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we got married in a fever (hotter than a pepper sprout)

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On the day that April vowed to spend the rest of her life with Sterling, she made a sort of unspoken pledge to herself. That pledge was that she would never again put the happiness of her father before her own. That of course includes not ever trying to change herself for his sake, not ever putting him before her marriage, and never ever giving him power over her again. 

In the months since then, she’s already failed step three, as, true to his word, the money began to flow towards April the second he was out of jail, with her and Sterl’s first $600 payment coming to her through Venmo on Thanksgiving night. 

This wouldn’t be a bad thing if there weren’t so many strings attached to accepting such money from John Stevens. He demands to get what he pays for, and April can imagine that to the tune of $600 a week, he will be expecting plenty from her, even beyond this rather unfortunate dinner at a steakhouse in Atlanta that they’re having to drive over an hour to, on what would ordinarily be their weekly date night.

“Okay, so when we get there, please just try not to bring up the bounty hunting thing. Or him just getting out of prison. Or the divorce,” April says, her eyes firmly on the freeway while Sterling fiddles with the radio--the girl can never just pick a station and stick with it.

“So I should try to avoid talking at all, basically?” Sterling asks, scoffing. She’s still bitter because she’s wholly convinced that John was only free on this night this week because April mentioned the date night thing to him.

April sighs, knowing she’ll be lucky if they can make it through the salad course without her dad wanting to throttle his new daughter-in-law. “Sterl, I get that you have every reason in the world not to like him, and honestly, so do I. But if he’s actually willing to make a change and accept our relationship, then I can’t exactly turn him away. So I am asking you for one night to please just try to put on a good face? This might come as a shock to you, but my dad can be a pretty interesting person when you get to know him.”

“Yeah, I’d call somehow being all of the ‘-ists’ and ’-ics’ pretty interesting,” Sterling grumbles at a volume probably not intended for April’s ears, but she hears it anyway.

April knows she probably doesn’t even have a right to be angry about Sterling saying that, as it’s no secret her father isn’t particularly fond of anyone who’s not a White American Christian, and that’s not even getting into his history with women. But in the spirit of attempting to bury the hatchet with him, it’s probably best if they try not to acknowledge any of that tonight. “Look, if we can make it through dinner tonight without incident, I promise that when we get home, I will let you pick the movie we watch without any input at all from yours truly.” Sterling ought to know by now that such a concession is a rarity for April, who knows that without restrictions, her wife will choose some heterosexual romcom almost every time.

“Gonna take more than that,” Sterling says, knowing full well that she can milk this golden opportunity for a lot because April is so desperate for things to go well.

“Do I have to offer my body to you?” April asks teasingly, one hand leaving the steering wheel to run down the neckline of her red dress to accentuate the small amount of cleavage for Sterling, who visibly gulps.

Although, it’s not like they’ve ever exactly needed an excuse to have sex, and Sterling knows this too. “You don’t have to do anything, April. I promise you I will be on my very best behavior. I will remind you that I won Fellowship Leader without resorting to blackmail because people tend to really like me—at least in small doses. Heck, your dad always liked me enough to remember my name while he seriously thought Blair’s name was Jessica.”

“Forgive me, but it kind of sounds like you’re saying that people don’t like me,” April says, honestly quite offended even if she knows she hasn’t always been the most agreeable person at times.

Sterling clears her throat. “April, do you remember that time at the end of Sophomore year when we were in charge of recruiting the visiting 8th graders to join Fellowship?”

April frowns, not understanding what it has to do with the current topic of conversation. “Yes, I remember. Why?”

“Do you remember how you resorted to scare tactics about how if they didn’t join up, they would have a decent chance of doing drugs and getting kicked out of school and never going to college?” Sterling asks pointedly, and April now understands what she’s getting at, but that doesn’t mean she likes it.

“I didn’t say it in those terms,” she grumbles.

Sterling reaches over and puts a comforting hand on April’s knee. “I know that, but that is why you had to force me out of my position as leader the following year instead of Ellen choosing you to begin with.”

“Touché,” April admits. “But still, no matter how likable you are—and yes, you are frustratingly charming, and I would know because I had to actively resist those charms for six years—you’re at a slight disadvantage because you arrested my dad and cost him enough in legal fees to have to take out a loan on our previously paid-in-full home. Not to mention the whole ‘several weeks in prison and having his reputation ruined’ thing.”

“If it wasn’t me and Blair who arrested him, it would have been someone else,” Sterling argues, and it’s a point she’s made many times before, but April sometimes wonders if that would have actually been the case.

“Either way, just try not to instigate anything or engage with him needling you,” April says, knowing her father’s tendencies all too well, and if Sterling is going to be her wife until death do they part, she ought to know how to navigate interactions with all of April’s family. Which reminds her of a recent development to which she’s not sure how Sterling will react. “Before I forget, I was talking to my Aunt Franny about our Vermont trip yesterday.”

“Oh?” Sterling asks.

April nods. “I brought up your concerns about being away from your family on Christmas, and she surprised me by saying that your parents and sister are welcome to join us in Vermont. The chalet we rent is certainly big enough for three extra people, in any case.” Even so, she’s quite surprised that Franny even extended the offer—events with her family tend to be rather exclusive.

