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The sun swims in the horizon, light shifting across the faint clouds of spring in soft hues of orange and purple as it sets. The atmosphere of the valley feels lighter than it has in months, so thin somebody might just float away one day without hardly noticing.

Laura wouldn’t mind if it was her, and she knows she shouldn’t say that, really, she does, but considering everything that’s happened in the last week…

She grimaces and pedals faster. Her little red bike bounces along the dirt road, rattling her from head to toe. No one comes down this close to the river anymore, not with the lake right on the other side of town. It will be just her and Carmilla. The two of them. Alone.

For all Laura knows, Carmilla isn’t even at the old willow tree. It’s their spot after all, and the last thing a normal person would do after getting in a fight with their best friend would be to go the one place they share, right? Only this is Carmilla, and Carmilla has never been, by any stretch of the imagination, normal.

No, she’s harsh and sarcastic on her best days, downright gruesome on her bad. But she’s also kind and funny and so passionate when she wants to be, so full of life and energy Laura doesn’t even know what to do sometimes.

Maybe that’s why they ended up kissing at the party. Just the simple fact of gravity.

Carmilla’s bike is tipped over next to the fence. Laura throws her bike down next to it and takes off down the winding path. The grass gently sways on either side of her, brushing her arms and bare calves as she whips by. The closer she gets the sharper her thoughts become, honing in on the one thing that matters.

She stops at the edge of the river, leans forward, hands on knees to catch her breath. The long leafy strands of the willow sway in front of her, waiting like they always have. Laura stumbles forward and parts them. The branches separate in a clean line. She’s done this so many times she might as well be opening a door.

Carmilla grips her book tightly and tries to ignore the sound of Laura on the other side of the tree. It’s not like Laura is exactly quiet. Carmilla knew the second she stopped to catch her breath, could hear every inhale. Part of her wants to get up and wrap Laura in her arms, but the other part knows that it’s no use. Whatever friendship they had is obviously gone. Laura hadn’t even hugged her goodbye when they got out of school.

So much for Best Friends Forever.

Laura stands at the edge of the canopy. Her arms hang limply at her sides, hands flexing. Carmilla sits still as a statue. She hasn’t turned a page in five minutes. Is this what they are now? Paralyzed by each other.

“We need to talk,” Laura says. Carmilla snorts, probably to keep from doing something gross like crying or curling up into a ball or any of the other things she actually feels like doing.

“No one’s stopping you, sweetheart.” The term of endearment rolls off her tongue before she can stop it. They both feel the sting.

“I just, I don’t know if I can say this like, at all, and it might come off the completely wrong way so please just don’t hate me or anything?”

Carmilla sighs and looks up from her book. So she was right. This is it. Her dark eyes hit Laura like a slap to the face. Laura feels so exposed, just standing there on the edge of this sacred space.

“Okay, now I definitely can’t do it,” she says. Carmilla rolls her eyes.

“Seriously? Then leave.”

“Shut up, Carm. You know we have to get this over with. We can’t just keep avoiding each other until graduation.”

“So spit it out!”

“I can’t do it when you’re looking at me like that!”

“Fine!” Carmilla turns her back to Laura and draws her knees to her chest. Laura fidgets. No, no this isn’t right either.

“Well?”

“Shut up!” Laura snaps. She zips over and sits down behind Carmilla so they’re back to back. She can feel Carmilla breathing, feel her muscles tense as their bodies press together. Laura breathes, in and out, in and out.

“I don’t want anything to change between us,” she says. Carmilla quirks an eyebrow up in surprise, her heart beating faster at the prospect of hope.

“Neither do I,” she replies.

“Good. Yeah. Um. Here’s the thing. I really, really liked kissing you.”

Oh.

“I know it’s weird but I can’t just pretend it wasn’t… nice, y’know?” Laura adds when Carmilla doesn’t say anything. Carmilla bites her lip.

“Yeah. It could be worse, I guess,” she murmurs.

“What?”

“I mean, I could’ve hated it,” Carmilla explains. Laura’s eyes widen.

