The party is already in full swing by the time Jamie gets to the front door and she doesn’t bother knocking -- just shoulders her way through, a 24 pack of the cheapest beer she can find in her arms.
There are people crammed into every corner of Owen’s apartment -- a squat building nestled in the cozy neighborhood that surrounds campus -- and Jamie, making her way to the kitchen, can already see the deck doors thrown open, people flowing in and out of the tiny backyard Owen never shuts up about.
A few wave at her, and one guy even pounds on her back in greeting as she passes by, which is weird because she doesn’t recognize any of these people. They’re all Owen and Hannah’s friends, ones they’ve made throughout their years of college as likeable individuals, and Jamie, decidedly not a people person, thinks she might not have let herself get taken under their wings on their first floor residence hall, if she knew this was what she would have to endure.
How Owen doesn't realize he’s this popular, she’ll never know.
Jamie sets down her box as though releasing a carcass of meat to a pack of wolves, only just managing to snag a can to herself before everyone descends.
“Jamie!” a voice calls, and that is familiar, she notes with relief, turning to find Hannah, wildly overdressed as always in a sleek looking turtleneck-skirt combo. “I didn’t see you come in.” Hannah pulls her in for a hug, as though she hadn’t seen Jamie just yesterday over dinner and drinks, ringing in the new school year.
“Just got here,” Jamie bemoans, pulling away to down half her can in one go, “and these heathens already took all my beer.”
“Good thing you’re a friend of the hosts, then.” Hannah gestures towards the cabinet that Jamie knows holds the good liquor.
Tempting, but Jamie knows herself better than to start off that hard. “Thanks. I’ll stick with this for now.” She swills the liquid inside the can and takes another large gulp, blinking at a slightly familiar-looking girl sidling into the kitchen for a refill.
The girl’s pretty, with long, dark hair that Jamie has a vague recollection of being soft, even though she can’t place her in any concrete memory. It takes an embarrassing amount of time before it clicks, blurry groans and sharp nails snapping through her mind.
Ah, fuck. She winces, moving to quickly duck behind Hannah’s shoulder. Evidently, she needs to stop picking up women at Owen’s parties, because cowering in the corner of your best friend’s kitchen to avoid a girl is mortifying.
“Oh, honestly, Jamie.” Hannah rolls her eyes but doesn’t do much to stop Jamie from using her like a human shield. Always good to have Hannah on hand in a situation, Jamie thinks gratefully, promptly changing her mind when Hannah lightly swats at her arm.
Jamie clutches at it, because yeah, sure she knew the woman had been working out, but: “Ow,” she yelps. “The hell was that for?”
“When are you going to talk to the women you entertain?” Hannah says, tilting her body away to leave Jamie woefully exposed to the room, smirking when Jamie scrambles to adjust her positioning.
“Entertain? Jesus, Hannah, acting like I’m running a brothel over here,” Jamie grumbles.
Damn it. The girl is suddenly standing right in front of them despite all of Jamie’s precautions and she scrambles fast to remember her name. She thinks it’s Anna. Or maybe Amelia?
Jamie tosses out an, “Ariana?” and the girl scowls.
Already off to a great start, then.
“Right, how could I forget.” Jamie wheels around to Hannah who looks like she’s one comment away from developing a stitch in her side, with the way she’s trying to hold in her amusement. Some help she is. “Hannah, have you met my good friend, Claire?”
It’s too much for Hannah and, ever the polite hostess, she has to excuse herself as a sudden coughing attack overtakes her.
“You never called,” Claire continues, and Jamie is already regretting coming to this damn party, dealing with this when she could be at home with a cup of tea.
“Right, yeah.” She scratches at the back of her neck. “Was having a few problems with my phone.”
Claire doesn’t look convinced.
“It’s good to see you, though,” she fumbles, trying to alleviate the awkwardness. “We’ll, ah, have to catch up soon.” Jamie tries to smile, though she’s pretty sure it comes out more like a grimace. Claire opens her mouth, looking halfway to objection already, when blessedly, someone calls her name.
“That’s my boyfriend,” Claire says smugly, like she’s expecting Jamie to drop to her knees and beg for another chance. Before Jamie can say something stupid like Thank god , Claire whisks away to the living room to curl up pointedly next to a bland looking guy.
Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Jamie waves Hannah back over, leaning back to relax against the counter now that the kitchen is finally, blessedly one-night-stand free again.
Hannah takes a diplomatic sip from her wine glass, the crystal looking out of place from the sticky plastic everyone else seems to be clutching. To her credit, she doesn’t bother asking Jamie about what just happened. Instead, she says something even worse. “Are you ever going to let us set you up with a nice girl, love?”
Jamie had wanted to just stick to beer tonight, but she’s going to need something stronger if they’re already broaching this topic so early on in the evening, and she turns to tip several shots of vodka into a brightly colored cup, her lukewarm can already forgotten.
Hannah and Owen have been pestering her about going out with someone for months -- years, really. She had gone on a few to placate them, but after a particularly disastrous evening involving split pea soup down the front of her favorite shirt, she’d decided it was more effort than it was worth. Dating just wasn’t for her, and she wasn’t exactly wracked with tears about it; She barely has enough time to get herself through school, much less for a relationship. It doesn’t stop the pair of them from trying to nudge her out to the small strip of bars in town on blind dates, and Hannah eyes her knowingly as she nudges a bottle of juice towards her, refusing to budge until Jamie adds a splash.
“I’ll think about it,” Jamie finally says, grinning when Hannah sighs.
“You say that every time.”
“And I mean it! You just never like what I decide.”
Hannah rolls her eyes, turning to unsuccessfully hide her fond smile in her glass. “Cheeky.” She pauses to pour another finger of mixer in Jamie’s cup and then tips her head towards the open patio doors. “Come. Owen’s out the back.”
