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“Wonder why we bother with love if it never lasts.”

        An empty cafe on a cold fall afternoon in a small town was usually not a good sign; to

Carmilla it was practically heaven. It wasn’t quite yet resembling a ghost town, in fact the few people there surprisingly brought a sense of comfort with the clinking of spoons touching the corners of glass mugs, the courteously gentle murmur of small talk among friends and lovers across tables, the delicate squeal of steam escaping the espresso machine, froth being added to tops of hot cocoa - the whole thing was actually quite peaceful. That was until her waitress nearly came tumbling down on top of her latest philosophical read.

She decided to try something new after her usual read, Camus’ “L’Étranger” , had suffered some serious water damage following her brisk walk to work. The forecast hadn’t called for rain but rain it did right onto the paperback, curling the edges of the pages and smearing the ink. Until she was able to get her hands on a new copy, Sartre would have to suffice - though “ le Mur ” barely survived either as the spilling coffee only just missed the edge of the book. Her first reaction was to grab the tray and it was a good thing she did or else both her and the waitress would have been soaked in a scalding Americano.

“I’m so sorry I-” The waitress sighed and grabbed a couple napkins out of her apron pocket, “The usual waitress called out today so I’m trying to take over her job. Clearly, there is a reason why I stay behind the counter.”

Carmilla looked up at the familiar face that she usually saw behind some sort of cafe-machinery with a small smile. She couldn’t help herself. The woman, though frustrated, was so calming to look at. Her blonde hair settled past her shoulders with a few strands out of place and her eyes, though filled with frustration, clearly held something worth acquainting with behind them. What that something was, Carmilla was unsure of, but it kept her from feeling frustration of her own and instead, wanting to assure the woman that her mistake was nothing but.

“It’s nothing to worry about, Cupcake. Sartre’s work has been saved and there’s still coffee in the cup,” She felt another smile threatening to return as she grabbed the coffee off of the tray before handing it back to the woman.

“Laura,” She stated as she wiped coffee stained part of the table as well as the ring around the plastic platter where the hot liquid had been caught in the creases, “You can call me Laura.”

“Alright, well thank you again for the coffee, Creampuff” She smirked to herself at the blatant disregard for the woman’s request but upon seeing the look on her face, Carmilla felt a sense of obligation to adjust her tone, “If it means anything, I would much rather have you bring my coffee than the usual big hungry giant. She doesn’t seem to be too fond of me.”

The smile that came to the blonde’s face told Carmilla everything that she needed to know. For once in her life, she was not regretting continuing a conversation.

“Danny just doesn’t like that you give her a hard time.”

“It’s not my fault that she can’t take a joke.”

“I heard you referred to her as ‘the Amazon’ the first time you ever set foot in here.”

“Well that’s because she tried to flirt with my-,” Carmilla instantly swallowed, cutting herself off. She didn’t want to get into this. Not now.

Laura picked up on the change in mood, “I was going to ask where she-...I’m glad that I didn’t.”

Carmilla had no response. She was glad that Laura hadn’t said anything either but that went without saying. Elle was now someone of the past and she was meant to stay that way. The brunette sure as hell did not want to be reminded of the person who she used to believe would be a part of her world until the end of her days now only to become the one person that she was determined to forget - a goal that was seemingly more difficult than anticipated considering everyone in this town knew everything about anyone who grew up within the 20 mile radius. Carmilla, unfortunately, was one of those unlucky ones. It only made her dream of escaping even stronger. She had to get out of here. It wasn’t as if anything exactly tied her to the town anymore. It was only a matter of being brave enough to see what was out there - a risk she had been debating on taking ever since she had discovered that there was no reason to stay. Being pulled from her thoughts upon realizing that Laura was still standing next to the table she raised her mug with an eyebrow raised.

“Oh sorry! I was staring wasn’t I?”

The brunette shrugged as she took a sip of her coffee. It was as good as usual but for some reason, it was tasting oddly sweet.  

“Would you like to sit?” Carmilla asked before she could stop herself.

Perhaps it wasn’t just the coffee.

 

