Chapter 1: far above the clouds- ProManicure
Krystal was drunk.
It hadn’t taken much, maybe three or four nauseatingly pink cocktails and a shot or two and she was slurring her words, teetering wildly in the dangerously thin heeled shoes she wore.
Rachel quirked an eyebrow at the sight in front of her. She was amused, which didn’t occur often. She had known when she’d invited the woman to her ridiculously mundane office Christmas party that she couldn’t hold her liquor. She also knew for a fact that there would be an open bar.
“This place is nice.” Krystal stage whispered as Rachel led her to a sofa in a underpopulated area of the room. “And these drinks are nice…and you smell like, really, really nice.” She slumped, putting her head on Rachel’s shoulder. “Your perfume has to be like, really expensive.”
“You are very intoxicated.”
As a rule, she abhorred drunkenness in others as it brought out their worst qualities; Sarah, all rough edges and poor judgement, Cosima, a babbling fool, Alison, hand wringing neurosis, Helena, who didn’t really drink but whom Rachel thought would have been slightly more tolerable if she did.
There was nothing about Krystal at the moment that particularly irked her. She kept running her tongue over her bottom lip, giggling when it got stuck on the gloss there and touching Rachel’s arm when she talked, a casual gesture she wouldn’t have tolerated from anyone else, that sparked under bare skin, raised goosebumps.
She also kept leaning over, giving Rachel a view of ample cleavage in the tight white dress she had worn.
Rachel looked away.
She should have cut her off before she got sloppy and embarrassed her in front of her business associates and she opened her mouth to tell that very thing to the bartender. But then Krystal grinned, a wide toothy smile, brushed her long blonde hair over her shoulder and Rachel ordered her another.
It should have come as no surprise then, when Rachel found herself pinned to the wall outside the restaurant, Krystal pressed flush against her.
“You talk way too much,” she informed Rachel unintelligibly. Her breath was almost unbearably sweet. “Always giving people orders, trying to be like, the biggest bitch ever.” She ran a finger down the soft cashmere of Rachel’s coat. “Why did you even ask me to come tonight? Am I a big joke to you?”
“You amuse me. And that’s more than I can say for a lot of people.”
Krystal’s brazen hostility was slightly unsettling but no more unsettling than the fact that she was touching Rachel’s mouth, smearing the lipstick with her nail, her eyes wide and sparking with something dangerous.
“You think you can just run that pretty mouth of yours whenever you want.” Krystal slowly skidded her thumb across the bottom Rachel’s lip, tracing moisture.
“Yes,” Rachel grabbed her finger in one gloved hand and nipped at it, ignoring Krystal’s yelp as she ran it along the ridges of sharp teeth.
“You see,” she turned them in a single swift movement so that Krystal was the one pinned, “I can do whatever I want to. With my mouth, or otherwise. I think we both know that, don’t we.“
Krystal’s answer was a hungry, eager kiss.
Chapter 2: will you leave me, too? -Soccercop
Beth feels the moment where she freezes. The slow, dawning realization. The exact second Alison's muscles tense and twitch under her fingertips; feels it through the cotton of one of her god-awful floral button downs.
She doesn't move her hand, even though Alison's eyes have gone wide with terror.
If she'd been pressed to explain herself, she doesn't think she could. The moments serving as a precursor are entirely mundane, unremarkable.
They were standing in Alison's kitchen and it was safe. Same shiny appliances, no doubt cleaned within inches of their lives, every utensil, every dishtowel, hung up neatly, perfectly in place. Cookbooks alphabetized. She knew, without a doubt, if she happened to look in the pantry, she'd find each item, not only correctly categorized but colored coded, too.
Nothing ever dangerous could happen in this kitchen.
Except, that it had.
One minute, she was drinking tea at the gleaming hardwood table out of a ridiculously oversized mug, the kind she lost her face in when she picked it up to sip from. She didn't even like tea, preferred black coffee that was so strong it put hair on your legs but Alison always insisted. This one smelled like pear and sadness and tasted just as bad and she found if she brought the edge of the cup to her lips, she could get away with looking like she was actually drinking it.
Alison was on edge. There was good reason to be, Beth allowed. Mild anxiety was Ali's baseline, though, all things considered, and usually, she could easily placate it with a few words. But tonight, she wasn't having it. No amount of coddling and gentle reassurance seemed to be working.
So, Beth had risen abruptly, nearly sending her mug clattering, amber liquid sloshing over the sides.
"Oh, Christ on a cracker," instantly Alison was up, too, her hand flitting to her mouth as she rushed to grab a damp cloth from the sink. "Here, let me get it."
Beth reached out, stilled her hurried movements. "Ali."
And just like that, she'd stopped, chewing on her lower lip, ponytail swishing as she looked up.
"I'm not going to let anything happen to you. Okay? Promise."
She watched as Alison's breath caught, the way her chest seemed to inflate and collapse before she nodded tightly.
From the fast expulsion of air, her conviction was sorely lacking so Beth stood closer, so close that she could've caught the eyelash that had fluttered down to land on Alison's cheek.
She wasn't exactly an intellect before action type of person and she definitely did not apply a look before you leap philosophy. Her palm opened and was on Alison's back before she considered any sort of ramifications.
Beth never touched without purpose. Not a hand on the arm of a friend for comfort or a throwaway pat on the back in an attempt as congratulations. There was something sad about it, something pointless, and she couldn't bring herself to do it.
So, as her fingertips linger on the small of Alison's back, her heart is dancing a goddamn tarantella. It's weighted, this touch, whether or not she'd intended it to be.
And maybe she should have been taken aback or the slightest bit chagrined. Hell, Alison is a fucking deer in headlights, rooted to the spot. She could apologize or at the very least, take her hand away.
But she doesn't do any of that. Because she's tired. She's exhausted and it feels good. Call it carnal pleasure or basic human need, but touching Alison feels good, so she presses the tips of her nails in, not hard enough to hurt; just to see Ali's eyes widen comically.
And then, her hands are on Beth's face, cupping her chin, Beth's not moving from their spot, and she's biting her lip again, tongue running over the faintest of chapped areas on the bottom one.
Do it, Beth thinks. Because I'm too much of a coward.
Just as quickly as the weird, nervous spark had lit up in the depths of Alison's eyes, it's out and she's pushing Beth away with two fingers pressed to her jacket, shaking her head as though she'd suddenly remembered she had a dentist appointment.
"Holy cow, Beth, what are you doing?" Her voice has risen in pitch and immediately, Beth steps back, hands in the air. It's a classic Alison freak-out and she can see the gears turning...she's trying to figure out how exactly to navigate damage control.
"Nothing you didn't want me to."
Her response surprises both of them and Alison's mouth collapses, twitches once, before settling into an angry, thin, line.
"You think I wanted that?" Her fingers flutter to her high necked collar, pecking at the series of buttons. "I'm sorry to inform you, Beth, but you are sadly mistaken. I've never, in a million years, thought of you in that...manner. I don't know what I could've done to make you possibly believe that I..."
She trails off, blowing out a stream of air through gritted teeth. "If we're being honest, I'm so upset, I don't think I even like you much right now."
It's defensive but it stings, just the same.
"I think it would be best," she draws in an odd breath through her nose, "if you leave."
She's shaking and under normal circumstances, Beth would find a way to bring her down.
But these are not normal circumstances and Alison's fiddling with her buttons again, the ends of her hair, looking very much as though she wished Beth would vanish into thin air.
"I'll see you... whenever," she mumbles and she's out of there, barreling down the driveway and speeding back to her lonely apartment.
Pills and a half a bottle of wine quell the ache but only a little and she doesn't hear from Alison for a week.
It's a Friday night and she's camped out on the sofa in ratty sweats, shoveling in take-out, a dumb movie playing in the background. Any attempt at normalcy in the midst of a fucked up, life or death situation is at least an attempt, she figures, and she's in the middle of slurping a beer when the phone rings.
The voice on the other end is small and morose and more than a little tearful and Beth sits up straight, setting the Molson down on the coffee table.
She takes a second before responding, doesn't want to tip her over when she sounds fragile.
"Hey. It's alright."
"No, it's not. I was mean."
"You were afraid."
A hiccup, a sucking in of air. "I...suppose I still am."
Beth's chest aches. "Of me?"
There is a silence, then a faint, "not of you."
"Um, I'm actually outside your door. May I come in?"
There's that dull ache again, the kind she gets when she wants to cry, maybe the tears are sitting right there, but she can't.
"Uh, yeah, yeah. Sure. It's messy, though."
"I don't care about that."
"Well, okay. I'll buzz you up."
In the brief reprieve before she does, Beth glances around, wincing, throwing shit away from the coffee table, moving her beer and food to the small dining area.
Before she opens the door, she takes her hair out of its rats nest, finger combing it, contemplates quickly running to change.
But there's no time.
No time in between letting Alison in and Alison tugging, gentle, at the collar of her hoodie and pressing her lips to Beth's in a way that leaves her dizzy.
"I'm sorry," she says into the space that separates them. A strand of Beth's hair is stuck to her lip by pink gloss and she giggles a little as they work to remove it.
Beth smiles, dusts her mouth over Alison's jawline. "You already said that."
She blushes. "Well, I'm saying it again."
Beth swallows. "I'm scared, too, you know. Of everything."
Alison shakes her head. "No, you're not. You can't be because you're the bravest person I've ever known."
"Oh, holy shit," Beth laughs, her hand landing on Alison's shoulder, "if you only knew."
"Wish I was half as brave as you are."
She takes Alison's trembling chin in both hands, forces their eyes to meet.
"You came here, didn't you? I'd say that took balls."
Alison's eyes flash and her lips are on Beth's again, a little more boldly this time.
"I lied to you," Alison says. Her grip tightens and there's fear in it.
Her eyes, dark and hooded, scan Beth's face, looking for god knows what...anger? Regret? Some weird combination of both, with a side of guilt?
When she can find none, she relaxes, her body melting into Beth's, kissing her again.
And for now, it's good.
Chapter 3: i won't deny the pain/i won't deny the change- Propunk
This is set in the world of I Hate Everything About You, one of my works, so if you haven't read that, you might wanna give it a whirl. :)
Eleven years in, Sarah thought she had a fairly solid handle on the whole parenting thing. For just a kid, Kira had gone through it and Sarah, for her part, anticipated tantrums and mood swings as a natural progression. Granted, it was far easier when the tantrums involved losing a favorite teddy bear or arguments about staying up past bedtime. These days, her daughter's moods would fluctuate wildly between sunny and sweet and brooding and quick to bite her head off if she so much as asked a question. She got it, she did, especially given that she was a hellion at Kira's age and her kid was good. She could handle a change of weather every other week, she would respect Kira's privacy and right to secrets, within reason. Sometimes, she seemed to resent the way Sarah would breathe, for chrissakes, so she tried to tread carefully when she was in the midst of one of her storms. Took cover until it passed. And it always did.
Even so, there was a part of her that couldn't help but yearn for the little girl who liked to snuggle up with her in bed and make shadow puppets on the wall. There were times she didn't recognize the grumpy, short-tempered, pod person who'd replaced her generally happy kid.
"It's called puberty," Siobhan reminded her gently when she called. Holed up in the living room of the house she and Rachel had bought months ago, she tucked her stocking feet underneath herself, hands darting under the oversized sleeves of her sweater, curling up into its warmth.
"She refused to say g'night to me," Sarah responded flatly. "Dunno if it was too much effort, or..." She shook her head, "said it to Rachel, though."
She wasn't resentful of their relationship. If anything, she was relieved how well they got on. Rachel never attempted to overstep her boundaries; Sarah did the parenting and that was that. She invited Kira to think of her as more of a friend and it was in that, Sarah sucked in a breath, the problem lie.
"Oh, c'mon, now, you may not recall but you were the same way. Surly as anything and if someone asked you to walk, you ran. Hated being told what to do. Kira's a good girl. She'll come around."
Realistically, she knew Siobhan was correct. The parenting classes she'd been forced to take had all said that kids acted out with their "safe" person, meaning the person they trusted the most. It should've brought her a small comfort to know that her daughter felt safest with her, free to be herself.
But it couldn't reconcile how shitty it felt to see her perfectly nice to Siobhan or to Felix. Helena, Alison.
And to Rachel.
They'd discussed Kira's crazy mood swings and Rachel, cautious about following Sarah's lead could only reassure her that Kira loved her.
"Admittedly, I don't know much about healthy mother and daughter relationships," she'd said one night after they'd gone to bed. "I certainly never got to experience what that was like. That being said," she brushed Sarah's elbow with just her fingertips, "anyone can plainly see that you love Kira, just as much as she loves you. As unpleasant as she can be, at times, that is entirely the truth, Sarah."
It was the most wisdom she had ever offered on the subject and while she appreciated Rachel's honesty, she kind of wanted her to say more, to blur the lines of being Kira's pal into more of a parent. It was stupid, she realized guiltily, just as soon as the thought entered her brain. Kira already had two parents, though Cal didn't live close enough to be any help, physically. She was perfectly fine and she was almost positive, if she had mentioned it, Rachel would clam up in the way she did when she was uncomfortable; grow silent and tight lipped. She loved Kira, that much was evident in small ways but to ask her to take on a greater role in her daughter's life, especially given her own lonely upbringing, seemed to be the very definition of overkill.
So, Sarah suffered in relative silence and it was one such afternoon that another storm burst in, following a relatively calm period. Kira tore into the house, after school, as though she were on fire, the door slamming behind her and before Sarah could utter a single word, she was in her room, that door slammed with a resounding bang, too, and locked for good measure.
"Bloody hell, what now?" Sarah muttered under her breath. A hand pressed to her forehead, she closed her eyes and counted silently to ten.
"Hey, monkey," she called out, putting in a strained effort to be casual, "you alright?"
The tears in her voice were obvious and for a brief, horrifying instant, Sarah considered taking the door off of its hinges.
"Did something happen? Look, babe, you know you can tell me anything, yeah? If you could just open the door, we could have a little chat. I could make a cuppa. There's a tin of biscuits, too, that S sent over."
Kira's sobs seemed to amplify and it was then that the panic set in.
"Just let me know you're alright, Kira. I promise I'll leave you be but I hafta know."
She definitely sounded quite desperate to her own ears but the way Kira was crying made her uneasy.
"I'm fine. Please, just go away."
"Alright, then," Sarah swallowed hard, "if you change your mind or if you get hungry or anything..."
She was met with silence.
Helplessly, she made her way back to the living room, a lump in her throat as she picked up her philosophy textbook, opened it, and tried to read. The print kept blurring under her watery vision and it was a solid hour before she realized she'd read the same four sentences, over and over.
She must have dozed off in the recliner because the very next thing she knew, her eyes were slowly opening to a darkened room. Two things were odd. She was covered with a soft cashmere throw she knew for a fact she hadn't gotten herself. And the smell of food cut through the air, making her stomach growl. She couldn't remember the last time she'd eaten.
Kira, was her first thought and switching on a nearby lamp, she padded softly down the hallway to her bedroom. The door was slightly ajar and when she went to knock, what she saw gave her immediate pause.
"I'm very sorry you were humiliated," Rachel said quietly, smoothing an elegant hand down over Kira's flowered embroidered quilt. "That must've been quite awful."
She nodded, wiping her eyes. "I know I shouldn't cry over a stupid boy. But he told me he didn't like me in front of everyone. And they all looked at me...it was the worst. I never want to set foot back at that place again."
Sarah watched Rachel, straight postured and smartly dressed in the impeccable white suit she'd worn for her position at the gallery that morning. Her expression was calm and it was this lack of over emotion that seemed to calm Kira as well.
"Kira, if you don't go back, it's allowing those students and that boy to make you feel small. You are anything but. You are intelligent and capable. I'm quite certain he was intimidated by you. Or he's severely lacking in good taste." Briskly, she clasped her palms together, "at any rate, the best course of action is to feign that none of this affected you. Go in with your head held high."
Carefully, Kira studied her. "Did that ever happen to you? Being embarrassed in school, I mean."
Her question caused Rachel's face to go slack and Sarah saw her take a minute before responding.
"A good many times, I should say. People always found ways to let me know I wasn't welcome."
"Why?" Kira shook her head in confusion, "I think you're cool."
Rachel's lips curled up slightly at the corners. "I can assure you, nobody would have agreed with you. I cried into my pillow most days of the week over nonsense a fellow classmate said or did."
Rachel nodded. "I also wanted to leave. I begged my mother to allow me to transfer schools, over and over, but she refused. One day, I realized that running away was only allowing myself to believe I deserved poor treatment. So, I returned to school with my head held high. I refused to let them chase me away."
She reached out, tucked back a strand of Kira's hair. "You are a lovely, wonderful, young woman. You mustn't permit anyone to tell you other wise."
At her words, Kira smiled slightly. "I think I scared my mum, a little. Because of how I was crying." Her cheeks pinked, "you must think I'm such a baby, with all that carrying on."
"Nonsense," she refuted. "Your tears were warranted. It was a highly distressing situation. My mother hated when I cried," Rachel's mouth drooped. "It wasn't because she didn't like to see me upset but because she saw tears as a sign of weakness. If there was one thing she detested, it was weakness, in any form."
"Mum hates when I cry, too. But I think it's because she wants to help. Which is like...really annoying sometimes because she wants to fix everything and she can't but I guess, it's nice, in a way." Kira scrunched her brow thoughtfully, "because of how much she cares."
"You're precisely correct," Rachel agreed. "In fact, I'd say she cares very, very much. You're quite fortunate, don't you believe?"
And Kira nodded. "Guess I could be nicer to her."
"If I'm being completely forthright, Kira, and you're mature enough where I believe I can be," Rachel said, her voice rather firm, "yes, you could."
"I'll try. I get really angry sometimes..."
"Well, Rome wasn't built in a day. Trying is the operative word."
There was a bit of shuffling and some more words Sarah couldn't make out before she heard the bed shift and Kira calling her name.
Sarah put a hand over her mouth, concealing a gasp, and as quickly and quietly as possible, raced back down the hall and into the living room before she was discovered.
"Yeah, babe?" She tossed back from a standing position, once she was safe, "did ya need me?"
When she came back and Kira let her into the room, Rachel was gone, presumably to the kitchen and Sarah hung in the door frame.
"Just wanted to say I was sorry for being rude this afternoon. I was really upset about something. I still kinda don't wanna talk about it, though, if that's alright."
She struggled to keep her face neutral. "I totally get it. Apology accepted. Thank you for saying it."
"Thanks for giving me some time alone."
The way her kid was wise beyond her years at times positively floored her but she was determined not to make a spectacle of herself.
"No problem. Look, Kira, whenever you need space, you can tell me, alright? I want you to."
She slowly nodded. "Okay. Thanks."
Sarah turned to leave. "Uh, alright, then. Guess I'll leave you to it..."
"Wait, Mum. Could you maybe fix me a plate? Rachel said she would but I figured...maybe you can."
In her voice, Sarah heard that little girl hopefulness and it was all she could do to keep from blubbering. "Be right back."
As she'd expected, Rachel was there, her back to her, stirring a pot on the stove with one hand, a glass of wine in the other.
The jacket of the suit had come off, draped across the back of a chair and she stood in bare feet, as casual as she would allow herself.
Upon hearing Sarah come in, she turned, a smile playing at her lips. "Hello, Sarah. I took the liberty of cooking dinner this evening. I hope you don't mind roasted chicken. You were asleep when I came in. I didn't want to wake you."
In two strides, Sarah was in her personal space, gently removing the glass from her hand, setting down the wooden spoon, and shifting her away from the stove, hands open and settling on her hips.
"I love you, you bloody amazing woman," were Sarah's only words before she crashed her lips against Rachel's who was only taken aback for half a second before she returned the kiss with ten times the ferocity, pinning Sarah against the wall.
Against her clavicle, she muttered breathlessly, "do I even attempt to ask what brought on this bold declaration?"
Sarah grinned, bearing her teeth. "I just do. Doesn't have to be a reason, yeah?"
Rachel didn't toss out affectionate sentiments nearly as often as she did, preferring to show her feelings in other ways but when she offered them up, it was spun gold.
"I love you," she returned quietly. Her forehead came to rest against Sarah's. "Now, let me get back to the sauce before the kitchen burns down and there is nothing left of this house but cinders."
And that was Rachel...following up something sweet with dry charm.
But, as Sarah observed her, straightening her neatly coiffed hair, looking more than a little dazed, a surge of affection shot through her.
She wouldn't have it any other way.
Chapter 4: too late to turn back now- Helena & Sarah
"Sestra! Are you awake?"
Sarah grunts, turning over to squint in the obtrusive sunlight to see Helena grinning like it was Christmas morning.
"Now I am," she mumbles, wiping the sleep from her eyes. "Helena, it's bloody," she peers at the digital clock on the nightstand, "seven in the morning. What are you on about now?"
She has half a mind to send her sister away and shove the pillow back over her own head for at least an hour but the smile on Helena's face is starting to wobble a little, sensing Sarah's less than thrilled over the interruption.
Sighing in what could only be classified as defeat, Sarah pushes herself into a sitting position, stretching her arms above her head as she lets out a rather exaggerated yawn.
"Go on then, meathead. Tell me why you woke me up and it better involve breakfast, yeah?"
Helena's expression shifts back to its normal enthusiastic appearance and she claps her hands excitedly. "Breakfast after. It's snowing!"
Sarah stares blankly. "That what got you all bouncy? Helena, it's January. Snows all the time."
"You do not understand, sestra," her twin shakes her head, settling next to her. "Little Donnie and Arthur are big enough now to go play. They have never seen snow up close."
At the mention of her nephews, Sarah softens. "Right. Well, I s'pose I can see the appeal, then. Sorta. Kira still asleep?"
Even in her excitement, Helena knew better than to wake up a cranky preteen and she nods. "I had feeling she would not want to go with us."
Sarah, sighing deeply, runs a hand down over her face, pondering how exactly Helena manages to talk her into such things. "Alright. Fine. Go get em' ready. But," she puts up a finger, "not going anywhere without coffee. And the twins are hungry monsters when they get up...you really think you're gonna get away with not feeding em' first?"
