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Falling in Love Takes a While

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(1.17)

Lardo padded over to Shitty once Bitty started babbling about campus life to the tadpoles. “Hey, Shits, were you gonna go on the tour too?”

Shitty shrugged. “Nah man, just came along because Bits was mad struggling with all those boxes. I was afraid he’d trip and die on the way here if he carried them on his own.”

“Did you have any plans after this?”

“Nope,” Shitty replied, popping the p with a grin. “Art building?”

Lardo grinned. “You know me so well. Gotta stop by the office first to drop off my clipboard.”

Shitty followed beside her diligently as they made their way out of Faber. “So, what are you working on right now?”

“I’m messing with different kinds of paints all on one canvas. Professor told us to go abstract, ‘be experimental’, so I am.” Lardo shrugged. “The spray paint and water color combo is kind of odd, and I want to throw in splatter paint and oil paint still, but I’m not sure how to do it.”

Shitty nodded, nudging Lardo playfully with his shoulder. “Sounds interesting. If you need help splattering paint, I have mean wrist flicking skills.” He flicked his wrist, waggling his eyebrows as he did.

Lardo laughed. “I’ll keep that in mind, thank you.”

“Have you eaten yet?” Shitty asked a few minutes later as they continued towards Kotter, gesturing towards the cafe with his head.

“Grabbed a bagel before the tour, but I’m getting hungry again,” Lardo admitted.

“Well, why don't I go grab our usual from Annie’s and I’ll meet you at the studio, ‘kay?” Shitty offered.

Lardo thought about it for a second. “You know, that would be ‘swawesome. I’ll be in my usual spot when you get there.”

Shitty beamed. “Alright, see you in a few,” he said before heading off in a different direction.

Lardo picked up the pace just slightly, but still taking time to look around as she continued across campus. She hummed to herself as she stepped inside Kotter and grabbed her supplies before heading to her usual spot.

Of all the buildings at Samwell, Kotter had to have been her favorite. They’d built it with art students in mind and it was interesting because of just how many outside areas it had for students to work in. One of the kilns was technically outside, but it was covered by a roof and another area was filled with various sculptures and paintings that were waiting to be spray painted.

Then there were just a few places that didn’t architecturally make sense, which was why they were Lardo’s favorite. One in particular, a semi large nook facing the Pond, was where she normally went to work on her pieces.

After setting up her easel and canvas, she took a seat on her stool and sighed, looking over what she already had done.

The background was filled with several blotches of color. Deep emeralds and cobalt blues overlapped, creating new colors between them as they filled up the canvas. Then, over that she’d started to play around with spray paint. She’d started at the top with a bright, metallic silver and kept the can close to the canvas so the paint would puddle and drip down.

But now , she was stuck. What was on there currently was dry, so she potentially could start doing oil paints on it, but she still wasn’t completely sure. All she knew was that she had decided against acrylic, because it felt cheap,  and she was still unsure about adding the splatter paint. Maybe she’d do that last.

She squinted at the canvas and tilted her head to the left.

“Lookin’ good so far Lards,” Shitty commented as he walked over with a bag in one hand and a carry tray with their drinks in the other.

“Thanks,” she replied flatly, tilting her head to the right. “I’m just stuck on it .

“Well,” Shitty said, pulling up a chair, “why don’t we just talk and you paint whatever immediately comes to mind as we do?”

Lardo took her cup and shrugged. “Sure, why not?” She took a sip and set it down before working on setting up her glass board that she liked to use for oils. She pulled out her jar of turpentine and glanced back at Shitty. “You got me the homemade chips, right?”

Shitty snorted. “Of course, who do you take me for?” He opened up the bag and offered up the chip to her mouth. She grabbed it with her teeth and tilted her head back so it fell into her mouth more.

“Thanks.” She said with a mouthful of chip.

“Welcome,” he replied, pulling out a muffin for himself.

“So, you knew that one kid from the tour?” Lardo prompted as she mixed her colors.

“Derek Nurse. Yeah, he went to Andover with me and we played hockey together.” Shitty took a bite. “He’s a good kid.”

“Do you think he’ll end up coming here?”

He shrugged. “Maybe? I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. He seemed to really like it so far.” He glanced over at her. “So how can I help?”

Lardo paused. “Just keep talking. I have an idea and hearing you ramble is part of it.”

Shitty beamed. “Now that I can do.” He said before launching into an animated story about a call he received from his mom last weekend.

_X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_

(Between comics 1.20 and 1.21)

The second the final buzzer sounded, Lardo was out of her seat. She jogged down the concrete hallway, wanting to meet the boys as they walked back into the locker rooms. Just as she reached the doorway on the far side of the room, she heard the sound of them trudging in. She was panting slightly as she took in their sullen expressions. Bitty walked in with them, chatting softly with Shitty. He’d sat on the bench during the game to cheer them on, even though he couldn’t skate himself.

The boys were quick to toss of their helmets, no one speaking above a whisper if they spoke at all. Shitty looked up when he was at his cubby, glancing over to the door. When his eyes met hers, she gave a small wave.

Once everyone was changed, Lardo ushered them out of the building. She knew staying at Faber much longer wouldn’t help their moods. They walked out together, heads down and shoulders bumping.

Slowly, everyone started going their own way. Lardo kept by Shitty, following him back to the Haus.

When they stepped inside, Shitty was quick to lose all of his clothing. He left on his blue boxers and headed up to his room to grab his bong and stash. Lardo trailed along beside him silently, grabbing a blanket from off of his bed before she followed him up to the Reading Room.

