It all seems to happen so quickly that Bradley feels like her brain is playing catch up with the rest of her body. One minute she’s lying in Laura’s arms on the sofa, trying to stay awake through some documentary about pandemics Laura had to watch for work, the next both hers and Laura’s phones are buzzing and flashing with hundreds of notifications each.
The last time this happened, The Vault had just outed her. Outed them.
And Bradley had (understandably) freaked out. She feels herself freeze, being catapulted back six months ago to when she had been outed whilst on live TV. Her stomach knots and her heart starts pounding. It’s Laura who pulls Bradley out of it when she reaches for her phone on the coffee table.
She watches Laura for a few moments, blinks. Expects the dam to burst and for tears to flow but nothing comes. She feels nothing.
Laura Peterson is a woman of many, many, talents; an excellent poker face being one of them. And Bradley has prided herself on being the only person who can read her like a book and call her bluff. But… nothing.
Laura doesn’t crack. She doesn’t let a single emotion crack through.
What feels like hours to Bradley is less than 30 seconds in reality. But it’s 30 seconds too long and Bradley snaps out of whatever trance she’s in and reaches for her own phone. She sees a notification from The Vault before Laura takes the phone out of her hands.
“Don't” Laura says softly. So tender that it feels like it knocks all the breath out of Bradley’s lungs.
“Bradley”. Laura sighs, swallowing thickly. Bradley thinks it must be bad. That they've been outed again. That for the third time in her life, Laura’s being dragged through the trauma of being publicly outed.
“Is it… is it that bad?” Bradley asks, unsure of if she even really wants to know, because knowing means that their perfect little bubble will be popped and Bradley’s not ready to lose that yet.
Sure, Bradley had come a long way in the past 6 months. Had upped sticks and followed Laura across the country, without so much as a second thought, just so they could quarantine together at her ranch. She had been seeing a therapist weekly and really working on herself and trying to heal from her childhood (adulthood) trauma. Bradley is a different person than she was six months ago, right? She hopes she is.
She's not started screaming or freaking out yet so that's a good sign Bradley tells herself.
“Not necessarily” Laura replies, handing Bradley her phone back. The blonde can see the cogs in Laura’s head turning as she says it.
Bradley takes a deep breath and unlocks her phone. She feels Laura’s hand on her leg, squeezing her thigh lovingly and it's all the encouragement Bradley needs. There's something about Laura Peterson that makes her feel like she can take on the whole world and win. That no matter what, she's safe with Laura. Bradley clicks on the notification from The Vault.
Laura Peterson and Bradley Jackson quarantine together in the UBA 360 host’s multimillion dollar ranch?
What follows is arguably the laziest journalism Bradley has ever seen. It's mostly just screenshots of tweets comparing photos of Laura’s kitchen from her spread in Architectural Digest to screenshots of a promo Bradley shot for an upcoming cooking segment in the kitchen last week.
“I know”. Laura squeeze’s Bradley’s thigh again, preparing herself for Bradley's inevitable freak out. “We can release separate statements saying I let you stay at the ranch over lockdown because it’s safer than the city and my studio is bigger than your hotel room or something?” Laura says, speaking aloud as the idea comes to her. And it's not technically a lie. And it's not like people even know where she is staying anyway - her studio in the ranch has been set up almost identical to her UBA 360 set. Laura’s mind is working at a mile a minute trying to figure out how to fix this for Bradley and Bradley can see it written all over her face. She feels sick, feels guilty. Hates that Laura is doing all of this just for her.
“I don't want to pretend anymore” Bradley sighs, having already clicked off the article, now staring down at what feels like a flood of positive comments on her Twitter - which makes a fucking change.
