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

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If there’s one thing that April will miss about Atlanta--or at least, as much as she can miss it from an hour and fifteen minutes away--it’s the everlasting supply of trendy liberal-owned businesses for things she doesn’t actually need. Because really, who trusts a Republican to know how to make a good pint of small-batch artisanal ice cream? Certainly not April.

“Ugh, this is so good,” Sterling moans as they leave the ice cream shop, which serves as their reward to themselves for officially changing all of their government paperwork to accommodate their new names. She already has ice cream all around her mouth as she practically devours the giant scoop of ice cream that is way too big for the tiny sugar cone it sits on.

“You might wanna slow down there, Babe,” April suggests as she turns Sterling’s head to wipe her mouth with a napkin like she would a small child.

“But I don’t want it to melt,” Sterling argues, going back in for more the second April withdraws her hand.

April rolls her eyes and focuses on her own paper dish of Death By Chocolate, knowing that sometimes you simply must pick your battles in a marriage. “So, what are your plans for the day after this?” she asks, knowing that she personally is having a goodbye hangout with Hannah B. and Ezekiel before she goes to collect the last of her things from her parents' house.

Sterling shrugs. “Probably gonna go home and do some last-minute packing.”

“Sterl, we move to Athens first thing tomorrow morning and you still aren’t packed?” April asks though she shouldn’t be too shocked by this development, seeing as this is the same girl who winged her wedding vows.

“I’m mostly packed,” Sterling says in her own defense. “I’m just still a little undecided when it comes to some of my non-clothes stuff. Like, should I really bring my books when we don’t even own a bookshelf yet?”

“Yes, because we’re buying one at your precious IKEA tomorrow,” April says, knowing that the last thing she wants is to have her car loaded up with boxes the next time they come to Atlanta for church--she’s sure Anderson and Debbie would like for there to be as little clutter as possible remaining in Sterling’s room when they’re gone, and Sterling is the Clutter Queen. “Just pack up everything that’s not too childish.”

“But what about my Switch?” Sterling asks.

“Pack your Switch and all of its games and accessories in a box labeled as such,” April says, this seeming obvious to her, even if she would prefer that Sterling not spend too much on video games while they’re working on their new marriage and towards getting accepted into the pre-law program.

“Wait, you’re telling me that you already have all of your stuff packed?” Sterling asks in disbelief, which April thinks might be a testament to just how much stuff she happens to own.

“Yes, Sterl. It was quite easy since my mom was a dear and packed up most of it when my dad kicked me out,” April reminds her, that dark time in her life being something she’d very much like to put behind her, even if being married is a symptom of all the unrest that it caused in her life.

Sterling finishes her ice cream cone in awkward silence after that, and April can finally enjoy her own.

“Thank you for the ice cream date, Mrs. Stevens-Wesley,” Sterling says once she’s thrown away both of their trash and comes up to give April bunny kisses, which would be a lot cuter if her face wasn’t once again smeared with cake batter ice cream.

“Thank you for changing your name with me, Mrs. Stevens-Wesley,” April replies, unable to not be charmed by the dork she married.

“I’ll see you at the house later?” Sterling asks, backing toward her dad’s hunting truck.

“You know it,” April says, hitting the button to unlock her Lincoln. “Bye, Honey,” she says, giving Sterling a finger-wiggling wave as she gets into the truck and drives off. And the minute she rounds the street corner, April’s smile drops.

“Motherfucker,” April swears to herself, feeling a fresh shock of pain in her pelvic area as she goes around to the trunk to get out her half-drank gallon jug of warm cranberry juice. She feels like a damn alcoholic trying to hide her booze from her loving spouse--except, in this case, swap crippling addiction with the UTI from Hell...better known as Florida. The last thing she wants when they have to move into their new house is for Sterling to coddle her--even if this is all her fault.

She chugs a good ten ounces straight from the jug before returning it to her trunk and getting into her car. Her only saving grace these past couple of days when it comes to not having to tell her wife about her little problem is that neither one of them is too keen on the idea of Anderson and Debbie hearing them having sex in Sterling’s childhood bedroom, and they’re far too busy to make time to do it anywhere else.

April 💍: omw! Should be there in 10.

She texts Hannah B. and Ezekiel before pressing her ignition button and pulling out of there, trying not to think that this constant agony she’s in is not the universe calling her a major slut now that she’s finally had sex. A lot of it.

She probably drives a little faster than necessary to Hannah B’s house, but an unfortunate side effect of her condition is that it means she has approximately…11 minutes before she’ll be on the verge of peeing her pants from drinking that cranberry juice. She’s just fortunate that she is ahead of the five o’clock Friday traffic—or even the 3 o’clock rush of lazy people.

“There’s the married lady!” Ezekiel yells to her the second she parks in front of Hannah B’s house.

“The newly not virgin lady!” April replies with all the enthusiasm she can muster, seeing as a virgin wouldn’t be experiencing what she is. She gets out of her car and is immediately pulled into a hug by Ezekiel, which turns into a group hug when Hannah B. comes out to join them.

“April, we missed you,” Hannah B. says, continuing to hug April tight even after Ezekiel lets go.

“I wasn’t even gone a week,” April reminds her, but the air-constricting hug only continues.

“Yeah but we’re all going to different schools next week in completely different cities, which means I won’t see you long enough before I start missing you again,” Hannah B. explains, and finally lets April go. “But since Luke’s gonna be at UGA with you and Sterling, I’m sure I’ll be visiting sometimes.”

April can’t help but be touched by how much Hannah B. really does care about her, even after all these years of April not always being the nicest to her. “You better set aside time for me on those Athens trips,” she says, trying to maintain her air of queen bee authority, but it’s hard when she’s going to miss these two so much. And she also really has to pee.

Lying between her friends on Hannah B’s backyard trampoline, watching the clouds, April could almost think that no time has passed at all since they first formed their little clique in sixth grade. For different reasons, all three of them were without friends, without status, and without love. But together, they didn’t just find friendship, they found strength in their united front. With April leading the way, always carrying herself with an air that she is and always has been better than everyone else, the three of them were unapproachable, unstoppable, universally loved and despised. It was fabulous.

But with their time together dwindling down, a door is closing on an era. Once April loses her childhood clique and moves in with her wife, it really does seem as if her time as a teenage girl will be over. And that is a bittersweet feeling to contend with.

“So uh, I know you were texting us, but I need to hear it from your lips. How was it?” Ezekiel asks as all three of them continue to look up at the sky, but April knows he’s addressing her.

“Which part?” she asks, turning her head to meet the annoyed eyes of Ezekiel and smirking.

“The sex part, obvi. You’re the only one of us who’s officially broken the lock on her chastity belt—unless you count that time I gave a handjob to Tevin Biggs…” Ezekiel trails off.

“Or me letting Luke touch my boobs,” Hannah B. adds.

April scoffs. “Until either of you have enough sex to get a horribly painful UTI, I am definitely the most experienced one here,” she says, using her more than regrettable trump card.

Ezekiel gasps, both shocked and horrified. “Oh, Sterling best be taking damn good care of you for that.”

“She doesn’t know. I’m just hoping it clears quickly so I never have to tell her. Hence why I’ve been drinking my weight in cranberry juice,” April explains, though saying it out loud, she does recognize that she sounds ridiculous. She just really doesn’t want Sterling to feel bad, seeing as she had a hard enough time with getting Sterling to keep up with her on their honeymoon. The last thing she needs is to give her wife a reason to not have as much sex with her as humanly possible…once April doesn’t feel like her lady parts are trying to actually murder her, of course.

“April, you should really see a doctor. If it’s as bad as you say, then you probably need like…medicine, not juice,” Hannah B. suggests.

Ezekiel nods with great enthusiasm. “Gotta say I agree with HB on this one. The last thing you should be worried about when moving to college with your wife is your nasty-ass coochie.”

“You guys are so nice, you know that?” April says sarcastically, getting out her phone. She’s been putting off her first visit with her new adult woman doctor, but she begrudgingly admits that it’s probably necessary now. And thankfully, she happens to already be on a texting basis with that doctor.

April 💍: Hi Janelle, it’s April Stevens-Wesley from Pastor Booth’s group counseling session? I know this is super last minute but is there any way you can squeeze me in for an appointment like…today? I just got back from my honeymoon and I think I have a UTI.

The few minutes it takes for a response are agony…and not just because April feels like her crotch is on fire.

Dr. Janelle Ames, OB/GYN: Yes, I can fit you in after my last appointment today. Come in around four-thirty. But while we’re at it, I’m looking over your records and it seems you’ve never received your Gardasil HPV vaccinations, and now that you’re sexually active, we should definitely do a Pap smear as well. Are you good with all that?

In truth, no, April just wants a prescription for antibiotics, not for Dr. Janelle to be only the second woman to get intimately acquainted with her vagina. And her mother always insisted that the Gardasil vaccine is for sluts and was unnecessary because April wasn’t going to be sexually active until she was married. Which may have been true, but April realizes it was probably incredibly stupid and shortsighted of her anyway. Teenage boys’ dicks literally cause cancer. They’re a carcinogen.

April 💍: Yeah, I might as well get the works. Thank you, Janelle.

Dr. Janelle Ames, OB/GYN: It’s my pleasure. But while we’re in the office discussing your urinary tract, you should probably stick to calling me Dr. Ames.

April 💍: 👍

“I made a doctor’s appointment for later. Are you happy?” April asks, returning her phone to her side on the trampoline.

“What’s it like being a real adult?” Hannah B. asks, sounding genuinely impressed.

“0/10, would not recommend,” April groans, covering her eyes with her arm as the sun peeks out from the cloud cover.


“Where’s April? Y’all really need to get on the road so you can have enough time to get settled,” Anderson says, looking around for his daughter-in-law after loading another box of Sterling’s things into the back of his hunting truck.

Sterling shrugs, having seen very little of her wife in the last 24 hours or so--she wasn’t aware that April had so many loose ends to tie up in Atlanta, but knowing her, she’s probably got a million reasons for all of it. “I think she went to get stuff from her mom’s house? Which is weird because she supposedly got all of it yesterday.”

“Yeah, well, if I can say anything after being married to your mother for twenty years, it’s that it’s sometimes best to not question things,” Anderson says, loading in another box. “Still though, she’s got y’all’s car so she better not be too long.”

Just as he says this, Sterling sees the Lincoln pull into their driveway. “Speak of the devil and the devil doth appear,” she says to herself, realizing after the fact that she really just provided Blair’s running commentary for her--them being apart really isn’t going too well, but to be fair, this is the longest they’ve been apart since they were born. She crosses the driveway to open April’s door for her once she parks the Lincoln and receives a kiss from her wife in return.

“Thank you, Darling,” April says sweetly, getting out of the car once Sterling steps out of the way.

“Where were you?” Sterling asks, raising an eyebrow.

April frowns. “I told you, I had to go get stuff from my parents’ house,” she says, going to the door behind her own and opening it to reveal quite possibly the most horrifying thing Sterling can imagine.

“April, there is no way in heck-”  Sterling starts to argue when April pulls Sgt. Bilko, secure in his kitty carrier, out of the car, but April isn’t hearing it.

“Sterling, he’s my cat. I can’t just leave him behind,” April says indignantly and holds up the carrier so she can be face to face with Bilko. “Isn’t that right, Baby Boy?” she asks as if she were talking to a real infant.

“Aw, a kitty!” Anderson says as he walks up to join them. “Who’s this handsome man, all white and fluffy like that? What is he?” he asks, sticking his finger through the bars of the carrier and scratching behind Bilko’s ear.

“It doesn’t matter what he is because there is no way we are bringing him home with-” Sterling tries to argue again, but April cuts her off yet again.

“He’s a Turkish Angora. They’re an ancient breed of cat that is responsible for all white-haired cats. Basically, a Persian without being Pug-ified,” April explains to Anderson, who is still completely fixated on the cat.

“He’s beautiful,” Anderson coos. “And Sterling, if I heard right and he’s April’s kitty cat, then obviously y’all gotta take him with you to school.”

“He’s actually been mine since before I even met Sterling,” April supplies, and Sterling really wishes Blair were here, as she’d definitely stand up for her against the fluffy white devil cat being moved into their first home as a married couple. But as it stands, she feels like she is fighting a losing battle with this one.

“Okay, but like, by that logic, I can totally take Chloe too, right?” she asks.

“Well no because Chloe’s chipped under your mother’s name, remember?” Anderson reminds her, and Sterling’s face falls--her last-ditch effort at getting April to take Bilko back to Mary, foiled by her own traitor dad.

“Sterling, I promise you, I’ve been taking care of Bilko on my own all his life and I have no intention of changing that now. All you have to do with him is love him,” April says, holding out the carrier for Sterling to take while she and Anderson go into the house for the last of the boxes.

Sterling sighs deeply and holds up the carrier to make eye contact with her nemesis--who, like a true Eldritch terror, has one blue and one amber eye. “Guess you and I are gonna have to get to know each other a little better, Bilk,” she says, defeated. She’s never in her life been a cat person, but thanks to her wife, she is now one’s stepmother.

Bilko hisses at her.

“Yep, that’s what I thought,” Sterling says, very tired as she returns the carrier to the backseat of the Lincoln, now seeing that along with Bilko himself, April also has loaded the car with essentials like food, a bed, a scratching post, and a whole little wicker basket of toys, all for the fluffy little prince.

She turns to go to the house for a box but is met by April and her deadlifting arms carrying out two stacked on top of each other. “Sterling, you aren’t leaving him in the hot car, are you?” April says, putting the boxes in the truck.

Sterling sighs and nearly rolls her eyes into the back of her skull. “The car isn’t hot because it’s still cool from you blasting the A/C on the way over here,” she points out to April. If this is going to be her life going forward, she has a feeling she’ll be needing a lot of ibuprofen for the headaches.

April groans and comes to take Bilko back out of the car as he yowls. “See? He’s overheating,” she says as Bilko gives Sterling a look that seems to be gloating. She opens the top latch of the carrier and pulls the little furball up out of it, holding him to her shoulder like a baby. “I know, Mama Sterling just doesn’t know how to take care of you yet,” she coos to him and Sterling can hear him start to purr. “Be better, Sterling,” April scolds her and takes Bilko into the house, leaving Sterling to lean against the Lincoln and, for the very first time, question her reasoning for getting married.

When Pastor Booth first tasked Sterling and April with coming up with their 1,10, 20-year plans, she hadn’t anticipated that they’d be moving into their first house within the first year, let alone the first week of their marriage, and yet here they are as they pull up in front of the corner house just two blocks from campus. It’s small but charming, white with black trim and shutters, and a screened-in front porch. The yard and trees surrounding it are a bit overgrown, but that’s to be expected since nobody’s actually been here to take care of it in weeks, if not longer. But still, just seeing it is enough to make Sterling forget all about how mad she is at April for making a unilateral furbaby decision because this is their home.

“Sooo much better than an apartment,” April says giddily as she unbuckles her seatbelt and gets out of the car, getting Bilko from the backseat. “Anderson, it’s beautiful!” she calls to Sterling’s dad as he and Debbie get out of the truck, having followed them here.

“I knew you’d like it,” he says, doing the white dad half-jog over to them, arm outstretched holding a set of keys. “Now, I’m sure I don’t gotta tell you what to do with these, but it might be a good idea to get copies made so that y’all don’t have to be joined at the hip when you leave the house. You want me to take him?” Anderson points at Bilko.

“Sure,” April says, trading the cat for the keys--though unfortunately for Sterling, this won’t be permanent. “Sterl, shall we?” she asks, spinning keyring around her finger and looking toward the house.

Sterling nods enthusiastically, following April up the pathway to the porch, but puts a hand on April’s shoulder to stop her before they go up the steps. “Hold on, I want to do this right since you got me the last time,” Sterling says, knowing that she would like more than anything to carry her beautiful, crazy, sometimes infuriating wife over the threshold of their very first home together. Though April gives her a look of doubt.

“I’m not sure I want to risk you dropping me with your noodle arms,” she says, and Sterling can’t exactly say she’s wrong in her concerns.

“Well, okay, then hop on,” Sterling says, improvising by turning her back to April and crouching down.

“Quote Twilight and I will kill you,” April threatens as she climbs on Sterling to be carried piggyback up onto the porch, where Sterling briefly sets her down to unlock the door before she picks her back up again and carries her into the house.

It still smells like fresh paint, which is the first thing Sterling notices, followed immediately by the fact that it is hands down the smallest house she thinks she’s ever stepped foot in, outside of the trailer Dana kept her in that one time. And it’s all theirs.

“Oooh, hardwood,” April says when Sterling puts her back down. “Anderson, did they tell you what year the house is?” she asks when Anderson and Debbie follow them into the house with a few grocery bags.

“1957, so don’t be licking any chipping paint,” Debbie supplies, directing this statement entirely at Sterling, which is just plain offensive--she hasn’t licked paint in years, and that was only on a bet from Blair. “But Anderson had the place thoroughly inspected and repaired accordingly, so y’all shouldn’t run into any safety hazards.”

“Well that’s...comforting,” April says, looking around with a smile on her face, but Sterling can see in her eyes that in this small house, she is seeing her grand Pottery Barn design plans go up in flames. Though if she’s still dead set on Pottery Barn, Sterling guesses it wouldn’t take too much to fill the whole house. “And you said you wouldn’t mind me doing some additional renovations?” April asks as she walks into the kitchen, still perfectly audible.

“Not at all. In fact, I’d prefer it. More resale value and more money for y’all when you move on from here in a few years,” Anderson says, motioning for Sterling to join him in following April to the kitchen, which has appliances that look like they might be older than half the people in the house.

“There’s potential,” April says, putting her hand on the wall above the stove. Her being the optimistic one about this is surprising, considering the fact that she’s generally an enormous snob—and Sterling says that from a place of love. “I’m thinking a nice tile backsplash.”

“April, I don’t think I could ever tell you enough how glad I am to have you as my daughter-in-law,” Debbie says with all the sincerity in the world, having finally found a kindred spirit in April--at least when it comes to home design. “Sterling, do you want to be helpful and put these groceries away while we get more of y’all’s things out of the truck?”

Sterling nods and gets to work, thinking this will be an easy task until she’s confronted by the terrifying reality of being the one who establishes where things are to go in the empty cabinets and fridge. It’s such a responsibility...that she also shouldn’t worry about too much, considering that April will surely rearrange them if she isn’t satisfied. Still, though, she feels that she should be a little offended that her parents and April apparently have so little faith in her when it comes to carrying in the heavy boxes--some of which are still unopened wedding presents. April brings one of those into the kitchen and sets it on the counter before tearing into the elegant white wrapping paper and revealing a set of dishes.

“You know, as much as I appreciate the registry gifts, I have to say that there’s something lost when you know exactly what you’re going to get,” Sterling says, coming up behind April to look at the set, which is the exact one they picked out together at Williams-Sonoma.

April frowns. “That’s...kinda the whole point of a registry, Sterl,” she says, opening the box and removing the protective packaging.

“I know that, but surprises are fun,” Sterling says, following behind April as her wife decides where their dishes are to go.

“Surprises would lead to us getting Pioneer Woman Walmart dishes from your Uncle Deacon instead of the lovely Williams-Sonoma Pantry Dinnerware Collection,” April says, sounding like an infomercial as she holds up one of the nice white plates for emphasis. “Now, if you want to finish unpacking this, I have to go get Bilky settled in the laundry room until we’re done bringing stuff in from the car. He got outside once in his life and it was a truly traumatizing experience for the both of us.”

“Oh, I bet,” Sterling grumbles, still cranky about the whole cat situation. She never wanted one at all, let alone one that already hates her. But this is her life now. With April, she signed up for endless name brands, and not being properly consulted when it comes to major things like pets. Because really, that’s part of marriage. Sterling married April despite the wide range of things about her that are truly irritating, and April offered her the same courtesy in return.

But that doesn’t mean Sterling doesn’t have the right to be mad.

“Hey Princess, where do you want this?” Anderson asks, coming in with the gun safe that he was smart enough to bring a hand truck for.

Sterling’s just about to answer that it would be best kept in the back of their bedroom closet when April turns around to see what exactly her father-in-law is referring to.

“What’s that?” April asks, raising an eyebrow.

“A safe,” Sterling replies, though Blair’s spirit has her desperately wanting to answer with a certain iCarly quote. Either way, she knows April is bound to not take this very well, but hey, serves her right for the cat thing.

“For her guns,” Anderson adds helpfully. “Bedroom closet like at home?”

“Uh, yeah,” Sterling replies and her father proceeds to wheel it into the bedroom while Sterling is left to deal with her outraged wife.

Hands on the hips and wide-eyed with a tapping foot waiting for an explanation, April is not the least bit pleased. “Excuse me, but please tell me that you did not just have your dad put a box full of deadly weapons in our bedroom, where we sleep.”

Sterling shakes her head. “Of course not. The guns are still in their carrying cases in the truck,” she explains like the responsible, licensed gun owner that she is. But April hardly seems impressed with this answer.

“Sterling Stevens-Wesley, I really feel like you bringing guns into our home is something we should have discussed prior to move-in day. I don’t want them anywhere near me.” For someone with a father who himself carries a gun on his person, April seems to be pretty unswayable from her stance. And Sterling can't help but notice that April wields that new 'Stevens' in her name like a weapon.

“You told me to pack everything I own that isn’t childish, and these guns are mine. They’re to protect both of us if something were to happen, but more importantly, I like having them. So if you get to unilaterally decide that we are going to co-parent your cat going forward, then I get my guns,” Sterling argues, refusing to back down from this.

“They’re unnecessary and more importantly, they’re dangerous,” April argues, refusing to take Sterling’s low road bait. “I can deal with you hunting and slaughtering animals, I can even deal with you being an armed bounty hunter like you’re fucking Pedro Pascal. But I would very much prefer for you to not have your arsenal in our house.”

“It’s not an arsenal, it’s like wait, six guns. Six guns are not that much and I’m locking them in a safe separate from their ammo. C’mon, don’t be like this.” In truth, if Sterling had known ahead of time that this would be such an issue, she might have been more open to bringing only one gun instead of her whole small collection. But April just had to go and tick her off, and in all fairness, she now looks equally pissed.

“Fine, you can have your stupid guns, but they better stay locked away or I swear to God, Sterling…” April hardly seems to be satisfied with this compromise, but then, Sterling knows that April is not great at not getting what she wants.

“...You know I carry a gun on me like...most of the time, right?” Sterling asks, feeling like none of this should be all that surprising to April, who has literally seen her shoot the tires of a pink Caddy at a moment’s notice.

“Not anymore, you don’t. That’s for damn sure,” April says definitively before going out to get more boxes.

“If we’re getting the four-poster bed, then I think we need to cut costs when it comes to the dresser and nightstands,” Sterling says, trying to be practical about this since April’s dad has yet to actually prove he’ll be reinstating her allowance, so they probably shouldn’t burn through all of their wedding present money in case they need an emergency fund for essentials like food or Hulu Live.

“Sterl, we are not getting the Malm. It’s ugly and the Hemnes is bigger with more drawers for only an extra hundred dollars,” April argues, which is basically all she’s done since they’ve been in IKEA--when she’s not grumbling about why they’re even here in the first place, that is. “Besides, our bedroom can literally only fit the queen bed, nightstands, and dresser, so we might as well furnish it with four decent pieces of furniture rather than one good bed and three minimalist nightmares.” 

“Oh, so you do admit that the furniture is decent?” Sterling asks smugly, feeling like she’s achieved a small victory considering the things April’s been saying for the past hour.

“Decent is not good. Decent is decent and that’s the Hemnes and the Yttervag--which is just awful, by the way. This is America, give things names in English,” April says, reminding Sterling that this is indeed the girl who once helped lead the Young Republicans.

“Wow, you sound so much like your dad right now,” Sterling says, knowing this is probably crossing a major line but it also isn’t untrue.

April gasps. “You take that back right now.”

Sterling makes a show of pretending to consider this request before shrugging. “Yeah, no.” She can see that this has genuinely struck a nerve in April, and the part of her that deeply loves her wife knows that comparing her to John Stevens is a major line crossed. But Sterling is annoyed...and hangry. This is taking way too long and she just wants meatballs.

“We’re getting the Hemnes,” April says firmly, penciling it onto the order card. “But, you know, all of this would be a moot point if I made one phone call to my aunt. We’d be decked out in wall to wall free furniture.”

Sterling would argue that April’s Aunt Franny seems like someone who will make you pay in other ways. “Yeah, like the allowance you’re getting from your dad is free money, right? There aren’t any strings attached at all.”

“Don’t be like that. My aunt loves me and she loves you too,” April says, leading them out of the bedroom area.

“Does she? Because I feel like I’m sort of irrelevant, it’s just all about you,” Sterling argues, marveling at how fast her wife manages to walk with such short legs as she struggles to keep up.

“Well, yes, she’s my aunt. Just like I know for certain that your aunt and uncle like you a lot more than me. It’s just how things work,” April says, looking over the list for anything they’ve missed, but the bedroom was the last room that they had to furnish--it immediately followed the two of them bickering over the Uppland chaise sofa in the living room, when Sterling had to put her foot down over paying an extra $150 for the same exact thing in a slightly different shade of beige. “But if having thousands of dollars worth of Ikea furniture is what will make you happy, then so be it, Sterling.”

Sterling has come to find that, in most settings, it isn’t a good thing when April uses her whole first name like that. “It will make me happy, and I’m still agreeing to the Pottery Barn coffee table, am I not?”

“I guess,” April says, seeming to give up on this fight, which isn’t as satisfying to win as Sterling thought it would be.

“...Can we get meatballs on the way out?” Sterling asks, actually a bit relieved when April chuckles at the request.

“Why anyone would trust food from a furniture store, I will never know.”

“No, no, no. Leg A is supposed to attach to this part here like so,” April directs Sterling as they sit on their living room floor, assembling the (absolutely pointless) TV stand for a TV that they do not own. She tosses the instructions at Sterling to look at while she turns to stab a meatball in her to-go box and dunks it in the lingonberry jam, which Sterling is pretty sure would qualify as grounds for divorce if she felt so inclined.

Sterling looks over the diagram again, feeling all the more justified in how she was attaching the leg before, but she figures she’ll give April’s method a try, seeing as they’ve made very little progress so far. “So uh, we’re definitely going to be having to do this for the whole rest of the weekend, right?”

“Yep,” April says, popping the 'P' at the end of that word smugly. “The drawbacks of getting our furniture in pieces.” She continues eating her meatballs--which she seems to be enjoying a lot for being furniture store food--while Sterling grumbles to herself and continues working. This is especially frustrating, seeing as April has always been the handy one in this relationship, and she’s choosing to punish Sterling by offering her the bare minimum of help. Sterling can hardly believe that this is the same woman who she was so happy to marry a week ago. And yet, they’ve somehow turned into an old married couple before the ink on their license is even dry.

Sterling continues working in silence, irritated beyond measure when April turns out to be entirely correct about the stupid leg attachment. And honestly, a part of her wonders if they’re both feeling particularly irritable due to making it a full 48 hours without sex—or maybe that’s just her. “So uh, where exactly are we sleeping tonight, if the bed isn’t getting delivered until tomorrow?” It’s an innocent question with entirely un-innocent motivation behind it.

“On our mattress on the floor, like heathens,” April says, sounding not exactly pleased about this. “But at least it’s a Saatva--and was bought for us by my Uncle Bill. Which is really weird, come to think of it.” She makes a face and continues eating as Bilko trots out to join them from wherever he was lurking in the house.

“Keep him away from the losable parts, please,” Sterling says, hurrying to secure her pile of screws.

“I am, I am,” April says exasperatedly, setting down her to-go box and pulling Bilko into her lap before he can start playing kitty hockey. 

He yowls a sound of protest before settling into April’s arms, and Sterling can eventually hear him start to purr.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about this sooner,” April says, her apology coming out of nowhere and taking Sterling completely by surprise—the words ‘I’m sorry’ aren’t usually a part of her vocabulary. April looks down at Bilko as she scratches behind his ears, causing him to close his eyes with a look of complete contentment. “I just love him a lot and I know my mom…doesn’t. But if you really don’t want him here, I can take him back there tomorrow.” April looks as if she’s about to cry when she says this, and in any other circumstance, Sterling knows that this would be a blatant manipulation tactic. But Sterling knows her wife and therefore knows how much she’s loved this cat since the day she got him, so her show of emotion has to be at least a fraction genuine, if not completely.

Nobody can ever say that Sterling isn’t desperately in love. “You don’t have to take him back,” she says, giving in faster than her Uncle Deacon on a diet. She isn’t crazy about Bilko, but the one thing she can’t possibly abide is being the cause of genuine unhappiness in April (as opposed to just being a nuisance).

“Really?” April asks, an adorable crooked grin on her face that reminds Sterling exactly why she married her—it was for this heart-skipping feeling inside her that she experiences when she feels the happiness of someone else just as strongly as if it were her own.

Sterling makes a show of being put out as she sighs and looks at Bilko perfectly content in his ‘Mommy’s’ (as April calls herself) lap. “Yes, really. He’s yours; I can’t just make you give him up.”

April puts Bilko on the floor so she can lean over the pieces of their TV stand to kiss Sterling firmly on the lips. “Thank you. Really, you have no idea how much this means to me.”

Really, Sterling does. Which only makes her feel like more of a jerk for even putting up this much of a fight in the first place. “You don’t have to thank me,” she says nonchalantly, figuring at the very least that Bilko will be her wife’s responsibility, and at the most, she’ll have to give him fresh water every once in a while. A very small price to pay for the happiness of the woman she loves more than all but one other person out of almost 8 billion.

“Sterl, do you wanna try some of this moisturizer?” April calls from the bathroom just as Sterling has started to get herself settled into bed—well, their mattress on the floor with their new expensive sheets on it. “It’s crazy expensive and makes your face smell like rain.”

Sterling chuckles, marveling about how in just two short years, she’s managed to go from being constantly annoyed by April’s need to flaunt her wealth, to being more amused by it than anything. It’s ridiculous what people’s addictions to homophobic chicken sandwiches can buy. 

“Sure,” she says, getting up from the bed and going to their house’s one bathroom, where April is standing in front of the mirror in a nightie so short that it barely covers her butt. She really does seem to have an endless supply of sexy pajamas, and Sterling has to wonder if she bought these for their marriage or if she’s actually been sleeping alone like this for all the time they’ve been together.

Sterling’s not sure which option she enjoys the thought of more.

“Here,” April says, dipping her fingertip into the moisturizer and coming over to smear it over Sterling’s t-zone while whispering to herself, “Simbaaa.”

Sterling laughs, unsure how April managed that with a straight face, which falls apart completely as she bursts into a fit of giggles. April really is a lot goofier than anyone will ever know. “Was that your motive all along?” Sterling asks, making a show of being unamused as April rubs the cream in.

“Maybe.” April shrugs. “Or maybe I just want to make sure you age gracefully along with me. Wouldn’t want people to think I’m your trophy wife in thirty years.”

Sterling rolls her eyes. “As if they don’t already think that now.” My, how things have changed between them since just this afternoon.

“Aren’t you suave?” April seems genuinely impressed by the speed at which Sterling came up with that one, and really, she should be. “Did you get the bed made?”

“Uh-huh,” Sterling says as April finishes with her face and goes to the sink to wash her hands. “So uh,” she starts, coming up behind her wife and wrapping her arms around her midsection, resting her head on her shoulder. “New mattress. New marriage. Think we should…uh…break it in? At least we know my parents can’t hear us.” Sterling has never been one to be good about suggesting anyone should have sex with her; she’s much better with actions, in that regard. Heck, even with Luke, all the talk was flimsy excuses, not flat-out requests.

But Sterling desperately wants this. They haven’t been able to have sex in almost 72 hours, which is a new record for their marriage, and Sterling can’t say she wants to extend it. Even at her most infuriating, April is still smoking hot and great at whatever she puts her mind to. 

“I’d really love to,” April says, and that’s all Sterling needs to push her hair aside and start kissing at her neck. “But we can’t.” These words shatter Sterling’s dreams and confuse her all at once as she pulls back. 

“Why can’t we?” Sterling asks, worried that something might be wrong. Or worse, worried that April doesn’t actually like making love with her. It’s sort of expected on a honeymoon, but maybe now that they’re properly settling into the married lifestyle, they’re properly settling into it. Or maybe Sterling is just overthinking it.

April sighs and seems to purposely avoid eye contact with Sterling as she struggles to find the words. “I may have a very mild-” she mumbles the rest of that sentence inaudibly, and Sterling tilts her head to the side curiously, frowning.

“I’m sorry, you have a mild what?” Sterling asks, noting just how embarrassed her wife is about this.

“I have a UTI,” April admits, then buries her face in her hands like she has something to be ashamed of.

Sterling shakes her head, finding it ridiculous that April could be ashamed of herself when she should clearly be blaming her wife right about now. “Oh my god, April, I’m so sorry,” she says, her entire mood quickly shifting away from being amorous to being the nasty jerk who did this to her beautiful wife, and who now needs to do everything in her power to make April feel better. She knows for certain that Blair’s still not forgiven Chase Colton for the one she got over the summer—though a UTI is preferable to what Miles gave her, and Sterling can only be grateful that she at least doesn’t have to worry about that with April (outside of a legit miracle).

April shakes her head exasperatedly. “Sterl, it’s not your fault. A UTI isn’t an STD, it’s merely a consequence of all the fun we were having on our honeymoon without taking all the necessary precautions to prevent it.” She’s making a show of seeing this through a lens of practicality, but Sterling knows her wife far too well for that to work on her.

“Does it hurt?” Sterling asks with all the sympathy in the world as she reaches down to place a gentle hand on April’s lower stomach.

Almost immediately, April drops all pretenses of seeming fine. “It hurts so bad I would easily believe this is God finally punishing me for one of my many, many sins. He saw how happy being married to you makes me, and decided to put a damper on that by making my urethra try to kill me. But I got antibiotics from my new gynecologist and it should clear up in a few days.”

Sterling is having trouble processing all of that at once but she’s pretty sure she got the most important part of all, which is that her wife has been in pain and will get better, but in the meantime… “Oh, poor baby,” Sterling coos, pulling April in for a tight hug. “I’m so sorry you’ve been going through that. Why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve…I don’t know, taken care of you and not been such a jerk at IKEA.”

“I didn’t want you to get unnecessarily worked up. Overreacting is my job, remember?” April’s candid moment of self-deprecating humor is a major breath of fresh air after this hell day they’ve had up to now. “Besides, I didn’t want to add any more stress to moving when I knew you’d hate bringing Bilko.”

“So you did plan on that,” Sterling says, catching April in a white lie that she’d already suspected.

“Nothing gets past you, Miss Bounty Hunter,” April chuckles. “Really, I am sorry that you aren’t happy with the situation. But I promise you that he’ll grow on you once you get used to each other. He really is just a little fluffy sweetheart.”

“That remains to be seen,” Sterling says stubbornly. “Anyway, since you’re busy healing, I’m going to need you to cuddle with me to make up for it.”

April rolls her eyes before following Sterling into the bedroom. “As if you even need to ask for that.” She crawls under the covers with Sterling and is quick to turn on her side and pull Sterling in close. “You know, just because I’m not up to being touched tonight doesn’t mean I can’t take care of you.”

Sterling very desperately wants to take April up on that offer—just the thought of her fingers or her mouth have Sterling feeling her pulse in places where she normally couldn’t—but she’s still got some lingering guilt for causing her wife to get an infection, and she’s not sure her conscience would allow her to fully enjoy getting some one-sided pleasure from her wife tonight. This is not to say that she isn’t fully planning on taking care of any lingering frustration herself once April’s asleep.

“You don’t have to,” Sterling declines, shaking her head. “I’d rather wait until we can both enjoy making love again.”

April groans. “Have I told you how much I despise you calling it that?”

Sterling rolls her eyes, knowing it really only comes down to semantics with April and doesn’t go any deeper. “It’s a physical expression of my love for you and vice versa. It’s making love, and calling it anything else feels…impersonal. You’re my wife.”

April clears her throat and sits up a bit, resting her head on her hand. “Rebuttal. Major rebuttal. My wanting to call a physical act that we take part in as wife and wife by its more direct name does not imply that I think it’s any less special or romantic. Why do you think I waited to do it until our wedding night? However, what my opponent fails to address is that my love for you has existed for a lot longer than I’ve been having sex with you, which would strongly suggest that the two things are not mutually exclusive in the slightest. And ‘ lovemaking’ is a gross word and sex with you is…not gross.”

Sterling can’t help but be amused at how quickly this has turned into a legitimate debate, and for that reason, she isn’t backing down just yet. April should have never turned her into such a master debater. “Ordinarily, you can separate sex acts from feelings for someone, but that’s due to the fact that we humans as mammals experience certain urges for the purposes of reproduction and the continuation of our species. But seeing as you and I are, unfortunately, incapable of reproducing sexually, our lovemaking is exactly that. An expression of our love.”

“I’d hardly consider that unfortunate. But seriously, Sterl? You’re gonna go all Noah’s Ark to justify being a total sap?” April at least seems amused by all of this—the last thing Sterling would want is a real argument over something this dumb. “I’m just saying that someone who fucks as well as you do should avoid terminology that makes it sound…boring.”

Sterling smirks, finding April’s crude but very flattering opinion to be incredibly sexy in a dirty sort of way...which is pretty unhelpful at the moment, seeing as she can’t exactly show off those skills tonight. Though that won’t stop her from teasing April just a little. “Boring, you say?” she asks playfully before she’s suddenly rolling over on top of April and pinning her arms above her head.

“Sterling, what are you doing?” April squeals in surprise but doesn’t seem necessarily upset by this turn of events. At least not until Sterling initiates a tickle attack, the likes of which an only child like April has never seen. “No, no, no, stop it!” she says between fits of giggles, struggling against Sterling, who is unrelenting until April frees one of her arms and punches Sterling square in the breast, doubling her over on the bed.

“Mother F!” Sterling almost swears as she doubles over on the bed, holding her poor abused boob.

