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a love once new has now grown old

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It all starts because of this asshole named Larry. 

In her twenty-nine years on this planet, Sterling Wesley has been raised to not call people names, but sometimes there are guys like Larry who basically demand to be labeled an asshole. And honestly, who is even named Larry anymore, who isn’t, like, a sixty-year-old grandfather?

The Larry in question, decidedly not a grandfather, does God knows what related to finance at the clinic where Sterling just started working last week. Whatever he does, specifics still unclear, it allows him to look over the shoulders of very nice and well-meaning counselors who just started and really do not have the time for this behavior. 

Larry, with his clearly expensive watch and gelled hair, happens to follow Sterling out of work on Friday evening all the way to this specific coffee shop a few blocks down from the clinic, and has the audacity to pretend that the whole thing isn’t bordering on pathetic. 

“Hey, since we’re both here, can I buy you something?” he asks, as he stands behind her in line, hovering in a way that makes Sterling’s skin crawl. 

“I’m actually meeting someone,” Sterling says, which isn’t even a lie. She is meeting someone, someone she’s been looking forward to meeting for a very long time at this point, since long before she found out they were in the same city for the first time in years. 

“Who’s the lucky guy?” Larry presses. 

“Lucky guy or girl,” Sterling gently corrects. Not that Larry deserves the gentleness, but Sterling is a polite young woman, god damn it. 

“What do you mean?” Larry asks. 

Sterling stares at him. It’s the 21st century, they live in freaking California, they are currently standing in line at a Los Feliz coffee shop that has one of those cheesy all are welcome here signs that Sterling secretly loves, bisexuality should not be a foreign concept to this dude. 

Sometimes Sterling wishes she was her sister, who would just fully ignore this guy as opposed to attempting to explain her sexuality to some loser who does not deserve to know the first thing about her. But Sterling is not her sister, and she’s had a pretty good day so far, excitement for her new job and today’s meetup powering her forward, so she takes pity on poor Larry. 

“I mean, this hypothetical lucky person I’m hypothetically dating could hypothetically be of any gender.”

“Okay okay.” Larry holds both his hands up, defensively, like Sterling is the one who is being weirdly aggressive. “But they’re hypothetical, right? Like if some good-looking guy was standing right next to you, he would still have a chance, right?”

One of his hands hovers over her lower back. Gross. Gross gross gross. She steps to the side, about to let him down more easily than he deserves, when she hears a crisp voice from behind her that she would recognize anywhere. 

“Not to be terribly cliché,” the familiar melodic tone of April Stevens’ voice says, “but is this guy bothering you?”

Sterling turns to face her, an acute combination of relief and anticipation and finally rising in her chest. She feels a huge grin break out over her face and she’s powerless to stop it as she takes in April for the first time in years. 

The thing is, she looks fucking great. Of course she does. She’s clearly just come from work which means she’s clad in a full blown suit, which she wears with a distinct confidence that Sterling still recognizes from when they were young. She’s smiling a smug little grin that Sterling definitely recognizes from when they were young. 

“Hey,” Sterling breathes, brain not quite at the full sentences phase yet, mostly stuck on the few buttons that are undone on April’s collar, on how over ten years has made her jawline more pronounced, on the way her neck and cheeks are slightly pink from the warmth of the spring late afternoon. 

“I’m not bothering her,” Larry interjects. Sterling had fully forgotten he was here. “Just gauging whether she’s available.”

April turns to Sterling, lifting her eyebrows slightly. Sterling knows the look; she recognizes it as a side effect of existing as a woman for a couple decades, having to deal with the Larrys of the world. She tries to telegraph an equally familiar look, a sort of,  please God get this creep away from me. 

April turns back to Larry, a glare painting her features that Sterling innately knows from being at the receiving end of it many times in her adolescence. 

“Hate to break it to you, buster,” she says, and then, to Sterling’s utter surprise, her hand snakes around Sterling’s waist, “but she’s unavailable.”

Sterling, who is having a bit of a moment with abrupt physical contact from the girl who was fully her sexual awakening over a decade ago, manages to give Larry a tight lipped smile and wave. 

