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The first letter comes just a few days into Christmas vacation.

Laura,

            You’re probably angry with me and you have every right to be – I hurt you. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to pick up the phone and answer your calls. Hearing your voice would have me on the first plane back to you and that would make all of this a moot point.

            We started this under horrible circumstances. You were otherwise engaged and I took advantage of your unhappiness in the sexual side of your relationship to get what I wanted. I can admit, in retrospect, that was not how I should have handled things. I never should seduced you knowing that you were taken. That was my error.

            But I don’t regret it. I don’t regret you. I fell in love with you and I could never regret that. I know I lied to you when you asked but I had to. If I didn’t, you never would have let me go.

            We both need this. Distance. For the sake of my sanity, I need to know if our feelings are more than just a product of circumstance. And you haven’t been single in years. Do you even know yourself? If we still care about each other after I return home from Paris, then we’ll try this. But in order for this to work, you cannot wait for me. Don’t stop living your life. I won’t stop living mine.

            We have to keep our distance. I think letters, like this one, should be our only method of communication, should you choose to communicate with me at all. No phone calls, no visits. We need to do this right and this is the only way we can do that. Don’t feel like you have to write me back. You don’t. In fact, I’m expecting you to just crumple this up and throw it away and after everything I’ve said to you, I would deserve that.

            Please know I’m sorry for everything I said to you. I meant none of it. I do love you.

All my love,

Carmilla.

Laura cries herself to sleep that night, the letter clutched in her fist.

She wakes up the next morning to the smell of pancakes and the sound of her Dad knocking on the door to wake her up for breakfast. She takes her pancakes in bed that morning. She reads the letter over and over until the words start to blend together and she starts to memorize them. By the time she finally puts it down, she’s sure she could recite it word for word if someone asked her to.

She still doesn’t quite get it – why Carmilla lied to her but the pieces are starting to fall together.

That’s what she needed. She didn’t think Laura would give them to her. So she hopped on a plane and flew across countries just to get away from her. Because she loved her.

Okay, so it still wasn’t making a lot of sense.

But her intentions were clear. She hadn’t lied completely while they were fighting – she was afraid that Laura didn’t care about her beyond sex and without Danny in the picture. Laura got that. It was the only part of this she did understand. And if she thought about it, really thought about it, she was scared about that too. Well, scared of how Carmilla felt outside of being her…mistress.

Maybe they did need space.

And Carmilla was right. She hadn’t been single in years. Before Danny, she had a girlfriend in high school that she had been with long term.

She didn’t know how to be alone and that was something she could admit.

And if being alone for five months means that in the end, she gets Carmilla? Well she can wait. She could wait forever. She meant it when she said she wouldn’t stop fighting. She pulls out her a pen and stationary and writes out a response.

-

Carmilla,

            You’re damn right I’m mad at you.

            But I love you. And I’ll wait as long as I have to.

All my love,

Laura.

-

Paris is beautiful. She’s spent most of her time outside, sight-seeing. She has a roommate, a girl from England, and she doesn’t hold a candle to Laura. She figures she’ll be able to keep her hands to herself this time. She’s polite enough and she offered to give Carmilla a tour. She’d accepted. She spent most of it trailing a few feet behind, map open in her hands, pausing to take pictures of things she thinks Laura would enjoy. Maybe it’s pathetic, to be thinking about Laura when she’s supposed to be getting space, but she can’t help it.

She misses her.

She feels like she left her heart back at Silas and without it here with her, she can’t enjoy anything properly. Every inch of her aches for Laura. Aches to hold her, touch her skin and kiss her lips. At night, she faces the wall and she pretends she can feel Laura pressed against her. It doesn’t quite do the job but it’s enough to help soothe her to sleep.

She penned Laura’s letter the second she touched down in France. She couldn’t bear the thought of Laura hating her any longer. She had to explain herself. She checks her mail every day, though she knows it takes time for letters to get across country lines.

When she sits down to draw for the first time, sitting on her balcony with a view of the Eiffel tower, the only thing she can draw is Laura. She remembers every contour of Laura’s face, after all she sees it every time she closes her eyes, and she thinks she could probably draw her with her eyes closed.

She wonders if Laura would like Paris. Probably. Laura’s a sucker for the clichés and there’s nothing more cliché than Paris. Carmilla thinks that if Laura were here with her, she would take her to the top of the Eiffel tower and kiss her there so she truly knew what it felt like to be on top of the world.

She stays up all night that night. She drinks nearly a whole bottle of wine on her own and she draws Laura over and over again. She hangs the best one on the wall next to her so in some roundabout way, she’s with her. She watches the sunrise and it’s the prettiest sunrise she’s ever seen.

But it’s still got nothing on Laura.

She doesn’t sleep. She sits on the balcony until her head starts to pound so much that she can’t stand to look at the sun anymore and then she goes inside. She sits in the dark, tracing the lines she’s drawn of Laura’s face.

When she finally drifts off, piles of paper sitting in her lap, she dreams of Laura.

-

Laura,

            Paris is beautiful. Not as beautiful as you. Nothing is as beautiful as you.

            I miss you. Nothing here feels beautiful without you next to me to see it.

            I want to come back. I don’t need this. I only need you.

            How was your break? Spend time with your Dad? I know you were looking forward to it.

            Paris is wonderful. Everything I expected it to be. I’m enjoying myself.

            I hope your semester goes well.

Carmilla.

-

Her new roommate is moved in before she is.

She’s neater than Carmilla was, that’s for certain. Her bed sheets are blue and floral and everything is pristine. She’s the kind of roommate Laura would have loved to have before she found Carmilla.

Her name is Betty. She’s tall, blonde, and has a perpetual sneer on her face. Like she wants to be anywhere but here. She introduces herself with a limp handshake and a tight smile. Laura doesn’t try and ask her any questions. Laura’s things are exactly as she left them. She collapses onto her bed, burying her face into her yellow pillow. If she focuses hard enough, she swears she can even still smell Carmilla there. She feels a pull at her heart.

