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with wax melted, i'd meet the sea

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It’s hot.

Like, hot enough that the air conditioning broke four days ago and the only affordable repair person in their little coastal town is completely booked up until at least next week. The best they’ve got now is a couple of shitty ceiling fans that push the hot air around the store.

All the windows are open and there’s a half-broken table fan attempting to vent hot air out of one of them, but Raelle’s pretty sure it’s just siphoning hot air into their humble little record shop.

It’s a bit past five o’clock and most of the people meandering on the boardwalk have taken themselves towards the shaved ice and funnel cake stands, or are standing in line for the old wooden roller coaster that’s creaking and rattling somewhere off in the distance.

None of them are being forced to stand in a muggy record shop, working for just over minimum wage.

Raelle tilts her head back and groans, shifting uncomfortably against where she’s leaned up against the counter.

It’s so fucking hot that she can feel herself sweating through her shirt.

“Collar, if you’re going to make this more insufferable than it already is, I’m going to make you go do inventory in the back,” Anacostia says without looking up from the paperwork that she’s handling.

There’s a loud “Ha!” that comes from the other side of the shop, where Abigail is holding a frozen water bottle to her neck as she works.

Raelle doesn’t even have the energy to do more than send a mental middle-finger to her best friend before turning around to face Anacostia with her best attempt at puppy dog eyes.

“Ana…”

“Not my name.”

“Anacostia, ma’am,” Raelle tries again. “It’s a hundred ’n ten degrees out, we’re only an hour away from close—”

“Then you can wait an hour.”

They don’t call her Drill Sergeant Quartermaine for nothing.

So Raelle, ever the respectful (ha) and obedient (ha ha) employee, resumes half-heartedly labelling records and pausing every now and again just to look at Anacostia and make a show out of how tiring it is to work in the stifling heat.

A sigh here, a dramatic flapping of her hand as a fan there.

Nothing ever works; Anacostia just rolls her eyes and turns away each time.

Raelle’s ten minutes away from dropping everything and getting to leave when the bell above the door chimes cheerfully, announcing a customer.

She has to stop herself from letting out a groan of dismay, already hoping that whoever it is doesn’t stay past closing. She doesn’t even bother to look up from her pile of records to greet them, choosing instead to lift the edge of her shirt and use it as a rag to wipe the dots of sweat from her forehead.

It’s only then that she sees who it is that’s chosen to add to the body heat of the shop.

There’s a taller guy, brunet, with a wide smile and sunglasses perched on his nose. He’s dressed in a pair of pastel shorts and a short-sleeved button up patterned with tiny whales. Raelle recognizes him passingly – Byron, her brain pings in recollection – he works at a flower shop down the boardwalk from them and always gives her a discount on the arrangements that she buys for her mom each month.

More importantly, however, is the person he walks in with.

For a second, Raelle forgets how to breathe.

In fact, she’s sure her brain sputters out for more than a second when the thought God it’s so fucking hot gives way to Holy hell, hot at the sight of the other girl.

The girl is wearing a pair of distressed denim shorts that show off her legs – Raelle immediately flushes, a million unwarranted images of touching flooding into her head – and a cropped white t-shirt that reads “ Save Our Beaches!” with a drawing of a cartoon seagull picking up trash. Raelle’s a little enchanted by how the scorching summer heat hasn’t rumpled this stranger like it’s rumpled everyone else.

No, this girl doesn’t seem bothered by the warmth at all. Her smile is easy and her eyes – dear lord, her eyes – are shining with alertness and composure as she takes a cursory glance around the room before meeting Raelle’s gaze.

Raelle, who, belatedly, realizes she’s staring.

“Hey there, welcome to Seed Sound Records,” Anacostia says with a smile that she reserves for customers and people who aren’t Raelle. “We’re about to close up for the night, but feel free to take a couple minutes to browse around. Let us know if we can get anything for you.”

“Actually,” Byron chirps, “We’re here to ask if you’d be okay with us putting this sign in your window? And we also wanted to invite you guys down to the picnic terrace! We’re having a fundraiser. We’ve got game booths and free snacks and a dunk tank, if that’s what you’re into.”

“Oh shit, that’s the thing Tally was talking about,” Abigail comments, moving over to stand by Raelle and accept the flyer from Byron. “She’s doing face paint for kids there,” she explains to a blank-faced Raelle.

Raelle vaguely remembers Tally bursting into Raelle and Abigail’s tiny one-bedroom (a record shop salary at least afforded them the luxury of a big shared bedroom) apartment above the vape shop with an excited smile and going on a rambling speech about cleaning up the beaches and saving the sea turtles.

She wishes she’d listened more closely about volunteering now that she’s standing across from maybe the prettiest person she’s ever seen.

“You guys know Tally?” the beautiful stranger asks, still smiling kindly. “She’s great; the kids actually adore her a lot.”

“Yeah, that’s Tally!” Raelle blurts out before she can stop herself. “And I’m Collar—Raelle—Raelle Collar!”

Idiot.

She sticks her arm out, almost too ramrod-straight, and lets out an awkward laugh. “It’s nice to meet you.”

It’s like watching herself drive a car off a cliff while her best friend sits beside her, pointing a finger and laughing in slow motion as Raelle dies in a fiery explosion.

But the stranger just offers her a wide grin, eyes twinkling with amusement as she shakes Raelle’s hand. Raelle doesn’t know what she expected – for it to be sweaty or at least a little bit damp, maybe – but the stranger’s grip is warm and dry. It’s sundering. Raelle feels her heart wring itself tightly in her chest and she has to swallow whatever idiotic thing her brain is trying to spit out next.

Something awful and cheesy like, I could drown in your eyes or Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?

“Scylla Ramshorn,” the stranger introduces herself, and Raelle feels the name burning itself into her memory as it repeats over and over again like a skipping record. “Nice to meet you, Collar Raelle Raelle Collar.”

There’s a spark of something between them. It’s quick and brief, but it’s bright—for a second Raelle swears it gets even hotter in the store. She chalks it up to embarrassment and not the flare of attraction that she feels.

Anacostia clears her throat at the extended silence and Raelle tears her eyes away from Scylla to see Byron and Abigail watching them with borderline scandalized but fascinated expressions.

Raelle only lets go of Scylla’s hand when Abigail’s lips turn upward into a teasing smirk.

“Of course, we’d be glad to put this up,” Anacostia says, handing the proffered flier to Raelle, who takes it begrudgingly and lets her legs automatically carry her to the front window.

“So, you’re coming tonight?” Scylla asks, eyes still on Raelle despite now being across the room from her.

Raelle’s not sure what her body’s doing. It’s like her brain has turned off and every part of her is acting on some sort of emergency panic mode, because, oh God , she snaps her fingers and waves two finger guns in the direction of everyone else in the room, and says, mortifyingly, “You betcha.”

Scylla’s eyebrows pinch in amusement as Raelle’s body withers in embarrassment. She hears Abigail stifle a laugh and sees Anacostia’s pained look of disbelief and shame. Byron, to his credit, has turned to stare at a record display in an obvious attempt not to laugh.

Maybe, Raelle thinks, she can blame her sudden case of brain worms on the heat.

But then Scylla lets out a charmed laugh, nodding. “Good! I’m excited; I hope I’ll see you there?”

To spare herself more humiliation, Raelle forces herself to just nod quickly and wave, as Scylla and Byron thank Anacostia one last time before leaving.

The door shuts decidedly with the quiet chime of the bells and the soft sounds of indie hip-hop playing on the sound system.

It takes all of five seconds for Abigail to burst into hysterical laughter.

Anacostia simply shakes her head at Raelle. “That was painful to watch.”

Raelle spends the remaining minutes of her shift moping over the records and repeatedly glancing out the windows, hoping to catch Scylla passing, even though she knows that she’s at the other end of the boardwalk.

xx

“You said ‘you betcha’ like—” Abigail dissolves into laughter. Over an hour later and she’s still thoroughly amused, teasing Raelle as they descend the stairs from their apartment.

Raelle runs a hand through her freshly washed hair, grimacing with the knowledge that it’ll be gross again in no time due to the heat. It’s nearing sunset and the temperature’s subsiding, but it’s still balmy and uncomfortable. Raelle’s dressed simply: a pair of washed out cuffed jeans and a thin, beige dress shirt with a subtle mushroom pattern print.

“Shut up, Abigail,” Raelle huffs, irate. She gives Abigail a tiny shove. “She was really fucking gorgeous.”

“I mean, clearly, if you turned into a babbling idiot.” Abigail’s wiping the tears out of the corner of her eyes, still giggling.

Raelle chooses to ignore her instead of being petty and pushing her into traffic.

The streets by the boardwalk are as populated now, in the early evening, as they are in the daytime—if not more so now that it’s survivable outside. Skaters, joggers, street performers, and families dot the roads and sidewalks the entire way from their apartment to the boardwalk, where pavement gives way to bleached wood.

The walk to the fundraiser is actually really nice; Raelle lets herself soak in the last bits of sun while Abigail rambles on about something that happened at work earlier while Raelle was on break. There’s still surfers in the water, sitting on their boards and watching the sun set over the horizon. A couple dozen people mingle on the beach, lying in the sand with beer cans while their friends play volleyball or throw each other into the waves.