“Wow, really?” Sterling says, seeming quite touched. “I guess I’ll talk to my parents, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t want to go. I guess my aunt and uncle are hosting Christmas dinner this year and goodness knows my mom hates going to those. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been someplace cold on Christmas? Not counting the time it snowed for like five minutes when we got together, but that was like a week before Christmas anyway.”

April can tell that Sterling is genuinely starting to get excited about this trip (she only rambles when she’s fixated on something), and that alone is enough to make her extra happy about it, too. She’s done this trip every year of her life—excluding the Christmas when she wasn’t even two months old—but the thought of experiencing such a special thing with her wife is on another level, and she can’t wait for next week. “Do you realize it’ll be the first Christmas we’ll physically spend together?”

Sterling frowns. “That’s not true,” she says skeptically, but April shakes her head.

“No, it is. I’ve gone to Vermont every year since I’ve known you. We FaceTimed our first Christmas together, and last year we went out to look at Christmas lights and open presents the night before I left.” April wouldn’t trade either of those moments for anything else, but she’s so excited to start making genuine holiday memories together.

“Huh. I guess you’re right,” Sterling concedes.

“I always am,” April says, making a noise of satisfaction before pulling into the downtown parking garage closest to the restaurant they’re meeting her father at.

They manage to arrive before John, which doesn’t come as a surprise to April, and she’s grateful to have a chance to give the menu a once-over before he gets here, seeing as he always orders the same thing and therefore tends to have little patience for indecisiveness.

Sitting up straight in her chair, ankles crossed, feeling more prim and proper than she has in the comfortable months since she married Sterling, April feels like she’s falling right back into a role she knows well. The role of the perfect daughter who wants nothing more than to please her Daddy.

And just like that, there he is, being led to their table by the hostess. For a split second, April almost doesn’t recognize him; what with the neatly-trimmed beard he’s managed to grow out, the new, younger-looking haircut he’s sporting, and the brand new sports jacket ensemble that looks like…Tom Ford?

If her father is honest to God wearing a suit that was designed by an openly gay Democrat, then maybe the game has changed.

“There’s my girl!” he says, his face lighting upon seeing April, and though she wants to be skeptical of if it’s genuine, she can’t help but smile right back as she gets up from her chair and allows him to pull her in for a hug, which she quickly returns, despite herself. It just feels so natural to be back in her dad’s arms, feeling like she’s the light of his life again.

Eventually, they pull apart, with April’s hand lingering on one of his biceps. “Whoa, have you been working out?” she asks, partially as a callback to much easier times between them, when she would say such things to him when she was just being nice to get something out of him, but this time, she means it.

John flexes his arm a bit for emphasis. “You noticed? I had a good bit of free time to get a little workout routine going.”

“It’s definitely working,” she says, nodding, then glances over at Sterling, who’s still seated at the table and looking at April like she’s just witnessed the most disgusting thing imaginable. April clears her throat to signal for her to stand, which she reluctantly does.

“Uh, hi Mr. Stevens. Long time, no see,” Sterling says, not rushing to shake her father-in-law’s hand or anything of the sort, and she’s certainly not lying about thinking it’s nice to see him.

When John merely grunts and nods in Sterling’s general direction to acknowledge her presence, April feels the need to interject.

She giggles nervously to try to ease the tension. “Daddy, don’t you think it’s a little unnecessary for Sterling to call you that, seeing as she’s now also a Stevens?” April asks.

“-Wesley. I’m a Stevens-Wesley, as are you,” Sterling says pointedly, not giving April any help at all.

April can see her father’s jaw clench tight before he’s forcing something close to a smile and is holding out his hand to Sterling. “Yeah, given the circumstances, I guess you can start calling me John.”

Sterling regards his outstretched hand a moment before gingerly taking it, and April can see the way her dad squeezes Sterling’s almost hard enough to break it, but you wouldn’t know it from her wife’s stone-cold expression. And when she’s finally able to withdraw her hand from John’s, Sterling calmly returns to her seat at the table, with her dining companions following suit.

April reaches over to gently rub her wife’s no-doubt wounded hand on the table, ignoring her dad’s only slightly disgusted gaze—at least he seems to be trying. “Daddy, did you know Sterling and I have our own house? Anderson bought it for us.”

John raises an eyebrow as he sips his water. “Oh, did he now?” he says as he sets down his glass. “Seems like a pretty generous gift, but I guess that would explain you wanting more money. Ain’t easy owning your own place, is it?”

April shakes her head and gets back to reading her menu. “Oh, God no. Sterling, tell him about the incident in the kitchen when we first moved in.”

“Sink broke,” Sterling says with no inflection in her voice to speak of. “Water everywhere.” It may seem like she’s being intentionally vague, and she is, but it’s actually to April’s benefit in this case. She’s such a good wife when she wants to be.

“Yeesh. You gotta be careful with stuff like that or you’ll get the black shit growing in your drywall. April, if you need a guy around to take care of things like that, I can always send over Rodrigo once a week or so?” John says, and April thinks he’s referring to their lake house handyman Romeo, but she’s more concerned with her dad thinking she isn’t capable of keeping her own house from falling apart—a deep fear of hers as well, though she’ll never admit it to him.

