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can we always be this close (forever and ever)?

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The last time Sterling lost April did not hurt nearly this much. Granted, the last time, she didn’t have very long to dwell on it before she was kidnapped by her birth mother. But still, that time felt like her heart had taken a beating, and this...this feels like there’s a gaping hole in her chest where her heart used to be. Like the whole life she envisioned for herself and April now exists only in some alternate timeline where she wasn’t an idiot who thought keeping this secret could end any other way.

From the porch, she watches as April gets into the back of a rideshare, going God knows where, leaving Sterling with two questions. Where will April stay if not here, which she’d thought had been somewhat established to be her home over these last few months? And how did April find out?

A feeling of dread washes over Sterling as she realizes just who would have told April, and then that dread turns to rage as she goes back into the house, stomping up the stairs to Blair’s room and throwing open the door.

“Are you happy now? You got what you wanted,” she says, practically spitting the words as Blair stares at her from the bed, confused. “But even then, how could you tell her?!” Sterling had always thought that Blair wasn’t capable of this kind of genuine sabotage, at least not when it comes to her and her happiness, but after their big fight yesterday, anything is possible.

Blair rolls her eyes. “If this is about April finding out about us being bounty hunters, I swear to you, it wasn’t matter how I might feel about you and her,” she says, then grabs a remote from her bedside table

“If it wasn’t you, then how would you know about it?” Sterling asks, thinking it’s a real gotcha question, but Blair only raises an eyebrow.

“Because you guys just broke up like...right outside my door? I don’t live in a soundproof vault.”

Sterling can’t exactly argue with the logic behind that excuse, though it doesn’t change the fact that there are only about four people aside from them who know about their side hustle, and she somehow doubts that Bowser, Yolanda, or Terrence would have told April. Though that does leave…

“John fuckin’ Stevens…” Blair says, either reading Sterling’s mind or coming to the same conclusion at the same time.

“But how? Why? He’s in jail again, I thought…” Sterling says, thinking out loud. “Seriously, it would make a lot more sense if you told her because you never wanted us to get married in the first place and, as today certainly proved, me being revealed to be a lying scuzzball is a dealbreaker for her.”

“Gotta admit, I thought if anything, she was gonna leave you for the dapper lesbian friend. That would make the most sense,” Blair says, being completely unhelpful. “But I’m telling you, ‘twas not I who set fire to your relationship. I’m pretty sure you and whoever actually told her did a good enough job of doing that on your own.” With that, Blair hits play on the remote, and her stereo starts to blast heavy metal music, which would normally be enough to repel Sterling on its own, but just hearing her sister’s words is enough for Sterling’s heart to break again. 

She’d managed to stop the bleeding while allowing herself to be angry with Blair, but she knows at the end of the day, she has nobody but herself to blame for losing April. It really doesn’t matter how she found out the truth.

Without saying another word, Sterling turns around and walks down the hall to her room, shutting the door behind her and collapsing on the bed. 

She doesn’t know how she’s going to explain this to her parents. To them, April was happy as can be this morning, and now she’s gone and they are no longer engaged. And as much as Sterling would like to think that she’s learned her lesson regarding keeping secrets from those closest to her, she also knows that her parents would kill her if they knew the truth about the bounty hunting.

So, as if she hasn’t done more than enough of lying lately, she knows she’ll have to come up with another one. Unless she plans on telling them nothing at all. Though Debbie would sooner coerce the whole truth out of her, if that were the case, so she supposes a lie will have to do. Something to suitably paint her as the villain in this that she knows she is.

Doubting it’ll do her any good, she gets her cell phone from where she left it on its charger, and notices there’s an unread text from April from a few hours ago.

April 👰🦖: Gonna probably be a little late getting home, have to run to the store. If you have any requests from Trader Joe’s, let me know soon. Love you. XOXO 😘🤗

Sterling doesn’t know what could have possibly happened since then, but she never thought a day would come when an innocuous text from her fiancée—if she can even call her that anymore, but she cannot bear to put an Ex in front of it—would make her lowkey want to crawl into a hole and die.

Sterling weeps, wanting nothing more than for this day to have been a painkiller nap-induced nightmare.

Sterling 💋😍👰: I’m sorry. I don’t know if you can ever forgive me, but just know that I love you too, and I always will.

She tries to send the text, but it fails to bring up the notification that it’s been delivered, which, given April’s track record, probably means she’s blocked Sterling’s number, which feels a lot more final than what Sterling’s optimistic side had been telling her to believe.

It’s been over a week since April left. There’s been no contact, and her friends refuse to tell Sterling where she is. 

As Ezekiel put it in no uncertain terms when she tried to call him, “She’s our friend and you never were, so obviously I ain’t tellin’ you shit. Bye, Felicia.” So Sterling doesn’t feel inclined to necessarily file a missing person’s report, but she is still worried out of her mind, and she has nothing on her mother.