Helena agrees, "you are right, sestra. I will go whip up food."
"Oh, I better help," Sarah springs out of bed, recalling the last time Helena attempted to cook and how it resulted in the fire department showing up.
Breakfast is a simple affair; scrambled eggs, sausage, toast, and hot coffee...milk for the boys.
As they eat, Sarah watches in disgusted awe. They sit in side by side highchairs, shoveling in eggs at an alarming rate, most of it going onto the linoleum.
"We should get a dog," she muses, sipping coffee with a raised eyebrow. "Would cover the mess, anyhow."
Helena giggles, sweeping to kiss Donnie's soft curls. "Babies are enough work."
"God, you're right," she laughs as Arthur gives her a gummy smile of agreement, "But they're kinda cute, I gotta admit."
It might have had something to do with the fact Sarah helped bring them into the world but she had a close bond with both boys and in turn, they loved her, just as much. Even Kira, who was developing into a somewhat surly, unimpressed version of her former cheerful self, was instant mush whenever one of them crawled into her lap or offered her a soggy Cheerio. Sarah had to admit, they were much more powerful than she.
It takes a good half an hour to clean the kitchen, leaving a plate and a note with their whereabouts for Kira, and another twenty minutes to wrestle the twins into snowsuits and get properly dressed themselves. Finally, their ragtag gang of misfits makes it out into the backyard.
It is quite the sight to behold; the boys toddling out into unfamiliar territory on unsteady legs, Arthur going right for the snow, picking it up in a mitten clad hand, tasting it experimentally. Donnie, as was his nature, is a tad more cautious, crunching white under his boots to hear the sound, poking a finger into it. It isn't too long before he's joining his brother, taking a large handful and shoving it into his mouth, his little face screwing up when he realizes how cold it is.
They stay there for awhile...quiet observers, letting the boys get a feel for it until Sarah shows them how to make a snowman and they watch, completely fascinated.
At their finished product, Donnie bursts into tears, thinking their new pal is real and Arthur follows suit.
"Alright, then, never mind," Sarah shifts gears. She quickly picks up a large mound of snow, forms a ball, and without warning, hums it at her sister.
It breaks against Helena's parka, dusting the front of it and it only takes a second before she grins and makes her own snowballs and a minute after that, they are in a full out war; chunks of white flying through the air, the twins giggling so madly they nearly topple over.
Helena's highly competitive and a damn good shot, Sarah has to admit, and it's not long before she's begging for mercy.
"Christ," she wipes off the aftermath of battle from her clothing, wrings out her soaked hair, "I surrender, meathead. Waving my flag, yeah?" Glancing down at Arthur and Donnie's runny noses and wind chapped cheeks, she smiles, "and by the looks of it, they do, too."
The four of them trudge inside, taking off their wet outside clothing and Helena plops the boys in a warm bath, where their incessant splashing and general frolicking wake up Kira, who's in a surprisingly good mood and offers to fix them some hot chocolate.
For someone who didn't want to get up, Sarah begrudgingly has to give Helena credit where credit is due. The scene is cozy; all of them in front of the roaring fireplace, drinking cocoa with extra marshmallows, at Helena's request, the twins munching their snack of sliced apples happily on the rug, chattering to one another in a non-sensical language only the other seemed to understand. It was nice, she acknowledges, tucking her feet underneath herself.
It feels safe.
She'd learned not to take it for granted, this sense of security. To not have to constantly look over her shoulder, to worry about the other shoe dropping...not how it would but when.
Helena, as she's apt to do, senses what she's thinking and reaches out to squeeze her fingers gently.
"Thank you, sestra. For going outside. You were sleepy."
It's Helena's talent to make her weepy with just a simple expression of gratefulness and she finds if she answers her back in too many words, she'll turn into a blubbering mess.
So she just says, "welcome," and squeezes her fingers back in return.
And her twin, with a smile as bright as the mid-morning sun, understands.
Chapter 5: and if we died right now -Propunk
If prison was Rachel's own personal version of hell, then she was entirely convinced that none other than Satan himself had added the extra detail of having Sarah Manning be there at the time, just for extra impact. It was almost as though the universe was intent on rubbing it in.
Rachel, despite considering herself highly intelligent, almost to a fault, and rather cutthroat, found herself unable adjust to such severe conditions. After her trial and subsequent conviction, she had told herself that the human spirit was made of steel and hers was already broken. A prison sentence could do no more harm than the upbringing of neglect and cruelty had previously inflicted.
It turns out, for the first time in her life, she was wrong.
Immediately, the other inmates zoned in on her as someone to dislike, if not torture. She was a loner; sat by herself at meal times, kept to the corner of the yard at rec, avoided interaction with her own cellmate at all costs.
She heard them whispering when she walked into a room. "Ice Queen", was a popular nickname. It was easy not to care; she'd become well versed in indifference. But piled on top of staring at the same four walls for much of the day, the loneliness bled onto the surface of her skin.
If she was terrible at survival there, Sarah was surely the antithesis. Loud mouthed, bold, funny (at least Rachel had observed others thought so), and popular. She seemed to be friends with everyone and the instant she swaggered into a room, all eyes went to her. It was disgusting, really, how much attention she garnered, Rachel thought snidely one evening, counting the cracks on the ceiling. Worse still because the woman actually seemed to get off on it.
"Hey," a crooked grin, a push away of hopelessly messy hair, hands shoved in the pockets of the same ugly orange jumpsuit they all wore. "Guess we're partners."
Woodshop was one of those ridiculous activities that some higher up in the prison system believed would be good for them or therapeutic in some way but it only had Rachel scratching her head, wondering if anyone had considered the potential for a giant lawsuit, having sharp tools in a room full of inmates. It seemed like a surefire recipe for disaster and she was tempted to sneak to the library before her brain deteriorated even further.
"Partners?" She looked at Sarah, her nose wrinkling. Surely, she missed something.
"Yeah," Sarah jutted her chin toward the instructor, "just paired us up and I guess you're stuck with me, yeah?"
She doesn't appear to be bothered and Rachel could not help but but to overcompensate for feeling uncomfortable with her usual snark.
"There are ten other students in this class," she whispered pointedly, "surely you could have paired up with someone else. You are aware of what everyone refers to me as, are you not? I wouldn't want to ruin your reputation."
If Sarah heard the sarcasm, she chose not acknowledge it, instead, plopped down in the seat next to her with an indifferent shrug.
"Eh, everything's shite. People like to show off, try to be big but none of it's gonna matter, outside of here." Her eyes bore into Rachel's in a way that made her squirm a little. "I know that and so do you, I think."
Rachel could only nod, just a bob of her head and Sarah grinned again, this time bearing her incisors. "Fuck em'. Let's make some useless tack rack or whatever bloody thing he'll have us do and concentrate on keeping all our fingers."
After that, the most tentative of friendships was formed. Rachel wouldn't even know if she'd call it that, as she'd never had a friend in her life, but she supposed Sarah was the closest to one as she'd get. She quickly learned that the other woman's popularity wasn't so much for personal gain as it was for survival.
"It's easy to make enemies," Sarah confided one day over the slop they called dinner, "but if you have loyalty, that's everything, Rach. Difference between life and death."
There was some logic to it, Rachel had to admit. When the other inmates see that Sarah has taken Rachel under her wing, the whispers ceased and while no one goes went out of their way to braid her hair, they began to hold her with a begrudging respect.
Sarah, for her part, took their odd camaraderie to heart, telling her about the drug deal gone wrong that had landed her there, about her daughter waiting for her back home, the way she was working doggedly on her GED, how she got frustrated all the time and wanted to quit, even though Rachel offered to help.
Rachel didn't say much, not because she didn't trust Sarah but because she didn't know quite how to talk to another human being, especially someone who listened without judgement.
But one such rainy afternoon, she and Sarah found themselves in a quiet corner of the library. Sarah was supposed to be studying and Rachel was attempting to help her, specifically with the mathematics portion but Sarah was staring dreamily out the window, speaking of home.
"The second I get out, I'm gonna have a real beer, yeah? Not one of those that tastes like warm piss but a good stout. Kind that settles, y'know? And then I'm gonna ask Mum to cook me the biggest turkey she can find and we'll have Thanksgiving dinner. All of us."
Rachel raised an eyebrow, setting down her pencil. "What if you get released in July?"
"Then we'll have Thanksgiving in bloody July," Sarah declared loudly, drawing a disapproving "shh!" from the inmate manning the front desk. "Anyway, I gotta list a mile long of what I wanna do. Hug Kira. That's the very first thing. Haven't given her a proper one in over a year."
Sarah always had visitors on visiting day. Always her mother and daughter and sometimes others, too...her brother and sister, friends. These visits, Rachel noticed, didn't make her weepy or depressed as they would some people. Rather, she came back from them with a grim determination to stay out of trouble and get the hell out of dodge.
Rachel never had anyone come to see her. Her mother was an abomination, her father was long since dead and she had no siblings, no friends. No one who would remotely care if she rotted in Toronto Central prison.
She suspected Sarah had mentioned something to her mum because every single Saturday, without fail, Rachel would receive the same care package in the mail as Sarah; good shampoo, little candies, entertainment magazines that she devoured as though they were Proust. Sarah only smiled mysteriously when Rachel inquired about them.
"What are you going to do once you're out?" Sarah asked suddenly, turning to her. "You going home?"
Rachel recoiled, unconsciously, but it was too late; Sarah saw and without thinking, she put a hand atop of hers.
"Sorry. Me and my big mouth." In a rare display of genuine embarrassment, she ducked her head, her unruly tangles curtaining her face. "Know you don't have anyone to come home to."
She had since withdrawn her hand but the impression of it, the warmth, remained on Rachel's skin; a ghost touch.
No one had touched her, even errantly, in years.
Looking up, a light blush had come across Sarah's cheeks. "Shite, there I go again. Just shut up, Manning."
Drawing up her shoulders, Rachel nodded. "No, you're entirely correct. I have no one or nothing to go home to. My mother is hardly worth the title and I'm utterly alone. But," she bristled, in an attempt to collect herself, "I'm used to it, Sarah. It's been that way for as long as I can recall. So, to answer your question, I suppose I'll just...begin anew. Rebuild. Hope that my crimes haven't completely ruined me and start over."
"Huh. Well, you could do anything. You're smart. You like to boss me around," Sarah grinned, trying to dispel some of the heaviness, "you're hot. The world's yours, Rach."
Her face instantly flushed. "Hot?"
"Yeah," Sarah shrugged casually, "oh, c'mon, you have seen yourself, haven't you? Easily the hottest in this place. Which, alright, I get isn't saying much." Seeing the expression on Rachel's face, she shook her head. "Now, don't let that head of yours swell. Just the truth."
For once, Rachel is speechless.
"Look, maybe...once you get out and I get out, you won't ever wanna talk to me again. And I get that. The likes of you doesn't hang out with someone like me and vice versa but I've...uh, how would you say it? I've grown fond of you, Rachel," she snickered at herself, rolling her eyes. "And if you don't have anyone or anything to come home to...I was just thinking you could spend time at mine. Mum would be tickled. No pressure or anything."
If there was anything that prison had taught Rachel, it was that survival was only one piece of the puzzle.
Prison was learning who you were, at your very core.
She leaned her head in, spoke closely to the shell of Sarah's ear.
"The likes of me would want to be seen with you, Sarah. I'd like that, very much."
The smile lifted the corners of her mouth, cut through the grey.
And Rachel, as astute as she was, didn't miss the hunger in it.
Chapter 6: carve out your heart for keeps in an old oak tree-Propunk
As grief tends to do, everything after Cal's accident is a blur; the terrible waiting game they play in the hospital with its sterile floors and medical smell, the moment when the doctor comes out to speak to them, the way her feet give way underneath her. Telling Kira, laying in her twin bed for hours, curling around her small body as she sobs. The endless parade of people in and out of her small house, how Felix and Helena make sure she and Kira eat, drink water, sleep. The funeral. The graveside service. Alison and Donnie, Cosima and Delphine, Krystal, walking around, speaking in hushed tones, cleaning up after guests who had come back afterwards.
The worst of it comes after. It is the quiet Sarah begged for, for herself, for her daughter, that they craved. No one asked what they needed, just assumed and it drives her crazy. Everyone's uncharacteristically gentle...with their words, their actions. Kira is sullen, withdrawn. She doesn't want company or to talk; she wants to be left alone and Sarah couldn't say she blamed her. It is the opposite of when they lost S. Back then, they had both taken comfort in surrounding themselves with people they loved, had basked in the care and the attention. It was what Siobhan would have wanted. After all, she was the forever matriarch, their mother hen.
Everything about this is completely unnatural and there's nothing that could possibly help, despite best intentions. Kira knew and so did she.
Still, the silence nearly swallows her whole, especially at night when Kira is mercifully passed out cold, in a Ativan slumber. Nothing helps, not whiskey, not a scalding hot shower, not a half a joint Cosima not so subtly left in her pajama drawer.
It's night two of no sleep and she's beyond exhausted. She ignores Felix's pleas to take something, brushes off Helena's concerns. Finally, she allows Alison to convince her to take Kira overnight, as much for her benefit as it is for Kira's.
"You're worrying about her so much, you aren't sleeping," she murmurs confidentially, taking Kira's overnight back and placing it neatly in the truck of her SUV. "Let us worry about her, just for tonight. You take half a Xanax and get some rest."
As grateful as she is for Alison's intervention, Sarah finds herself staring at the ceiling, just the same, watching shadows dance across the same stretch of white until she pushes out of bed and goes to the kitchen, pouring herself a generous glass of bourbon on ice and draining the entire tumbler in two gulps, sighing in relief as the liquid burns the back of her throat, the roof of her mouth.
The doorbell rings then, making her jump ten feet in the air. It's just after eight and everyone in her life has a key.
When she opens the door and sees who is on the stoop, it should make her shove a hand over her mouth in shock, elicit a gasp. At the very least, she knows she should be even mildly taken aback.
But somehow, taking in Rachel, casual in a simple white sweater and slacks, her hair slightly longer than what she's used to, she's not. In fact, if anyone had bothered to ask, Sarah would've said she was waiting for Rachel to show up. That it was only a matter of time that she'd show her face again.
If it was The Time Before, she might've told her to go to hell, to get away from her and anyone she loved, that helping to save them all didn't equal forgiveness for unforgivable sins.
But now there's only exhausted acceptance and she ushers her in, closing the door behind her.
"I heard about Cal," Rachel says quietly, her words formal and clipped. "I'm very sorry, Sarah. I apologize for the late hour but I just got into town a short while ago. I came here to offer my condolences to Kira."
"She's not here. Alison and Donnie took her for the night."
Rachel looks slightly surprised she's offering as much information as she is but she only nods.
"Well, I won't keep you. Please accept my condolences. Perhaps I can try Kira tomorrow, if that's acceptable."
She turns to go and Sarah's well aware that she should probably let her but instead she clears her throat.
"Wait. Uh, would you like a cuppa? S would tell me I'm bein' rude, not offerin'."
Her mouth gapes but only for a second. "Sure," she recovers gracefully, following Sarah into the kitchen.
There's not much to say as Sarah preps the kettle, puts it on the stove to boil and Rachel doesn't offer up where she's been, what exactly it is she's doing in town, or how she even knew about Cal.
Sarah doesn't ask. It seems irrevalant, somehow, unimportant. Rachel, in turn, accepts this turn of events, even if she'd been expecting a different reaction.
Sarah is careful to keep her back to her, to not expose herself. Rachel has never been one for niceties, so she's probably not in danger of being asked how she's holding up but she knows it's better to be prepared for it, anyway.
She sets down a cup with a saucer in front of Rachel and sits down in the chair across from her, crossing her arms over her chest. For a good thirty seconds, they both watch the steam rise into the air in ribbons.
Rachel is silent, watching her out of her good eye, waiting.
It's the most unassuming Sarah has ever seen her and it should unnerve her. Under normal circumstances, it would piss her off but she's too bloody exhausted to muster up anything, really.
And for some strange reason, though she's most likely delirious at this point, she shifts forward on the edge of her seat, palms her chin.
"S'bloody stupid, yeah?" Sarah shakes her head, "he's crossing the road and some arsehole comes speedin' round the corner and takes him out. It's a busy street, Rachel. Should've known better than to try to go across. But that's Cal. So bloody stubborn it isn't funny. And people keep tellin' me it's okay to be sad but I'm not sad. I'm angry. It's all pointless, yeah?"
The tears are streaming down her face before she can stop them and she swipes at them with the corner of her sleeve. "We weren't even together, so I got no right to feel anything. But my kid hasn't got a father. Which is ironic, innit, given how many years I kept her from him. Can't make it better for her and everyone thinks they're bein' so helpful when they can't do shite. Nothing's gonna bring him back. And I'm so tired, Rachel. Can't even begin to tell you how tired I am. I'm seein' shit that's not there. Hell, not surprised if Siobhan pops up and asks to join us."
Rachel lets her rage until she's sobbing bitterly into the cup of her hands, biding time until the urgent cries dwindle into tiny, intermittent hiccups.
"What do you need, Sarah?"
There's nothing ironic or patronizing about her inquiry. Her face is relaxed, untroubled and without asking, it hits Sarah that something is different and if her brain wete remotely functioning, she'd try to find out what it was.
"Peace. Just for one bloody second." Sarah closes her eyes, balls her fist. "To be able to sleep for longer than ten minutes at a time."
Rising abruptly, Rachel smoothly goes to her chair, extends her hand to Sarah who looks as if she's just been offered a vial of poison.
"Come on, then."
Sarah doesn't ask questions, is too dumbstruck to find out what Rachel has in mind, though it vaguely occurs to her that she very well may be setting herself up for something.
Truth be told, she'd welcome a stab wound. It would be the least of her worries.
She allows herself to be led to her bedroom, the shades drawn already.
Rachel expertly peels back the sheets and Sarah crawls in between them.
"Eyes closed," Rachel instructs and Sarah obeys, wondering if they're in some sort of parallel universe.
She hears her leave and when she returns, she taps her shoulder lightly, helping her to sit. When she does, she hands her two aspirin and a glass of water which Sarah downs unceremoniously.
Rachel takes the glass, places it on the nightstand and Sarah thinks she'll leave again.
But instead, she lifts the comforter up on the other side and delicately climbs in next to her.
Like everything else that has occurred this evening, it feels as though she's entered a weird realm that makes no sense.
Except, in some inexplicable way, it does.
Rachel's hand across her forehead is cool and Sarah finds herself relaxing into her touch, her eyes fluttering closed again.
She can't be sure who initiates contact first but somehow, Rachel is close enough so that she can make out the fleeting scent of soap and lemons, feel the heat from her body and Rachel's hand is brushing over hers, barely enough to be considered touching.
And it is with that, knee to knee with someone who had brought her so much grief, Sarah finally slips into the sweet confines of sleep.
A respite, no matter how brief.
Chapter 7: ain't it funny how we pretend we're still a child- Helena & Alison
“Lands sake, Helena! What have you done to my kitchen?”
Alison stood in the center of the chaos; hands firmly planted on her hips. Her eyes widened in horror as she took in the chocolate all over the walls, the flour spilled on the counter and the floor, the eggshells littered on the breakfast bar. She shook her head, looking at the offending trio standing guiltily before her. “Boys? What do you have to say for yourselves?”
“Sorry Aunt Ali,” Donnie piped up. His curls were sprinkled with flour and Alison had to bite back a smile despite herself. “We didn’t mean to make a mess.”
His twin looked up, his face reddening. “I tried to clean it up." Arthur was the more sensitive of the two and it instantly pained him to think he’d disappointed or angered anyone, especially his aunt, who he was close to.
Alison sighed, reaching out to squeeze her nephew’s shoulder. “I’m not mad, sweetie. Just a little—uh, taken aback at the state of this kitchen.”
“I am very sorry, sestra. It is all my fault." Helena clasped her hands in front of her, contrite. “This idea was mine and I convince boys to help.”
“Boys, why don’t you wash up a bit while I talk to your mama.” Alison made sure to give both of their heads a hair ruffle as they walked by, a peace offering.
“I can help tidy,” Arthur offered quietly, turning back. Donnie said nothing until his brother nudged him.
“Uh, me too.”
“We’ll take care of it later. I appreciate the offer.”
As soon as the twins were out of earshot, Alison turned her attention to her sister, who was both disheveled and a more than a little apprehensive of another freak out.
She sat down at the breakfast bar, motioning at Helena to do the same. “I’m sorry I yelled.”
“I am sorry I made big disaster.”
“No, Helena, I get what you were trying to do.” Alison placed a hand atop of her sister’s. “You were trying to make a cake for my party, and I should have been more appreciative.”
“You know about party?” She looked crestfallen.
“That was supposed to be a secret?”
Helena nodded, tears forming in her eyes. “We were making cake from scratches. The one you like.”
“From scratch,” Alison corrected gently, smiling. “And you three were making German chocolate cake?”
“It was not going very well.”
“It does not matter. It was not surprise. You knew.”
“I knew. All the sneaking around you and the twins and Donnie and the kids were doing,” Alison shook her head. “You weren’t very discreet.”
Helena’s disappointment hung in the air and she wanted to kick herself. It wouldn’t have hurt anything to pretend to be surprised, to let go of the small inkling of control she had to hold onto, despite a brief period of false Zen that hadn’t lasted much longer than her purple dye job.
“But,” she countered, squeezing her fingers lightly, “the fact you all wanted to throw me a surprise party is the sweetest and most thoughtful thing you could have done. And it was your idea, I bet?”
Her sister nodded, curls bobbing. “It is happening tonight. We wanted to show you we are grateful. You do so much for everyone, Sestra Alison. Boys love you very, very much.”
She despised crying in front of anyone, even in front of those she was closest to, but she found herself wiping away moisture that had formed on her lashes. “I love them very much. It’s been a privilege getting to watch them grow up these past six years. Thank you for sharing them with me.”
Helena instantly launched herself into her arms and Alison hugged her back, hard, before breaking away. “Okay,” she said briskly, wiping a streak of baking powder from Helena’s cheek, “it seems we have a party to get ready for.”