Hannah leads her over to where Owen is standing against a tree, entertaining a couple people sitting around in garish plastic lawn chairs. It doesn’t look like much -- one of the chairs is missing an armrest, and the other used to be a neon pink and has now been worn down to a near beige -- but it’s one of Jamie’s favorite places in the world: In one of these uncomfortable chairs, the plastic working wonders on her butt muscles, curled up with a book and a cigarette while the world disappears around her. Hannah and Owen know it too, and they let her come by whenever, even gave her a key to their apartment as a gift last Christmas, to make herself at home even when they weren’t there.
She doesn’t know these people settled there now, and she bristles a little at the thought of someone else taking up her space, in her little imprint on this house.
“Ah, the very girl herself!” Owen cheers, arms wide when he spies Jamie, his grin just jostled enough to tell her that he’s tipping headlong into drunk. “We were just talking about you.” He gestures towards the pair, the man broad and tall with his arm slung across the backing of a small woman’s chair.
Jamie shoves her hands into her pockets, nodding at the couple. “All good things, I hope.”
“Of course!” Owen enthuses, bouncing on his toes. “I was in the middle of saying that I think you’d get on well with these folks, and I look up, and there you are!” He beams, as though he personally summoned Jamie through sheer willpower.
He motions eagerly towards the woman. “You must remember Rebecca. We had one of my food business management classes together last year.”
The woman looks familiar, with dark curls and a strong presence, and Jamie’s pretty sure they’ve met across one of Owen’s dinner tables, laden with food and laughter as they always are.
“Owen saved my life with the food part,” Rebecca chimes in, already halfway up out of her chair to shake Jamie’s hand. “I had to take a business class for my law degree and somehow ended up in that one.”
She winces dramatically and Jamie decides she likes her already.
“This,” Owen moves on, tone noticeably dipping from exuberant to mildly disinterested. “Is Rebecca’s boyfriend, Peter. He, uh, transferred into our class, didn’t you, Peter?” He raises his eyebrows at Jamie over Peter’s shoulder and Jamie doesn’t need Owen to point it out for her; she can already read the weird, leery energy radiating off of the man nodding her way with a sneer.
“And finally--,” Owen says, swinging around wildly to a suspiciously empty plastic chair. He stops, flummoxed. “Wait,” he pouts. “Where’s Dani?”
“She went to the toilet, darling,” Hannah says and Owen smacks his forehead with a loud thwap , as though he can’t believe he’s forgotten.
“My roommate,” Rebecca supplies kindly, as Hannah eases Owen down onto a soft patch of grass, clearly trying not to laugh. “She was here, but I’m not quite sure where she wandered off to.”
Works for her, if she’s being honest. It’s not that Jamie doesn’t like meeting new people, per se, more just that she doesn’t have the energy for it most of the time. Jamie takes a hearty sip of her drink, wincing at the burn that curls down her throat. If this Dani wants to stay in the bathroom all night, Jamie’s not going to stop her.
Owen is babbling cheerily to Rebecca from his spot on the ground, head craned back to see her peering down, and his voice is so slurred that Jamie can’t understand most words. She’s on the edge of leaning forward to tease him when Peter slings his arm roughly around the back of Rebecca’s chair.
“She’s spoken for,” Peter growls, eyes flashing. He has a heavy lilt that does nothing to make him sound affable. In fact, his voice is as cold as he looks.
A lot of things happen at once. Owen’s mouth drops open in confusion and he looks so befuddled under his thick eyebrows that it would be comical if Peter’s fingers were not clasping tight to Rebecca’s shoulder, possessive and unyielding. Rebecca stiffens, shifting uncomfortably under his grasp.
Jamie’s on her feet in a second and though he’s tall, she towers over him in his chair. Jamie has dealt with people like this man before. Ones who think they are owed things in life just because they want them, and then grab on tight with sticky fingers and even stickier entitlement. She’s not going to fight him, knows better than to make a scene at Owen’s party surrounded by people who have never had to lift a finger in life, but she doesn’t mind if Peter thinks she is.
“I wouldn’t do that, mate,” Jamie says calmly and it’s that, the tone of her voice as though she’s merely asking for sugar in her tea, that makes Peter blanch. His hand, still clawed protectively in Rebecca’s shirt, releases almost immediately and he shrinks, blinking up at Jamie.
It’s funny; For such an unpleasant man, he really is a coward.
“Jamie, I’ve been meaning to ask,” Hannah jumps in, cutting the tension smoothly, “There’s been some bugs by the garden beds, could you take a look?”
Finally taking her eyes off Peter, Jamie nods and she swears she can hear him breathe a sigh of relief on the other side of the makeshift circle. “Probably beetles, this time of year. I’ll get ‘round to it.”
Rebecca, much more at ease now that her boyfriend is refusing to make eye contact with anyone, leans over to ask Hannah about her upcoming semester and Jamie sits back down, takes a deep breath.
It’s been two hours and three more drinks by the time Jamie is able to find a minute to herself. From Owen and Rebecca, she had been pulled into some mindless conversation with a boy from her Plant Propagation class last year, and then she’d had to show several people where the bathroom was, and on and on.
When she finally finds herself without anyone around, she takes off before she’s noticed.
Feeling punch-drunk and loose, Jamie stumbles her way over to the back of the yard, darkened and blessedly empty. The party has thankfully thinned a little, but she needs a minute, having arrived at the point in the evening where everything feels warm and bright. She’s taking a few much needed breaths, back up against her favorite hedge, when the sound of someone clearing their voice sends her startling into the air.
“Jesus fucking --Christ!” she yelps, halfway to a screech at the pair of bright blue eyes peering at her across the darkness.
“Sorry, sorry!” the girl rushes in a bright American accent, jumping into the light as much as she can. “I didn’t know how to tell you I was here too!”
She’s fidgeting with the scrunchie on her wrist, halfway through another apology, but Jamie’s not even listening. She can suddenly see the girl now -- the blonde bounce of her hair, the long, toned legs revealed by the short skirt she’s wearing -- and yeah, Jesus fucking Christ indeed.