“I didn’t want to have to do that, but you forced my hand,” April says unapologetically as she catches her breath and recovers from the tickle attack, reaching over to turn off the light from their one IKEA lamp on the floor. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m good,” Sterling says, nodding and settling into bed. “Nice debate.”

“Thank you. You had a better argument for pro-lovemaking than I thought you would,” April concedes. “Sorry if I hurt you, but for future reference, I don’t like to be tickled.”

“Yep. I got that,” Sterling says, nodding uselessly in the dark. “You wanna go out to breakfast in the morning?”

“Love to,” April agrees just as their cracked open bedroom door is pushed a little wider, and Bilko comes in to join them, lying down by April’s feet.

Sterling sighs and turns over on her sleep side, figuring that she and April will be able to more properly hash out tonight’s debate in a rematch in a few days, and something tells her it will end with April out of breath for another reason entirely. “‘Night, Babe.”

“Goodnight, Honey.”

Sterling closes her eyes and waits for sleep to take her, which it almost fully does in just a few moments. But then April is gently shaking her awake by her shoulder.

“Sterl? Did you lock the front door?” April asks in a whisper, though for whose benefit, Sterling doesn’t know.

“Mmhm,” Sterling replies sleepily.

“And the deadbolt?” April adds, forcing Sterling to groan as she gets out of bed, knowing April will not possibly let her sleep until she can assure her that the house is fully secure. “I love you,” April calls after her in the dark as Sterling grabs the metal peewee softball bat from the corner, just to be on the safe side.

“I know,” Sterling grumbles, knowing the kind of reaction that’ll get her.

April giggles. “Oh, give me a few days and I am going to ravage you so hard.”

“Counting on it,” Sterling calls from the hallway and heads to the front door to lock it.

Chapter Text


April awakens approximately ten minutes before her phone’s alarm is due to go off on Monday. Ordinarily, something like that would be enough to ruin her whole morning, but on an important day like today, she can’t complain about the extra minutes she now has to get ready.

Before crawling out of their newly-assembled bed, April leans over to place a feather-light kiss on her wife’s forehead, making sure not to wake her just yet. Then she’s getting up and heading out to the living room, Bilko hot on her heels trilling a greeting.

“Good morning to you too, Baby Boy,” April coos, stopping to kneel down and scratch behind his ears, then down his spine to the spot just above his tail, which nearly has him face planting— it's his favorite spot. “Are you hungry?” April asks, and though she doesn’t need a response, Bilko meows at her anyway. He really is a smart little boy and he prances behind her to the laundry room, where she fills his food bowl with kibble and refreshes his water. “Are you happy here?” she asks, petting him while he starts to chow down on his breakfast.

Sighing contentedly, April returns to her own morning tasks, going back to her and Sterling’s room to pick out an outfit for the first day of classes—and ultimately settling on a button-up blouse tucked into a skirt that isn’t completely unlike what she would have worn to Willingham. Some habits never die, and she’s also fully aware of how good her legs look in a pencil skirt.

With that settled, she goes to the bathroom to shower, trying her best to not criticize the dated faucet taking approximately a million years to produce hot water—she’s in no position to complain about her free house, but she really should get to work on those renovations sooner rather than later. She just envisions the kind of improvement she could achieve with new appliances and sanding and refinishing the hardwood floors as she showers. She knows the house is just barely bigger than the dollhouses she would play with as a kid, but that doesn’t mean she can’t make it pretty.

April’s still thinking about the pros and cons of stainless steel as she gets out of the shower, drying herself before running a brush through her still wet hair, and then finally taking her antibiotics from the medicine cabinet. Her UTI has probably mostly cleared by now, but she’s still too smart to not take all of her antibiotics and invite every superbug into her body.

When April returns to the bedroom, Sterling groans from the bed and turns over, pulling the covers over her face to block out the light. She’s clearly awake, but if she doesn’t get out of bed soon, she isn’t going to have much time to make herself presentable for their first class, and that’s hardly the kind of first impression April wants them to make...because Lord knows her wife is a reflection on her.

Deciding that it’ll save them both some frustration, after she gets dressed, April goes to Sterling’s side of the dresser and puts together an outfit for her as well, which she sets on the edge of the bed before returning to the kitchen and halving a blueberry bagel to toss into their shiny new toaster. “Sterl, do you want plain or strawberry cream cheese?” she calls in Sterling's direction but is met with zero response. Sighing, she returns to the bedroom, finding Sterling exactly as she left her, but her face has been uncovered.

Drooling Princess Anna memes come to mind, but April is operating on too tight of a schedule to take any enjoyment out of it. “Sterling? Come on, Honey, it’s time to get up,” she says sweetly, going over to gently shake Sterling--who has started to quietly snore--awake.

“What?” Sterling says without opening her eyes, sounding confused. “It’s summer.” She turns over onto her stomach.

“It’s the first day of our first semester of college, Darling, and I’m going to need you to get your cute little butt moving or I’m going to class without you,” April says, pulling back the covers and exposing Sterling’s panties-clad ass.

Sterling whines into the mattress.

“Come on, I picked out your outfit and everything. I just need you to shower,” April says, and that seems to awaken something in Sterling, who turns over with a smirk on her face.

“Would you care to join me in the shower, Mrs. Stevens-Wesley?”

April rolls her eyes. “I’m already dressed. But play your cards right, and I just might be up to some fun later. But you have to get up.” April punctuates that sentence by smacking Sterling on the butt and heading back into the kitchen, where she gets the lightly toasted bagels from the toaster and proceeds to add strawberry cream cheese to both. She’s thankful when she hears the shower running, though she has to wonder exactly how clean Sterling manages to get when she emerges from the bathroom, one towel wrapped around herself and another on her head, not even five minutes later. If they had the time to spare, April might be tempted to send her right back in, but as it is, she’ll just have to trust that Sterling at least had the time to get the important spots.

“Outfit’s on the bed,” April calls to her and continues to prepare their breakfast, getting orange juice from the fridge and pouring it into two to-go cups. She can’t help but take complete and utter joy in the domesticity of it all. And maybe that has to do with years of brainwashing on her parents’ part so that she would eventually be the perfect housewife to a Republican senator or something, but when she’s married to Sterling, it just feels...right. My, it’s funny how things turn out.

Sterling emerges a few minutes later, expertly putting her still-wet hair in a French braid that April has to admit looks great with the outfit she picked out for her—an untucked short-sleeve button-down and capris. It was intended to coordinate with April’s in style while being slightly more butched-up. “Thanks for the help, Babe. I was actually kind of stressing over having to actually pick out clothes for school.”

April chuckles, understanding that struggle after having gone to a religious private school since preschool. Shifting away from only having five or so outfits to choose from would be terrifying for her if she didn’t love clothes as much as she does. “I was glad to be of assistance. I can continue doing it if you’d like?” This prospect is actually quite exciting for her, as it would basically guarantee that she can ensure her gorgeous wife looks her best every day—and more importantly, doesn’t clash with her. Though she is only able to offer up this suggestion with her dear sister-in-law being hundreds of miles away, as she’s sure Blair would have something to say about dressing and accessorizing Sterling like the Ken to her Barbie.

“You’d do that?” Sterling asks, raising an eyebrow. “I mean, I don’t want to put any extra work on you, but if you’re sure…”

“I’m positive. It’s really no trouble at all—except maybe don’t tell your sister.”

Sterling seems horrified at even the prospect. “Oh God, no. She’d never let me live it down. This stays between us.” She gestures between them after finishing with her hair. “Now, did I hear you mention strawberry cream cheese bagels earlier, or was I dreaming?”

April smiles and picks up Sterling’s bagel from her plate, holding it up and feeding it to her.

Sterling takes it into her own hand after the first bite. “Mmm, you’re an absolute angel,” she moans.

“Well, I have to take care of my wife. It’s kind of my job now,” April says, leaning back against the kitchen counter. She knows that she’s more than fine with all of this 1950s wifely duties stuff only because Sterling doesn’t actually need to be taken care of. The joys of not being married to a useless man.

“So what’s my job, then?” Sterling asks curiously.

April shrugs nonchalantly and gives her the God’s honest truth. “Satisfying me sexually.”

Sterling almost chokes on her orange juice she was sipping. “I um…I’ll do my best?”

“You better,” April smirks and takes great satisfaction in still being able to make her wife blush so fiercely. “But we should take this all with us if we don’t want to be late for-” April gets their printed class schedules from where she set them near their to-go cups. “-Principles of Macroeconomics, honors.”

“Ew,” Sterling says, making a face. “Why are we taking that again?”

“Because it’s a prerequisite for a prerequisite for economic analysis of law, which is a class we’ll likely want to take at some point as undergrads. Especially if you plan on working for your dad eventually,” April explains, though it hardly seems to brighten Sterling’s mood. “I promise I’ll be the best study buddy you’ve ever had.”

“Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” Sterling asks flirtingly. “But you’re right, this says it starts in like a half-hour and we have a little bit of a walk…ooh, you know what we should do? Get recumbent bikes.”

April rolls her eyes but can’t help being endeared to this dork. “Something to consider. In the meantime, we best be off.” She grabs her breakfast and gets her new school bag from near the door, putting it on as she holds her bagel in her mouth.

“Sooo, sexy,” Sterling says mockingly and grabs her stuff along with her set of keys.

Sitting next to Sterling in a classroom is nothing new to April—she’s been doing it well over half her life at this point. But she realizes when they take seats next to each other in the lecture hall that this is the first time they’re doing it as the Stevens-Wesley family unit.

“Babe, did you bring an extra pen?” Sterling whispers as their professor—a stern-looking old man by the name of Dr. Hearst—enters the classroom, along with a ridiculously good-looking Asian guy (April is gay, not blind) who looks like he might be a few years older than this classroom of bright-eyed freshmen.

April sighs and gives Sterling her own pen before pulling out another for herself, along with the spiral notebook she’s dedicated to this class—green, for money.

“Welcome, everyone. I trust you all had a fine summer. And if not, I can’t say I really care,” Dr. Hearst says as the handsome guy begins setting up the computer and projector and chuckles at the professor’s joke—though he’s the only one. “Dennis, what are you laughing at? Nobody likes a kissass.” That earns the laughter of everyone, including April, who thinks that she’s already fond of this cranky old man.

“College is so cool,” Sterling whispers.

“Anyway, best to not beat around the bush. Hello, my name is Dr. Everett Hearst. You may call me Dr. Hearst until you earn your own Ph.D., at which point you may call me Everett. The young man you see over there with the computer is my teaching assistant, Dennis Wu. If any of you ever have any complaints about grades, please see him.”

“Thank you for that,” Dennis says, rolling his eyes. “Dr. Hearst, I think it’s time for us to take attendance before we go over the syllabus.”

“Right, right,” the professor agrees as he gets a clipboard from his desk and begins reading off the names of the class in alphabetical order by last name. By the time he gets to S, Sterling has begun to doodle in her notebook, but thankfully, they now have the same last name. “April Stevens-Wesley?” Hearst calls.

April proudly raises her hand and clearly says, “Here,” before lightly elbowing Sterling to pay attention.

“Okay, and-oh? Sterling Stevens-Wesley?” Dr. Hearst reads the name and proceeds to look up to where Sterling and April are seated as Sterling quietly raises her hand—she’s always been notoriously shy on the first day of school. “Let me guess: sisters with liberal parents?” Dr. Hearst asks, amused.

April shakes her head and corrects him. “No, Sir. We’re married.” While it feels so incredibly good to say it, it’s also a bit annoying that she has to. Though giving the professor the benefit of the doubt, she guesses their ages might have as much to do with his assumption as their shared last name.

“Really? Fascinating…” Dr. Hearst says, seeming interested for all of three seconds, then continues on with attendance. April has to wonder if that’s just how Everett Hearst naturally is, or if it’s merely a consequence of tenured job security. Or maybe he’s just a dick.

“You know that musical Rent that you showed me?” Sterling whispers as she leans in.

April has to stifle her laughter, both at the fact that they really just had their own ‘hey mister, she’s my sister’ moment, and that Sterling actually made that reference just now. She’s so proud.

However, from then on, the class is fairly boring. As is typically the case on the first day of the semester, 99% of the class is dedicated entirely to going over the syllabus. While none of the subject matter they’re to learn about sounds very exciting, April takes note of the fact that Dennis the TA keeps glancing at her and Sterling, and she wonders if he’s been doing that to the rest of the class as well, but this is proven untrue as soon as they’re dismissed.

“Hey ladies, hold up,” Dennis calls after April and Sterling as they head out of the building and to their next classes, which they’d previously decided would not be together—or rather, April had decided. Sterling was wary about meeting new friends without a safety net.

“Did we forget something?” April asks as they turn to face him. She really hopes he’s not about to proposition them for a threesome, but that’s unfortunately what her glass half empty mind has designated as option B.

Dennis shakes his head. “I’m just gonna assume that if you two are married, you’re LGBT, yeah?”

“Nah, we got married for the tax benefits,” Sterling says sarcastically and snorts. “But seriously, yes, we are.”

“I’m an L, she’s a B,” April says, pointing between them. “Why do you ask?”

Dennis reaches into his messenger bag and pulls out a rainbow-designed flyer, handing it to April. “I was going to ask if you two are busy tonight because if not, we’d love to have you at the LGBT Student Union mixer,” he explains as April reads over the flyer.

“Is it like a Gay-Straight Alliance? Because our high school had something…similar to that,” Sterling says, looking at April pointedly.

April rolls her eyes, knowing she’s never going to live that down. Though in her defense, she’s fairly certain that at least a third of its members were also closeted (whether they were at a point of acceptance for that or not).

“Oh yeah, it’s basically the same thing. We just kinda...strongly discourage bringing along any straights,” Dennis says, shrugging and taking April a bit off guard. Admittedly, her gaydar hadn’t gone off for him, though not every gay man pings from outer space like Ezekiel. Dennis with his muscles and confident masculinity is probably as far from Ezekiel as he could get. “They can be with whoever they want, I just don’t agree with their lifestyle choices.”

April laughs, having never actually experienced legit heterophobia--jokingly or otherwise--anywhere outside of her own thoughts before, but she likes it. A lot. And she's never one to turn down an extracurricular activity. “Well, you can rest assured that we will not bring along any heteros. But we will definitely be there.”

Sterling doesn’t say anything, just smiles and nods in agreement.

“Awesome. Then I guess I’ll see you there. You ladies enjoy the rest of your day,” Dennis says, waving at them and going off on his merry way, leaving Sterling and April in silence until Sterling finally says,

“Oh my goodness, we’re officially out to our first strangers.” She sounds quite excited about this, and April has to agree, even if it’s a really weird bar. But she supposes it probably has something to do with being their authentic selves for the entire world instead of just...the admittedly strange children who went to Willingham.

“Yes, I will say it’s quite refreshing to not have to make a big fuss over it. And it’s nice to already be establishing a new friend group. I was worried we might have to actually hang out with Luke at some point,” April says, shuddering at the idea of how awkward such a hangout would be.

Sterling, however, frowns at this. “We are going to hang out with Luke at some point, though. He’s our friend and he already invited me to watch the golf team’s first tournament.”

April gags, hard-pressed to imagine a more boring thing they could spend a day doing than watching Luke and the other dorks (who at least can’t possibly be as weird as the ones at Willingham) golf. Though she would have a cute outfit for it. “Yeah, can we please not do that?”

“Oh, I wasn’t about to take him up on it,” Sterling assures her, and April breathes a sigh of relief. “I’m just saying that maybe the three of us could go to brunch together at some point. I know he’s really missing Hannah B. and could use his friends.”

“It’s been like...three days since they last saw each other. And I’ll remind you that we’re also his ex-girlfriends, so I think that means there should be some extra boundaries in place,” April says, starting to walk in the direction of her next class again. 

Sterling nods, seeming to accept this. “You’re right.”

“I know I am,” April agrees, then returns to her to give her a quick kiss on the lips. “I’ll see you at home after classes, okay?”

“I’ll be holding my breath until then,” Sterling says, backing toward the sociology building all while giving April the same dumb smitten smile that made her fall in love in the first place.

Years ago, April would have mercilessly mocked a couple like her and Sterling if she encountered them in the wild. Just two dumb kids who think they know what they’re doing when in all actuality, they know less than Jon Snow. Especially when it comes to marriage, and college, and complicated friend dynamics with Sterling’s bridesman. But now, she can’t even find it in her to regret for one iota of a second what they’ve done. She loves being Sterling’s wife, and she’ll gladly shout that fact from the rooftops for the rest of her life.

April is already regretting signing up for a logic class for a math credit when, after the first day, which is supposed to be syllabus day, she already has homework that seems to involve reading and interpreting a modern equivalent of hieroglyphics. If she’d known this to be the case, she would have womaned-up and taken advanced calculus. But thankfully, with that nightmare over with for today, she gets to go home to her wife--something she’ll hopefully never tire of being able to say.

“Sterling, I’m hooome,” she says as she opens the door, putting on a Ricky Ricardo accent that she’s almost certain Sterling, whose mother is young and normal, won’t get.

“Hey Babe,” Sterling calls from their tiny spare bedroom that they’ve put a desk into for an office. “I was just looking up species of ocean life for my marine biology class and did you know there’s a clam that looks exactly like a huge penis?”

April chuckles, realizing that Sterling managed to have a far more interesting rest of the day than herself. “Geoduck? Yeah, Ezekiel and I tried it once at a sushi restaurant. Hannah B. was scarred for life.” She locks the door behind herself and ventures further into the house to the office. She leans down to kiss Sterling, who’s sitting at the desk with her laptop. “I hope it’s not making you long for what you’re missing out on,” she adds playfully, to which Sterling rolls her eyes.

“Not a chance. And besides, if the mood ever strikes me, we have two of those to choose from.” She motions for April to come closer so she can take her hands in her own. “How was the rest of your day?”

April shrugs. “It was neither here nor there. Though I missed you terribly.” She’s careful as she moves to straddle Sterling in the computer chair. “Did you miss me?” she asks as she runs a hand through her wife’s hair. At the intimate contact, she can feel Sterling tremble.

Sterling closes her eyes contentedly and leans her head back. “You know I did,” she says as April continues to massage her scalp. “But it makes you being here now even better.”

April bites her lip and smiles to herself, wondering what she ever did to deserve any of this wonderful life she's building. Certainly, nothing she’s done in this life. “You’re a charmer, Idgie Threadgoode,” she says in a thick accent reminiscent of her dead Grandma April.

Sterling rolls her eyes and chuckles. “Don’t quote sad movie lesbians at me.”

“It’s very sexy of you to know that, Babe,” April says, not kidding in the least. Sterling is generally pretty lacking in lesbian movie knowledge.

“My grandma loves Fried Green Tomatoes. I think the subtext has somehow always gone over her head,” Sterling explains, shrugging,

“If you consider raising a child together and just…everything else in the universe created by Known Lesbian Author Fanny Flagg subtext, sure.” April chuckles, having to find the humor in heterosexual absurdity or it’ll truly drive her insane. Still, she has to admit that Sterling is easily her favorite person to talk to when it comes to all things literature—and has been ever since they were nine and having schoolyard discussions about C.S. Lewis. But April isn’t straddling her wife’s lap to discuss semi-straightwashed movie adaptations of lesbian novels. “Is Marine Biology a hard class?”

Sterling shrugs. “It’s not too bad so far, but it was only the first day. I’m definitely going to have to memorize a bunch of Latin words, though.”

“Well, you know, as former vice-chair of the Willingham Latin Club, I could probably help you out there,” April offers, then adds after a beat. “Maybe with a sort of…reward system attached, for extra incentive.”

The corners of Sterling’s mouth tick up into a smile as she picks up what April is throwing down. “Oh really?”

“Mhm,” April hums then leans in to kiss Sterling’s neck just over her jugular. “For example, the Latin name for geoduck is, I believe, Panopea generosa.”

“Panopea generosa,” Sterling repeats, her accent leaving much to be desired, but April will let it slide.

“Very good,” April purrs, then licks over the spot she was just lavishing with attention, taking pride in the red mark she’s left there. “And a narwhal is a Monodon monoceros,” she says, then waits for Sterling to repeat after her.

“Monodon monoceros,” Sterling says.

“Good girl,” April says, knowing exactly what she’s doing as she leans back to watch her wife’s vibrant, wide eyes go darker. “Discis cito, amica mea.”

“What does that mean?” Sterling asks, voice breathy.

April shakes her head. “Doesn’t matter.” Then she’s leaning in and kissing Sterling hard, only pulling away again when she is in desperate need of air and for something…more. Her hands wander down between them to Sterling’s lap, where she quickly begins to undo her capris.

“Whoa,” Sterling whispers to herself, not at all in protest of what’s happening, though April’s sure her wife’s heart skips a beat the second she slips off of her lap and down onto her knees on the floor.

From there, April reaches under Sterling’s butt to pull Sterling’s capris and underwear down to her ankles. She places her hands on Sterling’s bare knees and looks up into her eyes for permission, though she’s sure she already knows the answer.

Sterling nods fervently and pushes a few strands of hair behind her ears so her view of April doing this will go entirely unobstructed—how flattering, but April can hardly blame her with the practiced bedroom eyes she’s giving her.

As weird as it may sound (and therefore April will never bring it up to Sterling unless outright confronted), ever since they got engaged, there’s been something unfairly sexy about the concept of performing this part of her ‘wifely duties’ and giving Sterling a moment of pleasure without expecting anything in return. Certainly, this isn’t the case all the time, and thank God for that, but sometimes…April just likes taking care of Sterling while simultaneously knowing that she has her wife entirely in the palm of her hand. April knows that her devoted spouse would do anything for her, and she’ll gladly reward her in kind. A sexy quid pro quo, if you will.

With that thought, April dives right in, kissing and nipping at Sterling’s inner thighs as she moves in on her target, breathing in the intoxicating smell of arousal. She smiles to herself when Sterling’s hand comes to entangle itself in her hair. For as mild-mannered as she can be, Sterling sure seems to enjoy the power from the position she’s in, and April is more than happy to oblige.

She licks teasingly at Sterling’s folds, only barely eliciting a few sounds of approval when her Stevens Woman bat ears perk up for another reason entirely—she hears the front door open.

April freezes and ignores Sterling’s whine of protest as she pulls back to look up at Sterling with a look of terror.

“You girls home?” Anderson calls from the living room.

“What’s he doing here?!” Sterling asks frantically, pulling up her pants.

April is horrified by the prospect of her father-in-law getting in here when she knows she locked the door. “I’ll remind you that he’s your father,” she says, calmly getting to her feet and wiping her mouth with the back of her hand before putting on a big smile and going out to the living room.

“Anderson! What a pleasant surprise!” she says gleefully, leaving Sterling to pull herself together as she goes to her father-in-law and gives him a big hug, which he’s more than happy to return.

“Aw, there’s one of my favorite girls!” He says, holding her tight and patting her back until he finally releases her to get a good look at her. “How was the first day of school? Good? Not too hard?”

April shakes her head. “Anderson, should know by now that nothing is too hard for me,” she says cockily as Sterling emerges from the office, and April hopes that Anderson doesn’t notice that her fly is still down.

“Dad, what are you doing here?” Sterling asks, still looking a little flustered as her dad comes to hug her too.

“Ain’t a man allowed to miss his baby girl?” Anderson asks.

“We saw you two days ago. And we’re going to be going to church with you and mom on Sunday,” Sterling reminds him, but April is more understanding of Anderson struggling with empty-nester syndrome. And even aside from the fact that he legally owns this house—thus explaining his open access with his own key—it’s a lot closer than Blair in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

“Sterl, be nice,” April chides her. “We’re happy to have you, Anderson. Though I’ll just give you a heads up now that Sterl and I have to attend a student event later this evening.”

Sterling frowns in confusion. “What student event?”

“The LGBT Student Union Mixer that you agreed to go to with me not even four hours ago, Honey,” April reminds her sweetly.

“You signed us up for that. But I have a FaceTime sister date with Blair tonight,” Sterling argues, and April does her best to not blow up on her wife in front of Anderson, though the way he’s watching this interaction go down tells her that he anticipates her to. But April Stevens-Wesley is a married woman now, and she’s decided that with her new name, she’ll be turning over a new leaf as far as how she treats those she loves—or at least try her best to do so. “Right, well, then I guess I will be going to the LGBT Student Union. Alone.”

“Don’t worry about me interfering with any of y’all’s plans. I just came by because I thought I heard a rattling from your air conditioner the other day, and the last thing you want is for that thing to go out when we get one of those September scorcher weeks,” Anderson explains as he picks up a toolbox from beside him, though something tells April that it’s all just an excuse to see Sterling, and a part of her is deeply jealous. H er own dad at the moment has the excuse of being in prison, but she’s only seen him one time behind glass in the last four months because he’s, at his core, a bigoted bastard. Anderson Wesley loves his girls unconditionally, and more than anything, April just wishes she had that.

“Dad, shouldn’t we call an HVAC specialist about that?” Sterling asks, somewhat frantically, as she follows Anderson to their A/C unit in the laundry room.

April laughs to herself and shakes her head, knowing that no matter what, she could never regret any of this. Even if she had to sacrifice her farce of a relationship with her father for it, she’ll pick Team Stevens-Wesley every time.

The LGBT Student Union—which itself is a combination of several on-campus groups, as April has come to find out—usually tends to meet up somewhere in the larger student union building, but with this being the beginning of the semester mixer, it’s taking place outside on the quad, next to the performing arts building. There are coolers full of drinks, as well as a speaker setup currently going through a playlist that’s likely labeled ‘Gay Jamz’ on somebody’s Spotify. It has all the makings of a fun event, but with April not knowing anyone—she’ll really have to thank Sterling for ditching her later—she’s just left to stand awkwardly with her bottle of Diet Coke and scroll through social media on her phone. 

Already Ezekiel and Hannah B. seem to be having so much fun on their own if their respective posts are anything to go off of. In fact, Z has definitely made out with at least one boy, if his Instagram story is anything to go off of, and Hannah B. has officially announced her intention to drop the B. from her name, as she is her own Hannah and shouldn’t be made to think otherwise—April knew her signing up for a women’s studies class could prove catastrophic to the order of the universe

“What’s up, my fellow members of the Alphabet Club?” A godsend of a familiar voice says as Dennis—so far the only familiar face April’s seen all night—finally shows up to the party, having dressed down from his work casual TA garb to something a little more casual—in this case, a low-necked rainbow tank top that certainly shows off those muscles of his. It really is a good thing Ezekiel isn’t here right now, or April is sure the boy would have a stroke.

“Hey Denny, you get lost or something?” An androgynous-presenting person with a black undercut and a full sleeve tattoo asks playfully.

Dennis rolls his eyes. “Thanks for the concern, Sky but I actually just got backlogged with work. I swear to the Space Daddy, if Hearst doesn’t at least take me to dinner after riding my ass this hard, I’m gonna feel like one cheap little-” Dennis cuts himself off upon noticing April, letting that sentence die off into nervous laughter.

“Oh, don’t worry, I’ve heard far worse,” April assures him, though in truth, outside of premium cable tv shows and daddy-daughter Hooters dates, she really did have a squeaky clean Christian upbringing. Not on Sterling’s level, of course, but she’s very curious at how Dennis was going to finish that sentence.

“I’m sure, but even outside of class, I think I’m supposed to maintain at least the illusion of professionalism with my students,” Dennis explains as Undercut Sky rolls their eyes, clearly not believing any of that for a second. “But while I’m here, I better make the proper introduction. Hi, I’m Dennis. I use he/him pronouns, and I am as gay as the day is long.”

“He’s always like this at the beginning of the year, but give him time and some iced tea vodka, and you’ll find that he’s pretty fun,” Sky says and holds out their hand. “I’m Sky. My pronouns are they/them or she/her, I’m womasexual nonbinary, I’m a musical theory major, and I like long walks on sandy beaches.”

April smiles and takes their hand in a surprisingly soft handshake for someone with such callused hands. “I’m April. Lesbian, she/her pronouns, freshman but future law school student…oh, and I’m married,” April wiggles her left hand and ring finger to emphasize that last part.

Sky raises an eyebrow. “Well damn, kid. Taking that U-Haul cliche to new heights, huh?”

April shrugs. “I’m not sure I would call it U-Hauling since we dated for a year and three quarters before we got married.”

“What they mean to say is that you look very young to be married, and having met your adorable wife Sterling earlier today, I know that to be true for her too,” Dennis interjects, and it’s nothing April hasn’t heard a hundred times or more by now. “But you two make a totally cute couple. Where is she, by the way?” he asks, looking around.

“Oh, she had to stay home to get some homework done. But she does really wish she could be here,” April lies on Sterling’s behalf—she knows damn well she married a pretty little hermit.

“So what’s the deal there? Are y’all military or something?” Sky asks, cracking open a can of Red Bull.

April can honestly say that nobody’s guessed that one before. It’s a little refreshing. “Oh, no, nothing like that. We just really love each other, and we’re Christians, so it felt right.”

“Gay Christian!” Dennis and Sky say in unison and point to each other before eagerly pulling out folded pieces of paper from their pants pockets, leaving April in utter confusion as they share a pen to mark something off.

“I’m sorry…what’s going on?” April asks, wondering what kind of weird stuff she’s stumbled upon in the name of making new gay friends.

Dennis flips over his paper to reveal to April what appears to be a Bingo card. “It’s sort of this dumb game we play at these things,” he explains as April looks over the spaces, including the marked off ‘Gay Christian’ space, as well as ones like ‘Lesbian With A Mullet,’ ‘Trans man named Logan,’ ‘Heteroromantic asexual,’ and ‘bi girl’s straight boyfriend. 

“It’s not about being exclusionary or anything,” Sky says upon seeing April’s…confused face. Because really, she doesn’t know what to think of such a game, but yes, it does feel like she should be offended on behalf of someone . “Us gays are just notoriously bad about making friends, so this is a way to get everyone to have some real conversations with each other.”

“Here, I have an extra card,” Dennis says, pulling one out of another pocket and handing it to April. “Part of the game is finding out who ticks off each box in an organic way, so don’t just go around asking people if anything applies to them. That’s tacky.”

April has to admit that she’s always been lacking in subtlety, so this game should pose a somewhat significant challenge for her, but her competitive nature dictates that she will not settle for anything less than a blackout. “And what if I myself tick off more than one box?” April asks, eying the space labeled, ‘Theatre Gay’ as she marks off the free space (which is ‘somebody wearing rainbow’) and the Gay Christian space, figuring that if she doesn’t count for her own card, Sterling does.

“Nope, can’t mark down yourself,” Dennis says, clearly noticing that April marked more than one space, but he isn’t calling her out. Yet. “But what are you looking to get rid of? I know basically everyone here, so I can point you in the right direction.”

“Theatre Gay,” April says, to which Dennis’ face lights up as he raises his hand.

“Oh look, you found one,” he says, to April’s delight.

“Would that be musical theatre?” April asks.

“Is there any other kind worth doing?” Dennis asks, and April could not agree more.

Sky groans. “Oh God, they’ve found each other,” they say, and with that, quickly go off to talk to another group of people.

April can’t even be mad, because it isn’t often that she can tolerate a new person in her life at all, let alone one who she is already seeing has the potential to be a very good friend for her...and possibly someone she can set Ezekiel up on a blind date with eventually if she’s feeling generous. “Alright, so, Dennis the TA slash theatre gay,” she says, marking off that space from her card. “Was that just high school, or are you double majoring?”

Dennis scoffs. “Am I double majoring in economics and musical theatre? Yeah, no. But the productions put on by the department generally are open casting if your schedule can swing it, and the LGBT Student Union partners with them from time to time. We’ve actually got something coming up on Halloween that should be interesting.” 

“Really?” April asks, raising an eyebrow and sipping her soda.

She has found her people.


The times that Sterling has had to make her own dinner can probably be counted on one hand, as even her dad at least knows how to make jar sauce spaghetti, so she’s glad that April isn’t here to judge her as she figures out how their stove works so she can make herself a grilled cheese. It’s already taken far longer than it should have, though she’s still taken by surprise when Blair’s ringtone plays from her phone just after she finally gets a sandwich in the hot plan, butter sizzling.

“Hey, collegiate lacrosse star, Blair Wesley! Long time, no speak,” Sterling answers the call, holding her phone up with one hand as she continues cooking with the other.

Blair rolls her eyes. “Oh please, I’m barely a benchwarmer,” she says, dismissing Sterling’s compliment, but Sterling can tell she liked the sound of it. “But I could say the same to you about not talking, Mrs. Sterling Wesley.”

Sterling wants to correct her sister’s usage of her maiden name, as opposed to her married one, but Blair even calling her a Mrs is progress enough. “Ugh, I know. I can’t believe we’ve gone over a week without talking. That is unacceptable, young lady.” Her voice is chastising, but there isn’t any sort of bite to it--Sterling just really missed talking to her sister. And with that thought, her sandwich starts smoking, which she takes as a good indicator to flip it.

“Hey, it’s not my fault you’ve been scissoring April all week. And in the meantime, I have some damn juicy news for you,” Blair says as she noisily busts open a bag of chips and crunches on one.

Sterling briefly glances up at her from examining the charred exterior of her sandwich, which she guesses will have to do. “You better be sharing that juicy news so I can ignore that scissoring remark...Blair, people eat charcoal, right?”

“Yeah, like...weird vegans eat charcoal, I think?” Blair says, assuring Sterling that this is edible as she shuts off the stove and transfers the black and orange mess to a plate. “But I’m gonna need your complete undivided attention for the news.”

Sterling sighs and takes her plate to the table, propping Blair up against her glass of chocolate milk that she already set out for herself. “You have my attention,” she assures Blair, motioning for her to proceed as she picks up her sandwich and tries to take a bite, slightly burning her mouth before she spits it out again.

“You probably shouldn’t be eating or drinking anything, either. I’m not there to do the Heimlich on you again like that one time at Qdoba.”

“I did not need you to perform the Heimlich maneuver on me at Qdoba, Blair. One grain of rice went down the wrong pipe,” Sterling corrects her while having to relive that humiliating memory from two summers ago. “But fine, there is nothing in my mouth.”

“That’s not what she said,” Blair says slyly, leaving Sterling utterly confused as she seems to wait for Sterling to react to that.

“What? What does that even mean?” Sterling asks.

Blair rolls her eyes. “It means that you are officially not the only twin who has dipped her toes in the lady pool.”

Despite herself, Sterling starts to choke on her own spit. Unable to say a word in response to that completely out-of-the-blue admission, she reaches desperately for her chocolate milk to end the hacking fit she’s found herself in. “You what?” she asks finally, voice strained. Part of the deal when it comes to sharing a brain with one’s sister is (unfortunately), knowing each and every one of their sick and twisted kinks and sexual proclivities. So while Sterling (again, unfortunately) has known for a while now that her sister has watched tentacle hentai on more than one occasion, she has never once been given any reason to believe that those fantasies could ever be gay.

“I said, that as of last night and this morning, you are not the only one of us who’s hooked up with a girl,” Blair brags in a more straightforward manner, but Sterling isn’t any less confused, and Blair must sense this. “Now, before you get too excited, no, I don’t consider myself a follower of Sappho. This was sort of a one--well, two-- time thing between two teammates with an understanding of what’s what.”

Sterling sighs deeply, suddenly feeling very tired. “What does that even mean, Blair?”

Blair clears her throat. “Um, well, when one straight lacrosse player and one gay lacrosse player are roommates--”

“Oh my God, they were roommates,” Sterling says almost unconsciously, to Blair’s delight.

“Dude, you so read my mind there! But yeah, we were-- are --roommates, and there are just a lot of gays on our team, so when we had a team party on Saturday and I got slightly tipsy on wine coolers, I expressed my want to experiment to my roommate, and she happily obliged,” Blair explains, and Sterling feels herself getting a headache. Her sister really does just have to be Like This sometimes.

“‘Kay, so you Katy Perry-ed some girl?” she asks for clarification.

“More like...Cardi B in that one song with Rita Ora that everyone said was kinda biphobic but was a total bop?” Blair specifies in a way that Sterling’s sure only about .01% of the world’s population could understand, but thankfully, Sterling falls into that minority.

She shakes her head, truly missing being able to do this with Blair all the time. Missing it so much she could cry. “Okay, so I’m gathering that you had sex with your roommate. Twice. Did you at least like it a little bit?” Sterling is quite biased, as she’s been loving all the sex with April, but if she brain-squints, she thinks she might be able to recall a time when she couldn’t fathom being with anyone but a man.

Blair shakes her head. “I mean, I didn’t mind at all when it was her doing stuff to me. That was awesome—girls definitely know what they’re doing a lot more than boys. But uh…when it came to me reciprocating, I just…did not like it. Vaginas are warrior body parts that are beautiful and strong, but they are not for me.”

Sterling can understand this, but it doesn’t change the fact that she is a little bummed out about remaining the sole gay family member. “Yeah, I know your palate and I can’t imagine you’d like the taste.”

“Sick, and yet so right,” Blair chuckles. “But now that I’ve told you about all that, I need you to tell me all about the Disneymoon. Don’t skip the deets, just don’t say You Know Who’s name, or I won’t be able to enjoy it vicariously or give unbiased commentary.”

Sterling rolls her eyes at the way that Blair still can’t seem to accept that April will be around for a long, long time. But at this point, it’s probably just habitual for her sister. “She’s not Voldemort . But fine,” she agrees to the stupid terms. “Well, uh, sex was pretty dang incredible. I think I really did give Luke a little too much slack because it was all so new to him, but it’s also new to her and she does it all so well. Oh, and you’re going to be so proud of me because you know how I can barely even pee in public bathrooms? Well, she’s gotten me to step outside of my comfort zone and have sex in the Disney castle bathroom. How’s that for boring?” 

“Pfft. You really had to bring that back?” Blair makes a face, but gestures for Sterling to continue.

“Oh, and uh…okay, so obviously you’re the only person I’d ever tell this to, but she does this thing when she ‘gets there’ where she-” Sterling does not get to finish that sentence because Blair loudly and exaggeratedly gags.

