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promises are broken like a stitch is

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I’m selfish I know,
I told you but I know you never listen.

I’m tempted you know,
Apologies are never gonna fix this.

*

The moment she opens the door, she sees a flash of grey fly across the room. She blinks, recognizing it instantly as a hoodie of Chloe’s, next comes the yellow blouse she wears to work often, falling into the pile. Elly’s not sure what she’s walked into.

“Hey,” Chloe chirps, sitting on the couch. She hadn’t even noticed her there.

“Hey,” Elly says slowly, watching the pile grow. Chloe seems unfazed though, leg propped up on the edge of the coffee table, her attention back to the magazine in her lap. She stands in the doorway, confused as to why Chloe’s clothes are on the floor, and why Chloe is so calm about it. “Um, what’s going on?” she has to ask, it’s an unusual situation that Chloe is yet to fill her in on.

“Mark’s cleaning up,” she answers simply.

“Alright,” Elly says, she’s hardly satisfied with that answer, but picks Chloe’s clothes off the floor for her.

“You’re room is an absolute pigsty Chloe,” Mark calls, voice laced with disdain. He walks into the living room-kitchen space, peeling off yellow rubber gloves with his head down. The furrow in his brow is deep as he continues, “how you manage to sleep in there is beyond me-“ his eyes lift to see Elly there, unbeknownst to him, with Chloe’s clothes bundled in her arms.

“Chill, it’s not that bad,” Chloe says. “I thought cleaning my room would be heaven. You love it.”

“What I would love is to not have to clean up after you, is it really that hard?” Mark waits for a response from Chloe, but doesn’t get one. He shakes his head, walking back to Chloe’s room - he’s clearly got other things on his mind, he doesn’t mean to ignore Elly’s presence.

Elly dumps Chloe’s clothes on the couch beside her, leaning in to whisper,
“Are you really letting him clean your room?”

Chloe looks up,
“I’m fine with my room, he’s the one with the issue, he can fix it,” she shrugs.

“Yeah, except we’ve got an issue. The card, Chloe, what happens if he finds it?”

Elly knows the chances of Mark actually reading something that isn’t addressed or directly involving him are very slim - he’s nothing like her mother, even still, the idea of him knowing the contents is nauseating to her. Not only is she worried what would happen to Chloe if it becomes public knowledge, but she hasn’t quite figured out what she thinks about it, not really. She shouldn’t even entertain the idea, she’s well aware, and yet the thought of Chloe being in love with her makes her feel things.

The last thing Elly wants is to have to explain this to Mark in a way he’ll understand, when she doesn’t really understand it herself. It’s hard enough to manage and attempt to comprehend her own feelings, let alone take his into consideration. Chloe’s right, the whole situation is best kept secret, but Elly doesn’t know how much longer she can keep lying. It’s getting closer and closer to the wedding, where she has to recite her vows, take an oath to Mark, how can she do that when she’s been kissed and loved by his sister? It seems almost easier to tell him, get it all out in the open, but then she risks losing the two most important people in her life - Chloe for telling him, Mark for not telling him sooner.

Regardless of whether she tells him or not, there is no way she’s letting him find out through a letter.

She watches closely as Chloe’s eyes widen, coming to the realization. They flit to meet hers, frowning slightly in a way Elly’s heart speeds up at. It’s an incredibly serious situation, so much to lose with nothing to gain, that’s the reasoning for her response. (It’s not, it’s because Chloe’s expressions, even the confused ones, are cute, and deep down she knows that.)

Chloe stands up, urgency hit, and the magazine falls to the ground. Mark walks in before she can get anywhere, holding a white envelope, ‘Elly’ written in Chloe’s scrawling confirming it is the letter and not an unpaid bill. Elly’s stomach sinks.

“Thought you’d given this to Elly?” he asks, looking down at it. She hopes he can’t sense their internal panic - at least, she assumes that’s how Chloe feels too, frozen in place at the couch. She can feel everything around her crumble, everything she’s worked to build, she can see Mark’s face when he reads the letter, can imagine how he’ll feel - betrayed, angry, upset, confused.

But that doesn’t come.

Chloe rushes over, tripping almost, and snatches the envelope from his hand. She could’ve been subtler about not wanting it to be read, but at least she did something, the longer the silence grew the more suspicious it became.

Mark raises his eyebrow at Chloe.

“Sorry,” she apologizes, belated and hardly genuine. “I just- don’t touch my stuff, okay?” Chloe leaves for her bedroom.

Elly lets out a shaky breath, and despite the issue being (partly) resolved, the weight on her shoulders isn’t lifted. Gets heavier, even, she’s keeping so many secrets from him, and now he knows that letter contains something he shouldn’t know. She rubs a hand over her face, sighing, and looks up at Mark.

“Do you know what’s going on with her?” he asks.

“No idea,” Elly replies, stomach turning at how easy lying to Mark has become.

//

“I can’t do this anymore. Where’s Mark?”

Chloe looks up, confused expression warranted when Elly’s words are in lieu of a greeting. She glances at the hallway door, then back to Elly,
“He’s in the pool,” she turns her attention back to the jug of water from the fridge, pouring herself a glass. “Why?”

Elly drops her eyes, ignoring Chloe, she’s fully prepared to block her out if she has to. She’s spent so long thinking about it, thoughts of Mark (and Chloe, for obvious reasons… it’s not like Chloe appears in her dreams or anything… not lately at least) keeping her awake all night. She can’t keep lying, the more she lies the worse she feels, and the longer she lies the worse she feels, if she’s not at breaking point she will be soon. Ever since she read the letter, every smile from Mark, every conversation, every show of affection has made her stomach sink, guilt setting in.

