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one day at a time

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..

It’s only one week into quarantine by the time they finally meet. Jamie is sitting with her legs kicked up on the railing, smoking a cigarette and trying to read a book. Below, the city streets are eerily quiet. Any time a car rumbles past, it makes her jump and crane her neck to look at it down below. 

If the intensity of her boredom after only six days is anything to go by, the rest of her self-isolation is going to be a treat. The first few days had been spent in a near-constant state of panic, constantly updating her phone and leaving the news on, watching as the numbers spiked across nearly every country on the continent. She’d fielded panicked calls from Owen and Hannah, making sure they were alright in Paris and answered emails to her boss at the flower shop regarding time-away pay and her own safety and health. 

Now, she’s almost entirely run out of things to do.

She’s just contemplating the merits of tossing herself over the edge of the balcony when the door to the balcony just beside her own opens and a woman comes out. At first, Jamie can’t see much of anything save for her profile. It’s evening and the sun is beginning to set, which means that the buildings surrounding their apartment complex are casting deep shadows on just about everything in sight. 

Jamie realizes briefly that she’s seen this woman before, in the time that she’s lived in her apartment. Down by the mailboxes, in the hallways. They might have even shared the elevator once or twice. But she must not have ever gotten a good enough look because she’s certain she would remember if she had.

When the woman sits down at a small table she has on her balcony, she turns and Jamie can see her face more clearly which is—

Wow. 

Even with the pale of her cheeks and the dark shadow she’s sitting in, she somehow looks like one of those old Hollywood starlets. The kind that are usually only seen in black and white. Her blonde hair is tied away from her face messily, leaving a few strands around her ears, her blue eyes are blinking back tears, too, and it’s like it doesn’t even matter to Jamie’s poor heart. Not with how hard it is to look at the pink shape of this other woman’s mouth and the soft column of her neck.

Quick as she can remember to, Jamie looks away, focusing instead on taking a long pull from her cigarette. On her exhale, she punches the smoke through her parted lips, sending it up into the air in a messy circle.

“Hey,” the softest voice she’s ever heard says after a little while. 

When she looks up, the woman is watching her. Their balconies are close—technically connected—which means they’re a little less than ten feet away from one another. Any closer and Jamie would need to run inside and grab one of the masks Hannah sent her right at the start of the whole thing.

“Hey,” she returns.

The woman looks like she’s maybe ten seconds away from openly sobbing, but she maintains a kind of gentle stoicism. “You can totally say no,” she begins, “because of everything going on and germs and stuff but...Could I maybe bum one of those off of you?”

As enchanted as Jamie is by her surprisingly pleasant American accent, it takes her a moment to realize what’s been requested of her. By the time she does, the woman looks like she’s setting herself up for rejection. She hurries to answer.

“Yeah!” she says, and then realizes that she practically yelled it and winces at herself. “Sorry, just...yeah, of course. Let me…”

The woman’s tense expression begins to melt into something vaguely charmed. Jamie tries not to read too much into it. She reaches for her pack, resting beneath her chair beside her water bottle and then thinks better of it. Gets to her feet. Stubs out her cigarette in the ashtray on the TV tray table she’d brought out from her living room.

“Actually, give me a sec.”

She darts inside her apartment before the other woman can ask why.

Inside, she goes to the drawer in her kitchen that’s filled with nothing but spare change, batteries, and a few extra packs of Benson & Hedges. She grabs for one and then blindly fumbles through the cabinet above to pull out a pack of disinfectant wipes, which she tucks under her arm as she goes back outside.

Quick as she can, she takes out a wipe and swipes it over the pack thoroughly before reaching down and sliding it across the cool, tile flooring of their balconies. It slides a few feet, coming to rest just in front of the woman’s shoes.

“Oh my god, you’re the best,” she says, picking it up and ripping it open.

“Do you need a…?” Jamie trails off, plucking the lighter from her pocket and waving it in the air. When she gets a nod, she uses the wipe to clean it, too, and then slides it over. The woman lights a cigarette, setting it between her pretty lips and, when she offers to slide the lighter back, Jamie shakes her head in response. “You can keep it,” she says and the woman looks like she’s gonna cry all over again.

They sit in silence for a little while, silently smoking and looking at anything but the empty city below. Eventually, Jamie musters up the courage to say something along the lines of, “Rough day?”

Fortunately, the woman doesn’t seem to mind how cheesy that sounds. She nods. “What day isn’t lately?” she asks. Then, “I’m...Dani.”

Jamie smiles, saying the name over and over in her head. “Jamie,” she returns. “I’d shake your hand, but—”

Dani laughs. “Fair enough.” She takes a long drag from the cigarette and then meets Jamie’s eyes again. “My, um...My mom just tested positive so I’m...yeah.”

“Oh,” Jamie breathes. “Oh, I’m really sorry.”

“Yeah.”

“Is she…?” 

She’s not really sure what that question is going to turn into, but she doesn’t necessarily have to worry about then when Dani jumps in.

“She’s back in America and I’m…well…” She gestures vaguely to the city around her.

“Right,” Jamie says. “I’m sorry. That must be really rough.”

“Yeah.” Dani is silent again for a long moment. “ I’m sorry. You don’t even know me and here I am—”

This time, it’s Jamie’s turn to cut in.

“No, it’s...It’s okay,” she says. “You can...I’ve been told I’m a good listener.”

Dani stares at her, eyes narrowed, looking her over. “I can see that.”

Jamie’s not really sure what she’s supposed to say to that.

“I just realized that this is the first time I’ve actually spoken to someone in person in almost fifteen days,” Dani admits. She looks more than a little surprised at this revelation.

Jamie thinks over her time in quarantine. Remembers Owen’s grainy, pixelated face on Zoom. Hannah’s voice catching on the slow internet connection.

“Me, too,” she says. “Huh.”

They sit there in the ever-darkening spring evening, still and unmoving as the world continues to spin.

_______

Dani’s already outside the next evening when Jamie goes out. She’s brought a laptop with her and she has her headphones in, but she takes them out when she sees Jamie, giving her a glowing smile.

“Hey,” she greets.

“Hey,” Jamie says. “Mind if I join ya’?”

“Of course not,” Dani says.

She ends up setting her laptop up on her table, angling it so they can both see it, subtitles on and huge at the bottom of the screen. Jamie doesn’t really need them, anyway. She’s certainly seen the movie enough times. She’s far more interested in hearing Dani’s sporadic comments about a young Sigourney Weaver and the safety of the poor, space-bound cat than she is in the movie anyway.

_______

It becomes a thing after that. Every evening, like clockwork, they’ll both wind up on their balconies and watch a movie or just sit and talk. Jamie learns that Dani is terrified of the ocean, that her favorite smoothie flavor is mango, and that she's absolutely shit at making tea—though Jamie has not had proof of that one.

She talks about her job at a private school in the city, how nervous she is for all of her kids. Complains about virtual learning and being technologically impaired.

In turn, Jamie talks about Owen and Hannah, her boss, and her obsession with American cooking shows. 

They laugh a lot, which is nice. Really nice. The news gets scarier every day, but at least—amongst all the other people they may have, however inaccessible they may be—they have each other.

_______

“I don’t get it,” Dani says on the first night of their third week of isolation. “Saving her from the...evil demigod doesn’t change the fact that he was super creepy at the beginning.”

Jamie laughs from her perch on her own balcony as Dani turns to her with wide, frantic eyes—the credits to Ghostbusters playing behind her head. “Sigourney does deserve better,” she agrees.

“I just don’t understand that,” Dani says.

“Understand what? Being attracted to Bill Murray? Cause I’m with ya’ there.”

She’s blessed with the sound of that laugh Dani only releases for Jamie’s best jokes. Or her worst ones. She’s not really sure. What matters is the way Dani’s nose scrunches up and how she tosses her head back into it each time.

“No, no,” she says, then frowns. “I mean, yeah, but...settling like that. For something she clearly didn’t want at the beginning.”

It’s the way she says it that gives her away; there’s something going unsaid here. Something from Dani’s past that they’re not quite good enough friends for Jamie to ask about. They don’t know each other. Not really. And remembering that feels like a cold glass of water being poured over her head.

They’re just two people who hang out in the evenings because they can’t see anyone else right now.

So she settles for the easy way out. She doesn’t say anything about her parents or herself or all that mess with Rebecca and Peter. Instead she says, “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’m pretty sure she dumps him between this one and the sequel.”

That serious look drains away from Dani’s expression. 

“Really?” she asks, almost too eager.

Jamie laughs. “Pretty sure.”

“Good for her.”

“But...I think they might get back together at the end.”

Dani gives a dramatic groan and flops back onto her chair and Jamie can’t stop grinning for the longest time.

_______

The sequel really is unbearable, and Dani throws popcorn at her own laptop halfway through, so they turn it off. Relax back. Watch the sunset over the buildings and talk about all the things they want to do once this is over. 

“I always wanted to go rock climbing,” Dani says. 

Jamie tries to imagine that. “Really?” she asks.

“Well...at one of those indoor places.”

Complete silence follows this. It’s something they can do, apparently—sitting in silence without it being strained or forced. Jamie’s never had that with anyone before.

“I’d like to go ghost hunting I think,” Jamie says eventually.

Dani whips her head around to look at her. “Really?” she asks. “Where?”

Jamie shrugs. “Someplace old. A castle or a house that no one lives in anymore. Not that I reckon anything’d happen.” When she looks over, Dani is watching her wide eyes, listening to what she’s saying with more intent than Jamie thought possible for anyone. “But it might be nice. Pretty, even. Just being in a place where so many folks lived their lives or passed through. I don’t know if I believe in ghosts but I believe in that.”

“In what?” Dani prods.

“Marks. Impressions,” Jamie says. “Left by the memory of someone. Some emotion they felt during an experience. Some piece of who they are. I think...if it was really strong...you can feel it. Even the bad stuff.”

It strikes Jamie that she’s never said that aloud to anyone. She thinks Dani might know that, too. She adjusts her feet where they’re propped up on the railing and bites at her lip, waiting. Birds fly past in the sky. Somewhere in the distance, she can hear someone playing the piano. A TV turned up too loud. 

Life, she thinks. Moving on. Even in the narrow confines of isolation.

“You,” Dani begins, voice soft as she points an accusatory finger Jamie’s way, “are a romantic.” She drops her hand and grabs a piece of popcorn, placing it daintily between her lips and nodding, like she’s trying to reinforce what she’s just said. She must be able to tell that Jamie has at least part of an argument forming in her mind, because she rushes on to cut her off. “No! You are . And it’s incredibly…”

“Incredibly what?”

Dani frowns for a moment. “Sweet,” she says.

Jamie narrows her eyes. “What were you going to say?”

“What I said: sweet .”

“No, that’s not it.”

“What? Does that ruin your...rough-and-tumble charm?”

“My what ?” Jamie asks, a laugh held in the back of her throat, quirking her head to one side.

Dani wags her finger like some kind of school marm. “Don’t play dumb,” she says. She takes another crunching bite of her popcorn and, around it, says, “I was going to say cute , okay? Happy now?”

“Oh.” Her surprise drips from the word. 

“I’m allowed to think you’re cute, you know,” Dani says and she sounds so steady, but the flush of her cheeks catches in the fading evening light. She might be trembling a little. “You’re not the boss of me.”

“’Course you are,” Jamie says, tapping an erratic rhythm on her leg with her fingers. “Never said you weren’t.”

“You okay?” Dani asks. 

She sounds amused now and certainly less nervous. Jamie wishes she knew what that was like.