“Yeah, no, I still know who you’re talking about and I hate it. No slut-shaming, no kink-shaming, no biphobia, but why out of literally so many options did you have to marry April frickin’ Stevens?” Blair asks though Sterling can tell by her tone that it’s all mostly in jest now, as opposed to the stuff that led to their blowup fight before the wedding. “I mean, seriously! It’s like marrying the crazier, younger model of mom, which is pretty Freudian if you ask me. And my psych professor!” Blair laughs, and despite herself, Sterling does too.

She’s come to find that admitting April’s nuttiness is the first step to a happy marriage with her. Pretending she’s anything else will get them nowhere fast. “I mean, you’re right, but I don’t know, Blair. I just really love her crazy butt…” Sterling trails off.

Blair tuts. “You really are such a cinnamon roll, Sterl. I swear, even when you’re not here, you’re like my little Jiminy Cricket conscience voice telling me not to do bad things. Like hooking up with a frat guy who probably has chlamydia, or looking too long at my cute English teacher’s butt.”

And that is how Sterling knows she and Blair must share a brain. A Galaxy Brain, that is. “Oh my goodness, and I’ve been hearing your voice every time I know you would have something sassy to say!” Sterling laughs and shakes her head. Even in each other’s absence, they each know their sister well enough to make a copy just for them. April would probably say something like, ‘the codependency is strong with these ones’ if she knew.

“I love you, and miss you more than I thought I would. I feel like someone chopped off a piece of me, and now I’m living with feelings of a Phantom Sterl,” Blair says melodramatically. “But oh, that’s a sick line for a poem. I better jot that down.”

Sterling watches as Blair actually goes digging for a pen and a post-it note to write down her insightful--if not a little concerning--thought. “I love you too, Blair. But you definitely have competition for my favorite person now, I hope you know.”

“Oh please, like I’d ever let that little bitch replace me,” Blair says way too quickly.

“That little b-word is my wife, thank you very much. And I don’t remember the last time you set out my clothes for me. And you’ve certainly never…” Sterling feels like she doesn’t have to finish that sentence.

“Yeah, and thank God for that. We’re from Georgia, not Alabama.” Blair shudders in horror at even the thought of such a disgusting thing, but Sterling saw enough nasty writings on Willingham's bathroom stall walls to know that at least some sick-minded people were thinking it. “Okay, don’t get all smug about this, but I will say that I’m glad someone’s there taking care of you. I don’t know if I could enjoy myself as much as I have been if I was worried about you being all alone at UGA,” Blair admits in a moment of uncharacteristic selflessness. “And with that said, I’m gonna have to go.”

Sterling is in the middle of shoving the rest of her sandwich in her mouth, and she’s forced to talk around it to the best of her ability. “What? But I thought we were gonna hang out tonight?”

Blair at least seems to feel bad enough about this to not make fun of her. “I’m sorry, Sterl. But the team’s going out for pizza and I said I’d come. But I promise we can talk again soon, okay?” If Sterling’s being honest, Blair doesn’t seem that torn up about leaving her, considering it’s a conflict with her plans. But she misses her sister too much to be mad at her. Just sad.

“Okay…” Sterling mutters. “Have fun with your team.”

“Have fun with your wife,” Blair replies, and then she ends the call, leaving Sterling to stare at the screen for a few seconds longer while she finally finishes chewing and swallowing her grilled cheese.

Sterling sighs and sits back in her chair, regretting not going along with April if her night was going to lead here, sitting alone in her eerily quiet house with nobody for company but April’s cat that hates her. And to top it off, she’ll probably have to diffuse a tense situation with April when she gets home.

After sitting in silence for a few more minutes, Sterling gets up to rinse her plate and put it in the dishwasher, knowing full well that April is more likely than not to change its positioning, but that’s better than being nagged at for leaving it in the sink. When the task is done, Sterling goes to the living room, just looking around. The house is as small as it was when they moved in, but it feels enormous to Sterling without anyone to share it with. It’s not unlike being a kid and waking up in the morning to realize that her parents were nowhere to be found (but were in fact outside gardening).

There’s a little spark of inspiration in Sterling’s mind upon remembering that day. It was then that she discovered that a way to make yourself safe when you feel small is to go someplace even smaller. Or better yet, build it. So without even questioning if such a thing is really done by married adults, Sterling heads off to the bedroom closet and grabs every spare pillow and blanket she can, bringing them into the living room, where she shoves the Pottery Barn coffee table out of the way for what is sure to be the best pillow fort she’s ever made in her life--if only because at age 18, she at least knows enough about physics that one cannot simply build a structure without a solid foundation. With that thought, she goes and grabs a chair from the kitchen. And then another, and another, and another until finally, she has all four arranged so she can drape the largest of the blankets over them.

Sterling grabs the pillows and is about to retreat into her newly crafted sanctuary when she gets one more idea and goes to grab some string lights out of the Christmas box that her mom sent along with them.

It’s past ten when Sterling hears the front door open from the confines of her fort, where she’s taken to reading her and April’s wedding guestbook with a flashlight. She hadn’t realized that April made it so the guests could write their own well-wishes and advice to them instead of just their names--in truth, Sterling hadn’t realized a lot of things about their wedding until the day of. She really should have been more involved with planning, but it’s probably good she wasn’t, or it definitely wouldn’t have turned out as perfect as it did.

“Sterl? Why are all the lights off?” April asks as she comes through the door, and Sterling can see their living room light turn on through the blanket, ruining the string lights’ aesthetic. “Okaaay...what’s with the fort?”

“That’s Fort Linenburg, thank you very much,” Sterling corrects her playfully, hearing April’s footsteps on the hardwood floors as she comes closer.

“But why are you in Fort Linenburg?” April asks, and Sterling can see her shadow outside now as she probably looks for a door or opening of some kind--but good luck to her, because she’ll have to crawl in under one of the chairs like Sterling did if she wants to get in. And she hasn’t even given the password.

In truth, Sterling doesn’t really have a good answer for that. The easiest one would be that she’s pretending that being in here will make her worries and problems go away like they did when she was a kid. The hard one would be that she’s feeling way too overwhelmed and terrified by the fact that not only is she expected to be an adult now, but a wife and a college student and a long-distance sister and so many other things that she’s afraid her head might explode. But the one she goes with is, “Felt like it.”

She hears April sigh, and then her footsteps as she walks past the fort in the direction of their bedroom. After a minute or so, she returns, her footsteps softer as she’s clearly taken off her shoes. “Can I come in?” April asks softly.

“Do you know the password?” Sterling asks petulantly.

“Let’s see...well, your password you use for everything--very unsafe in the age of identity theft, by the way--is capital ‘C’ Chloe123 exclamation point. But something tells me that isn’t the case here,” April says matter-of-factly as she continues around the fort and eventually turns off the living room light. “So, I’m just going to go out on a narcissistic limb here and say that it’s...April820?”

It’s not April820, though it's sweet of April to think Sterling would make the password her wife's name and their anniversary. It’s Cheddar. But that’s close enough for Sterling. “Beep boop, password accepted,” Sterling says in a robotic voice. “Your easiest point of entry will be under the chair nearest to the kitchen.”

“Making me get on my knees again, I see,” April says playfully, but a few moments later, she emerges from under the chair, having changed into a set of pajamas, just as Sterling had after finishing construction of the fort. “Did you use every pillow in the house for this?” she asks, looking down at the cushioned ‘floor,’ then around at their dimly-lit surroundings in general.

“Uh-huh,” Sterling says, nodding and feeling quite proud of herself for that fact. 

“I missed having you with me tonight. I think you would have liked it,” April says, finally addressing one of the many elephants in the fort.

“I wish I’d gone with you. Blair sort of ditched me pretty early on,” Sterling says, and realization dawns on April’s face before her whole demeanor softens.

“Oh, Sterl. I’m sorry,” she says, reaching out to gently touch Sterling’s cheek. “You know she loves you, but I can imagine her life’s just as hectic as ours.”

Sterling knows that. Of course, she knows that. But history dictates that her and Blair making time for each other falls outside the rules of scheduling. And now… “I just really miss her.” Up to now, Sterling has avoided crying all night, but with that one admission, she feels a tear stream down her face.

“Hey, it’s okay,” April says, quietly reassuring as she brings Sterling’s face close to her chest, hand running through her hair as Sterling listens to her heartbeat. “I’ve got you, Baby,” she whispers, and then April takes her face in her hands and gives her soft kisses on her forehead, cheeks, and eventually her lips.

Something inside Sterling shifts, and suddenly she’s returning April’s kisses with more fervor, feeling like nothing she does will ever get her as close to her wife as she needs to be. But God is she willing to try as she coaxes April to lie on her back and makes quick work of unbuttoning her pajama top. Ordinarily, she’d feel the need to ask April if all of this was okay approximately fifty times, but something tells her that neither of them exactly needs words in this moment to convey that they want exactly the same thing.

Sterling slips April’s pajama top off her shoulders and takes a second or two to admire her bare chest before she’s going in to lavish her breasts with kisses. Every inch of April is home, even if where they’re at doesn’t quite feel like it yet.

Without removing her mouth from April’s nipple, Sterling rids herself of her pajamas, needing to feel like there’s absolutely nothing between them. But even when April takes the liberty of taking off her pajama shorts and their naked bodies are pressed together with no barriers, it still isn’t enough.

“I-” Sterling starts, never having been particularly good with this sort of thing, “I want to be inside you.”

April reaches for Sterling’s hand, bringing it to her mouth to kiss her knuckles before she drags it slowly down her torso. Her skin is so soft and warm and Sterling isn’t sure how she ever in her life thought that anyone else could compare to this. If there ever were anything close to perfection, April’s body is it.

“I adore you, Sterl,” April says, voice breathy as she rests her forehead against Sterling’s and finally guides her hand to her center.

The heat is overwhelming, as is the confirmation of the fact that April’s body is already more than ready for whatever Sterling wishes to do with it. And while it’s hardly the first time the two of them have done this, something about it feels headier. Like it carries a lot more weight, somehow.

Sterling uses a gentle finger to push inside April, unable to resist any longer. It doesn’t matter if it’s the fifth, or tenth, or the thousandth time she does this, it will never not take her breath away, the feeling of being inside her wife. Sterling sighs, feeling April’s walls flutter around her finger, and then a second that she adds after a few moments.

She watches April’s face, noting the way her mouth ever so slightly parts as she makes little noises of pleasure when Sterling starts to move her fingers in and out. April Stevens-Wesley is perhaps the most beautiful woman in the world, but there is nothing that beats her looking like this. And her so readily giving herself to Sterling when she needed her most only serves to reassure Sterling that all of her worries from before are for naught because at the end of the day, she’ll always have her wife with her at every step in their lives. And really, what can be scarier than April Stevens-Wesley?

“I needed you,” Sterling breathes into April’s ear, her wrist and fingers continuing their movements even after she adjusts to add her thumb on April’s clit to the party. “I always need you.”

“I know, Sterl,” April says, partially through gritted teeth as Sterling hits a spot that she knows works for her. “I love you.”

Sterling will never grow tired of hearing that. “I love you too. Forever.” Sterling’s not sure if it’s the certainty with which she says those words, or just the feelings of everything hitting her hard all at once, but her eyes start to well up with tears. She kind of hopes that maybe April won’t notice, but of course she does. Though Sterling is fortunate enough to be a pretty crier, as April has let her know before when they were watching A Walk To Remember.

“God, you’re beautiful,” April says as she brings her hand between them to start touching Sterling, which is maybe the best feeling in the world right now--Sterling hadn’t even realized how worked up she’d gotten. April kisses her, moaning into it as she bucks her hips up into Sterling’s. “I want you to come with me, Sterl,” she whispers once their lips part, sounding just a little desperate.

Giving April whatever she wants is kind of Sterling’s thing, and that thankfully isn’t too big of an ask when she is already feeling like she’s close to reaching the climax their wonderfully slow build-up has been leading to. Sterling changes the position of her legs so that she can more easily accommodate both of their hands at work and kisses April again, closing her eyes just as she sees fireworks go off behind them.

April removes her hand from between them so that she can grab on tight to Sterling’s arms as she comes, closing her eyes tight and gasping as she breaks their kiss. Briefly, she adorably scrunches her nose like a bunny, which is what Sterling had been eager to tell Blair, but she's also fine with being the only one who knows.

Sterling stills above her and slowly withdraws her fingers, feeling April trembling with aftershocks. It’s hardly the first time Sterling has made her wife orgasm, but it’s the first time that the level of soft intimacy has reached such astronomical heights.

“Okay,” April says, her voice returning to normal as Sterling rolls off to lie down beside her. “That was lovemaking.”

Sterling giggles, knowing how much it must kill her wife to admit such blasphemy. “I’m glad we finally agree.”

“But there were extenuating circumstances, I think you can admit,” April argues, reaching over to swipe a residual tear from Sterling’s cheek with her thumb. “This part was new, by the way.”

Sterling can’t help but feel embarrassed. Only insane girls in romcoms cry during and/or after sex, right? “I guess I got a little carried away with the...emotion of it all.”

April leans in to kiss her cheek reassuringly. “I think it’s sweet.” Post-coital April is being uncharacteristically nice, but Sterling kinda likes it. “Not that I mind all of this happening, but was there anything else besides Blair being a bitch that set you off?”

Sterling shrugs, a lot of it seeming kind of dumb now. “I was kind of feeling overwhelmed by all the changes in our lives recently. I don’t know if you feel the same, but being an adult is kind of scary, right?”

“Oh, it’s downright terrifying,” April agrees quickly, which is comforting to Sterling. “I do really wish you’d come along tonight. I think you would have liked some of the people I met. They’re very...different from the Willingham crowd. And I think it would do wonders for you to broaden your queer horizons. No offense, Sterl, but you’re kind of...straight.”

Sterling looks down at their naked bodies and then back at April, bewildered. “We literally just had gay sex. How am I straight?”

April rolls her eyes. “Not like, actually straight. Just...I feel like with having your accepting family, you maybe didn’t encounter as much adversity as what is generally necessary to...indoctrinate one into the queer community. You never had to watch Saving Face because you were perfectly content with Nicholas Sparks movies, if that makes any sense to you?”

Sterling is slightly offended at April essentially saying she has Accepting Parents Privilege. “Hey, I’ve encountered adversity. I punched a homophobe, remember?”

“Yes, and that was very sexy of you, but you still haven’t felt the need to watch Faking It,” April says, patronizingly patting Sterling on the cheek. “So that’s why I think it would be a good thing for you to start coming to those events with me? Please?” It’s funny, she phrases that like it’s a request, but Sterling knows that it’s a declaration of how things are going to be going forward.

“Yeah, okay,” Sterling admits, seeing as it’s inevitable. After a beat, she looks around the fort and asks, “So, what do you think of Fort Linenburg?”

April smiles, endeared. “Well, aside from you tearing apart our linen closet to build it, I must say that it’s very nice. You got the atmosphere down pat.”

“You think so?” Sterling asks proudly.

“Mhm. Reminds me of the ones we used to build during sleepovers when we were kids,” April says, reminding Sterling of the two of them staying up late talking and eventually annoying Blair enough to leave and go sleep in her own bed. “Remember how we used to tell each other secrets that nobody else could ever know?”

Sterling scoffs playfully. “Well duh, forts are secret-proof. Everyone knows that.”

April sits up and runs a hand through her hair a few times before putting her pajamas back on, much to Sterling’s disappointment, but she soon follows suit. “With all we’ve shared with each other over the last few years, I sort of doubt it, but do you have any secrets you’ve never told anyone before?”

Post-Orgasm Brain is one hell of a drug, or else Sterling wouldn’t even think to bring up what she is about to. “Yeah, actually. Remember junior year when the school found a pregnancy test in the bathroom and you had to give a sex-ed talk to the whole school?”

Horror dawns on April’s face. “Oh my god, it was yours,” she gasps and covers her mouth with her hand. “What happened? How did this never come up before? I-”

Sterling can’t let her keep going on. “No, April, it wasn’t mine. Do I have a child right now? No, it was Blair’s.” Sterling realizes after she’s said it that she’s just gravely broken a twin swear. Though she has to wonder if telling April is really in breach of such an agreement because she’s her lawfully wedded wife. Much to think about, but April doesn’t give her the chance.

“Um, what the fuck? Are you serious?” April asks, utterly shocked. “I thought she was the Everything But Twin.”

Sterling figures that she may as well spill all of the details, or April will ask Blair. “Yeah, she was until Miles.”

April seems to put it all together, and more calmly asks, “So what happened? With know.”

“Thank God for Planned Parenthood,” Sterling says simply, leaving the rest to April. It’s not a situation she’s spent a ton of time dwelling on because honestly, she wishes none of it had happened to her sister. But finally getting it out in the open after almost two years--well, out in the fort--feels like a huge relief. It’s not that she thinks Blair made a mistake or that she regrets her part in it at all, it’s just...a grey area of what-ifs.

“Wow...okay, yeah, that’s never leaving the fort,” April says solemnly. “Honestly, it’s probably good I didn’t find out back then. Between you and me, I was kind of a vindictive gossip.”

“Oh really? And here I thought the condom wrapper in the Ziplock baggie to usurp my position as Fellowship leader was out of character for you,” Sterling says sarcastically, earning herself a light swat to the arm.

“Oh my God, I said I was sorry for that like a million times,” April says, annoyed. “But just so we’re clear, while I can’t say that I could have made the same choice as Blair in her position, I do understand why she did, and you’re a good sister for helping her.” It’s a rare moment of April seeming to understand the nuance in a situation, and Sterling doesn’t think she’ll ever understand how appreciated that is right now.

And with that, Sterling is desperate to move this conversation away from that. “So what’s a secret you have?”

“Does it have to be proportionate to the bomb you just dropped?” April asks, which is a little worrying to Sterling, considering that something equal to what she just said would have to be pretty bad. When the only answer she gets is a look of curious concern, April proceeds. “Okay, well…I’m afraid I'm going to go crazy like my mom.”

Sterling can’t say she expected that, as April tends to avoid speaking much about Mary in general. But she thinks back to the things she has said—the yelling at the wedding album, the allowing John Stevens to get away with…well, everything…it all makes sense to Sterling, and yet it doesn’t make it any easier to hear.

“Define crazy, exactly?” Sterling says finally, hoping it comes across that she’s open to listening without judgment.

“Oh, she has a whole host of diagnoses, some contradictory, from a group of quack doctors who prescribe her with a mountain of pills she only takes when becomes completely nonfunctional. I can imagine being married to my father exacerbates her issues but…most of it is just her.” April takes a few deep breaths, clearly having spent a lot of time thinking about all of this without having anyone to talk to. “And I see parts of her in me, just like I see parts of my father. That’s why I told you and Pastor Booth that I’m just not sure if I can have kids and why I am certain I don’t want to pass on any of my fucked up genes. I’m worried that there’s a 100% chance that I’ll end up like one of them, I just don’t know which yet. And I’m worried that when that happens, you’ll leave me.”

Sterling sits in contemplative silence as April sniffles, having started to cry during all of that. She’s not sure how they’ve gone this long without April telling her all of these worries, but so many of the admissions are utterly devastating—the worst one being that April could think for a second that Sterling would ever leave her. And then she’s holding April tight, never wanting to let go as she says into April’s ear, “I can promise you that no matter what, you’ll never be like your dad. You’re good, you hear me? You’re too good to ever be a monster like him. And as far as the stuff with your mom…I could never leave you. I made a vow to you that I’ll be with you, whatever happens. Because you’re my wife, and I will love you in sickness and in health, whatever that may look like.”

April pulls away, her eyes and cheeks red and puffy from crying, but to Sterling, she is still the most beautiful creature on this Earth, and always will be. “There must have been some kind of epic fuckup in the cosmos to have fate lead you to me,” she says grimly, looking off as she cleanly wipes tears away from her eyes with her thumbs.

Sterling shakes her head. “No, those angels knew exactly what they were doing,” she insists just before she hears April’s stomach rumble loudly. “Did you eat anything tonight?” she asks, her concerns shifting away from all the other stuff.

“Not exactly,” April admits.

“Want me to make you a grilled cheese?” Sterling offers earnestly.

April raises an eyebrow. “Is that why the whole house smelled like burnt cheese when I got home?”

Sterling shrugs. “I never said it would be a good grilled cheese.” A large part of a healthy relationship is setting reasonable expectations, and Sterling thinks that setting a low bar with her culinary skills is the right place to start.

April smiles and shakes her head. “You’re lucky I’m only using you for sex,” she says, then starts to crawl out of the fort as Sterling resists a very strong urge to smack her butt. “Get out the stuff for the grilled cheese and wait for me in the kitchen. I have to go pee so you don’t give me another UTI.”

“I thought you said I didn’t give it to you?” Sterling asks sassily, following her out into the dark house that doesn’t seem quite so big and scary anymore.

April flips her off with both hands before heading into the bathroom, and Sterling smiles to herself, indeed wondering how she ever got so lucky as she heads into the kitchen and almost trips over Bilko.

Chapter Text

“Alright everyone, seeing as it’s Friday, I’m gonna let you out of class a little early, but before you go, Dennis is gonna pass around those pre-assessments you took on Wednesday,” Dr. Hearst says after finishing a PowerPoint presentation on the conditions of the 1980s that led to Reagan’s trickle-down economic policies being accepted by the general public. April has to admit that even an 80s-phile like herself isn’t exactly compelled by this stuff, but she thinks she’s doing fine in her grasp of it…an illusion utterly shattered when Dennis comes around and sets her test face-down in front of her on the desk with a wince before giving Sterling hers.

April frowns and turns the test over, eyes widening when she sees the result. 14/30. A firm F. And while April knows that a pre-assessment is intended to gauge where you are at on the subject matter before you truly learn it, she’s nothing short of horrified at receiving what is hands down her lowest grade ever. A feeling that’s only amplified when she glances over at Sterling’s.

“You got a perfect score?” April asks, knowing that such a feat accomplished by her wife should be celebrated, but those academic rival habits die hard and she is, frankly, absolutely outraged. Especially when Sterling has the absolute nerve to shrug at her.

“I mean, I was a little worried about this class because I thought it would be all math, but it’s mostly about theories and concepts and not numbers, so that’s kinda cool,” Sterling explains, shoving her test loosely into her bag. “What did you get?” she asks, leaning in to see April’s, but April is quick to fold it up and put it in her own bag.

“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even count for a grade,” April says, shaking her head and trying to assure herself as much as anyone else, but it isn’t exactly working. It’s sort of her thing to be good at everything. If she’s not, then who even is she? Oh right, she’s the wife of the girl who did get a perfect score.

The girl who is currently looking at her like a golden retriever trying to cheer up her person. “Hey, the semester’s just started. We have plenty of time to study until we both know macroeconomics like the back of our hands…I’ve never quite gotten that expression. I mean, who pays that much attention to the back of their hand? I guess I know I have this little sunspot here above my thumb, but otherwise-” Sterling is staring at her hand and babbling and while it’s objectively cute, April doesn’t have the patience for it right now.

“SterI, not to be rude or anything, but can you please shut up?” April asks, slinging her bag over her shoulder and heading out of the classroom, with Sterling not far behind.

“We can have study dates and I can even make flashcards!” she says like she never heard what April said, forcing her to growl as she turns around to snap at her wife,

“Sterling!” she says, then lowers her voice when Sterling jumps, and because she doesn’t want to draw attention to them. “I appreciate your wanting to help me, but what I need from you right now is for you to go to your Marine Biology class while I go home and study macroeconomics in my pointe shoes.” That sentence sounded much less insane in her head.

Sterling frowns, “Uh, first of all, my Marine Biology class is actually online on Fridays. Second, I’m gonna need you to explain the shoe thing while I walk you home to our house.”

April sighs, supposing that Sterling hasn’t actually done anything wrong so she wouldn’t be justified in banning her from their house for the afternoon. “You know how I used to do ballet?” she asks.

Sterling nods. “You told me you quit because you hated it and it was messing up your feet.”

“Exactly. It’s both mentally and physically painful. Therefore, when I want to thoroughly drill something into my brain, I put on my ballet shoes and do the five basic positions en pointe until I’ve memorized it. Pain is a very effective motivator for the brain,” April explains, much to Sterling’s clear horror.

“Oh my God. Where would you even get the idea for something so horrible?” 

April shrugs, but it’s a lie of a gesture. She knows damn well she taught herself that little trick after realizing how effective her father’s hands and belt were at driving things home for her. But if she wants to ever bring her whole family into some kind of truce, she knows it’s best to not let Sterling in on all of those details. “Far be it from me to question an effective study method. How do you think I got off-book for Beauty and the Beast in a week?”

Sterling’s still shaking her head, struggling to comprehend all of this, but it’s pretty clear-cut to April. “Okay…you’re an adult and I can’t actually tell you what to do, but I want to make myself abundantly clear that I don’t approve of any of that. And I’m telling you as your wife that you are one of the smartest women I know, and you don’t need weird ballet torture tactics to get good grades.”

Logically, April knows Sterling is of course right, but she’s still having a hard time comprehending how she could have failed so miserably at something that Sterling, a woman whom she considers her intellectual equal (sometimes), aced easily. “Alright fine, I won’t. But I’m going to hold you to that study date and flashcard thing, and I’m going to trust that you won’t bring up the ballet shoe thing to Pastor Booth when we see him on Sunday.”

“Bounty Hunter’s Honor,” Sterling says, holding up her right hand, and with that understanding, they continue their walk home in silence, allowing April to take it all in as they cross the campus. After a moment, she locks arms with Sterling, who smiles to herself like a middle schooler with a crush.

No matter what happens to her, April has to remind herself that at the end of the day, if she plays her cards right, she will always have this beautiful, brilliant dope of hers. Getting married was the best thing she could have ever done, and she’s so glad that Sterling was crazy enough to ask.

“So, about going home this weekend,” April says after a few moments of nothing but the sounds of their shoes on the pavement. “Oddly enough, my mother has requested that we come home tomorrow and have dinner and stay the night at my parents’ house before going to church on Sunday.”

Sterling frowns. “No offense, but the last time I had a full conversation with your mom, she basically accused me of being Ben Affleck in Gone Girl.”

Without thought or hesitation, April gushes. “Oh, I love that movie.” But that’s hardly important right now. “No, it’s just…well, it’s not like our engagement came about after a lengthy public courtship and you asked my parents’ permission to marry me—not that I ever wanted that. But my mom feels that she doesn’t really know you, and she would like to, seeing as you’re now her daughter-in-law.” April decides to omit the part of Mary’s request in which she would like to know about any hereditary diseases in the Wesley or Culpepper families—because that’s where she’s decided to draw her line in the sand. If you don’t set boundaries with Mary Stevens, she will never stop…honestly, April never stood a chance at being normal.

Sterling stamps her foot and pouts. “Man, does this mean we aren’t going to be able to have sex tomorrow night? On a Saturday?”

April chuckles. “You know, it’s honestly impressive at how much you just managed to sound like a child while expressing such an adult sentiment.”

Sterling wordlessly smirks at April, who shoves her shoulder playfully. 

Returning to her childhood home with Sterling as her wife feels like it should be more…triumphant, after all they’ve been through thanks to the man who owns this house. But what April feels as she pulls up in her Lincoln is more of a feeling that she is taking only the first step in the very long journey that will be uniting her two families. Team Stevens and the Stevens-Wesleys.

Step one is convincing her mother that Sterling is as wonderful as April already knows her to be. The (admittedly much harder) second step will be convincing her father of the same, though hopefully, Mary might be able to soften him up a bit before they let him out of jail. But granted, this whole thing could all be a pipe dream, and April just might have to go back to accepting the fact that the Wesleys are the only family she can count on going forward. In fact, when separating her hopes from it, that feels like the most likely outcome to April. But she knows that she’ll never allow herself any peace if she doesn’t at least try to make everyone get along.

“Is it too late to pretend like our car broke down on the way over here and we can’t make it?” Sterling asks, her hand resting on the door handle.

April doesn’t dignify that with an answer and gets out of the car, going around back to get her overnight bag from the trunk. “Sterl, you packed a swimsuit, right? Because I could stand a little time in the hot tub tonight, if you’re interested,” April says, smiling to herself as Sterling hurries around the car to get her own bag. How did April know that would put a pep in her step?

Though, unfortunately, their flirty banter dies pretty quickly when Mary opens the front door of the house and yells, “Oh, April, Sweetheart, did you get my text about needing you to stop at the store?”

April looks down at her phone, conveniently in her hand, and sees no such text notification “No, Mama. I didn’t get it,” she says, frustrated. Either Mary forgot to hit send, or she’s kicking herself for not thinking of it sooner and is trying to cover her ass. They’re equally likely.

“Well, I need you to run to the store for some Yukon Gold potatoes and a steak for Sterling. I don’t know what was going through my head when I was out shopping,” Mary says, attempting to laugh it off, but April can tell there’s just something…off with her. 

Ordinarily, April would think that Mary’s gone too long off her meds, but that’s not it at all. This is different, and she’s just about to ask Sterling to be a dear and run to the store on her behalf so that she can try to get to the bottom of this, but she married this very smart girl for a reason.

“I’ll go to the store, Mrs. Stevens,” Sterling offers, quickly snatching the keys out of April’s hand and closing the trunk. April has a feeling that her eagerness has as much to do with sensing April’s need to be left alone with her mother as it does her not wanting to be left alone with Mary.

“Oh, please don’t call me that, Sterling,” Mary says, to which Sterling nods and gets into the car, practically peeling out of the driveway and leaving April to carry in the bags.

“What a gentlewoman,” Mary deadpans, shaking her head and picking up April’s bag, leaving her to only carry in Sterling’s.

“Honestly, she really is. I think she’s just a little…intimidated by you, is all,” April admits, following her mother up the porch steps and into the house. “Plus, she weirdly loves the grocery store.”

Mary forces a smile. “Then I guess there are some upsides to marrying a woman,” she says, and April knows that this is all still very awkward for her. While she may have had her strong suspicions about April for a very long time, there still was hardly any recovery time between having those suspicions confirmed and April getting engaged. Though, of course, this is operating under the assumption that Mary isn’t actually a little bit bigoted, which is naive. She definitely is.

April frowns, feigning ignorance. “I’m struggling to think of any downsides to it.”

“Well, I would like a grandchild eventually, you know. Before I’m too old,” Mary says, and April doesn’t even try to stop herself from groaning. She might be married, but she’s still only 18 and she doesn’t need everyone and their mother—namely hers—pressuring her into doing that now just because basically every other married teenage couple is going through it.

“There are ways that Sterling and I can do that, but I wouldn’t hold your breath for any little Stevens-Wesley additions for a long, long, long time. Bilko is our son,” April says, though she’d probably worry too much to leave a human child home alone for the night with only their auto feeder and Litter-Robot to take care of them. “And besides, if you wanted more opportunities to have babies run around here, maybe you and Daddy should have had more of your own.”

Mary actually laughs out loud at that. “April, I got an IUD put in when you were six weeks old and never looked back,” she says bluntly, and it comes as a bit of a surprise to April since John had always phrased it to her like maybe he would have liked more children but her mother couldn’t. “Make no mistake, I love you with all my heart, but I would have gladly ripped out my own uterus instead of having another baby.”

April still feels a little offended. “Seems like an extreme reaction, but okay,” she says, following her mom upstairs to what she thinks will be her room, but Mary stops in front of one of the guest rooms.

“Don’t you think Sterling would be so much more comfortable here?” Mary asks, and April rolls her eyes. 

What is this bullshit medieval idea of a sleeping arrangement?

She takes her bag from her mom and continues down the hall to her own bedroom with Mary hot on her tail even as she goes in and puts the bags down on her bed. It’s strange to think she hasn’t slept in here since Wedding Eve. “You know, now that Sterling and I are married, you will have to accept the fact that we sleep in the same bed, Mother,” she says, turning back to Mary, who crosses her arms and looks entirely unapologetic.

“It’s not my fault you had to go and get married so young, April Elizabeth,” Mary says patronizingly. “But fine, if you insist on sleeping in here, then please keep the volume of any nighttime activities to a minimum. You know how it...echos in here.”

“You have my word that you won’t have to worry about that, Mama,” April promises, knowing that Sterling has already expressed to her that thanks to prom night, the idea of having sex in a house owned by John Stevens is a real ‘lady boner killer,’ and April can’t say she disagrees. And speaking of the lady boner killer himself, “Did Daddy tell you that he called me on my honeymoon and expressed to me that he’d like to repair our relationship?”

Mary seems taken aback a moment, but reins it in. “No, I didn’t know that. But that’s good, Sweetheart. I’m happy for you.” Her tone of voice would suggest that she’s curiously not that happy for her. But really, she should be happy for all of them. In the absence of April’s big secret, and with her father’s apparent commitment to change, this could be the first time in...well, forever, that they’ll be able to be a normal family.

That doesn’t seem at all naive to April.

“This is really good, Mrs...Mary,” Sterling says between bites of food, having already scarfed down half her plate of steak frites--due at least in some part to the fact that at the beginning of the meal, she felt the need to cut up her entire ribeye into bite-sized pieces, like a toddler.

Conversation has been scarce, and it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to April, seeing as her father would tend to dominate dinnertime conversation. But still, the sound of nothing but forks and steak knives on plates can get grating over time.

“Thank you, Sterling. The trick is to boil the potatoes in salt and vinegar water before you fry them. Otherwise, a Yukon Gold will never crisp up,” Mary states matter-of-factly.

“Inspired,” Sterling says, a little in awe, and April can tell her mother is flattered. Really, complimenting her fried foods is the number one way into any Southern mother-in-law’s heart. Though it does beg the question of why they are eating this delicious but high-calorie dinner that April thought Mary only ever made for her dad’s sake--it’s his favorite.

“So, how is college treating you girls?” Mary asks before taking a long sip of red wine.

Sterling shrugs while April puts her hand on top of hers on the table.

“It’s going fantastic, Mama. Sterling got a perfect score on our first economics test, and I’m doing something with the theater department on Halloween,” April says, deciding she should just skip over that part about her failing the very test that Sterling aced. “And, I have some big renovation plans for our house. I’m going to completely redo our kitchen and bathroom, and I’m going to tear down a wall in the kitchen to open the place up a bit.” Just saying it aloud is giving her HGTV goosebumps.

“I thought my dad told you that the kitchen wall was probably load-bearing?” Sterling asks as if she’s trying to rain on April’s parade.

April grits her teeth into a smile as she turns to Sterling. “Yes, Honey. And that’s why I’m going to replace it with a beam. I’m not an idiot,” she says in what Sterling has so nicely decided to dub her Sweet Wifey voice before turning back to her mother. “All in all, it’s going to look fabulous.”

“I’m sure it will be great, April,” Mary says, finishing her wine and turning back to Sterling as she pours herself another. April thinks she might be close to finishing the bottle. “And Sterling, are you just letting April do all the work around the house, or are you contributing?”

Sterling seems offended at the insinuation that she’s somehow too lazy or incompetent to take part in the home renovations, and she’s right to be. April trusts her completely with paint. Expensive Magnolia paint. Oh, and anything else reversible.

“Sterling has been working on getting our yard presentable,” April says, leaving out the part where just yesterday, she and Sterling lived out a ‘rich lady seduces the rugged gardener’ fantasy after watching Sterling mow the lawn and trim the hedges got her hot. She now understands how Audrey from Little Shop felt...well, before she was eaten by the giant alien plant. “My own beautiful landscaper.”

Sterling scoffs. “Yeah, right. It’s all her creative vision. I just do what she tells me to.” She smiles at April in a way that tells her she very much enjoys being told what to do, and then she goes back to eating, allowing silence to fall over the table again until April can’t stand it.

“So Mama, about Daddy and I repairing our relationship. I promised him that we’d have dinner with him, so do you think it would be best if we all go to a restaurant as a neutral zone, or would he be okay with doing it here?” she asks, though she does figure the restaurant would be logistically best—at least there, he couldn’t shoot Sterling.

“I think it would be best if it was just the three of you,” Mary says, looking down at her plate.

April can imagine that her mom may not be in the best mental state when her father gets out of prison—when he came home the first time, she actually started taking her meds—so that would make sense. But still, April does have dreams of having it all—an adoring wife, and parents who love them both.

“Okay, well, while we were in Galaxy’s Edge, Sterl brought up the excellent point that Daddy’s still never been, so how fun would it be if we could—assuming Daddy can leave the state—all go down there as a family next summer? Because we could get a suite and-“

“April, your father and I are getting divorced.”

The blunt revelation is like a verbal sucker punch, with April never having expected those words to leave her mother’s lips. Irrational as it may be, she truly had it in her head that once her dad gets out of jail, if he’s really reformed, he’ll see Sterling for the fine young lady that she is and they can all go on to be one united, happy, normal family. But according to her mom’s revelation, her family is about to become more broken than ever.

“I’m sorry, what? What are you talking about?” April asks, shaking her head and struggling to comprehend what’s happening to her life as she’s always known it. Her dad’s always been a complete shit, and her mom as always just seemed to let it all run off her back, and that worked for them, didn’t it? And wasn’t it Mary who just two weeks ago was telling Aunt Franny that John didn’t deserve to be shut out on the wedding day because he’s April’s father and her husband?

“I didn’t know how to tell you this, but you know as well as anyone that your father and I have not gotten along for a very long time. I stuck it out as best as I could, even with all the horrible things he’s done to our family in recent years, but I have had enough. Seeing your beautiful wedding and realizing that bastard would have made me miss it just put into perspective all that I don’t want to ‘just put up with’ anymore.”

April will not allow herself to cry. She will not. “But he says he’s going to be better? Why can’t we just wait and see, and then you can decide—”

“He’s never going to be truly better, April. You can’t change the fundamentals of who he is at his core and I don’t want to waste any more of my life trying. It’s done. I served him papers on the Wednesday after your wedding and we’ve already begun the mediation process—him being an inmate makes that nice and interesting.”

April’s brain puts it together that her father called her wanting to talk about repairing their relationship the very day that Mary supposedly served him papers. She thinks she knows how that series of events played out, and it only makes things worse. Of course, her father would have an ulterior motive. He always does.

