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you're my savior (you light up the dark)

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“Hey, Steph?”

“Yeah, Alex?” 

“Give me a couple of years. Two, maybe three. Give me some time to get some money, make sure everyone else is okay. Then we’ll go.”

“Really? Go where?” 

“Wherever we want, remember? Sound like a plan?” 

“Sounds like a plan.”

~~~~~

In the short course of a month, the Black Lantern looks completely unrecognizable. If it feels weird to Alex, then it must feel extremely weird to the people who have lived here for years, maybe their whole lives. The masculine decor that filled the space has been replaced with things that make it feel a little more… homey. A wheel on the wall encircled with string lights, several paintings requisitioned from Char… Alex likes what the new owner has done with the place. 

And she’s also infinitely lucky that she got to keep her job. Even more lucky that she got a raise and a promotion from standard waitress to assistant manager. More duties, but in a place like Haven Springs, it’s nothing Alex can’t handle. Plus, all the more money for her to sock away in preparation. 

Alex is in the midst of wiping down the bar surface with her towel, chatting idly with the new owner (who was really just the former assistant manager) Reagan, when the bell above the door chimes with the announcement of a new diner. Post lunch rush has ended (thankfully), but Alex dutifully turns to greet the newcomer. 

“Hey, Alex!” Ethan hops up onto a seat at the bar and while Alex would have to tell anyone else underage to sit somewhere else, she thinks that Ethan can squeeze past the rules. 

“What’s up, E! How was school today?” Alex crosses her arms on the bar, listening intently as Ethan prattles on about his day, switching between complaining about his teacher catching him reading a book during math time or regaling the story of him winning a foot race during recess. Either way, Alex laughs and goes along, happy to see the faint golden aura around his shoulders. When orders come her way, she delivers them quickly so she can keep up with Ethan’s stories. 

He’s so full of life, Alex thinks to herself, a smile coming to her face. She’s glad to see that he’s recovering well from Gabe— it was hard on all of them, but especially Ethan. Alex knows the pain he went through on a very similar level. She was, after all, a little bit older than him when her mom passed. 

“How’s your mom?” Alex asks, filling a few glasses with beer, and some with water. 

“She’s good! Keeping really busy in the studio,” Ethan says, swinging his legs underneath the counter. He smiles when he continues, “I… think she’s finally gotten her groove back. The art she’s making right now is just insane, Alex! You should come by and see it!” 

“I will, soon. Promise,” Alex leans forward to extend her finger in a pinky promise and Ethan takes it eagerly. “Ready for Saturday? I’m almost positive that Steph has something incredibly gnarly up her sleeve for Thaynor and Alywnn.” 

Ethan lights up. “Yes! We’re finally going to kill that dragon terrorizing the city, I can’t wait!” 

“I will keep all of my healing serenade’s prepared for us,” Alex says with a trademark snap of her fingers. 

Ethan nods, then shifts his stance to lean closer. “Hey, do you think Ryan would ever want to play with us? I have this super cool idea for a paladin that worships the god of the forest! Do you think he’d like it?” 

At the mention of Ryan, Alex turns her head away slightly. Ever since the arraignment and fall of Jed Lucan, the former hero turned liar of Haven Springs, Ryan has thrust himself into his work even more than usual. Alex only ever truly sees him on his days off, if he comes by, or if Steph forces him to get a drink with her. It’s concerning, but Alex understands better than most that people grieve differently. 

(And if he needed help, Alex would know. She would be able to see it. He knows that too.)

“I think he would love that,” Alex says. “Tell you what— next time he’s in here, I’ll text you, and you can come over and talk to him about it. But tell Steph first!” 

“Yeah! I was heading over there after, I just wanted to say hi!” Ethan hops down from the stool. “Gotta go, Alex! See ya!” 

“Stay safe, Ethan!” She calls after him. The door rings again with his speedy exit and Alex can’t help the way she smiles from ear to ear. God, she loves that kid. It’s so easy to understand why Gabe did too. 

She turns her focus to the little memorial plaque set up on one of the walls. Of all things left in the Black Lantern, Gabe’s memorial stayed. Whether it was because he was friendly with Reagan, or Reagan saw it as important to Alex, she appreciates that it’s remained constant. It’s nice to see his smile in the picture sometimes. 

Her phone buzzes. Before Alex takes it out, she checks that none of the line cooks need her. After seeing that none of them do, she glances at the screen. 

Steph💛: hey babe we still on for tonight?

Alex: Always. I’m expecting my number one fan. Especially tonight. 

Steph💛: oh? what do you have planned?

Alex: You’ll have to find out when you come over!

Steph💛:  damn it, you know i love the illusion of surprise. i’ll text u when i get off work!

Alex: Can’t wait, cutie. 

Steph💛: back at you 💘

Alex grins as she slides her phone back into her pocket, taking the drink order from the busboy and getting back to work. 