There’s an energy in the air that makes Raelle roll her shoulders in relaxation and ease, tilting her head back to the cotton candy skies and taking a deep breath of the funnel-cake scented air.

They eventually make it to the area where a dozen event tents are set up with large crowds milling about, booth attendees cat-calling potential mini-game contenders. Raelle’s just past the ticket booth before she’s suddenly yanked sideways and smothered in someone’s arms.

“You made it!” Tally squeals, swaying from side to side while clinging onto Raelle.

Raelle flails her arms to keep her balance before returning the hug, giving Tally a few solid pats on the back before extracting herself from her friend’s grip.

There’s a beautiful red butterfly painted on Tally’s left cheek and some sort of glowing flower crown sitting atop her head. Her hands are stained in what Raelle can only assume is face paint.

“Of course we made it,” Raelle says, as Tally gives Abigail a normal, non-whiplash inducing hug. “Wouldn’t wanna let you down, Tal.”

Tally’s grin is wide, her eyes near sparkling with joy that dims a little when Abigail lets out a loud snort.

“Don’t lie to her! You’re definitely also here to chase down that girl from earlier.”

“Her name’s Sc—” Raelle starts, only to be cut off by a scandalized gasp from Tally.

Who?!”

Raelle sighs, exasperated, and tries again. “Scyl—”

“Some girl who came into the shop with Byron today looking to put up flyers,” Abigail interrupts with a smug grin. “Raelle got so flustered she did finger guns and made a fool of herself in front of everyone.”

Raelle rolls her eyes, sick of getting interrupted and more than willing to tune out to this conversation. She shoves her hands in pockets, rocking back on her heels as she absentmindedly scans the area. She wonders which stand Scylla’s working at, eyes darting about hoping to catch a glimpse of her in the crowds.

“Wait, you met someone?” Tally asks. She frowns, looking a little affronted to have missed out on what she believes is important news.

“Well, no, not really?” Raelle says weakly. “She came into the shop. And I just said I might catch her here tonight.”

Correction.” Abigail’s smirk is back. “You said ‘you betcha’ and did finger guns like a ’90s cartoon character.”

“Oh, Raelle…” Tally looks apologetic. Mournful, even. “No…”

Raelle rolls her eyes again, crossing her arms. “It wasn’t that bad.”

“I beg to differ,” Abigail says. “It was pretty fucking horrifying. Like a car crash in slow motion.”

Tally, fortunately, steps between them before Raelle decides punching Abigail might be a worthwhile endeavor. She places both hands on Raelle’s shoulders and levels her with a mischievous smile. Raelle feels her fight or flight instinct kick into overdrive; her legs twitch.

“It’s okay, Rae—" Tally starts.

“Why?” 

“—because I have someone I want you to meet,” Tally announces, ignoring her.

“Oh no. No, no, no. Last time you introduced me to someone she stole all my fucking records and kicked Abigail’s plants over!”

Raelle moves to run, but Tally’s deceptively strong. Regardless of her protests, Raelle’s already being pulled into the crowd. She only barely manages to angrily grab hold of Abigail’s arm so she doesn’t get left behind.

Raelle almost knees at least two kids in the face before being pulled to a stop right in front of the apple-bobbing booth. The crowd’s not as heavy here as it is around other events, but it’s still decently sized. Four people have their heads dunked into large tubs of water where apples are, well—bobbing.

It’s actually rather fascinating to watch, Raelle’s amusedly observing a little boy that she thinks might be licking every apple when the other booth attendant turns around. And it’s incredibly cliché, but suddenly somehow everything seems to slip into slow motion, like a mid-2000s romantic comedy.

Tally, surrounding proud of her herself, says, “Raelle, I’d like you to meet—”

Raelle stares, starry-eyed. “Scylla.”

Tally deflates, her dramatic introduction ruined. She glances back and forth between Raelle and Scylla. “You know each other?”

“We met earlier,” Scylla tells her. “When I went to hand out flyers with Byron.”

“Oh.” Tally blinks. And then understanding washes over her face. “Oh.”

Scylla looks just flawless as she did earlier, despite the mayhem of celebration and revelry around her. Her hair’s been tied up into a messy bun and her smile is no less detrimental to Raelle’s heart rate.

Raelle can already feel her palms becoming clammy.

“Hey, you,” Scylla greets smoothly, eyes zeroed in on Raelle. “Come to bob for apples?”

Raelle’s brain stalls and she panics, gaping wordlessly.

“Apples,” is all she manages.

Abigail pats Raelle on the back in mock sympathy while Raelle fantasizes about getting killed by a freak roller coaster accident.

Beside her, Tally says in a stage-whisper to Abigail, “Oh my God. It is bad.”

“I’m sorry.” Abigail rests her hand on Raelle’s shoulder, putting on her syrupy ‘customer voice’ for Scylla. “She got kicked in the head by a donkey when we were in high school.”

Raelle slaps Abigail’s hand off of her and frowns. “No, I’m just—” she lets out a frustrated sigh and resets, offering an apologetic smile. “It’s been a very hot day and my brain is probably cooked. I’m sorry; it’s good to see you again. Really.”

Doin’ good, Collar , she thinks. Cool. Chill. Casual. 

Scylla’s smile could probably end wars. The purple-pink sky behind her and the incandescent lights strung up around the booth make her eyes look like they’re sparkling.

Raelle wants to be closer.

“May I interest you in a dip?” Scylla gestures to the tubs that are clearing up with the other booth attendant offering a stuffed dolphin to the man who won. “It’s quite refreshing from what I can tell.”

It feels strangely like a dare or some form of judgment test. And Raelle Collar, with all her brashness and courage, is never one to turn down a dare.

“Only if I get to pick the prize.”

She can feel her best friends tense behind her, can almost see Abigail’s wide eyes and Tally’s excitable energy flowing off of her in giant waves. They’re preparing for Raelle to either crash and burn or pull off something borderline miraculous.

“Oh?” Scylla smirks, matching Raelle step for step. “Like, instead of a dolphin you want a seahorse?”

“If I win, you come join us,” Raelle says, trying to be as cool and composed as possible. “Just so I don’t have to spend all night with these two.”

Abigail’s face crinkles in mock-offense.

But Tally perks up, hopping in place and clapping her hands together in delight. “Better idea! If she wins, we trade places!” She winks, less than subtly, at Raelle. “My shift at the face painting station ended and I’d be more than happy to step in here for you, Scylla.”

Scylla looks intrigued and a little enchanted by the idea. After a moment, she shrugs, nodding agreeably. “Sounds good to me.”

Her tone is a notch lower. Her eyes haven’t left Raelle.

Raelle feels a little like she just jumped into shark-infested waters.

She approaches the tub ( not the one where the kid licked every apple) and kneels, looking to Scylla for the countdown.

The spark between them from earlier flickers back to life when their eyes meet. Scylla smirks, eyes dangerously sly.

“Three...two...one...go!”

Abigail has to shove Raelle’s head into the water to get her to actually start bobbing.

Raelle has to admit that the violent jolt of cold water to her system is refreshing. It feels like a jumpstart to her honey-clogged brain, and she’s immediately resurfacing to find a suitable apple.

The novelty of the water wears off quick, however; it sloshes out of the bin and all over her front. She has no other option than to push past it, focusing on the thought of being able to make Scylla smile some more if she does win this.

Her teeth finally catch on the apple that she’s been trying to snatch and she sends a small thank you up to her momma for always saying she had a big mouth.

She rises out of the water victorious, an apple between her teeth, hair sticking to her cheeks, and water dripping down her face.

It’s all worth it when she looks up at Scylla to see her laughing blissfully, one hand pressed to her stomach as she raises the other hand and, through laughter, calls an end to the game.

Raelle takes a victory bite of her apple, letting the sweetness flood her mouth, pleased with herself for a job brilliantly done. She pushes the wet hair out of her face, wiping her face dry on her shirt.

The expression on Scylla’s face sends Raelle’s heart rate skyrocketing. She’s staring at Raelle, mouth cocked in a lazy half-smile. Her gaze is sharp, but also a tiny bit unfocused.

The other booth attendant has to elbow Scylla back to awareness and Raelle beams with something akin to pride.

Raelle glances over her shoulder to where Tally’s wiggling her eyebrows suggestively. Abigail snorts, looking caught somewhere between amusement and annoyance. 

“A deal’s a deal.” Scylla walks up, handing Raelle a small towel. “I’m yours.”

Raelle’s brain sputters and stalls like a broken down car.

A faint blush creeps up Scylla’s neck. “For the night, I mean.”

Raelle’s brain blips back to life just long enough to insist that, no, she’d like to Scylla for more than just one night, please.

Thankfully this thought is squashed down before Raelle can give voice to it. Tally sighs dramatically, gesturing to Scylla, who unpins the attendant badge from her shirt and hands it over.

Fine, alright, alright.” Tally’s laying on the reluctance a bit thick. “Couldn’t even lose a game for me so I wouldn’t have to work. Some friend.” Her words are laced with jocose, accompanied by a well-meaning nudge to Raelle’s side. “Just bring me back a lemonade from that hot dog place, please?”

