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Please Don't Stop the Music

Chapter Text

They don't know about the things we do, they don't know about the I love you's, but I betcha if they only knew, they would just be jealous of us…

--

Laura's first day back on campus was not exactly how she wanted to start her sophomore year, and probably an omen of the rest of the year, or maybe even the rest of her life.

It started at move-in. She, Betty, LaF, and Perry had gone in together on a bid for a suite in the housing lottery last semester and managed to get a two room in Belmonde Hall, and they'd gotten through exactly two runs of boxes during move in before someone recognized her.

"Oh my god, you're Carmilla Karnstein's girlfriend," some girl who, unfortunately, was about to become Laura's floormate, said.

"Uh, yeah," Laura said awkwardly, balancing the two boxes in her arms.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to like, accost you, it's just, wow this is cool," the girl said, taking a box from Laura and nodded for her to walk.

Laura mumbled a thank you and walked down the hall, shouldering her way into her room and dropping the box of kitchen supplies on the counter and the girl followed suit.

"I'm Alisa, by the way," she said, holding out her hand.

"Laura."

She did not make the obvious comment of yeah I know, which was nice. She hovered for a few moments before saying she had to get back to her own move in and waved with a promise to see Laura later and so it begins.

Perry and LaFontaine balanced the desk for the lounge between them while Betty sauntered behind, directing them while her nose is was glued to whatever text she was sending.

"Who was that?" LaFontaine grunted, dropping the desk down.

"Someone from the floor, who knew exactly who I was," Laura said.

"Yikes."

It had taken a full month before someone had identified Laura. The pictures of them at the airport hit the internet as "mystery girl". More pictures of them popped up over the summer and by mid-July some old high school student recognized Laura and the magazines and internet went crazy. The identity of the girl who launched a thousand YouTube videos was finally known, and they ate it up. Especially when they found out she was a straight A, tenacious student to Karnstein's controversy riddled past and punk rock party girl reputation.

Laura wasn't sure what was worse, the fans on Twitter and tumblr who sent her messages in the boatloads, the paparazzi that hung outside her dad's house until the neighborhood watch kicked in to help, or the magazines somehow always finding her out and affixing the most sensational headline they could find.

"I could get you a bodyguard," Carmilla offered one night when Laura called her.

"I don't want a bodyguard," Laura groaned.

"Neither do I, why do you think I keep ditching Scott?"

The nonchalance Carmilla had about all of this was also irritating. Not that Laura could truly justify blaming her, but still, the cool disaffected smirk as Laura complained about legitimately almost punching a cameraman (the irony of which was not lost on anyone) was not an overly welcome sight.

"The suites don't have a Floor Don but we could talk to someone from housing to make sure you're comfortable," Perry said.

"No, the bigger fuss I make out of this, the worse it'll get," Laura sighed, dropping onto the couch.

"Besides, I'll kick anyone in the crotch who annoys you," Betty said, putting her phone down.

Laura had been considering using krav maga on a few people recently. It might look better if someone other than her leveled a nosey pedestrian on the street. Laura smiled gratefully and pushed herself off the couch, heading back downstairs to collect more boxes.

That night they had a floor program. There was no Floor Don but housing sent one from another building to organize a meet and greet for the floor so they couldn't complain a month from now when they didn't know a single person on the floor to kill the spider they found in their room.

So they all sat in a circle in the main lounge and way too many eyes were looking at the group from room 303.

"So, we're going to an icebreaker," the Floor Don said.

Everyone but Perry groaned.

"Go around, give your name, your major, and one interesting fact about yourself," he said, yawning.

Oh goddammit.

Laura envied everyone who was able to give fun little tidbits about how they owned some rare breed of dog or visited Taiwan and she was sweating in her Toms knowing the fact everyone expected her to give. She wasn't going to of course. Relationship status was not a fun fact you lead with at parties to make friends. But ignoring it would just inflate the elephant in the room that her good friend Alisa might just pop.

"I'm LaFontaine, bio major, and I prefer they/them pronouns, fun fact," they said with a grin and Betty quickly started talking right after to keep anyone from asking questions. And nice as it was, it only hastened Laura's inevitable moment in the world's most glaring spotlight.

It didn't help that Carmilla texted her right as she opened her mouth. She glanced at the screen and knew the entire room knew exactly who was on the other end of that phone.

"Uh," Laura shoved the phone away fast. "I'm Laura, English major, concentration in journalism. And fun fact: I'm Canadian."

For some reason Americans found that interesting, so maybe that would fly. And it kind of did. But there was an exceptionally large gap of silence after Laura spoke that was certainly not there for others.

"Our resident celebrity, Laura Hollis," the Floor Don said.

And there it is. Awesome.

"Unfortunately," Laura said as pointedly as she could and hoped Betty's face didn't mean she was actually going to crotch kick the Floor Don.

Perry jumped into action, introducing herself and, typical Perry, let the room know she was a Floor Don last year and offered herself up as an honorary den mother for the floor. And so the conversation continued as Laura looked back down at her phone and hoped no one was watching.

Carm (8:13PM): Did you move in or are you homeless?

Laura rolled her eyes and smiled.

Laura (8:14PM): Not homeless. But certainly gawked at. I already got my first id.

Carm (8:16PM): Tell them I'm the only one allowed to look at you. Everyone else has to avert their eyes.

Carm (8:17PM): Skype date still on?

Laura (8:18PM): Yes ma'am. 9pm sharp.

Carm (8:20PM): I'll wear something cute ;)

Laura (8:21PM): Calm down lady killer, I don't think we've graduated to Skype sex.

Carm (8:22PM): A girl can dream.

Laura stowed the phone before the conversation took a far less PG-13 turn and looked up to many eyes on her. Alisa was smiling to her friend and whispers and she was sure her name was in there. Yes, I texted my girlfriend. Story of the century.

They adjourned their pow wow just before 9 and Laura all but sprinted out of the room while LaFontaine ran unofficial defense and Betty talked loudly about how annoying she always found it when fans inserted themselves into the personal lives of celebrities. And she grit her teeth as she shoved her door open and stepped into the safe dark of the common room.

But it all faded away as Carmilla's face appeared on screen in the brightly lit living room of her apartment. There was a faint sound of music pumping in the speakers of Laura's headphones.

"Forgive the mood music, babe," Carmilla said. "The Sprouse twins don't know how to shut the fuck up."

As the sentence went on, she got louder and threw a boot at the ceiling and Laura giggled as it fell to the floor in the background.

"How was recording?" Laura asked, taking a sip of cocoa.

"Boring, it's all so artificial in the booth and my ass really cannot fit all the people who are trying to shove themselves up it," she said.

Laura choked on her cocoa and Carmilla laughed, sipping her own glass of red wine and winking.

"Well yours into the only butt people are trying to climb in," Laura frowned.

"More adoring fans?"

"It's not even that, it's the way people just kind of look at me like an exhibit."

Part of Laura's discomfort in all this came from the fact that she knew many of them were trying to place exactly what it was about Laura. Sure, they dressed radically different, they were Type A and Type B, Carmilla was a bit older and had a seedy past compared to her dazzling GPA. But just knowing they were giggling to each other what do you think they even talk about?

"I'm going to go on a limb and say telling you to just ignore it isn't going to fly?" Carmilla said.

"I think we both know I'm fairly incapable of ignoring things," Laura said.

"Well," Carmilla sighed, sitting up. "I know they're all grubby little assholes and I know everyone is all over you. But, maybe think of it in reverse? Think of all the things they don't get to see or hear or take pictures of. Like this, right here. This is just you and me and none of them will ever get to invade it."

Well, that was a fair point. And the more Laura thought about it, the more she liked the idea of having a reason to hide from the world, to walk smugly across campus tomorrow knowing she stayed up half the night on call with Carmilla and they'd never find out, try as they might to picture it.

Laura smiled and expertly shifted the conversation to her classes, to LaF and Perry, to a debate about the merits of Veronica Mars that Carmilla groaned her way through, and on it went all night as they talked until their words became yawns and they whispered their goodbyes and goodnights.

----

About two weeks into the term, Carmilla planned on coming to visit for the weekend. This was coincidentally the same day some guy transferred into Laura's section for Intermediate Nonfiction right at the end of add/drop. Which was fine, until he opened his mouth.

"You're dating that rock chick right?" he said, as class ended and they walked out into the hall.

"Yeah," Laura mumbled.

"That's super hot."

"Hey!"

It wasn't Laura who said it. She turned and saw Will standing there, his eyes a shade of livid Laura had seen in Carmilla before (we're all sure they're not related?).

"Apart from that being my sister you're talking about," he said dangerously. "Let's not fetishize lesbian relationships."

The guy, shocked, walked off in a confused daze, mumbling to himself and Laura gave Will a grateful arm squeeze.

"So you have been reading those articles I send you," she said and he shrugged.

"Kirsch has gone full feminist thanks to Danny so I figure he could use a feminist bro in the Zeta house," he said. "And since my sister came out, listening to people talk about how 'hot' it is, I want to throw up on a regular basis."

That had been something else entirely, and another reason Laura felt bad for complaining to her. While Laura's biggest problem was Alisa constantly knocking and asking for sugar or salt or ten other things she didn't need, Carmilla was dodging all sorts of backlash. While half the LGBT community applauded her bravery, the other half scolded her for keeping quiet, for not formally talking about it. It seemed everyone had an opinion on how Carmilla should be herself.

Laura sighed, and they walked together to get lunch as they did on Fridays after their classes ended at noon. They chatted for a while on the lawn in front of the Lustig building before an obnoxious honk from the through-street a few yards from where they sat with their sushi caught their attention. A familiar black car was stopped and he window rolled down to reveal a sunglass clad woman smirking.

"Get in losers, we're going to Laura's dorm," she said. "Also I don't know where it is, so seriously, get in."

Laura's mouth dropped as she quickly scrambled to her feet and went jogging over to the car. She opened the door and launched into the passenger seat and threw her arms around Carmilla, ignoring the gearshift digging into her stomach.

"You were in at 6 I thought," Laura said, smiling breathlessly.

"I was going to give you an early heart attack by hiding in your room but I have no idea where it is, hopefully this suffices," she says.

"Oh it suffices."

Laura leans over in a smile and kisses Carmilla languidly.

"No, that's okay, I'll get your stuff," Will said, coming up to the car and dropped into the back seat with both his bag and Laura's. Their lunch was also contained in a plastic grocery bag,

"You're a pal," Carmilla said and pulled out.

In the room, Carmilla gaped at the queen size bed Laura had shoved in the corner on her side of the room. Laura came up behind her and wrapped her arms around Carmilla's middle, letting her chin rest on her shoulder and her lips just touch her ear.

"A surprise," Laura whispered.

"A welcome one," Carmilla said, still a little wide-eyed and turning around in her arms. "We'll be uh…christening this, yeah?"

"Oh most certainly," Laura smiled, kissing her lightly. "Besides, it was probably the most mortifying moment of my life having to insist to my dad that I needed a bed big enough for two people, so we better use it for all its worth."

Carmilla smirked.

That night, instead of going to the Zeta welcome back party like they had promised, Carmilla and Laura stayed wrapped up in Laura's room, under the fairy lights, oblivious to the sounds of the weekend outside. Their lips moved together in perfect sync, something they'd perfected in those hours hidden away during the summer.

Their hands slide down body parts smoothly and all Laura could think as she and Carmilla got lost in each other like it might have been their first time was this is ours.

Chapter Text

And when I'm away, I will remember how you kissed me under the lamppost back on 6th street, hearing you whisper through the phone: wait for me to come home…

--

Carmilla was passed out cold in the dressing room of The Today Show. Well, she was passed out cold. An intern, quaking in their boots, had entered the room and tentively tapped at her until she was roused.

"You're on in 5 Ms. Karnstein," they said and then shuffled out of the room.

Carmilla groaned and checked her watch 7:55 AM. By the end of the night she'd be back in Toronto and wrapped in the fluffy Doctor Who blanket in Laura's living room that Carmilla had all but claimed as her own. Laura mumbled something a few nights ago about how it had smelled like her and Carmilla tried not to frown. Of course, that mythical end of the night was going to be who knows what the fuck time in the morning because after this it was off to a CD signing in the Manhattan Barnes and Noble, then a recording for The Tonight Show, then an hour and a half flight from JFK to the Pearson International Airport, and a 30 minute Uber ride to Laura's house outside the city.

Carmilla was counting every minute.

It had been two months since they were last in the same room together and it was part of the reason Carmilla had been stalling the release of this album. But after a summer of silence following the stunt in China, she had little options and November was prime album release time.

The beginning of October had been the last time she heard Laura's voice without a speaker between them, slept in her bed, touched her. It was painful, to say the least, and she knew that Laura wasn't handling it all that much better based on the messages from LaF about her dodging going out with them and throwing herself into classes.

Carm (7:57AM): I'll see you tonight babe.

Laura would see it when she woke up in her dad's house, surrounding by Christmas decorations and snow (according to the weather app). And it would be the last time for a few weeks she would have to wake up alone, but if only there was a way to skip the next 12 hours. Even if she lost them off the end of her life, it would be worth it.

A knock at the door summoned her.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm on my way," Carmilla said, getting up and readjusting the mic clipped to her collar.

She hoped they weren't expecting her to be chipper. Besides it was part of her image, the aloof punk rock girl who didn't really smile. It would work, but she was also trying to sell albums. This was all too annoying for so earlier in the morning and it was way too bright in this studio and the anchors way too hopped up on caffeine.

They asked her the usual questions and Carmilla gave back automated responses. And she was considering seeing if she could get away with napping on the interview couch when they threw her a bit of a zinger.

"So, let's talk about that song," he said.

Oh fuck me.

"It's not on the album, from what I hear," he said.

"Nope."

"Care to elaborate on that?"

No, but my middle finger does.

"It was highly personal, even if the forum wasn't. It was my way to reach somebody and that was that."

"And from the looks of it, you did reach someone."

Oh this just gets better and better as Carmilla sees on the monitor behind the camera a picture of her and Laura together at the airport and she held down a waiting cringe. The fact that her manager had felt the need to give her actual goddamn prep on how to talk about her own relationship was blistering on her patience. And Matt Lauer was even worse.

"I did," she said.

There was an awkward pause that Carmilla relished in as she was sure 10 monitor watching douches in the control room were flipping out to. What a time.

"Do you want to elaborate?" he prompted.

"Not in the slightest," she said.

"Many people in the LGBT community have spoken a bit about this topic and feel like you're silence on all of this could be very damaging," he said.

She loved that she was a topic. Her relationship was a topic that needed to be discussed. Not every fucking move LGBT people make is a goddamn political statement. She'd probably be fined for saying that though. Thanks FCC. Thanks annoyingly persistent journalists. Then again that's how she met Laura, couldn't be too awful.

"It's my business, and I'd like to keep it that way."

"Some would argue you made it everyone's business with that video."

"You wear suits everyday on national television, does that make your shopping habits my business?"

They cut to commercial.

----

She finished up the stint at The Today Show with a performance of the album's single. And as soon as she was clear of the building she slumped over in her seat in the black Escalade now making its way across town.

"Where you trying to get yelled at by the record company?" Rick asked from the front seat.

"That's the dream," Carmilla yawned, bulling out her buzzing phone.

Laura (8:43AM): Do you ever play nice? :p

Carmilla snorted and sat up.

Carm (8:44AM): What are you doing awake?

Laura (8:46AM): Watching you silly. My dad set it to record so he could watch after work.

Carm (8:46AM): Oh joy.

Laura (8:47AM): Oh hush. That song was good. About anyone I know? ;)

Carm (8:48AM): Yeah, some girl I met on the subway

Laura (8:50AM): Har har har.

They texted the entire way as Scott yelled about traffic and his eternal hatred for Manhattan, only almost hitting a biker twice and making comments about the guys walking around in business suits and iPod headphones jammed into their ears.

They pulled up to the block corner that held the illusive book store, already jam packed, even from the view outside. Men and women with cameras were already snapping pictures at her tinted windows while she rubbed her face and tried to pretend this was going to be some kind of fun.

"At least they'll be less controversial with you," Rick said, opening his door and stepping out.

Two deep sighs later, Carmilla was out the door to screams from the crowd and flashing lights. She gave a wave from beneath her leather jacket and a crooked, forced smile from under her sunglasses. Despite the shouts and questions flying at her, she stepped right in the store to even more screams. At least it was warm in here.

She skimmed some of the "Follow me on Twitter", "I love CK", and "#1 fan" signs as she was led by some star struck cashier to the signing table in the back of the CD section, up the escalator. She thanked the hapless employee, and dropped into the seat.

Signing CDs was always tedious. You couldn't sign the plastic case, you had to take out the inside booklet and plant a nice, large signature in silver Sharpie. And the majority of the kids were too hyped up on adrenaline to head the warnings of multiple employees to do just that. So it became a mechanical game for Carmilla to open the case (sometimes still wrapped up in plastic), pull out the book without tearing it, sign, shoving it back in without tearing it, pose for a picture, and repeat.

She plastered on a fake smile, posed for dozens of pictures, and pretended her hand wasn't completely cramping by the end of it.

----

She was at the airport. Recording The Tonight Show had gone far less aggravating than the attempts made to embarrass her on live television that morning. Throughout the day she'd gotten texts from Laura about random things, grocery shopping her and her dad did, a friend she got lunch with, something about LaF and some chemistry set experiment.

The one thing hanging over both of them that they refused to mention was the snow.

Toronto had been blanketed all day in thick white snow according to the news Carmilla watched like a hawk. Neither of them mentioned what it might mean over the phone all day, though Scott and Rick constantly reminded her as Laura's dad probably reminded her.

And her worst fear was confirmed when she arrived at the airport at 9pm to find her flight cancelled. She kept at bay the impulse to punch the screen or throw her bag, he she saw red as she tore her eyes from the monitor and stormed into the bathroom, slamming the stall shut and pulling out her phone. She pulled up Laura's contact page and hovered over the call button.

"Hey."

Hearing the smile in her voice was killing Carmilla.

"Hey, cupcake."

"You boarding soon?"

Well this was torture.

"Not exactly."

Carmilla slumped against the wall as the silence on the other end of the phone confirmed that she had broken Laura's smile. Nothing was worse than spending the whole day in giddy anticipation only to have it snatched away at the last minute.

"I'll be up there one way or another creampuff, it just might take a little longer," Carmilla sighed. "There's not a flight in JFK right now that wants to land in Toronto and somehow I doubt I can ask for a favor from the company after I almost bit off Matt Lauer's head."

Laura sighed on her end.

"Just be safe, okay?"

"Yes ma'am."

"I'll wait up for you."

"I'll make it worth your while then."

They'd dropped into whispers and smiles again as they bid each other goodbye for the time being and Carmilla exited the stall much calmer than she had entered it, apologizing to the young woman changing the diaper of a baby by the far wall.

She walked out and headed back into the street where she joined the massive crowd gathered to hail cabs as snow lightly began to fall here and the slow sounds of I'll be home for Christmas... played a home-hitting commentary.

Shouts and hands went up, but Carmilla pushed to one side and sent out a loud whistle with her fingers in her mouth, hoping some cabbie recognized her enough to stop. Hell, she'd share a cab with 5 of these people as long as she got dropped off first.

It took 20 minutes for her wish to come true and she allowed about 3 others to shove into the cab with her, all too busy trying to get to their destinations to care who they just got in the car with.

"90th and Amsterdam," Carmilla said.

It was going to be one hell of a fucking fare crossing the entirety of Brooklyn and half way up Manhattan island but she didn't particularly give a bother as others rattled of equally ridiculous stops and this cab driver must have thought he struck gold since he was easily making $300 between them all in one go.

It over an hour for them to finally reach Carmilla's building. The snow made people stupid and for some reason the cabby insisted on driving up Broadway once they hit the West Side, so all sorts of tourists got an earful as he honked his way up the island while Carmilla's legs bounced impatiently in the back seat, the last one left from the original group from the airport.

She practically launched out of the car, tossing a wad of cash to the driver and shouting a thank you as she gave her doorman a nod and busted through the revolving front doors of her building.

It took all of 2 seconds for her to locate her car keys and then be out the door again, racing out the lobby and across the street in the slick snow to the parking garage where her deliverance waited.

"Calculating route to 30 Lankin Boulevard, Toronto," said Siri as Carmilla attached the phone to the claw holder on her dashboard.

The drive time currently showed 7 hours and 56 minutes. Christ this was going to be a long night.

Carm (10:36PM): On my way cupcake.

And then she was busting out of the city as fast as possible without wrecking her car (and you know, hurting people too). She was mindful of what Laura would think if she saw Fast and the Furious level of driving she was doing, peeling through cross streets to get off the island but her anxiety to reach Canada outweighed guilt and she pressed on.

She threw on Spotify on to the sounds of Joan Jett and watched the flurries of snow in the headlights move out of the way like bugs. The route took her through Jersey, a good way through Pennsylvania, and then up and up through Syracuse then Rochester and then to Niagara and straddling the edge of the lake until she hit Toronto, and then weaving her way to the Old East York neighborhood and then finally to the glorious sight of Laura's front porch.

Laura called her twice in the first two hours in and Carmilla was eventually forced to admit she was driving up. She heard a pause in Laura's voice but quickly followed it with promises to be careful. After that it was mainly radio silence though she could sense, even from Binghampton, that Laura was nervously pacing the house with cocoa, distracting herself with old BBC specials.

She stopped twice to pee and for candy, the miserable rest stop workers gave her a once over, yawned in recognition, and gave her the change.

A few more hours in the dark and snow and she saw the familiar sights of the Canadian border in Niagara and the merge onto Queen Elizabeth Way. She pulled to a slow stop at the border kiosk and greeted a uniformed woman. Her breathing coming out as frost with the window down and the snow flurried into the car settling on her lap and shoulder.

"Evening," the woman said.

"It sure is," Carmilla said, forking over her license and passport.

"Vehicle registration and insurance please," the woman said, sending the ID passport info into a computer.

Carmilla dug through her glove compartment until she produced the small red booklet containing the registration and insurance cards and handed them to the guard. After another few seconds of information scanning she handed them back.

"Just need to see proof of US citizenship," she said.

Fuck. She'd forgotten her naturalization paperwork. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

"Goddamit," Carmilla muttered, dropping her head onto the horn. "Look, I know I'm probably way out of line asking you this but I forgot my stuff. My girlfriend's from Toronto and I haven't seen her in months and my flight was canceled and I drove like 6 hours so far, please, please, please can you help me out?"

The guard eyed her.

"This the girl that song was about?"

Oh for fucks sake. Was this going to be the rest of her goddamn life? Yeah, one time she made a pretty big scene to get Laura's attention, sorry it involved the entire world. Her bad.

"Yeah, look. I was born in Austria but I got adopted by an American when I was like 3 months old. I can tell you all the info on the naturalization paperwork, I live in Manhattan, my three past residences were San Diego—"

"It's fine Ms. Karnstein," she said. "It's late."

Seriously?

"Head on in, say nothing to anyone and have someone mail you that paperwork before you cross back over, understand?" she said.

"Yes ma'am," Carmilla said, sitting of straight and holding in a smile.

And over the border she was. St. Catherine's, Hamilton, crossing over the lake into Burlington, and following parallel to the water all the way until she saw the beautiful skyline of Toronto and the hints of sunlight threatening the edges of the horizon. And she challenged herself to make it before the sun came up.

She pulled through the streets, left and right and straight and left again and over and over until suddenly, there was the most beautiful sight she'd ever seen. A brick, stand-alone house with white windows, dosed in Christmas lights and a blow up Santa in the front yard. The rainbow lights made the snow blanketing them glow in the paling light.

Home, sweet home.

She parked in the driveway and grabbed only her backpack. She'd deal with the suitcase later (and it's not like Laura didn't have enough of her clothes shoved in a closet somewhere, anyway). She stepped up to the front door and debated ringing the bell, waking everyone versus sneaking in, curling up in bed, and possibly still scaring someone.

Well, whatever.

She fumbled for the key she knew was hidden under the worst fake rock in existence and unlocked the door, quietly as she could, feeling warmth suck her in from the falling snow. The house still smelled like cookies and Laura's perfume was mixed in there somewhere. She toed off her shows and walked carefully up the stairs to Laura's bedroom.

Shockingly, Mr. Hollis had not been one of those parents who insisted the significant other sleep in a guest bedroom, then again, Laura was almost 20 years old.

She carefully opened the door to Laura's room and set her bag down by the front, shutting it behind her. Decked out in posters and fairy lights and bright colors, Carmilla relaxed at the familiar scene and the lump underneath a comforter, with a book still in hand and a reading lamp on, clearly having lost the battle to stay awake.

Carmilla pulled back the covers on the far side and slid in behind Laura, careful not to brush her too hard as she lightly tapped on her shoulder until she began to stir. Laura rolled over and blinked her eyes open calmly taking in the sight of disheveled black hair and dark circles under familiar eyes.

"Hey," she whispered, yawning.

"Made it," Carmilla whispered as the sun raced to light up the sky.

