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after all these years

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It’d been two years since they last saw each other in person. Lauren had been hearing Havana all over the radio for months now, and occasionally found herself checking on Camila’s socials late at night when sleep evaded her.

She was standing off to the side of the stage, which was quiet aside from crew members moving things around. People hadn’t arrived yet, and she smiled slightly to herself before going backstage. She hadn’t gotten far when she bumped into her , causing both girls’ jaws to drop slightly as their eyes met for the first time in two years.

“I… um… Lauren. Fancy seeing you here.” Camila offered a small and awkward smile to her former bandmate.

“...yeah…” Lauren let out, still in shock at seeing Camila for the first time in almost two years now, “Nice seeing you, Camila.” She ran a hand through her hair, nerves building in her chest, “I have somewhere to be.”

“Good luck tonight!” Camila called after her as she was hurried off by her manager, Roger, god, Lauren hated him (with good reason, too, he was one of the perpetrators in pulling the group apart when Camila started to take off as her own thing in comparison to being a part of Fifth Harmony).

She moved on, though, from the awkward interaction, and carried on with the night without Camila on the forefront of her mind.

(That’s what she told herself every time Camila popped up in her head, anyway.)

-

“I can’t believe your fucking flight got delayed. Fake fan.” Lauren chuckles sarcastically into the phone, scanning the dressing room for anything she might’ve left behind (people have definitely scored free forgotten chargers from the past two months that she’s been on tour).

Sorry, Lauren, I’ll control the weather so I can make your show next time. ” Dinah retorts on the other line, making Lauren snort. “ Isn’t Mani there anyways?

“She’s out getting food, I think,” Lauren responds, sandwiching her phone between her ear and her shoulder as she pushes stuff around in her backpack for a second. Satisfied that she hasn’t forgotten anything (that’s probably the only big thing she misses about being in a group, Ally keeping everyone in check like the mom-best-friend she is), she puts the phone on speaker and runs a hand through her hair.

Well, don’t think I’m having too much fun at this airport. Though someone noticed me, that was exciting. Mixed things up a bit. ” Dinah recalls, and Lauren smiles.

“Did they ask where you’re going?” She asks as she slips on her jacket and grabs her bag. There’s always that one fan that seems a little too invested in her personal life, and she knows that Dinah’s also had her fair share of those. 

Nah, she just wanted a hug and photo. Whatever, one more hour waiting here, then six on a plane, and then you and Mani will pick me up with glowing smiles because you missed me so damn much. ” Dinah elaborates and Lauren chuckles, amused.

“With that attitude I’ll be leaving you at the airport.” Lauren retorts quickly, making Dinah laugh loudly on the other line. She’s about to speak again when the door to Lauren’s dressing room opens, revealing one of the former members of their girl group, Normani. She gives Lauren a look that asks her who she’s talking to, to which the green-eyed woman responds with, “Dinah.”

“Oh, hey DJ!” Normani greets and turns her head to Lauren, “Lo, I got food when you want it.”

Mani! Lauren said that she’s going to leave me at the airport! ” Dinah whines on the other line, making Lauren roll her eyes.

“You can’t prove anything.” Lauren chastises, making Normani laugh. “Anyways, bye Dinah, call me when you get in, alright?”

Yeah, no problem. Bye Lo, bye Mani!

Lauren and Normani bid their goodbyes before Lauren hangs up and turns to her dark-skinned best friend, “Food?”

Normani gives her an amused smile before beckoning her to follow, “C’mon.”

Normani ends up staying the night at a hotel down the road from the venue while Lauren finds herself making the decision to go home. Being that she’s not too far from home, she takes an Uber, the ride estimated to be thirty minutes.

The driver arrives and Lauren climbs in. Thankfully, he doesn’t make any small talk aside from a simple nod of acknowledgment, which Lauren appreciates after the exhaustion of the day.

She pulls her phone out of her jacket pocket and scrolls through social media, seeing posts from fans about the show tonight and how good it was (Lauren can safely say that she agrees) and a congratulatory message from Ally about finishing her first solo tour. There’s also some messages from her family members congratulating her, and she’s psyched to finally spend more than two minutes with them once she gets home.

A lonesome text from Camila sticks out, just offering a simple congratulations on Lauren finishing her tour and nothing else. Lauren thanks her, of course, out of general politeness, but the conversation, like every other congratulatory text they’ve sent each other over the past six years, doesn’t go anywhere. Lauren’s oddly okay with it, knowing somewhere in the back of her head that Camila still cares despite them not interacting anywhere else.

She’s so enamored in her phone (and her thoughts) that she doesn’t notice that they’re in traffic aside from barely overhearing the driver mutter out a few curse words about people around them. She finally puts her phone down and glances out the window as the traffic lets up, seeing multiple emergency service vehicles crowded around a torn up car.

She’s grateful that she’s not in that scenario and notices that she’s still pretty far out from home and that it’s starting to rain ever so slightly (but increasing). She’d be worried if this kind of weather wasn’t so on par for Florida in the summer.

Her phone vibrates on her lap with a text from her mom asking where she is, to which she responds with a Stuck in traffic but on the way. Love you

Her mother resonates the I love you and adds an I can’t wait to see you that Lauren smiles at before she puts her phone down again, now noticing how heavily the rain is coming down and how people are almost crawling along the highway. Headlights blur with the raindrops on the windows and almost make Lauren feel as if she has double vision.

“Fuckin’ idiots,” The driver curses, slamming his palm on the steering wheel before turning his signal on in an effort to get off the highway. 

Lauren finds herself double-checking that her seatbelt is fastened tight, although she can’t really voice a reason as to why she’s doing that.

The driver curses again, swerving the car out of the way of someone drifting among the road in front of them. Lauren’s heart pounds in her ears as she grips on to the car, clenching her teeth so hard that she’s surprised they don’t crack. 

