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What We Do

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Midnight in Montreal, you and me in hushed phone calls. You breathed a little deeper that night.

“No, you hang up!” Helen almost doesn’t believe the words are coming from her own mouth. Years of rolling her eyes at the excessive cheesiness of rom-coms fall away, though. Everything falls away when she’s talking to Aline, so that the only thing that matters is the lovely dark-eyed girl she’d give anything to see smile.

Aline giggles, the sound crackling over the phone line but it still sounds like music to Helen. She can hear the melody behind it, wants to get lost in its lows and highs of the notes. “ You hang up,” Aline insists. “You’re the one who has to go to sleep.”

Helen sighs, pulling the sheets higher up to her neck. “I know, I know. I should sleep before my audition in the morning, but I’m too wound up to sleep.”

“You know you’re gonna rock it,” Aline says, her words confident and leaving no room for question. Helen wishes for the millionth time that night that Aline was there with her. “Would it help you sleep if I just talked for a while?” Aline asks after a moment, her voice hushed.

Helen nods even though she knows Aline can’t see her. “Yes,” she whispers.

“Okay,” Aline says, humming as she thinks of something to say. Helen reaches over to her bedside lamp, turning the switch to cast the room into a comfortable darkness. Her head sinks back onto the pillow as Aline starts talking. “Isabelle told me a funny story about Jace the other day…”

 

Months later in my home town, you pick me up and show me around to places that I see with brand new eyes.

“Where are we going?” Helen asks, the happiness bubbling out of her in a laugh as Aline leads her by the hand.

Aline looks back at her, smiling and squeezing Helen’s hand. “An adventure!” she declares. “I want to see everything, all the sights.”

Helen raises an unimpressed eyebrow. “You know this is my hometown, right? Shouldn’t I be leading the sight-seeing adventure?”

“Nope,” Aline answers in a sing-song voice. “You already know everything, so there’s no magic in that.” She stops, looping an arm around Helen’s neck and pulling her close.

“Magic, huh?” Helen breathes into the space between them.

Aline nods seriously. “I’m new to everything, so it’s all magic and wonderful and new to me.”

Helen grins. “Do I get to share in your magic?”

“You are my magic,” Aline whispers, leaning in to brush her lips against Helen’s. Helen hums into the kiss, already feeling the magic of something new and wonderful swirling around them both.

 

And suddenly I’m smiling, and the world is shining, and you’re beside me with your hands up in my hair. We’re in your hotel room, you and me, the sweet view, dancing to these old tunes and I can’t believe I’m here.

“What is it?” Aline asks, one arm wrapped securely around Helen’s waist and the other carding through her hair. Her eyebrows furrow, nose scrunching up adorably in her concern. Helen’s heart swells as she shakes her head slightly.

“Nothing,” she whispers. “Everything.”

Aline’s expression relaxes into an easy smile, and Helen would’ve kissed her if it didn’t mean pulling out of her arms. “You have such a way with words,” she teases.

Helen wants to tease her back, but she can’t for the rush of blood in her ears. Everything drowns out of a moment, only the sound of I love you I love you I love you echoing in her thoughts. The words are filling her like air and if Aline’s arm wasn’t holding her, she might’ve floated right up out of the soft hotel bed. “I love you,” Helen says quietly because it’s the truest thing she’s ever felt and her heart is begging her to say the words.

Aline is still, her fingers frozen in Helen’s straight blonde hair, but her heart beat is quick and pounding. Helen can hear it’s new erratic thump where her ear is tucked against the base of Aline’s throat. The quiet is louder than Helen’s thoughts had been, but Aline hasn’t pulled away yet, so she hopes.

“I love you, too,” Aline whispers finally, her voice as awed as Helen feels. ‘Awed’ doesn’t do the feeling justice, though, Helen thinks. She’s awed and happy and maybe a little scared by this new thing between them but more than any of it, she’s lucky.

She does move now, pulling herself up to rest her forehead against Aline’s and kiss her. Aline’s arms find their way around her waist as both of them try to drown in the feeling.

 

We’ve got this whole night to get this thing right, and there are witnesses, but we’ll destroy the proof. You’ve got my lips sealed and your eyes peeled, but it doesn’t matter as long as we both know the truth about what we do.

“I got the part!” Helen squeals as soon as Aline steps into her apartment, her excitement outweighing all her grand plans of telling her girlfriend the news.

