It’s the kind of thing Chloe fits into like it was a movie montage made just for her. The dorm room is crowded, full of girls gossiping and telling secrets. Someone made hunch punch, and they’re all just shy of sloppy drunk. They start off playing Never Have I Ever but the game falls apart before things get too serious, and now it’s down to debating the merits of various songs, incredibly uncoordinated choreography, and two girls crying and hugging in the corner, and Aubrey hears, “No, you’re the best singer,” traded back and forth more than once. She relaxes back against the bed and soaks it all in, because this is what college is supposed to be about.
“Hey.” Chloe bumps her shoulder playfully, expression sly. Seconds later, she’s playing with Aubrey’s fingers, tracing along the length of each one in a way that’s destined to make Aubrey drowsy. “See, I told you it would be fun.”
Aubrey could give her the satisfaction of admitting it, but where would be the fun in that? “I’m surprised no one’s complained about the noise.”
Chloe frowns, but she doesn’t mean it. Chloe doesn’t mean most things, like the way she’s pressed up tight against Aubrey’s side or the way she looks up at her from under her lashes.
“You need to loosen up,” she says, nose crinkling, and twines their fingers together. “You need to get laid.”
It’s not as if it’s the first time she’s heard that, but Aubrey hadn’t really expected it from Chloe. “Everyone always says that, but have they stopped to consider that getting laid doesn’t result in a magical personality change? Anyway, what if it’s bad sex? Then it would only make things worse.”
“Then don’t have bad sex.” Chloe says it like it seems like a natural solution to the fictional problem.
The crying in the corner turns into an argument. There’ll be more crying later, and hugs – this is the way these things go, Aubrey knows – but for now it’s stuck in a chapter full of incomprehensible shouting and door slamming. For a moment, it’s as if someone has turned the volume down. No more uncoordinated dancing, no more debates. A few more people break away, drawn like moths to the flame at the promise of drama, and Aubrey smirks.
“Maybe we all need to get laid,” she says, head dropping back. She’s moved past drunk and into tired.
“Oh, yeah?” Chloe shifts so she’s leaning against Aubrey’s side. Her lips are so close to Aubrey’s ear that Aubrey can feel the heat of her breath. She shivers involuntarily; Chloe has always been a tease, has always pushed and pushed until she bumps up against one of Aubrey’s walls. It’s a game. Aubrey knows this, knows that Chloe doesn’t mean anything by it, that she doesn’t mean half of what she says, but sometimes it’s easier than others to remember. “You have any prospects?”
Her chin is resting on Aubrey’s shoulder. It wouldn’t take much to bring an end to the teasing. All Aubrey has to do is push back a little, and Chloe will run away from her own game.
She flips her hand in Chloe’s, bringing their palms together. “As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure someone’s flirting with me right now.”
Chloe freezes against her, and Aubrey’s smirk widens. It’s against the rules of Chloe’s little game for Aubrey to call her out on playing it.
“Not that she’d know what to do if I actually took her up on it,” she teases, snuggling into the way Chloe’s still draped against her side. “She’s all talk.”
She almost laughs at Chloe’s squeak of indignation.
“I am not.”
“You totally are.”
Maybe part of her was hoping she’d prompt a reaction. She doesn’t have any other excuse for not letting it go. Still, she’s surprised when Chloe slides into her lap, knees on either side of her hips. The room has emptied out – drama on one side and a drunken booty call or two on the other – but it’s not their room and it’s nowhere close to private.
“What are you doing?” she asks, because Chloe is toying with the ends of her hair and settling in like she plans to stay for a while.
Chloe shrugs. “Calling your bluff.”
“You think it’s a bluff?” Aubrey slides her hands around Chloe’s waist, thumbs brushing against bare skin, because two can play that game.
Chloe nods coyly.
“So kiss me.”
“Be serious, Aubrey.” Chloe’s lighthearted laugh is painful. Aubrey wasn’t thinking there’d be declarations of love, but she didn’t think there’d be this, either.
She shakes her head and tries to keep her voice light. Nothing good would come out of bitterness. “You’re just a tease, Chloe Beale. That’s all you are.”
“No fair,” Chloe says with a pout. It’s cute on her, the way it’d be irritating on just about anyone else. “Why do I have to do it, anyway? How about you kiss me?”
She’s smiling like she knows she’s going to win, and if Aubrey wasn’t going to do this anyway, that would be the thing to make it happen. There's a quip poised and ready, a trite line like ‘Well, since you asked so nicely,’ but Aubrey’s tired of playing games.
“Oh,” Chloe breathes out as Aubrey’s lips touch hers, soft but unyielding, and Aubrey’s got this. She’s got Chloe squirming in her lap and whimpering, clutching Aubrey’s shoulders to ground herself as Aubrey kisses her. She’s moving through the best moves in her repertoire, starting with soft, teasing licks against Chloe’s lips all the way up to a nip of teeth sharp enough to sting.
She pulls away and grins, because Chloe’s looking lost and breathless. “You can’t expect me to do all the work,” she says, tucking a strand of hair behind Chloe’s ear. “The next step’s all you, Beale.”
For a moment, she thinks maybe this will be it. They’ll be seniors one day, laughing about that one time at that one party, and maybe there’ll be enough time between now and then for it not to hurt.
Chloe stands on shaky legs, kiss-swollen lips and messy hair. She’s as shy as Aubrey has ever seen her, twisting the hem of her shirt between her hands.
The seconds tick past and Aubrey fights against the part of her that wants to look away.
“You coming?” Chloe says finally, hand extended, and the sparkle is back in her eyes. Aubrey takes it, lets herself be pulled to her feet and into Chloe’s arms, and Chloe is laughing. It’s clear and joyous, and she’s pressing a kiss to the underside of Aubrey’s jaw, and Aubrey begins to think this might not end in disaster.
But this is her friendship, too, and worth more than an experiment. “Are we okay?” she asks, suddenly serious.
Chloe’s smile is breathtaking. “Yeah,” she says, arms tightening around Aubrey’s waist. “But it’s my turn now, and I bet I can make us even better.”