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Too Hot to Handle

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Kelley had always considered herself a good driver. Someone who sticks to speed laws for the most part, but also not someone who causes the drivers behind her to want to scream because she’s holding up traffic. Someone who isn't afraid to put her foot down on the open road, but is also never reckless or unsafe. She's never received complaints from passengers or suffered through any particularly bad criticism from back seat drivers tense because she braked too late or turned too sharply.

And she's never crashed.

Until today.

Until that rusty blue pick-up had come out of nowhere and side swiped her. T-boned her from the passenger side only 5 minutes into her journey; ploughed her across the road and into the tree that eventually stopped their movement.

***

At least the airbags went off.

That'd been Kelley's first thought. The second?

The radio hadn't.

As the ringing in her ears stops she realises she can still hear Jeff Kassouf's voice coming out of the car speakers as he chats to Heather O'Reilly on the podcast she had been listening to. She'd only just got round to listening to HAO's episode, having been reminded when the older woman had text her, checking in the other day. As she adjusts and tunes in she realises that the sound may not be coming from all of the speakers, it's a little one sided, no noise coming from where the passenger side of the vehicle is crumpled in.

She tries to take in her surroundings, understand what has happened. Ahead of her is the entirety of the front of her car - crushed, and the tree that stopped her, which has completely ripped through the metal of her beloved vehicle. It’s now bent round the trunk of the...Kelley is going to guess it's an oak, but she can't crane her head up right now to look without causing a ridiculous amount of pain. She ignores the smoke coming from under her hood for now, unable to even process how scary that could turn out to be.

She pushes through, turning her neck as much as her sore muscles will allow so she can look to her right and assess the situation. She can see the front of the truck lodged into the side of her car, the rear completely fucked; she finds herself grateful that they ran into her passenger side and can't help wondering how fast they were driving. The truck is at an angle, enough that she can see their driver's side door is open and she finds herself instinctually calling out even though she can't see anyone, surprised at how hoarse her voice is.

"Hello?... Hello, are you hurt?"

No response. She turns the volume down on Heather, she doesn't want to turn it off; her friend laughing in the background is somehow making this bearable, even if she keeps cutting out. Kelley doesn't know where her phone is but she guesses, wherever it is, it's only survived enough for the Bluetooth link between her car and it to be sporadic at best.

"Hello?" She tilts her head back and swallows. She looks at the smoke. "Fuck!"

She needs to get out of this car. Surely help’s on its way. They're on a main road, not far from suburbia. If Kelley squints she can literally see a house. Someone must've seen something or heard something. The bang as the truck hit her, the screech of brakes? She did brake didn't she? It's instinct; she must have. Someone must've called 911. Surely.

***

Heather's voice calms her. Kelley thinks about calling her later, telling her about how she was listening to her stupid interview whilst she sat, trapped. Unable to release her stupid seatbelt and unable to open her stupid door because its half crushed by a stupid tree. Unable to think about anything but the stupid pain in her stupid neck and her stupid shoulder which is probably stupid dislocated and her stupid arm which is definitely stupid broken.

She’s unable to do anything but watch the smoke stream out from under her hood, more steadily now, and listen out for sirens; which she can only pray, to a God she doesn't really believe in anymore, will come soon.

***

When the firefighters arrive Kelley half expects commotion. To be honest she expected this entire situation to be commotion, but she's been surprised at how calm she's felt throughout. Really, she thought she would have panicked more, she can be quite a panicky person; her friends mock her for it. She guesses it must be the adrenaline that's keeping her so calm. And then she forces herself to stop thinking about the adrenaline, because if she's hurting this much when she's almost definitely got adrenaline pumping through her veins, then how much is she really hurting?

She watches as a group of stereotypically tall, fit, and beautiful firefighters start very calmly, organising removing her hood with bolt cutters and a giant circular saw, fascinated.

"Hi, I'm Emily. What's your name?"

She hadn't realised that her window had smashed before now; maybe that's why she's so cold. Emily is clearing any remaining glass from the frame of her car door with a giant gloved hand as she talks, she has a warm smile and bends slightly into the car as she talks to Kelley.

Emily also fits the beautiful firefighter stereotype, Kelley absentmindedly notices. Somewhere, far, far in the back of her mind, beyond the pain and swimming thoughts of the crash she's just experienced, she wonders if there's one of those semi-naked Calendar's for charity with a picture of Emily in it. She'd happily purchase a copy, for charity of course.

The first thing Emily does is reach across Kelley and turn the key in the ignition, cutting all power to the engine, despite the fact Kelley is sure she had stalled when she crashed. The woman removes the key and tosses it, casually, to someone over her shoulder. It means the radio stops playing her podcast. Kelley doesn't know why she didn't think to turn the engine off before now, she feels embarrassed about it, but also annoyed that this woman just took away her podcast; the one thing that has been keeping her sane.

Kelley can't really turn her neck anymore, not to look at Emily properly, which is a shame, but she registers as the woman removes her big firefighter gloves, replacing them with a rubber pair, and places two fingers on her neck to take her pulse. "Can you tell me you name, ma'am?"

She stutters out a response as the woman removes her fingers and begins rummaging around in a bag Kelley can't quite see. "Kelley, I-I'm Kelley."

"Hi Kelley, try not to move too much for me okay? We're gonna get you out of here as soon as possible, but first can you tell me where it hurts?"

"My shoulder. My arm, I -I think its broke. And my neck...aches, it's gotten all stiff."

The woman smiles again reassuringly and brings out a c-collar, quickly running her fingers down the back of Kelley's neck and asking her to let her know if she feels any tenderness, before fitting the collar. Kelley has worn one a few times before, after bad hits on the field. She leans forward as much as she can to help, and focuses on the strangers voice, now Heather isn't filling the space in the background. The woman fits it round her neck and speaks soothingly in a way that calms Kelley’s breathing.

"Remember, let’s try not to move. That's it. You're alright. I've got you. Let's get you some painkillers and then we'll take a look at your shoulder and your arm."

Emily begins rummaging round in her bag again and Kelley lets her eyes wander back out through the windscreen at the three men and the woman removing her hood. They're all wearing full firefighting gear, unlike Emily who is just in a navy shirt that makes her pale skin shine even more in the mid-morning sun, station badge emblazoned on the right side of her chest, stethoscope that she’d dug out of her bag and pressed to Kelley’s skin moments earlier slung around her neck.

Kelley wonders vaguely if she should be concerned, about the fact the firefighters are dressed in their full gear, but she doesn't really have the energy to be more scared than she already is. She's watched enough crappy drama television to know that if a car sets on fire there's danger of the gas tank exploding, and currently her engine seems to be hot enough to be smoking whilst she's sat here, trapped, in her half crushed vehicle. She reasons with herself that It’s not like they’re hooked up to oxygen tanks out there. And no one seems that concerned; Emily certainly doesn't.