She knows her admission will hurt both Mark and Chloe, which isn’t ideal, but Elly doesn’t see another option. He will find out either way, if she tells him now at least they can salvage what is left of their relationship.

She walks through the kitchen to the hallway door, Chloe rushing to her side and gripping her arm before she can make it outside.
“Why?” Chloe repeats.

“I just want to talk to him,” Elly says quietly.

“Elly,” she lowers her voice.

She looks up, straight into Chloe’s eyes. It’s automatic, her eyes are beautiful, dark like the deep ocean, but bright enough to draw attention. She knows she shouldn’t let herself, because it clouds her judgement, sways her opinion, and she has to be firm in this decision. (She tells herself blue eyes are her weakness, and that it’s not Chloe specifically, not like that saying ‘the eyes are the window to the soul’.)

“I have to tell him Chloe, I’m sorry,” she sighs.

Chloe just shakes her head,
“No, really, you don’t.” She seems relatively calm about the whole thing, but judging by the strength of her grip, she’s just as worried as Elly is, making sure she can’t leave.

“I feel so guilty,” Elly says, she can feel it now, even. The way it creeps up slowly, mixing with the nervousness of telling him, and the confusion when she doesn’t mind the way Chloe is holding her and leaning in, an intimacy she hasn’t felt since they kissed. “All these secrets, it’s all getting worse, I can feel myself starting to crack.”

“You have nothing to feel guilty for, Elly,” Chloe assures her, voice quickening as the desperation becomes more apparent. “I was the one that kissed you, I was the one that fell for you, it’s completely my fault, not yours.”

“But I kept it a secret, I-“ don’t think I regret it. “I’m getting married to him I can’t keep lying to him.”

“So you tell him, and then what? He’ll break off the wedding, and worse case scenario, he’ll break up with you,” Chloe looks down, sighing. Her grip loosens with her softening expression, not because she’s changed her mind, but because she empathizes with Elly. “I don’t want to be horrible, but you can’t possibly think he’ll respond well to this. I don’t see the point in telling him when he won’t find out otherwise.”

“That’s something I can deal with. I feel sick every time I’m alone with him, Chloe, I’m paranoid he can tell I’m hiding things. And I really don’t want to hurt you-“ Elly knows her sympathies hardly mean much, pointless when she’s still going through with it. Her words are wholehearted, whether or not Chloe believes her, “-but I have to tell him.”

“Don’t tell him, please,” Chloe tries in a pleading tone, defeated. The determination has faded from her eyes, leaving sadness.

“Don’t tell me what?” Mark asks, standing in the doorway, Chloe’s hand drops. He raises his eyebrow, looking pointedly at both girls, “I assume I’m the ‘him’?”

She can feel her chest tighten, caught in a compromising and intimate looking situation with Chloe. It definitely isn’t ideal, she’d made the decision and was determined to go through with it, but there was still the option to change her mind last second, now she’s being pushed right into it. It’s both parts positive, and terrifying.

She glances at Chloe, who is looking down. Elly exhales shakily,
“Can we talk?” she asks Mark.

He nods, serious expression unwavering. She follows him to his bedroom, not looking back at Chloe, knowing what she sees would only hurt her.

//

“What’s going on?” Mark asks, he shuts the door, then crosses his arms over his chest. “What shouldn’t you tell me?”

“Uh-“ and that’s the thing, Elly hadn’t actually thought this far. She’d been so determined to tell him, after the interception with Chloe she’s lost her train of thought. Just tell the complete truth, Elly thinks, the whole thing is a waste otherwise. “Chloe kissed me.”

The admission comes with the slightest relief, no longer carrying this secret on her shoulders, but it doesn’t rid her of the intense guilt she feels.

He looks more confused than mad, at this point, at least.
“Chloe kissed you? On the mouth?”

Elly’s not sure why it has to be clarified, a kiss on the cheek would hardly be an issue, but that’s not the point. She nods, can hear her heartbeat thud in her ears, nervous for his reaction.

“When did this happen?”

Elly sighs,
“A few weeks ago. After I lost my job we had a mo- we talked, and then she kissed me. But I didn’t lead her into it, I didn’t flirt with her or anything, and I didn’t kiss her back.”

His brow furrows in annoyance,
“Wait, ‘a few weeks’? Why has it taken you so long to tell me Elly?”

“I really wanted to tell you, believe me, I never wanted to keep this secret from you, but Chloe... asked me to,” she frowns to herself, just for a second, she shouldn’t have thrown Chloe under the bus. “Mark I felt so guilty, it’s been eating away at me, I couldn’t handle it,” she reaches out for him, but he takes a defensive step back, throwing his own arms up in disbelief.

“So you’re only telling me to clear your own conscience, you wouldn’t have told me otherwise?” his voice raises, this is what Elly expected, though, she does regret her choice of wording.

“No, no! Of course I was going to tell you,” she pleads with him. “I love you Mark.”

He stands tall, slightly intimidating to her when he shows no emotion, doesn’t soften at her words.
“How can I know you aren’t keeping more from me?”

Elly exhales shakily,
“Well,” she has to tell him, she has to. How can she expect to feel better about the whole situation if she isn’t honest? “Chloe also told me she loves me...”

Mark looks at her, eyes widening with realization,
“The card. That’s why neither of you wanted me to read it, I can’t believe this,” he shakes his head.