“Yeah, I’m done.” April pushes away from the table and removes her cloth napkin from her lap to toss down next to her plate before rushing upstairs, going into her room, and slamming the door before she fully breaks into tears.

It’s selfish of her to want her mom to care more about her child than herself right now. She knows that. But it doesn’t stop her from feeling like this is yet another instance of Mary not being there for her when she needs her. Though ironically, most of the other instances of that could have been avoided if Mary had had the courage to do this sooner.


Being back in the place where they got married just over two weeks ago is quite a surreal feeling to Sterling when she and her wife currently aren’t even speaking to each other.

Not since last night, when April stormed off from the dinner table and then made Sterling use the hidden Bilko key to get in her bedroom and go to sleep when April wouldn’t unlock the door. Sterling had tried to initiate a conversation about what was said at dinner, tiptoeing around April’s honestly appalling response to something that Sterling knows to be the unequivocally correct move for Mary, and deep down, she knows April knows it too. 

Heck, even the Bible condones divorce when it’s on the grounds of sexual immorality, and lord knows John the Sex Worker Beater has sexual immorality coming out of every orifice. And that’s not even going into the fact that he’s just a garbage human being, and Sterling had thought she and April were on the same page with that, up until very recently.

Pastor Booth drones on in his back to school sermon using Proverbs, and Sterling is trying her best to pay attention, especially with how applicable some of it is when it comes to the more ignorant members of the congregation, but she’s mostly paying attention to April as Pastor Booth reads off, “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words. Do not move an ancient landmark, or enter the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; He will plead their cause against you. Apply your heart to instruction, and your ear to words of knowledge.”

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol,” April mumbles under her breath, continuing the quote that Pastor Booth intentionally cut off where he did, but Sterling has a sinking feeling she knows exactly why April already knew that.

Pastor Booth closes his bible, signaling that these will be his closing words before they’re released. “I must say that I am so happy to see all of your smiling faces this morning, especially those who may be struggling more than they would care to share--students, or their parents, or their teachers--as we start a new academic year. Just always remember that when walking with Christ, you are never alone, and looking within one’s self for strength is all well and good, but reaching out to others never hurt anyone.” Sterling thinks she sees him briefly glance over at Mary, sitting alone in the Stevens’ pew, before he finishes his sermon and eventually dismisses everyone, though Sterling and April won’t be going anywhere.

“We’ll see you girls at lunch, okay?” Debbie says as Anderson gently tugs her in the direction of the door, no doubt wanting to get out of the parking lot ahead of the traffic jam. “Be good for Pastor Booth.”

Sterling rolls her eyes at her mom still continuing to talk to them like they’re children. Children don’t go to marriage counseling. “We will, Mom. You guys have fun on the courts.”

Anderson and Debbie share a look before Debbie smiles innocently. “Oh, we will.”

April snickers next to Sterling. “Go Deb.”

Sterling feels like she’s missing something, frowning as April waves them off.

They wait a few more minutes for the church to clear out, with the last of the stragglers finishing their quick discussions with Pastor Booth before he waves them over. “Y’all know the drill by now. My office,” he says, trying to sound welcoming and friendly, but Sterling is filled with absolute dread at what all is likely to unfold as they follow him to the back hallway and into his office with the comfy couch.

“Now,” he says, getting settled in his chair. “Why don’t y’all start by giving me a general idea of how things have been going the past two weeks? Good, I hope?”

Sterling hates that they didn’t come in here yesterday. Yesterday, things in their marriage were pretty dang fantastic. “Yeah, good,” she says, then regrettably has to add, “Mostly.”

Pastor Booth frowns and clicks a fresh pen from a Star Trek mug on his desk, putting it to his pad of paper. “Define ‘mostly.’”

April looks at Sterling as if to say that she’s really done it now. “Well, our honeymoon was lovely, and we’ve had a good time getting adjusted in our home. Really, I don’t know what she’s talking about ‘mostly.’ It’s great. Things have been totally great.”

Pastor Booth looks at them for a good long moment and sighs before zeroing in on April. “And y’all suddenly being a little out of step has nothing to do with your parents getting divorced, right April?” he asks skeptically. After a beat, he adds for clarification, “Mary came to speak with me about it after y’all’s wedding.”

If Sterling didn’t think it would only make April angrier at her, she’d be inclined to laugh, but she holds it in.

April crosses her arms. “I don’t know, Harland. Do you think me feeling like my wife is incapable of understanding my pain at the destruction of my family is causing a rift?” she asks sarcastically, and Sterling didn’t even know they were allowed to use sarcasm on the preacher.

She growls in frustration. “I understand why you’re upset, but what I don’t get is why you think your feelings matter more than your mom’s and why you won’t just accept the fact that probably your whole family will be a lot better off if your parents aren’t together.”

Without skipping a beat, April fires back, “Oh, that’s so easy for you to say since they aren’t your perfect parents. Who aren’t ‘playing tennis’ before lunch, by the way.”

Sterling feels like she could throw up, having never considered that to be a possibility until now, but she’s more concerned about April thinking she cares so little about her feelings in all this. She most certainly does. She cares so much about her wife’s feelings, in fact, that she doesn’t want her to be hyping up something awful (in this case, the Stevens’ marriage) and making herself feel worse in the process.

“Okay, I’m gonna stop y’all there,” Pastor Booth says, jumping in before Sterling can shove her foot any further into her mouth. “April, you know I’ve known your parents since you were a little girl, and while I always thought that they made a very handsome couple, I also could see the sadness in your mother. You saw that too, didn’t you?”

April rolls her eyes. “Well yes, she’s always been sad. She’s a manic depressive.”

Pastor Booth stares at April pointedly. “The proper medical term is ‘bipolar disorder’ and I think you know that,” he says, and Sterling can see April’s defiant facade crumble just a bit as she’s forced to confront her fear regarding her mother’s condition.

“But even if she wasn’t dealing with that, your mother is a person, April. She deserves to be happy, and if living separately from your daddy is what’s gonna make her happy, then shouldn’t you support her in that?”

“I…I guess so,” April admits quietly.

Sterling unconsciously places a comforting hand on April’s back, which she’s glad her wife doesn’t shy away from. “April, you’ve told me before that your mom would be better off without your dad. Why the big change?” She rubs April’s back with soothing circles as April seems to come up with an answer.

“Because my parents getting divorced means that I will never have a normal, perfect family. And because if my parents can get divorced after over 25 years together, then what’s stopping you from ever leaving me, Sterling?” April’s admission seems to momentarily suck all of the air out of the room as both Sterling and Harland struggle to respond to it, but this is why Harland is the pastor here.

“April,” he says, getting up from his desk and coming around to crouch next to her. “Given everything you’ve ever told me, I think you love Sterling with all your heart, and the same can be said about Sterling and her feelings for you. I can’t tell the future—that’s a bit above my paygrade. I can’t tell you that there won’t be hardships. But what I do know is that as long as the love remains, and it will as long as you continue to have faith in your relationship and His divine plan for you both, you don’t have to worry about any of that.” When Harland finishes his mini-speech, he holds out his arms for April to give him a hug, which she is more than glad to accept.

Feeling left out, Sterling comes in to hug her wife from behind, too. An action that she hears change April’s quiet sobbing into wet laughter, and when the three of them separate, Sterling sees her favorite person again, finally having returned from wherever she went last night.

Harland returns to his desk and pushes his box of tissues closer to April so she can reach for one. “I’m not gonna say that it doesn’t suck to be a child of divorce. I talk with enough of them in our congregation every day to know that. But one thing you have that all those kids don’t is you already have a perfectly normal family, and y’all are sitting right in front of me. Sterling, I trust that you can continue to be the person your wife can lean on in her hour of need. And April, I’m asking for you to please just let Sterling in. Y’all don’t need to be in here with me to have an honest discussion about your emotions, you hear?”

They both nod sheepishly, knowing that even with the progress they’ve made, it’s still something they have to work on—both in and out of tents.

“Now that we’ve talked about that—though you bet your butts we’ll be revisiting all of that in the weeks to come—tell me how these past few weeks have gone.”

Sterling turns to April, who gives her an earnest smile before she turns back to Harland. “I can’t even remember what my life was like without her,” she says, knowing it probably sounds corny, but it’s true. “She knows what I need before I even do, and she takes care of me.”

April blushes, showing the slightest hint of honest modesty for what can only be the fourth or fifth time in her whole life, Sterling figures. But God does she look beautiful doing it. 

“And I think that being married to Sterling has helped me put into perspective what’s really important in life,” April says, but Sterling doesn’t quite get her meaning until she elaborates. “I shouldn’t spend so much time worrying about being the best at everything. Or worse; putting myself in competition with the love of my life. I failed our first econ test that Sterling got 100% on, and while I was initially jealous, I realized that being married means sharing in each other’s triumphs, and Sterling’s accomplishments are mine.”

Pastor Booth makes a note of something. “Sterling, do you agree with that takeaway?”

Sterling shrugs, feeling a little conflicted. “I mean, sharing in each other’s accomplishments is all well and good, but I don’t want you to feel like you have to hide the things that upset you in the meantime.”

“Very good, Sterling. Y’all are gonna need to practice good communication if you don’t want misunderstandings to turn into some big dang problems,” Harland praises her assessment, which makes Sterling feel good—she really doesn’t want to be a bad wife.

They continue the session, and April sighs and rests her head on Sterling’s shoulder, which is all that she’s wanted since having to pick the lock of April’s childhood bedroom.

Whoever invented the concept of the ‘Honey-Do’ list should be shot, and Sterling volunteers as tribute. Because really, the person who thought that a chores list with a cutesy name is at all better than a regular chores list is probably a totally insufferable human being, and Sterling would be actively plotting their demise were she not so gosh darn exhausted.

To call the state of their yard ‘overgrown’ is the understatement of the century. It is positively Secret Garden status, and Sterling is starting to debate the merits of investing in a flamethrower when her pair of hedge trimmers literally fall apart on her while she’s trying to trim vines away from the house.

“Thanks for the used gardening tools, Mom,” she mumbles to herself as she takes the two rusty halves directly to their garbage can on the curb. If she’d known that owning a house would be this much manual labor, she might have just insisted her dad sell the house and give them the cash.

Once she tosses the broken tool, she wipes sweat from her brow with the back of her arm. It’s so easy for April to think this is a fair tradeoff for...whatever it is she’s doing in the air-conditioned house when she isn’t the one out here dying in this heat, sweaty and covered in grass stains and other plant debris. But she figures that the trimmers breaking serves as a good indicator that she should probably take a break and hydrate before she suffers a heat stroke.

She heads into the house, kicking off her grass and dirt-caked hunting boots off to one side of the door before venturing deeper into the house, hearing what can only be April’s phone dock playing country music. She’s craving a cold glass of lemonade or sweet tea...whatever April’s got in a pitcher in their fridge. She doesn’t mean to be so crabby--she knows that April is hardly the outdoorsy type and that what she does around the house is equally important too--but boy is she three kinds of exhausted.

And boy was she not expecting to walk into the scene that she walks into.

“What are you doing?” Sterling asks in mild horror as she happens upon April, sledgehammer raised in front of the wall that earlier today she swore she wouldn’t take out without replacing it with a beam.

At her voice, April turns around and Sterling tries not to get too distracted by her appearance, which is frankly something right out of her more porno-ish fantasies. Her hair is up in a high ponytail, she’s wearing some extra short jean shorts and a white tank top that show off her arm and thigh muscles beautifully, and she’s somehow even making the safety glasses sexy. “Yes? Can I help you?” she asks, seeming more annoyed to be interrupted, rather than feeling guilty at being caught doing something she almost definitely shouldn’t be.

“Whatcha doin’ there?” Sterling asks, pointing at the sledgehammer.

April turns to look at the wall before looking back at Sterling. “Was thinking about tearing down that wall to open up the space,” she says, shrugging.

“April, this isn’t HGTV,” Sterling reminds her because honestly, she thinks sometimes April forgets. “Isn’t that a load-bearing wall? Maybe you shouldn’t just go and knock it down all willy-nilly.” She knows she sounds scarily similar to her dad right now, but it’s only because there definitely needs to be some adult in this situation.

April sighs and points down at the hardwood floor before pointing at the wall. “As you can see, the floorboards are perpendicular to the wall, which would strongly suggest that the wall is in fact not load-bearing. Also, I took it upon myself to find the original plans for the house, which tell me that this wall here,” she pats the wall for emphasis, ''is entirely cosmetic. And I hate it, so I’m going to knock it down now.”

Sterling looks past April through the archway into the kitchen, which serves as the center of the wall April is dead set on destroying. She points at something that could prove problematic. “Aren’t you going to move the fridge first?” she asks, noting that it’s directly beside the wall and will most definitely get showered with 1950s mesothelioma dust the second April takes a swing at that wall.

April sighs exasperatedly and puts down the sledgehammer on the floor, going into the kitchen and draping a paint tarp over the fridge and part of the countertop. “There, it’ll be fine,” she says, then returns to her hammer (like she’s some modern-day Thor...which is an equally sexy mental image).

“April, I really don’t think this is a good idea,” Sterling says as April raises the sledgehammer again. She does not want their house to fall down because April has an intense desire to roleplay Jack Torrance.

“Hey Sterling,” April says, turning her head to look at her while keeping the hammer raised. “Are you watching?” After a beat, she slams the hammer into the wall, busting a large hole into the drywall.

Sterling continues watching, crossing her arms and pretending to be unamused as April opens up a can of Whoopbutt on the wall, leaving a pile of dusty rubble in its wake.

“You’re cleaning this up, not me,” Sterling tells April firmly, looking away so she doesn’t have any more thirsty thoughts about how sexy April looks while covered in dust and perspiration.

April whacks the last stud remaining, and turns to Sterling, hammer slung over her shoulder like Paul Bunyan’s ax. “Thank you so much for being my cheerleader, Sterl,” she says sarcastically, but really, the only reason Sterling wasn’t cheering her on (aside from still thinking this could potentially destabilize their whole house) is that she’s fighting an intense urge to take her wife right here and now. But more than that, something tells her April’s demolition urge might be a coping mechanism for what’s been bothering her for going on 24 hours now.

“You know me. I’m a real demolition supporter,” Sterling says as April drops the hammer and comes right up into her personal bubble.

“Did you finish the Honey-Do list?” April asks, picking a piece of grass out of Sterling’s hair.

“I’m about halfway through it. But I’ll remind you that Sunday is the Sabbath, and therefore it is actually sinful of you to work me to the bone like this,” Sterling argues petulantly.

April looks down and off to the side as she tends to do when she’s being a manipulative little brat. “Well, the Sabbath also prohibits cooking and cleaning, so unless you plan on making your own dinner, and not having the barbecued chicken that I’ve been marinating since yesterday…”

Sterling narrows her eyes at her calculating but wonderful wife. “Will there be side dishes with the chicken?”

April smirks. “And dessert.”

“Dang it,” Sterling says, caving quicker than she thought she would. The drawback of having a wife who’s an excellent cook is that she holds way too much power as a result of it. “That’s really unfair, I hope you know.”

“Yeah, I know,” April says, giggling and sounding entirely unapologetic. “But hey, like I told my mom, you at least make a pretty sexy landscaper.”

“You did not tell your mom I’m sexy.”

“Well no, but that’s because I’m the only one allowed to think of you like that.” April’s hand goes to rest on Sterling’s shoulder, fingers teasing at the sleeve of her horribly grass-stained Falcons NFC championship t-shirt.

Sterling gets the most brilliant idea in the world and reaches behind April to her ponytail to let down her hair before removing her safety glasses. It’s the kind of real-life Rachael Leigh Cook move Sterling’s been dreaming about being on either side of basically her whole life. Though this context is way better than making over the school nerd—she’s never been dumb enough to think April would ever need one.

“Did you really just use a romcom move on me? Really, Sterl?” April asks incredulously but seems plenty endeared by it.

Sterling shrugs. “Maybe, but you look hot both ways.”

April smiles, her hand slowly moving from Sterling’s shoulder to her neck, fingers lightly grazing over the skin and making Sterling involuntarily shudder at the sensation. “I never thought I’d say this, but I think I really like the grimy look.”

Sterling swallows hard. She doubts she’ll ever be able to be calm and collected when her wife is coming onto her like this. “You do?”

Without answering with words, April pulls Sterling in roughly by the back of her head and kisses her hard on the mouth when it’s still slightly agape from shock, giving April’s tongue easy access. There isn’t any nonsense ‘battle for dominance,’ but only because April and her tongue are unquestionably the ones in charge here. Sterling’s just along for the ride. Literally, as April pulls her down to the floor, clawing at her back and shoulders while she continues to kiss her, not letting Sterling break for air until they’re both entirely out of breath…and laughing. 

“Ow, ow, something is digging into my back,” Sterling says, reaching under her and pulling out a large chunk of drywall. This is certainly not the kind of cleanly setting that she would assume April would want to have sex in, but April proves her wrong when she removes her own tank top and gives Sterling an eyeful of probably the first sports bra she’s seen her wife in, but that somehow makes it weirdly hot. It’s a nice change of pace from all of the lace and satin.

“You good?” April asks before kissing Sterling action that Sterling cuts short after a moment, her eyes widening as she swears she hears a creaking noise coming from their ceiling.

“Did you hear that?” she asks, looking past April.

Chapter Text

Campy Halloween is as old of a concept for the gays as slutty versions of costumes are for straight women, and yet April can’t believe that this is the first year she’s really been able to go all-in on it. 

Last year’s Sadie Hawkins dance (themed very uncreatively as ‘Halloween Horrors’) was an interesting one, as she and Sterling were not out to the school, which only meant that they had to get creative when it came to coordinating their costumes. They couldn’t have been so bold as to go as Sam and Deena from Netflix’s Fear Street Trilogy, but April convinced Hannah B. and Ezekiel to dress up with her as iconic Final Girls from other horror movies. Meanwhile, Sterling convinced Blair to dress up as Freddy vs Jason. So when April showed up to the dance dressed as Nancy from A Nightmare on Elm Street (along with Hannah B. as Sidney Prescott from Scream and Ezekiel as Ellen Ripley from Alien), nobody batted an eye when Sterling as Freddy Krueger thought it would be hilarious to chase April around the dance with her claws out or take pictures with her in the photo booth. 

Though God knows April made her take off the mask when they made out in the gym’s supply closet.

But this year...oh, this year’s couples costume is April’s magnum opus. Better than Han and Leia...heck, even better than the first time she dressed up as Leia and her dad carried her around trick or treating dressed as Darth Vader. She’s been thinking about it for years and was half-tempted to use it for the 80s-themed Sadie Hawkins dance two years ago, but she’s so glad she didn’t waste this on Luke.

“April, where are my pants?” Sterling calls from the bedroom, still just a bit in the dark as far as April’s costume goes, though she’s sure to get a kick out of it.

April looks to the bathtub, where Sterling’s high-rise Levi jeans are draped over the side after April stole them before she came into the bathroom to do her hair and makeup. “No idea…” she lies. Obviously, she intends on giving them back to her wife eventually, but for now, she’s going to have a little bit of fun with her character for the evening.

“I swear I had them with the rest of my costume. I can’t put on the suspenders without them,” Sterling says, followed by the sounds of her tearing apart their perfectly organized bedroom looking for them.

April holds her breath and gives her carefully curled and styled hair one last long shot of hairspray--how anyone in the 50s ever managed to do this every single day is beyond her, let alone a high school girl. “I’ll be out in a minute to help you. Just put on what you can,” she says to Sterling as she adjusts the tongues of her white tennis shoes and smoothes down her lavender dress one final time.

Smiling to her reflection in the mirror, April opens the door to find Sterling standing in the hallway in only the t-shirt and underwear parts of her costume. She isn’t looking up, too preoccupied with examining said underwear, though that’s just as well for April’s grand entrance. “April, why are my underwear a part of it?” she asks, looking down at the pair of lavender Calvin Klein briefs.

April smirks and puts on her best character voice. “I’ve never seen purple underwear before, Calvin,” she says, prompting Sterling to finally look up at her, horror dawning on her face when she realizes what April’s done.

“You’re my’re my-” Sterling says, actually perfectly quoting the movie, though April doesn’t think it’s intentional.

Still, April looks at her innocently. “My name’s Lorraine. Lorraine Baines. Pleased to meet you, Calvin...Marty...Klein,” she says, smirking at Sterling and coming closer to run her hand through Sterling’s freshly-cut hair, which is back to its junior year chin-length glory after much begging on April’s part.

Sterling recoils. “April, when you said you wanted to do Back to the Future costumes, I thought you meant we’d go as Marty and his girlfriend. Not Marty and his horny mom!”

April is trying her best not to laugh right now, as she knows that’ll only serve to piss Sterling off, but really, this is too funny and exactly why this costume is brilliant. “Sterl, Jennifer was so insignificant that they recast her in the second one. I am nobody’s Claudia Wells.”

“Oh sweet Baby Jesus, Blair is going to make fun of me forever for this,” Sterling says, looking up at the ceiling and then back at April, but she must look past her into the bathroom. “Are those my pants?”

April shrugs nonchalantly. “I dunno,” she says, heading to the kitchen to put the finishing touch on the bowl of Halloween candy she’ll be leaving on their porch for the evening while they go to two different parties. “Please take one, don’t be an asshole,” she says to herself as she writes it on a Post-It note and sticks it to the side of the bowl.

“April,” Sterling says, emerging from the bathroom and attempting to walk as she pulls her pants up, almost faceplanting as a result. “Did you seriously hide my pants just so you could quote the movie like that?”

April rolls her eyes and crosses through the living room to open the door and put the bowl out on the porch. “God Sterl, I was just trying to be funny,” she says as Sterling makes a sound of frustration and returns to their bedroom.

“You are aware that we’re going to a party at the Zeta Omega Mu house because I’m pledging Kappa Alpha Theta, right? You don’t think my future sorority sisters will find it a little weird that my wife is dressed up like my character’s mom?” Sterling asks, eventually emerging as she buttons up the white checked shirt, suspenders clipped to her jeans but not over her shoulders yet.

April shakes her head, still not fully understanding the fact that Sterling is perhaps one of the least social people she knows, but she’s willing to put herself out there to join up with a bunch of basic bitches in the exact same sorority as her annoying cousin. “Yeah, that part is still a little unclear to me. If you’re pledging to join a sorority, then why are the two of us going behind enemy lines into a frat house--where we’re probably going to get roofied, by the way--instead of going to, I don’t know, the sorority’s house?”

Sterling looks annoyed, only because April is making her explain what they both know to be a deeply archaic rule. “Because sororities aren’t allowed to throw their own parties if there is alcohol, but fraternities can.”

“So tell me again why you’re choosing to take part in this again?” April asks. She’ll be the first to sign up for something that she thinks will help her future resumes, but even she has to draw a moral line in the sand somewhere.

“Because Blair is joining up with that sporty sorority at her school and she seems to be having fun with it. And these girls are nice, you just haven’t given them a chance because you’ve never met any of them.” Sterling says, putting the suspenders over her shoulders and grabbing her denim jacket and orange puffer vest from the back of the couch…April hadn’t realized just how many layers Marty McFly’s iconic look consists of,

“I could say the same to you about my friends, most of whom you’ve still refused to meet too, Sterl,” April argues.

“Yeah, well, I’m going to your midnight Rocky thing tonight, so I’m sure I’ll meet them there. You be nice to my new friends and I’ll be nice to yours. Deal?” Sterling says, finishing putting her costume together and completing it by grabbing the blowup electric guitar she won herself at the Fun Zone last year on a date.

“Deal,” April says, coming up to her and getting on her tippy toes to give Sterling a lingering kiss before pulling away, and after a beat adding. “Though, just so we’re clear, the thing is Rocky Horror, not Rocky the boxing movie.”

Sterling frowns. “What’s the difference?”

A part of April dies inside at such a question. “Gay Jesus give me strength,” she groans.

“Sterling! I’m so glad you could make it!” A tall girl with long, dark beachy waves dressed as a vintage Playboy Bunny squeals in a voice that reminds April of the one she taught herself to speak in when she was pretending to be a heterosexual. Even so, she does not like the way this bitch thinks it’s okay to practically throw herself into Sterling’s arms and hold her tight for way longer than necessary. Though it only gets worse when she finally lets go. “And is this your life partner? Adorbs,” she says, looking April up and down with a patronizing smile. “And you are—don’t tell me—Jackie Kennedy?”

April grits her teeth into a smile. “Sure.”

“Uh, April, this is my Big, Eliana. Ellie, this is my wife April,” Sterling introduces the two of them.

April frowns, still not understanding sorority cult things in the slightest. “What exactly does being her ‘Big’ mean, exactly?” she asks.

Eliana laughs, reminding April of Fran Drescher in The Nanny. “Gosh, sometimes I forget not everyone knows this stuff. Well, technically, I’m not Sterling’s Big yet, because you have to get a bid from the sorority first before you can become someone’s Little, and Ling Ling here is still a pledge. But I sort of have a soft spot for diversity pledges since I’m a sociology major. It just basically means that I’m like her big sister and look out for her.”

And here April thought that Blair held the award for worst sister ever, but this potential Big is giving Sterling’s twin a run for her money. There’s just so much to unpack in all that that she doesn’t even know where to start. “Fascinating…” Is what she ultimately settles on.

Sterling nods happily. “It’s really cool. Ellie’s been giving me some pointers for the pledge stuff.”

“It’s my pleasure. Even if you won’t be living in the house, I’d rather have you get one of the spots than a lot of these other little skank pledges,” Eliana says, placing her hand over her heart. “Anyhoozle, I have to go say hi to a few other people so it doesn’t look like I’m playing favorites. But please have fun, you two. Have a drink, but uh…I’d avoid the punch,” And with that, she heads off in the direction of a few other girls, including one redhead dressed as some kind of sexy steampunk girl, who exudes HBIC energy in the way the other girls seem to crowd around her.

Sterling must notice April looking and helpfully explains, “That’s Ashlynn. She’s the president of the sorority and makes the final choice of which pledges get bids to join at the end of rush.”

“Well, I guess you’re somewhat of a shoo-in if you’re a diversity pledge,” April says, raising an eyebrow at Sterling. Having spent a very long time ingratiating herself with girls just like this, she knows too well the kind of things they say behind closed doors about girls like her and Sterling. It’s why she had politely declined Sterling’s invitation to pledge with her when rush began over a month ago now.

“They don’t mean any harm, April. You need to sometimes at least have to want to see the best in people,” Sterling says and takes April’s hand, leading her to the kitchen where there is an abundance of snacks and alcoholic beverages. “What besides the punch sounds good?” she asks, picking up a red plastic cup and looking in it as if to check if it’s actually clean. But she shrugs and starts to go about finding something that looks tasty on the island counter full of bottles of hard alcohol and mixers, so April will just assume it’s alright.

Looking over the options, she almost asks that Sterling make her a vodka-cran, but just the thought of drinking cranberry juice makes her feel nauseated after her UTI incident at the beginning of the year. So ultimately, April opens a large cooler on the floor and pulls out a mango White Claw. She’s never had hard seltzer before, but as an avid LaCroix drinker, she figures it’s worth giving it a shot.

She opens the can and takes a tentative sip as she watches Sterling pour what looks like way too much rum into Mountain Dew. “You sure that’s a good idea, Sterl? Or should I call you Ling Ling?”

Sterling lets out the long-suffering sigh of a non-confrontational introvert who was given a nickname against her will. “Please never call me that. Ashlynn started it and now they all do it and I hate it,” she says, swishing the drink around a bit in the absence of a method to stir it before taking a sip, and to April’s horror, adding even more alcohol.

“You know you can tell them to not call you that if you don’t like it, right?” April asks, continuing to sip on the White Claw, which like its nonalcoholic counterparts doesn’t taste like fruit so much as the idea of it. Plus alcohol.

“Actually, no, I can’t because as a pledge, when speaking to the president, I have to refer to myself only in the third person as ‘Pledge,’ so I’m pretty sure I’m also not allowed to question her nickname that she gave me,” Sterling explains, sounding more like a complete and utter nervous wreck than the confident and rightful Fellowship Leader who once wiped the floor with everyone at a debate tournament…aside from the insufferable Craig Wu.

“Sterling, what the actual fuck?” April asks, equally indignant over the fact that her wife’s nickname sounds like the name of a panda and that said wife won’t stand up for herself. She’s about to go out there and give that ginger bitch a piece of her mind when a group of boys dressed up as characters from Mario crowd into the kitchen, everyone going for the beer cooler except for Luigi.

“April? Sterling? It’s a me—sorry, it’s me, Luke,” he says, taking off the fake mustache as if they still would have had trouble recognizing him. “Hey guys, these are my ex-girlfriends who married each other!”

April does not care much for being introduced that way, even if it’s technically accurate. “Luke, what are you doing here?”

“I’m Zeta Omega Mu. What are you guys doing here?” Luke asks, going to the fridge and getting himself a root beer—always the boy scout.

“Wait, they already gave you a bid? I’ve been pledging Kappa Alpha Theta for like six weeks now!” Sterling says in outrage.

“That’s because sorority girls are fuckin’ crazy. But also so, so hot,” the tiny but jacked guy dressed as Toad says, coming closer to April, who gives him a look saying that she will end him, and he backs off.

“And, I know for sure that Ashlynn Sinclair gets off on power trips,” Waluigi supplies, causing the other boys to chuckle as he waggles his eyebrows. “Anyway, if you ladies are rushing, then if you happen upon a single hottie for this guy,” he pats Luke too hard on the back, “I’m sure he would appreciate it.”

Luke shakes his head. “No, I wouldn’t because I have a girlfriend and Sterl and April already know.”

“She’s not a lez too, is she?” Toad asks as if Sterling and April aren’t standing five feet away from him—honestly, this whole exchange is reminding April why she for the most part avoided straight boys in high school.

“Yeah, I mean, fool him once, shame on blondie. Fool him twice, and our boy’s got a type,” the large, deep-voiced black man dressed as Princess Peach says, ribbing Luke, who couldn’t look more embarrassed if he tried.

April can’t help but feel for him, seeing as, unlike Sterling, she’s always known where her true affections lie. And seeing as he is now one of her best friends’ boyfriends. “If his taste is in amazing, beautiful women, then yes,” she says, earning a grateful look from Luke. “But hey, if you boys aren’t busy later, there’s going to be a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show out on the quad. With a shadow cast.”

“I’m not sure what that is, but I’m in,” Luke says, raising his hand.

“I do know what that is and I’m so there,” Princess Peach says, getting his phone from his bra and texting someone.

April looks challengingly at the other boys, who seem to be avoiding eye contact. “Any others?” This thing will have a good turnout, even if she has to strongarm some straight boys into showing up. When they still don’t budge, however, she adds, “There’s going to be free drinks.”

At that, all of the boys voice their approval, and April smiles, satisfied. “I look forward to seeing you all there. Sterl, we should probably mingle with your future sorority sisters if you want to lock down that bid.”

Sterling nods in agreement. “Yes, we should absolutely do that. See ya later, fellas,” Sterling says to the boys as April leads her back out into the party.

She’ll be the first to admit that she’s not exactly thrilled about her wife’s choice of college clique, but April is not about to let her fail at what she’s set out to do. What kind of wife would that make her? “So aside from Ashlynn, who do you have to impress to get that bid?” April asks, looking out at the party girls and trying to pick out who looks more important.

“Uhhh…” Sterling says, scanning the crowd and eventually pointing to a blonde in an 80s aerobics getup drinking and chatting up a guy in a pumpkin suit and tie. “That’s Sophie, she’s the philanthropy chair…” she keeps looking and then points at a group of girls dancing together near the stairs, “And over there in the League of their Own costume is Andrea Johnson, the recruitment chair.”

April squints until she spots who Sterling is referring to in a Rockford Peaches uniform. “Oh, the pretty Blasian girl?”

“April, you gotta stop saying stuff like that,” Sterling scolds her.

“What? She’s pretty, and she’s clearly Blasian. It’s a fact, Sterling,” April says, really not understanding when it became politically incorrect to accurately describe someone. Especially when she’s one of the only people of color in this absolute sea of white people--even Willingham wasn’t this bad.

Sterling lets out a long-suffering sigh. “Fine, yes, Andrea is the pretty Blasian girl in the baseball uniform. Aside from Ashlynn, she and Sophie are who narrow down the pledges based on who they think will be the right fit.”

April nods, knowing she can work with this. “Okay, well, then let’s do a divide and conquer thing. You go talk to Andrea, and I’ll talk you up to Sophie. In my experience, you don’t even really have to impress the queen bee personally if you can get her worker drones on your side.” She knows she only ever put up with Tala Jordan as much as she did because Hannah B. vouched for her once.

“Okay, well, what do I say to her?” Sterling asks, reminding April that she really did marry a George McFly type.

April sighs exasperatedly and sips her White Claw. “Just...spark up a conversation about her costume and go from there. You want it to seem like you genuinely want to talk to her and not that you’re just doing it as a means to an end.” She’d know, as she’s had to do that exact thing plenty in her life.

Sterling nods like she gets it. “Okay, and what are you going to talk to Sophie about?”

“Never you mind, Dear,” April says, kissing Sterling’s cheek. “Now go impress that very important girl. I believe in you.” She tugs her hand free from Sterling’s grip and gives her a light shove in Andrea’s direction before she’s turning around and making a beeline for Sophie, who’s all alone now that Pumpkin Suit Guy is off dancing with a couple of skeletons.

“Love the costume,” April says to get Sophie’s attention, and when she does, the Philanthropy Chair’s face lights up.

“Oh my God, are you Lorraine Baines-McFly? From Back to the Future?” Sophie asks excitedly, looking over April’s costume.

And here April thought she was dealing with one of those basic bitches who get their costume ideas from tragically canceled Jenji Kohan Netflix shows. “Yes. Yes, I am. Thank you so much for knowing that.”

Sophie laughs. “Well duh, that’s only one of the most iconic movies ever. So where’s your George?” she asks, looking around for some boy with a weird haircut, no doubt.

April laughs nervously, wondering if the humor of their couple’s costume will land the same way with sorority girls as it would with her camp-loving gay friends. “Uh, I’m actually April, Sterling Stevens-Wesley’s wife, and she’s over there dressed like Marty,” she says, pointing at Sterling, who does at least seem to be engaged in some kind of conversation with Andrea.

Sophie snort-laughs. “That’s so messed. But hey, you’re Pledge Sterling’s gay wife, huh? You know she’s totally obsessed with you, right? She talks about you all the time.”

“As she should,” April says smugly, almost without thinking. “But no, I am certainly not her straight wife.”

Sophie giggles like a girl who has maybe already had a few drinks. “No, I guess you wouldn’t be.” She holds out her hand for April to shake. “I don’t know if she told you about me, but I’m Sophie. I’m the Philanthropy Chair.”

April makes a show of being impressed. “Really? That’s so cool. What all does that entail, exactly?”

“Oh, you know, I’m just kind of in charge of the fundraisers we do for charity and stuff. No biggie,” Sophie says, shrugging.

April scoffs. “Are you kidding? You basically have one of the most important jobs in the whole sorority, and you’re doing good for your community. You should feel really proud of yourself.” And Blair wonders how she ever became prom queen. “I’ve done a bit of charity work myself. Helping poor children in Brazil, actually. But my Daddy makes a lot of contributions to noble causes. You should let us know the next time you’re fundraising.”

Sophie nods. “I think I might take you up on that. You’re on Facebook, yeah?” She pulls out her phone and no doubt opens the app, so April does the same.

“Yes, that’s April Stevens-Wesley. Stevens is with a V and not a Ph. I’m also on Insta if you have any interest in endless posts about my wife and our cat,” April says, and a second later gets a friend request notification from Sophie Fraser, which she immediately accepts.

“Well, now we’re friends, April. And I’ll definitely be following your Insta. I’m such a cat person and the two of you are adorable together.” 

“Aww, that’s so nice of you to say. I hope Sterl gets a bid so we’ll see more of each other, Sophie,” April says, actually being a bit genuine, now. This girl seems nice.

Sophie leans in to whisper in April’s ear, her breath smelling like marshmallow vodka. “Between you and me, she’s already in. But don’t ruin the surprise.”

April smiles, glad that this was ultimately so easy, and also desperately hoping that Sterling isn’t currently saying anything to the Recruitment Chair that will change her mind. “I won’t. Pinky swear,” she assures Sophie, who nods and dances off to go get herself another drink from the kitchen.

Satisfied, April figures it’s time to save her wife, going over to her and locking arms with her as she interrupts Sterling talking about how Geena Davis could totally play for the Atlanta Braves. “Hi, so sorry, but do you mind if I steal her?” April asks Andrea, who nods.

“Sure thing. But Pledge, you and I gotta have a watch party when the Amazon show comes out, okay?” Andrea says, pointing expectantly at Sterling until she agrees.

“Yes, absolutely,” Sterling says, nodding and watching Andrea go off to speak with Ashlynn before she turns to April, eyes wide. “Oh my goodness, that was so scary.”

“Sterl, you hit it out of the park…pun semi-unintended,” April says, giggling to herself and finishing off her drink. “You probably didn’t even need me to help you, but regardless, I have a pretty good feeling about your prospects.”

Sterling runs a hand through her hair as she gives April the kind of modest and dreamy smile that can make a girl go weak at the knees. “I can always use your help. My beautiful,” she pauses to give April a quick kiss on the lips, “Amazing,” Another kiss, “Brilliant, wonderful wife.” Sterling finally finishes her sentence with a much longer kiss.

April smiles smugly when they part, thinking about what Sophie told her. “You know, even your future sorority sisters know how obsessed you are with me. I love it.”

“I know you do,” Sterling says playfully. “Do you want me to get you another drink?” she asks, pointing to the empty White Claw.

In truth, April is very thirsty, but it’s for something that can’t be found in the coolers in the kitchen. “No, that’s okay, Sterl. But how about you and I go exploring? I’ve always wondered what a frat house was really like,” she says, unconvincing even to herself.