It wasn’t until after they’d filled up his bong and lit it that either of them spoke.

“Goddammit,” Shitty breathed, running his hand through his hair as he slowly exhaled smoke.

Lardo looked up at Shitty as she took a hit. His bare chest glowed in the full moon’s light. She was always amazed by how warm he tended to run. Even now, in the cool March air, Lardo had quickly wrapped herself up in the blanket.

The night was quiet around them. The team was mourning their loss in their own way, and the campus seemed to be respecting their want for silence. Lardo was honestly surprised that the lights were off at the lacrosse house. Maybe the universe was just giving them a moment for once.

Smoke swirled above them. Lardo handed the bong back to Shitty, scooting slightly closer to him when she did.

“You guys played really well,” she said, glancing at him once.

Shitty leaned back as he inhaled slowly. One of his arms went behind her back to help brace himself. “And Bits… I mean, he got checked for nothing. His concussion.”

Lardo nodded. “That was scary. He’s gonna be okay, though.”

Shitty sighed. “It was on our home turf too… We should’ve been better.”

“Now you sound like Jack’s inspirational poster,” Lardo teased, trying to lighten the mood but Shitty just kept staring across the road.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Lardo asked quietly as she took another hit.

Shitty didn’t move. He continued to stare across the road, so Lardo slid closer to him until their legs were touching.

“What if we don’t win next year?” Finally tumbled out of his mouth. He finally asked. “What if we don’t even make it to the finals? What about after? What am I supposed to even do next year? Should I take the LSATs? Do I want to take the LSATs still? How am I supposed to just leave you guys, leave this? It’s just,” he paused, inhaled sharply through his nose and sighed heavily, “It’s a lot. It feels like I haven’t been here long, but it also feels like forever and I just love you- love you guys so much and I can’t leave.”

Lardo turned to face Shitty as he rambled on. Her arm brushed against his, and her knees pressed up against his leg after she moved to sit cross legged.

“Fuck, Lards, I just don’t wanna leave. I don’t wanna leave the Haus,” He stopped, glancing at her out of the corner of his eye. “I don’t wanna leave Samwell. I just…”

She watched him as he seemed to brace himself for something before he moved his arm and turned to face her. “I don’t wanna leave you,” he said quietly before he leaned in, lips brushing her own.

Lardo relaxed, leaning into the kiss.

Suddenly, Shitty tugged her onto his lap and Lardo laughed, but it turned into a moan when Shitty’s mouth travelled down to her neck.

“W-We should take this inside,” Lardo whispered softly, eyes fluttering closed as she leaned into Shitty’s touch. He groaned softly when she climbed off of his lap, moving around him towards the window. She glanced back to check on him, but he was right behind her.

The second they were inside, Shitty scooped her up in his arms and walked them down the hall to his room. Lardo leaned up to kiss his neck as he shut the door behind them.

Suddenly, they were on the bed. Lardo was lying on her back and Shitty was hovering over her. The two of them looked at each other for a moment before they both leaned in.

_X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_

Lardo was woken up the next morning by a litany of curses. She opened her eyes blearily as the covers were twisted by a floundering Shitty.

“-fuck, fuck, fuck ,” Shitty was saying to himself as he shoved himself to the other side of the bed.

Lardo blinked and stared at Shitty, trying to process why he was freaking out. She propped herself up on her elbow and rubbed her eye with her other hand. “W’a’s goin’ on?” she mumbled sleepily.

Shitty looked like he was gonna be sick, which made Lardo become more alert. She sat up, “Seriously, you’re freaking me out, what’s wrong?”

Shitty ran a hand through his hair, and Lardo noticed it was shaking. “I-I.. um l-last night… we, I mean, I-I didn’t… did I?”

Despite his floundering, Lardo could see where his thoughts were going. “No, Shits, no,” she told him firmly. “I was definitely consenting to what we did…. Were you?”

Shitty’s face burned red. “Y-Yeah, definitely.”

Lardo shrugged, “Then we’re chill. Nbd.”

Shitty’s body slowly relaxed and he let out a small laugh. “Thank fuck. I was so… I don’t know what I would even do with myself if I ever…” He let out a huff, his face heating up again. “What we did last night, I mean, did it,” Shitty paused and took another deep breath. “Did it mean anything to you?”

Lardo wrinkled her nose subtly. “Look, Shits, you’re one of my closest friends. You seriously mean a lot to me, but I’m not really looking for that right now, ya know?” Lardo half shrugged. “I just don’t wanna be tied down- it’s college ya know? I just wanna be me without worrying about any sort of commitment.”

“Of course, I understand, completely,” Shitty agreed quietly.

“This isn’t gonna make anything weird between us, right?” Lardo asked, noticing his hesitation.

Immediately, Shitty perked up. “No! Of course not,” he agreed hastily. “I’d never want anything like this to fuck up our friendship. You mean too much to me brah.” He licked his lips and gave a small smile. “Besides, how would you ever get any art done without me?”

Lardo groaned and flopped back on the bed. “It’s way too early for chirping, dude.”

Shitty laughed. “Wanna go back to bed then?”

“Hell yeah,” Lardo agreed. Shitty stood up and slipped back under the sheets, but not before he put on a pair of boxers. Lardo didn’t comment on it, instead pulling the covers up around herself more and snuggling into the pillow. “Maybe when we wake up again, Bitty will have made pancakes.”