Debbie has been almost as much of a wreck as Sterling, alternating between being in denial of the fact that the wedding is likely not happening, and raging at her daughter. At this point, it’s likely she’s considering violating articles of the Geneva Convention (specifically the ones regarding torture) in retaliation for driving away her favorite child. Though Sterling supposes that’s preferable to whatever’s been going on with her father, who has been completely ignoring her aside from a few words here and there, mostly preferring to stay in his woodshop.

And then, of course, there’s Blair. She seems to be getting an unsettling amount of schadenfreude watching Sterling’s life completely fall apart before her very eyes.

If there’s one bit of good news, it’s that Sterling can feel her ankle getting better, but the physical pain has only been replaced with emotional and spiritual pain in its place. She hadn’t realized how much having April constantly around changed her; from the way she always plans on sharing any given package of Pop-Tarts, to using one particular scent of body wash because April would always linger around to smell it.

Without April, Sterling feels lost. She’s without purpose, without motivation, and most importantly, she’s without any kind of happiness whatsoever. April was the shining light in her life, and now she’s gone, and it’s entirely Sterling’s fault.

Sterling does take great pride in herself when she manages to get herself out of bed and bathed and fully clothed for the first time since April left, but that glimmer of positivity is taken from her the second she goes downstairs and hears the voice of her Aunt Cordelia in the kitchen. She hangs back, just listening to their conversation.

“So Debs, any big plans for you and Anderson’s first few days as empty nesters? I know Blair leaves for school a few days after the wedding, so it’s comin’ up quick,” Cordelia asks, and Sterling realizes her aunt must still be in the dark regarding their whole Runaway Bride situation.

Sterling hears a cupboard close, followed by the sound of a wine glass being put down on the counter before Debbie replies, “No, no big plans. I think we’re just looking forward to the peace and quiet,” she lies through her teeth.

“Well, you two should definitely come along with Deacon and me the next time we go down to Panama City,” Cordelia says, then immediately pivots to, “So where are Sterling and April going on the honeymoon again?” It’s almost like she realizes something is amiss and is trying to coax it out of Debbie.

“Disney World,” Debbie replies quickly, not biting. “April loves Star Wars.”

Cordelia chuckles. “It’s a good thing she’s too old and doesn’t swing that way or my DJ would be on her like white on rice, and I’m sure Sterling would hate the competition.”

“I don’t think she has to worry about losing any girls to your 12-year-old, Cordy,” Debbie says, but Sterling can tell she wants to add, “Because she already lost April anyway.”

“You’re probably right, though I must say, I do enjoy having him around. I don’t know what I’d do with myself if we just had Kristina. Did you and Anderson ever consider having more after the girls?” It’s this type of nosy stuff that is the reason why Cordelia is Mother’s favorite daughter-in-law.

Debbie laughs out loud. “Oh dear God, no. We only ever planned on the one, but we got the BOGO deal,” she says. It’s a tired old joke that Sterling’s heard too many times in her life, though Blair used to say it only before she knew how much of a true statement it is.

Sterling supposes she can’t put this off anymore and goes into the kitchen, where she’s greeted by Cordelia sitting at the counter and her mother drinking red wine when it’s not even eleven yet. “Hi there, Aunt Cordelia,” she says, trying to put on her best face as she goes to give her aunt the obligatory hug she demands every time they see each other. “What brings you here today?”

Cordelia shrugs. “Just wanted to stop by to check in on my favorite nieces and see how the wedding stuff’s coming along. It’s what? Two weeks away now?” Cordelia asks as Debbie makes a zipper lips gesture behind her back.

“Uh, about a week and a half, actually,” Sterling replies, though she’s not as good as her mother when it comes to suppressing her emotions, and she is trying very hard not to cry.

“Gosh, you must be so excited! I know I was practically buzzing in the lead-up to my wedding with Deacon. Though of course, I was a virgin,” she says backhandedly, looking off to the side. Sterling has to wonder just how connected the well-to-do ladies of the Atlanta area are if the truth about her and Luke even got to her aunt.

“Liar!” Debbie coughs. “Oh, excuse me. The summer pollen’s really got my allergies this year.”

Cordelia hums, not seeming to let this bother her. “So where is April? I thought she was living with y’all after that unfortunate mess with her parents--and it’s a good thing too, after what happened with her daddy.” Cordelia seems to sense that something is amiss, and she’s apparently hell-bent on sniffing out what it is like a bloodhound.

“She’s, uh…” Debbie says, trying to think of an excuse, but she’s (literally) saved by the bell--the doorbell, that is. “I wonder who that could be,” she says, leaving the kitchen to answer it and Sterling is not about to be left alone with her aunt, so she follows. Naturally, Cordelia comes too, at that point.