“S’alright,” Jamie says, hands already trying to reach towards her to soothe. “Just startled me.” She doesn’t touch the girl though, isn’t sure if that would be okay, and her arms very quickly start to hover awkwardly in the air. She snaps them to her side, cheeks burning, and hopes that it’s not noticed.
“You have, uh, quite the mouth,” the girl says, already relaxing. Though she says it innocently, teasing almost, Jamie can’t help but notice the catch of a lip between teeth, the burning press of her quick once over.
“Yeah, been told that before,” Jamie adds and immediately regrets.
“Oh?” the girl asks, and this time, when her eyes rake down the front of Jamie’s form, it’s with bold, nervous purpose. “I’ll bet.”
God , Jamie thinks, feeling quite lightheaded.
Trying desperately to ignore the sudden blaze of arousal that shoots down her spine, Jamie scrambles to introduce herself, one hand outstretched, the other gripping the hedge.
“Jamie,” she says, forcing herself to breathe when the girl’s palm slides against her own, sparking warm.
Jamie blinks, tugging Dani closer in surprise, and then promptly flushes at the sudden proximity. “Ah, so you’re Dani.”
“You’ve heard of me,” Dani says. It’s a statement not a question, but it’s delivered with an anxious uptick, as though she’s wondering just what Jamie must know.
They’re still holding hands, Jamie realizes dimly and when Dani sucks in a shaky breath, they’re close enough that Jamie can feel the air shift. To make matters worse, Dani’s chosen shirt of the evening is a lovely lilac tank top that does little to cover her chest.
Makes her eyes look gorgeous, Jamie tells herself, struggling hard to focus above Dani’s collarbones.
“Yeah,” she manages, assuming what she hopes is a laid back position on the hedge. Their hands slide apart and she thinks Dani frowns. “Mates with Owen, he introduced me to your, er, roommate. Rebecca, was it?” Dani nods and Jamie adds, “Her and her dick of a boyfriend, mind.”
Dani laughs and joins her against the bush. “Oh, you met Peter, too? He’s not a big fan of Owen, but he insisted on coming with us tonight.”
“Unfortunately. Dunno how you put up with him at your house all the time. I’d have lost it by day two.”
“Oh, I have. He stole one of her necklaces and I wouldn’t let him in the apartment for two days without getting the fire poker.”
It shouldn’t be attractive, that Dani has held the nuisance of a man from earlier accountable for his actions, but Jamie can’t ignore the heat that rushes down the back of her neck.
“You’ve got the right idea,” Jamie stammers, all thoughts of Peter vanishing as fast as they had come.
Dani smiles wryly and tips her fingers lightly against Jamie’s wrist. “How often do you come to these?”
The shift in subject and the touch jars Jamie, and she’s acutely aware of how close they’re standing in this darkened corner that seems to be forgotten by the outside world. They’re practically level with each other, she notes.
Don’t think I’ve ever kissed a girl the same height as me, Jamie thinks unbidden, and hurries to answer the question.
“Owen’s parties? All the time.” She tilts towards Dani. “Never seen you here before, though.”
Dani flushes and it’s amusing to Jamie, how quickly she seems to flit back and forth between bold eagerness and nervous panic. “Oh, I’m not … I--Yes. This is my first time.” Jamie raises an eyebrow at that and is pleased when Dani flushes, rushing to stammer, “I...Not that! I have. Or--with a man I guess, never a woman, although I’ve definitely--,” she stops, blushing such a furious shade of red that she nearly resembles the tomatoes Jamie helped Owen grow somewhere around here.
“You’ve definitely…?” Jamie starts, trailing off, hoping Dani will finish her previous thought. Go on, then, what would you like to do with a woman? Instead, she gets a little push to her shoulder and Dani’s laugh.
“Stop that,” Dani chides with no malice, swaying close.
Jamie, emboldened by the way Dani can’t seem to leave her space, head spinning when Dani smiles, mumbles, “Or what?”
Dani’s eyes go dark. It’s blinked away in a split second, and even though they are still with little light, Jamie sees it, can feel the electricity suddenly charged heavy between them, teeming and bright and ready to shock at any moment.
Wiping sweaty palms on her jeans, she opens her mouth, but doesn’t get the chance to say anything.
“Wonderful! You two have met.” comes a painfully familiar voice. Owen, looking much more sober--and much more gleeful at the sight of the two of them careening close--, stands grinning.
Dani jumps back and their surroundings come crashing unpleasantly back into focus. Jamie feels quite thrown for a loop, and if this were anyone else interrupting them, she thinks her fist would look nice in their cheek right about now. She doesn't mean it, obviously -- she hasn’t thrown a punch in years, and it would certainly never be at Owen of all people -- but she can’t help silently wishing him a bad batch of cucumbers this season.
“Yeah!” Dani rushes, smoothing down her skirt nervously. “Jamie’s… great! Jamie’s great.” She nods neatly, already too far away to touch.
Owen glances slyly at Jamie. “Either of you want another drink? I’m making Hannah a G and T.”
“No, thank you,” she grits, and Owen looks like he’s just won a brand new KitchenAid.
“Actually, Jamie,” he starts, and she already knows she’s not going to like what he’s about to say. “Could you come help in the kitchen? I can’t seem to find the limes.”
Jamie rolls her eyes, very aware of Dani watching the conversation volley back and forth with interest. “ You, Owen Sharma, need help finding the limes . In your own kitchen.”
“Yes,” Owen says simply, rocking back and forth on his heels and Jamie vows to find friends this year who don’t always look so pleased at her misfortune. “ I thought I’d get my zest friend on the case. ”
On second thought, maybe she should revert back to her old ways of violence. It’s clear he won’t move along, and Jamie sighs, glancing at Dani with what she hopes is enough of an apology for his behavior.
“He needs help, Jamie,” Dani intones sweetly when she hesitates again, caught up in the blush high on Dani’s cheekbones. There’s no use wondering where else that blush might reach with the way Owen is clearly not planning on giving her any privacy.
