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What's Mine Is Yours... Always

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Present - One Year, One Month and One Day After the Accident

She smiled softly, looking out across the rippling water, breathing in and filling her lungs with the crisp autumn air that was currently teasing at the hem of her dress, the fabric tickling halfway up her shins. The breeze quietly rustled the recently turned leaves above her, a vision of deep reds and oranges, creating such a warm and beautiful feeling that perfectly contrasted with the slight chill enveloping her. She finally exhaled slowly, feeling every ounce of tension leave her limbs, and smiled harder.

Not that there’s much to be tense about today.

It had been over a year since the accident. Over a year since she’d woken up, missing the most important person in her life. And almost a year to the day from that turning point, when she’d realized that she wanted to try. That she didn’t want to lose Carmilla, the girl who was so quickly stealing her heart, and that she was going to fight with everything she had to keep her.

And it had been a fight. It had been a challenge. At times, it was a seemingly unwinnable battle. But somehow, they’d figured it out. They’d worked together through the struggle, and in the end, it had paid off. They’d found their way back to each other.

And it’s so amazing.

But what was even more amazing was that she’d been able to watch herself fall in love with Carmilla twice. She got to fall head over heels for this incredible girl, and then slowly remember what it felt like to fall for her all those years ago. It was an incredibly unique experience, and one that she didn’t take for granted.

As of yet, Laura hadn’t remembered everything, but that cold January day in the park nine months earlier had been the breakthrough, and the previously unknown slowly began seeping back into her mind, one recollection at a time.

Some of the memories that had resurfaced were so sharp and clear, it was almost as if she could reach out and touch them. She could smell what was surrounding her at that moment and hear the small noises that echoed in the distance. She could still taste some of the kisses that Carmilla had left against her lips and feel the softness of the dark-haired girl’s skin against her fingertips.

Then, there were times where things faded in and out. Some of the memories were hazy or blurred. There were gaps here and there. One minute, she’d be standing outside a restaurant, lips pressed to Carmilla’s after a celebratory night, and the next it was days or weeks later. There may be a fuzzy snippet of something small here or there in between, but nothing concrete.

And then… the rest of their time together was still missing.

She knew she could be upset and feel cheated that not everything had returned as of yet, but the fact that she’d been able to get anything at all left her smiling every single time something new surfaced. Looking back, she guessed that she had about half of the seven years that she’d lost, give or take a few percentage points. It wasn’t perfect, but then again, what she and Carmilla had was never perfect. It was just real. It was just them. And regardless of what had returned to her, she treasured every single memory, in one way or another.

All the romantic moments, sweet gestures, and super sexy times were wonderful. And, of course, all the moments in between, be them exciting or mundane. But getting back some of that time wasn’t without its drawbacks.

She’d remembered some of the bad stuff too. Like the night a few months after she’d started at the Silas Times, coming home excited about another high profile article that she’d been assigned, and wanting to share the news with Carmilla, only to find the dark-haired girl sitting at their kitchen table, upset at having lost another photography job (her third that year). And after the older girl had lashed out that night, her failures only further exacerbated by Laura’s successes, the argument had left Carmilla sleeping on the couch for three nights and Laura had cried herself to sleep every one of them. That memory hadn’t been a pleasant one to suddenly regain. Nor was the one that occurred after she’d gotten stuck at the Daily, again, and had completely forgotten about the very amazing and romantic night that Carmilla had planned for them. The resulting fight about the fact that Laura was spending far too much time at work, and had been neglecting everything else in her life for months, including her girlfriend, had been a hard pill to swallow, even if it was true. But they were her memories, just the same.

She had to take the good with the bad. The carefree with the sorrowful. And the happy with the heartbreaking. It didn’t matter what it was. It was a piece of her that she got to put back in its rightful place.

Sure, the puzzle was still coming together, but the picture was beautiful just the same.

She loved that she got to go back in time, and see nineteen-year-old Laura discover Carmilla Karnstein and the incredibly intense crush that she’d quickly developed on the girl.

She adored that she got to remember different parts of that first year together, the two of them navigating all the new things that came not only with learning about each other, but with being in a serious relationship at all.

She blushed at any glimpse of the two of them finding themselves in one compromising position or another.

She ached remembering the pain Carmilla had held onto for so long, but found that the memories of them taking care of one another, were so uplifting to revisit.

She found that Perry had been right a year ago when she’d told an unsure version of Laura that Carmilla had ‘done a lot, not just for you, but for all of us.’

And she cherished being able to watch her and Carmilla take the next step in their life together, holding tight to that love and pride she carried for the dark-haired girl.

Each memory was important. And it was worth the effort and the pain. It was worth the fight. Because it was them. Because it was Carmilla.

And I love her so much.


Six Years, Eleven Months and Twenty Nine Days Before the Accident

She slowly glanced to her left, trying to be as discreet as possible, and knowing she was failing miserably. But how could she not stare when it was Carmilla sitting next to her?

Carmilla Karnstein, who was flirty and had those amazing dark eyes and lips that Laura hadn’t been able to stop thinking about for two weeks now and…

Who was also actually really smart and sometimes funny and kind of sweet when LaF and Perry weren’t around.

All things that never would’ve come to mind when she’d first caught sight of the dark-haired bartender who had every girl in the place fiercely vying for her attention.

This was only the third night they’d met up to study, and honestly, Laura was finding it harder and harder to focus every time. Because not only was Carmilla unfairly gorgeous, but she actually had the personality to back it up.

I mean, who can focus on studying art when the most beautiful girl in the world, who is actually turning out to be pretty awesome and so charming, is sitting right next to them?

Laura swallowed hard as she watched Carmilla trap her bottom lip between her teeth, once again noticing the little gap in those pearly whites that somehow only made the dark-haired girl more beautiful. And her brow furrowing ever so slightly in concentration as she continued to read through Laura’s notes from the last class was one of the most adorable things Laura had ever seen. She watched the older girl read through the pages once more before finally shaking her head with a sigh and setting them down on the counter in front of her.

Laura quickly attempted to turn away as Carmilla looked over, but as she was nowhere near as smooth as the other girl, the obvious jerk of her head towards her book was more than obvious.

Crap.

She waited a moment, hoping for the best, but knew she’d been caught when she nonchalantly glanced up a moment later and saw the knowing smirk on Carmilla’s face. Attempting to cover the blush quickly spreading across her cheeks, she let her hair fall forward as she hunched further over the counter, pretending to be oblivious to anything but the textbook in front of her.

“Having trouble focusing tonight, cupcake?” she teased, and try as she might, Laura couldn’t fight the embarrassed grin pulling at her lips.

“Nope. No trouble at all,” she said, turning the page in her book, though she was nowhere near finished reviewing what Carmilla had outlined for her.

Carmilla merely chuckled before leaning closer, the scent of leather and mint and cold moonlight surrounding the tiny brunette as the older girl pushed Laura’s notebook back towards her.

“These notes are atrocious, cutie. Were you paying attention at all in class?”

How can I when you’re in the lecture with me?

“Yes, I was!” Laura argued, finally looking up, her gaze meeting playful dark eyes, her stomach fluttering at the sight. “It’s just… it’s not easy to listen to him prattle on and on about nothing.”

“He actually stayed on topic yesterday… for the most part,” she shrugged.

“What part of yesterday’s lecture was on topic?” she balked.

“The part where you were doodling these little hearts,” Carmilla said, her voice teasing as she pointed to the margins of Laura’s notebook.

The hearts, ever so predictably, had unconsciously shown up when she’d been thinking about how Carmilla had been sitting so close during their study session on Tuesday. She’d been turned towards her, one arm lying across the back of Laura’s kitchen stool, the other merely an inch from Laura’s hand where it lay atop the counter, her leather covered knee gently pressing into the side of the smaller girl’s thigh, explaining… something .

You don’t remember because her voice alone makes you completely lose concentration on everything else.

“I… I got bored,” she lamely attempted, shrugging once more. “I’m not good at this stuff like you. I only took the class because I thought it would be an easy credit.”

“Well, hate to break it to you, cutie, but art isn’t always a walk in the park.”

She turned towards the older girl, taking in the teasing smirk on her lips, and felt her heart skip a beat at being so close.

“Why…” she trailed off with a sigh, her eyes searching the incredibly dark ones in front of her. “Why do you call me that?”

“What?” Carmilla asked, brow furrowed.

“Cutie? And… cupcake?”

Carmilla chuckled, looking down for a moment at her lap before her eyes met Laura’s again, somehow even darker and more amazing than before.

“You remind me of a cupcake. Seemingly soft and sweet. But there are layers to it. It’s not always what you see on the surface. You have peel away the wrapper to find out what’s underneath.”

Laura swallowed hard, unsure if Carmilla meant the explanation to be so evocative or not, and the lopsided grin on her face wasn’t giving her any clues, one way or the other.

“W-Well, what about the other one?”

Another chuckle met her ears, Carmilla’s smile softening just a tad as she continued to stare into Laura’s eyes.

“That’s one’s simple. You’re cute as hell, Hollis,” she said, leaning in further, her warmth fanning across Laura’s skin. “You’re more than cute actually. But somehow, trying to make a nickname out of stunningly beautiful just doesn’t work as well.”

Wow.

“Oh!” she squeaked, those damn butterflies in her stomach taking off in a dancing bloom of colors and making her heart beat a little faster. “Um… okay.”

Laura, you idiot!

But Carmilla simply laughed again, leaning in a little further, her skin so perfect beneath the soft lights in the kitchen, her eyes sparkling, her lips… oh her lips.

How was she supposed to focus on studying? How was she supposed to concentrate on the book in front of her when Carmilla’s beauty easily overshadowed the art depicted in it?

And how can I focus on anything when she talks with that incredible voice and sits so close and… ugh, she’s so pretty and sweet and smells so good! And all I want to do right now is kiss her!

“What? What’s wrong?” Carmilla asked, smirking still but eyes soft.

“Uh, nothing. Nothing’s wrong,” Laura said, shaking her head and looking away. “You’re right, these notes are terrible. Um… could I borrow yours again?”

“Sure,” she acquiesced, grabbing her own notebook and carefully setting it next to Laura’s. Smiling once more at the smaller girl, she turned back to her own textbook, apparently oblivious to the fact that Laura was unable to look away.

Oh god! I have a serious, honest to god, over the top crush on Carmilla Karnstein. Oh, crap…


Five Years, Ten Months and Ten Days Before the Accident

Fumbling for her keys, she attempted to balance the box of cupcakes in hand as her overly fully backpack started to slide off of her shoulder. She really didn’t need to take ALL of her books to the library, but she figured it was better to be over prepared. This project was a huge part of her final grade in her History of Journalism class, and she wasn’t about to screw it up. Finally connecting with the jangly mess in her coat pocket, she located the correct key and slid it into the lock, jiggling it just right to push the door open. She still didn’t understand why their landlord wouldn’t fix the darn thing, but she had a right mind to send yet another letter of complaint.