Raelle will never ever understand how Tally Craven is so wholly a giver in every aspect of life. They’ve known each other for years now and there are still times when Raelle is baffled by Tally’s kindness and willingness to do things for her friends just because.

Of course, it’s easier to accept Tally’s compassion when the other end of the spectrum is Abigail, who would also go to hell for her, but only with a biblical-length list of complaints and jibes.

The crowds are already moving in again, as a new swath of contestants settles in front of the apple tubs. Tally gives Raelle a quick hug and promises Scylla that she won’t besmirch her station, stepping to the side to make way for those looking to win a stuffed marine animal.

Raelle busies herself with bites of her apple in place of having to speak, mostly because she’s suddenly overcome with a type of nervousness that she hasn’t felt since she was a kid. It’s the anxiety that comes from knowing something big is happening, that the next few steps will change everything for the better, but still being too afraid to jump because familiarity feels safe.

However, Abigail doesn’t seem to share that sentiment. She takes one hard look at the two of them: Raelle staring up at the neon glow of the ferris wheel with far too much interest and Scylla watching Raelle with curious and captivated eyes.

“Well.” She drawls. “You two have fun.” Her smile is big and borderline maniacal, Raelle notes with slight panic. “I think I just saw Libba working the dunk tank. I’m going to go enjoy myself.”

“Wait but—”

Raelle doesn’t get to finish her sentence; Abigail’s already jogging off. She calls over her shoulder, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” 

And so, Raelle and Scylla are left standing alone in the brilliant color of the beachfront rides. The pink and cyan lights from the towering ferris wheel send splendid waves of neon across them as Raelle shyly smiles up from her apple and nods in the direction of the food stalls a little ways down the boardwalk.

“Wanna split a funnel cake? My treat.”

It’s slightly ridiculous, the way Raelle’s heart lurches in hope and anxiousness—a spike of fear at the possibility of rejection despite all the signs that Scylla has thrown her way so far.

Scylla simply smiles. “Who am I to say no to free fried goods?”

Raelle’s tempted to leap twenty feet into the air with a victorious shout. Instead, she straightens her posture and throws her apple in the nearby trash can, making a flourishing gesture towards the path of the funnel cakes.

“Shall we?”

The delighted laugh from Scylla will be enough to keep her going for days .

As they make their way towards the food stalls, Raelle can’t help but bounce on her toes slightly. The night air is still muggy, humid enough that it takes longer for the water in her hair and shirt to dry. It doesn’t seem to be slowing the crowds at all, though; in fact it seems busier now than earlier.

But Raelle can only focus on Scylla, on the way that a million lights from the attractions illuminate her in the hazy glow of a bonafide summer night.

Raelle can see the subtle shine of sweat on Scylla’s neck, a smudge of something—paint, maybe?—under her ear. It’s enough to take Raelle’s breath away, scrambling her senses so much that she doesn’t know what to say or where to even begin.

“I haven’t seen you around before.” Raelle starts with the easiest thread. “Are you new in town? Or…?”

Scylla’s got this mysterious energy around her, like every smile, laugh, and sigh is a complete story that Raelle would die to spend her entire life figuring out.

“Kind of—I was born here, but my parents were field researchers, so we travelled a lot. I’ve been all over.”

“‘Were’?”

The moment the word leaves her lips, Raelle regrets it. She should know better than to pry, to dig so carelessly within the first minutes of being alone with a cute girl.

If Scylla’s bothered by the question, she doesn’t show it. “They were killed a few years ago,” she says quietly. “An accident.”

She doesn’t elaborate, and Raelle averts her gaze, at a loss for words. She feels like an idiot. She wants to slap herself. She’s nearly overcome with the desire to throw herself over the railing and straight into the sand.

“Oh. I’m sorry.” It feels like a measly apology for a horrible slight.

“It’s okay.” Scylla’s tone is light. “I came back to reset. Figure things out—figure myself out.”

There’s sadness in Scylla’s eyes, but it’s not the kind that makes Raelle want to back away and change subjects or run. No, she finds that she wants to press closer, help Scylla carry that sadness in some way, hear her out and support her.

“Mine are dead too.” Raelle finds herself saying, then blushes, immediately regretting that too. “I mean, my mom is. My dad’s a mechanic in the city. I see him during the holidays.”

She wonders when God will have pity on her and take her out already. She can’t seem to stop embarrassing herself. 

Scylla’s smile is kind, understanding. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Raelle brings a hand up to the back of her head and scratches awkwardly, taking a deep breath and puffing out her cheeks as she tries to find the words she’s looking for.

“No, I’m sorry for being an insensitive dick. This isn’t the kind of conversation you have on a first…outing.”

To Raelle’s surprise and relief, Scylla lets out the most lively of giggles Raelle has maybe ever heard. It’s not spiteful or bad laughter—the type she would expect to hear after committing a social faux pas. No, Scylla’s laughter is effortless and light, filled with something that feels like affection.

Raelle watches her reverently. She doesn’t think she could ever grow tired of hearing Scylla laugh.

“And who wrote the rules on that?” Scylla says. “The way I see it, as long as both parties are comfortable talking about something, then they should.”

“Skip the easy stuff, huh?”

“Exactly.” Scylla bumps their shoulders together. “See? We’re on the same page already. Dead parents and all.”

Raelle can’t help but snort out a laugh. “Are you always this forward?”

Scylla’s dark blue eyes seem to twinkle with a very specific brand of chaos. “I can be more so if you’d like.”

The air between them crackles again, a heavy strike sending scatters of sparks up Raelle’s insides. She has to swallow to prevent herself from drooling or saying something stupid again.

Luckily, they arrive at the line for funnel cakes and she has an excuse to step away from the danger to grab one of the laminated menus to bring to Scylla.

She again has to clear the desire from her throat when Scylla’s fingers brush hers innocently while Raelle’s scanning the menu for a flavor that piques her interest.

“Allergic to anything?” Raelle asks.

It’s then that she realizes how close they’re standing. Scylla’s looking at her, the menu held between them temporarily forgotten. Her eyes are blue, so wonderfully blue ; Raelle thinks they could easily rival the ocean and all its secrets.

“Hm?” Scylla blinks, as if snapping out a dream. Her eyes shift between Raelle and the menu. “What?”

“The funnel cakes. Don’t wanna have to take you to the ER if you’re allergic to anything.” Raelle’s fidgets, her thumb rubbing against her palm, toying with her ring; she can’t decide if it’s nervousness or a desire to reach out and touch Scylla.

“Oh,” Scylla breathes, a slightly embarrassed smile on her face. “No, I’m right as rain when it comes to allergies. You pick. I’m down for anything.”  

Raelle tilts her head and grins at Scylla. 

“What?” Scylla asks, mirroring Raelle’s head tilt.

That causes Raelle’s heart to clench in adoration. There’s something so openly curious in her expression, so ready to learn.

“Nothing.” Raelle laughs, shaking her head to bring herself back into the moment. “Just—I’m stuck between Peach Pie a la Mode or Oreo Overload. Which one would you like more?”

Scylla sucks her bottom lip between her teeth and Raelle’s mind blanks—what little self-control she has gets channeled into not making a fool of herself again. She can’t help but stare at Scylla’s lips as she waits for an answer.

“Peach, please.” Scylla’s smile is earth shattering, absolutely calamitous.

Raelle’s not sure how everyone around them is not as enchanted with Scylla as she is, how the sea in the distance continues to ebb and flow instead of freezing out of reverence. She has to pull her eyes away, clearing her throat as she pretends to be skimming the menu one last time.

“Peach it is.”

God help her, she’s doomed.

They order the funnel cake and Raelle waits by the booth while Scylla grabs a handful of napkins and some plastic utensils from the kiosk before taking a seat at an open table.

Raelle doesn’t miss the way Scylla’s gaze lingers on her hands as she cuts the funnel cake up into manageable pieces.

“So, what’re you going to do now that you’re here?” Raelle asks. It’s more to fill the silence and distract her from giving in to the moronic impulsive to make a suggestive joke about her hands feeling better than they look.

Scylla hums thoughtfully. “I’m looking for a new day.”

Raelle lets out a small, confused chuckle. “What does that mean?”

Scylla pauses, staring down at the funnel cake and stabbing lightly at a piece of fried dough. “I spent a really long time after my parents’ accident doing nothing.”

She shovels a small sporkful of funnel cake, ice cream, and peach in her mouth, chewing slowly. Then: “All my days sort of...blended together. If I wasn’t sleeping, I was out causing trouble for myself and everyone around me. Same shit, different day—I had nowhere to go, no place to call home, no tether. Maybe I should’ve felt free but instead, it felt…”

“Suffocating.” Raelle finishes for her, intensely familiar with the feeling.

Scylla looks up from their plate and smiles. “Exactly. Like I was living just to die.”

“So you came back here?” Raelle asks gently. She hopes Scylla knows she’s asking without a hint of judgement. Raelle could never criticize Scylla when she herself felt the same for a long time.

The soft look on Scylla’s face makes Raelle’s heart skip a beat.

“Yeah, my parents left me a bit of money, and technically I own a storage unit full of their stuff here. I don’t know.” Scylla’s smile is sad. “I thought that maybe if I came back here and remembered what they loved, what they wanted for me, maybe I could just...feel something, you know?”

