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order up, cupcake

Chapter Text

 

Carmilla didn’t mean to become an employee, much less a coffee shop employee. She had much bigger dreams for herself, she thinks. When she was a child, puffy-faced and so very naive, she had pictured herself in long, sturdy heels parading around the halls of her extremely large, extremely well run, and extremely sexy corporate show. She wasn’t sure what exactly she would run - Apple, Samsung, Toyota - she didn’t really care. All she knew is that she was a natural born leader, and she really didn’t like being talked back to.

Being a coffee barista went against everything she stood for, if she were to put it that way. But she still had hopes, she did, and she knew she couldn’t get through college on pure snark and sultry alone. That said, it wouldn’t stop her from trying.

Her very first day on her job, in fact, was a prime example of that.

“May I take your order?” Carmilla asked nonchalantly, dragging her nails through her hair and rolling her eyes at the mere situation she had found herself in.

“Uh…” the man in-front of her sighed, obviously disheveled and in no mood to make decisions, “a large coffee latte, please.” He scratched his head and nodded as if he were making a decision with himself. Carmilla snickered at his uncertainty, thinking about all the bigger decisions in life then deciding what flavor of coffee to order. She would later learn that this wasn’t such a small decision after all.

“Yeah, okay,” Carmilla said, scribbling down his order on a notecard and handing it to the barista behind her. The other barista, Lafontaine, a small, ever sleepy graduate student offered Carmilla a giddy smile and took the notecard out of her hands.

“It’s eight AM,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, “don’t try so hard, or you’ll start to lose it.” Lafontaine shook their head and laughed; Carmilla realized then that Lafontaine was definitely a morning person. Carmilla also realized then that she definitely was not.

“Excuse me?” a sleepy, young voice interrupted their silent feud and Carmilla returned her gaze to face a smiling, sleepdeprived college girl dressed completely head to toe in sleepwear, and holding the most embarrassing computer case she has ever ever seen.

“Excuse you?” Carmilla said, trying to hold her laughter back after observing the girl’s doctor who, panda bear themed laptop cover.

“Sorry,” the girl shook her head, “I haven’t gotten much sleep.” She offered Carmila an apologetic smile. Carmilla didn’t return it.

“Been there, honeypie,” Carmilla replied, “like, everyday of my life.”

The girl coughed awkwardly, trying to return to the task at hand, she continued, “I’ll… um… I’ll have a coffee coolattee.”

“Coolattee?” Carmilla grinned.

“Yeah,” the girl affirmed, a bit off.

“Do you mean a coolatta? Or a latte? Or both?” Carmilla said, desperately trying to keep a straight face.

“Uh…” the girl dragged her hands through her hair anxiously, her cheeks flushing at her mistake, “to be honest, I’ve never ordered from here before. Or any coffee shop, but I realized I can’t really pull all nighters with only chamomile tea.”

“Huh,” Carmilla smirked, “well that’s new.”

“Yeah…” the girl dropped her gaze to the floor, a bit flustered, “so… any recommendations?”

Carmilla couldn’t help her grin now, and she couldn’t help her fluttering heartbeat, either. The girl was cute, she couldn’t deny it. Or, well, she could, but she chose not to.

“Hmm…” Carmilla smirked, dragging her finger along the register as she noticed LaFontaine waving to her in the back of her eye.

“What is it?” Carmilla asked, a bit annoyed at her interruption.

“We just got our pumpkin spice lattes in,” Lafontaine whispered, winking at Carmilla with in a ‘i-know-that-you-know’ kind of way. Carmilla laughed dryly and returned to face the girl.

“I’ve got something I think you might like,” Carmilla said smoothly, winking at the girl from across the counter. The girl, unsure what to do with her face, grinned and looked around the shop, trying not to look Carmilla in the eye.

“Sounds good!” the girl chirped. Carmilla wrote down the order on the notecard but stopped.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” Carmilla said, her voice much too sultry to be proffesional, “I need your name. It’s a coffee shop thing.”

“I know that much,” the girl rolled her eyes affectionately.

“So?”

“It’s Laura.”

“Well then,” Carmilla smirked, “order’s up, Laura.”

Chapter Text

It was approximately the thirtieth day of Carmilla’s employment at the Slurp n’ Sip coffeehouse that she saw Laura again, she recalls. It wasn’t an ordinary day by any sorts, either.

Unbeknownst to Carmilla, their store had a bit of a tradition surrounding the winter holidays. Since drink sales, specifically those of the warm and toasty sort, always soared in the months preceding Christmas, the manager introduced a competition. It wasn’t conventional, either. It was…

“Totally and utterly ridiculous,” Carmilla scoffed, nudging LaFontaine in the shoulder in disbelief. LaF just shook their head.

“It’s fun, grandma,” LaFontaine rolled their eyes. Carmilla gaped in offense.

“Grandma? Please, I’m not the one wearing a turtleneck sweater in October,” Carmilla countered, referencing LaFontaine’s polkadot kitten sweater that they seemed to wear a bit too religiously. It was reaching the point of suspicious and downright uncomfortable.

“It-It’s my friend’s,” LaFontaine said, a bit dazzled, “she’s just lending it to me.”

Lending, yeah, okay, lovebird,” Carmilla snickered.

“Carmilla, LaFontaine, please,” their manager sighed impatiently, “So have we all agreed on the rules? Whoevers memorized the most customer coffee orders by the end of December wins. And Carmilla, before you argue with me, remember, even though you seem to forget this very frequently, I am your boss.” With that, he rolled his eyes and disappeared into the small kitchen behind the front counter.

“Okay, but honestly, how in the many hells does this boost sales? It’s creepy,” Carmilla said, turning to LaFontaine expectantly.

“When you memorize people’s orders, they like you more. They like you more, they come more. They come more, and then they get their friends to come more. It’s a multiplier effect,” LaFontaine reasoned, if not a bit geekily.

“Alright, slow down Socrates,” Carmilla grinned, “I guess if my job’s on the line, I have to.”

“That’s the holiday spirit!” LaF cheered, clunking the coffee cup in their hand against Carmilla’s forehead affectionately, “Enough of that, though, we have customers.”

Sighing, Carmilla turned to the counter and propped her elbows on the register, observing the 8 AM crowd. It was quite the crowd, too - college students, professors, middle age moms and dads - they were all there, desperately trying to get caffinated before the start of yet another work day. Carmilla let out another sigh and beckoned for the first guy in line, a eighteen or so year old college guy she recognized from her very own school. He was tall, scruffy and looked just slightly like a tiny cocker spaniel, but she would never admit that aloud.

“Can I get your order?”

“Uh, uh, of course!” he spluttered, clearly offput by the whole coffee shop atmosphere, “I’ll get the, uh, coffee.”

“You don’t strike me as the detail oriented type,” Carmilla whispered mostly to herself, but he offered her a small, confused smile in response, “what type of coffee, then?”

“Uh, well, my bro Will told me to always go with the coolatte,” he grinned confidently, “with extra milk.”

Her smile dropped, then, realizing his error.

“It’s coolatta,” Carmilla frowned. Laura. Her breathing felt funny.

“Oh, cool, cool, that thing,” he corrected, a dorky smile still plastered to his face.

“Name?”

“My name?”

“Yes, you, your name.”

“Kirsch,” he grinned, “I’m Kirsch, pretty lady.” Carmilla rolled her eyes, writing down his order on the notecard with shaky hands. Her thoughts were somewhere else entirely. Somewhere, surrounded in what may be a doctor who panda bear laptop case and beautiful, long blonde hair.

“Okay, La-Kirsch, you’re all set,” she breathed out, “next, please.” Kirsch winked at her suggestively, but tripped over his shoelace as he tried to back away. Carmilla snickered and blew him a kiss as he awkwardly shuffled away, a confused smile still hung on his face.

“Wow, you’re a real man eater, arent’cha?” a giggly voice interrupted from behind Kirsch’s disappearing figure. Carmilla blinked and stared forward, suddenly caught between the endearing stare of a familiar blonde. Laura. Her breath hitched and she found a grin begin to grow at her lips all too easily.

“Well,” Carmilla smirked, retaining her childish excitement, “you could say that, but it’s not my preferred diet.” Laura, a bit taken aback, let out another sweet laugh and slid her hand across the counter, floating inches away from Carmilla’s own resting palm.

“So, this is probably going to sound stupid, but do you guys sell food?” Laura asked sheepishly, tapping her fingers on the counter anxiously. Carmilla laughed.

“Mm, you’re in luck, coolatte, we do,” Carmilla said smoothly, her own hand inching towards Laura’s, “now, are you more a panwaffle or cupmuffin kind of girl?” Laura let out an uncharacteristically loud laugh, covering her mouth as she watched Carmilla grin at her own sense of humor.

“It was one time,” Laura joked, “I swear I’m not completely out of touch.”

“Mm, I’ll be the judge of that,” Carmilla grinned, “I have an idea.”

“Hm?” Laura raised an eyebrow expectantly. Carmilla winked, quickly gaining back her confidence, and peeked her head into the kitchen where LaFontaine was watching the whole exchange through a slit in the back.

“Man eater,” they snorted, “how very off.” Carmilla offered an eye roll.

“Could you do me a favor?”

“And what would that be?” LaFontaine smirked, their mouth a bit agape with curiosity.

“I need you to cover the register for just a bit. I want to teach our… customer just a bit about how we run things here,” Carmilla proposed, “I know there’s a line, but…”

“Shh,” LaFontaine grinned, “I’ll cover for you.” LaFontaine quickly stumbled out of the room and up to the register. Carmilla watched from the back of her eye as they began taking the next customer.

“Go get her, crushes on college students,” LaFontaine whispered in Carmilla’s ear, offering a little innocent wink of her own.

“As you seem to forget,” Carmilla said, “we are also college students.”

Stepping from behind the counter, she beckoned Laura to one of the tables near the windows. Pulling the chair out for her customer, she tilted her head and watched curiously as Laura’s grin widened.

“Not to be a downer, but what are you doing?” Laura asked, a quizzical eyebrow raised but a grin never leaving her face. Carmilla shook her head and motioned for Laura to sit. Laura shrugged, letting out a confused sigh. Carmilla walked quickly behind the counter, grabbing a variety of different pastries and carrying them over to where Laura sat.

“This, here,” Carmilla squatted down, her apron covering her like an adorable cloak, and lifted a muffin to the table, “is our chocolate chip muffin. Highly recommended, I assure you.” Laura snorted and lifted the muffin to her mouth, but paused.

“Before you ask, first one is on the house,” Carmilla smirked, “just think of it as our contribution to your future as a dedicated customer.” Laura laughed lightly, biting into the muffin and chewing it slowly. Her eyes lit up, and a groan escaped her lips. Carmilla’s smirk widened.

“If I wasn’t super broke, I would totally buy another one of those,” Laura said, “actually, I’d buy another one anyway, but unfortunately, my class starts in five minutes.”

“Hmph,” Carmilla hid a pout, replaced it with a frown, and traced her fingers over the table until her hand met the edge of Laura’s, “I hope my little marketing scheme wasn’t useless, then. I hope to see you again soon, oh dedicated customer.” Laura smirked and nudged Carmilla’s pinky delicately with hers. It was small, oh so small, and maybe a little accidental, but Carmilla felt it anyway.

“Oh trust me,” Laura grinned, “it wasn’t useless.”

Carmilla realized a singular thing, then; despite her odds, she might have one coffee order down already.

 

Chapter Text

Carmilla knew she was persuasive, but not nearly persuasive as the case study that was Laura Hollis made her out to be.

It was only a day after that she saw her again, her boots wet and squeaky as they padded threw feet of sleet to the doors of the humble little coffeeshop. Her gloves chilled and wet, she noticed LaFontaine hugging themself, shaking from the cold as they looked at the door in agony.

“Finally!” LaFontaine cried out, releasing themself from their vertical fetal position and tugging Carmilla towards them. Carmilla slipped mistakenly, dragging LaFontaine into the snow-padded concrete.

“What the shit, Laf,” Carmilla groaned, rubbing her head through her mittens as she dragged herself up from the ground and fumbled for the keys to the shop in her pockets. LaFontaine shook their head and let out a distressed groan, slipping in the door behind Carmilla as she let herself in.

“I’ve been waiting for an hour now,” LaFontaine confessed, shutting the door urgently and breathing in the warm air of the coffee shop, “I was freezing.” Carmilla glared at them, running her eyes down their poor choice of winter apparel.

“It’s November, idiot, where's your ridiculous sweater?” Carmilla scoffed. LaFontaine froze, their face dropping and their familiar smirk turning into an uncharacteristic frown.

“She needed it back.”

“Really?” Carmilla raised her eyebrow, “Yeah, unlikely. I think someone and their girlfriend got in a fight.”

“She’s not my girlfriend,” LaFontaine replied instinctually, a little bit of hurt and guilt behind their tone.

“Whatever you say,” Carmilla hummed mischievously.

“How about yours, then?” LaFontaine said, a smirk returning to their face. Carmilla’s eyes widened and her eyebrows shot up, obviously caught in the irony of their matching situations.

“She’s not my girlfriend,” Carmilla mimicked, “she’s a customer.”

“You knew who I was talking about, so obviously…”

“Look,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, letting herself and Laf behind the counter. She gazed at all the unstacked coffee cups and uncleaned machines and sighed, back to the daily grind, literally.

“You didn’t finish your sentence,” LaFontaine wiggled their eyebrows suggestively, beginning to stack the cups. Carmilla shook her head and let out an exaggerated sigh.

“She’s cute, I’ll give you that,” Carmilla said, a bit of smile hinting at her lips, “but I don’t even have time for a girlfriend right now. Plus, I’m not really a commitment type of person, if you didn’t pick that up.”

“Uh huh,” LaFontaine smirked, “but are you really not a commitment type of person, or are you just bitter?”

“Both,” Carmilla deadpanned, “I’m both.” LaFontaine snorted, a childish grin painted on their face.

“Mmkay, Debby Downer,” LaFontaine smirked. Carmilla shot her a glare, unable to contain herself for very much longer. LaFontaine, figuring their conversation ended, continued into the back room and began preparing the first batch of pastries. Carmilla just waited.

“Good morning ladies!” the cheery and smug voice of their boss echoed through the store as he shut the door behind him, cold air stinging her hands and making her shiver. He strolled in, a suspicious paper bag in hand, and set his belongings down on the counter.

“Morning!” LaFontaine sang from the back room, slipping out from behind the back curtain to see what he had brought them.

“So, in the spirit of our little competition,” he grinned, “I brought some incentives.”

Carmilla’s eyebrows raised, her expression finally curious. She could get behind incentives.

“Like?” Carmilla questioned, her hand reaching out to gaze into the paper bag, but he snatched her hand as she opened it, causing her to recoil.

“Nope,” he smirked, “you two get to see what’s in the bag later. All you need to know is whoever ends today with the most coffee order gets the prize, and the other has to show our new employee around.”

Carmilla gasped in horror, “new employee? I can barely deal with this one.” She waved her hand vaguely towards LaFontaine, earning a well-meant grimace from the other barista.

“As always, Carmilla,” their boss sighed, his hands stroking threw his well gelled hair, “I run things here, and we need more employees. We’ve gotten a lot more business lately now that school is back in season, and the kids could always use some extra cash. I say it’s a win win.”

“A win win?” Carmilla groaned, unamused as ever.

“B-i-t-t-e-r,” Lafontaine sung from behind her. Carmilla rolled her eyes, finding her arguments futile.

“Fine. What’s their name?” Carmilla said.

“Uh,” his eyebrows furrowed in confusion, “Lorence, I think. I forget.”

“Lorence?” Carmilla smirked, amused, “interesting.”

“Yeah, she submitted her application a few weeks ago, but I only interviewed her a few days ago. She seemed really, err, excited,” he scratched his head, trying to recall the situation, “and I think she said something about knowing you, Carmilla.”

Carmilla raised her eyebrows in confusion, “I really think you need to see someone about that whole short term memory situation, kid; I don’t know anyone named Lorence.”

“Carmilla, for the last time, please stop referring to me as kid,” he sighed, walking away and into the kitchen, “I’m easily ten years older than you.”

“Please,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, a smirk plastered to her face, “looks are deceiving.”

 

**

“... Chloe with black coffee, and Mindy with pomegranate juice,” LaFontaine finished, a proud smile hung from their face. Carmilla groaned loudly and covered her face in distress.

“How in hell did you memorize thirty orders in one day?” Carmilla questioned, throwing her hands up in the air.

“How do you think I got into this university? I’m good with that kind of thing,” LaFontaine grinned, reaching for the brown paper bag that their boss had previously adorned them with. Carmilla frowned and snatched the bag from them, taking a peek inside before LaFontaine could.

“Pure, unadulterated favoritism,” Carmilla scoffed, handing the bag back to LaF. LaF gave her a quizzical look before looking inside for themself, reaching a hand in and pulling out two tickets to some highly regarded science fair.

“Holy shit!” LaFontaine jumped, “I’m going to hug Dan for years. Best. Boss. Ever.” Carmilla rolled her eyes.

“So you get to bring yourself and your little girlfriend to some nerdy festival, and I… get to babysit Lorence,” Carmilla laughed bitterly to herself. LaFontaine offered her a sympathetic smile, rubbing Carmilla’s shoulder in a small apology. Before Carmilla could make anymore snide remarks, however, the door jingled.

“Lorence, then?” Carmilla called out, not bothering to turn around.

“Well, that’s a new one, but I guess I could get used to it,” the voice giggled.  Carmilla’s eyes widened, whipping around to face a familiar face.

“Oh my god,” Carmilla said, “Laura?"

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Laura?”

 

“Hi,” Laura stuttered shyly, tapping her foot frantically and anxiously looking at Carmilla, “so - yeah - I was gonna mention to you next time, but, like - I kind of interviewed a few days ago, and -”

“Don’t sweat it, cupcake,” Carmilla smirked, holding in a grin, “but, you know, if you really want to work here, you might want to know the difference between a coolatta and a latte.” Laura laughed.

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be learning from the master,” Laura smirked, inching towards Carmilla. LaFontaine rolled their eyes.

“Okay, you two have fun, or whatever,” LaFontaine said, breaking the thick flirtatious tension of the room and scooting out from behind the counter to head towards the door.

“Make sure to make up with your girlfriend, loser,” Carmilla called after them, “I’m definitely not joining you at some nerdfest science fair because you can’t get Perry to forgive you for losing her sweater.” LaFontaine laughed weakly and waved goodbye, closing the door behind them and wishing Laura an earnest good luck.

“Yeah, same to you, crushes on customers” LaFontaine deadpanned. Carmilla’s eyebrows rose, a blush coming to her cheeks. She quickly spinned around on her wedges to grab for some cups to start the little lesson in coffee shop operations. Laura looked at her quizzically, oblivious as ever.