“Be right back,” she finally nods, and Dani, eyes glued to Jamie’s lips, lights up at her assurance that whatever this is building between the two of them will be revisited. Preferably soon.
God, does she hate Owen.
“Thanks for cheering her up, Dani,” The devil himself calls as Jamie steers him away. “She was in a mood earlier.” Owen barely finishes before he’s whining around the elbow Jamie has shoved into his stomach.
“In a mood now , you twat,” she grumbles, and annoyingly, Owen’s grin just gets wider. “You were having way too much fun with that.”
She’s already dropped her irritation, laughing because this -- Owen interrupting her and her conversation of the evening -- occurs far too often to do anything but.
“So you met Dani, ” he teases, holding the door open for her into the house.
“Could have done more than just meet her, if you hadn’t popped up like a fucking whack-a-mole.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Owen laughs, but even as he does, he’s already gently pulling her to the side of the kitchen. “Listen, with Dani...She’s uh--, Just…,” His mustache twitches nervously. “She’s gone through a lot this year.”
“What d’you mean?”
Owen shrugs. “Not my story to share. And I’m not telling you not to pursue anything, just to be careful.”
Jamie nods carefully. “I can do that. Not planning on taking her out on a date, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
Owen relaxes, his hand warm on Jamie’s shoulder. “No? But you love dating!” He clearly thinks it’s a hilarious joke, and Jamie has to wait for him to collect himself before she can tell him to piss off. Unfortunately, he’s not done, and she doesn’t get a chance to before he continues, suddenly serious. “I also don’t want you to get hurt.”
She can’t help but stiffen. “Dunno what you’re talking about.”
“Jamie,” Owen begins in that tone of voice that always means let’s not bullshit ourselves , and Jamie is not in the mood for where she thinks this conversation is headed. “It’s been two years--”
“Don’t,” Jamie cuts in, “talk about her.”
He raises his eyebrows as though she’s just proved his point, and there’s already a headache stirring behind Jamie’s left eye. The joy of the party dims around her too, as though someone had flipped a switch to shift the sounds in the room from lively to grating.
Pinching the headache away, she sighs, trying to breathe the way Tamara has been teaching her to when things start to feel out of her control. She can’t be mad at him for being worried about her, even if it’s unwarranted. “I’m fine,” Jamie reassures him slowly, “Honest.”
“Dani’s special,” Owen barrels on, as though he hasn’t even heard her. “She might surprise you, if you gave her a chance.”
“Owen.” It’s the finality in her voice that makes him seem to realize that the conversation is over for the evening. His shoulders slump, hands held high to indicate that he’s dropping it and Jamie hates how fast this has gone sideways. Already regretting snapping at him, Jamie tries to make a joke, “So I can hook up with her?”
Despite his best efforts, Jamie spies the smile he’s trying to hide. Owen dips his fingers into his cup of water and flicks it at her in disgust, ignoring her squawk of displeasure. “You’re both adults.”
Crisis avoided. ”Can I go now, or did you want to warn me about sleeping with Rebecca, too?”
Owen rolls his eyes and tries to shoo her right out of his kitchen. She lets it happen, laughing as he ushers her politely to the door.
“Your limes, by the way,” Jamie calls on her way out, pointing to the fruit bowl sitting in the middle of the kitchen island, and he yelps in delight, because apparently he truly did need help finding them.
Dani finds her leaning against the side of the house smoking, and she raps her knuckles along the paneling as she approaches.
“I’m announcing myself this time,” she calls, and Jamie smirks around her cigarette, something blossoming hot in her chest.
“Ah, thanks. I don’t think I could have managed another scare,” Jamie jokes.
Dani laughs at that, clear and pretty. “God, I needed a break,” she sighs, plopping herself down in the grass, head tipping back to look at Jamie. Her eyes follow Jamie until she joins her on the lawn.
The side of the house where they are is quieter than the rest of the backyard, but there’s a window above their heads that Jamie thinks must be the dining room. It’s open a crack and the clink of bottles and conversation from inside pour out into the air.
Jamie jerks her head towards the noise. “Were you just in there?”
Her face is craned toward the moon, hair cascading between her shoulder blades, and Jamie realizes that her eyes are closed. Before she can ask if something’s wrong, Dani’s already adjusting herself, eyes wide and imploring.
“Can I?” Dani motions towards her cigarette. Jamie had forgotten it was even there, so caught up in the attraction, the peculiarity of it all.
Now, it’s all she’s aware of, how Dani’s fingers curve around the filter, lips parted to breathe in. Jamie should have said no at her request. Should have said I’d like this cigarette all to myself, thanks if she had known she wouldn’t be able to stop staring.
“Did you find Owen’s limes?” Dani’s looking around their strip of grass curiously, eyes alighting on the few hydrangea bushes Jamie had brought back from the brink of death last summer.
“Yeah,” Jamie knocks Dani’s shoulder with her own, shaking her head a little to snap her out of the indecent thoughts she had been having. “ Right in the middle of the room.”
Dani hums, leaning in return, the warmth of her bare arm seeping through the sleeve of Jamie’s t-shirt. She passes the cigarette back and Jamie takes the last drag before tapping it out against the house. “So, what did Owen tell you about me?”
That he’s worried I’ll fall for you. Jamie nearly says it, only just managing to catch it before it can come out.
Dani must take her silence as surprise because she explains, “ We’re both his friends and Owen loves to chat. I know I’ve already heard things about you.”
“Like what?” She says because Dani is blushing warm, like maybe she didn’t mean to say that last part out loud, and Jamie wants to know.
“Oh!” Dani stumbles, “Just that you’re a…horticulture major?”
It is a weird major now that Dani says it aloud, essentially just learning how to tend a garden, but this pretentious university had something Jamie could study that would let her get her hands dirty and Jamie’s not above taking advantage of their stupidity. She tells Dani the part about dirt and Dani shuffles closer in interest.
“I’m doing education, but horticulture sounds much cooler,” she enthuses. “Although I don’t think I could handle the sun. I burn very easily.”