The semester starts and Betty proves herself to be the roommate that dreams are made of. She’s neat, she’s orderly, she turns off the lights promptly at 11:30pm and she studies silently. She doesn’t talk much to Laura, which Laura is more than fine with. Laura finds Betty to be kind of boring. She’s kind of monotone when she does speak and all she talks about is school. Even her clothing is boring. All different shades of grey, cream, and white. Laura swears the only color on her side of the room is the blue bed sheets.

The room doesn’t feel right without Carmilla.

That’s all there is to it.

Laura misses the spare clothing thrown onto the floor. She misses nearly tripping over the scattered paint brushes that somehow ended up on her side of the room. She misses having to kick dirty, red, lacy, underwear back onto Carmilla’s side of the room. She misses the smell of oil paints but never seeing paintings anywhere. She misses listening to Carmilla’s music while she pretended to listen to podcasts.

Really, she just misses Carmilla.

That’s all there is to it.

She spends more time than she wants to admit scrolling through all of her pictures, looking at the way Carmilla would smile at her.

She writes about that smile. She writes pages and pages about how warm it makes her feel. How that smile puts everything right.

How just looking at it reminds her that good things really are worth waiting for.

She’s still hurt, and maybe just a little bit angry, but she misses her too much to care about that.

She’d rather Carmilla just be in front of her. She could be angry then but she can’t be angry now when all she can do is miss her.

Without Carmilla, Laura can barely sleep. She’d gotten so used to the feeling of Carmilla’s body against hers, that she often finds herself waking up in the middle of the night, throwing her arm over air.

On the worst nights, the nights where Laura can’t keep her eyes shut for more than a few minutes without some part of her aching to touch Carmilla, she looks up flights to Paris. She knows it’s fantastical and ridiculous but she often wonders if it would be worth it to fly to see her. To find her. To kiss her and bring her home.

(But really – with Carmilla, Laura is home. She wonders if Carmilla feels the same).

She comes close, a few times. She hovers the mouse over the purchase button but then her mind wanders back to Carmilla’s first letter (We have to keep our distance. I think letters, like this one, should be our only method of communication, should you choose to communicate with me at all. No phone calls, no visits) and her fingers pull away. She wants distance. She wants space.

It might hurt her, but she can respect that.

She has to.

-

Carmilla,

            My break was fine. I spent a lot of time with my Dad. We decorated the house together, like I told you about, and it was nice. I wish you would have been there. It snowed a lot.

            I have a new roommate. Her name is Betty. Your Her side looks completely different now. A lot of blue. And she’s neat. Really neat. No more mess drifting onto my side, which is nice I guess. It’s different. I’m still getting used to it.

            It’s different without you here, too. But I’m glad Paris is everything you wanted it to be. You deserve it. You deserve to enjoy yourself. Keep me updated, okay? You’re my friend, Carmilla. Before you’re anything else. And I want to know how you’re doing. I always do.

            I love you.

            I miss you.

            Looking forward to hearing from you.

Laura.

-

She walks into her classroom, five minutes late because she spent entirely too much time rereading Laura’s most recent letter. Friend. She’d called her a friend. And it shouldn’t hurt her – it really shouldn’t, because she’s the one who did this, said they’d needed space from each other and effectively ended any semblance of a relationship that they had, but…they’d never been friends. Not even in the beginning. They were always more than that. How could Laura call what this was a friendship?

She pushes through the door, slightly out of breath, and in the middle of the classroom she sees a girl. She’s got caramel colored hair and Carmilla swears her heart stops beating. Or maybe it’s just beating too quickly to register. Her professor is glaring down at her over the edges of her glasses and she silently points to the only empty seat. Right in front of the model. Carmilla’s hands are sweaty and while rationally, she knows that there’s no way Laura is here, in Paris, let alone nude modeling for her figure drawing class, it doesn’t stop her nerves from nearly forcing her to flee the room.

Her face looks nothing like Laura’s. Neither does her body. The only resemblance between them is their strikingly similar hair colors. But she’s launched Laura into the forefront of Carmilla’s mind (as if she isn’t always there anyway) and when she starts to drag her pencil across the page, it seems that she can only draw Laura.

She tries to fix the jawline. She tries to fix the curve of her shoulders. She tries to fix the smile. But every time she redraws, she only ends up with the same result. Laura. Laura. Laura.

She’s frustrated by the time the class finishes. She hates that she can’t get this right. She hates that she can’t draw anything but Laura. That was the whole point of all of this – going to Paris. To separate herself from Laura. So after the class ends, and the model puts her rob back on, Carmilla walks up to her and she asks, “Would you be willing to model for me privately? I’ll pay.” Because she has to get this right. She has to get Laura away from her canvas. It’s bad enough she can’t get her out of her heart. The model smirks and Carmilla knows how it sounds. She doesn’t bother to correct her. If whatever she’s thinking about, gets her in front of Carmilla, by herself, she’s fine with letting her think it.

They exchange phone numbers and settle on a time.

When Carmilla gets a text message with a winky face ten minutes later, she ignores it.

She makes sure her roommate is out of the room and sets up a chair in the middle of the room. She sketches while she waits. Everything is still Laura. She sighs, frustrated, and she’s ready to throw her sketchbook at the wall. She nearly does when she hears a knock at the door. She doesn’t bother getting up. “Come in.” She half yells, half grunts. She hadn’t bothered to clean and the sneer across the girls face as she steps over a few pieces of unwashed clothing doesn’t escape her notice. She hopes that the lax atmosphere helps convey that Carmilla really only does want her here to draw her. Carmilla is still scribbling on a page of her sketchbook when she hears the girl clear her throat. She barely looks up. Instead, she just raises an eyebrow and glances up only momentarily. “What?” She asks, irritatedly, returning her eyes to the page.