Bad enough that the heat barely works and the water heater’s only good for five minutes, she internally grumbled as she stepped through the doorway. And what she saw on the other side easily melted the frown on her face and took her breath away.

The lights were low, but the candles lit throughout the apartment added a warmth to the chill that was starting to ebb in as mid-November approached. There were candles along the end tables near the tattered couch, across the rickety bookshelves, and on both sides of the bed across the room. Two mismatching tapered ones sat atop the second-hand coffee table, alongside two place settings. The plates and silverware didn’t exactly coordinate, but then again, they didn’t own any matching kitchenware. Somehow that just added to the charm. And, of course, music floated around her, because there was never a time when Carmilla was alone in their apartment that the stereo wasn’t on. But the tune currently playing was much softer than the normal rock beat that usually greeted Laura after a long day of classes or hours at the Silas University Times.

“What is this?” Laura laughed as she let her bag fully drop and kicked the door closed behind her. She set the package of cupcakes down on the coffee table in order to pull her coat off, dropping her things into the corner of the room. Looking across the space, she smiled even harder at the sight of her girlfriend, standing near the stove, her back to Laura, shrugging.

“Dinner,” Carmilla mumbled, as though that explained the incredibly romantic atmosphere.

“Just a casual Saturday night meal?” she teased. But after a long moment of silence, she pressed for more. “Carm?”

She slowly moved forward, coming up behind her girlfriend and carefully wrapping her arms around her waist. She’d missed her that day. You miss her every day, she chastised herself with a snicker. Peering over Carmilla’s shoulder, she smiled at the meager, but still delicious smelling meal the other girl was working on.

Spaghetti. Of course. Something we can afford.

“I’m starving and that smells amazing,” Laura said, leaving a soft kiss just below her ear.

“Well, it’ll be ready in just a few minutes,” Carmilla said, turning, sauced spoon in hand, and pushing it towards Laura to try.

“You may have missed your calling,” she moaned, talking the spoon in her mouth. “Like, I know you’re an amazing artist, Carm, but if you need a fall back career, I’d like to hire you as my personal chef.”

“Deal,” Carmilla agreed as she turned back to the stove and Laura quickly moved her hands to the dark-haired girl’s hips.

“So seriously. You want to fill me in on what all of this is?”

Turning everything off, Carmilla took a second before stepping away, leaning back against the counter, putting just a foot of space between them. Running a nervous hand through her hair as she finally met Laura’s eyes, she shrugged once again.

“I uh… I know we talked about not doing anything big tonight. But I thought… I mean…” she floundered and Laura swore she saw a tinge of pink creep across the older girl’s cheeks. “It’s not a big deal. It’s just dinner.”

And in that moment, Laura fell in love with her girlfriend all over again. Even if she figured that Carmilla would probably do something for the occasion, this was far more than anything she could’ve expected. And the way the dark-haired girl was acting now, like she really wasn’t sure if it was okay, pulled at Laura’s heartstrings in the most beautiful way. Because of course this was okay. This was incredible.

“We did talk about not doing anything big,” Laura finally agreed after another long moment. “But we didn’t say anything about not doing something incredibly sweet.”

Stepping forward, she wrapped her arms low around Carmilla again and pulled her close, softly smiling at the older girl. Leaning in, she let her lips carefully brush against Carmilla’s, smiling harder as she felt a little of the tension leave her girlfriend’s body at the contact.

“I didn’t make a big plan either,” she said as she pulled away. “But I did stop and get those chocolate espresso cupcakes that you like. Thought we could enjoy some dessert for dinner tonight since I didn’t know you’d already be cooking when I got here.”

“Hmm… well, lucky you, I didn’t make dessert,” Carmilla said, finally smirking softly and sinking further into Laura’s embrace.

“We’re a pretty good team, huh?”

And instead of answering, Carmilla simply leaned in and kissed her again, her mouth lingering for a moment longer, just barely touching. It wasn’t a heated moment. It wasn’t a moment waiting to lead to something more. But it was moment that spoke volumes. It was a moment that she really didn’t want to end, because having Carmilla so close would never be something she didn’t want.

Unfortunately, her stomach was ready for something different, and the loud growl it emitted ended all further discussion on romance.

“Guess you really are starving, huh?” Carmilla said with a chuckle, quickly kissing her once more before untangling herself from Laura’s hold and moving back toward the stove. “Will you grab the plates, cutie?”

Still grinning, she took the few steps required to make her way back to the coffee table, returning within seconds. Carmilla carefully dished the meal out onto each, careful not to splatter. She still hadn’t lived down the first time she’d made Laura dinner and the resulting mess on the tiny brunette’s favorite white sweater.

“This is seriously so sweet of you, Carm,” Laura said as they set their plates down a minute later, taking their seats on the floor on either side of the coffee table.

“It’s really not a big deal,” she argued again with a shrug. “I just… I didn’t know if this was okay. I mean… I’ve never celebrated one of these before.”

“I know but it’s perfect and I love it,” Laura said, eyes shining. “And I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“Happy first anniversary.”


Five Years, One Month and Twenty Four Days Before the Accident

She bit her lip harder as another moan ripped from her throat, completely unintentional. But there was no way to stop it.

“Okay, seriously, while I love hearing you make those noises, cupcake, if you don’t quiet down at least a little bit, you’re going to wake up the entire cabin. And all the other cabins in a five mile radius,” Carmilla whispered against the tiny brunette’s lips as Laura’s arms wound tighter around her shoulders, one leg twining higher about Carmilla’s waist, the other just barely keeping her steady as her toes dug into the sand below.

She opened her eyes, taking in that goddamn, unfairly sexy smug smirk on her girlfriend’s face, Carmilla’s playful dark eyes dancing in the moonlight that showered down upon them. The water rippled around them with every slight movement, the small waves bobbing against their shoulders and only adding to the noise.

“I’m trying,” Laura grumbled, the sound turning into a whimper as Carmilla’s fingers thrust a little harder. “These damn trees… and the water… it echoes. This… maybe this wasn’t the best plan for tonight.”

“This was your idea!” Carmilla argued with a laugh. “Even though I hate all of our friends, and didn’t even want to come up here this weekend, I was perfectly content to spend the night snuggled up in that tiny ass bed, listening to Kirsch snore, and Lawrence throw things at him. But you wanted to go skinny dipping… and more, if I remember your words correctly.”

“Well… oh god… we can’t do this in the cabin,” she sighed. “Everyone will hear us.”

“Everyone’s going to hear us now anyway,” Carmilla chuckled.

“Fine, then… then you can’t do that little swirly thing,” she panted.

“But you like that little swirly thing,” Carmilla teased, leaning in and nipping at the spot just below her ear.

“I love that little swirly thing,” she said, threading one hand into dark locks. She drew the older girl back, bringing their mouths together in a hard kiss and holding Carmilla’s bottom lip captive for a moment as she pulled away. “But if you keep doing it, there’s no way in hell I’m going to be able to keep quiet.”

“What do you want then?” Carmilla whispered against her lips, her fingers still moving at a steady pace between Laura’s legs, palm turned just right to leave her whimpering with each upward thrust.

They’d driven up to the cabin with Kirsch, intending to relax and have some fun with their friends for a few days before heading back to the real world. And Laura thought she’d have no problem controlling herself for a long weekend. But then she’d had to watch Carmilla walk around in an incredibly flattering little black bikini all afternoon, and…

Why does she have to be so darn sexy?

And after they’d gotten into the bed they’d been assigned for the weekend, Carmilla had distracted her even further, her fingers dancing under Laura’s tank top, moving higher and higher as her lips tickled against the smaller girl’s neck. She knew Carmilla wasn’t actually trying to turn her on, but after ten minutes, she’d been unable to take it any longer, leading her to suggest that they head down to the lake, the midnight air still sticky against their skin as they’d quickly shucked their clothes and dove in.

“Come on,” Carmilla urged, her fingers feeling better and better by the second, lips still teasing near her ear. “Tell me, Laura.”

Ugh, of course she’s going to say my name all rough and breathless and… oh, screw it.

“Just… just do the swirly thing,” she finally groaned.

“You sure about that?” Carmilla chuckled against her neck. “You know how light of a sleeper Betty Crocker is.”

“I know, but… oh right there… but I’m thinking, to make it fair, we should try and see if you can be quiet too,” she challenged, lifting an eyebrow as her girlfriend leaned back. Letting one of her hands descend down Carmilla’s torso, squeezing between their bodies, she giggled at the heated groan the older girl made when she reached her destination.

“Oh, that’s cheating.”

“How is this cheating?” Laura asked, the picture of innocence. She kissed Carmilla once before leaning over, teeth tugging at her ear, and then whispering, “There’s no reason I should cum alone.”

“Everyone thinks I’m the bad influence, but if our friends knew how fucking filthy you really are…”

“You love it,” she husked meeting Carmilla’s eyes again.

“I really fucking do.”

And Laura giggled once more before pulling her closer, smiling hard when Carmilla moaned heavily against her lips, the water rippling a little harder around them.


Four Years, Six Months and Seventeen Days Before the Accident

She wasn’t sure what had woken her up, but the cold all around was a definite shock.

Why in the heck is it freezing in here?

Pulling the blankets tighter to her chest, she reached out, blindly searching for Carmilla in the bed beside her, hoping the older girl could help warm her up faster. But sadly, she came up empty. Carmilla obviously hadn’t been in the bed for some time because none of her warmth lingered against the cold and rumpled sheets.

She opened her eyes, the room still dark, and turned towards her nightstand, the clock there blinking back at her reading 3:07.

Where is she at 3:07 in the morning?

Rolling completely onto her back, she propped herself up on her elbow, sleepily wiping at her eyes as she surveyed their tiny studio apartment. But it didn’t take her long to find her girlfriend. Across the room at the open window, Carmilla sat, straddling the sill, letting the late winter chill seep into the apartment. It had been cloudy when they’d gone to bed that night, but the streetlamps reflecting off the last of the snow gave her just enough light to see the clearly perturbed expression haunting her girlfriend’s profile.

“Carm?” she called out quietly.

Startled, Carmilla quickly glanced over, and simply shook her head before looking away again. But she wasn’t quick enough. Laura saw the tears.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you,” she said, her voice uneven and just barely above a whisper. “Go back to sleep.”