She also won’t admit that the ‘sink broke’ because she happened to strike the water line while demolishing that dreaded wall. “Oh, have you and Mama settled the house situation?” she asks, changing the subject to one that isn’t exactly easier, but at least doesn’t have her in the hot seat anymore.

“We did, yeah,” John says, his voice sounding a bit defeated. “Your Mama gets the Atlanta house, and I get the lake house—extra mortgage and all.” He sneaks a narrowed-eye look at Sterling upon the mention of that extra mortgage, to which she quickly looks back down at her menu. “Padawan, I’ve uh…I’ve been meaning to talk to you about all that.”

April frowns, seeing as her parents’ divorce is still a guaranteed mood-killer for her, but she supposes she set herself up for it by mentioning the house situation. “We don’t have to talk about it, Daddy,” she says. “Mom already gave me the whole Mrs. Doubtfire, ‘just because we don’t love each other anymore doesn’t mean we don’t love you, and none of this is your fault’ talk.”

John shakes his head and takes another long drink of water. “Well, I’m gonna have to stop you right there so that I can make myself perfectly clear. I still love your mother very much. If it were up to me, none of this would be happening right now. But it isn’t my choice.”

Despite herself, April knows deep down that her father is telling the truth, and that he’s devastated by how things are turning out. Even after all he’s done, she can’t help but sympathize with him—she can’t imagine what losing her wife would do to her, after all. 

“Well,” she says, reaching across the table to take her dad’s hand, “Sometimes things don’t work out the way we planned. But I’ve come to find that you can get through pretty much anything with a little support.”

John smiles weakly at her, and for a moment, April wonders if they might have a real heart to heart about all he put her through over the summer—throughout her entire life, really. But he’s still John Stevens. “Seriously, I don’t like the idea of you tryin’ to work on that house all by yourself. Part of the agreement your mama and I have managed to come to is that she’s keeping her damn hands off the franchises, so if you need anything at all, help is just a phone call away. And as far as protection goes, we should probably get you a gun. I can imagine a house with two girls and no man around is like a target for home invaders.”

“I have a gun. I have several guns, actually,” Sterling says, reminding the both of them that she’s still there, still looking down at her menu, as John’s hand tenses and lets go of April’s.

Their waiter comes around after a few more minutes of talking about home repairs, and April is relieved that she won’t have to endure her father flirting with the help tonight—even hard time couldn’t change her dad that much.

“Prime ribeye, well-done, with a side of fries and a salad with ranch. And a Glenlivet on the rocks.” John orders without having cracked open his menu once since he’s been here, which is unsurprising to April since it’s what she’s affectionately dubbed the Coronary Artery Disease Special.

“Prime filet, blue, with a wedge caesar,” April orders, earning a look from the waiter.

“Just have to check; you know that blue is rarer than rare, right?” he asks skeptically—they always do.

April smiles and nods. “Yes. If I could order it mooing, I would,” she says, and hears Sterling quietly gag next to her as the waiter writes down her order. This was a point of contention with them on their first fancy date to Marcel and the theater, too.

April subtly elbows Sterling before it’s her turn to say, “I’ll have the chicken.”

John scoffs at his daughter-in-law’s…simple choice of dinner, which has even April scratching her head because Lord knows Sterling likes steak—though it may just be out of pure spite at this point. “Better get us some of them risotto fritters to start, too,” he says to the waiter before he leaves them. “So…chicken in a steakhouse?” he asks, turning to Sterling, who refuses to buckle under the pressure as she stares him down—something that April would ordinarily find exceedingly sexy, but not when Sterling is being difficult to deliberately irritate John.

“Felt like having chicken,” Sterling says, shrugging, before clearing her throat and sitting up straighter in her seat. “So um, John, not to start anything, but I have to ask: why the big change of heart? I mean, I think you can admit that the last time we all saw each other wasn’t exactly the most friendly encounter.”

April momentarily sees all of the signs in her father’s body language that point toward an angry outburst, but then all at once, they go away as his whole demeanor relaxes again. Call her naive, but she has to wonder if such subtlety that Sterling doesn’t even have the trained eyes to notice could really be the result of some disingenuous act. Which would mean that he is trying, right?

“Well, when you spend a few months in a cage, it gives you time to recalibrate. Time to reflect on how you’ve treated your loved ones, and how you think the man upstairs would feel about your actions,” John explains. “I’m not gonna pretend like all of this isn’t difficult to wrap my head around. It isn’t easy letting go of the version of my daughter that I thought I knew. But you’re still my little Padawan, ain’t you?” He offers April a gentle smile that she doesn’t think she’s seen him give her since she was a little girl.

“Always,” April says, knowing it’ll disappoint Sterling, but with her family already thoroughly falling apart, she isn’t going to miss this opportunity.

“Good,” John says, reaching across the table and patting her hand. “Though, if I may defend myself just a bit, I probably wouldn’t have reacted so strongly to finding out about you if you weren’t…well, if Sterling and I didn’t have a history.”

April hears Sterling crunch down on some ice cubes stolen from her water glass before replying, “John, you know I’m sitting right here, correct?”

“Oh, I’m well aware,” John says, looking at Sterling and smiling. “But in the spirit of forgiveness, I’m willing to let all that ugliness go too, seeing as April found it in her heart to do so. Though I have to ask: how exactly did it end up that you and that sister of yours got in cahoots with that bounty hunter?”

