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Now, let’s stop running from love,
Running from love,
Let’s stop, my baby,
Let’s stop running from us,
Running from us,
Let’s stop, my baby

Oh my my my,
I die every night with you
Oh my my my,
I'm living for your every move

**

Confusion. Hurt. Desperation.

They were all things Elly had gotten used to feeling - not just over the last month, but throughout her whole life. Due entirely to selfish men who continually put themselves first, who abandoned her with no regard for her feelings whatsoever. It didn’t matter when she was madly in love with them, she wasn’t enough, it wasn’t enough, clearly.

She thought when she moved to Erinsborough three years ago things would be different. She was, for the most part, done with the party scene, done with the Bondi bachelors, and could instead focus on finding a good man who she loved and could see herself building a future with. Strong and handsome, someone who would protect her, but still had a sensitive side. As it turned out, they were too sensitive, rather than just dumping her outright, they dragged it out, could never give her a straight answer on where things were going.

I love you Elly, I’ll leave her soon I promise, you’re the one I want, you just have to give me time, she had been naive enough to believe Finn’s lie. There was a part of her back then, back in Sydney, that thought it was romantic. The countless nights they spent together, Finn assuring her that one day he would leave his wife, and they would be happy together. She was so in love that she fell for it, and look where that got her, got her family, constantly in danger of Finn, coma or not.

It’s not safe, I can’t keep putting you in danger Elly. I won’t let myself. I’ll be back in six weeks, and we can be together, she was crazy about Ned, fell for him hard and fast. She was blinded by that love, was prepared to leave her whole life behind her for a man who could only promise his return. To be fair, he did come back, and was fully invested in their relationship, but he didn’t provide stability, and that’s what she needed. Their break up was amicable, and now that he’s dating her sister, Elly can see they’re a better match.

Maybe it’s immature to blame them all, to not take any responsibility for those relationships imploding. Maybe she’s the selfish one, is the reason everything has gone so spectacularly wrong in her relationship with Mark. Maybe her expectations are too high, she’s set herself up for disappointment. But surely she can expect the groom to show up at their wedding? Apparently not.

He’s been gone for days, hasn’t contacted her once and neither has Aaron. It’s the source of her confusion - only half of it, actually - Elly can’t understand why he’s doing this, doing this to her, doing this to their relationship. He’s grieving, she knows that, but she could be helping him, she could be giving him the comfort he gives her. When she proposed to him, she meant it, Elly wanted to be the one there for him whenever he needed it, apparently he did need it, just not from her. He would rather speak to his dead fiancé than her, it really hurt.

She and Mark are a team, at least, that’s just one thing that marriage means. His problems are hers, and vice versa, they handle things as a strong couple… now he’s left her, just like the other men, with a poor explanation, just like them too. If he didn’t want to get married, he should’ve told her, it’s the least she deserves. Isn’t it?

There’s no guarantee he’ll be back for the wedding - or back at all, Elly thinks to herself - and even if he is, how can Elly recite her prepared vows? How can she look him in the eye and repeat for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health when she can’t tell what he’s thinking, if he’s even going to stick around. Can he even make those promises to her, to always be there for her?

Her phone buzzes on the kitchen counter, and she rushes to answer it. Her heart is suddenly beating heavily in anticipation, accepting the call without looking at the contact,
“Mark?” she asks instantly.

There’s a sigh from the other side, and Elly can tell from that alone it isn’t her fiancé. She deflates.
“Sorry,” Aaron says.

She remains optimistic, some contact is better than none at all.
“Have you found him? Is he okay?”

“Yeah, I have,” she can sense Aaron holding back, a tension already in their ten second phone call. “He’s alright Elly, he’s safe.”

“Good, that’s good,” Elly nods, though she won’t feel completely relieved until she finds out what he’s hiding. “So when are you coming back? Are you on your way now?”

He hesitates. Elly picks at a loose thread on her pyjama shorts, her stomach slowly tightening at the lengthy silence over the line.
“He doesn’t want to.”

Her fingers stop, and her heart might too.
“What?” she whispers, only just managing, “He doesn’t want to marry me?”

“Of course he does,” Aaron assures her, but doesn’t sound a hundred percent convinced himself. “But he’s not in a good place at the moment, I don’t think getting married would be the right thing for him right now.”

Elly’s not sure what to do with that. A part of her wants to cry, because Mark’s the one, he’s meant to be the one, and this is very likely the end of their relationship. Another part of her wants to yell at Aaron, get out her frustration on him, tell him Oh yeah sure I’ll just cancel the wedding I’ve been planning for months with the love of my life because he isn’t feeling it, because he doesn’t feel like getting married right now. It would be too late to cancel it all anyway.

“I know that’s not what you wanted to hear,” Aaron’s voice cuts through her thoughts. “He’s just- he’s too scared to lose you, that he thinks it’s easier to leave you. But I’m trying, I’m really trying Elly, we’ll be late but I’m really hoping to have him there. You guys have a future, I know you do.”

Aaron’s optimism should be comforting, if it weren’t his general tone when talking about anything. She wants to believe him, she wants to believe both of them, but of everyone who has left and returned, he’s only done so because she chased him. Finn came back, even when she didn’t want him to, Ned came back, even when she didn’t think she wanted him to, now she wants Mark to come back, but he doesn’t want to.

“I don’t care,” she says quietly, shutting her eyes. Through all this, she still loves him, even if he can’t say the same about her. “I don’t care if he doesn’t have his suit, or if he hasn’t showered, I just want to marry him Aaron.”

“He’ll be there Elly,” Aaron tells her. He hangs up shortly after, leaving her on that note. He’ll try his hardest, she knows that, but she also knows when an overwhelming dread rises inside her, it’s because Mark won’t show. She can feel it.

Mark isn’t great right now, but surely the fact it’s their wedding day makes some impact? Maybe it does, a negative one.

She puts her phone down, walking over to the dining table. She looks down at the large white box, lifting the lid slowly to reveal the wedding flowers. It’s hard to continue, to put in all the effort when there’s a ninety percent chance he won’t be there. To see these things that represent their wedding, the commitment to one another they have chosen to make, and know the groom is having doubts. Elly pushes it away, she wants to be Mrs Brennan more than anything.

The door opens behind her, rattling on its hinges. Elly’s head snaps up at the sound, she’s not sure who she expected - maybe a part of her, as silly and impossible as it is, hopes it's Mark - possibly Bea, but instead it’s Chloe. She stands in the doorway, and Elly’s heart races… Chloe gave her a fright, that’s all, she’s sure.

She approaches Elly with the same caution as the last few days. She won’t pretend she doesn’t know why, instead she chooses not to address it, even when there’s a tension between them she can’t ignore.
“You’re not dressed,” Chloe says quietly. She can see the confusion in Chloe, brows drawing together, but she’s not dressed either. Her ripped jeans follow the slight curve of her hips, denim tight on her long legs… her long, toned legs. Elly looks away, desperate for a distraction, she’s not interested in Chloe, and certainly not interested in having those lovely legs thrown over her shoulders while she goes down on her again. “Does this mean you aren’t getting married?”

Elly ignores her.
“I got a call from your brother,” she drags her finger over the stem of the flower, laying in the box. She clarifies, “From Aaron.”

“He’s found Mark, he sent me a text earlier,” Chloe sighs, nodding. She stops at the table, standing beside Elly. “Have you told your family?” she asks, biting her lip softly.

Elly frowns, glancing at Chloe,
“Told my family what?”

“That the wedding’s off…” she says slowly.

Her frown remains,
“But the wedding isn’t off Chloe. I’m still marrying him, I love him.”

Chloe blinks at her,
“But… Aaron said they mightn’t be back in time. Elly, he told me Mark doesn’t want to come back,” her voice is quiet, sad, and she lifts her hand to touch Elly’s shoulder. Elly walks away before she can.

“I know that, but I have to try Chloe,” she says, “He’s my fiancé, I’m not giving up on him.”

She can’t look at Chloe, can’t let herself see the inevitable pain on her face.
“So… your fiancé has neglected you for weeks, abandoned you, doesn’t want to marry you, and you’re still going to all this effort? Elly, what if he doesn’t show up? All the money you scraped together to make that wedding happen is wasted.”

“And if I cancel it the money is still wasted,” she snaps. When she’s already having doubts the last thing she needs is Chloe trying to talk her out of it. She rubs a hand over her face, “Look, I appreciate your concern, but I don’t need this right now Chloe. I need to get ready.” She turns around, walking in the direction of her bedroom with her head down, determined to not let Chloe’s words affect her.

“What about us?”

Her voice is small, but brave, using the last of her courage to ask about their future. She’s putting her heart on the line, but Elly can’t give her the answer she knows she wants. She looks at Chloe with a sad expression,
“There is no us, Chloe.”

There’s a flash of confusion over her face,
“The other night… you wanted it just as much as I did.”

“I was confused, and upset, and you were… there,” she looks down, exhaling slowly. “I’m sorry, really I-“

“The things you said to me Elly, you don’t say that to someone you aren’t attracted to,” she expects Chloe to leave, to slam the door behind her, not for her to cross the room, standing right in front of her with a determination in her eyes. Chloe licks her lips, the air between them is thick, an intensity Elly last felt a few nights ago, right before she kissed her. “You told me how beautiful I looked, you told me you wanted to make me feel good, you kissed every inch of my body. This meant more to you and you know it.”

She feels hot all over, just from Chloe’s detailed retelling of the intimate night they shared. Elly looks down,
“We’re not talking about this Chloe,” she tries for firm, but her voice comes out breathy instead. “I love Mark, I’m getting married to Mark, you can’t stop that.”

Chloe looks at her, just stares at her with those deep blue eyes.
“You deserve so much better Elly,” she whispers, before turning around and leaving like Elly wished she would.

Two separate conversations with two different Brennan’s, and it hasn’t cleared up any the confusion Elly feels.

Chapter Text

As a child, Elly never fantasized about her wedding. She wasn’t one of those little girls who married their barbies, or played pretend weddings with their friends, growing up, she hadn’t even thought about it.

It wasn’t that she had no interest in romance - the first boyfriend she had was at fourteen, he was cute and she’d already kissed him by the end of the day - but she’d never understood the rush to get married, to settle down. She went and lived in Sweden, lived in Bondi, partied through her twenties, went and got her degree, it wasn’t until she moved to Erinsborough that she started thinking more seriously about her love life.

Through it all though, nothing ever really changed, even when her level of commitment did. Elly had wanted a good man, someone who would protect her, love her, who she could see a future with.

It took a while to see, but Mark ticked all of those boxes. Striding around town in his perfectly ironed uniform - Elly had always loved a man in uniform, that was actually the source of her initial attraction, he was a man with authority. He was handsome and mature, very clean and cared deeply about his family. Mark was this perfect image, exactly what Elly had imagined when she pictured her future husband.

She loves him so much, she’s able to overlook any mistakes he’s made, any issues he’s caused, every couple has a rough patch. Standing now at the wedding venue, thirty minutes into the city, Elly wishes for nothing more than Mark’s appearance.

Before the guests arrive, she wanders around the room with Bea, her younger sister in awe at the detail that has gone into the design. While she was involved in the wedding planning, it was Aaron who came to look at the venue with her, even with the photos Elly supplied, it’s hard to imagine it all put together. She feels a bit the same, it’s one thing to make the decisions, but to see it all come to fruition, it’s a little overwhelming. As someone who has never been overly fussed with weddings, Elly wonders how it seems to be everything she dreamt of.

A set of sheer, white curtains separates the rest of the venue from the altar, which looks out onto the ocean. Flower petals lead down the altar, soft pink to match the flowers in the vases at each sides of the entrance, mauve drapes hang behind them, tying the whole look together.

It’s perfect, everything looks perfect. Of course, that’s when Chloe appears, pushing carefully through the white curtains. Elly shakes her head, willing away any thoughts that tell her it’s a sign, just as she’s admiring the interior of the venue, the one thing - person - she admires more than anything shows up.

She’s staring, she knows she’s staring, but she can’t pull her eyes away. The sunlight shines behind Chloe through the opened lace curtains, casting a soft glow around her, reminiscent of an angel.

Her dress is white with a delicate pattern. The top and skirt are separated with a triangular gap in the middle, exposing her tender skin - an inch of her skin Elly had kissed only two days ago. It ends above her knee, too old-fashioned for Chloe otherwise. She hadn’t seen Chloe dressed up today, nor had she at any final dress fittings - Chloe didn’t attend those. It’s a complete surprise to Elly, but the dress, it’s so perfectly Chloe, it captures her style so well.

… But it’s purely the dress that she likes.

She forces her eyes away, looking at the floor instead. Chloe approaches her slowly, standing close enough that Elly can feel the warmth radiate from her skin. She glances up, catching Chloe’s eyes on her, the blonde doesn’t falter, and they make eye contact for longer than necessary, she looks away again.
“You look gorgeous Chloe,” she mumbles, watching Susan and Karl walk through the entrance, she wonders if Mark is on his way.

“You too,” Chloe says. The silence between them stretches, quickly becoming harder to stand there with her.

“I should…” Chloe’s voice trails off with a polite smile, gesturing vaguely into the distance.

Elly nods, because it’s obvious why she wanted to leave, their conversation is strained and the tension is thick. It hangs over their heads, that night they spent together, leaving any interaction harder and harder to manage.

She watches Chloe walk away, eyeing her smooth legs, looking even longer, somehow, when wearing heels. Pretty and white, she has a chain of four flowers tied around both dainty ankles.

Elly’s not sure when she became observant of these things, the tiny details of her clothes and shoes. She passes the feeling of unease off on the possibility that Mark won’t show, rather than noticing and remembering little things about his sister.

She wishes Mark was here.

//

He’s half an hour late.

She checks her phone so frequently - every two minutes at least - that she can see Chloe roll her eyes in her peripheral vision. Whether that is directed to her, Mark, or maybe both, Elly isn’t sure. Thirty seconds passes and she’s checking again, the photo of she and Mark that Elly set as her lockscreen looking back at her. When that photo was taken they were so happy, their smiles genuine, now it makes Elly’s stomach turn.

When did they stop communicating? When did they stop being honest with each other? How have things managed to go so horribly wrong in such a short amount of time? She’s planned their wedding with almost no voluntary input from him, there’s a whole room of people ready to watch them commit to each other, but she’s standing in her wedding dress waiting for a man who doesn’t even want to marry her.

She told Chloe she had to try, but how many times can she try before she looks pathetic?

Elly checks her phone again, for no reason other than habit.
“Elly stop it,” Chloe says gently, voice so quiet she hardly hears it.

Chloe places a hand over the screen, trying to draw her attention away, instead it does the opposite. Her fingers are slender, nails a pretty pink, Elly remembers the way they felt in her hair, the way they scraped down her back as she pushed her own fingers into Chloe. She glances at the blonde, who gives her a pleading look, carefully easing her phone out of her hand.

“I’m putting this in my pocket, okay?” Chloe says, unzipping her pocket and sliding it inside, then zips it back up. “All you’re doing is hurting yourself, and I can’t watch that anymore.”

Elly nods, feeling a tug of her heart at the way Chloe cares for her. It’s unconditional, instinctive, she knows what Elly needs without having to be told. Before she can say anything, Bea pops her head through the lace curtain,
“Any word from the groom?” she asks in a hushed tone, struggling to stall everyone outside.

She doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t know how to feel. She’s been left at the alter, basically, and she willingly put herself into that position, already knowing there was a chance he wouldn’t make it. Elly doesn’t know what makes her a bigger idiot - believing he would turn up, or going ahead with the wedding after Aaron’s uncertainty.

Chloe shakes her head,
“Nothing,” she answers on behalf of Elly.

Bea approaches her with caution, shooting Chloe a brief look.
“I’m sure they’re just stuck in traffic Elly,” she assures. Elly’s been telling herself that for the last twenty minutes, tried convincing herself that’s where he is. “Mark loves you, he wou-“

A vibrating interrupts them, Bea’s phone rattling quietly on the small coffee table. Elly’s stomach sinks, she knows exactly what that is, but she nods, giving Bea permission to answer it.

“Hi Aaron,” she says, stilted, wary of unintentionally upsetting Elly. “Yeah she’s here, everyone is... Okay...” She turns away from them, voice quietening, “There’s nothing you can do? Nothing at all?”

She can’t tell exactly what Bea is saying, but knows for sure it isn’t good. Her stomach ties itself in knots, it’s only Chloe’s hand curling over her shoulder that helps to ease the pain a little. Her palm is warm, and when she squeezes gently, Elly can feel it everywhere.

“It’s not good enough Aaron.... Whatever I don’t care... Tell Mark thanks for breaking my sisters heart...” Bea hangs up, exhaling slowly. She turns back, “Elly, I’m so sorry.”

That’s where Elly stops listening, the heavy beat of her heart in her ears taking over. She knew, she knew but she just hoped she was wrong, hoped Mark would prove her wrong.

Elly doesn’t even think, just throws her arms around Chloe’s neck, who grips her instantly. She crumbles against the taller girl, feeling her hands tighten on her back.

This is it, this is the confirmation that Elly needed. Mark doesn’t love her, he couldn’t possibly put her through this and still claim to love her. She hates him and she hates herself for believing Aaron, thinking that Mark actually wanted her.

It’s the drag of nails over her scalp that pull her from her thoughts, Chloe’s fingers stroking through her hair.
“It’s okay Ells, I’m here always, I promise.”

Elly buries her face into Chloe’s neck, breathing in her perfume. The sweet scent settles something inside her.

Chloe’s promises are the only ones she can trust.

Chapter Text

The word ‘independent’ isn’t one that Elly would use to describe herself. She wouldn’t call herself dependent either, while she can manage perfectly well by herself, she prefers not to. She likes having someone by her side, having someone who she loves and trusts, and can come home to every night, or at least share her successes with.

That’s what it was like with Mark. He was safe, he provided stability, he was always there when she needed to talk, wanted someone to spend time with, he was always there for her… until he wasn’t. Everything was fine between them, they were happily planning their dream wedding, and then he lost interest, and in a flash he’d completely disconnected from Elly.

Or maybe it wasn’t like that. Maybe it was gradual, maybe there were clear signs and Elly never saw them. He became distant and secretive, but Elly figured he was nervous about the wedding, or Sonya’s news was affecting him more than he let on, Elly assumed it would all work itself out. She thought the excitement for their wedding would be enough, that the love and commitment they shared would be enough, she actually thought Mark wanted to marry her. She feels humiliated.

She should’ve known, but then of course, why would he want to spend his life with her? Why would anybody? What does she have to offer? Nothing.

Mark just abandoned her, just like that, with no concern for her feelings, not even a note. He’s happier now, she’s sure, he got out while he could. He’s not trapped anymore. Clearly Elly was oblivious to his crippling unhappiness during their relationship, she wouldn’t have been a good wife to him, and he could see that. Good for him.

But that’s fine, that’s okay, Elly can deal with that. Eventually she’ll move on from Mark. She’d rather surround herself with people who like her anyway. What she can’t deal with? Being alone.

Loneliness. It scares her. Sitting at home, even when the house is full with Susan, Karl, Bea and Ned, but feeling so unwanted. So lost, both romance and career wise, she knows what she wants, knows who she wants, but Mark doesn’t want her. Not even a little bit. She thought, at least, if they were married, she would never be alone again. The truth is though, in the weeks following their wedding, Elly had never felt more alone than in Mark’s presence.

Maybe a part of her saw the wedding as a project, something to distract herself from not having a job. She could justify putting all her time and energy into planning it, because it would be worth it in the end, because she and Mark would be happily married. But they aren’t.

Mark doesn’t want her. Eight months spent together, and suddenly, he doesn’t want her at all. A hand in her hair stops, nails dragging down to rub her back instead, she shivers under the warm touch. So caught up in her own head, she’d forgotten Chloe was there.

“My brother is a loser,” she murmurs into her hair, “He’s an idiot, and I’m so s-“

“I don’t wanna talk about it Chlo,” she mumbles, pulling back only enough to look Chloe in the eye. “I appreciate your care, but right now, I just want to stand here. With you.”

Chloe nods,
“Of course.”

Elly sinks easily back into her arms, finding the comfort she needs within Chloe. Her arms remain wound tightly around the taller girls neck, putting herself into an awkward angle when she lays her head on her shoulder. She just wants to be close to Chloe, that’s all.

Chloe’s thumb strokes over the small of her back, gentle and slow, content to stand there with her. It’s nice, to be cared about so deeply, to be encircled in her warmth, to take in her perfume with every breath. Bea had left to deliver the bad news, tell everyone to go home, and while Elly knows she should focus on how that will go, she can’t help but feel glad that Bea is gone. She just wants peace, quiet, and Chloe’s presence.

She’s not sure how long they stay like that - unmoving, holding each other - but it must be a while, because Chloe says,
“Ells, my legs are sore, can we-“

“No don’t go,” Elly murmurs into her neck, interrupting her. She retracts so she can look at Chloe again, her eyes are so blue, she looks gorgeous. Chloe is the best friend that she’s had, nobody has ever understood her so perfectly, she’s afraid if she lets go Chloe will leave her. They all do. Her voice barely above a whisper, “I can’t lose you too Chlo.”

Chloe’s eyes widen slightly, taken aback by Elly’s sudden behaviour.
“Hey hey, I’m not leaving you Elly, I’d never leave you,” she assures her, “I was going to suggest we sit down. We can do both, we can sit down and keep cuddling. Okay?” she asks softly.

Elly nods, letting Chloe take her hand gently and lead her over to a chair, the table with Bea’s phone on it in front. It’s only small, but it’s hardly an issue when they aren’t wanting space. She sits on the edge, giving Elly the other side. Their hips touch, shoulders bumping, but Chloe doesn’t falter, wrapping her arm around Elly’s shoulders for her to curl into her side.

That’s how Bea finds them, Elly’s nose pressed into Chloe’s neck, Chloe tracing patterns down Elly’s shoulder. She doesn’t seem fazed by their close touching,
“How’s everything going?” she asks.

Elly’s reluctant to move, wanting to stay entwined with Chloe, with someone who cares about her and her feelings.
“Bit better. What about out there? How did Susan take it?”

“Are you seriously worried about that?” Bea asks, “She only cares about your happiness, Elly, she’s not disappointed, if that’s what you think. The only thing any of us care about is your happiness.”

“She’s right,” Chloe agrees, smiling softly. Elly manages a smile back at her.

Bea walks over, standing beside their chair.
“And we’re all here to support you. I told everyone to give you space, and they will, although I doubt you’ll want space from this one,” Bea looks at Chloe. Elly wonders what makes her say that, besides their cuddling, is it obvious? Bea doesn’t even know they slept together, but can she tell? “It’s too late to cancel anything now, but I could deal with that for you? Actually, you said you were getting a room in the city? Do you want me to cancel that?”

A honeymoon suite. Elly remembers spending hours looking for the perfect one - spacious, not too expensive, clean enough that Mark wouldn’t complain.

Elly shakes her head,
“It’s already been paid for, I should use it.”

Bea hesitates, like she’s waiting for Elly to change her mind.
“Okay,” she says eventually, swiping her phone off the table. “I’ll go and make some calls,” she smiles, leaving the room.

“Are you sure?” Chloe asks, “People cancel their bookings last minute all the time at Lassiters, I’m sure it’s the same with this place.”

Elly nods.
“I’m sure. But… can you come with me?” she asks quietly. “I need you Chlo.”

“You think I’d pass up a free hotel room in the city?” she chuckles softly, her smile is bright until it fades, adding, “Of course I’ll come Elly.”

//

“You were right.”

She’s sitting at the hotel bar with Chloe, halfway through her second glass of wine. She hasn’t changed from her wedding dress, desperate for a drink the moment Mark stood her up. Elly’s sure she’s getting strange looks, since Chloe’s dress can still be passed off as casual, whereas hers is clearly a wedding dress, but really she couldn’t care.

“What about?” Chloe asks. Oh, yeah, Elly thinks, Too many stuff ups for Chloe to keep track of.

“Everything,” she says, exhaling slowly. She looks down at the patterned flooring, white, grey, pink and purple triangular shapes. The whole hotel is beautiful - or at least, what she’s seen already on the website - there is an equal mix of classiness with abstract elements, keeping it interesting.

“Elly,” she says, and the brunette looks up. “None of this is your fault, you should know that. Mark is responsible for his own idiot actions, you can’t be blamed for any of it.”

She chews her lip nervously,
“But I must’ve done something Chlo. You don’t just… do what he did without a reason. Maybe if I was around more-“

“You couldn’t possibly have been more available. You encouraged him to talk, you were always there for him, and he pushed you away. You did everything you could, trust me,” she assures her.

Elly sighs, tapping her nails gently against the glossy wooden surface of the bar. She rubs the same hand over her face,
“I should’ve listened to you,” she admits quietly. “You knew, you knew he would do this to me and I didn’t listen. You warned me Chloe and I ignored you, I just… I wanted to believe so bad. Wanted to believe he wanted me.”

She glances into her lap, at the intricate detailing of her dress. She’d fallen in love with her dress the moment she saw it, it was perfect, now it only represents a day filled with pain. Chloe’s hand comes into view, placing it lightly on her knee. Her fingers always so light, always so tentative, even when she pushed them into Elly a few nights ago, she was always so controlled, loving. No matter how Elly begged her to go harder, Chloe took care of her.

Elly looks up, elbow propped up on the bar, cheek in her open palm.

“None of this is your fault. Some people… they just aren’t right for each other, that’s all it is,” Chloe says, offering her a comforting smile.

“I guess,” Elly mumbles, looking back at Chloe’s hand. She takes her drink, draining the last half in one go.

Chloe watches her, she sighs at the clear difficulty Elly is experiencing,
“We should go to the room,” she suggests.

Out of nowhere Elly feels a rush, purely at the way it sounds as though Chloe wants to take her to bed, she finds herself nodding along easily.

//

The room is exactly as pictured on the website - cream walls and a white ceiling, soft grey furnishings. As expected, Chloe goes straight to the bed, climbing onto it and sitting up on her knees. The mattress bounces slightly under her movements, testing the springs. It’s the first thing that genuinely makes her smile all day.

“I missed your smile,” Chloe says almost shyly.

Elly walks over, sitting on the edge of the bed to take her heels off. She looks over her shoulder at Chloe,
“You’re the only thing making me smile at the moment,” she tells her earnestly.

Chloe’s smile is bright, sweet, lighting her up.
“Well, I’ll always be here to make you smile, here when you’re upset and want a hug.”

“Thanks Chlo, the same to you,” she smiles, kicking her heel out of the way, she stands up.

“That dress can’t be comfy,” Chloe observes. Elly can hear the slight tipsiness in her voice, the curiosity and lack of filter - she feels a bit the same.

“It isn’t actually,” Elly says, reaching back for the zipper. She hears rustling behind her, before Chloe’s hand is curled gently around her hip, the other pulling the zip down slowly.