“Aw, no way,” Larry says, and Sterling can’t tell if he’s doubting the validity of this entirely non-existent relationship, or lamenting his own bad luck. She also fully doesn't care, not with April’s arm still firmly around her.

“Come on, sweetheart,” April says smugly, “let’s order.”

Sterling, because she’s pretty sure God has handed her the most surreal way to see her ex (Ex? Former friend? Former enemy?) for the first time in eleven years, decides to lean in. So she literally leans in, and presses a quick kiss to April’s cheek. 

“Sure thing, babe,” she says cheerily, smiling at the way Larry recedes, but mostly at the way April’s slight flush darkens at the contact. 

Once they are settled with their coffees (April has gone with an efficient simple black cold brew, while Sterling holds a honey lavender latte because she thought it looked fun), and Larry has thankfully vacated the premises, April levels a stare at Sterling across the table, half of her mouth rising in a grin. 

Babe?”

Sterling laughs loudly. 

“Hey, you started it!”

“It seemed like a dire situation.”

“Oh it was, trust me. Thank you, by the way.”

“Please, it was my pleasure. Nothing like the satisfaction of putting a substandard male in his place.”

“Amen,” Sterling says. She’s aware she is smiling stupidly large, and hasn’t stopped since she first saw April. 

“I suppose it’s a dynamic way to see someone for the first time, in what, ten years?”

“Eleven,” Sterling corrects before she can help herself, “but, you know, who's counting?”

It’s not like Sterling is doing anything so absurd as counting the years. She’s just noticed things. Like, even though they weren’t talking at the time, she couldn’t not be aware of how April went immediately AWOL after graduation. And social media basically makes it impossible not to see what former classmates that you used to make out with for a few glorious days and helped you figure out your own sexuality before abruptly giving you the silent treatment are up to. So she had just happened to notice April all the way through Yale undergrad, then Columbia law, observing how she never came home for school breaks, just lived out her Ivy League dreams, noticed how right before her first year of law school, April had posted pictures from New York Pride, and it had made a different kind of pride rise in Sterling’s chest, even if she hadn’t seen April in years. But there she was in her feed, degrees and accolades and at one point a girlfriend, before a post-grad stint in DC, and then, a couple years ago, landing in sunny Los Angeles of all places. 

So when Sterling started this job, it almost would have been weird not to hit up the only other person she knew in this city and ask her for coffee. 

And here they are, eleven years, one sweetheart, one babe, and two comically different beverages in between them, like a lifetime has passed, but also with an innate sense of ease of people between who have known each other since before their brains were fully formed.  

“So,” April says, still grinning, “are you actually dating anyone? Did I accidentally piss off some significant other with that stunt?”

Sterling shakes her head a little too quickly. “Nope, not at all. No one except Lare bear over there.”

April wrinkles her nose. “Do you actually know that guy?”

“He works with me, doing God knows what, so unfortunately, I have to interact with him.”

“The things we have to suffer through for a paycheck.”

“Exactly.”

It’s easy after that, almost shockingly so, Sterling detailing her new job to April, maybe taking the opportunity to brag just a little bit. It is April Stevens, after all. And she is actually really proud of this new job, the way she fell in love with working with kids back in college, the years of schooling and licensing and training before she finally got to be where she is now, finally able to be the person who looks these kids in the eye and lets them know that here is a person who will listen to them, who will be on their side. 

“It’s so gratifying, you know,” she says, “to be able to use all the shit with my family as a way to connect to these kids.”

April’s brow furrows. “The shit with your family?”

“Oh man, we really didn’t talk senior year, did we?”

April looks down at her hands. It’s the first time this whole conversation started where she hasn’t exuded a thick layer of confidence. She fiddles with the wrapper of her straw, an action that Sterling doesn't need six years of formal education on behaviors to know is a sure sign of nerves. 

“I made absolute sure of that,” April says slowly, “I was - I used to very much excel at cutting people off, Sterling, and I’m sorry for -”

“Please don’t be sorry,” Sterling interrupts, “I mean, thank you, but I’m pretty sure I need to apologize, like, a thousand percent more than you. I basically tried to force you out of the closet for a second there, which one gender studies class and, like, three seconds of existing as queer person in the world made me realize was extremely not chill, not to mention everything with your dad, so I’m the one-”

“Sterling,” April interjects, a hint of her smile coming back. “You know I didn’t meet you here just to make you grovel for something I forgave you for years ago.”

