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somewhere along the way.

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Allison giggles to herself when she drops one of the four king sized Reese's Peanut Butter Cups that she is trying to juggle in her arms with two cans of soda as she rifles through her pocket for the hotel room key. The thought that all this sugar might be unnecessary when they already have a bag of sweets from their visit to M&M World earlier that day enters her mind but she quickly shrugs that thought out of the way with the reminder that the sugar won’t go bad. Allison makes a small noise in triumph when she finally manages to wiggle the thin plastic key out of her back pocket and open the door without dropping anything else. She puts her foot in the door while she bends down to pick up the candy she dropped earlier, raising her voice so Lydia can hear her.

“Boo, the vending machine didn’t have any 7up but they had your second favorite soda, Ginger Ale, so I got you that inst-”

Allison doesn’t even need to look up to notice that something is off. It isn’t a noise that sets her on alert but rather the lack of noise makes her back go rigid in preparation for a fight. Her voice slowly tampers out as her mind kicks into huntress mode. She stands up slowly, her eyes darting to the side to see if she has unwanted company as well as where her closest weapon is hidden. Worst case scenario, she knows she will puncture a hole in the soda can to momentarily impair the vision of an attacker so she can grab the dagger from her boot.

Her eyes quickly sweep the entire hotel room and find not a single person, not even Lydia. Panic settles deep in Allison’s stomach as she does a second pass of the room, noticing the messy bed sheets and the crooked bedside lampshade. An irrational part of her mind thinks that this might be a hate crime against them for holding hands and exchanging kisses in public but then she remembers that things like werewolves and banshees exist so it could be a supernatural attack. That calms her in a sad sort of way because supernatural creatures are something she knows how to handle. She drops the food on the nearest table before unsheathing the Chinese dagger from her boot, she keeps it down by the side of her arm as she nears the bed slowly, unsure of what she will find.

The sight that greets her makes her makes her stomach feel as though it turned into lead. She quickly catalogs the blood on the sheets, pillow, and crumbled comforter. It doesn’t look like more than a soda can;s worth which means that Lydia could still be alive (she has to be alive). Allison efficiently but quickly checks the entire hotel room to secure her belief in being alone. She is trying to think rationally about the next step to take like where she should check next or who should she even contact but the idea that someone has hurt and taken her girlfriend, her best friend, is making her see red. All different possibilities of torture that Lydia could be facing right now flash through her mind making it hard for her to concentrate. She stops herself in the middle of the hotel room, taking a deep breathe in through her nose and out through her mouth to center herself and bring her back to the moment, to the task at hand: finding Lydia.

That is when she notices it, something that should have been the first thing to catch her eye. She mentally berates herself for overlooking the message that seems to be clawed out in the wooden headboard: “B13”. Without a second glance, Allison grabs her compact bow as an added boost to her weaponry and confidence as she leaves their hotel room and heads for the stairs.

Allison walks quickly down the fire staircase to the basement, her heart beating so hard that it is the only thing she can hear. On the outside she looks calm and collected, like she is just running late for a Broadway play or something but on the inside she is analyzing every single creature with claws that could have Lydia right now.

The first person Allison literally bumps into, brings her out of her mind and back to taking in her surroundings. The staircase is packed with people heading up to their rooms as if a function or a party just let out. She grits her teeth as she weaves against the flow of traffic, down the stairs as everyone moves up against her. She wishes she had Lydia’s hand to hold hers, to anchor her down as she tries to push her way through. It feels like it is taking ages to walk through these people, like they just keep coming and coming. It also seems as though she has walked down more than the four flights of stairs needed to reach the basement. She can’t help but feel like she is wasting time, precious time that could mean Lydia’s life.

Once Allison finally breaks through the crowd, she takes a deep breathe as she opens the door labeled “B”. She finds herself in a pretty empty parking garage which seems odd for a hotel in New York City, it gives her an unsettled feeling in the pit of her stomach; it makes the hairs on her arm stand up. She glances around the garage, trying to remember where she saw the rooms earlier that day. She had seen them out of the corner of her eye when Lydia made a joke about how so many action films have a sketchy scene in a garage just like this one. Maybe that was Lydia’s banshee powers foreshadowing this moment right here… God, where had they been standing?