Laura leaned forward and kissed her, one hand coming to gently rest against Carmilla's chest, the other cupping her face with only a just noticeable desperate grip. Carmilla's hand went to Laura's hip and was content there. It was a slow, chaste kiss and while Carmilla imagined her and Laura jumping each other's bones the second they were in the same room together after so long apart, this was much better.

Eventually they slowed and broke, foreheads touching, until Laura nudged Carmilla to turn over. She obeyed and felt something warm snuggled flush to her back, legs tucked together perfectly and an arm going over her waist. Laura's hand slipped under her shirt and lazily drew patterns on her stomach with fingertips until the movements slowed and slowed and stopped all together.

Finally home, Carmilla drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Saw your face, heard your name, gotta get with you, girls like girls like boys do, nothing new…

--

A month was not a long time. Parasites could take longer than a month to screw up your system, fruit could manage a month before getting over ripe, even something as dumb as fly could keep itself alive for longer. A month was not long. But Carmilla counted every day with Laura and marveled at the end of it that she didn't do something tremendously stupid to ruin it.

Hast Du etwas Zeit für mich…

Dann singe ich ein Lied für Dich…

Von 99 Luftballons…

Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont…

She was mostly singing the song as a joke. Sets at music festivals were basically rule free, covers flying left and right, old ass music you hadn't played in 5 years, some obscure demo just now seeing the light of day. No one played festivals for publicity, they did it because it was the last form of concert that the record company couldn't attach a giant dollar sign too. She got paid a flat rate for being here, which she was willing to take a hit on because it was last minute.

"I need some excuse to tell everyone why I'm camped out in Toronto," Carmilla said one morning over Mr. Hollis' pancakes.

"Is this the part where I ignore my burning question and just take that at face value?" Laura said, sipping orange juice.

"We both know the answer to that," Carmilla smiled and Laura returned it.

"Why exactly do you need an excuse?"

Carmilla sighed and concentrated on cutting her stack of pancakes into even squares, something she'd gotten called out for by Laura's father because cutting them into anything but perfect triangles was an affront to breakfast.

"It's PR," Carmilla said. "And I'm trying to avoid getting you and your dad involved for as long as possible."

Laura frowned and took a bite of pancake and changed the subject.

Way Home was perfect in timing and location. Though Rick went completely purple at seeing how little they were paying her for her set (a punishment for forcing them to redesign their whole schedule to get her in a headliner slot), she signed without question and that was that.

And now she was singing 99 Luftballons to hundreds of fans strewn across a grassy field , all in various states of dress, holding up totems, positively reeking of weed, and having a hell of a time.

Thank god Laura's dad didn't come.

Laura herself was away from the squalor of young adult body odor and spilled alcohol, on the wing of the stage and it took a fair bit of energy for Carmilla not to look over at her every few seconds as she felt those eyes trained on her.

99 Kriegsminister…

Streichholz und Benzinkanister…

They were eating it up. She sang 99 Luftballons. Get it? She's Austrian! Even though the song was technically German in origin, it had been a smart late addition to the set and a novelty for people to take away instead of the honey brunette haired girl that seemed to be found within 5 feet of wherever Carmilla was.

Also in attendance, much to Carmilla's irritation, was the pair of giants. Danny and Laura had managed to resume their regularly scheduled friendship over the end of last semester and Xena was not about to let Carmilla booking a music festival stop her. In fact she'd documented most of it so far, perhaps looking for blackmail.

Hab 'n Luftballon gefunden…

Denk' an Dich und lass' ihn fliegen…

She finished off the song to roars and jumps from the mass of bodies below and removed her sunglasses for a brief moment to wipe sweat from where it was trapped on her nose bridge. The sun was unrelenting (wasn't Canada supposed to be frigid?) and even in shorts, black was black and the sky was punishing. Laura had a time with the sunblock this morning when Carmilla had to be coated in SPF 75 about three times and she'd still probably burn.

Carmilla put her sunglasses back on and gave a nod to the crowd as she prepped for her last song. He would not be the ithe/i song as everyone no doubt hoped for and bloggers glued to their computers prepared for.

Instead it was a slightly older song, but they still went crazy over (because they were all ridiculously high most likely). She finished off with a bow and relished in the idea of an ice cold shower to clean the thick layers of sweat mixing with sunblock to create disgusting goop.

She walked off stage, sliding her guitar off and relishing in the fans backstage as she dipped her hand into the ice bucket to get a bottle of water and considering just sticking her whole head in.

"You're sexy when you speak German," whispered a voice in her ear as Laura, wrapped her arms around her waist.

"Flatterer," she said. "There is nothing sexy about German."

"There is when you speak it."

Carmilla rolled her eyes into a kiss and broke away fast to guzzle water and then splash the last remaining drops at Laura who giggled and shoved the water bottle away, getting a cube of ice and dropping it down the back of Carmilla's shirt. Which was more a welcome than Laura intended.

"Luftballons? Really?" Danny said, coming up, backstage clearance pass dangling from her neck.

"Land der Berg, Land am Strome," Carmilla said.

"It's a German song dumbass."

"I'll sing Edelweiss next time."

There were more eyerolls as they made their way farther from the stage, and filled paper plates at the craft services table with as much as they could carry and firmly retired to the Carmilla's trailer in the artist campground.

Air conditioning was a blessing.

"What's your wifi password?" Danny said, face in her phone, sitting on the couch next to Kirsch.

"Xenasucks24," she said.

Danny glared.

"You think I'm kidding?"

Danny glared even more when she typed in the password and it worked. Laura swatted at Carmilla.

"It was not that like two days ago," Laura said, shooting Carmilla a look.

"Special occasion."

She leaned back and closed her eyes in her chair while Laura turned on the TV and flipped to some show about space on the Discovery Channel that only her and Kirsch seemed to be interested in.

The calming sounds of the AC hum and the narrator dictating how they're all going to get sucked into a black hole was unceremoniously interrupted by a fit of hushed laughter from Danny's spot on the couch. Carmilla gave her three seconds before she raised her heavy and still damp head to glare at her, and was surprised to find Danny directing that laughter at her.

"What?" Carmilla shot.

Danny shook her head and allowed Kirsch to take the phone to investigate as she laughed harder. Laura was interested at this point, turned down the TV to listen, indifferent to Danny's fit of laughter.

"Uhh," Kirsch said, scrolling on the phone. "It's an article with a picture of you two…uh…holding hands at an airport."

Well that only took a month to surface. Carmilla sighed, sitting up.

"Headline says: 'Carmilla Karnstein Emerges to Spend Day With Gal Pal'—"

"What?!"

It was Laura. Carmilla practically jumped out of her seat at the outburst and Danny's laughter only got louder as Laura's face went tomato red, perhaps a mix between anger and embarrassment.

"Wait, 'gal pal'?" Kirsch said. "Like, they think you two are-?"

Laura grabbed the phone out of his hands and stared at it herself, fuming through flaring nostrils and Carmilla tried not to react to tiny ball of righteous rage Laura because this was a time for annoyance, not smiles. Still, she was adorable.

"See, this is what's wrong with media," Laura said, shoving the phone back at Danny. "It's ten times more acceptable to come out as a gay man but Lois Lane-forbid a woman not be interested in a guy—"

"Well let's not make conclusions," Danny said.

"Did you say 'Lois Lane-fordbid'?" Carmilla said.

Laura sighed and dropped into her seat.

"So, do you gal pals want to get real food?" Danny said, pocketing her phone.

"Oh no," Carmilla said. "You are not turning this into a thing. I will toss you out of my moving tour bus."

"But what would your gal pal say?" Danny said in feigned shock.

Carmillla threw a pillow at her head.

----

A few weeks after the festival, LaFontaine came over to Laura's house while Perry's family was on their yearly summer vacation to Germany.

"Well if it isn't my two favorite gal pals," they said at the door when Laura let them in.

"I will kill you," Carmilla said from the living room.

"Why again is this a bad thing?" Mr. Hollis said from where he watched TV in the armchair.

"Because dad," Laura said, stepping back to let LaFontaine in. "It's gross heteronormativity and just furthers the idea that women have to prove their sexuality."

"Uh huh," he said, trying to look like he was following but Carmilla could see the look of panic inside his head as he was completely lost.

"Laura's just mad that they think she's my bestie and other people think they still have a shot with me," Carmilla winked at Laura who turned red and narrowed her eyes.

"Social justice aside, is food happening? Because I didn't eat breakfast in preparation for endless breadsticks," LaFontaine said. "And hey Mr. H."

He returned the wave and went back to the soccer game on the TV. Carmilla hoofed herself up from the couch and grabbed her wallet, kissing Laura's temple to calm her as took her hand and with her free one sent out a text that she hoped wouldn't backfire.

They took Carmilla's car to the Olive Garden across town and LaFontaine, as promised, practically demolished their breadsticks the second the small basket was placed in front of them.

"How was the music festival?' they asked when they finally took a moment to breath and swallow.

"Hot has fucking balls," Carmilla said.

"Fun," Laura said. "And a little bit humid."

"Yeah, you weren't the one lugging a guitar for a half hour set," Carmilla said.

"Danny and Kirsch said hi, by the way," Laura said, taking sip of her water before grabbing the tongs for the salad.

"How are they doing?"

"Tall."

Carmilla smirked into her cup as Laura, again, shot her a warning look. Wasn't picking on ex-girlfriends the current girlfriend's job? Well, even if said ex was actually just an ex-almost.

They talked through lunch and fought when Carmilla insisted on covering the bill and, as per usual, dropping an outrageously too large tip onto the table.

It was customary, though many of the masses didn't realize it, for the agencies and publicists of celebrities to tip off the paparazzi about their location in the effort to gain publicity from a few candids. Today, it was Carmilla herself who called her hated nemesis the TMZ photographers to appear outside the Olive Garden as they walked out.

And true to the tradition of media, they appeared rather fast. The second they opened the door to the restaurant, cameras started flashing and there was a commotion. She felt a little bit bad for the unsuspecting employees and guests inside the restaurant but she was also quite proud of this plan.

So, after taking a full step outside the door and standing in plain view of the cameras, Carmilla turned to Laura, cupped the back of her neck, and pulled her in, planting a blatant kiss on her surprised lips and holding it until Laura had no choice but to kiss her back and then broke away just as showy.

"Gal pal my ass," Carmilla said to Laura and then flipped off the camera for extra measure and walked hand-in-hand with Laura down to her car.

LaFontaine followed, open mouthed and practically bursting from holding in a smile. They got in the back seat as Laura shut her door and turned to Carmilla.

"What the heck was that?' Laura said. "I thought you said you wanted to keep them away as long as possible."

"If I had to hear you complain about being called my 'gal pal' one more time I was going to throw my guitar in the lake," Carmilla said. "Besides, the less ammo the Iron Giant has the more enjoyable my life is."

They sped off from the Olive Garden and in Carmilla's periphery she was sure she caught the ghost of a smile. And later that night, after LaFontaine left and the internet exploded with the pictures from lunch, and Mr. Hollis very nearly had a heart attack, she knew she saw a smile as Laura yanked her in and kissed her like cameras were watching.

Chapter Text

Wise men say: only fool's rush in, but I can't help falling in love with you...

--

Silas held two concert series a year. The first was in the fall as a welcome back block party in the quad. The second was an end-of-year concert, also in the quad, that usually got a lot more attendance with the weather balmy and the sun shining.

Laura did not attend the fall concert, too busy in the library with a midterm paper and helping LaFontaine organize some data set for a lab project. However, when April finally rolled around and the stage was in the process of set up, Laura was buzzing with excitement.

Carmilla had been a last minute decision by the student committee in charge of the event. They'd apparently been fighting over some hipster ska band or some band that opened for Ed Sheeran and the middle ground was reached in Carmilla Karnstein, should she accept, which evidently they weren't to keen about but Laura couldn't blame them either and was fairly convinced the only thing that swung her to the yay side of yay or nay was Laura pouting over Skype that she hadn't seen her in a month and something about that Rollingstone cover just not doing it for her…

Carmilla emailed them back within 2 minutes. And they thought Carmilla was the ladykiller in the relationship.

"Just for my sanity's sake," LaFontaine said. "Is she staying here?"

"No, she has to stay in a hotel because of some press contract thing and can you let it go? It was one time," Laura said. It had really been LaF's fault for not knocking.

"Great, you can terrorize hotel staff then," they said, taking a bite of cereal.

Carmilla had been live texting her travel in the tour bus all morning to Laura. She felt bad. Carmilla hated being shoved in the thing and even more, being denied Bagheera. But again, some nonsense about contracts and press tours forced her to play by the rules because apparently this new record company was very keen on keeping her leash as tight as possible (Laura secretly didn't blame them).

"No one is terrorizing anyone," Laura said. "We are allowed to have Netflix nights in my bed."

"Yeah, someone should tell you guys that," LaFontaine snickered.

"Oh stop LaFontaine," Perry said. "Relationships have many facets."

"Yeah that include having to bleach the shower," Betty said.

"And with that I am meeting Danny for lunch, goodbye," Laura said getting up fast to race her reddening cheeks.

More catcalls and jeers followed her out the door as Perry scolded them both just as the door shut and Laura shook her head, smiling just a little bit.

Carm (11:03AM): This is torture.

Laura snorted at her phone.

Laura (11:04AM): I think some POW's might disagree but okay.

She slid the phone into her pocket and pulled the sunglasses from their perch on her head down to her nose and relished in the bright, spring sunlight. The air was soft and only slightly cool enough to warrant the bunny cardigan over her tank top.

She walked across the campus to the caf through throngs of people already drunk in their efforts to "pregame" the concert later and to soothe he wounds of impending finals. Games of Frisbee and sunbathers littered all open green areas of the campus and thankfully the Zeta's weren't getting into round 3 of the water balloon war with the Summer Society.

Laura was very near a junior. This was insane. Her major declared, her classes getting more and more specific to journalism (which, thank god because she couldn't handle another class forcing her to take notes on mitochondria). Sophomore year was over and she and Carmilla had managed to make it last almost a year. Just two more months and then could finally celebrate an anniversary without Carmilla griping about unimportant milestones.

Danny was already waiting outside the caf, equally bespectacled with sunglasses and leaning back in her seat to take in the sunlight. Laura trotted up to her and knocked her toe against her caf. Danny smiled and sat up when she saw her.

"About time Hollis," she said, getting up.

"It is way too gorgeous outside to rush over here, even for my grumbling tummy," Laura said.

Danny laughed and they walked through the doors, sunglasses coming off and eyes adjusting to the dimmer light, already sun kissed skin relishing in the cool air conditioning. They staked a claim on a booth in the corner, dodging the huge tables of freshman jittering and gossiping about the concert. One or two caught sight of Laura and burst into even more whispers.

"It's like I'm the freaking Boy Who Lived," Laura groaned, removing her cardigan to claim their table.

"Well, you are Elvira's chosen one," Danny said, tongue shoved into the side of her cheek and breaking out into chuckles at Laura's pout.

They hit up the pizza station and got a plate to pile up breadsticks for the table. Danny drenched her pizza slices in the shavings of hot pepper while Laura was already picking and eating pepperoni slices as they made their way back.

"When is the Bride of Dracula gracing us with her presence?" Danny asked, sitting back down.

"She's very vocally on her way," Laura said, scrolling through three more texts from Carmilla. "She hates the tour bus."

"Oh yeah, plasma TV, full kitchen, leather seats, how dare they make her a prisoner there."

"You know she loves driving. Secretly I'm happy they make her do it, makes me feel better."

Danny frowned.

"The only accident she ever got in was someone else hitting a car she was in. She's actually a pretty good driver," Danny said.

"I know but…"

She pushed it aside and dove into her now nearly naked pizza, the pepperonis having been devoured already. She took half a bread stick, dipping it in their cup of marinara and relished in it, despite knowing full well the food quality of a college cafeteria wasn't exactly something to write home about but still, pizza was pizza.

"Don't you have some sappy anniversary coming up?" Danny asked through mouthfuls.

"I could say the same about you and Kirsch," Laura raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah and I think he's going to give himself a aneurysm thinking too hard about it," Danny said. "But what about you? She stealing you away to Hawaii this time?"

"Doubtful," Laura rolled her eyes. "I don't know, we haven't really talked about it. We've actually had a kind of weird cold war lately."

"Uh oh," Danny said.

"No, nothing bad or anything. We're just kind of playing a game of chicken I guess about the whole…L word thing."

"Ohhh."

Danny leaned back in her seat, wiping her mouth with a napkin and taking a sip from her soda. Laura wished she hadn't done that. Because that made it serious, that meant the nights Laura spent staring into space thinking about it were completely justified and she should in fact be freaking out about it and the bad memories getting dredged up from the recesses of some corner at 4am.

"It's not like a huge deal or anything," Laura said quickly. "I'm just kind of…I've never said that to anyone who wasn't family before and I kind of have a—well I'm just kind of super aware it's the last thing I ever said to my mom before she…"

Danny's teasing eyes soften instantly and she leaned back forward, grabbing Laura's hand quickly and squeezing. This wasn't helping the whole this isn't super serious thing. Damn.

"I just…you know if I rush it it's like well am I doing that so I can say I said it before something awful happens? I know she wants to hear it," Laura looked down. "But I don't really trust the universe not to take her away from me the second I admit."

"You do though, right?" Danny said. "L word her?"

Laura looked up and felt her stomach bubbling in the best way. She tightened her lips to try and force away a smile. The butterflies were certainly better than the ball of lead that waxed every time she thought about saying those words aloud. So she'd take what she could get out of it and just nodded, dropping her eyes to her plate and she knew Danny was beaming.

"You'll figure out the best way to get your point across Hollis, " she said.

Laura felt like Danny made it feel so much easier than it was. And maybe it should be easy. But Laura was terrified. You said I love you to people on the phone as you were hanging up or as they were leaving for trips. Didn't anyone ever bother to wonder why? So that you could let them know they were loved one last time in case you never see them again. Unconscious as it was, Laura discovered it the second they told her she'd never see her mom again.

"She knew you loved her…"

That was cruel and never enough and poisoned the word for her. And she knew she did, she knew she loved Carmilla. She fought it for a few months, especially during the grueling press tour that kept Carmilla away from her for months. But the morning she curled up into Laura's bed after driving for hours to get to her days before Christmas she knew. She'd thought it before dropping off to sleep and woke up thinking about it.

Saying it out loud meant Carmilla would know too, and the cruel gods that took away her mother would too.

She lost her appetite.

----

Laura didn't really get a chance to see Carmilla before the concert. She was trapped in sound checks and briefings from Rick. Scott did find Laura to give her the pass to let her backstage and Laura thanked him, slipping it into her pocket and going back to the apartment to gather everyone.

"Okay everyone, let's go watch Laura's girlfriend eyefuck her from the stage and pretend it's a concert," LaFontaine called out to he apartment.

Laura didn't dignify her red cheeks with a response. LaFontaine laughed and Laura rolled her eyes, following them out the apartment door with Betty and Perry in tow. They met Danny, Kirsch, and Will outside the dorm building and J.P. jogged to catch up with them halfway through their walk to the quad.

There was a sizable crowd already formed. But LaF was not at all above playing the Laura card and kept shouting "Subject of probably 8 songs coming through, step aside" much to Laura's completely mortification and Betty's laughs.

It did work in getting them fairly close to the stage and Laura held tight to the backstage lanyard in her pocket. She liked watching Carmilla from an audience point of view. She was theatrical, in her element, bouncing on the stage and playing the guitar like it was a third arm. It was exhilarating to watch (and yes a teeny tiny bit of a turn on).

"Is she going to do that thing where she goes on an hour late…again?" Betty asked with 5 minutes to the scheduled start of the concert.

Laura shrugged and checked her phone. She'd sent a text to Carmilla saying she was on her way and hadn't received a response so hopefully that meant someone actually took her phone from her and forced her to get ready. She tended to not make crowds wait too long if Laura was there though.

And to everyone's surprise, she started 2 minutes early. Sauntering on the stage in combat boots, deep maroon pants, and some sort of black tunic shirt that stopped just short of her waistline in the front and flowed like a cape behind her. Her curly hair was fluffed by the humidity and even from afar, her makeup was immaculate.

"Close your mouth Frosh," LaF said.

"And you thought Carmilla would be the one eyefucking," Betty said.

Carmila strummed her guitar a few times and scanned the crowd, Laura knew she was searching for her. She didn't make a show of her location or wave. She waited, knowing Carmilla would play a vamp on that guitar for hours if that's how long it took her to find Laura before she started.

Her search was fruitful, as her eyes fell on Laura and she smiled wide, winking and then stepped to the mic to address the screaming crowd.

"My old friend Silas," Carmilla said.

Hearing her voice again was intoxicating.

She jettisoned right into her set, playing through about 3 news songs from the album. Laura's untitled song, still ever unplayed and not talked about. Old songs came up after that. Carmilla consciously ignored playing the old singles that had been about Ell. Though Laura told her she didn't need to do that it was something personal with Carmilla. She refused to sing songs about the mysterious first girlfriend and instead forced the ignored songs from her earlier albums onto everyone until they decided they were untouched gems.

"So, this next song is kind of—just stick with me, yeah?" she said, removing the guitar.

She went behind her and pulled out something smaller, still black, with four strings. A ukulele.

"I spent like 2 months learning how to play this sucker," she said, walking up with the tiny instrument, clearly still not overly comfortable with the way it sat in her arms. "But it's for a surprise."

Laura waited, ignoring her roommates' staring at her in her periphery.

"So this might be deja vu," Carmilla said. "But there's some stuff I wanted to say for a while and I think I figured out the best way to do it. So I hope you guys don't mind a cover for a friend."

For a friend. Yep. Now everyone around her was looking at her and Carmilla's eyes fixed on her as well. This time the playful wink and smiles were gone, there was something very serious in the way she watched Laura watching her back.

She strummed the ukulele about 4 times before stepping up to the microphone.

Wise men say…

"Holy shit," LaFontaine hissed snapping their head between Laura and Carmilla. Betty was practically ready to burst next to her.

Shall I stay? Would it be a sin…?

Danny was nudging Laura who was dumbstruck where she stood.

If I can't help falling in love with you…

Laura's jaw was on the floor and her heart was pounding. She didn't even bother pretending to focus on being impressed that Carmilla had picked up the ukulele. Carmilla's eyes on her never left and slowly got a more playful as she strummed and strummed. The complete vulnerability of it all was not lost on Laura though as she heard exactly what Carmilla was telling her.

The keyboardist had begun hitting chords to backup the ukulele and everyone got quiet, listening and swaying to the light beat.

Eyes on Laura be damned.

She smiled back.

Darling so it goes, some things were meant to be…

Carmilla worked through the verses with more confidence and have. Smiling to herself when she could tear her eyes away from Laura long enough to feel embarrassed before finding her again and holding onto her like a lifeline.

Take my hand, take my whole life too…

The two-second pause Carmilla took was enough, because as soon as she opened her mouth again, the entire crowd joined her in unison.

'Cuz I can't help falling in love with you…

'Cuz I can't help falling in love with you…

The crowd exploded and LaFontaine pounding on Laura's back in victory like she might have just won the big game. Danny was beaming down at her and Betty let out a loud cat whistle, nudging Laura whose face was beet red and splitting in a smile.

The people around them occasionally got in on the teasing too but on the stage she saw only Carmilla letting out a deep breath and giving a little bow to the audience, setting the uke down as well and blatantly wiping a sheen of sweat from her forward and looking like the tiniest person on the planet, embarrassed and waving and shy.

But when she caught Laura's eye again, she looked like a giant. She blew her a kiss with another wink and Laura rolled her eyes, shaking her head. I love you were the words Laura watched silently mouthed to her and she nodded back with a watery smile.

Quickly she pushed her way through the crowd with feverish apologies and ripped her backstage pass out of her pocket, throwing it over her head and rushing up to the security guard at the gate behind the stage. He looked her over for much longer than Laura could stand before letting her in.

Laura broke out into a jog in the backstage area until she found Carmilla at the craft services table, mid-sip of water when their eyes met and Laura took a few more steps before jumping up and into her arms, nearly knocking her right over.

Carmilla held tight though, arms wrapped securely around Laura and chin securely notched at Laura's shoulder.

"I love you too," Laura whispered before she could overthink.

Carmilla was stiff against her before she moved to set Laura back on the ground and pulled back to look at her.

"You love me?" Carmilla asked dumbfounded as if she hadn't just poured her own heart out in front of a couple hundred students. Did she expect that not to get a reaction?

"Yeah," Laura nodded, choosing to be kinder than the snappy retorts that popped up as options in her head.

"Awesome," Carmilla breathed and Laura snorted.

She lunged forward and found Carmilla's lips, even with her eyes closed. Her hands cupped Carmilla's neck as a second pair of hands rested on her own waist and they kissed and kissed and kissed.

"Thank goodness you're better with words than me huh?" Laura laughed against her lips.

"Oh please," Carmilla rolled her eyes and closed them again, kissing her again.

Chapter Text

You just have to see her, you just have to see her, you just have to see her, you just have to see her, you just have to see her, you know that she'll break you in two…

--

Carmilla hated California. Her mother still lived here and the entire city of San Diego smelled like things that reminded her of happy times. In a world where she did not meet Laura, where she was still guzzling fat, white pills and seeing the worst moment of her life flash and flash again until she didn't know what was real and what was not…in that world she would never have made it passed the moment the plan touched down on the runway in sunny Southern California.