Sterling starts, kind of in shock at how easy the word forgave rolled off April’s tongue, how years of anxiety and regret can be so easily shaken off with one sentence and an easy smile. From April Stevens of all people. 

“Why did you meet me here, then?” Sterling asks, trying to be casual, but very aware of a quiver of hope in her voice.  

“Well,” April says, leaning forward, as if she’s about to share a secret. Sterling feels herself leaning forward to meet her, still someone drawn to this girl like a magnet after all these years. “Someone had to scare off dear old Larry, didn’t they?”

Sterling laughs at that, still very much in awe at the painlessness of this conversation. April grins back and it’s radiant, just how it was on the rare occasions April would gift Sterling with an unabashed look at her joy so many years ago.

April clears her throat and Sterling realizes she has one hundred percent been staring. Old habits. 

“So, all that aside, if you don’t mind me asking,” April asks, “what was the shit with your family?”

“Oh yeah, of course. So my mom was my aunt and my aunt was my mom I was never technically a twin and it took a few years of therapy and one very tense family road trip for me to come to terms with it, but now I try to work with kids, mostly teenagers, who have been in similarly weird situations to sort of push this idea that family is what you make of it and we can’t internalize all these societal constructs about who gets to be the perfect American family, you know?”

She sucks in a deep breath after it all kind of came out of her. She looks to see April staring at her with an expression that Sterling would optimistically call one of admiration. 

“Wow,” April says after a few moments. “I’m impressed. Also kind of confused about the specifics. But mostly impressed.”

Sterling laughs. It’s gotten easier to tell over the years; she’s told this story so many times at school, work, therapy, but still, telling someone who grew up knowing her family feels different. Especially when that someone is April Stevens, whose approval apparently still does something visceral to Sterling even after all these years. Who knew?

They stay at the coffee shop until it closes. Apparently three hours doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of eleven years. It’s intoxicating, talking to this new April, who has all the fire and drive of the April Sterling knew, but none of the doubt, no parts of her kept hidden. This April works in immigration law mostly to make a difference but also to heavily piss off her parents, and very casually cites specific legislation that Sterling has never heard of and also equally casually mentions an ex-girlfriend, easily refers to herself as queer in public, such a stark difference from their last real conversations that Sterling almost gets whiplash. But, like, the best kind of whiplash.

The sun has basically set by the time they step outside but it’s still warm, the spring air soft on Sterling’s cheeks. 

“Where did you park?” April asks. 

“Oh, I don’t have a car,” Sterling says, “I live like, a fifteen minute walk from where I work, so, I’m all good.”

“You live in Los Angeles and you don’t have a car?” 

“Oh my God, why is that everyone’s reaction? It’s good for the environment.”

April crosses her arms, a spark forming in her eyes. It’s so familiar that Sterling has to actively stop a goofy grin from forming on her face at the idea that even post-law school, April Stevens is going to put all her effort into a debate about something mundane. 

“Theoretically, you’re correct, of course. But if three years of living in the city has taught me anything, it’s that theoretics do not apply to this situation. The infrastructure of Los Angeles is meant to be a driving city. In fact, some could say, the institutions of this city have no intent to make it walkable, and the lack of accessible transit upholds the economic disparity that benefits the city council donors, thus there is no real force making LA accessible except by car.”

April stops, takes a breath, before turning to Sterling, who has fully stopped trying to control said goofy grin and lets it break out on her face.

“Why are you smiling? I’m detailing systemic faults with the city you just moved to.”

“I’ve really missed you, April.”

This causes April to shift a little, and it’s hard to tell in the fading light, but Sterling is pretty sure some color rises on her cheeks. 

“I missed you, too,” she says softly, and Sterling has to actively stop herself from letting out a cheer. 

“Let’s wait a little less than eleven years before hanging out next?”

April laughs. “If you insist.”

So if Sterling has a spring in her step all the way back to her apartment, who can blame her? 

Over the next few days, Sterling is so caught up in the exquisite combination April presents of newness and familiarity, that she barely thinks back to how their whole conversation even started until she walks into work on Monday. 

