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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.

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,

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?

Chapter Text

Her morning had been going fine. She’d been hanging out with her mother, talking about some new lyrics she’d conjured up last night when she couldn’t sleep, when she got a completely unexpected text.

It was from Dinah, who, after an unresponded to congratulatory text for her album in early 2018 (which wasn’t intentional, it just got past her and she regrets not responding), hadn’t reached out to her except for following her on Instagram again.

That was now broken with a text she got this morning. It was simple, Meet me at the Starbucks by the hospital in an hour. 

If she’s being completely honest, she wanted to chicken out. She didn’t really realize she’d agreed until she sent a text back, saying, ok . She knows it’s a lame response, but she could barely think as she got ready to go and her mom offered to drive her (Yes, she’s aware that she’s 25 and she still doesn’t know how to drive.)

Thanks to the invasive paparazzi, the entire world seems to know which hospital Lauren’s staying at, and now Camila’s been hunkered in the corner beneath an oversized hoodie and random cap that she had laying around her house for half an hour, hopefully going unnoticed while slowly drinking a hot chocolate.

Dinah’s never scared Camila, really, since they met on X-Factor, which isn’t saying much because Ally scared her and Ally’s a ray of human sunshine (social anxiety’s a bitch). The only times she truly saw Ally even close to angry was during the group therapy sessions in 2016, and even then it wasn’t really anger and more of a disappointed look, which everyone knows is worse.

Dinah, however, was her best friend until she abruptly left at the end of 2016 (well, she already had her solo projects, but the leaving still felt abrupt to her.) One day she was Camila, a member of Fifth Harmony , and the next she was Camila Cabello . She’d be lying if she said she didn’t miss Dinah.

However, now confronted with the blonde six years later, she’s not sure that meeting again after all this time was the best idea. Dinah seems off-put, which is a stark difference to back in 2016 when they still had eighty different nicknames for each other and giggled at stupid movies in the back of the tour bus on nights where they couldn’t sleep. She misses that part of her, but at the moment, she’s scared of this newer Dinah. What is she going to say? Does she hate her?

She stirs her hot chocolate with the stirrer for another minute before Dinah sits down across from her, bearing a coffee and muffin. Camila watches as the younger girl breaks off a piece of her muffin and eats it before finally making eye contact with Camila. Everything about the look she’s being given shoves aches through her entire body.

There’s a tense silence before she finally speaks up, “Hey.”

What a lame starter, she criticizes herself.

Dinah’s silent, studying Camila’s face for a second before opening her coffee so it’ll cool off. Camila knows her palms are sweating and this is probably the most anxious she’s been in a long time - which is stupid, this is Dinah , who at one point was on her list of favorite people in the world. She loved it when fans called them friendship goals, but after a while it hurt because she was the one that ended things (even though all she did was forget to respond to a text, but things were different before that ever happened anyways).

“She got the flowers you sent her.” Dinah finally says after another minute coated with awkward tension. “And the note.”

“Is this just about Lauren?” Camila asks, looking down at her drink (she doesn’t know why Dinah speaking about Lauren makes her both aggravated and insanely curious, but it is), “I was just reaching out in good faith.”

“We’re all back in town, Mila. Ally and Mani are at the hotel right now, sleeping, because we were with Lauren until late, and Lauren’s having an operation on her wrist as we speak.” Dinah informs, and Camila just thinks on every word that came out of her mouth for a minute. Normani, Ally, Dinah, Lauren and Camila all in the same vague location? Lauren on an operating table ? What kind of twisted world is this? Haha, oh yeah, it’s real life.

She finally finds herself asking, “What happened?”

“She barely knows. All I really know is that she got into an accident on her way from the venue to her parents’ house and that she broke a couple ribs, has a concussion, and her wrist is kinda screwed for the next month or two.” Dinah explains and then shakes her head, “It’s been six years, Mila, and if I extend a branch to you today, will it be worth my while?”

A small smile creeps up on her face at the lyrics, she feels like it’s been forever since she heard them, “Yeah, but I guess we should catch up first.”

Dinah finally offers a small smile, and Camila smiles as well, some of the anxiety leaving her chest. “Alright, I’ll start, what the hell happened to you? Matthew Hussey ? And I thought that Austin was a low point.” 

Camila crinkles her nose at the name, “You sprayed Austin with ketchup.” Dinah chuckles and Camila shakes her head, “And Matthew was PR if that wasn’t obvious enough.”

“Not surprised,” Dinah sips on her drink before continuing, “I’m proud of you for all your success, Mila, you deserve it, but that was so stupid. I saw footage of you two in my feeds and I cringed more at that than at my original audition on X-Factor .” - That one gets a snort out of Camila - “What about Shawn?”