But texts from Laura were waiting when she switched her phone of airplane mode.

Laura (12:02PM): Have a good flights! Text me when you land!

Laura (12:46PM): My dad wants you to bring him one of those Governator t shirts but I think they stopped making them? Let me know.

Laura (1:32PM): So I started trying to watch Moffat Doctor Who and couldn't make it passed two episodes.

Laura (2:05PM): Honestly he's just so passively sexist which might the WORST kind because it sort of quietly infiltrates media and makes people think it's the norm.

Carmilla chucked, scrolling down through more texts that clearly came from a bored stream of consciousness. Eventually, tagged on at the end of some text about how Angel was superior to Buffy in some regards was a small "I miss you" that was flagged with a sad face.

Carmilla quickly worked at texting her back, despite the calls from Scott to get up. If they could make it through Carmilla's three month promo tour for her new album, they could get through a few weeks in the summer of Carmilla in California.

The bigger issue was, like always, dodging her mother. So far, according to her brother, her mother was still under the impression she was in London doing a charity event show. With luck, she'd get the studio sessions done fast and jet back to Toronto, safe, quiet, and undetected.

"Let's go," Scott said, tapping his watch.

Carmilla stood and shoved her phone in her back pocket, grabbing her backpack from the seat next to her and throwing it over her shoulder. They stepped off the plane onto the tarmac of the runway and walked to one of the studio cars. She couldn't convince them to ship Bagheera from her apartment in New York across the country.

"It took a lot of finagling to keep the press off this one," Rick said from the front seat of the car.

"Gee, thanks for doing your strenuous part to make sure I don't get emotionally torture," she mumbled, scrolling through Laura's Instagram feed.

"Carmilla we'll make sure she doesn't come near you," he said, turning to face her. She looked up with a raised eyebrow.

"Thank you," she said evenly.

He turned back around and she went back to her phone, snorting at some picture of herself asleep, hair strewn across the pillow, mouth hanging open. Laura one time made a collage of about 5 different pictures she took while Carmilla was asleep. Her Instagram had been set to private and the pictures went up without tags. And Xena commented on every single one.

It would be okay. A few days out in California working through a grueling recording schedule and then tucked safely away back on the other side of the continent and in a different. Her mother wouldn't get her there.

Her mother was the only danger she was looking out for.

----

The first day of recording was a catastrophe. Two of the band members didn't show until an hour in so they could only record the acoustic track and then sit and twiddle their thumbs. When they finally did show a microphone blew and they had to wait 2 hours for the record company to send someone to fix it. And after all this they only managed to record a grand total of 3 songs from the album, two of which had to be rerecorded the next day.

So Carmilla hit the bar.

"I'm not her," she said when she sat down and the bar tender raised an eyebrow. He shrugged and went to popping the top off a Corona and setting it down in front of her.

The bar was on one of the piers. Modeled to look like some sandy, surfer shack with shark bite riddled surfboards on the wall. The bartender wore flip-flops and a knock-off Tommy Bahama shirt, sunglasses perched on the top of his head.

"So what brings you to San Diego?" he starts.

"Not your conversation," she said.

She took a long sip of the beer bottle and turned to lean her back against the bar to the sounds of his offended huffing. She should watch for spit takes into her drinks if she got more tonight.

She pretended to be interested in whatever sport was on TV as she checked her phone periodically. Laura was live texting her some family function drama and Carmilla snickered into her nearly empty bottle when the Snaps started to come in. At the very least Mr. Hollis looked as miserable as her.

She put the empty beer bottle down as the sun was setting and watched out the corner of her eye while he popped open another. No poisoning that she could detect. She threw back more sips as Laura's texts came farther and farther apart. She was three hours ahead and normally an early sleeper. Carmilla put her out of her misery with a goodnight text and slid the phone back into her pocket, swiveling around to face the bartender again.

It was just after she finished the second beer that she saw her.

Her.

Holy shit.

Carmilla felt magnets. Magnets to the seat, magnets in her eyes. And then she felt bombs inside her ears. Her brain was soup. She was hallucinating a wicked dream. What was in those Coronas?

"A six pack of Ultra to go?"

Her voice.

Oh fuck. Her ears were ringing. But somehow the echo of that voice got past the walls of buzzing numb inside her ears. She heard it over and over again ordering the beer. She always drank beer. She got Carmilla drunk for the first time in her life.

She was oblivious to the world around her while Carmilla was singular and microscopic and focused on that universe positioned 5 seats down the bar, leaning in to hand off money, and all of it looking exactly like Ell. The curve of the body, the sun-bleached hair and tan skin. If she saw her eyes she'd be done for.

Carmilla turned and faced the ground, she only knew her eyes were wide when she finally blinked them and they burned. Her mouth was hanging open like that might make her sudden breathlessness easier to tackle. She didn't know she was sweating until her hand was scraping her forehead to clear it of perspiration.

There was a thank you and then the footsteps faded until she was gone and only then did Carmilla look up at the phantom image of where Ell stood. The air on that part of the bar was a vacuum and if she walked through it she might lose all oxygen too, evaporate into nothing. It might feel better than this, right now.

"You okay?" the bartender asked and Carmilla looked up, blinking his image into focus.

"Fine."

"You look like you've seen—"

"Don't say it. Can I get a gin and tonic please?"

He obliged and she massaged her head as she drank and drank, hoping it would fill up the gaping hole in her chest she hadn't noticed until the second she heard Ell's voice. She'd been here. She'd smiled here, breathed air here. Carmilla was in a place she didn't belong. A place that was digging through her breastplate to get at the scars hiding below.

She got another drink. And sucked it up with as much fervor. It wasn't filling gaping places. It was draining out and into her stomach. It was just sitting there. Maybe it was the lake of fire everyone talks about. Maybe she's drunk and her poetics were going to shit.

She should leave before she drowns, before Ell came back, before the universe drove a nail into her other hand. She did her best not to stumble out and pushed her phone deep into her pocket.

The first mistake she made that weekend was not telling Laura.

The second mistake she made that weekend was going back to the bar.

----

She was there the next night. Sitting in almost the exact same spot with the same bartender in a different tacky, tourist shirt. She skipped the beer and sprang for the gin as soon as she sat down. She considered leaving about 7 times and 3 drinks in.

Why was she here? Last night she wanted nothing but to run far, far away from well Ell was and to where Laura is. But here she was, glued to her seat, gravitating to alcohol, convincing herself she was here for the atmosphere and company and not because she was desperate to look at her again. Desperate to see if she could catch the familiar scent of cheap body spray masking layers of sea salt.

She had a Skype date with Laura tonight. She couldn't be drunk for it, she couldn't miss it. She focused on Laura's face. That's the one she wanted to see, lilac fabric softener and cookies were what she wanted to smell. Laura, Laura, Laura. So why was she here? Why?

Mistake number 3 came when Ell entered the bar again and Carmilla, two gins heavy, walked up to her. She didn't believe in religion but was certain she was carrying a cross up a hill.

"Hi."

Ell's familiar, perfect shoulders stiffened and her head turned only halfway, her profile facing Carmilla who did exactly what she didn't want to do and saw those eyes. Blue, blue eyes. Fuck.

Her knuckles were white on the counter as she turned around completely to face Carmilla.

When last they saw each other, Carmilla was almost 18. And Ell was still taller than her, still stood straighter than her, and older for sure with stronger cheek bones and a woman's mouth.

"Holy shit," she said in the same voice.

"I said the same thing," Carmilla said back after a difficult swallow.

"What the hell are you doing here?"

"Recording an album."

Ell dropped onto a stool, mouth hanging open just a bit. She set to work at rubbing her temples and blowing out air in ridiculous huffs of frustration, all the while Carmilla stood awkward and drunk in front of her, feeling 16 all over again.

"Why are you here though?" she said. "Right in front of me."

"I don't know."

"Are you drunk?"

"Yes."

"Christ."

She was looking down again, chewing on the inside of her cheek and rubbing her forehead. Carmilla was stuck there, staring at her, like a lost kid waiting to be taken to the front to be found.

Ell swiveled around in her stool to face the bar and Carmilla felt the loss like a punch. She was rewarded, however, with Ell turning back around quickly after settling her tab and standing up, bringing them closer than they'd been in years.

Carmilla stepped back.

"Come on," she nodded to the front door and Carmilla and started walking.

They stepped out into the cool night air coming off the dark waves below. It was quieter on the pier, everyone had jammed into bars and restaurants to watch soccer or baseball or something.

Carmilla gravitated to the railing, she leaned against it and let her gaze fix on the moon.

"You always hated full moons," Ell said, stepping up next to her.

Her pocket was buzzing. Texts.

"You said it 'blotted out the more important things about the night sky'," she continued.

Carmilla's palms itched, knowing who was texting a storm in her pocket. She couldn't reach for it. She couldn't open it. She couldn't bring Laura into this world. She couldn't further insult her by lying to her with Ell's hip almost touching her own.

"I was suppose to be on Skype with my girlfriend right now," Carmilla swallowed and then gritted her teeth, hoping one would break as punishment. No such luck, when no blood spurted out of tooth hanging in two.

"So why are you here?"

She asked it so calmly, without accusation or seduction or suggestion. Had she grown so much in their years apart?

"I need my pills," Carmilla said, softly, to herself.

"Your what?"

"I punched out a reporter—"

"I heard."

"Fucked up my hand and kept seeing him and seeing you so I kept myself dizzy for a year."

Ell had nothing to say to that and didn't even have the decency to look guilty and it set Carmilla's blood on a boil as her phone kept buzzing. She wanted to hit Ell too. She gripped the railing so tight she felt a few splinters push back but she held on. She was not herself.

What would Laura think?

Carmilla moaned in despair and kicked a spoke of the railing.

"You're not even going to apologize?" Carmilla said.

"For what?" she said, now her voice was gaining some color.

"For breaking my heart and screwing me up for years?"

"I didn't do a damn thing."

"Oh please, you heard all those songs."

Still no guilt, but at the very least she didn't fight back on that one. She shifted her weight and sighed.

"I did hear one song recently, probably the most emotional I've seen you get," Ell said, carefully.

"That song wasn't for you."

Buzz, buzz went the phone.

"I know," she said. "So why aren't you with her right now?"

"You don't get to play the voice of reason," Carmilla nearly hissed.

Ell reached out to put a hand on Carmilla's shoulder and she shot back like it had been a hot poker. Ell looked hurt, at least in just a flash on her face, before pulling her hand back and tucking to her side.

You don't get to touch me.

"Carmilla I was hurting a lot too," she said. "The things your mother made me believe, I thought were real for a very long time. I'm still not convinced it all isn't. And I'm happy that you moved past your fear to have someone you very clearly love, if I'm not overstepping any bounds."

You shouldn't even be talking to me. Where is Laura? She should be here.

She was going to cry, she couldn't cry, she was 22. She was an adult. But she was so, so alone.

"I need Laura," Carmilla whined into her hands as she felt two warm tears seep out.

Ell was quiet next to her as she pulled back to look at her splintered hands and groaned, seeing the red skin covering her palms.

"I want her to be here, not you," Carmilla coughed out.

"You can make that happen," Ell said. "I'll walk you back to your hotel."

"You won't even apologize," Carmilla said, kicking the railing again. Her hands were beginning to hurt. Laura wasn't here to pluck them free of invaders with tweezers and chastise her for it.

"What do you want me to apologize for?" she said. "I'm sorry your mom is evil? I'm sorry I was 17 and not smarter about her lies? I'm sorry she screwed us both up? Which do you want to hear Carmilla?"

She was raising her voice now and Carmilla was feeling smaller than ever.

"All I can say is I'm sorry it all happened. But look what you got out of it," she said, grabbing Carmilla again and this time she didn't have the hungry to jump away. She slumped. "There is a girl who loves you Carmilla, better than me. Don't fuck it up."

It sounded like accusations but Carmilla couldn't lift herself to accuse back because the buzzes in her pocket had stopped. The small piece of Laura keeping her standing on the pier was gone. Just her and the stars and the intruder to her right.

"Let's get you home," Ell said, pulling her up and putting an arm around her waist.

"Home is very far away."

"Then you'll have to settle for a bed."

They didn't talk to the rest of the way as Carmilla directed her towards the hotel. They were both so intent on memorizing the look of the ground and ignore how closely they were touching that they failed to notice a flash of a camera nearby.

Mistake number four.

And when she got back to her room and realized the mistake. She broke the lamp and then the phone and tossed the pillows. She gripped the counter so hard she pushed the splinters beyond the help of tweezers. She must have let out yells and groans because someone called the lobby on her just in time for her to bruise her hand on the wall and dent it with her foot.

----

Laura felt sick.

She hadn't slept. Carmilla hadn't responded to 8 texts, 3 phone calls, and Rick, her brother, and her bodyguard all hadn't heard from her. She felt herself begin to shake and sweat and her father found her crying as she remembered the last time this happened.

Please, please, please let her be okay.

She told her she loved her a month ago and was this the punishment she was fearing? She woke up Danny and LaF with phone calls as they too spent hours trying to get a hold of her and found no stories on celebrity car accidents.

They found something worse.

Carmilla with a familiar girl wrapped around her on the streets of LA.

Danny went ballistic.

And now it was 10AM and Laura's phone was ringing off the hook, the ridiculous picture she'd taken of her and Carmilla at the fall carnival lit up the screen every time. But Laura's hand was latched over her mouth, trying to slow her heaving breaths because this couldn't be happening.

Carmilla was not a cheater. She'd stopped sleeping with girls months before they'd even officially gotten together. And then lied about at least one of them. No. Stop it.

"Want me to kick her butt?" her dad said.

That wasn't helping.

The phone stopped ringing and for a few minutes, Laura thought she was getting a reprieve from the onslaught of phone calls until it was her computer buzzing. Carmilla calling on Skype.

"Damn it," Laura hissed as she counted to three and got up to answer it. "What?"

The image on the screen was a pale one with sullen eyes .

"Laura please, you have to listen to me."

"So you can tell me all about your fun night."

Carmilla did not look guilty. She looked sad. Was that worse? She was rubbing her makeup-free eyes with the back of her hands and Laura caught flashes of bright red skin on her palms.

"Why were you with her?" Laura asked, voice shaking.

"I didn't mean to be," Carmilla said carefully. "She came in the bar and I felt like I'd been shot. And then I was so, so angry."

Carmilla wasn't looking at the camera, she was trained on her hands and wiping tears from her face again with the edges and heel of her palm.

"What happened to your hands?" Laura said.

"I was angry."

Laura pushed away the feelings of worry. Carmilla was prone to violence. This was something Laura dealt with in her mind, something she tried to hide or repress or pretend never happened at all. But Carmilla was a violent person. More often to herself than to others.

She was a violent person and a cheater. Why did it feel like she was listing reasons to break up with her?

"We talked, that's all," Carmilla said. "She was helping me get home because I was drunk and then she left."

Carmilla sounded to sincere and sad and she was biting her lip to hold herself back as more silent tears raced each other down her face.

"You have to believe me."

She was whispering now, balled fists rubbing into her forehead. Carmilla groaned and slouched back, looking at her palms and blinking back tears. She looked like a mess. A drunk mess.

She was a heavy drinker, a violent person, and a cheater.

Why was Laura still fighting for her, then?

"Why didn't you tell me? Because it sure felt great to know you ditched our date for her," Laura said, biting down hard and flaring her nostrils without meaning to.

"Because she made me miserable," Carmilla was still whispering. "And I was still miserable. And I didn't want you to be miserable too."

Laura didn't say anything.

"Well done, I feel fantastic right now."

"You belong in separate worlds," she continued. "All I feel for her is anger. And I wanted her to apologize but I guess I make her angry too. We were crap for each other I think, now at least. She kept telling me 'there is a girl who loves you' and 'don't mess it up' and I still managed to. I had to have fucking Ell lecture me."

Carmilla looked resigned to her impending fate. She wasn't making puppydog eyes at Laura or asking for pity. She looked at the floor like a defendant on trial, awaiting their inevitable death sentence.

"I can't do this right now, Carmilla," Laura said, doing her best not to cry as Carmilla silently started up again, eyes still on the floor. "I've been up all night and worried and I don't know which is the ceiling or the floor."

Carmilla nodded.

"Please get your hands looked at, Laura mumbled and Carmilla nodded again.

"Have a good day Laura," she said.

Carmilla stayed on the screen until Laura hung up and she began bawling.

She bawled at the idea that she left Carmilla alone to stew in guilt and grief, bawling that Carmilla turned into someone she didn't know. Bawled at the images in her head of those two together. Bawled that she was losing her best friend. And bawling because her relationship might be over and Carmilla was gone forever.

She drank so she was the only one who got hurt, she was violent so she could let out a storm breaking her chest, and she was not, and never had been, a cheater.

Laura loved her all the same.

But she was in so much pain.

--

No one heard from Carmilla for two weeks, not even LaF. Laura accepted that they had, apparently, broken up by the middle of the second week. She called Carmilla her girlfriend in her head though, even if Danny had vehemently talked about "your awful ex-girlfriend."

Laura knew Danny didn't mean it. If anything, Danny was hurt too. Her image, however annoyed by it she was, of Carmilla was altered. Danny had gone a long way to actually admit she liked Carmilla and now it all was torn down overnight.

What Laura did not expect was a phone call from a California area code shortly after passing the two-week mark.

"Hello?" she said.

"This is Laura, right?"

"Uh, yeah. Who is this?"

Laura feared a reporter and considered just hanging up altogether before she said…

"It's um…Ell Brecht."

Yep, definitely should have hung up.

"What do you want?"

Laura set to pacing. She wasn't sure if she should outright accuse the girl of ruining her relationship and the damage she did all those years ago to Carmilla but it was certainly bubbling close to the surface of control. Ell was taking her own long pause and Laura could hear her sighing on the other end. Hearing her voice for the first time was odd, it made the faceless woman she'd worked up in her head real.

"It's not my place to defend Carmilla and I'm not going to because I tried to tell her to leave--"

"Wow, you're really making a case for her--"

"But I think I should at least try and get you two to talk to each other."

Laura pursed her lips.

"How did you even get my number?"

"I saved the last three contacts in her phone in case I had to call anyone because she passed out or something. Look she's not--she was devastated, I think, to see me. It wasn't a happy time and she was certainly throwing around a lot of blame and all she kept talking about was you and how I was ruining that too apparently. She wants nothing to do with me and she got thrown a curveball. She didn't handle it well, but when does she ever?"

Laura didn't like Ell talking about her as if she knew her still, as if she understood her. The festering jealousy wasn't helping Ell's case.

"How do you even know we're not talking?"

She was fishing for information there as to whether Carmilla was still in contact with her.

"Considering the scathing tabloid crap and the pictures of her headed into her apartment alone...not that hard to piece together. I won't call you ever again, I'll hang up and erase your number. But please, please just try and talk to her one more time. I'm not going to say it's my fault, because it's not. But this is my way of hopefully helping to fix damage I inadvertently caused."

Why did Ell have to be so reasonable and considerate? She wasn't allowed to be. She was suppose to be nasty and cruel and laugh about how she got the girl in the end. Worse, perhaps, than Carmilla's anger at Ell was Ell's own apathy towards her emotions for Carmilla. She just didn't care anymore. Love was there once, but the people they were are gone. Carmilla and Ell existed in time, long ago. There was no place for them now.

Laura mumbled some sort of goodbye and hung up, flopping onto her bed and groaning. She wasn't sure she was ready to forgive Carmilla for her stumble. But perhaps she was ready to talk about it.

And so a week or so later she and LaFontaine found themselves taking a road trip to New York City under some heavy cover because photographers were everywhere outside Carmilla's apartment on the prowl for this exact scenario. The sneaky factor didn't work too well since about 3 pictures of her going in got snapped before the doorman shut the door and blocked their eye line. She took the elevator to the familiar floor and up to the familiar door.

She knocked before she could convince herself not to. And it opened a few seconds later.

"Hey."

"Hey."

If it was the end or the start, remained to be seen.

Chapter Text

Say anything, but say what you mean when you whisper you want this, your eyes tell the same, we are gaining speed, I can barely breath...

--

Laura romanticized things. It was a habit of ingesting way too much heroic, action-adventure TV and supplementing it with fanfiction in the meantime. It painted things a way she knew, in her head, was not really the case but still, who didn't want some nice story and beautiful location for the first time they…did that with their significant other.

Or in Laura's case, her first time having sex ever.

Her mother had died before she could give her the talk on those things and she pitied her father's lobster colored face as he tried to explain things to her. She relied heavily on health class at school and her own research, especially after realizing she was gay and school wasn't exactly going to cover that.

And that, of course, lead to some preconceived notions. She knew many were entirely false. She knew many people weren't going to be so kind and caring as portrayed in fics, she probably wasn't going to be in love with someone before having sex, and it was most certainly not going to take place at some picnic location, alone, on top of a mountain on a clear night with shooting stars everywhere.

"Where did you have sex the first time?" Laura blurted out one day while at lunch with Laf.

"What?" they joked on their soda.

"Sorry," Laura cringed. "I'm just thinking."

"Do you think often about my past sexual experiences?" they said.

"No," Laura sighed. "I'm just—it's been two months with Carmilla and I'm 19 years old and it isn't high school and I'm going back to school in a few weeks and we just—we haven't—"

"I'm so glad we're having this conversation over pizza," they said, putting their napkin down.

Laura gave a small, sad smile, and dropped her gaze to her lap to keep her overheated cheeks from being to glaringly obvious. They rubbed their hands together and dropped them on the table, clearing their throat.

"So, just to be clear, not that I think there is a universe where Carmilla would do this but, she's not pressuring you, is she?" they said.

"No," Laura said. "I'm pressuring me."

"Well that can be just as bad," they said. "You don't have to do it. I mean, I know a lot of people place emphasis on that stuff in relationships and, yeah, further down the line that becomes an important part of it but right now it's nowhere near the most important thing."

"I know that," Laura said. "But…I want to. And I just get a little freaked out thinking about it because when I imagine it, suddenly it's Carmilla in a different light you know? It's like, right now I have funny, giggly, cuddly times with Carmilla and we hold hands and make out. But then with this it's like—sexy, and naked, and seduction and all sorts of other stuff."

They pursed their lips at her words.

"Well, for one, those two sort of Jekyll and Hyde sides you're talking about aren't necessarily exclusive. It's just two different ways of expressing the same thing, she has feelings for you. They'll manifest differently," they said. "And everyone is nervous their first time because it is kind of a side of yourself you've never seen before but you'll recognize it fast and be comfortable with it."

Laura sighed, picking at the Hawaiian toppings on her slice of pizza. Yes, user manuals for this stuff might make things a little less romantic and sexy but at the same time how was she expected to be good at it at all if she wouldn't even know what to do until the second it started happening?

Why couldn't every just like, have sex for the first time all at once? A giant virgin orgy? Okay that was ridiculous and she really need to calm down. It was just Carmilla, nothing about her was scary and if anything, Laura had been the one to take their activities down a slightly more R-rated path on occasion.

"It was in my parent's guest room, by the way," they said. "Senior year of high school, our school's first female drum major. My parents were out so…"

They laughed and Laura smiled and calmed down a bit.

Laura had managed to amass a list from quite a few of her friends, embarrassing as it was. Betty had first gone that far with her boyfriend right before senior year of high school on the couch in his basement. Danny had sex with her second girlfriend, freshman year of college in her dorm room while her roommate was at a party, Kirsch lost his virginity junior year of high school while on vacation and so on the list went.

No one had fantastic stories about being on a sunny beach or surrounded by candles or even setting it up. None of them knew it was going to happen until suddenly it just was. It wasn't planned or premeditated, both parties wanted it and they worked together to reach it.

She wondered though, if she should try to plan it out? Just a little? She had more awareness than any of them now. Maybe it could work out?

So, she decided, she'd plot it out just a little.

----

Carmilla had spent the majority of the summer thus far at her house. She'd taken trips here and there for music stuff but mostly stuck to Toronto and Laura's bedroom, which now had an entire side of guitars, music notes, and black clothes that Carmilla had made all her own.

"Hey cutie," she said as she sat down at the kitchen table with a bowl of cereal, a solid hour after Laura woke up.

"Hey," Laura said, tapping her fingers against the wood methodically as she thought of the best way to try and swing this.

"I can see steam coming out of those ears," Carmilla said. "You okay?"

"Fine, just thinking about—school and stuff. My textbook list came out today," she lied.

Carmilla gave a noncommittal hum in response and went back to her cereal and Laura tried to quell her tapping but the gears in her head kept turning as she tried to remember where her dad kept the candles and if she had any jazz music or wine.

This was ridiculous and she fought off a groan.

"I'm gonna hop in the shower," Carmilla said, getting up and kissing Laura's hair before dropping her bowl in the sink.

Now would perhaps be a perfect opportunity to jump up and say something super sexy about joining her but Danny had also warned her that shower sex was not something as enjoyable as people on the internet made it out to be (side note: she was going to be traumatized by all the things she unfortunately knew about her friends' past experiences).