"I know it's easier said than done Kelley, but try not to worry too much about what's going on out there alright, my friends have it all under control. The pain in your neck, can you tell me if it goes down your back at all?"
"No, just my neck."
"On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the worst pain you've ever experienced, how bad is it?"
"Like a 5? Maybe a 6? I think my pain-o’metre is skewed, I have pretty crappy ankles – I've had to have a few surgeries." Emily chuckles at that.
"Let's just focus on your neck for a sec okay? Is it a shooting pain or a dull ache?"
"Like more of a dull ache I think, I've got a bit of a headache too."
"Okay that’s to be expected after an accident like this but we’ll check it out. Can you just give my hands a quick squeeze for me?"
"You think I've broken my neck?!" She places her hands into Emily's and squeezes, wiggling her toes in her shoes for her own piece of mind. The firefighter shakes her head, "No, I don't, but I'd be bad at my job if I didn't take precautions and do the checks. You’re not experiencing any tingling in your fingers or your toes, are you?"

***

Emily wipes the back of Kelley’s hand with an alcohol wipe and warns her of the sharp scratch before she inserts a temporary IV, getting Kelley some pain relief. Kelley vaguely wonders why she has a firefighter doing this and not a paramedic but Emily seems to have the right equipment at least. It’s very impressive that she’s managing to do it all through a car window.

“The person that crashed into me..?”
“My colleague Christen is looking after the gentleman who was driving the truck at the moment. That’s what happened, he crashed into you?” Kelley hums and closes her eyes, swallowing and suddenly noticing how dry her throat and mouth are.

"Have you got any water I can have? There's a bottle in my kit bag, but that's in the trunk and I guess we can't get to that right now?"

Emily laughs a little at Kelley's joke and asks her to open her eyes, as she leans her entire upper body into the car. Kelley opens her eyes to find Emily's face very close to hers and a soft smile being directed her way. "Kit bag – someone's sporty, huh?" Emily teases lightly, but carries on before Kelley has a chance to respond, "I'm just going to shine a light in your eyes quick and then I'll get you some water and I'm going to ask my friends to help me take your car door off so I can look at your arm properly, 'k?" Kelley isn't sure why Emily didn't say all of that before she got ridiculously close to her face but she just blinks and breaths out and "okay," letting the woman shine a small torch in her eyes, flicking it over her field of vision, and looking forward as instructed.

Kelley barely registers the team working on her hood, spraying her car with foam as Emily does this, blinking slowly and asking, "So how come you got stuck looking after me and not chopping up and extinguishing parts of my car today? I would've thought that was better suited to your job description." When Emily chuckles, Kelley's tummy swoops in the way it does round pretty girls. As the firefighter pulls back, Kelley gets her first proper look at the woman, who is leaning in through her car window and realises that Emily is pretty, really fucking pretty, and not just in the stereotypical firefighter way, more in the Kelley could be actually genuinely attracted to her kind of way. She also realises that they are both staring at each other a little, taking in one another’s features. Kelley mind drifts back to the idea of a Calendar and what month Emily would be.

Before her question is answered someone from outside the car yells out something making Emily jerk back quickly with a "I'll be right back. I'll grab you some water."

December. Kelley starts picturing Emily as December.

All Santa hats and red suspenders, over a sports bra, holding up her big firefighter pants, maybe holding a cute puppy who's also wearing a hat, or opening a present by a tree.

Kelley pictures the abs that she hopes Emily has and smiles as she once again shuts her eyes to deal with the pain.

***

The procedure of removing Kelley's passenger door was loud. It's something Kelley will never forget. The feeling of sitting there helplessly watching, still trapped, sipping her water slowly (Emily had warned her to not drink too much too quickly when she’d given it to her after feeling her stomach, for what Kelley isn’t sure). Kelley had weakly asked Siri to play the podcast, thankful when it actually worked, and continued listening to HAO talk about Arsenal and the Courage, the sound quality on her phone, wherever it was, poor but bearable. Kelley won't believe it later when she looks and sees that the podcast is only 48 minutes long.

When the familiar firefighter pops up next to Kelley once they've taken her door away and out of sight, Kelley breathes a sigh of relief far too big for someone she only met 15 minutes ago.

"What do you say we get that arm of yours into a splint and then work on getting you out of here? The ambulance should be here any second." Kelley could cry at the thought of getting out of this car. She loves her car, but right now all she wants is out.

"Please. Yes, get me out." Emily just smiles at her in understanding as she first carefully cuts Kelley's seatbelt away from her body and then places a foil blanket around her.

"What are you listening to?" Emily nods towards Kelley's phone, in the drinks holder underneath the cars radio and control panel. Kelley kicks herself for not realising it's been there, in reach, the whole time and looks at Emily. She replies as she watches the blonde woman adjust a few of the straps on the orange splint she's got in her hand. "Just a podcast my friend did a while back. I've been meaning to listen for ages, but y'know life gets busy and you forget to do things like check in with your friends' careers." The splint looks massive to Kelley, but then again, she's not got much of a medical understanding beyond what she's picked up from various trainers and physios.

Emily hums in understanding as she leans back against the frame of Kelley's car, facing her. "But you're listening now, that's got to count for something, right?"
"I guess. I mean she'll definitely find it hilarious when I tell her I listened to a podcast she did whilst I was trapped in my car." Emily smiles and leans forward a bit.
"I'm just going to lift your arm up and slide this under there, if we rest it on your leg then we can inflate it so it holds your arm steady on the journey into hospital." Kelley nods watching and hissing through her teeth as Emily lifts her arm, gently manoeuvring it into the splint. The podcast has finished now, so she keeps talking to distract herself. "I know I kind of asked you this earlier, but seriously, how come you got stuck looking after me today?" Emily doesn't stop working as she replies. "I didn't get stuck. We're all trained first responders - we do it on rotation. And don't worry, we stay behind after you go off in the ambulance and secure your car – I might even get to use some of the big power-tools." She winks at Kelley as she finishes which causes all kinds of emotions not suitable for a car wreckage.

"This is probably going to hurt, but only for a second and then you'll get used to it." The splint starts to inflate and as the pressure on her arm increases it does hurt, but Emily's right she gets used to it. "I mean honestly? This part, the making sure people are okay, part. I love this part of the job, helping people, talking to them. It might be my favourite part. Fires burn, they're hot! And power-tools – super heavy! There's got to be some parts of your job you like more than others, right?"

Kelley hums in agreement but Emily just waits for her to expand on her answer as she organises her medical bag, looking for something to secure Kelley's shoulder. "I love that I get to make people smile, that I get to do what I love as a job and not just a hobby; that, for me, they're one-in-the-same." Emily beams at that response, as though Kelley had only confirmed something she'd already suspected. She crouches down and zips up her bag, standing and swinging it over her shoulder. "The ambulance guys are here, I'm going to go and throw this in the truck, and ask them about what they want to do about your shoulder and we'll see about getting you onto a gurney." She nods at Kelley before disappearing out of view.

