Seeing Skye again is like being punched in the face except if one found the fist doing the punching to be really fucking attractive. Contrary to what Skye may have said three years ago, McAfee is, in fact, really gay. God, she’d almost forgotten throughout college, hiding away in her dorm and studying her way through a degree.
McAfee does her best not to stare, nodding absently as James explains the plan to the room. She focuses in on Alice’s wedding dress- a fluffy monstrosity, something that seems so different from the Alice she’s known for years. Well, maybe they’re all changing. Maybe Skye’s changed, maybe she’s- er. It’s a really nice dress, McAfee thinks, the lace is really quite impressive.
So is the fact that Skye looks so nice. She’s not even dressed up, just wearing a white sweatshirt and distressed jeans, but she looks like- nope. McAfee likes Alice’s dress and that’s where this train of thought is ending.
She doesn’t even like Skye anymore. They broke up and Skye was just enough of a dick about it that McAfee hasn’t thought about her about anything more than mild anger in the last three years. Also, she tried to kill Payton. Maybe he needed the jolt back to reality, though. The man in front of McAfee seems far more human than the one from a few years ago.
Payton says something ridiculous and self-defeating and McAfee exchanges a glance with James. McAfee’s eyes say god, our best friend is an idiot. James’s say I can see you trying not to stare at Skye. McAfee glares.
Astrid comes out of the bathroom where she’d been vaping and probably giving herself and whatever mice reside in James’s dorm room popcorn lung. She blows vapor in everyone’s faces and drops her bombshell. Payton agrees, and that’s that. McAfee tucks her hands in her pockets and tries not to inhale.
They all stand around for another half hour, exchanging pleasantries and odd stories from college. McAfee’s struck both by how few stories she has and by how little of the other’s stories she knows . She’s heard a few of James’s because they still get together for coffee sometimes, but everyone else has a life that’s totally separate from hers. New friends, new fiancés, new jobs. Well, she’s the only one with anything close to an actual career. Skye works at a construction site on the weekends, which is. Really hot, actually. Astrid waits tables, Payton sings. Everyone else is rich enough that they can go to college full time.
Finally, Astrid stands up and stretches, leather jacket rumpling at the shoulders. “I’m leaving,” she says. “I’ve got a Tinder date tonight and she’s like, really cute. I don’t want to stand her up.”
Alice glances at her watch. “Me too, actually.”
“You’ve got a hot date?” McAfee asks, and she doesn’t look at Skye when she says it, doesn’t quietly swoon at the way the other woman’s eyes crinkle when she chuckles.
“No, I’m probably still engaged.” Alice worries at her lip, then shrugs. “I just need to check into my Airbnb.”
Payton rushes to help her up- all the skirts on her wedding dress are certainly cute but McAfee supposes they can’t be great for actually moving around. Of course, Alice hadn’t planned on doing much more than eating cake and walking down the aisle in it. “I’ll call an Uber for you?” Payton offers. Alice accepts and the pair shuffles out the door, white lace trail almost getting caught on the doorframe.
Astrid follows a second later and then it’s just James, McAfee, and Skye.
Literally the worst combination of people possible. McAfee would love to hang out alone with James, and she should probably admit to herself that she’d like to be alone with Skye, too. Doing different things than with James. But the two of them together… James still hates her. Mostly because Skye tried to murder his best friend, but also because McAfee used Skye as an excuse for why she wasn’t dating all through college and now James thinks she’s still hung up on her. The tension in the room is almost visible and there’s no way Skye’s not picking up on it. She hops off the bunk bed.
McAfee wonders where James and Payton’s roommate is and does her best not to stare at the sliver of skin that appears between Skye’s sweatshirt and her low-slung jeans when she stretches. “Are you leaving?”
“Yeah,” Skye shrugs and adjusts the hem of her sweatshirt, pulling it back down. “I’ve got work tomorrow. My apartment isn’t too far from here, though, so I’m going to walk.”
“I can come with?” McAfee pushes herself off the wall and offers her hand. “It’s getting dark out.”
“I mean, if you want. I’d appreciate the company.”
James shoots McAfee a look and McAfee pretends that she can’t understand his glances anymore.
McAfee’s shapeless suit jacket was made to convey to all of her coworkers that she wasn’t interested in dressing for men’s attention. It wasn’t made to keep her warm in New York City at night. She shoves her hands in her pockets and tries not to shiver.
Skye had shrugged on a long black jacket before they’d left and it flies out behind her in the wind. She looks like the coolest witch in Hogwarts except that everyone knows there are no gender-nonconforming witches at Hogwarts because J. K. Rowling is a transphobic jerk.
“Aren’t you cold?” Skye asks.