Carmilla left the kitchen and trotted upstairs and Laura immediately went to hunting for the candles in the bottom drawer next to the fridge. They weren't exactly some lilac or rose scent. In fact she didn't even think they were scented at all, but whatever, they were for aesthetic purposes anyway.

She put them in a pile in the living room and then started digging through her dads CD collection in the corner. There were two rows of Christmas albums, some Beach Boys, The Beatles, quite a few Madonna albums. She eventually found some contemporary jazz compilation album. She knew nothing about the genre, Carmilla knew a fair bit, but whatever, she music was hopefully not going to be the focus.

While Carmilla was still in the bathroom she stole into her bedroom and desperately hunted for a bra and underwear combo that matched and wasn't covered in ducklings, or kittens, or ice cream cones. The closest she came was a pair of red underwear and a black bra. Close enough.

She shoved them into another drawer for later just as Carmilla walked in wearing only a towel and Laura froze.

This was the second time this morning the opportunity presented itself as she glued her eyes to the very visible purchase on Carmilla's arms and legs and watched stray drops of water run down.

She could do it. She could just step forward and start kissing her and the towel would drop and she'd pull her to the bed and that would be that. It was too easy, it could happen right now, it could already be happening if she just moved her feet a little bit forward. All it would take was 5 seconds of bravery and Carmilla would do the rest.

"You okay Laura?" she said, brows knit together.

"Fine," Laura said quickly. "Just you know, school stress again."

Carmilla looked like she didn't buy it and Laura wondered if she faked that confused expression. It didn't take a genius to recognize a horny, nervous teenager when they saw one. Especially Carmilla who knew Laura's many moods better than anyone.

"The brainiac said you weren't answering your phone and texted me by the way," she said, stepping into the room and grabbing a pile of clothes she'd laid out for herself. "They want get lunch on some patio restaurant by the college before it starts storming later today, which apparently it's supposed to do. I said we had no plans."

"Yeah no, that sounds great," Laura said, trying her best to collect herself and stepping forward to press a quick kiss to Carmilla's cheek and then shuffle out of the room.

"You sure you're okay? We don't have to," Carmilla called.

"No, fresh air and food that isn't a box of Chips Ahoy will be good," Laura called, walking downstairs through a reddening face.

----

The entire time at lunch, Laf was making faces at Laura ranging from asking about Carmilla and then smirking whent hey learned the answer. They occasionally dropped some not so subtle hints and Laura was thankful they had the corner table by the obnoxious collection of plants.

Carmilla once again either did not noticed or pretended not to for Laura's sake. Either option was possible.

After taking a walk through some of the used bookstores on Hardbord Street while they headed back to the garage where Carmilla parked her car (Laura had insisted they could take the subway or streetcars but Carmilla refused) Laura plotted her moves once they got home.

It was late afternoon which meant after all the walking and window shopping it'd be close to dinner by the time they got back. They could pass time with a movie and then once it got dark out she'd excuse herself upstairs, change, light the candles, get the jazz music playing and then call for Carmilla to come upstairs and then boom, life changing romantic times with her girlfriend awaited.

And it was all going fine. Carmilla agreed to sit through the Veronica Mars movie just as a light rain started outside and Laura leaned against her chest the entire time and her own hand brushing through Laura's honey locks. It was all almost so perfect she considered muting the movie trying for the third time that day to just go for it and see what happens.

But no. She had a plan. This was going to be seduction 101. And dammit Carmilla better be wowed by all of it because she did not put up with stress all day to have it not work out.

When the movie ended, she asked Carmilla to see what they had in the freezer for dinner while she excused herself to get changed, presumably into pajamas.

Up in her room she quickly move the candles into strategic locations across the room (and hopefully non-fire hazard spots). Then she pulled out the CD and put it in her old radio, hoping all the dust piled up on it didn't mean it was going to skip horrendously. Next she quickly relieved herself of her pants and shirt, tripping only once on her way to the hamper, and then exchanged her currently under garments for the new ones. She took a minute to spray herself with the "dark rose" scented body spray she got from Bath and Bodyworks, tussled her hair, did one last mirror check and then went into the room to light the candles…

Right as the power went out.

"Oh crap," Laura groaned.

She was now in the dark. The light rain from earlier turned into a downpour as it hit the window in sheets and flashes lit the room before rumbles followed.

Great. Perfect. The jazz music was ruined. She couldn't find the matches to get to the candles and she was half naked in the dark. What a way to start her first time with her girlfriend.

"Hey, cupcake you okay?" Carmilla called from the bottom of the stairs.

"Yeah, I'll be right down," she called back.

She promptly picked up her yellow pillow and screamed into it. Why can't things just go smoothly for two seconds? She huffed herself into her flannel bottoms and grabbed a tank top, carefully groping her way downstairs where Carmilla was rummaging through the kitchen.

"I can't find your dad's candle stash," she said.

"Weird," Laura said.

Eventually, she located a flashlight and sat down at the table with Laura.

"So, cooking any of the freezer food is out of the question," she said. "I guess you get your wish of cookies for dinner again, cupcake."

"Yeah, great," Laura said, deadpan.

Carmilla's brow furrowed.

"Hey, it's just a little rain," Carmilla said, squeezing her arm tightly and looking at her.

And then Laura let it all come out. Carmilla was looking far too sweet and helpful and worried and Laura actually really did need to get those candles and she spilled weeks worth of stress and all the stories she'd asked people about and her plot up in her room to seduce her and all of it.

Carmilla, through it all, blinked a few times, occasionally let her mouth drop open before tactfully closing it again, and let her eyes dance between making eye contact with Laura and focusing on the outline of the placemat in the dark.

When Laura finished she was thankful for the blackout to hide her flaming cheeks, even though it was probably obvious how embarrassed she really was and the 30 seconds of silence after she got done talking was practically killing her as Carmilla seemed to be forming a sentence.

"The first time I ever had sex was in some den under a throw blanket," Carmilla said. "I know it sounded all romantic that Ell and I were celebrating me getting signed or whatever but, it wasn't. And it was definitely not my favorite memory."

Laura groaned.

"It's just so embarrassing," Laura said, dropping her forehead to the table. "Like, all of it."

"Listen," Carmilla said, taking her hand and forcing her to look up. "Everyone thinks the exact same way as you. It's just not everyone acts on it."

"Yep, that's me, the idiot who acts on it," Laura said.

"I think you're looking at it the wrong way," she said, scooting forward. "Yes, you wanted your first time to be special and all that but, you were also trying to help me out, did you realize that?"

Laura frowned.

"I'm scared out of my mind," Carmilla said. "It doesn't go away just because you've had sex before. Especially with someone you care about. I'm so afraid of freaking you out or not living up to expectations or ruining it for you."

"Carm, you could never 'ruin it' for me, it's you," Laura said.

"And I feel the same way Laura," she smiled. "No matter if it's in your bed, or on the floor, or even in a public restroom or hell we hop a spaceship and do it in space, I'm with you. That's all I want."

And for the first time all day, Laura genuinely smiled. It was visible to Carmilla through the dim light of the flashlight and she squeezed her hand. Carmilla pulled her in and kissed her forehead.

"So we agree to not be scared of each other about it?" Laura said.

"Agreed," Carmilla smiled and kissed her on the lips this time.

They spent the next few hours playing board games with the flashlight and counting down the hours until they'd be forced to eat the food from the fridge before it went bad. They got about 3 calls from Laura's dad when he got an email from the power company about the outage but once it hit midnight, Laura's phone stopped buzzing.

It was 2am and the thunder had stopped but the lighting still flashed from the storm moving off into the distance. It lit up the room on occasion, drown out the yellow light of the flashlight. They'd abandoned their game of cards in favor of lazing across the couch, Laura on top of Carmilla, nearly fallen asleep on top of her.

But she couldn't sleep as she felt Carmilla's heart beneath her ear pick up when her hand, which had been lazily stroking circles at her stomach, slipped slightly under the waistband of her pants.

She didn't move it. Instead she sat up.

5 seconds of courage…

She looked Carmilla right in the eye who, for her part, looked like a deer caught in headlights. She dared to slip her hand even lower below the pants line and Carmilla jump slightly and swallowed.

She leaned forward and kissed her, letting her hand slide all the way down and feeling Carmilla's heart beginning to thunder louder than the storm when she reached her location and simply began moving her hand without a care if it was the right form or proper placement or whatever. Carmilla was reacting, that's all that mattered.

They continued like this for a while, Carmilla's hands eventually got involved and found their own way to parts of Laura underneath her shirt. Eventually, Carmilla gave out something almost close to a squeak and Laura did her best not to giggle as Carmilla pulled away.

"We're getting dangerously close to the point of no return here," she breathed out evenly. "If you want to stop, it really has to be now because—"

Laura didn't let her finish. She kissed her hard and feverishly, moving her hand even more and Carmilla made noises into her mouth as her hips responded with more fervor than before.

She really didn't feel like ruining the moment with a bold and underlined statement of "Yes you have my consent to have sexual intercourse with me" so she hoped the kiss and her movements were enough of a communication.

"It's not going to feel perfect the—the first time," Carmilla gasped between kisses. "And it'll probably hurt."

"It's okay," Laura whispered. "It's you."

And so it was.

----

They woke up early the next morning just after sunrise thanks to a particularly loud bird outside. They'd only managed to get in a few hours of sleep but they woke up, skin on skin, underneath a blanket Carmilla had pulled over them after they were done. The stickiness on their bodies had worn off and cooled in the night. Laura was wrapped around Carmilla and their legs tangled as she stirred.

True to Carmilla's word, it hadn't been perfect and it had hurt. But it also was pretty amazing at times. Though Laura was going to love this a lot more a few more times down the road when she knew enough tricks to keep up with Carmilla, she was infinitely happy that her plan hadn't worked out.

They sheepishly put clothes on and kissed their way through breakfast.

"We might have to get your dad's couch cleaned," Carmilla teased and got batted by Laura.

They did manage to take that shower together though nothing happened and Carmilla had way too much fun blowing foam bubbles at Laura, making it last until the water had nearly gone cold and they were forced out.

They spent the day with the power back on and marathoning random shows they found on Netflix and some B horror films.

Laura must have been a bit more obvious than she thought in her texts to Laf because they sent her back a YouTube link to "Just Had Sex" and Carmilla snorted.

It hadn't been perfect, but, perhaps that's what made it perfect after all.

Chapter Text

I turn my chin, music up and I'm puffing my chest, getting red in the face, you can call me obsessed, it's not your fault that they hover, I mean no disrespect, It's my right to hellish, I still get jealous...

--

Carmilla was nominated for Grammy’s. This was not new nor was it surprising news when they announced the nominees a few months ago. Laura of course was over the damn moon about it. Best Alternative Album and Album of the Year. It was odd, to say the list, as none of her singles were nominated and people had made a big deal over that song not qualifying since it was never technically “released” or even had a name (even if the world at large had collectively decided to call it “Vindicated” she was not playing along).

“Carm this is awesome,” Laura said through the Skype screen. Betty was in the background making faces at them to Laf’s snickers.

“I’ve had bigger years cupcake,” she shrugged. “Though I suppose now this means I actually have to make an appearance.”

Though it was certainly within her repertoire to give a big eff you to the academy by not showing up when she was nominated for the highest music honor there was, her record company had already sent her a carefully worded email with some expertly passive aggressive language that could have only come from Rick.

At least they gave her a plus one.

“So, you got any fancy clothes cutie?” Carmilla sighed and Laura raised an eyebrow.

Betty’s mocking faces from behind stopped and she burst into what Carmilla had to decisively describe as a “shit-eating grin.”

“Whoa,” she said from behind Laura. “Award ceremony dates, it’s getting serious huh?”

She stuck her tongue out and Laf bit back a laugh as Laura tossed a box of tissues at them, missing by a few inches as it bounced off the couch. Perry was in the background scolding them and Laura turned back to the screen with bright red cheeks.

She sighed as she picked up the computer and Carmilla watched the screen shake as Laura’s suitemates got smaller in the background. She shut the door behind her and dropped onto her bed, the laptop sitting in her lap from the angle Carmilla could gauge.

“One of these days I am going to do something drastic to Spring Breaker out there,” Carmilla said, leaning back in the hotel desk chair with a loud squeak.

“Like what?” Laura humored.

“Something entirely and completely devastating like unfollowing her on Twitter.”

Laura snorted and shook her head while Carmilla gave her a grin back and taking a sip of her Vitamin water.

The hotel room wasn’t awful. It was big and clean and the wifi was impeccable thankfully but long distance relationships were bullshit. Well, neither of them had technically used the phrase and kind of shirked away from it but starting off Laura’s sophomore year with Carmilla jetting to and fro with album promotion was fairly long distance.

Still, somehow Laura’s face hundreds of miles away seemed to light up the lonely hotel rooms night after night.

“I’m serious though,” she said. “I want to take you. If you want to go that is.”

Carmilla didn’t look at the screen because the way her voice got small was humiliating enough without accidentally giving Laura puppydog eyes. When she did finally look up she found Laura to be smiling through a shy flutter of eyelashes.

“It would be my pleasure to accompany you madame,” she said and Carmilla rolled her eyes.

“It won’t be super fun,” Carmilla said. “And everyone is going to be snapping pictures of me left and right.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”

“And if I get hit on again by that hot drummer from that Toronto band?”

“I’m a big girl Carm, I see people everyday post about how hot you are or how much they’d kill to win some competition to go on a date with you. I’m used to it. I don’t like it, but I can handle it.”

Carmilla smiled and they talked the rest of the night about school and whatever show Laura was marathoning this week and about how her dad was getting a promotion back home.

As always, they fell asleep with the laptop lids still open and the cameras still on until Carmilla woke up at 7am to end the call and curl up alone, but somehow warm, in the foreign bed.

---

In the days leading up to the awards show, Carmilla got anxious. The world knew who Laura was and there were plenty of pictures of them across the internet but somehow this felt entirely different. She was actively showing off her relationship to everyone. She was willfully bringing Laura to public attention with their hands clasped.

Thoughts of her mother and the issues that would cause aside, it was incredibly nerve-wracking and Carmilla did something she had not done in a very, very long time.

She Googled herself.

And that opened up a bit of a blackhole that she chased and chased for hours one night a few days before Laura’s flight to LA. She found articles about her music, reviews, random pictures of her she hadn’t seen yet, tumblr posts about her. But the worst of all came around 4am when she ventured onto a fansite message board.

The topics were typical: favorite song, merch they wanted to see, predictions for future singles. But then there was one topic that not so much caught Carmilla’s eye but hooked her right in the cornea and forced her to click on it: “Laura Hollis Appreciation Thread ;)”

“What the…?” she mumbled to herself and was assaulted with pictures of Laura.

None of them were distasteful and none of it was crude or objectifying but there was post after post of random pictures they seemed to find of her and praising her hair or her eyes and there was even one about her abs.

Carmilla couldn’t stop her blood from boiling.

They weren’t allowed to notice the nose crinkle and their guesses on her choice of body spray weren’t allowed to be so spot on, they weren’t allowed to make guesses at the exact shade of her whiskey colored eyes.

It went on and on and Carmilla clicked and clicked. The phrase oh hell no was coming to mind as she quickly clicked the registration button and made herself a screen name under “blak_cat” and a false age and birthdate and location and waited the designated few minutes for the confirmation email to go to one of her old emails.

And then she went ballistic.

She posted probably five messages in the thread about how everyone should back off. It wasn’t eloquent and she wouldn’t be proud of it come morning but she was running of no sleep and a fit of jealousy she’d never felt before. Granted she’d only been in two relationships in her entire life but being the one who wasn’t ogled and hit on was different.

A more rational response would probably have been to have sympathy for Laura who probably saw this constantly but that’s not how 5am minds worked.

By 8am her posts had been deleted and the moderator had suspended her account and she rolled her eyes through finally dropping off to sleep in a huff.

Even later in the week, after many hours of normal sleep, it still stuck in Carmilla’s mind. Her hair is honey, not blonde you lackwits she thought to herself as she leaned against a pole at the bag claim in LAX. She eyed the crowed of fans with pieces of paper and pens and cameras waiting and Carmilla wondered how many were among the guilty ones. Maybe one of them was the moderator who locked her account.

She crossed her arms.

“Why are you pouting?” Laura’s voice said before Carmilla even realized she was in front of her.

“Oh,” Carmilla said, popping up quickly and Laura laughed and shook her head, leaning up to peck her lips and Carmilla relaxed.

“Hey,” Laura said.

“Hey,” she replied dopily and Laura took her hands with an eyeroll.

They gave the fans a wave as they walked out of the airport to where Scott was waiting with a company Escalade. They shuffled into the back and Laura yawned and dropped her head onto Carmilla’s shoulder.

“You can’t already be tired,” Carmilla said. “This is going to be the most painful and busiest day of your life.”

“Comforting as you are,” Laura poked her in the ribs. “I am catnapping while I can.”

Carmilla smiled and waited until Laura was out before she told Scott to take the long way to the hotel.

---

Carmilla didn’t know Laura’s hands could actually rival a hummingbird with the sheer violence of movement but she was proved wrong when Laura couldn’t find one of her shoes and then again when she very perilously almost got a wad of ketchup on her dress as they snacked on pre-show fries.

“I knew we shouldn’t have stopped for that espresso,” Carmilla said, grabbing Laura’s hands and holding them still.
“I’ve never done this before Carm, forgive me for being a little jumpy,” she said.

“As long as you’re prepared for the next one,” Carmilla whispered and kissed her forehead, pulling back in a wink and walking into the bedroom to get dressed.

While the world decked out in Chanel and Gucci and Alexander McQueen Carmilla was happy with her only moderately expensive dress from the Bebe store (“Who are you wearing? The carcass of my enemies.” “Carm!”).

Carmilla snorted at the exchange earlier in the day and began disrobing, pulling the dress from its hanger on the door. It was military green and even spotted here and there with (actual functional for once) pockets, with her black leather belt it made her look like the best dressed lady at the soldier fashion show.

Her curly hair had been contained to an up do from a company hair artist and her makeup was sparse but enough to make her dark eyes pop.

She’d look good enough, she figured.

She was apparently wrong, however, because she stepped out to meet Laura’s dropped jaw and lobster face.

“See something you like?” Carmilla said, walking to put on her shoes. She walked over to Laura and pressed her lips to her ear. “Or perhaps something you’d like to see on the floor later?”

Laura shuddered but elbowed her and she snickered, kissing her cheek before sitting down to put on her black heels.

Laura got her payback however, in the form of a red dress that dipped low on her chest, her hair was slightly curled and sitting like an elegant waterfall on her shoulders.

And than the messages from the forum were back. What would they have to say about this?

So on the ride over Carmilla took in as much as she could of Laura’s bright face and smooth, exposed skin. She memorized the smell of her perfume and came up with as many metaphors as she could in her head before they found them online. She told herself it was a songwriting exercise but she’d be damned if someone saw Laura and thought Aphrodite too.

“Stay close to me cupcake,” Carmilla whispered in her ear as the door opened and their hands laced together tightly.

They walked out into a flurry of camera flashes and cheers. Several reporters turned and pulled their tagalong cameramen towards them because oh look, Karnstein actually did it, she actually brought her girlfriend.

For her part, Laura seemed to agree heavily with it all, even if Carmilla could feel how much she was shaking, she watched Laura’s face light up and smile at her brightly. Carmilla kissed her hand joined in her own and pulled her along as they walked down the red carpet.

“Carm holy crap that’s Lady Gaga,” she whispered into Carmilla’s ear.

“Yeah she threw a crazy after party last year, not going to lie, I think the heart ‘sculpture’ was a real heart,” Carmila said.

They took pauses here and there so Carmilla could sign autographs and pose for selfies with a half-hearted smile. It went on like that for a few minutes before Carmilla leaned in for a picture with a girl who had travelled all the way from Miami when she heard it.

“Hey Laura, can we get a picture with you?”

Carmilla’s head snapped mid-picture as she washed Laura smile bashfully and shrug, walking over to the group of girls. Carmilla swallowed and stepped away from the line of fans, staring as more and more people asked Laura to step into their pictures.

The poses got more and more daring, arms went around Laura’s shoulder or waste and Carmilla tried counting to ten and then to fifty. And then one of them chanced pretending to plant a kiss on Laura’s cheek for a picture when Carmilla dove in and grabbed Laura’s arm.

“Gotta go,” she mumbled and pulled Laura along with their arms interlocked as she was speed walking down the carpet.

“Where’s the fire Carm?” Laura said with a furrowed brow.

“Just want to get inside,” she mumbled.

Carmilla and Laura posed for pictures to the shouts from photographers and then finally walked inside to the cocktail area where Carmilla loaded up on a cosmopolitan and made their way to their seats in the second row by the stage.

“Carm you want to tell me why you’re practically seething?’ Laura said, nudging her.

“Just nervous,” she said, taking a sip of her drink.

Laura sighed and placed her warm hands over Carmilla’s, lowering the drink and sitting up to look at her. And try as she might to avoid her eyes, Carmilla eventually turned her eyes to Laura’s biting her lip and relaxing when Laura put a hand on her arm.

“Before I start, I am fully aware I have no right to be acting this way all things considered,” Carmilla said. “But, you’ve got yourself your own little fanbase if you didn’t notice.”

Laura frowned.

“Okay?” she said.

“And, like, they had all these posts about your laugh and like that one time I put up a Vine of you snorting and like—they’re not allowed to notice that stuff,” Carmilla practically whined. “That bunched up you face isn’t there’s to make fun of and neither is your flaying hands. And I know they’re not mine either and you don’t want possessive crap but I’ve never had to deal with this before and I feel bad because you deal with it every day and—“

Lips bruised her own and her words mumbled and sputtered out as a hand cupped her cheek gently as the lips pulled away and Carmilla fought every word she ever learned in the English language.

“You’re cute when you’re jealous,” Laura teased, looking at her lips.

“Oh come on,” Carmilla groaned and Laura laughed into another kiss.

Laura didn’t remove her hand from Carmilla the entire night, making sure every time the camera came to them they were holding hands, her she was stroking her arm, or had a hold of her shoulder. When Carmilla’s name was announced for her categories Laura kissed her cheek and when she didn’t win either one she kissed her again for the gracious loser camera shot.

On the way out Laura was latched to her waist and pretended to whisper in her ear as they stepped up to the car.

“What are you doing?” Carmilla said when they got in the car.

“Letting them know I’m yours,” Laura said, kissing her languidly. “Yours to annoy or not, to love or not, and all that other stuff.”

Carmilla laughed and they kissed one last time before telling Scott to pull up to the nearest Sonic because damn where they hungry.

Chapter Text

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end, I know who I want to take me home, I know who I want to take me home...

--

Carmilla’s apartment was not luxurious by the standards of her peers who made equal amounts of money. She’d signed the lease shortly after her first few checks from the record company came through and felt not need to change it even if she could manage to afford a penthouse in Trump Tower.

It was spacious, two full bedrooms and a master bath connected to her own. The guest bedroom had been turned into a makeshift studio after she soundproofed the walls (under her landlord’s radar) and a second bathroom hung in the hallway just next to it. The floors were all dark hardwood that the once a week cleaning man spent hours getting spotless only to cringe as Carmilla came in with Doc Martens to reapply scuffs all over. The living room walls were all windows, customary of a corner building apartment and the kitchen was complete with expensive looking appliances and granite countertops. The light fixtures handing over the counters were also fairly chrome and impressive.

If it were anywhere else, it might only look like a reasonably swanky apartment. But it was New York, and that meant she had lots of money.

And it was in this slightly less than luxurious apartment that her eyes popped open and awake into the nighttime of her bedroom. She tilted her head to one side and saw the alarm clock read it to be slightly after midnight. She turned her head back and came in contact with a mouthful of hair and a dead weight on her chest.

Laura’s head was nestled with an ear to her heart, her arm slung over Carmilla’s middle was lazily entwined with Carmilla’s at their fingers and she vaguely remembered falling asleep holding hands. A leg was tangled between her own and Laura’s other arm was wedge between them in a way that had to be giving her pins and needles when she woke.

It was funny. Sometimes they’d fall asleep and wake up halfway across the bed from each other with a slight brush of their legs as the only contact. And then other times Laura practically threw half her body on top of Carmilla. The latter usually came after activities which would explain why Carmilla was only wearing underwear and why Laura wasn’t wearing anything.

Smirking aside, how was she going to detangle herself without waking Laura up?

She started with the arm, carefully lifting it and moving it away with no resistance. The head would be more difficult and Carmilla was almost loath to move with Laura’s breathing steadily grazing her bare chest and raising goosebumps in its wake. She pressed a kiss to Laura’s forehead as she gently shifted her shoulder from beneath her and cradled Laura’s head to land on the pillow. Her legs slid out next and she was free with only Laura gently sighing in her sleep and hugging tighter to the duvet.

Carmilla grabbed a t-shirt from the floor and dodged the remaining piles of clothes she let gather around the room and walked quietly out, shutting the door behind her.

In the living room she turned on the lights to a dim glow and accented the remaining darkness with random candles before walking over to the baby gran that sat on a rug in the far corner of the room, flush to the window wall.

