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Fool's Gold

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This girl will actually be the death of her. If Laura puts yet another stop to this make out session, Carmilla thinks she’ll probably die, or have some kind of stroke, because Laura keeps making satisfied little noises into her mouth every time Carmilla moves her hands to Laura’s thighs and squeezes, pulling her closer into her lap. This is the part where Laura keeps pulling back — to talk, or to laugh, or to breathe — just when things start to get mildly interesting.

Laura moves her lips to Carmilla’s neck and she’s actually grateful for the interruption when it comes — as much as she loves the graze of Laura’s teeth against her skin, she doesn’t expect her mother would appreciate a bruise she hadn’t put there herself. It’s not a situation she’s eager to explain. When Laura pulls back, she doesn’t complain.

“Okay, I’m about to say something really petty and jealous and just, well, completely childish, actually.” Laura kisses her again, since this is pretty much their only method of communication these days. Talk. Kiss. Talk some more. Kiss some more. “Like, totally childish.” Another kiss. “And really petty, I mentioned petty already.”

Carmilla thinks she can say whatever she damn well pleases as long as Laura keeps sucking on her lower lip like this.

“And you’re not allowed to hold it against me or bring it up later, because I’m completely aware of how immature I’m being, and also  because I said so.”

Carmilla’s hands move to cup Laura’s cheeks and she kisses her once, just enough to make it count, before she lets her pull back again. “Wanna spit it out sometime this week?”

“Am I a better kisser than Elsie?”

(Why is she not surprised?)

“Elsie who?”

Confusion flashes across her face and she can see the words “you know who” written all over Laura’s expression until it fades into a smile and she kisses her again. “Okay. Good answer.”

Laura shifts against her and Carmilla sinks back against the couch while they kiss. When Laura gets dangerously close to leaving another mark — this time just below her jaw — Carmilla pushes against her shoulder.

“What about me? Better than Kirsch?”

Laura sits up straighter, and it’s the cause of a significant amount of unintentional friction. Laura laughs, and she’s not sure if it’s in response to her question or just her nervous habit.

“Better than seven minutes in a closet at Betty Spielsdorf’s thirteenth birthday party?” Laura hums into another kiss. “Much.”

It’s another few minutes of kissing before they get back to the same place they keep stopping at — Laura’s hands in her hair, Carmilla gripping at her sides, scratching the fabric of Laura’s jeans over her thighs. Laura pushes her back into the couch, their chests pressed together and straight up moans into her mouth. It’s soft, but it’s there, and Laura pulls back almost immediately.

“Tell me about your first kiss.” Laura's chest heaves against hers and her breath is hot against Carmilla's skin.

She takes a second to catch her breath. “Isn’t it rude to talk about ex-girlfriends with current girlfriends?”

Laura frowns. “I’m just asking about one of your exes.” She doesn’t miss her tone of voice — it’s pouty and  a little bitter.

Carmilla takes pity on her. “I only have one ex.”

“Elsie?”

“She doesn’t count.”

“Okay.” She thinks about that. “How many girls have you not counted?”

Laura.”

She sighs and sits back a little. Laura gives her a quick peck on the lips before she shifts her weight towards her left side, swinging her body back towards the couch.

Carmilla’s lap feels cold now, and she’s not thrilled about the lack of touching.

“Just tell me about your first kiss. I don’t even know who gave it to you.” Laura reaches a hand to the coffee table and brings her tardis mug to her lips. Carmilla wishes they could screw the talking and just get back to kissing. She wants to see if Laura tastes like grape soda, or whatever she has in that cup. She leans towards her and Laura meets her halfway for a soft kiss.

Grape soda, just like she thought.

Laura turns on her side and lets her head fall back against the couch. “C’mon, I wanna know about you.”

“You know more about me than anyone does.” It’s not a lie if she doesn’t count her mother.

Please? First kiss, come on. Spill, I want details.”

Carmilla drums her fingers over the leg Laura still has across her lap. “Her name was Ell.” It’s almost a strange thing to think about her again. She hasn’t thought of her in ages. Not anything real, anyway. Maybe in passing, but it’s never been so easy to say her name before. “In middle school we were...” She laughs softly. “Best friends.”

When she looks up, Laura is watching her intently, nodding. Carmilla supposes she really does have a type.

“It wasn’t a big deal or anything. I think I kissed her in her backyard or something. We were just trying things out. Her parents weren’t very accepting of me. And then there was my mother — well, I’m sure you can connect those dots.”

Laura’s shoulders slump. “Right.”

“I don’t think we ever dated. But we were more than friends. It was just,” She shrugs, “A lot of kissing behind closed doors. Holding hands under desks. Wearing each others clothes.”

Laura bites her lip and toys with Carmilla’s fingers for a moment. “I came out to my Dad.”

“Laura, that wasn’t—”

“No, I know. I know, I just thought you should know. He knows about us,” Laura looks down. “If that... matters to you.”

It does. It really does. “What does he think?”

“He thinks you’re using your romantic wiles to take advantage of me and you’re a horrible, horrible influence, bound to lead me astray any day now.”

She almost falls for it.

Carmilla narrows her eyes. “You think you’re so funny.”

“I think I’m cute.” Laura corrects her. “And my Dad thinks you’re amazing.”

It’s not like her heart swells or anything, but — “Yeah?”

“I believe the words great kid were used last night when we were talking about you.”

She grins. “Good.” That’s when she decides they’re done talking, because this is all getting far too close to the after school special vibe she refuses to be a part of, and Carmilla slips a hand around Laura’s neck and leans in to pull her back into another kiss. Laura blindly aims for the coffee table with her mug. Whether she finds it or not, her hand is free of the drink and gripping Carmilla’s thigh in the next moment — that’s nice. She rewards her by dropping her kisses to Laura’s jaw and neck. She could listen to Laura trying to control her own volume all day long.

“Wow.” Laura breathes into her ear. “Wait, wait.” She pulls back. “Ell. What happened with her?”

“This is horrible kissing talk, sweetheart.” She can’t even lean in before she gets caught in the way Laura softens.

“You don’t have to tell me.”

Yes, she does. She takes one look at the same eyes that have been open to her since the day they met and yes, she does.

“My mother happened.” Carmilla looks away and shrugs. “Then she moved away.”

“Do you still have feelings for her?”

Her eyes snap back to Laura, more insecure than ever before, which might be a look for the record books at this point.

“Laura?”

“Yeah?”

“I have feelings for you.” Maybe she should get used to having this conversation. It’s come up at least four times now. “Please wipe off that kicked puppy look on your face.”

