for a couple dates, and then I’ll muck it up, no worries.”

“Eh, I guess that’s better than being a bitch.” He looked at her from his stool. “I don’t know him very well so I can’t tell you how that’ll go.”

“So far so good.” She shrugged.

He changed the subject. “So how are you?”

It was a few years ago that she met Dean. He was visiting London, just for a week, so it was pure luck. Diana was in a bad way, with an ex-boyfriend who owned the flat they shared and not only cheated on her, but gave her a smack when she dumped him and kicked her out. She didn’t have a job, only sixty pounds in her purse, and only enough time to pack two suitcases before he hit her and she had to leave.

Dean came across her and her bloody lip around midnight while she sat outside the tube station, waiting for morning so she could get a train to her mum’s. He was annoying and wouldn’t leave her alone, even when she snapped at him, verbally poking at her and asking what was wrong until she cried. And he sat through the short story before he drove her all the way out to Harrow.

They talked after that. He asked how she was and what was going on constantly. Dean was probably the only person who knew how much she disliked her mother, the nag who barely spoke a word since she decided to go to culinary school instead of law school, and was mentally abusive before then. So when she got a job at a pub he paid for her first month in a little flat to get away from the woman, and Diana would never be able to say thank you enough.

So they caught up, now a big actor and a well on her way restaurant owner just recently out of a lot of debt. When bar hours were over she snuck into the kitchen and got them both some cheesecake – there was always leftover that went home with someone either way because she would not serve day old dessert.

“By the way, the name of your place is stupid.” Dean mocked her.

“Hey, watch it, Dwarf boy.” She laughed, eating the tip of the cheesecake. “It’s a celebration. I still live in that cheap flat, I dropped out of culinary school, I worked in a pub, yet I own this huge chandelier lit restaurant in the EC4 postcode.”

He smiled. “Alright, fine. Still stupid.” She kicked him under the table. “Ow, hey. I was going to compliment the cheesecake but now I’m keeping it to myself.”

“I don’t need your compliments. I make the best cheesecake in existence.”

“Cocky.” He scoffed. “I’m going home tomorrow. You should make the flight out soon. You said you’d let me take pictures of you before the year was out.”

“Yeah.” Diana nearly forgot. “Sure. I’ll come see you or if you come back don’t forget your bloody camera.”

“Good point.” Her phone rang in her pocket and Dean lifted a brow. As she checked it he picked up the plate and fork. “I’m taking this and leaving.”

“Hey!” She shouted as he walked away. “You can’t take the plate!”

“I’ll bring it back before I leave tomorrow!” He shouted back at her, and she was just glad that the few tables there didn’t look.

She answered the phone before it could stop ringing, not having checked the number. “Hello?”

“Hi- hello. Hey. You’re voice sounds different.” Someone rambled. “Of course it does, you’re on a phone. Ugh Um- this is Ben…edict. Benedict.”

It took a lot not to laugh. No wonder it took him so long the other night to actually join the conversation. “Hello, Ben.” She simplified, since he for a moment didn’t even know what to call himself.

“Hi. Hello, Diana.”

“Yes, as you’ve said about five times, hello.” She joked. Maybe she shouldn’t, though – teasing him when he seemed out of his depth. “Can I actually help you, darling?”

She could actually hear him take a deep breath in. “Right, yes. Word sort of got out about my girlfriend- well, you. You and me having dinner with Martin and Amanda. Now my mate Adam wants to invite us to go on a trip to this rented cottage out near Shere and I told him no, but he’s one of my oldest mates so can you come meet him and tell him no for me?”

Diana took another bite of her cheesecake. “Why not? I can take a couple days.” She told him. The only despairing thought was that it was October now and it would be cold.

“Because it’s a couple days! I don’t know anything about you and I don’t trust him not to poke and prod until he has answers.” Benedict panicked.

She took the fork out of her mouth. “So let’s get together and make up something. And if anything you can say we’ve only been dating for, I don’t know, a month. Who knows their girlfriend that well after a very busy month? Especially when you’ve been out of the country for part of it.”

“No, no way, no how. I can’t do this. I can barely do what we’re doing now and I haven’t even seen you since it started. Plus, it’s two bedrooms. There’s and ours. No way!”