She sat on the cold bench and lifted the cover. Lightly, she began to play random melodies as they popped into her head, doing her best to not play any keys in forte as she moved up and down the bass and treble sides of the keys, pausing only once or twice to thinking of a note to follow and let clunky hits happen just in an urge to keep playing.

She really did try to go to bed at a normal time for Laura.

She got through another ten minutes of playing before something warm touched her shoulders and then pressed lengthwise up her back, a chin resting on top of her head.

“Did I wake you?” Carmilla asked, pulling her hands from the keys.

“The detangling did, not the piano,” she said and moved to sit down next to her. She’d thrown on a pair of boxers and her tank top, her hair was pulled back into a messy bun and she yawned.

“Happy anniversary,” Carmilla said, nudging her shoulder.

“Hmm?” Laura sighed with closed eyes, her head going to rest on Carmilla.

Carmilla nudged her again until she opened her eyes and nodded towards the clock in the kitchen reading 12:34am. Laura blinked a few times, perhaps still half asleep, before breaking into a grin and pulling Carmilla into a welcome kiss.

They broke apart in a smile and Carmilla closed the lid gently, turning to face Laura fully.

“I do kind of feel like an ass though,” she said sheepishly.

“And this is because I kissed you first or…?”

“Because I’m a jerk about every time you try to celebrate like an 8 month or a 9 month anniversary and now that we finally have the important one I have to work,” she said.

By work, Carmilla was referring to a charity band-a-thon she’d stupidly agreed to headline that night. It wasn’t a full concert and the venue was some warehouse turned 200 person max concert hall but it felt like stolen hours that could be used on someone far more deserving.

“And like, I don’t know,” Carmilla said, turning back and lifting the lid to start playing chords aimlessly. “It’s like the icing on the cake of this whole one night I’m in LA and then next I’m in Paris and you haven’t to keep up with time zones and only getting to see me through a computer screen and it isn’t fair—“

Warm hands went over her own and yanked them from the piano. Laura pulled on her wrists until she was kissing her again, this time with not only more fervor but with more command as well, with Carmilla’s hands pinned in Laura’s lap. Laura broke apart from her to nuzzle her cheek and nose and lazily Carmilla reopened her eyes.

“If ‘normal’ means it’s not with you then I want no parts of it,” Laura whispered. “It’s okay, we’ll make do and at the end of the night you get to be all mine.”

“All yours,” Carmilla whispered back reverently. Her hands were still in Laura’s control and she was perfectly fine with it.

Laura went back in to kiss her again, letting go of her hands halfway through and slowly standing up and breaking in the kiss in a such a way that her body practically grinded against Carmilla the entire way up. She held back a shudder.

“Since you’re up, I can think of at least one way to feed your insomnia than playing piano out here by yourself,” she whispered into Carmilla’s ear. “Race you.”

Carmilla shook her head watching Laura take off back towards the bedroom in the dark. She sighed and got up, following lazily with a huge smile.

---

They didn’t wake up again until mid morning, once again stripped of clothes, and stretching out across the bed. They took respective showers in the bathrooms and Carmilla yanked Laura out the door to some patio restaurant for brunch. They walked around Central Park and Laura poked Carmilla awake when she fell asleep on the grass practically on top of her.

The lazily walked back to the apartment as the afternoon wore on, Carmilla’s arm draped over Laura and she begrudgingly posed for every selfie Laura imposed on her.

Carmilla tried not to think about how surreal it all ways. A year ago she was kissing Laura senseless on like second or third date begging her to be her girlfriend before she left for some concert. Though she’d love to consider the kiss in the airport or the first date on the playground the beginning, or even the day they met in that hotel room not far from Silas. All of it blended together into one giant beginning, even the awful parts.

And now the beginning was over and she was certain it could only get better.

Laura forced Carmilla to get ready back at the apartment, pushing her back gently after a few minutes of making out on the couch and Carmilla groaned accepting Laura’s promise to make it worth her while later.

While Laura was in the room getting ready Carmilla went over her setlist. It was just three songs to close out the night but there was no way she was going on on-time or even remotely close to the scheduled time. These things never worked like that and she’d be expected to make nice after with the venue owners or sign some things for fans who donated the most money.

They’d eat up all her anniversary time. This time last year she was curled up in Laura on her bed, laughing and poking her and kissing her and smiling and now she was all dressed up with nameless strangers to devote her time and attention to for the remainder of the night. As much as Laura claimed she was fine with it, that it was all a part of Carmilla, she knew no one person could handle that much without getting jealous or sad. Even if in her heart she belonged to Laura every second of the day, it would look tonight like she existed for the crowd.

Well there was one old fashioned way to change that.

She penciled something in the end of the setlist and smiled.

---

She went on at 10:45pm a solid 2 hours later than she was scheduled to go on. She breezed through the three scheduled songs on her setlist without making it to obvious that she was rushing to get out in time to say she gave Laura her anniversary gift before midnight while it was still actually their anniversary.

When the final song ended she nodded to the rhythm guitarist who stepped forward and took her place, as she removed the microphone and stuck it onto the arm connected to a keyboard that had been sitting quietly in the back all night. She moved the keyboard up and positioned it to face the wings as she sat down, looking directly at a confused Laura.

“I got one more song,” she said into the microphone and the crowd cheered. “This one’s a cover.”

She nodded to the guitarist and he hit the first few chords. She followed after on piano and they vamped the familiar beginning of the song for a few moments to the swell of the crowd as the slowly recognized it.

Closing time, open all the doors and let you out into the world…

The crowd cheered and Carmilla continued the same piano refrain as she sang, purposefully avoiding Laura’s eyes. She hit the chorus and the room exploded, beginning to sway with the music, hands in the air, singing along.

By the time she was beginning the second verse they were eating it up. One or two even ironically pulled out a lighter and she wondered if they were getting the hint yet.

So gather up your jackets, move it to the exits…

She kept going, smiling now as she played, looking out to the crowd one more time before she looked up and met Laura’s eyes with her own, across the stage.

Closing time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…

Laura broke out into a huge grin, shaking her head as Carmilla winked and smiled back, not planning on taking her eyes from Laura the rest of the song.

I know who I want to take me home, I know who I want to take me home

During the guitar solo she blew a kiss to Laura who rolled her eyes, pretending to catch it and pull it to her chest. Carmilla couldn’t fight the smile on her face as she hit the keys to back up the guitar before they slid right back into the verses of the song.

Carmilla sang the lines over and over looking at Laura, singing for her until she was sure she saw her blush and then eventually she relented, ending the song to cheers from the crowd.

Closing time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…

Cheers and applause erupted but Carmilla was on her feet and across the stage into the wings in a matter of 30 seconds. Laura jumped up into her arms in a hug and Carmilla lifted her a bit in her own bruising hug, her feet leaving the ground and she laughed in Carmilla’s ear, kissing her cheek. Carmilla set her down and they kissed properly.

“Happy anniversary,” she whispered, producing a jewelry box she’d strategically placed on the scalding behind Laura who was far too oblivious all night to notice. Thankfully the box was way too big to be mistake for a ring because that was the last thing Carmilla needed right now.

Laura gingerly took the gift and opened it. Inside was a necklace, a pendant in the shape of a star, studded with diamonds. It was obviously expensive though Carmilla prayed she didn’t ask how much.

“Carm,” she breathed out, looking between her and the necklace.

“I’m not going to say a cheesy line,” Carmilla said. “But if I were, it would probably be something like: you are the only star that matters.”

God she hated herself and Laura snorted, pulling her into another hug and kissing her temple, mumbling that her gift for her was back at the apartment. She turned around without a word and handed Carmilla the necklace. She fiddled with it until she got the clasp undone and swept her arms over Laura’s head and shoulders to set it against her chest. Laura pulled her hair out of the way as she pulled the chain back lightly and clicked it shut.

“Now, are you gonna take me home or what? I worked hard on that cover,” Carmilla said and Laura gave her a playful shove but took her hand and pulled.

Turns out Laura got her a very old edition of some Camus journals that could not have been cheap. So Carmilla paid her back with kisses all over when they finally took to their bed.

Chapter Text

This is not what I intended, I always swore to you I'd never fall apart, you always thought that I was stronger, I may have failed but I have loved you from the start...

--

Laura stepped into the apartment wondering if this was the biggest mistake in the world. It was the same as it always was, things strewn about to give it an overall look of the charming messiness of genius. The piano was covered in sheet music which was in turn covered in scribbles. At least there weren’t half eaten pizza boxes and tubs of ice cream lying around. If this was the worst of her self-destruction then Laura could handle it.

If.

“Do you want something to drink?” Carmilla asked and Laura winced at the formality of it all. I’ve literally seen you naked, please don’t do that to me.

“I’m fine, “ Laura said, sitting on the couch without invitation because she refused to be the polite and serious person right now.

“How’d you get out here?” Carmilla asked, walking around to drop into the loveseat.

“I flew down.”

“How much was the ticket?”

“Carmilla don’t.”

Carmilla dropped her face to stare at her hands in her lap, obedient. Laura sighed.

“I did this because I didn’t want to have this conversation over the phone,” she said.

“And what conversation is that?’ Carmilla said.

She shook her head. She really didn’t know. Had she come with the intention to break up with her officially or make all of it better? She had no idea. She sighed in frustration and rubbed her face into her hands and felt Carmilla’s eyes on her.

“I don’t know what I want,” Laura admitted.

Well that was a lie. She knew exactly what she wanted but she didn’t know if it was right, if forgiving Carmilla point blank is what they both needed. She believed Carmilla was never a cheater and never intended to be, but the images of them together in her head just kept swimming and swimming. Ell may have only helped her to the hotel room but once they were kissing and hugging and sharing things under blankets and in the dark that Laura considered to be hers now. Yes, her possessiveness was awful and probably part of this problem, but right now all she wanted was to get the images of Carmilla and Ell out of her head.

“I suppose I could start with I’m sorry,” Carmilla said. “But I’ve tried that already.”

“I don’t want you to just be sorry,” Laura said.

“Then what do you want?”

“I want you to understand why you need to be sorry, not just some generic oh ‘sorry babe, I fucked up’.”

“You want me to prostrate myself and name every single thing I’ve done wrong so that you can feel absolved in knowing that you’re right?”

It was sharp, and the quickness with which I came out told Laura she’d been thinking it for a while now, waiting to level her with it. And Laura was more shocked than anything else before it quickly morphed into anger.

“It’s not about right or wrong Carmilla,” Laura snapped.

“Then what is this about if not you wanting justification for how you feel, again?” she said. “You’ve done this before Laura, blew up on me with only seconds to explain myself and then stayed angry so that you felt like it was all worth it. You get extremely proud about these things.”

“Yeah, last time this happened someone shut off her phone so I couldn’t exactly call you to let you talk more could I?”

“And whose fault is that?”

“Oh, don’t you even.”

They were glaring at each other over Carmilla’s coffee table (also strewn with random crap). The submissiveness of Carmilla’s demeanor the past few weeks was gone, it’d gone hard and mean as a face she had never seen before glared at her with all its might like it might hurt her just with the eyes. They seemed darker than normal, and not in the way that told Laura she wouldn’t be getting any sleep tonight from the comfort of Carmilla’s bed.

They were raging black.

“What’s wrong?” Laura asked a little softer but still steadily.

“I’m being asked for the umpteenth time to explain myself to you,” she said.

“Yeah, when there are paparazzi pictures of you with your ex-girlfriend’s arms around you headed into a hotel, you need to do some explaining—“

“And I have explained that!” she said, getting up and beginning to pace in front of the window. “I told you what happened, and I apologized for it and now you’re telling me that’s not enough and I’m not sure how to make you happy.”

“Because all you care about is that you’re sorry and that you messed up and that it’s making you feel bad. And I swear if you say I one more time I might honestly slap you,” Laura said determined not to stand like a challenge to Carmilla but forceful from her seat.

“It’s not about me—“

“No, it’s not,” Laura said. “But things always seem to have a way of twisting back around to be about you and how you feel and what you’re dealing with. You’re sorry because you feel guilty not because you stopped even one minute to ask how what you did affected me. You were just scared you were going to get in trouble.”

Carmilla’s pace with like a panther. A giant black cat stalking a path from the piano to the opposite wall and back again. And even with her fists bunched and knuckles white, Laura knew she was in no danger. Though Danny’s voice in her head was telling her in sing-song that Carmilla had once broken her own fingers on the face of someone who got a little too personal about Ell. But she assured in this much, she was safe.

“Alright Laura,” she said, patronizing. “Tell me how you feel?”

Laura might be safe from Carmilla but if Carmilla was safe from Laura remained to be seen. She felt herself bunch up and then fought it off because she knew Carmilla liked to make fun of it.

“I never feel like I’m a match for you Carmilla,” Laura said evenly. “And yes, I know, that’s not fair because I’m the one that pushed the relationship and said I could handle everything that came with you but honestly it gets in my head sometimes. And you spent years pining over Ell and letting yourself get hurt over her and here you are, livid with her, because she still has an effect on you. How am I supposed to feel about that Carmilla?”

The pacing stopped and Carmilla looked at her with eyes that were slowly disarming. Something in that rant got through perhaps.

“I don’t know, Laura. I can’t tell you why she makes me act this way but it’s not because of love,” Carmilla said. “I hold onto things, we all know this. I only seem able to let things go when it’s the worst possible time.”

“Well maybe you should work on coping mechanisms.”

“Gee, Laura, how groundbreaking.”

Carmilla dropped down into the loveseat with a huff. It had started raining and it tapped the windows loudly and steadily. Laura had always liked rainstorms from Carmilla’s apartment windows but right now it felt like the weather was a peanut gallery.

“Listen,” Carmilla said, rubbing her eyes. “In the interest of you not possibly able to get any angrier with me than you already are, I have to show you something.”

“Wow, comforting.”

Carmilla got up and walked into the kitchen. Laura heard the sounds of a cabinet opening, some rummaging and thent he door closing again as Carmilla’s footsteps returned with something in her hand.

It was a pill bottle.

Laura’s blood froze up under her skin.

“Carmilla…” Laura said dangerously.

“I got it a few hours after you hung up on me,” Carmilla said, eyeing it in her hands and tossing it between them. It was empty.

“Why are you showing me this?”

Laura wanted to cry. She didn’t know whether she was more angry at Carmilla for relapsing and shoving it in her face or more devastated that she might have been the cause of it.

“Because I flushed them down the toilet right after I got them.”

Laura looked up to see Carmilla staring at the bottle with far off eyes. She looked at the bottle and then back up at Carmilla. Her face was hard to read, not happy, but not entirely sad.

“Maybe lead with that next time,” Laura said, releasing a breath she’d been holding.

Carmilla let out a small chuckle, eyes still on the bottle. She got up and walked to the kitchen again and Laura heard something hit the bottom of the trashcan. She reentered the room but did not sit down.

“What were you plans for tonight?” Carmilla asked.

“I don’t know, my dad gave me money for a hotel—“

“Take my bed.”

And Carmilla walked away before Laura had the chance to argue.

----

Turns out the steady rain from the day before was part of a tropical storm that started pummeling New York by the time Laura woke up the following morning.

Sleeping in Carmilla’s bed alone was disturbing. It positively smelled of her at all points and she had too many memories to count of waking up in her arms or snuggled up to her back or giving her a wet willy until she woke up and groaned because it was before noon.

She got up and walked over to the window and looked out to see the rain coming down from a dark sky in sheets and the flags and trees on the sidewalk below getting manhandled in the bluster.

So chances that her flight back to Toronto was actually happening today?

She checked her phone. The answer was zero.

“Great,” she groaned, thumping her head against the window. Her dad was going to kill her.

She walked out into the living room to find Carmilla sound asleep on the couch. Well, she was scowling in her sleep and her neck looked like it was at an uncomfortable angle. Laura walked past her and into the kitchen to see the Keurig had already been set and a pod of hot chocolate already placed in the chamber, just waiting to be pushed down and started.

She looked back at the lump on the couch and shook her head.

Also sitting out was a plate of cookies, wrapped in cellophane and Laura almost laughed.

She replayed yesterday in her head. It was, ultimately, a stalemate. They’d left considerable scratches while clawing at each other’s throats and some serious mental bruises from all the smacking that happened in their minds.

But nothing was solved.

That’s the way it seemed to be with Carmilla. Their fights always ended in stale silence with no one budging in any direction. Was that how all arguments were supposed to end? It always seemed in movies that one party said something profound and the other slunk into submission and apologized but every time Laura was sure she cornered Carmilla, she had something else to fire back.
And Carmilla’s comebacks weren’t off the mark either. Laura felt it in her gut, she knew she was remained spiteful to Carmilla to prove a point to herself, to convince herself she wasn’t overreacting, to tell herself that she was justified, that she was right.

But damn if black and white didn’t disappear every time Carmilla walked into a room and everything turned to gray. Up and down could be the same thing and she could tell her that Voldemort had his reasons and she might just start to believe her. Carmilla had a way of darkening heroics and making light of villainy.

She stirred on the couch at the sound of the Keurig dispensing.

“Sorry,” Laura said, shutting it off as soon as it was done.

Carmilla grumbled in response and sat up.

“Thanks,” Laura mumbled into her cup and Carmilla waved a hand and shrugged.

She got up and shadows stained the underside of her eyes, heightened by how pale her skin grew with no sleep. She pulled her hair back into a messy bun as she changed out the Keurig for a coffee pod and refilled it.

Laura’s eyes fell to the trashcan that she knew still hid the incriminating pills, the evidence of all the things Carmilla had been in a past life and things that still haunted her. She wanted desperately to ask, to relieve the elephant in the room so they might get a chance to breath. But was it her place any more to ask? They’d never officially broken up and yet they were miles apart in this very kitchen.

“Why didn’t you take them?” Laura asked before she could stop herself and slapped her hand over her mouth.

“Huh?” Carmilla asked through a yawn.

Laura took a breath.

“Why didn’t you use any of the pills?” she asked again.

“Did you want me to?” Carmilla asked with a laugh.

“Carmilla.”

She sighed and pulled her mug, steaming, away from the coffee maker and leaned back against the counter.

“I didn’t want my mother to win,” she said. “All that shit that happened with Ell was her fault and if, now, after everything, I gave into that then she’d win.”

Laura nodded.

“And,” Carmilla added quietly. “I knew that if I did there would be no chance left for us. You’d never forgive me. And I certainly would never forgive me.”

Laura looked at her as she refused to meet her eyes. Maybe it was the hour or so of sleep that got Carmilla talking so much softer than the day before. She took a sip of her coffee and pretended it didn’t completely scald the back of her throat and Laura smiled to herself.

“I’m proud of you,” Laura said quietly.

Carmilla just nodded, frowning into her mug.

“So this wannabe hurricane is kind of ruining my plans to get home,” Laura said, changing the subject.

“I can try and find you a flight,” Carmilla offered.

“No, I’ll figure something out…if you don’t mind me crashing her for a day or so more,” Laura said and hated every second of how much they sounded like strangers.

“Not at all,” Carmilla said earnestly.

Laura nodded and went to the desk that held Carmilla’s laptop automatically, blushing when she realized she maybe should have asked but Carmilla didn’t bat an eyelash, digging in the fridge for food.

She blushed even deeper when she realized Carmilla’s password was still “Cupcake95” and logged into her email to send a message to her dad.

If anything, that man had taken this whole situation almost as bad as Laura. He absolutely adored Carmilla. She didn’t know what they talked about when they stayed up late to play games of backgammon and drink that disgusting and evidently expensive whiskey but sometimes she thought he might just up and adopt her, 23 years old be damned. And with all this he was more sad than anything else, and disappointed to find that Carmilla could in fact be flawed.

She rattled off an email saying she was staying with Carmilla until the storm blew over and that the airline had comped her tickets for a future flight and all sorts of other reassuring things before logging off and flopping down on Carmilla’s couch. Carmilla joined her in the room, taking the loveseat and flipping on the TV.

“Considering the flood outside, how do you feel about Netflix and whatever we can find to cook in my kitchen?” Carmilla said.

“Sounds like a plan.”

They ended up marathoning episodes of Buffy and Angel most of the time, they occasionally took breaks watching Bob’s Burgers and even a creepy documentary on urban legends.

“If my persuasion were the male kind, I’d be choosing Spike over Angel any day of the week,” Carmilla said.

“Oh god, you’re team Spuffy,” Laura groaned and Carmilla laughed.

“It’s more realistic.”

“Okay, first of all, you cannot use the ‘realistic’ argument in a relationship involving vampires. And two, Spike and Buffy have a majorly screwed up relationship.”

“Yeah well most people do. Whiny Captain Forehead just bends over backwards for her constantly.”

Laura sighed and looked back at the TV.

“Well maybe you need both?’ Laura said. “Moments where you’re both totally at each other’s throats and just want to scream but at the end of the day you’ll break your back just to make the other smile?”

Or make them hot chocolate.

Laura blushed under Carmilla’s calculating gaze. Whatever she was looking for in Laura’s face she must have found because she turned back to the TV without a word and a few moments later she was making some comment again about vampires not crying and laughing at the 90s special effects. And Laura laughed to eventually.

The storm, however, ended up knocking out their power later in the night and they lit candles throughout the apartment. Laura was reminded of the night a year ago under similar weather conditions where she stole candles in an attempt to woo Carmilla. How exactly where they supposed to just casually go about their business after that? How do exes stay friends after knowing what the other looks like naked or the faces the make in their most intimate moments? It was hard for her to unsee images of Carmilla cradling her in bed or even the innocent times of them sprawled out on top of each other in a nap.

They played rummy with an old deck of cards Carmilla found in a drawer.

“Boom,” Laura said, putting down her last cards.

“You can’t do that,” Carmilla said. “You can’t do that.”

“Um, yes I can, that’s three of a kind,” Laura countered.

“Look again sweetheart, that 4 is red,” Carmilla said smugly and Laura groaned.

Carmilla laughed and kicked her leg and Laura kicked her back and they snickered through the rest of the game and Laura found it harder and harder to keep her eyes to herself as candlelight danced across Carmilla’s skin and light up her eyes.

Laura thought about kissing her. She really did. But it was quickly chased by all the ways kissing her right then would crack her open with so many things unresolved or unsaid. If she kissed her now, they’d ignore it forever until it happened again. And they deserved more than that. After everything they’d been through they deserved more than just sweeping it under the rug and chalking it up to a make out session in the dark.

She yawned to get her mind off of it and Carmilla sighed.

“You should sleep cupcake,” she said.

It was well after midnight and with any luck she had a flight at 9am tomorrow. She nodded and set to help cleaning up the cards but Carmilla shooed her and quietly wished her goodnight and stacked and shuffled the cards.

It took probably two hours of tossing and turning before Laura realized the apartment was too quiet with no hum of the AC for her to get any sleep in. Not to mention the light sounds of a piano from the living room occasionally wafted past the closed door. She tossed two more times before sighing and sitting up, pulling on one the hoodies Carmilla had laying on the floor and padding back out and into the living room to find Carmilla at the piano.

She played a few notes, then paused and wrote it down. She repeated the process a few times, half-humming, half-mumbling words along with the chords and pausing to write those down too. The rain had kicked up again splashed the window in the dark but Carmilla was focused. And Laura almost considered walking back into the room and shutting the door, leaving Carmilla to her private moment.

But something like fate pushed her forward to the piano bench where she sat down next to her without warning. Carmilla jumped but adjusted fast, scooting over a few inches to give her space.

“Keep playing,” Laura whispered.

Carmilla nodded and moved her hands back over the keys.

The best thing about tonight’s that we’re not fighting…

Could it be that we have been this way before…?

I know you don’t think that I am trying…

I know you’re wearing thin down to the core…

Laura swallowed hard as Carmilla looked right back at her through the words, fingers moving across the keys and her foot flexing as it hit the pedal underneath but all her attention was on Laura. And she was catching breath in her chest as she saw Carmilla’s eyes looked younger and wider than Laura had ever seen as they opened up only for her. The vulnerability hiding there was more tender and untouched than any nakedness could be.

But hold your breath, because tonight will be the night I will fall for you over again…

Don’t make me change my mind or I won’t live to se another day…

I swear it’s true, because a girl like you’s impossible to find…

You’re impossible to find…

Laura swallowed harder to keep back the warmth stinging at the edges of her eyes as Carmilla turned away to focus on the piano, playing out a light riff before she opened her mouth to sing again. The glassiness of her eyes told Laura she was fighting something in her chest as well.

This is not what I intended…

I always swore to you I’d never fall apart…

You always thought that I was stronger…

I may have failed but I have loved you from the start…

She went back into the chorus, eyes closed, laying into the piano like it might be sewing up every single wound she inflicted on herself and the tunes it carried might brush Laura’s pain right away. The rain itself might be washing over her right now as she felt, latch by latch, the tension she’d carried in her stomach release with every note.

So breath in so deep, breath me in, I’m yours to keep…

And hold onto to your words ‘cuz talk is cheap…

And remember me tonight when you’re asleep…

Carmilla continued to play, this time lighter as she turned back to Laura and opened her mouth to speak.

