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Taylor Swift despises gift cards. She despises the thought of giving them—not that she has ever in her life, and she despises receiving them—not that she has received one in years. They’re lazy and impersonal and they’re a step away from a wad of cash. A wad of cash with restrictions. Conclusion: gift cards—a resounding no.

Taylor is going to get Karlie Kloss ten gift cards for Christmas.

Why the dichotomy? Why has the queen of gift giving stooped so low? It’s quite simple. Karlie is insufferable. And endlessly endearing and warm and kind.

But mostly insufferable.

Nice thoughts about Karlie flitted away about half an hour into Taylor’s shopping excursion. Her last ditch effort to find presents—an effort entirely unaided by her questioning earlier in the day.

 

* * *

 

“Karlie, for probably the twentieth time—I haven’t really been counting, but if I was it’d be around twenty—what do you want for Christmas?” She’s practically begging at this point. One week until Christmas and she still hasn’t gotten Karlie a gift.

She’s far more stressed than she should be for the holiday season so Taylor’s settled on staring daggers at the side of Karlie’s head instead of brainstorming. Karlie, who’s sitting comfortably on Taylor’s couch, wrapped up in a blanket, and nursing a mug of hot chocolate, being her usual warm, insufferable self. Taylor narrows her eyes at Meredith who’s curled up to Karlie’s side (traitorous cat) before returning her gaze to her friend’s head.

Karlie doesn’t seem to mind being at the receiving end of her glare; she doesn’t even bother to raise her eyes from the newspaper she’s engrossed in. (Taylor’s newspaper. She doesn’t know when it happened, but she thinks they may have crossed the line into cohabiting sometime this winter. Somehow, they both converged at her apartment at the end of their work days and now they were both here prepping for the long holiday break together.)

“Taylor,” Karlie says, and she sounds so unbothered Taylor wants to pluck the newspaper out of her hands and explain to her how very serious this is. “I’ve told you already, I have everything I need. I’m just happy not to be working through the holidays, you know?”

Taylor glowers at that. Only she could pull the home for the holidays card. She pokes at Karlie’s ribs. “No offense, but why are you so useless?”

“Ow, stop, rude.” Karlie swats at Taylor’s hands, grabbing both in one of her own while balancing her hot chocolate in the other. She levels Taylor a glare that would be intimidating if her lips didn’t quirk into a smile at being able to so easily best her friend. “You know, you’re pretty useless, yourself. Have you forgotten that you haven’t told me what you want either?”

“I have told you! I need toys for the cats. And—”

Taylor pauses and raises a finger to her chin, tapping thoughtfully. It’s a pose Karlie is well accustomed to and Taylor knows it. So when she looks off into the distance, catching Karlie’s gaze along the way, she ignores the unimpressed look directed at her and beams, “—a new best friend!”

Taylor gets pushed over for that and Karlie smirks when most of her topples off the couch and the rest follows with the type of dramatics only Taylor could manage. She laughs when Taylor lands (after far too long) with an effected grunt, frowning and looking entirely too distressed.

“I’m not getting toys for the cats for you. We both know it’s because you’d end up buying the whole store if you got them yourself.”

It’s true. She can’t help herself. She gets them for her own amusement half the time, but she doesn’t deign to give Karlie the satisfaction. “First of all, how about warn me next time you throw me off the couch.”

Karlie frowns at the exaggeration.

“And second, this isn’t about me. It’s about how you refuse to cooperate and just tell me anything at all that you want for Christmas.”

Karlie knits her brows together and puts on a thoughtful frown in faux consideration.

“Don’t be a Grinch. Green is unattractive on you.” Taylor purses her lips. The green sweater Karlie wore a few days ago pops up into her mind. “That’s a lie. Everything is attractive on you.”

“Thank you!” Karlie smiles, then furrows her brows again. “Well, I did run out of parchment paper the other day…And canola oil?” Karlie returns to her newspaper with a smile that grows when Taylor groans in exasperation, flopping haphazardly on the floor.

Once she’s finished flailing (it takes her a minute to realize Karlie’s attention is consumed by a crossword), she returns to staring at the side of Karlie’s head as if it’ll give her clues.

“I’ll be right back,” Taylor says after a moment, standing up and throwing on a coat.

Karlie looks up in surprise. “Noo.” And then. “Where are you going?”

“To get you a gift. Keep up, Karlie,” Taylor mutters, back on the floor, looking for her beanie. It was here somewhere.

“Oh, can I come? I need to get a few things too.”

Taylor shoots her a glance from where she’s crouched on the floor, an arm sweeping beneath the coffee table. “No, do you know at all how Christmas presents work?”

Karlie frowns. “It’s not like you could keep it a secret anyway. Remember my birthday?”

“That was an accident.”

“Or should I say birthdays?” Karlie smiles. “I’m not sure you can call it an accident if it happens every time.” Her newspaper is forgotten in favor of the entertainment Taylor provides by turning her house over. Taylor throws pillows around and crawls under tables for an exciting couple of minutes only to stand completely still with her hands on her hips, eyes scanning the disaster of a room a second later.

Karlie spotted the beanie a couple minutes ago. It was sitting in plain sight on the kitchen island. She’d tell Taylor in just a bit. The girl was busy crouching down and eyeing the grand piano suspiciously now. It’d be a shame to break her concentration.

A small smile forms on Karlie’s face. There was also the entertainment of trying to guess her Christmas gifts from Taylor. “So what stores are you heading to?” she asks, feigning nonchalance.

Taylor’s face remains impassive, not taking the bait. It’s not like she has an answer, anyway; she has no idea where to go or what to get Karlie. “Wholefoods, and you’re getting three avocados and kale for Christmas.”

“I wouldn’t mind that, actually.”

Taylor straightens up and Karlie returns a wide smile when she’s given something of a pitying look. “I know, it makes me so sad,” Taylor murmurs, mostly to herself. Karlie’s smile breaks into laughter at that and her amusement increases when Taylor finally seems to let the grand piano off on a warning and gives up on locating her beanie.

She watches the girl head towards the door, muttering something about letting her ears freeze off. “Alright, bye Karlie! I’ll see you in a bit.”

Karlie smiles at the thought of Taylor returning with pink ears and rosy cheeks but she figures it’d be rude not to repay her for the entertainment. She gets up and follows Taylor to the door, grabbing the beanie on the way. Upon reaching her, Karlie hesitates for a second before placing her hands on Taylor’s hips, swiveling her around.

Taylor, for her part, stops herself from jumping at the touch. And when Karlie produces her beanie out of nowhere, grinning widely with triumph, Taylor has to squash the sudden urge to tug her close and kiss her. She forgets to be mad about the unnecessary searching Karlie put her through when she’s occupied by thoughts of how Karlie’s lips would taste and feel pressed against her own.

Taylor grimaces at that. It seemed to be a recurring impulse that she knew she could not, should not be having.

Pushing those thoughts away, her grimace fades into a smile when Karlie situates the beanie on her head and tucks in errant hairs, being careful to cover her ears.

“All good,” Karlie says, patting the sides of Taylor’s head. “Have fun, don’t get me too many things.” Her cheeky little smile makes Taylor want to pinch her and hug her at the same time.

“Do you think Wholefoods gift wraps?” Taylor quips. She allows a deep breath to leave her when Karlie’s hands return to her sides.

Karlie twists Taylor around again and pushes her through the door. “Get out of here. Love you.”

“Love you, too,” Taylor replies, her back to Karlie, face reddening as her mind jumps to a scene where she’s saying those words in a much different context.

 

* * *

 

And so Taylor found herself in line to get Karlie Kloss a gift card—her third gift card.

She sighs, scanning through the ornate displays set up against the wall to her side, not finding anything of interest. This was her twelfth store in three hours of shopping and she found herself to be baffled more than anything else. She’s shopped for practical strangers before. And she’s good at it. Gift shopping, gift wrapping, Christmas: it’s sort of her thing.

Trust Karlie to be the one to throw off what she thinks her thing is.