“That would be ‘swawesome.”

_X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_

Lardo made her way back to the Haus the morning after EpiKegster2k14, as Ransom and Holster had dubbed it. She was pretty sure she’d left her jacket over there, and she was also pretty hungry and knew Bitty would probably be making some soon for the team.

As she walked up the sidewalk towards the Haus, a loud voice boomed from inside.

“COCKADOODLE MOTHERFUCKING DOO! RISE AND SHINE AND GET OUT OF MY HAUS!”

She couldn’t help but snort at his antics, nursing a cup of coffee as she bound up the steps and inside. She was still in yesterday's clothes, and she knew she’d get chirped for it, but right now she didn’t care. She stepped over a random body in the doorway and eyed the various people blearily waking up from where they had seemingly dropped the night before. She spotted Nursey with what looked like a leaf on his head near the stairs and nodded at him when they made eye contact.

“Lardo!” Shitty shouted through the megaphone, making her, and everyone nearby, cringe at the volume.

“Hey Lards, you’re just in time to help us clean up,” Holster teased as he walked by, picking up cups. She followed him into the kitchen.

“Hey Lardo,” Bitty greeted cheerfully from where he was scrubbing the kitchen counters.

“Mornin’ guys,” she replied.

Bro , are you wearing last night's clothes?” Ransom asked, peeking out of the living room.

Holster stopped and stared. “ Bro you are!”

“Deets!” The two D-men shouted immediately, abandoning their cleaning to slide over to her.

Lardo grinned cheekily. Bitty perked up a bit from the kitchen, moving his cleaning closer so he could listen. Shitty, though, his grin faltered. Lardo didn’t really pay attention to him, though, focusing her gaze on Ransom and Holster.

“Remember Jasmine, from the track team?” Lardo asked them.

“Holy fuck Lardo!” Holster laughed, offering up his fist. Lardo quickly bumped it with hers, smirking back at him.

“Little heads up for you guys, track girls have stamina .” Lardo wiggled her eyebrows and Ransom and Holster hollered.

As Lardo continued on, talking about how amazing her night was, Shitty slipped quietly away so he was out of hearing range.

_X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_

(Winter Break - 2014 - Boston, MA)

Lardo glanced up when she heard the diner’s door open again, but the person who walked in wasn’t Shitty. She checked her phone for the hundredth time. She knew Harvard wasn’t a short drive from the diner, but she was still getting anxious. Just as she considering calling, the door opened again and Shitty stepped inside. His hair was still in a bun, but his suit coat was hanging open as he looked around the diner. His eyes met hers and she smiled at him. He quickly walked over, pulling out his ponytail as he slid into the seat across from her in the booth. “Fuck man.” He grabbed the glass in front of him and took a large drink. “Thanks.”

Lardo nodded, taking a sip of her own drink. “So, how’d it go?”

Shitty ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “It wasn’t that bad. I mean, the guy wasn’t as stuffy as I thought he’d be. He actually had some decent thoughts on gender roles, which I’d be hesitant to bring up at all.” He picked up the menu as he continued. “He said for him it took a few months to hear a response from Harvard. I applied to them first so I’m hoping it all went well, and I didn’t need to do the interview, but-” He set the menu down, looking a little worried. “It couldn’t have hurt my odds, right?”

“I don’t think so Shits,” Lardo replied. “And honestly, if Harvard doesn’t chose you, it’s their own loss.”

The waitress stopped in front of their table. “Ya know whatcha wanna order?”

“I’ll have the french dip and the side salad please,” Shitty told her. The waitress nodded and jotted it down before looking at Lardo.

“I would like the chicken and rice soup with the homemade chips.”

The waitress smiled and grabbed their menus before heading off.

“Harvard’s your first choice, right?” Lardo asked, setting her phone down beside her.

Shitty licked his lips. “I mean… yeah, it is. I’ve applied to Yale and Penn too. I heard back from Penn, so I know I have a back up-”

“Wait, you got accepted into Penn?” Lardo blurted out.

Shitty grinned sheepishly. “Whoops, did I forget to tell you? It was shortly after break started that I got the letter.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “It was exciting to know I have a back up. But it's not Harvard, ya know?”

Lardo nodded. “Yeah, cause it's definitely not a big deal that you got accepted into Penn,” She chirped.

“I forgot okay?” Shitty said with a chuckle.

“Uh huh,” Lardo teased. Shitty rolled his eyes and she smiled at him. “So, how’s the Christmas plans going?”

Shitty groaned and slumped down in his seat dramatically. “Terrible,” he whined. “Mom expects me to show up for a least some of the party we’re hosting at our house. I can get out of Dad’s, at least, because he’s outta state, and thank fuck because I didn’t wanna see him anyways.”

Lardo nodded sympathetically. “Well, you’re always welcome to swing by my place if you need a breather. You know my mom loves you.”

“Your mom is so rad . She’s like this small badass and I love it. Why can’t she be my mom?”

The “She can be,” was on the tip of Lardo’s tongue before she stopped and realized how Shitty could take that. “If she was your mom, then you wouldn’t be you.”

Shitty shrugged. “Maybe, or maybe I’d just be ten times cooler.”

Lardo snorted and Shitty flashed her a grin. “So, what are your plans for New Year's?” she asked.

His grin fell and turned into a grimace. “I’m tempted to go back to the Haus, honestly. I don’t have any and I don’t wanna stay at home any longer than I hafta.”