“I told her I can’t- don’t love her. I love you Mark, and that’s the truth. You’re the one I want to marry, you’re the one I want to spend the rest of my life with.... if you still want that too?” she finishes quietly. She wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted to call it off, like Chloe said, he’ll break off the wedding and worst case scenario he’ll break up with you, she’s right. Elly’s never felt so vulnerable in her whole hopeless love life.

“My sister being in love with you.... that definitely changes things...” his frown remains, but he’s oddly calm. It’s unsettling.

“I’ll do anything Mark, really,” when she reaches for his hand this time, Mark lets her take it, relief flooding her body. She holds it in both hands, “This is what I want.”

“This is what I want too,” he agrees with a smile, “to be married, have a family. Speaking of family though, I don’t really think you should see Chloe anymore.”

Elly blinks at him in disbelief,
“What?” hoping she’s misheard him, but she knows the way her heart sinks and hands slide away from Mark’s, she hasn’t misheard him at all.

“Well, she’s in love with you, I really don’t think you should be around her,” he says, void of sympathy.

“She’s my best friend Mark...” Elly says, looking down. “And I don’t even- she isn’t going to kiss me again. She respects the boundaries, she isn’t trying to break us up, she just had to get it out. You know how bad Chloe is when it comes to her feelings, she bottles them up-“

“It’s me or Chloe, you can’t have both,” he interrupts sternly.

It becomes clear to her then that it isn’t a suggestion, but rather an ultimatum. Mark is making her choose between them, as if she’s a child. But it’s not really a choice, is it? She’s standing in front of him, her fiancé, how exactly can she say no? It’s not that she doesn’t want to choose Mark, she just doesn’t want to choose him over Chloe, it shouldn’t be asked of her. Elly doesn’t understand how it’s meant to work, not only does she have an instinctive care for Chloe (she can’t just switch it off), but they go to all the same places - Elly spends the majority of her time at the Brennan house.

Chloe’s not some girl that has feelings for her, she’s her best friend, Elly knows that’s the reasoning behind his response, but it hardly justifies his demand. She’s sure there are better ways to go about the situation, but right now, Elly can’t think of any, and even if she could, she’s not in a position to be making requests. She’s wanted Mark for so long, he’s handsome and smart and responsible. She loves him, ultimatum or not, that guilt she endured wasn’t so she could call off the wedding herself.

“The distance will be good for her,” Mark tells her. It’s presumptuous to assume she’s chosen him, but he wouldn’t have given the ultimatum if he wasn’t confident. “You won’t be around all the time, it’ll sort her head out.”

He has a point, but his words still hurt.
“You’re right,” she says, exhaling slowly, “I should… I should go and tell her then.”

Mark nods, and she turns around, opening the door.
“Oh and Elly?” he asks from behind her, Elly can’t focus on the words. “You promise you won’t keep secrets? I always want the truth.”

She turns her head,
“Promise,” there’s no real conviction in her voice, but it’s been said all the same.

//

It doesn’t take long to find Chloe, standing in the kitchen, in same position as before (definitely not long enough, Elly wishes she’d gone to work, or just anywhere so it could be put it off until Chloe got home). She feels numb almost, weighed down like everything is slow motion, she can’t concentrate on anything besides the fact she has to tell her best friend, they can’t really be best friends anymore.

She doesn’t regret telling Mark, he had a right to know, deserved to know when it involved him so closely. Elly knew when she made the decision it would hurt him, and Chloe as well, but she hadn’t planned breaking both their hearts in less than twenty minutes. She thought the guilt of keeping secrets from Mark was bad, it couldn’t even compare to the dread she feels now.

Chloe looks up from her phone, making eye contact with Elly. Her chest tightens.
“You alright?” she asks gently, concern clear in her voice. It’s so caring, and hits Elly with a strong urge to cry.

She nods weakly, looking at Chloe with glassy eyes.
“He didn’t break up with me,” she says, she can’t manage a smile, not even a fake one, not when she’s about to hurt Chloe again. She blinks and her vision of Chloe blurs, shedding a single tear.

Chloe’s eyes widen, before her eyebrows draw in confusion. She walks around the counter to Elly’s side,
“What’s wrong Elly?” she asks, she looks shocked, scared even by Elly’s sudden vulnerability. “Talk to me.”

She lifts her head, exhales shakily. Chloe’s looking down at her with big, blue eyes filled with worry, it only hurts her more, seeing how quick Chloe is to help her, determined to fix things for her. It’s one of Chloe’s best qualities, the care she has for others, but often means she puts them ahead of herself. She’s so grateful to be friends with Chloe, how is she supposed to tell her she wants to be left alone?

“I need space,” is all she says.

“Space from Mark?” Chloe asks.

Elly shuts her eyes, feeling a warm tear trickle down her cheek.
“From you,” she whispers, so quiet she can hardly hear it herself. Chloe does though, retracting her hand from Elly’s shoulder like she’s done something wrong, the confusion on her face for an entirely different reason. “I’m so sorry, Mark thinks- Mark and I think it’d be better if you and I kept our distance. Just for now.” She feels sick, weak, like telling Chloe has taken all the energy from her.

Chloe casts her eyes downward, never meeting Elly’s, hiding the inevitable heartbreak she would find there. She exhales shakily,
“So he knows everything then?”

Elly nods solemnly. She should’ve listened to Chloe, or perhaps not listened at all, told Mark right after it happened all those weeks ago.
“I’m sorr-“

Her apology is cut off, a fake smile on Chloe’s lips,
“I get it, totally, I do. You have to put your marriage first, and you know, it’s not like I expected Mark to be cool with it anyway,” it’s something Elly is used to, Chloe plastering on a smile when she’s upset, using humor as a coping mechanism. Her smile fades, turning rueful, she adds, “Don’t worry, Elly.”