Jamie nods. “Sure.” She glances over at Dani and then quickly away, shaking her head. “Just...who the hell knew?”

Two meters never felt so far.

_______

The next one up is Galaxy Quest , which Dani claims to have seen at least a dozen times.

At some point, Jamie catches the way that Dani is mouthing the dialogue along with every scene, and she’s already a goner but this makes it so much worse. These simple, silly things that slot together to make this other woman make her feel weak and giddy. 

It’s a hot summer evening and Jamie’s shirt is sticking to the small of her back with sweat, and her apartment is right there —cool and air-conditioned and inviting. But she thinks she’d sit out in the middle of the storm if it meant Dani was there with her, laughing the whole time.

“Sorry if you hated it.”

Jamie realizes that the movie is over and that Dani is watching her with a forlorn expression at the same time. “What?” she says. “I didn’t hate it.”

“You were zoning pretty hard.” 

“Right, yeah. Um...just stuff...on my mind. That’s all.” She rubs her palm at the back of her sweaty neck. “It’s a good movie.”

Dani smiles, turning in her seat so they’re facing one another a little across all that distance. “Have you seen her pumpkin pictures?” 

Jamie blinks. A laugh rumbles through her chest and out her throat. “Pumpkin pictures?” she asks.

“Oh, my god,” Dani breathes, fumbling her phone from the pocket of her shorts. “You have to see them.” She frowns in concentration as she types something and then scrolls, the blue light making her squint and it’s so ridiculously cute and Jamie is wildly charmed by that fact—

“Aha!” 

Dani lifts her phone a little and shakes it triumphantly. She turns it and holds it up for Jamie to look at, but Jamie it’s too far for her to really see much of anything.

“The pumpkin pictures!” Dani exclaims. “They’re incredible.”

Jamie shakes her head. “I can’t see them,” she says. 

“You can’t…?” Dani frowns and turns her phone around to look at it for herself. “Do you want me to…?” She makes a strange gesture then, possibly miming sliding her phone over for Jamie to look at, but Jamie shakes her head.

“Just...You can text them to me, if you like,” she says.

“Then you’ll have them forever.” Dani smiles. “What’s your number?”

It isn’t until she asks that Jamie realizes what she’s offering here. She clears her throat and then rattles her number off, watching as Dani types it into her phone. A minute later, her phone buzzes on her lap and, when she opens it, she’s greeted with two pictures of Sigourney Weaver lying on a couch, posing with a pumpkin. 

She breathes out a surprised laugh and shakes her head. “Wow,” she says. “These are—”

“I strive to be so bold some day.” 

The way Dani says it makes Jamie feel even more endeared. Despite the tremble of the world around them with each passing moment, she can still smile and laugh. It strikes Jamie then that she wants to kiss her, which surprises her even though it isn’t necessarily surprising. Dani has warm, blue eyes and a smile to match. 

It’s honestly a crime that someone isn’t kissing her at all times.

Under normal circumstances, Jamie thinks she might have more game. She might express interest and ask Dani if she’d like to go get a drink or a meal. They would go and she would pull out Dani’s chair for her, foot the bill, walk her home and it would maybe be perfect. But all she can do right now is sit on her porch at least two meters away and pine from afar. Saying anything could risk the only in-person relationship she has right now and wouldn’t that make everything just that much lonelier? 

Jamie doesn’t want what they have to end.

So she doesn’t say anything.

She just saves Dani’s number in her phone and then says something in return that requires almost no thought. No planning. When Dani tosses her head back in a laugh, Jamie longs to reach out and touch her, cup her cheeks and her jaw, run her fingers through those blonde waves. 

There are things she tells herself.

Things like: some day.

And: she’s your friend.

And: it’s just a crush calm down calm down.

She doesn’t listen to any of them, of course, but it’s the thought that counts.

_______

Dani texts her the next morning, bright and early, making Jamie’s phone buzz on the mattress beside her bed. It’s a picture of a television, a movie she recognizes pulled up on Netflix. Beneath it is the question:

Cabin in the Woods tonight?

Jamie sits up in bed, back against her headboard and sheets tangled around her feet, so she can consider what to reply. She’s quite the sight, sitting there with her hair sticking up in the back, her sleep shirt twisted a little on her torso, cradling her phone like it’s fit to break any moment.

It’s a horror movie. You do okay with those?  she replies and then waits.

Watches as a read receipt pops up below the message and then those three bubbles appear, lingering for a moment.

Finally: Yep! As long as someone’s there to protect me.

Jamie’s brain has a bit of a time trying to figure that out. After a handful of seconds, another message appears below it, only making things that much worse.

It’s a simple thing, really, that Dani has sent. A winking emoji. 

Jamie is a well-adjusted adult. She handles the shock of it just fine.

_______

Around noon, it starts storming and by the time they usually meet out on their balconies, it still hasn’t let up. Jamie stands by the doors looking out on the city, watching the rain lash down angrily. As she’s standing there, she receives two text messages from Dani.

The first is just a row of frowning emojis and the second says, Raincheck? 

Jamie stares at the message just long enough for another one to appear.

No pun intended .

She laughs, thinking—

( really like you really really really like you )

—of Owen’s similar jokes and types back, Sure. You can watch it on your own if you’d like, too.

Drifting over to her sofa, Jamie sits down and folds her legs up, trying her damndest not to feel so lonely. She imagines Dani sitting in her apartment with the lights low, watching the movie with wide, frightened eyes, then imagines that she’s there too—one arm around the back of the couch and Dani’s cheek pressed into her shoulder as she clutches closer.

Her phone buzzes. 

Are you sure?

Jamie nods to no one. Types, I’ve seen it before. A few times really.

There’s a long pause before Dani’s next message. While it passes, Jamie pulls a blanket over her lap and pulls up her own Netflix account, typing the movie’s name in the search bar. She’s just barely hit play when she gets another text, this time simply reading:

Okay .

_______

Halfway through, her phone starts vibrating again, but longer this time. Sustained. It’s Dani, calling her, and Jamie answers a little too quickly. Breathes out an awed, “Hey,” that she hopes won’t give her away too much.

“You didn’t tell me this movie was this scary,” Dani says.

Jamie blinks, baffled. “It isn’t.”

“Yes, it is . Oh, my god, Jamie. The...The fucking, like...zombie guy and his—” 

“It’s never scared me. I’m sorry. I would have warned you if I’d known.” Jamie tries her best not to laugh at the note of startled panic in Dani’s voice. “You said you were okay with horror movies.”

“I lied!” she says. “I hate them, okay? But it’s...Sigourney and I thought you were going to be watching it with me, so I didn’t think…” 

Something about what Dani is saying makes Jamie’s heart feel full to the brim. “Turn it off, then,” she says. “We can finish it together.”

On her television screen, Chris Hemsworth revs his motorcycle and prepares to jump across a ravine. Jamie’s eyes go right past it, too busy listening to the way Dani is breathing on the other line.

“I’m already invested. And I’m not a quitter.” Dani laughs at herself a little, then groans. “God, why can’t you just come over here?”

Breath sharp in her throat, Jamie stiffens, trying and failing to not read too much into what’s just been said. The problem is that she’s picturing it now, going over to Dani’s. Hopping the little railing between their balconies and knocking on the double doors until Dani answers, greets her with that bright smile that makes Jamie’s knees feel a little weak. Touching the soft skin of Dani’s cheek and then leaning in to kiss her, feeling Dani’s hands on her, tugging at her clothes, pulling her back into the flat and kicking the doors shut behind them.

“I mean,” she begins, licking her lips and then clearing her throat, “I could, but…”

Dani inhales sharply. “Right,” she says. “ But .” 

Somehow, there’s tension in the room despite Dani not being physically present. It’s thick and heavy and Jamie can only imagine how terribly alive it would seem if they could see one another right now.

Outside, lightning flashes, followed by a loud peal of thunder a handful of seconds later.

“Could you just...stay on the phone with me?” Dani asks next. “You probably think I’m being so silly—”

“’Course I can.” Jamie doesn’t have to be able to see Dani to know that she’s holding her breath, waiting for an answer. “What part are you at?”

“Um...they’re in the RV and—” A surprised noise cuts off Dani’s speech and Jamie knows right where she is. She has to resist the urge to laugh a little. 

She spends the rest of the night sitting on her couch, phone pressed so tightly to her ear that it aches, and thinks she should try not to wish for things she may not get. But she can’t help it. Dani makes herself so easy to want .

_______

Jamie greets the fourth week of isolation alone in her apartment as rain pounds against her windows for the third day in a row. Given everything else, she spends a lot of her time trying to follow Owen’s emailed recipes with the groceries he and Hannah keep ordering for her. Most of the time, what she’s cooking ends up burnt, but at least it’s something to pass the time. On the rare occasion the meal ends up looking decent, she sends pictures of it to Dani just for some reassurance.

She’s been telling herself to be more careful about the whole thing, but she has yet to manage it. And, anyway, it’s nice to hear Dani’s thoughts on it—nice to have someone a wall away who’s just as desperate for human contact as she is. 

Sometimes, Dani will call her instead of texting and then Jamie will eat at her kitchen counter with Dani on speakerphone, pretending that they’re closer than they’re allowed to be. 

They learn things about one another, faster than Jamie’s usual friendships do, and the weight they carry is a wild range that can’t be predicted.

“You’ll have to give me lessons when this is all over,” Dani will say.

Or: “The Alien movies really went downhill, didn’t they?”

Or: “My mom’s doing a lot better. I’m...It’s...She’s doing a lot better.”

On the afternoon of the fourth day without seeing one another, Dani says something that plays on an endless loop in Jamie’s mind for hours after.

“I realized earlier that it’s been over a month since anyone’s touched me.”

And she probably means for it to sound perfectly innocent, but, well.

Jamie can’t help how she hears it.

_______

“I’m an idiot,” Dani states later that night when she calls in response to a picture of Jamie’s chicken and rice skillet. 

“What? No, you’re not.”

A sigh. “I am. All I have in my cupboard is applesauce.”

Jamie wrinkles her nose. “Gross.” 

“Not a fan, I take it.”

“Not really.” Jamie leans back against her counter and looks over at her balcony doors. Outside, the sky is an angry gray, frothy clouds drifting in the sky as rain puddles on the divots in the balcony’s flooring. “You don’t have anything ?”

“No, I don’t. I was putting it off as long as possible,” Dani answers. “Guess I’ll have to brave the outside world tomorrow.”

A thought occurs to Jamie. She turns around and grabs another bowl from her cupboard, setting it down on the counter and scooping several spoonfuls of food from her pan into it. One-handed, she finds the aluminum foil in a drawer and manages to pull and tear it, placing it awkwardly on the top of the bowl. 

“Go out to your balcony in a minute,” she says and Dani is silent on the other line for a moment.

“It’s raining,” she says, as if Jamie doesn’t know.

“I’ll be quick. Wear a mask.”

Another pause. “Okay.”

As soon as she hangs up, Jamie scrubs her hands in the sink and runs a disinfectant wipe over the outside of the bowl. She grabs one of her masks from the table by her door and slips it on before grabbing the bowl and crossing her flat in a few easy strides. Taking a deep breath, she pulls the hood of her sweater up over her head and steps outside. As heavy as the rain is, she’s fit to be soaked within minutes.

Fortunately, Dani is outside already, a purple face mask pulled up over her mouth and nose. From the crinkle in the corners of her eyes, Jamie can tell she’s smiling. She steps toward the railing keeping them separated and holds out the bowl for Dani to take. 