She can feel the heat of Chloe’s palm through the material, the brush of her knuckles over Elly’s spine.

“There you go,” Chloe says quietly, vaguely almost like she can feel the building tension between them but is trying to ignore it.

She’s being helpful, Elly’s sure, is looking for any opportunity to make things easier. There’s that. And then there’s helping her undress... wanting to speed up the process so she can see her half naked quicker. It parallels easily with that night together, Elly remembers her dress coming off, Chloe’s lips on her shoulders, on her neck.

She lets her dress fall to the floor, stepping out of it she turns around to face the blonde.

Chloe inhales sharply, eyes dragging slowly over her. She recognizes that look, she’s seen it many times before - while not always half naked - it’s awe. Appreciating her with only a look, it’s loving, lustful, and been so long since Mark looked at her like that.

She doesn’t stop staring, not that Elly minds at all. Despite unzipping it for her, Chloe seems shocked her dress is off.

“You look so beautiful Elly,” she says after a moment, but still can’t take her eyes away. It’s overwhelming almost, while her lack of clothes is what prompted Chloe’s response, she knows it’s what she’s always thinking. To Chloe, it isn’t just attraction, it’s unconditional, it’s at her best, and her worst.

She saunters over to the bed, Chloe’s attention never wavering. She climbs onto the crisp, white covers, never breaking eye contact with her. She feels the tension and knows Chloe can feel it too, an undeniable intensity.
“You do,” Elly exhales slowly, taking in everything. She can feel the heat radiating from Chloe’s skin, smell her intoxicating perfume. Her skin glows, eyes as blue as the ocean, lips so lush and pink. She’s perfect. “You’re gorgeous Chlo.”

A smile flickers on Chloe’s lips, and she looks down, long lashes fanning out over her cheeks. She’s the first woman Elly has ever been attracted to, and she’s so attracted right now.
“You would never do what Mark did to me, would you?” she asks slowly.

Chloe’s tongue dashes over her lips,
“No I wouldn’t. You know I wouldn’t.”

“And… you’d never say no to me, would you?” she murmurs, tone sultry, leaning in slightly.

Chloe breaks the eye contact, only to glance at Elly’s lips.
“Never,” she breathes,

That’s the last thing Elly needs to hear before she presses forward, capturing Chloe’s lips against her own. She brings her hand up, curling her it around Chloe’s jaw, Chloe whimpers into her mouth, reaching for the nape of Elly’s neck and pulling her in closer.

Her lips are so soft, kisses highly addictive. It feels so good, even to only kiss her, like Chloe is the one person she’s supposed to kiss the rest of her life. Melding together perfectly, it’s as if their lips were designed for each other. She runs her tongue over Chloe’s bottom lip, licking into her mouth. Her heart tugs, kissing Chloe is so nice, and Chloe wants her. She really wants her.

Or maybe she doesn’t, Elly thinks when Chloe pulls away looking flustered, not the kind of ‘let me undress and we can keep making out’ look on her face.
“We can’t do this Elly. You’re drunk.”

Elly persists,
“I’m not that drunk,” because she isn’t, she’d had more to drink the last time. She leans back in to kiss Chloe’s neck tenderly, she presses her cheek against Chloe’s skin, warm, “Please, Chlo, I want you.”

“You’re upset,” Chloe shakes her head, “I totally get that, so I can’t do this with you. I can’t take advantage of you.”

“I want you,” Elly repeats quietly, already feeling defeated, she sits back, “You don’t want me. I thought you wanted me?” She feels close to tears all over again, Mark doesn’t want her… Chloe doesn’t want her either. She moves, sitting on the edge of the bed dejectedly.

“Of course I want you,” Chloe says instantly, desperate to soften the blow. “Ells, if things were different… if you weren’t with my brother, I’d go there with you in a heartbeat, I promise. But I can’t do this again, I’m sorry. You have to know, resisting you is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.”

Elly nods, she has to believe her, because when has Chloe ever lied to her? She’s the only person Chloe hasn’t lied to.

“Please Elly, don’t be upset with me,” Chloe says, a pleading tone clear.

She turns to face Chloe,
“I understand,” she sighs, looking down. She waits a long moment, before letting her eyes drift back to Chloe, “Can you cuddle me?” she asks quietly.

Chloe looks a little surprised, either by her request, or that she’s forgiven so quickly. Her lips are parted,
“Yeah, of course,” she says quietly, nodding. She climbs off the bed, pulling the covers back for them to slide in under.

Elly crawls up the bed, slipping underneath the soft sheets. The bed dips when Chloe climbs back on, curling in behind her. She can feel the scratchy material of Chloe’s dress against her shoulder blade, contrasting with the smooth touch of her hands, down her arm before intertwining their fingers. Chloe is warm, and she leans back against her body.

“You’re not mad at me?” Chloe asks in a whisper.

“I couldn’t stay mad at you Chlo,” she murmurs.

Chloe hums,
“Goodnight Elly.”

“Goodnight Chlo.”

As they settle into sleep, Chloe presses her face against the side of her neck. It probably isn’t smart, asking Chloe to cuddle her after she’s been rejected, after she’s stripped down, it’s just making a complicated situation harder. But she needs her comfort, she needs to be close to Chloe, because she knows even if Chloe doesn’t want her, at least she doesn’t feel lonely.

Chapter Text

Growing up, Elly never questioned her sexuality. She was attracted to males - firm muscles and large hands, the scratch of coarse facial hair against her skin and the strength to hold her down when she asked. She loved sex with men, maybe a little too much, often using it as a distraction, and therefore making it meaningless.

Growing up, Elly never had a reason to question her sexuality. She could tell when a female was pretty - could tell when they were prettier than her, quickly leading to a feeling of disdain toward them - but she never felt any attraction. That was until Chloe arrived, with her beautiful blue eyes and shining smile, lovely long legs, and Elly disliked her instantly. It didn’t matter that Elly would later discover Chloe was the bravest person she knew, or the person she felt most comfortable around, she detested her. Not because she was prettier than her, but because she was pretty fullstop. She was absolutely gorgeous, and unlike every other female she met, Elly was drawn to her. Elly was attracted to her.

It wasn’t until a few nights ago that Elly truly gave into her attraction. A lot had happened since Chloe first arrived, a lot had changed, all except her slight curiosity. Fueled by wine, strong attraction, wanting comfort and an answer to the questions she’d been asking herself for months, she initiated a kiss.

She doesn’t let herself think about it often. For a second, since she’s already in that headspace, Elly indulges herself. Chloe’s lips were so soft, but her kiss was fervent, hand curled with her jaw, twining in her hair, grabbing at her shoulders, just as desperate as Elly to feel her under her fingertips. Elly remembers how eager they were, how highly charged everything felt - Chloe was so passionate, it was something she wanted, not had to do, like Mark treated it.

Soft skin, silky hair, sweet scent of perfume, drunken giggles… sex with a woman was so different. Sharp nails scrabbling at her skin, lovely long legs bracketing her hips, the slightly strained, Yeah, like that, yes Ells, as she quickened her pace, beautiful blue eyes staring into hers as they lay side by side, tired from their climax, but never taking their eyes off each other… it wasn’t just sex with a woman, it was sex with Chloe.

And that’s the thing, Elly doesn’t want sex with another woman. Chloe’s the only female she’s ever been attracted to, she can’t even consider… bisexuality, because Chloe is the only woman she’s looked at and had those kinds of thoughts for. She’s the exception. But it’s not like it matters anyway, because she was upset and drunk, same as last night, when she wanted to have sex with Chloe again. Briefly Elly thinks to herself if Chloe hadn’t stopped her, she would’ve gone through with it, no second thoughts, she would’ve kissed and touched Chloe all night. But still, it doesn’t matter, because Chloe did stop her. A lot has happened lately, and Chloe just happens to be her place of comfort.

The blonde is asleep behind her, arms wound around her, embracing her. Though, they’ve loosened through the night, enough now that Elly can gently ease herself away, climbing out of bed and walking to the wardrobe. She remembers the website mentioning bathrobes were included, she’d rather not sit around in her lingerie all day, she can figure something more permanent out later.

“Elly,” she hears a mumble, “Come back to bed. What time is it?”

She turns to look at Chloe, her face is pressed into the pillow, muffling her voice. Already she’s wriggled into Elly’s space of the bed.

“Six,” she replies, walking back to the bed. Chloe moves her legs, as if she knew Elly was planning on sitting on the edge. She slides her knee up, kneeling beside Chloe.

“Too early,” Chloe groans, face hidden.

Elly chuckles,
“You get up this time every morning for work!”

“But you don’t. C’mon it’s your honeymoon Elly,” in an instant Chloe looks up, eyes wide, “I’m so sorry- I didn’t even know that came out. Don’t listen to me. I’m still half asleep.”

Elly thinks for a second about her honeymoon, about their honeymoon. They’ve probably covered most of the globe with Chloe’s travels, and Elly living in Sweden - would they go somewhere neither have been? Or agree on a place one really loved? She must be half asleep too, she has to be.
“It’s okay Chlo. You aren’t the only one who’ll slip up.”

“Are you sure?”

“I am. Can’t stay mad at you, remember?” she smiles. Chloe smiles too, made visible by the stream of light through the window. Elly’s eyes flick down to Chloe’s pretty pink lips, she can still taste them on her own, she doesn’t think she’ll ever forget the taste. Her dress is disheveled, and Elly wishes she wasn’t wearing it, that they could’ve slept together naked again, had the skin on skin contact - she pushes that thought away instantly. “Hey, about last night-“

“You were upset and drunk, it’s okay Elly,” Chloe fills. It sounds automatic, rehearsed, like she just knows by now. Elly supposes it is the second time she’s gotten drunk and wanted sex from Chloe, and honestly? She can’t say it won’t happen again.

“Yeah,” she concedes awkwardly. What else can she say? The truth? She hardly knows what that is. Chloe’s hair is tussled, strands falling from the hair tie, Elly wants to tuck it gently behind her ear, but restrains herself. The tension between them is tangible, “I’m gonna have a shower,” she decides, climbing off the bed and heading to the bathroom before Chloe can say anything.

//

Half an hour later she returns from the shower, drops of water still clinging to her skin, wearing only her bathrobe. She looks at Chloe, who gives her a brief smile, then goes back to her phone. There’s a narcissistic part of her that wonders if Chloe is trying to distract herself, knowing that Elly is naked, smooth skin still damp, being too much for her to handle. Elly then reminds herself she was the one rejected last night. Chloe’s still laying on the bed in her dress - Elly will have to sort something out.
“I should’ve told you Chlo there’s another robe in the closet if you wanted to get out of your dress, I mean- not that I’m trying to get you out of it,” she frowns to herself. If either of them are thinking about the other naked, it’s definitely Elly.

Chloe, however, finds no issue with it.
“It’s okay,” she chuckles, so calm while Elly’s turned into a mess. “Your phone went off while you were in the shower.”

Elly nods, taking her phone from the bedside table. It’s Bea.
Hey! Hope ur both doing well, I’m comin into the city soon, something 4 work. Do u guys need anything? Luv ya

“It was Bea,” Elly says, glancing up, “Is there anything you want from home? She’s coming to the city.”

“Uh,” Chloe thinks for a moment, “No I don’t think so.”

Elly sends back,
We’re good. Could you bring some of my clothes? I only have my wedding dress. Thanks xxx

She puts her phone back down,
“Asked Bea if she could bring some clothes, I don’t think I could get away with wearing this all day,” she laughs softly.

Chloe looks up,
“No, especially not when your robe says ‘Mr’ and not ‘Mrs’,” she smirks, flicking through the channels on the television.

It does, she realises when she looks at the cursive piping.
“I got dressed in the dark,” she defends, but can’t help smiling back at Chloe.

“I’d hardly call it getting dressed Ells, don’t have enough clothes for that,” she teases, raising her eyebrows cheekily. It borders on the edge of flirting, she thinks of something to say back, but Chloe lights up, “Ooh, ET is on.”

It takes a second for Elly to catch up, first she’s making suggestive comments, then found interest in something else - it’s so Chloe though, moving quickly through things, her heart warms at it. She turns to look at the screen, a dark forest, eerie silence.
“That movie about the alien?” she asks, frowning slightly.

“Extra-Terrestrial, Elly, it’s literally in the name,” she shakes her head, “But yeah, ‘the movie about the alien’.”

“You obviously like it then,” she says, judging by how defensive she gets over some movie.

“It’s my favourite. It’s all our favourites - Mark, Tyler and Aaron too. How have you not heard this story?” Chloe blinks at her with wide eyes.

Elly shrugs. She glances back at the screen to see a... UFO? She’s sure she’s got that wrong, and Chloe would correct her if she said it aloud. There are bright lights, and fog dissipates from the inside as the door lifts.

“Can we watch something else?” she asks, despite Chloe’s clear interest. “Please?”

She smiles slowly,
“Are you scared? You don’t like aliens?”

“Extra-Terrestrial,” Elly corrects, just to be smart. “They freak me out.”

“But he’s friendly,” Chloe points out, “Come on, we can watch it now. I’ll let you squeeze my hand at the scary parts.” There’s a hint of a tease in her voice, but for the most part she’s encouraging.

Elly sighs, she has nothing else to do. She climbs onto the bed, sitting close enough that their shoulders touch.

Through the movie Chloe tells her all the details of the story, how they’ve all loved it since they were kids, they used to dress Tyler up as Gertie - the little sister, Elly learns - because he was the youngest, and how Chloe was nicknamed ‘Elliot’ because he was her favourite. She tells her that Elliot Spielberg became her code name for everything, including her fling with Leo, and that her and Aaron do the fingertip touch, but you’ll have to wait until the end for that part.
.
At some point Chloe lays her head on Elly’s shoulder, rubbing her cheek against the soft fabric of her robe, so engrossed in the movie. At some point Elly stops watching the movie, and looks at Chloe instead. Everything is so easy with her, conversation flowing, and when it doesn’t, the silence isn’t uncomfortable and she definitely doesn’t feel lonely around her.

Is this what it would be like to date Chloe? To be Chloe’s girlfriend? Elly thinks for a second she wouldn’t mind that, if this is what it’s like.

A knock on the door pulls her from her thoughts, and Elly is grateful.

Chloe sits up, focused on the movie, so Elly slides out from beside her, answering the door.
“Hi.”

“Hey, how are you going?” Bea asks quietly.

“I’m... dealing with it. Chloe and I have been watching a movie,” maybe I wanted to sleep with her last night, as well.

Bea nods,
“That’s really good. You’re so lucky to have someone like her, you know. Someone who always cares about you, always puts you first, she really loves you,” Elly’s stomach sinks, until Bea adds, “Friends like that are hard to find, but I know I can trust her to look after my sister.”

“Of course you can,” Elly says.

“I’ve sorted everything out at home, I haven’t spoken to Aaron though so I’m not sure how that situation is going, but take your time here,” Bea tells her.

“Thank you,” she smiles, “For the clothes, and just- you’re a great sister.”

Bea smiles, handing over a bag,
“I try. Speaking of clothes, I packed some extra in there, depending on how long you want to stay, and there’s some for Chloe as well.”

“Chloe,” she echoes, because she didn’t even think about Chloe needing clean clothes.

“Yeah, I mean, obviously I couldn’t just go into her house, so they’re just yours,” she explains. Her heart races, and she’s not sure why.

“Hey Bea,” Chloe says, “We’re watching ET, you can join if you like?”

“I’d like to, but I’ve got someone to meet, so I can’t stick around, thanks though,” Bea looks back at Elly and smiles, “so I better get going, let you get back to your movie date.”

She’s only teasing, but a paranoid part of Elly tells her Bea can see, and has known for weeks.

“Yeah,” she says quietly. “Thank you,” she repeats, giving Bea a hug.

“Text me if you need anything,” she says, “Well, anything that Chloe can’t get you.”

“Bye Bea,” she says, a little abruptly.

“See ya,” she grins.

Elly shuts the door, exhaling slowly, it’s hard enough figuring out where her own head is at let alone having to figure out Bea’s.

“You got your clothes then,” she nods down at the bag in Elly’s hands.

“Yeah,” she walks over to the bed, careful not to stand in Chloe’s line of the television. “She brought some for you too. If that’s okay, you don’t have to wear them-“

“No I’ll have a look,” she agrees. “I’m not sure our styles are really the same though.” her eyes flick up.

She pulls out a jumper, white with two stripes on the elbow, one navy and one pale pink. She tosses it to Chloe,
“Try this, I think you’d feel more comfortable in it than any of my dresses,” Elly says, handing her a pair of jeans too.

“Yeah,” Chloe agrees. Elly pulls out the first dress she sees, to which Chloe adds, “Your dresses are hot, especially that one, but they wouldn’t suit me.”

The dress in her hand is cherry red, with thin straps and a cinched waist. It ends mid-thigh, not as short as some of her dresses, although she thinks it’s the front and how it shows some cleavage, and that’s why Chloe considers it ‘especially hot’. Or maybe it’s not that, she doesn’t know what part of her body Chloe finds most attractive, or why.

She almost reconsiders, picking another dress since Chloe thinks it’s hot and will be thinking about her all day, instead she decides to keep it, because Chloe thinks it’s hot and will be thinking about her all day.... there’s nothing wrong with that.

Chloe pauses the movie,
“I’ll get changed in the bathroom, you get changed in here?” she suggests, climbing off the bed.

Elly nods. Once Chloe is in the bathroom, door clicking as it locks, Elly rolls her shoulders back, robe falling to the ground at her feet. She slips the dress on over her head, checking herself quickly in the mirror. She hadn’t put her bra back on after her shower, when she looks now though, her chest isn’t as exposed as she thought.

Her phone vibrates on the bedside table, Elly makes slight adjustments to her dress as she walks over, picking it up.

Aaron.

She’s nervous to what he’ll say. She doesn’t even know what to expect.

“Hello?” she answers.

“What are you doing right now Elly?” he asks, already intense. He has some plan, she’s sure, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask how she is first

“Um,” Does she tell the truth? That she’s alone in a hotel with Chloe, after Aaron’s accusations of jealousy regarding Chloe and Mel weeks ago? “I’m in the city with Chlo.” She doesn’t care, at least she was there for her.

“Well, change of plans, I’m coming home with Mark,” still void of any real care for Elly, or empathy.

Her stomach sinks, she knew it could be the reasoning behind Aaron’s call, and she knew at some point Aaron may come home with Mark, after all, he did promise he would. She’s relieved he’s safe, and that he’s coming home, a space familiar to him. Aside from that, Elly’s not sure how she feels.

She loves Mark, he’s what she sees in her future, she wants to make things work with him and shes never been one to give up easily.

But he humiliated her, he broke her heart and been neglecting her and their relationship for weeks. How can she accept him back into her life? How can she trust him again?

“Oh,” is all she says.

“Oh? I tell you I’m bringing Mark home and all you have to say is ‘oh’? I thought you would’ve been happier...” Aaron says, completely oblivious to the situation it seems.

“Aaron, he’s been going behind my back for weeks to speak to his dead fiancé, he left me days before our wedding, the wedding he then said he didn’t want to come back for. I don’t know how I feel about this,” she explains.

“Just hear him out, yeah? You don’t have to take him back, just listen to what he has to say and then make your decision.”

“Fine,” she sighs, hanging up, then throwing her phone on the bed.

She tips her head back, groaning. She rubs her hands over her eyes.

“You okay?” comes a quiet voice from behind her. Elly turns around, Chloe standing in the doorway between the bedroom and bathroom. She’s wearing her jumper, all her clothes, actually, the sight makes her heart skip a beat. The sleeves are pulled down over her palms, hood bunched up around the back of her neck, hanging loosely off her shoulders. That’s her jumper, she’s struggles to associate it with Chloe, while also wondering why it looks so right on her.

“Elly?” she asks again.

“Yeah,” Elly nods, although still distracted by Chloe. She walks up to her, “It’s nothing… just your brother.”

Chloe sighs, actually empathizing with her, unlike some people, though she wouldn’t expect anything less from Chloe.
“C’mere,” she says, raising her arms, Elly easily - a little too easily - steps in, letting Chloe hug her. She drops her head to the blonde girls shoulder, relaxing almost instantly at her comfort. When she inhales, there’s a combination of Chloe’s perfume and her own, existing already on the jumper - it’s kind of hot, if she’s being entirely honest, like a form of possession.

There’s possessiveness, definitely, to some extent she’s always been protective of her, kept a close eye on her to save her from any danger, often she looks at Chloe and thinks, she’s my best friend. It doesn’t mean she’d stop Chloe from having other friends, not like Aaron once suggested, just as long as she doesn’t lose her from it. But seeing Chloe in her clothes, it intensifies that whole feeling. The word girlfriend comes up again, girlfriends share clothes don’t they? She wonders if Chloe likes sharing clothes.

She squeezes her, feeling the warmth of her skin through the thin material of her jumper. Elly presses her nose into the side of Chloe’s neck, just for a second, wanting her perfume on it’s own. They stand in silence, holding each other, and Elly never wants to let go. She would be completely content to stay with Chloe forever, no questions asked, no second thoughts. She thinks she would give up everything just to remain in this bubble with Chloe, in the city, away from everybody else. To have only one person, she would pick Chloe, and that scares her more than anything.

Chloe pulls back, hands lingering on her sides.

“I’m so confused,” Elly murmurs, looking into Chloe’s eyes.

“About Mark?” she asks softly. Elly nods, it’s not solely Mark, but Chloe doesn’t need to know that. She can’t know that. “You’ve always got me, you know that.”

Elly nods again, she’s not sure what else she can say.

“Come on, lets get some breakfast,” Chloe suggests.

“First,” Elly had noticed one drawstring from Chloe’s (her own) jumper dangling down her back, most likely in a rush to put it on, or Chloe just not noticing. She brings it over her shoulder, until it’s hanging parallel beside the other. She wants to twist them around her fingers and pull the taller girl into a kiss. “Uh, breakfast, lets go,” she forces herself away, heading for the door.

She can’t do this. It’s too scary.

//

After looking at reviews, Chloe finds them a nice place down the road. It’s small, quiet enough there’s a free table in the back courtyard Chloe wants to sit at.

The area is secluded, off to the corner, and feels too intimate to be ‘just friends’. Or, at least that’s what Elly’s paranoia has her thinking. Realistically she knows Chloe wouldn’t do that, believes Elly isn’t the slightest interested, and even if she was, would be too soon to start anything. Still, she has to make sure, this is more for her benefit than Chloe’s, she has to get rid of these thoughts, the ones telling her a date wouldn’t be so bad.

They eat their breakfast mostly in silence, chatter of people around them building up as the morning rush comes in. She’s finished her French toast, but waits until Chloe finishes her poached eggs to speak. The way she spreads the last of her avocado over her toast, dragging it through the yolk on the plate, brings a smile to Elly’s face, knowing how much she loves avocado.

“So I was talking to Aaron earlier, that’s who I was on the phone to when you walked in,” she starts.

Chloe nods, toast in her mouth. She swallows,
“He upset you, or was it Mark?”

Elly ignores that.
“Mark’s coming home today. He’s bringing him home.” she tells her, her own expression neutral, while Chloe looks surprised.

“Wow,” it must be news to her, Aaron choosing to keep Chloe out of the loop. “So?” she asks.

Elly sighs,
“So... I’m going to talk to him,” she nods, she’s not sure who she’s trying harder to convince it’s a good idea, herself or Chloe. “I need to talk to him... sort this whole thing out.. see where we’re at.”

“Where you’re at,” Chloe says slowly, shaking her head, she frowns at Elly. “He abandoned you days before your wedding, that’s where you’re at.”

“Chlo,” she says softly, “You know I can’t just give up. I love him. I do.”

“You sure loved him last night,” Chloe says under her breath, looking away.

“What?”

“Last night, you know, when you threw yourself at me. What was that? I wasn’t expecting anything to come from it, but I at least thought you were done with Mark. I thought you were smarter than this.”

Elly shuts her eyes, inhaling slowly, trying to calm the race of her heart.
“It’s not about what’s smart... it’s what’s right. He’s made mistakes, and he deserves the chance to fix them. I owe it to him to listen at least.”

“You don’t owe him anything,” Chloe snaps. She sighs, “I’m sorry it’s just... he will never give you what you want, what you deserve. Elly, he will never put you first.”

“I have to try Chlo, I wanted to marry him for a reason, that hasn’t just gone away,” Elly tells her, maybe it’s not the same reason… she knows it isn’t the same reason.

“You’re wasting your time, Elly,” Chloe sighs. She stands up, taking her phone off the table, “We should get going anyway, sooner we get home the sooner you can talk to Mark.”

Elly opens her mouth, wanting to object, tell her they can still spend time together today. But she knows it’s not a smart idea either. Over the last twelve hours she’s gotten too close to Chloe, whatever she’s feeling... it can’t be real. She’s just a distraction, a form of the unconditional love Mark doesn’t offer her.

It doesn’t matter that she’s attracted to Chloe, or that she wants to kiss her every time she sees her. It doesn’t matter that they share these moments, snuggling and watching Chloe’s favourite film, where Elly wonders what kind of girlfriend Chloe is. It doesn’t matter that Chloe looks better in her jumper, so right, and would probably look better in all her clothes. None of that matters, because she’s a substitute, how can Elly differentiate between what are proper, romantic feelings and what is just there, making her feel better?

She takes her phone, following Chloe out with her head down.

Chapter Text

“A big house on the beach, a gorgeous husband, three beautiful kids…”

That was always the dream, the goal, the way she pictured her future. Even during her party days, when she was an absolute mess, her vision remained the same. It was comforting almost, even if she wasn’t actively working towards it, it was a point she wanted to get to, just knowing was enough.

They would have a pet as well, maybe a dog, and she would be an amazing teacher, she would help to shape young minds, put the energy she would otherwise use to go out every night, into something she was really passionate about. All things she highly desired, an extension of what she told Chloe, right before she kissed her and proceeded to sleep with her. Also, something she highly desired.

That image hasn’t changed, not really. She still wants a house on the beach, three beautiful kids... the gorgeous husband part... that’s where things become a little complicated. A part of her says she should give Mark another chance, like Aaron said, just hear him out. Another part accepts that Mark isn’t the gorgeous husband she’d previously thought he was, that the image of them and their inevitable family was premature. And the other part, well, it tells her that she doesn’t want a gorgeous husband, because she’d prefer a gorgeous wife.

It’s only a brief thought, that’s as far as Elly let’s herself take it. Though, she has had a whole car ride to think about it, as Chloe hasn’t spoken a word since they left the cafe. She feels guilty, she’s ruined the good time they were having because of her confusion, because of her inability to figure out what she really wants.

What she really wants isn’t the issue, it’s separating proper, real feelings from the ones that fill the void Mark left. Does she actually want these things from Chloe? Or just from anyone?