“Girlfriend troubles?” Laura questioned, a wealth of disappointment hiding in her tone. Carmilla laughed dryly.

“No” she answered simply. Laura lifted an eyebrow, but dropped the subject.

“So, whats first, teach?” Laura slid behind Carmilla, watching as she laid out the different coffee cups and supplies along the countertop.

“Well, first off,” Carmilla began, gesturing towards the cups, “we have the tall, grande, and venti. There’s also the short, but that’s mostly for kids.” Laura nodded.

“Okay… So, like, tall is small. Who decided that?” Laura said, scrunching her eyebrows together.

“Some pretentious nitwit, probably,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, “I spent my entire first week here giving people larges when they paid for smalls. It’s a broken system.” Laura laughed, smiling at Carmilla as she rearranged the glasses.

“Now, your favorite, the coolatta,” Carmilla snickered, pointing to two separate ingredients laid out on the table - coffee beans and a bag of unprocessed cream. Laura looked at her in confusion, unsure how they had anything to do with the drink.

“A coolatta is coffee with extra cream, princess oblivious,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, “here, I’ll show you.” Carmilla led Laura over to one of the coffee machines, a small, straightforward mechanic with only a few buttons. She grabbed for the coffee beans and poured them carefully into the top container, shutting the lid and gesturing towards a button so Laura could try grinding them. Laura gave her a determined glance and hovered her own hand over the set of buttons, but unsure which one to choose.

“This one,” Carmilla whispered, taking Laura’s hand and guiding it delicately to the machine and letting her own finger press down on the button. Laura’s face turned into a curious ‘o’ and she smiled affectionately at Carmilla, gazing down at their hands. With the task done, Carmilla released her grip and Laura felt a suspicious wave of loss glide over her. Carmilla noticed quickly the drop of her grin and winked at the blonde. Laura blushed.

“You think you got the next step, cutie?” Carmilla asked, handing the cream to Laura, “or do you think you need a little more help?”

“I think, uh, I think I got it, thanks,” Laura stuttered out, grabbing the cream and opening the hatch in the machine that she had seen Carmilla use previously in her many visits to the shop. She emptied a section of the baggie into the machine and shut the latch, but not completely. She eagerly pressed the button labeled ‘distribute’ and waited as the machine prepared.

“Wait -” Carmilla began, her eyes widening, but it was too late. The improperly closed hatch shot open, the spinning device that usually distributed the cream into the coffee rapidly firing the substance into the air around them, hitting Laura in the face and dousing her in the unsweetened dairy. Before any more damage could be done, however, Carmilla shut the latch and dove to unplug the machine, causing it to die down and the spluttering to stop, although the damage had already been done.

“I am so sorry, oh my god,” Laura began, her eyes almost watery in regret, her hands moving frantically in an attempt to fix the situation, “I had no idea it would do that… Oh my god… I don’t have the money to pay for damages… ”

Interrupting her tirade, Carmilla began to laugh. Laura’s eyebrows shot up, obviously confused by the humor in the situation.

“What? I’m so sorry Carmilla, I know I’m fired, but, please,” Laura reasoned. Carmilla tried desperately to calm herself down, her signature smirk returning to her face periodically as she attempted to stop laughing. Finding herself unable, Laura, observing the hilarious state of distress they had left the kitchen - doused from floor to counter in liquid cream - joined in.

“Cream - cream - creampuff, please,” Carmilla laughed, “you’re not fired. If anything, we’ve needed to replace this machine for ages.” Laura’s face lit up in recognition, letting out a sigh of relief and finally beginning to calm down.

“Oh my god, good,” Laura groaned, noticing finally how completely it had covered their faces. Without thinking, she reached a hand to Carmilla’s face, dragging her finger over her cheek to take off a lump of cream which had landed there. Her laughing stopping as soon as it came, Carmilla froze and watched as Laura smiled at her, adoration obvious on her lips. Popping the finger into her mouth, Laura licked it, her eyebrows quickly scrunching in disgust.

“Idiot,” Carmilla smirked, “it’s called unsweetened cream for a reason.”

“Shit,” Laura gagged, the sour taste stuck on her tongue, “I could eat like, five pounds of raw sugar just to get that taste out of my mouth.”

“We do sell food, you know,” Carmilla said, pointing towards the various pastries she had laid out previously.

“Isn’t that stealing?” Laura shot her a questioning glare, but Carmilla just grinned mischievously.

“It’s not stealing, it’s employee benefits,” she said.

“I’ve been an employee for about ten minutes now and I’ve already ruined your coffee machine and a perfectly good bag of cream, I don’t think I deserve benefits,” Laura said. Carmilla just rolled her eyes, sliding the glass case from the pastry shelf and removing a muffin.

“Fine, since you refuse to accept help when it’s offered to you, I’ll make it part of the lesson,” Carmilla offered, “I’ll ask you a question, and if you get it right, I’ll give you some of it.”

“Isn’t that still stealing?” Laura smirked.

“Think of it as compensation for being a hardworking employee,” Carmilla said.

“I’m hardly a working employee.”

“Do you want to eat this muffin or not?” Carmilla groaned. Laura shook her head yes, the disgusting taste overwhelming her sense of ethics.

“Okay, then, what’s the difference in price between a cupcake and a muffin?” Carmilla rose her eyebrows, looking at Laura’s smile distort itself into one of calculating determination.

“Oh, uh, uh, I read this in the employee handbook…” Laura said, eyebrows knitted.

“Wow, didn’t take you for a complete nerd,” Carmilla smirked, “I didn’t even know we had an employee handbook.”

Appalled, Laura shook her head, “how did you even get this job?”

“I have my ways,” Carmilla clicked her tongue, shaking the muffin in-front of Laura’s face. Laura eyed it hungrily, sticking out her tongue.

“Oh! I know! A muffin is a dollar and thirty cents, and a cupcake is a dollar and fifty cents?” Laura grinned, recognition covering her face. Carmilla laughed at the intensity of her concentration.

“Ding ding,” Carmilla smirked, “although I was just going to give you it anyway.”

“That would be cheating, Carmilla,” Laura deadpanned. Carmilla rolled her eyes, but took off a chunk of the muffin regardless. Outstretching her hand, she hovered the piece over Laura’s mouth, attempting to feed it to her.

“Open up, cupcake,” Carmilla whispered, her voice slightly too low to be proffesional. Laura’s eyes opened wide, suddenly aware of what Carmilla was doing.

“Uh, err, that’s okay - that’s fine, the taste really isn’t that bad,” Laura spluttered, her palms sweaty and her heart beating fast. It was small, insignificant even, but the tiny bit of intimacy that Carmilla offered made Laura feel faint.

“Don’t be an idiot,” Carmilla stepped forward, “I tried that stuff once, too, it tastes like ass.” Their close vicinity made Laura gulp, Carmilla’s hand still dangling from her lips. Finally giving in, Laura gave a tiny eye roll of compliance and opened her mouth, Carmilla placing the cupcake inside and stroking Laura’s upper lip with her thumb accidently. Laura squeaked, closing her mouth immediately and stepping back.

“Oh my god, that is so good,” Laura groaned, the taste overcoming the tension that seemed to constantly surround them.

“I told you,” Carmilla half-smiled, finally taking back her hand, “next question, then.”

“Okay. Ready!”

“How many calories in an iced coffee?”

“Two hundred,” Laura responded immediately.

“Ooh…” Carmilla said, taking off a piece of the muffin, “wrong. It’s 90.” She popped it in her own mouth.

“Shit,” Laura groaned, rubbing her temples. Carmilla laughed.

“So you actually make mistakes?” Carmilla said, a mocking eyebrow raised.

“That’s debatable,” Laura smirked, “it’s just late.” Laura gazed out the door, the sundown peeking in through the shadow of the ‘closed’ sign.

“Please, it’s only nine,” Carmilla checked the clock, “plus, on weekends I’m not out of here ‘till three AM.”

“You work the day and night shift? That’s insane!” Laura gasped.

“I like to think of myself as nocturnal.”

“Yeah, and I like to think of myself as good at math,” Laura scoffed. Carmilla humphed.

“Anyway, I’m out of here in like twenty minutes, so we have to finish up,” Carmilla announced. Laura nodded, “we’ll finish the rest of this tomorrow.”

“Yeah, okay,” Laura nodded, reaching to take the rest of the muffin.

“Wait,” Carmilla said, taking a large chunk of the muffin into her hand, “all or nothing.”

“Hm?” Laura asked, confused.

“One more question, and you get the rest,” Carmilla smirked. Laura, never one to back down from a competition, nodded confidently.

“What’s your coffee order?”

“What?” Laura said.

“I forget,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, “it’s for a competition we’re having, okay?”

“That’s hardly a question,” Laura smirked, “but, truly, I have no idea.”

“What?” Carmilla’s eyebrows shot up.

“I kind of just ordered whatever you suggested,” Laura shrugged her shoulders.

“Pushover,” Carmilla said, “but I guess you answered my question, here.” Carmila stepped forward again, a bit farther than before. She slowly led her hand to Laura’s face, mouthing the word open and watching as Laura parted her lips. Laura’s heart, fragile in her chest, began to find its familiar pounding rate. Instead of giving her the muffin, though, Carmilla tucked a piece of hair from Laura’s face and laughed mischievously, dragging a finger down her cheek.

“Carmilla, what are you -” Laura shuttered, her nerves at their limit. Carmilla shushed her with a finger to her lips, before feeding her the rest of the muffin in her hand. Before she could swallow it down, Carmilla slid around the countertop and headed for the door.

“See you tomorrow, cutie,” Carmilla winked, shutting the door tightly before Laura could respond.

Shit,” Laura said, “shit.”

 

 

Chapter Text

In her initial days at the coffee shop, Carmilla had never thought it of it as anymore than a mere (frustrating, annoying, long) side job. It paid the bills, helped the college debt, but it was never quite her idea of fun. Sure, snarky talks with LaFontaine and the occasional employee bonuses were a plus, but they never really added up to much in her view. That was until she met Laura.

Their first meeting wasn’t much. They exchanged smiles. Carmilla may have checked her out. It was harmless. She wasn’t a girl to get attached to strangers, really. Carmilla hadn’t really noticed her attachment until much later on, even. But when she noticed it…

“I hate college students,” Carmilla sighed, head in her hands. She was just about to close up shop, the weather humid and gross and making her hair poof in all the most unflattering ways. It wasn’t the weather that was wrong, though -- but rather something else entirely.

“Why me?” Carmilla mumbled to herself, clearing off the surface of the counter and shoving all the unused cups to the side. She reached for a sponge, dampening it before scrubbing all the residual gump from the area. It was eerily quiet then, only her frustrated breaths as she tried to reach all the places above five and a half feet. As she climbed back down onto the floor, she looked over her surroundings and at all the work still to be done. She checked her watch.

“2 AM,” she groaned, a jingle interrupting her inner storm of self pity. As she looked up, she noticed Laura’s familiar face. It was their twenty-second meeting, or so, but who was counting? Coffee shop conversations are quick and short, a customer employee dynamic that lacked any true genuinity. Carmilla hated the impurity of it all.

“Look who it is,” Carmilla smirked, her frustration shelved for the moment, “you realized we close in, uh, two minutes ago, right?” Laura’s eyes shot up in concern.

“Oh, oh shit!” Laura groaned, limping towards the counter still, a backpack slung over her right shoulder.

“Whatever,” Carmilla shrugged, going back to her cleaning momentarily, “it’s not like I was almost done cleaning or anything…”

“I’m so sorry, ugh,” Laura frowned sympathetically, “I have a giant lit paper due tomorrow and I’m pretty sure if I don’t caffinate myself I’m going to fall asleep on my keyboard.” Carmilla nodded noncommittally, too focused on her task at hand.

“A rough life we all lead,” Carmilla mocked, her smirk briefly returning. Laura frowned, clearly not getting her sarcasm.

“Look, I’m sorry I interrupted you, I just…” Laura trailed off, sleep obviously impairing her speech, “I really need some… some…”

“Some sleep,” Carmilla offered, an eyebrow raised. Laura nodded, slouching into a seat by the counter, “and a sense of humor.”

“Hey!” Laura frowned, “I’m… I’m better in the morning. I promise.” Carmilla laughed dryly.

“Look, not that I’m not enjoying this useless small talk, but it’s 2 AM and I really, actually, want to leave this place, so what do you want?” Carmilla asked. Laura’s eyebrows raised in realization that she had forgotten what she was doing here.

“Oh, uh, right… Coffee…” Laura offered.

“What kind?”

“The… caffeinated kind,” Laura slurred, a grin on her face as if she were proud of her vague statement. Carmilla broke out in an involuntary smile, her mind jarred by a single thought: she’s cute. Carmilla frowned at herself.

“Hm,” Carmilla strolled over to the coffee machine, pulling out whatever supplies she hadn’t stored away yet, “I have just the thing.” Carmilla reached for a spare bag of coffee beans, slipping it into the machine and adding in the cream. Once the drink had stirred, she extracted the cup and added in a pinch of vanilla and, caught up in the moment, scribbled a lazy “L” in whip cream on the top. She felt grossly affectionate and utterly disgusted with herself.

“Here,” Carmilla mumbled, strolling over to Laura and placing the drink on her table. Laura observed it curiously, a grin forming on her face. Carmilla rubbed her hands anxiously, a slight flush on her cheeks from the signed drink.

“S’cute,” Laura yawned sleepily, “I like the L. For… uh… Lute?”

“Lute?” Carmilla deadpanned, “are you kidding me?”

“Original,” Laura grinned, completely oblivious to her own mistaken observance, “I’ve always wanted a lute.”

“Whatever floats your boat, creampuff,” Carmilla rolled her eyes.

When Laura left that day, Carmilla realized one single thing:

“I’m fucked.”

 

**

 

It was only day three of Laura’s new job that she was starting to rethink it. Not because of Carmilla, no -- not LaFontaine either, and least so the idle chat with customers. What really made her want to quit was quite in fact her own complete incompetence.

“Oh my god, Laura,” Carmilla gaped, “how?”

Staring down at the floor, Laura shook her head. The broken coffee machine from her first day on the job was an easy explanation, but the amount of bad situations she found herself in a mere two days have been harder to explain.

“I’ll get the paper towels,” Carmilla sighed, shaking her head and retreating into the faculty bathroom, leaving Laura to sulk in the middle of her own mess: a conga line of spilled coffee orders. LaFontaine, hearing the commotion, came through the kitchen curtain to look at the situation.

“Holy shit,” they said, “Laura, I’m impressed. The extreme precision of that immense spill is of scientific interest.”

“That makes me feel like, two percent better,” Laura sighed, carefully stepping out of the massive puddle and leaning on the wall, “I’m so bad at this. If Dan hasn’t fired me by tomorrow, I’m going to spare him the trouble and resign.”

Returning from the bathroom, Carmilla waddled behind the counter with a mountain of paper towels piled up in front of her face, “Slow down, you can’t make fun of yourself. That’s my job, remember?”

Laura gave her a small smile, relieving her of some of the load and throwing the towels on the ground, scrubbing them into the floor like one giant mop. LaFontaine looked at her quizzically.

“That is the most in-efficient thing I’ve ever seen,” LaFontaine laughed, watching as Laura made snow angels on the floor with paper towels, desperately trying to mop up as much liquid as possible. Carmilla rolled her eyes.

“You two, I swear,” Carmilla sighed, dropping the rest of the towels into LaF’s arms, “since everyone here seems to forget we actually serve coffee, I’m going to painfully take over customer service and get everyone a new drink.” Beckoning over the crowd Laura had shooed away in order to clean up the mess, Carmilla began to taking their orders again and inscribing them on a notecard.

Joining Laura on the floor to help with the mess, LaFontaine began to scrub away at a set of ruined caramel lattes.

“I know she seems angry,” LaFontaine whispered to Laura, “but she’s just trying distract herself from the fact that she’s totally got a thing for you.” Laura’s eyebrows shot up, her cheeks instantly flushed.

“What? Nooo…” Laura laughed nervously, beginning to scrub more vigorously, “I’m pretty sure she actually is starting to hate me.”

“Hate you? Please,” LaFontaine rolled their eyes, scrunching their eyebrows, “if she had a heart, I’m pretty sure it’d be having palpitations just looking at you.”

“That’s sweet, LaF,” Laura smiled kindly, “but I still think you’re reading into things too much.”

“Uh huh, you just wait,” LaFontaine giggled, observing the mess on the floor. Believing most of it mopped up, they cleared away the towels and threw them in the disposal, leaving the counter in order to prepare the rest of the morning’s baked goods. Left to think about LaFontaine’s claims, Laura let her eyes travel up to Carmilla as she watched her from her awkward place on the ground. Carmilla was stunning. Her hair, despite their boss’s best efforts to enforce the ‘put-your-damn-hair-up-its-a-safety-hazard’ rule, glided down her shoulders carelessly and almost seemed to shine against the reflection of the snow falling outside the window. Laura found herself grinning, if not a bit subconsciously, as she watched the girl take orders with absolute aloofness.

“Carmilla,” Laura said as soon as the line had been cleared, “I wasn’t kidding earlier, ya know. I’m kind of a mess at this.” Carmilla, surprised at being interrupted from her concentrated routine, eyed Laura with a creased eyebrow and a slightly confused look.

“Kind of a mess is an understatement,” Carmilla said, continuing her tasks. Laura frowned at Carmilla’s concentration, selfishly a little disappointed she wasn’t acknowledging her pity-filled statements. She decided then that LaFontaine had definitely missed the mark.

Unexpectedly, Carmilla set down the cups she had been cleaning and let her gaze drift back to Laura, who had finished cleaning off her mess and now was grounded to count supplies in the corner. Carmilla cleared her throat, something like nervousness caught there.

“I could help you,” Carmilla said. Laura beamed at her suddenly, a grin growing back on her face, “I mean… I don’t want the boss to think my training turns people into living ‘be careful, don’t slip’’ signs.” Laura’s smile fell a little then, but she noticed a small red tint on Carmilla’s cheeks that made it return to her face almost instantly

“I don’t know… I’d probably get you in more trouble. We already broke a coffee machine,” Laura’s looked at the floor, embarrassed.  

“We? Please, that was definitely not a joint effort,” Carmilla smirked. Laura pouted. It made Carmilla’s head go a little fuzzy.

“Exactly,” Laura sighed, “I guess I could watch some youtube tutorials or something, it’s either that or find a job I’m better at.”

“Youtube tutorials? On how to use a coffee machine?”

“I’m sure they exist!” Laura exclaimed, suddenly knowing what she’d be doing once she got home.

“Please, cupcake, spare yourself watching some entitled hipster giving a thirty minute speech on the dangers of decaffeinated drinks and just let me help you,” Carmilla said, desperately trying to sound like she couldn’t care less.

“Do I get more food?” Laura asked innocently.