Laura swears she's heard Bradley incorrectly. Or perhaps she has somehow passed out and is dreaming. She's been more than happy to keep her relationship with Bradley “private, not secret” as the tiny blonde had put it after following her to Montana. People knew; their closest confidantes, Gordon, Mia, Gayle, Alex - who had taken it way better than either of them had been expecting and, unfortunately, Cory. And on the ranch, Bradley had been so different. Laura had watched her become more and more relaxed and more self assured with each passing day. Therapy really was doing Bradley the world of good, and Laura knew Bradley was really and truly trying. She knew (hoped) that the day when Bradley was ready to be out would come, she just hadn’t expected it to be a random Wednesday afternoon, seemingly out of the blue.
“I love you,” Bradley smiles as she shuffles closer to Laura on the sofa, her voice waivers slightly but the way she says it with such confidence makes Laura’s heart soar. Bradley had said she loved Laura first, almost a month ago halfway up a mountain in the middle of a hike and again and again every single day since then, but Laura still feels her heart swell each and every time Bradley says it.
“I love you too” Laura bites her lip, letting Bradley take her hand and link their fingers together.
“Exactly,” Bradley shakes her head, bringing their entwined hands to her lips and kissing the back of Laura’s hand. “I love you so much and I want the whole world to know it… I’m tired of hiding this, of hiding me”.
Laura watches as something visibly changes deep within Bradley, watches in real time as Bradley realises that she's ready.
“I guess what i’m trying to say is that i'm ready to be like, out out, whatever that fucking means, if you are?”.
The question knocks Laura for six slightly, because it’s possibly the first time in her life when somebody has ever asked if she's been ready. That she's not been publicly outed and she’s been able to announce to the world that she's dating somebody when she was ready. Laura takes a moment to consider it, and wonders if she is actually ready. She had been with Sofia for almost 10 years and their breakup had been so painful and public and the tabloids had been relentless. But Bradley felt different. She felt different with Bradley - and granted she was different, she was almost a decade older and she had a decade of therapy behind her. But something about Bradley felt strangely grounding, like no matter what chaos followed her, she was always anchored with Bradley. They’d only been together 7 months - 6 officially if you wanted to get technical, and had already been through so much together and come out stronger.
Laura blinks, realising by the look on Bradley’s face that she’s left her hanging whilst she had been doing her own internal mental gymnastics.
“I love you, Bradley Jackson, and if you’re ready for the world to know that then so am I” Laura beams.
Bradley pulls Laura in for a kiss, both women smiling into it.
Laura is about to deepen the kiss when she hears the click of a camera. Bradley pulls back, grinning down at her phone.
“You better not fucking post that” Laura pouts, playfully swatting Bradley’s phone.
“What?” Bradley feigns innocence. “You look cute”.
“I love you but I will make you sleep on the sofa” Laura says, only half joking.
“Ugh, fiiiiiiine” Bradley rolls her eyes jokingly, climbing into Laura's outstretched arms, resuming their position from earlier in the afternoon. The documentary, playing on mute in the background now long forgotten.
Bradley snuggles in as closely as possible to Laura, her back against Laura's front, Laura’s arms wrapped around Bradley and resting on her stomach as Bradley flicks through her camera roll. Laura presses a soft kiss against Bradley’s temple as her head rests against Laura’s chest.
“Ohhhh, this one is cute” Bradley tilts her phone slightly so Laura can see. It’s a picture of them one of the runners (neither of them can remember exactly which one) took in between segments on their first show together, goofing off and doing some silly pose with their hands. It's one of Bradley’s favourite pictures, because it’s one of the first pictures they ever took together but also because it’s probably the first time she's ever seen herself looking genuinely happy and carefree. And God, she looks so in love with Laura it's actually quite sickening. Sure, they were outed probably not even 10 minutes after but something about the picture just makes Bradley melt.
Bradley scrolls some more, her camera roll has gone from being just pictures of things she’s needed for work, or screenshots of articles, to full of life. Full of love. Full of Laura. Bradley scrolls through what feels like 10 consecutive pictures of Laura by the pool she doesn’t even remember taking and blushes when she feels Laura grabbing her sides playfully.
“I didn’t realise I had a stalker”.
“You knew exactly what you were doing in that bikini”.