Carol, the very nice but also very loud middle-aged woman who works reception, gives Sterling an up and down when she comes in. Sterling wonders if she has something on her face. 

“Sooo,” Carol drawls in her rich southern accent that makes Sterling just a touch homesick, “I’ve heard you have a special someone you’ve been holding out on us?”

“Huh?” Sterling says, eloquently.

“Oh, don’t play dumb, doll, Larry told me all about your cute little girlfriend.”

Of course he did. This is absolutely not what Sterling needs to start her second week of a new job. She laughs, trying to appear breezy and professional. 

“Funny story, it was actually a huge misunder-”

“You should bring her to the fundraiser next month!” Carol barrels on, “Oh, it would be so lovely.”

“Carol, she’s not -”

“Sterling, we have group in 20 minutes,” her boss’ voice calls from down the hallway and Sterling is definitely not trying to be caught gossiping about a relationship that does not exist by her direct superior, so she quickly makes her exit, noting to herself to clear all of this up with Carol later.  

Later, apparently, is far too hopeful of a concept. 

“Heard you got a sweet little side piece,” Caleb, one of the interns says with a grin at lunch. 

“Ew, Caleb, do not use that language,” Rosa, another intern, who Sterling has kind of chosen as her favorite due to her endless enthusiasm, says, before turning to Sterling, “but tell me all about her, oh my god!”

Sterling rethinks her choice of favorite intern. 

“I don’t have a girlfriend,” she insists. “It was all because of-”

Then, because Sterling's luck is apparently laughing at her today, Larry himself walks into the breakroom and heads right over to their table. 

“Kidding!” Sterling says, remarkably high pitched, and before she knows what’s happening, Larry is within earshot and Sterling is not going to let that asshole know anything. “So, uh, her name is April, she’s so great, she’s actually a lawyer and we, um, recently reconnected after high school.”

None of that is actually a lie, she tells herself, but still, a little bubble of anxiety settles in her gut.

“Stop, you were childhood sweethearts!?” Rosa coos. 

Sterling almost laughs.

“That’s one way of putting it.”

By the end of the day, Sterling is exhausted. Not the normal working-with-teenagers-who-have-experienced-trauma exhausted, but a new weird kind that involves telling a bunch of mostly nice people and also Larry that she is fully dating someone who she had her first conversation with in eleven years three days ago. 

She texts April as soon as she gets off, okay so a wild thing happened at work today.

She gets a little thrill when April almost immediately texts back. With the teens? Do tell. 

Not the teens it was actually - it’s honestly gonna be a lot for over text. 

She’s about to bite the bullet and hit the call button when a new text comes through. 

Do you want to come over? I need a break from this case I’m working anyway. 

Yes!!!! Sterling immediately replies, cringing at the number of exclamation points for a second but then shrugging it off. This girl has known her since she used a sparkly gel pen on homework assignments, what’s a few exclamation points between friends? 

(Friends? Does one very good conversation after over a decade of not talking after making out three times after being academic rivals after being close childhood friends fall into that definition?) 

Sterling doesn't have too much time to overthink it, because an address is coming through and Sterling is hopping on the metro to the nice part of DTLA where April lives. 

Can you manage it in your car-less state? April texts, and Sterling can almost hear the tease in April’s words.

Very funny. I think I’ll survive. 

In her excitement, she almost forgets the whole reason she even needs to talk to April in the first place, until it hits her outside of April's Apartment. Right. 

“All of my coworkers totally think we’re dating now, I’m so sorry,” she blurts out before April can even fully open the door. 

April just blinks at her for a second. She’s got her hair piled up in a bun on her head, clad in Yale sweatpants and a Columbia sweatshirt. Because of course, even dressed down, April is the most accomplished person Sterling has ever met.

“Are you, like, dropping hints you went to an Ivy League school?” Sterling says with a laugh. 

“Why do all of your coworkers totally think we’re dating?” April counters. She looks like she’s biting back a grin. “Also, feel free to come in.”

Sterling steps over the threshold, which feels significant somehow. April’s apartment is nice, all hardwood floors and new appliances, but it also feels lived-in, golden hour sunlight highlighting a very comfortable looking couch, a spread of what Sterling assumes are legal papers on her coffee table, tasteful but not too pretentious art on the wall. 