Chloe is generous, she’s sweet and she’s genuine. She’s supportive, she has an endless amount of love for Elly, and she appreciates her. They are all qualities Elly would hope for in a partner, but Chloe having them, does that make any contribution to the way she feels, or would she feel the same if anybody were to treat her like that?

Cuddling with Chloe earlier, it felt so nice. To be close to her felt so natural, she could’ve stayed there all day with Chloe, she thinks, wishes, even. She already longs to have the blonde in her arms again, but she knows it wouldn’t be a good idea. Where the comfort Chloe provides is good, in the long term, it’s not. She can’t allow herself growing attached to Chloe, solely because it will get harder and harder to differentiate between what’s real, and what’s not. She has a habit of building things up in her head, seeing things that aren’t actually there, fueled by who she thinks they are and who she wishes they would be. It comes crashing down, Elly knows it all too well, everything crumbling around her, falling away, leaving her with a strong feeling of disillusionment and humiliation.

(She knows Chloe would never do that to her, but more time together will blur the lines until they become indistinguishable.)

She remembers a few months back Chloe asked for space so her ‘stupid heart could stop being stupid’. It’s one way to describe how she’s feeling right now... when Elly thinks back, she doesn’t think she gave Chloe that space she asked for, she selfishly ignored her request because it was too hard to let Chloe go, even for a day.

Looking at her now, Elly feels a twist of her heart, a very specific feeling she hasn’t felt from Mark in months (possibly since her first kiss with Chloe, her heart no longer belonged to just him, and she didn’t even notice). Chloe’s eyes sparkle in the sunlight, blue and clear like the ocean. It illuminates her skin, glowing just like before the (not) wedding, in the hotel room last night, and earlier this morning. Unlike those times, when she’s caught staring, Chloe doesn’t smile softly at her, she doesn’t blush, she looks back to the road.

Elly turns away, disheartened. She has an urge to reach over and place her hand on Chloe’s thigh. She doesn’t do it, obviously, but she wants to.

In the end, Elly’s not sure what will break her - the distance from Chloe, or herself, torn between her head and her heart.

//

The boys are already there when they get home. Neither comment on Chloe’s behavior, when she walks straight past them to her room without acknowledging their presence, both more focused on Elly’s reaction. She looks over Mark slowly, again, she’s glad he’s safe, but there isn’t this earth changing shift. She doesn’t see him and feel a wave of love for him, there isn’t this intensity… the kind she feels around Chloe.

“Elly,” he says quietly. His appearance is disheveled, hair messy, wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants, he looks like hasn’t slept either. It’s a state Elly rarely sees him in, the struggle he’s experienced is clear.

Aaron looks back and forth between them, like he’s desperate for one to make the move. Figuring their silence is due to his presence - rather than the fact Elly has no idea what to say to Mark, how much she wants from him, or what he even wants from her - he jerks his head toward the hallway.
“I’m gonna go,” he says awkwardly. She wonders if he’s planning on checking on Chloe, for a second she’s paranoid Chloe will tell Aaron everything - that they slept together, that Elly wanted to sleep with her again, that only hours ago they were snuggled up watching films - that’s before sense hits her, as annoyed as Chloe is, she would never tell anyone.

Once they are alone, Mark sighs,
“I am so sorry Elly,” he says, walking towards her.

“Why did you do it?” she asks, frowning in confusion.

He looks down,
“I wasn’t coping with… Sonya’s passing. I was angry at the world, I was angry at myself for the way I blew her off… the last time I ever saw her, I acted like I didn’t care at all. My head was all over the place, I couldn’t concentrate on anything, I thought getting away for a while might help clear it-“

“Okay. I understand that,” Elly says slowly, “What I don’t understand is why you cancelled our wedding over a text message. Why you didn’t even have the courtesy to call me and speak to me.”

“Like I said, I was in a really bad headspace. The only thing I could think about was Sonya, and how I never got to say goodbye face to face, it really threw me. All I wanted was to turn back time, even if it was just to be nicer to her the last time I saw her, I’m sorry Elly, but that’s the only thing I cared about, not the wedding or you,” he admits sheepishly.

It stings, Elly won’t deny that. She figured about as much.
“So what made you come home then?” she asks, it hurts, but she needs to know the truth.

“I realised there were other things to care about. Things I have control over… it’s not helpful to dwell on the things I can’t change,” he reaches for her hands, but keeps them by her side. He looks into her eyes, “I also realised I can’t keep pushing you away, something could happen to either of us at any moment, I don’t want any of those regrets again.”

Elly looks away, breaking their contact,
“But Aaron had to drag you home. He told me you weren’t planning on returning.”

“After everything I’d done… leaving you at the alter, I- I felt embarrassed. And I know I sound like a jerk saying it to you, because that’s exactly how I made you feel, but I had this beautiful, gorgeous, amazing woman waiting to marry me, and I let her go. Aaron talked sense into me, made me see the longer I left it not coming back, the worse it would be,” he explains.

“You did leave me at the alter,” she nods slowly, continuing quietly, “Can you even imagine how that feels? I was practically glued to Chloe’s hip the whole day, if she wasn’t there I don’t-“ she stops mid-sentence, it just came out.

Mark’s response is neutral, of course it is, he has no suspicions. Elly’s become paranoid.
“I’m so glad she was there for you, she’s really good to you.”

There’s a twist of her heart again, just from knowing that other people can see the way Chloe cares for her. Somehow, he can’t see that his little sister is in love with her, but, Elly’s not complaining.
“She is. She’s amazing,” Elly smiles, shaking it off quickly. She shouldn’t allow herself to think this way, or let what other people say encourage those thoughts. It only furthers her confusion. It pushes her to ask, “So you want to get back together? Is that what you’re thinking?”

Mark gives a little smile, wanting to be optimistic she can tell.
“I was hoping we could give us another go? I know I don’t deserve it, but I just want to get back on track.”

She knows it isn’t for the right reasons when she says,
“I want that too, but Mark,” she exhales slowly, “I think you need to talk to someone. Not me, not Kate, I think you need someone professional. I don’t mean to sound harsh, I just think it would do you some good. If we want this to work-“

“No I get it, I was thinking that too,” he nods. “Maybe I’ll ask Shane, he might know of a good grief counsellor if Toadie is seeing one.”

There’s definitely a part of Elly that feels bad, of course, this is something Mark needs for his own benefit, and knowing he was thinking it too eases her guilt, but it also works to her advantage. The sooner their relationship is repaired, the sooner she stops thinking about Chloe - something she desperately needs.

“But hey,” Mark perks up, “I was thinking, and I know it may be rushing things, but to show how committed I am to you, maybe we could have a small ceremony in a few months time? Nothing big, just your family and mine, we could get a celebrant and-“

Elly just nods along, she can see Mark’s mouth moving, but can’t hear the words. Instead, the beat of her heart is heavy in her ears, panic rising slowly inside of her. She went from not knowing where Mark was, or if he even wanted to be with her, to him suddenly planning another wedding, small or not it feels huge. Mark’s suddenly so invested and she’s… not. She’s doing this for herself.

She checks back into the conversation when he says,
“- until then maybe you could move in? So we can give this a proper go.”

It’s a bad idea, to be so close to Mark, so close to Chloe.
“Yeah sure,” she says instead.

He doesn’t pick up on her apprehension, something Elly is thankful for.

//

She’s filling the kettle when Chloe walks in, without looking up Elly asks her,
“Want a cuppa Chlo?”

Chloe ignores her, Elly knows it’s on purpose. She only looks up when Mark comes in from the pool, his shirt is off, droplets of water clinging to his skin, but her eyes slowly drift over to Chloe. Surprisingly, she’s still wearing her jumper, sleeves pushed up to her elbows. It looks perfect on her, a little big on her shoulders and probably a bit too long where she’s got the bottom band folded inside, but still, perfect. She’s tempted to just give it to Chloe, she mightn’t ever wear it, but knowing the option is there, something of hers in Chloe’s closet, it makes her feel almost breathless. She has to remind herself it’s just a jumper, and Chloe didn’t even ask for it, but it brings out her possessive side.

“Have you told Chloe our news?” Mark asks.

He doesn’t notice she’s been staring at his younger sister.

“No,” she says idly, glancing briefly at Mark, then back to Chloe.

“Elly’s moving in,” he announces cheerfully, putting an arm around her shoulders.

She stiffens instantly, shocked as she wasn’t actually listening to what asked. Her heart beats rapidly in her chest, because of Chloe more so than Mark, she empathizes easily with her, and knows how this will hurt her.

“Really?” Chloe asks, brittle. “That’s quick.”

Elly opens her mouth, but Mark answers instead,
“Well, we wanted to do things properly this time. And we thought sometime down the track we might have a small wedding… more of a commitment ceremony actually, and it’d be good if Elly was living here with-“

“Another wedding?” Chloe interjects, eyes wide.

“It’s what we both wanted. And we’d really like it if you could be there,” Mark says.

Chloe deflates, looking down. Elly wants to object, because it’s not what they both want, it’s something he decided which she only responded with ‘yeah sure’ and not much excitement, why can’t he see how heartbroken his sister is?

“But-“ she looks between them, focusing more attention on Elly. When they make eye contact she feels her own heart break. “Nevermind. Sounds great,” she finishes, turning quickly and walking out of the room. Elly is so close to following her, wanting to pull her into her arms and hold her, to promise her things won’t be like this forever, but she can’t do that.

She groans, head in her hands,
“Mark, you shouldn’t have told her.”

“Why not? I thought she’d be happy for us,” Mark says.

She can’t believe how oblivious he is.
“Chloe didn’t want to come to our first wedding, but we guilted her into it anyway, and now you’re trying to make her come to another.”

Mark sighs audibly,
“I didn’t even think-“

“No, you didn’t,” Elly snaps.

“I got ahead of myself. I’m sorry,” he apologizes quietly, walking over to her. “It’s exciting Elly, aren’t you excited to tell people?”

“Of course,” she says softly. She isn’t so sure.

“She was going to find out anyway, we couldn’t keep it from her,” Mark reasons with her. “Unless you didn’t want her to come? I don’t understand… has something happened while I was away?”

“Nothing happened,” she insists, her stomach turns at the blatant lie she tells. “I just think we should’ve waited until Aaron and David were home. Told them all together.”

“You’re right, it wasn’t fair to tell her alone. It’s really sweet how much you care about her,” he smiles, ducking his head to kiss her cheek.

He’s right. Care. That’s all it is.

//

After cleaning out her bedroom, it looks exactly the same as it did beforehand. There aren’t many things she’s planning on taking, or needs to take, besides a lot of clothes and coat hangers. She’s not sure what the plans for her bedroom are after she leaves, but in case somebody else moves in, appropriate space should be left for them.

She takes a step back, looking over her room from the doorway. Three years ago she moved in, left her messy life in Bondi and took a job here, it all feels very bittersweet. Her pale pink pillows remain on her bed, as well as her grey throw at the foot. Her beside lamp is switched on, casting a golden glow in the corner where her drawers are open, she sighs in contentment, it’s been a hard few days, but things can only go up from here.

“So, you are moving out…” Bea’s voice comes quietly from behind her.

She turns her head, smiling softly,
“I’ll still be right across the street.”

Bea nods,
“I know, but it’s been cool living together. We had a rocky start, but I’m really glad we worked through it,” she says with a smile.

“Me too,” Elly returns her smile.

“I knew we wouldn’t live together forever, I guess I’m just surprised it’s happening now,” she says, head tilting in confusion, “After what he did to you, are you sure this is the right thing Elly?”

No.
“It is the right thing,” she says instead, nodding, “He made a mistake, but I love him. We want to try again, we want to do things right this time.” It sounds exactly like something Mark said to her, almost like he’s feeding her lines, like she has no proper opinion on the situation so she goes along with his words.

“He broke your heart, he left you at the alter, every time I saw you, you were crying into Chloe’s arms,” she sighs, shaking her head, “I could never be that forgiving… but if you think it’s right, if it makes you happy then that makes me happy.”

“Thank you,” she says, although she’s not actually that forgiving, not really.

“Speaking of Chloe though, that’s cool living with your best friend hey,” she grins, “You guys’ll have so much fun.”

“Yeah… yeah for sure,” Elly says quietly, sadly almost, if Bea were to pick up on it.

She mustn’t, because the next thing she says is,
“Maybe we could have a girls night? We could watch a bunch of movies and do our nails.”

Elly just hums at Bea’s suggestion. Those are things she won’t even be doing with Chloe.

“Are you alright Elly?” her younger sister asks, concern clear.

She nods reassuringly, lying easily,
“Just thinking about the move,” only then does she notice the bag in Bea’s hand. Elly smiles at the idea of Bea getting her a moving present, instantly changing her mood she asks,
“Is that for me? Is it a present?”

Bea laughs,
“Uh, yeah I guess? It’s not from me though, it’s from Chloe.”

Elly stiffens,
“Chloe?”

“Yeah she came past while you were over there, I dunno why she didn’t just give it to you herself. Anyway, she told me to give it to you,” Bea explains. Elly reaches out hesitantly, taking the bag. She opens it up and looks inside, catching a glimpse of white, navy and pink, her stomach sinks. She blinks down at it, her heart racing with the knowledge - proof, even - that Chloe has returned her jumper.

“What is it?” Bea asks.

“The jumper I gave a lend to Chloe,” she looks up, her voice cracks when she continues, “I’m kinda tired, I should go to bed. Night Bea.”

“Okay… goodnight,” she replies, sounding a little confused. She walks back down the hall.

Elly turns, heading straight into her bedroom. She reaches inside, exhaling shakily as she feels the soft material under her fingertips, she takes it out slowly and lets the bag drop to the floor. Her heart hammers in her chest, only hours ago Chloe was wearing it, she must’ve taken it off after Mark told her their news, in a protest of some sort. With the jumper in her hand, she climbs onto her bed, crawling up and placing her head on the pillow.

It’s just a jumper, really, it’s just a piece of clothing she’s had for years. It’s not as if she gave it to Chloe, so it’s perfectly understandable that she would return it, it doesn’t have to necessarily mean anything… except it does. She knows how upset Chloe is, she knows how much she hurt Chloe, she knows their friendship is probably over.

She doesn’t have a claim over Chloe, and that’s what annoys her the most, she feels like she does, she feels like she lost something she never had. And it’s not… it’s not even like she wanted Chloe to begin with, or wants her now. These feelings of fondness over Chloe, they’re only temporary, and even then, they aren’t real. She’s a substitute… she was a substitute.

Elly rubs the material between her thumb and forefinger, fiddles with the drawstring, traces the neck hole. Chloe looked so perfect wearing it, she feels pathetic when her chest tightens and she’s on the brink of tears. It’s stupid, she has no right to feel this way over a jumper, but she can’t help it.

The material is warm, still smells like Chloe’s perfume. Elly presses her nose into it gently, inhaling deeply, it settles something inside of her, but her heart goes crazy, associating that scent with Chloe. And that’s the real issue, deeper than just a jumper, almost as if it represents their friendship. They both had it until Elly ruined things, now Chloe’s given it back because she doesn’t want it anymore.

She hates this, and she hates that she feels like this, completely irrational. She can feel Chloe slipping away.

That night, with the blonde on her mind, she cries herself to sleep. Broken, by both her head and her heart, and distance from Chloe.

Chapter Text

Over her lifetime, Elly’s had a countless amount of friends.

When she lived in Bondi, she and a small group of people would party most nights, and watch the sunrise from the beach, more often than not still drunk. From there she would go home, sleep through the day, and go back out with the same friends that night. With no limits, no boundaries, Elly’s life revolved around parties.

In hindsight, those people who encouraged Elly to go out non-stop - and didn’t say no when she encouraged them - probably weren’t her friends, or at least not good ones. They were all bad influences on her, including Leo, who even though is her close friend to this day, was constantly inviting her out to the Nightclub he managed, enticing her with half-price deals for the sake of his business. (Though, he always kept an eye on her, just to make sure things didn’t get out of hand.)

As Elly realised the people she surrounded herself with wouldn’t be there to support her, she decided rather than expecting them to change - like she previously would have - she would make the change herself. When she was offered a teaching role in Erinsborough, it felt right, it’s what she needed to get her life in order.

The closeness of the community was something that initially bothered her, as Elly had become accustomed to her own space and company (mentally, more than physically). Everyone wanted to know everyone’s business, and that wasn’t what she signed up for.

Despite everything, she made friends easily with Paige and Amy. They were fun, but responsible to an extent, they were good influences. Over the following years, she fought over a man with Paige, and fought for no men with Amy.

And then Chloe showed up, not a good influence nor a bad one... just an influence. When Elly thinks about it now, she realizes being around Chloe, being friends with Chloe, it made her want to be a better person. She wanted to be a positive role model for her, someone Chloe knew she could come to when she got herself into trouble. Initially it began to help Mark, as he was concerned over his little sister, and believed she would confide easier (or at all) in Elly rather than him.

And he was right, Chloe came to her, told her everything, in such a short time Elly had developed a care that came from a genuine place, it wasn’t about Chloe being Mark’s little sister anymore, it was about Chloe being her best friend. When Chloe ran from Pierce, it didn’t matter that it was one more secret she was keeping, it didn’t matter how far she had to drive, she would go as far as she had to, because all that did matter was her happiness and safety.

Chloe helped her to be brave, not directly, but through observation. The way she has dealt with her illness, even from the beginning, was so admirable. She never makes things about herself, she never expects pity, and she doesn’t let it affect her day-to-day life. She is without a doubt the strongest person Elly knows. It really puts things into perspective - if Chloe can cope with this news - which she does, perfectly - there’s no reason Elly can’t handle her own issues.

She taught Elly to love herself. Simply put, the fond way Chloe looks at her, the sweet nothings, the truly, madly and deeply in love with you, make her feel more loved than Mark ever has. It is overwhelming at times, to be aware of the love her best friend has for her and still function around her, but it’s something she’s so comfortable with. It makes her think, if Chloe really loves her that much, then maybe she is worthy of love.

While she does appreciate her friendships with both Paige and Amy, and everyone else she considers a friend, none of it can really compare to Chloe. Not by a longshot. Chloe just knows, she knows everything, knows her secrets and the specific way she likes certain things, she knows what she needs before Elly does, she knows her better than Elly knows herself.

What Elly knows is that she misses her best friend. She misses her more than she could’ve imagined. She misses her to a point that it becomes both pathetic and ridiculous, and it doesn’t make sense. She aches for her, wants to touch her in any capacity, feels a wave of excitement whenever the door opens in case it’s her, just so she can see her again. It’s sad, actually, when did she become so dependent on Chloe’s presence?

It’s been just under a week since she cried over Chloe, she woke up red eyed and a little concerned for her own well-being, but pushed it all aside, if not for her own sake but everyone elses around her.

She walks down the hall with Mark to his - their, she has to remind herself - bedroom. Elly sighs, prepared to sleep facing away from him, never touching, the way they normally do.

Mark sits at the foot of the bed, tugging her forward suddenly, pulling her down onto his knee. She yelps in surprise.

“What are you doing?” she whispers, it’s more than obvious, but it’s taking her a moment to catch up with what’s going on.

He rubs his hand up her hip,
“Well, the house is empty, I thought... maybe we could consummate our relationship.” His tone is suggestive, but also hopeful.

“Really? Tonight?” she asks, breathless still.

“Yeah why not,” Mark shrugs, “Don’t get this opportunity very often,” he grins.

He continues to rub his hand over her hip, simultaneously ducking his head to kiss her neck. Elly shuts her eyes, sighing slowly. She may as well let him, her head is confused, but her body isn’t.

His stubble scratches at her skin, something that she used to find insanely attractive, one representation of masculinity in her eyes, just bothers her now. She thinks of Chloe’s long hair, how it tickled her shoulder, how much softer her lips were, lusher, fuller...

“Keep going,” she murmurs, trying to hurry him up, before her head is filled with more comparisons to Chloe.

He complies, sliding his large hand - not small, not dainty like Chloe’s - up her thigh to the button of her jeans. He struggles to undo it, Elly’s not sure what she finds more frustrating - that it’s a simple task and shouldn’t take so long, or that Chloe would probably have it undone and two fingers inside her by now. She pushes that thought away, as well as his hand, undoing the button and zipper for him instead.

He manoeuvres them so she’s laying on the bed, Mark positioned over the top of her. She can feel his erection press against her leg, and all she can think is how unappealing it is, how it’s another thing she used to like.

Her mind drifts back to Chloe, and she doesn’t stop it. Chloe straddling her - she loved when she was on top. Skin warm under her fingertips, feeling the blonde shiver as she trailed her hands up her smooth thighs, she remembers the way Chloe breathed her name with want. It was her first time with a woman, obviously, but she remembers how her heart hammered in her chest when she discovered the wetness gathering between Chloe’s thighs. All because of her.

It’s insane, but a voice in the back of head tells her, you’re cheating on Chloe, you’re cheating on Chloe, you’re cheating on Chloe...

Elly pulls away,
“I can’t do this,” she tells him suddenly, words out of her mouth before she’s even realised. Mark sits up, and she climbs off their bed. She rubs a hand over her face, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry I just-“

“It’s too soon, I get it,” Mark sighs. “I shouldn’t have rushed things.”

Elly turns around to face him,
“It’s not your fault,” because really, it isn’t, it’s her fault for thinking about his sister.

There’s a silence, before he says quietly,
“Come back to bed. We can go slow, or we can just lay together-“

Her main concern - besides the fact it doesn’t feel right - is she’ll end up saying Chloe’s name by accident, and every secret will quickly unravel. He doesn’t know they kissed, doesn’t know Chloe’s in love with her, doesn’t know they slept together or that Elly tried to sleep with her again. She’s never told him any of it. She runs her fingers through her hair,
“I’m gonna go for a walk...”

Mark nods, and she leaves his bedroom. She exhales shakily, feeling no relief however, while she no longer has his eyes on her, thoughts of Chloe continue to consume her. She’s all Elly thinks about anymore, the only thing on her mind since last week. She has to figure out exactly what that means.

As she walks down the hall, she notices Chloe’s bedroom door ajar. She peeks inside, finding her curled up in bed, asleep. Her heart tugs, every part of her body tells her to go in. While she knows it’s a bad idea - and will only exacerbate her existing confusion - she can’t stop herself. Elly goes inside, shutting the door behind her with a soft click. Slowly she approaches the bed, her heart races as she sits down on the edge, looking down at the blonde.

Her hair, shiny, fans out on the pillow behind her. She faces the wall, and though Elly can’t see her, knows she looks gorgeous. She doesn’t think twice before she pulls the doona back, slipping in underneath. Elly doesn’t know what she’s doing, only that in this moment, she needs to be with Chloe.

She reaches out, placing a tentative hand on Chloe’s side. Her heart beats fast, feels like it jumps out of her ribcage even when Chloe covers her hand with her own, sliding it forward until it lays on her stomach.

Elly wriggles forward, arm straining, until she is right behind Chloe. She can smell her hair, equally sweet and intoxicating, sending her mind swimming, finding it hard to concentrate on anything that isn’t Chloe - though, she’s not at all surprised.

The only thing that pulls her from it, is Chloe’s voice cutting through the silence. She sounds dreamy when she asks,
“Why are you in my bed?”

While she hadn’t thought any of this through, this isn’t the reaction she expected - annoyance, ignore her, most likely. Maybe there’s a part of her, even if she does feel like that, that doesn’t want to turn her down, indulging instead in Elly’s affections. Her enjoyment and desire to please her overriding any sense.

“I don’t know,” she tells her honestly. “Just didn’t want to be with Mark.”

Chloe looks over her shoulder,
“But you wanted to be with me instead?”

Elly stares into her eyes, getting lost in them instantly,
“Yeah,” she breathes. “I knew for sure.”

They make eye contact for a few long seconds, she can feel the intensity between them, tangible, all she can think about is leaning in to kiss her, even when she knows it would be a mistake. She isn’t thinking clearly, and Chloe would know that, would stop her like last time. It’s all so complicated, she wants to spend all her time with Chloe, but isn’t sure, if given the chance, how she could commit to her. Despite what Mark had done to her, he was still her fiancé, and dating his sister would make things worse.

Elly’s not sure when she allowed her thoughts to go that far, to the point she would weigh up the pros and cons of dating Chloe, without instantly pushing them away. During the nights she spent awake, wishing she could hold her best friend again, probably.

Chloe breaks the eye contact, settling down on the pillow. Their arms remain entwined, hands together, placed over her heart. Her own heart beats heavy in her chest.
“I missed you a lot,” she whispers, pressing a kiss to her hair.

“So did I,” Chloe sighs. “But you understand why I was upset don’t you? I was there when he hurt you, I saw what it did to you, but you still went back to him. Everything happened so quickly, you were moving in, and then you were getting married, I guess I panicked.”

“Yeah,” Elly says slowly, resting her cheek against the back of Chloe’s head, hair soft and silky. Her arms squeeze gently around Chloe, heart feeling so full, like it could burst. She’s not ready to confront what has happened, all she wants to do is lay with her in silence, soak up this time they have together.

“I thought you deserved better, and that hasn’t changed, but… if you’re happy, that’s all I want,” Chloe tells her, it sounds genuine, but without seeing her face, Elly isn’t sure. “And he does make you happy s-“

“I don’t really wanna talk about it,” Elly interjects, continuing softly, “I’m sorry I just- Lets go to sleep Chlo.”

Chloe hesitates,
“Okay,” she finally replies, stroking her thumb over the back of Elly’s hand.

She has the best sleep since that night in the hotel room.

//

Elly’s sudden happiness is visible, apparently. Bea’s shock when she insists on paying for their coffee suggests it at least.

“You’re in a good mood,” she says, walking to a free table after making their orders.

She tries to hide her smile, a slight curl to the corner of her lips. She spent the night with Chloe in her arms, now she feels refreshed, everything seems brighter, clearer.
“I’ve paid for you before,” she says, not wanting to allude to any reason in particular.

“No not about that,” Bea shakes her head, concern in her eyes. “Last time I saw you Elly, you were really upset about something.”

Yashvi brings over their coffees, Elly smiles in lieu of a thank you. She takes a sip, looking at Bea,
“When was this?” she asks quietly. She’s been upset all week, but has hardly seen her sister.

“The night before you moved into Mark’s,” Bea answers. Elly’s stomach slowly sinks, the high she’s been on all morning fading. “Something seemed really off, so I came back to check on you. You were asleep, but it looked like you’d been crying, like… a lot. And you had that jumper in your arms, Elly, are you okay?”

“Um,” Elly shifts uncomfortably in her seat, Bea knows too much for her to successfully lie to her - she also knows what a bad liar Elly is. The thought of telling someone, it scares her, but if there’s anyone she can trust with this, it’s Bea. She looks over to the counter, “Yash can we get these take away please?” she turns back to Bea, “Can we take a walk?”

Bea nods.

//

“Chloe wore it,” Elly starts, focusing her eyes downward. The dark green material of her dress brushing her thighs with each step.