“I get it.” Raelle nudges her spork against the dessert between them and focuses on finding the crispiest bit of funnel cake while searching for the right words. “It’s the same reason I stayed here with Abigail and Tally after we finished college.”

Scylla sits up a little straighter, her own spork abandoned as she leans forward, elbows on the table and chin in her hands. “You went to college here?”

Heat flushes through Raelle’s body, making the stuffy outside temperature even worse. Raelle wonders what it is about Scylla’s eagerness to learn more about her that makes her feel like this.

Normally, she’d be uncomfortable—even annoyed—if someone tried to pry into her personal business. But here she is, ready to tell Scylla everything—all because of those eyes. So deep in hue and curious in nature. Scylla makes Raelle feel defenseless: like none of her carefully constructed walls exist. Not because Scylla’s come smashing through them with a hammer, but because something about her makes Raelle bring down the gates and let her in without caution.

It should feel dangerous, and it does.

But it also feels thrilling.

“I moved here from the city with Abigail.” Raelle scrunches up her nose at the memory of being seventeen and hearing Abigail fight with her mother about choosing a state school versus one of the handful of Ivy Leagues that her mother had picked for her.

“We were both ready to run, I think. My mom had just died. Her mom was trying to get her to go into law. My dad was barely making ends meet. I didn’t wanna be a burden on him.” 

She laughs bitterly, recalling treasured yet difficult memories.

Scylla’s expression is sad. Sympathetic. Her hand twitches, almost seeming to move towards Raelle before she decides otherwise.

Raelle bites the corner of her lip. “I told Abigail that if she wanted to go, I’d follow. So, we did—got jobs at Seed Sound, met Tally freshman year, graduated. Stayed.”

“You make it sound simple.” Scylla says, smiling.

It’s a smile so full of kindness and appreciation that Raelle has to look away.

“It certainly seems simple now.”

Raelle remembers struggling to make ends meet, the fights with her dad, dragging Abigail back from parties—drunk and angry after arguing with her mom again. “So yeah, I’ve been here for—holy shit.” She hasn’t actually thought about it until now. “Six years.”

She’s staring down at the half-eaten funnel cake, pushing around a slice of peach in the melting ice cream when the other spork gets in her way, sticking into the fruit and pulling it away. Scylla lifts the slice to her lips and takes a clean bite. It drops a small dollop of ice cream on her chin, but she fails to notice.

“That’s more time than I’ve spent anywhere, ever,” Scylla muses, looking off at the bustle of the boardwalk, brain clearly churning on something.

But Raelle’s barely listening.

No, her mind’s gone blank again, stuck on that droplet of ice cream clinging to Scylla’s chin. Her body moves before her rational side can process anything, reaching forward with her free hand to brush her thumb along Scylla’s chin, catching the drop before it can fall.

She presses the pad of her thumb into her mouth and sucks the sweetness away, tongue flicking out to lick the remnants of stickiness off her finger before her brain kicks back on to notice Scylla watching her with an inscrutable and yet incredibly mesmerizing expression.

It takes every last ounce of sense in Raelle to give a sheepish smile and mumble, “You had, uh. A lil’ somethin’ on your chin.”

Scylla’s silent, eyes glued to Raelle’s face, gaze roaming from eyes to nose to… lips?   

“Scylla?” Raelle hazards, feeling a tiny bit ashamed for doing something so thoughtless and halfway to the moon in elation. “I’m sorry I—”

“No!” Scylla cuts her off. “I-It’s okay.”

Raelle swallows, hesitant, “You sure? I don’t…wanna overstep.”

“I’m positive.” Gone is Scylla’s momentary lapse in grace, replaced by that casual smile and sharp gaze. “Thank you.”

Raelle wonders how she can learn to recover so quickly, to bounce back that fast from Scylla’s effect on her. She settles for the knowledge that some people are just naturally smoother than others.

And Scylla Ramshorn may or may not be the queen of smooth.

At least in Raelle’s opinion.

With that thought comes a sudden, base desire to know what Scylla looks like when she’s completely flustered.

Thankfully, Scylla clears her throat and snaps Raelle back to Earth. “Do you wanna go on some rides?”

Raelle’s never agreed to anything so quickly in her life.

xx

They’re waiting in line for the wooden coaster when Scylla nudges Raelle’s hip.

Raelle tries to ignore the way it sends small webs of electricity across the area where they made contact.

“So, your friends certainly aren’t subtle.”

It takes more than a modicum of effort for Raelle to not wince at Tally and Abigail’s maladroit meddling in her love life. Even if she is very fond of them.

“Yeah, they’re fucking pains in the ass, but I love them a lot.” She pauses. “Please don’t tell Abigail I said that.”

Raelle would never hear the end of it; Abigail would make her scream it from their balcony, declare it from the mountaintops. She’d lord it over Raelle forever, probably. And even though Raelle wouldn’t entirely mind, she’d rather spare herself the obnoxious Bellweather teasing.  

“I actually think it’s sweet that you guys have stuck through so much together.”

The smile that pulls itself from Raelle is animate, the feeling of pride and love for her friends swelling warmly in her chest.

They shuffle forward in the line and Raelle turns to Scylla, still smiling. “Well, what about you? Old-new in town with no connections?”

“Byron’s my dad’s best friend’s son.” Scylla’s standing close enough that their arms brush. “His moms are the ones who got me settled into an affordable place here. My family spend summers together back here at their place.”

“So you’ve known him for a long time.”

“Long as I can remember. We kept in contact the entire time my parents and I were travelling around the world. He was actually the one who talked me into coming back.”

“Wait, where were you staying before showing up here, then?”

Scylla launches into the story of how Byron had convinced her to come back. It’s a rousing tale involving a bet, arson, some vodka, an asshole from a frat house back in Massachusetts, and a mental breakdown.

She recounts the story with a lightheartedness that doesn’t befit the subtle sadness of the adventure, but Raelle can see her shoulders growing lighter with the way she laughs when recalling how Byron had sounded over the phone. It makes her that much softer for Scylla, that much more drawn into her mystifying charm.

They spend the evening like this, standing in lines at rides and talking non-stop about everything and nothing. Raelle finds herself eager to learn little facts about Scylla; files away notes like purple is her favorite color and one of her dreams is to spend time in a library big enough to get lost in for safekeeping.

And Scylla’s just so fun to talk to. It’s like she knows exactly how to reply; conversation flows easily and Raelle never finds their silences awkward, only filled with the excitement of learning more about each other.

Raelle kind of never wants it to end, even as the sky goes from deep navy blue to pitch black, small pin pricks of starlight bright enough to endure the boardwalk’s glow blinking down on them.

They’re coming off of the swing ride when Scylla points at stall Tally had requested lemonade from hours ago. “Now’s as good a time as any.”

“Oh, shit.” Raelle grimaces in dismay at the comically long line for corn dogs and lemonade. “But the line’s so long, can’t we just—"

She doesn’t even get a chance to make an excuse to just not before Scylla’s moving forward through the crowds to get to the line. There’s a ludicrous amount of cross traffic and they almost get separated until Scylla barely manages to catch Raelle’s hand in between passing bodies and pull her forward, close enough to bump against her back.

Raelle’s still baffled at how nice Scylla’s hands are, soft and warm in her own.

She’s so distracted by it that she lets her body carry her through the process of ordering and paying for the drink while Scylla just smiles at her.

She almost drops Tally’s pink lemonade.

Twice.

She has to (finally, reluctantly) let go of Scylla’s hand to pay. But when they turn to leave, Scylla slips their palms together again with a wily grin.

“Don’t want to lose you in the crowds.”

Fuck.

It’s through pure force of will that Raelle manages to smile back like something in her hasn’t awoken in fierce fondness, a blossoming warmth inside her chest. She doesn’t understand how a person she’s known for less than twelve hours has managed to so thoroughly cleave into her affections and leave her defenseless against something as simple as a smile.

Part of her thinks she should feel pathetic—maybe even a little panicked—but mostly she feels like she should preen at the mere idea that Scylla doesn’t want to lose her in the bustle of bodies. Like there’s innate praise in the way Scylla looks at her.

Double Fuck. 

She lets Scylla lead them back towards the game booths and volunteer stands, unable to look away from the back of Scylla’s head the whole time.

It isn’t until they’ve arrived that they realize things are closing down for the night. Crowds that were teeming with life are now dwindling down to people trying to catch one last ride or grab a final snack before the boardwalk closes down.

They find Tally helping fold up the prize tables, doing a little hop as she narrowly avoids dropping an end on her foot.

“Oh, sh–itake mushrooms!”

Raelle suppresses a snort, but Scylla doesn’t hide an amused laugh that draws Tally’s attention to them.

“Hey! Oh!” Tally glances down at their intertwined hands and Raelle realizes they still haven’t let go of each other. Something about that realization makes her hold on tighter.

Tally redirects her attention to the cup in Raelle’s other hand, making grabby hands at Raelle until Raelle hands it over to her.

Tally hums happily into her first sip. “Thanks!”

“You’re very welcome,” Scylla says sweetly, and then proceeds to throw Raelle under the bus with, “Raelle almost skipped the stall just so she wouldn’t have to wait in line.”