“Where do you want me?” The girl practically purrs and that makes Carmilla’s hand still. She looks up, fully this time, to find the girl just a few inches in front of her face and totally naked. It doesn’t faze her – the naked female form doesn’t surprise her anymore, but she is shocked by the distance. Or lack thereof. She takes the pencil from the page and points it, eraser side, toward the chair in the middle of the room.

“You can sit over there. Position yourself however you’d like.” She says and she looks down while she waits for the girl to tell her that she’s ready.

When she finally does, and Carmilla looks up, Carmilla’s eyes widen and her hand stills.

She’s sitting with her legs wide open, everything on display. She’s got a smirk on her face and her tongue darts out to lick her lips. “You ready for me?” She asks and Carmilla can’t help but feel like she really, really isn’t.

She doesn’t start with her face. She works on her arms first. She tries to keep Laura out of her head. She focuses as intensely as she can on the contours of this girls arms. On the curve of her elbows. On the points of her shoulders. She spends much longer on details like her knuckles and the wrinkles of skin in the crease of her elbow than she’s used to but she’s willing to do anything to separate this girl from Laura on the page. That was her only real goal.

She draws her torso next. Her breasts are larger than Laura’s. That’s a difference that’s easy enough to capture. The difficulty comes in drawing her hips and stomach. She’s slight, like Laura is. Her hipbones jut out in that same familiar way that Laura’s do and her stomach is just toned enough to remind her of the circles she used to draw on Laura’s stomach when they would lay together.

But Laura has a beauty mark just against her left hip that Carmilla always loved to kiss and that’s something this girl doesn’t have. It’s easier, Carmilla finds, to focus on the differences instead of the similarities. It keeps her in the moment. Reminds her that the girl in front of her isn’t Laura and that even if she imagines or draws her that way, she won’t turn into her.

And maybe, maybe, that’s a good thing. Maybe she does have to stop looking for Laura everywhere. Maybe she does have to stop checking Laura’s Facebook every night before she falls to sleep. Maybe she has to stop hovering over her contact in her phone when she’s drunk and out of her head. She came to Paris to figure herself out. Not to dwell on Laura. The point was to keep living and if by the end, Carmilla still loved Laura and Laura still loved her, they would try. And Carmilla isn’t doing any living.

Maybe she needs something new. Someone new.

So when she finishes up the sketch and sends the girl on her way, with a dinner date set up for the following night, she tells herself that’s exactly what she needs.

-

Laura,

            I hate to tell you this through a letter, but as per the parameters for this correspondence that I’ve set, this is how it has to be.

            I’m going on a date with somebody.

            Total honesty is how I chose to approach this. While we are not together, and I don’t owe you details about anything, I’m choosing to tell you this in hopes that it won’t change our friendship. That is what you want, isn’t it? Friends tell each other these things.

            I hope that knowing this doesn’t change anything between us and that we can stay friends.

Carmilla.

-

She’s taken to reading the letters at her spot on the lake. None of them have been as long as that first one but it’s never worried Laura. She appreciates every word that Carmilla writes to her. She reads the letters so many times through that she memorizes them. She keeps them all though and she reads through them on the nights she finds it hard to fall asleep. She loves the way Carmilla writes her name. She traces it with a finger and it helps her feel just a little bit closer to her.

And a little less lonely.

Laura’s never really realized just how….isolated she had made herself. She’d never made anything other than acquaintances and without Danny, and without Carmilla, she’s….by herself.

She’s lonely. She’s sad more often than not and she can’t go to anybody about it.

She misses Danny. Not in a romantic or sexual way but she misses their friendship. She misses how Danny would listen to her, no matter what she had to rant about. She thinks about calling her, a few times, but she knows that Danny wouldn’t appreciate it.

So she writes about it instead.

Laura produces some of her best work out of the ache of missing Carmilla. She’s even thinking about submitting some of it to the literary magazine. She knows that both Danny and Carmilla would encourage her to do it, but she’s not sure she wants to put her heart out there like that. It’s bad enough her heart is already out there with Carmilla. That was more than enough for her.

When she gets Carmilla’s most recent letter, she shoves it in the front pocket of her coat (and the weather is starting to change, so she doesn’t need anything heavy anymore) and she walks swiftly to the lake. She finds a comfortable position on the rock, which has now seen her through the highest and lowest points of her year, and she tears open the letter, eager to see what stories about Paris Carmilla has for her.

When she reads the words written on the page, her hands begin to shake. The letter falls from her hands, into the water beneath her. She watches it as it floats away.

She’s out of breath. She feels like someone’s punched her straight in the chest. When Carmilla told her that she needed space, she never imagined…that it would be like this. That she would want to find that space with someone else.

Carmilla’s in Paris, living it up, while Laura is left here to miss her. Left here deal with Carmilla slipping through her fingers without being able to do anything about it.

Maybe that’s Laura’s punishment for everything that she’s done. She has to lose the person she loves because she’d forced Danny to do the same.

She has to admit that she deserves it but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.

It nearly makes her sick to think about someone touching Carmilla the way that Laura got to touch her (because she’s sure that’s where it will lead – anybody on a date with Carmilla would be stupid to not want to fuck her).

But that’s karma, she thinks to herself.

She deserves this. She doesn’t deserve to be happy. Not until her, what, 7 years of bad luck runs out? Does the punishment for being a shitty person have the same expiration date as breaking a mirror?