Sighing softly, Laura pushed herself further up, studying Carmilla’s profile for another moment, hating the sight. She hadn’t seen Carmilla like this since that night almost three weeks earlier. Carmilla wasn’t a crier. Laura had known that for a long time now. But this…

I hate that I can’t fix this for her.

She slowly climbed out of the bed, grabbing the blanket Carmilla must’ve laid across her at some point. It had been folded at the foot of the mattress where they normally kept it when she’d fallen asleep a few hours earlier, but she guessed that Carmilla had the hindsight, and the courtesy, to lay it over her before she opened the window. Pulling it around her shoulders now, she slowly padded to the other side of the room, her eyes watching Carmilla tense up further and further with each step she took. And it hurt, but she couldn’t just leave her like this, all alone.

“Hey,” Laura whispered, as she moved behind her, awkwardly wrapping the blanket around the older girl’s shoulders as well. She was chilled to the bone and, even with her resilience to cold, Laura didn’t know how the dark-haired girl wasn’t frozen over. “How long have you been here?” she asked, rubbing her left hand up and down Carmilla’s arm.

But Carmilla merely shrugged, still looking away.

“Do you… do you need anything?” It was stupid question and she rolled her eyes as soon as it left her mouth.

“I’m fine, Laura. Really. Just… just go back to bed. I’ll be there in a minute,” she mumbled.

“I’m not leaving you here alone,” she argued, voice still so soft and quiet, sliding on her arm tighter around Carmilla’s shoulders from behind, the other keeping the blanket in place, and leaving a soft kiss in her hair. “You don’t have to explain. We don’t even have to talk. But… I’m not going anywhere.”

The long moment of silence that followed let her know that at least Carmilla wasn’t going to argue. But it was still incredibly unnerving.

She looked out over Carmilla’s shoulder, the street below them completely deserted and quiet. And, looking down, Laura immediately understood why Carmilla had chosen this place to sit. Understood that, regardless of how much she loved the older girl, there was still an emptiness inside of her. One that Laura would never be able to fully understand, try as she might. She didn’t grow up like Carmilla did. She had a great dad who never turned his back on her. She had other family members that cared about her and liked having her around. She’d never had to watch others get chosen over her when it came to bestowing love and affection. She never had to deal with the fact that no one wanted her.

And she hated that Carmilla understood that pain. No one should ever have to feel that way, but her girlfriend… her amazingly wonderful girlfriend, never deserved to feel this deep ache.

She leaned in, laying another soft kiss in Carmilla’s hair before moving closer, letting her chin rest on her shoulder, feeling the older girl just barely lean into her warmth.

“I’m sorry,” Carmilla finally whispered, her voice so small.

“Carm, it’s fine,” Laura answered, laying a tender kiss against her temple. “I don’t mind staying here with you.”

“No, I mean, I’m sorry… for everything,” she said with a heavy sigh. “I… god, I was such an asshole to you that night.”

That awful night would be burned into Laura’s memory forever. The awful night where Carmilla had said horrible and ugly things. The night where she’d stormed out after Laura refused to leave. The night where Laura held the older girl for hours after she’d finally come home, safe and sound thankfully, so upset and completely lost. Despite having lost her own mom, what Carmilla was going through was something that Laura could never completely understand. All she could do was be there for her girlfriend, at any time, in any way.

“Hey, no,” Laura said, holding tighter as another shiver jolted through her body. Why can’t we have this discussion in our nice warm bed? “I’ve told you, I forgive you, okay? I forgave you that night.”

“I… fuck, I blew up at the one person that really and truly loves me over someone that never even cared,” she huffed, shaking her head, her eyes still on the street below. “And… and now Will’s a fucking mess. And Mattie’s completely shut herself off. And… and I don’t know what to do.”

“What to do about what?” Laura gently asked, leaving another kiss against the neck of Carmilla’s t-shirt.

“Everything. I can’t… I can’t help them from here,” she hiccupped, her shoulders trembling, though Laura wasn’t sure if it was from the tears or the cold. “And… and even though she’s gone, it’s still just hovering over me. God, why do I even fucking care?”

“Because you’re not heartless, Carm. This… this isn’t something that’s just going to go away.”

“It’s not even that I miss her,” she continued on as if Laura hadn’t spoken. “I… I really don’t. We didn’t have any sort of relationship but… I just… why did she hate me so much?”

And hearing those words nearly broke Laura’s heart. Though she realized that she got to see a side of Carmilla that no one else did from behind their closed apartment door, how anyone could not love the other girl would always be a mystery to her.

“Carm…”

“I mean, I know I was never daughter of the year. I know that I have my faults, and there are plenty to choose from. Honestly, even as a kid, I never thought she’d love me. I never expected her to. But…” She paused, the seconds slowly ticking by, and Laura hated the pain that leaked into Carmilla’s voice in that moment. “Couldn’t she have at least liked me? Just a little?”

That bitch better be rotting in hell.

“Carm, she should’ve loved you. But… she got in her own way. And she really missed out because you’re amazing,” Laura argued, wishing that she could see Carmilla’s eyes.

“But… dammit, it wasn’t just her. She wasn’t the first person that didn’t want me. She… I just don’t understand what it is about me that…”

She trailed off again, shoulders tensing and pulling away from the tiny brunette just enough to leave an inch of space between them. And, though she knew what was coming, Carmilla’s next words still smacked Laura hard, the pain flowing through every inch of her being.

“Laura… you could do so much better than me. I’m not good enough for you. I’m… I’m not worth it and you know it.”

“No. No, we are not going down this road again, Carm,” she argued, pulling Carmilla back to her once again, taking that inch away. “I love you more than anything in this world because you’re you. Because you make me feel like no one else ever has. Like no one else ever could. I know that you’ve had it rough, and I can’t imagine how you got through it. But… you’re good, Carm. You’re a good person. You’re an incredible person. And all those assholes who never saw that… they didn’t deserve you in their life.” It was her turn to pause, pressing her forehead against Carmilla’s temple, feeling the older girl just barely lean into her. “You make people’s worlds so much better. Without you… my world would be so dark.”

“You’re obligated to say that. You’re my girlfriend,” Carmilla mumbled and Laura couldn’t help the quiet laugh that left her.

“You know darn well that I don’t do anything I don’t want to.”

“So damn stubborn.”

She let a small smile pull at her lips, leaning in and leaving kiss against her cheek, sighing softly when Carmilla relaxed ever so slightly.

“I’m sorry. I… I’m okay, really. Go back to bed, Laura. I’ll… I’ll be there in a minute. I promise.”

“Nah. Beds are overrated,” she said, pushing Carmilla forward and climbing onto the window sill behind her. She removed the blanket from their shoulders, letting it settle over their fronts as Carmilla melted back into her. She felt the older girl reach for her, taking her hands and holding tight.

And, in total silence, that’s how they stayed for the next hour.


Three Years, Five Months and Nine Days Before the Accident

Taking a deep breath, she attempted to sit up on the couch, but the dizziness hit her right away. No matter though, she’d just push through it. She was tough. This wasn’t a challenge she was about to lose. But just as her toes pushed into the beige carpet fibers at the foot of the sofa, a scolding voice stopped her.

“Uh uh. You still have a fever, cupcake. You’re not going to work,” Carmilla said as she emerged from the hallway, dressed and ready for the day.

“But I have to,” she mumbled, her congestion robbing her of v’s. “I’ve already missed two days.”

“Well, it’s not going to kill you to stay home for a few more and get healthy.” She watched Carmilla walk across the room to where her camera bag sat, double checking that she had everything she’d need for the day.

“I’m totally healthy,” she argued, attempting to push herself up off of the sofa, the dizzy spell intensifying as she did. “I… I’m fine.” And there went her n’s.

“Laura, no.” Still, the older girl busied herself with making sure everything was in order, not even bothering to glance back. But Laura knew if she did, that no nonsense stare would be firmly in place.

Still, she had way too much to do. She couldn’t just lie there on the couch any longer.

“But… I have that big story and I don’t want Helen to give it to someone else. She’s been so good about giving me some of the Times’ most visible pieces.”

“And I’m sure she’ll have plenty to give you when you’re back,” Carmilla said, pulling her jacket on. “She knows you’re sick. She’s not going to fire you for taking a few days to recoup.”

“But… Carm…”

“No,” she said, those dark eyes finally turning on her, and just as she’d predicted, the infamous take no prisoners stare was firmly in place.

Huffing in defeat, she slowly lay back against the cushions, pouting as she did for three full seconds before a sneezing fit hit her, leaving her huffing with a soggy tissue shoved up her right nostril.

“Yeah, you’re the picture of health.”

“Shut up.” And there went her t’s.

Carmilla simply chuckled, throwing her bag over her shoulder, and stepping towards Laura.

“Get some sleep, cupcake. I’ll bring you some more of those lotion tissues and make you soup when I get back, okay?” she said, leaning over to kiss her goodbye, but Laura turned, offering her cheek just as their lips were about to meet. “Hey!”

“Well, as much as you’re being a pain right now, I don’t want you to get sick!”

“I’ll take my chances,” Carmilla said, smirking softly and kissing her once again, this time, their lips connecting.

Yeah, that’s because you’re not the one who has to take care of you, she thought with a frown.

Laura waited until Carmilla left, locking the door behind her before attempting to sit up again. Fine. She wouldn’t go to the office. But there was nothing stopping her from working on her article here. She had her laptop. She had her research materials. She still had a three-quarter full box of Kleenex at her disposal. What Carmilla didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. But that same dizzy nausea smacked her in the face as soon as she got halfway up, and she quickly let herself fall backwards.

“Okay, just… just wait a few minutes. Then you can go get your stuff and work.”

She closed her eyes, attempting to make the room stop spinning just long enough to not hurl, and when they fluttered open again, the sun had clearly moved across the sky, the apartment warmer, and she could clearly hear Carmilla softly humming from… somewhere.

She hadn’t even realized she’d fallen asleep. It definitely wasn’t intentional. Groaning as she looked at the clock on the far wall, she realized she’d been out for the entire day.

“Uh, dammit,” she mumbled, still missing half of her alphabet.

“I told you, you needed to get some sleep,” Carmilla said, again from… somewhere.

Carefully propping herself up on her elbows, she realized she didn’t immediately want to vomit, and sat up fully, pushing her back against the arm of the couch. And finally, her eyes found Carmilla. The dark-haired girl grinned at her as their eyes met from her spot near the stove, but Laura just grumbled again, crossing her arms over her chest as the pout spread across her lips.

