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Of Carburetors and Creampuffs

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      Cracking her knuckles, Laura looked down into the engine bay of a 93’ Mazda B series with determination. She WOULD get the stupid timing belt and water pump replaced by lunch even if it meant she didn’t have time to get to the corner store for her cookie break. She had promised her dad she would meet him for lunch and she had cancelled last time so flaking out wasn’t an option. Even if it meant no cookies. Laura sighed and twisted her hair up and out of the way before rolling up the sleeves of her coveralls and diving in head first ‘cause really, was there any other way to do things?

 

***

 

      Laura scrubbed her hands over her face in frustration. Her parts distributor had given her the wrong water pump for the vehicle. The vehicle required one whose pulley had 20 teeth, NOT 25 like the one in the box sitting in front of her. Of course she hadn’t looked at it closely before taking the stupid truck apart. The fan, shroud, timing cover, and old water pump were all removed as well as the rest of the belts loosened and alternator and AC unit out of the way. She was halfway through the job and now didn’t have the right part. 

      She trudged toward the front desk, passing Lafontaine and Danny who were doing all the drive through oil changes for the day to allow Laura to focus on the mechanical work. They made a good team even though they seemingly had it out for each other. It probably had something to do with the fact that Laf was better with the customers which meant Danny was resigned to pit duty which didn’t really work well with her stature. She had to hunch over so as not to bump her head on the undercarriage of the vehicles above her head.

      Pushing through the shop door and behind the front counter, Laura was greeted with an ever frazzled Perry and a customer standing on the opposite side. Perry looked at Laura with a tight smile, “Laura! Thank goodness. This customer was just asking to speak to a mechanic about a strange sound his vehicle is making.”

      Looking towards the middle aged and fairly rumpled man Laura put on a bright smile and offered her hand, “Hey there! I’m Laura the owner and certified heavy duty mechanic.” The man just glared at her and didn’t raise his hand. Feeling a little off kilter Laura lowered hers and inquired “So what exactly is the problem with your vehicle? Could you describe the sound for me?”

      “I think you’ve misunderstood me. I wanted to speak to a mechanic yes but I was under the assumption that a man worked here. I want to speak to him, not..... you.” At that he sneered and waved his hand in Laura’s general direction. 

      Feeling her jaw setting Laura looked at the man with hardened eyes. “I’m sorry that I failed to live up to your expectations sir but I am the only red seal mechanic working at this establishment. And even if I wasn’t, we don’t need business from the likes of you. I will kindly ask you to leave my shop right now and don’t expect to be served here. Ever.”

      The man’s face had turned a blotchy red and his jowls were shaking in a comedic display of aggression. “Do you know who I am you little bitch? You and little Annie here need to treat me with the respect I deserve and I won’t have you speaking to me that way!”

      Perry had stiffened at the taunt and that was the straw that broke the camels back. Laura’s day was already trashed before coming in here but being cruel to her employee, her friend had just made it that much worse.

      “Okay first thing? You are going to apologize to Perry here, and then you are going to get. Out. Of. My. Shop. I don’t give a rats ass who you are, you don’t have the right to to speak to me or my employees that way.”

      “But-”

      “No. I have the right to refuse service and I am doing that right now. Apologize and leave.”

      He looked at Perry with a sneer before turning on his heel and striding out the front door. Laura turned and grabbed hold of her friends hands. “Hey, you okay?” Shaking a little Perry put on a brave smile “I’m a little upset but I’ll be okay. Thank you Laura for standing up to him. I couldn’t have done that myself.” 

      “Don’t worry about it. Do you need a break? I have to call my parts distributor anyway so I can cover the front for a bit if you want to get a breather.” Perry looked at her with a grateful smile and slipped through the second door in the front which lead to the office.

      This hadn’t been the first time a customer like that had come to the shop. Up until now though Perry hadn’t had to deal with any head on. Either Laura, Laf or Danny had been there to take care of it and they all had considerably thicker skin than dear Perry. Laura was sorry it couldn’t have stayed that way.

      Heaving a sigh she sat down at the stool and picked up the phones receiver ready to deliver a thorough tongue lashing to whoever answered her call.

 

***

 

      Finally having received the correct part from the hands of a delivery boy who was clearly resentful that he had to make a second trip that day, the truck was together again and Laura had just finished filling the cooling system with fresh coolant. She cleared the lines of any air and hopped in the drivers seat and started it up. She climbed out again to check for any leaks and finding none, she deemed it a job complete. Shutting the hood and opening the bay door, she drove the truck out into the lot and parked it before going back inside.

      It was a bit of a lull and everyone was taking advantage of it and were cleaning up any spills before the lunch rush came in.

      “Hey guys, I’m heading out for lunch. I won’t be long. Danny you’re in charge.” The girl in question beamed at Laura and lifted her chin proudly. She then side eyed Laf as if to make sure they had heard. Lafontaine rolled their eyes at the taller redhead, “Sure thing boss, say hi to papa Hollis for us.” 

      Laura smiled at her friends and headed to the little pub a block away to meet her dad.

 

***

 

      All things considered her day was going alright as of that moment. Lunch had been nice and she had finally put that awful incident out of her mind.

      She walked back to the shop and brought in her next project. A ford F-150 that she saw at least once a month for this or that. She kept trying to convince the owner Kirsch that he should just junk the poor thing and get a chev if he insisted on owning a vehicle made this decade. He always shrugged her advice off with a dopey grin and a laugh. The emergency brake had failed this time. Stupid thing had stuck which meant new bearings, drum cover, brake pads, the works. She had to hand it to the machine, when it failed it failed hard. 

      She was wrenching with all her might on the drum when she caught notice of the car that just pulled in for an oil change. It was a black 68’ camaro and in mint condition. At least cosmetically. She had to see if it looked as good under the hood so she got up and dusted her hands on her now admittedly filthy coveralls. 

      “Hey Laf, I’ll take the top on this one if you want to give Danny a break in the pit.” 

      Lafontaine grinned at the tiny brunette “How did I know you’d want to take point on this one? I swear when any old muscle shows up you drool puddles.”

      She swatted her friend on the arm with a smile while they headed downstairs. Laura grabbed a pen and paper to take the vehicle information and walked toward the drivers side of the car. Before she got there the door opened and out stepped the owner. And if she wasn’t drooling over the car already her reaction would have been embarrassing. The girl was as jaw dropping as the muscle machine. All black leather, red button down over a black tank, and combat boots to complete the look. Lightly curled black hair framed a pale and angular face with red lips and sinfully smokey eyes. Laura stood dumbly with her hand poised over the pad of paper.

      “You gonna stand there all day or are you going to ask me for my information cutie?” The girl smirked at Laura and propped her hip on the side of her car, arms crossed. Well shit.

Chapter Text

      *gulp* Laura swallowed the dryness in her throat, and shook herself. “Hey. Welcome to Lauronica Cars! What all are we doing for you today?” Phew, she had somehow managed to pull herself together because, wow. 

 

      The girl’s smirk twisted into a grimace at the pun “Full synthetic oil change; Castrol not Mobil, fluid top-up and air filter clean but be light on the oil and use K&N. And don’t over tighten the filters, you lube shops always manage to overdo it. No offence cupcake.” Laura narrowed her eyes, most definitely taking offence at the insinuation that she or her employees did sub-par work.

 

      “Got it. I just need your name and phone number so I can create an account for you in our system.”

 

      The raven haired girl lifted an eyebrow at Laura and replied “Want my number already hmm? Moving rather quickly aren’t we?” Wait. Was she flirting with her? The nerve! First she alludes to thinking she isn’t good at her job, then does this?! She had no shame, none whatsoever. “It’s Carmilla sweetheart. Carmilla Karnstein. You’ll have to try a little harder for my number. Maybe next time.” With that she sauntered to the front of the shop and leaned against the bay door directly in front of her car, pushing her hands into her front pockets.

 

      Laura internally grumbled and entered Carmilla into the computer system, adding her vehicle information including VIN, make, model, year, and engine capacity. And because she had no choice, she left the phone number section blank. She threw a glare at the girl “The waiting room is just through that door, help yourself to the magazines, newspaper, and coffee. I’ll call you out when it’s done. Won’t be longer than 15 minutes.”

 

      “I’m good right here thanks. I need to make sure you guys don’t screw up.” Carmilla said on a release of breath, sounding disinterested despite her statement.

 

      Okaaaay then. The earlier rudeness was clearly not a fluke, but Laura had to let it slide because she had already alienated a customer that day and she tried not to do it more than once a week or she wouldn’t have a client base at all to speak of. So she reined in her temper and popped the hood on the car while calling down to the pit “Oil change and fluid top up Laf. And make sure you grease everything thoroughly, this model has a few hidden nipples in the steering and suspension.” A hand stuck out between the floor and the car’s skirt in a thumbs up signal, and Laura heard the drain tray roll towards the front of the vehicle.

 

      “Hey boss, want me to check the lights and tires?” Danny had come up from downstairs and offered her help. “Yeah I’d appreciate that while I get started on the air filter.” Laura smiled at the tall redhead and went to lift the hood. When she reached for the prop stick she froze, finally seeing into the engine bay. She faintly heard Carmilla chuckle behind her, but chose to ignore it for the sheer beauty she was witnessing in front of her. If she had thought her reaction to seeing Carmilla had been a lot, she quickly realized it had been nothing. She felt her eyes water from not blinking as her left arm held the hood up, finding the prop stick a forgotten task for the moment. The engine was in better shape even than the outside of the car, which was saying something. Perfectly clean, no dust anywhere. Shiny valve cover, new distributor plug wires, no corrosion on the battery posts, tight serpentine belts, even the radiator had no dents to be seen. She would have said that this car was never driven it was so perfect but she knew that was false due to the high mileage she had recorded only a moment before. The only explanation given the evidence was that this girl took extremely good care of her car. Laura hoped to hades that it wasn’t lady driven, this car deserved to be opened up.

 

      Laura shook her head for the second time that day and quickly found the prop stick. She went quickly about her duties and lightly oiled the air filter (it was only slightly dry, not dirty at all. She didn’t need to clean it thankfully as that would have required it sit for at least 20 minutes to dry before oiling it again and she didn’t fancy making this customer wait) before topping up fluids.

 

      “Hey Laur, you’re clear to fill.” Laf called from the pit, signalling the drain plug was returned to the oil pan and the oil filter was securely positioned. “Thanks, filling now.” She grabbed a few bottles of Castrol Edge and filled the engine, periodically checking the level to be sure she got it right up under the fill line on the dipstick.

 

      The entire time she was working on the car, Laura felt the eyes of the customer, Carmilla, on her. Especially when she had leant over to reach the wing nut on top of the air filter when she replaced it after the oiling. And again when she was filling the engine and then replacing the oil cap. Or to be more specific, she felt her eyes planted firmly on her ass. She wasn’t sure how she felt about that, considering the personality of the person doing the ogling. 

 

      “Hey Danny, want to hop in and start her up while I check for leaks?” Laura gestured to Danny who smiled and moved to get in the car.

 

      “Excuse me, no one gets in my car but me. And I certainly don’t want to have to adjust my seat back after you move it to fit in your freakishly long legs Xena.” Carmilla pushed herself off the door and walked quickly to her car, cutting Danny off.

 

      Danny lifted her head and looked down the slope of her nose at the girl, a sneer adorning her lips. “Sorry Morticia, given your lacklustre appearance I didn’t assume you were a princess.” she snapped at Carmilla. Now normally Laura would be all for her employees standing up for themselves, but she was stuck not to mention what Danny said was just plain rude. There was a difference between standing up for yourself and being catty. They had already done the work on the car so they needed to be polite in order to get paid. She wouldn’t put it past the girl to snub her of the cost if she felt like she was a mistreated customer. Sucks but such is business, or at least it is once you’re in the middle of it.

 

      “Danny, reign it in. We don’t talk to customers like that.” Laura emphasized the word customer, trying to communicate to the tall girl that she needed to dial it down. Danny seemed to get the hint and she quickly nodded her head although she didn’t apologize, rather she mock bowed and gestured to the car as if Carmilla were the queen. Laura huffed, realizing she’d have to have a conversation with Danny once there were no customers around.

 

      Carmilla got in her car and turned over the engine. Laura peeked in the engine bay, and then below the car before signalling to her that she could shut it off again. “Everything looks good. Let me just ring up your total and you can get going.” Laura reached up and pulled out the prop stick, then shutting the hood with a loud bang.

 

      “It had better look good. Seeing as you make your livelihood off it I’d be worried if it didn’t cupcake.” smirking, Carmilla reached into her back pocket and withdrew her wallet.

 

      “We do our best.” Laura replied tightly, taking Carmilla’s credit card and inserting it into the machine, punching in the owed amount before handing it to the pale girl while Danny opened the bay door.

 

      “Sure you do sundance.” Carmilla punched in her pin code and returned the machine after taking her credit card out and ripping off her own receipt.

 

      Walking back to her car and getting in, the girl drove off without another word.

 

      “Rude.” finally able to release her anger Laura fumed.

 

      “Laura, seriously why did you get mad at me for talking back? You did it this morning to someone who was being a dick!” Danny looked down at Laura with an expression equal parts hurt and angry.

 

      Releasing a large sigh Laura looked Danny square in the eyes before answering “Because you were out of line Danny. That guy this morning used derogatory terms towards me and Perry, and he was a misogynistic pig. There’s a difference between aiming hurtful words at someone to get a reaction, and what appeared to be a generally negative and blasé attitude regardless of who she was pointed at. Did the stuff she said suck? Yeah but it didn’t seem to be barbed specifically for anyone.”

 

      Danny moved to respond, her face lighting up more so in anger now “What about-”

 

      “Danny it’s settled. You need to be more mindful of what you say in front of customers. Not only did what I said apply but also we were already working on her car. We can’t go saying things like that to paying customers. What if she got offended and demanded a discount or that she didn’t have to pay? What would we do then? And you weren’t standing up for yourself, you were being mean. There is always a way to remain professional while still getting your point across.” Laura planted her hands on her hips, feet firmly on the ground. 

 

      Danny had the decency to look ashamed after that, crossing her arms and scuffing her feet on the ground with her face down turned. “I hadn’t thought of that. I’m sorry Laura, it won’t happen again.”

 

      “Damn, looks like I missed a lot by being downstairs.” Lafontaine had just come up after tidying up the pit. “What happened?”

 

      “Don’t worry about it Laf. Suffice it to say that we all need to learn a lesson about what’s okay to say to customers and what isn’t. Sensitivity training if you will.” Laura cocked her head to the side, lips pressed into a firm line while she glared at Danny as if to say, this is the end of it do you hear me?  The tall redhead seemed to understand finally as she nodded again.

 

      “If you say so boss. I’m gonna pull out the floor cleaner, get the bay tidied before we shut down in fifteen. Sound good?” Lafontaine grinned crookedly at Laura “Also it’s wing night and we need to be out of here on time to get a good table at the pub!”

 

      “Yeah sure thing. I’ll just clean up around Kirsch’s truck. Danny could you pull in the tire racks please?” stretching her arms into the air and ending on her tippy toes, Laura yawned as she addressed her employees.

 

      Danny looked up at Laura finally and gave her a shy smile as she moved to do as requested. That was something Laura tried to do as boss, especially seeing as she was friends with all her employees. She tried not to order them around, and rather made firm suggestions instead. Sometimes she had no choice but to take them down a peg (who was she kidding. Take Danny down a peg as she was the only one who really talked back on the regular) but she tried to bring things back to their normal dynamic rather quickly. If there was one thing a friendship couldn’t survive, it was a power imbalance. She hoped she could keep it up in the long run.

 

      Perry emerged from the office with the day’s earnings ready to stop at the bank and as they closed up shop and headed to the pub in their own cars, Laura’s mind wandered to their new and super grumpy customer who also happened to also be very flirty. She was glad the interaction had been short, she’s not sure she could have held her temper back for much longer (although she’d never give Danny the satisfaction of knowing that) in that vein. Oh well, she’d probably never see her again anyway. That’s how it usually went and Laura had no reason to expect anything to turn out differently then it always did.

 

Chapter Text

      There were few advantages and many drawbacks to living and working in a small town. Like limited options in take out, everyone’s nose was always in your business, the dating pool was regrettably shallow, no big retailers so anything worth having had to be ordered online (and of course the postal system was lacking), and drama was manufactured at an alarming rate. It would seem that the only way to alleviate the boredom was to rub each other the wrong way and hope something interesting happened as a result. That was probably Laura’s least favourite side effect. The only plus out of that she had experienced was the thickening of her skin. Or rather, she thought of it as a plus. She had gotten very good at not letting anything get to her, and generally that held true. So why was she still steaming over the interaction with Carmilla? 

 

      As she drove the thankfully short distance to the pub she thought again of the encounter and proceeded to pick it apart. That was one of the worse traits she had learned since coming to town, as she had to constantly examine the goings on to be sure she wasn’t being pulled into someones web of drama.

 

      The girl had seemed quite capable. She said all the right things when she emerged, and was very specific about how to take care of her car which was in amazing shape and your average joe didn’t have the ability to maintain that level of upkeep. At least not without a serious amount of help. Carmilla didn’t seem the type to need, or rather want help. She was quite ready to bite Danny’s head off when she even attempted to get to close to her car. But then she had brought it to the shop even considering all of that. 

 

      Why?

 

      If there was one thing Laura loved, it was a challenge. And if Carmilla ever came back to the shop, she was going to find out what made the girl tick. A feral sort of grin stole over Laura’s face as this thought came to her. 

 

      Ohhhh this was going to be fun.

 

***

 

      “Hey Laura, want a drink?” Danny and the rest of the gang had already gotten a table by the time she got to the pub. She was always a little behind them as it took her a little longer to clean up at the end of the day. She had a habit of somehow getting oil, dirt, grease, brake dust, tire rubber, you name it, all over herself every day. Honestly she didn’t know how she managed it, seeing as she didn’t even come in contact with many of those things on a daily basis.

 

      Laura smiled up at the redhead “Sure Danny, thanks!” and made her way to the corner booth where everyone else was seated.

 

      As per usual, Perry and Lafontaine were sitting next to each other, carefully not letting themselves touch. Despite their efforts though, Laura knew they held hands under the table. They weren’t as subtle as they thought they were but she was going to let them have this one, they were clearly enjoying their little charade. Laura didn’t have anything against dating co-workers at Lauronica Cars but she could see the appeal of pretending to be breaking the (albeit non-existent) rules. She’d let them have their little ‘rebellion’ so long as it didn’t affect her business or the friendships within it. So far though the risks of that happening were significantly low.

 

      Laura had made herself comfortable on the opposite side of Laf and Perry when Danny came back with a fresh pitcher of beer. “Hope you guys are thirsty. I’ve got another one of these coming as soon we’ve finished this one.”

 

      “Thanks Danny, I’ll get the next one. Did you guys order yet?” Laura looked around the table expectantly.

 

      Laf choose this moment to look away from Perry and engage themselves in the conversation “No we haven’t. We’re waiting on a few more people first.”

 

      “Wait. What? Who else is coming?” sometimes some of the regular customers made it out to their wing nights but not often and Laura had thought this week was just going to be employees.

 

      “Kirsch is coming tonight and I believe he is bringing a friend.” Perry piped up, smiling thinly although warmly.

 

      “Uh, Perr. You mean he is bringing a date.” laughing, Laf followed up Perry’s comment with one of their own.

 

      “If you say so Lafontaine.” At this they looked at each other fondly. Seriously, how did they actually believe they were flying under the radar? Wait no, flying under the GAYDAR. Laura choked on her beer laughing at her own internalized pun, causing Danny to look at her in concern.

 

      “You okay there dude? Do I need to perform the heimlich maneuver on you?” Laf started to raise from their seat, but Laura waved them off.

 

      She managed to sputter out between coughs “No, no! I’m good don’t worry.”

 

      Danny narrowed her eyes suspiciously but relaxed in her seat. Marginally. Really, Laura was going to have to have another talk with her. The girl was like a dog with a bone. She meant well, and Laura had made it clear that nothing was going to happen between them (at least, not again) but Danny was as over protective as ever. But then that wasn’t an argument to have on a Friday night. Friday nights were for beer, wings, maybe a game or two of pool, and friends.

 

      “Sup hotties, did you save me a seat?” Kirsch strode over to their table, dragging a chair behind him. A girl followed him closely, looking slightly nervous.

 

      “Why would you ask that when you’re literally bringing a seat over with you?” Danny looked at Kirsch with barely concealed disdain.

 

      Kirsch just shrugged his over large shoulders and set the chair in front of the table before gesturing for his companion to take it. He then retrieved himself a chair and set it down backwards, sitting with his chest against the back and his arms across the top.

 

      “Uh, ladies this is SJ. SJ, these are my friends!” He looked from SJ to the group and back again with his signature dopey grin adorning his features.

 

      Laura was the first to react “Hey SJ! I’m Laura, it’s nice to meet you.” she held her hand out for a handshake, and the girl reciprocated albeit with a weak grip. Laura tried not to hold that against her, after all not everyone lugged around 80 pound tires and 50 pound batteries every day. 

 

      The rest of the group quickly followed suit, although Danny didn’t seem to be in it wholeheartedly. What was up with that? Laura was going to have to do some investigating there. Her instincts told her she’d find a story behind that action.

 

      They spent the night talking, laughing and generally having a great time when Laura saw that Lafontaine was right about Kirsch bringing a date. He was giving the biggest puppy dog eyes she had ever seen to SJ, and she was looking at him just as adoringly. She smiled into her beer, glad her friend had found someone.

 

***

 

      Later that evening (and 5 pitchers of beer between them later) found Laura making the walk to her house. One of the advantages to this small town was that most everything was within walking distance if you were up for it. It made getting pleasantly drunk much easier as she didn’t have to worry how she’d get home later. It was always more fun when everyone could drink together and no one had to endure being sober around them in order to be DD. And she’d only have a short walk to pick up her car in the morning so, bonus!

 

      She finally reached her front door and proceeded to fumble with her keys while she swayed in place. When had her fingers gotten so big and clumsy? And why were her keys so tiny? She’d need to get new non doll sized keys tomorrow she realized with regret. And a new lock for her front door as it was moving around, like it was playing a game of tag.

 

      Laura finally managed to stick her house key in the lock yelling “TAG!” at the top of her lungs. She vaguely registered one of her neighbours yelling shut up! in the back of her mind but deigned to ignore it since clearly, they were just jealous that they had no social life and were in bed on a Friday night rather than being out. Laura was glad her higher thinking was still intact, and grinned to herself in triumph as she slogged to the back corner of her one story home to flop gracelessly on her bed.

 

      Her last thoughts before she fell into a mild alcohol induced coma were of a mysterious girl in black leather.

 

***

 

      The next morning found Laura rolling over in bed, directly into a stream of daylight coming in through the window. When she felt the rays through her eyelids she leapt back with a hiss, pulling all the sheets around herself and turning herself into a human burrito.

 

      Why was sunlight legal before 12 pm?

 

      She tried to get back to sleep but the throbbing in the back of her head pulled her from her comfort in search of some pain meds instead.

 

      Thankfully she only had the headache to deal with and no nausea. She thanked a god she didn’t believe in and proceeded to prepare tea and cereal for a late breakfast.

 

      Laura thanked herself for making the decision when she opened the shop to only ever be open during the week. This Saturday definitely felt like a sweatpants, netflix and cookies sort of day.

 

      It didn’t take her long to eat, and she then dropped herself into a steaming shower hoping to rid herself of the brewery smell permeating her skin. She’d have to change her bedsheets as well she realized with a pang of regret. She didn’t relish the idea of sleeping in alcohol scented sheets that night.

 

      After her shower she checked her phone only to see it was completely dead. Of course she had neglected to plug it in the night before. She plugged it in and retired to her living room and 60 inch tv to catch up on her shows. She had just started Skins season 3 and was already invested in the relationship between Emily and Naomi. She wore an excited smile, eyes gleaming as she booted up netflix and selected the most recent episode.

 

***

 

      Laura had finally gotten to Naomi’s (and therefore also Emily’s) episode and was enraptured, and so forgot to check on her phone.

 

      It sat on her bedside table flashing with new messages. One had just come in from Danny.

 

      Danny (10:26 am): Laura answer your phone!!!!! It’s Kirsch and SJ. Something happened and we’re all at the hospital. Come as soon as you get this!

Chapter Text

Laura stretched as she got up from her couch with a yawn. The pain in her head had finally subsided to a dull throb and she felt like a nap was in order. She had a whole day to continue her tv binge and she needed to rest her eyes for a bit before she continued.

 

      She made her way back to her bedroom and perched on the edge of her bed, deciding to check her phone before she cuddled up in her sheets again.

 

      She unlocked her screen and immediately adopted a frown as she noticed how many calls and texts she had waiting for her. She saw that Danny had been the one to leave all the missed calls and decided to call her back rather than text her. She kind of hated texting as she couldn’t read people like she could when she could at least hear their tone of voice.

 

      It rang for a few beats before Danny picked up.

 

      “Laura? Why haven’t you answered me? I’ve been trying to get ahold of you all morning.”

 

      “Yeah sorry Danny, my phone was dead. What’s up?” Danny didn’t respond right away, rather she stayed completely silent before quietly asking, “Laura, have you read any of the texts I sent you?”

 

      Laura frowned, if there was one thing Danny wasn’t it was hesitant. “Well no, you know I hate texting and I saw you had called me so I figured I’d just call back instead. Why?” a cold feeling had crept into her chest and she didn’t know why.

 

      Danny sighed and took a moment before she replied in a somewhat broken voice. “I’m at the hospital. We all are actually. Kirsch and SJ got into a car accident after we all left the pub last night. They’ve both been in surgery all morning and the doctors won’t tell us anything.” She breathed in a ragged breath before continuing “Just please get over here Laura.”

 

      At each word Laura had felt her stomach dropping lower and lower and a lightness edged into her head, leaving her feeling out of breath and cold. It was a familiar feeling. No, no this couldn’t be happening. Not again. She had had enough of hospitals for more than one lifetime. She didn’t know if she could go back. But did she have a choice? “I- I’m on my way. I’ll see you soon.” She hung up the phone without waiting for a response and released the breath she had been holding. It came out faltering and weak. She didn’t have any energy for anything else.

 

      Throwing on her coat over her sweats and shoving on her sneakers she grabbed her keys and opened her front door, only to remember her car wasn’t there as she saw her empty driveway. 

 

      “Fuck.” Fighting back tears, Laura decided to make the quick walk to the pub to get it. It’d still be quicker to get to the hospital doing that than it would be if she just walked the entire way there.

 

      She tried to pick up her pace, perhaps to make it there as fast as she knew she should get there. Her friends needed her, she knew that. She felt something in her recoil from the action though, and she walked slowly and almost zombie like. She knew what was waiting there for her, even if she didn’t know what the outcome would be. The sitting, crying, and waiting was horrible. The helplessness that was all encompassing and the empty words of comfort as they all waited with bated breath for news. She hated it.

 

      In her thoughts she hadn’t noticed she had made it to the pub parking lot. She scanned the pavement with her eyes and spotted her car in the far corner. She made her way over and around to the drivers side of the 72’ AMC Javelin. She had opened the door and was about to get in when she noticed a flash of yellow in her peripheral vision. She looked down, only to see that her car had been booted.

 

      Feeling her face crumpling, Laura slammed her door shut and fisted her hands into her hair. The tears she had been holding back broke over the dam and flooded her eyes. She screwed them shut and bit her lips, trying with all her might to force them back in. It was in that moment she heard someone cough from behind her.

 

      She swung around, swiping furiously at her cheeks with the palms of her hands. When she saw who it was, she couldn’t help the shocked expression that fell on her features.

 

      “Carmilla? What are you doing here?” She spoke to the girl who had approached her across the lot.

 

      “I live above the pub cutie. I saw you out here and thought I’d see what the fuss was about.” For all the feigned annoyance of her words, Laura could see genuine concern etched on the raven haired girl’s features. “I own the place so me being here is kind of par for the course.”

 

      She crossed her arms over her abdomen in a protective gesture, and closed her eyes in exhaustion. Of course it would be her. She would be the one to see her like this.

 

      Laura cleared her throat roughly before responding. “I have somewhere to be, but my car is booted.” She pointed in the general direction of her car to illustrate her point.

 

      Carmilla turned her head slightly and took in the boot with a quick flick of her eyes before her gaze settled back on Laura. “I can have it taken off but it’ll take a bit. I can drive you wherever it is you need to be if you like.”

 

      She looked at Laura with unexpected tenderness, no trace of the smug flirt from the day befores. Laura found herself wondering why she was showing suck kindness, especially when she couldn’t know what had Laura tied up in knots.

 

      She replied woodenly, not really aware of it. “Sure, thanks.”

 

      Carmilla turned on her heel and gestured for Laura to follow. They walked across the lot and around the building, to the employee lot where Carmilla kept her car.

 

      After getting in the drivers side, Carmilla leant over and unlocked the passenger side allowing Laura to clamber in.

 

      The car’s engine turned over with a twist of the key and Carmilla pulled out from her parking spot and swung the car towards the centre of town. She didn’t press for details, she just drove and Laura was grateful. She didn’t stop to think that she hadn’t told Carmilla where she needed to go, that she should be surprised the pale girl seemed to intuitively know already.

 

      It was a short drive, only about ten minutes and Laura expected she’d just be dropped off outside of the main doors but was surprised when Carmilla found a parking spot and moved to get out of the car.

 

      “What are you doing?” Laura looked to her with confusion in her expression.

 

      “I’d have thought that was obvious cupcake. I’m coming in.” She didn’t elaborate and the two headed into the building together after locking the car.

 

      Carmilla walked slightly ahead of Laura and went right up to the front desk. “Excuse me, we’re here to see Brody Kirsch and SJ. Can you tell us where they are?” To say Laura was shocked would have been a gross understatement. “Wait, how did you know I was here to see them?”

 

      “I know Kirsch.” It was the only explanation offered, and Laura didn’t have a chance to press further as the nurse told them which floor to go to.

 

      Laura stood numb in the middle of the lobby before she found herself being lead to the elevator by a firm but gentle grip around her left bicep. They stood in silence as they waited for it to get to the main level before they boarded and headed up to the appropriate floor.

 

      It moved slowly and jerkily upwards and let out a warbly ding as it settled with a small groan at their destination.

 

      Stepping out of the elevator they made their way to the far end of the hall and into the waiting area, where Laf, Perry, Danny, and Kirsch’s parents and sister were strewn around in various states of distress.

 

      Kirsch’s mother’s eyes immediately lighted on Carmilla and she walked over quickly and enveloped her in what appeared to be a bone crushing hug. It broke Laura’s heart to see the woman’s face fold in on itself as she clung to the younger woman.

 

      “Hey, Terry. It’ll be alright. I know he’ll be okay. Nothing can break through his thick skull.” Carmilla pulled back slightly and looked intently into the woman’s eyes. “Remember that time when we were kids and I pushed him off the trampoline? I swear the ground was dented from his giant lumbering body but he was alright. He always is.” She offered up a small ghost of a smile and Terry’s lips quirked upwards slightly as she nodded her head, looking at Carmilla gratefully.

 

      Laura tore her eyes from the scene in fear of breaking down again and looked to her friends who were huddled together in the far corner of the waiting room. She walked over and sat next to Laf who had their arm wrapped around Perry’s shoulders. Danny sat in a chair along the adjacent wall with her knees pulled up in front of her chest.

 

      “Any news?” She looked down at her hands which were twisted together in her lap, unable to verbalize anything else.

 

      Danny was the one to reply, “Nothing yet no. All we know is they were in a cab on their way home when a drunk driver sideswiped them. The cab driver is fine, the impact was completely on the rear passenger door. Where SJ was sitting. Kirsch was in the back with her and got knocked around too.”

 

      Laura looked up and searched for a blank space to rest her eyes. “Okay.”

 

      They all settled in and prepared to wait as long as it took for news of their friends, their son, their brother.

 

Chapter Text

      Laura awoke with a sharp inhale as her alarm blared not far from her ear. It was Monday again and the shop still needed to be run, despite the grief hanging around her and her friends.

 

      She swiped her thumb across her phone screen to dismiss her alarm before falling back into her pillows with a sigh. Bleary eyed she looked up at her ceiling and mapped the imperfections, cataloging them as though they had significance. Something had to, right?

 

      With difficulty Laura finally pulled herself from her warm and cozy blankets to prepare for the day. She threw on an olive green tank top and shorts as well as her thick boot socks and steel toes after throwing some pop tarts into the toaster. Finishing with the last lace, she heard the toaster pop. 

 

      Her dad would certainly have had something to say to her if he knew she was eating such sugary foods for breakfast, even though they technically were a breakfast food. Logic (or Laura’s at any rate) didn’t work with an overprotective father. She ate them quickly before washing them down with some cocoa. 

 

      After finishing breakfast and brushing her teeth, Laura grabbed her wallet and keys before stepping out of her house. It was still dark as was to be expected. Her shop opened at 7 so she was never out of the house later than 6. She generally worked the first 3 hours with only one employee to help out so she had a short respite until she had to deal with everyone. 

 

      They all thought she was taking SJ’s death really hard but of course they didn’t know the real reason. She could have survived and Laura would still be having a rough go of it. Being back in a hospital in those sorts of circumstances had just brought old and unresolved feelings back to the surface. She didn’t need them checking up on her, not if she hoped to keep the truth from them.

 

      She parked her car and got out quickly, making it to the front door and unlocking it without fuss. She disabled the alarm and started the process of cashing in and readying the shop for the morning rush. She specifically opened at 7 so people could get their cars in on their way to work. It had garnered her some browny points among the locals and she was glad of it. Throwing on her coveralls, Laura went into work mode.

 

      ***

 

      Laf had been the one to come in for 7 to work with her that morning and thankfully, they weren’t in a talkative mood. Laura knew that had it been Danny she would have been hounded constantly for answers regarding her well being. She knew Danny only did it out of concern for Laura but she was over it. If she wanted to talk she would, end of story.

 

      “Hey Laura, we finally have a lull in customers so I’m gonna take my coffee break, okay?” Laf wiped their brow with the back of their hand, smearing grease across it.

 

      “For sure, I’ll just be washing the bay out so take your time.” She was already in the process of spraying the floor down with cleaner.

 

      Laf nodded their head before heading to the sink to wash up. Perry would kill them if they showed up in the office dirty. Lafontaine dried their hands and made the short walk to the back of the shop.

 

      Opening the door they saw Perry look up, a small smile lighting her face. “Hey honey, is it break time already?”

 

      “Yeah the morning rush just ended so I’m taking advantage of the situation. Besides, Laura looked like she needed a moment to herself.” Lafontaine situated themselves on the edge of the desk.

 

      Perry frowned as she replied “I’m worried about her. I didn’t think she’d take SJ’s passing so hard since she barely knew her. Especially with Kirsch out of the woods and on the mend.”

 

      Lafontaine shook their head as they glanced towards the door, “Honestly Perr, I don’t think that’s what has her so shook up. I don’t know what it is exactly but SJ isn’t it.” They looked back at Perry with a concerned expression. 

 

      “One of us should talk to her, maybe we can get her to confide in us.” Perry started to rise from her chair and move towards the door before Laf stopped her with a gentle hand on her arm. “No. Trust me, that isn’t what she needs right now. She’s shut down. She won’t talk to us, we just....” Laf paused, considering the options before continuing, “.... we just need to be here so that when she’s ready, she has someone to turn to. That’s all we can do right now. Support is what she needs, not an interrogation.” They looked at Perry earnestly, hoping she’d back down.

 

      Perry looked to the door with a line creasing her brow before sighing and relaxing into Lafontaine’s hold. “You’re right.” Laf released a breath in relief. “Lafontaine you do realize though that Danny won’t be so easy to get through to. We’ll need to talk to her before she see’s Laura.”

 

      “Shit you’re right.” Laf looked at their watch. “Well she starts at 10 so we’ll make sure to ambush her before she finds Laura. That’s kind of our only option, or else she might find herself fired and Laura will end up in an even deeper funk.”

 

      Perry sighed again and sat on the edge of her desk next to Lafontaine, leaning her head on their shoulder. Laf’s hand found her own and intertwined their fingers. “This isn’t going to be easy.”

 

***

 

      Laura shut off the shops lights, and set the alarm before leaving and locking the door. It had been a strange day. She had fully expected Danny to be all over her but strangely enough not many words had been spoken between the two. She felt like a horrible person for it but she felt relieved. She had a feeling Laf and Perry had had something to do with it since Danny had been pulled bodily into the office as she walked in the back door that morning, before emerging with a carefully constructed facade of calm. She was infinitely grateful to Laf and Perry for that, she’d find a way to thank them soon.

 

      She knew it wouldn’t last and Danny would break eventually. She was too invested in other people, to her own detriment. So she’d enjoy it while it lasted though.

 

      Opening her car door Laura clambered in to the drivers seat. She didn’t start the engine right away, rather she found herself just sitting. She didn’t really want to go home, she’d only have her thoughts for company that way and god knew she didn’t need more time to think.

 

      Laura sat back and considered her options. Danny was obviously out. Kirsch was still recovering in the hospital and going through so much with SJ being gone so she wasn’t about to burden him with her lacklustre company. Laf and Perry had been amazingly good about everything but she knew they also were hungry for answers. She couldn’t show up on their doorstep unless she was willing to confide in them, which she definitely wasn’t. Same thing with her dad.

 

      So who was left? Laura laughed bitterly as she came to the conclusion that she didn’t really have anyone she could just exist in space with. Her friends and family cared deeply for her, that wasn’t in doubt. But they cared so much that they weren’t capable of just letting things lie. Not if they thought she was hurting. She knew she should be grateful for that, but in that moment she couldn’t be.

 

      But wait...... there was one person. Maybe. She seemed to be even less interested in delving into feelings than Laura was, but at the same time she had shown that kindness to Laura on Saturday so she couldn’t be entirely detached. If she was willing, she may be able to provide what Laura needs.

 

      Finding her resolve, Laura turned the key in the ignition and drove.

 

      She was at the pub not long after and upon walking through it, she couldn’t find the raven haired girl anywhere. It was Monday evening so the place was far from busy, must be that it wasn’t busy enough to have the boss around. 

 

      Remembering she lived above the place, Laura headed outside and around back. There was a staircase up to the second level where a small landing stretched the width of the building’s back wall, and a single door was recessed into it.

 

      Momentarily doubting herself, Laura hesitated. There was a very real possibility she was overstepping her bounds here. 

 

      Laura huffed to herself and squared her shoulders. Nothing to lose though. 

 

      She ascended the stairs and knocked three times on the scarred metal door. It took a few moments but she heard some scuffling on the other side before it opened to reveal Carmilla.

 

      The girl briefly flashed surprise across her features before she brought up the emotionless mask.

 

      “Cupcake, what are you doing here?” despite her apparent resolve not to show any feeling, her brow creased. Whether in confusion or anger Laura wasn’t sure.

 

      “I never thanked you for Saturday and I just realized that was a dick thing to do so thank you. Also I don’t really want to be alone right now, but I can’t talk to my friends or family because they care too much and god that sounds like a horrible thing to say but I just don’t want to be alone but I don’t want to talk to anyone either and you’re kinda the only person I know who knows enough about the situation to understand but also who I know little enough not to push for details and......” Laura ran out of breath in her rambling and sucked in a large breath to continue, but she was cut off cleanly before she had a chance.

 

      “Want a drink?” Carmilla shrugged one shoulder before stepping back into her home, leaving the door wide open.

 

      Laura released the breath she had pulled in, and stepped into the girls home before closing the door firmly behind her.

 

Chapter Text

      “Sure, I’ll have whatever you’re having.”

 

      Laura had to admit, Carmilla’s home wasn’t what she was expecting. Although she hadn’t put a great deal of thought into it, the vibe she got off Carmilla didn’t lend itself to the kind of aesthetic she was seeing. 

 

      First of all, Carmilla was a dog person? She totally would have pegged her as a cat fan. Within seconds of closing the door, she was rushed by two rather large and hairy animals. Laura stumbled back quickly, out of reflex more than actual fear.

 

      “Anderson, Shivers. Heel.” Carmilla hadn’t even turned or acknowledged the dogs beyond her words but immediately upon hearing their mistress’ command, the two great dogs pulled back slightly and sat on their haunches. 

 

      Walking forward with cautious steps, Laura extended a hand to each dog, palm up and below the level of their heads. She looked up towards Carmilla as the two beasts sniffed her curiously. “Thanks, these two are about as big as I am, I don’t know that I’d still be standing if you hadn’t stopped them.”

 

      “Don’t mention it.” She had reached her fridge and was pulling out two bottles of beer, popping the caps off with the help of a wall mounted opener.

 

      As Carmilla wandered towards her living area with her dogs in tow, Laura got a good look at the place. It was a loft space, and rather larger than it looked from the exterior of the building. The ceilings were high, and the windows were barely within reach. They were long and squat, stretching a good length along the two long walls that ran the length of the space. The main door was perpendicular to the left wall and a little ways in front of it was the kitchen area, with a butchers block style island that was scarred from use and it’s surface was no longer flat after a presumably long period of existing. The appliances were new and still shiny chrome. To the right of the kitchen was the dining area with just a small table and two chairs. Beyond that and still along the right wall was the living area. A long and low leather couch in warm brown leather sat with it’s back to the dining area, a coffee table sat before it with a few remotes and game controllers and the rather excessively large TV in front of that and against the back wall. There was a single deep winged back chair to the right of the couch and angled slightly towards the TV. To the left of the dining area and immediately behind the kitchen was a block of walls which Laura assumed to be the bathroom as above it and the living area, was the loft. A staircase ran parallel to the kitchen and a half wall ran the width of the space, leaving everything but the bathroom in the home exposed. There were also dog beds and various toys scattered around, clearly the dogs addition.

 

      The whole place was contrasting textures from the warm woods of the counters and tables, to stark metals in the appliances and lighting fixtures, to soft rugs on the cool barn panelled hard wood floors and woven blankets thrown across the couch and chair. The walls were adorned with everything ranging from paintings, to movie posters, to neon signs and everything in between. It felt like a home. All of a sudden Laura’s stark and utilitarian house felt rather less lived in.

 

      Laura took her cue from Carmilla and followed her to the couch, propping herself gingerly on the far end and leaving a respectable amount of space between them. She shrugged off her jacket and draped it over the arm of the couch before reaching for the beer waiting for her on the coffee table, sans coaster. The wooden surface was marred with many water marks and glasses rings. It had character.

 

      “I appreciate you letting me in earlier. You didn’t have any good reason to but you did, so thanks for that.” As Laura settled herself, one of the dogs hopped onto the couch, filling the space between her and Carmilla.

 

      Carmilla flicked her eyes towards Laura and looked at her for a few moments, for once not giving anything away in her expression. She lifted her right hand and started scratching behind the ears of the dog who had lain their head in her lap happily. “It’s okay cutie. But I thought you weren’t in a talking mood? Yet here you are, talking.”

 

      Laura grimaced. “Yeah. I guess I just meant not talking about what it was that brought me here, y’know? So anyway. Who is this who’s butt is in my lap?” The dog was so large that even with their head in Carmilla’s lap, their butt was in Laura’s.

 

      That rare smirk found itself being worn by Carmilla. “This is Anderson. She’s a great dane and as giant a softy as she is generally giant. The other one is Shivers, an Irish wolfhound. He’s a little more antisocial but once he gets used to you, you’ll have his loyalty until the day he dies.”

 

      Anderson was a warm golden colour, all long and lean muscles. Kind of like her owner but for her sunny shade. Shivers was all wiry grey fur and deep, probing eyes that seemed to miss nothing. He was laid out on a large dog bed in the corner by the TV and staring her down, seemingly trying to make up for his friendly greeting by being the guard dog he thought he should be. He also only had one eye, which Laura was sure there was a story behind. Laura guessed that he seemed to also resemble Carmilla. 

 

      Huh. I guess that thing about dogs and owners looking like each other is a real thing. Who knew.

 

      Laura smiled softly and scratched the lower back of Anderson. “I like them. I never had dogs but I’ve always wanted one.”

 

      “Once you do, you’ll find it hard to live without at least one.” Carmilla’s face lit up with a real smile as she looked down at the adoring animal falling asleep in her lap. Laura thought it was one of the most genuine things she had seen in a long time. She felt the walls of the cracks within herself yearning towards each other, as though they were trying to shut at the sight of such pure feeling and an obviously strong and real bond.

 

      “I don’t doubt it.” She took the opportunity to study Carmilla more closely than she had had a chance to before.

 

      She already knew she was gorgeous, but seeing the warmth in her features almost literally painted her in a different light. The sharp angles seemed softer, the tight jaw muscles relaxed, the usually pursed lips pulled back across clean white teeth in a smile, and her brow relaxed from their perpetual furrowing of displeasure. 

 

      Like this she was beautiful. Laura felt like she was getting a glimpse at a person not often shown and she wasn’t taking it for granted. She needed to see something like that, today especially. Seeing true happiness in someone else gave her a little of that hope she had lost so long ago.

 

      And just like that, the atmosphere was changed as Carmilla looked back up at Laura through her bangs.

 

      God, how does someone go from being such a softie to smouldering in 0.2 seconds flat. Not even fair.

 

      “So. What do you want to do cupcake?” Carmilla smirked at Laura, obviously having something in mind already.

 

      Aaaaaaand, flirty Carmilla is back. Honestly I will never be able to read this girl.

 

      Doing her best not to rise to the bait, Laura made a cursory glance around the apartment before her eyes settled on something and a slow smile spread across her features, almost feral in it’s intensity.

 

      She lifted her right hand and pointed. “That. We are doing that.”

 

***

 

      Turns out Carmilla is a bit of a gamer and Laura couldn’t be happier. They quickly set up Carmilla’s Xbox 360 and threw in guitar hero 4. Laura settled herself behind the drum kit while Carmilla took up the guitar.

 

      “You think you can keep up creampuff?” Carmilla side eyed Laura, issuing a clear challenge to which Laura scoffed.

 

      In lieu of answering verbally, Laura navigated the menus and choose her difficulty. Expert. She lifted her chin proudly and stared Carmilla down in her own challenge.

 

      A cheshire cat-like grin stole onto Carmilla’s face as she matched the difficulty setting. They both turned to the TV set prepared to duke it out.

 

      They launched into B.Y.O.B by System of a Down right away. They weren’t kidding around and Laura saw right away that she was up for a real challenge with Carmilla. She absolutely shredded the opening solo and Laura had a tough time not showing just how impressed she was.

 

      Undaunted and charged to show her stuff, she nailed the opening drum part. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the approving smile from Carmilla although she was sure the girl thought Laura couldn’t have seen it. Little did she know that Laura was a great multitasker and had exceptional periphery vision. 

 

      They flew through the song, and just continued non-stop thereafter. Moving onto Misery Business by Paramore, Our Truth by Lacuna Coil, Stillborn by Black Label Society, and countless others.

 

      They only stopped every once in a while to refresh their drinks or to let the dogs out. To be honest, they really shouldn’t have been drinking as much as they were considering it was Monday night and Laura at least had to be up super early to open the shop. But Laura was actually having a fantastic time and she wasn’t willing to cut that short just yet.

 

      Finally her arms were feeling the effects of just nailing the drum set for who knew how long, and she put down the drumsticks after their latest song before flopping backwards into the couch cushions.

 

      “Ugh I am sooooore. This won’t make my job any easier tomorrow.” Laura scrubbed her hands over her face, trying to rid herself of the cobwebs that were clutching at her brain and trying to lull her to sleep.

 

      “Amateur. I’d have thought you’d have more arm strength, not to mention stamina.” Carmilla smirked and raised a perfectly maintained eyebrow at Laura as she sat cross legged at the other end of the couch.