This store had promise, though. Taylor has heard Karlie mention the name before; surely, she wouldn’t mind a gift card from here.

But of course.

It’s not until she reaches the front of the line does she notice Karlie’s face plastered huge on a wall. Multiple faces. Staring at her. They’re all mocking her, probably. Very similar to the real one.

It dawns on her. Bergdorf Goodman. Frame Denim. Karlie Kloss. Taylor closes her eyes in defeat and her lips thin into a hard line. She shakes her head, not believing her luck. A gift card to buy from her own line of jeans. Karlie would throw her out a window.

Taylor groans as she ducks out of the line. She knows what Karlie likes and dislikes. This shouldn’t be that difficult.

But it is. Because she knows all too well Karlie’s preferences. And she hasn’t been able to find the perfect gift for her friend. One that she’d enjoy and deserve. And she deserved a lot…because Karlie—she was just everything good. She was always unbelievably warm and open and nurturing, and Taylor was so grateful to have her in her life. She just wanted a gift that’d express her feelings.

Well. Perhaps not all of her feelings.

Because god, there was that other thing. That thing she’d been trying to stamp down and expel away for a bit of time now. That thing she was ninety five percent sure was infatuation and five percent something that would positively, certainly, ruin their friendship. That thing where Karlie was perfect. And Taylor wanted to spend all her time with her. Where they could talk for hours about nothing. Where being anywhere close to Karlie made her warm and happy.

Taylor closes her eyes, stopping her thoughts in their tracks. She reminds herself that Karlie is inordinately important to her. She had been from the very beginning. And she was going to stay like that forever, if Taylor could help it. She could, if she just got over this little crush. It’d go away soon; it always did.

Taylor sighs again, ready to head home, and finding herself guiltily relieved that they’d be flying off in separate ways to join their families for Christmas, Taylor to Nashville, and Karlie to St. Louis. Sometimes it was too hard not to linger in their hugs or stare for longer than appropriate or grab her hand when it was completely unnecessary.

On the way back, though, she spots Finn Jewelry. She remembers them spending some time in there a month or so ago, Karlie looking at some stuff but never getting anything. That could work.

 

Karlie hears keys in the door followed by her name yelled from the living room. And then “Honey, I’m home!” in Taylor’s sweetest, most glib voice. She laughs to herself before walking to meet Taylor, wondering if the other girl ever thought about having a home together, too. The image startles her to a still and Karlie shakes her head with a grimace, entering the room.

She throws on a grin for Taylor and settles behind a bluff. “Halloween has passed, babe. No need to scare me like that.”

Taylor quirks an eyebrow and cocks her head. “That could use some work,” she says, smiling. Then she wonders if coming home to each other was really that unpleasant of an idea to Karlie. Her smile falters a little.

Karlie opens her mouth to retort (Taylor has used that very same response before), but pauses and nods in agreement. It could use some work, she realizes. The only thing scary about it was how often she imagined Taylor saying those words seriously.

“Where are the presents?” Karlie asks, excitedly, forgetting her thoughts and noticing no bags in Taylor’s hands.

Taylor looks embarrassed for a second, remembering the two gift cards tucked into her wallet. She’d have to figure out something to do with them later. “Hidden where you’d never even think to look,” she says mysteriously.

“Uh huh. You mean, not in the top left kitchen cabinet in your apartment across the hall?” When Taylor’s mouth drops open and her eyes narrow in sudden realization, Karlie has the decency to look guilty. “I was looking for Mer!” Taylor’s eyes remain suspicious slits. “Okay, okay! I was looking for chocolate. I didn’t find my birthday gift on purpose.” Karlie decides it might as well all come out now and adds, “…the first time?”

When the apologetic little smile innocently spreading across Karlie’s face does nothing to placate Taylor’s offended expression, Karlie grins. “I promise I won’t look this time,” she says, hooking an arm through one of Taylor’s, and, undeterred by her protests, dragging her into the kitchen. “C'mon I’m almost finished with dinner.”

It takes a pre-dinner cookie to return to Taylor’s good side and Karlie giggles at how easy it is.

 

They finish cooking together, working mostly in silence. Taylor has some record that Karlie doesn’t recognize playing from the living room and Karlie tries not to stare as Taylor dances in place while chopping veggies and working the stove. She settles for keeping her eyes (mostly) to herself and listening to Taylor effortlessly sing along to the music. Taylor hands Karlie things before she even realizes she needs them and they finish cooking with the kind of practiced harmony that exists between people who know everything about each other. It’s domestic, Karlie realizes soon enough, and she doesn’t really know what to think of it. She looks over at Taylor who was now dancing around the table while setting it, and a contented little smile finds its way onto her face. When she feels her heart flutter and ache at the same time, Karlie scoffs to herself and amends: they knew almost everything about each other.

Or, at least Karlie knew everything about Taylor. Taylor was uninformed on one small thing. One small thing that Karlie thinks might just ruin everything they have. This amazing friendship. This love. This unfettered openness and honesty. She bites the inside of her mouth to stop her thoughts—the influx of emotion she knows comes with that sort of dialogue.

A new song starts up and Taylor lets a fork clatter to the table, hopping over to Karlie’s side. Karlie lets out a surprised squeak when Taylor throws her arms around her and encircles her in a warm hug. “Karlie, I love this song. It’s so happy,” she says, snuggling closer. “I’m so happy right now.”

Karlie twists an arm out from under Taylor’s hold and wraps it across her shoulders. She smiles when she hugs her back, letting herself enjoy the moment and the comfort of Taylor’s arms. “I’m so happy, too, Taylor.”

They stay wrapped around each other until the song ends, rocking back and forth around the kitchen. It’s not the first time they’ve danced together. Usually, though, they’re jumping and singing and there are lots of other people around. Now, it’s both of their hearts beating loudly in their ears, both of them harboring conflicted thoughts.

When the final notes die down, Taylor reluctantly lets Karlie go. “Let’s eat. I’m starving.” Distracted, Karlie nods in agreement, ignoring how her arms now feel useless laying limply by her side. She wonders if it’s possible to have everything you want but in the wrong way; Karlie supposes it wasn’t everything then.


Dinner is all laughter and easy conversation. Taylor thinks that’s probably her favorite part of spending time with Karlie. It’s always been comfortable; even when they first met. They clicked like they’d known each other forever.

She doesn’t feel like she’s tiptoeing precariously on a thin line when they’re talking. That only surfaces in the quiet pauses—when they’re dancing in the kitchen together and she’s conveniently forgetting to wonder if that’s how all friends act. How was she supposed to figure this all out when her head fit so snugly under Karlie’s chin and Karlie smelled like vanilla and clean sheets?

Taylor laughs at something Karlie says and she eagerly welcomes the escape from her thoughts. “Kar, what are you plans for Christmas?”

“I’m just spending time with my family.” Karlie says, smiling wistfully and twirling her fork on her empty plate. “It’ll be the first Christmas we’re all together in a couple years. I’m really excited.”

Taylor’s heart swells at the look on Karlie’s face. She loved her family so much.

“You should come up for New Year’s.”

“Oh, I was just going to invite you to Nashville,” Taylor laughs.

“But I’ve met your whole family and you still haven’t met Christine.” A thought bursts into Karlie’s mind. “Plus, I have so many tiny cousins, you’d be so good with them.” Karlie’s mouth clamps shut when she realizes what she’s said; why would it matter if Taylor were good with the kids? She hopes Taylor doesn’t notice.

“That sounds lovely.” And Taylor’s stomach lurches when she imagines this table with two or three…or four more place settings. And it feels like she needs to leave the room when, without her permission, her mind projects an image of kids with Karlie’s brown hair and her own blue eyes being wrangled into high chairs by the both of them.

Karlie breathes a sigh of relief, failing to notice Taylor’s suddenly reddening face, and changes the subject to something safe.

 

After dinner they retreat to the couch, flipping through channels. Taylor is curled into Karlie’s side, head resting on her shoulder, and Karlie sits rigidly, telling herself to stop reading into everything Taylor does.