April clears her throat. “Daddy, if we’re going to be letting bygones be bygones, maybe it’s best to let all of that go,” she suggests, already feeling the anxious, angry energy coming off of Sterling in waves.

Sterling pats her hand on the table reassuringly. “No, it’s okay,” she says, but April knows it most certainly is not. “Um, well, at the end of summer before junior year, Blair and I were out one night and got into a car accident with a guy who as it would turn out was a bail jumper. One thing led to another and we ended up meeting Bowser, who offered us jobs so that we could pay to repair the damage to our dad’s hunting truck.”

John scoffs. “So y’all arrested me for a hunting truck? You know, I’m pretty sure my skull’s got a dent in it from where you pistol-whipped me with one of your several guns,” he says, tapping the spot just above his temple.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have beaten up a prostitute, then…” Sterling trails off and John’s face goes red as he points his finger at her and April once again feels like this could get very ugly. Lord knows saying things even in that ballpark has gotten April hit before, and her dad actually likes her.

“Those charges didn’t stick, and in this country, I’m presumed innocent until proven guilty. So as far as you or anyone else is concerned, none of that happened,” John says a bit too quickly, sounding like one guilty man to April, but that’s none of her business.

“And since you were so innocent, surely you can also consider that my sister and I always had the purest of intentions and that it’s only fair to say that nothing that took place on your dock happened either, right? You know, since we’re putting what’s past in the past and erasing those pesky unpleasantries? Because officially, Blair and I didn’t arrest you. There’s no record of it.” Sterling replies, raising an eyebrow at John challengingly.

April doesn’t know whether she should be angry at or turned on by this oddly aggressive version of her wife. But she’s only a little ashamed to admit to leaning toward the latter if only because it speaks volumes to the kind of life they’ll have if this is any indicator of how good of a lawyer Sterling will be.

Taking a few noisy breaths through his nose, clearly at a loss for words as he struggles to come up with some kind of response to that, John makes a sound of frustration and finishes his scotch.


Sterling can honestly say that she’s never been in more of an awkward position than to be sat at a table with John and April for two and a half hours while they put duct tape on the fences that John has spent her wife’s entire life taking a chainsaw to. It’s so sick to think that she’s spent over half a year now trying to pick up the pieces that he left behind after prom, and yet, one dinner later and April’s right back to being the daddy’s girl she always was. They even have another dinner scheduled for next month!

So with all of that taken into consideration, she thinks she deserves a medal for refusing to blow up at April in the car on the ride home. In fact, she refuses to lose her temper at all, because she refuses to allow herself to become the bad guy of an evening with John frickin’ Stevens. And that’s why she’s been remaining relatively silent, giving responses to April’s string of chatter in noises more than words—not that April even seems to notice.

“I just think that maybe his time in prison might have done him some serious good in the way of teaching him that there are consequences to his actions. I mean, that’s why timeouts work with kids, right?” April says as she turns onto their street.

Sterling can’t help but be amused by the comparison of John to a misbehaving child, because a child at least has the excuse of not having lived long enough to know any better. “Mhm,” she hums, entirely noncommittal.

“Still,” April says once she’s parked in their driveway and killed the engine, reaching across the center console to put a hand on Sterling’s thigh. “I’m glad I had you with me tonight. I know it doesn’t seem like it to you, but I think my dad’s warming up to you.”

It takes everything in Sterling to not laugh in her wife’s face. “If you say so.”

“I know so,” April corrects her and leans over to kiss Sterling, who takes this moment to turn her head to open the car door, allowing April’s lips to land on her cheek, which she has to notice is more than a little out of the ordinary, but April’s unchanged demeanor doesn’t show that as they get out of the car and head up to their front porch. “Oh hey, did I tell you that I ordered this really cute porch swing online?” she asks as she unlocks the door.

Sterling shakes her head.

“Well, I did, and I think it’ll look great over there.” April points to the right corner of the porch and opens the front door. “Every little thing to make this house more of our home.”

Sterling isn’t so sure how a porch swing could make much of a difference, but if April thinks it’ll make her happy--and if she intends on assembling said porch swing by herself--then all the power to her. “Sounds great.”

“Anyway,” April says, stepping into the house with Sterling following, “How about you pick us out a movie while I go change into something more comfortable? Totally free choice...but I’ll remind you that it is the Christmas season and we only have so many days to watch Love, Actually.” It sounds like a strong suggestion that Sterling should just put on Love, Actually and be done with it, but since Sterling is feeling just a little petty, she sets out to find literally anything else on streaming when she’s turned on their new 60-inch TV (which Blair had to shoulder-check some guy for at Black Friday and which is just a touch too big for their IKEA stand).

She ultimately settles on one that she knows April probably won’t be too happy with, but it is Sterling’s choice and is a Christmas movie. From there, she makes herself more comfortable by removing her bra from under her shirt, and her jeans, tossing them across the living room onto the floor, which is also sure to tick off her wife, but she doesn’t care.

“Okay,” April says, returning from the bedroom in one of her nighties that barely goes past her butt. “What are we watching?”

“Christmas at Dollywood,” Sterling says, turning to the TV and pressing play on the remote.