Tally gasps in mock-fury. “You’d let me die of thirst?!”

“Only due to my own flaws, Tal.”

Tally’s eyes squint in exaggerated contempt before dropping the façade entirely. She takes another sip and asks (with the paper straw still in her mouth), “Did you guys have fun?”

Raelle nods. “Yeah, we had a great time. We had funnel cake, rode every ride including the scary sideways upside down one—”

“It was fun!” Scylla insists.

“—not at all, Scylla—and I think I saw Abigail finally nail a hit on Libba at the dunk tank.”

Tally gasps, eyes widening as her eyebrows knit together in horror. “Oh no, Abigail’s never going to shut up about it.” She turns to Scylla to fill her in. “Libba’s a friend from college. She and Abigail met during orientation freshman year and have had this really weird rivalry ever since. Raelle and I have a bet going to see who cracks first and kisses the other one.”

“Well, I'm sorry you missed it,” Scylla says apologetically. “But we did have a really good time, thank you for taking my place.”

Tally waves a hand nonchalantly. “Don’t mention it; I offered anyway.”

Her wink and shoulder wiggle directed at Raelle are not subtle. In fact, Raelle sees Scylla’s shoulders shake with a suppressed laugh.

Raelle elects to ignore her friend’s shenanigans. The pounding in her chest and giddiness in her spine is already enough to get her jittery. She doesn’t need Tally’s teasing and barely-veiled innuendo to make it worse.

“Did you want to walk home together?” Raelle asks Tally, though she’s reluctant to have to part ways with Scylla.

Tally shakes her head though, much to Raelle's joy. “Nah, you go ahead. Glory called me and needs help with something so I’ll probably end up crashing at hers.”

“It’s midnight, what could she possibly need?” Raelle asks, face scrunched up in confusion.

Tally makes a vague motion with her hand, shrugging. “Mmeh-eh? ” Turning to Scylla, she says, “Would you kindly walk Raelle home for me? As payment for me taking your shift?”

Raelle would recognize that impish glint in Tally’s eyes anywhere.

And yet she still feels limitless appreciation, especially when Scylla laughs and agrees. “Of course. I’d be honored.”

“Great! Thank you!” Tally claps her hand gently against her lemonade before taking a couple steps back to the quickly-disassembling booth. “Be safe! Have fun!”

And then she’s off, helping the remaining volunteers tuck everything away.

“Shall we?” Raelle lifts their intertwined hands towards the direction of her apartment.

Scylla grins. “Only if you say yes to photobooth pictures.”

Scylla’s eyes are twinkling again and Raelle is hard pressed to say no to an expression like that. So she nods and allows Scylla to tug her down the darkening boardwalk to one of the bright orange photobooths tucked against a corner.

There’s only one seat inside the tiny box. Scylla ushers Raelle in first, barely giving her time to mourn the loss of Scylla’s hand in hers. There’s a moment where Raelle’s standing awkwardly inside the booth, unsure if she should take the seat in case Scylla wants to, but then Scylla’s pushing her onto it before casually sliding into her lap and facing the camera.

Raelle’s positive that her brain short circuits because her hands forget where to go and she’s kind of just...hover-handing everything.

It isn’t until Scylla’s slips a dollar in the machine and selects a border off the touchpad screen that Raelle manages to breathe. She settles her hands on Scylla’s hips, gently resting against the fabric of Scylla’s shorts as she lets herself autopilot through a series of generic smiles and poses.

She’s only peripherally aware of the camera somewhere during the 4th flash, because her attention falters and gets drawn to the way her hands are inches away from the bare skin of Scylla’s thighs.

She’s staring at Scylla, unable (or unwilling) to tear her eyes away from where her hair’s falling out of her bun. It was messy to start, but now there are loose strands everywhere, giving her the most adorable disheveled look. It’s a sleepy, rumpled kind of look in stark contrast to her eyes–so fucking blue—which are still keen and attentive.

The seconds stretch out impossibly long. They just met. But Raelle feels like she’s known Scylla forever. She wants to know everything there is to learn about her.

Raelle tries—she swears she tries to stop her hands, but they seem to move of their own accord, reaching up to tuck Scylla’s hair behind her ear. Scylla turns to look at her, and it happens too fast for Raelle to even think

Scylla presses back against her, the camera flashes, and then Scylla’s leaning in for the softest and most hesitant of kisses.

In truth, Raelle doesn't think her heart’s stopped humming since they locked eyes.

But it doesn’t really matter, because it’s downright vibrating now with obnoxious amounts of adrenaline and desire.

Scylla’s lips are soft.

Like, softer than soft.

She’s so gentle and slow that Raelle thinks she might combust, but it’s enticing enough that she can’t stop herself pushing in for more. She can’t seem to get enough of Scylla; she’s like a moth to a flame, the moon to earth—fucking subatomic particles inconceivably entangled together through the eons despite distance and time.

Simply: Raelle’s drawn to her.

There’s another, final flash, but Scylla’s hands have reached up to grip the front of Raelle’s shirt and they’re kissing in earnest now. The thing that’s been building in Raelle’s chest all night breaks free and blooms; she’s unashamed of the way she leans deeper into the other girl, her own hands holding Scylla’s hips tightly.

Scylla to let out a small, borderline whimper. When she gasps, it gives Raelle a chance to deepen the kiss, their tongues sliding against each other. When at last they pull away, just a fraction, Raelle’s breath comes heavy against Scylla’s lips.

“Is that okay?”

It feels a little late to ask for permission now, what with Scylla panting in her lap.

Scylla only nods before pressing back into Raelle, one hand coming up to cup her face. She runs her thumb along Raelle’s jaw and Raelle swears Scylla moans straight into the searing kiss.

It’s instant gratification; it makes Raelle greedy for more.

She wants to draw more of those sounds out from Scylla.

Christ, she feels like she’s back in high school, hiding behind the bleachers and kissing someone for the first time. She’s too eager and messy, but Scylla doesn’t seem to mind at all—she’s pushing into Raelle and parting her lips. Scylla tastes sweet: cotton candy and ice cream and taffy, all with the undertone of something distinctly her .

It’s enough to get drunk off of.

It’s all instinct and zero rationality that drives Raelle to slip her hand up from Scylla’s hip to stroke the exposed strip of skin where her shirt has ridden up. The skin is warm and soft—like every part of Scylla that Raelle’s gotten to touch.

Scylla pulls back, breaking the kiss, and Raelle feels the draw of chasing. But Scylla puts a hand firmly on Raelle’s chest and holds her back. The brazen and uncharacteristic whimper that falls from Raelle’s lips should make her embarrassed, but she can see how Scylla’s eyes have darkened and she just wants more .

“This isn’t happening in a photo booth.” Scylla says, voice hoarse.

Her lips are wet and red from where Raelle nipped at them, and Raelle’s heart takes a pitiful dive into the depths of the ocean at the prospect of being turned down here. But her momma did raise a gentlewoman, so she closes her eyes and takes two deep breaths before nodding.

Fuck, Scylla looks so good even in the shitty fluorescent lights of the photo booth. “We—we don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. Say the word and I’ll walk you home and we can pretend like this never happened.”

It hurts to say, but the affection rings true.

Scylla’s expression is unreadable. She brushes her thumb across Raelle’s lips, and it takes every molecule in Raelle to not to kiss it.

“I do want this,” Scylla whispers.

Raelle’s heart soars.

“But I also don’t want to think about how many other people have fucked in here,” Scylla continues. Her playful smile elicits a smirk in response from Raelle.

It’s amazing Raelle can even function at all right now. Her brain’s stuck playing the words ‘I do want this’ on repeat and at full volume.

Scylla’s thumb brushes up along Raelle’s jaw to her ear, where she catches her earlobe between her fingers and rubs gently, causing warm sparks to shoot through Raelle.

“God, fuck, well—I—”

Words. Words.

“If we make it back to my apartment before Abigail,” Raelle says, “we can snatch the bedroom.”

Scylla’s quirks an eyebrow and for a split second, Raelle thinks she might’ve read the situation wrong completely. She prepares to backtrack, to apologize profusely for assuming Scylla wanted anything more than to make out.

Her intrusive thoughts vanish when Scylla kisses the corner of her mouth and looks up at her with sapphire-eyes.

“Lead the way.”

They almost forget to grab the photo strip from the booth in their haste to get moving.

The way back to Raelle’s apartment is hard.

Not only because Raelle can’t stop looking at Scylla and licking her lips in memory of the way they were pressed against each other just minutes ago, but because Scylla keeps pulling Raelle into dark corners and kissing her until she can’t breathe.

Scylla smells like sea salt and fresh flowers, and it’s downright intoxicating when Raelle slips her thigh between hers while they’re pressed against the alley wall of some gift shop and Scylla tilts her head back, letting out the prettiest of sighs.

It takes them an embarrassingly long time to stumble their way to Raelle’s apartment. The good news is that all the lights are still off, which means nobody’s home. The bad news is that Raelle trips while unlocking the door and ends up sitting on her likely-to-be-bruised ass, Scylla laughing—not unkindly—at her.