She goes back to her room and she ignores Betty as she stalks into the bathroom. She slams the door. Hard. She turns the shower on and she stands underneath the spray, letting the hot water scald her back. It hurts, but it’s got nothing on the feeling in her chest. She doesn’t move. She doesn’t wash her hair or her body. She just lets the water hit her back until it starts to go cold. When the warm temperature begins to fade into cool, it’s like Laura wakes up and the pain hits her all at once. Her eyes widen and she collapses into herself, her chest heaving. She chokes out a sob and she can’t feel her knees. She slides against the tile of the shower, her knees hugged close to her chest. The water is still hitting her and she leans her head back against the wall. She feels anger, sadness, and just everything bubbling up inside of her. So she does the only thing that she can think of to do to just fucking get rid of it. She screams. She screams as loud as she can and she doesn’t care who can hear her. She doesn’t care if she annoys Betty while she studies. She doesn’t care if the floor don, Perry, comes knocking at the door because it sounds like someone is getting slaughtered. She doesn’t care. For once. She screams until she feels herself go hoarse. And even when she’s finished yelling, she stays under the cold flow from the shower head until her tears dry and her body starts to shake.

-

She doesn’t sleep with her, though it’s clear that’s how the girl expects the date to go.

Nothing about this date had felt right.

Sleeping with someone else hadn’t been the answer. It didn’t get Laura out of her head. It didn’t stop her hand from drawing Laura’s face every time she was able to put pencil to paper. It didn’t solve anything. In fact, she’s sure all it did was fuck things up more. It was an impulse decision, a lot like the one she’d made when she decided to go after Laura in the first place, but this one did nothing but make her feel terrible. She feels guilty even though she knows she shouldn’t. She did nothing wrong. She and Laura weren’t together. She had every right to go out with someone else. It was what she intended to do when she left Silas in the first place.

But it still felt…wrong. Nothing with that girl felt right. Her fingers were shaky and uncoordinated and she kissed with too much tongue. Her voice was too high pitched and she kept trying to play footsie with Carmilla underneath the table.

(She wasn’t Laura – and that was the most important part.)

She knows that Laura wants them to be friends. But if there’s anything that’s clear to her, more than it’s ever been, it’s that Carmilla doesn’t want to just be Laura’s friend. She fucking loves her. For real. It wasn’t because she was something that Carmilla couldn’t fully have. It wasn’t because she belonged to someone else. It was because of her. It was because of everything she could do to Carmilla to make her unravel. It was because of how wonderful touching her made her feel. It was because of how all she wanted to go after coming was hold her and keep her close.

Carmilla loves her because of everything that she is.

But that still isn’t everything. Just because Carmilla knows that her feelings are genuine doesn’t mean she can trust that Laura’s feelings are. And Laura’s a cheater. Carmilla knows that she made her that way, that it was half her fault that she can even attach that label to Laura’s name, but truthfully, she hadn’t had to do much. Laura relented and she relented quickly. Who’s to say she wouldn’t do the same thing to her that she’d done to Danny?

Carmilla might love Laura but she certainly doesn’t trust her.

And that’s just as important as loving her.

And Carmilla wonders if it wouldn’t just be simpler to get over her. To move on. To find someone else.

But she doesn’t want anybody else. She wants Laura. And she’d give her a chance to earn her trust. Because that’s what you do for people that you love. Carmilla starts to think that being friends with Laura may not be a bad thing.

This all hits her, as she’s walking home from class while rain sprinkles down on her head. The street is empty and it reminds her of the day she and Laura had kissed in front of the library. Everybody else was seeking shelter from the rain but Carmilla finds that some of the greatest moments happen under the shroud of dark clouds and falling rain. She doesn’t hide from it.

The drops start to get bigger and they hit her straight on the forehead. She’s still a long ways away from her apartment so she figures she’s going to have to keep walking through the storm so she picks up her speed. She doesn’t bother trying to duck into a shop for cover. She can just shower when she gets back to her place.

The rain picks up and soon, it’s pouring. Carmilla is drenched, soaked all the way through, and she pauses. She drops her bag off of her shoulders. She spreads her arms out, letting the rain soak every part of her. She turns her face up toward the sky and she smiles.

She doesn’t know how long she stands there, with her arms outstretched and her face upturned toward the sky, but it’s long enough for her to feel…clean.

Like every bit of doubt and negativity that she’s had surrounding Laura is gone.

And all that’s left is love.

-

Carmilla,

            I hope she makes you happy.

            Was she as good as I was?

            Did you even mean it?

            Why did you do it?

            I love you.

            We’re still friends. Don’t worry.

Laura.

-

Laura’s never been a big drinker. She hates the taste of alcohol and it burns her throat when it goes down. All it does is make her flinch. Plus, she’s the ultimate lightweight. It barely takes two beers to knock her off of her feet. Danny used to make fun of her for it after every Summer Society party she would drag her to. She’s sure Carmilla would have done the same had they the occasion to get drunk together. But that was difficult to do when they hadn’t even been able to see each other outside of their dorm room in a sober setting.

But she hasn’t been able to get the heavy feeling out of her chest since Carmilla’s last letter and she’s always heard that alcohol makes you forget and there’s nothing Laura wants more right now than to forget everything. Forget Carmilla. Forget Danny. Forget herself.

She ends up at some bar that has a glowing green sign with a shamrock on it. It’s early, 10, and the bar is fairly empty when she arrives. She finds a seat toward the edge of the bar and the bartender is over to her quickly. She doesn’t know what to order, she doesn’t even know what kind of alcohol she likes. The only thing she’s ever really had is the cheap beer the Zeta’s manage to secure. But she remembers Danny ordering a whiskey on the rocks while they were at dinner once and liking how it tasted on her tongue after she kissed her. So she orders that. She ignores the questioning smirk the bartender gives her as she prepares the drink.

Laura stares at it for a few minutes. She picks it up, she swirls it around and listens as the ice hits the side of the glass. She lifts it to her lips and she takes a sip. Her nose wrinkles as the liquor goes down her throat. It burns. She coughs into her elbow. The bartender raises an eyebrow at her and Laura gives her the sharpest glare that she can muster. She can handle this. If she can handle…everything else, she can handle a little bit of alcohol burning her throat on the way down. She decides to bite the bullet and shoot down the rest in one go. She slams the glass down against the top of the bar and her face is wrinkled up but she manages to gesture toward the bartender and ask for another through a series of finger pointing gestures.