 

      Laura narrowed her eyes and stared right back. She was gonna give as much as she got if that was how Carmilla wanted to play it.

 

      “Well, at least now I know what your expectations are. I promise I won’t disappoint next time.” She looked up at Carmilla through her eyelashes as she kept her head low.

 

      Carmilla visibly baulked at that, clearly not expecting that kind of reaction. 

 

      Interesting. I guess she isn’t used to anyone not immediately succumbing to her wiles. Well isn’t that a tasty tidbit. And oh so useful.

 

      Laura unfolded herself from the comfy embrace of the couch, stretching her arms, then back and finally her legs and toes as she rose to stand fully. She sneaked a glance towards Carmilla and to her satisfaction saw the raven haired girls eyes darken and her breath catch in her throat.

 

      Not willing to be the loser of their little game, Laura gathered her things and moved to the front door. Anderson followed her closely and tiredly. As she reached down to grab her boots and push her feet into them the great dane leaned her weight on Laura as she stood against her side. Maybe a larger person could have held up against that sort of weight but not only did Laura weigh close to the same as the dog but she was also bent over and already out of balance due to the alcohol in her system. So really, who was surprised when she shrieked and fell over gracelessly and face planted onto the floor.

 

      Well, there goes my advantage.

 

      She heard Carmilla busting a gut laughing behind her, and after lifting her head and glancing back, she saw the girl doubled over, arms clutching her sides and red faced from the hysterics she was experiencing.

 

      “Okay I’m sure it was funny, but was it really that funny?” She huffed indignantly up at Carmilla from her still sprawled position on the floor.

 

      “Oh sweetie, you didn’t see it or hear that ridiculous sound that came out of your mouth. I didn’t know it was humanly possible to be honest with you. But I am so glad I got to hear it. My life is complete, I can die happily now that I’ve heard a human reach such an unheard of decibel.” 

 

      Unable to remain stoic in the face of a normally hard to read person being so unabashedly amused, Laura also broke into laughter. Because really, how else were you supposed to respond to such a situation?

 

      Carmilla finally gathered herself, only releasing the occasional chuckle now and reached a hand down to help Laura to her feet.

 

      She gladly accepted the offer and grasped Carmilla’s hand and was pulled rather effortlessly back to her feet. Once standing she realized she was still holding Carmilla’s hand but neither moved to break contact just yet. 

 

      The thought popped into Laura's head that this was actually the first time the two had touched with skin to skin contact. Carmilla’s hands were surprisingly rough, much more like Laura’s actually. But the hand was strong and warm, and very pleasant. 

 

      Carmilla was the one to move and pull her hand back, almost...... wait was she blushing? Laura sputtered a laugh at that thought, she really couldn’t help herself.

 

      “Okay sundance, I think you’ve had too much to drink. Come on, you’re sleeping here tonight. I’m not letting you drive.” Carmilla grabbed Laura’s arm and pulled her back towards the living room.

 

      “Why Miss Karnstein, are you concerned for my well being?” Laura joked weakly as she felt herself drifting off before she even reached the couch.

 

      “Obviously not. I’m worried you’ll crash that beautiful car of yours. And that is something I can’t abide.” She gently pushed Laura down lengthwise on the couch. “Get some sleep, you’ll be comfortable here. Anderson might try to sleep on you though. If she does, just push her off and I’ll make sure to ignore any thumping noises I hear.”

 

      With that Carmilla grabbed the blanket on the back of the couch and threw it over Laura with a flourish and a grin.

 

      She retreated to the staircase and looked back at the already sleeping form of the mechanic. “Goodnight, Laura.” 

 

      Turning, Carmilla ascended the stairs to her bedroom with Shivers following closely behind.

 

      As if reading Carmilla’s mind, Anderson stayed where she was and curled up as closely to the couch as she could, keeping their inebriated guest company.

 

Chapter Text

      When Laura woke up on Tuesday morning, it wasn’t to the usual Tardis sound effect but rather a very wet tongue laving across her face.

 

      “Pppffffftttttttt! What the hell!” Laura shot up and scrambled backwards, her back finding purchase in the couch cushions. She aimed a glare at the perpetrator but it fizzled quickly as Anderson was giving her literal puppy dog eyes paired with an open mouthed grin. “Ugh, why are you so cute? No one should be that cute this early.” 

 

      Squinting her eyes, Laura surveyed her surroundings and remembered that Carmilla made her stay due to the little bit of drinking she had done the night before. She hadn’t been sloppily drunk, not by a long shot but she had to admit she was a little too far gone to have been driving. She glanced towards the coffee table where her phone was sitting and grabbed it to check the time.

 

      “Hoooly shit! I should have opened the shop 2 hours ago!” Laura shot to her feet but in her haste she fell (again.)

 

      “Really creampuff, you need to learn how to use your feet. It’s a pretty simple concept, one in front of the other. I’d have thought that by your age you’d have a better grasp on it.”

 

      Seeking the source of the jibe, Laura looked up to see a disheveled Carmilla standing at the bottom of her staircase.

 

      Holy crap sticks, what is it about the living in this house. They all look so cute in the morning.

 

      Carmilla was wearing a loose pair of grey sweatpants and a black t-shirt. Her hair was sticking up on one side of her head and quite wild. Her eyes were lidded as though she was not yet awake, and her lips were puffy from sleep.

 

      The pub owner turned and shambled toward her front door after she snapped her fingers, calling Anderson and Shivers to follow her. The two obeyed seemingly without second thought and flew down the outside stairs after Carmilla opened the door for them. She didn’t follow them and instead just stood on the landing, door ajar to presumably keep an eye on them.

 

      Muttering under her breath in annoyance, Laura stood up (more carefully this time) and stretched properly. “Well some people have places to be in the morning unlike present company.” Speaking up clearly she continued. “I was rushing. I should have opened the shop hours ago but I’m still here oddly enough. I don’t know why my alarm didn’t go off......” She lifted her phone and opening the app, saw that her alarm had been deactivated. “Wait, who?... Did you turn my alarm off?”

 

      Carmilla replied without turning from her perch outside. “Yep. You seemed like you needed the rest. Don’t worry about the shop, I texted Laf last night and they opened for you.”

 

      To say Laura was surprised would be a gross understatement. Although she probably shouldn’t have been. For all that she didn’t know Carmilla all that well (outside of her flirty, broody nature and rather impressive guitar hero prowess) she did at least know that the girl was capable of immense acts of kindness. If taking her to the hospital over the weekend hadn’t been enough, seeing her interact with Kirsch’s mum and then with her dogs, would have convinced her. And now she had another kindness to add to that list.

 

      With a sigh, Laura came to the conclusion that she had a lot to make up for. She hadn’t actually thanked Carmilla properly for all she had done with her. She determined that that would change.

 

      “Thank you, Carmilla. I’ll bet Laf was surprised to hear from you. I didn’t know you even had their number.” Laura made her way outside to stand with Carmilla at the guard rail. She crossed her arms and laid them along the edge, then leant her head on them while looking up at the raven haired beauty in curiosity.

 

      “They were. I got their number from Kirsch. They were also pretty surprised to hear you were with me. Apparently you have a reputation cutie.” Carmilla glanced at Laura with that small crooked smile of hers.

 

      Laura scrunched her eyebrows up in confusion. “What do you mean? I don’t know what that means.”

 

      With a sigh Carmilla stood up straight and turned to look at Laura head on. “It means cupcake, that you have a habit of cloistering yourself and refusing to talk to anyone. Lafontaine said you’ve been in a funk lately and that hearing you were actually around someone was a shock.”

 

      “Laf certainly said a lot by the sounds of it.” She turned to look out over the back lot and away from Carmilla. Behind the bar stretched a good sized forest. The whole town was sort of in the middle of nowhere and everything was surrounded by trees on all sides. The pub was on the far outskirts of town just like Laura’s house and she found comfort in the relative solitude it offered. 

 

      She heard a long sigh expelled from Carmilla. “Don’t get all pissy over it. They’re just concerned about you. You’re lucky to have friends who care that much.” The girl let out a short whistle and the dogs came bounding back up the stairs and in the door. The two girls followed.

 

      Laura knew she was right. It just got to be a little overbearing at times. Ruminating on it, Laura sat down on a barstool sitting next to the island.

 

      “Want coffee?” Carmilla was already getting a pot started and pulling out two mugs from a cupboard.

 

      Cocoa was Laura’s usual go to but she didn’t want to seem ungrateful so she accepted. After the coffee was poured, the two sat in silence while they made it through the final stages of waking up.

 

***

 

      Lunchtime found Laura strolling into the shop after having gone home to shower and change.

 

      “She lives! Glad to see you Laura.” Lafontaine smiled at Laura while wiping their hands free of oil from the filter they’d just thrown in the waste barrel.

 

      Making her way through the shop, Laura waved at Danny who was balancing a set of tires in the corner, and smiled at Perry who was just entering her office.

 

      “Thank you so much for opening today Laf. I really appreciate it.” She gripped the shoulder of the redhead as she made her way downstairs to put on her coveralls.

 

      Lafontaine followed Laura in the interest of pulling a little more information out of their friend.

 

      Pulling open the door of her locker, Laura grabbed a set of clean coveralls and pulled them on over her clothes.

 

      “Soooooo. You spent the night with Carmilla, eh?” Laf smiled widely at Laura, clearly having gleaned more from that little bit of information than was there to be gleaned.

 

      Laura could only laugh at the insinuation. “Dude, it wasn’t like that. We played guitar hero and had a few beers. I was buzzed so didn’t drive home. That’s it.”

 

      “Hmmm... If you say so boss. I just had no idea that you guys knew each other outside of us having serviced her car the other day and having Kirsch in common.” Laf acted as though they took Laura’s word for it, but they were definitely sure they were on to something. It certainly required a little more investigating.

 

      “I didn’t really know her. Or rather, I don’t.” She offered up no more information on that. She knew that if she told Laf exactly how curious about the girl she actually was, she’d never live it down.

 

      Not to mention she’d have to tell Laf why she went over there in the first place and she wasn’t prepared for that. Last night had been a good night and she had momentarily forgotten about the things that plagued her. Dissecting the interaction would only serve to bring those things out into the open and for the moment, Laura wanted to live in the carefree feeling she had found while playing video games with a new friend.

 

      Was she a friend? Did she have that sort of relationship with Carmilla? Whatever, that’s a thought for another time, Laura. Snap out of it.

 

      Lafontaine raised their eyebrows, picking up on the air of finality Laura had layered into her words. 

 

      “Okay. Anyway, we have a car coming in right after lunch for a transmission flush. You want any help with that?”

 

      “Nah, I’ll get that myself. You take care of the lube bay along with Danny.” She zipped up her coveralls and moved to pull her hair into a messy sort of topknot.

 

      “Aye aye, captain.” Lafontaine stood straight and saluted at Laura before grinning and sprinting up the stairs.

 

      Huffing a laugh, Laura rolled her eyes and made to follow her friend upstairs.

 

***

 

      Just about an hour before closing, they had an unexpected visitor. Or rather, four.

 

      Laura had finished up the transmission flush and had done a brake job afterwards. She was now rolling out a couple of new sets of tires to sit in the outdoor tire racks when she saw the Camaro pull into the lot. She had all of five seconds to prepare after a car door opened before she was being knocked onto her ass by a large golden blur.

 

      “Ack! Anderson! I saw you this morning, calm down will you?” For all her words were admonishing, Laura was laughing uncontrollably and scratching the dog behind the ears.

 

      “Hey Laura. I didn’t know you knew Carmilla or her dogs.” Laura looked up to see that Kirsch had been the one to address her, and she was quick to stand and hug him as tightly as was safe given his current condition.

 

      “Kirsch! I’m so glad you’re okay.” She spoke directly into his sternum where her face was squished. She pulled back slightly to address him properly. “When did you get out of the hospital?”

 

      “Just now. Carmilla picked me up.” Kirsch gave Laura a weak smile, his eyes were heavy with dark circles under them and he looked like he hadn’t slept since the accident.

 

      “How were you even released? I mean you had surgery so I would have thought they’d keep you a while longer. Also, why are the dogs with you? Since when do hospitals let dogs in? And why are you here? You should be at home, resting. You should go home, I’ll come by later with some cookies. I make really good cookies, did you know that? I’ll make a batch especially for you. Get well cookies! You do like cookies, right?” Laura regarded Kirsch with a very serious expression, brows furrowed in concern.

 

      Her rambling had managed to pull a light chuckle out of the injured party and an eye roll from the girl walking up behind him.

 

      “The surgery was on my right arm. I, uh. I had my arm around SJ’s shoulder’s so my hand and arm got crushed in the crash.” It looked as though saying the words had caused actual harm to the man and Laura instantly felt guilty for being so nosey and she flinched slightly. “They saved it but I’m going to be wearing this cast for a while and I’ll need physical therapy after.” He gently lifted his arm which must have been heavy for the amount of plaster weighing it down. “Carmilla brought the dogs because they always make me feel better. They’re family too, y’know?” Kirsch shrugged a shoulder while reaching down to scratch behind one of Shivers’ ears. The great grey dog had followed the man closely and seemingly refused to leave his side.

 

      Laura nodded her head in understanding, throwing a significant look at the girl behind her friend. “Well I’m glad you’re out Kirsch. You’re pretty important around here. You’re basically our mascot.” She smiled up at him and patted him on the chest.

 

      “Thanks little nerd.” He smiled a more genuine smile at Laura before looking up at the sudden commotion outside the shop doors.

 

      Perry, Lafontaine and Danny had all realized Kirsch was there and came outside to welcome him back. This left Laura standing a little ways away with Carmilla, who hadn’t uttered a word since arriving.

 

      “Hey, thanks for bringing him by. I know everyone has been worried about him.” She pushed her hands into her pockets, all of a sudden feeling awkward. “Also. Thanks for Saturday. And last night. You have been really kind to me and I appreciate it. You drove me to the hospital and then let me invade your home. And you didn’t ask questions. I don’t know how you knew what I needed but you did. So, thanks.” Finishing her statement, Laura turned her eyes to the ground and scuffed her feet in the dirt.

 

      For a few moments, no other sound was heard but for Laura’s other friends welcoming Kirsch. Fearing she had overstepped yet again she looked up at the other girl. She wasn’t sure what she was hoping to see, but the image she was faced with was not expected.

 

      Carmilla just stood there, head cocked to one side with eyes boring into Laura. 

 

      Still without saying anything the raven haired girl smiled softly and nodded her head in a quick gesture before walking passed Laura and towards Kirsch and the others, her shoulder having brushed Laura’s as she passed. 

 

      Looking down again Laura smiled as well. She glanced to her left where Anderson had been sitting through the entire interaction.

 

      “Your mom is pretty amazing, did you know that?” She crouched down to the dogs level to pat her properly.

 

      Anderson’s only response was to push her large head into Laura’s chest and sigh. “Yeah, you definitely know already. I think you’re smarter than people give you credit for.” Laura spoke the words quietly into the top of the dogs head before planting a soft kiss between her ears and hugging her properly.

 

      Although she was oblivious to it, Laura and Anderson’s little moment hadn’t gone unnoticed. Carmilla stood at the shop door having held it open for everyone to go inside. She was the last one outside other than Laura and Anderson but she found her eyes glued to the brunette who was sharing a tender moment with a member of her family. Her eyes softened at the sight and she couldn’t help the little smile that found it’s way onto her lips.

 

Chapter Text

      The following days found Carmilla and the dogs as regular visitors to the shop. When confronted by Laf, Carmilla said it was because the dogs missed Laura. Which while that was true, Laura knew the excuse for what it was. She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t secretly pleased about it.

 

      Laura just went home after work on Friday night, opting out of the traditional pub night with the group. She just wasn’t up to the loud, talkative, and optimistic atmosphere that always permeated any interaction with all of them. It was almost worse than usual the past week since Kirsch had gotten out of the hospital. Laf, Perry and Danny were going out of their way to try and get his mind off of what happened, or at least show him that there were still good things to focus on. It was great of them, but Laura just wasn’t feeling it.

 

      She had to keep up that happy go lucky facade with all of them and honestly? It was exhausting. Sure, generally she was a happy person but some of her more morbid and shocking opinions and mannerisms caught her friends by surprise. They tended to worry and maybe they were right in that, but she just didn’t have the energy for that tonight. She loved her dark sense of humour personally, but it didn’t gel with overprotective Danny, proper Perry, or literal Lafontaine. 

 

      Laura just wasn’t ready to explain herself when they asked concerned questions about why she had a strong love and aching obsession with Lisbeth Salander, or her never-ending fascination with over the top gory, bloody and violent films, or even her roster of rocker chick crushes (ranging from Maria Brink, Brody Dalle, Lzzy Hale, or Taylor Momsen) whom when she tried to wax poetic about them once they accused her of punking them. They’d push (they’d be well meaning of course. They are pretty great and just harbour a genuine interest in their friend and boss) and while talking about those things would be awesome, the secrets in her past would inevitably come up due to the parallels she would invariably draw. Laura definitely wasn’t ready to talk about her past, not by a long shot.

 

      So instead she put on her footie onesie, cranked up Sing Sing Death House by The Distillers and revelled in the angst while she danced like a crazy person.

 

      It was in this moment she was caught. One arm raised outwards while the other strummed on an imaginary guitar, her feet crow hopping across her living room.

 

      A loud knocking was heard from her front door and of course she had left the inside door open, leaving only the screen door between her and the outside world. It was through this thin barrier that none other than Carmilla was staring slack-jawed at Laura.

 

      “Oh shit!” Laura screeched to a halt, onesie clad feet sliding a little on the floor as she halted her movements suddenly.

 

      Making her way to the door, Laura attempted to fix her hair that undoubtedly was doing.... things thanks to her excessive head banging.

 

      “Hey Carmilla! What are you doing here? Isn’t the pub too busy for you to be gone tonight?” Laura spoke loudly and contrary to her words, she opened her door to allow the raven haired girl and her two shadows to enter her still very loud house.

 

      “Eh. My employees can handle it. And if for some inane reason they can’t, they shouldn’t be working for me and this will tell me who to cull.” Carmilla replied with a raised voice before she stopped a few feet in the house, perhaps stopped by the invisible sound barrier thrown out from the speakers strategically placed throughout the living room.

 

      “Oh. I guess that makes sense. Although I always feel uncomfortable not being in the shop when it’s open. Without me there things get... intense.” Laura was unwilling in that moment to speak of work or her friends so she didn’t elaborate. “But you didn’t answer my first question. Why are you here?”

 

      The pub owner turned on her heel to face Laura. “I saw you weren’t hanging out with the ginger brigade and I was curious about what could be more important than your Friday ritual of downing all my beer. I’m glad to see you have your priorities in order. I wouldn’t have pegged you for a Brody Dalle fan.” Carmilla smiled just slightly, the expression seeming like one of approval to Laura.

 

      “Well, there is a lot you don’t know about me. You’ll have to work for the other answers though.” Laura adopted her best smoulder and moved to brush past Carmilla. Ordinarily it would have been a suave move but it was rather diminished thanks to the grey mouse onesie.

 

      Carmilla really couldn’t help herself and a snicker escaped at the stark contrast between what was said and what she saw. Laura really was a contradiction in terms.

 

      Walking over to her stereo system, Laura turned down the music just enough to be able to talk at a normal level rather than the slight shouting they had been doing before.

 

      “So now that you’ve seen how I’m spending my Friday, is your curiosity fed?” Laura had turned to face Carmilla again, feet spread and hands on hips.

 

      “On the contrary cutie, it’s even hungrier. Also, actually hungry. Can I eat?” 

 

      Wow, this girl has no shame. Who’d have thunk I would find it refreshing?

 

      “Actually, I was going to make breakfast for dinner. How does that sound?” Had anyone else barged in on Laura in this situation or mood, she would have been furious. But Carmilla never asked anything of Laura and seemed just as content to exist in each other’s space so she was glad of the interruption. She didn’t have to spend her Friday alone, or put on a face to appease someone. It was a win win honestly.

 

      A slow grin stole onto Carmilla’s features. “Always cupcake.” She walked over to Laura’s kitchen and sat herself on a stool by the breakfast bar.

 

      “Oh no you don’t. I have two rules for people who eat in my house. First is they have to help prepare the food.” Laura grasped Carmilla’s wrist and pulled her bodily from her perch.

 

      “Ooof. Not cool creampuff.” She scowled down at Laura. Seeing that the slightly shorter girl’s resolve was unwavering, she relented. “Fine. What’s the second rule?”

 

      Sensing her victory, Laura giggled. “Oh I’m not telling you, I’m showing you.”

 

***

 

      “No.”

 

      “Oh come on. Why not?”

 

      “Cupcake, I don’t need a reason.”

 

      “Yes you do. You most certainly do if you want food.”

 

      “Are you bribing me?”

 

      “If that’s what it takes, then yes. Yes I am.”

 

      “Now that’s just rude.”

 

      “You act like I care.”

 

      “Godammit, FINE.”

 

***

 

      Laura led the way from her closet back to the kitchen, a surly Carmilla following unenthusiastically. 

 

      “I still don’t know why you made me do this.”

 

      At that comment Laura turned to regard her victim. Carmilla was wearing another one of Laura’s onesies, this one a black cat with a purple belly. The hood was pulled up and the expression on Carmilla’s face spelled murder, with a side of ‘I will fuck your shit up.’

 

      “Because now we match. And cooking together requires harmony. This helps with that.” She turned to the pantry before stalling and adding to her previous statement. “Also, because I said so.”

 

      For all that Laura was scavenging supplies to make waffles, she still felt the holes being bored into the back of her head by the sizzling glare sent her way. Not like it stopped her though, or even make her pause. She had experience with far worse types than the broody pub owner from the other end of town.

 

      Finding all she was looking for, Laura put everything they needed on the counter and went to turn the music up again.

 

      Clapping her hands together in a decisive manner, Laura set the tone for the oncoming activity. “Okay. Let’s do this.”

 

***

 

      “Creampuff, that is altogether too many chocolate chips for that amount of batter.”

 

      “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

***

 

      The two women had long finished their dinner but were far from done for the evening. They had the new In This Moment album Black Widow blasting at full volume and were full on thrashing in the living room. Shivers and Anderson looking on in disinterest. Which Laura found heartening because clearly they were used to this kind of behaviour from their mistress if they were so blasé about it now.

 

      They were a sight to be seen, two tiny women in animal onesies thrashing to metal while two overlarge canines observed. It was one for the history books.

 

      By the time Carmilla deemed it time to call it a night (she would never admit it but she didn’t like to change the dog’s routine too much) they had made it through the whole album and some Pretty Reckless. Suffice it to say that they were exhausted.

 

      “I can’t remember the last time I danced that hard. I am going to sleep soooo soundly tonight.” Laura flopped onto her couch while the other girl stood stock still, feet spread and arms hanging at her sides while staring at the ceiling.

 

      “Fuck me cupcake, I didn’t know you had it in you. You’re full of surprises.” Carmilla slanted her head and looked down at Laura with a smirk.

 

      “I try. And maybe later.” A little of Laura’s scarcely seen bold nature leaked through and she waited in anticipation for a reaction.

 

      “Well played. I don’t think I’d have the energy for it right now anyway.” The darker girl seemed to be taking the many revelations in relative stride now much to Laura’s pleasure.

 

      Carmilla adjusted her stance, looking down at the now slightly sweaty onesie.

 

      “Ummm. Not to be gross or anything but I kinda sweated hardcore through this thing. I’m going to take it home and wash it before I give it back to you.” Without waiting for a reply Carmilla moved to the front door where she donned her boots and grabbed her car keys.

 

      She snapped her fingers and her companions rose and went to meet her at the door.

 

      Laura also got up in order to say goodbye to the party.

 

      “Interesting. I knew that trick worked with these two but I like knowing it works on you too.” Carmilla narrowed her eyes at Laura and a small smile graced her features.

 

      Instead of replying verbally Laura just rolled her eyes before stepping closer and enveloping the other girl in a bone crushing hug.

 

      Caught by surprise Carmilla huffed out a breath before slowly wrapping her arms around the brunette.

 

      “Thank you.” She didn’t feel the need to say anything else seeing as Carmilla always seemed to know what Laura needed so doubtless she also knew what she meant with those few words.

 

      At this Carmilla relaxed more into the hug as she nuzzled into Laura’s shoulder.

 

      “Anytime Laura.”

 

      They withdrew from the hug and Laura knelt to give the same treatment to Anderson and a quick scratch behind Shivers’ ears.

 

      “Drive safely please.” Laura retreated to lean a shoulder on the wall and regard her guests as they left.

 

      “Always.” With this as a parting phrase, Carmilla headed out to her car and let the two large dogs into the back before getting behind the wheel and driving away.

 

      Laura closed and locked her front door before making her way to bed. 

 

      She had a sneaking suspicion that Carmilla’s taking the onesie to ‘wash’ was a cover for her true intentions. Laura had caught her playing with the ears on the hood with a soft smile a few times in the evening and was quite positive Carmilla simply hadn’t wanted to admit how much she liked it.

 

      Quite satisfied with the nights surprise turn of events, Laura fell asleep with a smile on her face for the first time in a very long time.

 

Chapter Text

      A few weeks later with no appearance by the cat onesie, and a surprise visit of her own would prove Laura’s suspicions correct. 

 

      She had burst into her friends apartment one night to see her dancing to Contagious by Night Riots with Anderson’s paws on her shoulders, acting the part of the lovely dance partner. Carmilla was of course, wearing the onesie.

 

      Her loud exclamation of ‘HAH!’ wasn’t exactly welcome and she endured a threat of death where ‘I will cut off your hand, use it to dig out your still beating heart and then stuff it down your throat cupcake.’ Suffice it to say she simply laughed harder while also promising not to say anything.

 

      Their friendship had continued to progress at a significant rate, largely due in part to their unwillingness to push each other or divulge heavy information. Meaning, they didn’t really know each other that well when it came down to things about them. But. That didn’t mean they hadn’t learned about each other or had a measure of who they were. You don’t need to know the facts about someone to know them, you know?

 

      Laura couldn’t have told you where Carmilla went to high school, who stole her first kiss, what made her want to open a bar in a small town, who her inspirations were, or how she came out. But what she could tell you was that she acts cold and unaffected but in reality she is a giant softy. She is fantastic at guitar hero and air guitar, while deep in thought she smiles softly to herself when she thinks no one is watching, her dogs are her life and she would gladly give hers to protect theirs. She values her friendship with Kirsch greatly, as well as anyone else she calls friends (of which there aren’t many but Laura likes to think she’s counted in that group) as is evidenced by her silent and staunch support of them. She is fiercely loyal. And for all her flirtations and innuendos when interacting with Laura, she has absolutely no interest in making Laura uncomfortable or pushing her to do something she doesn’t want to or isn’t ready for. Whenever Laura seems to react unfavourably to Carmilla’s comments, she immediately backs off and changes topics to lighten the mood. What all of this tells Laura is that Carmilla cares more than anyone else she has ever known. She may not show it in the most obvious of ways, but her actions spell it out so clearly. Even when caring for someone hurts her, she can’t stop. Laura supposes this was both a blessing and a curse for the raven haired girl.

 

      When she decided to learn about the girl back after their first interaction, she had never imagined that behind the leather, eyeliner and sass, she’d find such a beautiful soul. She determined that going to the girl’s house that day when she was feeling down was one of the best decisions she’d ever made. Having someone she can be herself around was a gift, and one she wasn’t going to squander so she made every effort to be the same thing for Carmilla. She only hoped she was doing an adequate job of it.

 

***

 

      Carmilla was having a slow Wednesday afternoon doing inventory for the bar when she got a series of very angry texts from the tiny mechanic. The message wasn’t exactly clear but the use of words and phrases like goddamn and chocolate and people are stupid was enough for her to understand the motivation behind them. 

 

      So she armed herself with treats and headed to the lube shop, fully intending to bring Laura out of her funk. She entered the establishment to see Laura wiping down her hands with a rag before throwing it into the trash bin with rather more force than the task required.

 

      “Hey Laf, I’m going to take a break. I think my brain is going to explode.” Laura sighed, gesturing for Carmilla to follow her as she headed to the currently vacant back office.

 

      Lafontaine didn’t look up from the engine bay they were leaned over, but rather nodded their head in acknowledgement of Laura’s statement.

 

      Carmilla trailed after Laura, eyebrow raised in question but didn’t say a word as Laura shut the door and collapsed in the rolling chair situated beside the desk. Carmilla deposited Laura’s hot chocolate on the far side of the desk before pulling herself up and perching on the desk itself with her legs tucked underneath her.

 

      Seeing that Laura was too deep in her funk to start the conversation, Carmilla sighed. “Alright, I’m gonna regret this but.... what’s wrong?”

 

      Laura didn’t respond immediately but she did scrunch her face up in frustration and push the heels of her hands into her eyes.

 

      “That bunched up little face you make when you’re angry is hilarious, buttercup.”

 

      Her little jab had the intended effect and Laura lowered her hands to deliver a half-assed glare at Carmilla.

 

      “Yeah well, I’ve had kind of a shit day. Nothing important though, just a lot of cranky people to deal with.” Laura leaned over and grabbed her hot chocolate, taking a long drink before continuing. “Thank you for this, by the way. Chocolate makes everything better. Only thing that would improve my mood even further would be some cookies.”

 

      Carmilla raised a hand to her chest in mock outrage. “You mean my company isn’t helping? Well I see when I’m not wanted, goodbye Laura!” She got up and moved to go towards the door when Laura’s laughter stopped her, and she turned with a grin to take her seat on the desk again.

 

      “You laugh now, but you’ll be thanking me in a second.” With that she reached into her backpack and pulled out a paper bag with two cookies, which she handed to the mechanic.

 

      Eye’s wide, Laura opened the bag slowly. “Oh my god. I may be in actual love with you right now.”

 

      Laura was too focused on the treasure in her hands to notice the blush that came to Carmilla’s cheeks. She was glad the brunette couldn’t hear the thumping of her heart either. 

 

      “Yeah well, you were bound to fall for me eventually. I’m actually a little offended it took this long and it was cookies that did it. Way to ruin a girl’s ego creampuff.” Carmilla joked to alleviate the tension obviously only felt by her.

 

      Looking up with crumbs dusting her cheeks, Laura laughed again. “Hey. I’m surprised it took you this long to figure out my kryptonite. It’s certainly not my fault you didn’t capitalize on that earlier.” The mechanic smiled at Carmilla, only serving to quicken her heartbeat even further.

 

      Stop it heart. We’re flirting. We flirt. It’s what we do, doesn’t mean she wants anything more than that.

 

      “Maybe I enjoyed making you wait for it.” She winked and smirked down at the shorter girl, enjoying the colour that flushed her slightly more tanned cheeks. “Anyway, I just swung by to drop off your late afternoon sugar rush. I have a few things to take care of. See you later sundance.”

 

      Without waiting for a response Carmilla swept out of the office, her signature hip sway in full effect.

 

      Exiting the shop and sitting in her car, she sat still for a moment before turning the ignition. Knowing how she felt and not knowing how the other girl felt was torture. If only Laura knew the reason she had come to the shop in the first place, she’d never live it down.

 

      As she pulled out of the lot and swung her car in the direction of Kirsch’s house, Carmilla reminisced on how she had gotten there in the first place.

 

      She had lived in the small town pretty well her whole life and the only people she ever talked to were Kirsch and his family. Her’s hadn’t been much of one and she had been thrust into child services and foster homes faster then her biological mothers hand had fallen to strike her. The woman had used and abused her almost to her breaking point and she had only been 6 years old when she was taken into custody. 

 

      She had been in a few foster homes between then and age 7. She never stayed anywhere long, no one wanted to deal with such a broken kid. Her saving grace had been Terry Kirsch, her husband and their goofy son Brody.

 

      So she had grown up with them to call family and felt the love she should have felt from her biological mother. She thinks she had a brother but she couldn’t be sure. She had blocked out a lot of things from those years.

 

      Anyway, she never really opened up to people and the Kirsch’s had been the only exception to that rule throughout her life. So to say they were surprised when at their usual Sunday family dinner one day she asked Brody about the brunette he hung out with in her bar sometimes, would be an understatement.

 

      No one in the town knew her beyond that she had grown up with the kind family and owned the local pub and that was how she liked it. Showing an interest in another person was really out of character for her and Brody eagerly filled her in on not only Laura, but the whole group. She had learned a lot about all of them that night but the only information she retained was anything to do with the mechanic.

 

      She learned that Laura was a fairly recent transplant to the town and she ran her business, saw her new friends occasionally, and generally kept to herself. No one really knew much about her beyond the obvious and the only information anyone really ever gleaned was what the girl’s father shared. He lived a town away and came to visit every few weeks. Even with what he told people though he never told anything personal. He stuck to facts and achievements.

 

      Carmilla was intrigued to say the least. She never acted on anything though. In fact, it had been a few years by this point since she had learned all that. Carmilla continued to be a bit of a loner and she observed Kirsch and his friends instead.

 

      All of this considered, it was a minor miracle that she showed up at the lube shop all those weeks ago. Somehow Kirsch had managed to convince her to get her oil changed since he couldn’t go check on his truck himself due to his job (she had known it was a bullshit excuse, but she ate it up if it meant she could perhaps talk to Laura without looking like a desperate dork.) She had bungled the exchange and came of like a total dick just as she’d feared. Her limited experience with normal interactions kinda screwed that up before she had even had a chance. 

 

      To be fair, that was all her fault since she stayed away from anyone who didn’t have the surname ‘Kirsch’ like they had the bubonic plague. Learning how to be a social human being wasn’t something she had ever been interested in and of course it came back to bite her in the ass now.

 

      Thankfully Laura hadn’t been deterred, or at least not much. Sure, their weird friendship was thanks in large part to a tragedy but it was their mutual respect for their secrets that really grounded them and helped them build up to a weird trust between them. 

 

      Carmilla would be lying if she said she wasn’t interested in whatever it was in Laura’s past that had brought the girl to this little town, or had her eyes shuttering and closing off, or causing her posture to stiffen whenever one of her friends tried to get anything from her. Carmilla had seen it, and she wanted to throttle all of them for not respecting the fact that Laura just wasn’t ready to tell anyone. So she doesn’t say anything because she understands that feeling all too well. If they ever felt like they could tell someone, they would. That’s it.

 

      Seeing the hurt in the brunette brought out the protective streak in her, the same one that had reared it’s ugly head back in junior high school when Kirsch went through his awkward stage and he was bullied mercilessly. 

 

      So not only did she glare daggers at anyone if they looked like they even thought about asking Laura a personal question, but she let her softer side show when it was just the two of them. Laura needed to see it and she needed to show it oddly enough. Besides with the Kirsch’s she had always had to act strong thanks to her history and it was nice to relax and let herself be vulnerable around another person she trusted. Laura’s recent change in attitude hadn’t gone unnoticed by Carmilla and she was proud to be even a little part of that. 

 

      Carmilla also noticed how differently Laura acted around her and conversely around her friends. She understood that all too well as well. It warmed her to know Laura trusted her enough to let down her guard. That they did that for each other, that they could be a little safe haven to retreat to. 

 

      It was obvious to her that she was falling for the girl, but for now she would continue to just be there. Also to enable the brunette’s sugar habit, and to be that person she could be herself around. Carmilla wasn’t interested in jeopardizing that and their trust was too new to risk it. Besides, she wasn’t sure where Laura’s head was in that regard and she wouldn’t risk what they were to each other for something else that wasn’t a sure thing. If it ever came to that, she would leave it up to Laura to make a move.

 

      Carmilla smiled softly to herself as she pulled into Kirsch’s driveway, seeing her dogs in the big picture window with their mouths open in big sloppy smiles and their tails wagging away in excitement at her arrival.

 

      For now she was content with her relationship with Laura. For now it was enough and she was willing to let whatever they had move at it’s own pace. 

 

      She tuned off her car and slid out of the drivers seat, heading immediately for the front door and into the waiting welcome of her two large companions.

 

      Carmilla crouched down to allow them to sniff her while she scratched behind their ears with fervour. Anderson perked up when she smelled the shop and Laura on her, her tail wagging even more aggressively. The dog had grown significantly attached to the tiny mechanic, and it warmed Carmilla’s heart to see.

 

      “Uh, hey Carmilla. How was your day?” Kirsch came around the corner from his kitchen, looking apprehensive and scared.

 

      Carmilla furrowed her brows, confused and suspicious. “It was fine. Are you okay? There’s something you’re not telling me.”

 

      A mild scuffling noise sounded from behind Kirsch and the dogs tensed up, turning as one to stand between Carmilla and the unknown entity.

 

      Before Kirsch had a chance to say anything, the sound materialized into a tall, dark man. He shouldered past Kirsch who tensed up, his fists clenching and his jaw tightening in distrust.

 

      Carmilla felt the ground slip out from underneath her, the only thing keeping her standing was her grip on the backs of both her dogs who were standing strong and sure in a protective stance. Her face paled as impressions and memories invaded her senses.

 

      The dark man looked at Carmilla for a moment without saying anything. He looked at her with an expression mixed in equal parts with wonder and apology, his eyes shifting nervously and his lips held in a tight line.

 

      He seemed to win a war with himself and he spoke on a released breath. “Hello Kitty, long time no see.”

 

 

Chapter Text

      A few tense minutes had passed and Carmilla had yet to respond to the man she now recognized as her older brother. All she could focus on was her breathing. She may not remember a lot from that time so long ago but seemingly some things had left strong enough impressions for them to spring back at the slightest provocation.

 

      And what she remembered about the man in front of her did nothing to endear her to him. She remembered him as background noise to her suffering. He was always there when their mother abused her but he never, not once acted. Not to help or hinder. He was just.... there. Watching as she was systematically robbed of her humanity at the hands of the woman who was supposed to protect them. Her.

 

      Kirsch was her saviour in that moment, just as she had been for him in their adolescence. She was standing stock still, eyes screwed shut and her shoulders pulled up to her ears as he read the situation in a way only a brother could, as he was Carmilla’s brother. Not this dark stranger standing in front of her. The tall, goofy and lovable man who was only related to her by law was her brother. Blood had nothing on the kinds of ties and bonds you develop with someone who has been and continues to be everything you needed at any moment.

 

      She would try to remember to thank him later, after she remembered how to speak.

 

      “Look, you don’t know Carmilla. She owes you nothing and I think it’d be a good idea if you left. In fact, I won’t take no for an answer. Get. Out. Of. My. House.” Kirsch had ushered Carmilla into his living room, keeping himself between her and the man the whole time. He then wrenched his front door open with startling force and stared at the intruder with more heat in his eyes than Carmilla can ever remember seeing.

 

      The man didn’t take the warning as seriously as he should have. “Look, kitty. You probably don’t remember me but I’m your brother. It’s me, Will. I just want to-” He stopped abruptly when a large hand grabbed him and pushed him bodily out of the door, causing him to stumble and fall on the path.

 

      “Please, Carmilla. Just let me talk-” This time his words were cut off by the door slamming with a resounding clap.

 

      Not wasting a second, Kirsch turned and entered the living room and he kneeled, putting his arms around Carmilla who had slumped down on the floor. She didn’t react the way she normally did, she didn’t sink into his warm embrace and enjoy the feeling of the arms of her brother encircling her. Instead she jerked back violently, jarring Kirsch’s still damaged and cast arm so that he winced in pain. He didn’t wince from the physical pain though, seeing Carmilla reduced to the mess she’d been when his family took her in is what truly wounded him.

 

      Carmilla didn’t falter in her movement away from him, she continued backwards on her hands and pushed herself into the corner of the room. With a wall on either side of her and her dogs in front of her she felt a modicum of comfort but she was a long ways away from coming back to herself.

 

      She didn’t even register that she had moved or reacted. All that was going through her head was one frantic sentence on loop.

 

      If he knows where I am, so does she. If he knows where I am, so does she. If he knows where I am, so does she. If he knows where I am......

 

      Honestly she had thought she’d moved on from that portion of her life. But turns out, there’s a big difference between moving on and burying things. She hadn’t felt that helpless in quite some time and she didn’t know how to get out of it. She was stuck.

 

      She was dimly aware of warmth surrounding her and she slogged out of the fog of her mind with extreme difficulty. As she started taking in her surroundings she realized Anderson and Shivers had pushed themselves against her with a great deal of their strength, as though they could lend her theirs. She felt the pressure of their figures and slowly, she started to feel secure. 

 

      Perhaps it was strange that she (unconsciously) refused Kirsch’s comfort and accepted the animals so readily but there was something different about animals. They were inherently trust worthy. The only cruel animals were victims of circumstance, kind of like her. Not to mention they loved so quickly and wholly, without reservation. They never judged someone based on what they could get out of a relationship, they loved them because they were worth loving. 

 

      For all that Carmilla knew that Kirsch wasn’t her mother or Will, he was human. That was enough for her to lack trust considering her current situation.

 

      Not that she’d tell anyone but animals were a big part of her coming back to herself back when she was young and freshly damaged. She had been so sure of her self-worth, or rather lack thereof. She had literally had it beaten into her so why wouldn’t she believe she was worthless? It wasn’t until she was in the Kirsch household surrounded by caring people and a veritable pack of dogs that she started to feel worthy of anything. 

 

      Carmilla had been so sure she was nothing that she couldn’t have been anything other than surprised when the household dogs had attached themselves to her. She had tried to tell them not to bother, had even yelled while insisting that they were wasting their time. But unlike people who Carmilla was sure were inherently selfish (she didn’t trust the Kirsch’s at that time, she didn’t have any reason to. Everyone had ulterior motives, she just hadn’t figured theirs yet), dogs don’t care what you say, they only care what they feel when they’re around you. It might have helped that she was vaguely animalistic at that time but in hindsight, she didn’t think that was the cause. 

 

      She would be eternally grateful to the Kirsch’s for both bringing her in and for introducing her to her salvation. So in that moment, the feeling of her two companions was enough to bring a bit of her back. Carmilla moved her arms from their position around her abdomen and grasped her dogs tighter to her, moving her head to meet their foreheads with hers.

 

      Slowly, she crawled further out of the black hole of her mind and slowed her breathing. As it descended into a generally normal pace, she became aware of Kirsch sitting not far away. He was perched on the edge of the couch and was looking anxiously in her direction, twisting the tips of the fingers on his immobile hand.

 

      Producing a shaky smile, Carmilla indicated in a head nod for him to come closer. He smiled quickly and shot from his seat, sitting to her right side (or as close as he could with a dog in between them) and stretching his good arm so he could grasp her shoulder in a strong grip. Carmilla leaned her head down so her cheek rested on the back of his hand.

 

      The four of them stayed that way for quite some time, but neither Carmilla or Kirsch could have told you how long. They weren’t really concerned with time in that moment.

 

***

 

      Laura managed to slog through her shift, due in great part to the hot chocolate and cookies Carmilla had dropped off earlier in the day. Strangely though, she hadn’t heard from her since. They were planning on having a netflix marathon that night with the dogs but Carmilla hadn’t gotten in touch with her. Usually she would text and tell Laura what kind of food she was in the mood for.

 

      Frowning, Laura stepped through her front door and deposited her keys in the little box by the entrance. She continued on through her living room and into the kitchen. She leaned against the counter and took out her phone, flicking through her apps absentmindedly before she opened up her messages. As much as she hated them, Carmilla actually preferred to text. Laura thought it was so she could show off with her impeccable spelling and grammar as well as her extensive vocabulary. She didn’t begrudge the girl that though. 

 

      Laura (19:23): Hey Carm. We were supposed to have a netflix night. Are we still on?

 

      She put her phone down on the counter and went to her bedroom to get out of her slightly dirty work clothes. She always wore coveralls over them but somehow they always still ended up messy, she honestly had no idea how she managed it.

 

      Laura rummaged through her closet and came up with grey sweatpants and a loose black tank top. She went into her ensuite bathroom and cleaned her face with a makeup wipe before going back into her kitchen to see she had a new message.

 

      Carmilla (19:29): Sorry cupcake, I’m not going to make it tonight.

 

      Well that was strange. Carmilla never passed over an opportunity to poke fun at Laura. She was fully expecting her question to be brushed off and for the pub owner to joke about Laura being clingy for needing to know where she was.

 

      Laura didn’t like that response, not one bit. It felt out of character for the snarky softie. 

 

      Without missing a beat Laura pulled on her hightop chucks and grabbed her wallet and keys before heading out again.

 

***

 

      Carmilla looked down at her phone again, surprised that Laura hadn’t responded. She had expected the inquisition since she had bailed. 

 

      Guess cutie’s pissed at me. I’ll figure out something to apologize with. Here’s hoping she won’t hold a grudge.

 

      Sighing, Carmilla dropped her head into her hands. She was sitting crosslegged on her couch, with some mind numbing reality show playing on her tv. She wasn’t paying an ounce of attention to it though, rather she was stewing in her thoughts. For all the effort she put into it, Carmilla couldn’t figure why Will had tracked her down. The only reason that seemed marginally reasonable was that her biological mother was looking for her. She wasn’t sure exactly sure what she’d do if that happened, but what she did know is she wouldn’t take whatever the woman wanted without putting up a fight. 

 

      While she was lost in thought, Shivers had crept up beside her and laid his head in her lap. She absentmindedly stroked his fur as she noticed idiotic women squeeing about something no doubt painfully mundane on her television. 

 

      Carmilla was brought out of her daze rather abruptly when Shivers nipped her fingers in annoyance. Sighing heavily, she looked down into his single large eye and asked without heat, “What do you want?”

 

      Having to rely on his actions, he pushed into her stomach with rather a lot of force before pulling back and looking at her again.

 

      “You’re right. I’m being indulgent, aren’t I? But what am I supposed to do, just brush it off? This is too big to ignore buddy.” She rubbed gently on the arch of his nose between his eye sockets and he closed his eye in contentment, huffing softly.

 

      “True. There are definitely better ways to deal with this. Any ideas for me?” 

 

      Shivers only licked her wrist and walked away and into his bed. He was a man of few words, but wise beyond the ability of most humans.

 

      Carmilla grinned crookedly at him and threw a look over to Anderson who was strangely sitting by the front door, occasionally looking behind herself at Carmilla.

 

      “Are you expecting someone, love?” Carmilla got up from the couch and just before she reached Anderson she heard a knock at the front door.

 

      Shit. Did he find me here too? I don’t think I could handle another confrontation today.

 

      She was about to ignore the knock when Anderson whined, looking up imploringly at her mistress. That’s what convinced her to open it rather than leave it and wallow in her negative thoughts. That and the fact that Shivers was still in his bed and Anderson wasn’t anxious. The two were hyper aware of her feelings and the way she had reacted to Will had immediately tuned them to that situation. So if they weren’t freaking out, maybe she shouldn't either.

 

      It only took her another second to unlock and open the door and lo and behold, Laura stood on the other side. Hand raised to knock again and a large pizza box in her other hand which also had a plastic bag hanging from her wrist.

 

      “Cutie, hey. What are you doing here?” She stood back, allowing the smaller woman to come into her home. She immediately locked the door, still mindful of the possibility of unwanted guests.

 

      Laura put the pizza box down on the counter and pulled two large, meaty bones from the bag around her wrist. Not missing a beat the two dogs came to stand on the outside of the kitchen island to await their treat. They knew not to come into the kitchen space and didn’t even abuse that rule when there were guests. Although Carmilla supposed that Laura couldn’t really be considered a guest anymore. She had been over enough times to move swiftly passed that level of friendship.

 

      “Well. Your last text was weird. So I decided you needed comfort food and I was the perfect person to provide it.” The mechanic turned, hands on hips and shot Carmilla a determined look. Carmilla knew that expression, it was the same one Laura had worn when onesie-gate had happened. They didn’t talk about that incident, or at least Carmilla didn’t.