“I never meant for it to go like this,” Elly tells her quietly, Chloe can try and hide her upset, pretend she isn’t hurting, but Elly won’t. “You’re still my best friend,” she whispers, although she knows it’s only cold comfort.

“I should go,” is her response. The facade has faded, exposing a side of vulnerability to Elly, it shows Chloe is just as affected by it, just as hurt by the (temporary) end to their friendship - of course, Elly didn’t need to ruin things to know how important it was to Chloe. She wants to reach out, pull her into a hug, but Chloe walks to the kitchen, taking her phone from the counter. It’s like the chunk of her heart that Chloe occupied has been ripped out.

She doesn’t look at Elly, doesn’t acknowledge what she’d said. She hates that she’s inflicted this pain on Chloe, hates that she’s had to upset one Brennan to make the other happy, hates that because of this, Chloe has nobody to confide in anymore (she always preferred talking to Elly rather than her brothers, she noticed, opened up better to her).

Elly watches her leave, shutting the front door behind her. She doesn’t even realize she’s crying again.

//

“Sheila said she could give me another gig at the Waterhole-“

She can see Bea’s mouth moving, but hardly focuses on the words coming from it. Elly doesn’t mean for her mind to drift away, really, this is a huge deal for her sister, and considering the way she’s been treated in the past, Elly should definitely be making more of an effort. It’s not that what Bea is saying is boring or meaningless either, the complete opposite actually, it’s just that she’s preoccupied with thoughts of Chloe. Two days since she last saw her, two days since she walked out, two days spent thinking only of her.

Ever since the Cash4Company Greyson issues, she hasn’t gone a day without seeing Chloe, and that was three months ago. She was always around, even a quick hello or a smile, she was there… now she’s not. Chloe never came home that night, and Mark seemed hardly concerned, insisting that ‘she just needs some time out’ and ‘this is good for her Elly, you’ll see’. She felt trapped, with Mark pretending everything was normal, like nothing had happened, like it was wrong for Elly to be concerned for Chloe’s safety.

Elly has gone over it a hundred times, wondering what she could’ve done differently, how she can fix things between them, why she-

“Elly? Are you even listening to me?”

Her eyes snap back to Bea. She’s frowning, offended at Elly’s disinterest.
“Sorry, I was a million miles away,” she shakes her head, but leans forward, elbows on the table, “Keep going, I’m listening now.”

Bea sighs, but continues,
“So I’m performing tomorrow night, Sheila wants as many people there as possible. Actually, you could help.”

Elly nods quickly, eager to prove she can be a good sister who does care - though she would’ve helped either way. This is a welcomed distraction, something to take her mind off Chloe and how she is, where she is, if she’s safe and if she’s okay, and everything else she doesn’t feel like she can ask Mark.

“You can invite your friends - Mark, Aaron, Chloe, David.”

Maybe it’s not a distraction then.

“Chloe?” Elly asks before she can stop herself. Her heart beats rapidly at the mention of her name, in a way that is panicked, and not entirely platonic.

“You see her all the time,” Bea says, “Can’t you ask her?” her brow creases in confusion.

“Of course,” she replies instantly, nodding, not wanting to let on that she doesn’t see her all the time, not anymore. “But I think she’ll be at work.”

“Elly, it’s at 7:30 on a Wednesday night, I hardly think she’ll be at work,” she says. Elly wants to argue that sometimes Terese asks Chloe to stay back late, or that sometimes Chloe is too tired to go anywhere after work, but not only are they clearly excuses, they aren’t even good ones, so she opts for saying nothing. Bea sighs at Elly’s silence, and seeming unwillingness to help. She tilts her head up, her expression changing as she looks past Elly, “You can ask her now.”

She twists in her seat, stomach sinking when she sees Chloe standing in the doorway. Chloe freezes, and when they make eye contact, so does time. She feels it in her heart, in her bones, the relief to see Chloe - she feels whole again, like a part of herself has been returned. She grips onto the edge of the table, fighting the urge to get up and wrap her arms around Chloe, hold her close. A warmth blooms in her chest, she smiles upon Chloe’s appearance, though she’s not sure if the reaction is mutual.

Chloe looks down, breaking the trance between them. The tension remains, and if Bea notices, she doesn’t say anything, the opposite even, calling Chloe over when she walks past,
“Chloe, hey,” she beckons her over.

She looks uncomfortable, but leaves her place in line. She’s holding her purse, Elly wants to invite her to sit with them, but knows she can’t.
“Bea,” she smiles, adding quietly after a few moments, “Elly.”

Elly deflates at Chloe’s apprehension, the clear discomfort from being around her. Things have never been like this between them, after the kiss, after the first and second ‘I love you’ things were never this bad, but Elly only has herself to blame for it. She was elated to see Chloe, it’s obvious now the reaction was not mutual.

“I’m performing tomorrow night at The Waterhole, you should come,” Bea tells her, she must pick up on Chloe’s desire to leave, she glances at Elly, then back to Chloe, “Sorry, you’re probably in a hurry… I just wanted to tell you because I didn’t think Elly would.”

“I’ve got work tomorrow, sorry,” she sounds genuinely apologetic, she most likely is, but Elly knows it’s a lie. “Next time though,” she promises, nodding.

“That’s fine,” Bea tells her, “just as long as there is a next time.”

