1 - Unsinkable Eight
Leah smiles at her phone, at the picture of Fatin she took and posted on her story. Fatin’s flipping her off, a grumpy crease between her brows and her mouth full of burnt pancakes.
“You’re missing out,” Fatin grumbles, arms protectively around her plate of food like Leah has any plans of stealing from her. “It tastes good.”
“Fatin, burnt black crumbs are falling from your mouth,” Leah chastises with a laugh, reaching forward to brush the crumbs away from Fatin’s chin. “How are you eating that?!”
“It’s great,” Fatin insists as she pours even more chocolate on the black — they’re black and hard, how did Fatin fuck up so much? — pancakes on her plate. “Unique.”
Leah scoffs. “Oh, I bet.”
Fatin glares at her. In another world, it’d look intimidating. A world where she isn’t currently having a hard time swallowing the pancakes. Her glare hardens as Leah giggles and she takes a huge gulp of water to force the pancakes down.
Fatin shoots Leah a triumphant look as she finally swallows. “Wasn’t even bad at all. If you cooked me food and it was awful, I would’ve eaten it.”
“Last week I attempted to cook a steak for you and forgot the salt and you fed it to the dog.”
Fatin’s jaw drops. “You saw?”
“You weren’t exactly subtle,” Leah accuses, rolling her eyes. “You— “
Her phone pings with a text from Toni, cutting her off. Then another, and another, and another.
Toni, (11:31 AM): hey everyones wondering but are you dating fatin
Toni, (11:31 AM): if so why? dude. you can do better. so much better.
Toni, (11:31 AM): martha just told me im not allowed to say that
Toni, (11:31 AM): (BUT SERIOUSLY LEAH YOU CAN DO BETTER!)
Toni, (11:32 AM): HI LEAH, it’s Martha. Don’t mind Toni, I think it’s really cute if you guys are together!!!
Leah blinks, the absurdity of it all making her gape at her own phone. Fatin shoots her confused look from over the island counter but Leah only waves her away, typing up a reply to Toni (and Martha).
(11:32 AM): Hey, Martha. I miss you! And hey Toni. Quick question, what the fuck are you guys talking about?
“Are you talking to Toni?” Fatin asks.
Leah covers her phone screen instinctively, mildly afraid of what Fatin might think seeing the texts. “How’d you know?”
Fatin waves a hand around her face. “You get this annoyed look on your face whenever you’re talking to Toni.”
Oh. Does she have an exasperated Toni face? She never realized, but she did once notice that her facial muscles felt weird after a chat with Toni. Like they finally relaxed after hours of pulling into the most tiring expressions.
“Dot told me everyone had a Toni face,” Fatin adds absently, taking a seat next to Leah. “Only Shelby’s and Martha’s are positive. Rachel’s is apparently murderous.”
“Seems about right.”
Fatin grins. “What’s she doing now?”
“Being stupid,” Leah answers simply, looking back at the texts Toni’s sent.
Toni, (11:32 AM): shes in almost all of your ig stories leah
Toni, (11:32 AM): either you guys finally got together or youre still pining like an idiot
Toni, (11:32 AM): PLEASE dont tell me youre pining for FATIN JADMANI have some self respect!
“What the fuck is she even saying?” Fatin exclaims, laughing as she steals Leah’s phone. Leah tries not to feel too offended at the bewildered tone of her voice. “Did she hit her head or something? Is it the long distance thing with Shelby that’s doing this to her?”
“You don’t need to sound so offended,” Leah huffs, trying to grab her phone back. A strange sort of itching is starting to happen in her chest and she doesn’t like it.
Fatin’s fast, though, swings out of her seat and types out a reply to Toni before pushing the phone back to Leah. There’s a curious look in her eyes as she does so, something Leah doesn’t quite understand. “I’m not offended,” she says like it’s the most obvious thing in the world.
“Could’ve fooled me,” Leah mumbles, taking the phone and looking at what Fatin sent Toni.
(11:33 AM): leah’d be really lucky to date me shalifoe
Toni, (11:33 AM): oh ew you’re together
(11:34 AM): we live near each other?
Toni, (11:34 AM): Leah don’t show this to your girlfriend but I swear I can find you someone better.
Toni, (11:34 AM): there’s a million dating apps
Toni, (11:34 AM): LEAH SAVE YOURSELF
(11:35 AM): you’re so fucking dramatic
(11:35 AM): leave us alone toni!!! dont stand in the way of true love!!!!