“A good chunk of the art department is gonna have a party on New Years. You could come with.”

Shitty’s expression brightened. He was about to reply when the waitress came back with their food. She divvied it out, and they both thanked her, before starting to eat.

“I’d love to come,” Shitty finally said after taking a bite.

Lardo grinned. “Alright, it’s a date then.”

_X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_

Shitty came by to pick her up on the evening New Year’s Eve day. Lardo slid into the car with a small athletic bag and a larger, wrapped rectangle.

Shitty spotted the box immediately. “Bro, you didn’t .”

Lardo grinned cheekily and handed it to him. “Merry Christmas bro.”

“Can I open it now?” He asked excitedly.

“Of course,” Lardo laughed.

Shitty quickly tore through the wrapping paper to reveal the colorful canvas underneath. He let out a soft gasp. “Lards… This is beautiful.” His actions became ginger as he slid the painting the rest of the way out of its wrapping. His eyes were glued to the colors before him.

Lardo found herself flushing a bit. “It’s really not a big deal. I just… got inspired and I was thinking about you and this is what came of it.”

Shitty’s smile was wide when he finally glanced back at her. “We’ll have to stop by the Haus first so I can put this in my room.” He put the car into gear. “Party’s at Kotter, right?”

Lardo nodded. “Yeah. Do you mind if I crash in your room afterwards? I don’t wanna take the bus back so late. Too many drunks.”

“Of course,” Shitty replied instantly. “You can crash at mine any time.”

The car ride back to Samwell was filled with easy chatter and tons of singing. Shitty was never one who was afraid to sing in the car, especially if he loved the song. He sometimes danced too, which always made Lardo smile, and usually she’d dance along.

They reached Samwell around five. Shitty cheered when he found a parking spot near the Haus.

“It’s okay if we just walk from here, right?” Shitty asked as they stepped out of the car.

“No. That's way too far, how will we ever do it?” Lardo replied sarcastically.

Shitty snorted, opening the back door to grab the painting. He cradled it as they headed up the steps and inside.

“You can chill on the couch if you want. I’m just gonna go lay this on my desk,” Shitty explained.

“Sounds cool brah,” Lardo said before plopping down on said couch while Shitty clambered up the stairs.

Lardo sent a quick snap to Bitty of her on the couch, knowing how much he hated it, while she waited. She’d just typed out the message on it when Shitty appeared again.

“Ready?”

Lardo looked up. “Yeah totally.” She hit send on the picture and followed her friend outside and across campus.

“So how many people are gonna be there?” Shitty asked as they started to walk.

Lardo shrugged. “Not a whole lot? But it's not gonna be like just ten people either.” She checked her phone. “Maybe like 25?”

“And there's gonna be food, right?” He checked.

Lardo chuckled. “I told you all this yesterday.”

“I don't know, maybe something changed,” Shitty protested, but he was smiling.

“Art students aren’t that wishy washy.”

Shitty laughed. “Uh huh! Says the girl who takes hours to chose a background color.”

“Ok, maybe we’re sometimes wishy washy, but only for good reasons,” Lardo argued.

When they finally reached the art building, several other students were already there, and others were trickling in. There were several choruses of “Larissa!” and Lardo beamed, waving at and hugging her friends.

It didn’t take long for her to introduce Shitty to everybody. Several people already knew him, and more recognized him from all the times he was there with Lardo.

The party slowly ramped up and it was in full swing about an hour later when the pizza arrived. Shitty was having a great time talking with other people, but he still stuck fairly close to Lardo throughout the night.

The group was scattered around the room. Someone had brought Cards Against Humanity and a large game had started, while others were gathering around the hijacked projector watching Dick Clark’s New Year's Eve show. Bowls of chips and pizza boxes were passed around, the group slowly merging to all watch the projector as Times Square and the Ball was pulled up on screen.

Lardo was currently pressed into Shitty’s side on the couch in the main lounge of the art studio. Shitty’s arm was slung over her shoulder, a mixed drink in his hand. Lardo had taken her last shot about thirty minutes ago and was now munching on a bag of chips.

“So, you gonna kiss anyone at midnight?” Lardo asked Shitty nonchalantly.

Shitty shrugged. “I don’t know brah, I’m not really one to just kiss a random stranger.”

Lardo nodded. “Well why don’t we just kiss each other then?”

Shitty blinked, glancing down at her.  His eyes were a bit wide, but his expression was blank.

“I mean... Sure, why not?” he finally said after a pause.

“Cool,” she glanced at the time. “Looks like we have like five minutes. Maybe I should stop eating doritos so I don't have cheese breath.”

Shitty snorted. “Brah, bring it on. Who cares about the cheese? Doritos are great anyways.”

Lardo beamed. “They're the best .” She reached back into the bag and realized there were only a few left. “Want the last Dorito?”

“Dude, I’d be honored. ” Shitty placed a hand over his heart before he took the chip from her hand. He then held out his. “Here, I’ll go throw our trash away.”

“Thanks man,” Lardo said, shifting a bit so he could stand up. She glanced back at the clock, only a little over two minutes to go.

There was only one minute left when Shitty made it back to her. Everyone was getting hyped up now, gathering around the projector.

“Wanna go stand with everyone else and watch the ball drop?” Shitty asked, not sitting down yet.

“I can see it from here,” Lardo said, just as someone stepped into her field of view. “Dang it, okay we can move closer.”