“Right.” Laura laughs and shakes her head. “Right, stupid question. So stupid.”

“Can we go back to kissing now?”

Laura grins. “Yes, please.”

She’s more eager this time than Carmilla expected. Her eyebrows raise in a more than pleasant surprise when Laura slips her tongue into Carmilla’s mouth. She returns the favor and cups the back of Laura’s head to hold her in place while they pour themselves into the kiss. It’s moments like these that leave her wondering why they ever do anything but kiss now that they’ve figured out how good they are together.

Okay, maybe not that good. It’s still clumsy sometimes.

Laura struggles against their combined weight to push them down on the couch, but Carmilla can feel the pain in her shoulder spike from where she had landed at the bottom of the stairs the night before. It doesn’t feel good and it feels even worse when Laura tries to lay her back against the armrest. Before she can put any real effort into it, Carmilla pushes back to stop her. There’s a bit of a struggle and a fair amount of elbowing, but Laura smiles against her mouth through it all, so she doesn’t let herself get embarrassed.

Carmilla takes the initiative the moment their kissing gets heated again. She pushes Laura back against the couch and lays down on top of her. This is good. This has the potential to be a lot worse. There’s no pain in this position. It’s both awkward and clumsy to kiss like this — neither of them have really gotten the hang of kissing on the couch. Their positions are awkward and their hand placement is awkward and the kissing is hot, but still awkward.  The bed is easier territory to master. Lots of space. Lots of pillows. No armrests. No remote controls digging into anyone’s side.

Laura’s hands move from Carmilla’s sides to her back. The feeling of a warm hand sliding underneath the back of her shirt is enough to shock her into pulling away for half a moment.

Laura takes advantage. “I wish you were my first kiss,” she whispers.

“I can be your first other things.”

Laura’s hands are more confident than any part of Carmilla. Her fingers slide further up the back of her shirt. Maybe that was too much too soon. It feels like too much too soon. This time Carmilla comes up with the distraction.

“Why — was kissing Kirsch in a closet not your cup of tea?”

Laura laughs. “On the contrary, actually. Seventh grade Laura thought seven minutes in heaven with the most popular guy in school was exactly her cup of tea.”

Carmilla presses a long kiss to her lips and lingers for a moment. “And now?”

She thinks about it. “And now I drink coffee.”

“That was good.” She laughs into Laura’s neck and presses a kiss to her pulse point. “You come up with that yourself?”

“I might have read it on the internet.”

When she comes up for air, she laughs. “Too predictable, Hollis.”

“Shut up.”

Carmilla pushes herself up to take a minute and look at Laura — flushed cheeks, wide eyes, and disheveled hair. “Coffee tastes better anyway,” She says with another kiss.

Things are tense.

Sure, they go through phases of things being tense. They’re Perry and LaFontaine, after all.

(Emphasis on the Perry. LaFontaine is usually only tense if Perry is.)

But right now things are especially tense. All they can hear is the clinking of spoons in cereal bowls and the blanket of silence over them. Silence is just a lack of noise reverberating off other objects, they know that, but this silence is loud. And they can feel it.

Perry’s mother left for work a few minutes ago and now they’re eating breakfast before school — it’s their usual routine, but Perry has something on her mind. LaFontaine knows it.

“I want to talk to you about something.”

And there it is.

“Thank God. It’s been getting kinda stuffy in here.” LaFontaine jokingly tugs on the side of their collar.

“This isn’t a joke, LaFontaine.”

Wow. The feeling of their entire chest sinking into their stomach is really something; as much of a placebo as they know it is, it’s something. “Alright. Is something wrong?”

“I think so.” Perry puts her spoon down. “I’m not stupid, you know. Just because I like to pretend things are fine and normal and okay, it doesn’t mean that I believe it.”

They nod. “I know that. Perr, you’re the smartest girl I know. Come on.”

“Oh, good.” She plasters a fake smile on her face and nods. “Good. So you think that I’m smart. Of course. Good. Great.” One look at her face and LaFontaine knows things are the opposite of good. She looks like she’s on the verge of a mental breakdown, actually. “So you just think that I don’t care about you. Great.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Something’s wrong!” She snaps. Perry takes a deep breath before she starts again, barely keeping her voice calm. “Something’s wrong. Something about you is changing. Something’s happening and you won’t tell me, but you don’t think I’m too stupid to know, so clearly you just think that I don’t care.”

They swallow. “Perr, nothing is wrong.” To be fair, they gave that lie a valiant effort, but it’s hard to keep their cool with Perry falling apart.

“Stop lying to me. Just stop it. I’m not...” She wipes at her eyes and shakes her head. “Asking you to tell me. I’m not forcing it out of you. This has been going on for weeks. I thought if I just pretended it was fine, things would go back to being normal. But I’m done pretending. And if you want to keep pretending, that’s your prerogative. But I’m done.” A second later, she adds, “Pretending. You could, too.”

LaF looks down at their unfinished bowl of cereal. "We're gonna be late for school, Perr."

“You shouldn’t sit next to me in class.”

Kirsch looks up from the paper airplane he’s been carefully crafting and raises his eyebrows in that way that makes his eyes look softer. For a second she thinks he looks vulnerable. “I sit next to you in econ.”

He does. It used to annoy her.

Danny rolls her eyes. “We don’t share econ with half the people we’ve ever met.” Her eyes scan the room and land on Laura and Carmilla’s desk on the other side of the class.

“Dude, nobody knows, don’t worry about it.”

Danny scoffs. She does what she can to make a laugh sound condescending. “Laura has her suspicions. Even you should have caught on to that.”

He sits up. “Hey. What’s that supposed to mean?”

“How do you keep an idiot in suspense?”

Kirsch shrugs. “I don’t know. How?”

She grins. “How do you keep an idiot in suspense?”

He rolls his eyes. “I just told you, I don’t know.”

Kirsch leans back and crosses his arms over his chest with a smile. “And people call me the dumb one.”

Incredible.

They both turn to look at Laura together. She has her hand under the table as if that does anything to hide the fact that she and Carmilla are holding hands.

Clearly, Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way is too cool for public hand holding.

God, she can already hear Laura in her ear. You're one to talk.

She's not. But it's Carmilla she's dealing with here and she's honor bound to mock anyone that pretentious.

Mr. Beckett says something about their next assignment and Laura looks up to pay attention, giving Carmilla the chance to press a kiss against Laura's shoulder and turn back to scribbling in her notebook.