Jamie pulls her t-shirt collar aside to show a patch of slightly red skin. “I don’t usually, but guess the sun had it out for me the other day.”
Dani, to Jamie’s surprise, is suddenly the same color as her skin, looking everywhere but at her. “Have you tried yogurt?” Dani asks, apropos of nothing.
Jamie stares at her. “Uh… what?”
“For the sunburn,” Dani hurries to clarify. Jamie’s sure she must be looking at Dani like she’s grown two heads.
“Can’t say I ever have. Am I supposed to?”
“Oh, yeah,” Dani nods a bit too enthusiastically. “It’s got lots of soothing benefits. My mom used to use it all the time. You just take it and spread it--,” she reaches forward and nudges Jamie’s collar ever so slightly to the side, pressing the tips of two fingers to the edge of angry skin. “--where it hurts.”
Jamie hisses, and Dani is quick to pull away, pupils blown wide, her lip pulled nervously between her teeth. “I -- Sorry,” Dani stutters. Jamie darts out before she can get very far, easing Dani’s fingertips gently back against her shoulder.
Jamie clears her throat, shivering when Dani flutters over her skin. “Any kind of yogurt?” she asks like an idiot. Something in her brain seems to have broken, boiled down only to keep the pretty girl touching her .
Dani shakes her head. “Greek.”
“Waste of money, greek yogurt,” Jamie babbles. “It tastes like the milk’s curdled in your mouth.”
Dani giggles, fingers stilling against Jamie’s collarbone. “Good thing you’re not supposed to eat it, then.”
“Oh. Right.” Jamie dips her head in embarrassment, nearly knocking into Dani’s forehead on the way down. She hadn’t realized how close they were until now with Dani’s teasing laugh ghosting over her bottom lip. Dani’s fingertips are flexing wonderfully against Jamie’s shoulder and Jamie would very much like to stop talking about yogurt, if she can get her mouth with the program.
Dani doesn’t seem to mind, instead moving to trail white hot lines up Jamie’s neck that spark brightly in the back of her skull. Jamie feels like putty in this woman’s hands, wanton and craving as Dani curls slowly around the shell of her ear. It’s clear from the way she’s touching her that Dani wants this, and Owen’s words from earlier ring in Jamie’s ear.
Before Dani can go any farther, Jamie has to ask: “You sure?”
Dani, dragging her eyes up from where she’s been staring quite heavily at Jamie’s lips, grins breathlessly. “Yes.”
When Dani kisses her, cupping her face and tugging her in, it doesn’t take Jamie by surprise, nor does the pace of it. It’s not a chaste kiss; Dani’s already licking into her mouth with such reckless abandon that the world seems to tilt. Dani kisses like there’s a siren going off somewhere, urgent and needy, thumb eager against Jamie’s jaw and nearly half on top of her in the grass.
World spinning wondrously, Dani’s hand slips under the hem of her t-shirt and Jamie groans, not caring about how anyone could come around the corner right now to see this: Dani kissing a hot line across her collarbone, fingers inching steadily higher under cotton. She’s just nudged her fingers under the cup of Jamie’s bra when someone above them snaps the window shut, and the sound does wonders to remind Jamie exactly where she is.
“Wait,” she gasps, and Dani pulls away from her like she’s yelled fire. As annoying as Owen has been tonight, she draws the line at getting felt up in his yard. Her chest feels freezing now that Dani’s hand has disappeared from underneath her shirt, and she flops back against the lawn, groaning at her own interruption.
“Rebecca’s staying with Peter tonight,” Dani blurts. She blinks down at Jamie diplomatically, trying hard to look nonchalant.
It sends heat spiralling fast through Jamie’s stomach and she has to breathe hard through her nose, trying to calm her pounding heart. After it resumes a normal thump -- which takes longer than usual because Dani is still leaning in her space, thumb stroking under against her hipbone -- Jamie smirks. She has a feeling she knows where Dani is going with her comment, given that they’ve already been rolling around in the grass. Might as well have a little fun with it, too. “Huh. Good for her.”
Dani nods, hand curling in the belt loops of Jamie’s shorts. “Yeah,” she says. “So, that means my place … I’ll have… you could -- ?” It’s here that her courage seems to run out, and she leans back to push away the hair at her temples. The sudden lack of weight against her nearly sends Jamie reeling forward across the grass to chase Dani’s touch.
Instead, she props herself up on an elbow. Dani is staring at the sky like it will spell out the answer she’s looking for, and Jamie doesn’t say anything; not because of the game she had been playing, but to give Dani time.
She’s letting Dani set the pace, and when Dani realizes this, her shoulders sag, all hints of nerves gone in an instant. She’s grinning now, already back on her side, nudging close enough to Jamie that their lips brush. Instead of leaning forward, Dani lingers against the corner of Jamie’s mouth, and then her cheek. Dusting against the curve of Jamie’s cheekbone, she works her way over, and has just released Jamie’s earlobe from between her teeth when she says, hot in Jamie’s ear, “Come over?”
Jamie’s certain her knees would have given out by now, if they had to hold up her body weight while this was happening.
“Fantastic idea,” she eventually chokes. “What took you so long?”
Dani, giggling nervously against Jamie’s lips, tastes just as delightfully bold as she sounds.
Most of their small town can be reached on foot, and Dani leads the way to her apartment with a nervous trot. It’s quiet and Jamie likes these kinds of walks - the ones where she shuffles close on the sidewalk, the air heavy with a tension that is delicious in anticipation. They don’t really talk, but their arms brush and Dani’s eyes blaze dark in the streetlight, hands twitching as though she wants to just take Jamie right here, privacy be damned.
Jamie’s considering it too, considering letting Dani crowd her up against a telephone pole and have her way with her, when she is steered up the steps of a modest brownstone. There’s ivy trailing down the brick and it does an excellent job hiding the somewhat shabby exterior.
“This is nice,” Jamie says, mouth dry at the realization that they’ve reached their destination.
“It’s not bad,” Dani agrees, leading them up a rickety staircase and jiggling her key in the sticky lock of the first apartment.