“Of course there will be, you’ll smash it,” Chloe grins. Elly smiles, can’t help it whenever she sees how kind and caring Chloe is, she knows how nervous Bea gets about these performances, Chloe’s positivity makes a difference she’s sure, even a small one. She glances back to the counter, then to Bea, hasn’t looked once at Elly. “I better keep going, all my luck for tomorrow night,” she says.

It’s moments like these she realizes how lucky she is to have Chloe, considerate, sweet, selfless. She feels an overwhelming wave of fondness for Chloe, heart swooping whenever she sees her, it’s for those seconds she forgets what she’s done, what she put Chloe through, as if it never happened.
“Bye Chloe,” she smiles. Chloe doesn’t acknowledge her, understandably, and walks back to the counter.

Elly sighs, it’s her own fault. Bea raises her eyebrow,
“What was that?”

“Mustn’t have heard me,” Elly replies nonchalantly.

“But she hardly acknowledged you.”

“She was so busy, Bea,” she says, “she probably had a million things on her mind.”

Bea doesn’t look convinced.

//

There’s an eerie silence throughout the house. It is one in the morning, and Elly doesn’t often stay overnight at the Brennan’s, but with five people under the one roof, there’s always some noise. Elly knows it’s not about who is here, but rather who isn’t.

She’s staying at Lassiters, Mark had mentioned, very briefly, like anything to do with Chloe lately. He didn’t say whether it was her decision or if he told her to leave - probably the latter, and to avoid looking like the bad guy, Elly wasn’t told - but she didn’t ask either. He has a way of making her care seem wrong, like she’s not allowed to, it’s in the look he gives her, the brittleness of his voice when he says ‘she’s fine.’

Aaron and David haven’t said anything about the situation, but she hasn’t asked them either. Elly feels like she has to monitor everything she says around them, and wonders if anyone really misses Chloe’s presence.

She glances at Mark, fast asleep beside her, and carefully slides her phone from the beside table. Elly moves onto her side, hoping her body will shield most of the bright light from Mark’s eyes. The first place she looks is also the first place her mind goes, tapping into Photos she flicks through until she finds a few of them together. Most of them are selfies, some she remembers being tipsy for, after nights out when Chloe insisted they take a photo to ‘capture the moment’. Either way, in every picture they’re smiling, genuine, happy smiles, neither hurt nor heartbroken.

Elly swipes through them slowly, heart aching when she reminisces over the memories each one holds. The last one is a photo Aaron took, just of Chloe, where she’s asleep on the couch. Her arm is hanging off the edge, head back with her mouth open, clearly taken with the intention of embarrassing Chloe, he’d picked up her phone by accident. She remembers Aaron shoving the photo in Chloe’s face after she’d woken up, he laughed and told her he would never delete it, despite her pleas.

Elly’s not sure why she didn’t delete it. There was no reason for keeping it, as far as she remembers, she just didn’t get rid of it. Looking back at it now, she’s glad, it’s natural, candid, when she smiles at how sweet Chloe looks, Elly knows that wasn’t what she was thinking at the time. She laughed at the siblings relationship, how they could joke around with each other like she and Bea never could, or would. Now, Mark isn’t speaking to Chloe, and Aaron seems to have chosen Mark’s side in it all, just because Elly couldn’t hold onto the guilt a few more weeks.

She looks serene, lashes fanning out over her cheeks, soft lips parted. Elly wonders if Chloe looks like this now, asleep in an unfamiliar hotel room, alone. Elly’s not sure if that’s what makes her tap into their messages, the idea of Chloe being more or less isolated because of her, because she has a deep care for Chloe, or because she misses her presence more than anything. All three, probably.

Their last set of texts were from over a week ago, before Elly ruined things between them. They were happy, their friendship was still intact, evident from the x’s used from both sides, and the general tone of the conversation. Thank u, ur the best x was the last message Chloe sent - she highly doubts Chloe still believes that. She stares at the screen, thumb hovering over the keyboard.

I’m sorry xx

She types out, but erases a second later. There’s so much she wants to say, needs to say, but she can’t do it over text, Chloe deserves more than that.

I really do miss you Chloe xx

She almost sends it, feeling it doesn’t sound as insincere as an apology via text. Elly wants her to know she still cares, that she’s still thinking about her, that despite the space she asked for, Chloe still means the world to her. Mark hums beside her, low in his throat, and rolls over to face her. Her heart stops, figuring she’s been caught, but his eyes are shut when she glances over her shoulder.

“What are you doing?” he murmurs, wrapping an arm around her he pulls her back against him. “Why aren’t you sleeping?”

Elly watches the blinking cursor, before locking her phone and placing it back on the beside table. The message is left unsent.
“Couldn’t sleep. ’m fine now.”

He tucks his head between her shoulder and her neck. She feels uncomfortable, not because she doesn’t want to cuddle, but because she wishes it was from someone else. Elly falls asleep to thoughts of long legs, a petite body, small hands, soft hair.

//

“So, are you excited for tonight?” Elly asks, smiling.

Bea chuckles, concentration in her eyes as she pours them both a cup of tea.
“If by excited you mean extremely nervous, then yes, I am.”

Elly takes her cup, walking to the kitchen table, she glances over her shoulder to give her sister a reassuring smile,
“Don’t be nervous.” She sits down, and Bea joins her. She tells her earnestly, “We’ll all be there to support you, and we all love your voice.”

“Did you manage to talk Chloe around then?” Bea asks.

“She has work, I told you that and so did she,” Elly says, sipping at scolding hot tea just to distract herself.

“Except I don’t think you’re telling the truth. She didn’t even speak to you the other day, and there was this vibe, it felt pretty uncomfortable. Did you have a fight?” Bea asks. She almost wishes it was a fight, she can apologize for that, but Elly doesn’t know how to begin resolving this.