“You mean…”

“You’re my best friend, cupcake. Forever. Shit’s bound to happen right? You’re a pretty good kisser, actually.”

Laura turns to face Carmilla and Carmilla follows. Their hands twine together on top of their thighs, tentative in grip.

“So what happens now? Are we just going to pretend like it never happened, go off to college next year, never speak of it again?” Laura asks. Carmilla shrugs.

“I don’t think it’d be completely terrible if it happened again,” she says.

“Oh, but, not in a dating kind of way, right?”

“Christ, Laura, no. Come on, look into my eyes and tell me you want to take a romantic stroll down the lane or something.”

Laura looks up and immediately bursts out laughing. Carmilla cracks a smile and winds her arm around Laura’s shoulders.

“See? We’re just best friends.”

“Yeah, who kiss sometimes…. and maybe some other stuff?” Laura suggests. Carmilla raises an eyebrow and looks her up and down.

“Meh, I guess you’re cute enough.”

“Excuse me?!?”

Carmilla laughs and plants a kiss on Laura’s forehead. Laura pouts and gets her back with a kiss on the cheek. The third time their lips come together without hesitation. Laura shifts so her knees are on Carmilla’s thigh, her hand coming up to drag through Carmilla’s hair. Carmilla tightens her grip on Laura’s shoulder and lightly strokes her hip. When they part they lean their foreheads together, sitting quietly in the last moments of light. The sun is no longer in the sky, the clouds dark grey against faint blue.

“Friends with Benefits,” Laura says softly.

“Casual as it can be, creampuff,” Carmilla replies.