Laura’s two double whiskeys into her evening and the bar has started to fill up now. There’s a few familiar faces that she recognizes from her classes but nobody that she knows well enough to say hi to. She’s still sitting in her familiar corner spot and she’s nursing her third drink, rolling it between her hands. Her face is flushed and she knows her hair is probably a little bit out of control but she hasn’t forgotten anything yet. She’s about to take another sip of her drink when a familiar fleck of red hair catches her eye. She turns her head and sure enough, just a few people down, is Danny. She’s dressed nicely and her hair is done. She looks pretty. She’s flagging down the bartender with one of her long arms and she’s turning her head in Laura’s direction. Laura quickly turns her head away, shielding her face with her hair. She hopes that Danny didn’t notice her. She’s sure that even if she did, she wouldn’t say anything. Suddenly, she feels a gust of air against her right side and she turns her head to investigate. The people occupying the seats between she and Danny had gotten up to leave. Of course. Danny’s looking right at her. Laura chances a hesitant smile. Danny gives her a half smile back. Laura doesn’t know if she should say anything. Danny isn’t saying anything and it’s beyond awkward. But with the alcohol flowing through her, she finds something akin to bravery. Or maybe it’s just stupidity. She looks over to her and says, “You look good.” Danny jumps. She looks over at Laura and she’s glaring, initially, and Laura half expects her not to say anything in response. She gives her a small, bitter smile in response.

“Thanks.” She replies shortly. Danny turns back to the bar, eyes clearly scanning for the bartender.

“Are you here with anybody?” Laura asks and god, why can’t she just leave it alone? Danny doesn’t want to talk to her. But clearly, alcohol just makes Laura’s lips looser. Danny purses her lips and clenches her fist against the bar. Laura can clearly see her jawline, so she’s obviously gritting her teeth. Telltale signs of annoyance. She nods her head once.

“Yeah. A few Summer Society sisters and some Zeta’s.” She mutters. She leans over the bar now, widening her eyes in the direction of the bartender. Laura makes a noise of curiosity.

“Since when do you hang out with Zeta’s?” Laura blurts out and Danny lets out a sigh of frustration.

“Since when do you care, Laura?” Danny bites back and Laura bites down on her bottom lip. She nods. She doesn’t apologize, though maybe she should, and Danny doesn’t say anything else. The bartender comes over with a few open bottles of beer and Danny grabs them quickly. She shoots Laura one last angry look before heading back over to her table, where she sees a few faces that she recognizes. Elsie, one of Danny’s summer society sisters, and Kirsch and Will. Two Zeta’s that had been in her freshman year English lit class. Kirsch is smiling at Danny like a smitten puppy, even though she isn’t even looking at him, and Laura’s happy for her. That she has somebody to look at her like that. Like Laura should have looked at her.

Laura downs the last of this drink and then she pays her tab. She tries not to cringe at the price.

She leaves the bar after that, wandering around for a little while, until the alcohol really starts to hit her. She’s dizzy and somehow, sadder than she was before she even started drinking. She hates that even from miles away, Carmilla can still make her feel like this. That Carmilla has so much power over her. It’s not fair.

And maybe, someone ought to tell her that.

Yeah, Laura thinks, someone should tell Carmilla that she’s really not fair and she shouldn’t be able to make Laura feel so much from so far away.

Laura pulls out her phone and without thinking, she finally presses the call button that she’s been hovering over for weeks. The phone rings and Laura feels less and less confident in her decision to press call the longer the phone rings.

Finally, after 7 rings, she hears a sleepy, “Hello?” From the other side of the receiver. She lets out a breath of relief.

“You picked up! I didn’t know if you would because it was your idea not to talk to each other in the first place but you totally picked up and I’m glad.” Laura rambles. From the other side, Laura hears a few familiar sounds of Carmilla waking up. Then there’s an intake of breath.

“Laura, are you drunk?” She asks slowly, sleep still peppering her tone. Laura shrugs, forgetting for a moment that Carmilla can’t actually see her.

No. Just a little tipsy. It’s totally too early in the night to be drunk. You can’t be drunk until after midnight and it’s only 11. What time is it where you are? Is it super late? Or is the same time? I think it might be the same time. When I looked it up, google said Paris was still in this timezone. Were you sleeping? You were totally sleeping, I’m sorry.” Laura continues to ramble and Laura can’t deny how much her heart is swelling at the sound of Carmilla’s voice.

“That’s not how it works, cupcake.” Carmilla replies and Laura swears she hears affection in her voice. “Don’t worry about me. Where are you? Are you alone?” She asks. Laura blows a raspberry into the receiver.

“Totally. Ran into Danny at the bar and that was super awkward. I think she was on a date. But then I left and now I’m near this park but don’t worry, I totally know how to get back to our room.” Laura trails off. Even that’s too much for a drunk dial. “My room. My room.” Laura retracts and she hears bed creaking in the background. She wonders if there’s someone in there with her. “Are you alone?” Laura parrots and Carmilla sighs.

“Yes, I’m alone.” She says. Laura can’t stop the grin from spreading across her face.

“Good.” Laura murmurs in response. There’s silence for a minute.

“Are you moving?” Carmilla asks. Laura looks down. She shakes her head.

“No. I haven’t moved since I called you. Weird. I think everything is moving around me though.” Laura comments. Carmilla laughs.

“You have to get back to your room, Laura. Can you walk or do you need to call a cab?” Carmilla asks.

She called her Laura. She’d only ever done that once before and under rather horrible circumstances. Laura’s face softens into a smile.

“You called me Laura.” She comments, her voice the equivalent of mush. Carmilla snorts.

“It’s your name, isn’t it?” Laura giggles.