“Yes,” Helena grinned, “we do.”
Chapter 8: and I am changing, changing- Sarah & Helena
“Do not be embarrassed, sestra,” Helena reassured her, squeezing her uninjured hand. “You try very hard.”
The medicinal smell sat in her nose and her stomach lurched a little. God, she hated bloody hospitals. They reminded her of sickness and death, and she’d seen enough of both to last a lifetime. “Yeah, well, if I wasn’t such a fuck-up this wouldn’t have happened, yeah?” She gazed down at the neat line of stitches, a reminder that she couldn’t do anything right.
“You are not fuck-up,” Helena said firmly, and Sarah could hear tears on the edges of her words. “You take care of us, Sarah. Of Kira, of me, and of little Donnie and Arthur. You are strong.”
Sarah sighed, raising a hand up to swipe across her bleary eyes. It felt like forever since they’d arrived at the emergency room and all she wanted to do was go home, crawl into bed, and forget that the evening ever happened.
“Helena,” she shook her head, “I can’t even cook dinner without destroying something. I’m supposed to be making sure everything is alright, that everyone is alright. You say I’m taking care of all of you but I’m bloody failing at it.” A lump formed in her throat and she swallowed hard against it, eyes burning. “Dunno why Mum trusted me to carry on. She could fix anything…me, I’m shite.”
“No.” Helena perched on the table next to her, rustling the thin paper cover. “You,” she bent her head to Sarah’s, "saved my life. You saved babies lives. You make me very proud, sestra. And I know you make Siobahn proud, too.”
“I feel like I’m drowning, Helena.” The tears flowing were angry, and she sucked in air through her nose. “I can’t be her, no matter how hard I try. I dunno how to be anyone other than me and we all know that isn’t a good thing. Shoulda just taken Kira and bailed. Everyone woulda been better off.”
“You are enough, Sarah.” She patted her hair gently. “We would be lost if you went away. You keep us together.”
“I’m really, really trying.” Her breathing slowed and she leaned her head on Helena’s shoulder. “I spose’ S would want me to keep going. God knows I’ve let you lot down enough.”
“We are here to help you,” her twin affirmed. “You don’t have to do it alone.”
There were moments where Helena filled up her heart to capacity and just when she thought she couldn’t possibly contain anymore love for the sister she convinced herself she never wanted, something shifted and made room.
“Let’s get outta here, yeah?”
“Yes. Oh, and sestra? Stitches look nice on you.”
For the first time in days, Sarah laughed.
Chapter 9: i'm running out of sound- Propunk
“This is entirely ridiculous,” Rachel said smoothly. Her voice didn’t betray a trace of fear, despite the tremulous circumstances. “While I understand that you have a reputation to uphold,” she closed her eyes for a brief second, “inflicting physical harm on me isn’t going to result in anything more than you getting suspended.”
Sarah had to give it to her for her bravado, whether it was false or not. They both knew Sarah wasn’t going to get suspended because being a snitch was even worse than being labeled an outcast, which Rachel already was.
“No one is coming to save you, yeah? If that’s what you think.” Sarah gestured around the abandoned lot. “No one to hear you if you yell for help.”
“What makes you think anyone cares enough about me to wonder where I am in the first place? My parents aren’t home, and they won’t be, until very late this evening.” She met her eyes, straightened the stiff collar of her oxford shirt, the same as Sarah’s. “I’m not going to yell for help.”
“Mmm, you gonna fight back, then?” She toed a rock with her shoe, tugged her jacket closer to her body. It was raw and cold for September and S would be waiting on her for dinner. “Bloody hell,” she muttered more to the pavement than to Rachel. “Don't suppose we could just get this over with.”
“Look,” she sighed and turned to Rachel who stood ramrod straight against the chain link fence. “One punch. That’s it, yeah? Enough to give you a black eye, at least, so everyone knows I did it and then we can call it a night.”
Rachel shook her head. “How incredibly generous of you, Sarah.”
“You’re making this more complicated than it has to be.”
“Am I?” Her eyes were no longer empty, they flashed something Sarah recognized instantly as annoyance, anger, maybe. “You and your friends only dislike me because I’m not like you. I’m not like you, Sarah and it frightens you.”
Sarah laughed hollowly. “We don’t like you cuz’ you’re a bitch, Rachel. You made it clear from day one that you think you’re better than everyone else. You’ve got your head so far up your own arse-“
She stepped closer, her posture not wavering. “You know nothing about me...but I can tell you, what you think I am is better than what you are.”
“Oh yeah?” Sarah met her steps, closer now, so close that she could smell Rachel’s expensive perfume, see the tiny expanse of freckles that dotted the tip of her nose. “And what am I, Duncan?”
“A coward.” Rachel’s face was perfectly stoic, but her eyes flashed again. “You tell me to meet you here, you threaten to hit me just because your friends thought you should “teach me a lesson”, was it? I know for a fact you don’t want to hurt me. You couldn’t. You talk a big game but deep down, you’re a sniveling coward. I could see it from the minute I met you.”
“Shut up.” The quiver in her tone was almost undetectable but Rachel managed to discern it anyway.
“I’ve dealt with girls like you my entire life, Sarah. Ones who are jealous because I’m rich and I make honors every term. Ones who believe I’ll steal their boyfriends.” She stepped closer still. “I’m quite accustomed to girls like you deciding it’s easier to hate me.”
“You don’t bloody know me.” The rage sat dormant on the surface ready to bubble up and spill over. She clenched her hands into fists, rested them against her thighs.
“Ah, but I do. You think everyone is out for you. You believe that if you strike first, no one will be able to get to you. Isn’t that correct?” Rachel met her eyes, defiant. “I know what it’s like to be abandoned. I’m basically an orphan too.”
“Rachel—I’m warning you—”
“Hit me, then. Go on.”
Sarah said nothing.
“But you won’t, will you? Because deep down, Sarah, you’re not who you make yourself out to be. You’re nothing but a scared little girl.”
All at once, Sarah was in her face, her lips twisted into almost a growl. “Shut the hell up, Duncan. Shut your mouth before I shut it for you.”
She was crying now, her entire body shaking, the blood rushing into her ears. “Just go,” she threw out, swiping at her face angrily. “Fucking go!”
Rachel was in her space now, a peculiar expression crossing over her features, a realization dawning as her eyes widened ever so slightly.
“No,” she whispered, reaching out to cradle Sarah’s face in both hands. “Shhh.” She thumbed her tears away and Sarah shook her head.
“Don’t.” The words were hoarse but without any real power behind them.
Pushing her flush against chain link, in the empty parking lot, Rachel kissed her.
Chapter 10: softly stolen under our blanket skies-Propunk
Forgiveness was a funny thing. It was an allowance Sarah gave herself only rarely but after Revival, after S, after the entire world had gone to shit, there was nothing left. Nothing but acceptance, she supposed. She was tired and there wasn’t a real reason to fight anymore after awhile.
After two years and after urging from Fe and Helena (of all people), when Rachel came back, against her better judgement, Sarah allowed her to visit with Kira at the house, allowed her to show up to parties and get-togethers (Rachel never stayed long), mustered up as much civility as she could because she knew it was what Siobahn would have wanted.
If someone had asked her to pinpoint when it was exactly Rachel started showing up when Kira was in school, she wouldn’t have been able to say but she’d come to expect it. In some strange, Twilight Zone way, it was comforting. They would sit on opposite ends of the sofa, not speaking, Sarah watching television, Rachel often reading. Occasionally, she’d make an inane comment about whatever was on and Rachel would smile slightly, just a tiny raising of the corners of her mouth but it was enough.
There was a quietness to her now, different from the disdainful silence before. There were no airs. Her movements were slower, more deliberate and Sarah wondered if it had less to do with her eye and more to do with what she had lost.
She could understand that, though she didn’t want to. She could tolerate Rachel, accept she’d been a victim too, hell, she could probably even forgive her, if she dug down deep enough.
But she didn’t want to understand her.
“I know, Rachel.” Sarah said one day to her bare back. Everything was heavy: her limbs, the blanket, the weight of Rachel’s thigh against hers.
“No, you don’t,” said Rachel to the wall. “You couldn’t possibly.”
There was no malice in her words, only weariness and caution. The old Sarah would have bristled but she only shrugged and very gently ran the pads of her thumbs across Rachel’s shoulder blades. Rachel let her.
It was small and soft and barely there at all but Sarah heard it anyway.
“Yeah. So am I.”
Rachel turned and kissed her then, a penance of sorts, a continuation of what she couldn’t say.
Sarah let her.
Chapter 11: this fool you love, somehow-HackerCop
In the darkness, when MK couldn’t see her eyes, Beth talked. Sometimes, she’d reach for her hand, run her fingers over MK’s calloused ones, needing that grounding.
Other times, she’d sit a measured distance away, not wanting (or believing she deserved, more accurately, MK thought) any human contact.
But she would always talk. And MK would listen. It was what she was good at and she was content to let Beth say everything she needed to say, things that she wouldn’t say in the light of day.
The change happened so gradually, MK almost didn’t notice at first. Beth said less and less and when she did speak, her words were spare. MK didn’t like the look behind her eyes. She still brought over pizza and was kind and gentle but this wasn’t the Beth she knew. This Beth was dying.
It had been a month since Beth stayed over. She would come up with excuses to leave but MK began to shake her head, signaling she understood and Beth would go. Home to Paul, out to search for a futile truth, she never knew. She never asked.
But on one particular night, she stayed. Curled up against MK’s back in bed, speaking lowly into her hair. It was the most she’d said in a long time and MK could feel hot tears rolling onto her own skin.
“I’m not enough, Mika, I’ll never be enough. I can’t fix any of this.” She sniffled, laughed sharply. “I’ve never been enough of anything, even as a kid, but this—I can’t—”
MK didn’t move, didn’t turn, kept her voice soft and as steady as she could. “We–we are in this together.”
“No,no.” She felt Beth tremble against her. “No, Mika. It’s–”
“You’re scared,” MK said, more calmly than she felt. “Beth–”
“I hate it. I hate all of this. I’m not strong enough. And you can say whatever you want but it’s the truth.“
And there weren’t any words left so MK turned over and cautiously, with utmost care, stroked Beth’s face, her hair.
She didn’t dare tell her it would be okay.
Because she knew, deep down, it wouldn’t be.
Chapter 12: and are you just like me?-Propunk
“I hope you realize you’re being absolutely ridiculous. It’s a downpour and you’re getting soaked.”
“Don’t care.” Her hair was plastered to her face, the leather of her jacket molded to her body like a second skin, and the rain was so frigid, she could feel the chill deep in her bones but she’d be bloody damned if she’d give Rachel the satisfaction of knowing she was uncomfortable. “I’d rather die out here than go back up with the likes of you, yeah?”
“You are a child,” Rachel said from under the protection of a huge umbrella. Her tone was calm but her eyes told another story all together. “You believe you’re spiting me, Sarah, but the only one you’re spiting is yourself.”
“Oh piss off, Rachel.” She was well aware the other woman wanted her to cave, for Sarah to beg to go upstairs, but it wasn’t going to happen. She was every bit as stubborn as Rachel and just as Rachel was loathe to give in when she believed she was right, Sarah refused to budge.
“You’re shivering,” she said coolly. “If you’d act your age, we could resolve this entire matter and go back inside where it’s warm and we both wouldn’t perish from hypothermia.”
Sarah glared, crossing her arms over her chest defiantly. “Tell me, why do you even care? You said it yourself, I’m nothing more than someone to fuck. That’s all we are to each other, yeah? So why should you give a shite if I bloody wash away out here.”
For a minute, neither of them said a word.
“I don’t,” replied Rachel. Her eyes were fixed on a point in the distance and Sarah grinned. She had her.
“What is it, why are you smiling like a fool?”
“Because you’re a bloody liar, that’s why.”
Sarah began to walk slowly, taking small steps until she was in Rachel’s space, standing under the umbrella. “You like me.”
“I can assure you, I most certainly do not.”
“Admit you like me and I’ll come upstairs,” Sarah’s eyes gleamed. “Admit it, Rachel, or I’ll–”
“I don’t do ultimatums, Sarah,” Rachel said through her teeth and Sarah smiled again. Rachel was seething and it was the only time she’d ever seen her lose her cool. It was a sight to behold.
“Fine, have it your way." In one swift movement, she shrugged off her jacket and tugged her shirt over her head, standing in front of Rachel’s building in only a thin black bra.
Sarah didn’t know what she expected. For Rachel to cover her up immediately, for her to rage, maybe, to drag her back into the building.
What she didn’t expect was for her eyes to narrow and go predatory and Rachel to pull her in by the waist and kiss her so deeply and for so long that she couldn’t breathe properly.
“I believe,” Rachel wiped her mouth, gathering herself, “that is the answer that you’d hoped for. May I safely assume you’re open to reason and you can join me upstairs? A warm shower will do us both some good.”
Sarah could only nod dumbly and pick up her discarded clothing from the ground silently, pulling her shirt on.
“Oh, and Sarah? As much as I’ve demonstrated I clearly value you for more than simply sex, if you ever choose to execute a stunt like that again, well, there will have to be consequences. Are we clear?”
Again, she nodded.
“Good girl.” Rachel murmured. She drew one manicured nail down Sarah’s collarbone, causing the other woman to tremble. "Now, let’s see to that shower.“
Chapter 13: as lovely as a wish granted true- Sarah & Helena
Her back hurts. Everything hurts. She is accustomed to pain but this is different. This feels normal. She hasn’t been beat up or attacked or pushed around. The weariness at the base of her neck is simply from swooping down to grab beers from the cooler, from running a rag along the polished wood of the bar, the pull in her shoulders is from reaching over her head to grab glasses. All of it feels so foreign, not to hurt from pain that was caused by others but to feel the genuine dull ache of hard work.
Sarah grimaces, moves her hips, stretches her calves. Her shift is finally over and she’s exhausted. She takes off her stained apron, pulls on her jacket and starts for home.
In her pocket, her fingers grasp onto her phone and she pulls it out, thumbing at it absently while she walks.
One missed call.
It’s Helena. Her voicemail is frantic and barely intelligible and for a heart stopping second, Sarah thinks something has happened to Kira but it is little Donnie. He has a high fever, his first, and Helena is panic stricken and will she please get home as fast at she can.
“Hey,” she steps inside and Helena is sitting in the rocking chair, cradling Donnie who looks utterly miserable. “So sorry, meathead, I was working,”
Helena’s eyes are puffy and she shakes her head. “I call doctor and he said to give Tylenol and wait. How can we wait, Sarah? He is very sick.”
Even after all this time, even after everything, Sarah feels the bile rise up in her throat. Helena is looking at her helplessly and she wants her to fix it and she doesn’t know if she can, she doesn’t know how to, and if anything happens to Donnie…
She closes her eyes tightly. “Where’s Alison? She’d know–”
Helena shakes her head. “She and Donnie watch little Arthur. Sestra Alison is very kind but I want only you here.”
Her voice is very small and frightened and Sarah nods, biting her lip. S’s voice rings in her head, telling her she’s stronger than she thinks she is. Dunno about that, she thinks, feeling utterly useless.
Sarah takes the baby from Helena and immediately walks the floor with him, whispering reassurance. “I know how scary it is. I remember the first time Kira got sick. Thank god for mum being around. Her fever was so high. Didn’t know kids could have fevers like that…but the medicine’ll help, just give it time.”
Helena’s eyes fill with tears. “I believe, sestra, but–”
Sarah swallows, bends to squeeze Helena’s hand. “I know. It’ll be alright. I promise. This little one is a fighter, yeah?” She strokes her nephew’s forehead gently. “Why don’t you get some sleep. I’ll keep watch on him.”
Helena begins to protest but Sarah is insistent. “Alright, but please, if anything changes–”
“I’ll wake you up straight away,” Sarah promises. “You’re always protecting all of us, making sure we’re safe. Lemme take care of the both of you, alright?”
Helena nods and Sarah hears what she doesn’t say: I love you. Thank you. I’m so relieved.
Instead, she allows Sarah to cover her with a blanket, run a hand over her unruly curls, and closes her eyes.
It is then and only then, Sarah lets out a single, strained breath.
Chapter 14: so let the clouds roll by your face- CodePink
The bolt of lightening seemed to slice the horizon in two, the light illuminating the small bedroom. But it was the color of the sky that got to her. You couldn’t call it black, not really. It was more a deep, deep blue, squid blood blue, as Krystal liked to refer to the particular hue.
MK had always loved storms. The way the earth would drink up moisture, the smell of the wet grass for hours afterward, the bursts of light, even the thunder. It was crazy…she, who hated noise loved the great booms from the sky. There was something powerful about it that she grasped on to.
As if nature had read her mind, a particularly raucous clap rumbled and as if on cue, a flash of pink and a squeak were all MK saw and heard as her girlfriend dove under the blanket.
MK smiled indulgently. Krystal, as it turned out, as strong as she was, was afraid of big dogs and heights and horror movies. And thunderstorms.
“Hey,” she gently nudged her blanket covered foot, “it’s okay. I’m here. It’s not going to hurt you.”
She refrained from saying it was only a thunderstorm. To Krystal, it was something bigger than that. That she could get, she could feel that, down to her very marrow. Fear.
Slowly, Krystal uncovered an inch of her face. “I know. It’s just so…loud, you know? It’s like it’s gonna destroy everything in its path.” Her eyes searched MK’s, darting across the expanse of her face.
It was this Krystal only she got to see. Lacking bravado, not turning on the slick charm. Little by little, she let MK take down the armor and in turn, MK warmed to her.
“I know.” She took one of Krystal’s hands in hers, still not entirely used to the contrast of her girlfriend’s elegantly manicured nails with her bitten down ones. “But it won’t. Do you trust me?”
Krystal’s features relaxed and she sighed, lowering the covering. “Are you like, seriously playing that card again?”
MK grinned, a long, slow widening of her mouth and she nodded. “It works, doesn’t it?”
“You,” Krystal shook her head, “are spending far too much time with me. Sounds exactly like something I would say.” She took her face in her hands, cupping her cheeks tenderly. “But you’re way, way more adorable.” Every time they kissed, MK felt like she was floating. It never failed. Krystal tasted sweet and airy and MK didn’t mind when she toyed with the ends of her hair. She had tried to voice the floating feeling once to Cosima who had shrugged. “Only a bad thing if you start to feel like you’re falling.” She grinned. “That’s a problem.”
Krystal positioned herself in MK’s arms, squirming briefly until she found a comfortable position. There were a few more claps of thunder, a few more instances of Krystal burying her face into the soft grey down of her t-shirt.
“Thanks for not laughing at me,” Krystal said, her voice think with impending sleep. “I know it’s a stupid thing to be afraid of…”
MK ran a hand over her hair. “It isn’t. I’m afraid of so many things.” She blushed. “But you know all of that.”
Krystal yawned and snuggled deeper into the cocoon their bodies created. “You’re like, the bravest person I know.”
A minute later, she was snoring softly and MK was glad. She wouldn’t have to explain why she was crying.
Chapter 15: and does she know, who I really am?- ProPunk
Set after I Hate Everything About You
"Is this gonna take all day?"
Patience was not Sarah's strong suit and her level of tolerance usually fluctuated between one of mild annoyance to a full out preschooler tantrum.
It was amusing but less so when Sarah not so subtly reminded her it was a trait they had in common.
"If you want a rush job, be my guest," the tattoo artist comments, barely glancing up from his work. He had come highly recommended by Cosima and the indiscreet look Rachel allows herself reassure her that he was doing an adequate job.
That is, if Sarah would keep still.
"Does it hurt?" Rachel inquires quietly. Sarah's eyes are a bit glassy, she notices, and she can see her clenching her jaw but the other woman manages to shake her head.
"Nah," she smirks, "feels fine. You sure you don't want matching ones, then? You'd look bloody hot."
Rachel raises an eyebrow and she laughs. "Was worth a try."
"Honestly, Sarah, do try and keep still please." Truth be told, the visual image of her girlfriend being etched into with a sharp needle is making her the slightest bit weak kneed, especially with Sarah being apt to move the wrong way and get herself injured.
She takes Sarah's hand in hers, strictly for Sarah's comfort, she tells herself, and runs her fingers over the knuckles in what she hopes is a soothing gesture. In the course of a year, she'd learned how to offer tiny bits of reassurance when Sarah needed them. Complete warmth was something she'd never exude fully but it crept in with much more frequency now, though most, if not all of it, was directed toward Sarah and Kira.
It works because Sarah's mouth softens at the edges and she looks up at Rachel gratefully. "You okay?"
Rachel begins to scoff and stops herself, inhaling through her nose before replying. "I'm not---entirely comfortable with the idea of you in pain."
"Ah, Rachel," Sarah grins, baring her teeth, eyes bright with adoration (and tears, Rachel notes) "you really are sweet but I'm fine, yeah? It's a good pain. Taking so bloody long though."
"Patience is a virtue. One that you don't possess." She hopes her tone is scathing but Sarah simply kisses the tops of her knuckle and mercifully shuts up until the artist announces he is finished.
"Well," Sarah sits up slowly when she is given the all clear, "whattya think?"
She brings her eyes to Sarah's hip bone, silently taking in the newly raised ink. "I'm not the person to ask for their opinion of a tattoo," Rachel finally demurs, "but it's actually quite beautiful. Worth the wait, I assume?"
"Mmmm," Sarah leans forward to kiss her as the tattoo is bandaged. "Some things are worth waiting for, aren't they?"
Sarah is incorrigible but Rachel smiles in spite of herself. "I believe," she passes a hand through Sarah's tangle of hair, "you are entirely correct, Ms. Manning."
"Take me home," she says lowly in the space where their heads are bent together. Her words are dangerous and full of promise and even after all this time, they send a small thrill down Rachel's spine.
Chapter 16: my life has been empty- Propunk
They had a routine. Sarah would come to the penthouse under the guise of brewing an argument. She wouldn’t have been drunk but just buzzed enough to give her the balls to spark a fight, the kind that ended up with Rachel against a wall or Sarah against the kitchen island, the marble edge jutting painfully into her spinal column. Rachel would lick the bourbon from the corner of Sarah’s mouth, her teeth, and they’d fuck to forget. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t but they had an unspoken agreement between them to keep things as they were. There was no room for tenderness and they both knew it.