“What’s this?” Dani asks as she steps forward. Her voice is muffled a little from the mask, but this is the closest they’ve ever been—less than a meter of space between them—so it doesn’t feel right to complain.

“Food,” Jamie says. “Can’t let you starve.”

And Dani’s expression softens. 

“You didn’t have to—”

“I know,” Jamie cuts in. She shakes the bowl a little. “Take it.”

Dani does, and it’s a simple enough task, taking the bowl from Jamie, but their fingers brush together in the pass-off and Jamie can’t breathe. It’s the first time they’ve ever touched one another, she realizes, and it does something funny to her pulse.

There’s a curious sort of understanding in Dani’s eyes that seems to say that she’s realized the same thing. With one hand, she curls the bowl to her chest and, with the other, she reaches out to slide her fingers around Jamie’s hand, cradling it gently. The touch sparks like a live wire between them and Jamie breathes in sharply. She curls her fingers around Dani’s, stroking her thumb along her soft skin, wishing she could feel more. Wishing, impossibly, for so many things.

The rain splatters around them, slicking Dani’s hair to her forehead, making Jamie feel cold to the marrow of her bones, but neither of them makes any move to pull away. Dani takes a step forward and Jamie does the same, not stopping until the railing presses into her hips. With so little space between them, she finally has a chance to take in the sight of Dani up close—what she can see of her, anyway. Her eyes are a cool blue, her eyebrows blonde, expression open and honest. Waiting. The lines beneath her eyes make Jamie’s throat feel tight. 

She shivers from more than just the cold. “Hi,” she says softly.

Bravely, she reaches out her other hand and pushes some of Dani’s wet hair from her face, thumbing the other woman’s sharp cheekbone just above the mask. Her skin is warm against Jamie’s chilled, wet hand and she bites at her own lower lip behind her mask, wanting nothing more than to press in closer. 

“Hi,” Dani murmurs. 

“You’re warm,” Jamie says.

“I wasn’t,” Dani tells her, “Before, I mean.”

Oh.

Bravely, Jamie curls her fingers around the hinge of Dani’s jaw, drawing her earlobe between her forefinger and middle finger. The fabric of her mask pushes up against the base of Jamie’s palm and she realizes rather suddenly that it’s Dani’s lips making it move. 

“Now it hasn’t been a month,” Jamie says and Dani chuckles, squeezing Jamie’s fingers with her own. “You should go inside before the food gets cold.”

“You should, too,” Dani tells her.

Jamie hums in agreement, but makes no move to pull away. Watery light cascades from between the clouds, lighting up Dani’s face with a baptismal glow. She brushes raindrops from the height of Dani’s cheeks and imagines leaning in, pressing their cloth-covered mouths together and closing her eyes. 

Pretending.

Having

If only for a moment.

_______

There are a number of ways to move on from here, Jamie realizes, but all of them involve sharing the same space physically. 

The desire to draw Dani into her arms and kiss her breathless, touch her and learn her and know her , is almost strong enough to fill Jamie’s chest with the drowning of a rushing tide. She shivers in dry clothes on her couch as she eats alone, remembering the curve of Dani’s cheek in her hand and the way her bony fingers felt pressing against Jamie’s own. 

Dani texts her to thank her about twenty minutes after they part and then all communication goes dark between them for the rest of the day. Jamie fills her time with washing her dishes, vacuuming her carpets, scrubbing her bathroom sink. She changes the sheets on her bed just for the hell of it and pauses at the head of her bed, pressing her hand to the wall above her headboard.

The wall she shares with Dani. 

On the other side is what she assumes to be Dani’s bedroom, given that her flat is just a mirror of Jamie’s. She tries to imagine what it might look like but can’t get past the mental image of Dani lying on her bed, tucked beneath the covers. What she’d look like if Jamie were to crawl up her body and sink down to kiss her, to press the length of their bodies together.

She tells herself to relax and tries to force the images from her mind.

It doesn’t really work.

_______

The noises start that night, subtle at first. Jamie chalks it up to the fact that she’s only just realized that they share a bedroom wall when she first hears something coming from the other side. Lying in her bed, she pauses her game of Sudoku on her app and listens intently for a long moment.

There are footsteps coming from Dani’s side. The rustling sound of movement. Bed springs creaking and then—

Something else she can’t qualify. A buzzing, maybe. The murmur of Dani’s voice. 

Curiosity digs into her ribs, but Jamie stops listening, admonishing herself for doing it in the first place. The walls are thinner than she thought they were. It’s a wonder that this is the first time she’s really hearing Dani at all in the time that they’ve been living next door to one another. 

Maybe she hadn’t known what to listen for.

She turns the oscillating fan by her bed on and lets the sound of it drown out anything coming from Dani’s side of the wall. Even so, she doesn’t stop thinking about it until she eventually falls asleep.

_______

When it stops raining, they watch Working Girl and then Avatar . Most of the second one is spent remarking on how unremarkable the plot is. Dani admits to having seen it in theaters, but remembering almost none of it. Jamie admits to having forgotten Sigourney Weaver was even in it.

They don’t talk about what happened on the balcony, and Jamie spends the weeks that follow trying to figure out why that is. What she knows about Dani’s dating history is fairly scarce, but she knows there was a boyfriend some time ago. At least one. 

Normally a confession like that would make Jamie back down a little, at least until the other girl shows a serious sign of interest. But with Dani, she doesn’t feel like she could even if she tried. Her heart is a little too dead-set for that already.

She considers asking Owen about it, but he’s been with Hannah a touch too long to have any real advice. And she would go to Hannah, but that would be about as good as going to Owen. 

Sitting out on their balconies watching Holes, Jamie eyes Dani’s profile, trying to figure it out. After so many days spent together, she has it memorized but she doesn’t think she’ll ever get tired of looking at her. There’s still a reasonable amount of space between them, but it’s less than it was before. A meter and a half, maybe. Like they’re slowly drifting together, orbiting around one another, on a collision course and the thought makes Jamie feel like she could vibrate out of her own skin.

“God, she’s unfair,” Dani breathes as Sigourney Weaver steps out of her car and into the desert to the sound of Moby’s Honey . She tilts her head back to find Jamie watching her and flushes. “Sorry.” 

Jamie blinks. “Why?” She glances at the laptop screen. “You’re right.”

“Sorry, yeah. I’m just not used to—” 

And the way she eyes Jamie says it all, even if she doesn’t quite finish the thought.

Just like that, Jamie gets it.

“You’re really pretty when you get all flustered like that,” Jamie says, telling herself to be brave and hold Dani’s gaze.

“Oh, um—” Dani says, looking even more blustered now and it has nothing to do with the movie.

It’s not just her, then. The realization sings inside her, looping and endless. 

If things were different, she thinks. 

Then: another time, maybe .

_______

The noises continue. Jamie starts leaving her fan on to drown them out. Once or twice, she thinks she hears what sounds like a gasp, and considers texting Dani to see if she’s alright. 

In the past, Dani has confessed to being clumsy and Jamie can only imagine that she’s running into things or knocking things over. Hopes she isn’t hurting herself too terribly.

Doesn’t text. Thinks it’s probably better that she does not say anything at all.

_______

Six weeks in, Jamie makes Dani more food and meets her on the balcony. It’s almost exactly as it was that first time, save for the fact that it isn’t raining. They stand closer than they usually are, each of them trying to pretend they’re not taking in the sight of one another, basking in the rare nearness.

Dani takes the aluminum-foil-covered plate thankfully. “You don’t have to do this, you know,” she says, and Jamie shrugs.

“Can’t have my movie buddy going hungry.”

Something new passes over Dani’s face and it makes her blood race quickly in her veins, makes her heart stutter in anticipation. A strange intensity fills Dani’s eyes as she stares Jamie down, like she’s trying to convey something without speaking or calling attention to it. She’s just about to ask if everything is alright when Dani finally breaks the silence with something truly surprising.

“You’re the nicest person I’ve ever met.”

The confession sits heavy on the tension between them. There are a lot of things Jamie could say to that, but none of them seem good enough. Carefully, she reaches out and brushes her fingers against the side of Dani’s face again, tucking some of her hair behind her ear. 

This time, Dani leans into the touch, her expression still full of wonder and hope for something Jamie knows she is wishing for too. It would be so easy, she thinks, to finally say something. To bring this feeling, this thing , into existence between them for the first time, but she hesitates.

She’s not sure why, but she does.

“Anything for you,” she says, and it’s not precisely what she wants to say, but it is true all the same. “You know that.”

Dani lifts her own hand and covers Jamie’s on her cheek. “Yeah,” she says. “I do.”

_______

That night, Jamie lies in her own bed and stares up at her dark ceiling, hands folded on her stomach. Her blankets press down on her legs oppressively, so she kicks them down to the end of the bed. And she’s telling herself to close her eyes, to try and calm down enough that maybe sleep will come—steal away some of the drumming heat between her legs that’s been there since the balcony; since Dani’s heavy gaze and flushed cheeks—when the buzzing starts up again.

It’s faint at first and she knows she should get up and turn on her fan to keep from eavesdropping, but curiosity nips angrily at her stomach and she hesitates. It’s a strange noise—high-pitched and eager. Like an electric toothbrush or something, but it’s almost one in the morning, so that wouldn’t make much sense.

Something thunks against the wall, making Jamie jump and sit up in her bed. The buzzing continues and then she can’t help it anymore; she leans in and presses her ear to the cool of the wall and tries to listen. Tries to hear .

And the walls aren’t particularly thin, but they aren’t thick either and she thinks—she’s pretty sure—she can hear movement like she has in the past. Something else. A voice. Dani’s, perhaps. Jamie closes her eyes and presses closer, pushing down the feeling of shame blossoming beneath her skin at what she’s doing.

It’s because she’s worried. That’s what she tells herself. These noises are strange and persistent. She wants to make sure her friend is alright.

And that excuse works for exactly as long as it takes her to decipher what it is she’s listening to, to hear a moan and a gasp and then—

Jamie , oh, my god.”

Jamie tugs back from the wall like she’s been burned, surprise cutting neatly into her thumping heart. That heat flares between her legs, twisting in her stomach and making her tremble as images flash through her mind of Dani lying in bed, head thrown back, spine arched, hand between her legs, gripping a vibrator and—

Panting through parted lips, Jamie turns her head and presses her hand to the wall. She closes her eyes and pricks her ears again until she hears another moan. Louder this time. Something else that sounds like a curse mixed with her name again. 

“Fuck, Dani,” she says and then drops her forehead forward against the wall. 

In the dark, though, she miscalculates the distance and pain lances behind her eyes at the loud thunk of her bone hitting it. She rears back, reaching up to rub at the sore spot and curses too loud. It isn’t until the pain ebbs a little that she realizes what’s just happened and drops back against the mattress, screwing her eyes up and resisting the urge to scream.

The buzzing on the other side of the wall has stopped now. In its place is a silence so brutal that Jamie is certain she can hear the fervent beating of her own heart.

If she could hear Dani, then that means Dani can hear her, and she’s just starting to figure out what she’s supposed to do with that when her bed starts vibrating. 

It’s her phone.

Her phone is ringing. 

On the screen is that picture of Sigourney with her pumpkin, Dani’s name at the very top, and Jamie tries to weigh her options only to realize she doesn’t have any. 

Or rather, she has one: answer it.

So she does, pulling the charging cable out of it and sending it falling to the floor. She holds the phone up and breathes, unsure of what to say. She’s met by the sound of Dani’s breathing, sharp and high and unhinged. It sends a sharp bolt of something straight through Jamie’s spine and she closes her eyes.