“You have to keep your mind focused on tonight,” she deflects.

Bea’s brow creases, either from confusion, or hurt she feels Elly won’t confide in her,
“You can trust me Elly, you can talk to me about problems you’re having. I was just a bit worried, Ned said that Chloe’s been moody at work, and apparently she’s booked out a room at Lassiters? Is it something to do with Mark?”

She knew Chloe was hurting, of course, but Elly assumed she was putting it on around her, trying to hurt her in return. She supposes she did ask for space, and that’s exactly what Chloe gave her. It hurts to think this has affected Chloe’s work performance, everything she does hurts lately.
“Wouldn’t be the first issue he’s created,” she says quietly.

Bea’s expression is unwavering, still confused.

Elly sighs, linking her fingers around the cup. It probably isn’t wise to tell her, less people who know the better kind of thing, but she’s said too much to suddenly stop now. The benefits of telling Bea outweigh the negatives, she may be able to gain some clarity on the situation, hear someone else’s advice, and Bea’s right, she can trust her. She stares down at her cup,
“Chloe kissed me. It was a few weeks ago when I lost my job, she came over to cheer me up, and… we had a moment. So anyway, she swore it was nothing and it was nothing, until after my engagement party she told me she loved me,” she glances up to gauge her reaction, puzzled, but trying to process it. Elly continues, “She told me it meant nothing again, of course, said she’d had too much to drink. Two weeks later I found a card from her,” she wets her lips, first time she’s said it aloud, she exhales, “it said she was truly, madly and deeply in love with me.”

Bea just looks at her,
“Wait I didn’t know Chloe was- I didn’t know she liked- she told you she loves you?”

“Truly, madly and deeply,” Elly confirms.

“So how does Mark come into this?”

“I told him. Not the details, just about the kiss, and that she loves me. I felt so guilty, Bea, whenever I was with him all I could think about was this huge secret I was keeping from him,” she sighs, “and he gave me an ultimatum.”

“He made you choose?” she asks incredulously, screwing her nose in disdain.

Elly nods,
“He was standing right there with me. I had to choose him, I couldn’t just throw it all away, everything I’ve wanted, right?”

“Uh,” there’s a flicker of uncertainty in Bea’s eyes, matching the way Elly feels. “Yeah I guess. You did throw your best friend away though…”

“I know,” Elly sighs.

“So what does Mark expect, you just never see or speak to Chloe again?” she frowns. Elly hardly understands it herself, she should’ve asked for time to think about it, but not only would that have shown she was uncertain about her future with Mark, she wasn’t really in a position to be making requests.

“At least until she falls out of love with me. I agreed, for Chloe’s sake I thought it would be easier not having me around. I was so gutted, I cried when I told her, I cried after she left, and you know what? Mark didn’t care. He didn’t care I’d cut my best friend out of my life for him.” She shakes her head, continuously frustrated by his lack of empathy in the mess he’s created.

“He hasn’t said anything?” Bea asks.

Elly shakes her head,
“Whenever I bring it up he changes the subject, like it never happened,” she rubs a hand over her face, exhaling slowly. Her mind feels foggy, thoughts muddled, the only thing she knows is how incomplete her life is without Chloe. “I miss her so much.”

“Of course you do, she’s your best friend and Mark… he never should’ve made you choose,” Bea says, placing a comforting hand on her wrist. “He knew how important she was to you, how much this distance would affect you, and he didn’t care, and he doesn’t seem to care now either.”

She feels lost, stuck between what she wants and what she wanted. She looks up,
“What do I do?”

“Personally,” Bea sighs, “I couldn’t stay with a guy who controlled me like that. But I’ve already had enough controlling men in my life.”

Elly nods, but right now, all she can focus on is making things better with Chloe.

//

She’s not spying, just happens to be looking out the window when Chloe walks into the Brennan house. She doesn’t know Chloe’s work schedule, but she does know Aaron has a shift at the gym, and Mark at the garage, it’s the best time for Elly to go and speak to her. If she’ll let her, that is.

Elly knocks on the door as a warning, opening it slowly to find Chloe sitting at the counter on her phone. Despite having it planned, there is no way Elly could have prepared for the intense emotions that hit once she does see her - happiness and complete adoration, guilt and apprehension. She hasn’t noticed her yet, and whether she is ignoring Elly on purpose, she isn’t sure, but like that, just sitting there, she looks so beautiful, hair failing over her shoulder in the softest waves.
“Hey,” she says.

Chloe hardly acknowledges her, eyes glued to her phone,
“Mark’s not home. Aaron said I could come and get some stuff.”

“I know I… wasn’t looking for him,“ her behavior shouldn’t surprise Elly, and really, it doesn’t, only she’s never been on the receiving end. Chloe’s never spoken to her like this, but then again, Elly has never given her a reason to until now. “Can we talk?”

She puts her phone down,
“I don’t know,” she says, standing up and walking around the counter, she looks over her shoulder. “Can we? Are we allowed?”

Elly sighs, automatically her eyes drag briefly over Chloe, spending a little too long on her bare legs. Checking Chloe out while her back is turned, it doesn’t make the situation much better, but it’s been so long since she’s been in her company, Elly can’t help it. She shakes her head, trying to focus,
“I know what I did was horrible, but-“

“But what?” Chloe snaps, turning around. They’re in the same positions they were when this whole thing started, fighting instead of the quiet words as Elly asked for space, the chances of Elly crying are the same though. It happened less than a week ago, Elly’s head spins, it feels like months since she last saw Chloe.