“Of course it is, silly, but you never ever call me Laura. It’s nice. Sounds really, really pretty coming from you.” Laura says through a yawn. There’s a length pause again and Laura nearly asks if Carmilla’s still on the line.

“You never answered me. Can you walk?” Carmilla says softly.

“Totally. I can totally walk. I can see the biology building from here so I know exactly where I am.” Laura says and she starts to walk toward the building.

“Stay on the line with me until you get in, okay? I want to make sure you’re alright.” Carmilla says and Laura agrees.

For most of the walk, Laura just drunkenly comments on what she’s seeing as she walks by. Carmilla occasionally comments but mostly, she just listens to Laura.

When Laura finally reaches her room, she leans against the door, the phone still pressed to her ear. She sighs into it. “It’s really nice to talk to you, Carm.” Laura whispers. Carmilla laughs lightly.

“It’s nice to talk to you too, cupcake. Even if you are drunk.” Carmilla replies. Laura grins.

“I miss you.” She says, her eyelids falling. They go quiet again. Laura’s head lulls back against the door and she starts to drift off.

“Yeah, I miss you too.” Carmilla replies and Laura smiles into the phone.

“I’m at my room.” Laura pauses. “Will you…will you let me call you tomorrow?” Laura asks, a little nervously.

“Go to sleep, Laura. We’ll talk soon, okay?” Carmilla says and it’s not quite an answer but it’s something. It’s more than she’s had in months and she’ll take anything that she can get from Carmilla at this point.

“Okay.” Laura replies. “Goodnight.” She continues.

“Goodnight, Laura.” Carmilla echoes and the line goes dead.

That night, Laura is able to sleep soundlessly.

She’s not sure if it’s because of the alcohol of because of Carmilla.

-

“Hey, Laura. It’s me. I wasn’t sure what time you would wake up, hopefully not well into the afternoon with how long you’ll need to recover from the hangover you’ll have, but I just wanted to say that it really was good to talk to you. I didn’t realize how much I missed your voice until I heard it. And if you would like, I want to open the lines of communication between us again. It was foolish of me to close them to begin with. So if you want to, you’re welcome to call me when you wake up.”

-

Hearing Laura’s voice, after months of nothing, felt like heaven.

It wasn’t holding her and it wasn’t touching her, but it did feel something like coming home.

She falls asleep with a smile on her face that night, for the first time since she’s been in Paris, and the moment she wakes up the next morning, she calls Laura. She’s sure that Laura won’t be awake. Nobody that had been in her state of inebriation should wake up before noon. It had to be written as law somewhere.

She’s taken to watching the sunrise from the balcony of her apartment. She enjoys greeting the day with a cup of coffee and watching the sun rise over the horizon. It’s been one of the small pleasures of being here. And one of the only good things.

She wants nothing more than to be back at Silas with Laura. Curled up against her, moving hair off of her face so she can watch her.

But she has to finish out her semester.

And the distance is still doing them some good. Carmilla meant it when she thought that being friends with Laura might be a good thing. She feels all of these intense things toward her but if she’s being honest, she doesn’t know all that much about her. And Laura certainly doesn’t know anything about her. She’s kept her past to herself. She knows she’s hiding some skeletons. She has to wonder if Laura is too.

She sketches while she waits for Laura to call back (and she’s sure that she will – if she remembers anything she said last night). For the first time since just after she arrived, she just allows herself to draw Laura’s face. She doesn’t try and morph it into something that it isn’t. And that feels good.

It’s 11am when the phone rings. Carmilla picks up it up immediately. “Hello?” She breathes into the receiver and she’s greeted with a hefty groan in response. “Feeling good then?” Carmilla asks and all she hears is another grunt.

“Someone dropped an anvil on my head last night, I’m sure of it.” Laura whispers and Carmilla laughs.

“That’s a hangover cupcake.” She comments. “What are you doing awake? You should be sleeping.” Laura huffs, loudly.

“My roommate decided that 10:30am was the perfect time to start studying for her midterm. Complete with the slamming of textbooks down on the desk.” Laura complains. Carmilla smirks. It is nice to hear that Laura’s new roommate seems to do nothing but annoy her.

Though, that’s all Carmilla did in the beginning too.

“Unfortunate, that.” Carmilla retorts and there’s silence for a few moments. Carmilla takes a deep breath and then she says, “Look, I’m sorry I shut you out. I had some things that I needed to figure out.”

“And did you? Figure them out?” Laura asks after a few more beats.

“I did.” Carmilla pauses and she hopes that Laura doesn’t take it the wrong way. “I think…you were right when you called us friends. That’s what we need to be right now. We have to rewind. Do things right.” Carmilla explains and Laura is quiet of a few moments.

“Yeah. Yeah okay. That’s probably a good idea.” Laura agrees. Carmilla hadn’t realized how much she feared Laura outright rejecting her, rejecting this, until she’d heard her agreement. “So, friend,” and Laura doesn’t say the word with any spite or malice, more of curiosity, “Tell me what you’ve been up to. Your letters haven’t been all that detailed and I want to know everything about Paris.” Laura asks.

Carmilla’s face settles into a smile. “I have to send you a picture of this view. You’d be so jealous….”

-

“It’s midnight.”

“I know, I can read the clock.”

“Know what day it is, cupcake?”

“…my birthday.”

“Your birthday.”

“You remembered?”

“Of course I remembered. I’ve never forgotten anything you told me.”

“Even the watermelon story?”

Especially the watermelon story…You have any plans for today?”

“No. My Dad already sent my present. I was just going to watch movies.”

“…Would you want to watch movies with me? On Skype or something?”

“You don’t have anything better to do?”

“Better than you? Absolutely not.”

-

Laura blows out the candle on the birthday cupcake she bought for herself and she wishes for Carmilla.

She wishes she were next to her. She wishes they could hold hands like they did while they watched Titanic together. She wishes that she could rest her head against Carmilla’s chest and listen to her heartbeat.