“Nice place,” she says. 

“Thanks. So why do your coworkers think we’re dating?”

“Right. So you remember our pal Larry?”

“How could I forget?”

“So apparently he opened his stupid Larry mouth to like, the biggest gossip in the whole place and now everyone thinks we’re dating and I tried not to stoke the fires or whatever, but I also super don’t want that guy to start hitting on me again or for it to come out that we lied the other day so I kind of just panicked and confirmed and I’m so sorry, I do not need to drag you into this after like, our first time talking in over ten years but -”

“Sterling.”

“Hmm?”

“Take a breath.”

Sterling does, which helps. 

“Do you want to sit?” 

“Yeah, that would be nice.”

So Sterling sits on the couch, which is just as comfortable as it looks, as April goes to get her a glass of water. Which is honestly so nice, probably nicer than Sterling deserves for lying about this whole thing. 

“Can I be honest?” April asks when she comes back with the water, still looking like she’s trying to not smile too big.

“Please.”

“This is all quite hilarious.”

Sterling breathes out a sigh of relief. “You think so?”

April lets part of the laugh come through. 

“I mean, before this week, the last real conversation we had was when we were sixteen and you wanted to stop lying that we weren’t together, and now here you are, lying that we are together.”

Sterling blinks for a second. It shouldn’t be funny, is the thing. Said last conversation had broken her young heart in a way that felt irreparable at the time, an aching wound that had to get worse before it got better, especially with the hindsight of realizing the impossibility of what she was asking April to do. But somehow, a decade in the rearview mirror, current circumstances being what they are, Sterling starts laughing. 

Then April’s laughing too, and it’s as warm as the sunlight hitting the couch, and something about being here, in this space, with this person, makes all of Sterling’s anxiety about the situation just disappear. 

“So you don’t mind?” she asks when she gets her breath back. 

“Tell them we’re married with five kids for all I care, if it keeps cretins like that off your back.”

“Five kids!” Sterling mock gasps, “I draw the line at two. Maybe twins.”

“Oh, you do not get to let your weird twin bias affect our fake children.”

“I just want our fake children to have a built-in best friend!”

“Well, I don’t want our fake children to just be God awfully annoying all throughout school.”

“Hey, we weren’t that bad!”

April levels her with a look. 

“Okay, okay, I can see how we were maybe kind of annoying.”

“I’ll take that as a concession, thank you very much.”

Sterling grins. 

“Hey,” she says on a whim, riding the high of their familiar back and forth, “there’s this big fundraiser for work next month that everyone now assumes I will be taking you to, and I don’t really have that many friends in LA yet, so do you want to maybe come with? You don’t have to, obviously, and if it’s too weird that people will think we’re together, that’s totally fine, but you know, it would be fun. To have you there.”

“Sure,” April says easily, like it’s such a small thing, “though I find it societally flawed that there have to be fundraisers to provide mental health services to teenagers, I’d be happy to go. We have to keep this ruse up somehow.”

“Cool,” Sterling breathes, and she knows she didn’t actually ask April out, it was more just a hang as friends who other people think are dating, but her saying yes feels like something big. Until she’s struck by - “wait there isn’t - I mean if you - if someone actually asks you out, I don’t want you to have to say no just because of this situation with my coworkers.”

April scoffs. “Please. Women aren’t exactly lining up for this.” She gestures to her clothes, the disarray of her apartment. “Look at me.”

“I am,” Sterling says seriously, unable to help herself. 

She sees a bit of a blush rise on April’s neck, and is maybe a bit too satisfied that she can still affect her a little bit. 

“Anyway,” April says, clearing her throat. “You really don’t have to worry about that. Married to the job, or whatever the cliché is.”

“But can you have adorable fake twins with your job? I don’t think so.”

April laughs. 

“We never agreed on twins.”

Sterling ends up staying longer than she thought she would, their conversation turning into getting take out, April of course having an itemized spreadsheet of restaurants organized by type of food, distance and price point. 

“This is deranged,” Sterling tells her. 

“It’s sensible!” April says. 