Pain in the-

She looked to her right, her frown falling just a little as she saw a fresh box of tissues sitting atop the glass coffee table, along with a still fizzing glass of ginger ale, some vitamin C, and a few pain reliever tablets. And obviously missing was the mess she had made earlier, her used Kleenex no lingering littering every available surface. No, now it was spotless. It looked like Carmilla had even wiped down the table if the streaks across the glass top were any indication.

Looking back up, her pout lessening even more, Carmilla smiled at her, walking over and setting a still steaming bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup next to her.

Why does she have to be so nice about this?

“Don’t give me that face. Eat your soup, take the medicine, and stop being stubborn,” Carmilla said before unmuting the television across the room, and Laura noticed it was already tuned to one of the Harry Potter movies. “I’m going to go take a shower. That soup better be at least halfway gone by the time I get out.”

Leaning over, she left a soft kiss on Laura’s forehead, her fingers brushing along the side of her slightly feverish cheek so gently, and Laura couldn’t help but lean into the touch. And then, turning on her heel, Carmilla left the room, strolling down the hallway.

“Stupid, thoughtful, caring, kind, perfectly wonderful girlfriend,” Laura grumbled as she picked up the bowl, the ceramic warm in her hands.

“You forgot amazing in bed,” Carmilla called from down the hall as the bathroom door closed, but Laura just rolled her eyes.


Two Years, Two Months and Eleven Days Before the Accident

“Whoa, hang on!” LaF cried, their face registering shock as they looked down at the slip in hand. Next to them, Perry sighed softly, her face registering surprise but her eyes shining a little as she finally looked up.

“Laura, Carmilla… this is incredibly sweet of you,” she started, reaching for LaF’s free hand as she did. “But… but we can’t accept this.”

“Yeah. I mean, it’s so super nice you guys,” LaF tacked on. “And… and yeah, we’re kind of in a bind right now but we’ve pushed the wedding back, and… this is… this is… no, we can’t take this.”

Laura knew this would be the reaction. But that wasn’t what surprised her. No, what caught her off guard was the fact that it was Carmilla, parked in the chair furthest away in the corner, that spoke next.

“Yes, you can,” she said, eyes still on her hands as she picked at her fingernail polish, and Laura smiled as she watched her girlfriend, her face so solemn and bored.

Which is such a front.

Carmilla finally looked up, meeting her eyes, and Laura felt her heart swell in that moment. Smiling harder, she simply mouthed ‘I love you’ as their gazes held for a long moment, Carmilla only nodding in response.

This hadn’t been Laura’s idea. In fact, she hadn’t even weighed in on the decision, despite how adamant Carmilla was that the smaller girl’s input mattered. LaF and Perry were her best friends. She simply couldn’t and in the end, had outright refused to offer any thoughts on the matter, one way or the other. And still, here that sat.

God, I love her.

“But you guys…” LaF started again. “We can’t.”

“You can and… it’s fine,” Carmilla mumbled with a huff as she stood, looking every bit uncomfortable with the situation. Shaking her head, she slid her sunglasses on, hiding her eyes, face still indifferent. “Just… take care of what you need to, alright?”

And with that, she walked out of the room, the front door quietly closing behind her as she stepped out onto the porch just a moment later.

Turning back to her friends, Laura noted the still surprised looks on their faces as they glanced between her, each other, and the quickly crumpling paper still in LaF’s hand.

“Laur…” LaF finally started. “I mean… again, thank you, but we can’t-”

“Just take it you guys,” Laura said, smiling softly. “You didn’t know what was going to happen before you started planning the wedding or before they started work on the restaurant. And we know Danny and Betty can’t afford to take on the remodel alone. You guys are partners. And… really, it’s okay. We both know you guys wouldn’t have taken all of this on if you knew about the layoffs beforehand.”

LaF looked away, uncomfortable, and Perry placed a comforting hand on their back.

“That’s true, but, Laura, dear, are you absolutely certain? This… this is a lot of money,” Perry said, glancing at the check LaF held once more.

“We’re sure.”

“We’ll pay you back, L. We promise,” LaF was quick to jump in. “I’ve got that spot with Tech lined up for the start of the new school year. And the restaurant’s going to be opening in the next month and a half, right, Per?”

“Yes, they’re ahead of schedule on the remodel and… Betty and I have been promoting the grand opening as much as we can, hoping to drum up some anticipation.”

“We’re not worried about it you guys,” Laura said, shaking her head. “I mean, we’re okay. That money… it’s from Carm’s brother. It’s part of what she would’ve gotten in her trust fund. And… well, she’s not really comfortable with spending it anyway so… it’s better for it to go towards someone we love than just sitting there.”

“But we will pay you back, Laura. This is non-negotiable,” Perry argued, face firm.

“Okay,” she giggled, finally standing. “Just don’t feel like you have to do it right away. Carm’s… well, like I said, we’re not worried about it.”

“Are… are you sure she’s okay with this, L?” LaF asked as they stood from the sofa with Perry at their side, still grasping tightly to the check in one hand and holding onto Perry with the other. “I mean, this is a lot of money. And she seems kind of ticked off already.”

“She’s fine with it. It…” Laura sighed and looked away, smiling softly to herself before turning back. “It was her idea to help you guys out. It’s… this is all her.”

“Really?” LaF balked.

“Don’t sound so shocked,” she giggled. “She just talks a big game. You know she’s a total softy.”

“We really do appreciate this, Laura. If you could… if you could tell her that. I know she won’t want to hear it from us,” Perry said, completely understanding.

“Sure. I’m just going to grab her and we’ll get out of your hair,” Laura said, smiling once more as she made her way out of the house, catching sight of her girlfriend leaning back against the jeep, sunglasses still on, the picture of indifference.

I really really really love her, she thought, skipping down the steps.


Eleven Months and Nine Days Before the Accident

Her hand definitely felt a little heavier as she lifted it. For such a small difference, the weight was noticeable. But it felt so right. So perfect.

She’d been awake for nearly twenty minutes and had spent almost the entire time laying there on her back, staring at her hand with a small smile, Carmilla beside her, still sound asleep.

She couldn’t have chosen a more perfect ring if she’d tried. It was seriously the most beautiful piece of jewelry she’d ever seen. And the proposal had been such a surprise. She knew Carmilla was a giant sap, despite the older girl’s unwillingness to admit it. And even though they both knew they were going to be together until the end, she honestly never expected Carmilla to ask her to marry her.

But seeing Carmilla there, kneeling next to her, smiling bashfully had been the most absolutely perfect way for it to happen. It hadn’t been something overly fancy or cheesy. It hadn’t been something tried or overdone. It had just been them. It was Carmilla being utterly romantic in the most Carmilla way possible, and Laura falling for her all over again for the million and twenty second time. And as they lie prone in the grass afterward, the dark-haired girl smiling up at her, Laura knew, without a doubt, that she couldn’t wait to marry Carmilla Karnstein.

“So you like the ring, huh?” Carmilla mumbled sleepily, pulling her back to the here and now, and Laura smiled harder as she let her hand drop and glanced towards her fiancée, the older girl’s eyes still closed.

Fiancée… I love that so much.

She rolled onto her side, moving closer, and resting her head on Carmilla’s pillow, their faces only inches apart. Reaching up, she pushing a few wayward black strands off of Carmilla’s forehead and swallowed hard when a moment later, those amazing dark eyes that she so adored finally opened.

“Morning, Carm.”

“Mmm… cutie.”

Giggling softly, she leaned in, pressing her lips to Carmilla’s in a moment that stretched and twisted, neither of them willing to pull away until it was absolutely necessary.

“I do love the ring,” Laura said a few minutes later as she settled her head back on the pillow, her eyes searching Carmilla’s, so close she could see the different shades of brown. “But you know, you could’ve slid a rubber band on my finger, and I still would’ve said yes.”

“Now you tell me,” she grumbled, indignant.

Laura giggled again at the frown Carmilla forced to her face, leaning in and letting her lips brush across her eyebrows.

“I really do love it. It’s beautiful. But…” She reached up, softly cupping Carmilla’s cheek, eyes still searching the tired ones in front of her. “Honestly, I just love how you asked. I love that you asked at all.”

“You thought we’d just sit down one afternoon and draw up a merger instead?” she teased.

“No,” Laura smiled. “I just… I didn’t even know that you were thinking about it. I mean, we both know that we’re in this for the long haul. But… I didn’t expect this.”

“It was a long time in the making. Lots of plans and strategies,” she sighed, rolling over and flopping onto her back. “Honestly, it was a giant pain in the ass, but…” She paused for a long moment, turning a soft smile Laura’s way. “You’re worth it.”

“When did you decide?” she asked, voice quiet, Carmilla’s statement hitting home.

“LaF and Perry’s wedding,” she answered, turning her gaze back toward the ceiling before closing her eyes. “You looked so beautiful and… you laughed at something one of the ginger twins said, and I heard it from across the yard. I realized that I wanted to hear that every day for the rest of our lives. And then… I realized that I was going to ask you to marry me.”

Laura smiled softly at the admission, so sweet and something that no one else in the world would ever hear.

“You looked gorgeous that day,” she finally said, reaching up, her fingertips tickling along Carmilla’s shoulder and down the center of her chest to where the sheet fell. “I think I’m still surprised that you asked though. Not in a bad way or anything because… well, you’re you. And we’re in love. But… I really really love that you asked, Carm.”

And she did. That could never be said enough. But now that they were actually engaged…

She glanced up just as Carmilla’s head turned towards her, their eyes meeting, and only a few inches of space separating them.

“You have your thinking face on. You have that little crease between your eyebrows,” Carmilla teased, softly touching the spot. “What’s up?”

“Well…” She stuttered to a halt, unsure of how exactly to proceed with this particular topic. It was one that she’d obviously have to broach at some point, but she didn’t expect that point to come so soon. And if Carmilla didn’t agree with her, she couldn’t fault the girl. They’d been together for so long and…

And you’re about to ask for something so stupid and superficial.

“Cutie?”

She looked back into those loving dark eyes, taking in the softness there, and swallowed hard as she realized that she’d get to wake up to them every day for the rest of her life.

“Can I ask you something?” her voice finally came out, quieter than she intended.

“After all these years, we’re still playing that game?”

“No, but I just… the proposal was incredibly romantic, and you obviously put some thought behind it. But did you… did you already have something in mind for the wedding?”

“Cupcake, we just got engaged yesterday,” she chuckled. “How could I possibly already have a plan?”

“I didn’t know if you’d thought about it before hand,” she shrugged, watching as Carmilla’s smile somehow became even softer.

“No. I didn’t have a plan beyond getting you to say yes.”

“I don’t think that was really that hard,” Laura said, a small smile touching her lips as she looked at her hand again. Glancing back up though, she saw Carmilla waiting and pushed forward. “But… well, is it something you want to do… like right away?”

