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Fool's Gold

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“Class, class - please. Just be quiet for the last five minutes so I can explain your next assignment.”

“But if we don’t shut up, you won’t be able to tell us and then we don’t have to do it.”

The class laughs as Mr. Beckett points his finger at the distraction, "Brody, one more outburst from you and you're going to miss the game this Friday night for serving detention."

The boy sinks lower in his seat, mumbling to himself, "It's Kirsch."

"Anyway, the assignment: you'll first be put into pairs. Instead of having to hear you whine about selections I'll just have you choose them yourself."

The students whisper to each other as he bends down to grab something from underneath his desk, a small grunt echoed throughout the class as he stands up and drops a large bag of flour onto the tabletop.  

"I present to you: a baby," he wipes his hands together to get rid of the excess flour, "Not just any baby, but your baby."

There's a scoff from the back of the class from Carmilla, but he ignores it. She's very bright but sometimes like a toddler - it's best to just ignore the outbursts and not give them any attention.

"Once your pair picks up your flour baby, you will be responsible for your new bundle of joy,"-an actual groan from Carmilla this time, a few giggles from Laura and LaFontaine, and a shh from Perry-"for a whole week. You and your partner will need to be attached at the hip for this, so choose wisely."

Danny raises her hand and he waves it off, "Wait until I finish explaining for questions."

"But what about those of us that have extracurriculars? To try and sync our schedules may be too hard."

"Which is why I said choose wisely. Listen, this needs to replicate real life as much as possible-"

"So you want us to blame the sack for all the things that went wrong in our life?"

"Miss Karnstein," the class falls silent, aside from the tap of Carmilla's pen against her desk. He blows out a long breath, "Come to my desk after class."

There's a chorus of ooo's before Carmilla bites out, "Grow up, losers," and goes back to scribbling in her notebook.

He sighs - it's been too long of a day and it's only almost half past two. He rubs at his forehead and gestures to the pile of papers on his desk, "Just come and grab the rubric. Once you have a partner, come write your pairs down on the sign-up sheet and grab your bag of flour."

He sits down and watches the students begin to circulate the classroom, not looking forward to the conversation he's about to have with Carmilla.

(Is it too early for him to book his yearly vacation?)

-----

Laura watches as Carmilla stands at Mr. Beckett's desk, expression never changing from the perfect mix of quiet apathy and genuine disdain. She resists the urge to eavesdrop and instead scans the room for potential partners.

Perry and LaFontaine are out for obvious reasons. Her eyes fall on Danny and she considers it, but she did make a good point about being too busy and she doesn't want her mark to be compromised.

Her eyes gravitate back to Carmilla, who has now moved from apathetic disdain to hateful brooding. Laura drops her eyes to the paper in front of her at Carmilla's sudden turn back towards her desk.

Laura lifts her head after a few seconds to get a better look and is suddenly met with a very tall, very excited boy in front of her.

"Hey! So, you wanna have a baby together or something?"

"Uh," she can see Carmilla out of the corner of her eye and smiles apologetically at him, making a split-second decision, "I'd love to, Kirsch - in a strictly platonic, only flour-baby kind of way - but I think I'm going to broaden my horizons with this project."

"What?"

"I'm going to try working with someone new."

"Oh!" He nods, "Nice, that's real cool of you. Just thought it would be fun like when we paired up for the science fair, but it's all good."

He turns to leave but then pauses, looking like he's suddenly remembered something, "You coming to the Zeta party this weekend?"

"Uh, sure?"

"Sick. Make sure to bring more hotties,” he smiles and looks across the room, tossing out a see ya before walking off.

She taps her pen, staring in Carmilla's direction before taking a deep breath and walking over.

Carmilla is doodling some intricate caricature on the side of her page but makes no move to look up.

"Can I help you?"

She smiles as she notices that it's a not-so-flattering version of Mr. Beckett with devil horns. It's actually quite good.

"Hello?"

She starts, "Uh, yeah, I was just wondering if you wanted to partner up?"

Carmilla tilts her head up, giving Laura a once-over, "Didn't take you to be into lady-loving."

"Huh?"

Carmilla looks up fully now and smirks, nodding her head in Kirsch's direction, "You turned down the chance to make fake babies with jock boy for the more sapphic route. I'm surprised."

She opens her mouth to say something but all she can manage is a choked sputter of, "No, I didn't...wait-"

Carmilla laughs and goes back to her drawing, "Relax, Cutie, it was a joke."

Laura furrows her brows and scrunches her lips, "You could have been more clear."

Carmilla shrugs, looking up at her with faux innocence, "But where's the fun in that?"

She huffs, "Listen, if you didn't want to be my partner you could have just said so."

Carmilla doodles for a few seconds, Laura feeling the skin on her cheeks warm. She sighs and goes to leave but there's a soft grasp around her wrist, "Beckett said if I don't do this project he'll fail me, so, yeah, I'll be your partner or whatever."

Laura smiles and nods, "Okay, yeah. Great. Here," Carmilla releases her hold as Laura takes out her phone and passes it to the other girl, "Give me your number."

"Wow, very demanding. Another surprise."

"Just be quiet and give me your number."

Carmilla stares at her as she types the number, a hint of being impressed flashing across her eyes. Laura raises an eyebrow and smiles wider as Carmilla gives her the phone back, "See? That wasn't so hard, was it?"

Carmilla furrows her brow, "This is probably going the biggest mistake of my life, isn't it?"

Laura laughs as she walks away, "Not a chance," she throws over her shoulder, "I'll see you tonight."

"Wait, I didn't agree to-"

"I'll text you!"

Laura giggles as she listens to Carmilla grumble to herself from behind her.

(Trying something new: what's the worst that can happen?)

-----

LaFontaine scribbles a few notes onto the paper in front of them, "So, I'm thinking that I can tackle the math portion for finance and some research on the effects having children has on parents."

Perry opens her planner and starts writing some notes in the margin, nodding along, "Yes, and I was thinking of working up a feeding plan for the baby and maybe a list of possible careers for us to choose from?"

"Mhm, that's really good. As long as you include-"

"Marine biologist. I know, I know."

LaFontaine let's out a soft laugh, "Wicked. Do you want to get started on the poster this weekend?"

Perry looks up, "I was thinking we could do a PowerPoint instead. You're so good with technical stuff. And it looks so much more professional."

"Yes, but," LaFontaine leans in close, "posters are so much cooler. We could have a glitter fight again!"

They watch as Perry's eyes go wide and try their best not to crack a smile, "That was one time and my mom still brings up how I ruined her antique rug. That is never happening again. Plus," Perry straightens up, "like I said, you're really good at it. You'll make it look amazing."

LaFontaine let's out a whine, "But Perr, glitter-"

"Sweetie?" She looks over at them again with batted lashes, "it's a no."

LaFontaine slumps, "Fine. But just for that I'm going to add a report on the biological properties of the flour baby."

"Sure, sure," Perry flips a few pages of her calendar until she lands on today's date, "Do you want to come straight to my place after school?"

"Yeah, but what about-"

"Your biology club? It meets every other week and since you met last week you're free tonight."

LaFontaine smiles, a warmth spreading in their chest, "No, I know that. I was going to ask about your school council meeting tonight. It's every Thursday, right?"

A slight blush paints Perry's cheeks, the sight encouraging the warmth inside of LaFontaine, "Yes - but it got cancelled earlier today," she pauses, "Sorry, I didn't think-"

"I'd remember? I know I'm forgetful, but I remember the important things."