Shitty beamed and helped her up, walking over and trying to find a semi-open spot where they could see.

“Twenty seconds guys!” Someone shouted and the room cheered. Lardo glanced at the screen, where everyone in Times Square was freaking out, and then back at Shitty as everyone started counting down.

“5-”

Shitty shifted closer to Lardo.

“4-”

His hand went up to cup her cheek.

“3-”

Lardo stood on her tip toes-

“2-”

-and wrapped her arms around his neck.

“1-”

Shitty’s lips touched hers.

“HAPPY NEW YEARS!”

Cheers and screams erupted around them, but as Lardo’s eyes fluttered closed, the only thing she heard was Shitty’s quiet gasp. Lardo’s lips moved against his, moving the kiss from chaste to slightly more heated.

Before it could go any further, Shitty pulled back. Lardo was dazed, her mind reeling from the various emotions flashing through her head. She didn’t know why his kiss had left her reeling, when no one else’s had ever done that. With anyone else, it was all lust fueled actions, the same end goal in mind. When he kissed her, it held none of that desperation. They were tender, slow, thoughtful.

“Happy New Year Lards,” Shitty whispered, despite the clamor around them. He took a slight step back from her and Lardo instantly missed the warmth.

“Yeah, Happy New Year,” she repeated.

_X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_

Lardo glared at the skates in Shitty’s hands like they were gonna bite her. Beside them was the frozen pond, which looked much more menacing now that she knew she was going to be on it soon. “You know, I really like solid ground for many reasons, the biggest being that it normally isn’t trying to make me fall, because friction and all that. It’s pretty nice. The best actually.”

Shitty looked unimpressed. “You’re the manager of a hockey team… who can’t skate.”

“I don’t see a problem with that-”

“Aaandd too bad,” he cut off, grinning at her. “Come on, I’ve sat through tons of your paint-related tangents before, gone on more shopping trips with you than I can remember to random art stores-”

“I literally watch every game of yours.”

“-I could have a membership at plenty of art museums, I’ve modeled for you. Can’t you try the ice for me?” His grin melted into a softer one, pleading.

Lardo’s cheeks heated up a bit, and not just because of the cold. “You can’t use that stuff against me,” she muttered as she grabbed the skates from him. “And you liked those art museums too.”

Shitty laughed. “You’re right, you’re right.” He knelt in front of her whenever she paused too long trying to figure out how to put the skates on. “Brace yourself,” was all the warning she had before Shitty lifted up her foot and began to unlace her shoes.

“H-Hey!” Lardo laughed. Her hand flailed for a second before it landed on his shoulder, digging into his coat to hold herself steady. Shitty looked up at her and winked as he slipped off her shoe.

“Skate please.” Shitty holds out his hand and Lardo hands him the right skate. “Thank you m’lady.”

“You’re welcome kind sir,” Lardo teased back.

Shitty quieted then as he worked on changing her shoes. He laced them up with a calm, practiced ease. It helped with Lardo’s own anxiety about getting on the ice, mainly because all she could focus on was the red tinge on Shitty’s ears and the way his hand felt bracing her ankle.

“Lards?”

Lardo blinked, focusing on Shitty, who was now looking at her. “Huh?”

“I said you’re good to go,” he repeated.

“Oh, okay,” she replied softly. Her gaze went back to the ice.

“Come on,” Shitty coaxed, stepping beside her and offering his hand. “I won’t let you fall.”

Lardo took a deep breath before taking Shitty’s hand. She made her way slowly over to the ice, her grip on him tightening with each step.

When they got to the edge of the pond, it was Shitty who had to pull her on with him.

Instantly, Lardo’s knees were turned in and bent. It took all her energy just to keep her feet from sliding apart. Shitty grabbed her other hand and slowly skated them backwards, just dragging her along.

“Come on, turn your heels in, just trust the skate to hold you. It will,” Shitty encouraged softly.

“Y-You’re fuckin’ insane!” Lardo yelped. “W-What hair brained idiot invented this? I bet it was some wasted Canadian who was like ‘Oh lemme strap some blades to mah feet and just scoot onto this ice here, eh. Be for a good laugh.’”

Her attempt at a Canadian accent had Shitty doubling over with laughter. Each wheezing breath punctuated by the fog coming out of his mouth. He leaned away a bit and Lardo scrambled forward to keep her grasp on him. “Shitty!”

Shitty’s hands slid up to her elbows, still beaming. “I got you,” he soothed. “Deep breaths Lards.”

Lardo locked eyes with him. She nodded and took in a slow breath before slowly trying to straighten up.

“There ya go. Instead of moving like you would on land, you need to push through with each movement. Just kind of sway left and right,” He coached, his voice still low and gentle.

Lardo did her best to follow Shitty’s instructions as he continued to slowly move them around the ice. Even while skating backwards, he seemed so at ease on the ice and that encouraged her to keep trying despite her aching legs.

“I’m gonna let you go now.”

Lardo’s head snapped up to look at Shitty, who’d somehow moved closer to her over the course of their skating. Green eyes shone with delight when they met hers.

“You can do it brah, I believe in you. You won’t get hurt, I promise.”

“But what if I fall? What if the ice breaks?” Lardo rattled off nervously.

“Do you really think something as tiny as you could break the ice?” Shitty chirped.

“I’d break the ice better than your white ass ever could,” Lardo fired back quickly, letting go without thinking.

The second she did, Shitty pushed himself back a couple of feet. Lardo saw his grin and she knew.