Says, “Dani?”

A moment later, Dani’s voice comes through, a little breathy. “Jamie,” she says, “can you…? I thought I heard—”

She knows what the question is without Dani ever having to finish it. “No, I can’t...um…” The lie tastes bitter on her tongue, and, anyway, there’s no way she’d be able to answer without clarification if it was true anyway. 

Be brave , she thinks, then says, “Y-yes. I-I mean...I heard—”

Silence, then. The sound of rustling on the other end of the line. “I-I’m so sorry. I...I didn’t think about it when I—”

She’s embarrassed, Jamie realizes. She’s embarrassed that Jamie heard her, that the walls are thin and that she couldn’t help herself, and that means she has no idea of the effect it’s having on Jamie. She has no clue that Jamie is flexing her thighs and pressing them together, biting her lip to keep from saying something truly stupid.

“Can we just...rewind?” Dani asks. “Pretend this never happened? I’m so embarrassed.”

Part of Jamie wants to agree, if only because Dani sounds so torn up over it, but she doesn’t. She doesn’t want to, is the issue. Going back to a world where she hasn’t heard those noises, heard her name fall from between Dani’s perfect lips as she—

“No,” she says, and Dani’s breath hitches. She can hear it. “I can’t do that. This whole time you’ve been…”

“What do you—?”

“You...You were saying my name.” 

And be brave indeed. 

Dani doesn’t answer. Jamie can’t blame her.

“I...fuck, Dani, you said my name while you’re—”

She’s expecting an apology or some other flummoxed response, but it never comes. Whatever courage is settling into her bones must be spreading through the walls to where Dani is, too, and thank god for it because—

Something rustles on Dani’s sides. The sheets.

“Have you been imagining it’s...it’s me? Touching you? All this time?”

“Would it be okay if I said yes?” She sounds a little more sure, but still unsteady. Her answer goes right through Jamie’s chest.

“Jesus, Dani, yes. More than okay, I—”

Dani lets out a little gasp and it’s different hearing it so near now rather than through the wall. Jamie swallows thickly. “It...It is?” she stammers. “G-good. Because I...I can’t stop thinking about earlier...on the balcony and all those times you— I couldn’t help myself, I just…”

Leaning back against the headboard, Jamie trails a hand up her bare thigh, pinching the hem of her t-shirt between her fingers while Dani breathes into her ear. “Are you...Are you still—?”

Yes ,” Dani hisses, and Jamie imagines she can hear it—the slick sound of Dani’s fingers sliding in and out and around.

She curses. “What are you...Where are your hands?” she asks, needing to know. She slips her own hand under her shirt and rests it flat on her stomach, trembling from the effort to keep it from moving around too much. “What are you doing to yourself?”

“I’m...I’m rubbing my clit. I…”

Heat explodes up the back of Jamie’s neck, flushing across her face and ears. “Are you wet?” she asks, fingertips slipping below the waistband of her own shorts. “Are you wet for me?”

Yes. I’ve never been so— God, Jamie.”

As if everything else wasn’t already bad enough, this confession is what breaks what little remains of Jamie’s restraint. She slides her hand beneath her shorts and into her panties, immediately finding what she’s looking for and moaning into her phone as she circles her fingers around it. 

“Christ, Dani, me too. I’m so wet.”

Dani gasps a little, sounding surprised for more than one reason. “You’re...Are you…?”

“Yeah, I can’t...I couldn’t not —”

“No, that’s...You’re so unbelievably sexy, Jay, holy shit.”

The ease with which the nickname falls from Dani’s lips sends another thrill of liquid heat through Jamie’s veins. She’s so wet that she can hear herself as she slips her fingers down lower, bending her knees to give herself more room, pressing her head back into her pillow. Dani makes this little whimpering noise and Jamie curses again, slams her eyes shut.

“Fuck yourself, Dani. Please ,” Jamie instructs on an exhale. “Fuck yourself and imagine it’s me. That it’s my fingers in you. My mouth. God, I want to... taste you.”

Jay —”

“Two fingers. Hard . Don’t stop.”

Now it’s not just her own noises she hears. The slick movement of Dani’s fingers inside herself washes through Jamie’s head, making her feel dizzy and floating. Slipping away. She slides her own fingers down and in, trying to match the pace she can hear coming from Dani’s line. 

Yes , Jamie, god— It feels s-so...good. You feel so good .”

In her mind, she’s somewhere else—in Dani’s bed, pressing her down into the mattress and kissing her neck and chest, pulling her nipples between her lips, sucking and licking while she fucks Dani down into the mattress. Legs hiked up against her hips, fingernails scraping down her back, and, oh, how she’d look lying there like that, taking Jamie’s fingers into herself so perfectly—

It’s no trouble to slip a third finger inside herself, curl all three of them upward. She gasps at the sensation. Says, “Jesus, Dani, yeah , so do you. Another finger. Please .”

Given the moan that follows, Dani must obey almost immediately.

“Are you...Are you…?” Dani gasps next, trailing off, lost to herself and the heat of the moment. On the other side of the wall, Jamie hears a loud, low moan in the shape of her name and she drops the phone to her pillow, lifting her hand to press it against the wall between them. Those few inches of plaster and paint keeping them apart. 

“Yeah,” she breathes. “Fuck, I want you to come for me, Dani. I want you to come around your fingers.”

Dani moans, the sound torn and raw. “I want to, baby,” she says and there’s that twisting in Jamie’s stomach again at the nickname. “I’m so close, I’m—”

“God, listen to yourself. You’re perfect— Shit— ” Jamie bumps against her clit with the palm of her hand, curling her fingers inside herself again and closing her eyes to Dani’s high-pitched whimpers, coming from both the phone and the other side of the wall. “Just like that, doll, come on.”

Dani whimpers and Jamie can hear her teeth clack together a little. “I’m close, I’m right there, please just—”

Jamie slips her fingers up again and presses down hard against her own clit. “Say my name again,” she pants. “Jesus fucking Christ, say my name when you come.” 

Her muscles tremble throughout her entire body and her eyes are shut so tightly it hurts , but Jamie doesn’t stop. Fucks herself right through it, listens to Dani’s panting breath in her ear, through the wall, those moans and gasps and whimpers that make her feel like she’s falling apart, like she’s never been whole until this moment.

“I’m–” Dani gasps. “I’m coming. Oh, my god, Jamie !”

And then it happens. 

Jamie listens through the wall, feels her own orgasm slamming into her at the sound of it. She gasps out a litany of things, the words pouring out of her as the tension breaks inside of her—

( Christ fuck Dani oh god yes yes )

—pleasure exploding behind her eyes and between her legs, in her lungs and heart and stomach. More than anything, she wishes Dani were beside her, that she could press a kiss to her mouth and hold her, feel Dani shaking against her as she, too, fell off the edge.

What follows is the sound of her own uneven breathing, Dani catching her breath on the other line, too. Silence pressing down against her chest and eyelids, rain dripping across her window on the other side of the room. 

“Jamie?” 

Dani’s voice comes ringing out after what feels like forever, scratchy and tired.

“Yeah?” Jamie asks, feeling a thread of exhaustion pulling through her bones, tugging her eyelids closed as it seeps through her body. 

“We, um…” 

Whatever she wants to say never comes. Jamie considers everything that should be said: what this means, how long she’s wanted it, how incredible Dani is. 

In the end, though, she doesn’t get the chance. 

Because Dani says, “Goodnight,” and waits just long enough for Jamie to say it back before hanging up.

..

Chapter Text

The next morning, she’s half-convinced she imagined the whole thing. If it weren’t for Dani’s name at the top of her recent calls list, she might have been able to write it all off as a weird, quarantine-related fever dream. 

But it isn’t. 

It wasn’t. 

It really happened.

She accidentally shampoos her hair twice in the shower because she’s too busy remembering the sounds Dani made the night before. She’s lost in the memory of her name muffled through the wall and that panting breath in her ear. When the sound of Dani’s impassioned you feel so good plays through her mind at full volume, she almost slips and just barely manages to catch herself on the metal shelf tower in the corner of the shower before hurting herself.

It doesn’t get much better after that.

The worst part is this: Dani doesn’t call or text or anything like that. 

Jamie isn’t exactly sure what the proper etiquette is for reaching out to your friend the day after having phone sex with them, so she decides to keep her distance. The last thing she wants to do is misread this whole thing and wind up with another broken heart.

And, no, maybe this isn’t anything like it was with Rebecca. After the sounds Dani was making on the phone, the way she moaned Jamie’s name—the entire situation, really—she’s positive, at least, that she isn’t barking up the wrong tree entirely. But there’s a voice in the back of her mind whispering that she’s too attached, that this is too fast, that Dani doesn’t want this and she can’t get it to shut up.

She’s making lunch when her phone rings and she jumps so severely that she almost drops a pot of boiling water on her foot. But it isn’t Dani. It’s Owen trying to FaceTime her. Against her better judgement, she answers.

Owen smiles when he appears on the screen, Hannah half-in the frame beside him. They’re sitting on their couch, eyeing her like they know every last one of her secrets and Jamie really doesn’t have the mental capacity for this. She reminds herself to breathe as evenly as she can manage.

“What’s up?” she asks. It comes out a little funny, a little harsh. 

“Just wanted to check up on you,” Owen answers. “See how you’re doing. But it’s pretty obvious that you’re perfectly fine.”

Sarcasm. Jamie doesn’t have it in her to even roll her eyes. 

“M’fine,” she mumbles, stirring her pasta in the boiling water.

“You sound it,” Owen says.

“How’s it in Paris?” 

An attempt to redirect the conversation. If Owen was anyone else, it might have worked.

“I don’t know, really, because we haven’t been allowed to leave our homes for a while. I assume it’s still here since we are. You want to tell us what’s going on?”

Jamie sighs and sets the stirring spoon on the counter before turning to lean back beside it. “Nothing’s going on. I’m fine,” she says. “Hannah, what’s new with you?”

Hannah smiles primly. “Nothing of note, I’m afraid. Apparently, the same can’t be said for you.” She leans forward a little, pushing Owen to the side. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re trying to change the subject.”

“And I’d say I agree with you,” Owen cuts in.

There’ll be no beating them. Why she even bothers to try, Jamie doesn’t know. “Fine,” she says, doing her best to make it sound as irked as possible. “I just...have this thing I’m dealing with right now.”

Owen eyes her warily. “Define ‘thing.’”

Jamie frowns. “Just stuff with Dani. My, um, the—”

“The neighbor you’re in love with.”

“I am not in love with her,” Jamie squawks, wincing at the way her voice cracks. “I’m just—”

“Completely smitten.”

If he were in the same country as her, Jamie would hit him. She settles for shaking her head and clenching her jaw. How he’s gotten that from the few conversations in which she brought Dani up over the last month, she doesn’t know. She’s been sure to make sure she keeps all details to a light minimum, but, apparently, that wasn’t enough to keep Owen from drawing his own conclusions.

“This is why I don’t tell you things,” she says. “Hannah, back me up.”

Hannah hesitates. She fucking hesitates.

“Oh, don’t you both gang up on me,” Jamie groans, rubbing at her forehead.

“We’re doing nothing of the sort,” Hannah tells her. “But you are a little...Well, from what you’ve shared with us, you do seem to have a slight preoccupation with her. But I think it’s rather darling. It’s the first time you’ve even shown an interest in any woman since—”

Jamie cuts her off with a wave of her hand. “Fine, I get it.”