“Nice place,” Jamie says again as Dani ushers them inside, blinking when Dani backs her against the door. She hasn’t touched Jamie the whole walk but from the way Dani’s looking at her right now, it’s clear it’s the only thing she can think about.
“You said that already,” Dani points out helpfully before kissing Jamie so thoroughly, knee slotted neatly between her legs, that Jamie loses the retort on the edge of her tongue.
They lose most of their clothes along the way. Dani’s skirt gets pulled down against the doorjamb, and Jamie’s bra ends up over a bookshelf somehow. By the time Dani is pressing her down onto the bed, a hand flat to her sternum, the only barrier between them is Dani’s underwear. She hasn’t taken off her earrings, though, and the gold hoops glint in the dim light of the room.
Jamie is barely even aware of where she is. Dani’s bedroom definitely, but she only catches snatches of it, the soft comforter (purple, she thinks) underneath her and the thick desk she had bumped into when she had been more focused on the hard flick of Dani’s tongue than where she was going.
Dani, straddling Jamie like she has done this a hundred times before, runs her hands brazenly down Jamie’s bare chest, nails scratching lightly. “You’re really pretty,” she breaths, grinning. Her eyes rove over Jamie like she approves and Jamie would be lying if she said it didn’t make her preen a little, the heat of Dani’s gaze dropping fast through her belly to settle low.
There’s so much skin to touch with Dani sitting heavy in her lap, and Jamie is so turned on that she’s fairly certain she’s going to pass out if they continue at this rate. A girl across her thighs isn’t out of Jamie’s wheelhouse, but her heart is beating out of her chest at the low cadence of Dani’s voice. Something about this girl has her head swimming and she gasps when Dani thumbs over her nipple. Suddenly needing more control, Jamie sits up to meet her, arms circling lazily around her waist.
“Guessing you haven’t seen yourself,” Jamie finally manages to tease, nudging Dani’s chin with her nose until she lets her head tip to the side, groaning when Jamie sucks open mouthed kisses along the slope of her neck.
“Oh,” Dani sighs at the compliment, as though surprised that Jamie thinks so, fingers sinking into the soft hair at the back of Jamie’s skull. There’s something amusing to it, that she’s naked under Dani’s wandering hands and Dani still seems dumbfounded that they are doing this. Jamie snorts at the thought, air blowing cool over the skin behind Dani’s ear and she squirms in Jamie’s lap, grinding down accidentally.
The sudden warmth of Dani against her bare thighs makes her hiss, and they’ve done quite enough talking already, Jamie decides.
Dani, it seems, has the same idea and she sinks down again, this time sure and slow, grinning a little when Jamie, gripping hard at her hips, has to bite her lip to stop herself from making a truly embarrassing noise at the contact. Dani’s thumb darts out to pull Jamie’s lip gently from between her teeth before she chases it with her mouth, reeling Jamie in for their dirtiest kiss yet.
“Wanna hear you,” Dani mumbles against her.
Jamie can’t help but whine at that and Dani grins, pleased. She’s still perched high in Jamie’s lap, lips bruised and hair wild around her shoulders and Jamie wants to pull her down and fuck her just like this; with Dani canting down onto her fingers, chest to chest, until she’s the one who can’t control the noises that come out.
Wanting to feel her, Jamie reaches forward with shaky fingers to toy with the edge of Dani’s underwear. The idea of separating long enough, of losing the searing heat of Dani against her, to pull them off isn’t an option. “Can I?”
Dani’s nodding before she’s even finished and she sounds incredibly pretty, lips parted around a sigh, when Jamie slips under and touches her. With their foreheads pressed together, Jamie feels like she’s about to combust at the combination of Dani’s breath puffing against her cheeks and the hot pull underneath her fingertips.
It’s clear that Dani needs more and Jamie tries to tug her underwear down as much as she can with her free hand. “You’re still wearing your--,”
“Don’t care,” Dani mumbles, already reaching down. She doesn’t bother separating to remove the last layer, just shoves it to the side and sinks, tight and hot and slow, onto two of Jamie’s waiting fingers. The noise she makes with their hips pressed together nearly sends Jamie’s eyes rolling into the back of her head.
“Fuck,” Dani gasps, nails digging sharp into Jamie’s shoulder, and she wants to make Dani lose control more -- to reduce her down to shudders and breathless want.
Pulse racing, Jamie tightens the arm she has slung around Dani’s waist and adjusts her weight, flipping them both so quickly that Dani has to grab onto her neck, groaning at the same time at the loss of fullness. The change in position has withdrawn her fingers, and Jamie finds herself with the upper hand, Dani’s hips canting towards her palm desperately. She doesn’t know who the hell Owen was talking about, back in his kitchen, because the Dani in front of her is not fragile in the slightest. Hasn’t been all night, actually, when Jamie thinks back to what led them here, with Dani shifting impatiently underneath her. At each step along the way, Dani had led, bursting forward in jittery anticipation.
Owen’s read her all wrong , Jamie notes with dizzy glee as Dani’s head tips back against the pillows, one hand trying to cup Jamie’s elbow, to nudge her fingers closer to where she wants them.
The visual of Dani splayed against the sheets, legs spread wide, is almost too much, and Jamie doesn’t prolong it any longer. She slides back in easily, crooking her fingers in a way that has Dani choking on nothing, her voice a strange strangle in her throat. It only takes a few fast pumps before Dani is dragging her nails along the length of Jamie’s back, voice spiraling high. Jamie curses under her breath, shivers racing down her spine, and to her surprise, that seems to push Dani over the edge, clenching hot around Jamie’s fingers.
It’s easily the hottest thing she’s ever seen.
“Jamie,” Dani pants, still catching her breath. “I -- That was… wow.”
“First time with a girl went alright, then?” She’s still caught in the cradle of Dani’s hips and Dani ruts up in halfhearted protest at her teasing, which does little more than make them both groan. Jamie can’t hide the way her hips buck at the contact, and Dani eyes her, all traces of tiredness gone.