“Okay,” Bea says slowly. “That doesn’t give me much.”

Elly exhales shakily,
“Chloe stopped talking to me for a while, I upset her, which I really hated… I guess when she returned my jumper it tipped me over the edge,” she says, her heart beating heavier every passing second.

“Oh… will you tell me why?” her sister asks gently, “You know I wouldn’t judge you.”

She nods slowly, while they didn’t grow up together, they’re no different from any sisters. They fight sometimes, but Elly knows Bea will always support her, and vice versa. It’s not telling Bea specifically that makes her nervous, but telling anyone. Every single thing she and Chloe have done has been a secret… until now.
“Chloe’s in love with me,” she confesses, unable to look at Bea. “Like really, earth-shatteringly in love with me. She kissed me a few months ago, but we didn’t tell anyone, because she swore it meant nothing, and I believed her.”

“She’s in love with you?” Bea asks, she doesn’t sound overly shocked, but Elly doesn’t read into what that means. “And you’ve managed to function around her this whole time?”

“There’s more,” Elly says, take away cup shaking in her hand. She takes a slow breath, “When Mark cancelled the wedding and I was at their house... I had sex with Chloe. It was amazing, but I needed comfort, that’s all I thought it was,” she holds her head down, pulse racing, “When we were in the city, I got drunk, and tried to have sex with her again. She stopped me because she knew I was drunk, but if she hadn’t, I know I would’ve slept with her again.”

She takes a sip of her coffee, she probably doesn’t need it though, heart already quick enough. She’s not expecting judgement from her, but Elly sees an alternative version, where Bea is disgusted with her.
“… And you would’ve regretted it,” Bea says, not yet addressing the fact her sister has cheated on her fiancé, and wanted to sleep with a woman twice. She’s probably struggling to process it.

Elly wets her lips, although not a question, she feels the need to clarify. She shakes her head,
“No, I… I wouldn’t.” she says quietly.

“Oh,” is all Bea replies with. She glances at Elly, “Do you like her?”

She shuts her eyes for a second, trying to collect her thoughts. It’s something she’s been asking herself the whole week, that voice continues, telling her it has really nothing to do with Chloe, just that she represents love and support. She misses her when she’s away, and wants to be touching her always, but do her blossoming feelings come from a genuine place, or from what Chloe can offer her? And if that’s true, is it really such a bad thing?

“She’s so beautiful,” Elly replies with instead. She feels all warm and fuzzy, butterflies, even, just from thinking about Chloe. “She’s absolutely gorgeous. I always smile whenever I’m with her, she just… makes me feel so special…” she smiles, and whether that means she likes Chloe or not, well, Bea can decide.

Bea just smiles back.
“You must’ve made up with her then, you wouldn’t be this happy otherwise.”

“I got into her bed last night,” she says, “We didn’t- We just cuddled.”

“That’s cute,” her sister comments. “I’m sure you’re really confused, so I’m glad you told me. You know, Elly, I don’t care that you slept with a woman, all I care about is that it makes you happy. And when I came to the city and saw you and Chloe watching that movie, you were both so happy. That’s the side I’m on.”

Elly smiles softly, looking down as Bea gets a message on her phone.

“I gotta get back to work,” she says, “But hey, don’t stress about this Chloe stuff okay? If you like her that’s cool, I know you think she’s ‘absolutely gorgeous’ but she isn’t worth driving yourself crazy over, Elly. Just do what feels right,” Bea shrugs, giving her older sister a quick hug, “and put yourself first.”

Elly hugs her back, never wanting to let go.
“Thanks Bea… for being so cool about it, you’re the best sister.”

Bea grins,
“I know,” she turns her head back to Elly as she walks away, “Text me later?”

“I will,” Elly calls back.

There Elly stands by Lassiters lake watching Bea walk away, her five words on repeat: Just do what feels right.

Chapter Text

Soulmates.

It’s not a word she uses often, or even thinks about. In fact, Elly doesn’t even know if she believes in soulmates. As someone who was never obsessed with love, she’d never grown up with this fantasy, this expectation, that only one person was put on this Earth for you.

Because that’s the general idea, isn’t it? That this person, whoever they are, has the other half of your soul? Forever bound together by the idea they are your perfect match. You complement each other, only bring out the best in one another.

While Elly questions the validity of the theory, the idea of it still interests her. The thought that somebody out there was designed to, among other things, love her, and she to love them, is definitely intriguing.

She imagines it’s one of those things you know upon seeing them, you can just feel it. That person knows everything there is to know about you, understands you better than anyone, is always there to console you when needed, and responds instinctively to any issues without being told.

Elly’s not saying Chloe is her soulmate... but if there were some criteria for being a soulmate, she’d tick the majority of the boxes, easy.

It’s been playing on her mind a bit, being around Chloe again has been incredible, but Elly wonders if the force this reunion has hit her with suggests more than a close friendship. She feels overcome with happiness whenever Chloe is around, and while a lot of that time is spent wanting to kiss Chloe, this feels different somehow.

Their connection has always been strong, their friendship unbreakable by outsiders. That’s how it feels to Elly, like there is an invisible rope attaching them, and no matter how far they go, or for how long, they eventually come back together. Similar to a magnet, or a rubber band, there’s a force between them, pulling them to one another.

She’s still sleeping in Chloe’s bed at night, unbeknownst to Mark. After he goes to sleep, she slips into her room. There’s never a word spoken between them, just Elly’s arms around her, their legs intertwined, Chloe arching back into her body. She knows it isn’t right - by Mark at least - but it feels right, and Bea had encouraged her to do what feels right. (Bea wasn’t referring to sleeping in the same bed as her boyfriend’s sister, she also knows that.)

Elly’s always struggled to stay away from the blonde, more so in the last few weeks, but that feeling, that need, has only intensified. Like her soul really does belong to Chloe, unable to cope without her, and so they’re pulled back together.

Of course, this could just be a coincidence rather than fate. The idea that Elly would start dating Mark, for his sister to then show up, and fall truly, madly and deeply in love with her... maybe it’s nothing more than just two people meeting under normal circumstances.

It’s not like it really matters though, because she and Chloe, they aren’t actually together. She doesn’t even know whether she believes in soulmates, and yet she’s contemplating the chances of Chloe, her best friend who she constantly thinks of kissing, being hers. It’s the only way she can make sense of her growing feelings, and the strength of them, maybe this is how it’s meant to go, maybe they just are soulmates. Something completely out of her control, something the universe has chosen for them. Either way, it doesn’t stop Elly from feeling insane to even consider it.

All Elly really knows is she’s falling for Chloe, and she’s falling hard.

//

Every morning Elly wakes at six thirty. It was something she decided when she began sleeping in Chloe’s bed, that she would get up before Mark and make breakfast, creating the illusion she never left his bed the night before, just happened to wake up early.

Only this morning, he’s already there making breakfast.

She stands in the doorway, watching him move swiftly around the kitchen. He’s preoccupied, filling the kettle up with water, and only notices her when he turns, taking the loaf out of the bread bin,
“You’re awake, that’s great,” he smiles, “I was going to wake you up, but I didn’t know where you were? You weren’t in our bed.”

Elly walks forward, up to the island counter,
“Oh yeah,” she nods her head, “I got up in the middle of the night and Chloe was out here, she wasn’t feeling very well so I helped her back to her bed, I must’ve fell asleep there with her. Sorry.” She knows she shouldn’t lie to him, but Elly’s not sure what the alternative is - that she intentionally slept in his sisters bed because it hurts to be away from her, even for a night?

“That’s fine, you’re up now,” he says, “Thought I’d make you breakfast, what do you feel like?”

Elly feels uneasy, either because he’s uncharacteristically chirpy for this time of day, or she feels guilty that she’s longing for his sister, while he’s putting so much effort into their relationship. She thinks it’s more likely to be the latter, and wonders, if he were doing things like this a few months ago, how different their relationship would be. Maybe she wouldn’t be tempted elsewhere (unless she and Chloe are soulmates, in which case, it would’ve happened sooner or later, but now isn’t the time to be thinking about that).

She sits down at the counter,
“Whatever you want, I’m sure you’ve already got something planned,” she tells him, faking a smile.

//

He cooks scrambled eggs, which aren’t a complete disaster, just a little soupy. Aaron and David join them half an hour later, relieving them from their unbearable, forced conversation, an indication of the cracks forming in their relationship.

She pushes the eggs around her plate with her fork, not having much appetite, and the consistency of them doesn’t help. A slice of sourdough toast, spread with avocado sits on the edge of her plate, it will have to suffice, because she’s definitely not eating these eggs.

Elly has the second half up to her mouth, resting against her lip, when she hears clicking down the hall, instantly recognizing the sound as Chloe’s heels. She sits it back down on the plate, watching as the blonde walks through the doorway.

Chloe’s dressed for work, wearing a cream coloured shirt with ruffles along the seams of her sleeves, and a mini skirt - maybe it’s not a mini skirt, but appears so when her legs are as long as they are, further accentuated by her heels.

Her eyes drag slowly down her body, staring at her legs for longer than appropriate (also lingering on her ass for a few seconds, which definitely isn’t appropriate either).

Chloe doesn’t notice, collecting a folder from the table and adding it to the pile in her arms.

“Feeling better?” Mark asks. She frowns, clearly confused as it was a lie told by Elly, it can be easily passed off as Chloe’s fast paced thinking though, already focused on something new. “Elly told me you weren’t feeling well last night. That’s why she wasn’t in bed when I woke up.”

“I didn’t know you were unwell,” Aaron says, “Wait what does this have to do with Elly?”

As the seconds pass she can feel her heart beat heavier, closer to discovering the lie. She believes Chloe would catch on and continue the story, but she can’t take that risk. Before it escalates she says,
“I got up in the middle of the night and Chlo was out here, so I made sure she was okay, then I fell asleep in her bed.”

It’s not the most articulate story she’s told, but it should still satisfy their curiosity.

Chloe nods,
“Right. Think all I needed was a good sleep, I feel a lot better now.”

She looks at Elly, the mischievous glint in her eye is definitely directed at her.

“Well I’m glad,” Mark smiles. “Sit down I’ve made breakfast.”

“I don’t have time I have to be at work,” Chloe says apologetically.

Chloe’s commitment to her job, not only is it admirable, but also very attractive. She’s driven and dedicated, she works so hard and never wants to disappoint anybody, least of all Terese. She takes it very seriously, something that a lot of people have doubted. Seeing her in work mode, where she is giving orders and practically running that hotel on her own, she likes this side to Chloe as much as she likes the cheeky, bubbly side, or the soft, sweet one that offers her so much comfort and support.

“At least have something to eat Chlo,” Elly says, after a second spent admiring her.

“Fine,” she huffs, with an over dramatic eye roll.

In a flash she’s pinched the toast from Elly’s plate, and before she can say anything, Chloe is taking a bite out of it. It takes a moment for her to catch up with what just happened, and only then does she realize Chloe’s eaten the edge she had her own mouth up against.

She struggles to carry everything, holding the folders and books to her chest with one arm, and the toast in her other hand.

“Chloe that was Elly’s breakfast!” Mark scolds, like it really matters.

Elly watches, mesmerized almost, at Chloe leaving.
“Thanks Ell,” she calls as she walks out the door, mouth full.

“That’s not what I meant-“ Mark cuts off his reprimand when the wire door bangs shut behind Chloe. He sighs, shaking his head, Elly hardly notices, eyes remaining where Chloe had been. She couldn’t care less that Chloe took her breakfast, but focuses on it for the complete opposite reason to Mark. “I’ll make you another piece,” he says.

Elly snaps away from her fantasy, along the lines of living with Chloe, waking up slowly and making breakfast together, the early sun spilling through the window. Sliding her hands over Chloe’s hips, watching over her shoulder as she slices the avocado - something she can be trusted with, as she knows Chloe isn’t the best cook - then kissing her cheek. Eating breakfast together, smiling when Chloe brushes her foot over hers underneath the table, encouraging Chloe to take a shower with her—

To think about her like that, what their lives could be like, it doesn’t make her feel guilty anymore.

She pushes her plate away,
“No I’m fine, thank you.”

“You need something to eat with you eggs,” he replies with a shrug, turning around to pop the bread in the toaster.

Elly sighs, here Mark is attempting to make her breakfast and insists she has another piece, while she’s more interested in Chloe, the person who took her toast and talks with her mouth full.

//

She waits until the boys have gone to work before she bins the eggs, only pretending to eat them when under Mark’s supervision. Elly showers, gets dressed, and spends her time alone researching job openings in the area. Each one she sees she’s previously applied for, and failed miserably at the interview, the position must still be available though, she wonders if they would consider a re-do of her interview.

There’s a security that comes with having a job, not just financial, but in general. It gives her something to do, something to focus on, gives her direction. Seeing how passionate Chloe is about her job only spurred Elly into action, she can’t be picky, anything will do.

Elly’s not sure how long she’s been scrolling through applications, skipping over the ones she recognizes, but her eyes start to sting, staring at the screen for too long. She thinks about texting Bea and seeing if she wants to get a coffee, or maybe she could catch up with Leo, those options disappear when the door opens. She twists in her seat to see Chloe.

She looks as pretty as she did earlier, Elly actually feels her heart swoop. It’s both surprising to her, and not surprising at all - she’s having these feelings over a female, but she’s not just a female, she’s Chloe.
“Hi,” Elly says.

Chloe looks up from her phone, startled by Elly’s presence.
“Sorry, I didn’t know you were home,” she returns her smile once she gets her breath back. She walks into the kitchen, taking a glass from the drying rack beside the sink. She fills it halfway with water, turning back to face Elly, “You do know you’re allowed to leave our house?” she asks, but mostly teases, sipping at her water.

“I am aware of that, thank you,” she says with a smile, shutting the lid of her laptop. “Shouldn’t you be at work?”

“Terese sent me back to get some documents I was looking over last night, I forgot to take them,” she tells her. “I’ll have to head back soon.”

“You’re busy then,” Elly sighs, she hopes she doesn’t sound too disappointed, but she’s not being very subtle, and if anyone can see through her, it’s Chloe.

“Bored?” Chloe asks, sympathetic expression on her face.

Elly nods,
“As well as a complete lack of self confidence. At least when I was a teacher I was doing something worthwhile, as long as I was getting that right, I didn’t have to worry about anything else.” It all comes out, things she didn’t even know she was thinking, coaxed out by Chloe’s presence.

“Hey,” Chloe says softly, putting her glass down on the counter, she walks over to Elly. “Is that what you were doing when I walked in? Looking for a job?”

Elly nods,
“I miss it so much,” somehow not as much as I miss you when you’re gone, Elly thinks pathetically. “Being a teacher, it’s all I know.”

“You’ll get a job soon, I promise,” Chloe says, standing so close Elly can smell her perfume, it’s intoxicating, but she wants to breath it in all day. She looks up, Chloe offers her a reassuring smile.

“How can you be so sure?” she sighs.

“Well, because I know you,” Chloe says simply, Elly almost rolls her eyes, until she feels a hand on her shoulder. Her body stiffens underneath it, chest going tight as her heart beats quickly. The dress she’s wearing has long sleeves, but Chloe’s hand slides beneath the material, squeezing her shoulder gently. She shivers under her touch, and knows Chloe can feel it too. “You’re smart, passionate, caring - a born teacher. Elly, you’re amazing, and if they can’t see that, that’s their loss, not yours.”

She can hardly concentrate, skin hot all over. Chloe’s thumb rubs back and forth - slowly her body relaxes underneath it, to the point Elly has to bite her tongue to stop herself from moaning aloud.

“You think?” she indulges, just taking the opportunity. Chloe doesn’t often initiate contact, so when she does, and when Elly feels the way she does, her mind trails off into other things. Like… maybe Chloe wants her, maybe Chloe wouldn’t reject her this time.

The way she shows up when Elly needs somebody, like she can feel that Elly needs support, knows exactly what to say to cheer her up, it can’t be a coincidence. Best friend, or girlfriend, Chloe is meant to be here by her side. Right here always.

“Of course,” she murmurs. “I know it sounds dumb, but everything happens for a reason. Don’t give up Ells.”

Including the night we spent together, Elly thinks. It could be so easy to lean into Chloe’s touch, to press her nose into Chloe’s side and curl into her warmth. She’s well and truly blurred the lines between friend and girlfriend, because in her head all she thinks is - Chloe, a supportive girlfriend, lover, possible soulmate.

These feelings for Chloe feel like they’ve come from nowhere, when really, they’ve been building slowly since that night, and as insane as it sounds, that’s how Elly knows they are real, because everything happens for a reason.

Elly nods, looking up at Chloe. She’s so gorgeous, she wants to pull Chloe down into her lap and kiss her.

Her phone goes off in her hand, she slips her other out from inside Elly’s dress.
“It’s Terese, she wants to know where I am,” Chloe reads from her screen, “Crap I forgot I came back for that.” Elly forgot too, preferring to believe Chloe came home purely for her, the faint blush on Chloe’s cheeks tells Elly she’s thinking something similar.

She unzips her pocket and slides her phone in, then zips back up.
“Right, I’m getting the documents from my room, and I’m going,” she points behind her in the direction of her bedroom, telling Elly her every move, like she’s trying to convince herself she actually has to leave. “Don’t lose hope, you’re an incredible teacher,” she says again as she walks down the hall, but loud enough Elly can still hear.

“Thank you,” she calls back to Chloe, smiling.

They exchange a quick goodbye as Chloe walks out the door, another folder in her arm. It’s all felt so coupley, everything Chloe has said, everything she has done, she thinks though if they really were together, she would’ve gotten a kiss goodbye. She’s left longing instead.

//

When she slips into Chloe’s bedroom that night, something feels different. Mark has a night shift at the station, so it’s not so much as sneaking as it is just sleeping in Chloe’s bed, but she knows that’s not the reason.

For the most part, it is the same. Her room is dark, only a sliver of light projecting through as she opens the door, then showing underneath when she closes it. She lays on the same side of the bed, hair tussled on the pillow. Elly has the same butterflies she gets when she comes to cuddle Chloe. Perhaps after the moment they shared earlier this afternoon, their dynamic has changed - they’ve been through so much before this though, so she doubts it being that.

Elly pulls back the covers, climbs underneath and lays her head on the pillow, smelling strongly of Chloe’s shampoo. Almost hesitantly she places her arm around Chloe, thinking irrationally maybe this is what’s different, maybe Chloe’s changed her mind about letting Elly in.

Things do change.

Chloe turns around under her arm, facing Elly for the first time since they started this. She doesn’t say anything, only looks at her with eyes that sparkle, even in the dark.

“Thank you, for before,” she whispers when realizing she hadn’t actually said it earlier. “It really helped.”

“Anytime,” Chloe whispers, smiling sweetly.

“I missed having you there to talk things through with. Missed you so much,” she tells her. Chloe’s beautiful, she’s so beautiful and Elly is powerless to resist any longer. She lifts her hand, caressing Chloe’s cheek gently.

Chloe turns into her palm, eyes falling shut, not saying anything. She’s dreamt of being this close to Chloe again - she thinks they both have, probably - but even looking right at her, feeling her skin under her fingertips, it’s hard to believe.

She leans in slowly, feeling that magnetic pull she was thinking of earlier. She rests her forehead against Chloe’s, thumb still stroking her cheek. She breathes her in, appreciating every ounce of proximity between them, like this opportunity is for tonight only. Elly never wants to forget what it’s like to have Chloe right there, because she knows how much it hurts when she’s gone.

Her hand brushes down Chloe’s neck, pulling back slightly to kiss her forehead, moving slowly onto kissing Chloe’s cheeks tenderly, hearing the blonde hum contentedly. She presses fleeting kisses to her face, it’s all she can think about — how fond she is of Chloe, and how much she needs to kiss every inch of her body. The closeness is too much to handle.

She settles on Chloe’s lips, kissing her softly. Her heart tugs, it feels like she’s been waiting for this moment forever. Chloe’s arm drapes around her waist, holding gently as she kisses back, lips sliding together slowly. Any hint of apprehension - this was when Chloe pulled away last time - disappears when she feels her nip lightly at her lower lip, she opens her mouth to Chloe, and slips her own against the blonde’s.

It’s languid, teasing, slowly re-discovering her mouth. In that night they spent together, Chloe was in control, while Elly was just as eager (and prefers to dominate), she lacked experience. Now, all Elly wants is for Chloe to lay back and let her make love to her. She moves to straddle Chloe’s hips, her hand falling back to her cheek, caressing her skin as she kisses her deeper. Her lips are addictive, she never wants to stop.

Chloe whimpers into her mouth, tilting her head up. She cups Elly’s side with her hand, so tightly she can feel her nails, sharp, through the material of her t-shirt.
“Are you sure you want this?” Chloe breathes.

“Never been more certain Chlo,” she murmurs, pressing her lips down her neck and kissing at her shoulder, she hooks her finger in the neck of Chloe’s t-shirt, pulling it down so she can suck her collarbone. She can picture her skin going red because of it.

She sits up after, a small whine escaping Chloe, now the attention is lost.
“And you want this?” Elly asks, she can’t presume just because Chloe is in love with her, and appears to be into it, that she is.

“I do,” Chloe says instantly, tugging on Elly’s t-shirt, pushing it up a little. Elly helps her, slowly pulling it up over her head and discarding it, leaving her in grey shorts. She leans back down, capturing Chloe’s lips in another kiss.

The blonde uses that opportunity to turn them over, her knees now bracketing Elly’s hips. Elly tugs at Chloe’s shirt, silently asking her to take it off, she can feel her heart beat rapidly at the idea of getting Chloe naked,

She wants to turn the light on, see Chloe’s perfect body properly, but drawing attention to the room is the worst thing Elly could do - if either boys were to walk in.

Chloe drops her t-shirt onto the floor, and while Elly can only see her silhouette, says,
“You’re gorgeous Chlo.”

“You can’t even see me,” Chloe points out, as expected.

Elly shrugs,
“Don’t need to. You’re always gorgeous,” she smiles.

Chloe dips her head, giving Elly a brief kiss before murmuring,
You’re gorgeous.” Elly smiles, heart expanding in her chest. It’s in moments like these that Elly feels that strong rush of love Chloe has for her - she says these things and Elly knows she’s nothing but genuine.

She’s been so caught up in her own head lately, figuring out whether Chloe is her soulmate, if soulmates exist and if it still counts when she and Chloe aren’t dating, that she forgot what is real. Chloe is in love with her, truly, madly and deeply.

It’s overwhelming to think about, Elly has to focus on what’s happening right now, rather than the future.

Chloe kisses her again slowly, a gentle flick of her tongue against Elly’s that makes her toes curl. It’s just kissing, Elly’s kissed countless people, but none are as good as this. Her heart thrums in her chest, because she’s wanted this for weeks, now she’s finally got it.

She trails her hands up Chloe’s thighs, fingertips light on her smooth skin. Elly can feel Chloe shiver, travelling across her whole body, the concentration she puts into the kiss wavers until stopping completely, more focused on Elly’s hands. She presses two fingers against her heat, and Chloe hums into her mouth, rubbing her hips downward.

“Chlo,” she murmurs, kissing her lips, then down her neck. Her fingers curl in the material of Chloe’s shorts, pulling at them, “Take them off.”

The blonde nods, shuffling backward so she can wriggle out of her shorts, then settles back over Elly’s lap. This is when Elly really wishes she could see Chloe - she can imagine her disheveled hair, the dark shade of blue her eyes would be and how red her lips.

Chloe looks at her closely,
“Definitely sure Ells?” she whispers.

When she’s got Chloe completely naked, she’s not sure why she would say no, but she appreciates the thought. Always thinking about her, always putting her first.

The image in front of her parallels easily with the one from only a few nights ago. When it was Mark she was in bed with, but would have preferred Chloe - it’s almost identical, Chloe straddling her, wet.

“I’ve never wanted anything as much as I want you right now, this is different to last time,” she replies, “I promise Chloe.” She hardly understands the depth of her own feelings, she can’t expect Chloe to, even still, she needs her to know this is more than tonight, that she’s wanted this for weeks.

She teases Chloe’s entrance with two fingers, her wetness coating Elly’s fingertips. Chloe moans softly, low in her throat. Her heart beats heavy as her fingers glide through her slick heat, feeling nothing but adoration for Chloe, even with her fingers buried inside her.

She works into a slow rhythm, fingers thrusting in and out of her. Her hand grips at Elly’s shoulder, nails sharp, piercing into her skin as she attempts to stay quiet. Elly wishes she didn’t have to, that she didn’t have to hold back, but they both know the consequences.

She hopes they will have a lot more opportunities like this.

Chloe rolls her hips down in time with Elly’s fingers, pulling them deeper. It hardly compares to her first experience - not only have her feelings completely changed, but any nervousness is gone, she feels like she knows Chloe’s body as well as she knows her own. She doesn’t have to ask what to do next, it’s instinctive... like two soulmates.

She brushes her finger over her clit, sensing that Chloe is close. Her hips jolt, nails digging hard enough to scratch her, but Elly just smirks to herself.

“I’m close Ells,” Chloe murmurs, voice sounding strained. She feels her heart swoop, from knowing Chloe so well, but also from being able to make love to her. Even if she can’t use that phrase aloud... it feels so special.

She quickens her fingers, simultaneously rubbing her thumb over her clit.
“I know,” she says softly.

Two more thrusts throw Chloe over the edge, constricting tightly around her fingers. Her body gives way with the force of her orgasm, and she presses her face into the junction of Elly’s neck and shoulder, moan muffled by brunette hair. Her body quivers.

“It’s okay Chlo, it’s okay babe,” she murmurs, arm winding around her instantly. Gently she removes her fingers from inside Chloe, wrapping that arm around her as well, holding her closely. It all feels so right, making love to her, and cuddling afterward. There’s a graze of Chloe’s hard nipples against her own, but more than that, she can feel Chloe’s heart beat fast, as fast as Elly’s does.

She caresses Chloe’s skin, laying a kiss to her cheek, her shoulder and her neck - any skin she can get to, she needs to keep kissing Chloe.

“You’re amazing,” Chloe breathes, a dreamy smile appearing slowly on her lips. Elly feels the same way, just from looking at Chloe, “Wow.” Making Chloe speechless, she considers that an achievement.

Her heart races when she asks the blonde,
“Can I eat you out?”

Chloe’s eyes flick up, wide compared to how relaxed and half-lidded they were only seconds ago.
“Yeah,” she says instantly, nodding her head.

Elly smiles brightly, tipping her head up to kiss her briefly. Her lips are warm and every time they kiss, Elly feels it in her heart. Chloe turns over onto her back and Elly sits up, maneuvering onto her knees between Chloe’s legs. She can feel wetness smeared over her taut stomach, material of her shorts dark where they’re wet - a combination of both Chloe’s and her own arousal.

