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Summer’s a knife

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April Stevens would like nothing more than to take on an internship and stay in her college dorm over summer break. In fact, she can imagine few things worse than going home to the state of Georgia. But thanks to a lovely, last minute asbestos discovery in the building, and April somehow managing to be the only student to not receive fair warning about the impending vacation of the building (she will be writing a strongly worded letter), she manages to miss out on any reasonably priced local accommodation, and instead has to cancel her internship, finding herself on a cheap flight ‘home’.

Things don’t seem so bad though as she stands waiting in baggage claim, squealing embarrassingly loud as arms wrap around her from behind.

“Oh my goodness, April!”

She manages to shift around in the limbs binding her until she’s facing an exceptionally bright eyed Hannah B., and April honestly can’t help but smile too.
The two kept in fairly close touch after high school, much to April’s own surprise. She had assumed she would leave the loving but aloof girl in her rear view mirror as she fled the small town but Hannah B., as it turns out, is actually quite the deep thinker while also being extremely accepting and understanding of others.

After April publicly came out in her first year, simply through sharing her less-than-straight endeavors online, Hannah was the first to call the girl and shower her with love, which was a nice conversation for April to remind herself of when the onslaught of calls from actual family members soon came. (Family members who April now supposes she should refer to as ex-family members, having been completely cut off from them in every sense since those very phone calls.)

Her and Hannah have stayed in touch ever since. And, now that April has nowhere else to go, she’ll be sleeping in the guest bedroom at Hannah and her partner’s home.

“It’s so great to see you!” Hannah exclaims, causing April to finally laugh and hug her back.

“It’s great to see you too.”

 

The two take the rest of the day easy, carting April’s things back to Hannah’s place, April meeting her partner, Peter, who is just a male version of Hannah to the T, and winding down with a glass of wine each on the couch. It’s only when Hannah’s phone starts buzzing, alerting her to an incoming video call from Ezekiel, that things start to pick up.

“April! Are you back home and you didn’t tell me?” Is the first thing out of his mouth, already cutting Hannah off before she can even say hello.

April places a hand on Hannah’s arm to soothe and rolls her eyes playfully. “Why would I tell you that?”

Ezekiel pulls his camera back to show that he is now standing in the exact luggage area that April and Hannah occupied just hours earlier.

“Your boy is home and ready to fuck some shit up!”

“Language,” Peter mumbles as he passes through the living room to the kitchen. April covers her mouth to hold in a laugh, looking back at the screen.

“What should we be doing with this information?” April prompts.

“Girl, don’t give me that tone of voice. You know exactly what my heart desires. The holy trinity is going out so pick a cute outfit and line your stomachs; we’re getting messy.”

The two don’t get the chance to argue as the phone beeps to signify the end of their call. The girls stare at the black screened device, dumbfounded.
It lights up again with a text;

Ezekiel 😈💕: I’m picking y’all up in an hour. Be ready.

Begrudgingly, April and Hannah agree.

It’s actually fun, April thinks, picking pieces of clothing and trying on outfits with Hannah. She’s been so focused on either her studies or simply finding a quick fix hookup, April’s barely had the time to create some meaningful bonds in her years at college. It’s nice to interact with a friend who still knows her so well.
The two listen to music from their teen years to hype themselves up and laugh as they model different outfits, showcasing their complete lack of coordination as they stumble through poses. Peter insists on taking photos of the two when they’ve finally both settled on a look each, adorably wielding his phone in much the same way someone forty years his senior would.

 

“Look at you,” Ezekiel excitedly starts, gesturing up and down at April as her and Hannah enter and approach the bar, “you sexy little dyke.”

Hannah gasps but April just laughs, shaking her head.

“Birds of a feather,” she gestures to Ezekiel’s outfit. He laughs bashfully and nods.

Hannah frowns thoughtfully for a moment before sucking in a dramatic gasp.

“Oh my gosh, I never even realized! We’re all queer! What are the odds of that?” She giggles and shrugs before turning to the bartender. As she places her hands gently on the countertop, it’s somehow the first time April’s brain registers that the girls nails are painted purple, pink, and blue.

April and Ezekiel’s necks could break with the speed at which they turn to look at each other, jaws dropped. They both erupt into laugher, throwing their heads back.

It’s not even an hour later and the three are each at the perfect level of tipsy; past the point of niceties and self consciousness, but not so far that they’re struggling to keep their eyes open or slurring their speech. The state leads to Ezekiel letting out a mischievous chuckle beside April as they dance.

“What?” She frowns, turning to him, her body still following the rhythm.

“Look at these move,” he gestures to April’s body. “I gotta say girl, I think the only reason you’ve been the successful little lesbian you have been is because you practically live in Gay Town.”

April’s eyebrows raise, a smirk growing on her lips.

“Is that a challenge?”

Ezekiel gasps, his hand to his chest as he stops dancing. “I would love nothing more than to see you try to pick up a southern girl.”

April’s eyes scan the room before she nods, sticking her hand out. “I bet I can.”

Ezekiel smirks himself now, taking April’s hand in a firm shake. “I get to pick her.”

April’s expression drops. “What? No, that’s hardly fair-“

“Blondie at the bar,” he interrupts, pointing. “No way you can get with her. I have zero faith in you. Knock em dead.” He gets out in one breath and pats her shoulders, flashing a sarcastic smile. And then he’s dancing again.

April rolls her eyes and dramatically psychs herself up, rolling her shoulders and pretending to crack her neck before she saunters over the the bar. She brushes the back of her fingers gently up the blonde’s arm.

“Excuse me, can I just say– Sterling?”

She hears a loud laugh come from the dance floor that is undoubtedly Ezekiel’s.

“April!” Sterling’s expression lights up as she turns to face her. It quickly shifts into a questioning look though as she seems to remember that she’s still not quite sure how to behave in front of April.

April’s shoulder’s deflate as she manages to laugh at herself, a smile spreading across her face.

“Hey,” she says softly and opens her arms. Sterling immediately takes the offer, hugging April tightly and the two stay that way for possibly a beat too long.

“How have you been? What’re you doing back here?” April manages when they part, leaning her side against the bar.

“I’m... yeah, I’m okay. Just visiting family,” Sterling responds in an awkward fashion. April brushes it off as uncertainty on how to act around herself. She glances around the room.

“No Blair tonight?”

“No,” Sterling comes in quickly, drawing April’s eyes back to her. “She’s busy,” Sterling explains. April nods. The bartender places a glass in front of Sterling then, her hand swiftly scooping it up before she turns her body fully to April. “Do you wanna dance?”

A grin spreads across April’s face. “With you?” She asks, almost teasingly.

Sterling scoffs and rolls her eyes. “Don’t give me that,” and then she’s taking April’s hand, drink in her other, and dragging her towards the sea of dancers.

 

All April’s softly hung over brain can manage to think, aside from the obvious, is of course.
Of course some completely random chain of events starting with something as absurd as asbestos would somehow lead her back to her hometown and into Sterling Wesley’s bed not 24 hours after getting off her flight.

She rolls her naked body over in the tangle of bedsheets to look at Sterling’s sleeping figure beside her. She wants to say that the girl looks elegant and peaceful but it’s Sterling; her cheek his smooshed against her arm, her mouth hanging open and hair sitting messily over her face. Breathtakingly adorable, April defines it instead.

Sterling snorts awake suddenly, blinking her eyes open. When she registers April watching her, a satisfied smirk spreads across her lips.

“Good morning,” she says groggily, rolling onto her back and rubbing her eyes.

April chuckles, shaking her head. It’s all just so Sterling.

“Morning.”

“I didn’t expect you to be here when I woke up.“

April attempts to hide the panic in her face by averting her eyes and clearing her throat. “Do you want me to go?”

Sterling practically leaps into alertness, rolling towards April to grab her bicep.
“No! Gosh, no,” Sterling swiftly gets out, April releasing the breath she’d held.

“I’m honestly not usually the type to stick around for breakfast,” she says, mentally searching for a good explanation as to why she did stay.

“I’m happily surprised,” Sterling says softly.

“Oh?” April finally settles, her own hand moving to rest on Sterling’s hip over the blankets. “Happily surprised. Why’s that?”