Perry looks like she's going to say something but stops, her eyes falling somewhere behind LaFontaine. They turn slightly and follow the sight line, landing on a few students still loitering in the classroom. When they look back Perry is doodling in the corner of her notebook, a clear L+P in bold around a swirly heart. She looks up at LaFontaine and smiles sadly, but LaFontaine is too busy trying to control the hammer in their chest to notice.

They nod, tapping the doodle with the tip of their pen, "Yeah. Me too."

Perry smiles so bright that LaFontaine feels like the world will never see nightfall again. They control the urge to tuck that stubborn piece of stray curl behind Perry's ear and grips their pen instead, "So, yeah. Tonight?"

Perry nods, her smile never faltering, "Tonight."

LaFontaine grabs their stuff and heads towards the door. They know Perry is probably freaking out about this but they aren't worried at all.

(They've been playing house and pretending to be married to each other ever since they were seven. This is a piece of cake.)

-----

Danny sits at her desk, sighing as she stares at the people left in the classroom. All of the other Summer Society girls have paired up - being a leader can be lonely sometimes - so there’s only a few people left to choose from. She’s about to get up and approach Laura when she sees Kirsch beat her to it.

She sighs, mumbling great under her breath.

(She mentally adds this as reason number 32 as to why she hates him.)

She re-reads the rubric a few times when she notices Kirsch walking away - without Laura. Danny smiles, getting out of her seat to quickly try and catch the girl before someone else gets there first.

There’s two desks to go when Kirsch blocks her path. She rolls her eyes and goes to side-step him but he matches her movements.

“I know this goes against your cellular biology, but can you not be annoying for at least five seconds to let me pass?”

He scowls and adjusts the strap on his backpack, “Listen, there’s no one left to pair up with so we’re going to have to be partners.”

Danny laughs - full and mocking - in his face, “This has to be a joke.”

He shrugs, “I wish it was.”

She stares at him in disbelief then tilts her head to check out the rest of the room. Mr. Beckett is at his desk grading papers, LaFontaine and Perry are huddled close in their corner and Laura is walking over to Carmilla’s desk.

Everyone else has left, leaving Danny to stare back at the overgrown toddler standing in front of her. She shakes her head, “No - nope, not happening.”

“Come on, Summer Psycho, I don’t want this either, but-”

“Excuse me!” She cranes her neck and raises her hand, waving in Mr. Beckett’s direction, “Is there an option of being a single parent for this assignment?”

The teacher doesn’t look up from his papers, “Just come sign your names and get started Miss Lawrence.”

She growls and turns back to Kirsch, “Maybe we could switch partners or something. Isn't there some Zeta idiot you want to pair with?"

Kirsch scrunches his nose, "I don't know. Jake is kind of crushing on Sam and I think he's going to use the project to make his move."

"Wow. How romantic."

Kirsch straightens up, "I think it kind of is, actually. He’s liked him for a while so I'm not gonna be the one to ruin that. It totally goes against, like, the bro code."

"The bro code," Danny deadpans, "I'm stuck with you because of the bro code?"

"It's a pretty honourable code if you actually read it."

"There's an actual-" Danny shakes her head, "Okay, no, whatever. We’ll figure this out later."

She turns and walks back to her desk, the sound of Kirsch close behind her, "What about now?"

She puts her book and pens into her backpack and slings it over her shoulder, "Now I've got a Summer Society meeting during my spare and I have to go prep for it."

"Yeah, but what about our project? You're totally bailing on your commitment."

She laughs, "I'm not bailing on anything. I just know where my priorities lie. A girl code, if you will."

Kirsch scowls at her and she smiles wider, "If you'll step aside, please. I'm running late."

He makes a show of stepping back and does over-exaggerated sweeping gestures with his hands in the direction of the door, “Please, please - I wouldn’t want to keep you from your super important meeting.”

She pauses to insult him but is only able to spit out a groan. He smiles smugly and she flips him off, "Just text me later, bro."

She storms off and practices deep breathing exercises all the way to her meeting.

It's only a few weeks. Maybe this won't be so bad.

(She doesn't have time right now to think of what it will be like if it is.)

-----

"Um, so this is my room."

Laura drops her bag by the door as Carmilla waltzes in and plops herself down on the bed. Laura sighs, "Please, make yourself at home."

Carmilla takes off her bag before reaching in and grabbing a book, "Don't mind if I do, Cupcake."

Laura hesitates on the spot for a few seconds before crossing the room to sit at her desk. She opens her laptop and swivels her chair around while she waits for it to start, "What are you reading?"

"Aristotle."

"Oh," Laura takes out the rubric, "I thought it might have been something to do with - oh, I don't know - our project."

Carmilla's eyes never leave the page, "Sorry to disappoint."

Laura growls under her breath as she turns to her desk and starts a word document and some browsers for research.

She types at her computer for the next twenty minutes, periodically sighing to herself, the exaggeration of each increasing with every new one.

By the fifth sigh she hears a book slam from behind her, "Do you have something to say or do I have to assume you always breathe in such an annoying manner?"

Laura turns to face her, fake smile spread across her face, "It must be all the stress of having to do this entire project by myself."

Carmilla grins in such a sickly sweet manner that Laura feels like she'll get diabetes just from staring at it, "Now why would I help when you're obviously doing such a great job all on your own?"

Laura grits her teeth and turns back towards her computer. She hits print and heads over to the bed with the sheets of paper once they're ready, "Okay, enough of your crap. Here are some things to read for us to get started."

Carmilla grabs her book again, not even glancing anywhere close to the direction of the papers, "I'll give them a good read when I'm home later tonight."

Laura takes a deep breath, "Okay. Why don't we start with occupations? If we have a baby to feed, we'll need jobs."

Carmilla shrugs, "I don't care, pick whatever you want."

Laura sighs, "You know, if you weren't going to contribute to this at all I don't understand why you even came over."

Carmilla turns a page, pausing, "Maybe I just didn't feel like going home."

Laura studies her for a moment, "Everything okay?"

The other girl smiles sarcastically, "Just peachy." She drops the smile and rolls her eyes, "Not everything has to be an after school special, sunshine. I was just bored," she glances around the room, "Although I should have had more hindsight that this wouldn't be the best entertainment."

Laura scrunches her face, "What's that supposed to mean?"

Carmilla waves her hand around the room, "Doesn't really look like you have anything fun to do in here. And it's so...yellow."

"Well I didn't bring you over to have fun," she crosses her arms, mumbling, "And I chose the colour when I was ten after a really bad day, so, whatever."

She can see Carmilla’s smirk from behind her book but she ignores it, “Anyway, what about budgets? Numbers aren’t really my strong suit so maybe you could plan out our finances.”

Carmilla shrugs, “I don’t really care. I’m sure you’ll do fine with it.”

Laura closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, “Okay, I think I’ve been going about this all wrong. Let’s start off with something more fun.”

Carmilla quirks her brow, “I’m listening.”

“Baby names!”

The other girl rolls her eyes and slides further into the bed, holding the book closer to her face, “Oh. How stupid of me to think you would mean something actually fun.”

Laura smiles and shifts so she’s closer to Carmilla on the bed, “Okay, I’ll go first. I’ve always liked the names Jasmine, Isabella, Cody and Taylor. What about you?”

“I don’t care.”

Laura groans, "Carmilla, come on. Give me something to work with, here," she pauses and grins, "I'll just have to guess for you. How about...Jennifer?"