Disadvantage was a concept that was all too familiar to Laura. It was as if everyone was three steps forward, Laura was two behind. Her father had always kept her within arm's reach, a habit that he never seemed to grow out of - if she was ordering at the bar, he was wiping down the counter - and as frustrating as it was, she never protested. She knew his smothering was out of love and she couldn’t complain too much about that. She loved him too. He was her rock and she was his. The loss of her mother, disadvantage one, had him wary of anything that could be potentially dangerous in order to keep Laura from her mother’s same fate. Her mother’s passing was that of a freak accident but he still couldn’t take the chance of losing the only other woman in his life. Without her, he had no one. That was Laura’s fear. Disadvantage two. It seemed as if every move she made was careful and deliberate. Her teachers in school always thought she had a problem because she was never as rambunctious and rebellious as her peers but it was for her own safety. The fear that her father had instilled in her left her in a constant state of awareness when it came to her actions. At dinner she would face her knife towards the plate so if she were to reach for her spoon, there was no chance of injury. In class, her pencil would never be sharpened to a pristine point in case of accidental poking and anything involving the operation of a motorized vehicle was completely out of the question. Her bike was her best friend and she had planned to keep it that way - frequent exercise reduced her chances of heart failure - no matter the looks she got riding down the main strip of town with her helmet and protective padding. Disadvantage three. She knew she was different but growing up in a small town with only one person to call her friend, who just so happened to be outcasted as well, was not necessarily something that made life easier. Her father always praised it as there was only one person to conduct a background check on but it was rather discouraging when servers were no longer asking how many people were in her party. She was tired of being a table for one. Now that LaFontaine was tied up with their own partner, a mysterious girl Laura had yet to meet, she was truly lonely. She wanted to branch out, truly she did, but the risk...it was a factor she just couldn't rule out. In fact, she had stepped out of her box more than she even expected of herself. She could practically taste her own fear during her interview at the cafe but she had gotten the job so she supposed that meant something. Working with boiling water and steaming machines was dangerous work and it was truly a big step for her as if you had asked her only months before, there would be no way you would find her anywhere near such intricate machinery. But she had to step outside of her shell and this was her way of doing it. She was proud of herself and that was enough.

 

           Elle hadn't always been so unpleasant. In fact, before everything fell apart, Carmilla had seen a future with the woman - a long one at that - making it only that much harder to watch her walk away. She had never truly understood what had gone wrong but she had her suspicions. It seemed as if the more time Elle had spent with her at mother’s home, the further apart they drifted. It was all so confusing. She would beg to visit the place the brunette had once called home but upon walking through the antechamber, it seemed as if Carmilla was the guest to this tête-à-tête between her mother and the woman she once loved. She would consistently find herself in the room she had once called her own, lying in her bed, purposely remaining still on top of the sheets to avoid having to redress it, staring at the ceiling attempting to comprehend the new found relationship between the two women and the dwindling of her own.

“Did mother attempt to pull you into one of her business scams?” The brunette asked as she slid into the passenger seat, finally leaving her mother’s home after what had felt like hours upon hours of waiting.

“Don’t be such a bitter child. Your mother is truly a rational woman,” Elle replied pulling away from the manor in her suspiciously new sports car. Carmilla had not thought much about it at the time. It was only now that she had realized how questionable the other woman’s finances were becoming as only weeks before they had been attempting to cut out other expenses in order to pay their utility bill on time. How had they gone from living paycheck to paycheck to suddenly being able to afford luxurious automobiles?

The brunette had no response to Elle’s declaration and simply intertwined their fingers on the gear shift in an attempt to hold onto what they had left.

That’s why she turned the radio up to drown out the deafening silence.

That’s why she pretended to not notice the new bracelets on Elle’s wrist that jingled when she turned the wheel.

That’s why she swallowed the lump in her throat when Elle knew an alternate route from Mother’s to their home.

That’s why she ignored the feeling in her stomach when Elle pulled her hand away without a trace of hesitation.

 

           They drifted slowly but it was noticeable. It started out small with Elle not showing up to their coffee dates. Then it was dinner. Next thing Carmilla knew, she was showing up at Elle’s office only to find that she had never gone to work in the first place.

Her first assumption was that the woman was cheating - and technically she was - but just not in the way that the brunette had imagined. Sure she was spending all of her time with another woman; that woman just happened to be Mother. She wasn’t so sure what would be worse.

She needed to talk it out. Talk to someone who would listen without bias. That person used to be Elle but before her, there was someone even closer. Someone who sometimes seemed to understand her better than she understood herself. A sister. Sure, Mattie had never been one for secrets but with that also came her lack of subtlety. That was why only minutes in, she had completely skipped the small talk and had addressed the elephant in the room.

“So what's the deal with your play thing’s new romance?”

Carmilla had avoided the question before Mattie could even have a chance to acknowledge her deflection. It didn't last long though as Mattie seemed to always get what she wanted.

The first time she had actually let Mattie speak, Carmilla’s suspicions were confirmed was over an overpriced glass of bourbon, courtesy of mother’s collection. The older woman had been traveling in Morocco for over a year and only decided to stop back home on her way to New York to catch up on how management and statistics were playing out for her local businesses.

“So you see, the catch is to just take it to Morocco with me and place a label on it. Our customers think that they are progressive and we’re making double our expected income.”

The brunette looked over at her sister languidly, “Sounds like exploitation of the less fortunate.”

Mattie’s posture faltered only for a moment before she rolled her eyes, “This is why you never made it in this business.” She took a sip of the wine that she had also managed to swindle from mother’s cabinet. It was truly a miracle that someone who seemed to catch everything, never quite noticed when a bottle of liquor was absent from its respected spot. Carmilla could only wish mother had been so absent-minded when it came to piano practice and etiquette classes. Perhaps that would have kept her from needing to steal so much liquor in the first place.