Sterling grins devilishly. “Well, it just seems there’s a much greater chance of events repeating themselves that way,” she muses, gently pressing her palm against April’s shoulder until she’s laying flat on her back, Sterling slipping a leg between hers.

April’s smile is smug. “It does seem that way, doesn’t it?”

It does. Events repeat themselves a number of times that morning.
The pair only truly stop because Sterling’s phone is ringing and suddenly she has other places to be.

 

April practically floats all the way back to Hannah’s place, a ridiculous grin on her face that she can’t seem to wipe off even when Hannah comments on it. She doesn’t get time to pry though because her and Peter are attending a barbecue at Luke’s house and now insisting April join them.

“Hannah, I would like nothing less than to attend this event with you,” April says in a mockingly pleasant voice, her hand patting the top of Hannah’s.

Hannah sets her jaw and quirks an eyebrow, challenge accepted.

 

Now April sits in a perfectly kept backyard, surrounded by some of her high school peers and faces she vaguely recognizes from her church days, not quite sure how Hannah managed it. All she does know is that she should be very scared of that woman’s newfound power.

An upside, April soon discovers, to being an out and proud lesbian who is shunned by her family in the very town she is visiting is that not many people willingly engage in conversation with her. It’s heaven on earth. April sets herself up in a comfortable lawn chair, some fruity drink that Luke’s bubbly fiancé concocted in her hand, and sunglasses on as she allows herself to soak up the sun while still taking full credit for attending this godawful social gathering.

It’s only when Luke’s already loud voice gains more volume and somehow more excitement that April entertains the notion of opening her eyes and shifting her gaze to the commotion. She immediately feels her cheeks heat when she spots Sterling in a gorgeous, floral and flowing sundress beside Luke, apologizing profusely, presumably for her tardiness.
April straightens and glances down at her own clothing, brushing herself off.

“You look fine,” Hannah’s voice sounds knowingly from beside her. April jumps a little and turns to her. “Are you going to talk to her?” Hannah raises an eyebrow and April purses her lips, almost wishing her friend had remained the girl of few, very strange words she was in high school.

“I might,” April shrugs, attempting to be casual as she leans back in her chair. Her body bolts upright before she’s even settled though as Sterling locks eyes with her, giving her an exaggerated eye roll as Luke turns his back on her for a moment before she smiles at him and excuses herself, making a beeline for April.

Hannah scoffs and pats her shoulder. “Good luck,” she mutters and walks off.

“Hey!” Sterling exclaims as she grabs a lawn chair and drags it over beside April, dropping down into it with a sigh.

“Afternoon,” April nods curtly, crossing her leg over her knee as she attempts to relax back into her chair. “You couldn’t force Blair to attend?”

Sterling looks anywhere but her. “Uhh, no. She’s pretty strong willed, I guess.” She shrugs and turns her attention to the drink in her hand that matches April’s. “Any good?”

April turns her own attention to her nearing empty glass. “Fruity and surprisingly sweet.”

“Much like yourself,” Sterling cracks a grin, taking a sip. April purses her lips tightly as she attempts to hold back her own smile but her bunched cheeks give her away.

“Very boozy,” April adds as Sterling’s eyebrows knit together after she swallows.

“Prior warning would’ve been better,” she clears her throat. April chuckles and looks down, realizing she’s been staring since the girl sat down.

“Hannah dragged me along,” April explains, apparently looking for any reason to keep hearing Sterling’s voice. “I would much rather have stayed away. Blair is a smart girl, I’ll give her that.”

Sterling shifts a little uncomfortably in her seat, distracting herself by surveying the yard full of people. She then looks at April, seeming to examine her for a moment, her lips gently pouting in thought. Apparently at a conclusion, she takes a breath in and leans her elbow over onto the arm of April’s chair, leaning her head into April’s ear.

“Why don’t we find a way to make things a little more fun?”

April feels a tingle in her jaw, like when she eats pineapple, and her eyes light up as she turns to meet Sterling’s devilish smile. “How do you propose we might do that?” She quirks an eyebrow and smirks as she watches Sterling’s eyes glue to her lips while she speaks.

“Well,” Sterling starts, managing to remember April has eyes, “how’s about we finish these fruity, boozy disasters, attempt mingling for a good five minutes and then just so happen to disappear at the same time?”

“And where would we disappear to?” April asks innocently, leaning closer in anticipation. Sterling bites her lip.

“Well, I know this lovely house that’s totally vacant right now. You might recognize it. It’s owned by the Wesley’s.”

April honestly giggles at that, nodding. “Sounds like a plan.” She has to actively stop herself from reaching up to touch Sterling’s cheek as the girl smiles back at her, clearly proud of her ability to get April into this giddy state. “But,” her tone is teasing, “before I agree, I must know, what ever will we do when we get there?”

Sterling bites the inside of her cheek and glances around them once more before leaning impossibly closer. “I would love to explore other ways that mouth of yours can tease me.”

The plan works perfectly.

 

The two are laying on their backs now, satisfied smiles on their otherwise red faces. They pant lightly, Sterling’s arm tucked around April, her head resting back against Sterling’s shoulder.

“How long are you in town for?” April speaks once her breathing has returned to a steady rhythm. She doesn’t want to seem desperate at all but she’ll be damned if she doesn’t allow herself to indulge in the one benefit being back in this state is offering as much as humanly possibly (especially after actively denying herself the ability to even fantasize about it for years).

Sterling shifts uncomfortably, her silence deafening to April who shuts her eyes and lets out a self deprecating sigh.

“Sorry. I probably shouldn’t assume you want to keep doing this-“

“April,” Sterling manages a laugh. “I would have thought the fact that your name and ‘fuck’ being the only words I’ve been able to say for the past hour or so would be enough indication that I very much enjoy this and would like to continue. It’s just... I’m not really sure how long I’m here for. But,” she continues quickly, before April can interrupt, “while I am here, I would absolutely like to see you more. Like this. Specifically. Naked.”

April finally cracks her own smile, laughing as she shifts to lay half on top of Sterling, her hand resting on the other girl’s chest.

“Okay,” April drawls, her pointer finger running down Sterling’s collarbone. “Well, you know me, I like rules. Shall we draw some lines in the sand?”

Sterling thinks about that for a moment then shrugs. “Breakable heaven,” she says with an assured nod.

“What does that mean?” April asks, an intrigued smile growing on her lips as she meets Sterling’s eyes.

“It means, no rules, no need to explain yourself, indulge as much as you like and get out whenever.”

The way Sterling’s tongue wraps around the word ‘indulge’ gives April all the convincing she needs.

“That sounds reasonable to me.”

 

Not 24 hours later, April is kneading pasta dough alongside Hannah when her phone buzzes on the countertop.

“Can you grab that for me?” April asks, gesturing to her flour-covered hands. Hannah hums and picks up the device, squeaking as she reads the message on-screen. April frowns and Hannah quickly turns the phone to face her.

Sterling W.: Please come over here and fuck me. I need a distraction.

April’s eyebrows raise and she covers her mouth in flour as her hand attempts to hold in a laugh that ultimately escapes her.

“Oh Han, I’m so sorry,” she continues to chuckle as she hurries to clean her hands (and face) before taking the phone.

“So this is like an ongoing thing?” Hannah asks, taking over April’s job of kneading while the other girl types away on her phone.

“Yeah, we discussed as much. I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting it to be so immediately on going though.”

“So,” Hannah’s tone is already tentatively suggestive as she starts, “do you still have those feelings for Sterling we talked about way back when?”

April purses her lips for a moment, considering whether she should regret having gotten so drunk after her very first round of exams were over that she called Hannah and explained everything that happened between her and Sterling in high school (including sloppily explaining that she’s still so attracted to the girl and a part of her wishes they could have worked it all out and actually been together). Her and Hannah haven’t really spoken about the incident since, aside from Hannah double checking if everything was okay the next day and ensuring that the secret was safe with her.

“It’s not about that,” April lands on after some consideration. Hannah just nods, clearly unconvinced but April doesn’t have the mental capacity to deal with that right now, not while there’s a horny Sterling out there waiting for her. She bites her lip and finally looks up from her phone, meeting Hannah’s eyes. “Save me a plate?”

Hannah laughs, rolling her eyes. “Should I have even set up the guest bedroom for you?”

April laughs herself, cheekily shrugging, and gives her friend a quick side hug before disappearing from the room.