***

Once she's on the gurney she listens as Emily does a handover to the paramedic, saying how she thinks Kelley got pretty lucky with no sign of internal injuries and only slight tenderness and stiffness of the neck. She states that Kelley probably has concussion but it looks as though it’s only minor, and that she suspects her neck to be whiplash but would still recommend scans. She rounds off her assessment by stating Kelley’s two main injuries are her shoulder and arm, both of which she didn’t feel comfortable setting without access to X-Rays first.

It’s hot. The way the charming, personable Emily who’s been helping Kelley all morning switches into professional and efficient mode. Kelley listens and understands despite the fact she’s not the one being spoken to, and she knows that’s by design. The paramedic seems to think she will need surgery, Emily agrees and says to Kelley that it’s nothing to worry about, which she trusts. Luckily it’s coming towards the end of the season and Kelley wasn't heading towards the playoffs anyway. She's just grateful it is not an Olympic or World Cup year.

She's rolled into the back of the Ambulance which is a bumpy and rough experience, one that makes her glad that she hasn't broken her back, because she's sure she'd be screaming out in pain. The doors are left open while the paramedics go to sign some paperwork, and she's grateful when Emily pops her head in.

"Hey, just wanted to say safe journey. I hope everything goes well for you and you have a speedy recovery."
"Thank you, so much, for everything."
"Yeah, of course – just doing my job."
"Well, you're very good at it." Emily blushes and turns to leave.
“Thanks, I guess.” She taps her knuckles against the side of the van, like she’s contemplating saying something, opening her mouth a couple of times, unsure of what to say before deciding on: “you too -I mean, you’re good at your job too.” The blush deepens. “I’m a fan, or my roommate, Lindsey, is. She and I go to your games sometimes. I hope that you aren’t out too long with your shoulder.” Fan interaction doesn’t normally make Kelley bashful and embarrassed like this, maybe it’s because she’s been so vulnerable in front of the woman, completely unaware the entire time. Or maybe it’s because she’s been left completely charmed by the whole experience, and in a weird way she doesn’t want it to end - at least not the part involving the cute firefighter. The wrapping her car round a tree, and the pain she’s in right now - those things she could do without.

Emily spins, stepping down to leave the ambulance. "Hey Emily," The blond woman turns, eyebrows raised in question. Kelley wants to ask for her number, she wants to ask if its appropriate to ask the hot firefighter that just saved you from a car wreckage out on a date. The hot firefighter who, it turns out, knew who she was this whole time and stayed professional. The hot firefighter who is kind of a fan? Instead she has a moment of existentialism, sees herself on this gurney looking pathetic and asks "do you know what I do about my car?"
"Umm, contact your insurance company would be my advice!" She thinks Emily looks a bit disappointed but she might be imagining things so Kelley just chuckles and nods.
"Right, yeah probably a good idea."
"I'll see you, Kelley."
"Yeah...thanks again." Emily smiles and waves before hopping out of the Ambulance and out of sight and earshot.

***

Chapter Text

Kelley can’t let it go. Every time she feels pain or goes to roll over in bed and her cast gets in the way, every time she wants to do something with her left arm (which is a lot of the time), every time, she can’t help thinking of the stupidly cute firefighter.

 

And she should be able to let it go, she’s got recovery and rehab to focus on. But it’s turning out to really not be that simple.

 

And really the firefighter, the cute one that Kelley had enjoyed looking at for the duration of their time together, it’s completely inappropriate to be still thinking about her. To be still thinking about how she didn't get her number, or give out her own. To be still thinking about the way she'd been looked after so well in her time of need, and been smiled at, and been made to feel safe.

 

She was in a car accident, she knows this. Rationally she knows that an elderly man had crashed into her because he'd had a seizure at the wheel; she'd been to see him in hospital, bought him flowers and a card, forgiven him when he'd profusely apologised, been glad to see he was on his way to recovery. And she knows she was really lucky to have a pleasant encounter with a firefighter who was really good at her job, despite the perhaps unlucky circumstances. Rationally she knows that anyone else would just be grateful and let it go.

 

But Kelley can't, because Kelley is Kelley.

 

It’s been two weeks. The paramedic had been right about the surgery, so she’d spent the first four days in hospital having various pins put in her arm under general anaesthesia. But she’s been home for ten days now and she’s bored and she’s stewing. Last night she dreamed about it.

 

Not about the crash, no, about Emily. She dreamed about a masked firefighter saving her, carrying her out of a smouldering building, removing her mask and giving her the kiss of life. And of course it had been Emily, who then dream-Kelley proceeded to actually kiss, because apparently dream-Kelley has more balls than real-Kelley.

 

It’s weird. Kelley knows it’s weird.

 

She had to do something about it, so this morning, after several wordy google searches involving variations of things like: female firefighter, and Emily, and Washington DC, she’d finally been successful and found the station the blonde woman worked at. Apparently she’d been involved in putting out a huge tower-block fire six months back. She had been part of the crew, from Station 4 Kelley had been pleased to find out, who had risked it all to save a little boy and his pet cat. They had been awarded some kind of accolade by the mayor for their efforts. The soccer stars heart had swooped as she read the article, despite the fulfilment of the cheesy trope.

 

What Kelley had been distinctly disappointed to not find during her time on google was a Calendar. There was a distinct lack of any semi-nude charity calendars popping up. Which, really, the feminist part of Kelley should be pleased about. Because she is staunchly against objectifying people for monetary gain. Against objectifying people, period. But the thought of Emily posing ridiculously in one of those things, it had kind of kept Kelley sane whilst she was trapped in that car, made her giggle girlishly in her head at the images conjured up in her minds-eye. So, maybe she'd secretly added that word to the search bar as well, in the hopes of seeing something, accidentally. And it was different when she was hoping it was for charity – right? Not that she'd ever voice those hopes to Emily, even if she struck lucky and saw her again.

 

Which she might, because now she was heading down there, to station 4, with tickets to this weekends match in her pocket, and a smile on her face, with the hopes of seeing the woman. It was just a kind gesture, one to say thanks for saving her life, for keeping her calm in one of the scariest moments she’d ever experienced. And maybe, just maybe, if she was feeling courageous, she’d ask for the woman’s number. Her email address or her Instagram. Something. Some way she could contact her instead of dialling 911.

 

***

 

When Kelley walks in, the last thing she's expecting is to met by the smell of disinfectant. It's not until she skids a little and hears the squeak of her sneakers as she recovers that she notices the yellow wet-floor sign and hears the distant whistling.

 

She takes in her surroundings. It’s a room that does a good job of disguising itself as modern until you look closer. There’s a lot of red, of course, it’s a fire station. Dark grey painted walls, that match the tiled floors, with safety and informative posters hung; one details the fire triangle and the graphic on it reminds Kelley of Chemistry class. To the right of the door is the reception desk, it’s big and blocks off the corner of the room, with several computers and office chairs behind it. A guest book sits, thick and dog-eared, Kelley doesn’t think she needs to sign-in.

 

The desk is unmanned, and she has to take a steadying inhale before pressing the doorbell affixed to the surface. 