Sarah was going to leave. It was that time in the evening when Rachel would have thrown her out if she hadn’t already rolled over and begun to slip back on her jeans and shirt, bra in hand. She made a move to sit but to her surprise, made it no further than lifting her neck up feebly before she sunk back into the plush pillows.
Rachel rolled her eyes, having already swept out of bed and put on a robe. “Really, Sarah, do show yourself out.”
“I would,” she said through gritted teeth, “if I could.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Means I can’t move. I feel like shit,” she admitted weakly. “I got bloody lightheaded and now I can’t bloody move.”
Rachel sat back down and observed her. “You are rather pale.” She lay the back of her hand over Sarah’s forehead, withdrawing it quickly. “You’re burning up. You were quite warm the whole time but I attributed it to—never mind.”
“Quit it,” Sarah shook off her hand. “Not a bloody kid, yeah?” She struggled to sit up again, “I’m fine.”
“Oh yes, I can see that.” The other woman watched in barely concealed amusement as Sarah tried to move to no avail. “I don’t think you’ll be going anywhere this evening.”
"We have rules, yeah?”
“Which can be relaxed tonight. You’re ill. You need sleep,” Rachel said firmly when she began to protest. “I won’t hear another word of it.” With that, she snapped off the lamp.
“Whatever you say,” Sarah muttered and she sank into a feverish sleep.
It was completely dark in the room when she stirred. At first, she didn’t know where she was and her pulse hammered in her neck.
“Sarah.” Rachel said quietly, her voice ringing through the darkness. “You’re up.”
“Yeah.” Her throat hurt and she swallowed painfully once and then twice. “Shit, what time is it?”
Rachel switched on a lamp and Sarah stifled a groan as her eyes struggled to catch up. “It’s half past eleven.”
“Fuck. I need to—”
“Shhh,” Rachel said, offering her a cup of water. “Don’t try to talk.”
Sipping the cold drink, Sarah sighed and lay back against the pillows. “My head feels like it weighs a thousand bloody pounds…”
“You’re talking again.” Rachel said and for the first time, Sarah realized she was sitting in a chair beside the bed.
“Uh, have you been here the whole time? You watchin’ me while I was sleepin’ or sumthin’?” She cracked but it was without her usual salt.
“Cetainly not.” said Rachel flatly, her eyes cast downward. “I had business to take care of.” Straightening, she looked at Sarah. “Are you hungry? I can order you something, if you’d like.”
Sarah could only stare. They’d broken Rachel’s most important rule and now the woman was offering to buy her dinner? It was like a parallel bloody universe was what it was.
She wanted to ask what was going on, if Rachel had some sort of trick up her sleeve and all of this was an elaborate ruse designed to humiliate her somewhere down the line. She opened her mouth to question.
Then Rachel’s eyes changed, something flickered, and she held Sarah’s gaze for a second before looking away again.
Oh. Sarah thought. Oh, shit.
She pushed herself carefully into a sitting position. “I could eat, I s'pose.”
Rachel seemed to settle back into herself and she nodded. “Good. I’ll send Troy out for whatever you would like.”
She got up, poised to leave and Sarah touched her wrist, fingers encircling it. She felt Rachel stiffen under her touch. Rule number two broken, just like that.
“Uh, thanks. For,” Sarah gestured, “all this.”
“You’re quite welcome,” she returned evenly, her gaze drifting down at Sarah’s hand before darting back up.
And with that, everything had changed.
Chapter 17: as beautiful as the sun-Soccerpink
“Krystal–” The name died on Alison’s lips as the other woman glanced in her direction. “Never mind.”
She passed a hand over her hair, feeling the familiar tiny shock she always did as she realized her fingers threaded through short, purple locks.
New hair, new me, right?
It was she had told herself anyway. As if a different hairstyle and a tattoo could change her. Mold her into something she wasn’t. She pushed down the pit in her stomach and watched silently as Krystal shoved bag after pink designer bag into the back of the SUV. No, she wouldn’t say one word.
Krystal lowered her sunglasses to peer at Alison skeptically. “Are you like, sure? Because you have a really weird look on your face right now.”
Alison forced herself to smile brightly. “I’m just wondering if you may have…overpacked a little is all.”
“Mmm, okay.” Krystal closed the back door and crossed her arms over her chest. For a full minute, she said nothing, the sounds of snapping gum the only thing permeating the silence. Briefly, she wondered if she’d offended her, the thought making her instantly uncomfortable.
All at once, Alison’s chin trembled.
Oh no, no.
She could never forgive herself if she cried in front of Krystal, of all people. Krystal, who she barely knew. Krystal, who had convinced her she needed this after she’d already convinced her that she needed a dipped manicure like she needed air.
“Hey, hey,” Krystal’s voice was soft like honey and she lay a hand on Alison’s forearm, “what’s up?”
Looking into kind green eyes, Alison waved her hand. “I’m fine, really. It’s just…I don’t–I’m–”
“Why did you say you’d come with me?” Krystal demanded gently, much more gently that Alison had thought her capable of. “Because I know I kind of like, talked you into it.”
Before she could say anything, Krystal plunged on. “Because you need this trip. You need someone to like, loosen up, you know?”
Alison swiped at her eyes. “And I suppose that’s you?”
“Um, obviously.” She gave Alison another light squeeze, eyes shining.
And then it occurred to her why she’d agreed to take a road trip with the other woman. Because it was Krystal. Krystal, who paid a home visit to Helena every other week for some pampering. Krystal, who took Kira shopping so that Sarah didn’t have to, Krystal, who liked to color the world in a way that made everything beautiful.
“I guess we should get going then,” Alison straightened her blouse, smoothed her hair. She opened the door and put her modest suitcase into the back seat.
Krystal tucked the key into the palm of her hand, her fingers lingering for just a second before drawing away. “This is gonna be epic, I promise.”
And as Alison buckled her seat belt and started the engine, she knew Krystal was right.
Chapter 18: i'll be under your stars forever-PunkyMonkey
Cosima stirred a pot on the stove, dipping in a wooden spoon before bringing it up to her lips and taking a exploratory taste. "Needs something else,” she muttered.
The door opened and she turned to see Sarah trudge in, her hair damp from walking home in the rain. “Hey,” she lifted a hand in greeting and immediately peeled off her jacket and sank down on the couch.
Cosima didn’t look up. “Tough night?”
“Yeah,” she said wearily, shoulders slumped. “Nobody wanted to bloody leave, even with last call. Had to kick em’ all out.” She paused, “smells good.”
“Come over here and tell me if it needs something, okay?”
Groaning, Sarah pulled herself to stand, taking the profred spoon. “Mmmm,” she closed her eyes, “oregano.”
“You are so right.” She stood on tip-toes to grab the jar in the upper cabinet as Sarah snaked arms around her waist.
“You don’t hafta cook for me, Cos. It’s 2 in the morning.” Sarah nuzzled her neck. “And you don’t hafta wait up at all if you don’t—”
“I want to,” Cosima assured her. “If I don’t, I’ll never get to see you.” She pushed her away gently to shake the jar over the sauce.
Soon they were settled on the sofa, balancing generous plates of pasta and laughing over Sarah’s bar tales.
“This couple came in, yeah? Right toward closing, ordered a round. And then another. I woulda been bloody pissed, cept’ they slipped me $100.”
“I would have kept the drinks coming,” Cosima smiled, “is it good, by the way?”
“Oh God, yeah,” Sarah moaned and Cosima took in a breath, cleared her throat a little. “Anyway, wanna know the real nutty thing?” She twirled a noodle around her fork, “they offered to give me an bigger tip if I shagged em’. Wanted me to come back to their hotel room.”
For a good minute, Cosima found herself unable to say anything. She took off her glasses, rubbed her eyes, put them back on, blinking.
"Wow, that’s—uh, that’s—what did you say?” She struggled to keep her tone casual.
Sarah shrugged. "Said my girlfriend might have a problem with that.”
She knew that she was blushing, she could feel it, and instantly, she wanted to die. So ridiculously uncool, Niehaus.
“Yeah, I know…we’ve never talked about, uh, labels and shite like that but—”
“Do that again.”
“What again?” Sarah asked, bewildered.
“Call me your girlfriend.”
Sarah grinned, clearly relieved. “My girlfriend. Sounds kinda stupid, yeah? Like we’re bloody kids or sumthin’.”
Cosima shook her head and put her plate on the coffee table. “It sounds kinda of perfect, actually.” She pressed against Sarah’s side, leaning her head on the other woman’s shoulder. Immediately, the other woman stroked her hair, her fingernails scraping lightly across Cosima’s scalp. She sighed contently.
“Yeah.” Sarah said thoughtfully. “S'pose it does.”
Chapter 19: and i'm sure you know me well, as i'm sure you don't- MK&Rachel
“Hold still.” MK pressed with the heels of her hands down into the gaping hole. So much blood. Too much. Her vision went swimmy.
“Try and stay calm.” Rachel. She had to focus on Rachel. Rachel, with the stab wound she could have fit a hand into if she tried. MK had taken off her own sweatshirt, pressed it to Rachel’s chest but nothing was working and she could feel the panic begin to squeeze itself around her throat. The phone lines had all been cut and there was no one coming who could relieve her.
“Why–don’t you go.” Rachel’s voice was paper thin and MK knew this was not a good sign. “I–don’t know why–you stayed.”
“Don’t try to talk. Save your strength.”
Truthfully, she couldn’t pin point why she stayed either. Maybe it was because she had failed Niki. And Beth. To fail another sister, even Rachel, was almost too much to bare. So she had knelt down beside her, speaking in low, calming tones that were more to bring comfort to herself than to Rachel.
Rachel’s breathing was becoming more strained and sinkingly, MK realized she was going to drown in her own blood.
“Go.” Rachel’s eyes locked with hers. “Go now. I don’t–deserve your pity, Mika.”
It would be so easy, with Rachel granting her pardon, just to run out the door of DYAD and not look back, to leave the smell of blood and of death behind and hide in the quiet safety of her apartment, until whoever it was that came after Rachel came after her too.
But her eyes were Beth’s eyes. Niki’s eyes. She shook her head.
“Fine.” Rachel was resigned. “Hands off.”
Reluctantly, MK obeyed, and a solitary tear slid down her cheek; a surprise. The blood pooled around them like a red river.
Rachel was gasping for breath now and tentatively, MK reached out to smooth back matted hair from her forehead. Rachel let her.
“Are you scared?”
She let out a strangled laugh. “No. I—always expected—it—to end like this. But alone.”
“I’m here.” She took Rachel’s hand in hers. There were no words of comfort to offer as she watched her struggle for air, fight against it.
Instead she squeezed her fingers, studying the neat, unpolished nails intently so she wouldn’t have to watch her face glaze over and go blank.
Gently, tenderly, she swept her palm down over Rachel’s forehead, down over her eyes and wept.
Chapter 20: there's an end to this begin- Alison/Rachel/Sarah
“She’s a total control freak,” Alison said, spearing a perfect circle of cucumber with her fork, pulling a face at Sarah's raised eyebrow, "oh, fiddlesticks. Fine , I know what you’re going to say. Takes one to know one.”
“Hey, you said it.” Sarah chugged back the remainder of her beer, swiping her mouth with the back of her hand. “She’s a bitch is what she is.” She smirked, "but I kinda like that about her. Doesn’t try to pretend to be sumthin’ she’s not.”
Alison shot her a disapproving look, chewing daintily. “Well, don’t you think it’s a little ridiculous how we’re at her beck and call whenever she wants us? She’s not even here and we’re waiting for her to come home like lap dogs.” She shook her head. “Look how she manipulated this situation, with the three of us. I never, ever in my entire life—”
“Thought you’d be shaggin’ the likes of me?” Sarah grinned again. “Same here. Then again, never thought I’d be shaggin’ bloody Racher either…”
“What do you say we shake things up a bit? Let her know she doesn’t call all the shots.” A devilish glint came into Alison’s eye as she rose from the table.
“What’re you sayin’?”
Alison rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Sarah, must I spell everything out for you? Rachel should be coming home any minute. Why don’t we show her that things are going to start happening on our terms…that we don’t hate each other like she thinks and she’s not pulling the strings.” Slowly, she unbuttoned the top three buttons of her shirt, allowing Sarah a glimpse of pale blue lace.
“Uh,” Sarah’s mouth went dry. “Except we do–”
She was cut off by the warm weight of Alison in her lap and Alison’s lips on hers.
By the time they made it over to the sofa, they were in various states of undress and Sarah was moaning into Alison’s mouth, completely taken in by the other woman’s aggressiveness, so much so that they neglected to hear Rachel come in.
“Well,” Rachel said as she towered over them. “What do we have here?” She sounded neither angry or amused and immediately, they froze.
“Rachel,” Alison was breathless, “I can explain. This isn’t what it looks like.”
“Mmmm, really. Is that so. Sarah, Would you care to corroborate Alison’s thinly fabricated story?”
Sarah said nothing but looked up at her, wiping smears of lipstick off of her face.
“We have an arrangement, do we not? And the arrangement is, each of us have to be present. I believe I made that perfectly clear.” She smoothed her skirt, "now I don’t know what possessed either of you to carry on like this when you clearly aren’t fond–”
“Oh cut the shit, Rachel.” Sarah crossed her arms over her chest. “We’re not your bloody property. And we’re both sick and tired of jumpin’ when you tell us to.” She glanced over at Alison. “Isn't that right?”
Sarah pulled Alison to her, fingers digging into her shoulders and kissed her deeply, eyes on Rachel the entire time, gauging her reaction.
She stood perfectly still, expressionless, watching as Sarah cupped Alison’s breasts in her palms and the kiss became frenzied. She was well aware the other woman had all but forgotten Rachel was still in the room.
“Do that again.”
“What?” Alison was panting now and she looked from Sarah to Rachel in a state of lustful confusion.
“Kiss her again.” Rachel commanded and Sarah could hear the smug satisfaction as she beat them at their own game.
Worth it, she acknowledged as she broke away from Alison to trail her lips down Rachel’s neck, Alison at her back, fingers smearing across Rachel’s leg and up her skirt.
And as they lay in Rachel’s bed, sweaty and satiated hours later, Rachel having gone to shower, she couldn’t help but laugh as Alison nudged her in the ribs and whispered. “Okay, I guess being a control freak has its perks.”
Chapter 21: the days are much too bright-Soccerbitch
“Rachel!” Alison startled as she opened the front door. “What are you doing here?” She looked over her shoulder quickly before stepping outside into the early spring morning.
“You look charming,” Rachel quirked an eyebrow toward her and Alison glanced down self-consciously. She was still in her pajamas.
“Yes, well, it’s only eight thirty in the morning, "she crossed her arms over her chest, "which makes it even more confusing as to—”
“Yes, yes, as to why I’m here.” Rachel said smoothly. “I simply came to wish you a happy birthday. Did you think I’d forgotten?”
Pink rose up in Alison’s cheeks. “Oh,” she replied, taken aback for the second time that morning, “I only mentioned it that one time. I didn’t realize you were paying attention.”
“You’ll find the more time you spend with me, I pay attention to everything.”
Something about the suggestive lilt in Rachel’s voice made her shiver and lean in closer before she remembered herself. “Donnie and the kids should be getting up any minute. They’re taking me to have breakfast.”
“Mmmm,” she murmured in a such a way that Alison could tell the other woman didn’t believe her. “I’m sure you can spare me a few minutes.”
Motioning to her driver, she turned back to Alison, a smile playing on her red lips. “I simply came to give you this.”
Alison regarded the bag suspiciously, looking back up at Rachel. “Myla? Land sakes, Rachel. Did you buy me… lingerie?”
Shaking her head, she handed the package back. “I can’t accept this.”
“And why is that?”
“You know why, Rachel.”
Rachel moved in so that she was inches away from Alison, the material of her elegant cape brushing against the linen of Alison’s pajamas. She smelled of jasmine and expensive soap. “Take a look, at the very least, and then decide.”
Relenting (and willing to do just about anything to put a little distance between them), Alison peered inside as Rachel opened the bag. She unwrapped thin tissue and nearly gasped. It was a delicate, pale pink negligee, exactly what Alison would have picked for herself. Against her better judgement, she ran a single finger over the satin, biting her lower lip to stifle a groan. It felt incredible and she could only imagine the luxury of it against her skin.
Alison took a breath, holding the air inside her cheeks. “Rachel,” she said finally, “this is very, very sweet and I wish I could–”
“Then do so,” Rachel said. “It’s a gift, nothing more.”
“Well, what am I supposed to tell Donnie if he asks where I got it from?”
“You don’t have to tell your husband all of your secrets, Alison. Especially when he doesn’t deserve you.”
The words hung in the air, buzzing until she was dizzy. “If I accept your gift, it doesn’t mean I’m going to sleep with you.”
Rachel held her gaze calmly.
They both knew she was lying. They had been involved in a complicated dance for months and it was finally coming to a head.
“I’ll be in touch. Happy birthday, Mrs. Hendrix.” Rachel brushed her lips against Alison’s cool cheek and turned on her heel.
Alison watched her get into the car, all restrained elegance. That woman—
On the dew covered lawn, she reached absently into the bag, her fingers finding silk again.
Chapter 22: you'll pretend to know me well- ProPunk
“Who the hell came up with algebra anyway? It ain’t like I’m ever gonna use it, in actual life. A bloody arsehole, that’s who.”
Rachel sighed, her annoyance just barely contained. “Would you like me to continue to help you or not?”
Sarah shrugged. “Guess so.”
“Fine.” She closed her eyes briefly, sucking in a breath, and opened them again. “Then I suggest you take a minute to calm down. It’s been two hours and my patience is beginning to wear thin. You’ve done little but curse, tell me that the questions don’t make any sense, rubbed several holes in the paper from over erasing, and complained that you wish Scott wasn’t out of town because he explained everything better than I’m apparently capable of.” She narrowed her eyes, “does that sum it all up?”
“Pretty much, yeah.”
“While I understand I’m your very last resort, Sarah, if you wish to pass this exam, you need to except my help and quit stalling.” She gestured to the GED practice test settled on the sofa in between them.
It was Sarah’s turn to heave a sigh. “Y'know I appreciate you helpin’, Rachel, but all this shite makes my head hurt.” She slumped back against the cushions.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day. You’ll get there.” Rachel softened ever so slightly. “Focus.”
Sarah rolled her eyes but obeyed, speaking only to ask questions as they diligently worked.
“Shite,” Sarah drummed her pencil against the coffee table as she came to a particularly difficult problem. “Hafta to be a bloody rocket scientist to get this one.”
She continued tapping the pencil against the expensive wood, ignoring the death glare Rachel was shooting her.
“Let me see,” she grabbed the offending object out of Sarah’s grasp, gathering every semblance of self- control she possessed not to snap it in two. “Yes, this one is very complex but if we put our minds to it, we can surely solve it.”
“Mmmm,” Changing tactics, Sarah crept her fingers up Rachel’s arm, dragging her thumb over muscle. “I dunno about you, but I can think of much more interestin’ things we could be doin’ right about now.” She pushed closer to Rachel’s side of the sofa, hands dropping from her arm and coming to rest on her upper thigh.
“Ah, so now we’ve reached the point where you’re going to try to distract me with sex to get out of studying.”
“Is it workin’?”
“No.” Rachel pushed her hand away. “And if you don’t begin to take this seriously, you will find yourself in the guest bedroom tonight.”
“Yeah, alright.” It was an idle threat and they both knew it.
Still, Sarah played along, allowing Rachel to help her with the next few problems with much comment.
“Stop doing that.” Rachel said abruptly.
“You know exactly what you’re doing.” Rachel’s eyes drifted down to Sarah’s mouth and stayed there.
“I dunno what you mean,” Sarah said, “but yeah, alright.” She shook her head, returning to the rumpled sheet in front of her.
“Sarah.” Rachel’s voice was low; a warning.
“What? Man, Rachel, you really need to relax. You’re gonna give yourself a bloody aneurysm.”
“Sarah Manning, I insist that you—”
“Stop biting that fucking lip!” Rachel had had enough. Roughly, she pulled Sarah so that she was in her lap. The practice test fluttered to the floor.
“You really are incorrigible,” Rachel muttered into the skin of Sarah’s neck. It had grown dark and her limbs were beginning to stiffen from the confines of a small space.
“You love it.” Sarah squeezed their threaded fingers. “Just wanted to thank you for helpin’ me study. And bein’ so patient, yeah?” She pressed a kiss to Rachel’s temple.
“You’re welcome. But I hope you don’t think this means you’re getting out of finishing that test. There’s still five more questions.”
Sarah grinned into the dark. “I think we both needed a break.”
Chapter 23: all along, we knew we'd carry on- ProGeek
Cosima looked down at the object in her hand, eyes wide. It couldn’t be—Rachel could not have possibly kept—that was weeks ago.
She had been at DYAD far too late, an occurrence which was getting more and more common since she and Delphine had split. In the back corner of lab, obscured by a pile of discarded jackets was a fifth of unopened vodka. The next thing Cosima knew, she was blind drunk and crying over Delphine and her sad, sorry existence.
in retrospect, she had no idea why or how she had ended up in Rachel’s office, but she was a sobbing, drunken mess and instead of pushing her away, Rachel had kissed her, hard, and made Cosima forget who she had been crying over in the first place.
It had been over two weeks and she had avoided Rachel at all costs, not an easy feat when they worked in the same building. The few times Cosima had inadvertently made eye contact with the other woman, she could have sworn Rachel was smirking.
So, when Cosima found herself in Rachel’s office again, Rachel having requested some lab reports (which Cosima knew fully well she could have gotten from Scott), she wasn’t looking for anything, she certainly wasn’t snooping while she waited. The object in her hand had been just in plain sight enough for her to recognize what it was.
“Cosima,” Rachel had entered the room, all tailored elegance. Her gaze drifted down, immediately landing on what Cosima was holding. “Ah,” was all she said before settling herself gracefully behind the desk. “I trust you have the reports?”