Laura shoots Bradley her best who, me? look before the pair of them fall into another fit of giggles, Laura squeezing Bradley tight as the blonde kisses her softly, only for Laura to pull away leaving Bradley to groan in the process.
“Listen, I could lay here with you all day. In fact, I have laid with you almost all day, but if I don’t watch this stupid documentary by tomorrow Gordon will kill me and then come back for you” Laura arches her brow in hopes she looks serious. She really could lie there doing nothing with Bradley all day, but she’s filming a fucking COVID special tomorrow and has already lost 2 days to Bradley.
“I think I could take Gordon” Bradley shrugs, getting up from the sofa.
“I’d pay to see that” Laura grins, restarting the documentary and settling down on the sofa with her notepad and pen.
“I’ll start dinner, okay babe?” Bradley says, leaning over Laura and sneaking one last kiss before leaving her to her documentary.
“You’re sure you’re okay?” Laura asks tentatively, stroking Bradley’s hand that’s resting on her shoulders.
“I promise” Bradley squeezes Laura’s hand. “I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life, actually”.
Laura pulls Bradley down for another kiss, Bradley’s arms snaking around Laura’s neck and holding her close. This time it’s Bradley who pulls away, leaving Laura breathless and pouting at the sudden lack of Bradley’s tongue down her throat.
Laura’s five minutes into her documentary when her phone buzzes again, the screen lighting up with a notification from Instagram.
[Laura.Peterson]: BradleyJackson tagged you in a post.
Having spent the last five minutes thinking about her girlfriend and once again not paying attention to her very important work documentary, Laura decides that it’s a lost cause anyway and clicks on the post.
The picture is one of her, she’s not seen it before but she instantly recognises the day. It was the day Bradley first told her she loved her.
The picture is slightly motion blurred, but it’s of Laura, turning to face Bradley clearly laughing at something the smaller woman had said, the most gorgeous sunset and mountain view behind her. She’s holding Bradley’s hand in the picture too, which is just about visible in the bottom corner.
It’s very clearly a couple's picture and Laura doesn’t think she could love Bradley any more in that moment.
nobody i’d rather quarantine with. my love❤️
Getting up from the sofa and making her way to Bradley in the kitchen, Laura quickly likes the picture and replies with a bunch of hearts, the peach and the rainbow emojis for good measure. Bradley is at the cooker, stirring a big pot of sauce and humming along to the music she has blasting.
Bradley has her back to Laura, and doesn’t notice her standing in the doorway, just watching. Domesticity wasn’t something Laura ever thought she’d have with another woman again. Not after Sofia, and she had made peace with that. She had a good group of friends and family and she wasn’t short of a woman or two to keep her warm at night. And then Bradley had just turned up in her life, like a whirlwind. All chaotic and messed up, but so full of love and life that Laura fell for her hard and fast.
Joshua Radin - Here, Right Now fills the kitchen and Laura just basks in the moment.
You'll never know what you can be
Till ya come to realise
In the rearview all that has hurt you
It's just a passerby
'Cause you're here (I'm here)
Right now (right now)
Not lost (not lost) but found
And everything I've done
Has brought me to you
Now I hold my head high
You can see it in my eyes
I won't turn away
If the darkness comes, I'll stay
Laura finds herself humming along to the tune as she comes up behind Bradley, wrapping her arms around the smaller woman’s waist and holding her from behind. Bradley instantly relaxes into Laura’s embrace, turning the hob down before turning around in her woman’s arms. They sway to the slow beat, Laura’s arms around Bradleys waist, Bradley’s around Laura’s neck. Just holding each other tight. Laura nuzzles Bradley’s nose with her own before capturing Bradley’s lips between her own.
Both of the respective phones are now once again going crazy, Bradley’s post doing the rounds but neither of them seem to notice, let alone care.
“I love you, Bradley Jackson” Laura whispers against Bradley’s lips.
“I love you too, Laura Peterson” Bradley replies, kissing Laura softly. “Now shut up and slow dance with me in our kitchen”.