 

Personally, she doesn't hear a bell or ring but there's a radio dock behind the desk with a few walkie talkies on it, one that crackles allowing a faint voice  to call out, "Christen to Tobin," The whistling stops and there's a reply that Kelley can hear, both through the radio and vaguely from down the hall. "Yeah, go ahead,"

"The doorbell just rang - you not there?" 

"Copy that. I was just mopping the corridor since you're all too lazy."

"I highly resent that comment."

 

The woman, Tobin, doesn't reply to whomever is on the other end of the radio and instead rounds the corner, clipping the radio to her belt; wearing a variation of the same uniform Emily had been the other day and a beaming smile. "Hi there, how are you?" Kelley can't help but smile back at the woman as she walks around the long counter that, although chipped in a few places still stands sturdy, and takes a seat behind the desk.

 

"Hi, sorry I didn't mean to interrupt your mopping."

"Oh shoot, I forgot to turn that off, huh?" Kelley observes the womans relaxed demeanour as she leans back in her seat and turns the dial of the radio in the dock. "I switched mine out earlier so it could charge, sorry about that. How can I help you today?"

 

Kelley wipes the hand she can on her jeans and hopes Tobin doesn't notice her blush as she speaks. "I'm actually looking for a colleague of yours. Um, Emily? I wanted to thank her, she kind of helped me out when I got into a bit of an accident a couple'a weeks ago." Tobin quirks an eyebrow and smirks like this happens all the time, or maybe like she was expecting this. "Sonnett?" Kelley doesn't know what that means so shrugs her shoulders as best she can and begins to say, "I don't kn-"

"Sorry, that's her name. Emily Sonnett. She mostly goes by Sonnett."

"Right. Yeah I mean, I guess. Unless I've got the complete wrong fire station." Tobin is fully leant back in her seat now, arms crossed, smirking slightly at Kelleys discomfort. The worn desk chair creaks underneath the woman with the chestnut hair and Kelley can't help but feel slightly scrutinised as the amused eyes scan her face.

 

"I don’t think so. I mean, sorry if this is weird, but I know who you are and she mentioned that she had been on a job with you. Her shift actually finished a couple of hours ago, she's probably at home sleeping- sorry." This woman, Tobin, does at least look genuinely sorry, as she leans forward again and rests her forearms down, picking up a stress ball, shaped like a fire extinguisher of all things, and fiddling. "Oh man, bummer- That she's not here, not that you know who I am." Kelley grimaces at her own awkwardness and shifts from foot to foot. She hadn't planned for Emily not being here, which –really- she should have, it was kind of the most likely option.

"Our friend Lindsey- her roommate- freaked out when she told her she'd met you. We come to your home games sometimes." Kelley can't help but smile at that, she can at least engage in a conversation about football. She knows how to talk football. 

 

"Sweet, you're a fan too?"

"Sure, I mean I'm from New Jersey so I guess I should support Sky Blue, or Gotham now, but I just love watching. We have a little pick-up league, sometimes at the weekend we'll play 5-a-side against another station if we can get together a team, y'know." A small smile tweaks at Kelley's lips at the mention of her old team. "Oh man, that's awesome." What, quite, is suddenly making her say the phrase 'oh man,' so much, she isn't sure, but it's happened now so she goes with it. "Well I bought a couple of tickets with me for the match this weekend, for Emily- um, for Sonnett - and her roommate but I can always grab more if there's anyone else here interested?"

"Seriously?" Kelley nods, she's always down for getting people out to games.

"Yeah for sure, it wasn't just her who helped me out that day. I mean you might've been there for all I know?" Tobin shakes her head.

"I wasn't. But I can find out who was and extend the offer if you want?" Kelley nods again at this, she figures the more the merrier and she's not lying when she says she'd like to extend her gratitude to the rest of the crew that helped her out that day. Her mind flickers briefly to Oliver, the guy who had run into her, wondering if he'd be down for watching a game when he gets out of hospital. Kelley is planning on going to see him again so she'll have to ask; she feels bad for him.

 

"You got a pen?" Tobin spins in her chair and fishes a pen out of the pot on her right, turning back to Kelley, doing the obligatory scribble on the scrap piece of paper to check it works okay and handing it over. She pulls the envelope with the tickets out of her back pocket and writes out her number in equally spaced digits on the front.

 

 It's brave. This Tobin woman could be a psycho fan for all Kelley knows but sometimes you have to trust your gut and at the moment her gut is saying, only slightly ironically, good vibes only. Kelley pushes the tickets forward on the counter, the door swinging open behind her; she ignores it in favour of speaking quickly so she can leave. She's not really got a reason to stay now she knows Emily isn't here. "That's my number, I'd appreciate it if it wasn't passed around, but let me know how many tickets you guys want and I'll sort it out. There's already two tickets in there - will you pass them onto her for me?" Tobin stands, putting down the mini fire-extinguisher and goes to take the tickets before retracting her hand.

 

"Why don't you give them to her yourself?" She nods behind Kelley to the entrance, where she finds Emily standing, occupied with slowly removing her earphones, clearly distracted by something on the screen in her hands. She's dressed in shorts, that reveal legs, and a blue hoodie. A hoodie that Kelley wants to steal because (a) it looks super soft, and (b) she kinda wants to be a person in Emily's life that steals her clothes, even though she's fully aware of how weird that is at this stage of knowing the woman.

 

Kelley thinks of Emily as October. Sat surrounded by pumpkins and fall leaves; autumnal colours and a beaming smile. She’s not shirtless in this mental picture, she’s wrapped up and cozy in a big ugly sweater. And really this - this crush, or whatever it is, is getting out of hand.

 

She's taller than Kelley expected now that she's actually stood next to her, and she doesn't know why because Emily isn't tall per se. Maybe Kelley just has protagonist syndrome enough to believe that every new person she meets that isn't tall-tall will be her height or shorter, which is weird cause Kelley is aware she's very average in stature. She likes it though, Emily's height; likes that she has to look up to her a little, even though it reminds her of the slight ache in her neck she still has.

 

There's a very cute panting dog stood next to the blonde firefighter, leash slack, waiting patiently as its owner stares down at her phone. For some reason, it makes complete sense that Emily is a dog person.

 

"Son! You all good?" Emily doesn't look up from her phone as she speaks.

"Hey Tobs, did I leave my cap behind there? I can't find it at home and I wanted it for later."

 

Tobin wanders over to the coat rack behind the desk. "Did you sleep when you got home?" Emily hums in response, clearly not paying attention. Kelley just watches the interaction, amused. "Son?"

"hmm?"

"Sonny? Sleep?" Tobin looks at Kelley and shakes her head in fond amusement, communicating something along the lines of this girl, right? Like Kelley should know, like Kelley knows Emily.

Having found the cap, now directly stood the opposite side of the desk with one hand casually resting on her hip Tobin still doesn't get a reply and Kelley feels awkward stood in between the two women, she glances down at the now-dry tiled floor, unsure of whether she's meant to say something at this point?