“Goddamnit it Shitty Knight you fucker. You said that on purpose.” Lardo’s feet wobbled, her knees slowly falling inward again.

Shitty cackled. “Me? Never.” He held out a hand for her. “If you break the ice, I promise to rescue you, okay?”

“That's not good enough,” Lardo argued, trying to sound mad but it came out as more of a whine.

“You’re right. I’ll get you a cheesecake too. Now come on, slide your feet outward, left and right just a bit. There ya go.”

Lardo started to shuffle forward. She kept her left foot firmly planted on the ground and only barely picked up the right one to push herself the smallest of increments. Shitty cheered for her with every small stride that she made.

She must’ve shown some sort of improvement in her movements, because as she got closer to Shitty, he started to skate backwards. Soon, he was doing laps around her, laughing.

“Dammit, hold still you fucker,” Lardo barked, but she was smiling. It was obvious how much fun he was having, and despite her constant fear of falling, she was enjoying herself too.

Until she decided to try and speed up a bit.

Shitty was across the pond when Lardo started to lengthen her strides. She was doing okay, and even started laughing for a bit.

“Shits! Hey look, I’m doing i-” Lardo called out, turning to look for him when her left foot decided it didn’t want to go forward anymore.

Lardo let out a yelp as she started to lose her balance. She tried to pull her foot back in, but to no avail. She closed her eyes, prepared to hit the ice, when strong arms suddenly wrapped around her. She floundered and scrambled to grab them, which only served to knock over her would-be-savior as well.

The two of them fell with a solid thud, Lardo landing on top of Shitty, who took the brunt of the fall.

Shitty let out a breathless chuckle from underneath her. “Oww…” he moaned softly.

Lardo turned over on Shitty’s chest to look at him. “Did we break the ice?”

“No, and we didn’t break any bones either,” he replied. He smiled softly, arms still around her. “I told you I wouldn’t let you get hurt.”

Lardo frowned slightly. “Does this mean I don’t get any cheesecake then?”

“Not a whole one at least,” Shitty laughed, slowing pulling the both of them to their feet. “Come on, we can take these skates off and go grab a slice from Jerry’s.”

Lardo beamed, allowing herself to be dragged off the ice. “‘Swawesome.”

_X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_

(Night before 2.11)

Lardo might’ve been staring at the wall for minutes, or hours, she wasn’t sure. If it hadn’t been for her phone quacking, it might have been even longer. She blinked sleepily, dragging herself out of her stupor to look at her phone.

Shits : hows it goin

Lardo blearily unlocked her phone and pounded out a reply.

“Dying inside. Human battery levels critically low. I need energy juice asap.”

Her phone notified her of another text almost instantly.

Shits : omw

Lardo let out a small sigh and set her phone back down. Her gaze went back to the pile of assorted junk/extra items that were lying around the Haus. She had two of her pieces done already, but they didn’t quite fill up her assigned spot yet. Her biggest piece, and the one she spent the most time on, was the large painting that took up three canvases. The other piece was a charcoal drawing she’d done at the beginning of the year of a burning government building.

She needed at least one more thing, and that would make her happy, but she didn’t know what to do.

The door opened noisily, snapping her out of her daze once more. Shitty was balancing two boxes of Monster in one arm, and holding a grocery bag in the other.

“Guess who brought pie?” Shitty sung loudly.

Lardo put a hand on her chest. “Dude, have I ever told you that you’re the best?”

He laughed, setting down the bag and boxes on a nearby table. “I don’t know, but feel free to say it more often.”

“Maybe, I don’t want it going to your head,” she chirped, hopping off of her stool to grab a drink. Shitty dug into the bag and pulled out the container of pie, popping it open and handing her a fork.

“Fuck brah, its blackberry isn’t it.” She dug her fork in and shovelled out a large chunk. “That’s my favorite.

“Bits has been stress baking all night dude. He’s been making everyone’s fav.” He took a bite. “So, whatcha need help with?”

Lardo groaned, dropping her head to the table. “I need one more piece, and I can’t think of shit.”

“Let’s brain storm then. I’m pretty good at thinking of random shit.”

“Anything would be helpful at this point. Even your nonsense,” Lardo chirped, peering up at him.

Shitty gasped. “Not everything I say is nonsense. How dare you.

Lardo laughed and took another bite of pie before grabbing her container and moving to sit on the ground.

They spent hours tossing ideas back and forth, but none of them stuck. The two of them were lying on the floor, staring up at the ceiling.

“Do you have some sort of central meaning you want to come across?” Shitty finally asked.

“I’m just trying to say ‘fuck the patriarchy’ ya know? Like with the painting, it's all about how abs can look great and have a pink polkadot background,” Lardo waved her hand around, “like who gives a fuck. Just, like, things that frustrate me about society! For example, how people like Bitty think they can’t be out in sports because others will be literal assholes to him-” Lardo bolted upright. “Holy fuck that’s it.”

Shitty perked up. “What’s it?”

Lardo leapt out of her seat and went over to her large pile of assorted things. She quickly found what she was looking for, yanking out a jockstrap and a cup. She looked over at Shitty. “How do you feel about bedazzling this?”

It took a while for Lardo to glue everything together like she wanted it, as well as put on the base coat, but she had her idea in mind which made the entire process easier. Her goal was to craft it in such a way that it looked plain from certain angles, but violently rainbow from others, plus have gemstones and glitter on it.