“For the record,” Fatin says as she’s reading, hip cocked against the kitchen counter and gaze flitting all over Leah’s face. Leah feels it like soft fingers on skin. “I’m totally not offended Toni thinks we’re dating.”
“Okay,” Leah says slowly, unsure what the appropriate response is. “You’re totally fucking with Toni, right? What’s this?”
“That’s gonna fuck with her for, like, weeks. She’s so weirdly against us dating,” Fatin says with a mischievous grin, reaching over to repeatedly poke at Leah’s shoulder. “I’d be lucky to date my best friend,” she adds, smirking.
Leah stares at her, an uncomfortably warm feeling in her chest. “I’m your best friend?”
“My actual best friend’s straight,” Fatin says with a teasing grin, moving forward immediately to pull Leah by the neck into a side-hug. “I misspoke. You’re not my best friend.”
“Well, okay,” Leah grumbles, trying to playfully push Fatin away but Fatin only pulls her closer.
Then presses a kiss to her temple. “You’re kinda like my soulmate, I think.”
Leah pulls away successfully, looking back at Fatin. Taking in the expression on her face that’s halfway between tender and puzzled. “That’s so cringe. Where’d you learn that from?”
“Now who’s being an asshole?” Leah squeals as Fatin dips her hands in the flour bag they haven’t cleaned up yet and throws flour at Leah.
Her parents are gonna kill her once they get home and see what a mess they’ve made of the kitchen, but Leah drags her fingers against the spilled egg on the counter and smears it on Fatin’s cheek.
“Oh, ew! Fuck, Leah, that’s so disgusting!” Fatin exclaims, hand going back to the flour bag, grabbing a handful of it just to throw it at Leah’s face. “I’m gonna kill you,” she yells as she grabs the small bowl with the rest of the eggs they cracked but didn’t get to use.
Leah’s eyes widen. “Don’t you fucking dare.”
“Call me your soulmate,” Fatin threatens, lifting the bowl in the air menacingly.
“You don’t have to be so desperate, Fa— fuck!” Whisked egg drips from the top of her head, down to the sides of her face, mixing in with the flour. Fatin grins victoriously, and Leah grabs her hands tightly, pulling her in for a hug.
Then she rubs her face against Fatin’s neck and jaw, smearing egg and flour on her.
“Ew, ew, ew! Stop, you’re ruining my shirt!”
“Come here, soulmate!” Leah yells when Fatin successfully breaks free and rounds the counter, trying to save herself. She flings flour at her over the counter and Fatin’s jaw drops, hands goes to the pancakes she hasn’t eaten and chucking it at Leah.
“Fuck, that hurts! You burnt them so much they’re solid, Fatin!”
“Never insult my cooking again!”
“I’ll kill you, come here!”
“Dare you to tr— LEAH NO.”
Leah flings the remaining flour at Fatin, covering her entire face and some of her neck in white powder. Fatin moves to grab at somewhere to her side, eyes murderous, when a thought crosses Leah's mind. “Wait before you murder me.”
Fatin stops, still glaring at Leah.
“Can I take a picture of you and post it on my instagram story? Toni’s gonna freak out.”
Fatin seems to consider this, hand hovering above the tray of eggs she was undoubtedly planning to throw at Leah. After a moment, she shrugs. “Sure. Put a heart on it.”
“I will not,” Leah says as she takes her phone out and points the camera at Fatin. Fatin gives a bright, dazzling grin like she wasn’t just threatening to hurl five eggs at Leah.
“Better make me look pretty.”
“Hard to do so when you’re covered in flour and egg.”
“Hard to not make me look pretty, you mean,” Fatin retorts, rolling her eyes.
Leah snaps one last picture of her and opens her instagram app, typing a quick @fatinjadmani with a reluctant flaming heart. “Humble yourself, you have eggshells on your collarbones.”
“Why are you looking at my collarbones?”
Leah looks around for something to lob at Fatin, but there’s nothing near her anymore. Everything's near Fatin. She looks up, eyes wide. “Get over yourself,” she says instead.
Fatin grins and wraps a hand around an egg. And before Leah knows it, Fatin’s chasing her around the kitchen, threatening to crack an egg on Leah’s head and screaming at the top of her lungs. Leah's parents are gonna kill her.