 

      “I’m getting the impression I don’t have a choice.” Carmilla just stood, arms at her sides and grimaced slightly. 

 

      Laura only smiled brightly as she pulled two cold beer from Carmilla’s fridge. “Nope!”

 

      Neatly popping the caps, the brunette strode into the living room with a beer in one hand and the pizza box in another. She plopped herself down on the couch and switched the tv to netflix. Carmilla smiled softly to herself, watching the girl. She wasn’t sure why she had called off her tv night with Laura, she should have known that the girl wouldn’t push. Laura sort of reminded her of her dogs that way, although she’d never say as much out loud. Most people didn’t see that as a compliment even though she meant it as one. Maybe a quiet night of companionship with her shadows and Laura was just what she needed.

 

      Carmilla sighed, conceding defeat as she grabbed a roll of papertowels and her own beer before heading to the couch herself. She may be okay with Laura’s presence but she wasn’t okay with greasy fingerprints on her beautiful leather couch.

 

Chapter Text

      As they watched their third episode of whatever show it was they were bingeing, Laura looked over at Carmilla who was situated on the opposite end of the couch. The dark haired woman had been off the whole evening. A real smile had surfaced a time or two but for the most part, the tightness in her lips and the crinkling of her eyes hadn’t lessened. Her movements were jerky and she held her arms over her abdomen in a protective gesture.

 

      Laura wasn’t sure what had happened to put Carmilla in such a state and she wasn’t going to ask, but she sure as hell was going to do everything in her power to ease her friends distress. Forcing a pizza and tv night was only the first step.

 

      But of course, she wasn’t going to divulge her entire plan yet. Although it did merit a bit of a warning.

 

      “Hey. Don’t make any plans this weekend.” Laura poked her toe into the side of Carmilla’s thigh, nabbing her attention. 

 

      Carmilla raised a delicate eyebrow in question, not taking her eyes off the tv set. “Why cutie, are you planning on murdering me and don’t want any witnesses?”

 

      “Like I’d need to prepare in advance if I wanted to murder you. I have connections, all it would take is a phone call if I had blood on my hands.” Laura’s words had a startling ring of truth to them for all her joking. “Anyway. Just trust me, okay?”

 

      “What if I need to know?” Carmilla averted her gaze from the tv, settling her on Laura with intensity.

 

      Laura shrugged a shoulder, smiling reassuringly at her friend. “Like I said, trust me. I won’t do anything that could put you in a bad situation. You have to know that, right?”

 

      The tense hold of Carmilla’s shoulders eased slightly at the admission and she let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.

 

      “Fine. I’ll keep my weekend free. Since you asked so nicely.” The note of sarcasm was strong and Laura didn’t miss it.

 

      “Rude. I’ll have you know I was being very polite.”

 

      “Because telling someone in no uncertain terms that they can’t make plans is considered the height of propriety.”

 

      “Really? That’s all you got out of that conversation?”

 

      In lieu of a response, Laura got a pillow to the face. 

 

      Said pillow fell into her lap almost in slow motion, revealing Laura’s face to be scowling. Upon seeing her expression Carmilla burst into uncontrollable laughter. Laura really hadn’t nailed down the whole ‘non-cute’ thing. 

 

      But she could dole out revenge along with the best of them and Carmilla soon found pillows being thrown at her one after the other, missile style. She didn’t think she even had as many pillows as she found herself buried under.

 

      Laura ran out of ammo after a minute and she waited patiently as Carmilla had disappeared behind the far end of the couch during the onslaught. Not much happened that first minute and Laura wasn’t even sure Carmilla was still in the near vicinity anymore since neither hide nor hair of her was visible. The brunette pushed herself up and forward, leaning towards the far couch arm and tried to peek over the edge.

 

       Before she really had a chance to go far, a pair of immaculate eyebrows and then two dark eyes popped up passed the pillowy edge of the couch.

 

      Slumping in relief, Laura wasn’t prepared for what happened next. She would have been prepared for a few more pillow assaults but that wasn’t Carmilla’s style apparently. No, the dark girl had an entirely different plan of attack.

 

      Carmilla launched herself over the edge, leaping smoothly over the arm and she landed on her feet before she flung herself forward onto the retreating form of Laura. With almost catlike reflexes Carmilla adjusted her fall and she caught Laura around the waist quite neatly.

 

      Laura squealed and squirmed but to no avail. The raven haired beauty had a surprisingly strong grip and she wasn’t giving in any time soon. As if proving her point, it both strengthened and loosened as Carmilla adjusted her grip, getting an arm around Laura’s shoulder and reaching down across her front to grasp the hand that had wound around her slim waist.

 

      Not one to give up easily, Laura laughed heartily and threw herself off the couch so that she landed on Carmilla, both their backs to the floor.

 

      Other than releasing a breathy ‘oof’ Carmilla wasn’t deterred. Rather, her new position allowed her to grapple onto the smaller girl with renewed vigour thanks to a significantly better angle. Her feet were flung around Laura’s legs so that her heels were rested on Laura’s thighs. She was well and truly attached to her now.

 

      Leaning her head forward Carmilla husked into Laura’s ear. “Give up?”

 

      Still determined, Laura wasn’t ready to concede quite yet. “In. Your. Dreams.” Each word was punctuated with a movement. First a hand reaching up to the coffee table, then the second to the couch, and then she pulled herself up to kneel with Carmilla still firmly situated.

 

      Huffing in determination Laura then pushed herself to her feet and stood straight with the girl on her back.

 

      “Huh. I’m impressed cupcake.” Carmilla just turned her head, surveying her home from a new perspective.

 

      “Impressed enough to get off?” 

 

      Although Laura couldn’t see the smirk, she was sure it was there. “I’m always ready to get off sweetheart, that doesn’t change anything.”

 

      Snorting in laughter, Laura decided to try a new tactic. She started walking towards the staircase and then began her ascent. With on caveat. She went up sideways in a sort of weird crab walk but with her back to the railing, leaving Carmilla hanging over the edge and subsequently above the ever increasing distance between her and the floor.

 

      Laura got her reward almost immediately in the form of an inelegant squawk from the dark haired girl. She grinned, knowing that was great blackmail material and she was going to hang onto that bit of information for as long as it may be useful. Which knowing Carmilla, would be the rest of her life.

 

      “Holy fuck! Creampuff, what the fuck are you doing?!” She grappled further onto the shorter girl, increasing the strength behind her already considerably intense hold.

 

      “Revenge, sweetheart.” Laura lowered her voice, doing a pretty decent imitation of the other girl’s tone. She then started laughing again, she knew she was in no danger of falling or dropping Carmilla but apparently Carmilla wasn’t as sure. Laura spent most of her life in shops so her strength was considerable as well as her balance. Carmilla was only about as heavy as a single mounted and balanced 1-tonne truck tire, of which Laura carts around the shop on a very regular basis. No problem.

 

      Rather then responding in the conventional sense, Carmilla growled lowly into the ear her mouth was still placed near. Laura’s reaction was immediate and unsurprising. She felt a heat low in her stomach and her throat tighten. She swallowed thickly as she reached the top of the staircase and thus, Carmilla’s bedroom.

 

      Her flustered state disappeared almost instantly and was replaced with hysterical laughter and manic amusement.

 

      Until that moment Laura had only ever seen the lower section of the raven haired beauty’s home and now she knew why. The uppermost level was a disaster. Honestly, it looked like a bomb had gone off or it was tossed in a desperate search for something valuable. Clothes were strewn across every surface, there were dirty dishes adorning the top of the dresser and bookshelves (of which there were many. Apparently, Carmilla was a reader), papers and receipts littered the desk shoved into a corner between bookshelves, and the pictures on the walls were crooked. There was even a bra hanging from one such askew picture. Smack dab in the centre of the back wall was an excessively large bed with nary a single sheet tucked in. Laura figured Carmilla must sleep under the large pile of clothes sat in the middle of it.

 

      Still laughing, Laura walked a few steps and turned before flopping backwards and landing firmly on top of Carmilla whose back collided with the mountain of cloth.

 

      It seemed her laughter is what freed her. Carmilla released Laura although she stayed where she had fallen, looking up to the mechanic with an adorably confused expression adorning her features. Laura had turned in place and she now found herself leaning on her forearms over the beauty. Her laughter petered off into soft chuckles as she found her face startlingly close to Carmilla’s own.

 

      “What’s so funny creampuff?” Carmilla’s voice had softened and lowered as she stared hard at Laura.

 

      Laura smirked, she couldn’t help herself. “Right now? Nothing, actually.”

 

      Carmilla graced her with a large, real smile. She bit her lower lip and allowed her eyes to travel down Laura’s face to rest on her plump lips.

 

      Catching the movement, Laura’s eyes mimicked the movement and watched the lip caught between perfect white teeth in fascination.

 

      It was a perfect moment for them to move into a new direction in their relationship and both were painfully aware of it. Both wanted to move and both were prepared to. It would only take a slight shift...

 

      But as all perfect moments go, this one was interrupted.

 

      Unbeknownst to the two women tangled on the messy bed, a very eager golden dog had found her way up the stairs and she eyed the proverbial dog pile in the middle of the room with interest before she lumbered forward and fell on her mistress, dislodging Laura neatly.

 

      “Aaaackkk!” Laura reacted less than gracefully.

 

      She now found herself sprawled on the floor with her own hair in her mouth while Carmilla had a dog as large as she was on top of her, licking her face with a single mindedness only an animal can possess. 

 

      Carmilla found the situation to be absolutely hysterical if the laughter Laura heard from her position was any indication. And upon further thought, Laura found she agreed so it wasn’t long before she joined in with a giggle and stretch.

 

      Seeing as she hadn’t yet moved from the floor, Laura missed the small smile from Carmilla as she ruffled the fur on Anderson’s back while she glanced towards where the brunette had disappeared in her fall. 

 

      The recent ‘almost’ was playing in both their minds and surprisingly, regret wasn’t something either of them felt. Instead a pleasant warmth was running through them and a feeling of anticipation had heightened. Plus the goofy grins on their faces weren’t in danger of disappearing any time soon, much like the feelings they harboured for each other.

 

***

 

      The rest of the week went on uneventfully and Carmilla was glad to see no more of her ill-fated brother. She was sure he hadn’t just disappeared seeing as he had likely gone to so much trouble to find her, but she was thankful he had made the decision to cool it. Presumably Carmilla’s reaction and his subsequent displacement had convinced him to consider a new approach. At the very least this allowed Carmilla to consider how she would handle the inevitable confrontation.

 

      Friday night found them and Carmilla was told in no uncertain terms to be awake by 8am Saturday morning. Suffice it to say ‘grumbled’ was the most polite way to describe her reaction to that little tidbit. But in the end she had given in, turns out Laura actually had some clout with the girl. Who knew?

 

     So Friday evening Carmilla decided would be a light drinking and video game night. She was signed in to some online shooter’s lobby waiting for new teammates since her last group had booted her. Seems 12 year old boys couldn’t handle a woman not only beating them but delivering better burns than they could ever dream of. It helped that her vocabulary allowed her to come up with some truly inspired insults that she was quite proud of if she was being honest.

 

      She was expecting Laura any minute since she had forgotten her wallet there back on Wednesday when they had their ‘almost’ moment. She fully intended to regale the girl with question after question in the hope that she could wrangle a bit more information about Saturday out of her.

 

      Just as expected, Carmilla heard a knock on the door. She was still waiting for a full team so she just exited the lobby in favour of walking to the door to greet the ray of sunshine.

 

      But just as they say, reality defies expectation.

 

      As she unlocked and pulled open her front door she didn’t see the warm and welcoming face of her ‘almost’ and hopeful ‘someday’. Instead she saw a face that looked remarkably like hers.

 

      “Kitty. Can I come in?” There stood Will, looking as strong and capable as he did the last time she had seen him. Strong and capable enough to force her to relive her childhood if he so desired. 

 

      She gulped before responding, actually finding her voice despite the situation. “No. Leave, now. And don’t come back. Please.” Carmilla moved to shut her door but a booted foot halted the doors progress before it could latch.

 

      With a shaky breath and fear in her eyes Carmilla looked up to see a very familiar clench in the jaw of the man facing her.

 

      “I’m not leaving.” Will used his superior strength and shoved the door open, launching Carmilla backwards while she stumbled on her own feet. “You have to talk to me. I came all this way, you owe me that.”

 

      “Wait. Owe you? I owe you?! You have got to be joking. I owe you nothing. Now get out of my house. NOW!” Carmilla had held onto her voice but it wavered, warbling as it chocked on the words she was spewing at the stranger.

 

      He moved to get closer to her but he didn’t get far as Anderson and Shivers had appeared almost instantaneously as soon as he had invaded. They placed themselves in front of Carmilla, lifting their lips and baring their teeth in feral grins. Low threatening growls emanated from deep within their chests and the fur along their backs prickled upwards, mimicking the ridged form of the spines beneath.

 

      Will halted his steps, raising his hands in a placating gesture but still staring hard at Carmilla.

 

      “Listen. I know you probably don’t want to see me right now, or ever. But I have things I need to say to you. You’ll want to hear them, trust me.” He lowered his hands, tucking them into his front pockets in an insultingly arrogant manner.

 

      Carmilla scoffed. “Trust you? In what world would I have any reason to trust you.” 

 

      The stranger sighed, as though dealing with Carmilla was wearing on his patience. For all that Carmilla wasn’t wanting to put him at ease or appease the man, she was not ready to see him without patience. In her gut she knew who he would resemble if he went off.

 

      “Fine. Don’t trust me. Just listen to me. Mom-”

 

      “NO. GET OUT. NOW. GET OUT. GET OUT. GET OUT!” Carmilla screamed at the mention of the monster she shared DNA with, and hot frustrated tears streamed down her face. Anderson was barking at the intruder in a frenzy and Shivers had lowered to a crouch, ready to pounce at a moments notice.

 

      “Kitty-” Will had backed up slightly. Fear was evident on his features as Anderson advanced on him, backing him with purpose towards the still open door ten feet away.

 

      “What the hell is going on?!” Laura burst through the door and surveyed the situation with a practiced ease. Seeing the state Carmilla was in and the unquestioning hostility in the dogs, Laura’s eyes hardened as she glared at the man standing between her and her family.

 

      Laura’s next move was fluid and shockingly deadly. She lunged forward and grabbed the man’s arm, twisting it behind his back as she steered him towards the wall.

 

      Will let out a gasp of pain as his arm was wrenched neatly and his face was smashed into the wall.

 

      Laura spoke, but not to the man held firmly in her grasp.

 

      “Carmilla. Do you need to call the police? I can hold him as long as I need to.” She jerked his arm into a sharper angle at her statement, forcing a strangled cry out of his throat.

 

      Her breathing laboured, it took Carmilla a moment to respond. When she did, her words were a little stronger for the confrontation being steered away from her although she felt anxious for the position Laura had found herself in.

 

      “NO! No. We don’t need to call the police. Please just get him out of here.” Sensing that that wouldn’t be enough, Carmilla added what she knew would be the key to alerting Laura to her feelings. “Please Laura. Just let him go.”

 

      At hearing her name Laura only hesitated a moment before pulling the man off the wall and forcing him out of the door. She slammed it and immediately locked it.

 

      With a quick turn of the heel, Laura was in Carmilla’s space. She didn’t move to touch her for fear of the look in Carmilla’s eyes. Any contact in that moment would have to be initiated by the raven haired girl. Instead she looked intently at her and with her eyes she begged for Carmilla to accept any form of comfort from her.

 

      Carmilla couldn't have expressed the relief she felt with any words she knew. So instead of speaking she threw her arms around Laura’s shoulders and buried her face in the girl’s neck. She shuddered with uneven breaths for a few minutes. They only evened out when Laura’s arms found their way around her torso and gripped tightly, applying pressure in a crushing embrace.

 

      Besides the two women standing in the room, the two massive dogs had pushed themselves against them adding to the warmth and the feeling of safety.

 

      Finally feeling more secure, Carmilla drew back and gazed at the mechanic still holding her. She could see the unasked question in Laura’s eyes and although she knew it would continue to be unasked, she also knew it couldn’t stay that way forever. But at least for now, she could stop thinking about it.

 

***

 

      Following the altercation, Laura had deigned to stay the night on Carmilla’s couch. In case Will decided to return at any point to again catch Carmilla unawares in an ambush.

 

      So the next morning after getting up to a packed bag and large breakfast courtesy of Laura, the two women along with the dogs found themselves in a pickup truck headed out of town.

 

      Considering her brother was in their town, Carmilla found no reason to bellyache about whatever it was Laura had planned. Since it was taking her away from him, she was only to happy to go along with it.

 

      It seems the truck belonged to Laura’s dad and she had borrowed it for the weekend. The bed of the truck was packed with supplies (what Carmilla couldn’t be sure, she only saw outlines through the tinted canopy windows) and the back seat was filled to capacity with two curious canines.

 

      Laura let Carmilla choose the music and the road trip went silently other than the music wafting through the surprisingly boisterous set of speakers.

 

      After two or so hours they were trundling down a dirt road in the middle of a forest, and after a few kilometres Laura pulled off into an almost indistinguishable driveway. A few branch scrapes and bumps later they rolled to a stop.

 

      The two women (and dogs) clambered out of the vehicle to be faced with a quant little cottage sitting on an incline. Behind it and down the hill was a sizeable river with a small inlet which would allow for swimming or lounging.

 

      Carmilla took it all in with wide eyes. She turned to Laura to see a small smile playing at the brunette’s lips.

 

      Without provocation, Laura answered the unverbalized questions.

 

      “This place belongs to my dad. He only comes out a few times a summer to fish so it’s normally empty. I asked if we could have it for the weekend and he handed me the keys. There are no neighbours for miles and I brought enough food and alcohol to last us the entire two days. It’s just us and the dogs.” Laura smiled as she rocked back and forth on the balls of her feet, eyeing her companion and waiting patiently for a reaction.

 

      Carmilla chuckled softly, looking down at her feet. Looking up through her bangs with a soft smile she addressed Laura. “Thanks cupcake. This is exactly what I needed.”

 

Chapter Text

      Danny looked down at her phone in confusion. She had a text from Laura which was weird enough on it’s own but the message itself threw her even further for a loop.

 

      Laura (8:13): Hey Danny! Something came up and I’m going to be out of town all weekend so I won’t make it to the pub tonight for the group trivia crack-athon. You guys have fun though and I made sure you all have a few free jugs of beer. Just tell the staff that Laura set it up. See you at the shop on Monday! :)

 

      What the hell? Danny had just gotten back from her morning run so the last thing she expected was a long winded message from a self proclaimed text-o-phobe who never woke up earlier than 11am on the weekends. Weird was what it was.

 

      For all that she was confused as all hell, Danny put down her phone in favour of a steamy shower. She didn’t bother responding since she knew that one text from Laura was already way beyond the limit and getting a second was an impossibility. 

 

      Didn’t mean she’d stop thinking about it though.

 

***

 

      Between Laura and Carmilla it only took them about a half hour to unload the truck and stock the fridge and cupboards with the provisions Laura had brought.

 

      It had taken all of 2 minutes for the dogs to bound into the river, snapping their impressive jaws at the passing aquatic life. They left them to it while they finished getting organized, they were in no danger of wandering away as their attachment to Carmilla (and to a lesser degree, Laura) was far too strong for them to want to be far.

 

      They decided that joining their four legged companions was a great way to start off their little vacation. The drive had left them stiff so a swim would be the ideal way to loosen up.

 

      Laura grabbed her bathing suit and headed to the bathroom to change while Carmilla used the bedroom. Of which there was one, with only a double bed to occupy it. Neither was there a couch or futon in the place so Carmilla had to wonder where Laura figured they’d sleep. It looked like sharing was the only option and while Carmilla wasn’t averse to it (not by a long shot) she had to wonder if Laura had even thought that far in her planning. She wouldn’t put it past the girl to have gotten so excited she forgot to think about the practicalities of the trip.

 

      Finishing tying up the top of her bikini, Carmilla strode out of the room to wait for Laura in the main living room / dining room / kitchen section of the cabin. The structure was essentially only three rooms. The main room, the bathroom and the bedroom. She figured that was really all you needed anyway and it was actually quite adorable. She wasn’t sure who decorated the place but she couldn’t imagine Laura or her dad had had anything to do with it. It was too stylish to have been done by a middle aged man who liked to go fishing on the weekends, and it looked nothing like Laura’s house in town. It was sleek and utilitarian, quite modern really. Everything was coloured in a gradient of greyish blues to deep, ocean blue. The appliances were new and shiny chrome much like Carmilla’s own, and the small accent pieces were nautical in nature. It was seriously welcoming and Carmilla could see herself spending an extended period of time there no problem. 

 

      She didn’t have much chance to inspect the place any closer since Laura choose that moment to step out of the bathroom. Carmilla couldn’t see her bathing suit since it was worn beneath a long button down beach shirt.

 

      Her eyes travelled down Laura’s legs appreciatively and when she eventually looked to Laura’s face she found that the brunette’s eyes weren’t trained on her own. Rather they were roving her body which was on full display as she hadn’t bothered with a cover since the walk was so short down to the river.

 

      Carmilla smirked knowingly and allowed the inspection for another moment before drawing Laura’s attention elsewhere with a quite loud throat clearing.

 

      The way Laura’s eyes shot upwards and focused on Carmilla’s face with such single mindedness would have been impressive if it weren’t for the almost violent way the blush rose to her cheeks. Honestly, a person would be expected to pass out after so much blood rushed to their head so quickly.

 

      Laughing at the flustered girl in front of her, Carmilla nodded her head towards the door and sauntered towards it. She heard Laura following her so she added a little more sashay to her steps simply for her benefit. A little scuffle was heard and she assumed Laura stumbled but she had the grace not to look back and embarrass her even further.

 

      They left the cabin and walked the short distance down to the river where Anderson and Shivers were now sunning themselves on the large boulders that surrounded the little inlet.

 

      Reaching the water Carmilla simply stepped out of her flip flops and waded in without reacting to the temperature change. At least outwardly. Inside she was freaking out a little bit. Her inner monologue went something like this:

 

      SHIT FUCK THAT IS COLD. KEEP IT COOL KARNSTEIN, LAURA IS WATCHING YOU. JUST HOLD OUT, IT’LL BE BETTER IN A MINUTE.

 

      She lowered herself into the water up to her ears and proceeded to shiver once her body was no longer visible.

 

      Smooth. Nicely done Karnstein.

 

      Carmilla smirked up at Laura who was still standing in her coverup, watching Carmilla with narrowed eyes. The girl was fully aware that Carmilla had done everything on purpose and unbeknownst to Carmilla, was now planning her revenge.

 

      It seemed that was a common theme in their relationship, that sort of one up dynamic. It was awesome and neither would have it any other way.

 

      Laura bit her bottom lip and at first Carmilla thought she had the upper hand. Little did she know.

 

      Buttons were undone and the coverup was dropped to reveal a ridiculously flattering bathing suit. Laura also wore a bikini and her seriously toned body was now visible. Working in a shop had done wonders for her as the lines of her musculature were clear and although her baby face would hint at a comfortably soft body, it was now revealed to be exactly the opposite. 

 

      Laura folded her shirt and turned to place it on a dry slab of stone sitting a little ways away from the waters edge and Carmilla was treated to what she would later refer to as ‘tattoo-gate’. 

 

      She hadn’t really ever thought about it but she shouldn’t be surprised to find that Laura was tattooed. That girl was an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Although that didn’t mean she couldn’t be shocked and slightly (who was she kidding, slightly was the opposite of the correct adjective) turned on at the sight. 

 

      Laura’s back was largely covered in a seriously cool depiction of her skeletal system. Except it wasn’t drawn to look like actual bone, but rather it was mechanical. And instead of tendons there were hydraulic pistons. The tattoo itself was done in such a way as to look like the skin was pulled back just enough to reveal bits and pieces. It didn’t reach up past where the edge of her tops would be which would explain why she’d never seen it. Although it did reach lower on her back so clearly, Laura had considered how easily she could hide it when she had gotten it. The lines were crisp and the colours were vibrant, and it felt like Laura. It held so many questions and Carmilla couldn’t have told you how it worked but she was supremely curious and hungry to have the answers. It was also beautiful and unexpected, just like Laura.

 

      In her fascination Carmilla hadn’t really focused on her footing and as she felt her foot slip on a slimy rock she let out a little yelp before she was swallowed by the water.

 

      She surfaced a moment later to the sight of Laura doubled over in laughter, hardly able to catch her breath.

 

      Feeling slightly embarrassed, Carmilla reacted the way she always does. She swept out her arm and sent a wave splashing up onto the river bank and all over Laura’s exposed form. The now drenched girl gasped in surprise, her eyes screwed shut tightly in surprise.

 

      Slowly, Laura opened her eyes and narrowed them at the raven haired girl who was submerged so only her eyes were above the water. Even so, the mirth and mischief were easily read by Laura.

 

      “You are SO, going to pay for that.” And without warning Laura took a running jump and cannonballed into the inlet, landing neatly next to Carmilla with a giant splash. 

 

      And thus began a very active and engaging morning of water fights.

 

***

 

      “Next time we need water guns.” Laura was messily drying her hair in the middle of the main room of the cabin as Carmilla was changing in the bedroom.

 

      “I like the way you think sundance.” Carmilla strode out of the room clad in a black tank top and black shorts. It seemed that was the only shade of clothing she owned. 

 

      Laura grinned as she shook her hair out after agitating it with her towel. “So. What are you feeling like for lunch? I brought a lot of food.” She threw her towel down next to the bathroom door and opened up the fridge, still standing in her bikini.

 

       Carmilla took a moment before responding, instead enjoying the way Laura’s skin pebbled in the sudden cool breeze emanating from the fridge.

 

       “I’m not picky. Whatever you feel like.” She cocked her head to the side, continuing to enjoy her view as Laura’s head was firmly planted in the cold box so she couldn’t see from her neck up.

 

      She was startled out of her reverie though when Laura peeked over the edge of the door between them, therefore catching Carmilla in the act. She blushed at her own audacity and shied away, heading to the little couch on the other side of the room and below the large picture window.

 

      They had left the door open and in that moment Anderson and Shivers found their way inside, flopping down gracelessly on the large rug sitting smack dab in the middle of the room. They were both wet but thankfully not muddy.

 

      Laura smiled at the two lumbering beasts as she pulled a package of hotdogs out of the fridge. She then dug out a bag of bakery buns before heading outside to the grill. With familiarity she twisted on the propane and lit the coals. Leaving it to heat up, Laura came back inside to get out the rest of the ingredients they’d need. She didn’t know about Carmilla but she was a loaded dog kind of girl.

 

      “Okay. Beer, cider, or vodka?” Laura opened the fridge wider to reveal the large array of alcohol which they couldn’t possibly drink in one weekend. Carmilla grinned.

 

***

 

      “What do you mean, Laura is out of town? Why didn’t she tell us?” Perry was slightly frantic at the change in schedule but was quickly calmed down when Lafontaine laid a hand on her shoulder and shot her a crooked grin.

 

      Danny sighed. “I mean, I got a text-”

 

      “Wait, wait, wait. She texted you?” Lafontaine cut her off neatly and immediately regretted it when Danny shot them a harsh glare. Altogether too harsh for simply interrupting.

 

      “As I was saying.” Another glare. “She texted me this morning and said she’d be out of town but not to worry about drinks, that there were a few free pitchers of beer for us. We only have to tell the bartender her name.”

 

      Lafontaine’s eyebrows rose into their hairline. “Well this is a surprising turn of events. Do you know where she is?”

 

      “Where who is?” Kirsch arrived, heavily decorated cast almost ready to be removed. He plopped himself down in the booth in the only available seat next to Danny.

 

      She side eyed him suspiciously for a moment before answering his question.

 

      “Laura. I got a text saying something came up and she’ll be out of town all weekend, she didn’t say anything else.”

 

      Kirsch grinned through his response. “Oh, don’t worry about it. She’s with Carmilla.” He waved a hand dismissively and continued to signal a server.

 

      “Wait, WHAT? You mean mistress of the snark? What the hell is Laura doing hanging out with her?” Danny was incredulous to say the least.

 

      This got Kirsch’s attention. His back straightened and his typically positive demeanour disappeared as he stared her down. “Dude, no. Don’t talk about my sister that way. She gets enough from everyone else, she doesn’t need anymore. Especially someone who knows absolutely nothing about her” His jaw clenched as he continued to stare at her intently.

 

      Perry perked up and with a curious expression she addressed Kirsch. “Did you say sister, Kirsch? You mean to say your adopted sister is Carmilla?”

 

      “Well... yeah. You guys didn’t know that? I thought the whole town knew. I mean, she’s been my sister since we were little kids like, 7 and 8 years old. How did you guys not know?” His eyes flashed around the three other tenants of the table, surprise evident on his features.

 

      The redheads shared a look, admittedly they weren’t as up on town gossip as they thought. Honestly though they tried not to be since stories tended to be embellished and sometimes, entirely fabricated. And since none of them had lived in the town when they were school age, they hadn’t had the chance to witness anything firsthand. They were all transplants within the last 5 or so years, all coming there for one reason or another.

 

      Lafontaine came for the biology wing in the new hospital. Since there wasn’t much in the way of actual medicine to be done in such a small town the structure focused mainly on research. They had the chance to help in some seriously interesting breakthroughs since moving. Perry had followed within a few months saying she didn’t know how to go about her life without her best friend there. Presumably that was about when they got together. And Danny followed them since they had all gone to high school together and she didn’t have much keeping her where she was. They had all met Laura and Kirsch in the town and their group was formed soon thereafter, when Laura either hired them or interacted with them on a friendly customer basis.

 

      Seeing no one else felt comfortable taking the lead, Lafontaine deigned to answer for the group. “Uh, no dude. We had no idea. And I don’t have anything against Carmilla personally. I don’t know the woman so how could I?”

 

      Danny stepped in at that moment. “No offence Kirsch but she has a bad attitude. I would be fine to never have to be near her ever again.”

 

      Seeing the irony in her statement, Kirsch broke out into a full belly laugh.

 

      Danny was confused to say the least. Also, a little pissed off that she was being laughed at and she didn’t have a sweet clue as to why. “What’s so funny popped collar?”

 

      “Dude. You realize you’re sitting in her pub right now, right?” He was still fighting the giggles, he snorted occasionally and Danny told herself in no uncertain terms that it was not cute.

 

      “What the hell does that mean? I’ve never seen her here. It’s not like she can claim ground on a public place. Besides, if you could it would totally be our domain.” Danny looked triumphant, her logic clearly trumped his.

 

      “No. No, no, no. This pub. It belongs to Carmilla.” He pointed down at the table with his bad hand, gesturing around the establishment with his good hand. Seeing the blank faces of the three redheads staring at him he sighed again, but not without amusement.

 

      “Seriously? The place is called Pitch and Tom.” Still getting no reaction he continued, baffled that his friends couldn’t see it. It was so clear.

 

      “Pitch and Tom? It’s a play on words. For black cat. Words, cats and black. They are literally some of Carmilla’s favourite things.” He spread his hands, as though that illustrated his point.

 

       Lafontaine was nodding their head, eyebrows drawn together in thought. Perry was wide-eyed as she caught on to the revelation. Danny looked like she was going to be sick. Also, very very angry.

 

      “Black cat? I thought she was a dog person? Why the hell would she name a place after a cat? That makes no sense.” She was determined to win at least part of this argument. Although she was the only one who saw it as an argument.

 

      “It has nothing to do with liking cats themselves. She likes the image. She identifies with them or something.” Kirsch shrugged as their first pitcher of beer was placed on their table. He smiled up at their server and thanked them as they walked off to get shots for the rowdy stag party that had stumbled in.

 

       Danny looked down at the fresh beer, the nauseous feeling intensifying as she connected a few dots.

 

      “Hold on. The free beer. So that wasn’t.... Laura?” She finished her sentence weakly and without the vigour of her previous statements.

 

      “Well, it kind of was. I can guarantee Carmilla wouldn’t have left it if Laura hadn’t mentioned she was missing out tonight. I don’t know the specifics, all I know is Carmilla texted me and told me to set it up with her staff since Laura was driving. Laura thinks she will be paying for it though. I don’t think my sister actually bothered to tell her she was sending it instead.” He shrugged again as he took a long draught from the pint he had just poured himself.

 

      Perry took a sip from her water as she wasn’t drinking that night. She was DD and she took the responsibility very seriously. “I think it’s safe to say we will all be thanking Carmilla the next time she comes through the shop. Won’t we, Danny.” She looked pointedly at the taller woman.

 

      Danny threw her hands up in defence. “What the hell Perry?! What about Laf? Aren’t you going to give them the evil eye?”

 

      Lafontaine grinned at Danny. “She doesn’t have to. She knows I’m whipped for her so I’ll do it without any trouble.”

 

      The two tallest occupants of the table gaped at the other two in momentary shock. Sure, everyone knew they were together but they had never actually said anything publicly. It was sort of surreal to hear Laf say it in such an offhand way.

 

      And just like that, the subject was changed and Danny was spared her discomfort. She’d thank them later.

 

***

 

      Laura and Carmilla had finished their lunch earlier in the day and spent the next while just talking. About tv shows, movies, books, politics, religion, you name it they probably talked about it.

 

      Following their talk-a-thon they started up a fire at the pit which was situated between the cabin and the river. It afforded them a fantastic view of the forest below them and the stars above them. Carmilla couldn’t recall a time where she was quite as content as she was in that moment.

 

      They had made a dinner of cold meat sandwiches and chips and were now nursing their fifth or sixth drinks each, they weren’t sure how many they’d had since the afternoon. Due to the staggering of them over such an extended period of time, neither of them were even remotely drunk. Despite their small size, they were heavy weights. Rather than swimming brains and slurred sentences they felt a slight warmth in their blood and a lax feeling in their muscles.

 

      Huddling together on the cabin side of the fire and facing the river, they devolved into a mostly quiet state with the occasional observation thrown out about their surroundings or the dogs who were lounging on the other side of the fire. Their bellies full of the leavings of their earlier meals.

 

      Carmilla turned her head and regarded the smaller woman sitting to her right. She was huddled in a rough woollen blanket, and was staring up at the sky with a rapt sort of attention.

 

      Smiling softly Carmilla leaned over and placed her head on Laura’s shoulder. She felt the brunette’s arm reach around her and settle on her waist. She also felt the grin in the lips Laura had ghosted across her brow.

 

      For once, Carmilla felt.... safe. Completely and totally safe. The only people she had ever trusted nearly to this level were the Kirsch’s, but that was a different kind of trust. There was a distinction between familial trust and whatever it was she felt for Laura. She didn’t have any details or even a general idea of whatever it was that haunted Laura’s past other than it caused Laura to experience extreme anxiety when near or in hospitals but she did know that it allowed the girl to understand her in a way that not even her adopted family could. And due to their mutual experiences, Carmilla felt like she could tell Laura anything and have her secrets respected and possibly even understood. This is what prompted her to speak.

 

      She raised her head and looked at Laura with clear and focused eyes. The mechanic gazed back at her with absolutely no expectation or pressure, only an endless amount of patience.

 

      “Laura. I have to tell you something. About today. Well, actually it starts a long time ago. A lot longer than today.”

 

Chapter Text

      Laura wasn’t really expecting anything from Carmilla in that moment, she knew that although the girl felt ready to speak it may not come out that easily. All in due time.

 

      So she just twisted her waist and faced the pub owner more fully and she took Carmilla’s hands in her own with a strong and sure grip. She didn’t say anything, this all had to come from Carmilla.

 

      She smiled softly at Laura and looked down at their joined hands. She didn’t speak for a few minutes and just let the silence say much of what she was feeling. Heavy silences were nothing if not informative, and this one was telling Laura that there was far more to the woman seated next to her then she or anyone else could really guess at.

 

      Finally the raven haired girl cleared her throat and started to tell her tale.

 

      “That guy from last night was my brother. He’s older than me by a bit, I’m not exactly sure how much since I haven’t seen him in 19 years so the details are a little foggy.” She paused for a moment before she continued. Laura just continued to sit silently, not prepared to risk Carmilla’s sudden openness and implicit trust in her.

 

      Carmilla squeezed Laura’s hands as she spoke her next words. “I haven’t seen him in 19 years because I was taken from my biological mother at 6 years old and put into foster care.” Her voice started to crack and Laura returned the pressure on her hands full force, ensuring the woman that she was still there.

 

      Pulling in a shaky breath the girl pressed on. “My mother was abusive. In every way really, emotionally, mentally... physically. I have plenty of scars, not all of them in my mind.” She locked eyes with Laura for the first time since she began. The brunette was staring at her intently, the only sign of a change in her was the glistening of her eyes and her throat bobbing when she swallowed thickly.

 

      Carmilla bit her lip and spoke again. She was almost there, and this was harder than she thought and also easier in a weird way. She hadn’t opened up like this to anyone, ever. Not even the Kirsch’s although they knew the gist of it from the social worker when they adopted her. She had started to tell someone once but, well... let’s just say things could have gone better. Letting the words escape her lips felt like daggers raking across her vocal chords, and the taste of them on her tongue was caustic.

 

      But once they were out in the air, she felt free of the weight of them. Her chest felt lighter and her head clearer. There was still that pit of dread in her stomach though, just waiting for Laura’s reaction. The worst of it was said but she wasn’t quite finished yet.

 

      “I was a foster kid in and out of homes for a year before Kirsch and his family took me in. They fostered me for a bit before they decided to legally adopt me. They saved me. Who knows what would have become of me without their charity. I haven’t repaid them yet for that, but I will someday.” There was a steel to her voice when she proclaimed her loyalty to the family. Laura could feel some of Carmilla’s strength return to her and she was grateful to the people she barely knew to the nth degree. She squeezed her hands again in a sign for the raven haired girl to go on. “Foster care wasn’t as bad as where I was but it was no picnic. Being a quiet and broken kid doesn’t really do you any favours when trying to make friends. Sure, the other kids all had their own stories but they all got out earlier than I did. They had friends or neighbours who saw what was happening and reported their situation, they got out before the worst of it. I didn’t.” She was bitter about that, how could she not be? She released a large breath and glanced at Laura again. The brunette’s eyes were stormy, outrage and murder were written clearly in them.

 

      “I was just a kid but I was ready to give up. I had no hope of ever getting out of there. And Will- my brother- was part of that. He was always there, mommy’s little boy. He never actually helped her or acted against me himself but he was a shadow. Always behind her shoulder, taking in what she was doing and making no effort to help me or hinder her. When I saw him last night, it wasn’t the first time. I saw him on Wednesday too, that’s why I didn’t come to your house. But the way I felt when I saw him Laura-” Her words wavered and she stopped for a moment to collect herself.

 

      Carmilla cleared her throat again and she heard Laura trying to steady her own breathing as she felt the brunette’s hands fully enveloping her own and lending her strength. “I thought I was done feeling that way. The fear was crippling. I just kept thinking to myself that if he knew where I was, so did she.” She bit her lip and blinked rapidly for a moment, trying to stop the tears she felt threatening to escape. “I didn’t let him say anything to me either time. I’m not ready for that yet. I honestly don’t ever want to see him again or ever hear his voice but I don’t know if I have a choice. He’s pretty adamant he speak to me and I don’t think he will be leaving town any time soon. I don’t have anything on him so calling the police or getting a restraining order are impossible.”

 

      “Laura. I don’t know what to do.” Carmilla let out a shuddering breath as she felt Laura release her hands and instead winding them behind the raven haired girl’s back, pulling her in to a tight embrace. Carmilla buried her face into the side of Laura’s neck, breathing in deeply and allowing her body to relax into the firm hold around her.

 

      Neither of them said anything for a few minutes, only feeling their breaths slowly developing to be in perfect synch. Focusing on the slow and even breaths of Laura and mimicking them helped Carmilla relax even further and she was unbearably grateful that Laura was not only still there but not shying away. She still harboured some fear of being so completely vulnerable ever since she had started to share the story the last time.

 

      Laura was the first to break the silence. “I don’t really know what you should do either. All I can say is that whatever you choose to do, I will be there for you. Let me know what you need of me and I’ll do it.” She placed a soft kiss to Carmilla’s brow and settled her chin on the top of the other girls head, squeezing her for a moment before loosening her grip and settling into their embrace.

 

      Carmilla felt a warmth spread through her chest and she smiled into Laura’s skin. What she had done to deserve someone like Laura in her life she wasn’t sure but considering all she had been through she definitely wasn’t going to take the girl for granted. She of all people knew how valuable a gift people like Laura were and she would hold tightly to the opportunity to be near to her, she wasn’t in the business of refusing good things. She may not feel like she deserves them sometimes but that was logic rather than emotions. She wasn’t typically a generically nice person but circumstances with the brunette had brought out a side of herself she didn’t think existed anymore. They had only met each other officially the once before what happened to Kirsch and that event had brought them together in a wholly unexpected way. Regardless she had stopped feeling sorry for herself a long time ago, and thus she would gladly accept Laura if the girl was offering anything to her freely.

 

      “Also, I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard you speak at one time.” Laura spoke in a lighter tone.

 

      Huffing out a laugh Carmilla snuck her hand around and poked Laura’s side firmly. Immediately the brunette sprung away with a gasp, regret at her quick movement immediately apparent in her eyes.

 

      A wide and toothy grin spread across Carmilla’s face as she regarded the other girl. “Cupcake. Are you ticklish?” She slowly stood up, advancing on the scrambling form of the mechanic.

 

      Laura laughed nervously. “Who, me? Pffft no. That’s ridiculous, why would you even think that.” She had been moving backwards at a crawl and her eyes shifted to the door of the cabin and escape. Carmilla of course caught the movement and she arched a brow and raised her chin at Laura, daring her to make a move.

 

      Not wanting to miss her chance Laura sprang to her feet and sprinted towards the cabin door in hopes of catching Carmilla off guard. She didn’t bank on the fast feet of the other girl and Carmilla had caught up to her almost immediately so Laura changed her course, instead running around the side of the cabin. The pub owner’s feet skidded as she adjusted her trajectory, following closely. The dogs had gotten up among the hubbub and were running with them, barking happily as their tongues lolled out of their mouths. Carmilla realized her secret weapon in that moment and took advantage of it mercilessly.

 

      She whistled shrilly and Shivers fell back next to her as Anderson shot after Laura, running around the woman and causing her to stumble as she tried not to run into the large animal. Carmilla clicked her tongue a few times and pointed at Laura, and Shivers immediately lumbered forward and rose to stand on his hind legs to stand taller than Laura who had just gotten to her feet and was now staring at the grey dog with wide eyes. Carmilla then barked a sharp command in the form of the word ‘DANCE’ knowing that Laura wouldn’t be prepared for what came next. Shivers let his front legs fall and land on Laura’s shoulders and as expected, the brunette shrieked and fell down to land squarely on her amazing ass.

 

      Shivers fell with her and plopped himself firmly on top of the brunette, waiting for another command from his mistress who was laughing heartily as she reached the proverbial dog-pile. Her hands were planted on her hips and her feet were spread. She cocked her head to the side while wearing her biggest shit eating grin.

 

      “Give up?” Carmilla smirked down at the struggling form of Laura. The girl was glaring up at her human companion but she had to bite her lips to stop from smiling. She shook her head and was rewarded with another laugh from those unfairly red lips.

 

      “Alright but just remember, you brought this on yourself Creampuff.” Carmilla sighed as she snapped her fingers to which the two dogs got to their feet and wandered off. Like a shot Carmilla had launched herself at Laura who was scrambling to her feet. She caught her around the waist and they wrestled for a moment before Carmilla managed to swing a leg around Laura’s hips and sit on her waist. After a little more grappling she managed to nab both of Laura’s hands and she held them above the girls head in one of hers.

 

      So there they were, one straddling the other and grinning lasciviously while the other laughs and tries to buck off the girl holding them down.

 

      Unbeknownst to Laura her movements had managed to stop the threat of tickles but it had another effect, one which she should have known would occur honestly.

 

      Due to their... compromising position her bucking to remove Carmilla had only served to push her hips further into the clutch of firm thighs around her waist. Laura’s laughter started to subside as she realized that Carmilla hadn’t made a move to tickle her yet seeing as she had one hand free after all.

 

      As her chuckles petered out she caught sight of the raven haired girls eyes and emotive face. Brown irises had dilated and pupils were dark, soft lips were parted and her breaths came in uneven gasps. The visual ignited something in Laura and she licked her tongue out of her mouth, moistening her lips. She watched Carmilla’s eyes follow the movement and then as the girl on top of her bit her bottom lip she felt a sharp heat swoop low in her belly.

 

      “Carmilla....” She uttered her name in a low voice, her eyes flicking up to meet the fierce gaze of the woman who was unwavering in her stare.

 

      Slowly Carmilla leaned forward, keeping Laura’s hands trapped above her head. Her free hand raised to caress a prone cheek and Laura leaned into it, closing her eyes to focus on the innumerable amount of feelings coursing through her in that moment. She opened them again to see Carmilla’s face hovering inches above her own.

 

      Laura’s breathing was fast and she could feel Carmilla’s pulse quicken in the wrist of the hand that was now only loosely gripped around her own. She could have moved them to pull Carmilla down in a second but she didn’t. She revelled in the slow build and raised her head fractionally up from the ground, slanting her chin higher, exposing more of her neck to the woman who was still staring.

 

      Carmilla grinned and she lowered herself a little more, her lips that much closer to Laura’s. She waited then, looking into Laura’s eyes to make sure she wasn’t overstepping her bounds in keeping the woman beneath her in such a prone position.

 

      Finding the juxtaposition of Carmilla’s dominant nature and extreme care extremely erotic Laura made the next move because frankly, she didn’t want to feel the build up anymore. She wanted that moment. That first brush of lips, the melting into each other, the next step in whatever it was they were.

 

      She lifted her head further and pressed her parted lips into the lush and waiting ones above her. The change in temperature from the cool breeze across their faces to the heat of each other was startling in the best of ways. The kiss was slow and gentle, Laura freed one of her hands to wind into hair at the nape of Carmilla’s neck and allowing the other to lace fingers with Carmilla’s hand which was still holding her.

 

      Carmilla groaned at the feeling of Laura’s hand at her neck and the brunette broke the kiss to look at Carmilla with softly lidded eyes. She smiled a dazzling smile up at the raven haired girl and this time tightened her grip on Carmilla’s scalp, bringing her down in another kiss.

 

      It started out the same as the first but as Laura kept her unyielding hold on Carmilla’s hair the girl groaned again and lowered her body to rest fully on the form of the girl underneath her. Laura gasped and Carmilla seized her opportunity and deepened the kiss, her tongue seeking Laura’s own. Laura tasted like safety and chocolate from their earlier s’mores. Carmilla tasted like patience and cider.

 

      This change caused the kiss to become more frenzied and Carmilla rocked her hips into Laura, forcing a moan out of the brunette.

 

      Before much else could occur they were snapped back to reality by the sound of the dogs playing down near the river. Loud barks could be heard along with water splashing.

 

      Carmilla pulled herself from Laura’s warmth and gulped in a large breath of air, they had forgotten to breathe. Laura was in no better state, she was out of breath and gazing up at Carmilla with a hunger the pub owner hadn't seen from her before.

 

      With a small smile Carmilla rose to her feet and extended her hand which Laura took without pause as she was lifted to stand before the raven haired woman.

 

      “We should go check on the fire. I wouldn’t want to burn down your dad’s cabin.” Carmilla had mostly regained her breath and she moved to walk back to the fire pit, her hand still holding Laura’s.

 

      Laura just laughed and walked closely next to Carmilla, hands clasped with their shoulders brushing and delirious smiles lighting up their features.