 

 "Sonnett!" Tobin throws the cap at the blonde woman, tired of being ignored, and bursts out in laughter when it hits Emily in the face and falls. The previously well-behaved dog, jumps and catches the item, pinning it to the floor with its paws and starts to chew. "Bagel, no! Tobin, why would you do that?! Bagel, drop it!" Sonnett crouches next to the dog and wrestles it from the hounds mouth, admonishing it affectionately the entire time.

 

Sonnett huffs and she stands, holding a drool stained cap between her fingers. "Why, Tobs?" As she looks up and notices Kelley, her entire body language shifts. "Kelley! I- What are you- Hi!" Kelley can't help the laugh that escapes her mouth as she watches a wide-eyed, clearly sleep-deprived, Emily scrub a hand over her face as though she's not quite sure if she's seeing things. "Hi, -cute dog!"

"Thanks. I- um, how are you? How's your arm? And your neck?"

"Oh yeah, it's all good thanks. Can I say hi to the puppy?" Kelley crouches as Emily nods, stroking the dogs ears with the hand not currently trapped in a sling. "Did you have to have surgery in the end?" Kelley feels awkward having a conversation while not looking at the woman so she stands again. There's a lot of awkward going on.

 

 "Yeah, they pinned my radius and I had a hairline fracture further up on my ulnar. My shoulder popped back in okay once I was under but they had to repair some of the tissue which sucks in terms of rehab but I should be okay to get back in time for the start of next season. Maybe a few internationals before that, if I'm lucky."

"Good, that's um- good." Emily reaches up and places the cap on her head, the peak stained slightly darker where it got wet.

 

"Oh, um-" Kelley spins and grabs the envelope from the counter appreciating the encouraging smile Tobin shoots her way. "These are for you, to say thanks, for everything. Hopefully you're not working this weekend?" Emily shakes her head as she takes the envelope, unsure what to say. "I just thought- you said your roommate liked-" Kelley chuffs out a laugh at herself and her awkwardness. "Well anyway, I'll be there – so find me or whatever; I'll be the one screaming at the team from the side-lines wearing the sling."

 

Emily laughs at the joke and Kelley thinks Tobin does too but she has to get out of here before she can make a fool of herself somehow, as if she hasn't already. So she turns, says a quick bye to Tobin says how nice it was to meet her (which isn’t a lie), walks up to Emily and kisses her on the cheek whilst she still has the courage and leaves without even realising she'd just given the hot firefighter she's been dreaming about her number.

 

***

 

There had been a gas leak at an apartment block last night. They'd been called out in the evening and by the time they'd evacuated everyone, secured and ventilated the building and told everyone they could get back inside and into bed, it had been the early hours of the morning. And then, when they got back to the station Emily had been on kitchen duty, so she'd had to cook everyone something vaguely nutritious and filling enough to get them through the night in case they got called out again. She's crawled into bed around three and the fire bell rang at around four signalling a warehouse fire on an abandoned industrial estate. It was fine, easy to put out; some kids had been messing around, camping out in an old factory to try and creep themselves out, lit a fire to stay warm, fallen asleep and it had got out of control. They'd woke to ten foot high flames and bolted, called 911 and hadn't stuck around to see what would happen, so no casualties. But it was an old, un-sturdy structure, so they'd been there hours securing the site. Making sure that if anyone else was to get in there, they weren't going to get crushed by a falling bit of rebar.

 

Emily is too tired right now to even be able to process what just happened. She's aware she's slack-jaw and Tobin is laughing- no guffawing – at her, but it feels like her eyes are on stalks.

 

Emily hates night shifts. She hates them because even though they're rarely busy like last night, she never sleeps well at the station and she can't sleep in the day. She just can't. She's not programmed that way.

 

So she feels like crap and she can't really register what just happened.

 

Except she thinks Kelley O'hara, the soccer player who she met a few weeks ago on a job, just kissed her on the cheek. She thinks Kelley, the soccer player who Lindsey always mocks her for having a bit of a crush on, just gave her tickets to a game at the weekend. And when she looks down at the envelope, she thinks Kelley, the hot woman who she helped when she wrecked her car a few weeks ago, might have just given Emily her number.

 

"I-I, um. What just happened?" Her question sets Tobin off all over again, loud cackles that on any other day would be so infectious that Emily would have to join in. She goes to scratch at her furrowed brow, with her right hand, bringing it up to her face, forgetting she's holding on to Bagels leash and being stopped when the fabric goes taught. "Oh, sorry girl." She switches, looping the handle over her other wrist and looks down at the confused dog as she tackles the itch.

 

The pooch tilts her head, glancing between Tobin and her owner and looking a bit how Emily feels. She follows obediently as Emily slopes behind the desk, slumping into one of the chairs; the one not previously occupied by Tobin. Bagel seems to accept her walk is going to be somewhat postponed when her leash is dropped to the ground and her owner grabs a bottle of water from the fridge under the counter, taking up her usual position and curling up under the desk.

 

Emily closes her eyes and just rests her head on her arms against the wooden surface, hat raising slightly as it knocks against the desk top. She groans. "I'm so tired right now I can't even process what just happened." She hears Tobin wheel over to her from her own desk chair and place a comforting hand on her back.

 

"You need sleep, dude. Have you been to bed at all today?" Emily turns her face to look at Tobin, as the older woman shifts away and starts to log-on to the computer in front of her, not lifting her head off her arms. "I fell asleep on the couch for a bit when I got in, but then I woke up when Lindsey left for work. I'll maybe try to go to bed after I've walked Bagel."

"Yeah, you need too. Last night sounded intense." Emily just grunts in agreement, lifting her head and taking a swig of water.

 

She glances down at the envelope she'd placed on the desk when she sat, reaching for it and looking inside. When she pulls out the tickets Tobin starts laughing again and Emily looks at her, a bit baffled. "So that really happened then, Kelley O'hara was just in here?" Tobin just smiles at her computer screen, scrolling through emails, which is no help really. None at all.

 

"How long was she here for? You spoke to her?"

"Yeah she's super nice like you said." Emily is aware she's tired but Tobin is making this very difficult.

 

"Yeah, I know. What did she want?" Tobin snorts, still not looking at the blonde woman.

"You! She wanted to give you those."

"Tobin, c'mon!"

"What?! She came in looking for you, said she wanted to give you tickets for the game this weekend to say thanks for being her hero or something."

"She said that?" Tobin barks out a laugh and spins to face Emily.

 

"Not in so many words, Sonnett, but I feel like it's pretty obvious. Look, she's written her number down, she gave you a cute little smooch on the cheek – give her a text!" Emily doesn't know how to react so she just blinks at her friend and colleague. Tobin sighs, both at Sonnett's expression and at the radio crackling on her hip.

 

"Christen to Tobin-"

"Yeah, go ahead Chris,"

"Are you done mopping or is this bucket just gonna remain out as a trip hazard for the rest of the day?"

 

Tobin shoots Emily a look that makes the blonde laugh.

 

"I will come finish that in a minute Chris, Sonnett's just visiting at the moment."