“That depends,” Carmilla smirked, voice low, “if you’re a fast learner or not.”

 

**

 

Laura knew one thing that night, sprawled on Carmilla’s apartment floor, scrolling through videos on Youtube as Carmilla prepped her thrift-shopped coffee machine for their first lesson: Laura liked Carmilla. Not quite liked like, but she liked her. They had known eachother for a lot longer than it seemed - almost a year now, really, but it had all been small conversations and little quips. When Laura had seen the application form hanging from the side of the little coffee shop, two things had game to mind in a particular order.

  1. Carmilla

  2. Money

The interviewing process had been simple; I mean, it was just a coffee shop at the end of the day, but Laura still wasn’t sure she was going to get it. She had mentioned Carmilla’s name briefly during her time with the boss, and despite her own thoughts on the girl, it had almost seemed to have set her back in the process.

When she had first started working there, the first night almost seemed like a hazy dream. It was dark. It was late. She had merely observed that Carmilla looked really beautiful in the moonlight. She had merely happened to have a few stray rapid heart beats, and most of all, it was of only the most extreme coincidence that Laura had almost wanted to kiss Carmilla then, as she threatened to take the rest of her well-deserved desert. But now, staring up at Carmilla as she tried desperately to operate the abused coffee machine, all she felt was adoration. Pure, unadulterated --   

“Fuck this,” Carmilla groaned, waving her hands up in the air, “I’d rather watch fucking youtube.” Laura giggled, stopping her scrolling and making eye contact with the unamused girl from across the room. Carmilla angrily stalked towards her, plopping down next to her on the rug.

“I told you, a coffee machine being sold for two dollars is never a safe purchase,” Laura smiled, an eyebrow raised. Carmilla just humphed, unable to admit her mistake.

“Whatever.”

“Uh huh,” Laura laughed, “I found a really good one, I think. It’s really detailed, like twenty one minutes.” Carmilla groaned, shaking her head.

“The whole ‘rather watch youtube’ thing was rhetorical, idiot,” Carmilla teased, taking over control of the mousepad and turning the computer towards herself. Laura let her, watching curiously. After a few moments, Carmilla groaned animatedly and shoved the computer back to Laura.

“I hate technology,” Carmilla grumbled, obviously dumbfounded on how to properly use the laptop. Laura gaped.

“Oh my god, you’re a college student and you don’t know how to use the internet?”

“I don’t believe in technological advancements,” Carmilla mumbled, “they’re turning people into living robots.” Laura just smirked.

“Okay, grandma,” Laura said.

“Grandma? Unbelievable,” Carmilla said in defense, holding her hand to her chest in effect.

“Mm, you practically are. Aren’t you graduating next year?” Laura asked.

“If only,” Carmilla said, “I’m attending graduate school here as well.”

“Holy shit, really? What’s your major?” Laura said, suddenly curious.

“Philosophy,” Carmilla smirked, “with a minor in business management. I’m looking to control corporate America as a side job once the whole coffee shop thing loses its appeal.” Laura grinned widely, realizing how little she actually knew about Carmilla.

“I’m a journalism major,” Laura smiled, “I have a minor in communications.”

“Interesting,” Carmilla drawled, “a journalist. It fits you.”

“You think so?” Laura beamed.

“Mm,” Carmilla confirmed, “maybe you’ll write a story about how you knew me one day.” Laura laughed, nudging Carmilla. Carmilla’s smirk grew wider, scooching subtly closer.

“Maybe so,” Laura whispered, observing the short distance between them, “or maybe you’ll be writing sad sonnets about how the universe stopped turning once I quit you for the New York times?”

Carmilla smiled, then, completely overwhelmed in Laura’s presence; an oddity in itself, it was, for her to be so hugely captivated in someone so small.

“Maybe, sweetheart,” Carmilla leaned in, whispering into Laura’s ear flirtatiously before raising herself from the ground, “the world revolves around maybes.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Please do not tell me you spent all night watching coffee machine tutorials,” Carmilla groaned, an unbelieving stare fixed on Laura. The small girl’s eyes, bloodshot and saggy, drifted to Carmilla hovering above her as she lifted her head up from the couch.

“I did not,” Laura drawled, sleepily removing her laptop from her lap and dropping it carefully onto the rug. How to Pour Coffee for Dummies is still playing.

“Unbelievable,” Carmilla scoffed, pausing the video and walking out of the room. Laura sighed and rubbed her eyes, not quite ready to prepare herself for the day. Outstretching her arms, she found that she was trapped under a long wool blanket.

“How… did this get here?” she mumbled. She heard Carmilla laugh lightly from the kitchen, “Aw, Carm, you shouldn’t have…”

“Please,” Carmilla said, her tone light, “if I hadn’t you would have continued flopping around on that couch all night. I practically had to wrestle you into that after I left.” Laura laughed, a dopey smile on her face as the blurry memories from last night returned to her.

“How long do we have until we have to get to work?” Laura asked, unable to find a clock in her peripheral vision.

“About negative twenty minutes,” Carmilla smirked, returning to the living room with two cups of freshly brewed coffee. Laura gasped, shooting out from the couch.

“Oh my god, why didn’t you wake me up? I’m so fired,” Laura ran around Carmilla and rapidly disheveled her hair, tying on her dying pair of converse sneakers and reaching for a jacket she had lazily thrown on the floor.

“Holy shit, slow down speedracer,” Carmilla’s eyes widened, grasping Laura’s shoulder to hold her in place before she could run for the door. Laura tensed and eyed her wildly, itching to move.

“Slow down? Have you no work ethic at all?” Laura said disbelievingly, reaching for the coffee in Carmilla’s hand and downing it in record speed. Carmilla shook her head and rolled her eyes.

“It’s Sunday, idiot,” Carmilla said, pointing to a lazily plastered calendar on her wall, “we don’t work Sundays.”

“Oh,” Laura blinked, realization hitting her, “oh.” She deflated, sitting crosslegged on the floor and groaning into her hands. She pulled out her phone from her pocket, confirming the date and then looking back at Carmilla, mocking pity in the other girl’s eyes.

“You really think I would have let you stay here if it was a work day?” Carmilla laughed, shaking her head, “I don’t let just anyone interrupt my morning rituals.”

“Morning rituals?” Laura raised an eyebrow.

“Everyone has theirs,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, turning away and setting her own coffee down on the kitchen table before sitting down on her only chair, “these eyebrows don’t just do themselves, you know.”

“Oh, I know,” Laura grimaced, gesturing to her own, “these take at least two hours per week, I swear.”

Carmilla smirked in response, turning away from Laura to gaze out the window briefly, the snow now completely covering the glass.

“Wait,” Laura said, looking suspiciously at her coffee, “where did this even come from? I thought the machine was broken.” Carmilla’s gaze suddenly shot to the machine, the scene around it messy with coffee beans and various supplies. Carmilla’s cheeks reddened slightly, but she waved it off. Laura still noticed.

“I, uh, got it to work eventually,” Carmilla said nonchalantly, “it just took some prodding and gentle persuasion.”

“Gentle persuasion?” Laura chuckled, “you make it sound like you were asking it out on a date.”

“Hey, if it works in my love life, why not apply my talent elsewhere?”  Carmilla smirked. Laura gulped, sudden goosebumps running up her arms. She shook them off and turned towards her laptop, leaving Carmilla to stare blankly at her back.

“Just a question, cupcake, but do you intend on living here, or do I have to kindly ask you to leave eventually?” Carmilla asked, a playful smile still on her lips. Laura couldn’t see it.

“Oh, oh! Right. Sorry. I’ll see you at work, then?” Laura whipped around, packing up her laptop and placing her empty coffee cup on the table where Carmilla sat. Carmilla’s face fell slightly, contradictory to her latest comment. Laura rose an eyebrow at her, invisibly asking for some kind of confirmation, before Carmilla eventually rose from her seat and nodded her head.

“Of course,” Carmilla smirked as she led Laura out the door, almost shutting it but leaving room for a final comment, “please try not to break anything on the walk home.”

 

**

 

Contrary to Carmilla’s belief, youtube videos did have their merit. That, or seeing a middle age man pour coffee on repeat for several hours eventually gave Laura a rough idea of how the whole thing worked. Laura liked to  believe in the former.

She hadn’t just watched, though, she practiced. Lifted the cup, swiveled the lever, poured in the liquid, swiveled the lever, held the lever, poured the cream, swiveled the lever, held the lever, repeat, repeat, repeat. Repeat, repeat, repeat so heavily she did that when she returned to work the next week, she hadn’t anticipated just how sore her right arm would be.

“I don’t want to insinuate anything sexual, Laura,” LaFontaine giggled, gesturing towards Laura as she held her arm in pain after making her third coffee of the day, “but really, what?”

“I promise,” Laura groaned, “this injury was the farthest from sexual than could possibly be.” Nursing her arm like a child, Laura removed the coffee cup and placed it on the counter, offering the waiting customer a polite but frustrated gaze as he grabbed it impatiently. LaFontaine continued to laugh in the background, holding their sides as Laura waddled over to the machine to repeat the painful process again.

“I feel downright sadistic watching this, honestly,” LaFontaine said, giving Laura a sad smile, “and I’m a scientist. Scientists are supposed to be a little sadistic.”

“Where did you come up with that?” Laura argued, swiveling the lever with perfect ease before cringing in pain as her arm strained, “All the scientists I’ve heard of are pretty optimistic peeps.”

“Maybe the chemistry majors,” LaFontaine pondered, taking the sentiment seriously, “but bio majors are the real gritty ones. We get down and dirty with the down and dirty. Blood, dirt, and bones, you feel?”

“I definitely do not feel,” Laura laughed, “I swear, once my career really gets kicking and I’m rolling in money, I’m going to dedicate my entire column to reviews of feel good movies.”

“Please,” LaFontaine smirked, “like you would ever give away the opportunity to write about breaking news so you could write about the latest sequel to Toy Story.”

“You’re right,” Laura squealed, “you’re definitely right.”

Before Laura could dish about the latest in current events, however, the door slid open and a rush of snow blew in from behind a small figure: Carmilla, wrapped completely from head to toe in comfort clothes: two ugly layered christmas sweaters and some sweatpants.

“Wow, you look like you’re about to go scuba diving, on like, the top of Mount Everest,” Laura joked. Carmilla glared at her bitterly, too frustrated to remark at her bad joke.

“Not,” Carmilla coughed hoarsely, wiping at her nose with a handkerchief, “my choice.”

Laura raised an eyebrow, unable to think of anyone who could make Carmilla dress in something so entirely weather-practical.

Bounding in from behind her, as if on cue, was Dan.

“I caught her coming out of her house this morning, sick, with a cold, with a corset on,” Dan groaned, stumbling in as he briskly walked around the customers and reached for an apron from behind the counter, tying it onto his back, “I told her if she didn’t change into something warmer I was going to fire her.”

Laura laughed, grinning ear to ear as Carmilla gloomily walked towards the counter, grimacing more and more with each customer gaze.

“Oh, and don’t think I didn’t try to get her to stay home,” Dan sang, walking towards the bathroom.

“College debt waits for no one,” Carmilla mumbled, her voice hoarse but still sickeningly sultry. Laura, still glowing, strolled up to her and ran her free hand down Carmilla’s sleeve, admiring the reindeer themed patterns that ran down it.

So cute, cupcake,” Laura mocked, if not a bit honestly. If she was being honest, it was probably the most adorable sight Laura had ever seen. That was excluding the first time she saw a labrador retriever.

“Shut up,” Carmilla swatted away her hand, “everything else was in the wash.”

“Clearly,” LaFontaine giggled, “I’m surprised you didn’t take the firing, honestly, this is the first time I’ve seen you in an outfit that didn’t include a flannel.”

“Bite me, turtleneck sweater,” Carmilla snarled, throwing them a menacing look. LaFontaine recoiled, throwing their hands up and retreating towards the kitchen. Laura shook her head.

“Were you this bitter as a child?” Laura prompted, eyeing Carmilla suspiciously. Carmilla just laughed before reaching into her pocket for a tissue. Laura sighed, dragging a wastebasket from below the counter to sit by Carmilla before she could protest.

“If I get sick, the world will never get to see my thesis on the connection between Twilight and the American national debt,” she said, pointing to the trash can pointendly.

“Oh,” Carmilla groaned half-heartedly, “a true shame.”

**

 

Go home, Carmilla,” Laura repeated, her arm tired and her voice strained as she emptied Carmilla’s fifth wastebasket full of tissues, watching as the sick girl limped to and fro from the trash to the coffee machine, her nose stuffy, “the only reason Dan is letting you stay is because we made you wear three pairs of mittens and have set up a handwashing station.”

“Cupcake -”

“Do not cupcake me,” Laura rolled her eyes, “my arm was sore to begin with, but this is a whole new level of pain.” Carmilla’s tender smirk turned to a frown, a little regret at the work that she had made Laura do falling upon her. Emphasis on ‘a little’.

“Fine, fine, okay,” Carmilla said, throwing her hands up, “but you owe me one.”

“I owe you one?” Laura replied, obviously offended, “So sorry for taking care of you, whatever can I do to repay you for those exhausting trips to the dumpster?”

Carmilla rolled her eyes, “whatever.”

“Whatever!” Laura humphed, snapping around to the cash register as Carmilla picked up the remnants of her mess and sulked briskly towards the door, the cold breeze stinging Laura’s cheeks as she left.

Peeking their head through the kitchen curtain, LaFontaine observed the scene. Laura, still riled up from their minor argument, stomped her feet loudly against the ground as she began to clean up the store for the next shift, the early morning buzz of customers finally dying down.

“Bro,” LaF whispered, “you okay?”

Laura whipped around, her glare still present, “dandy, just dandy.” LaFontaine’s eyes widened at the uncharacteristic frustration in Laura’s voice, but continued to stare nonetheless.

“Whoa there Laura, chill,” they said, offering Laura a sympathetic smile, “what happened?”

“Carmilla,” Laura breathed out, finally letting the tension leave her, “Carmilla happened. Sorry. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.”

“It’s fine,” LaFontaine smiled, leaning against the wall nonchalantly, “so are you two…”

“No!” Laura gasped, a familiar dejectedness returning to her, combined with her earlier frustration, “I mean...:”

“Hey, Laura, it’s okay,” LaFontaine blew a piece of hair out of their face, “I get it. Carmilla is definitely a handful. I mean, she’s all kinds of angsty and the walking persona of sexual frustration.” Laura laughed at that, reminding herself to thank LaFontaine later, when she was a little more clear of mind.

“It’s not that…” Laura sighed, her eyes drooping to the floor.

“Oh?” LaFontaine rose their eyebrows, looking at Laura as if her answer was the clue to solving a complex equation, “then?”

“I can never tell where I am with her,” Laura confessed, “sometimes I think she likes me, other times it feels like she’d love to walk on my rotting corpse.”

“Okay, morbid,” LaFontaine laughed, “but I get it. When I first started working with her, I couldn’t stand her, really. I thought she was completely full of herself. Which is partially true. She’s partially completely full of herself. But, anyway, one day I came to work and I was a mess. I had just had this really bad fight and I barely felt like walking, much less operate any sort of machinery. Carmilla had been kind of an ass about it at first, but once I explained it to her she took over my shift and told Dan that I could take the day off, and she would work overtime. And after that, she showed up to my apartment with a bowl of popcorn and some disgustingly bad horror film.”

“Really?” Laura’s eyes widened, unsure what to make of the new generosity she had learned of her coworker.

“Yeah. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it,” LaFontaine smiled kindly, their eyes reflective, “all I’m saying is that as much as she comes off apathetic, she means well. I think she forgets she’s allowed to have feelings sometimes, really.”

“Hm,” Laura took in the information, tapping her foot against the ground as a thought sprung into her head, “in that case, I think I have an idea.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“What do you want?” Carmilla groaned, gazing out the peephole in her apartment door as she watched an anxious Laura smile nervously at the door, a suspicious bag in hand.

“I…” Laura stuttered, rubbing up and down her sleeves, her cheeks flushed despite the weather, “I brought food?”

The door opened a bit too fast.

Taking the food out of her hand eagerly, Carmilla, now dressed in a third holiday themed sweatshirt, fell into her couch, unzipping the bag of Doritos that Laura had bought.

“So…” Laura mumbled, staring down at her feet. In all honesty, she hadn’t really thought this whole ‘plan’ thing through before acting on it. She had convinced Dan to let her work overtime on a different day in exchange of taking a sick day for the rest of the shift, jumped on her bike, and rode through the snow all the way to the closest supermarket. With record speed, she bought two bags of chips and the most non-romantic box of chocolates she could find (this ended up being a jewish star full of white chocolate), and now here she was.

“Since you brought food, I’m holding back on the whole ‘why are you still in my house’ approach,” Carmilla drawled, half a chip in her mouth, staring blankly at the television screen which was playing a rerun of the Glee christmas special, “but, yeah, why?”

“I’m… I felt bad,” Laura ran her hand through her hair, her eyes never leaving the ground, “I know you’re sick, and I know that you need the money, I just… I got a little frustrated. I wanted to make up for it.”

Carmilla huffed, scooching noticeably on the couch. She took a moment to debate what she was going to do next.

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” she said nonchalantly, refusing to look at Laura’s face as she spoke, “I was kind of an asshole.”

“Really?” Laura’s eyes lit up; an apology from Carmilla was least of all what she had expected.

“Yes, really,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, “what can I say, I’m kind of a bitch when I’m sick. Plus, you’re right, I need that money. Going to a college with no dorms for upperclassmen was a royal trap from the beginning, and not to mention the debt I’m going to be swimming in for the next few years.”

Laura looked at her sympathetically, knowing the truth behind her claims.

“So are we okay?” Laura mumbled, walking closer to Carmilla’s couch, finally letting her eyes lift from the ground and scan over Carmilla’s hunched over figure, rolled into a sort of fetal position. Carmilla turned her head towards her finally, smirking.

“Dunno, cupcake,” Carmilla breathed out, a sickly breath ruining the usually smooth tone, “depends.”

“On?” Laura questioned, sitting on the opposite side of the couch. Carmilla’s feet, covered in two pairs of socks, poked at her sides accidentally. Carmilla made no motion to move them.

“Let’s play a game,” Carmilla purred, not fully answering her question, “I’ve bored of watching reruns of this terrible television show.”

Laura nodded, shrugging her shoulders. This wasn’t really in her detailed plan of ‘taking care of her not-girlfriend, not-love-interest, maybe-friend’, but she assured herself it wouldn’t hurt.

“What game?” Laura asked.

“I have no idea,” Carmilla groaned, flipping onto her back, her feet landing completely in Laura’s lap. Laura gulped, unable to assuage the growing warmth that permeated throughout her. She didn’t want this feeling, really -- Carmilla was a handful. She was angsty and complicated and everything Laura would never put in the ideal characteristics of her online dating profile, but, you know how life is. It doesn’t always let you choose.