Debbie opens the door and, to Sterling’s horror, April’s mother and aunt are standing on the porch. “Hello, you two, this is a surprise,” she says cheerfully, but sounds nervous as she lets them in. “Mary, I haven’t seen you since...oh, the morning after April got here?”

April’s mother makes a face Sterling has seen countless times, on April. “Yes, it has been that long, Deborah,” she admits, nodding. “But I haven’t spoken to April since last week, and she never filled me in on how the visit with John went,” Mary says, and several things click into place in Sterling’s head. Mary must have been at the brunch with Franny and must have talked April into visiting her father...who spilled the beans about the bounty hunting. It all makes sense.

“Seems like something that could have been a phone call,” Debbie mutters under her breath, clearly still not a fan of the woman who was at least complicit in April being shunned from her home.

“Well, we also brought her car,” Franny says, holding up a Baby Yoda keychain with a Lincoln fob attached to it. Definitely April’s keys. “Where is she?”

“I just asked the same thing,” Cordelia supplies from where she has opted to hang back and witness the drama.

“She’s...out,” Debbie says, and Sterling understands where she got at least some of her being a bad liar from. “She’s dealing with some final details concerning the rehearsal dinner.”

Mary frowns. “Really? Because that overly large truck she’s been driving is parked outside.” Sterling knows how April came to be so observant, and freezes in place when Mary turns to her. “Sterling, I’ll ask again. Where is my daughter?”

Feeling like three people are staring absolute daggers at her, Sterling cracks. “I don’t know!” she wails, throwing up her hands. “I haven’t seen her since she dumped me last week!”

Cordelia whistles low and tries not to laugh, clearly sensing that Debbie would smack the bejeezus out of her if she did.

“She what?” Franny says, coming closer to Sterling, with her sister following. “What could you have possibly done for that to happen?”

“I kinda...betrayed her…” Sterling admits, unable to think of another word.

Debbie pinches the bridge of her nose as Mary’s face turns red. “Sterling, did you cheat on my daughter?” she asks, more intimidating than Sterling has ever seen her in as long as she’s known her—and that includes her yelling at them for staying up too late during sleepovers.

Sterling puts up her hands defensively. “No, no, Mrs. Stevens, I swear I would never do that kind of thing.”

To her (momentary) relief, Debbie seems to come to her defense. “If April left the same day she visited your husband, then maybe he said something to her to make her break things off?” she suggests, redirecting the blame.

Mary scoffs. “Nice deflection, Deb, but your child already admitted to betraying mine.”

“I did,” Sterling agrees, nodding furiously. “...Though I wouldn’t necessarily rule out any involvement from Mr. Stevens.” She doesn’t deny that she betrayed April, but if not for John Stevens, she might have been able to break the news to April in a better way. Eventually.

“So I gather the wedding is not happening, then?” Cordelia asks, smug.

“Not unless a miracle happens and April comes back in time,” Sterling says, defeated. “And I doubt that’s going to happen.”

“But it could happen,” Debbie insists. “Unless you committed some kind of deadly sin, I trust that April will come back.”

Franny sighs. “I wouldn’t be so sure. If I know my niece, she isn’t always the most forgiving person. She’s like her father in that way,” she says, looking pointedly at Mary, who rolls her eyes. 

“None of this changes the fact that not a single one of you has seen April, nor has any idea of where she’s gone. It’s been over a week! I watch Dateline, I know the odds of a missing person coming back alive after 48 hours!” Mary says dramatically, going to sit on the couch. “Dear God, her father is going to lose his mind when he finds out.”

Sterling scoffs. “Okay, first of all, I know she’s not actually missing because I called Ezekiel and he, like, totally knows where she is, but he won’t tell me. And second, since when are you and your husband suddenly cool with April being gay?”

“I always have been. She’s my daughter and she used to make her Barbies marry each other, no matter how many Kens we bought her,” Mary deadpans. “But my husband is...old-fashioned. He loves April, he just has always had certain expectations for who she would eventually marry. Namely, a Republican man with a future in politics. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but that’s how he is.”

“By all means, Mary. Make more excuses for the man and his abhorrent behavior,” Franny groans and goes to join her sister on the couch.

Mary bites her lip in frustration. “All of this to say that I love April more than anything. She’s my only child, and she is exactly that: a child. I knew she was safe living here with y’all, but now that she’s possibly out in the world, alone, I just… ugh, I can’t even imagine what she’s going through,” Mary puts her face in her hands.