“What do you mean? Like tomorrow? Because I think I have plans with Kirsch and Mel,” she said, still smiling as she reached for Laura’s hand, her thumb brushing across her knuckles, and Laura felt a little of the tension leave her. Not all of it, but enough to proceed.

“No, not tomorrow. But, in the not so distant future?” she asked, her brow still furrowed.

“I mean, I asked you because I want to marry you. And, yeah, I’d rather it be sooner than later.”

Of course.

“Yeah,” she said, hating that she was ruining this beautiful morning. “Yeah, that… that makes sense. Okay.”

“You’re still thinking,” Carmilla said as their eyes met a moment later and Laura simply shrugged. She watched as the older girl rolled towards her, keeping their fingers braided together. “Cutie, come on, talk to me.”

“I just… I doubt you really care about planning anything anyway. You’ll be happy no matter what we do.”

“As long as we’re together, yeah. I… I’d marry you right now and it’d be fine by me. But, we don’t have to run down to the courthouse next week, you know? We can wait a bit, I don’t mind.”

“So… if that’s the case, and you don’t mind… can we maybe hold off?” she asked quietly. “Maybe push it back awhile?”

And she instantly saw the tinge of worry leaking into those gorgeous brown eyes.

Dang it!

“You… I mean, I know you said yes, but… I mean, if you don’t actually want to-”

“Stop it, right now,” she said, leaning in and soundly kissing her fiancée again, refusing to pull away until she felt Carmilla relax into her. And when she finally did, Laura reached up, cupping Carmilla’s cheek, the ring glinting in the early morning sun streaming through the sheer curtains. “I’m not having second thoughts. I’m not changing my mind. I want to marry you, Carm. That’s not going to change.”

“Okay. Then what?”

“I just… I know this is so petty and it makes me seem less grateful, but… I don’t want to just go down the courthouse, Carm. I don’t want to do this in front of a bunch of strangers in a week like it’s just a regular Tuesday before you go off for a shoot and I spend the day holed up writing in the office. I… want to be with you, and that’s what matters, so if you not okay with this, then that’s fine, but… I just would maybe like to plan something? Nothing big obviously. We have like ten friends between us,” she said, attempting to lighten the mood. “But, it would be nice to have something special, you know?”

“We can have whatever we want,” Carmilla said, smiling and relaxing further into the bed. “It doesn’t make you ungrateful that you want something special, Laura. And it doesn’t mean I think that you love me any less. I understand. And… I kind of already knew you’d want to plan something.”

She held on, pushing her free hand into Carmilla’s hair as the older girl leaned in, letting their lips meet, taking in the moment. Of course Carmilla would know what she’d want. And of course, she’d understand.

“Are you sure?” she asked when they pulled apart. “Because if you really want to just go and do it right now, we can.”

“No, cupcake, I get it. And I’m not opposed to waiting for whatever you want to do.”

Whatever I want to do.

“Well, I appreciate that, Carm, really I do. But… even though I know you don’t care, wouldn’t it be nice to kind of do this together? And make something special? Something we’d both like?”

“I didn’t say that I was just going to be hanging out on the couch while you figured it all out,” Carmilla chuckled. “I may not have many opinions, but I do like the idea of us coming up with something together.”

Laura swallowed hard as her lips turned upwards, falling for Carmilla for the million and twenty third time..

“Are you… are you absolutely sure you’re okay with waiting?” she pressed, wanting them both to be certain.

“Cupcake, today, tomorrow, six years from now, I don’t care what we do. I just want to be with you. The rest… it’s just background noise.”

How in the world did I get so lucky?

“I love you so much,” she said softly, pulling Carmilla on top of her, threading her fingers through dark locks as their foreheads pressed together.

“Love you too.”


One Month and One Day Before the Accident

She took another sip from the champagne flute in hand, staring at the framed photo in front of her, a warm sense of pride swelling in her chest as one of the organizers approached the name card to the right of the frame, placing a little sticker on the placard. That was ten so far that she’d seen sell, and the show had only started a half an hour earlier.

Moving further along, she smiled at the next print on the wall, remembering the day it had been taken. With nothing to do that particular afternoon, she’d tagged along, watching her fiancée work, which was always far from boring.

Watching her work tends to be more totally enthralling and super sexy.

“Not bad, Frosh.” She giggled, turning to see LaF and Perry standing there, hands gently clasped, all dressed up, and smiling happily at her.

“Yeah, she’s doing pretty good. We didn’t think she could top the last show but… looks like she will,” Laura agreed, looking around the space that was quickly filling up with more bodies. “Thank you both for coming.”

“We wouldn’t have missed it, dear,” Perry said, waving her off. “We’re very happy, for both of you.”

“Totally,” LaF agreed. “I mean, if you want to point us towards one, preferably on the cheaper side, we’d be happy to provide our support.”

“That’s very nice of you, but the last time you tried that, she just got mad,” she laughed again. “It’s… it’s enough that you came.”

“Eh, we’re good friends like that, L.”

“Yeah, I know. And speaking of good friends, I think Mel and Charlotte are just around the corner. And I saw Kirsch and Danny arguing near the entrance when it started. Betty was trying to play peacemaker, but you know how those two are,” she said with a soft laugh.

“Alright, we’ll go find them then,” LaF said, moving to pull Perry along.

“Oh, yes, but we would like to congratulate Carmilla so please wave us down when she’s not too busy,” Perry added as they walked away and Laura simply nodded.

And speaking of Carmilla, she caught sight of her incredibly gorgeous fiancée standing towards the middle of the room in the fitted black suit and heels she’d chosen for the occasion, talking intensely with JP and another man she didn’t recognize, but considering the occasion, she guessed he was probably an interested buyer.

Good, she deserves this.

Turning back around, she moved further into the room, taking in the next print hanging on the wall with another little prideful smile. And then the next. And then…

“You look absolutely stunning tonight.” She laughed, feeling Carmilla’s arms slide around her from behind, pulling her close. “This little red dress is very distracting, Hollis.”

“Shouldn’t you be schmoozing right now?” Laura argued, turning in Carmilla’s arms and wrapping her free arm around the older girl’s shoulders.

“Ugh, you know I don’t like talking to people that aren’t you,” Carmilla grumbled.

“Well, if they’re going to pay top dollar for your prints, don’t you think you can at least throw them a smile now and then?”

“Nope. It’s better if I look super mysterious,” Carmilla said quietly, leaning in like she was revealing a big secret. “They’ll pay more money if they think I’m super damaged.”

“You’re ridiculous,” Laura giggled and Carmilla smiled back at her, leaning in to leave a soft kiss on her lips.

“But you love me,” she mumbled lowly when she didn’t pull away, and Laura couldn’t help the breath that caught in her chest at sound of that voice.

God, even seven years later, I’m still absolute putty in her hands.

“I really, really do,” she smiled, kissing Carmilla softly, feeling the older girl still smiling against her.

“Pardon, I’m terribly sorry to interrupt,” came a meek voice to their left, and she felt Carmilla grumble against her mouth before they parted.

Turning, she smiled brightly at the bearded man, standing there in his bowtie and cuffs, looking absolutely terrified.

“Hey, JP,” she greeted, keeping her hold on Carmilla. But it seemed her fiancée was not feeling as polite.

“What do you want?”

“Oh, well, again, I’m terribly sorry to intrude, but Mr. Claverd is interested in two of your pieces and… well, it would be a good idea to perhaps speak with him about them.”

Laura giggled as she heard Carmilla literally growl, frustrated, before turning back to her with sad eyes.

“Go on. Your public awaits.”

“I’ll be back later,” Carmilla said, leaving one last soft kiss against Laura’s cheek before following JP back into the further growing crowd.

God, she’s so incredible, she thought, that feeling of overwhelming pride sitting in her chest.


Present - One Year, One Month and One Day After the Accident

“We picked a pretty good spot, don’t you think?”

Laura’s smile brightened as she turned away from where she’d been staring across the water, and took in the sight of Carmilla, half of her dark locks pinned back, the rest falling across her bare shoulders in soft waves, looking more beautiful than Laura had ever seen her. The older girl stared back, eyes soft and sweet.

“I can’t imagine a better one,” she said, feeling her stomach do a little flip at the sight. She took a few steps forward, Carmilla meeting her halfway, their fingers wrapping together, skin soft and warm as they pulled each other close.

“It was a great idea, cupcake. Much better than the original one.”

“Well, I can’t take all the credit. I definitely had some help,” she sighed, leaning in and pressing her lips against Carmilla’s for a long moment. “Mmm… the best help.” She pulled away, pressing their foreheads together as her fingers tightened around Carmilla’s, that fluttering feeling in her chest growing with each second.

“So what’re you doing over here all by your lonesome?”

“Just… thinking,” she answered with a small shrug.

“About anything in particular?” Carmilla asked. She let go of one hand, letting her fingertips trail up Laura’s arm and across her shoulder, skin against skin, leaving a trail of goosebumps in their wake that had nothing to do with the autumn breeze swirling around them.

“Just about us. About everything we’ve had over the years.”

“Hmm… years? Plural?” Carmilla teased and Laura just giggled and kissed her again. “You really love that you can remember stuff now, don’t you?”

“I do. Seven years missing is a long time, Carm.”

“It is,” Carmilla agreed, releasing Laura’s other hand, her fingertips making the same trek up Laura’s other arm, her dark gaze never roving.

“I mean, I know I’m still missing stuff. Probably some really great things too.”

“All you have to do is ask, cutie,” Carmilla said, just as she had been for the last ten months.

“I know. Sometimes I think you like story time more than I do. But… even with all these memories coming back, I really love that we’ve kept making new memories over the last year,” she said, wrapping her now free hands around Carmilla’s waist, the black material there (because of course she chose black) soft against her fingertips.

“Yeah?” Carmilla pressed, fingers from one hand still dancing along Laura’s shoulders, the other tucking a few strands of hair behind her ear.

“I love any time with you.”

“The good, bad, and in between?” Carmilla teased with a soft smile, cupping Laura’s face and letting one of her thumbs softly drag below Laura’s bottom lip.

“All of it,” she sighed, moving closer, unable to help herself.


Five Months & Twenty-Five Days After the Accident

Running a hand through her still wet hair, Laura walked down the hallway, smiling when she saw Carmilla’s boots sitting haphazardly near the front door, leather jacket tossed onto the coat rack, camera bag dropped near the front table.

“Hey!” she said, rounding the corner into the kitchen, smiling at the sight of Carmilla’s leather covered backside just barely peeking out from behind the open refrigerator door. “When did you get home?”

Carmilla stood, closing the door and turned towards Laura, smiling fondly.