“I have an idea,” Laura chirped, her hands resting awkwardly away from Carmilla’s feet, “how about… truth or dare?”

Carmilla’s eyes widened disbelievingly, “you’re kidding me. Is this middle school?”

“Hey!” Laura gaped, slapping Carmilla’s leg playfully, “I’d like to let you know that I’ve gone to several college parties where truth or dare has been the event of the night.”

“That explains a lot about what kind of college parties you go to,” Carmilla mumbled, her smile affectionate, “fine.”

Laura pumped her fist in the air, shouting “nice!” Carmilla shook her head at Laura’s childlike antics.

“I’ll go first,” Carmilla leaned up, closing some of the distance between them, “truth or dare?”

“Truth,” Laura said.

“Wow, weak,” Carmilla rolled her eyes.

“Truth is so not weak,” Laura said defensively, “it’s completely underestimated.”

“Hm,” Carmilla’s eyes traveled to Laura’s face, dipping curiously to her lips and then back to her eyes, she paused, “ever kissed a girl?”

Laura swares her heart skipped a beat. Either that, or she blacked out for approximately two seconds. Laura was more inclined to go with the second option, seeing as Carmilla seemed to be five miles closer to her than she was a second before - her sleepy, sick smirk hovering only inches from her own lips.

“N-n-no, no I haven’t,” Laura got out eventually. Carmilla, surprised at her answer, recoiled slightly and her flirtatious smirk disappeared and morphed into a disappointed half frown.

“Your turn, I guess,” Carmilla said, suddenly offput by the situation. She lifted her legs from Laura’s lap and tucked them under herself, much to Laura’s grief.

“Truth or dare?” she said quickly, unsure what it was that had made the atmosphere change so rapidly. Carmilla shrugged before telling Laura that she could choose.

“Okay, truth,” Laura smiled. Carmilla raised an eyebrow, surprised.

“Boring,” Carmilla sang, face still turned away from Laura dejectedly.

Overcome with a sudden bravery, Laura mumbled, “have you ever kissed a girl?”

Laura is surprised, to say the least, at how much Carmilla genuinely laughs at that question.

“This game is too much,” Carmilla said through a broad smile and clenched teeth, trying to hold in the laughter that was spilling from her lips, “yes, cupcake, I most definitely have.”

“Oh,” Laura shaped an o with her mouth, unsurprised by Carmilla’s answer but still unsure how to respond to just how funny she found it. Laura wasn’t all that innocent, she really wasn’t; her situation was just… different.

“Truth or dare?” Carmilla asked, suddenly more into the game than she was before. Laura responded with another truth, saying she was too comfortable to get up.

“You’re no fun,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, “here’s a better one. Do you want to kiss a girl?”

Caught off guard, Laura froze up. In truth - kissing a girl was one of the many thoughts that made up the meat of her teenage years. If not for a childhood spent behind closet doors, home schooled in rural Iowa, those thoughts may have accumulated to a more satisfying result.

“Y-yeah, I mean,” Laura whispered, looking down at her lap and playing with her hands, “I mean, I grew up homeschooled; the only girls I ever saw belonged to my conservative Christian youth group. It was a bit of a stretch to think I was going to end up kissing any of them.” Laura laughed nervously, too scared to look up at Carmilla’s reaction.

“Sounds frustrating, cupcake,” Carmilla said, her voice low, “but I don’t think you’re in Kansas anymore.”

Laura laughed dryly, finally raising her head.

“So, truth or dare?” she quickly got out, not wanting the tension to last any longer. Carmilla smirked, noticing Laura’s fiddling hands as they ran up and down her sleeves. Carmilla knew where this was going - where it was always going - but she wasn’t sure what to do about it. Laura was different than the other girls she’d woo’d before. For one, she was a coworker, so the one night make out session was kind of out of the picture.

(But most of all…)

“Dare me,” Carmilla whispered. It came out more desperate than she intended.

(She didn’t want it to be just one night.)

“I dare you to… to… uh… k-kiss me?” Laura breathed in suddenly, her pulse radiating through her skin. Carmilla’s eyes widened, meeting Laura’s. Before Laura could retract her dare, though, Carmilla leaned forward and took Laura’s chin, leaning it sideways and planting a kiss on her cheek. It was tender and sweet and everything Carmilla wasn’t, and Laura, despite the placement of her lips in a different place than she imagined, still swore she saw stars.

“Oh,” Laura said, blinking slowly, “oh, okay.”

“You’d get sick… and we can’t leave LaF to run that coffee shop all on their own, now can we…” Carmilla whispered into her ear.

“Oh, duh, of course,” Laura covered her face with her hands, embarrassed for forgetting just how sick the other girl was, “I’m an idiot.”

“Maybe,” Carmilla shrugged, smiling, “but I’m not going to forget that you did that."

“I was hoping you wouldn’t,” Laura mumbled under her breath, unable to look Carmilla in the eyes. It was a brave, abrupt, crazy end to a non climatic situation - but Laura was okay with that. She didn’t know what came over her, honestly, but if her feelings weren’t obvious before, they definitely were now.

“So, I believe that makes it your turn?” Carmilla smirked, now retreating back to a safe few inches away, the tension of a few moments ago seemingly forgotten. Carmilla certainly seemed more eager to play now, though.

“Oh, uh, right,” Laura nodded, “um… dare?” She knew Carmilla wouldn’t kiss her, not like this, not sloppy or sick or awkward, but she still wanted… something. She still wanted to feel her pulse in her wrists and she wanted Carmilla close. She wanted to touch her, even if it wasn’t intimate or romantic - she just wanted something. Carmilla chose not to fulfill this at the moment.

“I dare you to go to the kitchen and get me a cinnamon roll,” Carmilla said, completely deflating Laura’s expectations.

“For someone who has spent this entire game calling me weak,” Laura gaped, “that is weak.”

Carmilla scoffed, nudging her shoulder into Laura, “it’s not weak. It’s a good option. Plus, I’m hungry. There will be time for better dares when my stomach isn’t growling.”

Laura rolled her eyes, “okay, okay!” She got up and strolled to the kitchen, retrieving two cinnamon buns and bringing them back to the couch, giving one to Carmilla and saving another for herself.

“Your turn,” Carmilla said, biting into the pastry.

“Okay, before I even go, are these from work?” Laura asked, eyeing her suspiciously.

“Employee benefits,” Carmilla answered simply, smirking as she ate.

“Employee benefits my ass,” Laura laughed bitterly, “okay. Truth or dare?”

“Truth,” Carmilla said, “and before you say anything, I’m eating!”

“Okay, okay -” Laura grinned. In truth, she wanted to know more about Carmilla. For knowing each other on and off for about a year now, she knew few details about her coworker.

Laura hadn’t meant for her next question to come out so desperate.

“Are you single?”

Carmilla’s smirk grew, “wouldn’t you like to know?”

Laura waved her hands in front of her face chaotically, shielding a blush, “Oh! Not like that! That came out so badly, crap. I was just curious.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes, taking her time to observe Laura’s embarrassed reaction, enjoying every beat of silence before she responded. She had never seen the usually peppy blonde look more out of sorts.

“Short answer,” Carmilla drawled, licking her lips, “yes.” Laura looked kind of deflated at that, almost as if she had suddenly found herself caught in a much more complicated situation than she had first intended.

“Long answer?” Laura asked worriedly.

Carmilla smirked, “only one question per turn, cupcake.”

“I hate this game,” Laura groaned, “so unfair.”

“Funny enough, you were the one who suggested it.”

“Well, now I’m suggesting that I’m tired of it,” Laura shrugged before yawning, “speaking of being tired…”

“Good, sometimes I fear what you might babble about if given the right circumstances and amount of sleep deprivation.”

“Hey!” Laura slapped Carmilla’s arm, smiling, “I don’t babble.”

“You babble,” Carmilla smiled back at her, a warm feeling in her chest.

“Okay, maybe a little bit,” Laura admitted, “but you like it.”

“Extremely debatable, creampuff,” Carmilla chuckled, watching as Laura’s eyelids drooped sleepily, a dopey smile hanging from her face.

“Mm’yeah… okay…” Laura mumbled, sliding into Carmilla’s side and closing her eyes, “okay…”

Here, as Laura laid in Carmilla’s side, a tussle of blankets and layers of sweaters between them, Carmilla, despite the clenching in her throat and the cold that plagued her immune system, had never felt so warm.

 

 

Chapter Text

Waking up in Carmilla’s apartment, on Carmilla’s couch, on Carmilla, was definitely not the way Laura expected to be awakened that Tuesday morning. Not to say she was disappointed.

What she wasn’t so happy about, though, is that she was a few minutes away from realizing that she had contracted the cold she had refrained from kissing Carmilla to avoid.

“Carm,” she whispered, drowsily opening her eyes and punching into the layers of blankets that separated them. When she received no response, she lifted her hand and laid it over the back of Carmilla’s head, unsure what to do to wake her up with as little snark and anger from the other girl as possible. Seeing a lack of possibilities, she settled on stroking her hair, applying enough pressure to jar the other girl slightly. Okay - maybe this was a little too intimate for two people who were barely good friends, almost lovers, definitely not girlfriends, but it felt like she was being moved by some kind of otherworldly force. She decided to call this otherworldly force a crush. A painfully obvious, not until now realized crush.

“Who… hnng,” Carmilla slurred, raising her head sleepily and rubbing her eyes, adjusting to the environment around her. She turned to Laura and looked at her blankly, and then raised her hand to cover Laura’s on her head, trying to figure out what it was doing there. Laura withdrew it bashfully, realizing it was going a little too far to fast.

“Wha… What?” Carmilla furrowed her eyebrows, rubbing her eyes once more before coming into reality, suddenly awoken by a giant sneeze.

“Oh shit, did I get you sick?” Carmilla asked critically, recoiling away as if it may help the situation. Laura missed the contact, but returned to the other side of the couch which she had spent most of last night.

“Yes,” Laura sighed, looking down at her hands. She sniffled. Carmilla smiled at that, but only briefly.

Fuck,” Carmilla laid back, eyeing the ceiling as if it had some kind of secret solution. Deciding it in fact did not, she rose from her couch and headed towards the kitchen, leaving Laura to her own devices.

Unsure what exactly to do with herself, Laura reached into her back pocket for her phone, speed dialing LaFontaine to inform them that they wouldn’t be at work today. On the final ring, LaFontaine finally picked up.

“Laura, geez, you realize what time it is, right?” LaFontaine grumbled into the phone, the sound of keys rattling into the speaker as they obviously tried to open the door to the shop with little luck.

“Yeah, sorry Laf,” Laura said sympathetically, “but I wanted to tell you Carm - Carmilla and I won’t be at the shop today. We’re both sick.”

“You didn’t,” LaFontaine groaned, a resounding click echoing from their side of the phone call as they presumably entered the shop, the sound of Dan’s usual preparations in the background.

“Whatever you’re thinking,” Laura started, her lips pursed in an effort to retain her dignity, “is probably true and I probably did that.”

“Oh my god, Laura,” Lafontaine rolled their eyes, setting down their keys and tying on an apron, waving at Dan and miming to him unsuccessfully what Laura was trying to tell them. Dan raised his eyebrow and continued back into the kitchen, deciding whatever shenanigans his employees got up to in their free time was not his business, but would be his business as soon as they returned to the shop and most likely would never shut up about it.

“But really, Laf, it was nothing,” Laura sighed, watching Carmilla out of the side of her eye as the other girl vanished into her bedroom, “we barely did anything. I just went to apologize to her.”

“Uh huh,” LaFontaine smirked, keeping back a sarcastic quip for Laura’s sake, “just make sure you come back soon, I can’t run this place all by myself.”

“Duh,” Laura smiled, grabbing for a tissue box she had found laying on the floor by the television. Wishing them good bye, she shoved her phone in her pocket and decided it was time to head home, if not for her own health than for Carmilla’s.

“Going so soon?” Carmilla smirked, re-emerging from her bedroom in far less clothing than she was wearing before. Laura looked up at the ceiling innocently, trying not to notice the change in attire.

“I-I really should,” Laura hiccupped, trying to keep her sniffeling at bay, “neither of us are going to get better if we hang around sick all day.”

Carmilla’s smirk dropped, a little bit of regret sitting there.

“I didn’t mean to get you sick,” she said noncommittally, refusing to look Laura in the eye. It was an apology nonetheless, Laura thought.

Laura beamed back at her, “I know, but it was definitely my fault.”

Carmilla raised an eyebrow, her smirk returned, “yeah, it kinda was.”

“Don’t push it,” Laura giggled.

“Whatever you say, cupcake. Whatever you say.”

 

//

 

LaFontaine gravely underestimated the true power of a decaffeinated human on an early Friday morning. They also gravely overestimated their ability to handle all of these decaffeinated, now agitated human beings on an early Friday morning.

“Could you repeat that order, please?” LaFontaine said weakly to the man across the counter; he was an intimidating guy, dressed in a black business suit and tie, and a menacing frown that hadn’t faltered since they had first asked him to repeat himself.

“Can you bloody hear?” he muttered angrily in a thick accent, slamming his fist on the counter. LaFontaine winced back and shook their head yes, scribbling down whatever they thought he might have said onto a piece of paper and handing it off to Dan, who was too focused on the excess of unfinished orders to defend them from the man’s rude tone.

“Thanks, sir, I got it,” LaFontaine mumbled to the man, causing him to shake his head and walk angrily away to wait at the pickup portion of the counter. LaFontaine sighed and looked towards the door, wishing Laura and Carmilla would burst right through it.

The speed at which they got their wish was remarkably fast, and also remarkably idiotic.

“Carm, please,” a small blonde figure groaned, masked behind other customers near the doorway. She was carrying several grocery bags and was quickly followed by a slightly taller brunette, one LaFontaine recognized immediately. Before they had a chance to call out to them, however, a loud crash rang through the store.

“Why? Why me?” Laura squeaked, finally in clear vision. The many grocery bags she was carrying - now known to be full of desserts - had flung themselves across the floor and into various unreachable cavities inside the restaurant. With a trademark sigh and groan, Carmilla cleared away the customers around them and began to pick up the mess that the other girl had made, a very familiar sight ever since Laura had started working here.

“The probability of Laura tripping on completely dry surfaces is becoming a scientific theorem in of itself,” LaFontaine remarked, strolling up to the two and picking up whatever they could find. WIth most of the reachable food contained, Carmilla quickly ran around the counter and resumed the impatient line of customers. LaFontaine offered a still battered Laura a hand.

“Welcome back, I guess?” LaFontaine smiled, helping Laura to her feet.

“Hmph, what a welcome,” Laura frowned, looking down at her crushed pound cake, “I felt really bad for missing work for so many days this week, so I went out to buy some presents…”

“So many days? Laura, it’s Friday. How have you even made a full recovery in two days?” LaFontaine questioned, their eyes wide with curiosity. Everything was like a puzzle to them, Laura thought.

“It turns out I wasn’t really that sick,” Laura shrugged, looking at Carmilla from behind LaFontaine’s back and smiling, “either that, or the fact that I washed my hands at least forty times in the same day might have prevented it.”

LaFontaine chuckled, nodding, “Well it’s good to have you two back, regardless. If I had to work here one more day by myself the customers would have torn the place to the ground. It’s been a warzone.”

“Yeah, I’d believe it,” Laura grinned, eyeing a specifically frustrated looking suit-clad business man from the corner of her eye. Carmilla seemed to have purposely made him wait longer for his drink, for whatever ridiculous and sadistic reason. 

“So…” LaFontaine wiggled their eyebrows suggestively, motioning towards Carmilla. Laura gaped back at them, smacking their arm and shushing them. LaFontaine smirked wildly.

“So it’s like that then?”

“Like what?” Laura raised her eyebrow.

“Oh, you know,” LaFontaine dropped their voice for effect, “like that.”

“I really have no idea what you’re talking about,” Laura frowned, suspiciously gazing at Carmilla and hoping she couldn’t hear from across the shop.

“Okay, okay,” LaFontaine chuckled, “I was just trying to get you to tell me something. I thought if I said it like that you might crack.”

“Okay, maybe there’s something,” Laura looked down bashfully, “I asked her to kiss me.”

LaFontaine’s eyes widened, a grin spreading across their face

“Whoa whoa, ten points team Hollis!”

“Shh!”

“So did she?”

“Kind of.”

“You don’t kind of kiss people.”

“Well…” Laura rose her head, running a hand through her hair, “she kissed me on the cheek.”

“Oh,” LaFontaine deflated, “that’s not what I expected. Especially from Miss Sexual Tension over there.”

“She was actually doing it because she felt bad for you,” Laura admitted, “she didn’t want to leave you alone here.”

“Okay, now that’s just some bullshit,” LaFontaine scoffed, “she definitely had an ulterior motive there.”

“What? You really think so?”

“Duh,” LaFontaine rolled their eyes, “that girl may be occasionally considerate, but she’s not a saint. My guess is she had some other reason.”

“Oh,” Laura’s gaze fell again, her heart sinking, “you think she just didn’t want to kiss me?”

“Hah,” LaFontaine scoffed, “yeah right. Knowing Carmilla, she probably thought it wasn’t the right moment or some shit, that girl is so a secret romantic.”

“Okay, now you’re making no sense,” Laura rolled her eyes, her grin returning for whatever reason, (definitely not that Carmilla just winked at her from across the room) “that girl is the farthest from a romantic that I’ve ever met.”

“Hey, she hides it well, what can I say,” Lafontaine shrugged, heading towards the counter, “but if you forgot, this is a job, so we should probably do that.”

“Oh, right,” Laura said, jumping after them, mustering her confidence before giving Carmilla a wink back, “right.”

 

//

 

Laura liked the way it snowed here. Back in Iowa, the snow was brutal - crushing and layered. When she was little, Laura would frequently ask to play in it, but was often denied by her dad with good reason. It didn’t snow like that here. It was peaceful, and when it did stick, it was gone within days, like it was never there.

“Hey,” Laura was shocked by a voice behind her. She had been sitting on the pavement outside the coffee shop for what seemed liked hours, her shift up but still waiting for the bus. Turning behind her, she discovered it was Carmilla.

“Oh, hey,” Laura smiled, watching as Carmilla joined her on the ground, hugging a backpack to her chest.

“What are you waiting for, cutie?”

“Bus, you?”

Carmilla raised her eyebrow, “I’ve never seen you take the bus before. Don’t you usually ride that tomato of a bike home?”

Laura faked offense, “that bike is my child.”

“Either way, why?” Carmilla shrugged, looking into the distance as the bus turned a corner towards them.

“I had to move apartments,” Laura shrugged, “more like had to downsize apartments, but this one should be okay too.”

“Yeah, this whole no dorms for upperclassmen system is fucked,” Carmilla breathed out. Laura nodded.