The best thing, though, is Scylla offering Raelle a hand to pull her up, then allowing Raelle to trap her against it with kisses that make the two of them too dizzy to keep standing. Raelle slips a hand up Scylla’s shirt again, feeling the hot flesh there and brushing her thumb against the wire of Scylla’s bra. She leads them both through the front living room to the bedroom hallway.

Scylla giggles when Raelle bumps them into the doorframe.

Raelle's too distracted to be graceful; she’s preoccupied with rubbing her nose against Scylla’s jawline and peppering her throat with kisses.

“Is this okay?” Raelle asks, biting lightly at the beauty mark on Scylla’s throat while her hands touch , smoothing over every bit of Scylla that she can reach. Her hip is slotted against Scylla’s, her thigh pressed hard between Scylla’s legs.

More,” Scylla husks out, hips rolling as she grinds against Raelle’s thigh.

Having Scylla this close to her, her tickling Raelle’s face, her hot panting breath against Raelle’s skin—it makes Raelle feel warmer than she’s been all day. Warmer even than standing in the middle of the boardwalk under the blazing midday sun.

Right now, Raelle feels like she’s on fire.

With each grind of Scylla’s center against her leg, she can feel the pressure that Scylla’s putting into it. And with her head tilted back, Scylla offers up a beautiful expanse of taut muscle that Raelle finds herself desperate to kiss.

And bite.

And lick.

There’s far too many fucking layers between the two of them.

Something heated and frantic inside Raelle threatens to burst; every fiber of her being wants , and there doesn’t seem to be enough seconds in the universe to fulfill that for her. She thinks she might be going insane; there’s such a magnetic pull in her to Scylla that it takes her practically forever for Raelle to wrench the bedroom door open.

(She only manages to do so when she forces herself to pull away from Scylla for a second, passively remembering to hang a laminated ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the handle—Abigail’s actually kinda brilliant idea.)

Inside the bedroom, Raelle takes a moment to look Scylla over. Scylla, flushed, leans against Raelle’s tiny desk looking fucking dreamlike in the dim glow of the fairy lights around the room.

Fuck,” Raelle breathes. “You’re so fucking beautiful.”

The smile that graces Scylla’s face is a gorgeous medley of emotions that makes Raelle’s heart skip a beat. She can’t think at all; she just wants to touch, kiss, and feel. She pushes away from the door to grab Scylla by the hips again, already ducking her head to suck at a pulse point on Scylla’s neck.

The sounds she gets rewarded with are a fucking blessing. They vibrate beneath Raelle’s lips and it makes her scrape her teeth against the warm flesh while her hands work to unbutton Scylla’s shorts.

She only detaches from their embrace to toss Scylla’s shirt away. The sight of Scylla in nothing but an unbuttoned pair of denim shorts and a lacy teal bra is like dowsing Raelle’s internal bonfire with gasoline.

Scylla’s chest rises and falls, her breath coming in short, excited pants. Her eyes are dark, pupils wide from arousal and the dimness of the room. She looks exactly like Raelle feels

The fire in Raelle is roaring. It’s all-consuming. But she’s not being razed to the ground, exactly; she can feel something inside of her flourishing, too—growing and blooming. A small seed left in fertile soil. The first sprout of something great.

She leans her forehead against Scylla’s and smiles into a kiss, still hot and wet, but slower now, more precise.

Her hands are steady when her fingers graze against the hem of Scylla’s underwear, enjoying Scylla’s light gasp as Raelle’s thumb barely slips under the elastic.

Every noise that Scylla makes is another match struck, another flame bursting to life.

Raelle can feel herself sweating through her clothes. She guides Scylla towards the bed and watches her lie back, dark hair splayed against the pale sheets. Raelle swallows, simply parched at the sight in front of her, and trips while trying to take off her shoes. 

Luckily, she falls on top of Scylla, arms bracing to catch her before they make contact.

“Hey there, handsome.” Scylla laughs, breathless and glowing.

It’s absurd that Raelle can still feel so soft when all she wants is to ruin Scylla right now .

It shouldn’t even make sense .

Raelle rubs their noses together sweetly, then shifts forward to kiss Scylla so hard that their teeth clack.

“Fuck, sorry,” Raelle whispers abashedly.

“S’okay.”

Scylla’s smile against her lips feels better than should be allowed.

Raelle kisses her again, reveling in the slow and methodical push and pull of Scylla against her as she kisses back. Scylla lets out a tiny, excited yelp when Raelle nips at her lip. Her breathing quickens once more when Raelle grips her hips and pins them down against the mattress, grinding her pelvis against Scylla’s.

They find a rhythm, a gorgeous ebb and flow of kisses. Raelle bows her head and alternates between nipping and sucking at the soft skin on Scylla’s neck until Scylla hisses at the sting.

“Please,” Scylla slurs, lips brushing against Raelle’s ear. “Please.”

Raelle relents, her body seems to be reacting to a single prime directive, one that’s telling her to give Scylla anything and everything she wants.

Raelle teasingly drags a palm down Scylla’s chest, fingers grazing a hard nipple through the fabric of her bra, nails scraping along her ribs, thumb slipping beneath the hem of her underwear before the rest of her hand follows.

And, God, the wetness she finds makes her moan out loud with Scylla.

It’s so fucking slick that Raelle’s flooded with immediate hunger and pride because she did that. She’s the reason Scylla is keening in the overheated room, arching and straining with a loud and needy gasp.

Raelle teases her further, dipping a fingertip slowly into Scylla and watching her head tilt back, eyes squeezed tightly shut. Scylla goes so still; her body’s still with pent up need , and all Raelle can think is that she wants more . She wants to oblige Scylla, wants to feel Scylla writhing under her.

She pulls her finger back out and preens at the frustrated noise Scylla makes before gently flicking her middle finger against Scylla’s clit and receiving the loveliest moans in return.

Scylla’s just so lovely , in every sense of the word.

“Holy fuck,” Raelle murmurs, slowly sliding back into Scylla again, feeling the way her walls grip at a single digit. “So. Fucking. Wet.”

Scylla lets out a high-pitched moan, hips jerking up against Raelle’s hand. “God, yes.”

She says something else, but it’s muffled by the arm that she’s thrown over her face in an attempt to quiet herself.

No, no.

Raelle halts her hand and stretches back down to press a kiss to the underside of Scylla’s jaw, dragging her lips across the sharp line there. She pulls back and smiles at Scylla.

“It’s okay if you wanna be loud, Scyl.” She pushes another finger into Scylla and damn near giggles in glee at the sound Scylla makes. “I want to hear you. I wanna know how wet I make you.”

She doesn’t know if it’s the nickname or the dirty talk that does it, but Scylla clenches around her fingers and lets out a breathless whine. It’s enough to make Raelle give up the teasing; she stops the slow pumps and settles into an actual rhythm, watching Scylla’s body react when she twists and curls her fingers.

Raelle could die of happiness with the way Scylla’s hands grip her biceps, pressing hard as if to ground herself.

Scylla arches up, stomach and chest pressed to Raelle’s while Raelle trails hot, open-mouthed kisses along her neck, hand working to draw more and more desperate moans from Scylla.

It’s the first tell-tale flutter that gets Raelle. The first spasm at her finger tips, accompanied by a near-silent but frenzied, “fuck, fuck, fuck” from Scylla that gets her to double down. She hooks an arm around Scylla’s waist and drives her fingers in deep each time, curling and rubbing while Scylla tries to grind her clit against Raelle’s palm.

And the noises . Fuck, the noises coming from Raelle’s ministrations are downright debauched. The squish and click of Scylla’s slick folds against Raelle’s hand, the feeling of her wetness between her fingers, sliding down her palm like nectar.

Raelle has a sudden mental image of being down on her knees in front of Scylla just as Scylla freezes, hips stilling, walls clamping down tight on Raelle’s fingers—she comes apart, moaning as Raelle biting down on her shoulder.

Raelle tries her best to drag Scylla’s orgasm out, fingers still pumping into Scylla while she grinds her palm down against Scylla’s swollen clit.

Scylla’s easing down from her high, thighs still twitching when Raelle drags her hand out of Scylla’s shorts, leaving a wet trail along Scylla’s stomach as she brings her fingers up to Scylla’s chin. Raelle grips Scylla’s chin gently, turning her head so she can catch Raelle’s lips in a lazy kiss, wet and messy.

It’s slow and soft, nothing at all like the raging lust in the pit of Raelle’s stomach that flares when Scylla breaks the kiss, bringing her hands to Raelle’s wrist to guide her soaked fingers into her mouth.

Raelle can only watch as Scylla licks her fingers clean. Scylla’s tongue laps at the pads of Raelle’s middle and ring fingers before she sucks them into her mouth, so deep that Raelle can rub her fingers against the back of her tongue.

It makes Raelle wild; she can’t stop the jut of her hips against the open air. She’s intensely aware all of a sudden of the wetness between her own thighs.

“I wanna eat you out,” Raelle blurts out, pulling her fingers from Scylla’s mouth. She drags them all the way down the length of Scylla’s body, letting them rest at her hip. “Please?”

Scylla giggles. She outright fucking giggles, eyes and face awash with lust. She stares into Raelle’s eyes and asks, “And what do I get out of it?”