“Maybe five minutes ago. I heard the shower but I didn’t want to scare you.”

“Well, I appreciate that,” Laura said, stepping forward and leaving a quick kiss against her cheek. “How was your day?”

“Long,” Carmilla sighed, sagging back against the island. “All I’ve wanted to do since noon is come home and crash on the couch with something sweet. And, speaking of which, what happened to the caramel swirl cheesecake Perry sent home with us yesterday from the restaurant? I can’t find it in the fridge.”

“Oh, um… I don’t know,” Laura shrugged, looking away, hoping the guilt wasn’t visible on her face. “I uh… I had a piece last night but…”

“I thought she packed up two pieces.”

“Oh. Um, no. No, I think she only sent home one piece,” Laura said, her voice going higher with each word.

She chanced a glance back at Carmilla, taking in the look of disbelief, one eyebrow raised, and knew she was only a moment from cracking. Forcing a nervous smile to her face, she shrugged again as she moved over towards the kitchen table, taking a seat in front of her laptop that she’d left there. Opening it up, she pretended to be completely wrapped up in the article she was trying to finish, and not in the caramel swirl cheesecake flavor that she could still taste, having eaten the second piece just twenty minutes earlier.

“Huh,” Carmilla started with an over exaggerated nod. “Could’ve sworn she sent home two. In fact, I’m almost positive I saw another piece in the fridge last night right before we went to bed. And, well, I know you already had eaten some. You kept moaning rather… provocatively while we were watching TV.”

Laura’s mouth cracked open with a puff of air, her eyes noticeably widening, but she refused to look away from her laptop screen as Carmilla slowly approached.

“Nope. No, I think that was all we had.”

“Well… I guess I was mistaken,” she said, reaching Laura’s chair and leaning into her, one hand on the back of the seat, the other atop the table.

“Guess so,” Laura said, her voice breaking in the middle.

“Hmm… okay then. I’m just going to go grab a shower. I’ll make dinner for us when I’m done.”

“Okay, sounds good,” Laura agreed, finally smiling up at Carmilla as the dark-haired girl slowly leaned down, their lips meeting just a moment later. Immediately distracted by that amazing mouth, she found herself smiling into the kiss as she felt one of Carmilla’s hands cup her chin. And as the older girl escalated the kiss just a second later, Laura couldn’t help the small groan that left her throat when she felt Carmilla’s tongue meet hers.

“Ha! I knew it!” Carmilla said, pulling away, eyes teasing, smirking smugly. “You ate both pieces. I taste caramel!”

“Uh, fine. I’m sorry,” Laura started, eyes eager. “It’s just… well, it was sitting in there, all delicious and I was hungry and… ugh, I’m a terrible girlfriend.”

“You are! I’ve been looking forward to that all day!”

“I… ugh, I really am sorry, Carm. It was just… it was calling to me! And you know my sweet tooth is insatiable!”

“Truer words were never spoken.”

“No, really, I feel awful. Let me make it better,” she offered, tone eager.

“You want to make it up to me?” Carmilla asked, her voice dropping as she leaned in, eyes heavy, lips only centimeters from Laura’s.

Well, when I said that, I was thinking of something along the lines of making you bacon filled waffles, but this’ll work even better.

“Yeah,” she sighed. Laura stood up, hands reaching for Carmilla’s hips as she did, pulling the older girl closer. “Absolutely.”

“You sure?” Carmilla teased, leaning in and nipping at that spot just below Laura’s ear, making her breath hitch. “Because I really want something… sweet, cupcake.”

“Definitely sure,” she eagerly nodded.

“Good,” Carmilla sighed, leaving one more nip. “I want the mocha cappuccino one.”

What?!

Laura looked up as Carmilla slowly backed away, still smirking smugly as she did. Reaching for the hem of her shirt, Carmilla pulled it up and over her head, revealing the smooth, perfect planes of her stomach and her mouthwatering breasts pushed up by her bra.

“And if they don’t have any more of that flavor, then get the chocolate marble,” she added, reaching for the button on her leather pants and smoothly sliding it through the hole.

“Wait! What do you mean?” Laura asked, unable to take her eyes away from the alabaster skin now on display or the flash of what appeared to be black lace where Carmilla’s was pulling at the zipper of her pants.

“The bakery up the street, cutie,” she grinned. “Their cheesecake isn’t as good as Perry’s, but it’ll do.”

And with that, Carmilla winked and turned away, sauntering down the hallway, not looking back.

Wait, but…

“Oh, damn it!” Laura cried.


Seven Months & Four Days After the Accident

Stuffing the wrapped turkey and bacon sandwich into the paper bag with a huff, she looked up just as Carmilla came into the kitchen, the dark-haired girl not even bothering to look up as she walked past. Laura rolled her eyes with another angry sigh, and stretched her shoulders again, the right one still feeling a little numb after sleeping on the couch.

Which was not the best idea, but sleeping next to her was not an option last night.

Mumbling some more to herself as she cleaned up the mess on the countertop, she turned and dropped the dish towel in the sink, looking out the window and taking in the start of a gorgeous spring day, blue skies as far as the eye could see. It was a day she would normally embrace with a smile, eager to take it on.

Normally.

“Dammit, where in the hell did I put…” She heard Carmilla grumbling behind her, and smiled smugly, eyes still focused out the window, as the older girl attempted to find whatever it was she’d lost this time.

See? If she would just clean up after herself, everyone’s life would be so much easier.

The argument the night before had been brewing for a few weeks. And it was something that should’ve been so easy to avoid. They’d been getting along great except for the fact that Carmilla’s slovenly habits were getting worse and worse by the day, regardless of how many times Laura mentioned it.

And I’ve mentioned it a lot over the years. I think… Her brow furrowed as she attempted to catalog what memories she could, easily finding a handful of examples. Yes, Carmilla was absolutely horrible about picking up after herself when they’d first moved in together. And yes, she had gotten much better about it over the years. But the last two months had been worse than normal. And she understood that Carmilla had been busy. She knew that the dark-haired girl had been working long, hard hours for weeks, and she appreciated it. But Laura was working hard too, and enough was enough. Finally, the bath towel lying next to the hamper the day before, after Laura had just cleaned, again, had been the final straw.

Granted, maybe Carmilla had a point when she fired back after Laura’s tirade that the tiny brunette was blowing this way out of proportion. But by that time, she was too angry to care, leaving both of them mad at the other, and unwilling to fully apologize for their behavior.

We’re both too stubborn for our own good, she thought as she turned away from the window, watching Carmilla pull her boots on out of the corner of her eye.

“Will you be gone all day?” she finally asked, voice gruff as she stepped forward and gripped onto the island counter.

“Do you really care?” Carmilla countered in her own bored tone, not even bothering to look up.

“Not particularly,” she sighed. God, she’s such a butthead!

“Hmm… then probably, yeah.” And still, that indifferent tone echoed throughout their kitchen.

“Fine.”

Carmilla shrugged and pulled her messenger bag onto her shoulder before grabbing her keys from the table by the door. Laura watched as she reached for the brass handle and felt that ache in her chest, pulling harder in harder.

So stubborn.

“Wait!”

“What?” Carmilla asked, finally turning towards her, her face a mask of irritated impatience, but her eyes… Laura still saw the love there, the light never dimming. The same light that always flowed from her own gaze.

“Here,” Laura grumbled as she grabbed the brown paper bag off of the counter and stepped towards her girlfriend, handing it over. “It’s lunch. There’s… there’s no mayo on it.”

“Oh.” Though her expression didn’t change, Laura saw her eyes soften ever so slightly. “Thanks, I guess.”

“But I’m still mad at you,” she blurted out, fists clenched at her sides.

“I know. Still mad at you too, cupcake,” Carmilla said, her tone clipped even as she leaned in and left a soft kiss against Laura’s cheek. And just as she was about to pull away, the smaller girl grabbed at her open flannel and gently brought their lips together for a long moment.

Just because she was mad didn’t mean she was going to let the older girl leave without a kiss. It was a habit she was unwilling to break.

She frowned as Carmilla pulled away, one of those perfect eyebrows raised, and angrily crossed her arms over her chest.

“Jerk.”

“Yes. Yes, you are, cutie,” Carmilla nodded as she walked out, closing the door behind her.

“Grr!”


Eight Months & Eighteen Days After the Accident

“You have a second?” she asked nervously, peering around the corner into the living room.

“Uh, yeah. What’s up?” Carmilla asked from her spot on the sofa, briefly glancing up from her computer propped in her lap.

“How busy are you right now?” That anxiety still lingered. Dang it, you’re fine. This isn’t a big deal.

“Well, I mean I’m not terribly swamped but I did want to get this proposal over to the art studio today,” Carmilla shrugged.

Laura nodded and stepped further into the room, leaning against the corner of the wall as she did, fingers nervously worrying together.

“How long do you think that’ll take you?” she asked meekly.

“What do you want, cutie?” Carmilla chuckled, closing her laptop and setting it on the trunk in front of her.

Unable to stop herself, she giggled, the feeling of warmth surrounding her as the dark-haired girl gave Laura her undivided attention.

“I… I want to go for a ride.”

She looked up, watching Carmilla’s smile turn into that sexy little smirk, raising one of her eyebrows as she did.

What’s that look for?

“A ride? Like…” And Laura couldn’t stop the roll of her eyes as Carmilla sat back further, her eyes pointedly glancing towards her own lap as she did.

“No! God, you’re so one-track minded!” Laura giggled.

“Well, after last night, I thought maybe you wanted a turn,” she shrugged, leaning forward again, elbows resting on her knees.

“Last night was… well, maybe later,” she said, shaking her head with a smile and a slight blush as the previous evening flashed through her mind. “But, I meant that I want to go out for a ride on the bike.”

“Really?” Carmilla’s face registered genuine surprise and she slowly stood from the couch, stepping towards the tiny brunette.

They hadn’t gone since Laura found out about the reason behind her memory loss. Granted, it had been winter and not ideal, but even as the snow melted and the air warmed, they still hadn’t even talked about taking a drive. Carmilla hadn’t even gone out on her own, much as she’d wanted to, and had instead, lent it out to Kirsch a few times just to keep it up and running.

“Really,” Laura said, her eager tone leaking into her smile as she pushed off the wall and moved towards Carmilla. Reaching for her girlfriend, she pulled her close by her hips, giving a gentle squeeze as she did. “Please, Carm.”

“Are you… are you sure? I mean, I don’t want to upset you and I didn’t think that-”

“I want to,” she interrupted, knowing exactly where Carmilla was going with her line of questions. Her smile softened, some of her enthusiasm ebbing away as she looked up at the dark-haired girl. “Carm, as terrifying as it is to think about losing you, we can’t stop living. And I know you haven’t gone because you didn’t want to worry me. But… if we go together, maybe we’ll both feel better.”