“Ooh, Karlie stop stop, America’s Next Top Model!”

Karlie’s eyes widen and then she looks down at Taylor. “You’re joking.”

“Why would I be jo—Oh my god it’s the makeovers episode. Today is the best day ever. I hope someone gets their head shaved.”

“Taylor, on behalf of the modeling industry, I refuse to let you watch this. It’s completely inaccurate and the models come out entirely unprepared. They expect to walk runways with fireballs being thrown at them.”

“That’s a runway show I’d really enjoy.” Taylor doesn’t bother to hide her grin when Karlie scoffs in offense. She just reaches over for the remote when Karlie goes to change the channel. “No, Karlie, pleasee.”

“Everyone is crying and yelling, Tay, I can’t handle this,” Karlie says, changing the channel.

“The news? Really?”

Karlie shushes her, slapping her hands away when Taylor begins poking at her ribs and arms.

“Taylor, don’t you think that looks serious?” Karlie is referring to the forecast. “Record inches of rain and snow next week.”

“It’s just a bit of rain. Don’t worry. Come on, back to ANTM.” Karlie rolls her eyes. “And then after, we can watch a documentary or something, promise.”

Karlie perks up at that. Taylor never watches with her, citing illness every time Karlie finds one she wants to see. “I get to choose,” Karlie says, flipping back to America’s Next Top Model.

“I wouldn’t even know where to start looking,” Taylor says, laying her head back down on Karlie’s shoulder to appreciate the reality TV masterpiece that was ANTM. Even though she tries to fight it, Karlie gets invested way too quickly, and by the end, they’re both yelling when one of their favorites goes home.

Karlie chooses a documentary on giant squids and Taylor falls asleep halfway through after screaming about how scary they were. “They’re completely unnecessary, Karlie. They’re definitely not a keystone species. We should be watching a documentary on starfish. They’re so important and small and cute and harml—LOOK AT THAT, IT COULD KILL US. IT’S EVEN BIGGER THAN YOU, IMPOSSIBLE.” Taylor had exhausted herself asleep after jumping and grabbing onto Karlie’s shoulder hard enough to bruise whenever a squid would come on the screen.

Karlie sets a pillow under her friend’s head and wraps a blanket around her before going to bed herself. She stops herself from carrying Taylor to her room or brushing back her hair or staring at her peaceful face, knowing that’s not something she can do.

 

* * *

 

It’s absolutely not just a bit of rain. With the windows rattling and the incessant sounds of water and hail and who knows what else hitting the roof, Taylor coins it a Blizzard Hurricane. A Hizzard. A Blurricane. Karlie leaves the room when Taylor comes up with Canezard and doesn’t seem to plan on stopping anytime soon. From another room she hears Taylor yell “Karlie, come back. Everyone is always doing this with my name, it’s only fair! What do you think of Zarcane?”

Karlie’s flight is cancelled. And so is Taylor’s. They’re at a loss for what to do.

“Mhm, bye. Love you too, Mom.” Karlie ends the phone call with her family. They’re upset she can’t make it home for Christmas, but are mostly worried about her safety. Leaving the hallway, she hears Taylor still on the phone on the kitchen. She walks in and smiles when she notices the telltale signs of Taylor talking to her mom.

Taylor’s barely humming responses into the phone while putting together her breakfast. She smiles when she notices Karlie and she laughs when Karlie mouths “tell her I said hi!” Her feigned looks of confusion get Karlie to mouth it a few more times with added hand gestures and even more exaggerated expressions before Karlie realizes she knew what she meant the first time and slaps her shoulder.

“Mom, Karlie says hi.” Taylor says. When she tells Karlie her mom says hi back, Karlie throws her a thumbs up and Taylor laughs. “Yeah, her flight was cancelled too. No, yeah she’s going to stay here with me until the Blurricane passes.” Taylor forgets to answer her mom’s confused “what?”, too busy smirking at Karlie’s unimpressed look. Then she hears her name repeated a few times, tone rising with each Taylor, her mom impatient. “Sorry, yeah, Mom? We’ll be fi—yes, I promise. I know. Yes. Lots of food. Uh huh. Have a great Christmas. Okay, thank you. Love you too, bye.”

Taylor hangs up the phone. “Guess it’s just me and you, Kloss.” She grins, “Swift-Kloss Christmas 2k15.” Taylor’s stomach flips at the thought of what that implies.

“Why not Kloss-Swift?” Karlie asks, and she blanches after realizing she feels like she’s asking a question for the future.

“There’s no flow to that at all.” When Karlie opens her mouth to argue, Taylor shoves a grape into her mouth and pats her cheek loftily as she crosses her to get to the fridge. She receives Karlie’s scowl with glee, poking her as she goes.

Karlie wonders if they’ll make it through this week.

 

* * *

 

They spend the first couple days baking. A lot. Christmas cookies, pies, brownies, everything. Karlie doesn’t think she’s ever baked so much in such a short time and that’s saying a lot for her.

She also doesn’t know if she’s ever felt this sort of unadulterated happiness before. It seemed like all her and Taylor did together was laugh and make cookies. It’s easy. It’s safe. She tells herself friends bake cookies together and laugh and feed them to each other as a joke.

 

* * *

 

“You know, I’m a tall person.” Taylor says, frowning around her tooth brush because she is tall, but she feels so short right now standing next to Karlie in her bathroom.

She tries not to grin at the sleepy gaze that meets her eyes in the mirror. She doesn’t want to dwell on Karlie’s heartbreakingly adorable expression, face slightly sour from wanting more sleep, eyes still half closed, and eyebrows knitted together against the bright light of the bathroom. She had a tough enough time trying not to reach up and pat down Karlie’s disheveled hair. Reach up. She tries to think of the last time she had to reach up for something, only coming up with other times she wanted to touch Karlie’s face or hair. Perhaps Karlie wasn’t the only one in a peeved mood.

Karlie raises a brow like it’s way too early to be asking her questions. “Are you?” she asks slowly, eyeing Taylor in the mirror, and then turning to face the girl at her side. She slides a hand down Taylor’s face (a very tired attempt at an appeasing pat), oblivious to the scandalized look she’s given, and then returns to brushing her teeth. “Doesn’t seem so.”

That seems to be the end of the conversation until Taylor spits out her toothpaste and crosses her arms, facing Karlie. “I grew an inch last year. I’m six feet tall.”

“That’s great, Tay.” Karlie says, walking past the pouting girl and flopping back into bed.

“I’ve never felt short around anyone before.” Taylor says, and then walking back into the room, “You can’t go back to sleep after brushing your teeth.”

“Oh, sorry” is the drowsy reply she gets.

“Karlie, let’s go make breakfast.” Taylor bounces onto the bed, crawling over to Karlie’s curled up form. She looked small now. Small and beautiful.

“Breakfast?”

“Yes, breakfast.”

“Oh, okay,” and then a pause, “Can I sleep for twenty more minutes?” A mumbled please follows a few beats later, muffled by Karlie’s pillow.

Taylor considers the limitless power of this sort of cuteness for a moment before answering, “Sure, I guess, but what am I supposed to do for tw—” She doesn’t get to finish her griping, Karlie’s arm slapping against her torso and knocking her from her sitting position onto her back.

“Nap with me.” And then she’s being pulled onto her side against the length of Karlie’s body. Taylor almost yelps, taking quick breaths.

She tells herself this is normal. Don’t move, this is fine. Karlie is affectionate and Karlie loves all her friends, she always does this. She feels warm slow breaths blowing past her hair. How is she asleep already? Taylor does everything in her power not to focus on the pressure of Karlie’s body against her back.

Eventually, she gives up, relaxing into the warmth of Karlie, laying a hand over where Karlie’s was settled on her torso. She can’t help feeling safe. And Karlie smells so good. She’s never felt more comfortable.