It's hard to worry about that, however, when Leah slips on an eggshell on the floor and Fatin drops to sit on her stomach, pinning her arms down between her thighs and smiling at her so brightly Leah has to squint a little. Even harder to worry about it when Fatin cracks one, two, three fucking eggs on Leah's forehead and Leah's already retaliating, pushing at her thighs to get her off and pinning her down, rubbing her forehead against each part of Fatin she can reach. Her arms, her legs, her stomach.
It takes them an hour to clean up, and another hour of hosing each other down in the backyard, but Leah doesn't care. It's really hard to care about anything at all when all she can see is Fatin's taunting smirk and all she can feel is Fatin's grip around her wrist. Everything falls away around Fatin.
2 - Some dude at a party
Fatin’s laugh as they dance around a stranger’s living room lights up the night. It’s the kind of laugh poets write about, Leah thinks distractedly as Fatin pulls her into another twirl.
The kind that echoes through the room, the kind that vibrates through a chest. The kind that makes Leah feel like she’s floating even when she’s really just in a crowded living room with Spotify top 50 playing on the speakers, the smell of cheap beer and sweat in the air.
The kind that makes everything else fall away around Fatin, leaves her surrounded by a colorful haze. Too bad Leah’s not much of a poet.
“I’m gonna go get us drinks,” Fatin yells over the loud music, squeezing Leah’s hand before slipping through the crowd and leaving Leah in the middle of it.
The colorful haze leaves with Fatin, leaves the ugly, realistic visions of a high school party. It’s just a bunch of sweaty bodies grinding against each other and Leah moves away from the cluster of people, following Fatin instead. Maybe she can convince her to stay out the backyard, she thinks she saw a swing there.
Fatin’s talking to a tall, muscular, conventionally attractive man when Leah enters the kitchen, attention on the drinks she’s pouring.
Leah can’t really explain the sudden burning in her stomach, only that maybe she’s drunk too much because all of a sudden she just feels… indescribable rage. She doesn’t like it, not at all.
She stumbles towards Fatin, presses close to her side and grabs the drink Fatin’s done pouring. Fatin’s arm automatically comes up to wrap around her, shooting her a curious look.
“Oh, my bad,” says the conventionally attractive guy. He looks kinda creepy in a Ken doll kinda way. Leah doesn’t trust him. “I didn’t know you had a girlfriend.”
Leah chokes on her drink. “Wha— “
Fatin rubs her back, gaze turning worried. She doesn’t even reply to the guy and Leah’s drunk mind barely registers him slipping away from the kitchen with embarrassment high on his cheeks. “You okay?”
“That’s the second time,” Leah answers, her words slurring together.
Fatin’s brows furrow in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“Second time someone thought we were dating.”
“Ah.” Fatin purses her lips, still rubbing Leah’s back. “Is that bad?”
Leah looks up at her — curse Fatin and her stupid fucking heels — and just stares. Fatin doesn’t look quite the same as she did on the island, neither before it. Her hair’s a little shorter, cut to remove the damaged bits. Her skin isn't damaged, and there's a warm look in her eyes that Fatin's never directed at her before the island, but it's devoid of the desperate sadness that used to fill Fatin's eyes during the island.
She looks beautiful, Leah realizes with a slight twisting to her stomach. She thinks her best friend — no, soulmate — looks beautiful. (Maybe, her mind whispers to her dramatically, you even want to kiss her.)
She pulls away from Fatin abruptly, drink splashing around. “There’s a swing outside.”
Fatin blinks, a brief flash of something Leah can’t understand — is it hurt? It can’t be — in her eyes before she’s looking out through the windows. “Yeah?”
“Can we sit there? I think I’ve had enough of dancing.”
“Sure,” Fatin answers instantly, grabbing her own drink and leading Leah out the back door. She doesn’t take Leah’s hand, so Leah takes hers and Fatin tosses another curious look over her shoulder, shoots a small, beautiful smile, and pulls her out to the backyard, the cold, night air a welcome change of environment.
And when Fatin sits on the swing next to Leah, takes a swig of her drink and throws her head back with her eyes closed, looks so at peace Leah’s heart does that stubborn little flutter again, Leah allows herself to stare.
Shit. She might have a crush on her soulmate.
3 - Leah's parents
It’s almost 2 am when Leah hears a knock on her window. After weeks, months, of sneaking into each other’s rooms just to cuddle in their sleep, Leah already knows it’s Fatin. What catches her off guard is the tear stained cheeks that greet her.