Kirsch nudges her side. "I'm pretty sure a plane could like, land in the middle of this classroom and Laura wouldn't even notice."

That makes them both laugh, and as much as she hates to think it, Kirsch is right. Any sane person paying attention would be panicking right now because Danny and Kirsch laughing together should be a sign of the apocalypse. Danny wonders if she should start stocking non-perishables just in case.

"I have no idea how Laura managed to score the second hottest ch— ... girl in school."

Danny smiles. She's singlehandedly training the words "chick" and "hottie" out of his vocabulary. So idiots can learn.

"Hottest is me right?"

He doesn't hesitate. "Totally."

Another smile from Danny. What can she say, she's having a good day. "Well, it's not like we didn't see it coming."

"We totally did, didn't we?" He sounds proud of himself and Danny rolls her eyes. She opens her mouth to tell him not to strain his arm patting himself on the back, but Mr. Beckett gives them both a pointed look and then sits in his swivel chair at the front of the class to flip through one of his power points.

"For those of you who have actually read the syllabus," He starts, and Danny doesn't even have to look to know Perry is the only one sitting up proudly in her seat right now. Kirsch shifts in his seat and they share an uneasy glance. "You should know we have another project due before the break."

The class breathes a collective sigh of relief. It's not a pop quiz and thank God. Her grade probably couldn't survive another failed quiz.

"Today we start chapter four, can anyone tell me what chapter four is about?" Crickets. The shuffle of converse on the tile floor. Nobody speaks. "Has anyone even read chapter four?" Not even Perry speaks up. "Anyone?" Mr. Beckett sighs and rubs a hand down his face. "I should have been a mechanic. Ten bonus points to the first person who can tell me a single thing about chapter four of your textbook."

The room floods with the sounds of pages being flipped as everyone digs into their textbooks at once, except Carmilla, who inevitably ignores the teacher in favor of playing with a strand of Laura's hair. She stops when everyone turns to stare at them, because it's Laura that speaks first.

"Eating disorders."

"Thank you, Laura. Can you tell me anything about eating disorders?"

Laura sinks in her seat. "Not really."

Danny rolls her eyes at Beckett, who's already sighing like Laura is the world's biggest inconvenience. Teachers like him piss her off. They don't teach a thing and then act exasperated when students — surprise, surprise — don't know what they're talking about.

Beckett flips through his powerpoint outlining the project rubric and doing an overview of the chapter.

"You can pick your partners, but I don't want to see any funny business this time."

She's suddenly reminded of the Jurassic Park movies and those scenes where people hide behind cars and the massive T-Rex teeth slowly creep into view just inches from where people are hiding. She thinks the way Kirsch pushes himself into her line of vision the moment Beckett says "pick your partners" reminds her of that T-Rex.

He raises his eyebrows and she rolls her eyes. Maybe. At least if they fail this project too she can blame it all on him.

Beckett keeps flipping through his slides, skimming through the material in a monotone voice. "Anorexia nervosa. Bulimia nervosa. Binge eating disorder. Variations of each. Causes, symptoms, treatments. This is a broad subject ladies and gentlemen; I expect to see a lot of effort put into your projects. Pick a topic. I'm looking for a ten to fifteen slide powerpoint. Ten sources. And a presentation poster.

Kirsch bumps her shoulder with his whispers, "C'mon, D-Bear, do it with me."

Ignoring the obvious innuendo, Danny laughs at him. "D-Bear? That's how you think you'll convince me to tolerate you on another project?"

"I'm trying things out. I think it works for you."

"It doesn't."

"I'll stop calling you D-Bear if you agree." He almost bounces in his seat out of excitement.

"Fine."

"Sweet. You won't regret it, D-Bear."

She narrows her eyes.

"D-Tiger?"

"Danny."

Kirsch nods. "Got it. Danny." He's still grinning when Beckett comes around to hand out the rubric.

"Eating disorders are serious. This is a serious project and I expect serious effort. Don't screw this up." He drops the rest of the rubrics on his front desk and turns around, crossing his arms over his chest. "Maybe you'll learn something this time."

It's only when she reaches the playground that Carmilla realizes who she's been looking at since she stepped on the field. She's been walking and squinting for the most part, trying to see who's hanging out on her playground. It's dark and some idiot is sitting on a swing, smoking a cigarette.

When she reaches the playground she sees it's her idiot.

"Will?"

He stands up and whips around to face her, the cigarette still hanging out of the corner of his mouth.

She takes it from his mouth.

"What the hell is this?" God, she came here to relax, not have a heart attack. "You're an idiot, what's wrong with you?"

"How did you know I was here?"

She didn't. "Lucky guess. Since when do you smoke?" She takes in what he's wearing — jeans, a white shirt, a leather jacket. "I'm going to regret caring here, but what the hell is this?"

He shrugs. "I'm practicing."

"For what, your John Travolta audition? I know your overgrown beefcake bro is into Grease, but I don't think he swings that way."

"Shut up, some people think it's hot. And I'm not doing it for Kirsch, alright?"

Carmilla stares at the cigarette between her fingers. She really hates being a babysitter. He was easier to handle when he was ten and she could distract him with a Klondike bar.

"You're telling me your rebellious phase is rearing it's fucked up head right now so you can impress some guy?"

He shoves his hands in his pockets and avoids the question. "When did you have your rebellious phase?"

She lowers her hand but hangs on to the cigarette. "My whole life is a rebellious phase."

Will laughs and rolls his eyes. "I'm impressed. You genuinely think you're that cool, don't you?"

She steps back until her back hits the pole that holds up the swingset. She leans against it and looks down at the cigarette in her hand. "I'm cooler than you." Carmilla brings the cigarette to her lips and sucks in a breath of smoke.

It's not easy to smoke. She's tried it once or twice — her mother smokes, she always has cigarettes somewhere in the house. She doesn't have to ask Will where he got a pack for himself. It usually goes just like this. She breathes it in and can't get over the sense of breathing something foreign. It feels like something between air and water and the sense of drowning is too much. She tries to inhale but she can't control the coughing fit it brings.

Maybe next time.

Through coughs, she hears Will laugh. "Yeah, I can see that."

Carmilla lets the cigarette drop to the ground and she stomps on it for good measure.

Her eyes water and her throat feels dry, but she moves past it. "Listen, if you want to act like an idiot and ruin your life, get a flask. Get hooked on cheap liquor, not something that'll kill you."

"What the hell do you care?"

She laughs and pushes herself off the pole, sliding her hand down a swing chain. "Wow, you've gone full-blown dick now, haven't you."

"Shut up."