Allison turns around and right behind her is a series of doors, the one she is looking for is dead ahead with the door slightly ajar. She swallows hard as she moves quietly towards the door, one hand reaching out for the doorknob, the other popping open her compact bow. She whips open the door as she levels up her bow to her eye and peers into the room. The image of what she sees will forever be burned into her mind; it her makes her breathe stop short. Lydia’s body is curled up on the cold concrete floor in a pool of her own blood. The wall behind her displays an eerie message in what is sure to also be Lydia’s blood (because isn't it always?): “too late”. Time seems to stop as Allison rushes to Lydia’s side on the floor. She gently shakes Lydia’s shoulder, a small glimmer of hope fills her when Lydia’s eyes slowly flutter open. Allison’s heart starts beating fast as tears stream down her face while she searches her pocket with one hand for her cellphone, the other rests in Lydia’s hair.

“Lydia! Lydia! You’re still alive! You-You have to stay with me. Just stay with me. I’m going to call for help. Lydia? Lydia! Stay with me.”

Lydia opens her mouth to speak, now Allison can see the blood in her mouth and how pale Lydia really looks in the harsh fluorescent light. She reaches for Lydia’s hand and leans closer to make out the whisper soft words Lydia is trying to say.

“Allison? Why-why did you take… so long?”

“I’m so sorry boo. I got here as fast as I could. I really did-”

“Why? Why couldn’t you… why couldn’t you protect me?”

More blood fills Lydia’s mouth, coating her lips now. Allison’s tears begin to fall harder down her face as her breathe becomes short from how hard she is crying. She is squeezing Lydia’s hand, refusing to acknowledge how cold it is starting to feel and how Lydia’s eyes are having a hard time focusing on her face..

“There were so many people. I don’t know Lydia. I don’t know. I am sorry. I am so-”

Something firm hits Allison in the head causing her to blink in pure confusion. When she opens her eyes, she is no longer in the basement garage but rather back in her bed in the hotel room. She blinks a couple of times taking in her surroundings with a certain sense of disbelief because that dream, that nightmare, felt more real than they have felt in months. She looks next to her on the bed and is met with Lydia’s worried face, a book in her hands ready to throw. Allison’s eyebrows draw forward in confusion.

“You were having a nightmare then you started crying so hard you were hyperventilating. I knew I had to wake you up but I couldn’t touch you… The pillow was too soft and I was worried the notebook might not be hard enough.”

Allison’s hand reaches up, touching her still damp cheeks from her terrifying nightmare. She tries to smile but it probably comes out as weak and vulnerable as she feels.

“Thanks boo.”

Lydia leans in closer to Allison to wipe the tears off her cheek, a private smile on her lips. From this close, Allison see the crease imprints from the pillow on Lydia’s face. Embarrassment fills Allison as she realizes her clothes are damp from sweating in her dream and that she definitely woke Lydia up. Suddenly, feeling incredibly self conscious Allison pulls back out of Lydia’s reach and removes herself from the bed.

“I’m sorry I woke you. I’m just-just going to go for a little walk.”

Lydia’s concern is obvious in the way her eyebrows draw together and her eyes soften.

“It’s okay babe. Any time. I much rather be woken up in the middle of the night than have you go through a nightmare alone. Do you want me to come with you?”

Allison blushes at Lydia’s words, a warm bubbly feeling of gratitude fills her stomach but she knows that she needs to clear her head.

“No it’s fine. I’m just going to go to the vending machine that I saw by the elevator. Come find me if I’m not back in 5 minutes.”

“Okay. I will be right here.”

Lydia says as she gestures to their bed. Allison rolls her eyes fondly as she grabs her wallet and leaves their room. She walks to the vending machine and stops when she notices the soda machine next to it. A ginger ale sounds like a better option than a bag of chips. She slips a dollar into the machine and pushes for a ginger ale. As she waits for her soda to dispense, she surveys the vending machine in case anything catches her eye. She picks up her soda when she realizes something, the vending machine in front of her looks exactly like the one in her dream even though this is the first trip she has made to it. When the notion that she might still be dreaming hits her, she feels as though someone has dumped a bucket of ice water on her. She turns and runs back to the hotel room, needing to see Lydia right away. She frantically tries to open the hotel door but swiping the card too fast each time so the light blinks red instead of green. Lydia opens the door for her from the inside, she says teasingly,

“Struggling with the door-”

“Lydia. How many fingers do I have?”

“Allison, what’s going on? What happened?”

“Just count my fingers with me! Please!”

Lydia lets Allison in and closes the door behind her. She takes the can of soda from Allison’s hand so she can hold up both of her hands. In unison they count upwards from one,

“One… two… three… four… five…. six… seven… eight… nine.. ten.
Ten fingers Allison. You have ten fingers as do I.”