She kisses a trail down Chloe’s body, feeling her heavy pulse beneath her lips, she resists the urge to cover her in love bites. Last time she was inebriated, and even then, wasn’t sure how she felt about doing that to a woman, having her mouth there. Somehow it felt on another level, like she could kiss and use her fingers with Chloe and could still call herself straight, but as soon as she used her mouth, she wouldn’t be able to. That isn’t how things work, Elly realizes now, she isn’t entirely straight and even if she was, the length she goes with Chloe doesn’t prove how gay or ‘straight’ she is.

Slowly she drags her tongue over Chloe’s hipbone, the blonde raises her hips in response, desperate. Chloe’s never been a patient person, so Elly isn’t surprised that it extends into sex as well. She flicks her tongue through her slit, tasting her instantly - drunk or not, Chloe tastes so good. Her hand curls around her thigh, lifting Chloe’s leg and draping it over her shoulder.

Elly’s tongue delves deeper, gliding easily through slick folds. Above her Chloe squirms, hips bucking against her mouth, a hand coming down to thread in Elly’s hair. Her nails scratch over Elly’s scalp, encouraging her further. She moans against her, feeling like she can’t get enough, can never get enough of Chloe.
“Elly…” she moans, quiet and drawn out. Chloe’s rapid breathing fills the otherwise silent room, Elly can tell how hard she’s trying to stay quiet. “Yeah… just there Ells.”

She presses her tongue flatly against Chloe’s clit, wrapping her lips around it and sucking softly. Chloe gasps, leg curling tighter around Elly’s shoulder, nails digging into the back of her neck. Chloe’s almost there, grinding messily into Elly’s mouth as she reaches her climax.

Elly’s name escapes her lips, loud enough to be heard by the boys. She can’t find it in herself to care though, with Chloe’s leg thrown over her shoulder and her wetness on her lips, her tongue, her chin. She caresses Chloe’s hip, feeling her tremble under her lips, lapping at her gently to ease her down from her high.

She presses a kiss to her thigh, pulling away slowly. Chloe’s body is laden, completely relaxed, head tipped back when Elly looks up. Her breathing is heavy and Elly can imagine the hollow of her throat exposed, shoulders narrow as she props herself up, and the flush of her cheeks. It’s an incredible feeling, seeing the affects of Chloe post-orgasm, and knowing she was the cause, that she has the ability to make Chloe feel like that.

Elly’s never felt better.

She also wants to touch Chloe again.

She brushes her fingertips over her slit, Chloe tensing almost immediately.
“Elly,” Chloe exhales shakily, “Give a girl a break.”

“Right,” Elly smiles sheepishly, “Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” she whispers, Elly can hear the smile in her voice. “Come here.”

She smiles, climbing over to lay with Chloe, head beside hers on the pillow. Chloe turns onto her side, facing her now,
“I’m a bit surprised Elly, I didn’t think you’d be so into this.”

Elly licks her lips,
“I like being with you Chlo, it’s all I’ve ever wanted lately.”

Chloe nods, rubbing her hand gently down Elly’s side. The contact sends a shiver down Elly’s spine, the gentle touches pulling at her heart, just like in the kitchen this afternoon. She’s a naturally dominant person, but one touch from Chloe turns her insides to jelly. Nobody has ever had that effect on her. Chloe leans in and murmurs,
“I want to touch you.”

She’s been ignoring her own feelings in favour of satisfying Chloe’s, the thrumming between her legs becomes more apparent now.
“Yes please,” she breathes. Chloe closes the gap between them, giving her a slow kiss. She drags her hand down Elly’s body, brushing her thumb over Elly’s hard nipple, but continues downward and curling around her hip. Elly whimpers into her mouth, body buzzing from the slightest contact.

Chloe pushes the edge of her shorts down, from there Elly is able to wiggle out of them. Her breathing is shaky, laying completely naked beside Chloe somehow feels different, when really it shouldn’t. Chloe’s already seen her body.

“You’re so beautiful Ells,” she murmurs, amazement in her tone. She’s about to say what Chloe did earlier: you can’t even see me, but Chloe begins kissing her jaw and down her neck, and she loses the ability to speak.

Her lips are soft, so lush and lovely, sucking on her neck. Elly doesn’t care if it leaves a mark, in fact, she hopes it does. She’s in a state of bliss, completely at ease, and when she feels Chloe’s fingers dip between her legs, nothing changes. It doesn’t freak her out, Chloe’s presence always makes her feel safe, comfortable, loved.

Two fingers glide slickly through her wetness, pushing as deep as her first knuckle. Elly’s hips rock forward on them, whining softly into Chloe’s shoulder when she retracts her fingers. Only minutes ago she was content with pleasing Chloe, hadn’t even thought about getting anything in return, but with a lot of things that include Chloe, once she gets a little bit, she wants more.

She thrusts back in, working up to a pace she knows Elly can take. It always comes back to the extent they know each other, there’s no need to ask, they know exactly how to respond to each other. Chloe curls her fingers, pressing another tender kiss to her neck, and one to her lips. She moans into her mouth when Chloe’s thumb moves over her clit, hips raising, she can feel Chloe smile.

“Chlo,” she breathes, rubbing against Chloe’s hand.

Her hand continues, caressing Elly’s breast with the other, thumb tracing her peaked nipple. The sensation is overwhelming, both the feeling of fullness between her legs, and the stimulation of her nipples, she comes undone with her face buried in Chloe’s hair.

Her heart races, body trembling through her orgasm, her fingers slow to a stop before she gently removes them. Chloe strokes her hair soothingly, kissing the crown of her head. Elly leans up into her touch, soaking in the proximity between them.

“You’re amazing,” she tells Chloe, voice only a whisper. Chloe doesn’t say anything, only kisses her again and pulls the doona up over them.

She falls asleep that night curled in against Chloe’s naked body. Her heart flutters when she thinks of the blonde - just in general, but also the way they made love to each other. After getting left at the alter, rejected at the hotel, crying herself to sleep, even just this morning when Chloe took her breakfast, she couldn’t have predicted this. But she doesn’t regret one single second.

Soulmate or not, Elly knows for certain she wants this, whatever it takes, whatever she has to do.

Chapter Text

The night she spends in Chloe’s arms, it’s the best night sleep she’s ever had.

It’s better than finally getting to relax after a long day at work. It’s better than falling into bed early in the morning, drunk. It’s better than climbing under the warm covers when it’s freezing outside. It’s definitely better than any night she spent with Mark.

She feels like she belongs there, like she’s meant to be there. Chloe brings comfort, a safety and security she only thought Mark provided, but didn’t. Not if this is what it’s really like, when she’s held closely in the blondes loving embrace.

Home is where the heart is, and Chloe is her home.

She looks up, taking a moment to admire the blonde. Her eyes shut only lightly, sleeping peacefully with a curl to the edges of her lips - one that Elly likes to believe is because of her presence. She can make out Chloe’s silhouette even in the darkness, can feel her silken hair and the slow rise and fall of her chest.

Elly wants to memorize every detail of her face, wants to remember every second of lying in bed with her, pressed so closely to her front she can feel Chloe’s heart beating. She’s beautiful, as beautiful as she is when she’s awake, and Elly can’t believe she spent so long ignoring these very real feelings, and not taking them as seriously as they should’ve been.

If she could wake up every morning beside Chloe, Elly would never ask for anything ever again.

She wants to stay here forever - not only in bed with her, but in this bubble that surrounds them, the one where it’s only her and Chloe, and the feelings they share. It feels like an illusion, like an alternate reality where she and Chloe are together, in love, and nobody else exists. The moment they leave the bedroom, Elly is worried it will all stop, she’ll go back to being Mark’s girlfriend, as if last night didn’t happen, as if they didn’t make love to each other.

She wants to burrow in against Chloe’s neck, hide away from the inevitable.

It’s in that moment, when Elly is soaking in the time alone with her, that Chloe’s phone vibrates, rattling on the bedside table. She disentangles her arm from around Chloe’s side, reaching out to take the phone before it disturbs Chloe. An alarm flashes on the screen, Elly presses snooze before settling back down.

She’s reluctant to let Chloe go, but as amusing as it is to watch her rush around, she knows how important punctuality is to Chloe, at least, where work is concerned.

Elly looks up, stroking her cheek gently.
“Chlo,” she whispers, brushing her lips over her cheek, then lightly over the corner of her mouth, eyes falling shut. “Babe, wake up.”

She stirs slightly, brow creasing.
“…. Mmm stay,” she mumbles sleepily.

Elly can’t help but smile, heart tugging already.
“You’ve got work,” she says, kissing along her collarbone, nuzzling her neck.

She squirms under Elly’s mouth, shoulder raising where it tickles,
“Maybe I could get up if you stop kissing me?” Chloe tells her, eyes crinkling with her smile.

She pulls back then, blushing, a little embarrassed at her inability to resist.
“Sorry,” she murmurs, although it’s only halfhearted, seeing Chloe isn’t bothered by it. “We could make breakfast together?” she suggests with a sultry tone, “.... Or, we could skip breakfast, and stay here instead?”

Chloe smiles, humming while she weighs up the options, like she’s actually considering them both. Admittedly, Elly is a little disappointed when she says,
“Let’s have breakfast.”

Their first time Chloe was all over her - fervent kisses and feather light touches. Confidence radiated from her, and left Elly with a depth of love she’d never felt before. Everything was different, not just the gender she was sleeping with, but a stronger desire, it would never feel like an obligation, like she sensed Mark saw it as. The energy between them was electrifying, tangible, noticeably intensifying last night.

Much like their minds, their souls and bodies were also connected. She knows Chloe feels it too, felt it long before Elly even allowed herself to.

Chloe dips her head, catching her off guard with a soft kiss. She leans up into it, slender fingers curled around her cheek, encouraging Elly closer still. She moans against her mouth, wondering, hoping, if maybe Chloe has changed her mind.

The kiss breaks then,
“Stay here for a second,” Chloe murmurs, Elly nods. She couldn’t get up even if she wanted to, not yet at least, her body close to liquifying after that kiss.

Instead she watches intently as Chloe slips out of bed and saunters over to her wardrobe, a sway to her hips Elly knows is for her. The blonde is completely naked, though her eyes linger on her long legs, she licks her lips. She wonders if this temptation will ever go away, and for a second, is glad she doesn’t have anything planned for the day.

Elly wants to memorize every inch, every detail, every crevice and every mark - the ones she created last night, and the ones Chloe has inflicted just by being her clumsy self.

The view is soon covered, pulling Elly from her reverie as Chloe is sliding a pale blue, floral silk robe over her shoulders, tying it up around her waist.

She turns, walking back to the bed.
“Here Ells,” she says, handing a silk robe to her. It’s navy with a floral design, the one Chloe wears often. Her heart tugs at how coupley it feels, like proper girlfriends, sharing clothes for the second time. Was this how Chloe felt when she borrowed her clothes in the hotel?

When she doesn’t respond, Chloe continues,
“Hey, I know Az and David aren’t into that,” she gestures vaguely to Elly’s chest. “I think you should still cover up though, doesn’t matter how beautiful your body is.”

Elly can feel herself blush, the rest of her body heating up with it from her comment. She’s known about Chloe’s feelings for months now, and yet her heart swoops the same way it did the first time Chloe complimented her. She remembers their second meeting, where the blonde blatantly flirted with her, and offered herself if Elly ever wanted to ‘mix things up’. She remembers how uneasy it made her feel, back then she thought it was due to being propositioned by a woman (and her exes sister, no less), now she realizes, a tiny part of her was intrigued. Always a little too interested in what Chloe was doing.

Thinking back that far, Elly can’t believe how quickly things have changed. The only thing Elly regrets is that she didn’t realize sooner.

She maneuvers to sit on the edge of the bed, slips the cool material over her burning skin, stands up and ties it firmly around her waist. Chloe takes her hand, leading her into the kitchen, as if she’s never been there before. Not that Elly would complain, never, she’s always desperate for more contact between them.

Chloe breaks that contact momentarily, smiling over her shoulder,
“Toast?”

“Sure,” she breathes, her heart feeling so full. The house is silent, boys still asleep, it feels like they are the only two to exist, feels exactly how it did earlier this morning. Elly worried things would change, the love they shared in that bed would fizz out and force them back to reality, instead, she continues to live this dream. It feels like a blissful dream, a warmth and giddiness Elly struggles to associate with real life. She can imagine it now, waking up slowly beside Chloe, kissing and touching and taking their time with no commitments, kissing in the kitchen and ignoring the eyerolls from the boys when they’re caught.

She wants it all with Chloe, she wants it so bad.

It all feels slow motion, time dragging like the morning will last forever. That would be ideal.

Elly flicks the kettle on and settles behind Chloe. She reaches a hand out to slide around Chloe’s hip, feeling her skin hot, radiating through the smooth material. She lays her head on Chloe’s shoulder, enjoying the proximity between them, she nuzzles her skin softly, inhaling her scent - a combination of perfume and body wash. It’s the same scent that lingers on both the robe Elly is wearing, and her jumper she hasn’t washed for weeks.

Chloe tilts her head back, allowing her more access. She presses long kisses to her neck, savoring every second.
“What are you doing?” Chloe hums, placing her hand over Elly’s, she slides it around to sit on her side against her rib. It could be so easy to slip her hand inside and touch Chloe.

“Mm, whatever you want me to,” she murmurs, “I’m flexible.”

“I bet you are,” Chloe smirks.

She brushes her lips over Chloe’s ear, then feels her shiver,
“You’re so gorgeous Chlo,” she sighs, resting her cheek back against her shoulder. Her fingers toy with the edge of Chloe’s robe.

The toast pops up then, startling them both. Chloe’s quick, and before Elly can stop her she’s sliding out from where she’s pinned to the counter. She plucks the toast hot from the toaster, dropping it onto the benchtop to spread with Vegemite. It’s so Chloe, not wanting to dirty any dishes. She would smile, but her brain is trying to catch up - she was close to touching her only seconds ago… and now she’s not.

Chloe turns around, with a mouthful she offers the toast to Elly. She smiles, leaning forward to take a bite. The margarine to Vegemite ratio is perfect, and it’s silly, but Elly wonders if Chloe knows how she likes it, if those are little things Chloe picks up on - if it is, Elly falls for her just that little bit more. She could get used to this.

The door swings open and instantly Chloe breaks eye contact with her.

“How can something so boring also be so tiring?” Mark groans, running a hand through his hair. He walks over to Elly, leaning in to kiss her cheek. She doesn’t pull away even when she wants to. “Oh hey Chloe.”

“Hi,” she says quickly, moving to sit down at the table to finish her toast.

Mark wraps an arm around her waist, so similar to her and Chloe only a moment ago that her stomach turns. He doesn’t notice her discomfort.
“How was your night last night? Get up to much?”

Elly’s eyes flick up, catching Chloe’s only briefly. She shakes her head,
“Not really,” she lies.

He nods slowly, and she looks up to see a frown appear.
“Elly, what’s that on your neck?”

Her hand lifts instantly, curling around the side of her neck. Her heart races in her chest, and not in the good way Chloe makes it. She can see in her peripheral vision the blonde’s head lifted, attention piqued.
“Something on my neck?” she asks, knowing it’s a love bite.

Mark moves her hand,
“It looks like a bruise...” For someone who’s tired, you sure are observant, she almost says.

Elly shakes her head,
“Well, it’s not a bruise... it’s a burn, from the curling wand.”

“The curling wand?” Mark asks.

“Yeah, you know, that thing I use to curl my hair?” she explains, “I was curling my hair this morning and got distracted.”

“Oh,” he says. “You should be more careful next time.”

“Sure,” she sighs. When she does burn herself for real, it’s not like she means to.

Footsteps come down the hall, Aaron and David now awake. She’s thankful the focus is no longer on her, until Aaron asks Chloe,
“You have company last night did you?”

She can see the smile fade from Chloe’s face - one that was there from how gullible Mark was, she presumes. Her own body stiffens.

“What?” she asks.

“Couldn’t get to sleep last night you were so loud,” he says. “I get wanting to have a good time, but other people live here too, can you be a little more discrete?”

Elly thought they were being so careful, so quiet. She must’ve been going down on Chloe, otherwise they would’ve heard her as well.

Chloe blushes, and Elly looks down, hoping she isn’t too.

“Sorry Az, sorry David,” she apologizes quietly.

Confusion flickers over Aaron’s face, like he was expecting an argument from his sister. He looks up at Elly,
“Why are you wearing Chloe’s robe?”

“I’m going for a shower,” Chloe excuses herself, understandably.

Her heart quickens, figuring one more lie won’t hurt - and it being the only actual option, Elly says,
“Chlo left it in my room, I just put it on when I got up,” she shrugs.

Aaron doesn’t look convinced, but seems satisfied, asking no further questions. If they knew she was completely naked under it, well.

Minutes ago she was kissing Chloe’s neck, and contemplating the chances of Chloe letting her eat her out on the counter... now she’s faced with the very real possibility of everyone figuring it out. The caution they took wasn’t enough, but maybe that’s a sign, a sign they have to come clean before they can truly be together. All she knows, for sure, is she would give up everything, just so she could keep Chloe.

//

“So what did you actually do on the night shift?” Elly’s not sure why she asks, because she’s not at all interested.

She’s out for coffee with Mark, because despite how exhausted he clearly is, won’t go to sleep through the day as it ‘will mix up my sleeping patterns, Elly’. She refrained from rolling her eyes, and instantly felt bad. It’s not his fault his eccentricities - one of his more endearing qualities - just bother her now. It’s not his fault she fell for his sister instead.

“Paperwork mostly,” he says, “Sometimes we’ll have someone stay overnight in a cell, they’re usually bailed out in the morning but…” he trails off, noticing Elly’s checked out of the conversation.

“Sorry,” she shakes her head, leaning forward. “It’s just not… the kind of exciting story you’d expect from a police man.”

Mark nods.
“So, what did you actually do last night?”

Suddenly, she wishes they were talking about him and his boring night, rather than her and her exciting one. She sips her coffee.
“Watched TV, then I went to bed. Like I told you before, pretty much nothing.”

“You didn’t hear Chloe and her guest?” he asks.

She shakes her head,
“Must’ve gone to sleep before they arrived.”

“And you didn’t see anyone leave this morning?” he continues.

Elly frowns,
“Why do I feel like you’re interrogating me?” it definitely feels like an interrogation, heart beating a mile a minute from her lies.

He sighs,
“I just thought you might’ve seen something.”

“Aaron didn’t say he heard anyone else did he?” she asks slowly, Mark just stares at her, not yet understanding where she’s going. “So… maybe she was by herself?”

Mark screws his nose, looking down,
“I didn’t need to think about that.”

“Well, you were the one who wouldn’t let it go,” she says.

He sighs, and they both go silent. A deafening silence. If their incompatibility wasn’t obvious before, it is now, cracks showing in their already fragile relationship.

All she can think about is climbing back into Chloe’s bed tonight, and wishes she was there now.

//

Chloe doesn’t get home until late, finishing off some last minute things for Terese, most likely. She thinks it’s a bit presumptuous to wait in Chloe’s bed for her, especially when the boys are still awake and could see her go in, so she sits in the kitchen with them.

She hardly says a word when she walks in the door, disappearing to her bedroom almost instantly. Elly doesn’t take much notice, figuring she still feels weird around them after what happened this morning. She waits until Mark goes to bed - late enough to suit his precious sleep schedule - and David drags Aaron off to bed, before she goes to Chloe’s, just to be safe.

She slips quietly inside, feeling the energy around her change instantly. Back in Chloe’s bedroom, where they created so much love, where they don’t have to hide the truth, that’s where Elly wants to be. Always.

Chloe lays on her side, facing away from the door, but doesn’t stir when Elly slides her knee onto the bed and crawls over to her. It parallels with the first night she came in to cuddle. She thought Chloe would’ve been expecting her.
“Hey babe,” she whispers, “You awake?”

She looks over her shoulder at Elly, hesitating,
“I’m kinda tired, sorry Ells.” she says quietly, looking away.

“That’s okay,” Elly assures her, rubbing Chloe’s arm gently. She hasn’t changed out of the blue dress she wore through the day, thinking Chloe would like to take it off her instead. “We’ll just cuddle.”

Chloe turns over then, laying on her back to face Elly. She looks gorgeous, disheveled hair and ocean eyes. She sighs,
“I don’t think we should do this anymore.”

Her stomach drops, smile fading from her lips. It feels like her heart has been ripped out. She frowns.
“I don’t understand… was I not good last night? I… I know I’m inexperienced but I’ll get better Chlo.”

Chloe scrambles to sit up, knee bumping into Elly’s by accident, she places a hand over Elly’s.
“No, Ells you were amazing,” desperate to reassure her. She wants to move her hand, wants to leave so she doesn’t have to listen to Chloe let her down gently. She wants to go to sleep and forget it ever happened, wake up and live the life she imagines with Chloe. But as much as her heart is breaking, the pull to be with Chloe is stronger. “It really does mean so much to me that you put yourself out there like that. I’ve never felt so special.”

She’s trying to be strong, but Elly can hear the crack in her voice.

Elly looks down at their hands, she wants to ask what the problem is then, but she’s not sure she wants to hear it.
“You’re not in love with me anymore are you?” she asks in a whisper.

“I am,” she clutches Elly’s hand. “I do love you, I love you so much… and that’s the problem. You were left at the alter, you came onto me, you went back to Mark, and then you slept with me.” Her thumb strokes her hand back and forth, sweet and gentle, like she hasn’t torn Elly’s heart in two. “I’m worried you don’t know what you want.”

“I do know what I want Chlo, I do. I know what I want now and I knew then, I wanted it I wasn’t using you I promise,” her voice quickens with despair, there has to be something she can do to change Chloe’s mind. “I’ll break up with Mark, I’ll go and break up with him right now. I don’t want him Chloe I want you.” She can feel tears stinging in her eyes, blurring the already dark view of her.

Chloe moves their intertwined hand to Elly’s thigh, like she wants to touch her skin, but can’t bring herself to let go of her hand. It’s even just little things like this, affectionate touches that send Elly’s heart racing.
“Don’t Ells,” she whispers, shaking her head. “This isn’t his fault… it’s mine.”

Elly just blinks at her, a tear running down her cheek.

“I shouldn’t have let you the other night,” she continues, “… I shouldn’t have let you touch me. It’s just - it’s so hard to resist you Elly, and I knew that.”

She frowns with confusion, feeling like she will never make sense of what Chloe says,
“But… you don’t have to resist me. I don’t want you to.”

“And I wouldn’t, but Mark’s my brother. I can’t keep sleeping with you on top of everything else we’ve done, it’s not fair on any of us,” she tells her, logical, doing the right thing. Chloe’s made enough mistakes in her life that she doesn’t want to make any more, Elly understands that, still, it doesn’t stop her from wanting to push Chloe down and kiss her until she cracks and lets them spend one more night together.

“Do you regret last night?” she asks, though she knows she doesn’t want the answer.

“I don’t,” Chloe shakes her head. “I don’t regret anything we’ve done, I just wish we had done it differently. I know people would call me selfish - they already do, you’re my brothers girlfriend but I will never regret or feel guilty for falling in love with you.”

Tears continue to fall from Elly’s eyes, ones that Chloe notices this time. She lifts her free hand, gently wiping them away for her,
“Elly,” she murmurs, leaning in, “Please don’t cry.”

She exhales shakily, savoring the feeling of Chloe’s warm palm, lingering on her cheek. Elly stares into her eyes, also glassy.

Chloe moves her hands, wrapping her arms around Elly’s neck instead and pulling her in for a cuddle. She feels breathless almost, overwhelmed with both affection for Chloe, and devastation. She clings to the back of her t-shirt, wanting Chloe closer, needing her closer. She wants to climb into Chloe’s lap, she wants to wrap her legs around Chloe as well, she wants this to stop. For Chloe to say stuff it and kiss her instead, for her to accept that Elly aches to be with her always.

She rubs Elly’s back, letting her curl in against her. It’s only a few seconds before she starts crying again, burying her face in Chloe’s neck, a very different scenario to this morning. Chloe is safety, she is comfort, she is her home, and now they’re being forced apart. Her sweet scent makes her heart flutter, in turn making her feel sick.

Elly’s hesitant to let go, leaving her hands on Chloe’s shoulders.
“You’ll be okay babe,” she whispers, treating this like it’s just a crush, or an infatuation. She leans back in, smudging her lips over Elly’s cheek, Elly whimpers, eyes falling shut.

“Can I stay? I just need a cuddle, please,” she sighs.

Chloe nods,
“Yeah,” she says after a moment, “Only tonight.”

That’s how Elly falls asleep, Chloe’s arm around her, a hand in her hair with their legs tangled. She fears morning, knowing for sure things will be different.

She doesn’t regret it either, she doesn’t regret anything they’ve done. She doesn’t regret falling in love with her best friend.

Chapter Text

Karma.

While an easy concept to understand, is another Elly’s not sure she believes in.

The idea that good luck and bad luck not only exists, but is a basis the world works on, something it revolves around, doesn’t seem true. You get back what you put out into the universe, it sounds like a quote from a book her mum would read - and twist to justify her selfish behaviour - or something her yoga instructor would say. All actions have consequences, but Elly doesn’t think they are dependent on previous ones, or the way you choose to live your life.

Bad things happen to good people all the time, like Sonya passing away. Elly was never close to her, but could see what a kind-hearted, honest, important person she was, there’s no way that was the result of karma.

But then, good things happen to bad people. Finn manipulated, groomed and lied to Xanthe, came back without punishment and did the same thing to Bea. He was allowed the freedom to go out and hurt more innocent people, without consequence. Unless you count laying in hospital faking amnesia as a consequence, but Elly really isn’t letting herself get involved.

It isn’t something she thinks about in detail, or with much depth, whether she’s a lucky or unlucky person. She’s had her fair share of troubles, but she’s healthy and so is her family.

Elly doesn’t believe in karma, and yet, it’s the only way she can make sense of the situation she’s in with Chloe.

Chloe is sweet, she’s gentle and loves with her whole heart... Elly took advantage of that. She knew exactly how strong Chloe’s feelings were, could see that look in her eye, soft, adoring, glittering whenever they were together. She knew how genuine it was, could hear the change in her tone with every compliment, dropping into something more serious, like she meant each word, complete certainty.

When Chloe kissed her the first time, she swore it was accidental, that it didn’t mean anything. When Chloe confessed her love the first time, she was drunk, was on a roll with divulging secrets after she told everyone of her diagnosis. She also said it didn’t mean anything. But Elly pushed, like she always does, pushed Chloe into being honest with her.

The card she received on New Years Eve told her everything she needed to know - or didn’t. She lay her love out for Elly, expecting nothing in return, just wanting to express everything she was thinking and feeling. It was so brave, the kind of courage Chloe approaches everything with.