“I didn’t have a choice-“

Chloe rolls her eyes,
“You didn’t have a choice... just like you didn’t have a choice when you told him? When I begged you not to say anything, and you still did. I told you something like this would happen.”

It stings, the words, and the fact Elly knows she is completely right.
“I felt so guilty Chloe, and when Mark gave me that ultimatum, it was too much, and I panicked. I wasn’t in a position to be making negotiations with him,” her voice lowers, barely above a whisper as she pleads, “but please believe me Chloe, none of this was my idea, and I certainly didn’t want to hurt you, I never wanted to hurt you.” Her heart beats heavy, she feels sick with the idea Chloe mighn’t forgive her.

Chloe softens, only slightly, but the facade remains,
“So how do you feel now? Guilt free?”

Elly shakes her head,
“I feel worse,” she says, “I’m sorry Chloe, for everything I’m so sorry.” She feels like her apologies will never be enough. If Chloe has felt anything like Elly has the last week - lost, longing, heartache - she will spend a lifetime making it up to her.

“It’s fine, I should’ve let you tell Mark weeks ago,” Chloe admits. “He might not’ve reacted this drastically.”

She admires Chloe for taking some responsibility, but when Elly has felt so guilty for it, she doesn’t see the point in Chloe apologizing. The relief hits her, she almost feels weak with it, almost feels like she could cry again. Their friendship means everything to her, days of wondering if she would ever really see Chloe again, if she could repair the damage between them. She wonders if Chloe feels the same, then again, she didn’t ask for the space. She didn’t ask for any of it.

Chloe stands there, looking down. Her thick lashes fan out over her cheeks, pale pink lips unmoving, hair disheveled and still looking perfect - she looks sweet, breathtaking, as if she was crafted by angels. Elly’s heart races just from looking at her,
“I missed you so much,” she tells her. “I couldn’t stop thinking about you.”

Her eyes flick up at that, widened and blue, Elly’s favourite shade of blue solely because they’re Chloe’s eyes.
“I missed you too,” is all she says.

Elly approaches her slowly, and when she wraps her arms around Chloe for a hug, is deeply relieved that Chloe’s arms wind around her neck. It’s been so long, too long since she last did this, Elly reminds herself it was only a week ago, and it makes her feel helpless without her. Her arms tighten around her, feeling Chloe do the same, she smiles, resting her head on the taller girl’s shoulder. She holds her close, feeling her heart hammering in her chest, like her body has been reignited by Chloe’s touch, the scent of her perfume she’ll be smelling for weeks. Elly savours the moment, the comfort and safety that Chloe brings her.

The only thing she wants is Chloe, the only thing she needs. She’s seen her life without Chloe, and it’s miserable, she can’t let her go again, and she won’t.

After a few moments, they disentangle, but stay close. Elly’s hand remains on Chloe’s shoulder,
“I can’t do this Chlo, can’t handle the space,” she whispers, looking into her eyes before she leans in, kissing her. It’s only gentle, tentative, but Elly feels it through her whole body, there’s a part of her that has wanted this ever since Chloe first kissed her, she’s sure. Chloe kisses her back slowly, and Elly smiles against her lips, sliding her hand up to cup Chloe’s cheek.

“Elly,” she breathes, noses touching, foreheads touching. The intimacy makes her head swim, “What about-“

She can feel the heat radiate off her, hear the lust in her voice,
“I want this, trust me,” Elly reassures her, tracing Chloe’s lower lip with her thumb, before leaning back in. Chloe lets her, tilting her head up and kissing her with the same intensity. Slow and sweet, her kisses are addictive, the more she gets the more she wants. It’s like she’ll never be satisfied, while simultaneously being completely satisfied, Chloe is the only thing she wants, ever wants. She’s content with the idea of living her life with Chloe.

Elly drags her thumb over Chloe’s cheek, across smooth skin to the back of her neck, causing Chloe to shiver, before her hand strokes through her silken hair. She moves, pressing kisses down Chloe’s neck, pulse racing under Elly’s lips. She’s careful not to create marks, although it’s tempting, and the uncovered expanse of her collarbones is definitely inviting, she can’t risk anything (even though Elly would not be the first suspect, as far as everyone knows, she’s still keeping her distance).

Chloe’s hand curls around her hip, bunching the material of her dress the longer Elly kisses her. She sighs Elly’s name, it sounds amazing like that.
“You’re so beautiful Chloe,” she murmurs against her skin, her perfume is intoxicating. She pulls back, looking into her eyes, “Can we go to your room?”

She looks shocked, but most likely in awe of the whole situation. Elly wonders if Chloe has pictured this, and how many times.
“Yeah, of course Elly, definitely. Yes, let’s go,” she nods urgently. She smiles, Chloe is adorable, and takes her hand.

//

Chloe shuts the door behind them, and that’s as long as Elly waits before she’s kissing her hotly again. Chloe walks backward until her knees hit the bed, she pulls Elly down with her, sharp nails piercing the back of her neck.

She lays between Chloe’s parted legs, pressing her into the pillow with the force of her kiss. Her lips are red once they stop kissing, her hair tussled and cheeks flushed, breathing heavily - she always thought Chloe was beautiful, have to be blind not to, Elly can’t believe it’s taken her this long to realise things weren’t entirely platonic. She rests her forehead against Chloe’s,
“Did I tell you how much I missed you?” she murmurs.

“Yeah,” Chloe smiles, “But feel free to tell me again.”