“More than alright.” Dani ducks down to plant a long kiss to Jamie’s sternum. “I want to touch you now.”
“Oh,” Jamie flusters at her bluntness, “You don’t have to --”
“I want to.” Dani’s looking at her with big, blue eyes and Jamie can’t even form words on her tongue, just nods helplessly.
Her arm almost gives out when Dani first touches her, fingers clumsy and eager, and she has to catch herself against the mattress.
“Jesus, Dani,” she groans, and Dani presses a little harder in delight at that.
Her body really does give out then, and Dani rolls them over. She’s almost too enthusiastic, and her knee bangs against Jamie’s, but her fingers haven’t stopped their easy slip slide between Jamie’s legs and it has her seeing stars.
“You can go inside,” she says, when Dani has hovered for a moment to make sure. “It probably won’t take much.”
Dani cocks her head.
“Just mean that--,” she’s cut off when Dani teases gently in with two fingers, and she has to clench her teeth against the bright spots threatening at the edge of her vision. “--you’re going to have to slow down if you want to make this last.” Jamie grips the curve of Dani’s wrist, partly to steady herself and partly to still Dani before she makes her come in an embarrassingly short amount of time. Dani’s eyes are fixed on their hands and the blaze of her gaze has Jamie’s hips jumping out of control.
“How slow?” Dani asks curiously, glancing up, eager and steady.
“Ah,” Jamie sighs, heat already building hard and fast. She tugs on Dani’s wrist a little, guiding her. “Like this.”
Head falling back when Dani gives an experimental thrust, Jamie decides that Dani’s definitely got the hang of it. Her world narrows alarmingly quickly to the feeling of Dani inside her.
Dani’s moving faster now, fucking in and out with surprising finesse, and she’s hovering above Jamie on the edge of her space like she’s waiting for Jamie to break.
Jamie needs more.
She tugs Dani down, relishing in the feeling of skin on skin and Dani gasps in surprise, the heel of her palm suddenly pressing sharp shocks of pleasure through Jamie. She can’t stop the groan that works its way out, more rasp and hunger than she’s felt in a long time, and she feels Dani flush against her.
“Fuck,” Dani hisses, mouth hot against the side of her jaw and Jamie is careening towards orgasm faster than she thought possible, nails digging crescents into Dani’s shoulder as she leans over to kiss Jamie hard.
The stimulation is overwhelming and Jamie comes before she can stop herself, gasping high and breathless.
When she gets her legs to stop shaking, all she can do is kiss the self-satisfied smile off of Dani’s lips before starting down her body, nipping hard at a hipbone when Dani groans.
Jamie wakes with a start, the clock on the nightstand blinking 3:27 AM. She didn’t mean to fall asleep; she hardly ever does on these kinds of evenings, and Dani is nudged up the length of her back, sighing just heavily enough to be a snore.
Maneuvering out from under the heavy weight of Dani’s arm slung high across her ribcage is harder than it looks, and Jamie has to stop several times, eyes darting to see if Dani has jerked awake. By the time she gets out and has pulled her t-shirt off of a nearby picture frame, the clock is ten minutes later and still just as bright.
She should leave a note. She knows she should. Most of the time, she doesn’t really care about maintaining contact after the fact, but this is different. Jamie definitely wouldn’t mind doing this again. Never before had someone had her so strung out on the push and pull the way Dani had.
She mulls it over for a long minute, perched at the foot of Dani’s bed, before finally reaching for the pad of paper on the nightstand. On it, she scribbles: Had to run, sorry! This was fun, Jamie. At the bottom, she dashes off her number, and if it’s a little hard to make out her fours from her nines then her mistake.
Miraculously, Dani doesn’t stir, not when Jamie lets out a string of hastily muffled curses after she stubs her toe on the dresser, or when the door snaps shut behind her with a harsh click. Must have been tired , she thinks as the cool night air hits her in a rush. And then, smugly: Glad I was able to help her out.
Dani’s apartment isn’t too far from her own, and she almost wishes it were a longer walk. There are no expectations of her, here in these silent streets: No little brothers to look after, or scholarships to worry about keeping. Just her, the memory of Dani’s voice curling off the ceiling, and the darkened houses lining the suburban streets, stillness shimmering in waves around her.
Before she knows it, her key is already sticking in the door of her shoddy apartment, and suddenly she wants nothing more than to sink into her own bed and sleep for the next week. She’d forgotten how exhausting socializing can be, especially off of a summer of three full time jobs with only the occasional dinner with Hannah and Owen.
No time for socializing then, and no time for it now it seems, with the semester looming and the terse email she had gotten yesterday from her sponsor reminding her of it.
Jamie, it had read. As you are aware, this is your fourth and final year. I expect better grades this semester, and will be submitting my first part of the payment plan next week. You are aware that should your grades dip below a B in any course, I will be retracting my financial support. -Mr. McQueeny.
Jamie hadn’t even wanted to go to college. She had been perfectly content to tumble into her familiar, hardened world of the streets. She would have, too, if a rich benefactor hadn’t selected her from her group home to bestow upon a full ride; Mr. McQueeny had apparently, for some reason unbeknownst to Jamie, seen something in her. And, sure, Jamie’s endlessly grateful to him for plucking her away from the impending destruction of her future but the man really needs to lighten up.
C’s get degrees , after all, or so her weed dealer had told her last semester when she’d nearly failed a class.
Toothbrush hanging out of her mouth, Jamie looks at herself in the mirror. Not bad, but not great either. There are dark circles under her eyes that never seem to go away, but her skin is tan and her arms are toned from long hours of outdoor work this summer. Dani seemed to enjoy it very much, with the way her fingers had curled around Jamie’s biceps and her eyes had lingered on the flex of Jamie’s stomach. Even the swatch of sunburn at her shoulder feels less like a nuisance with the phantom trip of Dani against it, doe-eyed and daring.