“Because tonight will be the night I will fall for you, over again,” she whispered, eyes closed and forehead daringly leaned against hers. “Don’t make me change my mind, or I won’t live to see another day. I sweat it’s true. Because a girl like you is impossible to find.”

Laura was sure Carmilla was going to kiss her and she was going to let her. But, ever the musician, she pulled away and finished the song with one more chorus before playing out the end over the keys. The song misted out into the quiet of the room and the pounding of the rain on the window, asking them to just do it, do exactly what they were always meant to do.

So Laura did it.

She kissed her with hands to her face stroking over her cheeks and felt shaky hands rest lightly against her hips. She moved her mouth against Carmilla’s in a mostly chaste kiss before pulling back and watching her, her eyes still closed, and holding herself still waiting for the final judgment, whether or not it was their last kiss or not.

“I’m still so mad at you,” Laura whispered. “And I know you’re still mad at me.”

Carmilla swallowed, eyes still closed.

“But I love you a lot more.”

Carmilla’s eyes opened slowly and Laura almost melted out how much she looked like a kicked puppy. She leaned forward and kissed both her cheeks and forehead and her nose and her eyes and her chin and her lips. Then she held their faces together as she breathed through her nose to smell Carmilla’s familiar perfume and the faint natural tinge of woods and wetted earth.

“Sleep in your bed with me and be my girlfriend again and say you love me too,” Laura begged and she felt Carmilla smile beneath her fingers.

Carmilla leaned up and kissed her forehead and let her own thumb pads brush light across Laura’s cheeks and she nodded.

They weren't done talking. Perhaps they never would be, and maybe that's the point. They were wild and young and reckless but latched to each other. And for now, it was more than enough. One day at a time.

Chapter Text

When you smile I melt inside, I'm not worthy for a minute of your time, I really wish it was only me and you, I'm jealous of everybody in the room...

--

Carmilla woke up on LaFontaine’s couch with a groan to the sound of the overture from Phantom of the Opera because apparently some past iteration of Carmilla hated the future one. She slammed her hand down on the phone and swiped away the alarm, silencing it. She groaned some more, rubbing her eyes and counting down from ten, swearing she’d sit up when she hit 0. It was more like negative 5.

“What a travesty, you up at 8am,” LaFontaine said from the kitchen, a cup of coffee in their hand and Perry organizing a plate of bagels next to them.

“Don’t wanna hear it,” Carmilla slurred, swinging her legs over the side and getting up.

She cracked her back and a few other places while she walked into the kitchen and accepted the cup of coffee from Laf with as little fanfare for gratitude as possible but shook her head at the offer of bagels and cream cheese from Perry.

“Laura told me not to eat breakfast,” she yawned. “Said she wanted to take me out for it.”

“Well that’s adorable,” Perry said, picking up a blueberry bagel for herself and beginning to decorate it with raspberry cream cheese.

“I’m not adorable,” Carmilla grumbled into her coffee and padded off to the bathroom to the sounds of Laf and Perry whispering to each other.

She gulped down as much coffee as she could while not burning a new layer of skin into the back of her throat. She splashed cold water in her face and immediately took to trying to scrub away the dark circles and droopiness that was going to come with being woken at 8am. She and Laura had taken a day a part yesterday after their first Chinese food and playground date, and unfortunately for Carmilla that involved Laf insisting they hit up The Loose Moose, despite the protests that Laura wanted her ready by 8:30.

At least she wasn’t hungover.

She walked back out with half the coffee gone and the Ginger Twins well into the pile of bagels.

“Where are you lovebirds off to?” they said, mouth half full.

“Don’t know, she wouldn’t tell me,” Carmilla said, digging for her pants through her bag. “I don’t know about Canada’s kidney stealing statistics, but I’m hopeful it’s not that.”

She pulled out one of the few shirts she owned that wasn’t black, and began disrobing in the living room as she saw Perry covered Laf’s eyes out of the corner of her own gaze. She snickered but chose to give them a reprieve on teasing since she didn’t have the energy to bite back if Laf had a good come back.

She fluffed her hair and did her best to make her face look as bright eyed and bushy-taled as possible while dodging comments from Laf about how she was “thinking too much” and “she already likes you, chill” while straightening her shirt.

The doorbell rang at exactly 8:27am.

“Yeah, your Sleeping Beauty’s in her,” she heard Laf say when they answered the door and Carmilla waited as Laura stepped into the room in a light colored sundress and a bright smile.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey.”

“And with that I’m going to wish you both a fond farewell.”

Laf gave Carmilla an unceremonious shove and she glared back before Laura’s warm hands pulled her arm and her small giggle had all of Carmilla’s attention. They stepped out of the house and Laura immediately laced her fingers through Carmilla’s and looked up at her like asking a question. Carmilla responded with a quick kiss to her forehead and pulling down her sunglasses as they took to the sidewalk, hand-in-hand.

And even more than their first kiss at the airport, feverish kisses in the bathroom, languid and heartfelt kisses on the playground, walking down the street hand-in-hand made Carmilla’s stomach lighten like none of those moments had. She imagined this scene so many times in her head she was afraid this might be just another figment she was going to wake-up from alone in a hotel room half a world away. Holding hands with Laura, smiling at Laura, actually enjoying a summer morning to the soundtrack of Laura’s aimless chatter was not something she thought she’d ever be graced with.

Laura was a goddess she wanted desperately to deserve, and never more so than in this moment.

“Laf sent some interesting Snaps last night,” Laura said as Carmilla returned to reality and smiled to herself when Laura was still real and at her side.

“Scout’s honor I was sober as a judge,” she said. “And I didn’t actually partake in the karaoke.”

“Why not?”

“Because I like to let the people who can’t since have a moment.”

Carmilla bit her cheek in a smirk and Laura gently elbowed her and shook her head. As they made their way deeper into downtown, Laura tugged on her hand with more obvious direction as they turned at various corners and crossed intersections. The object of her feverish walking became clear when Carmilla spotted, dead across the street from them, a red awning with white lettering.

“Oh you have got to be kidding me.”

Laura laughed and pulled her when the light changed.

Contrary to popular belief, there were actually more Starbucks than Tim Horton’s in Toronto from what Carmilla had seen. But Laura was an avid patron of the latter, possibly because their menu for sweets was far more vast than the former’s. And Carmilla could smell all that confection the second they stepped inside.

“Get whatever you want, it’s on me,” Laura said when they stepped in line.

“Is this how Canadians do breakfast in bed?” Carmilla said.

“Jerk,” Laura mumbled and Carmilla smiled, leaning in to deliver a quick peck to her lips before looking back up at the menu.

It occurred to her 30 seconds later that it was the first time they’d kissed without it being heated or thought out or passionate. A quick, domestic, one off kiss and Carmilla’s head was buzzing. Did she get to do that all the time now? Could they just kiss whenever? Could she do it again or was their a minimum time requirement between kisses?

“You’re up,” Laura said, nudging Carmilla gently.

“Uhh,” Carmilla froze for a moment. “Old fashioned plain donut and a dark roast.”

“And I’ll have a double chocolate donut and an Iced Capp Supreme.”

They shuffled away to wait for their orders and Laura laughed when Carmilla asked what the hell a double double was and made a face when her “super boring no sugar donut” came out with her black coffee.

They ate across the street in a small park, currently populated by a group of college kids getting ready for some protest or speech or something. They picked from each other’s donuts and Laura nearly gagged when she tried Carmilla’s unsweetened coffee. They chatted about other random things while the sun got higher in the sky. By the time they had finished and dropped their trash in the bin, Laura was yanking her arm out of socket again.

The destination was much more obvious this time around when Carmilla say the CN Tower loom bigger and bigger the more they walked. They passed a few restaurants before they crossed the street one final time and began a trek up the stairs, dodging baseball patrons in Bluejays jerseys peeling of to the stadium next door.

“We’re going to the top of that,” Laura said, stopping and pointing straight up once they got in the security check line.

“It’s a long way,” Carmilla said.

“Supposedly you can see Buffalo and Niagara Falls on a clear day from up there.”

They emptied their pockets and sent their bags through x-ray machines and went down a couple more flights of stairs until they got in, yet another, line at the ticket booths were dozens of tourists were lined up.

“Just what I wanted for a second date, standing in line,” Carmilla teased and Laura stuck her tongue out before pulling it back in to place a quick kiss on her lips.

The second kiss they’d had that gave Carmilla butterflies at the naturalness of it all. She wanted to kiss her like that 800 more times before the day was over.

They got up to a booth where some local college kid was lamenting their free time spent working and Laura dropped $80 for their tickets and Carmilla vowed to buy her 7 souvenirs to make up for it before Laura went off on a lecture about how couples should trade off paying for things and the insinuation that one is paying only furthers the…Carmilla cut her off with another kiss.

More lines inside, though this time Laura squeezed her hand after they passed the photo op area. And Carmilla saw why.

Elevators.

She gulped.

“Close your eyes,” Laura whispered kindly. “It’ll only be a minute I promise.”

Carmilla felt herself pale as she obeyed and a small hand came up to cover her eyes further, the other hand holding her own. She placed one final kiss on her shoulder as they walked into the elevator and Carmilla felt bodies around her and tried not to think about how densely packed they must be right now. She wondered if Laura was getting looks for jittery and blinded companion but as soon as it lurched to life and began to move Carmilla stopped caring about anything that wasn’t controlling her breathing.

Only a minute felt like years by the time the tour guide in the elevator stopped rattling off whatever useless history information she knew and the doors dinged up. It took a lot of energy not to go running out, but Carmilla let Laura guide her.

“I’m sorry,” Laura said. “But I think it’s worth it. Look.”

Carmilla opened her eyes to all of Toronto spread out a thousand feet below her and she caught her breath for an entirely new reason. The gorgeous sunny day turned into something else entirely from up above. The buildings and roads sprawled out until mountains in the distant or haze hid the rest of Canada. But it was amazing.

“Holy crap,” Carmilla said.

Laura smiled and pulled her by the hand to the other side and she repeated the process now with a glorious view of the lake stretching out as far as could be seen. The fabled skyline of Buffalo and the mist of the falls was hidden away, the water shone brilliantly in the sun.

“I only ever came here once for a high school field trip,” Laura said. “Hope it was worth the cramped elevator.”

Carmilla turned to see her sheepishly smiling and worrying her lip. Carmilla pulled her in and hugged her and felt her hug back.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “Still no quite my favorite sight up here though.”

Laura turned red as she smiled at that and Carmilla leaned in to give her the first proper kiss they’d shared since running from the cop a few nights ago. They kept it short owing the to tourists closing in around them and the children running rampant on the platform.

They performed the same ritual on the way back down the elevator, though not before Carmilla scared Laura on the plateglass floor and was forced into a Snapchat selfie to send to Betty. Carmilla bought Laura one of the stuffed beavers in the gift shop, a small maple leaf adorning the bottom of its back foot.

Lunch consisted of Carmilla’s first go at trying poutine. On paper it sounded like the single highest food she’d ever heard of but after three bites she hoarded it for herself while Laura laughed. The took the long way to meet Laf and Perry for dinner so they could hold hands for longer and as they separated for the night when Laura called an Uber cab, Carmilla very nearly popped the girlfriend question.

She wondered how long she would have to wait to admit that she just might be in love with Laura. After a semester apart she was terrified of ruining it, and it would be just like Carmilla to finally get the girl and freak her out with too much too soon. But god was she floored. Her hand already missed Laura’s own and she replayed over and over in her head the sight of Laura standing on her tiptoes to kiss her.

They met a few more times, this time flanked by Laf and Perry and Carmilla had dinner with Laura and her father one night.

“You’re a good kid Carmilla,” he’d said while Laura ran into the kitchen to the desert she’d made.

“Thank you Mr. Hollis,” she said, back straight, legs together, hands in lap. She’d even borrowed a blazer from Laf and lint rolled it about six times.

“But more than what I think,” he said leaning back. “My daughter won’t stop looking at you.”

Carmilla felt her cheeks pinken and smiled to her laced fingers over her thighs. That must have been the correct reaction because he laughed and leaned forward again and patted her on the back just as Laura reentered the room with a plate of freshly made cookies, stacked in a neat pyramid.

The next day Laura took her to Kensington Market and refused to enter the marijuana café when Carmilla laughed and poked her about it. They popped in and out of bookshops and listened to a few of the musicians playing on the street. One or two people recognized Carmilla and Laura was the one offering to take a picture for them. They returned home with bags of used books Carmilla had picked through and decided she absolutely had to have and after placing their pizza order over the phone Laura flopped onto the couch next to her and turned something on the DVR.

The title block said “Camus and The Stranger” on the BBC.

“This was on a few weeks ago and I DVR’d it without even thinking about it,” Laura said quietly. “I tried watching it a few times but I think you might be able to make it make more sense to me.”

“Are you sure you want to watch this though? I mean it’s going to be way less fun than Buffy or something,” Carmilla said.

Laura beamed at her and leaned in to kiss her cheek.

“You watched every single thing I made you sit down for, I think I can try to return the favor,” she said.

And Carmilla knew she was in love.

She dove in, hands to Laura’s cheeks, and kissed her with the most heat and intent since their kisses against the tree in the park. After a moment, Laura caught up and anchored her own hands on Carmilla’s shoulder, bunching her fingers into the fabric of her hoodie. Carmilla kept a bruising pace because she realized every second her lips were bare of Laura’s was a wasted one. She needed a tattoo of Laura’s heat there, a stain of her perfume.

“Be my girlfriend,” Carmilla said in a quick breath between a kiss. “Please.”

“Oh thank god yes,” Laura said back almost immediately.

Carmilla took advantage of her parted lips with her tongue and Laura returned in kind. They kept it up for another minute or two before Laura’s dad dropping the remote on his TV upstairs reminded them they weren’t alone and they parted with giggles and nose brushes. Carmilla mumbled promises that she'd never hurt Laura again and Laura hushed because they both knew, no matter how hard they tried, it was a fragile oath. She got in a few tickling kisses on her neck, swearing to write songs only for her and sing only for her and Laura giggled, shoving her away so she could turn on the documentary.

She snuggled into Carmilla's side once it started playing as she played with the honey locks and gave her scalp light scratches. Add in pizza, and it was the best night of Carmilla's life.

Chapter Text

Drunken monologues, and confused because it's not like I'm falling in love, I just want you to do me no good and you look like you could...

--

Laura was not very good at hiding her disappointment when Carmilla told her she’d be doing a concert the night of Halloween. She tried to mask it because Carmilla got self-conscious very quickly when it came to being unavailable because of work. Though Laura appreciated the summer practically free of interruptions, she thought maybe that’s why Carmilla got so jittery about mentioning a contractual obligation, like she was afraid now that Laura knew what a relationship with her would really entail when it came to distance that she’d run.

So when Carmilla babbled out about how she’d be spending quite a bit of time on the road until Christmas, Laura silenced with a kiss and a push onto her dorm bed. An hour or so later, Carmilla was dozing off to sleep underneath Laura when she poked her back into wakefulness.

“Yes dear?” Carmilla yawned and Laura poked her harder for the mock.

“Since we can’t fulfill the dream of a couples costume this year, do you mind doing something else for me?” Laura asked, sitting up to her elbows and looking down at Carmilla was trying to blink wakefulness back into her head.

“Anything cupcake,” she mumbled, closing her eyes, ready to drift again until Laura started planting kisses up her neck and jaw.

“I promised I’d go with Laf to alchemy club masquerade,” Laura said, sitting up. “Help me pick out a costume while I have you here as a captive audience?”

Carmilla rubbed her eyes and forehead and blinked more forcefully, trying to focus the images in her vision as she eyed Laura with a thoughtful pout.

“You really want to spend an uninterrupted afternoon with me saying yay or nay to your Halloween fashion show?” she said.

Laura leaned back in and right up to her ear.

“I’ll try on anything you like,” she whispered. “And maybe I’ll even let you take it off me later.”

Needless to say, Carmilla was on her feet a few seconds later.

They slipped on their shoes and jackets and walked out of the apartment, joining hands on the street as Laura followed the Google maps directions in Carmilla’s phone to the nearest Halloween store.

She thought about last Halloween and all the things that had changed that night in a matter of hours. In a way she was okay with Carmilla being gone because it meant she got to preserve the image of Carmilla in her clothes, teasing her, in her mind for another year longer. She also got to let the memory of the two of them stargazing on top of the Lustig be her quintessential Halloween memory with Carmilla. And it was the first time she considered the possibility that Carmilla just might be in her life forever if she wanted it. This Halloween would be a calm to that, a quiet evening with friends where she got to refuse dances and drinks because she could say she was spoken for (as if the whole campus didn’t already know, but Laf swore they were going to try anyway).

Though, through it all, it might be nice to have a new Halloween memory not somewhat tainted with the knowledge of just how much pain Carmilla had been in then and all the unfortunate ways she had sought to cope with it. Not to mention it was that night that she met Elsie and that had nearly ended up ruining their chances.

So they walked to the Halloween store in the slightly chilly air with a breeze occasionally kicking up leaves around them to paint an image of fall she stamped into her head right next to the memory of Carmilla’s fingers snug in her own. They stepped into the crowded store and Laura pulled Carmilla off to the side and began rummaging.

“Whatever it is, we have to be able to put a mask with it,” Laura said.

Carmilla nodded and began leafing through a variety of options while Laura looked at the nearly picked over section of masks. She picked out a deep maroon one with black lacing along the edges and cradled it in her walk back over to Carmilla who had accumulated a pile of costumes on a chair and sat next to them proudly.

“Your options,” she smiled.

Laura picked them up one by one and found a plentitude of fairly risqué outfits that were in no way logistical for a firewoman or a nurse or a police officer with those necklines and skirts. Laura rolled her eyes.

“Carm really?” Laura said. “This is everything that’s wrong with the Halloween costume industry and it’s objectification of women—“

“Hush,” Carmilla said against her lips with a quick kiss. “I got you another one too.”

Laura pulled out a fairly tasteful Red Riding Hood dress. The white and black laced corset in the front still kept it rather PG-13 as did the low dip in the neckline but at least it wasn’t “Sassy Cop” or “Lady of the Night Nurse”. Laura gave it a thoughtful once over before looking back up to a highly expectant.

“Can I help you?” Laura teased.

“I was promised a show sweetheart,” she said.

Laura rolled her eyes and pulled her along by the wrist until they reached the makeshift dressing rooms and Laura turned and very purposefully told a pouting Carmilla to stay put. Though she played it off with a kiss on the cheek and an air of teasing, it was more so Carmilla didn’t see how incredibly dorky she was going to look trying to get the costume on in the first place.

She stepped into the dressing room and pulled it out. It was in two separate pieces and it took a minute for her to realize hooks on the inside of the top portion would hold it to the dress beneath. She stripped down and pulled the dress on first. Getting the top on was a bit more of a chore as she found it to be quite purposefully tight in the front as she tried to hook it closed. Eventually she did and for once thanked the universe for her moderately smaller breasts. She flattened out the costume with her hands and stared in the mirror, giving herself some turns.

She actually looked good. Like really good. Not that she wanted to give into Carmilla’s dirty mind but she kind of rocked the faux innocent vibe. She briefly wondered if she should wait to show Carmilla in a place that was less likely to get them arrested but Carmilla was knocking on the door just in time.

“Hold on,” Laura said, turning and straightening herself out before opening the door.

Carmilla’s smug grin melted off her face like wax and her eyes shamelessly traveled the length of Laura’s body from head to toe and back again. The muscles in her through bobbed as she swallowed and blinked rapidly. Laura put her hands on her hips and gave a triumphant grin while Carmilla’s mouth gulped like a fish.

“I like that one,” she said with a hoarse voice and Laura leaned in to kiss her cheek.

“Then move back so I can get it back in the bag to pay for it,” she said and Carmilla looked like someone told her Christmas wasn’t coming this year. “You’ll be fine.”

Laura gave her one last peck and a tiny shove and closed the dressing room door to begin dismantling the outfit. Again, she’d rather actually know how to take it on and off before she decided to get extracurricular with it with Carmilla.

She casually pulled a pouty Carmilla along towards the register, snapping her out of the pout by complaining when she saw more “sexy” female costumes and Carmilla groaned and offered her an apology on behalf of the entire human race if she’d wait until she was back on tumblr to complain about it.

Later that night they met up with the others so Laf could drag them to a scary movie marathon in one of the cafs. Laura stayed snuggled up in Carmilla’s arms through back-to-back showings of The Exorcist and Halloween before she yawned loudly for the umpteenth time before Carmilla finally got the hint and politely excused them both, blaming Laura’s sugar binge (which wasn’t entirely inaccurate because she’d devoured half a bag of candy corn and then stole all the Milky Ways out of the mixed bag from the grocery store). Laf and Danny both rolled their eyes with a sing-songy suuuure while Perry swatted at both of them and Betty high-fived. They slipped out with Carmilla giving her napped out brother a wet willy before trotting off at his yells which were quickly shushed by everyone else as Poltergeist was starting.

Between stolen kisses and laughs on the walk home, they stumbled into Laura’s dorm room and onto the bed but before Carmilla could even vocalize that idea brimming behind her eyes her phone started ringing and she’d groaned. She’d already overstayed her allotted time off and it turned out, according to this phone call, that Rick was waiting for her at the edge of campus, car and all, and probably red in the face.

“Try not to have too much fun without me,” Carmilla whispered, kissing her cheek in goodbye as she slung her bag over her shoulder.

“Same to you.”

“Har, har. Like that’ll happen.”

With one last chaste peck they were separated again and Laura told herself it was fine.

---

The week leading up to Halloween Laf had them on a whirlwind of festive events, it seemed to be a mixture of them taking Halloween quite seriously and trying to keep Laura’s mind off of her girlfriend half a world away.

The first was a haunted house the glee club had set up in the tunnels under one of the campus buildings. Danny volunteered to go in first, dragging Kirsch behind her. Betty clung to Laura’s arm in a vice grip as Perry did the same to Laf, all the while J.P. and Will pulled up the rear with minimal jumps when someone screamed in their face. After surviving they got hot cider from the concession stand which Kirsch quickly spiked with rum he’d brought in a flask and they spent the night laughing at groups as they came running out of the haunted house.

A day or so later it was just Laf and Laura in a local corn maze that turned out to be incredibly difficult to maneuver and ended up taking them an hour to get out. Once or twice Laura spotted her girlfriend’s name in the textbox of Laf’s phone and pouted to find her phone free of messages. She tried not to read to much into it, though she also knew enough to know that whenever Carmilla and Laf conspired with each other it usually meant nothing good.

Not that she assumed Carmilla was relapsing. And not that she would ever bring it up and admit she’d essentially been spying into things that weren’t her business. Well they were her business, all things considered, but Carmilla would tell her if she wanted her to know.

She sighed her way through the rest of the week with hoards of candy in an orange and black bowl they’d bought at the drug store and cheap decorations tacked on their apartment wall of bats and fake cobwebs that once or twice Perry mistook for real ones and set to cleaning them before a devastated Laf had to put up more.

“Well don’t you look spooky,” Betty said, stepping into the room Halloween night as Laura slipped the mask on.

The whole outfit had come together rather well, though she ditched the red cape at Laf’s insistence that it ruined the look. Which Laura interpreted to mean it made her look younger and therefore less sexy. She sighed away the lectures brewing in her head and decided to just enjoy the night.

“That’s me,” Laura said.

“Too bad your girlfriend isn’t here to see that,” she said, pulling on her own mask. Betty had opted for some sort of pirate dress.

“I sent her a few pictures but she hasn’t responded.”

“Well we all know what that means.”

Laura turned red and walked out of the room to Betty snickers as she slipped on her shoes. In the living room Laf was already waiting, dressed as the Phantom of the Opera (which Betty said was technically cheating for a masquerade), Perry had on some Victorian looking dress to try and match. Will was dressed as a masked swashbuckler to match Betty who he agreed to take as his date, while Danny and Kirsch were barely in costume at all as simply masked versions of themselves in rival SummerSoc and Zeta shirts and track jackets. J.P. was dressed as a masked Peter Pan, claiming his date was his own shadow.

And it was just dandy that everyone seemed to be paired off in some way and Laura tried not to pout. It would be fun, a night with friends, they’d drink and eat food and ridiculous amounts of candy and at some point Carmilla would get back to her and everything would be more fun again.

“Alright, let’s go Mina Harker,” Laf said, motioning everyone up.

“I’m not Mina Harker, I’m Red Riding Hood—“

“Minus the hood you look more like a vampire’s soon-to-be corrupted victim,” they shrugged.

“You told me to lose the cape!”

“I have my reasons.”

They were winking out the door and Laura brushed away the thought of how much that sounded like Carmilla talking.

----

The party wasn’t totally boring. At least not while they stayed huddled together as a group, claiming a table in the corner. The LeFanu Ballroom was one of the oldest things on campus and supposedly went back to the Habsburgs. It was shiny and pearl from floor to ceiling except where gold lead covered certain pillars and wall hangings. The crystal chandelier lit the room in a dazzle from above and every inch of the place exuded masquerade.

So Laura could set aside her melancholy and get into it for a bit.