"Sweetheart, I don't care what you name the stupid flour sack."

"It's not a big deal, why can't you just contribute to this one thing?"

"Because I don't care."

Laura grabs one of the sheets that she printed out with a list of names, "Henry? Lucas? Stephanie?"

Laura watches as Carmilla tightens her grip on the book, "Don't care. Don't care. And...don't care."

"My God, it's just a name - why do you have to be so difficult?"

"Because I. Don't. Care."

Laura groans out in frustration as she scrunches the paper and rips it in the process, "Do you care about anything? This project? Our grade? Or do you only care about yourself?"

Carmilla slams her book and stills, jaw locked and eyes burning, "Oh, you think you've got me pegged perfectly, don’t you? Poor, little Carmilla who needs a pity invitation for a group project because she's such a selfish loner that cares about nothing outside of herself."

Laura's cheeks warm and she tries to stop the bubbling rage in her chest, "Don't try and turn this around-"

"No, whatever," Carmilla is up and stuffing her book back into her bag before Laura has a second to blink. She's almost at the door when she turns around, "You know, maybe I have more important things to do then entertain the idea of parenthood or budgets or fucking baby names. Good luck on the project, Princess."

She slams the door behind her as Laura shouts, "Guess we'll just have joint custody, then!"

She flops back on her bed and grabs the nearest pillow to throw over her face so she can scream into it.

(What's the worst that could happen?

Maybe caring so much about why someone doesn't seem to care at all.)

-----

“Babe, can you email me the stuff you’ve researched so far about parenting?”

LaFontaine looks up from the book they’re reading, smirking, “So you can edit it?”

Perry blushes, “It’s not meant to insult you, we just both know that spelling isn’t your strong suit.”

They laugh and shift on the bed to reach down and grab their laptop, “I’m just kidding with you.”

Perry rolls her eyes and types for a few seconds before looking up at them, “Oh, hey - mom wants to know if you’re still coming over for brunch on Sunday?”

“Perry, I’ve been coming over every Sunday for the past two years. Do you really have to ask me every time?”

No, not every Sunday. There were the two weekends you missed earlier in the year because-”

“Because I had the flu. Your mom needs to relax.”

Perry smiles, “You know she’s worse than me. She’s already texted me three times from work to find out if we’ve actually been doing work on this project.”

LaFontaine bites their lip to stop from laughing, “Did you inform her that I cut out of band practice early last night to work on it with you?”

Her eyes widen, “No.”

A laugh manages to escape LaFontaine’s mouth, “Fine. But did you at least mention that even though we got the assignment two days ago that we’re already almost done the written report?”

Perry huffs but still manages to smile, “Yes - but she still worries.”

They shake their head and send off the email, closing their laptop and setting it back on the floor before opening the book in front of them to the last page they were reading,  “Sent. So, since it’s the near the end of the month does that mean your mom is making my favourite cupcakes?”

Perry nods, “Mhm.”

“Great. Then tell her I wouldn’t miss it even if Bill Nye himself was giving a TED talk on the same day.”

Perry rolls her eyes, “Oh, and here I thought that you were coming to spend time with me. But now I learn it’s the cupcakes and not me that is worth missing Bill Nye for.”

They scoff, “Please, I’d give up science itself for you if I had to.”

They continue to read for a few seconds before realizing the strange quiet that fell over the room. They look up and Perry is just staring at them, the oddest expression on her face.

“Babe…?”

They don’t have time to think before Perry is crawling over and setting both hands on the side of their face, kissing them with so much delicacy and tenderness that LaFontaine feels their heart stop. They melt into the kiss, grinning as Perry reaches around and scratches at the back of their scalp. They discard the book off the side of the bed, giggling into the kiss as they hear the loud thud of it against the floor. They reach up and run their hand through Perry’s hair, humming into Perry’s mouth as she continues to massage the back of their scalp.

She is literally the best kisser. The best kisser in the entire universe.

Perry pulls back and grins, "You really think so?"

Oh. So they said that out loud, "Um-"

They're cut off by soft lips, the feel of Perry's mouth stretching into a smile against their own.

Perry pulls away and LaFontaine is left grinning like an idiot, "If that's your reaction, should I compliment you more often?"

Perry slaps them lightly, "You would compliment me anyway, regardless of the kisses," she looks down, "But you know I love kissing you, too. I know I don't do the other stuff, and I'm sorry-"

They scoff, "Perr, please. I'm not going to do anything you're not cool with. Besides, if my girlfriend is the best kisser in the universe I'm pretty sure I'm the real winner here, so."

Perry laughs, “You're ridiculous,” she leans forward for a brief peck, “Sweet, but ridiculous."

She moves back and grabs a thick book from her nightstand, "Okay, let's talk baby names."

LaFontaine balks, "Did you... buy a baby book?"

Perry looks at them like they've grown three heads, "How else were we going to decide?"

"Oh, I don't know," they crawl forward until they're leaning against the headboard beside Perry, "Pick one out of a hat?"

Perry pulls a face, "Never."

LaFontaine sighs and opens their arm for Perry. She shifts so she's resting her head against their chest and opens the baby book to a random page, "Okay. How about Francis?"

"Ew, that's an ugly name."

Perry sighs, "Fine," she flips a through some pages, "Um, Salvatore?"

"Nope. The Vampire Diaries ruined that name for me," they run a hand through Perry's hair, "You know-"

"No."

"What?"

"We are not naming our child Darwin. I'm sorry, baby, but no."

"I wasn't going to say that! I was going to say-"

"They aren't going to be called Mendel, either."

LaFontaine pouts, "But babe-"

Perry reaches up to tangle her fingers with the hand LaFontaine has in her hair, bringing their joined hands to her lips to kiss their knuckles, "Nope. Besides, we should choose something that we both like."

They sigh, "Okay, okay, fine. But I'm keeping those on the table for middle names."

"Fine," she drags her finger across the names of the page when she suddenly stops, "Oh!" She starts to flip a bunch of pages at once, "I know where we should look."

She flips for a few seconds before landing on the unisex chapter of the book, "Here we go."

LaFontaine smiles into Perry's hair, "It’s a bag of flour. It doesn't even have a gender."

"Exactly! Even more reason. I don't want to - to put our child into some sort of box before they even know how to walk or talk. It's unfair."

LaFontaine's breath catches in their throat, that tight feeling in their chest squeezing extra hard.

(The one that tightens even more so whenever Perry says something inexplicitly and utterly Perry.)

"Perr..."

Perry shifts and looks up at them, “What’s wrong?”

They shake their head, the tightening in their chest sending tingles to the tips of their fingers. They try to adequately express how full they feel - full of awe and appreciation and love - but all they can come up with is bringing up the hand that isn’t bound to Perry and reaching up to trace L + P on her forearm.

Perry watches them trace the letters over and over before looking back up at them again and smiling, eyes shiny, “Yeah, me too.”

LaFontaine presses a soft kiss to Perry’s hairline just as their girlfriend closes the baby book, “I think we’ve done enough work tonight, don’t you?”

LaFontaine smiles, hoping the thud of their heart isn’t too loud against Perry’s ear, “I agree, boss.”

Perry laughs and buries her face into LaFontaine’s neck, “You know I hate when you call me that.”

LaFontaine laughs, “I know. Making you mad is my favourite past time.”

Perry continues to giggle, snuggling closer into LaFontaine’s side, “Oh, please,” she yawns, “Wanna take a nap?”