Aline’s jaw drops, morphing into a wide smile as she wraps her arms around Helen. “You did it!”

“I did it,” Helen laughs against Aline’s dark hair. 

“When do you start shooting?” Aline asks, pulling away just enough so Helen can see her dazzling smile.

“Next month,” Helen says, heart stuttering as she delivers the only bad news in all of this. “In Toronto. We shoot for three months.”

Aline’s smile falters. “Three months apart?” she asks quietly. Helen grabs her hand, intertwining their fingers, and squeezing. She tries to smile reassuringly, but her heart is aching at the thought of being apart for so long, too. Aline takes a deep breath, plastering a smaller smile on her face. “I guess I’ll just have to come visit, then.”

Helen grins. “You’d better.”

“So,” Aline says, her tone teasing, “I guess we’d better enjoy this month alone together while it lasts. After the movie comes out and you’re a big star, we’re gonna have cameras following us everywhere.”

“One,” Helen says with a snort, “that’s not going to happen. Two, are you sure you wouldn’t run for the hills if, by some chance, any of that actually happened?”

Aline flashes her a confident smile, eyes dark and sure. “Oh, it’s definitely going to happen, babe. They’re going to love you, just like I do. I’m not going anywhere.”

She can’t bear the emotion welling up inside of her, so instead Helen pulls Aline closer and kisses her, trying to pour every ounce of feeling into her lips. “I love you, too,” Helen says in a breathless whisper when they finally pull apart.

 

L.A. in summertime, your backyard, your hand in mine. We talk about the people, things we’ve seen.

The party is dwindling when Helen finds Aline again. She’s leaning against the fence, her dress dotted brightly by the fairy lights strung between the trees. Helen wishes she had her phone with her. She wants to capture this so she’ll always have it:  the lights, the warm summer breeze, the feeling in her chest. Home. Aline.

Except tonight isn’t goodbye forever. It’s goodbye for now, and only really goodbye to L.A. Aline took off work for a few days to come with her, at first, and they’ve already planned out weekend visits and skype dates. Three months isn’t the end of the world, and Helen will be damned if it’s the end of them.

“Hey,” she says, and when Aline turns around, Helen knows everything will be alright.

“Hi,” Aline says, reaching out a hand. Helen takes it, their fingers loosely intertwined as they settle against the fence and each other. “Did you have fun tonight?”

“I did,” Helen nods, looking around the backyard at their friends and family. Only Mark remains of Helen’s siblings. Julian and Emma had insisted on taking the younger siblings home, and Helen had agreed, giving everyone one last tight hug before they left. Aline’s mom is here to see her off, and Max, the youngest of the Lightwoods, too. Aside from Robert, the rest of the Lightwoods are in New York. “I wish all of our friends could’ve been here,” she says quietly after a few moments.

Their world, their lives, are changing so fast. It’s a whirlwind, and Helen is both terrified and excited to be swept up into it.

“Me too,” Aline says softly. She’s quiet for a moment, making a face as a memory bubbles to the surface. “Do you remember at Alec’s graduation party? Those awful cupcakes Izzy made?”

“Oh, god, ” Helen groans. “Maybe it’s a good thing they couldn’t make it.”

Aline laughs, the sound sweeter than appropriately flavored icing. “We would’ve survived it. As long as we’re together.”

Helen ducks her head, smiling and pressing her face into Aline’s hair. “As long as we’re together.”

 

Premieres, we stand in line. You look back, your eyes lock mine. We laugh about the people that we’ve been.

They’re at the premiere. Her premiere. Helen can’t stop smiling, and neither can Aline beside her. Their hands are clasped and their gowns complement each other, and the cameras are eating it up. The glamour of it all is intoxicating, but Helen knows the giddy feeling in her stomach is all because of Aline.

She’d been back in L.A. with her girlfriend for only a week, bouncing around on press tours leading up to the movie’s premiere. The movie is a whirlwind that’s finally calming down—at least for now—and Helen has never been happier than she has been this past week curled up in bed eating popcorn and dark chocolate covered pretzels during Netflix marathons with Aline.

Aline gives her hand a squeeze, and Helen turns to look back at her. She’s radiant, her eyes sparkling. “They love you,” she says, having to lean closer for Helen to hear over the sounds of reporters and the crowd.

“They haven’t even seen it, yet,” Helen says. “What if they end up hating it?”