She’s pulling the keys out of her rental car’s ignition when her phone screen lights up again.

Sterling W.: Sneak in through the garden gate pls - my parents are just leaving.

April frowns at the message but follows her orders anyway.

 

After the two have rolled around in Sterling’s bed for a sufficient amount of time, they both lay breathless on their sides, April tucked closely into Sterling’s back, her arm wrapped around the girl’s waist. Sterling sighs comfortably, her hand moving to rest on top of April’s, fingers lacing between hers. It’s comfortable and came so naturally, April feeling a pull in the center of her chest to wrap Sterling up and simply hold her as they both calmed their racing hearts.
It’s intimate in such a new way that April’s heart rate begins to rise again.
Her phone lighting up on Sterling’s old bedside table, some useless notification appearing, is sufficient enough distraction, reminding her instead of a much easier topic to broach.

“Sterling,” April starts, lifting her head to rest her chin in the crook of Sterling’s neck.

“Mmm?”

“You know you don’t have to hide me from anyone, right? I’m out now.”

Sterling stays quiet. April bites her lip, wondering if she had somehow hit a nerve. She could have sworn Sterling was out too, if her social media presence was any indication. She doesn’t get the chance to panic though, because Sterling’s shrugging her shoulders and bringing her focus back onto her.

“I just don’t think my parents would appreciate the premarital sex in the family home, that’s all.”

“Oh,” April lets out, embarrassed. “Of course,” she nods. April scoffs as a thought crosses her mind though, turning her head to look down at Sterling again. “Doesn’t Blair still live here? Surely she’s not exactly the Virgin Mary of the Wesley household.”

Sterling stiffens under April’s hold, actively avoiding turning her head to meet April’s gaze. “Um, yeah. I think she’s just really sneaky or something. I don’t know.”

It’s rushed and awkward, like every time April has brought up Blair, and it makes her want to ask if everything’s alright but is that what this is? Are they on that level of emotional investment or are they just meeting for some sex to pass the time and distract themselves for their respective situations?

“Are you hungry?” Sterling pulls April from her spiraling thoughts. April takes a breath in to speak but her howling stomach does the job just fine. Sterling laughs now and shifts onto her back. “Wanna order something?”

April’s hand comfortably falls to Sterling’s hip, her finger tips drawing circles as she speaks. “Hannah’s got freshly made pasta at hers that we were making together before you so rudely interrupted,” she teases, a smirk creeping onto her lips.

Sterling feigns offense, gasping. “Well, I didn’t know my sexual needs were such a hinderance on your friendship.”

April throws her head back in a laugh, shaking it as it comes back down.

“Come on,” she says, her smile evident even in her tone of voice, “I’m sure she’ll have some extra for you.”

Sterling’s beams at April, seemingly surprised by the casual invite.
The two promptly dress and pile into April’s car.

 

The impromptu dinner is lovely. Sterling of course gets along with everyone, so she‘s easy to watch as she chats away with Hannah and Peter. So easy to watch, in fact, that April can’t seem to take her eyes off the girl. She notices the way Sterling’s laugh bubbles up inside her chest the throat before it bursts past her lips. She watches the way her eyes widen when she’s telling a story. She sees Sterling’s eyebrows pull together the slightest when she’s intently listening. She feels Sterling’s hand creep over to her own beneath the table, lacing their fingers together, and feels an alignment shift into place somewhere, maybe within herself, maybe in a greater part of the universe.

Once they’re both well fed and have had their ears talked off, April walks Sterling outside.

“You really don’t have to uber home. I can drive you,” April insists, to which Sterling waves a dismissive hand.

“No, it’s fine. I’m gonna go visit... m-my parents first anyway, so,” she shrugs, avoiding eye contact. April frowns but nods nonetheless. A car pulling up in front of the house draws her attention away. “Okay, well,” Sterling finally looks at her. April meets her gaze and the two shift a little uncomfortably as they both try to silently navigate this goodbye. Sterling groans and rolls her eyes before her hands fly forward, gripping the front of April’s top and pulling her in for a kiss. It’s ferocity is exciting and comforting all at once.
Sterling releases the fabric with a satisfied sigh and begins backing toward the car. “I’m sure we’ll be in touch soon,” her tone teases.

April sputters out a laugh. “I’m sure we will.”

 

Hannah’s arms are crossed and her eyebrow is raised when April re-enters the house.

“I’ll clean the dishes, don’t worry,” April attempts a casual tone as she passes her.

“Don’t play dumb with me, miss Stevens,” Hannah warns, following her into the kitchen. April groans quietly to herself and pulls on a pair of yellow rubber gloves, flipping the faucet on. “What was that?”

“What was what?”

Hannah gives a warning look, which April deliberately ignores in favor of staring down at the soapy water filling the sink.

“All of that,” Hannah explains, tone serious.

April shrugs. “I think it’s fine for a us to casually kiss goodbye-“

“Okay, not that.”

Okay, now April actually does look at her, a frown broadcasting her confusion.

“Wait, then what are you talking about?”

“April, you couldn’t keep your eyes off of Sterling that entire time.”

“So what? I think she’s attractive. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Hannah takes in a breath to continue but ultimately sighs, shaking her head. “Fine. You’re right. I’m sure it will all turn out fine.”

“I’m sure it will,” April retorts, tone a little more snarky than she had intended.

Hannah huffs out of the kitchen, retreating to her own bedroom. April chews her lip as she stands scrubbing at the few dishes for much longer than necessary.

 

Maybe to spite Hannah or maybe to prove her own self control to herself, April actively tries not to contact Sterling for the entire next day. Instead, her and Ezekiel get brunch together in the morning and visit a gallery, she then visits Ellen, who’s still going strong at Willingham, in the afternoon, and comes back to Hannah and Peter’s to help the pair prepare and cook dinner in the evening.
The clock is about to strike the 24 hour mark when April’s phone begins to vibrate on the coffee table. The three are lounging in front of the television and April plays casual to the best of her ability as she reaches forward, not before letting the phone buzz a few times first.

“Sterling?” Hannah asks expectantly.

“Yep,” April responds, immediately regretting her attempt at casualty by popping her ‘P’. She rolls her eyes at herself and leaves the room to answer the call. “Sterling.”

“Hey,” Sterling sounds out of breath and her voice is a little horse. April shrugs it off and mentally takes credit for Sterling’s overused vocal chords. “Are you busy right now?”

April glances back toward the living room and feels an excited smile begin to creep onto her lips already. “Not at all. How may I be of assistance?”

“Why don’t you meet me at the bar and we’ll see?”

April’s there in a heartbeat, deliberately avoiding eye contact when she tells her housemates where she’s going.

 

With the way Sterling’s hand wraps around a tall glass and her eyes don’t leave April’s throat when she swallows a shot, it doesn’t take much time or many drinks until Sterling and April’s too close dancing becomes full on sex in the back of Sterling’s car. The two laugh at themselves as they messily undress only as much as necessary, banging elbows and heads against ceilings and door handles. By the time Sterling is straddling April’s hips, the two panting from their efforts, they both wear smiles a little too genuine for the purely physical relationship this supposedly is.

“Is that the assistance you were hoping for?” April asks teasingly as she re-buttons the front of Sterling’s dress.

Sterling laughs, hands tidying her hair. “It certainly filled a need,” she says, nodding. April smiles proudly up at her, a genuine glint in her eyes as she moves her hands to rest on the tops of Sterling’s thighs. Her tender expression seems to take Sterling’s breath away for a moment and her hands rush to come down from her hair and cup April’s face. April sighs at the gentle touch and tilts her chin up, practically begging to be kissed again, so Sterling does just that. It’s slow and purposeful; there’s no lust behind it, more a soft fondness. They both relax into it, arms wrapping around the other as they lazily continue to kiss that way.

Perhaps caught in the moment or perhaps driven by another desire, April mumbles, “stay with me tonight,” against Sterling’s lips despite her better judgement.

She feels Sterling’s smile against her lips.

“Why?” Sterling whispers, eyes still closed, face still just as close but a teasing grin rapidly growing on her face.

April bites her bottom lip, knowing Sterling won’t give in until she says it. She’s already been this vulnerable, why not go all the way?