She collapses into her sheets with a sigh, head starting to pound with the beginnings of what is sure to be an impressive hangover. She doesn’t want to let herself think about Dani, who she had left all alone in that bed. Who had given her the best evening Jamie’s had in a long time.
Now’s not the time to get distracted , she pushes those thoughts away, staring hard at the ceiling.
Jamie falls asleep halfway through making a list of things she needs to do in her head, nodding off somewhere between Have a word with Mikey’s foster mom and Email Mr. McQueeny back .
Her alarm doesn’t go off. At all. What wakes Jamie, in the end, is the vibration of Owen’s bleary phone call making sure she got home safe.
“Jamie?” He asks when she groans into the receiver. “It’s…,” she can picture him craning to see the time on his bedside table, “Almost nine. Don’t you have class across campus?”
She doesn’t say goodbye, just jabs the end call button violently, suddenly wide awake and panicking. She’s already behind on the semester and it’s barely even begun.
Yanking a hoodie over her head, she doesn’t bother to tame the curls that bounce out, throwing them into the cleanest bun she can manage. She doesn’t even have time to shower, Jamie realizes mournfully as she narrowly avoids hopping into a planter in the rush to pull her shoes on and barrel out the door.
To make matters even worse for herself, the class she’s late for is one that Jamie’s been avoiding taking for four years. Some general education course, English, she thinks, where they have to learn the ins and outs of storytelling. It’s not something Jamie particularly cares for, or sees the value in, and she’s definitely not looking forward to a class full up of eighteen year olds and their obnoxious optimism towards the future.
Trudging through the quad on the first day of the fall semester (and doing it hungover no less) is overwhelming. Three people try to hand her a flyer for their club, and one group of lazy men force her to lob back their frisbee after it nearly hits her in the back of the skull. The sun is irritatingly bright, beating down Jamie’s neck, and she wishes she had remembered a pair of sunglasses to dull the ache behind her eyes as she squints at her watch.
Shit. She takes off at a fast jog, trying hard to ignore how her brain feels like it’s about to rattle out of her head with each footstep. By the time she gets to the Lloyd Building, the halls are practically empty and she nearly groans out loud when, breathless and skidding to a stop outside the classroom door, she spies Professor Wingrave through the pane of glass.
Hannah’s had him before, Jamie knows, because she had remarked rather primly on not only his harsh grading, but also the way his breath always seemed to hold the tang of whiskey.
Stomach turning at the thought of ever smelling alcohol again, Jamie rolls her shoulders back and slinks into the lecture hall. It’s a big room, and she somehow manages to make it undetected by Wingrave, sliding into an aisle seat just as he turns around to start his lecture.
“Good timing,” the lanky boy next to her whispers with a friendly smile. He looks older than most of the fresh faced students surrounding them and if she had to guess, she’d put him at around her age.
“Thanks,” she pants, trying to catch her breath. “Did you put this class off, too?”
He laughs, ignoring the death glare he gets from a posh looking girl in the row in front of them, and nods. “I’m Eddie.”
“Jamie,” she says, surprised when he pushes a styrofoam cup her way. “What’s this?”
Eddie gestures towards her crumpled appearance, the dark bags under her eyes, and grins. “My coffee. You clearly need it more than I do.”
Jamie usually doesn’t even like coffee, but no one in this class would know that by the way she’s reaching for the cup before he’s barely finished. “Bless you,” she groans even as she burns her tongue, trying to will the caffeine into her limbs around the acrid taste.
She has a feeling Eddie’s going to become a great friend if he keeps doing stuff like this.
Wingrave’s voice has already spiraled into a heavy drone and Christ, it’s going to be a long semester. Forcing herself to tune in, she just manages to catch the end of his sentence.
“-- introduce you to our TA for the semester, Miss Clayton.”
Eddie shoves his glasses up the bridge of his nose, his attention suddenly shifted entirely. “Oh, wow .”
He says something else but Jamie doesn’t hear him, following his eager gaze towards the front of the classroom to see--
“Please, call me Dani.”
Dani looks different in the daylight. Her hair is perfectly coiffed and gone is her tank top and skirt, instead replaced by a sharp blazer and a blouse that curls elegantly around her neck. The neck that Jamie had kissed when Dani had thrown her head back and came around her fingers not twelve hours ago.
She has to drop this class immediately.
Sinking low in her seat, she is increasingly aware of how she looks; Her hair is sticking to her sweaty forehead and she’s sure she appears as terrible as she feels.
Thankfully, Dani hasn’t seen her, and she walks the class through the syllabus, hands waving excitedly in the air as she outlines the grade percentages of their final exams.
“Does anyone have any questions?” Dani asks the hall, and to Jamie’s dismay, Eddie’s hand shoots up next to her.
“Put your hand down,” Jamie hisses and Eddie blinks at her from behind his glasses.
Dani calls on and answers a question about office hours and Eddie wriggles his hand even higher.
“Don’t be a prat, just look at the syllabus,” Jamie whispers frantically, and their back and forth has caught the attention of several students in their neighboring rows.
“What’s your problem, dude?”
Jamie opens her mouth to detail exactly what her problem is with Eddie, namely that he’s about to ruin her entire life by being a teacher’s pet, when another voice interrupts her.
“Do you have a question? In the striped shirt,” Dani calls, and, when Jamie realizes that Eddie’s the one in the striped shirt, she drops her pencil. Bending low to retrieve it, she doesn’t even hear Eddie’s question over the blood rushing in her ears.
Under the desk is nice, minus the few wads of chewing gum stuck to the surface, and Jamie would be perfectly willing to stay down here for the rest of this class, hell even the rest of the semester. As long as she can get through this next half hour without being seen, she can switch to a different section once she gets home.
It’s hotter under the desk than she had realized, and Eddie’s done speaking anyways. Surely Dani will have moved onto someone else.
She doesn’t realize how wrong she is until she pops back up.
Because Dani is staring directly at her, eyes wide, and she’s stopped talking entirely, right in the middle of her sentence.
Jamie waves meekly. She is so screwed.