Cosima felt her jaw go slack. “Uh…”
“Well, then, may I have them?” Rachel extended her hand across the expanse of the desk. “ Now, please. I don’t have the luxury of time, Cosima.”
Cosima opened her mouth to speak and then promptly shut it when Rachel gave her a withering look.
“Stop gaping and hand over the reports.”
“Is that—is that my bra?” She lifted up the red trimmed black lace object, dangling it from one finger. Clearly, subtly was not working.
Rachel regarded her with a blank expression. “It appears to be, yes.”
“Okay,” Cosima said slowly, “since we’re getting absolutely nowhere…why do you have it? I mean, I’ve been looking for it since—” She stopped, face reddening. “I asked you if you’d seen it and you said no, that I must’ve have misplaced it at home or something.” A thought dawned and her cheeks began to flame. “Holy fucking shit. You kept it, didn’t you? Like some kind of sick souvenir.” She shook her head in disbelief. “Was I like, a conquest to you or something? Jesus, Rachel…and here I was, thinking you were showing an actual feeling, like, I dunno, compassion, maybe, toward another human for once in your life.” She shoved the file folder across the desk and stood, poised to go.
It shouldn’t have bothered her as much as it did. Rachel was self-serving, this she knew, this she had known for a long time. Angry tears stung the corners of her eyelids anyway.
“I kept it,” Rachel said to her back, “because I knew you would be back here for it.”
Slowly, Cosima turned to face her again.
Rachel didn’t move.
“I was drunk,” Cosima said. Her pulse sped up as she watched Rachel from behind the desk. Her eyes trailed down over the slope of pale, exposed throat.
This time, she kissed Rachel first, and it should have surprised her, how soft the other woman was, her mouth, her hands in Cosima’s hair, the skin of her thighs against Cosima’s palms.
But it didn’t.
Chapter 24: i'll make you feel happy- SoccerPunk
“Look, I’m not asking for miracles, alright? I’m just asking you to, you know, maybe pick your clothes up off the bathroom floor every once in awhile. Maybe put your plate in the dishwasher. Run the vacuum once or twice a week.”
When they had begun their discussion about household responsibilities (Alison had begun it, Sarah had barely glanced up from the sandwich she had been making), Ali managed to keep her tone measured and even, but Sarah’s complete nonchalance was wearing thin and her voice was beginning to rise in octave.
“Are you even listening?” Alison planted her hands on her hips indignantly. "Honest to goodness, Sarah, ever since you moved in, it’s like you tune me out whenever I ask you to do anything.”
Sarah raised an eyebrow. “Nag me, you mean.”
Alison stared at her blankly.
“You never just ask, Alison. You get all huffy and slam the dishes when yer puttin’ them away and pick up my clothes off the floor and roll yer eyes at me.”
“I do not."
“Yeah,” Sarah slapped the final piece of bread on top of her sandwich, “ya do.”
“Well,” Alison’s eyes bulged, “if you would just clean up after yourself in the first place and stop being such a—a–pig, maybe I wouldn’t have to nag.”
“Oh I think you’d still find a way,” Sarah’s voice was rising now and she abandoned her sandwich on the counter top to glare at the other woman. “I knew movin’ in here with Kira was a bad idea. Fe warned me, he told me we would bloody kill each other—”
“You need to leave your brother out of this. It’s none of his business. This is the issue, Sarah! Your family is way too involved in our relationship.”
“No,” Sarah returned hotly, “the issue is you bein’ a bloody nag.“
“Will you be quiet?!” Alison hissed, jabbing a finger toward the ceiling, “the children are sleeping.” For a second, no one moved and the two women stared at one another before Alison broke.
“It’s kind of a stupid argument, isn’t it?” She cracked a tight lipped smile. “I knew you weren’t exactly a neat freak when we started this.”
“And I knew you were uptight.” Sarah said with a fond smirk.
“I am not up–" The words died on Alison’s lips as she shook her head. “Okay, okay…maybe just slightly.”
Sarah grinned and reached out to pull Alison in by her hips, stretching her arms around the other woman’s waist. “But somehow we work, eh? Dunno how, really…”
“Yes,” Alison admitted softly. She brushed her lips against Sarah’s ear, feeling her girlfriend shiver lightly, “somehow, we do.”
Chapter 25: we knew we'd carry on- HackerCop
Instantaneous, white-lightening bolt of pain. Gasping for breath. Drowning in dark water.
And then nothing.
Jolted, Veera opened her eyes. Nothing about her surroundings looked familiar and for a brief second, she panicked.
Wherever it was, it felt safe, she felt safe, and instantly, Veera relaxed, let her lungs fill up with air.
Reaching down, she brushed her hands over her intact ribs, reaching up under her t-shirt. She took another breath. No pain. Nothing. It was as if he had never—
The fuzziness of her surroundings began to sharpen into focus and she nearly gasped at what she saw. Rolling hills and soft grass and blue skies. She was outside but there was none of the usual anxiety, no heaviness in her gut like there would have normally been.
A sudden warmth crept up her spine, flowing into her toes in waves. There was no way to tell where she was exactly or what was going to happen, but the thought did not frighten her in the least.
Over the hill, a figure appeared in her sight line, a small dot, becoming bigger as they drifted closer into view. Veera felt her heart speed up as she watched the stranger walk toward her. Could it be Niki? The possibility made her almost giddy.
Finally, the figure stopped. And all was quiet.
“Well,” Beth finally said, shaking her head, mouth twisting into a grin, "it's been awhile.”
Veera’s eyes instantly filled with tears and it took her only a single stride to propel herself into Beth’s arms, squeezing her with such force that Beth laughed.
“Too long,” Veera returned, burying her face into Beth’s shoulder.
“Well, kid,” Beth said, running a soothing hand over the slope of her upper back, “we’ve got all the time in the world.”
Chapter 26: we only come out at night- PunkCop
“Just do it already,” Beth said. “I don’t see what the issue is. Really, you’d be doing me a favor. My life is shit.”
Sarah stood in the doorway to the room, arms crossed over her chest. Beth could see the jut of her hipbone peeking out from the space where her shirt and jeans didn’t quite meet.
“It’s not as easy as all that,” Sarah replied. She sounded tired which Beth knew wasn’t possible. Weary, maybe. “You think this is what you want but once we do it, there’s no going back, yeah? It isn’t like a pair of shoes you don’t like that you can just return. This is real permanent shit.”
“Wow, thanks for that. I had no idea.” Brushing past her, Beth walked into the bathroom and busied herself with idiotic little things, brushing her teeth, sweeping her hair into a messy ponytail, ignoring the lump forming in her throat. Her hand rested on the medicine cabinet and lingered there.
“Don’t,” Sarah said and she startled.
“Stop fucking doing that,” she hissed, spinning around to find the other woman directly behind her. “Just because I can’t see you sneaking up on me,” Beth gestured to the mirror. “It’s not fair.”
“Sorry.” Sarah actually sounded contrite and Beth sighed.
“Look, this is what I want, okay? I have no one, Sarah. No friends. No family. I fucked up my career…there’s nothing left.” Beth touched the sleeve of her jacket. “Except you.”
Neither of them spoke.
“Well,” Sarah said finally, breaking the silence, “if the only person in your life is a dead girl, I can see your point.”
“Not funny.” Beth rested her head on Sarah’s chest. Even after six months, she still wasn’t entirely used to not feeling anything at all when she placed her hand or her head on the place where Sarah’s human heart would have been. It had weirded her out at first that there was no pulse between her fingertips when she brushed them over her veins or under her lips when she pressed them there.
But Sarah was ten times more human than anyone she’d ever met. And she felt safe with her in a way that she hadn’t felt in a very long time, possibly ever.
“Please," she implored again. “I know how much you’ve restrained yourself already. I’m telling you this is what I want.”
Sarah’s eyes flashed. Beth had felt her hold back when they kissed, careful as hell to avoid her neck or anywhere near her neck and she’d pulled back more than once, cursing herself, cursing who she was. To be granted permission, whatever hesitations she held, was almost too much to take.
“You sure? Absolutely, one hundred percent?”
Sarah exhaled, a low shaky expulsion of sound and nodded. “Alright, then. But not here.”
Taking Beth by the hand, she led her to the bedroom and pushed her gently into the soft mattress, sliding down next to her.
“It’s okay,” Beth told her quietly, hands cupping her face. “Sarah, it’s okay. I trust you.”
“C'mere.” Sarah kissed her, gently pushing errant strands of hair off of her neck, leaving an exposed, pale throat. She couldn’t help but let a tiny groan escape at the sight and Beth smiled.
Now Sarah grinned, exposing her fangs. Beth could feel the hunger that had gone unsatisfied.
Sarah leaned in and bore down.
Chapter 27: should I fall from grace, here with you- ProPunk
Sarah's tears are nearly as foreign as Rachel's ability to comfort. They are almost always angry; shed due to latent frustration, the inability to get her shit together, to be a mender the way Kira and Helena and the boys needed her to be. She doesn't see the point in crying when she's sad, doesn't have time for it.
But sometimes, they leak out anyway, of their own accord and it only serves to piss her off.
It wasn't the fact Rachel had come back that had surprised her so much as her reaction to it. She'd gotten her armor up, drew leather jacket clad shoulders back, steeling herself to argue with Fe or Kira, with any one of them who wanted to plead Rachel's case. She'd been prepared for three years now to feel indigency over the idea she'd ever show her face again. False bravado that Rachel would probably believe that they all owed her something and she'd preen, stand up real tall, and tell her to go straight to hell. Back under the rock she'd slithered out from.
It wouldn't be the first time.
She didn't feel any of those things. And Rachel, for her part, was just as defeated, just as broken down. The first time they laid eyes on each other, after Sarah had hesitantly permitted her to see Kira, get a glimpse of Helena's boys, it had struck her; the way she carried herself. No airs, no sense of entitlement.
It was vaguely unsettling until she stopped one day, dead in her tracks, watched as Donnie, the more tentative and cautious of the twins, crawled tiredly into Rachel's lap, on the floor, popping a thumb in, resting his head against her chest. It looked ridiculous because Rachel had quite obviously had never held a baby in her life. She had no idea what to do with her hands, settling for awkwardly patting his back, looking very much like a fish out of water.
It made sense, Sarah realized, ducking out of view so that Rachel couldn't see.
After all, when you're stripped entirely of who you thought you were, made to see that you aren't special or exemplary or of any real value, what's left?
Wherever she had been, Rachel had surely learned this to be so and she was brought down by it.
If circumstances were different, the knowledge might've made Sarah smug; if there was anyone who deserved to feel small, it was Rachel.
But it just made her sad.
Sarah's exhausted, constantly, there's not much room for much else and she can't find it in her to be resentful. Time had beaten it out of her. She has a job, and classes at the community college, a teenager to look after, toddlers to chase around. It's not what she'd envisioned but it's just boring enough to keep away the terror that something will come along to make the quiet life she'd carved out go horribly awry.
Then there was Rachel. Rachel, who hasn't ever quite managed to become one of them but they all treated with much more humanity than Rachel believed she deserved, Rachel, who made her own way in the art world, Rachel, who picked up after herself and did chores, and cooked.
Rachel, who'd come by one day and never left.
It's been a year and the idea of getting her own place comes up, now and again, tossed out over the dinner table, when they're all packed like sardines or after Felix's used the remainder of the hot water. No one takes it seriously. And Sarah suspects Rachel takes it the least seriously of all.
"You'd have more room," she argues coolly one evening, up to her elbows in soap suds. The sight, even after all of this time, is still slightly comical and Sarah bites down hard on her lower lip to contain the smirk.
"Nah. No rush, yeah?" Sarah grabs the pan from her, rinsing and drying it. "Sides, you're like a bloody fixture round here now. Like...a lightbulb or sumthin."
Rachel's eyebrow raises. "You're comparing me to a lightbulb?"
"Ya know what I mean," Sarah replies gruffly. "We're used to ya, is all. Stay as long as you want."
"Well, I'll certainly keep that in mind, Sarah. Thank you."
It's clipped and business like but she can see the faintest outline of a smile lifting up the corners of her mouth.
Late that night, Sarah wakes in a blind terror, her eyes shooting open as her heart pounds. The blackness of the room is about to swallow her whole and she stifles a scream, hand covering her mouth as though not to wake anybody.
The nightmares are few and far between now but when they strike, it's with an unrelenting vengeance, taking her completely off guard.
There's a soft rap at the door and quickly, she wipes her eyes, tries to pull herself together.
"I'm fine, Helena. Go back to bed."
Softly, she groans, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Then same goes for you, yeah?"
"May I come in?"
The woman may have lost some of her prickly edges but she was still as stubborn as hell and sighing, Sarah acquiesces, pulling the covers tightly around herself as Rachel enters.
"I was making myself a cup of tea when I heard you cry out." Knowingly, she regards her. "You were having a bad dream."
"Oh, so yer bloody Sherlock Holmes, now?" Sarah heaves a sigh again, "might as well sit. Since yer not gonna leave anyhow."
Ignoring her sass, Rachel perches on the edge of the mattress, setting her cup and saucer down on the nightstand. "I could make you one as well."
They sit in uncomfortable silence for a moment, Sarah crossing her arms rather defiantly over her chest.
"I have them sometimes, too," Rachel says after a while. "They wake me up out of a sound sleep. I know they can be quite frightening." She hesitates, "is there anything I can do to... help?"
Rachel's offer takes her off guard and she blinks rapidly, unsure what to make of it.
She starts to lie again, insist that she's perfectly fine but there is something in the depths of Rachel's eyes that draws a shred of honesty out of her.
"Sometimes, I can see faces. Other times, it's all black. But every time I have one, it's about somethin' comin' and I can't stop it. Can't keep anyone safe. I stand there and I'm stuck. Bloody powerless."
She can feel her throat close, like there's a hand around it and and without warning, the tears well up and spill over.
"I know it's not real," Sarah says, swiping angrily at her cheeks, "but what if it's like a warning, ya know? To keep watching my back, not get too comfortable, yeah? It's been three years, and I'm still always waitin' for the other bloody shoe to drop."
Somehow, she instinctively knows that she doesn't have to pretend with Rachel. That Rachel knows exactly what she means, knows what it's like to have the rug pulled out from underneath you, with no warning. She shields the others from her fear; she can't fall apart.
Rachel gets it. They they don't have to communicate for Sarah to realize that Rachel's the only other person to truly understand her.
"Perhaps it's time to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, Sarah."
Her words are halted and Sarah knows that this isn't easy for her, that the act of comforting does not come innately but she sounds kind, even if it's just an imitation of what kindness would be like.
"Still don't know how to live like that," Sarah blurts through her tears. "You'd think by now, I would've learned."
"Well," Rachel says thoughtfully, "you've been walking around like someone is out to get to you most of your life. I imagine it's not an easy habit to break."
Sarah looks at her, smirks. "Didn't know you were so wise. You go on one of those dumb spiritual enlightenment things or whatever?"
There's a glimmer of a smile again. "Something like that."
"Bloody rip-off is what those are," Sarah swipes the palm of her hand down over her face, collecting the remaining moisture from her skin. "I'm all right now. Ya don't hafta stay if ya don't wanna."
"Isn't that contrary to what you told me after dinner? You said I could stay as long as I liked."
"Ah," Sarah grins crookedly, "a sense of humor, too? Wouldya look at that?"
"I think you'll find that I'm full of surprises, Sarah."
Sarah doesn't miss the underlying pieces of her tone and she swallows, turning back to Rachel within an indifferent shrug. "Well, suit yourself. I'm goin' back to bed. Go on and climb in if yer gonna stay. But be quiet, would ya?"
To her credit, Rachel follows directions, wordlessly, sliding underneath the covers.
Even though Sarah has her back to her, she can feel her warmth and watches her shoulder blades move up and down, so rhythmically, that allows her into sleep.
Neither of them mention the fact that in the morning, Sarah wakes up, curled around Rachel's body, Rachel's hands resting in the tangles of her hair.
Some things are better left unsaid.
Chapter 28: well, it's silent to dream-ProGeek
"Do you think I should do something different with my hair?" Rachel picks up one of Cosima's dreadlocks, running a fingernail over the surface. "Pull an Alison, perhaps."
Her words are more than slightly fuzzy and frowning, Cosima eyes the nearly empty bottle of gin, the used shaker, the martini glass rimmed with Rachel's lipstick. Her text hadn't made much sense, but seeing as she was the only one who could be bothered to check on Rachel, she felt it was her moral obligation to see with her own eyes that she hadn't drowned in a pool of her own vomit.
She scoots back, eyes wide behind her glasses. "Hey, Rachel? Maybe we should cool it on the gin. Just for tonight, okay?"
At this, Rachel bristles, tugging on her own blonde bob. "Really, Cosima. I think I know when I've reached my limit." She gestures with an unsteady finger, "why don't you fix yourself a drink...live a little."
"Oh, I'm living, Rachel. This is exactly where I want to be on a Friday night."
"Mmm, you're here, are you not?" She drolly observes. "Fine. I'll make you a cocktail myself."
Somehow, to Cosima's amazement, she manages to pull herself into a standing position, poised to head to the kitchen of the modest apartment.
"Now where did I--"
Just as soon as she's up, she's teetering wildly and in a flash, Cosima's rushing over, an arm around her waist to keep her from falling.
"Oh, no you don't. Only place you're going is bed."
Rachel is warm to the touch, no doubt from the dubious amount of liquor she's consumed and so close that Cosima can make out the wispy strands of hair that have fallen across her forehead, the light scent of her perfume that cuts through the blatant aroma of Beefeater.
Her good eye meets Cosima's, something gleaming there, something that makes her uneasy and she swallows. "Alright, c'mon."
"I'm very sorry you happened to draw the short straw," Rachel mutters as Cosima puts the shower on, turns her back so that Rachel can undress.
"Don't be an asshole," Cosima replies to the wall, crossing her arms over her chest. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't want to be, okay?"
She falls silent, listening to the spray hit the tile, Rachel's skin.
"That isn't what you said," Rachel reminds her. Her voice is nearly drowned out by water, but Cosima hears her, just the same, scuffs one Converse clad foot against the linoleum.
"Yeah, I know what I said. I didn't mean---" She sighs, clamps down hard on the inner flesh of her lower lip. "Okay, uh, I'll grab you some pajamas or whatever. Be right back. Don't pass out or anything while I'm gone."
She hates this, that Rachel can still make her shaky and nervous, even when she's in a vulnerable position, even though her power's completely stripped and now she's just like the rest of them.
There's more to it, somehow, always has been. And Cosima would be lying to herself if she'd tried to deny it.
When she returns, a pair of white silk pajamas in tow, Rachel's toweling off and immediately, she averts her gaze, cheeks hot. "Sorry. Uh, your clothes are on the vanity. I'll just leave you to it."
Although she's still tipsy, Cosima's reaction seems to amuse her and the corners of her mouth curl into a smirk.
"We're both adults, Cosima. There's no need to be ashamed."
"I'm not. I just---uh, I'm going to go."
Maybe the floor would take mercy on her and swallow her up and she's debating trying to convince Rachel that all of this was some sort of post-alcoholic delusion when she emerges, swerving to the right, just a little, but enough for Cosima to reach out and grab her hand, help her down the hall to the bedroom.
It's far easier to avoid Rachel by keeping herself busy; turning down the grey comforter, going to the medicine cabinet for Tylenol, to the kitchen for a glass of water, making sure Rachel was on her side.
"Don't you think I should change my hair?" She asks again, a touch hoarsely, as Cosima pulls back the top sheet back over her, followed by the comforter. "Red, maybe. Or brown."
"What? Oh...I don't know."
She laughs dryly. "It's quite ironic, isn't it? All of my life...all of it, I wanted to be nothing like any of you. I wanted to be as far removed from you as possible. Now look at me, Cosima. Wanting to fit in when I'm well aware that I never will."
Cosima freezes, swallowing, drawing her lips in. "Rachel---"
"It's fine. I've made my peace with it. But you're here, aren't you?"
Rachel's expression is soft and it's so unnerving that Cosima is seconds away from turning on her heel and hightailing it.
"I'm here," she says instead, shifting weight from one foot to the other. "Do you need me to stay?"
She half expects Rachel to wave her off, to muster up what's left of her pride and tell her she's perfectly fine, but she pushes over, pats the other side of the bed gently and before she can second guess herself, Cosima kicks off her shoes, sliding in next to her.
It should feel completely weird and more than a little wrong. It doesn't.
And when Rachel's lips brush against her neck, she doesn't pull away. Closes her eyes. Sinks into the heat of it.
"You'd look good as a redhead," she manages, the words clogged up. "You should go for it."
She feels the upturn of Rachel's mouth against her jugular. "Perhaps I'll surprise you one day."
Teeth sink into skin and she stifles a groan.
Already have, she replies silently.
It's the very last thought she has before something else takes over completely.
Chapter 29: motherfuckers try to crack your crown-Krystal/Alison
Krystal is, without debate, the worst one of them to sing karaoke. Alison usually warbles her way through a show tune or a Celine Dion power ballad. Sarah, to the surprise of no one, goes for something she can growl; The Clash, more often than not. Cosima always drags Delphine up and they end up doing more giggling than actual singing. Helena chooses some obscure folk song that sits on a dusty page of the song book, belting it out with aplomb in her thick accent. Felix is a hidden gem, able to perform just about anything that gets tossed his way, from Britney to Metallica, but Alison isn't shocked. She's seen him put his theatrical skills to good use, more than once, and of course they extended to his musical talents.
But what Krystal lacks in ability, she makes up for in enthusiasm. She's the first one to get up there, after the consumption of , numerous fruity cocktails that Sarah smirks at, nursing her own whiskey neat. She checks her lipstick, fluffs her hair, readjusts her cleavage and throws herself into her performance, completely ignoring the fact she makes everyone's ears bleed each and every time.
They are all some what accustomed to it by now, the way she can't carry a tune to save her life and they applaud loudly afterwards, for her courage, if nothing else, and she grins at them as though she's just won a Grammy.