Before she can throw off that line of thought, her throat constricts, she can barely get a breath in, and her eyes feel horribly, stupidly wet. She can’t help reminding herself that she can’t have this. She can’t have being safely cocooned by Karlie or waking up to her sleepy face or making breakfast together. She had to remind herself this week was a fluke. It wasn’t supposed to happen; none of this was.

 

* * *

 

“Xi is not a word.” Taylor frowns. The X lands on a triple letter box. There’s no way she’s letting Karlie get away with this.

“Care to challenge?” Karlie smiles.

She doesn’t. Or maybe she would but she doesn’t. Because before she can say it, her words falter, falling silent before they can escape her throat. It feels like she’s noticing Karlie’s smile for the first time—or something else she can’t quite put her finger on because she knows Karlie’s smile already; she’s seen it a million times and she’s always loved it.

Tonight, though, her eyes are especially bright and her hair is piled messily on top of her head. Karlie’s wearing one of Taylor’s knit sweaters and they’re playing Scrabble together, and Taylor realizes, then, that it feels more like home than anything else she’s ever known. It isn’t until she notices Karlie’s eyebrows raised high does she realize she was supposed to be answering a question and playing a game.

She clamps her mouth shut and shakes her head no.

“Good choice.”

Karlie wins. She doesn’t gloat. Taylor thinks that just might be reason enough to throw caution to the wind and tell her everything she’s been feeling. Then she remembers her smile again and resolves that it’s not worth the risk of losing that.

 

* * *

 

“Oh, fuck. Shit, Karlie!” They’re decorating the Christmas tree when Taylor takes approximately twelve seconds to drop an ornament.

Karlie laughs for approximately twelve minutes; it takes half of one for Taylor to decide it’s her favorite sound in the world.

 

* * *

 

“How does this look for Christmas Day?” Taylor walks into view from the hallway clad in a tiny emerald green dress and Karlie just about drops Olivia.

She doesn’t know what to say. It looks beautiful. It looks perfect. It looks like she wants to unzip it with her teeth.

Karlie cringes at the thought of saying that out loud. Instead, she asks, “It’s just us for Christmas, though?” It’s so deceivingly innocent she almost feels guilty.

“Did you want to wear matching trash bags?”

Karlie throws a piece of popcorn at Taylor. She’d been stringing the stuff for an hour now. That was much better use.

 

* * *

 

The storm gets much worse. They don’t dare leave the house and they scrounge for candles and flashlights just in case.

Much to Karlie’s chagrin, Taylor finds out that thunder makes her anxious. She can’t stop counting the seconds between the flashes of lighting and the crackles of thunder. No one’s ever noticed the habit before. But even when they’re lying next to each other in Karlie’s bed, and Taylor’s doing a good job of distracting her by narrating the episode of SVU playing on the TV, she feels Taylor’s eyes glancing in her direction every so often, watching her carefully. Karlie doesn’t know how Taylor catches on, really—she’s learned to do her counting silently, subtly, successfully hiding it from everyone.

Karlie doesn’t realize Taylor notices it in the nervous taps of her fingers. She doesn’t know Taylor’s heart clenches in sympathy when her shoulders flinch and she darts her eyes to the windows when the thunder booms. She doesn’t see Taylor worry her lips in concern.

She sees Taylor turn on her side to face her, smiling softly, before placing a hand on the bed between them, offering Karlie an anchor. She accepts it gratefully and Taylor envelops Karlie’s hand in both of her own. Her thumbs smooth over Karlie’s knuckles and it looks like she doesn’t mind the taps on her hand. Karlie stares at their intertwined fingers, Taylor’s careful and warm over hers. She can’t help thinking about much she loves Taylor in this moment and how much she wishes she could thank her with a kiss right now. She lets the feeling pass, though, knowing that could only end poorly, and decides to just be grateful for the considerate friend she has.

A few minutes later, Karlie whispers sorry, knowing Taylor is staying up for her.

“Don’t be, you don’t have anything to be sorry for,” Taylor whispers back. She scoots close to Karlie and pulls her tight into her arms, rubbing her back comfortingly.

Karlie doesn’t doubt her sincerity for a second, nodding against Taylor’s neck. “Thank you.” Taylor accepts this with a kiss to Karlie’s hair.

She counts out loud then.

Taylor divides by five for her, and when the storm is ten miles away, she falls asleep easier than she ever has.

When Karlie wakes up with Taylor’s arms still around her, she has to suppress thoughts of waking up like this every day, thoughts of waking up feeling warm and safe with Taylor. It’s unrealistic and she knows it.

 

* * *

 

6:15 PM Taylor
              Hot chocolate?

6:15 PM Karlie
              what about it

6:16 PM Taylor
              Will you bring me some?
6:18 PM Pleaseeee

6:18 PM Karlie
              you’re closer

6:19 PM Taylor
              Don’t lie; I see you in the living room
              You look adorable in that sweater by the way

6:19 PM Karlie
              thank you!
              wait
              WHERE ARE YOU
              also who uses semicolons in text gross

6:20 PM Taylor: 
              Lots of people use semicolons; it’s a perfectly utilitarian punctuation. You’re getting warmer

6:20 PM Karlie:
              I’m not playing this

6:20 PM Taylor:
             Pay attention to me :(
6:23 PM Yay! Colder
              Did you really wing your eyeliner to spend a day with me
             #nojudgement I’m wearing red lipstick 
6:23 PM Warmer. Your hair is so cute today Kar
6:24 PM Warmer. I was thinking maybe we should have lasagna for dinner tonight thoughts?
6:24 PM Incredibly hot much like myself

Karlie pulls the curtains open wide, finding Taylor standing pressed up against the wall. “How old are you?”

“At least four.” Taylor replies, gingerly walking out from her hiding spot.

“The curtains aren’t really your color.”

“Are you joking, every color is my color.”

“How long have you been there?” Karlie asks, gesturing to the tiny nook.

“Long enough to run out of hot chocolate.”

“Well,” she grabs Taylor’s hand, moving towards the kitchen. “I guess you deserve some credit for that.” She pauses in her preparation of Taylor’s hot chocolate. “What were you saying about lasagna?”

“You only found me so I could make dinner.”

“No!” Karlie does nothing to hide her affirming grin, though. “I also like spending time with my best friend.” She musses her fingers through Taylor’s hair before she can duck away quick enough.

“Shut up and peel this zucchini before I put something edible in here.”

“Zucchini is edible!”

“Can you believe I used to love myself and have normal lasagna before I met you?”

“It’s alright, you have me to love you now.”

Taylor swallows through the sudden tightness in her throat. She knows Karlie means it. But she doesn’t mean it in the way she wants and Taylor feels a rush of guilt overwhelm her. Karlie is her best friend and loves her and she isn’t even grateful. “Oh, lucky me,” she manages.

“I’m going to spike this hot chocolate.” Karlie thinks she’ll make one for herself and spike it too. You have me to love you now. Who says that?

“Finally, a good idea from you.”

 

* * *

 

“What are you doing?”

She’s dying, it feels like. Karlie pushes herself through three more before collapsing on her back.

She takes a few seconds before flopping her head to the side to look at Taylor, lopsided from her view. She’s still in her pajamas. Kitten patterned. Adorable. Their wardrobes seemed to consist solely of changes of pajamas now. It was lovely. She grins. “Well, usually, when you’re laying down, and then you sit up, they call it a sit up. It’s really quite ingenious.”

“I know what a sit up is. Why are you doing sit-ups in the dining room on a Thursday?”

“I didn’t realize it was illegal to do sit-ups on Thursdays.”

“Karlie.” Taylor whines.

“We’ve been eating a diet of Christmas cookies for too many days and I can’t go out for a run or workout unless I want to freeze so I’m doing it here.”

Taylor hums.

And then she’s stepping closer to Karlie and laying down beside her, knees propped up in sit up position. Karlie raises an eyebrow at her, smiling. This would be a first.

“No, of course not. Can’t I lay next to you without being peer pressured into exercising?”