“I want to fall asleep with you,” she whispers. “I want to wake up with you,” follows even quieter and immediately Sterling is pressing her back into the car seat, lips reattaching themselves with a new found haste.

After riding April’s hand to another orgasm, Sterling agrees and soon they’re locking the car and instead climbing into the backseat of a taxi back to Hannah’s house. Sterling stares at her phone for most of the ride, April notes, but she ignores it.

The two step lightly as they enter the house, the switched off lights indicating the owners being in bed. Sterling tries to hold in a giggle as April nearly falls over trying to pry off her sexy but admittedly too tight pants and steps forward to help her. The act of undressing each other should lead to some sexual tension, and it does but in a much more domestic sense than anticipated. April ignores the feeling, pressing a thank you kiss to Sterling’s lips before she finishes changing and climbs into bed. Sterling tucks herself in beside her and the two whisper to each other, giggling about meaningless topics like they’re at a childhood sleepover until they both succumb to sleep.

 

The expression on Hannah’s face in the morning as April and Sterling enter the kitchen in tandem is enough to make April regret the magnificent night they had all together. She averts her eyes and quietly offers to make pancakes for the household as if that will be a sufficient distraction. Peter excitedly accepts the offer, completely ignorant to the tension between his girlfriend and her best friend as he takes a seat at the counter beside an equally oblivious Sterling.

Hannah doesn’t lighten up as Sterling moves to stand behind April as she cracks eggs into a bowl, arms wrapping around the smaller girl’s waist and pressing a kiss to her temple.

“Would you like to whisk it?” April asks, leaning back into her.

Sterling grins and takes up the bowl, immediately starting too fast and splashing flour up onto her and April’s faces. They both gasp and look at each other. Suddenly they’re bursting into laughter, reaching to sweetly wipe the other’s face clean.
April’s thumb brushes over Sterling’s bottom lip and Sterling’s got the audacity to poke her tongue out and lick it as it passes. Thank god her playful smile reminds April they’re not alone and she turns, red faced, to finish whisking and start pouring dollops of batter into the pan.

Sterling’s soon reconnected to her back, her hands fiddling absentmindedly with April’s drawstring as her chin rests on her shoulder. The gesture certainly has no intention behind it but it makes a heat rise up the back of April’s neck nonetheless.

“Do you want me to teach you to flip them without a spatula?” April asks abruptly, looking for any excuse, no matter how lame, to get Sterling to step away from her for even a second. Of course, Sterling eagerly agrees and soon the two are much more innocently laughing as they take turns flicking the pan, Peter applauding and cheering from his position at the counter each time they successfully execute a flip.

April’s giving Sterling a congratulatory kiss on the cheek when Hannah’s hands slap down onto the bench.

“Oh shoot,” Hannah’s voice interrupts suddenly, all three jumping and turning to look at her. “I forgot to ask you yesterday. April, can you look over this work email for me before I send it?” April frowns but ultimately agrees, following when Sterling insists she can handle the pancakes for two minutes.

Hannah closes the study door and turns to face April, crossing her arms.

“Okay, what is going on here?”

“We didn’t have sex in your house,” April comes to her own defense, hands raising in surrender.

“So, why did Sterling stay the night then?” Hannah raises an eyebrow, lips pouted.

April kind of wishes she’d lied now, considering that the truth is much more incriminating. “I, um,” she starts, avoiding eye contact, “I asked her to stay with me. It’s nothing,” she shrugs.

Hannah gasps and steps forward to slap her friend on the arm. “I can’t believe you!”

“What? That room is... cold,” April awkwardly justifies.

“I’d sooner knit you ten new blankets than suggest you dabble in whatever this is!”

“What do you mean?”

“What’re you going to do when one of you has to go back home?”

April falters for a moment, having actively avoided this question. She shakes her head dismissively. “Obviously we’ll just stop seeing each other.”

“Oh, right. And you’ll be totally fine with that? I mean, have you even talked about it?”

“Hannah, we’re not falling in love or something, we’re just hooking up. I don’t understand what your problem is!”

“My problem is you not acknowledging your feelings until they’re bubbling over the surface and causing you do to crazy things that just aren’t you!”

That gets April’s attention.

“What do you mean?” She asks, tone completely shifted as her tense shoulders drop.

Hannah sighs. “April, I remember exactly when you and Sterling split in high school, and I didn’t even know about it back then. Do you know how? You started being really nasty to me. You snapped at me every day for the rest of junior year after the lock in. Then you get near black out drunk your first year away from home and call me to tell me how much you’re attracted to Sterling? You don’t know how to process your feelings and it makes you burst out in these behaviors that hurt you and the people around you.” Hannah breathes at last. “I’m just trying to look out for my friend.”

April looks remorseful, pursing her lips in thought. “Hannah, I’m so sorry-“

“Breakfast is ready!” Sterling and Peter chime in unison from the other room.

Hannah sighs and spins around to face the door, gripping the handle. “Just,” she turns her head toward April, “please be a little more careful.” And with that, she leaves.
April has no choice but to follow, even though she now feels like she needs to take a full year to process everything they discussed.

Sitting next to Sterling and eating pancakes while all four of them discuss meaningless topics is a welcome distraction from it all. Again, April can’t seem to pull her gaze from Sterling’s face, now also taking any chance she can to touch the girl, placing a hand on her forearm as she laughs with her, bumping her with her shoulder when they tease each other, and pinching her cheek as she makes fun of the amount of syrup Sterling pours over her stack of pancakes. If her eyes weren’t glued to Sterling, April would instead see the way Hannah purses her lips in a look of concern at it all.

Sterling is in the middle of animatedly explaining the time she was so drunk she got kicked out of a club but snuck back in through the roof when her phone starts to ring loudly. April doesn’t mean to be nosy, but she does see that it’s Anderson calling and when Sterling notices too she snatches the phone up, demeanor completely changing as she shuffles out of the room to answer. The other three fall into awkward silence as they overhear Sterling’s half of the conversation.

“Is sh-... Okay. So, what does that mean?” Sterling let’s out a shaky breath. “I’ll be there in five minutes.”

April’s shoulder’s deflate at that but she plays perky as Sterling renters the room, a fake smile plastered on her face.

“Sorry for the rude interruption, y’all. I’ll have to finish that story another time. I’ve gotta run some errands for my parents,” she blows a raspberry giving a thumbs down.
“Thank you for having me, Hannah, Peter. And thanks for breakfast, babe– A-April,” Sterling stutters out, a frown crossing her expression for a split second. She shakes it off and tilts April’s chin up to plant a peck to her lips before waving at Hannah and Peter, making a swift exit.

The three sit in silence for a moment.

“I think you could be onto to something, Han...”

 

April’s too busy stewing over what had Sterling leaving so quickly to properly process her own feelings, much to Hannah’s annoyance. On top of that, she’s attempting to distract herself from the fact that she hasn’t heard from Sterling since that morning and it has now been 48 hours. Not that she’s counting.

April and Peter are working away in the backyard tackling the garden when Hannah comes out of the back door, holding April’s phone up.

“April, it’s Sterling.”

Peter openly laughs at the speed with which April throws down her garden sheers and gloves before running over to Hannah.

“Very subtle,” Hannah whispers, passing her the phone. April sighs and presses it to her ear.

“Hey, what’s going on?” She asks, tone more revealingly desperate than intended.

“Hey.” Sterling sighs on her end and April could swear she hears her sniffle. “I don’t know, I just wanted to hear your voice I guess.”

April sucks in a breath, glancing back at Hannah as she makes her way into the house for some more privacy. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah. It’s fine. Don’t worry about me,” Sterling dismisses. April frowns. She’s tossing up whether this is a call for their usual distraction or possibly something deeper when she decides to attempt to ask.

“So... do you want me to come around or?”

“What?” Sterling snaps. “That’s not why I-... god, April, is that all you think I want?” Her tone is suddenly harsh and accusatory.

Okay, that was not the right way to go about this question.

“What? No. I just meant-...” April’s expression shifts as she instinctually jumps on the defensive. “I mean, kind of. You’re the one that’s been calling the shots here and we haven’t exactly discussed-“

“I just wanted to talk to you like a normal-... like normal people.”