She always chooses the same thing; a 90s pop song and secretly, Alison hopes that when she's run out of them, she'll give it a rest, though there's something to be said for how remarkably unaffected she is about what anyone thinks. It's something she struggles with, even now, and she has to admit, Krystal's a breath of fresh air in the form of Juicy Coture track suits.
"I'm just having fun," she always says with a playful shrug, taking another slurp of whatever neon beverage is the drink special of the evening. "I'm living!"
This is typically shouted over the music and Sarah rolls her eyes, while Helena and Cosima toast her.
Tonight she seems a little more reserved, Alison notes, sipping her white wine. The drinks don't flow quite as freely and she's kind of quiet, whispering in Sarah's ear every once in awhile, shooting nervous glances over at the stage.
"Hey, no secrets," Cosima admonishes lightly, one arm around Delphine, beer in the other. "Share with the class."
To Alison's shock, Krystal blushes. "Nothing to share." Her eyes flit to her nails and she pretends to study them, completely missing the glance Helena exchanges with Cosima and Delphine.
Something is amiss and she clears her throat, determined to find out just what it is when the DJ goes on the mic, announcing the next singer.
"Now we have Krystal coming up, dedicating a song to a very special someone."
Krystal's skin morphs from pink to completely white and for a second, Alison's terrified she's going to vomit, but Sarah gives her a not so gentle nudge, forcing her to stand.
"Go on, then."
The group applauds her, cat calling, and reluctantly, she ascends the small stage, hands shaking as she's handed the mic.
"Um, hi. This is for someone who is like, completely amazing, even though she doesn't want to believe it and also, she won't let me take her shopping and she's got a killlllllerrr bod. Anyway, this is for you."
She looks pointedly out in the crowd and it's not until she feels everyone's eyes on her that Alison realizes that Krystal is talking about her.
Her vision dims a little at the edges and without thinking, she picks up her wine class, sending the rest down her throat.
Sarah's grinning like an idiot and furiously, she leans over as the opening of the song begins to play.
"Sarah Manning, you knew about this all along, didn't you?" Her cheeks are hot. "I'll never forgive you for not saying---"
"Shhh," Helena puts a finger to her lips. "Krystal is singing to you, sestra."
Alison hushes up, forces herself to watch what's happening, as though it's the scene of a car crash.
Krystal closes her eyes, not bothering to look at the screen, leaning into the music.
"I get lost in your eyes," she wobbles, the notes all over the place, but she continues. "and I feel my spirits rise and get lost like the wind."
She cracks one eye open. "Is it love that I am in? "
Beside her, Helena has a hand over her heart. Sarah's containing herself rather well, for Sarah, recording the whole thing for Felix who had a date.
"Duddeeee," Cosima drawls close to her ear. "Who knew Krystal has a thing for you?"
Alison feels ill. "Certainly not me."
"I think it's very sweet," Delphine concludes, pressing a kiss to Cosima's temple. "She's laying it all on the line."
Alison watches her, giving it her all, pouring herself into the chorus. It's truly awful and she doesn't hear one correct note out of the bunch, but the more she listens, the more she sees just how Krystal is putting herself out there to express her feelings, the more a little light burns in her heart, warming her.
Krystal can't fully look at her, eyes still tightly clamped shut as she comes to the end of the song.
"I don't mind not knowing what I'm heading for. You can take me to the skies. Oh, it's being lost in heavenx2, when I'm lost in your eyes."
Then. something shifts and she meets Alison's gaze head on.
A weird jolt weaves through her belly and she glances back at her as she sings the finally verse softly and sweetly.
"I get weak in a glance. Isn't this what's called romance? Oh, I'll be found. When I am lost in your eyes."
The notes fade in the ear and the entire bar is clapping wildly as she bows, making her way back over to her friends who clap her on the back.
It isn't until she's downed her entire drink in three seconds that she turns to Alison, flipping hair over her shoulder as though nothing happened.
"Krystal," she shakes her head, unsure of what to say. "I---"
"You don't have to say anything," Krystal puts a hand over hers. "Just wanted you to like...know how I felt."
Her gaze is soft and even though she knows everyone's staring, she can't help but reach out, caress her cheek.
"No one's ever done anything like that for me before," she confesses quietly, eyes drifting down to the wet ring staining the wood. "It was very sweet."
"Well, good," Krystal looks pleased. "Because I think you're very sweet."
Alison bites her lip. "Do you want to, I don't know, do something one day? Shopping, maybe?"
She's getting ahead of herself and she puts a hand up. "Or lunch. We could...go to lunch."
Krystal's entire face lights up like a Christmas tree. "Like...a date?"
She's poised to say no, but there's something utterly adorable about the hopeful way Krystal's looking at her and she can't bear to extinguish it.
"Yes, a date."
She squeals. "Totally."
There's that warmth again, slowly creeping up, and Alison takes another sip from a new glass of white wine. "Totally," she repeats to herself, a small smile playing at the corners of her mouth.
Chapter 30: make you wish for more than this- SoccerPunk
"Hop in," Alison tells her, in that stern way she has, the one that means no nonsense, the one that she uses to talk to Oscar or Gemma or one of the twins. There's love underneath, though. There always is.
Sarah obeys, too exhausted to protest. She's been working crazy shifts at the hospital and life leaves little else but looking in briefly after Kira, shoving down a quick bite, and sleeping whenever she can find a minute. She goes when Kira is sleeping, with either Felix or Alison coming by. Sometimes she'll spend her nights at the Hendrix's and every other weekend that Sarah's on, she has a sleepover at Art's with Charlotte and Maya. She's suited to adaptation and Sarah supposes with her for a mother, she had to be.
Still, she can't help the guilt. It comes in waves...torn between working toward a better future for them and hating herself for having to be absent all over again, though she knew that this time was different. It was honest and it was foreign to the both of them.
Becoming a nurse's assistant was not something she ever thought she'd be doing. Hell, she never dreamed she'd actually graduate high school, let alone pass nursing courses. With support and encouragement, she managed and she had to admit, hard work had its rewards. Kira was incredibly proud and that was all that mattered.
In the darkness, Alison slides under the covers beside her. It's commonplace for her to sleep over after Sarah returns home late. She can't complain as her dishes are done, laundry folded and put away, and more often than not, her bathroom is scrubbed from top to bottom. She's told Alison time and time again that she's doing enough by coming by to watch KIra and she certainly doesn't have to clean, too, but Alison always waves her away with the insistence that she "needs to stay busy."
Then, she'll prattle on until Sarah drifts off to sleep, waking up to anything from fresh blueberry muffins to omelets for her and Kira. There's something comforting about her taking care of them and she's clumsily tried to express it a few times, only to be at a loss for words.
Tonight, Alison is quiet, pulling the covers to her chin and Sarah pauses, prying her eyelids open and pushing closer, turning her head to face her.
At this, Alison sniffles and damn, Sarah's not going to get any sleep tonight. Still, a crying Alison makes her chest ache and she reaches out to put a hand on her forearm.
"You can talk to me, yeah?"
"Oh, Sarah," she blots her nose with a crumpled tissue, "I feel like I'm constantly falling apart."
Her mouth gapes a little. "You? Are you off your nut? You're the only one of us who has it together. If it weren't for you, I'd be in some corner somewhere."
She manages a smile. "I appreciate that, I do, but I dunno...I feel like I'm failing at everything. Being a mother. Helping out with little Donnie and Arthur. Even with Kira. I feel like I should be doing more, you know?"
Alison runs a hand through her hair. "Thought I could relax. Be a little less...rigid. And it's worked, Sarah. But I feel so...lost. I don't know who I am anymore. Or what I want." Her eyes fill. "I'm somewhere in between and it feels shitty. That's what it feels like."
Sarah's shite at advice, this she knows, but she gently reaches out, smooths a hand over short, purple locks. "I know that feeling. No one knows better than me, yeah? I dunno even recognize myself anymore. I have an honest job, Alison. S would be beside herself."
She pulls a face and Alison laughs, wiping her eyes. "It looks good on you, though. She would be incredibly proud."
"Mmm," Sarah grasps her hand, "think she would be proud of you, too. The way you look out for us, how you help my sister and the babies. How good you are to Oscar and Gemma and Donnie. Siobahn, she was the rock, yeah? Well, that's you now."
"I am?" Her voice trembles and Sarah squeezes her fingers.
"Know it's a lot to live up to, but you are, Ali. Without even having to try."
"I loved your mother. It's my honor to follow in her footsteps."
"Well, good, then. No more nonsense about you not doing enough, alright?"
Alison nods. "We have a deal."
"Sleep now, yeah? And then maybe you can show me how to make those muffins for Kira."
"I think that can be arranged."
Her voice is solid and Sarah breathes out a side of relief, rolling onto her side, eyes slipping shut.
As she drifts off, she feels Alison curl into her back, breathing soft and even.
Chapter 31: break you up and suck you out- PunkyMonkey
It had taken about a good year before Kira suggested they all eat together, at least once a week. Work schedules and after school activities (not to mention Felix's latest paramour), kept them busy but Thursdays were it and nobody dated come up with a single excuse why they couldn't be in attendance.
They took turns cooking, too, even Kira who'd learned to whip up a mean grilled cheese. Felix's offerings left much to be desired, though they ate whatever he made with a smile and suffered in silence. Sarah found, much to her surprise, if she was patient (a trait that was certainly not easy to come by), she could actually cook some of the things S had and they turned out good. She could almost hear the proud, "Told you so, chicken."
Sometimes Helena and the twins would join them, other times, Alison's brood would tag along. It was Cosima who remained a regular, showing up at first with Delphine and then more often alone, with a hurried explanation that she had to work late. None of them bought it, but they kept mum, mostly because she threw herself into the cooking rotation, usually making burritos that they all agreed were the best they've ever had.
It was one such evening where Sarah had cooked a Siobhan special; roasted lamb and tiny potatoes. Kira's contribution was a strawberry shortcake for dessert and Felix made exceptionally strong coffee. It was when both Kira and Felix retreated to watch television before Kira had to go to bed, that Cosima joined Sarah to load the dishwasher.
For awhile, they worked in silence, Cosima rinsing and handing the plate or cup or utensil to Sarah to put in. Finally, not being able to stand the quiet for a minute longer, Sarah touched her arm fleetingly, stilling her motion.
"You okay, Cos? You were pretty quiet during dinner, yeah?"
Usually, she was the one to drag them all into a lively conversation; asking questions about Fe's latest art piece or how Kira was doing in school, inquiries about Sarah's job down at the bar, her studies at the local community college. Her silence wasn't commonplace and she couldn't help but worry something was up.
Cosima's mouth formed a little 'o' of surprise at Sarah's observation, as though she had not expected anyone to notice and immediately, her shoulders sagged. Sarah saw the split second contemplation, an inner debate on whether or not she should spin an untruth.
"Delphine and I broke up."
Sarah blinked, leaning forward to make sure that she heard her right. "Oh, God, Cos. When?"
It all made sense... Cosima's regular presence, Delphine's absence, the way she had begun to cease mentioning her. Cosima's eyes didn't sparkle anymore from behind her glasses, nor did her smiles flow as easily. She wanted to kick herself not for noticing before.
"Three weeks ago. I was waiting for the right time to say something." She turned off the water, meeting Sarah's eyes. "Guess now is as good as time as any. Let's go sit down."
Taking their respective seats at the table, Cosima sighed, toying with the end of a dred. "Wish this were easier."
"If S was here, she'd of already had the kettle on. I can make you a cuppa, if it'll help. Or some liquid courage? I don't drink much these days but think I have some whiskey stashed away somewhere, yeah?"
Cosima shook her head. "No, it's okay, Sarah. This has been a long time coming and I think I need to tell you with a clear head."
There was something in her tone that set off alarm bells but she nodded, splaying her hands out in front of her. "Go on, then. I'm listening."
"Okay, well," Cosima began, taking a deep breath, "I'll always care about her. How could I not? But I also can't live a lie either." Staring down at her fingernails, she mumbled, "there's someone else."
Confused, Sarah scratched her head. "Alright...Del met someone else? Or you? Those things happen, Cosima. It sucks but it's just a part of life. People grow apart and they meet other people...but I dunno, I guess I thought you guys were in it for the long haul. Made me believe love existed, as bloody stupid as it sounds."
"I know. And Delphine was beside herself. Me too. I wish I could help my feelings, Sarah. Believe me, I've tried. Many, many times. But it's no use. Even if the person couldn't possibly feel the same way."
It was a lot to take in and Sarah paused, trying to remain as impartial as possible. "Well," she said slowly, "you don't know that. It's worth a try if you really care. Don't you think?"
"You don't understand, Sarah. They'd probably laugh. There's no way.. "
"Shite, Cos. You're funny and smart... anyone would jump at the chance to be with you." A thought suddenly occured and she looked at her, horrified. "It's not Rachel, is it? Cuz' I think I could handle just about everyone else."
Her attempt at a joke did nothing to lift the heavy mood and Cosima just looked at her. Her gaze began to look a little pointed and it was then that Sarah put two and two together.
"Oh, shite. Cosima..."
Cosima rested her head in the crook of her hands, burying it. "I'm so sorry. I never meant to..." Her voice is slightly muffled. "I don't blame you if you hate me."
Still in shock, Sarah rose, placing a hand on Cosima's shoulder. "Course' I don't hate you. Could never hate you."
"But you don't feel..."
She trailed off and Sarah brushed a strand of hair back affectionately, purposely keeping her tone gentle. "I'm confused is what I am, yeah? I never, in a million years, expected you to---"
Cosima's lips on hers were soft, softer than she could have imagined and she found herself responding, moaning when their tounges brushed.
It was hardly a graceful first kiss, as far as first kisses went but when they finally broke apart they were both breathing hard and Sarah's heart had sunk into her belly. "Cos, I--"
Cosima placed a finger over slightly swollen lips. "You don't have to say anything, Sarah. We'll take it as it goes, okay?"
And Sarah, who was rarely completely and utterly without words, could merely nod.
Chapter 32: i'll sing to you if you want me to- ProManicure
“Could you pass the hot sauce, please? Oh my godddd,” Krystal groans, eyes slipping closed. “This is like, so good. You should try it.”
Rachel regards with her with a kind of disgusted awe as her glance drifts from the neon red substance covering the slop that the diner was attempting to pass off as scrambled eggs back to Krystal who is shoveling in her meal in between rambles, thrusting a forkful toward her.
“No, thank you,” she declines with a frown, sipping her own tea from a slightly chipped mug and considering whether or not the waitress filled the cup with dirty dishwater instead, entirely for her own amusement. “You enjoy.”
“I am. Seriously, Rach. You should have a bite. Live a little.”
Rachel tugs her tailored jacket more securely around her middle, taking in the decor or lack thereof, around her. Harsh florescent lighting, the sagging booth with aged faux leather, tacky 50s theme jukeboxes, low hanging red lamps.
And then her companion for the evening, in all of her leopard print glory. Bubble gum pink lipstick, hair teased up to the heavens, yammering away so rapidly that Rachel can’t get a word in edgewise.
For what must be the millionth time that evening, she has to question her choices. Picking up the phone in the first place. Agreeing to go bar hopping with Krystal, given the kind of establishments the other woman tended to frequent, knowing fully well she would end up swilling martinis laced with gin that resembled rubbing alcohol. Giving into Krystal’s pleas and puppy dog eyes and insistence that she “let loose” and that it wasn’t “going to kill her.”
She followed that up with a string of compliments...what pretty skin Rachel had, how good her makeup looked. Her offer to do her hair was quickly rejected, as was her offer of borrowing an outfit but Rachel allowed herself to be dragged out anyway, spending most of the night watching Krystal chat up everybody in each of the dives they went to, all the while knocking back Sex on the Beaches as if there were no tomorrow.
The result of this was a faint throbbing behind her left eye, no doubt retribution for all the cheap liquor she’d been forced to consume, sitting across from a tipsy Krystal in a place she’d have figured the health department would have shut down already, at 1 a.m., fixated with morbid wonderment while she ate plastic looking eggs as though they were a delicacy.
“I dare say,” Rachel cocks an eyebrow, “I’ve lived enough for ten lifetimes tonight. Wouldn’t you?”
Normally, her cool tone would have stopped whomever it was directed toward dead in their tracks but Krystal grins sloppily; a dismissal. “Yeah, right. C’mon, Rachel. You have to admit you had fun. It’s okay, you know. To like...have fun. Proves you’re not a robot.”
“Mmm,” Rachel smooths a hand over her hair, regarding her. “And what makes you think I had fun? What exactly validates your theory?”
Krystal sets aside her plate, pulling a gold compact out of her tiny purse to reapply lipstick and flicks it closed, just as abruptly, gazing at Rachel through thick mascara coated lashes. “I saw you smile. Almost pulled out my phone so I could like, alert the media.”
“That was a fluke,” Rachel quickly looks away. Krystal’s intense stare is beginning to set her uneasy. “Something in my eye, perhaps.”
Reaching across the table top, she brushes her fingers against Rachel’s. “Yeah...it’s called enjoyment.”
Rachel huffs, yanking her hand away. “You are impossible. You are aware of that, are you not?”
Again, Krystal grins and oddly, a swarm of butterflies rise up in the swell of her belly. “And you’re cute.”
“I most certainly am nothing of the sort.”
“You are, though. You’re kind of adorable.”
Krystal’s voice is all cotton candy floss and Rachel’s stomach once again betrays her, flip flopping into itself.
She ignores it, brazenly meeting hazel eyes. “I’m going to ask for the check and then we’re going back to mine for a real drink.”
Leaning in, her tone drops to a low growl. “And then I’ll show you that I am not anything remotely close to adorable. Do you understand?”
Krystal’s cheeks are as pink as her lipstick and her arm shoots up, eyes pinned to Rachel’s.
Chapter 33: who decides what's crazy? - PunkCop
"Did you love Paul?"
Beth side eyes her, shrugs. What she wouldn't do for a long pull of Jack Daniels, straight from the bottle.
Sarah chortles with a nod. "Fair enough. I guess. In a way." She scuffs her foot against dirt. 'But you never answered my question, yeah?"
"Is it that important?"
"No, but we're hiding in a tiny dirt hole and fuck knows when it's safe to come out. Figured it'd pass the time."
Sarah's elbow is nestled in her ribcage, their thighs pressed together and Beth can reason she has a point. There's a certain amount of disclosure that's alloted in circumstances like these and she feels her body lose some of its customary rigidity.
"No," she answers quietly. "Not for a single second."
There's a silence and then Sarah says, "oh," as though she's just confessed to hating coffee or forgetting to brush her teeth before bed.
"Dumb to stay with someone you don't love, right? Well, I did a lot of awful, selfish shit. Hurt people along the way. Happens when you're on a fast track to fuck everything up, doesn't it?"
In the darkness, she feels Sarah's eyes on her, feels the jut of her ankle as it brushes hers.
"You don't have the monoply on fucking up your life."
Her voice is gritty, terse and Beth exhales. "You know what I mean."
"Yeah, I do. And I think you need to stop feeling so bloody sorry for yourself. We could die in here before it's safe to come out. Or they could find us and that's it. Wallowing in your own shit isn't going to save us."
"Fuck," Beth says after a beat, "you don't mince words, huh?"
Sarah laughs, the leather of her jacket squeaking. "No point. Chin up, then. You get to ask me one now."
She wrinkles her nose, thinking. "Ah, okay. First thing you're going to do when we make it out of here."
"Crawl straight into bed with Kira and hug her to bits. She's starting to be put off hugs, but I'll do it anyway."
"That's good. Really good."
Sarah pokes her arm with a pinky. "How about you?"
Beth contemplates. "Fix my fucking life up. Get a new job. New apartment. New city, maybe. Sky's the limit. But I can't go back to before, Sarah. I won't. I refuse."
Nodding slowly, Sarah rests her head on Beth's shoulder, yawning.
"Hey, hey, none of that. Stay awake."
Without water, they wouldn't last more than a couple of days and it was time to talk about taking a chance and running. They'd cross that bridge when they came to it.
"Wasn't it my turn to ask a question?"
"Mmm," she agrees sleepily, "answer anyway."
''I'll indulge you." She absently runs a hand through Sarah's tangled mess of hair. "No. Because we're going to get out of this. But we have to leave here, Sarah."
"Lesser of two evils, huh."
"Yeah. Give me your hand."
Sarah slips her hand in Beth's and she weaves their fingers together, squeezing gently.
"I got you in this mess and I'm going to get you out."
She pulls Sarah to her feet, capturing her face in one hand, tipping her chin and lays the lightest of kisses on parted lips.
"On my count...one, two...three."
She senses the fear emanating off of her, but she squeezes her hand again as they make their way into light, gasping for air.
There is only silence.
They are quiet for a good minute surveying the area before Sarah turns to her, hazel eyes unsure.
"What do we do now?"
Beth leans in to kiss her again, just the barest brushing.
"Now," she cradles her chin, eyes searching hers, "we run."
Chapter 34: what sunshine do you bring?- Soccercop
"How much of an asshole would it make me to say he doesn't deserve you?"
It is the kind of candid confession that can only result from too much whiskey and the kind of fuck it, everything's on the verge of falling apart, anyway attitude Alison's come to expect from Beth. Being drunk only amplified it.
If she'd stopped to analyze the situation, if she'd been sober, maybe, she would clearly have recognized that nothing good could come from swilling red wine, straight from the bottle and camping out on the floor of the shed with Beth, who was the last person who should have been drinking in the first place.
But none of her decisions lately made much sense at all and she was long past caring.
Tipping back the bottle, she lets the slightly metallic taste rest on the edges of her lips, the points of her teeth before swallowing.
"A big one," she wipes her hands down the front of her LuLu Lemons. She's starting to get a little sloppy; an indicator to slow down. "But you'd probably be right."
Beth is a cool drunk. The liquor serves to make her less guarded, nothing more. Whereas Alison is a nervous ball of energy, even with a copious amount of alcohol in her system, Beth can drink her body weight in Jack Daniels and be none the worse for wear. It's both enviable and slightly disgusting and often, she watches in awe as Beth barely winces when she takes a swig.