 

~~~~~~~~

 

Laura takes the stairs two at a time. The stains sunk into the concrete are almost familiar enough to ignore after three months in the second floor apartment. It’d been Carmilla’s idea to move early, more prospective jobs in the city and all that. Laura had gotten a job at a little cafe on the corner, Carmilla opting for a more traditional job at the bookstore around the corner. Life is good, if she doesn’t think too hard about the mold under the kitchen sink or the way the air conditioning sounds like an unbalanced wind turbine. Life is good.

She nearly drops her keys twice trying to get them in the door. The combination kitchen/dining/ living area is void of human life, though plenty of miscellaneous items are strewn about. It used to bother her, and, okay, it still kinda does, but at least Carmilla had improved since they moved in. The first couple of weeks the apartment had been a constant tornado of stuff. Now it was… a slightly smaller tornado?

Laura ignores the mess and heads straight for Carmilla’s bedroom. The door is open and Carmilla is sitting in the center of her bed wearing nothing but lacy black panties and a Metallica tank top. An intricate leather journal sits on the cross of her legs, her expensive black pen twirling between her fingers. Laura leans in the doorway, slipping her back-pack from her shoulder and leaning it against the wall.

“Look who’s returned from her last day at her shitty summer job,” Carmilla says without looking up.

“That’s me! Now all I have to do is show up for class tomorrow and I’ll officially be a college freshman,” Laura says.

“Aren’t you officially a student when you enroll in classes?” Carmilla asks, looking up at Laura through her bangs. Laura shrugs and shuffles her feet, arms crossing as she licks her lips.

“Fuck, Laura, come on. What?”

“It’s nothing,” Laura sighs, “Or at least it’s stupid, so it’s as good as nothing.”

Carmilla rolls her eyes and pats the space behind her. Laura frowns and hops up on the bed. She leans against Carmilla, wiggling into a comfortable position. Carmilla scoffs quietly. She can feel the tension in Laura’s spine against her own, it’s so immense.

“What if it doesn’t go well?” Laura asks.

“That’s it? "

Laura swats at Carmilla and slumps further into her back.

“I just want it to be perfect! What if I fail all my classes? It’s not like that is totally out of the realm of possibility. College is supposed to be way harder than high school and I just barely got a 3.5 as it is. Maybe I won’t make any friends. Maybe everyone will hate me! Maybe the school will burn down in the first week and I never finish my degree which means I can’t get a job leading to the inevitable canceling of that trip we promised to take to Europe after I graduate and-”

“Laura! None of that is going to happen!”

“But something could happen and all I can do is wait for it,” Laura whines. Carmilla snickers and throws her writing utensils on the floor.

“I never realized you were such a worrier.”

“I’m not!”

“Mmmm right, because the school burning down is totally plausible,” Carmilla teases.

“It’s just weird, y’know. What happens at this school could make or break my future career and that’s like, the rest of my life stuff,” she murmurs.

“Well, I hate to break it to you, but you’re going to pass all your classes and meet a ton of people and graduate four years from now with a cutting edge job in the field of your choice,” Carmilla drones. Laura smiles softly and places her hand over Carmilla’s.

“Thanks, Carm.”

Carmilla shrugs, “someone had to say it.”

Laura sits up, scooting so they’re partially facing each other, and wraps her arms around her knees.

“How’d your day go?”

“Eh, work was boring. I signed up for another workshop down at the community college; something about character development… And then I spent the rest of the day working on a few short stories I never finished,” Carmilla says.

“Wow, you were pretty busy,” Laura comments. They fall into silence, Carmilla watching Laura carefully. The wild look is still sparkling in her eye, and her bottom lip is caught between her teeth in a vice grip.

“You’re still stressed,” Carmilla says.

“No, I’m just… thinking about all the things I have to do before tomorrow. Pack my books, find something to wear, get my schedule…”

“Sounds like stress.”

“I’m fine!” Laura insists.

“Y’know, there’s this really fun thing we can do that happens to be very relaxing,” Carmilla drawls. Heat blossoms in Laura’s chest and she squirms. She knows she shouldn’t. She has things to do. Important things.

“Sex is only a temporary fix and you know that,” she warns. Carmilla raises an eyebrow at her.

“What? My responsibilities aren’t going to magically disappear just because you’re fantastic at orgasms!” She’s trying to be firm, really, honestly, but she can’t help the smile creeping across her face.

“It’s up to you, sweetheart,” Carmilla says softly. Laura sighs and makes a mental note to forgive herself for the procrastination at a later date.