Diana actually laughed. “Okay, as much as I love the panic attack – sincerely, you’re hilarious when you freak out and I’m sorry – just stop for a second.” She told him. “When does he want to do this?”

“Um, one month. Well, three and a half weeks. The fifteenth and to that Sunday. But we’re not doing it.”

“But it’s in a month.” Diana told him. “That’s perfect, you know. Until then we can hang around, be a couple. And going away together for the first time is the perfect segue into breaking up.”

“How?” He spat out.

She made a face he couldn’t see. “Remember? I’m going to not be ready for commitment. That’s sort of a serious thing.”

“Oh.” Benedict said. There was still resistance in his tone, though. “I guess that makes sense. But- No, still can’t. Nope. Sharing a bed with you while my best mate is making sex jokes? No thanks.”

“You can’t just be an adult and share a bed with me? And when in doubt, joke back! Tell him we’re banging, I don’t care.”

“That is so disrespectful to you.”

She gave a laugh. “Yeah, apparently I’m quite crude when I wanna be. As can you. I don’t live in a cave, I know you have.”

“Yeah, all in good fun.” He chuckled. Diana said nothing as he paused, taking her last bite of cheesecake. “Let’s get together. I won’t say yes but we really do need to know each other, don’t we? And you do have to meet Adam either way or he’ll think I’m hiding something.”

“So you and me scheming, and then dinner on another night with the mate?”