But even if she were here, they wouldn’t be able to do those things. Because those aren’t things that friends do. And that’s what they are now. Friends. Laura knows that maybe that’s her own doing. Her own fault for calling them friends in that second letter. And Laura supposes that having Carmilla as friend is better than not having her at all. And really she’s learned more about her in the few weeks that they’ve been friends than she learned while they were….whatever they were before.

It’s nice to talk to her and know that everything she’s getting from her isn’t some ploy to get her into bed. Every question she asks, every tidbit of her past that she offers, is given because she wants Laura to know it. She wants Laura to know her. But all this friendship has succeeded in doing is making Laura fall even more in love with her and make her more sure that Carmilla is who she wants for the rest of her life.

It’s nearing midnight and they’ve been watching movies all day long. Carmilla’s commentary on the movies has been more entertaining than any of the movies themselves and Laura can’t remember the last time she laughed this hard.

The final movie is rolling the credits and they’re sitting in companionable silence. Laura is staring at Carmilla, who is scribbling something in her sketchbook. She looks up, with a grin, and says, “Close your eyes.” Laura give Carmilla a strange look but she complies. She squeezes her eyes tightly shut. A few seconds later Carmilla speaks again. “Okay. You can open them.” When Laura does, she sees a drawing being held against the webcam. It’s of the two of them, sitting together on the bed, watching the laptop screen. Above it, written in rather ornate script, is ‘Happy Birthday, Laura’. Laura’s grin is wide and she squeals in excitement. Carmilla lowers the book. She’s biting down nervously on her bottom lip. “You like it?” She asks. Laura nods emphatically.

“I love it. Thank you.” Laura says. Carmilla’s smile is lopsided and she runs a hand through her hair, messing up her bangs, and Laura wishes more than anything that she could reach out touch her. Kiss her as a thank you for the drawing. But she can’t.

“I’ll give it to you when I come back.” Carmilla says, bringing Laura out from her reverie. Laura smiles softly, thinking about Carmilla coming back. “Which is in a few weeks.” Carmilla leaves the statement hanging between them and Laura doesn’t know how to respond. How Carmilla expects her to respond.

“Are you excited to come back?” Laura asks tentatively. Carmilla shrugs.

“I guess. There are some things I’m looking forward to more than others.” And even through the screen, Carmilla manages to pin Laura in her spot with nothing more than a look.  “I still haven’t chosen my summer classes yet.” Carmilla adds after a few moments of Laura’s silence. Laura shoots her a confused look. “I have to pick them before I come back otherwise I won’t be able to stay on campus for the summer.” She continues, noticing the look on Laura’s face.

“Don’t you have family to stay with?” Laura asks and Carmilla shakes her head. They hadn’t had the family talk and Laura’s noticed that Carmilla avoids talking about her family if she can. She doesn’t want to pressure her but she can’t deny that she’s curious. She only knows that Carmilla’s mom is dead but she’s fairly certain that Carmilla telling her that had been an accident.

“I haven’t had…family to stay with in quite a long time, cupcake.” Carmilla says and it’s the most Laura’s gotten from her about this and she has to admit that it sparks her curiosity even more.

“You know…if you want to tell me about them, you could. I would listen.” Laura says and Carmilla freezes for a moment. And then she nods.

“My biological parents were killed.” She murmurs. She isn’t looking up at Laura, which is probably a good thing because Laura’s eyes go wide and she’s sure her jaw is dropping. “I was 7. Robbery gone wrong. I was at a friend’s house that afternoon. If I hadn’t been…” She trails off and Laura knows what she’s trying to say. “I went into foster care after that. Horrible system. Most families I went to just…wanted me for the extra cash. Nobody cared beyond that.” Carmilla continues with a shrug. Laura can tell that she’s trying to play nonchalant. Laura doesn’t dare say anything, she doesn’t want to interrupt, and Carmilla continues. “I was 16 when I met Ell. She was the daughter of one of the foster family’s I was living with. They were…homophobic to say the least but they were the ones that treated me the best. It was the best setup I’d had since I entered the system. But I fell in love with her. She convinced me that together, we could defy everything, including her parents.” She’s getting a little choked up now. “They found out about us, of course they did, and they kicked me out. I had hoped that once her parents were out of the picture, we could really be something. She never tried to talk to me after that.” Carmilla shrugs, wiping at her eyes. “That was the last place I’d been able to call home.” And she looks up at Laura now. “Until you.” Laura’s smile is lighting up her face now and she allows her hand to drift in front of the camera, so the outline of it is pressed against it. Carmilla does the same and if Laura closes her eyes, she can pretend she can feel the warmth of Carmilla’s hand against her own.

“Me too.” Laura whispers and she hopes Carmilla understands what she means.

That Carmilla is home to Laura too.

-

“I bought too many things, Laura.”

“I told you that you didn’t need that last minute shopping trip, Carm.”

“I needed a beret! I was in Paris and I never bought myself a beret. It was necessary.”

“It wasn’t. How many suitcases do you have?”

“…three.”

“Where are you going to put them when you get settled into your room? The dorm is half the size of your apartment.”

“I’ll be living by myself. I don’t have to share my space. I’ll find a way to fit everything.”

“You’re ridiculous…Are you excited?”

“To see you? Absolutely.”

“I meant to be back here, silly.”

“I’m more excited about seeing you. We still on for dinner after I settle back in?”

“Of course. I’ll pick you up.”

“Perfect…Hey, Laura?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m glad we decided to be friends.”

“….Yeah. Me too.”

-

The moment her plane leaves the ground in Paris, her heart is in her throat. She wants to sleep, maybe, or just find some way to relax but all she can think about is that in a few hours, she’ll be seeing Laura.

She’ll be able to hug her again.

They’ll be able to talk.