Mattie kept up with her business talk for a long while until she realized that it was no use. Carmilla wasn’t listening and it wasn’t long before the two were taken back to their teenage years - tipsy in Carmilla’s old bedroom, preparing for mother’s rage if she were to catch them. It was amazing how outside of the home, she had always been so strong but it was as if simply stepping through the foyer left her as a child once again. The conversation turned from Mattie’s vocational success and to the voice of the two women walking past Carmilla’s bedroom door and in the direction of mother’s office.

“My, just how long have I been gone?” Mattie questioned as her eyes followed the assumed path that mother and Elle had just taken.

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing.” She waited a moment, “I’m just saying - I know for a fact that a year ago, you would not have been exactly comfortable with your plaything and mother being so much acquainted.”

“Okay for starters, Elle isn't my...plaything. This is different and I’m sure she’s just trying to make a good impression.”

Neither of them believed that. Carmilla felt the lump in her throat as soon as she said it and prayed that Mattie was too buzzed to call her out.

Oh was she mistaken.

“Mother seems to be making an impression on her as well, huh? Last time I saw your little project, she was wearing rags about as bad as yours, now she can afford Cartier bracelets? Either you have finally touched that fortune of yours or she is finding a new place in mother’s hand.”

With Carmilla’s silence, the older woman took it as an invitation to keep going. “What did you say her name was?”

“Elle,” The brunette spoke quietly, playing with her fingers.

“Ah - so that's whose name has found its way onto mother’s paperwork.”

Her head shot up instantly, “What?”

“Oh, you didn't know? That seems to be her new business partner. You know you really should read the forms that mother sends us.”

It was as if she could hear nothing else. She was sure Mattie was still talking and probably shaming her for not listening even right now but she couldn't help it. All the faith she had in this relationship, in Elle, in herself and none of that had mattered. She had opened up in more ways than she could count to give everything she could to the other woman and still became nothing but a gateway.

She thought Elle was different. She had to be. What kind of fool was she to get close enough to let the woman so close only to have her slam her head in the doorway that led straight to mother’s business and right into her bank account? How had she been so careless?

“A-Alright sis, I’ll see you later,” Carmilla stood up, interrupting the other woman and letting her feet direct themselves towards the door as her mind remained in its haze.

 

The ride to her apartment was that of a blur but she managed to carry herself around the building, through the brush and into the maze of the evergreens until she arrived in a place all too familiar. The first time she discovered the world behind her home was in a drunken stupor after a less than pleasant phone call with her mother and ever since then, it had just become her place of comfort. She hadn’t used it much but she had a feeling that after tonight it would be of much more use to her for a while. She lay in the grass her hair most likely picking up grass and leaves and whatever else Mother Nature had to offer but she didn’t mind. Looking up at the stars above, she couldn’t help but wonder how she had let herself get to this point. Wondering how she had been so neglecting of reasoning that she allowed herself to love. It was as a young girl that she discovered how insignificant of an impact she had on the world around her, especially compared the stars that scatter the dark skies above her. It was comforting to know that in a world so vast, her vices and worries meant nothing to that light. In this moment, comfort is exactly what she needed. She watched above her until the stars began to fade into the sky and the darkness began to dissipate into the soft arrival of the morning. She had been out much longer than intended but it was what she needed. At this moment, Elle had found her way into the back of Carmilla’s mind and the stress of her mistakes was no longer so apparent. That which had once been in the forefront had now found its place in the vault right next to all of the other memories she wanted to forget.

She pushed herself upright and began to make her way back to her apartment, the morning dew striking its wetness onto her ankles. She didn’t mind. The cold air sent something of a chill down her spine but she tried to hold onto the reminder that at least she could feel at all.

It felt like ages until Carmilla felt stable enough to confront Elle. She was never a particularly confrontational person, no matter the persona she upheld, and the idea of addressing the actions of the person she was supposed to love for the rest of her life was a weight in the pit of her stomach she was less than thrilled to address.

As she stepped up to the door of their apartment, she felt the sudden inclination to knock - just another example of her anxiety in a space that was technically her own. With a turn of the knob, she stepped into the entryway with hesitance, taking a quick scan of the room, to find everything in its place - except for the kicked off heels by the entryway. She was here. Any other time the knowledge of Elle being home would bring a smile to her face but at this point, the other woman’s presence was at the bottom of her list of desires.

Drawing her attention the clock, she couldn't help but sigh. She couldn't prolong this any more than she already had. The tips of her fingers tapped against her thigh as she made her way to the bedroom, slowly pushing the door open to find Elle lying there looking as peaceful as ever. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that Carmilla felt the oppressive weight of all that she now knew in the pit of her stomach while Elle was able to rest her head on a down pillow on only the freshest of sheets in a state of pure relaxation. She supposed it made sense though. She knew better than to let her guard down but she disobeyed herself and this was her punishment. It was what she deserved.