"God, we are so related. You sure as hell didn't get that from Mom."

Will decides to take the strong and silent type route, one she knows too well. Carmilla sits on the swing.

"You know what? You want to fuck up your life, be my guest. But I'm not letting you get addicted to something that's gonna kill you just so you can impress a boy."

Will looks at her. He's pouting, but he's listening. That's all she needs.

"Besides, I might need a kidney from you one day."

He valiantly fights a smile and settles on a low blow. "Like you've never done something you didn't want to do just to impress some girl."

Touché.

Will messes with the chain of the swing next to hers. "How's that going, by the way? You guys are together now, right? I see you around school all the time. And you're not home a lot, but when you are, you seem..."

"I seem what?"

"Like you're getting laid." He says with a smirk.

Carmilla grins.

"So are you?"

She plays dumb to mess with him. "Am I getting laid?"

"Are you with her? But yeah, I guess the other thing, too."

Carmilla kicks at the wood chips at her feet. "I'm with her. And as for the other thing... That's for me to know and for you to mind your own business."

"That's a no." Will grins and takes a seat in the swing next to her. "Have you told Mom?"

She gives him a pointed look.

He remembers Ell, then. She can see it in his eyes. "Yeah, I guess not, huh?"

"She doesn't need to know."

"What if you marry Laura, will you tell her then?"

She rolls her eyes. "Why the hell would I be thinking about marriage?"

"I don't know, but it's probably the same reason you smile when you talk about her. Even when you're not getting any."

"I'm getting more than you."

Will shuts his mouth for a few peaceful seconds before he starts to talk again. Not talk, sing.

"Carmilla and Laura, sittin' in a tree," He starts to sing softly, "K-I-S-S-I-N-G."

"You're a child, William."

"First comes love, then comes marriage."

"You know what, smoke a pack a day, see if I care."

Will starts to laugh at his own joke and Carmilla resists the urge to pour coffee over all his favorite shoes. Teenage boys love shoes. She wonders if he would cry.

"Hey, if you ever get married, I'm totally the best man, right?"

Carmilla kicks off from the ground and absentmindedly lets her swing move. "Girls don't get a best man."

"But aren't you the guy in the relationship?"

Carmilla smiles. Laura would have some very serious words to say to that kind of implication. Besides, Laura kind of wears the pants when it comes to just about anything. She's okay with that.

"Did you actually just say that?"

"What?"

She rolls her eyes. "Are you gonna be the girl in your relationships?"

Will makes a face. "Okay. You made your point."

They slip into a comfortable silence for a while. A cold breeze hits them and Carmilla finds herself a little jealous of Will’s jacket. It’s definitely cheesy, but she can’t resist thinking about Laura now that Will’s mentioned her. The wedding thing — that’s too much to think about right now. The entire concept is enough to scare the life out of her. Laura in a white dress, walking down the aisle next to her father, probably in some fancy church or something. All of Laura’s annoying friends waiting for her at the front, next to Carmilla. She doesn’t know what she would wear, but it wouldn’t be about her anyway. It would be about Laura and the life she wants.

Carmilla couldn’t care less about marriage, obviously.

It’s all too much to think about right now. Way too soon.

"Hey, Will?"

"Yeah?"

"If I get married... You'll be in the wedding."

He grins. "Knew it."

"If." She shakes her head to herself. This is pointless. "And only if you don't off yourself before that just to impress some guy."

"Got it." He smiles in a dangerous way, like he's about to torture her somehow — and he does. He starts to sing again. "Then comes a baby in a carriage."

Carmilla groans and pushes him off his swing.

Laura smiles when Carmilla groans against her mouth.

"You're doing it again."

"Doing what?" She feigns innocence and kisses Carmilla's jaw.

"Distracting us." She says through grit teeth. Her frustration isn't sincere enough for Laura to care.

She tilts Carmilla's head to kiss down her neck until she finds a bruise underneath her jaw — something like a hickey but not quite.

Laura brushes her thumb across it. "Did I do this?"

Carmilla tenses. "No." And then after a second, "Don't worry about it."

"God, Carm, I'm sorry—"

"I said don't worry about it."

Carmilla kisses her again and tries to work with the fact that Laura has somehow worked her way into her lap again. She’s usually not complaining, really, but this time they’re in public. In a library. In the school library. Where her Mother could walk in, if she was the kind of principal who bothered to roam the halls on a semi-regular basis. Even so, the possibility is enough to give her pause. On top of that — on top of her, there’s Laura. Laura doesn’t pull stunts like this.

Carmilla pushes against Laura's shoulder. "Okay, I have to ask."

"What?"

"We got assigned this project three days ago and all you want to do is kiss me when we work." She almost can't believe that's an actual sentence that she just said. Maybe she needs shock therapy or something. "It's not like you."

"You're complaining that I want to kiss you?"

Carmilla rolls her eyes. "Maybe it's crazy, sure, but you're always a control freak about this stuff. I'm just checking that my girlfriend hasn't been pod-personed or something."

Laura gives up and slides off her lap. Carmilla lets her head fall back against the bookcase behind her. Idiot. She's an idiot.

Laura laughs half-heartedly. "You lost me on the reference."

"Pod people? Body snatchers? It was some crappy book I read when I was ten. Aliens pretended to be people you know but they acted completely different. Like... this." She gestures to Laura and hates herself a little more as she does it.

"Sounds like a good book." Laura pulls her knees up to her chest and hugs them.

"Sounds like you're avoiding the subject."

She shrugs. "I don't want to think about the project. I want to kiss my girlfriend. Since when is that a crime?"

Carmilla shuts the textbook between them. "Is this about LaFontaine?"

"No," Laura whips her head up. "How do you know about LaF?"

"I listen, you know. The other one wouldn't stop complaining about being ignored the other day."

"Perry?"

Carmilla nods.

"So LaF is still ignoring her?"

She doesn't let herself roll her eyes. If Laura and her friends really think LaFontaine's biggest problem is social, they're fooling themselves.

"So, is it your friend?"

Laura shakes her head.

"Is it me?" Gross, that came out more pathetic than she wanted it to.

"No, of course it isn't." Laura laces their fingers together and squeezes her hand. "You're perfect. It's just... it's such a stupid thing that's just been bugging me."

"Tell me. Let it bug me too."

"It's not your stuff to worry about. It's my stuff."

She understands that feeling, but she can't help but be worried now. "Doesn't matter. Make it our stuff."

Laura shakes her head and smiles. "You're gonna laugh at me."

"Probably."