April can tell they’re both winding themselves up into defensive balls of frustration and Hannah’s little concerned voice is in her head, warning her against hurting people. She takes a deep breath, closing her eyes in an attempt to calm herself before either of them can say something they don’t mean. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-“

“Maybe you weren’t the right person to call. I have to go.”

And then the line beeps it’s ending into April’s ear. She scoffs and pulls the device away from her to look at it. Her loud, frustrated groan brings Hannah back into the house, sighing as she leans against the doorframe.

April meets her eyes. “I don’t know what her problem is!” She suddenly begins pacing. “First this is some no rules, hook up whenever thing, then she-... we... and I-” April shakes her head. “And she gets so weird whenever Blair comes up in conversation and won’t tell me what’s going on. What am I supposed to do!”

Hannah bites her lip, eyes following April for her entire episode. Once April’s stopped moving, just staring at her, Hannah offers a smile.
“How’s about we go out with Ezekiel tonight?” She speaks gently.

April nods firmly before disappearing to her room.

 

Ezekiel desperately wants to get April black out drunk but she only allows herself to reach peak level tipsy again, finally smiling as she dances with him, the two mockingly imitating Hannah and Peter who are completely in their own world.

“Couples, am I right?” Ezekiel calls over the music, sticking his finger in his mouth as he fake gags. April nods. “You and Blinky aren’t exclusive, right?” He asks, to which April’s eyes widen.

“No, why would you think that?” She snaps.

Ezekiel laughs at the reaction. “Why don’t we find you a distraction?” He smirks.

April bites her lip, the term instantly making her think of Sterling’s desperate texts for her to come over. She catches herself in the act though and gives Ezekiel a stern nod. His eyes light up and he shifts his gaze to scan the room for their next victim.

“Oooh, what about Electric Blue by the pool table?” He points, April’s gaze following his finger.

“No way!” She shouts over the music, shaking her head. “Try again.”

Ezekiel groans but continues his search. “Oh! Brunette with the cocktail,” he points.
April examines the girl for a long moment. She doesn’t have any features resembling Sterling and that seems like the best thing for her right now.

April steels herself.

“Okay,” she calls and messily passes her drink to Ezekiel.

She’s brushing the back of her fingers up the girl’s arm when her own arm gets yanked from behind her, forcing her to spin around.

“Sterling?” April blinks up at the taller girl as if she might not be seeing things properly.

Sterling glances at the brunette behind April and back to her. “What’re you doing?”

“What’re you doing?” April counters a little too aggressively. Sterling bites her lip.

“Looking for a distraction,” she finally responds, gesturing to her drink. April scoffs lightly and shakes her head.

“Well, so am I.” April knows her tone is childish as she crosses her arms over her chest. Sterling glances at the girl behind her again, jaw becoming tense. April sucks in a breath as she stares at the muscles. When she raises her eyes, Sterling’s are piercing into her own.
It’s jealous and possessive and it takes April’s breath away.
The two stare at each other intensely for a beat, the music pumping in their ears, bodies moving around them.

And they’re off.

April has Sterling pressed against a closed stall door in the bathroom, her lips connected desperately to her neck when Sterling manages,

“Let’s get out of here.”

April grins victoriously and promptly follows her orders. Before they know it, they’re rather unabashedly stealing dirty kisses in the back seat of a taxi.

April’s phone buzzing distracts her, mumbling a ‘sorry’ as she she turns away, pulling it out of her pocket.

Hannah B.: did u leave with S??

Yes. Be home tomorrow.

Hannah B.: i know whats going on with her and B

April shifts to hide the screen from Sterling, chewing her lip as she considers responding.

The sound of Sterling sniffling immediately pulls her from her inner conflict. April’s head spins around to look at Sterling, who is suddenly a blubbering mess, eyes full of tears, face scrunched up, hands attempting to control the wetness of her cheeks.
April shoves her phone away, hands coming to Sterling’s cheeks.

“Hey, hey, what’s going on?” Her voice is as gentle as her thumbs sweeping under Sterling’s eyes.

“I-“ Sterling sucks in a few short breaths, trying again, “I don’t want to keep secrets just to keep you.”

April frowns, her head tilting slightly. “What?” She shakes her head, thumbs sweeping again. “Sterling, no. I told you, I don’t care. I’m out. You don’t have to keep this a secret-“

“Not that,” Sterling interrupts. “Blair. It’s Blair.”

“What’s Blair?” April presses, trying desperately to wrap her head around the sudden shift in pace.

“She’s... April, I want to keep doing this so badly. I don’t want you to-“

“I’m not going to stop seeing you just because of something to do with Blair, Sterling.” April tries to keep her tone calm, but she does hear herself come across as slightly firmer than she intended.

Sterling sighs, hands reaching up to hold April’s wrists.

“She’s in a coma.”

April’s eyebrows shoot up, a gasp slipping past her lips. Her hands lower slightly and in the loosening of those muscles, Sterling shifts her own to take hold of April’s hands.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I just wanted something to distract me from it all – something that just had nothing to do with that-“

“Don’t apologize, Sterling. This is Blair we’re talking about, not some college housing issue. You can’t just ignore this.” April turns to face their driver, changing their destination in a stern tone.

 

The two walk into the hospital hand in hand, Sterling silently having refused to release April’s hand when they climbed out of the taxi. April allowed it, even pressing a quick peck to the back of Sterling’s hand.

April’s certain she would never have been able to prepare herself for the image of Blair Wesley, who she has only ever known to be a bag of beans, laying in complete stillness in a hospital bed. Furthermore, the sight of Sterling silently sobbing as she holds her hand, seated beside the bed.

April purses her lips uncomfortably but steps forward to gently hold Sterling’s shoulders, rubbing them carefully.

“How long has she been out?” April dares to ask.

Sterling lifts her head from Blair’s hand, straightening just slightly as she wipes her eyes and nose.

“Um,” her voice is stuffy, “a couple of days now. Maybe a week? I’ve been trying not to keep count so it doesn’t build up...”

April nods and moves to stand beside Sterling.

“What happened?”

Sterling shifts uncomfortably.

“Well... you know what Blair and I did to your dad in high school?”

April’s lips bunch to one side and she nods.

“Blair still does that stuff and-“ a gasping intake of air cuts Sterling off as she attempts to hold back more tears. April turns to her, shaking her head.

“I understand,” she soothes. “You don’t have to talk about it.”

April looks again at Blair, moving her hand to rest on the sleeping girl’s forearm. Sterling looks up at her, clearly surprised at April’s willingness to be this close to her twin; the two practically always hated each other.

“She’ll be okay,” April says softly, letting out a small chuckle. “No way she would let me get away with seeing her like this. She’ll be awake in no time, reminding me of that time I got gum in my hair at prom just to level the playing field.”

April sees Sterling staring at her out of the corner of her eye, clearly in disbelief at the her own gentle smile as she speaks about Blair with genuine kindness, thumb stroking her twin’s arm where her hand rests.
Sterling’s giving her that look like she could kiss her. Blair would probably kill them if they made out in her hospital room though. Sterling seems to realize this too, instead shifting to lean her head against April’s hip as April moves a hand to gently strokes her shoulder and back.

Sterling talks to Blair for some time, quietly filling her in on how much older Luke looks with a beard and how perfect Peter is for Hannah.
When she’s done, Sterling gets up to kiss Blair’s forehead, whispering that she’ll be back to see her tomorrow, and turns to April. April steps past her, hearing Sterling let out a small gasp as she gently squeezes Blair’s hand and quietly assures,

“I’ve got Sterl while you’re out of action. Get your rest.”

 

The two hold hands the entire way back to Hannah’s place, neither saying a word but silently agreeing to stay there together tonight. They creep into the sleeping house and Sterling sits on the edge of the bed while April pulls some sleepwear for the both of them out of her suitcase. When she stands she notices the absent stare Sterling has fixed onto the floor, finally allowing the weight of Blair’s condition to sit on her shoulders in front of April.

“Hey,” April kneels down in front of her, hands resting on the girl’s thighs. “Why don’t you jump in the shower? Let the water wash away some of those worries,” she offers a smile, poking Sterling’s forehead playfully. Sterling cracks the smallest of smiles herself before looking down again.

“Will you come with me?” Her voice is shy, eyes bashfully glancing at April’s.

April bites her lip. Hannah will probably murder her in cold blood with all the murky lines she’s crossing with Sterling tonight but she can’t help but do absolutely everything in her ability to help, and no she won’t acknowledge why.