About an hour had passed with Carmilla sitting at the edge of the bed waiting for Elle to awake until she looked over her shoulder at the sound of the woman rustling within the sheets. There was a moment of stretching and movement of bedding before silence.

“Well don't just sit there.”

The brunette was caught off guard for a moment but did her best to regain her stance, “Did you sleep well?”

“As always.”

Disgust. That was the feeling consuming her being.

“We should talk.”

Chapter Text

The craft of a barista was something that seemed to come naturally to Laura. Sure, she was careful in her actions, allowing every drink she made to turn out just right, but her work was swift. It was as if nothing else mattered in that moment but the brew and the customer. Every other worry or concern she had seemed to fade into the background; it was just her and her art - and that's truly what it was, art. For such a dangerous task, it was rather impressive that Laura of all people had taken to it. She was considerably clumsy but all of her motions were fluid and confident when she was at work. Needless to say, it was a surprise to many when they saw ‘strange little Laura’, a less than appreciated nickname that had caught on in primary school after her father had called her that in front of her classmates during a field trip to the farm (How was she supposed to know that quail eggs were not ideal for pants pockets?), in such an intricate and appreciated field. Her talent was impressive - so much so that she would receive tips specified for her in the tip jar, though she never kept it all for herself anyway. The other baristas and servers liked her - especially Danny. The tall red-head seemed to be immediately drawn to her and sure it was incredibly endearing but Laura couldn’t help but feel as if Danny was only a watered-down version of her father. When she first started it was helpful to have the taller woman shield her from the steam, or open the oven or walk her to her bike even though the sun had barely set. Over time, despite her intentions, it felt more condescending than charitable to have Danny take bottles from her hands when she was carrying them from one station to another at the start of her shift. Laura was careful enough, she didn’t need a hand reaching over hers to take dishes out of the washer. She didn’t need constant safety checks. She didn't need another father.

It was kind of nice at times to know that there was someone who cared enough to worry that much about her safety. Besides, Danny was attractive and it was kind of nice to get attention from someone like her. She was a year older but Laura knew her from school as a well-rounded athlete and student - if there was an event, Danny was there. She had a lot of things going for her and it was not as if Laura did not like to be seen with her, it was just not so great to work with her. She knew the redhead had some sort of feelings for her and she was sure she would develop them too, she just wasn't sure how to approach the situation. She never had anyone pay her enough attention to have feelings for her so the fact that she was experiencing it now so closely was foreign.

“Morning, Laura. Do you need help with anything? I know the water is pretty hot.”

There it was.

She looked over at Danny and plastered a small smile on her face, “Good morning. I think I am doing alright, thank you. I’ll let you know if I need help.”

“I’ll still check in just in case.”

Great.

She had no response but to turn her head and begin preparing her station for the breakfast rush. As the front door opened, in came LaFontaine with their hair everywhere and a copious amount of stains scattered across their apron. It was amazing how they were able to consistently find themselves on the verge of being late every morning. Laura initially assumed it was because they were technically dating the boss but that theory quickly proved itself untrue when Perry came out of the office, eyebrow angrily raised and a hand on her hip.

“LaFontaine! How many times do I have to tell you-”

“I know, I know! But Perr, listen, I think I might have made an actual discovery this morning!”

“Did you wash your hands?” Perry scolded, but only for a moment as she couldn't help but roll her eyes and her partner’s pout, “Alright, alright tell me about after the rush.”

Laura couldn't help her smile as the redheads embraced each other in a hug, love in both of their eyes as they pulled away. She wondered when she would find someone like that - if the day ever comes. Would it ever come? As cliché as it sounds, her whole life she had been virtually invisible. Sure, she was recognized on the job, but as soon as the apron came off she was just another face in the crowd - and for living in a small town, the crowd was not substantial in the slightest, making her invisibility only that much more disheartening. She was never necessarily looking for love but maybe if she never stepped from behind the counter, love would find her instead.

She could only hope.

 

The trips to the cafe increased in frequency for the brunette. She wasn’t sure if it was her new-found coffee addiction, seeing as she had been surviving on sleepless nights, or perhaps it was the blonde barista who was not-so-secretly peering at her over the espresso machine. They had been playing this game for a couple days now. The causal flirting on Carmilla's part, the nervous rambling on Laura’s. It was almost like clockwork. Today was different. Today it was not Laura who delivered her drink but a large redhead who looked not nearly as thrilled to be making the trip.

“Americano?” She asked, sitting the cup on the table.

Carmilla only nodded as she lifted the mug to her lips and took a sip before looking over at Laura, who was still watching, with a smile.

“Can I get you anything else?” Danny asked with sarcasm practically dripping from her lips.

Carmilla ignored her tone and replied with a simple shake of her head, her focus never leaving the barista.

“Hey,” Danny snapped, drawing Carmilla’s attention away from the blonde and back to the Amazon. “She’s not into that.”