“You have never wanted to see what a frat house is like,” Sterling says, forcing April to go for the more blunt plan B.

“Okay, no, I don’t care. Do you wanna go make out on the back porch?” April asks, having considered the alternative of finding someplace private upstairs to be...wholly unappealing. She’s pretty sure even touching the wrong surface up there could probably get one (or both) of them pregnant. And April wouldn’t even know who to sue for child support.

Sterling nods happily and follows April through the kitchen and out onto the back porch overlooking a pool area positively full of people in wet costumes. 

It’s not exactly the kind of privacy April had been hoping for, but at least up here on the porch isn’t as well-lit as in the house. “So Marty, you ever parked before?” she asks playfully before coming in to kiss Sterling heatedly on the lips.

“That’s so,” Sterling says between kisses, “Messed up.”

April giggles uncontrollably when Sterling moves down to kiss her neck and sucks on the spot that she very well knows will get that kind of reaction from April. “I think you like it.”

“I think my sister was right about you,” Sterling says, though she must notice how such a broad statement could be (and is) taken as wholly offensive by April. “Just that you’re kind of...well, a freak.”

April smirks, recalling an incident that happened between them just a few days ago in the car after the domesticity of grocery shopping made Sterling horny. If she’s a freak, then Sterling is as vanilla as they come. But that works for them, oddly enough. “Would you like me any other way?”

Sterling shakes her head, her face still resting near the crook of April’s neck. “You’re the good kind of weird.”

April smiles to herself, not minding in the slightest that this moment between them has gone in a more romantic direction than she’d anticipated. Because she is struggling to think of any greater declaration of someone’s love for her than Sterling loving her because she’s so vastly different from how a late-teens girl should be. “You know, if it makes you feel any better, Lea Thompson did actually play Michael J. Fox’s wife in the third movie.”

“Oh, so it’s actually just the entire McFly family that’s messed up,” Sterling teases.

April looks up smugly. “It’s not my fault that women who look like this are canonically irresistible to McFly men...or women, in your case.”

“...Can I take back what I said about you being the good kind of weird?” Sterling asks, earning herself a playful smack to the shoulder from April just before there’s a commotion from inside the house. “What’s going on in there?” Sterling says, frowning and letting go of April so she can lean toward the house.

“Pledges of Kappa Alpha Theta! It is with great pleasure that we inform you of a time-honored tradition that happens every All Hallow’s Eve,” A girl with a slurred California accent yells after someone cuts the music inside.

“That’s Ashlynn,” Sterling whispers to April as the whole grounds have fallen completely silent.

April has a bad feeling about this.

“Now, the rules dictate that we are no longer allowed to haze pledges, whether we think it builds character or not, because some people died or whatever. But the history of the sorority paddle dates back to Greek sailors. It was used as a form of bonding to keep the others in line, and that is why even today we hang these on our walls. And let me tell you ladies, this is not just for decoration.”

April has heard enough. “Okay, we’re getting the fuck out of here.” She is not about to stick around and let some crazed drunk sorority girl on a power trip beat her wife on the ass with a paddle. Only she is allowed to do that.

“Yeah, good call,” Sterling agrees quickly, following April as they both half-run down the porch and out the back gate.


After the night took a dark turn at the frat party, Sterling would be more than content to just go home and watch Disney Channel Halloween movies with her wife, but April being the overachiever that she is has thoroughly ensured that her quiet night will not be happening.

After their swift getaway from the party, the two of them walk across campus to where the LGBT Student Union has rented out the party room of a local bar and grill that Sterling’s heard is quite popular with her fellow students. Though unfortunately, this isn’t about mozzarella sticks so much as socializing with her wife’s new friends, which is perhaps the most terrifying thing that Sterling can fathom.

It’s not that Sterling doesn’t want gay friends. In fact, she often finds herself missing Reese Ryan’s company for the sole reason that she was a person who Sterling could talk about her gay thoughts with while playing Super Smash Bros. And while she could technically do that with Blair, it would always come with a lot of unsolicited opinions about who she’s gay for.

But the trouble that Sterling finds with actively seeking out gay friends--and maybe this is just what April said about her being a very straight bisexual girl getting to her--is that gays are intimidating. Her beloved wife is a prime example of this.

There’s just so much history and pop culture that everyone else seems to know, but Sterling doesn’t get any of it. And when she inevitably admits as much, she’s treated like a Martian because how can any not-straight girl have not seen the movie Carol? And don’t even get her started on Ezekiel and his many opinions about how she dresses.

“You don’t have to be nervous, Sterl. They’re all gonna love you,” April says reassuringly to her just before they walk in the door of the party room and are immediately greeted by a chorus of happy sounds as people spot April.

“There she is, everyone! Our own Janet Weiss,” Dennis (dressed in a bathrobe) says, immediately followed by everyone yelling jarringly in unison,


Sterling is appalled on her wife’s behalf at such blatant and uncalled-for disrespect, but April bursts into laughter beside her, shoulders shaking and all.

A person whom Sterling recognizes from social media as April’s friend Sky approaches them and puts their arm around April. “And that makes me her fiancé, Brad Majors.”


“Uh, am I missing something?” Sterling asks, wondering if these are supposed to be terms of endearment or something. She knows from watching RuPaul with Blair that the b-word and ho sometimes are.

April laughs and she, Sky, and Dennis pull Sterling aside. “Okay, so you guys will have to forgive my darling wife because she’s been living under a rock and has never seen Rocky Horror, let alone been to a midnight showing.”

“You mean she’s a-” Sky gasps in surprise as April cuts them off.

“Uh-huh,” April says, and the two of them giggle at something Sterling knows she’ll probably understand by the end of the night, given how Dennis rolls his eyes.

“You two are incorrigible,” he says dismissively and puts a hand on Sterling’s shoulder. “Rocky Horror Picture Show was made as a gay campy musical parody of sci-fi movies in the 1930s through to the 1960s. You following?” he asks, and Sterling nods, though this all sounds very weird to her. “Okay. Now, what you have to understand is that the movie is objectively bad. But it’s so bad that it’s good, and so it’s a thing that people have midnight showings of, where you get drunk, watch the movie, and yell and throw stuff at the screen.”

He’s officially lost Sterling, who frowns, “Okay, so how does calling my wife a slut play into that? Because April is not a slut. She was a virgin when we got married.”

“Thank you, Sterling, for sharing that intimate piece of information,” April says, embarrassed as Sky and Dennis chuckle. “But no, they aren’t calling me personally a slut, they’re calling the character that I’m playing in the shadow cast, Janet, a slut because she has sex with two people in about an hour, and neither of them is her fiancé Brad. Who is an asshole.”

“So you yell those things when anyone says the character’s name. It’s more fun the more you participate and I think you’re going to like it,” Dennis concludes but switches over to another topic before Sterling can ask any questions. “Okay, so what exactly is the theme going on here?” he asks, gesturing between their two costumes.
Sterling looks him in the eye and says point-blank, “I’m Marty McFly from Back to the Future, and April is my teenage mom from the 1950s who wants to have sex with me.” She points accusingly at her wife. “It was all her idea.”

After a beat, Dennis bursts into laughter. “Oh my God, I love it. So Oedipal.”

Sterling frowns, very confused by such a reaction. “ can’t eat our costumes?”

“That’s ‘Oedipal,’ Darling. Not ‘edible.’ It’s a reference to a Greek tragedy where a guy shtups his mom and feels super bad about it,” April explains, patronizingly patting Sterling on the shoulder.

Dennis scoffs. “That’s probably the understatement of the year, but sure.”

Sterling looks him up and down, wondering what the bathrobe could mean. “So are you dressed up like a boxer, or…?” she asks and is slightly worried when her economics TA immediately starts untying the belt from his waist.

“The robe is for retaining my modesty, but I’m already dressed for the show,” he says as he opens the robe and gives Sterling a big eyeful of chiseled abs and a pair of shiny gold short shorts that fit him snugly in a way that doesn’t leave much to the imagination.

“Dennis is the creature, Rocky. You can see why Janet’s such a slut,” April snickers. “Though do you mind taking that all the way off so I can get a pic?”

Dennis shakes his head exasperatedly but takes the robe off and lets it drop to the floor, nevertheless. “April, I already told you, I’m not interested in being set up with your only other gay friend.”

“I am offended, Dennis. The audacity to suggest that me, April Stevens, would only hang out with heterosexuals,” April says dramatically, hand over her heart as Sterling rolls her eyes and gets herself a Dixie cup of punch that smells like fruity rubbing alcohol. She figures that this one probably won’t contain roofies. Hopefully.

“That’s Stevens-Wesley, Dear,” Sterling reminds her wife before taking a sip and is surprised at how smooth the punch is going down. She’s finished half the cup before she even realizes it, which should make the night pretty interesting.

“And here I spent nearly all summer practicing that in front of a mirror. Damn,” April says, not sounding too torn up about it as she steals Sterling’s drink with one hand while she takes a few pictures of Dennis in his costume with the other. And he does a pretty good job of flexing and posing for someone who isn’t interested in being set up with Ezekiel, Sterling must say.

“Let it be known that I’m only doing this because I know I look hot as hell,” Dennis says before giving the camera a Zoolander look.

“If I were into men, you’d be at the top of my list,” April says without skipping a beat, giving Sterling a brief feeling of irrational jealousy if only because she has never been more sure of her bisexuality than in the presence of her adoring wife and this gorgeous gay Adonis at the same time.

“That’s exactly what my best friend in high school said, and then I ended up topping him.” With that TMI revelation, Dennis picks his robe back off the floor and puts it on but doesn’t bother tying the belt.

“What was that you were saying about ‘maintaining professionalism because you’re our TA’?” April asks with a raised eyebrow.

“I think professionalism went out the window when we started rehearsing the choreo for your big solo,” Dennis says (rather ominously) before going over to talk with a guy in black lingerie, fishnets, and a large pearl choker.

“Okay, can you please explain to me what the plot of this show is so I’m not going into it totally blind?” Sterling asks, getting herself a fresh cup of punch as April fills up her original one.

“Sterl, if I could even begin to explain it to you, I would,” she says, then sips as she texts one-handedly, giggling to herself after a beat.

Curiosity gets the better of Sterling and she goes around to lean over April’s shoulder for a peek at her phone, where in a text conversation with Ezekiel, April has sent him several pictures of Dennis. Ezekiel has so far replied with a drooling emoji, a text saying, ‘Help me, Jesus,’ and a gif from Flavor of Love saying, ‘I know his dick is big. I know it. I know it’s big.’

“He’s such a thirsty bitch,” April says, amused, and sends him the ‘right in front of my salad’ gif in return. She returns her phone to her dress pocket and turns her attention back to Sterling. “Oh hey, before I forget,” she says, and to Sterling’s horror, proceeds to take off her engagement ring and wedding band. “Do you mind hanging on to these until after the show?”

“Why?” Sterling asks, taking the precious symbols of their promise of eternity together and putting them in the front pocket of her button-down shirt, even if April taking them off has her feeling a tad distressed. The last time she was given one of them back was when April said she never wanted to see her again…which obviously didn’t stick, but still.

“Because Sky is going to be giving me a comically large engagement ring in the show and I can’t appear to already be married,” April explains easily. “But just know that whether I’m wearing a ring or not, my heart, body, and soul will always be yours.”

Sterling smiles, so completely smitten with this girl that she can’t even be weirded out by the concept of them having any kind of ownership of each other.

If Sterling was confused before, then she doesn’t even know what to think when they arrive at the area on the quad where the screening of Rocky Horror will be held and she’s given a bag full of incredibly random stuff.

“Just kind of observe what people do around you, and use the items accordingly,” April explains as Sterling picks out a squirt gun sitting next to a flashlight.

If this is really what it means to be a gay person, then maybe April was right and Sterling is straight, “Okaaay,” she says just as she turns to find Luke jogging up to join them, his mustache half falling off of his face now. “Oh wow, you actually made it,” Sterling says, surprised, especially when she sees that he brought the whole Nintendo gang with him.

“I said I would, didn’t I?” Luke asks, accepting a prop bag from the girl supervising their distribution.

For her part, April is doing a fairly decent job of not seeming annoyed by his presence, though Sterling suspects that that has more to do with her wife’s sobriety—or lack thereof—than it does her warming up to Luke. “You guys are gonna have a blast, but just don’t be too appalled by anything you see or hear tonight, okay?” April says, digging through Sterling’s prop bag until she comes up with what appears to be a tube of dollar store red lipstick. She uncaps it and Sterling wonders if April’s been drinking more than she realized because there’s no way in heck the snobby wife she knows and loves would put that on her own face.

“What are you-” Sterling pauses as April gets up in her personal space and proceeds to start drawing something on her forehead with the lipstick, “-Doing?”

“Oh, you’ll find out soon enough,” April says, giggling, and turns to Luke, who she grabs by the shoulder to bring him down a bit to her level so she can draw on his forehead what Sterling can now see is a large red V. “WE GOT SOME VIRGINS OVER HERE!” She proceeds to shout in her theater projection voice as she points at Luke and Sterling.

Sterling, who knows dang well that April is well aware that she and Luke are indeed not virgins because they lost theirs to each other (she made their high school lives miserable because of it), is starting to wonder if there was something in that theater kid punch that was stronger than roofies. “April, what is going on?” she asks as she looks around nervously, other members of the Rocky Horror shadow cast starting to close in on them like zombies.

“Thank you so much for coming tonight. I love you,” April says quickly, getting on her tippy toes to give Sterling a quick kiss on the lips before she takes off running toward the stage and leaves Sterling and Luke at the mercy of what can only be some kind of cult.

“Sacrifice! Sacrifice! Sacrifice!” they chant as they surround them, pointing.

Luke reaches down to take Sterling’s hand as the two of them attempt to back out of this nightmare, but Princess Peach is there behind them to push them right back into the circle, where April’s friend Sky has just tied off a red balloon, which they proceed to pop with a safety pin, and the noise causes Sterling and Luke to practically jump out of their skin. But once it’s over, everyone cheers and disperses as if nothing just happened.

“…what the fresh frick was that?” Sterling asks nobody in particular.

“Your cherry has been popped. You can now take your seats and wait for the show to start,” Peach explains. He squirts Luke in the face with a water gun and laughs before going to find a spot on the grass with a blanket laid out.

Luke and Sterling continue to stand there in silence for a few more minutes before Sterling eventually says,

“I know the last movie the two of us saw together was that Disney movie Onward, but do you wanna…?” Luke asks, pointing to one of the blankets toward the front for them to sit.

Sterling nods, knowing there is no way she won’t get through this night without a support system. “You promise you won’t try to put your arm around me?” she teases, knowing there is a good reason why you couldn’t pay her to tell you the plot of Onward for related reasons, and she is a married woman now…even if her wife is apparently part of some weird theater cult.

“Pinky swear,” Luke says, putting out his pinky that’s the size of Sterling’s ring finger.

“I cannot believe she had that on under her Lorraine costume all night,” Sterling whispers mostly to herself as she continues to be absolutely dumbstruck by her wife on stage in nothing but a white bra and slip skirt as she simulates a sex scene with Dennis. Sterling recognizes that the man is very gay, as is her wife, but it’s just plain weird for Sterling to hear her making the same exact sounds she makes during the real thing.

“This is by far the most I’ve ever seen or heard of April,” Luke agrees, unwrapping a mini chocolate bar that he got while trick or treating with his fraternity brothers earlier.

So far this whole thing has been an…experience, to say the least. Sterling thinks she might be getting the plot, to an extent. The clearest part for her is that April and Sky are a perfectly nice couple who got dragged into a very weird situation with a lot of sex—most notably April having sex with essentially Frankenstein and his monster. And the latter of which is about to be caught by everyone else right…about…now.

“Janet!” The guy playing the wheelchair-bound German professor yells as April and Dennis come up from under the single white sheet that had been covering them.

“Dr. Scott!” April says, convincingly mortified.

“Janet!” Sky chimes in, appalled at their fiancée truly earning being called a slut by the audience all night.

“Brad!” April shrieks.

“Rocky!” Dr. Frank-N-Furter yells, pointing at Dennis, who is silent, but someone in the audience proceeds to supply,

“No, this is Patrick!”

Luke giggles uncontrollably and shoves more of the quickly dwindling candy into his mouth.

Sterling steals a few foil-wrapped mini Reese’s before they’re gone as everyone on stage repeats that back and forth two more times, with the audience subbing in more Spongebob and even a ‘Bullwinkle!’ as Dennis remains silent. 

Sterling is left to wonder if it’s even ethical for any of these people to be having sex with Rocky, no matter how ripped he is.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t think I understand any of this, but it’s fun,” Luke whispers as the scene moves into a very weird dinner scene that requires them to put on their party hats from their prop bags.

“I think that’s the point, honestly. We aren’t supposed to get it,” Sterling says, feeling as if she’s finally solved a complex equation. The fun in this is that it’s so weird.

“Well, then I don’t feel so dumb,” Luke says, settling in to watch the rest of the movie/show hybrid and pushing more of his candy in Sterling’s direction. “So what’s being married like?” he asks after a while, when April’s being chased around the stage by Frank.

Sterling smiles, eyes continuing to stay focused on April. “A little different than I thought it would be, and also a lot harder…but I wouldn’t trade her for anything.”

Luke chuckles. “When I found out about you two, I was kinda confused—and like yeah, because you’re two girls, but mostly because you two hated each other as long as I’d known you. But I think what I get now is that the things I liked about the two of you were sort of what you guys needed from each other, so I never really stood a chance.”

Sterling is always deeply intrigued when Luke, a man of few complex thoughts, can just spout this level of wisdom at the drop of a hat. “You know, you really are patient and kind, Luke. You’re a good friend.”

“I think it helps that I had the best introduction to love,” Luke admits, and his attention is quickly drawn back to Rocky Horror.

“So, what did you think?” April asks as she and Sterling walk home at 2 AM with their arms interlocked. They’re both very tired, Sterling can tell, especially based on the fact that her perfectionist wife didn’t bother fully buttoning her purple dress back up after the show. But even an exhausted April is still quite the chatterbox. “I think I might have caught you talking to Luke a fair amount in the second act. Though I do understand that the show slows down considerably after Janet sleeps with Rocky.”

Sterling smiles to herself as she thinks of what Luke said about them being just what the other needs. “The show was great. You were great,” Sterling says, pulling April in closer and kissing the top of her head.

“That may be true, but I do know the woman I married, and I know that generally you and camp live on separate wavelengths,” April presses, always one to want a whole (failing) New York Times review of her performances. Sterling literally wrote her a glowing review and printed it out as a closing night gift for Beauty and the Beast.

“If anyone could make me appreciate camp, it would be you in those skimpy outfits you ordinarily wouldn’t be caught dead in,” Sterling admits truthfully. “But I do see the appeal of the whole shebang. It was fun.”

“Fun enough that you would consider participating next year? Dennis very much wants to play Frank, and I can think of someone with blonde hair and a tan who is very good at releasing tension…” April says, and Sterling is so happy she now knows a quote from that movie when she hears it. And a very flattering one, at that. 

They round the corner to their street.

“I’m pretty sure I’d have to work out every day until then to even come close to having enough muscles. Besides, you’re the performer here. I’m perfectly happy cheering you on from the front row. Because I’m your density, or whatever.” Sterling makes a show of not making a big deal out of quoting Back to the Future like the true romantic she is, but can’t help but think that if this is how good every Halloween will be, then she won’t have to miss doing ridiculous sister costumes with Blair so much.

April smirks, but her blushing face reveals how truly charmed she is. “Wrong McFly, but I’ll let that slide seeing as I’m dressed as his wife right now. But seriously, Sterl, you could definitely play Rocky next year with enough rehearsal. And if you ever want to make gains at the gym, I’m a great spotter,” she says as she accepts their house key from Sterling as they walk up to the screened-in front porch.

“You’re a great everything , April,” Sterling says, sounding exasperated but really, she means every word.

“And don’t you forget it.” April blows a kiss before unlocking the door and pulling Sterling over the threshold by the front of her jacket. “Now c’mon, Marty,” she says, her voice disturbingly shifting back to Lorraine Baines as she haphazardly kicks her shoes off. Sterling thinks one almost hits Bilko, but it’s too dark in here to know for sure. “Let’s get you out of those purple underwear and seriously mess up the space-time continuum.”

Apparently, she’s not too tired for that.

Chapter Text

It’s strange to think that somehow everything in April’s life has completely changed in the last two years, and yet everything feels so familiar as she shops for Thanksgiving items with Sterling in a jam-packed Kroger the Wednesday afternoon before the holiday.

“Hey, April? You know how your mom gave us that fully-assembled cheesy green bean casserole that we just have to sprinkle onions on and put in the oven tomorrow?” Sterling asks as she weaves the shopping cart around the ridiculously indecisive people standing in the dead center of the aisle.

“Yes? Your point?” April asks, looking over her shopping list. She plans on making tiramisu for dessert, as it seems like a logical move to serve something with espresso-dipped ladyfingers to counteract the rest of the meal.

“Well, isn’t that what we’re bringing to Thanksgiving tomorrow? So why are we getting stuff for something else?” Sterling asks, always one to enjoy a trip to the grocery store, April guesses she doesn’t find it quite as fun when people are likely to fight her for a box of stuffing.

“Because I don’t want your mother to think me so incompetent that I have to have my contribution to Thanksgiving made for me,” April argues, putting a container of cocoa powder into the cart. This is her first Thanksgiving as a married woman who is in charge of her own household, and she intends to make the most of that fact, even if her mother still thinks she’s a child.

“My mom could never think of you as incompetent. She loves you and she’d honestly be fine if we didn’t bring anything to Thanksgiving dinner at all,” Sterling says to April’s absolute horror, even if she doesn’t mean any harm by it.

“Sterling, we are Southern. Debbie would not be fine with us bringing nothing, she’d say, ‘oh girls, bless your hearts for even thinking of it’ and judge us—especially me, as her daughter-in-law whom she is biologically inclined to hate on a certain level—for the rest of our lives.” April is surprised that this doesn’t go without saying, though she can tell her impression of her wife’s mother was probably a little too disturbingly accurate. 

As if Sterling needed another reason to have mommy issues after Halloween.

“I’m just saying that you don’t have to put all this extra work on yourself,” Sterling says as they come up on the dairy section and April goes looking for mascarpone. “Like Whitney Houston and Dolly Parton before her, my mom will always love you.”

April makes a face of disgust at her wife. “Ew, since when do you talk like Ted Lasso?” She pictures what Sterling would look like with a mustache, and it’s...not cute.

“I’m going to take that as a compliment,” Sterling says, completely unbothered. “But if you want to make an extra dessert, I’m not complaining.”

“Thank you,” April says, relieved that Sterling is so agreeable to anything involving sugar. “Now, let’s finish up here and the two of us might just be able to have time for an adult nap at your parents’ house before we’re supposed to meet up with Hannah B., Ezekiel, and Luke.”

Sterling smiles deviously. “Would that be an actual nap or the kind where we say we’re gonna go take a nap and then we just...don’t?”

“I wouldn’t have prefaced the word ‘nap’ with ‘adult’ if I meant that I wanted to sleep,” April says, trying to seem blasé about it, but in all actuality, there’s something so thrilling about the idea of her and her wife going at it in the same room where they used to play with Barbies. “Though unfortunately, it all depends on timing.”

Sterling holds out her hand. “Give me the list,” she says, and April hesitantly hands over her shopping list.

“What are you going to do?” April asks as Sterling scans it over.

“I’m gonna Guy’s Grocery Games this list. Meet you by the check stands in...three minutes?” Sterling asks, moving the cart back and forth like she’s about to take off running with it--because she absolutely is.

“Mmm, nothing gets me going quite like Guy Fieri,” April says sarcastically, but if Sterling wants her so bad, she’s not going to shut her down. “Make sure you don’t forget anything or I’ll have to dock you points.”

“What would that do, though?” Sterling asks, seeming genuinely curious, and honestly, April doesn’t know either. 

She just knows she’ll be annoyed if, after all this, she has to go back through the store to get a can of Reddi-Wip. “Do you really want to find out?” she asks mysteriously.

Sterling shakes her head furiously before taking off with the cart like Road Runner.

If April had known that having sex with Sterling would be a guaranteed way to have her do basically anything, she may have reconsidered her purity pledge in high school. Or at the very least let Sterling touch her boobs more.

Any hope of the two of them taking an adult nap this afternoon is dashed the minute they walk through the front door of the Wesley house and are greeted by an Anderson and Debbie ambush of affection.

“My baby! I can’t believe you’re finally home,” Debbie says while she hugs Sterling tight before going in to hug April as well, with Anderson joining in.

“But we just saw you guys on Sunday,” Sterling reminds them gently. “I’d think you guys are enjoying having the house to yourselves without Blair and me causing issues.”

“Well,” Anderson says, his arm still wrapped around April’s shoulders. “When you’re used to chaos reigning supreme, it can get a little quiet around here.”

“Which is not to say that your father and I aren’t... enjoying having the entire house to ourselves, but you girls keep things interesting,” Debbie adds, piquing April’s curiosity about a rather pressing matter that will have a very large impact on the amount of alone time with Sterling that she’ll be able to count on.

“When does Blair get in?” April asks, hoping it seems like she cares about the whereabouts of her dear sister-in-law because she wants to see her, and not because the countdown to her arrival directly correlates with this little extended weekend trip becoming significantly less fun--at least for her.

“Not until tomorrow morning,” Debbie replies as Anderson picks up the girls’ bags and begins to haul them toward the stairs. “By the time we convinced her that driving home and back would be a lot more trouble than just flying Delta, all the flights for today were booked.”

Sterling sighs. “Typical. And I was gonna try to talk her into going out with me, April, and our friends tonight.” The way she phrases this lets April know that Sterling isn’t particularly looking forward to playing second fiddle to the Holy Trinity tonight.

“What a shame…” April says, not the least bit convincing, but then, she’s not trying to be. “Sterling, would you mind helping your dad get our bags upstairs while I get the groceries from the car?”

“Sure,” Sterling agrees, going to help Anderson, who’s been particularly struggling with April’s bag--packing essentials for a holiday weekend means being prepared for everything.

With that, April heads back out to the car, with Debbie following her.

“So,” Debbie says, grabbing two of the bags from the trunk without April having to ask. “Tell me the truth. How’s Sterling doing being away from home?” April notices the genuine look of worry on her face.

April smiles reassuringly at her mother-in-law. “She’s doing fine, Debbie. More than fine, actually. She’s the only reason I’m passing our econ class right now.” She uses the term ‘passing’ loosely, as she’s currently pulling what amounts to a C- average. But Debbie wants to know how her daughter is faring living a whole hour’s drive away from her, not how her brilliant daughter-in-law is having a Gifted Kid Crash N Burn™ her first semester of college. “Though I will say that her skills in the kitchen leave much to be desired. Unless you’re a person who likes their grilled cheese sandwiches well-done.”

Debbie gives her a look of shocked horror. “Oh God, you didn’t let her anywhere near the stove, did you?”

If there was ever any question of why April’s wife is so completely helpless, she has her answer. “Once, yes. But she’s so sweet. For my birthday a few weeks ago, she bought us a couples cooking class with the executive chef at Marcel. And a Vitamix.”

“What it is about that girl and buying blenders as gifts, I’ll never know,” Debbie chuckles. “But I’m glad y’all are holding up okay. And I’m sorry if taking care of Sterling is making you fall behind in your classes. I can start coming out there more to help if you need me to.”

That is perhaps the most horrifying offer she could have ever extended to April, especially after Anderson has already let himself into their house on more than one inconvenient occasion. “Oh, no, really, it’s no trouble. I know that Sterling could more than take care of her herself if I needed her to. The change in class structure just comes with a bit of a learning curve,” April assures Debbie as she closes the hatch of the Lincoln with the remaining grocery bags slung over her shoulder.

Pretending like she doesn’t feel like a total idiot who can’t seem to absorb information the way she always has is a feat and a half for April. Because the truth of the matter is that it’s not perfectly fine that Sterling is doing so well while she just has to play the dutiful wife. She was always supposed to be the one who had everything together while Sterling would just continue being...Sterling, and that would work for them. But now, April feels like nothing makes sense.

Nothing except that if she weren’t married to the love of her life, she’s sure she would not be outwardly holding it all together as well as she is.

“Just don’t be too hard on yourself, April. I remember worrying I was going to lose my scholarship when it was halfway through my first semester and I was pulling a C average in all of my classes,” Debbie says, walking back to the house and into the kitchen.

“Well, what made you turn it around?” April asks, knowing that despite quitting to be a stay-at-home mother not long into her career, Debbie did in fact graduate from UGA with her nursing degree, which even she has to admit is not too shabby for a girl from Nowheresville, Georgia.

“Well, for starters, I got a lot of private tutoring sessions free of charge from this very cute, but kind of gangly and awkward boy,” Debbie says, eyes pointedly cutting toward the stairs. “And a few months after that, I came to accept that academic essay writing just wasn’t for me and there was no use trying to force it to be.”

Sometimes it shocks April to hear the perfectly normal and acceptable stories of other people’s parents meeting when she knows that the story of how John met Mary was far less romantic. When her father was 24, two years out of UGA, he would crash frat parties and say he was a senior to more easily pick up college girls. Unfortunately for him, a junior by the name of Mary Emerson remembered him from when he was actually a senior and she was a freshman, so she exposed his lie to all of her friends. At which point, John decided that he wanted the challenge of impressing her. And 25 years and one amazing child together later, they’re now going through a vicious divorce.

“But what if I can’t just accept defeat like that?” April asks, getting her head back into the conversation at hand because if she dwells too much on her parents’ marriage, which effectively ended Mary’s time at UGA before her senior year, she will get very depressed.

Debbie shrugs. “That’s just something you’ll have to figure out for yourself. But if you want some sage advice: keep asking yourself if this is what you want. Do you want to be a lawyer?”

“Yes,” April says quickly, though a voice in the back of her head is telling her that she isn’t quite so sure. “Sterling and I have it all planned out. It’s a good plan--very concise.”

“Well, plans change. Anderson and I planned on having two kids five years apart and I would go back to work when I was 35. Clearly, none of that ended up happening.” Debbie starts putting away the groceries as April feels her Favorite Daughter-In-Law tendencies kick in.

“Wait, you’re not 35?” she asks innocently.

Debbie rolls her eyes so hard April thinks she probably gives herself a headache. “Go help Sterling unpack, you little suck-up.”

April makes a show of being playfully offended as she leaves the kitchen to go upstairs, content with the knowledge that even if her parents suck, God was nice enough to give her the Wesleys to make up for it.

“Sterl, April, over here!” Luke calls from where he, Hannah B., and Ezekiel are already seated at a table in the hipster pizza place they all agreed upon in the group chat. It wasn’t April’s first choice, but she can’t deny that them having a whole classic arcade is pretty cool. Though it does significantly bring down her feeling that going out to dinner on a double date (plus one) with her wife is a very grown-up thing to do.

“Oh my God, I’ve missed you guys so much,” April says, wasting no time to run into Hannah’s waiting arms and give her the biggest hug before doing the same with a slightly more reluctant Ezekiel.

“Uh, who are you and what have you done with my ice bitch?” Ezekiel asks, awkwardly patting April’s back before she lets go and he gets a better look at her. “But my God you’re glowing. What’s your skincare routine?”

April smiles coyly. “Oh, you know, just nightly serum and moisturizer and the occasional facemask.”

“And getting railed on the regular?” Ezekiel asks, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh, yes, and that too,” April agrees before the both of them burst into laughter and sit down at the table, where Luke and Hannah B. seem to make a point of staring at their menus and without making eye contact with anyone while this conversation is ongoing. “Now, it might turn us into the Un holy Trinity, but you guys need to join me in the Not-A-Virgin club soon.”

“Speak for Hannah B. because I go to an arts college. There is no shortage of boys who want this,” Ezekiel says proudly, gesturing to all of himself.

Hannah B. looks quite distressed. “I understand why April did it, but you too?” she asks, sounding betrayed.

“Yep. Congrats on being the only one at the whole table who hasn’t had their V-card punched. Repeatedly,” Ezekiel says callously as he pops a fried ravioli into his mouth from the basket they must have ordered before Sterling and April got here.

“Hi Luke,” Sterling says after a moment of silence falls over the table, smiling and waving at her ex while April’s hand not-so-unconsciously moves to rest on her wife’s thigh. “We haven’t had a chance to talk since midterms. How did that chemistry exam go?”

“Way better thanks to April’s notebook. I’ll get that back to you after finals, by the way,” he says, turning to April, who nods politely, but it was entirely Sterling’s idea to let him use her old AP Chemistry notes in the first place. But then, curiously, Luke’s face shifts into one of confusion as he seems to look beyond April and Sterling toward the front door of the restaurant.

“What is it?” April asks as Luke slumps down in his chair, obviously trying to make himself smaller and less noticeable (a nearly impossible task).

“Uh, don’t look, but I think Ellen just walked in here,” Ezekiel says, so obviously April has to turn around, and in doing so makes direct eye contact with their Bible Studies teacher, as if God himself is punishing them all for trying to destroy Hannah B.’s purity, teasingly or not.

“Oh my goodness, April Stevens, is that you?!” Ellen says giddily and comes flouncing over, much to (April is sure) everyone at the table’s chagrin. “Oh, and Sterling and the whole gang! I haven’t seen any of y’all since the wedding—which, imma just be honest with y’all, was just about the nicest wedding I’ve ever been to. Amazing cake. Just amazing.”

Even in this awkward situation, April always loves a compliment, but Sterling beats her to the Southern charm of it all. “Aww, that’s so sweet of you to say, Ellen. We were so glad you could come,” she says, and then thinks to point out something April is only now noticing. “You’re dressed up nice. Are you meeting someone?” She’s of course referring to what appears to be a high-end department store navy cocktail dress, certainly pushing what a teacher could afford, and most definitely not in line with Ellen on any other day.

Ellen blushes and can’t suppress a smile, even as she looks around nervously. “Well, this is kinda awkward, but I’m actually on a date right now. Or at least, I will be when my date gets here.”

“Well, good for you, Ms. Johnson, for putting yourself out there,” Ezekiel says bitchily, but Ellen doesn’t appear to pick up on that.

“Thank you, Ezekiel. But please call me Ellen—I’m not your teacher anymore, unfortunately. Though if y’all are ever interested in volunteering with the drama program or any of the fundraisers, let me know. There is no shame in taking pride in your alma mater.” For someone who isn’t their teacher anymore, she still does very much talk like a teacher.

“How is the drama department faring without its stars?” April asks, knowing she probably sounds quite full of herself, but she isn’t wrong and everyone at the table knows it.

“Oh, well, we’re actually in rehearsal for Big Fish the Musical. You know, like the Tim Burton movie?” Ellen looks at something out of the corner of her eye that noticeably startles her and April follows her gaze to…

“Jamie?!” she says in disbelief upon making full eye contact with her maid-of-honor, who seems just as surprised to see her, which is ridiculous considering that she doesn’t even live here.

Jamie shifts her demeanor from one of a deer in the headlights of a Mack truck to faux happiness. “April, oh my God, what are you doing here?” she asks, walking up to their table with her hands shoved into the front pockets of her black jeans.

April crosses her arms as she hears Ezekiel snicker and Luke asks Hannah B. what’s going on. “I could ask you the same thing. You didn’t tell me you were going to be in Atlanta--or the state of Georgia, for that matter.”

It’s clear to April what this is. Against all odds, her best friend is here in Atlanta, on the best possible night of the year to pick up impressionable young women in a bar (or sad divorcees in a different type of bar), all so she can go on a date with Willingham’s own 35-year-old virgin. It would be almost heartwarming, actually, if it weren’t so damn weird, and also a serious violation of the Friend Code.

“Well, I was going to, but I figured you would be too busy with your first Thanksgiving with the in-laws to meet up, and I didn’t want you to feel bad,” Jamie lies poorly.

Sterling clears her throat. April knows full well her wife is a true hater of any awkward situation, and that’s probably especially the case now, seeing as Ellen and Jamie hanging around their table are likely to draw extra attention. “Well, since we all just so happen to be here at this fine establishment, would you two like to join us?” she asks, gesturing to the extra seats at their table and earning herself a sharp squeeze of her thigh from April.

“Honey, if they’re on a date, I very much doubt they would-“

“We’d love to, of course,” Ellen agrees quickly.

April forces a smile. “Awesome.”


As the night goes on, Sterling really can’t tell what April was so worried about when it came to inviting Ellen and Jamie to join what is now their triple date (plus Ezekiel, now a rare seventh wheel). Ellen, unchained by the rules of maintaining a healthy student-teacher rapport is quite fun to talk to, especially once she started sipping on a glass of honey mead, which Sterling didn’t even realize was a thing that was still served in this century. It just sounds so...medieval.

“Now, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to tell any of y’all this, but you five were some of the best kids I ever taught--and I’m not just sayin’ that because one of you set me up with this wonderful girl,” Ellen says, slightly tipsy after only one glass as she reaches over to put her hand on Jamie’s.

April dabs at the corners of her mouth after taking a bite of a piece of the pizza she and Sterling are sharing, swallowing before speaking. “Well, I wouldn’t say I set you up with her. As I’m sure you’re aware by now, Jamie is a woman who cannot be tamed. But if you two are happy, then I’m so happy for you. Even though I must say that it came as a bit of a surprise to Sterling and myself that you...share our inclinations?”

Ellen laughs, perhaps more than she should. “It came as a surprise to you and me both. Here I thought that the only reason I ever liked animated Biblical men was that I’d never met the right one in person.”

“We’re so happy for you,” Sterling says, though she wonders if it was even discernable to everyone else because she says it with her mouth full, hand blocking the view for everyone else.

“Manners, Darling,” April whispers pointedly in Sterling’s ear before turning back to Ellen. “So, are you out to anyone besides us?”

Jamie takes the opportunity to answer for her. “We’re having Thanksgiving with her parents and her sister’s family tomorrow.”