Alison notes, watching her in the dark, that it wasn't uncommon for Beth to lay out casual questions or statements when they were drinking, phrasing them in such a way that they were completely organic. She got the sense that she wouldn't have dared in the light of day, knowing fully well that she couldn't or more precisely, wouldn't be equipped to respond.
So she saves it for nights like these, when Donnie and the kids are in asleep and they are crossed legged on the floor, each with their respective bottles. Safer, somehow, and they both know it.
"Mmm," Beth replies, cracking her knuckles, even though she knows it makes Alison wince. "I'd ask why stay but what's the point..."
"When you already know the answer," Alison finishes, trying her best to sound brisk. It's more of a kitten's whisker and she swallows against the sludge that's building up in her throat.
She leans over to catch a fallen eyelash off of Alison's cheek, capturing it on her thumb, blowing it into the air in front of them.
There are certain things that make her breath stick painfully in between the pockets of her ribs, make her feel as the wind's just been knocked out of her.
Beth's fingers against wisps of hair that have escaped her ponytail.
The way she catches her looking sometimes, the little flash in her eyes when she realizes Alison noticed, how she looks away then.
How she's been lingering slightly longer than normal when they hug good-bye.
A goddamned eyelash.
She's supposed to know what to do. To find a manual somewhere. She fucking prides herself on solving problems; Oscar's lost soccer ball, gum in Gemma's hair, Donnie's heartburn.
It's almost infuriating how lost she is and the one person she'd normally ask for help is out of the question.
"What if," Beth's mouth shifts into a pensive line, "what if I don't like the answer. What then?"
Alison doesn't like her tone, how it's drifted into an almost low drawl and she shakes her head.
"We don't have much choice, do we?"
It isn't the response either of them expects and to her horror, silent tears fall down Beth's cheeks, no warning, no ceremony. Her throat instantly constricts.
"Beth," her hand falls to Beth's shoulder but she shrugs, her turn to shake her head.
They both know that she’s lying and gently, Alison wipes the fallen tears with just the pads of her thumbs until they are gone.
There's only silence until Beth laces their fingers together, her eyes trained on something in the distance.
"What if," her voice is hoarse and Alison squeezes the hand she is holding gently, "I told you I loved you."
There's no hesitation, no pause.
"I'd have to say that I know," Alison replies, more measured than she'd thought possible.
"Good," Beth exhales, slumping back against the wall that holds her up. "That's good."
Chapter 35: and it's a chance i'll have to take- Propunk
"You were right."
"Honestly, Sarah," Rachel looks at her disdainfully, one hand planted on her hip. "Do I need to say it again?"
The shock hits, but only for a second and she settles easily back into herself.
"Mmm," she grins toothily, running one boot clad foot across the surface of Rachel's pristine white sofa, taking extra delight in how the veins at her temple bulge, though she doesn't remark upon it. "You could tell me."
If looks could kill, Sarah was quite certain Rachel would have her dead and buried in an instant. There was something utterly satisfying about watching Rachel, in Rachel's perfect apartment, in a perfectly pressed Rachel pantsuit doing what was akin to groveling as she dirtied up her expensive couch with her thrift store clothing, hair fanned across a hundred dollar throw pillow.
"Tell you?" Rachel's nose wrinkles as though she's smelled something foul.
"Well," Sarah replies with a casual shrug, dangling her feet over the arm. "If I'm gonna be right, might as well know what it is I'm right about, yeah?"
Rachel's got to know she's taking the piss and she half expects to get tossed out on her ear but instead, Rachel takes a deep, measured breath, pursing red lips together.
"Yesterday," she says evenly, folding her arms across her chest. "What you said."
It's the most open Rachel's ever been with her since they started whatever the hell they were calling this and if Sarah wasn't enjoying how completely miserable Rachel was in this moment, she'd show her a little mercy. It certainly could not have been easy, given the mammoth sense of control she'd always prided herself on.
Still, Sarah can't help but to prolong the whole situation just a little more. "Pushing buttons," Siobahn would say. "Since you were small."
She wasn't wrong.
"C'mon, Rachel," she pushes herself into a sitting position, tugs at Rachel's hand so that she's sitting next to her. "Tell me."
Now, Rachel's glaring, blowing at a tiny strand of hair that's somehow fallen out of place. "You were there, Sarah. Surely your memory is not that poor."
"Rachel," she says in a sing-song voice that she knows for a fact sends a chill up her spine. "Think I need a reminder."
At this, Rachel pinches her nose, looks to the ceiling before regarding her calmly. "You want me to play your little game, do you?"
Sarah reaches out, grabs her wrist, bringing it to her mouth. "We could play some other games, too, if you want."
She scrapes the sharp edges of her teeth along the vein, feeling Rachel shudder, her pulse skip.
"Fine," she pulls back, eyes hooded. "You were right when you said I craved you."
Rachel's words are normally crisp and clipped, articulate, almost to a fault but these are so soft spoken that they can barely be heard and Sarah leans forward.
"Speak up, Rach. Can't hear you."
"Really, Sarah, this is entirely---"
"Hey, you started it. Calling me over here, telling me I was right."
Before she can move an inch, Rachel's got her chin cradled in her palm, gaze meeting hers.
"I crave you," she repeats through gritted teeth. "Is that what you wish to hear? I dream about you most nights of the week. I told you I could stop this at any time but as it turns out," abruptly, she drops her hand, placing it in her lap, "I cannot."
For the second time that evening, Sarah feels like the wind's gotten knocked out of her.
There's only honesty now, no room for anything else, and she's in Rachel's space, planting herself in her lap, pushing close into delicious heat.
"Thank you," she says against her jaw, into her collarbone, closing her eyes. "For telling me the truth."
"I hate it," Rachel says flatly. "I detest how much I want you."
Her hands are in Sarah's hair, tangled up, and Sarah's lips suck her pulse point, sending her breath jagged.
"I know," Sarah grins against the hollow of her throat in between tiny nips. "So do I. But way I see it, we got no choice, yeah? So," she kisses a path down Rachel's sternum, undoes a button, "we might," she undoes a second, a third, “as well make," a fourth, a fifth,"the best of it."
She buries her face against Rachel's breasts, mouthing a nipple over delicate lace, Rachel emitting a long, drawn out moan.
"Yes," she manages to gasp out, "I suppose we ought to."
Chapter 36: don't say that you want too much- Hackercop
It takes some convincing for MK to come away with her. Beth has to promise that they won't be around crowds or do anything that drew undue attention to them.
"It'll be just us," Beth reassures her with a gentle squeeze of her hand. She knew without asking that she did not let anyone else touch her and even then, Beth kept all of her movements slow and deliberate, never wanting to take her by surprise or startle her. Trust always seemed to be a thin, tethered cord and to even imagine violating MK's made her uneasy.
In the end, she makes reservations at a tiny bed and breakfast that sits on a hill. Because it's still cold for March, they are the only inhabitants. The owner hands them the keys and whispers that she'll "stay out of their hair," and to give her a shout if they need anything. Otherwise, she plans to make herself scarce and Beth swears she can see the relief pour over MK in waves.
The room is homey, with a fireplace, and MK allows herself to toe off her boots, lay on the bed, kicking her feet a little. A slow grin lights up her face.
Beth melts. "This okay?"
She nods, "yes. More than okay. This is nice."
"Good," Beth smiles back. "I'm glad."
She stands at a measured distance away, afraid to get closer, to overstep and then it occurs to her, her face draining of color.
"Shit. I'm so stupid...I'm sorry."
MK's face contorts in confusion. "What are you sorry for?"
"The bed. Uh, there's only one and I---" She shakes her head. "I'll take the couch, out there in the sitting room."
To her utter shock, the smile blooms, a tad mischievous. "I have never been camping before. I figured we could...sleep under the stars."
Beth stares, her mouth hanging open before she recovers. "Um, sure. Absolutely."
She doesn't know where MK's sudden bravado is stemming from but she won't question it, nor will she complain that it'll be sure to be freezing, not when she looks radiantly happy, more so than Beth's seen her in months.
They eat a simple dinner, derived from what they find in the cupboards, the stocked fridge; spaghetti and salad, and then grab blankets and pillows, extra layers of clothing and two thermoses of hot chocolate that they make before they head out. "Lots of marshmallows," MK requests and Beth cannot deny her anything.
The grass is cool underneath them, even through the thick blankets and Beth tugs her sweatshirt more firmly around herself, pulling the hood over her head. She sneaks a glance over at MK and what she sees makes her breath catch.
She's got her face turned to the sky full of stars and she looks completely at peace. It's more than that...her cheeks are flushed and rosy and the smile from before has not only stuck but blossomed into a full blown grin, one that lights up her entire face.
"I've never seen stars like this," she says quietly. "Not anywhere."
"Me either, actually." Beth draws her knees to her chest, resting her chin upon them. "I mean, I've been camping. Girl Scouts and all of that, but..." She follows MK's line of sight. "I guess I never really looked at them before."
"I could live here," MK says dreamily, laying back. She folds her hands behind her head. "Right here."
It isn't melancholy or wistful, only content and carefully, Beth reaches for her hand, taken aback when MK intertwines their fingers.
"Thank you for taking me here."
"You're welcome," Beth pauses, looking at her. "I'd do anything for you."
"I know." MK glances down shyly. "Could I---could I come closer?"
Beth feels her heartbeat speed up. "I'd like that."
MK slides over to Beth's space and slowly places her head on Beth's chest, knees touching as Beth's hands stroke her hair gingerly.
"Is this alright?"
"Yeah," MK sighs, her eyes slipping closed. "Yeah...it's good."
It's more than good, Beth silently acknowledges.
It's damn near perfect.
Chapter 37: we fit together just fine- SoccerGeek
"I don't know how in the world I let you talk me into this," Alison bristled as she swept into the room, bowl of fresh popcorn in her hands. "You know how I feel about horror movies. They're usually not even that scary, more silly than anything else."
Cosima jutted out her lower lip playfully. "Because you love me?"
"Oh, well, lucky thing I do, isn't it?"
She slid over to make room as Alison sat with a contrived sigh, settling the bowl in between them.
"I appreciate you opening yourself up to new possibilities for me," Cosima grinned, leaning over to wrap an arm around her girlfriend.
"Mmm, doesn't mean I have to like it."
Still grinning widely, Cosima grabbed the remote and hit play. "You ready?"
"As I'll ever be, I suppose." Alison looked as excited as she'd be getting a root canal and she stifled a giggle.
Where Alison hated the genre, Cosima loved everything about it...the suspense, the gore, the jump scare. She shoveled handful after handful of buttery popcorn into her mouth, her eyes glued to the screen.
For her part, her girlfriend had made it through three gruesome murders, including a grisly beheading that even her stomach turned at and two big jump scares, completely unimpressed, though Cosima had to hand it to her, she was being a good sport about the whole thing.
Once she'd abandoned any possibility that Alison could enjoy the movie, she didn't bother to check in, save for nudging over the popcorn once in awhile.
So, during the final half an hour, she just so happened to glance over and to her shock, Alison was curled up in a tiny ball at the far end of the sectional, watching the television from between the fingers covering most of her face.
Granted, it was an intense chase scene, but the sight before her was so unexpected, she had to shake her head to clear it.
"Ali? Are you okay?"
The hand did not move. "Is it almost over?"
Torn between wanting to laugh and to comfort her obviously very scared girlfriend, Cosima decided it was in her best interest to opt for the latter.
"C'mere, let me hold you."
Gratefully, Alison launched herself into Cosima's open arms, watching the duration of the movie with her head half buried in Cosima's shoulder.
"It's all over," she nudged Alison lightly. "You made it."
Alison lifted her head, clearly mortified but Cosima shook hers.
"Don't even worry about it. I was scared, too. Just hid it better." A small smile escaped, one that she couldn't taper down, so she kissed Alison's cheek affectionately.
"I can admit when I'm wrong," she shrugged, "what? I can."
"I didn't say a word."
"Right." Alison rested head on Cosima's shoulder, toying with her hair. "Just letting you know, though...next time, I get to pick the movie."
Her lips brushed Cosima's, who sighed into the kiss. "I'd say that's entirely fair."
Chapter 38: you're perfect, i don't mind- ProManicure
"Well," Rachel purses her lips, her words measured. The sentiment falls and dies in the air and she tugs the silk sheet more securely around her middle.
Her bedfellow, usually full of unsolicited chatter is, for once, remarkably silent. If Rachel had to put a label on the general mood, she would have to say shell shocked. As though the other woman couldn't quite figure out how she'd ended up there.
The empty bottle of vodka and strewn martini glasses on the floor painted a very clear picture of exactly what had happened the evening before and both sets of eyes land on the mess at the same time.
"Uh, I should---" Krystal fumbles. She crosses her arms over her chest as if to shield herself and Rachel finds the gesture so utterly ridiculous, she can't help but roll her eyes.
"Don't you find it rather counterproductive, attempting to preserve your modesty?" Rachel's lips curls; a smirk. "I dare say, I've already seen quite a bit of you."
She expects Krystal to huff or at the very least, be a little indignant, but she smiles instead, a tapered grin that sits in lieu of spreading.
"Yeah, I mean...you've got a point." A flush rises into her cheeks as she turns on one hip to face Rachel. "Saw a lot of you, too, Rach. And I liked what I saw."
It's flirty and light and Rachel clears her throat. "Perhaps you should leave."
Krystal eyes flash. "Perhaps I should leave? Or you want me to leave?"
"Is there a difference?"
"Oh," she reaches out, flitting the pad of her thumb across the skin of Rachel's exposed shoulder, biting down on the flesh of her lip. "Makes a big difference."
Krystal's hair is mussed, coming over her shoulders like a waterfall, her lips pink and swollen. There's the faint outline of a bite mark on her collarbone, threatening to turn into a bruise like the one that sits on her shoulder.
"And if you stay," she challenges haughtily, "what then?"
Krystal's emboldened, Rachel can see the change in her face, within the depths of hazel. She lifts Rachel's chin, leaning in close so that her breath falls hotly across the small divide between them.
"Well," she mimics Rachel's declaration from moments before, "we can have a repeat of last night. Or," she grins, "early this morning. Except, like, sober."
Her lips press against the shell of Rachel's ear and she closes her eyes tightly, forcing herself to remain in control. "What makes you think that's what I want?"
But her steely resistance is no use. Krystal's got her number and she knows it. In one deft moment, she's on top of her, biting along the thin veins of Rachel's neck.
"Because you told me."
It is a logic that she cannot argue with.
Chapter 39: you're everywhere at once, and you can't break free- Alison & Helena
"Shh, it's okay. I'm here."
The nightmares never left. They varied in frequency and intensity, not coming every night, no pattern, no rhyme or reason, but they'd draw her from a sound sleep and it would take hours to settle back down.
After the first time, she learns to cover her mouth so that she can muffle the scream. Her cries had awoke Arthur (Donnie could sleep through anything), who wasn't easy to calm, so it had become force of nature, even in the throes of one, to silence herself.
If someone had asked her why she still dreamed of the island, of being held down, of the stomach clenching terror, she could not have answered. She was safe, this she knew to be fact. The twins were safe. She had her sestras and Kira, she had Donnie and Art and Felix...people who would protect the three of them with their lives. There was no logical reason to be afraid and she could not help but be frustrated that even after a year, she still was plagued by them.
She shared this was no one. Everyone had done enough for her, for the boys, and the last thing she wanted to do was to have anyone worry about her. Sestra Alison and Donnie, especially, had given her everything. A home. Constant support. A family. She'd gone from being forever alone to never alone and she knew she could not possibly burden them with one more thing.
During a particularly bad snowstorm, Alison insists that she and the boys stay with them and she's even more insistent that Helena takes the guestroom alone, while Donnie and Arthur roomed with Oscar in the trundle bed.
"You deserve a peaceful night's sleep," she says firmly, peeling the sheets off the bed to put fresh ones on. "The twins will be just fine. You're right down the hall...you'll be able to hear them if they fuss. Now, I don't want to hear another word, Helena. Into bed."
Helena learned early on that it was fruitless to argue with Alison. She'd never win and Alison's intentions were always good, so it was better to let her have her way. Sarah constantly teased her, called her a push over, but her twin didn't seem to enjoy butting heads with Mrs. Hendrix any more than she did.
"Sheets are too soft," she grumbles, sliding in. It takes a few minutes of wiggling around in an attempt to get comfortable before she closes her eyes, hears Alison leave.
She's used to the garage, hearing the wind move the trees outside...accustomed to little Donnie's soft snoring, Arthur's kicks before he finally falls to sleep.
It's too quiet and she tosses and turns, wondering fleetingly if she could sneak down the hall to check on the boys without waking up Oscar. She envisions running into Alison, the stern look on her face when she realizes what Helena's up to and she sighs. Better to try to sleep.
And there she is...but she's not safe, in bed with the cool sheets, in Alison and Donnie's quiet house. She's held down, she can't move. No one is coming. Not Sarah, not anyone.
Her babies. Her boys. They are not safe. Something is moving in the shadows and she can't get away. She can't protect them.
The scream of bloody terror rips through her before she's able to stifle it and she shoots up, heart thundering so painfully she's certain it'll tear itself clear out of her chest.
It's tears and sweat and though her eyes are open now, she cannot catch a breath, clutching the blankets as if to anchor herself.
The door opens and without a word, Alison is perched on the bed, her hands immediately smoothing back wild, damp curls, running comfortingly over her forehead as she shakes.
"Shh, it's okay. I'm here."
She has to say it three or four times before Helena stops trembling and looks up into Alison's sympathetic face.
"The twins..." She jolts up, though she's still in Alison's embrace. "Oscar and Gemma."
"Everyone's still asleep. I was just peeking in on you because I had a feeling you'd have a tough time falling asleep. I wanted to see if you needed a cup of tea or something."
Her mouth shifts and carefully, she runs a hand over the top of Helena's head. "How long have you been having nightmares for?"
Helena shrugs, staring off into the darkness of the room. "Not long."
"Helena, you don't have to pretend everything's fine when it clearly isn't. You've been through it. That just doesn't go away overnight. Believe me, I know."
"You do not have to worry about me, sestra," Helena pipes up wearily. "They do not happen all the time."
"Well, this is what I tell Oscar or Gemma when they have a nightmare," she holds Helena close. "They're just what you're afraid of. It could be something that happened or something that didn't, but they're fears, Helena. Nothing more. They can't hurt you. They aren't real." She touches her cheek, "okay?"
Helena nods. "Okay."
"And the next time you have one, you come and get me, alright? I don't care if it's the dead of night. You come and get me and I'll remind you. Promise me."
She's serious and Helena nods again, drying her eyes with the edges of her fingers. "I promise, sestra."
"Good. Now, how about that cup of tea? I'll make us both one. And I'll check on the twins for you, too."
If Helena spoke, she was certain more tears would come so she squeezes Alison's hand gently in response.
"Be back in two shakes."
As Alison departs, she leans back against the pillows, breathing deeply.
You are safe, she reminds herself again.
Except this time, she believes it.
Chapter 40: a puzzle, looking for its piece- SoccerGeek
I'm not so sure this is a good idea. What if someone smells it?"
Alison's eyes dart nervously around the perimeter of the attic as though someone is hidden in the shadows, ready to catch her.
"Unless someone comes in here, which," Cosima takes a long drag, "no one is going to, at like...2 a.m, how would anyone smell it?"
She blows a few smoke rings for emphasis, gauging Alison's reaction before passing it over. "It was your idea, dude. Told me you were stressed."
"Well, maybe it was a blunder," Alison tucks her feet neatly under her body. "I haven't done this since college and even then...I didn't really inhale, per say."
Cosima giggles. "What, you put it to your lips and pretended to smoke?"
"Don't laugh at me," Alison nudges her with an elbow. "But yes. Basically. It wasn't for me. I just figured that since I quit drinking and I don't take pills that I needed something to...take the edge off."
"Ah," Cosima replied sagely, taking another puff, "it's like...medicinal. I get you."
"Except that I feel stupid for asking you to come over here in the first place." She shakes her head, sighs. "I shouldn't be so stressed. I have everything I could ever want...I'm happy, Cosima. Finally."
"Hey," Cosima touches her shoulder gently, "being happy doesn't mean you don't get overwhelmed. You've got more on your plate than any of us. You're amazing. Okay? Superwoman. But even Superwoman is allowed to take some time off."
The corners of Alison's mouth lift and hesitantly, she takes the joint from Cosima, inhaling, coughing and laughing when it sticks in her throat.
"Easy there, killer, whoa, whoa," Cosima pats her back as she sputters. "Slow down, okay? Not a race to the finish."
It takes Alison a few more puffs to fully get the hang of it and when she does, Cosima sees the changes; how she relaxes, her eyes as wide as saucers, the cute little giggle.
Alison's voice is low and lazy, her head in Cosima's lap as she absentmindedly toys with short, purple strands.
"Thanks for coming over."
"Anytime. You need me and I'm here, Ali."
"Mmm," she sighs pleasantly. "That's nice. You're the best."
Cosima laughs. "That's just the pot talking."
"No," Alison insists, lifting up an unsteady hand in protest, "you are. The best. I don't deserve you."
"You deserve the entire world," Cosima responds quietly. "Hope you realize that."
It's not what she intended to say and there's so much underneath it that for a split second, she's frozen in horror that Alison hears the hidden layers but Alison smiles, squeezes her hand.
"Thank you. So do you, you know." She pauses, looking up. "Cosima? I never asked you if you were happy."
A sweet relief sinks into the center of Cosima's chest and she smiles, adjusts her glasses.
"Right now I am," she can answer honestly.
"Good." Alison smiles back, closes her eyes. "Hey, hand it over."
Chapter 41: they'll say you've had enough-ManicureCop
"What are you wearing?"
Her girlfriend's voice over the line is low and sultry; affectations Beth knows she put on for benefit and she has to grin.
"Mmm, a sweatshirt, yoga pants, and trainers. Sexy as hell, right?"
"Beth!" Krystal huffs indignantly, "can't you even like, attempt to put in an effort? You're away for a whole week and I miss you."
At this, Beth softens, curls her feet up on the ancient hotel sofa. "I miss you, too."
"You wanna know what I'm wearing?"