She was rarely caught off guard, Mother had practically drilled anticipation into her brain, but at that comment, the brunette nearly choked, “I’m sorry, what?”

“Seriously, she’s not interested so don't bother.”

Carmilla sat up a little straighter, not missing a beat, “Not that it’s any of your business but I believe the change in her expression just now says otherwise.”

The redhead turned around and sure enough, Laura’s whole neck had gone red, her eyebrows furrowed in embarrassment. The look in her eyes was one of panic so Carmilla gave a small smile to ease the other woman’s nerves - what had gotten into her?

“Look...I already tried and it’s clear she’s not into that.” The expression on Danny’s face instantly changed from angered to disheartened in a matter of seconds. As pathetic as it was, Carmilla couldn't help but feel even a little bit sorry for her but she wasn’t about to let her know it.

“Sounds like it’s clear that she’s not into you. Now as honored as I am, if you’ll excuse me, I would like to finish my breakfast without Xena herself breathing down my neck.”

The last comment earned her a scowl and a not-so-subtle “fuck you,” before Danny made her way back to her station behind the counter. Carmilla didn't mind the response one bit. Especially considering the look Laura was giving was no longer one of embarrassment but pure anger. She watched their interaction with pure satisfaction - the sinking of Danny’s shoulders being true icing on the cake. It was clearly no longer a competition but she would play it as if it was anyway - Danny was just making it too easy. Downing the rest of her coffee in a couple gulps, ignoring the discomfort of the hot liquid coating her throat, she rose from her seat and nonchalantly made her way to the counter where Laura and Danny stood, tension filling the air around them.

“I’m sorry to interrupt-”

“You aren't,” Danny interjected.

She wasn't.

This time, Laura didn't even try to hide her anger. It was a look of pure disgust at the redhead before she turned back to Carmilla with an expression a bit short of a smile but encouraging her to continue.

“I believe I was saying to Laura that the coffee was amazing as usual.” She hoped the use of her name would give her some points and if the look on Laura’s face was any indication, she would say that it had worked just the way she intended.

“I’m glad you liked it. Would you like another? On me,” She offered with a smile that finally reached her eyes.

Carmilla looked over at Danny, who looked absolutely horrified, briefly before locking eyes with the beautifully almond-colored ones in front of her. “It would be a sin to resist.” The words were smooth, she knew that. What she didn't expect, however, was the dilation of Laura’s pupils over a few flirty words. She wondered if hers did the same.

Regardless, the blonde looked at her for a moment longer before turning back to make her the promised beverage while Danny let out a breath of frustration as she directed her attention back to the few customers left in the shop. Carmilla stood strong, only allowing herself to smile when both of their backs were turned.

This girl was going to be the death of her.

 

To say that she was livid would be an understatement. Livid didn’t even begin to describe the way that Laura was feeling at that moment. Danny had done a lot of things to frustrate her but this was on a new level. She had completely embarrassed her in front of the one, and only, outside person that had actually showed her any sort of interest. It was truly a miracle that anyone was interested in her at all; the fact that this person happened to be the broody and mysterious Carmilla Karnstein was virtually unbelievable - making the situation only that much worse. Danny had possibly single-handedly ruined the one chance she had at meaning something to someone in a way more than what she meant to people like LaFontaine or her father. Sure, she could say she meant something to Danny but it wasn’t the same if it wasn’t reciprocated - and at this moment, any chance of reciprocation was negative. She wanted Carmilla to pay attention to her - deep down she knew it wasn’t right, considering the freshness of her losing Elle and the well-known player reputation she had continued to withhold since their high school days, despite her loyalty to whom Laura considered the better-looking blonde - but she couldn’t resist. She couldn’t let a chance like this pass her by because who knew when it would come again. Would it ever? It had already taken her this long, who was to say it wouldn’t take her another 20 years for this opportunity to pass her by again? That was not a risk she was willing to take but on account of Danny, her fate may have possibly already been sealed. Laura had never been much of a grudge holder (her father had always told her it was bad for her heart), but this was something she couldn’t let go of.

“Laura, I have no idea what got into me.”

Danny had posted herself next to Laura’s station for the past 15 minutes practically begging for more than a head nod or an “uh-huh". She was doing everything in her power to be forgiven but Laura wouldn’t budge. She couldn't. Sure, Carmilla had accepted her complimentary coffee but what if that would be their last interaction? She would never forgive Danny. No amount of pleading would change her mind at this point. Danny wasn’t backing down but neither was she.

“I’ll talk to her. I’ll fix this,” Danny tried again.

Funny how talking to her is what got us to this point in the first place.

“Listen, Danny, I really need to get going.”

“Laura, I-”

“Please,” She pleads; passively but assertively striking the counter with her dishcloth in hand.

It was then that Danny had seemed to finally get the point. With a slow nod of the head, she gave a sad smile and headed back into the dining area to clear off the rest of the tables and prepare her station for the next morning.