Sterling can’t help but feel sorry for her; April was just getting her mother back when Sterling’s lies threw a wrench in that as well. “Mrs. Stevens, I promise you, I’m going to find her. I can’t guarantee she’ll want anything to do with me—actually, I’d be surprised if she did—but I will find her. It’s actually a little bit of a skill of mine,” she vows, maybe revealing a bit too much about her second job in the process, but it doesn’t really matter now. Her mom won’t ask questions.

“Well, you heard it here first. Sterling’s got it all covered,” Debbie says, smiling and putting a hand on Sterling’s shoulder.

Mary nods and gets up from the couch. “Well, we better be off. If April comes back, remind her that I still have her car,” she says, and gestures for Franny to follow her to the door, which she does.

When they’re gone, Sterling, Debbie, and Cordelia all stand in awkward silence until Cordelia grows tired of it. “I think I’d better go, too. I’d hate to hit rush hour on the freeway,” she says, getting her purse. “Oh, and Debbie? Please let me know if we’ll be having to return wedding outfits,” she snarks on her way out.

When the door shuts, Debbie loudly exhales. “Dear God, if that woman weren’t married to your uncle, I’d have strangled her years ago,” she says, then turns to Sterling with a look of urgency. “Your father and I have put too much into this for the wedding to not happen, and I know you love April too much to lose her without a fight. So you find her, and you win her back.” It comes across as less of a pep talk than a direct order. Especially when she looks Sterling dead in the eye and leans in close. “Make. This. Right.”

Sterling has absolutely no idea how she’s going to do that, but she nods nervously anyway. “Yes, Mommy.”

Sterling quickly comes to the realization that most of the recon on skips is done by Bowser, and she gains a newfound respect for him based on the simple fact that she can’t scrape together a single bit of information as to April’s whereabouts, seeing as she’s taken the initiative to block Sterling on every form of social media—even Tumblr. A clear downside to breaking the heart of a very smart girl is that she knows how to properly disappear if she doesn’t want to be found.

Sterling resorts to calling Bowser after true frustration sets in.

“Yeah?” He answers gruffly, and Sterling knows in her soul that he’s missed her constant presence.

“Hey, Bowser. You know a lot about finding people in hiding, right?” she asks, realizing how stupid of a question it is to its core only after she says it.

“I’d like to think so, yes,” he says cautiously. “What’s this about? I thought you quit the game.”

“I did. But I can’t find April and she’s been gone for like a week and her friends won’t tell me where she is,” she explains, thinking Bowser is quite possibly the only person in the world who won’t question that explanation, and she turns out to be correct.

“Have you tried checking her social media accounts for clues?” he asks.

“Yep. She set everything to private and blocked me.” Sterling tries to remain calm when she hears Bowser laugh loudly on the other end.

“Damn, what did you do to that girl? Marry her crazy sister?” he asks with a chuckle.

“This isn’t funny, Bowser,” Sterling snaps at him. “Her mom is really worried about her and my mom might disown me if I let her go.”

“Jeez,” Bowser grumbles. “Alright, well, your first course of action would be trying to get her friends to leak where she is, I guess. Use intimidation tactics if you have to.”

Sterling shakes her head. “I don’t think that would work. They’re April’s best friends, which lends to them not being intimidated by anyone.”

“Yeah, well, you’re a bounty hunter. Go bounty hunt,” Bowser says, being oh so specific. “Do some recon, bring a gun, I don’t know!”

“How ironic that the reason why she broke up with me is how I’m gonna find her again,” Sterling muses.

“Here’s a crazy idea. Have you considered asking Blair for help? She’s usually good at interrogation...sometimes.” Bowser’s suggestion cuts Sterling to the bone. She hasn’t spoken to Blair since the day April left.

“Yeah, something tells me she isn’t too interested in helping me get April back,” Sterling says, pessimistic, and for good reason.

“Yeah, y’all had a proper WWE Divas brawl in here. But if Yolanda can still talk to Michelle after some of the shit they’ve said to each other, I think you and Blair can too,” Bowser says, and Sterling knows he’s well-meaning, but he also knows nothing about teenage girls, even after working with them for two years.

“Hey, Bowser? Never tell girls that they should make up...we’re contrarian creatures.”

“Yeah, whatever. Do it or don’t. I don’t care, but just know that y’all are fuckin’ weird,” he says and hangs up the phone.

Sterling doesn’t know why that managed to make her smile a bit, but it’s what she needed to hear to get her out of the house for the first time in a week as she grabs the keys to the truck--more intimidating than a hybrid--and heads off to Hannah B.’s house.

The drive there gives her time to devise a plan--or something resembling a plan. She’ll ask nicely, she will cry if she has to, and if neither of those gets through to Hannah B., if not Ezekiel’s icy heart, then she’ll have to go to more extreme measures. Whatever those may be. Really, she just hopes it doesn’t have to come to that.