“Ew, why?” April takes a seat on the couch next to Sterling.

“Why not?” Sterling asks, knowing that April could list several reasons, from her strong opinions on heterosexual Hallmark movies to her unexplained hatred for prolific TV movie actress Danica McKellar. “Don’t you like Dolly Parton?”

“Am I a Martian? Of course, I love Dolly Parton. But I think even you can admit that her catalog of Christmas specials is somewhat hit and miss,” April says defensively, like a true Southern girl. “But as I said, it’s your choice.” With that said, she snuggles up to Sterling, putting her head on her shoulder and wrapping her arms around her.

It’s not that Sterling wouldn’t ordinarily be happy to find herself in such a position. Even on a night like this, when she’s not exactly thrilled with April’s actions, she does love her wife very much. But being in love with someone doesn’t negate being mad at them, as Blair has experienced many times over the years. “April, I’m kind of warm. Do you mind…?” Sterling asks, gesturing with her free hand in a brushing-off motion that seems to catch April off guard for a moment.

“Oh. Um...sure…” she says, disentangling herself from Sterling and scooting away from her, looking extremely upset about this as she wraps herself in a blanket and pulls a passing Bilko onto her lap. She seems upset enough that Sterling almost regrets doing it.


Though to April’s credit, the movie is bad and Sterling firmly comes to that conclusion by around the halfway point, when even Bilko has trotted off into their bedroom and April leaves for the kitchen. Though the latter returns after a few minutes with two mugs of cocoa.

“Extra marshmallows,” April says, handing her one of the mugs, which even without tasting it Sterling can tell is the absolute perfect temperature.

If she didn’t know any better about April’s rather old-school Christian values when it comes to the occult, Sterling would suspect that her wife may be a witch with those otherworldly culinary skills that surpass even the most experienced of stay-at-home moms. But even her chocolatey love potion isn’t going to break Sterling. “Thank you,” she says, accepting the drink without falling over herself to shower April with the kind of praise she usually would. Come to think of it, her enabling behavior may have something to do with April thinking that she can just do whatever she wants and let a dangerous criminal back into their lives. A dangerous criminal who Sterling doesn’t doubt would have her taken out Goodfellas Style, given the opportunity.

“You are most welcome,” April says, returning to her spot on the couch, though in truth, neither of them are paying much attention to Danica’s city girl fish out of water antics anymore. “This does remind me though. How would you feel about taking a trip to Dollywood on Spring Break? We could invite my friends along and it could be a whole thing.”

“Can Blair and Luke come?” Sterling asks, wondering just how far this sweet act of April’s will go.

April smiles, though her eyes betray her pure agony. “Of course they can come along. The more the merrier.”

“Awesome. I’ll be sure to let them know,” Sterling says, smirking and attempting to get back into the movie, drinking down her cocoa faster than she anticipated. “Your dad isn’t invited or anything, right?” she asks as the admittedly paranoid thought occurs to her. But really, she can’t be too careful if Daddy’s Girl April is back with a vengeance.

“What? Of course not. No matter where our relationship is at that point in time, I would really rather be able to have some private time with you,” April says, her voice taking on a new inflection as she takes Sterling’s mug from her hand and places it on the coffee table next to hers. “It’s a long drive there and back, and I believe you and I have some unfinished business from the last time we were camping together.”

Sterling’s breath hitches in her throat when April’s hand starts to wander toward the waistband of her underwear. “I mean, I’d argue that wasn’t quite camping,” she says as April moves in on her and starts kissing her neck.

“Still, I seem to recall the two of us almost fucking in a tent.” April shrugs.

“We didn’t get that close,” Sterling says as she pushes April’s hand away from the vicinity of her crotch, realizing that her subtle approach to this has gotten her absolutely nowhere. “Do you seriously not get how mad I am at you?”

“Oh, I understand perfectly. You just can’t stand that my dad’s come back into my life with open arms.” April says, finally dropping all pretenses of playing the innocent little wife.

“No, I can’t stand that you’re letting the man who has done unspeakable things to me, and you, and God knows how many other women, back into our lives without even questioning why he had the sudden change of heart. I mean, you’re the same girl who can’t even trust a few harmless sorority girls, but you’ll try to find the good in a man who seems to have none?” Just saying all of this out in the open is like a weight being lifted off of Sterling’s shoulders. Truly, she hadn’t realized the full extent of her hatred for her father-in-law until tonight, when his smarmy face just seemed to be taunting her with the fact that he is getting away with all that he’s done to shatter April and make Sterling pick up the pieces.

After a beat of silence, April asks, “Why can’t you just be happy for me, Sterl? Don’t I deserve to have a family?”

Such a question strikes Sterling deep to her core, especially seeing as April has always made it out to be that losing her parents due to who she loves was just sort of collateral damage. “I thought I was your family,” she says, wondering if everything they’ve gone through over the summer and since has just been a consolation prize in the absence of Daddy’s love and approval.

“You are my family, Sterl. But so is my dad, and if he wants to have a good relationship with me--the real me--then I don’t see why I have to choose. Don’t you want me to be happy? Is that such a crime?” April asks, seeming like she knows how unfair of a question that is to ask Sterling after everything, but she still asked it, and really, Sterling doesn’t have a good answer to that in her back pocket. So after a minute of silence, April storms off to their bedroom, slamming the door behind her.