The sinking feeling in her stomach was a painful and unwanted feeling. Danny had done her wrong, so why was she the one feeling melancholy? Hopefully, it was the residual disappointment from her possible missed connection with Carmilla. She was pretty stubborn when in terms of things she was passionate about but when it came to the emotions of others she was like putty in their hands. It was pathetic, really.

 

Thirty hours had passed before Carmilla couldn't resist any longer. The gnawing desire of wanting something - anything - regarding the blonde little barista was overwhelmingly strong and she was no longer resilient enough to hold back.

It was loud. Why was it so loud? It was never loud in the cafe, in fact, that was kind of the whole point of the establishment in the first place. Cafe’s come second to libraries. But alas, there were people everywhere and the queue to the register was long.

I don’t have the time for this.

The brunette turned to leave, figuring that the circumstances must be an act of fate, but was instantly stopped in her tracks by a hand on her back. It was quick but oh the feeling lingered as she caught sight of the blonde hair rushing past with a tray of dishes. Carmilla never understood how someone so tiny could balance so much on a such a small piece of plastic. She would like to ask her. Truthfully, there are a lot of things that the brunette would like to ask but in order to do that she would have to get to Laura in the first place.

Oh for fuck’s sake.

-

Carmilla looked at her watch for what felt like the hundredth time since she had entered the

Cafe. She was so close, yet so far away. All she needed was for the woman in front of her to hurry up-

“Red, get Laura,” Carmilla practically tackled the counter as the woman in front of her finally finished her incredibly lengthy order.

Danny jumped back a bit but quickly regained her posture, “She’s on tables.”

“Well then switch with her,” The brunette spat. All of that time waiting and she was running out of nerve. There was no way that the human beanstalk was going to prolong this any longer.

Danny looked at her for a moment longer before going over to Laura and pulling her aside. Truthfully, Carmilla knew she would do it. It was the easiest way for her to get back in Laura’s good graces - a win for the both of them.

She had replayed the scenario over and over in her head but as Danny spoke, Carmilla had to turn around as she felt her insides tie itself into knots. If she closed her eyes she could imagine herself in a world where she wasn’t so nervous. Evidently, her mind was incapable of calming her fast enough because she practically jumped out of her own skin feeling a small hand place itself on her shoulder. She choked out an expletive under her breath before turning around to face the smaller woman.

“Sorry, sorry,” Laura gave a nervous smile, “I heard you wanted to see me?”

“Um..yeah,” The brunette shoved her hands into her pockets. The last time she had been this nervous to talk to a woman she was confronting Elle - an ironic parallel. “I was just...I was wondering,” She couldn’t help but roll her eyes at herself with a sigh. Get it together, Karnstein. We’ve been over this. “Let me take you to dinner.”

“Okay,” All of that stuttering and Laura didn’t miss a beat. “Pick me up after my shift?”

Carmilla could only muster a nod as the blonde kept her smile before making her way back to her station with a small wave.

This girl was going to kill her.

 

She did it. She really did it. It almost seemed too good to be true but true it was. She had a date with Carmilla Karnstein.

What was she going to tell her father?

 

How early was too early? Carmilla had parked down the street from the coffee shop down the street waiting in her car. Laura would be relieved from her shift in seven minutes but what was the right way to approach the situation. Did she head to the cafe now and be early and show that she cares or wait and be fashionably late to hold whatever she had left of her badass reputation? What was the protocol for a first date? It had been so long that she could hardly remember. Sure, she had her occasional hookup, but a real date? Not since Elle - and that clearly had not gone according to plan. Her deliberating wasted a good three minutes and she was running out of time. There was no time for second-guessing. With a deep exhale, she made her decision. Switching on the headlights, she adjusted her seat and made her way to arrive in front of the doors of the cafe. She knew that no one would be trying to enter since it was after closing time so she decided to exit the vehicle and lean against the passenger door. God, she was nervous but there was no turning back now. She was a Karnstein and Karnstein’s shied away from nothing.

Danny had noticed her through the window and pointed her out to Laura whose face instantly flushed in a much different fashion than the redheads.

Good choice, Karnstein.

It was only a moment longer until Laura exited the building and approached the car, apron in hand, a light jacket under her arm. The closer she got, the more Carmilla struggled to not consume her with every breath she took. There was a light stain above the knee of her jeans. Her required cafe t-shirt was slightly stretched at the collar and blonde strands were falling out of her ponytail. How could she look so stunning after a long and busy shift?

“Hi,” Laura spoke softly, taking the brunette out of her thoughts.

“Hi,” She replied, taking a hand out of her jacket pocket and opening the door. “Get in, cutie.”

She could see the hesitation in Laura’s furrowed eyebrows before the woman complied and entered the car, finding her place in the passenger seat.

Carmilla hurried around to her own side, hopping in and revving the engine. The roar of her restored 1963 Ford Galaxie always seemed to impress the ladies. But as the roar turned to a hum, she just couldn’t read Laura.