"Why isn't she in bed? I'm coming to see her- tell her to stay there."

"Yeah roger that. She can hear you, you know."

"Vlatko to Tobin – tell Sonnett to go home and get to bed. Now."

Emily wrestles the radio from Tobin's grip, a small tug of war going on between the two. "On it Chief, I was just leaving. Over and Out." She puts the radio down, glaring at her friend, unsure why the brunette had to announce her presence to the whole station.

 

"Sonny! Why are you here?" Christen always makes Emily smile, even when she's feeling like crap, even when she's so tired she feels like she could cry, but right now all she wants is to find out what Kelley said and walk her dog. Christen joins them behind the desk and immediately starts making a fuss of Bagel, who of course immediately rolls on her back and demands belly strokes. "Seriously Em, why aren't you asleep right now."

"I just came in to get my hat and-"

"And Kelley O'Hara was here with the flirty-flirty eyes." Emily doesn't think twice before thumping Tobin on the arm. "If you would just tell me what happened, I could go walk Bagel and go home." Christen stands up and folds her arms looking down at Tobin. "What are you doing? What do you mean flirting? Who's Kelley?"

"Sonnett's soon-to-be girlfriend."

"I hate you, I hope you know that." Emily stands, grabbing Bagels leash as the dog stands and does a full body shake.

 

"Tobin, be nice. Tell her what happened." Tobin is incredulous as she answers.

"Wha- Babe, I've told her!” One look from Christen has Tobin sighing and talking. “Look Em, she came here looking for you like I said. She wanted to give you the tickets for the match this weekend to say thanks. She was all disappointed when you weren't here is all I'm saying. She wrote down her number so I could text her and let her know how many other people might be interested in going this weekend ‘cause I mentioned station-soccer-Sunday’s, so she thought more of us might wanna check it out.  But you should text her. She didn't come here looking for me. And she was checking you out, dude – she came looking for you. You've got her number – use it!"

 

Christen has taken residence in Emily’s abandoned seat, she brings a leg up and rests her chin on her knee as she talks. “Sounds like Tobin might have a point, Em.”

 

Emily just swallows and looks between her two friends.

 

“What would I even say to her? She didn't intentionally give me her number, isn't it creepy if I text her?”

“What do you mean, dude? She’s given you the perfect opening. Thank her for the tickets, apologise for being a little out of it today, 'cause you are – severely, and make sure you say how much you’re looking forward to seeing her again.”

“Yeah, yeah I guess.” Tobin spins back towards the computer and starts scanning emails again.

 

“What are you so nervous about, Son?” Emily takes another swig of water before answering. “I dunno. It’s just been a while since I’ve spoken to anyone I guess- and she’s Kelley freakin’ O’hara - how even did that happen?”

“She’s a soccer player, right? That’s what I’m gathering from this conversation.” Emily nods at Christen. “Look, I think you need to just think of her as someone you liked when you met her in real-life rather than this mystical celebrity figure. You didn’t know her before, you only knew of her. Get to know her, maybe you could really like her.” Emily smiles a bit, nodding.

“Yeah I guess...She was really checking me out Tobs?”

 

***

Chapter Text

Oliver is maybe the sweetest man ever. He’s kind and funny in that charming Dad sort of way and Kelley really isn’t spending time with him to avoid spending time with Emily. It just sort of seems like it.

 

They’d been texting.

 

Kelley and Emily had been texting ever since Kelley accidentally gave Emily her number. The initial messages had been sweet, sincere apologies for tiredness and awkwardness, but as the week had progressed there’d been flirting, lots of flirting. Enough flirting that Sonnett had thought she’d known where she stood. Thought it had been pretty obvious that she liked Kelley and had high hopes that Kelley liked her back.

 

But now? Now they’re at the game and Kelley is sat next to some guy; she’s barely even glanced over to Emily.

 

When she’d first come over, from where all the players were sat, Emily had waved a little shyly, and it had been returned. And then Kelley had sat next to an older gentleman, only glancing over every now and again, smiling softly at Sonnett before moving her eyes back to the pitch or to the man she was having a conversation with.

 

Emily understands Kelley is technically at work right now. She understands that. But earlier when they’d been texting and Kelley had told Emily to save a seat for me and I’ll tell you all the dirty secrets to winning, well, Emily had flushed red and obliged. The seat next to her was empty, she’d made sure she was at the end of the row for that very reason. She’d thought Kelley had been genuine, thought that the brunette woman would come and sit with her, for at least a little while.

 

“Rodman is so good already. She’s got to be called up to the national team soon, don’t you think?

 

…Son? Are you even watching the game?”

 

Emily draws her eyes away from where Kelley is sat, to the right several rows down on the other side of the aisle, and glances at Lindsey’s quizzical face as she feels the tug on her sleeve. “Yeah, definitely. She’s only going to get better.”

 

Lindsey raises a brow, not even slightly fooled by Emily’s absent reply. “She’ll come over soon, I’m sure. We’re not even at the half yet.” Lindsey pats Sonnett’s shoulder, turning back to the game when the collective audience groan alerts her of the foul that’s just been committed on the edge of the 18. “Just enjoy the game, Son - if you’d been watching you’d know it’s pretty intense.”

"I have been watching!" Lindsey laughs incredulously.

"No you haven't! You've been staring at her and checking your phone every 30 seconds. Why don't you just message her again instead of freaking out? Ask her what’s up?"

 

***

 

“So tell me…” he trails off until he’s sure she’s listening.

“Hmm?” Kelley flicks her eyes back to Oliver’s smiling face.

 

She’s loved being able to get to know him. When she’d realised he was widowed and his only daughter lived out of state, she wanted to make sure he had a friend. And he’s funny, eyes twinkling when he makes bad jokes, meaning there’s pretty much a permanent shine in his milky blue orbs. He's always genuine in his questioning and his answers. And Kelley would never have ever wished to be crashed into, but she finds herself more grateful for the events of her car wreckage every day.

 

Every time her phone dings, lighting up with a message from Emily like it just has, she finds herself happy it happened.

 

She shoots Oliver an apologetic quirk of the lips and glances down at her phone, looking back over to the woman who is shamelessly looking over with a questioning eyebrow raised.

 

Thought you were going to keep the seat next to me warm?

 

Her phone buzzes in her hand again.

 

I'm getting cold without you.

 

And again.

 

*it's getting cold without you.

 

She looks toward Emily once more and finds that the firefighter isn't smirking like she expected after such a flirty text, the calibre of which they've been exchanging all week, but instead looks a little hurt, a little ignored.

 

Kelley thinks of Emily as January. New Years blues, failed resolutions, and winter chills. She wants to be the person to keep Emily warm in the snowy season, wants to sit with her in front of an, incredibly safe (‘cause Emily is a firefighter) fireplace, wants them to be able to snuggle together under patchwork blankets.

 

She knows she needs to go over. Wants to even. She’s just nervous. Really nervous. In that excited, butterflies, doesn’t know quite how to approach the situation, kind of way.