Her smile doesn't last long. "I was doing research the other night. When we got the project assigned."

Definitely not the direction she has expected this to go in, but Laura has her curious.

Laura pulls her hand away and starts to toy with the corner of their textbook. "Research about like, eating disorders and stuff."

"Sure."

Laura lets out a shaky breath and Carmilla sits up. "I think... I mean I probably don't but I just thought... what if I have one?"

"One what?"

"Like an eating issue... type... thing. I don't know." She shrugs and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear.

This is what she was worried about?

Carmilla smiles. "Laura, you worry about everything, you know that?"

"I know, it's probably dumb."

"Just because you have half a symptom in common doesn't mean you should start jumping to conclusions."

Laura looks away. "It's more than half a symptom," she says weakly.

"Do you make yourself throw up after eating?”

Laura shakes her head, but doesn’t say anything. She’s really taking this thing seriously.

“Well, then I think you’re gonna be okay.” She leans in and kisses her again, but the way Laura falls into it is off. She’s too eager, like she’s only kissing for the sake of not doing anything else.

She’s still thinking about it.

“Don’t you think if you had an eating disorder I would have noticed?”

“Nevermind. Like I said, it’s so stupid.” Laura kisses her again and then pulls back to smile. She’s trying to prove that she’s okay, and in Carmilla’s experience that’s the most common sign that she’s not okay.

“It’s cute.”

Laura’s smile falters.

“My little hypochondriac.”

That’s apparently the wrong thing to say, because Laura pushes herself away and picks up the textbook, flipping through the pages in her lap. “You’re right, we should just get to work.”

“Okay.” Carmilla bites the corner of lip and furrows her eyebrows. Something still feels wrong.

Kirsch (12:02am): [1 attachment]

Kirsch (12:02am): haha she’s dumb :)

D-Bear (12:03am): Is that one cat or two?

Kirsch (12:03am): u know I only have 1 cat

D-Bear (12:03am): How is her head even in that position? It can’t be comfortable.

Kirsch (12:04am): its a cat thing

D-Bear (12:04am): It’s weird.

D-Bear (12:10am): Have you changed my contact name back to Danny yet?

Kirsch (12:10am): maybe

D-Bear (12:11am): It’s still D-Bear isn’t it?

Kirsch (12:11am): maybe

D-Bear (12:12am): I’m changing your contact name to Brody until you change it back.

Kirsch (12:12am): dont

Kirsch (12:12am): use wilson its my middle name

Kirsch (12:12am): just dont use brody ok

D-Bear (12:13am): What’s wrong with Brody?

Kirsch (12:20am): its my dads name

Kirsch (12:20am): just dont use it danny

D-Bear (12:20am): Okay.

12:25 a.m. – Incoming Call [Kirsch]

Danny sits up in bed when her phone rings. He’s calling at half past midnight. And on the one hand that could mean he’s dying but it could also just mean he’s being Kirsch. Or it could be a butt dial. She’s going to give him so much shit if it’s a butt dial.

She doesn’t bother to say hello. “Do you have any idea how late it is?”

“Yeah.” Kirsch says softly on the other end.

“Why did you call?”

It’s quiet on his end for a moment and then: “I’ve never told anybody about my name.”

“You mean about your Dad?”

“Yeah.”

Danny sinks back into the pillows on her bed. “Why’d you tell me?”

“I don’t know. You’ve told me personal stuff before.”

“Some.”

“I don’t know, I just felt like I could.”

It’s either her curiosity or her sympathy that wins out. “Is he not around anymore?”

“He left a long time ago.”

“I’m sorry.” It’s quiet for a moment, and she feels like she owes him something here. Something to let him know he can share things like this. Because it is okay. “I’m adopted.”

“I kind of figured.” He laughs and it even gets her smiling. “I’ve seen your parents at some of your meets. You’re like, nine feet taller than them.”

“Six and a half inches. How many of my meets do you go to?”

“Not a lot of them just like… the home ones.”

“Good to know I have a fan.”

“I don’t have a foam finger if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“You do in my mental image.”

“Well stop picturing me unless I’m naked.”

“Who says you aren’t?”

“Nevermind, keep picturing.” After half a second he adds, “Wait, where’s the foam finger?”

“Wouldn’t you love to know.”

She can hear him laughing and it’s a little infectious. By the time they stop laughing, she can hear the seriousness in Kirsch’s tone.

“Hey D-Bear?”

She sighs. The nickname is clearly a losing battle. “What?”

“There’s nothing wrong with being adopted.”

“There’s nothing wrong with a kid raised by a single parent.”

“I don’t really like talking about him.”

“You don’t have to.” She searches for something to change the subject to. “How about you explain why you sent me a picture of your cat at midnight.”

“She’s cute.”

“I hate cats. You know I hate cats.”

“Just ‘cause you hate something now doesn’t mean you’ll hate it forever.”

“Yeah. We’ll see.”

Kirsch falls asleep around 3 a.m. before either of them hang up.

Laura can feel her heart racing as the types a search into her browser. Sure, this is no explicit fanfic on her phone while she's inches from her Dad, but Carmilla is on the bed with her and she could sit up and see what she's searching any second now. Laura leans back against the headboard and weighs her options — sneak away to the bathroom to do a little more research or just risk Carmilla seeing it. She settles for the latter. Carmilla is reading a book on her stomach at the end of the bed anyway. And if she sees her laptop, Laura technically has a valid school-related excuse.

She hits the search button.

She has six tabs open when Carmilla turns on her side to look at Laura. "You know you're perfect, right?"

Way to make a girl blush.

Laura smiles. "You're perfect, too."

She doesn't stop there. "You're sweet. You're beautiful."

"What's with the sudden praise?" She asks around a smile.

"I'm just saying." Carmilla shrugs. "You don't need to change anything about yourself. You know that right?"

Should she be saying this back? Is Carmilla trying to tell her she loves her or something? That feels too soon. They haven't been dating that long.

"You don't need to look different or try to change yourself or lose weight."

Oh.

Now she gets it.

"You're pretty just the way you are. You're skinny — everyone likes the way you look." Carmilla offers her a sly smile. "I don't call you cutie for nothing, and at the risk of sounding like your golden retriever friend, I might even be willing to upgrade to hottie. As long as I have the liberty of saying it ironically."

Laura feels a lump forming in her throat. She closes the tabs on her laptop and pulls the screen almost shut. "Come here." Pushing the computer off her lap, she pulls Carmilla towards the head of the bed and weaves a hand through her hair. She kisses her hard and wills herself not to get upset. Mind over matter, she has to stop thinking about this. It's like a hysterical pregnancy but with her stupid eating habits. She's a teenager for crying out loud.