 

 

Chapter Text

      After their little romp behind the cabin they settled themselves back behind the fire, the sun was almost down and the stars were coming out.

 

      They huddled more closely than the last time as Laura had pulled a long lounge beach chair out of the shed along side the cabin. Carmilla sat down against the back of the chair and Laura sat between her legs, her head resting on Carmilla’s chest as they watched the sky turning into a kaleidoscope.

 

      Carmilla had her arms wrapped around Laura’s middle and when she felt Laura’s breathing even out and slow she looked down to see the brunette had fallen asleep even before the full sunset. Carmilla chuckled lowly and kissed Laura’s temple before settling in to watch by herself.

 

      She didn’t move to go inside until the sun was fully down and only the moon and stars were visible. Even though they lived in a small town the light pollution was enough that she didn’t often get to see such a clear and unimpeded view of the night sky. Everything seemed to shine brighter out on the river and she was glad of the opportunity to experience it. Not to mention this was a family place for Laura so everything held that much more significance.

 

      Shifting a bit Carmilla managed to pull a leg in so she could step off one side of the chair. She then sat up straight with Laura still held firmly in her arms, the girl in question still deeply asleep. Carmilla bit her lip and creased her brow in thought for a moment before she decided she wouldn’t wake Laura. The mechanic didn’t always sleep well and Carmilla wasn’t interested in interrupting what looked to be a sound sleep. Instead she kept one arm wrapped around her and snuck the other under Laura’s knees to carry her fireman style. The raven haired girl got a firm grip and stood, shifting Laura minutely as she walked towards the cabin.

 

      Thankfully they had only closed the screen door earlier and it wasn’t difficult for Carmilla to use the fingers of the hand under Laura’s knees to pull it open. She stepped inside, careful not to bump the sleeping brunette against the doorframe or door and made her way over to the bedroom. Reaching it she laid Laura down gently, after which she pulled up the few thin blankets to cover her. She had no need of doing anything else as Laura had changed into a pair of sweats and a t-shirt before they ate earlier and neither girl had bothered with shoes since they arrived that morning. Carmilla supposed they should be concerned about dirty feet in the bed but honestly, it was just dirt. She really couldn’t be bothered with something so trivial.

 

      Carmilla left the bedroom door open as she went outside to take care of the fire that had only been embers when she carried Laura. She banked it with the stones stacked nearby and made sure there was no wind reaching it before standing and walking over to the dogs who were still passed out nearer the river. She would normally use a short whistle to get their attention (as opposed to the longer whistle which she used to inform them she needed them to perform) but she didn’t want to wake up Laura since sound had a habit of travelling better at night for some unknown reason.

 

      Kneeling she laid a hand on the back of each of their necks. They lifted their sleepy heads to regard her with soft eyes and she smiled as she got up and spoke to her two canine loves. “Come on guys, bedtime.”

 

      Carmilla walked slowly with a hand on both Shiver’s and Anderson’s backs, still enjoying the quiet and solitude. She couldn’t leave her home in town if she wanted to be alone since she without fail always ran into someone who decided their meeting in the street was a wonderful opportunity to catch up, or they avoided her since she struck an imposing figure when she was broadcasting her ‘do not fuck with me’ vibe. Still, being around people where she could hear their inane chatter and see their fake faces was too much for the raven haired girl most times. This cabin was a godsend and she hoped they would find themselves there more often.

 

      They had only gone a few steps when Anderson lifted her head and nosed Carmilla in the side. Reaching down Carmilla addressed the golden haired beauty. “What’s is it, love?”

 

      Anderson opened her mouth in a smile and turned to face the cabin with a quiet huff.

 

      “I know what you mean.” Carmilla replied with a smile as she too regarded the cabin and it’s occupant. “After what happened earlier I don’t know what we are anymore but I’m hopeful. Do you guys give me your blessing? I won’t see her if you don’t like her.” She looked back and forth between the animals, gauging their reactions.

 

      Shivers nipped her fingers, his way of telling her she was being silly so she knew he had warmed up to Laura. The first time she had asked his opinion on someone he had growled rather menacingly. She hadn’t taken him seriously at the time but she wishes she had, it might have saved her a little heartache. She no longer took their opinions lightly and after a few experiences she had to admit they were excellent judges of character. But then she supposes, most animals were. Anderson just licked her other fingers before pushing her head up into her hand for a few scratches.

 

      With a chuckle of thanks she relented and rubbed her ears which were prone to itch.

 

      Carmilla thought for a moment on her relationship with her dogs and she remembered times when she had lost friends because of them. They didn’t let her bring them to their homes because ‘then I’ll have to vacuum Carmilla’ (which didn’t make sense to Carmilla, what’s a little cleaning compared to the companionship?), or they told her to ditch her nights with them to hang out instead, or they told her she was weird and a freak for talking to them like they were human. Carmilla believed fully that if you treated them with respect and took the time to teach them how to communicate with you, then you were absolutely in a position to speak to them in a way most people couldn’t. In any case, each of those situations showed her the need to cut the thread of their friendship, another person who didn’t understand her was the last thing she needed.

 

      Besides the Kirsch’s and now Laura, her dogs were her family. They aren’t a decorative piece to push in someones face as if to say, ‘look, I am obviously a good person since I have a pet.’  They didn’t exist to make your life easier or more desirable. They weren’t there for your convenience. Think of it this way, you have friends, family, a job, places to go, things to do, a life of variety. What does a dog have? 

 

      You. They have you. You walk them, feed them, make sure they are in good health, socialize them, bond with them. When you accept another life into yours you become responsible for them. Through the positives and the negatives they rely on you so you owe it to them to only give your best, to make sure they are a priority because as soon as you take them in you become their number one, no doubt.

 

      They reached the cabin door and Carmilla held it open while they walked heavily inside to collapse on the living room rug. The raven haired girl pulled the door closed and locked it. She wasn’t concerned with closing the second one as if anyone thought to break in her shadows would be quick to alert her and dispatch them if required. Besides, the breeze through the screen was too nice not to allow inside while they slept.

 

      With a tired sigh Carmilla got ready for bed and headed in to the bedroom to see Laura had migrated to the far side of the double bed and was curled in on herself with her knees near her chest, and a hand laid next to her peaceful face. 

 

      Carmilla smiled and lifted the blankets on the other side, slipping in and settling herself on her back with one arm behind her head. She turned her head to regard the girl next to her. Laura had shifted when the bed moved and still mostly asleep she flipped herself over to face Carmilla. 

 

      A hushed mumble preceded words heavy with sleep as Laura moved to lay her head on Carmilla’s chest which was thundering with her suddenly erratic heartbeat. “Carm.... I missed you.” Laura threw a warm arm across the expanse of Carmilla’s stomach and pulled herself tightly to the raven haired girl’s side.

 

      Carmilla smiled through her words. “I was barely gone cupcake.”

 

      “Mmmmm..... too long.” Laura sighed heavily and started to drift back into a deep sleep as Carmilla hummed her assent and closed her eyes. 

 

      Drawing her fingers through long honey brown locks in a sort of hypnotic pattern, Carmilla followed her into the dark without a single fear or care.

 

***

 

      Kirsch rolled over in his bed Sunday morning, forgetting for a moment that he had a cast to account for. He remembered when he landed on it though.

 

       With a hiss he jolted up and looked at his plaster encased arm. The arm itself hadn’t hurt but his hip which caught on the rough edge certainly did. He only had another 2 weeks in the thing and he was itching to get rid of it.

 

      Resigning himself to the fact that he was now fully awake regardless of whether he wanted to be or not, Kirsch got out of bed and headed into his kitchen to fix himself some coffee.

 

      He only got halfway there before a knock on his door stopped him. He knew who that would be as they’d shown up everyday over the course of the past week. With a long and angry sigh he trudged to the door and opened it with a dramatic swing to scrutinize the man standing outside.

 

      “She’s not here Will. You can stop showing up unannounced like this any time now.” His voice was stern and laced with venom. The darker man didn’t pick up on the warning, either that or he didn’t care.

 

      Will groaned and released an angry breath. “Look man, I just need to talk to her. If you’d just give me her phone number I can stop bothering you.”

 

      Kirsch snorted. “Right, so you can start bothering her? Yeah no way bro. Not gonna happen.”

 

      The other man squinted his eyes in annoyance before his shoulders drooped and a defeated expression adorned his usually harsh features. “Look. I’m not here to cause any trouble. I just want to talk to my sister.”

 

      Although the change in attitude threw Kirsch off for a second, he didn’t back down. “Like I said. I’m not giving you her number. And you won’t get it from anyone else either so don’t bother looking. My family, Laura and I are the only people that even have it. Just save yourself the effort because it won’t lead to anything. We won’t let it.”

 

      A little of the heat returned to Will’s eyes. “You won’t let it? I’m her family. You don’t have the right to tell me I can’t talk to my own blood!”

 

      Kirsch’s jaw set and he heard blood rushing in his ears. He stepped forward and pushed a finger harshly into the chest of the intruder. “You. Aren’t. Her. Family.” Each word was punctuated with another finger to the chest. “You weren’t there when she was crying herself to sleep every night when we took her in. You weren’t there when she started talking to people again. You weren’t there when she had her first heartbreak. You weren’t there when she felt close enough to hug us after 4 years of being with us.” He had pushed Will all the way to the edge of his porch and the man’s expression had fallen with each proclamation.

 

      But Kirsch wasn’t done yet. “And you know what? The worst part isn’t even that you weren’t there. It’s that even when you were, she came to expect nothing from you. Being physically there or not she never got anything from you, because you never tried. You didn’t try when it counted. When your mother was beating the shit out of a 6 year old little girl you just stood by and watched.”

 

      Will’s face was ashen and his breaths came in short gasps.

 

      “If you never tried when it could have made a difference, why should she when it won’t?” Kirsch stood up to his full height to regard the other man who was gaping and stuttering.

 

      Will tried to speak but nothing came out, his throat had dried up. He looked imploringly up at Kirsch, begging the man to understand.

 

      For all his hatred for the man, Kirsch saw something in that moment that gave him a reason to cut the man a little slack. Not much, in fact next to none. But a little. He sighed and scanned his yard for a minute before settling his gaze back on the darker man.

 

      “Look. I’m not going to give you her number, and neither will anyone else. If you are for real about not causing trouble or hurting her, you’ll have to come up with another way to talk to her. And no more of this ambushing bullshit, you need a new tactic. No one feels comfortable when cornered.” He looked at the man to gauge his reaction, feeling like he had already said too much.

 

      Will’s face regained a little hope and he started to speak but Kirsch cut him off with a sneer before he could.

 

      “Don’t thank me. Don’t ask me how to talk to her. Just don’t. I’m not here to help you, I’m here to look out for my sister. My sister. Your interests aren’t my concern, only hers. Just remember this, if you do anything, anything, to hurt her or bring up anything she’d rather not remember, I will find you. And I won’t hesitate to make you feel the agony you and your mother inflicted on her. With interest.” Kirsch had stepped forward again and forced Will to step down a step leaving Kirsch standing that much taller than him. He glared a warning at the darker man and before Will could respond, he turned on his heel and strode through his front door.

 

      With a resounding bang his door shut and left the stranger slumped into himself, staring blankly at the ground, at a loss as to what he’d do next.

Chapter Text

      With a groan Lafontaine reluctantly woke up to find their mouth full of wild red hair that was most assuredly, not theirs.

 

      “Pfffffttt.” They pulled themselves up onto their elbows, sputtering and pulling strands out of their mouth. The woman who had been planted in the crook of their neck having been displaced, they chuckled at the position they became aware of.

 

      Perry may have been generally mild mannered in nature when she was conscious but she was something else entirely when she was passed out. Laf was on the very edge of their bed with the woman flung haphazardly across the large expanse of space that should have been more than comfortable for two people.

 

      Shrugging in defeat Laf got out of the bed and plodded into the small kitchen to prepare breakfast. Perry had bought them a book on molecular gastronomy for their birthday and they’d be damned if they didn’t master how to cook a perfect egg at the very least.

 

      Lafontaine dug around in a few kitchen drawers before finding a small scale and measuring tape. They already had a calculator in their pocket (who doesn’t?) so they set it next to their other supplies before pulling out 4 eggs from the fridge. With a face set in determination they set out to figure the exact amount of time required to cook the perfect soft boiled egg.

 

***

 

      “Cupcake, why are you buying chocolate chip cookies? I thought we came here for cheese and eggs.” Carmilla narrowed her eyes suspiciously at the package of cookies sitting in their shopping basket before she directed her gaze to the squirming brunette.

 

      Laura cleared her throat nervously before word vomiting her sentence. “BecauseweranoutofcookieslastnightandIneedmore.”

 

      A perfectly sculpted eyebrow raised skeptically. “Repeat at a human pace please.”

 

      A dramatic sigh precluded Laura’s response. “Because we ran out of cookies last night and I need more.” 

 

      Carmilla’s eyes widened slightly. “Laura, we had a full unopened jumbo pack! How the hell are we out already?”

 

      “I have a problem, I’ve never hidden that.” She shrugged slightly self consciously but resolvedly.

 

      Honestly, how did she survive? Carmilla chuckled as she tracked the hastily retreating girl with her eyes. She switched the package for a slightly healthier alternative (according to the label they had less trans fats so at least she could save Laura from herself just a little bit) and followed Laura to the checkout so they could head back to the cabin and the dogs who were more than content to spend the morning sleeping in the air conditioned space, their energy spent from that morning’s run along the river.

 

      After paying they headed out, bags in hand to be immediately struck by the unseasonably hot day. 

 

      Carmilla flinched and hissed, recoiling from the skin boiling sensation.

 

      “Oh my god, did you just hiss at the sun? What are you, a vampire?” Laura had a hand raised over her mouth trying to stifle her giggles.

 

      She got an eye roll of epic proportions in response. “I have to keep some of my secrets. Otherwise I’ll lose my air of mystery, won’t I?” 

 

      Laura only laughed, immediately catching onto the irony in that statement. She thinks she might be one of the few people to actually know Carmilla as well as she does.

 

      They were halfway across the parking lot when Laura realized Carmilla was no longer walking behind her. She stopped and turned, a slight pout of confusion on her lips to see the raven haired girl standing next to an suv and staring inside.

 

      “Carmilla?” The girl didn’t respond, only standing tensely in place.

 

      Laura tried again as she lightly jogged over to accompany the girl. “Carmilla? What’s wrong?” Still garnering no response she came to a stand still next to Carmilla and glanced in the same direction hoping to see what had caught her attention.

 

      What she saw was heartbreaking and she became aware that Carmilla wasn’t just tense, but angry. Not even just angry, she was seething and Laura was one hundred percent sure that whatever happened next could have the potential to get the both of them arrested if things panned out a certain way.

 

      Carmilla’s face had gone rock solid, her eyes stormed, and her hands were clenched in a white knuckled grip. Inside the vehicle was a border collie, flaked out in the passenger seat and breathing shallowly but quickly, dry tongue lolling out of it’s mouth. It’s eyes were glazed and half closed and it became obvious that it had been in there for quite some time although any amount of time is too much when it came to leaving animals in vehicles.

 

      “Shit.” Laura looked around frantically, trying to ascertain if the owner and neglecter was in the immediate vicinity. Scanning the lot she didn’t see anyone and it was already too late to go inside to get the store to page someone and even if they called the police or animal services it would probably be too late for this particular case so she did what any decent human would do. She tried to get the animal out herself and so did Carmilla. They tried all the doors to find they were locked, both girls were frantic to free the trapped animal at this point. Hands were shaking and vision narrowed to a point, neither girl interested in anything other than freeing the dog. The windows weren’t cracked nearly far enough for either of them to get an arm inside and the owner was still nowhere to be found which was both a blessing and a curse. If they were there they could unlock the vehicle but conversely they could just leave with the dog in that state and it might not get the right treatment considering they had already neglected the animal. Not to mention they wouldn’t have to answer for what they had done.

 

      Just as Laura turned her back to see if she could spot another person to help she heard glass breaking so she turned on a dime to see Carmilla had lobbed a rock straight through the back passenger side window. She pushed aside the glass and reached down to unlock the door, lacerating her forearm in the process before pulling it open with a strength that belied her small stature as she reached forward to flick the electric lock.

 

      As soon as she heard the mechanism click thanks to Carmilla finding the switch, Laura had wrenched the front door open and picked the dog up in her arms. Once she had a firm hold she turned and sprinted to the nearest shade at the side of the lot. Carmilla was at her side with two water bottles from their truck, face still a war of emotions.

 

      Laura grabbed one of the bottles and poured water into the animals throat while Carmilla doused the dog in the water from the other bottle, fanning their fur to try and evaporate the moisture as fast as possible and cool their blood.

 

      “Come on buddy, come on come on come on!” Laura repeated it like a mantra, hoping against all the evidence that the dog would be alright. She helped Carmilla fan the dog, not entirely sure what she was doing but she was sure Carmilla knew what she was doing.

 

      The dogs breathing started to regulate, their eyes were slightly more focused and they were accepting the water more easily although they were still sluggish and mostly unresponsive. 

 

      Carmilla shot to her feet and ran a hand through her hair while she whipped out her phone to search for the nearest veterinary office.

 

      “Okay, the nearest vet is about a 10 minute drive-” Carmilla was cut off by angry shouting behind her.

 

      “Hey! What the fuck do you think you’re doing?! You fucking bitches damaged my truck!!!” A man was striding towards them with purpose, his face a mask of red and twisted features. He didn’t even look at his dog.

 

      He came up to stand in front of Carmilla, a full foot taller and shot a finger into her chest when he addressed her. “Who’s going to pay for the damage, is it going to be you, whore?”

 

      If Laura thought Carmilla’s anger had been apparent before, she wasn’t fully prepared for what came next. Carmilla’s eyes became dead calm, full of murderous intent while her lips spread into a feral grin.

 

      She took a step forward into the man’s space and forced him back a step. His face briefly flashed surprise before returning to their grimace of rage.

 

      “Oh it won't be me dickwad. You want to know why we fucked up your precious truck?” She took another step and reached forward to push him in the chest causing him to take another step back. “Because you left your dog in the fucking sweltering heat inside your precious fucking truck. What the fuck is wrong with you?!” She pointed to the compromise animal and didn’t back down one bit in her stance. “Do you see that? That animal was this close to dead before we came by. So no we’re not going to pay for your fucking truck because it’s fucking illegal to leave animals in hot vehicles here. Did you know that? If you call the cops on us for breaking your fucking window, we’ll just tell them what we did, and guess what? You will be the one charged, not us. So I’d rethink your next step if I were you.”

 

      For a moment everything was still and the tension in the air was palpable. Laura held her breath, still fanning the dog with one hand while occasionally administering more water. She waited, noticing Carmilla clenching her right fist and tensing as if to throw a punch.

 

      Please please please just let him get smart. The last thing we need is a fight right now.

 

      Thankfully Carmilla’s words seemed to get through to the man. Not about the animal regrettably, but about being charged by the police. He clenched his jaw and without a word turned around, shut the doors of his suv and climbed in before driving off with a squeal of tires. 

 

       The whole time, he hadn’t spared a single look at the suffering dog. Laura sagged in relief at the knowledge that at least the animal would be away from him for good now. Carmilla just pulled out the truck keys while Laura picked up the dog again and got into the back seat, allowing Carmilla to drive off to the nearest vet, their shopping bags forgotten in the parking lot.

 

      In record time they pulled up at the vet which was blessedly open on a Sunday and shot inside with the dog.

 

      Carmilla simply said the words and the staff sprung into action. “Dog locked in a car, it’s bad.” Without hesitation vets and assistants scrambled to take the animal into the back where IVs were administered to hydrate and an oxygen mask applied to raise levels and hopefully prevent brain damage. More water was applied to her fur to help cool her blood and Carmilla and Laura watched through the large picture window separating the front room from the examination room, hands clasped and gripping with a hellish intensity to each other.

 

      After about a half hour the a vet assistant came out to speak to them.

 

      “She’ll be alright, you guys caught her just in time. Any longer and she either wouldn’t have made it. We won’t know if there’s any brain damage until she comes to fully. We want to keep her for at least the next day to be sure. How can we contact you?”

 

      To Carmilla’s surprise, Laura immediately offered up her name and phone number as well as claiming responsibility for any costs. She told them to spare no expense to make sure the dog was alright.

 

      So Laura gave them all the information they needed and the two headed back outside, both turning to look over their shoulders hoping to see that the dog was actually okay. They climbed into the truck and Laura heaved a very tired sigh.

 

      “You think she’ll be okay, Carmilla?” Laura looked to the raven haired girl, her face drained of the energy she had shown only an hour before.

 

      Carmilla reached over and clasped her hand in Laura’s. “I do. They said we got to her in time. They’ll call us and let us know.” She squeezed, hurting for both the dog and Laura who was taking it harder than she would have anticipated. Not that any normally functioning human wouldn’t be harbouring such strong feelings for the situation.

 

      Nodding her head Laura agreed and they drove off, back to the store to pick up what they had set out for in the first place.

 

***

 

      Lafontaine and Perry had eaten their breakfast which hadn’t quite turned out as Laf had hoped. They figured that they might have to test the formula on as many different kinds of eggs as they could since maybe, different eggs had slightly different chemistry. It merited some research.

 

      The two of them had spent the rest of their day cleaning their shared apartment (it had two bedrooms so for the most part people didn’t question them living together. They didn’t need to know that only one was regularly used) and dancing in their kitchen.

 

      Heading to bed that night found Laf getting a surprising text message from Laura.

 

      Laura (22:37): Hey Laf. Just wanted to let you know I won’t be coming into the shop tomorrow, or possibly at all this week. Would you mind taking care of things for me? Tell Danny I left you in charge.

 

      Lafontaine (22:40): Hey L. Sure but I have to ask, what’s up? It’s not like you to leave the work to us. You rarely ever miss time. 

 

      Laura (22:42): I know but trust me, this is too important for me to consider anything else. I’ll tell you everything next time I see you, okay?

 

      Lafontaine (22:44): Okay if you say so. You’d let me know if I needed to worry, right?

 

      Laura (22:47): Of course I would. I’ll see you next week, okay?

 

      Lafontaine (22:48): Sounds good. Stay safe L.

 

      Laura (22:51): Always, say hi to Perry for me.

 

      With a sigh Laf put their phone on their nightstand as Perry regarded them curiously.

 

      “Something wrong honey?” Perry scooted towards the centre of the bed to sit next to Lafontaine. She reached an arm around them and rested her chin on their shoulder.

 

      “I just had an interesting conversation with Laura. She won’t be into work this week.” Laf had furrowed their brow in confusion. Looking at Perry they saw their expression mirrored almost exactly.

 

      Perry took a breath before replying. “What do you mean? Is something wrong?” Her face was screwed up in concern, her eyes darting back and forth in a nervous habit.

 

      Gripping her hand in a firm grip Laf regarded their girlfriend seriously. “She said she’s fine and she’ll tell us when we see her next. Okay? We don’t need to worry too much. Besides, she’s with Carmilla right now so she’s not alone.”

 

      Their words had the desired effect and Perry took in a breath, calming down slightly. “If you say so sweetie. Now lets go to sleep, I suppose we can’t figure anything out right now.”

 

      Lafontaine grinned crookedly at Perry, happy to see the woman trying to let it go. That wasn’t an easy feat for Perry.

 

      Shutting of the light, they cuddled and went to sleep.

 

***

 

      Carmilla and Laura were sitting down to their dinner of hamburgers when Laura got a call. The brunette sprang to her feet and picked up immediately.

 

      “Hello?” The anxiousness was apparent in her voice and Carmilla sat in anticipation, only hearing half of the conversation.

 

      She assumed it was good news since she saw Laura’s shoulders release all the tension they had held since leaving the vet earlier as she listened to the speaker.

 

      “Thank you so much. And yes, I’ll pick her up first thing tomorrow morning. Thank you again, you have no idea.” She hung up the phone and sat down heavily next to Carmilla. The pub owner put her arm around the mechanic’s shoulders and squeezed.

 

      “So. Good news creampuff?” She encouraged Laura to speak.

 

      Upon her sentence Laura’s face broke out into a dazzling and ridiculously happy smile. “Yes. She woke up fully and they don’t think there’s any brain damage. She’s going to be fine. We can pick her up tomorrow.” She rested her head on Carmilla’s shoulder, all her energy spent.

 

      “You say we can pick her up. Does this mean what I think it means?” Carmilla looked forward to her own dogs who were now gnawing on the large bones they had bought at the market. She knew what Laura was going to say and she honestly wasn’t surprised. Nor would she have made a different decision, she understood perfectly.

 

      “Yes. I’m taking her home with us. I’ve told Laf I’m taking the week off so we can get everything we need tomorrow after we’re back in town and get her registered and all that stuff.” Laura said with a sigh.

 

      “We? I’m involved in this cupcake?” Carmilla smirked, knowing full well what Laura meant.

 

      “Oh shit, sorry! I just thought you could help me since you know so much about dogs in general. I know basic stuff but I was hoping you could teach me what I need to know so I can take proper care of her? Was that too much? I’m sorry, god I’m such a doofus!” Laura threw her head back and furrowed her face adorably so Carmilla wasn’t sorry in the least for not stopping the rant. She was way too cute.

 

      “Calm down. Of course I’ll help you, Laura.” Carmilla smiled and nudged her shoulder into Laura’s.

 

      She was rewarded with a bright smile and squeal of delight before Laura threw herself at her and clasped her arms around her neck.

 

      Carmilla laughed and hugged the brunette back. They stayed that way for a moment and Carmilla felt Laura relax and then shudder slightly. She realized with alarm that Laura was crying.

 

      “Hey hey hey, Laura Laura Laura. It’s okay, she’s fine.” She rubbed her hands down Laura’s back, soothing the girl.

 

      The action helped and Laura relaxed, her tears devolving into sniffles. She drew away after a moment and looked Carmilla in the eyes.

 

      “Thanks to you, yes. I wouldn’t have known to douse her in water. The vet said on the phone that doing that played a huge part in why she is okay. If you hadn’t done that she at least would have had brain damage. That was all you. Which is why I need you to teach me how to take care of her.” The need in Laura’s eyes was strong and Carmilla was about to protest, but then she relented.

 

      “Okay. I’ll tell you everything you need to know.” She smiled at Laura before pulling her back in for a bone crushing hug.

 

      Tomorrow morning their little ragtag family of four would be one bigger and she couldn’t find it in herself to be upset or full of regret. She’s seen the empty look in Laura’s eyes when the brunette didn’t think she was looking and that day she saw that emptiness disappear when she was caring for or speaking about the victimized border collie. 

 

      Maybe, just maybe what Laura needed was someone to take care of.

Chapter Text

      Monday morning found the two women and dogs packing up, locking the cabin and hiding the key in the knothole of a tree on the side of the property. They hopped in the truck and headed out to the nearest gas station where they’d fill up before going to the vet’s office. 

 

      It was there that Carmilla bruised up her right hand. Not while filling the tank though, oh no. Nothing was ever that simple.

 

      She was minding her own business while Laura was inside getting some munchies for the trip home and pre-paying for their gas, the dogs in the backseat with their heads happily hanging out the back window near where Carmilla was standing.

 

      As she was standing facing the front of the truck, one hand on the gas nozzle, she felt a hand roughly grab her shoulder and spin her around. 

 

      “What the fuck!” She had let go of the nozzle and stumbled backwards slightly from the force of the turn. And who was standing behind her but the asshole who had left the border collie in his truck the day before.

 

      Carmilla’s eyes took on a murderous glean as she stood to her full 5’2” height and glared at the man with intent.

 

      “You thought you were done with me? Where the fuck is my dog?” He stepped forward and into Carmilla’s space. Bad move buddy, bad move.

 

      “Oh, you mean the one that doesn’t belong with you anymore? She’s safe and far from you, that’s where.” She sneered at the man. He didn’t take well to that and pushed her backwards so the still protruding gas nozzle dug into her lower back, causing her to hiss in surprise.

 

      “Give. Me. Back. My. Dog. BITCH.” Each word was punctuated with another push but Carmilla refused to be moved, taking each assault with a slight sway before she stood straight again. 

 

      At the last poke Carmilla’s features broke out into a ferocious grin and she stepped forward and faced off with the man.

 

      “No.” She didn’t elaborate, the guy didn’t deserve an explanation.

 

      His face took on a red hue as he bunched up his shoulders and lifted his arm, grabbing her upper arm in a painful grip and shaking her, preparing to spew what would doubtless have been more venomous words. That was all she needed to act.

 

      Carmilla’s already fisted hand shot out and slugged him directly in the jaw. He stumbled backwards, shock written clearly all over his face, which was rapidly morphing into an even more twisted and hateful expression. He tightened his grip and lifted his own arm to retaliate.

 

      He was large and his movements were laborious. Carmilla was small and swift. Before his arm had even pulled back fully hers hand swung out again, this time getting him square in the eye. He staggered backwards and this time his grip faltered, allowing Carmilla to wrest his hand free and push him with force in the chest.

 

      She pulled her arm back and once again punched the man. This time in the throat. His hands shot up and wrapped around his own windpipe as he coughed and sucked in air with a wheeze.

 

      Carmilla was winding up to strike again but at that moment Laura sprung out of the gas station doors, the attendant hot on her heels. 

 

      “Carmilla! That’s enough!” Laura took hold of her hand, jerking the raven haired woman out of her violent trance. Laura wasn’t looking at Carmilla, but at the man who was now breathing more freely as the attendant tried to help him. The brunette’s features were hard and she looked like she might pick up where Carmilla left off, but apparently she had more self control than the pub owner.

 

      As the attendant was trying to talk to the man, telling him that he’d called the authorities and inquired as to whether he needed anything after the attack.

 

      The two women held their breath, realizing that Carmilla’s fate was in the hands of the abuser in that moment since all the attendant had seen was Carmilla punching away. Thankfully, the man didn’t seem to be in possession of many brain cells as he pushed the attendant back, causing him to fall hard on the curb and cry out sharply in pain.

 

      As the man advanced on them with his arms outstretched and his face in an ugly grimace, Laura pushed Carmilla behind her and stepped forward, bringing her foot up and kicking the man square in the groin which was quite a feat considering the height difference. He squeaked in surprise and clasped both hands over the bruised area, falling to his knees. The attendant was standing now and looked at the women in shock and sudden understanding.

 

      Not long afterwards the police arrived and took statements from the attendant, Carmilla and Laura. Then they reviewed the security tape and saw that the man had indeed been the one to initiate the incident and the girl’s testimonies were accurate. The attendant decided to press charges for assault and the girls were allowed to leave after giving their information to the officer. The man was being shoved into the back of a cruiser with a sullen expression.

 

      Carmilla sat in the backseat to calm the dogs as Laura finished filling the gas tank and then driving off. Anderson and Shivers were practically vibrating with tension and were clearly upset they hadn’t been able to fit through the open windows to ‘help’. 

 

      It took a few minutes but she got them settled and they were napping as they made their way to the vet.

 

      With a huffed laugh Carmilla couldn’t help but think to herself how eventful the day had been so far. And it wasn’t even 9am.

 

***

 

      “Okay. So what do you know little lady?” Laura was sat on her haunches with a happy, albeit nervous dog sitting in her living room.

 

      After their... altercation the two women had headed to the vet to pick up Granger (Laura had named her after Hermione, of course she had) and learn all they could about her from the vet. Turned out she was less than two years old and besides the obvious there were a few other issues. She had serious trust issues and shied away from any hand that came near her. It broke both women’s hearts to see her spirit trampled on like that and neither felt even a sliver of remorse for the man who was now facing charges. She was small for her breed and the vet ascertained she had been the runt of her litter and would probably never exceed 30 pounds given her small stature. Also she was slightly malnourished and underweight even considering that but with a proper diet that would be remedied easily. Carmilla promised to teach Laura how to properly prepare a raw diet and that issue was settled. Her nails had needed to be clipped so that was taken care of and her teeth were still in good shape due to her young age. 

 

      After filling out the appropriate paperwork and paying the bill Laura, Carmilla and Granger made their way to the truck to meet Anderson and Shivers. Thankfully that went over well (you never know) but to be safe Carmilla drove with her dogs in the backseat and Laura sat in the passenger seat with Granger curled up on the floor in front of her. 

 

      Now, Carmilla was sitting on the large couch with Anderson on one side of her, Shivers on the other. The three were watching the display going on in the middle of the room with curiosity. 

 

      Laura narrowed her eyes in thought and pulled at her bottom lip absentmindedly with the index finger and thumb of her right hand as she considered her next move. Granger didn’t entirely trust them yet although she had shown she was receptive to the idea. Poor girl probably never had the chance to imprint on anyone so it was no wonder she was hesitant.

 

      Thankfully Laura seemed to know enough to not force closeness on the dog and Carmilla released a relieved breath when instead of approaching the dog, Laura laid down on her back and just extended her hand towards the cautious animal.

 

      Granger eyed her warily and turned a bit to the side. Everyone in the room stayed still, just waiting. Carmilla credits what happened next to her own dogs since they were so at ease around the women. That calm energy must have communicated to the border collie as she relaxed slightly and moved to sniff the outstretched hand. A few inhales later and she licked Laura’s fingers. 

 

      The action caused the brunette to smile dazzlingly and twitch her fingers to scratch under Granger’s chin. The border collie allowed it for a moment before retreating and laying down in the corner where she could keep her sights on everyone.

 

      Laura sat up and sighed in defeat.

 

      “Don’t lose hope cupcake. That’s progress, trust me.” Carmilla smiled encouragingly at the mechanic. Shivers huffed in his sleep in apparent agreement.

 

      With a chuckle Laura pushed herself to her feet and slogged into the kitchen where she blindly thrust her hand into the takeout menu drawer and pulled one out at random.

 

      “Huh. Indian food good with you?” Laura held up the menu and raised her eyebrows in question.

 

      Carmilla shrugged with a look of disinterest, causing Laura to roll her eyes even as she plugged the restaurants number into her phone. 

 

      As Laura was placing their order, Carmilla flexed her hand and winced at the twinge that shot through it at the movement. She had an icepack sitting on her knuckles and Anderson would occasionally lick the moisture off. Overall her hand was fine and would feel mostly normal in a few days. It was just bruised.

 

      The pub owner lifted the pack and took another look, fascinated by the myriad of colours that were blooming across the expanse of skin. Laura sat in front of her, evidently having finished ordering and took Carmilla’s hand in her own. She kissed her knuckles and brought the icepack down to cover them once again.

 

      “You good?” She looked up at Carmilla and smiled sweetly.

 

      “Eh, I’ve had worse.” Carmilla smirked at the woman in front of her whose smile suddenly fell from her face and her skin took on a pallid tone. 

 

      Seeing the effect her ‘joke’ had had on the brunette Carmilla panicked slightly. “Shit, I’m sorry Laura. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I joke about it because otherwise I.... well it’s just how I deal. Okay?” She lifted her uninjured hand and cupped Laura’s cheek. She gazed into the other woman’s eyes with intent, hoping that Laura could see she was being genuine.

 

      Laura sighed and broke eye contact. “I get it, I do. It’s just all still so new to me, you know?”

 

      Carmilla internally cursed herself. “It’s fine. I’ll try not to be so cavalier about it in the future, okay?”

 

      This earned her a small smile as the mechanic looked up at her with watery eyes. She nodded her head and leaned up to kiss Carmilla softly. There was no haste in it, only understanding.

 

      They pulled apart and Carmilla rested her forehead against Laura’s and breathed in deeply. She had a feeling that there was more to Laura’s reaction than what it seemed to be on the surface. All in due time though. 

 

      She wrapped her arms around the kneeling girls shoulders and pulled her in for a strong hug. Laura buried her face in Carmilla’s hair and sagged against her, exhaustion making itself apparent. 

 

      As if she had read Carmilla’s mind, Laura spoke up. “I have a few things to tell you Carmilla, I do. Just not yet. I’m not ready.” She mumbled the words against Carmilla’s neck and tightened her hold around the raven haired girls waist.

 

      “Okay. I’m not going anywhere cupcake. Take your time.” She rubbed her hands up and down Laura’s back in a soothing motion.

 

      Laura smiled against her neck and curled her fingers into Carmilla’s shirt. They stayed like that for a few minutes, the only soundtrack being theirs and the dogs breathing.

 

      They were disrupted by the sound of the doorbell, signifying the arrival of their dinner.

 

      With a chuckle Carmilla released the brunette and sat back, watching as Laura grabbed her wallet and ran to the door. She quickly paid and tipped the delivery driver before lugging the alarming amount of food she had ordered into the kitchen.

 

      A raised eyebrow and smirk was Carmilla’s only commentary as she strode into the kitchen with purpose. Laura huffed in mock annoyance and jabbed her softly in the ribs.

 

      They filled their plates and grabbed their mango lassi’s and sat next to each other at the breakfast bar. Both women dug in with enthusiasm.

 

***

 

      After finishing their dinner the two let the dogs outside to play in Laura’s large fenced in back yard, and retired to the couch themselves. 

 

      Carmilla had her head resting in Laura’s lap and her hair was being played with by the brunette above her. She was this close to drifting off when Laura jerked, causing Carmilla to sit up in alarm and look at Laura in question.

 

      Seemingly Laura hadn’t noticed as her eyes were glued to the tv which had been tuned to a news station. Carmilla turned her head to take in whatever had enthralled Laura and was met with a face she hadn’t seen in a very long time. 

 

      With a twitch Laura grabbed the remote with the intention of turning off the tv set but she was stopped by Carmilla’s hand on hers. 

 

      Laura gazed at Carmilla in trepidation, waiting for her reaction. The only one she received was a tightening of Carmilla’s suddenly icy fingers as she couldn’t see her face. When recognition had set in the raven haired girl had sat forward, her hair shielding her expression.

 

      On the tv was a mugshot of a woman who may have been stunningly beautiful once, but now wore the signs of years of neglect and hard choices. Her eyes were cold and empty, and she gazed into the camera with no fear, only hate and defiance.

 

      The newscaster spoke in urgency as the banner on the bottom of the screen flashed the words:

 

      Lilita Karnstein: Suspects whereabouts unknown. Wanted for assault of a police officer, vehicle theft, and attempted murder of her oldest child, William Karnstein.

Chapter Text

      Carmilla hadn’t moved and neither had Laura. The brunette’s eyes were locked on the other, not sure how to react to the bombshell that had just landed in the room. The news report continued while they were stuck in time, saying something about Carmilla and the fact that Lilita’s record showed past abuse to her children, one of which had been taken into custody and subsequently next to nothing was known about her.

 

      She was still wracking her brain about what to do when suddenly Carmilla shot up from the couch and all but ran out of the house, not even going into the backyard to get her dogs. She slammed the door before Laura managed to even stand let alone follow.

 

      “CARM!” Laura bolted after her but after stumbling out onto her front porch, she saw that the pub owner was no where to be seen. She had disappeared, without a trace.

 

      Laura’s hands raised and threaded through her hair, pulling slightly in frustration. “Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.” Her eyes danced across her surroundings, begging for a glimpse of the woman.

 

      With a growl of frustration Laura turned to open her front door and made sure the door was latched before going to her backdoor and letting the dogs in. Anderson and Shivers were tense, aware immediately of the absence of their mistress. Laura sank to her knees in front of Anderson and Shivers, who’s muscles were bunching and trembling. Shivers was standing directly in front of her and his gaze met hers, the challenge was apparent.

 

      “If I let you out, will you find her? Keep an eye on her?” She raised one hand to the grey dog. In a rare moment of trust he nudged her outstretched hand before grazing past her and darting to the front door and waiting patiently. She opened it and he shot off in a specific direction immediately, he didn’t have to stop to find her trail. 

 

      Laura watched him disappear for a moment before closing the door and approaching Anderson who wasn’t holding it together as well as her now searching brother. She was rooted to the floor, her eyes were large and a low whine was emanating from her throat.

 

      “Hey hey hey. It’s okay. Shivers will find her. She’ll be okay. Come on honey, we can’t do anything from here.” Laura moved to the living room, leaving the anxious dog to stand and stare towards the front of the house. The brunette sat in the middle of her rug and saw that Granger had curled up in her corner, eyes darting from Laura to Anderson in distrust and obvious discomfort.

 

      Laura tried her best to get ahold of her emotions, they were roiling in her stomach and making her queasy. Her hands shook and her breath came in gasps. Carmilla darting out like that had thrown her and she was worried. Even considering how long it had been, it was obvious that Carmilla wasn’t over everything. How could anyone be? All Laura really knew was that Carmilla had to come back. She had to. Laura wasn’t sure what she would do if someone else was lost to her.

 

      As though reading the matching need in her, Anderson left her watch in the hall and laid down next to Laura, resting her great head into the brunette’s lap with a whine. Their eyes met with mirrored worry and fear.

 

      Not knowing what else to do, Laura started running her hand down the length of Anderson’s back and the action had a calming effect on the two. It was hypnotic and served to slow their heartbeats, their minds winding to a stop.

 

      They stayed that way, prepared to wait as long as it took.

 

***

 

      Carmilla moved without really being aware of where her feet were taking her. She just knew she had to get away, allow her feelings to ebb and race out of her veins. She had to get away from Laura in that moment, if she had stayed she’s not sure what she might have done in her panic. She had to keep Laura safe. Her mind was not her own when it was ruled by such strong emotions and she couldn’t, wouldn’t turn into that monster of a woman. 

 

      Her biological mother. Who was on the run. And had attacked Will, her biological brother. 

 

      No, not her brother, not her mother. That woman and her son, they weren’t her family, regardless of biology or shared experiences of abuse. The word family meant so much more than blood. She wasn’t sure what she was supposed to be feeling but it probably wasn’t the white hot rage and hatred that was coursing through her. 

 

      It wasn’t healthy, she knew that. But knowing something did nothing to change it, nothing was that easy.

 

      Carmilla’s feet started to slow and her mind allowed her to take notice of her surroundings. She had run far and admittedly she had no idea where she was beyond that she was surrounded by trees. She must have run behind Laura’s house and into the forest. Which was a mistake because she didn’t know the terrain in this part of the vast expanse of nature. She knew the area behind her pub but this wasn’t that same place.

 

      Tears burned at her eyes and her teeth hurt from the strength of her clenched jaw. She struggled to catch her breath, sweat making her hair stick to her forehead as she brought her hands to her knees.

 

      “FUUUUUUUUCCCKK!” She screamed, allowing herself to fall to her knees in the dry forest. She felt a release in her chest after the exclamation and she continued to scream, her thoughts and fears expelling into the cold night air.

 

      She had been sure she was done with that part of her life only a short while ago and then her long lost brother had shown up only to upset her whole existence. He brought forward memories she’d rather never remember, and long buried (and clearly unresolved) feelings. She was wounded and unsure of how she’d manage to move on, again. And then Laura happened along, and was just there. Carmilla had someone who didn’t look at her with pity and didn’t push. She felt like she was making progress, maybe managing to move on a little bit. 

 

      Then that news report. She knew without a doubt that her mother was looking for Will and the idiot had come to Carmilla. He might have brought her right to her doorstep, and not just metaphorically.

 

      Carmilla slumped down even further, her screams no longer making any noise. She didn’t have anything left in her, not a sound was made when she opened her mouth and her throat burned, raw from the excessive use. 

 

      The forest was cold and dark, a cutting breeze made her skin pebble but she didn’t have the energy to even lift her hands to try and rub some warmth back into herself. She was lost in her mind, flashbacks of her childhood racing in her vision. 

 

      She stayed in that position for who knew how long, and eventually she let herself fall to her side and she fell into an exhausted sleep, her body and mind spent.

 

***

 

      Laura was delirious. She had stayed awake most of the night in hopes that Carmilla would come back but must have fallen asleep at some point as she woke with Anderson still next to her the following morning. She had texted Laf, Perry, Danny, Kirsch, everyone she could think of who knew Carmilla. She didn’t go into details since it wasn’t her place but she outlined that Carmilla had been missing since the night before.

 

      Staying at her house was Laura’s best move as Carmilla might come back since Anderson was still there, that was part of the reason Laura had only let Shivers go off after the night before. That and she needed Anderson’s comfort.

 

      Kirsch went to the pub (which was closed this early in the day) and stayed on her apartment landing to wait. He promised to call if she showed up.

 

      Laf and Perry were walking the length of the forest edge hoping to spot a sign that maybe she had gone that way, and were sending texts periodically.

 

      Even Danny was looking for her, she was walking through town, checking any spot they thought Carmilla might have gone. 

 

      The group kept in contact in a group chat but no one saw her or Shivers. Perry was adamant that they contact the police but Laura wasn’t ready to do that yet. She was sure that if something had happened to her, Shivers would have come back to alert her to something. Until she saw the dog, she wouldn’t contact the police. Besides, they wouldn’t do anything since she had only been gone for about 10 hours.

 

      The brunette had paced the room to the point of exhaustion and collapsed into a heap a short while ago, next to Anderson who was sleeping soundly as she had stayed up until Laura had awoken, keeping watch while the brunette slept fitfully. Laura had bitten her nails down to the quick and even Granger was picking up on her distress at this point. The border collie must have recognized Laura as a kindred spirit in her fear and dread and she made her way across the room and laid near Laura without touching. Granger stretched her neck and licked Laura’s hand but this time she didn’t retreat. She allowed Laura to scratch behind her ears and focus on her.

 

      How such a damaged animal managed to be so compassionate was beyond Laura but she was infinitely grateful that Granger was there in that moment.

 

***

 

      The early morning sunlight suddenly forced it’s way through the canopy of foliage and pierced through Carmilla’s eyelids, waking her suddenly.

 

      She blinked slowly a few times as she realized she had slept the night on the forest floor. At first she wondered how she had survived since the nights managed to get very cold but then she felt the warmth at her back. She sat up and turned to look behind her. A single golden eye regarded her and she sagged in relief. 

 

      Shivers whined low in his throat as he pawed at Carmilla.

 

      With a tired chuckle Carmilla scratched the bridge of his nose.

 

      “Thank you. I guess we should get back now, huh?” She managed to rasp out a few words with her spent voice. Carmilla then got to her feet, barely. Her muscles ached and her joints complained.

 

      Before she had a chance to set off Carmilla remembered that she had no idea where she was. A fresh wave of panic started to rise in her chest but before it could come to full fruition she felt a nip on her fingers. Looking down she saw Shivers tug her hand in a specific direction.

 

      Carmilla smiled at the irish wolfhound and followed, to tired to think more on what had brought her out there in the first place.

 

***

 

      Laura had started pacing again and was almost ready to agree with Perry in calling the police when Anderson sprung to her feet, her ears and eyes trained on the front door.

 

      The doorknob jostled and the door creaked open to reveal a disheveled pub owner, face streaked with read from tears and eyes puffy. Shivers followed tiredly before collapsing next to Anderson who started licking his ears as she cuddled up next to the exhausted animal.

 

      Without a second thought Laura shot forward and flung her arms around Carmilla and squeezed tightly. The tears she had been holding in the entire night finally escaped and she sobbed into the shoulder of the woman holding her.

 

      “Shhh, it’s okay Laura. I’m back. I’m sorry.” The words were liberated from a hoarse throat and caught at the end of the sentence. Carmilla was crying again and she clung to the brunette in her arms with all her strength.

 

      A few long moments later Carmilla loosened her hold enough to look Laura in the eye. The brunette’s tears had slowed and she looked at Carmilla with such pure affection and relief that Carmilla regretted running the night before. She raised a hand and cupped a soft cheek, her head moving to rest her forehead against Laura’s.

 

      “I’m sorry.” She said again, she wasn’t sure she’d ever stop apologizing for that.