“So what happened?” Owen asks. “Care to fill us in on the dirty details?” He winks.

Nothing happened. Forget I said anything.”

“You’re lying. Your voice is doing that thing it does when you’re lying.”

Jamie balks. “My voice doesn’t do a thing . And I’m not lying.”

“No, he’s right, dear,” Hannah says. “You do get a bit squeaky when you’re not being entirely honest.”

“I hate the pair of you.”

“The pear of us?” Owen asks and it’s only then that Jamie realizes he’s holding something in his hand. He lifts it up to reveal an apple with a bite taken out of it. “But, Jamie, we love you so berry much.”

Now Jamie does roll her eyes. “That’s an apple,” she says.

Owen grins. “I’m just app-pulling your leg.”

“I’m hanging up now.” 

She lifts her finger to do just that, but Hannah cuts in before she can, pressing a hand to Owen’s arm to get him to stop chuckling at his own stupid joke, a fond smile on her lips. It falls away as she fixes Jamie with a serious look and says, “Ignore him, please. What happened?”

Jamie’s cheeks feel hot and she idly stirs at her pasta a little more without moving. “It’s...Last night, we sort of…”

Owen gasps. “You didn’t!” he says, eyes wide and panicked. “Jamie! You have to be more careful. You don’t know if she’s been... careful . You can’t just go around—”

“Will you shut up?”

He closes his mouth obediently, though it looks like he has much more he wants to say. 

“We didn’t...At least, not in...It was...on the phone.”

If possible, his eyes bug out even wider. Beside him, Hannah’s eyebrows furrow like she’s trying to come up with something good enough to say. Jamie sort of wishes she could sink into the floor and never return. It’s not that she’s never opened up to them about her romantic life, but she’s never admitted to having phone sex with her next-door neighbor before.

“Can I speak now?” Owen asks, holding up his hand like a school child. 

“Would you even listen if I said no?” Jamie says.

A grin spreads out across his lips again, teeth on full display as he eyes her proudly. “You sly dog,” he says. “Who knew you had it in you?”

Hannah pats his arm again. “Don’t be crude, love.” 

“Right.” He coughs into his fist to clear his throat, then takes a calculated bite of his apple, chewing it thoughtfully. “So,” he says, some of the apple tucked into his cheeks so he can talk around it, “what’s there to be upset about?”

“Because now it’s awkward and weird and I haven’t heard from her all day,” Jamie explodes, the words coming out like spit-fire, frustration and mortification bubbling in her chest and throat. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to...Like...What now?” She shakes her head, feeling foolish and extraordinarily young.

For as long as Jamie has known both of them, Hannah and Owen have always had advice for her, even if it wasn’t the kind she could follow. When everything with Rebecca happened, there’d hardly been a day that passed without one of them reaching out to her to try and guide her back on track. She might have thought that, given that Dani is the first girl she’s shown interest in since all of that, they would have more to say.

But they don’t. Or, at least, they don’t seem to. 

Not until Hannah sighs and moves forward, closer to whatever device they’re using for the call. “I know this isn’t what you want to hear,” she begins, “and that this is always my advice, but...Given how... tricky the situation is, I think you might just want to... talk to her. Be honest about how you’re feeling. What you want.”

She makes it sound so simple. 

Jamie’s stomach bottoms out. “It’s not that easy,” she says, thinking of all the times she tried and failed to communicate with Rebecca when all that mess with Peter went down.

Owen is properly serious for the first time in as long as Jamie can remember. She feels a little apprehensive at the thought, but can’t stand the waiting.

Says, “Just say it, Owen,” and watches as he jostles a little.

“Nothing,” he says, but: “It’s just...Maybe it is .”

Jamie stares blankly at the screen for a moment. Considers this. And, okay—

Alright then.

_______

She paces on it all day. Feels reckless and silly about the whole thing, but then she’ll remember Dani saying her name like that —they way she laughs with her whole body; that low voice she speaks in when she’s tired; how she babbled nervously through the rest of Cabin in the Woods because she was scared—and it doesn’t feel silly anymore. 

When she goes out to her balcony, Dani isn’t there and it isn’t as if she’d truly been expecting her to be, but it still jars her a little. The wooden venetian blinds on Dani’s doors are closed, a wall instead of a window. She smokes a cigarette nervously, leaning on her own railing and listening to the muted sounds of the city below. 

That damn railing between them, keeping them separated. And she’s been thinking of it as some sort of invisible wall—uncrossable and solid —but it isn’t. There’s nothing keeping her on her own side save for fear and not the fear she’s been hiding behind with everything going on in the world. 

That hollowness that was dug out of her chest the night before as she listened to dead air in the quiet darkness of her bedroom, phone still pressed to her ear long after Dani disconnected the call, shifts then. Something light is beginning to blossom, to unfurl. 

Fuck it , she thinks, throwing her cigarette onto the floor of her balcony, and hops the railing.

And maybe it shouldn’t feel as monumental as it does, but she can’t help the hitch in her lungs when her feet touch the concrete tiles. She doesn’t care how dramatic it seems—couldn’t care if she tried—because it’s been almost two months of falling in love with a woman she can’t even hold and she’s not waiting anymore. 

She has to see her, touch her, tell her how much this whole thing means. Tell her that she loves her, because who cares if it’s too soon for that? She does.

She loves her—this beautiful and gracious so surprisingly fierce ; this woman who’s managed to trap the stars beneath her skin and blind Jamie to the rest of the world as it burns down around their ears; who is generous and loving and relentless in this life she’s been forced into so very recently—but she’s just as big an idiot as Jamie is because what in God’s name are they so afraid of ?

Lifting a fist, she knocks on Dani’s doors and waits. Holds her breath for as long as she can without it hurting. Releases it slowly. It’s beginning to rain and she shivers a little, tucking her hands into the sleeves of her shirt. Rocks back and forth on her heels. 

She knocks again, but there’s still no answer, and she is heartsick for exactly as long as it takes her to remember the person that Dani is, which is this: 

Someone who—good or bad, worse or worst—would always answer the door, the phone calls Jamie hasn’t made, the texts she hasn’t sent. There's a fine line between neglecting and avoiding and it isn’t one she can imagine Dani ever crossing.

She concludes this: if Dani isn’t answering, that means she’s not home.

And that means that Jamie will just have to go to her.

_______

By the time she manages to get outside—looking around corners, lingering in the lobby—it’s fully raining outside. And it’s something that she’s been so wary of since this whole thing began, but she’s trying not to be scared anymore. 

She’s going outside.

Some caution will be allowed, surely. But not fear. Not in this moment.

So it’s raining and cold, especially for summer, and she’s so glad she’s wearing a sweater with a hood because at least that means she can burrow into it.

Somehow, the view from her balcony hadn’t prepared her for it, but stepping outside is like being the last survivor on earth. It’s so empty. Quiet. She stands on the sidewalk, looking both directions for any sign of familiarity, but there is none. 

And she has two options which are these:

She could go back to her apartment and wait or—

Or she could go looking for Dani, following the buzzing in the base of her spine scooting her forward forward forward.

She goes with the latter one.

Decides to go right because neither direction is the better option. Stuffs her hands into her pockets as she makes her way, trainers splashing in the puddles of water that are knotting themselves into the pavement underfoot.

The sunlight is scattered and despondent, the rain blurring her vision from beneath her dripping hood. Most of the shops she passes have signs stating their temporary closure. She sloshes her way down the street, looks at the few cars that drive past, sticking close to the stone walls of the buildings. The air is thick and damp, bitter even through the cover of her mask, and it smells earthy and green even in the barren cityscape.

For all that she’s missed going outside—walking around, being normal —she misses her flat almost immediately. Violently. Its comfort and familiarity, all those long hours she’s clocked sitting around reading, watering the plants she keeps around. At least part of that, she knows, is the knowledge that Dani was always so close. Always waiting for her outside or just on the other end of a phone call. 

Out in the world she’s never directly shared with Dani, she feels haunted by the thought of her. Sees her in the splashing reflections of the puddles, in the water-dotted shop windows. In the woman walking just ahead of her, tucked beneath a bright, pink umbrella, wearing yellow wellies and shivering a little. 

Except—

She’s not imagining it. That woman is Dani. 

She’s sure of it, spent enough time staring at the back of her head, the side of her face, during all those movies. She’d know it anywhere.

Immediately, she quickens her pace in an effort to keep up. To catch up. Considers calling out, but decides against it given how quiet the world around her is. She thinks any noise other than the splash of rain would break everything apart—shatter this moment into the next and she wants this moment to last because, listen:

In this moment, she is exactly sure of who she is and what she wants.

And what she wants is the woman that is turning and going into a shop just ahead, leaving Jamie to the monotony of wet grays and blacks that make up the avenue. When she reaches the shop, it feels like a miracle and she uses her sleeve to open the door, shaking herself off as she steps inside.

She’s dripping on the welcome mat, pumping hand sanitizer onto her hands from the jug by the door, when she catches sight of that pink umbrella disappearing down the bread aisle.

Setting her resolve deep into the way she holds her head and shoulders, Jamie swiftly makes her way to the same aisle, turning into it and making a decision. The decision that matters. Perhaps the only one.

“Dani,” she says. Her voice catches on her name, and she wants to cough and clear her throat, but she doesn’t, because Dani is turning around, holding a baguette in her hands, umbrella hanging from the handle of her cart. Her eyes blink wide with surprise and she’s so beautiful. Jamie nearly forgot somehow. 

“Jamie,” says Dani. She sounds a little shaky, a little nervous, and Jamie certainly knows the feeling. “You’re...here.”

“So are you.” She sounds weak when she says it, clenching and unclenching her fists in her jacket. “I...Look, I wanted to— There’s something I really, really need to say to you—”

“I’m sorry I didn’t...call,” Dani blurts out, cutting Jamie off. “Or...say anything about…” She pauses, taking a deep breath with her eyes closed, and then finishes with, “last night.” 

Jamie shakes her head. “No, I was—”

“Wait,” Dani says, holding a hand up. “I need to...say something and I’m not...good at this sort of thing, so just let me—”

She gives Jamie an imploring look, waiting, and, when Jamie nods—the words she’s been lining up in her head bubbling in her chest—she sets the bread down and turns more fully. There’s still a good two or so meters between them, but they stay where they are and Jamie is acutely aware that this is happening in a shop with other people in it. Only a few, yes, but other people all the same. 

That being said, she doesn’t want to remind Dani of this for fear that she won’t finish at all.

“I...I’ve never really...done this —” she says, and she gestures between them, “before and I really...I’ve had feelings...for, um...for women in the past but I’ve never...acted on them.”

Whatever honesty Jamie had been expecting, it wasn’t this. She has to lock her knees to keep herself from bridging the gap and pulling Dani into her arms.

“So, I’m sorry if I...came off as callous or weird, I just—” she shrugs, looking a little baffled at herself and it’s really strange not seeing her mouth. Jamie feels like she’s missing the most important part of some of her expressions. “I’ve been so scared that I’m going to...screw this up that I just didn’t...But I don’t want to be. Scared, that is. Because it’s you. You and me and it’s so, so different with you, Jamie. But we’ve spent every day together, most of the day, and I...I think I could spend forever like that without ever...growing tired or-or getting sick of it. It’s like...It’s like I was just...waiting for you or something and I know that sounds so cheesy and cliche, but it’s...that’s how it feels and you deserve to know that.”