“Please just give me a fantastic orgasm.”

Carmilla laughs and pulls Laura forward by her calves. Laura falls back onto Carmilla’s bed, legs falling open in perfect tandem with Carmilla crawling between them. Hips press to thighs, hands to ribs.

“Well, well, you’re looking less constipated by the second,” Carmilla coos. Laura wrinkles her nose, smile unwavering, and runs her hands up Carmilla’s arms.

“Ah yes, constipated, the sexiest of all the words,” she teases. Carmilla smirks and drags her nails over Laura’s sides where her shirt has ridden up. She leans forward to keep her balance, nose brushing with Laura’s. Laura arches into the touch, her legs twitching around Carmilla’s waist.

“Doesn’t seem to have bothered you much,” Carmilla murmurs,

“You are so the worst,” Laura groans, pushing her lips against Carmilla’s. Carmilla sighs into the kiss, lowering her body until they’re pressed together. Laura’s hands skim down her back to cup her ass, pulling Carmilla that much closer to the ache coiling between her legs. Carmilla rolls her hips accordingly, reveling in the tiny moan that falls from Laura’s mouth.

“Any requests?” she asks.

“Good sex?” Laura breathes, her hands sliding beneath Carmilla’s panties. Carmilla half gasps, half growls, her tongue slipping passed Laura’s parted lips. Laura moans loudly, hips thrusting up into Carmilla’s again, chest straining against Carmilla’s weight as her lungs work overtime. Her legs can’t seem to decide whether they should tighten around Carmilla’s hips or fall open to let her in. Laura can’t get a coherent thought together to tell them what to do.

Carmilla drags her hands up under Laura’s shirt and strokes her breasts through her bra. Laura whimpers, nails digging into smooth skin and taut muscle. It takes Carmilla mere seconds to push her hands around Laura’s back and pull her up off the bed to undo the clasp. Laura let’s go for just a moment, frantically whipping off her shirt and bra in one go. The second they’re clear, Laura’s mouth latches onto Carmilla’s neck. Carmilla groans, nails digging into Laura’s bare back, hips jerking at the pressure of teeth against her skin.

Gently, so gently, she guides Laura back to the mattress. Her hands slide from Laura’s back, down her chest and stomach, to the button on her jeans. It comes undone without a fight, Laura lifting her hips impatiently.

“Carm, please,” she whimpers. Carmilla feels her heart constrict in her chest at the sound of her name on Laura’s lips. God, she needs to fuck this girl.

Carmilla pulls Laura’s pants and underwear down in one go. Laura kicks them off as Carmilla repositions herself, her hands wandering up Carmilla’s stomach. Carmilla hisses, Laura’s fingers sparking lightning in her veins.

“Fuck, cupcake.” Laura grins and presses her thigh between Carmilla’s legs, simultaneously spreading herself open. Carmilla grinds down on Laura, panties soaked through, lips finding Laura’s neck like an oasis. Their breasts slide together, hips rolling in time with each other. One of Carmilla’s hands moves up to Laura’s chest, the other one down, down until she’s holding Laura’s dripping core in the palm of her hand, soft brown curls tickling her wrist. Laura’s let’s out a shaky breath, eyes wide. Her nails dig into Carmilla’s back, legs trembling.

Carmilla kisses up to her chin, kisses her lips. Her fingers stroke along Laura’s entrance, slipping slowly inside. Laura cries out against Carmilla’s mouth and squeezes her eyes shut. The rhythm is already there, waiting for them, so easy to fall back into they might as well be riding bikes.

Laura can no longer hold back the noises tripping off her tongue, hips rocking into carmilla’s hand to take her in farther, harder, faster. She can feel them stroking along her walls, circling her clit, soft and warm and so, so perfect. The taut ball of heat in her belly writhes with her, expands until she can feel it seeping into her mind, filling her heart, breaking her in half and cradling the pieces in bliss.

Carmilla feels Laura go stiff under her, muscles tightening around her fingers. She brings the pace down slowly, her own heart in her throat beating fast and hard. Laura’s hands loosen around her shoulders, body going limp. Carmilla pulls her hand away and wipes it on the sheets. Laura snuggles into her the second Carmilla lays down, hands wary of the red welts across Carmilla’s shoulder blades. Carmilla leans her forehead on Laura’s and gets a kiss on the nose for her trouble.

“Welcome back,” she whispers.

“Mmmm, you are so good at that,” Laura mumbles.

“Practice makes perfect.”

Laura’s eyes flutter open and she smiles mischievously.

“Guess I have some catching up to do then, huh?”

Carmilla tries to think of a witty response, but discovers it’s a little beyond her capabilities with Laura’s hand in her panties like that. Her eyes roll back and she grips Laura a little tighter. Fuck this was a good idea. Fuck fuck fuck.

