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thin walls (are calling me home)

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The first time Lauren Jauregui was cleared to handle a call by herself, it was a freaking noise complaint.

Not that Lauren herself was complaining. Not really. She'd do whatever she could to make the world a better and safer place and if that meant busting some teenager's party to insure that the neighbors could get some sleep, so be it.

Only it wasn't that simple. Lauren had been sitting around the police station all day – her superiors had been trying this new thing where cops would keep to the station until necessary to prevent incidents like the disgusting bloodsheds that unfortunately still happened all over the country – when they called for her and she'd jumped out of her chair, ready to help with whatever needed.

Thing is, she hadn't been expecting a noise complaint. But, "The lady next door says she can hear a very loud and heated argument between a man and a woman. Plus, she thinks the woman is crying. She said she's just moved in so she doesn't really know either of them."

That certainly got Lauren's attention and soon everything about some punk partying too hard was forgotten. This was serious and so the young cop knit her eyebrows in concentration as she listened to her colleague and wrote down the address she'd drive to.

Lauren was fairly new to the force and had never come across something like this. The lady that had called 911 had said she was afraid for her neighbor and that she'd even heard a dull thump like a chair falling to the ground. She'd seemed very nervous according to her colleague and Lauren couldn't help but feel just as apprehensive.

If there was something she hated, it was abuse. Of any kind, shape or form. She guessed it must trigger her at some point, considering her history with her uncle. Regardless of her past, though, abuse was just- it was just bad. And as Lauren drove through the streets of New York, she hoped she'd get to her destination in time to prevent things from getting more out of hand than they probably were already.

Arriving at the apartment building she'd been sent to, Lauren buzzed the intercom of the lady who'd called so she'd let her in. Once inside, the young woman made her way up the stairs as fast as she could – no point in waiting for the elevator to get to the second floor, right? – but she couldn't hear anything but her breathing and her footste-

"Seriously? You can't even get that right? Fucking pathetic."

"Matt, please-"

That was all Lauren needed to hear and she felt her blood boil as she walked up to the door.

"Don't you dare try and play the victim now, you hear me? Don't even-"

She guessed the doorbell and her loud knocking had startled the man into silence because for a second nothing could be heard.

Just as Lauren was about to basically start punching the door again, it was opened. In front of her stood a young woman about her age. She wore glasses, but they didn't hide the puffiness and redness of her brown eyes and if it weren't for the situation they were in, she'd take the time to really acknowledge how beautiful she was. But now was most definitely not the time, so.

"Hello, how can I help you?"

The shy and polite smile that stretched across her face was such a contrast to the redness of her eyes that for a second – but only a second – Lauren froze. The second was soon over, though, as she remembered how trying to pretend everything is fine was one of the most common reactions to abuse.

"Good evening ma'am, is everything alright?" Lauren tried, her intense gaze fixed on the girl's eyes in search of something, anything.

"Hmm, good evening, officer." She now fidgeted a little on her door step. "Yeah, I suppose so. Why?"

"Are you sure? We received a call from one of your neighbors about a couple fighting and when I got here, things looked bad." The girl in front of Lauren frowned a little and the young cop took a small step forward, averting her gaze to the living room behind her and looking for the man before returning her eyes to the girl's warm brown ones. "Look, if that man has done anything to hurt you, I can help. If he hasn't, I can also help. Either way, from what I've just heard, I think it may be best if I go inside..."

Lauren cut herself short when she heard the girl in front of her let out a chuckle. She'd expected tears. She could certainly deal with denial. But laughter?

"I'm sorry, it's just- you got it all wrong."

Lauren frowned. "What exactly have I gotten wrong?"

"I... okay, wait a second." She turned around. "Shawn! Get in here!" She shouted.

Shawn? Wasn't the guy's name Matt? Lauren furrowed her eyebrows in confusion and took a small step back when the woman turned to her again with an embarrassed smile.

A tall boy with brown hair joined them in less than a minute, looking kind of nervous.

"Hmm, hi." He said, scratching the back of his neck.

"You see." The small girl started. "Shawn and I are actors."


"Well, he's more into musicals and all since what he really wanted to be was a singer, but he's an awesome actor and he enjoys it so yeah." A small blush creeped into her cheeks as she probably realized she'd been babbling and she cleared her throat. "Anyway, we were just rehearsing for this play we're auditioning for and it's about a woman overcoming an abusive relationship so... yeah."

As if to emphasize, Shawn lifted up some papers he'd been holding and Lauren let go of the breath she hadn't even noticed she'd been holding. She reached for them and the boy was quick to oblige and hand them over. Lauren didn't need to look through it too much before she was sure they were telling the truth and soon she gave Shawn his papers back.

"I'm sorry we've wasted your time, officer..." The girl began.

"Jauregui. Lauren Jauregui." Lauren said and the girl snorted, making her frown.

"Cabello. Camila Cabello." The girl said with a deeper voice, smirking playfully while leaning against the door frame.

Lauren's eyebrows shot up to her hairline, making the girl – Camila, she supposed – blush slightly, but she couldn't help the way the corners of her mouth turned upwards in a small smile. Camila's cheeks were still a light shade of pink when she returned the smile.

Shawn cleared his throat and got back into the house, throwing Lauren back into reality. She hadn't even realized she'd held the brunette's gaze for more than a second but apparently she had and it was now her turn to blush. She guessed it wasn't her fault that Camila was cute.

"Well, okay then." Lauren started, clasping her hands behind her back and taking a step back. "You guys are okay, so I guess I'll leave. You should probably have a little chat with your neighbor though, she was really worried about you. And maybe try and rehearse lower next time, you don't wanna scare anyone else, right?"

"Right." Camila chuckled. "Thank you and will do, don't worry. Mrs. Banks is new to the building and I've barely seen her around, but I'll explain everything. I wish these walls weren't so damn thin, though." She sighed.

"Yeah." Lauren smiled, forgetting once again this wasn't a casual meeting. Shaking her head a little, she continued. "Have a good night, Ms. Cabello."

"You too, Lauren." Camila grinned and then looked mortified for a second. "I mean Officer Jauregui! Good night!"

Lauren only pressed her lips together to suppress a laugh and nodded before heading for the stairs. 

 Two weeks had passed since Lauren's weird noise complaint call. She couldn't say she'd minded it, though, as it had been quite the story to tell and remember. She also couldn't quite forget the color of Camila's eyes and if Lauren was being honest with herself, she didn't want to.

That was exactly what Lauren had in mind as she went into the coffee shop near her apartment. Her best friend from high school, Ally, owned the place and it had become her morning routine to stop by and order her black coffee. It'd been that way for almost four years and Lauren honestly couldn't remember ordering anything else to drink during both her college years and time in the police.

Today, Lauren ordered hot chocolate.

"What's with the sudden change, Laur?" Came a voice from her side just as Lauren had sat down at her usual table.

Sighing, Lauren turned to her grinning friend. Obviously Ally just had to be there to notice her new drink and tease her about it.

"I dunno." Lauren shrugged. "I wanted to change a bit. It's cold, I guess."


"It's always freezing in November and yet you always order your black coffee. Does this maybe have to do with some, I don't know, chocolate eyes?" Lauren didn't think Ally's grin could get any bigger, but she was proven wrong when she groaned and her friend giggled, sitting in front of her.

Lauren opened her mouth to answer, but the words got caught in her throat as her eyes locked with the ones they'd just been talking about. Camila stood by the door, having just walked in the coffee shop, all wrapped up in a scarf and a beanie. She didn't have her glasses with her this time and looked pretty damn cute. Lauren averted her gaze, but it was too late.

"Hey, Officer Jauregui, how are you?" Camila asked sweetly when she got to their table. She noticed the brunette wasn't alone and had a tall blonde friend by her side.

"Oh, hi! I'm, uh... Fine, thanks!" Lauren stumbled through her words like a fucking five year old and she couldn't believe how dumb she must've sounded. A quick look at Ally's face told her she wasn't the only one who thought that and not for the first time, the dark haired girl wished she hadn't told her friend about the whole thing with Camila. Said girl only smiled, though her friend shot her an amused glance. "What about you, Ms. Cabello?"

Camila's friend snickered for a moment before putting a hand on her shoulder.

"Oh, please, Ms. Cabello?" She chuckled. "You can call her Camila." She smirked mischievously and Camila blushed a little, swapping her friend's hand from her shoulder.

"Same goes for Lauren here." Ally nodded and pointed to Lauren, who was seriously trying to remember how many years she may get in prison if she killed her friend just to get that shit eating grin off her face. She should know, she was a cop after all.

"And I'm Dinah! And you're Ally, owner of this place. I know because I asked one of your baristas, which are all pretty nice by the way." The tall girl moved to sit beside Ally, who raised her eyebrows in surprise. "And since we're all acquainted now, I must say I'm addicted to your hot drinks, they're amazing!"

All Lauren could do at this point was stare with her mouth slightly opened at the scene before her. A small blush now creeped through Ally's neck as she thanked Dinah, but she actually seemed happy to hear the compliments. Meanwhile, Camila slowly took the seat next to Lauren's, who tried her best to stay still and focus her eyes in front of her. If Camila's hesitancy in sitting beside her was any indication, she guessed she wasn't the only one at least somewhat uncomfortable with the situation.

"You see, I discovered this place a little over a week ago and began ordering a different drink every day. And let me tell you girl, they're all amazing!" Dinah exclaimed.

Ally was now smiling and Lauren felt herself relaxing a little. A quick glance to her side showed her Camila was, too, getting more comfortable as Dinah spoke passionately about coffees and lattes. Lauren took this as an opportunity to try and start a conversation of her own.

"No glasses today?" She asked before mentally slapping herself. What a dumb question.

"Oh, I usually wear them at home, I'm wearing contact lenses now." Camila answered quietly after looking surprised for a second that Lauren had talked to her.

The green eyed girl only nodded and was about to say something else – she didn't even know what – when Camila turned to Dinah at the mention of her name.

"...So I was like 'Mila you're gonna love this coffee shop' and now here we are." She finally seemed to stop to breathe and smiled looking around the table.

Ally chuckled, a radiant smile now gracing her lips. "Thank you so much! I'm so happy you like it in here. I opened it like four years ago because I didn't really have the money for college and I've always loved to cook and bake – have you tried the cupcakes by the way?" Dinah nodded eagerly and Ally's smile widened even more. "Well yeah, so once Lauren and I finished high school she went to college and my parents helped me financially so I could open my own little coffee shop. It's grown a lot since then.

"That's awesome, girl!" Dinah exclaimed, grinning. "So it's all going according to the plan, then? This is what you've always wanted to do?"

Ally seemed to think for a moment before answering. "Yes and no. I mean, I do love it here and it's all going very well, but I'm hoping someday I'll be lucky enough to join the music industry. I've always wanted to sing." She finished, smiling softly.

"She'll do it for sure. When Ally sets her mind on something, there's no stopping her. And she's pretty amazing at running things here, so yeah, I'm pretty sure she can do it." Lauren finally joined the conversation – and with such conviction Ally turned to look at her fondly.

"Thanks, Laur." Her small friend said, her smile still present.

"That was really sweet." Camila pointed out, looking intently at Lauren with a shy smile of her own gracing her lips.

And just like that, Lauren was back to five year old mode. She smiled to the girl beside her but couldn't say anything else and suddenly it was just like that day two weeks ago when their eyes met and there was no telling how much time had passed until someone else broke the silence. In this case, it was Dinah.

"If you two are done with your weird staring match or whatever, I'm gonna order some cupcakes."

It could go without saying that Lauren felt her face burning up so much she was sure the fucking sun had decided to stop by the coffee shop.

"Well, I'm- I'm gonna go now... I gotta run or I'll be late at the station and... yeah." Lauren stuttered, looking at Camila, whose face was just as red as Lauren's.

The smaller girl only nodded and got up, allowing the young cop to move out of her seat. They stood awkwardly next to each other for a second before Lauren looked at Ally, who apparently found all of this very amusing. The glare Lauren sent her way was enough to make her get up , though, and she hugged Lauren goodbye with a knowing smile before saying bye to Camila and going back to her duties.

"How's life as a cop?" Camila asked suddenly, as soon as Ally had left.

"Okay, I guess." Lauren shrugged and tried not to let herself drown in those brown eyes once again. "You know, I'm given as many noise complaint calls as possible after our little encounter." She added, chuckling nervously while running a hand through her hair. Camila threw her head back in a big laugh and Lauren's heart fluttered for a second.

(She chose to ignore it.)

Camila's laughter slowly died and she seemed to think about something for a second before opening her mouth to say something, but Lauren beat her to it.

"How was the audition?" Lauren asked with genuine curiosity, though she couldn't deny she liked the way Camila's face lit up after the question.

"It went great! We got called back and the final decision comes out this Friday." She spoke passionately. "I really think we can make this play, even if the other auditions didn't go that well." Her excitement was so contagious that soon enough Lauren caught herself smiling widely at the girl in front of her.

"Happy to hear that." She looked at her clock quickly before meeting Camila's eyes again. "I'm sorry, but I really gotta go now, so good luck! I believe in you guys."

"Thanks you so much. It really means a lot." She made a pause and Lauren considered her options – would a quick hug be too much? – but before the dark haired girl could make up her mind, Camila gave her a little wave and continued. "Goodbye, Lauren. See you around." She said, smiling.

"Bye, see ya." Lauren answered, a smile of her own playing on her lips. 

 That Saturday, Lauren was about to call it a day – or rather a night, since it was past ten p.m. – when the station received a noise complaint. When one of Lauren's colleagues announced the call, almost everyone nodded at her or looked at her or just smiled mischievously at her and all the Latina could do was sigh and roll her eyes at basically everyone.

Thing is when she told people about the first noise complaint she'd handled, everyone found it pretty funny and soon enough she was Lauren Jauregui, criminology graduate, police officer and rehearsal buster – which was a ridiculous nickname in her opinion. Now they tried to push her way every noise complaint they got, which fortunately had only been two since then, and she'd been busy during one of them, which meant she only had to handle one.

(This time she did have to cut short a seventeen year old boy's party, but it wasn't her fault they didn't want to lower the volume of the songs at midnight and even threatened to pee on her. It wasn't her fondest memory.)

"Jauregui, we're waiting for you." Said one of her smirking colleagues, the one who had answered the phone call.

"Okay okay, gimme the address so I can solve this and go home." Lauren huffed.

"Don't be so grumpy now, Laur. It's probably just some teens again." Normani, her partner and closest friend in the force, said. Her tone was serious, but the huge grin on her face told a story of its own.

"Yeah, I don't remember you being all that happy about the noise complaint you had to handle." Lauren shot back with a smug grin as they walked together towards the phone desk.

That remark was enough to change Normani's smile into a scowl. "Well yeah!" It was now her time to huff. "You're not the one who was forced to go probably only because you're Rehearsal Buster's partner." The dark skinned girl finished matter-of-factly.

Lauren rolled her eyes at that – seriously, couldn't her friends have thought of a better nickname? –, but a small smile was threatening to appear on her lips. "I am Rehearsal Buster, you little shit."

"I know." Normani snickered. "I'll leave you to it, then. See you tomorrow."

"Bye, Mani!" Lauren said before turning back to Jefferson, who sat patiently by the phone with a piece of paper – the address, she supposed – on his hands. He gave it to her and winked before going back to whatever it was he'd been doing. "What is it?" Lauren asked, not even bothering to roll her eyes as they'd probably fall from their sockets due to the break of her optical nerves.

"Just a party." He shrugged.

Lauren nodded and read the address, raising her eyebrows all the way to her hairline as soon as she did so.

No way.

She grabbed her keys and practically ran outside, ignoring the laughter of some of her friends and colleagues. Lauren didn't care, she knew it was all good hearted mocking and she would deny it if asked, but she actually liked the way things were. Before, she would often feel sort of left out in the force, but that changed as soon as she became Rehearsal Buster.

(So what if she received a few threats from drunk teenagers? She could handle those.)

Soon enough Lauren was standing in front of the vaguely familiar building and buzzing the intercom of one grumpy sounding Mrs. Banks, who rushed to thank the young cop and open the door of the building for her.

Lauren rushed up the stairs, stopping for only a second to catch her breath at the corridor of the second floor and surely enough, the deafening sound of a bass beat could be heard from afar.

Lauren shook her head as she made a straight line to the apartment all the music was coming from, taking a deep breath before ringing the doorbell. Soon enough the door was shot open and yep, there she was, Camila Cabello in a white cropped top and black skirt combination, with a drink in hand and a grin splattered on her face. She looked beautiful with those clothes and light makeup and Lauren felt her heartbeat pick up at the sight.

"Lauren!" She exclaimed, stepping forward to hug the young cop, who was slightly startled by the sudden action, having been kind of caught midway giving Camila a once-over.

Before Lauren could push her away or hug her back or think for all that matters, Camila was already pulling away and turning to look over her shoulder.

"Everyone, listen up!" It was only now that Lauren noticed the other people at the party inside Camila's apartment. "It's Lauren The Cop! Let's give her a toast!"

Everybody cheered and raised their glasses and Lauren couldn't possibly be more confused than she was at that moment. Lauren The Cop? What the hell, as if Rehearsal Buster wasn't bad enough.

"Camila." She called, turning the smiling brunette's attention back to her. "What's going on? Lauren The Cop? A toast? I-"

Camila started giggling and Lauren realized what should've been obvious from the moment she got there: the girl was completely drunk. Lauren paused and studied her for a second before taking her arm and gently but firmly pulling her out of the apartment. She closed the door behind her, earning some cheers and whistles from the guests and a "woah there" from Camila.

"So you here to join the party?" Camila asked slowly once Lauren let go of her arm, taking one step closer to the green eyed girl.

Said girl then took one step back, which made Camila pout a little. Oh God, she had to stop being so damn cute so Lauren could focus on doing her job right.

"No, I'm here because I've got a very aggravated Mrs. Banks who was trying to sleep when your party started." She answered matter-of-factly.

Camila only giggled again. "I know. It's a celebration party for me and Shawn. We got the parts!" The brown eyed girl exclaimed excitedly.

And just like that, as much as Lauren wanted to be professional, she couldn't suppress her smile. "Really? Congratulations!" She said, sincerely. Camila nodded and moved in for another hug, but this time Lauren was prepared and stopped her. "You do have to tone it down, though. You have very thin walls and your neighbors want to sleep."

Camila nodded again with a serious expression, but the act didn't act long. Soon enough her big smile was back.

"Okay, sure." She quickly said, making Lauren furrow her brows. "Will you stay though? At the party, I mean."

"Wait a minute." She looked deeply into the girl's brown eyes, trying to read them in her drunken state. "You'll agree just like that?" Camila shrugged. "Then why was it that loud to begin with?" Another shrug. Lauren narrowed her eyes and the other Latina looked down, biting her bottom lip. "You said you knew about Mrs. Banks..."

Camila really did seem guilty of something, though Lauren still couldn't quite put all the pieces together.

Then it clicked.

"You knew I'd come! You knew I'd get the noise complaint because I told you I get all of them at Ally's coffee shop!" Lauren's eyes were wide as she stared at the girl in front of her, who had yet to look up.

They were quiet for a while and Lauren didn't really know what to think about what she'd just found out.

Then Camila muttered something.

"Sorry?" The young cop asked.

"I wanted you to come." Camila repeated, finally looking Lauren in the eye.

She seemed a lot more vulnerable now and Lauren's gaze softened immediately.

"You could've just invited me, you know?" She said softly.

"I didn't know how. Hell, I didn't know you. I got the news yesterday which meant I had to organize the party real quick and I didn't have your number and Shawn was driving me crazy and then I remembered our talk and I just- it seemed like a good idea at the time. I'm sorry if it was inappropriate and I'll talk to Mrs. Banks and-" Camila was ranting non stop and her pout was back, but now Lauren was afraid she'd cry if she didn't do anything, so she took the girl's free hand and gave it a squeeze to gain her attention.

"Hey, hey, it's okay." Lauren smiled reassuringly. "Just don't do it again and ask for my number next time." She chuckled before realizing what she'd said. It was then that the five year old inside her decided to come out and play. "Well I don't mean it like that... but I mean, it could be like if you wanted it to, I'm just saying- phones are good for communicating and we should probably, you know, thank their inventor and stuff-" She was cut off by uncontrollable giggling, which was enough proof of the idiot she'd become.

Camila's laughter died down eventually, only to be replaced by that huge grin of hers again.

"Okay, you can give me your number if you want." The smaller Latina said, squeezing Lauren's hand and blushing a little.

Lauren, on the other hand, was blushing a lot. She didn't know what else to say, but when Camila started pulling her along towards the door, the dark haired girl seemed to wake up.

"I can't go to the party, I've got to report back at the station." Camila pouted, so Lauren tried a different approach. "Plus, look at me. I'm in my uniform for Christ's sake."

"So what? It's hot."

It was safe to say that now both their faces were a deep shade of red.

"Mmmkay." Lauren said, looking down at Camila's lips not for the first time since their first encounter. Shaking her head, she met the brown eyes once again. "What do you say I come back here in like half an hour? I'll just go back to the station and change."

Camila nodded eagerly, but Lauren raised a finger despite her smile.

"You gotta promise to turn down the volume though. And tell me what the hell is this Lauren The Cop crap!" She exclaimed with a playful scowl.

Camila giggled again with a cheerful "promise" before taking another sip of her drink, turning around and walking inside. Moments later the music was playing in a much lower volume, enough to make a party inside but not to traumatize old ladies.

Lauren stood there for a solid minute with a dumb smile on her lips. What was this girl doing to her?

Shaking out of her stupor, the green eyed girl rushed down the stairs and into her car, making her way to the station as fast as possible. She hadn't realized it until now, but it'd been ages since Lauren's last party, she was always either too tired or too busy to attend one. She certainly was tired now, but for some reason – that has absolutely nothing to do with a certain Latina – she didn't care.

Lauren parked her car and took a moment outside it to compose herself and walk like a decent human being towards the building. As soon as she set foot inside it, Normani made her way to her, smirking mischievously.

"How was it?" The dark skinned girl asked. She was only about a month older and they got along very well. She was Lauren's partner after all.

"Hmm... nothing much." Lauren lied, shrugging it off. If Normani knew what she was about to do, she'd be mocked for the rest of her life. "Just had to tell some people to lower the fucking volume, you know?"

"Yeah, no, sure." Normani nodded with an unimpressed expression. "Now tell me what really happened."

Lauren sighed and briefly told her that she'd attend the party she'd been called to take care of. She didn't give much details, only telling Normani it was Camila's, but that was enough to have the other girl biting her lower lip to contain the loud fit of laughter Lauren knew was trying to get out.

"Rehearsal Buster is kinda old, don't you think? I'm thinking Party Girl would suit you better." Normani said, appearing to be deep in thought, though her smirk told Lauren otherwise.

"Oh my God." Lauren groaned as she walked past her friend and headed towards the lockers. She could still hear Normani's laughter from afar.

When she returned, dressed in her skinny black jeans, a 1975 t-shirt and her leather jacket, Normani passed her by and muttered "go get her, Jauregui", which had Lauren blushing as she gave her report – leaving out some parts of it, obviously. Then, she rushed outside and into her car, back to Camila's house.

Arriving there, she buzzed Camila's intercom for the first time. A slightly familiar voice answered and asked who she was and upon hearing the answer, the door was opened in no time. Well, Lauren The Cop must be really famous amongst Camila's friends. It made her heart flutter, to think that the brown eyed girl told her friends about her.

When Lauren got to the second floor, the door to Camila's house was opened and the small Latina was planted on the doorway, as if waiting for the dark haired girl. When she noticed Lauren coming up the stairs, she broke into a huge grin and there went the stupid butterflies in Lauren's stomach again.

"Lolo, you came back!" She jumped to hug Lauren and this time the taller girl hugged her back tightly, ignoring for the time being the way her heart skipped a beat at the nickname.

"I said I would." She smiled brightly as they pulled away but kept in each other's arms. "You look beautiful."

"So do you." There wasn't even a bit of hesitation to Camila's words and Lauren felt her cheeks heat up a little. "I mean, thank you." The smaller Latina corrected herself, furrowing her brows in concentration. "But yeah, so do you." She smiled again before stepping back and taking Lauren's hand to drag her into the party. "Come on, I want you to meet my friends."

And so she did. Lauren talked to Shawn again, who had been the one to answer the intercom, and met a few girls named Jade, Hailee and Tori. Dinah was also there, and she hugged Lauren tightly – "Lauser The Cop! It's been too long!" – before excusing herself to grab more drinks. There was this couple making out who Camila told her were Harry and Louis – "You'll meet them later." – and other three guys, Niall, Liam and Zayn.

After saying hello to almost everyone, she could tell they were all a bit drunk, but no one seemed too out of it or close to passing out or throwing up. All of them looked older than twenty one, too, which was good (and by that she meant it made her feel less guilty for actually coming to the party). Camila herself was only more carefree and excited than what Lauren had learned to be her usual and besides a little goofiness and clumsiness – which Dinah had told her was completely normal for the shorter Latina – she seemed fine.

Lauren wasn't the most social person you could find, which was why she was – pleasantly – surprised to fit in so well in a party with eleven people, eight of which she didn't even know. Honestly? She was really enjoying it so far.

Now she was finally getting a drink with Camila and couldn't help herself but ask what had been on her mind since earlier.

"Why am I Lauren The Cop?"

Camila giggled. "Shawn told all of our friends about that noise complaint call you got and Zayn said it was like a good luck charm that it was so believable someone called the police." She took a pause and a sip of her drink before continuing. "Then after our run in at the coffee shop Dinah was like 'yo listen up, I met Lauren!' and our friends were like 'who??'" She chuckled and Lauren followed. She grabbed her cup and both girls made their way back to the living room. "So she said 'Lauren, the cop!' and that was it. Lauren The Cop was born."

"Why, I'm flattered to be the protagonist of such a beautiful story." Lauren joked, chuckling and earning a playful glare from Camila.

As the night continued, Lauren felt herself getting more and more intoxicated. She danced with Dinah, beat Louis in the karaoke she made Camila set up and even joined in an improvised game of beer pong. It was one of the best nights she'd had in quite some time.

"Hey, Lo, come here for a second." She heard Camila calling, but while she did smile at the nickname, she didn't turn her face as she was focused in throwing the ping pong ball in the right cup. She missed, which earned an "awww" from her partner, but Hailee would have to wait.

"What's up, Camz?" Lauren smiled, now turning to the brunette beside her.

Said brunette's grin got bigger and then turned soft but before Lauren's fogged mind could search for any hidden meaning to those actions, Camila was already grabbing her hand and dragging her to the sofa.

"You never gave me your number." Camila said, sitting close enough to Lauren that her left knee would bump together with the other girl's right one.

"You sure want it, huh?" The dark haired girl smirked, locking her eyes with Camila's.

"Not as much as you want to give it, huh." The brown eyed girl shot back.

"Sassy." Lauren chuckled.

"You're such a dork!" Camila suddenly exclaimed, giggling.

"Look who's talking." Lauren laughed a little more. "I don't mind it, I like your dorky self." She smiled fondly.

"I like my dorky self too." Camila said nonchalantly, making Lauren chuckle. "But I think I like you better."

All the while they were getting closer to each other and their thighs were now pressed against each other. Still, those words made Lauren's breath catch in her throat for a second.

"You know, I can't see you very well without my glasses. Do you mind coming a little closer?" Camila asked, her voice low and a little huskier than usual.

"You have your contacts on." Lauren answered with a smirk, but put her left hand in Camila's thigh anyway, turning her body to face the girl beside her.

"I know." She smiled slyly, her index and middle finger tracing Lauren's cheeks and leaving goosebumps all over her before going down and settling on the girl's neck.

Camila's thumb traced Lauren's lower lip and went on to caress her cheek after said girl started leaning in. Both brown and green eyes went shut and soon enough Lauren was tasting probably the softest pair of lips she'd ever kissed.

It was quick and chaste, and Lauren wanted more, so when they pulled back to look into each other's eyes for just a second, the green eyed girl didn't hesitate in closing the gap once again. This kiss was a bit deeper and Lauren cherished in the feeling of their lips moving together. She let her left hand wander up Camila's thigh as the right one pulled her closer. One of Camila's hands was in her hair and the other one was in her waist, though soon enough the shorter brunette found its way under Lauren's shirt.

Lauren smiled into the kiss as she felt Camila's hands on her bare back and chose that moment to press her tongue on the other girl's lower lip. She was immediately granted access and as the kiss deepened, so did her need for air. After a few more moments, they both pulled back, panting a little from the kiss. Lauren couldn't help the idiotic grin that made its way across her face as her eyes met Camila's and she was glad to see the brunette in front of her was just as happy as she was.

"Hot damn." Said a familiar voice behind her. "Get it, Mila."

Lauren turned her head to see Dinah – and almost everyone else – smirking. It was enough to remind her of where she was, and her cheeks seemed to catch fire right there.

She turned back to Camila, who was only smiling shyly, and ran a hand through her hair, chuckling.

"You still want my number?" She asked, tucking a lose strand of Camila's hair behind her ear and resting her hand gently on her face afterwards.

Camila giggled and leaned into the touch. "It can wait." She answered, her smile matching Lauren's.

As they kissed again, as Lauren felt Camila's lips curl into a smile and breathed in her scent, as someone changed the song in the background to "Kiss Me" by Ed Sheeran and Camila's friends cheered, the dark haired girl thought she should correct herself. This was definitely the best night she'd had in a long time. 

 Lauren woke up the next morning to the sound of her phone buzzing on the nightstand. Her body was warm and her eyelids felt heavy as she tried to open her eyes. Big mistake. As soon as the light hit her, not a second later, she closed them again. Her head was pounding and for a moment she couldn't remember why. Then it hit her: the party. Camila's party.

A party she couldn't remember ever leaving.

Lauren slowly opened her eyes again only to find herself in a strange room and a strange bed, with her phone resting on a strange nightstand. Something that wasn't strange, though, was the girl lying in front of the green eyed girl. Lauren realized then why she felt so warm, she was literally enveloping in the smaller Latina. Their legs were tangled together and her arm was draped across Camila's upper body as the girl's head was tucked under her chin, resting on Lauren's chest. Both her arms were hugging Lauren's torso and her warm, steady breathing sent shivers down the girl's spine.

Lauren's heart skipped a beat at the scene before her, both from slight panic and endearment. Panic because A: she shouldn't have slept over, B: she had a family lunch at her parent's house with her siblings and C: that was probably why her phone was buzzing. Endearment because Camila sleeping was probably the cutest sight she'd ever seen and she never wanted to get out of the bed.

Lauren smiled to herself as she felt the panic subsiding and memories from the night before came back to her mind. By the end of the party both girls had been so exhausted – and drunk – the only thing they managed to do was remove Camila's contact lenses – yes, both of them, because the owner of the brown eyes couldn't do it by herself but didn't want to get blind so she asked Lauren for help – and quickly remove their make up before falling on the bed.

Lauren's phone began buzzing again, effectively bringing her back to the present, but she didn't feel any kind of panic now, just this tiredness and warmness that threatened to take over her. She didn't want to pick up, know what time it was, get ready, meet her family. She wanted to go back to sleep and stay in bed with Camila forever. Lauren blamed the warm feeling in her heart for it, even if she didn't quite want to acknowledge what it was just yet.

Sighing, Lauren reached for her phone as quietly as possible so as to not wake up Camila and cringed as she saw the time. It was almost noon, which meant she should've been at her parent's house for almost half an hour now. The dark haired girl untangled herself from the apparently heavy sleeper beside her and closed herself in Camila's private bathroom.

"Hey, mom." Lauren greeted as soon as she answered the call, her voice hoarse from sleep and hangover. Her head still hurt and she honestly couldn't imagine a worst time to have lunch with her parents.

"What happened, Lauren?" Her mother's concerned voice reached her ears and Lauren shut her eyes tightly at the loud sound. "What's that voice? Are you okay?"

"It's nothing, I just overslept because I had a full day at work yesterday." She lied. Oh well, better than I partied all night and then slept at the host's house because I kind of have a crush on her and we made out a lot. "Sorry I'm late, I'll be there as soon as possible."

"Do you want to reschedule? We can if you're too tired." Clara, Lauren's mother, really was the best.

Still. "No, no, I'm going. Give me half an hour and I'll be there. I'm practically ready."

"But your apartment is further than thirty minutes from here." Clara countered, her voice growing suspicious.


"Hmm, I meant an hour, sorry. I'll be there in an hour, promise. Love you, mom! Bye!" Lauren quickly hung up and leaned on the sink for support as she thought about what to do next.

She was doomed, that was for certain. Okay, not really doomed, but her mom was already probably going on about the secret relationship she always assumed Lauren was in. If Lauren wanted to prove her wrong, or at least keep this quiet for now, she needed to hurry the fuck up. But first, she really needed to cover the multiple hickey on the side of her neck.

Lauren rushed out of the bathroom and grabbed her bag before going back inside and masking the bruises the best way she could. She also washed her face and put on some makeup to make herself more presentable after brushing her teeth with the tooth brush she kept on her purse when going to work – you never know, right?

When Lauren returned to the bedroom, she realized Camila still didn't have her number and she didn't have hers either, which meant she couldn't leave a text. Groaning, she looked around for a pen and some paper she could use, smiling when she caught sight of a small notebook in a corner of the room. The dark haired girl didn't waste any time in ripping off a page and writing down her number alongside a small note.

The words "sorry for not staying, had a family lunch, but at least now you have my number" were still fresh in Lauren's mind as she closed Camila's front door and rushed to her car. 

 Lauren was right to assume that her mother would be going nuts with theories about all the secret relationships she had. The girl's headache had already gone away by the time she arrived at her parent's house, but Lauren had a feeling it might be back by the end of lunch. If Clara's knowing smile when she greeted her daughter was any indication, she guessed she was probably right.

Lunch was as pleasant as it always was with Lauren's family, which were great people, but Lauren couldn't wait for it to end so she could go back to her place and sleep until her hangover went away. If anyone noticed how the green eyed girl seemed to stay away from any source of bright light and found it suspicious, they didn't mention it, but she bet everyone knew about her state and just didn't say anything. It's not like they'd never saw a hungover Lauren before, after all.

Talking revolved mostly around her siblings' college and her job, but eventually it all came down to relationships. Chris was in a lasting one, after all, so Lauren should've seen this coming.

"How's Emily, Chris?" Clara asked as they were starting to eat dessert.

"She's great." Chris smiled. "We're great, actually. We've been talking about moving in together so we can get out of our college dorms and live somewhere decent without going completely broke." He chuckled, taking a piece of the delicious pie their mother had baked. "Our jobs pay well enough, so why not, you know?"

Clara smiled proudly and Lauren couldn't help but share the feeling. Both Chris and Emily were in med school and yet he found the time and energy to work as a barista in Starbucks while his girlfriend waitressed tables at a dinner on campus. They were both pretty amazing, if you ask Lauren.

Taylor had just gotten into college, so she was mostly partying and not in any relationship right now, but that didn't stop their mother from speculating. Clara meant well and it certainly was kind of funny when you weren't under the spotlight, so all the siblings – nowadays only Lauren and Taylor – rolled with it, even if it was embarrassing and gave them minor headaches sometimes. So once the questionnaire with Lauren's sister ended and Clara turned to her, she braced herself.

"What about you, sweetheart?" Her mother started, looking at her with that knowing smile, though her eyes were loving. "Feel like sharing something with us?"

"Nah, not really." Lauren replied around a mouthful of pie. "There's nothing to tell, to be honest."

"So what are those on your neck?" Chris smiled, holding in his laughter.

Lauren's eyes widened and she shot her brother the most deadly look she could muster while she resisted the urge to cover the hickeys with her hands. Chris seemed scared for a moment but soon enough he started laughing quietly, joined by Taylor, who took a quick glance to her sister's neck before snorting.

"What? This? I just fell." She shrugged, trying to look nonchalant though she wasn't sure that was possible after the little scene with her siblings.

"On someone's lips?" Her father, Mike, spoke up wearing a smirk. Lauren swore to God he was worse than Chris sometimes.

"Okay dad, you have got stop watching reruns of Friends." Lauren muttered, looking down for a moment before meeting her mother's eyes again. "It's nothing, okay?" She smiled reassuringly. "I'm not secretly dating anyone, you'd be the first to know about any relationship I was in."

"Okay, but is that," Clara pointed to the apparently visible hickeys, "why you weren't home last night?"

"Oh my God."

Lauren let her head fall in her hands while her siblings cackled by her side and Mike reprimanded his wife for being tactless – "Let her tell us about the girls she hooks up with when she's comfortable, honey". When she thought the embarrassment couldn't get any bigger, her phone buzzed, but fortunately only Taylor saw it and Lauren sent her a look deadly enough to make her keep her mouth shut. She was a cop after all.

But when Lauren opened the text app under the table and saw a message by an unknown number that said "good morning, now you have mine too", a smile crept across her lips and she couldn't help but wonder if her mother had a sixth sense for this kind of thing. Lauren knew what she hoped for. 

Lauren had her eyes closed as she panted heavily, but she still felt and heard Camila collapse by her side on the bed. She gave herself a while to breathe and recuperate from the most incredible orgasm the smaller girl had given her yet before opening her green eyes and locking them with brown. Smiling lazily but happily, she reached for Camila, who wore a similar expression and didn't hesitate but come closer.

"This was amazing." Lauren breathed, kissing the tip of her girlfriend's nose. "You're amazing."

"I know." The other Latina replied with a chuckle before scrunching up her nose in response and tilting her head up to give a smirking Lauren a proper kiss.

Camila had also gotten her release earlier, so for now the couple just exchanged light kisses and cuddled. They lied in each other's arms for a while, the room silent apart from the playlist playing on the stereo of Camila's room and Lauren couldn't help but think about the two months they'd been together now and how she couldn't remember ever being this happy.

(She knew her mother had probably never been happier when she told her she was in a relationship, even if she hadn't met Camila yet because of her busy schedule rehearsing for the play.)

"You know I love being like this, but I'm starving." Camila giggled into Lauren's neck, the sound of her voice and laughter vibrating through the taller girl's body.

Lauren couldn't help the loud laugh that came out at that. "You're always starving, Camz." She exclaimed, smiling fondly.

"It's really bad, though. I could probably eat an entire pizza right now." Camila stated, lacing her fingers together with Lauren's.

"I guess we could go out..." Camila shook her head very slightly and very slowly with an innocent expression. "Or we could just order."

"Yes! How do you always read my mind like that, baby?" Camila giggled happily before placing a gentle kiss on Lauren's lips.

"Must be magic." Lauren murmured against Camila's mouth before smiling and kissing her again, this time more deeply.

Camila pulled back shortly after that and Lauren guessed she didn't want things to escalate until she ordered her pizza. The green eyed girl was still sprawled on the bed, smiling as she saw her girlfriend get up and pick up the phone to order the biggest pepperoni pizza Domino's had. As soon as we she was done, she threw herself back on her bed.

Some song was playing and Lauren didn't even know who sang it but it had a nice beat and she couldn't say she minded the music as she scooted closer to Camila.

"What do you say we take a shower before the pizza arrives?" She murmured, her voice raspy and low.

The dark haired girl didn't even wait for an answer before she started leaving a trail of kisses down Camila's neck, lightly sucking on her pulse point the way she knew drove her girlfriend crazy. The moan she heard not a second later proved her theory and Lauren smirked against Camila's smooth caramel skin.

"I mean, to save water, obviously." Lauren paused long enough to say this before returning her attack on her girlfriend, moving to her collarbone now. She could feel Camila's hand squeezing her waist, where the girl's hand had previously been resting.

"I- I think. Lauren." Camila tried to formulate a sentence without much success. Chuckling, Lauren stopped for a moment to give her girlfriend the chance to speak. "Maybe we shouldn't, Lo. I mean, it's going to take twice as long and not save any water whatsoever."

Lauren let out a giggle and pecked Camila's lips quickly before tucking a strand of hair behind her girlfriend's ear. She knew the brunette was big on recycling and saving water and anything that was good for the planet. Lauren found it awesome and the number of things she'd learned in the two months she'd been dating Camila was mind blowing, but she couldn't help but also think it was endearing and – lovingly – make fun of her girlfriend for it.

"But if it takes twice as long as a regular shower, then it's the same as each of us taking our own shower and sharing one is so much more fun." She raised an eyebrow suggestively and gave Camila the smile she knew the brown eyed girl loved.

Camila was nodding – seriously at first, which was amusing to Lauren, but soon enough she was smiling – and bit her lower lip as if to contain a giggle from coming out of her or her smile from stretching too much across her face.

"Okay." She said simply before pulling Lauren even closer to kiss her one more time.

This time, Lauren was the one to pull away and get out of the bed, extending a hand to help her girlfriend up before leading her into the bathroom. Before they could take more than a couple of steps, though, the doorbell rang.

Both girls looked at each other, confused looks stamped on their faces. Lauren looked towards the door when she heard a few knocks and paused the music.

"Maybe it's the pizza?" She tried, her brows furrowed.

"They didn't buzz the intercom and it's too soon anyway. It can't be them." Camila replied, shrugging.

Sighing, Lauren walked around the room and grabbed one of Camila's robes from inside her closet. She did have a drawer but she didn't own a robe like that and knew her way around the smaller Latina's closet, especially since her own apartment was further from the station than Camila's and Lauren often used that as an excused to sleep at her girlfriend's.

"Go ahead if you want, I'm gonna go get it. It's probably just one of your neighbors." Lauren reasoned, looking over her shoulder as she walked out of the bedroom.

Camila shrugged and threw the green eyed girl a kiss before picking up her glasses from the nightstand and heading into the bathroom. Lauren turned her head again and went straight to the front door, picking up her pace as she heard yet another loud knock.

"Coming!" She called, before muttering a quiet, "Jesus, people really have no patience these days."

Lauren thought she should ask how she could help whoever was on the other side of the door.

Well, as she opened it and her eyes met Normani's, all thoughts vanished at once.

"What the fuck?"

"Oh God."

"Lo? Is everything okay?"

The first thing that came into Lauren's mind when it decided to work again was that she was going to kill Mrs. Banks. The second thing was that Normani looked like she was about to let out the biggest fit of laughter she'd ever had in her entire life, so she did what any responsible grownup who had majored in criminology would do in such a situation: she lunched forward and covered her friend's mouth with her hand.

"What the fuck!" Normani repeated, this time more amused than confused, her voice muffled by her friend's hand.

It was then that Lauren heard Camila's footsteps behind her and oh God, this situation couldn't get any more embarrassing.

"Lauren, what are you doing?" Camila's voice sounded more alarmed than before, which was understandable. "Who is th- Oh! Normani, hi!"

A quick look back at Camila told Lauren the other girl caught on to what had happened and was just an embarrassed as she was. The green eyed girl knew that, out of the two of them, she tended to blush more often and more intensely, but Camila's face was about just as red as she guessed her own must've been if the heat on her cheeks were any indication.

Normani glared at Lauren, clearly over the whole "hand-in-mouth" thing, so the younger of the two took a step back, freeing her friend's mouth. Normani then turned to address Camila with a quick "hey Mila" before facing Lauren again. This was it. This was how Lauren would die – of embarrassment. She hoped her parents donated all her money to Green Peace or something, at least that way Camila would have something to be happy about after her departure.

"So..." Normani started, amusement returning to her eyes now that she was free to speak and breathe properly. Lauren took a step back to stand beside Camila, who held her hand and intertwined their fingers. "I'm sure you're familiar with Mrs. Banks by now."

They surely were.

"Well she called us because you two were listening to too loud music aaaand because certain noises could be heard through it." Normani concluded, attempting – and failing – at keeping a straight face.

If Lauren really wanted Green Peace to have her money when she died, maybe she should've written something. There would be no time now, she could already feel her heart giving out.

"Why can't Mrs. Banks just talk to us?" Camila suddenly exclaimed, her brows furrowed. "It's not like I live far away, it's literally one door to the right."

She was flustered and slightly aggravated, but the color on her cheeks had begun to fade and she even seemed to be okay with the situation, which, how?

Normani only shrugged at Camila's question. "Well, I don't know, but by the looks of you two I can guess what the noises were and well, I'll just be on my way then?" Normani chuckled. "Bye Mila." Then she turned to Lauren with a mischievous grin. "Bye, Screamer, try keeping it low next time."

Oh my God.

When even Camila couldn't suppress a loud snort, a fit of giggles and a breathless "bye Mani", Lauren's eyes widened and she let go of her girlfriend's hand. Both her and Normani – who had made no motion of leaving despite having said fucking goodbye already – were laughing and Lauren just felt so betrayed. Well, not really, but she felt like digging a hole on the ground so she could stick her head in it and never ever talk to either of them again.

So she did the best next thing: she ran inside.

Normani's laugh was already dying by then but like a phoenix it rose from its ashes with full force after Lauren's quick escape. The green eyed girl guessed she must've doubled over by now, which she always did when she laughed too hard. But who cares? Where was her ID? Her passport? How long until she could change her name?

"Wait, Lo, no." A chuckle. "Oh God, I gotta go Mani, we'll talk later okay?"

"Sure, bye Mila."

Why did Normani like to say goodbye so much? Did she not understand that after the first one you're supposed to go?

Lauren heard the front door shutting but she was already at Camila's bedroom, closing herself inside it.

"Lo, wait, come here. St-"

She didn't see Camila or heard what she said next because the door was closed and her face was buried on her pillow. Literally. Lauren couldn't even breathe properly because she just threw herself on the bed and lied on her stomach. Not even the sound of the door opening drew her attention or made her change her position.

"Did you just close the door on my fa- face?" At first Camila sounded kind of mad, so Lauren thought she should turn to face her, but her voice got softer as she spoke and she hesitated on the last word, so Lauren didn't. Before she could do anything she heard a sigh. "You act all tough and stuff but you're honestly such a dork sometimes. How can I be mad at you when you're like that? It looks like you're dead or something."

"I am." Lauren's voice was so muffled by the pillow even she couldn't hear herself, so she finally turned her head so the side of her face was resting against the pillow while she continued to lie on her stomach. "I am. Dead, I mean. Of embarrassment."

Lauren could finally see Camila. Her girlfriend had been standing near the door with her arms crossed and a half amused, half mad expression on her face, but a fond smile took its place across it as soon as Lauren spoke up. Camila's brown eyes also softened and she uncrossed her arms, sighing before shaking her head lightly and walking towards the bed. She sat on the edge of it, all the while not breaking eye contact with the raven haired girl, and began running her fingers through Lauren's hair.

"It's not that bad, baby. It's just Mani." Her smile got a little bigger, but was just as loving as initially.

"Exactly. Do you think it's too late to change my name to Emily and move to Canada?" Lauren asked around a yawn. It was late after all and they'd had quite the activity earlier.

"Nope." Camila answered, popping the p. She was just so cute, Lauren just had to smile up at her while the younger girl scrunched up her nose. "But I do like the name Lauren and Canada is even colder than New York, so let's just stay here, okay?"

Lauren's breath caught in her throat at accidental confession.

"You'd follow Emily to Canada?" She asked quietly, turning her body and propping herself on her elbow so she could face Camila better. "But this is your home."

Said girl's hand stopped her motions on Lauren's hair as the meaning of her words probably dawned on her. Soon enough she was retreating her hand and Lauren felt her heart fall. That is, until Camila took off her glasses, returned them to the nightstand and lied down beside the dark haired girl, softly pecking her lips.

"Of course I would. Home is where your heart is at, it doesn't have to be a place." Camila smiled shyly and Lauren couldn't help the grin that took over her face. "I'd follow Emily anywhere." She added sweetly.

Lauren threw her head back in laughter before letting herself fall back on the bed and hugging a surprised Camila to pull her as close as possible. Their noses were touching now and they were so close Lauren could barely resist the urge to lean forward and kiss the shit out of her girlfriend.

"What about Lauren?" She asked with a smirk, her voice low.

It was Camila's time to chuckle as she slapped Lauren's shoulder. "Cut the bullshit, Jauregui."

"Make me, Cabello."

So she kissed her. Deeply. And sure as hell, that did the job. At some point they both had to pull away for air, though, and Lauren let her gaze wander across Camila's face. Her eyes were still closed and her cheeks were flustered, but she had a bashful smile on her face and Lauren honestly didn't know what she'd done to deserve such an amazing girl. At this point Lauren was pretty sure she loved Camila – actually, she knew she was madly in love with her – but they hadn't exchanged those three little words yet, so she told her girlfriend whatever her heart felt like expressing at the moment.

"You're beautiful, you know?" She said in a soft tone. Camila's eyes opened slowly at that, her cheeks slightly redder than before. "Inside and out." Lauren continued, reaching for Camila's cheek and caressing it with her thumb. Her girlfriend leaned into the touch, her eyes fluttering as they closed once more, and her smile widened.

"You're too good for me." Camila whispered contently before opening her eyes again. "And way more beautiful than me, while we're at it."

Lauren scoffed. "Am not."

"Yes you are."

"I can do this all night, I don't have to work tomorrow." Lauren suddenly blurted out, raising an eyebrow in challenge.

"You know, we still haven't taken that shower and we barely have clothes on... I could think of other things we could do all night." Camila suggested, the innocence in her tone contrasting the look in her eyes.

Lauren guessed it didn't have the effect Camila planned on achieving, because the only thing she managed to do was grimace and hide her face on the crook of the brown eyed girl's neck.

"Oh God." She groaned. "Normani is probably laughing her ass off with the whole station by now."

"Oh, baby, no, it's okay." Camila apparently struggled to contain her own laughter at the moment as she was reminded of what had just happened, but she kept her arms around Lauren and rubbed her back soothingly so the green eyed girl didn't really care. "I'm sure they won't bother you... too much."

"Have you met them?" Lauren pulled back to look into brown eyes. "I went from Rehearsal Buster to Party Girl in like two weeks and then there was the babe fiasco..." Camila let out a loud chuckle at that, but Lauren ignored it as she continued. "And now I'm gonna be Screamer forever. And it wasn't even me! You're the one that's too loud."

"Can you blame me, though?" Camila asked, biting her lower lip.

(Probably to keep her grin from stretching too much. This girl.)

"Good point." She smirked a little. "Anyway, maybe you should find a new apartment. These walls are way too thin, Mrs. Banks is probably hearing this entire conversation."

"I don't know, maybe we should thank her." Camila said, now moving her hand up and down Lauren's arm. "We wouldn't have met each other if it wasn't for her."

"True, but wouldn't you like some privacy? Like, when we're at my place, no one ever disturbs us." Lauren pointed out.

Camila stared into nothing and stayed quiet for a while after that and while their silence was usually comfortable, for some reason Lauren felt the need to break this one.


"I was just thinking..." Her hands, which were still absentmindedly caressing Lauren's arm, suddenly came to a halt as she locked her eyes with Lauren's. "Do you think it's too soon to move in together?"

Lauren hoped her gasp wasn't audible, but by the way Camila averted her gaze and retreated her hand from the older girl's arm, she guessed it had been.

"Sorry, it is, I- I shouldn't have asked at all." She stuttered, but Lauren only shook her head and grabbed her hand.

Camila's insecure side usually came out on subjects like this, but there really was no need for it. Lauren had been surprised, but that was all. If she were being honest, she had thought about it herself on more than one occasion. And while yeah, it could be considered too soon to move in together, she didn't really care about socially acceptable standards when she knew there would be no one else she'd want to share a house with. At the end of the day, like Camila herself had said, home wasn't necessarily a place. To Lauren, it was a certain brown eyed Latina who had stolen her heart – and she had no intention of taking it back.

So she brought Camila's hand to her lips and kissed her knuckles, one by one, before telling her that.

Watching a huge grin make its way across Camila's face was the best answer she could have received. And when the pizza arrived and Camila got up to pay for it, she thought maybe her girlfriend was right: she should thank Mrs. Banks. If it weren't for her, she might have never met the one person that made her happier than she ever thought possible.

Lauren finally got up to join Camila on the living room and the look on her girlfriend's face when their eyes met felt so much like home that Lauren figured they could be anywhere and she'd be happy as long as they were together.

If Lauren could name a facial expression, she'd say it looked like falling in love.

Maybe words weren't always needed after all.

Chapter Text

"Lauren, have you seen my contacts case?"

"I think I saw it on your nightstand drawer? Try there." 

Camila walked out of the bathroom and into her room, almost running into her girlfriend while doing so. Lauren let out a "woah there" and chuckled before walking around the brunette and into the bathroom to do whatever it was she had to do there in the first place. Camila didn't laugh, though. Blame her nerves, but she was almost desperate as she walked around the house getting ready to go out.

It had been a week since they had had that conversation about moving in together but despite Lauren seeming very excited about it, they hadn't made any more moves towards it.

(Camila knew she shouldn't feel guilty about the situation, but how could she not when she also knew it was mostly due to her busy schedule?)

The truth was that with that commitment, the question of when Camila would meet Lauren's parents was raised. They had been dating for a while now and the green eyed girl had been thrilled when the younger one brought it up, saying she had a free Sunday in which they could have lunch with the Jaureguis.

Which lead them here, to an overly excited Lauren and an almost hectic Camila – she was pretty sure the only time she'd ever been this nervous about meeting someone had been at the auditions for her play, and that was saying something.

So as she reached her nightstand and found her contacts case, she huffed in exasperation and sat down on the bed to breathe for a minute. Lauren, who had been applying light makeup on the bathroom, noticed this and made a beeline for Camila with a warm smile on her face.

"Stop worrying." Lauren said once she reached her. Standing in between her legs, the dark haired girl cupped her girlfriend's cheeks and Camila leaned into the touch, allowing herself to close her eyes for a second. "They'll love you, I'm sure of it. They already do and you know it."

Camila smiled at that, finally opening her eyes to meet sparkling green ones. "Well, that's only because I'm your first girlfriend in years."

Lauren retreated her hand and her body, faking annoyance, but the tiny smile that threatened to take over her face betrayed her. "Low blow, Cabello. It's not my fault you're the first one to reach my standards since high school."

Lauren's voice grew soft at the last sentence, and though her tone remained playful, Camila felt heart palpitations at the sweet compliment from her girlfriend. Her girlfriend. Sometimes Camila still couldn't believe that after all the lame attempts at relationships and poor excuses for boyfriends and girlfriends she'd had over the last few years, she finally had someone she knew cared deeply for her. Sometimes Camila had to make sure Lauren was real and not just some product of her mind.

Most of the time the brunette did that by kissing her.

So when Camila got up and turned Lauren's pretend-annoyed figure around by the waist, pulling her close, the young cop didn't hesitate to meet her lips on a quick but heated kiss.

Camila could already feel some of her nerves vanishing and she knew she had her girlfriend to thank for it. Pulling back and opening her eyes, she was met with nothing short of pure affection and she hoped her own eyes showed everything her heart felt and wasn't ready to say just yet.

"You're right, I have nothing to worry about. What's not to like about me anyway?"

Lauren's head fell back in laughter after that, and Camila couldn't stop the grin that widened across her face. Her grip on Lauren's waist tightened as her laughter died down and she stole another quick kiss, into which she felt more than heard the older girl murmur "you dork".

She chuckled against Lauren's lips and pulled back, this time untangling herself from her girlfriend and walking back to the bathroom to put on her contacts and finish getting ready.

"Your dork." Camila corrected playfully, throwing a smirking Lauren a wink over her shoulder before turning back to the mirror.

No matter how nervous she was, she wanted this. Even if her previous relationships had left her a little anxious about expressing her feelings, which she guessed was why she hadn’t said “I love you” yet, Camila was one hundred percent sure about committing to Lauren and if meeting the parents – the most nerve wrecking experience for everyone ever – was part of the deal, so be it. If she were being honest with herself, she couldn't wait to meet the people who raised Lauren into the amazing human being she'd been proving herself to be every day since she entered Camila's life.

It was oddly warm for a January day, but Camila decided to wear one of her big coats. Just in case it got cold. It had nothing to do with the fact that along with her scarf and beanie, she practically disappeared. Despite the desire to meet Lauren's parents, as soon as she stepped outside her apartment her nerves had come back – slowly but surely, as if every inch closer to her girlfriend's childhood home increased her nervousness.

Now they stood at the front door of the two story house, hand in hand, as Lauren rang the doorbell and shot her a big but bashful smile. The color in her cheeks told Camila everything she needed to know: the dark haired girl may pretend to be all cool and collected, but she knew Lauren was just as nervous as she was.

"It's going to be okay, you'll see." Lauren said reassuringly, running her thumb across the back of Camila's hand.

Before the young actress had a chance to reply, the front door swung open to reveal a middle aged woman with long hair and a huge grin on her face as she looked directly at Camila. Clara gave her a quick once over, making Camila feel a little self-conscious about her exaggerated outfit, before her smile widened and she turned to her daughter.

“Lauren, darling, come inside, you two must be cold.” She took a step back and gestured for both of them to enter the house. Once they were inside, Clara closed the door behind her back came closer to Camila. “You must be Camila. I’m Clara, Lauren’s mother. I’m so happy to finally meet you, you’re even more beautiful than Taylor said Lauren told her. Not that she hasn’t told us, but I think Taylor mentioned her being a little more enthusiastic on the phone with her.” Clara laughed a little with that smile still on her face.

Camila could hear Lauren’s groan as Clara moved in to give her a tight hug. Camila was quick to mirror the smile on the older woman’s face and hug back, glancing at her girlfriend’s incredulous face while doing so. She had to stifle a laugh at her expression. Lauren had warned the brunette that her parents might be a little “extra”, as she’d put it, and that had unsettled her a little bit, but if this was what she’d meant, Camila had no reason to worry.

Clara pulled back and Camila took it as an opportunity to speak up as well. “I’m so happy to finally meet you as well. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to do so earlier, you know how life gets sometimes.” She chuckled softly, making Clara nod her head, the now warm smile still present on her lips.

“Oh, it’s okay sweetie, I totally understand. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to embarrass my daughter just a little bit more.” She said with a wink before turning to engulf Lauren in a big hug.

Camila laughed a little harder this time, watching how, despite the redness of her cheeks, Lauren was smiling and hugging her mom just as tightly as the older woman was holding her. A warmness took over her heart as she noticed how much love there was between the two of them and she could already tell Clara was a great mother.

Just as they separated, a big man came into the hall. Camila assumed he was Lauren’s father because the scowl he was wearing was too similar to her girlfriend’s. And if her suspicions were right, he wouldn’t be able to maintain it much longer, just like his daughter. Still, she couldn’t help the anxiousness that settled on the pit of her stomach. She looked at Lauren, who wore an unimpressed expression as she stared at her father.

“Dad.” She said sternly, but the little smile that spread through her lips was enough to make Camila smile as well.

As if on cue, as soon as Camila turned to him again, his scowl turned into a smile and he laughed before opening his arms, hugging the young actress quickly before pulling back and putting his hand on her shoulder.

“Welcome to our house, kiddo. I’m Michael, Mike if you will, but you probably already know that. I hope you’re hungry, we got you chicken nuggets. Taylor said Lauren told her they were your favorite food besides pizza and we couldn’t get pizza, so we made those.”

He chuckled and Camila couldn’t help the smile that took over her face. Mike and Clara were seriously two of the nicest people she’d ever met and she only knew them for some minutes. She could definitely see where Lauren got her kind heart from. She turned to her girlfriend, who looked somewhat annoyed now, and Camila wondered why, but returned her eyes to Mike.

“Thank you so much, you and Clara are very kind.” Mike removed his hand, a proud little smirk on his lips, and Camila took a step closer to Lauren, holding her hand and intertwining their fingers. She didn’t look at her girlfriend, but she could feel some tension leaving her and she knew she was receiving the biggest heart eyes in the history of mankind. “Oh, and you have a lovely house.”

“Oh, darling, thank you.” Clara smiled bashfully. “Well, let me get your coats and then we can go.” She exclaimed cheerily, taking the girls’ coats and jackets and hanging them before guiding them through the house and into the dining room.

Camila saw this as an opportunity to get a glimpse inside Lauren’s mind and figure out what was bothering her, so she squeezed her hand lightly to get her attention as they walked together.

“What’s wrong, baby?” She asked quietly, stroking the back of the green eyed girl’s hand with her thumb.

Lauren shrugged. “Nothing much. It’s silly, actually.” Her eyebrows knit together and Camila bit her lip to suppress a giggle – Lauren was just too cute sometimes. “I just can’t believe Taylor tells them everything I say about you!” She huffed, rolling her eyes. “I mean, what else has she told my mom? What if she starts asking weird questions in the middle of lunch and I choke on my food or something?”

Camila couldn’t suppress her laughter anymore and Lauren looked at her through narrowed eyes before she let out a sigh and ran her free hand through her hair. When she looked at Camila again, a small smile played on her lips.

“I’m sorry, I’m rambling again.”

“Don’t apologize, I love it when you do that.” Camila quickly replied, bringing Lauren’s hand to her lips to give it a kiss. “And don’t worry about Taylor, she probably hasn’t said anything out of line.”

“I’m just nervous, I guess, even if I pretend I’m not.” Lauren chuckled. “I don’t know how you manage to be so calm right now when earlier you were such a wreck. I’d be having a nervous breakdown in your place.”

Camila giggled just as they reached the dining room. Both girls stopped and the brunette tucked a strand of Lauren’s hair behind her ear, leaning in to peck her lips quickly once her girlfriend’s parents exited the room to get the food from the kitchen.

“I know.” She said, earning a playful glare from Lauren. “It’s just… I met them and realized I had nothing to be nervous about, that’s all.” She shrugged a little, suddenly feeling shy.

Lauren was quiet for a moment, raising her free hand, which had been resting on Camila’s hip, to caress her cheek. “You’re amazing, you know that?”

“You can’t seem to stop telling me that, so yeah, I know.” Camila was smirking now, and Lauren laughed out loud for a moment, her green eyes full of affection. “You’re amazing too, Lo.”