That is until everyone decided to head off in separate directions and Laura was left alone at the table reminding herself she wasn’t single, she had a lovely, smoking hot, wonderful girlfriend and it could be a lot worse. But she had hoped to leave behind these feelings of lonely singleness after spending a few months honeymooning her way through the summer.

All in all, it kind of sucked right now.

But Carmilla had a job and fans and contracts and Laura knew all that. She knew who she agreed to date and still wanted her anyway. But she couldn’t let herself feel too guilty for wanting her to herself in that moment.

She was taken out of it when the crowed booed as a remix of some One Direction song turned into…a waltz? The DJ’s offered an apology over the loud speaker and said it was a request and quickly stepped off the stage. It was somewhat familiar but Laura didn’t know classic music so she simply rolled her eyes and went back to sulking.

“Strauss, Blue Danube,” came a voice Laura would recognize in any language or any dream across any lifetime or world they inhabited.

She looked up and spotted a woman in a black mask to match her black curls walking towards her. Her dress was made of a shorter red halter beneath a floor length black mesh. Over top them both was a small black corset sitting around her waist. Her arms would have been bare except for the same black mesh covering them and hanging elegantly at the cuffs. The deciding piece of the whole thing was a black collar, connected to the corset to make them a kind of vest that certainly screamed vampire.

It was Carmilla hiding under all of that, Laura knew it immediately. If the voice and aura of her perfume weren’t enough, Laura spotted the birthmark on her right thigh through the outer dress. And those coal deep eyes were shining against the black of her mask that couldn’t hide her smirk.

“Care to dance?” she said, offering her hand out to Laura whose jaw remembered gravity and dropped.

Carmilla was standing in front of her, in full costume, asking her to dance and smirking all the while. An elegant eyebrow quirked up from behind the mask and Laura closed her mouth and shook her head, regaining her bearings.

She stood up with aid from Carmilla’s hand and reached for the mask only to have her wrist caught in a warm hand and long fingers.

“Ah, ah,” she whispered. “It’s a masquerade. They stay on until midnight.”

Laura’s hand lowered as she felt a shiver up her spine at the game Carmilla was playing. It only worsened as her deep red lips pulled into another predatory smile and Laura knew she was done for.

“I could be anyone,” she whispered, leaning in to let their cheeks brush as her breath warmed Laura’s ear.

“There’s only one person I want you to be,” Laura whispered back and Carmilla pulled herself back so they could see each other.

“Well, another half hour and maybe your dreams will come true,” she said, nodding to the clock that was just about to read 11:30. “But how about that dance?”

Laura shook her head and smiled and placed her hand on Carmilla’s fancy as she could muster and allowed herself to be lead to the dance floor. Carmilla placed a hand on the small of her back as she put hers on her shoulder. Their free hands joined and Carmilla smiled genuinely now.

“After you milady,” Laura said with a nod.

Carmilla lead them around the floor in a waltz much different than the two-second one they’d shared months ago just before Christmas. Carmilla went slow so Laura could follow, and growled every time Laura went to look at her feet, insisting their eyes stay together. They’d accumulated an audience and Laura hoped her burning cheeks weren’t too obvious.

“How did they even have this song?” Laura laughed.

“I gave them a USB and twenty bucks each and there was minimal complaining,” she said.

They did one last turn around the room before Carmilla brought them to an elegant end right where they had started and a few claps went around the room. They looked around and saw one or two extremely drunk couples had tried joining in.

“Well I’m going to think this was all incredibly embarrassing tomorrow,” Laura said. No she wouldn’t, she’d remember it for quite some time as the most romantic thing Carmilla had done for her in a while.

“Good thing you have a mask then,” Carmilla said.

The music changed as the lights dimmed around them and through the speakers they could hear a dangerous, remixed version of a familiar song.

Carmilla offered her hand again and this time when Laura took it she pulled her in tightly so they were back to chest. Carmilla began moving them, her hands resting on Laura’s hips with another pair of hands covering them. Laura relented quickly and allowed her hips to be pushed and smoothly whirled and pulled tightly against Carmilla’s. She let out shallow breaths as hip hop beats and Annie Lennox’s voice infiltrated the room and Carmilla began to sing softly in her ear.

“I put a spell on you,” she whispered. “Because you’re mine…”

The sultry melody continued as Laura twirled in her arms, to filled up on contact from behind. She pulled Carmilla nearly flush to her, her arms resting around her neck as Carmilla continued to move their hips, occasionally bringing them together and earning a gasp from both of them.

The song ended and was beginning to blend into the next one when Carmilla stopped moving and they simply stared at each other, red faced and wanting in the middle of the dance floor.

Carmilla leaned in and placed a kiss on Laura’s neck, right at her pulse point and took all her energy not to gasp out. She lost that battle when Carmilla went in again, this time bringing more pressure to the spot and Laura threaded her fingers into her hair and squeezed as she pulled back with a smile back on her face.

“Vampire indeed,” Laura laughed breathlessly as her cheeks burned.

Carmilla just smiled as the people around them began to shot loudly counting down from ten and Laura glanced at the clock to see it was, in fact, just about midnight.

She gently lifted up her hand, hooking her fingers under the edge of Carmilla’s mask. When they hit 5 she slowly began pushing up and Carmilla didn’t stop her as she leaned in slowly. By the time they were at 2 Laura’s eyes were fluttering closed and the last thing she saw was Carmilla’s own, mask gone, doing the same.

At 1 they met and kissed languidly as Laura wrapped her arms further around Carmilla’s neck, the disrobed mask still in her hand. Carmilla returned her efforts with her arms wrapping tightly around Laura’s middle. Laura felt butterflies explode in all directions behind her bellybutton in a way she never had before and could taste the pomegranate of Carmilla’s lipstick when her tongue casually swept by.

They broke apart to the sound of cheers and yells as other masks came off around them in laughter. A long index finger came up gently and pushed on the bottom of Laura’s mask until it was off completely and Carmilla smiled warmly, leaning in to give her another slow, chaste kiss before the separated again.

“Can we get out of here now?” Laura asked desperately against her lips.

“Happy Halloween,” Carmilla chuckled as Laura pulled her along.

Chapter Text

I don’t want to be the reason that you’re not happy, I’m just happy to be here breathing the same air you do…

--

Settling back into a relationship was hard enough with the Internet constantly on the prowl for information. Laura got the brunt of it since Carmilla often stayed away from webpages and chat rooms (recalling the one time recently she had Googled herself that ended in complete embarrassment, though Laura said it was cute). Mostly it was fans on tumblr congratulating them, though many people were making fun of the whole thing.

“Ignore it,” Laura said with a kiss to her temple when Carmilla was frowning at the TMZ episode in Laura’s living room.

In all honesty, she could take the tabloids and blog posts if it meant she could avoid trying to get back into the good graces of Laura’s family and friends. Her dad hadn’t been too difficult. Carmilla assumed Laura had spoken to him before she flew up to Toronto for the week and he talked to her as if nothing had changed though she could see the fleeting looks in his eyes. He didn’t trust her and he looked itching to give her some kind of talking to. All the same, he went back to invited her to play card games with her over whiskey.

“So, you’re the best singer in the world and the most talented guitarist and the best girlfriend ever,” Laura said carefully, sitting back.

“Do you really want the 93inch teddy bear from Costco, because I said I’d buy it—“

Laura placed a gentle finger on her lips. Carmilla had been buying any and everything Laura had so much as blinked at because it seemed like the only way to avoid the elephant in the room. They were dancing around each other a lot, avoiding all subjects that could relate back to that night, Ell, or the entire state of California. Not too mention they hadn’t…slept together since before the fight.

“No, that thing was bigger than both of us, I’d never get up from cuddling with it,” she said. “But I did want to ask you a favor.”

She was biting her lip as Carmilla turned her full attention to Laura, trying to look as expectant but not judgmental as possible.

“So like…Danny and everyone invited me out to dinner tonight,” she said.

Carmilla did not miss the part where Laura alone had been invited. Prepared to give Laura permission to go hang out with her friends and lick her wounds the rest of the night, Carmilla opened her mouth when Laura placed another finger on her lips.

“And I wanted you to come with me,” she said.

Her face was pink and her poor bottom lip might bruise from the effort. Her eyes were doing their best impression of a puppy and not even Carmilla’s heavy sigh could deter her hopeful gaze.

“Don’t you think your friends will, I don’t know, want to kill me?” Carmilla said as gently as possible, removing Laura’s silencing finger.

“I already talked to Danny and you talked to Laf, they all know everything’s cool now,” she said.

“Yeah but your knight in shining gym shorts missed her chance to punch me and I’m not exactly excited about being in arm’s reach of her,” Carmilla said.

“Well I will personally make sure you are not within arm’s reach.”

“I don’t know cupcake, her arms go pretty far.”

Laura smiled because she knew she was winning as Carmilla’s own face began to crack into a widening grin. Laura leaned forward and placed a quick kiss on her lips as she pulled Carmilla into a hug and then didn’t let go as she leaned back and Carmilla rested her head on her chest, listening to her heartbeat.

“Nap first though,” Laura yawned, running her fingers through Carmilla’s hair.

“Where is this cruel and unusual punishment happening?” Carmilla asked, drumming her fingers on Laura’s free arm.

“Some pizza place downtown. We can take the streetcar,” Laura yawned some more, clearly intent on her nap.

“Wow, your friends want to take you out for pizza, how luxurious,” Carmilla said.

“Shut up, it’s like one of those fancy places you use a fork and knife. Danny and Kirsch are only in town for a few days and they wanted to pick.”

Carmilla chuckled and felt Laura’s breath slowly even out underneath her until the stroking of her hair stopped altogether. Carmilla said, leaning up to look at her. She was so much calmer now than she was moments ago, and the furrows in her brow were gone. Carmilla wasn’t an idiot, she knew she stressed Laura out and not talking properly stressed her out and trying to chase half of a relationship was stressing her out.

Carmilla wanted to keep her face this peaceful for the rest of her life, even if that meant she didn’t get to see it ever again. She knew Laura would fight a permanent break-up tooth and nail, kicking and screaming until she finally realized Carmilla was trying to do the right thing. Their complete collapse over a misunderstanding was evidence enough that there was something fundamental different about that and perhaps something irreversibly wrong with their situation.

Laura hadn’t trusted Carmilla and been dead set on remaining angry and right while Carmilla couldn’t stand how much pain Laura put herself in to prove her point. And Laura wanted to the cleaned up version of Carmilla, showing her that empty bottle was meant to be a moment of pride and yet Laura’s simply went dark at its presence. She wanted someone Carmilla used to be, or perhaps never was, maybe she made it up in her head.

And now they were chasing after something that may have run its course and Laura would never admit it.

Carmilla sighed and snuggled into Laura’s chest closer, breathing in every part of her, knowing it might be one of the last times.

----

They got to the restaurant first and waited outside awkwardly as Danny live-texted her Uber adventure with Kirsch `and Laf swore they’d left 20 minutes ago. Between the ride on the bus and the walk there Laura and Carmilla had not touched once. No holding hands, no bumping knees. There was a time when Laura would cling to any limb she could reach just to be close to her. Now they were three feet apart on the sidewalk.

God this was awful. And it would only get worse when she finally took a breath and a plunge.

“Hey,” came a voice from a few feet down and Carmilla was grateful, for once, for Danny’s interruptions as she walked up.

The grateful attitude ended when Danny sent a quick glare in Carmilla’s direction before turning to strike up a conversation with Laura. Carmilla took another step back and held in a sigh. Kirsch seemed more amicable, asking Carmilla about music and work and despite his less than highly intelligent vocabulary, that he liked her enough to try with a smile.

Things loosened up a bit more when LaFontaine and Perry arrived and Laf immediately started talking to Carmilla about everything from the weather to traffic. They took the seat on the other side of Carmilla when they all sat down at the table.

“I hear the margherita pizza here is to kill for,” Laf said as their waiter poured them all pretentious looking glasses of sparklingly water.

“What do you think Carm?” Laura asked.

“Whatever you want.”

And that was the most they talked through dinner. Occasionally they’d dip into each other’s conversations or say a word or two, but Carmilla’s face was glued to her plate as she felt Danny’s judging eyes and Laf fighting to meet her gaze. This was a mistake. And every second they waited for the check to arrive was torture.

“So, Carmilla, how have you been?,” Perry said as the waiter dropped the check in the middle of the table. The you haven't spoken much didn't need to be added.

“Fine, could be better I guess,” she said as casually as possible and throwing in a shrug. Laf opened their mouth to say something before--

“I’ll bet,” Danny mumbled.

Laf's mouth closed and Carmilla sighed, swiveling in her chair in Danny's direction.

“Something you want to say to me Xena?” she said with a pointed glare.

The energy in the table shifted immediately as if everyone had just leaned back to avoid being hit by an explosion. If Carmilla hadn’t been holding a staring contest with Danny she’d see that Perry was frantically looking at anyone to come up with something to say, Kirsch’s mouth was hanging open uselessly, and that Laura had gone pale.

“You really want to hear it?” she said.

“Well it couldn’t been any worse than the tabloids and internet idiots also getting huffy with their opinions of something they know nothing about,” Carmilla rattled off with clenching fists that didn't go unnoticed.

“Gonna punch me too?”

Carmilla stood up so fast her chair nearly kicked out from underneath her. Danny must have been expecting a hit because her arms went up in defense but Carmilla was already turning and walking away.

“You win Xena, I’m an asshole, you know everything, have a good night,” she said as she dropped a wad of cash on the table and turned her back and pushed her way out of the restaurant.

Her walk of shame on the dark city street didn’t last long until small hands were clamping over her shoulders and pulling her to a stop before spinning her around. A pale-faced and teary-eyed Laura was staring at her in some gruesome blend of shock, anger, and pity.

“Carm—“

“Laura,” Carmilla sighed. “I don’t want to hear it.”

“Yeah well, sometimes I don’t want to hear stuff from you too but I listen,” she said.

“Well what I have to say in response to what you’re going to say is something you’re not going to like,” Carmilla said.

“What does that mean.”

Carmilla looked up at her with pleading eyes. She watched as the cogs worked in Laura’s head until she reached the conclusion she was searching for. And then Laura’s face became nothing but horror as she shook her head violently and the first of her tears spilled over.

“No, you’re not breaking up with me, not over this,” she said.

“It’s not about this,” Carmilla said. “The past two weeks have been torture, you have to feel it too. It’s like we don’t know how to be around each other anymore.”

Laura was still shaking her head.

“We can fix it,” she insisted.

“Laura there might be nothing left to fix. I messed up bad and as much as you say everything is fine now, I know you’re never going to forget it,” Carmilla said. “I mean, you should be with someone who makes you happy, not makes you anxious.”

“That person was you Carm—“

“Until I fucked it all up.”

Laura closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them, she reaffirmed her grip on Carmilla’s shoulders and looked hard at her.

“I messed things up too. I didn’t trust you for a split second and everything was ruined. I trust you more than anyone, Carm. And I slipped and I was so shocked that I just put all the blame on you,” she said.

The summer air was warm and the light breeze was nice. It rattled the leaves on the trees lining the street and the last traces of twilight were still visible cracks on the horizon. It was, despite everything happening, a perfect night as the stars began to pop up in the night sky above them. It would be a calm way to go out, a quiet epilogue. They deserved that much.

“So isn’t it better to part like this? Before we hate each other?” Carmilla said.

Laura’s bottom lip quivered as she pulled away from Carmilla and dropped down onto the bench beside them as a string of cars drove by.

“I don’t want be away from you.”

Laura’s quivering continued as more tears fell silently, save for the moments where she sucked in breath and her nose gave a sniffle. Carmilla dropped to her knees in front of her and placed her hands on her lap. Laura’s own came to cover Carmilla’s almost instantly and she felt the familiar warmth as they squeezed hers.

“The thought of never being able to wake up next to you or hold your hand or kiss you. It feels like—like someone cut a hole in me,” Laura coughed out. “And I know your past is dark and that’s why it scares me Carm. The thought of something happening to you makes me feel like I can’t breath.”

“I don’t want you to feel that way,” Carmilla said. “Which is why we should do this. I’m more a burden than a girlfriend now.”

“But I do want to feel this way. I want to able to stress over you and be mad at you because that means I’m still close enough to love you, and god do I love you,” Laura said. She leaned forward and cupped Carmilla’s cheeks and pulled until heir foreheads were joined.

“But I don’t know if that’s enough,” Carmilla whispered.

Her hands went up to cover Laura’s and her fingers stroked softly over the other pair. Occasionally she let out a shush when Laura’s inhales got too violent. More cars passed behind them and Carmilla wondered how long it was until someone stopped in worry at the lunatics crying into each other on the side of the street.

“It’s enough for me,” Laura whispered so close she could feel her breath. “Sometimes I don’t listen and I get caught up in my own head, you’ve got a scary past and sometimes I don’t know how to deal with that and neither do you. But I’m so much happier with you around and for the first time in my life you made me want to listen more. You’re someone I want to listen to, even if what you have to say hurts me.”

Carmilla felt her resolve cracking and cracking as she leaned farther into Laura until her head was in her lap completely and Laura was stroking her hair. This was asking for forgiveness, she realized, this was it. She was on her knees begging Laura to let her be miserable and all alone because she deserved it and Laura was absolving her, just as before.

And again, she was vindicated.

And maybe that was the enough she was looking for. All this longing and want that was simmering underneath a thick layer of apathy and nervousness was boiling over and it felt good. The confusion of the past few weeks was melting away on a Toronto sidewalk into Laura's familiar arms and unconditional caresses.

“I don’t know if I ever really knew what it felt like to…you really, really love me?” Carmilla asked as she raised her head.

Laura smiled at this, for the first time in weeks it was a real, warm, and soft smile. She nodded and brushed some hair from Carmilla’s forehead off to the side and over her ear.

“I love your laugh and your smirk and the sound of your voice,” she said before she kissed her. “I love all the crazy smart stuff you talk about that I just have to smile and nod to. And even the things that make me cry.”

More kisses over her cheeks and eyes and forehead and hair. She held her eyes closed and melt into it as it happened. Laura then held her lips against her cheek and breathed there.

“I love you too,” Carmilla said back. “I can’t promise I won’t ever break your heart again but I swear I will try to make sure it never happens.”

Laura nodded.

“I’ll call you every day, and I’ll—I’ll see someone, about all the things going on in here," she said, pointing to her head.

It wouldn't be enough anymore to simply complaining about her poor coping mechanisms. It would be hard, she knew that much. She never wanted to talk to anyone before Laura and even then she was reluctant to darken Laura's bright eyes. But she could do it, for all the ways she had cracked Laura open, she could handle doing it to herself if it meant she kept those beautiful whiskey eyes in her life. Those eyes that pulled back at all of this and looked at her. Her eyes were searching in Carmilla’s for signs of conviction and she must have found it because after a moment or too she looked ready to cry again, this time with a smile on her face.

“I’ll go with you if you want, you shouldn’t have to do it alone—“

“One step at a time,” Carmilla smiled back.

And one last look was shared between them as they kissed and then broke into a tight hug. They could make it work all over again. Their red string was tangled and frayed, but still determined to be attached. So they held close as they walked home hand-in-hand, flying off texts to Laf that everything was okay (though Carmilla wanted to add "and Danny can go fuck herself"). They curled up together in Laura's bed for the first time in weeks and held close. In the morning, Carmilla woke to Laura kissing her before clothes came off and she felt, if it were possible, even happier than their first night together a year ago.

They were going to be okay.

Chapter Text

When the pain cuts you deep and when the night keeps you from sleeping, just look and you will see that I will be your remedy…

--

Laura (8:03AM): You’re going to do great. Call me when it’s over if you want. I’m so proud of you <3

Carmilla read it over one more time before banging the heel of her free hand to her forehead as she pocketed her phone. She’d fidgeted the entire car ride over and Scott offered to get her a shot for her nerves. She smiled and refused, mainly because she was scared they’d make her submit to a drug test and that’s the last thing she needed on her first day of therapy.

It was a discreet office, located on the 38th floor of some office building so the people around her could assume she was on her way in to see Hartman and Hartman Law Offices on floor 23, or Kahn Insurance Services on floor 14.

She walked into the sleek lobby of the building and stepped up to the wall of elevators several yards from the entrance. She jammed the button repeatedly to the eye roll from onlookers. Her sunglasses were still on and the beanie probably made her look like she was about to rob one of the offices. That or the people saw her for exactly what she was, someone who didn’t want to be identified.

When she told Rick she wanted to see someone about all the issues in her head he’d immediately produced an approved list of psychologists and psychiatrists that had been used by other artists and had prior discrepancy agreements with the label. Carmilla then quietly asked Laura to do some research of her own and produced a list of offices not far from her apartment in Manhattan, all female.

She picked one at random and told the record label they could deal with it.

The elevator came and Carmilla rushed in and began repeating the jamming process on the button for floor 38. She was joined by a few other people in business suits who all hit buttons for lower floors and she tried not to groan. It made the ride insufferable though as she pretended to be busy on her phone the entire time. Four stops later and the elevator finally dinged and opened for her on 38. She walked out and turned left to see a plain wooden door labeled Upper East Counseling and Associates.

She took a breath and pushed the door open. I’m so proud of you. She kept that voice in her head as she walked up to the receptionist behind the counter, clicking away at her computer.

“Last name?” she said, not looking up from her monitor.

“Karnstein,” she mumbled back.

The receptionist only had a brief pause before her typing continued and she handed Carmilla a clipboard with papers and told her to fill them out. Carmilla took a seat with the green clipboard and papers and began filling out the biographical information it asked for to the best of her ability. She shoved it back on the desk a few minutes later and went back to sitting in the corner, twiddling her thumbs and pretending to check her email about 8 times as one or two patients walked out. It was too cloudy of a day for the window view to be worth it and she sighed.

“Karnstein?” the receptionist called out.

Carmilla stood and took off her sunglasses.

“Dr. Belmonde will see you now,” she said, and motioned to the door on the right.

Carmilla sighed and pushed it open, stepping down until she found the office labeled “Matska Belmonde, PhD” and knocked. A voice inside told her to come in and she obeyed.

She stepped into a fairly lavish office. The proverbial “couch” was actually a very nicely furnished chaise lounge with an expensive looking blanket and pillow set adorning it. Belmonde’s desk was a shiny and deep wood color and the artwork on the walls was intricate and looked akin to something hanging in a museum.

“Swish digs,” Carmilla mubled, moving to sit on the chaise lounge.

“Good afternoon to you as well Miss Karnstein,” Belmonde said from behind the desk where she was writing. “I was just finishing going over a lovely and lengthy nondisclosure agreement from your PR manager.”

Carmilla cringed.

“Apparently no one trusts doctor-patient confidentiality anymore,” she said, looking up with a smile that looked deadly.

Maybe she’d made a mistake picking someone at random. This woman exuded power as she sat back in her chair, capping her pen. She was a few years older than Carmilla to be sure, but her eyes and smile said she knew a plethora of things she never would. As if the asymmetrical power dynamic wouldn’t be enough by itself, this woman looked smug without Carmilla even saying a word.

“Relax Miss Karnstein,” she said, as if reading her mind. “I don’t bite. It’s a joke. And all your secrets are safe with me. How are you this fine Tuesday afternoon?”

“Scared,” she said. It was best to be honest.

“I imagine so, your patient questionnaire said this is your first time speaking to any sort of counselor of your own free will,” she said, kinder than her opening remarks.

“Well hospital assigned counselors aren’t super helpful,” she said, itching her head and pretending to be interesting in one of the holes in her pants.

“I imagine not, they see a hundred patients a day, I see less than half that in a week,” she said. “I’m Mattie.”

She was extending her hand as she stood up and Carmilla stood as well, reaching in to shake her hand. It was like a business transaction but her hand was warm and her grip not tight and it set Carmilla more at ease. She stepped around the desk to sit in an ornate chair across from the chaise lounge.

“And what would you like me to call you? I understand your legal name is Mircalla but—“

“Carmilla is fine,” she said and Mattie nodded, taking out a notebook and pen.

“Tell me about yourself Carmilla, something I can’t find out from your files,” she said.

She swallowed. This was it. I’m so proud of you.

“Uh, I’m 22, I’m a musician, I live in New York,” she began lamely, biting her lip.

“Tell me about the music, how’d you get into it, what instruments do you play?” she supplied.

Carmilla took a breath and told herself she was safe, that this was a safe place, that Belmonde—Mattie—was a friend, or would be a friend. She could do this. She could just open her mouth and do it. So why wasn’t she doing it? It was a simply question and not nearly the worst thing she’d be asked. She just needed to open her mouth but her jaw wasn’t cooperating.

“Sorry,” Carmilla mumbled, rubbing her head.

“It’s alright,” she said honestly.

“I’ve just—I’ve never talked to anyone who wasn’t—who wasn’t my girlfriend,” she said, turning red.

Mattie smiled and wrote something down and Carmilla thought of all the sitcoms and movies where patients got antsy at their therapists writing things down and she understood the feeling.

“Tell me about this girlfriend. Your questionnaire form said she’s part of the reason you’re here,” she said.

“Doesn’t everyone in the world know about her?” Carmilla muttered.