“Of course.”

 

April’s seen Sterling naked multiple times now but as the two undress quietly in the bathroom, it feels completely different. There’s a vulnerability to standing like this, not trying to tempt the other but simply being in their purest forms. April’s eyes flit over the light marks that are still present across Sterling’s body, left there by her own teeth and lips. It sends a delicious chill down her spine.

Pulling herself together, April sets the temperature of the water and ushers Sterling in, her hand on the small of her back. Sterling sighs as the water hits her, leaning her head back in comfort.

“Feel better?” April asks, lathering soap between her palms.

“Already,” Sterling nods, the deep worry lines on her face shallowing.

“Turn around,” April gestures, showing her soapy hands. Sterling does and April places them onto her back, gently massaging from the top of her spine down to the base and every muscle alongside. Sterling sighs like a moan and April feels her cheeks heat at the sound. She shakes it off, gently pulling Sterling by the hips to stand beneath the water, washing away the suds.
When they’re gone, April’s eyes remain glued to the clean skin. She suddenly can’t help but step forward, arms smoothly wrapping around Sterling’s waist as she presses a slow and tender kiss to the spot beneath her ear, just behind her jaw.

“I adore you,” April whispers. Her eyes snap open when she realizes what she means by that.

Oh fuck.

April‘s in love with Sterling.

Sterling leans her head back against April’s shoulder with the most content sigh she’s released since being back in Georgia, effectively pushing April’s panic to the side for the time being.

“Say that again,” Sterling whispers back, and April’s honestly scared that, if she does, what she really means will slip out.
It doesn’t, thank god. She manages to keep that in every single time Sterling makes her repeat herself between kisses pressed to her neck while Sterling guides her hand between her legs.

 

In the morning, April appears in the kitchen alone, Sterling still tucked underneath the covers they shared. Hannah must have a sixth sense though because she’s already squinting at April.

“Sterling not awake yet?”

“How do you even know she’s here?” April questions incredulously. She holds her breath when she realizes the very real possibility of it being because of the ‘commotion’ in the bathroom last night.

“April, everyone in that club saw the two of you leave together. You weren’t exactly subtle. And I don’t imagine, with this relationship’s track record, you left her house after hooking up there, so.”

The tension in April’s shoulders releases and she rolls her eyes. “Okay, okay. Give me a break.”

“Plus, we heard you having sex in the shower,” Peter says nonchalantly as he takes his toast from the toaster, leaving as quickly as he came.

April’s entire face goes red.

She’s taking a breath in to apologize when Hannah raises her hand. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore than you do.”

April shuts her mouth. She instead slides onto a stool at the kitchen bench, leaning on her elbows as she watches Hannah work.

“So Blair, hmm?”

April frowns. “How did you find out?”

“Lorna was at the club. Did you know she’s a nurse now? Isn’t that always the way; the strangest people go into the least expected professions.”

April sighs, leaning back to run her hands along the countertop. “Yeah, I guess so...” she shrugs, distracted.

Hannah’s squinting at her again. “What’s going on?”

April’s raises her eyebrows, looking at her friend. “What do you mean?”

Hannah continues to stare at her and April, despite her discomfort, defiantly stares right back. Hannah gasps, throwing the spatula she had held beside the stovetop, and leans over the bench towards April. “You’re in love with Sterling, aren’t you?” She whispers ridiculously loudly. April’s hands fly up to cover Hannah’s mouth.

“Oh my god, Hannah-“

“Language,” Peter calls from the dining table.

April rolls her eyes and shifts her hands to grab Hannah’s and drag her out the front door, muttering for Peter to watch the stove.

Once they’re outside, April pushes Hannah by the shoulders to sit on the front door step before she starts pacing back and forth on the grass in front of her.
Hannah watches her, head turning back and forth like a tennis match.
When she realizes April’s apparently just going to pace silently until she bores a moat around her home, Hannah gently prompts her.

“April?”

“I mean, what am I thinking?” April’s voice is sudden and a little wild. Hannah covers her mouth as she cracks a smile, letting the girl continue. “I’m leaving the state any day now. Why would I choose now to bog myself down in emotions?”

“Why do you have to go back to college immediately?”

“Because as soon as I can get back into my dorm, I need to beg my internship offers to take me on late. I can’t stick around Georgia just for... a girl,” April grimaces at the phrase, the word alone feeling completely wrong as it staggers off her tongue. She stills. “Okay, not just a girl. Sterling. I know, but...” She purses her lips, eyebrows knitting together, her own desperate whisper from last night echoing inside her head. “Hannah, I think I’m...” She gestures wildly. “You know!” April groans again, restarting her pacing.

Hannah smiles softly. “You don’t have to have everything planned out to love someone.”

April finally looks at her.

She shakes her head, letting out a shaky breath. “I can’t even say it out loud.”

Hannah stands and walks to meet her, taking up her hands gently. April didn’t even know she was shaking until she comparatively comes in contact with Hannah’s soothing stillness. “I’m really proud of you for even recognizing that you want to say it,” she speaks softly, one hand moving to smooth April’s hair. “That’s a really big step. But, there’s no rush-“

“Yes, there is,” April insists like whine, “I’m leaving any day, Hannah. I can’t do this-“

“Hey,” Peter’s head appears in the doorway. “Sterling’s awake,” he stage-whispers.

Hannah purses her lips and turns back to look at April. “Let’s just focus on the right here and right now,” she offers, hand on April’s cheek. April nods, sucking in a deep breath. She cleans herself up and the three hustle back inside.

Hannah offers a quiet, “morning sweetie,” when she passes Sterling while April stands awkwardly. Hannah catches her eye from the kitchen, exaggeratedly mouthing, ‘right here, right now’. April gives a subtle nod and meets Sterling’s gaze at last.

Sterling’s tired face gives the weakest of smiles and April all at once realizes the cross Sterling’s been bearing, having to hide this incredible weight from her for so long. She realizes how much light Sterling has brought into her life even when her own has been completely shrouded in darkness.

“Let me take you out for breakfast,” Sterling looks surprised. April nods, stepping forward to wrap her arms around Sterling’s waist, tucking a strand of hair behind the other girl’s ear. “I want to take you out. Let’s get some ridiculously fancy and expensive eggs and then spend the day with Blair. I know I for one have got a lot to catch her up on; we haven’t really talked since fifth grade. I’m sure she’d love to know how Ezekiel and I managed to get that gum out of my hair.”

Sterling stares at April for a long beat. It’s enough to make the hairs on the back of April’s neck prickle and Hannah and Peter to subtly turn away.
Sterling presses a long kiss to April’s lips then, nodding against her forehead when they part.

Breakfast is lovely. April makes fun of Sterling for falling into the stereotype of buying smashed avocado and in return Sterling makes April suffer through a long winded conversation when they run into Luke while they’re walking out the door.

By the time they reach the hospital, Sterling’s face is resting in a comfortable smile. Neither of them discuss the fact that they’ve held hands all morning or that they undoubtedly just went on a date.

April’s considering how she could possibly broach that subject when they walk into Blair’s room, only to be greeted by the faces of Debbie and Anderson.

“April,” Debbie starts, her expression, which clearly reveals that she has just been in tears, shifting quickly to one of surprised confusion. “We... didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Hello, Debbie. Anderson,” April greets awkwardly. “Sorry to impede on a family moment.” She glances at Sterling, taking a breath in. “Um, Sterling and I have been seeing each other and I thought... it might be nice for us the spend the day with Blair. I really don’t mean to intrude-“

“Nonsense,” Debbie interrupts. “Anyone Sterling deems reasonable enough to see Blair is reason enough for us to agree. It’s nice to see you.” Anderson nods beside her.

Sterling’s head whips around to look at Blair and it reminds April of so many times before when the two had turned to each other, silently falling into their own world for a few short moments. April can tell Sterling thinks the same when her shoulders drop as she’s greeted by the same silent and still Blair.

Attempting to salvage, April grabs a chair, pushing it beside the Wesley parents. She pats the seat, insisting Sterling take it before perching herself in the arm.