LaFontaine shifts to fully wrap their arms around her, “Sounds good-”

“Call me boss again and I’m kicking you out of my room.”

LaFontaine just laughs softly as they feel their eyes drifting closed, the feel of Perry’s breath against their chest already evening out.

(See? Piece of cake.)

-----

"We should name it Charlie."

She sighs, "She would make a great Charlie. I've always liked that name for a girl."

Kirsch shakes his head, "Bro, our baby isn't a chick. It's a dude."

"Says who?"

He pauses and shrugs, "I don't know, I just like the idea of having a little boy instead of a little girl. And I know some chicks use that name, too, but it's way more of a bro name."

Danny stares at the boy in front of her, waiting for the punch line, but nothing comes.

"My name is Danny and I'm a girl. Is that more of a bro name?" She waits for an answer but all she gets is a hesitant look. She groans and throws her hands up, "My God, how did I get stuck with you again?"

"Well, Perry and LaFontaine were never gonna separate and Laura had said something about trying something new before moving to Carmilla's desk after I asked-"

She holds her hand up, "It was a rhetorical question," she sighs and opens her laptop to get a word document started, "Let's just try and do something productive, okay?"

Kirsch smiles at her and nods, "Okay, cool. But, um, for the name? Can we please stick with Charlie?"

Danny looks up from her screen, "Even if she's a chick?"

"Yeah," Kirsch scratches the back of his neck, "I, uh, don't care. Whatever gender. Just name them Charlie."

"Why do you care so much?"

His jaw locks, "I just like the name, okay?"

Danny quirks an eyebrow, "Sure."

Kirsch plays with the pen in front of him, "You don't ever think about having kids?"

Danny laughs, "Kirsch, we're only seventeen."

“I’m actually eighteen. Had to be held back when I was ten ‘cause of - whatever.” He shrugs again, "I don't know, I think it would be kinda cool. Being a dad and stuff."

Danny opens her mouth to say something but there's something in the wrinkle around Kirsch's eyes and slight quirk of his mouth that stops her.

"We can name him Charlie, okay?"

Kirsch looks up, a wide smile stretched across his face, "Yeah? Him?"

She rolls her eyes before looking down and biting the inside of her lip, leaning into her screen to cover the hint of a smile, "Yeah, well, if you're going to be such a sap about it then I don't care."

She can see Kirsch nodding in her peripheral,

"Wicked, thanks. That's super cool of you, Danny."

"Whatever, let's just divide up the project so I can go get in some laps around the track before my bus comes."

(Later, when she's editing their report at home and writes Charlie beside the line requesting the baby's name, she can't help but shake her head and smile.

Maybe it actually won't be so bad.)

-----

Laura paces outside the cafeteria before biting her lip and walking towards the table in the back corner. When she gets there she slams the sack of flour on the table in front of the pair of boots resting on the edge, "It's your part of the week to take the sack."

Carmilla doesn’t look up from the book she’s reading, “Okay.”

She reaches into her bag and pulls out a notebook, “Here is the journal I kept documenting our experience with the baby every day. Can you make sure you update it daily for your days?”

She’s met with silence huffs out a breath, “Carmilla?”

Carmilla sighs, “I’ll try.”

Laura locks her jaw, breathing out her nose, "I'm going to need better than 'I'll try.'"

"Did you need anything else? I'm kind of busy."

Laura let's out a humourless laugh, "Right. I'll see you whenever," she turns and walks a few steps but can’t shake the heat burning inside of her chest. She stops and turns around, marching straight back around the table and grabbing the book right out of Carmilla’s hands, slamming it onto the table.

“What the fuck-”

“You’re not going to apologize for the other day?”

Carmilla raises her eyebrow and snatches her book, throwing it into her bag, “And what exactly am I apologizing for?”

“For bailing on your half of the project, for starters.”

Carmilla stands and throws on her book bag, picking up the sack of flour and journal, “Well, I’m taking it now so really I don’t see the problem. See you later, darling.

She’s walking down the rows of lunch tables but Laura is hot on her tail, “We’re not done discussing this.”

“Is that right? I could have sworn we were since I had up and left.”

Laura clenches her fists as she speeds up to match Carmilla’s step, “You totally over-reacted and then ignored my messages all week. I had to basically stalk you to find you today. It’s really not cool of you to dump this whole project on me.”

Carmilla cuts past a freshmen - watch it, idiot - as she turns a corner, stopping at her locker. Laura is around the corner so quickly that she almost runs into her.

Carmilla quickly spins the lock a few times and whips it open, “Listen, I didn’t do anything wrong and we both know it. You’re just pissed off because I’m not as peppy as you are about this stupid assignment.”

Laura scoffs and crosses her arms, "Don't tell me how I feel."

Carmilla turns to smile at her, all trace of sincerity non-existent, "Feels like shit, doesn't it?"

Laura pauses, a sinking feel settling in her stomach. She plays with the end of her sleeve, "I'm sorry. For being so quick to judge."

“Whatever,” Carmilla shrugs, "It doesn’t matter."

Laura leans against a locker, "You know, I'm really trying here."

"And I'm really trying to explain that I don't care about any of this."

She watches as Carmilla sifts through the large pile of books in her locker. The sinking feeling feels as if it’s dragging her down. She bites her lip, “Can we just start over? I know you don’t care, but-”

The locker slams shut, “Like I’ve said before, you really don’t know anything about me. Can you just leave me alone for the rest of the week? The less we talk about this idiotic project, the better.”

“I’m just trying to extend an olive branch. Can you just take it?”

“You can take your olive branch and shove it up your-”

“Fine. You know what? I’m done with this project, too,” she reaches forward and grabs onto the flour sack, “I’ll take this for the remainder of the week.”

“Why? So you can just complain some more about how little I did?” Carmilla tightens her hold on the sack, “No chance I’m giving you that opportunity.”

“I’m not letting you ruin my grade for this class,” she pulls, “Let. Go.”

Carmilla steps closer and pulls back, “No. Chance.”

“Carmilla,” a tug.

Sweetheart,” a pull.

Laura tugs hard towards her, “Let go of our baby!”

A hardness flashes across Carmilla’s eyes and she shoves the bag into Laura’s chest, “Fine - take it. I don’t have time for your stupid games, I’ve got a spare period.”

“Great - see if you can maybe use the time to look up some manners.”

Carmilla rolls her eyes, sarcasm dripping from her lips, “Fine.”

“Fine!”

Laura twirls around and stomps four steps before turning the corner and running right into one of the senior Zetas. She stumbles and tries to reach forward but the Zeta has already accidentally stepped on it, the contents of the sack already spilling across the floor.

“Uh - sorry dude.”

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” she falls to her knees and tries to sweep her hands on the floor to gather the closest pieces of white powder. She grabs the sack to inspect the tear when theres another set of hands collecting the flour in front of her. She looks up at Carmilla with a mix between a scowl and a frown, “Don’t make this worse than it already is by pointing out my shortcomings.”

Carmilla looks like she’s going to say something but purses her lips instead. She shovels a few handfuls into the sack before looking back up at Laura, “I’ll take care of this. You should get to English.”

“How did you-”

“You sent me a million texts this week with your schedule,” at Laura’s raised eyebrows Carmilla rolls her eyes, “Just because I ignored your texts doesn’t mean I didn’t read them.”