And Jamie knows, right then. Knows how worth it this is—how worth the threat of mess and tangled emotions. Knows that she’s been scared before, scared and remembering Rebecca. Remembering what that rejection felt like, how it was to watch Peter twist his way into someone she cared so deeply for. How much it hurt when it all fell apart and Rebecca left. Just like that. 

She’s had unrequited love. She was terrified she would have it again with Dani, but she doesn’t. 

And standing there, dripping in the bread aisle, with Dani’s huge, imploring eyes pointed her way, she can’t deny it. Doesn’t want to. 

“Dani, I…” she begins, then halts. Steels herself.

Tells herself: be brave .

Tells Dani: “I...It’s different with you, too.”

Then: “I...I’m not sick of you either. I’m actually pretty in love with you, turns out. And that scares the hell out of me, but... you deserve to know that.”

Dani blinks and damn her mask, it’s so hard to know what she’s feeling. Briefly, Jamie thinks she’s made a terrible mistake, that she’s read the whole thing wrong, but then Dani takes a careful step forward, hands outstretched. They’re on the same page and Jamie realizes it with startling clarity. Her heart hums with something else, then—something stormy and full that isn’t the same fear as before.

“I...This six feet thing is killing me, Jay,” Dani says, voice cracking with emotion. “If I don't touch you right this second, I think I'll actually go crazy.”

And, well.

Jamie knows the feeling

“Oh, my god, just come here ,” Jamie says because distance be damned. 

She opens her arms and then Dani is sweeping into them, closer than she ever has been before, and clinging on. Her arms wrap around Jamie’s waist, pulling her in and pressing their foreheads together, swaying them back and forth. There are tears in her eyes and she’s rocking them back and forth giddily right there in the shop, a few people in the aisles nearby watching this whole thing unfold like some kind of street performance, but—

Communication , Jamie thinks and makes a mental note to thank Hannah.

It really is that easy.

“You don’t have to be scared of me,” Dani whispers, “Of this.” And Jamie threads her fingers through damp, blonde waves, laughing a little wetly as she realizes that it’s the truth . That intensity is back in Dani’s eyes, making her look a little wild and Jamie really, really wants to kiss her, but that’s one thing that will have to wait. 

“Yeah?” she asks and Dani nods against her forehead, so close that their covered mouths brush together, the heat of her breath seeping through the fabric and into Jamie’s.

“Yeah,” she says. “I’m not going anywhere.”

And for all the unknowns, all the trouble in the world, Dani isn’t something that Jamie has to be unsure about. Maybe she never was.

_______

Eventually, they have to pull apart, even though neither of them wants to because they are in public. And they both need groceries, which Jamie only realizes once the adrenaline pumping through her veins starts to calm down. It’s a little hard to get everything done because Jamie can hardly think clearly and Dani refuses to be more than a foot away from her. She keeps drifting back over to wrap her arms around Jamie’s waist, to hold her hand. To whisper giddy, little things into Jamie’s ear to make her laugh and lean back against her.

Somehow, they get it done, and then their arms are too full to hold hands on the way home. Jamie settles for bumping their hips together every so often, making Dani laugh each time as they make their way back to their apartment complex. Nothing has changed outside, but Jamie pretends that it has. Pretends that the world is a little brighter and a little kinder now that she can view it to the sound of Dani’s laughter.

“Here we are,” Dani says once they reach their respective doors, standing in the hallway, her eyes giving away the smile the mask is hiding.

“So we are.”

“I know that we’re not supposed to, um…” Dani begins, quiet even as her expression is steady and assured. “But, it’s probably way too late for that. Would you want to...come over, or…?”

Jamie finds herself grinning on an inhale, not even feeling it as a cold drop of rainwater drips down her nose and onto her lips. If she had a spare hand, she would reach out and tug Dani in, pull that mask down and kiss her finally finally .

“Yeah,” she agrees easily, then thinks of something. “Just...give me a minute.” 

Dani nods and they part ways. Jamie’s flat feels even emptier than usual when she steps inside and she makes quick work of her groceries, tugging off her sweater and mask and leaving them to drip on her couch before rushing to her balcony doors and flinging them open. 

They slam shut behind her and then she—without hesitation—hops over the railing between hers and Dani’s balconies just like she’s imagined doing so many times before. Just like she did an hour before. The rain has let up a little, which is good news for her hair when she knocks on Dani’s doors and stands there waiting.

It’s only a few moments later, but it feels like forever by the time Dani finally opens them. Her mask is off, now, her pretty lips twisted down in dazzling, mesmerizing confusion. Light dances in her eyes as she says, “I was kind of expecting the other door to be honest, but—”

“Been wanting to do that forever. When I did it earlier, you weren’t home,” Jamie admits, and then cups Dani’s face in her palms and kisses her. Just like that.

At once, Dani’s hands fist in the fabric of her shirt, tugging her closer until their chests are pressed together, rising and falling to a rapid tempo just off sync from the patter of Jamie’s heart. She can feel herself slipping away into it almost immediately, so she takes care to pull away just long enough to get Dani to open her eyes so she can say, “That, too,” before kissing her again.

Dani hums. “So have I,” she murmurs, opening her mouth a little as Jamie’s tongue darts in, flicking against her own, against the roof of her mouth, against her teeth. She sighs and pushes into it even further, the heat of her body against Jamie’s scalding and perfect, making her feel dizzy dizzy dizzy.

She wants more and sooner. Wants closer. She drifts one of her hands down to cup the back of Dani’s neck, curls her fingers into her hair, leans in. It’s still too far and they’re standing in the balcony doors, open to the drizzling rain just behind her. Gently, she pushes back on Dani without breaking their kiss, stumbling forward a bit and then reaching out behind herself, blindly fumbling to shut the door. She has to break away and look in order to manage it and Dani laughs—this lovely, delighted sound—with her hands still clenched in Jamie’s shirt.

When Jamie turns around, she gets her first eyeful of Dani’s flat and can’t help but be distracted by it. It’s clean. Modern. Soft colors and a blanket folded over the back of the couch. A few pictures of her and some others hanging on the walls. Books seemingly arranged by color on her bookshelf.

“What’s wrong?” Dani asks. She lifts a hand to cup Jamie’s jaw and draw her eyes back.

“Nothing,” Jamie says. “Just haven’t seen your place. S’nice.”

Another hum. Jamie loves the sound. Dani tucks her face into Jamie’s neck and presses a warm, open-mouthed kiss to the skin she finds there. Jamie combs her fingers through Dani’s hair and resists the urge to tug her in further, to guide her into repeating the action.

“I’ll give you the tour later,” Dani tells her, quietly. “But, first, you have to keep kissing me.”

 Jamie laughs into their next kiss at everything—Dani’s voice and Dani’s presence and being in her flat for the first time; she feels exuberant and feverish, wants to touch too much of Dani at once, and she doesn’t quite know where to start.

But Dani seems to. Her hands drift to Jamie’s front and she begins the slow process of unbuttoning her shirt, refusing to pull out of their kiss even just briefly to get her bearings. Jamie reaches her own hands up to help, starting at the bottom while Dani moves down from the top and they meet in the middle. The shirt is pushed from her shoulders then and she feels it fall to the floor at their feet, but she doesn’t have long to think about it because Dani’s lips are suddenly on hers again, urgent and fervid. She cups the back of Jamie’s head with one hand, turning the kiss into something warm and wanting and a little bit filthy. 

At the same time, her other hand comes up to brush against the skin of Jamie’s arms, exposed now that she’s in only a t-shirt. If it weren’t for the hard press of Dani’s grip, Jamie would be fairly certain she could float away and she wants to analyze that, but she also doesn’t want to stop for anything. Anytime.

There will be time for all that later.

“Do you want to…” Dani starts, struggling with each word. “Can we...do this in my bed?”

She looks so helpless and serious that Jamie wants to reassure her—tell her that she wants this just as badly—but her throat is dry and she can’t manage it.

What she can manage:

“Okay.”

Dani leads her by the hand across the living room, through a tiny hallway and into her small, dim bedroom. Her bed takes up almost all of the space, just barely enough room for a tiny table beside it. One of those under-the-bed storage things is peeking out a little from the side closest to the door. Jamie stops with just one foot inside, trying to get her brain up to speed. She’s in Dani’s flat, in her bedroom, and she knows what Dani sounds like when she comes, and then they both laid bare the honest-to-God truth in a shop , of all places. Now they’re going to bed together.

Okay, yeah. That’s not too bad.

She can deal with that—make sense of it.

“If you want to...slow down, or—” Dani says quietly. Her hair is roughened by Jamie’s fingers, lips smudged a blushing red from being kissed, and she looks strikingly young and exposed.

“God, no. I think I’d explode if we stopped now,” Jamie says, hoping that Dani believes her, and then she takes the other woman’s clammy hand in her own, toeing her trainers off by the door, and leads her to the mattress. 

At the edge of it, she turns around and Dani is right there, bumping their noses together and looking for all the world like she’s been waiting for this too. Jamie’s cheeks hurt from smiling too much and she’s quite suddenly filled with such devotion that it feels unreal. Dream-like. 

“You’re so pretty,” Dani whispers, brushing her fingers through Jamie’s hair, over her forehead and down the side of her face. “It’s like I can’t stop thinking about you.”

Jamie’s breathing stutters. “I think about you, too. All the time.”

The quality of her voice catches her off guard. It sounds wrecked and raw and so absolutely honest. It’s strange. She didn’t know she could want anyone like this, not really, but she does. She loops her fingers through the belt loops of Dani’s jeans and tugs her in. Dani mouths hot kisses down Jamie’s neck, pressing in with her lips, grazing with her teeth, licking at Jamie’s pulse point. A warm hand slides up under Jamie’s t-shirt and then drifts up, trailing fingers that make her shiver until Dani is curving her hand around the shape of Jamie’s breast. 

Jamie groans at the sensation, closing her eyes and biting her lip. A thumb brushes against her nipple through the material of her bra and it’s perfectly timed with a nip at the hinge of her jaw. It catches her off guard and her knees are already shaking, so she can hardly be blamed when they give out and she collapses into a seat on the mattress, nearly bringing Dani with her.

The movement is so sudden that Dani’s hand is still outstretched, though it’s holding nothing but empty air now. She blinks down at Jamie and then grins, blue-eyed wonderful and delighted.

“You okay?” she teases and Jamie feels her face grow warm, a cold sweat breaking out along her back and spine. 

She makes an embarrassed noise and covers her face. “God, I’m such a dork.”

“But a really hot dork,” Dani tells her. “A dork I’m definitely about to sleep with.”

Her fingers brush through Jamie’s hair before gripping one of her wrists and pulling her hand away from her face. She’s expecting something light and joking to be in Dani’s eyes, but, instead, she’s met with something much more intense. “Now,” she says, “take your shirt off.”

And Jamie is helpless to do anything but obey. Reaching down, she tugs her shirt off and over her head, tossing it to the side so it’s out of the way. Their knees brush together as Dani towers above her and then Dani is reaching down and pulling her sweater off, too, revealing the pale skin of her stomach and the smooth curve of her breasts, making Jamie’s tongue feel thick in her mouth. 

“Come here,” she whispers, already moving back and up the bed a little.

Dani follows closely, climbing up Jamie’s body as gently as she can manage. Once she’s there, Jamie brushes Dani’s hair over her shoulder, lifting her legs to press her knees into her hips. 