~~~~~

By the time she’s finished eating dinner (look, Alex is trying to stop ordering takeout so much, but cooking is hard, man!) and thrown it away, Steph texts her that she’s closing down the record store for the night and she’ll be over within the next fifteen minutes. 

That gives Alex plenty of opportunity to clean up the takeout, throw the trash into the bins behind the bar, and change out of her work clothes. When she pulls on a red and black sweater over her head, her eyes land on the photo of her and Gabe beside her bed. 

He’d be so happy that Steph and I are together, Alex thinks to herself, smoothing the front of her sweater down. Probably would tease the shit out of her and I, but he’d be happy. 

The knock knock knock at the door to her apartment pulls Alex from her thoughts. She speeds to the door, running a hand through her hair to smooth it over before opening it. 

“Steph! Didn’t I give you a key to my apartment a week ago?” Alex asks, cocking a hand on her hip. On the other side, Steph leans against the door frame, wearing a pair of black skinny jeans with rips in the knees, her usual boots, and a white crop top fashioned from a tank top that has the logo of a random band plastered on the front. Steph shrugs, a smirk playing on her lips. 

“I know. But knocking is the chivalrous thing and don’t girls love that?” Steph replies, stepping inside with her arm tucked behind her back. When Alex tries to peer past, Steph maneuvers herself so whatever she’s holding remains obscured. 

“Use the key, doofus,” Alex says, closing the door with her heel. “What do you have there?” 

Steph produces a bouquet of flowers from behind her, the petals pink and lovely. “Stopped by Eleanor’s after work to pick this up. For you.” 

“Shut up, you didn’t,” Alex says in disbelief. “You know I’m horrible with flowers, these won’t last a day.” 

“Doesn’t matter. Worth it to see that smile on your face,” Steph remarks, stepping closer. 

“Flatterer,” Alex says. She leans forward, kissing Steph tenderly. The constant delight that Alex feels whenever she kisses Steph radiates nothing but joy; not only from herself but from Steph too, the golden aura coming from the taller woman’s shoulders making Alex smile wider than anybody ever sees. 

“So,” Steph says, stepping back to find a vase for the flowers. Alex recognizes them as pink camellias. Something Riley mentioned offhanded over a call one time. Steph places them on the coffee table before walking back to Alex, cracking her knuckles in that usual way she does. “What is this thing you have planned?” 

“Our usual thing.” Alex grabs the guitar from where she hangs it on the wall beside Gabe’s snowboard. “Come on.” 

On the way up to the rooftop, Steph slaps Alex’s butt with a laugh spilling from her lips. Alex has come to expect that to happen every time; she likes it, it’s something she hasn’t experienced with other people before. 

The rooftop looks about as normal as it usually does— the flowers in the pots are lively with the full force of spring, and with the measly table and chairs, Alex managed to nab a free couch from off the street that was in relatively good condition. It’s become a staple of the roof now— she has good memories of her and Char with wine, or Steph splayed out on the couch and rambling about the stars or whatever latest DnD monster she’s created. 

(More of the latter than the former. It’s basically Steph’s couch at this point.)