Sterling is still thinking about her limits when it comes to coercive tactics when she turns off into Hannah B’s neighborhood. It’s not entirely unlike the one her own family lives in, but this one has the houses closer to the road, which is beneficial for stakeout purposes. 

She parks across the street from Hannah B’s house and takes note of the fact that she’d been correct in her assumption that Ezekiel would be here, as she spots his car in the driveway. Next to it is a big black Jeep, which she guesses belongs to Hannah B’s dad...well, one of them.

Sterling gets out of the car and leans up against the driver’s side, trying to pose herself like a tough girl, but she thinks she probably just looks like the skinny teenager she is. Still, she holds it for a few minutes, until she sees movement in the house, followed by the front door opening and out steps one of the dads...whose name is escaping Sterling, aside from the fact that it starts with a D.

“Excuse me? Can I help you?” he calls from the driveway, and Sterling can at least take comfort in the fact that she is at least more intimidating than this man who is legitimately wearing khaki cargo shorts and socks with sandals.

“Um, yeah, are Hannah and Ezekiel available?” she asks, now feeling very stupid for being this far away.

He frowns, seeming uncertain about this, but returns to the house, calling for the two of them, and they soon emerge a moment later.

“Girl, I already told you before,” Ezekiel says as they cross the street. “I am not telling you a Goddamn thing so you might as well get your triflin’ ass back in your Hillbilly Mobile.” He crosses his arms while Hannah B mirrors him.

“Yeah, you hurt our friend and we aren’t going to tell you where she is no matter what you say to us,” she says, obviously trying her hardest to sound firm, but this is still Hannah B.

“As her friends, shouldn’t you guys want what’s ultimately best for her, though?” Sterling asks, and Ezekiel rolls his eyes.

“Girl, I’m about 82% sure you cheated on her, so what universe do you live in where tracking her down against her will is what’s best for her?” he asks, making a very good point, even if he is wrong about the cheating.

“I guess, when you put it that way, it sounds bad, but I just think April deserves an explanation and she didn’t let me give her one before she left,” Sterling explains weakly, blinking hard to stop herself from crying.

“It sounds bad because it is bad. She didn’t let you give an explanation because she doesn’t need one. Her mind is made up and as soon as you realize that for yourself, the better,” Ezekiel says, dismissive, and dramatically turns on his heel to return to the house, but Hannah B. stops him.

“I think we should hear her out,” she says, and Sterling feels an immense urge to hug her defender. “April is a conclusion jumper and I know that she’s never been as nice as when the two of them are together,” she explains to Ezekiel, who begrudgingly motions for Sterling to speak again.

“I just...I think she needs to know that I didn’t do what I did because I disrespect her or wanted to hide anything from her. I did it because I knew if she learned the truth, she would do...exactly what she did.”

“Yeah, which is her right,” Hannah B. says. “If she went into a marriage with you only because you were lying to her, then that’s not good. It’s actually basing your entire relationship on the lie.”

“That was...surprisingly insightful…” Ezekiel remarks, and Hannah B. shrugs.

“My mom and dads have been taking me to family counseling since like, kindergarten,” she explains, and Ezekiel nods knowingly. “Anyway, she’s like totally within her rights to not want to hear you out, but I also don’t think there’s any harm in telling you what we know since we technically don’t know where she is, either.”

“Hannah B.! That was our only leverage to finding out the truth!” Ezekiel snaps at her, then sighs, exasperated. “Okay, fine. She’s in Raleigh.”

Sterling frowns, both surprised at how easy it actually was to get this information out of them and at how broad of an answer that is. “She’s in the city of Raleigh, North Carolina?” she asks for confirmation, raising an eyebrow. She knows this is where Jamie lives, and is honestly surprised she hadn’t considered the possibility before, but it’s also a rather large city to not have anything to go off of except for that.

“Yep. Staying with the lesbian stud muffin who would probably have sex with a cactus in a dress. You concerned yet?” Ezekiel asks tauntingly, but Sterling is unfazed.

“Do you know where the cactus-banger lives, by any chance?” Sterling asks, thinking herself so clever.

“Nope,” Ezekiel says, loudly popping the ‘P’ at the end of the word. “But you can always go to Raleigh and see if there’s a trail of broken hearts leading to Jamie’s door?” he suggests, very unhelpfully.

“Well this has been productive,” Sterling says sarcastically. She came here not knowing where April was in Atlanta, and now she doesn’t know where April is in North Carolina. “Anyway, I guess I’d better be off if I’m going to have to go asking around Raleigh about a butch lesbian named Jamie.”

“Surprisingly enough, it probably wouldn’t take that long,” Ezekiel says, and Sterling has officially had it with the sass and gets back in the truck. There’s only one way she’s going to find April, and she knows exactly who she needs help from, loathe as she is to admit it.