The four engage in small talk, Debbie and Anderson asking April a million and one questions about her degree, the genuine interest having a visceral reaction in April, who hasn’t felt the warmth of loving parents since... she’s not sure when.
Sterling’s eyes mostly remain on her, only glancing over at Blair in much the same way she would if she was a part of the conversation, throwing her small smirks and smiles.

It’s surprising how quickly the day goes by, when all they’re doing is sitting and talking, each Wesley occasionally seeming to remember the circumstances and getting choked up enough to excuse themselves from the room. Sterling doesn’t leave though. When she gets emotional her hand that isn’t perpetually in Blair’s finds April’s and she simply rests her chin down against her twin’s arm and sniffles quietly to herself until the sensation has passed. April’s sure this is the type of processing Hannah’s been insisting she herself does.

When midday rolls around, April insists on fetching lunch for the family.

“Please, I’d be more than happy to give you all some time alone with Blair. Why don’t I get food and then we can all get some fresh air when I get back?”

The Wesley’s aren’t really given a choice though as April immediately spins on her heels to leave. Sterling catches her hand though and tugs her back, reaching to place her hand behind April’s neck and pull her down for a peck. April’s stunned for a moment but Sterling giggling at her expression kicks her back into action.

 

She’s walking back towards the hospital, a paper bag of food dangling on her arm when her phone starts to buzz in her pocket. April pulls it out.

“Hello?”

“Hi, is this April Stevens?”

April frowns. “This is she. May I ask who I’m speaking to?”

“Hi, April. It’s Laurel Keating here from Morrison and Fry Law. Do you have a moment to talk?”

April’s feet falter to a stop.
She takes a deep breath, mind racing to catch up as she puts on her professional hat, sliding down onto a bench.

Laurel explains that the firm has re-budgeted in order to pay for accommodation to have April work with them over the summer, based on her glowing recommendations. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot to process.
Laurel understands and requests April confirm by the end of the weekend.
Two days.
That’s totally fine. She can do that.

 

When April returns to Blair’s room, she’s visibly stressed, though she attempts to hide it, plastering on a smile. She encourages the Wesley’s, who clearly had a dip in their emotional strength while she was gone if the red eyes are anything to go off, to step outside with her to eat and see the sun. Try to hide it as best as she might, April’s jittery and avoiding eye contact with Sterling. She’s also dodging any further questions Debbie and Anderson try to distract themselves with about her studies. By the way she won’t stop staring at her, April knows that Sterling sees right through her mask. She fights to keep a happy medium going, wherein she’s talking enough to Sterling’s parents to stop Sterling from asking her what’s wrong while also narrowly avoiding bringing up anything to do with her future plans in regards to work or study.
Again, it’s a lot.

By the time they’ve eaten and walked for April’s insistent time in sunlight, Sterling just seems to be happy enough just to catch April’s hand in her own. The gesture makes April’s shoulder’s tense but she laces their fingers together despite herself.

The four of them settle back into Blair’s room, April perched on the arm of Sterling’s chair again, but now, instead of the calm presence she offered the family before, her knee is bouncing uncontrollably. It’s incessant enough to get Debbie to send Sterling a concerned frown, head tilting to the offending leg. Sterling turns to April, placing her hand gently over her knee. April meets her gaze.

“Why don’t we step out for a minute?” / “Can we talk?”
They both speak at the same time, freezing for a second before finally being able to laugh at themselves.

 

The two walk down the corridor in silence, Sterling happily linked to April’s arm. Sterling is so warm pressed into her side, so soft and radiating such a kind glow, especially for someone in such circumstances, that April finds herself smiling at her feet as they walk, despite the heavy burden of their impending conversation weighing over her. Instead of acknowledging it, she steals captivated glances at Sterling when the girl’s focus is elsewhere, a thoughtful pout to her lips.

They come up on a vending machine and April takes her hands out of her pockets, gesturing to it.

“Pick something,” she says, tapping her credit card against the keypad. Sterling brightens, smiling at her, and punches in the code for a packet of sour patch kids. April scrunches her nose at the choice, a disgusted expression that makes Sterling laugh, and taps again to pay.

While the machine groans, spiraling out their food, April’s eyes meet Sterling’s and she offers her an almost shy smile.

“Oh,” April hears Sterling realize aloud as she squats down to reach into the machine.

She can feel Sterling’s gaze heavy down on her and looks up to meet it, finding it more intense and thoughtful than she was prepared for.

“I love you,” Sterling says plainly, like it’s the easiest thing in the world.

April stills.

A short breath escapes past her lips.

No, no, no, no, no.

Sterling let’s out a single, self deprecating laugh. “Isn’t that the worst thing you’ve ever heard?”

April closes her hanging jaw, gently pursing her lips as she swallows.

“Yeah,” she whispers.

“Sterling,” Anderson’s voice calls from down the hallway. She turns to meet his eyes. “Blair’s awake.”

 

“That’s for me, I assume,” Blair says expectantly when Sterling and April enter the room, her palm out, gesturing for the packet of candy.

Sterling cracks a teary smile and lunges forward to engulf Blair in her arms, her twin wincing slightly but ignoring the cause in favor of hugging Sterling back.

“I’ll give you all the sour patch kids in the world if you promise to never scare me like that again,” Sterling mumbles into her sister’s hair, receiving a chuckle from Blair.

The two release each other after a long while and Sterling steps back, keeping a hold of Blair’s hand. Blair finally seems to clock April’s presence and frowns, pointing at her.

“Banging?” She asks Sterling, causing both girls’ faces to turn bright red and Debbie and Anderson to awkwardly avert their eyes as if that might convince the others they heard nothing. Blair laughs. “Damn, you take a week off from life and there’s already so much drama.”

April’s about to attempt some salvaging when a nurse walks in, drawing everyone’s focus as she offers to explain the plan for Blair from here on. April excuses herself, whispering to Sterling to call her when she can before leaving.

 

With everything April’s refused to acknowledge bubbling to and over the surface – loving Sterling, getting the internship offer of her dreams, not knowing whether to take it, having to leave the state, Sterling confessing her love for her, Blair being awake and well – by the time she’s sitting in her rental car, April’s hyperventilating and searching for Hannah’s contact with shaky hands.

Peter and Hannah pull up beside April in the parking lot not five minutes later, ushering her into the back of their own car.

Hannah sits holding April tightly, rubbing her arm as Peter drives, taking glances in the rear view mirror, a concerned furrow to his brows.

“Let’s talk it out,” Hannah says softly, chin resting atop April’s head. “What’s going on right now?”

“I’m freaking the fuck out, Hannah,” April manages, seeing her best friend and current savior raise a warning hand at her boyfriend.

“Go on,” she prompts.

April sucks in a shaky breath and lets it all out. She explains their breakfast date, spending the day with the Wesley’s, the phone call from Laurel, Blair waking up. Hannah has to continuously encourage her to keep speaking instead of trying to silently compartmentalize it all as if it were simple. It’s not simple, Hannah insists.

“And the worst part,” April’s voice is still wavering as they pull into Hannah’s driveway. “Sterling told me she loves me.”

“That’s great,” Peter turns to face the two after her pulls the keys from the ignition.

April shakes her head, another wave of tears quickly rising like a fire in her throat. Hannah chews her lip for a moment.

“Why not?”

“Because I...” April stops herself, lip quivering as she rolls her eyes at herself.

“You can say it,” Hannah almost whispers. “We’re just three people sitting in a car. The world is not going to implode if you acknowledge it in front of us.”

April finally looks at her, glancing at Peter too. She closes her eyes. She breathes.

“I’m in love with Sterling.”

And Hannah’s right, the world doesn’t implode. In fact, it keeps on turning with the same silent ease as always. Her friends don’t laugh and tease her, her phone doesn’t ring with her parents blocked number to berate her, God doesn’t smite her down. Actually, April just sees Sterling’s utterly gorgeous smile behind her eyelids. And when she opens her eyes, she’s greeted by her best friend’s smile. And when she searches for more she finds Peter’s smiling too.

“That’s great,” Peter repeats himself and this time April holds his gaze for a second, pursed lips tugging into, finally, her own smile and she nods.

“So,” Hannah draws her attention, “why don’t we go inside, you can have a bath or do whatever you need to decompress, we’ll grab some dinner and see if Sterling calls. If she doesn’t, we’ll watch a movie and give her a call in the morning. As for Morrison and Fry Law,” April’s shoulder tighten, “we’ve still got time to figure that all out. I don’t think that needs to be rushed to be solved.”