The older girl leaned in for a chaste kiss before they separated when Camila heard footsteps walking back into the dining room. Clara was smiling widely as she put some delicious looking dishes down on the table, quickly followed by Mike.

The four of them sat around the table and talked about lots of things, ranging from all of their jobs to their preference between puppies or kittens – Lauren could barely decide without having a meltdown right there and Camila couldn’t hold her giggles inside of her that time. The actress had begun feeling more and more comfortable around both Clara and Mike as time went by, given as they were nothing short of amazing. She even started to notice Lauren’s smile on her father’s face and her sense of humor on Clara’s eventual quick comebacks at something her husband said. Watching their interactions was endearing and quite funny at times, and Camila didn’t mind when they seemed to forget about the other people at the table and talked between themselves for a moment. It gave her the perfect opportunity to look at Lauren and the look of pure happiness on her face was enough to make Camila have a hard time breathing.

(Lauren’s light was so bright Camila thought she might go blind if she didn’t look away.)

Lauren seemed to notice this and turned her attention to the girl beside her with a shy smile on her lips and color tinting her cheeks. Camila felt her own smile growing as she reached for her girlfriend’s hand under the table, squeezing it and lacing their fingers. The smaller brunette always loved making Lauren flustered, especially as it was something easy to accomplish and endearing to watch. This time, though, she guessed her gaze was so full of affection she made the green eyed girl blush unintentionally, and if you ask her, that’s even better.

(She didn’t want to look away.)

They stared at each other’s eyes for a second, or maybe more, probably more, but Camila was used to getting lost in their staring matches by now. She always found funny how Lauren had once said she could drown in her chocolate brown eyes for hours when she had trouble keeping herself from stargazing into the galaxies disguised as Lauren’s green ones. Camila wasn’t sure how long they would keep their gazes locked if Clara hadn’t spoken up, making both girls turn to her.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Mrs. Jauregui, I didn’t hear you.” Camila apologized, trying to look composed again, though she felt her cheeks heating up a little from being caught in a moment with Lauren.

“It’s okay, darling, and please call me Clara.” Clara waved it off before taking a small bite of her chicken nugget. “I was just asking you about your parents. They must be very proud of you, since you’re starring on a play and everything.”


Lauren froze beside Camila but the brown eyed girl only squeezed her hand again before she could say anything, which made her turn her head towards her girlfriend, a concerned look on her face. Camila gave her a small nod before facing Clara and Mike, who were now slightly confused.

“Well, I’m sure they must be, wherever they are.” She gave them a sad little smile before continuing. “They died when I was eleven, so I can’t really know, but I hope so.”

“Oh. I’m so sorry, Camila.” Clara looked speechless and actually kind of mortified by what had just happened, so Camila’s first instinct was to make sure to change that. If she was anything like Lauren, and the young actress could bet she was, she’d beat herself up for that and she really shouldn’t, seen as it had been years since it’d happened and Clara clearly didn’t know.

“It’s fine, it was a long time ago.” Camila shrugged a little bit, the same sad smile on her lips. She felt Lauren’s thumb caressing the back of her hand and looked into her loving eyes to find all kinds of support – and some concern or it wouldn’t be Lauren – there.

“Still. We’re very sorry.” Mike filled the silence for his wife, honesty evident in every word he said.

“Thank you.” Camila replied, looking back at the two of them. “My adoptive parents, though, I can tell you they’re very proud.”

Clara smiled at that. “I’m sure they must be wonderful people.”

“They are. They used to be two of my parents’ closest friends and their son, Shawn, was actually my best friend since birth, basically.” The brunette let out a small chuckle at that, feeling some of the sadness leave her small smile as some happy memories now replaced it. “You see, all my relatives live in Cuba and I really didn’t want to leave, so Karen and Manuel talked to my grandmother after they decided they wanted to adopt me and soon enough it was done.”

“I’m really happy you had good people to take care of you, especially after such a tragic event.” Mike exclaimed with serious yet soft eyes, and Camila felt her heart get warmer.

“Me too.” She heard Lauren mutter by her side and for a second she felt her eyes water as they locked with green ones, but she swallowed the bump in her throat and looked down at her plate. Before she could say anything, though, Lauren softly kissed her cheek, making her heart skip a beat, and she had to take a deep breath to keep herself calm.

“Thank you,” was all Camila could to let out, but it was enough.

“You’re most welcome, darling.” Clara said, a warm expression in her eyes. A whole minute went by without anyone saying anything, and the silence was starting to get uncomfortable, before Lauren’s mother continued. “And what do you think of the food, Camila?”

“Oh. It’s very good, actually. You’re a wonderful cook.” Camila replied honestly.

The brown eyed girl would be lying if she said she hadn’t been caught off guard by the sudden change of subject, but she couldn’t deny she liked how quickly Clara lifted up the mood with the light topic of conversation. She couldn’t help but like Lauren’s mother even more for it.

“Thank you, you’re too kind.” Clara smiled warmly and the tense mood that had been formed vanished after a few more moments. It was then that the older woman faced Lauren with a small smirk on her lips, which in turn made Lauren frown a little bit. “Now can you tell me how you two met? Because Lauren here always tells me it was simply because of work, never getting into details but I just know there’s more to the story.”

Lauren groaned. “Mom…”

“And by that she means to ask you if you were responsible for Lauren being late to our family lunch two months ago.” Mike added with fake innocence all over his tone.

“I can’t believe this.” Lauren retreated her hand from Camila’s and crossed her arms on the table, letting her head fall on them and hiding her probably red face from everyone else.

Camila herself was a little too flustered to function at this point and let out a nervous chuckle. Looking to her side, she saw Lauren turn her head a little bit and murmur “extra” to her girlfriend. Camila was beginning to understand what her girlfriend had meant, but, despite her nervousness, she couldn’t help the laugh that came out of her. She let her hand rest on Lauren’s knee, meaning to bring her girlfriend back into the conversation. Lauren only raised her head to glare at her parents before taking Camila’s hand and intertwining their fingers again.

“Well, it’s a funny story, actually. It all began with my neighbor, Mrs. Banks…”

“See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

Lauren turned to Camila with an amused expression for only a second before training her eyes back on the streets. They were going to her apartment to pass time until the young cop had to do some paperwork for the station, which Camila knew she was what she disliked the most about her job.

“I should be the one telling you that.” She chuckled. “They are my parents, after all.”

“Yeah, but you’re the one who almost lost it back there when they started talking about how we met.” Camila grinned, trying to stifle her laughter.

It didn’t go unnoticed by Lauren, who glanced her way before huffing playfully and lightly pushing her girlfriend away. Camila let out a big laugh at that, leaning back on her seat when she judged safe.

“Real safe and mature, Officer Jauregui.” The brunette teased, smiling.

“Shut up.” Lauren chuckled. “I remember you being all nervous before, so don’t pretend like you’re oh, so collected.”

Camila raised her hands in defeat, still smirking. If that was what she wanted, then Camila wouldn’t speak at all. She met Lauren’s challenging green eyes for a moment before turning on the radio and setting it on her favorite station. Lauren’s entire demeanor changed when she heard what was playing, making Camila’s smirk grow until it became a full shit eating grin.

“No, Camz, wai-” She began, but Camila had other plans.

“Is it too late now to say sorry?!” She sang at the top of her lungs when the song reached its chorus.

“Camz, stooop!” Lauren whined, trying to pout without much success because of the smile that threatened to take over her face.

“’Cause I’m missing more than just your body!” Camila continued, starting her own little dance.

Lauren apparently couldn’t hold It in anymore and started laughing out loud, gripping the steering wheel harder and glancing every few seconds at Camila.

“Is it too late now to say sorry? Yeah I know that I let you down, is it too late to say I’m so-” Camila was suddenly – and rudely, might she add – interrupted by a hand covering her mouth, just as they reached the traffic lights.

“Noooo!” Lauren exclaimed, turning fully to her girlfriend while trying to hold both her arms with just one hand since the other one was on Camila’s mouth.

Both of them were laughing hysterically by now, Camila trying to wiggle herself out of Lauren’s grip while the older just held her tighter. The song was still playing at a very loud volume and people were probably looking at them but they didn’t care. Lauren only pulled back and let her go when the traffic light turned green and her hands had to go back to the steering wheel, but they were both slightly out of breath by then and Camila was still laughing a little.

“I hate you.” Camila breathed.

“Well, I hate you too.” Lauren shot back, chuckling and not even bothering to look at Camila. Rude. Probably safer, but still. So rude.

“No you don’t.”

“No I don’t.” Lauren chuckled again, turning to look at her this time with the cutest smile on her face. “Neither does you, though.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” Camila giggled. “But you have got to stop freaking out whenever I sing that song. And covering people’s mouths out of nowhere!”

“I shall not, there are a lot of other songs for you to sing.” She huffed playfully, not even bothering to hide her smile.

“I know you there’s a Belieber somewhere inside that hipster soul of yours.”

Lauren snorted at that, making Camila chuckle again. But the green eyed girl didn’t answer and so they fell into a comfortable silence pretty quickly. Camila was humming to the songs on the radio and Lauren was even drumming her fingers on the steering wheel occasionally when the brunette felt her phone vibrating.

China (2:24 pm): walz guess what happened today

Camila furrowed her eyebrows at the text. Not that Dinah texting her was odd, but there usually was a significant amount of exclamation or question marks, so to have none at all was a little bit strange.

Camila (2:24 pm): idk, what happened??

China (2:25 pm): ok so i was at ally’s having my coffee as usual right???

Ah, there you go.

Camila (2:25 pm): what’s new lol.

China (2:25 pm): gurl let me finish!!!!

China (2:25 pm): so i was like marry me ally bc of the brownie i was eating and suddenly this girl materializes in front of me being all like whAT

Camila (2:25 pm): materializes. didn’t know you had it in you.

China (2:27 pm): interrupt me one more time and i stg imma give u a poly beat down!!!!!

China (2:27 pm): anyway i was like whAT too but then ally started laughing and just got up and kissed the girl and then she said dinah this is normani and mani you must’ve heard about dinah

China (2:27 pm): and then we both went oh at the same time and started laughing bc lol

China (2:27 pm): i guess the point of this is you should’ve sent me a pic of normani girl!!!

Camila laughed out loud after reading the few texts Dinah sent her, which earned a curious look from Lauren, but she didn’t say anything. Camila’s fingers were itching to start typing a reply, but she waited for a while, just to make sure she didn’t interrupt her friend again. Dinah’s poly beat down threats were very real, after all.

China (2:30 pm): chanch are u alive

Camila (2:30 pm): didn’t want to interrupt you lol. but now that i’m free to speak can i just

Camila (2:30 pm): HAHAHA

China (2:31 pm): shut up!!

Camila (2:31 pm): you do know they’ve been together for 2 years now right lol.

China (2:32 pm): of course i know!!! do you think i don’t listen to ur never ending talks about ur girlfriend’s friends??

China (2:32 pm): besides i’m friends with ally too and i know!!! i just didnt know what she looked like and made a fool of myself which is totally ur fault

Camila (2:33 pm): lmao sorry cheech, I’ll make sure to send you pics of everyone I meet from now on.

Camila (2:33 pm): didn’t know you were into girls tho.

China (2:34 pm): u better!! and lol walz u know i’m straight but i’ll marry anyone who can bake as well as that tiny woman

Camila (2:34 pm): lmao ily dinah.

China (2:34 pm): ily too mila (even tho u didn’t send me normani’s pic lol)

Camila chuckled again, blocking her phone and putting it back on her pocket before leaning against the car window. Two years… that was a long time to be with someone. Normani and Ally were surely lucky to have found each other. But then again…

“Who were you texting, babe?” Camila caught herself smiling when she heard the voice of the woman she had been just thinking about.

“Just Dinah. She met Normani today.” The brunette turned to look into the green eyes she loved so much and giggled. “She asked Ally to marry her and Normani heard her. Apparently they almost had an argument before Ally introduced them.”

Lauren snickered while returning her eyes to the busy streets. “That does sound like Dinah and Mani. What do you say we stop by later? Ally might not be there, but I could use one of her cupcakes.”

“Sure.” Camila replied without hesitation. “Let’s go home first, though, we have to catch up on Orange is the New Black.”

Lauren smiled at that, glancing at Camila before nodding. “Yeah, let’s go home.”

Camila put the two beers and the bag of snacks on the coffee table and sat back down on the couch, turning her snapback backwards as she did so. Sighing, she grabbed her controller and didn’t even bother to look to her side before unpausing the game.

“So, how was it?” Shawn asked from her side, pausing the game again – which earned him a glare from Camila – to take a swig of his beer. “Lunch with Lauren’s parents, I mean.”

That managed to break Camila’s scowl a little bit and she even graced him with a small smile. “It was great, they’re very nice people.” Mentally shrugging, she decided now was as good a time as ever and took a sip of her own beer.

“Cheers to that.” He chuckled, raising his bottle a little. “So there weren’t any embarrassing questions or anything?”

“Oh, there was one, about our celebration party.” Camila shook her head, still smiling. “Nothing too much, though.”

Shawn laughed at that, running a hand through his hair once before putting down his beer and picking his controller up from his lap. Camila followed his example and soon enough they were back at shooting things and stealing random cars. It wasn’t long before the scowl found its way back into Camila’s face and she groaned when someone shot her.

Grimacing, she paused the game.

“Hey!” Shawn exclaimed, turning to look at her with his brows furrowed.

“Don’t you have something less sexist and violent that GTA?” She asked, rolling her eyes.

“But it’s San Andreas!” Shawn exclaimed, but Camila just shot him an unimpressed look, which made him huff, but he ended up getting up anyway. “We could play FIFA, I guess.”

Camila gave him a sarcastically sweet little smile, which earned her an eye roll from him. “Much better.”

“Shut up.” He demanded, but smiled afterwards, which kind of ruined it.

Camila chucked and then breathed deeply, letting herself sink into the couch of her best guy friend slash brother’s apartment. They were supposed to be rehearsing today, but the director of their play had a personal emergency, apparently, and it was cancelled. But it was a Tuesday and Lauren – and all of Camila’s friends – had to work or had classes, so she and Shawn decided to hang out at his place for a while. This, of course, meant they’d eat lots of junk food and play video games, or maybe play the guitar he owned and sing duets as they used to do when they were younger. Sometimes when they hung out she’d even try to teach him Spanish and tease him for whatever he got wrong this time, and there were the times they’d go out to bars and try to find nice girls, but that hasn’t happened since Camila met Lauren, or “got wifed up”, as Shawn likes to put it.

The thing is when you grow up with someone and still sees them almost every day, you run out of things to talk about, so mostly they would just hang out and make fun of each other without much catching up involved. Truth be told, Camila was bored. She didn’t like GTA and she really missed Lauren, even though they’d seen each other the day before. Therefore, as Shawn looked for his FIFA game – “I could’ve sworn it was here, where is it?” – she picked up her phone. Her wallpaper was a selfie Lauren had taken of the both of them a couple of weeks before of her hugging Lauren, the pale girl smiling and Camila making a weird face, with her eyebrows furrowed and her teeth showing, as if claiming Lauren as hers.

Camila slimed fondly at the picture. Obviously she had no intention of treating Lauren like an object she owned or anything like that and she was well aware that Lauren was her own person, but that didn’t change the fact that she liked the idea of having her in a way no one else could. Just like the green eyed girl had Camila. Heart, mind, body and soul.

Camila (4:29 pm): hey baby, at what time does your shift end today?

Lauren didn’t answer for a while, but Camila didn’t worry too much. She knew how busy it could get on the station, so she patiently waited for a reply.

Lolo <3 (4:36 pm): Heyy, sorry it took me so long, I was helping Mani with some files of a case we had last week but then we got a 911 call about a robbery and it was mayhem. Anyway, it ends at 7, ugh.

Camila raised her eyebrows, suddenly worried.

Camila (4:36 pm): you didn’t go? are you ok?

Lolo <3 (4:37 pm): I was gonna volunteer but there were like 7 people running outside already so my captain told me to stay and finish what I was doing. Yikes.

Camila (4:37 pm): that’s good tho. these things are dangerous.

Lolo <3 (4:37 pm): Yeah, true, but reports are /boring/.

Camila (4:38 pm): lol just stay safe, okay Lo?

Lolo <3 (4:38 pm): Sure thing <3

Camila smiled at her phone and was going to start her reply when she heard Shawn shouting something from his bedroom that she couldn’t understand. Seconds later he was already back in the living room, holding up the case of the game he’d been looking for.

“Found it!” He answered, smiling. “I think Zayn hid it the last time he was here, that little fucker.”

The tall boy chuckled and Camila smiled as he set everything up. Honestly, FIFA was so much better than all those games where you shoot people for no reason. Plus, Lauren really hated GTA, so that only added up to Camila’s dislike for the game.

“Nice, I can’t wait to beat your butt.” Camila said, smirking.

“You wish.” Shawn replied, sitting beside her once again and taking another sip of his beer. “You texting Laur?”

“Yep.” Camila answered with a tiny bashful smile.

“You, dear sister, is falling hard for that one.” Shawn laughed and Camila didn’t even try to deny it, looking down and biting her bottom lip. “I can’t believe you dated Austin before her, though.” He added, shaking his head with a grimace.

And just like that, he ruined it. “Don’t even remind me.” Camila groaned. “Anyway, let me just say goodbye and we can play, okay?”

Shawn only shrugged and Camila unlocked her phone again to find a couple of new texts.

Lolo <3 (4:39 pm): So my mom called me earlier and asked if you wanted to have lunch again sometime. I’ll call Chris and Taylor this time, ask them to come and maybe even Emily can come too and you can meet her, she’s pretty cool.

Lolo <3 (4:41 pm): If you want to, obviously. It’s okay if you don’t.

Camila bit her bottom lip again to stop her smile from growing too much when she realized Lauren had probably anxiously waited for her answer, which hadn’t come for full three minutes. She could be the cutest thing sometimes, even if she tried to hide it behind her leather jackets and thick eyeliner.

Camila (4:42 pm): sorry, shawn started talking. it sounds great, let’s do it! it’s been ages since I’ve last seen taylor and chris so why not

Lolo <3 (4:42 pm): Great! I’ll let her know. I gotta go now, babe, sorry. xo

Camila (4:43 pm): bye princess! xo <3

Camila looked up to find Shawn grimacing at her.

“You are so in love it’s disgusting.” He said matter-of-factly.

“Shut up.” Camila chuckled and threw a cushion at him to try and hide the small blush creeping up her neck and cheeks.

Shawn easily dodged it, breaking his grimace to let out a booming laugh before turning to the screen and starting the game. Camila did the same, grabbing her controller and sinking back into the couch, but her mind was somewhere else. She really was falling hard for Lauren, and she had no intention of stopping.

Chapter Text

There was one thing Camila wished she could change about herself, and that was her temper. It wasn’t easily flared and she was almost always calm or in a good mood, but if someone did manage to make her angry, she would most likely not be able to hold back and snap at whoever was the cause of her aggravation. This had been the reason behind some fights between her and her friends, especially with Dinah and Zayn, who liked to tease her way too much. Camila usually didn’t mind, but sometimes, when external factors were in play, she’d be annoyed by things she wouldn’t give a second thought under normal circumstances.

Unfortunately for her, Camila’s temper was especially bad today.

She was sitting on the desk in her bedroom, going through her bills and the little notebook where she kept note of her financial status. It was a boring, frustrating and worrying task that Camila hated with all her being, but it needed to be done. Especially now that the play was a mere week from its debut and Camila was all kinds of nervous and exhausted from all the time she spent working on her role. The fact that it was her first big acting job and that she was the lead actress certainly didn’t help calming her nerves.

And that’s why Camila almost jumped in her seat when the loud beat of some song reached her ears through her closed door. She tried to ignore it, she really did. She lasted four entire songs, which was honestly surprising, since she felt her pulse quickening by the minute. But between that and the constant noise caused by the vacuum cleaner, which she had been able to push into the back of her brain before the music started, Camila couldn’t concentrate anymore on the math, something she’d never been good at in the first place.

Taking off her glasses and putting them on her desk, Camila rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands before running her fingers through her hair. With a deep breath, she grabbed them from their spot and put them back on her face while hastily getting up.

Camila stomped all the way from her bedroom to the living room to find Lauren humming gently to the song blasting through Camila’s speakers while she used the vacuum to clean under the coffee table. She didn’t even notice her girlfriend approaching, nor did she hear it when the young actress cleared her throat, but her head definitely did shoot up at the stern and loud tone with which Camila called her name.


Green eyes met brown ones and Lauren smiled, but Camila’s scowl didn’t leave her face. As if it couldn’t get any worse, the mild headache she had been experiencing for at least half an hour was alarmingly increasing now, and Camila couldn’t help but bring her fingers to massage her temple lightly as Lauren walked to the stereo and paused the music.

“Hey babe, everything okay?” Lauren asked, her smile slowly leaving her lips.

“It would be if you could just lower the damn volume.” Camila huffed, her tone harsher than she had intended for it to be.

Lauren flinched at her words, her eyebrows furrowed. “Sorry, I didn’t think it would disturb you.”

“Well yeah, it is disturbing me. I can barely concentrate and now I have a headache so if you could just be a little more considerate next time that would be great.”

Lauren’s eyebrows shot up when Camila was finished, and the light tint that colored her cheeks appeared to be more from anger than embarrassment. The green eyed girl tilted her head a little, frowning deeply after a second, which was good hint to Camila that she should take a deep breath to calm herself. She needed to keep her temper on check before things escalated too much. Before she could say anything else, though, Lauren spoke up.

“A little more considerate? So you mean wasting my day off cleaning your place because you don’t have the time or energy to do so isn’t good enough?” Lauren’s lips pursed together and she blinked before tilting her head the other way. “I was gonna say I could put my headphones on and it’d be no problem but I don’t know, maybe then the vacuum will bother you so how about I just stop? It surely was bothering me before I put some music on to make the task a little more bearable. But yeah, right, I’m not being considerate enough because I forgot about how fucking thin your walls are.” Lauren’s tone was so harsh that Camila took a small step back upon seeing just how mad she’d made her girlfriend.

Camila opened her mouth but no sounds came out, so she closed it again. She repeated the process about two more times before finally giving up on talking and ended up just sighing. She realized then how stupid she was being and felt her resolve crumble as she closed her eyes for a second. Camila’s right hand hadn’t left her temple until that moment, and she massaged it again before dropping her arm by her side.

“Sorry.” She mumbled, simply and barely audibly. So when she opened her eyes and found green ones staring back at her with an unimpressed look, she cleared her throat and tried again. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.” She sighed again and though Lauren wasn’t looking pleased, at least her eyes weren’t shooting daggers right now. “It’s just.” She took another deep breath and ran a hand through her hair, watching as Lauren crossed her arms and waited for her to go on. “I’m tired. And stressed. And I had to drop my waitressing job for this play and it’s paying well but my rent was raised and it’s getting harder to pay bills. And I suck at math. I’ve been making calculations ever since I got home and it’s given me a headache and I can barely concentrate…” Camila’s breaths were now shallow and ragged and she decided to stop before her voice started wavering.

Somewhere along her little speech, Camila started staring at the ground, which was why she didn’t notice Lauren stepping closer to her. She did feel her girlfriend’s hand on her wrist, though, and when she moved to hold her hand, Camila looked up to meet Lauren’s eyes, which were softer than before. She wasn’t smiling and still seemed somewhat upset, but the actress could feel the understanding in her gaze. She knew it was meant to comfort her, but it only made her feel worse as she thought of how much better than her Lauren actually was.

Lauren sighed, glancing at the ground before returning her eyes to Camila’s. “Hey, it’s okay. I’m sorry too, I shouldn’t have snapped at you like tha-”

“No, you had every right to, I was really rude and unappreciative.” Camila interrupted, trying to free her hand from Lauren’s and take a step back.

“True.” Lauren nodded, holding onto Camila’s hand tighter. “But seriously, I get it.”

“Thank you. And sorry again, I’ll try to keep my temper in check from now on.” She said, trying as well as she could to translate honesty into her words.

“I forgive you.” Lauren squeezed Camila’s hand, giving her a small smile.

“I’m also sorry that you’re wasting your day off.” Camila started, but Lauren was already shaking her head. Before she could speak, the brown eyed girl continued. “No, really, I mean it. And thank you for doing this, you don’t have to. And I know you have to leave soon for your thing with Mani so why don’t you stop now? I’ll take it from here.”

“I know I didn’t have to, but I wanted to. Seriously, it’s okay.” Lauren rubbed her thumb across the back of Camila’s hand to provide some sort of comfort, making Camila feel ashamed of her own actions just by being such an understanding person. “And thanks, I’ll go home to get ready then.”

“You’re always telling me how amazing I am, but the truth is you’re way more amazing than I could ever dream to be.” Camila said, her eyes not leaving Lauren’s for even a second.

Lauren snorted, raising her hand to caress Camila’s cheek with a shy smile. “Okay then.”

Camila leaned into the touch, a small smile of her own on her lips. “I mean it.” She said.

The younger girl raised the hand that wasn’t already holding Lauren’s to place over the one the young cop had on her cheek before she brought both of them down and intertwined their fingers. They were holding both hands now and Camila made sure to look into Lauren’s eyes in the most loving way possible.

“I’ll say it every day until you believe me.” She said in a soft tone.

That seemed to take Lauren by surprise, if the way her eyebrows shot up were any indication. But soon enough her cheeks grew red and her lips turned upwards in a sweet smile. She leaned forward for a gentle kiss and Camila was quick to kiss her back softly. They were still holding hands and for a moment it felt as if their fight had never happened. The young actress could only be thankful for having such a great girlfriend.

“Now go or you’ll be late.” She said with a tight lipped smile once they pulled back.

“Okay.” Lauren replied, but leaned in for a peck instead of moving. “See you tomorrow, babe.”

“Bye, princess.” Camila said, unable to suppress the big smile that made its way into her face upon hearing the term of endearment. Lauren’s expression mirrored hers not a second later, but she eventually let go of her girlfriend’s hands before getting her phone and purse from the coffee table and walking to the front door.

Camila (2:37 am): i can’t sleep and i just keep thinking of you so anyway

Camila (2:37 am): you’re amazing.

Lauren wouldn’t admit it if someone asked her, but she had been anticipating Camila’s play’s debut almost as much as the actress herself. The endless hours of rehearsal had been taking a toll on her girlfriend, and Lauren couldn’t wait for the day Camila would finally present herself to the world and be able to rest peacefully again. She was also hoping that when it debuted, they’d be able to move in together, something that had been postponed for almost three weeks now. A small smile broke into her face as the thought seeped into her mind, and she leaned back into her chair, sighing deeply.

Lauren was forced to put those thoughts to the back of her mind when the station got a phone call delating the robbery of a nearby store, which caused a commotion of people presenting themselves for the job, Lauren herself included, of course. Their captain, Mr. Russel, didn’t hesitate in choosing her and Normani for the job since the pair usually handled situations like this the best way possible. This knowledge never failed to bring a smirk to Lauren’s lips, and soon enough they were out the door and running through the streets. The store was only a block away after all and there was no need to get the car.

Lauren could feel the adrenaline coursing through her veins and the sweat starting to form on her forehead, expecting some kind of conflict, but catching the thief ended up not being a difficult task. The minute the two women got to the door of the store, a boy who didn’t even seem past twenty barged out. He had a gun on his left hand and a bag on his right and his surprise and fear were evident when his eyes started darting around frantically. He had a hoodie on and a piece of cloth covered his mouth and nose, leaving barely enough space for his gray eyes and pale forehead to be seen.

“Put the gun and the bag down.” Normani demanded from the boy’s left, her own gun in hand, but lowered so far, pointing to the ground.

Lauren also had her gun firmly grasped in both her hands, though no fingers had touched the trigger yet. She was positioned strategically – even if by pure luck – to the boy’s right and he had nowhere to run other than directly ahead, which would lead him to the middle of a never ending flux of cars. Lauren’s eyes were stuck on the boy, not bothering to look at the small crowd of people starting to annoyingly – and dangerously – form around them.

Panting heavily, the boy obliged, throwing his gun at his feet and kicking it towards Normani, who quickly bent down to pick it up with her eyes never leaving the boy’s. He then threw the bag to Lauren and his eyes flickered to behind her as it landed at her feet, which informed the green eyed girl of his thoughts before the boy acted on them.

“Don’t even think about making an escape now. You’re no super hero.” She warned, voice stern and firm.

His shoulders seemed to drop in defeat as he heard the words and he clearly deflated, raising his hands above his head and falling to his knees. Lauren slowly approached him after picking up the bag and throwing it to Normani, putting her gun back on its holster and cuffing his hands behind his back.

“You know your rights?” She asked him in a calmer, softer voice, pulling him up to his feet.

“Yes.” Came the bitter, short response not much later.

The boy’s voice was small and he looked like he might cry, and Lauren couldn’t help but feel something twist inside her chest as she thought of the possible reasons he might have for stealing. He had to be either too desperate or too dumb to try and rob a store so close to the station.

Lauren removed the cloth from his face and left it hanging on his neck so he could breathe better while Normani returned the bag of money to the store owner and tried clearing the area of the multiple people taking pictures, some even clapping as the two police officers made their way to the station with the boy in front of them. Lauren wasn’t exactly appreciative of the support. Yes, she knew her job was important and she loved it, she really did, but she couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable with the situation. Sighing, she pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind and continued walking.

After arriving at the location packed with expectant colleagues and settling everything down, the pair sat down at their tables to take a few deep breaths. Even when the job was easy, they still needed a bit of a break before returning to whatever task they had been doing before. So when Normani offered her a bottle of water, she gratefully accepted, drinking almost all of it.

“Had I known you’d drink it all I wouldn’t have offered.” Normani joked, pretended to be annoyed as she rolled her eyes.

Lauren had the decency to feel guilty as she handed the bottle back. “Sorry, I hadn’t realized I was so thirsty.” She chuckled lightly at the playful glare the dark skinned girl sent her. “Thanks, though.”

“Don’t mention it, Screamer.” She shrugged before drinking up the rest of the water, not bothering to look Lauren’s way as the other girl cringed at the nickname. “I’m gonna refill this, be right back.”

Lauren huffed in response, making Normani finally turn to her with a wink. She rolled her green eyes, but refrained from making comments as she looked for her phone inside her bag, which rested on her small desk. Camila usually texted her through the day, and the young cop didn’t like to make her girlfriend wait for responses, knowing she could get really worried sometimes. She had even called the station once, which had ended up in what they call “the babe fiasco” and endless teasing for Lauren, which was not her greatest memory.

Lauren’s suspicions were proved right when the girl unlocked her screen and it showed her she had a few new texts from her girlfriend.

Babes (5:01 pm): we’re having a 15 min break and i’m so excited for tomorrow omg!!!!!

Babes (5:13 pm): Chris just texted me and said he can’t go bc Emily is sick and he’s taking care of her :(

Babes (5:13 pm): i hope she’s okay

Babes (5:14 pm): i hope YOU’RE okay where aaaare you

Babes (5:15 pm): gtg baby, text me when you can! xo

Lauren grinned as she saw the messages, even if she couldn’t help but be a little disappointed that her brother wouldn’t be there for Camila’s big night. Well, he had his motives, but still. Warmth enveloped her chest as she thought of how worried the actress might be for her safety, and she quickly typed a response to calm her nerves, even if she probably wouldn’t see it for a while.

Lauren (5:21 pm): Aw babe, I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sure he’ll be there on another night. I’ll call him later and check up on Em, but I’m sure it’s nothing bad.

Lauren (5:22 pm): I’m okay too, just got back from stopping a robbery. I’m super excited for tomorrow as well, I’m sure you’ll do great! Can’t wait to see you later. Xo <3

“You’re so whipped.”

Lauren hadn’t noticed Normani approaching her and was so startled by her sudden announcement that she hastily turned her head around to the origin of the sound. Pain instantly shot through her neck and Lauren groaned as her hand flew up to cup it. She squeezed it to try and relieve the pain as Normani cackled behind her, unable to hide her amusement.

“Real nice of you, laughing at the pain you inflicted upon me.” Lauren huffed, eyebrows furrowed as she now massaged the back of her neck and the area that linked it to her left shoulder.

“Hey, don’t blame me if you were so engrossed by your texts you didn’t hear me coming.” The dark skinned girl said in between chuckles as she sat on her own chair next to Lauren’s.

“Yeah, whatever.” She mumbled, her eyes shooting daggers at Normani while the older girl maintained her annoying little smirk. “Like you’re much better when Ally is around. She’s got you wrapped around her little finger and you know it.”

Normani tried nonchalantly waving Lauren’s statement off, but the green eyed girl could see right through her friend. The smile that tugged at the corner of her lips was enough to tell Lauren all she needed to know and she chuckled to herself, shaking her head slightly. She decided a change of subject was in order, since her partner wasn’t too keen on talking about her feelings, especially at work.

“You’re coming tomorrow, right?”

“For the hundredth time, yes.” Normani rolled her eyes, but was still smiling. “Okay, now that we’re hopefully over that question, let’s start this report so we can maybe get off a little early and meet our respective ladies. What do you say, you ready?”

Normani’s smirk turned into a wide grin and Lauren couldn’t help but mirror her expression as the thought of going home to Camila earlier hit her. Oh yes, she was definitely ready.

Camila took a deep breath as her director ended their last day of rehearsal. That was it, tomorrow was the big debut and she would finally perform the play she’s been working hard on for the past months. Sure, they’d already done the previews, but now came the actual exposure to the outside world. Everyone was clapping and patting each other on their backs, but Camila could only stand still with that huge, dumb grin that split her face in half. Some of her friends were jumping while others were hugging and there she was, smiling quietly by the corner where they had placed a table with lots of water bottles.

She didn’t know exactly why, but she paralyzed, like the weight of it all still hadn’t downed on her. So when Shawn ran towards her with his arms open and smug grin on his face, Camila couldn’t hold in the happy, carefree laugh that had been building inside of her ever since the director’s voice had shot through the theater.

Camila opened her arms as well, welcoming the bone crushing hug her best friend greeted her with. Shawn was laughing as well and she threw her arms around his neck to hold him tighter when he lifted her up and spun in place, almost pushing the small table by their side off the stage in the process.

“Mendes, Cabello, watch it!” Screamed one of the crew members, which earned heartfelt laughter from almost everyone in the cast.

Shawn put Camila down then, as red as a beet from what had just happened, but Camila just kept laughing as she finally skipped to her friends from the cast. Hugs and encouraging words were exchanged, but soon enough everyone started to dissipate. It was getting late, after all, and they all wanted to go back home and get a good night of sleep before the big day.

Camila grabbed her BPA-free, reusable, environment friendly bottle – gotta save the Earth, right? – from the small table and got off the stage. She walked happily to her bag, opening it and placing the bottle inside before starting to look for her phone. A few of her friends snickered while walking past her, probably suspecting the reason for her eagerness, but Camila merely stuck her tongue out at them, which only increased the laughter. Mature, responsible grown-ups could do that, right?

“Bye, Mila, see you tomorrow!” Said Jake, one of the actors she’d grown closer to during those months.

“Not if I see you first!” She jested, making Jake shake his head. It was an inside joke between the two of them and it never failed to make either laugh. “Bye Jake!”

She said a few more goodbyes until she and Shawn were the only actors left in the room. Camila was sighing in relief knowing that she could finally unlock the screen of her phone and talk to Lauren when she realized Shawn probably thought he’d give her a ride home. The brunette lifted her guilty brown eyes to look into the boy’s patient ones which suddenly seemed to fill with understanding of the situation.

“Sorry, Shawn, Lauren said she’d pick me up when rehearsal was over.” Camila sheepishly said, knowing that it was kind of breaking tradition with her adoptive sibling, who always drove her home after work.

“Don’t worry, sis, it’s okay.” He replied, shrugging lightly.

Fortunately for her, Shawn didn’t seem mad, he actually had a sweet smile gracing his features. How Camila had ended up so lucky with her adoptive parents, she didn’t know, but she was forever grateful that the Mendes family had taken her in with so much love and care, and that included the boy she was fortunate enough to call her brother.

“Plus, you look like you’re probably getting some tonight, so I think it’s best if I stay out of Lauren’s way.” He continued, chuckling softly after speaking.

Camila couldn’t keep a small gasp from breaking its way out of her from the bold statement made by Shawn. She lifted her arm to smack his as the boy laughed loudly. Yeah, everything she was thinking about being grateful? She took it all back.

(No she didn’t, but still. Rude.)

“Ouch.” Shawn breathed amongst his laughing fit. “I was only joking, Mila. Tell Laur I said hi.”

“Will do, you idiot.” Camila smiled despite herself. “See you tomorrow.”

He only waved and Camila was left alone to finally check her messages. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw the two texts Lauren had left her and she couldn’t wait to see her girlfriend either. She also wanted to make sure she was okay after knowing she’d stopped a robbery. What could Camila do? She knew she worried too much, but she couldn’t help herself. So she did as they’d agreed to do earlier and sent her a text letting her know it was time to go home, but with some additional content Lauren really shouldn’t be surprised to receive.

Camila (7:18 pm): hey princess, have you talked with Chris? also WHAT is that about a robbery??

Camila (7:18 pm): you need to come pick me up asap so i can make sure you’re okay

Camila sat at the random seat she’d left her bag in, waiting for a response from her girlfriend. It wasn’t long before she felt her phone buzzing in her hands and she quickly unlocked it again.

Lolo <3 (7:20 pm): I did, I’ll tell you all about those two things at the car. And I’m fine, babe. I’m also parked right outside so you can come out now.

Camila raised her eyebrows in surprise, wondering how much time Lauren had spent waiting for her at her car. She wouldn’t be surprised if she got inside the car only to be greeted by one of Lauren’s favorite CDs blasting through the speakers, or maybe through her earphones, since she knew of the older girl’s love for music and how much time seemed to fly by for her when she listened to Lana Del Rey or The 1975. Lauren had been late to one of their very first dates after the party because of it and instead of getting mad at her, Camila only found her more endearing.

Camila (7:20 pm): i’ve been out since the summer of 2010, baby, but thanks for the support

Camila was in the middle of writing another text with a huge smirk on her lips when she got a response from Lauren.

Lolo <3 (7:20 pm): jasfiuaralkfhslkajffs I’m dead.

Camila (7:21 pm): i can’t believe i got you to ajfhlkjashsakjfsa you never do that

Lolo <3 (7:21 pm): You must be rubbing off on me or something.

Camila (7:21 pm): interesting choice of words

Lolo <3 (7:22 pm): Oh my God.

Lolo <3 (7:22 pm): #StopCamila2k16

Camila (7:22 pm): you stop

Lolo <3 (7:23 pm): Just come already.

Camila (7:23 pm): really, Lo? you’re making it hard for me not to keep this going.

Lolo <3 (7:23 pm): !!!!!!

Lolo <3 (7:24 pm): I’m not replying anymore.

Camila broke into a fit of giggles as she got up from the seat she’d been in and almost skipped to the exit, turning her head to scream her goodbyes to the few people that remained inside the small theater. She spotted Lauren’s car parked just on the other side of the street and crossed it quickly after making sure no one was coming.

Camila opened the door to the passenger seat and found Lauren smiling up at her with her phone in her lap and The 1975 playing, though the volume was not too loud. Her big green eyes were sparkling so much that Camila’s breath got stuck in her throat, leaving her breathless. Lauren blushed a little under her gaze, but her eyes remained glued to her girlfriend’s.

“Hey, come in, baby.” She greeted, turning her body so it was facing Camila.

Camila did as she was told and climbed inside the car, throwing her bag on the back seat and closing the door all in one swift motion before hurriedly leaning in and kissing her girlfriend passionately. Their lips moved together like it was all they were ever meant to do and everything felt heightened for Camila. The softness of Lauren’s hand when she placed it on the younger girl’s neck, the feeling of Lauren’s cheeks against her own fingertips, the taste of Lauren’s lip gloss as she pressed her bottom lip with her tongue, asking for access to deepen the kiss.

It was overwhelming and she never wanted it to stop.

But then reality came barging through her door disguised as her need to breathe, and Camila regretfully broke the kiss, grinning wildly as she did so.


“What a lovely way of saying hello, sweetheart.” Lauren mumbled with her eyes still closed and a smile so bright it could probably light a dark room.

Camila giggled, making Lauren open her eyes and join her in the process. She didn’t remember feeling this light and happy in a long time.

“I’m just excited about tomorrow. And about getting to cuddle with you all night long.” She said, prolonging the pronunciation of the vowels.

Lauren smiled softly and leaned in for a gentle peck before muttering “same” and starting the car to head to Camila’s apartment. She began humming along to whichever song started playing – she knew all of them by heart, after all – and maybe planned on staying in their comfortable silence, but Camila had other plans.

“Okay, now tell me more about this robbery you stopped.”

The grimace on Lauren’s face did nothing to break Camila’s resolve and her worried eyes showed no sign of backing down from this particular talk, which she knew Lauren wasn’t too keen on having. Some would call her overprotective, but Camila didn’t care. She’d lost important people before and she wouldn’t allow it to happen again. She would not lose Lauren.

Especially not Lauren.

The next day went by in a fucking rush. Lauren had asked her captain for the day off the week before and he’d accepted it as long as she came to work on Sunday, which was the day she would have off that week. Unfortunately for her, she also needed to not work that day, so Mr. Russel agreed to let her not come too if she worked on her day off next week. Lauren wasn’t too happy about not having a day to rest next week, but if it was the only way, so be it. She didn’t really have much to do since Camila had to leave way earlier than her for the theater, but it was the most nervous Lauren had ever seen her girlfriend and she wanted to be there for her in case she was needed.

They exchanged some texts throughout the day, but instead of increasingly freaking out as the day progressed, Camila seemed to get calmer as each hour brought them close to her big debut. Lauren didn’t know how she did it, since, unlike Camila, she tended to let her nerves get the best of her in demanding or embarrassing situations. The exception was during work, of course. If there was something Lauren was proud about herself, it was how collected she was during the confrontations she faced as a cop. With everything else, though, not so much.

Lauren cringed to herself as she remembered the many times she’d ramble or stutter or blush so much she was sure she looked like a prettier version of the Red Skull.

Now was most definitely one of those times. She was getting ready for the big debut and despite being sure about her outfit the day before, she wasn’t so confident now. But time was of the essence and she had agreed to give Dinah a ride since she had a car problem a couple of hours earlier, so Lauren had to hurry. When she finally thought she looked nice in her clothes and makeup, she decided to send the Polynesian a text to let her know she was coming to get her.

Lauren (6:08 pm): Dinah, get your ass ready to go! Be there in ten!

The response came quicker than Lauren thought possible, and for a moment she wondered if Dinah had it saved in her drafts. It wasn’t possible that she’d typed a reply that fast. So Lauren took her phone out of her back pocket where she’d just put it and quickly unlocked it as she got her purse and gave herself a final look in the full body mirror on her bedroom wall.

DJ (6:08 pm): you better hurry up!!!!! get ur ass over here in FIVE i’m not missing mila’s play bc of you

Lauren scoffed, as if she would ever miss Camila’s play.

Lauren (6:10 pm): Girl, you’re not missing anything, it only begins at 8pm.


Lauren didn’t even bother to reply before rushing to her car and to Dinah’s apartment, which was actually really close to hers. It kind of explained how she got to know Ally’s coffee shop, since it was pretty close to both buildings. The second she got there, she sent a quick text telling Dinah to come down and only a minute later, the tall girl was running towards the car and opening the door to climb inside. Dinah certainly didn’t play during business, Lauren will give her that.

“Good job, Lauser, you actually drove fast.” Dinah exclaimed slightly out of breath, holding her fist up.

Lauren chuckled and bumped it with her own, amusement all over her features over Dinah’s unsteady breathing. “Aww, thanks, DJ. You sure know how to make a girl blush.” She giggled at the glare sent her way before starting the car again. “Buckle up, Dinah. We’ll be like the first ones there at the speed I’m planning on going.”

“So responsible, Lauren The Cop.” Dinah smirked, now that she seemed to have recuperated from her little sprint.

Lauren rolled her eyes, but she couldn’t help displaying a small smile on her lips. “Which is the higher allowed by the law, asshole.”

Dinah only laughed loudly, shaking her head as she put the seatbelt on despite her teasing. They made light conversation about Dinah’s car on the way to the theater, which indeed didn’t take very long and, before they knew it, Lauren had parked her own car and both girls were headed straight into the room where they would wait for the play to begin. They had both bought their tickets in advance to prevent from not having spots, just in case, so they had nothing better to do than to chat away the time left. Lauren had been right, they were too early, so it’s not like there was anything better to do. Besides, she liked Dinah and talking to her was easy seen as they shared many interests, especially when it came to TV series. She and Lauren had bonded a lot over the months the young cop had been dating Camila and she couldn’t be more glad to call the taller girl her friend.

(Even if sometimes they got into little passionate wars about their favorite characters and ships. Lauren could live with that.)

People began to arrive after a while and with that came Lauren’s parents, Taylor, Shawn’s parents, all the friends from Camila’s party, Normani and Ally and even Jefferson from the station, who surprised her by showing up since he hadn’t mentioned anything about it. Lauren didn’t mind that he didn’t tell her; in fact, she couldn’t be more glad with the surprise and with how many people had come to support her girlfriend and her brother.

There were also people that Lauren didn’t know, but she didn’t pay much attention to any of them. For the time being, she was surrounded by people she cared about and was about to watch her girlfriend steal everyone’s breath away with her amazing performance.

(Lauren was sure Camila would rock everyone’s world so hard they would all be left wondering if her role wasn’t actually God in the movie 2012.)

A little before eight p.m., the doors to the room were opened and Lauren’s big group made a bee line to the first few rows of seats. The young cop sat in between Normani and her mom, right where she thought she could see the stage better, not wanting to miss a single second of the play. After what seemed like an eternity, it finally began.

“I don’t even have words to describe what I’m feeling right now.” Exclaimed an awe struck Taylor, walking out of the theater room with her arm hooked with Lauren’s.

“Me neither, that was simply incredible!” Ally replied from their left, her face filled with excitement.

Normani chuckled, bringing their intertwined hands to her lips, kissing Ally’s knuckles softly. “You’re so cute when you’re over excited about something.”

“What, like you don’t agree!” Ally shot back with a big smile despite her words.

“Never said I didn’t.”

Lauren smiles to herself as she watched her friends banter playfully. She, too, was amazed by what she had just watched. Camila and Shawn had killed it with their performances, which were even more incredible to those who knew how close they were in real life. The story and the characters were all very intense and Lauren was glad that she hadn’t been triggered by anything, which she admitted to herself had worried her a little once the play began.

But now it was over and everyone was going on and on about how they loved everything about the play. Lauren’s parents were talking with Shawn’s and all the young adults were gathered in a corner of the big room, chatting excitedly between all of them and in smaller groups that formed with certain topics of conversation.

Lauren was just so proud. Camila had put a lot of effort into this play and to see it pay off so well filled her heart with the utmost warmth and love for her girlfriend. She couldn’t wait to see her and tell her how happy she was for her and, later, maybe show her just how much. Lauren smirked to herself; Camila would certainly approve of her plans.

“Earth to Lauren, you there?” Taylor laughed, unhooking her arm from Lauren’s and clicking her fingers in front of her face.

“Oh, sorry.” Lauren instantly shook her head, already feeling her cheeks heat up a little. “I got a little lost in my thoughts.”

“Care to share, Lauser? We’re in need of some entertainment while we wait here.” Dinah said, her innocent voice easily betrayed by her mischievous smirk.

“And that look on her face while you zoned out screams of fun thoughts.” Harry chimed in with a suggestive raise of his brows.

Everyone started laughing, some quietly, some a little more loudly, and soon some faces were turning to look at the big group. Lauren wished a hole on the ground could just open up and swallow her, and she was sure she was as red as she could get.

“I hate all of you.” She muttered, which only increased all the laughter.

Jade opened her mouth to say something and Lauren braced herself for whatever new wave of teasing came her way, but a voice from behind them beat her to it.

“Lauren, is that you?”

Lauren’s face lit up as she turned around and her suspicions were proved true. In that moment, she wanted to hug the shit out of Keana for saving her from her own friends. She could feel everyone but Normani and Ally shooting them surprised looks, but she didn’t care about them when she almost squealed and threw her arms around her friend. It had been a long time since they’d seen each other and she’d missed Keana.

“What are you doing here? It’s been so long!” She exclaimed once she pulled back and took a couple of steps back to her friends, motioning for Keana to follow.

“I know, right?” Keana chuckled, stepping closer. “I can’t believe we haven’t spoken in so long. As for your question, a friend of mine told me about it and I was curious. What about you?”

“My girlfriend is the lead actress.” Lauren announced proudly, which earned a big knowing smile from Keana.

“Nice catch, girl!” She laughed and Lauren felt herself blushing but nodding nevertheless. “She’s really good, I’m glad me and Noah decided to come and watch the play.”

Lauren almost jumped in place after hearing her words. “Noah is here too? Where is he? This is so amazing!” Keana nodded enthusiastically and Lauren giggled, turning back to her new friends, who looked more confused than ever, and not even giving Keana a chance to answer her question. “Guys, this is Keana. She and Noah were good friends of mine in college but we kinda lost touch after a while, which sucks.” Lauren frowned a little, turning to look Keana in the eyes. “Let’s not do that again, okay?”

“Sure.” She replied, smiling. “Hey, guys, nice to meet you.” She looked at all the faces in their big group until her eyes came to rest on Normani, who also wore a big smile. “Well, well, look who’s here.”

Normani only let out a breathy laugh and hugged Keana quickly but tightly. They had all gone to the same university, but Normani never hung out with them much. Keana had been Lauren’s roommate and Noah was pretty much Lauren’s best friend during her freshman year. She met the boy through Keana since they had been friends since high school and came to the same university to study math together, which, why? But despite all the teasing Lauren put them through because of it, the trio had been pretty much inseparable during the four years they spent together on campus.

“Looking good, Issartel.” Normani chuckled. “You remember Ally, right?”

Keana nodded happily when she spotted Ally and hugged her too. The Latina was as radiant as always, even more so after seeing an old friend again. Since Ally was Lauren’s best friend and the green eyed girl had spent quite some time with Keana in the past, they were both very familiar and comfortable with each other. They exchanged some words and then the smaller girl took a step back and rejoined her hand with Normani’s, which Keana didn’t fail to notice. Lauren’s excitement only grew when she noticed Keana’s smile widening and she couldn’t help but let out a childish giggle when their eyes met once again. She knew exactly what she was thinking.

The thing is, Lauren hadn’t met Normani until her last year of college and even after being introduced to her, they only became friends towards the middle of it. It was through her that the dark skinned girl had met Ally and both of them had just instantly clicked. Keana had also been present on the occasion and both girls couldn’t help but notice that Normani seemed a little happier during class in the next few weeks. But they weren’t close with the girl, so they couldn’t do much. That is until Lauren came up with a master plan to bring her and Ally together since the smaller Latina also couldn’t seem to keep her mind off of Normani. It had obviously worked, which was great, but Lauren only knew that because she was best friends with Ally and because she grew closer to Normani during work, while Keana had lost touch with her, hence her surprise.

Before Lauren or Keana could make any comment on the subject, Noah appeared at her side, the look on his face changing from confused to ecstatic when he set eyes on his old friend. There went Lauren again, hugging him and introducing him to everyone who didn’t know him. It wasn’t long before everything settled down and they fit into the group pretty well, making light conversation and even laughing with everyone.

But then Lauren noticed their intertwined hands. And while looking at it, she noticed the big, shiny ring on Keana’s finger.

“Oh my God!” She exclaimed, interrupting whoever was talking at the moment. “You’re getting married?!”

That drew the attention of everyone in the group, who quickly looked at the couple. They were both blushing a little, but huge smiles were all over their faces.

“Yeah, I asked her like two months ago.” Noah replied proudly. “And she obviously said yes.” Keana glared at him playfully, but kissed his cheek nevertheless.

“You jerks! Why didn’t you tell me?” Lauren almost whined.

“Let them be, Lauser.” Dinah chuckled, not giving Keana or Noah the chance to defend themselves.

Noah let out a booming laugh at the nickname, quickly dragging everyone along with him. His happiness and laughter had always been just that infectious. After everyone congratulated the happy couple, they excused themselves saying that they had to go back home. Lauren hugged both of them goodbye before making sure their phone numbers hadn’t changed and letting them go their own way. Turning back to her most recent friends, she noticed that almost everyone else but them and the four older adults on the other corner of the hall who were still taking had left by now, but they wouldn’t go away until Camila and Shawn appeared from backstage.

Lauren smiled to herself at the thought of her girlfriend and how happy she was to be with someone so amazing. Camila would tease her if she knew that was what she was thinking since according to her, it was the only thing Lauren seemed to be able to say about her. But since their stupid fight over noise and cleaning, Camila would call her amazing just as many times, even more. Not that Lauren was complaining, but still. She wasn’t the only one whipped in this relationship.

She was so caught up in her own thoughts for a moment that she almost missed the look on Normani’s face as she stared off into space. Now that Lauren thought of it, the older girl hadn’t participated much in the light conversation since the announcement of Keana and Noah’s engagement, which was odd. Lauren was about to nudge her and quietly ask what was wrong when the actors started coming out from backstage, which enticed a wave of applause from the small crowd of people who were still there.

Lauren’s eyes quickly found Camila’s and soon all thoughts of Normani, Noah and Keana were put to the back of her mind. Their grins mirrored each other as Lauren opened her arms and Camila ran into them, hugging her tightly. They shared small passionate kiss, quickly pulling back on the account of their friends – who mocked them with either gagging sounds or overly sweet “awws” – and their parents, who were just a couple of steps away. 

“I’m so proud of you.” Lauren said, holding Camila by her waist even after pulling away. “You’re-”

“Let me guess.” Camila interrupted with a grin that split her face in two. “I’m amazing.” She giggled.

Lauren laughed with her, bringing their foreheads together and raising one of her hands to caress Camila’s cheek with her thumb.

“Yeah. Yeah, you are.”

It was Sunday, two days after the play, and Camila wasn’t nervous at all.

She thought maybe she would feel anxious about having lunch with Lauren’s family again, but apparently the anxiety had been a one-time thing for her, since she was actually pretty excited to see them again. They had been wonderful and very supportive of her, showing up to watch her play and everything. Camila was also very excited to meet Emily, who all the Jaureguis spoke so highly of.

Lauren had stayed at her apartment since Thursday, the day before the play, which meant she hadn’t gone to her own place in four days. She had so many clothes at Camila’s place at this point that more than just one drawer was needed.

(Not that Camila minded. If anything, she loved it when she had to clear another drawer for her girlfriend.)

Sure, Lauren had reasoned that she had to work on Saturday and then there was the lunch on Sunday and Camila’s house was just closer to both the station and her parents’ house. But deep down Camila knew what Lauren really wanted was to cuddle and be by her side whenever possible.

The thought alone caused Camila’s stomach to fill with fluttering butterflies and the brown eyed girl wondered if that feeling would ever go away when it came to her girlfriend. She knew of couples who fell so much into routine that eventually the spark just faded, but she was sure that wasn’t the case with the two of them. For what it’s worth, Camila was certain that her feelings for Lauren only grew with each day they spent together.

She looked down at the sleeping figure of her girlfriend and bent down to give her a light kiss on the cheek, her lips barely touching Lauren’s pale skin so as to not wake her up. Camila took her time to look at her, smiling fondly at the sight of a naked Lauren, laying on her stomach with hair all over the place and only a warm blanket covering her body. She was so naturally and effortlessly beautiful, she could be in any situation and probably still be the most gorgeous person in the room. That included sleeping with no trace of makeup whatsoever, her mouth slightly agape and brows a little furrowed, like she was having a weird dream. Camila couldn’t wait for them to move in together so she could wake up to Lauren like this every single morning.

But for now they had a lunch to attend to and she wanted to look her best not only for Lauren and her family, but for herself. So, after tucking a strand of hair behind Lauren’s ear, she got out of bed and went to the bathroom to take a hot, relaxing shower. Once she was done with it, Camila dressed herself in some casual clothes and went straight to the kitchen to make some breakfast consisting of French toast and scrambled eggs, just like she knew Lauren liked them. Then she was done with that too and Lauren still hadn’t woken up, so she decided to just sit and watch a random movie on Netflix while she waited.

Camila ended up watching only about ten minutes of the movie before Lauren woke up. She didn’t hear or see her girlfriend approaching, but she certainly did feel the hands that suddenly started massaging her shoulders and the kiss on the side of her neck, followed by the “good morning” Lauren’s lips left against her skin as she trailed feather light kisses through her neck up to her jaw. Finally, Camila turned her face around and her eyes met her girlfriend’s sleepy ones. She couldn’t help the giggle that came out of her.

“Good morning, princess.” She greeted before leaning in for a chaste kiss on the lips.

They ate breakfast together and soon enough Lauren was off to take her own shower while Camila picked an outfit for the lunch. By the time they were both ready, they still had about half an hour to kill, so they decided to continue watching the episode of Orange is the New Black they couldn’t finish the other day. Camila was one hundred percent sure she was addicted to the damn show, and sometimes she cursed Lauren for ever introducing her to it, but she never meant it. Plus, it’s not like Lauren ever bought her act of tough words and gaze of steel. Whenever Camila started ranting about how much time she was wasting on the show when she could be raising awareness about global warming, the young cop would only laugh before kissing her. This one day Lauren had even squealed. It was pretty memorable, if you asked Camila, but the green eyed girl always denied the whole thing ever went down.

They cuddled and exchanged a few kisses here and there, but TV series were a serious thing for the couple, so both Camila and Lauren kept their distractions at bay. When it was time, both girls gathered her things and made their way to Lauren’s car. She didn’t think she’d ever seen Lauren as happy and at peace as she was today, and for that Camila was quite grateful. She herself was feeling as light as a feather and she knew a big part of it was thanks to the girl driving the car.

“You know, Keana and Noah want to meet you one of these days. They were pretty impressed by your performance, to say the least. When we were all waiting for you and Shawn, we were all talking and they seemed very excited about the play.” Lauren said, pride unmistakably taking over in her voice.

Camila couldn’t help the slight blush that covered her cheeks, but her smile was the prominent feature on her face. “I’m so happy to hear that. I really want to meet them too, to be honest. You never talk about college, so I guess sometimes I get a little curious.” She chuckled.

Lauren shrugged. “There’s not much to tell, really. It was a pretty great time, but nothing out of the ordinary. I studied, partied, dated-”

“You dated, huh?” Camila had a devilish little smirk on her lips. “And who was the lucky girl to receive that honor?”

Suddenly Lauren’s cheeks started reddening and Camila’s smile widened. “Well, I went out with a couple of girls during the years but nothing really happened there. The only one that really mattered was Keana.”

Camila almost choked on thin air, her smile vanishing immediately. “You dated her? Really? For how long? Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

Okay, reasonably, Camila knew the girl was engaged now. Rationally, she knew she had absolutely nothing to be worried about when it came to Lauren. Honestly, she didn’t even know why she felt a pang of jealousy.

But she knew she did.

Lauren only giggled and shook her head. “Really, babe? Who knew you were the jealous type.”

Camila’s blush increased now and she tried to compose herself before opening her mouth again. It didn’t work. “Me? Jealous? Pfff, no. I’m just curious!” She stuttered, her voice an octave higher than usual.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say.” Lauren tried containing her smile, but now that the tables had turned and Camila was the one getting all flustered, it seemed impossible for her. Camila could still see the corner of her lips curling up as Lauren glanced at her before continuing. “We were roommates and she was my best friend besides Ally at that point, so we kinda tried it. But we weren’t very compatible, nor there were strong feelings involved. It was more like a fun friends-with-benefits thing than anything else and it only lasted about a month, maybe even less. You can breathe now, boyfriend Camila.”

Lauren adorably laughed at her own joke while throwing her a quick glance and Camila let go of the breath she hadn’t even realized she’s been holding only to let out a soft chuckle.

“Sorry.” She said, embarrassed by her jealousy upon seeing Lauren’s reaction to it and hearing the story.

Lauren only shrugged, still smiling. “No problem.”

Camila watched in awe as she didn’t give the whole jealousy thing a second thought. It was like nothing could ruin Lauren’s mood today, so Camila made a promise to herself that nothing would ruin hers either.

They got to Lauren’s parents’ house not much later and she parked the car at her spot on their garage like she’d done the last time they were there. The light atmosphere and incredibly not so cold weather were great in maintaining the good mood she swore to have for the rest of the day. Plus, Camila didn’t even try to hide how much she loved when Lauren held her hand like there wasn’t anything she’d rather show off to the world than her.

Once they reached the porch, Lauren raised her arm and rang the doorbell, smiling fondly at Camila, who tried to muster all the love and affection she felt for her girlfriend in the look she gave her back. They only broke their staring contest when the door was opened and a man revealed himself at the other end of it.

Lauren turned to face him and, suddenly, her entire demeanor changed. Her body tensed up, her grip on Camila’s hand was tighter and the look of confusion on her face soon changed into one of shock and then into disgust before settling on this blank expression that Camila had never seen on her girlfriend.

Camila had no idea what was going on and she was starting to get worried when neither said anything. Looking back at the man, she saw nothing but the same blank expression on his face, only there was a smile on his, like he was trying to fake some sort of emotion. Or maybe that was his resting face and he really was smiling? Camila was about to ask Lauren what was happening when she broke the silence.


Chapter Text

The first time he hit her, Lauren had just turned twelve years old. Now, as they stood on the porch of Lauren’s childhood home, more than a decade had passed but she still felt like a little girl under his gaze. Lauren couldn’t help but squeeze Camila’s hand tighter as her eyes locked with her uncle’s brown ones and her breath caught in her throat at the sight of him. He didn’t look all that different. His hair was grayer than before and a few new wrinkles had appeared, but his overall appearance was still the same.