Laura smiles but then remembers that as of two minutes ago she vowed to hate Carmilla forever. She ducks her head to collect herself and feels Carmilla squeeze her wrist, “Seriously. You have class and I have a spare. I can handle this.”

Laura feels like she’s just gone through an upside-down loop on a roller coaster, “I can honestly help. It was my fault.”

Carmilla shakes her head, “It’s okay, honestly,” she looks down and Laura wishes she could see her eyes, “Most people don’t think it, but I am capable of taking care of some things.”

Laura watches as Carmilla carefully gathers small pockets of flour, slowly pouring it back into the tear in the side of the sack. She offers a weak smile, but it goes unnoticed as Carmilla appears to be set on avoiding eye contact, “Thanks.”

Carmilla shrugs and continues to clean the mess up. Laura looks up at the clock and sees that there’s three minutes left until class starts. She looks back at Carmilla and gnaws her bottom lip between her teeth, grimacing, “Um-”

The sinking in her stomach drops to her toes at the look of the first genuine smile she’s ever seen on Carmilla’s face, “Just go, Creampuff.”

“I’m really, really sorry!” She jumps up and starts, but turns back around to lean down and give Carmilla a one-armed hug, “Thank you so much!”

Carmilla stills and she jumps back up, “Um, that was weird. Sorry. I’m - yeah, okay. I’m going to go. This way,” she starts to walk backwards and almost knocks over another student, “Sorry! Oh God. I’m just going to go.”

She speed-walks down the hall and pretends she can’t hear Carmilla’s soft laughter from behind her.

(She’s beginning to learn that the worst that could happen is not knowing what to expect at all.)

-----

“Can you tilt your head a bit to the right?”

LaFontaine rolls their eyes, “Do we really have to do this, Perr?”

Perry huffs as she brings the camera down, “If you want to get an A on this project, then yes.”

“But Perr,” they stop as Perry steps forward to fix a few stray hairs on their head. They smile at the look of pure concentration on Perry’s face.

“Sweetie?”

“Hmm?”

She steps back, “You were saying?”

They nod and adjust the sack of flour in their hands, “Right. It’s just - I think we can still get an A without doing a photoshoot.”

Perry waves her hand dismissively and looks into the viewfinder, “Just hold still for a second - the light is hitting you both beautifully.”

They try to keep a straight face and use every ounce of willpower not to roll their eyes outside of their skull.

"Stop making that face."

LaFontaine frowns, "I wasn't making a face."

"Yes you were. It was the Perry-is-being-ridiculous face."

"Oh," they smirk, "How do you differentiate that from my other facial expressions?"

Perry raises her eyebrow, “If you think getting me riled up is going to distract me from taking photos,” she brings the camera up and snaps another picture, “then you’re wrong.”

Perry-”

“Fine, fine. Why don’t you take some of me and the flour now?”

LaFontaine pulls off the baby carrier - yes, Perry actually bought one - and drops it abruptly onto the park bench, “Thank God. It feels like the weight of the world is now off my shoulders.”

Perry rolls her eyes as she passes the camera to them, “And people call me the overdramatic one.”

The moment LaFontaine slides the camera strap around their neck they hold it up and start clicking the shutter button repeatedly, pointing the camera in Perry’s direction.

LaFontaine - I’m not even holding the flour yet.”

“Yeah, but you’re way too pretty to waste it.”

They smile as they see Perry duck her head and bite her lip, taking the opportunity to step forward and click a few more times for some close-ups.

Perry giggles and swats her hand, “Will you stop? Let me at least get some with the flour.” She picks up the flour out of the carrier and cradles it like a baby, “Okay, get some of me looking at the flour like I’m in complete awe of my newborn child.”

“Perr, I’m the photographer now so I’ll be making the artistic decisions while in this role.”

Perry blows out a breath, “Okay, what are your ideas then?”

“I’d like you to look at the flour like you’re in complete awe of our newborn child.”

Perry pauses and bites her lip, smiling, “LaFontaine-”

They laugh, “Okay, okay. I’ll cool it on the smooth talk. Let’s go over to the swings and I’ll get a few of you on there.”

They walk towards the swings and LaFontaine takes a few more shots on the way.

(Why not, right?)

When Perry is settled on the swing, LaFontaine clicks a few times before pausing, “Can I change your hair?”

Perry looks affronted, “What’s wrong with my hair?”

They smile as they step forward and let the camera drop against their chest, “Your hair is perfect in all of it’s curly glory. I just like it better when it’s down.”

They step in between Perry’s legs, reaching up to gently pull the hair-tie out and releasing her hair until it’s falling against her shoulders. They run their hands through the curls, tucking a few strands behind her ear, the tips of their fingers lingering softly along Perry’s jaw with every stroke.

They let out a sigh and Perry furrows her brows, “What’s wrong?”

“You’re just so unbelievably pretty.”

Perry’s lips slowly grow into the largest smile LaFontaine has ever seen. She bites her lip, “I really wish we could-”

They nod, “I know. Me too.”

Perry darts her eyes before reaching up with two fingers and kissing the tips. She hesitates before bringing them up and pressing them against LaFontaine’s lips.

They grin, mumbling against them, “You’re so adorable.”

“That’s you,” she reaches forward and drags her fingers up the strap of the camera, sending a trail of goosebumps along the back of LaFontaine’s neck when she slips the camera off. She nods her head to the side, “Here - come stand behind me.”

LaFontaine raises their eyebrows before they settle behind her, “Are you actually going to ditch the photoshoot in favour of me pushing you on the swing?”

Perry scoffs, “No. We can take pictures that way,” she holds the camera up in front of their faces and turns her head towards LaFontaine, “Are you going to scootch closer or not?”

They lean down so they’re cheek-to-cheek, all-too-aware of the heat that’s emitting from them. Perry starts taking some pictures, occasionally saying buzzwords to prompt them to change facial expression. LaFontaine laughs the whole time when they nudge Perry with their shoulder, “Babe, you’re not even getting the flour in these shots.”

They can see Perry smirk as she takes a few more photos, “I know. These are just for me.”

LaFontaine shakes their head and continues to smile for the camera.

(This may be the best project they’ve ever had to work on.)

-----

“Did you print the photos that we’re putting on the poster board?”

"Yup," Kirsch walks towards her, setting them down on his desk. He hovers beside her as she starts to scatter them on the board.

She's debating on a placement for one when she feels something bat at her legs, "Can you please get this thing out of here?"

"Hey," Kirsch bends down and scoops up the tiny, grey cat, cuddling her close to his chest, "Her name is Selina."

Danny leans forward and hesitantly reaches forward to pet her. She flinches when Selina bats her paw at her, “There’s something wrong with her.”

“Naw,” he coos at the cat, “She’s perfect.”

“She hates me - and all animals love me - so there must be something wrong with her.”

Kirsch smirks, “Like I said - she’s perfect.”

Danny huffs and turns back towards the board, “Shut up.”

He laughs from behind her and she can hear the door open, “Project time, little buddy. We can cuddle later.”

He closes the door and Danny raises her eyebrow at him. He scowls, “What?”

‘We can cuddle later’ - you are such a sap.”

“Whatever, dude,” he brings his backpack to the windowsill and starts rummaging through it.

Danny returns to the photo placement when she sees something out of the corner of her eye.

She stops her movements, “What are you doing?”

“Isn’t it awesome?”

She raises her eyebrows at the sight of Kirsch arranging the bag of flour by the window and trying to fit a baby shirt over it.

“Um, I have about a hundred words coming to mind but awesome isn’t one of them.”