Carmilla will be able to tell her that she loves her, really, and that she wants to try this. Try being a ‘them’. And she can only cross her fingers and hope that Laura feels the same way. Hope that Laura wants the same thing that she does.

She tries to take a nap. She tries to do anything to relax herself. She wishes she’d bought herself a first class ticket so she could sit in the reclining chairs and just drink herself relaxed. But she figures that perhaps it’s best if she doesn’t meet up with Laura piss drunk and loose lipped. None of that would be good. So she sticks to staring out of the window, imagining every possible scenario for the night. Both positive and negative. She hopes it only goes well but with them? Anything is possible. She’s learned not to expect anything.

-

Laura told Carmilla that they would have dinner together after Carmilla had already landed and settled back into her summer dormitory.

But she had a plan.

Laura wasn’t going to wait any longer than she had to. She wanted Carmilla in her arms the moment she touched ground in Styria and she would do anything to make that happen.

She’d dreamed of some dramatic airport scene when Carmilla had left her. There was nothing saying that she couldn’t get her dramatic airport scene when Carmilla returned. And she was sure that she was going to get it.

She makes a sign out of cardboard, like she’d seen in all of those movies. She writes Carmilla’s name in boxy letters in sharpie, surrounding it with hearts. Maybe it’s cheesy, maybe it’s stupid, and maybe Carmilla won’t appreciate it but during this whole thing, it’s been Carmilla to make the big gestures and Laura figures it’s her turn to give one back to Carmilla. She deserved it. She deserved a lot of things but this was the only thing she could give her right now.

She spends her cab ride to the airport, tapping her fingers against her knee. She chomps down on her bottom lip and she thinks that she’s going to make herself bleed before she even gets to the airport. She’d asked Carmilla four times what time her flight landed back in Styria. The time, 4:30, was practically imprinted on the forefront of her brain now. She’d probably never forget it. When the cab pulls up in front of the airport and Laura stumbles out of the side, she nearly drops the sign on the floor. Her fingers are shaking as she shoves a $20 at the driver and tells him to keep the change. It’s 4:25. She’s still got time. She stands at the base of the escalator where she sees a long flow of people from various flights coming down. She situates herself, next to the tuxedo-ed limo drivers and holds up her sign. She doesn’t care if she looks silly or ridiculous. All that matters is Carmilla.

-

The ride is turbulent and Carmilla swears she nearly vomits at least three times.

When the plane finally touches down, she can’t get off the plane fast enough.

She’s irritated from the turbulent ride, she’s nervous for the rest of the rest of her night, and both of things together just add up to sheer annoyance. She doesn’t have the patience to shove through the rest of the crowd so she waits until the crowd in front of her has dissipated and then she walks out into the aisle of the plane, her carryon slung over her shoulder.

She has headphones in her ears and she stays a good distance behind the rest of the crowd. She keeps her eyes trained toward the ground until she reaches the escalator that leads down to baggage claim.

She chances a glance up and around the first floor of the airport and one thing catches her eye. One person. She has to do a double take.

Standing at the bottom of the escalator with a cardboard sign that has her name doodled on it. She’s looking up at her with a bright grin that Carmilla can’t help but return. Now she wants to push through the crowds in front of her and she swears the escalator isn’t going nearly fast enough. She needs to be next to Laura now. She’d been away from her for long enough. She just wants to hug her. Finally, she reaches the bottom and she quickens her pace until she’s standing directly in front of Laura. With a shy, lopsided grin, she says, “You’re here.”

-

Laura can’t describe the feeling in her chest when she sees Carmilla at the top of the escalator. If it’s possible, she’s gotten even more beautiful. Stunning beyond comprehension. Even just seeing her nearly knows her off of her feet. She can’t stop a grin form forming when she watches Carmilla’s eyes float up and they make eye contact. Laura’s grin grows when she watches Carmilla’s smile slowly spread across her face. God, she looks so wonderful when she smiles. Laura hopes that she gets to see that smile every day for the rest of her life. She would be lucky.

Laura’s grin is large when Carmilla stands in front of her. She gives her a shy smile and it takes all of Laura’s self-control not to just drop the sign and kiss her right there. She wants to. The only thing stopping her is that Carmilla might not want her to. So she sticks with a smile. “You’re here.” Carmilla murmurs and Laura throws her head back. She shakes her head and takes a step toward Carmilla. She drops the sign into one of her free hands. She uses the other to tuck a few stray strands of hair behind Carmilla’s ear.

“Of course I am. I couldn’t let you touch down with nobody here to greet you.” Laura replies and Carmilla looks at her with wide, vulnerable eyes. She isn’t hiding anything. There’s a light sheen in front of her eyes and Laura hopes that she doesn’t cry. She doesn’t want Carmilla to cry. This is a good moment (at least she hopes it will be) and she doesn’t want any tears to ruin it. Carmilla shakes her head at her. She drops her carryon onto the floor and throws her arms around Laura’s neck. She buries her face in the side of Laura’s neck and Laura grips the back of her head tightly. God, she smells so wonderful. Even just being able to smell her is enough. But it’s got nothing, nothing, on being able to hold her again. She fits against Laura like a puzzle piece. She belongs with her. It may have taken a series of shitty choice and bad circumstances to get them here but they’re finally here. Together. And Laura has no intention of letting her go any time soon.

Ten months ago, Laura never would have imagined this. She never would have imagined she would be able to live without Danny. She never imagined she would fall in love with her annoying new roommate. She never imagined that any of this would be her life. And yeah, a lot of shitty things happened along the way but with Carmilla here in her arms, knowing that she genuinely loves her, she wouldn’t have done this differently (with a few exceptions. Like telling Danny first).

Carmilla pulls back, dragging a hand up to Laura’s cheek, rubbing a thumb across her cheekbone. She leans their foreheads together. She licks her lips and Laura thinks that maybe she might kiss her. She doesn’t. Instead, she looks into her eyes and she says: “It’s good to be home.”