“Nice car,” The blonde spoke quietly, fiddling with the strings of the apron in her lap.

Carmilla wasn’t sure what to say so she just nodded, shifting gears and heading towards their destination for the night.

 

The car ride was pretty much silent besides the murmur of radio static as it attempted to tune into the classic rock station, Stevie Nick’s voice fading in and out. Carmilla wasn’t sure what to say. Truthfully, she rarely had people in her car and when she did it was Elle and that woman was a big talker. It seemed as if most of the people in her life were. Mother was always lecturing her about how to carry herself, how to represent their family, how to make money. Mattie was always finding a way to brag about her travels and Elle had always been less than modest when it came to speaking on her appearance and accomplishments. Needless to say, it was something of a rarity for her to find comfortable silence within her life. The brunette had always been more of a listener and if Laura was the same then this was destined to be an incredibly awkward night. If she was honest, despite their minor interactions, Laura seemed to have a tendency to ramble. What had changed? She would ask but she was never one to meddle in others’ business, especially considering she was not too keen on the attempt of others to meddle in her own. Besides, maybe she was just nervous - Carmilla sure was. Regardless, she had to say something. The silence was painful.

“You can change the radio station,” The brunette prompted, earning a smile from the other woman.

“You won’t like what I play,” Laura warned.

“I’ll be the judge of that.”

She fiddled around with the knob for a while until her fingers finally stopped and the squeal of some popular singer’s voice rang out through the car. Laura was right. Usually, this would have just about killed Carmilla but right about now, something about the unnecessary vibrato and autotune didn't seem so terrible.

This couldn't be good.

It didn’t take them long to arrive at their destination for the night. The car ride was quiet for the most part but honestly, it was comfortable. Carmilla was quick to come around to Laura’s side of the car, only to find that she had already gotten out on her own. That surprised her too; it shouldn't have considering the fact that Laura seemed to be nothing like Elle but it was a habit nonetheless.

She turned to lead Laura into the restaurant but the look on the blonde’s face stopped her in her tracks. It wasn't one of disappointment like she was used to from Elle but it definitely was not one of excitement. In fact, it seemed slightly uncomfortable. Carmilla didn’t understand. She wanted to impress her. Why wasn't Laura impressed?

“Is everything okay?”

“Yes,” She hesitated for a moment, “It’s just that this place seems incredibly expensive. Are you sure you wouldn't rather go somewhere else? I’m not necessarily dressed for the occasion” Laura stated, wringing her hands together with nervousness as she looked over at the front of the building. Just from the outside, it was easy to tell could tell that restaurant was serving nothing short of exorbitantly priced hors-d'oeuvres and smaller-than-usual small plates. It was exclusive and it wasn't until now, as Carmilla looked around at the people that exited their vehicles, that could not have cost anything short of 50 grand, that she realized the atmosphere reeked of privilege and wealth and of course Laura was uncomfortable; She was uncomfortable. She had noticed as a child but growing up with a mother like her own and dating a woman like Elle she supposed she had become quite numb to it all. It was only in that moment, standing there with Laura, that she realized it wasn't right at all. Laura wasn't like Elle in the slightest. She wasn't decorated with numerous accessories or attempting to stand with her chin raised higher than those around her. Hell, she was still in her work uniform. This was all wrong.

“Let's go.”

“I didn’t mean to-”

“Let’s go,” Carmilla repeated before getting right back into the car, Laura following after, and reversing right out of the lot.

She was going to fix this.

 

It had taken them nearly an hour to arrive at their new destination and despite that fourth-grade trip to the museum representing some historical event that she was supposed to write a paper on but never really ended up getting around to, she had never been so far outside of town. It was a place that her father had never quite approved of. She learned that the hard way when she had unknowingly let it slip that she was planning on going outside of town with some girls from her street to pick raspberries a fair number of years ago. That was her first and last time having the opportunity to feel like a normal teenage girl hanging out friends. Her father had considered them “reckless rebels with parents that let their children roam free” and she was no longer allowed to spend time with them unless a parent was present - which was absolutely not an option at age 14. She was mad at him for a long time for being the reason she had to resort to watching them come and go from the comfort of her window. She knew he meant well but sometimes it felt as if he was doing more harm than good. Regardless, being so far outside of town and being on a date with Carmilla Karnstein - her father would have a heart attack if he knew what she was up to.

Carmilla shifted into park, pulling Laura out of her thoughts and directing her attention to the building in front of them. It was very different in comparison to where they had just left. It was a simple sandwich bar, still a bit fancier than restaurants you would find inside of town, but it was comfortable just the same. The outside of the establishment was littered with a string of lightbulbs and minimalistic accents. It reminded her of the city. She had never been but she had seen pictures and it was practically spot on. This was fantastic.