Raelle can’t help but huff out a small laugh, leaning her forehead against Scylla’s. “Everything. Anything you want. Just wanna…”

Her thoughts peter out, too hooked on the idea of getting to see Scylla come again to finish her sentence. She thinks the image of Scylla coming—eyes clenched tight, throat strained, body arched—is going to be burned into her mind forever.

She leaves wet kisses all along Scylla’s collarbone, listening to the other girl sigh and hum in satisfaction at the feeling of being so thoroughly worshipped.

Scylla threads a hand in Raelle’s hair and grips encouragingly as Raelle dots her necks in kisses and nips. But she still hasn’t given Raelle permission to go down on her, and it’s driving Raelle positively insane

Please?” Raelle asks again, hot with need. “Promise I’ll make you feel so good,” she whispers against flushed skin, mouthing at the soft expanse right above Scylla’s bra, hand already sneaking under Scylla to unclip the obstructing piece of fabric.

“Mm.” Scylla’s eyes are closed, still bathing in her post-orgasm afterglow. “I don’t know. You seem to really want it.”

Raelle groans. “That’s because I do.” She throws the bra across the room, registering a small dink! as it hits something. “I wanna taste you,” she continues, now focusing her attention on the sight of Scylla’s nipples, stiff and aching in the sweltering heat of the room.

She doesn’t wait for Scylla’s response before taking one into her mouth, laving it over with her tongue and squeezing it gently between her teeth before sucking. The reaction she pulls from Scylla is addictive—her hand tightens further in Raelle’s hair, breath catching, arching into Raelle’s mouth and holding her head there.

Raelle thinks that she might be okay dying like this, on her bed with the most gorgeous person she’s ever had the pleasure of touching. Suffocated by beautiful boobs in the remnants of burning summer.

She'd be so much more okay if she could die with her face between Scylla’s legs though.

Fuck.

The idea alone is enough to make her groan against Scylla’s breast. She brings a hand to Scylla’s other nipple and tweaks it gently, rolling and flicking it between her fingers while she moves a thigh back between Scylla’s legs.

She almost fucking growls when Scylla’s tugs at her hair, pulling Raelle’s mouth away from her nipple with a wet pop.

It’s like Scylla doesn’t understand that if Raelle’s mouth isn’t on her, Raelle might die . She might just fade away into nothingness, swallowed by the cavernous yearning that’s sounding through her body.

But then Scylla applies the nicest amount of pressure to the top of Raelle’s head, guiding her down between her legs, and Raelle’s heart does a backflip in sheer exhilaration.

She practically tears Scylla’s shorts off of her, throwing it into the same corner as her bra. She stares hungrily at the one piece of (soaked) fabric separating her from Scylla’s cunt.

“Well, you wanted to eat me out.” Scylla’s voice, while breathy, is still impressively smug. She smirks. “I’m waiting.”

Raelle spares no more time, sinking to her knees and spreading Scylla’s legs so she can slot herself between them, hands trailing along the soft, soft, soft flesh of Scylla’s inner thighs.

She can see the imprints from where the seams of Scylla’s shorts pressed tightly against her, can see the reddening caused by the friction from when she was grinding against Raelle’s thigh. It’s so fucking beautiful that Raelle can’t stop herself from leaving a teasing trail of kisses up Scylla’s thigh, biting teasingly until Scylla’s hand once again grips her hair, jerking up to bump herself against Raelle’s nose. 

Raelle.”

Something about hearing her name be moaned like that—so reverent and needy—combined with the fact that Scylla’s soaked through her underpants—it’s all so electric and good that Raelle can barely even bring herself to keep teasing Scylla. 

Because, horribly, wonderfully, Raelle’s never really wanted anyone as much as she wants Scylla right now. She takes the elastic waistband of Scylla’s underpants in her teeth and eases them down a little ways, before finally reaching it up and ripping them off the rest of the way with a desperate yank of her hands.

Scylla’s slick on the insides of her thighs and Raelle steadies herself enough for one small lick across damp skin before she moves to where Scylla wants her most.

Her shirt is riding up her stomach and she can feel sweat collecting on her forehead, but the discomfort means nothing to her right now. Scylla’s clit is stiff and shiny in the dim light—Raelle’s own drenched cunt clenches around nothing but sheer desire at the sight of her.

It’s clear Scylla’s dying for Raelle to taste her. And who is Raelle to keep her waiting?

Raelle wets her lips and presses in, breathing through her nose as her tongue flicks against Scylla’s clit. There’s a stuttered and tense, “Ah!” that trickles out of Scylla and Raelle has to try her best not to lose her cool.

Scylla’s hand flexes in Raelle’s hair approvingly as Raelle flattens out her tongue, dragging it low and dipping into Scylla. 

Scylla tastes like sweat and salt and something as close to God as Raelle thinks she’ll ever get. Raelle luxuriates in the feeling of Scylla pulsing around her tongue before pulling out to wrap her lips around Scylla’s clit, sucking and swirling it with her tongue.

Scylla’s hands are in her hair, she’s grinding against Raelle’s face; her legs tremble against Raelle’s shoulders and her back arches, as she inches ever closer to the edge.

“So. Good.” Scylla praises, voice breathy and high, which only serves to spur Raelle on more .

Her fingers grip tight enough into Scylla’s thighs that she’s almost sure she’s going to leave bruises. She relaxes a little when Scylla’s grip in her hair tightens in response. She moans into Scylla, grinning at the corresponding gasp of satisfaction from the vibrations against her clit.

Raelle lets Scylla grind against her tongue—dragging, following, and pushing with the pace that Scylla sets and reaping all the rewards of every noise and word that drops from Scylla’s lips. Despite the humidity in the room, the sweat that’s causing them to stick where their skin meets, and the slight discomfort settling into Raelle’s knees, Raelle finds that she can’t seem to give a fuck.

Scylla’s writhing underneath her, arching up so far that her ribs are highlighted by the motes of light strung up along the wall. And when Raelle looks up— fuck when she looks up —she sees Scylla watching her through heavy-lidded eyes.

Raelle can tell that Scylla’s close, and a part of her mourns that she won’t get to do this forever. She kind of wants to live between Scylla’s legs with the sole purpose of making Scylla fall apart with every flick and whirl of her tongue.

It feels silly that her heart should clench in adoration when Scylla finally freezes, eyes closed, her thighs clamping around Raelle’s head as Raelle focuses her attention completely on making Scylla’s come.

Fuck! ” Scylla keens, hips leaving the bed, frozen in the air as she humps against Raelle’s mouth.

Raelle moans shamelessly into her cunt, taking in every clenching pulse of orgasm that Scylla gives her, smearing slick wetness all over her chin until she feels it drip down onto the sheets beneath them.

It’s heady.

It’s addictive.

Fuck.

Fuck fuck fuck.

She lets Scylla ride out her orgasm slowly, labored pants and moans giving way to soft sighs and delighted chuckles.

Raelle stays locked between Scylla’s thighs, lavishing broad licks and gentle sucks as she guides Scylla down from her peak. She allows herself to bathe in the reward of a job well done. After several long moments, Scylla’s legs fall back open and her hands smooth gently over Raelle’s head, nails scratching lightly against her scalp.

The climb back up to Scylla’s body is slow; Raelle can’t stop herself from trailing kisses all the way. She leaves a beautiful hickey right on Scylla’s hip, kissing all the way up to her lips where Scylla meets her with shimmering eyes and a smile that melts Raelle.

“Hey.” Raelle smiles, bumping her nose against Scylla’s.

Hey.” Scylla laughs. “Anybody ever tell you that you’re really good at that?”

Raelle laughs too, hiding her face in Scylla’s neck and rubbing her face against the skin there. “Mm, couple times, maybe. Could do to hear it more from you though.”

“You’re very good at eating girls out, Raelle Collar.”

The husky tone of Scylla’s words, the sultry way she says it—it draws the lowest of moans from Raelle. There’s something deep in her core that’s stretching and pulling and demanding for attention, taking up enough space in her mind that all she can think about it is the maddening pulse of yearning between her legs.

She doesn’t even realize she’s grinding against Scylla’s thigh until Scylla makes a noise somewhere between a gasp and a moan of appreciation.

“Wait, stop, stop—stop,” Scylla pants in hot breaths as she sits up, arms tensing as her hands grip Raelle’s hips, halting her in place.

Raelle freezes, worried that she’s done something wrong. “Shit, sorry—what’s wrong?”

She’s still panting and uncomfortably wet; she’s pretty sure that she’s drenched through her jeans and close to death, but her heart rate spikes in worry at the idea of doing something wrong. But that feeling is immediately tempered by the smile on Scylla’s face.

“No, it’s okay. You’re alright.” Scylla smooths her hands over Raelle’s thighs before grazing her fingers along the hem of her jeans. “I just think—maybe you wanna get rid of these? I kind of…”—her voice drops into a husky whisper—“...want to feel you.”

Raelle’s never taken her pants off that quickly in her fucking life.

Her jeans and underwear are tossed across the room in a matter of seconds, kissing Scylla needily the whole time—it’s all tongue, teeth, and passion as they scoot back onto the large bed some more.

Then Scylla presses her thigh hard against Raelle’s cunt, and Raelle swears she can taste the rainbows that explode behind her vision. She pushes down for more, the rocking of her hips jerky and desperate.