She shrugged, searching Carmilla’s beautiful dark eyes, hoping it would be okay. This wasn’t just her asking. This was Carmilla also not panicking about causing the memory loss to begin with, an argument that Laura was unwilling to give up on.

Her shoulders sagged and she smiled when a moment later the older girl reached up, and cupped her face. She giggled as Carmilla slowly leaned in, letting their lips meet for just a moment before pulling away with her own smile.

“Let’s go.”


Ten Months & Seven Days After the Accident

Laura glanced up, smiling softly as she watched Carmilla reach for a piece of the second giant chocolate chip cookie that they were sharing, popping it into her mouth and chewing slowly, all without ever looking away from the worn paperback in her hand. When she’d told the older girl that she actually had some stuff to work on during their normal free day, Carmilla had adorably asked if she could tag along and quietly keep her company, something that Laura would never say no to. They were at one of their new favorite spots, a little cafe that they’d found a couple months earlier, sitting at one of the little outdoor patio tables, the wrought iron chairs warm from the summer sun.

And, surprisingly, Carmilla had kept her word of staying quiet. In fact, they’d only exchanged a few words over the last hour. But non-verbally, Laura was finding her girlfriend’s presence to be incredibly distracting.

And I love it.

She smiled harder as their legs pressed together a little firmer, Carmilla’s right knee wedged between her own, and her left ankle wrapped around the back of Laura’s right, the tiny table lending itself to helping them stay close. Hands kept touching as Carmilla would reach for her anytime the smaller girl stopped her frantic typing, fingertips softly dancing along her palm or across her knuckles.

So incredible, she thought, sighing softly for probably the forty-fifth time that day, the sound finally catching Carmilla’s attention.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, not even bothering to look up from her book as she reached for her cappuccino.

“You’re pretty,” Laura giggled, leading Carmilla to chuckle softly, finally glancing up, those gorgeous eyes that Laura loved, dancing.

“You’re distracted.”

“Well, how can I not be when you’re sitting there all amazing and perfect and fascinating?”

“Watching me read is fascinating?” Carmilla countered, leaning forward onto the table.

Watching you breath is fascinating.

“You think watching me write is fascinating,” Laura said, pushing her laptop closed and linking her fingers with the older girl’s.

“No, I think watching you write is utterly captivating.”

“That’s the same thing,” Laura giggled and Carmilla just smiled harder.

“And listening to you using your extensive vocabulary is riveting.”

“Carm…” she giggled again.

“And hearing you laugh is enchanting,” she continued, still smirking.

“You are ridiculous,” Laura said, pulling the older girl forward, stretching a little as their lips met across the narrow table with an echo of quiet sighs.

Opening her eyes as they pulled apart a moment later, Laura smiled softly, feeling her heart beat a little faster, her stomach swarming with butterflies as she saw the most beautiful smile pull at Carmilla’s lips.

This girl… she’d been in love with her for almost eight years at that point. And she couldn’t have picked a more perfect person for herself to spend forever with. She’d practically walked through hell and back for Laura, and she did it all without complaint. She did it because she loved Laura that much.

“What now?” Carmilla suddenly asked, eyes curious as she tilted her head ever so slightly to the side. But her smile never fell. “You look contemplative.”

“Nothing, I just…” she trailed off, searching the dark eyes in front of her, so completely and utterly full of love. “You make me so happy, Carm. And I love you so much. After everything that’s happened, we’re still here and together and… I just…”

Adore you. Need you. Want you forever.

But she couldn’t say anything more, so instead, she pulled Carmilla in again, her lips meeting the dark-haired girls in a long moment, so soft and sweet and…

Perfect.

“I’m not going to complain about that,” Carmilla chuckled as they pulled apart, eyes meeting again.

It had almost been a year. And what an almost year it had been. They’d been pulled back and forth, up and down, and everywhere in between. But they were still here. They were still together, and somehow, more in love than ever before.

And I really really want that forever she promised.

“What?” Carmilla chuckled again, tone teasing. “As attractive as they are, you have to get rid of the inquisitive eyes. It’s too much for my weak little heart to take.”

“Hey! I’m serious here. I just… I really love you so much and… you’re incredible. You’re the most amazing person in this world! You’re so good to me and so kind. You’re perfect in the most imperfect ways. And you’re smart and funny and sweet and… and…” She felt the word vomit forming but was in no position to stop it. “Dang it, Carm, marry me?”

Oh boy!

Of course she’d just blurted it out! Of course it had been an unplanned moment! Of course she’d gone the rogue Laura Hollis way! But maybe that’s how it had to be. Carmilla had done it her way once. It was Laura’s turn now

Stumbling blubbering idiot, yep that’s my way.

She waited as Carmilla stared back at her for a long moment, eyes searching, before a smile slowly curled the edges of her lips.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Laura said with a giggle. “You’re… you’re it, Carm. And you know that.”

And then Carmilla had kissed her, hard, smiling into it and refusing to break away until a round of uncomfortable coughing started at a nearby table.

“Let’s get married,” Carmilla whispered against her lips, making Laura smile even harder.

“Really?!”

“Did you honestly think I’d say no?” she chuckled, and Laura couldn’t stop the giggle of hearing her own words parroted back from the first proposal.

“I think I can’t wait to marry you!” she laughed again, giddy and excited and…

So in love.

Later that night, as they snuggled up on the sofa, lighting soft and music softer, her engagement ring settled firmly back on her finger where it belonged, Laura fully sank into Carmilla without a care in the world.

Perfect.


Eleven Months & Twelve Days After the Accident

“Carm, I’ll be upstairs in like thirty seconds, I just walked in the building,” she said, resituating her shoulder strap on her laptop bag as she ran into the empty elevator just as it was about to close, quickly pushing the button for the third floor.

“Well, I didn’t know you were going to be home so soon,” Carmilla countered, which was… odd.

“Did you… did you not want me to come home?”

“I never said that, Laura. I just didn’t know you were already here,” Carmilla answered, voice soft and reassuring.

“But… I’m confused. I texted you half an hour ago saying I was on my way. Did you think I was going to stay out all night?” she asked as the elevator arrived at their floor with a ding, the doors smoothly sliding open.

“I just thought you’d spend more time at the cafe, cutie. You said you had a lot to do.”

“I know. I just wasn’t getting as much done there as I wanted to,” she said, trudging down the hallway.

“So… you’re going to be busy all night then?”

“Probably,” she said as she slid her key into the door and turned the locks, pushing the door to number 307 open. “I mean, I… holy cow!”

Carmilla. Black thigh highs. Open black button down shirt. Black lace underwear and nothing else.

Oh…

“Are you sure you’re going to be busy?” the dark-haired girl asked into the phone, her lips just barely curled up at the right corner.

“Nope. No, I’m… free as a bird,” Laura squeaked.

She watched as Carmilla put her phone down on the kitchen island and slowly sauntered toward her, taking Laura’s own phone from her hand and her laptop bag from her shoulder. Setting everything on top of the side table, she reached out, her fingers sliding through Laura’s belt loops as she pulled her closer.

“Are you positive you don’t have anything else to do?” she whispered against Laura’s lips.

“Besides you?” she blurted out, and then blushed when she realized her mouth was moving faster than her brain.

Smooth, Hollis.

“Well, in that case,” Carmilla teased with a smirk as she began to back up, pulling Laura with her and turning them as they reached one of the dining chairs that had been pulled away from the table. “I seem to remember someone mentioning that… we should revisit this little activity.”

Laura swallowed hard, unable to stop the excited smile pulling at her lips as Carmilla pushed her into the chair and immediately straddled her lap, her open shirt pushing apart further, giving the tiny brunette a better view of what lie beneath. Unconsciously, Laura’s hands found their way to Carmilla’s hips, only the thinnest of lace separating her from her fiancée’s soft skin. And Carmilla allowed it for a moment, before her smile turned wicked, and she reached for the remote sat on the table behind Laura. Two seconds later, the sound of heavy guitar came to life from somewhere in the room, but where… oh, who cares? She certainly didn’t as Carmilla’s hips slowly ground into her stomach. But then…

“Wait, did you really pick a Beatles cover for this?” she asked, tipping her head to the side.

What in the hell is wrong with me?!?

“Are you really going to analyze the music right now, Hollis?” Carmilla teased, stopping all movement and smiling down at her.

“No!” she squeaked again. “Please… continue.”

“That’s what I thought.”


Present - One Year, One Month and One Day After the Accident

“Of course, you keep the dirty stuff in one of the easily accessible files,” Carmilla chuckled, fingertips tickling at her jaw.

“Hey, no more than you do!” Laura said, smiling brightly. “And… well, I keep everything I can accessible.”

“So how are you going to make room for new stuff if you keep it all front and center?”

“New stuff? Huh…” She unwrapped an arm from around Carmilla’s waist and tapped her chin thoughtfully, pretending to think. “Is there something important coming that I should be aware of?”

Carmilla chuckled again, her hands still gentle against Laura’s face as she pulled her close, their lips coming together for a long lingering moment.

“There you are!” Perry called, quickly walking up behind them. “What are you doing? Don’t you know you’re not supposed to see each other beforehand?”

“You and LaF did it,” Laura argued as she pulled away.

“Yes, but, Laura, dear, I think the two of you have had enough bad luck. No need to tempt fate.”

“We’ll take our chances,” Carmilla said, her eyes never leaving Laura’s.

“Fine, don’t come complaining to me when one of you bumps your head and can’t remember who you are again,” Perry grumbled. “But, we’re just finishing everything up. So be ready in five minutes.”

“She might’ve missed her calling,” Laura said, smiling up at the dark-haired girl.

“What’s that? Giant pain in the ass?”

“Carm!” she giggled. “She’s been really helpful. In fact, they’ve all been helpful this past month.”

“That’s because they know we’re buying them dinner afterwards. I’ve heard lobster mentioned a lot so… this isn’t going to be a cheap date, cupcake.”

“Totally worth it,” Laura countered, leaning into Carmilla again as her eyes trailed over the knee length black dress that fit the older girl like a glove.

“Can you wear this again?” Carmilla asked, as if reading her thoughts, dark eyes trailing up and down Laura’s form, taking in her own pale blue, thin strapped dress that fell to the middle of her shins.

“I might be able to work something out,” Laura grinned, wrapping her arms around Carmilla’s waist and pulling their bodies flush. “For my fiancée, that is.”

“Hmm, only for… what did Susie Homemaker say? Five more minutes?”

“I’ll take it,” Laura giggled, leaning in and kissing Carmilla again.