“Sounds good.”

 ~~~~~~

Benedict walked into EC4 for the first time that Friday. It was phenomenal. A specials board read out a cheaply priced prime rib and rosemary potatoes. A weekly planner board had neat cursive listing the weeks specials from days prior, and Saturday only had a small claim of ‘The bar TVs will be showing Doctor Who should it be on.’

But it was classy. Table clothes were clean and pressed, place mates, fine dishes, a chandelier over the hostess and no doubt more in the restaurant. A bar was through the arch to his right, and dining room to the left. He glanced around a bit as he walked in, shocked. That girl he met not even a week ago owned this place?

“Welcome to EC4. Would you like to be seated or have a drink tonight?” The hostess asked without even a glimmer of recognition. If she knew who he was, she ignored it.

“It’s four minutes to closing and you’d actually serve me?” He asked, glancing at his watch. “That ridiculous. No, I’m here to pick up Miss Burke. We have business plans.” Not a date, he wouldn’t say date. They were just going back to hers to chat.

The hostess smiled a bit more realistically. “Good. Everyone hates late customers. Why don’t I take you to the kitchen?” She offered.

“Yes, please.” But she was already walking away and Benedict had to take a quick hopping step to keep up.

The dining room really was beautiful. Four large table, each with glittering dim lights in glass chandeliers. Along the large windows of this second floor restaurant were tables angled kindly to see the river view. Private booths were in a darker corner, spaced far and varying in size. Tables scatter the rest of the space but it was still very, very open. And very empty at this hour.

The hostess stuck her head into the kitchen. “Anna, your appointment is here.”

Appointment. Benedict tried not to laugh as she held the door open and gesture him into the kitchen.

Diana was with two other chefs, the boys cleaning diligently as she unfastened the buttons of her chefs coat. “Oh, you. She said appointment and I got really confused.” She laughed.

“I said we had business plans. My fault, really.” He told her, looking over the kitchen. “I’ve never seen a restaurant kitchen before. Are they always this pristine?”

“No, which is a very bad thing, but my boys keep us to code.” She nodded at the men. “I’m good to go, but we can totally stay for some pudding. I’ve got tiramisu I can’t sell tomorrow.”

“I would say no but I want the sugar!” He was salivating just at the thought. “Screw my diet. I’ll beg.”

Diana slipped out of her chefs coat with a giggle. “Go sit. Pete, Luke, go home. Tell everyone I’m closing.” She told the guy.

Benedict let himself out and looked at the room again. As he sat at a smaller table against the window to see the beautiful view of London at night, the rest of her staff were leaving. Waiters, chefs, a bartender, the hostess. Just as they left, Diana came through the kitchen door in the plain blue jeans and white v neck she wore under that coat, her hair still in a ponytail. She had two plates and set one in front of him.

He noticed instantly his piece was bigger than hers. “This looks so good. Exactly what I need.”

“Save the meretricious compliments for after you taste it.”

They both took their first bites and Benedict let out the most suggestive moan. The coffee tasted so much more divine, the mascarpone creamier than he knew possible, the cocoa just bitter enough to contrast the rich dish so it wasn’t a stomach ache waiting to happen. That was the best tiramisu he’d ever tasted.

“If I could cook I’d be asking for a recipe. I think I just came in my pants.” He blurted without thought.

Diana took it in stride. “Just don’t get anything on my nice tablecloth.”

“I’ve never tasted anything like this! This is fantastic.” She gave him a look. Benedict snorted. “Really? I said I came my pants, but the compliment you raise a brow at?”

“It’s nothing compared to my cheesecake.” She responded. “We’re out of it tonight. Fridays. People tend to either fatten up on Friday or share it with a date.”

If only he could taste that, considering she thought it was better than this. “Well, next time.” He commented. “And how did you ever get a place like this? I knew you owned it, but you look… not like a business owner.”

“Because I’m only thirty, right?” He didn’t even have to agree or nod. But she looked young. Honestly, she looked much younger than thirty. “I got a massive bank loan after I bribed them with a massive amount of food. Apparently it tasted good enough to get me here.”

“I’ve never actually been here.” He told her. “But it’s fantastic. Like the Ivy or Blacks got a makeover and was a bit more reasonably priced. You must get the whole spectrum of customers.”

She nodded, not even giving him a second look as he stuffed his mouth with a generous bite. “We offer certain, private discounts to groups larger than four. Children eat half price off of this private menu we have, and if you drink at the bar, any secondary drink from the restaurant side is free. I do not want to alienate someone because of their pay check.”

“Good. Charitable. That’s actually really sweet.”

Diana shrugged. “I worked in a pub with a mother of four who was my best friend, and I thought if I didn’t have a few things to offer, I’d never see her again. She would never come here. But she does now and then if only to laugh at my bar skills.”

As they ate she asked, “So what do you think you need to know about me? Might as well get to business.”

“Well, I got age, so birthday. Not that I’ll remember it, but the month might stick and Adam knows I’m dim with dates.” He admitted.

“August fifth. And I think I know yours but I’m also crap at dates.”

“Good, so I wouldn’t be the only one forgetting out anniversary.” He laughed until he realized how foolish and forward that sounded. “You know, hypothetically. I should probably also know a bit about how you became a chef.”

She cleared her throat. “Um, well, my father was a doctor. When I was young and went to his place he was always cooking. It was what he wanted to be, not a doctor. So I got into food. Not cooking. Just food. And I was super fat.”

Benedict almost choked, laughing hard without meaning to. “No, you’re messing with me.”

“I am not.” She repeated slowly. “I had the plethora of stress inducers. Divorced parents, wench mother, school bullies. I was a really thin girl until about fifteen and you know, fifteen’s a shite age so everything was ten times worse and when my dad died I gained like five stones.”

“Jesus, sorry.” He didn’t expect that death of her dad.

“Nah, it’s cool. Not cool, but, you know. Anyway, lost half that when I moved out and went to school. Lost the rest after I met Dean.”

“So if I ask Dean for stories about you, they’ll all be about a chubby girl.”

Of everything she just told him and he had said, Benedict didn’t think that would be the thing to offend her. “Don’t talk to Dean about me. Please. That’s just… a whole other story.”

“You didn’t date him, did you?” Benedict could see that bit being awkward.

“God, no.” She told him. “But I told you he’s always saving my arse and I would do anything for him. It’s really not an exaggeration, and notrelevant to all this.”

“Alright, deal.” He told her.

They sat there talking a very long time after closing, even indulging in more tiramisu. It wasn’t the planned trip to her house and doing this there, but this was just as private in the moment. Benedict asked one or two questions, about her schooling. He learned she dropped out six months before graduation. He learned about the pub, as well. Other than that, conversation really carried off topic like a date really would have been, getting to know each other.

In the end they parted outside of EC4 with the promise that Benedict would call as soon as he could work something out with Adam.