 

      “No. You don’t get to apologize. You’re not allowed to apologize for feeling viable and justified emotions. Are you okay? Do you need anything? I’ll give you anything, just name it.” Laura’s two hands were holding onto Carmilla’s face and she gazed into brown eyes with such concern.

 

      Carmilla smiled weakly. “I’m better now.”

 

      Laura smiled and hugged her again, even harder this time.

 

***

 

      They stood by the front door, clinging to each other for an unknown amount of time before Laura led Carmilla by the hand to the living room. She made sure she was settled before heading to the kitchen to get the raven haired girl something to drink and while in the room she sent off a quick text to the group, telling them they could call off the search as Carmilla had returned. They all replied with messages of relief and made Laura promise to tell them if anything was amiss. 

 

      Laura returned to the couch and Carmilla, a glass of water in each hand. Placing the glasses on the coffee table she sat facing Carmilla and took her hands, kissing each of her palms before meeting the soft gaze of the pub owner.

 

      Laura released a breath and she closed her eyes, again feeling the relief before opening them again. “Do you know what you’re going to do?” She didn’t need to specify.

 

      With a long sigh Carmilla swallowed and looked determinedly at Laura. “Yes. I’m going to talk to her son. I think it’s time I heard what he has to say.”

Chapter Text

      The two women made their way to Laura’s bedroom, changed into sleeping clothes, crawled into the bed, curled up together as close as possible, and fell into exhausted sleep. 

 

      So much relief and pure feeling were running through their veins and when coupled with the fitful sleeps they had had with Carmilla’s dogs, they were unable to stay awake long enough to do anything other than wrap themselves together.

 

      It was nigh on early afternoon when they finally crawled out of their deep slumber and opened their eyes to see the other doing the same, and they matched gazes with soft smiles on their lips.

 

      Carmilla lifted her hand and caressed Laura’s cheek, amazed that the woman was still there after everything she knew and saw. The raven haired woman looked at her with untamed fondness and warmth and Laura smiled at her resplendently and with sparkling eyes. 

 

      There was no hesitation in either of them when Carmilla leaned forward and connected their lips. Her chest was flooded with warmth and all of a sudden, everything clicked. Feelings slid together and interlocked, the way they were there for each other without fear or care for consequences, everything together painted a clear and brilliant picture behind Carmilla’s eyes and she smiled into their kiss at the realization.

 

      I’m in love with her. I’m in love with Laura Hollis.

 

      Emboldened in this epiphany, Carmilla shifted and rolled so she was straddling the woman beneath her and she looked at Laura with intent, seeing the dilated pupils of the brunette and feeling the stuttered breath in her chest which matched her own.

 

      “What did I do to deserve you, Laura Hollis.” Carmilla still had a hand on Laura’s cheek, the other having found the hem of Laura’s shirt and was now grazing her bare stomach softly.

 

      Laura looked up at her with fire in her eyes and she surged upwards but not before saying the word that Carmilla felt deep in her bones, making her feel like she was on fire. “Everything.”

 

      Their lips met in a feverish kiss and Laura immediately deepened it, her tongue glancing off Carmilla’s and stoking the fire in Carmilla’s belly. The mechanic’s hands reached and grasped the pub owners hips, her dull nails digging into the supple flesh.

 

      Carmilla’s hand had continued it’s journey and having reached Laura’s chest, it cupped the small but firm breast, drawing a low moan from the brunette. Laura’s hands moved up from Carmilla’s waist, raking a trail up her back beneath her shirt which drew a gasp from the raven haired beauty.

 

      The woman on top squeezed the breast in her hand softly before descending back to the shirt edge as her other hand lowered to help it in removing the offending garment. They were forced to detach their lips from each other and Carmilla used the opening as an excuse to gaze heatedly at the now half exposed body beneath her. She felt her breath catch in her throat at the unfairly beautiful girl staring up at her with pure adoration written across her features.

 

      She didn’t get much chance to continue her visual inspection as Laura once again took matters into her own hands. The brunette raised herself up and pulled Carmilla’s shirt over her head, allowing them to meet with skin to skin contact as neither had been wearing bra’s beneath their sleeping clothes.

 

      The sensation caused Carmilla to feel hazy and insatiable in her need for Laura. She connected their lips again, moaning into the giving mouth slotted against hers and she ran her hands down Laura’s back only to find that the tattoo wasn’t the only thing there. She felt faint scars which had been hidden by the work and she pulled back to look Laura in the eyes with worry and care.

 

      Laura only shrugged slightly, her eyes saying more than the action. In them Carmilla read acceptance coupled with a bit of fear, and Carmilla understood the trepidation Laura had been filled with in regards to telling her about her past.

 

      She also saw that dogged determination and no lessening of the desire in them so she placed her hands on the storied back again to which Laura sighed and raised her hands to cup Carmilla’s slightly larger breasts, allowing her thumbs to brush softly over the erect nipples.

 

      The pub owner hissed in appreciation and she arched her back and pushed herself more firmly against the small and warm body against hers as she reattached their hungry mouths.

 

      This kiss was no less passionate than the first and Carmilla felt like she was likely to burst from the many sensations flooding through her veins. Laura’s hands prodded and fingers played with the sensitive flesh before her mouth descended and took one engorged nipple inside it in earnest. Her tongue flicked and circled the delicate nub, causing Carmilla to moan breathily as she let her head fall backwards.

 

      “Laura....” Words were quickly becoming difficult for Carmilla to grasp and the only one which still made any modicum of sense was a name which filled her with heat and love when she uttered it. So she simply determined to say it more often.

 

      At the utterance of her name, Laura sucked slightly on the hot flesh in her mouth and her extremities tingled in anticipation. Carmilla had a hand wound through her messy bedhead, and the other was still wrapped around her back with blunt nails digging in slightly.

 

      The brunette released the nipple with a light pop and she brought her hands to Carmilla’s waist, grasping her shorts with agile fingers. Carmilla lowered her head to meet her gaze and she smiled softly, lifting herself enough for Laura to pull the garment down along with the underwear beneath them. The raven haired woman shifted enough to allow the cloth to slip off her lean legs.

 

      Laura’s hands grasped the newly revealed skin in reverence and they gripped the soft cheeks of Carmilla’s ass possessively, bringing the raven haired woman back down to sit on one of her thighs.

 

      Carmilla’s warmth and slick folds met her muscled leg insistently and she ground her hips down, meeting Laura’s firm push with equal strength.

 

      Both women groaned at the sensation and Laura sat back and allowed her back to meet the sheets and her head to fall below the soft pillow, leaving room above her head. Carmilla looked at her confusedly for a moment until Laura spoke. “Come here.” 

 

      More heat pooled between Carmilla’s legs and she was sure she had never been as riled up in her life as she was in that moment. Everything Laura did was done with feeling and spontaneity, nothing held back for fear of rejection or negative repercussions. It was a stark juxtaposition of Carmilla herself who chose her actions with deliberation and careful thought.

 

      As Laura watched the dishevelled and glistening form of the woman above her move forward with fire in her eyes she felt the wetness between her own legs increase markedly but she wasn’t focused on her own needs in that moment. It was all about Carmilla.

 

      The lithe body had reached her and Laura wrapped her arms around the thighs framing her face, allowing her to pull the hips down firmly so that Carmilla’s wet and throbbing core met her mouth with a soft slapping sound.

 

      She moaned into the drenched flesh around the lower half of her face and she revelled in the taste of the raven haired woman. Carmilla had moved her hands to grip the headboard with a strong enough grip that Laura was sure she’d shatter it and she bit her lower lip as the mechanic nuzzled further into her, licking up her length with a broad stroke.

 

      “Nnnnnhhhhh... fuuuuuck...” Carmilla moaned with need as Laura’s tongue danced through her folds, gathering moisture from her entrance and spreading it thoroughly along all of her before lightly flicking her clit. Carmilla’s thighs twitched and she gasped in a large breath, unknowingly grinding her hips down into the greedy mouth devouring her.

 

      Laura only responded by burying her face more thoroughly, sucking at the sensitive bundle of nerves at the apex of the raven haired woman’s sex while one of her hands found it’s way to join her eager mouth. She stroked two through the abundant wetness before hesitantly allowing them to rest at Carmilla’s entrance, unwilling to go there if the pub owner didn’t want it.

 

      She needn’t have worried as when Carmilla felt the fingers hovering just below her she rolled her hips more, pushing the two fingers into her just enough for Laura to get the hint and push them in fully to draw a long and strangled moan out of the woman shaking above her.

 

      Now, besides her family Carmilla was generally the type to accept anything given to her without a thought to the needs of the person doing the giving. She had learned a long time ago to take anything she could that would be beneficial to her but also that she didn’t owe anyone anything, so when she arched her back a bit and twisted her waist to allow one of her hands to access Laura’s shorts and delve into the soaked heat in them she was struck again with how much Laura meant to her. Even with sex in the past she was never much of a giver. She took what she needed and although she wasn’t apathetic to her partners, she wasn’t much concerned with whether they got off or not so long as she did.

 

      That was not something she wanted with Laura so she delved two fingers into Laura’s drenched centre without preamble and she allowed her thumb to tease the brunette’s clit.

 

      Laura responded instantly, hips bucking and moaning into Carmilla’s core with abandon and she licked and sucked with purpose, thrusting her fingers into the pub owner steadily. She dragged her finger tips across the small rough patch along the front of Carmilla’s walls and she could feel the stuttering reaction in the muscles tensing around her fingers, and the twitching of the strong thighs on either side of her head.

 

      Carmilla was close and she could sense that Laura was too, which was just as well since the angle of her wrist was painful but hell if she was moving it before Laura reached her peak. She redoubled her efforts to match the pace Laura had set, and the rolling hips riding her hand were and indicator of the woman’s state.

 

      The pub owner was seconds away and she was crying out in encouragement, to which Laura responded with moans and whimpers.

 

      It was the feeling of Laura’s walls clenching around her fingers that launched her over the edge, her hips canting into the wet face below her in a frantic pace. She released a ragged scream, her hand on the headboard grasping almost painfully while she never faltered her pace with the other, pushing Laura over not long after her. 

 

      Laura moaned throatily into Carmilla, rocking her hips into the hand thrusting into her and glancing off her clit. 

 

      Eyes shut tight, back arched and head thrown back Carmilla rode out her orgasm with abandon. Laura managed to keep her eyes open just so she could watch the woman above her, the sight almost as intense as the orgasm she herself was experiencing. Carmilla was a vision and Laura felt a tug in her chest, her heart fluttering softly before pleasure invaded her thoughts and she was forced to roll her eyes back as the tail end of her orgasm overtook her.

 

      The two slowed down their pace so as to allow the other to ride out the aftereffects of their orgasms, coming down gently. 

 

      Carmilla sighed and removed her hand from Laura, lifting it to her lips and licking off the remnants of the brunette’s pleasure with a low groan. It ignited a fire in Laura’s belly and she was almost shocked to realize the sight made her just as hot as everything that had just transpired did.

 

      With a sexy shimmy, Carmilla moved so she was laying bodily across Laura and she connected their lips in a slow but passionate kiss. They tasted themselves on each others lips and the mixture of the two on each other’s tongues made both of their blood boil again.

 

      “Jesus christ Laura, I can’t get enough of you. You’re too much.” Carmilla spoke softly but huskily as she lowered her mouth to Laura’s ear. She nibbled on the soft lobe, thoroughly enjoying the quick intake of breath this caused in Laura. 

 

      “You’re one to talk.” Laura used her considerable strength and she rolled them over, situating herself between Carmilla’s legs which raised to push her groin into her with heels pressed to Laura’s ass.

 

      They were in for a long afternoon, and neither of them wanted it any other way.

 

***

 

      Lafontaine was ready to call it a night and they were shutting down the shop. They hadn’t heard from Laura all day since the message that morning about Carmilla being safe, which was a little strange. Typically when the ran the shop (even if only for an afternoon) Laura was all over them with phone calls checking up on the place and making sure things were running smoothly.

 

      They figured that Laura and Carmilla were too busy being wrapped up in each other to bother stopping to think about the real world and they were happy for Laura to be experiencing that. With a fond smile Laf walked out to the small lot to make sure the cars sitting that were waiting their turn for work were locked and set up for the night. They couldn’t remember a time when they’d seen Laura as seemingly happy as she was since Carmilla had entered the picture and they were undeniably happy for their friend and boss. 

 

      The redhead checked the handles of the first two cars and found they were locked tight, but upon testing the back door of the third car they were surprised to find it was unlocked and swung open when they tugged on the handle.

 

      With avid curiosity they stuck their head into the opening to be met with an unexpected sight. A bleary set of blue eyes blinked up at them from a disheveled blonde.

 

      “Ummm, who are you?”

 

      The girl regarded Laf with suspicion and she scrambled backwards to put as much space between the two as possible. She raised her hands placatingly and spoke.

 

      “Look I know I’m trespassing but this was the only place I could find in this godforsaken town where I might be able to get some sleep with no money. I’m looking for someone and have no idea where to start besides knowing that she lives in this town. I have no money, please don’t call the cops.” She looked up at Lafontaine with damp eyes, the blue eyes glancing back and forth quickly like a cornered animal while one of her hands had lowered to the door handle, prepared to open it and run to safety.

 

      Laf just sighed and stood up straight, beckoning with a hand while they walked back towards the shop. “Well come on then stranger. Let’s get you something to drink.”

 

***

 

      Somewhere between rounds three and four, Laura had to pause their festivities to answer her phone which would not stop ringing.

 

      Carmilla sat back with an adorable pout while Laura chuckled as she picked up her phone. She answered on the fifth ring. “Hey Laf, what’s up?”

 

      “Wow, you haven’t called all day and when I call over and over again you didn’t immediately assume something was wrong at the shop. Carmilla must be something else to have you so distracted.”

 

      Laura blushed and coughed, causing Carmilla to smirk. Even though she hadn’t heard the dialogue, Laura’s fidgeting and sudden nervousness gave her an idea as to what was said.

 

      “I’m not dignifying that with a response. Did you call for any reason other than to make fun of me?” For all her words, Laura was laughing as she said them.

 

      “Actually there was a legitimate reason for me calling you. We have a slight situation here at the shop but don’t worry too much. I just don’t know what to do so maybe you could come down to help me out? I’m a little out of my depth here.”

 

      Laura’s brow wrinkled in sudden concern and she moved from the bed and gathered her clothes. “I’ll be right there, give me ten minutes.”

 

      She hung up the phone and pulled on a pair of underwear which was quickly followed by her bra and some shorts and a shirt. The mechanic glanced over to see slight confusion written across Carmilla’s features and she grinned at her, moving to plant a soft kiss to the pouting lips.

 

      “Something came up at the shop, Laf just needs a hand. Feel free to stay here, I’ll be back soon okay?” Finishing her statement she kissed Carmilla again, lingering a little longer this time.

 

      When she retreated to pull on her sneakers Carmilla smiled softly and burrowed into the sheets on the bed, blinking sleepily at Laura from her position. “Call me if you need anything yeah?” The pub owner was already falling asleep, the toll of their activities finally being felt in the lull.

 

      Laura chuckled and nodded in the affirmative before heading into the hallway where she let the dogs outside and made sure they had a fresh bowl of water outside on her small deck by the door. She grabbed her wallet and keys and went outside to jump into her car, revving the engine and pulling away from the curb to head to her shop to deal with whatever unknown issue had popped out of the woodwork.

 

Chapter Text

      She got to the shop quickly and when she walked in the front door, she headed towards the back office where she assumed Laf was.

 

      Laura pushed the door open and she balked at the sight in front of her. Laf, Perry and Danny were all seated in the room and an unknown fourth person was sitting on the desk across from them. She was about their age, blonde and pretty, and had her arms wrapped around her midsection with her back hunched protectively. The girl’s body was tense and her eyes wild, as though she was prepared to bolt at any second.

 

      It was unclear why she was even there considering this but Laura’s unasked question was answered when she saw the empty plate and cup next to her on the desk. Laf must have raided the office fridge to feed her, but none of this information was really all that informative to Laura. She was seriously confused.

 

      “Ummm, hey guys.” Laura took a step into the room and closed the door behind her before she approached the girl slowly, hand extended in a friendly gesture.

 

      The blonde didn’t shake her hand, only looking at Laura suspiciously.

 

      Laura retracted her hand awkwardly before she locked eyes with Lafontaine. “Hey Laf, could we talk for a second?” She slanted her head towards the door and opened it once her friend got to their feet, allowing them to precede her through the door.

 

      Once in the shop proper Laura turned to address Laf. “So I’m confused. Who is she and what is happening right now?”

 

      The redhead sighed and ran a hand through their short hair. “I was checking all the parked cars as per usual and I found her asleep in the back of one of them. She said she was broke and looking for someone in this town, and that the car was one of the only places she could find to sleep. But look, I didn’t get much else out of her once I brought her inside and fed her. She seemed to wake up fully and she’s clammed up entirely. Perry and Danny didn’t have any better luck when they tried.”

 

      Laura scrunched up her face in thought, finally sighing with her reply. “Got it. Let’s get back inside and I’ll try to get through to her.”

 

      The two friends retreated to the room and Laf once again took their seat next to Perry on the small raggedy couch in the room while Laura leaned against the desk as near to the blonde as she risked while Danny was seated in the desk chair next to the couch. Laura didn’t like the fact that they had been sitting opposite the girl, in essence drawing an invisible line between them. That likely felt rather othering and definitely not inclusive. Why would the girl trust any of them if they were making her feel like a spectacle?

 

      This time Laura didn’t extend her hand but she made the decision to put her hands into the front pockets of her shorts rather than crossing her arms, trying to be as far from threatening as she could manage. She smiled warmly at the girl when she addressed her.

 

      “Hey there, my name is Laura and I own this shop. What’s your name?” She kept it simple, not wanting to bombard the girl with questions she no doubt didn’t want to answer. One step at a time.

 

      With an awkward shift the girl eyed Laura suspiciously before answering. “Why do you need to know my name?”

 

      Laura shrugged. “I don’t but it would be nice to address you as a person rather than some unknown.”

 

      At this the girl huffed in quick amusement. “Fine. My name is Ell.”

 

      The mechanic smiled brightly and cocked her head to the side and nodded shortly. “It’s nice to formally make your acquaintance Ell.”

 

      Ell nodded and relaxed slightly under Laura’s gaze. None of the redheads in the room were surprised, Laura had this aura about her that just put people at ease. She was ultra likeable and non-threatening. Unless of course, she wanted to be threatening but that’s another story altogether. When she spoke to someone, she had a way of phrasing things to make her words into a request rather than a demand which wasn’t a talent that Laf, Danny or Perry had. They were all a little intense in their own ways and with three of them having faced off against Ell, they realized their mistake. Laura had already managed to get more out of the girl and she had only spoken to her for 30 seconds. 

 

      “So, Ell.” Laura smiled again and chuckled softly. “I’ve never seen you around town, are you new here?”

 

      “In a sense, yes.” Ell spared a glance at Laf before looking back to Laura. “I’m looking for someone.”

 

      “Well there aren’t many people around here and most people come through here at one point or another. Maybe I know them?” Laura prodded gently.

 

      At this Ell tensed even more. She looked distrustful and even more wary all of a sudden. Her eyes flicked over the occupants of the room with trepidation. “Ummm, I’m looking for an- um an old friend.” Laura didn’t miss the hesitation, and she wondered what the reason behind it was.

 

      Laura simply coked her head to the side, waiting patiently. 

 

      “I have some unfinished business with her.”

 

      Now we’re getting somewhere. If this girl was an old friend, she’s probably around our age.

 

      “Ah, so trying to reconnect? I get that, I haven’t seen my best friend from high school since we graduated but it would be pretty awesome to catch up.” Laura tried to set Ell at ease and it seemed to be working. The blonde lifted her head a little higher and she looked at Laura curiously.

 

      “Well Laura, your old friends might welcome you with open arms but I don’t think I’ll get that kind of reception. Carmilla holds grudges and I was kind of an ass last time I saw her.” Ell chuckled, seemingly unaware of the fact that Laura herself had tensed up.

 

      Wait, what?

 

***

 

      Carmilla was still in bed but she wasn’t sleeping anymore. Not because she didn’t want to, but because her stupid phone wouldn’t stop ringing.

 

      With a growl she flung the sheets back and stomped out of the room to find her wayward phone. She finally found the infernal thing stuffed in the couch cushions and she swiped in to the call without even bothering to look at who was calling.

 

      “What?” She ‘greeted’ with an annoyed inflection.

 

      “I’m coming back to the house right away, have some shots ready for us.”

 

      The pub owner rubbed the sleep out of her eyes with a loose hand. “Vodka or gin?”

 

      “Tequila.”

 

      With that, Laura hung up the phone. Carmilla stared at hers in her hand for a confused moment before she shrugged and went to the back door, checking on the dogs before she went back to the kitchen to pull out shot glasses and the requested alcohol.

 

      No more then ten minutes later, Laura burst through the front door with a tired sigh and she dropped lengthwise onto the couch limply. 

 

      Carmilla raised a brow but didn’t say anything, she only filled the two glasses, stuck the tequila bottle under her arm and brought everything to the living room to hand one of the shots to the exhausted brunette.

 

      She nudged Laura’s legs with her knee and the brunette lifted them into the air, allowing Carmilla to sit before she dropped them onto her lap as she raised herself into a semi sitting position with a hand outstretched to accept the shot glass.

 

      With a chuckle Carmilla handed it over and they touched glasses and raised them in the air for a moment before they both downed them, Laura grimacing slightly while Carmilla smirked. 

 

      Carmilla didn’t say anything, she simply pulled out the glass and refilled their glasses. They downed those ones just as quickly and before she could fill them again, Laura put hers on the floor and scooted forward so she was closer to the raven haired woman, her legs still across Carmilla’s lap and she threw one arm across the back of the couch and played with the ends of trailing locks of black hair.

 

      “Soooooo..... turns out there was this chick sleeping in the back of one of the cars parked at the shop.”

 

      “Fascinating.” Carmilla deadpanned.

 

      Normally Laura would just roll her eyes and play off the comment, but this time she couldn’t do that. “Actually, it kind of is. At least considering who she is.”

 

      Carmilla frowned and looked at Laura, unsure of where this was going.

 

      Laura sighed and wrapped some of Carmilla’s hair around her finger before continuing. “She said she was looking for an old friend, but I got the feeling it was more than that. Carmilla... she said her name was Ell.”

 

      The raven haired woman sucked in a breath and held it, turning her head to stare forward without responding.

 

      The mechanic was anxious, but so far it hadn’t gone as badly as she had expected. Carmilla was still seated and she hadn’t pulled away. 

 

      Carmilla cleared her throat and replied with a quiet voice. “What makes you think she’s looking for me?”

 

      “She said so.” Laura kept it simple. She was nervous about the implications of Ell’s visit but she was familiar with the practice of keeping secrets. She wouldn’t judge Carmilla for it until she knew more, she owed her the chance to fill in any gaps.

 

      Carmilla looked down and fiddled with her fingers, either unable or unwilling to say anything in that moment. It took her a few moments to figure out her next words. “What else did she say?” Her brow was furrowed and she still wouldn’t meet Laura’s gaze.

 

      “Not much, only that she didn’t think she’d get a warm reception. After I realized she was talking about you I asked if she had somewhere better to stay than the back of a car. When she said no, Perry piped up and offered her and Laf’s spare bedroom. Laf looked kind of terrified at the prospect but the two of them took her with them regardless.” Laura released Carmilla’s hair and gripped her shoulder reassuringly.

 

      “Well she wasn’t wrong about probably getting a less than welcoming response.” She paused momentarily, lost in memories. “I haven’t seen her in years and frankly, I was okay with the idea of never seeing her again. The fact of the matter is, the last time I saw her I told her about my past and she bailed, broke my heart and left me even more damaged than I was before.” At this Carmilla looked to Laura, as though to gauge her reaction.

 

      The brunette’s response was to harden her eyes and allow her expression to morph into a stony mask. Carmilla wasn’t surprised by it and in actual fact, she was relieved. Laura didn’t pity her, she was enraged on her behalf. That was definitely not something that Carmilla had experience with, in the past Kirsch was the only person to react that way. But of course if anyone was to be filled with indignant rage, it would be Laura. The mechanic had more depth of feeling in her pinky finger than most people Carmilla had ever met in her short and mostly brutal life.

 

      “I can see the fire in your eyes Laura.” Carmilla lifted a hand to softly stroke Laura’s cheek, the action soothing the burn in Laura’s chest. 

 

      The brunette smiled weakly and simply moved closer, resting her head on Carmilla’s shoulder.

 

***

 

      For the rest of their day, Carmilla and Laura sat in front of the tv with the dogs spread around them and binge watched netflix. Their emotions were running high, and they simply needed to forget for a while. 

 

      When they were finally exhausted and unable to absorb any more mindless media, they retreated to Laura’s bedroom and fell into sleep.

 

***

 

      The following day found Carmilla pulling her car into the extra stall in Laura’s shop to work on her brakes. She had a new set of pads and rotors ready to go, and the shop didn’t have any mechanical work booked in for once. She took advantage of the opportunity offered by Laura, fully aware that it was likely Ell would be around. At least this way she would have others around for the reunion, and Ell wouldn’t get the chance to play dirty like she used to.

 

      She had started the work in earnest, the front of the car was jacked up and the tires were removed quickly. Followed by the loosening of the callipers and removal of the old rotors and pads. She had the drivers side ready to go for the new parts but the passenger side calliper was being a bitch and was seized. She was wailing on the damn thing with all her strength but it wouldn’t budge.

 

      With an angry huff she let go of the C-clamp she was using to compress the piston and sat back on her haunches. 

 

      “Is your super strength failing you Elvira?” Danny popped up behind her, washing her hands of grease with the pumice soap at the shop sink situated between the two bays.

 

      Carmilla growled and flipped off the tallest ginger in lieu of a verbal response.

 

      Unbeknownst to the raven haired girl, a second woman had snuck up on her while she was distracted.

 

      “Still as charming as the day I last saw you I see.” 

 

      Carmilla sighed, she had seen this coming and she was too tired to spew vitriol at the blonde.

 

      “Still as much of an ass as the day I saw you last.” The pub owner got to her feet with the aid of her hands on her knees. Once vertical she turned to look at the woman standing a solid 10 feet away from her. Ell looked a little haggard, but overall still beautiful. She was a little rougher around the edges than the last time she’d seen her, and it showed in the bags under her eyes, and the protective hunch of her shoulders. Her hair was longer than she’d ever seen it and she had the left side of her head shaved down to a light stubble.

 

      Carmilla’s gaze had taken all of this in with an impartial eye. “How did you find me, and what on earth do you want?”

 

      The blonde sighed in frustration and shrugged her shoulders violently. “I followed your brother actually. When I was looking for you I found him, I stuck around long enough to wait for him to make a move and, voila. Here we are.” She spread her hands in a wide gesture as though to say, don’t you see?

 

      And she did see. She wished the sight in front of her wasn’t so clear to her but what she did wish to be clearer were Ell’s intentions. She didn’t know the woman any longer, she had no gauge as to what to expect from her.

 

       “You didn’t answer my second question.”

 

      Danny was still standing at the sink, taking in the sight of the two of them with a curious eye. To Carmilla’s exasperation the amazon had for some reason decided to move closer to her, as though she was protective of the raven haired woman. She wasn’t sure if it was some misguided sense of loyalty to Laura but she would be happier without it.

 

      All trace of the shy and cautious girl evaporated in front of their eyes and the Ell that Carmilla remembered was suddenly standing in front of her. She couldn’t for the life of her remember why she’d found such arrogance to be an attractive trait in her youth. She’d met Ell while attending a small college a few cities over and they hadn’t seen each other in about 5 years. And just like that she realized why she’d been so smitten with her before, she’d been young and particularly rebellious and Ell had represented everything she felt. It seemed that while she had managed to mature over the years, the blonde had not.

 

      Ell was smirking slightly as she shoved her hands into her pants pockets, hiking her shoulders up and tilting her head back. Her feet were spread widely and her knees were locked. Her pose read aggression and challenge which belied her next words. “I needed to apologize to you, make amends and all that.”

 

      “Little late for that, don’t you think?” She had yet to address the blonde by name, or even a nickname. Both were reserved for people she cared even a little bit about, not like she’d admit that to anyone who could let it get back to the ginger squad though.

 

      The omissions had apparently not gone unnoticed by Ell and the blonde chuckled dryly. “You say that now, but at least give me the chance?”

 

      Carmilla raised a perfectly shaped brow in response. “Like you deserve one.” At this she turned around and tried her hand at the clamp again.

 

      She heard Ell sigh loudly and walk off behind her and she sensed Danny still standing over her, watching. The redhead seemed for a moment like she’d say something but thankfully, she rethought the wisdom of that action and instead she stalked off to clean the next bay over.

 

      The tension in Carmilla’s shoulders eased slightly after the interaction was over. She was well aware it wasn’t the last time she’d talk to the woman and she still didn’t trust her motives, same as with Will.

 

      I don’t know what it is about these past few weeks, but all my ghosts are becoming corporeal and my life is suddenly far more stressful than it used to be.

 

      With a large pull of air into her lungs she finally managed to free the stubborn piston. With a single mindedness only Carmilla possessed she stood back up and headed to the front room to call the local parts distributor, hoping against hope that her luck would hold out and they’d have two new callipers in stock.

 

Chapter Text

      When Carmilla walked wearily into Laura’s house that evening after having finished the brake job on her car, she found Laura sitting on her couch with her head back and eyes closed. Granger was on the couch next to her and the Border Collie’s head was rested in the brunette’s lap, eye’s slitted in pleasure as Laura combed her fingers through the rough fur behind her ears.

 

      Carmilla would have thought them both to be asleep if it weren’t for Laura’s fingers in the black and white fur as well as her head weaving back and forth, keeping time with the music permeating every nook and cranny of the front room. Is There Somewhere by Halsey was flowing out of the speakers and Laura’s eyebrows were scrunched in concentration as she took in the haunting melody.

 

      A quick sweep of her eyes showed Carmilla that her own dogs were cuddled in the corner, Anderson’s head thrown over the Irish Wolfhounds back. She flicked her gaze back to Laura and she smiled with a softness rarely seen in the raven haired woman. Even considering the bullshit she’d been dealing with lately, Laura managed to ease her mind and allow her to think to herself that maybe, just maybe she’d be able to get through all of it.

 

      When the song finished and the second song from the Room 93 EP started to reverberate through the speakers, Carmilla moved from her position by the front door and walked up to stand behind the couch, leaning down to nuzzle her cheek against Laura’s before resting her forehead on Laura’s shoulder and wrap her arms around the brunette’s shoulders.

 

      She couldn’t see Laura but she felt the brunette’s smile as she kissed the side of her temple, lifting a hand to caress the nape of Carmilla’s neck. The warmth of the woman still took Carmilla by surprise although she wasn’t sure why at this point, as Laura consistently defied expectations. She thought it might have hit it’s threshold with Ell having shown up but once again, Laura managed to surprise her in her instant acceptance of the truth Carmilla insisted was laced through her words.

 

      Carmilla sighed and nuzzled her nose further into Laura’s sweet smelling skin. Laura chuckled, her eyes still closed. Sometimes Carmilla’s ability to resemble a cat astounded her, but she’d be lying if she ever said she would want her any other way. 

 

      After a few moments of just enjoying each other’s company, Laura spoke up. “Have you eaten yet?”

 

      The pub owner mumbled her answer into Laura’s neck, tickling her slightly. “No.”

 

      Laura stroked down Carmilla’s neck, enticing the raven haired woman to shiver and raise her head to look at her. They smiled lazily at each other and connected their lips in a warm hello.

 

      Same as every time they kissed, Carmilla felt like she was slowly being lit on fire from the inside out. Laura’s lips were impossibly soft and her mouth was giving, matching her pace exactly without any effort. Carmilla lost herself to the brunette and as they shifted to get a better angle she couldn’t resist the urge to bite Laura’s lower lip gently and then grinning as Laura gasped. 

 

      With more self restraint than she herself had, Laura pulled back enough to speak. “As much as I’m enjoying this, we should really eat something and I haven’t fed the dogs yet either.”

 

      Carmilla grumbled softly and lowered her head, biting the join between the soft column of Laura’s neck and her graceful shoulder gently in displeasure. This drew a groan from the brunette who wrangled her self control as she nudged Carmilla back so she could stand.

 

      Once she was standing she threw a salacious grin at Carmilla before heading into the kitchen to fill each of the dogs dishes with the raw food she had thawed out previously. Granger had gotten up with Laura and she now followed her closely, not allowing herself to get more than a few feet away. It was an endearing sight to see the previously distrustful dog behaving in such a way. 

 

      The other two dogs having heard the clang of the metal dishes on the counter, scrambled to their feet to sit smartly just outside of the kitchen boundary line to await their meals. Laura was dancing to a new song and singing softly along while she spooned out the portions. Her hips swayed and her head bobbed along with Tiger Child by The Young Romans and Carmilla meandered up to lean against the island, her foot tapping away to the beat.

 

      Laura placed the bowls on the floor, leaving a few feet between each dog. They all waited patiently (even Granger) until she said okay and then they shot forward to eat with vigour. She stood up straight and leaned forward on the counter, her hands braced on either side of herself. Seeing an opportunity, Carmilla moved to stand behind her, wrapping her arms around Laura’s waist and kissing her neck.

 

      The two women moved along with the song while Laura continued to sing along, her voice quiet and barely audible beyond the speakers. 

 

      Finally, the song ended and Laura turned in Carmilla’s arms, reaching her arms up to loosely lay across the raven haired woman’s shoulders. She smiled brightly and leaned up slightly to place a sweet and chaste kiss against her lips before pulling back.

 

      “We actually do need to eat Carm.” She let her hands land on Carmilla’s shoulders only to travel down and rest on her collarbone, finger tips dragging softly along her skin.

 

      Carmilla smiled at Laura, squeezing her hips slightly before stepping back herself and opening the fridge.

 

      The two of them found some soft tortilla’s as well as some ground chicken and fresh veggies. They threw together some spicy fajitas, the dogs outside in that moment to run off their evening energy. Turned out, Carmilla was less than graceful in eating the prepared food. Sour cream was dripping out of it, and chicken was spread across her section of the small kitchen table. Laura was giggling like a maniac at the sight while Carmilla scowled and tried to eat faster, hoping to catch the food before it all ended up in her lap.

 

      She managed to eat most of it but the fallen bits were happily gobbled by the dogs when they got back inside not long later. It was dark out by that point, and the small town was winding down. No one was taking a walk along the sidewalk out front and cars passing were few and far in between.

 

      Carmilla moved to help Laura wash the few dishes from their preparations but she was brushed aside and told to sit and say hello to her canine companions. She moved to the living room with a chuckle and before settling in with the dogs, she pulled Laura’s laptop closer and searched for some new music as the previous playlist had finished while they were eating.

 

      For once she wasn’t feeling melancholic or angsty so she selected something she knew Laura found to be uplifting even though it wasn’t something she’d normally listen to. It was some album titled City Lights EP and as the first notes rung out, she pushed the laptop aside and clicked her tongue, drawing her two companions over to her.

 

      They came without pause and both held their heads high, looking at her adoringly. She placed a hand on both of their heads, scratching behind their ears lightly. Shivers huffed out a sigh and moved to lay down on the opposite side of the coffee table. Anderson moved forward and placed her head on Carmilla’s shoulder in an adorable version of a hug. Carmilla chuckled, allowing her second hand to raise and aid in giving attention to the golden dog. 

 

      The second song on the EP started to play and it didn’t take long for her to realize how fitting the song was. It was called By Dawn and it was sung by someone called Ellie Makes Music and she smiled softly as the lyrics were sung.

 

      She let her head fall on the back of the couch and she rolled her neck to look across the island and into the kitchen where Laura was finishing washing the last dish from their dinner. The mechanic rinsed the dish and wiped her hands on a dish cloth, throwing it onto the counter as she left the kitchen and walked towards the living room with her eyes downcast. Anderson sensed her inattention and snuffled into her ear before leaving to join Granger on the giant dog bed in the corner of the room, causing the pub owner to giggle slightly at the wet nose sensation still felt in her ear which drew Laura’s attention and quickly put a smile on her soft features.

 

      Laura didn’t move to sit next to her, rather she lifted a leg and sat in her lap with her knees bracketing Carmilla in neatly.

 

      “Hey.” The brunette in her lap lifted her hands and cupped Carmilla’s cheeks in a gentle grip.

 

      Carmilla smiled up at Laura, adoration writ clear in her features. “Hey.”

 

      The song was dimly heard by Carmilla, only the lyrics pulling her out of the haze Laura dropped over her eyes. She kissed her softly as she felt the lyrics in her bones.

 

      I won’t take what’s yours without asking you and,

      I won’t leave you behind when you’re feeling blue but,

      Trust me with the stars and they’ll shine for you.

 

      When you cry you can scream till the building shaken,

      I’ll be there to hold you when you awaken,

      Trust me with your heart and I’ll comfort you.

 

      And darling, we’ll be good as new by dawn.

 

      Their kiss remained slow, no passion lost but the haste that was usually present wasn’t apparent. Instead, they felt the slow burn consuming them and taking over their higher thinking and leaving them only with the thought that they needed to be closer to one another.

 

      Carmilla lifted a hand and snaked it under the back of Laura’s shirt, drawing light patterns on her lower back. She felt Laura’s skin pebble with goosebumps and she smiled against her lips, causing their kiss to get messy and clumsy.

 

      The brunette pulled back with a tender smile and she raised her arms slowly, allowing Carmilla to pull her shirt up and off her body while keeping eye contact which was only broken briefly by the garment between them. 

 

      Laura then lifted Carmilla’s before unhooking the simple black bra which was a stark contrast to her pale, silky skin. She then cupped her angled face, bringing her lips down to meet the waiting ones below her. They both sighed into it, any tension in their bodies releasing upon the skin to skin contact.

 

      The music had moved on from the short album and something instrumental started in it’s place but neither woman noticed, being in too deep with each other.

 

      Carmilla’s hands descended as she snagged her fingers in the waistband of Laura’s shorts, pulling them down slowly. She then lifted herself enough to follow them with her own sturdy set of work jeans, once they were both rid of their clothing their lips met again. It seemed like instead of pulling back to breathe, they were finding oxygen in each other. They felt breathless when their eyes connected and relief was only felt with one set of lips slotted against the other, when tongues grazed and teeth nipped softly. 

 

      Laura pulled back again, her eyes meeting Carmilla’s as she bit her lower lip. Her eye’s were hooded and dark, desire readily apparent in them.

 

      She moved one of her legs to rest between Carmilla’s and straddled the pale and lean leg which immediately raised to meet her burning core, drawing a long moan out of the brunette. Carmilla’s mouth found her chest, lips leaving a scorching trail of delicate and slow kisses across her collarbone. 

 

      The raven haired woman pushed her leg up while Laura ground her’s forward into Carmilla’s soaked sex. They moved slowly and steadily against each other, matching paces while they gradually drew each other insane with need.

 

      Laura’s hips rolled and met Carmilla’s own writhing set. They moved in tandem, both gasping and moaning into each other as their lips continuously found themselves attached. 

 

      Slick heat lubricated their movements and Carmilla grounded herself with one hand on Laura’s hip and the other slipped up the brunette’s back to grasp her long hair lightly. Laura’s own hands were still cradling Carmilla’s face, touching as though she could never learn every facet by sight alone. They stroked smoothly across the taught skin like they were memorizing each dip and crevice, almost reverently.

 

      Neither uttered a single word since their shared ‘hey’s, it felt like they would break something if they spoke, like it would besmirch the moment. They instead communicated with long and significant gazes, feather light touches, and breathless moans and gasps.

 

      Both women were aware of something in the air changing, and neither could be brought to feel any fear of it. After all, they had come to terms with their feelings for each other separately a while ago. This just felt like an unspoken declaration to each other and this time it was Laura who smiled and disrupted their kiss. 

 

      Their movements were steady, not speeding up nor slowing down. The slow build was coming to a head and a trickle of sweat ran down Carmilla’s chest, leaving a salty trail between her breasts as she moved her leg up firmly to meet Laura’s needy hips which were directing a slightly more tanned leg into Carmilla’s own centre.

 

      Laura came first, her moans were breathless and she rested her forehead against Carmilla’s own as the pleasure consumed her, warm brown eyes closed half way as she gazed at the raven haired woman with such fondness and desire that it nearly broke Carmilla’s heart.

 

      How could anyone be so beautiful?

 

      The brunette rode out her orgasm fully with the help of Carmilla who never faltered in her movements, bringing Laura to completion with determination.

 

      It wasn’t long afterwards that Carmilla found herself following, gasping soundlessly as Laura picked up her previously dropped pace and prodded her gently into oblivion.

 

      Carmilla let her head fall backwards as she rocked her hips against the strong thigh between her legs, her body equally aching and full of bliss. She slowed her own movements and Laura mirrored her, bringing her down with care.

 

      Slowly, the two women started to become aware of their surroundings. The music was still playing and they slumped against each other, Laura falling forward to lean fully against Carmilla with a satisfied sigh.

 

      The pub owner brought her hands up to wrap fully around Laura, tugging her into a tight embrace. The brunette had her head tucked under her proud chin, eyes drooping sleepily. Carmilla squeezed her lightly and dropped a careless kiss to her brow, her own eyes sleepy.

 

      Carmilla leant to the side, bringing both of them down to lay lengthwise on the couch where she pulled the blanket off the back and draped it over the two of them with a flourish. She adjusted her position slightly, bringing up one hand to push honey brown locks of hair out of Laura’s eyes with a smile.

 

      “Goodnight Carm.” Laura smiled enchantingly as she shifted forward to rest her forehead in the crook of Carmilla’s neck.

 

      “Night creampuff.” Carmilla wrapped a loose arm around Laura’s waist and the two fell asleep in moments, all thoughts of ghosts from the past, abused but healing animals, and stressful lives forgotten.

 

      For one night, everything was perfect.

 

Chapter Text

      The following morning Carmilla got ready early enough for her to return to the pub and check over everything she’d missed over the past little while before they’d actually open for lunch. She knew that by returning there, she’d be allowing Will the opportunity to approach her again. Amazingly the man never learned Laura’s address (she had a feeling she owed that to the mechanic’s friends as well as her brother. Not to mention the towns people knew better than to talk about Laura. She lived quietly and respectfully so no one felt the need to speak out about her.) so while she had a few blissful days without him, she now had to return to reality.

 

      Ideally she’d have had a little more time to prepare before speaking with him but Ell’s arrival certainly threw a wrench into that plan. She had used Will to find her and she wasn’t sure if she’d approached the man. If she hadn’t, Carmilla had to speak to him first before Ell’s manipulative tendencies managed to secure a hook or two in him.

 

      Carmilla kissed Laura’s messy mop of brown hair in goodbye and she ruffled the fur of each dog’s heads one after the other as she made her way outside. 

 

      Hopping in her car, she peeled away from the curb and made it back to her place in record time. She parked her car just behind her back staircase and sighed largely as she eyed the landing. No one was there thank Cthulhu but she was sure that wouldn’t last.

 

      The raven haired woman flicked her gaze around the back lot and seeing no one around she quickly got out of the car and locked the door before practically sprinting to the staircase and ascending with the key to her door already prepared in her fist.

 

      Having unlocked the door and stepping inside she flicked on the lights, noting with displeasure the light coating of dust over everything. She pushed the door shut and pulled the deadbolt across, secure in the knowledge that she was alone still.

 

      Although.... something wasn’t right. A week or so shouldn’t have left the place nearly that dusty. She felt her hackles rise and she tore her gaze around the room until her focus honed in to a point on an open window just inside the boundaries of her bedroom loft.

 

      That wasn’t me.

 

***

 

      Laura had felt Carmilla kiss her head as the pub owner left and she had managed a hum of acknowledgement but she didn’t move from her wonderfully comfortable position flaked out across the entire expanse of her bed. Now that she had a girlfriend who generally always spent the night, she didn’t much have the opportunity to utilize the large comfy marshmallow.

 

      She felt warm after that thought, she had a girlfriend now. She giggled to herself but recoiled after a second when she realized she was grinning in a puddle of her own drool with her hair stuck to her face. 

 

      I am a picture of grace. It’s no wonder she fell for me.

 

      Having heard Carmilla leave just a moment before, she lazily opened her eyes one at a time and blinked unevenly for a few moments before she managed to focus her eyes. She rolled off of the damp pillow and stretched with her hands curled up way above her head and her toes curling, as she groaned in pleasure at the feeling of all her vertebrae popping.

 

      Her body fell lax after her satisfying stretch and her head hung off the side while her toes peeked over the opposite edge. She was almost asleep again when she felt a raspy tongue between her toes.

 

      Laura shrieked and pulled her feet up and clutched them while she rolled to the side, only serving to roll her entire body off the side of the bed and forcing another less than ladylike noise out of her throat.

 

      The culprit with the sneaky tongue trotted around the bed and laid down so their nose was in her ear. By this point Laura was laughing so hard her ribs were starting to hurt and she opened her eyes to see which dog had disturbed her, fully expecting to see the goofy face of the golden Great Dane otherwise known as Anderson.

 

      Her smile only grew when she saw that instead of Anderson, Granger was cuddled up next to her. Laura reached a tentative hand out and the Border Collie sniffed it for a moment before pushing her snout up and into it, slitting her eyes in happiness and letting he lips pull back in a doggy smile when Laura scratched between her eyes with her thumb.

 

      The mechanic giggled softly as she let her hand move up to rub the back of Granger’s neck. The dog angled her head to the side, exposing the back of one of her ears and Laura scratched liberally, causing one of the Border Collie’s hind legs to scratch at the air.

 

      Laura laughed and got up to sit fully on her butt, allowing her to use both hands to scratch behind both ears at the same time. Granger’s eyes closed fully for a moment before she lurched to her feet.

 

      Laura pulled her hands back anxiously, nervous for a moment that she’d pushed the dog too far too soon. Her fears were assuaged quickly though when after Granger eyed her seriously for a moment, the dog moved forward and pushed her head into Laura’s chest with as much strength as her still skinny and frail body would allow.

 

      The instant prickle of tears behind Laura’s eyes and the warmth in her chest was engulfing and she pressed them shut tightly and allowed her hands to travel down the dogs back slowly, raking her fingers through the short and soft fur. Her hands made that journey a few times before once again resting on Granger’s neck, this time massaging slowly and gently.

 

      She felt rather than heard Granger’s sigh and she lowered her head, smiling into the dog’s fur. 

 

      They stayed that way for a few minutes before the sound of the other two dogs entering the room broke the spell. Granger lifted her head and met Laura’s eyes for a moment before she turned and walked out of the room.

 

      Laura sighed at the loss but she smiled at Anderson and Shivers who both came over for their ‘morning’ hello. It was all of 10 am by that point.

 

      After administering a few more scratches, Laura got to her feet and let all three dogs out to run in her backyard before she went to the kitchen to start her kettle to boil hot water.

 

      It was only as she was on her way to her bathroom that she remembered to check her phone for a text from Carmilla. The raven haired woman had been heading back to her place that morning and Laura was expecting a text or a call telling her she got there safely. What with Will, Ell and Lilita running amok they agreed that they’d keep each other apprised of their locations at all times. It just seemed to make the most sense.

 

      She walked around the bed and over to her nightstand, unplugging her phone and activating the screen only to see absolutely no notifications.

 

      A sense of unease crept down her spine and she unlocked her phone and called Carmilla, holding the phone to her ear as worried eyes danced around the room.

 

***

 

      She had walked the entire area of her home searching for any sign of another person and was on her second trip around to look instead for misplaced items when her phone rang. She dug it out of her pocket while still scanning her home with eyes that didn’t miss even the tiniest detail. Without even looking she swiped across to accept the call, assuming it to be Laura.

