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Gold in the Air of Summer

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Alanna never really expected that Lioness Rambling would take off. She'd just gotten tired of posting angry feminist rants to her Facebook page because she hasn't unfriended all of her conservative relatives (mostly because she likes staying informed on how much she should hate them) and seeing their responses made it even harder to not start fights at Thanksgiving. So she put up a blog and started collecting stuff, and it somehow got popular. She's got all these regular commenters and other people contribute articles there's a subreddit that's just dedicated to hating her. She gets interviewed sometimes for her opinions. And, now, apparently, meetups. They're having meetups.

She texted Jon because she's nervous and he just texted back ur famous on the internet, which is all he ever has to say about her blog. She doesn't know why she tries texting Jon about things. She texted Thayet, and Thayet asked if George would be there. She doesn't know why she texts Thayet either. Her friends are useless.

George is one of her moderators. She knows he's local, he's twenty-eight, and he works for a non-profit that does advocacy for foster kids. She was pretty sure he could not possibly be telling the truth about this, because it sounds like the kind of thing a guy would make up to get internet brownie points, but she actually found the non-profit and his name was right there on the site. Then she spent ten minutes browsing and looking to see if they'd posted any staff pictures, felt like a creepy stalker, and went for a run.

He's coming to the meetup. They were on gchat last night and his last message had been see you tomorrow. actually see you :) and she'd stared at it for an embarrassingly long time.

This might be why she's nervous.

She's thought about proposing that they meet before. She's written out the message more than once, but she's never managed to actually hit sent. She's drunkenly rambled to Thayet about how much she does and does not want to meet George Cooper. And now she's going to. And there might be Reddit trolls coming to egg her.

So that'll be fun.

*

Alanna is late to her own internet group's meetup, because of course she is. It's just at a coffee shop, so it's not like there's an empty chair waiting for her or anything, but still. She probably could have planned this better. She didn't have to change outfits quite so many times.

She pauses outside the door, taking a few deep breaths. Then she realizes there's a window and they can probably see her, tries not to blush, and goes in. There's a decent group in the corner, mostly women, but a few men as well, chatting and laughing with no obvious people there just to be assholes. There's also a tall, lanky guy leaning against the wall, trying to look casual, but he jerks up as soon as the door chimes, and when he locks eyes with Alanna she just knows. It's George. She gives him a small smile, heading toward the counter, and he grins back, pushing off the wall and coming over.

"I was worried," he says, sliding into line with her. "Thought you might've bailed on us."

"It was the train," she says, trying to breathe normally. He's really tall, over six feet, and he has a great smile, and he even smells nice. She didn't think he could possibly be attractive, on top of being George.

"You always say that," he says, and the small knot of worry that she was wrong, that this was someone else, dissolves all at once. She laughs.

"Shut up," she says, and throws her arms around him, hugging him fiercely. "Hi, George."

George laughs too, picking her up and twirling her a little. "Good to see you." He puts her down and beams at her. "It's goin' pretty well, so don't fret. They're talkin' about Sleepy Hollow right now."

"I knew I should have caught up," she says, putting in her order.

"On me," says George, pulling out his wallet.

She raises her eyebrows. "Is it?"

He clears his throat. "Well, I've been meanin' to ask you if you wanted to get coffee for a while," he says. "Better late than never, right?"

She tries very hard not to blush. "What if I wanted to get you coffee?"

"Then you can pay for mine." He winks. "I never say no to a drink from a pretty lady."

"Do you flirt with all the feminist bloggers you follow?" she asks. It comes out a little snappier than she means.

George is absolutely serious. "No. Just you."

She bites her lip, trying not to smile. "In that case, what are you getting?"

*

They're the last two left at the end of the meetup. It's not exactly subtle. Buri even winks at them when she says goodbye. Alanna glances up at him. "I think we got set up," she remarks.

"Yeah, that was thoughtful of them," he says. "Saved me the trouble." He rubs the back of his neck. "I'm comin' on pretty strong, huh? Sorry about that. I just--I can't believe you're really here."

Alanna smiles a little, and then reaches out and squeezes his hand. "Do you know how many times I've tried to ask if you wanted to meet up?" she asks.

He laughs. "I think I've got an idea, yeah."

"So, do you have any plans for dinner?"

"I certainly hope so."

*

He walks her to the train after, and she takes his hand after only a block. She likes his hands. She kind of likes everything about him. He's just like she hoped he'd be.

"You want to come over tomorrow?" he asks. "We could watch that Sleepy Hollow. Get some takeout." It's hard to tell in the dark, but she thinks he's blushing.

Alanna hasn't had a boyfriend in two years, not since she and Liam broke up. She's never felt like she's very good at this stuff. But it feels easy with George. She wishes she'd done this earlier.

"Or you could come over tonight," she says. "I've got it on the DVR."

"I was goin' to be smooth," he says. "Walk you to the train, kiss you goodnight, leave without lookin' back. I had it all planned out."

"Mmm," she agrees. "Or you could come over now."

"Or I could come over now."

He kisses her at the station anyway. "Couldn't wait," he murmurs, and they make out until the train shows up.

They don't get to Sleepy Hollow until morning.