“Blair? Blair, can you please open the door?” Sterling calls to her sister over the sound of some girl rock band, knocking furiously on her knocked door.

“Yeah, give me a second,” Blair replies, sounding slightly...panicked? Either way, after a minute or so, the door remains locked.

Sterling sighs. “Blair, I promise Mom and Dad are out golfing right now so for whatever reason you aren’t opening the door-” she doesn’t get a chance to finish her sentence before the door swings open and there stands Blair in a baseball shirt much too big for her and nothing else, and a shirtless Chase Colton with his luscious curly hair going in all directions standing behind her. “Well, then…” Sterling says, a little shocked that Blair would be so bold to do this during the day, but also a little impressed by the abs on that boy. “Hey there, Chase,” she says, wiggling her fingers at him, and he blushes.

Blair turns to Sterling, Twin Vision kicking in. “I want no judgment.”

“Why would I judge you? He’s even more gorgeous with his shirt off…”

“Because I always told you I thought he was boring and he’s...definitely not that.”

“Wait, so you actually like him?”

“I mean, kind of? It doesn’t really matter since he’s going to Texas Tech in a couple of weeks, but he’s not the worst company.”

“Yeah, I’d definitely say he’s more than that to you. Please tell me you’re being safe.”

“Of course I am, Sterl. In any case, it’s not like you’ve really cared about my personal life this summer.”

Sterling feels a sharp pang of guilt at that. There’s nothing like losing her fiancée to also clearly illuminate for her how bad of a sister she’s been lately, too. She loves April, but she should never have made her sister feel like she didn’t care about her life.

“Seriously, if you tell Mom and Dad about this, I will tell them about Luke in the tent,” Blair warns, speaking out now, and Sterling puts up her hands defensively.

“Hey, don’t worry about that. I approve of this so much,” she says and watches as Chase gathers his things, particularly when he bends over to tie his shoes. She tries not to be too sad when he rights himself and places his hands on his own bare chest, looking at Blair.

“Uh…” he says, indicating Blair’s sole article of clothing, and the two of them giggle. “I guess you can keep that for now,” he says, smiling at her and running a hand through his hair.

Blair bites her lip, and Sterling thinks she is definitely witnessing something she shouldn’t. “RIP all of our neighbors,” Blair says, reaching out to run a finger down Chase’s sternum.

“Uh, I can give you guys a minute, if you need me to?” Sterling suggests as she takes a step back from the doorway.

“No, that’s alright. I really gotta get going. My mom’s taking me back to school shopping for college clothes,” Chase says without a hint of shame. “I’m guessing I don’t have to go back out through the window, so uh...text you later, Wesley?” He gives Blair a dreamy smile that Sterling would be jealous of in any universe where she wasn’t with April—she may be in love, but she does still have eyes.

“Okay,” Blair says, trying to sound casual, but Sterling sees her knees wobble a bit when Chase winks at her and takes his leave.

They watch him go and once the front door closes behind him, Sterling breathes a sigh of relief. “Okay, seriously, we need to devise some kind of code for when I have a gentleman caller. He was totally gonna go down on me before you so rudely interrupted us,” Blair rants as she heads toward their bathroom, and Sterling follows. There is no privacy between her and Blair, and that is greatly emphasized by the fact that she has no qualms about sitting on the toilet and peeing with Sterling present. “What? You want me to get a UTI?” she asks when Sterling gives her a look.

“Peeing stops you from getting UTIs?” Sterling asks this being news to her.

“After sex, yeah. God, it’s actually a miracle all that bad sex with Luke didn’t literally kill you,” Blair scoffs, finishing her business going to the sink to wash her hands. “So what exactly did you interrupt us for again? I thought you were still blaming me for letting April in on our not-so-little secret?” Blair dries her hands and goes into her room to put on a pair of sweatshorts, fixing the Winnie the Pooh fashion statement she was making.

“Well, it turns out April went to visit her dad in jail and he told her,” Sterling admits, feeling like a real jerk.

“Why the fuck would she do that?” Blair asks.

“That’s what I thought!” Sterling had always assumed she would be safe from such a scenario, considering John Stevens beat April and disowned her the last time he saw her. But she supposes if word got to him about their engagement, he might have told her simply to stop the wedding.

“Either way, it was super dumb to not tell her way back when you guys got back together,” Blair says, stating the obvious, to which Sterling rolls her eyes.

“Yes, obviously I get that. But it’s too late now and I need to get her back. She’s my whole...well, she’s a really big part of my world.” Sterling sniffles, not wanting to cry again. “I need your help finding her.”

“And why would I help you with that? I don’t know if you really noticed, but having April constantly in my life was greatly affecting my mental health.” Blair goes to her mirror, running her fingers through a few knots in her hair.