McAfee grits her teeth. “Um. Yeah. This morning I checked the weather and didn’t bring a coat because it was pretty nice earlier and I hadn’t thought I’d be staying out late-”
“What,” Skye laughs, kicking at a pebble on the sidewalk. “You were planning on going home early on a Friday night?”
A strand of hair falls in McAfee’s face and she brushes it away. The wind feels like ice against her fingers. “Yeah. Don’t really have, like, friends. I’ve got James, but he’s not really into the club scene.”
“No,” Skye muses, “he’s always struck me as more of the ‘poetry slam at a coffee shop’ kinda dude.”
“Ha, yeah.” McAfee shivers and shoves her hands deeper into the suit jacket’s pockets. “Who the hell made it this cold? God. ”
Skye snickers and McAfee doesn’t revel in the sound. “You just answered your own question there.” She starts to shrug out of her own jacket.
“I- oh, God. Yeah. Are you religious? I didn’t think you were when we were dat- back in high school. Did you just convert?” McAfee blinks at the other girl and tosses her head in an effort to keep her hair out of her face. “Wait, why are you taking off your jacket?”
Skye leans closer and hangs the coat off of McAfee’s shoulders. McAfee instinctively pulls it around her, then flushes. The coat is rough wool and warm from residual body heat. It smells like something masculine. Sandalwood? Citrus? “To answer both your questions: no, I just thought it was an obvious joke and I wanted to take it, and I took off my coat because you were cold and I like to consider myself a gentleman,” Skye says, her mouth right by McAfee’s ear. She can feel Skye’s breath against her skin and she shivers again, sidesteps away from the other woman.
Skye looks a bit hurt, and McAfee has to laugh. “What did you expect?”
“No, no, I get it. I just miss you.” Skye doesn’t meet her eyes, looks everywhere but at McAfee. The stars are out, twinkling through the tree branches. “I wanted to apologize.”
“To Payton?” McAfee pulls the coat closer around her shoulders and steps gingerly over a puddle. “It doesn’t look like he holds a grudge.”
“No,” Skye says. She gingerly puts a hand against McAfee’s back. McAfee lets her but she doesn’t lean into the touch, doesn’t try to memorize the weight of Skye’s hand. “You’re right, he doesn’t seem that upset anymore. I wanted to apologize to you.”
“You wanted to…” McAfee blinks and tucks her hands in her pockets. “Really?”
“Is it that implausible that I might feel some regret for being an asshole to someone I really liked?”
“No, I just…” It absolutely is that implausible, actually. “No one ever apologizes to me.”
Skye huffs out a laugh. Her breath makes a cloud in front of the pair. “You’re joking. Hasn’t Payton apologized yet?”
“What a bastard. ”
McAfee shrugs. “Payton doesn’t apologize.”
Skye frowns. “Sure he does. To Alice. ”
“That’s different. He doesn’t apologize to the rest of us.” McAfee casts an appraising look at Skye. “Neither do you, actually.”
“I’m doing it now, aren’t I?” Skye uses the hand on McAfee’s back to guide her around a corner, stopping in front of the door to a brownstone. She takes a set of keys out of her pocket and unlocks it, ushering McAfee in. She smiles at the other girl and McAfee takes a deep breath.
“Well, okay. What are you apologizing for?”
Skye nods and starts to walk up the stairs, two steps at a time. McAfee almost has to run to keep up. “For breaking up with because you dared to bring up the idea that I might have done something that I did, for implying that you weren’t actually gay because,” Skye stops and drags her eyes up McAfee’s figure, “um, you obviously are, for saying that you were a bad lay because you weren’t, honestly. And for making it seem like I was using you.”
“Nah. I might be a bad bitch, but I’m not going to play someone’s feelings like that.” Skye unlocks another door and throws open the door. “My roommates on a date with her girlfriend, so if you wanna come in for a while, that’s totally cool.”
McAfee checks her watch, then steps inside. “Thanks.” She doesn’t think about the last time she and Skye were alone together. She doesn’t think about kisses and cupcake batter.
“The least I can do.”
Skye’s apartment room is just what McAfee expected- messy, bright. There are jewel tones everywhere, dirty dishes and pamphlets and impressively thick books on gender theory sitting on every free surface. “Sit wherever,” Skye says, gesturing at the chair (covered in shirts and pants and at least one bra) and the couch (lots of newspapers with angry-looking notes). “Music?”
McAfee pushes aside an article about some oil company going public and sits on the edge of the couch. She folds the coat and puts it next to her. “Uh, sure? I don’t care.”
Skye taps her phone a few times and the speaker on the bookshelf starts to play a soft beat.
“You read the Wall Street Journal?” McAfee asks, staring at the newspapers around her. Who even reads this many newspapers anymore? Hell, who reads any newspapers anymore?