So far so good, she thought as they uttered the standard ‘I do’s’ beneath the prominent oak in the park, where just over two years earlier, Carmilla had proposed to her. They’d planned a short ceremony, no frills or fuss. In fact, there was really only one part that Laura had absolutely insisted on, which initially left Carmilla floundering, but with a few soft kisses and her patented puppy dog eyes, it had been an easily agreed upon request.

“So, uh…” Laura giggled, unable to take her eyes off of the dark-haired girl in front of her, despite the bumbling idiot next to them. “These two totally wrote their own vows and, well, I guess that’s next. Um, angry hottie, you want to go first?” Kirsch asked, the glee in his voice obvious, and Laura, along with everyone around them laughed as Carmilla shot him a look, shaking her head as she did.

“Really? You couldn’t get through ten minutes without using nicknames,” she grumbled.

“You’re one to talk,” Laura said, still giggling when Carmilla turned to her and everyone just laughed harder.

“Do you really want to get on my bad side today, cupcake?”

“You wouldn’t do that to me,” Laura argued, releasing one of her hands and reaching up, her fingertip just barely tickling along Carmilla’s jaw. “You love me way too much.”

“I really do,” Carmilla agreed, leaning in to leave a short kiss against Laura’s mouth, making the smaller girl giddily laugh once again.

“Dude! Not yet!” Kirsch stage whispered, eyes wide, making both girls smile as they parted. Straightening up, he cleared his throat and tried again. “Okay, so, Carmilla,” he started, and it sounded so strange coming from him that they both had to softly laugh again. “Um, do you want to go first, dude?”

Carmilla smiled at him once more, and Laura couldn’t help but feel a little lighter at the look that passed between them. They’d been friends for longer than she’d even known Carmilla, and she knew how much doing this for them actually meant to Kirsch. Honestly, the way his eyes shown with unshed tears, everyone could see how much this meant.

Turning back to Laura, Carmilla braided their fingers together, her thumb carefully moving back and forth along Laura’s index finger and the tiny brunette smiled, knowing that the move really wasn’t just for her anymore. It had really calmed Carmilla all along as well, something she’d only discovered a handful of months ago.

Still learning new things.

“I, um… when you said you wanted to do it this way, I honestly had no clue what to write. You’re the wordsmith, not me,” she chuckled. “And no matter what I thought up, I kept coming back to the same thing, over and over.”

Laura’s heart beat a little faster as Carmilla swallowed hard and shrugged, clearly caught up in the moment. Leaning in closer, she squeezed the dark-haired girl’s hands in her own, letting her own thumb brush along Carmilla’s a few times until the older girl relaxed.

“You’re my Laura. You always have been and you always will be. And I love you more than anything in this world. I told you… that’s all that ever mattered. And I promised you forever. I want to give you that. I… you’re it, cutie. You’re my forever. And I want to be yours.”

Laura smiled, feeling her own eyes well up at the words. Even though short, they spoke volumes. They mattered.

“You’re up, little nerd,” Kirsch mumbled, fisting at his right eye as he did, the tears having slipped out, and Laura couldn’t help but let out a little watery giggle before turning back to Carmilla.

“Despite my knack for rambling, I actually didn’t come up with a lot of words either. Just because… well, there will never be enough to really explain how I feel about you. There is no one else like you in this world, Carm. There is no one else in this world as amazing and selfless. As patient and understanding. As kind and thoughtful. You’re it.”

Carmilla smiled bashfully and looked down for a moment before bringing her gaze back up, those gorgeous dark eyes shining with all the love in the world. And Laura couldn’t help the few tears that slipped from her own eyes, giggling as Carmilla reached out to gently brush them away with soft fingertips.

“You made me fall in love with you twice. And… you have my heart. And I know I have yours. I always have and… even when I didn’t know it, I never took mine away from you.” She paused, taking a deep breath, holding tighter to Carmilla’s hand. “You did promise me forever. But I want to promise you something.” Swallowing, she stepped closer. “I want promise you everything… for the rest of our lives. I want you to give me forever and I want to give you everything.”

She smiled as Carmilla pulled the hand she still clasped to her mouth, leaving a soft kiss along the back of it, her eyes still never leaving Laura’s.

“Okay? Forever and everything. I think we can do that.” Laura nodded again.

“Alright, um… so, uh…” loud sniffle, “if you guys want to trade rings now, that’d be cool.”

Laura turned, smiling as LaF left Perry’s side and stepped forward, handing her the white gold band that would sit on Carmilla’s finger for the rest of their lives.

“Good going, Frosh,” they said with a gentle pat to the shoulder before stepping back to Perry who was two seconds away from becoming a sobbing mess. Behind them stood Danny and Betty, arms wrapped around each other, smiling softly at her. And next to Perry stood Sherman, looking a little teary eyed himself, but so proud of her, his same old corduroy jacket billowing ever so slightly in the breeze.

She turned back just as Carmilla was getting a similar congratulations from her siblings, Will grinning ear to ear and Mattie smiling softly, that same proud look in her own eyes. Mel handed her Laura’s matching band with a half-smile, and Carmilla simply chuckled at whatever she whispered to her before stepping back to Charlotte’s side.

Turning back to each other, she giggled as they attempted to slide the rings on at the same time, fingers shaking ever so slightly from nerves and excitement and the chilly breeze. Finally, hands locked together once again as the bands finally slid in place.

“Okay, cool. So uh, now by the power given to me by that awesome ordaining website, I pronounce you married! You can totally kiss her again, dude!” Kirsch said, smiling brightly at Carmilla as he did.

And Laura couldn’t help but giggle once more as Carmilla pulled her close, carefully cupping her face as their lips met for the first time as a married couple.

“I fucking love you, cutie.”

“I love you too,” she whispered, kissing the dark-haired girl once more. “This… we really get to have forever, don’t we?”

“I promised you.”

And Laura could only nod as a few more tears escaped, Carmilla thumbs brushing them away, as she leaned in to kiss her again.


Present - One Year, Four Months and Three Days After the Accident

She stepped out of their room, refreshed from her nap, the wool on her thick socks and the bottoms of her oversized sweats competing on which would be more slippery against the hardwood. She pulled the sleeves of her gray sweater over her hands, the air in the house cold, and moved towards the thermostat on the wall, shaking her head when she saw Carmilla had turned it down for the umpteenth time that week.

And I guarantee she’ll do it again, she thought as she clicked a few buttons on the screen and listened to the vents begin pumping out the air needed to warm the house.

Making her way further down the hallway, she distinctly heard the soft sound of music coming from the living room where she knew Carmilla was.

Following the trail through the dimly lit house, she stepped into the archway and stopped, leaning against the wall, unable to stop the smile coming to her face.

There she was, sitting in the chair along the far wall, hair messily pulled back, bare feet propped up on the ottoman in a loose flannel and those damn tiny shorts she was so fond of. Laura had to hold back a giggle, and once again wondered how they’d survive another winter warring over the temperature.

Carmilla had finally listened to the smaller girl’s pleading, and visited the ophthalmologist the month before, Laura’s persistent begging bordering on overt nagging, and, sure enough, was provided with a pair of thick black frames that made Laura weak in the knees every time she saw her bespectacled wife.

I swear, if she gets any more gorgeous… I won’t be able to survive it.

“Hey,” Laura said with a smile, lips turning further up as Carmilla’s eyes pulled away from the leather book in hand, a smile gracing her own features.

“What’s up, buttercup?”

Laura giggled and pushed off the corner of the wall, slowly walking into the room, her eyes never leaving the dark ones across from her.

“You let me nap for far too long.”

“That’s impossible. Napping can never be for too long.”

“I don’t normally sleep that well without you beside me,” she grumbled, moving to straddle the dark-haired girl, arms wrapping around her neck.

“You can nap just fine without me.”

“Nu uh. You ruined me junior year. All cuddled up in our bed between classes,” she said with a fond smile, making Carmilla softly chuckle.

The gaps now were even fewer and farther between. There was still time missing, but, honestly, that was just fine with her. Carmilla was always more than willing to fill in whatever Laura couldn’t.

She would remember an anniversary dinner at a specific restaurant and be able to pinpoint exactly what Carmilla wore. She’d remember what they ate and if the table next to them was too noisy and what Carmilla had gifted her. But she wouldn’t be able to recall what she’d given the dark-haired girl.

She would remember a particular trip and be able to recite moment for moment any tour they took and what hotel they stayed at. But the gap would be over arguing about directions or the airport losing their luggage for the second time.

She could remember the elderly couple in Rome who had kindly taken their picture with the new camera she’d bought Carmilla before the trip. But she’d forgotten that they’d ran into the same couple the next morning at breakfast.

Sometimes the memories came quickly, each day bringing a new one to her. Then, it seemed they would stop. At one point, after three weeks of nothing else returning, she thought maybe that was it. Maybe she’d been gifted with everything she could get back. But then she’d woken up to the smell of blueberry waffles and suddenly had a vision of her and Carmilla in an all-out batter war one morning in their second apartment, loudly laughing as the battle continued on long after the batter was gone.

Sometimes Carmilla wasn’t super thrilled when a certain memory came back. Like the time Laura caught her dancing around their third apartment in her underwear to The Go-Go’s. But then, a few days later, she’d had the vision of her doing the same exact thing to Taylor Swift. But she didn’t tell her wife that she’d gotten that little gem back.

“What do you want to do tonight?” Carmilla asked quietly, her hands gripping loosely at Laura’s hips underneath her oversized sweater, thumbs rubbing in slow circles.

“Hmm… would you be terribly disappointed if I said I wanted to stay right here, just the two of us?”

Carmilla simply chuckled, squeezing at her once before slowly shaking her head.

“I think that sounds perfect, cutie.”

Laura smiled and reached for her wife’s hands, letting out a quiet giggle as her thumb brushed over the white gold band on Carmilla’s left ring finger.

“I love this ring,” she said, glancing up to see Carmilla smiling softly at her. “And I really love you.”

“I love you too, cutie.”

Laura leaned in, leaving one more long kiss against her wife’s lips, before sliding off her lap and into her side. Carmilla shuffled to make room for both of them in the chair, keeping her arms wrapped around the smaller girl as she did. Laura twined their legs together, resting on the ottoman, and laid her head against Carmilla’s shoulder, wrapping an arm around her waist.

She smiled as she felt Carmilla’s lips tickle along her forehead, one of the kisses landing on the now barely visible scar there, and pulled the dark-haired girl in tighter with a soft sigh.

Forever and everything. Always.

A moment later, their gazes turned out the window across the room, the light from outside dimming, as they watched the snow softly fall onto the world around them.