Karlie laughs and scoots closer to lay her head on Taylor’s shoulder. She knows she’s pushing it but she can’t stop. She just always wants to be closer, to be feeling Taylor next to her. She wants her and she has no idea what to do about it. Because she can’t have Taylor—not like that.

 

* * *

 

Sometimes she hates that it’s so easy to be with Karlie. Sometimes she wishes she didn’t love her so much.

Taylor finds her sitting comfortably in a pile of pillows and blankets with her back to a wall, reading a book. She’d gotten bored of being ignored by the cats and made her way through the apartment looking for Karlie. She watches the girl for a moment, smiling when Karlie tucks her hair behind her ears only for it to fall back down seconds later. Taylor pads over quietly and Karlie smiles when she looks up at her, patting a pillow on her side. Instead, Taylor lays down, head in Karlie’s lap. She doesn’t seem to mind at all, returning to her book while playing with Taylor’s hair. Taylor scrolls through her phone and enjoys the comfort of Karlie’s warmth and the hands stroking her hair.

They stay like that for hours. Taylor doesn’t know when she falls asleep but she wakes up in her room, tucked in snugly. It doesn’t take long for her to shed the serenity of sudden consciousness, realizing Karlie had brought her here. She doesn’t bother lying to herself this time and useless tears prick at her eyes. Her little crush was now “full blown in love with my best friend who has no idea” misery.

 

* * *

 

Karlie is lying flat on her back in bed, staring at the white ceiling, imagining all the snow piling up on the roof. It could all fall through and cover her. Heaps and heaps of icy white. Karlie wonders if it’d feel like a cloud or more like a crushing weight. She figures it couldn’t be much worse than the crushing weight on her now.

She thinks she’ll just brave the storm at this point. She’s such a coward. She’ll brave the storm and find a plane or something. Because she can’t stay here any longer. She can’t carry Taylor to bed and not slide under the covers with her. She can’t play board games with Taylor and not swipe the pieces aside to lean over and kiss Taylor. She can’t watch her drop an ornament and not fall in love with her. And not want this—this week packaged up in a little box to keep forever. This life with Taylor. She doesn’t want it to be some loophole or some sick anomaly where everything goes back to normal after the week ends like it never happened. She doesn’t want to be reminded that she’s imagining Taylor’s loving looks or lingering touches or hitching breaths.

Karlie sucks in a shuddering breath, her heart clenching tightly. It hurts that she can’t sit next to Taylor and be her friend. And she hates that. She hates herself for it. She just wishes it could be that easy. Because their friendship is perfect and beautiful and she’s ruined it and Taylor doesn’t even know. And she can’t fix it.

Karlie wipes angrily at the few tears trailing down her face. And her chest feels so tight she’s not sure if she’s angry or sad but it feels nice to cry and to acknowledge her own feelings for once. Karlie exhausts herself into a fitful sleep, dried tears staining her face, wanting more than anything to just wake up to everything being better.

 

* * *

 

“I need this.”

“You don’t.”

“Karlie.”

“Yes?”

“I swear I need it.”

Karlie throws a tired glare at her friend. It’s three in the morning and she’s so exhausted. All she wants to do is sleep. But Taylor woke her up an hour ago and said she couldn’t fall asleep. And Karlie was a very hopeless girl. So here she was, sitting in a very large, very comfy, very inviting bed, very awake. And trying to stop Taylor Swift from buying bendaroos.

Karlie snatches Taylor’s phone from her, interrupting her in the middle of dialing the number flashing on the screen.

“Hey!”

Karlie snatches the remote next and changes the channel.

“Oh my god, Kar.” Taylor’s voice is loud in the quiet of the night and Karlie maybe feels like crying now. “That guy lost like fifty pounds, I need this.”

“No, you really don’t.” She grabs the remote again, pressing buttons blindly.

“That knife is so fucking sharp, holy shit, Karlie.” Taylor is slapping at Karlie’s shoulder in excitement now. And Karlie is sinking further and further into the bed and under the covers. She feels like she’s in a never ending nightmare. “Oh my god?! He’s cutting through a wall, Kar! I take back everything else. Please let me buy this.”

“Please let me sleep.”

“I promise, if you would just give me my pho—” Taylor reaches over to Karlie’s side, receiving a hand in her face. “Wow, ouch. You’re, like, really cranky and strong right now.”

“You don’t need to cut through any walls, Taylor.” And Karlie’s voice is muffled now, her entire head covered under the blanket.

“Karlie, you’re gonna suffocate.” Taylor pulls the covers down and smiles at Karlie’s glare, and she wants so bad to cup her face and smooth out her frown. “What if you were suffocating in another room and it was locked and I needed to cut through the wall to save you.” She slides under the covers, head level with Karlie’s, and turns to look at the girl. Seeing her tired eyes, Taylor feels guilty for waking her up. She didn’t have the courage to tell Karlie she couldn’t sleep because she knew their week was coming to a close and she just wanted more time with her. “Wouldn’t want me to have a boring normal knife then, would you?” she asks, and she’s glad Karlie’s pulled the covers over her head again, because her face crumples when she thinks about being just friends with Karlie after this. Because this week felt like something more. And she gets even sadder thinking about only getting to see Karlie for lunch or workouts or a dinner here and there when they both get busy again.

“You’d probably hurt yourself trying to save me. Can’t have that.”

Taylor smiles tearily at Karlie’s small voice coming from under the blankets. She reaches a hand out but she stops midway, realizing she doesn’t know what she wants to do.

When Karlie sticks her arm out, Taylor’s phone in hand, Taylor simply takes it and shuts off the TV and the lights. She shifts back down into the bed and lays a head on Karlie’s shoulder. She knows the girl won’t mind; it seemed to be a normal thing now. But Taylor feels the guilt course through her this time and she acknowledges how she’s taking advantage of it—of them being so comfortable with each other. Because it isn’t just friendly for her anymore. Taylor bites her lip at the feeling; she doesn’t change her position, though. She’s desperate and she convinces herself that it’s okay because she won’t get to do this ever again.

 

* * *

 

“This needs to be fixed, like, now.” Taylor’s pulling out her DVD case, looking for Love Actually.

“I didn’t realize anything was broken.” Karlie says, smiling into her mug of tea when Taylor pauses her search to look at her exasperatedly. It’s Christmas Eve and Taylor had been delivering some elaborate discourse on Love Actually when Karlie mentioned that she’d never seen it before. Taylor had slapped a hand over her mouth, apologized ten times for spoiling things, and demanded that they correct Karlie’s offense against Christmas, Keira Knightley, and holiday themed romantic comedies in general.

“Yes, that’s why I’m here. You are so small and wrong.”

“I literally tower ov—”

“Don’t talk back to your elders, Kar, very rude.” Taylor interrupts before she can finish her disbelieving exclamation.

Karlie narrows her eyes at Taylor. “Just put the movie on before I change my mind.”

“Yeah, I’m trying,” Taylor says, tone raising at the end, frustrated, “but someone keeps yelling at me and the DVD player is definitely broken. We can’t watch the movie. The player is broken forever.”

Karlie looks down at Meredith and Olivia who are perched on the ground by her feet, staring up at her, and whispers, loud enough for Taylor to hear, “I see what you mean. Mhm, I think it’s sad too.”

“Sadder than talking to cats?” Taylor pipes up from behind the TV set, then frowns, looking over at Karlie. “How long are you gonna sit there and watch me suffer with this technology?”

Karlie obediently sets down her mug and gets up from her seat to see what the issue is. “Don’t act like you never talk to them. I heard you asking Mer why she doesn’t love you yesterday.”

She crouches down beside Taylor then shoos her away from behind the TV. Karlie unplugs a few cords, plugs in a couple others, and then grabs the remote, pressing a series of buttons. In a few seconds, the menu screen pops up on the TV and Taylor claps her hands in joy. “Yay! I guess I’ll keep you around for now.”

“Wow.” Karlie steps out from behind the entertainment center and throws an arm around Taylor’s neck. “So gracious.”