She asked for space, and Elly denied her that. She didn’t want to be bridesmaid, and asked her to respect the decision, Elly said no. She reached for Chloe’s hand, even when the blonde was hesitant in letting her. She pulled her into hugs when she could tell Chloe was unsure, convincing herself it was okay because Chloe would relax in her arms.

She did this all while knowing Chloe’s feelings, knowing what affect it would have on her, and somehow, she continued to break her best friends heart every single day. The only person who has ever offered her unconditional love.

Elly hurt her, and Chloe’s decision to let her go is the universes punishment. Karma or not, she doesn’t deserve Chloe. She doesn’t deserve to hold her and doesn’t deserve to be her girlfriend. She wanted to be kissing instead of having honest conversations... now she has neither.

Five months ago Chloe fell truly, madly and deeply in love with her, but it’s when she wants Chloe the most that she can’t have her. She had every opportunity, but was blind to her desire.

Chloe is better off without her - that’s what her head tells her, but her heart says to keep trying. She’s never been one to give up - she didn’t give up after Chloe kissed her and refused to talk about it, or when she returned to Mark and Chloe stopped talking to her altogether. Persistence, as much as a positive quality, is her downfall. It got her into this mess, but can also get her out.

After spending two days stuck in Mark’s house - she hasn’t felt up for socializing - Elly leaves only to get Chloe’s favourite wine from The Waterhole. She then pops back to the Kennedy’s, stripping her old bed of its blankets and cushions, bundling up in her arms she takes them back to Mark’s without anyone seeing her. It’s not stealing, it’s still her stuff.

Once inside, she drops it all on the couch and goes to the kitchen in search of wine glasses. She places them on the coffee table with the bottle of wine, turning her attention to back to the blankets, and how to arrange them. Chloe is due home from work soon, and trusting that she hasn’t made any plans afterward, will walk in to find Elly waiting with a movie, wine and blankets on the couch. She hopes that will be enough to entice her.

The setup reminds her of their first kiss - unintentional, although, it really looks like it - maybe the closeness will help to smooth things over between them. Or maybe it will have the complete opposite effect. It’s a risk she has to take, if she wants Chloe feeling comfortable enough to talk to her again.

She climbs into the nest of blankets she’s created, flicking through movies while she waits for the blonde. Romance crosses her mind, something that will make Chloe say, ‘Forget what I said. I don’t care about anyone else or anything, we have to be together.’ A comedy might be better though, putting less pressure on Chloe, and she’s more likely to enjoy the movie, even if she doesn’t the company.

Then she finds it. Her heart stops and she knows it’s the one.

ET.

Her mind is back to the morning in that hotel when they watched it - well, Chloe watched it, and she watched Chloe instead. She was so relaxed, so captivated by her favourite movie, cuddling up to Elly without a second thought. If there’s one movie that Chloe will say yes to, it has to be this one.

(She would like to revisit things with Chloe, but she’ll easily settle for them talking again. Maybe Chloe feels guilty… maybe it’s just too hard for her.)

The door opens a few minutes later, her heart twisting at the sight of blonde hair and long legs in front of her. Her back is to Elly, hasn’t noticed her yet.

“Hey Chlo,” she says softly, not wanting to scare her.

Chloe turns around, looking a little uncomfortable already. Unlike the last time there’s an awkward tension hanging between them, instead of Chloe ignoring her and leaving the room. They’ve both hurt each other, both breaking because of each other, it’s hard to act normal.

“Elly,” she smiles, but it doesn’t look like a real one. “What’s going on?”

“I thought we could watch a movie. We never finished watching ET in the hotel, and I got your favourite wine...” she trails off, smiling hopefully.

She can see the way Chloe is eyeing up the wine, then at Elly with blankets surrounding her, tempted. The idea of drinking wine, watching a movie and cozying up sounds more than appealing to her, she just hopes it’s a shared desire.

“Come on Chlo,” she reaches out for her hand, “You know it’s too scary for me to watch alone,” she pouts, though they both know she’s teasing.

Amusement flickers on Chloe’s face, a slight curl to the corner of her lips, like she’s trying to hide it. Elly smiles too,
“Please babe,” she says quietly, “It’s just a movie.”

Except it’s not just a movie. Elly knows herself, knows what alcohol does to her - her temptation rises and resistance weakens. After a glass of wine she’ll want to cuddle, feeling the warmth between them she’ll want to kiss her, and Elly knows there’ll be nothing stopping her. Nothing stopping her from making love to Chloe right here under the blankets.

Her heart beats rapidly from the visualization. She waits patiently for Chloe’s answer.

“I have work I have to get done for Terese. I’m sorry Elly.”

Elly deflates, looking down. She can feel the ache in her chest, tightening from rejection, tears prick in her eyes already.

“So I should go... and do that,” Chloe says quietly, but loud enough Elly can hear the sadness in it.

Elly just nods. She half expected it, and deserves it anyway.

She waits until Chloe has disappeared into her bedroom to look up, only knowing she’s gone from the sound of her heels, drifting off down the hall. Elly takes a deep breath in and out, wiping the tears that have fallen and turns the movie on. It won’t be as enjoyable without Chloe, but she loves it and Elly wants to figure out why. It probably has more to do with being a family favourite, something that evokes happy memories, rather than anything Elly can actually see herself. Still, it’s important to Chloe, and in an attempt to get to know her better - better than she already does - she’ll watch it.

It’s a good movie. It’s all going well... until it isn’t. Halfway through Elliot gets sick, a reaction brought on by the bond he shares with ET. With the time they spend apart, and ET away from home, their health declines.

As pathetic as it sounds - and she is a little intoxicated - in some ways she can relate to the situation. She feels this connection to Chloe, when Chloe is happy so is she, and seeing her upset makes Elly upset. What they have is so strong, so deep, and to go without it breaks her heart, hurts her soul.

When she starts crying again, it has nothing to do with the movie. Elly reaches for the wine, skipping her glass and drinking straight from the bottle.

//

She can hear a voice, with someone shaking her arm gently.

“Elly, wake up.”

Slowly her eyes open, bleary before the figure comes into focus. Sitting on the edge of the couch is Mark, illuminated by the light from the TV. He’s wearing his uniform, home from work already. How long has she been asleep?

“Have you been crying?” he asks, reaching out to wipe away the smudged mascara, Elly flinches, not ready for his touch.

Mark sighs, discouraged. He retracts his arm and sits back.
“What are you doing on the couch?”

She feels disoriented, taking a moment to catch up.
“Was gonna watch a movie with Chloe,” she mumbles, heavy eyes falling shut. Half of her is tired, the other half is drunk.

“… with Chloe,” he echoes, when her eyes open again his expression is neutral.

Elly hums, snuggling into the blanket bunched around her shoulders.
“We were gonna watch a movie… and drink wine,” she sighs, “but she’s not interested. Why isn’t she interested? Why doesn’t she want to be friends with me, Mark?”

He glances at the empty bottle of wine, then looks back at her,
“I don’t know Elly,” he says quietly.

“It’s because I’m bad for her, I do bad things and I hurt her so much,” Elly tells him sadly, words slurring together.

Mark hesitates, like he’s thinking something, but stands up and says instead,
“Let’s get you to bed.”

She throws the top blanket off, slowly climbing off the couch. Her head spins, feeling dizzy, and she stumbles with her first step. Mark braces her, an arm around her waist, she leans into him.
“I wanna sleep in Chlo’s bed,” she whines.

His eyes widen slightly, and if she was sober she would notice him biting his tongue - actually, if she was sober, she wouldn’t have said any of that. He recovers quickly from his shock,
“Chloe’s already in bed. You don’t want to wake her up do you?”

She opens her mouth, ready to tell him she’s done it before and Chloe barely woke up, that Chloe wouldn’t mind, until she’s reminded of the previous events, and the intensity of the pain. It flashes through her mind, hitting her hard, stomach sinking. Chloe wouldn’t be okay with it, she didn’t even offer to watch it with Elly when she was free. She nods instead.

Mark helps her to his bedroom - she won’t call it their bedroom - and pulls the doona back for her. He guides Elly closer to the bed with a hand on her back, unsteady on her feet when she’s been drinking. She climbs into bed, crawling up to the pillow.

It doesn’t smell like Chloe, and the flax linen sheets, while soft, aren’t as soft as Chloe’s skin. There’s no warm body beside her, nothing to hold through the night, nothing to wake up to. It’s not fair, she knows she doesn’t deserve her, but still misses her. Elly wishes it didn’t hurt so much.

He pulls the doona up, taking better care of her than he ever did before the wedding, but it’s too late. She frowns slightly,
“I’m so sorry Mark, I didn’t mean… I didn’t mean to…” as drunk as she is, doesn’t have the courage to finish, fall in love with your sister.

Mark looks at her,
“I’m gonna have a shower,” he tells her quietly, she nods and he leaves the room.

Things are breaking with Mark, but they’re already broken with Chloe, and at the moment, it’s all she cares about fixing.

//

Hungover, Elly completely forgets her breakfast plans with Leo the next morning.

Actually, she doesn’t remember them, she’s reminded of them, a simple text, are we still on? enough for it all to come back - as well as the disaster of a night with Chloe, or lack thereof.

Her heart beats heavy with it, the ache of emptiness reappearing when she lets it, when she thinks about it. She pushes it away, but knows really, it will never disappear.

She doesn’t reply, only goes to Harold’s to meet him instead. He’s sitting in the booth seat, hidden behind the door, she offers him a weak smile and goes straight to the counter to order herself a tea. Elly returns with Leo’s eyes on her, sliding into the booth across from him.
“Hey,” she says.

“You look terrible,” comes in lieu of a greeting. His eyebrows dip in concern, rather than the teasing it could be taken as. Though, it’s most likely both.

“Thanks, Leo,” she says flatly, rolling her eyes.

“Big night last night?” he asks.

“I ended up drinking a whole bottle of wine,” Elly groans, dropping her head into her palm, elbow propped up on the table.

“For fun?” Leo asks. Elly looks up, narrowing her eyes at him, he shrugs, countering it with a look that says that’s something you’d do. “Are you alright?”

She shakes her head, looking down. She knows it won’t be long until pushes for details - that’s the thing, as often as he teases her he also looks out for her. Elly can’t recall a time he’s ever let her down. Really that should count for something, but if he asks she won’t know what to say. I fell in love with my best friend. The best friend who is also my boyfriends sister. She’s in love with me and we’ve slept together twice but now she can’t stand to be in the same room as me.

Trust isn’t the issue, rather if this Chloe thing turns into nothing, the less people who know the better. She can imagine the whispers now, that she threw responsible, family-oriented Mark Brennan away in favour of his sister… who just rejected her. Her head hurts, but it isn’t the hangover. Elly thinks she’s slowly falling apart.

But she doesn’t regret falling for her.

“How are you going? How’s Piper?” Elly asks him, desperate to take the attention from her and her issues.

Leo looks around warily, spotting Dipi walking towards them, carrying Elly’s tea. He leans in, shushing her. On top of all Elly’s troubles, she’s forgotten they aren’t common knowledge. She can trust him with her secrets, he can mostly trust her with his.

She smiles at Dipi, who seems unfazed by anything she did or didn’t hear. He’s paranoid about the whole thing, but she can hardly talk, she won’t even confide in Leo to begin with. He relaxes once she walks away, realizing nobody is paying attention to them.
“We’re… okay,” he answers quietly.

“Are you alright?” she asks.

Leo smirks, because he’d asked her the same thing only minutes ago, or maybe because no matter how genuine, her help can’t fix the situation. Either way, the smile fades from his lips,
“Come on, what’s the problem?” she presses.

“I like her a lot,” he sighs, “I want to go public, but things are complicated.”

“Complicated,” she repeats, it sounds like her own love life. “Because of the age gap?”

“Well, I was going to say because her mum is dating my dad, and then I’ve also dated her mum,” Leo explains, he shakes his head, “And I don’t even know if she feels the same.”

“I think you should do it,” she says, smiling softly.

The whole thing resonates with her. Not the complications specifically, but in general. Piper and Leo, they’re two people who like spending time together, finding themselves in a difficult situation, and when it comes right down to it, it’s the same with her and Chloe. There are obstacles in their path to love, but, for her at least, they all seem so insignificant when she thinks of the life she can have with Chloe, the nights they fall asleep in each others arms, and the mornings they wake side by side.

She would give up everything for a life with Chloe, Elly needs to make sure she knows that.

“You think?” he asks, sounding surprised almost.

Elly nods,
“The risks are always worth it, even if they don’t work out, you’ll always wonder what you could’ve had if you don’t take it.”

“Wow Elly,” he chuckles, “What’s in that tea?”

She smiles,
“Nothing, I just don’t think we shouldn’t let ourselves be controlled by other people’s opinions. If you and Piper are both happy, then why does anyone else matter?”

He shrugs a shoulder, grinning at her,
“Something’s going on with you. Your mood changed instantly.”

It’s not so much clarity as it is encouragement. Well, encouragement that also benefited her own situation. She’s known what she’s wanted for days, even weeks now, and while she never handles rejection well, she can’t let it affect her desire. They’re meant to be together - something Chloe has been telling her for months - she has to be honest and clear, so Chloe will believe her when she says she loves her.

“I’m just happy to hear about you and Piper,” she smiles, a cover up and Leo knows it.

She’s already switched her attention to her phone, pulled out of her bag Elly taps into Chloe’s contact,
Need to talk to you Chlo, meet at home in your lunch break. It’s important. x

Despite her previous attempts, Elly has a good feeling about this.

//

Elly doesn’t have a plan, but what she’s realized, is the best things between them have happened spontaneously. Impulsive kisses, and kisses that lead to sex, where their desire is stronger than common sense. Their relationship has always been very instinctive - they know what each other want, what they need, without being asked - it’s all about what feels right.

‘Be honest with her, and open about your feelings’ she told Leo before she left, and that’s exactly what she’s about to do. Chloe has only ever been honest with her, has put her entire heart on the line for her, it’s time for Elly to do the same.

Chloe deserves a big, grand gesture, but she also deserves something simple, vulnerable, where Elly has no conditions or circumstances to hide behind. She needs Chloe to see how serious she is, how this isn’t a crush or just a distraction from her troubles with Mark. If she offers her whole self to Chloe and is still rejected, well, at least she’ll have her answer.

And anyway, grand gestures can be reserved for wedding proposals, when they’re ready.

“Hi,” Chloe says, standing in the doorway. Elly looks up, admittedly surprised she showed. She looks beautiful, always does, but somehow it’s different. She’s the woman she loves more than anything, the woman she’s about to confess her love to. She wonders if Chloe was this nervous.

“Is something wrong?” Chloe continues, placing her bag on the table just inside the door. “You told me it was important, are you okay?”

Her heart skips a beat, the way it always does whenever Chloe shows care or a protective side, though she unnecessarily worried her.
“No I’m fine Chlo,” she smiles softly, she can’t believe it’s taken her this long to realize she is in love with her.

Chloe sighs in relief, like she really was worried. Once she knows Elly is okay, everything goes quiet, that same tension from the night before creeping back into the air.
“I did need to talk to you though,” Elly says, walking over to the dining table and taking a seat. She nods her head to the seat beside her, silently asking her to sit down.

She complies, sitting so close she can smell Chloe’s perfume, feel the warmth of her body. Elly has to focus, not let it entice her.
“I have to get this out, and you can decide what happens after, but don’t say anything until I’ve finished, okay?”

“You’re worrying me Elly,” she says quietly.

Elly takes a slow breath in, trying to calm her nerves. It all comes from the heart, something she knows Chloe would appreciate. Every thought, both confusing and clear, has to be conveyed now, this is her last chance.
“I haven’t been honest with you Chloe, and that’s what you deserve. The night in that hotel, you were right, I wanted comfort. I wanted to be in your arms and I wanted you to hold me and make me feel better… after that night I was so confused, I couldn’t tell if I needed someone, or if I just needed you. Everything was so uncertain and all happening so quickly and I panicked, I took Mark back because being with him was all I knew, it was safe and I could use him as a distraction from the confusing feelings I felt toward you. The night before I moved in I cried myself to sleep because you weren’t talking to me, and I didn’t understand why I was so affected by that.”

Chloe’s eyes have widened, but she looks down, nodding for Elly to continue.

“Every day it got stronger and my heart ached for you. Mark wanted to sleep with me, but I couldn’t, all I could think of was you and how I wished you were touching me instead. I was falling out of love with Mark and in love with you, it felt like it was happening so quickly, but at the same time it felt… feels like I’ve been in love with you forever. Like I was meant to fall in love with you Chloe. That night we spent together, I wanted every single second of it, and I’ve wanted you every night since,” she confesses. She should feel relieved, now it’s in the open, instead the fear of rejection swirls in her stomach. There’s nothing else to offer Chloe, this is it.

She opens her mouth, struggling with the right words.
“You’re in love with me?” Chloe asks, thinking she’s misheard her.

“I’m in love with you,” she confirms, “I love you. I don’t love Mark… you’re the one I love, you’re the one I want to be with. Do you still… want to be with me?”

Chloe is silent, looking down into her lap.

“Please Chlo, say something,” Elly says, anything would be better than the seconds that pass.

“No I’m just… trying to get my head around it. I’ve spent months wishing you would feel the same, imagining you saying those three words to me,” she laughs nervously, “Now I don’t know what to say. I knew there was something between us, I knew it was real, but you told me otherwise-“

“I was scared of my feelings, I was scared of what they meant and how real they were,” Elly explains, wondering if it makes any sense.

“Are you scared anymore?” Chloe asks.

“Only of living without you.”

She smiles, it fades slowly,
“I knew I upset you the other night, and again last night. I knew there was something. I thought you might’ve had a crush, or maybe you were just having fun but didn’t want commitment. I was trying to protect Mark, and myself - I figured you would end things with us soon and I’d get hurt again. I didn’t even think you might’ve been in love with me, if I knew I probably would’ve gone about it differently. I’m sorry Ells.”

“It’s okay,” Elly nods, telling her with complete conviction, “I want this. I want to be able to hug you and kiss you and hold your hand. I want you.”

Her smile reappears slowly, asking softly.
“Would you call me your girlfriend?”

“Of course,” she says instantly, feeling completely at ease with the term. Actually, not at ease, but excitement replacing her fear.

“And you’re good with ending things with Mark?” Chloe asks.

“Tomorrow,” she promises, knowing he doesn’t get home until late tonight. She can still sense a hesitancy, like Chloe is still questioning her sincerity. “Chlo, things have been broken with us for a long time, ever since the wedding. We aren’t right for each other. I don’t want to waste any time with him that I could be spending with you. And I mean that babe, from the bottom of my heart, all I want is you.”

“All I want is you, too,” she smiles, her voice is quiet but her smile is bright. Elly melts whenever she sees it, whenever she’s the reason for it, her heart twisting in her chest. She smiles back, Elly’s not sure if she’ll ever stop smiling, if she’ll ever stop feeling so lucky.

“Can I have a cuddle?” she asks, feeling jittery with the sudden desire to touch Chloe.

Chloe nods, standing up from the table. She takes her hand, intertwining their fingers, hands fitting together perfectly she tugs the blonde carefully onto her lap. Chloe wraps an arm around Elly’s neck, giggling, holding Elly close. Her heart feels so full, tight in her chest with pure love, body buzzing like Chloe has ignited something within her.

It’s a love that compares to nothing else.

She snuggles into Chloe, softly nuzzling her neck. Chloe cups her cheek, bringing her eyes up.
“So you actually love me?”

“I do,” she murmurs, stroking her thumb over Chloe’s knee. She looks into her eyes, gorgeous, ocean blue, sparkling like she’s seconds away from crying - Elly feels the same. “I’m in love with you Chloe. Truly, madly and deeply.”

Chloe beams, both of them giggling, Elly feels high on love, unable to believe any of this is real. She rests her forehead against Elly’s, stroking her cheek,
“You stole my line,” she whispers, a cheeky glint in her eye. Before Elly can respond Chloe is dipping her head, connecting their lips in a brief kiss. She wants to hold onto this feeling forever, what it’s like to openly love and be loved by Chloe, she wants to soak in all in, because it could all change at any moment.

“Does this mean I’m allowed back in your bed tonight?” she asks after the kiss breaks. She clarifies, “Just for a cuddle.”

Chloe’s fingertips fiddle with the hem of Elly’s red dress,
“I think we could do better than a cuddle.”

She gasps, mock offended,
“You think I’m that easy?” she asks, laughing into Chloe’s shoulder. Chloe giggles, caressing Elly’s cheek and kissing her again, foreheads together, noses brushing, eyes fallen shut.

She’s not sure how long they sat there, trading sweet, loving kisses, probably until Chloe had to go back to work. All Elly knows is that she doesn’t believe in karma - there’s no way she’s done enough good deeds to amount to this one, amazing thing - and, of course, that she is so incredibly in love with Chloe Brennan.

Chapter Text

It’s early when she wakes up, Elly doesn’t mind when she realizes Chloe is still asleep beside her. She looks down at her, feeling nothing but happiness. It’s instant, automatic, overwhelming.

It’s a kind of happiness she’s never felt before, both in strength and just in general. One that warms her heart, makes her feel light and like everything is in slow motion - like she needs every single second stretched out to fully appreciate everything she has, everything happening around her. She doesn’t, really, she knows she’ll never take Chloe for granted ever again.

There are these moments she feels like she could lay forever and watch Chloe sleeping against her, quietly admiring her, a tranquility and bliss from something so simple. Simultaneously, in those moments her stomach ties itself in knots at how new it all is, how different and exciting it is to have a girlfriend. Exclusive or not, it doesn’t matter, because she knows, she knows in her heart this is what’s right.

Of course, she has been happy in her life, but right now, nothing comes close. She can acknowledge the people and things in her past which brought her happiness - she’s not decreasing the value of those people and events in her life - those moments made her happy back then, they will always be special to her, but nothing can top what she feels now. Whether it’s as small as a night out in Bondi, or finally getting her degree and being done with (attending) school, being Chloe Brennan’s girlfriend will always win.

It’s a complicated situation, she knows. Sleeping with, falling in love with, beginning a relationship with her best friend and boyfriends sister. It’s difficult, it’s messy… but somehow Chloe makes it easier… she makes everything easier. She balances Elly out, grounds her, instinctively saying or doing what she knows Elly needs to keep her calm. It’s the first relationship she feels carefree in, she isn’t overthinking anything, isn’t paranoid that she’s being clingy and isn’t second guessing Chloe’s love.

When Chloe, still asleep, snuggles in further, face pressed against her neck, Elly can’t believe there was a time she didn’t love her. Actually, not can’t, but rather doesn’t want to. If someone told her twelve months ago when she first met Chloe - the irresponsible, unconventional girl she couldn’t stand - that she would fall in love with her, she would’ve rolled her eyes, made some comment how she doesn’t like women, and even if she did, would never be interested in someone like Chloe Brennan.

It wouldn’t matter if they told her specifically, first you’ll fall in love with her ocean blue eyes and pretty smile (physical attributes have always drawn Elly’s attention before personality, as shallow as it is), second is how open and honest she is, for whatever reason, only with you - except for her diagnosis, although you discover then really how brave she is. You like the way she relies on you, begs you to keep her secrets, it makes you feel needed, something you later realize Mark doesn’t. It’s not until you’ve kissed her, proposed to Mark, slept with her, and slept with her again that you realize, actually, it’s you who needs her, not the other way around.

Thinking back to it brings a wave of guilt. The first impression Chloe made, it wasn’t bad, but Elly jumped to conclusions, instantly judged her, and held that grudge for weeks, despite Chloe’s friendliness. The things she probably said to Leo - she’s crazy, she’s insane, she’s annoying, she’s a nutjob - it breaks her heart that she once used those words to describe Chloe. The gorgeous girl she’s so in love with.

She wonders why Chloe forgives her after the way she’s been treated, how she can get past it. Elly supposes Chloe is a better person than she is, but she already knew that.

Beside her, Chloe wakes slowly, head tilting up and looking at her with half-lidded eyes.
“Good morning,” she murmurs sleepily.

Chloe smiles softly, Elly smiles back instantly, can’t help it.
“Morning Chlo,” she rubs her hand down Chloe’s back, holding her close, “How’d you sleep?”

“The best,” she drops a kiss to Elly’s shoulder, lips lingering. “I never want this to end… I want you to keep sleeping in my bed with me. I want to wake up to you every morning, Elly.”

Elly moves her hand, interlocking it with Chloe’s, she squeezes,
“Of course. That’s what girlfriends do isn’t it?”

“Girlfriends,” she repeats, smile growing, lighting up with the word. Her ocean blue eyes and pretty smile, definitely the first thing Elly fell in love with. “Say it again.”

She can feel her heart tug,
“You’re my girlfriend, Chloe,” it’s exhilarating almost, to be able to say it aloud.

Her heart races as Chloe leans up, resting her forehead against Elly’s. Warmth radiates from her, and safety, comfort, love.
“Say it again,” Chloe’s voice is so quiet, barely above a whisper. Her eyes fall shut with Elly’s, soaking in this time and the proximity between them.

“I’m your girlfriend,” she whispers. Maybe Chloe needs the reassurance, maybe she just likes hearing it from Elly’s lips. Either way, she would happily spend the day kissing her, whispering endless compliments and promises of love into her skin.

“Yeah,” Chloe breathes, the seconds growing where she doesn’t move, until their lips press together gently, Elly can feel her smile into it.

Elly turns onto her side, facing Chloe now.
“I love you,” she murmurs, head resting against Chloe’s, she curls a hand around the blonde’s hip, their bare legs brushing, “Wanna show you how much.”

They aren’t kissing, but holding each other intimately when the door swings open. Elly catches Aaron in her peripheral vision, he’s gone within a flash, and Elly knows his reaction will be negative. She disentangles herself instantly from Chloe, glad they were both fully clothed, though, she’s sure it doesn’t make much difference to him.

“Aaron,” she calls, reaching for his shoulder to stop him, he keeps walking.

“Sorry Elly, did I interrupt you?” he sneers. “You looked so relaxed in bed with your sister in law.

She follows him into the kitchen, finding David at the counter eating a bowl of cereal,
“Morning Elly,” he greets politely, smiling.

“It’s not what it looks like,” she says, eyes flicking over to David, “Hi David,” she says quickly.

Aaron turns around,
“Really? Because it looks like you’re cheating on my brother with my sister.”

Her stomach sinks, mouth opening, then snapping shut. This whole thing is so new, it’s so recent, they hadn’t discussed what they would do if they were caught, or if people had their suspicions. Elly hoped they could remain in that love bubble, keep it all a secret for longer than twelve hours.
“I’m not, we’re not,” she says. “Mark’s on the nightshift, I got lonely in bed.”

“I bet you did,” Aaron scoffs, “And Chloe was the only way to fix that, right? I bet she wasn’t even sick that night, it was all crap,” he shakes his head.

David walks over, frowning in confusion. Always wanting to diffuse family tension, he asks,
“What’s going on?”