Even when she's offended, Krystal bounces back quickly and if truth be told, it's what Beth loves about her the best.
" God,I hope nothing."
"No, silly, Bree's here. We're going to a hot yoga class and then for brunch downtown."
"That sounds fun. Glad you're keeping busy."
If it sounds wistful, it's because she is, a little. In the six months, give or take, since they started dating, this is the longest they've been apart. Try as she might not to get attached, Beth's grown accustomed to her little quirks; the almost unhealthy fixation with Love Island, the way she made Beth crazy green protein smoothies after she came in from a run, walking into the kitchen looking like a beauty product hurricane had swept through when she and Bree were filming a new entry for their vlog. Her life was divided up into Before Krystal and After Krystal and though the latter was chaotic and loud and sometimes draining, it was also colorful and full and she wouldn't have it any other way.
"I want this week to fly by. How about you, babe? I hope the conference isn't too boring."
She can almost see the face Krystal's pulling and she bites down on her lower lip to keep from laughing. If there's one thing she's learned about her girlfriend it’s that she's far more sensitive than she lets on. She’s more careful with her jokes, never wants Krystal to think she's making fun of her.
"Actually, these things are always boring. Stale coffee, trying to make small talk with strangers...really dry, bland presentations. Computer sales don't exactly make for an exciting time."
"You miss being a cop."
Beth inhales. It's somewhat of a sore point with them; her desire to eventually return to the force and Krystal's objection to that. Beth knows it comes from a place of fear for her safety but the conversation never goes well when it happens to come up.
She picks at her nails, stares out the window at the grey Buffalo morning. "Guess so...yeah."
"Well, with you being away," Krystal's voice goes quiet, pensive and Beth sits up. "I've been thinking...I don't want to keep you from something you love. You know what I mean? Like...you'd just resent me. Not that I won't be like...so scared to think about you going out there, using guns," she takes in a sharp breath, clearly horrified. "But," she hesitates, "I think about what it would be like for me if someone told me I could never do makeup again? Or film my vlog. I'd curl up into a little ball and die. I can't do that to you, Beth. You loved being a detective."
"I did," she says after a minute, pinching the bridge of her nose, "but I love you, too."
She doesn't know why she says it. If it's the miles between them or how Krystal's laid her heart bare and she wants to do the same or because it's the absolute truth.
On the other end of the line, Krystal's crying softly and her heart surges fast. "That's the first time you've ever told me."
"I know. I mean it."
She sniffles delicately. "I love you, too. I wish I was there. Boring, bland computer people and bad coffee and rain and everything, Beth. I just wanna be with you."
"Me too." Beth allows herself a few tears that prick her eyelashes before sobering, taking a sip of room service coffee. "Soon, though. We'll see each other before you know it."
This seems to settle Krystal a little and Beth hears the smile in her voice. "I hope you have a good day."
"You, too. Say hi to Bree for me." A thought hits before she hangs up. "Oh, wait...what are you wearing? You never told me."
"Your t-shirt from the academy. It smells like you," Krystal husks and damn if Beth doesn't close her eyes, breathe out slowly and curse business trips to hell.
"Wear it when I come home," she commands lowly. "Okay?"
"Anything for you."
Chapter 42: we'll try and ease the pain- ProPunk
It was unnerving to see Rachel so weak. “Weaker than a wee baby kitten,” S would have said with the kind of frown that deepened the creases in her forehead. For someone so formidable, the idea that she could barely lift her head from the pillow made Sarah’s stomach knot against itself.
Time was a commodity that they just didn’t have. She’d done everything in her power and still, Rachel’s fever hadn’t broken. The previous night, she was delirious, turning over and over restlessly in her sleep, muttering nonsense about a swan. There had been cool baths and damp cloths, making her sip the precious little water they had left, Tylenol every four hours. Three days and she was no better and Sarah was running out of options.
“How do you know I haven’t been infected?” Rachel questioned hoarsely during a rare moment of lucidity. “I very well could be and you’re just putting yourself in danger by caring for me.”
“Don’t be daft,” she had scowled, bringing the cup of water to parched lips, “you’ve been holed up with me since this started. I’d know if you were bitten, yeah? You have some kinda flu. Which isn’t ideal, but it won’t turn you into one of them. You’ll live.”
“Neither of us are going to get by much longer if we run out of water.”
Even ill, Rachel was insufferable, but it was the last time she’d rallied or tried to be the voice of reason and if truth be told, it set a panic in her that she couldn’t shake.
In the pile of blankets, so pale and still, Rachel might have well been among the dead.
She doesn’t believe in God, never had, though Siobahn had tried her best to get her to go to church when she and Felix were little. “God doesn’t want me there, I promise,” she’d tried to insist, but to no avail. She could count on one hand the times she’s prayed and each instance, she’d been utterly desperate, willing to scream to the heavens to whoever might have been listening.
So, Sarah knelt by the makeshift bed, her eyes darkening as they drew over Rachel’s weak form, and she asked for a miracle. The irony was so ridiculous, so ludicrous, that if the circumstances had been slightly altered, she would have laughed. Imagine, praying for Rachel Duncan, of all people to live.
Still, she held her limp hand in hers, noting with a sinking feeling how clammy her skin was to the touch, how her pulse was weak and thready.
“Please,” she whispered, but she did not know to who.
Sleep came, overtook her body before she could fight against it, still clutching Rachel’s hand. It was a sudden movement that awoke her, a faint rustling. Immediately, she was fully alert, grabbing the rifle that never left her side.
Rachel was sitting up.
“Oh, holy shit, Rachel,” the relief coursed through her, “thought you were one of them.”
It hit her then, with all the force of a truck, that Rachel was sitting up. And she was speaking to her.
Almost giddily, Sarah brought the back of her hand to the other woman’s forehead and when she withdrew it, it was with a howl. “Think your fever’s broke.”
Rachel pushed her away. “That’s hardly cause for shouting, Sarah. I’m ill, not hearing impaired.”
There she was. Sarah grinned. “Never thought I’d be jumping for joy to hear you being a bitch.”
“How long was I out for?” Rachel sipped at the straw Sarah offered. “Everything still feels a bit...foggy.”
“Days,” Sarah told her, placing the cup on the floor. “Thought you were a goner for awhile there.”
Rachel didn’t speak, her eyes on her. “Why didn’t you leave?”
Sarah blinked. “Whattya mean?”
“I mean,” she said carefully, shifting her gaze down to a stray thread on the blanket, “if you knew I didn’t have much chance for survival, you could have very well saved yourself, Sarah. Took the rest of the supplies and moved on somewhere safer. Staying here with me made you a walking target.”
Her mouth gaped and it took a good minute to come up with an answer. “Bloody stupid woman.”
“You heard me.” Sarah shook her unruly head, digging fingernails into her own palm. “We’ve been at this for months now. Together, Rachel. We’ve killed together.” Her voice broke, “watched people die, right in front of us. You’re asking me if I would leave you?”
“You would have, before. And I would have left you, too. Saved myself. You know so.”
“Yeah, well, we’re not those people anymore, yeah?” Sarah wiped her nose on her sleeve. “Shit’s changed us. You’re all I have left.”
The weight of it, the truth of it, seemed to register and Rachel nodded, closing her eyes.
“What do we do next? We’re running out of food and water, Sarah. Bullets, too.”
“We have to move on. I’m gonna go and get us supplies and by tomorrow, when you’re stronger, we’ll move out.”
She sounded more certain than she felt, but Rachel nodded, relieved to have some semblance of a plan in place.
“I can go with you, you know. To get supplies tonight. You shouldn’t go alone.”
“No,” Sarah put a hand up. “Let me take care of it, alright? You need to rest.”
She cut off Rachel’s protest, right at the pass, crawling into bed with her, pulling the covers over both of them and tugging Rachel close.
“I’m glad you’re alright,” she said into her ear, feeling Rachel relax against her.
“Thank you for staying.”
It marked the first time Rachel had ever thanked her, for anything, and she had to swallow hard against the lump in her throat.
“Yeah, well,” she pressed a hand over the tangled blonde bob, “you’re stuck with me, I ‘spose. Who would have thought, eh? You and me?”
A laugh rose, deep from her belly, making Sarah jump. “I did, if we’re being honest. It makes sense, when you think hard enough about it.”
With a kiss to Rachel’s forehead, Sarah tipped her chin toward the ceiling, pondering.
She supposed it did.
Chapter 43: shut my mouth and strike the demons-GeekCop
Cosima liked to take care of Beth. For someone who did not know if she had a maternal bone in her body, she could somehow sense that Beth was like a bird with a broken wing and she needed the extra attention.
She didn't cook but she could order a mean take-out and she made sure when Beth was down and out, dinner was on the table so she wouldn't have to worry.
Making sure she drank water and got some sleep.
Let her know that she was free to be herself, that Cosima didn't expect anything from her or want her to change or require perfection.
It was the harder shit, too.
Sometimes, she'd find her passed out, drunk on the floor, covered in her own vomit. Sometimes, she'd just be high, wandering around the apartment with vacant eyes.
As much as it scared her and it pissed her off that Beth didn't seem to give a fuck what she was doing to herself, it scared her more not to care...to leave her to her own devices.
So, she shut her mouth and helped her stay alive. Dragging her ass into the shower and plying her with cups of dark coffee and bringing her to the hospital to get her stomach pumped.
She kept it together. She never yelled or judged or told Beth to clean up her act. If she'd let in anyone else on what was happening, surely they'd say she was enabling her, that she was doing her a disservice.
But what they didn't grasp was that if Cosima called it quits, Beth would just give up. And that was something she'd never be able to live with.
Things would be good for awhile. Beth wouldn't use and she'd cook for the two of them, dance around the kitchen, drag Cosima out for an early morning run. Maybe she would make pancakes on a lazy Sunday, rest her head on Cosima's chest during a movie. Decidedly normal stuff that made her feel as though there would be a turnaround, that Beth was in control and she could stop whenever she wanted.
A beer here, a pill there and they'd be right back to square one. Round and round and round they went until the day Beth was passed over for a promotion at work and wouldn't answer Cosima's calls or texts and when she raced frantically across town to the apartment and let herself in with the key Beth had given her, she was certain she'd lose her.
"A close call," the doctor's would tell her as she sat by Beth's bedside, head in her hands. "Lucky to be alive."
"Why?" Cosima asked hoarsely, rubbing at her eyes. "Why didn't you just let me help you?"
It wasn't an entirely fair question, given the situation, she realized. Beth could barely speak, as they'd pumped her stomach, ashen and fragile in the confines of the hospital bed.
But her eyes burned fire. "I don't need your help. I don't need anyone."
If she'd kicked Cosima squarely in the chest, the damage wouldn't have gone so deep. She grimaced. "Fuck you."
Beth jutted her chin. "Thought you'd finally have enough."
"No, seriously, Beth. Fuck you. I would have done anything for you. I don't care if you think you needed me or not." Her nose ran and she wiped it carelessly with the sleeve of her cardigan. "I love you, you asshole."
At that, Beth's expressed changed. "Yeah, well...you shouldn't. I'm a fuck-up. You deserve better, Cos."
Cosima rose, biting her lip fiercely. "That was my decision to make. No one else's. You don't want me around, you got it. I'm out."
Three months since she walked out of Beth's room and never looked back. Three months and she dreamed of her every single night, waking up in a cold sweat. During the day, it was easy to bury herself in her research, in school, to stay surrounded by people. But when darkness fell, when she was alone, nothing could drown out the pain...the hurt...the agonizing over whether or not she made the correct choice.
Beth had gone to rehab. She had written her a few letters, apologizing for her behavior and dutifully, Cosima had responded back, though her responses were wooden and contrived and she was sure Beth could see right through them.
"I want you to take care of yourself," she had written. "Focus on getting better."
It was the only genuine sentiment she was able to express.
The evening before she was to get out, Beth gave her a call as she was sitting down with a carton of noodles, tucking her feet underneath her.
"I would've called someone else," she explained sheepishly, "but you know..."
She sounded good, strong, and Cosima could not help the butterflies swimming deep in her belly.
"Yeah, uh, it's no problem. I'll be there. 1?" She confirmed, picking up a lone noodle with a chopstick.
"Yes, that's good. Hey, Cosima? Thank you."
"See you tomorrow."
There was no way she was going to sleep, so Cosima tidied up her entire apartment, went over to Beth's to clean up there; make the bed, scrub the bathroom. It was just busy work, really, but it filled the time and made her fairly tired so that she was able to get a few hours of rest.
The entire drive up, she blasted the radio in an attempt to calm herself, to slow her heartbeat. And then, after entering the tree lined drive of the rehab facility and speaking to someone at the desk, there she was.
Clear eyed and dressed casually, hair in a neat ponytail. Relaxed. And happy.
Cosima's knees buckled and then Beth's arms were around her, stroking her back and she smelled the same.
The tears balled themselves in her throat. "You look good."
"Fucking cliche as shit, but I feel good."
She picked up Beth's duffel bag, gesturing over her shoulder. "C'mon, let's get you home."
Beth was quiet, introspective, talking a little bit, here and there, refusing Cosima's offer to stop for lunch. It wasn't until they were in the door and she'd put down her bag and settled on the sofa that she put her head in her hands.
"Hey, hey," Cosima perched next to her, a tentative hand on her upper back, "you're okay. You're good."
Beth looked up, her eyes red. "I fucked it all up, didn't I? With you."
"No," she drew herself up, meeting Cosima's gaze. "You were the best thing in my life and I pushed and I pushed...you don't want anything to do with me anymore, Cosima. And I can't blame you. How could I?"
There was nothing to do but tug on a strand of her hair, pinch the bridge of her nose. "Told you I loved you. That's never gonna change. But you have to let me help you, Beth, okay? No more pushing me away. If I'm in this, I'm fucking in this."
She leaned over to cup Beth's face in both hands, brushing her lips gently.
"No," Beth lay a kiss on the side of Cosima's jaw. "You've taken care of me for long enough. It's my turn. Let me take care of things for once, alright? Let me take care of you."
She took Cosima in her embrace, holding her flush to her body. "I can't promise I won't mess up again. But I'm gonna try, okay?"
"And I'll be here. I won't go anywhere."
Promises they could both keep.
It was more than enough for now
Chapter 44: fool enough to almost be it- SoccerPunk
Alison isn't supposed to be falling apart in her arms, but here they are and she's a mess, her tears soaking Sarah's t-shirt, her entire body convulsing wildly as Sarah awkwardly pats her head. It's not even a full pat, really, more like her hand is hovering in the space above and hitting the air. Better than nothing, she supposes.
She hasn't even gotten to the reason in the first place. Alison had shown up on her doorstep, long after everyone else was asleep and the second she'd stepped into the living room, she had fallen completely apart, holding Sarah hostage on the sofa and unable to get two words out in between sobs.
"Hey, hey...c'mon now, Alison. Chin up..." Helplessly, she racks her brain for what she does when Kira is upset, the thing that calms her and firmly, she takes Alison's face in her hands so that she's looking at her.
"Shh, it's okay. I'm here."
The words halt her right in her tracks and she stares at Sarah with wide, fearful eyes. Mercifully, the tears seem to come to a stop and she gratefully excepts the Kleenex Sarah hands her from a half used up box on an end table.
"That's better, yeah?" Sarah pushes over so that they are in their own space. "You don't have to talk...not if you're not ready. We can just sit."
She's fairly uncomfortable, always has been, with stillness. It just isn't in her nature but she figures it's not about her.
Alison shakes her head, obviously trying to gather herself. She dabs at the corners of her eyes with the tissue, clearing her throat. "I owe you some kind of explanation."
"You don't---really. It's alright."
"No, please." Alison speaks to the floor, "I left him."
"Huh?" Her mouth gapes open and she's vaguely aware she must look like a dead fish. "What are you on about?"
Alison looks up, moves closer to her. "I mean, I left Donnie. I told him I was in love with someone else."
She feels all the blood drain from her face. "Alison, no. You don't know what you're doing. We agreed..."
"We agreed what, exactly? That we'd keep it this a secret forever? I'm so tired, Sarah. Tired of the sneaking around and tired of pretending I don't want to spend every waking minute with you. I had to be honest with myself and with poor Donnie."
Words come and then drift off and she shrugs, trying to make sense of any of this. "Didn't take it too well, eh?"
Alison gives a half smile. "No."
They sit in silence. "Hey," Sarah leans forward, hands resting on her knees as she fiddles with a significant rip in her jeans. "You know how I feel about you, Ali. Think I've proved it, yeah? But this is insane. We'd never work, long term. We'd bloody eat each other alive."
"Can you say you don't love me?" The tears form again and Sarah's gut twists. She can't handle any more crying, not tonight. Possibly not ever.
She debates lying, saving her ass. It might cause a further onslaught of hysterics, but Alison would at least be deterred from fucking up her entire life for someone like Sarah.
The funny thing about honesty, though, is once you start, you can't stop. It slips out, though she cringes as it does.
It's all Alison needs to hear before she's in her arms, kissing her until they're both struggling for air.
"Ali, Ali," Sarah gently pushes her away, trying to ignore the pretty blush that's risen in her cheeks, the way her lips are pink and swollen. "This isn't---we can't, alright? No more. This has to end and it has to end tonight."
The old Sarah would have said to hell with everything. Screw Donnie and his feelings. Screw what was good for Alison. It would have been all about her pleasure and her pleasure only.
She couldn't hurt anyone. It had gone on for long enough.
"Go home, Alison," she leans in to kiss her, once more. "Go home to your husband and don't come back."
The tears stream down Alison's face but they were silent and she nods once, rises, grabs her purse.
She opens her mouth, shuts it again. And then she's gone.
Sarah sinks into the confines of the sofa, throat burning, chest burning. She lets herself cry, hating herself the entire time.
Chapter 45: i hear what you want- ProPunk
Set in the universe of I Hate Everything About You
"If I have to spend one more bloody minute in this bloody bed..." Sarah grumbles, mussing up the covers that Rachel has fixed about five hundred times.
"Perhaps if you'd lie still and cease flopping around like a fish," Rachel calmly suggests with one perfectly arched eyebrow. "Honestly, Sarah, you're insufferable."
Laying back on the pillows with a scowl, she crosses her arms over her chest defiantly. "Yeah, well, like to see how you'd behave if you'd been confined to bed for three days, yeah?"
Rachel smooths a non-existent wrinkle in her suit, regarding Sarah. "There's no need to be so dramatic. You have the flu. You need ample time to recover."
For the days she'd been out of commission, Rachel had kept the household afloat...cooking, ensuring Kira made it to the bus stop on time, and looking after her, as cranky and insufferable as she knew she was, all while working at the gallery.
It should have been more than enough to cut her a break, to be grateful, but as Siobahn would have pointed out, she had all of the tolerance of a whiny primary schooler when she was sick. She detested hanging around, doing nothing. Made her itchy to be so still. Especially feeling woozy and feverish, on top of it.
"I'm recovering just fine." She swings her legs out, pushes herself up into a sitting position on the side of the bed. "See?"
"I do." Rachel doesn't sound impressed. "And where are you planning to go? Just out of curiosity?"
Her tone has the slightest touch of incredulous amusement and it makes Sarah even grumpier.
"Shite, I dunno, Rach. The shower? Or maybe I'll pop on over to Bobby's, get a pint."
"By all means, don't let me stop you."
The second she goes to stand, her knees give way from lack of use and she flops back over onto the bed, winded.
She can barely look at Rachel who she is certain has shades of "I told you so," written all over her face.
"Alright, alright," Sarah lets out an exasperated sigh. "Go ahead. Tell me how you were right and I was wrong. You love it."
"I hadn't planned on doing anything of the sort. But," she breathes out through her nostrils, once and then twice, "I'm sure you can see that you're in no position to do much of anything, besides rest."
The measured tone Rachel uses when she clearly thinks that Sarah is behaving like a child sets her off and she grits her teeth.
"Look, I'm just done is all. Done lying around, done with soup and shitty daytime television, and done with you hovering, treating me like I'm made of china."
It comes out tighter than she'd intended, with more of a bite, and for a second, hurt flashes in Rachel's eyes, just an inkling, before it burns itself out.
After a silence, Rachel gets up from where she's perched on the bed. "Well, then. I'll leave you to it. I have loads of work to catch up on."
"Oh, shite. Rachel...I'm sorry. I didn't mean---c'mon, don't be like that."
It was too late. Rachel had already turned her back and stepped out the door and Sarah was left to close her eyes and curse herself for being such an arsehole.
Hours later, she'd managed to nap and when she wakes up, it’s dark. Low voices murmur outside the door. Kira’s home, she figures groggily, wiping up a spot of drool with the edge of her sleeve.
Turning on a lamp with a small groan, the little row she'd had with Rachel springs to mind. The wounded expression on her face eats at her. She really was a dick.
A soft knock on the door makes her lift her head and without waiting for an answer, Rachel comes in, bearing a tray laden with dinner.
"I didn't know if you were up," she says without pretense, setting the tray down on the nightstand. "You'll be quite pleased to see," she gestures to the roasted chicken and potatoes, "it's not soup."
She turns to go and Sarah reaches for her hand to stop her. "Hey, c'mere. Rach---please."
At her nickname, her resolve softens a little and silently, she allows Sarah to pull her to sit.
"Look," she doesn't let go of her hand, "I was a right git earlier. You are," her eyes meet Rachel's, "the only reason any of us are still standing this week. And," Sarah bites her lip, "I've been a bitch."
"Well, then," Rachel says, after a beat, "I do accept your apology. Or your form of it, at any rate."
They're much better at communicating than they used to be, though they both have to work hard at it and she smiles, taking Rachel's hand and bringing it to her lips, kissing her fingers.
"If you're not afraid of catching anything..."
Rachel is next to her, peeling back the covers before she can say another word and Sarah pulls her close, kissing her softly.
"The soup is pretty good," she admits quietly, smirking when Rachel rolls her eyes. "Love you. Sorry I'm so---what do you call it? Insufferable."
"Undoubtedly insufferable. But I rather like it," Rachel leans in to kiss her again. "And I know I can be, as well. Insufferable."
"Mmm," Sarah mumbles into her collarbone. "Undoubtedly."