Sweat was starting to break out of the skin of Lauren’s forehead, and she felt trapped, as if there was nothing that she could do but stare at the one behind her anxiety. Most people don’t know this, but animals don’t possess only two responses to fear. It isn’t only about flight or fight. People tend to forget that being paralyzed is something that happens too. The expression “deer caught in headlights” didn’t appear out of nowhere, after all. And that was exactly how Lauren felt, like a deer trapped, frozen in place with her heart hammering in her chest, held captive by the headlights that were her uncle’s eyes.

But she wasn’t a little girl anymore.

“Uncle.” She said, mustering up courage from within herself to hold her head high.

His lips stretched just a little more and he looked pleased with her. Lauren’s first instinct was to scoff at the mere thought, as if he would ever be pleased by anything she did. As if she would ever want him to.

Even before he started hitting her, she disliked him. After, well, Lauren could only say she despised him. But she kept the appearance of normality for the sake of her family and maybe because he still had a grip on her, even if she didn’t want to admit it. He shouldn’t have that influence anymore, not after all this time. She was twenty-three, for God’s sake, a grown woman, and she shouldn’t be scared of her uncle. She wasn’t, she couldn’t be.

(Only she was and deep down, Lauren knew that. But she couldn’t bring herself to face that hard truth, so she told herself she hid it for her family. They didn’t need her problems anyway.)

“Hello, Lauren.” Marcus said. “It’s nice to see you after all this time.”

Yeah, right. Like she believed any of his bullshit. His tone might’ve been polite, but Lauren could feel the venom underneath it. The disdain, the disgust. Lauren wasn’t offended by his dislike for her, not anymore. She was pretty sure he didn’t like anything but money. Others may not know it, but she had noticed time and time again how he talked to people and how he looked at them, like they were nothing but an obligation.

Marcus didn’t treat her with any special hostility either, at least not around other people. This way, no one noticed anything. The subtle glares she sent his way when no one was looking, the animosity and the awkward conversations. He wasn’t the most likable man anyway, so her parents, along with everyone else in their family, just assumed Lauren didn’t like him very much, just like they didn’t. No one saw the scars he’d left on her.

(The psychological ones, that is. Lauren still remembered the day her mother asked her about that bruise on her arm and she’d lied and told her she’d fallen down during soccer practice.)

Lauren couldn’t help but wonder why he felt the need to hurt her in the past, why she was the one to suffer at his hands. That didn’t mean she wished it upon anyone else, though. It didn’t mean she had bitter thoughts about her siblings getting the better treatment. No, she had been beyond relieved when she first started looking for traces of fear in her brother and found nothing; when she started checking her sister for bruises if she stayed with Marcus for a day and found nothing; when she started searching their young eyes for anything out of the ordinary and found nothing. Even years after he last struck her, she kept looking. In all honesty, she could only relax after Marcus had a falling out with his brother and stopped paying visits. Her parents had enough to worry about without adding Lauren’s mess to the list, but she would be damned if she let anything happen to her siblings.

So no, she wasn’t bitter. If someone had to endure it, she was glad it had been her. She simply wondered.

Camila’s hand gripped hers tighter and that was enough to pull Lauren out of her thoughts for the time being. Turning her head to look at her girlfriend, she noticed her confused eyes filled with concern, clearly not understanding the change in her mood. Lauren felt a twinge of guilt as she looked at her. How much time had they been there? She had honestly forgotten about Camila for a few moments, and she never wanted to do that again.

Lauren let a small smile spread through her face to soothe her girlfriend, caringly brushing her knuckles with her own thumb. Camila seemed to relax a little upon seeing her genuine yet feeble smile, so she diverted her attention back to her uncle.

“Yes, it is.” She finally replied to Marcus, aware that if she let a few more seconds go by, the time to say something might’ve passed. “It’s been what, a year?”

Her uncle huffed in amusement as if she couldn’t believe her, but nodded anyway. Lauren didn’t even have a hard time stopping herself from narrowing her eyes at him despite her desire to; she had mastered the art of faking emotions around him too well over the years. Sure, he’d caught her off guard and for a moment she’d probably been easy to read in her vulnerability. But now Lauren’s walls were back up and she knew – at least she hoped – no one could see past them.

“Something like that.” Marcus answered, his tone neutral despite his little smirk, before turning his attention to Camila. “And who might this be?”

“This is my girlfriend.” Lauren replied. She was about to say her name when Camila beat her to it.

“Camila Cabello, nice to meet you.” Camila said sweetly with a tight lipped smile, though Lauren could feel the uncertainty in her tone, most likely from what she had just witnessed. Lauren cursed internally, she’d have to fix that later.

Marcus’s eyebrows came just a little bit closer to each other and for a moment Lauren swore she saw his smile falter, but that must’ve been a product of her mind, because not a second later he nodded and extended his hand for Camila to shake.

“I’m Marcus. Pleasure’s mine.” He introduced himself as Camila shook his hand. Then, he stepped back and allowed the girls to enter the house before closing the door behind them. For that, Lauren was thankful. She was hungry, after all. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to talk with my brother.”

Lauren nodded and Marcus disappeared into the house, leaving both girls alone in the hall. Lauren could hear the loud chatter from the living room, which probably meant the entire Jauregui clan was already there. The thought alone lifted her spirits a little, she couldn’t wait to see her family. It had been a while since she’d last seen Chris, let alone Emily, and she missed both of them. But before Lauren could take a single step, Camila pulled her by the hand, stopping her from moving.

“Hey.” She started, lifting her other hand to caress Lauren’s cheek. “Are you okay? What was that about?”

Lauren’s heart raced at the question and she couldn’t bring herself to look into Camila’s eyes, so she settled for her feet as she nodded. “Yeah, yeah. I just don’t get along with my uncle, but no one really does, so.” She shrugged, meeting her girlfriend’s concerned gaze again and giving her a reassuring smile.

Camila didn’t seem convinced. She let go of Lauren’s hand and moved both of hers to the young cop’s neck, her thumbs tracing Lauren’s jaw. “You sure? You can tell me anything, you know that.”

Lauren could feel her walls lifting up even higher and the anxiety was kicking in, but she couldn’t let herself act defensive and annoyed with Camila. It wouldn’t be fair to her. “I am, babe. And I know. It's just that he and my dad had a kinda fought a few years back and since then we only see him a couple of times every year. To say that him being here is unexpected would be an understatement."

"Okay..." Camila nodded, her eyes not leaving Lauren's as she stroked her jaw with her thumbs. She sighed and moved closer to her girlfriend while pulling her in, resting her forehead on Lauren's. "Just know that you can open up to me about anything at all, whenever you want. I'm here to listen and to talk and to simply hold your hand if you don't want to or aren’t ready to do either of those."

Lauren blinked a couple of times, overwhelmed by Camila's words. How she managed to be everything Lauren needed was beyond her knowledge, and once again the three words were dying to escape her mouth, but she didn't feel like it would be right to tell Camila something as significant as that right after lying to her.

Still, the look in Camila's eyes spoke of nothing but love and patience, and Lauren was almost certain that her girlfriend was aware that she was hiding something she wasn't ready to share yet. And for the first time, the prospect of opening up to someone about this particular chapter of her story didn't seem as frightening as it always had. For that, Lauren couldn't be more grateful.

After all, the only person who knew about her uncle was Ally, but Lauren had only told her after a really bad night and a lot of shots of vodka, so that didn't really count.

But for now, out of all the mixed emotions Lauren was experiencing, affection and gratefulness (and a little bit of fear) had to be the ones coming out on top of her own personal hurricane. And while she didn't think it was the right time to share her true feelings with Camila, she did want her to know how much this all meant to her.

Lauren closed her eyes, leaning forward to kiss the tip of Camila's nose, hoping that she seemed at least fine. "You know what I'm thinking." She said, opening her green eyes right afterwards to find Camila with her own closed, a content smile on her lips.

"Yeah. You, too." She replied, simply.

Lauren's breath almost hitched in her throat before she realized that was Camila's way of saying she was amazing too. For a second, the dark haired girl had thought it meant she loved her as well, which almost granted her a stroke.

Now that Lauren thought about it, though, "you are amazing" was like their own way of saying "I love you", given the countless situations those other three words had been exchanged between the couple. It made her feel special, somehow, and Lauren wondered if she was the only one who felt that way.

(Lauren would have to remember to ask Camila once they actually exchanged love confessions.)

Lauren didn’t give Camila the chance to open her eyes and pull back before she leaned in again for a proper kiss this time. It was gentle and soft, nowhere near the heated ones they were used to exchanging when alone, but the feelings that transcended it were enough to leave Lauren lightheaded.

“Let’s go, your family must be wondering what’s taking us so long.” Camila whispered against Lauren’s lips, pecking them one more time before pulling back.

Lauren’s eyes fluttered open and she smiled softly at the girl before her. “I’m surprised they haven’t come fetch us already.” She chuckled, lacing her fingers through Camila’s and guiding her to the living room.

Everyone but Marcus and Mike were spread through the two couches around the coffee table. The two brothers were talking in a corner of the room in a hushed tone, while Clara and the young adults were chatting animatedly. All the heads turned to the couple as they entered the room, but of course the first pair of eyes Lauren’s met had to be her uncle’s.

Lauren felt her heartbeat spike again and she silently cursed him for the look he had on his face – like he knew he had escaped her mind, as he did every time they spent ages without speaking to each other, but would always be in her life to remind her that no, she can’t avoid him forever. Managing a straight face, she tore her eyes off him to look at her family, who she loved very much.

“About damn time, Laur!” Emily exclaimed, getting up from her seat next to Chris and practically leaping through the space between them to hug her.

Lauren giggled, letting go of Camila’s hand to embrace Emily tightly. “Hey, it’s not my fault you decided to get sick this week.”

“I decided? More like this freaking virus decided to ground me for bad behavior, only I haven’t forgotten to brush my teeth and do my bed since I was eight.” She joked, pulling back.

To their right, Lauren heard Camila’s laughter resonating through the air, which made Emily turn to her, smiling, her blond hair thrown to the side with the movement.

“She’s telling the truth, you know? I’ve never seen anyone more obsessed with making beds.” Chris exclaimed, getting up as well before either of the girls could say anything.

He hugged both Lauren and Camila, giving each a kiss on the cheek before stepping back until he could lean into the arm rest of the couch he had been seated in. They greeted Taylor, Mike and Clara next, and Lauren didn’t know who seemed more eager to congratulate Camila again for her work. The brown eyed girl was all smiles at this point, and her face was slightly red, which made Lauren’s heart grow warm.

“Well now that you’re all done, how about you let me properly meet Camila?” Emily chuckled, stepping closer to the young actress. “I’m Emily, it’s very nice to finally meet you.” She said with a sweet smile before pulling Camila for a quick hug.

Camila laughed as well, pulling back after a second. “It’s a pleasure meeting you as well, Emily.”

“So humble for a Broadway star!” Emily playfully exclaimed. Camila let out a loud laugh while Lauren giggled quietly and waited for her girlfriend’s certain denial of fame.

But it never came.

“I’m sure we can talk about this over lunch, yes?” Marcus’s voice shot through the air before Camila could reply and his footsteps soon followed as he passed them all on his way to the dining room.

Emily rolled her eyes, huffing slightly while Lauren sighed deeply. Chris and Taylor grimaced and Lauren couldn’t see her parents for they had their backs to her, but she would bet all her money that Mike had an annoyed frown on his face while Clara probably looked as unimpressed as possible.

Lauren felt a hand on her forearm and met its owner’s brown eyes in a matter of seconds. They asked a very clear question, one that Lauren was desperate to avoid. She nodded, telling Camila that yes, she was okay, and moved Camila’s hand to hold it in her own as they walked to the dining room.

Now that all the hugs and kisses were over, Lauren couldn’t help but feel her anxiety creeping back in, but she fought to ignore it as her family settled around the table. Lunch was okay, as okay as it could be with the annoyingly unexpected presence of her uncle. And by that Lauren meant that any attempts of conversation were soon subtly stopped by Marcus. The uncomfortableness of it all was ten times higher for Lauren, but of course, no one knew that, so she settled for keeping to herself for the most part, speaking when necessary so as to not raise any doubts over her behavior.

Lauren would have to ask what the hell her parents were thinking by letting his unannounced ass stay over for lunch, but that would have to wait until he got out of there. Lauren was silently begging that happened sooner rather than later, and she couldn’t be more thankful for his greedy self when she remembered how he never stayed for much time in family gatherings.

“So you’re an actress, yes?” Marcus broke the awkward silence and Lauren’s train of thought by addressing her girlfriend and immediately gaining her attention. Camila merely nodded, having her mouth full of food and unable to speak. “I suppose it’s not a very stable way of making a living. Wouldn’t be my first choice.” He continued, his eyebrows knitted together

Lauren couldn’t help it but stare incredulously at her uncle upon hearing his words. She couldn’t believe he thought it was adequate to talk to and about Camila that way after knowing her for about an hour. Lauren was ready to fight the anxiety building inside of her and the constant uncomfortableness and speck of fear she felt around him to defend her girlfriend. Before she could say anything, though, she felt Camila’s hand on her thigh underneath the table like she sensed what Lauren wanted to do. The young cop turned to her, but her girlfriend’s eyes were fixed on Marcus’s.

“Well, it’s what I like to do, so there’s really not a better choice for me.” Camila finally answered, her tone perfectly polite, though Lauren could feel her annoyance in her tense posture.

Marcus nodded acceptingly, but his slightly raised eyebrows and his unimpressed expression told Lauren that he wasn’t anywhere near satisfied with that answer.

“I’d consider financial stability to be more important than inclinations, but okay.” He answered once he had swallowed his food and Lauren felt a wave of dislike for him wash over her again.

“Well, what do you do then, if you don’t mind my asking.” She answered, and this time a little bit of her annoyance slipped through her words, making Lauren reach for her hand on her thigh to squeeze it. Their eyes met for a second and Camila breathed deeply before picking up her glass of juice to take a sip of it while turning back to her uncle.

“I’m the CEO of Jauregui Mining Corp.”

Camila choked on her juice.

“Woah, Camz! You okay?!” Lauren exclaimed, the sounds of her chair’s feet dragging across the floor as Lauren rushed to stand up in reflex battling those of Camila’s incessant coughing.

Emily and Mike had gotten up as well, startled and in need of something to do to help with the situation, just like Lauren. Camila could only turn her head a little and place her hand on Lauren’s forearm, trying to speak. Lauren then took both her arms and lifted them up above her head, which earned her a confused look from Camila and everyone else but Chris, who burst out laughing.

A few moments later, Camila’s coughs started to subdue and soon she was trying to take deep breaths to calm her heart and bring oxygen into her body. She tried to pull her arms down and Lauren let her, falling back on her seat and sighing in relief. Camila turned to her with an exasperated look on her face.

“What… was that?” She asked, still slightly out of breath.

“Well, I learned when I was a kid that you had to lift your arms when you choked.” Lauren replied simply, shrugging.

“Couldn’t you think of something more, I don’t know, professional, since you’ve been trained for this and stuff?” Camila’s voice was sarcastic, and she tried to fake annoyance, but the smile that tugged at her lips showed Lauren she wasn’t really mad.

Regardless, Lauren felt embarrassed all of the sudden. “Yeah, well, my mind went blank.”

“Does your mind always go blank when you’re off fighting crime or saving people? ‘Cause that would be dangerous.” Camila’s playful tone was still there, but Lauren could tell she was kind of worried as well.

“Well, no. But it’s you.” Lauren replied quietly, looking down and leaving Camila speechless for once.

From the other end of the table, Taylor and Emily broke the silence that had ensued with their badly disguised giggling, effectively reminding both girls they weren’t alone. Lauren’s cheeks grew hotter by the second, and she was pretty sure even her ears were red, so she cleared her throat and went back to eating her food.

Not a minute later, she felt a hand on her knee underneath the table and Camila leaned closer to give her a kiss on the cheek. Lauren stole a glance at her girlfriend to see her flustered as well and a smile made its way into her face. But then Camila turned away, too soon for Lauren’s liking, and addressed her uncle, who had been patiently waiting with an unreadable expression on his face.

“Sorry, Mr. Jauregui.”

He waved off the apology. “Call me Marcus.”

“Well, okay then.” Camila muttered, in a way Lauren was pretty sure she was the only one to hear it. “Sorry, Marcus, I wasn’t expecting that.” She said in a louder voice.

“Why? Are you familiar with the company?” He asked, tilting his head a little as he cleaned his mouth with a napkin. Lauren could see the way his eyes narrowed a little and her heart started beating faster again. She was always suspicious of him, and she didn’t like the way he seemed to be interrogating her girlfriend.

“Yeah, well, who isn’t? It’s on the news all the time.” Camila answered with feigned innocence.

This time Lauren was the one who almost choked on her juice.

(Apparently it wasn’t safe to drink with her uncle around.)

Yes, Jauregui Mining Corp was on TV all the time because lately it had been involved in some environmental scandals. Lauren knew how much Camila cared about this kind of thing and, honestly, how she herself had grown to as well, so to have her expose her uncle’s company like that, masking it behind small talk, during lunch… Lauren was sure she was falling in love all over again.

Marcus seemed surprised for a moment, but he nodded before anyone could see it and went back to his meal. Well, anyone but Lauren, who wore this tiny, proud smirk on her face for the rest of lunch. Marcus stayed quiet for the majority of the time, talking only when addressed, and Lauren could feel herself relaxing, even if a little bit, when his gaze was nowhere near her or Camila.

After dessert, Camila went on with Emily to the living room after Clara refused to let either of them help in the kitchen. Marcus let everyone know that he needed to go to a meeting and couldn’t stay, which Lauren was pretty sure his way of avoiding having to help out with the dishes. Well, good for him. Lauren would wash a year’s worth of dishes if it meant she never had to hear from him again.

Unfortunately for her, that wasn’t the case, and not long after his announcement he requested a word with the young cop.

Lauren tried not to flinch when her uncle’s voice reached her and his words downed on her. What could he possibly want to talk about in private? She honestly had no clue, and even if she felt something twist in the pit of her stomach at the thought, she went along with him anyway.

“What?” Lauren spat as soon as they were out of the house. 

“Don’t be so rude. Is this how you treat everyone when you’re not around your parents?” He asked, eyebrows furrowed and a condescending little smile on his lips.

“Only you.” She answered, trying to keep her head high.

Marcus simply rolled his eyes. “Oh, get over it, Lauren. Or do I need to make you forget about it again?”

Lauren felt her heart drop to her stomach, and suddenly fear ran stronger through her veins. His tone was relatively light, like maybe he was trying to joke, but who the fuck jokes about this sort of thing? He really must be sick, and Lauren really shouldn’t be afraid of him, but she couldn’t help it as the familiarity of the situation hit her. She tried to control her breathing, dead set on not letting Marcus know how much he still affected her, but her heart was like a hammer inside her chest, and Lauren was afraid maybe he’d hear it.

Lauren didn’t have an answer for that, not one that would end up well anyway, so she chose to ignore him. “What do you want?” She asked again after a moment, nearly growling at him.

Marcus sighed, shaking his head at his niece’s reaction, as if she couldn’t appreciate humor. “I came here today to invite you, your parents and siblings to my birthday party two weeks from now.”

“Oh, your birthday. Isn’t it a little late to celebrate it? Wasn’t it like two weeks ago? Sorry, I forgot to give you a call.” Lauren’s voice was dripping with sarcasm and she was sure Marcus would notice. She knew his birthday, but she couldn’t bring herself to give a single fuck.

He narrowed his eyes. “It’ll also be a fundraiser for an organization that helps protect the Amazon, if you need to know. That’s why it’s late.”

“Trying to get some good publicity, uncle? You sure need it after what happened last month.” Lauren didn’t try to hide the disdain in her voice, she knew Marcus was aware of her dislike for him, so there was no point.

His lips pressed together to form a thin line. “That’s none of your business.” Lauren snorted in disbelief, opening her mouth to speak, but he beat her to it. “That’s none of your girlfriend’s business either. Who is she, by the way? I honestly think you could’ve done so much better than some random wannabe actress wh-”

“Well that’s none of your business, is it, uncle?” Lauren cut him off, anger replacing the fear in her blood.

He huffed and shook his head, the same expression of disgust still on his face. “Okay, then. Goodbye, Lauren.”

“Bye.” She said simply before turning on her heels and entering the house as quickly as she could. The second Lauren heard the door click behind her, the green eyed girl let her head rest against it and released a long breath of relief.


Lauren pushed herself off the door and walked slowly towards the living room. The simple knowledge that her uncle wasn’t in the house anymore was enough to lift a weight off her shoulders and for a moment she forgot she was supposed to be helping out in the kitchen. Lauren paused, ready to turn around and go the other way, but the sound of Camila’s laughter stopped her.  

Taking a few more steps the way she was headed before, Lauren stood in the entrance to the living room, a fond smile on her lips. Emily and Camila were seating in one of the couches facing each other, talking and laughing joyfully. They hadn’t seen Lauren yet and the dark haired girl was about to go her way and let them be when she heard footsteps approaching. Looking backwards, she saw it was only Chris, his arms crossed and a huge grin on his face. He stopped behind Lauren, slightly to her right, seeing everything from above her head.

“What’s got you all smiley, dumbass?” Lauren asked, playfulness and affection taking over her voice.

Chris only chuckled, nudging her with his elbow. “I could ask you the same thing, asshole.”

Lauren shook her head. It was true, she was grinning like a complete idiot, maybe more so than Chris, but she couldn’t not tease her little brother. She was pretty sure it was against the law not to tease a sibling. Lauren would know, all those years studying criminology weren’t for nothing after all. Unfortunately, that meant Chris was just as fond of making fun of her and sometimes they ended up offering each other death threats, just like the day Lauren had woken up at Camila’s house and gone to a family lunch afterwards.

Today, though, Lauren wanted nothing more than peace and tranquility. After all the stress she was put through with her uncle unexpected visit, Lauren wanted nothing more than to calm her still rapidly beating heart – who’s to say he wouldn’t come back with some excuse? – and relax.

“Them.” She answered, pointing with her head to the girls in the living room. Camila was currently speaking and gesticulating at the same time, which indicated her passion for whatever she was talking about.

“Aww, our baes get along!” Chris exclaimed, loud enough so that the girls in the living room could also hear him.

Camila stopped mid-sentence with a hand raised and a confused expression on her face. As soon as she turned to them, though, she broke into a smile and Lauren couldn’t help but feel her own smile growing. She heard Emily huffing in feigned annoyance, but she didn’t look over to the blonde, keeping her eyes locked with Camila’s.

“Bae? Really, Chris? I might break up with you after all.” She heard Emily joke, drawing her attention and making Lauren break her staring contest with Camila to look at her.

“Nah, it’s been only a month since we moved in together. You wouldn’t want the trouble of moving out.” He shot back, walking towards his girlfriend. Chris stood behind her and leaned down, meeting her halfway for a chaste kiss.

“You’d be the one moving out, though.” Emily said, still close to Chris. Lauren barely heard her answer as she, too, entered the living room, thoughts about helping their parents in the kitchen long forgotten.

She sat on the couch beside Camila, instantly snaking an arm around her waist to pull her closer. Camila giggled, nuzzling her head on the crook of Lauren’s neck before tilting her head up and kissing her jawline.

“Hey you.” Lauren said, looking down at her girlfriend.

“Hi.” Camila replied, moving to rest her head on Lauren’s shoulder without breaking eye contact. “When will we move in together, by the way?” She whispered.

“Well, nothing’s stopping us now, I guess.” Lauren replied, smiling fondly.

“I still gotta perform a few more times, but it’s okay. We’ll have more time now, we’ll work it out.”

Lauren smiled as Camila raised her head to kiss her. It was sloppy and barely a real kiss with the both of them not being able to hold back their smiles, but it was nothing short of perfect.

When Camila opened her eyes and locked them with Lauren’s, the girl felt her heart skip a bit before picking up its pace. This time, instead of fear, all she felt was love, and she couldn’t have asked for anything else.

Mani (9:17 pm): hey, can you meet me tomorrow for breakfast at Ally’s coffeehouse? I kinda need to talk to you

Lauren (9:18 pm): Well, Camila is over and we were planning on having breakfast together but I can meet you right after. We can talk on the way to work, right?

Lauren (9:19 pm): I’m sure she’ll understand if it’s something important, though.

Mani (9:19 pm): nah it’s cool. Meet me at 7:30, then?

Lauren (9:20 pm): Sure. But is everything okay?

Mani (9:20 pm): yeah, nothing to worry about. My lady is calling now, you should go back to yours

Lauren (9:20 pm): She’s in the shower, lol, but go! Good night.

Mani (9:21 pm): night, Screamer.

Lauren (9:21 pm): Ugh.

Later that day, Camila was in Lauren’s bathroom, taking off her contact lenses, when it hit her that soon this would be her bathroom, too. The thought alone brought a smile to her face as she walked back into the bedroom, only Lauren asleep already, lying on her back with a book on her chest and her phone on her stomach.

Camila's smile turned into an endeared grin as she moved around the bed to Lauren's side to take the phone and the book off her. She put both of them on the girl's nightstand and bent down to give her a quick kiss on the forehead. It was a little past ten, but Camila wasn't sleepy at all, so she plopped down on the bed beside Lauren and picked up her phone to scroll aimlessly through tumblr, which yes, she had since she was seventeen.

A few minutes had passed until Camila felt Lauren shift in the bed. At first she didn't think much of it, but then Lauren shifted again. And again and again until she was basically just kicking her comforter and sheets. This certainly worried Camila, who put her phone aside to sit straight.

"Lauren. Lauren, are you okay?! Lauren!" She exclaimed, voice getting louder by the second and hands gripping Lauren's shoulders for dear life.

Lauren suddenly bolted awake, sitting up in a swift motion with a deep breath. Her eyes wandered the room hastily until they found Camila's brown ones, and she seemed to relax as her breathing calmed down. Camila moved one of her hands to Lauren's cheek, who leaned into the touch with a sigh. One of her own hands flew up to grab the one Camila still had on her shoulder and squeeze it.

"Are you okay?" Camila asked again, her tone careful as she caressed Lauren's cheek with her thumb.

"Yeah." Lauren answered, her voice hoarse. "Bad dream." She sighed, running her free hand through her hair.

Camila wasn't dumb. She knew something was up and she knew it was about Lauren's uncle. She could see that no one truly liked the guy and, honestly, she understood why all too well, having been herself at his presence. Still, it seemed like there was just something more when it came to him and Lauren. Maybe they'd fought in the past? They weren't particularly hostile with each other now, not any more than the entire family had been. She probably wouldn’t think about it judging from lunch alone, but the look on Lauren's face when she'd first seen him and the change in her mood – at first blatant, then very well masked and eventually subdued during the day – had caught her attention.

Whatever it was, Camila was sure Lauren would open up to her when she felt comfortable enough to do so. For now, all she wanted to do was comfort her, let her know that she was here for her.

"Wanna talk about it?" The young actress asked, pushing Lauren back on the mattress before pulling the comforter back on top of her and lying back down on her side facing her girlfriend.

"Not really." Lauren answered quietly before mirroring Camila’s position. "Sorry about all the kicking, by the way." She mumbled.

Camila reached out to take Lauren's hand in her own, turning it around and kissing the inside of her girlfriend's wrist before scooting closer and keeping their intertwined hands between them.

"You have nothing to apologize for." She whispered, so close that she could feel Lauren's breath on her own lips.

"I do, though. Not about the kicking, but... sorry about my uncle today. I know he’s not the nicest guy, so… yeah.” Lauren whispered back, looking down at their hands.

Camila’s heart felt like it was being clenched for the vulnerability Lauren was showing. It’s not that Lauren hid herself from Camila, no, they were both very open with each other. But as much as the young actress liked to joke about Lauren being a fake badass and a dork on the inside, the girl was usually content with life and to see her like that… not something Camila would like to do often.

“Again, Lauren, you have nothing to apologize for. You couldn’t have known, okay? And still, it’s not your fault he’s your uncle and it’s not your fault your parents let him stay.” Camila reached forward and held her girlfriend’s chin between her index finger and her thumb, lifting her head so Lauren would look into her eyes. “Okay?”

After a moment of hesitation, Lauren nodded. “Okay.” She said, a small smile on her lips now.

Camila gave her a smile just as small and delicate before leaning forward to peck her lips. “Now, why didn’t you tell me you had an uncle? And that he was the CEO of Jauregui Mining Corp? That’s why I thought he looked familiar, I must’ve seen him on TV.” Camila chuckled, moving her free hand from Lauren’s chin to stroke her arm in a comforting manner.

Lauren gave her a small shrug. “I don’t know, it didn’t feel worth mentioning. I always thought that if I were to see him again, I would know beforehand. Then I would be able to tell you about it in time for you to unfortunately have to meet him.”

Camila hummed in response. “How come you never mentioned the company, though?” Lauren kept going once she realized the brown eyed girl wouldn’t answer.

“I figured it wasn’t your family’s because you know, none of you ever mentioned it and you never even wanted to watch the news about the scandals.” She answered easily. Lauren nodded and she went on. “Plus, it’s not like you are the only Jaureguis in the U.S. and if I’m being honest here you’re not ridiculously rich, so there’s that.”

Lauren threw her head back in the pillow they were sharing to let out a big laugh. Camila’s smile widened at the sound, she never grew tired of hearing it.

Lauren met her eyes again after a moment, mirroring Camila’s smile. “My parents never wanted to depend on him for anything. My dad told me once that Marcus wanted to have a company since he was like ten which, why?” Camila chuckled and Lauren smiled adoringly at her for a moment before kissing the tip of her nose and continuing. “Well, he built his company alright, but my dad never wanted his money aside from like, if the house fell down and he needed a little help rebuilding it.”

“That’s so unrealistic, Lo.” Camila giggled.

“Yeah, well, shut up.” Lauren nudged her nose with her own, but it only made Camila laugh harder. “Anyway, we had more contact with him when I was a kid but, like I told you, he and my dad fought a few years ago and thankfully we almost don’t see him anymore.”

“Sure seems like the guy has fans.” Camila joked.

Lauren laughed. “It’s funny because literally no one likes him, he’s that relative you just have to stand for the sake of the family, you know?” 

Lauren’s tone was light, but Camila noticed how her smile seemed a little more forced now. Still, she didn’t mention it, she didn’t want to push Lauren into opening up about whatever that was about.

“Yeah…” She answered simply.

Camila stopped her hand on Lauren’s arm and scooted even closer, moving her arm to play with her hair now. Her girlfriend put her own free arm around her waist and pulled Camila into her, resting her head on the brunette’s chest.

“I’m gonna have to leave you shortly after breakfast tomorrow, by the way.” Camila hummed in acknowledgment and Lauren continued. “Mani wants to talk.”

“Okay.” She answered. They stayed in comfortable silence for a minute before Camila remembered something else she wanted to mention. “Oh, and I see why you always talk about changing your name to Emily. She’s awesome.”

Lauren chuckled, her laughter resonating through Camila’s body. “Yeah, she’s really cool. Not cooler than you, though.”

“Is anyone?” Camila laughed, feeling more than hearing Lauren do so too.

“No, not really.” Lauren said, her voice thick with sleep. “But as much as I’d love to keep this conversation going, I’m about ten seconds from passing out, especially if you keep doing that with my hair.” Camila giggled. “Good night, Camz.”

“’Night, baby.” She answered quietly.

Camila still didn’t feel like sleeping, but she couldn’t say the same for Lauren. The girl had been in Camila’s arms for no more than two minutes and she could already feel her heavy, peaceful breathing on her skin. Camila smiled to herself before bending her head to plant a gentle kiss on the crown of Lauren’s head and lift the hand she had on her hair to turn off the light in the nightstand. She may not have been sleepy, but she would do everything to ensure that Lauren stayed in her relaxed state, and that included holding her until she fell asleep herself.

Camila drifted off to the sound of Lauren’s breathing and the feeling of her heart beating against her body, and she couldn’t think of a better lullaby.

Chapter Text

Lauren woke up the next morning completely tangled up in a sleeping Camila, as she had grown used to in the last few months. Thoughts of her girlfriend barged through her still drowsy mind and she couldn’t stop the sleepy smile that made its way to her face along with them, having no reason to even try. What better way could there be of waking up, really? What better thoughts could grasp her attention first thing in the morning than those of the one who makes her so happy, even amidst the madness that sometimes seemed to invite itself into Lauren’s life…

And with that Lauren’s thoughts were once again infested by her uncle, making the girl roll her eyes at herself and sigh heavily. Great, just great. Hadn’t the nightmare been enough? Lauren was just about completely and utterly done with him, but somehow Marcus always found his way back into her mind. Still, Lauren would not let him affect her this week. Not this week.

She got up from the bed, careful so as to not wake Camila up, and gathered some clothes before heading to the bathroom to take a shower. It wasn’t long before she was done and by then Camila had woken up herself, not because she had something in particular to do, but to have breakfast with Lauren. Knowing that her girlfriend wasn’t much of a morning person, the green eyed girl appreciated the gesture to no end, especially after the busy few days they’d had.

Camila was sat up on Lauren’s bed, her back against the headboard and her legs still under the covers, rubbing her eyes tiredly. She turned to look at Lauren at the sound of the bathroom door opening, squinting her eyes out of habit to try and see her better.

“Hey you.” She said in a raspy voice, smiling lazily for a moment before yawning. “Good morning.”

“Morning, babe.” Lauren replied, giggling at how adorable her girlfriend looked. She walked over to the bed and leaned down, pecking Camila’s lips quickly before pulling back and smirking. “Sometimes I forget you’re practically blind.”

“Am not!” Camila exclaimed, laughing a little herself, but picking up her glasses from the nightstand where they had been resting anyway.

“How does it feel to be back to seeing in HD, Camz?” Lauren joked, walking around the room until she reached her wardrobe. She put on her black beanie, which had quickly become one of her favorites through the course of January.

“If it means I get to watch you in that, I think I want to go back.” Camila replied and took off her glasses again to prove her point, the playful tone to her voice making Lauren’s heart skip a beat. “I can’t believe you wear that beanie.”

Lauren turned around to face Camila, an unimpressed expression on her face. “Well, I can’t believe you gave me a beanie with the word Cabello’s written on it for Christmas.” She deadpanned.

Camila let out a big laugh at that, throwing a pillow at Lauren’s direction. Lauren caught it easily, laughing alongside her. “It was supposed to be a joke gift! And I regretted it, you know that. I wasn’t going to actually give it to you, it’s not my fault Ally and Dinah snuck it on the box along with your scarf.” She started, rambling as she sometimes did when Lauren managed to make flustered and causing the young cop to grin in return.

“I’m just messing with you, Camz. I love this beanie.” Lauren chuckled, walking towards Camila again.

Camila exhaled deeply, smiling too. “Yeah, I know. It scares me a little bit, to be honest.”

Lauren laughed again as she put the pillow back on its place. Then she leaned down again to give her girlfriend another kiss, a more lingering one this time. Lauren placed her left hand on the bed beside Camila to support her while her right hand cupped her girlfriend’s cheek and was going to lean back when the younger girl stopped her from doing so. Camila wasted no time in placing both her hands on the back of Lauren’s neck, pulling her closer while running her tongue over the older girl’s bottom lip, asking for permission to deepen the kiss. Lauren granted access immediately and soon enough their tongues met, slowly at first, but more hungrily and eagerly with each passing second. Camila slowly pushed herself off the headboard, turning slightly and letting her body sink into the bed. Lauren followed without much thought so as to not interrupt the kiss, letting her other hand fall from Camila’s face to the mattress as she climbed on the bed, her knees at either side of Camila’s hips. The younger girl took off Lauren’s beanie, throwing it somewhere around them, before tangling her fingers through her hair.

Lauren’s heart was pounding in her chest and she was pretty sure she should stop this before it went too far because she had something to do, but she couldn’t exactly remember what. Not with the way Camila was kissing her, sucking the air from her lungs with how intense this was turning out to be. Lauren broke the kiss to leave a trail of open mouthed ones down Camila’s neck, stopping to suck on her sweet spot and making her girlfriend moan and grip the hair on the base of her skull. Lauren smirked against her skin as she felt Camila’s hand on her stomach under her shirt, resting her weight now on her elbows to get closer to Camila. The brown eyed girl took advantage of the fact and moved the hand that was still on Lauren’s neck to her chest while her other hand gripped her hip. She pushed Lauren so that she was the one laying on her back and quickly hovered over the green eyed girl. She sat on Lauren’s lap and for a second their eyes met, both of them smiling at each other, before she lowered herself to capture Lauren’s lips on her own again.

The buzzing of Lauren’s phone against the wood of her nightstand was loud enough to startle the two girls, who broke apart almost instantly. Lauren looked up at Camila, who was now sitting up, and seemed to have been just as lost in the moment as she’d been. The brown eyed girl was flustered and breathing heavily, much like Lauren herself, and she couldn’t help but groan as she recalled what they’d just been doing and how rudely they’d been interrupted. Still, she had to go to work. Sighing, she let her head fall on the bed as her eyes closed, but not a second had passed before she felt Camila shift above her and a pair of soft lips meet her own briefly. She opened her eyes again, locking them with Camila’s, whose wide smile Lauren soon mirrored.

“Come on, you have to go.” Camila said, moving out of her spot above Lauren.

Lauren sighed again despite the smile on her lips. “Ugh, no. I want to stay.” She said, dramatically covering her eyes with her arm.

Lauren could hear Camila giggling and her smile widened even more. “Oh, I want you to stay too, trust me.”

Lauren laughed as well, finally getting up from the bed. “We’ll have plenty of time for that later.”

“I know, I’m just kidding.” She chuckled, putting her glasses on again. “Come on, I’ll make pancakes.”

“Be there in a minute.” Lauren said as Camila nodded and gave her another chaste kiss before leaving her room.

Lauren stayed still for a moment with a dumb smile on her face. The things Camila made her feel… she didn’t remember ever feeling like that. What they had was special, and Lauren wanted to keep it forever. She would keep it forever. With her stomach still full of butterflies, Lauren fixed her hair and recovered her beanie from the floor, chuckling quietly to herself as she put it back on. Then she picked up her phone and unlocked it to see who it was that disturbed their moment.

She was surprised to see that she had two texts, one from Noah and one from Normani, and that somehow the first one hadn’t woken neither her nor Camila up. She opened Noah’s first, since it was sent earlier – and by earlier she meant a time that no human should ever be waking up – and felt a smile quickly form on her face.

Noah (5:21 am): listen up, can we just meet your gf already? Keana is literally driving me insane

Lauren heard Camila call for her again, which only made her smile widen. “Yeah, just a second, I’ll be right there!” She shouted back as she typed a response.

Lauren (6:42 am): Yes, please. I’ll talk to her and see if we can come up with something. And be good to K!

Lauren was just about to close her conversation with Noah to go read Normani’s text when a new one from him showed up, startling her a little. Damn, it’d taken him what, five seconds to reply?

Noah (6:42 am): always dude

Lauren could only smile even harder and reply with a heart, chuckling quietly to herself. Finally, she opened Normani’s text, wondering – and worrying a little – about what she might have been wanting to talk about.

Mani (6:33 am): don’t you! (forget about meee..)

Lauren let out a loud laugh as she read the text, remembering how much Normani had grown obsessed with both The Breakfast Club and this song after Ally had practically forced her to watch it. It was only fair, she had said, because Normani simply “couldn’t go on living without having watched such a masterpiece”. But Lauren obviously couldn’t let her friend know that she’d laughed at that; she had an image to maintain, after all.

(She was pretty sure that Normani didn’t believe her badass act – which was a very real part of Lauren by the way, thank you very much – at all, especially after they’d grown more comfortable around each other and their dynamic included lots of teasing from the dark skinned girl, but still. She acted all tough in front of her colleagues at the precinct and they believed her, even if they still teased her. She had to try.)

Lauren (6:43 am): Why are you like this?

Mani (6:44 am): I woke up like this!!

Lauren laughed loudly again before locking her phone and putting it on her back pocket. If the beginning of her day was any indication, she had a good one in front of her, despite her previous nervousness about her talk with Normani. But her friend’s apparent good mood had quelled her fears and she was actually quite curious as to what she had to say, if she was being honest. With that in mind, Lauren made her way to her kitchen to have breakfast with Camila, smiling at the heavenly smell of pancakes in the air.

Almost an hour later, Lauren was driving by Ally’s coffee shop to pick up her friend, having texted Normani a few minutes earlier at a red light to tell her to wait outside. It was getting colder again, after all, and it wouldn’t be fair to make Normani stay outdoors in the cold when she was still far from the café. She stopped at the curb to let her partner into the passenger seat, which she quickly filled before closing the door and turning to Lauren.

“Good morning!” Lauren greeted, smiling warmly.

“Morning, Laur.” Normani replied, mirroring her expression and fastening her seatbelt as Lauren pulled the car into movement again.

“So, what did you want to talk about?” Lauren asked after a minute of silence, no longer being able to hold back her curiosity.

To her surprise, Normani chuckled and smirked at her. “Eager, are we?”

“Well yeah, you did make a whole lot of suspense with your texts. You can’t blame me for wondering.” Lauren stated matter-of-factly, like a child caught stealing cookies and justifying themselves. Normani only laughed again.

“I’ve told you, it’s nothing bad.” Despite that, her expression soon became more serious, and Lauren would cast glances at her at every chance she got, anxious to hear what that was about. “It’s just… I’ve been thinking… Like, Keana and Noah, you know?”

Lauren had imagined a lot of possible scenarios, had come up with lots of things that could come out of Normani’s mouth, but that? That was definitely not one of the options. The green eyed girl couldn’t help but frown as she looked at her friend, remembering how she had seemed weird when they’d run into them last Friday after Camila’s play.

“What about them?” Lauren asked, confusion etched into her voice.

“Well, you know… They’re getting married.” Normani continued, becoming more hesitant with each word she spoke. “They got together only a few months before Ally and I…” She trailed off, looking at Lauren suggestively.

“Yeah…” Lauren did have an idea about where Normani was going with this now, and her cheeks hurt from her attempts to stop herself from smiling should she be wrong, wanting to hear her friend say it before making assumptions. They came to a stop at a red light and Lauren turned to fully face Normani, watching her expectantly.

Normani sighed, curling a strand of hair on her index finger out of nervousness. “Well, I’ve been thinking… You know… About asking her hand in marriage.” She spat out the last sentence, almost as if she expected Lauren not to hear it.

Oh, but Lauren did hear her. She heard her well and laughed joyfully, a grin spreading through her face before she lunched herself at Normani to hug her as well as she could with both of them still on their seatbelts.

“Seriously?! I’m so, so happy for you!” Lauren almost yelled as she let go of Normani out of need, the light turning green and prompting her to start driving again.

“Woah there, Screamer. There’s no need to prove your right to the title, you know?” Normani chuckled, grinning from ear to ear as well.

Lauren shook her head, laughing. “Shut up, Mani. Jesus, can’t I be happy for two of my closest friends?”

“She hasn’t even said yes yet! I haven’t even asked her!” Normani exclaimed, her voice raising in volume as she became nervous again. “What if she thinks it’s too soon?”

“Well, why don’t you ask her on your year anniversary? It’s not too soon and Ally loves you to death, she’ll say yes.” Lauren guaranteed, shrugging.

“You really think so?” Normani asked, the smile on her face contrasting the anxiousness on her voice.

“I know so.” Lauren reassured her, reaching out with her right hand to squeeze her friend’s upper arm comfortingly.

Normani smiled appreciatively and Lauren retracted her hand, returning it to the wheel. Lauren couldn't help but glance at Normani every few seconds, her grin fixed on her face out of the happiness she felt for her friends. Ally had always been such an important person in her life, more often than not the only one she had truly turned to for everything, the good and the bad, and, knowing how much she loved Normani, how happy they were together, she couldn't not be ecstatic about this.

"How long have you thought about this?" She asked her partner, unable to hide the excitement on her voice.

"A few weeks, to be honest. I was talking to my mom about Ally when she came up with the subject, almost giving me a heart attack." Normani chuckled and Lauren shook her head, amused at the thought. "Then she gave me her engagement ring, which had belonged to my grandmother before her. I didn't know what to do at first, but then again that's why you're here." She joked, looking at Lauren with a smirk.

"Oh, so I'm just like your assistant?" Lauren asked, feigning being hurt and dramatically clutching her heart with her right hand.

"Pretty much, yeah." Normani snickered and Lauren frowned, trying to keep up with their little game.

"I thought I was your friend! All those memories, all of our moments, were any of them even real?" She cried in a high pitched voice, making Normani laugh out loud for a moment.

"Nah." She managed to get out amidst her laughter.

Lauren laughed at her bluntness, no longer being able to keep pretending. "You're a jerk."

Normani shrugged and made an unapologetic face, her smirk intact. "We are what we are."

"Maybe that can be your nickname?" Lauren exclaimed, grinning smugly.

"Nope, I can't have a nickname, I'm too cool for that." Normani replied, resting back on her seat.

"What, and I can? I'm way cooler than you so those rules clearly don't apply." Lauren shot back, raising an eyebrow in challenge.

Which Normani ignored completely, snorting in both amusement and disbelief. "Yeah, right."

Lauren really frowned this time, her grin gone, and huffed. Who did Normani think she was? Didn't she know Lauren couldn't be messed with?

(So maybe everyone liked to tease her. Still, she's dangerous. They should know better.)

"You think you're like the bomb, huh?"

Normani nodded in acknowledgment. "Yep." She replied, popping the p.

"We'll see how bomb you think you are when I tell Ally about your plans." Lauren said in an innocent tone, enjoying how fast that got Normani to turn her head with wide eyes.

"You wouldn't." Normani countered, narrowing her eyes once the initial surprise had died down.

"Wouldn't I?" Lauren asked, furrowing her eyebrows as if deep in thought.

Normani glared at her until she started laughing, unable to resist any longer. The dark skinned girl then let out a loud "ha" and crossed her arms in what Lauren believed to be feigned annoyance. Lauren could only laugh harder at the gesture, grinning as she entered the police station's parking lot and parked her car at a good spot.

The green eyed girl was starting to get worried that Normani really was mad at her when they got out of the car and she still hadn't broken her scowl, and was about to say something to break the silence, when, after she'd locked the car, she felt a light shove from behind that made her lose her balance for a moment.

"I knew you wouldn't." Normani's tone made Lauren smile, and she knew it was okay after all.

Camila woke up for the second time that day, having gone back to bed as soon as Lauren left the apartment, with the sun on her face. Groaning, she turned to lie on her stomach and buried her face further into Lauren’s pillow, breathing in her scent while trying to block the light from her eyes. Camila hadn’t even realized it, but a smile began to form on her lips as soon as she did so.

(Courtesy of a certain green eyed girl, whose perfume was so etched into Camila’s brain, so heavily associated with happiness, that it calmed her and left her content in almost any situation.)

Ugh, she’s got it bad.

Camila sighed, her grin intact, and lifted her body a little, supporting her weight with her forearms and elbows. A quick look to Lauren’s nightstand told her that it was a little past 10 am, which seemed about right for her. She was glad be done with rehearsals; the heavy routine had taken its toll on her and she’d become more irritated than usual, like that day she and Lauren fought had shown. Now she only had to worry about practicing some more at home for a few more performances before she had to start looking for new roles. And maybe a new place to waitress at. Camila sighed before sitting up and running a hand through her long hair. She definitely wasn’t looking forward to that again.

Getting up, Camila went about her morning routine. She took a shower, which she hadn’t done the first time she woke up, and then went to the kitchen to eat breakfast, which she had done the first time she woke up, but who cares? Camila was always hungry anyway. She sat at the small table in Lauren’s kitchen, eating her cereal, and couldn’t help but let her mind wander back to the events of Sunday.

Aside from Lauren’s first interaction with her uncle and how she had been a little quieter and more serious than usual, Camila hadn’t noticed anything too off about her girlfriend. Like she’d come to realize the night before, she probably wouldn’t even think about it judging from lunch alone. And although Marcus had been an asshole, they’d both had a great time, especially after he’d gone away. Camila had also been pleased to have met Emily, who she’d grown very fond of in the short amount of time they’d known each other. So, during the day, she hadn’t thought about it that much, but now that she was left alone with her thoughts once again, she worried about Lauren and the nightmare she’d had the night before did nothing to quell her worries. But, Lauren had said she had nothing to worry about and she had to accept that.

Even if she didn’t believe her.

Sighing, Camila got up and went to the sink to wash her bowl and the spoon with which she’d been eating cereal. It wasn’t like she could rip the information out of Lauren, no matter how curious and concerned she might actually be, and it wasn’t like she wanted to do that, loathing the thought that her girlfriend didn’t trust her enough to not share something important with her. No, Lauren would come to her if she needed and wanted to, she was sure of that. She seemed better this morning too, which was great, so Camila guessed she should just relax.

And text her good morning, obviously, even after they had had breakfast together, because what kind of girlfriend would she be if she didn’t?

(A normal one, probably, but then again, normal is overrated anyway.)

Camila (10:37 am): morning sunshine! how are you this fine day? lol

Camila locked her phone and started walking out of the kitchen, assuming Lauren was going to take her time to answer as usual, but a few moments later it vibrated and, now smiling, she opened her girlfriend’s response.

Lolo <3 (10:38 am): You’ll never guess what I found out!!!

Camila furrowed her brows at the lack of an actual answer to her text and was midway through typing a reply, curious as to what might’ve happened, when Lauren beat her to it.

Lolo <3 (10:38 am): But hey babe, I’m about the same as before, lol. A little bored, to be honest. Things are pretty calm today. But how are you? Did you go to bed again?

Camila (10:38 am): heyyyyy you can’t drop smth like you’ll never guess!! and go on to ask me about my day.

Camila (10:39 am): but yeah, i did lol. and i’m fine, just finished eating all your cereal btw

Lolo <3 (10:39 am): Lol, I’m sorry. I got excited then forgot to actually answer you.

Lolo <3 (10:39 am): Wait really?? There was so much! Ugh, I’ll buy more on my way home, then.

Camila smiled at the texts, feeling a little bit guilty for eating that much at, well, both her breakfasts. She decided she’d go out and buy more herself to make up for it, she didn’t have much to do anyway and it was only fair.

Camila (10:39 am): don’t worry about it, i’ll buy it. but spill already jfc

Lolo <3 (10:40 am): You’re not ready for it!

Camila (10:40 am): of course i am just say ittttt

Lolo <3 (10:40 am): Here goes…

Lolo <3 (10:41 am): Mani is gonna ask Ally to marry her on their one year anniversary!!!

Camila choked on thin air upon reading Lauren’s text. She coughed a little, but was soon back to normal, or as normal as it could be to grin wildly and squeal like a three-year-old while jumping not only once, but two times out of excitement.

“Oh my God!” She exclaimed, having been completely caught off guard, but all too happy at the same time.

Camila reread the text, just to check that she wasn’t mistaken, and tilted her head to the side when she got to the last part. One year? Hadn’t they been together for two years? Huh, weird. Maybe she’d been mistaken. She guessed it didn’t matter, it was still wonderful news and she was still unbelievably happy for their friends. The brown eyed girl started typing furiously and as quickly as she physically could, anxious to share her excitement with her girlfriend.

Camila (10:42 am): I WASN’T READY!!!! THAT’S SO AMAZING!!!

Camila (10:43 am): was this what mani wanted tot alk about?? oh my gooooooood

Camila (10:43 am): talk* ohhhh god i soo wasn’t ready

Lolo <3 (10:44 am): I know right?? Yes it was, she wanted to ask me what I thought because I’ve known Ally forever and she’s gonna do it like next week.

Lolo <3 (10:44 am): I can’t believe they’ve been dating for a year now, it seems like yesterday K and I decided to drop our drinks on Normani to get her to talk to Ally.

Camila (10:44 am): omg laur that’s so dangerous!!

Lolo <3 (10:45 am): Lmao, don’t worry, they were cold drinks. And it worked, Ally lent her a shirt or something and a year later here we are.

Camila (10:45 am): what are you the cupid omg jafhljkasf but hey I thought they were dating for 2 years? idk

Lolo <3 (10:46 am): You’re one to talk, you practically planned for me to show up at your party. But no, they got together in February last year, lol.

Camila (10:46 am): so not fair!! i didn’t know how to contact you! we’ve gone over this Lolo let it gooo

This time Lauren didn’t answer immediately, but that didn’t worry Camila. At least she convinced herself not to be worried, her previous freak outs about Lauren vanishing not ending up very well. It was an usual occurrence, since Lauren was always running off to try and stop robberies, save some people, back up the detectives during cases, that sort of thing. Camila sighed and went along her morning, cleaning the house for Lauren after checking for another message and seeing she had none. She even practiced a little for the play before going out for lunch.

Eventually Lauren texted her back, apologizing and explaining that she’d had to run out with Normani to collect statements from eye witnesses of a running over, which fortunately hadn’t killed or severely injured the person who got hit by the car.

Lauren also told Camila she’d been assigned security duty on a soccer game on Wednesday, which made Camila’s eyes go soft and her heart, warm. She was met with a wave of nostalgia, remembering how her father used to have a liking for the sport. He used to take her to lots of games when she was younger, but she’d stopped watching it altogether after his death. She was about to ask Lauren where the game would be so that she could go watch it, but the green eyed girl had to go again before they could properly talk, and Camila went to her own place, with soccer still in mind and unsure of what to do with the rest of her day.

It was the middle of Tuesday afternoon and Camila was bored.

She’d stayed at home the entire day on Monday, not knowing quite what to do outside with the way the weather was behaving and afraid it was going to start snowing again. She’d watched TV, cleaned her own apartment, finished the book she had been currently reading, practiced some more and time still hadn’t seemed to pass. It also hadn’t helped when Lauren texted her saying she wouldn’t be able to spend the night over at her place because she had some reports to fill or something like that.

So she had decided that Tuesday would be different. She’d texted Lauren briefly in the morning, but had soon left her alone, seeing as she was probably busy. Then she’d called Shawn, looking for someone to rehearse with, but he already had plans for the entire day. A few of her friends from the play also couldn’t meet her and her other friends were all working or busy. Camila had even almost called her adoptive parents to at least have lunch with other people when she remembered they out were of town for the week. Camila had already given up hope to have company for lunch once she settled on her couch to start another random show on Netflix and decide what to eat, but she’d still been hell bent on having some human contact during the day. Especially since Lauren hadn’t been there when she’d woken up and probably wouldn’t be until she got to her place around seven p.m.

With that in mind, she’d texted Dinah while she waited for the Chinese food she’d ordered, asking her if she was free to hang out after work. Thankfully, her best friend’s response had been something along the lines of “as free as the US claims to be, Chancho”, and Camila was supposed to stop by the dance studio Dinah worked at around four p.m. so they could decide what to do.

So, it was almost time to get out of her apartment and go meet Dinah, and Camila was completely and utterly bored. She was sprawled out on her couch, scrolling mindlessly through tumblr on her phone, waiting for time to pass by and seriously considering starting to watch The 100, which was everywhere on her dashboard. With a sigh, she checked the time once again and decided to just go already. She had initially meant to take a cab, but a walk would do too. It would probably be for the best, now that she thought about it, to clear her head.

(The problem was, clear her head from what? Ugh, she needed something, anything to do.)

Putting on a heavy coat, a scarf and a blue beanie Lauren had left at her place, Camila went out the door, down the stairs and into the freezing weather. She walked in silence, distracted and observant, letting the lives of the people around her fill her imagination with possible scenarios that lead to the bits and pieces of the conversations she caught along the way. Camila used to do that all the time when she was younger, especially when she was with her parents at the mall and her mother would go into a store for a moment, leaving her with her father. She’d sit on his lap and they’d watch people passing by, laughing at the crazy stories they came up with together.

Then they’d died, and Camila eventually got used to losing herself in other people’s lives, receiving only silence as an answer to her imagination.

(Suddenly the stories weren’t funny anymore.)

Shaking off the uninvited sad memories, Camila tried to focus on the good things that had happened to her over the years, stopping at the most recent one: Lauren. She smiled to herself as she pictured her bright green eyes, her soft dark hair, the silver stud on her nose and all the things that made her, her, and she was hit with the certainty that, no matter what had happened to her in the past, things had turned out okay and they would probably stay that way with Lauren too.

Camila didn’t feel the time pass, lost in her thoughts, and arrived at the small dance studio sooner than she’d expected to, which meant Dinah was still teaching her class. She greeted the lady at the reception with a warm hello, as she always did, and sat on the couch in the room to wait for her friend along with a handful of parents waiting to pick up their children, taking off her scarf in the meantime. After a couple of minutes, she felt her phone buzz and fished for it inside her purse, unlocking it to find a text from Lauren.

Lolo <3 (3:53 pm): Hope you’re having a good day! Missing you as usual. PS: I won’t be able to answer if you text me back for like an hour so byee babe. Xo

Camila’s smile widened into a grin almost instantly upon reading her girlfriend’s words.

Camila (3:53 pm): ur so cute Lolo ugh. why are u so cute?? i wanna kiss you so much right now why do you do this to me u lil cutie

Lauren had spoken the truth when she said she wouldn’t be able to reply, and Camila still hadn’t gotten a reply by the time Dinah’s class ended and the kids she’d been teaching started to fill the reception. Camila saw her friend exit a room halfway through the hallway of the studio after the children, hugging some of them goodbye with a big smile on her face. Warmness spread through Camila’s chest at the scene, her own grin turning into a soft, small smile as she watched Dinah exchange a few words with some parents as they walked out before spotting her and walking over to where she was sat. Camila quickly stood up and looked around, noticing the studio was emptying quickly. When she met Dinah’s eyes again and saw the mischievous glint in them, she knew what was about to happen.

“What’s up, Walz?” Dinah approached her with her arms wide open and a smirk on her face.

Camila braced herself for the bone crushing hug her – very – tall friend gave her, but she was as unprepared as ever when it came, all air getting sucked out of her lungs at once. Camila had her arms around Dinah’s torso, but they were barely touching her, the brunette being too suffocated to put any pressure into the embrace.

“Dinah! Can’t… breathe…” Camila managed to say, her voice muffled by Dinah’s shirt.

The light haired girl started laughing at Camila’s attempt to speak, her whole body shaking. It was then that Camila realized that Dinah was actually sweaty from her lesson, and she couldn’t help the small squeal that left her lips, making Dinah laugh even harder. She struggled to get out of the stronger girl’s grip, but it was useless, and she ended up letting her arms fall to her sides.

“Dinah, please.” Camila pleaded. She looked up at Dinah, feeling utterly defeated, and pouted as well as she could, trying to get a reaction from her friend.

Dinah chuckled once again before finally releasing Camila. “Okay, okay. There’s no need to cry now, drama queen.”

Camila took a deep breath, relief washing over her once she no longer felt suffocated and trapped by a sweaty, Polynesian body. She fixed the beanie on her head before turning to glare at Dinah, slightly annoyed.

“It’s not drama when I literally couldn’t breathe! And you’re all sticky! Ugh.” Camila complained, pouting again, her cheeks a light tinge of red.

Dinah only laughed again, and as much as Camila wanted to be mad at her, she couldn’t help but crack the smallest smile at the sound. “Try teaching fifteen ten-year-olds how to dance hip hop for an hour and a half. You’ll get sweaty too, trust me. It’s the natural order of things.” She finished matter-of-factly, as if giving Camila a lesson, and the smaller girl giggled in her response, making Dinah grin contently. “There she is! Okay, so you’ve laughed and my job here is done. You can go home now.”

“China…” Camila warned, but there was no annoyance in her tone now. Dinah was her best friend and she absolutely loved her, there was no way she would actually get mad at her for something like this, especially since she’d seen it coming.

“I’m joking, Mila. Sit your ass down and wait while I take a shower, I’ll be right back.” Dinah winked and turned on her heels, disappearing into the last door down the hallway, which Camila knew to be the locker room.

Camila did as she was told and sat back down as she waited for Dinah to come back. She chatted with the receptionist, Karen, for a while until she had to answer the studio’s phone and they settled into silence again. Camila checked her Instagram and twitter before falling back into her guilty pleasure, her tumblr. Time seemed to fly by while she scrolled down her dashboard and before she knew it Dinah was back and they were getting out of the studio and into the taller girl’s car.

“So, where are we going?” Dinah asked after fastening her seatbelt.

Camila shrugged. “I don’t know, actually. I just wanted to hang out with you, I guess. I mean, it seems like forever since we’ve last done that, so…” She trailed off.

Dinah chuckled and shook her head, apparently amused, which in turn made Camila raise an eyebrow, confused at her friend’s reaction. “We’ve literally hung out Friday and Saturday, Mila.”

Camila rolled her eyes, a small smile now playing on her lips. “Yeah, but Friday doesn’t count because of the play and Saturday everyone was there too. I meant that I miss just the two of us hanging out, you know? Like when we met in middle school.”

“Damn, we were so lame.” Dinah laughed.

“Or when we lived together after high school.” Camila continued, ignoring her best friend’s interruption, becoming somewhat nostalgic with the sudden recollection of their past.

“Yeah, those were definitely good times.” Dinah started with a small lopsided smile, her tone softer now. “It wasn’t always just the two of us, though. You always had Shawn.” She stated.

“And you’ve always had your family, your endless siblings and cousins.” Camila giggled, earning a playful and light shove from Dinah. “But you know what I mean. We’re always so busy now, you with your dance lessons and me with all the waitressing and auditioning and more recently the play. I miss this, us.” She finished, gesturing with her right hand between the two of them, a warm smile now plastered across her face.

Dinah mirrored her expression before her eyes sparkled with something else and she pretended to wipe a tear off the corner of her eye. “Damn, Chanch, you’re making me cry over here.” Camila laughed loudly at the whiny tone Dinah’s voice had taken.

“Why are you so dumb?” She asked, still chuckling.

“Is this your way of saying you love me? Warn a girl before confessing your undying love for her, would ya?” Camila laughed even harder at that, clutching her stomach with one hand and hitting Dinah on the arm with the other, making the other girl break out into her own fit of laughter. What an idiot. “I’m gonna have to tell Lauren though, I’m under the impression she’s the one in love with you.” Dinah finished between her ragged breaths.