“Found Elly all cuddled up in Chloe’s bed,” he says, tone accusatory, despite having no proof that either of them are doing anything wrong.

“Cute,” is David’s initial reaction, smiling. Aaron looks at him and he backs up quickly, “I mean, I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation.”

“There is, which I’ve been trying to say this whole time. Mark was gone, I couldn’t sleep properly, but I knew Chloe could help me like she did in the hotel room-“ it comes out before she can stop it. Of course, they don’t know the details, nor will they ever, but it implies there’s something she gets from Chloe that she doesn’t from Mark. She knows exactly where Aaron’s mind will go. While he was away trying to convince Mark to return, Elly was away, alone, in a hotel room with Chloe. It doesn’t sound good.

“Are you sure this is just cuddling, or are you-“

David interjects,
Aaron! You can’t ask her that it’s none of our business,” he hisses.

Aaron crosses his arms firmly over his chest,
“When it involves my brother and sister, I think it is my business. It all makes sense now,” he says slowly, “The bruise on your neck from your ‘curling wand’, the noises coming from Chloe’s room, you wearing her robe. You’re having sex with my sister!”

Her heart races, pulse so heavy she can hear it in her ears. She maintains eye contact with him, determined to stay strong. This is her relationship, she’s not letting Aaron ruin this for them, not allowing him to make them feel guilty.
“I’m not,” she says firmly, it’s not just sex. It’s love, it’s the rest of their lives, it’s forever.

Aaron holds the contact until David tugs him away. He turns his head,
“I don’t know why I’m surprised, you’ve never stayed with one person for more than six months.”

He shakes his head, walking back down the hall.

//

“He said that to you? In front of David?”

“You think David being there would’ve made a difference?” she sighs, looking down.

“Still I thought he might’ve been a little more sensitive,” Chloe pauses, thinking about it, “Then again, I don’t think Aaron knows the meaning of sensitivity, if it doesn’t involve himself. I’m so sorry Elly.”

She shrugs her shoulder, faking nonchalance. It hurts, because she knows as harsh as it is, what he said is true. And while she also knows that Chloe loves her, a part of her worries that Chloe will realize she deserves better, someone more loyal, a simpler relationship.
“I’m not bothered, really,” Elly says quietly.

“What have I said about you being brave with me?” she asks softly, leading into Elly’s response.

Chloe knows her too well, can see right through her. It’s always been like that, even months ago when she first said you don’t have to do that with me… be brave, there was always a part of Chloe that she felt comfortable with, allowing her to be vulnerable. She could speak openly to Chloe about things she was afraid to tell Mark, things she felt she couldn’t. The only difference now is she has so much more to lose. She would never hurt her again, but what if it’s something else? Something out of her control? What if it’s all too hard for Chloe?

“I don’t care what he thinks,” Elly shakes her head, “I care what you think.”

Something changes in Chloe’s expression, softening,
“I love you, you know that,” she says. “Elly, you don’t have to worry what I’ll think about you, I’ve spent months thinking you’re the most incredible person, nothing will change that. You shouldn’t feel ashamed about your past, especially not with me.”

Chloe takes her hand, pulling her gently into a hug. She wraps her arms around the taller girl, hands clinging to her silk robe. She feels completely at ease, like Chloe’s contact draws all the anxiety out of her. The love they share is so strong, tangible, Elly can feel it between them, like it’s an object.

“Go to work Aaron,” Chloe says, tone dropped into something more serious, annoyed, she doesn’t hear it often.

Elly turns her head, catching Aaron rolling his eyes.
“Come on Boo-Boo,” he says to David. David looks conflicted, opening his mouth like he wants to protest, but offers them an apologetic look instead.

Chloe presses her lips against the top of Elly’s head, it’s tender, and even for a second it makes her feel better. She leans into her touch.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing, Ells, that you’ve been in a lot of relationships,” she assures her, continuing, “You like feeling needed, it’s okay. Good, actually, because I know I’ll never stop needing you.”

It reminds her of her thoughts from earlier, Chloe says she needs her, but doesn’t realize how much more Elly needs her. They both need each other, like true soulmates, they just fit, physically and mentally. She smiles, tilting her chin up to brush their lips together - she hadn’t intended on it going anywhere, considering Chloe has work soon, but she lifts her hand, curling it around Elly’s cheek and kissing her back.

“You said before,” Chloe exhales slowly after breaking the kiss, forehead resting against Elly’s, “Wanted to show me how much you love me.”

“Of course,” she replies without hesitation.

Their first time, Chloe was more invested, and their second time, Elly was more invested. Finally they’re on the same page, they both know what they want, they both know what to expect. She kisses her softly, Chloe’s hand moving around to grip the back of her neck, whimpering when Elly presses her against the wall. She deepens the kiss, licking easily into the blondes mouth, hands planted firmly on her hips. Briefly her mind wanders back to a few days ago, contemplating the chances of Chloe letting her eat her out while she’s sat on the counter. Elly thinks the chances are pretty high right now.

The hand around the back of her neck loosens, draping over Elly’s shoulders instead, to steady herself, she thinks. Elly pulls back, Chloe’s lips an alluring shade of pink, she’s my girlfriend, she thinks to herself in amazement, like she’ll never get used to it. Chloe is so beautiful, and she is so lucky.

She kisses down her neck, own skin buzzing with lust, or maybe excitement, to have her hands on Chloe again. Elly can hear the blonde moan softly under her lips, she moves her hand from her hip, up underneath her t-shirt. She strokes her side, warm, and inches higher until she comes into contact with her breast.

“Elly,” she sighs, arching her back slightly, pushing into her touch.

She drags her thumb over Chloe’s nipple, unsurprisingly hard. Elly loves the response she gets, she loves how normal this feels, how she’s known exactly how to touch Chloe even from their first night together. Like her brain just knew.

“So beautiful babe,” she murmurs. Elly lifts Chloe’s shirt right up, sinking to her knees to take the other nipple into her mouth, smiling around it when she looks up to see Chloe’s head tipped back. Her tongue flicks over it, using her hand to mirror the actions with her thumb and forefinger on the first nipple.

She stops after a second, always teasing, she kisses down her toned stomach,
“Wanna go down on you,” she murmurs, tracing the waistband of Chloe’s shorts, “Miss your body so much.”

Chloe exhales shakily,
“Where do you want me? On the counter?”

Elly just smiles, it’s like Chloe can read her mind. She presses another kiss to her skin, just above the waistband.

The door opens again, it feels like de ja vu, but instead with David’s voice coming through,
“Forgot my la-“ he cuts off, catching a glimpse of skin before she scrambles to pull her t-shirt down, and Elly on her knees in front of her, “Ah, ah no I didn’t see anything. Saw nothing. Pretend I wasn’t here,” he babbles, hands in front of his eyes.

He’s gone, without his laptop, before either of them can say anything.

“We have to go after him!” Chloe says instantly, eyes wide. Considering she’s still in her pyjamas and Elly’s not, she knows it’s not we but rather, you.

Elly raises to her feet,
“It’s okay,” she promises, looking into Chloe’s eyes, giving her a chaste kiss before leaving to follow him.

//

“David!” she calls, spotting him walking along the footpath. He stops, turning around. He doesn’t walk over, meeting her in the middle, but looks patient enough to wait for her.

“Really, Elly, I saw nothing…. I mean, hardly anything. Just a bit of skin,” he won’t meet her eye, understandably, giving the impression he doesn’t want to talk about it. She thinks maybe they can forget about it, agree to never bring it up ever again, until he looks up, “So you are sleeping with her?”

He’s curious, she’s not surprised, she would be too. Elly can’t imagine how things would have gone if Aaron caught them instead - the whole street would probably know about it by now. David is quiet, subtle, has the sensitivity Aaron lacks.

She’s not sure how to answer, because again, it’s not something she and Chloe had discussed. Really, they should have figured it all out after the first time, but instead they were caught with each other not an hour later. Elly just nods.

“Why did you lie?” David asks softly.

“Because it’s not as simple as sleeping together… or cheating on Mark…” she licks her lips, admitting quietly, “Chloe loves me, and I love her too.”

“You’re in love?” he asks in a way that would sound judgmental coming from anyone else.

“I’m in love with Chloe,” she repeats, nodding. It’s the first time she’s said it aloud, and not to Chloe. It’s exciting.

David’s eyes are wide, lips parted,
“I’d say I’m surprised, but I’m not really one to talk when it comes to hiding sexuality.”

“I just-“ she takes a slow breath, “I feel things I’ve never felt before, David. Being with a female doesn’t bother me, I love the person that she is, she’s so beautiful and she has such a good heart,” Elly feels like she could go on forever, how Chloe is the best person she knows and how she never wants to be apart from her.

David smiles, the same smile she saw earlier before Aaron stopped him,
“Look I know Aaron may have picked sides, and maybe I’m a bad husband for not agreeing with him, but I’m Switzerland. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt in this, that includes you and Chloe.”

Elly nods, through all the love she has for Chloe, she hasn’t forgotten about Mark.
“I really appreciate that David, I’m breaking up with Mark today,” she tells him. “This isn’t his fault I just… fell out of love, and he doesn’t deserve to be strung along. Chloe and I.. we only got together last night and didn’t actually… there was one other night-“

He sighs,
“- you were in her room.”

She nods again, they’ve been keeping so many secrets, only now does she realize how bad it all sounds.
“Don’t say anything to Aaron, please. You saw what he was like earlier, if he finds out he’ll go straight to Mark, and I want it to come from me.”

“I get it,” David says, “He acts before he thinks. I’m sorry he reacted the way he did, family is so important to him, sometimes I think he forgets that includes Chloe as well, since they grew up apart he instantly takes his brothers side, but that’s no excuse. If you want to talk about anything, I know you’ve got Chloe and of course you can speak openly with her, but if you want to talk to someone who has had a similar experience - discovering your sexuality later in life - you know I’m here.”

Elly smiles, this kind of understanding and compassion is what she would expect from David, but it doesn’t mean she appreciates it any less.
“Thank you David. Just to double check… you won’t tell anyone will you? Not even Leo.”

“Sexuality, relationship, your secrets are safe with me,” he assures her.

“Thank you,” she says, “I better let you go. Chlo’s probably wondering why I’m taking so long, she was pretty worried.”

He nods,
“Good luck Elly.”

//

As soon as she shuts the door, Elly hears Chloe’s heels, loud, coming down the hall. She’s dressed for work, wearing a yellow blouse tucked into a black mini skirt, showing off her long legs.

“What did he say?” she asks, the urgency is clear in her tone, but Elly can’t pull her eyes away, easily distracted by her girlfriend. It’s ridiculous, because she’s just standing there, but Elly was so close to making love to her ten minutes ago, that feeling and desire hasn’t yet subsided. She can imagine them now, wrapped around her waist, or draped over her shoulders while she-
“Elly you can stare at me later, did you talk to David?”

“I- What?” she forces her gaze upward, “Yeah he’s fine, was more interested in why we were doing it than what we were doing.”

Chloe nods,
“What did you say?”

“I told him that you love me, and I love you, that this is more for us than just sleeping together. He promised he would keep it a secret from everyone, and you know David, he won’t break that promise,” Elly explains.

“You told him that you love me?” Chloe asks slowly.

Elly’s stomach turns at her widened eyes, tone incredulous but soft at the same time. Maybe she shouldn’t have mentioned their relationship status.
“I know we hadn’t discussed what we would say if someone did find out, but I needed him to know this was serious.”

Chloe walks over to her, a sweet smile appears, adoration in her eyes.
“You told somebody that you love me,” she repeats.

“I did,” she smiles.

The look on Chloe’s face could only be described as ‘dreamy’, an adorable half smile on her lips Elly has seen many times before.
“I’m so proud of you. I know it can be scary telling people, even when it’s more out of necessity and not because you want to, but it’s still a big thing.”

“I wanted to,” Elly says, nodding. Eyes cast downward, she blushes a little, “It was… exciting. I just- couldn’t stop myself, I started telling him how beautiful I thought you were, and how good your heart is. I want everyone to know that I love you, and how serious I am about this relationship.”

Her smile fades slightly,
“You’re so sweet Elly, but I know you love me, you don’t have to prove it. Is this about what Aaron said? You think I’m worried we won’t last longer than six months?”

Elly hesitates,
“Not… completely,” she sighs, “I know I don’t have the best experience with relationships, but this is different to all the others. I want to be with you forever-“

“And we will be,” Chloe assures her, “My forever at least. I don’t want you to rush anything for me, I want you to wait until you’re ready. If in six months you still aren’t ready to tell people, it’s completely fine, I’ll know it’s nothing personal. As long as we still get to kiss and sleep together and hold each other at night, I’m happy.”

“Soon we can do those things in public, well - kissing and holding hands. I promise,” she says,, because as supportive and patient Chloe is willing to be, Elly needs her to know it’s what she wants, how she pictures their near future. It’s for herself, too, saying it aloud helps in a way, she’s putting out there, something she can aim towards.

“No pressure,” Chloe tells her, smiling softly.

“Before I think about telling people, there’s something I have to do,” Chloe tilts her head, “I’m gonna break up with Mark.”

It feels so wrong coming out of her mouth, sounds so wrong in her ears. Not because she wishes she didn’t have to - if she regrets anything, like Chloe, it’s going behind his back. She said goodbye to that relationship so long ago, to have to go back and officially end something that, to her, has been over for weeks, feels like a waste of time. Of course, she understands why she has to do it, and cares about Mark enough to let him down gently, but she’s already so invested in her relationship with Chloe, she wants to focus on their future, not revisit her old relationship.

Chloe opens her mouth, looks like she has a million questions, but hesitates,
“Do you want me to come with you?” she asks eventually.

Elly shakes her head,
“I have to do this alone, and it might be a little insensitive if the woman I cheated on him with, who is also his sister, is there with me.”

She nods, pulling Elly gently into a hug she didn’t know she needed. She wraps her arms around Chloe, squeezing around her back. It parallels easily with this morning, instead conflicted and confused with the other Brennan brother,
“I love you,” she sighs, head on Chloe’s shoulder.

“I love you too,” Chloe murmurs. When she pulls back, she tucks a piece of hair behind Elly’s ear, hand lingering on her cheek, “I have to go to work, so you can talk to him here if you want. We could meet up for lunch later?”

“Definitely,” Elly smiles.

//

Vaguely she remembers the first time she met Mark. He was among the men she flirted with, but had no interest in dating. He was cute, and not available, which made hitting on him all the more amusing.

Being a policeman, Elly thinks that’s what initially drew her towards him. Not just a man in uniform, but one who had proven to protect the people he cared about. He was there when Finn arrived, looked out for her, and even though that was his responsibility, his job, a part of her felt like maybe it was just for her.

She’d had so many failed relationships before Mark, but in her eyes he was the perfect man, Elly couldn’t see how it wouldn’t work. And that was the problem, she was blind to the faults in both Mark and their relationship, all she could see was what a good husband he would be, what a good father he would be, rather than focusing on him in the present.

She was following this idea, this vision, of their relationship, which no longer existed. Realistically, maybe it never existed at all.

She loves Chloe, whatever is going on in her head doesn’t detract from that. Chloe is the one she wants to spend her life with, the one she wants to marry one day and have children with. The time she spent with Mark will always be special to her, after all, he’s the reason she met Chloe, but as for residual feelings, there are none. She holds no resentment towards him over the way he may have treated her in the past, especially where Paige was concerned, none of that matters now. She fell out of love with him, it’s as simple as that.

Need to talk when you finish work. Meet at your place.

Elly sends off, staring down at her phone like she expects an instant reply. Chloe comes to give her a kiss goodbye, but Elly’s in a daze, hardly focused until she gets an Okay back from Mark.

She’s sitting at the head of the dining table when he arrives home, still dressed in his uniform - it does nothing for her, not anymore. He eyes her carefully, but sits down in the seat beside her, rubbing a hand over his face and through his hair, tired after the night shift. He gives a short nod, silently asking her to start talking.

Elly exhales slowly,
“Uh… this isn’t working Mark,” she looks down, continuing, “Ever since the wedding, things have been different.”

“I know Elly,” he says. Her eyes snap up, surprised. “I knew this was coming.”

Mark is oddly calm about it, maybe she overdramatized it by believing this would affect him more than it apparently does. She supposes the cracks between them were easy to see, but in her head she’d built it up to be so much more, like she would have to let him down gently. She asks him anyway,
“How?”

“Well, based on the wording of the text, I knew to expect it. But before that, you were distant ever since I came back from Silverton, like you wouldn’t care whether I returned or not. You haven’t wanted to be intimate, or spend really any time with me. And I’m not blaming you Elly, I knew me leaving would change things between us, and it did,” Mark explains.

Elly nods,
“But Mark, you know things were broken between us before that. You lied to me, confided in somebody else, lost interested in our wedding…”

“I know,” he sighs.

“The thing is…” she exhales slowly, “I don’t want to fix them, I don’t want to fix our relationship. I don’t love you anymore,” she says quiety, “I mean, I still care about you, but I don’t love you the way I should.”

Mark is silent, but nods.
“If I’m being honest Elly… we never should’ve gotten back together. I already felt guilty about leaving you at the alter, but Aaron kept going on about what I would lose, and what a bad decision I was making, so I guess a part of me got back together with you just to silence him. I thought maybe we could salvage what we had months ago, but I could tell the moment I suggested the small wedding you weren’t into it, any of it. I hoped with you moving in, then that wedding, everything would be smoothed over, but that was the problem, pretending nothing happened. We’re forcing it at this point, and that’s not fair when we should be finding proper love.”

Elly nods, proper love, she’s already found it.
“I agree. I’m sorry things had to go this way,” she sighs, “I really did love you.”

He smiles sadly,
“I know you did Elly, and I loved you too, but we grew apart, we’re different people now. There’s nothing we can do about that.”

She tilts her head up when he stands up,
“You’re a good man Mark, you’ll find another woman no worries.”

“Thank you, you too - you’ll find an amazing person who loves you the way I didn’t,” he leans down, kissing her forehead. “Good luck Elly,” he tells her quietly.

“Good luck Mark.”

He disappears down the hall, Elly remains seated at the table. She feels a tug of her heart, a pang of nostalgia. It’s gone within a second, leaving her to focus on the future, this new future she has to look forward to with Chloe. Spending more and more time in public together, subtly holding hands when they walk or sneaking a hand over Chloe’s knee when they sit side by side. Coming out to Chloe’s family, and eventually Elly’s, being invited to special occasions as a couple.

Nothing could compare to the excitement it brings, the love she feels for Chloe, and the love she feels from Chloe. The way her heart races when she sees her, the way she feels safer just from Chloe’s presence. How Chloe brings out the best in her, has helped Elly to feel better about herself, and how Chloe can make her smile without even trying.

No, nothing could compare.

Chapter Text

Walking through the front door of Lassiters, the first face she sees when she looks up is her girlfriends. Girlfriend. It still amazes her, using that word, being able to associate it now with Chloe. There’s no shame, no guilt, she’s one hundred percent Chloe’s now. When their eyes meet across the room, she smiles brightly back at Elly, a smile that could easily be taken as welcoming, considering she’s standing behind the desk, but Elly knows it’s so much more.

It feels different, the weight gone from her shoulders, that voice in the back of her mind saying you aren’t officially hers, you’re still his, silenced. That’s how she felt after he left the room, no regret, no second thoughts. She sent a message to David, Broken up w Mark. Don’t tell Aaron but don’t freak out if he’s suspicious, and one to Chloe, It’s done babe xxx

She’s one step closer to being the person she wants to be, the person who can openly admit and express her love for another woman. There’s no rush, she knows, but she lets herself imagine the future - dinners, birthdays, events, where Chloe is there too, where Susan, Karl and Bea consider her family.

“Hey,” she smiles, aching to lean across and kiss Chloe hello. She lays her hand on the desk instead.

“Hey,” Chloe’s gaze is heavy, like the desire is shared. Even if they were out, Chloe’s too professional to kiss her at work… somehow, that makes her want it even more. She glances to the side, then rests her hand over Elly’s, stroking her skin with her thumb. Her heart jumps, a buzz running through her veins, that’s what the simplest of touches from Chloe do to her, she should be used to it by now.

A part of her wonders if people can tell, if people are actually looking at them. She’s never been good at subtlety, neither has Chloe, so Elly imagines they look like two women deeply in love.

It’s Chloe who breaks the eye contact eventually, but beams excitedly,
“I’ve got a surprise for you.”

It takes a moment for Elly to catch up, to snap out of her dreamy daze and focus on what she’s saying, even then she struggles. She feels so lucky to be with Chloe at all, surprises and gifts feel unnecessary when all she wants is time with Chloe. In saying that, she won’t say no to whatever it is.

“Come on,” Chloe whispers, leaning in, there’s a mischievous glint in her eye. She slides something from under the desk, hand curled around it so Elly can’t see it, “I’ll show you.”

She walks out from behind the desk, legs coming into view, that and the black leather mini skirt she’s wearing is easily distracting. She doesn’t feel completely present around Chloe, at least not today, it’s something to do with getting caught twice, still on edge after almost having Chloe on the counter, she’s sure. Elly pushes those thoughts away, following her girlfriend through the Lassiters lobby and to the elevator.

“Where are we going?” she asks.

Chloe looks over her shoulder,
“It’s a surprise, isn’t it?” she grins cheekily.

Elly chuckles. She has no idea what to expect, never does with Chloe, but her spontaneity is fun, rather than unsettling like it was with Mark. She’s not sure how far Chloe goes with surprises, especially ones for significant others - although, Elly thinks maybe she can rule out a tattoo, believes Chloe would ask permission before doing something like that.

The elevator doors open and they step inside, she watches Chloe press a button, as if knowing the floor they’re going to would help her figure out what they’re doing - it doesn’t.

“Are you okay? You seem distracted,” Chloe asks softly, slipping her hand into Elly’s and intertwining their fingers. She already feels a little better.

“Yeah,” she nods, “Just want time alone with you,” she admits, blushing. This whole thing is still new, they’ve been friends, they’ve been in love, now it’s time to be girlfriends.

Chloe smiles, lifting their entwined hand and kissing Elly’s.

After a few seconds, the doors open, Chloe leads her down a corridor, hand still connected. She doesn’t recognize this floor, but really, the amount of times she’s been to Lassiters can be counted on one hand, and every floor is identical, she imagines. They stop in front of a door, Chloe uses a card - what she pinched from underneath the desk, Elly realizes - to gain access, before pushing the door open.

From just outside the doorway, she can see a large bed with crisp white sheets, a coffee table as a part of the seating area disappearing further into the room. What really catches her eye is the bucket of ice on the bed, the neck of a bottle of wine popping out the top, and a bouquet of roses sitting beside it. It’s romantic, and lovely.

“Ooh, fancy guest?” Elly asks, turning to her girlfriend.

Chloe smiles,
“I booked it for us,” she tells her softly, she sounds nervous, hopeful she will like it. Elly knew she could be unaware - although that was usually her ignoring things she didn’t want to accept, like her relationships failing - but this was obvious. She feels a familiar tug of her heart, both excited and in complete adoration for Chloe. “I thought after the day we’ve had, or really, after the day you’ve had, you deserved to relax. And after breaking up with Mark, you mightn’t be comfortable being around him, so we can stay here tonight. We can have that alone time.”

“You’re…” when it finally catches up to her, she feels almost breathless. It’s only a hotel room, she knows that, but Chloe really thought of her, did something special just for her. It shouldn’t surprise her, and really it doesn’t, Chloe is Chloe, but being so deeply cared for isn’t something she’s used to feeling. “I love you, and I love this. I… Are you allowed to do this?”

“Book a hotel room at the hotel I work at? I can’t see why not,” Chloe shrugs, “Nobody checks that stuff anyway.”

“Didn’t think of using your code name, Elliot?” she teases. She feels so light and happy, it’s incredible the difference being around Chloe makes.

“Everyone knows it’s a cover,” Chloe laughs, it’s airy, soft. She meets Elly’s gaze, staring into each others eyes. It’s all Elly can do, all she wants to do, let herself get lost in those blue eyes for hours. It’s with an intensity she’s never felt before, she never felt the desire to stare into Mark’s eyes, to memorize every detail of his face.

“We could spend lunch here instead?” Elly suggests, leaning in, nose brushing tenderly over the side of Chloe’s head. “We could drink that wine, I could lay you out on the bed…”

Chloe makes a noise from low in her throat, it sounds strangled, like she’s trying to resist. You don’t have to resist me, I don’t want you to, Elly thinks back to that night, the night Chloe broke her heart. None of that matters anymore, not when this is the result.
“As tempting as that is, which, believe me is a lot, I can’t do lunch anymore. Terese needs me to attend a meeting with her,” her voice is just a whisper. She slips away from Elly’s side to shut the door, locking automatically with a click.

“But…” Chloe continues, maneuvering Elly and pressing her against the closed door. It’s swift, sudden, their chests together. She feels breathless, Chloe looking up at her with eyes darker than before, “If you come back at five with this,” she holds the keycard up, “You might be lucky enough to be graced with my amazing presence,” there’s a playful tone in her voice, laced with undeniable lust.

Chloe leans forward, kissing her softly. Always soft, like she’s important, something to be treasured, it’s in the way she looks at her, too. A part of her wishes she noticed sooner, the other part tells her it was meant to happen like this, everything aligning and clicking together for it to happen.

She winds her arms around the blondes neck,
“I think I’m pretty lucky already,” she breathes, forehead against Chloe’s.

Chloe smiles, dipping in for a kiss. She slips the keycard into the back pocket of Elly’s jeans, Elly whimpering against her lips when Chloe gropes her, only briefly. Her head swims from the contact, the desire for her girlfriend the only thing she can focus on. She’s been so close to it all day, so many almost, the proximity between them hurts, even, winding her up when Chloe’s about to return to work.

But she still presses into the kiss, cupping Chloe’s cheek and licking into her mouth. If she can’t focus for the next three hours, neither should Chloe.

“Bye Ells,” she says after a moment, forcing herself away.

“Bye Chlo,” Elly exhales slowly, watching Chloe disappear back down the hall, she wonders if the seductive sway of her hips is intentional.

She tips her head back against the door, shutting her eyes. Her heart races. What Elly doesn’t know, she should be less worried about getting through the next hours, and more worried about the person who, unbeknown, saw her and Chloe kissing.

//

After her lunch date with Chloe fell through, she sends a message to Bea, inviting her instead.

She wiggles the keycard out of her back pocket and sits down, waiting patiently. It’s pretty basic, rectangular, dark grey with the Lassiters logo on the front. ‘All access keycard’ is written in large, white letters, permitting her access to the pool, spa, restaurant. Elly doesn’t plan on using any of it.

The whole thing feels naughty. Chloe slipping the card into her pocket, sending her away with the promise of alone time later, it sends a thrill down her spine. Elly smiles, running her finger over the rounded edge, with sexual intention or not, it’s still an incredibly sweet gesture. She really does love Chloe so much.