Every fiber in Sterling’s being wants to make this right, but she doesn’t at all know how. At least not without betraying what she believes in. So though she’s sure she’ll regret this later, she’s pulling up Blair’s contact on her phone and calling her, getting an answer on the first ring.

“Who died?” Blair says, no doubt just as confused as to why Sterling is calling her like an old person as she is that Sterling is calling her at almost eleven at night.

“April’s ability to act like a grown woman in the face of John Frickin Stevens,” Sterling scoffs, actually relieved to be able to say it in such plain terms without expecting any kind of backlash whatsoever.

“Dinner with him was that bad, huh?” Blair asks, sounding of course amused, but also like the comforting sister that Sterling knows and loves more than almost anyone on the planet--she certainly gets the undisputed top spot tonight.

Sterling scoffs. “You have no idea. The man is playing her like a freaking fiddle because he knows he can get away with it so long as he calls her his stupid Star Wars nickname and tells her everything she wants to hear. And he’s putting the divorce entirely on Mrs. Stevens’ shoulders like it wasn’t his actions that drove her to file.”

“God, what a fucking asshole,” Blair mutters. “But I mean, can you be that surprised? This is the same daddy’s girl who dumped you in a heartbeat when her dad got out of jail, and who almost called off the whole wedding when she found out that you were the reason he was ever there in the first place. Everything in April’s history points to her doing all that she can to earn her dad’s affection.”

Sterling frowns, a little impressed. “You better be getting an A in that psych class of yours.”

“93 percent, Baby,” Blair says in her best impression of Coach Beard from Ted Lasso. “But I’m serious. None of this should come as a shock to you. But what also shouldn’t come as a shock to you, seeing as you have a fairly decent Bullshit Detector, is that it may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but very relatively soon, John Stevens will inevitably show his true colors to April, and do you know who’ll be there to catch her with waiting arms like Superman?”

“You just referenced so many things,” Sterling says but answers Blair’s question anyway. “Me. I’ll be there to catch her.”

“Damn right. So until then, you just gotta bide your time until the inevitable happens. And in the meantime, take satisfaction in knowing that it will be killing John Stevens to see you two be as sickeningly in love as I’ve had to witness for way longer than him. All of this to say--and I cannot believe I am saying this--go have sex with April.”

A record scratches in Sterling’s head, as she’s not sure how Blair made that leap in logic. “Um, what?”

“Go. Fuck. Your wife. If you want to feel better--and for her to feel a lot better--then all you have to do is the thing that you know in your soul to be the thing that John Stevens hates the very most about you being married to his precious little Jedi. Go absolutely defile his baby girl. Fuck her brains out.” Crude as she may be, Blair is a genius and doesn’t get nearly enough credit for it.

“I’m gonna do it, even if that seems a little...excessive,” Sterling says, her mind made up--though April could always end up kicking her back out onto this couch if things go south.

“It isn’t excessive unless you take pictures and send them to John. You just have to be assertive about it. You know the little freak will love it.” Blair seems to be having way too much fun with being recognized for her wisdom. At least in this department.

“I’ll try,” Sterling says, knowing that she’ll have to go through with this now while she’s still got the courage. “Thanks, Sis. I owe you.”

“Damn right you do,” Blair says, but her voice softens before she says, “Good night. I love you even if you make me have to think about you having sex with April.”

“I love you even if you’re jealous and single,” Sterling replies, earning an appalled gasp from Blair before she laughs to herself and hangs up. Though in the silence that follows, Sterling’s confidence wavers a bit as she gets up from the couch and goes to her bedroom door to find it...locked. “April, open the door,” she says, trying to sound assertive, but it comes out a lot more pleading than she would have liked.

“You seem to have made yourself perfectly clear that you have no desire to be close to me tonight. So I’m only giving you what you asked for,” April replies stubbornly, though her words lose some of their oomph due to the lisping, full-mouth sound of her voice that indicates she’s got her nighttime retainer in.

“I always want to be close to you, April. I’m just trying to look out for you so you don’t get hurt,” Sterling says, remembering that she needs to be more on April’s side, as Blair said, before adding, “But you’re so right. You have to give your dad the opportunity to show he’s changed, and if he has, then I’m happy for you.”

“...You are?” April asks, no doubt confused by the very quick change of heart.

“Completely,” Sterling says, putting a hand on the door and leaning in to speak a little softer. “Please open the door, Baby.”

After a moment of silence, April finally replies, “I don’t want to get out of bed. There’s a new screwdriver key hidden behind our wedding photo on top of the bookcase. You may let yourself in.”

“I may?” Sterling says, amused, before going to get the screwdriver--she really should have known that April would have hidden one of these somewhere as she retrieves it from behind the picture of the two of them in their wedding dresses gazing longingly at each other. She returns to the door and puts the screwdriver in the keyhole, feeling the lock pop before she opens the door into the room lit only by the lamp on April’s side of the bed.