“I know,” Taylor says, wrapping an arm around Karlie’s waist and moving them towards the couch. She plops Karlie down first and then takes the seat next to her.

Taylor spends the first half of the movie completely out of control. Karlie pauses it and smiles at her. “Tay, I’m going to need subtitles if you keep talking over everyone.”

“But Keira Knightley, Karlie. And then the video tape…When the guy brings it…And it’s just. You know, Karlie? It’s just so—you know?” Taylor stumbles through her thoughts. Love Actually gives her a lot of emotions.

Karlie smiles at her friend as Taylor presses play again. “I think I do.”

Taylor laments the fact that Karlie would likely revoke her sticker placing privileges if she kept talking through the movie because she ends up watching Karlie watch it instead. She tries to tell herself it’s so she can see all of her reactions, but gives the charade up when she’s halfway through counting Karlie’s freckles. She doesn’t need to, really. She’d memorized every detail of Karlie’s face quite a while ago. It’s all she ever seemed to do whenever talking to Karlie. She could hardly sit still while listening to her speak because it always made her want to get closer. Right now, it was a struggle not to reach out and touch her jaw and pull her face lower, lower. She wanted to nip at her lips and drag her thumbs across them and run her hands through her hair and—

“What?” Karlie’s staring at her and she doesn’t know why. Bad sign.

“Huh?” Taylor’s confused and she can feel her face reddening. Awful combination.

“Why are you staring at my face?” Karlie asks. And then she seems to realize something Taylor has no clue of. “I’m sorry I borrowed your lipstick. I just have none of my stuff here and you said I could take whatever. I tried to choose one you didn’t seem to use often or like but I really had no idea. I promise I’ll replace it once I can get back to my place.”

Karlie is rambling and she looks embarrassed and self-conscious and Taylor wants to tell her that she was staring at her face because it’s perfect and that she should really be the embarrassed one here. She wants to add that she doesn’t care about the lipstick at all. That she can’t count the number of times she’s imagined sharing everything with Karlie. Her lipstick, her clothes, her home.

Taylor shushes Karlie, “No no no, don’t worry about the lipstick. You look great in it. It’s yours.” And she really wishes Karlie didn’t mention lipstick at all because her eyes can’t help darting to her lips every few seconds now. “I was staring at your face because—” She bites her lip and settles for half the truth and a quarter of her thoughts. “I was counting your freckles; they’re cute,” Taylor finishes, laughs sheepishly.

She doesn’t miss the surprised look on Karlie’s face. “Oh, I—usually, I cover them up.”

“I know, I like them, though,” Taylor says, turning back to the movie before she divulges something she regrets. She feels Karlie’s eyes on her, though, and pauses it again, hand shaking around the remote.

She takes a deep breath, summoning some courage, and turning to face her best friend. “Karlie, I—” Her heart feels like it’s going to explode out of her chest.

“Yeah?”

God, her stupid eyes, they’re so green and stupid…and pretty.

“I, uh, I really like this movie,” she finishes lamely.

“Oh, yeah?” Karlie smiles at her widely and Taylor stops herself from grabbing her face and kissing her right there. “When’d you decide that? The eighth or ninth time you watched it?”

“You’re so annoying,” Taylor says, reaching over to steal Karlie’s blanket from her.

“It’s an honest question!” Karlie stops grappling for the throw and decides to lay herself on Taylor instead.

“I decided just now. This was my favorite time seeing it.” Taylor realizes that part is true. And then she feels herself crumple under Karlie. “Honestly, why are you so large?”

“Maybe you’re just small like a small dog.”

“I’d be a cat, everyone knows that.” Taylor pokes at Karlie’s sides and she flinches away, laughing. “Get off, I’m dying.”

Karlie rolls off Taylor dramatically before demanding they share the blanket. The movie is allowed to play again and they finish it pressed close to each other. Just as the credits start rolling, the time strikes midnight.

Taylor notices first. “Merry Christmas, Karlie.”

Karlie turns her head from the TV to look at Taylor, eyebrows raised high. She checks her phone for the time and grins before wrapping Taylor in a tight hug. “Merry Christmas, Taylor!”

And maybe it’s dumb and the movie is rubbing off on her, but it’s Christmas and the tree is lit up and sparkling and there’s rain pattering against the window panes but she’s warm inside and she’s with someone she loves and Karlie is happy. It feels right like this is how it’s supposed to be even if she’d been telling herself the opposite for a while now. She decides that this is what she wants and she should tell Taylor even if it might hurt. But before she can utter her words, Taylor beats her to it.

“Hey, so I know you probably wanted to spend Christmas with your family, but—”

“No! I mean, I did, but this Christmas—getting to spend it with you has been wonderful. And I’ve been—well, you’re like my family, anyway.” Karlie twists her fingers together. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. I just didn’t want you to think, you know.” She trails off.

If Taylor notices her fidgeting she doesn’t mention it. “I just wanted to say the same. There isn’t anyone else I’d rather be cooped up with during a Blurricane.”

Karlie feels herself flush at the neck but she still laughs. “Stop, no. Stop trying to make Blurricane happen.”

“It is happening! Everyone you’ve talked to has been saying it.”

“You’re the only person I’ve seen this entire week! Yesterday, we wore the exact same outfit for the day and for bed; it’s probably unhealthy.” Karlie grins at Taylor’s offended look, and then her mouth drops as a sudden idea comes to her. “Wait!” She doesn’t deny she’s just trying to buying herself some time but it still seems like a good plan. Karlie jumps up from the couch. “Hold on, don’t move.” Karlie’s started in different directions twice now, trying to remember where she hid Taylor’s present. “Stay here, don’t move!”

“When have you ever known me to move without near death motivation?”

“Hush, stay still,” Karlie says, running from the room. From the other side of the apartment, she hears Taylor yell that there’s no such thing as an unhealthy amount of time spent with her.

When she returns, she’s holding a tiny bag. “I know it’s technically still Christmas Eve but we usually open one present the night of anyway.” She hands Taylor the bag. “Open.”

“Oh, Karlie, thank you.”

“You haven’t even seen it yet!”

“Still, thank you,” Taylor says as she pulls out tissue paper and a box.

“I got this done a while ago. I’ve been working this whole month, I didn’t have time to get you anything else. I was planning on shopping more this week, but you know, Blurricane and all,” Karlie says, apologetically, a hand rubbing at the back of her neck.

“Karlie, you didn’t even need to get me anything at all, stop. You saying Blurricane is already a gift,” Taylor laughs. She opens the box. And then. “Oh my god, Karlie.” She laughs even harder.

“What? What’s wrong? Do you not like it? We can go back and get something else.” Karlie says, nibbling at her lip.

“No no, it’s not that. It’s beautiful. Thank you so much. It’s just. Oh god, wait here,” Taylor says, jogging to the door, leaving Karlie bemused in the apartment alone. Not the reaction she was hoping for.

When Taylor pops through the door again, she’s giggling and holding the exact same bag Karlie just gave her.

“Oh no.”

“Yep.”

“Why are we like this? I told you we’ve been spending too much time together.”

Taylor hasn’t stopped laughing since she entered the apartment. “Come on, open.”

Karlie reaches in and pulls out a box. Opening it, she finds a pendant with the letter K inlaid in gold on a thin chain. “God, we’re awful,” she laughs. The only difference in their necklaces is the S inlaid in Taylor’s.

She pulls Taylor into a hug. “Thank you, I love it.”

Taylor laughs, head under Karlie’s chin. “I love mine too. We have good taste.” She pulls out of the hug, leaving her arms wrapped loosely around Karlie’s waste.

And then she’s in a position she’d been trying to avoid for a while now. She finds herself looking up into Karlie’s eyes, trying to communicate everything she’s too afraid to say. And she’s making a decision she’s ignored for even longer. It really isn’t that complicated when she thinks about it. She wants to be with Karlie, wants to tell her she loves her on stage in front of thousands of people, and she wants come home to Karlie after being on that stage. She also wants to taste Karlie’s lips, to know what her hands feel like against her skin, what pitch she whimpered at, and how she moved underneath her. Or above her. She wasn’t picky.