“Sit,” Alex says, gesturing to the couch. Steph does her duty and takes a seat. Alex can sense that Steph is expecting her to pull up a chair and sit with her guitar, as she usually does… but Alex has something different in mind tonight. The surprise on Steph’s face when Alex plops down on the other side of the couch makes her feel giddy. 

Steph adjusts her black beanie— it has the image of a little cat on the band, something that Alex got for her two weeks back. Frankly, it’s become one of the most worn beanies in Steph’s expansive arsenal. 

“So… this one isn’t an original, but it’s a song I’ve liked for a long time and I finally managed to learn it,” Alex says, tapping her black-lacquered nails on the body of the guitar Gabe got for her. It’s hard to believe that it’s been months since his passing— it still feels fresh. “I hope you like it, because I’ve never ever thought about singing this song to anyone before until I met you, Steph.” 

Steph does that nervous habit of hers, fingers clenched into fists, so Alex begins the strumming of the guitar, resting her back on the cushion as the lyrics flow from her mouth as easily as she manipulates the chords. 

I want what you've got, give it to me

And I need what you need, leave it to be

For your hand child, I'll swoop on

Because I know, you'll be gone

Already, Steph looks captivated, eyes glittering. Alex smiles at her as she continues to the next verse, the words coming not from her mind, but from her heart, sung to the beautiful woman sitting across from her. 

I taste what you taste, becoming the same

My lungs are your lungs, inhale the flame

A secret rhythm, the force of love

She is my rhythm, do you know her?

Fallen star on this Earth

Fallen angel, what's your worth?

Alex is so thrown into the music that she doesn’t notice the look of awe in Steph’s face. 

You're my fire, you're my spark

You're my savior, you light up the dark

Give me your poison, sell me your fears

I trust your woman, and drown in your tears

Some good feeling, six feet under

She is my meaning, to share my thoughts

Fallen star on this Earth

Fallen angel, what's your worth?

She continues the rest of the song, rocking back and forth to the beat of the music she makes. There’s warmth tickling her like the sun, though the night has fallen over Haven Springs and the only thing witnessing the two is the moon and her legion of stars. Alex focuses on the feeling in her blood, the feeling that guides her over the strings and through the words. 

Alex pats the strings as her finishing note, turning head to Steph. The words on her lips die out when she sees the aura around Steph, radiating something Alex has never felt before. It’s pink, almost neon around Steph, highlighting the way she’s leaning towards Alex. Did she move closer while Alex was singing? Maybe. Definitely. 

While Alex has learned to curb the invasiveness of other people’s emotions into her brain, Steph’s just come to her naturally. Alex doesn’t try to stop it from entering her mind and Steph knows that. 

That was amazing, I can’t believe she sang that to me! To me! I’ve never had a girl sing to me before like she did, thinks Steph, her thoughts broadcasting into Alex’s like a radio. Crisp and clear, comfort in her words. Alex can’t even think of anything to say, awestruck by the pink coming off in waves from Steph. Her smile looks radiant. 

What emotion is this? Alex doesn’t recognize it, she’s never felt anything like this. Not this intensely, not ever. She puts the guitar aside, just as Steph puts her hand on Alex’s knee, a sign that Alex has come to learn means ‘ read me .’

So Alex does, in the way of cupping Steph’s cheek with her palm to peer further into Steph’s heart and the trail of thoughts in her mind, to see through Steph’s eyes instead of her own. 

The connection clicks into place without a second of hesitation. Blooming outward from her chest, Alex feels the comforting warmth stretching into her fingertips. Is this… is this how Steph feels about me?

She looks into Steph’s eyes and finds her answer being shouted from Steph’s mind. 

I love you, Alex Chen. I love your smile, I love your eyes, I love the care in your fingers when you hold my hands , Steph says, knowing every single thing she thinks Alex can hear, and she says it anyway. I love it when you come into the record store with lunch because you know I forget to eat sometimes, I love it when you and I jam out on the guitar and drums, I love it when I can come to you after a long day and find peace in your arms. I love you so much. 

Alex chokes out her words, “You mean it?” 