This is stupid.

She kisses her harder.

She's stupid for clinging to this. She's stupid for letting it get to her. She's stupid for looking to complete strangers on the internet for advice.

Her stomach growls and she slips her hand under Carmilla's shirt—

She feels a rough shove against her shoulder and then Carmilla distances herself from her, hesitating for a moment before she stands up from the bed.

"I have to go."

"What? Did I do something?"

"No," She shakes her head. "Will's gonna be home soon."

"Okay." She hasn't moved from the position she fell into when Carmilla shoved her back. When her own girlfriend shoved her away.

Carmilla nods and slips out the door in the blink of an eye, but her door opens half a minute later. Her face still gives away nothing.

"And Laura?"

"Yeah?" Her voice cracks when she says it and she braces herself for the tears that she knows she'll have to cry sometime tonight. She's too much of an emotional piece of work to not cry over... just everything that's been happening.

"Your Dad's bringing dinner home soon." Laura's stomach sinks. "You should eat."

She slips out the door again and Laura sinks into the bed.

Of course. She heard her stomach growl. She heard her stomach growl and now she's freaked out.

Laura reaches for her computer and pushes the screen up. She hits ctrl+shift+T six times to bring her tabs back and starts to read.

If you are restricting your intake (not eating much) you may have noticed the following behaviours. Do you?

Her heart grows heavier as she reads through the list.

Care Perr (4:12pm): Have you started your essay?

Care Perr (5:20pm): Laura and carmilla seem to be doing well

Care Perr (5:43pm): I’m really not sure how we’re supposed to be doing this essay.

Care Perr (6:02pm): You’ve probably let your phone die

Care Perr (6:08pm): You’re always doing that.

JP (6:10pm): guess who’s parents just left him home alone with a huge box of pizza and a new video game to play?

LaF (6:11pm): be there in 10

JP (6:14pm): i’ve got a huge bag of doritos with your name on ‘em

Care Perr (12:12am): Please don’t ignore me.

Group Chat: Bros (7 people)

Kirsch (4:00pm): carnival 2nite @ the park. who’s in??

Carmilla (4:02pm): how did you get my number?

Kirsch (4:02pm): will gave it 2 me

Kirsch (4:02pm): u in or not?

Laura (4:05pm): she’s in

Laura (4:06pm): we’ll be there

Kirsch (4:07pm): any1 else?

Laura (4:10pm): danny are you coming

D-Bear (4:14pm): yeah i guess

Laura (4:16pm): :)

Kirsch (4:16pm):  cool

Perry (4:21pm): I'll come

LaF (4:21pm): im in

“Are you gonna win me a bear?” Laura clings to Carmilla’s arm as they walk. She grins up at her.

“Can’t I just buy you a bear any other time?”

Laura pouts. It’s not the same. She tries again. “Are you gonna win me a bear, though?”

“You have a bear.” Carmilla finally looks down at her. “You have multiple bears.”

“But... are you gonna win me a bear?”

Carmilla rolls her eyes. “Maybe.”

They’re walking in the middle of a crowded carnival, but Laura doesn’t hesitate when she stops her in her tracks and presses a kiss to her lips.

It’s enough for Carmilla to give in. “Fine,” She says against Laura’s lips. “I’ll win you a bear.”

Laura kisses her harder the second time. She pulls Carmilla closer by the sides of her shirt and deepens the kiss. By the way Carmilla fumbles with the placement of her hands, Laura can tell she wasn’t expecting it.

Laura grins and pulls back to place a peck against the corner of her mouth. “And how many bears do I get if I keep that up?”

“Pick a number.”

There’s kissing after that — a lot more kissing. To be honest, she loses track of time and... everything, in general. All she knows is the lights are bright and the music isn’t too loud and her favorite thing about this moment is the way Carmilla’s thumb strokes her cheek as softly as it does. It’s nice.

When Laura hears a harsh cough come from her left, she pulls back, much to Carmilla’s disappointment. LaFontaine stands in front of them, looking a little horrified and clinging to their bag of chips.

“LaF! Hey...” She hears a groan from Carmilla and with nothing else to say, all she can come up with is, “We were just talking about you.” She doesn’t know why she says it. It’s something to say, at least. Carmilla looks confused and LaFontaine looks a little uncomfortable.

“Don’t tell me,” they insist. “I don’t want to know.” LaFontaine shakes their head. “Listen, you gotta try the pizza in that stand by the ferris wheel. It is the bomb. For real. It has a wicked pepperoni crust, it’s so good, plus I’m pretty sure there’s this double layer of cheese...” Their voice trails off and their eyes focus on something over Laura’s head.

She turns around to see what they’re looking at — Perry, standing by a ring toss booth.

“Um. I should go.”

Laura nods. “Yeah, you probably should.” She wonders if asking how many days they’ve spent avoiding Perry would be like rubbing salt in a wound. Probably.

“How screwed am I?”

It’s Carmilla that pipes in this time. “Pretty screwed.”

“I probably deserve that. Alright, yeah. I’m gonna go. See ya.”

“See ya.” Laura waves them a goodbye and then turns back to Carmilla. “So... what do you want to do now?”

“Why don’t we try out that pizza?”

Laura feels her stomach turn. “I’m really not all that hungry right now.”

Carmilla furrows her eyebrows and frowns. “When was the last time you ate.”

“Lunch?”

“That was six hours ago.”

She knows. She’s been counting... sort of. She’s more aware of these things now. She wonders if that’s good or bad.

“Come on, just one slice.”

She wants to. Or she wants to want to. Or maybe she doesn’t. Laura doesn’t know for sure what she wants. Except she wants Carmilla to stop pushing her right now. “I’m not hungry, just drop it.”

Carmilla locks her jaw. “I don’t believe you. C’mon, we’ll share a slice. You don’t have to act like it’s the end of the world.” Laura feels her face grow hotter. She’s getting worked up over this and her entire body can feel it. Does it show? “We can fix this, Laura. You just have to eat, it’s not that hard.”

Laura blinks up at her in shock as she steps away. She doesn’t even know what to say or how to react. How is something like that supposed to make her feel? What’s the right way to feel about this?

She wants to run.

“Laura, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—"

“Don’t.”

She shakes her head and walks in the opposite direction.

By the time they work up the courage to approach Perry, she’s moved to one of the game booths and she’s aiming a slingshot at a stack of soda cans.