He rolls his eyes and lifts it up to hold against his chest, looking down to admire it for a moment before looking back up at Danny with a wide smile, “Can you believe you can get your own custom shirt made for only fifteen bucks?”

Danny takes a deep breath, the words Proud Zeta staring her in the face, “Our flour baby is not wearing that garbage.”

“Garbage? Dude, I have like four of these on order at the mall.”

She shakes her head, "Listen, I already let you name and gender our child. I even stepped aside when you wrote that cheesy lullaby for it-"

"Mr. Beckett told us to be creative!"

"I know. And even though it wasn't half bad, I put my foot down at allowing any child of mine - real or fake - to be a Zeta."

Kirsch lifts his chin, "Being a Zeta is one of the most honourable things you can be."

Danny scoffs, "Please, like it's anything to be proud of."

Kirsch steps forward and clenches his jaw, "Not cool, bro."

“Whatever,” Danny turns back to the poster board, “Let's just finish this so I can go home and forget this week even happened."

“Works for me, Summer Psycho.”

She grabs some tape when she hears ruffling behind her. She turns and crosses her arms, “Seriously, take that thing off.”

Kirsch doesn’t look up, “Nope.”

“Kirsch-”

“Just finish the board so you can leave and I can catch up on Criminal Minds.”

She clenches her teeth together, “Take it off.”

He raises his eyebrow, “Woah, try to keep it in your pants, Lawrence.”

She groans and steps forward, beginning to remove the shirt from the sack, “You’re disgusting.”

He uses his body to shove her aside and pulls the shirt back down, “Don’t touch my shirt.”

Danny tries to take deep breaths but the burning in her chest is becoming too strong. She smacks the side of his head and hip checks him, sending him stumbling towards his bed.

“What the hell!”

She pulls the shirt off and upon seeing him bounce back towards her she shields the flour with her body, “Stay away from our child.”

Kirsch is behind her and trying to wrap his arms around hers to grab the shirt, “Give me the shirt.”

She squirms and folds closer to the flour, “Nope.”

“Lawrence, I swear to god-”

She holds the shirt out the window, “Just give me a reason to drop it - I dare you.”

Kirsch presses forward and grasps to reach for the shirt, “When I get this back I’m getting a divorce and taking full custody of our child.”

Danny lets out a laugh, “Yeah, right. Like you would win in a custody battle.”

He lunges forward and tries to bring her arms back inside. She’s thrown by his strength but extends forward, his words hot against her ear, “I’d be a better parent than you, that’s for sure.”

“Keep telling yourself that, bro.”

He tries to reach her hand one last time and she automatically reacts by pushing her body forward. The shirt goes flying out of her hand - only to be followed by the sack of flour tumbling off the windowsill by the force of their bodies.

She turns to glare at him, nose-to-nose, “You. Are. Such. An. Idiot!”

“You’re the one that started it!”

“Only because you were being dumb with your stupid shirt!”

He leans toward her and stares hard before shaking his head and leaning down to poke his head out the window. After a few seconds he turns to look back at her, “You owe me fifteen bucks.”

She growls in frustration and bends down to look out the window with him. She lets out a long sigh at the sight of flour scattered across his lawn, “We’re screwed.”

“Dude, don’t worry - it’s not like it’s a real baby."

She slowly looks to him, the tension in her body buzzing with the quiet anger that has been slowly building from the moment she stepped foot into this house. She quickly pulls back and steps to the desk, starting to pack up her stuff. He knocks his head on the window from leaning back so quickly, prompting him to wince and rub at his skull, “What are you doing?”

“You don’t get it, do you? Our whole project is ruined now,” she shoves some papers into her bag, “This is going to completely tank my mark and I need to keep up my average.”

Kirsch bites his lip and slightly grimaces, “Come on, Summer Psycho, it’ll be okay.”

She turns towards him and counts backwards from ten to stop herself from decking him in the face, both fists clenched as tight as they can. It must be written across her face because he backs up and holds his hands up in defence, “No, listen, listen. I can just buy us a new one. I’m headed to the grocery store to pick up some stuff for my mom tonight, anyway.”

She glances out the window at the splatter of white across green and sighs, “Okay, fine. But I’m only trusting you to take care of it because I have a Summer Society meeting tonight.”

He nods and manages a smile, “I won’t let you down. Or let little Charlie down, either” he suddenly frowns, “Or I guess Charlie II once I pick him up tonight.”

She tilts her head and her face softens, “Thanks. I guess.”

She turns to open the door and halfway down the stairs she can hear his footsteps behind her. She stops to turn towards him, “Did you need something?”

He pauses, suddenly shy, “No, I was just going to walk you to your car.”

“Oh,” she lingers, uncharacteristically self-conscious, “I took the bus. My parents have the car today.”

He nods, “That’s cool. I can just drive you home, then.”

Before she can protest he’s past her and at the bottom of the stairs, grabbing the keys off of the hook and walking out the door. She rushes down and catches up to him halfway to the driveway, “You don’t have to do that. It’s not that long of a bus ride.”

He opens the door to his truck and rolls his eyes, “Which means it’ll be an even shorter drive,” he shakes his head as he gets into the truck, mumbling, “And people think I’m dumb.”

She huffs and stomps around to the passenger side, slamming the door when she gets inside, "I'm not dumb, I'm just trying to be considerate."

"Oh, that's new for you."

"Just shut up and drive, Dummy."

She crosses her arms and rolls her eyes at the sight of his ridiculously large smirk out of the corner of her eye.

(Okay, so this is bad. But maybe it's not the end of the world.)

-----

“Please remind me why we had to come with Ginger One and Two, please?”

LaFontaine whistles as they push the cart, Perry matching their stride and lifting her chin, “Because LaFontaine was nice enough to drive you here,” she frowns in Laura’s direction, “Even though I advised against helping you both cheat on your project.”

Laura bites her lip as she stares between Carmilla and Perry, “Can we just all please get along for the next fifteen minutes?” She ducks her head as she steps closer to Perry, “And it’s not technically cheating.”

All she gets is a hmm in response, causing the growing knot in her stomach to turn a few more times. Perry walks down the aisle to grab a few items off the shelf and Laura speeds up a bit to walk next to Carmilla, “Do you think what we’re doing is cheating?”

Carmilla shrugs, “It’s self-preservation, Cutie,” Laura looks down and Carmilla lightly touches her wrist, "It's either this or we fail, and I don't really feel like having to be sent to the Principal's office to deal with that."

Laura nods, “Yeah. Right.”

Carmilla sighs, “I already told you a million times that I could take care of this on my own. If you want to distance yourself from this I’m giving you the out.”

“No, I couldn’t,” she takes a deep breath and straightens up, “I was the one who murdered our child in the first place. I need to be a part of the fix.”

“My God,” Carmilla smirks, “You’ve never broken a rule in your life, have you?”

Laura furrows her brow, “Sure I have!”

Carmilla raises an eyebrow, “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah! There’s, uh…” she feels her cheeks warm, “Well, I think-”

“Please don’t hurt yourself, darling.”

LaFontaine throws four bags of sour cream and onion chips into the shopping cart, “She’s right: you are pretty clean.”

“I am not,” LaFontaine and Carmilla exchange a glance and Laura stomps her foot, “I’m not!”

Perry drops a box of cookies into the cart, “Please leave Laura alone.” She trails her hand along the chips, “And you don’t need those - I already have three bags of them at my house.”