Bilko has taken up residence on Sterling’s side of the bed, with April sitting up in her usual spot, having changed out of her sexy pajamas into the long set that she usually wears to signal to Sterling that she’s on her period. That, in combination with April’s glasses being on in place of her contacts, and the whole ‘retainer-in-the-mouth’ thing should be a crystal clear indicator to Sterling that no sex shall be had tonight. But that kind of attitude is not what led her to become the best underaged bounty hunter in all of Atlanta...second only to her sister.

So with all that in mind, Sterling wordlessly goes to her side of the bed and picks up the fluffy little white devil, much to his loud protests.

“Sterling, he can stay in the bed,” April says as Sterling takes the whining cat to the door.

“No, he cannot,” Sterling replies, putting Bilko in the hallway and shutting the door, which his paws dart under in a feeble attempt to attack her feet while she collects herself. The only kind of experience she has with this sort of thing is when she and Blair traumatized themselves by stealing their mom’s copy of 50 Shades, so it can only end well or very, very badly. Still, she’s going to try.

“What are you doing?” April asks when Sterling still hasn’t turned back around.

Not answering her question, Sterling instead replies, “Take your retainer out and your glasses off.”

“What?” April asks, confused before Sterling finally turns around to face her.

“I said,” Sterling crosses the room to stand over April’s side of the bed, her confidence increasing with every step she takes. “Retainer out, glasses off.” It isn’t a request, and she half expects April to make fun of what is surely a poor attempt at being sexily domineering, but instead, something seems to shift in April, and she’s nodding before taking out her retainer and returning it to its case on the nightstand, followed by her glasses, which she sets down next to the lamp.

“You’re not still mad at me?” April asks, her voice a lot…smaller than Sterling is used to. Less in control, which makes sense, because Sterling knows—she can feel— that she is the one in charge here. It’s an exhilarating feeling; one she hasn’t felt since that first night with Luke.

But she has no intention of quoting scripture tonight.

“You’d know if I was,” she says, throwing the covers off of April and reaching out to touch her neck before running her hand down to her chest, where she undoes one button, and then another.

“...Fuck,” April says, her face flushed and her pupils blown. Sterling knows very well that her wife is unspeakably aroused right now.

“Language,” Sterling chides her.

April nods and swallows hard. “And…what do you plan on doing to me?”

Even if she’s the one with the power, Sterling is still, well, Sterling. “What do you want me to do to you?”

Wordlessly, April spreads her legs, giving Sterling an open invitation to climb onto the bed between them. She’s practically squirming in anticipation, and Sterling knows exactly what she wants. But whether she is willing to give that to her just yet remains to be seen.

“Do you want me to touch you?” Sterling asks, finishing unbuttoning April’s pajama shirt and letting it fall open before she moves down to the waistband of her pajama bottoms.

“Yes, please,” April says, nodding enthusiastically.

Sterling withdraws her hand entirely. “Well, what if I want you to take care of me first?”

April doesn’t try too hard not to pout, which only makes Sterling know she’s making exactly the right decision by not giving in to her desires just yet. “How do you want me?” April asks, leaving the choice up to Sterling of either that perfect mouth or those incredibly deft fingers, so really, there’s no wrong answer to be found, but still, even Sterling has her preferences.

“I want your mouth,” she says, scooting back on her knees a bit and doing April the favor of removing her underwear for easiest access.

April licks her lips hungrily as she nods, then sits up in bed and leans forward, burying her face between Sterling’s legs and wasting no time at all.

“Oh!” Sterling gasps, losing some of her composure when April’s tongue darts out and begins what might end up being the best orgasm of her life up to now.

Sterling both hears and feels April giggle to herself at the kind of effect she still manages to have on her wife, even when Sterling is supposedly the one in charge here. Feeling like she ought to remind her, Sterling tangles her hand in April’s hair and holds her head firmly in place. She looks down and makes eye contact with April, whose steely gaze only serves to intensify everything she’s feeling. She’s the only one who will ever experience this with April—will ever know what it’s like to have at least the illusion of control over the untamable force that is her wife.

And just like that, Sterling feels her knees start to buckle as her orgasm hits her all at once with little warning. Her grip tightens in April’s hair as she tries to suppress the urge to cry out, wanting to maintain the crumbling Dominant Sterling facade until she can get April off at least once. Though it isn’t an easy task when she still has the tendency to come faster than a virginal boy.

“Was that okay?” April asks when she finally removes her mouth from Sterling, already knowing the answer, but Sterling appreciates her asking.

“Yes, it was okay,” Sterling says, disentangling her hand from April’s hair and smoothing it back down before cupping April’s face in her hands and kissing her hard, tongue invading her mouth to greedily lap up the taste of herself while she pushes April back down onto her pillow and adjusts her position back between April’s legs.

Sterling’s right hand starts to descend, but then a thought occurs to her, and before she can second-guess herself, she’s reaching over to April’s nightstand and opening the drawer.

“What are you doing?” April asks, looking over to where Sterling is rifling through the various items April’s acquired for them so far, along with what little Sterling brought into the marriage (at least in this department).

Sterling doesn’t answer her question; she just keeps looking through the drawer until her hand grasps what she had in mind and she smiles mischievously to herself as she pulls it out. “You’re gonna have to thank Blair for this one, too,” she says, smirking as she holds up the vibrator her sister got her for Christmas almost 3 years ago. She turns it on and brings the buzzing blue toy down between April’s legs, but before she can do anything with it, April’s making a T with her hands.