“Yeah.” Skye glances idly at the papers strewed everywhere, untying her hair with one hand. “I’m a kinetic learner and it helps to be able to write down what I’m thinking about things. Can’t do that with apps.”
“Uh,” McAfee says, “this one just says fuck you in red sharpie.” And McAfee doesn’t think that’s adorable, certainly doesn’t love Skye’s passion after the mess it got her into last time.
“I am also an angry person.” Skye shrugs and sits on the couch next to McAfee. “My therapist says that writing on newspapers is a better coping mechanism than plotting assassinations.”
McAfee raises her eyebrows and Skye smiles lopsidedly. “Too soon?”
“Too soon,” McAfee agrees. “What are we listening to?” The music is a bit too soft to make out any words, but it’s catchy and McAfee’s sure she hasn’t heard it before.
“Oh, Be Steadwell. She’s a queer black woman from D.C. I just started listening to her a little while ago, but I like it.” Skye cocks her head, listening. “This song is ‘Black Girls Who Can’t Dance’.”
McAfee snickers. “Oh, you mean like you?” It feels easier, talking to Skye, in the warm apartment, surrounded by bright colors and listening to pop music.
Skye blinks at her, then leans back and laughs with her whole body, her neck bared and her face open, smooth skin and bright eyes. “Shut up. You’re the one who can’t dance.”
McAfee adjusts her suit and sits up straighter. “Speak for yourself, I’ve got moves. ”
Skye smirks. Leans closer so that’s she almost on top of McAfee. She smells like sandalwood and citrus, just like her coat. “ Do you,” she says, exactly the right amount of seductive to make McAfee give up on pretending she doesn’t miss her. McAfee puts one hand up against Skye’s face and runs her thumb over her cheekbone, the other on the small of her back. Skye hesitates.
“What?” McAfee asks, her hand pausing. Maybe this was a bad idea. It felt right, genuinely the right choice in a way that nothing ever feels nowadays, but maybe it was-
“Nothing. I just- I want this more than anything right now,” Skye murmurs, and then they’re kissing. They’re kissing again, and it’s been three years but it also feels like not even a week has passed, the way their bodies fit together like Tetris pieces. Skye’s knee pressing between McAfee’s legs, Mcafee’s hand pressed against the back of her sweatshirt. McAfee bites at Skye’s lip and Skye presses against her, grasping at the lapels of her suit. It feels good. McAfee hasn’t thought about how things felt in so long, just deadlines, politics, numbers and words on her computer. She’s forgotten how things seem to fade away when you’re happy, how even things like newspapers pressing against your back and your suit jacket bunching up can’t break through the haze of pleasure.
Skye pulls away to take a breath and smirks down at McAfee. “I hate your suit,” she says, eyes half-lidded.
McAfee breathes out a laugh. “You’re going to lead with that?”
“I think you should get out of it,” Skye continues, starting to tug at the collar of the jacket. It only takes a moment- and a bit of slightly awkward maneuvering- for McAfee to shed the suit coat. Skye’s hands skim over the buttons on McAfee’s shirt, unbuttoning them with the ease of someone who’s worn button-ups for most of her conscious life. Her mouth falls on McAfee’s chest a moment later, hands roaming up her stomach, and McAfee hisses her appreciation. “God, Skye, that’s- holy-”
Skye looks up at her and smiles her shit-eating grin, the one McAfee’s always fallen for. “You’re pretty handsome, you know that?”
McAfee runs her hands through Skye’s dreads, tangling her fingers between strands. “Uh-hu?”
Skye presses a kiss to her clavicle, then the side of her neck. “God, yeah. You’re like some kind of miracle, McAfee.”
McAfee pulls the other woman’s face toward her, tugging her into a deep kiss. She tries to say everything she’d thought in the past three years- every time she’s been so angry all she could do was scream into a pillow, all the times she’d wondered what Skye thought about something, all of the little things and all of the big things. She knows it doesn’t work, but the kiss is still nice, open-mouthed and urgent. When she breaks away, opening her eyes and staring up at the other woman, Skye swallows unevenly.
“Do you really hate my suit?” McAfee asks later. She’s sprawled out on Skye’s queen mattress, mostly-naked and half-asleep. Skye’s lying half on top of her, half-beside her in a tank top and her boxer shorts. Their legs are in tangles beneath thin sheets. McAfee feels content.
Skye absently traces constellations on McAfee’s stomach. “Yeah,” she says. “I like your other suits- I like you in suits, but I don’t think gray is your color.”
Skye lifts herself up on one elbow, trailing her other hand up McAfee’s chest, tapping each dark purple lip print with the tip of a finger. “You still look hot, obviously.”
McAfee giggles sleepily. “I’m glad you came to Payton’s. I’m glad I saw you again.”
Skye’s grin softens and she draws a heart on McAfee’s collarbone. “Yeah.”