With a sudden burst of renewed energy that only comes from lack of sleep, Lardo easily instructed Shitty through the process with her. It didn’t take long for them to scrounge up the parts, and with both of them working on, it was finished much sooner than Lardo had anticipated.

But it had to be perfect.

Lardo picked and prodded, making minor adjustments to the piece as she circled around it. She looked at it from every angle.

After an hour of this, Shitty finally stood up, stretching.

“Okay artist, time to go.”

“No. It needs to be the best . I need more time,” Lardo argued.

“It’s already beautiful Lards-”

Lardo whined. “Just a little bit longer.”

Shitty moved to stand in front of her, his hand cupping her chin to make her look at him. “Seriously, it’s 5AM. It looks perfect. You need sleep,” Shitty instructed, his voice firm yet soothing.

“But Shits-” Lardo protested.

“What do you want to do to it still?”

Lardo paused and looked at the piece. She furrowed her eyebrows. “... Nothing.”

Shitty nodded. “Exactly. Now come on,” he bent over and scooped her up in his arms, “bedtime for the art student.”

Normally, Lardo would protest to being handled like this, but she was exhausted, so instead she rested her head against Shitty’s chest. “I need to set it up still…”

“What time is the show?” He asked as he started walking.

“Um… five.”

Shitty raised an eyebrow at her. “And what time do you need to be set up by?”

Lardo sighed. “Three.”

“So you can set up later, and you can sleep in tomorrow, too.” Shitty shifted her in his arms. “Now, do you want to go back to your dorm or-”

“The Haus,” Lardo said quickly. “I-I want to go to the Haus, if that’s okay. It’s just quieter there and I won’t have to deal with my roommates-”

“Of course you can go to the Haus. You can have my bed if you want.”

“Not have it, we can share it.”

Shitty snorted. “As long as you don’t hog the sheets like last time.”

“I don’t hog the sheets,” Lardo protested.

The two continued to softly talk and chirp each other until they reached the Haus. Lardo’s eyes were starting to droop as Shitty ascended the stairs to his room.

Just as he set her down on the bed, Lardo remembered something.

“What’re you gonna wear tomorrow?” she asked groggily.

“Um… What should I wear tomorrow?”

“You’ve a suit right?”

“Yeah.”

Lardo nodded. “Wear that. And tell the other boys to too. Dress nice.”

Shitty chuckled. “I will. Sleep Lards.”

She nodded again, snuggling up under his comforter and easily falling asleep in her best friend’s bed.

_X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_

Harvard.

Shits got into Harvard, which was in Boston, which most certainly was not the same town as Samwell.

Everyone was clamoring around Shitty, hugging and congratulating him, but Lardo felt like she couldn’t breathe. Her body was locked into place as Chowder suddenly launched past her and onto the top of the dog pile in the middle of the art gallery.

Lardo spun on her heels and sprinted out the door before she realized she was even moving. Tears welled up in the corner of her vision, and as the wind outside hit her face, they finally poured over.

Lardo continued to run until she reached the spot. She slid into the cubby without a second thought and instantly curled into herself. She tried to listen to the sound of the Pond and the wind instead of the thoughts filling her head.

Harvard. Leaving. Boston. Graduating. Gone. Left. Away. Not a five minute walk away, but a 40 minute drive away. Not here, in their corner. Not helping with art projects. Law school. Leaving. Leaving. Harvard. Graduating. Gone.

It wasn’t the soft crunch of feet against the frozen ground that pulled her out of her daze, but rather a warm coat sliding around her shoulders. Lardo raised her head and was met with familiar green eyes.

“Hey,” Lardo mumbled wetly, rubbing her eyes with the heel of her hand. “Do you come here often?”

Shitty let out a breath, give a small, weak smile. “Come on, I didn’t mean to upstage your own art show. I mean this is supposed to be big, and yet here you are out here because-”

“No, I’m so happy that you go into Harvard,” Lardo cut in, but she had to stop when she got choked up again. “It’s ‘swawesome. A-And it’s not like you planned that email to come in right then.” She laughed a bit.

Shitty’s eyebrows furrowed. “Lards-”

“You’re leaving.” Lardo blurted out. “You’re leaving, like graduating for real, and that means you won’t be here. In the Haus, at games. You won’t go on roadies anymore, and you won’t be at practice. You can’t help me bedazzle a jockstrap at 4am, and just bring me coffee in the middle of the day because you know I’ve been here so long. Who’s gonna pull me out of class and take me to Annie’s and remind me to take breaks sometimes? No one else has even been in the art building before, because I wouldn’t let them, because it was our thing and it can’t be our thing if you’re not here. I just, you mean so much to me and you’re not gonna be here- F-Fuck. I mean, I love you and you’re going to Harvard-

Shitty had a hand on her shoulder, and had been about to pull her closer when he froze. His eyes were wide and his lips were parted. Lardo blinked, rethinking what she said to try and figure out his shock.

Oh.

“I-I love you,” she repeated softly. “I’m sorry it took this long for me to realize but I really do and I don’t want to lose you-”

Shitty’s expression shifted from shock to adoration. “Larissa Duan, you are never gonna lose me.” His hand twitched on her shoulder and his nose colored red with a blush. “Can I kiss you now?”

Lardo beamed and threw herself forward at him, arms wrapping around the back of his neck. Shitty let out a slight yelp as he fell back, his arms locking around her waist. He huffed out a laugh as her lips met his. Lardo laughed. “You’re always catching me, huh?”