Relief surges through Allison allowing her shoulders to slump forward. She pulls Lydia into a crushing hug before whispering in her ear.

“The vending machine was exactly the same as the one in my dream. I thought-I thought I might still be dreaming.”

Lydia’s hands rub up and down Allison’s back, she kisses the side of her head and squeezes her tightly before pulling back.

“You are okay. You are awake. You are safe.
Do you want to talk about it?”

Images of the nightmare like Lydia’s body on the concrete floor, the blood on her lips, her cold hands all flash before Allison’s eyes and she shakes her head no as Lydia leads her back to bed.

“Not yet.”

Lydia hums in understanding as she sits on the bed, tucking her feet beside her. She gestures for Allison to join her and rest her head on Lydia’s lap. Allison does just that, relaxing immediately into Lydia’s touch as she plays with her hair. It puts her mind at ease but her body is still too on edge to fall back asleep. Lydia doesn’t speak, knowing that Allison has more to say.

“It just felt so real, you know? I haven’t dreamt like that in months.”

“Some days are harder than others… I think being here, in the city, threw us off. I think the mass amount of people puts you on edge.”

“Pfft. You sleep pretty fine.”

“Babe, you have a darkness around your heart that I don’t. No matter how much time goes by you’ll still have that. Things affect me differently, you know that. Like entering cemeteries is still hard and really draining for me.”

“Yeah… you’re right. I think it is crowds. They feel suffocating...”

“Why don’t we leave then? Let’s leave now instead of in the morning. I’m ready to put these bright lights far behind us.”

“You just want to be able to spend more time at the Smithsonian museum!”

Lydia laughs at that comment which earns her a grin from Allison.

“You discovered my true ulterior motive! It isn’t like you are a history nerd either…”

Allison turns her head slightly so she can look up at Lydia, mock betrayal on her face.

“That’s my super secret secret!”

Lydia laughs at the expressions on Allison’s face before leaning in close. Her hair falling forward and creating a strawberry blonde veil around their faces. Allison’s lips twist up in a soft smile as Lydia’s breathe ghosts on her lips.

“You don’t need to keep secrets from me”, Lydia whispers against Allison’s lips before closing the distance to kiss her sweetly. Allison whispers back just as softly,

“I know.”

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The Smithsonian museums holds every bit of wonder and amusement for Lydia and Allison that a playground holds for a child the first time they visit one. They stay for almost six hours and still manage to not see every exhibit they had outlined in their agenda. The visits to all of the exhibits in each museum take a slow toll on Lydia, signs of exhaustion showing in the form of pinched lines around her eyes and the tightness in her smile as the hours drag on. Allison asks a half a dozen times if they should take a break but Lydia fights her on it each time, saying it’s all in her head and she wants to see more of D.C.

Allison is waiting for Lydia to get out of the bathroom before they leave the Smithsonian when a table that is set up outside catches her attention; they are selling handmade flower crowns. They look beautiful and Allison knows they will be just the thing to liven Lydia’s mood.

When Lydia comes out of the bathroom, the first thing she notices is the white and red flower crown in Allison’s outstretched hand. She glances from the crown in Allison’s hand to the one on her head, back down, then back up to Allison’s beaming smile. Allison steps forward and places the crown on her head.

“For you my Queen.”

Lydia rolls her eyes with a happy smile on her face. She looks up into Allison’s eyes.

“Does that make you my knight in shining armor?”

“Absolutely. We both know I would look great in armor.”

Allison replies as she leans forward to kiss Lydia firm on the lips, her tongue darts out to tease Lydia’s slightly parted mouth before pulling back to take her hand in hers.

“Come on boo, a couple more stops then it is time for dinner!”

Five hours, twelve memorials, and two meals later, Allison and Lydia finally find themselves in their quiet and peaceful motel room. Allison immediately heads to the bathroom to clean herself up after the long day while Lydia sits herself on the edge of the bed, letting her true exhaustion from the day’s activities show. Her face becomes blank as if mentally, she isn’t present. Allison calls to her from the bathroom,

“So D.C is pretty cool! I have never seen so many statues in one place before. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial was one of my favorite surprises today. What about you boo?”

Lydia doesn’t respond, her eyes looking far into the distance. Allison recognizes the expression coupled with the exhaustion as something Lydia experienced years ago when they tried staying at a sketchy motel with the track team. She approaches and kneels by Lydia’s side cautiously.