Something overcomes her and before she can stop herself or really think about what she wants to say, she’s blurting out a thought. “You’re really pretty.” Taylor wants to run right now. Far far away. Karlie knows she’s pretty. Of all things to say. She can’t believe she writes for a living.

“Thank you, babe. So are you.” Karlie grins at her and Taylor thinks she could run a marathon right now. She thinks about all the times Karlie has motivated her to run; none have been as successful as right now. Her heart feels like it’s about to explode. She frets at the thought of Karlie feeling her heartbeat throbbing through her fingertips.

She doesn’t realize it’s her eyes darting about, looking anywhere but at Karlie that gives her away. “Relax.”

Taylor looks up then, finding Karlie with a worried and anxious expression on, herself. “I’ll try,” she whispers. And she doesn’t think she’s ever wanted anything more than to kiss Karlie in this moment.

But she hesitates as usual, and Karlie beats her to closing the gap between them. And it becomes a point of contention in the future. Taylor insists it was her idea first.

Right now, she doesn’t seem to mind at all because she gets exactly what she wants and it’s perfect. Karlie tastes like dark chocolate and almond, the cookies they’d made rich on her tongue. On Christmas, she tastes like peppermint and white chocolate.

It isn’t a complicated affair. They’re so careful with each other, hesitant and anxious when they meet. But it’s soft and charged at the same time, and inexplicably familiar. Taylor desperately wonders why she ever thought her reasons were good enough to prevent them from doing this. They fit, Karlie nipping at Taylor’s bottom lip, letting Taylor taste her tongue. Her hands pull Taylor tight against her body and then her fingers are toying with the hem of Taylor’s shirt, thumb swiping against bare skin. Reluctantly, Karlie pulls her mouth from Taylor’s, breathing harshly. Her eyes are wide and almost disbelieving. “Is this okay?”

Taylor nods vigorously and ducks down to Karlie’s neck to support her answer, but before she can reach it, Karlie’s grasping her shoulders, asking again, whispering, “Is this alright?” And she doesn’t just mean how much she wants to smooth her hands against Taylor’s skin this time. Her mind shoots to what this might mean for Taylor—for them, if it’s anything at all. And she’s so scared it’s all going to fall apart before her. “I um, I just—”

“Do you not want to do this? It’s alright, I’m sorry, I don’t want to push you,” Taylor rushes out, crashing back to reality, realizing that it doesn’t mean anything that Karlie kissed her first. That she has to be okay with that. That she is okay with that because if there’s anything she resolved on when she first began feeling like this, it was that she’d love Karlie no matter what. She begins extricating herself from Karlie’s arms, her heart twinging as she does.

Before Taylor can get very far, Karlie tightens her hold. “No!” She reddens at the volume of her voice, then takes a deep breath, trying to calm her racing heart. “No, it’s not that. I just wanted—I mean, this would—this does mean something to me. I don’t know if for you this is just a—not that I’m expecting—oh, god.” Karlie removes a hand from Taylor’s hips and slaps it to her face.

Taylor tries not to frown, bereft at the loss of Karlie’s touch. And she tries not to get her hopes up, struggling to understand Karlie’s words.

“I’m no good at this…” Karlie sighs, waving both hands around, eyes squeezed shut tight. “This words thing.” She places a hand on her hip and returns one to her face, covering her eyes, struggling for words. It’s an adorable, if sympathy inducing, sight. Not that Taylor would notice; she’s on edge, clinging onto whatever Karlie manages to get out. “I—I like you.”

“I like you, too.” Taylor replies without missing a beat, a stream of hope filtering into her veins. She wants to pull Karlie’s hand from her face. She wants to look into the eyes she loves.

Karlie breathes a small laugh. “No, I really like you a lot.” She removes the hand from her eyes and stares into Taylor’s. For a second, it calms her nerves and when Taylor reaches for her hand, she grasps it tightly. “I think I love you, actually, and—” She’s whispering now, half hoping Taylor won’t hear and their friendship can go on unscathed by her feelings. Karlie struggles not to close her eyes again, holding onto Taylor like she’s a lifeline that’s about to cut her loose. “And it’s okay if you don’t feel the same way. You’re so important to me and you—you’re my best friend and I never wanted to risk losing you. And I’m so sorry if I’ve ruined it all with this. I’ve been trying to avoid that but you were—I mean, god, it’s not your fault, but you were just there and I just wanted to kiss you so bad and I shouldn’t have, I’m sorry. I love you, but I can love you as a friend too (and she feels like she’s convincing herself of this now)—I do and that makes me so happy already. I’m just—this can’t be nothing for me.”

She’s speaking so fast, Taylor can’t get a word in edgewise, can’t tell her she’s so so wrong.

Karlie tightens her grip. “It’s okay if you don’t feel the same way,” she repeats, voice thick.

Taylor’s pulling Karlie into a crushing hug and shaking her head against her neck before she can think to say or do anything else. Another burst of love for Karlie slams Taylor in the chest, overwhelmed by how selfless she is, even now. And Taylor knows that this is it for her. For the rest of her life.

Karlie seems to take the hug the wrong way and she pulls away, smiling too wide, eyes shining in betrayal. “I'm—I’m so sorry, that was du—”

“Well, I can’t.”

Karlie’s smile crumbles and tears threaten to escape her eyes. Her voice is a hoarse whisper. “I know, I’m sorry. It was a mista—”

“No, Karlie. I can’t love you as just a friend. I love you more than that—a lot more than that.” Taylor interrupts her, not allowing Karlie to think this was one sided for a second longer. She reaches her hands up to Karlie’s face, running her fingers loosely through her hair, holding her close, holding her here, afraid she’s about to take it all back. “I love you so much, Karlie. And it—it has scared me so much, but I shouldn’t have been scared because this entire week has been—I should’ve realized I’d already found everything I wanted. I just—I didn’t think it could be easy and I was so afraid of losing you, too. I didn’t want to risk it but I want this. I want you. I love you.” Taylor sucks in a nervous breath. “Is this what you want, too?”

Karlie is surprised to feel Taylor wiping at tears she didn’t realize she shed. “Yes, Taylor, I love you, too.” And she’s still whispering, but now, it’s because she wants to protect this precious moment. Karlie doesn’t think she’s dreaming but she isn’t certain so she reaches for Taylor then, to make sure this is real. They find each other’s lips again, slowly this time, exploring. Karlie’s hands return to Taylor’s shirt, tugging for permission and Taylor makes it to her neck this time, licking firmly at her pulse in reply, in approval. When the act earns her a breath of a whimper from Karlie she does it again, sucking lightly, because if Karlie’s laugh is her favorite sound, her whimper is a very close second.

When Taylor nips at her pulse again, Karlie’s knees buckle and they lose their balance, toppling onto the couch. Karlie falls back onto the cushions first and Taylor follows soon after, stumbling onto her, straddling a leg.

Not allowing another second to pass before feeling Taylor’s skin, Karlie’s hands find their way underneath Taylor’s shirt, fingers dragging firmly up her back. Taylor has to stifle a moan at the touch and the muted noise that escapes her mouth has Karlie breaking their kiss, smiling against Taylor’s lips. Before Taylor can really get a breath in, though, Karlie is kissing the length of her jaw and then sucking a line down her neck. She can only release a strangled breath, letting a hand run up the nape of Karlie’s neck and into her hair, pressing her closer still. “I love you so much, you have no idea.”

Taylor brings Karlie’s head back up a second later, craving the taste of her lips again. She almost misses them entirely in her rush, clumsily kissing the corner of her lips, and Karlie takes the opportunity to reply. “I love you, too,” she whispers and then they’re bumping their teeth together, smiling too wide to care.