 

What she hopes is a reassuring smile and a finger up to signal she’ll be over in a second is the best she can do right now.

 

"Tell you what?"

"Tell me about the pretty blonde you can't keep your eyes off. The one sat with that group of people over there." Oliver is doing his own brand of smirk, which really doesn't suit him, especially considering the large bandage across his forehead.

 

"Sorry, I don't mean to ignore you." He laughs, a big booming laugh filled with warmth; it immediately makes Kelley smile. "Oh my dear, you're not ignoring me. Anything but. You've been over here with me this whole time, when clearly there's someone else you'd rather be chatting to. So tell me..."

"I don’t know how."

"How to tell me?"

"How to chat - to her."

"Ahh, I see." He nods in understanding.

"We've been messaging each other, a lot. But it's different in person. Harder."

"But you like this girl?" Kelley bites her lip and nods, not daring to look in Emily's direction. 

 

She doesn't even consider that Oliver could react negatively to her sexuality, hopes she's reading the tone of his voice correctly, hopes he's implying what she thinks he's implying. Hopes he's not insinuating that Kelley is struggling to make a friend in that close minded way the older generation sometimes can. Because, yes making friends as an adult is hard, but she really doesn't want to be just friends with Emily.

 

She sighs.

 

"I don't even know why I'm telling you this. We just met a few weeks ago and- and..."

"And I'm an old man who knows nothing about what you're dealing with."

"No, no. I didn't mean-" Oliver just smiles, eyes still twinkling, dismissing Kelley's concerns, both vocalised and internalised, with a wave of his hand.

 

"You know when I first met my wife- Annie was her name, beautiful Annie….” he exhales and it’s like all tension leaves his body at the thought of her. It makes Kelley smile.  It makes Kelley jealous - she wants that in a relationship. It makes Kelley sad that he doesn’t have her anymore, at least, not in the same way he used to.

 

“When I first met Annie, I didn't have the courage to talk to her properly for weeks." Kelley is  willing to sit here for however long it takes Oliver to tell the story, especially if it means putting off the inevitable awkwardness that will greet her when she finally gets up the courage to go and see Emily.

 

"Annie worked for a law firm near the Capitol as a secretary. She used to frequent this bar down town where all the high fliers used to go to drink expensive whisky and gin and pretend they liked the taste. At the time I worked for a car service, driving people around. Mainly I'd do things like take people to the airport, but every night before I went home, I'd go into the bar near closing time and see who I could pick up to take home or back to their hotel. What my boss didn't know wouldn't hurt him and this way I'd get one fare a day straight into my pocket instead of just collecting a percent.

 

“Every night I'd go in and speak to the bar manager so he could point me in the direction of someone who wanted a lift, and every night there sat Annie.

 

“I was always blown away by her - every night, she blew me away.

 

“She would smile at me and I would hear the blood pumping in my ears and I'd forget how to talk. So I'd just shuffle off and take whoever it was wherever they wanted to go, and leave Annie sat at the bar. Until one night, the bar manager points at Annie, says she's the one who wants a lift. Well, I just nod, stare at her a little I guess. I don’t know what to say so I just pick up her bag and walk her out the door and into my car. She sits in the back, tells me where she wants to go and I start driving.

 

“The thing about Annie, which as her husband I grew to know very well, is that she never shut up. So she starts yabbing, asking me all these questions. I'm all monosyllabic, y'know: 'yes, miss,' 'no, miss,' until she tells me to keep my eyes on the road. And I realise I've been looking at her through the mirror this whole time.

 

“And suddenly when I wasn't looking at her, it's like my nerves disappeared, like when I wasn't looking at her I was suddenly able to, to…  get to know her.

 

“I drove her home three nights in a row. Three nights in a row I didn’t look at her and three nights in a row we laughed and learnt things about each other. On the third night I asked her on a date, she said yes and we went to dinner that weekend. And it happened again. I was sat opposite her and I couldn’t speak, it was like I had cotton in my mouth. I was looking at her and she dazzled me so much, I got so nervous, I couldn’t speak. She laughed it off and suggested we went for a walk, and I could talk again." Kelley follows Olivers gestures with her eyes, admires the way he lights up as he talks about his wife.

 

"I was so nervous for the first six dates I went on with my wife that she had to find things we could do where I wouldn’t have to look at her. We went for walks, we went for drinks and sat at the bar, we watched basketball. So many things, until I wasn't nervous anymore. Until I could look at her and be comfortable. Until there was no one else I was more comfortable around."

 

"I don't understand what you're trying to say?"

 

"I'm saying you have the perfect opportunity here. You're in a place you feel comfortable," He gestures to the field, "There's a topic of conversation right in front of you. And if you get nervous - just look away, take a second to collect yourself.

 

“But don't do what I did. Don't take too long to look back, because one day you'll wish you spent as much time as you could've taking her in." Kelley smiles and glances over to Emily, who is now absorbed in conversation with the woman stood next to her, the person Kelley guesses is Lindsey.

 

Oliver must sense her nerves. "It's okay, take your time - you can go over in a minute. First why don't you tell me about her?"

"Her name’s Emily." Oliver smiles and nods. "She's actually the firefighter that helped me out when we got into our little accident." The way Oliver laughs and claps his hands together startles Kelley at first.

"Well, this is perfect!"

"It is?"

"Absolutely! If you think for one second I'm leaving here today without meeting one of the people that helped us out that day - you're deluded, my girl." Kelley laughs.

"Actually, the group she's with? They're her colleagues, I got them all tickets to say thanks on our behalf."

 

***

 

She watches out the corner of her eye as Kelley stands, acknowledges the way her heart flutters slightly in her chest, stops herself from moving to fix her hair because she knows she actually always makes it worse when she does that. She watches as Kelley laughs down at the man fondly and helps him as he moves gingerly to his feet, grabbing a walking stick and handing it to him. She watches, trying her best to smile as they both slowly approach, walking up the steps towards her.

 

She wants to be annoyed that Kelley is bringing company. But then she looks to her left, at Lindsey whose jaw is clenched with the intensity of the game, at Tobin as she gives a running commentary of every-thing happening on field to an amused Christen, to the group of men behind her who she works in such close-proximity with, who she literally trusts with her life day-in-day-out, who she considers family. She wants to be annoyed but, really, privacy was never going to be an option for them today.

 

And the guy seems nice enough if the way Kelley’s laughing is any indicator. He certainly doesn’t look old enough to need a stick, to be leaning into it as heavily as he is. Emily guesses he’s around 60, tall enough that Kelley only comes up to just above his shoulder, and struggling to walk up the steps enough that Emily shoots to her feet and goes to offer her help, even though there’s not a lot she can do.

 

"Hi."

"Hi."

 

The smiles are awkward, but they're genuine and sweet. Emily stops a couple of steps above them and kind of jerks into action when she realises they've caught up to her.

 

"Can I help at all?" She moves next to Kelley to begin climbing the last ten remaining steps with them. "Here, give me a bag, it can't be easy carrying two with only one arm." Kelley hands over Oliver's backpack, blushing and looking to her feet when their fingertips brush.