“Lydia? Lydia! Are you okay?”

Lydia blinks slowly, allowing her eyes to adjust and come back into focus. She continues to look straight ahead when she speaks in a quiet tone.

“There is so much death here…”

Realization dawns on Allison at that moment. She reaches forward and takes Lydia’s hand into hers, squeezing it to bring attention to her.

“Boo, we didn’t have to stay if it was too much for you. Fuck. This must be like one huge fucking cemetery for you. We don’t even have to stay the night, we can leave right now.”

“I wanted to prove that I could do it; that I am getting stronger. I don’t think I am.”

“You don’t have to prove shit to me, boo. Especially if it risks your health. You have always been one of the strongest people I know and you are always brave for others. Come on, let’s go. I am even packed already?”

Lydia turns to look at her, exhaustion etched in all the lines on her face. Tears silently fall down her cheeks from being tired and frustrated at her own limitations as she offers a watery smile to Allison.

“Thanks babe, but can I shower first? I feel pretty disgusting.”

Allison leans forward and kisses her forehead gingerly before standing up, bringing Lydia’s hand with her. Lydia sways slightly on her feet but Allison catches her around her waist, smiling back.

“Yeah, of course. I can help you shower?”

“I’d like that.”

Even with the combined background knowledge of what happens when two people share a shower from multiple porn viewings, nothing quite compares to how intimate and vulnerable it is between the two of them when they have lowered guards and no other motive besides to become clean.

Lydia slips out of her shoes as Allison slowly unzips her dress then unhooks her bra. She turns around so that Lydia can return the favor, her fingers gently linger on Allison’s shoulders as she helps ease the dress off. Allison helps steady Lydia so she can step out of her dress and underwear, holds her arm still as Lydia lifts her legs into the shower. Once under the shower head, Lydia closes her eyes to roll her head back and just lets the warm water wash over her, relaxing her muscles from head to toe. Her eyes open slowly, water droplets on her eyelashes, when Allison opens the shower door to join her. Allison gives her a shy smile as she steps towards her under the streams of water, reaching for the washcloth.

It suddenly dawns on Lydia that she has never been completely naked in front of Allison in full light before and the thought makes a blush rise to her cheeks. When Allison’s arm grazes hers as she reaches for the soap, it sends a chill up her spine. She returns Allison’s shy smile, reaching up to touch her face. She leans in slowly and presses a chaste kiss against Allison’s lips. Allison pulls back to lick the water off her lips before returning for a deeper kiss, allowing the water to wash over both of them. Slowly, she begins to scrub the washcloth over Lydia’s hips and up her stomach as she kisses her softly under the water. Lydia sighs into Allison’s mouth as she scrubs over her boobs, teasing her nipples with a slight pinch.

They break apart so Allison can clean Lydia’s neck and back, her fingers burning trails down Lydia’s skin as she starts working her way down Lydia’s body. Lydia feels as though she is on display when Allison looks up at her from under her lashes while she gingerly washes Lydia’s feet. There is a fond look in Allison’s eyes when Lydia giggles at the tickle from the washcloth which calms Lydia inner turmoil. Even though this is the most open she has ever felt, more open than when she returned the key to Jackson when he was half kanima half boy, she doesn’t find herself minding because she trusts Allison.

Lydia reaches down for the washcloth and pulls Allison back up into a kiss. She takes a turn scrubbing the grime from a day of touristing in the D.C summer heat off of Allison’s neck and chest. They spend the next couple of minutes with nothing but the white noise of the water hitting the basin and their hands exploring the curves and grooves of each other’s skin. It builds a low level of arousal in the pit of Lydia’s stomach that makes her skin feel tingly and extra sensitive. Allison moves back into Lydia’s space to kiss her deeply while she turns off the water. When she pulls back, Lydia’s eyes are slightly hooded so Allison gives her one last peck before leaving the shower to grab them both towels.

Allison wraps Lydia in a towel when she steps out of the shower, kissing her softly on the lips one more time.

“Once you are dressed, we can leave this political place far behind us.
You good?”

Lydia blushes, realizing how similar Allison’s words sound to the ones she had muttered just the other day when they were in New York City. She recognizes that Allison isn’t mocking her, rather showing that they can take care of each other; she shows her gratitude with a wide smile.

Thanks babe.”

Allison puts her arms around Lydia’s waist to pull her in close; she kisses the top of her forehead before giving her a small sweet smile.

“Anytime boo, anytime.”

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