Raelle can hear how wet she is with every drag of her hips, the quiet but depraved noises that tell her just how fucking lost in Scylla she is.

That, in conjunction with Scylla biting down gently on Raelle’s throat, brings Raelle closer to coming than anything else ever has.

Scylla leaves bruises along Raelle’s neck, one hand guides Raelle’s hips. She drags her free hand along Raelle’s back, leaving a stinging trail with her blunted nails.

Raelle can’t stop the loud cry of bliss that escapes from her throat. She’s so fucking close. Just a little more and she’ll—

It’s with barely-conscious acknowledgement that Scylla’s hand has moved from her hip, now rubbing beautifully sloppy circles around her clit, and Raelle’s vision goes white as her entire body tenses, hips pumping messily against Scylla’s dutiful fingers.

And holy shit, surely this must be the hardest she’s come. Ever

She’s not even being properly fucked—only grinding like some hormone-addled teenager—and it’s still enough to make her choke on her own spit as she scrapes heaven and sees God.

Who knew God was a tiny brunette with a sly smirk and deft fingers?

Raelle collapses against Scylla, thighs still twitching with tremors as she comes down.

She’s still dizzy and half-gone when Scylla drags a hand through Raelle’s wetness from behind and brings it up to her mouth, her eyes meeting Raelle’s as she shamelessly licks her fingers clean.

“Holy fuck. You’re trying to kill me,” Raelle mumbles into Scylla’s shoulder.

The rumbling of laughter in Scylla’s chest makes Raelle grin and pull her face back just to watch Scylla’s mouth turn up into a relaxed smile. Scylla bites her lip, expression so pleased and open that Raelle feels the last remnants of her defenses crumble entirely.

She can’t resist the urge to lean and kiss that wonderful smile, her heart beating a million times a second. 

“Nah,” Scylla says against Raelle's lips. “I’m just trying to get my share of you.”

It’s not like the fire in Raelle has gone out, but hearing Scylla say that with a raspy voice only reignites the blazing fire with a vengeance.

“Water break, then ride my face?” Raelle says, wiggling her eyebrows as her hands are already moving to push herself up.

Scylla’s laugh is music to her fucking ears.

xx

At one point, as Raelle is peppering kisses up Scylla’s back while she comes down from another orgasm, they hear footsteps outside the bedroom, followed by a familiar voice.

“Oh, Goddamn it.”

Abigail’s back, apparently.

Scylla smothers a laugh into the blankets while Raelle bites her lip and smiles, half delighted and half horrified at the sound of well-known Bellweather stomps as Abigail accepts the situation and resigns herself to the living room.

Raelle and Scylla carry on making love for hours , taking turns dragging each other towards orgasm after orgasm, separated by casual conversation—

“Old fashioned over regular glazed any day,” Scylla insists.

“Oh, fuck off!” Raelle laughs, capping the water bottle she’d been greedily drinking from and setting it back onto the side table.

Scylla quirks an eyebrow, “I’d rather fuck you, to be honest.”

—until they both pass out, tangled in each other and thoroughly sated.

xx

Raelle wakes up to the first peaks of daylight coming through the blinds, bathing the room in a muted blue. Her sleep-ridden brain registers everything slowly: the limbs tangled in hers, the head resting on her chest, the arms wrapped around her middle.

Scylla, laying wrapped around her, legs intertwined and hair splayed across Raelle’s shoulder.

She tries to be slow and careful when she lifts her head to check the clock on the desk across from the bed, blinking in a dim red light that reads a little past five o’clock.

Despite all her caution and slow movements, Scylla still stirs anyway.

Raelle freezes, unsure of what to do—if she should just stay motionless until Scylla falls back asleep, if she should apologize, or if she should get up and make them breakfast.

She opts to stay still until Scylla shifts a bit, blinking sleepily up at Raelle before smiling at her awkward scrunched-up face of a good morning greeting.

“Morning,” Raelle says, taken with the way Scylla nuzzles softly into her; she can’t help but press a kiss to the corner of Scylla’s mouth. “Is that okay?”

Scylla’s nod results in the softest bump of her nose against Raelle’s cheek. “More than.”

It feels so peaceful, so utterly calm that Raelle’s content to lay here and fall back asleep until they’re actually properly rested.

Of course, she’s in the middle of doing exactly that, drifting off with her nose pressed against Scylla’s hair, when there’s loud and excited banging on the door.

Raelle groans , tucking her body closer to Scylla’s and wrapping her arm tighter around the other girl despite the tingles of numbness.

“Go away!” She yells, making sure to turn away from Scylla’s ears.

Tally’s way-too-loud-for-5am voice comes through, “Wake up! Glory’s friends just called and told us to meet them at the beach! They found baby turtles!”

Scylla lets out a small grumble, but is already pulling away from Raelle to stretch the sleep from her limbs, to Raelle’s great dismay.

She just wanted to curl up and drift back to sleep with Scylla in her arms, but she settles for rubbing her face into the pillow and grazing a hand against Scylla’s stomach.

“Why the fuck were they on the beach this early?” She murmurs, mostly to herself.

Scylla lets out a small laugh, hand catching Raelle’s and lacing their fingers together. She brushes her thumb along Raelle’s and Raelle beams, a flurry of butterflies springing into existence in her stomach.

“I’m not sure, but I would like to see the turtles, if you’re down, up, and around for it.”

Raelle lets out a dramatic groan, throwing her free arm over her eyes. “Ugh, God, fine , just stop looking at me like that or we’ll never leave this bed.”

Scylla lets out a long hum, leaning down to give Raelle a quick chaste kiss. “As good as that sounds, you underestimate my love for the ocean and also turtles.”

She feels Scylla shift off the bed, almost too proud of herself when she catches the small wince when Scylla stands.

Fuck yeah, I did that.

“Ugh, my shorts are ruined, do you have any clothes I could borrow?” Scylla asks as if her sentence wasn’t designed to shake Raelle down to her core.

It takes a moment for Raelle to learn how to speak.

“Guh. Uh, yeah. Check the top drawer over there for shirts n’ the one below it for pants.” She says, gesturing at the wardrobe pressed against the wall and adamantly ignoring the warmth that creeps up on her at the sight of Scylla’s naked body.

xx

It’s not cold out, but it is just breezy enough that Raelle offers Scylla a flannel to throw over the t-shirt and sweats that she’d given her. The sight alone is something to write home about. In fact, Raelle finds herself unable to tear her eyes away from Scylla at all.

The walk to the shore is peaceful; nobody else seems to be awake, barring a couple of early bird coffee shop employees and joggers.

Raelle and Scylla lag behind Abigail and Tally, who seem to have much more energy, power-walking and skipping in the early morning light.

It’s a slow stroll; they don’t rush, despite the promise of baby turtles swimming their way out to sea.

Raelle’s grateful for the relief from yesterday’s oppressive heat. She lets the gentle ocean breeze wash over her as they finally make it to the shore—just in time to see the sun beginning to peek over the horizon, scattering the sky in oranges and blues.

“Oh my God! There they are!” Tally’s booking it already, running towards the small group of people huddling around a nest of hatching turtle eggs.

“Wait, Tally! Slow down! Don’t run any over!”

And there goes Abigail, chasing after Tally to make sure she doesn’t get hurt.

Like always.

Raelle rolls her eyes, looking apologetically at Scylla. But Scylla’s just looking at her with an expression Raelle can’t quite decipher.

“What?” Raelle asks, both nervous and curious.

Scylla shakes her head. “Nothing. You’re just...not what I expected to find here.”

Raelle hums, kicking sand up and watching the wind carry it along. “What were you expecting?”

A shrug. “I don’t know. Certainly not you.”

A comfortable silence falls over them. Only the quiet roar of the ocean waves and Abigail and Tally’s distant shouting breaking through their bubble.

Scylla looks beautiful in the morning sun and Raelle is charmed by the way the golden light spills into her eyes and turns them into a pale blue rimmed in darker cerulean.

“Go on a date with me?” Raelle asks, before she can overthink it.

Scylla looks shocked; Raelle carries on, barreling through before she can bail.

“I know we did things kind of backwards and you’re in town to figure stuff out, but...” Raelle has to look away. She fidgets with her palm to keep her nerves from showing, feeling a blush crawl up her neck. “I think you’re really beautiful and last night was amazing and—”

Mercifully, Scylla cuts off her babbling with a sweet kiss. “I’d love to.”

Raelle bites her lip to suppress a giddy smile. “Cool.”

“You guys!” Tally yells at them across the sand. “Stop being gross and come watch these eggs hatch!” 

Scylla’s nose scrunches up as she smiles and yells back, “How is that any less gross?!”

“It’s the miracle of life!” Raelle can practically hear Abigail rolling her eyes. “Y’all are just horny!”

Raelle flushes with embarrassment, but Scylla lets out a gorgeous, unburdened laugh.

“I mean, she’s not wrong,” Scylla says, knocking her hand against Raelle’s and linking their fingers together. “C’mon.”

There’s nothing to do other than follow Scylla’s lead, letting her guide the two of them closer to the bundle of people gathered around the turtles that are slowly hatching and crawling their way out to sea.