“Yes, though I did tell my mother ahead of time that I was bringing my plus one, who is the person I’ve been dating, who is a woman. I just...don’t know if she heard me.” Ellen says, then awkwardly sips at her wine again while Ezekiel and Sterling, in a rare moment of solidarity, share a look across the table that says that they both think Ellen’s mother heard her just fine.

“Well, we’re praying it all works out for you, Ellen,” Hannah B. says sincerely, her hand on Luke’s shoulder to signify she’s speaking for both of them, which exemplifies something Sterling has always noticed about her. The habits that come from being the worker bee to the queen apparently die hard, as Hannah B. in both her mannerisms and quickly jumping into a full-blown relationship with Luke, is obviously taking a lot of cues from April’s behavior.

If being a lawyer doesn’t work out, Sterling could totally be a psych major.

“Hey Sterl, do you wanna go play some games with me for a few minutes?” April asks with her thumb over her shoulder in the direction of the arcade.

Sterling looks down at her two-thirds-eaten piece of pizza and contemplates just leaving it behind while they go and no doubt talk about everyone at the table, but ultimately ends up shoving the whole thing in her mouth before getting up from her chair. “After you,” she says, hand out and allowing April to get up and walk ahead of her to the arcade.

April puts a five-dollar bill in the change machine for quarters, doling out half to Sterling. “Now, are you feeling two-player Mario Brothers, or do you wanna kick it old school and watch in amazement as I beat you at skeeball?”

Sterling knows from experience that very good conversations can be had during games of skeeball. “Like you have to ask?”

April smiles and the two of them walk over to the skeeball alleys. “So being on a couples date with our teacher is super weird, right?”

“So weird,” Sterling agrees and they share a laugh. “Also, has Hannah B. ever dated anyone besides Luke? Because It sort of seems like they’ve been married for ten years.”

April scoffs. “Well, unless you count the crush she had on Ezekiel for years, no, she hasn’t.”

Sterling nods, figuring that to have been the case, but after a moment of silence, she has to say, “I had a feeling you wanted to get away from the table for reasons besides awesome antique arcade games.”

“Vintage, actually. ‘Antique’ means that something is over 100 years old,” April corrects Sterling, and she can’t even mind because God it’s so attractive how smart her wife is. “But yes, I did sort of have an ulterior motive as well.”

“Which was…?” Sterling asks, wondering how April plans on more delicately phrasing that she wants to smack talk their friends behind their backs for a little while.

“It’s so embarrassing,” April says, shaking her head and rolling a ball down the lane into the 500 slot as Sterling notices she’s blushing.

“What is it?” Sterling asks, rolling the ball she has in her hand before giving April her undivided attention.

“It’s because I just wanted to spend time with you,” April admits, her answer a lot more wholesome and flattering than anything Sterling could have ever anticipated from her wife, who despite having her moments is not exactly known for being a softie.

“Awww, Babe,” Sterling says, pulling April in for a side hug and kissing her forehead. “I’m your wife. We see each other all the time. Like, literally all the time.” As sweet as it is, Sterling can’t imagine that she’s all that special to talk to after they’ve spent the last three months never leaving each other’s side for more than a few hours at a time.

“I’m aware of that,” April says, nodding. “But of everyone at that table, you’re the only one I really want to talk to for hours on end, and our dear friends aren’t so great about letting anyone get a word in edgewise.”

“So you missed me? When you were sitting right next to me?” Sterling asks for final clarification, intending to store this conversation in her mind vault for all eternity so she can dredge it up the next time April calls her annoying.

April rolls her eyes. “Try not to let it go to your head,” she admits without saying so before rolling her final ball, and Sterling does as well.

They look up at the final scores on the LED boards, which Sterling is astounded to see says that she just beat her wife by 100 points. “Well, would you look at that?” she says smugly, turning to April with her hands on her hips.

“I let you win,” April says petulantly and tears off her string of five tickets. “Basketball, double or nothing.” She points to the side-by-side basketball games.

Sterling tears off her own ten tickets. “You can’t double down on a wager that has never been made,” she notes. “So name your terms.”

April raises an eyebrow, smiling just a bit. “Loser has to do whatever the winner tells her to for the rest of the weekend.”

Sterling shakes her head. She knows that basketball is greatly affected by height and that she has an advantage over April in that department, but she isn’t about to chance it with stakes that high. “No deal. It’s a long weekend.”

“Fine,” April says in a huff. “Then the loser has to do whatever the winner tells her to for the rest of the night.”

Sterling does the math in her head and concludes that as it is now 8:00 in the evening, and they have an early start tomorrow to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner, then she could potentially tolerate being April’s slave for the next three hours or so. But she very much doubts it’ll come to that. “Deal,” she agrees, putting out her hand for them to shake on it before they put their money in the machines and go when the timers start counting down and the balls roll out.

Sterling swishes her first shot into the basket while she hears the tell-tale clunk off the rim on April’s side. She smirks and shoots again, but this time the ball bounces off of the rim and comes right back at her face, bouncing off of her forehead and back down into the ball return.

“Smooth moves, LeBron,” April says sarcastically, chucking a ball one-handed at the rim and miraculously making it in, and then another before Sterling gets her bearings, but by then she is fighting a point deficit too big to overcome, and when both of their clocks have wound down to zero, April is the winner. “Well, well, well. Looks like you’re about to learn the true meaning of ‘to honor and obey,’ my dear wife.”

Sterling isn’t about to take this lying down. “Triple or nothing. Nicktoons Racing.”

There’s a fire in April’s eyes as she smiles at the challenge. “Oh, you’re so on.”

It’s past ten when they finally get home after Sterling is forced to concede defeat to April and go back to the table to finish her pizza with her tail between her legs. Based on how dark the house is, save for one lamp in the foyer, Sterling knows her parents have already gone to bed, which is just as well considering that she’d had to have to explain to them why she is carrying April into the house on her back.

“Hyah!” April whispers as she kicks the side of Sterling’s thigh with her heel like she has spurs on.

“That’s not funny,” Sterling hisses, grateful that April probably can’t see her smiling from her vantage point. Goodness knows April can be a bit serious at times, so if she wants to be a goofball and ride Sterling up to their room, then she isn’t going to stop her, but she also can’t let April know that this is something easily repeatable either. Especially not after she demanded the last bite of dessert.

“It’s hilarious,” April insists as Sterling powers up the stairs and down the hall to their room, where she backs up to the bed and unceremoniously tosses April off of her back. April laughs at a volume that would make Sterling think she had been drinking, especially since that tends to bring out Fun April, but she knows that this isn’t the case.

“Shhh. You’re going to wake my parents,” Sterling scolds her, kicking her shoes off and climbing onto the bed to lay beside April, who reaches out to push a few strands of hair out of Sterling’s eyes--this dang haircut she insisted on really likes to do that.

“You know, you’re pretty cute,” April says, hand now playing with the sleeve of Sterling’s jacket.

Sterling rolls her eyes at such a sentiment being expressed toward her from her actual legal wife. “Did you sneak some of Ellen’s wine at dinner or something?”

“What? No,” April insists. “No, I’m not drunk, I’m just...happy. You make me happy, Sterl.”

It’s such a simple thing, and yet there is more weight in those words than in almost anything else April has ever said to Sterling. Indeed, money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does get pretty dang close, and April has always had a lot of it. So the fact that Sterling can make her truly happy while out for pizza and arcade games (on April’s dime, no less), feels like a serious mission accomplished, and Sterling intends to keep doing things like that for the rest of her life.

Sterling leans in to give April a lingering kiss, holding back just a bit, given their surroundings, but still needing that intimacy.

April, however, seems to pay no mind to any of it, and she’s quickly deepening the kiss as her hand comes to rest on Sterling’s cheek and her tongue slides along the crease between Sterling’s lips.

Sterling can’t help but think about their first kiss—or at least, the one she doesn’t like to consider their first kiss because her ambushing April and almost scaring her off completely shouldn’t count, especially since it was, as she would find out later that night, April’s first real kiss ever. Going into it, she never could have anticipated where it would lead them. How one impulsive, spur-of-the-moment decision could irreparably change absolutely everything.

Even with the heartbreak that followed just a few days later, and all that followed from John Stevens almost destroying them, to a wedding that came years earlier than anyone could have ever anticipated. She wouldn’t change a thing, because all of it led to being right here in this bed with the love of her life, who by no stretch of the imagination is exactly a perfect person, but she wouldn’t be April if she was.

“You’re still on the clock to do whatever I say,” April says when they break for air momentarily.

“I would do whatever you say even if I’d won tonight,” Sterling admits but has to remind herself that even her overwhelming love for April doesn’t supersede the lingering feeling that they should definitely stop doing whatever it is they’re doing as long as they’re just down the hall from Anderson and Debbie.

“Well, then I think you already know what I want,” April says, her hand lightly dragging across Sterling’s abdomen from her side before she unceremoniously shoves it down the front of Sterling’s pants. This sudden action practically knocks the wind out of Sterling as April’s fingers go extra exploring. “And I can feel that you want it too.”

Sterling swallows hard, her body and her brain in an increasingly one-sided debate on the merits of allowing this to happen or not. Her body is taking the affirmative, pro-sex side while her brain is already sliding into ‘you make a great point’ territory.

“My parents could hear us,” Sterling argues weakly as April’s fingers brush over her clit in a way that makes her have to suppress a whine.

April sighs in annoyance and removes her hand from Sterling’s pants, the sudden lack of slow stimulation making her want to cry. “So? We’re married now. Do you honestly think they assume we’re still celibate? But, if you really don’t want to have sex with me, then I guess…” April looks down and off to the side, which is something that Sterling has certainly picked up on by now as a tell that she is being manipulative, “I guess I’ll just go get ready for bed,” she says, and follows through by getting up and even avoiding Sterling’s outreached hand trying to get her to stay.

It’s a dangerous thing to let someone like April know they can get away with playing you like a fiddle, but Sterling’s brain has already thoroughly lost the debate when she calls after her, “April, wait.”

April has already grabbed her overnight toiletries bag and has started taking it to the bathroom, but she turns around, a smug grin on her face. “Yes?”

Sterling can’t believe she’s saying this. The closest she ever came to having sex with Luke in this house was in a tent in the backyard. And he wasn’t a particular vocal lover like she knows April to be. “Maybe…if we’re really quiet and fast, we can…do that.” Even making it conditional still feels like accepting total defeat, but the insistent throbbing between Sterling’s legs doesn’t seem to give a rip.

“Well, in that case, I think we might need some assistance,” April says ominously, and sets down her bag at the foot of the bed, unzipping it and removing a very familiar little blue bag that has only ever been brought out one other time, on their honeymoon.

“April, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Sterling says as April unzips the bag and begins removing the necessary items including the lube, o-ring briefs, and—to Sterling’s horror—their bachelorette party present from Blair, which is a lot scarier looking than the one they’ve used before—for one, it’s noticeably bigger, but the thing that really gives Sterling pause is the bulbous end intended for the wearer.

“You said you wanted to make this fast. Will this not achieve that goal?” April asks as she inserts a bullet-looking thing into the back of the toy.

“How do you figure?” Sterling asks, minorly horrified by the idea of being on either end of that thing.

“It’s built for mutual pleasure,” April says as if she’s stating the obvious, putting the toy through the o-ring of the briefs and tossing them in Sterling’s direction. “And not to sound like an absolute thirsty bitch, but I’ve sort of been dying to do this again since the honeymoon.” She unbuttons and unzips her own jeans, stepping out of them before taking off her shirt.

“You know, you could have just expressed that to me a lot earlier in our own home and not while we’re 50 feet from my parents.” Sterling feels the need to remind April of this very important fact as she gives in and takes off her own shirt.

“Yes, well,” April says, climbing onto the bed in just her bra and underwear, crawling between Sterling’s legs like a panther before getting a firm grip on the waist of her jeans, “Maybe I just wanted to make a lasting memory for the both of us.” She assists Sterling in removing her pants, and then also her underwear while Sterling gets out of her bra.

“Every time with you is memorable, April,” Sterling says, rolling her eyes and grabbing the briefs, putting them on and bracing herself before putting in the thing that is supposed to make this thing ‘strapless.’ “Okay, yeah, that hurts.” She breathes through the pain in a pattern like she’s giving birth.

“Sooo sexy,” April says sarcastically, getting herself fully naked before settling down onto the bed.

“Oh, you know it,” Sterling says, getting on her knees and leaning over April, hand going between her wife’s legs. “Any requests while I’m still obligated to fulfill them?”

April seems to think on this a moment before smirking. “Don’t be too gentle.”

Sterling fully intends to follow through on that, especially seeing as she isn’t looking to draw this out any longer than she has to. The longer this goes on is more time for her parents to walk in on them. So without further adieu, she starts to rub April’s clit in slow circles for a minute or so before moving down to enter her with her fingers. Of course, she could have just tried to rely on April’s level of arousal already, but this toy is not small and Sterling is not an animal, so she only pulls her fingers out again when she’s sure April will be okay.

“Lube please,” April says, holding out her hand for Sterling to give her the bottle within her reach while she attempts to adjust herself.

“I’m not exactly sure how this is supposed to feel that good from my end, but I hope you enjoy it,” Sterling says, having reached down into the briefs to feel around for the part of the toy she guesses she just has to pray she’ll rub against.

“You’ll find out,” April says ominously, like someone who’s thoroughly read the toy’s instruction manual. She squirts some lube into her hand and starts to rub down the toy in a way that is both weird and pleasant to look at. When that deed is done, she briefly looks into Sterling’s eyes with a devilish grin before sneaking her hand into the briefs via one of the leg holes, her hand going up under the toy, searching for something until…

“Oh my God,” Sterling gasps as she feels vibration emanating from the area where April put in that little bullet thing earlier.

April smiles and removes her hand from Sterling’s briefs. “Does that feel good?”

“Mhm.” Sterling nods, struggling to not make any sounds that’ll carry throughout the house--or worse, sounds that will cause Chloe to start howling.

“Good.” April pulls Sterling in closer with one hand on her back while the other wraps around the toy to guide it inside herself. “Ready whenever you are.” The words are confident and disaffected, but Sterling can see her wife struggling to hold her composure while her body gets used to the fullness, which Sterling realizes that she herself hasn’t experienced in years now. Though Sterling would like to hope that April gets a bit more enjoyment out of the experience than she ever did, hence her making sure to not just ram it in her and go to town. Even if the overwhelming sensations that the vibrator is giving her make that idea seem very tempting.

“I told you not to be too gentle,” April whines, hips bucking up insistently to get Sterling to move, which is something Sterling will never quite get used to, she’s sure.

A deal is a deal, so Sterling starts to thrust her hips slowly, her aroused state making her hyper-aware of the squeaks coming from her mattress as she does. But goodness gracious, the feeling of the vibrations, plus the toy actually rubbing her like it should, plus the look of her beautiful wife beneath her as she makes love to her is...a lot, and she isn’t about to stop now that they’ve started.

Unless April asked her to. Obviously.

“Fuck, Sterl, that feels so good,” April chokes out before letting out a decently loud moan that has Sterling momentarily panicking before she figures an obvious solution would be to put her hand over April’s mouth, just as she did in that Disney castle bathroom that she’s fairly sure gave April the UTI.

Big mistake, it would appear, as April bites down on the palm of Sterling’s hand hard.

“Ow!” Sterling cries, retracting her hand and stopping the movement of her hips to examine the damage in the form of a red bite mark that at least doesn’t appear to be bleeding.

“Well, don’t put your hand over my mouth like that,” April says unapologetically. “It feels rapey.”

That’s a decently horrifying revelation for Sterling. “Noted. Just please try to be quiet,” she reminds April, earning a look of annoyance that turns into one of shock and pleasure as Sterling begins thrusting the toy into her again.

It’s a strange sensation to be feeling pleasure herself while she does this, almost like it’s her inside of her wife, which is a weird but not entirely unpleasant thought.

After a few minutes of this, April surprises Sterling by hooking her jeg up under her butt and does some kind of MMA move that has Sterling now flat on her back with the best possible vantage point in this entire bed, given that April is naked and on top of her, experimentally rolling her hips on the toy, which not only seems pleasurable to her but causes the toy to drag against Sterling in a way that almost has her seeing stars.

“Oh my God, oh my God,” Sterling says as her brain short-circuits, not able to articulate anything else that wouldn’t be particularly profane, but April’s non-verbal sounds of pleasure aren’t much better as she’s begun to rub her clit with one hand. And then, the impossible happens. “Sh-shit April, I’m close.”

“Me too, Sterl,” April says, not bothering to comment on such a rare utterance from her wife because her hips are not slowing.

Sterling is in fact grateful that the toy is not a part of her, as she’s sure she would have come inside April more than once by now, and that would be embarrassing...almost as embarrassing as the fact that just thinking about ejaculating inside her wife is what manages to get her there.

“Oh fuck Sterling, yes!” April yells in a way that if Anderson and Debbie don’t at the very least get startled awake by it, then they’re just flat out dead. 

But like her parents in that scenario, Sterling can’t come to the phone right now, so she doesn’t care. She’ll just lie here in a daze--it doesn’t help that the vibrator is still on and overstimulating her to Mars and back--while she watches her wife come undone on top of her.

April finally seems to catch her breath, swooping her sex-mussed hair back out of her eyes as she starts to giggle a little bit. “Well, that was an experience,” she says, climbing off of Sterling and doing her the serious favor of reaching into the briefs and turning the vibrator back off.

“Oh my goodness, thank you, I thought I was gonna die,” Sterling gasps, finally capable of speaking English again as she’s quick to remove the harness and toy from herself, feeling very used, but in a good way.

“Well, for future reference, I know CPR,” April teases her, settling down in the bed and hiding her face in the crook of her arm like she could go to sleep at any moment. “You were right, we probably should have done that at home.”

Sterling can’t believe she just heard those three magic words leave her wife’s lips, but it makes her unbelievably happy. Even if her being right in this scenario is fairly likely to lead to some awkwardness tomorrow. Or like, a lot of awkwardness. “At least my parents don’t have to worry about me getting you pregnant.”

April scoffs. “Thank God for that...though I’m sure even He would consider what we were just doing as a very valiant attempt,” April says, rolling onto her back again. “Oh hey, that’s the first thing I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving.” Post-sex April is even more endearing to Sterling than the usual one, and that’s saying something.”

“You’re thankful for the fact that I can’t get you pregnant?” Sterling asks in amusement, earning a fervent nod from April. “Okay, well, I guess I’m thankful for the fact that my sister is weirdly knowledgable when it comes to buying sex toys.”

“Ew, Sterling, don’t bring her into this,” April says, a look of disgust on her face as she gets up from the bed, toy in hand, and takes it to the bathroom.

Chapter Text

Sterling hears the sound of rain outside before she opens her eyes. The pitter-patter on the roof is accompanied by the even breathing of April asleep beside her. 

This is a rare occurrence for Sterling, being awake first, and for a moment she wonders if it might actually still be the middle of the night. But this is not the case when she opens her eyes to a dreary and only slightly darkened room as a result of the storm, so she reaches for her phone on the nightstand and squints at the too-bright screen to check the clock and sees it’s 7:26. Fairly early, considering their strenuous nighttime activities, but they’ll be needing to get up soon to help with all that goes into Thanksgiving.

April stirs next to her, making little annoyed grunting noises to express that she wishes she was still asleep, but she is so cute that Sterling can’t help but smile at her. “WhattimeisitSterl?” she mutters, barely audible, with the words melding together

“Almost 7:30,” Sterling whispers, and completely melts when April rolls over and drapes an arm across her torso while she buries her face in Sterling’s neck. Sterling holds April close, feeling so content and connected with her wife’s naked form in her arms.

Sleeping naked isn’t exactly new for them—it’s often much easier to go to sleep this way after a night like the one they just had—but it’s rare when they have the time to just do this. Usually, April is out of bed and dressed before Sterling is even conscious, so having the opportunity to have morning snuggles with her is a real treat.

April sighs with contentment when Sterling starts gently running her hand through her hair. “Let’s never leave this bed, ‘kay?” she says.

“Sounds perfect to me,” Sterling agrees, truly wishing it was a real option. The warmth of the bed and their shared body heat, the familiarity of being in the place she’s called home since she was eight years old, and the pitter-patter of the rain on the roof all serve the same purpose of exemplifying that at the moment, this is the most comfortable and peaceful place in the entire universe. 

But unfortunately, life dictates that they don’t have much time left to linger in the perfection of it all, and even a sleepy April seems to realize that as she pulls her head back slightly so she can slowly open her eyes, blinking as her eyes adjust as best as they can in the absence of her glasses or her contacts. “Good morning, Blurry,” April greets Sterling with a sleepy smile.

“Morning, Bedhead,” Sterling replies as she continues attempting to smooth down April’s hair, but there’s a reason it can hold Doritos without enough product.

April scrunches her face in adorable embarrassment. “And here I’ve spent months trying to convince you I don’t wake up looking like a hideous troll.”

Sterling shakes her head fervently. “You could never look hideous, but I do know that humans don’t wake up with their makeup done, even if you tried to convince me otherwise on our honeymoon.”

April feigns shock at what Sterling knows to be a totally true accusation. “Sterling Stevens-Wesley, what are you implyin’?” she asks, putting her hand over her heart to go with her Appalled Southern Woman drawl.

Sterling chuckles to herself, honestly quite flattered that April cares so much about her opinion, but if truth be told, Sterling would find April attractive even if she was completely bald with no eyebrows. “I’m not implying anything. You wanna take a shower together?”

“Mhm,” April hums, nodding. “But in a few minutes.”

“Sounds good to me,” Sterling agrees, allowing herself to fully relax again as she and April share a moment of peaceful silence.

Their hands come together between them, fingers intertwining. April’s hands are so soft, and Sterling can’t help but bring one to her lips to kiss her knuckles. All the time she spent growing up envisioning what being married would be like, she never could have imagined that it would be to her uptight little friend who insisted she needed salad on the side if she was going to eat pizza at a sleepover. But at the same time, being married to April is so much better and easier than Sterling could have envisioned even as recently as a year ago.

Not that they don’t have their disagreements or moments of genuine irritation with each other every once in a while, but Sterling would be concerned that her wife had been body-snatched if April Stevens-Wesley woke up one morning and decided to not be at least a little bit spitefully contrarian.

“I love your hands,” April says, pulling Sterling’s hand back in her direction to turn over her palm and run her finger over the lines.

Sterling smirks. “Yeah, I’ve kind of noticed.”

April rolls her eyes. “Not like that, you pervert.”

Sterling shrugs, thinking April has now proved lots of times that she does love Sterling’s hands for that reason, among many possible others. “You love this pervert.”

April sighs in defeat. “I really, really do,” she admits easily, then leans in to kiss Sterling, their lips just barely touching when the bedroom door slams open and Blair comes flying in like the Tasmanian Devil.

“Wake up, lovebirds!  The entertainment for the long weekend has arrived!” she yells, leaping onto the bed and subsequently on top of them. Her hair and her clothes are almost soaking wet, which is slightly less of a concern to Sterling than the fact that she and her wife are currently naked, but even then, reuniting with Blair feels like regaining a piece of herself that she hadn’t fully realized was lost.

“Why are you wet?!” April shrieks, rolling away while trying to keep the sheets pulled up to her chin.

Sterling, on the other hand, is slightly less concerned about Blair seeing her, considering she has been naked around her pretty consistently since she was an infant, and vice-versa. They’ve even given each other (botched) bikini waxes once—a huge mistake never to be repeated. Mostly, she’s just excited to see her proper other half…which is something she’ll be sure to never let April hear her say.

“It’s raining,” Blair offers with a shrug. “But oh man, are you guys naked right now? Did I interrupt something?” Blair waggles her eyebrows and narrowly dodges a pillow April one-handed tosses at her head. “Hostile, much?”

“Blair, get the fuck out of here!” April growls.

Sterling sighs and shakes her head. Those two couldn’t get along even if she were dying. “Blair, I am very happy to see you, but do you mind giving April and me some time to get ready in private, please?” she asks delicately.

April, being very unhelpful in a moment like this, smirks at Blair and snuggles in closer to Sterling.

Blair laughs, more than a little amused at her continued uncanny ability to get under April’s skin, even after a whole quarter of a year apart. Then she looks Sterling in the eye.

“Hello, Mrs. SIMPens-Wesley.”

“That’s not even clever.”

“Yes, it is, and even you have to admit it.”

“…okay, it’s a little funny. But can you please at least try not to set April off anymore today? You know how family gatherings stress her out.”

“Yes, Sterl. I do know that, because you married a younger, more compact version of our mother and I’m sure that’s something you’re going to have to discuss with your future therapist.”

“I’ve missed you so much.”

“I missed you too. But did you know that I’m pulling a 3.4? How crazy is that?”

“Uh, nerd alert. Guess we have a new smart twin...except I’m pulling a 3.8.”

“You bitch.”

April snaps her fingers in front of Sterling’s face, yanking her out of her Twinspeak focus. “Hi, yes, I’ve asked politely many times for you guys to please not do that in front of me, thank you.”

“What a bitch.”

“Blair, that’s my wife!”

April growls in frustration. “Please leave. I have to shower before your grandparents get here and I would prefer for only your sister to see me naked.”

Blair puts up her hands in surrender upon Sterling giving her a pleading look, as it’s nearly impossible to satisfy them both at the same time. “Okay, okay, I’m going. But before I do, I just have to ask-” Sterling braces herself for what is undoubtedly going to be some awful question to follow, “-What were you freaks doing last night that has you guys naked and dad flinching at even the mention of your names?”

April smiles menacingly at her. “Thank you so much for your generous bridal shower gift, Blair.”

Horror dawns on Blair’s face before she gags. “Oh God, it’s so much worse than I thought!” she says in exaggerated distress before finally leaving them alone in the room, slamming the door behind her.

This is going to be a very long weekend

Thanks to Blair’s presence being like a bucket of cold water on April’s sex drive, their shower together turns out a lot less...romantic than Sterling had anticipated it would be. But because they apparently traumatized her father with their bedroom antics last night, she can’t say she necessarily feels up to making love to April in her parents’ house again any time soon either.

“Can you hand me my conditioner, please?” April asks, hand outstretched and eyes shut as she rinses the shampoo out of her hair under the stream of the water whilst Sterling is busy shaving one leg propped up on the lower soap ledge.

Sterling dutifully sets down her razor but keeps her leg firmly in place as she looks around for April’s no-doubt expensive French conditioner, eventually finding it on the higher ledge behind her. “So are you going to be cooking with my mom until dinnertime?” Sterling asks as she hands over the little bottle, actually hoping that her assumption isn’t the case.

“That’s the plan,” April confirms, running the conditioner through her hair with her hands. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, you know how our house is still kind of bare minimum furnished because your dad still hasn’t come through with that allowance he said he was gonna?” Sterling asks, knowing that her suggestion is already off to an awful start by leading in with that, so she decides to act more nonchalant about it by going back to shaving her legs.

April makes a sound of annoyance. “Yes, I am aware.”

“Well, I found out that a few stores at the mall are doing early Black Friday starting at noon today, and-” Sterling does not get to finish that sentence without April interrupting.

“Wait, but it’s Thanksgiving. It’s Thursday and not even nighttime. How can they possibly justify calling that Black Friday? It’s just a Thanksgiving sale for crazy people.” April’s opinion on this subject is stronger than Sterling had anticipated, with her voice getting a bit higher on those last two words, though it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, considering April’s strong opinion that the Christmas season doesn’t start until the day after Thanksgiving, aka Actual Black Friday.

Still, it makes Sterling more than a little nervous to even ask what she was going to. “Yeah, you’re so right,” she lies, scoffing. 

“So what are your plans? Because no offense, Honey, but I’d prefer if you stayed far away from the kitchen. At least until after we take that cooking class,” April says, trying to sound as nice as possible, but Sterling knows she was very upset to have to throw away a frying pan that Sterling scorched beyond repair.

“Might take Chloe for a walk and watch the Falcons game,” Sterling fibs, figuring there’s no use in telling April about wanting to go shopping if she for sure wouldn’t want to go…and if Sterling intends on buying something that would be a present for both of them.

April finishes rinsing her hair and puts her hands on Sterling’s hips, moving them so that Sterling can be under the stream of the hot water. “Sounds like a plan. Do you have any advice for me when it comes to dealing with your grandmother and aunt today?” she reaches past Sterling to get her bottle of shampoo, squirting some into her hands and lathering it into Sterling’s hair.

Sterling sighs in contentment, the feeling of April’s fingers massaging and nails lightly scratching at her scalp being absolutely heavenly. Though, unfortunately, it makes it hard to think clearly. “Just…uh…honestly, be yourself.”

April scoffs. “Well, that’s amazingly unhelpful,” she says, chuckling and lightly pushing Sterling backward so she can rinse her head.

“No, I’m serious,” Sterling says, eyes closed and trying not to get any soapy water in her mouth. “You know I love you exactly the way you are, and you are the most intense person I know. You don’t take lip from anyone, and you have the uncanny ability to make everyone around you feel dumb in comparison to you. Use that.” It feels so obvious to Sterling, even if she definitely shouldn’t be encouraging her wife to serve any verbal beatdowns to her brand new in-laws. But Sterling knows as well as anyone that her aunt and grandma kind of suck.

April pulls Sterling closer to her again, rubbing conditioner into her hair. There’s something to be said about how much she loves to take care of Sterling like this, but the same could be said about Sterling enjoying it so much. “I don’t know why hearing you say that just made my heart soar, but I appreciate it, Sterl,” she says, punctuating her sentence with a quick peck to Sterling’s lips. “But I think I understand your point now.”

“I’m glad,” Sterling says, leaning back to rinse again. “So, how do you think your mom is doing?”

“Well,” April says, pausing as she seems to ponder the best way to word her answer. “I believe she’s doing her best to hold firm during divorce proceedings, and that she’s choosing to spend the holiday with my aunt because she’s the one person who’s wanted her to leave my father all along. But do I think she’s truly become a strong, independent woman throughout all of this? No, of course not.”

“Well, that seems…harsh,” Sterling says awkwardly but isn’t surprised by anything April just said. She just hopes that April isn’t still holding out hope that her parents will reconcile, because, in that regard, Sterling is firmly Team Franny. She knows the divorce has been hard on her wife, but it’s what’s best—even their pastor, who is generally pro-marriage counseling in times of trouble, thinks that the Stevenses will be better off when they aren’t together.

“I’ve known my mom a lot longer than you, Sterl,” April reminds her, pouring a more than generous amount of her own shower gel into her hands and giving Sterling the show of a lifetime as she rubs it into her own skin. “I’d tell you to take a picture, but I know you actually would.”

Feeling particularly bold, Sterling shocks her wife by taking her by the hips and pulling her in close until their bodies are firmly together—enough so that she’s sure they’re both going to come out of this smelling like cranberries, oranges, and eucalyptus. “I’d take all the pictures of you like this,” she says with complete confidence, looking down at how they fit together so perfectly.

“At least I know you’ll never leave me as long as I keep my figure,” April says with a smirk but Sterling knows that it’s still something her wife fears, and she will always be here to assuage those feelings.

“I’d never leave you. I’m not crazy.”

“Good.” April gives Sterling a long kiss that for a minute has Sterling wondering if this will turn into a sexy shower after all, but unfortunately, April eventually pulls away and rinses herself off before opening the glass shower door. “Don’t forget to wash everything important,” she says, stepping out and grabbing a towel to wrap around herself.

Sterling rolls her eyes, rubbing in the suds still on her from April. “Yes, April. I’m not a dude.”

“Mmm, and thank God for that,” April says, giving Sterling one last thirsty once-over before shutting the shower door.

It’s not until she’s gone that Sterling realizes how worked up she’d gotten once things took a more romantic turn, and now her body is wanting release, with April or not. “Dang it,” Sterling says to herself, knowing that denying this urge will only cause her pain and suffering on a day still likely to be stressful. Frustrated, she grabs the detachable showerhead off of the wall.

“A proper good morning to you, my dear sister,” Blair says, emerging from her room in a fresh outfit just as Sterling leaves her room dressed in the sweater ensemble April picked out for her. “Nice to see you fully clothed, even if you look like a total dweeb.”

“I am a dweeb who is loved,” Sterling says, unashamed…though that might be the post-masturbation IDGAFrick attitude talking.

“Yeah, well, are you too domesticated to make a run to Yogurtopia with me today to visit our old friends?” Blair asks, the request itself innocent enough in words, but the implication is…less so.

This is the first day they’ve been in Atlanta together without a wedding to take part in since the last time they went bounty hunting together. And Sterling knows she promised April no more, but the rush is like a drug. A drug that betters society, sure, but that doesn’t make it any less addictive.

Still, Sterling values her relationship too much to give in to temptation for the thing that almost ensured her marriage didn’t happen at all. “Blair, I can’t. April and I are trying to do the total honesty thing, and I very much doubt she would be okay with me doing that while she stays here entertaining our grandparents.”

“Okay, but what if Bowser has some super easy, super lucrative skip and you buy April something nice to make up for the minor betrayal?” Blair asks, reminding Sterling why she is the one who has never had a relationship last longer than a few months. “C’mon, please? I haven’t seen you in months and this is our thing.”

Sterling stubbornly crosses her arms, not wanting to budge on this, even with Blair trying to guilt-trip her. “Blair, no. I won’t betray April’s trust like that. And besides, you being so busy is why we’ve had maybe half as many FaceTime dates as you said we would when you decided on UNC.”

“I’m sorry, okay? I’m just…I’m trying to navigate my whole life not involving you, and it’s like learning to play lacrosse with one arm tied behind my back. Talking to you reminds me what I’m missing and I get sad,” Blair admits, really showing her vulnerable side that Sterling has missed dearly.

“Yeah, I get what you mean,” Sterling agrees with a nod. “But it still doesn’t make me half as sad as thinking that you don’t care if you talk to me or not.”

Without warning, Blair pulls Sterling into a crushingly tight hug, not letting her go even as she struggles slightly to breathe. “I’m sorry I’m such a jerk. You’re my spiritual wombmate and I never should have let there be distance between us.”

“I love you, Blair,” Sterling says, unable to stay mad at her sister, even when she deserves it. She knows her sister’s brain too well to think she ever means to cause harm, especially not to those she loves. And despite her abandonment, Sterling has never doubted her sister loves her.

“And I love you, Sterl. Even if you’ve let April totally pussywhip you.” Blair says, clearly trying to stop the moment from getting too sappy. This is just as well since Sterling doesn’t want to cry off what little makeup she put on this morning.

“In my defense,” Sterling starts, trying not to smile too much when she says this next part, “April’s…well, it’s pretty dang amazing.”

Blair makes a look of disgust. “Grossss, I told you not to tell me details with her name attached to them!”

“Then don’t bring up my wife’s private parts and how they influence me if you don’t want to hear my opinion,” Sterling says, feeling entirely unapologetic about this. “But no Blair, I will not betray her trust by going back to bounty hunting like I’m the Spider-Man to her MJ.”

Blair frowns, confused. “Wait, at what point did Spider-Man stop being Spider-Man and it helped his relationship with the kidnapping-prone ginger?”

“Spider-Man 2 with Tobey Maguire,” Sterling answers easily.

“That movie is as old as us and isn’t even a part of the MCU,” Blair counters.

“As if that matters,” Sterling says, exasperated at her sister continuing to not see the genius in the Sam Raimi campfest Spider-Man movies…gosh, she has been spending too much time around April. “Anyway, the answer is a big no.”

For her part, at least Blair seems to accept this but still looks disappointed about it. “Fine. But can we go see Bowser anyway? I want froyo.”

Sterling knows that she’s probably opening a can of worms by agreeing to this, but she does miss their big, scary, teddy bear of a mentor. “Okay, fine. But you’re buying and I’m getting extra toppings. And we need to go to the mall so I can get a few things.”

“Oh right, the Thanksgiving Black Friday deals?” Blair asks.

“Yes!” Sterling is so glad that Blair acknowledges that the day of the week doesn’t matter when the violent spirit of the Capitalist holiday is in the air.

They head downstairs, where Sterling can hear her mom and April in the kitchen and football coming from the TV in the den. Seeing as she’s yet to greet either of her parents this morning, she heads into the den, leaning over the back of the couch to kiss her dad on the cheek. “Morning, Dad,” she says cheerfully as she notices her father’s whole demeanor shift, even without seeing his face.

Anderson clears his throat and awkwardly replies, “Mornin’, Princess.”

Sterling hears Blair giggle from the hallway and remembers what she said about their dad’s reaction to her and April this morning, more than likely due to last night. “Who’s winning?”

Anderson gives a grunting shrug in response, telling Sterling he isn’t quite ready to confront her open sexuality as a married woman just yet. Or possibly ever.

“Dad, if Mom and April ask where we’re at, tell them we’re at the mall, okay?” Blair calls to him.

“You got it, Babygirl,” Anderson replies, sounding almost relieved to hear that Sterling will be out of the house, which is kind of hurtful.

Still, Sterling figures that he’ll be fine if they give him some space, so she follows Blair out to the driveway without another word until the front door is shut behind them. “Are you sure we shouldn’t tell Mom and April we’re going out now? What if they need us for something?”

“Ask for forgiveness, not permission,” Blair says like the horrible philosopher she is as she keeps walking past their dad’s hunting truck, which Sterling had expected they would drive, seeing as the Volt is back in North Carolina. “You got the key for this baby?” Blair asks, going up to April’s Lincoln and running her hand over the hood like she’s caressing a lover.

“Uh, yes, but April barely even lets me drive her car and I’m married to her. I very much doubt she’d care for us taking it for a joyride,” Sterling says, knowing she’ll have to be firm about this because April’s Lincoln is among her most prized possessions, and stealing it on top of neglecting to inform her of where she is going could prove disastrous.

Though Blair seems unfazed by this prospect. “You’re married to her, so it’s your car too, Sterl. C’mon, I’ve been dying to try out those heated seats.” She pouts pathetically at Sterling, and truly, after all these years, it should not work in her favor. And yet, Sterling just can’t say no to that face.

“Fine. But under no circumstances are you driving,” she gives in all too easily and pulls out the keyfob from her jacket pocket, still there from when she was unloading the car yesterday.