 

"Aren't you going to introduce us Kelley?" Oliver has paused, he's not out-of-breath but he's clearly in pain. Emily watches as he mentally psych's himself up to tackle the last 5 steps of the concrete mountain, leading to where Emily and her friends are sat.

 

"Umm, yeah, of course. Sorry. Oliver, this is Emily. Em, this is Oliver – he was driving the truck the day we met." She takes his elbow to help him, threading her good arm though his and wordlessly encouraging him to lean some of his weight on her. Emily melts a bit, both at the action and the way Kelley just called her Em so casually.

 

She hides her surprise at the realisation of exactly who Oliver is and instead greets him. "Nice to meet you, sir. Christen will be pleased to see you, she's the one who helped you out that day." She points up at Chris, who has her head tilted back in laughter, both Tobin and Lindsey joking either side of her. Oliver just grins in anticipation, unable to speak right now but looking down at Kelley with all the excitement of someone 50 years his junior.

 

***

 

The way Emily watches the game has Kelley feeling at peace.

 

She watches so curiously, eyebrows furrowed, fingers gripped around a beer Kelley bought for her at half time (just because Kelley can't drink right now doesn't mean Emily shouldn't enjoy), jaw ticking in a way that is dangerously attractive every time a call doesn't go in favour of the home side.

 

Kelley is fascinated by her.

 

Fascinated by her easy body language and endless limbs, relaxed with smatterings of freckles'. Fascinated by her laugh, unapologetic and easy, naturally encouraging of others to join in. Fascinated by her smile and her mouth, by the tongue that keeps poking out to wet her lips. Fascinated by the way she leans over to speak to Kelley when the crowd gets particularly loud, breath ghosting over the shell of Kelley's ear in a way that sends shivers down her spine.

 

And now that she's with her. Now they're sat beside one another, thighs pushing together through the fabric of their jeans, feeling the warmth radiating from each other's bodies where they're pressed close in their seats, contact from shoulder to knee. Now they're here, making jokes, making comments about what's happening on the field. Now they're here, together, Kelley realises she was worrying over nothing.

 

Oliver was right, this place, this stadium, this field, the crowd, the ball, the game – it's all hers. Her territory. Her house. There's no need to be nervous in her own house.

 

Especially because here, next to Emily, she's never felt more at home.

 

***

 

Kelly has to hang around after the game. Has to stay for the team talk, to commiserate in the locker room with her teammates, discuss what went wrong and what they're going to do better next time. She won't actually be at training this week, but she'll be around for rehab so she tells them she'll see them all soon and leaves without feeling too guilty. No one sticks around for too long after a loss anyway.

 

She'd stood from her seat about ten minutes before the final whistle, told Emily she'd text her later and given her a kiss on the cheek. Reluctantly started gathering her things after having been reassured, three times by both Emily and Christen, that they'd make sure Oliver was either put safely into a cab or they'd give him a lift home themselves. She'd kissed Emily once more on the cheek for good measure, enjoying the way it made the woman blush, waved to Oliver and jogged down to concrete steps to pitch side.

 

So she's startled when she gets out into the half-deserted parking lot and a whistle causes her to look up, from where she's just ordered an uber, to see Emily leant against a car smiling widely and waving.

 

She makes her way over, her own smile only growing the closer she gets as she takes in the way Emily is leant languidly back against her car.

 

She looks really good.

 

Kelley hasn’t really been able to take her all in earlier, what with being sat most of the time and helping Oliver out. But Emily looks good.

 

She’s got ripped acid-wash mom jeans on and an off-white waffle knit sweater. Combined they work to make her arms look tanned, where she’s got the sleeves pushed up, and to make her hair look even more blonde, where it’s down in loose curls around her shoulders.

 

“Hey! I thought we said we’d speak later? I was going to call you.”

“Yeah, yeah we did. But I suddenly thought about how you can’t drive right now, so I decided I’d stick around and see if I could offer you a lift? I promise I only had that one beer.”

 

Kelley wants to kiss her. She wants to kiss her so badly.

 

“I just ordered an Uber.” She waves her phone as if to prove the point.

 “Cancel it?” It’s a question that Kelley doesn’t answer verbally, instead just unlocking her phone and hitting the cancel trip button, she doesn’t really care about her rating at this point.

 

As she’s been busy doing that, Emily has made her way closer, closed the gap in between them so that when Kelley looks up she’s close enough to touch.

 

She pockets her phone. “Did you have a good time today? I’m sorry we lost.”

 

Emily’s fingertips are a little bit cold as she lightly touches them to Kelley’s palm, moving slowly to thread their fingers together. “I had a good time. It was really great to spend some time with you.” Kelley nods, swallowing as she looks up into Emily’s eyes, notices her eyelashes and laughter lines.

 

 She wants to kiss her.

 

“I was thinking we could do it again. This week?  I’m working the weekend so maybe some time before then?” Kelley smiles and hums as Emily continues to be the brave one and moves her other hand up to tuck some hair behind Kelley’s ear, brushing the pads of her fingers against Kelley’s cheek and revelling in the way it makes the older woman’s eyes flutter shut.

 

“Maybe somewhere a bit less noisy so I can get to know you a bit better?" The way her fingertips rest on Kelley’s neck, thumb stroking her jaw makes it feel as though Kelley’s head may float away. "I want to get to know you better. What do you think Kel?”

 

She just wants to kiss her.

 

“I-“ her voice is croaky as her eyes flit down to Emily’s lips, as she watches Emily’s eyes flit down to hers.  “Yeah…- yes. What about a walk or coffee or something?” Emily nods.

 

“That sounds good.” Emily licks her lips. “I’ll text you about it later?” Nodding, Kelley is barely aware of herself moving closer.

 

The stand silent for a moment. Emily’s thumb grazing Kelley’s jaw, breathing each other in steadily.

 

“Kel?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m going to kiss you now, if that’s okay?”

“Yeah- I… please.”

 

***

 

Emily isn’t a month.

 

She’s the morning sun that shines through Kelley’s blinds, creating warm patches of skin wrapped up in sheets and limbs. She’s the night sky keeping watch over the more careless habits Kelley passes onto their kids.

 

 She’s winters, wrapped up in bundles of clothing, teaching how to build fires safely, making sure the embers are burning to keep Kelley toasty. She’s spring, surprising Kelley with handpicked wildflowers and cheesy romantic pickup lines. She’s summer long weekends away, camping in humid tents, fighting mosquitoes and quelling fears over wildlife. She’s autumns spent kicking up piles of leaves for Bagel to chase during afternoons wandering through the park.

 

She’s Valentine’s Day. She’s Easter. She’s Mother’s Day. She’s thanksgiving. She’s Christmas.

 

She’s every banal Monday or Thursday or Saturday. She's every average day that is still filled with smiles and laughter and love.

 

Emily isn’t a month on a Calendar.

 

She’s the whole damn year.

 

She’s a lifetime of years.

 

***