Camila’s smile never left her face but she rolled her eyes anyway, her heart picking up at the implications of Lauren’s feelings for her. She wanted to believe Dinah was right, it certainly felt like Lauren loved her and she was pretty sure that was the case, but, since the words had never actually been exchanged – her own fear of rejection being partially the one to blame for that –, she still grew a little nervous whenever it was implied by one of her friends in the form of teasing.

“Shut up and drive.” She commanded, shaking her head.

“Where to, ma’am?” Dinah asked, making her best impression of a chauffeur. Camila raised her eyebrows, surprised, it was actually pretty good.

“Coffee Land, as fast as you can.” Camila answered in a stuck up tone, keeping up with their little game.

“Sweet, I could use a drink from Ally’s to warm up.” Dinah smiled, breaking the pretending match without any hesitation. “I mean, ugh, it’s supposed to be getting warmer, not colder.”

Camila laughed. “Let’s go, Dinah.”

The taller girl rolled her eyes before starting the car. “Fine.”

Realizing they were going to see Ally made Camila become all giddy on the inside again. She’d been dying to tell Dinah about what Lauren had told her, but she wanted to share the news personally and, knowing her best friend, it was probably not a good idea to tell her about it now. Not that she’d spill it to Ally, of course not, but they were on their way to her coffee shop and hearing about Normani wanting to propose would make her too excited around the smaller girl, which could lead her to be suspicious of something. Camila could wait another day or two, she was sure of that.

They made light conversation on the way to the coffee shop, eventually singing along to the songs that played on the radio, and Camila was happy to not be bored for once.

(Deep down she knew she was being dramatic, but, truth be told, she didn’t care. That day and a half had felt like an eternity, and she was glad to be amongst human beings again.)

It wasn’t long before Dinah was parking her car and the girls were climbing out of it and making their way to the café. They entered, Camila removing her scarf and storing it safely in her purse as she did so, ordered and parted ways as Dinah went to sit down at a booth by the corner of the coffee house. Camila stayed behind to pick up their drinks once they were ready, coming back for their muffins after leaving the drinks with Dinah, who’d thanked her and smiled appreciatively at the gesture.

Once she walked back to their table, sitting down and placing each plate in front of their respective owner, Dinah looked at something behind her and averted her gaze quickly to Camila, who, curious, frowning. The brunette was about to turn her head to see for herself what Dinah had been looking at when her friend grabbed her attention once again.

“Hey, wanna bet five bucks on how long it takes for Ally to come greet us?” The taller girl asked.

“Sure, I’d say two minutes.” Camila replied, shrugging.

“I’d say two seconds.” Dinah shot back, her expression smug.

Camila’s frown deepened in confusion. “Wha-”

“Hey, girls! How have you been?” Said a voice to her left. Ally.

Camila narrowed her eyes at Dinah, who winked at her before standing up and giving Ally a warm hug. “Hey, Smallz! I’ve been good, what about you?”

“Fine, you know, the usual.” She smiled brightly. “What about you, Mila? It’s been a while since you last stopped by.”

“Hi, Ally.” Camila said, getting up to hug her friend and smiling warmly as well despite Dinah’s smug smirk. “I know, I’m sorry. I’d say I’ve been busy, but I really haven’t.” She chuckled, unable to help the way her smile stretched into a grin as she remembered the classified information Lauren had told her about her relationship with Normani. Still, she kept quiet and waited for a reply patiently, the thought of saying something not once crossing her mind.

“Well, you’re here now and that’s all that matters.” She waved her hand dismissively, still grinning.

“Why are you being all cute with Mila, Smallz? I’m like, right here, being fabulous and shit.” Dinah said dramatically, gesturing to herself with her hand and faking annoyance.

Ally laughed and Camila rolled her eyes, huffing amusedly. Then, the smaller Latina turned to Dinah, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “You’re here all the time, you overgrown toddler.”

Dinah’s eyes widened while Camila broke out in laughter from the unexpected come back. “So rude!” The Polynesian shot back, laughing as well once the surprise worn off.

The three girls sat down, Ally telling them she could hang out a little bit more until she had to go back to her office on the back of the shop, and the conversation flowed easily as usual, each girl catching the other two up on what had been happening with their lives while they sipped their drinks and ate their muffins.

“I’ve been thinking about waitressing again.” Camila told Dinah and Ally, both of them carrying intrigued expressions on their faces, after she finished talking about her weekend with Lauren, leaving out certain aspects of it, like her girlfriend’s uncle. She only mentioned they’d had lunch with Lauren’s family, but she hadn’t wanted to drawl on the subject. Besides, Camila was in need of some advice surrounding the topic she moved on to. “I mean, the play pays well and all but I don’t know how long this wave of good luck will last and I can already see myself auditioning for a lot of roles in the future and getting a lot of ‘no’s in return. I need to work somewhere until I get another part, you know?”

Dinah and Ally exchanged a look before turning back to Camila. Ally’s eyes were soft and understanding, while Dinah’s carried more worry and something Camila couldn’t quite read within them. The Cuban sighed, preparing herself for the speeches she knew she was about to get.

Dinah was the first to go. “Do you really think it won’t last? I mean, I swear I read something about ‘The Times of Her Life’ on a newspaper on my way to the dance studio.” She asked, referring to the play. “It was so crowded, I think it could really blow off!”

“Yeah, Mila, don’t be so fast to jump to conclusions, you’ve performed only once. I understand that you’re afraid, it’s only normal after all, but you’ve worked really hard for this. Don’t worry about that, not yet at least.” Ally added, trying to reassure her.

Unfortunately, Camila knew Ally was right. She was somewhat scared of what the future might hold, even if it had been only four days since the big opening act. Rationally, she knew she had three more performances confirmed and that her debut on a bigger play would be good for her resume, which up until then consisted of only a few commercials and minor parts in plays. But, having struggled a little in the past, Camila couldn’t help but feel anguished.

“Sorry guys, but I do worry. Yes, I finally did something I really enjoyed, but I spent so much time being turned down… I don’t know, what if I fall back right at where I started?” She asked, her insecurities taking over.

“Damn it, Mila, don’t diminish yourself like this!” Dinah exclaimed, startling her friend a little. Looking into her eyes, Camila saw that same something spark in them and this time she was pretty sure it was irritation, but was still too surprised to say anything. “It’s like Ally said, you’ve worked so hard for this! You’ve always worked so hard to pursue this carrier, even though you knew it couldn’t be easy. And yeah you’ve had a few ups and downs but so have all of us. Look at how much you’ve accomplished! This play is a huge opportunity and you’re trying to lower its importance, lower your expectations about it, about yourself. Don’t. If it comes to that, we’ll deal with it. For now you have three more performances to go, girl! Accept that you’re the bomb right now and enjoy it!”

Okay, now she understood the tone Dinah had taken and the look she’d seen in her eyes. She wasn’t mad at Camila, she wasn’t irritated at her exactly, but at the way she sometimes seemed to belittle herself when it came to work. Camila was usually proud of her achievements and content with what she had, but even she had insecurities and fears. She was only human, after all, and even though Camila had been confident in her work and more than happy with the results she’d delivered last Friday, the brown eyed girl still worried.

Camila opened her mouth only to close it again after a moment, unsure of what to say. Eventually, she settled for what seemed like the only plausible thing to say. “I’m sorry.” She gave them a small, guilty shrug. “You’re right, I know that, I just… I don’t know, I got worried, I guess. Ally’s right, I was afraid. But you’re right.” She met Dinah’s eyes, which were softer now. “Thanks for the faith in me, guys.”

“Yeah, don’t mention it. You usually have enough for yourself, ya know? But I’m here for when you’re lacking it.” Dinah stated playfully, all traces of that bit of irritation gone, but Camila knew that despite her tone, her words were sincere.

“Plus, you can come work here if it comes to it.” Ally added cheerfully. “We don’t really need any more employees at the moment, but since I’m the manager, I can do whatever the hell I want.” She shrugged nonchalantly and Camila’s jaw fell open. Ally giggled at the sight and shook her head, lifting her hands with a smirk on her lips. “I’m joking, girl. About doing whatever I want, I mean, not about you. Things have been going pretty smoothly, you know? I can open up a spot for you.” She added quickly once she realized Camila might have misunderstood her, reaching across the table to squeeze her hand with a warm smile on her face.

Camila felt a wave of relief wash over her at the prospect of some certain stability, and she couldn’t remember ever feeling that grateful for having Ally in her life. “Wow, really? Thank you so much, Ally! You have no idea how much this means to me.” She said, a huge grin taking over her face as she squeezed the other girl’s hand back.

“That’s really cool of you, Smallz.” Dinah said, smiling broadly.

Ally dismissed them waving her free hand in the air. “It’s no problem, really.”

Camila was about to make a comment when she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket, reaching for it to see that she had a new message from Shawn. She was vaguely aware of the fact that she was in the middle of a conversation and that Ally had retracted her hand, but she couldn’t help herself but zone out once she read the content of the text.

Shawn (4:35 pm): hey sis, have you checked the newsstands? Some papers have talked about our play woooo! And like positive feedback mostly. It’s not like we’re in the times or the post but it’s something! plussss my agent just told me there’s some dude from a magazine or a paper or something whos gonna watch us this friday and maybe we’re gonna schedule an interview hOW COOL IS THAT

Shawn (4:35 pm): giant af text but like I just wanted to share this with you! apparently my agent wasn’t even supposed to know lmao. he’s friends with some other guy from this magazine so that’s how he found out

“Oh my God.” Camila exclaimed out of the sudden, drawing the attention of her friends.

“What?” Dinah and Ally asked in unison, seemingly part curious and part worried.

Camila didn’t even have it in her to answer that, choosing to turn the phone’s screen towards them and let them read it for themselves. As soon as they were finished, both girls flashed her huge grins, apparently not as surprised as Camila had been to hear the news.

“Congratulations, Mila, I’m so happy for you!” Ally almost squealed in happiness, and Camila’s mind broke out of its stupor, a smile slowly but surely forming on her face as she finally registered what she’d read.

“That’s incredible, Walz! What did I just tell you? You rock, girl!” Dinah exclaimed, laughing to herself in awe.

Dinah got up from her seat and Ally followed, both of them pulling Camila to her feet and dragging her into a big group hug. Said hug was honestly just Dinah holding the two smaller girls at the same time while they tried to not be squeezed by the Polynesian long enough to actually wrap their arms around her, but Camila couldn’t have thought of anything better, not really.

Once they parted, Ally straightened out her clothes and told them she had to go back to her duties. They had already said their goodbyes and Camila was pretty sure it was going to be just her, Dinah and their food, but, “It seemed like you might not need that waitress position after all, huh?”

And with that Ally was truly gone, leaving the two younger girls by themselves. Camila chuckled lightly and sat back down, still not believing that this was happening to her. An interview?! That was downright awesome and she was grinning like a complete idiot by the time she managed to pick her phone up again and type a decent reply to Shawn, barely managing to hold her excitement.


(Decent enough. She was still pretty thrilled about the whole thing.)

“Eat your muffin, Walz. I’m afraid you’re gonna pass out if you don’t.” Dinah chuckled and Camila only giggled in response, placing her phone aside to oblige to her friend’s wishes. She was still hungry, after all.

Her phone buzzed against the table a minute or so later, but Camila ignored it for the time being. Shawn could surely wait a few more minutes until she finished her food, which was delicious as usual. Dinah had already emptied her plate long ago while they were still talking to Ally, but she had just finished her drink by the time Camila picked up her phone again. To her surprise, the text she’d gotten wasn’t from Shawn, but from Lauren.

Lolo <3 (4:45 pm): Who are you calling a cutie? I’m a BAMF.

Camila stared at her phone for a moment, confused, until she read the last text she’d sent her girlfriend and recalled the conversation they’d had earlier that day. The young actress snorted, shaking her head lightly in amusement and effectively drawing the attention of her friend.

“What did Shawn say?” Dinah asked.

“Nothing, it’s not him. It’s just Lauren. She’s amazing.” Camila told her softly, her eyes never once leaving the screen as she typed a reply.

“Ugh, you two.” Dinah almost whined, feigning disgust, the smile on her face betraying her true thoughts. “You guys make me sick, you know?” She continued, laughing at her own words.

Camila laughed as well. “Shut up, Dinah.”

Lauren added DJ and Allycat to the conversation.

Lauren (6:38 pm): Hey guys, everything okay for tomorrow?

DJ (6:38 pm): what’s this???

Allycat (6:38 pm): I believe this is what they call a group chat, Dinah

DJ (6:38 pm): sassy much?? i didn’t know these existed lmao

Lauren (6:39 pm): Guys! Please tell me everything is still okay.

Allycat (6:39 pm): yes Laur, chill

DJ (6:39 pm): you heard the girl, everything’s fine!! now chill cutie!!!

Allycat (6:39 pm): cutie?

Lauren (6:40 pm): Not you too!

Lauren (6:40 pm): As if Mani isn’t bad enough already ugh. I’m gonna kill Camz

Allycat (6:40 pm): why cutie??

DJ (6:40 pm): wtf true!! where’s mani??? wait a sec

DJ added Mani to the conversation.

Mani (6:41 pm): what’s this?

DJ (6:41 pm): that’s what i said!! it’s a group chat, mani

Mani (6:41 pm): lol I know that but what *exactly* is this?

DJ (6:42 pm): camren operations central

Mani (6:42 pm): the fuck, Screamer! I can’t believe you left me out!

Lauren (6:42 pm): It’s not Camren operations central, oh my god.

DJ named the conversation “Camren Operations Central” at 6:43 pm.

DJ (6:43 pm): oh and mani, it’s cutie* now ;)))

Mani (6:43 pm): really? Okay nice

Mani (6:43 pm): cutie :)

Allycat (6:43 pm): can yall sTOP IGNORING ME

Mani (6:44 pm): I didn’t even know you were here tbh baby, sorry

Allycat (6:44 pm): I just wanna know where cutie came from yall

Allycat (6:44 pm): and it’s okay sweetie. <3

DJ (6:45 pm): now ur the one who needs to chill lol. i’ll explain it later hehe

DJ (6:45 pm): and pls stop being adorable this is about camren not normally!!

Mani (6:45 pm): lmao okay but what is this about again?

Lauren (6:46 pm): Just to be sure, I’m gonna ask again. You’re still helping me out tomorrow right?

Mani (6:46 pm): ohhhh

DJ (6:46 pm): omg lauser yes

Allycat (6:46 pm): YES

Lauren (6:47 pm): Okay, thanks a lot guys.

DJ (6:47 pm): no probs cutie

Lauren left the conversation. 

Chapter Text

Camila thought being bored and alone on Tuesday had been bad, but now, after three hours without a break from Dinah and Ally’s surprisingly over energetic company, she couldn’t say she didn’t miss the silence a little bit.

Not that she didn’t love hers and Lauren’s best friends, but, come on. After she’d met Dinah at the dance studio at four, they’d gone to Ally’s and eaten with her just like the day before, but, unlike the previous time they were there, the shorter Latina had announced she would get off early to join them in whatever plans they had. And boy, did Dinah have plans. She hadn’t told Camila anything she’d organized for the day, saying it was a surprise, but to say Camila had been surprised wouldn’t make her feelings justice.

The circus. Of all the places Dinah could have picked, she’d chosen the circus. And yes, she was completely aware of Camila’s fear of clowns – which was completely rational, thank you very much – and had still brought her there because, “you gotta let it go at some point, Chancho.”

Why did she even call that smug oversized puppy her best friend?

(The moment the tents and the huge sign had caught her eyes, a rash decision was made. She’d have to kill Dinah, it would be only fair.)

Camila swore that in that moment she’d have done anything to get her friend’s car keys and stolen her sedan to get back to the city. It was too far away for her to run back, though, so Camila had endured the show, endured the freaking clowns, and had even managed to have some fun after the performance, when they’d played a few games and gone into random tents – her favorite being the one with the mirrors –, being thoroughly teased by Dinah, of course, who had pushed her towards the circus’s clowns whenever she saw them.

That part had most definitely not amused her.

Now Camila was sitting on the passenger’s seat of Dinah’s car outside her building, the taller girl having already left Ally home, and she couldn’t help but glare at the smirk on her friend’s face.

“So, Walz, before you go, I just wanted to say that I know you didn’t exactly like my idea of a perfect afternoon…” Dinah started, her smug expression intact.

“What a genius!” Camila huffed, interrupting her friend, the annoyance, which had died down after a while, rising back in her as she recalled the experience.

“Shut up, Mila.” Dinah chuckled, completely unaffected by Camila’s tone, which, rude. “It kinda worked, though.” She continued, taking on a serious voice, the smirk fading into a small smile. “When we left the circus you weren’t as scared as you were when we got there.”

Camila felt her jaw unclench and her eyes soften at her friend’s words. Had those really been Dinah’s intentions with their unusual day? Yeah, she didn’t exactly agree with her method, but she couldn’t say she found it at least a little bit sweet that she cared about her most ancient and unexplainable fear…

But then Dinah let out a loud laugh and her face broke into a grin, and Camila felt her own scrunch up into a frown once more.

“I hate you.” She muttered, crossing her arms.

“No, really though.” Dinah managed through her laughter. “I really had good intentions! I thought it could help!” She exclaimed, placing her hand on Camila’s shoulder, but her ongoing laughing fit was making it hard for the Latina to believe her. “But… that doesn’t mean it was funny as hell when you… started screaming… like damn!” She struggled to say the last bit amidst her giggles, but as much as Camila wanted to stay mad, she saw that Dinah was being honest about everything, even the part where she thought her fears were amusing.

It also didn’t help that Dinah had such a contagious laugh, which made her want to laugh as well, but she fought her need to smile, forcing the corner of her lips to stay put.

“Shut up!” Camila shot back, her tone half amused and half annoyed. “I could have fainted or something, dumbass.”

“Damn, Mila! Back at it again with the third grade insults!” Dinah snickered and Camila couldn’t help but laugh along. She hit her friend on the arm, which only made her laugh harder, but eventually they calmed down and Dinah turned to unlock the car before hesitating for a moment and turning back to Camila, a more serious expression on her face. “But Mila, you gotta know I was pretty sure you wouldn’t actually faint. I mean, I’ve been to the circus with you before and I know that you’ve been to it on other occasions. I just thought it was about time you let go of that fear and enjoyed it and it looks like my goal was accomplished! I mean, you did have some fun, didn’t you?”

Camila smiled appreciatively upon hearing Dinah’s words. The girl didn’t always have the best way of showing it, but she truly was a great friend and Camila loved her endlessly. Besides, if she was being honest, she did have a good time when she wasn’t nowhere near the clowns. Which was a really small part of the time she spent there, but still. She could see the progress.

But Camila would hug a clown before admitting that to her best friend.

“Yeah, right! I guess you could say I had five minutes of fun before I wanted to run all the way back to my apartment.” She said in a sarcastic tone while rolling her eyes, though her sweet smile kind of ruined the picture she was trying to paint.

Dinah only chuckled before giving Camila a light shove with her shoulder and unlocking the doors, clearly not buying the young actress’s act.

(The ironic thought made Camila want to laugh, but she stopped herself to prevent giving Dinah another reason to doubt her sanity.)

“Okay, you need to go away now, Walz. I’m sick of your face!” Dinah exclaimed, feigning annoyance.

Camila let out the giggles she’d been holding in and shook her head before getting out of the car. “Bye, China!” She smiled and waved through the open door, deep down still a little annoyed at the way she spent her afternoon, but no longer pissed at Dinah for it.

“Bye, Chancho! See you tomorrow?” Dinah asked, smiling.

“Probably, yeah.” Camila tilted her head, going through her thoughts to remember if she already had something scheduled. She didn’t think so. “I’ll text you to confirm.”

“Okay. Have a good night!” The Polynesian exclaimed with a wink.

Camila didn’t understand her mischievous expression, but shrugged internally. “You too, Dinah.” She said, closing the door and taking a few steps back to see Dinah take her car out of the spot she’d parked it and drive it towards her apartment.

Camila couldn’t wait to get home and call Lauren to tell her about her day. She hadn’t been able to text the green eyed girl during the afternoon due to her security assignment at the high school game, and then the circus had taken all of her free time and energy. Camila had texted Lauren on the way back home, though, and had been severely disappointed to find out her girlfriend had reports to fill and couldn’t sleep at her apartment, even if she completely understood the situation and didn’t press the subject further.

(That didn’t mean she couldn’t call Lauren, though, and she most definitely would.)

With that in mind, Camila turned around and quickly made her way to the door of her apartment building, unlocking it and getting inside as fast as she could to get rid of both her anticipation and the freaking cold. The elevator seemed to take ages to arrive – yes, she could’ve taken the stairs, but cut her some slack, she was tired –, but then it was finally there, and Camila was going up to the second floor and stepping out of it, walking through the small hallway towards her door.

The smell was the first to hit her. Camila closed her eyes and took a deep breath, momentarily envying whichever one of her neighbors was the lucky bastard to be enjoying what seemed like Cuban food from the smell. Camila’s mother used to always cook all sorts of dishes from Cuba when she was little and boy, did she miss it. She managed to learn a thing or two over the years after her parents’ departure, but it just wasn’t the same, and the longer it passed, the less typical dishes she was able to eat, save for when she went to Cuban restaurants.

Shaking off the thoughts, the brown eyed girl fished for her keys inside her purse and quickly unlocked the door.

Technically, the light was the second to hit her, but the music was the one that she actually registered next. She also realized the smell was stronger now than it was before, and suddenly Camila couldn’t even formulate decent thoughts, let alone put the key back into the lock, letting it fall to the ground as her hands started shaking. Fear started to overtake her, and she could’ve sworn her heart stopped beating inside her chest when she heard footsteps coming from the kitchen to her left.

Camila could have also sworn it only came back to life after she turned to see whoever was in there and came face to face with a grinning Lauren, her hair up in a messy bun and with a little stain of some sort of dried sauce on her cheek.

“Camz! You’re here!” She greeted happily as Camila’s heart went from zero to one hundred beats per second in no time.

Camila clenched at her heart with her eyes closed, her breaths ragged from the anxiety and fear that had washed over her upon finding her house already occupied.

“Fuck, you’re here.” She heard Lauren say and opened her eyelids to find her undoing her bun as quickly as possible, now flustered and without the beautiful grin that adorned her features not a moment earlier.

Without saying anything since she’d entered, Camila placed her purse on the small table beside the door and bent down to pick up her keys from the floor, turning around and properly locking her door afterwards. Taking a deep breath, she decided she was steady enough to face Lauren again, but when she turned around, her girlfriend had already rounded the kitchen counter and stepped closer to her.

“Babe? Are you okay?” Lauren asked, reaching her hand up to Camila’s arm.

The gesture seemed to bring Camila back into the moment, and she placed her hand atop Lauren’s on her arm, taking it off and dropping it. “What are you doing here, Lauren? I almost had a heart attack!” She exclaimed, tilting her head. She wasn’t mad, not really, just confused and agitated.

Lauren started blushing, even more flustered than before, and her brows furrowed as she opened her mouth to speak, apparently at a loss for words, which made Camila, who was progressively getting calmer, want to smile. “Well… I wanted to, I don’t know, I wanted to surprise you with… dinner, I guess.” She averted her gaze, looking at the ground. “I’m sorry, I thought you’d like it and I wanted to do something nice for you because I know how much you miss Cuban food and I actually know how to cook it because… well, I’m also Cuban and, well, I don’t know, I-”

Camila stopped Lauren’s rambling with a finger to her lips, which made the older girl lift her head so quickly Camila was sure it should’ve given her whiplash. Somewhere along Lauren’s little rant, the young actress had allowed herself to smile at how cute her girlfriend was being, but she needed to stop her before she thought she was angry and didn’t appreciate the gesture.

“Shh, Lo. I’m not mad, it’s okay.” Camila chuckled, taking the hand she had dropped earlier and planting a kiss on the back of it. “You just gave me a hell of a scare back there.”

Lauren’s entire demeanor changed at that and she visibly relaxed, sighing in relief as she cupped Camila’s face with her free hand. “Sorry, babe, it wasn’t my intention. I didn’t think you’d be startled because you’d see me.”

Camila leaned into her touch, closing her eyes again briefly before fluttering her eyelids open again. “If I were anyone else, probably not.” She stared intently at Lauren’s eyes, trusting Lauren enough to reveal a little bit more of personal information. “It’s just that my parents died in a home invasion and I suppose that’s why I got a little more freaked out than you’d expect me too.” Camila smiled, but it was bittersweet, and she knew by the look on Lauren’s eyes that she got it.

“Shit, Camz, I didn’t know. I’m sorry.” Lauren almost whispered, her voice as soft as possible, as she moved her hand from Camila’s face to her waist, pulling her into a hug that the smaller girl quickly reciprocated, eager to be as close as possible to Lauren.

“You don’t need to apologize, baby. You did nothing wrong.” Camila answered into Lauren’s neck, smiling widely now as the calming music reached her ears and the heavenly smell hit her nose once again. She pulled back to stare at her now smiling girlfriend, her arms still draped on Lauren’s neck, and she realized there was only one sense that hadn’t been triggered yet. So she closed the small distance between their mouths and gave Lauren a soft kiss that soon turned passionate as their tongues met and she could finally taste the green eyed girl.

“I guess that means no surprise parties in the future?” Lauren asked when they parted, panting slightly from the kiss.

Camila grinned. “No, they’re okay as long as they’re not in my apartment.”

“Oh, so you don’t want to be the one to clean up. I see you.” Lauren said, shaking her head in a feigned condescending manner, betrayed by the smile on her lips.

Camila threw her head back in laughter at the comment, her arms still wrapped around Lauren’s neck. “Shut up.” She demanded after a moment, leaning in for a sweet peck.

“Let’s start again, yeah?” Lauren asked.

“Sure.” Camila giggled.

Lauren unexpectedly let go of Camila, moving back into the exact spot she had first been when the smaller brunette entered the house and putting her hair up in the same messy bun it had been before.

“Camz! You’re here!” Lauren repeated in the same cheery tone as before and Camila couldn’t help but giggle adorably again. What a dork.

She decided to play along, because why the hell not? “Oh, Lauren, is that really you? Are my eyes deceiving me? Am I so incredibly blessed that my girlfriend is cooking me dinner in my apartment, neglecting her reports for work? What have I ever done to deserve such kindness?”

Lauren burst out in laughter upon seeing Camila’s little display, which had been completely over dramatic and just… just bad. “You’re such a dork!” She exclaimed, moving back into the living room as Camila walked up to meet her in the middle.

“Funny thing, I was just thinking the same about you.” She smiled, her heart skipping a beat as Lauren unexpectedly held her face with both hands and gave her a breathtaking kiss.

“I gotta change.” Lauren whispered once she’d pulled back, her face mere inches from Camila’s, whose head was still spinning with the intensity of the sudden kiss.

She didn’t process Lauren’s words right away, but her body did realize what was going on when the warmth Lauren’s provided wasn’t there anymore.

“What? Why?” Camila reached her hand to grab her girlfriend’s wrist, stopping her in her tracks before she could take another step back in the direction of her own bedroom, apparently where Lauren wanted to go. “Change what?”

Lauren smiled softly and Camila mirrored her expression, sliding her hand from Lauren’s wrist to her hand and lacing their fingers together. “My clothes, Camz. I had planned to get changed before you got here, but I fell a little back on schedule and couldn’t make it on time.”

“You had a schedule?” Camila chuckled, shaking her head at the information as Lauren nodded to confirm.

“Yes, but I realized I had forgotten an important spice and had to rush to the supermarket to buy it. It was crazy but I managed, I just couldn’t change into new clothes.” Lauren replied, pointing to herself.

Camila looked her up and down. Lauren was donning a simple white tank top with a blue and red flannel that had its sleeves rolled up to her elbow along with dark jeans. Accompanied by the messy bun, the stain on her cheek and her bare feet, she couldn’t have looked better with the most expensive dress in the world.

“You’re perfect.” Camila stated honestly, which made Lauren’s face split in two with a huge grin, and the smaller girl’s eyes widened once she realized what she’d said. “I mean, you look perfect! There’s no need to change… Unless you want to, of course, but I just think you look really great as it is… Not that I don’t think you’re perfect, by the way, but you know, I just-” Camila cut herself off when she caught Lauren giggling at her as she closed the space between them, a look of sheer happiness on her face. “I was rambling, wasn’t I?”

Lauren nodded. “Yeah, but so was I earlier, so we’re even.” She chuckled. “But okay, I won’t change into the sexy dress I brought.” Camila raised her eyebrows, but Lauren was smiling mischievously, and she knew she wouldn’t get to see the dress today. “Let me get this thing off my cheek, though.” She chuckled. “I’ll be right back.”

With that, Lauren let go of Camila’s hand and made her way to the bathroom. Camila took this time to get out of her coat and hang it on the kitchen counter as she made her way around it. On her table was bottle of wine, two glasses, two plates and two pairs of cutlery. She also realized, as she took in her surroundings, that her place was filled with unlit candles, and that the food was all apparently ready by the sink.

How did Lauren know the time she’d get home so as to not let anything get cold, she had no idea. Come to think of it, she also had no clue as to how Lauren had even gotten inside her apartment. She made a mental note to ask her girlfriend when she returned, which was about two seconds after she’d thought about it, so it was still fresh on her mind.

Lauren hugged her from behind and placed a kiss on her cheek before she went around lighting up all the candles. For a second all Camila could do was watch with a loving smile on her lips, but soon she got out of her Lauren induced trance for long enough to ask what she had been wondering.

“Lo?” Lauren hummed in response as she continued lighting up the few candles left. “How did you enter my apartment?”

Lauren partially turned to her with a sheepish expression. “Dinah lent me her emergency key.”

Camila let out a sigh, shaking her head with exasperation despite the smile on her lips. “I should have known it was her.”

“I may or may not also have put her and Ally up to the task of keeping you occupied while I set this all up.” Lauren revealed, leaving the lighter she’d been using on the sink countertop and turning to fully face Camila, who had raised both her eyebrows out of surprise at the information.

Well, that definitely shed some light on the events of the afternoon. Camila chuckled, bringing a hand up to run through her hair, a nervous habit she was pretty sure she’d picked up from Lauren, before stepping closer to her.

“They took me to the circus.” Camila shared, and Lauren beamed.

“Really? I love the circus!” Lauren exclaimed, placing both hands on Camila’s waist. “I kinda wish I tagged along now.” She smiled, unaware of just how much Camila wished she could have switched places with her during the afternoon, even if she didn’t know how to cook all that well.

“I’m really afraid of clowns, Lauren.” Camila deadpanned, watching as Lauren’s mouth hung open in a little surprised gasp and as she furrowed her eyebrows and tilted her head. The corner of her lips were just starting to turn up when Camila put a hand over her mouth, effectively stopping her from laughing. “Don’t laugh, this is serious!” She exclaimed, but she could feel Lauren’s lips form a smile underneath her palm, and she couldn’t help but drop her hand just to see it, which was a big mistake. Lauren seemed to try and contain her laughter, but it ended up escaping in a strangled chuckle which soon turned into a giggling fit as Camila tried to move out of Lauren’s grasp, only making her hold onto her more strongly, now wrapping her arms around Camila’s torso.

“No, wait, babe, I’m sorry. I’ll stop, I swear.” She did stop, so Camila also stopped squirming. “It’s just… really? Clowns?” Lauren was smiling amusedly and Camila couldn’t get angry at that pretty face for long, so she sighed and smiled herself.

“Yeah, I don’t know, they creep me out. I almost tripped and fell right into my face today because one of them startled me.” Camila said, and Lauren chuckled again, but she couldn’t bring herself to care about it anymore as the throaty sound reached her ears.

“You’re so clumsy sometimes.” Lauren shook her head, leaning forward to leave a soft kiss on Camila’s forehead. “Come on, baby, sit down and let’s have dinner.”

Camila did as she was told and Lauren proceeded to turn off the lights, leaving them with only the candles as a source of luminosity. Then she turned up the volume of Camila’s stereo in the living room just a little bit and came back to the kitchen to serve the dish before seating down herself.

“So.” Camila started, pouring wine for the both of them. “What’s the occasion?”

“It’s our anniversary.” Lauren stated proudly and cheerily, smiling brightly.

Camila furrowed her brows as an amused smile took over her face. “What? No, it’s not. It’s February third today, our first dat- well, real date,” she recalled, shaking her head fondly at the memory of her party, “was on November twenty second, don’t you remember?”

Lauren nodded quickly, which only served to increase Camila’s confusion as well as her amusement. “Yes, you’re right, but we met for the first time on November third, when you were rehearsing with Shawn, so this is technically the three-month anniversary of how long we’ve known each other. Plus, I have a night shift tomorrow, which made this all the more perfect, because I don’t have to work in the morning. So happy anniversary, babe!” Lauren reached across the table to take Camila’s hand into her own and squeeze it as she spoke, and the brown eyed girl had to restrain herself from jumping Lauren’s bones right there.

(It would’ve been messy, though, with food all over the floor, and Camila didn’t feel like cleaning up after the exhausting day she’d had, so she decided it was probably best not to jump her girlfriend at the moment.)

Camila was also seriously choked up. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so at peace and so happy in the company of another human being as she was now, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so blissfully content, and she owned a big part of that to Lauren. So no, she didn’t attack the green eyed girl, satisfied with bringing their entwined hands up to her lips and kissing the back of Lauren’s, as well as every one of her knuckles, giving each one her undivided attention.

When Camila looked back up, Lauren was beaming at her, her eyes sparkling with the light of the candles reflecting on them. She smiled and Lauren smiled back before looking down bashfully, and Camila furrowed her eyebrows at the loss of eye contact.

“Hey.” She said, holding Lauren’s chin with the hand that wasn’t holding her girlfriend’s so that they would lock eyes again. “This is the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done to me. And with the Cuban food… This is really thoughtful, I love it.”

(I love you.)

She didn’t say it. She thought it, over and over again, but she couldn’t bring herself to say the words. Camila was still having problems with expressing her feelings after hearing so many being professed by a guy that ended up cheating on her and then blaming it on her for always being busy. So even if she felt it, even if she knew that after all of this, Lauren would probably say it back, she kept it to herself. There would be time for that later, after all, since she had no desire to let Lauren go.

(Deep down, Camila was also afraid that if she loved her, she would lose her. And again, she wouldn’t let her go.)

I love you, she thought. “Thank you.” She said instead, feeling her emotions get the best of her in the form of a lump in her throat.

Lauren smiled brightly at her words, using her free hand to gently remove Camila’s from her chin so that they were holding both hands now. She gave them both a squeeze before letting them go and getting up, walking around the table and holding Camila’s face to give her a passionate and loving kiss.

“You don’t need to thank me.” Lauren started after the kiss broke. Camila still had her eyes closed, so she didn’t see it, but she could practically hear the grin in her girlfriend’s voice. “But you’re welcome anyway.” Lauren chuckled and Camila opened her eyes, smiling up at the green ones that stared right back at her while leaning into the hand that still rested on her cheek.

“You’re amazing.” Camila breathed, lifting her hand to place over Lauren’s on her cheek and turning her head in it to give her palm a lasting kiss.

“Yeah, well, I learned from the best.” She chuckled again and Camila couldn’t help but tag along, giggling as Lauren left her side, but immediately missing her touch.

She thought Lauren would sit back down, but instead the green eyed girl walked over to her cabinet and picked up a package – that had definitely not been there in the morning – from inside it. Camila frowned, confused, and was about to ask Lauren what was going on when her girlfriend beat her to it.

“I was gonna wait until later to give this to you, but we started talking and, well… why wait?” She laughed nervously, sitting back down and handing Camila the package.

When Camila took it, Lauren was staring at her anxiously and expectantly, which only served to increase the brown eyed girl’s curiosity. The small package was a simple and light box, and Camila wondered what was inside. She was curious, yes, but she could only imagine that Lauren was going insane the more time passed without her opening it, so she decided to wait a little longer to tease the young cop.

“What is it?” Camila asked, a small smile on her lips.

“Open it.” Lauren answered with a smile of her own, even though her right leg was bouncing up and down underneath the table.

“Is it for our anniversary?” She questioned once again trying to keep her tone innocent, but this time Lauren’s eyes narrowed and Camila couldn’t help the smug grin that made its way across her face.

“I see you, Cabello. I know what you’re doing.” Lauren leaned into the table, tilting her head and keeping her voice playfully deep and serious. “As a woman of the law, I suggest you open this right now.”

“What if I don’t, officer?” Camila shot back, and she saw something glint on Lauren’s eyes.

“Well, then we’re gonna have some problems, miss.” She replied in the same deep voice, smirking, only now it was more genuine, not as playful and way sexier.

Camila suddenly felt heat travel to her cheeks and throughout her body as she realized what Lauren was doing, but she couldn’t think of something to reply, having been caught completely off guard. She opened and closed her mouth dumbly, and before she knew, Lauren was bursting in laughter.

“Oh, shut up.” Camila was usually the one to make random sexual comments or think of quick come backs, so for her to be left momentarily speechless like that was a rare occasion, which always left her at least somewhat flustered.

“Just open it, babe.” Lauren insisted, grinning wildly.

She narrowed her eyes playfully, her face already cooling off, and nodded before finally taking the lid off the package and putting it on the floor. Returning her attention to the box, Camila let out a big laugh when she saw what was inside of it, a black snapback with Jauregui’s written on the crown and a pastel red brim. She picked it up and wore it with the brim pointing back, making Lauren’s smile widen even more.

“I figured you needed something to match my beanie, so I asked Dinah where you had it made and made a little something for you.” Lauren explained, her smile never leaving her face. “You like it?” She asked, her voice taking on a more insecure tone.

Camila opened her mouth to reply, but closed it again upon recognizing the song that started playing on her stereo. Tenerife Sea had always been one of her favorite songs, and Lauren having put it in the playlist she had apparently created for the occasion just showed how well she knew her and how she actually payed attention to her.

Camila reached her hand across the table to hold onto Lauren’s once more, running her thumb through the back of it soothingly, and made a mental note to always cherish what was bound to be the most amazing girl in the planet.

(She guessed it made her the luckiest girl in the planet, and her smile grew bigger at the thought.)

“I absolutely love it.” She replied honestly.

Lauren scrunched up her nose with a playful lopsided grin. “Now you see why I wear the beanie.”

Camila chuckled. “Yeah, now I see why.”

“Let’s eat now, the food’s getting cold and I want you to know how awesome I am at cooking.” Lauren chuckled and Camila released her hand feigning annoyance before the green eyed girl claimed it back, but then her eyes turned soft and her smile, tender. “Really, though. I know that you miss Cuban cuisine, so I tried really hard not to mess up.” Lauren chuckled, suddenly seeming self-conscious again, but Camila shook her head, squeezing her hand reassuringly and smiling lovingly at her. “I hope you enjoy the dinner. It may not be the same as your mom’s cooking, but it’s someth-”

Camila cut her off with her other hand, pressing a finger to her lips. Lauren seemed to realize she was beginning to go on a rant, and blushed slightly, but Camila’s intentions weren’t to make her girlfriend embarrassed, so she slid her hand until it rested on Lauren’s cheek, prompting her to look her in the eyes.

“Whatever you’ve made, I know it will be perfect.” She said, and Lauren’s smile slowly returned to her beautiful features before she gave her a nod.

They both turned to their plates and began eating. The food was a little bit colder than Camila assumed Lauren would like it to be, given that they’d been talking for almost fifteen minutes, but she really didn’t mind. It was delicious, and she hurried to make her opinion known after lifting her head and seeing the insecure look on Lauren’s eyes.

“This is awesome!” She exclaimed after swallowing, feeling butterflies in her stomach as Lauren’s face lit up. “Who knew you were such a good cook, huh?”

“Yeah, well, I’m a lady of many talents.” Lauren replied, trying to hide her nerves behind a joke and wiggling her eyebrows slightly.

Camila chuckled wholeheartedly at that. “Oh, trust me, I know.”

Lauren giggled and blushed a little, but soon turned back to her food. Camila smiled fondly at her for a moment before doing the same, both of them managing to keep their mouths shut for longer than Camila would expect them to. But then, a minute was long enough, and while she surely reveled in Lauren’s silent company, she couldn’t spend much time without hearing the sound of her voice and the nature of her thoughts.

So they talked. About their respective days, respective jobs, respective friends. About how Lauren always used to go to the circus with her siblings when she was younger, and about how Camila cried when her parents took her to one for the first time when she was four. Lauren giggled, of course, but Camila pouted for long enough for her girlfriend to actually get up and kiss it out of her face, so it was all good.

“So, Dinah and Ally offered to help get my stuff to your apartment this Saturday, but we still have to decide which pieces of furniture we’ll keep.” Camila said after they’d finished eating, getting up and placing her new snapback on the kitchen counter while Lauren took off her flannel and put it beside the hat.

“We’re definitely keeping your couches.” Lauren chuckled, taking her plate to the sink and shaking her head. “I don’t know what we’ll do to mine, though.”

“We’ll figure it out.” Camila shrugged, reaching for a sponge, but Lauren caught her hand in midair, which earned her a confused look from the smaller Latina.

“I’m doing the dishes today.” She said matter-of-factly.

“No way, let me help!” Camila exclaimed, trying to get her hand out of Lauren’s grasp, a smile stretching across the young cop’s face in amusement.

“Uh, no. Not today. You’re sitting your giant ass down and letting me do the work.” Lauren smirked as Camila moved her other hand to try and open the one Lauren had around her wrist, but to no success.

Camila suddenly stopped her movements, her mouth hanging open. “My giant ass?” Lauren nodded slowly, her smirk still in place, and Camila had to force her mouth into a thin line so as to not burst out in laughter. “Ugh, you’re disgusting, let me go!” She demanded, faking anger with a condescending look.

Lauren chuckled and grabbed Camila’s other wrist with her free hand, pulling her closer, while the young actress tried to squirm out of her grasp. She couldn’t take it anymore at this point, giggling uncontrollably as she tried to free herself.

“Loloooo!” She yelled. “Let me go!”

“Nope.” Lauren answered, popping the p.

Lauren backed off into the sink countertop, pulling Camila with her to the point that their bodies were almost completely pressed into each other, their chests being the only exception because of their arms. They were still laughing as Lauren let go of Camila’s writs to hold onto her waist with her arms, hugging her close, but the laughter soon died as Camila felt her body temperature rise, snaking her hands under Lauren’s t-shirt to feel the skin of her stomach. She felt Lauren shiver and smirked, lifting her gaze to meet her green eyes before dropping it briefly to her lips and up to her eyes again. Lauren’s cheeks were a light shade of pink, and her eyes were fixated on Camila’s lips, her own slightly parted. She moved her gaze to meet Camila’s again and smirked once more, turning them around and pressing Camila up against the countertop.

Lauren leaned in, resting her hands on the surface behind Camila while the shorter girl, now caged in between her girlfriend and the sink countertop, moved her own hands up the skin of Lauren’s back, dragging them back down with feather light touch, making Lauren shiver once more as their lips finally met. The kiss was passionate and hungry, Camila wasting no time in giving Lauren full access of her mouth as soon as she felt her tongue brush her lips. She moved her hands from inside Lauren’s shirt and tangled them in her hair, pulling her closer and arching her body backwards. Lauren moved one hand from where it supported her weight to hold Camila, resting it in between her shoulder blades at first, but moving them down until they reached her lower back and keeping it there.

Camila tugged at Lauren’s hair as the older girl bit her bottom lip before kissing her jaw, then the spot under her ear that left her weak in the knees. Lauren sucked at the skin there in a way that Camila knew would leave a mark, and she couldn’t help the small moan that left her lips. Camila felt Lauren smirk into her skin, and she would’ve felt embarrassed if the attack her girlfriend was launching on her neck didn’t feel so damn good.

Lauren’s hand that was on Camila’s lower back moved to her side and squeezed her waist, hard, at the same time that the green eyed girl bit down where Camila’s neck met her shoulder, and the brunette decided that she needed Lauren’s lips and she needed them now. Grabbing Lauren’s face with both her hands, she moved it so that their eyes met briefly again before she kissed her fervently. Camila then started roaming Lauren’s body with her hands, stopping at the back pockets of her jeans, where she gripped her girlfriend’s ass, enticing a low growl from her. She felt hands tug at the hem of her shirt and reluctantly separated her lips from Lauren’s, raising her arms to allow her girlfriend to get rid of the piece of clothing.

Camila took advantage of the short moment of loss of contact to reach behind her and hop onto the countertop, planning on wrapping her legs around Lauren, but was unpleasantly surprised when her hand met something that most certainly wasn’t the fix surface for which she was aiming. The momentum was already there, though, and before she could really do anything about it, her hand was sliding through the countertop on top of the object, which flew into the floor and made her completely lose balance, feeling her feet hit the ground in a weird angle and her now stretched out arm crash into the countertop.

Camila felt pain rise up her elbow as an effect of the impact and a pair of hands hold her by the waist to prevent her from falling to the ground. She took a deep breath, closing her eyes and grimacing. “Shit.”

“Camz!” Lauren exclaimed, her voice etched with worry as her hands pulled Camila to stand straight. “Are you alright?”

Camila nodded and opened her eyes as she felt Lauren’s hand on her cheek, stroking it tenderly with her thumb. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just hit my elbow, but it’ll pass in a second.” She reassured her honestly, smiling weakly nonetheless. Her arm stung, but she could already feel the pain subsiding as the seconds passed. Plus, her body was still hot, her center still throbbing for seconds before. Now that she was stable on both feet again, all she wanted to do was resume their heated make out section that could definitely lead to something more, but she ended up cradling her left elbow with her right hand before lifting her gaze to meet Lauren’s worried green eyes again. “Really, I’m okay. I can barely feel it by now, it was just a little shock, that’s all.” She chuckled, smiling, and Lauren’s eyes softened as she realized Camila was telling the truth.

Lauren smiled for a moment before letting out a laugh of her own. “You’re the clumsiest person I know.”

“Why thank you.” She smiled before frowning slightly. “I feel like I ruined the mood though.”

Lauren shrugged before resting her hands on either sides of Camila’s waist and squeezing it. “Yeah well, I can think of a solution or two to that problem.”

Camila threw her arms around Lauren’s neck, all the pain in her elbow forgotten. “Really?” She said, leaning closer to Lauren’s ear and biting softly on the flesh of her earlobe before whispering next to it in a husky tone. “Do tell.”

Lauren placed a kiss on Camila’s jaw before pulling back. “Gladly, m’lady. But first I gotta see what kind of damage you did to my phone with your little display over there.”

Camila’s eyes shot open and widened as she pulled back to look at the floor where Lauren’s phone lay. “Oh my god, Lauren, I’m sorry, I didn’t see it.”

Lauren shrugged. “Yeah, I know, and you didn’t do it on purpose, so it’s okay. Plus, you hurt yourself, which is way worse.”

Camila smiled shyly. “I just hit my elbow, baby.”

The green eyed girl tilted her head. “Still.” She said, making Camila’s lips stretch a little wider.

Lauren walked over to her phone and bent down to pick it up, giving the younger girl a great view of her behind, to which Camila bit her bottom lip and sighed. Lauren rose from the ground unaware of her girlfriend staring at her, and tried unlocking the screen to see if it was still working. She sighed in relief and turned her head to smile at Camila, confirming that it was.

“No apparent damage, babe. You’re all good.” Lauren said, making Camila smile in the process, before turning her back to her again as she checked something on her phone.

Curious, Camila walked over to her and wrapped her arms around her waist from behind her, resting her chin on Lauren’s right shoulder.

“What are you doing?” She muttered.

“K just texted me, asking if we have plans for this Saturday.” Lauren said, turning her head to look Camila in the eyes with a smile. Camila felt that uncomfortable twinge of jealousy in her stomach at the mention of Lauren’s friend. “She invited us to Ally’s to hang out, but I told her we were moving your stuff to my place.”

Camila hummed in acknowledgement, turning her face to pepper Lauren’s neck with light kisses as her phone lit up again with another text. She had to remind herself that Lauren and Keana hadn’t been too serious – hell, Lauren hadn’t had a serious relationship since high school before her – and that she had nothing to be jealous about since, A: she trusted Lauren with all her heart and B: the girl was getting freaking married for God’s sake. But sometimes her feelings got the best of her and what was she to do but accept them in order to try and move past them, really?

“She offered to help us.” Lauren said, tilting her head to give Camila more space as her kisses turned into open mouthed, lasting ones. “What do- what do you think?” She asked, her breath catching in her throat mid-sentence as Camila suddenly sucked on the soft skin of her neck before running her tongue on the exact spot.

Camila hummed again, the vibration of the sound against Lauren's neck in addition to the Cuban's hands slipping under her shirt making the older girl shiver. She bit down on the spot where Lauren's neck met her shoulder, eliciting a low moan from her. The green eyed girl finally put the phone aside on the sink countertop behind them and turned around in Camila's embrace, wrapping her arms around her torso, her own pupils dilated with lust. Camila's hands were now on the small of Lauren's back, but when she leaned in for a much deserved kiss from her girlfriend, a slim finger was all she met. 

Opening her eyes, she looked incredulously at Lauren. "I asked you a question."

Camila could not believe it. It was incredibly hard to push aside her dumb jealousy when her girlfriend would rather talk about her friend than kiss her. She moved her hands to Lauren's hips, squeezing with a little too much pressure - not that Lauren seemed to mind, if the way her eyes fluttered close while her mouth hung open in a small smile was any indication - and pushed her back against the marble countertop.

Now pining Lauren against the hard surface, Camila leaned forward for a passionate kiss that Lauren eagerly reciprocated. The brown eyed girl smirked against her girlfriend's lips, because, finally, but not a second later Lauren was pulling back, her breathing heavy and a glint of mischief on her eyes accompanying the little smirk on her face.

"Answer the question, baby." She husked seductively, making Camila's vision fog for a moment.

"Yes." She growled, squeezing Lauren's hips again. "Yes, yes, she can come. She's your friend, right? She can help." Camila started roaming her hands through Lauren's stomach before returning them to the small of her back, eyes hungrily staring at her girlfriend's full lips the entire time. "Now can we please," she started, moving her hands to Lauren's back pockets, "go back to what we were doing?"

Camila squeezed Lauren's ass from inside her pockets to emphasize, receiving a jerk of hips in response. She was scowling and panting a little, but despite wanting to kiss that freaking smug grin from Lauren's face, she locked eyes with her girlfriend's darkened green ones.

Said girlfriend leaned forward and Camila's face softened, glad to have achieved her goal, but Lauren's lips went past her own, pausing at her ear.

"You're really hot when you're jealous, princess."

Camila turned to look at Lauren with wide, incredulous eyes, but all the other girl did was smirk smugly at her. "I can't believe you." She groaned, astonished, but turned on by Lauren's seductive voice nevertheless.

"I can't believe you." Lauren shot back, lifting a hand to caress Camila's cheek while the other slipped inside her shirt on her side. "I'm yours, babe, and if this," Lauren gestured around with the hand that was on Camila's cheek, placing it on the side of her neck afterwards, "wasn't enough to assure you of that, maybe some of the things I have in mind will." She said, getting progressively closer to Camila's ear until she was whispering beside it.

Camila shuddered once she felt Lauren's warm breath hit her skin and removed her hands from her girlfriend's jeans to hold her face and move it back. They looked into each other's eyes for a moment, but Camila was too overwhelmed by both adoration for the girl in front of her and shame for her jealousy to say a single word. She hoped her eyes could convey her emotions while they had yet another one of their staring contests before she pulled Lauren in for a sensual kiss that started slow but deep, their tongues dancing around each other like they’d done a thousand times before. The green eyed girl wrapped her arms around Camila's waist, bringing her as close as possible and the movement produced the kind of friction she was starting to crave, making Camila groan into Lauren’s mouth.

The pace started picking up as one of Lauren’s hands tangled up in Camila’s hair while the other roamed through her side, sometimes scratching down in a way that made Camila’s breath catch in her throat and her center throb with desire. The brown eyed girl’s fingers traced girlfriend’s neck before coming down and grabbing at the hem of her shirt, silently asking to take it off, and Lauren obliged, lifting her arms to help Camila. Her shirts fell somewhere on the floor near Camila’s, but neither girl looked, both rushing to connect their lips again.

Camila wrapped her arms around Lauren’s neck while she moved her hands to the smaller girl’s infamous ass, breaking the kiss after a while to leave a trail of heated ones on her jaw, down to her neck, up to the spot just below Camila’s ear that always drove her crazy and, finally, down to her pulse point, sucking on the skin there, claiming what Camila knew to be hers.

“Lauren…” She moaned, unable to contain herself.

Lauren squeezed her girlfriend’s ass at the way her name rolled off her girlfriend’s tongue before leaning down a bit and holding onto her thighs, looking up so that Camila got the message. She did. Not a second later, Camila held onto Lauren’s shoulder’s for support before helping her hoist her up, wrapping her legs around the taller girl’s waist and her arms around her neck again while Lauren, still holding onto Camila’s behind, started walking towards the bedroom.

Lauren managed to make a beeline for the bedroom without bumping on anything while kissing Camila’s neck, only stopping to place her on the bed and crawl on top of her. Camila’s heart was thundering in her chest and her hands were gripping Lauren’s hair when she started placing kisses down the center of her throat all the way to her collarbone, biting on it before attempting to go further down. Camila stopped her from doing so by moving her hands from Lauren’s hair to her face, leading her back up to passionately kiss her lips. Lauren had already done so much for her today, Camila only meant to return the favor.

With that in mind, the brown eyed girl pushed Lauren on her back, straddling her hips and sitting up. She ran a hand through her hair to push it all to one of her shoulders – watching with a smirk as Lauren panted underneath her – and reached around her back to unclasp her bra. Camila threw it somewhere on the floor while Lauren’s hands gripped her waist and her green eyes roamed her upper body. Camila watched as Lauren rose up, leaving her sitting on her lap, and wrapped her arms around the smaller girl’s waist, kissing the side of her neck down to her shoulder while Camila unclasped her girlfriend’s bra, tossing it aside as well.

Camila then took hold of Lauren’s face again, which prompted the older girl to look up, and connected their lips, pushing her down on the bed and lowering herself without breaking the kiss. Once their bodies were pressed against each other and their breathings and heartbeats started to mingle, neither taking it further, Camila broke the kiss and leaned on one elbow, looking deeply into Lauren’s eyes while sweeping away a stray strand of hair. She wanted to continue, but things were getting too heated and she needed to say something first.

“I’m sorry. I trust you and I shouldn’t be jealous of you and you don’t have to prove anything to me.” Lauren opened her mouth to speak, her eyes soft, but Camila stopped her with her index finger, caressing her cheek with her thumb afterwards. “I’m yours too, Lauren. Not in a possessive or a two halves of the same soul kind of way but…” Lauren began shaking her head so Camila chuckled and leaned in for a quick kiss before placing her palm over the green eyed girl’s mouth, preventing her from talking. “Shut up and let me finish. I know you didn’t mean it like that, Lo.” She smirked. “I know you meant it in the same way I do. I’m yours in the sense that I can’t stop thinking about you, so you’ve got my thoughts. I’m yours in the sense that you’re the only one I crave, you’ve got my body. And I’m yours in the sense that you’re the only one I want to be with, so, needless to say you’ve also got my heart. I’m yours, Lauren, for as long as you’ll have me and even longer.”

The moonlight was invading the bedroom through the open window, providing the only light they had, and Lauren’s eyes were sparkling under its blueish glow by the time Camila finished her little speech. She didn’t know where it came from, nor had she meant to say all of those things when she first started apologizing, but that didn’t make it any less true. In fact, it made it all the more honest, because in that moment Camila’s head couldn’t keep up with her heart as she said whatever came to mind in terms of her feelings.

She slowly retracted her hand, running her fingers through Lauren’s hair, which was sprawled out behind them, her eyes never leaving the green ones just underneath her. Lauren opened her mouth and Camila felt her stomach make summersaults, thinking that she was going to say that she loved her, and Camila would’ve said it back, but a moment later Lauren closed it again and reached her hand up to stroke the smaller brunette’s cheek lovingly. A few moments passed and Lauren moved the hand to Camila’s neck to pull her down for a passionate kiss that left her head spinning when the green eyed girl suddenly pulled back, letting her head fall against the bed.

“You’re the most breathtakingly eloquent, intelligent and beautiful person I know. You’re amazing.” Lauren confessed, sounding slightly choked up, and Camila felt her heart speed up while also wanting to burst, something only Lauren managed to make her feel.

You’re amazing.” She replied. “And if I can’t convince you with my words, then please, let me show you.”

Lauren grinned and Camila mirrored her expression, leaning down for a kiss that didn’t quite work out at first because neither girl managed to wipe the smile off their faces, which lead to Lauren giggling with her lips still pressed against Camila’s.

(It was true, what they said. There really wasn’t anything better than the taste of someone’s laughter in your mouth.)

But then Camila felt Lauren scratching at her back and couldn’t help the gasp that she let out, which was enough to throw them back into the moment they were having before Camila stopped to talk. Suddenly, things weren’t funny anymore, and Camila was very happy that neither one of them had to work in the morning the next day.

Chapter Text

It was Friday night, the curtains were closing to the sound of thunderous applause, and in that moment Camila felt like she was in heaven.

The second night of her performance couldn’t have gone any better, honestly. Everyone was incredibly talented, so the fact that the cast had performed amazingly like they did was no surprise at all. Still, Camila felt like all of them played their parts better than in the debut, maybe from the lack of the nerves that always get to people before the first time. Either way, she was thankful to work with such wonderful people.

But the improvements hadn’t stopped there! No, sir, the audience had also been bigger and Camila could swear she saw some people in the back taking notes, which could mean more reviews and that… oh, that made everything all the more exciting.

(She hoped they were good reviews, but either way, the play was getting some well-deserved attention, and it was more than she could have ever asked for.)

Her train of thought was cut short when she was tackled into a side hug by Shawn, who was smiling from ear to ear, and it was like Camila’s senses came back to her all at once. Suddenly she could hear everyone talking and cheering when before the applause was the only thing her brain was processing.

“Congrats on tonight, sis.” Shawn said, his tone jovial and filled with happiness.

Camila opened her mouth to reply, but all the air was ripped out of her lungs when someone hugged her with just as much strength from her other side. She turned her head to face a grinning Jake and couldn’t help but mirror his expression when not a moment later the entire cast was coming together in a group hug.

“Simon, get over here!” Exclaimed Miranda, one of the other actresses, and Camila couldn’t see anything from the center of the group hug, but she would bet all her money that the girl was waving around frantically for their director, who was loved by just about everyone. “Kristen, John, everyone get over here!”

“Only because you guys were phenomenal tonight.” Camila started laughing loudly as Simon’s accented voice reached her ears, and soon everyone followed.

She couldn’t lie and say she felt it when the small crew joined in on the group hug, being smashed right in the center of it, but a few moments later everyone started dissipating. Camila looked up then, taking a step back from her original “attacker”, and smiling brightly at the boy in front of her.

“Thank you and congratulations to you too, Shawn. Kinda couldn’t say it earlier.” She chuckled and Shawn shrugged with a smirk.

“Thanks, Mila.” He replied, nodding his head in the direction of the exit and making his way there, Camila following closely behind. Almost everyone was already backstage by now, but, before they went out the door, Shawn stopped in his tracks and turned to her with a mischievous look in his eyes. “I think the person that my manager told me about is there to schedule the interview.”

Camila squealed and clapped once, unable to contain her excitement. “Oh my God, Shawn!”

“I know!” He exclaimed, rubbing the back of his neck nervously, his grin intact. “You gotta act surprised, though. They can’t know we knew. That is, if they're even there at all. Anyway, shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for you, Miss Leading Role.”

Camila giggled. “Stop it, dumbass.”

Shawn tilted his head while raising his hands with a smug smile. “Fine, Miss Main Character. Let’s get backstage.”

Camila rolled her eyes and shook her head, but couldn’t help but smile at her adoptive brother as she followed him out of the stage. The sound of chatter was loud backstage, with everyone excited about the response the play had been getting, and Camila wasn’t feeling any differently. She changed into her own clothes, the thought of that interview not leaving her mind once, and met a nervous looking Shawn waiting to take her home after drinking some water and gathering her things. Camila herself was anxious at the prospect of possibly scheduling an interview in the next few minutes, but, for that, they’d have to go into the theater’s hall. So they did.

Shawn got up from his chair and gave her a small smile, leading the way and opening the door for her. Camila thanked him quietly and walked through the hallway, being met with nothing but a few of the actors talking with friends and three or four audience members who had lingered for a while longer. Her heart was pounding in her chest and she was pretty sure she could have a heart attack at any moment now, but there was no sign of any of the people who had been taking notes during the play.

Shawn sighed behind her and Camila’s stomach dropped, disappointment creeping in as she realized that his agent, who was now hers as well, had probably been wrong and their performances on “The Times of Her Life” hadn’t been as remarkable as they’d thought. She wished he’d never brought it up, for the taste of disappointment at the lack of an expected achievement is far worse than that of not getting something you never hoped for.

(You don’t mourn over things you never expected to get.)

“Well, that’s it, I guess.” Shawn shrugged, walking past her while zipping up his coat. He then put a hand on Camila’s shoulder, squeezing it lightly. “Let’s get you home.”

“Okay.” Camila sighed as well, smiling a sad little smile, which he returned.

They started walking again, saying their goodbyes to their friends, Shawn’s arm casually draped across Camila’s shoulders like it’d been so many times before, and were almost reaching the door, when she heard their agent, Hiro, – who Camila hadn’t even noticed was there – calling for them.

“Shawn, Camila, come here for a second.”

Camila stopped dead in her tracks and turned around slowly, afraid that if she moved too quickly it might spoil what she hoped happened in the next minute. Her heart started hammering wildly again, only to stop beating at all the second she saw Hiro standing next to a woman she didn’t know.