“Nice to know that some things don’t change in ten years.”

“Eleven years,” April corrects. 

“I knew you remembered,” Sterling says, nudging April’s shoulder with her own.

“It’s not my fault I have a perfect memory.”

It turns out April doesn't fully live alone; she has a beautiful black cat with white paws who comes out as soon as their food arrives. 

“Look who decided to show her face because she’s hungry,” April honest-to-God coos at it and Sterling has to actively stop herself from melting a little. 

April picks up the cat, and Sterling is struck by a memory of when they couldn’t have been more than ten, April’s tiny child body lifting the giant mass of Sergeant Bilko like he was weightless. 

“You always were a cat person,” Sterling says now, “hey, whatever happened to Sergeant…” Then the math catches up to her. “Oh, no he’s gotta be -"

“Just a couple months after I went to college,” April says, a tinge of sadness in her voice. 

“Oh man, April, I’m so sorry.”

April laughs a little, hand stroking under her cat’s chin.

“It was years ago, he was very old, but still… I always thought it was funny in a way. That cat survived almost 20 years, but two months living alone with my mother and he couldn’t do it.”

Sterling raises her eyebrows. 

“Maybe not ha-ha funny,” April clarifies. 

Sterling hasn’t brought up anything about April’s family yet, and the dark bite of her tone suggests that her relationship with her mother is... not great. Sterling doesn’t to press for more, though. It’s kind of like at work, when one of the kids says something about their home life, if Sterling jumps in too soon, they’ll immediately close up. So she doesn’t say anything, just reaches out for the cat to sniff her hand. 

“Anyway,” April says quickly, “I have Faith now.”

“In what?”

“Oh, no,” April laughs, gestures at the cat. “This is Faith.”

Sterling tries not to let it show on her face, and she knows they were both deeply religious growing up, but a cat named Faith is just a bit much. Something about if must be visible though because April hastily clarifies. 

“Oh god, not in like, a Jesus-y way, I’m not that basic.”

Sterling laughs. “Thank god.”

“It’s actually - she's named after - it's kind of a long story."

Sterling shrugs. "I have nowhere to be."

April smiles a small little smile at that, before launching into it.

"So my roommate freshman year at Yale was this girl named Clara from The Bay Area, and all she would do during those first couple months of college was FaceTime her girlfriend and watch old TV shows. God, I hated her at first. I think at the time, I was just so mad about how lazy she seemed, how easy it was for her to be so gay, so open about it. But then, one day, I got caught up in watching this episode of Buffy over her shoulder and she kind of laughed at me and was like, ‘I’ve never seen a straight person be so into this show,’ and so then, mostly just to prove her wrong, I looked her dead in the eyes and said, ‘I’m not straight.’

“She was the first person I told at college. The first person I told at all besides you and Ezekiel, and I thought she would be weird about it, smug or something, this girl who had been out since she was thirteen and had this perfect, accepting family, but she just… listened. And then forced me to watch an absurd amount of TV with her, that apparently my upbringing caused me to miss out on. Anyway, most of it was garbage, but I did have a soft spot for Buffy . My favorite character was named Faith, she had this rage to her that was troublingly relatable when I was 18, also she was just… extremely hot.”

“So you named your cat after her,” Sterling says with a little laugh. 

“Exactly,” April says, kissing Faith on the head before and taking her to the kitchen, “let’s get you your dinner, okay, sweetheart?”

And Sterling has to try really hard to not be jealous of a cat. She thinks about April, that first year of college, letting herself confide in this girl, and the Sterling has to try really hard to not be jealous of some stranger, for getting young April to open up like that. 

“Are you still friends?” Sterling asks. 

“Me and Faith?” April grins. “When she’s not yelling at me to feed her, absolutely.”

“You and Clara.”

“Right. Very much so. She ended up inviting me to her house that first Christmas break. I was so freaked out about going home, about having to deal with my parents. My dad was back out again at that point, and I had this kind of a panic attack. So Clara invited me to her parents’ place in Oakland, and it was just so easy. I mean, her girlfriend, well, wife now, was just there at Christmas, she had her own stocking and everything. It all felt so monumental to me at that age. And that, compared with what was waiting for me back in Atlanta… it made me realize there was this whole world out there that wasn’t with my parents. And there was no need to force myself to be with them.”