“Contrary to popular belief among celebrities, every facet of your lives is not the center of everyone’s worlds,” Mattie said. “And even if it was, I’d still ask you tell me in your own words about her.”

Carmilla sighed. Talking about Laura was easy, much easier than talking about herself. This place was safe and she was safe, and Laura was waiting to hear all about it in an hour. She couldn’t walk out. She couldn’t betray Laura like that. Again.

“She was a friend of one of my brother’s frat brothers,” Carmilla said. “We played the whole will-they-or-won’t-they thing for like 7 months and then we got together a little over a year ago.”

“Who is she? What does she do?”

Carmilla begin to gush out everything she could think to say about Laura. She talked about her major and her dad and her friends. She talked about her smile and even was willing to open up about their dates and that first night they’d slept together in her dad’s living room. By the time they were 45 minutes into the sessions Carmilla hardly realized and found herself answering questions about herself with much more ease.

“So, your mother was the reason for your career choice?” Mattie asked, writing.

“Initially, I guess. Well—yeah. She made me do it and I hated it most of the time,” Carmilla said.

“You don’t hate it now?”

“No.”

“Why is that?”

“Because it’s for her. I get to sing her songs and impress her on a guitar, who wouldn’t want to get paid to do that?”

Mattie nodded and wrote some more.

“And before her?” she asked.

“It kind of sucked. With Ell it was nice until things got crappy,” Carmilla said.

Mattie hummed and nodded her head as she wrote some more before capping her pen and leaning back like she did when Carmilla first walked into the office. This time it felt less threatening though Carmilla could feel herself being studied as Mattie looked at her.

“Well Carmilla, we’re winding down for today, but I have a but of theory I’d like to run by you,” she said.

Carmilla nodded.

“I think I can summarize all the things that went wrong in your life down to one word,” she said. “Control.”

“Control?’ Carmilla echoed.

“Your mother controlled your life and controlled your career choice, then you handed that control off to a girlfriend, and then when she was gone to drugs, and then off to another girlfriend,” she said. “Your autonomy is underdeveloped, for lack of a better phrase. Though perhaps that’s too clinical? Carmilla you don’t know how to function without someone pulling your strings in various fashions.”

Carmilla frowned and sat back. She didn’t like the sound of it and her mood towards Mattie soured. But at the same time, she felt a spark of truth hiding in there. So she just nodded through her tightly knit brow and the descending corners of her lips.

“It’s okay if hearing that makes you angry,” she said. “But going forward I think I know ways we can work through this. You may not like all of them, but you need to remember this is about helping you Carmilla.”

What did that mean? Carmilla just nodded and they casually set up her appointment for next week and Carmilla exited the room, throwing her RayBans back on and pulling out her phone.

”Hey! How are you? How’d it go?

“It’s scary cupcake, not gonna lie,” she said as she stepped into an empty elevator.

”I’m sorry.

Carmilla could hear the frown in her voice.

“But it was good. I mean no one likes hearing what’s wrong with them, but I think it was helpful,” Carmilla said, trying to sound upbeat.

She told me you’re just another person in a long line of puppetmasters in my life, but you know, it was probably helpful, she thought to herself as she stepped out of the elevator and bumped shoulders with a businessman.

”I can fly down there you know. I’ve still got a few weeks before the semester starts. That way I can hug you after all these sessions.

Carmilla smiled at how pouty and small Laura sounded now. Her heart melted a bit though at Laura’s concern.

“I’ll be fine babe,” she said. “I’m a big girl and I’ve soldiered by myself long before you.”

That didn’t seem to assuage Laura but she changed the conversation and they talked the whole way back to her apartment. And once there they continued their conversation over Skype while Carmilla made herself a dinner of pizza and wine. And after the dinner (and more wine on both ends) Laura may or may not have talked Carmilla into a minor striptease (she would later refuse to acknowledge it in person).

Carmilla went to bed with Laura’s voice in her head and for the first time, felt warm in the form of a pillow she hugged tight in her place.

----

Sessions with Mattie didn’t get any easier, but Carmilla grew less and less defensive to her evaluations. She couldn’t shake the feeling that for some reason Mattie didn’t like Laura, but she was helping her, she could feel it. They talked about her mother, her brother, Laura, and even Ell.

“You’ve got triggers Carmilla,” she said one day. “And I’m trying to make them make sense, so I need you to describe your emotions surround Ell as best you can.”

“Anger.”

“Why?”

“She broke my heart and I was alone.”

“I think it’s possible you react so viscerally to her because she represents, in your mind, parts of you you’d like to shove away. She ended up becoming a dark time in your life and brought out some unfortunate sides to you, and that hurts you to remember.”

Carmilla nodded noncommittally.

“Considering that short temper of yours, it’s not surprising you’d snap when confronted with her, so I’ve got a proposition for you that you can feel free to say no to.”

“Hit me.”

“Do you know what exposure therapy is?”

A week later Carmilla was then sitting at her kitchen table, this time Laura was next to her. Her knuckles were white beneath Laura’s hands as she her fingers hovered over the dial button on her phone. You can make the beast small by looking it in the eye Mattie had said. Somehow Carmilla would take a lion or bear over this phone call to Ell right now. But Laura, who had raced to New York when Carmilla called her in the middle of the night crying and guilty about it, was sitting next to her and stroking her arm.

She hit the button.

“Hello?”

Ell’s voice was like a drill to her temple and she squeezed her eyes shut and forced herself to open her mouth like jumping out of a plane.

“Hi Ell.”

They talked for two hours.

At first Carmilla didn’t tell her she was on speaker with Laura in the room, which was probably unethical, but she wanted to hear Ell’s honesty and wanted Laura to hear it too. They talked about the night on the pier, about their two years together, about everything that her mother had lied to Ell about, about everything that had went wrong.

And Carmilla cried.

And she felt awful for her selfishness because she knew this was hurting Laura to witness and to hear, to endure learning about her relationship with another woman and having to watch her cry over someone who wasn’t her. So when it was over Carmilla held Laura for an hour and stroked her hair and stopped her crying so Laura could have some crying of her own as she promised that she loved her and would always love her. They slept so close together that night that Carmilla didn’t know where her body ended and Laura’s began.

And in the morning it was beautiful.

Something was working.

----

A month and a half into the sessions, Mattie asked that Carmilla bring Laura with her for a 45 minute session. She ensured multiple times it was not couples therapy, but that it was part of helping Carmilla if she understood Laura better. Carmilla felt there was some other motive brewing beneath the surface but didn’t push it. Mattie had helped her thus far, and she trusted her to pull her through the rest.

So they walked hand-in-hand into Mattie’s office one Saturday afternoon, two weeks before Laura had to jet off to Styria for school.

“Miss Hollis, lovely to meet you,” Mattie said, offering a hand. Laura took it.

Carmilla wondered if she’d tightened her grip on the handshake for Laura because there was an immediate spark between them. And not the good kind. It was cold and Carmilla watched both sets of eyes narrow just slightly as they parted and sat down. She’d known for weeks now that Mattie was not overly favorable of Laura for some reason, and somehow, in the span of 2 seconds, that had been reciprocated fast.

“So, I asked you both to come in today because there is an aspect of Carm’s struggle here that you can help us with Laura,” she said.

Carmilla felt Laura flinch and then grow tense. It was the first time Laura had heard someone other than herself use the nickname she’d invented for her. Carmilla, discretely as she could, squeezed her leg.

“I’ve talked to Carmilla at length on this topic, but I feel as though the roadblock in her way is control. She lacks a grasp on it. She’s been able to take some of that agency back thanks to some very brave dialogue with Ell. Her mother is a large issue onto itself, but I wanted to bring you here to meet with you about your role in all this,” Mattie said.

Oh boy.

“You think I’m controlling her?” Laura said.

“I think she may be facilitating her own struggles by allowing herself to be complacent with you. We talked before about how she describes her career as it pertains to others, you are one of the people she mentioned in that conversation. And of course there is the subject of that song,” she said.

“What, you think I keep her as some kind of pet or—“

“I’m not saying that,” Mattie said sharply. “But I also know Carmilla is very cautious to loose you, and very self-conscious, so, in short, she’s eager to please.”

“You can both stop talking about me like I’m not here,” Carmilla said, rolling her eyes.

Well this was going well.

“Tell me about yourself Laura,” Mattie said.

“Why? So you can manipulate everything I say into some kind of—“

“Can we not? Please?” Carmilla said, turning to both of them. “Mattie, just stop beating around the bush and tell us what the deal is?”

Mattie sighed, and capped her pen again, setting aside the notebook and crossing her legs.

“Now, I need you to consider this fully and not react harshly. Mainly because these are thin walls and I don’t need the patient next store hearing that one start yelling,” she said, Laura glared. “We had success the last time you worked through your issues head on Carmilla. You’re in a far better place for talking with Ell. However, I also know Laura was there with you and we still have to grapple with this overarching issue of control. So, with that in mind, I’m asking that the two of you try to go one, just 7 days, with absolutely no communication. No emails, calls, texts, Facebook comments, Instagram likes. None of it.”

Carmilla felt her throat get dry as Laura squired next to her but held her tongue. Her grip on Laura tightened.

“This isn’t to simulate a break up or anything like that,” Mattie assured. “But Carmilla I want you to envision yourself without a significant other, I want you to know who you are without Laura. And I want you to find self-worth in that person.”

Well that was impossible logic to argue with.

“Laura being with me isn’t a problem—“

“No it’s not,” Mattie said quickly. “She’s incredibly beneficial and healthy for you, but I want you to be able to love yourself without her doing it for you.”

Carmilla swallowed.

“It won’t be easy, and it will be scary, and you may feel alone, but I’ll give you my cell and you can call me whenever you feel in even the slightest bit of danger. It’s one week to trade for what could potentially be a lifetime of happiness darling,” Mattie said.

She was speaking more earnestly than she had in weeks and even Laura was softening at her concern. Mattie was truly invested in this, and her logic was hard to refute. And Carmilla’s paralyzing fear perhaps proved Mattie’s point: she didn’t know who she was without Laura or how to cope with things without her. There was no way of getting out of this.

They talked about it for the next half hour before finally agreeing and exchanging phone numbers. Two days later, Laura checked into a hotel Carmilla had booked for her downtown where Scott promised to keep her company and drive her around for the week. The goodbye was not without tears but they kept it quick out of fear and didn’t turn back.

----

Years later, Carmilla would referring to that week as a detox. She’d gone through real detox before, the sweats and the vomiting and the shaking were having a run for their money with Carmilla’s loneliness and fits. She paced throughout her apartment, she tossed things, she broke several strings on her guitars, and barely ate.

She called Mattie multiple times who simply talked to her about her day or a movie or a meal she just ate. They went out to dinner once or twice, and Carmilla confessed the itching in her fingers had returned by day 3 and she nearly called one of her old dealers.

“You will be an addict the rest of your life Carmilla,” Mattie said bluntly. “These urges will rear their head when you’re stressed or alone. That’s part of what I wanted you to explore here, you need to learn how to fight it without Laura around.”

“Is that what all this was about?” Carmilla said over her uneaten burger.

“That is only a side affect of your greater problem Carm,” she said.

And so she did learn how to fight it. She busied herself with reading or writing and took miles of walks across the city in the summer warmth. She drank gallons of water and tried to sleep as much as she could, hoping to make time go faster. It was torture and it seemed to only be getting longer as each day go closer to that fateful Sunday she’d get to hear Laura’s voice again.

Mattie had asked her to keep a diary during the week and focus on one question Who am I?. Carmilla had begun by listing random words: musician, addict, Austrian, American, girlfriend, singer, bookworm, and on the list went. By Friday the lists had turned more into sentences and fractions of poems or lines in songs.

I’m more scared of the dark than dying.

I don’t know how to fight what I can’t see.

For some reason I make her happy.

I want to know why that is.

By the end of the night Saturday Carmilla was sitting on the roof of her building, staring up at a blank night sky, dominated by light from the city and half of the moon. She toyed with an unlit cigarette in her mouth and had one thought on her mind I’m Carmilla.

That is what she’d learned this week. After getting over the pain of separation from the one person who knew her better than anyone, after dealing with the loneliness and all the temptations. She was Carmilla, and she would always be Carmilla. Maybe alone she wouldn’t be a singer or a guitarist, maybe she wouldn’t be as quick witted or even half as intelligent without someone to debate with.

But she was this person now, on the roof, peaceful and very much okay.

She understood Mattie’s gamble though she was pretty sure this was all super unethical. And she learned something else as well that Mattie had perhaps not intended. She knew who she was at her core when she was alone, but she liked far better the person she became thanks to Laura. And that was something she’d hold onto for as long as Laura would let her.

At 8am the next day Carmilla went bursting into the hotel lobby where Laura was waiting to hug her tight and whisper how proud she was and how much she loved her and that everything was okay.

And for the first time in a long time, Carmilla believed that was true.

Chapter Text

All is calm, all is bright, 'round yon virgin mother and child...

--

Carmilla was warm. It was always her favorite part of the morning, half awake in the half dark room, curled up under Laura’s covers. It would have far more enjoyable if a fundamental piece of the puzzle wasn’t missing, however. Laura’s arms, and the rest of her, were nowhere to be found. Her side of the bed had gone cold in the length of her absence. Someone had tucked the covers up under Carmilla’s chin however and momentarily made her want to simply drift off back to sleep and let the smell of Laura’s body wash on the pillow be enough.

But she heard rustling downstairs and sighed.

Last Christmas had been far more hectic between constant calls from Rick and having to jet out of the house at 8am the 26th to make a concert in Berlin. For now, she was free of world tours and promo signings and had turned her phone on airplane mode with Laura so nearby. Though she had occasionally flown down to New York in the past few weeks to visit Mattie who insisted on seeing Carmilla in person at least once a month between Skype therapy sessions.

Carmilla stretched as she stood up and out of the bed, clad in a pair of Laura’s boxers and a Harry Potter t-shirt. The room still smelled like Laura’s (surprisingly potent) peppermint chocolate candle and the step in the hallway was no different with the wafting smell of hot chocolate from downstairs. Carmilla took careful steps on the cold hardwood of the stairs, avoiding the creaky parts. She padded across the floor once she was in the foyer and found Laura amidst a sea of presents and wrapping paper.

“Well you’re a busy bee.”

Laura practically jumped into the air as wide eyes focused in on the new voice and she dived on some box in front of her.

“No looking!”

Carmilla rolled her eyes, closing them and moving to sit on the couch. She heard huffy shuffling and high pitched groans and Laura hid her handiwork and plopped on the couch next to her.

“And I was getting so much done, you choose today to wake up before noon,” Laura groaned, leaning into Carmilla’s side and wrapping an arm across her middle.

Carmilla laughed and let her fingers play in Laura’s hair.

“Good morning to you too.”

Laura gave her an apologetic kiss and sat up to ready the coffee maker in the kitchen for her. Carmilla followed with a smirk and a quick glance to the newly wrapped boxes. She wanted to feel bad that she’d paid to have all of Laura’s wrapped at the mall but then again, considering her own skills in wrapping it was a kindness.

“Where’s your dad?” Carmilla asked with a yawn, getting up to follow her onto the cold tile of the kitchen.

“Out with one of my aunts,” she said. “He and my mom’s sister get brunch every year around Christmas.”

“You didn’t want to go?”

Something changed in the air around Laura but she turned and smiled, offering a steaming mug brimming with coffee smell. The corners of her lips, pulled up, were doing battle with the sadness in her eyes and Carmilla decided not to press it. She simply leaned forward with a kiss to her forehead and nodded.

---

Mattie had been very much on Carmilla’s back recently about the current situation with her mother. She’d asked about nearly three sessions in a row now and once or twice suggested Carmilla try and make a phone call or two to her mother for Christmas.

“The holidays are the perfect time to reconnect,” she said. “You’ve got a casual excuse to start talking.”

“And if I have zero interest in that?”

“I think you have more interest than you realize.”

Carmilla mulled over that for some time and was too afraid to bring it up to Laura in case she agreed. Laura didn’t seem to hate Carmilla’s mother the way she expected her to, especially after talking with her ended in disaster almost two years ago. If nothing else, Lilita’s lack of attempts to communicate were what truly was drawing Carmilla in at this point. She hadn’t called or left voicemails or sent Will hunting for information.

She still existed, Carmilla would check her social media every now and again to see it updating regularly. And when Carmilla sent Mattie her Christmas gift of a bottle of wine from one of the vineyards on the edge of the lake she sent back with her thank you a quiet note that she should attempt to talk to her mother this year.

She turned to Will.

“You know what I’m going to say.”

They were on the phone late one night with Laura out cold in her bed after a marathon of old Christmas movies. Carmilla was in the kitchen, watching the sky cautiously for signs of snow in the quickly freezing Canadian air.

“I don’t want to end up back where I was. It’s dangerous,” she said.

“If it was your therapist wouldn’t have suggested it. You’ve been seeing her for like 6 months, she knows her stuff.”

“And what about Laura?”

“She’d want you to try and be happy.”

“And what if this is torture for me?”

”She knows you well enough to know sometimes you have to hurt to heal.”

In the end, Carmilla gave in after two shots of Mr. Hollis’s rye. She dialed the number twice before a groggy voice finally picked up. Hearing her mother’s voice was like waking up only to find life had been a dream and this was real. Suddenly Laura and all her warmth was far away, part of some distant timeline that had only existed inside Carmilla’s head. Her mother, the pain, her hand, the photographer, Ell, that was real.

No.

She could smell Laura’s perfume lingering in the kitchen and her father’s cookies. Laf’s Christmas gift was sitting on the table. Her own effects had taken up residence here. This place was real, the dream was the memories of something that happened so long ago. She could do this. She could do this.

“Hi mom.”

---

Lilita flew into Toronto the next day and Carmilla had to do the one thing she hated more than anything in the world. She had to lie to Laura. She told her she was going out with Laf for lunch (Laura had come to accept there were some things she and Laf shared that required occasional moments alone). The worst part was, she told them the truth so they could keep up the lie to Laura.

She felt sick. Lying to her never ended well, ever.

But then there was Lilita, stepping off the escalator and into the baggage claim area. She looked every bit the pristine and held together woman that Carmilla shivered from for years. But the closer she got, the more her face seemed to age with each step as Carmilla noticed lines where there had no been before and dark circles stained bellow piercing blue eyes. When those eyes found her and it seemed like the stone cracked away to the soft core beneath, Carmilla relaxed her shoulders.

“Mircalla,” her mother said like a sigh. She’d thought Carmilla was going to stand her up.

“Mother.”

There was no hug or even a handshake, Carmilla waved back to the exit and heard the click of expensive heels as her mother followed her out the door to Scott’s car. They’d come up with a safe word on the way over in case Carmilla felt trapped and Scott would dump Lilita at the nearest corner. Of course they couldn’t decide whether “fuckwad” or “fire hydrant” was easier to remember so they opted for both (Carmilla was partial to the former).

“Ms. Karnstein,” Scott said dutifully, opening the door for her. She nodded a thanks and climbed in as Carmilla followed.

The air was tight in the back and Carmilla had to roll down a window just a crack. Her mother remarked that it was below freezing outside but Carmilla ignored her, focusing on the cold air and trying to think of all the reasons she thought this was a good idea.

They were going to Canoe, some 5 star restaurant just outside the entertainment district that boasted views of the lake. It had been voted Toronto’s best first date spot so it might be lucky for this. Best first reunion after traumatizing emotionl abuse spots. She’d write the Zagat review herself. Laura was going to kill her. She was going to emotional traumatized and single all in one day. At least she’d have a good last meal.

They were seated by the window and the menu was just as obnoxious as Carmilla expected it to be, but her mother lived for crap like that.

“The wild mushroom soup sounds good,” her mother said lightly, “Though I wonder what makes the rice ‘Canadian’.”

“It’s like long grain and dark,” Carmilla said.

“Well you’ve certainly gone native.”

It was meant as a jest but Carmilla ruffled under it. So maybe she’d started rooting for the Habs just to make Laura’s Maple Leaf loving household a little more tense and maybe she’d picked out her favorite poutine spot and Tim Horton’s marginally better than Starbucks. But her mother didn’t get to be a part of that. Or be close enough to make jokes about it.
“The Nova Scotia halibut sounds like a fine first meal to have in Canada,” she said.

Carmilla wasn’t hungry but spranige for the maple salmon and crab plate and would have it wrapped as an apology to Laura.

“So, how have you been?”

“Are we really going to pretend nothing’s wrong here?”

Lilita’s defenses dropped and she sighed. She pulled open the wine menu sitting on the table and order a bottle of some obnoxiously priced Pinot Noir from Napa Valley and wasted no time pouring them both a glass and diving in on hers.

“I suppose an apology is the best way to start,” she said.

“Might be.”

“Carmilla, you know that I love you—“

“I’m not hearing the apology.”

Lilita sighed and stared out the window at the lake and the grey sky. Carmilla hoped it didn’t snow, she needed this woman out of the city as fast as possible.

“I am sorry for the decisions I made trying to protect you,” she said.

Typical. Sorry, but also here’s all the reasons I’m not really at fault. Enjoy.

“You were a delicate baby, always sick, and a wild child once you were older. And my children are not allowed to get hurt,” she said. There was a ferocity behind it. She meant that part. Carmilla fought the urge to soften. “You with a girlfriend was shocking, but not unwelcome. But I got it in my head she was going to hurt you. She was a beach bum and you were royalty compared to her between your upbringing and your natural gifts. And even your real family back in Austria has a coat of arms to boast.”

“So you broke my heart because she wasn’t well-bred enough for you?” Carmilla said.

“She was the closest thing to bad news you’d ever encountered, and she had you on a string Carmilla, you must realize that,” Lilita said. “You would have gone anywhere she asked, did anything she wanted, and it frightened me—“

“Frightened you that someone else was in control of me?”

“I was controlling and overbearing, but only because I was afraid of someone else being the exact same thing and hurting you.”

Carmilla wanted to say “cool motive, still torture” but bit her tongue as a couple walked past to be seated a few tables down from them. Maybe they were on their best first date in Toronto.

“I don’t ask you to forgive me,” she said quietly. “And I can’t bring myself to apologize for all of it because I stand by some of what I did or said to keep you and your brother safe and comfortable. But talking with you now, it’s more than enough if that’s all you want.”

Who was this woman and where was the person who callously called Laura and spilled Carmilla’s secrets over the phone in the hope that she’d abandon her? Where was the woman who blackmailed her and ruined the first relationship she ever had? Where was the emotional manipulator of her childhood and controlling woman who wanted to do nothing but own her for the rest of her life?

She was still sitting in front of her, Carmilla realized, but she also finally understood she was all these things.

“I know you’ve been seeing a therapist in New York and before you get angry, no I was not spying and I didn’t contact her. You used that student debit card which I’m still attached to,” she said. Carmilla had hoped to hide her visits by using that card. “Which, by the way, is about to expire at the end of the year since you’re 23, so I’d get it changed if I were you. But, the point is, I started speaking with someone too.”

That Carmilla did not expect.

“And it’s been helpful.”

They got quiet after that and Carmilla stared at her mother with exposed eyes that she knew seethed vulnerability because Lilita was looking right back at her like a mirror. Genetics or not, there were some things they couldn’t shake, they were certainly related in some capacity. And when they food came they sat there quietly, staring at it. Carmilla decided to sake fuck it and dug into her plate because Laura did have a point when it came to stress eating. Lilita took it as an invitation to take bites of her own.

Her mother was not perfect, she was two steps below evil, and she thought, even now, she was more a victim in this than anyone else. But she was willing to learn she might be wrong. She was willing to back off if it meant she got the chance to see her daughter, just for a moment. She was ready to walk out of this restaurant when lunch was over and never speak to her again if it made Carmilla happy.

They didn’t.

Carmilla walked with her mother to the Distillery District and perused the shops. She asked about Laura, about her major and school, she asked about Will and about Carmilla’s new record company. Carmilla asked about LA and about their old house and the neighbors. They ended up getting a dinner of appetizers at a restaurant in the back end of the brick walk and Carmilla convinced her mother to try some beer they had one special.

When the day was drawing to a close Carmilla bid her mother goodbye with a promise to visit LA soon and permission to call her every now and again. And everything felt a bit brighter as it began to snow beneath the fairy lights.

---

Carmilla eventually caved and told Laura a few days later on Christmas Eve when she finally started crying after looking at a Merry Christmas text from her mother. She told her everything and expected her wrath but instead got a tight hug and fingers in her hair as Laura kissed her forehead. She knew she had to be disappointed somewhere that she’d been lied to about something so big, but she just held Carmilla tight and asked a question or two.

Eventually they sank into the couch, tears gone, watching black and white Christmas movies on the BBC, hands joined. Carmilla’s spirit lifted as it hit midnight and did her best to bruise Laura’s lips with a kiss that turned into more as their hands got lose and under parts of clothing.

“We can’t do this on Christmas,” Laura groaned with Carmilla’s mouth attached to her neck.

“Jesus won’t mind,” Carmilla whispered back with a laugh as Laura slapped her in the arm.

They feverishly whispered “Merry Christmas” to each other as they fumbled up the stairs, closing Laura’s door behind them, ringing in a soft, silent, night.