“There’s someone I would like you guys to meet.” He said in a cheery tone, and Camila knew she should act intrigued or surprised, but she couldn’t stop her eyes from sparkling.

By the time Shawn dropped Camila off, it was past eleven o’clock and she felt exhausted. After she came down from the high that performing always gave her, all the brown eyed girl wanted to do was collapse in bed, snuggle into Lauren and sleep. That is, after gushing about her scheduled interview to her girlfriend, of course.

Camila unlocked her front door and stepped inside, welcoming the warmth brought to her by her central heating system. She had left Dinah’s emergency key with Lauren after their surprise date on Wednesday, something the taller girl hadn’t been too pleased about because, “it hurts my feelings to be replaced that easily, Chancho,” but Camila had argued that she was going to move in a few days, which Dinah had grumpily accepted. Camila shook her head fondly as she remembered the conversation, locking the door behind her.

Camila expected to find Lauren inside already. She’d had an afternoon shift, after all, and it was too late for her to be out, but she wasn’t in the living room. Camila didn’t think anything about it, leaving her bag on the table by the door before walking across the living room and the hallway, entering her bedroom.

“Lo?” She called, furrowing her eyebrows when she was met with an empty and dark bedroom, her heart picking up at the lack of response.

Camila turned the lights on, blinking at the sudden brightness, before scanning her bedroom with her eyes. The room was filled with boxes of Camila’s belongings, but Lauren’s beanie was there on top of a closed one, and so was one of her jackets, so she had to be home, right? Camila sighed in the smallest relief, because yeah, Lauren was at the apartment, but where? Camila took off her coat and left it hanging on her chair before resuming her search for Lauren. She wasn’t in Camila’s private bathroom, so the small brunette exited the room and went back to the living room, concern growing inside her once more.

“Lauren? Are you in here?” She asked, her voice an octave higher than usual.

Lauren’s response was so raspy, and so low, that Camila almost missed it. “In here.”

Frowning, Camila rounded the kitchen counter to find Lauren sitting on the floor with her back against the wall, her body in between the counter to her left and the cabinet to her right. Camila could barely see in the dark room, but the light switch was on the other side, on the wall Lauren was sitting against, and the brown eyed girl decided that the little light she had would have to do for now. As she got closer, dodging the few boxes on the floor, and her eyes adjusted to the light, Camila noticed that Lauren had her right leg pulled up and leaned against the side of the cabinet, while the other leg was stretched out in front of her. In fact, all of Lauren’s right side was leaning against the cabinet, safe for her hand, which was loosely holding an empty glass, her knee supporting her forearm.

As if the sight wasn’t worrying enough, a bottle of wine rested beside her girlfriend, who now looked up at Camila with wide, shimmering eyes. Camila slowly descended into her knees, Lauren pulling up her other leg to give her more space, and placed a hand on the green eyed girl’s cheek, who immediately closed her eyes and leaned into Camila’s touch.

“Lo? Lo, look at me. What happened, baby?” Camila’s tone was dripping with increasing concern, especially when she noticed a lonely tear slipping down Lauren’s cheek. “Lauren. Look at me.” She asked, her voice a little stronger. “Talk to me, baby, what’s wrong?”

“I… I wasn’t enough.” Lauren’s speech was slurred and her eyes were remorseful when she opened them again, which made Camila frown even harder. “They needed me- us. They needed… They needed us and I wasn’t enough. I- we weren’t fast enough.” She shook her head and chuckled, a dark, throaty chuckle, completely deprived of humor.

“Who, Lauren? What’s going on?” Camila’s heart was both beating out of her chest and painfully constricting inside it, and all she wanted to do was hug her girlfriend and never let go, but she needed to know what had happened to leave Lauren in that state.

“There was a rob-” Lauren cut herself short with a sob once and Camila decided it was enough, squeezing herself between the kitchen counter and her girlfriend. There was barely room for the both of them, so she pulled a now sobbing Lauren into her lap, holding her closely and firmly. Lauren was now on her side, sitting in between Camila’s legs, her own draped over Camila’s left. Her right hand was gripping Camila’s shirt tightly, the fabric replacing the long forgotten empty glass that lay on the floor. Her head was buried in Camila’s chest, the smaller girl with her own tilted so she could leave soothing kissed on the crown of her girlfriend’s head.

“Shhh.” Camila murmured against Lauren’s hair. “Shh, it’s okay, baby. It’s okay.” She said, engulfing Lauren in a tight hold, her left hand stroking her girlfriend’s arm comfortingly.

“No it’s-” A sob. “It’s not.” Lauren looked up at Camila, her face now damped with tears that the young actress was quick to wipe away. “I- we- we got a call. There… There was a robbery… at a bank. Like, another precinct, they… They called us. For help, you know… Backup.” Another sob. “There was a… A shooting and we, we didn’t get there in time. Fiv- five people died, including three civilians and one- one officer.” Lauren took her time to breathe and all Camila could do was stare into her eyes, Lauren’s eyebrows now furrowed like she was trying to focus on telling Camila without bursting into tears again. “I’d met him. A few times. Nice guy. His- his wife, she’ll surely miss him. His daughter will too. I’m… I…” Lauren took another deep breath and gulped, clearly struggling to maintain her composure, but Camila could see her eyes welling up with tears again. “All ‘cuz I wasn’t prepared, I wasn’t- I wasn’t fast enough.” Lauren’s voice cracked and the tears started streaming down her face once again, prompting Camila to cradle her head and return it to her chest, where Lauren sobbed quietly.

“It’s okay, baby. It’s not your fault.” Camila reassured her, kissing Lauren’s forehead once again while returning her left hand to her girlfriend’s arm, her right stroking her hair lovingly.

“Yes it is.” She felt more than heard Lauren murmur against her now wet shirt, which only made her hold her girlfriend harder.

“No it isn’t.” Lauren shook her head against Camila’s chest, prompting the smaller girl to squeeze her girlfriend’s arm to gain her full attention. “Lauren, listen to me. You did not go out there to rob the bank. You did not shoot those people. It is not your fault, alright? I’m sure you went there as fast as you could, you tried your hardest, as you always do. You can’t blame yourself for what happened, okay?” Lauren didn’t answer, so Camila pressed the subject, moving her hand to her girlfriend’s shoulder. “Okay?”

Camila still didn’t get a verbal response, but she took the slight nod against her chest as a good sign. Sighing, the brown eyed girl pulled Lauren gently so that she was sitting straight. She easily complied, clearly inebriated to a point where it affected her coordination.

Camila looked deeply into those sad, green eyes, and sighed again. “Those deaths, those aren’t on you. They’re on the robbers and-”

“Actually, one of them was on a cop. Like, a civilian death.” Camila closed her eyes, her heart constricting at the information. When she opened them again, Lauren was gripping her shirt even harder. “He was a rookie, fresh out of training. When the gunfire began, apparently he wasn’t too prepared… He missed. I could’ve prevented it…” Lauren trailed off, sounding defeated.

“Lauren, this is important. Even if it was another cop, it’s still not your fault.” Lauren kept still this time, making Camila feel like they’d taken a step backward, so she continued, ignoring how her own eyes were beginning to sting with unshed tears. “Look, I know our situations were very different, but I’ve dealt with a lot of survivor’s guilt in the past and, like you, I wasn’t even there when it happened. I know it doesn’t go away that quickly, with just a few words, but I’m telling you the truth, baby. You’re not the one to blame for what happened.”

Lauren looked down in shame, moving her hands to wipe at her cheeks, but Camila stopped her wrist mid-air, letting it rest on her lap and raising Lauren’s chin with her index finger while her thumb cleared her girlfriend’s face of the tears.

“Okay.” Lauren muttered, and Camila, relieved, bent forward to kiss her forehead lovingly. “I’m sorry.” She added after Camila pulled back.

“What for, baby?” Camila asked softly, stroking Lauren’s hair.

“You… You bringing it up. This whole thing was insensitive, I’m sorry.” Lauren almost whispered, and Camila furrowed her eyebrows, resting her left hand on the side of the young cop’s neck.

“No it wasn’t. Your feelings are valid, baby. You don’t have to apologize for going through hardships and looking for comfort. Ever. You can tell me anything, you know that.”

Lauren’s eyes widened again, like the prospect was foreign to her, and in that moment she looked so young and sad that it broke Camila’s heart. Still holding onto Lauren’s neck, Camila caressed her cheek with her thumb before kissing her lips briefly.

“Let’s get you to bed.” She said, receiving only a groan in response as she helped her girlfriend back to her feet, which took her a minute or two, but she didn’t mind as long as Lauren was safely standing up.

(Clutching the kitchen counter to keep her balance and leaning against the wall, yes, but at least she wouldn’t fall.)

Camila bent down to retrieve both the empty glass and the half empty bottle of wine from the floor, sighing as she realized how much Lauren had drunk. She left the glass on the sink before walking across the kitchen to return the bottle to the fridge and take a water bottle from inside it. She also retrieved a glass, a bowl and a package of crackers from the other cabinets before returning her attention to the bottle. Opening it, she poured its contents on the glass and moved on to filling the bowl with a few crackers, trying to keep her mind off of what Lauren had just told her about.

Unlike lost opportunities, it was very possible to grieve over people you've never met, and the thought made it harder to breathe, but Camila couldn’t let it overwhelm her. As horrible as it was and as much as her chest ached for the lost lives, her main concern at the moment was getting her girlfriend safely to bed, and that meant she didn't get to grieve.

Camila gave Lauren the glass and the bowl with the crackers before putting the water bottle away and approaching her again. Lauren was obediently downing the last bit of water in her glass by the time Camila got to her side, but made no move to eat even after she'd finished her water, pretending not to see the bowl right in front of her.

"Lauren..." Camila called, her tone gentle yet carrying a warning.

Ever the appearance of obliviousness, Lauren blinked. "Yes?"

"Eat the crackers." Lauren pouted. "At least one." Camila relented, breathing deeply.

Lauren sighed and picked only one up, making no move to eat the rest. Shrugging, Camila ate the remaining crackers, having been hungry herself before coming home to the sight of a crying Lauren, who had unintentionally killed her appetite. She figured it was better to fill her stomach somehow, though, and for now the crackers would have to do.

After she finished, Camila cleaned her hands and mouth of the few crumbs there with a napkin, offering one to Lauren for her to do the same. Then, she took the green eyed girl's free hand, which was previously resting on the counter for support, and squeezed it.

"Can you walk with me to the bathroom?" Camila asked as softly as possible as Lauren looked up. Her puffy eyes locked with brown ones through heavy eyelids, and she nodded before pushing herself away from the wall. She stumbled forward a little, moaning in what looked like pain, but Camila easily supported her, more concerned about the sound that had just come out of Lauren than her lack of balance. "Lauren? What's wrong?"

"Headache." Lauren muttered, her voice raspier than ever but her speech a little less slurred than before. "I don't usually get headaches after drinking."

Camila gave her a small smile in sympathy before lifting their entwined hands to her lips and kissing Lauren's lightly. "You drank too much, Lo. You shouldn't do that."

"I know, I'm sorry." Lauren whispered, her eyebrows furrowing as she looked down.

"Shh, it's fine. No more apologies. Just... Don't make it a habit, that's all. It's not good for you. Promise?" Camila tilted her head, trying to meet Lauren's eyes.

The older girl nodded and tried to take a step forward, wobbling a little on the spot and gripping Camila's hand harder. The young actress decided to give her a little more help and placed Lauren's right arm over her own shoulders, to which the corners of Lauren's mouth turned up the slightest bit in a silent thank you.

(Lauren's eyes were still guilty and apologetic, but Camila saw the small smile as progress.)

They made their way to Camila’s bathroom slowly, the small Latina thinking it would be better suited for Lauren’s need than the smaller one in the hallway. Once they got there, Lauren sat down on the closed toilet while Camila rummaged through the small cabinet looking for some aspirins. She eventually found them and handed one pill to Lauren, signaling for her to wait while she rushed back to the kitchen to grab a glass of water. By the time she got back, Lauren was staring at the pill, seemingly lost in her thoughts.

“Here.” Camila said, offering the glass and effectively bringing her girlfriend back to the present.

“Thanks.” Lauren rasped in response after meeting Camila’s eyes with a little sad smile, downing the pill and the water in one go.

Camila took the glass from Lauren and left it on the sink before stepping closer and running her fingers through the green eyed girl’s hair, getting it out of her face. Lauren’s head was leveled with Camila’s chest, and the smaller girl only had to bend a little bit to give her a kiss on the forehead.

“You’re welcome.” She muttered, meaning to step back, but Lauren’s arm snaked around her waist, stopping her. Camila was surprised by the action, but leaned in closer to her girlfriend as she felt Lauren’s head resting against her chest and her other arm circle her body. She returned one hand to Lauren’s hair, stroking it soothingly while her other hand caressed one of Lauren’s arms on her waist. “You okay, baby?”

Lauren shook her head slowly against Camila’s chest. “No, but I’ll get there.” She said, waiting a moment longer before leaning back. “I just wanna sleep now, if that’s okay?”

“Of course, princess. Can you, like, wash your face and brush your teeth?” Camila asked, uncertainly.

Lauren nodded and, grasping Camila’s hand for support, got up and did both those things before walking hand in hand with the brown eyed girl toward her bed. She sat down and Camila walked to her box of clothes to get one of her big t-shirts for Lauren to sleep in before helping her change into it and grabbing some sleeping clothes for herself.

“Lo, I have to take a shower, okay?” Camila declared, standing on the doorway to the bathroom.

Lauren was already under the covers, lying on her side to face Camila. “I’ll wait up for you.”

Camila shook her head, smiling slightly in adoration for the other girl. “You should go ahead and sleep if you’re tired, baby. You don’t need to wait for me.”

“I’ll do it anyway,” was the response she got, followed closely by a yawn.

Camila smiled knowingly, her eyebrows raised. “Okay then.”

She entered the bathroom, brushing her own teeth and taking off her contacts before taking her shower. Once she was done, she dressed up quickly, put her glasses on and exited the bathroom, not surprised in the slightest to see Lauren with her eyes closed, a peaceful expression on her face for the first time that night.

Camila stood there for a moment, thinking about everything she had just witnessed. That was the first time something like that had ever happened with Lauren, the first time she had broken down because of something that had occurred during work. She had her moods, like everyone else, but, come to think of it, Lauren never really let it show if she was sad or scared. Maybe that was the first time she’d ever felt like that ever since they began dating, though Camila didn’t actually believe that. Or maybe it just took heavier things like what had happened today to upset Lauren, which was more likely. If Camila was being honest, she still wondered about what had happened that Sunday with Lauren’s uncle, but she didn’t want to step over her boundaries and force Lauren to talk about things she wasn’t ready to, so she kept quiet about it.

Running a hand through her wet hair, she decided against blow drying it to avoid waking up Lauren. Camila walked to her side of the bed and slipped in as quietly as possible, turning off the lamp on her nightstand and leaving her glasses beside it before turning her body and mirroring Lauren’s position. She raised an arm to wrap around her girlfriend but, before she could do so, said girlfriend turned around on the bed, her eyes barely opened.

“Camz?” Lauren whispered, clearly still half asleep.

“Shh, go back to sleep, baby.” Camila whispered back, hugging her tightly.

Lauren nuzzled her head on Camila’s chest, snaking her own arms around the brown eyed girl. “Okay.”

“Goodnight, Lo.” Camila kissed the top of her girlfriend’s head, closing her eyes.

“Goodnight, Camz. I love you.”

Camila’s breath caught in her throat and her eyes flew open.

Lauren’s were already closed, her breathing deep and even.

Oh, God.

Suddenly, Camila felt her heart beating so hard inside her chest she was afraid it could wake Lauren up. Lauren. Who had just said she loved her. But who was also still drunk and emotional and half asleep. Camila spent the next few minutes over thinking the entire situation, her heart never slowing down and her head in just as fast a pace. After a while, though, she managed to calm down, taking deep breaths and focusing on the most important piece of information to come out of this: Lauren loved her.

Camila smiled despite everything and, even though she knew Lauren couldn’t hear her anymore, a quiet, “I love you too,” escaped her lips before she closed her eyes and finally drifted off to sleep.

The first thing Lauren’s mind managed to process the next morning was that there was a soft pair of lips lightly touching her forehead and gentle arms holding her. They could only belong to one person, and that almost made her smile. Almost. The second thing it processed was that her head was pounding and that she felt slightly sick to her stomach, and that was what prevented the girl from smiling in the first place.

Well, that, and the third thing her mind brought to her attention, which was, of course, the memory of the events of the previous day. Ugh.

Lauren’s eyes slowly fluttered open as she tilted her head up to meet the warmest pair of brown eyes she knew. They looked concerned and guilty, though, so Lauren felt the need to put aside the ache inside her chest, her headache and her nausea to see what was going on with Camila. She had been there for Lauren the previous night, the least she could do was check up on her now.

“Hey.” She started, getting surprised at her own voice, which was huskier than usual.

“Hey.” Camila softly answered, running her hand up and down Lauren’s arm on her waist. “I’m sorry I woke you up.”

Lauren shook her head, crawling up on the bed so that her face was right in front of Camila’s. “It’s okay, you don’t need to apologize. We should get up anyway, start the move as soon as possible.” She was about to open her mouth again and ask Camila if she was okay, but her girlfriend beat her to it.

“I texted my landlord a few minutes ago, explaining that maybe I wouldn’t be able to move out today, and he’s cool with it as long as he has the apartment by the end of the week. The new renters only move in next week, so it’s okay if we do this another day.” Camila said, still stroking Lauren’s arm.

Lauren furrowed her eyebrows in both confusion and concern. “Why wouldn’t we do it today? Are you okay?”

Camila seemed taken aback by her response, going as far as halting her hand for a moment before continuing. “Lauren, why are you asking me if I’m okay when I should be – and would be, if you’d given me another minute – the one asking you if you are okay?”

Lauren shrunk a little, which prompted Camila to lean in closer and hold her tighter. Lauren felt the worry radiating off of Camila, of course she felt it, but she didn’t want to. She was already feeling too much. Lauren was grieving for a man she’d briefly known, but for who she held utmost respect. She was grieving for the teenage girl who’d been caught in the gunfire, for the elder who had tried to do something about it, for the man who’d shielded his child from the underprepared rookie with misguided aim due to his nerves. Hell, she was grieving for the robber, another human being after all.

It just- it hurt. It hurt all over, in her chest and in her drained muscles and in her head and even in her stomach… Her fucking head was still pounding and it was getting worse now that she relived those moments. Arriving too late, the crying rookie, the crying people, the crying kid… Normani with her hand on her shoulder, holding her up as the ambulance’s siren cut through her ears, the beautiful sunset contrasting the horrid scene in front of her in all but color, perhaps, for the sky had seemed a little too red at the time...

Lauren squeezed her eyes shut and raised one hand to massage her temple hard, almost punishing her head for leading her back to the memories that she wanted to- no, that she needed to forget.

“I’m fine.” She sighed, opening her eyes once again. Camila’s gaze was loving yet unbelieving as her hand flew across the space between them and gently replaced Lauren’s on her temple, massaging it with much more care and gentleness than Lauren had for herself.

“You can talk to me, Lo, you know that.” Camila’s sweet voice reached her ears and Lauren felt like crying, because she honestly had the most amazing girlfriend in the entire world, but she couldn’t talk about it. If she did, she might crack, and one time had been enough.

(Camila didn’t need to fight her battles, neither the real nor the metaphorical ones.)

“I’m sorry for being such a mess last night.” Lauren whispered, averting Camila’s eyes.

Camila sighed. “There is absolutely no need to apologize, Lauren. I thought we’d been over that.”

“Still, you were probably tired and had to take care of my drunk ass becau-”

“Lauren.” Camila interrupted firmly, but then her eyes became gentle and her tone softened, with a hint of something Lauren had trouble recognizing in it. Uncertainty, or maybe apprehension? “Do you remember everything that happened last night?”

“Everything’s a little blurry, but yes, I think so. Up to the point where you went to take a shower. I know you said no more apologies, but I’d like to say sorry for not waiting for you.” Lauren smiled slightly, hoping to sound a little more lively than she felt.

Camila’s eyes shifted to their entangled legs and a small frown appeared on her face, but, before Lauren could point it out, she looked back up, all traces of it gone so quickly that the older girl actually wondered if she had imagined it.

“Well, do you remember when I told you that your feelings are valid?” Camila asked, taking Lauren’s mind off of that little change of expression completely.

“Yeah.” She answered simply, closing her eyes for a moment as Camila’s fingers worked their magic on her temple.

“I meant it. You’re allowed to feel what you’re feeling, you don’t need to hide it out of fear of whatever it is you fear you’ll do if you let me see them. Push me away, maybe? Well, guess what, I’m not going anywhere, and you can open up to me. Actually, you should, but I’m not going to force you, obviously. I know you were devastated yesterday and I’m here for you when you want or need to talk about it, okay? When you’re ready. Just- just let me in, baby. Hiding your feelings is never good, and you don’t need to do that. Not with me, anyway.”

Lauren’s stomach was twisted into even more knots and her blood started running cold as soon as Camila had started her speech with her big, worried, compassionate brown eyes and her sweet voice and incredible words. Lauren slowly went back to normal only to be attacked by a new wave of emotions, her heart aching in a whole other way, a good way, as it hit her once again how much Camila truly cared for her. No one had ever made such a point of making her understand that her feelings mattered that much, not even her parents, and Lauren knew how much they loved her. She guessed they had never thought it to be something that needed to be said, and the young cop didn’t blame them, but she still had a difficult time grasping the concept.

For a moment Camila’s words made her think about her life and the choices she’d made over time, but the voice in her head was still a little louder than that of her girlfriend’s, so Lauren nodded, but planned on keeping her feelings for herself, at least for the time being. The pain would eventually go away if she just didn’t think about it, and for that to happen she couldn’t talk about it. Nor did she want to trouble Camila with her problems, even if Lauren had a feeling the smaller Latina wasn’t bothered in the slightest at the prospect of helping her.

“Thank you, babe.” Lauren answered honestly, and Camila smiled sweetly before connecting their lips in the gentlest of kisses. She took a deep breath when they pulled away, opening her eyes slowly. “I want us to go through with the move today, though. I’m sure your landlord won’t mind you taking back what you said earlier and everyone’s already made plans to come. Almost all of your stuff is already packed and Dinah even got one of her cousins to bring his truck and help with the heavier stuff. Plus, Keana will kill me if she doesn’t meet you today.”

Camila rolled her eyes playfully, but Lauren had expected that and let out a quiet laugh. “Okay, you win. I’ll text him while you get ready and then I’ll make us some breakfast, yeah?”

“Take a shower with me?” Lauren asked in a suggestive tone. The truth was she didn’t expect anything out of the shared shower but didn’t want to be alone, craving the comfort brought to her by her girlfriend’s company. However, she also didn’t want to look even more needy or vulnerable, so she tried to hide it behind those kinds of comments. “You know, for the planet.” She added, expecting it to do the trick.

Camila squinted her eyes with a suspicious look, but the tips of her lips turned up slightly anyway. “I would, but I’m on my period, so…”

“Okay, gotcha.” Lauren sighed dramatically in feigned disappointment, making Camila giggle quietly.

Lauren started crawling backwards on the bed, rolling onto her back and sitting up. She was about to throw her legs off the side of it when she felt Camila’s hand around her wrist, stopping her. She looked down at the brown eyed girl, a question in her eyes. Camila opened her mouth but quickly shut it again. She seemed uncertain and insecure, so Lauren placed her hand on top of hers on her wrist to encourage her.

“Yeah, babe?” She asked, her eyebrows furrowed.

“I… Uh, well, I- I just wanted to say that I…” Camila looked down at their hands and took a deep breath, meeting Lauren’s confused gaze once again. “I just wanted to say that I’m very lucky to call you my girlfriend because… Well, you’re amazing and I couldn’t have found anyone better.”

Lauren smiled, completely endeared by the adorableness of her girlfriend. “You’re amazing, Camz. And I’m the one lucky to have you.” She bent down again as Camila rested her weight on her elbow to meet her halfway in a soft yet passionate kiss. “Now come on, let’s move in together.”

Camila smiled a little more brightly this time, and Lauren couldn’t help but mirror her expression as she stood up and walked to the bathroom. As soon as she found herself alone in the closed room, though, Lauren felt all of the memories from the previous day, which had momentarily been expelled from her mind, come back to haunt her, her headache and nausea making themselves known once again. She felt her heart constrict inside her chest and for a few seconds all she could do was close her eyes and breathe with her back against the door.

Then, she thought of Camila, and the smile she’d just given her, and the weight in her chest seemed to get a lot lighter. Lauren searched for some aspirins and some pills for her sick stomach, and took both of them with some water from the bathroom tap – which she knew wasn’t ideal, but whatever –, but she soon realized as she entered the shower that the image of Camila, imprinted into her brain, worked as a shield against her darker thoughts and feelings much better than any artificial drugs ever could.

(Thinking about the good to forget about the bad had always been her thing anyway, and as long as it worked, Lauren didn’t really care about the scars it left on her.)

It took approximately one hour for the first of the helpers, Dinah and her cousin, to arrive, catching Camila fresh out of the shower. And by fresh out of the shower, Lauren meant wrapped up in a towel, leaving Semisi with wide eyes and a glare from the green eyed girl. He’d quickly looked away after getting slapped in the back of the head by Dinah, though, earning a chuckle from Lauren and a, “leave him alone,” from Camila.

After Camila changed into actual clothes, wearing her glasses instead of her contacts – which Lauren appreciated immensely, since she loved the more domestic look on her girlfriend –, the four of them started to work on disassembling whatever piece of furniture needed to be disassembled in order to go through the door, down to the first floor and into the truck. Dinah, being Dinah, got tired of it after a while and sat on top of the kitchen counter, shouting orders at her cousin and Lauren from time to time.

“I’m not trying to be rude, and by that I mean that I am trying to be rude, but why the fuck aren’t you helping? Or like, bossing Camila around too?” Lauren asked after a while, her cheeks tinted red from all the manual work and her growing annoyance.

“Woah, okay, first! Chill, Lauser.” Dinah started, prompting Camila to giggle and Semisi to snort. Lauren narrowed her eyes at her girlfriend, who looked at her apologetically. “Second, Camila is too scrawny to be bossed around.”

“Hey!” She protested, making Lauren smirk in revenge.

“Third,” Dinah went on ignoring Camila, “fine, I’ll change with you. Come here and rest for a bit, Ralph.”

Lauren huffed and rolled her eyes, but ended up accepting the offer and walking up to the kitchen counter. Dinah hopped off of it and Lauren sat down on one of the benches, shooting Dinah a playful glare when the taller girl stuck her tongue out at her.

When Lauren turned her eyes back to Camila and Semisi, her girlfriend was eyeing her worriedly, the small smile on her face coming together with the slight furrow of her eyebrows to ask a silent question. Are you okay? Lauren nodded, for the first time answering that question somewhat honestly. Having Dinah and her cousin there was proving to be just the right distraction from her feelings, and she was glad that more of their friends were about to arrive any minute now. She was, however, worried about Normani, who had seemed to take the events of the previous day better than her, but had been just as devastated with everything that had happened.

She didn’t have to think for much longer, though, because right after her thoughts had been invaded by Normani and the shooting, Lauren heard the intercom buzzing and got up to answer it, already expecting it to be one of her friends. She was proved right when Ally’s voice shot through the device as soon as she answered it with a polite, “hello”.

“Hey, Laur, it’s us.” Lauren smiled upon hearing her best friend’s voice, one she always associated with comfort and safety.

“Okay.” She opened the door for them and turned around. “It’s Ally and Mani.”

“Aww yes!” Dinah shouted. “I’ve been craving some Normally feels, it’s been too long since I’ve hung out with the two of them. Actually, it’s the first time I’m hanging out with them after all you jerks decided to tell me about the engagement. Thank you for not telling me, by the way, I you guys suck.” She continued, but Lauren ignored that last sentence, focusing on what Dinah had said at first.

Normally? Lauren didn’t know if she’d heard right. One look at Camila’s face was enough to tell her that she wasn’t losing her mind, but, what?

“Nor… mally?” Lauren asked while she moved toward the front door.

“Normani and Ally. It ain’t rocket science, Lauser.” Dinah answered matter-of-factly, earning a slap on the arm from Camila. “Oi, Chancho! What was that for?”

“Be nice!” The small Latina shot back, making Dinah roll her eyes and Semisi to cackle.

“When is Dinah ever nic-”

A few knocks on the door interrupted Semisi and Lauren was quick to open it, finding the tired looking couple with their hands intertwined on the other side. Ally stepped inside, letting go of her girlfriend’s hand and standing on her toes to envelop Lauren in a big hug, which she eagerly reciprocated, wrapping her own arms around her best friend’s petite waist. Ally finally pulled her head away from the hug a while later, giving Lauren a kiss on the cheek, but still holding onto the taller girl.

“I hope you know that you can talk to me, Lauren. Always and about anything. Hang in there, Laur, I love you.” Ally whispered into her ear before fully pulling back.

“I love you too, Al.” Lauren replied honestly, feeling a lump in her throat starting to form but coughing it away, all too aware of the image she was trying to maintain.

Lauren could hear Camila chatting with Dinah and Semisi in the background, probably trying to grant them some privacy, and for that she was forever grateful. She made a mental note to thank her later, but, for now, Lauren still had Normani to check up on, she had to be here for her partner like she had been there for Lauren.

“How you holding up, Mani?” Lauren asked, opening her arms and inviting Normani into a tight hug, which she quickly melted into, holding Lauren just as firmly.

“Not so well, but I’m getting there. You?” Normani answered with a quiet sigh.

“I was shaken up yesterday, you know that, but I’m okay now.” Lauren said, her eyes meeting Ally’s unbelieving and worried ones over Normani’s shoulder.

“I’m glad to hear that.” Normani started, but her tone was also slightly doubtful. She pulled away and stepped back, taking Ally’s hand in her left once again, but keeping her right on Lauren’s shoulder, giving it a light squeeze. She seemed to hesitate a little, as if she had something to say but didn’t know how to phrase it, before finally opening her mouth. “It’ll get better, though. And I’m here for you, if you need me.”

Lauren nodded, that damn lump blocking her speech once again. She ended up choosing to speak anyway, even if her voice sounded choked up, for what she had to say was more important than appearances.

“Me too, Mani. If you ever need anything, you can count on me.” She smiled and Normani did as well, nodding just like Lauren had before retracting her hand and looking into the living room.

Lauren locked the front door and turned around as she heard Dinah’s strong laugh boom through the room alongside Camila’s wild giggles. She hadn’t been paying attention to their conversation, having been heavily immersed in her own, so she had no idea what it was that Semisi had said to make them laugh like that, but she wished she’d witnessed it.

(God knew Lauren needed a good laugh.)

“Mani! Smallz! It’s been too long!” Dinah exclaimed, standing up from her spot and giving each girl a hug.

“We literally saw each other yesterday.” Ally laughed.

“And we met like, what, four days ago?” Normani piped in, stepping back from her hug with Dinah.

“I know, I know. I meant you two together. Damn, it’s like no one understands me.” Dinah huffed, smirking playfully. They both smiled, but Dinah seemed to know something was off. “Is everything okay? Lauser over there is grumpier than usual and you two don’t look so happy yourselves, so…”

“Yeah, we just had a bad day at work yesterday.” Normani shared, making Dinah frown, intrigued. “There was a shooting, you’ll probably see it on TV at some point.” She clarified, and Dinah looked from her to Lauren, a look of understanding flashing across her face.

“Oh. Sorry to hear that, guys.” Dinah said, squeezing Normani’s shoulder but Lauren only shrugged while the dark skinned girl smiled in gratitude.

Semisi was also standing up at this point, and everyone turned to him when he cleared his throat. “We haven’t officially met, but I’m Semisi, Dinah’s cousin, and I just wanted to say that I’m sorry too.”

“Thanks.” Normani replied. “I’m Normani. And this is my girlfriend, Ally.”

He shook hands with both girls, and Lauren zoned out a little while they exchanged pleasantries and basic information amongst them. Because of this, she didn’t notice Camila getting closer to her until she felt her lean arms hugging her from behind and her soft lips on her cheek.

“You okay?” Camila asked, her warm breath leaving Lauren’s skin tingling.

“Yeah.” She answered, simply, and Camila hummed in response, sounding unconvinced.

Lauren sighed and turned around in her embrace, holding Camila’s face in her hands and kissing her lips lovingly. Camila smiled into the kiss, making Lauren smile as well, and soon they separated because they weren’t even kissing anymore.

“Look at them, it’s gross.” Dinah exclaimed across the room, and Lauren turned back to look at her with a fake glare. “They’re the grossest couple I know.” She added, completely unaffected by Lauren.

“Shut up, DMac.” Normani said as she pulled Ally into her. “We’re the grossest couple you know.” She added, winking at Dinah before kissing Ally passionately in front of everyone.

Lauren burst out laughing at the sight and the expression of surprise both on Dinah’s and Ally’s faces. She stepped to the side, out of Camila’s hug, but the younger girl kept one arm around her waist, so Lauren draped her own arm over her girlfriend’s shoulders. After the surprise worn off, Ally threw her arms around Normani and Dinah made gagging noises and stepped away from them, which made Lauren laugh even harder and prompted Semisi and Camila to join her. The couple eventually couldn’t hold it in and started laughing too, breaking the kiss. After a while the laughter died down and Dinah, the only who had managed to keep a somewhat straight face while feigning disgust, raised both her arms over her head.

“Okay, I surrender. You two are the grossest couple I know, happy now?” She admitted, smiling and acting more chipper than usual.

A part of Lauren thought she was doing it on purpose, to try and lighten up their moods, and if that was the case, she really had to hand it to Dinah. The girl was a great friend.

(A very loud friend who threatened random people with poly beat downs, but that only made her all the more special.)

They went back to work after that, splitting into teams. Normani, Semisi and Dinah were to start carrying the boxes with Camila’s things to spread amongst Normani’s, Dinah’s and Lauren’s car, while Camila, Lauren and Ally were to continue disassembling pieces of furniture. Lauren and Camila had debated a few times about which apartment they should keep, considering each of them had pros and cons, and while Camila’s was closer to Lauren’s work and the Jauregui’s house, Lauren’s was bigger, closer to the Mendes’s house and didn’t have thin walls, which earned it multiple points. Plus, it had a balcony, and Camila was, in her own words, “a slut for balconies.” That had pretty much settled it, making them keep their original plan: Camila moving into Lauren’s apartment.

Not too much time had passed when Lauren heard footsteps from the building’s hallway, but didn’t turn around, assuming them to belong to one of her friends. Normani, Dinah and Semisi had been going in and out of the apartment for a while now, and she was too focused on her task to look.

“Mani, have you guys finished with the boxes? We could use a hand with this and with packing the rest of Camila’s things.” Lauren asked. Camila was in the bathroom and Ally was in the kitchen for a break, so she was the only one in the living room.

“I’d like to say yes, but since I’m not Mani, I wouldn’t know.” Said an amused Noah, making Lauren turn quickly on the floor, finding him and Keana standing on the threshold.

“Finally!” She exclaimed, jumping to her feet. She hugged both of them at the same time, pulling back as she heard Ally coming back into the living room.

“K! It’s so good to see you!” The small Latina exclaimed, a big smile on her face, as she ran to join their group hug.

Keana chuckled. “It’s good to see you too, Allycat.”

“What, is no one missing me?” Noah asked as all of them pulled away and walked into the living room.

“Of course I missed you too, Noah.” Ally giggled. “I’m glad y’all could help us today.”

Lauren smiled at the exchange, having missed her old “NYU squad” as Ally used to call them.

“Hey, Lo, I think we can start getting some of the furniture down to the first floor. What do you th-” Camila interrupted herself as she exited her bedroom and found Keana and Noah in her living room. Surprise flashed across her face at first, but then she seemed to recall who they were and gave them a sweet smile. “Oh, hi! Sorry, I didn't know you guys had arrived. I'm Camila.” She said, walking toward the couple with her hand outstretched.

Noah was the first one to take it, shaking it lightly. “I'm Noah, it's a pleasure to finally meet you. Oh, and you were really good at the play, by the way.” He exclaimed, smiling excitedly.

“Thank you! And the pleasure's mine, Noah.” Camila said, smiling brightly at him, then meeting Lauren's eyes for a second before turning to Keana. “I hear you've been wanting to meet me?” Camila chuckled.

Keana gave her a lopsided grin. “You bet! Must be your superstar schedule, but you're a tough girl to meet. I'm just glad to finally be given the chance. And let me say that I totally agree with Noah, you were awesome as the lead.” She complimented, and Camila's smile widened some more if that was even possible. Before she could thank her, though, Keana started speaking again. “I'm Keana, but I'm sure you know that.” Keana winked at Lauren and she rolled her eyes, slightly worried about Camila getting jealous of the gesture, but her doubts evaporated once she saw the girl smiling honestly. She still walked up to Lauren and wrapped an arm around her waist, but the green eyed girl would be lying if she said she minded it.

“Why are you like that, K?” Ally asked, shaking her head in amusement.

“Well, because if I weren't you wouldn't love me.” Keana answered, flipping her hair and succeeding in making Camila and Lauren laugh this time.

“Who says we love you?” Ally shot back, earning a horrified gasp from her friend and a high five from Lauren with the hand that wasn't draped around Camila's shoulder.

“Ally!” Camila exclaimed, laughing.

“What? She had it coming.” Ally shrugged, grinning. “Gotta stay sharp, girl!” She added in one of her special voices and accents, prompting Keana to break her fake scowl and laugh along everybody else.

“You all suck.” She pouted.

“It's okay, baby, I still love you.” Noah said, holding Keana's chin for a quick kiss.

Lauren felt her stomach erupt with butterflies when Camila tilted her head up to give her a chaste kiss as well, surprising her in the best way. She almost let it slip right there, those three special words, but she wanted to plan something special for when she'd say them. Something that would make Camila remember it forever. Looking down at her girlfriend as she pulled away, Lauren thought she saw a flash of sadness shine in her eyes, but maybe her mind was playing tricks on her because not a second later it was gone.

“Okay, my girlfriend isn't here so I'm feeling like an awkward fifth wheel and let me tell you, it's not nice. So y'all better get back to work right now, let's go, people!” Ally demanded in a playful tone, standing with her head held high like some kind of factory manager.

(Had another one of her characters just been born? Lauren hoped so.)

Noah's loud laughter filled the room as he gave Ally a salute, which in itself was a funny sight that was made even funnier by the height difference between the two. After the laughter died down, though, they did as Ally had told them and went back to work.

They went on for a few hours, starting the trips with the cars to get the boxes to Lauren's apartment and filling Semisi's truck with everything they were going to keep. Lauren could say that she was truly happy to gather so many of her friends in one place at the same time, especially taking into consideration how bad she was feeling earlier.

After taking her pills and spending some time with the girls, Semisi and Noah, her head had stopped aching altogether and the slight nausea she’d been feeling had also vanished. Even after drinking large amounts of alcohol, Lauren wasn’t one to get strong hangovers, so there was no surprise there. What astonished her the most was realizing that she’d been able to truly forget about her pain for while, to actually feel good, instead of hiding her real emotions and pretending to be happy as she sometimes felt the need to. Camila had offered to postpone her moving out, but keeping it today had probably been the best decision she could’ve made considering the situation.

They made a lunch break which consisted of pizza from the place down the street, accompanied by soda and lots of laughter, but soon continued their individual tasks after resting for a while. Lauren almost caved in when Dinah, Camila and, surprisingly enough, Noah, had whined for a longer break, but they never seemed to run out of things to pack, so the young cop had argued it would be better to keep it short so that they finished everything as early as possible.

It was with a heavy heart and a choir of “aww”s that Lauren announced that she needed to leave for work at almost five in the afternoon. The raven haired girl was working a late afternoon and early night shift to make up for the day of Camila's play – which she'd missed even though it wasn't her day off –, just like she had agreed with Captain Russell.

They were all gathered in Camila's living room for a final break, and the work was almost done, so Lauren didn't feel too guilty about leaving them. Almost everything was already in Lauren's apartment, with just a few pieces of furniture missing, so Lauren and Camila would be able to sleep there that night.

With that in mind, the green eyed girl said her goodbyes, accompanied by some well-deserved and heartfelt hugs, before gathering her things and walking back to the front door. Camila was already there waiting for her and Lauren smiled at both her girlfriend and her own thoughts.

“What?” Camila asked while she unlocked the door, noticing Lauren's expression.

“Nothing.” Lauren started in a low tone, smiling lovingly as she stepped outside alongside Camila. “I just realized today is the first day we'll officially sleep together in our apartment. Not mine or yours, but ours.”

“I'd love to, baby, but I told you I'm on my period.” Camila teased, sounding completely serious.

Lauren laughed and shook her head, her cheeks already feeling a little warmer. “You know what I mean, you dirty asshole.”

Camila giggled. “I know, baby, I'm just teasing you.” She made a pause to study Lauren's figure with an adoring look in her eyes as she closed the door behind her to give them some privacy. “Come here.” Camila added, stepping closer to Lauren. 

The smaller girl wrapped her arms around Lauren's neck and leaned in. Lauren closed her eyes, expecting to feel Camila's soft lips against her own, but was met with nothing but air.

“I wanna sleep next to you, but that's all I wanna do right now.” Camila sang quietly in Lauren's ear while she ran her hands through her dark long locks. “I wanna come home to you, but home is just a room full of my safest sounds.”

Lauren felt shivers run down her spine as she listened to Camila's singing, her angelic voice leaving her as breathless as the first time she'd heard it. The effect it had on Lauren was especially strong that afternoon, given the emotional turmoil she'd gone through and the fact that the song Camila had chosen was the perfect translation for her thoughts and feelings.

“I know what you meant, Lo, and it's what I want too.” Camila whispered before pulling her head back and leaning in for a chaste kiss this time. She sighed as she rested her forehead against Lauren's, who still hadn't uttered a word, too surprised by the whole thing to do so. “You okay, baby? How're you feeling?” Camila asked, looking deeply into Lauren's eyes.

Lauren had a huge lump in her throat at this point, so she cleared it a few times and nodded before trying to speak. “I'm better.” Camila seemed unconvinced, especially given the raspiness of Lauren's voice, but the young cop wasn't lying. The day had been great, and yeah, she was still haunted by the memories when she was given too much time to think alone, but she really was feeling better, much better actually. “I promise.” She added and Camila seemed to realize she was being honest, so she simply nodded in response.

This time it was Lauren who leaned in for a kiss, holding Camila's face in both her hands, her thumbs caressing the younger girl's cheeks. It was supposed to be a simple, gentle kiss but Lauren, being the emotional mess she was, couldn't help but try and deepen it to show all her love and gratefulness. Camila granted her permission almost instantly, and they spent the next few minutes kissing passionately but slowly, almost worshipping each other. Lauren had kissed Camila many times before, but this one felt different, like a new beginning for them.

Maybe it was the fact that they now shared an apartment, or maybe it was what they went through together the previous day, or, who knew, maybe it even had something to do with Lauren opening up a little, but she felt closer to Camila, more connected to her in some way.

Lauren pulled away, resting their foreheads together again. “Oh, and just for the record.” Lauren began, her voice serious. Camila opened her eyes and looked into green ones, seeming worried. “I really love that song.”

Camila threw her head back in a big chuckle, probably having expected something bad, before locking her eyes with Lauren's once more. “I know, Laur. Believe me, I know.”

Lauren decided in that moment that she didn't care about what had shifted between them. Whatever it was, she liked it, and that was all that mattered.

Chapter Text

“Well, this is it.”

“This is it, sis. It’s now or never. Our last moment of anonymity. Is it too much to expect a mob of crazy fans by tomorrow?”

Camila chuckled – more out of nervousness than she’d like to admit – and shook her head. She was beginning to see a pattern with the people she surrounded her with: they were all idiots.

(Not that she minded; in fact, she secretly thought she was one as well.)

“Shut up, Shawn.” Camila shook her head with a fond little smile playing on her lips.

Shawn rose his hands in surrender, but the smirk in his lips gave him away. Camila rolled her eyes and took a sip of water from her bottle – that yes, she carried basically everywhere – before turning back to keep her eyes on the door to the small room they were in.

When she’d said this was it, she’d meant it. Camila and Shawn were currently sitting on the comfortable couch of one of the offices that belonged to “Drama dot com” magazine, waiting for their interviewer to come back. It wasn’t a huge magazine, but it wasn’t a tiny one either, and she couldn’t have been more pleased to get the invitation to the interview.

“So, how’s living with Lauren?” Shawn asked, bringing a smile to her face at the mention of her girlfriend, though it soon vanished.

Living with Lauren was everything she hoped it would be, which meant basically the same as before, only better. For the past few weeks they’d been sleeping over at the other’s house almost every day, so there wasn’t that much of a difference. They’d had to move some of their furniture, as well as sell and throw away some of it – Normani and Ally had eagerly demanded to keep Lauren’s kitchen table, which had enticed a fight with their increasingly closer friend, Dinah –, but Camila was very happy with the way they’d rearranged the apartment.

(And the fact that she now had a balcony, but that was beyond the point.)

So, it was safe to say that Camila was indeed very happy that they were living together but she was also worried about Lauren. It was now the second time she saw her girlfriend trying to hide or downplay what she was feeling.

Camila thought she had made clear that she was there for Lauren, but the green eyed girl hadn’t talked about the shooting again other than to confirm that she was fine. She also hadn’t opened up about the encounter with her uncle – though Camila didn’t know if she was overreacting or seeing things where there are none in the latter case.

Either way, Camila was kind of worried about that. She was now afraid that Lauren wasn’t opening up not because she didn’t trust her, but because of some other reason, even though she had no idea what it could be. If Camila didn’t know the motive, she had no way to help. The worst thing about the situation was that Camila could see right through Lauren when she tried to pretend that she wasn’t sad.

Camila knew that Lauren wasn’t feeling bad all the time, she knew that Lauren wasn’t always pretending to be okay and that she truly was happy a lot of times. God, Camila loved her, but realizing when Lauren wasn’t always being honest about her feelings frustrated her to no end.

And well, there was that

Lauren had no recollection of confessing her love for Camila, which was obviously the universe showing her just how unlucky she was. Camila caught herself almost slipping and saying it right then and there all the time, but she always managed to stop herself, having already started to plan something for Valentine’s Day, which was getting closer and closer. Camila smiled at the thought, unable to stop herself at the surprise she’s planning.

“Earth to Mila.” Shawn laughed, bringing Camila back to the present. “I asked you a question like two minutes ago, dude.”

Camila shook her head to clear it of her many thoughts. “Sorry, I zoned out a little there.”

“It’s fine, as long as you don’t do that during the interview.” He teased.

Camila chuckled. “Don’t worry about that. And to answer your question, it’s been great. She’s great.” The Latina smiled again. She wasn’t lying, she just wasn’t explaining everything, especially since she felt some details were too personal to share with anyone without Lauren’s approval.

“Happy to hear that, sis.” Shawn started, smiling.

He opened his mouth to say something else but was cut short when the interviewer, a woman with short brown hair in her mid-thirties called Barbara, entered the room again with a notebook and a recording device on her hands, taking the seat in the couch across from them and the coffee table that separated both sofas.

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting.” She said with an apologetic smile while opening her notebook. Camila and Shawn nodded politely. “So, before we get started, do you two need anything? Snacks, water?”

“I’m okay, but thanks.” Camila answered, her own water bottle sitting on top of the table.

“Me too, thanks.” Shawn agreed.

“Okay then. Well, for starters, please tell me your full names and ages.” Barbara requested, picking up her pen and pressing the recording button on her device before placing it on the coffee table.

“Karla Camila Cabello Estrabao, I’m twenty two years old.” Camila stated.

“Shawn Peter Raul Mendes, twenty one years old.”

“Okay. I had a different first question, but this caught my attention: aren’t you siblings? Why do you have different last names?” Barbara asked, tapping the pen on the notebook.

Camila took a deep breath to answer the sensitive question, meeting Shawn’s supportive eyes for a moment before doing so. “Well, I’m not bound to Shawn by blood, even though he absolutely is my brother. His parents have been my legal guardians ever since my own died on a home invasion when I was eleven. They didn’t really adopt me at the request of the rest of my family, who lives in Cuba, and I wanted to keep my last name to remember my parents, so, yeah. But he is my brother and his parents are my parents, so we are siblings.” Camila explained.

“I see.” Barbara had her eyebrows furrowed in a sympathetic expression. “I’m sorry for your loss, Camila.”

“It’s okay, it was a long time ago.” Camila reassured her, who nodded and wrote down a few notes.

“So, Shawn, how was it to have Camila suddenly be a part of your family, when you were only ten?” The older woman asked. “You don’t have to answer that if it’s too personal, though.” She added after a moment.

“Nah, it’s okay.” Shawn answered with a small smile. “Our parents had always been close, so I knew Camila basically from the moment I was born.” He chuckled. “I was really sad when Camila’s parents, Alejandro and Sinuhe, passed away, but not much changed in our relationship. We saw each other every day before that and we kept seeing each other after. She’d always been like a sister to me anyway, we only made it a little more official back then, though I was nine when it happened.”

Shawn took Camila’s hand in his after speaking, squeezing it to comfort her, which Camila immensely appreciated. Even if she truly had made peace with what had happened, it was always nice to have that kind of support, and she loved Shawn to no end for providing it for her.

“You were nine? You were born in '94, then?” Barbara asked.

“Yes.” Shawn nodded.

“My baby brother.” Camila chuckled, letting go of his hand to pinch his cheek lightly.

Shawn merely rolled his eyes with a little smirk and slapped her hand away, turning back to the interviewer, who Camila thought looked very much amused for a moment. Barbara soon went back to her professional, though not at all intimidating, stance, smiling politely at the pair after taking a few notes.

“I can see you two are very close. Whose idea was it to star on a play together?” She asked.

“Well, I found the play, but I guess it was his idea to star on it together.” Camila answered, furrowing her eyebrows in concentration as she tried to remember the details.

“I’ve always liked to sing and I took vocal classes when I was younger, so I was always more the musical kind of guy, though I love the acting part too. I was looking for a part in one when Camila showed up with this role one rainy Sunday morning, all excited about it. I thought it sounded awesome and ended up being interested in it as well, so I was like, why not?” Shawn clarified, making Camila nod. He had always been better at remembering the littlest of facts. “And now here we are.”

“Here we are indeed.” Barbara agreed, her eyes never leaving her notebook. Once she finished writing whatever she was writing, she turned back to them. “Congratulations to you both, by the way.”

“Thank you.” They replied in unison, Camila giggling a little afterwards.

“I gotta say, for someone who has watched ‘The Times of Her Life’, it’s surprising for me to see you interacting like this. Your characters had pretty much the opposite of the relationship you seem to have. Was it weird for you to play them?” Barbara questioned, tapping her pen on her notebook a few times, which Camila found oddly distracting.

She shook her head and tore her gaze away from it when Shawn’s voice cut through her mind. “Well, in some way, yeah. Matt, my character, is pretty abusive, and it was hard to act like that, even more so towards this person who I’ve always held dear.”

Camila looked over at Shawn with gentle eyes and a warm smile, remembering all the times he’d been there for her. Yes, he couldn’t be any more different than his character, for he as loving and kind and a great friend, even if he could sometimes be a little shit with his pranks and sarcastic banter.

Camila also knew that was Shawn’s way of saying he loved her without really stating it in case she wasn’t comfortable enough to say it during an interview, which meant the world to her.

(She loved him just as much, of course.)

“I feel the exact same way. It was really awkward at first because we’re very close, but we rehearsed a lot for the auditions, together and separately – in case one of us didn’t get the part – and we pushed past the weirdness. And Shawn couldn’t be any more unlike his character.” Camila shook her head, a smile on her lips.

“In what ways are they different?” Barbara asked.

“For starters, he’s not a complete asshole.” Camila chuckled and Shawn soon followed.

“Thanks, sis.” He said, raising his fist, which she quickly bumped with her own.

“Don’t mention it, bro.” She replied, laughing as she did so.

Barbara smiled and went back to her notes. Then she started asking multiple questions regarding the play, the characters, the production, all of it. Camila and Shawn took turns answering first, their answers almost always complementing one another.

“I think we’ve covered all of the play talk, right?” Barbara questioned with a polite smile which Camila reciprocated, nodding. “So, do you have other passions or hobbies outside the theater?”

“I love music.” Shawn answered without hesitation. “I play the guitar since I was like five I think… Well, I’ve played it ever since I was able to hold one.” He chuckled.

“That’s very true.” Camila piped in, nodding enthusiastically. “He taught me once I went to live with him, but I sucked when I was younger. I only managed to really pick it up when I was what, like seventeen?”

“Yeah, I think so.” Shawn shook his head fondly. “We both sing, too. She’s got an amazing voice.”

“You’re one to talk.” Camila scoffed. “He’s an amazing singer and way more about music than me. I still think he’s gonna star in some important musicals one day.”

Shawn blushed a little, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. “Thank you, but I’m not that good. But thanks anyway.”

“Always the humble guy, I see.” Barbara smiled, writing something down as she spoke.

Shawn seemed flustered, which Camila found incredibly amusing, considering it was unusual for him to get in that state. Being the good friend slash sister that she is, though, she decided to get the focus away from him so that he wouldn’t get too uncomfortable.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a hobby or a passion, but if there’s something that I’m really passionate about, it’s the environment.” She affirmed.

Not a second later Shawn was already back to his normal self, seeming relieved and nodding frantically. “Ohhh, yes. She’s crazy about that.”

“Really?” Barbara questioned with a renewed interest.

“Yes. I mean, I haven’t been very active these last few weeks because I’ve been busy with the play, but I donate to Greenpeace and sometimes participate in protests and stuff.” Camila started, entering her activist mode. “I’ve never been arrested, though.” She quickly added after a second thought.

Barbara chuckled. “Okay, I believe you. But tell me more, why are you so passionate about that?”

Camila furrowed her eyebrows. “What is there to not be passionate about? We’re talking about our planet, our home. If we don’t take better care of it, no one will, and then we’ll be screwed. Deforestation, destructive fishing, toxic waste. Those are all serious problems that no one cares about. For example, companies dump toxic substances on rivers a lot, intentionally or not, and few are the times the population as a whole know about it. The climate changes we’re going through, the global warming… I mean, this is so freaking important. Like, not the warming itself. It’s important to raise awareness and educate people so that we can make some change and hopefully get the governments to start helping the planet survive.” Camila finished, realizing for the first time that Barbara had both her eyebrows raised high. One look at Shawn told her that maybe she’d gotten too heated. “Oh. Sorry about the language.” Camila fumbled with her words, reprimanding herself for getting worked up, which always happened when it came to this particular subject.

“It’s fine, sweetie. I see your point, really. Is there anything you can recommend people to do to help?” Barbara asked after hesitating for a moment.

“Well, there are lots of little things. You can donate, of course. But you can also spend less water, try and make less trash, this kind of thing.” Camila answered, holding onto her mental note to keep her cool.

“Okay.” Barbara nodded. She looked down at her notebook and checked the time, then appeared to be deep in thought.

Camila took that moment to look at Shawn, trying to read his opinion on what had just happened. He shrugged, what Camila knew meant he thought it was no big deal, and that calmed her heart a little bit. She turned back to the interviewer and waited as she took a few more notes.

Barbara suddenly looked back up at the pair, the polite smile stamped on her features as usual. “Sadly, everything good must come to an end, and this interview is no exception. I just have one more question for you. Any plans for the future?”

“I hope to be able to star in a musical, to be honest. To be able to act and sing as a living. That’s the ultimate dream, I guess.” Shawn quickly answered, before Camila even had time to think. He turned to the brunette afterwards, signaling he had finished talking.

“Well, I don’t know.” Camila sighed, thinking her answer having been quite anticlimactic if compared with Shawn’s. “I’ll certainly look for other plays and see what interests me. But I don’t have any ultimate goal, I think this is my ultimate goal. To act, you know? And I’m doing that, so I’ll just… keep doing that.” She laughed nervously.

“I’m glad to hear that.” Barbara said, writing down one last sentence before standing up. Camila and Shawn soon followed. “Thank you very much for your time.” She added.

“Thank you for the opportunity.” Camila replied.

“It was our pleasure.” Shawn declared at the same time.

Barbara only nodded and extended her hand for them to shake. They took turns doing so before she showed them the way out of the office, asking them not to forget about buying the magazine first thing on Wednesday morning. Camila released a breath she didn’t know she had been holding once the door closed behind her and they were left alone in the hallway of the commercial building.

“How was it?” Camila asked as soon as she took a deep breath.

“Honestly? Really good, Mila.” He answered simply with a huge smile, seemingly sincere.

“What about the environment thing?” Camila voiced her true worry. “She seemed pretty shocked.”

“Nah, don’t worry about that. It was no big deal and you weren’t saying anything wrong anyway.” Shawn shrugged, easing Camila’s worries once again.

“Good.” Camila breathed. “I was starting to really freak out about that.” She chuckled, running a hand through her hair, which reminded her of Lauren, since this was a habit she’d picked up from her girlfriend. The thought made her smile as she and Shawn started to walk toward the elevator.

“I know, it was written all over your face. You gotta chill, sis.” Shawn stated smugly.

“Shut up.” Camila gave him a fake glare before pushing the elevator button and fishing inside her purse for her phone. When she finally found it, a smile spread across her face at the sight of a text notification from Lauren.

“Kids these days can’t let go of those phone things.” Shawn shook his head, a smug smile still playing on his lips.

“Whatever, mom.” She answered sarcastically, making him chuckle, before turning back to her phone. Maybe Shawn would say something else, but Camila wasn’t paying much attention anymore, and there was a clear reason for that.

Lolo <3 (12:07 pm): Hope your interview is going well, babes! I’m on my lunch break now, if you can/want to talk.

Lolo <3 (12:15 pm): I prefer to think that you can’t talk right now, lol.

Lolo <3 (12:16 pm): As opposed to you ignoring me, which, IF YOU ARE I AKJFHLAJWURYA

Camila giggled, feeling her chest getting warm and those damn butterflies invading her stomach. She’d always found funny how Lauren typed with such grammatical precision, but she’d been loosening up a little in that aspect ever since they’d begun dating, which resulted in the occasional keyboard smashing.

Camila (12:43 pm): exCUSE YOU i’m nOT how darE YOU THINK THAT

Camila (12:43 pm): sorry i was busy i was just having an interview sweetie ;)))))

Shawn tapped Camila’s shoulder to get her attention and she realized the elevator had reached their floor. She muttered a, “thank you,” and stepped inside alongside him, who pushed the button to the first floor. He gave her an unimpressed look, probably aware of who it was she was talking to, but despite the little wave of heat that hit her cheeks, Camila wasn’t troubled in the slightest. So what if she got completely unaware of her surroundings while talking to her girlfriend? It was allowed to be like that with someone you loved, right?

Whoop, there it is!

Honestly, Camila had lasted a long time without thinking about that and she would be impressed with herself, but the fact that her heartbeat had just increased about a million times made her unable to even get proud.

(That, and the fact that her mind had just come up with a Pitch Perfect reference, something that had been happening nonstop ever since she and Lauren decided to re-watch it together on Sunday.)

Anyway… Her reaction was completely normal and expected, she was sure of that. The same applied to the excited squeal she let out as soon as Lauren replied. Completely normal.

Lolo <3 (12:48 pm): You’re such a dork, hahaha.

Camila (12:48 pm): who’re you calling a dork sweetie?? ;))))

Lolo <3 (12:49 pm): Oh wow, okay then! Sorry, miss Broadway, lol.

Lolo <3 (12:49 pm): But Caaaamz, listen! I gotta go back in like ten minutes, but Mani wanted us to know that she’s asking Ally’s hand in marriage on the tenth, their anniversary. I’m so happy for them!! :D

Camila was grinning like a child at this point. She was obviously happy for Normally and Ally, but she also couldn’t help but feel relief and joy wash over her upon seeing that Lauren really was getting to a better emotional place, something that was apparent from her use of emojis and her tone. She still wished Lauren opened up more to her, knowing that she wasn’t one hundred percent just yet, but seeing her happier was something that Camila couldn’t possibly wish for harder than she already did.

Camila (12:50 pm): aww baby i’m so happy!!! they deserve all the best <3

Lolo <3 (12:50 pm): Yes, they really do! But hey I gotta go now, we’ll talk later okay? My shift ends at like 5 today.

Camila (12:50 pm): okk see you at home! be safe!!

Lolo <3 (12:51 pm): I’ll try, babe, I promise. See you at home! <3

Camila grimaced as she read Lauren’s last text and realized she may have come off as insensitive given what had happened. The thing was that Camila was so used to telling Lauren to be safe that she forgot to have a little more filter. Still, the terms of endearment and the heart emoji made her own heart skip some beats and she couldn’t help but grin at the word home.

Their home.

“Earth to Mila, we’re right at the front door and you didn’t even notice.” Shawn’s voice broke through the mist that had clouded her mind, a mist called Lauren Jauregui.

“Sorry, I got kinda distracted.” She said, stepping beside her brother out of the building. The cold hit her like a ton of bricks, and she quickly wrapped her scarf around her neck and buttoned up her coat.

“Evidently.” Shawn rolled his eyes affectionately. “Want to grab some lunch on this fine Monday and then I can give you a ride to Lau- to your apartment?” He tripped over his own words, making Camila’s smile widen.

“It would be great, but I came by bike, so…” She trailed off and Shawn nodded.

“Okay, gotcha.” He bent down and engulfed Camila in a tight hug, making her groan and let out a strangled laugh. “Lunch, though?” Shawn asked once he let go of her.

“Of course!” Camila replied quickly. “Where you want to eat?”

“I don’t know.” Shawn threw his hands into the pockets of his jacket. “Surprise me.”