April sits back down on the couch, looking down at her hands.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to unload all that-”

“No, no,” Sterling says, too quickly, “feel free to unload. I want you know that - I mean, I’m sorry - I should have - I knew your firsthand how much your parents sucked, but I wasn’t - I should have been there for you, even if we weren’t-”

“Sterling.” April’s hand covers Sterling’s own, soft and warm. “You really don’t have to keep apologizing. Besides, I wouldn’t have - I wasn’t at the point back then to accept help from anyone, least of all you.”

“I know - I’m just - I’m still sorry.”

“Of course you are,” April says fondly, thumb stroking over the back of Sterling’s hand, a faint smile covering her features, the fading sunlight through the windows coloring her cheeks. 

Sterling is suddenly struck by the unreasonable urge to kiss her. It’s a less feral urge than when she was sixteen, but it makes her heart beat just a little bit faster, imagining leaning forward, pressing her lips to April’s, showing this girl who has been through so much, but come out on the other side, brighter and softer and so full of life, that she deserves nothing but love. 

Okay, so maybe Sterling is just as feral as she was when she was sixteen, but just in a different way. At least now, she has the wherewithal to not give into said urge. Also to maybe investigate why this specific person talking about her shitty family still makes Sterling want to kiss her, over a decade later. 

“Are you okay?” April asks. “You got like, a faraway look in your eye.”

“Uhh,” Sterling says, at a loss for something to say that’s not, I was thinking about kissing you, or, how can you still do this to me ten years later, and settles on, “you know, I’ve never actually seen Buffy.”

Luckily, that sends April off, detailing how that show apparently stands the test of time, despite some plots not aging well, the guy who created it being bad news, and someone named Xander. Sterling just watches her, the same passion for this TV show from the ‘90s that she used to have about the PSATs or Sunday school. 

Sterling is so busy staring that she almost doesn’t notice when April says, “you should come over again and watch it.”

Sterling blinks at her, stunned by the invitation, wondering if she somehow willed it into being. 

April must misinterpret Sterling’s silence, because she rushes, “I mean, only if you want to.”

“I want to!” Sterling says, probably far too loudly, “definitely! Yes! Let’s for sure do that.”

“Great.” April says, seeming relieved, and Sterling wants to kiss her again, but she gets it under control. 

Later, when it’s fully dark out and April has to finish up her work, Sterling finds herself unable to stop smiling on the train ride home. As soon as she gets above ground again, the spring LA breeze light on her face, she pulls out her phone, desperate to talk to someone about this, about this warm bubbling excitement in her, so she calls who she always calls. 

“'Sup,” Blair answers on the first ring, “how’s Hollywood treating you?”

“Okay, you’ll never guess who I just spent all evening with.”

“April Stevens.”

“Okay, so you can guess. How did you guess?”

“Dude, you literally spent four hours on the phone with me last week comparing the perfect causal ‘want to hang’ DM.”

“Right.”

“So I take it the hang went well.”

“Second hang, actually. And it went really well. Like, really really well.”

“So you want her.”

“Blair!” Sterling looks around the street, before lowering her voice. “I mean, full disclosure, yes, duh, but it’s more than that. It’s just she’s - she’s like a super progressive lawyer who has a cat and a takeout spreadsheet and smiles more than she used to and her couch is really comfy-”

“You know that you’re just, like, naming things that people have, not things that make someone attractive.”

“But they make her attractive.”

Blair laughs. “Some things really never change, huh? So when are you making your move?”

“I don’t know,” Sterling says honestly, “I don’t - I don’t want to rush her or scare her away or anything. We’ve literally seen each other twice, I’m not trying to be too aggressive-”

“I think April Stevens invented the concept of being aggressive, but sure.”

“You know what I mean, though. I don’t want to make the same mistake twice.”

“I know,” Blair says, a little gentler, “but just so you know, and I’m contractually obligated to say this as your sister, she would be the luckiest person in the world to get to be with you, you know that, right?”

And, even though Blair is contractually obligated to say it, it makes Sterling feel a little better about it, hope blooming in her chest that maybe, maybe it’s not just her.