“Because even if you aren’t technically my twin, you are my sister, and I know you don’t want me to lose the love of my life over something that we did together,” Sterling says, but when Blair remains unconvinced, she pivots. “Okay, you’re mad about me not spending our last summer before college with you. I get it. But I don’t regret saying that eventually, we’re going to have to learn to deal with being separate people with separate lives.” She is not going to simply cave this time. She should have been more attentive to her sister this summer, but she isn’t going to bend to Blair’s will and most likely lose April permanently as a result.

Blair actually seems to consider her words. “Sterl, you get that you are the most important person to me, right?” she asks, and after a moment, Sterling nods.

“And you’re mine. Always have been,” she says.

“Okay, see, I haven’t felt like that because you’ve been spending every waking moment with April. The only times you weren’t were when we were bounty hunting and then she made you quit that too, and...I felt like I was losing my sister. My best friend,” Blair admits, avoiding eye contact as she looks down at her feet. “Sterl, I’m sorry if I made it seem like I don’t want you to be happy. If anything, being concerned about your happiness is why I had so many doubts about this whole wedding thing. But the truth is, I would rather share you with April—truly insufferable as she may be—than see you as heartbroken as you’ve been since she left.”

Sterling feels a weight lifted off her back that has been bringing her down for weeks now when Blair says this, even if it doesn’t exactly help the situation with April at the moment. “I’m sorry I made you think I don’t care. Of course I care; you’ve been my best friend since we were brought home, and honestly probably long before that. Our souls were just chilling out waiting for the perfect people they knew would never be far from each other.”

Blair smiles and rolls her eyes, but Sterling can see she’s crying. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. You complete me, or whatever.”

Sterling pulls her sister into a crushing hug. “I’ve missed you so much. I never want you to be mad at me ever again,” she says, holding firm as Blair struggles.

“I missed you too but I also can’t breathe,” Blair forces out, but Sterling doesn’t let her go for a few more seconds. “So I get you’re looking for April, but what exactly are you planning on saying to her to change her mind? Because just making an argument for why she shouldn’t be mad is never going to work.”

Sterling knows she’s right, but aside from that, she really hasn’t managed to think of a better argument. Lying, even if technically only by omission, for two years to the woman she loves was morally reprehensible, and thinking she could and should keep that truth from April forever was just stupid. “I honestly don’t know,” she admits, sitting down on Blair’s bed.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t sit there if I were you,” Blair says, and Sterling jumps back onto her feet.

“Ew! Ew ew ew ew!” Sterling wipes at the back of her pants, which is probably inadvisable, but she sees Blair crack up and knows she was probably just messing with her, to begin with.

“C’mon, you really think I’d let you sit in a jizz puddle?” Blair asks, rolling her eyes at her sister’s gullible behavior. “Anyway, have you considered maybe, I don’t know, opening up to her? The cat’s out of the bag already, so just let her in on all the stuff she needs to be in on and perhaps don’t tell her about any of the embarrassing shit involving me.”

“I don’t know. That seems too easy, right?” Sterling asks, unsure if April is going to want to listen to the truth from someone she no longer trusts. In all actuality, Sterling wouldn’t blame her if she never trusted her again.

Blair shrugs. “Maybe, maybe not. Either way, you have to try, right? Unless you want it to just be you and me and unhealthy amount of dogs who wear clothes for the rest of our lives,” she says, and the mental image is enough to make Sterling want to beg for April’s forgiveness on her hands and knees. “So what do we know about where she is?”

“Well, I know she’s not in Atlanta, that’s for dang sure. She’s in Raleigh,” Sterling says, and a look of realization crosses Blair’s face. 

“Like, with MOH Jamie?” she asks, and Sterling nods. “Okay, so that leaves you two options. Either we can have Bowser go through the public records and find where Jamie Arden lives, or…” she pauses for dramatic effect, motioning for Sterling to try to guess.

“Or what? We go to Raleigh and shine a lesbian Batman symbol into the sky?” Sterling asks, throwing out something as absurd as this stupid guessing game as Blair gets her phone from the nightstand.

“Or I call Jamie and ask her where she lives,” Blair says, holding up the phone to reveal Jamie’s contact information.

Sterling points at the phone. “How did you get that?”

“I texted her about bachelorette party details? What, you think we thought up strap-on ring toss via ESP?” Blair says as if it’s so obvious, and Sterling supposes it is.

“If you’ve had that this whole time, why didn’t you tell me sooner?” she asks.

“How was I supposed to know if you didn’t even know that’s where April was until today?” Blair asks, making an excellent point, and Sterling nods.

“Fair. Okay, so what? We call April’s best friend and ask for her home address so I can come to intrude on April when she clearly doesn’t want to be found?” she asks, and Blair nods.

