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i've been sleeping so long in a 20 year dark night (now i see daylight)

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A knock on the door interrupts Laura from her work. There’s really only two reasons she imagines why someone would be knocking on her door at the dead of night -- must be either a serial killer, or someone seriously got the wrong address. She hopes for the latter, but it becomes glaringly obvious who it is once she gets to the glass doors and notices a familiar head of blonde hair just below her eyeline. She hasn’t heard from Bradley for hours, with Laura’s last text being left with a read receipt.

The first thing Laura notices: Bradley is sitting on the last step of the concrete stairs just right outside of her house, her face buried in her lap. The next is the unmistakable sound of sniffling and deep breaths. Bradley’s crying. Laura immediately moves closer so that she’s right in front of the other woman, kneeling down on the cold concrete with clean, just-put-on pajamas and everything. She strokes Bradley’s hair, takes note of the way the woman’s sobs mellow down a little. “Bradley.” Laura starts, unsure what to really do, but she will let Bradley cry into her shoulder for the entire night if she wanted to. “Hey. Baby. What’s going on?”

This seems to trigger something with the blonde and she lets out a particularly loud, bitter chuckle that only confuses Laura even more. Bradley takes the opportunity to finally lift her head from her lap -- her face is all tears. Flushed skin clearly not caused by the air, mascara leaving streaks of dark all over her cheek. “I’m sorry—” She laughs, again, all but genuine. Laura feels the coarseness of the concrete digging into her knee. She waves her hands, shaking her head. “I just--”

She cries. 

Laura does what feels natural next, and envelopes her in a much needed hug. Bradley seems to just melt into it, and the tears run hot on Laura’s neck. It feels all so painful to be watching this, and Laura can’t even imagine how Bradley’s feeling. She takes her hand and rubs Bradley’s back, tries to ignore the current numbness developing in her leg because of the awkward position. 

“Why don’t you come in? It’s much more comfortable inside.”

Bradley sniffles, takes her head away. “Sorry for coming in unannounced— I didn’t. I didn’t know where to go and it—“

“You’re always welcome here.” Laura mutters. Her heart hurts for Bradley — having been put in that horrible position herself. A couple of decades may have passed, and time may have healed her wounds, but the scars are still there. So she tries to give what she had needed before: comfort. Laura pulls Bradley up with an offered hand and lets her lay against her chest as she maneuvers them toward the door and closes it with her free hand, while the other strokes the blonde’s back. “You want to go lay down?”

“I think I just really need a hug right now.”

“Okay.” Laura nods. “I can give you that.”

“I’m sorry. I know this might seem like old news to you. But for me I…” 

“Coming out— the pain that often comes with it… it’s not trivial, Bradley. Not to me.” They eventually stumble backwards onto a couch. Bradley still hasn’t let go, and Laura hasn’t either. Bradley lays atop of her now, and Laura finds that she doesn’t mind the weight at all. “Tell me what’s going on in that pretty head of yours.”

The blonde whips her head up, their gazes locking. Bradley Jackson has never been one for vulnerability. There’s always been some sort of a guard up, an annoyingly smart remark and retort just under her tongue ready to unleash the second anybody begins to see right through her. But here, now, Laura sees it. The inherent weakness. 

In New York City, there’s always someone asking for someone else’s company. She supposes that’s them now.

“I’m not embarrassed.” She starts. “Absolutely not. Being gay… bisexual, or whatever… it’s not something I’m ashamed of. Not anymore, at least. I worked through that, Laura. But there’s a difference, a fuckton of difference between a couple of friends knowing and the entirety of the country knowing. You know how many twitter mentions I got today, asking me how good you are in bed?”

Laura snorts softly. “I imagine a lot.”

“You imagine less. Because it was a never ending barrage, Laura.”

“Did you tell them I’m good, at least?”

This snaps Bradley out of her irritation, and a sudden smile takes over her face. Laura warms at this and laughs loudly when Bradley slaps her arm lightly. “Shut up.”

“Well I simply have to know. I can’t have you tip-tapping it out on twitter and telling people I suck in bed. I have a reputation, you know.”

Bradley hums. “This is far nicer than crying. I’m all dried out of tears. And you—“ she pauses, looks straight into Laura’s eyes and shakes her head. 

“What?”

“You don’t seem real.” 

“Hm?”

“You’re too good to be true.” Bradley says, her voice wavering somewhere in the middle. She takes Laura’s face in her hands and runs a thumb over her cheek where Bradley’s stray tear had fallen. “I got into this business on a whim, got my life transformed overnight, had my debts paid a million times over and somehow… somehow…” she trails off before taking a shaky breath. “Somehow I got you. And god , I could never be ashamed of you. How could I be? Laura fucking Peterson. You had all the odds against you and you managed to stay on top of it. I don’t know what I did to deserve you.”

“Flatterer.” Is all she can return, mind still reeling from Bradley’s words. 

“You know I had a crush on you?” Bradley snorts. “I was 19 and turning on the TV at 6 freaking AM just to see you. I should have known.”

“You undersell yourself too much.” Laura finally says what she’s been noticing all this time, hand trailing to reach Bradley’s. She clasps them together in a lock, thumbing the skin on the back of her hand. “Bradley Jackson. Born and raised in Virginia… with a fucked up family, in a fucked up place—“

Bradley shakes her head with a tiny scoff. 