Aline shakes her head. “Nope, they’re gonna love you. You’re gonna leave here with a legion of adoring fans.”

Helen smiles, ducking her head and fighting the blush rising in her cheeks. “I don’t know.”

“It’s true,” Aline says, her voice hushed and serious. “I know for a fact you’ll have one superfan.”

Helen leans even closer to kiss Aline’s cheek, nearly rolling her eyes as the camera flashes increased. “Then I’ll be extremely lucky to have you.”

“Actually,” Aline teases, “you’ll be going home with said superfan, so really I’m the lucky one here.”

“You’re ridiculous,” Helen snorts, tugging gently on Aline’s hand and leading her off the red carpet to find a moment of peace before the premiere officially started.

 

And suddenly we’re flying, and the world is shining, and you’re beside me with your hands up in my hair. We’re standing in your bedroom, you and me, the sweet view, dancing to these old tunes and I can’t believe I’m here.

“It was amazing. You’re amazing,” Aline gushes when they finally stumble through the door of her apartment.

“You really think so?” Helen asks, unsure if she’s warm from the compliment or from all the champagne. Both , she decides.

Aline nods, grabbing her hand and pulling her towards the bedroom. “My girlfriend, the movie star.”

“It was only a supporting role,” Helen argues, coming to an abrupt stop when Aline turns around to press a finger against her lips.

“And you stole the show,” Aline says before kissing her, slow and a little sloppy and tasting like the fizz in the champagne glass. “I’m so proud of you,” she whispers when they pull apart, her breath ghosting across Helen’s lips.

This time Helen knows the warmth bubbling up in her like the champagne fizz is something else entirely. “It’s not all me,” she says, moving her hand from Aline’s waist to cup her cheek. “I do have a wonderful muse.” The lights were low in Aline’s apartment, but Helen could still see the blush rising in her cheeks as they stumbled back against the bed.

 

We’ve got this whole night to get this thing right, and there are witnesses, but we’ll destroy the proof. We’ve got my lips sealed and your eyes peeled, but it doesn’t matter as long as we both know the truth about what we do.

Helen calls her from her agent’s office, too excited to wait until she sees Aline later that night.

“Hey, babe,” Aline answers on the second ring. Helen smiles at the pet name, momentarily forgetting her news. “How did the meeting with your agent go?”

Helen takes a breath, trying to steady her heartbeat. “I got offered a lead role.” She says it casually, like it’s not a ridiculously big deal. Like she didn’t nearly start screaming in the middle of her meeting.

“Oh my god!” Aline shouts into the phone, and Helen is too busy laughing at her reaction to mind how loud it was in her ear.

“Yeah,” Helen says. “Apparently they really liked the movie.”

“I told you everyone would fall in love with you!” Aline says. Helen can hear her smile, picture it lighting up her face.

“I have to go to Toronto again,” Helen tells her, already dreading the separation. They survived the first shoot, though. She has no doubt they can get through it again.

Aline doesn’t sound worried, either. “When you come over later we can plan out all our visits,” she says casually, as if immediate support without even a second of hesitation isn’t single-handedly one of the best things Helen has experienced.

“I can’t wait,” she says simply, smiling the whole way home.

 

And now I wake up every night and think of how you held me tight. And now I’m missing you ‘cause, baby, you’re not here. And I miss how you saw right through me, looked at me and, baby, knew me. But I wonder if those things you saw, you liked.

She flies home to L.A. on a Wednesday. She’s still in the middle of shooting, but she managed to get a few days off, so now she’s walking through LAX thrumming with excitement.

Tomorrow (or today, Helen supposes, since it’s now just after midnight) is Aline’s birthday. She thinks Helen is stuck on set, unable to make it home to celebrate until the weekend. She’d insisted that it was fine, but Helen had seen the disappointment clear as day on her girlfriend’s face. The sight made her heart thump so painfully she’d almost said screw it and revealed her plans. But Helen has been watching far too many rom-coms, and surprising your girlfriend on her birthday is in Helen’s top ten most romantic moments.

She hails a cab quickly and FaceTime’s Aline as soon as she’s settled in the backseat. Aline answers instantly, a pout evident on her face.

“You were supposed to call an hour ago,” she complains. “I’m sleepy.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” Helen apologizes. “I got held up.”

Aline frowns. “Are you in a car?”