“I mean, yeah? What other option do we have? No matter what, you’re going to be violating April’s wishes by going there, noble as the cause may be.”

“She did say in no uncertain terms that she never wanted to see me again…” Sterling muses, now questioning whether she should even be doing this at all. It does show a certain lack of respect for April’s autonomy, and-

“Holy fuck, she’s calling me,” Blair says, staring stunned at her phone.

“What?” Sterling asks, looking at the screen to see Blair getting an incoming call from the lesbian Casanova herself.

“Fuckin’ ESP!” Blair says, letting it ring.

“What are you doing? Answer it!” Sterling says, shoving at her shoulder and Blair hits the accept button.

“1-900-mmm-hmmm, what’s your fantasy?” she answers, making herself sound like one of the girls on the late-night phone sex infomercials, and hits the speakerphone button.

“My fantasy is to have my bed to myself, so I need your sister to please come get her woman,” Jamie replies, jumping right to the point of her call. “I haven’t had sex in five days!”

Sterling frowns. “...She’s been there for nine days…” she says just loud enough for Jamie to hear.

“Oh good, you’re there too. Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea in thinking I at all condone your actions that led to April’s heart being broken. However, her camping out and watching Outlander, between bouts of crying, is causing some major cliterference with my gentlewomen callers, and it must cease,” Jamie explains, sidestepping Sterling’s earlier concern, though she’s now more worried about the fact that April hasn’t stopped crying in over a week.

“Is she okay?” Sterling asks, knowing it’s a stupid question.

“No, she’s not fucking okay, you goddamn vigilante,” Jamie snaps, confirming how much she knows (everything) in a single breath. “But as stupid as it is, I know she misses your lying ass, and I need you to come grovel and take her home now.”

“Yeah and what if she doesn’t want to come home with me?” Sterling asks. “If I’m as bad as you say.”

“She probably will because she wouldn’t be crying if she didn’t love you. And I need that wedding to happen because I fully intend on wooing your bible teacher at the reception,” Jamie explains.

“God, I respect the hell out of her,” Blair mouths to Sterling, who rolls her eyes.

Her mind made up, Sterling sighs. “Okay, Blair can send you my number. Text me your address. I’ll be there tonight.”

“Wait, you’re seriously gonna come here tonight? Are you gonna catch a plane or something?” Jamie asks, stunned.

“No, I’m going to drive because I am the smart girl who insisted we get a hybrid for a reason,” Sterling says, surprised at her own stupidity at this point. “So I guess I’ll see you in…” she maps out Atlanta to Raleigh on her phone. “Six hours.”

“Damn, girl. You’re a real lesbian Odysseus,” Jamie remarks, maybe half impressed, half snarky.

“Bisexual,” Sterling corrects her and hangs up the phone.

Blair grins at her. “Oh my god, you’re being such a badass right now,” she says, and Sterling rolls her eyes as she heads to her room to gather a few road trip essentials. “Okay, so we probably should stop at a store on the way out of town for some snacks. Definitely Red Bull if we’re pulling a 12 hour round trip.”

“We?” Sterling asks, raising an eyebrow. “Since when are you coming? I thought you hated April.”

“Hate is a strong word. But my own dislike for the girl doesn’t change my own jaded heart’s desire to witness true love prevailing over all obstacles--namely, John fucking Stevens,” Blair says, always the dramatic one. “And when I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong, and I was wrong about you guys. If anyone is gonna beat the odds and actually find their soulmate in high school, it’s someone who already knows what having a soulmate is like.”

Sterling is surprisingly touched by this sentiment. “Aw, Blair…” she says, and they hug. “You’ll always be my OG soulmate.”

“Damn straight. Now let’s go get your girl,” Blair says, excitedly going downstairs with Sterling following her and feeling a little sad that she’s going to have to disappoint her.

“Uh, Blair, as much as I totally want you riding shotgun on this quest for love, I think I’ll probably have an easier time convincing April to get in the car if you aren’t already in it,” she says as Blair’s halfway out the door.

She stops and nods, accepting. “That’s so valid,” she says and closes the door again. “Well, in that case, call me when you get to Raleigh so I know you’re safe. I’ll cover for you here with Anderson and Debbie.”

Sterling frowns as she grabs the Volt keyfob. “Ew. Don’t call Mom and Dad by their first names. That’s so weird,” she says on her way out the door.

“We’re growing up, Sterl. It’s beautiful and terrifying,” Blair calls after Sterling, who rolls her eyes and gets into the Volt, turning it on and getting blasted with heavy metal music that Blair didn’t turn off the last time she was in the car. She changes the station to April’s favorite oldies station and smiles as an oddly applicable song reaches its chorus.

But I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to be the man who walked a thousand miles to fall down at your door.

“Da da da!” Sterling sings along as she pulls out of the driveway.