Blair smiles, her whole demeanor one of smug satisfaction. “And here I thought I’d have to pickpocket that off of your dear wife,” she says, going around to the now unlocked passenger door and getting in, followed by Sterling in the driver’s seat. “You guys have satellite radio in here?”

Sterling scoffs, wondering if there’s a universe where April could survive on public access alone. “Yeah, of course,” she says, starting the car and pushing the button to switch on the Sirius XM, cringing when she realizes that April last left it on the showtunes channel.

Blair looks over at her, expressionless. “You have got to be shitting me,” she says mostly to herself as she quickly changes it over to one of the heavy metal stations, which is playing one of her all-time favorites--’Down with the Sickness.’ “Aww yeah, this is a sign!”

“A sign for what?” Sterling asks, pulling out of the driveway.


“Bowser, my good man!”

The twins say simultaneously as they enter their old haunt and find their friend working the register, just as he was the first time they came here. And just as he did that day, he looks far too tired to be all that happy to see them.

“Oh no, it’s you two,” he says, just before Sterling runs across the shop to lean over the counter to hug him. “And here I thought I was rid of you forever.”

“Never ever,” Sterling assures him, pulling back but keeping a hand on his arm. “How ya been?”

“Yeah, how’s business? And also, business?” Blair asks, using air quotes where appropriate, but it’s not like there’s anyone else here besides them. Not even Ms. Cathy is working on Thanksgiving.

Still, though, Bowser isn’t exactly the most subtle guy they know, so Sterling feels the need to more quietly add, “You know. The bounty-hunting.”

Bowser waves her off. “Yeah, yeah, I knew what y’all meant the first time; I ain’t got time for any other side hustles.”

Blair raises an eyebrow at this. “Really? Because I could totally see you taking up a hobby. Like...puzzle-ing.”

“Ooh, I’ve been thinking about learning to crochet,” Sterling feels the need to add, having considered the hobby so she can make April a cute scarf or beanie for their homemade first anniversary gifts. She recognizes that they’ve barely been married for three months, but she’ll be needing time to perfect the art. Though that’s a bit off-topic, she recognizes.

“What the Hell does yarn work have to do with any of this? Why are y’all here?” Bowser asks as Blair meanders over in front of the toppings, not so stealthily snatching a few gummy bears. “And if ya don’t work here no more, then you for sure don’t get to eat the toppings! It’s a health code violation.”

Blair rolls her eyes and goes around behind the counter, Bowser frozen in place by his confusion as she proceeds to pull out an apron and visor from under the counter. She puts them on haphazardly and proceeds to continue eating the toppings.

“As delicious as crumbled Oreos are,” Sterling says, glancing at her entirely shameless sister, “We mostly just came by to say hi. We missed you while we were away. And Yolanda--where is she?”

Bowser looks down sheepishly. “Oh, she’s just at her house gettin’ Thanksgiving dinner ready. But uh...that’s sweet of y’all to miss us.”

Sterling smiles, ribbing at Bowser. “Aww, is she making Thanksgiving dinner for you?”

“Among others, yes,” Bowser replies monotonously. “How’s your girl? The little crazy one?”

Blair scoffs. “Only girl she’s ever had…”

“Blair, shut up!” Sterling hisses at her, not enjoying the idea of any other parental figures having intimate knowledge of her sex life. “April’s good, Bowser. Thank you for asking. We actually just celebrated our quarterversary.”

“That’s not a thing,” Blair chimes in, but Sterling ignores her, even if she knows that it was only an excuse for April to plan a special evening where they exchanged gifts--the girl loves her presents.

“Anyway, we’ve been married for a quarter of a year. Aren’t you proud?” Sterling asks, to which Bowser rolls his eyes.

“Take it from someone who spent ten years married to a crazy girl; you make it a quarter of a century, and I’ll personally give you a damn medal.”

“That’s 25 years,” Blair supplies needlessly for Sterling

“Yeah, I got that,” Sterling replies, a little annoyed at nobody recognizing the accomplishment of getting not just used to, but comfortable with sharing under 1000 square feet with April Stevens-Wesley.

“That means you and April are literally 1% of the way to 25 years,” Blair adds, greatly increasing the probable percentage of Sterling coming back there and smacking her. “Anyway, Bowser, you got any skips you think we could track down for you in the next few hours? We kinda have to be back to the house by dinner time.”

“Blair, no, I told you-” Sterling tries to argue, but Bowser looks like a lightbulb has gone off.

“Actually, I recently got one for another one of y’all’s country club buddies. Either of you know a Thomas Jordan?”

Sterling and Blair look at each other within milliseconds.

“Oh my god dude, that’s Tala Jordan’s dad.”

“There could be lots of Thomas Jordans.”

“None that also go to our club.”

“Blair, the last time we did something like this almost cost me my engagement.”

“But we’d be ridding the city of...whatever it is Thomas was booked for. And besides, don’t you want to embarrass the shit out of Tala for that homophobic stuff she said that made you kick her ass?”

“I punched her once,” Sterling says, feeling the need to justify her actions even when it’s just the two of them in this world in her head.

“What, may we ask, was Mr. Jordan arrested for?” Blair asks. “Because we could totally track him down and get him booked in hour. We know things.”

“If we were interested,” Sterling adds, as it’s an important caveat because it would have to be something particularly egregious for her to break April’s trust, even if she would be hurting the skip’s daughter in the process--and in this case, she wouldn’t even feel bad about that part.

“Solicitation of a minor,” Bowser replies, and Sterling sees red.

“We’re in.”


Having Thanksgiving without her parents or the rest of her family for the first time in her life feels…odd to April. She knows that this is a perfectly normal thing that every married woman will almost inevitably experience in their life, but even though she’s loath to admit it, she’s only just turned 19, and in no universe does that make her a full-fledged adult. Not even the fact that she is responsible for taking care of her wife--babying her, more like--makes her someone who should be in charge of her own life, let alone someone else’s. So being here in her in-laws’ home, helping Debbie make their family’s recipe for sweet potato casserole that doesn’t even include a splash of pure vanilla extract (the good kind her mom buys from the farmer’s market) adjustment.

Still, she recognizes that Debbie and Anderson, and of course Sterling all love her unconditionally, as much as her parents--if not more so, seeing as the Wesleys have never called her slurs or subtly fat-shamed her. “Debbie, what consistency am I going for, here?” April asks, turning to Debbie and gesturing with the potato masher in her hand. “Smooth as mashed potatoes, or a little bit intentionally lumpy for textural diversity?” Seeing as this recipe is also lacking in the candied walnut department, she sees this as a valid question.

Debbie makes a face of bewildered amusement. “Whatever consistency you see fit, Sweetie. Honestly, the only people who’ll be eating here who care much about texture tend to avoid that sugar bomb.”

“Fair enough.” April gets to mashing, making sure to leave it lumpy anyway. “So, when is the rest of the Wesley clan expected to arrive?”

“Soon, unfortunately,” Debbie says too quickly.

April chuckles, appreciating the honesty. “Wow, tell me how you really feel about them, Deb,” 

Debbie comes over to playfully swat April on the arm with a dishtowel. “Not everyone can be so lucky to have wonderful in-laws like you, young lady.”

“That’s true,” April agrees, knowing she is very lucky indeed to have Debbie and Anderson. Blair, she could do without. “But did I hear correctly that it’ll be ‘cousin,’ singular?” There’s more than a hint of hope in her voice at the idea that Kristina will not be attending this shindig.

“Yes, Deacon and Cordelia are only bringing DJ. Kristina is with her boyfriend in Texas,” Debbie explains as April makes a confused face.

“I thought he dumped her?” she asks, still relishing in that highlight of her wedding day.

“He took her back,” Debbie says, shrugging as Lord knows neither one of them understand why someone would do such a stupid thing. “Though I can’t say I’m exactly disappointed to not have her here antagonizing the girls.”

April laughs, wondering when she earned the privilege to be gossiped with like a real adult, but she loves it. “Speaking of the girls, I’m surprised at how quiet they’ve been.”

Debbie’s eyes narrow. “You will soon find that that is rarely a good thing,” she says, putting down her mixing spoon. “April, before the rest of the family gets here, there is something I’d like to…discuss.”

April has a pretty good idea of what that thing is, but she very much does not want to discuss that thing. “Oh? And what’s that, Debbie?” she asks innocently.

Debbie’s face is very tired. “I know I told you and Sterling that I wanted you to hold off on certain…activities until you were married, and I know that by all accounts, the two of you engaging in those activities is perfectly understandable, I just-”

April cuts Debbie off there, shaking her head. “Debbie, you don’t have to say it. I know we should have tried to keep it down last night and will be more mindful while staying here in the future.” As mortifying as it is for her to admit her wrongdoing in this department, it would be even worse to be chastised for the volume at which she cries out in the throes of passion.

Debbie breathes a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank God! I’d been trying to come up with what to say since last night. But for future reference, Anderson and I don’t sleep until we know our girls are home safe. Just a heads up.”

April doesn’t know if she should laugh or be mortified by the fact that they apparently heard everything, “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind. Is Anderson okay?”

Debbie does laugh at that. “Oh God, no. Sweetie, this is the man who insisted that he and I wait until our wedding night, and who is convinced that Sterling was a virgin on your wedding night.”

April gasps. “Wait, she wasn’t?!” she gives it until Debbie looks like she might have just made a huge mistake before she breaks into a smile. “I’m just kidding. I’m the one who found out about her and Luke and told the whole school.”

Debbie playfully shoved at her shoulder. “Don’t mess with me like that, you little butt. I’m your mother-in-law.”

“Doesn’t that mean you’re supposed to be extremely overbearing as well as obligated to undermine my relationship with Sterling and eventually the way we raise our future child?” April asks all in one breath.

“If you were married to my son, yes. Different rules apply when you’re married to my…very special little girl.” The way Debbie says the word ‘special’ makes it clear that she doesn’t intend for it to be a compliment by any means. Just a descriptor.

“And on that note, Sterling, Blair, what are you doing?” she calls out to nowhere in particular as she heads out of the kitchen into the foyer, with April following her. There’s ultimately no answer, and Debbie goes to the den where Anderson is laughing at an UberEats commercial. “Anderson, have you seen the girls?”

Anderson turns around in his seat, flinching upon noticing April behind Debbie. “Uh, they said they were going to the mall.” He turns back to the tv.

“Goodness gracious, if those girls get hurt going to one of those ridiculous Black Friday stampedes, I will not feel the least bit of sympathy for them. I will fight my motherly instincts and everything,” Debbie says as she heads back to the kitchen but seems otherwise unbothered by this revelation from her husband.

April, on the other hand, has got a bad feeling about this. She goes and opens the front door, looking out to the driveway to where she parked her Lincoln, only to find it missing. “Oh, she is in big trouble,” she says to herself, getting out her phone and taking the drastic step of skipping a text and calling Sterling immediately.

The phone rings three times before Sterling’s voice finally answers nervously. “Hi, Baby…”

“Don’t you ‘hi, Baby’ me! Where are you and where is my car?” April asks, knowing she could go about this a bit more delicately, but she’s pissed and having serious deja vu back to the night when Sterling came home with a busted ankle after subduing a violent criminal.

“Blair and I just wanted to say hi to a few friends before we went Black Friday shopping. Didn’t you say that you would kind of like to have an immersion blender?” Sterling says, and April can tell from the background noise that she is clearly driving.

“What is the deal with you and blenders?!” April asks, truly bewildered by her wife’s apparent fascination with liquifying things that shouldn’t be liquid--she’s seen a rather notorious TikTok of Sterling’s titled ‘The Forbidden Smoothie’ from when they were around 13.

“I like to watch things blend, okay?” Sterling replies defensively.

“Regardless, bring me back my car! I didn’t give you permission to take it!” April hisses into the phone, trying to be mindful of her volume.

“It’s her car too,” Blair chimes in, definitely on speakerphone. “Y’all are married.”

“We won’t be for long if you bring that car back in anything less than pristine condition,” April fires back.

“Is that a promise?”

“Blair!” Sterling clearly takes the phone back and puts it into regular speaking mode--none of which exactly bode well for safe driving. “April, my darling, my love, I promise you I will be back with your car before dinner. I just wanted some time with my sister.”

“And what are you expecting me to do with your family until then?” April asks, taking the phone into the bathroom and turning it on speaker at a low volume so she can take it away from her ear and pull up the GPS tracker app connected to her car--this isn’t an invasion of her wife’s privacy, according to their (obviously necessary) honesty policy.

“I’m sure you’ll think of something, but I really have to go, and-” Sterling doesn’t get a chance to finish that sentence before April interrupts her, having geolocated her car in Downtown Atlanta--miles away from the mall.

“What are you doing downtown, Sterling?” she asks, knowing that there are only a few possible options for what her wife is doing, and all of them involve her wife lying to her.

“Uh…” Sterling stalls, always a bad liar, even when she’s at her best.

April gasps, knowing that Sterling could only really be lying to her about one thing. “Are you bounty hunting? On Thanksgiving?!”

“April, I swear it wasn’t my idea,” Sterling says quickly, not at all denying the accusation, which shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but it is anyway.

April is positively fuming. “Get back here right now, or so help me God I will never do that thing you like in bed ever again.”

“You’re bluffing,” Sterling says, and she is not exactly wrong, seeing as it would end up being a punishment for the both of them.

April growls in frustration. “Fine. Then I will tell your mother what you’re doing.”

Sterling gasps. “You wouldn’t tattle on me. I’m your wife!” she sounds appalled.

“And it’s my fucking car,” April says into the phone and figures that that is a good place to press the ‘end call’ button.

For a few moments, she just stands there, seething with the phone in her hand. She doesn’t understand how someone she loves so much can also infuriate her like no other. She doesn’t want or even anticipates wanting to spend her life with anyone else, even when Sterling is like this, but it certainly does give her pause when it comes to thinking about their future.

Is she really going to one day be her mother’s age and still be worrying about her wife and her sister-in-law fucking off to wreak havoc on major holidays while she is stuck at home playing the good little wife and making bland sweet potatoes? Most likely. And to an extent, she knows she signed up for this when she married a woman who is and always will be half of a human bonded pair. But that doesn’t make it any less annoying.

April grabs the hand towel from the ring next to the sink, brings it to her mouth, and bites down before letting out a muffled scream of frustration. Why can’t life just give her a break for one Goddamned day?

She calmly replaces the towel and looks into the mirror, seeing a version of herself that she doesn’t like. April doesn’t want to be Sterling’s shrew of a wife who’s out to stop her from having any fun—God knows she’s already done a bang-up job of that by allowing her to domesticate herself before she’s even 19–but she just can’t help herself. Why should she have to be the responsible one while Sterling can go off and be reckless as ever, doing the one thing April begged and pleaded for her to stop doing?

Suddenly, she’s startled out of her doom spiral by someone knocking on the door. “Look alive, April; we’re in DEFCON 1!” Anderson calls through the door, signaling to her the arrival of the rest of the Wesleys.

“Wonderful,” April sighs before putting on a big smile and heading out to the foyer to greet Sterling’s Uncle Deacon’s family.

It’s past dark now, and though the Wesleys eat Thanksgiving later than April’s family ever has, she’s starting to get truly worried about her wife’s whereabouts.

Texts to Sterling, first angry and then pleading, have gone unanswered. She even tried to phone Blair but got sent straight to voicemail after a ring. She’s starting to wonder if she should have followed through with her threat to tell Debbie, if only because Sterling’s safety could be at stake here.

“Hey April, have you ever played Monster Hunter Rise?” DJ asks, scooting over on the couch in the den so he’s right up next to her, Switch in hand.

If it were up to April, she would still be in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on dinner before they serve, but Sterling’s grandmother and Aunt Cordelia practically forced her out, so now she’s stuck with the boys, watching the Atlanta Falcons get clobbered. Really, DJ’s video game obsession is a welcome distraction.

“I haven’t,” she answers his question, shaking her head and trying to still seem interested, but DJ is a smart kid.

“Oh, okay,” he says, surprising her by turning off his game and setting it down on the couch next to him. “Do you and Sterling ever play games together?”

April shakes her head again. “At least not video games. We would, but we don’t have a TV, so Sterling just plays on the handheld. But I have a PlayStation 5 at my old house, and when I had the time, I loved playing Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.” She could add that she spent a lot more of her time explaining the plot to her dad while he watched than actually playing that game, but it’s an unnecessary detail. She’s sure DJ will hear plenty about her father from his gossip of a mother eventually.

DJ looks at her with heart eyes that remind her of Sterling—oh, how she would have killed to be looked at like that by Sterling when they were 12 instead of having to see Sterling with Luke. “You’re sooo cool. My cousin doesn’t know what she’s got.”

April smiles and shakes her head, appreciating this ego boost. “Thank you. You’re not so bad yourself, DJ,” she says, seeing so much of her wife in this lovesick little Wesley that it’s hard not to be endeared to him, even when she knows she’s supposed to still be mad at her wife.

“You’re unfortunately barking up the wrong tree, son,” Deacon says, not looking away from the TV.

Big Daddy clears his throat uncomfortably. “Anderson, did you end up buying them girls that little shoebox you showed me?” The not even passive-aggressive remark about her home has April’s nails digging into her own palms.

“Yeah, Dad, I did. But it’s just the perfect size for the girls and it’s walking distance to their classes.” Anderson tries to justify his actions, but April knows from experience that explaining oneself to a person just looking to be critical will always be a waste of time.

Big Daddy scoffs but otherwise holds his tongue, which April doubts he would be doing if she weren’t sitting here right now.

But April’s attention is quickly drawn away by the buzz of a text notification from her phone, which she looks at immediately in the hopes that it’ll be from Sterling, but alas, it is not.

Jamie ✌️: how’s thanksgiving with the in-laws?

April 🏳️‍🌈: gonna be making Sterl sleep on the couch indefinitely for ditching me to hang out with her sister. You?

Jamie ✌️: Ellen’s dad actually had to ask her if I was a girl or just a very skinny, metrosexual dude. But they’re otherwise nice, just kinda geriatric and old school…and defs the reason why Ellen is the way she is.

April 🏳️‍🌈: yeah I sort of figured that level of enthusiasm and childlike wonder doesn’t come out of thin air.

After she sends that text, April receives another one, but this time it’s from the person she was expecting to hear from.

Sterling ❤️: Will you come out to the driveway, please?

The nerve of this girl to just show up and make such a request as if April isn’t about to fly off the handle at her. Still, it’s probably best that that happens outside, so she subtly makes her way out of the house, and only then does she allow her rage to take over the second she sees Sterling get out of the driver’s seat of her car.

“You know, you have a lot of nerve, Sterling Wesley,” April sneers, seeing Sterling’s eyes widen upon being called her non-married name. But that’s a good thing because April means business and she needs to know it.

“April, please, I can explain,” Sterling says, hands up defensively, and April doesn’t exactly want to give her a chance to explain, but she’s sure she’ll never hear the end of it from Pastor Booth in their session on Sunday if she doesn’t.

“I’d love to hear how you can justify going off to play fucking Batgirl while leaving me stranded here.” April watches as Blair awkwardly leaves the passenger seat, sucking on the straw of a large gas station soda and trying to fade into the background.

Sterling wrings her hands and seems to consider how best to phrase it that won’t lead to the very likely event of April indirectly punishing her for the duration of this extended holiday weekend. “We weren’t going to go bounty hunting. I swear we weren’t, and I swear that that’s not what we were doing for most of the time we were gone. We just wanted to say hi to Bowser, but then he told us that Tala Jordan’s dad is a perv who tried to ask out a minor, and-”

April isn’t about to just let Sterling gloss over that detail. “Um, what?”

Blair removes the drink straw from her lips to finally speak up. “Tala’s dad was our skip and we found him in like an hour hiding out in a bar downtown because he thinks he’s a food critic and gave the place a 1-Star review on Yelp when he was still sitting there. But we figured you wouldn’t be too freaked since it means that your dad is not the biggest creep we’ve ever caught to whom we also have a personal connection.” 

She...oddly has a point. “You arrested Thomas Jordan?” It’s strange, how weirdly satisfying it is, considering April knows that it was his devil child who spread the rumor around the school that her dad had been arrested for killing a hooker. By design, it was close to the truth, but if April had tried to correct people by saying that her dad had only roughed up a prostitute, it would hardly sound much better, and she would have been confirming the rumors.

Tala Jordan is pure evil, and her going through this now feels like ultimate karma.

Sensing April’s vulnerability in her redirected rage, Sterling places her hands on April’s shoulders and looks into her eyes with sincerity. “Now do you see why I couldn’t resist? I would have asked you to join us, but it was sort of time-sensitive that we got downtown as soon as possible, and I thought you were in your element here. I’m sorry for not making that clear sooner.”

April sighs, not able and not wanting to hold onto her anger towards the woman she loves anymore. “Yes, but it doesn’t explain where you were after you picked him up.”

At that, Blair smiles deviously and heads around the back of the car, popping open the trunk. “Now, Sterl told me that you have a thing about Black Friday happening on Thanksgiving Thursday, but I think even you will appreciate the deals we got at the mall.”

April and Sterling follow Blair around the car, and the first thing April notices is the rather large thing hidden behind other shopping bags, covered with a blanket. “Sterling, what is that? Please tell me that you don’t have a body in the back of my car.”

Sterling and Blair give her matching looks of bewilderment, with Sterling saying, “What?! Why would it be a dead body?”

April shrugs exaggeratedly. “I don’t know! You’re a freaking bounty hunter and isn’t the whole thing like, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive?’”

“We don’t kill people,” Sterling says, seeming surprised that she had to say as much. “Though if we did, don’t you think we would have just gone with the other, easier option with your dad so he couldn’t tell anyone?”

“It would have made y’all’s relationship a lot easier if we had,” Blair chimes in.

“WHAT?!” April says, hardly believing she’s hearing her wife and sister-in-law explaining the logic of murdering her father for reward money like a damn Red Dead Redemption side quest—though she recognizes she opened this conversation up for debate, she just hadn’t realized they’d put so much thought into it.

“Anyway…” Sterling says in a singsong voice, clearly wanting to change the subject of conversation right quick, looking at the contents of the car trunk. “No peeking at anything else back here, but…” she reaches into one of the shopping bags and quickly pulls something out, holding it behind her back.

“You can’t bribe your way out of trouble,” April says plainly, crossing her arms.

Sterling looks at her incredulously. “First of all, this isn’t a bribe, it’s just a no-strings present for my beautiful wife that is also an apology for not keeping you in the loop. But since when do you look a gift horse in the mouth—whatever that means?”

“Still sounds like a bribe, but okay,” April says, holding out her hand expectantly.

Sterling rolls her eyes, clearly having anticipated for this to be more romantic, but even so, she brings the small velvet jewelry box from behind her back, reminding April of the night they got engaged, especially when she pops it open, but it isn’t a ring this time. No, they’re matching rose gold earrings that take April’s breath away, despite herself. “They’re from the Disney-inspired jewelry collection—Belle, just like your wedding dress,” Sterling says as April continues to admire the earrings, which are studs shaped like small roses with a diamond embedded in the center.

April is frustrated at how much she loves them, and how much she loves the idiot girl who bought them for her with no doubt dirty money. This must be how mob wives feel.

“She’s pretty slick, isn’t she?” Blair says, looking rather proud of her sister before patting her on the back and heading into the house to finally give them their privacy.

April waits until the door closes behind her before finally speaking again. “You know in the future that I won’t be so easily appeased with gifts, right? I’m not my mother.”

Sterling nods. “I know that. I just figured it couldn’t hurt, and when I saw these, I thought of you and how beautiful you looked on our wedding day.”

“You think I look beautiful every day,” April says, a little surprised at how certain she is of this fact, but then again, she hasn’t ever been given reason to question it. “But it’s nice to hear you say so.”

Cautiously, Sterling leans in to kiss her, and it feels right, just being with her like this. Real love means fighting without coming out of it liking each other any less, after all.

“Mother, would you like the honor of saying grace?” Debbie asks once they’ve all sat around the table—well, everyone except Blair and DJ, who are the only occupants of the kids' table but don’t seem too bothered by this fact. Or at least, DJ doesn’t.

“Oh, that’s sweet of you to offer, Deborah, but I think it ought to be left to someone else—truth be told, I’m drawing a blank as far as things I’m thankful for this year,” Mother says, her voice cheery and innocent, but the comment is as backhanded as they come. Especially in the year when she had her first grandchild get married.

April, who’s had the misfortune of being sat next to her wife’s grandmother—who has yet to speak two words directly to her today—just goes about her business putting green bean casserole on her and Sterling’s plates. She isn’t about to offer herself up to do the prayer, even if she knows it would be better than anything anyone else at the table could come up with. She’s just going to bide her time and take some satisfaction in knowing that she won’t have to deal with any of Sterling’s extended family this Christmas when they’re in Vermont with hers—though she hasn’t exactly informed Sterling of this just yet.

After a moment of awkward silence, Sterling clears her throat. “Uh, I’ll do it, Mom?” she says, gently raising her hand.

Debbie gestures for her to continue before they all clasp their hands and bow their heads, eyes closed, save for April, who can’t help but glance at her wife out of the corner of her eye.

“Dear Lord, we thank you for this day and that we can share it with our wonderful family. We thank you for the food and love you have blessed us with, and we hope we may always be so fortunate. We also thank you for bringing my amazing wife April into our family—I don’t think any of us could do without her,” Sterling says, sneaking a look and a smile at April towards the end. She really does know how to charm the pants off a girl when she wants to.

Cordelia jumps in after Sterling is finished to add, “And Lord, we pray that you may forgive our sins and continue to shine your light upon this family as we close out this rather…eventful year. Amen.”

“Amen.” The rest of the table echoes and finally gets to eating just as April feels her phone buzzing in her pocket.

Thinking nobody will notice, she pulls it out of her dress pocket but before she can even look at the screen to see who’s calling, Mother practically glares daggers at her.

“We’re having phones at the dinner table now, are we?” she asks pointedly, raising an eyebrow and attracting the attention of the entire table.

April hits the ignore button on her phone and returns it to her pocket, figuring that if it’s something important, they’ll leave a message. “I guess not.”

Mother makes a sound of satisfaction and everyone goes back to eating dinner, with Sterling reaching under the table to hold April’s hand.

April glances over at her wife, who offers her an encouraging smile, knowing that April would like nothing more than to be treated as a member of the family, but that except for Anderson and Debbie, they all kind of suck. “It’s so nice to see everyone again. I think this is the first time we’ve all been together since our wedding,” April says, figuring she may as well get some friendly conversation going.

“Oh, and it was such a lovely wedding, girls,” Aunt Cordelia says, which comes as a surprise to probably everyone. “Here’s hoping it’ll give Kristina a little incentive to get a move on things.”

Deacon scoffs. “Doubtful, unless she’s about to get down on one knee and ask herself.”

Blair chimes in from the kids' table, “Now that is something I would pay to see.”

“Me too,” DJ agrees, and they both laugh.

Cordelia smacks her hand down on the table, causing April to jump more than it should, but she’s got a pavlovian response to such things happening at dinner tables, as growing up, that tended to lead to her getting hit, one way or another. “Deacon Kent, you know how that’s a sensitive subject for your sister.”

“Dad started it! And she’s not even here!” DJ whines, his pubescent voice cracking on the higher tone.

Cordelia shakes her head. “I don’t care. Now, you best be putting green beans and salad on your plate, or I will do it for you.”

DJ makes a face and rolls his eyes. “I’ll eat vegetables when Dad does.”

Cordelia looks around at her fellow adults. “Do you hear this child? I have no idea where that attitude has come from, but I’m at my wit’s end.”

“Well, you’ve almost got another teenager on your hands, Cordy,” Debbie says, sounding like she feels a good deal of schadenfreude at this fact.

“And you can’t blame the boy for not wantin’ to eat rabbit food,'' Big Daddy adds, accentuating his point by piling his plate with more turkey and ham—though April can’t help but notice that he’s also got himself a good helping of her mom’s green bean casserole, so score 1 for Team Emerson. “Now, did you girls do your civic duty and vote in the midterm elections?”

April and Sterling share a look, knowing that Big Daddy would probably have a similar reaction to who they voted for as her own father—or even the April of three years ago. Deciding that keeping it vague is best in this setting, they just nod.

But of course, Blair is Blair and therefore isn’t about to keep her mouth shut in the name of keeping the peace. “I know I made sure to get my absentee ballot in. You could say that I voted my Ossoff.”

Cordelia and Mother gasp in unison like Blair just declared she’s converted to Satanism.

“Blair, Jon Ossoff wasn’t even on the ballot this time,” Sterling reminds her gently.

“I know that. But ‘I voted my Warnock’ doesn’t exactly have that same je ne sais quoi, now does it?” Blair says, ignoring the fact that every word she’s saying right now seems to be actively killing her grandfather by putting him on the verge of a heart attack.

“Maybe this isn’t such a good subject to discuss at the dinner table,” April says and wants to gag when she realizes how much she sounded like her mother just now. But, she sees an opening to bring up another hard subject that will seem mild in comparison to Blair being an out and proud Democrat. “Anyway, I’m so glad we could all get together. I know Sterling and I will miss you all when we’re in Vermont with my family for Christmas.”

Anderson drops his fork onto his plate with a clang. “You what? What’re you talking about? Of course, y’all are gonna be here for Christmas.” It’s the first time he’s looked at either of them all day, and to say that he seems devastated that they won’t be here to repeat the source of his and Debbie’s trauma on Christmas Eve would be an understatement.

“It’s a tradition in my family that we go to Vermont for Christmas, and seeing as I haven’t seen any of them since the wedding, it only seems fair that we go. Wouldn’t you say so, Honey?” April says, turning to Sterling and giving her a smile that says that this is the price she’ll be paying for breaking the rules today. Though the earrings are nice.

Begrudgingly, Sterling nods. “I mean, yeah, I guess I agree. We do see you guys like…every week.”

“You don’t see me,” Blair says, seeming appalled that her sister could even begin to go along with this.

“Blair, I promise we’ll be back before you have to go back to school. Maybe we can do second Christmas on the 27th, or something,” Sterling says in an attempt to appease Blair, with April—actually trying to be helpful for once—adding,

“Yeah, we can open presents and everything.”

Blair seems completely unhappy about this, but you wouldn’t know it by the way she suddenly grins. “Well, let’s look on the bright side. At least I won’t have to deal with the aftermath of the newlyweds’--earmuffs, DJ--loud as heck sexcapades.”

Sterling is clearly mortified by this revelation being made to everyone including her grandparents, and rightfully so, but April isn’t willing to give Blair the satisfaction of knowing that she has managed to humiliate her in front of the in-laws that April has yet to impress--and now she might not ever, so she may as well have some fun with it. “Well, Blair, as you know, Genesis 1:28 says to ‘be fruitful and multiply,’ so, in order to follow God’s plan for us, we’re just going to have to keep trying to do that and hope for a miracle.” She takes a great deal of fascination when this seems to render Blair--and everyone else--speechless, though Mother, Big Daddy, and Cordelia look like they just witnessed April commit atrocities.

Meanwhile, Sterling’s Uncle Deacon just seems excited to have something truly scandalous happen in his family for once, and after a beat, he whistles long and low. “Man, you kids grew up way too fast.”

On that note, the rest of the meal is pretty quiet for April, Sterling, and Blair. Despite herself, April does feel guilty about separating them on Christmas for the first time in their lives. But at the same time, Sterling should be willing to make sacrifices for her wife, shouldn’t she?

It’s something April is still pondering as she helps Sterling rinse off dishes in the kitchen.

“You know, you could have maybe warned me ahead of time that we’re apparently going across the country for Christmas,” Sterling says as she starts loading the dishwasher.

April hums. “Maybe I was going to broach the subject sometime today when you were off arresting a man and shopping?” She looks at Sterling pointedly before shaking her head. “I’m sorry, okay?”

Sterling nods, probably recognizing how rare such an apology is, especially when April does still have good reason to be mad at her. “Who was it calling you during dinner?”

April shrugs, just now realizing that she never actually checked, so she pulls out her phone, and her heart drops into her stomach when the screen comes on and reveals she has a missed call and voicemail from Daddy 🚀👨‍🚀, a contact with a number that her father should have no means of accessing from prison.

Her hand is shaking as she hits play on the voicemail and brings her phone to her ear, ignoring Sterling’s questioning look.

“Hey there, Padawan. It’s Daddy. I’m sure you’re wonderin’ how I’m able to call you without it being on your dime. Well, thanks to my exemplary behavior—and the legal proceedings with your mother being rather difficult to navigate in that place—I’m out! I guess I just wanted to wish you and your new family a very happy Thanksgiving. I’ll see you soon, Babygirl.”

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

“Oh my goodness, it’s so white!” Sterling says with childlike wonder as she leans over April’s lap to get a better look out the window as their plane to Vermont descends out of the clouds. In small doses, she has seen snow before, but nothing like this. This is an absolute winter wonderland. “It looks like the North Pole!”

April chuckles to herself, probably getting endless amusement from this, but Sterling doesn’t care. She’s allowed to be excited for her very first White Christmas. “Yes, Honey. That’s just what winter looks like up here.”

Sterling rolls her eyes. “I know that, but it’s still cool as heck!” She knows she’s supposed to be preparing for landing, but she quickly unbuckles her seatbelt, needing to share in this excitement with someone who gets it. However, the buzzkill in the window seat brings her back down into a sitting position the second she tries to stand up.

“Sit down, Sterling. You can fangirl with Blair when we land in five minutes.” April takes out her AirPods and stores them in her Millennium Falcon-shaped case. “Besides the fact that it’s dangerous and a flight attendant will yell at you, first-class isn’t even supposed to interact with economy.”

Sterling scoffs. “Sounds like some Titanic nonsense to me.”

April nods, looking like she sees absolutely nothing wrong with this fact. “Now, please buckle up, or I will do it for you.”

Sterling doesn’t know why that threat makes her grin like an idiot as she blindly buckles her seatbelt while looking into her wife’s eyes. “Have I ever expressed to you how much I love it when you boss me around?”

“Not verbally, but I used contextual clues,” April says with a smirk before looking out the window again. “So, before we get to the chalet, I feel like I should explain a few things to you.”

“Like why you call your aunt’s rental cabin a ‘chalet?’ Where are we, the French Riviera?” The idea of any vacation cabin being any fancier than her aunt and uncle’s not-at-all fancy lake house is laughable to her. And that’s not even getting into the fact that she knows April has a penchant for peppering in French in casual conversation.

“It’s a chalet, Sterl. I very much doubt we’d be getting our own bedroom if it was a cabin,” April argues, seeming to be trying to take her mind off of the plane landing as she grips the armrests hard enough for her knuckles to turn white. 

Sterling puts a comforting hand on April’s, giving her a smile of reassurance just as the wheels touch down on the tarmac. “You survived,” she says and April rolls her eyes.

“Yes, I know that,” April grumbles, annoyed. “And just so we’re perfectly clear, I am not afraid of flying, I am afraid of landing in this frozen tundra. It’s icy.”

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me, Babe,” Sterling assures her, always enjoying when she can see a more vulnerable side to her wife as she unbuckles her seatbelt again to lean over April, delighted to find that it is currently snowing outside. “I’m sure Blair’s super excited to be in the place where the most iconic Bernie meme spawned.”

April giggles and puts on her best elderly Jewish man voice. “I am asking again for you to buckle your seatbelt.”

“Mehmehmehmehmeh,” Sterling says mockingly as she sits up straight and at least makes it look like she’s buckled in. “So what do we do once we get to the chalet?”  she asks as their plane pulls up to the gate.

“Get settled and hit the slopes as soon as possible?” April replies as if this is so obvious, ignoring one very obvious detail.

“Okay, but I don’t know how to ski,” Sterling says, fairly sure she’s going to go flying headfirst into a tree before Christmas Day.

“And that’s why I’m going to teach you,” April says, turning to kiss Sterling on the cheek. “And I’ll buy you all the hot cocoa you can drink when we’re done.”

“Promise?” Sterling asks, raising her pinky, requiring a more binding oath to get her to hurl herself down a mountain.

April doesn’t bat an eye as she takes Sterling’s pinky with her own, squeezing tight. “I promise. Along with pizza and french fries.” She smiles as if she just made some kind of reference that Sterling should get, but outside of knowing that April is not usually for the mixing of ethnic food—assuming that April would even think pizza and fries count as ethnic food at all, let alone when they’re from a ski lodge—Sterling is drawing a blank.

“There’s my baby girl!” Franny squeals the moment they walk through the door of a rustic-looking house that’s twice as big as Sterling’s parents. Knowing better, Sterling steps out of the way fast so that Franny can barrel into April for a bear hug, which is still in progress when Blair and their parents enter with their bags, all chilled to the bone despite their brand new winter attire.

“Franny, so good to see you,” Debbie says once April’s aunt finally releases her, forgoing a hug and instead of handing her an expensive bottle of spiced rum with a red bow tied around the neck.

“Deb, a real woman after my own heart,” she says, seeming genuinely touched by the gift. “I’m so glad you all could come on such short notice. I know it’s not exactly easy to uproot for Christmas, but you’re family now,” she says, emphasizing her point by reaching out to put a hand on Blair’s cheek. “And cold as ice! Come in, come in. Everyone having lunch before we go back out on the slopes. And Debbie, thank you so much for getting that grocery list to me. I can’t wait to try that yummy Christmas punch.” She’s talking as she leads them in from the foyer into a huge living room with high ceilings, exposed beams that look like whole trees stripped of their bark, and a fireplace big enough that it wouldn’t actually be far fetched for a portly man in a red suit to use for access to the house—a terrifying concept when Sterling puts it into those terms.

“Yeah, that’s what the rum’s for,” Anderson chuckles as he takes off his parka to reveal the same hideous reindeer sweater he’s been wearing every Christmas Eve since before it was cool to do so. “Hey y’all,” he says, giving a small wave to April’s family, who are all seated on a large sectional couch, eating charcuterie off of a board on the coffee table while watching Home Alone 2: Lost In New York.