It’s been a few days. With the exception of that one fight in freshman year, it’s probably one of the longest periods of time they’ve gone without speaking. LaFontaine takes a deep breath and steps into Perry’s line of vision. She can see them out of the corner of her eye now and her body tenses.

“Bad time?”

Perry doesn’t take her eyes off of the soda cans. “You tell me. You avoid me for days and then you want to talk when I’m holding a weapon?”

LaFontaine places a tentative hand on Perry’s shoulder and turns her to look at them. “Perr, I’m so sorry.”

Perry softens and drops the slingshot on the counter. “I’m sorry too.”

“Do you want to go for a walk?”

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”

LaFontaine nods. In a split second, Perry has her arms around them. “Thank you. I hate fighting, thank you.” They smile and hug her tight, taking in her smell and smiling into the faceful of curls they’re met with. “I never want to fight again,” Perry says.

LaFontaine laughs softly. “Don’t get ahead of yourself.” They pull back and take a deep breath.

“Why? What is it, what’s so bad that you can’t tell me.”

They scratch at the back of their head and make a very bad decision in that moment. “There’s this guy I know. His name is JP and... I think it’s about time I told you about him.”

Laura glares at the worker manning the ferris wheel when it comes to a stop for a seventh time. She paid for the first six rides, but she thinks there’s gotta be a certain level of respect she’s owed. She’s been riding it for a while now — sometimes crying, sometimes pouting, but always upset. Maybe if she cries he won’t charge her.

It turns out she doesn’t have to. The ride stalls for a moment and the worker decides to turn a blind eye to Laura’s new residency on his ride. He steps back to turn the ride on again and then all she sees is a blur of black hair and black clothes jumping into the seat next to her.

“Hey!” The worker barks as the ferris wheel begins to move.

Carmilla tosses down a few dollars and that seems to be enough for the worker to leave her alone. Laura kind of wishes he’d stopped the ride and forced her off.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m riding the ferris wheel, cupcake.”

Laura crosses her arms across her chest and looks away.

“You’re brooding.”

“So?”

“So, brooding is my thing. It’s not fair to brood without me.”

Laura doesn’t say anything to that. She’s still not sure what to say or how to feel.

“I’m doing this all wrong aren’t I?”

Until then. Now she knows how to feel. Now she feels it all at once. “Yep.”

Carmilla’s eyebrows raise on their own and she can tell it shocks her. Laura’s using the tone her Dad hates. And maybe that’s a bit much. Carmilla looks like it guts her. That’s not what she wants.

“Do you think you really—"

“Yes.”

“Have you done any research—"

“Yes.”

“Laura...” Carmilla moves a strand of hair out of Laura’s eyes and tucks it behind her ear. “I’m sorry about all the stupid shit I said.”

Laura slides her hand over Carmilla’s leg and squeezes her knee. “I’m not mad. Really. It’s just complicated.” Laura fights through the feeling that tells her she’s close to crying. “I just don’t know what’s happening.”

“Tell me what to do. Let me fix it.”

Laura lets out a frustrated sigh. “You can’t fix me, Carmilla.”

“No,” She shakes her head and pulls Laura against her. “No, I mean us. Let me fix us.” She looks down and Laura can feel the insecurity radiating off of her. She knows Carmilla and she knows how she can get — insecure, hurt, powerless, every other feeling she pretends that she’s never experienced. “Don’t tell me I’ve already fucked us up, it hasn’t even been a month.”

“Hey.” Laura tilts Carmilla’s chin up with a finger. “One fight isn’t a break up.” She decides to fall back on one of Carmilla’s preferred defense mechanisms. “Besides, you’re too good a kisser to break up with.”

Carmilla leans forward and kisses Laura’s cheek. “Good to know.” She breaths in deep and then laces their fingers together, squeezing tight. “So this is real?”

She nods.

“I’m sorry I didn’t notice.”

“You couldn’t have.”

“I know. But I’m sorry I didn’t notice. And if it’s any consolation...” Carmilla reaches between her legs for the mostly empty backpack she always carries around. She unzips it and tugs something purple and furry out of it.

“You won me the bear.” Laura strokes the stuffed animal’s head and grins.

“I might have stolen it.”

She gasps. “Carm. That’s not the same.”

Carmilla shrugs defensively. “Those games are rigged, you know that.”

“Way to stick it to the man, babe.”

It’s a cop out. It’s absolutely a cop out and they feel like garbage when Perry forgives them immediately. Of course she’s forgiving them. She thinks JP is the entire story.

It’s a cop out.

“Honey, you should have just told me.”

“I know, but,” LaFontaine kicks at the grass as they walk. “I thought it would have killed you.” No, they know what would have really killed her. And it’s not JP.

“Why would I be upset? You have a new friend and your parents are treating you so much better.” LaFontaine frowns when they recognize the rationalizing tone of her voice. “I won’t say that I’m happy about it.” Perry shrugs. “I wish that it was me, but this sort of situation, it was... an eventuality.” Her shoulders slump. “I just wish you’d told me.”

“An eventuality? What happened to better closeted together than out and alone?”

Perry waves her hand as if to shrug off the implication. “That was about legitimate relationships.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess.”

“You don’t have feelings for JP, do you?”

“What?” LaFontaine chuckles. “No, no, of course not. Honestly? I think he gets tired of the way I can’t shut up about you around him. Couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

Perry smiles. “You’re sweet.”

“You’re too good for me.”

Perry looks around — it’s a crowded carnival and they already know the conclusion she’ll reach. It’s not a good place for this. Perry hooks her pinky finger around LaFontaine’s index finger. “Thank you for telling me.”

God, they’re the worst person on earth, and that’s including the woman who runs that food blog and spreads lies about the effects of vaccinations. They’re even worse than her. This is what it feels like to be a human disaster.

-

“You’re kidding me.”

“What?”

“You’re kidding me.” Danny shakes her head because this has to be a joke. This is literally a joke, there isn’t a single person in America who hasn’t seen at least one tragically low budget horror movie that starts exactly like this.

“What’s wrong?”

Danny gestures to the empty house. It’s broken down and unkempt and definitely nowhere near sturdy. There are literal cobwebs on the front porch. The rickety front porch, probably. She doubts it’s seen a paint job since Kennedy was in office.

“You got me to come to this stupid carnival for this?" Danny turns to look somewhat longingly at the carnival from where they stand, across the street from all the lights. "You want to be the white couple who gets trapped by demons in some freaky haunted house in the dead of night?”