Elly smiles, but it fades slowly,
“It hurt so much Chlo, I felt like a part of me was missing, felt so lost. I’m sorry.”

“Hey, I said it’s okay didn’t I?” Chloe sighs, rubbing a light hand down Elly’s back. “We were pulled apart, and we found our way back to each other, do you know how strong that makes us? What we have… I don’t know how I deserve it, I probably don’t, but I am so lucky.”

“I’m the one lucky to have you,” Elly says, pressing a kiss to her lips before she can argue.

Chloe smiles into it, the hand on Elly’s back moving upward to touch her hair gently. Elly’s hand drifts down, thumb dragging slowly over the waistband of her shorts, Chloe tenses underneath her, petting stopping.

“Elly you don’t have to,” she whispers. “Just because you feel sorry-“

“Chlo, I want to,” she tells her in earnest, looking into her blue eyes.

“But you don’t like that.”

She’s not sure where Chloe draws the distinction between kissing and more, as if Elly would make out with a female she didn’t have feelings for, or some sexual desire, and wouldn’t want anything else. However, she understands where she’s coming from - Elly’s new to all of this unlike Chloe, it seems strange that she would initiate it.
“I like you,” Elly says, pecking her on the lips, “That’s all that matters… unless you aren’t ready?”

“I am,” Chloe says almost instantly, she laughs quietly at her over-eagerness, “I’ve thought about this a lot actually.” They both smile, and Elly can’t tell if her cheeks are still flushed from earlier or if she’s blushing - she thinks it’s the latter.

“Yeah?” Elly asks, ducking her head for a kiss. She tugs at the bottom of Chloe’s shirt, tucked into her shorts, and snakes her hand inside. Elly brushes her knuckles over her stomach, Chloe quivers, but lifts her hips.

“Of course, I’d be crazy not to Elly,” she tells her. Elly smiles, she’s desperate to touch more of Chloe’s skin, but wants to make it worth-while, make it good for Chloe, something tells her that either way Chloe won’t care. All she wants is Elly. Her heart beats heavy as she dips her hand into Chloe’s shorts, and knickers.

Chloe raises her hips, impatient, Elly huffs out a laugh against her shoulder, and pushes two fingers into her.

It’s a foreign feeling - there’s definitely nothing wrong with it, it’s hot, even, seeing how responsive Chloe is to her touch.

She curls her fingers, knowing what feels good based on what she likes personally. Elly draws her fingers out slowly, and pushes straight back in. Chloe moans breathily, head tipped back into the pillow, exposing the hollow of her throat. Elly wants to kiss the skin, lick at it, but opts for her lips instead, for the purpose of muffling any noises that come from it.

Chloe drapes an arm over Elly’s shoulders, a hand in her hair while she kisses her. Her fingers stroke slowly inside of Chloe, wrist twisted at a strange angle with the limited space between them, it’s hardly an issue though, not when it feels so good, and she’s making Chloe feel so good. The thrust of her fingers remain slow, but keeping pace, matching the leisurely kisses she gives her, long, drawn out.

Chloe’s nails drag through her hair over her scalp, from pleasure or silently telling Elly to go faster. She can feel her heart beat where they are pressed together, just as fast as her own, breathy sighs against Elly’s mouth between kisses.
“Elly-“

She quickens her hand, curling her fingers deep inside Chloe. Elly mouths over her neck, over the pink, flushed skin of her collarbones. Chloe pulls at her hair, a desperate attempt at directing Elly back to her mouth, she must be close, with a final touch Chloe comes apart, trembling beneath Elly. She continues the slow movements, easing Chloe down from her high, capturing her moans.

Elly strokes her hair with her free hand, smiling when Chloe turns into her palm.
“Chlo, you’re okay,” she murmurs, kissing her forehead, her lips linger. They both smile, so much happiness and adoration between them.

“You’re okay” Chloe tells her, eyes half-lidded. “Amazing, actually.”

She pulls her fingers out, wet, and doesn’t miss the tiny whimper Chloe gives. Elly chuckles,
“Thought I’d be no good,” she tells her honestly, looking down again at her fingers with confusion.

“Tissue,” Chloe answers the question she hadn’t yet asked. Elly’s relieved, not quite ready to put them in her mouth. One thing at a time.

She climbs off Chloe’s bed, taking a tissue from the box on her desk where she keeps her collection of make up. Elly wipes the wetness off her fingers, balling the tissue in one hand when her eye catches the card underneath the other junk on her desk - her room is messy, though isn’t off-putting. She smiles down at it, taking it back to Chloe’s bed with her.

“Not that card again,” Chloe groans with a laugh. “It’s everywhere.”

“It was on your desk in plain sight Chloe,” Elly laughs, “and you can’t hate it that much, if it weren’t for the card, none of this would’ve happened,” a few days ago the card was to blame for the distance between them, now it’s responsible for Elly’s revelation. Days of heartache, confusion and guilt, disappointment and sadness, all in the end worth it for this moment. “I think we should both be thankful for this card.”

Chloe grins proudly,
“Well, it was my card and my idea,” she says. Elly leans over, kissing her smile. It only brightens, blue eyes sparkling, she teases, “I guess I’ll give you some credit too, you are the subject after all.”

“How generous of you,” Elly smiles, opening Chloe’s drawer, “I’m putting this somewhere safe.”

“Put it wherever,” her smile is soft, sweet, Elly can see the love clearly in her eyes, she’s not sure how she missed it before. This is where she wants to be, whatever she has to go through to get it. She needs Chloe in her life, always. “Because we both know how I feel… and I don’t need a card to remind me that I love you.”