As the bus approached them, Laura shot up eagerly and turned to Carmilla, offering her a hand. Carmilla stared at it for a second, as if she had several alternatives, but eventually took it and let Laura raise her up. Laura, as much as she tried, couldn’t force away a smile.

“Your face is going to get stuck like that,” Carmilla scoffed, climbing onto the bus.

“Would it be so bad if it did?”

Carmilla didn’t offer a response, but her own grin was answer enough. Laura quickly found a seat near the middle, and without much argument, Carmilla sat down beside her.

“So -”

“No offense, cupcake, but I’m a bit worn out right now,” Carmilla sank in her seat, closing her eyes and hugging her backpack closely to her chest. Laura nodded, shutting herself up quickly. Leaning slightly into her, Laura watched Carmilla as she deflated - every part of her relaxing. She thinks she’s never seen Carmilla this relaxed, this at peace. It’s beautiful. Laura shakes her head, disagreeing with herself, everything about Carmilla is beautiful.

(Okay, Laura thinks, definitely a crush.)

She doesn’t realize how long she’s been staring until Carmilla is staring back.

“You look cute when you do that,” Carmilla admits quietly, a stupid, helpless smirk stuck on her lips.

“Do what?” Laura mumbles. Her breath is caught. It’s caught a lot around Carmilla.

“When you look at me like that,” Carmilla groaned, turning away from Laura before she did something stupid. Something stupid like kiss her.

They don’t talk for the rest of the ride.

Chapter Text

Laura thinks about Carmilla all weekend.

She knows it’s stupid, and it’s hormones, and is Carmilla really worth all the trouble? (“Yes”, she thinks, then quickly corrects herself, “Of course, yes”.) Above all, though, Laura knows it’s useless fighting it. She’d had a smile glued to her face for practically the entire day now -- (her roommate may argue it’s been longer than that) and every time her thoughts drift to the other girl she can’t help but hold a pillow to her chest and try to hide the embarrassing amount of giddy that she emits for a varying amount of minutes afterwards. Laura thinks, in this condition, she may never be able to frown again.

She knows, deep down, that she’s kidding herself a little bit. She knows that Carmilla is far from perfect, and she knows she has flaws and copious amounts of self-proclaimed ‘baggage’, but she can’t help herself. Her heart flutters the hell out of itself anyway.

If not for the knock on the door, Laura might have laid there and thought about Carmilla for hours.

(She already had been.)

“Laura, dude,” Kirsch pushed back the door to Laura’s room, or rather what had been dubbed ‘her part’ of the living area the two had recently acquired, and surveyed the room around him, “it’s been like, a day, and you haven’t even tried unpacking. What have you done with the real Hollis?”

Laura chuckled, looking around her and below her as she realized that she was indeed spread across a series of cardboard boxes, most of them home to things that really shouldn’t be sat on.

“Yeah, I know,” Laura said dreamily, standing up and opting to curl up on the small square of carpet which she had conveniently unpacked in a moment of clarity, “I’m just a little… preoccupied.”

“Jeez,” Kirsch groaned, leaning against the door and letting his eyes settle upon Laura as the girl laid pathetically on the ground, completely absorbed in whatever thoughts were plaguing her, “you know, it’s funny, you’re never this lazy when you’re in a bad mood, bro.”

“Hmph,” Laura scoffed, unable to come up with a good comeback, “I have work in like fifteen minutes anyway, so I’ll have to be somewhat productive eventually.”

“That’s good to hear, I guess,” Kirsch smirked, walking towards Laura and then kneeling down across from her, trying to get eye level with her, “and you’re still not going to tell me what’s got you so - dunno, wired up?”

“Nope,” Laura grinned, “I have this theory that if I talk about it too much, it might dawn on me that I’m making it up in my head and I’m actually a little delusional. Also, you would tease me.”

Kirsch laughed in mock offense, scrunching up his eyebrows and nudging Laura on the shoulder.

“Come on, dude, I’m sure it’s not that wild,” Kirsch nudged her again, trying to pry for whatever information he could get. Laura and him had been friends for years, ever since they met at their first day at university, and it wasn’t like her to keep things from him. It was like her, however, to make assumptions about things that really didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Laura, unable to help herself any longer, raised herself up and gave Kirsch a brief glare before breaking out into a bigger smile, “Fine. I have a… thing for one of my coworkers.”

Kirsch grinned, “Whoa, bro. Nice.”

“Whoa yourself,” Laura looked away, embarrassed.

“What’s her name?”

“C-Carmilla.”

Kirsch, completely thrown by Laura’s answer, waved his hands in front of his face frantically, “wait, dude, slow down. Carmilla? Like, raven hair, mysterious asshole Carmilla?”

“You know her?” Laura raised both her eyebrows in urgency, as if any kind of connection to the girl was of utmost importance.

“Yeah, lil bit,” Kirsch lifted his head, trying to recall a memory, “I think I flirted with her once or twice. It didn’t go well.”

Laura’s eyes went wide and she slapped him a little too hard on the arm, “Seriously, Kirsch?”

Kirsch put on his best puppy dog eyes, “Hey, I didn’t know you already had dibs!”

Laura rolled her eyes, “there are no dibs. She’s a person.”

“I know, dude, just sayin’,” Kirsch shrugged, “so… does she like you back?”

Laura froze. Sometimes she disliked how painfully to-the-point he was.

“I… I don’t know, actually.”

“Oh,” he gave her a sympathetic frown.

“She’s just… sending me mixed signals, I guess?” Laura shrugged, rubbing her hands together nervously; in truth, the whole topic of her crush on Carmilla made her a little bit anxious, “We almost kissed, but, like, then we didn’t. It was kind of weird.”

“Hm,” Kirsch paused for a few moments, staring at Laura with squinted eyes, “well, she’s missing out, dude. You’re pretty hot.”

Laura nudged him hard in the leg, rolling her eyes, “I’m glad you think so.”

Kirsch smirked, shrugging his shoulders as he dragged Laura up off the ground, determined to turn her into a currently more functional member of society, “I’m serious though, bro, pretty hot.”

 

//

 

“You need an action plan,” was the first thing out of LaFontaine’s mouth when Laura entered the back entrance to the coffee shop that afternoon.

Laura raised an eyebrow, caught off guard by her coworker’s dramatic, insightful stare.

“An action plan?”

“Precisely,” LaFontaine said, squinting their eyes as if it might give Laura an idea of what they’re talking about.

“Did I miss something?” Laura asked curiously, looking around LaFontaine’s back at the bustling shop. LaFontaine shook their head and palmed their forehead, sighing.

“About Carmilla,” LaFontaine emphasized. Laura gaped in realization.

“Laf… As much as I love your usual enthusiasm, I think I got things pretty under control here,” Laura smiled gratefully, reaching out to pat LaFontaine on the shoulder. LaFontaine caught her hand, setting it down in an almost hilarious amount of seriousness.

“Laura, did you know she came in early this morning? Like, she came in a whole hour ago. She offered to help clean up and set up the next shift,” LaFontaine stretched each syllable with drastic measure, expressing with their hands what they couldn’t convey in words, “and she was like, smiling. Smiling!”

Laura’s gaped mouth closed and opened, unsure what exactly LaFontaine was trying to get across.

“That’s weird and all,” Laura said, “like, really weird, but how does that have to with me?”

“Duh, L, because she has a crush on you.”

“For a scientist, this whole theory has some major plot holes.”

“A theory doesn’t have plot holes, Laura, it just has holes.”

“Well, anyway-”

“But it does not have holes, actually,” LaFontaine said, moving away from Laura to reveal the figure of Carmilla in the far back, hunched over and carefully inscribing some lettering in whip-cream on an unknown coffee order, “look at this.”

“She’s working? That’s your evidence?” Laura smirked.

“How much money can I make off you if I bet you that she’s writing some ridiculously cursive, artsy L on that cup of coffee as we’re speaking?” LaFontaine asked. Laura scoffed.

“Twelve bucks,” Laura said, sticking out her hand. LaFontaine shook it, smirking.

“Just remember, L,” LaFontaine began, sending Laura off to inspect the drink, “action plan.”

Rolling her eyes and waving them off, Laura walked towards Carmilla briskly. Without announcing her presence, Laura leaned over Carmilla’s shoulder, and sure enough --

“An L,” Laura mumbled disbelievingly. Carmilla jumped at the sound and fell into Laura’s side, dropping her container of whipped cream and clinging to Laura in surprise.

“Holy shit, who the -” Carmilla began, climbing out of Laura’s grasp and turning around, locking her eyes with Laura’s, “oh.”

“Oh yourself,” Laura grinned. She couldn’t stop herself, really, if LaFontaine was right…

Picking up the can from the ground, Carmilla continued her work, unfazed. Deciding she had reached the limit in decorative coffee art, Carmilla slipped a cup holder over the drink and handed it off to Laura.

Smirking, Carmilla leaned against the counter and said, “Order’s up, cupcake.”

Laura’s heart might burst. (She thinks it already has.)

“Gosh,” Laura said, eyes still locked with Carmilla’s, “employee benefits here are generous.”

Carmilla laughed, knocking her hip against Laura’s teasingly as she passed her by. Laura, after Carmilla had retreated to safe few yards away, contemplated the appropriateness of making squealing sounds during work hours. She decided she’d celebrate the little victories somewhere a bit more private later on.

“Pay up,” were the last words out of LaFontaine’s mouth before the end of their six hour shift. Laura decides it was money well spent.

 

//

 

“Funny thing seeing you here, stranger,” Laura joked, exiting the coffee shop and gazing out onto the sidewalk that had now become their daily meetup spot, a careful few feet away from the bus stop.

“Funny,” Carmilla smirked, her cheeks red in contrast with the pale coldness of the rest of her face, both a product of the weather and her own personality. Without any further prompting, Laura silently joined Carmilla on the pavement and nonchalantly pressed a gloved hand on the other girl’s leg. Carmilla raised an eyebrow.

“I’m not sure if you’re familiar with how heat works, cupcake, but your baby hands are not going to do much in keeping me warm against a below zero cold spell,” Carmilla smiled despite herself, eyeing the embarrassing panda bear gloves Laura wore all too often.

Laura shrugged, smiling, and began to rub gentle circles over Carmilla’s leg. Carmilla hated how much it made her heart speed up.

“I actually am familiar, thank you very much,” Laura said, “I got an A in my high school meteorology class. I even got a certificate of achievement.”

“Wow,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, unable to look unaffected when Laura talked so proudly about things like passing a class made for future weathermen, “so what can you tell me about the forecast for tomorrow? Sunny with a chance of some asshole asking for a venti, caramel, chai, extra ice, spare the milk, sacrifice the children latte?”

Laura rolled her eyes, nudging at Carmilla’s thigh playfully, “you shouldn’t get so mad at them. It’s not their fault that we don’t carry the same stuff as Starbucks. Not everyone is as old fashioned coffeehouse as you, grandma.”

Carmilla feigned a grimace, looking hurt, “Oh please, excuse me for not knowing the difference between black coffee and deep black coffee.”

Laura grinned, and not finding an adequate response, resolved to stare openly at Carmilla and shake her head. Carmilla, feeling much too bashful to admit it, looked away and towards the snow covered streets. Unfortunately, when Carmilla looked back, Laura was still smiling at her.

“I told you to stop looking at me like that,” Carmilla looked down, examining her own shoelaces so she didn’t have to watch Laura’s eyes.

“Sorry to say, Carm,” Laura shrugged, “but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes, “right.” Trying to mimic Laura’s expression, Carmilla propped her head up on her hand and stared dreamily at Laura, an uncharacteristically dopey smile on her face. Laura’s eyes furrowed in response.

“I so do not look like that.”

Keeping up her act, Carmilla responded in a dreamy, aloof voice, “Whatever do you mean?”

“Nope,” Laura shook her head, now frowning, “I’m not that much of a sap.”

“Please,” Carmilla laughed bitterly, coming out of her act, “if you give me those ‘kiss-me-or-so-help-me’ eyes any longer, I might have to revisit our previous dare.”

Laura gulped suddenly, her mouth going dry. She had known she was a bit obvious-- okay, a lot obvious-- but if that was the impression she was giving, she needed to seek some advice on how to be more of a closed book.

“O-oh really?” Laura mumbled, unsure where Carmilla was taking the conversation. Carmilla inched towards her, flicking a piece of hair out of her eye. Laura’s hand froze where it was on the other girl’s leg.

Anything for you to stop giving me that face,” Carmilla whispered, voice low. Their faces were centimeters apart, and Laura could feel how shallowly Carmilla was breathing on her neck. For someone who seemed so cool and collected, her breathing was giving some of the mystique away. Laura couldn’t stop the nervous pricks running up her arms regardless.

Laura closed her eyes, a million thoughts circulating through her head, although one was most prominent: Kiss me.

“Okay,” Carmilla answered, shrugging her shoulders as if the idea had never crossed her mind, and much before Laura could even realize she had mumbled her desire aloud. Carmilla leaned in silently and cupped Laura’s cheek, kissing her in the most tender way that Laura had never thought Carmilla could be. Her entire body felt over sensitized; goosebumps that had little to do with the weather marching up her arms.

Before Laura could even process it, however, it was over. Carmilla leaned back, a nervous smile on her face like nothing Laura had seen before. Laura decided that was probably the face she was talking about.

“I -,” Laura mumbled, completely overwhelmed, “thanks.”

“Anytime,” Carmilla shrugged, her nonchalant air back as if she hadn’t just kissed her with more care than Laura had ever experienced. Laura had no idea what to think, but she did have one idea that she particularly enjoyed.

“Anytime?” Laura questioned.

“Anytime,” Carmilla reaffirmed. She had never seen Carmilla look so vulnerable, so small. It was undeniably cute.

“Um,” Laura scratched nervously at the back of her neck, leaning into Carmilla’s side. Carmilla, nervous as she was, sighed out noticeably as she leaned into her.

“Do you think, maybe, you know, only if you want,” Laura rambled, “we could agree to, uh, have mutual agreements on this kissing thing? Like, maybe, with dinner and a movie and maybe some Glee reruns involved?”

In that split second, Carmilla’s entire demeanor changed. All the nerve and tension that seemed to run through her and behind her usual coldness melted away, replaced with the same girl that she had adored, wrapped up in sweaters and tight fitting leather pants.

“Are you offering me a deal, then?” Carmilla drawled, her smirk masking unimaginable hope.

“Y-yeah, I think so?”

“So, what I’m hearing,” Carmilla drew close again, her face shielding Laura’s eyes from the bus that approached them slowly, “is a bit like this new age concept known as the date.”

Laura’s heart stopped, she thinks.

“Mm - something, something like that,” Laura said nervously. She couldn’t concentrate with Carmilla this close - this maddeningly near, and intimate, and attractive.

“Okay,” Carmilla breathed out, touching her forehead to Laura’s as the bus screeched to a halt in front of them.

“Okay?”

“Yeah, okay, now let’s go, you idiot,” Carmilla mumbled with as much affection as she could muster, placing a quick kiss to Laura’s mouth before dragging her onto the bus and to the back of the seats.

They most definitely were not silent on this ride.

 

Chapter Text

As strange as it may seem, Laura found herself caught up in one particular thought in the aftermath of their first (and second) kiss, and, no, it definitely wasn’t “kiss me again”. (“Okay,” Laura thought in a moment of clarity, “maybe I was thinking that too.”) She was overwhelmingly absorbed in something else entirely.

It was her dad’s birthday tomorrow.

She hadn’t forgotten by any means. She had put it on her calendar right above her bed, stuck a post it note about it on every wall of their new apartment, and sent herself three separate text messages detailing the exact process in which she was going to celebrate his 54th.

(Hi Laura. This is Laura! You already knew that. Because, like, this text is from you. Anyway! How are you? That was a stupid question to ask. I know how you are because I am you. That is sooo weird. Anyway. Uh. Right! Dad’s birthday is next week. But you already know that. I just thought I’d tell you anyway. See you? ---Laura)

Either way -- she was prepared. She had just had some minor distractions in the way of majorly attractive brunette females kissing her senseless that may have put a halt on her extremely important plans for when her dad arrived in town. Extremely important and very time sensitive plans, she might add, as she had exactly fifteen minutes to put them in place before her dad would be on the way to her residence.

“Laura, bro, holy shit, what are you doing?” Kirsch groaned, shoving open the door to her room and taking in the disarray. A room which just a day before had been completely empty save several boxes that Laura had lacked time to unopen, was now covered head to toe in various furniture and clothing, neither in the place that it should be.

“Bro…” he said, eyes falling on the tiny girl as she leaned against a collapsed Ikea bookshelf which she had clumsily tried to arrange without any sort of manual. She huffed out a sigh, closing her eyes and shaking her head. Kirsch thinks she mumbled something like ‘if Lafontaine were here’ under her breath, but he could be hearing things.

“My dad,” she answered, finally finding her voice and beginning to walk towards him and around him, frantically picking up a pile of scattered school binders that had made their way out of her suitcase, “he’s going to be here in twelve minutes and my room still looks like I let some kind of wild dalek loose in it.”

“You know dude, no matter how hard you try, I’m not going to get your doctor who references,” Kirsch sighed, assisting Laura by scooping up the books and placing them up above where she was able to reach.

“Hey!” Laura swatted away his help with her free hand, “Just because I’m short doesn’t mean I can’t do that. I have a stepladder for this kind of thing, you know.”

Kirsch shrugged, “Just trying to help.”

Laura let out a final sigh, nodding her head and shuffling away, leaving a stack of books for Kirsch to file away for her.

 

//

 

“Seriously, Carmilla, if you don’t stop smiling at me I’m going to have to run some tests to confirm that you are in fact you, and not some foreign organism that has infiltrated your body,” LaFontaine exclaimed seriously, leaning their arm against the counter and watching as Carmilla dreamily sorted through coffee cups, her eyes seemingly glossed over.

“Please,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, quickly coming back from her trance and glaring at LaFontaine half-menacingly, “what foreign organism would want to hijack me? Oh so exciting, stacking cups and taking orders from people half my size. I hope they report that to their alien leader.”

LaFontaine laughed and shrugged, “I mean, maybe the aliens are doing some research on totally smitten idiots.”

Carmilla grimaced in disgust, “please do not ever refer to me with that word again. I’d rather be staked.”

“Smitten? Hm, I have some others. How about enamored? Infatuated? Enraptured? Beguiled? Bewitched? Seduce-”

Carmilla groaned over their rambling and plugged her ears dramatically, “It’s 9:00AM, please spare me some of this torture.”

Lafontaine smirked, “Fine, but only if you promise me something.”

Carmilla raised an eyebrow.

“Don’t break Laura’s heart.”

Carmilla laughed bitterly, turning away from them, “I wouldn’t - I couldn’t - I can’t promise anything.”

LaFontaine scrunched their eyebrows, surprised by her answer, “What?”