She tries calming herself down, repeating, He drives for a living, this is Florida, it storms all the time. No big deal, you’re going to get home in twenty minutes and your mom is going to have all this good food for you. 

Lauren makes the executive decision with shaky hands to grab her headphones and drown out the rain and traffic with music, and she finds herself listening to The 1975 . Something about their music is oddly calming to her and helps a little bit to relieve her stress.

That’s all brought to a halt when the car speeds up for a solid minute and then an abrupt bang on the side of the car makes it swerve. The bang causes her head to thunk against the window and pounding to erupt in her skull, which only feels like it’s getting worse.

Everything feels at its worst when she notices that the driver is slumped over, very not conscious, and the windshield of the car is shattered. Everything’s stopped.

She barely even notices the throb in her arm and the blood running down her temple as the edges of her vision become fuzzy and dark.

Her phone isn’t in her lap anymore, which makes her heart pound harder in her chest and her panic rise even more, but before she can think any further, she finally notices the dark edges of her vision closing in before she can see nothing anymore.

*

Dinah’s blonde head of hair is the first thing she sees when she wakes. Despite probably being up all night, the girl looks pretty lively as she speaks with Lauren’s mother and sips on her iced coffee.

“Oh! Lauren, you’re awake!” Dinah cheers, a big smile reaching her face, “Welcome back to the real world.”

“Oh, I’m going to get a doctor,” Clara says, dismissing herself from the room and leaving her daughter and Dinah together.

Lauren now notices the weight on her left arm and throbbing in her chest, “DJ, what the hell…”

“You got into an accident,” Dinah says with a sympathetic smile, “Mani’s out getting some lunch and Ally’s on a plane. Said she had to see that you’re okay in person. Nothing’s too bad, from what your mom told me, it’s a couple broken ribs, concussion, and a broken wrist.”

A million thoughts cross through the singer’s head, but all that she mutters out is a quiet, “Fuck.”

A doctor comes in not a minute later and blabbers some jargon that Lauren only half picks up on, the most important point that she hears is that her wrist will need surgery and that it’s been scheduled for tomorrow morning and she’ll hopefully leave the day after that. The doctor also advises for her to stay off her phone and take it easy, which, with Dinah around, might be complicated, but she’ll make it work.

Her left wrist is wrapped in a cushy white splint-thing, and she can barely pay attention to her mom talking about her siblings and father. She eventually takes the hint and shuts up, placing a gentle kiss to her daughter’s forehead and leaving her to rest. Dinah leaves as well, saying she’ll be back with Ally and Normani in a couple of hours.

After dozing for a few hours, she wakes up to a quiet shuffling in the room and blinks her eyes open to see her brother examining some of the flowers that have been delivered to her.

“Hey Chris,” her normally raspy voice is also now hoarse, and he quickly rushes over and gives her some water.

“Hey Laur, how’re you feeling?” He asks after she’s done drinking and sits down in a chair next to the hospital bed.

“Like shit,” she mutters, “do you know what happened?”

“Well, uh,” he pauses, thinking, “Mom told me that you got into an accident on the highway last night on your way home.”

Lauren laughs dryly, “I barely remember it.”

Chris offers a small smile, “They called Mom first, and then I called Normani because I knew she was in town. She picked up Dinah this morning and Ally’s coming, but I think Dinah told you that. Dad’s coming after work with Taylor.”

Lauren nods and offers a small smile, “Thanks, Chris.”

“No problem. So how was the last part of the tour since I saw you?”

Lauren grins an actual grin now, speaking lazily about how the tour went, how the fan reaction was beyond her wildest dreams, and how it felt to interact face-to-face with people that’d stuck by her once again. She finds herself getting more excited as she elaborates on the whole experience of it all and less groggy and deluded than before.

Their conversation is interrupted by the girls walking into the room, Ally bearing some flowers and Normani and Dinah bearing coffees (how many has Dinah had today is beyond Lauren and honestly, she’s scared of the answer).

“Hey, Lo,” Ally greets, “how’re you feeling?”

“Tired of that question.” Lauren retorts, feeling more awake now, “but just kind of doped up I guess.”

“There are paps everywhere .” Dinah whines, flopping into a chair near the TV in the hospital room, “Pricks wanted to know how dead you were.”

Ally places down one of the bouquets that she’s holding and looks at the other one, her eyebrows furrowing at the card.

“What’s wrong, Smalls?” Dinah asks when she catches the concerned look on the shortest girl’s face.

“These are from Mila,” Ally says, looking over at Lauren with a confused look on her face.

“What do they say?” Normani asks, and Lauren feels concern (and maybe a bit of excitement) wash over her.

“If it just says Get Well Soon , I’m not surprised.” Lauren tacks on before looking over at Chris and asking for help to get her bed to sit up a bit more.

“Um… no, it says that she’s sorry that this happened and she hopes that you’re okay.” Ally still looks confused and Lauren feels as if there’s something the older girl isn’t telling her. Normani walks over to where Ally’s still holding the card and reads it herself.

Lauren, for once, is grateful that Normani’s emotions are so readable, “Let me see it.”

As the girls come over, Lauren finds herself thinking about how Normani and Camila talk and when Normani hands her the card, she asks, “Did she tell you she was sending these?”

“I had no clue,” Normani responds, and now Lauren sees the card.

Lauren,
I was shocked when I heard that you got into an accident. I hope that you’re doing well and that you’ll get better soon.
Keep in touch,
Camila

It’s all so generic and on-brand for their “relationship” (if you could even call it that) that’s been around for the past six years that Lauren almost wants to roll her eyes.

It’s that last line that stops her though:

Keep in touch .

What is that supposed to mean?