“Hey.” Kirsch hops up the porch steps and leans against the railing. Good. At least he’s not falling through it. That means the wood hasn’t been taken over by termites. “Ex-haunted house. They use it once a year around halloween, it’s totally safe. And since when are we a couple?”

This place makes her skin crawl, but not quite like that implication does.

“Couple means two people, moron. And all I’m saying is if you’re gonna try to drag me into a deserted house to try to have sex on a dead woman’s couch before some supernatural shit pops up to carve vague threats in dead languages into our skin, then I want a stake in my hand before I walk through that front door.”

“What are you gonna do with a stake, fight off a vampire?”

“I could take on a vampire.”

“You sound crazy.”

She probably does.

“You need to just chill, dude. I just want to check it out. And if you think I’m gonna try anything, relax. I don’t even have a condom.”

She rolls her eyes. “Because if you did, sex would be inevitable, right? Dumbass.”

“If you want to complain all night, be my guest. I’m going inside. You can stay, you know...” He offers her a cocky smile. “If you’re too scared.”

Danny narrows her eyes at him. “Move it, pretty boy.”

Kirsch shoves his hands in his pockets and leans back on his heels. “Ooh, I’m pretty now.”

The inside is dark — of course — only illuminated by the light of the carnival coming through the front windows. It’s scary in its own way, but it also feels... plastic. She can tell it was made to look scary for Halloween. The store bought cobwebs sort of ruin the effect, not that she was scared.

She doesn’t hear him move but suddenly Kirsch is behind her.

“Freaky,” he notes, “Kinda cool, though.”

“Maybe if you think a bunch of used furniture with unrealistic holes in them are cool.”

Kirsch shrugs and she hears him walk away. His footsteps leave the sound of creaking floorboards in his wake, and they echo the farther he gets from where she stands, somewhere in the dining room. He walks through the kitchen and comes through the other exit, pushing cobwebs out of his path and being spectacularly dramatic about it. She’s pretty certain they’re fake anyway.

“So, uh. Since you brought it up,” he starts nonchalantly, “Are we ever gonna have sex?” He doesn’t pay attention to where he’s walking while he talks and he trips into a rocking chair that falls apart with a dull crash of wood furniture on wood floors.

“That was impressive.”

Kirsch brushes it off and starts to close the distance between them. “That didn’t sound like a no.”

She purses her lips and decides maybe the truth would work in her favor in this case. “That’s because it wasn’t one.”

He walks closer until they’re both almost touching. The chandelier above them nearly grazes both their heads. They’re too tall for this.

“Was it a yes?”

She smiles and hooks her pinky around Kirsch’s index finger. She doesn’t know why — she just does it. Maybe she likes toying with him a little. Maybe she likes it for other reasons.

“It was a... it’s on the table.”

Kirsch grins and lands a peck against her lips. “Cool. It’s uh, on the table for me too, if you were wondering.”

She doesn’t roll her eyes, but she’s pretty sure it’s been on the table for him since he hit puberty.

“So this is us, uh, officially,” He makes a pushing gesture off to the side. “Putting it on the table.”

“Kirsch?”

He hums a response and watches her with wide eyes.

“It’s been on the table for a while now.” Danny uses her free hand to tug on one of his belt loops and pull him closer. “It’s probably gathering dust.”

If it’s possible, his eyes get even wider. “For real?”

She kisses him to make sure he doesn’t say anything even more moronic to remind her why she should probably have higher standards. His hands move to her hips and hold her there. It’s oddly nice, not like any of the other guys she’s been with. They’re usually handsier than this. He has an impressive amount of self-control for a teenage boy that was just promised sex.

Kirsch pulls back. “Wait, how long has it been on the table?”

“I didn’t mark the date on my calendar.” She tries to kiss him again but it doesn’t last more than ten seconds.

“Ballpark?”

“I’m not giving you a ballpark.”

“C’mon, please.”

She gives in to the urge to roll her eyes and she steps back, starting to walk towards the front door of the house. She knows he’ll follow. He’d be stupid not to. “It’s late, we should go home.”

“Aw, c’mon, D-Bear.” Oh, she’s definitely not telling him now. “Don’t be like that, how long? I know you know how long, just tell me.”

The walk back to her house is quiet. Carmilla holds her hand the whole way home, but Laura can't help but think it feels more like an apology than a gesture of affection. She doesn't call her out on that. It's already been a long night.

They climb the porch steps and Laura reaches for her key before Carmilla body blocks her from the door. "I really shouldn't stay over tonight."

"Why not? It's a friday."

"It really isn't about you - I swear, okay?" She pushes Laura's hair back and cups her cheek. "My Mom's been... more attentive lately. She's getting stricter."

Laura pulls away. "Do you think she knows about us?"

She shakes her head. "No. I think she just knows I'll be eighteen in a month."

Laura blinks and does the math in her head. "Oh my God you will be, won't you?"

"Yep."

"I always forget you repeated a year." She shakes her head in disbelief. "You're just so smart."

"Smart doesn't always mean motivated."

Laura steps closer and toys with a lock of Carmilla's hair. "I'll be dating an adult in a month."

"You will."

Laura leans forward to kiss her and she thinks maybe this moment belongs in a movie or something — the girl coming home from a date with her first girlfriend, kissing her goodbye on the porch.

Carmilla holds her hips in place and deepens the kiss until—

The porch light starts to flicker. She thinks it's about to go out until she realizes the on/off rhythm is too steady to be natural.

"That's my Dad."

Carmilla laughs softly. "I thought people only did that in movies."

She nods. "We watch a lot of movies." Laura kisses her again, softer this time. "You're sure you have to go? We could play video games and listen to the album leak one more time?"

Carmilla nods and lets her forehead rest against Laura's. "Now I'm definitely sure."

Right. Probably not the most convincing argument. That's okay. That's good, actually. She needs to talk to her Dad. Alone. That's what pretty much everything online says she needs to do — talk to a trusted adult. There's only one man for that job.

"Okay. Bye." Laura kisses her one more time — is that too much? She feels a little clingy, but Carmilla doesn't seem to mind.

Once she's off the porch, Laura waits for her to be out of sight before she takes a deep breath and reaches for the doorknob.

He plays innocent when he sees her, as if he hadn't been signaling for them to wrap things up. There's even a trace of guilt in his expression.

"Hey, kid. How was your night?" He folds up the newspaper he was pretending to read and takes off his glasses.

"It was good." Laura sets her bag down on the coffee table and takes a deep breath.

"Good. We should get to bed, then."

"Um." Great start, Hollis. "Dad?"

"What is it?"

"I need to tell you something."