Everyone gives various greetings, with April’s Uncle Tom’s standing out to Sterling the most. “Thank God you all made it. The weather below the clouds is positively dreadful, is it not?” he says, bouncing April’s cousin’s baby—who has about doubled in size since they saw her last—on his knee.

“Are you kidding? It’s beautiful,” Blair says, taking off her jacket and tossing it at Sterling to catch before she makes a beeline for the fancy meat and cheese. “Becs, lovin’ the hair, by the way,” she says, referencing April’s cousin’s unnaturally dark hair now sporting pink and blue streaks.

April’s cousin Becca giggles. “They’re just extensions, but don’t tell that to my boyfriend Zachary’s parents. They’re super old-fashioned and it’s just so much fun to mess with them.”

Sarah rolls her eyes as she takes Baby Leah back from her father. “Yeah, well, I’d be careful before you have them giving him one of those ‘marry her and we’ll cut you off’ ultimatums. Because most people aren’t like my mother-in-law and actually mean it.”

Becca scoffs. “Who said anything about marrying him? I just like his di-”

“Rebecca, we have company!” Franny scolds her youngest child.

“-Diverse stock portfolio,” Becca says with the guiltiest innocent look Sterling has ever seen, and the second Franny and Tom look away from her, she makes sure to gesture with her hands a good eight inches apart from each other. 

“Anderson and Debbie, why don’t I show you where you’ll be staying?” Franny suggests, leading the two of them down a long hallway while Uncle Tom excuses himself to the kitchen for tea, leaving all of the young people to have their incredibly sinful conversation.

“But I guess both of those come with the territory of dating a Lee,” Rachel says once they’re gone, and Sarah and Becca giggle with their sister while Sterling notes that April is shifting a bit awkwardly beside her.

“What is that, like he’s an heir of the Lee Jeans empire or something?” Blair asks, sitting next to Becca.

Sarah’s husband Ari clears his throat uncomfortably. “No, like the Robert E. Lee Lees,” he says, side-eying his wife.

Rachel makes the kind of tired sigh of a girl who has had to explain this an inordinate amount.  “As well as  the Founding Father, Richard Henry Lee. When you run in certain circles in the state of Virginia, it’s sort of inevitable that you’ll encounter a few of them. Most of them are a lot more progressive than you would think.”

“The bar is on the ground,”  Ari insists, exacerbated.

“Babe, you’re just still upset about me dating Carter Lee in college.” Sarah adjusts Leah on her lap. “Who was a Democrat, I might add. Unlike…Rachel, what was his name? Horace?”

Rachel seems extremely offended to have this be brought up. “Harold. His name was Harold Lee and I only went out with him for like a week.” 

Blair frowns, putting this together. “Wait, you’ve all dated a Lee?”

Cousin Seth, whose wife Daksha is sitting in his lap, scoffs. “I haven’t. But Sterling, Blair, please excuse my sisters. I promise you will never get used to any of them.”

Sterling shakes her head. “Nah, I really like you guys.”

“Aww, that’s so good to hear,” Rachel says, sounding genuinely touched.

“Seeing as we’d have to revoke our approval of you being married to our baby cousin if you didn’t,” Becca adds.

April frowns and seems to instinctively take Sterling’s hand in her own, as if defending their marriage, regardless of what her cousins think. “Because I trust any of you to have sound relationship advice.”

“Oh ho ho. Look who’s gotten smug since she got a rock on her finger,” Rachel says, seeming rather impressed with April’s confidence.

Sarah, on the other hand, seems playfully defensive. “Yeah, yeah. Talk to me when you guys have gotten into a knock-down, drag-out fight over whether or not you should name your beautiful little baby Gertrude.”  She gives a pointed look to Ari.

“Or over your husband using your favorite karahi to fry bacon in,” Daksha adds, and unlike Ari, Seth shows no shame whatsoever for this transgression.

“That is why. We have. A dishwasher,” he insists, frustrated.

“That doesn’t mean that you can use  my  pans to cook meat. I’m a vegetarian!”

“Really? Because I’m pretty sure I’ve seen you go to town on a corn dog fairly recently…” Seth says, reading his wife for filth in a very April fashion.

Sterling would gladly stay and watch how that all unfolds, but April puts a hand on her arm to get her attention.

“Honey, maybe you and I should go get settled in our room,” she says, grabbing the handle of her roller suitcase with one hand and taking Sterling’s with the other.

Sterling picks up her large duffel bag and allows April to lead her to the staircase without argument. As fun as April’s family can be, there’s only so much she can hear of other couples’ quarrels—playful or otherwise. Goodness knows she and April have enough of those on their own, even if they’re never regarding anything major. “So where do you think your mom is?” Sterling asks as she and April get to the top of the stairs and go down a hallway.

“Likely finishing her second glass of Cabernet in the kitchen,” April says nonchalantly. Sterling has noticed that in recent weeks, she’s been acting more callous toward her mother, and while Mary might not be totally innocent, she doesn’t deserve to be made the bad guy in any scenario that John Stevens is also involved in.

Still, Sterling holds her tongue, seeing as she knows that every subject surrounding April’s parents’ divorce is a touchy one.

“Here we are,” April says, choosing the door on the left at the end of the hallway and opening it. “After you, Mrs. Stevens-Wesley.” She gestures into the door and Sterling heads right on in.

It definitely fits the whole rustic vibe of the house, complete with a red flannel comforter on the hand-carved bed, and an impressive taxidermied deer head high on the wall above it.

“Nice rack,” Sterling says, referring to the deer’s antlers, but obviously the bad double entendre isn’t lost on April, who rolls her eyes.

“You’re a child,” she says and starts to unpack her suitcase while Sterling merely unzips her bag and tosses it onto a nearby chair before coming up behind April and wrapping her arms around her waist. “What are you doing?” April asks, though Sterling can hear the smile on her face.

“You didn’t by any chance happen to pack a certain supply case, did you? Because I’m pretty sure my parents are still upset about that,” Sterling says, looking over April’s shoulder to peer into her suitcase, absolutely not trying to see if there’s any Christmas presents hidden in there, seeing as April’s is in her duffle bag under her Christmas footie pajamas.

“Never you mind. Though you and I would have to be a lot quieter if I did,” April says coyly. “Either way, I call dibs on being the first to give you a Christmas present.”

Sterling raises an eyebrow. “Is that like how I was the first person to give you a present on your birthday? Like how I woke you up by-”

“-Yes, Sterling. I remember what transpired. But whether or not I’ll be regifting that to you remains to be seen.” As April shoots her down, Sterling does notice her wife trying to subtly hide something red and lacy hidden in one of her extra shoes.

Sterling makes a mental note to  not  wear footie pajamas tonight. “I guess I’ll just have to be extra good today to avoid your naughty list.” With that said, she leans down to start kissing April’s neck, having a mini celebration in her head when April doesn’t put an immediate stop to it like she normally would if she had any intention of stopping things from going further.

“Mmm,” April hums, clearly enjoying all of this way too much. “I have it on good authority that you’ve been  very  good this year, Mrs. Stevens--Mother!” Sterling feels any hint of arousal leave her the second April says this and she looks up to find Mary standing in the now open doorway. “Can’t you knock?!”

Sterling lets go of April like a hot potato and puts a good five feet of distance between them while Mary does a horrible job of not seeming to be satisfied at having interrupted her daughter’s intimate activities. 

“Oh, I’m sorry Sweetheart. I didn’t realize you two were...busy in here,” Mary says, smiling innocently. “I just wanted to check up on you and make sure you’re feeling alright. I know the flight up here scares you.”

April crosses her arms. “I am not afraid of the flight up here, just the landing, Mother.”

“Don’t you take that tone with me, Young Lady. Now, before we all go back out on the slopes, do you have your long underwear to wear under your snow pants? Because I know you can get stubborn about that, but frostbite is real and your father is positively chomping at the bit for any reason to criticize me to our mediator.”

“Wait, why should that matter in your divorce? April’s an adult,” Sterling asks, confused.

“It indeed does not truly matter, Sterling. Especially since April is so much of an adult that she’s legally married to you. But my soon-to-be ex-husband seems to think he can continue to drag my reputation through the mud by attacking my parenting. So April Elizabeth, I ask again: do you have your long underwear?” As annoying as she can be, Sterling can’t help but feel sympathy for her mother-in-law, if only because she also understands having to tolerate John’s presence for April’s sake. Though thank God that Franny is not willing to make that same concession, or this holiday would already be significantly less peaceful.

“Yes,” April says, though Sterling is fairly sure she’s lying.

Mary smiles, satisfied. “Well, then you two better get a move on getting ready. We only have so much daylight and the resort doesn’t do night skiing on Christmas Eve.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Sterling says politely, figuring she owes Mary at least that much since it’s kind of her fault that her mother-in-law’s former PTA rival has invaded her Christmas vacation. “And thank you again for allowing my family to come along.”

It was in no way, shape, or form Mary’s idea, but she is perfectly content to smile and take the credit for it. “You are most welcome, Sterling.” With that, Mary leaves them, shutting the door behind her, and April breathes a loud sigh of relief.

She collapses on the bed in a huff. “I can’t believe I actually spawned from that,” April says, sounding like a real teenager for the first time in a while.

Sterling is unable to help herself as she does a bad Bernie Sanders impression. “I am once again asking if you brought your long underwear.”

April hucks a reindeer throw pillow at her head.

“Is this really necessary?” Sterling asks, looking around at all the other people who are just stepping into their skis and heading out to the chairlifts like real adults.

April, kneeling in front of her in the snow, doesn’t answer, she just directs the toe of Sterling’s right ski boot into the corresponding binding on the ski, as she had for the left. “Put your heel down hard,” she says, hands on the ski and Sterling’s ankle.

Sterling does as directed and feels the binding snap to the boot as she looks over and sees a little boy no older than five being helped the same way by his dad. “So embarrassing…” she says under her breath, the sound mostly blocked out by the light whooshing of the mountain wind that already is stinging her cheeks.

April looks up and gives her a reassuring smile. “Soon enough, you’ll be able to do this yourself like a pro. And I got you a present.” Something tells Sterling she might not be too happy with this present when April reaches into her jacket pocket, and she knows she’s right when April pulls out a neon pink rubber bungee cord-looking thing. “This is an Edgie Wedgie. It will be your best friend today. No doing the splits or overlapping skis on my watch.” She attaches the ends of the cord between the tips of Sterling’s skis, screwing the clamps into place.

“Okay, that name sounds fake and I definitely don’t see any adults using one of these,” Sterling says, wondering if it’s too late to just skip this and go watch A Christmas Story in the lodge.

April gets on her feet and steps into her own pair of skis in all of two seconds. “You barely count as an adult, My Love.” She isn’t wrong about this, but Sterling doesn’t appreciate it. Especially not when she continues to say, “Now, until you get better balance, poles could prove hazardous, so you’re going to have to scoot to the best of your abilities to the rope tow.”

At this point, Sterling thinks that April just has to be messing with her and she has no frame of reference to prove that wrong. “I thought you use a chairlift to go up the mountain,” she says and points at one of the five or so lifts leading to various heights and directions.”

April throws her head back and laughs. “Oh Honey, no. No, you have to use the bunny slope until you can get the hang of things a little and then maybe we can try one of the intermediate runs. Follow me.” April uses her rather convenient-looking ski poles to push off from where she was standing and glides effortlessly toward the aforementioned tow rope, which has a line made up almost entirely by kids.

Sterling does her best to follow, but the ‘gift’ of the Edgie Wedgie makes scooting a little difficult. Already she’s wondering why she didn’t go along with Blair to rent a snowboard instead—at least she would look cool. “Now I know you’re lying about that name,” she calls after April and eventually catches up with her to stand in the line.

“Indeed I am not. You have much to learn, Young Skywalker,” April says with an adorable, infuriating smile. She’s having  way  too much fun getting to mansplain something to Sterling. “When it’s your turn, grab the rope and hold on tight until you get to the top of the slope. I’ll be right behind you.”

It sounds so simple when April says it, but Sterling finds that actually holding onto the rope is a bit hard for her as a not-fit person. Still, she refuses to be further humiliated in front of all these kids, so she holds on until she gets to the top, with April coming up fast behind and then to the side of her.

“Here, grab my pole,” she says, holding out one of her ski poles horizontally like a bar in front of Sterling.

“That’s what he said,” Sterling says, unable to resist, even if it makes April groan loudly as she does as she’s told and grabs on with both hands. She’s a little delighted to find that April is able to push both of them with one pole a lot faster than she can scoot to the edge of the slope.

“And we have reached the final and most important part of your training before you attempt going down. Are you ready?” April asks, glancing at the slope which looks almost flat to Sterling, though she nods anyway, convinced that this won’t be hard at all. “To go slow, I’m gonna need you to pizza.” As she says this, April moves her skis into a triangle shape. “To go faster, you french fry.” She makes her skis parallel to each other.

Even if she ends up getting horribly mangled today, Sterling can at least get some satisfaction in knowing what the pizza and french fries thing was about. “Anything else?” she asks, watching kids fearlessly fly down the hill right as they’ve gotten off the rope tow. With every minute she’s on this mountain, she’s further convinced that she should never again travel further north than Tennessee.

“Take it as slow as you can. You aren’t allowed to die,” April says after thinking about that for a second. She leans up to attempt to kiss Sterling, but all that achieves is knocking their ski helmets together. “Raincheck on the kissing. But good luck, Sterl. I believe in you and I’ll be right behind you in case you fall.” With that, April pats Sterling on the butt and gives her a light shove so that Sterling starts moving downhill.

At first, it isn’t so bad. Sterling keeps her skis parallel under her, gradually gaining a little speed, and is actually starting to enjoy herself until she realizes she might be going downhill a little  too  fast and remembers what April said about turning her french fries into pizza. A quick change of her skis is enough to slow her momentum somewhat, but then comes another issue entirely when she sees a snowboarder on their butt directly in her path, and she realizes that April never actually taught her how to turn.

“Right, Sterl!” April calls from behind her.

Figuring that it probably works similar to the Alpine Racer game at the Fun Zone, Sterling leans hard to the right--a little too hard, and finds herself losing her balance as she tumbles into the snow...and then proceeds to roll down the rest of the hill, her skis popping off her boots somewhere along the way.

“Yeah, Sterl!” she hears Blair cheer, though she’s face-down in the snow.

Sterling rolls over onto her back and sees her sister clapping as April slides into a stop next to her.

“Oh my God, Sterl, are you okay?!” April fusses, getting herself out of her skis in all of two seconds so that she can drop down and kneel over Sterling. She yanks Sterling’s helmet off of her head and holds up three fingers, which Sterling has to squint to see because they’re way too close to her face. “How many fingers, Babe?”

“Thr--” Sterling can’t even finish the word before Blair is knocking April out of the way to look into her eyes.

“Sterl, you good? I’m running twin concussion protocol. Say the mind password,” Blair says, a throwback to the time when she got a concussion in a lacrosse game and couldn’t think in complete sentences for a week.

“Marva Junior. I’m fine, Blair. But give it to me straight: are there kids laughing at me right now?”

Blair looks around.  “Yeah, there are. Need me to help you up?”

“Not unless you want April to yell at you for not supporting my spine.”

Blair breaks twinspeak and turns to April. “She’s fine.”

“How could you possibly know that from just staring at her intently?” April asks in a shrieky voice, and while she’s distracted, Sterling sits up.

“April, I’m fine,” she says calmly. “My pride’s a little bruised but I think I’ll be okay.”

“I’m sure that’s what Natasha Richardson said,” April says, causing both twins to gasp in total outrage.

“Don’t you dare invoke the Queen’s name to feed your Munchausen by proxy. Sterl was wearing a helmet.” Blair is very passionate about the not-at-all recent passing of the late fictional Twin Mom.

Sterling sighs, defeated. “April, seriously, I’m fine. If you wanna go find my skis, we can go again and I’ll prove it to you. Even if there’s snow in places where snow should not be right now.” Truly, her crotch is very cold, and she knows why as she gets to her feet and feels snow fall into her boots. 

“That’s my Sterl,” Blair says proudly. “You get back on that horse. And while you do that, I’m gonna go get cocoa. From the lodge. On the top of the mountain,” With that said, Blair puts one foot into her snowboard and kicks off to the chairlift that leads to the top, complete with warning signs with two black diamonds on them…for some reason.

April makes an amused noise. “Ill-advisable for a beginner, but I’ll be on the lookout for when she comes down on one of the rescue mobiles.” She seems far too amused by this grim prediction, but she’s probably not wrong either. “I’ll be right back with your skis. But may I just say that your resilience is endlessly sexy?”

Sterling smirks. She gets such a confidence boost from being married to who she considers to be the hottest girl around (if slightly crazy). “You may.”


It’s so strange for April to be imparting all of her father’s ski lessons onto Sterling (whether she knows it or not) when the man himself has been permanently banned from any and all activities with his not-yet ex-wife’s family. Not that he doesn’t deserve his exile, but April can’t help but feel bad for him, seeing that in the absence of siblings or living parents, she and her mother were all John ever had in the way of family. And now here they are on Christmas Eve, with her father doing God knows what, while April does her best to teach her (young) adult wife to ski using the same things that once worked on her when she was a toddler. Well, everything except the ski harness her dad kept her on until he could trust she wouldn’t go uncontrollably flying down the mountain—something tells her that Sterling would probably not be down for getting put on an actual leash. At least not when Blair is here to make fun of her for it.

“You’re doing so good, Baby,” April praises Sterling as they make it back to the bottom of the Bunny Run for what has to be about the twentieth time (though only the third or fourth that Sterling’s managed to complete without any small or large tumbles).

Has it necessarily been the most exciting day on the slopes? No. Has she managed to go traversing the more interesting, challenging runs with the gorgeous views and the bragging rights? Also no. But this is what April signed up for when she took it upon herself to teach her wife to ski, and there is always next year to go on more daring adventures.

“April, I’m really cold and I’m pretty sure I’m just one big bruise now, so I’m gonna go get that cocoa and pizza you promised, ‘kay?” Sterling says, sounding exhausted.

April looks around, noticing that it’s starting to get dark, which means that the ski lifts will be closing soon anyway. “Okay, Honey,” she agrees, only a little sad to not be able to take Sterling up on one of the intermediate runs even once. She gets out of her skis and assists Sterling in doing the same before they head into the lodge, where April is quick to grab an empty table.

“Cocoa with whip and little marshmallows, right?” Sterling recites April’s preference a little loud for her liking, seeing as it’s a sugar bomb unbecoming of a grown woman.

“Yes, please,” April says quietly and watches Sterling go to order at the counter just as the lodge door opens again and in steps an only slightly frozen Blair, who finds Sterling immediately.

April sighs and sits back in her chair. There’s no question that she wouldn’t want to go back to how this trip used to be before she and Sterling were married, but having her in-laws here perfectly exemplifies that absolutely nothing about her life before will ever be the same. She always knew that that came with the territory of growing up, but she never anticipated it would all happen so fast.

After a minute, Sterling and Blair come to sit at the table with the cocoa and slices of pizza, and April is forced to stop thinking too in-depth about the ramifications of getting married at 18 years old. “So Blair, it looks like you survived the summit.”

Blair smiles. “Yes, as much as I’m sure that disappoints you, April. I think you probably remember that I used to skateboard to pick up dudes. How was the Bunny Hill?” 

Sterling rolls her eyes. “You picked up that one skater guy and then you moved on to Jennings. But the Bunny Hill was fun. April’s a great teacher.” She reaches over to put a hand on April’s back, and April sits up a little straighter at that.

“Well, it helps to have an excellent student,” April says, stretching the truth a bit, seeing as Sterling fought tooth and nail to not go up the rope tow the last five times, but she isn’t going to reveal that when she could just make bedroom eyes at her wife and make her sister-in-law squirm.

“Somehow I don’t believe either of you, but okay,” Blair says, shoving half her slice of pizza into her mouth in one bite. “After this, I was gonna try to get up to the top one last time before closing, if you’re feeling brave, Sterl?”

Sterling snorts at that. “Uh yeah, I don’t feel like dying today. But hey, maybe April would want to go with you?” Though she isn’t looking at Blair, April is quite sure the two of them give Sterling the exact same facial expression--one of disgust and surprise that she would even suggest that. “Oh, come on. April, I know you are way too good of a skier to only go on the Bunny Hill with me, and I don’t feel comfortable with Blair skiing all the way down the mountain in the dark by herself.”

Though the company would not be at all ideal, it is a tempting idea to April--skiing down the entirety of the resort would certainly make up for an otherwise pretty uneventful day. And she doesn’t see the harm in accepting when she knows Blair will shoot it down anyway. “Yeah, okay,” she agrees, nodding.

Sterling grins. “Well Blair, if April’s in, then what do you say?” she asks, turning to her sister, who gives April a look saying she knows her game here.

“I’d’re on, Sister-In-Law. We’ll head up as soon as we’re done here.” With that, Blair eats the rest of her pizza while April is stunned into silence, realizing what she just signed herself up for.

“You guys are gonna have so much fun!” Sterling enthuses, leaning over to kiss April’s cheek and whisper in her ear, “Thank you for being a good sport. All I want for Christmas this year is for you guys to at least try to get along.”

April smiles wide with no such feelings of happiness behind it. She just has to remind herself that it’ll just be one chairlift ride and then she and Blair are clear to just go down the mountain. None of that implies that they even have to speak a word to each other, but will most definitely earn her brownie points from Sterling. “Well, you better hurry up, Blair.” She sips her cocoa and makes a sound of satisfaction.

Once she’s in her skis, April already knows that the plan probably won’t be able to go forward. There’s no longer anyone in line for the chairlift to the top of the summit, with only empty seats going up the wire as the day skiers seem to be clearing out for the night. All of the telltale signs of a resort about to close.

“Blair, we might have to take a raincheck on the skiing from the top thing. Looks like they aren’t letting anyone on,” April says as she watches two people actually be turned away by the chairlift operator, though it doesn’t seem to deter Blair.

“Nonsense,” she says, speeding over to the chairlift operator just before he’s about to shut off the controls, with April behind her. “Heeey. You don’t think there’s any way you’d let me and my sister take one last trip up, do you?” Blair asks in what’s probably intended to be a flirty voice.

The chairlift guy gives them a remorseful look and shakes his head. “Sorry, Ladies. The lifts are due to close for the night before I could get you to the top.”

“But they’re not closed yet?” April asks, thinking that this is in fact a violation of the rules when it comes to things like this. Even Disney will let you get on a ride after park close if you’re at least in line beforehand.

Blair cocks her head to the side and pouts at the guy. “C’mon, you can’t make just one exception? I promise you we’ll come down the mountain as fast as we can. It’s just that my sister here has been spending the day teaching a needy kid how to ski and she really wants to see the view from the top.”

April has to try not to laugh at Sterling being referred to in such a way, but Blair isn’t wrong. Though the lift operator doesn’t seem to have any sympathy for her plight, which leaves April to speak the one universal language that she knows will get through to him as she pulls a $100 bill out of her zipped jacket pocket. “Let us go up, and this is yours,” she says simply, taking a page right out of her dad’s playbook, and after he looks around to make sure nobody sees, the lift operator takes the money and shoves it into his coat.

“Alright, come on, quickly,” he says, opening the chain blocking the way in, and letting them catch the next double chair up.

As they ascend the mountain, April and Blair do what neither of them could have ever anticipated--they share a small high five. 

“Nice going, Sis. Really came through with those shady business genes,” Blair says, seeming genuinely impressed as she pulls down the safety bar over them.

April frowns in confusion. “What was that about by the way? You’ve never been one to subscribe to the whole ‘me being married to Sterling makes us sisters’ thing.”

Blair nods, eyebrows raised. “Oh, no, I don’t at all. But I figured that in the event that we would have to seduce the chairlift guy to let us on, it was best to not eliminate you as an option by calling you my sister-in-law. Sterl is ample proof that some people go for the whole tiny and crazy thing you’ve got going on. Plus you’ve got a nice ass.”

Somehow, that explanation did not give April any of the warm fuzzy feelings she thought it might, and honestly she’s grateful for that. And for the compliment regarding her backside. “Um...thanks. I think.” She looks down and sees a pair of snowboarders pass under them, and almost unconsciously, she knocks her skis together, chuckling as the accumulated snow on them falls on the heads of the snowboarders. When she looks up to see she’s receiving a judgmental look from Blair, April feels the need to explain her actions. “Force of habit. When my dad first took me on a chairlift, he told me the best time to get the snow off one’s skis is when a snowboarder is under them. Because skiing is the more dignified snow sport.”

Blair narrows her eyes. “You sure do seem to do a lot of stuff based on the ol’ convict’s life lessons, don’t you?”

April often wonders if Blair realizes she has such a keen ability to bring up and amplify the most painful of subjects like she’s open-palm slapping someone’s sunburn. “Yes, well, as far as I’m aware, he’s my dad. So some of it was bound to get passed on.”

Blair scoffs. “That’s just an excuse for you to not have to take responsibility for your own shitty actions and you know it.”

April can honestly say that she is not used to anyone daring to speak to her like this. “Oh, I’m sorry, Blair. Do I need to give you an in-depth account of all the times my dad decided to hit me for being insolent? Because I quickly found out that the best way to avoid that was to just be Daddy’s perfect little girl, and in doing so made myself decidedly imperfect. So yeah, it’s an excuse, but I’d think that you, Miss Liberal Feminist Woman Empowerment, might understand why that is.”

April knew that doing this with Blair was a mistake. They generally aren’t alone together for one good reason; the only thing they have in common is their love for the same human golden retriever. Aside from that, April is sure that it would be no great loss to either of them if they weren’t in each other’s lives at all.

There’s an awkward silence for a while, with only the humming of the chairlift as they go higher and higher up the mountain, their chair now at least 25 feet off the ground. April hopes that it might last the whole rest of the way, but as she’s constantly being reminded, God doesn’t like her that much.

“Does Sterl know? About that stuff with your dad?” Blair asks, her voice having lost its usual edge, but April is in no mind to care.

“Somewhat. I figured it would be best for the sake of her and my dad not hating each other if she didn’t know the exact details, but she’s not an idiot.” April sighs, thinking that maybe her life would   be a lot easier if Sterling was actually a beautiful fool, but she’s also eternally thankful she isn’t. “Just…please don’t talk to her about any of this. I’d like to think that my dad got the wake-up call he needed when he finally had to face consequences for his actions, and I don’t need ancient history holding back all of us trying to be a family.”

Blair shakes her head in disbelief. “God, you’re so delusional if you think that my sister could ever just buddy up with the guy who she knows beats and disrespects women--including the one girl she’s totally obsessed with. And that’s not even getting into your obsession with having a perfect family, which, newsflash, is never going to happen, no matter how hard you go with your Suzy Homemaker act. No family is perfect. Not mine, not even yours down there in the fancy ski house. So how about you just give it a rest because you are honestly so exhausting.”

“Fuck you, Blair,” April scoffs, tired of having to deal with the girl who must have constant drama revolving around her or she will surely die. If she can help it, those will be the very last words she intends to speak to her sister-in-law this whole trip. 

But then, God’s wrath strikes again and the chairlift abruptly stops as the lights on the posts go out.

“Um, what the fuck?” Blair says, looking around and even behind them for any sign of why this is happening, but April knows why.

“That motherfucker let them turn off the lift,” April says in disbelief. “And he even took my $100!”

Blair gives her a look of disbelief. “Um, I don’t think the mean man taking your pocket money is our biggest concern right now, April. Seeing as we’re probably going to freeze to death up here.”

April isn’t willing to accept defeat that easily. “There’s no way that’s going to happen. Sterl’s down there. She can let them know they have to turn it back on.”

“If Sterling doesn’t think that we already made it off the lift before they turned it off. Which means it would then take her a bit longer than it would take us to ski down the entire mountain to even realize something’s up, and by then everything might be totally closed down. And then what, Superior Skier? We’ll be popsicles by morning, that’s what. Merry Christmas.” Blair’s take is pessimistic, that much is for sure. But she isn’t incorrect, either.

The feeling of impending doom washes over April as she comes to that realization. “Oh my God, I’m going to die next to you."  She’s very much regretting not putting on her long underwear like her mother told her to as her butt is already starting to go numb. But no, she just had to put on her lacy red undies so that she could tease Sterling when they got back to the chalet. And now she can’t even look forward to a good Christmas railing because she will be dead before midnight at this rate.

“Well, there is at least a bright side,” Blair says, and April is almost too afraid to ask, but curiosity gets the better of her.

“And what’s that, Blair?” April asks, taking off her helmet and holding it under her arm.

“Sterling is gonna get so much action as a hot young widow.” Blair sounds way too amused by this horrifying prospect as she too removes her helmet.

Meanwhile, April is busy taking in a breath, filling her singer’s lungs up to capacity before letting out an eardrum-shattering screech loud enough to be heard in Canada.

“Jesus, I think my ear’s bleeding,” Blair says in disbelief when April’s breath finally gives and she’s forced to inhale again, feeling her vocal cords burn. “What was that?!”

“That was how we’re going to get off this mountain. Because like Hell am I ever letting any Funeral Sluts lay a hand on my wife.” As opposed to regular, everyday sluts, Funeral Sluts with their grief fetish seem particularly egregious to April.

“Okay, you’re gonna have to explain to me what the fuck is a Funeral Slut?” Blair seems particularly amused and perplexed by what should be a rather self-explanatory concept.

“Sluts at funerals?” April says, confused, and when this doesn’t seem to satisfy Blair, she adds. “Well, it’s like when my dad’s business partner, Gerald’s, wife died of cancer. At her funeral, there were like three slutty women all over Gerald. Funeral Sluts.”

“Hon, I don’t know how to tell you this, but your dad definitely bought that guy some hookers,” Blair says, making a great deal more sense than she should. “I mean, this is the same Gerald who your dad tried to pin the whole beating a prostitute thing on, yeah?”

“Oh. Oh, you’re probably right. Gross.” April makes a face of disgust, as the idea of her dad purchasing the services of sex workers for others is somehow even more vile than for himself.

“But back to the subject at hand. We’re on a mountain and your crazy Canary powers could have probably caused an avalanche or something.” Blair says, looking around in the dark for some sign of such an impending disaster as April rolls her eyes.

“It’s been scientifically proven that vocal sound vibrations aren’t enough to trigger an avalanche,” April explains, though she doubts such logic really means much to Blair. “But if you have a better idea to get us off this death trap, then by all means, enlighten me.”

Blair looks down behind them to the ground. “How high up would you say we are right now?” she asks.

“High enough that you would most certainly break one or both legs, if not die if you were to try jumping off,” April replies, knowing where that was heading. “I could try my Rape Whistle Scream again?”

Blair shakes her head furiously. “For the sake of not wanting tinnitus when I’m older, please don’t. Also, please don’t call it that ever again.” Blair leans her head back and groans. “This is just my luck to be stuck hanging thirty feet in the air on Christmas Eve. I shouldn’t even be here, in a state with snow and your crazy rich family.”

April nods. “Oh, the fact that you aren’t supposed to be here is something that I can certainly agree with. But unfortunately for the both of us, loving Sterl means making personal sacrifices.” Being a person who never much cared for making such concessions, April knows that this is indeed a sign of how completely Sterling Stevens-Wesley has her heart, even if Blair can’t see it.

“I’d make all the sacrifices for her because she’s my sister and she’s too good. Honestly, neither one of us deserve to have that kind of personal sunshine in our lives.” Oftentimes, Blair and Sterling’s unusual level of affection for each other is pretty annoying to April, but she has to agree with her on that.

“We don’t deserve her, but she loves us anyway, and that’s why she’s Sterl,” April says, just thinking about how much she loves that blonde doofus who always knows how to make her laugh or feel better about something. The real tragedy of dying on this chairlift tonight would actually be that she’d never get to look into those big, crazy, blue eyes again. “Look, this might be the Christmas spirit talking, but maybe the two of us should work on not actively antagonizing each other, for Sterl’s sake.”

Blair makes a face of utter disappointment. “Awww, but messing with you is so much fun!”

April gives that no response but an unamused look.

Blair rolls her eyes. “Okay, okay, I’ll stop actively listing the reasons why Sterling should divorce you every time we talk.”

April gasps, appalled that it was all somehow worse than what she thought. “You do that?!”

Blair’s straight face breaks and she giggles evilly. “No, but I  was  the reason you got dicked down hard after that dinner with your dad. So, you’re welcome for that.”

April contemplates the drop and the likelihood that she would die if she jumped now. Because truly, death would be preferable to knowing that Blair has any kind of knowledge--let alone control-- of her and Sterling’s sex life. “I did  not  get dicked down, thank you very much. That is somewhat impossible when there are no dicks involved in the relationship.”

“Silicone counts,” Blair insists.

April shudders with disgust. “Why do you have to know everything? You don’t see me out here asking about whatever plural frat guys you’ve no doubt been hooking up with, let alone asking for details.”

“Five frat guys, four student-athletes of varying genders, three art history majors, two psych geeks...and a partridge in a pear tree,” Blair says, singing that last part, indicating that likely all of it is exaggerated--or at least April hopes.

“You fucked a bird?” April asks antagonistically, somehow with a completely straight face. “Regardless, it would be much appreciated if you would refrain from talking about me in that way with Sterling.”

Blair frowns as she paraphrases a kids movie. “You are a sad, strange little prude, and you have my pity.”

April takes a few deep breaths, realizing that being civil with Blair will be a lot harder than she even thought. “Don’t pity me. Sterling does just fine in that department. I’d just rather not talk about it.”

“Why not? Sex is a beautiful thing and you’ve only been experiencing it for a few months--I’d think you’d be excited to share.”

“Not with my wife’s sister,” April says, wondering how that’s even a question.

“Well hey, at least I’m not Emily Dickinson.” Blair waggles her eyebrows at this, and as disgusting as that implication might be, April struggles to not laugh a little at it, which seems to delight Blair. “Ah! I knew that would get you. You’ve seen the Hailee Steinfeld show, right?”

“I’m a lesbian, Blair. Obviously, I have seen Dickinson.” April can say she’s fairly affronted that Blair would think so little of her. “Though I’d say you’re more of an Austin than an Emily.”

Blair gasps. “You bitch! I’m clearly the Lavinia if you and Sterl are the lezbefriends.”

Despite themselves, they both start giggling at this, with April wondering if their relationship could be improved if only they would talk more about gay TV shows. She’s caught up in wondering if Blair’s ever seen GLOW when she finally notices the way Blair is leaning back and craning her neck in April’s direction behind the chair pole. “What are you do-” April starts to ask before Blair’s suddenly leaning in and kissing her very much against her will, but it lasts a few seconds anyway because Blair has a firm hold on the back of April’s head to keep her from pulling away until Blair ends it with a disappointed look on her face.

“Yep, still don’t get it,” she says, shaking her head while April continues trying to wrap her head around what just happened.

“I’m going to tell Sterling you did that. Don’t you ever do that again!” April says, horrified that she’s got the taste of Blair on her lips, which she furiously tries to wipe away with her jacket sleeve.

“I had to know for science what my sister feels for you, and I still don’t understand,” Blair says with a shrug, and then like magic, the chairlift begins to move again.

April sighs, thankful that she will most likely be surviving this holiday after all. “Don’t quote me on this, but I think what your sister sees in me is someone who…excites her while also providing a feeling of home and security. I’m domestic, but I’m not boring. And it helps that she’s actually interested in women.” She gives Blair a look that’s equal parts annoyed and amused that she thought April has some kind of true love’s kiss superpower. 

Blair looks off, seeming to actually think about what she’s about to say before she says it. “I think that Sterling has always weirdly been drawn to you ever since we were kids, and that I always saw it but didn’t like to think that someone else could have that deep bond we share. And I also think that objectively, you can be hot when you want to be.”

“Thanks?” April chuckles, wondering if that’s supposed to be a genuine compliment. “And just so you know, I picked out your Christmas present from Sterl this year.”

“You did not,” Blair scoffs, despite having not even opened the present yet, which April went to great lengths to find when Sterling was stressing over figuring something out while also dealing with midterms.

April shrugs, figuring it doesn’t really matter anyway. “No, I’m lying. But I have a feeling you’re going to really like it.”

“Well, even if you  are  a big liar…thanks. Sterl’s gifts can vary wildly in quality.” Blair’s whole demeanor seems to have softened a bit, but that could be chalked up to them actually being able to get off this chairlift soon, at which point they won’t have to speak to each other the rest of the trip if they want.

April smiles, amused. “Like a giant Black Friday TV that’s mostly for  her,  as opposed to theater tickets and a fancy dinner? Or a couple’s cooking class versus a Vitamix?”

Blair laughs. “Oh, make no mistake. That Vitamix is for her, too.”

“Yeah, I’ve already banned glow sticks in the house for a reason,” April says, knowing her wife all too well.

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about glow sticks. It was a knife in The Forbidden Smoothie Part 2 that broke Mom’s Oster.” This revelation from Blair is also nothing new to April.

“You act as if I haven’t been obsessively stalking your sister on social media for over five years,” April chuckles, intending it mostly as self-deprecating humor, but it’s also entirely true.

“You guys have been together for two.”


The two of them stare each other down without blinking, Blair clearly anticipating for April to say she’s joking again, but she holds firm and eventually Blair turns away again.

“I have to admire your Edward Cullen level of obsession. That and your Victorian Orphan vocab are probably the real reason why Sterl’s into you. You got that vampire vibe, even if you’re short.” If April didn’t know any better, she’d think that Blair was actually trying to be playful with her.

“A short vampire that’s gonna beat you back to the lodge.” April decides that if by some Christmas miracle, the two of them can start to get along (in their own way, of course) she’s going to roll with it.

“Oh, you’re on, Edythe. I’ve played all the SSX games.” Blair rubs her gloved hands together menacingly.

“The fact that you know the name of genderbent Edward Cullen is so embarrassing,” April teases.

“You knew it too, so clearly Sterl and I aren’t the only ones who read Life and Death.” Blair makes an excellent point, even if April only read a gay version someone made on the internet by combining Life and Death with the original Twilight.