Helen nods. “Yeah, I’m on my way home,” she says, smiling and knowing Aline will assume she means the apartment she’s renting near set. They talk for a while about everything and nothing. Helen tells stories from set, relishing in the sound of Aline’s laugh. Aline tells her about the trouble her cousin Sebastian’s been getting into. It’s good. It’s so, so good, and Helen can’t wait to hold Aline in her arms and trace patterns into her skin and hear her laugh without the phone’s static.

“I wish you were here,” Aline says right as the car pulls up next to her apartment building. Helen grins, an eager thrill running up her spine. 

“Me too,” she says.

“Oh,” Aline sighs when she sees Helen step out of the cab. “Are you home? I can let you go.”

She thinks about keeping her on the phone, but she feels like she’s about to start bouncing off the walls and reveal everything. Plus, she knows Aline is smart enough to recognize her own apartment building. “Yeah, I am home,” Helen says instead and it isn’t even a lie. They hang up with promises to talk again soon, though if Helen’s definition of soon is a little different than her girlfriend’s, she doesn’t let on.

She knocks on the door, waiting with a pounding heart for a few minutes before the door opens slowly. Aline’s jaw drops, smiling as her arms fly around Helen in a tight embrace.

“I told you I was home,” Helen says into her shoulder.

Aline pulls her inside, staring at her like she’s a miracle. Like Helen standing there in her apartment on her birthday is her greatest wish come true. “Move in with me,” Aline murmurs.

“What?”

“Move in with me,” Aline repeats. “Come home to me all the time.”

“Okay,” Helen says without a second of hesitation, smiling so wide her cheeks hurt. “Okay.”

 

But then you’re smiling, and my world is shining, and you’re beside me with your hands up in my hair. Laying in your bedroom, you and me, the sweet view, dancing to those old tunes and I can’t believe I’m there.

It doesn’t happen at all the way Helen plans it to. She didn’t have a plan, necessarily, but it definitely wasn’t to blurt it out in the middle of a playful argument about something so domestic as what to have for dinner.

But here they are.

“Marry me,” Helen says, repeating her outburst. Aline is staring, her expression open and caught off guard. She’s smiling, though, and Helen knows. She’s itching to do this right, though, so she reaches towards her purse on the counter, digging through it until she finds the ring box. “I mean it. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

“Helen,” Aline breathes when she opens the box. The ring is simple and stunning, the diamond sparkling as much as Aline’s eyes. Aline raises a hand to her mouth, a few tears spilling down her cheeks. “Yes,” she says, nodding and reaching out for Helen. And then they’re wrapped up in each other, bodies so close they might have been one person, one heart.

Finally they pull away so Helen can slip the ring onto Aline’s finger, staring down at their joined hands.

“I love you,” Aline whispers.

“I love you, too,” Helen says. She smirks. “So does that mean we can get Thai?”

 

We’ve got this whole night to get this thing right, and there are witnesses but we’ll destroy the proof. We’ve got my lips sealed and your eyes peeled. It doesn’t matter as long as we both know the truth about what we do.

The sky is gold. Clouds are painted across it in streaks of pale pinks and purple blues. It’s stunning.

But not as stunning as Aline, already waiting at the end of the aisle.

They’d decided on dresses, both to assuage Jia and because, as Aline had put it after seeing the photos from one of Helen’s premieres, “We look damn good in a gown.”

Izzy stands next to Aline as her maid of honor, and Helen sees the other Lightwoods smiling at her from the rows of seats. Alec catches her eye, and Magnus beside him. Helen smiles back when she sees their hands clasped between them. She makes a mental note to find them later, to thank them. The Lightwoods, Alec and Magnus especially, were part of the reason she’d found Aline all those years ago. When Helen turns her gaze back to her waiting bride, she knows it’s a gift for which she’ll always be grateful.

Her hands reach out for Aline’s as soon as she’s close enough to touch her, smiling softly when their fingers brush. “Hi,” Helen whispers.

“Hey, beautiful,” Aline whispers back.

The ceremony passes in a blur of tears and vows and happiness. They kiss just as the sun is about to finally dip below the horizon, the sky lit up behind them. It had been Aline’s idea, to time the wedding just right.

“A movie star like you has to have the prettiest wedding photos,” Aline had teased, but Helen knows what she really meant. The sky behind them looks exactly how Helen feels right in this moment and will feel for the rest of her life with Aline:  vibrant and happy.

 

This thing we do.

Between me and you.