 

      Thankfully, she was right.

 

      “Hey.”

 

      “Hey.” The relief in Laura’s voice was apparent. “I was a little worried since you didn’t call or text when you got there safely. I thought-”

 

      “Laura, Laura. It’s okay, I’m sorry. I got side tracked since my apartment was apparently broken into sometime in the last week.” Carmilla had raised a hand and swept it through her hair as she came to a stand still.

 

      “WHAT???”

 

      Carmilla flinched as she pulled the phone away from her ear momentarily before bringing it back. “That’s fine. I didn’t need to use my ear drums this century anyway.” She scowled into the phone regardless of the fact that it was lost on the not physically present girlfriend.

 

      Rather than apologizing, Laura grumbled quietly into the phone before raising her voice enough to be heard. “Do you need me to come over? Bring the dogs?”

 

      “No, I think I’m fine for the moment. I’m just gonna clean the place up. Not much is actually disturbed, only really a few things displaced here and there. They left the window open though and with the wind we’ve been getting, there’s dirt and dust coating absolutely everything.” She sighed in defeat, cleaning wasn’t her best skill.

 

      “Okay, if you say so. Let me know if you need anything though, okay babe?”

 

      Carmilla smirked at the nickname. “Sure thing Creampuff.”

 

      They hung up and Carmilla looked around her in apprehension, sighing so her bangs fluttered up over her face. It was going to be a long day.

 

***

 

      With Carmilla away for the afternoon, Laura attempted to tidy her place. Carmilla was a tornado of a person and her clothes were strewn about and her hair was clogging the shower drain while her makeup was smudging the bathroom counter and mirror. 

 

      Thankfully she tended to quarantine her own mess to the bedroom and bathroom. The main living areas and the kitchen were spared her treatment.

 

      Laura was filled with determination and she went to her computer and queued up the Baby Darling Doll Face Honey album by Band of Skulls and a few other albums as her cleaning music. The music connected through her wifi accessible speakers in every room of the house and she moved from room to room without having to miss a beat. 

 

      She made it through half the album by the time she’d finished the bathroom, moving on to the bedroom. Her favourite song on the album, Patterns came on and she couldn't help but to sing out the song at the top of her lungs, dancing around with her vacuum cleaner as her partner, later using it as a low guitar for the song’s instrumental end.

 

      With the bedroom tidied and that album finished, Innerpartysystem’s self titled album came on and she continued to rock out as she righted the positions of various knick knacks in the living room. 

 

      By this point the dogs were getting in on her fun and chasing each other around the furniture, tongues lolling as they pounced and cut each other off. 

 

      Anderson was wrestling with Granger at that moment and Laura chided the larger dog softly.

 

      “Andy, be careful okay? You could crush her if you’re not careful.” As per usual Anderson read her intention clearly and softened her playing, mouthing Granger’s neck carefully rather than the tougher playing she usually doled out with Shivers.

 

      Satisfied with both the new state of her living room as well as the dogs, she moved on to her kitchen.

 

***

 

      Carmilla had managed to mostly tidy everything but she left the dusting to another time. She had left early to get to the pub, not to clean her apartment. 

 

      Before leaving though she made sure every window was shut and locked securely, even the ones that were almost impossible to reach. She pulled out her ladder from the small storage room beneath the stairs and tested each latch, finding them to still be sturdy.

 

      Having finished checking everything over, she huffed and placed her hands on her hips. She gave the space one last cursory look before she grabbed her keys and headed out to go into the pub proper.

 

      She found her bartenders and serving staff already there prepping everything for the afternoon lunch rush which would start in less than an hour. Each greeted her with a nod or a small wave, none bothering to speak to her. They learned rather quickly not to talk to her before 2pm. Carmilla was adamantly not a morning person, or even an early afternoon person. Hey employees valued their heads enough to respect that.

 

      Barricading herself in her office in the back, Carmilla ran through the last weeks time cards, signed them off and did up the books for that weeks paycheques before looking through the receipts from the time she’d been absent, tallying everything up and setting her book keeping straight. She was pleased to see that despite a few expense reports, she was in the black still.

 

      Unfortunately while looking through an expense request for new pint glasses she noticed that one of the newer bartenders had managed to break a grand total of 8 of them in the few days she’d been gone. Also there were a handful of customer complaints about them which was unfortunate. She wasn’t sure what their deal was, they’d performed fine when she was there. Apparently they were one of the ones she had mentioned offhandedly to Laura when she said not being there would allow her to weed out the ones not capable of handling the job at it’s most stressful. Carmilla was sort of a machine behind the bar, dealing with multiple customers at once and never allowing anyone to wait longer than a moment before she acknowledged them and got their order. Having not been there would have significantly increased the work load of her bartenders and this one seemed to have buckled under the pressure.

 

      She sighed and determined to speak to them privately and discuss the matter. She’d give them another shot but she had a limit and they were almost there already.

 

      Lifting her head and craning it from side to side, her vertebrae popped and she became aware of the din of voices outside her office door.

 

      Time to face the music.

 

      She flung the door open and let it bang against the wall outside, the handle bouncing out of the overlarge hole in the wall that it had caused over the years with her excessive door slamming. 

 

      Without stopping to greet anyone, Carmilla strode over to the bar which already had a few patrons seated around it and leaped clear over it, landing securely on her combat clad boots on the other side. She rolled up the sleeves of her (read, Laura’s) red flannel and raised her eyebrows in silent question at her first customer of the day.

 

***

 

      The hours flew by, Carmilla hadn’t realized how much she’d missed the mind numbing activity of work. She was finally made aware of the time when her petite brunette girlfriend sat at the bar and grinned at her, palming a menu.

 

      They had agreed earlier for Laura to meet her at the pub for dinner where they’d discuss the last few details of her strategy in regards to Will, Laura having let the dogs upstairs to lounge in Carmilla’s apartment while they fine tuned the plan.

 

      Carmilla smirked at Laura, walking over to lean her arms on the counter top and affording Laura a clear view down her black tank top, causing the brunette’s eyes to glaze over.

 

      “Hey there cupcake. What’ll it be?” She inched her face forward, now completely aware of Laura’s friends and Kirsch sitting in a booth not far away. Even if she hadn’t seen them, she’d have felt the glare of the rusty beanstalk as she got closer to Laura.

 

      Laura narrowed her eyes at Carmilla, completely wise to her ploy. “Well, I think I’ll have a Keith’s cider and a deluxe bacon cheddar burger with skinny fries. Please.” At Carmilla’s pout, Laura relented with a grin. “Buuut......” The mechanic raised a bit on her stool and leaned forward to let her lips hover near Carmilla’s. “I think I’d like an appetizer first.”

 

      The pub owner grinned before moving to connect their lips, kissing Laura breathless to the dimly heard hoots and hollers of the patrons of Pitch and Tom. As well as the disapproving glare from Danny, over which Carmilla did not have a single fuck to give.

 

      Disconnecting their lips, Carmilla caught Laura’s bottom lip in a bite and released it to bounce back loosely. The brunette looked at her with lusty eyes and Carmilla could see the desire to take her on the counter in them which only served to inflate her ego since obviously, that wasn’t a desire that could be fulfilled. At least, not presently. 

 

      With a haughty smirk and a snicker Carmilla backed up, biting her own lip. She turned to get Laura’s drink and in so doing, caught sight of her long lost Karnstein sibling walking through her door. Laura noticed her inattention and turned to see what had caught her eyes.

 

      She grabbed Laura’s drink and popped the cap as Will’s gaze landed on her. Steadying her breathing as he started walking over, Carmilla dropped the drink in front of her girlfriend and met Laura’s concerned eyes.

 

      Will had almost made it to the bar.

 

      Carmilla slapped her hands on the counter resolutely as she stood up straight. “Show time cupcake.”

 

Chapter Text

      With a twist of the waist Carmilla handed Laura’s order ticket to the girl working the bar next to her and when she’d straightened out Will was standing on the other side of the counter, a few seats down.

 

      She met his eyes momentarily and was surprised when he was the first to avert his gaze, almost like he actually felt some remorse. Carmilla shook that thought out of her head though, it had to have been a trick of the light.

 

      The raven haired woman took her time, she wasn’t going to just give him what he came for within seconds of his entrance. Just because she’d decided to talk to him, didn’t mean she would make it easy on him. Laura had agreed with that plan of attack and was seated, back ramrod straight while she side-eyed him. The look he darted her way clearly showed he remembered her from their last... encounter.

 

      Laura averted her eyes once his were downcast again and the dark brown irises pulled Carmilla in, and Laura nodded her head once, signalling her silent support.

 

      Carmilla released a large sigh and walked resolutely over to take a strong stance in front of her estranged relative, hands fisted and resting on the counter top between them.

 

      “Will.” She didn’t try to mask the derisive tone in her voice.

 

      The man flinched slightly at the tone as well as Laura’s continued glare into the side of his head. The women were intent on using his tactic against him and were succeeding in making him feel ambushed even though he’d been the one to come into the bar in the first place.

 

      “Hey Carmilla.” He didn’t try to apologize, thankfully. He seemed to at least have the foresight to realize that the only outcome of that would be another blowout like Kirsch and Carmilla had both shown at their last confrontations.

 

      Carmilla didn’t respond, she only raised an eyebrow in seemingly casual inquiry. But Laura could read the tension in her jaw, and the corded tendons in her forearms. Kirsch had noticed from his spot at the table and he nodded his head at Carmilla, also showing his support. 

 

      It seemingly wasn’t much but the knowledge that she had two extremely strong, moral and loyal people backing her filled her with strength and courage. She relaxed her hands and focused her energy into her eyes instead, spearing Will uncomfortably in his seat.

 

      “I need to talk to you about mo-” He stuttered at Carmilla’s sneer when he started to refer to Lilita as their mother and he switched tactics quickly. “I mean about Lilita. Listen, I fucked up when we were kids.”

 

      Carmilla outwardly scoffed at his casual phrasing, shaking her head and meeting Laura’s gaze momentarily before she turned narrowed eyes on the dark haired man. “You fucked up? You mean how you let her abuse a defenceless child over and over again? And how you weren’t there to help mop up the blood when it got really bad? You may not have been active in the ‘festivities’-” At this she used sarcastic air quotes. “But standing there and watching was just as bad in my books. And guess what.” She leaned forward on her forearms, causing Will to lean backwards a bit in apprehension. “My family feels the same way.”

 

      The man gulped, a flash of regret writ in his features. “Yeah. That.” He looked down at his hands, all the bravado and anger that had been present the first few times she’d seen him were gone without a trace. His voice was scratchy the next time he spoke. “I was a coward, I saw what she was doing and instead of doing something, I stood back. I was scared she’d do the same to me if I confronted her. As for being there when she... beat you. I didn’t have a choice. It was either that or be in the same boat as you.”

 

      His words weren’t doing him any favours, they weren’t ones that inspired a lick of forgiveness in the pub owner and if anything, she felt pity for the weak person in front of her. She couldn’t believe she shared blood with either him or Lilita.

 

      “What you don’t know though, about back then and what I was doing there.” He wiped sweaty palms down his thighs and flickered his eyes up to hers momentarily. “She told me she was.... training me. She wanted to make sure that if she wasn’t there to.... punish you. That I could take over.” 

 

      Out of the corner of her eye, Carmilla caught Laura stand up violently, murder writ clear in her eyes. The raven haired woman raised a placating hand to her girlfriend, silently begging her to let him finish. She wanted to hear this. She needed to hear this. This could be the closure she’d never been able to grasp. 

 

      Because the man had never raised a hand to her. He had never helped her but he had never made the physical scars worse. The emotional ones were still visible on her soul and that was still partly his fault, but she needed to hear his justification for his actions after what he’d just confessed. Things were starting to make sense and the cogs turned in her head, each new piece of information making it’s way through the tight confines of her psyche to be examined in fresh understanding.

 

      “You know that I never hurt you. I mean, I never physically hurt you. Like I said, I was too much of a coward to actually go against her but I still tried to protect you. I couldn’t bandage you, or help you clean up the... your blood because she’d have seen that you were better. I couldn’t risk what she’d do to you if she saw you were healing.” Carmilla raised both of her eyebrows at him, skeptical of the reasoning in his last sentence. “I mean, yes I was also scared of what she’d do to me if I helped you. Anyway, I didn’t realize until a little while ago when I went to.... um... to your brother’s house.” He looked pained at the phrasing, but he pushed through regardless. Intent on clearing up his little sister’s past. “I didn’t realize until I went there and he told me a few things about when his family took you in that the emotional and mental side of it had taken as much of a toll on you as it did. You were good at hiding it with.... her. But I see in hindsight that you were just..... empty? I guess. You always fought back against her, I mean that’s how you ended up with most of your breaks. I thought you were the toughest little fighter I’d ever seen, and I made a mistake in thinking you could have gotten out of that mostly unscathed. The last few times I tried to talk to you I went in with that mindset, I expected you to be just as confrontational. I guess I figured fighting fire with fire would be the only way to get through to you. I see now that was a mistake. I should have seen it. I should have taken the brunt of it. I shouldn’t have been such a coward and let a child take that abuse. I should have gotten us out of there. And for that, for everything else that my actions, or inactions did to you, I apologize.”

 

      Will looked up at her imploringly, anguish screwing up his features in a grimace. “Carmilla, I am so so so sorry. I’ll never be able to say it enough. I don’t expect forgiveness, I don't deserve it. But I needed you to know I was never on her side. You deserved to know the truth.”

 

      For a few moments Carmilla didn’t say a word. She stared at him, the most intense and hardened gaze she had in her. She had to know if he was sincere. His current position was in such stark contrast to how he’d been before, but his explanation for that actually made sense. Didn’t make it right, not by a long shot. But she understood it. She may not have known him very well when they were young, but she couldn’t argue that he was probably right about what Lilita would have done to the both of them if he’d also fought back. They had both been too young to take her on. Two malnourished and abused children were no match for the alcohol induced strength of an adult on the war path. 

 

      And the fact of the matter was, Will had also been a child at the time. He was only a few years older than her. Not even an adolescent yet and he was being taught to beat his little sister. But he did his best, even if his best had fallen short of what she had needed.

 

      Laura was still standing in front of the counter but now she was staring at Carmilla, trying desperately to read her girlfriend.

 

      Finally, Carmilla moved. She pulled back from the counter, putting a few more feet between her and Will. He watched her and his shoulders slumped in defeat at her retreat. But quickly, a bit of hope was lit in his eyes again when Carmilla reached down and grabbed a bottle of beer from the cooler below the counter and popped the top, setting it down in front of him.

 

      The sighs of relief from Laura and Kirsch were almost audible, they both relaxed slightly but they were still on guard. None of them trusted Will, not even one iota. But he was a wealth of information, one that needed to be excavated.

 

      Carmilla leaned forward again and spoke for the first time since he’d started his long speech.

 

      “Okay. I don’t forgive you, that’s not likely something that’ll happen soon, if ever. But I believe you’re being truthful with me. Now.” She slanted her head to the side as she addressed him. “Tell me about what happened with Lilita.”

 

***

 

      Will ended up staying for a few hours, each of them eating pub fare somewhere in the time frame while he filled Carmilla and Laura in on everything they might need to know. He confirmed that yes, Lilita is more than likely not far or at least on her way to them. But he was sure she had someone working for her, someone who had been looking for Carmilla even before he had been. Lilita making a move on him had been an attempt to find her, even. The only reason he risked finding her while knowing he was being watched, was because at least that way he could be there to help Carmilla when, not if Lilita found her. He hoped that maybe he could atone for the things he’d done as a child.

 

      Kirsch had made his way behind the bar earlier as well, and on his way to fill a new jug of beer he grasped Carmilla’s arm with his hand which was freshly released from it’s plaster casing. The momentary contact steadied her, same as Laura’s hand grasped in her own across the counter. 

 

      By the time Will had told them absolutely everything, people were milling out of the pub ready to call it a night. Carmilla sent him on his way, but not before making sure he was staying somewhere safe. She may not trust him or completely forgive him, but she still didn’t wish any ill towards him.

 

      Once everyone, including her staff, Kirsch and Laura’s friends had filed out Carmilla sat down on a stool next to her girlfriend. She crossed her arms on the counter and rested her cheek on her splayed out hands. She eyed her girlfriend tiredly, all her energy having been sapped from her bones from the ordeal.

 

      Laura reached one hand around her and gently rubbed circles in Carmilla’s back while the other moved a few raven locks from her forehead, allowing her to bend down and tenderly kiss the pale skin of her temple.

 

      “Ready to call it a night, Carm?”

 

      Her only reply was a long sigh as she closed her eyes momentarily, resting the strained orbs. Next thing she knew, she was blinking them open blearily to find that Laura was cleaning up behind her bar.

 

      “Shit, did I fall asleep?” She straightened her back and ran a hand through he hair as she yawned.

 

      Laura smiled softly at her and moved to stand opposite her behind the counter, raising a hand to stroke Carmilla’s cheek. Flipping their positions from earlier in the night.

 

      “You needed it. I just finished up tidying the bar, you good to help me finish up so we can go upstairs? The dogs are probably itching to go outside.”

 

      “Yeah, sounds good Laura.”

 

      The mechanic hopped the counter top and the two of them walked the pub, turning out all the lights and making sure all the chairs were up on the tables.

 

      Once their task was finished, they wound their arms together and exited the pub, setting the alarm and locking it up tight before they walked around the building and entered Carmilla’s apartment.

 

      The three dogs perked up at their entrance, each moving forward to greet their mistresses. Even Granger was wagging her tail slowly. They took them out back and the three relieved themselves, quickly coming back inside to curl up around each other in the overlarge dog bed in the living room.

 

      Making sure again that the doors and windows were secure, Carmilla and Laura got ready for bed, sharing the single sink in her small bathroom.

 

      When finished, Laura twisted her fingers through Carmilla’s and lead her upstairs where they pulled all the dusty sheets of the bed and threw a few clean loose ones across it for the night. Neither were up to more activity than that. 

 

      They folded themselves into the sheets, finding each other with their eyes closed and they breathed each other in, the drowsy effect that had been held at bay behind their eyes finally being allowed to veil them.

 

      Laura had her head tucked against Carmilla’s chest and under her chin. The raven haired beauty kissed the crown of Laura’s head and the brunette kissed the soft arch of a pale and crooked collarbone. 

 

      It didn’t take long for them to both be taken into the entirely emotional and bone weary darkness of sleep.

 

Chapter Text

      The girls spent the next few nights at the loft rather than Laura’s house, eating take out and going over everything they knew now thanks to Will’s input. After that first night back, they weren’t entirely comfortable in the loft. Knowing that someone had been there, regardless of the reason really got into their heads. So over the following days they swept the place, looking for anything that didn’t belong. It was unlikely that Lilita had the resources to plant anything, but mining for information could be just as bad for them.

 

      After a few gruelling hours turning absolutely everything over and inspecting even the slightest change in the space, Carmilla had decided that nothing was glaringly out of place thankfully, and Laura’s impartial eye didn’t see anything that looked unlike what she’d seen there in the past. The following days were spent cleaning (much to Carmilla’s displeasure), doing laundry, and training Granger. Finally, they deemed everything up to snuff extra early on a Tuesday morning.

 

      Laura was planning on returning to the shop that afternoon as it seemed like Granger was finally trusting enough of the two of them for Carmilla to watch the dog while Laura worked. This was why they were up so unbelievably early, and although the pub owner wasn’t bitter about being up with Laura, she was bitter about the ridiculous hour they were awake.

 

      Finishing the last bit of vacuuming, Carmilla released a sigh before she flopped down over the arm of her couch and landed with an ‘oof’ on her back. She was clad in her lazy morning clothes, a black v-neck T and her grey drawstring sweats. Laura was clad in nothing more than a sports bra and her favourite grey sweat shorts.

 

      The mechanic watched her and found it unfair that Carmilla could still look so gorgeous in slouchy clothes. She made her way around the couch to sit at the other end, legs crossed and facing Carmilla. She lifted her head into her lap and played with the ends of raven hair. Carmilla closed her eyes, enjoying the sensation.

 

      “Carm.”

 

      Carmilla didn’t speak, only hummed her acknowledgment as she kept her eyes closed.

 

      Laura grinned down at Carmilla and leaned down to plant a soft kiss on her forehead before she spoke again. “You know you are welcome to keep staying at my place, you know if this place feels.... compromised? I guess?” The brunette sifted her hands through the long black hair. “I have to go back to my place soon and obviously it’s your call, but I don’t like the idea of my girlfriend being by herself somewhere she’s vulnerable.”

 

      A chuckle escaped between red and parted lips and Carmilla opened her eyes and slanted her head back, looking up at an upside down Laura. “Girlfriend, eh?”

 

      The deepest of blushes flushed Laura’s cheeks and she sputtered for a moment. “Oh. Oh. Shit, I’m sorry. Was that too much? It’s just that I’ve been calling you that in my head, and you’ve stayed at my place so much the last while, and we cook together, and you’re helping me with Granger, and we have this really, really, amazing sex and-”

 

      “Cupcake.” Carmilla had reached her hands up, one planted firmly over Laura’s mouth while the other gripped the back of her neck and tugged her down to be level with her eyes, brunette hair making a curtain around the two horizontal faces. 

 

      Once Laura’s scrunched face was hovering above her own, Carmilla removed her hand from Laura’s mouth to place a short peck on her pouting lips before bringing their eyes level. “Of course I’m your girlfriend.”

 

      Laura’s face lit up and she giggled before tackling Carmilla in the weirdest, but not altogether unpleasant (her boobs were sitting directly on Carmilla’s face) hug with her arms around the raven haired girls body. 

 

      “Not that I’m complaining Laura, but this might be one of the strangest positions I’ve ever found myself in.” She mumbled her words into tanned cleavage and by the end of her statement, Laura was laughing uproariously as she pulled up and away from Carmilla. Her hands were crossed over her own chest as she threw her head back in pure mirth.

 

      Now Carmilla pouted and twisted to bring herself onto her side, resting on one elbow while her other hand found it’s way to rest on one of Laura’s thighs. “What is it now?”

 

      “Umm-” Laura snorted slightly before continuing. “When you spoke into my boobs, it tickled.” This time Laura’s face devolved into almost hysterical giggles and tears were gathering in the corners of her eyes. Suffice it to say, Carmilla was slightly confused.

 

      “.... okay, I think we need to get some sugar into you, STAT. You’re going into shock.” With that Carmilla pushed herself up and walked into her kitchen, leaving her manic girlfriend to work out her stuck giggle switch by herself while she attempted to find food in her less than stocked pantry.

 

      Instead of a pancake mix, or even cereal, Carmilla found stale and slightly mouldy bread. She wrinkled her nose as she shut the door, not even considering letting Laura know that they hadn’t actually finished all the cleaning. She bit her bottom lip and squinted her eyes in though, tapping her fingers against the handle of her cupboard door which was still firmly in her grip.

 

      “Laura!” She turned to look into the living room from behind her kitchen counter and was treated with the sight of Laura’s disheveled head popping up over the back of the couch, chin resting on the soft brown leather with an impish smile spreading across the full cheeks.

 

      Carmilla grinned slightly at the sight. “We’re going downstairs and I’m cooking you breakfast. Come on.” She jerked her head to the side and towards the door. Laura stood up quickly and turned to regard the dogs, who were still sleeping soundly. They’d been out for their morning business and promptly fell asleep again. They’d be good for an hour or so while they figured out breakfast.

 

      With a skip, Laura made her way over to grip Carmilla’s hand strongly, dragging her bodily towards the door.

 

      Well someone’s certainly eager this morning..... 

 

      Laura continued to tug her behind her, all the way down the stairs until she stopped in front of the locked back door of the pub. She turned and grinned at Carmilla, causing the raven haired girl to squint suspiciously. Laura was up to something, she could feel it in her bones.

 

      With smooth hands, she twisted her key in the lock and held the door open for Laura to step through. Once inside, the brunette flicked on a few lights but not all of them. The whole place was deserted beyond them, as no one showed up until about 10 to prepare for the lunch rush. Laura walked all the way into the pub and plopped herself down on her favourite bar stool, looking back at Carmilla with an expectant expression.

 

      Carmilla cocked an eyebrow and followed at a more sedate pace, finally ending standing in her usual spot behind the bar and facing her girlfriend.

 

      “So. What’ll it be Creampuff?”

 

      “Mmmmmm, how about the house special?”

 

      Carmilla furrowed her brows, first of all the chef wasn’t in, and second of all she didn’t even know what that was right now. She generally let the chef do up their own menus, her only requirement was that they pass muster with Kirsch before being approved.

 

      “House special? What-” She didn’t get the opportunity to finish her sentence as Laura shot forward, latching her hungry lips onto Carmilla’s own.

 

      Oh.

 

      She didn’t need any more encouragement than her incredibly hot girlfriend’s mouth heatedly tasting her and she responded immediately, her hands raising to thread through silky brown locks with firm fingers.

 

      Laura moaned at the pressure being applied by Carmilla’s hands and so of course, Carmilla took it as encouragement and tugged slightly. Laura hissed in appreciation, deepening their kiss with fervour.

 

      By this point, they were more than well acquainted with each others lips and each and every kiss was calculated to bring out the most wanton desire from the other. They had it down to an art. Laura knew to gently suck on Carmilla’s lower lip and Carmilla knew to lightly bite Laura’s. They breathed each other in like oxygen, neither willing to be the first to break contact.

 

      Eventually though, they had to and it was Laura who pulled back. When she opened her eyes and looked at Carmilla, the raven haired girls lips were still parted and her eyes were barely open but what she could see of the irises showed them to be blown out and hungry. 

 

      So Laura reached a hand up to tug on the collar of Carmilla’s t-shirt, pulling her girlfriend over the edge of the counter. The pub owner was now bent almost entirely across the surface, her face hovering just inches in front of Laura’s although not quite close enough for her to act on anything.

 

      “Up.” Laura tapped her free hand on the bar surface. Carmilla’s breath became even more ragged and she obeyed without a second thought. She crawled onto the counter and moved to vault off the other side when Laura stopped her with hands to the crouched knees in front of her.

 

      “I didn’t say down. Sit.” Laura’s voice was powerful and sure, Carmilla’s self control was quickly disappearing.

 

      She was about to just go for it and jump down anyway but then she caught sight of Laura’s eyes travelling hungrily down her torso and she though better of it. She had a feeling that if she played along, the payoff would be entirely worth it.

 

      So she let her legs dangle off the side of the counter and she braced her hands behind her, griping the edge of the counter.

 

      Laura surged forward again, connecting her lips this time to Carmilla’s long and pale neck. She kissed her way down the perfect expanse of flesh, and proceeded to suck at the slightly marred flesh covering one collarbone that had once failed to set and heal properly. This was one of Carmilla’s most visible scars, and she liked to pay special attention to it, same as Carmilla seemed to pay extra care to the ones marking her own back.

 

      Neither had yet shared the stories behind their scars, but Laura had a feeling that it would be a conversation that came up sooner rather than later.

 

      Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Laura pulled the loose t-shirt up and off Carmilla’s body, redoubling her efforts with a seeking mouth on an erect nipple. While Carmilla was distracted by the mouth leaving hot trails between her breasts, the mechanic’s hands had lowered to gently tease out the knot in Carmilla’s sweats. Once loosened, she quickly snaked both hands under the waistband of the sweats and boxer briefs together and roughly pulled them off Carmilla’s legs.

 

      Carmilla gasped in surprise, this side of Laura was new to her, but definitely not unwanted. Without even thinking about it, she guided her pelvis to the edge of the counter and spread her legs out to rest each foot on the tops of barstools.

 

      A devilish smirk crept across Laura’s features, and she moved forwards again and gripped Carmilla’s ass in two calloused hands, bringing her vulva to grind against her incredibly toned abs.

 

      The feeling of the slick heat coating her stomach caused Laura to moan wantonly, and she once again caught Carmilla’s lips with her own. She moved her hands, encouraging slow movement of Carmilla’s hips against her. The pace was in stark contrast to the insistent mouth now latched behind her ear, but Carmilla was in too much of a Laura induced haze to care much. She groaned and continued the action herself, entirely eager to let whatever this was play out to Laura’s satisfaction. Which inevitably, would lead to her own.

 

      Without warning, Laura moved back and Carmilla whined unashamedly with her head thrown backwards and eyes shut before she was cut off rather effectively. Laura had dropped down and tongued Carmilla’s folds with a sure stroke. The rough yell released from Carmilla’s tightened lungs was proof of the effectiveness of Laura’s current method of attack.

 

      “Jesus, Laura. Fuuuuuuuuuuc......” Carmilla moved one had to tangle in Laura’s hair, holding it back as her girlfriend worked fastidiously on her. “Shit Laura, that feels so.... unnnngh.” 

 

      Two of Laura’s fingers were now playing at Carmilla’s entrance, and she only allowed her fingertips to delve inside. She teased relentlessly and wasn’t yet ready to let Carmilla get her release. She had fantasized about just this situation too many times to let the opportunity go to waste.

 

      With a slightly frustrated huff, Carmilla tried to push her hips down onto the inviting fingers. But each time, Laura only pulled them back while administering a slow flick to her clit. Carmilla tried once more, only for Laura to detach her mouth entirely and bite the soft inside flesh of her thigh in admonishment.

 

      Laura didn’t even say anything, but Carmilla read all she needed to know in those fierce eyes looking up at her. With barely restrained movements, Carmilla let her hips fall back to rest fully on the counter and she waited patiently, albeit with little breath.

 

      But the brunette didn’t move back in yet, she only continued to stare at Carmilla with one brow raised.

 

      “Oh my god, Laura. Please just fuck me, please I need-” Carmilla’s voice was a keening wail, and she had no shame for the pure unadulterated want painfully apparent in it.

 

      The mechanic grinned triumphantly and quick as the blood pumping through Carmilla’s veins, she caught the stiff bud of Carmilla’s clit between her lips and she sucked on it, flicking it with her tongue as she continued. Carmilla threw her head back in pleasure, finally feeling like her orgasm was within reach. She rocked her hips against the talented mouth firmly latched onto her, and was keeping pace with the tongue unravelling her when she felt those two fingers drive forwards and fill her.

 

      A rough scream shattered the relative quiet around them as Laura pumped her fingers relentlessly, curling them just the right way while her mouth continued it’s assault on the bundle of nerves held between her lips. 

 

      It only took a few more thrusts before Carmilla fell apart entirely, screaming out obscenities and Laura’s name in an amalgamation of sound.

 

      Laura slowed her movements, only moving when Carmilla’s body sagged back against the counter top, leaving her head to hang over the other side. Her breasts were heaving with lost breath, and she sighed when she felt Laura lapping up the remnants of her orgasm with a lazy tongue. Her hips twitched from the continued contact and she wriggled until Laura pulled back.

 

      With a low chuckle, Carmilla rolled her head to look at her still clothed girlfriend. She could see her own pleasure across Laura’s navel and she felt a new twinge of desire spike in her belly.

 

      “Well that was new.” She said on an exhale, pulling herself up to rest on her elbows. She smirked at the brunette and slid forwards and off the counter. Carmilla walked forward, reaching for Laura. “I think it’s your turn babe.”

 

      But Laura backed away with an entirely too innocent grin. “Maybe later, right now I need to eat.” At Carmilla’s cheshire catlike grin she chuckled and elaborated. “I mean eat food. My stomach is about to devour itself.” And she turned on her heel, heading straight into the kitchen with Carmilla still coating her stomach, fingers and face.

 

      Carmilla raised an incredulous brow as she watched Laura disappear through the kitchen doorway.

 

      Was this girl for real?

 

Chapter Text

      “Hey L, can you help me with this hub?” Laf called to Laura from the second bay in the shop. Laura flinched slightly at the old nickname which now held new meaning. Nonetheless she made her way over from her position at the front desk where she was putting in bulk oil and filter orders.

 

      “What’s up Laf?” Laura crouched next to Laf and eyed the hub with a critical eye. It was Kirsch’s truck again, but this time it was the front breaks and of course the rotor was basically fused to the hub. Last time it was the rear hub assembly, this time the front. And to think, it had simply come in for a diagnose of a squeak in the steering suspension.

 

      Laf simply gestured loosely, sure that Laura could pick up in it without any help.

 

      A sigh preceded Laura’s reaction. “Okay, I’m going to grab Horrace and some WD40. Be right back.” Laura clapped a hand to Laf’s shoulder and used it to propel her to a standing position. She moved to the small storage closet next to the back office and sent a quick glance around the room. The mechanic frowned when she didn’t see Horrace immediately but she quickly brightened again when she remembered where he was. She had left him outside near the small enclosure she had for waste, as the last oil drum full of filters for return had been stubborn about closing.

 

      She turned and pushed through the back door, sticking a block of wood between the door and frame to leave it it ajar a few inches as the lock was broken and it couldn’t be opened from the outside. Once satisfied, she walked the 50 feet to the enclosure. Laura pushed the wide wooden gate open and picked up the pry bar called Horrace with a strong heft.

 

      With the 4 foot pry bar in hand, Laura walked back to the shop and swung it around experimentally, the name ‘Horrace’ painted in bright orange spray paint leaving a bright wake behind it with the movement.

 

      Laura was only a few feet from the shop door when a voice stopped her dead in her tracks.

 

      “Well that’s hardly a welcoming sight.”

 

      The brunette’s hackles rose immediately and her shoulders and hands tensed. She felt the cold metal of Horrace dig into her palm.

 

      “What do you want Ell.” Laura turned her head to the right to regard the woman leaning casually on the side of her shop. Her brows furrowed and her eyes flashed in anger at the woman before her. Ell was not the same woman she had met that first day, other than her actual physical appearance. Her attitude, posture, and general disposition wasn’t even close to the same. This only served to increase her ire towards the woman.

 

      Ell smirked (an infuriatingly attractive crooked twist of her lips) and pushed off the wall with her shoulder to walk a few strides towards Laura, who tightened her grip on Horrace and stood up straighter, taking on a fighting stance head on with Ell. This stopped the blonde in her tracks with a throaty chuckle.

 

      “Well well well. The bunny has bite. I can see why Carmilla would like you.” A cocky lift of an eyebrow followed. “She liked me for the same reason. She never was one for those who stood by and let things happen to them.”

 

      A slight growl escaped Laura’s throat without her permission. “As pleasant as this is, why are you here? And what happened to the scared and meek woman I met that first day?”

 

      The blonde laughed heartily. “Well how was I to know that Carmilla actually came out of her shell enough to get close to anyone.” She shrugged unaffectedly. “When we were together she only spoke to me. She was so unbelievably damaged and I figured she hadn’t fixed her head yet so I could fake it to find her. And maybe her fucked up self would have alienated everyone and I could find some support against her. We had plans but they’re gonna have to be adjusted now. I am honestly surprised that anyone feels that strongly for her. When she decided to tell me all about her sob story it was the last straw. She was already a handful, I didn’t need to carry any of her baggage.” The insensitive and downright offensive statements rankled Laura and she started to swing Horrace back and forth in a vaguely threatening manner. Ell only laughed. “Oooh I like you. This is a new side to you and I am thoroughly enjoying it. When you’re done with Carmilla, give me a call yeah?” And then she had the nerve to wink at Laura.

 

      Laura’s jaw tightened and she swung Horrace up to grip in both hands. She spoke through clenched teeth as her eyes flashed dangerously. “Get off my property. Now. If I see you here or anywhere near Carmilla or my friends I will deal with you, make no mistake.”

 

      The blonde’s eyes crinkled in a laugh. “You’re so feisty. But that might be an issue since Perry and her girlfriend Laf are putting me up. Nice girls, they seem to like me. I especially like how easy it was to get in Perry’s good graces. She is so unbelievably naive, it’s almost not worth the effort she makes it so easy.” The mis-gendering was obviously intentional if the daring lift of her chin was anything to go by and the slights against Perry equally so.

 

      The fire wasn’t just in Laura’s eyes anymore. It was consuming her, mind, body and soul. She took a step forward and hefted Horrace higher. “I don’t think you understood me Ell. Fuck right off.” She took another step. “Perry may be the kindest person I know but she trusts me and so does her partner Lafontaine. And while Perry may be willing to see the best in people, Laf is like me and they won’t hesitate to throw you out on your cruel and ungrateful ass.” She was nose to nose with the blonde who hadn’t moved an inch since Laura started her tirade. “Now let me reiterate. Fuck. Off. Or I will have to force you to leave. Have I made this clearer for you?”

 

      Ell smirked and narrowed her eyes at Laura before suddenly stepping back with her hands in the air and her head slanted down. “You’ve made yourself perfectly clear Mighty Mouse. Just don’t expect me to abide by your rules. All rules have loopholes, I will find them.” She lowered her hands and continued to walk backwards, shoving them into her jacket pockets. “Count on it.”

 

      With that the blonde turned on her heel and walked towards the road and towards the edge of town.

 

      Laura sighed and released a hand from Horrace and instead scrubbing her face aggressively to try and rid herself of the scowl that felt etched into her flesh. She moved to pull the door further open but instead it moved outward and Laura was left standing there looking Laf square in the face. The redhead had probably come to help Laura look for Horrace the pry bar since she had been taking a rather long time.

 

      The mechanic was about to ask how much they’d heard, but their expression said it all. Their mouth was set in a grim line and their eyes held an unholy fury which Laura was sure wasn’t for them as much as it was for Perry.

 

      “We’ll figure it out. I just need to talk to Carm, okay?” Laura kept her tone gentle, not wanting to further Laf’s murderous feelings. Thankfully her words had the desired effect and they nodded their head once and stepped back to allow Laura inside.

 

      Laura followed them in and took one last look around the back lot before pulling the door shut firmly, making sure it latched before she turned back to Laf. “Do you want to tell Perry about her or will I?”

 

      The redhead shook their head and spoke finally. “I’ve got this L, I think she’ll take it better if I deliver the news. Maybe I can soften the blow, I don’t know.” They sighed largely and turned to the office without another word to Laura.

 

      Once they were out of earshot Laura slumped back against the door and raised an arm to cover her eyes. “Fuck.”

 

***

 

      Laura had actually walked to the shop that morning, it was a really nice day and she also wanted to keep an eye out for Ell and possibly Lilita. She was hoping she’d catch a glimpse or perhaps get a read on where Lilita was hiding. She hadn’t seen anything on her walk to the shop but Ell’s visit had certainly shed some light. She hadn’t said in any certain terms that she was working for Lilita but she had let the word ‘we’ sneak into her long and drawn out explanation during their discussion.

 

      That was enough confirmation for Laura. And even if she somehow turned out to not be working with the woman, she was still hateful enough for Laura to wish away.

 

      So it transpired that once the shop doors were shut and Laura was running through closing, Carmilla came by to pick her up. After the nature of her confrontation with Ell, Laura wasn’t sure being alone was really a good idea, especially alone walking in the evening or into the night.

 

      Laura saw Carmilla arrive through the small window in the back office that looked out on the front desk just as she was finishing signing off on her staff’s timecards. The raven haired woman didn’t even have to get out of her car as Laura simply moved up from the office, set the alarm and walked outside. She twisted her key in the deadbolt and secondary locks and checked them for rigidity before she moved to the old Camaro, taking her seat on the passenger side.

 

      Once sitting inside she pulled her seatbelt around herself and sat back with a long sigh, eyes closed in exhaustion.

 

      The brunette felt a slender hand wind through hers which had been rested on her left thigh. She opened her eyes and turned her head to see Carmilla looking at her in concern. The raven haired woman had yet to pull out of the lot, and was instead studying her girlfriend fastidiously. “Cupcake, what happened?”

 

      Laura took a moment to take Carmilla in. She was full of so much thanks and gratitude for Carmilla being in her life and being hers same as she herself belonged to the raven haired beauty. It still baffled her sometimes and she just needed a moment here and there to really appreciate Carmilla’s presence. “I’ll tell you when we are settled with mugs of hot chocolate, okay?” She lifted their joined hands and kissed the back of Carmilla’s.

 

      The pub owner may have argued to know immediately but the soft look in Laura’s eyes dissuaded her and instead she turned to look out the windshield as she drove towards her loft. She kept her grip on Laura’s hand, using both hands clasped one atop the other to shift gears along the way.

 

      Carmilla drove her car around the back, through the mostly full parking lot. The pub was full that night and in full swing. She had fired the clumsy employee and had a new trainee who seemed to be assistant manager potential so she was leaving the place in her hands for the night, allowing her to go upstairs and talk to her stressed girlfriend.

 

      The two women made their way up the landing and into Carmilla’s loft, the three dogs happily greeting them upon their entrance. Granger was still improving daily. She had already put on some extra weight and she looked far more like she should, as well as actually engaging with the two women more regularly. She was learning to trust and they both wore soft smiles every time the Border Collie approached them without provocation.

 

      After doling out the appropriate greetings, the dogs were let outside to relieve themselves while Laura and Carmilla watched them from the small metal balcony of the landing. Carmilla stood with her hands clasped and arms resting on the railing, while Laura had an arm wrapped through one of Carm’s and her head resting on a sturdy shoulder.

 

      The dogs were running around playing and neither felt the need to call them back just yet. Carmilla turned and kissed Laura’s hair, bringing a hand to clasp Laura’s that was gripping at the crook of her elbow.

 

      “So creampuff, you ready to tell me what’s eating at you?” Carmilla’s voice was soft and her eyes even softer. The concern was evident in her face as well as the stress, and Laura cringed internally at the thought of adding to that, but this wasn’t something she could keep to herself.

 

      “Well, it’s not good. Ell came by Lauronica Cars today.”

 

      Carmilla’s breath hitched and her grip on Laura’s hand tightened slightly. She didn’t speak though, she just waited for Laura to continue.

 

      “She said some awful things Carm. Things about you, about Laf and Perry.... None of which I want to repeat. I told Laf and Perry to kick her out but I don’t think it was an issue to be honest. When I finally got her to leave the shop she walked towards the edge of town. I told her that I could guarantee she wouldn’t be welcome with them and I think she realized the truth in my words thankfully. But Carm, when she mentioned her plans she let slip that she wasn’t an ‘I’ but a ‘we’. I am almost positive she’s working with Lilita.” Laura had kept a careful eye on her girlfriends profile, and beyond a furrowing of her brows she didn’t look extremely put upon which she took as a good sign.

 

      Carmilla whistled and called the dogs back in, letting them through the door and shutting it before coming back to stand by Laura. With a sigh she turned her head to look at the brunette again, and she squeezed Laura’s hand in a quick tightening of her grip before loosening it again.

 

      “Well. That’s progress I suppose.”

 

      Laura simply nodded her head and leaned in for a chaste kiss to soft and yielding lips. They were momentarily lost in each other and they failed to notice the shadow in the tree line, quietly observing.

 

Chapter Text

      The next few days were fairly quiet, but that made them all the more tense. It allowed them more time to prepare, but that meant more time for Lilita and Ell to prepare as well. Suffice it to say, Laura and Carmilla were very tense.

 

      The following Friday evening found the couple seated in Laura’s kitchen, talking over cups of cocoa. Which was when Laura made the decision to bring up something which she had put off before, considering she wasn’t sure how Carmilla would react. She could open up further, or she could close herself off like when she found out Lilita was out there.

 

      “Hey, Carm.” Laura fidgeted with the handle on her mug, picking at a little bump under the paint and she kept her eyes focused intently on it when she spoke.

 

      Carmilla just hummed in response, her mug now lowering to the table after having taken a long pull of the warm and comforting beverage.

 

      “So I’ve been thinking. We still really don’t know the why of anything happening right now. We know what is happening, but what do Lilita and Ell want? What’s the endgame here? How do we get them to leave you alone?” Laura raised her eyes and speared Carmilla with a questioning glance, fingers still playing with the blue tardis mug filled to the brim with cocoa.

 

      The pub owner furrowed her eyebrows and looked to the surface of the table, bringing a hand up to nibble at the tips of her fingernails while she slouched lower in her chair. Laura was anxious but she wasn’t going to ramble in that moment, when it came to anything regarding Carmilla’s past she knew she had to let her talk it out at her own pace. Which was why she was so worried, she had brought up the subject but not knowing anything was eating at her. Hopefully this tiny little push wouldn’t ruin any of the progress Carmilla had made, and she had made many strides already. Between the many confrontations with Will before she was able to calmly speak to him, and the handful of encounters with Ell she was finally managing to hold off panic attacks. But when it came to her biological mother, all bets were off.

 

      Carmilla’s trance was eventually broken when Anderson quietly plodded into the kitchen and rested her head in the raven haired woman’s lap and directed adoring eyes upwards. Carmilla smiled softly and lowered her hand with worried fingernails to stroke between the large eyes.

 

      “Well Laura, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t wondering about that as well. But honestly? I haven’t come up with anything.” Carmilla shrugged a shoulder and raised her eyes to meet Laura’s confused set. She saw the need to know in her girlfriends eyes and she knew that although Laura wouldn’t push, neither would she be satisfied with that as an answer. The pub owner sighed and spoke again, trying a different tactic. “Laura, if I asked you why someone would abuse a child, would you be able to give me a good reason that fully explained their actions?”

 

      Laura’s brow wrinkled further and she just frowned, no answer to Carmilla’s question offered.

 

      “See? You can’t give me a good reason because there are none. The fact of it is that anyone who can justify that to themselves simply isn’t right in the head. There’s no explaining their actions, because there isn’t any rhyme or reason to any of them. So no, I don’t know why Lilita is doing what she’s doing, or what she seeks to gain from any of this and I won’t know unless she chooses to share. As for Ell, well.” A wry twist to Carmilla’s lips preceded her next statement. “She’s as sadistic as they come. She likes seeing people in pain, but she has no empathy. I don’t know how I never saw it but even when you look in her eyes, there’s nothing there. So for her it could be as simple as she will find pleasure in torturing me some more, but I don’t think that’s it. She’s also selfish so Lilita must have offered her something if they are working together. If she just wanted to hurt me more, she wouldn’t need my biological mothers help. No, they have a plan. I just don’t have any idea what it is.”

 

      The silence following her statement was louder than it had any business being. 

 

      Again, the moment was broken when one of the four legged inhabitants of the small house made his way into the kitchen to join his sister in comforting their mistress. Shivers rested his great head on Carmilla’s shoulder from behind the chair she was seated in and he chuffed in her ear, disrupting the black locks of hair falling past a delicate shoulder. Laura was moved with the display from the two animals. The love between the three was palpable, and the brunette was grateful that beyond the few people Carmilla kept in her life, she had those two wonderful and amazingly loyal companions always by her side. They offered a comfort that not many people could, they were there with unconditional love and no demands. Exactly the type of companionship Carmilla needed, and the same type that Laura was trying to provide.

 

      Laura sighed and took a draught of her cocoa before responding. “Okay. I have one last question if that’s okay?” The hesitation in Laura’s voice was obvious but the tension in her muscles eased slightly at Carmilla’s nod to continue.

 

      “Why aren’t we going to the police again?” They had discussed it once, but that was before the threat of action by either Lilita or Ell was as imminent as it seemed to be now. Laura understood Carmilla’s trepidation regarding law enforcement of any kind but she also knew they would be better suited to deal with any threats to her girlfriend.

 

      “No. No police. They didn’t do anything when I was a child and being beaten regularly, what makes you think they would do anything with our ‘paranoia’?” She used air quotes liberally and sighed exasperatedly before continuing. “Creampuff, we don’t have anything concrete. She hasn’t actually threatened me.”

 

      “Well, no she hasn’t but she did try to kill Will. Isn’t her being wanted enough for us to be able to approach them?” Laura was slightly agitated at this point. What was the point of law enforcement if not to help enforce the law?