Feeling Karlie bring one hand to her front, sliding smoothly up her stomach, Taylor becomes eager to make things even, quickly pushing up at Karlie’s shirt, letting it bunch at her ribs. And even though she knows she shouldn’t be surprised, she gasps into Karlie’s mouth at the feel of her stomach, lithe and hard. Karlie arches up into her hand and she can’t help her hips rolling forward against Karlie’s thigh, her own pressed firmly between Karlie’s legs.

At the feel of Karlie’s nails digging into her back, she doesn’t bother to stifle a moan. Or was it Karlie moaning? Detaching her mouth from Karlie’s, she looks down into bright green eyes, pupils blown wide.

“Bed?”

Karlie nods. “Bed.” And she sits up faster than Taylor thought possible. In a second, Karlie’s standing up from the couch and carrying her up the stairs. But on the third step, she stops abruptly. “Wait.”

And Taylor wants to do anything but wait right now. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. Do you think, maybe we should go on a date first, or something?” And Karlie already regrets saying anything because looking at Taylor from below and seeing her hair a mess and her lips swollen and slightly parted, she wants nothing more than to throw her on a bed right now.

Taylor smiles down at Karlie and moves some hair from her face, sliding it behind her ear. “I think…we went on a date almost every day for the past two months.”

Karlie thinks back and she knows Taylor is right. All their lunches and brunches and dinners pop up in her mind. Once, they’d even gone on a picnic together, just the two of them, for goodness’ sakes. And she can’t believe they’d just now made it official when they’d practically been dating for a few months now.

Karlie nods her head vigorously in agreement, latching onto Taylor’s reasoning. She realizes Taylor could’ve said “nah” and she would’ve agreed with that, too. Karlie quickly begins making their way up the stairs again, all her concerns forgotten.

But she hasn’t even made another step when Taylor grasps onto the banister, holding them still. “But we can wait. I don’t mind waiting at all if you want to wait. I want to go on dates with you, too.” A big smile forms on her face when she thinks about it now, not believing her luck. “Lots of them.”

“Nope! We’re good,” Karlie says, and she runs up the stairs now, hoping Taylor doesn’t have any more objections.

Taylor laughs. The sound makes Karlie’s heart swell, and she finds herself laughing along with her. When she turns towards her own room, Taylor slaps a hand to the corner of a wall, dragging them back. “No. Mine. It’s much closer.” When she’s certain Karlie’s walking them in the right direction, she returns her mouth to a spot under Karlie’s ear—a spot she’s quickly learned makes Karlie grip her tighter, gasp sharper. She scrapes her teeth against the soft skin before soothingly licking and kissing the area.

They make some pit stops against walls and slammed into door jams, giggling against each other, kissing sweetly, teeth getting in the way. Then Karlie lets her down gently onto a bed, and somehow, they’ve managed to discard their shirts and pants on the way.

Taylor struggles to flip them over and then laughs into Karlie’s hair once she succeeds. Her mirth ends quickly, though, mouth occupied with kissing its way down Karlie’s neck, her collar bones. She reaches behind Karlie to remove her bra and the girl lifts herself up onto her elbows, helpfully. Taylor removes the scrap of material deftly and then spends some time paying an excess of attention to her chest. Once she’s satisfied with her handiwork and Karlie’s left gasping for air, she scrapes her teeth down Karlie’s stomach. Because she can now, and it feels so good.

Taylor sits up and takes in the sight of Karlie spread before her. She runs her hands up Karlie’s thighs and when she giggles at her legs falling open desperately, Karlie finally breaks her silence. “Taylor,” she whimpers, voice several octaves higher than normal.

Taylor’s eyes shoot up instantly, concern lining her face. But Karlie doesn’t notice, her eyes determinedly trained up at the ceiling. Then Taylor’s hesitant voice finds her. “Is this okay?”

Dark green eyes find blue immediately. And at the sight before her, Karlie’s heart feels like it’s going to beat out of her chest. She can barely look at Taylor, her eyes instinctively flicking back up to the ceiling. But it’s too late. The picture is scorched into her mind. The plain white ceiling is no help; all she sees is Taylor kneeling between her legs, biting her bottom lip swollen, hands frozen high on her thighs.

She closes her eyes tightly until she remembers Taylor’s insecurity laced query. Karlie looks down at her best friend, her girlfriend? And she reaches a hand down, prying Taylor’s grip off her thigh and lacing their fingers together. All she can muster is a strangled sound. “Please.”

And it sounds so frantic when she hears it she almost cringes. She’s not even sure if it’s understandable but the uncertainty is put to rest when she feels Taylor kiss her firmly through her panties. Karlie releases a sound stuck somewhere between a moan and a gasp. And when Taylor licks her through the flimsy cotton, she almost draws blood while biting her lip to keep quiet. A second later, she feels the garment being dragged down her legs and flung away. Then Taylor’s tongue is swiping against her with enough pressure to make her keen.

She can barely think, unconsciously moving her other hand into Taylor’s hair, gripping it tightly, and pulling her closer. And she’s vaguely aware of flexing her hips up every so often, seeking more, pressing herself harshly against Taylor’s tongue in erratic jumps. It feels amazing and perfect. But more than anything, she feels helpless, completely under Taylor’s charge, hyperaware of her tongue lapping firmly at her, her lips sucking her, backing off torturously.

Karlie feels the tightness build and coil low in her stomach and she almost cries the third time Taylor brings her so close, only to back off again. Her mind is too befuddled to be embarrassed when she arches her back off the bed entirely, hips following Taylor’s retreating mouth desperately, fruitlessly.

When Karlie whimpers frustratedly, looking down at Taylor with an irresistibly begging frown, Taylor gives in and redoubles her efforts. She grabs onto Karlie’s hips with one hand and untangles her other from Karlie’s vice grip to press it flat along Karlie’s involuntarily flexing stomach, firmly and comfortingly coaxing her along.

Karlie moans gratefully at the change in pace. She’s so close, she can feel it coming. She feels so powerless. All she can do is roll her hips up to meet Taylor’s mouth again and again. It’s thrilling and debauched and so hot she tries to memorize the moment.

And then everything around her disappears in favor of the feeling spreading across her, shrouding all her other senses. Karlie grips Taylor’s hair tighter and she seizes, bucking up hard. And if it weren’t for Taylor’s hand flying down to grip Karlie’s hips, her arms pinning her legs open wide, she’d have crushed Taylor’s head.

Karlie thinks she hears herself moan low and long, reveling in the rush of sensation pulsing its way to every inch of her body but it sounds very far away. Taylor kisses her through it and she whimpers at the overload of feeling but Taylor doesn’t seem to care. Karlie’s gasps and varying pitches of moans do nothing to deter her from keeping her tongue flush against the entire length of Karlie, refusing to be thrown off by spasming jerks, only licking harder. It’s too much and she’s so sensitive. She can barely get a breath in, riding Taylor’s mouth desperately, trying in vain to come down.

It isn’t until Karlie sits up halfway and tugs at Taylor’s hair pleadingly does she give Karlie’s clit a parting lick and peck, allowing herself to be pulled up quickly, impatiently. Taylor memorizes the feeling of Karlie’s slick body sliding underneath hers, and she laughs into Karlie’s mouth, smug and unapologetic, when Karlie bites her lip.

Karlie murmurs a lazy thank you into
Taylor’s neck between heavy breaths and Taylor returns with a “Merry Christmas, sweetheart” so saccharinely sweet Karlie pinches her side, too exhausted to shoot Taylor the glare she deserves.

“Get off,” Karlie bites out a moment later, wrapping an arm around Taylor’s back and holding her close to her chest before flipping them over, causing Taylor to laugh breathlessly. She presses a hard kiss to Taylor’s mouth to shut her up. “My turn.”

And in moments, Karlie has no desire to shut Taylor up because the sound of her name whimpered from Taylor’s mouth is music.

Karlie doesn’t return Taylor’s holiday sentiment until a while later after she hears her name and a few choice expletives repeated in gasps and whines. When she returns to Taylor’s jaw, she scrapes her teeth along its length, grinning in retribution.

“Merry Christmas, babe.”