“Lassiters… how can you afford that?” Bea asks, Elly jumps at her sudden presence. She sits down across from Elly, “Sorry.”

“It’s not that expensive,” Elly says, when really, she doesn’t know what a standard room costs, let alone one with roses and wine - though, she thinks Chloe had more to do with that.

“Yeah, not when you’re best friends with the managers EA,” Bea scoffs, asking, “Did she get you a good deal or something?”

It can’t be as expensive as Bea is letting on, Elly thinks, it’s the first place people go when they aren’t welcome at home. Unless she’s trying to get information out of her, see how close she and Chloe really are, if needing a hotel room has anything to do with her.

Elly shakes her head,
“Chloe is professional. And it’s not like her special privileges would extend to me anyway,” she says.

Bea nods, satisfied with her answer,
“How are things going with you and Chloe?”

She’s taken aback by the forwardness of Bea’s question, directly addressing Chloe rather than implying it has to do with her,
“Good, why?” her response is belated, she hopes Bea doesn’t read into it, see it as Elly having to construct an appropriate lie. It’s not a lie, not completely.

“You just seemed a bit confused last time we talked,” she says, nonchalant. Maybe Elly is paranoid, the one reading into what is more likely care and curiosity from her sister. “Are your feelings any clearer? I know it’s none of my business, Elly, but if you need to talk to someone, you know you can come to me.”

Elly smiles, even when her stomach turns. She and Chloe aren’t ready to come out - not unless it’s absolutely necessary, like with David, for example - but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel bad about lying to her sister. Bea is supportive, and trustworthy, she knows her secrets will stay secret - that’s why she initially confided in her - it feels wrong to keep it from her. But that’s the thing, it’s not about Bea at all… it’s about her and Chloe, and that’s all.

“Thanks Bea,” she says, choosing to avoid the other questions.

It doesn’t matter anyway, because the subject is changed instantly to Bea’s most recent hospital visit. Finn, a topic Elly preferred to be kept out of is suddenly interesting, all because it takes the attention away from her.

//

After taking her time at lunch with Bea, going to visit Leo at the backpackers - he’s wasn’t there, maybe somewhere with Piper - Elly is still half an hour early back to Lassiters. She ran out of things to do, that’s one way to look at it, the other is she’s desperate, aching for her girlfriends touch. Her mind, continually wandering back to Chloe during her lunch, isn’t going to focus on anything other than the night ahead. She wonders if Chloe is struggling to concentrate too.

Chloe is missing from the front desk. It’s a good thing, Elly thinks, the temptation right now to grab her and kiss her, even in front of people, very high. Actions first, consequences later, that’s how she’s always been.

She could pour them some wine, light candles, she muses over what could be done with her spare time, considering she’s early. Elly takes the keycard from her pocket, walking out of the lift and down the hall to their room. The slot glows green when she slips her keycard through, unlocking and granting her access inside.

Elly opens the door to find Chloe sitting at the end of the bed, preoccupied with a wine glass in one hand and bottle in the other. She looks up when she hears the door open,
“Hey,” she beams.

She shuts the door behind her, eyes never leaving Chloe’s. Chloe’s wearing the same clothes from earlier - of course she is, technically she’s still at work - the gaping neckline of her yellow blouse shows her collarbones, skin Elly wants to nip at. Eyes dragging down further, Chloe’s legs are crossed, the already tight material of her leather skirt pulled taut over the small amount of thigh it covers, the rest bare like her long, long legs.

Elly’s glances over her shoulder, double checking the door has locked. So many interruptions - in bed this morning, in the kitchen, outside their hotel room - it’s the last thing she wants to happen now.

When she looks back, Chloe is setting the glasses and bottle on the table, safe away from the bed. Heat swirls low in her stomach, pulse heavy as she walks over to Chloe, gently pushing her down onto the bed. Chloe stretches, pulling Elly down with her, hand curled around the back of her neck. She moves to straddle the blonde, pinning her to the bed with her lips as well.

Her mouth is soft, lovely, exactly what she’s been waiting for - of course, she wants more, desperate for it, but even her kiss is so special.

“Are you staying?” Elly murmurs against her lips, wary to start something that can’t be finished. “Don’t have to go back to work?”

“No,” she breathes, “I’m all yours now. Always yours.”

Chloe’s hand moves to cradle her cheek, guiding their lips back together. Her tongue sweeps over Elly’s lip, licking eagerly into her mouth. She tastes sweet, but sharp, like she had a sip of wine before Elly arrived.

It’s strong as well, has the potential to get her drunk - if she weren’t already drunk on love. That’s how she feels, lightheaded and dreamy around Chloe, heart beating quicker. Even now she can’t believe she’s making out with Chloe, with her girlfriend.

Her own hand slides down to the blondes hip, crooking her fingers in the waistband of her skirt. She’s not sure if her plan is to untuck Chloe’s blouse, or unzip her skirt, either option has an equally positive outcome.

“The bath in there is huge,” she murmurs, the same mischievous glint in her eye from earlier. Her hand drops to Elly’s shoulder, haphazardly stroking her fingers through her hair, “Wanna drink wine in the bath?”

Elly blinks at her. It’s not what she was expecting, and it will prolong any touching, which she has patiently waited all day for... at least as patiently as someone with a girlfriend as hot as Chloe should be expected to wait.

But then it’s not every day she gets to experience this kind of luxury, and for free as well. She doubts it compares in size to the bath back at Susan and Karl’s, one that she and Chloe would not comfortably fit in together. Despite her earlier thoughts, they should probably leave the bed at least once.

And if that wasn’t enough for her to say yes, the excitement on Chloe’s face would be.

She kisses the smile on Chloe’s lips,
“Go fill the bath up,” she tells her, sitting back on her knees to let Chloe scramble off the bed.

Elly smiles, watching her disappear into the bathroom. She sighs in contentment, heart fluttering in her chest. In her peripheral vision sit the arrangement of roses, slightly askew from their movements on the bed - no birthday, no Valentine’s, no special occasion, Chloe makes these romantic plans just because.

The faucet turns on in the bathroom, and over the running water she hears Chloe call,
“I think there are strawberries in the fridge, Ells, if you want to get them.”

She climbs off the bed, walking to the kitchen, conjoined with the lounge and bedroom in an open space. Inside the fridge is a small bowl of strawberries, vibrantly red, everything perfect down to the last detail. Elly wonders how she manages to get it all done, organize everything while also doing her actual job, she makes it all look so easy. She takes them out with one hand, holding the bottle of wine in the crook of her elbow, and two glasses in the other hand - being a frequent party girl, she’s more than capable of holding multiple glasses of alcohol.

The bathroom gleams, countertops hard marble.
“Put that here?” Chloe suggests, gesturing to a small table, tall enough they would be able to reach from the bath. Soil sits on the surface, Elly’s confused until she sees the potted plant sitting on the floor - clearly Chloe moved it to make space. She places their items on the table.

Elly moves into her side, unable to resist kissing her neck, any part of her, actually. She glances over at the bath, it’s huge like Chloe said, angular, depth deceptive however when it’s filled with bubbles. She chuckles, dropping her head to Chloe’s shoulder,
“It’s a bubble bath,” she says, looking fondly up at her girlfriend.

“It is,” Chloe answers simply, “Bubble baths are super romantic.”

You’re super romantic,” Elly corrects. “You’re romantic without even trying. You are a lot of things without trying.”

“Like what?” Chloe asks, intrigued by Elly’s tone, edging on seductive.

“Sexy,” she smiles, hand on Chloe’s lower back she attempts, without her noticing, to untuck her shirt.

“Did you want to undress me?” she asks, casual but amused, she looks over her shoulder at Elly’s hand, then up into her eyes.

“Ah,” she tilts her head, dragging the zipper of Chloe’s skirt down, she tugs at the edge, loose enough now to slide down her long legs and to the floor. “I might have to think about that,” Elly smiles slowly, pulling Chloe’s shirt over her head.

She leans in instantly, kissing her mouth briefly, then her neck and shoulder, hand sliding around her back to undo Chloe’s bra. The bath, while an incredibly sweet gesture that Elly appreciates, is the last thing on her mind, or what she wants to do. She loves a bath, drinking wine in the bath is actually one of her favourite activities to relax, but bathing with her extremely gorgeous girlfriend when all she wants to do is touch her? Elly would rather do the latter.

Her fingers hook into her lingerie, letting them fall to the floor too. She allows herself one look, one chance to marvel at her girlfriend’s whole body. Forehead pressed against Chloe’s, she asks,
“Can’t we skip the bath? I’ve wanted to touch you all day.”

“The bath is filled up Elly,” she says, a smile flickers on her lips, taking clear enjoyment out of teasing her. She reaches back, pulling out her hairtie, hair settling messily over her shoulders. Elly almost groans at the sight, hot, disheveled. “You can’t wait an hour? I’ll make it up to you after.”

“No, I can’t,” Elly answers, although knowing it wasn’t really a question.

Chloe smirks, turning to climb into the bath. Despite Elly’s momentary frustration with it, and Chloe, she places a gentle hand on her back, steadying her as she lowers into the water. She kicks her foot out, smiling playfully when she splashes Elly,
“Come on.”

And like that, any frustration is gone. Chloe never fails to make her smile.

She pulls her t-shirt off, noticing Chloe’s raised eyebrow when she drops it to the floor.
“You stripping for me, Miss Conway?” she asks cheekily.

Elly smiles, continuing to undress in front of Chloe, who offers her a hand into the bath. She sinks down slowly, water hot and bubbles soft on her skin.

She relaxes easily against Chloe, back pressed to her front, sitting between her open thighs. The bath is long enough Chloe can stretch her legs out, feet popping through the bubbles, her toes are painted dark red.

Her head tilts back on Chloe’s shoulder, eyes falling shut. It is relaxing, the bubbles, the gentle touch of Chloe’s hand on her arm, the sound of her own pulse heavy in her ears.

“Do you want your wine?” she asks, easier for Chloe to reach as she’s sitting up straight.

Elly nods, sitting herself up. She takes a long sip, holding the glass out of the bath as she rests back against Chloe, arm hanging over the edge.

“Tell me about your day,” Chloe murmurs, “Besides the hours you spent in agony because we couldn’t be together.”

Elly smirks, then says,
“I went and had lunch with Bea.”

“How is she?” Chloe asks, her voice is quiet, soothing. She could listen to it forever, it wouldn’t matter what it was, even her travel stories.

“She’s good. We talked about Finn, she went to visit him yesterday with Susan,” she says.

“And you still haven’t gone to see him?”

“I don’t want to. It doesn’t matter if he has amnesia, I don’t want to get involved in it. After everything he did to me, to my family, I can’t forgive him,” she sighs, taking another careful sip.

“And you don’t have to Ells,” Chloe murmurs, rubbing a gentle hand over her shoulder, “You don’t owe him anything, and you don’t owe it to Bea or Susan to visit him. But if for whatever reason you change your mind and do want to go, you know I’ll be right there beside you holding your hand. Out or not.”

Elly nods slowly, humming at Chloe’s mention of their relationship, and how it remains a secret.
“… I think Bea knows about us.”

“What makes you say that?” she asks, calm, not a hint of worry or concern. It’s another aspect of their relationship that Elly appreciates - open and honest, always communicating. They are well-balanced, they work through things together, she knows Chloe is there, with a clear head, to support her, just like Elly is there for her. When she’s upset about something Chloe is the first, and usually the only person, who makes everything okay again. Her fingertips, dragging slowly up and down her arm, is enough ease her.

“I confided in Bea a while ago. I told her about the kiss, and that we slept together, and I tried to sleep with you again, but I think she already had a feeling something was going on between us. I haven’t… updated her on our relationship, but she saw me before with the keycard and asked questions.”

Chloe’s touch never falters,
“And how would you feel if she did know?” she asks.

She knows it wouldn’t change the way she feels about Chloe, she’ll still love her with her whole heart. Through all the mistakes she’s made in her life, her family have always supported her, have never judged her feelings or actions, Elly doubts falling in love with a woman, as suddenly as it might seem, would make a difference either.

She and Chloe are strong, genuine, and Elly is certain their love will last a lifetime.

It’s not the knowing that scares her, it’s the feeling that comes after it. Vulnerable, exposed, open, things she’s only comfortable with being around Chloe. It’s not some huge secret she’s been keeping for years, but it’s a secret all the same - one she holds close to her chest. Realistically, she knows things won’t change, everything will remain the way it is now, but first she has to build the courage to actually get past it.

“I wouldn’t mind,” Elly tells her honestly, “I know she would support me, and us, Susan and Karl would too. I’d like them to know, I’d like you to be invited to family breakfast and family dinner, where we could hug and kiss and they wouldn’t care. I know they’d love you Chlo.”

“But?” Chloe prompts, wet hand stroking through her hair softly.

“I don’t know how to tell them,” she says, staring ahead, watching the steam raise in swirls from the water. “I want to, I really do… I just don’t know how to say those words, or even what those words are.”

“I wish I had good advice for you Ells. I never really had to come out, mum and dad caught me kissing a girl when I was fourteen - mum didn’t care because she just accepted me, dad didn’t care because, well, he didn’t really care about anything I did. Most of the time I think he forgot he had a daughter,” Elly rubs a hand over Chloe’s knee, giving her affection she can manage without turning around. “And you know my family... if something happens we don’t talk about it, at least, that’s how we used to be. But I think for you, it doesn’t matter what you say, whether it’s as big as ‘I’m bisexual’ or ‘I like girls’ or something as personal as ‘Chloe is my girlfriend’ as much as you’re comfortable with, you don’t have to say any more. Or maybe you don’t have to say anything at all, we could just kiss in front of them and let them figure it out.”

Elly chuckles, turning her head to press into Chloe’s neck.

“There’s no rush remember? Take as long as you need,” Chloe says, looking into her eyes now.

She nods, placing her wine on the table she sits up properly, no longer propped by Chloe’s body.
“But David knows, Aaron’s already suspicious of us, and once he finds out Mark and I have broken up I don’t think it’ll take him long to figure out why.”

“But babe it’s none of their business,” she says softly, “You shouldn’t feel pressured to come out, not by my brothers or your sister.”

“I don’t,” she assures her quietly, “Like I said, I really do want to be open, I’m ready. I just have to find the courage to tell them I love with you.”

“You will,” Chloe smiles fondly, giving her a gentle kiss. “So what now? I could wash your hair... or your body?” she adds cheekily.

Elly hums, waving her fingers through the silky water, creating small ripples.
“I’m good,” she murmurs, smiling. “Unless you wanted to get out?”

“No I’m fine,” Chloe murmurs, reaching forward for the bowl of strawberries sitting on the table. As she moves behind her, Elly can feel the brush of stiff nipples against her back. She shivers involuntarily, the press of them more apparent when Chloe sits back, half bitten strawberry in her hand, “Strawberry?” she offers, completely casual.

She shakes her head, skin buzzing and heat growing between her thighs, it’s all she can focus on. She was fine before, relaxed and hardly thinking about Chloe like that, though the conversation was quite distracting.

But she can’t wait any longer. Elly turns around, cupping Chloe’s cheek as she leans in to kiss her fervently. Her lips are sweet, taste like strawberry when she licks inside. Chloe moans into her mouth, wet hand gripping Elly’s shoulder, she pulls away,
“I don’t want you to slip,” she whispers, noticing the way Elly’s body is twisted to face her. Chloe thinking of her safety when she’s also got Elly’s tongue in her mouth, it’s endearing, though bad timing.

“Let’s get out,” Elly decides, forehead pressed against Chloe’s. Chloe nods eagerly.

She turns back around, pulling the plug out to let the water drain. Carefully she stands up, climbing over the edge and onto the bath mat, or maybe it’s the clothes they took off before, sitting in a pile. Elly offers her hand, helping Chloe out of the bath, she’s pulled instantly into a kiss by the blonde. It’s soft, but the urgency is clear, one hand on her hip and the other on her cheek, bringing her closer still.

Elly reaches behind her, feeling blindly for a towel. Chloe moves her hand away, taking it in her own,
“We’re going straight to bed,” she tells her, caressing Elly’s cheek and leaning in to resume kissing. She guides them to the bed, Elly walking backwards. Her knees hit the edge and they fall onto the sheets together.

Their kiss never breaks, Elly’s hand, wet, moving to curl around the back of her neck, heart clenching with a need to have her as close as possible. Her skin is slippery, bodies slick against each other and glistening under the light. Chloe deepens the kiss, easily coaxing her lips open with her tongue.

Elly’s not sure how long they lay there for, kissing leisurely, Chloe’s hand sitting on her hip and legs entwined. She could stay like this forever.

Chloe pulls back, moving to kiss down her neck. She licks at her wet skin, over the dip of her collarbone and to her shoulder,
“We’ll get the sheets wet,” she giggles, tilting her head to the side.

“They would’ve had to wash them anyway,” Chloe smirks, voice quiet. “Besides, I’m not really worried about that right now.”

Chloe’s hand inches up her thigh, teasing her entrance with two fingertips. Her hips raise off the bed, damp legs brushing with Chloe’s where they’re still entwined. She’s been winding Elly up all day, she knows it’s not enough.

Her lips press gently against Elly’s neck again, littering her skin with slow kisses. Distracting her easily, so tender her chest feels light. The two fingers slide into her then, thrusting in and out slowly, too slow, and yet, Elly’s already close.

She’s not sure if it’s solely from thinking about it all day, from all the times it almost happened, or if it being the touch of the woman she loves, making her so weak. It’s most likely both.

Her pulse quickens, knee bending, Chloe slips a third finger into her slick heat. There’s so much love with it, something that, until now,. Elly had never experienced. It’s in everything that Chloe does, the way she looks at her, the way she smiles, the way she kisses and touches her skin, the way she’s always thinking and caring about her - if Elly didn’t already know, Chloe loves her more than anyone ever has.

She used to party every night, it was an easy distraction, focusing on which club they would go to next. She hooked up with random guys, and it never mattered how good they were in bed, there was always an emptiness. Instead of making up for what she didn’t have, pointed it out specifically, and she was left feeling lonely, incomplete.

It wasn’t until she got to know Chloe, and inevitably fell for her, that that feeling went away, replaced with a genuine love. With Chloe, she never feels lonely.

A curl of her fingers tips her over the edge, pathetically quickly. It shouldn’t surprise her, and really, it doesn’t, ever since she fell for Chloe she’s lost any power. Elly turns into the comfort of Chloe’s shoulder, eyes shut, name leaving her lips in a sigh. Her skin is smooth, still damp and cool against Elly’s flushed cheek.

Chloe smiles down at her, but slips away, moving further down the bed. She kisses her stomach, nips at the soft flesh of her thighs, can feel Chloe’s breath against her skin. It doesn’t surprise her when she’s wet all over again.

“Told you I’d make up for the bath, didn’t I?”

She doesn’t have to make up for the bath, Elly almost says, but a little selfishly, holds back. It’s not like it matters anyway, Chloe very clearly wants to make love to her. She’s sure Chloe knows she actually enjoyed the bath.

Chloe parts her folds with two fingers, head disappearing between her thighs to swipe her tongue through her wetness. Elly’s hips flick upward, breath catching in her throat at the sudden touch, although anticipated. Her legs spread easily, giving Chloe space.

She reaches up, curling a hand around Elly’s hip, tongue delving deeper without hesitation. She tilts her head back into the pillow, hand sinking into Chloe’s blonde, damp waves, fingers weaving in tightly, pulling her closer as she arches into her mouth.

“Yeah,” she gasps, “Yeah, yes Chlo.”

Chloe slips her fingers in again, thrusting shallowly, tongue curving around Elly’s clit, sucking gently. Her toes curl and thighs tremble, climax racing through her.

She moans her name, loud and breathy, hand twisting in the bed sheet. Chloe retracts her fingers, tongue slowing until it stops. Chloe strokes her hip, sitting up on her knees. Elly’s hand slides out of her hair.

“How was that?”

Elly chuckles breathlessly, reaching out for her with laden arms. Chloe leans forward, positioning herself over Elly, pressing a kiss to her lips.

“It was amazing, you don’t need me to tell you that,” Elly murmurs, kissing her cheek and kissing her ear. She flips them over, knees bracketing Chloe’s hips.

Chloe giggles, smoothing her palms up Elly’s thighs and raking back down with her nails. Elly pushes her hands away. She starts again, rubbing over her hips and higher up her sides, thumbs brushing the underside of her breasts.

It’s so tempting, to give in and let Chloe touch her again, no matter how sensitive her body feels. But she pushes her hands away again,
“You’ve already had your turn,” she teases, Chloe grins mischievously, like she has other ideas, or maybe - like Elly - she’s struggling to contain her happiness.

She can’t pull her eyes away, light illuminating all of her features. Their last two times were in the dark, hiding what they were doing from others. Now she can see her hair fanned out on the pillow, blue eyes glazed over with lust, lush pink lips parted. Can imagine the bruises sucked into her fair skin, watch the rise and fall of her chest. She wants to take it all in, to memorize every detail of her face, every breathy sigh, the way every inch of her skin feels under her fingers.

“So beautiful babe,” she sighs, admiring her girlfriend. Her smile only brightens.

Elly leans down, kissing Chloe’s neck. She presses her nose against her skin, inhaling. There’s a freshness, floral, from their bath, but something so specifically Chloe that she loves. It’s intoxicating.
“You smell so good,” she moans.

Chloe arches her hips, grinding eagerly against Elly’s thigh. She shuffles back, giving herself enough space to stroke Chloe’s inner thigh, right up and easing two fingers inside of her, instantly coated with her arousal. She moans, tipping her head back into the pillow - Elly dips her head to kiss the newly exposed skin of her throat, working down to her collarbones as she starts thrusting her fingers.

From under her, Chloe’s breath picks up, Elly watches the rapid rise and fall of her chest, mesmerized almost. She’s gorgeous, nipples pretty pink and shiny, she can’t resist tracing circles over them with her thumb.

She quickens her fingers inside her, trying to match the rhythm with the rubbing of her thumb. It’s difficult when Chloe is squirming, but isn’t long at all before the stimulation sends Chloe over the edge, Elly’s name on her lips.

Elly lays kisses to the blonde’s shoulder, easing her down. She removes her fingers gently - Chloe whimpering at the loss - and reaches over her to pull the sheets over them, Chloe snuggles up to her instantly.

“How was that?” Elly teases.

“Very good. Ten stars,” she answers, smile soft, tired.

“Isn’t it usually five stars?” Elly asks, grinning.

Chloe shrugs,
“You get ten. Ten gold, shiny stars.”

Elly smiles adoringly,
“I love you,” she murmurs, because it’s the only thing on her mind.

“I know,” Chloe turns to face her, “and I love you too.”

“I felt so lost without you,” she tells her, making deep eye contact. “Before we started dating, I was thinking about you all day, wondering how you were and what you were doing, it felt so pathetic, because I needed you and you weren’t even mine. I’d start daydreaming, imagining us living together…”

“I do that too,” Chloe says softly, “I think about waking up beside you every morning in our own house. I think about getting married one day, and maybe having k- I’m sorry I don’t want to freak you out.”

Elly smiles, feeling her heart swoop at Chloe’s vision of their future,
“You didn’t. You’re so sweet, just think I should probably come out first before we do any of that.”

Chloe chuckles,
“Take your time. All that matters to me is you feeling comfortable.”

“And I feel most comfortable with you.” Elly murmurs, resting her forehead against Chloe’s. “Soon, I promise. And I know what you’re going to say, but it’s for me. I’m hiding a part of myself and even though I haven’t been hiding it for very long… or doing a very good job at it, I want to tell the people important to me. Once I figure out how.”

“As long as we can still be together while you figure it out,” Chloe smiles, intertwining their fingers.

“Of course. I want to be with you, I need you Chlo, nothing will change that,” she presses a soft kiss to her lips.

She gives a tired smile, curling in closer to Elly. With their legs entwined, bodies together, she falls asleep with Chloe in her arms.

//

It’s early the next morning when Elly returns home, her old home, considering things at the Brennan’s are likely to be uncomfortable.. Their plan was to leave Lassiters before anyone - who might recognize them - arrived, so after waking to Chloe’s alarm, redressing herself and spending at least ten minutes kissing her goodbye, Elly slipped out of the hotel room first, separately to avoid any suspicion.

She twists the knob slowly, opening the door carefully to make the least amount of noise. Still, the wire door rattles on its hinges, and Bea looks over from where she’s standing in the kitchen.
“Sneaking home?” Bea teases.

“No,” Elly shakes her head, tucking her hair behind her ear, “No I just went for a walk. What are you doing… awake?”

“I have an early shift at the garage,” she answers, tipping sugar into her coffee and stirring it, she looks up, “How was the hotel?”

“It was good,” she says, brief, walking to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.

“Were you there with Chloe?” Bea asks after a moment. Elly doesn’t speak, busying herself with finding the tea bags instead. “Elly,” her voice is quieter now, softer, “If you’re dating Chloe, you can tell me.”

Her heart seizes, breath catching in her throat. She would come out soon, but this is too soon.
“What?”

“It’s just - I was talking to Ned and he said he saw you kissing at the hotel. Don’t worry, it wasn’t like… gossip or anything, it was just like a casual ‘hey you didn’t tell me this’ kind of thing,” Bea explains. Between her stomach turning and hands trembling, Elly can’t focus on anything else. “It’s okay, you know I won’t judge you.”

She turns to Bea,
“I-“

“Elly, I wasn’t expecting to see you darling,” Susan emerges from the hallway. If everyone is waking up, maybe she and Chloe were kissing for longer than ten minutes.

“Good surprise I hope,” she laughs nervously.

“Of course. You should’ve told us, we could’ve done something for breakfast,” Susan says.

“That’s okay,” she leaves her empty cup and walks over to Susan. “Is my room still free? Mark and I broke up.”

“I’m sorry. Are you alright?” Susan’s shock isn’t surprising, neither is her care, but considering Elly’s indifference toward it, she would have thought the answer was clear.

Elly shrugs,
“Things weren’t the same after he returned. It felt forced,” she tells them, wondering how many times she’ll have to explain it to other people.

Susan puts a hand on her arm,
“You’ll find someone, I know you will,” she says sympathetically.

“You might’ve already found them,” Bea adds.

As helpful and supportive she intends to be, Elly doesn’t acknowledge her.

“So my room?” she asks.

“Oh, yes, everything is still in there, well, the things you left behind,” she says, “Will you be able to get your clothes from over there?”

Elly nods,
“Or I can get Chlo to get them,” she says without thinking. Neither say anything, probably presuming she means that Chloe, her friend, can do it. Bea may have other ideas, actually.

“Good. It’ll be nice having you back.”

She smiles at Susan and walks down the hall to her bedroom. Elly collapses on her bed, instantly wishing she was back in the hotel with Chloe. No worries. No stress. No pressure.