 

When Debbie and Anderson leave for dinner, Sterling at last gets a moment alone with her sister.

With all of the crying and hugging and explaining and apologizing out of the way, and the twins finally able to be themselves with no on looking eyes, they look at each other. Blair expects a twinlink. Sterling instead smacks her on the arm.

“Hey!” Blair’s hand flies to cover the reddening skin. “How could you hit someone laying in a hospital bed?”

“How could you be so embarrassing not ten minutes after coming out of a coma?”

Blair’s face breaks out in a smug grin, clearly proud of her ability to take on such a serious medical issue and still playfully mess with her sister.

Sterling sighs and moves to lay beside Blair.

“So, what’s going on there?” Blair asks, turning her head on the pillow.

Sterling lets out an almost dreamy sigh, eyes full of hearts as she stares at the ceiling absentmindedly.

“We ran into each other a couple of nights ago. I actually went out just to get ridiculously drunk to try and stop stressing about you...” Blair purses her lips and moves to hold her sister’s hand. Sterling takes in a breath, regrouping. “And there she was. I have to admit, it was a much more enjoyable distraction than drinking.”

Blair laughs as she speaks, “ew, I can’t believe my coma was the catalyst for you finally banging Stevens.” Sterling giggles too then, the two falling into a fit of laughter quickly.

“So, wait!” Blair abruptly stops, turning fully to face her sister. “Dating or just banging?”

Sterling rolls her eyes. “I’m not loving that term,” she starts, “but... I mean, I guess just banging? Sort of. Well, we’ve stayed together without having sex, so whatever that means. And we kiss sometimes outside of sex. And hold hands like all the time. And she washed my back, which was like, next level intimate. And I’m pretty sure we went on a date this morning. And she’s been so cute sitting beside you and telling you random stories.”

“I knew there was a reason I wasn’t more surprised to see her here,” Blair notes.

Sterling continues. “And I did just tell her I love her like five minutes ago-“

“What!”

“Yeah, I should probably process that...”

“You-“ Blair cuts herself off, shaking her head as a baffled laugh escapes her. “I mean, I knew you were still hung up on her in the distant corners of your brain but love?”

Sterling shrugs. “Yeah.”

“Explain.”

“Well, I think...” Sterling tilts her head. “Okay, we were standing at the vending machine up the hall, and the blue light is lighting up her face in the most – ugh – just the most magnificent way, and it was the first time I’d really looked at her since... gosh, since before I sobbed in the backseat of our taxi over you – it was pretty embarrassing. Anyway, her face is lit up blue from the glow of the vending machine and it so... sweetly? Yeah, so sweetly reminded me of when her and I made out at the FunZone in high school. And then I got to thinking about that April, so scared to show anyone who she really was, to the point that it made our relationship crumble, and I compared her to this new April standing in front of me, who just so willingly and immediately swept my crying mess of a self up, insisting on my needs coming first; this April who even indulges in her... desires for me publicly, dancing with me at clubs and bars, kissing me in the back of a taxi, and smiling at me the way she does no matter who’s looking, and just continually insisting that we don’t have to hide our... whatever this is. And I just knew. Oh, this feeling is love.”

Sterling comes down from cloud nine long enough to meet Blair’s gaze.

“I wish I was there to watch you fall in love but being the reason – yes I am taking full credit for this – that the two of you fell back into each others’ worlds...” Blair shifts onto her side. “Worth a little bump on the ol’ noggin’.”

They wrap each other up in their arms, sighing into the other’s touch as they relish in their first real physical contact in months. They lay like that, catching up on lost time with content smiles on their lips.

“So, what’s the plan when summer’s over?” Blair asks when they’ve shifted into sitting positions, playing with Sterling’s hair.

Sterling shrugs. “We’ve got time. I’m not really thinking that far ahead.”

“Don’t you think you should be? Don’t you think you should be thinking about your next step in the relationship right now?”

“Why?”

Blair takes a breath in but pauses, hands resting on Sterling’s shoulders as she considers her next words carefully.

“The future’s not exactly guaranteed,” she lands on and it even feels grim in her mouth. “Sorry, I don’t want to be morbid, but truly, one day you’re chasing a skip through your favorite chick-fil-a and the next you’re waking up to learn your sister’s fallen in love with her high school bully.”

“You’re right,” Sterling straightens in shock. “Oh my gosh, you’re so right!” She turns to face Blair who’s eyes are already lighting up with excitement.

“Are we gonna get the girl?”

“We are.”

 

“Sterling, hey,” April’s eyebrows raise when she opens Hannah’s front door to find a practically vibrating Sterling.

“Hey! Can we talk?”

“Please,” April steps out, closing the door behind her. She follows Sterling down onto the front step, sitting with her knees tucked up while Sterling’s bounce energetically beside her.

Sterling takes in a deep breath. “So, um-“

“I’m leaving Georgia on Monday.”

It’s like a punch to the gut, swiftly knocking the wind out of Sterling and leaving a metallic taste in her mouth.

“What?”

April won’t look at her, opting to stare down at a much less complicated blade of grass instead.

“Why?” Sterling presses, body fully turned to her.

“I got accommodation and... and an internship offer that’ll look really great on a resumé and...” April frowns, tension dissolving from her shoulders. She turns to look at Sterling, who’s mouth is hanging open slightly and eyebrows are knit together with almost a betrayal.
“And what the fuck am I saying?”

That changes Sterling’s expression, shifting it immediately into one of surprise and maybe a touch of confusion.

“What the fuck are you saying?” Sterling prompts tentatively, mind too fuzzy to even censor herself.

April laughs and it comes off as slightly more manic than she’d like but she shakes her head, ignoring it. “What the fuck am I saying?” She repeats, shooting to her feet. Suddenly she’s pacing back and forth and Sterling is watching her with an indescribable confusion.

“What the fuck are you saying?” She dares to repeat back.

April’s hands are in her hair and she continues shifting between laughing at herself and frowning in this sort of amused thoughtfulness.

“I was going to leave just for a line on my resumé. I was going to walk away from potential months of spending time with you for a notch in a belt.”

That makes Sterling warm, a flame igniting gently in her chest.

“I was going to walk away from Heaven for work.”

“Breakable Heaven,” Sterling corrects and April turns to her, expression all baffled smiles now like she’s found the answer to all of life’s questions was something as simple as opening a door.

“Sterling,” she steps forward, crouching to take the girl’s hands in her own. “I’m so sorry.”

“For what?” Sterling shifts a little uncomfortably, the fear of the worst settling in the pit of her stomach, trying to prepare herself for anything.

“If I had‘ve just thought about it, just processed it all out loud, stopped bottling everything up and compartmentalizing, I would’ve figured it out so much sooner. I could have said it so much sooner.”

“Said what?”

April looks directly into her eyes.

“I love you.”

Well, nothing could have prepared Sterling for that. Her jaw goes slack and her chest rises with an intake of breath.

“I’m in love with you,” April continues. “I’ve probably been in love with you since we were nine years old but now I’m really in love with you. I adore you. I want you. I-“

It’s beautiful but so overwhelming that Sterling has to shut April up with a kiss. And thank god she does because April truly feels like she could have spiraled down that rabbit hole and never returned.

The two are holding each other’s cheeks, feeling their smiles more than seeing them as they continue to press joy-filled kisses to one another’s lips and cheeks and foreheads and anywhere else they can.

 

April calls Laurel in the morning and turns down the offer, and once it’s done she doesn’t think about it again. In fact, she doesn’t think about work or school at all. For the rest of the summer, April only really thinks one thing. She thinks it when Sterling smiles at her over breakfast, a smudge of avocado on her top lip. She thinks it when she hears Sterling laugh over her unrelenting banter with Blair, when she takes Sterling’s hand in hers at dinner with Hannah and Peter, when they drunkenly giggle together in the back of Ezekiel’s car. She thinks it when she runs her hands down Sterling’s back, slick with soap under running water. She thinks it when she tangles her fingers into Sterling’s hair as she lowers herself down onto her tongue.

April thinks one thing consistently for the rest of the summer and, each time it comes to her mind, she makes a point to say it out loud,

“I love you, Sterling.”