As they approached the building, they walked closely but without touching. It was clear neither of them knew the line but Laura knew better than to make the first move toward crossing it. Instead, she tucked her hands into her pockets and fell slightly behind, following Carmilla through the heavy doors. The inside was just as captivating. It was beautifully rustic. Laura had never been a place like this but from what she knew it fit Carmilla’s image perfectly. The brunette nodded at a man in an apron before heading over to find a booth to sit in. The table was made of wood and above it hung a single lightbulb held by a string. It was just enough light for a restaurant with walls painted burgundy to complement the dark wood furnishings. She loved it.

The man in the apron approached the table with two steins of ice water and a goofy smile.

“Hey Carm,” He turned to Laura, “Carm’s little hottie.”

Laura wasn’t sure whether to be offended or not - surprisingly it wasn't the first time she had been called that - (Little hottie. Not Carmilla’s. Because that wasn't a thing) but she decided to shrug it off with a small smile of her own.

“Okay so next time I see you, we’re going to have a little lesson on how to interact with others,” Carmilla replied with an eye roll but Laura didn't miss the slight upturn of the corner of her mouth. “Laura, meet Kirsch. You might remember him from the football team in high school.”

Oh yeah. That’s where she had heard it.

Of course she remembered him. He was one of the few people that gave her the time of day, literally. She had a habit of getting so immersed reading her Lois Lane comics that she would lose track of time and nearly be late for class. Kirsch was a library assistant and would often do her the favor of reminding her that it was time to go to their English class. He was much taller now but he still had that goofy child-like smile. He was one of the good ones.

“Hottie Laura!” Kirsch exclaimed upon his realization, turning a couple heads, “I knew you seemed familiar.”

“It’s nice to see you again,” She replied quietly, sinking into her seat slightly. She tried to sit tall but this much attention was admittedly more than she was used to.

Carmilla reached over toward a menu, handing it to Laura as she sensed her discomfort, before turning back to Kirsch and getting immersed into some conversation that he was clearly leading but Carmilla was not so subtly listening to. That was something Laura had noticed. Her eyes told more of her story than anything else. Her face could look as disaffected as ever, with her words to match, but her eyes would speak something much different. It was beautiful. She was beautiful.

In a totally first date kind of way of course.

After a few moments, she had decided on her dinner and Kirsch took both of their orders before leaving them alone in their booth to find themselves right back where they started - silent.

During the ride, it had been just as quiet but at least the music was able to fill the void even just a little bit. Now, it was nothing but the ambiance which wasn't nearly enough. She had to say something. Anything.

“So,” She started at the same moment as Carmilla. “Oh, I’m sorry. You go first."

“No, it's fine. What were you saying?”

“I just..” She hesitated as her attention directed itself to her fingers fumbling around in her lap. Could she be any more awkward? “What made you want to ask me on a date? We never talked in school and I hate to bring her up so please stop me if you want but you used to date Elle and well...she's her and I’m me. It just doesn't make any sense. I don't know anything about fashion or business and I definitely am far from her level of popularity in all aspects. I mean...dont you have a type? Because if your type is Elle, I am far from it.” She paused for a moment to judge Carmilla’s facial expression, “Oh god I sound so insecure, don't I? That's always attractive,” She rolled her eyes at herself.

“Laura,” Carmilla interjected with a soft smile, “It’s okay. Honestly...honestly, I ask myself the same question-I don't mean that negatively. It’s just that I'm pretty surprised that I am even here in general. After Elle,” Laura noticed her hesitation. It was as if she had never opened up before. Maybe she never had. “After Elle,” She repeated, “I wasn’t exactly sure if I ever really wanted to try something like this again.”

For the first time, Laura had to pause to think of what to say. She had so many more questions but essentially settled on, “Thank you for giving me a chance.”

 

The rest of the dinner went incredibly well - better than both of them expected really. Laura had talked a lot about her upbringing, Carmilla seemed to avoid the topic as much as possible. They shared stories from high school; both of them found it fascinating how differently they had viewed and experienced those years. For Carmilla, it was just a time to forget. She was never too involved; she had no reason to be when she was dating someone like Elle. Being associated with someone who was always in the spotlight, no matter the occasion made it embarrassingly easy to attach her name to pretty much anything without even an ounce of effort on her part. For Laura, it was the complete opposite in every regard. She was the type of person that Elle would take the spotlight from. The one that Carmilla took the credit from - though she could not be all that upset about it as she couldn't necessarily say that she wouldn't have done the same thing if she had the chance. She could only imagine how much easier things were with those types of luxuries. She wondered if Carmilla ever thought about the other perspective like she did. Probably not. She had no reason to anyway. Regardless, she was glad to be here learning more and more about the woman across from her whether she opened her mouth or not. That was another thing she noticed. Carmilla was easier to read than she probably realized - more than she probably wanted. It wasn't what she said; It was the way she shifted in her seat. Or the way her eyes widened but her posture shifted. The little things. She tried her best to ignore the feeling of “why her?” that continued to arise in her gut but it remained strong. Her and Elle were just so different. But then again...maybe that would turn out to be a good thing.