“What happened?” she asks worriedly as she pulls Fatin into the room and into a desperate hug, fingers combing through disheveled hair and scratching at scalp.
Fatin presses closer to her, clutches at her sweater. “Nightmare,” she answers between hiccups. “Can I?”
“Of course,” Leah answers, pulling back the covers of her bed and gently letting Fatin under it. She slips in after her and turns to her side to look at Fatin’s face. The fear and heartbreak in her eyes almost brings Leah to tears, too.
(They can keep saying fuck Gretchen Klein, fuck that experiment, they can keep talking about how they’d be set for life once the trials are done, how Fatin’s gotten a few thousand more followers on her Instagram account and Dot and Shelby were given a place to live in. How without the experiment they wouldn't have been able to meet each other and for that sick reason, they kinda have something to thank Gretchen Klein for.
But at the end of the day, Leah would settle for never having befriended Fatin like this, never having the privilege of holding Fatin like this, if it meant the nightmares that plagued her friends would also leave.
… maybe. It’s a complicated feeling. Some part of Leah wants to be selfish, but how could she when they’re still breaking even after the island?)
“It was the bunker,” Fatin whispers hoarsely, hands scrambling for Leah’s. When they find Leah’s hands, she pulls them to her chest, looks up at Leah with sad, sad eyes. “Sometimes it’s when you…”
There’s many ways that sentence can end. When Leah flung herself to the ocean. When Leah tried to overdose. When Leah nearly lost her mind upon finding out they were still stuck on a fucking island.
So Leah doesn’t let her finish, presses fingers to Fatin’s lips and nods. Fatin takes a deep, shaky breath and leaves the softest of kisses to Leah’s fingertips. “I heard you in the bunker. When they… when they tried to calm you down.”
“I’m sorry,” Leah whispers back, the night air around them fragile like their hearts. “I’m sorry, you shouldn’t— “
“They did it on purpose, I think,” Fatin interrupts, watching Leah with sharp eyes. “Left our doors slightly open so I can hear. They took me in for an interview again the next day.”
“Fuck. That’s so messed up.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t help you then.”
“There was nothing you could’ve done. They would’ve tried to hurt you too.”
“I would take it,” Fatin says, eyes fluttering closed. She grabs at Leah’s shirt and shifts closer, tucks her own head under Leah’s chin. Then presses a kiss to Leah’s chest, over her thick sweater; Leah feels it burn. “I would take all the hurt to help you.”
“I would, too,” Leah promises, leaves a fluttering kiss on Fatin’s head before wrapping her arms around her. “I would too. I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t,” Fatin grumbles, sleep now heavy on her tongue. Leah can hear it. “Don’t. I love you.”
Leah swallows thickly, tightens her hold on Fatin. “I love you too.”
When Leah wakes up early in the morning, it’s with Fatin’s hair in her mouth, Fatin’s face pressed to her neck, and her arm cramping under Fatin’s body. It’s not a bad way to wake up, not at all, and Leah allows a little smile on her lips. Just a little.
She pulls Fatin closer, intending to go back to sleep, when the door to her room opens slowly and she looks up, finds her mom peeking in curiously.
Leah sits up, Fatin grumbling under her. “She had a nightmare,” she explains, even though her strangled voice probably makes it all sound even more suspicious.
Her mother’s gaze flicks to Fatin, something like guilt and pity in her eyes, then she nods. “Remember the door rule, Leah,” she says before leaving the room, keeping the door wide open.
“What? She’s not— “
“Leah,” Fatin growls, grabbing her by the sleeve of her sweater and dragging her back down to the bed. “Too early.”
“You’re such a baby,” Leah teases, heart on overdrive at her mother’s insinuation. She looks back down at Fatin and her heart stops. “You’re really pretty,” her dazed, still sleepy brain says for her. The traitor.
Fatin squints up at her, a twist to her lips that Leah knows is because of the sunlight filtering through Leah’s curtains. “I know, thank you,” she says before tugging Leah impatiently. “Sleep.”
Fatin snorts against her neck. “You’re such a nerd.”
Leah bites back a grin, cheek to Fatin’s hair and hand splayed against Fatin’s back. “Go to sleep love you,” she says in a rush, just wanting to try it out early in the morning, not cloaked in darkness.
Fatin hums softly. “Love you too,” she says sleepily before her breathing evens out.