“Time out,” she says, and Sterling stops immediately, looking up to find out what the problem is. “Have you ever used that on yourself?”

Sterling scoffs. “Have I ever used this vibrator in my vagina, which you were just licking? Yes, I have.” With that said, she intends to continue on with what she initially set out to do, but April shakes her head.

“Well, for safety’s sake, can you please put a condom on it?” April asks, nodding her head back in the direction of the drawer.

“I assure you, I’ve washed it between uses,” Sterling says, but knows there’s no use arguing with April about this—it’s not like it’ll alter the experience for her if she wraps it up with one of the condoms April keeps with the lube and other toys.

“Yes, but things with batteries generally can’t go in the dishwasher, and if you’d spent a week in UTI agony after our honeymoon, you’d be extra cautious about what goes inside you, too,” April says as Sterling opens up a foil packet and rolls the condom onto the toy, then brings it up to her nose as she’s unable to suppress the urge to smell it.

“Why is it minty?” she asks with a look of surprise.

“Menthol lube. For her pleasure,” April says with a grin and makes the T shape with her hand again. “Time in.”

Why Sterling ever thought she could have proper control over April for more than a few minutes, she’ll never know. Still, she’s going to finish what she set out to do--namely, screw her wife so good that she can remind her why she was willing to set aside any kind of relationship with her dad for it.

Man, when she puts it into words, it sounds really bad.

It’s an hour and several rounds later when Sterling feels like she might get carpal tunnel if they keep going, and April thankfully seems okay with stopping.

“Well, that was...something,” April says, turning on her side to face Sterling, who’s trying to recompose herself. “I didn’t know you had it in you, but you’re kinda sexy when you try to boss me around.” She smiles sleepily and has no business looking so gorgeous with sex hair and kiss swollen lips.

Sterling frowns playfully. “‘Try’? You seemed to be pretty in the zone yourself, Mrs. How Do You Want Me.” 

April lightly smacks Sterling’s shoulder with the back of her hand. “I did not say that.”

Sterling shrugs. “Well, it was close enough.”

After a minute where all the sounds in the room are those of the two of them catching their breath, April says, “ didn’t just come in here and have sex with me because you wanted me to stop being mad at you about the stuff with my dad, right?” she asks, and Sterling is honestly offended by her wife’s correct assumption.

“What? Of course not. Babe, I just recognize that I was being a serious butt to you and that’s not what I’m here for. I’m supposed to be supportive of you, my doubles partner for Team Stevens-Wesley.” Sterling says, snuggling up to April under the covers. “And I’m not talking about tennis. Oh no. I’m talking badminton.”

April giggles. “What does that even mean? What’s wrong with tennis?”

“Nothing wrong with it, but I intend on having you as my partner until we’re very old, and I don’t want either of us--probably me because I’m in horrible shape--to break a hip.” Sterling shrugs and inhales, having said all of that in one breath.

April rolls her eyes, but she’s smiling. “You’re so weird.”

“I’m your family,” Sterling says with utmost certainty. “And I also really like having sex with you.”

“I love you, Sterl.” April leans in and kisses her. “And I swear to you that no matter what you may think, I’ll never choose my dad over you ever again. I let that happen before the wedding and it was a mistake, but now you’re stuck with me forever, no matter what my dad and his golddigger-bait new look thinks.” She kisses Sterling again. “Now, will you please go let Bilky back in the room?”

Sterling sighs as she gets up from the bed. “Yes, Dear.” She walks to the door and opens it, finding Bilko lying down on the floor in the hallway, but as soon as he sees the door open, he darts past her into the bedroom and jumps up onto the bed to snuggle with April…on Sterling’s side of the bed.

“Hi, Baby Boy!” April coos in a high-pitched voice, wrapping her arms around him and kissing his head. “I’m sorry Mama Sterling was mean to you.”

Sterling rolls her eyes and gets back into bed, trying not to be bothered by the cat stopping her from enjoying more post-coital cuddles from her wife. “I was not mean to him, I just figured neither you nor him would have wanted him to witness that.”

“Yeah, that’s fair,” April says, kissing Bilko’s head. “Mommy loves you, but she and Mama Sterling need time together too.”

“That’s right.” Sterling reaches over to pet Bilko, who tries to scratch her, forcing her to quickly withdraw her hand. “He hates me.”

She expects April to deny this undeniable fact for the hundredth time, but April just scrunches her face and presses her thumb and forefinger together in front of her nose. “Maybe a liiittle bit.” She kisses the top of Bilko’s head. “But thankfully, I don’t fully take his opinions into consideration.”

“Yeah, thank goodness,” Sterling says, amused, though it’s hard not to find April loving on a small creature--even one who is evil incarnate--to be the most adorable thing she’s ever seen. “And I love you too, by the way,” she says, realizing she didn’t say it back when April said it a few moments ago.

“I know you do,” April says with a yawn. “Good night, Sterl.”

“G’night April,” Sterling replies, using the app on her phone to make sure all of the lights in their house are turned off before she sets it down and allows herself to start to doze off.

Her marriage to April is by no means without complication, but she knows that she can hold on through the storm that is John Stevens and anything else that comes her way. Like spending Christmas with April’s obscenely wealthy family.