“I told you once, Laf,” Carmilla said, her expression now distant, “I’m not good at commitment. That’s why I tried to stay away from her. But-”

LaFontaine sighed, shaking their head, “Look Carmilla. I know you have issues with commitment and staying together and love and everything else, but… Laura isn’t everything else. I think she’ll surprise you.”

Carmilla, a tight smile curling around her lips, nodded in response, “Maybe.”

 

//

 

“Dad!”

In the end --with two hundred or so miscellaneous items stacked, organized and shelved-- Kirsch and Laura were able to tidy up the room just enough to meet the barebones of Laura’s so-called standards. It was perfect timing, too, because the moment Laura was about to break down in tears at the sight of a partially crushed book collection, Kirsch announced that there was someone at the door.

“How’s my Laur-bear?” Ken Hollis grinned, embracing Laura as the tiny girl wrapped himself around him. After a few short minutes of hugging, Laura finally released him and quickly ushered him inside, taking his jacket and leading him up the stairs to their apartment, Kirsch in-toe behind them.

“Well well,” Ken said, examining the inside of their crowded, two-bedroom apartment and smiling “it’s no Iowa ranch, but it’ll do.”

Laura breathed out, obviously relieved, “I’m glad you think so, dad.” Ken nodded and turned around to meet Kirsch’s innocent gaze, a confused smile on the father’s face.

“And you’re Kirsch, then?” Ken asked, offering his hand for him to shake. Kirsch gave him a dopey smile and shook it, nodding his head.

“Sure am.”

“Nice to meet you, boy.”

“You too, uh, sir?”

Ken smirked, “you can just call me Ken.”

Kirsch grinned, “Nice. I mean, uh, Ken, uh, sir.”

Ken shook his head, “Good effort.”

Before Kirsch could reply, a shrill beep from Laura’s phone interrupted the two, causing Ken to jump and adopt a battle stance, looking around the room with fervent eyes.

“What was that?” he grumbled, looking back at Kirsch with suspicion. Kirsch waved his hands in defense.

“Don’t worry, dad, it was just my phone,” Laura admitted, taking out her infamous flip-phone and seeing a new message from her coworker. Not just any coworker, though.

“Shit,” Laura said under her breath, but quickly covered her mouth in embarrassment, “sorry dad.”

“What is it, Laur?” he asked, tapping his foot and holding his hip as if he was wearing some kind of cowboy belt buckle. Kirsch grinned at how entirely too southern his whole demeanor was.

“I, uh, sorta, made a plan today. That, uh, I forgot I made,” she scratched her head in distress, “I was wondering, if, you know, if it would be okay with you, if you could meet my… friend.”

“Your friend? O’course,” he smiled, “what’s to be nervous about?”

“Uh, nothing,” Laura gulped, looking at Kirsch for help. Kirsch’s smile widened.

“You mean Carmilla, bro?” Kirsch mouthed.

“Yes,” Laura mouthed back as her dad turned his head away briefly.

“It wouldn’t happen to be a special friend, would it now, Laur?” Ken turned his head back, face smirking.

“What?” Laura gaped, shaking her head briefly but then reconsidering, “err, uh, I mean. She’s very special to me, yes, but…”

“Then that’s all I gotta know, darling,” Ken said, “anyway, you gotta bathroom?”

 

//

 

Carmilla (9:20 AM): are we still on 4later?

Laura (9:24 AM): yes! but… my dad is kind of coming. its a long story.

Carmilla (9:25 AM): you realize this is just our first date right, cutie? dunno how they do it in iowa but meeting the parents usually comes a lil bit after that

Laura (9:25 AM): i know omg. sorry. its just i kinda scheduled our whole date thing when i was… not thinking about how he was coming. so yeah. its his birthday so he’s here now.

Carmilla (9:26 AM): its cool. ill see you two at 3 then?

Laura (9:27 AM): yeah :) see ya

Carmilla (9:27 AM): see ya (;

Carmilla (9:27 AM): (: **

Carmilla (9:27 AM): jk, definitely (;

 

//

 

The events of the day were dull, if Laura were to put them in comparison to where she is now -- curled up in Carmilla’s arms, forehead to forehead -- but since Laura is to become a future journalist, she believes strongly that no detail should be left out. So, for no other reason aside from that, the hours until then will be recounted with just as much enthusiasm as she had when she kissed Carmilla for that third time, standing at the door to her apartment, her face stuck permanently in a smile.

Since sending out her final text message to Carmilla early in the morning, Laura had showed her dad around almost every nearby place surrounding her apartment: the bookshop, the bank, the high school, the restaurant, and yes, even the Starbucks. Her dad, the people pleaser that he is, nodded along and smiled as Laura explained every detail and quirk she could about their destinations (even that one fact about how the bank was built in 1803, just a year before the birth of her favorite author). In all, Laura counted it took them roughly five hours. Ken would argue it might have been twenty two.

Her final destination, and admittedly her most anticipated one, was her very own place of work. The pair had taken the bus from her apartment to the coffee house, with Laura suspiciously stopping her father from going too far back in the bus (“Why can’t we sit back there?” Ken asked, giving Laura a raised eyebrow. “No reason!” Laura fidgeted nervously, remembering the ‘C + L’ heart she had drawn through a rip in the backseat.”)

“Cozy place you got here,” Ken remarked, opening the door as Laura looked around nervously for her coworkers, leading her dad inside.

“Thanks,” she said, finally resting her eyes on a waving LaFontaine.

“Dad, this is LaFontaine,” Laura smiled, gesturing from her father to her coworker, “they work here with me.”

“Is this your special friend?” Ken asked, giving LaFontaine a polite smile. LaFontaine gripped their sides desperately to prevent themselves from laughing.

Special friend?” LaFontaine grinned. Laura’s cheeks felt redder than they had ever been, and that is definitely saying something.

“N-no, dad, and please don’t refer to her as that,” Laura felt LaFontaine’s eyes burning into her skull, the embarrassment not wavering, “when you meet her, I mean.”

“No promises, kiddo,” Ken smirked, “but nice to meet you, LaFontaine. Any friend of Laura’s is a friend’a mine.”

“Nice to meet you, too, uh…?”

“Ken.”

“Nice to meet you, Ken,” LaFontaine smiled, “but unfortunately I have a science fair in about twenty minutes and an angry girlfriend to appease, so I’ll see you two later.”

Ken seemed to freeze up slightly, something in their words making him frown. He nodded plainly and looked at Laura suspiciously, raising an eyebrow.

“Girlfriend?” he whispered into Laura’s ear as soon as LaFontaine was out of earshot.

Laura felt her chest tense up, the anxiety she had feared so deeply rising to the top.

“Y-yes?” Laura breathed out, “they’re… uh… they’re dating a women.”

“I see,” Ken nodded, his confused frown passing, “good on ‘em. There’s too many rotten men around these parts, anyway. It’s not like back in Iowa.”

Laura felt relief sweep over her, suddenly feeling much safer in her dad’s presence than before.

“Y-yeah, whatever,” Laura laughed, her voice strained.

“Unless you have a man to tell me about?” Ken raised both his eyebrows, his face both threatening and interested. Laura wished that anything -- anything could prevent her from answering that question.

Something did.

“Hey, cupcake,” a familiar voice purred; apparently, out of all times, her special friend had arrived.

“Carmilla,” Laura felt breathless. Even in Carmilla’s hilariously innocent apron, Laura felt like looking at her was like looking at the sun.

“Hm?” Ken gazed at the pair, first at Laura’s slightly agape mouth and then at Carmilla’s adoring smirk, and decided he may have been a little off in his prior questioning.

“I’m guessing you’re Mr.Hollis?” Carmilla raised an eyebrow, casual as ever. Laura couldn’t help but smile.

“Ken,” he nodded.

“Ken,” Carmilla offered him a half smile, then let her eyes drift back to Laura, “so... where are we off to, then?”

“Oh,” Ken chuckled, “so this is your special friend, Laur?”

“Dad!”

“Special friend?” Carmilla broke out in a grin covering her whole face and up to her eyes. Laura had never felt such a mixture between adoration and embarrassment.

“He won’t stop saying that,” Laura rolled her eyes, “don’t get too full of yourself, Carm.”

“No, no, never,” Carmilla smirked, “but do keep coming with the compliments, Laur.”

Laura groaned, pulling at Carmilla’s hand and dragging her outside the shop, her dad following them from behind, amused and curious as ever.

This oughta be interesting,” he shook his head.

 

//

 

“Well, I wasn’t wrong,” Ken remarked to himself at the end of the night, gazing at the two girls sitting across from him on the bus, one being his own daughter. According to Laura, Carmilla and her had planned originally to have dinner and a movie, to which Ken had pointed out sounded suspiciously like a date. Laura had, of course, countered this profusely and assured him that it was “an extremely straight activity”. Ken decided not to fight her on that one.

The movie had been interesting, to say the least. Ken suspected that Carmilla had been the one to pick it out, as his daughter was never one for zombie apocalypse thrillers. Either that, or Laura had thought picking that would give her as much opportunity to hide behind (and on top of) Carmilla as possible. Either was a viable option, but both had left him feeling less like a father figure and more like an awkward third wheel, which was an oddly new concept to him.

“Girls?”

“Yeah?” they said in usion, awoken suddenly as if they had dozed off. In truth, they had been gazing into eachothers eyes for a little bit longer than socially acceptable for friends to do. Laura had begun regretting the severe ‘no homo’ status she had put on herself and Carmilla, despite her dad being a few feet away.

“You know, Laur, I feel kinda bad interrupting your plans and all, and my birthday isn’t until tomorrow anyway,” Ken began, “so why don’t you just stay with Carmilla like y’all planned?”

Laura’s eyes widened with astonishment, “Oh, Dad, it’s totally ok, it’s your birthday! I can be with Carm -- Carmilla anytime.”

“No, no,” Ken waved his hand dismissively, “I’m serious. Plus, I’m totally jetlagged from that ride here, I won’t be up ‘till at least noon tomorrow. Y’all have your fun.”

Carmilla smirked, turning to Laura and giving her a raised eyebrow. That’s when Laura knew she had lost the argument.

“I mean, if you’re sure,” Laura asked him nervously. He nodded. “Thanks, dad.”

“Mmph,” he affirmed, looking out the window, “but, let me correct myself, sweetie, not too much fun.”

The coughing fit Laura had after that response was not easily explained.

Chapter Text

“Your dad seems nice,” was the only thing Carmilla could think to say before Laura had her up against a wall, one hand sliding down her right side and grasping at the edge of her shirt while the other rustled through the back of Carmilla’s hair. Carmilla gasped out shallowly before Laura kissed her on the lips and she shut her eyes, inhaling Laura’s perfume that smelled a little bit like roses and a lot like coffee.

When they finally separated, Carmilla’s arms fell from Laura’s sides and dragged across the wall, a deep tugging in her stomach. Laura’s eyes locked with her, her breathing far from steadying.

“I’ve wanted to do that ever since that movie started,” she admitted, her breath tattered. Carmilla chuckled.

“Desperate much?” Carmilla drawled, taking Laura’s hand and tugging at her fingers, playing with them but not quite interlocking their hands. Laura gave her a smirk that looked too much like a smile.

“Maybe,” Laura shrugged, rubbing her thumb over Carmilla’s and making the other girl grin despite herself, “but can you blame me?”

Carmilla paused, considering the speed at which her heart was beating in her chest, but decided to let Laura believe she was the one in control of this relationship--this beautiful, horrible, disgustingly lovey-dovey thing--for one more second, one more minute.

“No,” Carmilla shrugged, still smirking, “I do elicit that feeling from most.”

Laura frowned, “most?”

“I said I elicit a feeling, cupcake,” Carmilla tugged at Laura’s hand and brought her close to her face, just far enough so she could trust herself not to kiss her, “doesn’t mean I let everyone act on it.”

“I’m not everyone, then?” Laura smirked, whispering into Carmilla’s ear. It made her shiver.

“No,” Carmilla whispered, reflecting on LaFontaine’s words from the day before, “you’re certainly not everyone.”

That seemed to satisfy whatever it was Laura was looking for, because she quickly pulled away and retreated to Carmilla’s couch, leaving Carmilla breathless. For as much as Carmilla wished she was in control, it was obvious Laura had other ideas in mind.

Unsure what to do with herself, Carmilla let out a sigh and approached Laura on the couch, sitting about a foot away on the other side. Laura raised her eyebrow suspiciously and Carmilla just laughed, reaching for the remote to locate the Glee reruns she had saved on her DVR.

“Was that okay?” Laura said quietly about halfway through their first episode.

“Was what okay? If you’re talking about the television we’re watching, definitely not, because this is horrible,” Carmilla scoffed. Laura shook her head and worried her bottom lip, lowering her head slightly.

“I meant me… uh” Laura said finally, muting the screen with the flick of a button, “kissing you.”

Carmilla raised both eyebrows in surprise, her mouth slightly agape. Of all the questions she expected would be asked at some point-- What are we? Where did you grow up? Are we dating? Who are your parents?-- Carmilla didn’t expect that.

“Duh,” Carmilla shrugged, trying to keep the mood light, “like I told you, anytime, cupcake.”

“I know you said that, but…” Laura dropped her gaze to her crossed legs, palming her hands together nervously, “I’ve never done this before, you know? God, I sound like a middle schooler. I just…”

“I know,” Carmilla nodded, finally closing the distance between their bodies and halting Laura’s hands from their nervous cycle. She rubbed her finger up Laura’s thumb, nudging it in a way that said a lot of things Carmilla herself wasn’t brave enough to say. (Things like “Yeah, me too.”)

“You just… mean a lot to me, you know?” Laura said. Carmilla blew out a breath and offered her a half-smile. Laura shrugged again, unsure what she was trying to say. In truth, Carmilla was scared she knew.

“You don’t have to be sure yet,” Carmilla answered, finally releasing Laura’s hand, finding it hard to control her emotions with their fingers conjoined, “look, Laura…”

“It’s okay,” Laura said, offering Carmilla a weak smile. It looked hurt. Carmilla knew she was being distant, and she knew she was being cold but she was new to this in a way. She was new to these feelings and these vulnerabilities and this connection. She was new to it in a way that Laura had already mastered. She was new to this whole, stupid, love thing.

“It’s actually not,” Carmilla sighed. Laura’s eyes widened and her mouth tipped down in a confused frown, “I know you see me as some kind of ‘master of the arts’ as far as this whole thing goes, but honestly…”

Laura’s frown quickly wiped away, replaced by a smile that Carmilla begrudgingly labeled as something along the lines of absolutely adorable.

“Wait… you don’t mean…”

“Oh my god, no, cupcake, not all of us grew up in, like, Iowa. I’ve kissed my fair share of girls,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, but Laura continued smirking regardless, “I’m just not really an expert on this loveydovey shit. It’s not really my… thing.”

“Your thing?” Laura raised an eyebrow. She looked entirely too smug for someone who was being told that their crush has no idea how the fuck healthy relationships work, Carmilla thinks.

“Yeah, whatever,” Carmilla hid her face with her hands, trying desperately to conceal the slight blush that was appearing on her cheeks. Laura giggled and sighed out, her smug grin falling into one that looked a little bit more like understanding.

“We can figure it out together.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes again, worried that if she didn’t she might start acting on her uncontrollable urge to hug her. Making out was one thing, but those long, meaningful hugs and grossly affectionate kisses were something Carmilla wasn’t sure she was ready for yet.

“Fine, yeah, alright,” Carmilla responded, giving Laura a knowing smirk and unmuting the tv.

 

//

 

Carmilla was glad, of all people to know that she had just sat through ten whole episodes of Glee in one sitting, it was Laura. She was not glad, on the other hand, that despite Laura’s prodding, she had insisted they get to the end of season 2. Getting to the end of season 2, she might add, meant it was quite possibly 2 AM and she had to get up in two hours.

“Carmilla,” Laura murmured against Carmilla’ shoulder, “why did we do that?”

Carmilla sighed, rubbing her hands against her eyes, “I have no fucking clue.”

Laura giggled against her shoulder, and Carmilla grinned back at her, unable to conceal her emotions when she was half sure she might be dreaming all of this anyway.

“I have work in two hours,” Carmilla grumbled, moving her forehead to balance on Laura’s. Laura sighed out and cupped Carmilla’s face with her hands, moving a thumb down one of her cheeks as if she was holding the most delicate thing in the world. It made Carmilla shutter, closing her eyes without thinking and leaning into the touch. She hated how Laura left her like this: feeling like she wasn't all kinds of broken.

“Laura…” she began, humming into Laura’s hand. She wanted to tell her to stop, or let go, or anything to make the fluttering in her stomach cease, but she didn’t have the heart to. Laura just shook her head and leaned in, connecting their lips and grinning into the kiss. Carmilla was sure more of this might make her heart sick.

When Carmilla opened her eyes, it occurred to her then just how much Laura had changed things. Going home to her apartment didn’t feel like regret anymore, working as an employee at a coffee shop didn’t feel like failure, it just felt like home.

Laura felt like coming home, and it made her heart skip two beats.

“Carm,” Laura whispered against her lips, pushing away her bangs to look into her eyes.

“Yes?” she replied weakly. There was no more trying anymore, not with this girl.

“I’m going to miss you,” Laura said. Carmilla rolled her eyes, still smiling.

“You’re going to be with your dad for one day, cupcake,” Carmilla said.

Yeah, but that means I’m going to be one day without you, idiot.”

(Carmilla thinks, at this rate, that she might soon require an ambulance.)

 

//

 

LaFontaine has seen a lot of sleep-deprived dysfunction, but nothing quite like Carmilla just three hours after leaving Laura’s house.

“Carmilla,” they repeated a third time, this time shaking Carmilla’s shoulders as the girl slumped over the cash register, her eyes closed.

“Mm’please get off me, creature,” Carmilla mumbled sleepily, not bothering to open her eyes. LaFontaine rolled their eyes and groaned audibly.

“I don’t care what kind of crazy, all-night sex you had with Laura, but just know she’s going to be really mad when she hears you got fired for sleeping, and might I add, drooling, on the job,” LaFontaine said, giving Carmilla a final nudge. Whatever it was they said seemed to jolt Carmilla out of her trance, because she shot up from her slump immediately and opened her eyes, glaring at LaFontaine.

“There was no crazy, all night sex, thanks,” Carmilla corrected, “just a lot of shitty television.”

“Oh my god,” LaFontaine grinned, “she made you watch glee, didn’t she?”

“What?” Carmilla forced a face of absolute disgust, “never.”

“Then would you care to explain this, hardass?” LaFontaine smirked, pulling out their phone and showing Carmilla a string of text messages Laura had sent her during the later hours of last night.

“Oh my god, we will never, ever talk about this,” Carmilla sighed, turning away from them with as much dignity as she could muster.