 

      “Cupcake. What makes you think the local tiny branch of law enforcement is equipped to deal with her? Besides, between when I was taken into foster care and when they were covering her escape, I’ve had just about enough of being on the news, thanks very much. I don’t want to bring them in, because with police comes media and I am not prepared to deal with the shit storm that would bring. I have managed to fly under the radar here and I’d rather keep it that way.” Carmilla took one last drag of her cocoa an emptied the mug, slamming it on the table harshly and with a decisive note.

 

      The brunette sighed and shook her head in defeat. “Okay, fine. But if we’re not going to the police, we need to come to a compromise. Because the two of us and maybe Will are not equipped to deal with them either.” Carmilla started to protest but Laura cut her off with a bite in her voice. “No, we need help Carm, whether you want to admit it or not. So, I’m going to draft help and you’re going to deal with it because I am NOT prepared to deal with the possibility that they will get what they want from you. So suck it up and let me help, please.” Sometime during her little tirade, Laura had stood up and now her face was slightly red and her hands were bunched in the air, but she just took a deep breath and waited.

 

      Carmilla scowled, but she didn’t have anything sensible to refute Laura’s argument. So she rolled her eyes and acquiesced to the tiny ball of rage otherwise known as her girlfriend.

 

      Laura nodded triumphantly and rested her hands on her hips with a small smirk. “Now, I have an idea.” This sentence only served to further darken Carmilla’s expression. What had she just gotten herself into?

 

***

 

      After their discussion wherein Laura laid out her idea, the couple had gone to bed and slept soundly until Laura’s obnoxious alarm woke them up far too early that Saturday morning. Carmilla was determined to sleep as long as possible and Laura’s insistent nature was no match for her sleepy brain and short temper. 

 

      But as per usual, Laura had a plan for that as well. She had gotten out of bed as soon as the alarm went off and now approximately 15 minutes later, she was fully dressed with her teeth brushed and all the dogs were outside running off their morning energy. She was stood in the doorway of her bedroom and Carmilla was sprawled across the full expanse of her queen sized bed, one leg escaped from the sheets and toes hanging off the edge while the other was wrapped impossibly around the sheets. Honestly, it looked like a mini tornado had gone through her bed as Carmilla’s t-shirt was twisted up as well and had ridden partly up her torso and her thick raven hair was obscuring her entire face. Arms akimbo, her entire body was stretched from one corner of the bed and to the opposite one. She truly looked like she was attempting some sort of strange interpretive dance in her sleep which attempted to claim all the space as her own. Laura giggled and walked quietly into the room.

 

      She crawled onto the bed on all fours and once seated comfortably in the open space between the two stretched out legs, she let one index finger trail up the skin of Carmilla’s exposed leg from toe to thigh. The raven haired woman smacked her lips and sighed in her sleep, the attention not yet enough to rouse her. Laura smiled and shook her head, moving her hand now to trail under Carmilla’s shirt and across her back. She reached up the smooth skin and dug her blunt nails in slightly at the nape of Carmilla’s neck while she leaned forward and whispered in Carmilla’s ear as she dragged her nails down the impossibly perfect skin to the small dimples above her buttocks. 

 

      “Carm, wake up.” The whispered words coupled with the nails served to make Carmilla shiver appreciatively as she finally awoke. 

 

      “Mmmmmmmm, I guess waking up isn’t so bad if it’s like this.” The words were mumbled and full of sleep, but the intent was clear. Carmilla reached a hand up and pulled Laura closer to her neck. The brunette only grinned as she trailed a few light kisses over the sleep flushed skin as she lowered her hips and ground slowly into Carmilla’s ass. 

 

      The moan was expected and Laura was positively gleeful as she changed tactics and instead of continuing her seductive assault, she took in a big breath and blew a rather loud and wet raspberry into Carmilla’s neck.

 

      With an entirely unladylike squeak Carmilla jerked up and consequently threw Laura backwards and off of the bed with a light thud to the floor. From her sprawl on the floor Laura could still see Carmilla and the sight caused her to break out in unstoppable laughter. Carmilla looked like a cat that had been rudely lifted and dropped off of a comfortable lap and out of a deep sleep. She was on all fours, clad only in her black t-shirt and matching black briefs, hair mussed and pushed up on one side of her head, and eyes wild while her mouth was set in a rather impressive scowl.

 

      “Cupcake, you will pay for that.” The raven haired woman’s eyes were dark as they bored holes into the hysterical brunette writhing with laughter on the floor. Laura only waved her off as she got control of herself and pushed herself to her feet. Residual giggles were heard as Laura threw jeans and a clean shirt at Carmilla.

 

      “Okay grumpy cat. Now get dressed! We have things to do today.” Laura continued to chuckle to herself as she walked out of the room to let the dogs inside.

 

      The pub owner grumbled as she put on her clothes. She only bothered to mess with her hair enough that it no longer looked like a mop, and applied her usual black eye liner before she strode into the kitchen to grab her keys. She followed Laura outside and they hopped into her Camaro, Laura directing her as she drove, scowl still firmly in place.

 

***

 

      Laura had directed her to the only supply store in town, a Home Depot. The irony of their current situation was not lost on Carmilla. 

 

      Like a woman on a mission, Laura grabbed a cart and pulled a list out of her pocket as she power walked into the store with purpose.

 

      “Creampuff, what exactly are we here for?” Carmilla raised a brow in question to match her verbal inquiry.

 

      “Well, I messaged the gang last night and they’re coming to my house tonight so we can make them help. But they don’t know why yet so I needed to come up with a reason for them all to come over at once that wasn’t suspicious. So, I told them that I was finally going to build that little patio and fire pit I always talked about. So we’re here to get the supplies for it.” Laura squinted at her list before she looked up, scanned the aisle signs and turned their cart towards the patio supply section.

 

      Carmilla couldn’t help but to laugh quietly to herself. “You realize that you didn’t have to actually build the fire pit if you were just going to use it as a ruse to get them to come over. I mean, that’s kind of the whole point of a ruse. You lure them with a promise, then instead of delivering on that promise you bring up whatever it was you actually wanted them for.” She followed Laura, unsure of what exactly the tiny gay was looking for.

 

      Instead of a response she was treated to the site of Laura bending down to inspect a pile of large flat patio stones. The pub owner slanted her head to the side to appreciate the sight. If this was what the morning would entail, she wasn’t too upset about being woken up. Although she still had to plot her revenge on Laura for that surprise raspberry. 

 

      Apparently satisfied, Laura stood up and put her list into her pocket before she squatted and grabbed a stone, lifting with her legs and hefting it onto the flat cart. They were roughly 2 by 2 feet and had to be heavy. Laura lifted them with small grunts and plenty of care, and never the neglectful girlfriend, Carmilla rolled up the sleeves of her shirt and helped. One by one they lifted a total of 25 slabs of stone onto the cart and by the end they were both only slightly out of breath. 

 

      Only once they were moving again did Laura respond to Carmilla. “I do know that yes, but we might as well actually work while they’re there. At least that way if Ell or Lilita sees all of us gathered, they won’t get suspicious that we are planning anything. This way we deflect suspicion AND I get a cool fire pit.” Laura looked at Carmilla and smiled brightly.

 

      Carmilla had to admit that she hadn’t thought of that. Turns out Laura was better at plotting than she had given her credit for. “Fair enough cutie. Now, what’s next.” She was resigned to helping and she only wanted to get back to the house so the faster they finish at Home Depot, the better.

 

***

 

      An hour later, they walked out of the store with a rather long receipt and piled into Carmilla’s car. They couldn’t haul the supplies in her Camaro so an employee was delivering everything later that afternoon. Laura’s friends weren’t coming until early afternoon so the delivery estimate of shortly after lunch was perfect but it left little time for Carmilla to enact her plan.

 

      Once they had arrived they took the dogs for a walk around town, keeping an eye out for places that could be used for nefarious purposes but they didn’t notice anything promising. The only real options they deduced, were that they women were staying in a car somewhere, or camping in the woods. There was no way they could stay in any of the local BnBs or motels, the gossip spread far too fast in the town for them to have not heard about it. 

 

      Not knowing where they were was grating on their nerves but at least soon they’d have some sort of action plan.

 

      They made it back to the house by lunch time and while Carmilla watered the dogs, Laura threw together a few quick cold sandwiches. 

 

      Carmilla came back in from the back yard and gratefully grabbed her sandwich. It was a hot day so the light meal was perfect, anything heavier would have immediately made her feel sluggish. She took a large bite and closed her eyes in enjoyment as she leaned backwards against the kitchen counter edge, hip colliding comfortably with Laura’s.

 

      The raven haired woman turned her head and met Laura’s gaze, the brunette’s eyes crinkled at the corners as she treated Carmilla to a closed mouth smile as she also chewed away at her lunch. Carmilla couldn’t help but to also grin before she turned back to her lunch, mirroring Laura. They stood there, next to each other, touching on their entire sides while they ate in contentment. The thought that this is what it could always be like for them was running through both of their heads and they both felt a surge of warmth to match the images of their potential future together in their heads. 

 

      They just had to make sure the potential became reality, which is where the rest of the day came in. There was so much riding on the next little while, but for that moment the gravity was forgotten as they just enjoyed each other.

 

***

 

      Carmilla’s plan had been momentarily discarded between the walk and lunch, as immediately following it the delivery from Home Depot showed up and they had to unload the truck. While that didn’t take too long, the arrival of Laura’s friends did mean any opportunity she may have had was completely lost to her. She’d just have to recalibrate, but she would eventually get her own.

 

      Lafontaine, Perry, Danny, and Kirsch all showed up, each carrying something or other to ‘help’ with the build. Kirsch was outfitted with his tool box, Danny carried a large cooler which proved to be full of everyone’s favourite beer (Carmilla had the rather unpleasant thought that maybe the giant wasn’t too bad upon seeing her own favourite nestled in amongst everyone else’s but she made sure not to show it), and Laf and Perry were burdened with many tupperware containers containing a myriad of baked goods. 

 

      Laura tipped the delivery driver who left without a word before she turned to her friends with a friendly smile stretching her lips. “Hey guys! Thanks so much for helping out.” 

 

      The gang all replied enthusiastically, beers were opened and basic plans were laid out. Danny and Kirsch took over the majority of planning and the two fought over how best to go about the build, bickering back and forth. But in amongst the jabs at each other, there were a few genuine smiles and ribbing, of which Carmilla did not miss them. She smirked and nudged Laura with her shoulder, nodding her chin in the direction of the two beanstalks only to hear a small chuckle escape her tiny girlfriend. 

 

      Carmilla moved behind Laura and draped her arms around her waist and resting her chin in her neck. Laura leaned back and rested her own hands on Carmilla’s arms, and the two stood in comfort as they watched the other four flitting about in Laura’s backyard. Danny and Kirsch were sorting all the supplies Laura had bought and were preparing to clear the spot Laura had chosen of all the grass, Perry was now organizing the cooler after having set up all the food on a pull out camp table, and Laf threw a ball for Granger who seemed to be rather good at fetch. Anderson and Shivers were happily engaged on their own in a rough wrestling match directly in the middle of the marked ground.

 

      “Can we just ignore everything for a few moments and just stay right here? I don’t want things to change right now. I’m happy right here, with you.” Carmilla kissed Laura’s shoulder and rested her nose against the side of the mechanics head, breathing in her fresh scent.

 

      The pub owner felt rather than saw Laura’s smile. “Sure Carm. For a few minutes. I think we can do that without any consequences.” She lifted one of Carmilla’s hands and kissed a soft palm.

 

      And while the six people and three dogs enjoyed themselves in the hot Saturday afternoon, one person elsewhere was at the hands of two others, distinctly not enjoying themselves.

 

Chapter Text

      “Kirsch, I swear to god if you keep doing that I will punch you.”

 

      The man looked up from his work confusedly to see Danny staring him down, hands on hips and one foot tapping impatiently. “Ummm, what exactly am I doing?” He had started placing the patio stones for the base of the fire pit in the area they had cleared of grass, how could he screw that up?

 

      Danny sighed exasperatedly and rather than telling him what he was doing wrong, she knelt in front of him and wrenched the patio stone from his hands, and in so doing, accidentally grabbed a rough and calloused hand. The man raised an eyebrow with a goofy grin and Danny scoffed, turning quickly to try and hide her sudden blush. Which apparently wasn’t hidden well as Kirsch laughed softly as he twisted to grab a second slab. The tall redhead turned the stone and placed it in the same place he was going to, only she made sure the pattern didn’t clash with the ones already placed around it, and correcting a few others that weren’t matching.

 

      The little scene hadn’t gone unnoticed, the other two redheads standing about the refreshment table were chatting when Laf witnessed the short interaction and they elbowed Perry gently to draw the other woman’s attention. The curly haired woman looked up, eyes quickly flitting to where Laf had pointed with glee. Perry grinned and barely stifled a laugh as she watched Kirsch and Danny carefully not touch each other, but they willingly stayed in each other’s space. Not to mention, Danny wasn’t at that moment yelling angrily at him and while those two things occasionally happened, they never happened concurrently. The curly haired woman leaned in to speak in Laf’s ear. “When did that happen?!”

 

      “I have no idea but Perr, we need to make sure it continues.” Laf turned to Perry, grasping her upper arms with purpose as they stared intently at the other redhead. “That ship NEEDS to sail. And we’re going to make sure it does. Cause god knows Danny is too muleheaded to let anything actually happen.”

 

      Perry sighed and rolled her eyes, already seeing where Laf was going with this new information. She didn’t even bother trying to dissuade them as once Lafontaine had their eyes set on something and a goal in mind, stopping them wasn’t really possible. Case in point, they were actually dating. Perry had always had a thing for them, but she wasn’t really the go and get em’ type. That was all Laf. “Okay fine.” Laf grinned widely about to bounce over to the two tall humans when Perry returned their grip on both arms. “BUT.” Laf’s face fell slightly. “We aren’t going to do it alone. Let’s go talk to Laura and Carmilla about it.” At this Laf’s face once again split into a grin and they grasped one of Perry’s hands, pulling her towards the other two with purposeful strides.

 

      Both the mechanic and pub owner were sitting in the grass in one of the corners of the yard, talking in hushed tones to each other. Carmilla had her legs folded up underneath her while Laura sat with legs forward and ankles crossed, both sitting exactly next to each other with nary a hairs breadth between them. For all that they weren’t actually facing each other with their bodies, they had their heads turned to look only at each other and they didn’t notice the two redheads walking up to them until they stood in the sun, casting long shadows over both of them.

 

      Laura looked up quickly with a blush and yanked her hand off of Carmilla’s thigh where it had been resting, causing the raven haired woman to chuckle lowly. While one of the pub owner’s hands was draped over her own knee, the other was behind Laura and judging from the blush still spreading across the brunette’s face, it was up to no good. Laf looked thiiiiiiis close to being ready to poke fun at them but a pointed look from Perry stopped that before it even started. Laf only smirked slightly and cleared their throat before addressing the two.

 

      “Soooo, have you guys noticed anything odd the last few minutes? Perhaps about our two resident tall people?” Laf raised their eyebrows suggestively and looked between the two couples in increasing succession until a reaction was garnered.

 

      Carmilla was the first to pick up on it and she guffawed and raised a hand to her mouth to smother the noise before the two people actually working heard. Laura just looked confused, and turned to regard the raven haired woman with an inquiring lift of her eyebrows. Carmilla snickers some more before clarifying what the reason for her hilarity was. “Cupcake, big red and my brother have a thing for each other.” 

 

      Brown eyes widened and snapped back around to look at the two people. She had to admit that she had never seen them so....... civil? Yeah, civil with each other. “Huh.” Laura frowned slightly and Carmilla furrowed her brow at the sight. She shouldered Laura gently while the two redheads continued to look on. “You good creampuff?” The mechanic turned and regarded her girlfriend seriously. “Yeah, I’m just surprised I guess? I thought Danny was gay. I mean she had it hard for me for quite a while so this just came out of left field?” Laura looked at the two who were now lifting the shaped stones for the actual pit into place on top of the flat slabs, she shrugged her shoulders and looked up at the redheads with a question on her lips. “So, why are we looking at Danny and Kirsch and what is up with your expression Laf. If conspiracy had a face well, I’d be looking at it right now.”

 

      The shortest redhead chortled. “Because boss, WE, are going to encourage a little. Ahem. Romance. You guys in?” Laf clapped their hands together and rubbed them in anticipation.

 

      Carmilla grinned devilishly. “Oh you bet I am. I am always okay with something I can later use to rub in their faces.” Laura swatted her playfully with a giggle before she also voiced her agreement. “Yeah I’m in. But nothing too over the top or crazy, alright?” She wagged a finger in the air, Perry nodding her agreement readily while Laf and Carmilla groaned in good nature before they agreed.

 

***

 

      After agreeing on a plan of attack which would commence following the time they had to deal with Lilita and Ell, the four once again joined Kirsch and Danny in finishing with the pit. They had finished placing the pit stones in one of the corners and they now helped erect the small wall around two sides of the layout. The walls were only about a foot high on opposite corners, and they rose in height until they met in the corner behind the pit at about five feet. This was also made of stones, these ones which were shaped to intersect in a way where grout or cement were not required to have them stay. Following this they sat down and each built one of the chairs Laura had bought. While unloading the ridiculous amount of stone and wood hadn’t taken too long (they had had the help of two burly men from home depot) the time it took to lay everything out and actually build everything was far longer than either the mechanic or pub owner had anticipated.

 

      It was on into evening when they finally finished so a fire was set in the new pit and all six of them sat in their chairs around it, hotdogs and marshmallows being passed around the semicircle and roasted over the now healthy fire. Carmilla had just come back with a new bottle of beer for everyone and once sat she glanced at Laura, the weight of her gaze bringing the mechanics head to turn and look back at her. Everyone was sitting quietly and enjoying the night, there was no better time to talk to them.

 

      Carmilla reached a hand down to scratch behind Anderson’s ear as the dog was laid comfortably between hers and Laura’s chair. Granger was leaning against Laura’s legs and her head was in her lap, while Shivers was flaked out on the grass a little ways behind the group.

 

      A clearing throat preceded Laura’s statement. “So, guys.” Everyone’s attention was grabbed and they all looked to Laura. “Building this pit wasn’t the only reason we asked you here today.” Laura glanced over to Carmilla, signalling with her eyes that she should take over.

 

      The raven haired woman sighed before looking down at the beer in her hands, nervously peeling the label and refusing to look up at anyone. “You all remember when I went missing that night?” At the nods and now curious glances, she continued. “Well, the reason for that was I saw my birth mom on tv. She’s a wanted criminal, one I haven’t seen in 19 years. She was abusive, I ended up in foster care, and eventually in the Kirsch household.” Some faces showed shock, others showed sudden understanding, and Kirsch’s simply showed pure support and love. Laura’s eyes were glued to her beautiful girlfriend and she felt such pride at the fact that Carmilla was speaking clear and concisely, no hint of the fear she was sure she felt visible in her face. “Anyway, she’s in town. She tried to kill Willy boy for some reason and now that we’re both here, so is she.”

 

      “Also, Carm’s ex Ell is here and we’re sure she’s working with Lilita. You guys have met her, hell you guys put her up for a bit when she got here.” Laura nodded in Laf and Perry’s direction. “Basically what we’re saying is, the two of us aren’t equipped to deal with her on our own, not to mention we don’t know what nefarious methods they might use to get to Carm. You all are close to us, and besides us needing your help, we want you to be safe.” 

 

      The silence among the group was felt as strongly as heard. Perry was the first to break it. “What about going to the police? I’m sure if she’s wanted they’ll want to know she’s here.”

 

      Carmilla replied with a tired sigh, pulling a hand through her loose raven locks. “Laura and I talked about this, they won’t do anything useful not to mention I really don’t want to make the news. If we can, I want to deal with this without any help from people I don’t know or trust.” The last part was spoken softly as she lowered her head again. Her word usage hadn’t gone unnoticed, and the fact that she trusted them was a welcome weight to the group.

 

      A soft whine was heard from the golden dog on the stones, and she raised her head to lick softly at Carmilla’s hand. The group shifted their gazes around, gauging each other’s reactions, and Kirsch voiced what everyone was thinking. “Okay, what’s the plan?”

 

      Relief washed through Carmilla’s veins and she looked up to the people around her, satisfied that her trust was actually in safe hands.

 

***

 

      The group discussed well into the late evening, only eventually stopping when it got late enough for everyone to head to their respective homes to ready themselves for work the next morning.

 

      Carmilla was staying with Laura again and the two women only bothered to make sure the dogs had a chance to relieve themselves before they doused the fire and headed inside, crawling into bed with their smoke filled hair.

 

      For once Carmilla was the big spoon and she kissed the nape of Laura’s neck before sighing in exhaustion. Laura was also extremely tired but there was something she needed to say before she let herself succumb to the sleep sand behind her eyelids. “Thank you for trusting my friends Carm. It means a lot to them I know, but it means just as much to me.” She squeezed the hand wrapped around her waist to which Carmilla squeezed back and mumbled a goodnight into already sleep flushed skin.

 

***

 

      It was mid morning on Monday and everyone was at their respective jobs, only Kirsch was helping Carmilla out at the bar since the plan meant none of the six would be expected to be left alone. It helped that Kirsch was not employed at that time beyond his helping Carmilla out. He was there quite often, but he wasn’t on a schedule, he only came in when she asked him to. For now, he would be coming in daily and working closely with the raven haired woman.

 

      They were finishing getting all the chairs down and glasses out of the industrial dishwasher when a loud knocking was heard from the front of the pub. Kirsch walked quickly from the kitchen to join Carmilla, walking to stand beside the door as she slowly walked to place her hands on the lock and handle. They locked eyes for a moment, and then Carmilla flicked the lock and pulled the door open, causing the last thing she expected to happen.

 

      Will fell forwards on his hands and knees, he had been leaning against the door and having it pulled away from him caused him to drop without any chance to catch himself.

 

      “Jesus christ, Will. What the fuck happened to you?” Carmilla quickly pushed the door closed after poking her head outside and looking around for anyone. She locked it and turned to see Kirsch helping the dark haired man to his feet, one arm holding a hand over his shoulder while the other wrapped around his slim waist. Carmilla got a good look at Will once they were turned around and she gasped in shock. His face was decorated in blacks and blues, one eye swollen shut. His knuckles were ripped open and his clothes looked to have seen better days.

 

      The raven haired woman rushed forward and pulled a chair out from a table where Kirsch carefully deposited the man while she ran to the kitchen to grab some wet cloths and her first aid kit. 

 

      Making her way back into the pub proper, Carmilla knelt in front of Will and opened the first aid kit. She pulled out alcohol swabs and started dabbing at the rough spots where his skin was lacerated, causing him to flinch away. “Hey, I need to clean these.” Carmilla spoke quietly but with force. He moved closer with caution and glassy eyes.

 

       “You shouldn’t be cleaning me up. That should have been my job.” He looked down in shame, refusing to meet Carmilla’s eyes. She wasn’t having any of his self pity though and she tucked a finger under his chin, forcing him to meet her eyes. “It’s in the past. Let’s just worry about the present, okay?” He nodded his head and steeled his gaze, allowing her to clean his face without flinching again. “Now, I have an idea as to what happened here, but maybe you could fill me in on the details? She tried to kill you not long ago and if she got her hands on you, why are you sitting in front of me right now, very much alive?”

 

      Kirsch was sitting in a chair, adjacent to the two. He looked between the two in earnest, ready to help in any way he could. It was only at Carmilla’s nod that he stood up to continue readying the pub for opening. He already knew enough about her tragic backstory, she wasn’t quite ready to let him in on the details of that just yet. 

 

      Her biological brother sighed heavily before replying. “Honestly? I think she just doesn’t care enough anymore. I am useful enough to try and get information on you, but with you as her new primary focus, she just doesn’t give a shit. I think she realizes that the effort to clean up any mess with me wouldn’t be worth losing her shot at getting to you. And if she jumped from wanted attempted murderer to actual murderer, you better bet some sort of law enforcement would suddenly decide she was worth the effort to find.” Carmilla grimaced, she had to admit that Will was probably right. She was the one that got away, in a twisted sense. Lilita couldn’t have been happy when her favourite victim had been wrenched from her grasp all those years ago. “But, if it makes you feel any better, she didn’t find out anything useful. I don’t know anything about you that she couldn’t learn from the locals. She was pretty pissed about that, but I think she’s just going to keep watching for now.”

 

      Carmilla finished cleaning him up, plastering on a few bandaids for good measure. She sat back on her heels and satisfied with his account so far, she asked the one question she wasn’t sure she wanted the answer to.

 

      “What does she want with me?”

 

Chapter Text

      Once Will was all cleaned up Carmilla sent him upstairs with the dogs while she and Kirsch stayed in the pub which was now filling with the lunch crowd. The answers he offered had shed a fair amount of light, and she finally felt like she knew enough for all the ridiculously shaped puzzle pieces to fit together enough for an image to take shape. Lilita’s motivations were finally making sense, and Carmilla was antsy to speak to Laura and the group so they could fine tune the plan enough that they could maybe soon act on it. 

 

      As it does when you’re eager to do something, the rest of her shift at the pub dragged as slowly as humanly possible, to the point where she was tempted just to cut out and go find Laura. But then that wouldn’t fit with the beginning stages of the plan, as they’d agreed to never be alone until everything worked out. So Carmilla was stuck with Kirsch until she went to Laura’s later, but now that she stopped to think about it she wasn’t really sure what to do in the case of Will. With him now, they were a solid 7 and she couldn’t figure who he would go with. Laura and the three gingers were at the shop and they planned to drive by the pub after closing to drop Laura off with Carmilla, while Danny would go with Kirsch (turns out they were willingly hanging out together minus the rest of them now, of which information Carmilla was hoarding until it would become useful), and Laf and Perry would continue on to their apartment. Which the rest of the group had not been okay with seeing as Ell had stayed with them for a time after all, but Perry had gotten the locks changed the day after Ell had made that trip to the shop and they were being as vigilant as you could be about personal safety. Laf insisted they had a small arsenal of chemical weaponry at their disposal in the kitchen if anything happened (honestly, they could probably build a bomb out of anything commonly found under a kitchen sink) not to mention Perry had a terrifying collection of kitchen knives she was willing to make use of. Honestly the two were sort of scary in their determination to protect everyone at all costs, so after those revelations the rest of the group had conceded to allowing them to stay at their own apartment. 

 

      Carmilla was finally wiping down the counters at the end of the day while Kirsch shut down the main lights and the open sign, and she was still trying to figure out what to do with Will. She couldn’t very well leave him alone now after what had happened earlier in the day. The poor guy had been beaten for information which he didn’t even have, and then unceremoniously dropped on her doorstep for her to find. She wasn’t about to let anything else happen to him on her account (even though the little voice in her head kept telling her none of this was her fault, she felt slight pangs of guilt at his state as Lilita had been probing for information on her after all) and keeping him with one of them was their only option.

 

      “Hey, Kirsch.” She called out to her brother.

 

      “Yo, what’s up.” Kirsch looked up with raised brows and his lips between his teeth as he continued to lift chairs onto the tables.

 

      “Look I know this is going to be a lot to ask, but I don’t really feel like I have many options here. And obviously you don’t have to agree to this favour I’m going to ask of you, but I’d like you to consider it before you make any decisions-”

 

      “Woah, Carmilla slow down.” Kirsch chuckled as he waved his hands in the air. “You’ve been hanging around Laura so much you’ve picked up on her rambling. Just out with this favour. Lay it on the table, let me have it.”

 

      She sighed with a small smile. “Would you mind taking Will with you and Danny tonight?”

 

      Kirsch’s face grew serious, lips thinning in a grimace of concern, causing Carmilla’s chest to tighten uncomfortably as she waited for the refusal and possible tongue lashing. Instead she got the brother she has always been able to count on, she should not have been surprised. “You think they’ll go after him again?” 

 

      Rolling her shoulders, trying to rid some of the aching from the stress they’d been carrying, Carmilla replied. “I wouldn’t put it past them. So, is that alright?” Her eyes felt strained and she thought she must look like she’d aged years since this whole thing started.

 

      Her brother walked up to her and grasped her shoulder with a strong hand, a goofy smile lighting up his face as he looked at her. “Of course, Danny and I will take good care of him. Plus we’re both big enough that I think between us and Will, we could take those two.” He puffed his chest out in pride, deflating once Carmilla jabbed him under the ribs with an index finger.

 

      Kirsch was coughing when the front door swung open to reveal Laura, still covered in grease stains, closely followed by Danny. She saw Carmilla smirking at the still struggling Kirsch and grinned at the sight. For all that they weren’t actually related, those two acted exactly how you’d imagine two close siblings would act. The brunette giggled before clearing her throat and drawing their attention. “You guys all set? We’re exhausted and just ready for bed.” Laura slumped forward and let her forehead fall against Carmilla’s shoulder, although the raven haired woman quickly swatted at her head with her towel while hissing. “Carmilla, what the hell?!” Laura backed up quickly, eyes wide as she regarded her pouting girlfriend.

 

      “Cupcake, you just got grease all over my favourite t-shirt. Did you even bother to wash your face before leaving the shop?” For all her words, Carmilla wasn’t mad but rather slightly bummed out. It really was one of her favourite shirts. It was a simple white v-neck shirt with a single pocket over the left chest, worn a size too big. She rubbed uselessly at the dark stain on the shoulder, throwing her head back in a sigh when it proved to be a fruitless task.

 

      “Would you look at that, Fangs actually gives a shit about her appearance.” Danny spoke. If she had said that even a week ago Carmilla would have glared daggers through her be-freckled head while throwing a few choice insults in the mix. Now she just growled lowly and flipped a finger up at the redhead, who simply laughed. Carmilla tried her best to hide the slight smile, instead pointing it at Laura who looked as guilty as she had that night she had eaten the dessert they bought well before they had even finished preparing their dinner. “Creampuff it’s fine, I’ll figure out how to get it out. There must be some industrial grade solvent other than bleach I can use.”

 

      Laura’s face lit up with an idea. “Oh! I can fix it, just let me bring it to work tomorrow and I’ll get it back to you afterwards all fresh and clean.” She smiled with all her teeth, a jaunty tip to her head as she tangled her hands together. 

 

      “Let you bring it to the very place that caused the mess in the first place? How does that make sense? Has that grease permeated into your brain?” Carmilla squinted her eyes and looked closely at Laura’s head, taking it between her two hands so she could move it about to see if there was more grease.

 

      “Oh my god Carm, stop it! I’ll just use break clean! That stuff cleans anything.” Carmilla moved her head around more forcefully, making Laura slightly dizzy and giggly. “Staaaaahp.” Laura slapped at her hands to dislodge the ones holding her head, prompting a slap fight between the two with Carmilla angling her face back and up while she gave it her all and Laura crouching slightly to try and get her from below.

 

      They had completely forgotten about their company in the room, and the two of them had entirely different reactions. Kirsch was grinning like a fool and chuckling breathily while Danny wore the most incredulous expression she had probably ever mustered, shaking her head from side to side in disbelief. She inched closer to Kirsch and spoke quietly to him lest the two tiny gays hear her. “Dude. Those are our bosses having a tickle fight?!” 

 

      Kirsch didn’t really reply, he only burst out into full laughter which then startled the two women apart with slightly embarrassed features. 

 

      With a decisive throat clearing, Carmilla re-asserted her position as alpha. “Well, it’s about time we headed out. Danny, you and Kirsch are taking Will with you tonight.” Danny started to protest but before she could get a word in edgewise, Carmilla continued. “Kirsch knows what’s going on, he and Will are gonna explain everything to you. Laura, you and I are heading to your house, let me just go get the dogs and lock up upstairs. Come with?” Without waiting for a response, Carmilla turned on her heel to exit the back door of the pub where the two quickly ascended the staircase to get Will, Andy and Shivers.

 

***

 

      Following that day, Will stayed with Kirsch (and subsequently also Danny. No one thought anything was happening just yet, not after SJ and now with the craziness but there was something there and the group was glad to see the two of them at least getting to know each other.) while Laura and Carmilla went back and forth between the house and the loft. Perry and Laf had turned their place into a fortress, so the group tended to meet there for any and all meetings, and now on the following Friday they were all up to date on what they’d learned from Will and the plan had been tweaked as much as necessary. They were finally ready.

 

      Throughout the week everyone had at one point or another noticed someone tailing them, whether it was Lilita or Ell none of them knew, but someone was trying to get them alone and was getting increasingly sloppy when they weren’t able to get any of them on their own. They were frustrated and it showed in their stalking, things were knocked over, footsteps were heard, and cars failed to stay far enough behind when following someone driving. This was what made them decide to act out their plan during the weekend, hopefully they could get this whole thing figured out finally.

 

      Saturday morning found Carmilla and Laura cuddling with the dogs in the living room after having gotten up and making a big breakfast, which neither of them then ate. They were both too nervous for the day coming to be able to stomach anything.

 

      Laura and Carmilla were sprawled on the couch, Laura curled up in front of her girlfriend. She lifted and kissed the delicate hand which was wrapped around her shoulders and resting on her chest, moving on to kiss the pale wrist. “Are we ready Carm?” There was a slight waver to Laura’s voice which Carmilla picked up immediately, and she lifted herself onto an elbow so she could look down at the mechanic.

 

      “Hey.”

 

      “Hey.” Laura pulled her lips back in a pained smile.

 

      “We’re as ready as we could ever be Laura. If we don't try this now, we’ll never get a better shot, you know that.” The raven haired woman tucked a stray strand of hair behind the brunette’s ear, stroking her cheek as she retracted the hand to rest comfortably on Laura’s hip. “Plus, now we know what they want. Honestly I think they let Will go after beating him up because they figured he would tell me their plans, and they’re counting on me being the same person I was when they knew me. To run scared and fall apart at the thought of them confronting me and making their job easier, but that won’t happen. That’s not me anymore. We’re all wildcards, they can’t have learned enough to map what we might do. We actually have the upper hand here.” 

 

      “Yeah, I know. Doesn’t mean I can’t be worried. I don’t like this plan as much as I’d like.” 

 

      “Neither do I, but that’s why we brought everyone in on it. I’ll be okay, I promise.” Carmilla closed the small gap between them, her lips alighting with barely any pressure on Laura’s warm mouth. “Hey.” Eyes were still closed and lips still ghosted against each other. “You know I love you right?” 

 

      Laura smiled and blushed, leaning up for a full kiss and tangling a hand in Carmilla’s hair to grip at the base of her skull. “Yeah, I know. I love you too Carmilla.” She smiled into their next kiss, her chest feeling warmer simply for Carmilla moving closer.

 

***

 

      It was mid afternoon, and for the first time in over a week Carmilla was walking through town by herself. Or at least, she appeared to be. She walked down the forested paths behind her pub, Shivers loping through the undergrowth to one side, and Anderson on the other, both unseen and stealthy in their movements to shadow their mistress.

 

      She walked at a decent clip, dark skinny jean and combat boot clad legs met her black moon phase shirt and leather jacket which was wrapped solidly around herself, hands tucked into the pockets and shoulders drawn up around her ears. It seemed colder in the woods, but she felt like that might have been thanks to the occasional shadows that fell over her own. They were long that afternoon and she was able to catch her stalkers shadows just on the edge of her vision. They had planned this out specifically so she’d have that advantage, hoping it would give her a leg up if they decided to not wait for her to stop. So far though, they kept their distance.

 

      Initially when they’d drafted the plan, some of them were worried that Lilita and Ell would know right away that this was a trap, but that ended up being why they’d decided to draw out the pairing of them. Making them mad enough to not think was crucial, although it could be argued that Lilita never actually stopped to think things through anyway, but they had to push her enough that she wouldn’t listen to the likely much more observant words from Ell who never missed a detail. 

 

      Carmilla heard Shivers growl slightly at the quick movement of one of the shadows, and she cut her eyes sharply to her left side to silence him. She was never as thankful as she was in that moment to have trained her dogs as well as she had. She also found it interesting how shadows were her best friend in that moment, both metaphorical and physical. At least she had them with her, they were quiet whereas any of her friends would have been far harder to hide in the only chest high foliage surrounding her. They came in later. She only had to make sure she got there, and didn’t have to call on her dogs to get her out of a potentially life ending situation. Not that she’d have to call on them, they’d leap to her aid if they saw an immediate threat to her regardless of what she’d ordered them to do.

 

      After roughly another 20 minutes of walking, Carmilla reached her destination with a small sigh. When she had disappeared that night to be found by Shivers, they had made their way back through a different route than she’d taken to get there. They had stumbled upon an old cabin out in the middle of the woods, down an old road that was mostly grown in. The cabin itself was still in good shape, just unclean for the most part, dust covering all surfaces and leaves blown across the wooden floors. She figures it used to belong to a groundskeeper or something, as the part of the woods she was in was technically part of a national park. But the area was so sparsely populated that the parks department didn’t really bother to check up on it anymore. 

 

      Both Shivers and Anderson kept to the bushes, skirting a wide path around the clearing and being careful to remain hidden.

 

      The pub owner darted her eyes around the small clearing quickly and made eye contact with the three gingers who were well hidden in various locations as she stepped up to the front door and continued in. Kirsch was hidden in the bathroom on the immediate right when she walked in, door mostly shut while Laura was tucked behind a large desk still littered with yellowed pages in the left corner. A bunk was along the right wall between a tiny kitchen and the bathroom. A few filing cabinets filled the left wall between her and where Laura laid in wait. The back door to the place was left slightly ajar to allow the dogs entry if they heard anything. And directly in the centre of the room, stood Will.

 

      “Kitty. Hey, I wasn’t sure if you’d show.” His eyes flicked to the floor behind her, where shadows danced underneath the gap and he looked back at Carmilla, nodding slightly to relay that they were there and they were listening.

 

      “I wasn’t sure either. So, what do you want.” She clenched her jaw, her brow damp with light sweat. They needed to keep talking until they heard Will switch allegiances and decided to come inside or they’d know it was a trap, hopefully they wouldn’t get impatient.

 

      “Straight to the point, huh?” Will shuffled his feet. “I want you to give mom what she wants so she’ll leave me alone. Please, I’m tired and everything hurts. She tried to kill me to get to you, I really would rather not die.”

 

      Carmilla affected her best angry air, which honestly wasn’t a difficult emotion to draw up to the surface. She was glad she had prior experiences to draw from, she had never tried acting and she wasn’t sure she’d have done a convincing job without something real to use. “Are you fucking kidding me? You got beat up what, twice by her? And you’re a grown ass man, guess how many times I got beat up under the age of 6 by her? I’m not giving in, you’ll just have to suck it up. If I could, so can you.”

 

      There was a slight creaking heard outside when someone shifted their footing on the small wooden landing in front of the door, as though there were a heavy weight on it. Carmilla frowned.

 

      “No, either you give her what she wants or I give you to her. I’m done.” 

 

      “Why am I not surprised, Willy boy rolling over and doing what mommy wants.” Those words came out far more acrid than she had intended them. Looks like she’d be letting out some feelings on him, whether she had intended to or not. At least it made the whole thing more believable. “Fuck. You.”

 

      Will laughed in a sufficiently creepy manner. “Fine, but you asked for it kitty.” He lurched forward and as Carmilla moved to avoid his outstretched hands, the door behind her burst open. She halted her movements and staggered slightly, allowing Will to catch her and draw her back into the centre of the room.

 

      She put up a convincing struggle, but Will hadn’t gripped her hard enough that she couldn’t get away if she wanted to. Carmilla looked up and with panic writ in her features she saw the face of the women who had haunted her nightmares her entire life. Her birth mothers face was stark, all hard edges and permanent scowls. She had none of the softness that graced Carmilla’s bones which made them look strong rather than lethal. She was wearing a simple outfit of a black knit sweater paired with blue jeans and running shoes, nothing that struck fear into someone. But it wasn’t her clothes, it was that face. Framed in black hair much like her own, but cold with wild eyes that didn’t seem to ever stay in one place long. They didn’t seem to focus as they moved constantly but all the same, Carmilla felt them searing into her. The pub owner felt her bones shake, but her legs didn’t give out and her head didn’t fog over. She wasn’t controlled by Lilita anymore.

 

      She had a split second to feel prideful in herself and in that their plan was working so far, that is until Lilita stepped fully into the room and moved to the side of the door to allow her accomplice inside. Ell pushed three people ahead of her, all with startlingly red hair, a knife held at Perry’s back who was trailing the other two with fearful and tear filled eyes.

 

      Ell just smirked and pushed the three further into the room, eventually using her spare hand to push on a shoulder while bracing a foot behind their knees to push all three one after the other onto the floor between all of them.

 

      As the three looked up at Carmilla with apologies in their eyes, Carmilla couldn’t tear her eyes from the face that had both born and beat her.

 

      “Hello darling, I believe you have something of mine.” Lilita’s voice was melodic, in complete contrast to her physical state. Manic eyes bored into Carmilla, and she felt their presence digging holes in her soul.

 

      Her blood ran cold.

 

Chapter Text

      Shit shit shit, this wasn’t part of the plan.

 

       Carmilla’s mind ran frantically, trying to come up with an out. The ginger squad had been half their plan, they were supposed to sneak up behind the two after they’d been distracted and allow Carmilla, Will, Laura, and Kirsch to spring out on the other side to surround them. How were they supposed to capture the two when they were all not only in this room, but not in positions that allow them any sort of power?

 

      I did this. Nothing would have happened to them if it weren’t for me.

 

      With a jolt, Carmilla steeled her gaze and met Lilita’s glare head on. Fighting for herself with the help of others was one thing, but now she had people to fight for and she felt the fire in her chest blaze. She never had been as apathetic as people always accused her of being, at least not when it counted. When it came to the little things, she looked out for herself, true. But when it came to life altering decisions or the safety of people she felt close to, she made that effort. Which is exactly what she was going to do now.

 

      If I indirectly did that to them, then I guess It’s time I actively did something for them.

 

      “Yeah yeah I know. You want my money, my pub, whatever. I owe it to you cause you birthed me right? Well, hate to break it to you but I made everything I am, on my own. None of that belongs to you and you’re not getting it either.” Carmilla lifted her chin, defiance clear in her features.

 

      The crazed woman leered at Carmilla, a cruel twist in her lips. “And what would I do with your silly little backwoods watering hole you ungrateful little wretch? Why on earth would I want anything to do with that?” A high pitched and manic laugh escaped her lips, setting all the pub owners nerves on edge. Ell looked slightly off at the revelation and Carmilla couldn’t figure out why. “Honestly darling, you have no idea what I want. You always were the more dull of my children. Get your friends to come out please, I know they’re hiding somewhere and I’d rather see them.”

 

      With a flick of her eyes, Carmilla met Kirsch’s gaze through the crack in the door to the bathroom and she nodded slightly. Will did the same for Laura and the two came out slowly, steps wary as they stopped to stand just outside of their hiding places and not daring to get any closer to the two hostage takers.

 

      Carmilla was filled with confusion at Lilita’s words, and she couldn’t help the jerk of her head to gauge Will’s reaction. He seemed just as floored as she was, his face had run pale and he met Carmilla’s eyes for a moment. A moment long enough for Lilita to get the confirmation she needed to know that she’d been right in not trusting Will with the truth.

 

      “Alright, I give in. What do you want from me?” Carmilla swallowed thickly, her eyes refusing to meet the woman’s, instead they settled on Ell as she stood behind Perry with the knife against her throat. The blonde’s eyes held a wicked gleam and she puckered her lips at Carmilla, causing bile to rise in the raven haired woman’s throat.

 

      “Simple really.” Lilita was pacing back and forth behind the line of her friends, hands continually running through her messy mane of hair. “You destroyed my happiness, so I’m going to destroy yours.” Carmilla started to feel numb in anticipation. “You can’t imagine how pleased I was to learn you managed to find yourself a new family as it were, regardless of how ratty and ridiculous they are. There really is no accounting for your taste dear.” Lilita pouted and twirled her finger through a trail of Danny’s hair, pulling it enough for the redhead to grimace. She didn’t move though, although Danny had a sort of martyr complex even she wasn’t so hellbent on being the hero that she’d endanger Perry any further. “Having you in the first place ruined me let alone when you were taken. That was the cherry on the proverbial cake though darling. I lost everything.” Her eyes snapped up to Carmilla’s, making the pub owner balk at their intensity. “So now you’re going to lose everything. Or rather.” Carmilla was sweating and her eyes widened in realization. “Everyone anyway. Ell dear, would you please dispatch of Carmilla’s family.”

 

      Shit, we played right into her hands. If I’d let her just take me instead......

 

      Out of the corner of her eye, Carmilla saw Danny’s hands tense at the same time that she felt Will’s hands slack entirely. Before any of them could react though, the blonde looked up with eyes wide and mouth agape. “Wait, what? You never said anything about killing people. I thought we were just going to extort her?”

 

      “Come now darling, don’t go soft on me in my moment of need. We’ve come this far.” Lilita’s back stiffened and her hands clasped in front of her.

 

      Ell looked around the room and momentarily shared looks with Carmilla and Laura. “Yeah fuck that.” Quick as a flash, she pushed Perry forward and sprinted for the door, knocking Lilita in the shoulder as she went, causing the woman to stumble back into the corner of the room.

 

      Once the blonde was out of the cabin, everyone just froze for a moment in disbelief. It didn’t take long for someone to do something though, as Lilita was now trying to run towards Carmilla with twisted hands outstretched and a snarl on her lips, she managed to snag her arm and yank the raven haired woman forward before Danny shrieked “GET HER!” as she used her position from the floor to launch herself at the woman, jerking her away from Carmilla. In short order, she found herself under a dog pile of gingers and one very angered frat boy who was as much puppy as boy anyway. Lilita struggled and screamed from her position on her stomach, four grown adults sitting on her and successfully holding her still.

 

      Laura ran up next to Carmilla and latched onto her arm. “Carm! Are you okay?” Brown concern filled eyes scanned her and two strong hands ran the length of her arm making sure it was free of blemishes or marks.

 

      “Laura.” The brunette continued to frantically check Carmilla over. “LAURA!” this caught the tiny woman’s attention finally. “Laura, I’m fine. In fact, I’m more than fine.” The two turned their heads and took in the scene before them only to find that Kirsch had somehow removed his socks and stuck them in Lilita’s mouth to muffle her screams. She was now gagging slightly from what they could only assume was a ripe taste as they could smell them from their distance. Carmilla looked up and met Laura’s eyes, the humour in both women easily read. It took all of three seconds for them to burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation that had only recently been so grave.

 

      During all the confusion, Will had scampered to follow Ell in ensuring she didn’t get away. As the mechanic and pub owner started to control their giggles, he made his way back into the cabin with a perplexed expression. “Uhhh, guys? There’s something outside you need to see.” At that, he disappeared through the door again.

 

      Filled with curiosity and trepidation, the two sobered up women followed him outside.

 

      What awaited them was one very angry blonde laying flat on her back with a snarling wolfhound hovering over her while the great dane had her arm holding the knife held firmly in her mouth as she laid placidly next to her. At the couple’s appearance outside, Anderson looked to them and her tail wagged emphatically, conveniently directly in Ell’s face and causing the blonde to sputter.

 

      This time, their laughter couldn’t be contained.

 

***

 

      Miraculously, all of the scooby squad made it out unharmed. Not a scratch among them. Together (with the help of Shivers and Anderson of course) they’d managed to wrangle the two women back into town and into the Sheriff’s office. Luckily for them, Ell was also wanted but on charges pertaining to thievery, much less serious charges than Lilita. However, she did have affiliation with a known dangerous criminal added as well as aiding and abetting a fugitive. So suffice it to say, they were both legally screwed for a good long while.