Camila sighs, “He was… fabricated, kind of. We thought that we might have feelings for each other, hooked up once, and I had this… like... moment where I was like... yeah, I’m gay, so that kind of ended in private but we had to keep it going for the cameras. We’re still best friends, though, obviously.”

“You two would’ve made a good couple had you not had a better relationship as best friends.” Dinah comments, an amused smile on her face, “So… you’re gay?”

Camila presses her lips together and nods, “Yeah. My family knows, and so does my manager, but he said that being gay would hurt sales, and how dare I hurt sales?”

“God, that sucks, Mila.” Dinah sighs and reaches a hand over the table that Camila takes, “I’m really sorry.”

“It’s not a big deal, really, gives me an excuse to not want to do the whole public dating thing other than I’m tired and I don’t want to make out with a random dumbass.” Camila shrugs, retracting her hand after a minute and playing with her fingers, “I don’t even care about coming out at this point, I just want to find a girl that loves me for me and not… Camila Cabello .”

“That’s going to be hard with you being the superstar that you are.” Dinah says, “Maybe you should just change your face and your name and disappear off the side of the planet.”

Camila laughs dryly, “Lauren used to say that she’d do that if she could.”

Dinah’s amused demeanor drops at that comment, and she swallows before asking, “How much have you talked to Lauren? When they recovered her phone they gave it to me and I saw a missed text from you.”

“Well… we’ve exchanged congratulations and then thank yous, but aside from that, nothing.” Camila sighs, “She and Mani are the only ones that I’ve really spoken to if you even categorize it as that.” She’s quiet for another minute, thinking, “I’m really sorry, Dinah, I should’ve stayed in contact.”

Dinah’s quiet too, “Yeah… I don’t know about Lauren, Mani, and Ally, but I wasn’t really angry. More hurt than anything. I missed you, y’know? We were best friends… and then you just left.”

“I had to.” Camila sighs and runs a hand through her hair, “I was dying . Ally and Mani were always kind of indifferent with me, Lauren barely spoke to me, not to mention all those people saying that you’d be better off without me anyway.”

“Do you miss any of it?” Dinah asks after another pause.

“I mean…” Camila ponders the question for a second, “I miss having people with me that know what I’m going through, you know? It’s so weird when you’re by yourself. I’ve had fun and I’ve adapted, but it was nice having you guys on the road with me and we’d cheer each other up when we were sad and whatnot.” She stops herself, also remembering how much she hated it all, “It sucked when we were pit against each other for my solo projects because god forbid I do what I always wanted to do and make my own music.”

Dinah smiles at her, “I really am proud of you, Mila, your music’s everywhere.”

Camila smiles to herself, remembering her Bad Things performance when Dinah watched off to the side and hugged her when she got off stage, “Thanks, Dinah. I’m really proud of you, too, your album was awesome. I wish I reached out, but truthfully, I didn’t want you to be like… fuck off, hoe , or something, you know? It’s easier to have the image of you being a supportive best friend that I lost contact with than best friend that now hates me.”

Dinah laughs at that, “I’d never. You’ve never given me a reason to treat you like that.”

Camila smiles, feeling way more at ease now that she knows fully that Dinah doesn’t - and never did - hate her. “How were the rest of the girls after I left? I mean… I’ve been civil with Lauren and Mani and I’ve tried to reach out to Ally, which was fine until I guess she changed her number and someone asked me who I was and why I was congratulating them on Dancing with the Stars .”

Dinah snorts, “Yeah, she changed phones or something and didn’t keep her number. It took me like a week to get used to the change.”

“I guessed so,” Camila responds, “I didn’t know how to really reach out after that, so I just kind of… didn’t. I feel bad about that.”

“I don’t think that they were ever truly angry with you, Mila, I think we were all just hurt,” Dinah replies, “I remember when Mani and you saw each other again, Mani called me and told me about it and she was really happy. Happy she saw you, happy that you’re doing well… happy that you don’t hate us. I was going to reach out and then the Don’t Say You Love Me video was released and I got caught up in my feelings about that being it… Fifth Harmony, over.”

Camila mulls over that in her head, she knew it was coming, obviously, and a part of her wishes she’d just hung on, but she doesn’t know where she’d be now if she did. A part of her thinks she would’ve just been more miserable, and that thought tends to keep her in check.

Dinah’s about to say something else when her phone vibrates, “Oh, I gotta go. I’ll keep in touch, though, I’m here for another few days.”

Camila nods, standing with her and grinning widely when the younger girl wraps her in a tight hug, “I really missed you, Walz.”

Relief floods her body at the use of her old nickname, and she finds herself shakily breathing out, “I missed you too, China.”