“Oh, but we will,” LaFontaine said with their most shit-eating grin, “so, Faberry or Brittana?”

Carmilla had never been more grateful that a customer had interrupted their conversation.

 

//

 

“Laur?” Ken asked, his voice just above a whisper. The two --a truly uncanny pair of father and daughter-- were currently situated outside a local ice cream shop, gazing out into the bustling streets. His daughter, the excitable girl she is, had insisted they visit every tourist attraction in the town that they didn’t get to in their previous tour, and the ice cream shop had happened to be the last stop. Either that, or Laura had decided it was enough when she noticed her father falling asleep next to her on the bus seat.

“Mm?” she responded, licking her mouth eagerly as she finished off the remainder of her ice cream. It made him grin.

“I was just wonderin’, but,” Ken started, looking off into the street with a distant expression, “are you interested in that, ya know, Carmilla girl?”

Laura dropped her cone.

“Crap,” she exclaimed, watching as the remainder of ice cream cone slid off the sidewalk and into the streets, a redness peaking on her cheeks, “uh, I mean, like, we’re good friends, Dad.” She rubbed at her arms nervously, watching as her dad’s expression changed into a delighted smirk.

“Just friends?” he confirmed, turning to Laura now.

In all of Laura’s childhood years, she didn’t lie to her dad. It was like an unspoken rule, the honesty between them.

“Just friends, Dad. I’m not like that.”

Her Dad let out a relieved sigh. It made Laura’s heart break.

“I’m --- I’m sorry, Laur. I know your friend is, like that, too. I know that must be hard for you. I just. I’m not sure what I think about it,” he shook his head, as if he were trying to prove the point more to himself, “I try to be accepting, you know me, Laur. It’s just how I was raised.”

Laura nodded, but she couldn’t look him in the eye.

“They can do whatever they want, it’s not my deal to question it, kid,” he continued, reaching out to touch Laura’s arm, making her flinch slightly, “I’ll always support your friends, but I'm just glad it's not my babygirl facin' all that, ya know?”

“I know.”

She knew.

//

Her phone blinked three times in succession, dimly lighting the dark room. She had gotten home hours ago, her Dad and her deciding to take a taxi back to her apartment. After saying goodnight, she had retreated back to her bedroom and cried. It was pathetic, she knew, but she couldn’t think of anything else to do with herself.

Picking up her phone and rubbing at her eyes, Laura read the new messages.

Carm (8:13 PM): hey

Carm (8:13 PM): work was soo boring w/o you. this dudebro and his friends tried some kind of like group flirtation shit. it was disgusting. i poured coffee on all of them.

Carm (8:13 PM): so how was ur day w/ your dad?

Laura smiled down at her phone, grinning wider than she had all day. Laura still didn’t quite know how she would ever tell her Dad about them, but, in the end, she was starting to feel like Carmilla might be worth taking the risk for.

(“God,” Laura thought, “I am a ridiculous sap.”)

Laura (8:15 PM): it was great

Laura paused, sighing out.

Laura (8:15 PM): it actually kinda sucked.

The speed at which Carmilla replied made Laura’s stomach do flips. If she was a sap, then Carmilla was even worse.

Carm (8:15 PM): what happened? sad_cat_emoji

She still hadn’t broken it to Carmilla that her flip phone can only read emojis, but she’s not sure she wants to yet.

Laura (8:16 PM): ill tell u tomorrow, im 2 sleepy

Carm (8:16 PM): ok concerned_cat_emoji… night

Laura (8:16 PM): night!

Laura put her phone to the side, tucking herself between her covers. Before she felt herself doze off, however, her phone lit up again. 

Carm (8:21 PM): heart_emoji

(“Yeah,” Laura thought, smiling to herself beneath the sheets, “definitely the bigger sap.”)

 

 

Chapter Text

For as long as Carmilla could remember, she had kept a diary.

It started off when she was just a kid, when she wouldn’t have anyone to talk to, so she would write down everything that happened to her that day and read it over and over again, as if maybe it would sound like she was talking to someone else. Ever since then, it’s just been habit. She has about twelve of them, if she bothered counting, and most of the pages were full of uninteresting garbage, seeing as “I went to school”, and “I ate a poptart” were the most prevalent phrases inside books 1-5. Book thirteen, though… Book thirteen was something else entirely.

There’s this girl named Laura” was written a little over a year ago, and Carmilla’s sure that the name Laura has occupied every page since.

Today was no different.

She had just sent her last text message to Laura, having spent several minutes deliberating on whether to just leave her be or send her some kind of sign that she cared about her. Seeing as she was horrible at handling her feelings, she decided to play rock paper scissors against herself and ended up choosing to send a heart emoji, which she hoped wasn’t too forward.

Seeing as Laura was probably too spent to reply to that, Carmilla had decided that it was time to update her diary. She hadn’t written in a few weeks due to her upcoming midterms, but something in her felt eager to just get all of the gross emotions that were occupying her headspace down on paper.

She hadn’t realized quite yet that meant actually describing what it was that she was feeling. Like, in words. Words like crush and cute and adorable and love. She hadn’t realized that at all. So she took an alternate route.

 

(11/20/15: ‘I’m so fucked.’)

 

That seemed to summarize her feelings nicely.

 

//

 

Laura had suspected the coffee shop had a back exit, but for some reason, she also suspected she wasn’t supposed to know about it.

The shop had a front and a back -- the front having a single door, with the Slurp N’ Sip banner adorned overhead -- and then there was the back, which was shielded by an alleyway that Laura was confident housed many an illegal activity.

The thing is, this isn’t something she’d usually worry about, but today was an unusual day. She had just said goodbye to her dad for what would probably be another few months or so, and in the midst of all her conflicting emotions, she had misplaced her keys in Kirsch’s backpack and now he was on the other end of the city while she was in front of her very own place of work, an hour early and unable to setup.

Doing as she would in any other situation, she decided to call the most sensible person she knew for help.

(“No,” she thought to herself briefly, searching through her phone, “that would definitely not be Carmilla.”)

“Hello?”

“Hey, Perry,” Laura smiled, leaning against the wall of the shop.

“Laura! Are you alright? It’s so early, you know,” Perry whispered into the call, trying in the most subtle way to shame Laura for waking her up out of her sleep schedule.

“Yeah, and I’m really sorry about that, Perr, I’m just kinda...stuck.”

“Stuck? Where?”

“At the coffee shop,” she rubbed her temples, trying to keep her hands warm despite forgetting her gloves, “I’m supposed to set up on Tuesdays, but I forgot my keys.”

Laura could hear Perry sigh slightly from the other end of the phone line, and Laura frowned.

“You are always getting yourself in messes, Laura,” Perry groaned, “I wouldn’t be able to survive with a lifestyle like that.”

“A lifestyle that included mistakes?” Laura asked, smirking.

“Hmph,” Perry chuckled, “maybe. Anyway, how can I help?”

“I honestly… don’t know. Since you have so many classes with Kirsch, I thought you might be able to get my keys back for me,” Laura shrugged, “also, you’re the only person I know that gives me good advice.”

Laura could feel Perry brighten from the compliment, “Unfortunately, class starts in two minutes, but I could get them to you in an hour?”

Laura sighed, slumping into the door, “No good, but that’s alright. I’ll figure something out.”

Perry sighed, “Alright, but tell Lafontaine I’m making them get you some kind of, I don’t know, app for this kind of thing.”

Laura giggled, “I will.”

Shutting her phone, Laura faced the alley that led to the back of the shop and sighed.

(“So this is what they mean by ‘exhausting all your options, huh?”)

Feeling her way against the wall of the shop, she glided her hand until it hit a wooden frame. Lighting the way with her phone, she pushed away the boxes that obstructed the frame and tugged at it slightly, testing it for a reaction. To her surprise, it quickly gave way and behind it was a badly tied knot that attached the sign “Do Not Enter, That Means You, You Assholes” to what she presumed to be the back door. She decided she would ask Carmilla later just who came up with that spectacular way to drive out visitors, but she suspected she already knew.

She pulled at the knob and the door opened quickly, producing what she could only call a mixture between the sound of cardboard being ripped and someone dragging their nails across a chalkboard.

“Who’s there?” a menacing voice called out quickly, causing Laura to shriek and fall backwards, landing on one of the boxes she had moved out of the way.

“Don’t hurt me! I’m an employee!” Laura yelled, shielding her eyes and scuffling backwards out of the doorframe, unable to see in the darkness of the alleyway.

A light inside the shop quickly flicked on, and no one other than Carmilla appeared at the doorway in front of her.

“Laura?” she asked, her eyebrows furrowed.

“Carm?” Laura asked, completely dumbstruck, “what are you doing here?”

“I work here, sweetie,” Carmilla smirked, offering her hand for Laura to grasp, pulling her up from the ground.

“Well, no shit, but you never get here this early,” Laura asked suspiciously, rubbing the dirt off her pants and closing the back door behind her, “plus, it’s my day to set up.”

“I…” Carmilla looked around, rubbing her arm nervously, “okay, I actually came here to surprise you.”

“What?” Laura asked, grinning.

“It wasn’t anything,” Carmilla shrugged, “I just wanted to set up for you because, you know, you had a hard day with your dad and all.”

Laura’s smile faltered slightly, the events of the previous day settling in her gut. She blew out a breath and gave Carmilla tight-lipped smile, wanting nothing more than for her to see how grateful she was.

“That’s…” Laura bowed her head, looking around at the already arranged tables and chairs, “really nice of you.”

“It was nothing,” Carmilla said, nudging Laura’s arm and giving her a half-smile, “but, the real question is, why the hell were you using the back entrance?”

“Okay, like, long story,” Laura sighed, “but I accidentally gave Kirsch my keys, so… I got locked out. Okay, now that I think of it, it wasn’t actually that long a story.”

Carmilla chuckled, “you should have just knocked, idiot. I would have opened the door for you.”

Laura rolled her eyes, “yes, because I obviously would have known to expect you to be here early.”

“Point taken.”

“You really should have told me about that whole back exit deal, by the way. I would have thought it would be in the employee handbook.”

“I have that sign there for a reason,” Carmilla said, “you can’t lock the door, so we just avoid using it. I offered to put some kind of booby trap there, but Dan thought it was ‘unsafe’ and ‘unethical’ or some bullshit.”

Laura giggled, her full smile returning, “you’re adorable.”

Carmilla rolled her eyes, trying not to blush, “whatever.”

 

//

 

“Did you know I hate coffee?”

“Do you really, cupcake?” Carmilla smirked, bumping her hip on Laura’s as she slipped her arms around the smaller girl’s waist, dropping her chin on Laura’s shoulder. It was tragic how much she wasn’t trying anymore.

“Really,” Laura laughed, touching Carmilla’s hand gently.

“Then why in the world are you working here, then?” Carmilla whispered into her ear, making Laura shiver. Laura looked down, bashful. She shook her head.

“Oh,” Carmilla smirked, “well, I didn’t know I was that convincing.”

“Don’t let it go to to your head,” Laura rolled her eyes, wiggling out of Carmilla’s grasp to reach for a washcloth, checking the clock briefly.

“Too late, cupcake.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Laura giggled, wiping off the last coffee machine, “we have like, twenty minutes until Laf gets here.”

“Hm, plenty of time, don’t you think?” Carmilla said suggestively, reaching for Laura’s hand and dragging her towards her, entwining their fingers.

“Carm…”

“Plenty of time to talk about what happened last night.”

“Oh,” Laura’s eyes widened, before she looked down at the floor sadly, “oh.”

“Come on, creampuff,” Carmilla patted the counter next to her where she was sitting, “just because I’m not great with feelings doesn’t mean I can’t at least try a little harder… for you.”

Laura’s heart swelled, and she could feel herself grinning despite herself. She propped herself up onto the counter, sighing and scooting next to Carmilla so they both faced the front doorway.

“It wasn’t really a big deal, honestly…” Laura began, slumping her shoulders, “my dad just… he asked about you.”

“Oh?” Carmilla raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah. He asked if we were like… a thing.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“And?”

“Well… I told him we were just friends,” Laura looked away, “I mean, good friends. Really good friends.”

“I see,” Carmilla blew out a breath, nervously scratching at the back of her head. She couldn’t stop herself from feeling like the weight of a thousand worlds had just been set upon her shoulders. It wasn’t Laura’s fault, really― she could feel however she wanted, and honestly, Carmilla shouldn’t be doing this. This was never a good idea from the start―

“But I don't want us to be just friends.”

Oh.

“I just…” Laura trailed off. Carmilla noticed the slightest wetness pooling under her eyes, threatening to spill. Before she could stop herself, Carmilla reached out and wiped away at her cheek, taking her other hand and entwining their fingers.

“I don’t want to pressure you, Carm, I just…” Laura played with their fingers nervously, “I really like you. Whatever that means to you, that’s okay.”

Before she could ramble any longer, however, Carmilla surged her body forward and cupped Laura’s cheek, kissing her tenderly.

“Laura,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, whispering against her lips, “of course I like you, too, you nerd.” Retracting her lips and leaving Laura breathless, Carmilla sighed and looked up at the ceiling.

“Oh,” Laura laughed, her lips forming a tight ‘o’, “well. That honestly wasn’t why I didn’t tell him.”

“Hmm?”

“He’s a bit… traditional, ya know?”

“I know that southern cowboy vibe when I see it, Laura.”

“Right,” Laura chuckled, bringing her knees to her chest, “I don’t think he would really like if I was dating you, I guess. I think it makes him feel like he went wrong somewhere. I just… I don’t ever want him to feel like that.”

Carmilla swung her legs mindlessly beneath her, taking a moment to think before she replied.

“Sometimes, cupcake, you just have to trust that people are better than what they think they are.”

 

Chapter Text

So nice of all you all to show up,” Dan said, giving his employees a tightlipped smile and tapping his foot on the floor.

“We work here,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, “it’s not really a matter of choice.”

“That hasn’t stopped you before,” Lafontaine chimed in, smirking. Carmilla shot them a menacing stare in reply; 6 AM was never the best time for sarcasm.

“Please, you two,” Laura shook her head, turning to face their boss, “so, what’s the sitch?”

“Nerd,” Carmilla coughed under her breath, earning a painful nudge to the stomach, but she grinned nonetheless.

“Well, if you are all done bickering,” Dan cleared his throat, surveying the children before him with a mixture of adoration and annoyance, “I have an announcement.”

“Oh, really? And here I thought you called us here at six AM to watch cat videos,” Carmilla interrupted, earning another glare from Laura.

“As pleasing as that idea sounds, no. I actually brought you all here to discuss work related subjects, believe it or not. And since Christmas is coming around the corner―”

“Christmas?” Laura added in excitedly, grinning.

“Yes, Christmas,” Dan sighed, a hint of a smile on his lips, “now if anyone here would like to let me finish…”

“Sorry,” Laura said, bowing her head in embarrassment.

“It’s fine, now, anyways… The holiday season has always been our most profitable time of the year, since people seem to gravitate toward warm drinks when they’re cold, as science has told us. To milk these profits as much as possible, I’m implementing another, err, competition of sorts.”

“Because our last one worked out so well,” Carmilla said, rolling her eyes.

“That’s an objective opinion, Carmilla,” Lafontaine grinned, “I believe it went pretty well, for most involved.”

“There were two people involved, sherlock,” Carmilla said, “of course it went well for one of us.”

Clearing his throat once more, Dan coughed awkwardly and continued his announcement.

“Despite your ever-appreciated input, Carmilla, I believe more than one of you will be able to appreciate it this time around,” he smiled, centering his view on Laura, but quickly returning to his spiel, “either way, all I’m asking is that you all put your best effort into a small decoration project. We have a budget, of course, but since I’m hoping we’ll earn double our money back from projected profits, you can go a bit wild.”

Unable to contain her excitement, Laura cheered and clapped her hands rapidly. Carmilla tried her best not to smile.

(‘Tried’ being the key word here.)

“Atleast someone around here has some spirit,” Dan smirked, giving Laura a thumbs up. Laura gave him one back, using the other hand to reach for Carmilla’s and holding it tightly. Carmilla, despite the audience around her, didn’t let go.

Finished with his announcement, Dan knocked twice on the counter before returning to his new back-of-the-shop office, which was actually a wooden desk and a lamp that was parked directly in front of the shop’s back door.

“I guess that’s one way to keep out intruders,” Laura giggled to herself, giving Carmilla a knowing look. Carmilla smirked back at her, bumping their hips together playfully.

“Apparently my methods weren’t good enough.”

Laura gasped in mock surprise, “Really? I keep a poster that says ‘stay out, assholes’ over every bathroom in my apartment now. The results have been incredible.”

Carmilla laughed, rolling her eyes, “I’m glad my method worked for someone.”

“Not to intrude, or anything,” Lafontaine began, giving the pair the biggest shit-eating grin they could offer, “but I believe we’ve been given some pretty direct orders to get our butts to Target.”

“Target?” Laura repeated, appalled, “obviously he meant iParty.”

“iParty is weak, Laura. Their streamers come in like three different colors. I once bought a whole bag of rainbow colored streamers from Target.”

“iParty isn’t weak,” Laura huffed, crossing her arms, “I’ve been getting my costumes and my computer cases from there for years.”

“I don’t really have an opinion on something as petty as this, but if one of the options is going to the same place where Laura bought her doctor who, panda bear laptop case, I’m going to have to disagree wholeheartedly,” Carmilla interjected. The look Laura gave her was a mixture between pained and offended.

“Oh that is it,” Laura scoffed, letting go of Carmilla’s hand dramatically, “I can’t be friends with people with such bad taste.”

Carmilla raised her eyebrows suggestively, selfishly reaching out to take Laura’s hand back.

“How about more than friends?”

“Gross,” Lafontaine remarked, swatting at Carmilla’s shoulder, “come on, lovebirds. Let’s get to Target before the holiday crowds of wanna-be interior designer soccer moms do.”

“See, iParty doesn’t have that problem,” Laura shook her head, walking out the door of the shop, in-toe behind an eager LaFontaine.

“Yeah,” Lafontaine smirked, “they have crowds of twelve year olds instead.”

 

//

 

Laura was usually a very stubborn person, as anyone who knew her could tell you, but she had greatly underestimated the speed at which her opinions of Target’s holiday selection would change in a mere two minutes.

No one could blame her, really, not when the minute she walked through the door she was barraged with three different sales for snowglobes, and okay, she just really loved snowglobes―but here’s the real kicker: they came in five different colors.

 “This is heaven,” Laura gaped, her eyes glazed over. Lafontaine did little but lead her in the door, shaking their head in amusement. Carmilla followed quickly behind, managing a healthy amount of disinterest for someone who may have a not so secret desire to purchase any and all feline themed holiday decorations she could get her hands on.

After a minor argument over who should have control of the cart, Lafontaine finally gave the reins over to Laura, who took all of three seconds to drive it straight into a display on reindeer, and then spent a separate five minutes apologizing to a disgruntled employee who had just finished setting it up.