“Oh, good to know,” LaFontaine grabs the chips and puts them back on the shelf, throwing five bags of barbeque chips in the cart instead.

“I have those, too, sweetie.”

LaFontaine smiles, “Wow, you’re really prepared,” they stack the bags back onto the shelf before contemplating the selection and then dropping three bags of nachos into the cart.

“I didn’t really mean-” Perry sighs, “Nevermind.”

“If the newlyweds are done discussing things that I don’t care for, can we just get to the baking aisle already?”

Laura tenses as she glances between Perry and LaFontaine, waiting for their reaction before proceeding. LaFontaine is suddenly very interested in the ingredients of the salsa they have in their hand and Perry laughs nervously, “We’re not-” she briefly looks to LaFontaine, “We just hang out a lot.”

Carmilla looks like she's studying them, “I noticed.” Laura looks to her with concern and recognition flashes across Carmilla's eyes, “It was a joke, Ginger Twins. Best friends since forever, right?” She makes a face, “Frankly, it’s nauseating.”

At the sight of visible relaxation on her friends’ faces Laura lets out a long breath that seemed to be lodged in the back of her throat.

“How about Carmilla and I head to the baking aisle and we’ll meet you at the cash?”

LaFontaine nods, “Sounds good. Try not to drop any more sacks on the way back.”

Laura pouts - whether it’s more from their comment or the sly smile on Carmilla’s face, she isn’t sure - and sticks her tongue out at them as they push the cart away laughing.

Carmilla is already bound towards the aisle and Laura has to jog to catch up with her.

Laura watches her shift a little, “I didn’t mean to offend your friends.”

She shakes her head, “No, you didn’t. Don’t worry,” she hesitates, “LaFontaine’s parents are just really conservative so those kinds of accusations would start a whole lot of arguments. Like, even though it’s not true, just putting the idea out there would basically result in getting disowned.” Laura feels a jumble of words swimming in her mouth and despite her best efforts they keep pouring out, “It just really sucks, you know? They’re such great friends and just because they’re so close people assume things. People have their own perceptions but they’re just close friends.”

“Mhm. Close friends.”

Laura’s heart quickens, “Honestly, nothing-”

A hand stills her, “It’s okay. I get it. I believe you.” She stops them in front of the flour section, “Let’s just grab one of these so we can get going.”

Carmilla reaches forward to grab a bag but Laura stops her, “That’s it? You’re just going to pluck one off the shelf?”

“Um, what else am I supposed to do?”

Laura shrugs, “I don’t know. This is our child. Shouldn’t we put more thought into it?”

Carmilla purses her lips, “You have got to be kidding me.”

"Here, what about this one?"

She grabs it from the shelf and holds it up in front of Carmilla, waiting for a response. After a moment, Carmilla shrugs, "I suppose we could go with that one...if you don't care about the logo."

"What's wrong with the logo?" She inspects it briefly before looking back up a Carmilla with a pout.

"It's all faded and distressed. Do you really want one that looks like it's been living on the streets?"

Laura huffs and hugs the flour close to her chest, "I think it's beautiful."

Carmilla snorts, "It's ugly."

She smacks her lightly on the arm, "It gives it character."

"Oh please, honey," Carmilla rolls her eyes, "Character is a nice way of saying something is damaged."

Laura smiles wide, "What gives you character, then?"

She immediately regrets the words as soon as Carmilla stiffens. She backtracks, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that."

Carmilla looks at her with fire in her eyes, "We all mean the things that we say," she laughs, hollow and dark, "God, I'm such an idiot."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

She shakes her head, "Nothing. Let's just take that one and go."

She's down the aisle but Laura is quick to keep up this time, "No, I honestly didn’t mean it. I'm sorry. You've just got the whole broody, mysterious thing going on. I was trying to make a joke," she winces, "Which I realize now that I suck at and will never attempt again."

"Just drop it, I don't care."

"Carmilla, please-"

Carmilla turns sharply towards her, the words just stop hot off her tongue; unfortunately, Laura has never been good with reflexes and the action catches her off guard, forcing her to stumble forward a few steps. Carmilla is quick to brace her arms around Laura, saving them from another accident.

"Jesus, you're completely useless. Give me that thing."

Carmilla harshly grabs the flour and speed-walks towards the front of the store. Laura stands in place for a few seconds, navigating through the churning feeling still floating in the bottom of her stomach.

She approaches the cash register with caution, LaFontaine raising their eyebrow as they glance between the two.

She subtly shakes her head at them and steps forward, pulling out her wallet and turning towards Carmilla, "I'll get this."

Carmilla is silent, her jaw tense as she looks down at her phone.

Perry puts the last bag of chips on the conveyor belt, looking up hesitantly, "Um, she's already paid for it. We just have to pay for our stuff and then we can go."

"Oh," Laura looks between the three of them and can feel her chest tightening. Carmilla won't look up from her phone, Perry is nervously counting change and LaFontaine is staring so hard at the magazine rack that she feels like it will spontaneously combust at any moment from the intensity of the gaze. The blanket of tension wrapped tightly around the group is suffocating, closing fast and hard around Laura's throat. The cool, tingling feeling in the pit of her stomach has grown ten-fold and she struggles to control it before she loses her lunch.

She takes a small step towards Carmilla, her voice dropped to a whisper, "Carmilla-”

“Hey, are your doors unlocked?”

“Uh,” LaFontaine looks like a deer caught in headlights, “Yeah. I never lock it. The value of that thing is probably in the negatives by now, so it’s almost better if it’s stolen so I can cash in on insurance.”

Carmilla nods and picks up the grocery bag with the flour, “Perfect. I’ll go wait in the car.”

Laura steps forward but she’s off and bound towards the parking lot in a flash. LaFontaine raises their eyebrows and Perry offers her a sympathetic smile.

They gather the grocery bags but before they move to leave LaFontaine stops them, “Okay, what the hell was that?”

“LaFontaine-”

“No, come on. We leave them alone for 2.5 seconds and they’re already ready to tear each other’s heads off.”

Perry rolls her eyes, “Well if anyone is going to be tearing off a head it’ll be Carmilla,” Laura gives her a look and Perry’s eyes widen, “What? She’s just...very to herself and clearly has a bit of a mean streak. Plus, she wears all those black layers and it’s 85 degrees outside. There’s something off about her.”

LaFontaine scoffs, “You’re going to judge her because of what she’s wearing? Come on, Perr - you’re better than that.”

“She just seems dangerous in a teenage-angst-I-can-beat-you-up sort of way!”

Laura rolls her eyes and leaves them to their bickering. As she leaves the cash she can see Kirsch approaching her, a large grin stretched across his face.

“Laura, hey!” He waves and and jogs a bit to catch up to her.

“Oh, hey, Kirsch. You doing the grocery run this week?”

He nods, “Yeah. Mom’s working late again, you know how it is,” he glances around before leaning in closer, “I’m kind of here on other business, though.”

Laura quirks her eyebrow as he opens up a grocery bag to reveal a new bag of flour. She bites the inside of her lip to keep from laughing. Oddly enough, the sight of that brown sack of powder helps to take a bit of the guilt off of her shoulders.

(At least she wasn’t the only one to mess up, right?)

“Um, you do realize that you bought the wrong brand, right?”

Kirsch’s eyes go wide, “Fuck. Are you serious?”

She winces, “Yeah, sorry. But I’m sure you could go return it.”