4 - Fatin's brothers
Leah will never get over how empty and cold the Jadmani house feels. She doesn’t like it, and if she were to pick, she’d pick a place far from here. She doesn’t like the way Fatin looks a little reserved in her own house, the way her head whips around when a door opens and she lets out a relieved sigh when it’s not one of her parents.
Sometimes, Leah has the inexplicable urge to grab Fatin and just run away with her. Take her somewhere far from the bay, far from the ocean, and live out a life with her that isn’t haunted by their past.
Her gaze is drawn to a loud laugh, finds Fatin trying to push one of her brothers into the pool, pretending to be too weak to do so. It’s a pretty funny sight, they’re both just a mess of long limbs and wet hair and Fatin’s sporting the biggest smile Leah’s ever seen on her.
This. This is the only thing Leah likes about the Jadmani house. How at ease, how cheerful Fatin is around her brothers. It sometimes fills Leah with an odd sense of longing, makes her wonder what it would be like to have a sibling of her own. But she’s content just watching.
(The warmth in her chest, the smile she can’t fight off? No one notices, anyway.)
“If you hurt Fatin, I’ll kill you.”
Leah’s brows raise in shock, gaze flicking to the boy standing menacingly beside her chair, looking down at her with a glare. What’s even more incredulous is that it’s Kemar, the younger one. Glaring at her like he has any ounce of intimidation in his small body. Leah tries not to laugh.
Kemar’s glare hardens. “I’m serious. Ahmad thinks the same but he's too scared to tell you. But I'll hurt you if you hurt Fatin.”
“Okay,” Leah says, raising her hands up in surrender. “What are you gonna do if I hurt your sister?”
Kemar considers the question. “I will… cut off all your fingers.”
“What?” Leah lets out a laugh. What the fuck does Kemar watch on his free time? “But I like my fingers.”
(Thank fucking god Fatin’s nowhere near them to hear. Still, Leah can't help the way her ears burn.)
“Yeah, well, if you really like them you would promise not to hurt my sister,” Kemar warns.
“I won’t, I promise.” It’s hard tampering down her smile, but she thinks she manages to look a bit intimated as she adds, “I’m too scared of you.”
Kemar narrows his eyes at Leah, scrutinizing her. He seems to be pleased with what he sees cause he nods slowly, pushes Leah’s legs off the sunbed to sit on it. “You make her happy. Like… weird, gross happy.”
“Is that a good thing?”
“It’s always a good thing,” Kemar says determinedly. “I like you. Also because you’re taller than Fatin and I can reach the ceiling when you put me on your shoulder.”
“That was a one time thing. My shoulders were sore for a week.”
“Weak,” Kemar mutters, shooting her a side-glance. “I can fight you.”
Leah blinks. “I already said I won’t hurt your sister.”
Kemar grins. “Just reminding you.”
There’s a loud splash and a cut of fu— before Ahmad lets out an ecstatic laugh. Both Leah and Kemar look up to find Fatin breaking through the water’s surface, hair a mess around her face.
“What a loser,” Leah says. “You can fight me but I think I can fight her.”
“I think so too,” Kemar agrees, laughing at his sister’s pouting as she gets herself out of the pool. “Fatin!”
Fatin’s head swivels, gaze lands on Leah and Kemar inquisitively. “What?”
“Leah thinks she can fight you!”
Fatin’s eyes widen. “No freaking way! I have cello arms!” When Leah only laughs, the offended look in her eyes multiplies. “What the fuck! Come here right now and fight me, Rilke.”
Leah looks towards Kemar, finds him grinning ear to ear with what he caused. “Can I hurt her this way?”
Kemar gives her two thumbs up. “I’m rooting for you!”
Laughing, Leah walks towards Fatin and grabs her wrists to try and push her back in the pool. Fatin’s expecting it, however, and pushes back, curling an arm around Leah. It doesn’t take more than a few second before they’re both falling into the pool.
Her nose hurts from the sudden dive and she thinks she twisted a finger but when she breaks through the water’s surface, Fatin laughing and splashing water at her and Kemar and Ahmad are complaining about it being too fast a fight and Leah doesn’t have it in her to complain.
She splashes back at Fatin and ignores the tingling feeling of belonging in her heart, instead.
The rest of the girls visit for Leah and Fatin’s graduation day. It’s a sight, the entire Unsinkable Eight all together stepping out of a limousine Fatin had her mom rent for them even though it’s a graduation, not prom.