“So, what are you getting her?” LaFontaine questioned, turning to Carmilla as the girl watched with adoration as her not-so girlfriend tried to make amends with an inanimate object.

“Me?”

“Duh, you.”

“Why would I get her anything?” Carmilla furrowed her eyebrows, feigning disinterest.

“Please,” Lafontaine shook their head, “you can quit the act. You couldn’t be gayer for her if you tried.”

Coming up with no suitable comeback, Carmilla blew out a breath and turned to face Laura, who was currently waving to them from afar. Carmilla felt herself smile and wave back before she could stop herself.

“I’ll think of something.”

(In truth, Carmilla knew ever since they stepped in the store.)

 

//

 

“That enough streamers to satisfy you, cupcake?” Carmilla asked.

Laura grinned and shook her head, counting each of her thirty-five different color streamers. Lafontaine laughed, throwing in their own haul of decorations into the cart and letting Carmilla wheel it into the checkout booth.

“No offense, but I’m not sure the shop even has room for all this shit,” Carmilla remarked, watching as the decorations rolled down the conveyor belt. Carmilla believed the correct verb for their purchase was nothing less than going ham; there was lights, streamers, three wreaths, flowers, a miniature christmas trees, and two small menorahs.

“Perry’s going to love these,” Lafontaine smiled, inspecting the last menorah as they shoved it onto the belt. Laura, coming out of her longing gaze at the undisturbed snowglobe collection, nodded enthusiastically.

“That’ll be $200 and 99 cents, please,” the cashier said, leaning against the register with a dull expression.

“Holy shit,” Laura gasped, “we blew the entire budget.”

“It’s not really blowing it if it’s on a budget,” Carmilla said.

“Still,” Laura said worriedly, “that’s a lot of money.”

“Don’t worry about it, kid,” Lafontaine nudged Laura reassuringly, “we’re going to make it back in sales anyway.”

“Yeah, yeah―alright,” Laura shook her head, trying to reassure herself.

Loading their goods into the cart, Carmilla glanced back down the aisle to spot the place in the store which Laura had been gazing at for all too long.

“I’ll catch up with you guys in a minute,” Carmilla said, separating herself from the cart and beginning to walk towards the displays, “don’t wait up.”

Before Laura could ask any questions, Lafontaine shuffled her out of the doors of the store and led her towards the car, reassuring her that Carmilla was just trying to be casual about desperately needing to add to her collection of cat themed household items.

//

 

“I should have bought sunglasses,” Carmilla groaned, shading her eyes as Lafontaine plugged in the lights they had adorned around every nook and cranny in the store. Laura cheered and tapped her feet excitedly, wrapping her arms around Carmilla.

“Don’t be such a downer,” she whispered into her ear, sending a shock wave down Carmilla’s spine. She was starting to think that Laura should come with a warning label.

“M-m, whatever,” Carmilla laughed shallowly, taking a sharp intake in breath as Laura giggled into her ear. Luckily, Lafontaine was all too focused on plugging in the remainder of their decorations to notice her starting to lose it.

“It’s beautiful,” Laura sighed, grasping at Carmilla’s hand and playing with her fingers. Carmilla nodded in agreement, too caught up in Laura to disagree.

“Christmas at home was a lot like this,” Laura continued, leaning her head on Carmilla’s shoulder, “dad would always play some sappy Christmas music while we put up the ornaments… We had a lot of ornaments. We’d go out and buy new ones every year.”

Carmilla nodded, absentmindedly tracing circles on the tops of Laura’s hands.

“Did you ever do anything for Christmas?”

Carmilla froze, a familiar, tense sensation settling on her.

“Sometimes.”

“What was it like?”

“Nothing special,” Carmilla tensed, eager to change the topic. She hoped Laura wouldn’t notice.

“Okay,” Laura said, but she just tightened her grip around her.

Finding nothing more to say, Carmilla closed her eyes and let herself sink into Laura. She knew denying it was futile―and the more she did it the worse it got―but something inside her wouldn’t let herself love Laura. Laura didn’t deserve this―all this baggage and sadness and broken family life. Laura deserved someone who was okay, who was better than okay. Carmilla just deserved to settle for less. Settle for something that didn’t have the power to hurt her.

That’s all she’s ever done, anyway.

(But it wouldn’t stop her from enjoying it while it lasts.)

“When I was a kid, we, uh,” Carmilla cleared her throat, gaining Laura’s immediate attention, “sometimes my brother would make pancakes. In the morning, I mean, before I went to school, and he’d spell out Merry Christmas in some horrible chocolate syrup.”

Laura grinned and hugged her even tighter, as if she may just be the most delicate thing in the world.

“That sounds special to me,” Laura whispered, kissing Carmilla’s cheek tenderly and giggling against her skin.

“Yeah,” Carmilla shrugged, smiling ever slightly, “maybe it was.”

Chapter Text

“A bloody blizzard,” Dan scowled, rubbing away at the smog covering the doors, “a bloody blizzard on Christmas.”

“It could be worse,” Laura reasoned, trying desperately to reassure him from her place in the corner, rubbing her gloves over her knees in an attempt to warm herself. She was right, though, it certainly could be. The majority of the stores on the block had lost power, or worse, heat, and they seemed to be the only one afloat in the midst of it.

“People don’t come for coffee in blizzards, Laura,” Dan retorted, giving up on cleaning the door, “they stay in their houses. Warm.”

“I like that idea,” Carmilla groaned, closing her eyes, “warm.”

Carmilla,” Dan said, shooting her a look, “it’s warmer in here than it is anywhere else on the block. Maybe you should talk to Lafontaine about hogging the space heater.”

Carmilla perked at the idea, opening her eyes and surveying the room to find the graduate student red-handed, sitting directly in front of their only source of warmth.

Lafontaine shook their head quickly, pointing a finger at Carmilla before she could pounce, “Heat does not work like that, Carmilla, and I know you know it because we are in the same advanced Chemistry class and we just covered this.”

“Whatever,” Carmilla rolled her eyes, raising herself from the ground to plop next to them on the floor, warming her hands around the heater. Laura smiled at the scene and debated joining them, but decided against it. Things with Carmilla had been… icy, to say the least. Carmilla hadn't been ignoring her, no, but it felt miserably similar. She had asked Carmilla out a variety of times in the weeks since their espionage to Target, and the other girl seemed to have an excuse around every one of them. It was almost offensive that Carmilla seemed to think Laura would believe that she attended that many rock concerts per month.

However, In the face of these kinds of situations, what Laura never lacked was determination.

“Holy shit,” Dan gasped, rabidly clearing the glass door with his hands, “I think I see a customer.”

“Please don’t wet yourself,” Carmilla smirked.

“Hilarious, but seriously, get your asses behind the counter.”

“Just one more minute?”

“No,” Dan replied, if a bit menacingly. He quickly shuffled out of the way of the door, guiding his staff behind the counter and making a quick trip to his back of the shop office.

“Are you guys open?” a voice questioned from behind the door, knocking on it innocently.

“The door literally has an open sign on it,” Carmilla shook her head, rolling her eyes.

“Yes!” Laura squeaked out, joining the rest of them from behind the counter.

“Laura? Is that you?”

“Uh, yes?”

Kirsch quickly shoved the door open, entering the shop with a backpack on his shoulder and a basket in his right hand. Carmilla groaned and muttered something undoubtedly insulting under her breath before walking around him to shut out the incoming breeze.

“Are you here to purchase something?” Dan asked, eyebrows furrowed.

“Uh…” Kirsch scratched at his head, eyes sliding from Carmilla to Dan to Laura and back to Carmilla again, “yes?”

“Good answer.”

Kirsch nodded and stepped up to the counter, avoiding Carmilla as the girl slithered around him. Laura looked at him questioningly, and took a cautionary step away from Carmilla as she joined them on the other side of the counter, earning a confused look from Lafontaine.

“Well, uh, anyway,” Kirsch coughed awkwardly, holding Laura’s gaze, “I came here to tell Laura… something. I guess I’ll have the coolatta, though.”

Dan nodded and signaled some abstract gesture to Lafontaine, who nodded and began to tinker with the underused coffee machine in the back. With eyes no longer burning into his skull, Kirsch took the opportunity to take Laura away from the rest of the bunch.

“Merry Christmas,” Kirsch grinned, stuffing his hand in his bag and pulling out a package wrapped in american flag wrapping paper. Laura raised an eyebrow, smirking at his choice of decoration.

“It’s the only one I had around,” he shrugged, handing it off to her. Laura took it and examined it quickly, eager to open it. Unable to tear into the wrapping with her fingernails, she borrowed a bread knife from the preparation table and sawed into it.

“A scrapbook?” Laura said, biting her lip as she revealed the present. To say the gift was a bit unexpected was… not a far reach. Kirsch wasn’t really the sentimental type. Flipping through the book in her hands, she admired each photograph with a bit of nostalgia. So much had happened―had changed―since she had started working at the coffee shop. She looked so different months before; her hair was curled, and she was easily wearing three layers of eyeliner. It’s almost as if meeting Carmilla had set off a chemical reaction in her, changing every aspect of how she saw herself.

Alright, that may have been a stretch. But looking at these pictures, she thinks she may throw away her curling iron all together.

“I love it,” Laura said, giving Kirsch a one-armed hug as she looked at Carmilla from the side of her eye. Carmilla looked back at her, a sad smile playing at her lips. It was still a smile, though, and a lot more than the girl had given her recently. All Laura really wanted to know was how to go back to how they were, because she really didn’t want to go back to how she used to be.

“One coolatta for you, big man,” Lafontaine grinned, pulling Kirsch away and offering him the drink. He highfived them in response. Lafontaine had to remind him that he had to actually pay for it.

“Hey, Carm,” Laura began, seeing an opportunity. Carmilla turned to face her, if a bit apprehensive.

“Hmm?”

“I was wondering if you wanted to, uh, if you weren’t busy, err―” Laura scratched at the back of her neck. She hadn’t expected to be this nervous, “we could do Christmas tonight together?”

Carmilla’s eyes seemed to soften, a stoic look passing by her face. Laura couldn’t read her in the slightest, though, and it scared her.

“You don’t have plans?” Carmilla asked, her eyes bowing down the floor. Laura gave her a quizzical look; as if she would have Christmas plans that didn’t involve the girl she was completely head over heels for.

“Nope! Nada.”

“Alright,” Carmilla shrugged, “I guess.”

Laura squealed, bringing her arms around Carmilla’s center and breathing into her. She hadn’t realized how much she had missed sharing the same space. Carmilla seemed to have the same thought, because she just pulled her in tighter.

 

//

           

“Did you know I hate coffee?” Laura asked, making a wholeheartedly disgusted face as she cleaned up the remnants of her last shift of the day.

“What?” LaFontaine spit back, horrified.

“I’m serious,” Laura shrugged, looking over her shoulder to check the clock; it was almost clock out time, 7:58 PM.

“Then why,” LaFontaine began, twisting two jars closed and putting them back on a shelf in unison, “would you ever work here?”

A beat. Laura looked bashful.

“Oh, wow,” LaFontaine smirked, momentarily stopping their cleanup to put a hand on their hip, “why did I even ask?”

Laura rolled her eyes, returning to the task at hand. She had only a minute until her shift was up, and she had promised Kirsch that she wouldn’t get home super late this time, since it messed up his self-proclaimed “sleep mojo, dude”.

“Speaking of the devil, where is Carmilla anyway?” LaFontaine asked, finishing up their portion of the cleanup and untying their apron, hanging it up for the day. Laura froze up as LaFontaine’s question dawned on her.

“I actually don’t know,” Laura admitted, her eyebrows scrunching up in wonder, “we all end at the same time, so she shouldn’t have clocked out already.”

LaFontaine raised an eyebrow, their face full of curiosity.

“The game is afoot, Watson,” LaFontaine joked nerdily, heading towards the bathroom to check for possible places the girl could have run off to. Knocking at the door calmly, LaFontaine found no response.

“Not in the bathroom,” LaF called back. Laura began to worry.

“What was she even doing? Wasn’t she here five minutes ago?” Laura asked, now completely giving up finishing her cup re-stacking and coffee bean re-filling and opting to look under the counters in the off chance that Carmilla was playing some kind of elaborate prank.

“Now that I think of it,” LaFontaine paused, closing a closet door that they had previously been investigating, “I think she mentioned that Dan wanted to talk to her privately for some reason.”

“Oh,” Laura relaxed, raising up from the ground with a sigh of relief.

Before Laura could inquire further, however, the usually barrackaded door which led to an unrenovated employee restroom slid open with a creak and a disheveled Carmilla peaked out behind it, stepping away quickly and leaving a worried Dan in the dust.

“Carm?” Laura asked, reaching out to touch Carmilla’s elbow, but Carmila shrugged her away with little explanation and a cold “Don’t.” and started for the door, slamming it soundly behind her.

“Okay,” LaFontaine gaped, switching their gaze wildly from Laura to Dan in a matter of seconds, “what the fuck just happened?”

Dan sighed, shaking his head and leaning against a table. Laura’s face was unreadable, a mixture of hurt and confusion shielding her expression.

“I just wanted to inform Carmilla that I secured a business deal today with the Karnstein Corporations for acquisition of the shop,” Dan looked away, a bit of regret sitting in his usually peppy expression, “which, if you didn’t know, is run by Carmilla’s mother.”

“We’re being bought out? For how much? Do we have job security?”

“LaF,” Dan glared pointedly at them.

“Sorry, Carmilla, right.”

“Is she okay? Why did she get so upset?” Laura asked, increasingly worried.

“Carmilla isn’t on the best terms with her mother, as far as I know,” Dan admitted, sweat creasing his brow. He attempted to preoccupy his hands with something to do, expertly rolling some dough in between his thumbs and forefingers.

“I have to go check on her,” Laura reasoned, untying her apron and heading towards the rack, a mission in the forefront of her mind.

“Laura,” Dan said, exasperated, “I don’t think it’s a good time.”

“Why?” Laura bit back, her voice uncharacteristically spiteful.

“Carmilla doesn’t really like to be bothered when she’s dealing with… things,” LaFontaine informed her, unable to meet Laura’s eyes.

“How do you know that?” Laura said, “maybe she just doesn’t have the strength to reach out.”

“Laura, I’m serious.”

“Yeah?” Laura gripped her apron tightly, finally getting it over the rack, “well I am too.”

 

//

 

Carmilla,” Laura breathed in, her third knock radiating against the surface of her coworker’s door, “please let me in.”

With an almost silent shuffle of feet and a long, animated sigh, Laura heard the lock click. When Carmilla made no moves to open it, Laura opened it slowly and peaked in, watching as she saw Carmilla’s figure back away and into the dark, unlit room, slinking towards her familiar couch.

“What do you fucking want, Laura?”

Laura cringed, watching as all the tenderness and trust she had thought they had begun to build up began to shatter. In all honesty, Laura wasn’t sure why she was here. At the time― determined and furious as she ran out of the coffee shop and caught a bus that was nearly leaving―she was driven by merely a feeling. A fleeting, sympathetic and worried feeling that Carmilla needed her right now. Maybe she was wrong.

Laura shut her eyes, all the adrenalin in her body building up to an answer, “I needed to comfort you,” she whispered hoarsely.

Carmilla scoffed, and it hurt. Laura flinched, stumbling on her unsteady feet and leaning against the door she had wanted so badly to overcome. Now all she wanted was to dash back through it.

“You needed to?” Carmilla bit back, the usual poison seemingly diluted in her unstable mood, “Give it up, cupcake, I’m not some fluffy, emotional puppy you can go to when you’re feeling upset. I’m not here for you to fix.”

“That’s not what I think of you,” Laura said harshly, finding her footing and approaching Carmilla slowly, anger but also something else driving her footsteps, “I don’t think you’re broken. I don’t think you’re perfect, either. I think you’re a human being with feelings and I think you forget that sometimes.”

Carmilla didn’t offer a response to that, but seemed to shrink in her seat where she sat, her face unreadable through the dark. Laura, now standing above the couch, sat down and faced Carmilla, the silhouette of her face still piercingly beautiful in the dark.

“I don’t get it,” Carmilla whispered. Laura could see Carmilla wrap her arms around herself, all the usual power that surrounded her fading, “I don’t fucking get why you care about me so much. I'm a mess with enough baggage to stuff a fucking plane."

Laura felt her whole body shiver, completely shellshocked by Carmilla’s abrupt confession. It was completely unexpected; Laura knew everyone had insecurities, she knew everyone had doubt and shame, but something about Carmilla had made her forget that people aren’t just what they seem.

What?” Laura breathed out, “how could I not?"

"Because some people aren't worth caring about?" Carmilla scoffed, refusing to meet Laura's eyes.

"Yeah, maybe," Laura led her hand to Carmilla's chin, turning it delicately so that she was facing her, "but you're not one of those people, Carm." Carmilla shrugged off her hand, letting out a strained laugh.

"I'm sure he told you what happened,"

“He did,” Laura admitted, taking a breath and reaching out again to touch Carmilla’s face. This time she didn’t resist her, “and I can’t believe he would do that, but you can’t just run away from it.”

“That’s kind of what I’ve been doing for my entire life,” Carmilla whispered harshly.

“What?”

“My mother hates me, Laura,” Carmilla said, her breath hitching slightly. It was too dark to see, but Laura rubbed a finger up Carmilla’s cheek to brush away the tear that fell anyway, “she’s hated me ever since I came out to her. God, she’s probably hated me before then, too.”

“Carmilla… I…”

“If she bought the company, I have to leave. If she sees my name on the employee list she’ll just fire me anyway.”

“She can’t do that,” Laura said weakly, more to herself than anyone else.

“She can, and that’s the fucking issue. There’s no way out.”

“There’s always a way out, Carm,” Laura countered, straddling Carmilla’s lap in an attempt to get closer to her. Carmilla’s breath hitched again and Laura lowered herself on top of her, curling her arms around her and planting a kiss on the nape of her neck.

“Laura, I―you don’t deserve all this shit,” Carmilla breathed out, her breath shaky. Laura shushed her and trailed kisses up the back of her neck, finally stopping at the jawline.

“I like you, Carmilla” Laura whispered into her ear, “and if liking you comes with baggage, then I’ll deal, okay?”

Carmilla, not trusting her words, hummed out affirmatively and closed her eyes. She had no fight left in her. Laura took this as an opportunity to plant another kiss at her jawline before nipping Carmilla’s lip and kissing her. Laura had never been really good with lots of words, or comforting, or really expressing herself in general, but Laura wanted her to know how much she cared. How she would be there for her even if it meant losing her job; she’d be there always, really, as long as Carmilla wanted her to be.

“We’ll figure something out,” Laura affirmed, breaking their lips apart briefly, “I promise.”