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"You’re mad. Why are you-” Aster is surprisingly fast. “Slow down!”

She doesn’t stop. Not immediately. It isn’t until their feet hit the pavement and Aster is within arms reach of the car door that she comes to a halt. “I’m not mad.” The tone might not be mad but it certainly isn’t joyous. 

Hands on knees, Ellie gasps, sucking in air as if it was her last breath. She isn’t unfit per se but Aster has these legs that leave Ellie a little more breathless than usual. “Could have fooled me.” She might have also grabbed their bags. The bags Ellie may or may not have packed as if it was the apocalypse and not just some day trip to the beach. 

“Ugh, why-” On the third tug of the door handle, Aster slaps the palm of her hand against the frame of the car. “Why won’t you just open!?”

“Hey, it’s okay.” Fishing the keys out of Aster’s hands, Ellie tries the lock. It isn’t that she thinks Aster driving is a good idea. Rather, Ellie thinks, if the door doesn’t give, Aster might. “See.” But when she doesn’t immediately crawl into the car and demand the keys, Ellie fears she might take off running again. 

Ellie isn’t ready to run.

“I’m not mad.” Aster repeats. Ellie isn’t sure who she’s trying to convince. “I’m not.” Her voice is barely a whisper.

Cautiously setting the bags in the back seat, Ellie eyes Aster warily. Abandoning the comforts of the driver seat, Aster settles on the asphalt, knees drawing into her chest. It’s dark out but Ellie thinks Aster looks distant. A little too distant.

“Okay. Not mad.” Ellie repeats as she sits down in front of Aster. If Ellie boxes in her legs it’s equal part comfort equal part insurance that Aster won’t be running any time soon. “But definitely not happy. Unless this is your idea of happy now.”

“Tell me. Tell me I’m not crazy.” Fingers carding through her hair, Aster exhales shakily. “Tell me you love me.” She’s trembling and it has nothing to do with the warm summer breeze.

Brows pinching inward and down, Ellie frowns. “Why would you-”

“Please.” Aster never begs.

Ellie isn’t sure what’s going on but the wavering intonation and the trembling shoulders leave her desperate to fix it. Whatever it is. “If you’re crazy then that makes two of us because there is nothing fun about sand being stuck in every orifice of my body.” 

It’s an odd statement to say the least. But it draws Aster’s attention and the trembling in her shoulders seems to settle, “What-”

“I hate the beach. It’s messy and salty and the way the seaweed brushes against you.” Ellie shivers. “It’s horrible.”

If Aster appears confused, it's an understatement, “Ellie, I don’t think-”

“But that’s what you do. For the people you love. You do the things they love. Even if it means you’ll be finding grains of sand in ungodly places for days to come. Because they’re worth it. You’re worth it.” So maybe it wasn’t the most orthodox confession but Ellie thinks that’s sort of their thing. Unorthodox confessions that is. 

Moments of silence pass with the only companionable sounds that of the waves they left and the few other stragglers occupying the parking lot. But then that moment is gone and Ellie is left breathless all over again. 

“So... not mad anymore?” If her eyes are closed and the words come out as a winded whisper into the shell of Aster’s lips, Ellie is hardly to blame. Kissing Aster is, and will always be, breathtaking. 

“Not mad.” With her forehead resting against Ellie’s, Aster softly admits, “Jealous.”

“Jealous?” Neck craning back, Ellie is sure the confusion is bleeding from her tone and into the features of her face. “Of what?”

“Of you. Of Sam.” 

Ellie thinks hard. The name Sam rings a bell but Ellie isn’t quite sure she remembers which one Sam is. They are, after all, Aster’s friends who Ellie supposes, by proxy, are her friends. "Who is Sam?” The sputtering choke pulls Ellie from her musing. “You okay?”

“Peachy,” Aster says as she tries to swallow down her choking cough, “Tall, dark haired, mysterious?” She supplies and when it does nothing continues, “Hand over the shoulder?”

“Oh.” The face comes to her and Ellie grimaces, “Mr. Touchy? Gross.” Fragments of Aster’s fears permeate her thoughts. “Wait, jealous? Of him? Why?”

Aster blushes. “It’s stupid.” 

“Nothing you could do is stupid.” They aren't high school students any more but Ellie thinks the sentiment still rings true. 

"I just-" There's a pause and a visible frustration as Aster works through voicing her thoughts, "He just kept touching you and I-"

Ellie waits. When Aster has nothing more to say, Ellie begins, "So we ran all this way because your friend, Mr Touchy, put his arm over my shoulders?" 

"Twice."

"Right. Twice. And we had to run because?" All Ellie wants to do is to understand. She wants to understand how some weirdly touchy friend can make Aster jealous. Or at least, jealous enough to run because jealousy isn't something either of them are immune to but this is certainly a first. The running that is. 

"Because it hurt. So much. All at once and I just-" Rather than retreat, Aster reaches out, searching for some tangibility. An affirmation that all of this is just in her head, "He isn't my friend. I barely know him. And the fact that he was touching you... I wanted to hurt him. Or at least push him away. Tell him whose you are." There is a long pause. "But you aren't something to be had. A possession. And the fact that I could think those thoughts? I ran."

Capturing the fingers tracing patterns into her skin, Ellie presses a kiss to the tip of each finger before weaving them with her own, "Okay." There's a smile, soft and understanding. "Next time, please just push him though." The smile vanishes as it is replaced with a wince. "I think I'm broken." Ellie doesn't whine. Or well, much. The rich laughter is worth every ounce of pain though and Ellie would gladly run again if it meant getting to be with Aster just a little longer. 

"Sorry. I'll make it up to you."

When Aster draws Ellie into her arms who is she to refuse? Sure, they're in public and sure, Ellie isn't the biggest fan of public displays of affection. But then again, it's Aster and Ellie has stopped pretending like she isn't head over heels in love with her. Sand in every orifice and all. 

"Okay."