(They were also pulled into the Jadmani backyard, pushed against each other so the parents can take pictures of them and for a moment it was easy to pretend like the island never happened. Like they are all normal friends who met on a normal cruise and formed a normal lifelong friendship that wasn’t built on trauma.)
The actual event lasts pretty long. Toni keeps sending stupid texts to their groupchat to distract Leah and Fatin keeps responding with just as obnoxious texts, not bothering to turn down the brightness of her phone despite the dirty looks parents and students alike are sending her. Leah glances at the open groupchat on her lap every few moments, hides a laugh at her friends' antics and misses half of the program.
And it feels a lot like coming home, actually. No matter how purposely loud Toni laughs from the guests’ area and how awkward it is always to meet Nora again and how Shelby sends her a private message asking when she started dating Fatin, it feels like coming home.
She will always, always, come home to these seven girls. Years from now and they will still be her safe place. They will still be the arms she seeks out when hurt, the hands she wants pressed to her cheeks when she’s losing her mind.
It all feels incredibly corny, but Leah’s choked up with emotion when she looks up at the girls and finds them all on their phone, grinning and laughing at the same thing at the same time. Elbowing each other and pushing at each other’s shoulders, Dot slaps the back of Toni’s head and Martha jokingly rubs it after.
She looks towards the front of the rows of students, finds Fatin already looking back at her and smiling softly, and tears fill Leah’s eyes.
This. This is home.
Before she knows it, they’re all standing up and moving towards families and friends, several people watching Leah and the other girls curiously. But like with Fatin, everything else falls away around them.
There’s a ton of hugs shared, Dot and Fatin holding each other for a long time, quiet as they just stay in each others arms.
(Fatin feels guilty, Leah knows. Guilty that she didn’t immediately get an apartment in LA with Dot after the island. But Dot understands, Leah knows too. Understands that Fatin can’t say goodbye to the bay so easily, to her brothers, to Leah.)
And Leah being pulled into a three-way hug with the twins, Rachel forcing her and Nora beside each other as she gives them both a dazzling smile neither can reject.
(Leah doesn’t hate Nora. Nora doesn’t hate Leah. It’s just awkward as fuck knowing their history, and how Nora seemingly died right after pushing Leah in a pit. Leah will forever despise Gretchen Klein for stealing away from Leah an easy friendship with Nora, but she can never hate Nora.)
“I know you’re not really together,” Rachel whispers to Leah once Nora’s managed to escape. “But you should confess to her soon. It’s graduation day, so many decisions to make after this.”
Leah pulls away to shoot her a confused look. “What do you mean?”
“Fatin, you idiot. I know you like her. She likes you back. Hell, you’re basically dating. Go get the fucking girl, Rilke.” With that, she twirls Leah around and pushes her, and Leah finds herself crashing into an equally confused Fatin.
Fatin grabs Leah’s arms to steady her, brows furrowing together as she glances behind her back at Dot. “Hey, uh.”
Leah understands that. She can still feel Rachel’s gaze burning the back of her head. “Yeah?”
“Did you know we were dating this entire time, apparently?”
Leah laughs. “Rachel’s been trying to convince me of that, too. It’s absurd, right?”
“Right.” Fatin nods, but she’s not really looking at Leah. Leah only knows this from the very quick glances she sends Fatin; she can’t look at Fatin either. “Friends cuddle.”
“Sure. Of course.” Leah looks at their other classmates and schoolmates, sneaking glances at the Unsinkable Eight. “Friends, um, drive each other around everywhere.”
“Walk each other to class.”
“Spend entire weekends together, alone.”
“Hug too long?”
“Want to kiss each other.”
Leah’s eyebrows shoot up, gaze flicking to Fatin. “That’s— I don’t think that— “
“Oh,” Fatin says, unable to hide her smile. She bites down on her lower lip and Leah’s gaze falls to it. “Well, then. I guess we’re not just friends.”
“On my side, at least,” Fatin adds in a small, but hopeful voice. She ducks her head, peeks up shyly at Leah. “Cause I really wanna kiss you. Many times in the past, but especially now.”
Leah blinks. “I, uh, wh— “
“It’s okay if you don’t feel the same,” Fatin cuts in, panicked now. “I just… Toni said something.”
“What?” Leah glances behind Fatin’s shoulder where the other girls have grouped together to watch them, Toni making obscene gestures with her hand, Dot making kissy faces, and Shelby trying (and failing, because she’s laughing too much) to stop them both.