“And yet somehow.” Laura pauses. “Somehow found her way into New York City. Co-hosting the country’s most-watched morning segment. You want to know how you did that?”

“Being at the right place at the right time.”

Laura shakes her head. “No. That’s part of it but… it’s not just that. Anybody can get vetted. Not anybody can just save a sinking ship. You’re brilliant. So brilliant, Bradley, and I wish you could see that for yourself. You’re opinionated and not scared to speak out what’s on your mind. That’s rare, you know? In an industry where everybody’s as opaque as white paint, you choose transparency. And that’s why you’re different in the best way possible. That’s what people like about you. That’s why I like you.”

“Fuck.”

“What? Hey, baby, don’t cry.” Laura reaches for Bradley’s face once the telltale signs of tears she’s trying to blink back become apparent.

“I’m not I just— how do you do that?”

“Do what?” 

“Seem to know what the right thing to say is all the time.” Bradley sighs before moving away, her weight taken off above Laura’s as she settles on the far end of the couch just beside where Laura’s feet lie. Laura follows her, then, sitting upright and leaning her head against Bradley’s shoulder.

“When you do it for a living for three decades, you get pretty good at it.”

Bradley chuckles. “I’ve been a journalist for as long as I can remember. The reason it took me as long as I have to get here is because I’m the opposite.”

“You got here, though, didn’t you?” Laura smiles when Bradley holds her hand once again. “Doesn’t matter how long it took you. You’re here . Bradley Jackson, one of the smartest people I know. An amazing anchor. Surprisingly remarkable debate moderator.”

“Go on.” The blonde looks at her expectantly. 

“Giver of great orgasms.”

Bradley throws her head back in a laugh, and it’s warm , because it’s Bradley and everything about her is. Laura wonders why Bradley’s not known more as this: carefree, exceedingly funny. Prior to their meeting, people had told her Bradley was a little pointed, and that it was best to approach her with some caution. Bradley had proved them wrong within the first hour.

It takes several more moments before Bradley regains the ability for speech, and she’s laughing so hard that it amazes Laura how she’d been literally breaking down on her porch just a few minutes ago. 

“Do you think I should make that my twitter bio?”

Laura shakes her head. “Absolutely not.”

It is nearing 1 AM. The manuscript on Laura’s desk is half-finished, the tip of the pen uncapped is drying out. The city isn’t dying down, like the feeling deep in her stomach. She feels such a rush of warmth for Bradley -- this woman beside her, who always seems to get herself out of the worst situations. If she’d survived whatever shit her parents had done to her, then she can survive this. 

They have to wake up in less than three hours, but sleep doesn’t entice either of them. They sit there, watching the infomercials that play at night on TV and Bradley gets brainwashed and orders at least 2 sets of knives online. 

“Do you have ice cream?” She asks sometime after Laura eventually switches the platform to Netflix to save Bradley from further useless purchases.

“Ah. I think so?”

“Don’t get up. I’ll get it.” Bradley says, patting her thighs as she skids into the kitchen. Laura just lets out an amused huff and stares at her phone. There’s a million unread text messages she’s not yet ready to attend to.

When she returns, she holds up the pint of ice cream with a confused tilt to her head. “What the fuck is this?”

Laura draws her eyebrows together. “Ice cream?”

“It says there’s no dairy in it.” Bradley points out the part in the packaging that says so.

“Then it’s dairy-free ice cream?”

“That’s oxymoronic. How do you have cream without dairy?” 

Laura hums. “Well are you planning to eat it or would you rather discuss the semantics of food products?”

Bradley pauses before rolling her eyes and eventually giving in, plopping right back down to the couch beside Laura. “Your food sucks.” She says before digging right into the ice cream with a spoon.

“I’m in my mid-forties, Bradley. A lot of health professionals would agree with me when I say fat from dairy, mixed in with heaps of sugar, would be bad for me.” 

Bradley scoffs around a spoonful. It takes a few moments, but her face says it all. Laura tries to hide the smug smile currently forming on her lips, but she fails. “So, is it good?”

Bradley pauses. “Damn it.”

Laura pumps her fist up in a victory. It’s a fifty-dollar ice cream. She’d be damned if the price wasn’t worth it. “See. And , it’s infinitely much better for you than the ones you’d get at a convenience store.”

“I get that, but isn’t the point of ice cream to make yourself feel better by eating junk food? If I wanted to eat healthy, I’d eat a salad.” She protests, but still proceeds to intake another spoon of the product.

“Can you please just say it’s good?” 

“It’s good.” Bradley says with a dismissing wave of her hand. “Whatever.”

Laura shakes her head in amusement.

It’s another thirty minutes before Bradley becomes sleepy enough that she eventually falls to slumber right on the couch. Laura would move her into her bedroom, but the hour is too late and she’s sure Bradley wouldn’t appreciate the gesture. The ice cream tub is empty, their alarms are synced to 3:30 am. Laura throws a fleece blanket over Bradley before she kisses her forehead. 

Laura had vowed a long time ago that she would never set her alarm that early ever again, but for Bradley, she can.