Camila smirked. “Oh, boy. Then I hope you’re ready for the best pizza in New York.”

“I’m always ready for pizza, Mila. Always.”

Lauren woke up on Wednesday because something, though she didn’t know what just yet, was bothering her to no end. It was her eyes, she realized after a second of conscience. They were stinging, but why? In the confused state she was in from just waking up, Lauren fluttered her eyelids open only to groan and bury her face in her pillow. They hadn’t been exposed to the sunlight for more than a second, but it’d been enough to make them burn. Freaking green eyes and their sensitivity to light.

(At least Camila liked them, so it wasn’t that bad, really.)

Lauren’s lips turned upward at the thought of her girlfriend. With a sigh, the raven haired girl raised her arm to embrace Camila and pull her close, but was met with air instead. Her eyes shot open, but her face was buried in her pillow and this time, they didn’t burn. Lauren carefully led her hand to block the sunlight and turned around in the bed, looking over at Camila’s side. She wasn’t on it.

Lauren’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion and she sat up slowly, looking around the room. Her eyes found the clock at her nightstand and she grimaced. It was just past seven o’clock. When Lauren had morning shifts, she woke up at six thirty in the morning, but today wasn’t one of these days and the green eyed girl did not want to be awake before eight, at the very least. Especially since she hadn’t gotten much sleep last night, which she spent binge watching Camila’s new favorite TV show on Netflix with her, of course. It’s not like there was anything else to do late at night with her smoking hot girlfriend, right?

Lauren chuckled at the memory of an overexcited Camila, running her hand through her hair as she sat up. Jokes – and sexual desires – aside, last night had been great. Lauren actually loved the quieter nights, which they spent cuddled up talking or watching something or even just reading together, each enthralled by her own book. There was something truly magical about those intimate, quiet times, and Lauren would never seriously complain about them, though she did crack a joke or two from time to time.

Which was ironic if she thought about it, since Camila was the one who usually made all the sexual innuendos, but when it came to her TV shows, she had a comeback for every mocking comment Lauren tried to make about better ways to pass time. This only served to further prove that Camila’s main goal in life was to make Lauren flustered and it always worked. Most of the time she didn’t mind it, though, so it was okay.

(Lauren started to think maybe Normani was right about her being a whipped piece of trash, but she would never admit it out loud.)

Shaking her head affectionately, Lauren swung her legs off the bed and got up to go look for Camila. Lauren wasn’t in the best mood because of the early hour, that was certain, but at least she wasn’t muttering profanities under her breath like she usually would this early in the morning. She guessed she had a certain brown eyed Latina to thank for that.

Lauren yawned as she opened the door to her bedroom, chuckling right after it when the smell of bacon hit her nose. Camila getting up before nine to make breakfast had to be the most ridiculous idea she’d ever heard, but okay then. If she wanted to do that, Lauren wouldn’t complain. She turned around to go wash her face and brush her teeth in her private bathroom now that she was almost certain that Camila was home, since, well, who else would be making breakfast at seven o’clock in their apartment?

While Lauren was in the bathroom, her thoughts began to wander, her heavy eyelids becoming slightly more open and her thoughts becoming more alert after washing with the cold water from the sink. She remembered Camila’s little whimpers or screams whenever something startled her during the heavier scenes of Jessica Jones and laughed quietly to herself as she closed the tap.

Lauren’s thoughts of screaming suddenly turned into another direction and, just like that, her little smirk vanished. Grimacing, Lauren got out of the bathroom and started walking toward the hallway, pushing all thoughts of that fucking night out of her mind. Nope, she wouldn’t think about that at all. Instead, she’d rather think about the amazing smell in the air or the low singing she heard from the kitchen.

“...myself: ‘don’t get attached’, but in my mind I play it back. Spinning faster than the plane that took you.”

Lauren stopped walking at the entrance to the living room, watching as Camila, in casual clothes, slightly wet hair and wearing her glasses, prepared some eggs on the stove. Lauren smiled fondly as the song she didn’t recognize hit her ears more clearly now, Camila’s soft and beautiful voice making her fall for her all over again.

“And this is when the feeling sinks in, I don’t wanna miss you like this. Come back… be here, come back… be here!”

Lauren closed her eyes and shook her head, amazed by what she was hearing. She soon opened them, though, because the need to hold Camila close to her was getting stronger by the second, stronger than her desire to listen to her singing. Lauren quietly crossed the living room, stepping around the kitchen counter without Camila noticing her, and hugged the brunette from behind, interrupting the song and making her jump slightly.

Lauren chuckled when Camila turned her head with wide eyes and a surprised smile. “You scared the crap out of me, Lauren! Since when are you this sneaky?”

“I’m a cop, babe. It’s necessary for survival.” Lauren replied, forcing herself to keep a straight face. Camila giggled and Lauren couldn’t take it anymore, breaking into her own fit of laughter. “But hey, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Camila turned around in Lauren’s embrace, smiling fully now, and wrapped her arms around the taller girl’s neck. “It’s okay, baby, it was a good surprise.” She stood on her toes to kiss the tip of Lauren’s nose, making the older girl giggle.

“You’re so unbelievably cute.” Lauren breathed, nuzzling her face on Camila’s neck and kissing the skin of her shoulder before looking her in the eyes again. They were radiating with so much happiness that Lauren’s breath got stuck on her throat for a moment.

“Thanks, I know.” Camila said cheekily, making Lauren throw her head back in laughter. “Wow, Lo, am I really that funny?”

“Nope.” Lauren answered quickly, earning a playful glare from her girlfriend. “You just have this special effect in me where I find anything you do funny or cute, Camz.”

It was Camila’s turn to laugh, tangling her hands on Lauren’s hair and massaging her scalp, which was incredibly relaxing. “Even when I get mad out of nowhere and stress you out?”

Lauren scowled, making Camila’s laughter intensify. “Why, I ask myself, why would you bring up your wild moods?”

Camila shrugged, smiling devilishly. “I like messing with you, I guess.”

“By making me cranky?” Lauren asked, raising her hand to cup Camila’s face and running her thumb through her cheek.

“You were the one who purposefully fueled my jealousy because ‘I’m hot when I’m jealous’.” Camila shot back with a smug expression.

Lauren’s stomach filled with butterflies at the mention of that night and all she wanted to do was kiss that freaking smirk out of Camila’s face, but she was enjoying their banter way too much. She just had to keep it going, so she retracted her arms from around Camila and tried to move away from her.

“Low blow, Cabello, you win.” Lauren said, walking backwards with her hands raised above her head, effectively removing Camila’s from her scalp.

“Come back here, dumbass.” Camila chuckled and pulled Lauren by the fabric of her oversized shirt, kissing her like the raven haired girl had been wishing for ever since she first entered the kitchen.

Lauren wrapped her arms around Camila and they kissed for a while, gentle and loving kisses that lacked urgency, but not passion. It was like both of them knew that they had all the time in the world. Lauren smiled at the thought and Camila followed suit.

(It kind of ruined the kiss, but she didn’t care.)

Lauren did care about the strong smell that was now invading her nostrils, making her open her eyes, confused as to its source. Camila seemed unaffected by it, with her eyes still closed and that beautiful little smile on her lips. She leaned in for another kiss, but Lauren moved her hands to Camila’s shoulders, stopping her. That got her girlfriend’s attention pretty quickly and she opened her eyes, an alarmed look in them.

“What’s wrong?” Camila asked when she saw the troubled look that Lauren assumed was written all over her own face. “Are you okay?”

Lauren only shook her head. “What’s that smell?”

Camila’s eyes widened as she got out of Lauren’s embrace and turned to the stove. “Fuck, the eggs!” She exclaimed.

Lauren finally found the culprit in the form of overcooked – and by that she meant completely burnt – scrambled eggs. Camila quickly turned the fire off, groaning as she looked at the frying pan filled with her ruined breakfast.

“God damn it, Lauren!” Camila groaned, turning back to her with the pan in hand, showing her its content, which Lauren was already well aware of.

Lauren furrowed her eyebrows. “What did I do?” She asked, not liking Camila’s tone, but keeping her own calm.

“You distracted me with your kissing and stuff.” Camila pouted, leaving the pan on the sink, and crossed her arms.

Lauren was between amused, irritated and endeared by the situation. On one hand, Camila was acting like a spoiled child, which was both adorable and funny. On the other hand, she was acting like a spoiled child and blaming Lauren for something that wasn’t her fault, which was ridiculous, really, and it pissed her off a little bit.

“Camz. This makes no sense. You kissed me.” Lauren pointed out, crossing her arms.

Camila groaned again. “Ugh, I know, I know. Sorry, it’s just. I wanted to surprise you with breakfast in bed and then you showed up, but okay. But now the eggs are ruined.” She sighed, before mumbling, “And if you hadn’t kissed me they wouldn’t be.”

Maybe Lauren wasn’t supposed to hear that, but she did, and the only thing she could do was shake her head in disbelief.

“Seriously, Camz?”

“Okay, I’m sorry.” Camila sighed again, her expression becoming apologetic and insecure as she stepped forward and uncrossed Lauren’s arms. “The truth is that I woke up early because I was nervous about the interview, then I took a shower to calm down and decided to surprise you. But now the surprise is ruined and I’m just kinda on edge, like, I’m a little bit worried about the interview.” She confessed, looking down and intertwining their fingers.

Lauren’s eyes softened as she realized what this was all about. Sighing, she removed her hands from Camila’s to pull her girlfriend into a hug. The brown eyed girl wasn’t afraid to show vulnerability, that was for sure, and she always confided in Lauren with her deepest feelings. Lauren, on the other hand, wasn’t so proud to admit that she had a hard time opening up to anyone, even to Camila, and despite telling her almost everything, some heavier topics were out of bounds. Like her uncle or the shooting. Lauren almost shuddered at the mere memory of the latter. She knew Camila would be there for her if she needed, but, at least for now, Lauren was good with not thinking about it.

Lauren was brought back to the present as Camila’s arms squeezed her, hugging her back. Lauren rose one of her hands to the brown hair, stroking it tenderly.

“It’ll be okay, Camz. I’m sure everything went great yesterday, and if I recall, you were sure too. Don’t let it get to your head, because you know.” She made a pause to leave a kiss on the side of Camila’s neck. “Wild moods, babe.”

Camila chuckled against Lauren’s chest, the sound vibrating through her skin. “You’re right, I’m sorry. I hate my temper sometimes, I don’t know how you manage to be so calm.” She sighed.

“Oh, I can get, I mean go off sometimes.” Lauren admitted distractedly, fingers still running through Camila’s silky brown locks. She snickered and Lauren felt the urge to chuckle and roll her eyes as soon as she realized why. “Oh my God, you dirty minded little shit!” She exclaimed, her cheeks burning with embarrassment as she pulled back to look Camila in the eye.

“Hey, you said it! You can blame me.” Camila laughed again.

She was grinning guiltily, like a kid caught stealing from the cookie jar, and Lauren felt her insides get warm at how adorable she looked right now. The green eyed Latina leaned in and gave her a chaste kiss just to calm her heart, not managing to take it any longer.

“Now sit down.” Lauren whispered after pulling back a little bit, her eyes still closed and her lips still lingering by Camila’s. “You took care of the bacon, I’ll handle the eggs.”

“Nooo, Lo!” Camila mumbled against Lauren’s lips, stealing a peck.

Lauren chuckled and opened her eyes to find Camila staring at her. “No arguing. Sit your huge ass down and let me do the work for once.”

Camila smirked like she always did when she thought of a sexual innuendo and rose her eyebrows inquisitively. Lauren felt the familiar heat creeping up to her cheeks yet again and this time she did roll her eyes, because honestly, what was it with this girl?

(Why did those stupid little things make Lauren love her even more?)

“You’re on a roll today, huh?” Lauren shook her head amusedly, still in a flustered state. “I wonder wh-”

She was interrupted by Camila’s hands pulling her neck and their lips crashing against together again, the kiss barely working from the younger girl smiling so much. Lauren felt her own lips curve into a grin and she started laughing in the middle of the kiss, which led her girlfriend to do the same, and soon enough they were just two giggling messes in each other’s arms.

“Seriously, though.” Lauren breathed, cleaning the corner of her eyes from a few stray tears of laughter. She returned her hands to Camila’s waist as soon as she was done. “I want to do it.”

“Okay.” Camila agreed, dragging out the word pretending to be annoyed before breaking character with a bright smile.

Camila sat down at one of the counter benches and Lauren got to work. She threw away the ruined eggs and started preparing new ones in a bowl. The young cop started humming a song absentmindedly, which ended up reminding her of her earlier doubt.

“Hey, what song were you singing earlier?” She asked, turning her head to look at Camila, who had a questioning look on her eyes. “When you were cooking and I snuck up on you.”

Camila’s face lit up in understanding. “Oh, that. It was Come Back… Be Here. It’s one of my favorite Taylor songs.” She explained.

Lauren nodded, a loving smile playing on her lips. “You sounded really good. You always do, actually.”

“Thanks.” Camila replied, smiling shyly and seeming flustered for once.

Lauren smiled back at her before turning back to the eggs, which were almost done by now. She turned off the stove when they were ready, dividing them on two plates that were already on the sink countertop and separating the bacon as well. Lauren was placing both plates on the kitchen counter when she noticed Camila was staring off into the distance, a thoughtful expression on her face.

“Camz? You okay there?” Lauren asked as she sat down by Camila’s side.

Camila shook her head, looking at Lauren with a sheepish expression. “Yeah, sorry. It’s just that your dad told me you used to sing all the time when you were younger and that you were really good. But somehow I’ve never heard you sing before. Why is that?” She finished.

Lauren shrugged, her heart beating a little faster at the question, though she didn’t exactly know why. It was more of a feeling than a thought that made her nervous, but she still couldn’t pinpoint what. This usually happened when her someone brought up her singing, so she had grown used to it, barely acknowledging anymore. Besides, it wasn’t like many people even asked about that, the only ones who knew about Lauren’s hidden talent, so to speak, being her family and Ally.

“I don’t know, I think I just lost my passion for it. I was never crazy about it, I guess.” She shrugged again, hoping that was a good enough answer.

Camila nodded. “I know what you mean, that’s like me with drawing, I think.” The brown eyed girl chuckled before going back eating her food. “Would you sing for me one day, though?”

Lauren grimaced amidst her chewing, making Camila giggle in the most adorable of ways. She smiled in adoration for her girlfriend, but there went her heart again, this time fast enough for her to notice. But hey, it was probably beating like that because of Camila’s cuteness, so it was okay.

“Really, babe? I don’t think it would be very good.” She answered, hoping that Camila would drop the subject.

“Aww.” Camila whined, pouting. Lauren could’ve sworn her insides melted right then and there, but apparently they didn’t, because a moment later she was still alive to listen to the young actress continue in the same whiny tone. “I think it would be great, but okay.” She said, continuing to eat.

You’re great.” Lauren leaned in to give Camila a kiss on the cheek, leaving the girl grinning from ear to ear once she pulled back.

“I really wanted to kiss you, but I have like, bacon in my mouth.” Camila deadpanned a moment later, making Lauren erupt in laughter.

“It’s fine, babe, I forgive you.” Lauren replied once she calmed down.

They kept eating and making light conversation until their plates were empty and their stomachs were full. Then, Camila insisted on washing the dishes and Lauren eventually let her, but not without a roll of her eyes.

Not much time had passed when Camila finished with the dishes and came after Lauren, who had moved to the couch to try and take a nap, but sleep just wouldn’t take her. She was lying on her back with her arm draped on top of her closed eyes, almost dozing off, when she felt lean fingers stroking her hair and raised her arm, opening her eyes slightly. Camila was on her knees in front of the couch, her right hand on Lauren’s head and a gentle smile on her face.

“Hey, Laur, I’m gonna go to the newsstands real quick to buy the magazine, okay? I’ll be right back.” The smaller Latina said, not once stopping her ministrations on Lauren’s hair.

“Okay, let me just brush my teeth and change and we can go.” Lauren sleepily replied, barely registering the fact that Camila had said she would go.

Camila chuckled, her hand moving to Lauren’s face, her thumb caressing her cheek. “Lauren, it’s just across the street, you don’t have to come. I’ll be right back, okay? Get some sleep, princess.”

“Okay.” Lauren replied around a yawn. She closed her eyes, thinking Camila would leave then, but she didn’t.

“Lo.” She called instead, making Lauren open her eyes again. “You okay?”

Lauren took a deep breath, placing her own hand atop Camila’s on her cheek. She wished her girlfriend would stop asking that so she could stop thinking about… Well, everything. At this point, Lauren wasn’t even sure what particular thing Camila was asking about. Lauren was endeared and touched by how much Camila cared, yes, of course. But honestly, she just wanted to put it all behind her, forget that it happened for good.

(Or until her next meeting with Marcus, but Lauren was sure she could handle those.)

“Yeah.” Lauren ended up answering – simply and honestly – after a moment.

Camila seemed to notice her honesty, because all she did was lean forward and kiss Lauren on the forehead.

“Okay.” She whispered. “Get some sleep, I’ll be right back.”

Lauren hummed in response and Camila got up, walked across the living room and exited the apartment. Lauren’s eyelids had already been heavy before, but after Camila’s stroking of her hair, they’d gotten even harder to keep open. Even if their small conversation had woken her up a little bit, with Camila’s absence Lauren’s tiredness soon came back. She’d had a full day at work that Tuesday, after all, and hadn’t been able to get some sleep until around two in the morning, when Camila had finished rambling about how, “Jessica and Trish should totally date, because they love each other and, actually, I doubt they haven’t dated in the past, they’re totally ex-girlfriends.”

With a smile on her face and twirling thoughts about Jessica Jones, bacon and Camila, Lauren drifted off to sleep.

Lauren woke up some time later with a blanket over her body and no notion of time whatsoever. Her foggy mind was vaguely aware that Camila had to have come back as she slept, because the blanket wasn’t there when she fell asleep.

Lauren slowly sat up on the couch, spotting her phone on the coffee table in front of her and grabbing it to check the time. Eight thirty. Yeah, she could live with that. Yawning, Lauren placed it back on its spot on the table and got up. She really wanted to brush her teeth and find Camila, not that it should be really hard in their apartment.

Lauren walked slowly to their bedroom, rubbing her eyes and expecting to find her girlfriend there. And there she was, sitting on the bed against the headboard reading a magazine. Lauren felt her heartbeat pick up just from the sight of Camila in sweat pants and a big shirt, hair up in a messy bun and glasses on her face. She didn’t think it was possible that anyone looked so beautiful while being so casual, but that was before she met Camila.

“Hey you.” Lauren called, her voice still hoarse from sleep.

Camila lifted her gaze from the magazine, noticing Lauren on the doorway. “Hey.” She smiled a little smile, one that Lauren didn’t think meant good news.

“Is something wrong?” She asked, stepping into the room.

Camila shook her head. “No, I just read the interview, that’s all.”

“And…? How was it?” Lauren asked, having become quite anxious about it herself.

“Well…” Camila started, tilting her head. “Interesting, I guess.” She finished looking down and seeming somewhat sad.

Lauren frowned, sitting on the bed next to Camila. “Oh no, babe, was it bad?”

Camila shook her head quickly. “No, not exactly. Not mostly at least. It was pretty good, actually, but…” Camila shrugged. “They made me look kind of fanatic about the planet’s environment. Like, I have no problem about being recognized as an activist and I proudly proclaim myself one, you know that.” Lauren nodded. “But the way they put it, plus the comments made by the magazine, they made it seem like a bad thing. I don’t know how this can affect my career, to be honest. It isn’t that big of a magazine, but I don’t know. I’m a ‘worrier’, I guess.” Camila chuckled humorlessly.

Lauren had started frowning as Camila talked, getting closer to her in bed to put her arms around the brown eyed girl’s shoulders and hold her in a side hug. Camila laid her head on Lauren’s shoulders as she stopped talking, the older girl taking that as her cue to answer.

“Look, I haven’t read it yet, but I don’t think you have to worry about that. I mean, just like you said, it’s not a bad thing to be an activist, especially when it comes to that. Like, how bad can they paint it? And if the rest of the interview was good, I don’t think anyone will pay attention to that. Plus, you’re an amazing actress, I don’t think anyone in their sane mind would stop themselves from hiring you because of your personal or political beliefs. I’ll read it, I promise, but I don’t think you need you worry about that. You’ll be a star one day, Camz.”

Lauren’s mouth was dry from speaking so much when Camila turned her head to look into her eyes, a certain glint in them that Lauren knew meant she was swallowing some tears.

“You really think that?” She asked, sounding choked up.

Lauren brought Camila closer, leaning her head down to kiss her forehead lovingly.

“I know that.” Lauren exclaimed, smiling softly at her girlfriend.

Camila smiled up at her through watery eyes, pulling back from Lauren’s embrace to take off her glasses and put them on the nightstand, drying her eyes with the heels of her hands in the process. She returned to the hug a moment later, but not without giving Lauren a sweet kiss on the cheek first. The tiny gesture made Lauren’s chest get warm and she held Camila even tighter.

“Thank you, Lauren. For everything.” Camila said, her voice somewhat back to normal.

“There’s no need to thank me, I’m only stating the truth. It’s your destiny, babe, no matter how many obstacles we face ‘till you get there. And once you do, no one will be able to stop you.” Lauren replied, running her fingers through Camila’s hair. Lauren truly believed in what she was saying and she would tell Camila that until the young actress believed it herself.

“We?” Camila asked, a huge grin plastered across her face.

Lauren took a moment to understand Camila’s question, but once she did, her face split in two from how wide she was smiling.

“Yeah, we. You know I’d do anything for you and if that means helping you achieve fame and glory,” Camila nudged Lauren with her shoulder playfully, making the older girl laugh, “so be it.” She finished.

“You’re everything I could’ve ever asked for, you know?” Camila almost whispered, the loving look in her eyes leaving Lauren breathless.

Lauren didn’t think she’d ever been so compelled to confess her love for Camila as she was in that moment, but she held it in. She had her plans for Valentine’s Day, after all, and there was no way she wasn’t making it the most special day of Camila’s life. So she just smiled and leaned down to meet Camila halfway into a sweet, loving kiss.

She broke it not a minute later, remembering something. “I forgot to brush my teeth.”

Camila sat up straight, eyebrows furrowed. “Seriously, Lo?” She asked, tilting her head seeming half amused and half annoyed. Lauren smiled sheepishly.

“Sorry.” She said, to which Camila only chuckled, shrugged and leaned in again, but Lauren stopped her midair with a finger to her lips. “I’m still gonna brush my teeth, though.”

“Lauren!” Camila groaned, throwing herself to the side on the bed and hugging her pillow to her chest.

Lauren laughed out loud as she got up. “Wait a second, babe.”

Camila only groaned in response, her face still hidden behind her pillow.

Lauren ran to the bathroom, rushing to brush her teeth as fast as she possibly could. When she walked back into the bedroom, Camila was still in the same position, which made Lauren laugh loudly. She ran to the bed and climbed up on it, turning Camila onto her back and straddling her. The younger girl was laughing hysterically at this point, trying to squirm out of Lauren’s hold, but she had Camila’s hands trapped above her head as she herself tried to stop laughing.

Lauren didn’t say she loved Camila and Camila didn’t say it either, but she felt it when their lips met, she felt it when for the third time that morning their smiles were too big for the kiss to work. She felt it when Camila slipped her tongue in her mouth and when she lowered herself on top of her, releasing the smaller Latina’s hands, that roamed her own body with passion. She felt it as Camila whispered her name and when she took control of the situation, switching their positions so that Lauren was now on her back.

Most of all, Lauren felt their love when their soft eyes met and when their bright smiles mirrored each other. In that moment, there were no uncles or shootings or anything else, really. In that moment, there were only Lauren and Camila, and if she could freeze time, she’d stay in that moment forever.

Chapter Text

It was a warm day.

Maybe that shouldn’t have surprised Lauren given that the weather was supposed to steadily rise in temperature, but so far February had been pretty cold, and so it did leave her somewhat shocked.

It made her kind of annoyed too, if she were being honest, because of course the weekends and the days she had morning or night shifts would be cold, while the days she could be enjoying a nice afternoon out with Camila would be warm. It was just her luck.

Lauren huffed as she set her bag down on her desk, already in her uniform, and sat on her chair. But then a thought crossed her mind and a big smile took over her face. If there was anything to be happy about, it was-

“She said yes!” Normani screeched, hugging Lauren’s neck from behind her and scaring her to death.

Yep, that was it. If there was anything able to lift her mood effortlessly, it was her friends’ engagement.

Normani snickered at Lauren’s small jump, but the green eyed girl couldn’t even glare at her friend. She turned around to face Normani, with a hand on her chest and a huge grin on her face, and simply laughed gleefully at her.

“I know! You told me yesterday. Or, well, I guess technically it was today since it was like midnight. And like, two more times through your texts this morning.” Lauren exclaimed.

Normani had the biggest grin on her face. “I’m not even sorry, Laur.”

“I don’t want you to be.” Lauren stated, getting up and hugging her friend tightly.

Lauren hadn’t been able to drop by Ally’s to give Normani a ride earlier that Thursday because she had run late, but she totally intended to go there after work and drown her best friend in affections and congratulations. Besides, they had gushed about it and Ally had cried on the phone for about half an hour before Lauren realized she was indeed late, which was why she hadn’t been able to congratulate Ally personally earlier.

(It wasn’t really her fault.)

“I still can’t believe she said yes.” Normani said, shaking her head in bewilderment as she pulled away.

“Well, I can. We’re totally celebrating tomorrow, right?”

“Oh yes, girl! I’m calling Issartel too! And Dinah, of course. If Camila wants she can bring Shawn or her friends too.” Lauren chuckled as Normani went on. “What are you laughing at, Screamer?” Normani asked mockingly, making Lauren roll her eyes, but her huge smile betrayed her true feelings. “The more the merrier!”

“We’ll bring my entire family, happy now?” Normani nodded with a satisfied grin and Lauren laughed before shaking her head affectionately. “Now, come on, tell me the detai-”

“Everybody listen up!” Lieutenant Joseph interrupted her. “The captain wants to have a word with the police officers, so get yourselves to the meeting room.” Lauren looked at Normani, who seemed just as confused as she was feeling, and she guessed the entire precinct must have been like that, because not a minute later the lieutenant clapped his hands. “Now, people!”

That seemed to break the trance Lauren was in, much like the other offices in the room, and she made her way to the meeting room with Normani by her side. They sat down together with Officer Lucas at one of the big rectangular desks and waited.

Not too much time had passed when Captain Russell walked in, closing the door behind him and walking up to his own desk in front of all the others. He looked around the room and Lauren thought his gaze was fixed just a moment longer on her, but before she could really think about it, he started talking.

“Good afternoon, officers. I’ve called you here just as I’ve done with your colleagues who had morning shifts and just as I’ll do with those who’ll take over for the night. As you know, our Commander had decided to try out this new way of law enforcement, where there are no patrols. It’s been tested on a few other states and it had been decided that our area would be the next. In spite of the information this experiment brought to our attention, her and I had a meeting and after talking with everyone that we needed to talk to, we agreed to go back to the traditional patrols, at least for a while, to gather more data. This means that as of next Monday, you’ll either be arranged with a patrol car for you and your partner or with a determined area, similarly to security duties. But I’m sure you’re all familiar with this, given that, well, it’s the usual way of enforcing law.” Captain Russell finished his speech clasping his hands behind his back and walking around the table, leaning back on it. “Any questions?”

Lauren was as confused as she was surprised to hear the news. Captain Russell had never shown any signs of displeasure with their different policy; in fact, no one had. Lauren looked at Normani and Lucas, both to her right, but they seemed just as lost as she. Lauren hadn’t personally met their Commander, but she knew her to be a very serious and intelligent woman. She guessed she was probably the one behind the change.

“Good afternoon, sir. I have a question.” Lauren, along with everybody in the room, turned to look at the owner of the voice, a young officer whose name was Ryan or Rick, something like that. “What was the motive behind this sudden change? I thought that the data was showing improvement in response time and that no cases of police brutality had happened ever since we started this experiment. And what about the public survey?”

Captain Russell sighed and once again Lauren felt his eyes on hers for just a second longer than usual as he scanned the room before staring at the man who had asked the question.

“Well, the survey will still be made, with some changes of course. We will give it some time so that the people can compare both periods of time, with and without street patrols.” The captain explained and rubbed his temples with his eyes closed before starting again. “As for the motive… I’m sure you’ve all heard of what happened last Friday.”

He paused and the whole room was silent. Lauren’s heart rate had sped up alarmingly by this point, but she couldn’t make assumptions. Even if everything pointed to what she was thinking. No, it couldn’t be it. It couldn’t-

“As I said before, I met Commander Hastings a few times and we came to a some conclusions. One of them was that the disaster could’ve been avoided if we had patrols. The response time would’ve been faster, given that there would already be cars out on the streets. I’m sure you can all understand what I’m saying. I’m not gonna lie to you, there were a few other factors, but this was the one that settled it.”

Lauren’s stomach dropped and her heart grew cold at his words. She started feeling physically sick as the realization dawned on her.

It had been her fault. They were changing back to their old ways because of her. Giving up on their precinct’s differential aspect because she didn’t make it in time. Not only was Lauren unable to do her fucking job and save lives, she was also responsible for ending an experiment that had brought almost only positive results.

Lauren didn’t think it was possible for her to sit there for another minute without either passing out or throwing up, but somehow she did it. She felt Normani’s hand hold hers under the desk and she knew the dark skinned girl was probably looking at her, but she couldn’t move her gaze. Lauren stayed there, not listening to a word Captain Russell or any other person was saying anymore, allowing herself to only breathe in and out as emotion threatened to overcome her. But she didn’t let it. Somehow, she didn’t let it.

Lauren guessed it had something to do with Normani’s hand clutched in hers, and the thought eased the tension on her insides a little bit. It also served as a reminder that she wasn’t the only one affected by what had happened and that she had to be there for Normani as much as her friend had been there for her. Even if Lauren didn’t want to be there for Normani – which she did, with all of her heart – she owned it to her for the amazing friend she had been since Friday.

(Since long before that, actually.)

With that in mind, Lauren turned to finally meet Normani’s sorrowful eyes, squeezing her hand just as tightly.

“You okay?” Lauren asked, keeping her voice low and calm. Normani nodded and Lauren followed suit. “Good. We’re good.”

God knows how Lauren managed to keep her voice from trembling, but she did it. She couldn’t show how much the new information shook her up, how it opened all the wounds she had been fighting to close. Lauren had to be there for Normani and for that she had to be strong. For that, she couldn’t let it show.

Besides, now that she could breathe normally again, now that Normani’s eyes were no longer staring at her – filled with guilt that reflected her own – this little voice in Lauren’s head started to make itself known.

The little voice belonged to Camila and her words echoed through her mind. She had said it wasn’t her fault on Friday and Lauren was sure she would say the same now. Lauren had a hard time believing that, given that if she had been just a little faster maybe they could’ve made it in time. But then again, if Camila believed it, she guessed it had to be at least somewhat true.

Lauren felt Normani’s thumb graze the back of her hand and realized she had zoned out and probably missed something the older girl had said. Lauren turned to her and tilted her head apologetically, both of them still ignoring whatever the hell Captain Russell was going on about.

(Probably the new rules, but screw that, they could always learn them later.)

“Sorry, I zoned out. What did you say?” Lauren whispered.

“I asked you if you’re okay.” Normani said, searching Lauren’s eyes. “Because when I say I am, I mean it. Do you?”

Lauren gulped, but squeezed Normani’s hand, trying to look convincing. “Yes, don’t worry.”

“No, Lauren, I can’t do that. I worry because I know that you still blame yourself for what happened. Don’t. It wasn’t our fault.” Normani stated firmly. “I feel awful about what happened, but I’m healing, I’m accepting that it did and trying to move on. This sucks, but it’s another part of the process, I guess. Please let yourself heal.”

Normani’s words felt like a slap to the face. Not that she intended them to be, or that they were violent in anyway, but it showed how much Lauren’s closest friends saw through her. That scared her, because she needed to be strong to be there for Normani but how could she if the girl knew she was hurting?

At the same time, her words were like a revelation. It really wasn’t her fault. If it was, it would’ve been Normani’s as well, and the girl sitting next was absolutely unblamable for what had happened. She cursed herself for not looking at it through that angle before, for not realizing that if she didn’t blame Normani one bit, she couldn’t blame herself either. Lauren realized Camila was right after all.

“You’re right, I’m sorry. I did blame myself, but not anymore, okay? I know better now.” Lauren affirmed with a conviction that seemed to convince Normani. “And I’m okay, honestly.” She added, to which her friend nodded and gave her a little smile.

Lauren returned it, but her heart had started spiking up again. Yes, she didn’t blame herself anymore, but she wasn’t really okay. Just because she had finally admitted to feeling guilty and moved past that, it didn’t mean that she was ready to completely show her vulnerability. Lauren still believed she had to stay strong and forget about what she was feeling in order to be a good friend to Normani, a good girlfriend to Camila, a good police officer. The list went on.

One thing at a time, she guessed.

Lauren got home that night completely exhausted after what felt like days, but in reality were only a few hours. She closed the door and leaned against it, sighing, before leaving her bag on the small desk and turning to finally lock the door.

“Camz?” Lauren called, walking into the living room, massaging her own sore shoulders as she did so.

There was no reply, so Lauren entered their bedroom in search of her girlfriend. As soon as she stepped into the room, Lauren could hear the sounds of the shower and a tiny smile appeared on her mouth. Lauren sat down, still smiling, and let out a tired sigh. Camila had texted her saying that she would rehearse all day with Shawn and a few of their friends from the play. If the shower was any indication, she had probably just come back.

Joining her crossed Lauren’s mind, but the girl was too tired and emotionally drained to even move from her spot on their bed. She hadn’t even stopped by at Ally’s place like she had intended to do and, honestly, all she wanted to do was crawl into a ball and sleep, preferably being held by Camila. Lauren was so done with the day, which had gotten increasingly more tiring as she was called time after time to deal with a multitude of things. At least she had Normani beside her the whole time, but she honestly couldn’t wait for Camila to get out of the shower.

Lauren was just so tired; all she wanted to do, all she needed to do, was forget about the whole thing.

Fortunately, the sounds of the shower soon turned into dripping water and then stopped altogether. Not long had passed until Lauren saw Camila, dressed in only her panties and with a towel wrapped on her hair, walking out of the bathroom.

“Hey, babes. Looking good.” Lauren smirked, the sight waking her up a little.

Camila’s head whipped in her direction. “Oh my God, Lauren!” She exclaimed, the surprised look on her face making Lauren laugh out loud. “Why do you enjoy startling me so much?” She asked, laughing herself as she did so.

“I don’t!” Lauren defended herself, but the half unimpressed half amused look on Camila’s face told her she wasn’t buying it. “No, look, I don’t do it on purpose, you just look cute startled but I don’t try to jump you or anything. I literally just got home, Camz.”

Camila’s smiled gently. “Sorry, I know. It’s been ages since I last lived with somebody else and I kinda forgot how it’s like in that sense, so sometimes I get a little triggered.”

Lauren’s eyes softened and she got up, reaching for Camila’s hand and giving her a kiss on the cheek.

“Don’t apologize, I’m the one who should apologize, I kinda forgot about that to be honest.” Lauren gave her a sheepish little sad smile, cursing herself in her mind for forgetting something that important.

Camila’s smile only got bigger and more genuine, though. “It’s fine, Lo. I’ve gotta move past that at some point, right?”

Lauren nodded and this time kissed Camila softly on the lips, one hand still clasped in hers while the other rested at her neck, pulling her closer. Camila soon pulled back, though, a smirk on her lips.

“Slow down, baby, let me get dressed.”

“That won’t be necessary for what I have in mind.” Lauren joked, making Camila laugh and slap her arm lightly.

“I’m cold and hungry, so I’m gonna need some clothes for what I have in mind, which is a nice pepperoni pizza that should be getting here at any moment now.” Camila winked and walked past Lauren, toward their wardrobe.

Lauren could only chuckle and sit back down on the bed, watching Camila through heavy eyelids and feeling that some weight had been lifted from her heavy heart. It was incredible how a presence alone could be so determining to her mood, but that didn’t stop the physical and mental exhaustion Lauren was facing.

(Camila would call her crazy, but Lauren would have even skipped the pizza for a good twelve hours of sleep.)

She lay down on the bed and closed her eyes with a sigh. Lauren guessed Camila must have heard it because not too much time later the smaller girl was sitting by her side and pushing back her hair.

“You okay, baby?” Camila asked.

“Yeah, just tired.” It wasn’t a complete lie, Lauren just omitted the part where she was emotionally drained from the day.

Lauren opened her eyes and stared up at her girlfriend dressed in one of her old t-shirts and sweatpants. She looked beautiful and the thought made Lauren smile. Camila stroked her hair affectionately, staring intently at her.

“They’re putting us back on patrols because of what happened last Friday.” Lauren shared, sighing again.

Camila stopped her ministrations for a moment, going back to running her fingers through Lauren’s hair after the initial shock had passed.

“I’m sorry, baby, I know how much you were proud of your policy.” Camila said, her voice low. “You know it’s not your fault though, right?” She added after hesitating for a minute.

Lauren smiled a little and nodded, closing her eyes again. “Yeah, I know. Someone helped open my eyes.”

“I wonder who it could be.” Camila joked in a mocking, yet light, tone. “But how are you feeling about that?”

“Sad, but okay.” Lauren replied, feeling proud of herself for managing to open up at least a little bit.

Camila seemed to catch onto that, since Lauren felt her soft lips kiss her forehead not a minute later, which made her open her eyes again. Camila had a gentle smile on her face and seemed to understand that even though that was a big step for Lauren, she wasn’t ready to share more yet. And like Lauren had come to realize over the months and more specifically these last couple of weeks, Camila wouldn’t pressure her.

“Okay.” Camila said, simply. Lauren closed her eyes again and Camila held her hand with her free one, squeezing it. “Don’t sleep, you gotta eat.”

“Just ‘till it gets here.” Lauren breathed.

“You and I both know you wouldn’t wake up even if Godzilla was right outside destroying Manhattan.” Camila deadpanned, making Lauren laugh with her eyes still closed. “Plus, a letter addressed to the both of us got here and I didn’t want to open it without you.”

Lauren opened her eyes groggily, furrowing her eyebrows in concentration as she looked up at her girlfriend, who had stopped her hand on Lauren’s hair. Camila giggled and bent down to give Lauren a chaste kiss.

“You’re so cute when you’re sleepy.” Camila mumbled against Lauren’s lips.

Camila moved with the intention of sitting back straight, but Lauren held the brown eyed girl by her neck, bringing her lips back together with her own. Camila smiled slightly and fixed her position, moving her legs so that she was no longer sitting by Lauren’s side, but straddling her. Their lips never parted, so as Lauren slid back on the bed, Camila’s body bending down with it, and soon she was laying on top of her.

In spite of the compromising position, they shared slow, gentle kisses, without the intention of taking it further. Lauren was tired and she could bet that Camila was too. Besides, she didn’t want to be surprised or stopped in the middle of making love to her girlfriend like they’d been so many times before in her old apartment.

After a while Camila sighed contently against Lauren’s mouth and she smiled in return, which made the smaller Latina part their lips and lean back with a loving smile. Camila was caressing Lauren’s cheek with her thumb and in that moment, she felt so overwhelmed with her feelings for the girl on top of her that she almost let them slip right there.

Fuck it.

Lauren opened her mouth to say the words that had been itching to come out and that she had only been holding back with the intent of making her confession in the most romantic way on Valentine’s day, but she couldn’t take it anymore. She opened her mouth to say them, but she never got the chance to do so, because in that moment the intercom buzzed, signaling that the pizza had arrived.

Fuck them.

“Ugh.” She groaned instead.

Camila chuckled and gave her one last kiss before getting to her knees and standing up to answer the intercom, leaving a frustrated Lauren behind her. She stayed in the living room long enough to actually get the pizza, giving the young cop time to think and cool down. It probably had been for the best that she didn’t confess her love now since it would ruin her plans, already carefully crafted with the help of Normani, Ally and even Dinah. The Polynesian had convinced Camila to not make reservations for any restaurant under the assumption that Lauren would probably have already done so. Only she knew that Lauren had done so, or kind of, and Dinah could be very persuasive, so that had been relatively easy.

(Relatively, because where Dinah was persuasive, Camila was stubborn, so it did take a whole day, but still, totally worth it.)

Lauren sighed and got up when she heard the front door slam and Camila calling for her. She changed into more comfortable clothes and walked out of the bedroom, the tiredness from the day creeping back up in her. Lauren recalled all of the changes that she and Normani had to learn later by their colleagues, like the fixed schedules. Lauren groaned as she thought of having afternoon shifts everyday, her least favorite kind, but at least she would now have both Saturday and Sunday free.

When Lauren walked into the kitchen, she had a small smile playing on her lips from remembering that Valentine’s Day was arriving, and decided that it was about time that she formally asked Camila out. What she had planned would still be a surprise, so she guessed that just asking to take her on a date couldn’t hurt. With that in mind, the green eyed girl wrapped her arms around her girlfriend’s lean waist just as she was picking up plates from the cabinet.

Camila only hummed contently and leaned back into her as she put the plates on the sink, so Lauren took that as a good sign to just get it over with.

“Babe.” She called, her voice low and raspy.


“Would you like to go out with me this Sunday?” Lauren asked, suddenly feeling a little insecure about the whole thing.

To her utmost happiness, Camila only giggled happily in response and turned in Lauren’s arms, wrapping her own around the older girl’s neck.

“Of course I would, Lo. You don’t even have to ask me.” The smaller Latina chuckled, giving Lauren a quick kiss. “I would love to.” She exclaimed cheerily.

Lauren’s grin couldn’t have been bigger as she got out a weak, “okay,” and kissed Camila again.

After a while they had to part for air and decided to finally eat. They sat down at the benches by the kitchen counter in comfortable silence and Lauren could feel her mood getting better by the second. She was still exhausted, yes, but the mere presence of her girlfriend was enough to soothe her. They stayed like that until Lauren remembered something Camila had mentioned earlier.

“Hey, Camz, what was that about a letter?” She asked.

“Oh, yeah, right!” Camila exclaimed, reaching for the end of the kitchen counter, which was on the wall of their front door, and grabbed a letter. “I haven’t opened it, do you want to do it?”

Lauren shrugged and took the letter from Camila, who was holding it out for her. She turned it in her hands and furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. It really was addressed to the both of them, in some fancy cursive handwriting, and Lauren had no idea what it could be about.

She opened it and inside there was a somewhat thick, folded, white piece of paper. Lauren unfolded it and started reading its contents, placing it between her and Camila so that her girlfriend could read it too. It was an invitation, which, nice, but who would invite them and wher-

It was an invitation for Lauren’s uncle’s birthday party.

An invitation for Marcus’s birthday party slash fake ass, publicity hunting fundraiser. Which was happening that Saturday, in two days.

An event that Lauren had completely forgotten about in those two weeks and one she most definitely could not miss.

Lauren didn’t need to look at Camila to know that she was staring questioningly and worriedly at the side of her skull, but the young cop couldn’t bring herself to turn to her. Or do anything other than stare at the invitation hoping it would catch fire, that is.

(And to think that her mood was getting better.)

Obviously, she didn’t have that luxury. She was Lauren Jauregui, after all, and the universe seemed to be out to get her these days.

Lauren sighed, finally meeting Camila’s eyes. She knew that they were most likely reflecting what she was feeling, but at that moment she didn’t really care.

Honestly, fuck her life.

Ally’s big, shiny smile was the first thing Lauren saw approximately three seconds after ringing her doorbell the next day.

(She didn’t know how someone so small could be so fast, but Ally was proved that it was indeed possible.)

“Lauren! Camila! I’m so happy you guys could come!” Ally exclaimed, tackling both girls into a big hug.

Lauren heard Camila chuckle and, smiling herself, the young cop let go of her girlfriend’s hand to wrap both arms around two of the most important people in her life.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world, Al.” Lauren said, pulling back and smiling at her friend.

Camila nodded frantically, stepping back but still holding onto one of Ally’s arms. “Me neither. I may not know for as long as Lauren has, but you’ve been a great friend, I couldn’t not come.”

Ally seemed touched at their words, pulling both girls into another quick hug before letting them inside the apartment.

“Y’all better stop because I promised myself I wouldn’t cry tonight.” She said, closing the door behind her.

Lauren and Camila both laughed, walking deeper into the big living room. Camila was a little hesitant, since she had only been to Ally and Normani’s apartment a few times, but Lauren pulled her by the hand. Camila looked up at her, a soft smile on her face, and Lauren mirrored it.

“Make yourselves comfortable, guys, Mani went downstairs to grab us some wine because we only had one bottle at home, but she should be back any second now.” Ally said.

Lauren knew her friend was only saying that to make Camila more at ease, since Lauren was so used to the apartment by now she made herself home every time she went there within seconds of arrival.

They lived in a nice apartment in a building beside the coffee shop so it would be easier for Ally to run it. Because of this, they had all grown used to calling the café downstairs, but Camila had a confused look on her face as she and Lauren sat down on the couch.

“She means the coffee shop.” Lauren explained.

“Oh.” A look of realization crossed Camila’s face and she chuckled. “Makes sense.”

Lauren smiled fondly before holding her face with one hand and kissing her gently. Camila raised one hand to cup Lauren’s cheek in return, but soon they heard Ally clearing her throat and parted.

“No kisses at least ‘till Mani comes back, thank you.” She demanded playfully, sitting on the loveseat they had beside the couch, facing the other side of the coffee table.

“Fair enough.” Camila said with a smirk while Lauren only blushed and rolled her eyes pretending to be annoyed, though her small smile gave her away.

Ally looked like she was going to say something, but the door opened again and Normani entered. The smaller girl’s eyes lit up at the sight, and she got up to give her fianceé a kiss of her own.

“I guess that means we get to kiss now, right Ally?” Camila asked loudly, making Lauren burst out laughing, soon joined by Ally herself, leaving a confused Normani staring at all of them.

“Hey Mani!” Lauren exclaimed, amused at the expression on her partner’s face.

“Hi! I- uh, what?” Normani tilted her head, still holding onto Ally’s waist, who rested her forehead against the taller girl’s shoulder, laughing.

“It’s nothing, ignore them.” Ally said, looking back up again.

Lauren got up at that point, Camila following suit, and both of them hugged Normani, who had a bottle of wine in one hand and only used one arm to greet them.

“Now that we’ve all said hi, what do you say we open this beauty?” Normani asked with a smirk, but Ally looked at her with a serious look, like they’d had that conversation before.

“We’re waiting until for Dinah, Keana and Noah.” Ally stated firmly.

“Yeah, I agree.” Camila piped in.

Normani pouted. “But what if they take too long?”

“They won’t.” Ally shrugged. “If they do, we wait.”

Normani placed the bottle on the kitchen counter after that and Lauren couldn’t hold back her smirk. She noticed Normani looking at her and shook her head and mouthed whipped, to which the other girl just narrowed her eyes in a glare.

“Mila, help me choose some songs.” Ally called excitedly, to which Camila grinned, Lauren gasped and Normani grimaced.

“Oh yes, music privileges!” She exclaimed, walking over to the stereo with Ally and leaving the two cops behind.

“Doesn’t our friendship mean anything to you, Ally?” Lauren asked dramatically. She knew Ally the longest, she should totally have some kind of say in this.

“Screw that, doesn’t our engagement mean anything?” Normani exclaimed.

“Stop complaining, I’ve lost count of how many times you’ve chosen songs for me. Let Mila be in charge for once.” Ally dismissed them quickly. Camila laughed happily at that, turning around to give them a thumbs up, to which Normani crossed her arms while Lauren couldn’t help but smile.

“Now who’s whipped?” Normani asked in a low voice, laughing quietly.

Lauren didn’t even turn her gaze from her girlfriend’s form, who now had her back to her. “Shut up.”

“As you wish, Screamer.” Normani snickered.

Normani left Lauren’s side to get something from the kitchen and the girl leaned back against the kitchen counter, watching as Ally and Camila talked – and, in her incredibly adorable girlfriend’s case, gesticulated – animatedly while looking at a phone.

Being somewhat alone for the first time that night, Lauren felt all the worries she had managed to push to the back of her mind so far come rushing back. Sighing and feeling like rolling her eyes at her own predictability, Lauren massaged her temples.

She refused to think about her uncle’s party right now. Lauren knew she had to go and Camila had agreed to go as well, so it was settled. That was it, matter solved, there was no use in sulking about the inevitable.

Lauren also knew Camila still wondered about her relationship with Marcus, but the green eyed girl had hopefully quelled her girlfriend’s worries the previous day. She had explained her reaction to the invitation as simple desire to not go because she didn’t like those kinds of big events with rich and fake people, also reminding Camila that she didn’t really like her uncle.

(Lauren almost laughed at the understatement.)

Normani came back with two glasses of water and gave one to Lauren, snapping the girl out of her thoughts, for which she was incredibly thankful.

“Thanks.” Lauren said before clicking their glasses together.

Normani simply nodded with a smile and joined Lauren, sighing as she looked at Camila and Ally. Lauren followed her gaze and felt her lips form a grin once again as she noticed the two small Latinas sitting on the floor, completely focused on the task at hand.

“Look at our girls, bonding and shit.” Normani said in a solemn tone that sent Lauren into a giggling fit.

“Deep, Mani.” Lauren answered, grinning.

Their girls. Lauren liked the sound of that.

Camila turned to look at her with sparkling eyes and winked, making Lauren’s smile get even bigger.

“Gross.” Normani whispered, causing Lauren to glare playfully at her while a blush spread through her cheeks.

“Shut up, you jerk.” Lauren nudged her and Normani laughed.

“Did you know that’s all you ever say to me?”

“Wonder why.” Lauren muttered sarcastically before sipping on her water, making her friend laugh yet again.

It wasn’t long before Camila and Ally finished setting up a playlist for the night and Lauren and Normani joined them in the living room to catch up and eventually sing along to the songs playing on the stereo. Lauren didn’t really participate in their impromptu karaoke sessions, but she made up for it by drumming.

They were in the middle of a heated discussion about which pizza toppings were the best ones when intercom buzzed. Normani jumped up to answer it and stood still in front of the door to get it when their friends arrived while Lauren, Camila and Ally turned around to look in its direction.

As soon as the doorbell rang and Normani opened the door, Dinah came storming in, not even bothering to say hello. Surprisingly, Keana and Noah followed behind her, seeming amused.

“Do you know what I just realized in the elevator with those two?” Dinah exclaimed, crossing her arms. When no one answered, she continued. “I’m not third or even fifth, but seventh wheeling tonight!”

Lauren burst out laughing the second she heard the words, while Camila only gaped and Ally shook her head fondly muttering something that sounded a lot like, “Lord help me”. Normani slapped Dinah’s arm lightly, making Lauren fall back on the couch, laughing even harder, while Camila rose a hand to her mouth, unable to contain her own fit of giggles. Noah had been laughing for a while now too, leaning against the still opened door, while Keana only smirked with her arms crossed at the entire situation.

“Normani Kordei! What the hell?” Dinah exclaimed, her eyes wide.

“You come into my house! To my private engagement party! And say stuff like that? Girl, we haven’t opened the wine because your ass was late!” Normani almost yelled, glaring at the taller girl, though Lauren could clearly see it was an act.

Apparently so could Dinah, since not a minute later she was smirking. “Well yes! Have you ever seventh wheeled? It’s not fun! And you’re dumb for not opening the wine earlier, don’t blame me for your mistakes.”

Normani crossed her arms, seeming offended.  “Well actually…”

Ally cleared her throat. “Dinah! How lovely of you to come by!” She sang while getting up, receiving a disbelieving look from her fianceé in the process.

“No biggie, Smallz. It’s not like I haven’t come here before for smaller reasons, right?” Dinah answered, hugging Ally.

Normani took the time to greet Keana and Noah with warm hugs, though she was still scowling a little bit.

“Stop pouting, Mani, you’re engaged!” Keana said, smiling widely.

“Yeah, to a traitor.” Normani muttered, earning a confused look from Keana and another muffled laugh from Lauren.

“I read somewhere that a murderer was a worthy companion.” Noah piped in cheerily while hugging Normani, who pulled back puzzled.

Ally also stopped her conversation with Dinah to stare at the only man on the room. “I haven’t killed anyone though?” She said.

“Yeah, but like, if murderers can be worthy companions, so can traitors.” He shrugged.

“Traitors?” Ally asked, tilting her head.

Noah seemed to realize she hadn’t heard what Normani had said, his face paling once he noticed the glare he was receiving from the dark skinned girl.

Lauren chose this moment to stop only watching the hilarious exchange to get up and participate in it. Maybe do some damage control before it all blew up. The seven of them could cause some trouble together, and someone had to keep everyone sane.

Camila rose to her feet alongside her and Lauren reached an arm around her girlfriend’s petite waist to give her a kiss on the cheek. Camila smiled lovingly at her and Lauren winked before turning back to her tense – or amused and entertained – friends.

“Children, children, let’s not fight, please?” Lauren said in a feigned condescending tone.

They all turned to the couple at the same time, making Lauren’s smile falter.

“What are you, our mom?” Dinah scoffed playfully.

“Yeah, nice try, Laur.” Noah chuckled nervously, nodding in silent thanks despite his attempt at mocking her.

“Don’t be mean to Lauren, you’re lucky to have such an understanding mother.” Camila suddenly chimed in.

Lauren nodded at first by pure instinct before it dawned on her what Camila had said and she guessed she understood Normani then.


She turned to Camila, gaping, while everyone else started laughing again. “I can’t believe you!” Lauren exclaimed, letting go of Camila’s body, who only giggled and reached for her again.

Lauren let Camila envelop her in a hug, her chin to the green eyed girl’s chest, with her big brown eyes and sweet smile.

“Sorry?” Camila said in a low baby voice.

“No.” Lauren replied nonchalantly, but she could totally feel her resolve breaking.


Lauren couldn’t help but smile then, Camila’s cuteness would never cease to impress her – and get her to do whatever her girlfriend wanted.

“Okay.” Lauren said simply before leaning down to give Camila a simple, sweet kiss, while placing her hands on the girl’s waist.

“Hey guys, I guess they really are our parents, look at them being gross and making us kids uncomfortable.” Dinah’s loud voice cut through the air, making Camila laugh into the kiss. Lauren ended up laughing as well, but not before flipping the Polynesian off with her eyes still closed, which earned a new round of laughter from their friends.

“Ohhh, mom’s angry!” Normani exclaimed while Lauren and Camila finally parted.

“Y’all haven’t seen angry Lauren.” Ally shook her head, bringing said girl’s attention to her, who had ended up leaning against Normani. Keana raised her hands in agreement.

“Are there stories? College stories?” Dinah squealed while Camila only pulled back to look at Lauren with her eyebrows raised.

Lauren suddenly wanted to explode, or maybe crawl into a hole and stay there.

(She’d have to settle for diverting everyone’s attention, though.)

“So, what about that bottle of wine, huh?” She exclaimed, gaining excited smiles in response.

Everyone started to disperse, but even as Dinah walked to the kitchen she managed to get Lauren’s attention. “This isn’t the end, Lauser!”

Lauren buried her face in Camila’s neck, who rubbed her back soothingly while trying to contain her giggles.

“I still want to know too, though.” Camila whispered into her ear, making Lauren groan.

Camila didn’t try to hide her laughter this time.

A few hours into the night, Lauren found herself sitting on one of the chairs Ally and Normani kept on their small balcony, sipping a glass of water as the cold wind blew her hair to the side.

Lauren had gotten away from the loud living room in which everyone was talking and laughing to answer a phone call from her mother, but had remained there a while longer, seeking a little bit of tranquility amidst the busy day.

Don’t get her wrong, she was loving the night spent with her friends. But Lauren sometimes sought out a break, a moment to breathe, especially when life wasn’t going all that well.

Clara had called her to tell Lauren that her uncle had arranged for a driver to pick her and Camila up on the night of the event, just like he had done for the rest of the family. Apparently it wasn’t enough to go, they had to be under the spotlight as well since they were Marcus’s family.

Lauren sighed and rested her head on one hand. She had gone to her uncle’s events before, but there weren’t all that many to begin with, only one every couple of years.That way, neither she nor her family were that known to the public, especially since Mike didn’t seem too pleased with the prospect being associated with his brother for relative fame or money.

Still, every time he decided to throw one of these, Lauren knew she had a hard time ahead of her.

Lauren heard the door to the balcony opening behind her and didn’t turn her head, expecting it to be Camila who came looking for her. But when she felt the hand on her shoulder and looked up, it was Ally’s face she met, all soft smiles and worried eyes.

Lauren couldn’t help but smile herself, but it felt bittersweet and probably looked as much.

“Are you okay, Laur?” Ally asked.

“You go straight to the point, huh?” Lauren chuckled, raising her head from her hand and letting her arm fall back on the armrest of the chair.

“I know you, Laur, better than anyone.” Ally sat by her side and rested her hand on Lauren’s arm. “Even yourself.” She added in a lighter tone, again making Lauren laugh a little bit.

“True.” Lauren answered, turning to face her best friend. “I don’t know, Al, things have been kind of fucked up.” She sighed. “First my uncle shows up, then there’s the shooting and now he’s got this birthday party that I had completely forgotten about. He invited me and Camila.”

Ally looked deep into Lauren’s eyes with a serious expression. “Don’t go.”

Lauren looked down, frowning. She had expected this reaction from Ally, the only one who knew about what her uncle had done when Lauren was younger, but she couldn’t simply not go.

“I can’t, Ally, you know that.” She said in a small voice, not looking up. “I already told my parents we’re going, my mom actually just called me to tell me about the car that’s picking us up tomorrow.”

Ally scoffed. “Of course you can.” She moved her hand from Lauren’s arm to her hand and squeezed it softly. “Lauren. Look at me.” Lauren did as she was told and Ally continued. “Marcus is a horrible man regardless of being famous and rich. It doesn’t matter if he’s your uncle either and if you don’t want to go to his party, then don’t.”

Lauren shook her head. “I have to go. It’s not like a private birthday party, that I could supposedly miss. It’s a public event, like, he made it into a fundraiser for publicity.” Ally scoffed at this. “He invited us and my parents, Taylor, Chris and even Emily. I can’t miss it, it’d be weird if only I out of all of us didn’t go.”

Lauren’s anxiety was starting to kick in and she knew it. She knew it from the moment her heart started racing and her words started to come out faster than intended. But it was true, wasn’t it? Lauren could bet Marcus had informed the press about his family already, at least their names and faces, so that there would be no mistakes during the coverage of the event. If Lauren didn’t go, it would look weird, she knew it, the press might notice and even if they didn’t, her family would think about it and she couldn’t have that.

“Of course it wouldn’t, do you think famous people usually invite their relatives to this sort of thing? They don’t but even when they do, it’s completely normal for people to not be able to go. What if you got sick or something?” Ally reasoned.

“But I’m not, am I? My parents would totally pressure me into going if I said I didn’t want to, which only proves my point. It wouldn’t look good.”

“Who cares if it would look good? Honestly, Lo, the worst it looks for him the better I’ll feel.” Lauren couldn’t help but smile at how Ally shrugged after saying this, but it still didn’t help slowing her pulse.

Lauren shook her head again, softer this time. “Internally? Me too. But I can’t let that show, Ally, I just can’t. It’s not about looking weird for him, I don’t give a fuck about him or about what the press might say. I don’t even think the press would care about that, but my family would. My dad would be upset because even if he didn’t lean on my uncle all these years, he did help from time to time and my mom simply wouldn’t understand why I wouldn’t want to go. Taylor has gushed with me about the formal invitation earlier today and even Emily texted me asking what I would wear. For them there isn’t the possibility of me not going, they wouldn’t understand.”

“Then make them understand, Lauren!” Ally exclaimed, suddenly moving her hand to Lauren’s forearm. “Tell them what happened, you can’t keep on living like this. They need to know.”

“No, Ally, they can’t!” Lauren whisper yelled, suddenly grabbing Ally’s hand on her forearm. She took a deep breath to calm herself. “They can’t know, they already deal with lots of stuff and I- I’m not ready, I don’t think I could deal with it, not now at least.”

“Deal with what, Lauren? Support, love?”

Lauren didn’t know what to say, she didn’t even know what she felt if she were being honest. She just- they couldn’t know, it would only be an unnecessary burden. It had happened and nothing they could now would change it, so there was no use in bothering them.

“I don’t know, I just can’t deal with it right now.” Lauren repeated, her voice wavering slightly. “Please don’t tell them.” She added in a low voice.

Ally squeezed Lauren’s forearm before moving her chair closer to hers and wrapping her arm around the green eyed girl’s shoulder, giving her a tight side hug. Lauren rested her head against her best friend’s shoulder and the smaller girl lay her own head on top of Lauren’s. Lauren felt Ally take a deep breath and closed her eyes when she started stroking her forearm with the hand she had around the young cop.

“I wouldn’t do that without your consent, honey.” Ally assured her softly. “You take your time, but you should tell them. You’ll feel better, you’ll see.”

“Thank you, Ally.” Lauren whispered. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Ally leaned back to kiss Lauren’s head. “And don’t thank me, I’m just doing my job as your official best friend.” She said in a lighter tone.

Lauren laughed, pulling back with a smile to look at Ally, who wore a small smile of her own.

“You got a trademark or something? So I know it’s really official?” Lauren joked.

“Oh yes, it’s on my id. Unfortunately I left it with... Monica! My assistant, of course. Let me get her.” Ally answered, playing along. She cleared her throat and sat up straighter. “There you go, Miss Brooke, just as you required.” She continued in a nasally voice.

Lauren giggled and Ally followed suit, her contagious laughter making Lauren laugh even harder. That minute exchange had worked wonders to lift her mood, just as Ally always seemed to do when she came up with her random characters.