“You smell really good,” Dani whispers, tonguing down Jamie’s neck and into the dip of her collarbone. “Just like I...I kept imagining you beneath me like this. All those nights, I—” 

Jamie lifts her head, fingers tangled in her hair, and kisses Dani again. Can’t wait anymore. Dani licks into her mouth, deepening the kiss and fuck because Jamie didn’t imagine that Dani would kiss like this ; long and hard and like she wants so very much to sink into Jamie’s body and never return. She kisses like she’s been wanting to for as long as Jamie has—like she can’t imagine spending her time doing anything else. 

It forces a swooping feeling throughout Jamie’s entire body, her lungs stuttering like fire as she exhales loudly through her nose, tugging Dani further down until the pressure aches. Dani kisses like Jamie is the center-point of her universe, like she’s the thing that she’s spent her entire life circling, circling, never quite finding. Like she’s found it, figured it out, and Jamie feels herself falling even more in love with her by the second.

“You’re overdressed,” Jamie murmurs, kissing Dani again and again. Her fingers toy with the clasp of Dani’s bra and Dani smiles so much that their next kiss is all teeth.

“So are you,” she says, and then she sits back on her knees so she can undo the button of Jamie’s jeans, drag the zipper down. Her hands are shaking so much that she can barely manage it so Jamie sits up and bats her hands away so she can finish. “God, I can’t believe this is happening. Last night, I kept thinking I would...wake up or-or something.”

There’s a note of desperation in her voice and it rolls hotly in Jamie’s stomach as she tugs her jeans down her lifted hips, kicking them off the rest of the way. 

Outside, the rain chatters against the side of the building, the room filled with soft gray light that makes the color of Dani’s hair look warm and glowing, angelic. The sight is enough to give her pause. It feels like seeing Dani for the very first time again. She keeps thinking she’s going to disappear with every lingering blink.

Jamie reaches out and unbuttons the other woman’s jeans, tugging them urgently because this isn’t moving quickly enough. Dani manages to get them off with only a little bit of a struggle, and then she’s in just her bra and panties and straddling her on the bed. She looks remarkable, absolutely striking; her hair is finger-pulled and tousled and her chest is flushed with a faint pink color that Jamie wants to kiss every inch of.

All the noise in Jamie’s head and heart goes very, very still at the sight of her.

“Kiss me again,” Jamie whispers, lips parted.

Dani does, leaning down to do it, and flicking her tongue against Jamie’s. When she nips gently at Jamie’s bottom lip, Jamie hears herself let out a truly inelegant noise. She scrapes her blunt nails up Dani’s back and then clumsily tugs at her bra clasp until it opens, too disoriented to be deliberate or sauve about it. Once it’s free, she slides the straps down pale shoulders and tosses it aside. Her own bra comes next, Dani panting in her ear as she works to pull it off. 

“God,” Dani whispers when she pulls away a little, eyes roaming over Jamie’s newly-exposed skin and lingering on her chest. “Of course I thought you’d, like— But, wow . You, um…” She shakes her head and cups one of Jamie’s breasts in her hand, licking her lips and looking so absolutely lovely that Jamie is dazed for a second. 

“You are, too,” she breathes. “You said you’ve never...Does that mean you haven’t…?”

Dani blinks, cheeks turning pink. “Um...Yeah, this is my...first time with a…” She chuckles awkwardly at herself. “So, yeah, congratulations on having the first boobs other than my own that I’ve seen during sex.”

Jamie can’t help it. She laughs so suddenly that she snorts, covering her mouth and nose with her hand. Fortunately, Dani joins in, pinching Jamie’s nipple for emphasis and Jamie gasps a little into her next peal of laughter. “Oh, wow, I’m...I’m so honored.”

“Yeah?” Dani asks, maybe the slightest bit serious about the question—checking in to make sure she hasn’t poured ice water over the mood.

But—

“Yeah.” Jamie nods and she’s not laughing anymore. “It’s, um...It’s kind of a major turn-on to know you haven’t... been with another woman.”

Dani gives her a serious look, eyelashes fluttering at the implication, and then pushes forward, bullying Jamie back into the pillows until she’s pressed tight above her. Her hand squeezes Jamie’s breast and then pinches her nipple lightly. Ducking her head, she wraps her lips around it and sucks a little, making Jamie gasp and arch into it.and closes 

“Tell me what to do,” Dani whispers as she moves to the other breast, grazing her teeth against it. “Like you did last night.”

She punctuates the final word with another graze of teeth against Jamie’s nipple and Jamie fists her hands in the sheets, trying to keep from grinding up into the pressure of Dani’s body. “What do you…” 

Lips dot kisses down her sternum to the dip of her bellybutton and she can’t quite finish the thought. 

Dani answers anyway. “There’s so much I want to do that I...I need you to talk me through it.”

“O-Okay.” The word hitches as Dani trails her hand down her ribs to the flare of her hips, slipping down even further to stroke the soft skin of Jamie’s thighs. “You’re…” Her eyes are slammed shut because she’s certain that, if she looks at Dani right now, she’ll never finish what she needs to say. “Come up here. If you do... that right now, I don’t think I’ll make it out alive.”

Dani chuckles, pleased with herself, but obeys—the warm line of her body sliding up Jamie’s until she’s settled beside her. Jamie sits up, opening her eyes finally, biting her lip at the sight of Dani lying beside her, breasts exposed and pale. She wants to touch them and kiss them and leave as many marks as she can on Dani’s skin, just to prove she was there, but there’ll have to be time for that later.

Somehow, lust-drunk as she is, she manages to get Dani into a seated position as well, leaned back against her headboard. Jamie sits beside her—half on her lap and turned so she can thread their legs together. Dani is looking down, enraptured by the sight of their skin sliding together, and Jamie knows the feeling, but she needs eye contact right now. Needs to know they’re on the same page.

She brushes her nose against the side of Dani’s face, nuzzling into her until she turns to meet her eyes.

“Touch me,” she instructs, “like you touch yourself. Like you did last night”

Jamie ,” Dani breathes. One of her hands lifts to cup Jamie’s cheek. She kisses her. “I can’t— I—” She pauses, cuts herself off to swallow thickly. Then, “Tell me if I do it wrong.”

Jamie laughs breathily. “I don’t think that’s possible right now,” she says and she means it because she thinks she’ll be surprised if the first touch doesn’t send her reeling with a second.

That hand trails down her neck to her chest, fingers brushing against each nipple as she goes. Dani adjusts herself a little, trying to get closer, and presses her forehead to the side of Jamie’s head, tilting her chin down to watch her own fingers slip beneath the line of Jamie’s panties, just barely touching her. 

Dani —” Jamie leans against her heavily, unable to keep the note of agony from her voice. “ Please .”

Dani pinches the elastic of Jamie’s panties between her fingers and tugs them down. Not all the way off, no, but just far enough that she has enough room to work. She doesn’t touch right away, content to just look down at Jamie in awe, at the glistening slick between her legs that she’s caused, and Jamie feels like she’s on fire. Her abdominal muscles quiver and shake in anticipation, waiting, trying not to beg.

“You’re so wet,” Dani breathes, kissing Jamie’s cheekbone without lifting her eyes. She strokes her fingers along the crease of Jamie’s thighs, light and teasing. “Is this how wet you were last night?”

She sounds confident all of a sudden, and Jamie almost wants to know what’s changed, but she thinks she understands without asking. It’s the same thing that had her so steady last night as she pressed her phone to her ear, listening to the sounds Dani made through the wall. 

“Wetter,” Jamie tells her, voice trembling. “Please, just—”

And then Dani touches her, slides her fingers against Jamie’s clit and makes her cant her head back, releasing a noise she hadn’t known herself capable of making. She bucks her hips up a little, can’t help herself, and rolls her head against Dani’s shoulder. 

“Look at you,” Dani breathes. “God, I didn’t think you’d be so…” She slips her fingers down, circling the tight ring of muscles and making Jamie squirm again, pant something like yes, yes, yes, against her cheek. “You’re even better than I imagined.” 

Given how wet Jamie is, Dani has no trouble sliding two fingers in immediately. Filling her a bit, a little, not enough but good for now. She lingers there for a beat, pupils blown wide with wonder, perhaps at being inside a woman for the first time, and she finally withdraws. Pumps back in. 

“Yeah, like that,” Jamie hears herself say, her voice not her own—too wrecked and electrified to be her own. She presses her heels into the mattress, trying to stay still, stay upright. “Just like that, baby, yes .” It’s perfect. So good. Better than anything Jamie’s ever—

Dani presses kiss after kiss to the side of Jamie’s face, and Jamie watches her expressions change and flutter with each thrust of her hand through eyes foggy with desire. Dani has imagined this happening before. She’s pictured doing this to Jamie—Jamie doing this to her —in this very bed. 

“You’re so good.” Teeth nip at her earlobe, then a tongue flicks against her jaw. Jamie rolls her head to the side, exposing more skin for Dani to attach her mouth to. Mark up and down and anywhere she can reach. She hums, the sound vibrating against Jamie’s throat. “ So good, Jay. Want you so much.”

More ,” Jamie hisses, thighs clenching and unclenching as the sides of Dani’s hand brush against them. “Another. Another finger. Please. ” Dani obeys, slipping a third finger inside of her, stretching her slowly and carefully before Jamie grunts a little, grinding down against her hand. “Harder. Don’t be gentle.”

Dan’s movements still for a second, like she’s trying to comprehend what she’s just heard. And then, just like that, she’s fucking Jamie even harder, the bed shaking and creaking beneath them with each thrust. Jamie moans, leaning back on aching wrists. Presses her damp forehead to the side of Dani’s. 

“Fuck, you’re so—” Dani cuts off, curling her fingers up, making Jamie gasp and then bite her lip to silence herself, eyes clenched shut. Dani swears against her cheek. “Are you—”

Jamie hums in agreement, nodding a little, hips chasing after Dani’s fingers every time she slides out. “Just keep—”

And there’s the edge, harsh and biting and flooding through every one of her senses like a blazing inferno. Dani’s clever fingers keep moving, thrusting in hard and tilting her hand so that Jamie can grind down into it as she comes.

Dani presses a kiss to the side of her eye, her cheek, whispering things fondly—quiet reassurances—as Jamie’s heartbeat and breathing even back out. She opens her eyes to find Dani watching her carefully, a gentle smile on her lips, fond and sweet, even with the touch of nervousness in her gaze.

Her touch pulls away and Jamie whines at the loss just before letting herself be wrapped up in Dani’s arms and pulled over so she doesn’t have to hold herself up anymore. Her elbows ache and throb as she loosens and bends them, but she doesn’t care. All she can care about is the way Dani’s chest feels as it rises and falls with each breath.

“Oh, my god,” she says weakly, some drifting time later. Her skin is clammy and cool from the air as it slides over her body. 

“Yeah,” Dani agrees. “That was...really something.”

Jamie chuckles and then sits up, sliding her legs free of Dani’s and adjusting until they’re facing each other a little more properly. “You’re a quick learner.”

Dani gives her a sheepish smile. “Yeah, you can thank all the lonely nights I spent picturing this happening for that.”

If it were possible, Jamie thinks this confession would wreck her even more. As it is, it just strikes embers alight in her veins, stroking a flame that hasn’t stopped burning. “Yeah,” she says. “Guess so.” She kisses Dani, deep and filthy, heat coiling in her belly at the sound it gets her—that moan vibrating her teeth. “S’my turn,” she mumbles, already guiding Dani into lying back on the mattress, but Dani stops her, pushing on her shoulder a little.

Jamie goes and there’s a brief hesitation before Dani says, “I love you back, by the way.” The way she blurts it out has Jamie grinning like an idiot, waiting for whatever is going to come next. “I...I didn’t say that before because I was too...But I wanted to say it now.”