“I guess,” he moves the grocery bags to one hand and takes out his phone, “Shit. I was supposed to be home ten minutes ago because I’m already late for a Zeta meeting.” He glances to the baking aisle and then back at Laura, “Do you really think Danny will notice?”

She laughs, “Shouldn’t you be more worried if Mr. Beckett will notice?”

He shakes his head, “Trust me. I should be more worried about her.”

She debates telling him the truth but doesn’t have the heart to put a frown on that puppy dog face, “I’m sure she won’t noticed. You’re smart - you’ll figure something out.”

His face lights up and he grins, nodding, “Yeah? Cool. You’re right,” he pockets his phone with a newfound look of determination on his face, “I’ve got this. I really have to go, though - see you in school!”

He rushes out the door just as she glances behind her to see if LaFontaine and Perry are still at it. She sighs at the sight of them -

(“She’s probably harmless, Perr.”

“We don’t know anything about her. For all we know she’s in a biker gang.”

“Okay, that’s it. We aren’t watching any more Sons of Anarchy.”)

- and makes her way outside towards the car.

She bites her lip before reaching for the door - but huffs as she pulls at the handle with no luck.

Laura taps on the window. Nothing. She peers inside and can see Carmilla swiping at her phone.

She knocks a bit harder this time, “Carmilla, come on. Let me in.”

She watches as Carmilla continues to occupy herself with her phone.

She sighs as she leans her side against the car door, “I’m sorry, okay? I keep judging you and I don’t know why I do it but sometimes I just go on these rants and can’t control the words coming out of my mouth. I just talk and talk and talk and by the end of it I’m like, ‘did I really just say that?’ and sure enough - yes, I did just say that. And I am literally doing it right now,” she groans as she turns to bang her forehead against the side of the car.

After a few hits she hears the car door unlock. She jolts back and looks inside, only to see Carmilla still on her cell. She glances down at the lock and sees that they actually have been opened, so she quickly gets in the car before Carmilla can change her mind.

“Um, thanks. Sorry for what I said inside. And for rambling out there,” she pauses, closing her eyes and thudding the back of her head against the seat, “And for rambling right now.”

She keeps her eyes closed for a few seconds before risking a peak out of one eye to assess the situation of the possibly-hating-possibly-forgiving girl sitting next to her. Carmilla is swiping aimlessly through her text messages, but there is a shadow of a smile dancing at the edge of her lips. Laura takes this as a good sign and decides that it’s safe to open both eyes. She stares at the other girl, smiling at Carmilla’s attempt to hide her amusement.

Carmilla must have felt the stare because she glances to the side and rolls her eyes, “Stop looking at me like I solved world hunger. I just opened a door.”

“I really am sorry.”

Carmilla sighs, “I only opened it because you sounded like you were about to have a stroke.”

Laura shrugs, “Whatever. It was still nice.” She bites her lip before turning in her seat to fully face Carmilla, “Listen, Carmilla-”

The front doors of the car open, Perry huffing as she gets in and throws the grocery bags unceremoniously onto Laura’s lap.

LaFontaine gets in the car and glances at the back seat before turning to Perry, “See? They didn’t kill each other.”

“I didn’t say they were going to kill each other. I was just... worried.”

Laura holds the groceries close to her chest, slowly shrinking behind them.

Carmilla shifts in her seat, “You geniuses know we can both hear you, right?”

“Right, right. Sorry,” LaFontaine looks at Laura through the rear-view mirror and Laura reminds herself to hit them on the side of the head later for the smug expression they’re giving her right now.

“Whatever,” Carmilla looks at her nails, “Just put on some music so this car ride can be slightly less painful.”

“Oh, can you plug in my-”

LaFontaine holds up their hand, “Laura, we’re not listening to One Direction again,” they change gears and turn to look out the back window as they reverse, “Not after last time.”

Carmilla crosses her arms and smirks, “Wow, I never thought I’d say it, but I agree with Ginger One.”

Perry turns and opens her mouth in shock, “Wait, why aren’t I Ginger One?”

Laura slouches in her seat and pouts, “Can we just head home? You’re all no fun.”

They all laugh - including Carmilla - and Laura can’t help turning her pout into the tiniest smile.

(She's also starting to learn that even when the worst possible things happen that there will always be those little moments of saving grace.)

-----

From: “Terrance Beckett” <tbeckett@silashigh.edu.com>

Sent: 2014-09-02 5:23 PM

To: “Laura Hollis” <lhollis@silashigh.edu.com>; “Carmilla Karnstein” <ckarnste@silashigh.edu.com>

Subject: Flour Baby Project - Extra Credit

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hello Carmilla and Laura,

Unfortunately, I will not be able to give you a passing grade for your project at this time due to the state of your flour baby in class today. I'm very disappointed at your attempt to try and cheat the project by replacing your bag of flour. I purposely did not disclose that all bar codes were recorded for the assigned sacks for this very reason. Even though Carmilla took full blame for the injury, this was a collaborative project and responsibility needs to be shared by both parties. It was very clear that the weight of the work done was not distributed equally, and in order to make up for this you have both been assigned the extra credit portion of this project at the school day care facility.

I was hoping that you both would be able to collaborate on this project but am disappointed to see that this was not the case. I hope to see better results after you report back from your time at the day care.

If you have any questions feel free to reach out,

Mr. Beckett.

-----

From: “Terrance Beckett” <tbeckett@silashigh.edu.com>

Sent: 2014-09-02 5:38 PM

To: “Danny Lawrence” <dlawrenc@silashigh.edu.com>; “Brody Kirsch” <bkirsch@silashigh.edu.com>

Subject: Flour Baby Project - Extra Credit

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hello Danny and Brody,

Unfortunately, I will not be able to give you a passing grade for your project at this time due to the accident regarding your flour baby.  I expected more from the both of you, and am disappointed at your half-hearted attempt to replace your flour sack upon destruction of your assigned one. This may seem unfair because it was just a bag of flour, but remember that the purpose of this assignment was to treat this with as much realism as possible.

The manner in which you handled this exposition today through the fighting and blame-games is not something that will be tolerated in my classroom in the future. Although the remainder of your written work on the project was well done (Danny - great job with the budgeting; Brody - amazing initiative with creating a mock tax return file and original lullaby), the physical maintenance of the flour was a large portion of the grade. Remember - this was your baby, after all.

In order to make up for this you have both been assigned the extra credit portion of this project at the school day care facility. Please remember that you are supposed to be role models for these children, so I expect your personal issues to be kept out of that environment.

If you have any questions feel free to ask,

Mr. Beckett

-----

From: “Terrance Beckett” <tbeckett@silashigh.edu.com>

Sent: 2014-09-02 6:06 PM

To: “Lola Perry” <lperry@silashigh.edu.com>; “Susan LaFontaine” <slafonta@silashigh.edu.com>

Subject: Flour Baby Project - Extra Credit

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hello Lola and LaFontaine,

Congratulations again on an amazing presentation today. Thank you for allowing me to keep a copy of your written report as an example to show to the students taking this course next semester.

Since you did so well on the project, I’d like to invite you to an extra credit opportunity taking place at the school’s day care facility. Some students who require the credit to bump up their grade will be chaperoning the children and I think it would be very helpful if you both were there to set a great example for your fellow students. The time spent at the facility will go towards your final grade.

Please let me know if you will be able to attend this session.

Thanks,

Mr. Beckett

P.S. I am still in awe over the personal photos attached to the project - they were a great personal touch!