“What would I do without you?” Lauren asked amidst her laughter.

“Oh honey, I have no idea.”

Lauren nudged Ally and they laughed for a little while longer before calming down. They stayed in silence for a while, enjoying the comfortable silence, before Lauren’s phone vibrated in her pocket. She took it out and smiled as soon as she unlocked the screen.

Babes (10:27 pm): everything ok? i miss you

Lauren quickly typed a reply, her eyes never once leaving her phone.

Lauren (10: 27 pm): Yeah, just talking to Ally for a bit. We’ll be back in a sec.

Babes (10:27 pm): okay baby xo

“Does she know?” Ally’s voice cut through the silence, startling Lauren a little bit.

Lauren put her phone back in her pocket before shaking her head. She had no doubt about what Ally was referring to. “No and she doesn’t need to. At least not now.” Ally only nodded, so Lauren took a deep breath and continued. “But I plan on telling her eventually.”

This time, Ally smiled proudly and Lauren mirrored her expression. Not that what she had to tell Camila was something good, but the fact that she was willing to open up was a big step for the raven haired girl and they both knew it. Lauren realized that for the first time in her life she actually wanted to talk about the abuse she had suffered with someone, even if she knew she wasn’t ready for that just yet. Camila’s words and actions had helped a lot in that aspect, even if what she’d told her hadn’t been all that different from what Ally had been telling her for ages: that she could talk to her about anything and all that. Lauren couldn’t explain it, maybe it was the way Camila had phrased it or the emphasis she had put on the importance of her feelings, but it had just… stuck.

(Lauren had a feeling that it was simply because it was Camila talking and, honestly, that made the most sense.)

“I’m really happy to hear that, Laur, you have no idea.”

Lauren’s smile got even bigger. “Well, I’m happy to say it. Oh and by the way, thanks for the help with Sunday, it means a lot.”

Ally quickly waved off her thanks. “Don’t worry about it.”

“I’m telling her I love her.” Lauren suddenly blurted out seconds after Ally had finished speaking, making the other girl gasp and then clap her hands in excitement.

“Oh my God, yes!” She exclaimed. “Lauren Michelle Jauregui Morgado, you better tell me everything after!”

Lauren chuckled. “Yes ma’am!”

Ally nodded, satisfied, and got up from her chair, stretching her arms after doing so. Lauren stood up as well and looked through the window on the wall that separated the balcony from the living room. There was Camila, laughing hard at something Keana was saying. Lauren smiled, happy that Camila had stopped feeling jealous of her friend, even if it did disappoint her a tiny bit.

(Camila really was extra hot when jealous, after all.)

“Let’s go back, they’re probably waiting for us.” Ally said, but Lauren was still looking at her girlfriend through the glass.

“Yeah, let’s go.” She answered, finally tearing her gaze away from Camila to find a smirking Ally staring at her. “What?”

“You’re so in love.” Ally replied simply with a bright grin.

Lauren only smiled shyly and without a word she walked through the door into the living room. Her cheeks were burning up and she probably looked like a fool as her smile turned into a full grin at the sight of Camila, but she didn’t care. There was no use in denying Lauren loved her and she didn’t want to anyway.

When Camila turned around and green eyes met brown, all thoughts vanished from Lauren’s mind, leaving only one: She loved her.

Lauren loved Camila, she knew that, and soon she would make sure the brown eyed girl knew it too.


Chapter Text

Camila was exhausted. Friday had been so rushed, she had barely had time to breathe. Between having lunch with Lauren before she had to run to work, then rehearsing with Shawn and a few of their friends, then performing on the play itself and getting ready as soon as possible for Lauren to pick her up so they’d go to Ally’s place, all Camila wanted to do was sleep like there was no tomorrow.

Of course, there was a tomorrow, and it came sooner than she would like it to.

Still, as she heard Lauren grumbling little nothings in her sleep beside her, and as her girlfriend blindly tightened her hold on Camila’s waist while nuzzling her face further on the brown eyed girl’s neck, she came to the conclusion that waking up could be a lot worse.

Camila smiled warmly at Lauren and started stroking her hair gently so as to not wake her up. She looked at the clock on their bedside table without stopping her hand on Lauren’s hair, only to frown slightly. 8:49 am. Camila wasn’t what you would call a morning person, so the fact that she had woken up by herself before ten in the morning was a little weird.

Regardless of how exhausted she was, Camila felt completely awake, and so she gave up on going back to sleep after the fifth time she opened her eyes. Slightly pissed off at her inability to drift off to sleep, she untangled herself from Lauren as quietly as she could and decided to take a shower.

(She usually took one in the morning to wake up, but that didn’t seem to be a problem today.)

Camila closed her eyes as the hot water hit her head at just the right pressure, blocking out the rest of the world as she felt herself relax.

But apparently she relaxed way too much, since she didn’t even notice Lauren had entered the bathroom until the cop was touching her waist from behind her, the lightness in her touch probably to prevent Camila from being startled.

Camila sighed in content and leaned back into Lauren’s body, who wrapped her arms around the younger girl more confidently now. Lauren kissed Camila’s shoulder sweetly before leaving a trail of open mouthed kisses up her neck, getting unashamed little moans out of the brown eyed girl.

Camila could feel Lauren smirking against her neck, but honestly, she couldn’t care less about the sounds she’d made. Why should she be ashamed of having a hot as fuck girlfriend who was everything she’d ever wanted and who made her feel like that?

Lauren softly bit down on the skin of Camila’s neck before leaving a chaste kiss there and kissing her shoulder.

“Morning.” Lauren husked, her voice just above a whisper.

“Hey.” Camila managed to get out, her voice wavering slightly since Lauren decided it was a good moment to suck on her pulse point.

Camila knew it would leave a mark.

“Sorry, what was that?” Lauren asked and Camila could hear the mischievous grin in her voice.

Okay, then. Two could play this game.

Camila turned around in Lauren’s arms, wrapping her own around her girlfriend’s neck and leaning in to do what she had practically aching to: she took Lauren’s bottom lip between her own and kissed her with as much passion as she could muster inside of her.

Camila let her hands wander her girlfriend’s body as she abandoned Lauren’s lips to attack her neck, much like the older girl had done to her minutes earlier, first with open mouthed kissed then with sucking and biting just like she knew Lauren loved.

As soon as Camila was granted the low moans she had been aiming for, Lauren’s hands gripping her waist more tightly, she pulled back, a smirk playing in her lips.

“Morning, beautiful.” She said to a dazed Lauren, whose eyes were still closed.

Chuckling at the pout she received from the green eyed girl, Camila gave her a quick peck before stepping back from Lauren’s embrace, which only made her pout grow as she opened her eyes. They were so expressive that Camila could read them almost always by now, and she knew that at that moment they were pretty much questioning just why.

“Can’t spend that much water, babe.” Camila stated, chuckling at Lauren’s furrowed eyebrows. She gave her one last soft kiss, her hand on Lauren’s cheek, to wipe the pout from her face. It worked, obviously, since when Camila pulled back, Lauren had the cutest little smile on her lips.

“Besides, you should know better than to mess with me.” Camila completed with her best badass voice.

Lauren giggled. “Yeah, right.” She took a step forward and Camila took one backward by reflex, feeling her back hit the cold wall. Lauren trapped her between her arms, her hands to either side of Camila’s head, her playful and cute demeanor from before replaced by a much more sensual one. “I think you should know better than to mess with me.”

Well, fuck.

Camila’s breathing was getting heavier by the second, her gaze never once leaving Lauren’s lips. She raised her eyes to meet her girlfriend’s and they had darkened significantly, just like they always seemed to do in moments like this. Camila soon let her eyes fall to Lauren’s mouth once again, conflicted about what to do, but when she felt Lauren’s body pressing up against her own, her mind was made.

Camila pushed Lauren backward without letting her body go, only to spin her around and trap her on the wall. Lauren was smirking like that had been her plan all along, and Camila wanted to kiss that dumb thing off, because ugh, her girlfriend knew her too well.

Kissing her deeply, Camila felt Lauren’s smile fade into the kiss, that was getting more heated by the second. Without pulling away, Camila blindly reached for the tap and turned the water off.

The shower could wait.

The day was spent in a rush. Again.

Camila and Lauren had to do their respective hairs and makeups, but Lauren had started panicking during the afternoon about her “motherfucking wild hair” and Camila had ended up doing hers as well. Not that she minded, but still, it took some extra time that made her hurry even more later on.

Camila could thankfully get ready in time, though, and was sitting as straight as possible in their couch so as to not wrinkle her dress.

She was lucky to have kept her only fancy long dress, since Lauren had forgotten about the party until they had received the invitation and there wouldn’t be much time to actually buy one. Lauren, on the other hand, surprised the young actress by revealing a small collection of those dresses, meant specifically for this kind of occasion.

Camila had also grown to learn that Lauren hated this kind of occasion. After their, well, bright start of a day, so as to say, she had grown more and more anxious and annoyed, groaning every once in a while and even muttering random curses.

(Who even curses the inventor of mascara?)

Camila had found the whole thing kind of funny since Lauren reminded her of a child who was being forced to attend a party with her parents instead of watching cartoons at home. At one point she had even stopped in the middle of their living room, pouting, and said she wanted to stay in and cuddle, to which Camila couldn’t help but kiss her until she felt up to going back to getting ready.

Still, she couldn’t help but worry as well. Camila was almost sure that part of Lauren’s unwillingness to attend the party was due to who was throwing it. Hell, she was sure it had something to do with it, since she clearly disliked him, but then again, so did everyone in her family. But she had talked to Emily, who she had grown quite fond of since meeting her, and though she knew the girl despised Marcus, she had appeared quite excited for the whole thing.

It could be that Lauren simply didn’t like big events, like she had told her, but Camila couldn’t help the annoying and uncomfortable feeling that there was more to the story. She wouldn’t push Lauren to open up, she understood that she may be assuming things that aren’t true or that even if they were, Lauren may not be ready to talk about them, but it made her feel like her girlfriend kind of didn’t trust her.

Then again, Camila could clearly see evolution in the matter on Lauren’s part. The fact that she had willingly talked about the change in her precinct’s policy showed that better than anything else and Camila couldn’t be any prouder of her. That way, the young actress believed Lauren despite her own annoying feeling and was determined to push the notion that Lauren didn’t trust her far, far away.

Camila was pretty much lost in her thoughts when Lauren made her presence on the hallway known. The sound of her heels clicking against their floor pulled Camila’s attention to her and the younger girl stood up and grabbed her purse, ready to leave.

And then Camila saw her.

Camila’s breath hitched on her throat and her eyes widened. Yes, she had helped Lauren get ready, but they had been rushing so much that she hadn't been able to really pay attention to how gorgeous she looked. In that moment, though, Lauren had Camila’s undivided attention. She was wearing a long and beautiful black dress that hugged her curves in all the right ways and stopped just under her knees. Her hair was curly and flowed beautifully, just like Camila had imagined it would, but better. But Lauren’s eyes, those were Camila’s true weakness. They seemed even brighter with the makeup Lauren had applied, and the smaller Latina could’ve sworn she got lost in them for a while.

“Woah," was all she managed to say, but she wasn’t sure Lauren had even heard her because of her breathy and low voice.

When Camila finally got out of her trance, she was surprised to find Lauren in a similarly amazed state, which made her blush a little bit. At least she thought so, if the hotness in her cheeks were any indication. Stepping forward, she smiled coyly.

“You look beautiful, Laur.” Camila said, her voice still low, but much more understandable.

Lauren shook her head like she was waking up from a dream and closed her slightly agape mouth. Then she seemed to register what Camila had said and blushed profusely, with a shy smile.

“You. You look beautiful.” Lauren finally replied, her smile growing as she spoke.

Camila could only mirror her expression and soon they were just two grinning idiots standing still in front of each other.

Chuckling, Camila decided that enough time had passed. “You’re breathtaking, you know that?”

Lauren’s cheeks got even redder, but her smile didn’t falter. “And you are amazing.”

Camila giggled and Lauren followed suit before taking a step toward her and holding her hand. She rose Camila’s hand to her lips and pressed a sweet kiss on the back of it before going back to only holding it and caressing it with her thumb.

“Thank you. Not just for the compliments, but for helping me with my hair and for going. And, well, for being you.” Lauren said.

Camila squeezed her hand. “You don’t have to thank me, baby, but you’re welcome anyway. And thanks to you too, you’re just as amazing as me.”

Camila was itching to say three little words, but she kept them in. There was just a day left now, she could totally wait a little longer.

“Debatable.” Lauren answered in a playful tone, making Camila giggle again.

“Whatever you say, cutie, it’s still the truth.” Camila said and Lauren rolled her eyes upon hearing the nickname, but the little smile on her lips gave her feelings away.

They sat down in comfortable silence after that, each checking their own phone while they waited for their driver to arrive. Camila was scrolling through Tumblr when she got a text from Dinah.

China (6:02 pm): YOO chanch you still at home right??

Camila (6:02 pm): yoo cheech yeah why

China (6:02 pm): which one of these do you like better???

China (6:03 pm): [two pictures sent]

Camila frowned, amused, and tilted her head slightly as she stared at her phone. Dinah had sent two pictures of herself, each one in a different outfit. She looked gorgeous on both, though Camila liked the black dress she wore on the second picture the most.

(She couldn’t choose between the duck faces on the pictures, though, but then again, Dinah was a pro.)

Camila (6:03 pm): the second one but why? lol

China (6:03 pm): for science!!!!!

China (6:03 pm): i’m cute in both tho rightttt??!

Camila laughed at this, unable to suppress a chuckle upon her friend’s antics.

Camila (6:03 pm): yeahhhh right you LIAR

Camila (6:04 pm): but lol yeah you’re pretty cute

China (6:04 pm): ok ok!! me and normally are going out to celebrate! and thanks gurl i know ;))))

Celebrating without them? Well damn. Camila chuckled softly again, shaking her head. She wasn’t really mad, but still, she figured she’d make a little drama just to make Dinah pay for trading her for her girlfriend’s best friends. Just a little bit.

She wasn’t mad, but maybe she was a little jealous.

Camila (6:04 pm): real nice when you guys know lo and i can’t make it ugh

China (6:05 pm): ohhhh gurl someone’s jealous!!! you know i <3 u

China (6:05 pm): plus ur going to this rich ass party with rich ass peeps and if that ain’t something!!!!!

Camila’s grin slowly faded as she read Dinah’s second message. She took a second to steal a glance at Lauren, who seemed way more content sitting on their couch with her phone than getting dressed, and stared back at her phone.

Camila (6:06 pm): idk dinah, lauren isn’t feeling this party too much yknow?

China (6:07 pm): tell her to enjoy it or imma whoop her ESS!! rich people rich food rich everything?? sounds pretty fucking dope to me!!

Camila laughed loudly this time, Dinah’s way of putting the situation far from how she knew Lauren felt about it. If she were being honest, she wasn’t too thrilled either, and not only for caring about Lauren.

(The food, though. It would definitely make it all better.)

“What?” Lauren asked.

Camila turned to her. Lauren had a half smile on her face already and was leaning toward the younger brunette, curious as to what made Camila laugh so hard.

“Dinah’s being dumb. She told me to tell to enjoy the party or she’ll whoop your ass.” Camila laughed.

Lauren leaned closer to see the phone screen and giggled, but it sounded a little bit forced in Camila’s opinion. She could recognize Lauren’s signature laughter without thinking about it for even a second, so she knew when it wasn’t genuine.

“Well, I guess I’m gonna finally know what her famous poly beat down is all about.” Lauren chuckled more genuinely this time, but Camila only pouted.

“Don’t say that, we’ll have fun.” Camila stated, but Lauren only gave her a disbelieving look. “We’ll have some fun, okay, baby? I’ll make sure of that.” Camila added in a low voice, making Lauren blush.

Camila laughed at Lauren’s reaction, always a fan of getting her flustered, and kissed her lips softly. Lauren hummed contently before pulling back to answer her phone, which had begun to ring loudly. It was probably the driver, so Camila got up and took her purse from the coffee table.

Camila’s suspicions were proven right when Lauren hung up and signaled for her to follow. They walked out of the apartment and Lauren locked it while Camila pressed the button of the elevator. The younger girl took the time to answer Dinah and let her know they were going to leave, but was met with some new texts from the Polynesian.

China (6:09 pm): i’m guessing u ignoring me has smth to do with telling lauser to enjoy thr party??

China (6:12 pm): yall better not be doing the nasty!!!

Camila laughed and showed Lauren the texts, who joined her in her giggling almost right away, even if her face was a shade or two redder than usual.

Camila (6:14 pm): dinah jane!!! lshdowndisjdh

Camila (6:14 pm): yes i was telling her and no we weren’t doing the nasty

Camila (6:14 pm): not now at least, but the shower earlier today was extra hot ;)

China (6:15 pm): ewww i didnt need that mila wtf!!!

Camila smirked as the elevator arrived and both girls entered it.

Camila (6:15 pm): don’t complain, you brought this upon yourself!!

Camila (6:15 pm): and don’t worry, i’ll make sure she has fun, i promise! ;)

China (6:16): gROSS

Camila’s grin was huge as she put her phone away. Dinah could be crazy sometimes, but she loved her even more because of that. Regardless of how fun she was, though, Camila wasn't going to stay glued to the phone at the party.

She had a promise to keep, after all.

Camila sat down at the Jauregui’s designated table, finally complying with her aching feet and giving them a break. She hummed in relief as some of the discomfort she had been feeling vanished. She really, really hated wearing heels.

It didn’t help that she had spent the last half hour walking around with Lauren greeting all kinds of people, some of which didn’t give her a second look before trying to engage in conversation with her girlfriend.

And that wasn’t to say they seemed interested in Lauren either. Most of them knew who she was and tried to make small talk for about five minutes before they excused themselves to talk with somebody else. Camila felt like the only people who payed attention to them were the younger men, who quickly seemed disappointed and lost all interest each time Lauren introduced Camila as her girlfriend.

It made Camila’s blood boil that they saw her as basically a piece of meat, but Lauren didn’t seem to mind. Key word being seem. Camila could tell that was all to keep her appearance and she noticed how tense her girlfriend got sometimes from her rigid posture or forced smile.

They had just finished talking with a young couple when Lauren excused herself to go to the restroom, so Camila felt like it was okay to simply ignore all of those who were already ignoring her and sit down for a minute. She wanted to breathe, take a pause from the insane evening that was turning out to be.

The fancy black car with the fancy looking driver had picked them up and driven them to this huge building on the Upper East Side, which, okay then. But the craziest thing was yet to come. Camila had imagined herself being photographed in all kinds of red carpets before, but she had never guessed it would be like that. Before, she’d picture herself as a big theater star, or a movie star, hell, a beloved web series actress would be enough.

But Camila had never thought that she would end up in a red carpet from being the girlfriend of a person whose uncle was rich and somewhat famous.

It was disappointing, if she were to be honest, to have one of your dreams come true, but have nothing to do with it.

Still… It was disappointing, yes, but also thrilling. All those people taking pictures of the two of them and Lauren’s family – whose drivers had been told to get there precisely at the same time so that they could all arrive at the party together – all those voices calling out their names, it was all pretty exciting.

(Sure, by their names she meant “Jauregui’s”, “Jauregui family” or even just “family”, but even so, they were calling them, which was something.)

Camila wondered how she had never come across a picture or video of Lauren before, given the amount of pictures that had been taken and the fact that there had been even live coverage of the event. But then again she guessed they would probably go mostly unnoticed, or quickly spoken of as a group, as the family. The pictures were probably taken just so that the photographers didn’t lose their jobs.

If it was about the quantity, they would be more than okay. Camila shook her head lightly as she took a sip of the glass of champagne that had been offered to her. She had found the whole red carpet thing pretty fun, but she could see why someone like Lauren, who wasn’t that fond of being in the spotlight, would be uncomfortable by it. She could also understand her girlfriend’s aversion for these types of party, since she herself was already growing tired of rich assholes who looked at them and talked to them in that condescending way that made Camila go wild. And not the good kind of wild.

There was one good thing about the party, though, and that was the food. Being sat at the tables had its perks, the best one being that the food never stopped being offered. Ever. Camila couldn’t complain about that aspect of the party since every little appetizer the waiters gave her tasted like a piece of heaven.

Camila was in the middle of having what she could only describe as a foodgasm when the big doors of the salon were closed. The party was at the huge salon normally used as a meeting room on a luxurious hotel on the Upper East Side, and the doors had been open up until that moment. She guessed that meant all the guests were there, but she hadn’t seen Marcus yet.

After Camila and Lauren had entered the salon, they had actually spoken with the latter’s family before everyone went their separate ways. They seemed to know that Marcus wouldn’t be around for a while, so no one even bothered to look for him as a group, splitting up to talk to different people as they had done.

Camila wondered if now that everyone seemed to be here, he would show up. She wished Lauren came back before he did, though, since she had no desire to talk to him alone.

(Well, she didn’t want to talk to him. Period. But she knew she would have to, so she hoped to at least have some company when she did.)

Camila felt a hand on her shoulder and turned around, expecting it to belong to Lauren, but was instead met with Emily, who had a bored expression on her face.

“What are you doing there, sitting all alone?” The girl asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Enjoying the crazy amount of food they give me because of it.” Camila chuckled.

Emily nodded, seeming impressed, and sat down on the chair next to Camila’s.

“Well, if that’s the case…” She turned to Camila with a smirk on her lips after adjusting her chair. “I guess I have no choice but to join you, do I?”

Camila laughed again and was about to reply when a tray appeared out of thin air in front of them.

“Excuse me, misses. Would you like some shrimp cocktail?” The waiter asked politely with a charming smile.

Emily looked at Camila with a disbelieving look, but the young actress only grinned and raised her eyebrows as if to say “told ya”. Emily shook her head lightly with a smile and turned to the waiter, taking one of the shrimp cocktails on the silver tray.

“Thank you.” Emily said and Camila soon did the same, taking an appetizer for herself.

The waiter went away and the girls looked at each other for a moment before breaking into a giggling fit.

“That’s insane.” Emily exclaimed with a smile.

“This whole thing is insane.” Camila replied and Emily could only hum in response, since she had begun eating.

Camila took the opportunity to eat as well, but when both of them were finished, Emily chuckled.

“This was way too good.” She said.

“I know, right?” Camila sighed in bliss.

“It was the best thing about this party so far.” Emily chuckled and Camila followed.

“You seemed pretty excited for it.”

Emily rolled her eyes. “That was before I was actually here. I’ve never been so bored in my life.”

“Me neither! Dude, you’d think rich people would be more fun.” Camila sighed.

“I think they are when you’re one of them and actually have stuff to talk about.” Emily laughed.

Camila nodded. “True.”

“At least we have each other now.” Emily added after a pause with a smile.

Camila smiled as well, but she frowned soon after, since, “Where’s Chris?”

Emily sighed, but didn’t stop smiling. “I was with him and Taylor but they ran into this guy that isn’t a total dick and apparently they knew each other from this party their uncle threw a couple years back, so now they’re catching up. I excused myself when I saw you moping here alone, which brings me to my own question: where’s Lauren?”

Camila blinked. That had surely been a lot of information and she didn’t know how Emily had been able to keep it up without as much as pausing to breathe. After she processed everything she had heard, her frown deepened because A. She wasn’t moping and B. Where was Lauren? The green eyed girl had gone away to the restroom for far too long now, so where was she?

(Something didn’t feel right about the second letter, so Camila swallowed her worry and decided to answer the first.)

“I wasn’t moping.” She defended herself. “I was resting my feet. And thinking. And eating! I was surely not moping during that.”

Emily snorted, nodding in acceptance. “Good point, Mila.”

Emily’s eyes darted to behind Camila before the girl could continue talking and she rose to her feet.

“Seems like good old uncle Marcus has arrived and is ready to give his speech.” Emily stated, to which Camila stood up and turned around as well.

Camila took another sip of her glass of champagne, finishing it at last. She saw Marcus standing on the small stage on one of the corners of the room, in front of a microphone, a glass of his own on one of his hands and an arrogant smile on his face.

Camila sighed. There they go.

The girls walked out of the area designated to the tables and found a nice spot in the middle of the crowd of people on the open space in front of the stage, just as he started speaking.

“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen! As you may or may not know, today isn’t really my birthday. I didn’t throw a party then because I had a little something planned and I wouldn’t be able to make the necessary arrangements in time. The little something is this fundraiser.”

A round of applause followed Marcus’s pause and Camila rolled her eyes, clapping lightly while Emily just stood there, completely unaffected. Camila stifled a laugh when their eyes locked and Emily faked being sick.

She turned back to Marcus as the applause died down, but didn’t listen to a single word he said. Not a minute had passed of Camila zoning out and thinking about puppy vines when she felt fingertips grazing her lower back. Her dress was open at the back, so Camila shivered at the light touch.

Turning her head to the side, brown eyes met green ones and Camila smiled at the rare beauty she had the pleasure of calling her girlfriend.

“Hey.” She whispered, leaning in to give her a soft peck.

Lauren smiled a little as well. “Hey.”

Camila frowned. Lauren’s smile hadn’t quite reached her eyes, and Camila knew that was the biggest indicative that something was wrong with her girlfriend.

“Is everything okay? You were gone for a while.” She leaned as close as she could so as to not disrupt the speech.

“Yeah, yeah.” Lauren whispered back, but her voice was still kind of weak and Camila was not convinced.

The brown eyed girl pulled back to give her girlfriend a skeptic look and Lauren sighed.

“I was just at the restroom, Camz. Then I got held up talking to a guy I knew from some other event like this and he made some gross invasive comments, but that’s it.” She shared, her voice barely audible for even Camila, who was right beside her.

Lauren raised her eyes to look at Camila’s quickly before she looked down in what seemed like shame. For what, Camila couldn’t know. One thing she did know, though? She was fuming.

“Who did that? What did he say?” She asked, her voice impossibly calm, yet as cold as ever.

Lauren’s eyes widened and Camila took a deep breath. She knew that was her “about to explode” voice, and she knew that Lauren knew as well, having witnessed it once or twice. But as much as the situation pissed her off, Camila had to calm down.

(Bonus points to her temper for making an appearance in the middle of Lauren’s stupid uncle's stupid speech.)

“Lauren, what did he say?” Camila said in a softer tone.

It seemed to work, since Lauren sighed again and nodded. “Just some stuff about making another trip to the bathroom. With him.”

Camila felt her blood boil. She held Lauren’s hand and pulled her slowly out of the crowd watching Marcus talk. Emily looked at them with inquisitive eyes, but Camila couldn’t explain at the time. Actually, she knew many eyes turned their way for a moment and she was pretty aware that she was being rude, but fuck being polite.

Camila stopped in a corner almost by the door of the salon where two security guards were posted and turned to face Lauren.

“Lo, you must know that he’s an asshole and that this is not your fault, right?” Camila’s tone was gentle yet completely serious, her voice low as she tried to control the anger she felt at that moment.

Lauren nodded sheepishly. “I know. I do. It’s no big deal, really. I told him to go to hell after he said that and that if he ever dared to think about saying something like that to me or anyone in here I’d arrest him.”

Camila felt her lips tug up for the first time since Lauren revealed what had happened. That’s her girlfriend.

“Why do you look ashamed, then?” Camila asked, running both her hands through Lauren’s arms.

Lauren shrugged, looking down for a moment before meeting Camila’s eyes again. “I guess… I guess I didn’t, I don’t know, I didn’t want to ruin the party. I mean, yeah I felt shitty but I don’t know, I saw you laughing with Emily and took a moment to get myself together before coming back. I just… didn’t want to get in the middle of your fun I guess. I don’t know.”

Camila rose one of her hands to Lauren’s cheek and leaned in to give her the softest of kisses. She rested their foreheads together after that, but couldn’t contain herself and gave Lauren another quick peck, which made her giggle. Camila felt butterflies fluttering all over her stomach at the sound; she was so in love with the green eyed girl, she didn’t even know that feeling that much was possible.

But then she sighed and pulled back, opening her eyes as Lauren did the same. How did Lauren still not know that she didn’t care about the party, that she was there for her?

“Baby, your fe-”

“Feelings are valid, I know.” Lauren was smiling and Camila felt herself mirroring her expression. “I just didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, which is what happened.” She sighed and was about to say something else when a new round of applause sounded. “Looks like Marcus made his speech. We should get back to the party.”

“Wait.” Camila said, taking her hand to stop her. “Do you wanna leave? We could, I mean I-”

“Nah, it’s okay.” Lauren interrupted her, too quickly for Camila’s liking. “I’m fine, babe, honestly.”

Lauren smiled, and even though Camila believed her about the whole deal with the gross guy, she couldn’t quite believe her now. But she trusted her, so she nodded and let herself be led back to the quickly dissipating crowd.

“How come you guys aren’t famous, though?”

Lauren and Chris shrugged at the same time, which Camila found pretty funny. They surely shared those Jauregui genes.

“Our parents weren’t too big on attention, so we tried to keep lowkey for the most time.” Chris began, to which Lauren nodded.

“Yeah, I mean... Obviously we couldn’t, uh, hide ourselves from the world and mom and dad used to be closer with our uncle when we were younger so we received a little more attention then. But now, well, we get some paparazzi from time to time after these kind of events but it soon dies down.” Lauren paused. “I hope it stays that way.” She chuckled and Camila smiled.

A little over an hour had passed since Marcus’s speech and Camila found herself sitting at the Jauregui table with Lauren and Chris. Emily and Taylor had vanished together at some point and Camila had been too lazy to go look for them how Chris had suggested, so after some bickering they had all settled down at the table.

The subject of the Jauregui’s not being famous despite Mike’s brother being the CEO of an important company had risen after Lauren had excused herself to go to the restroom for what seemed like the hundredth time after that first. But they had both drank a little too much already, so Camila didn’t mind too much. Camila had actually thought the behavior reminded her of someone running away from the cameras, so she made sure to ask about it as soon as Lauren came back.

“Is that why you have so many followers on Instagram?” Camila asked, a smirk playing in her lips.

Lauren laughed loudly, attracting some looks from the people around them, but Camila couldn’t care less. She was keeping her promise, after all, making sure that her girlfriend had a fun night.

(She thought about how Lauren still seemed somewhat tense, though a lot less than before, and hoped it was working.)

“Yeah, well, what can I say? People like my pics.” Lauren smirked smugly as well.

“Who wouldn’t? They’re awesome. You’re amazing.” Camila leaned in to kiss the ever growing grin out of Lauren’s face after the compliment, not being able to hold herself.

Lauren smiled into the kiss and ran her hand on Camila’s thigh under the table before squeezing it, which made the brown eyed girl pull back. Maybe drinking that much hadn’t been the brightest idea after all.

She couldn’t stop smiling, though, so she just kept staring into Lauren’s eyes with the most loving look she could muster inside her.

“Uh, hello? No offense but stop eating each other’s faces and eye-fucking while I’m here, thanks.” Chris suddenly let out, making Camila burst into a fit of giggles and Lauren get as red as a tomato.

“Sorry Chris.” Camila said sweetly, but he just raised his glass of champagne. She then got up, receiving a questioning look from Lauren. “Bathroom time for me. Be right back.”

Both siblings nodded and once again Camila couldn’t help but notice how some of their mannerisms were alike.

Her trip to the restroom was quick and soon she found herself walking back to their table. Camila was surprised to see that there was one more person sitting there and it was no one other than Marcus Jauregui.

From where she stood, Camila couldn’t understand what they were saying, but it didn’t seem to be of much importance. Chris had a polite smile on his lips despite his bored demeanor and Lauren was just kind of blank. Both her face and body expression were neutral, like she was trying not to show her dislike for the man out of politeness. Camila guessed both the siblings were doing that, but Chris seemed to be better at it, which made sense, the guy really was a social butterfly.

He had also drunk less than either of them, so he really would be better at faking anything at all.

Camila sighed and made the rest of her way to the table, bracing herself for the awkward conversation that was probably about to come. The table was circular, so Chris and Lauren saw her first. Lauren’s green eyes seemed to sparkle out of happiness and what Camila could only take for relief, so the young actress gave her a small smile as she came closer.

“...portant people here.” Marcus was about to continue when he noticed Camila and cut himself short. “Ah, Miss Cabello, finally reunited are we?”

Sadly so. “Hello, Marcus, hope your evening has been pleasant.”

Marcus smiled a little smile that made Camila want to slap him as she took the seat next to Lauren.

“See, Lauren, this is the kind of manners you should be presenting.” Marcus stated and Camila suppressed the sudden need to roll her eyes.

“Sure, uncle.” Lauren replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

Marcus sighed like he had just been scolding a stubborn toddler and rose to his feet.

“I’ll leave you guys alone now. Enjoy the party and have a good night.” He said before walking away.

Lauren sighed and Chris looked at her with curiosity. Camila frowned and turned to look at a scowling Lauren.

“What happened?” Camila asked, placing a hand on Lauren’s arm.

Lauren sighed and her eyes softened at the touch. “He came to say that the guy who…” Her gaze flickered to Chris for a moment. “Uh, who approached me earlier, he talked to Uncle about one of his guests threatening him.” Lauren let out a chuckle, but it was a dry, humorless thing. Camila felt her irritation at the random man rising again. “Didn’t even remember I’m his niece. Anyway, he apologized for whatever his friend had done, which was surprisingly nice of him, but then he asked me to apologize.”

“And then Lauren scoffed and said ‘no thank you’ and he got pissed and ended up lecturing us in having manners.” Chris completed, rolling his eyes. “What did McAllen do anyway?”

Lauren shrugged. “Another time, Chris.”

“Oh, come on, I won’t tell anyo-”

“Chris!” Lauren exclaimed with a little too much force, interrupting him. The boy closed his mouth. “Not now.”

“Okay.” He answered simply before getting up. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to push.”

His tone was apologetic, but also somewhat hurt. Camila wanted to intervene, but it wasn’t exactly her business and she didn’t want to make things worse somehow, so she stayed out of it.

(She did squeeze Lauren’s hand that was resting on the table, though.)

Lauren’s gaze flickered to their hands before finding her brother’s eyes again. She sighed and reached for his hand with her free one.

“I’m the one who should apologize. I’m pissed and tipsy and I took it out on you. Sorry.”

Chris nodded with a small smile. “Okay. Well I’m gonna go look for Emily now, so... Yeah.”

As soon as he was far enough, Lauren slipped her hand from under Camila’s. The cold absence left the brown eyed girl wanting to reach out again, but Lauren rested her elbows on the table and her head on her hands, occupying them.

“I suck.” She muttered.

“No you don’t.” Camila answered, deciding to place her hand on her girlfriend’s shoulder.

Lauren looked up and groaned. “Yeah I do, I totally blew up on him for no reason.” She paused and looked straight ahead, missing Camila’s worried eyes. “I need to drink some more.”

Camila shook her hand and squeezed Lauren’s shoulder, gaining her attention. “No you don’t.”

Lauren scoffed. “Is that all you say now?”

Camila narrowed her eyes. “Now that was kinda uncalled for, don’t you think?”

Lauren immediately looked guilty. “Sorry. Ugh, see? I suck, I totally need another drink.” She tried to get up, but Camila forced her to stay down.

“We’ve drank enough already.” Lauren pouted, which made Camila sigh. “Lauren, stop.”

This time, Camila saw something shine in Lauren’s eyes before she scowled. “Fine.”

“What?” Camila asked, not exactly liking Lauren’s tone but not exactly using a nice one either.


Camila rolled her eyes and retracted her hand from Lauren’s shoulder. “What, Lauren?”

“You’re treating me like a child.” The green eyed girl stated dryly, eyeing her quickly before looking straight ahead again.

“Well, you’re acting like one.” Camila could feel her temper rising and she did not like it.

Lauren stared at her for a whole silent minute after that, which gave her time to breathe and try to cool down. Lauren opened and closed her mouth a few times, apparently not being able to decide on what to say.

“You know what? Forget it. Maybe I am a child after all.” She rose to her feet and headed toward the restroom.

Camila took a deep breath.

Lauren should really take notes with Hailee, Zayn, Shawn or any of Camila’s friends. She and Lauren hadn’t fought much since they got together, so the older Latina wouldn’t know, but if there was one thing Camila hated, it was being walked out on.

So much for calming down.

In her somewhat hazy state of mind, there wasn’t even a choice to make. Not a second had passed when Camila got up and followed Lauren into the restroom, expecting an argument. What she didn’t expect to see was Lauren leaning over the sink, breathing heavily and trying to hold back tears. And yet, that’s what she found.

Camila immediately felt guilt and worry overcome her, washing away the irritation. It was just a stupid fight, after all, Lauren shouldn’t be this affected, right?

“Hey, hey, no, don’t cry.” Lauren turned to Camila as she spoke and her bottom lip trembled a little. Shit. “Lo. I’m sorry, I really am.”

Camila took a step forward but Lauren took one back almost immediately after. Wow, okay then. Camila stopped, feeling herself getting a little choked up; that hurt more than she would have thought.

Lauren seemed to notice that and gulped, taking a step forward again.

“I’m sorry.” She muttered, trying to stabilize her wavering voice. “I’m… I… I don’t know. I’ve been horrible today. And I was a mess all night and couldn’t stay with you for five minutes without coming here to take a breather and now this and I am acting like a child and I’m sorry.”

A mess? Camila hadn’t noticed Lauren being anything less than okay, maybe a little bored, but overall fine. She thought back to all the times her girlfriend had gone to the restroom. Realization dawned on her and Camila felt ten times guiltier for not noticing how badly Lauren was handling the party.

“I’m sorry too, baby.” Camila swallowed her hurt and her pride and took another step forward. Lauren didn’t move this time, so Camila took her hand. “Look. We’re both tipsy going on drunk, we’re both tired… Let’s just go home, okay? We can talk there, if you want.”

Lauren’s eyes widened at that and she shook her head. “I’m not leaving.”

“Why not?” Camila asked with what she hoped was a neutral tone.

“I just can’t, I gotta stay. It’s been like less than two hours, I can’t leave.” Lauren replied nervously.

“Of course you can.” Camila answered, less softly this time, which made Lauren flinch a little. There went her fucking temper again. She sighed. “You can, Lo, there’s nothing or no one stopping you.”

“You don’t understand…” Lauren started, turning around and leaving her back facing Camila.

The smaller Latina’s hand fell back at her side and she really was trying to keep calm, but Lauren was making it very difficult.

“Then tell me, Lauren, make me understand.”

“I can’t.” Lauren replied harshly, still not facing Camila.

Camila clenched her jaw. “We should go home.” She tried again.

“No. You can, though.” Lauren replied in the same hard tone. “If you want to.”

The last part came out a little more softly and Camila could definitely feel the insecurity there. At any other time, she would have taken that into consideration, but now? Now she was tired and stressed and intoxicated. She was angry at Marcus for being a dick and causing all this, but she was also growing more and more irritated with Lauren’s behavior. Honestly, Camila really wanted to cry or scream at someone.

So yes, at any other time she would have swallowed her pride to comfort Lauren, but Camila wasn’t exactly the most considerate person at the moment.

“Okay. I think I’ll be going then.” Camila answered and Lauren turned around. The young actress saw her girlfriend’s eyes hardening, but she knew that it was only an act.

“Fine.” Lauren said, simply, but her voice cracked and with it, Camila’s heart cracked a little bit as well.

“Fine.” She replied anyway, before walking out of the restroom, taking her purse and her coat, and walking out of the hotel salon without saying goodbye to anyone.

All in all, not one of her finest moments.

The minute Camila stepped out of the hotel, many people turned her way. The photographers surely weren’t expecting someone to leave at that time, so they all seemed confused. Camila felt her cheeks growing warm as she started walking toward the street, but the moment of stupor seemed to have been broken and soon she could hear most of them calling for her, but not by her name because who was she, really?

“Miss Cabello, over here please!” Mostly by reflex, Camila actually stopped to look at the photographer calling her then, since it was the first one who knew her name.

Bad mistake. Before she knew it, everyone was calling her by her name and she could only stand frozen as the first paparazzi started asking questions.

“Is it true that you are in a relationship with Lauren Jauregui?”

“I…” Camila couldn’t even finish before a second paparazzi seemed to come up with questions of his own.

“Your play came out weeks ago and has been getting some recognition, does that have anything to do with you dating a Jauregui?”

Camila furrowed her eyebrows, completely taken aback – and enraged – by the question. “What? Of course not.”

“You claim to be an activist for the environmental cause. How can you support a company that has been involved in more than one environmental scandal?”

“I’m not…” Camila looked around for the one who had said that, fuming.

“Why are you here, Miss Cabello?”

“Did you donate anything?”

“Are you and Lauren Jauregui lesbians?”

Camila’s head started spinning at the questions and the flashes and she couldn’t take it anymore. It was like, from the moment they knew her name, suddenly they knew everything about her and just what to ask. She had found the red carpet fun earlier when it was all “a smile, please”, “over here, ladies”, but now? Honestly, Camila felt like crying her eyes out, but she held it in and continued walking ahead until she could signal for a cab to stop in front of the hotel.

Camila told the driver where to go and settled back against the seat as the car sped up.

Not the classiest exit, she supposed, but she didn’t give a shit, mostly because she felt like shit herself, and had no intention of giving herself away to the paparazzi.

Or maybe that made zero sense and Camila should really have drunk less champagne.

When Camila got to their apartment building, her face was wet with silent tears. They had started about five minutes into the ride home, when the empty state she’d been left in by the overwhelming moment had passed and she had been hit with about a thousand different emotions at once.

When the driver noticed her state, he offered her a tissue and started driving faster, probably trying to help her out. It felt nice, to know that a random middle aged kind looking taxi driver with an Italian accent cared about her, a random young Latina woman with ruined make up and a too expensive dress.

So when Camila got to her destination, she gave him a nice tip and a warm goodbye before entering the building. She felt all cried out, so she really just wanted to crash in her bed and sleep. She probably could use a shower, but she also didn’t care about that.

(Camila was amazed at how many things she didn’t care about at that moment.)

It was a pure coincidence that both her and Lauren lived on the second floor of their respective buildings, that is, before they moved in together at Lauren’s apartment. Still, as Camila waited for the elevator, the thought of going up the stairs sounded ridiculous in her head, being exhausted as she was.

Camila sighed as she searched for her keys and tried to ignore the pain in her chest as she saw the key hold Lauren had gotten her. It was a heart and it would’ve been cliché if it weren’t for the “how you doin’?” written on it, that always made her smile.

Even now, angry and with tear stained cheeks, she smiled.

And because she was looking down as she opened her door, Camila didn’t notice right away that there was a person standing with her back to her in her balcony.

But a second later she did, and she also saw that the door to their balcony was open and that the person – a man, she noticed – was talking with someone that was apparently on the ground, outside of the building.

“ up later, after I’m don-”

Camila didn’t hear the rest, because she had closed the door again, the silence of her building’s hallway ten times more suffocating than before.

She hadn’t hesitated to close it, her mind blank, her actions almost automatic.

It hadn’t even felt like it had really been her. When she came to her senses, the door was closed and she could only hope she had done it quietly.

Strangely, she hadn’t freaked out. No, she had calmly shut the door.

To her apartment.

Where a strange man was standing in her balcony.

As in, invading her home. A home invasion.

Suddenly, she wasn’t so calm anymore. Suddenly, she was the furthest thing from calm. Camila’s heart started beating wildly fast and her breaths started coming short and ragged.

A panic attack. Shit.

Camila started walking to the stairs of her building, going up, up where the invader probably wouldn’t find her if he found out the front door was unlocked.

She went up, up like her heart rate, up like her physical instability. Camila’s hands started shaking and her surroundings became hazy as her mind felt like she didn’t belong there. Camila felt dizzy and no, she couldn’t go up any longer, she had to sit down or she would faint.

And if that happened she would only go down again and then it would’ve been for nothing and she didn’t want that.

So Camila sat down and held her hands together, trying to keep them from trembling. The dizziness had stopped, but as she looked around she had no idea how much she had gone up and that didn’t matter anyway because she couldn’t breathe.

The more forcefully she tried to hold her hands together, the more they shook and the more panicked she got, which only made her feel more choked up.

Camila started feeling light headed from the difficulty she had to breathe, which lead her to question how long she had been battling with her anxiety. She couldn’t guess, though, she could barely think anything at all because fuck, she was having a panic attack and it was like she was eleven all over again.

But Camila was not eleven anymore and as scattered and confusing as her thoughts were right now, the realization made her sure that she could do this. Camila could beat this surge of anxiety just like she had time and time again in the past.

Camila let go of her hands and let them shake freely. She closed her eyes and let her mind go blank, then tried to count, which helped control her breathing.

One, two, three. Fifteen.

Was it fifteen already? She hadn’t noticed. The thought made her heart rate spike up again and she wanted to cry, but she couldn’t. Not now when she felt the panic subsiding.

One, two, three, four, five… Slowly, Camila could feel her breathing evening out. Hell, she could breathe again, and that was a plus in itself. But as time went by, her heartbeat slowed down, her hands stopped shaking and her throat wasn’t closing, nor were her breaths coming ragged and short, but long and deep.

Okay, she was okay. Well, she wasn’t, but she wasn’t having a panic attack anymore and that was the most important thing for Camila at the moment. She took another minute to breathe and calm down before collecting her thoughts. She needed to call the police.

And so she did. Camila called the police and after giving them her address, they assured they would be over there as quickly as possible. Given that Lauren’s precinct was the closest one to their home and that they were known for their great response time, she believed them.

As the minutes went by, Camila was hit with the reality of the situation and a new wave of tears drenched her face. She felt scared and alone and small, like she was back to all those years ago and her parents had just died.

Camila couldn’t stay alone right now, she just couldn’t, and a police officer wouldn’t bring her the comfort she needed. Well, not any police officer, anyway. There was one that could and she needed her. She needed Lauren.

Her phone was already in her hands, so all Camila had to do was call Lauren’s number, first on the speed dial. It was the easiest thing to do, and yet listening to the phone ring time after time without being picked up was one of the hardest experiences she had ever gone through. It went straight to voicemail and Camila found herself sobbing again.

“Lau- Lauren? Where… Where are y- you? P- please come home.” A deep breath. “I need you.”


Chapter Text

Lauren heard the restroom door close behind her with a thud. The sound wasn’t by any means loud or shrill, but it may as well have been, from the way she flinched. Her head hurt and now her chest hurt as well, all because of a stupid fight. Lauren should’ve just gone home with Camila, there was nothing she wanted to do more anyway.

But Lauren couldn’t. And even if she could, what was done was done anyway.

Lauren groaned in frustration and tilted her head back, blinking rapidly to control the tears that were threatening to spill. After a while Lauren thought she was good to go back, no longer feeling the lump in her throat or the stinging in her eyes. Even so, she stayed there for a few more minutes, just in case.

(Or, she was just postponing the inevitable, which was going back to the party.)

Lauren was just turning around to exit the restroom when a woman came in, smiling politely as she walked past the young cop. She hadn’t noticed anything weird about Lauren or at least not weird enough to have a strong reaction, which was good. The Latina finally stepped out of her hiding place, feeling somewhat comforted by the thought.

Lauren went back to her table and sat down, sighing. She checked her phone and her eyebrows raised inadvertently when she realized she and Camila had first gone to the restroom approximately half an hour ago. That meant Camila was almost at home by now, if there wasn’t any traffic. Lauren wanted to send her a quick text, apologize for… something, she guessed.

But then again, apologize for what? Lauren had the right to keep to herself things she wasn’t prepared to share. Irritation at her girlfriend for pushing started to arise in Lauren, but it deflated not a minute later, since Camila hadn’t pushed. The girl had asked Lauren to explain why she couldn’t leave and then dropped the subject, just asking her to actually come home. Lauren couldn’t be mad at her for leaving either, since she had basically sent Camila away, but still…

It all came down to what Camila didn’t know, she guessed. If she did know, she’d understand Lauren’s motives, why she was such a mess all night. Lauren chuckled at the thought. At least she managed to do that right, since Camila hadn’t noticed how distraught she had gotten from time to time.

The fight had also helped Lauren sober up, which made things a little clearer in her mind. Lauren came to the conclusion that Camila was right in not wanting her to drink more than she’d already done. Neither of them should have gotten carried away with the champagne, partially responsible for worsening Camila’s temper and Lauren’s emotional instability.

Wow, emotionally instability. For someone who wouldn’t allow herself to feel for fear of being a burden, just thinking those two words was an important step. Admitting a problem is the first step to solving it after all, and Lauren couldn’t help but feel a little better at the realization of her progress. Camila would be proud of her.

But Camila wasn’t there.

Groaning, Lauren ran a hand through her hair and decided that she should really text or even call Camila. Actually, Lauren should go home, but the mere thought made her chest constrict in anxiety. That step was a little further up than the one she had just gotten to and… No, she couldn’t, not for now.

(She shouldn’t try to jump over any steps or she might fall and go down the stairs, right?)

Anyway, a text was enough for now. At least Lauren hoped so. She unlocked her phone and opened the texting app, thinking about what to write. Maybe she could just-

“Lauren.” The voice she hated the most in the world, accompanied by a hand that she never wanted to be touched by again resting on her shoulder made her flinch. “Relax, it’s only me.”

Lauren glared at him, her heartbeat speeding up instantly. “Not much comfort there, Uncle. You’ve done lots to me.”

Marcus rolled his eyes and pursed his lips before taking a seat next to her. “I’ve told you time and time again to get over that, Lauren. It won’t happen again.”

“Now that I’m a grown ass woman and a police officer it sure won’t.” Lauren shot back.

“It’s not that.” He frowned. “You’re my niece.”

“Funny. Didn’t stop you last time.” Lauren exclaimed with a sarcastic smile.

Marcus scoffed. “Have it your way, then. Have you apologized to McAllen?”

Typical. “No, I have not.”

The CEO breathed in so deeply his nostrils grew wide. Even with her growing anxiety, Lauren couldn’t help but flash a small smile, proud of the fact that she’d caused that reaction.

“Why is that, if I may ask? He’s influent. I can’t have him thinking I invite just anybody to my gatherings, or people who threaten him for Christ’s sake.” He huffed.

Lauren’s face was completely void of emotion, just like her insides were void of any sympathy for her uncle whatsoever. She wasn’t void of other feelings, though, like the growing need to get away or the immediate uncomfortableness that came with his presence.

“He shouldn’t have harassed me.” She said simply, still sat down as if this was a pleasant conversation between relatives.

Marcus raised his eyebrows in surprise, but soon enough he was back to his normal uninterested expression. “Well, as far as I can tell there wasn’t any harm done, so just apologize.” He sighed. “You should’ve done so almost an hour ago when I first told you to.”

“I was busy, talking with my girlfriend.” Lauren replied coolly.

Marcus scoffed again. “She’s not good enough for you.”

Lauren huffed and narrowed her eyes. “Why? Is it because she’s a girl?”

“Of course not, I’m not a homophobe.” Her uncle stared at her with disdain. “But you could have anyone from here, anyone at all, and yet you choose her. It’s unbelievable, really.”

Lauren raised her eyebrows, honestly surprised. The first – and only – time they had talked about Camila, Lauren had thought that his problem with her was her gender and what that meant for Lauren’s sexuality, which could bring him complications with the press. Apparently not, though. She cleared her throat, annoyed with the situation.

“Why do you even care?” The Latina asked.

“Because you’re my niece. I do care.” Marcus replied, but he hadn’t even closed his mouth when Lauren started shaking her head.

“I thought we’d established that as a fucking lie.”

Language.” Marcus warned, just as Lauren’s phone started vibrating on top of the table, getting her attention.

Lauren snorted, feeling a wave of courage wash through her just as she felt her heart beat stronger from the adrenaline. “Fuck you.” She said, and it felt damn good.

Without wasting another second to look at her uncle, Lauren turned to her phone, reaching for it with her hand. Before she could take it, though, Marcus’s hand grabbed her wrist, successfully stopping her. Lauren was too taken aback by his action to try and get the phone with her other hand. She could only stare at him in shock instead, her already rapidly beating heart now almost exploding out of her chest as the old feeling of fear came to visit.

“Let go of me.” She whispered weakly.

Marcus nodded. “I will if you respect me. It’s all I ask. No swearing.” He answered calmly. “Understood?”

Marcus didn’t smile. He was as serious as one could get, as if doing that, as if controlling Lauren was another one of his job requirements and he just had to get it over with. She thought maybe it would be less disturbing if he was this sadistic creature who laughed at the face of her misery, but he just sat there, unbothered, with his hand around her wrist, waiting for a reply.

But Lauren couldn’t move, not even to nod or tell him to go to hell, and she hated her body’s response to him, she hated that after years he still had this hold on her. She hated him.

Everything seemed frozen in that moment, but obviously time was passing by. That became evident when the phone stopped ringing and Marcus let go of her wrist with a sigh. There wasn’t a mark in it since he wasn’t even gripping it too hard. Actually, he wasn’t gripping it hard at all, just firm enough to fuck with Lauren’s state of mind and in that he’d surely succeeded.

“I hope that’s a yes.” Marcus said in a low voice. “Have a good night, Lauren. Don’t forget about McAllen.”

And with that, he was gone. Lauren could breathe again. But she couldn’t move on from what had happened just yet, so she just looked around. No one had been watching them and even so, it must have looked like nothing more serious than an argument between the CEO and his niece, which was completely normal.

Normality reminded Lauren of reality and that brought her back to the present – and to her phone. Shaking her head and taking deep breaths to calm herself, Lauren willed herself not to think about what had just happened, at least not for now, and unlocked her phone.

There was one missed call and one voice mail from Camila. Lauren sighed, expecting her girlfriend to sound mad – or eerily calm – as she demanded her to come home so they could talk about what had happened. But then she pressed play.

“Lau- Lauren? Where… Where are y- you? P- please come home. I need you.”

If Lauren was trying to calm down before, she had no hope of doing so now. Camila’s voice sounded weak and broken, her breathing was heavy and her words were interrupted by her sobs. There was a long pause in which Lauren could hear her girlfriend taking a deep breath, but her voice came out wavering after it anyway.

This couldn’t be about their fight, it hadn’t been even half that bad. Lauren had also never heard Camila like that, like she had just cried her eyes out and was exhausted because of it but the crying wouldn’t stop, as shown by her sobbing. In a decision that didn’t even take more than a second, Lauren got up, gathered her things and started looking for her parents. This wasn’t just Lauren leaving because she wanted to, something serious had happened and she knew they’d understand.

Lauren swallowed her own hurt and buried her anxiety like she had done so many times before, the difference being that now she actually meant to deal with it when she could. The raven haired girl put on her coat as her eyes scanned the crowd and her feet took her around the salon without her even thinking about it, her mind consumed with worry.

Finally, Lauren found her parents talking with another couple. She excused herself before asking to borrow them for a little while and didn’t even wait for a reply before she pulled them to the side.

“Slow down, Lauren, what’s wrong?” Clara asked, stopping her daughter by her arm while she was trying to get them out of the crowd.

Lauren took a deep breath and turned to look at her parents right there in the middle of the crowd, finding worried looks plastered on their faces.

“I’m sorry, but I have to go. Camila called me and there’s an emergency, I don’t really know what, but I gotta go see what it is because she honestly sounded panicked and I just can’t stay here when she needs me and m-”

“Breathe, hija.” Mike interrupted her soothingly, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.

Lauren did that, she took a few deep breaths – as she seemed to be doing a lot that evening – and overlapped her father’s hand on her shoulder with her own.

“Thanks, dad. I just. I have to go. I’m sorry.” Lauren said, lowering her head.

“Why are you apologizing, Lauren? You’re free to go whenever you want.” Clara replied, using her fingers to raise Lauren’s chin.

Lauren could only nod and give them both a hug, unable to express her gratitude through words. The Latina pulled back with a lump on her throat, which she swallowed quickly.

“When did Camila leave, though? She didn’t say goodbye.” Clara asked after pulling back from the hug.

“It’s a long story, but she had to leave.” Lauren explained quickly, without actually explaining anything at all. “And now so do I, so please tell Chris, Emily and Taylor that I’m sorry for not having time to look for them.”

Mike raised a hand. “Enough apologies, Lauren. Just go.” He said, sweetly.

Not for the first time Lauren couldn’t be more glad to have such amazing, understanding parents. And as she hugged them both once again, Lauren also couldn’t help but wonder how the hell were Mike and Marcus so different from one another.

But that wasn’t important now. All that mattered was going home to her girlfriend and Lauren intended to do just that. As she walked out of the salon, Lauren tried to call Camila but she wouldn’t pick up, which drove her insane. But then again, that must have been how Camila had felt when the older Cuban hadn’t answered. Sighing, Lauren stopped in her tracks and decided to send her a quick text.

Lauren (9:49 pm): Camz, what happened?? Tried calling you but had no answer… I’m so sorry baby I’ll be there asap!

And with that Lauren took a deep breath and exited the hotel, bracing herself for the herd of photographers that were probably coming for her.

(She knew it was their job, but man, she fucking hated it.)

As soon as Lauren set foot in the red carpet, their heads all turned at the same time and the questions, as well as the flashes, started coming. She was used to it by now, but it didn't mean that she liked it. And so, Lauren kept her head up and her eyes straight ahead, no matter how many times her name was called, until she reached the curb and was able to hail a cab.

For every minute of the ride home, Lauren couldn’t stop checking her phone. And every time there was no answer from Camila, which only made Lauren’s heart beat faster and faster. With the amount of stress she had gone through that night, the green eyed girl might as well have taken five years of her life span, but now? With how worried she was, those five years had just turned into ten.

If Lauren had been expecting the sight of home to calm her down, she would be disappointed, for it did the exact opposite. But she also didn’t expect the gasp that left her lips when she saw the police car parked in front of her building, or the ringing that took over her ears as she felt suddenly dizzy.

“Miss? Are you alright?” The taxi driver’s voice was able to get Lauren out of her frozen state and into focus.

“Sorry, yeah.” She answered as she quickly paid him. “Keep the change, thanks.”

Lauren didn’t wait for an answer as she bolted out of the cab and straight to the police car. It was one of their division’s and, sure enough, one of Lauren’s colleagues sat inside the vehicle, though the Latina wasn’t too familiar with him. He was writing something down, probably a report, when she tapped on the window, making him jump.

He glared at Lauren before realizing who it was he was glaring at and then his gray eyes went from annoyed to worried. The young man exited the car quickly, but Lauren didn’t even give him the chance to open his mouth before she showered him with questions.

“What happened? Is Camila okay? Where is she? Is your partner with her? Why was sh-”

“Slow down, Jauregui.” He said in a soothing voice, interrupting her. “Camila’s fine… Shaken up but overall okay. She’s at your apartment with Detective Norman, he’s asking her a few questions. The blond dude from forensics and Jordan, my partner, are also there. There was a break in.” Lauren took a sharp breath and Justin – she now remembered – was quick to place a hand in her shoulder. “Well not really a break in since the guy came up your balcony and didn’t actually, uh, break in. But an invasion. And you should… prepare yourself. There was quite the damage.”

Lauren gulped and nodded before turning around and entering the building. She looked back and Justin gave her a tiny nod of reassurance, but Lauren was still worried. Not so much about her apartment, but about Camila. She remembered how the smaller girl had been scared when Lauren surprised her on their sort-of-anniversary and it made her hesitate.

(Lauren didn’t know what she would find, but she prayed that it wouldn’t be too bad.)

One step after the other, Lauren’s feet took her into the elevator and up to the second floor of her old building. Lauren’s door was closed, and it seemed like her throat was mimicking the piece of wood, only it wasn’t stopping her sight, but her ability to breathe. Lauren coughed and swallowed her saliva, trying to wash down the lump that had made residence there, and, after a minute, she actually managed to do it.

Lauren took a deep breath and, with trembling hands, unlocked the door. The moment she saw her living room, her mouth fell open. Justin had warned her, but Lauren hadn’t really been prepared to find their apartment in such a mess. The coffee table was turned and the books were scattered about the floor. One of their flower vases and some pictures had apparently been thrown around and there was glass all over the place.

There was probably more to be noticed, but Lauren forced herself to look away from the mess as she closed the door behind her. Instead, the young cop turned her eyes to the kitchen, where they met Camila’s, and in no time she was taking her girlfriend into her arms, to which the other girl clung for dear life. Camila’s hold was so tight that Lauren started getting a little out of breath and Jordan was standing right next to them, but she didn’t care.

All she cared about was keeping the woman she loved safe and well, and if Lauren could do it by hugging her as tightly as physically possible, she would.

“Hey, baby.” Lauren muttered into Camila’s hair before leaving a soft kiss there.

Camila didn’t answer, she only squeezed her harder before letting go and pulling back. She kept herself in Lauren’s arm length, holding onto her elbows, but leaned back enough so that their eyes met. Lauren thought they looked drained, as did Camila’s face, and all the green eyed girl wanted to do was engulf her in a hug once again. Lauren was about to do it when she heard someone clearing their throat from the balcony door.

Detective Norman and the CSI guy, whose name Lauren thought was Carl, stood there looking rather uncomfortable. Jordan excused himself in a low voice in that moment and walked over to the door, away from the still embracing couple. No matter how uncomfortable they were, though, Lauren wouldn’t step back. They would just have to forget that they were colleagues for now, because Camila needed her and she wouldn’t let go.

But then Camila herself took a step back, with her head low, and Lauren tried to meet her brown eyes with own inquisitive ones, but her girlfriend just wouldn’t look up. Instead, Camila grabbed her hand, and so Lauren squeezed to show that she would be there, no matter how she was needed or wanted.

“Sorry to interrupt, Jauregui. It’s just that I already asked Camila here everything there was to be asked and was taking a look at the balcony with Carl.” He turned to Camila, who raised her head. “I was gonna stay with you until she got home, but I guess you’re good now, right?”

“Yeah.” Camila spoke for the first time, her voice raspy, like she’d cried a lot already. “Thanks, Detective.”