Something like wings flutter in Jamie’s chest. She can’t stop smiling. 

“I thought so,” she says as Dani leans up to kiss her, to pull her body down until they’re pressed together. “But it’s nice to hear anyway.”

“Kiss me?” Dani asks and, asked so nicely like that, it’s impossible for Jamie to deny her. 

She adjusts herself, reaching down a hand to hike one of Dani’s thighs over her hip and settling down between her legs. When their skin meets fully like that, when she can feel Dani’s stomach rising and falling against her own with every breath, she can’t help but sigh a little. Part of her wants to rub herself against Dani like a cat or something and she sets that thought aside to be picked apart later because she’s never, ever wanted to do that with someone before.

Dani runs her hands up and down Jamie’s ribs, lightly scraping her nails on every other slide. It’s a wonder that Jamie is even still breathing given how she looks lying beneath her. So much better than she’s imagined—than she pictured just the night before. Hair haloed out around her head on the pillow, pale skin like white lightning, shocking flames down her spine and between her legs. 

Tilting her head down, Jamie kisses her. She isn’t actually sure how she’s gone so long without breaking down and doing that already, but she can’t hold it anymore. Dani’s lips part immediately and she digs her nails into Dani’s shoulder blades when Jamie licks into her mouth. Her hips buck up against Jamie’s hips, slotted between her legs. 

Jamie painstakingly slides her lips down Dani’s cheek and jaw, dipping even further down to press against the gentle thumb of her heartbeat at her neck. She licks the skin there, making Dani squirm again moan a little, her chest vibrating against Jamie’s.

“Jay,” she whispers. “Please just –”

“I’ve got you,” Jamie says, kissing the line of Dani’s jaw to her ear and nipping at her there. She leans on one elbow, resting it so that her hand is directly beside Dani’s head on the pillow so she can grip some of her hair, lightly tug and encourage Dani to tilt so Jamie can lick and bite down her neck with a bit more freedom. “Simmer down.”

She has to scoot back a little in order to reach Dani’s breasts, but, once she does, she pulls one of her pink nipples into her mouth. Dani’s nails are now scraping through Jamie’s messy curls, scratching her scalp. Her arm is tensed enough to guide Jamie’s head and mouth to where she wants it and she’s so wet that Jamie can smell her. She wants to slide down even further, tug those purple panties down Dani’s legs with her teeth , and set her mouth to work, but not yet.

First—

Dani groans, her eyes slamming shut as Jamie brushes a hand down to cup her through her underwear. Her hips jump up. “Oh, god ,” she whispers. “Please.”

“Hey, Dani,” Jamie says quietly, pulling back so they can look at one another, “is it all good if I finger you?”

Dani’s eyelids flutter dazedly at her bluntness. “ Jesus , Jay. Yes. It’s...It’s cool if you f-finger me,” she says with the exact same inflection as when Jamie told her she was pretty when she’s flustered—like she’s trying to come up with a good enough answer. “That’s, um, that’s...really cool— fuck , Jamie.” Her words fall into a groan as Jamie squeezes again. “Right, um. Yep,” she says and Jamie is really trying her best not to laugh. “That’s...Yeah, that’ll work.”

“Glad to hear it.” Jamie finally smirks—confidence blooming like white clouds in sunny skies inside her head and heart. She dots Dani’s cheeks with little kisses as she dips her fingers below the elastic at the crease of Dani’s right thigh. “Can I take these off? I...I’d really like to see you.”

For a second, she considers taking back the request because Dani is swallowing nervously. But then Dani lifts herself up a little and reaches down with one hand so she can wriggle around ungracefully, trying to pull them off. Jamie reaches down to help until Dani is finally, finally naked and holy fucking shit Dani is naked in her bed where she’s been touching herself to the thought of this moment. How in the hell is Jamie supposed to sleep in her own bed right there on the other side of the wall after this? Her hand curls around Dani’s thigh, guiding her to open up a little more. 

“Jesus,” Dani says quietly, her eyes so bugged out that Jamie has to press her lips together to keep from laughing.

“Just so you know,” she says as she presses another kiss to Dani’s cheek, “this is so much better than I imagined.” It’s supposed to be light-hearted—that not-confession that she’s already basically said—but Dani’s breathing is uneven, her nails digging into Jamie’s back and okay. 

Right.

Jamie sort of feels like she’s going to throw up because she wants so badly for this to go well and she hasn’t felt like this since uni—stumbling her way around in her dorm room those first few times, trying to make girls come. Dani is wetter now than she could have imagined last night and that should be impossible but it isn’t and she wants to lean down and husk, Do you have any idea how fucking wet you are into her ear, but this is Dani’s first time and she doesn’t want to force too much on her too soon. 

She settles for sliding her right finger down and in without warning, curling it, searching. Finding it.

“Jamie,” Dani groans, her eyes closed. “God, you suck .”

Jamie hums a little. “Would it be better if I stopped?” she asks, can’t help from teasing at least a little. She pulls her finger out and pushes her middle finger in with it next, her thumb reaching up to circle around Dani’s clit.

“Don’t you dare ,” Dani hisses and Jamie curls her fingers into that blonde hair again, tugging a little. Dani’s head tips a little to the side and, when Jamie leans down to kiss her, she gasps against her lips something that sounds like, “ Please .”

It’s the way she says it—the way it sounds —that makes Jamie close her eyes for a second. That word again. She’s said it twice already and Jamie swallows hard, trying to wrap her head around the fact that it’s aimed at her ; Dani is asking her to touch her like this. She’s practically begging. 

Ask her how she got to this moment, and Jamie wouldn’t know how to answer.

She drops her head down, twisting a little until she can kiss one of Dani’s nipples, lick around it. Dani’s breath is hot as she pants against the side of Jamie’s face, biting her lip to muffle herself. 

“Good?” Jamie asks. She circles her thumb around Dani’s clit and pumps her fingers a little harder, a little faster. Goes back up to kiss Dani breathless on the lips, kiss the corner of her eye, switches the circles her thumb is making to a back-and-forth movement. Dani bucks her hips up, trying to fuck herself with Jamie’s fingers, and Jamie thinks maybe she can come just from that .

“God, yes,” Dani gasps, her nails biting in harder. She lifts her head to press their lips together, but she’s too distracted and ends up missing Jamie’s mouth by a little. Something swirls in Jamie’s chest at that—some drowning fondness that catches her off guard—and she finishes the kiss. “Fuck, fuck,” Dani pants. “Fuck, yes, you’re...Holy wow , I love you so much.”

If she wasn’t so busy, Jamie thinks she wouldn’t be able to do anything but slump down into Dani’s arms at the confession. But she can’t. There are other tasks at hand. 

She speeds up even more, scissoring her fingers up and out, twisting her wrist, until Dani’s hips still against the movement and she gasps out a mix of curses that Jamie can’t even interpret. 

“I love you, too,” Jamie tells her as she presses a kiss to Dani’s parted lips.

“Love you, love you, love you ,” Dani babbles, loose and messy with an expression so serious it breaks Jamie’s heart. Jamie flattens her thumb against her clit and she adds in a, “ Please, please .”

“I will, baby, I’ve got you.”

Please .”

“You don’t have to beg me. I’m more than happy to—”

Jay ,” Dani says breathily, eyes shut again as Jamie adds a third finger into the mix. “Right there, right —yes —that’s gonna be so fucking—” She rolls her hips up harder and harder, each of the movements stuttering and disoriented.

“Dani,” Jamie whispers as she rests their foreheads together. “Dani, where’s the...where do you keep your—?”

Dani lifts a hand to gesture vaguely at the table beside her bed. “Top drawer,” she gasps. “It’s—”

It’s a struggle to stretch enough to grab it, to get the drawer open. She has to shift some of her weight to her knees so she can use her other hand. She grabs what feels like a pill bottle and the cover of a book before settling her hand on something small and cool . Lifting it out, she’s faced with the most adorable, pink metal bullet vibrator she’s ever seen in her life. With a push of the rubber button at the bottom, it starts vibrating furiously in her palm.

“It’s so...tiny,” she says, a little amused.

Dani nods and whines, making Jamie realize that, in her distraction, the fingers she has inside her are stilled. At once, she starts thrusting again and Dani whines again. This time, an answer follows:

“Discreet,” she says, “on planes. Less vibrating luggage.”

And, okay, apparently Dani takes a vibrator with her when she visits home which is definitely something they’ll need to talk about sometime. But right now is clearly not that time.

Gripping the vibrator between her fingers, she stretches her arm down and presses it against Dani’s clit with no fanfare. Dani arches again, gasping out a, “Motherfucker ,” before opening her eyes so she can find Jamie, frame her face and pull her into a heated kiss, whimpering into her mouth.

Jamie’s senses are completely overloaded again, her mind quiet and still in a way it normally never is and Dani is so close. Her back aches a little from holding herself up, but she can feel Dani tightening around her fingers.

Shit ,” Dani groans, a hint of frustration on the edges of the word. “I’m right there .”

“Okay, okay,” Jamie says and then she shuffles down on her knees before lying down on the bed. She has to lift the vibrator from Dani’s clit in order to lift one of her legs and loop her arm around—and then, of course, the angle is uncomfortable—but she doesn’t care. Needs to be touching as much of Dani as possible. 

Keeping the vibrator on the top of her clit, Jamie licks hard and fast at the bottom of it, pumping her fingers even harder. She swipes her tongue lower, right against her fingers, the way Dani tastes exploding on her tongue. Dani lets loose a loud whine and, yeah.

There it is.

It’s sort of like a grenade or a bomb going off. Maybe a volcano. She tightens around Jamie’s fingers, all of her muscles shaking like a goddamn leaf . Jamie keeps up her actions, licking a little lighter, to suspend Dani as long as possible before she finally comes down.

Finally, she holds the button on the vibrator down until it turns off and untangles herself, sitting up. Dani is staring at her, one hand pressed over her mouth.

“How was that?” Jamie asks, cheeky and proud.

“Oh, my god , Jamie.”

That’s all Dani says and it’s filled with hushed awe and so much gravity that it knocks something loose inside Jamie’s heart.

Jamie’s ears feel hot and she uses some of her dry fingers to flick a curl of hair away from her own eyes. “Yeah?” Pride balloons where her chest was once hollow because she’s managed to make this incredibly gorgeous woman she’s in love with completely speechless using just her fingers and tongue. 

This, she thinks, is surely an accomplishment to be celebrated.

“Do you really not know?” Dani asks and she sounds so completely wrought with disbelief at the thought. She’s grinning, though, and the whole thing is…

She doesn’t know what.

“Maybe I could tell a little,” Jamie says.

Instead of laughing, Dani grows serious again. “God, come here,” she breathes and she’s sitting up to pull Jamie in for a kiss, lying back and pulling Jamie with her. It feels different, Jamie thinks. Or maybe she’s just losing her mind. When she pulls away, she holds eye contact and says, “You’re not planning on keeping your distance anymore, are you? Cause...I don’t think I can go back to that. I might never let you leave this bed again.”

It hasn’t even been more than a few hours since she first felt Dani’s arms around her, and somehow it already seems like something she has known her entire life. 

Jamie smoothes a hand over Dani’s hip. “Oh, no way,” she says easily. “You’re stuck with me now.” She trails her fingertips up Dani’s side, loving the feel of her skin, trying to memorize it.

Dani grins at her, a little goofy. “I better be.”

..