Shitty smiled. “I always will if you’ll let me.”

“You’re such a sap,” Lardo chirped. After exchanging kisses for a moment, Lardo pulled back, shivering. “Fuck, when did it get so cold out?”

Shitty laughed, pulling them back up so they were seated again. He snatched his coat off of the ground and wrapped it back around Lardo’s shoulders. She slipped her arms inside of the sleeves. “Damn, I messed up your bun.” She commented, eyebrows furrowed.

Shitty moved his hand up to pat the fussed hair. He shrugged. “It would’ve come out eventually.” He smiled for a second, but then it faltered. “Um… Does this mean… Are we dating now?”

Lardo nodded, wrapping her arms back around his neck. “I’d really like to be, if you’re down with that.”

“I’m pretty down with that,” Shitty said, leaning in and giving her another kiss. “Also, out of curiosity…”

“When did I realize all of this?” Lardo finished. Shitty nodded and she sighed. “Honestly, it’s kinda weird. It was after New Year’s that I realized kissing anyone else was different than it was with you, and I guess I kinda stopped hooking up with other people without really realizing why. But tonight, when you talked about leaving… It just hit me, I guess.”

Shitty smirked. “So maybe it’s a good thing that I interrupted your art show.”

“Shut up,” Lardo chirped, but she kissed him again anyways.

_X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_ _X_

(Before and During 3.11 - Epilogue)

Shitty was curled around her like an octopus, which didn’t make it very easy for Lardo to grab her phone off of the night stand and turn off her alarm.

“Shitty-”

He groaned.

“-we have to get up.”

His arms tightened around her and he buried his face further into her neck. “Don’t wanna,” he whined softly, his voice muffled.

Lardo started to trail her nails softly up and down Shitty’s back, which instantly gave him goosebumps. “ Fuck Lards,” he moaned softly. She immediately stopped and he looked up.

“Oh good, you’re awake,” she chirped. “But seriously, we have to get brunch at Jerry’s, Bitty’s orders, and I really want a Pineapple Blueberry tea from Annie’s before we go.”

Shitty groaned again and rolled onto his back, finally letting go of her. He turned his head to the left to look at his girlfriend. “That means you want me to sneak out of the Haus and run to Annie’s now and meet you there?”

Lardo beamed. “I was just gonna say we need to leave earlier, but that sounds even better.”

Shitty laughed. “Fuck me. Okay, only because I love you.” He swung his legs out of bed and quickly threw on some clothes, grabbing one of his favorite blazer from out of his bag. He wandered into the bathroom to freshen up, and Lardo curled back under the covers, checking through her messages on her phone.

The bathroom door opened with a soft squeak and Shitty came over to kiss Lardo’s forehead.

“See you in a few,” he said before heading out of the Haus.

After he left, Lardo only stayed in bed for a few seconds more before finally rolling out and getting ready herself.

She was in the middle of adjusting her beanie when she heard Ransom and Holster shouting. She shook her head, smiling to herself as she pocketed her phone and walked out of the room.

“Oh, hey Lards!” Ransom greeted. “I’m guessing Bitty texted you too?”

“Yup, brunch meetup.”

Holster quickly butted in. “Lardo! Ransom doesn’t know-”

“I heard you hollering about it,” she cut in as they headed down the steps.

“GOBSMACKED!”

“Rans, how do you not know about Jbrizzle?” Lardo asked as Holster kept yelling about his disbelief in the background.

Ransom just sighed as they walked out the door, but Lardo wasn’t letting it go. “Have you like, never had brunch before?”

“They serve brunch in the dining halls,” he grumbled.

“That’s trash brunch. This is Jerry’s brunch.”

How are you a senior at Samwell University?” Holster all but shouted.

Ransom threw his hands up in the air. “I don’t know, okay? Look, maybe Bitty’s-”

Bitty talks about Jerry’s Brunch all the time,” Holster cut in. “He loves their whoopie pies. That’s like a three star Michelin rating.”

As they waited to cross the road, Lardo pulled out her phone and texted Shitty about the conversation.

Shits : poor Ransom. He doesn’t know what he’s been missing.

Shits : where r u btw?

Lardo glanced up at the street signs and quickly typed in their location.

Shits : alright cya in a sec <3

Lardo grinned to herself and looked back up.

Holster still hadn’t let the topic go. “Even Jack knows about Jerry’s Brunch. And he just didn’t live under a rock at Samwell. Oh no! His rock had like twenty other rocks on top of it!”

Lardo smirked to herself. “Rock Lord,” she agreed.

“Wait- is that Shitty?”

Lardo looked up at Ransom’s words and smiled when she saw her boyfriend walking towards them with two drinks in hand.

“Yo, Shits! What the hell man?” Holster asked as he walked towards them.

“Morning lady and gentlemen,” he greeted. “It’s ‘I’m ready for mimosas’ o’clock.”

The four of them stopped near Jerry’s when Shitty handed her her drink. Lardo grinned and took a sip.

“But… like I thought you went back to Boston last night,” Ransom said, glancing at Holster and then back at them, eyebrows furrowed.

“Aahhh. Well,” He glanced at Lardo and gave a small smile. “You know.”

The two of them turned and continued walking, leaving Ransom and Holster puzzled and confused. Lardo was grinning widely at this point, and when Shitty glanced over at her and winked, she took another sip of her drink and knew.

She’d made the right choice.