 

      The gang all congregated at Laura’s house after the excitement, all ready to partake in a few drinks around the fire to decompress from the stress. Granger had joined the group, Laura had left her in her house during the plan as she was still too skittish and neither she nor Carmilla felt it was a good idea to expose her to such extreme circumstances and risk ruining the progress they’d made with her. She was quite pleased to see her humans and she immediately sat between the two, forcing her way into a nonexistent space as both Laura and Carmilla didn’t want to be far from each other and had deigned to sit side by side on a blanket. Granger made for a comfortable addition though and they couldn’t find it in them to begrudge her that closeness and to be honest, they needed it in that moment as much as she did.

 

      Anderson had taken a position near the fire, for once not on guard. She clearly could also feel the lightness in the air and she was sleeping soundly, more soundly than she had in ages. Shivers had made the decision to sit directly next to Will surprisingly. The man had found a place in their ragtag group and that position was solidified with acceptance from it’s toughest member. There were still issues between the biological siblings, but enough had transpired that they felt confident in the decision that trying to repair their relationship was the right call and it was apparent that Shivers supported that determination.

 

      With a sigh, Carmilla looked around the group of people and animals, feeling a strong sense of contentment of a level she had never felt before. She found it slightly disconcerting at first, but she dismissed that feeling, knowing it was a remnant of the life filled with fear she had lived prior to that day. The raven haired woman turned her head and looked at her girlfriend who was laughing at some corny joke Kirsch had told. She was the only one to laugh, her generosity of spirit obvious to all and Carmilla felt so unbelievably lucky that this woman felt she was worth enough to spend that spirit on. That was not a gift she would ever squander.

 

      Laura felt the weight of her gaze and adjusted to look at her as well, eyes soft and expressive lips framing a warm smile. “Hey.” The brunette let her head fall forward to meet her forehead with the pub owner’s, her eyes remaining open and locked on Carmilla’s. A work calloused hand found a smooth and pale cheek, cupping it almost reverently in a move Carmilla felt she didn’t deserve.

 

      “Hey.” The raven haired woman’s lips matched the warm smile directed towards her, she just couldn’t help it. “You know I love you right?”

 

      The echo of the words she had spoken to Laura only that morning felt like they existed in a different world. But the had the same effect as they had earlier, Laura’s eyes warmed even further and she wore a dazzling smile. She closed her eyes and tilted her head, her lips meeting Carmilla’s in a chaste kiss. “I love you too Carmilla.”

 

***

 

      The next morning felt like a new start, filled with old traditions. The two women woke up in Laura’s bed with three dogs wedged into every available space on the mattress. It was ungodly warm and as usual, the first one up managed to trip over at least one of the dogs on her way out of the room. Given that it was at least 11am, Laura had felt it was a good time for ‘breakfast’ and left Carmilla in bed as it usually happened. It was rare for the raven haired woman to wake up first under normal circumstances, and this particular time she was emotionally drained still from their day before. Laura couldn’t blame her.

 

      With a pleased hum, Laura snapped her fingers and the three dogs followed her out of the room to scamper outside in the interest of relieving themselves and have a morning play in the yard. This activity leaving a grumbling Carmilla who didn’t much appreciate the disruption in her sleep from the movement of three medium to huge dogs moving the bed as they jumped off it. It took her about 3 seconds to fall asleep again.

 

      Laura smiled and on her way to the kitchen, pulled the door mostly shut leaving just a sliver of space through which she could spot Carmilla’s sleep slack face drooling slightly on the vibrantly yellow pillowcase.

 

      They hadn’t eaten much of anything the day before, so she was deadset on making them a full breakfast that morning, as they had just thrown out the food they’d made the day before. It felt tainted in a strange sense, and this morning required a complete and full fresh start. In every sense of the phrase, breakfast included.

 

      As she readied the food, Laura hummed softly to herself in favour of playing music like she normally would. She didn’t want to wake Carmilla until the food was ready, the woman deserved all the rest she could get and Laura wasn’t about to begrudge her that. She was just pulling the last waffle out of the griddle when she felt a slim arm wrap around her waist from behind as a delicate hand pulled her hair to one side to allow a warm kiss to fall on the back of her neck.

 

      Carmilla spoke in sleep husked tones. “Good morning love. I missed you in bed.”

 

      “After we eat we can go right back, okay? I’m sorry you woke up alone. I wanted to bring you breakfast in bed.” Laura turned in Carmilla’s arms, winding her own around the pale column of her throat to rest on the nape of her neck and tangle in messy black hair. She leaned upward slightly and kissed her good morning.

 

      A pleased hum escaped Carmilla’s lips and she let her head fall to rest her nose in the hollow of Laura’s neck.

 

      For the moment she was completely content, everything else didn’t exist and she was in no rush to draw the outside world into their home. In fact. “Hey cupcake, I have an idea.”

 

      Laura’s lips spread in a warm smile and she dropped a kiss to Carmilla’s hairline. “Let’s hear it then.”

 

***

 

      Following their giant breakfast, the two women packed a bag each and filled a cooler with food before loading the dogs into Laura’s dad’s truck.

 

      Later that day they pulled into the parking spot behind Laura’s dad’s cabin and three happy dogs clambered out of the back once the doors were flung open, leaving the two women to take in the sight of them playing and frolicking down to the river.

 

      The brunette wrapped an arm around her girlfriends waist and leaned her head on her shoulder. Carmilla slung an arm around Laura’s shoulders, kissing the crown of the mechanics head.

 

      “Hey Carm.” The raven haired woman hummed in acknowledgment. “Good idea.”

Chapter Text

      With nothing to worry about, the two women settled into a much needed and well deserved vacation routine which consisted of sleeping until they physically couldn’t anymore, cooking whatever they had in the fridge, reading or writing for a while, and taking a long swim or walk before they headed to bed again. They were likely the laziest days they’d had in, well, ever. And they weren’t going to feel guilty over it either. Laf was handling the shop, and Kirsch was handling the pub, so nothing was required of them. It felt pretty good.

 

      “Granger, come on girl.” Laura patted her thigh as she walked towards the woods, Granger readily following her, keeping pace. They’d been at the cabin for over a week, and the border collie had made even more brilliant strides with the women. Anderson and Shivers helping immensely as well by leading through example.

 

      Walking further, Laura and Granger passed through the tree line and made for the clearing they’d found the second day into their self imposed exile. Today though Laura woke up to find Carmilla had disappeared, and it was a fair bet that the woman had found her way to the clearing, as it had become her favourite spot other than the cabin and surrounding area itself. She often disappeared with her dogs when Laura was busy with one thing or another.

 

      Granger huffed happily as she leaped over every small obstacle as though it were a feat of heroism and grandeur, chocolate brown eyes glinting charmingly at Laura’s praise each time. The border collie was up to a healthy weight now, fur shining due to her raw food diet, and eyes alert and sparkling with life. Honestly the canine was so unbelievably endearing that Laura couldn’t imagine her life without her at this point. She came to realize that the adage ‘man’s best friend’ held some truth.

 

      It didn’t take long for the two to reach the clearing, only about 15 minutes of a leisurely stroll through the thick trunked trees. And sure as the sun was shining that day, Laura spotted Carmilla perched in her favourite tree with a book in her hand, a particularly convenient sunbeam spilling onto the open pages. She was a good 6 feet above ground, being a surprisingly accomplished climber and Laura had been slightly baffled the first time she watched the raven haired woman climb the tree. There was a perfect natural perch in the tree, allowing for Carmilla to sit with her back to the trunk and her legs resting on a very thick offshoot. Laura couldn’t blame her for taking the spot as her own, and in fact it worked out well as Laura herself was a fan of the soft, mossy ground beneath the tree canopy. It was perfect for napping in. Of which both Anderson and Shivers were doing at that moment. The two were curled up into donuts below the pub owner’s tree, in deep sleeps. Shivers’ paws were twitching, and Laura could only imagine what he was dreaming about that incited such a physical reaction. She hoped they were happy dreams.

 

      Laura quietly slipped off her flip flops, eager to feel the soft moss between her toes. She padded slowly toward Carmilla’s tree, reaching a hand out to grasp a dangling ankle gently and eliciting a pleased hum from her girlfriend in doing so. Letting herself drop to sit between the two great beasts with her own back leaning against the strong tree trunk behind her, Laura settled in for a nap. Granger opted to curl up at her feet with her head resting on the brunette’s crossed ankles. She’d be happy to relax and stay there for as long as she and Carmilla were comfortable doing so.

 

      She knew they couldn’t stay all day unfortunately, as they were down to their last box of cookies and had been surviving on whatever was left of the dry cereal from their grocery run on day one. So they would definitely have to make a trip before the day was out as they were surely not ready to return home just yet.

 

      But for now they weren’t really concerned with it. They were having a moment and both knew it. One of those rare moments that will forever be ingrained on your memory as a perfect slice of time. Although, they’d been having a fair number of those kinds of moments since they’d been a constant presence in each others lives, and they were starting to think they were spoiled for them. And they probably were, but they most certainly weren’t going to complain or tempt fate by doubting them. They would happily take what they were given. Or what they engineered to happen themselves, as the whole concept of being ‘given’ anything by any power other than themselves was one neither found held merit. Not to mention they’d worked too damn hard to give the credit to anyone(thing) else.

 

      The point stood however. They felt they deserved to revel a little, so they were going to.

 

***

 

      It couldn’t have been more than an hour later when Laura found herself awoken by a soft thump not far to her right where Carmilla had jumped from the tree.

 

      Honestly, how the hell does she do that?! She must be part cat to make that height of a jump and to land so effortlessly. Cat. Carmilla. Catmilla. HAH!

 

      Laura’s internal monologue and pun caused her to snicker as Carmilla was stretching her arms above her head, twisting her torso this way and that to release the kinks caused by sitting in a tree for a prolonged period of time. Upon hearing her tiny girlfriend snickering she looked over her shoulder and arched a brow at the other woman, begging a question without words.

 

      “Don’t worry about it Carm. Just making up puns in my head again.” Laura did tend to do that on a fairly regular basis. She blamed it on Laf’s influence.

 

      The raven haired woman just chuckled and reached her hand back to beckon Laura to follow her, to which she readily did. She’d follow Carmilla anywhere.

 

      All three dogs raised to their feet, Shivers slightly slower than the other two due to his age. He wasn’t a pup anymore and the women were noticing it more and more. He still had a lot of life left in him yet though, so they weren’t yet to the worrying stage. Just the vigilant stage. He took up the end of the column they formed on their short trip back to the cabin, ever the protector.

 

      Upon their arrival, the two women let the dogs into the house and made sure they had full water bowls before they made their way out of the cabin. They walked to the back of the building where the small lean to was located which served as a barrier for any garbage they amassed so no wildlife could make a mess of it. They only had the one medium sized bag of trash from the week but they threw it into the back of the truck none the less, prepared to drop it in the dumpster outside of the grocery store where they were headed to pick up provisions. 

 

***

 

      “Carmilla.”

 

      “Yes cupcake.”

 

      “Can we get smores flavoured pop tarts?”

 

      “Why on earth would we do that?”

 

      “I want smores.”

 

      “Laura. We have a fire pit. Why don’t we just get real ingredients for real smores?”

 

      “Oh. Right.”

 

***

 

      It took the two all of a half hour to gather their supplies and pay and they deposited the bags in the back seat of the truck when Laura remembered that they hadn’t dropped off the garbage yet.

 

      “Carm, I forgot to turf the trash. Be right back, get the AC going would you?” The pub owner hummed absent mindedly as the brunette lifted a foot to the top of a rear tire, hefting herself up so she could reach into the bed and pull the trash bag out.

 

      She walked around the side of the building and easily spotted the dumpster so she trotted right up, lifted the lid and deposited the bag inside. The slam of the door reverberated as she started to walk back when a small noise stopped her. It sounded like- oh no.

 

      “Oh my god oh my god oh my god!” Laura frantically ran back and with impressive strength she flung the lid back so hard that it smacked into the side of the building and threatened to bounce back and hit her smack on the forehead. Thankfully her reflexes were enough that she caught it. Barely and with little grace, but she caught it and eased it back more slowly this time.

 

      The dumpster was still tall enough that she had to lift a foot up at the side and slot it into the space normally used for lifting it with the long mechanical arms on garbage trucks. With a push, she found herself hovering over the dumpster and she peered in with almost feverish intensity, searching desperately for the source of the sound.

 

      “Did the dumpster eat you Cutie, you’ve been gone a long- What the actual fuck are you doing right now.” Carmilla deadpanned with an exasperated tilt of her head backwards, searching the sky as if to ask if it held the answers that didn’t exist. Laura was an enigma. “I was joking about the dumpster eating you but it appears I was right, what-” The raven haired woman started with a slightly whiney inflection but she was cut off rather abruptly at Laura’s almost violent SHUSH.

 

      She peered at the tiny brunette who was still hovering over the open dumpster, eyes flicking back and forth with startling speed. The cupcake was outdoing herself with the weird right now.

 

      With nary a warning or sign that it was happening, Laura suddenly zeroed in to a corner of the dumpster and she dove in. Like, dove. Carmilla felt her eyes widen and she was mildly worried they might fall out, but never the less she sprinted up to the dumpster and peered over the edge only to be caught by a sight she most certainly wasn’t expecting. She felt equal parts amused, shocked, enraged, and resigned.

 

      Amused at the banana peel in her tiny girlfriends hair.

 

      Shocked at what Laura was cradling carefully in her arms.

 

      Enraged that what Laura held in her arms was even there in the first place.

 

      Resigned in that she knew what it meant.

 

      Cradled carefully in toned and tanned arms, was a puppy. Couldn’t have been more than 8 weeks old at most by the scrunched face and general roundness of him. He was dirty, and likely very hungry, and he didn’t seem to know what to do other than huddle further into the life that was suddenly surrounding him. The inside of the dumpster was unbearably hot, it was a foul smelling sauna and Carmilla immediately reached her arms in to accept the bundle while her girlfriend climbed out to join her.

 

      “Fuck, Laura how did you-?” She couldn’t finish a sentence to save her life that day it seemed.

 

      The brunette was anxiously wringing her hands as she watched Carmilla give him a cursory check over. “I heard him whimper after I let the lid shut before. Shit that must have been so loud for his tiny ears, I shouldn’t have done that. Dammit I probably made it worse, what if I caused damage? What if my garbage bag hit him when I threw it in?! What if-”

 

      “Laura. Laura!” It took a second try to get the mechanic’s attention. “You couldn’t have known.” She handed the pup back to Laura very carefully and the two turned tail and made for the truck, clambering in quickly. “You’re didn’t make it worse. You finding him is his best chance at better, okay?”

 

      Laura shivered but nodded, the movement of the truck towards the now familiar vet jostling her slightly in her seat as Carmilla drove at an almost frantic pace.

 

      She couldn’t believe the turn of events. What was with that grocery store, why did it attract neglected dogs? Or better yet, what was up with the people who lived in this small town? The pub owners blood was boiling, she could almost see red. However, she bottled it up. She couldn’t show Laura she was rattled, the brunette was barely holding it together as it was.

 

      They pulled up in front of the vet, gravel crunching under large tires marking their arrival.

 

      As the women burst through the door, once again Carmilla barely had to say anything before action was taken. “Found a puppy in a dumpster.”

 

      The little guy was whisked away in capable hands, and once again the two women found themselves sitting in the cheap plastic chairs, waiting with thoughts of all the worst case scenarios running amok in their heads.

 

      “Hey, he looked like he was in okay shape. We just have to trust that we did all we could, okay?” A strong hand grasped the tightly wound ones of the mechanic, offering support and reassurance.

 

      “Why does this keep happening to us?” A feeble laugh followed her question, although Laura wasn’t really expecting an answer. The only one she got in response was Carmilla’s other arm wrapping around her shoulder and pulling her as close as possible with the unbearably uncomfortable chair arms between them. But it was just close enough that she could place a soft kiss to a crinkled forehead.

 

***

 

      Not long later the vet came back out with the puppy in her arms, and a large smile on her face. Carmilla and Laura felt the relief flow through them at the sight. He was okay.

 

      “So this little guy is super resilient. He was only mildly dehydrated, barely at all actually. We gave him some fluids but he’s right as rain. He’s super healthy for a 6 week old pup, my guess is they ditched him because he’s old enough to try being a little independent now. Before now he would have just stayed at his mothers side, but he’s an adventurous puppy as even I’ve seen since you brought him in.” The vet grinned as the little guy squirmed in her arms as though to prove her point, tiny little grunts coming from the ball of wrinkles as he moved. “Also, very vocal.” The vet laughed and held him out in her arms, Laura almost running forward to accept him with a dazzling smile on her face.

 

      Carmilla sighed in relief. “Thanks doc, you’re the best.” She lifted a hand to rub at the back of her neck. “What breed do you figure he is?”

 

      “Says the woman who has now twice rescued animals in my town. I’d say you two are the best people here right now.” The vet chuckled and led them back to the counter. “I can’t be 100% certain, but my educated guess is Great Dane and Saint Bernard. Won’t know until he’s fully grown though or if you decide to get a DNA test done.” Laura’s eyes bugged comically at the news while Carmilla snickered, absolutely gleeful with the news and also unendingly amused at Laura’s expression. They rounded the counter at the front whereupon they settled a surprisingly small bill for the emergency services. Country vets were a very underrated gift to the world.

 

      The two tiny women thanked the vet and her assistants again before they went outside and hopped back inside the truck. Carmilla made no move to start the vehicle yet, they needed a moment to absorb the events first. They just looked at each other, unbelieving smiles adorning their beautiful faces.

 

      Chuckling under her breath, the pub owner finally started the truck. Once they were back on the road again, she spoke. “Well at least this time we didn’t leave our groceries in the middle of the parking lot. We’re getting better at this hero thing.” A crooked smirk followed her cheeky statement, one eyebrow twitching slightly. Laura laughed, trying desperately to keep the now super wriggly puppy from crawling out of her arms. “Jeez, this little guy has a lot of energy now that he isn’t dehydrated.” He was surprisingly strong for his size and age.

 

      “He’s a tiny puppy that will one day very soon be the size of my dogs, what did you expect?” Carmilla expelled on a chuckle.

 

      “I don’t know, I’ve never had a giant dog. But I guess we do now.” Laura suddenly burst out into riotous laughter, startling the little bundle in her lap. Carmilla only arched a wry brow in her direction.

 

      “Carmilla.”

 

      “Yes cutie.”

 

      “We just adopted a child together.”

 

      Carmilla choked on her own spit, amazingly managing at the same time to continue driving seamlessly while Laura guffawed in the passenger seat.

 

***

 

      This time they decided to stay at the cabin with the puppy rather than return home immediately. Laura went inside with the little guy while Carmilla carted in the two trips worth of groceries. She dropped a kiss on the mechanics head as she moved back to the truck, hopping in and leaving the cabin once again. They needed puppy supplies.

 

      Being that she was well educated in raising puppies of large breeds, it didn’t take her long to find all she needed once she’d found a walmart a little further towards the centre of town. A small to medium sized carrier, a few cheap towels to serve as bedding as he was too young to be house trained so no use buying a good quality one that would be voided on, some toys, food dishes, a collar and leash, treats, and the best brand dog food she could find. They had discussed who would go pick everything out on their drive back from the vet and Carmilla had insisted as she was sure Laura knew nothing about feeding a large breed puppy. And she had been proven right when she asked Laura what food she would have picked out and she had answered, “Uh, puppy food?” She had sighed in response and insisted that that was why she had to get everything.

 

      Contrary to popular belief, you don’t feed large breed puppies normal puppy food. There is far too much calcium and protein in it for them. Medium to small breeds are fine on it, but never large breeds. They grow much faster as it is than smaller breeds, so extra calcium and protein makes them grow at an alarming rate, causing joint issues, stress on their muscles, and general physical ailments once they attained full size. If they grew too fast, their joints would just fail. You have to limit their calcium and protein intake, carefully monitor how much they eat, and continue to adjust as you moved on. So in the interest of all that, Carmilla found the best large dog brand she could and dropped a 30 pound bag into her cart. Adult food was best for large breed puppies. All you had to do differently with it was double the feeding recommendation for puppies. So they eat more, but are limited in calcium and protein rather than eating smaller amounts and being overloaded with calcium and protein. It’s all about balance.

 

      So when she pulled back into the cabin driveway two hours after she left, she had a lot to haul inside. She started with the few bags, pushing the door open with her boot. She was met with an interesting sight.

 

      Granger lay on the ground, protectively curled around the puppy who was nestled into her soft belly fur as she licked and cleaned his head. Anderson and Shivers looked on from the couch in interest, Anderson with her head cocked to one side and Shivers with a few slow blinks.

 

      “Well, that certainly makes things easier on us.” She announced her presence as she deposited the bags on the kitchen counter. Laura smiled cheekily up at her from her place on the rug next to her dogs. “I just sat with him in my lap for a while, letting them sniff him cause I was nervous how they’d react, y’know? But imagine my surprise when Granger took to him right away, you think she had puppies at some point? Also, Andy and Shivers just sniffed him a few times, and walked away mostly uninterested. How the hell did you manage to raise two so well adjusted dogs? Teach me your secrets.” The brunettes eyes were intent and focused with laser intensity on Carmilla as she moved about and took things out of the bags for Laura to see.

 

      Chuckling as she answered, Carmilla handed a few toys down to Laura. “Creampuff, I’ll teach you everything I know. Just gimme a minute, will you? I still have to grab the food and the crate from the truck.” She reached down and ruffled Laura’s hair playfully, earning a few haphazard swats for her efforts. The raven haired woman chuckled as she made her way back to the truck for the last of the things she’d picked up.

 

***

 

      Laura had decided to call the little guy Nicodemus, or Nico for short. Apparently she’d named him after some wise old rat from one of her favourite cartoons she’d watched as a kid. Carmilla didn’t know what she was talking about, but she had to admit the name fit.

 

      He was just full of loose skin, further proof that he had a lot of growing ahead of him. He was mostly grey in colour, with a white tip on his tail, white socks on his feet, a white belly, white nose, and white blaze up between his eyes. The rest of him was grey fur with hints of brown here and there but the most striking thing about him was that he had freckles. Kind of. Spattered all across just the grey parts of his fur were tiny little black spots. And amazingly (and hilariously) there were two large black spots directly over both his eyes. He looked like he had two black eyes, or like he was just perpetually tired.

 

      “Carmilla.”

 

      “Yes Laura.”

 

      “He has resting sad face.”

 

      Sigh.

 

***

 

      Later on in the evening they found out that little Nico loved the water as much as the other three dogs. He went absolutely ape shit in the best way when they let him step foot in the very edge of the river water, just wetting up to his wobbly little knees. He was all leg, the poor guy tripped over his own gigantic feet every time he tried to run, jump or just play in general. It was hysterical and Laura had a stitch in her side from all the laughing she’d done at the fur balls expense.

 

      Currently Carmilla was walking Nicodemus along the length of the shore, back and forth on their little beach as Laura sat back a little ways, Granger’s head in her lap napping contentedly. The brunette smiled happily, watching her little ragtag family that ended up being about 66% canine oddly enough, and chuckled to herself. Her movement jostled the border collie slightly, her eyes snapping open and her head lifting from her lap to cock sideways, curious eyes peering at her owner.

 

      “It’s okay girl, I’m just happy.” Laura lifted a hand and scratched behind a floppy ear, causing Granger’s eyes to slit in pleasure and her lips to pull back in her personal take on a smile. The mechanic grinned, her cheeks aching slightly from the effort. But in the best way.

 

      “Nico! No! Wait!

 

      Laura snapped her head up in alarm, terrified for what the exclamation could mean. She had barely managed to focus her eyes before she found herself with a lap full of wet dog and a face slathered in dog drool. She laughed uproariously, vigorously scratching at her puppy’s loose skin as he wrestled with her.

 

      “Sorry-” Huff puff. “Shit. Sorry Laura.” Hands on knees and head draped towards the ground, Carmilla was breathing heavily from trying to catch up to Nico before he trampled her girlfriend. For a dog that could barely control his own legs when he wanted to play, he could run. That could potentially be a problem in the future. But with a glance towards the brunette who was still laughing herself silly while her puppy climbed all over here and practically vibrated out of his skin in excitement, Carmilla decided that she would worry about that at a later date. For now, they would be with him all the time anyway, so they didn’t need to start training yet. A week or two though at most and they’d start in earnest. It was hard work so she’d let Laura have her time with him at the cabin. He was too young yet for much to sink in, they had to wait until he was a little older before he’d have a better grasp on permanence and rewards.

 

      Roughly 30 seconds later, he clumsily walked off Laura’s lap (more like fell) and plopped onto the ground, immediately falling into a deep sleep. Laura looked perplexed.

 

      Lips lifted in a light smirk, Carmilla sat down next to Laura and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Puppies do four things cupcake. Eat, sleep, play, and poop. That’s it. Don’t look so concerned that he lost interest and passed out so quickly. That’s just how puppies are.” She pecked the mechanic’s cheek and rested her forehead against the soft hair above Laura’s ear, just breathing her in.

 

      “Fiiiiiiine.” Laura did her best to sound put upon but was not very successful, instead releasing a breathy laugh with her statement.

 

      The two stayed there for a while, with Granger still laying calmly next to Laura while Anderson frolicked in the river and Shivers swam leisurely. He tended to get sore very easily lately and the water always made him feel better, the pressure was off his joints and the water did most of the work.

 

      When little Nico woke up and did his business, Laura hefted him up in her arms and they all made their way back into the cabin to prepare for bed. It had been a long day. A good day, but a long day.

 

***

 

      They stayed at the cabin for another week, or until their groceries ran out again. The drive back was surprisingly not that eventful as thankfully Nico wasn’t scared of the truck. He just happily chewed on his nylabone in the crate, completely content.

 

      Upon arriving at Laura’s house, Carmilla grabbed her stuff out of the backseat with the intention of loading her dogs and things into her own car so she could return home to shower and get some new clothes so she could come back. She’d have to stay there a little longer to help training after all. Before she could though, Laura stopped her with a gentle hand around her wrist and pulled her back around.

 

      “Hey.” Sparkling hazel eyes crinkled up at Carmilla.

 

      “Hey.” Carmilla’s mouth quirked up on one side, her eyes softening under the gaze of her girlfriend.

 

      “So, um I was thinking.” Laura glanced down nervously, her fingers fidgeting with Carmilla’s hand still in her grasp. The pub owner’s brows twitched in confusion, Laura wasn’t typically shy.

 

      “What is it Laura.” She rested a hand in a grounding gesture on Laura’s hip.

 

      The brunette took a deep breath and raised her now determined eyes. “Move in with me.”

 

      Carmilla felt like she couldn’t breathe. Not like she had the wind knocked out of her, but like she literally forgot to breathe.

 

      “Uh, Carm?” Laura waved her hand in Carmilla’s face, mildly concerned she’d caused the woman to suffer a stroke.

 

      With a shake of her head (she really spent too much time with her dogs) to clear it, Carmilla felt a tentative smile crack her features. “Are... are you sure?” She firmly grasped the hand still holding her fingers, intertwining them. Her other hand snaked from the hip it had been resting on to instead find itself pushing into the firm small of Laura’s back.

 

      Laura smiled bemusedly. “Of course I’m sure. We love each other, our dogs all get along well, we rarely spend a night apart anymore, I mean it makes sense. And I mean, that isn’t even why I’m asking you. Yeah it makes sense, but I also want it. Like, really really want it. So, whaddaya say?” Her lower lip was pulled into her mouth, nerves making her jittery as she stepped from foot to foot.

 

      The pub owner thought for a moment, just letting her eyes roam the woman she loved. The woman who loved her. She could barely believe it. The smile that creased her face was wider than she could remember it ever being. “Okay.” Her eyes were blurring slightly and for once she didn’t feel embarrassed for the tears. If anyone deserved to see them, it was Laura. Her Laura.

 

      Laura squealed in excitement, hands fist pumping high into the air as she laughed happily. Carmilla slung her arms firmly around her waist to draw her back in, and the brunette moved forward to rest her forehead against her girlfriends. They kissed messily, both smiling too big for the kiss to really work. But it was perfect anyway.

 

***

 

      Groaning with the effort of carrying her things up the metal staircase behind the pub, Carmilla twisted her key in the lock and pushed the heavy fire door open before her. Her place wasn’t quite the way she’d left it, but this time she wasn’t upset or surprised by it. Will had been staying there while they were out of town rather than continuing on with Kirsch and Danny and he had apparently made himself rather at home. The place wasn’t messy by any stretch, but it looked more lived in. There were sweaters stretched across the backs of chairs, a few extra pairs of shoes at the door, a stack of books on the coffee table next to a few controllers from her consoles. Little things, but they felt right in the space.

 

      Carmilla and Will had been texting occasionally, trying to normalize their relationship now that they were free from the ghost of their past. Will had many amends to make, and Carmilla had a handful as well although the bulk still belonged to him. But he couldn’t very well get very far in his amends making if she blocked him at every turn. So she was trying, and he was learning how to deal with the new and improved Carmilla. They were learning to read each other and it would be far from an overnight process, but they felt like the potential outcome was worth the work.

 

      “HEY. ASSBUTT. I’M HOME.” They were working on it but it didn’t mean they would be fluffy and cute about it. They had years of sibling rivalry and teasing to make up for.

 

      “Was that a nerd reference?!” A disheveled head peeked out from over the railing of her loft, Will’s long hair askew and sticking out in every conceivable direction. “Damn, I knew you were whipped but using your girlfriends lines is a new level of whipped.” He grinned cheekily down at her as he popped up to his full height, wearing only a loose pair of sweat pants. His scraggly chest hairs were visible and Carmilla mimed gagging.

 

      “Put on a shirt you miserable cretin and come downstairs. I need to talk to you.” The pub owner toed off her boots and stepped to the kitchen, dropping her bag on one of her bar stools.

 

      Will clattered down the stairs, pulling on a t-shirt as he did so. “I think that’s known as the pot calling the kettle black. We both know the only reason you’re awake and dressed is your girlfriend. Again, whipped.” The man lifted his hand and made the whipping motion, attempting to match it with sound effects. All he managed to do was spray spit down his chin and sound like a dying toaster.

 

      The pub owner shook her head in amazement. “You’re so classy.”

 

      Her brother punched her in the arm. “Okay so what did you want to talk about?” He didn’t even let Carmilla start before he cut her off. “Wait, it’s cause you’re home isn’t it? Damn, I forgot I’d have to find a place to live. I can go back to the motel for a few weeks until I find a place, do you want me out tonight or-”

 

      Carmilla threw a conveniently placed roll of clean socks at his head to shut him up. “Shut up for a second numbnuts. It is about that yeah, but not what you think.” The quizzical expression on the man’s face was startling in it’s familiarity, it was an expression they shared evidently. Carmilla shook it off. “Laura asked me to move in with her and I said yes. So this place will be empty pretty soon. I own the whole building so I can rent it out to you. You can stay free of charge until you find a job, no back rent required once you do. How does that sound?”

 

      A dazed expression was all got in reply. The man was completely shocked to say the least and she couldn’t really blame him. Up until he had gotten the asshole kicked out of him, she hadn’t been the kindest person to him. She had good reason to of course, but this change of heart was rather surprising. To both of them actually. If you’d told Carmilla a year ago that she’d be offering her home for her big brother to live in, she’d have sucker punched you to the jaw and dropped you off at the gate to the nearest psychiatric hospital.

 

      “Wait, are you serious? You’re moving in with your girlfriend? The adorable little one with muscles bigger than she is?!” Well that certainly wasn’t the response she was expecting. The dark haired man’s face split into a wide grin. “That’s FANTASTIC news! Kitty I’m so happy for you!” He steppe forward with his arms outstretched as though he wanted to hug her, but she flinched backwards without even realizing it. A flash of hurt was visible in Will’s eyes for a split second but he understood, of course he did. He backed off and shoved his hands into the baggy pockets of his sweats. “So, when are you moving out?”

 

      Carmilla sighed in relief at the subject change. They have made remarkable progress, but they weren’t there yet. “Probably next weekend officially. I need to pack up what I’m taking with me. Most of my furniture will be staying, well except for my bookshelves. Laura doesn’t have enough bookshelves. So you can keep most of it, but the couch is only on loan. I’m going to try and convince Laura to let me replace her ikea couch with my amazing couch. Honestly that thing is a travesty and mine is worlds better.” Carmilla frowned slightly at the thought. “Anyway, I’ll still be sleeping over there though so you can keep staying here. You don’t have to leave at all.”

 

      A giant grin on his face, Will nodded his head. “Cool. If you get some boxes up here I can pack some for you in between job interviews. You have an actual job so you won’t have as much time. Would that be helpful?” He squinted his eyes slightly, the nerves in him were palpable.

 

      “Sure, that would be great actually. You can pack anything that isn’t my books, those I want to take care of myself. I don’t trust a lackwit like you to pack them properly.” She smirked at the outraged squawk  he emitted, a hand held to his chest in mock disbelief. He only held it a moment before he dropped his hand with an easy smile as he headed over to the couch and dropped down gracelessly to pick up a game controller.

 

      Hearing the TV power on and game menu music fill the loft, Carmilla shook her head with a faint grin on her lips as she headed upstairs to pack new clothes.

 

      They had a long way to go to get full trust back, but they were making good progress. And no matter how slow, it was still progress so she was going to continue being hopeful for once.

 

***

 

      The next Saturday when the shop was officially closed for the night, Laura went in and found herself elbow deep in Carmilla’s car, which of course had been named Bagheera. It had taken Laura literally months to get it out of her, Carmilla wasn’t one to readily admit (or ever admit) she also had the dorky tendency to name her cars. It had taken just as long to convince Carm to let her tinker with it.

 

      It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Laura, she knew very well that the brunette knew the workings of a classic piece of muscle as well as anyone conceivably could. It was just that if there was anything she might have wanted done to the car, well she’d already done it herself. The pub did very well considering how small the town was and she made a very respectable living there. And besides necessities and spoiling her dogs, she never spent money. She had a decent amount tucked away and the only things she ever used it for were upgrades for her car or books, new or old. And of course, most recently she’d spent some on Laura but they amazingly still hadn’t ever gifted each other with anything.

 

      And that was how Laura convinced her to let her work on Bagheera. Carmilla’s birthday had passed during all the hubbub (last week to be exact) and she hadn’t told Laura about it because it just wasn’t something she really cared about. When the cupcake insisted she do something on the car for her birthday, she folded and handed her keys over without anymore arguing. She was actually quite curious to see what she could come up with.

 

      So yes, Laura was elbow deep, installing a new alternator. It was quite literally the only thing she could find that wasn’t 100 percent in perfect condition. Given, it was a simple age argument as the brand was a good one. It simply had almost reached the end of it’s life and it wasn’t charging the battery at the rate it should have been. Most probably it would have lasted a few more months at least but Laura was determined that she would do SOMETHING to it before she handed it back. Besides the new rims she’d ordered that is. She had heard Carmilla mention something about how she needed new ones soonish as the others were pitted from all the gravel roads the small town had to offer.

 

      A new set of spoked rims were sitting at the back of the shop, next to the stack of brand new tires just waiting to be mounted and balanced when she was finished with the alternator. If all went according to plan, she’d have the car back to her girlfriend before the end of the night.

 

      “There!” Satisfied, Laura retreated from under the hood and set her hands on her hips. She had just finished tightening the last bolt to put tension back into the belt after installing the alternator, and she was ready to move on to the tires.

 

      “There what?” With a shriek, Laura jumped and turned, smacking her head on the underside of the hood in her haste. She hissed in pain, lifting her hand to her head to feel the tiny goose egg as it started to grow. The mechanic glowered at her girlfriend, snickering as she leaned against the doorway to the front of the shop, watching the brunette struggle.

 

      The mechanic rolled her eyes. “That was rude. Here I am doing something nice for you and you’re laughing at my pain.” She couldn’t keep the amusement from her voice regardless of her words.

 

      “Oh, I’m sorry. Here, I’ll make it better.” The raven haired woman pushed away from the door jamb, walking, no- strutting towards her now very flustered girlfriend. Her eyes were dark and she was wearing her leather pants again, just like the first day they met. She had made the ‘mistake’ of telling Carmilla what those particular pants had done for her that first day and had been anxiously awaiting the pub owners response ever since. Well, there it was.

 

      Carmilla reached Laura and stepped just in front of her, close but not quite touching. She reached behind the mechanic and removed the pry rod from the hood socket and placed it in it’s holder, letting the hood fall closed gently behind the flustered brunette. She leaned forward for a split second to push her weight against the hood, hearing the satisfying click as it latched firmly. Now fully in Laura’s space she observed the woman closely.

 

      Laura had grease across her forehead. Her hair was fluffing out of her ponytail in a few spots as though it had caught on something but she hadn’t bothered fixing it. Her hands were lined with dirt streaks, and her arms were speckled like mud had splashed across them. She was wearing coveralls but she’d pulled the top down and wrapped the arms around her waist, exposing her simple white (and very grease stained) tank top underneath. So she was a bit of a mess but despite all that, Carmilla found her to be completely, utterly enchanting.

 

      This was Laura, unfettered and pure.

 

      Lastly, she turned her attention to the small bump on the mechanic’s head, on her right temple. It wasn’t large, she hadn’t hit her head all that hard. But Carmilla treated it as a grave wound just the same, turning Laura’s head so she could gently kiss it as she smoothed back her hair. Trailing kisses from there, she avoided the grease as she’d learned a little while ago when she accidentally got some in her mouth that it tasted vile and she most definitely did not need to give Laura any more ammunition for teasing. She reached the corner of Laura’s stuttering mouth, planting a quick peck at the crease.

 

      Pulling back, she smoothed the rest of Laura’s hair behind her ears. “You know, I think I like you best like this.”

 

      Laura looked confused, an adorable stitch between her brows. “What does that mean?” She chuckled breathily.

 

      “I just, I like seeing you like this.” Carmilla smiled, cupping Laura’s cheeks in her clean hands. “I like that you aren’t concerned with the dirt smudging your face. I like that you don’t shy away and feel embarrassed by something that is just a side effect of your job. I like that you are just as confident looking at me right now as you are when you’re squeaky clean and wearing nice clothes.” Laura’s eyes softened and she smiled that adorable little closed mouth smile she has when she’s content. “I like that you have no airs about you. You’re not wearing your polite, or professional, or non confrontational faces. You’re not filtered. You’re just you.” The raven haired woman’s lips piqued, and she rested her forehead against the brunette’s regardless of the grease that would stain her skin as well.

 

      The mechanic sighed. “Only you could romanticize engine grease and wax poetic about my disheveled appearance.” Her smile stretched and she leaned forward, capturing ruby lips with her slightly chapped ones.

 

      Carmilla smiled into the kiss, happy to indulge her girlfriend. They kissed languidly for a few moments, Laura leading it as she tended to do. When it increased in intensity it was Carmilla who was the instigator, as she grasped Laura’s hips firmly with hands sliding under the edge of a work worn tank top. She pushed backwards slightly and Laura moved to rest almost sitting on the front of the car.

 

      “Mmm-” Laura tried to speak. “Carmilla-” Carmilla wasn’t eager to shatter the moment. “Your car, we should move.” For all her words, Laura seemed perfectly content to go along with the pub owner. Her own hands grasped biceps with force but rather than pushing away, they pulled in and Carmilla’s front brushed against Laura’s. Dirt and grease entirely forgotten.

 

      “You know creampuff.” Carmilla adjusted to kiss just under Laura’s jaw. “I’ve always wanted to do this.” A gasp escaped Laura’s throat as Carmilla nipped at her neck once. “Do what?” Chuckling lowly, Carmilla responded with a sharp tightening of her fingers on Laura’s hip as she shoved her down to sit fully on the hood of the car. “Oh you’ll see.”

 

      Dark eyes greeted her as Carmilla stepped back and casually reached for one of the clean cloths Laura kept handy to clean herself up with. She then walked to the sink and rinsed it with warm water, stalking back over to Laura. “Take off your shirt cupcake.” Lips smirked.

 

      The brunette didn’t even bother with a witty retort, she was too excited for whatever Carmilla had planned. Without any hesitation, the raven haired woman strode forward and slowly ran the cloth over the mechanics collar bone, gathering the dirt and cleaning her of it. This continued all over Laura’s torso, until she was slightly red and almost glistening she had been taken care of so thoroughly.

 

      Carmilla peered over her handiwork with acute eyes, ascertaining that she hadn’t missed any spots. She turned and deposited the cloth back in the sink, slowly making her way back to stand between the spread legs of her girlfriend who was still perched on the front of her car. She ran her hands up toned thighs from coverall clad knees up to the edges of the ungainly garment where she tucked her fingers under the edge and pulled. Laura willingly lifted her hips to allow the rough cloth to trail down her tanned legs, her underwear right along with it. When she lowered her hips, the sensation of the cold metal of the hood on her bare skin was a shock, but not an unwelcome one.

 

      She never tired of the way Carmilla looked at her. Equal parts unrestrained desire and almost disbelieving adoration. Like she couldn’t believe what she was seeing in front of her was real. Laura knew she was attractive, she’d always known. She liked to think she was a pretty self aware person, but with Carmilla and those haunting in the absolute best way eyes of hers that spoke so much with one glance, she felt like so much more than objectively attractive. When the raven haired woman called her beautiful she didn’t feel like she said it to flatter her, she actually felt like the woman said it because she believed it. And that made her believe it. For the first time in her adult life, she felt like she was everything Carmilla said she was and more. If in her younger age she’d known that one single person had the capacity to show her the things Carmilla has and could make her feel so fully and unequivocally stunning and worthy, she might not have bothered with anyone else. She was enough for herself yes, but the woman who was now moving forward and capturing her cheeks in two soft hands so she could kiss her once again, and so passionately, reminded her that enough was great, but more was better. They made each other better. And she loved her so much for it. That and so much more.

 

      “Laura I can hear you thinking. You’re not where I want you to be if you can think so clearly.” Carmilla smiled against Laura’s lips, nosing into her cheek as she captured her bottom lip in a light bite.

 

      “Maybe you just need to step it up then.” Clumsily she bonked their noses together when she moved to press her lips to ruby ones at a different angle, allowing herself to take control again. But not for long, apparently Carmilla had plans for her. Laura had completely forgotten she was naked, however the raven haired woman did a superb job of reminding her when one hand trailed down from her straining neck to brush over her protruding collar bones. Then moved lower and barely caressed her straining breasts, teasing in a way that left Laura instantly wanting. That talented hand continued it’s journey and meandered to dance from left to right from hip to hip, momentarily pausing in it’s travels to stroke the tight abdomen beneath it. Fingers grasped and short nails raked the skin for a moment, inciting a twitch in restless hips.

 

      When her hand finally continued on and found it’s destination, the warmth and wetness between the legs of her wanton girlfriend, the result was almost instantaneous. Laura gasped and canted her hips upwards, but to no avail. Carmilla seemed resolute in her desire to move slowly and draw the experience out. She had no shame in that when she and Laura started dating, one of the first fantasies to play out in her head, and then play out regularly was having her on the hood of her car. Laura got to enact hers with Carmilla on the bar of her pub, it was her turn now.

 

      “Patience cutie.” Laura was about to protest but she was granted a modicum of relief when the raven haired woman leaned her other hand on the hood next to her and leaned forward, taking a straining nipple in her mouth. She teased it with the tip of her tongue, then slowly laved it with broad strokes, her mouth suctioned around with warm pressure. The mechanic moaned, a hand raising to tangle in raven locks as the hot tongue switched to quick flicks while plump lips turned to suction with more intensity.

 

      “Mmmm, Carm.” Her hand tugged slightly on the curls held fast in her fist, prompting her girlfriend to release her nipple with a wet sound and to meet her halfway in a kiss that was all tongue and teeth. Her desire was at a fever pitch and she feared she may come to an unsatisfying end with little to no stimulation and leaving her with a disappointing orgasm. Carmilla’s hand had left her earlier but it didn’t stray far, instead holding tightly to her inner thigh with knuckles occasionally bumping ‘accidentally’. Laura was in a frenzy and she didn’t know how to communicate that and not also shatter Carmilla’s clearly perfectly architected plan.

 

      She needn’t have worried though as the pub owner knew how to read her very well by this time in their relationship and she showed mercy, her hand returning to it’s place where they had both wished it to be.

 

      Carmilla didn’t tease her this time, only pausing to run her fingers through slick heat and lightly graze her almost painfully throbbing clit before she plunged two fingers into Laura. She started a relentless pace, fingers curling to hit the spongy surface of the mechanic’s inner walls on each outward thrust. Laura was whimpering, barely holding herself together as Carmilla kept building her up higher, higher, higher. The addition of Carmilla’s hips, pushing with each thrust of her hand and allowing her to go deeper and harder finally pushed her over the edge she’d been teetering on for so long.

 

      Dextrous fingers continued their assault, drawing out the unbelievably intense orgasm that had the mechanic shaking and weak. The loud moan which accompanied the powerful orgasm was partially muffled into Carmilla’s neck as Laura found she needed to ground herself so she bit into the taught muscle. Effectively skyrocketing the pub owner’s own as of yet unfulfilled desire.

 

      Laura shuddered, spent from her exertions. “So, you always wanted to take me on top of your car huh?”

 

      Carmilla choked on a laugh as she withdrew her fingers. Sucking them into her mouth with one last chuckle, she saw Laura’s eyes darken and jaw go slack. It was only then that the mechanic noticed her girlfriend was still absolutely entirely clothed. Not a scrap had been removed.

 

      “You know, the scales are not even right now. Care to fix that?” She grinned crookedly up at the pub owner who rolled her eyes while lifting her top over her head. Laura fist pumped, inspiring another laugh from Carmilla as she pulled the now half clothed woman back into her so she could finish the disrobing herself.

 

      The car didn’t get finished that night.

 

***

 

      Heaving the last box up onto the kitchen counter, Laura looked around her house with absolute happiness. Her girlfriend was attempting to put her books on her sturdy dark oak bookshelves (which she’d insisted they move in before any of her other furniture) in the living room while Nico tried to eat her boot laces. Danny and Kirsch were in the process of maneuvering her giant brown leather couch through the narrow front door with Granger shadowing their every move like it was her job to do so. Perry was already cleaning, absolutely affronted at the amount of dust that was being stirred up. Lafontaine had their head in the TV stand, hooking up all Carmilla’s consoles while Anderson tried to help, only succeeding in drooling on their back. They were a really good sport about it though. And Will was momentarily paused after having deposited the last box of books next to his sister, and had his hands tangled in Shivers’ fur who had attached himself to the man.

 

      They had all moved passed the stresses of the last few months, it almost feeling like a dream it had all felt so surreal. But the bonds built between them were as real as each and every one of the flesh and blood people standing in the room.

 

      Laura couldn’t think of a time since buying this house where it felt so, well. Lived in. With just herself it had always been rather cold. She didn’t have any family photos out, she had few belongings, and she was barely there except to eat, shower and sleep. But now she couldn’t imagine her life any differently.

 

      She was now living with the woman she loved, she had not only two dogs of her own but now four dogs living in her house. Which maybe yes, was excessive but she and Carmilla loved them all to death and wouldn’t trade them for anything. And her friends who she had always respected and admired were now that much closer to her, as she let them in more than she had before. It was taking time but she was learning to trust fully and thankfully, they were all the most trustworthy of people. They made it easy to rely on them.

 

      “Cupcake, stop staring off into space with those goo goo eyes and come help me. Your nitwit of a puppy can’t seem to grasp the concept that my boots are not chew toys.” Carmilla mock glared at her, but her eyes gave her away. The mirth and happiness Laura felt herself was reflected back at her. Laura laughed and left her spot in the kitchen, joining her girlfriend with a hand on her back as they both knelt to play with Nicodemus.

 

      Yeah, this is how it should be.