“Called me a pussy. And I’m not one to ever let Toni fucking Shalifoe call me a pussy.”
Leah laughs again, even though she’s still reeling from Fatin’s confession, and her own lack of response. “Yeah. I mean…”
“I really like you.”
“God, Fatin,” Leah breathes out, still unsure what’s happening. It feels like everything’s a dream.
“And I still mean it! If you don’t like me back, I’ll just drink the night away and get over it, it’s okay— “
“Fatin, shut up.”
Fatin’s eyes go comically wide. “Okay, that’s a bit rude. I’m confessing.”
“No, shut up.” She grabs the front of Fatin’s robes and pulls her in a little, watches at Fatin’s panicked eyes shift to surprise. Then confusion. “Kiss me, you idiot.”
“Oh.” Fatin smirks. “Oh, you like me,” she teases. “God, Leah, you don’t have to beg.”
“You said it first!” Leah exclaims, shoving Fatin away.
Fatin grabs her hands and keeps them furled around her robes. “So, it’s only fair that I ask you say it back before I give you that kiss you’re begging for?”
And Fatin’s really just an asshole, there’s no use trying to find another word for it. The way she smiles at Leah teasingly, keeps strong, cello hands around Leah’s to keep her from leaving, the way she looks so damn expectant and kissable.
“I’m in love with you, actually,” she says, just to catch Fatin off guard. And because it’s true. They’ve been through so much, she’s kept this feeling hidden too long, for it to just be like.
Fatin gapes, certainly caught off guard. “Oh, wow.” She looks stunned, teasing smirk wiped from her face. Then: “That’s so gay, but you’re also just, like, trying to one-up me. I confessed first. You’re cheating.”
“Fatin, just kiss me,” she whines and pulls Fatin closer, leaning in until their lips are ghosting against each other, and Fatin’s still looking at her so tauntingly, still smirking, and Fatin laughs when Leah huffs against her lips. “Fatin.”
“Jesus Christ,” Fatin breathes against her. “I’m in love with you too,” she says before she presses her lips against Leah’s, one hand leaving her hold on Leah’s hands to curl around Leah’s neck. “Love you so fucking much, you nerd,” she says between kisses, lets her kisses trail to Leah’s cheeks, her eyes, her nose, then back to her lips.
And the other girls are hooting and whooping behind them and Fatin takes her other hand away from Leah’s. Leah peeks, sees Fatin raising a middle finger as Shelby takes pictures and Rachel fake-gags.
“So,” Fatin starts as she moves away. She sneaks one last peck, unable to help herself. “Does this make us best friends forever?”
“You’re such a dick,” Leah laughs, shoving Fatin away for real now. Fatin grabs her hand and intertwines their fingers together. “Do you, like, want to be my girlfriend or something?” she tries.
Fatin’s eyes shine — god, they’re the definition of heart eyes and Fatin’s been looking at her like that since the island. How did Leah not notice?! Then they’re glinting with mischief and amusement again. “Fine. If that’s what you want.”
“I’m breaking up with you,” Leah says.
“No, you’re not, you loooove me. Like, romantically.”
“Fatin,” Leah exasperatedly says, rolling her eyes.
“Hear that guys? Leah Rilke’s in love with me. It’s so embarrassing.”
“Ugh. Now we have to suffer through that,” Dot grumbles, though she can’t fight off her own smile. “Congratulations, you idiots. You finally figured it out.”
“Only took like almost a year,” Toni adds with a sneer.
“Some of us don’t U-haul the moment we find a hot girl to dislike on the island, Shalifoe,” Fatin says.
Toni shoots Shelby a fond look before glaring at Fatin. “Don’t call my girlfriend hot.”
“What? It’s true.”
Leah punches Fatin’s arm. “Don’t call Toni’s girlfriend hot.”
“I can’t speak the truth now that I have a girlfriend of my own?” Fatin asks, bewildered. She grins when Toni moves to fight her. "Don't be dramatic, Toni, no one's hotter than Leah in my eyes."
"Oh, ew, kill me now," Toni exclaims, pulling away. "You're insufferable."
"What can you do? I'm in loooove," Fatin sing-songs, grinning even wider when Toni fake-gags and it's Rachel this time who moves to whack her at the arm, disgusted by everything happening.
Leah's cheeks hurt from smiling too much, and it's too hot in her graduation robes, and too many people are looking at them, whispering and gossiping, but like always... everything else falls away.