~~~~~~~

Laura’s phone alarm goes off bright and early the next morning. Light dances through the window over the bed, cold morning air hanging crisp above their heads. Laura’s eyes fly open and she rockets out of bed, the arms around her sliding away as Carmilla buries her face further into the pillows. Laura finds the phone on the floor, quiets the alarm, and crawls back under the covers.

“Sorry,” she whispers, fingers combing through Carmilla’s hair. Carmilla swats at her with a limp hand.

“Get your ass out of my bed and get ready for school, moron,” Carmilla growls. Laura giggles, presses a kiss to Carmilla’s hair, and bounces down the hall to her room.

She’s going to college.

Carmilla is still sleeping when Laura skips out the door an hour later. The smile plastered to her face is nothing short of radiant. The sky is clear, the morning is warm. Nothing could possibly ruin her first day. On an unrelated note, she’d just barely remembered to pack the safety supplies her dad had sent her. Nothing. Was going. To ruin. This day.

Campus is a wide and sprawling conglomeration of old stone buildings, interspersed with green lawns and gnarled trees. Students pour over the grounds, a rainbow of life in energetic frenzy. Laura finds herself in awe, delighted by the rush as people dart to class and track down friends. This is going to be awesome.

Her first class is the required introductory literary class. It sounds easy but will probably come back to bite her some time down the line. The lecture hall is large, cold, and sparse. A woman who looks like she might be the professor sits with her head in her hands at the front, a pile of texts on the table in front of her. Laura takes a seat in the middle of the fourth row and quietly arranges her things on her desk. There. Perfect.

Other students trickle in slowly, all keeping their respective distance from each other. A few groups come in, a couple of boys who crowd together in the back and a group of girls in track clothes sticking out the most. The girls sit behind Laura, whispering to each other liberally about how their legs ache or what they’re doing after class.

All of a sudden a boy with a shaved head and a t-shirt that says “Bros before Does” (cheesy deer picture included) drops into the seat next to Laura.

“Eeeey, what’s up? First day, huh? What’s your name little hottie?”

“Uh, Laura?” She tries to scoot away as discreetly as she can but the guy leans over into her space without even noticing.

“They call me Kirsch, which is my last name, but whatever y’know? I’m actually a junior but I didn’t pass this class freshman year, which is a serious fun killer. Kinda nice though, being in a class with all the freshmen hotties,” he says, winking at her.

“Oh wow,” Laura grimaces.

“So, what do you do in your spare time? I have you pegged for one of those sexy yoga girls…”

“Okay, so I was looking forward to sitting alone,” Laura says firmly.

“We are alone,” Kirsch says, wiggling his eyebrows. Wow, a guy who literally cannot take a hint

Laura feels her stomach flip and reaches around for her pepper spray. A hand lands on Kirsch’s shoulder and the tall redhead sitting with the girls behind them leans over the row.

“Hey Kirsch, there’s this favor I need, um, could you like, screw off?” the girl asks sweetly. Kirsch scowls at her.

“That is totally uncool! Why you gotta be like that, Danny?”

“This freshman very obviously does not want you hitting on her. It’s gross and invasive, caveman bob,” Danny hisses.

“Fine, you don’t have to be an asshole about it,” Kirsch whines, getting up and switching to a seat across the aisle.

“You’d be surprised,” Danny mutters. She smiles at Laura and sticks out her hand. “Hi. Name’s Danny.” Danny’s hand is smooth and cool against her own. And that smile, holy fishsticks. Laura swallows and moves her face into what she thinks might be smiling. It’s kinda hard to tell when she has no idea which way is up.

“Laura. Thanks for that. I don’t know why I didn’t just punch him in the throat,” she rambles, blushing at her inability to just shut up, oh my god, shut up!

Danny laughs and leans back into her seat. The girls she’s sitting with have moved on in conversation, effectively cutting Danny out of their circle. “S’okay. Kirsch and I go way back.”

“Oh, you mean, you aren’t a freshman?” Laura asks.

“Nope. I’m a junior. I’m not actually in this class at all, but some of the summer society pledges were worried they wouldn’t be able to find the hall, so I came with.” She nods at the girls sitting next to her as if that explains the whole thing, and then she smiles again.

“Isn’t that the women’s athletic group?” Laura asks.

“Yep! We do everything around here, including the Adonis hunt. That’s in the spring though, so it’s not for a while,” Danny says, wrinkling her nose.

“Wow, awesome. So….”

At the front of the classroom the professor stands up and begins to write on the board. Danny winces and stands up.

“Sorry, that’s my cue,” she whispers. Laura panics, her fingers bunching up in her lap as she tries to think of what to say.

“Wait, are you going to be here next time?” she asks. Danny looks her in the eye and smirks.

“Maybe, now that I know you’re here.”

Laura watches Danny retreat out the back door of the classroom in dazed wonder.

Holy. Crap.

She’s still running the conversation over in her mind when she wanders back to the apartment after class. Carmilla is standing in the kitchen stirring tea in her silky black bathrobe. She smirks at Laura and rests her arms on the counter.

“So how many firemen came when the school burned down?”

Laura laughs and shakes her head, her grin widening. Carmilla tilts her head. Something is different. Good different.

“Well?” she asks. Laura shrugs, throwing up her hands.

“I just…” she sighs wistfully, looking at Carmilla in thinly veiled excitement, “I met someone.”