“Every single word,” Steph whispers back. 

This is what that color is, this feeling. It’s love. Steph loves Alex. 

“I love you too,” Alex admits, tears in the corner of her eyes when she witnesses tendrils of gold intertwine with the pink. Love mixed with joy. 

She rushes forward, sealing her lips against Steph’s, arms wrapping around the lithe woman’s shoulders. Steph responds eagerly and for a moment, it becomes more ‘mashing-teeth-together’ rather than kissing because they’re both smiling too widely. Eventually, though, they melt together until the aura overtakes them both, mixed into a peachy color that Alex loves to pieces. 

Steph holds her like she’s the anchor of a ship. Or maybe Alex is the lighthouse and Steph is coming home, guided by the light. 

They both know that in a few years time, Haven will be nothing but a memory, an experience in the grand journey of life for them both. Alex knows wholeheartedly that staying here for the remainder of her life isn’t in the cards— there’s too much to see, too much to experience that isn’t found in a place like Haven, as mystical as it is. 

They’ll leave. Haven will be fine without them. But for now, Alex is content to stay in Steph’s arms like this, overtaken by the emotion that she’s feared since a young age. 

Steph taught her differently, even if she doesn’t know it. Steph taught her to love without regret. Life is too little for that. 

Alex pulls away (not by choice, but by rather need of air) and stares into Steph’s eyes. There’s nothing but adoration buried in them. Alex asks, a little breathlessly, “Do you want to go back downstairs and cuddle up to a horror flick?” 

“You don’t even need to ask. A new one just came out— we have to watch it,” Steph says. She pecks Alex’s lips and stands up, hands locked together. “Feel free to snuggle up if you get scared at any time.” 

“Oh, I’ll get scared?” Alex laughs, standing up with the neck of her guitar in hand. “We’ll see about that, Gingrich.” 

“First one to scream loses, Chen!” 

~~~~~

Steph screams first. It’s ridiculous, it comes at a horribly timed moment, and it’s fucking hilarious. Alex can’t stop laughing, tears from the corners of her eyes as she leans over to catch her breath. Her girlfriend looks so pissed that it only increases the comedic timing of it all. 

“Babe! Baby, you know I’m not laughing at you!” Alex says, tugging on Steph’s hand. 

“It’s not funny .” 

“Okay, okay, it isn’t,” Alex says with the best straight face she can muster, but it falls apart when Steph looks at her. More laughter, and Steph groans, throwing a pillow in Alex’s direction. She can’t even be mad about it because Steph is adorable when she has that little pissed off look across her features. 

When Steph stands up and goes to the kitchen, Alex follows, her voice going somber as she says, “Steph, you know I don’t mean it, right?” 

“I know, I’m just—” Steph exhales, a tiny smile on her lips. “I can’t believe I got scared before you did. What will people think of me?” 

“Your secret,” Alex boops Steph on the nose. “Is safe with me.” 

“Fine, I guess I can trust you,” Steph says, her hands sliding around Alex’s hips and hugging her tightly. The movie continues playing in the background, but Alex doesn’t spare a single thought to it, not when Steph is right there in front of her. Steph bumps her nose on Alex’s forehead. “What’re you thinking about?” 

“You,” Alex says without a second of doubt. “Just you.” 

“Big sap, Chen,” Steph retorts. Alex rolls her eyes, moving to pull away, but Steph has the arms of a drummer and she is far stronger than she looks, able to lock her hands around Alex to keep her in place. When Alex looks up into her eyes, Steph says softly, “I love you. A lot.” 

“I love you too. A lot,” Alex mirrors. 

Steph kisses her, the sound of a scream from the main protagonist of the movie drowning out in the background. 

Haven isn’t home. Steph is. It’s scary to Alex, that realization that the idea she’s been so desperately searching for isn’t a place, but a person. 

But life is like that. Life gives you things you don’t expect. Opportunities, lessons, love, excitement… anything goes. 

And Alex is okay with that. She welcomes it with an open hand, as long as her other is in Steph’s.