“No problem.” Norman gave her a small smile before making eye contact with Lauren and walking over to the door, followed closely by Carl, who had never been too much of a talker anyway.

Lauren sighed and let go of Camila’s hand, to which the young actress met her eyes in no time. “Just a second.” She said in what she hoped was a soothing tone.

“Okay.” Camila replied simply with the smallest of smiles.

Lauren kissed Camila’s forehead before walking over to the door, where the three men stood waiting. She opened the door and they got out, Jordan and Carl saying their goodbyes before heading down the stairs, but Norman stopped just outside, so Lauren stayed in the doorway.

“The place is trashed, but nothing seems to have been taken. My guess is either Double J got here before the invader could find anything valuable, or he wasn’t interested in robbing anything at all, and then it would have to be personal. And since you’re a cop, I wouldn’t rule out that second option, but we have no proof of it either.”

Lauren’s head was almost spinning with the information. She wondered for a moment who the fuck was Double J and was about to ask so, but then she remembered that it was the nickname the precinct had given to Jordan and Justin, so she only nodded.

Norman sighed. “Jordan called the station and I asked Camila a few questions as soon as I got here, but she knew almost nothing. Carl couldn’t find anything substantial, no prints, no footprints, hair, nothing. I wouldn’t say that whoever did this was a pro, but they were at least careful. And that’s worrying. Whoever did this came up the fire escape, so I suggest you keep your balcony door well locked from now on, Jauregui.”

Lauren nodded again, her eyes low in shame for being so careless. “Okay, sir.”

“No need for that, kid, you’re making me feel old.” He chuckled lightly. “But be careful, we don’t know if this was meant to intimidate you or what.” Norman added more softly.

Lauren looked up and nodded once again, this time looking into the older man’s eyes. “Yes, si- detective.”

Norman smiled gently. “I’ll take the case, hopefully we’ll find out the culprit quickly.”

“Thank you.” Lauren replied honestly and this time Norman was the one to nod.

“No problem, kid. Take care, Jauregui.” He said before going down the stairs himself instead of waiting for the elevator.

Lauren let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding and closed the door behind her. Her green eyes stared at the floor for a moment before she lifted them once again into the chocolate brown ones she had grown to love so much. And in them, Lauren felt pain.

It physically ached to see Camila in that state, as in, Lauren’s chest felt tight at the sight of her girlfriend still in her party dress with slumped shoulders, messy hair and puffy eyes. Lauren closed the distance between once again and pulled Camila into her arms, all of her memories of their fight gone, all of her anxiety caused by the party long forgotten.

“I’m so sorry, Lauren.” Camila whispered into Lauren’s neck, which made the older girl pull back a little bit.

“What for?” Lauren asked, confused.

“I- I was supposed to lock the balcony door.” Camila’s voice broke and with it, so did Lauren’s heart.

“You have nothing to be sorry about, babe.” Lauren brushed Camila’s hair away from her eyes and gave her a lingering kiss on the forehead. “If anything, I’m the one who should apologize for lashing out at you. If I hadn’t, you wouldn’t have been here when it happened.”

Camila shook her head. “You couldn’t have known.”

“Okay… But neither could you. So, no apologies for both of us then, okay?” Lauren held Camila’s face gently with her hands, ever so slightly holding it in place so as to keep their eyes connected.

“Okay.” Camila muttered after a while.

Lauren smiled softly at her before giving Camila another kiss on the forehead, then one on the bridge of her nose, its tip, on both her cheeks, even her chin, and by the time she reached her girlfriend’s lips, the girl was giggling weakly.

(However weakly, though, it was still a win in Lauren’s book.)

But Camila’s giggling slowed down until it stopped for good with the girl’s eyes focused behind Lauren. The small smile on Camila’s face faltered into nonexistence and, following her gaze, Lauren saw that she was staring at a broken picture frame of the both of them during Christmas.

Lauren felt like she had just been punched in the gut as the memories of that amazing day came rushing back to her.

They hadn’t spent Christmas together. Camila had been with Shawn and their family and Lauren had been with hers. They had been dating for too little time then and although Lauren hadn’t wanted anyone else by her side, Camila didn’t even know her parents at the time.

But they had met on the twenty sixth. They had exchanged gifts and Lauren had opened her box to find a lovely scarf and the beanie that she loved so much. Camila had been terrified, at the time. She had stumbled over her words, saying she had no idea how it had gotten there, that it was a joke gift that she hadn’t meant to give Lauren, all of that.

Lauren had only laughed loudly and kissed Camila with so big a smile she could barely move her lips. Then Lauren had officially asked Camila to be her girlfriend. Even though they had been dating for a little over a month by then, both had been too nervous to actually make the move to officialize their relationship, which had been pretty solid from day one.

(So solid that they didn’t even consider the twenty sixth to be their anniversary, choosing to celebrate on the day of their first date instead.)

Camila had obviously said yes and that had probably been one of the happiest days of their lives, with many, many pictures. Most had been taken right at the moment they had made things official, with Lauren wearing her new beanie and the both of them trying not to freeze on the quiet corner of Central Park they had chosen to meet.

One of those pictures had made it into a picture frame, which was now broken and on the floor, as were many others.

Lauren’s stomach twisted into knots at the sight and it didn’t get any better when she turned back around to find Camila with watery eyes. Her own throat started closing with the lump that had been formed, but she swallowed it once again.

“Come on, baby, let’s go to bed.”

“What about the mess?” Camila asked weakly.

“I’ll deal with it tomorrow.” Lauren moved her hand to squeeze Camila’s and tug on it, but the smaller girl shook her head.

“We’ll deal with it, together.”

Despite everything, Lauren smiled.

They walked in silence to their bedroom, where both girls changed out of their fancy dresses and into their sleeping clothes. Lauren was the first to go into the bathroom and get ready for bed, but soon Camila followed, and not long after they were both in bed, laying on their side, facing each other.

Lauren was stroking Camila’s arm and staring intently into her eyes, waiting to see if the girl would want to open up. Lauren wished she would, since Camila had always been there for her and the green eyed girl wanted to return the favor.

“So.” Camila started. Lauren just snuggled closer to her, wrapping her arms around her girlfriend’s petite waist, and kissed her forehead. “I don’t know what to say.” She chuckled sadly, holding onto Lauren’s shirt tightly.

“You don’t have to say anything you don’t want to, babe, but I’m here for you, just like you are for me.” Lauren replied.

Camila tilted her head up to look into Lauren’s eyes. “I just… I felt so powerless. It was like… After my parents – my biological parents, I mean. After they died and the police told me… I was sleeping over at Shawn’s and they called his parents, asking to come over. They explained it to them before talking to me and they all decided it would be best if Karen and Manuel told me. To comfort me, I guess. And they did. And I didn’t register it, at first. I guess my brain just didn’t want to acknowledge it, I don’t know. But then it hit me and I cried for hours. Like, really. Hours.” Camila made a pause after her voice started breaking and took a trembling breath. Lauren felt her own heart breaking for her and just hugged her tighter. “Well, then I went home and they weren’t there anymore but everything was messed up, just like our place. It was completely trashed and that was when I had my first panic attack. But it wasn’t the o- only on- one.”

It was then that Camila started sobbing. At first Lauren hadn’t even noticed she was crying, but now that she had, Lauren felt her own eyes watering. She sniffled and bent down to kiss Camila’s cheekbones before wiping the tears away with her thumbs.

“It’s okay, baby. You’re okay.” Lauren whispered soothingly.

Camila took a few more moments to breathe and just… be. Lauren figured it was more than fair that she had time to gather herself, so she just held her.

“I had at least one every week for the first month.” Camila began again, somewhat suddenly. “Whenever someone scared me, even with the simplest of things or with no intention at all. Some were worse than others. Most just made me hyperventilate for a while, like, five minutes, while the most serious ones made me feel sick and disorientated while also hyperventilating, of course.” She cleared her throat. “Then I started therapy and eventually it got better. I hadn’t had one in years, but… Yeah.”

“I’m so, so sorry to hear that, Camz. So sorry. You have no idea.” Lauren whispered into her hair, feeling guilt wash over her. Detective Norman had said it could have something to do with her job, after all. Lauren could already hear those small voices on the back of her mind telling her it had been her fault, but she couldn’t let them get to her. She couldn’t, but she still heard the voices and boy, was it hard to not listen to them. “Norman told me that maybe it has something to do with me. Revenge or something. If that’s it, I’m truly sorry, baby.”

“It’s not your fault, Lo. None of this is.” Camila whispered back, but Lauren stayed silent.

Camila would never blame her, but wasn’t the green eyed girl at least somewhat responsible? If the theory was even right, that is. Lauren shook her head and sighed. She needed to clear her head of those thoughts.

“Sleep, princess. Get some rest.” Lauren kissed Camila’s forehead and the brown eyed girl sighed before nodding slightly and cuddling further into her, falling asleep pretty quickly.

Lauren just lay there, stroking Camila’s back, willing sleep to envelop her, but it just wouldn’t come. She could feel Camila’s breathing, as well her slow and steady heartbeat, and there was nothing more soothing than the physical reassurance that the one you love is safe after almost losing them.

Before Lauren could realize, she felt herself drifting off to sleep. Her last thought was about how Camila’s heartbeat worked better than any song. It was a special kind of lullaby.

(Lauren’s lullaby.)

Lauren woke up with the feeling of the sun on her face and groaned quietly. The obnoxious sunlight that would almost always get her out of her peaceful sleep always came around seven if they forgot to close the curtains. And they had, again.

Raising a hand in front of her eyes, Lauren opened them and looked at the girl in her arms. Well, not exactly in her arms, but completely tangled in her. Lauren and Camila were a mess of limbs, but she wouldn’t want it any other way.

(The closer Lauren felt to Camila, the better.)

Lauren brushed some hair away from Camila’s eyes and kissed her forehead lightly before untangling herself and sitting up. She took her phone from the nightstand, confirming that it was indeed just past seven. Lauren rubbed her face lightly. Her whole body hurt a little with physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, but she knew that once she was up, there was no going back.

So Lauren unlocked her phone after noticing the text notifications she had. She smiled fondly at the first ones, that had been sent by Dinah last night.

DJ (9:21 pm): hoep ur patry iz lit lauser cuz ours is!!!!

DJ (10:15 pm): yall be doin soem kinda nsaty shit iif u aint replyng!!!

Lauren chuckled. Typical drunk Dinah Jane texting.

Allycat (00:09 am): happy valentine’s baby girlll! give camila my kissies as well!!

Allycat (00:09 am): cant wait for camila’s reaction tomorrow!!

Allycat (00:09 am): well today lol

Mani (00:10 am): everyone’s texting you idek why i jsut wanted to do it too even tho ur getting some now probably lbr

A frown slowly took the place of Lauren’s smile as she read Ally’s and Normani’s texts, even if the last one made her want to laugh. It would have been a humorless, dry thing, though, since that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Lauren spent a good five minutes trying to come up with something to reply. Normani first.

Lauren (7:22 am): Please don’t make assumptions. ;)

Lauren groaned as she pressed send. That was horrible but hey, she was totally drained, so…

Ally’s sweet text was easier to answer, and she did so way faster.

Lauren (7:23 am): Thanks love, happy valentine’s to you too! I will, don’t worry.

Lauren (7:23 am): I can’t wait either! <3

That wasn’t completely true, though. Lauren had even forgotten about Valentine’s at that point, but now she was getting nervous. If she were being honest, Lauren had no desire to leave her bed after the events of the prior night, but for Camila she would. Her only hope was that her surprise would be enough to make Camila feel better.

Lauren sighed, running a hand through her hair and hoping it would make her confusing thoughts go away with the knots in her dark locks. She turned back to her phone. Having answered Ally and Normani, that left Dinah.

Lauren (7:24 am): Hope you got home safe, lol.

Lauren locked her phone and placed it back on the nightstand before standing up. Her muscles protested as she did so, but she ignored them. Well, not completely, since Lauren decided to take a hot, relaxing shower, to see if she could feel better, but still. Most people would stay in bed, but not Lauren Jauregui, ladies and gentlemen.

Lauren shook her head at herself as she picked up some clothes and walked into the bathroom. Maybe, just maybe, Camila was right and she was a bit of a dork from time to time. She wasn’t nearly as dorky as her girlfriend, though. She was sure of that.

Her shower was completely filled by thoughts of Camila and what would happen today. To say that Lauren was worried about her would be an understatement. To even think about what the smaller brunette must have gone through with the death of her parents and now the invasion, the panic attack… Lauren just wanted to hold her and never let go, but unfortunately she couldn’t.

But Lauren could make her breakfast, and that was exactly what she decided to do after her shower. She went back into their bedroom and walked toward the sleeping figure of her girlfriend. Lauren smiled softly as she gently caressed Camila’s cheek with the back of her fingers. She seemed so peaceful, unlike she had been when Lauren had gotten home the prior night. Lauren wished she could keep her in that blissful state forever.

The green eyed girl wondered if that was what Camila thought about her when she saw her asleep. Lauren wasn’t dumb. She knew Camila wondered about her life, her past, especially about her relationship with her uncle. And Lauren would tell her, eventually. Not now, though. Even if she felt more at ease about the prospect of telling her the more days went by, she didn’t want to overwhelm Camila.

And, honestly, Lauren didn’t want to overwhelm herself. Marcus’s party had mostly sucked, with her anxiety kicking in every half hour and her idiot of an uncle saying his typical idiotic shit. Lauren’s chest ached with the memory, but she willed the pain away.

Now that Lauren had acknowledged that she needed to deal with that problem, she wanted to do it right. She wasn’t interested in pretending to be alright anymore, but also needed to be there for Camila. So Lauren pushed her feelings aside for the time being. She would deal with them, just not right now.

(Camila was her top priority and nothing would change that.)

Lauren let her feet walk her to the living room as she prepared herself for the mess that was bound to look even worse in daylight. But when she got there and looked around, everything seemed perfectly normal. The surprise was so big that Lauren stayed still for almost an entire minute. The living room floor was impeccable, with not a shard of glass in sight. The only things that seemed out of place were the broken picture frames on top of the coffee table with the pictures themselves beside them.

Lauren could only assume that Camila had put everything back in its place and thrown away what couldn’t be saved, like the flower vase that had been shattered. Lauren’s heart ached as she pictured Camila going through that alone, especially since she had been the one to tell the green eyed girl that they’d deal with it together. She wasn’t angry, but she was… sad. She wondered if that was how Camila felt when Lauren insisted that things were her fault or when she wouldn’t share her feelings.

Sighing, Lauren decided to talk to her about it later. Now she had to prepare breakfast.  Lauren’s mind wandered all over the place as she entered the kitchen, too occupied by Camila to think about anything else. She barely noticed what she was doing as she prepared the waffles she knew Camila loved, as well as sliced some bananas and strawberries to put them together in a bowl. Those were mechanic tasks, that didn’t require much attention as long as she wasn’t distracted enough to slice a finger.

Lauren finished adding Nutella to the fruit to make it even better and went back into their bedroom, but Camila was still fast asleep, which was expected. She almost never woke up early and, knowing the distress she had gone through the prior night, Lauren didn’t think she would be up for a while. Besides, if Camila had indeed woken up during the night to clean the living room, then she would sleep in even more.

The raven haired girl washed her hands and picked up her phone from the nightstand once again. It was only eight thirty, so she probably had a lot of alone free time. Not that Lauren wanted to be alone right now, but she wouldn’t wake Camila up. She would let her girlfriend rest for as long as she wanted to.

So Lauren went back to the kitchen and put both the waffle batter and the Nutella fruit salad in the fridge. When Camila woke up, Lauren would finish the waffles so they’d be fresh out and still warm. For now, Lauren would just relax and wait. She thought about waiting in the living room, maybe watching a movie, but ended up deciding against it. The young cop went back to her bedroom and, in jeans and a band t-shirt, snuggled against her girlfriend, being careful not to wake her up.

If Lauren couldn’t sleep herself, she would watch Camila do so, and that was just as good.

Camila’s ringtone pierced through her ears and got to her brain, startling her into waking up. She quickly, though messily, managed to feel around her nightstand for her phone and turn it off. Her eyes darted to the time and Camila wasn’t surprised to find out it was almost noon.

She wasn’t surprised, but still. Ugh.

Her head hurt. Actually, her head was pounding. Camila guessed it had something to do with the terrible night of sleep she’d had. After the nightmare at around two in the morning, Camila had given up on trying to sleep and gone to the living room, to fix its situation. She knew she’d told Lauren they’d do it together, but Camila just couldn’t have continued to lay in bed with the memories of her nightmare swirling through her mind like Dumbledore’s did on his Pensieve.

All the cleaning and tidying up had only made her more tired, though, so when she had crawled back in bed and cuddled into Lauren, she’d fallen asleep pretty quickly. But then Camila had another nightmare two hours later, and by then she had been just pissed.

(At least that one had been easier to forget and she had been just as easily reclaimed by sleep.)

Camila sighed and turned in bed. Lauren was sleeping soundly beside her – and on top of the comforter Camila was still under –, wearing a t-shirt and jeans. The young actress guessed it meant Lauren had gotten up before and gone back to bed and the thought made Camila’s chest get all warm and fuzzy. She was just the cutest thing, laying on her side with her hands curled up under her chin. Camila guessed that meant Lauren was cold, so she got out of bed and used the comforter to cover her, making a Cuban Mexican sandwich. Or a Lauren flavored burrito.

Camila rolled her eyes at herself with a small smirk and went into the bathroom to take a shower, bringing her cellphone with her. She thought the hot water might do her some good, help her relax. Yeah, she had just woken up, but Camila was still tense and on edge from the events of the prior night. The littlest of noises were capable of startling her, which was why she woke up with her phone even though its volume hadn’t been that loud.

Honestly, Camila thought she’d feel worse. She had been pretty shaken up and the headache, the exhaustion and the nightmares were a proof of that, but she was… okay. A little sad, a little down, but okay. Camila didn’t feel empty and scared like she would when she was younger. She didn’t feel like crying for hours and sleeping the day away. She only wanted the pounding in her head to go away and the beating of her heart to slow down alongside that flicker of sadness so that she could enjoy Valentine’s Day with her girlfriend.

The realization made Camila smile. She surely wasn’t that scared eleven year old girl anymore.

Camila was ripped out of her thoughts by her phone vibrating quickly on her hands, remembering her of its existence. She unlocked it to see that she had not one, not two, but twelve texts from Dinah, plus that one call that had woken her up. Camila loved Dinah but Jesus, the girl could get obsessive.

China (10:20 pm): yall aint replhing!!!!! hop e the orgamss are worht it!!!!!!

Camila had to stifle a loud laugh at the text.

China (2:11 am): home i am btu u dont care!!!

China (2:12 am): i wihs i had a valenrine :(((

China (2:12 am): thers liek camren normally even kenoah but o nly dinalone :(()(

Camila found herself pouting at her best friend’s texts. Dinah didn’t usually confess to feeling lonely or anything like that and, by the looks of it, she had been pretty wasted. It made Camila worry, knowing that Dinah had been keeping those feelings to herself. Making a mental note to address it when possible, Camila continued to scroll through their chat.

China (10:18 am): ignore my texts from last night pls

China (10:18 am): the only one i remember sending is the first ugh

China (10:19 am): my head fucking hurts

China (11:06 am): honestly tho where r u losers??

China (11:07 am): lauser texted me at like 7am but hasnt replied lmao

China (11:23 am): is everything okay????

China (11:46 am): damn it mila my headache had been gone but yall not replying made it pound again!!!!

China (11:57 am): okay listen i know you have probably banged all night long and that its valentine’s and all but i just called u and im getting worried so i’ll give you an hour or i’ll call mani or the cops or idk go there.

Camila’s eyebrows raised the more texts she read. To know that Dinah got that worried over a few unanswered texts was endearing, but there was no surprise there. Dinah had always been one of the most caring people Camila had ever met, so it only made sense that she’d worry.

No, what made Camila raise her eyebrows was how well her best friend knew her. Looking back, she shouldn’t be surprised at that, since they’ve grown up and even lived together. But apparently Dinah was aware of Camila’s sleep cycles, her reply frequency, even how much time it usually took her to notice a missed call and return it.

Camila felt guilt spread all over her all of the sudden, but she pushed it away just like her therapist had taught her all those years ago. It wasn’t her fault and so, she couldn’t feel guilty about it.

(Camila would never be able thank her therapist enough, honestly.)

Camila could, however, call Dinah back, and that’s exactly what she did.

“Camila? Thank God!” Dinah said in a low, yet almost frantic, tone. “Where the hell were you, I almost lost my mind over here!”

“Woah woah, slow down!” Camila exclaimed, only to hear Dinah groaning on the other side of the line. “What’s wrong? And what happened to your voice?”

“It doesn’t matter! What happened to y-”

“Dinah!” Camila cut her off loudly.

“Oh my God, Mila, lower your voice would ya?” Dinah exclaimed, a little louder that time. “I have a huge headache from last night and your disappearance. And even if I hadn’t lost my voice a little, I wouldn’t be shouting around.”

Camila immediately felt guilty. “Like you usually do?” She asked in a quiet, playful tone, hoping to make things a little better. It seemed to work since Dinah let out a little chuckle. “Sorry, Cheech.”

“It’s fine.” Camila could practically hear Dinah waving her off in her tone. “Now that we’ve covered that, could you tell me where the hell have you two Cuban asses been?” There was a playful tilt to her voice, but it wasn’t enough that Camila couldn’t feel the worry still there.

“Cuban Mexican, Dinah.” Camila sighed dramatically. “Do you even know me at all?”

Dinah laughed, but her giggling soon turned into a small coughing fit. “Fuck, I hate getting a sore throat. And shut up, I know you better than you know yourself.” Dinah stated, which was probably true. “Which brings us back to the million-dollar question of where have you two Cuban Mexican asses been. Because Lauren gave me a hella vague and just plain rude reply at seven in the morning so I knew you were alive but then she vanished and you still hadn’t given signs of life and I started getting worried when we were nearing noon because you never sleep through noon.”

“Breathe, Dinah!” Camila chuckled as she heard Dinah take a deep breath. “I used to wake up later than noon a lot on weekends during high school though.”

“Seriously? Of all the things I’ve said, this is what you focus on?” Dinah asked, sounding a little annoyed. Camila couldn’t deny that she was trying to delay the inevitable, but she knew Dinah would freak out. The brown eyed girl could already feel her heart beat spiking up at the thought of telling Dinah about what had happened. “Yes, I remember, but you stopped doing that when we started living together and someone had to wake up to make lunch or we’d both starve.”

Camila smiled at the memory and she would bet that, despite the huff Dinah let out, she was smiling too.

“So?” Dinah pressed when Camila didn’t say anything else, making the young actress sigh.

“Okay, but even so, I could’ve had a tiring night.” Camila started.


“Okay, okay, but listen, you gotta promise me you won’t freak out.” Camila started.

“Oh, that ain’t good.” Dinah rasped back worriedly.

“So Lauren and I kinda had a fight last night and I left the party early.”

Camila made a pause. She had completely forgotten that had happened and why. Camila sighed and cursed herself mentally; in her distress she had forgotten about Lauren’s and that had been a crappy thing to do. The Cuban made another mental note to address the subject with Lauren.

“Chanch?” Dinah called, pulling her out of her thoughts. “You good? Did Lauren do something? Do I have to kick her a-” Dinah went into another coughing fit, which made Camila giggle. “D- don’t laugh at me when I’m trying to protect you.”

“Sorry, Dinah. You don’t have to beat Lauren up. It was a fight but we’re good now. We still gotta talk but… You know what? I’m missing the point.” The playful tone left Camila’s voice and there went her heart again, simply because the real subject was approaching. “When I… Well, when I a- arrived. There was a… a man. At our balcony. He had… trespassed. Went up our fire escape. And I had a- a panic attack. A bad one, Dinah. And the place was trashed after I called the cops and they went inside. The invader had already gone away, but… it was messy.” Camila’s breath was a little labored by the time she finished, talking about the subject bringing some of her anxiety back.

“Holy shit!” Dinah exclaimed, her voice full of worry and disbelief.

“Yeah.” Camila answered simply as she controlled her breathing.

“Holy shit, Mila.” Dinah breathed out. “That’s awful! Are you okay? No, of course you aren’t. You haven’t had a panic attack in what, two years? No, three! Fuck, Camila, I’m coming ov-”

“Dinah!” Camila exclaimed, cutting her best friend off. “Please believe me when I say I’m okay. I was at a bad shape yesterday and yeah I had a couple of nightmares and I was a little sad before we started talking but I’m fine.” A silence fell upon them until Camila decided to break it again. “You know I wouldn’t lie to you about this.”

Camila heard Dinah sighing on the other side. “Okay, I believe you. But can I still come over? I’m still worried and it’s not like I have a boyfriend...”

Camila took a deep breath. “I don’t know… Lauren is still asleep, I don’t know if she has something planned.”

“Oh!” Dinah exclaimed before coughing a little more. “Oh, okay. Yeah, okay, you’re right.” She babbled a little nervously, which made Camila suspicious that she knew about something, but she wouldn’t ask.

“We can see each other tomorrow, okay? And we can talk about the fact that you feel lonely and keeps it from me.” Camila added as an afterthought, remembering her mental note number one.

Dinah groaned. “Let’s not. Talk about me, I mean.” She added quickly. “You won’t get away from seeing me tomorrow.”

Camila smiled. “Okay, Cheech. I love you, thank you for caring.”

“You’re okay, I guess. Lucky for you I drunk texted you or this wouldn’t have happened.” Dinah said in a sarcastically condescending tone.

“Shut up, idiot.” Camila giggled.

Dinah laughed as well. “Love you too, Chanch. Stay well, okay? I’m proud of you.” She added in a more serious tone.

“Thank you and will do, promise. See ya later, China.” Camila said, her voice as soft as her smile.

“Bye, Chancho.”

And with that, Dinah hung up. Camila took a deep breath and began undressing, readying herself for her shower.

The strange thing was that the beep that followed the end of the call seemed to start, quite paradoxically, the spreading of this cold feeling in Camila’s chest, like the widening of a hole right on her heart. It was like, the more time went by after finishing her conversation, after being comforted by her best friend’s words, the more that little sadness Camila had felt before grew on her.

Camila sighed, guessing it was loneliness. Not that she was actually alone, but she had been talking to someone for the past minutes and, as much as doing so was always great at cheering her up, sometimes the absence that followed brought Camila right back at the start, at feeling upset.

But she shook it off, or tried to, as she got under the hot steam of water. Camila focused on the funny parts of her conversation with Dinah, which seemed to mostly work, since the girl found herself smiling or even giggling quietly to herself as she took her shower.

By the time Camila had finished, the emptiness she had feared would take over with that little sadness had progressively diminished, and so the young actress willed it away for good thinking about her plans for her night with Lauren. A smile claimed Camila’s face then and the warmth that had been driving out the cold in her chest finally won the battle, making her all fuzzy on the inside.

And even if walking into the living room reminded Camila of bad things and bad feelings, even if she felt her smile wavering and her heart panging right then, even so, she kept moving forward. Her therapist would be proud.

(Lauren would, too, she guessed, even if she hadn’t been there during Camila’s entire journey. She knew Dinah was, at least, and that was more than enough.)

Camila opened the fridge to make them… What? Breakfast, lunch? It was past noon by now and Lauren was still asleep, so Camila imagined her girlfriend hadn’t made lunch plans or reservations. If that was the case, then, well, screw it.

Her choice was proven to be the right one when Camila found some waffle batter and a bowl of fruit salad mixed with Nutella on the fridge. Lauren had probably prepared those before she had fallen asleep again, which was just the sweetest thing. It filled Camila’s stomach with butterflies, but she could also feel said organ growl, and unfortunately the metaphorical insects wouldn’t do much for her hunger, so she decided to finish preparing the waffles herself.

Valentine’s Day was about to – finally –  begin.


Chapter Text


It was almost one in the afternoon by the time Camila finished gathering breakfast -the waffles, more Nutella fruit mix and orange juice - in a tray, ready to surprise her girlfriend in bed. She chuckled to herself at the thought, since half of it had been Lauren’s doing, to surprise her.

Camila was humming quietly to herself, putting the bottle of juice back in the fridge to head to their bedroom, when a loud gasp caught her attention.

“Oh hell no.”

Lauren’s eyes were wide when Camila turned to face her, but they soon went back to normal as her eyebrows knit together and her bottom lip jutted out.

Camila’s first instinct was to laugh at her cuteness, but she stopped herself when Lauren lowered her gaze to the ground. Worry flowed into Camila then, as she questioned if this was really about breakfast or maybe something more serious - maybe about the previous night.

Guilt for wanting to laugh filled Camila at the thought and she rushed forward to embrace her girlfriend.

“Hey, baby, what’s wrong?” She asked in a soothing tone, as she ran her hands through Lauren’s arms.

Said girl’s cheeks were suddenly tinted in red as she raised her eyes only slightly and mumbled something incomprehensible, to which Camila only tilted her head.

Lauren sighed. “I can’t believe I overslept, I wanted to surprise you.”

Camila blinked as realization dawned in on her. Yes, this was about breakfast, thank God. But then again, if it was about that, then Lauren was such a dork. The sweetest dork to ever exist, the love of her life for sure, but still a dork.

“Aww, baby, it’s okay. I loved it so much, you know how much I love waffles!” Camila exclaimed, tucking Lauren’s stray strands of hair behind her ears before resting her hands on her girlfriend’s cheek.

Lauren raised her own hands to place atop Camila’s and tilted her head to the side, kissing her palm lightly. The brown eyed girl couldn’t help the smile that took over her face and the way her stomach erupted with butterflies, which only got worse when Lauren continued speaking.

“I know, that’s why I made them. But I didn’t want to wake you up because you seemed tired when we slept and, well, yesterday was… intense.”

Lauren averted her gaze, like she was afraid to see the effect of her words, but despite the pang on her chest, Camila was okay. She retreated one of her hands from under Lauren’s and took off her glasses, placing them on the counter, before using her index finger to raise her girlfriend’s chin. She leaned in and kissed her sweetly, softly, lovingly, trying to get through everything she was feeling at the moment.

“Hey, Lo.” Camila started once they pulled back, only then opening her eyes to find warm green ones staring back at her. “I know yesterday was shitty and I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been better, but I’m okay. I was really afraid that this would ruin my mood or something like that, but I promise you the only thing on my mind right now is spending Valentine’s Day with my incredible, amazing girlfriend. I don’t wanna dwell on what happened.” Camila finished, honestly.

“Like when I don’t wanna dwell on whatever happened?” Lauren asked with a small smile, surprising Camila, but also making her chest get all warm and fuzzy.

This? This right now? This was so Lauren’s way of admitting, once again, that she had trouble opening up and that she tended to dismiss her own feelings. It made Camila so incredibly proud that Lauren was acknowledging it that her chest warmed up and all she could do was chuckle and kiss her again, the hand on Lauren’s chin travelling down to her waist, through which Camila pulled her closer until their bodies were firmly pressed against each other.

Lauren smiled into Camila’s mouth as the latter captured her bottom lip between her teeth, but before she could deepen it, Camila felt herself smiling as well, which kind of ruined the kiss.

(They tended to do that a lot, she realized.)

Camila just stared at Lauren for a moment until they broke into quiet giggles, still so close that the young actress could count her girlfriend’s eyelashes if she so pleased.

“No, princess, not like that.” Camila finally said. “I let it out with you yesterday and yeah I had like two nightmares,” Lauren frowned and opened her mouth but Camila continued before she could interrupt, “but I’m okay, I swear. It sucked and I was very scared and kinda sad for a while but- I don’t know…” Camila paused and bit her lip as she thought. “It happened, but it’s over and believe me if I was feeling bad I’d say so.” She chuckled lightly. “I feel like this whole thing didn’t fuck me up as much as I thought it would after I had that panic attack. So I just wanna move on and not get caught up in it because if I do, then I’ll get sad, because, well, I’ll remember my parents and… Anyway, I don’t want that, I just wanna make you the happiest girl in the world today.” Camila finished with a bittersweet grin, already feeling the effect of her words. She had made peace with the loss of her parents years ago, but she still missed them.

(She didn’t think she’d ever stop missing them.)

Lauren cupped Camila’s cheek with her hand, stroking her cheekbone with her thumb. Her expressive eyes screamed “I’m sorry”, but there was also something else, something that Camila had caught Lauren staring at her with multiple times by now.

It sounded like three whispered little words, that somehow seemed to be louder than the screams of those green gems. And when Lauren leaned in to kiss her forehead and actually whisper, “I’m sorry, babe”, the intensity of the moment became too much and Camila spoke the first thing that came to her mind at the time.

“Oh, and I’m probably gonna be a little more anxious for some time now, so get used to it.” Camila chuckled, immediately regretting doing go. She was just so dumb and- no. It was Lauren’s fault for looking at her with those freaking eyes and that freaking love and that- wait what? Camila almost audibly groaned, her thoughts weren’t even making sense anymore. That was just the Jauregui effect, she guessed. Or maybe it was what loving someone did to you - screwed up your thoughts, turned your insides into mush. But then again, she would gladly suffer the symptoms of either of those two for the rest of her life, if it meant spending it beside Lauren...

“It’s not funny, Camz, you don’t need to mask any struggle with humor.” The green eyed girl said, surprising Camila once again and bringing her back to the present. Lauren was simply looking at her concerned.

“When did you become so wise?” Camila asked in awe after shaking her head a little, to clear the mess in it just moments ago.

“When you came into my life.” Lauren answered simply, yet effectively ripping any air left on Camila’s lungs and returning her head to the turbulent state it had just gotten out of.

“I love you.”

Just like before, Camila said the first thing that came into her mind, speaking entirely with her heart, that was almost bursting out of her chest. Unlike before, Lauren’s eyes grew wide and Camila’s heart just about skipped a beat or two after realizing what she’d said.

“Oh my God, I-” She started, wide eyed and somewhat panicked, but was quickly cut off by a pair of lips on her own, kissing her the most passionately she had ever been kissed.

Camila was so taken aback by the response that when she realized what was happening and started to kiss back, Lauren was already pulling back, with the biggest grin she had ever seen on her face.

“I love you too, Camz. So much.” Lauren exclaimed, her voice filled with such joy that Camila suddenly felt ten times lighter.

She knew how Lauren felt, obviously, but to hear it from her sober self, to know that she’d remember this moment, made Camila the happiest she had been in what seemed like forever. It was like their home had never been trashed, it was like no fights had ever happened. There was only Lauren, Camila and the love they had for each other.

(She honestly didn’t think she’d be able to feel so intensely about anyone else ever again.)

Beaming, Camila leaned in and kissed Lauren fervently, passionately, filling it with every ounce of the love she felt.

Lauren deepened the kiss almost immediately, her tongue meeting Camila’s heatedly. Camila let out a low moan when Lauren sucked on her tongue, squeezing her girlfriend’s hip with her hand under her shirt, already feeling the effects of their making out throughout her body.

Lauren, in return, moved one of her hands to the back of Camila’s neck, pulling on the hair there and breaking the kiss to leave a trail of open mouthed ones on the younger girl’s neck.  Camila closed her eyes then, her mouth slightly open as she pulled Lauren closer.

Camila couldn’t help the moan that came out of her when Lauren sucked on the soft skin of her pulse point, always having been the more vocal of the two. She took the opportunity to move both her hands to Lauren’s ass, squeezing it in such a way that it was her turn to groan, the vibration on Camila’s neck making her body jerk forward without her even meaning it to.

Lauren then lifted her head to suck on the spot under Camila’s ear, which always drove her crazy, but the sensation seemed to be multiplied when Lauren let go of it to whisper a soft, “I love you”, in her ear.

Camila only groaned before grabbing Lauren’s face and kissing her senseless on the spot. It was a mess of lips and tongues and by the time Lauren took hold of Camila’s shirt to lift it over her head, the younger girl didn’t let her, sucking on her bottom lip as she grabbed both of her girlfriend’s wrists. She pulled on Lauren’s lip until she heard the girl whine. Then, and only then, Camila let go of her, pulling back with a devilish grin and heavy breaths.

“I love you too.” Camila said, her hands grabbing Lauren’s shirt and pushing her into walking backwards all the way to their bedroom. “And I’m gonna show you just how much.”

Lauren only complied, falling onto the bed when her thighs hit the mattress. Her eyes were darkened and full of lust, her labored breathing only making the throbbing between Camila’s legs intensify. She lifted her shirt over her head, throwing it on the floor and revealing her bare chest as she climbed on the bed, straddling a flustered Lauren.

“Kiss me.” She demanded in a husky voice, Lauren rising to comply at the same time that she held onto Camila’s waist and pushed them both further up the bed.

The kiss was slow, sensual, and even though Camila’s breathing was slowly evening out, her heart was only beating faster, just along the throbbing in her center. She grabbed Lauren’s shirt since it wasn’t fair that she was the only one half naked there and her girlfriend immediately lifted her arms to help her. Her shirt fell somewhere on the floor, revealing her also bare chest, which, bless.

Instead of resuming their previous actions, though, Camila pushed Lauren on her back and unbuttoned her girlfriend’s jeans, the girl raising her butt off the bed to help her take it off and kicking it off the bed. Camila changed her position to straddle Lauren’s leg and dove down, resting her weight on her elbows as Lauren helped her out of her little shorts, which quickly fell alongside the pair of jeans. Now only in their underwear, Camila took a moment to just look at Lauren. She was so, so beautiful, inside and out. She couldn’t believe she was lucky enough to be the one to love her, to kiss her, to claim her as her own.

With that in mind, Camila took Lauren’s lips in her own, deepening the kiss right away. Lauren let out a soft moan when she sucked on her bottom lip, but it was when Camila’s fingers began dancing around her already hardening nipples that a gasp left Lauren’s mouth. Her fists closed around Camila’s hair once again and her hips jerked forward when Camila suddenly began rolling her nipple on her fingers.

“Camz…” She moaned into Camila’s mouth, just as the girl left it to kiss her way down Lauren’s jaw.

She began with light kisses, but as Camila reached Lauren’s neck, they became open mouthed ones, frequently followed by biting and sucking. Camila went up again to the spot just below Lauren’s ear and sucked there, making the older girl dig her nails on her scalp, which in turn made Camila gasp into Lauren’s ear. The older girl’s reaction was instantaneous, her hips rising once again.

Camila smirked as she raised herself a little to find Lauren with her hair wild around her, pupils dilated and mouth open. She then started kissing Lauren’s collarbone, down to the center of her chest, never once breaking eye contact. Camila could see Lauren was getting impatient when she got to her left breast, especially with the way their bodies were sliding against each other, but she continued to tease her, until she felt her girlfriend whining beneath her. Chuckling, Camila finally took Lauren’s nipple on her mouth, enjoying how her girlfriend’s eyes fluttered close and the sounds she let out at that.

Camila was still massaging Lauren’s left breast as she rolled her nipple between her fingers, so she used her other hand to take off Lauren’s panties, the older girl helping her by suddenly jerking her hips up again, just as Camila bit down on her nipple and groaned from the contact.

“Fuck, Lo, you’re so wet.” She husked, lifting her head just long enough to look into the girl’s eyes before moving her mouth to the side of her breast and sucking there.

“I-” Lauren started, but Camila didn’t let her finish by taking her lips in hers again just as she ran her fingers through her soaked folds, enjoying the moan her girlfriend let out into her mouth.

“What was that?” Camila asked after pulling back, just to watch Lauren try and speak before beginning to play with the girl’s bundle of nerves. Lauren couldn’t get a word out then, just some loud moans as her nails left a trail down Camila’s back.

Groaning herself, Camila took that as her cue to return her attention to Lauren’s nipple, sucking on it before biting down and leaving it just as quickly to kiss her way further down, all the way to Lauren’s hipbones, where she bit down hard, all of Lauren’s whining driving her insane, before placing a gentle kiss and sucking just above where she had bit her.

“Fuck, Camz, please.”

Lauren’s pleading elicited a new energy in Camila, that left Lauren’s clit and raised her thigh above her shoulder, positioning herself so as to replace her fingers with her mouth. When her tongue stroked her bundle of nerves, Lauren’s nails dug into her back all the way up to her neck, where she held onto Camila’s hair and pushed her, or tried to push her, where she needed her.

But Camila wouldn’t give in that easily.

“Oh my God, f- fuck,” was all Lauren managed to say when Camila closed her mouth around her clit, sucking harshly.

Lauren’s hips were bucking wildly by now, but Camila pushed her back down with one hand, that she quickly used to roam her girlfriend’s body, as the other one was running through Lauren’s wet folds, teasing her just around her entrance.

“Ca- Camila I swear to God, I-” Lauren cut herself off with a guttural groan as Camila suddenly entered her with two fingers at a time, deep and hard. Her moans only made the aching in Camila’s own center get worse, but she didn’t stop, bringing them back out and in again, fucking her deep, hard and slow.

Camila let out a groan herself just by feeling Lauren’s hips thrusting into her fingers and her walls constricting as her hands pulled hard on her hair. Lauren moaned even louder at the vibration Camila sent through her clit and, by the time Camila started picking up her pace, she could tell her girlfriend was close. When Camila curled up her fingers inside of Lauren and heard her let out a string of curses, just as her walls constricted impossibly tight and her legs, her entire body, started shaking, she knew Lauren had reached her peak.

Camila lifted her body, bringing her lips back to kiss Lauren’s gently as she helped her girlfriend ride out her orgasm. Camila took her time with their kiss, waiting until Lauren’s breathing calmed down. She barely had time to say or do anything else, though, since before she knew it, Lauren was deepening the kiss and raising her thigh in between Camila’s, making her gasp.

“Your turn, babe.” Lauren husked, the devilish look in her eyes and the tone of her voice sending shivers down Camila’s spine.

"I hope our neighbors aren't home."

Camila giggled at Lauren's comment, spreading a fuzzy feeling across her chest. Lauren couldn't help herself when she saw Camila biting her lip and slightly shaking her head, so she leaned closer and gave her a chaste kiss.

"This isn't my old apartment, Lo, they wouldn't have heard us." Camila replied, beaming at her.

"You sure about that, babe? I was pretty loud the second time." Lauren chuckled, her cheeks growing red with her own observation.

Camila giggled again and was the one to close the gap between them to kiss Lauren this time. They were both still in bed, laying on their sides, with the sheets above them. That had probably been one of the best times they'd been together, if not the best. Lauren wondered if it had something to do with the "I love you"s they had exchanged before, during and after having sex. Probably yes, if all of her skipped heartbeats and the fluttering in her stomach were any indication.

After all, Lauren had long learned the difference between having sex and making love, but after today she felt like the concept might have just gained a whole different meaning to her. Or maybe she just understood it on a deeper level now. Either way, Lauren could only hope that Camila would never stop loving her, because she surely wouldn't, and she didn't think there would ever be anyone else that managed to make her feel like that.

God, she was a sappy mess today.

(But then again, who could blame her?)

“Well, I did take extra good care of you today ‘cause you know… I love you.” Camila grinned as she spoke, running her hand up and down Lauren’s arm. “So much.” She added, kissing her once again.

Lauren hummed and smiled against Camila’s mouth before breaking their kiss. “I love you too.”

Lauren didn’t think she’d ever get tired of saying it. Her day might not have started according to the plan, but it was turning out to be way better than expected and so she didn’t mind that she didn’t say those three little words for the first time the perfectly arranged way she had wanted to. If Lauren were to be honest, she liked how it had turned out even more. It had come out naturally and, just like almost everything in their relationship, it had felt right despite being short of what others may call perfect.

They spent the next few minutes in silence, just looking at each other. Eventually Camila’s eyelids started to drop, but her hands kept stroking Lauren’s arms as the older girl watched her. It was no wonder that Camila was sleepy after all of their… activity, so to speak; besides, she also hadn’t slept until one in the afternoon like Lauren.

With a dopey smile on her face, Lauren tried to pull Camila closer to her, but the girl’s eyes shot open at the touch. She shook her head, making Lauren frown in confusion.

“No snuggling or I’ll sleep and I can’t sleep all day on Valentine’s Day.” Camila explained quickly, noticing the hurt expression that Lauren was beginning to show.

Lauren smiled in relief, chuckling at her girlfriend. “You can, though.”

Camila honest to God pouted like a five year old and Lauren just had to wipe it off her face with a sweet kiss. When she pulled back, Camila was grinning again.

“I can’t, though.” Camila mocked, making Lauren laugh.

“Shut up, I don’t sound like that.” Lauren complained, pretending to be annoyed, but she didn’t stop smiling. She felt like she physically couldn’t.

“You do.” Camila giggled. “Seriously though, I know I didn’t sleep all that much but I wanna spend as much time as possible with you today, I don’t wanna waste time sleeping.”

Lauren’s grin finally faded a bit at the brown eyed girl’s words. “Your nightmares?” She asked, concerned.

“Yeah…” Camila replied quietly, her face also falling at the topic. “The first one was pretty bad, it was about the day I got the news about my parents, you know? I couldn’t sleep for a while after it.”

“Was that when you cleaned the living room?” Lauren asked, trying not to be upset at her girlfriend for putting herself through it alone when they had agreed to do it together.

Camila frowned, seeming concerned and somewhat guilty. “Yes. I know I was the one to say we should do it together, but Lo, I really couldn’t sleep, I needed to do something. It was around two and I guess my brain was too foggy that I thought it would be a good idea. I’m sorry.”

Lauren sighed and kissed Camila’s forehead, cupping the girl’s cheek with her hand afterwards. Camila stopped stroking her arm and raised her hand through it until it reached Lauren’s.

“You don’t need to apologize, Camz. It’s okay.” Lauren assured her softly. “I wish you hadn’t done it, but it’s fine.”

Camila nodded and turned her face to kiss Lauren’s palm lightly, making her smile softly, though she feeling was a little bit sad now.

The beginning of the afternoon had felt like a whole different universe, where there were no uncles or parties or break ins.  She had practically forgotten about all of their problems. Unfortunately, at some point reality would have to come knocking back, but Lauren had hoped it would be later.

Still, it didn’t have to mean that their day was over. Lauren had felt so shitty earlier, all she had wanted to do was lay in bed, but then she’d had the most pleasant surprise, that changed her mood drastically. For that hour or so, she had been the happiest girl in the world, and even though their current topic of conversation made her feel a little bit sad, if she could get better from how she was feeling before, then she could do it again.

After all, it was like Camila had said earlier, she didn’t want to dwell on it. She wanted to have a happy day. What Lauren was beginning to realize was that in order to really do so, she had to acknowledge what was making it a sad day in the first place, she had to allow herself to heal before rushing to move on.

“But was it?” Lauren asked.

She watched as Camila turned back from nuzzling her nose on the young cop’s palm in the cutest way possible. The girl had a confused expression on her face, which made her even cuter, like a lost puppy. Lauren was so overwhelmed by the adorableness that she leaned in to kiss her nose quickly but Camila only crinkled it. Honestly, would she ever stop being cute? Giggling, Lauren shook her head and gave up, deciding to elaborate since Camila still seemed confused despite the soft smile on her face.

“A good idea, I mean.”

“Oh.” Camila said simply, getting more serious. “Well, yes and no. It was good because I dealt with my feelings head on, I think it was the main reason I woke up better this morning. I cried it out, thought about stuff, let myself feel it all, I guess. But it also sucked. I was exhausted afterwards.”

Lauren only nodded and brought their intertwined hands to kiss Camila’s lovingly, guilt creeping up in her once again. “I’m sorry too.”

Camila frowned. “Lauren, we’ve talked about this, it’s not your fault. Even if it was some guy’s revenge against you for being a cop.”

Lauren nodded and averted her gaze to their hands. She knew that, she did, but she still felt guilty. She still heard the voices in her head telling her that if she hadn’t chosen such a risky profession, her girlfriend wouldn’t have had to go through this kind of trauma again.

“If anything, it’s probably like my great grandpa’s fault of whatever. It’s like my family’s cursed.” Camila muttered rather darkly while looking down, getting Lauren’s attention in a heartbeat.

“Don’t say that, don’t even think that. That’s not true, Camz.” Lauren was the one to frown this time, raising Camila’s head by the chin to make her look her in the eye. They stayed in silence for a while, just looking at each other, before Lauren sighed and pulled the brown eyed girl closer. “I love you.”

Camila let herself be pulled into Lauren this time, nuzzling her face in the crook of Lauren’s neck and resting the hand the green eyed girl had been holding on her waist. She started running it up and down softly, sending shivers down Lauren’s spine, as the older girl ran her hands through Camila’s hair.

“I love you too.” Camila whispered, her lips grazing Lauren’s neck as she spoke.

Lauren smiled affectionately, leaving a kiss on Camila’s forehead. They settled into another comfortable silence and after a while Lauren would’ve thought Camila had fallen asleep if it weren’t for her hand still stroking her waist. As they lay there, Lauren’s mind started to wander and she couldn’t help but think about what Camila had said about her family being cursed. She obviously didn’t believe that, but it was strange that both her parents and now her had had their home invaded…

“What about you, baby? How are you feeling?” Camila asked quietly, breaking Lauren’s line of thought.

Lauren tilted her head down, confused, while Camila tilted hers up. Their eyes met and Camila had nothing but love and genuine concern in them.

“What about me? I’m okay.” Lauren replied.

“But you weren’t yesterday.” Camila started, as realization dawned on Lauren. “During the party and before our, um, our fight.”

Lauren noticed the shift in the air instantly, turning the atmosphere just the kind of awkward it never was between them. Camila didn’t stop her hand on Lauren’s waist, though, so after the older Latina’s initial shock, she resumed her ministrations on Camila’s hair as well. That seemed to make the air less tense and Lauren felt her body slowly relax again as she stared ahead of her. With everything that had happened, their fight had been swept to the corner of Lauren’s mind and she could guess it had been the same with Camila.

“I was worried about you, you know. Really worried, even on the way home. And I realized earlier today that I kinda ignored everything that happened with you because of what happened with me, but that was inattentive of me and like… Well, I’m sorry.” Camila blurted out nervously after Lauren didn’t reply.

“Camz.” Lauren chuckled lightly, but it felt a little forced, even to her own ears. “You always babble when you’re nervous.”

“Well, I am. I’m also sorry for storming out last night.” Camila continued, guilt written all over her features.

“No, look, seriously, it’s okay. I practically sent you away and I was being difficult, you had every right to be mad.” Lauren acknowledged.

“Yeah, but if I hadn’t let my temper get the best of me maybe none of it would’ve happened.” Camila countered, but Lauren was already shaking her head.

“We are both to blame, we both had a part in it.”

Camila looked down for a moment before she met Lauren’s eyes again. “Forgive me for my part in it, then?”

Lauren smiled warmly in response. “Of course, princess. Would you forgive me?”

“You don’t even have to ask.” Camila smiled before kissing Lauren softly. When she pulled back, though, she seemed worried. “But you didn’t answer my question: how are you?”

Lauren sighed, feeling uneasy at their topic of conversation. She wasn’t ready to have this talk, not yet, and she didn’t want to ruin their Valentine’s Day.

(Besides, that would be one hell of a long talk and Lauren was starting to get hungry.)

“I’m fine now. I wasn’t when I woke up, though. I was feeling kinda meh and I was really tired but the only thing I wanted to do was make your day better, even if I wanted to spend mine curled up in a ball. But then you made it all better, I couldn’t be feeling lighter than I am now.” Lauren smiled warmly at Camila, who mirrored her expression. “I also wasn’t okay yesterday. I didn’t lie to you about anything though.” Lauren quickly explained herself. “I told you I didn’t wanna go, just not how much. I didn’t want to burden you with it. Sorry.”

Camila moved her hand from Lauren’s waist to her cheek and caressed it gently. “We say sorry way too much.” She said in a playful tone.

Lauren let out a shaky chuckle at that. She had been expecting something deep and serious, but that was much better.

“Well your star sign is Pisces and mine is Cancer so what else did you expect, honestly?” Lauren joked, earning a low giggle and a peck on the lips from her girlfriend.

“You don’t have to apologize, Lo.” Camila said, her face becoming serious once again. “I just… It’s kinda frustrating to see you hurting and not be able to help because I don’t know why you’re hurting in the first place. It’s frustrating to try to figure it out, especially when you hide what you’re feeling. I just wanna be there for you.” Camila shared.

Lauren took a deep breath, knowing that Camila had a point. She had never thought about it from that angle, always thinking it would be better for her loved ones if they just didn’t know of her struggles, but what Camila had said made a lot of sense. Lauren slid back down so that they could face each other without having to tilt their heads and immediately cupped Camila’s cheek.

“I know. I mean, I do now.” Lauren paused, realizing that Camila might take that the wrong way. “About it being frustrating, not that you want to be there for me. That I’ve always known. God, I’m saying everything wrong.” Camila didn’t seem mad, she actually seemed a little amused, so Lauren took that as a good sign to continue. “I just… I’m not ready, Camz. I wanna share my heart and my life with you, but I can’t share all of my head just yet. It’s hard, for me. But I wanna let you in, I’m trying to. God knows I am.”

Lauren met Camila’s eyes and her breath caught in her throat. In them, she saw what she could only describe as adoration and the thought alone made her heart beat ten times quicker than it already was due to their conversation.

“Sometimes I thought you didn’t trust me.” Camila shared, seeming ashamed but with the look of adoration still plastered on her face. Lauren began shaking her head but the young actress cut her off before she could even start speaking. “Like you, I now know that I thought wrong. I also hadn’t taken into consideration that you may feel like that, like, I didn’t think you did. I guess what we needed was just a good talk.” She chuckled while shaking her head. “Take your time, Lauren, take as long as you need. I love you and I’m not going anywhere.”

Lauren was so touched that she felt her throat start to close at her girlfriend’s words. She didn’t trust her voice all the much in the moment, though, so she just leaned forward and kissed Camila passionately.

That is, until her stomach growled and totally ruined their moment, making both of them erupt in laughter.

“I guess you could say I’m kinda hungry.” Lauren joked.

“Funny thing, considering you just ate.” Camila threw back with a glint of mischief in her eyes.

Lauren gaped at her. “You have no boundaries.” She stated fondly before letting out a small chuckle.

“Boundaries are boring. Badasses don’t have boundaries.” Camila said in a deep voice, making Lauren laugh loudly.

“Babe, please. Everyone knows I’m the badass in our relationship.” Lauren affirmed confidently. She was a cop, after all, and she had like five different black jackets.

“Whatever makes you sleep at night, princess.”

“Certainly not you, then.” Lauren smirked at her comeback, her grin getting even bigger when Camila went from wide eyed to hysterical, physically leaning forward from laughter.

“Look who’s learning!” Camila exclaimed once her laughter subsided.

Lauren pushed her off herself, also laughing, and sat up on the bed, letting the sheet fall on her lap. She didn’t fail to notice how Camila’s eyes instantly travelled to her chest, smirking at the suddenly dazed expression on her girlfriend’s eyes.

“Well,” she started, trying to get Camila’s attention, “when your close circle of friends includes Dinah and Normani you gotta keep up.”

Camila giggled, before going from laying down to standing up in one swift move. It was Lauren’s turn to shamelessly stare at her body, especially her incredible ass.

“True.” Camila said simply, smirking. Lauren wanted to slap herself for falling for her revenge, but she also didn’t mind one bit that she had, so she just got up as well. “Come on, Lo, let’s eat breakfast naked at two thirty in the afternoon.”

Lauren shook her head fondly. “There’s a first for everything, I guess.”

Camila’s grin only grew bigger at that. “Speak for yourself.”

Lauren gaped at her girlfriend as she walked past her seeming proud of herself. Then Camila turned around and winked at her before disappearing out their bedroom door, which seemed to take Lauren out of her trance. She shook her head again and followed Camila into the kitchen, thanking every god she could think of for bringing the girl into her life.

Even with the unpredicted start of day that Camila and Lauren had had, Lauren’s plan was still running smoothly. And by that, she meant the unplanned part of her plan, which was just do whatever they felt like doing until seven p.m., when they would go out like the actual plan suggested.

(She’d leave out the big thought out “I love you”, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t say it a thousand times.)

What Camila and Lauren felt like doing was pretty much nothing. Correction: not nothing. They had eaten breakfast, taken a shower together even though Camila had taken one earlier - for the planet of course -, gone out to buy ice cream in the store right beside their apartment and then come back home because despite the actually nice weather they’d had in the beginning of February, it was back to bring fucking cold and Camila had insisted she should’ve been born somewhere warm, like Miami.

So they had gone home and watched the first episode of Game of Thrones since Lauren had finally managed to convince Camila that it was a good show. A little bloody for Valentine’s Day, maybe, but they weren’t feeling like watching any romcoms and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was too long to rewatch if they were to follow the schedule.

(They had to, at some point.)

The episode had made Camila pouty until Lauren smothered her with kisses all over her face, that had turned the young actress into a giggling mess. After Camila managed to roll on top of Lauren to stop her “attack”, they had lazily kissed the afternoon away, cuddling and talking about the littlest of things, but also the biggest of things, everything in between and some more.

Like if the universe was infinite, or if life had a meaning, but if it had, maybe it was happiness, and maybe they had fulfilled their purpose. But maybe they hadn’t, that is, if life had no meaning, because meaning is a matter of perspective and like Lauren had put it, if everything was about perspective, a bug may think it lives a hundred years even though male ants usually live for only a few weeks. Camila had then said that if they had been born ants, she’d want to spend those weeks with Lauren, but the green eyed girl had only laughed, because that made no sense, knowing ants, and so she had explained it to Camila, who had dozed off during the middle of her lecture and woken up a second or two later asking about a zombie ants and if they would be the bringers of the apocalypse.

All in all, a great afternoon.

But as five thirty hit the clock, Lauren had gotten up and said they had to start getting ready, but that it didn’t have to be anything too much, just a little more than the casual outfits they had been wearing. After Lauren had finished, Camila had expelled her from their bedroom, so the older Latina was now waiting in the living room, scrolling through Instagram to pass time.

But then Camila walked out of their bedroom and into the living room and Lauren’s breath caught in her throat from how beautiful her girlfriend looked in her casual yet elegant dress. She got up and laughed a little, the scene reminding her of the previous day, even though the roles were reversed.

“What are you laughing about?” Camila asked softly, eyes sparkling.

Lauren just shook her head. “Nothing. I’m just in love with the most beautiful girl in the world.” She said, grinning.

Camila blushed, but in no time she was beaming and had that playful tilt in her lips.

“You a mind reader or something? I was gonna say the same about you.” Camila said smoothly before winking.

Lauren laughed again at that before kissing her softly and taking her hand.

“Let’s go, otherwise we’ll be late.”

Camila just nodded and they made their way into the car, but when Lauren was about to turn on the engine, the young actress said she had forgotten her phone and ran up to the elevator to go and get it. Lauren waited patiently for her to come back, seizing the opportunity to check her texts. Ally and Normani had replied with respectively a heart and a middle finger emoji, which made her laugh. Not knowing what to say, she decided to send a quick text to her group chat with Dinah, Normani and Ally, the one she had tried to leave after planning her anniversary with Camila.

(She had then found out that there was no such thing as leaving a group chat Dinah was in.)

Lauren (6:35 pm): Everything is going as planned. <3

Lauren (6:35 pm): Also happy Valentine’s Mani and Ally!

DJ (6:35 pm): gee thanks lauser :)))

Lauren laughed loudly at her response.

Lauren (6:36 pm): An INCREDIBLE Valentine’s to you, DJ. :D

DJ (6:36 pm): yeah yeah whatvs im just dreading the day we add mila to this and im the 5th wheel FOREVER!!!

Lauren (6:36 pm): Like, tomorrow, lol.

DJ (6:36 pm): rip me!!!! cause of death camren operations central ;(((

Mani (6:36 pm): can yall kindly stfu my phone’s buzzing just scared the shit outta us

Lauren chuckled again at that, feeling kinda bad for her friends.

Lauren (6:37 pm): Sorryyy!

DJ (6:37 pm): well since you asked so kindly!! :D :D :D

DJ (6:37 pm): yo mani watcha doin thats got you 2 so jumpy??? ;))

Lauren (6:37): No Chill 101 taught by Professor Dinah Jane.

DJ (6:38 pm): go baxk to ur gilfriend lauser!!!!

Mani (6:38 pm): i swear to god

Lauren blocked her phone after Normani’s last message, laughing loudly while also dreading sticking around to see what happened next. She didn’t have much time to think about it, though, since Camila came back down only a minute or so later, apologizing for the hundredth time.

“Don’t worry about it, babe.” Lauren said, giving Camila a peck before driving out of the garage.

The drive was mostly silent, the soft music from 1975’s first album on Lauren’s stereo helping her calm down. The last day and a half had been so intense, so full of ups and downs, that she couldn’t believe that she was actually going on her Valentine’s Day date, that she was actually happy despite everything that had happened.

(If life had a meaning, it had to be this.)

Lauren parked the car with her stomach bubbling in nerves. She looked expectantly to her side finding Camila as confused as Lauren thought she would be. The girl looked at her with furrowed brows but Lauren only giggled and held her hand up to kiss it softly.

“Lo… What are we doing in Ally’s coffee shop?”

Lauren only grinned and shook her head, opening her door and quickly going over to the other side to open Camila’s. Said girl took Lauren’s hand and climbed out of the car, smiling despite the confusion still evident on her face. Lauren locked the car with the hand that wasn’t holding Camila’s and started to guide her to the coffee shop.

“You see,” Lauren started, “this was the place we had our first actual conversation. One that didn’t include any noise complaints, that is.” She giggled and Camila followed her. “I thought it’d be fitting if we had our date here.”

They came to a stop right in front of the shop’s door, Camila with a soft, loving smile on her face, Lauren with her insides twisting and turning from excitement and anticipation. Camila squeezed Lauren’s hand with one of her own while the other cupped the green eyed girl’s cheek and gave her a sweet, gentle kiss. When their lips parted, Lauren stayed with her eyes closed and a small smile on her face for a moment, until she heard Camila giggling and felt heat rise to her cheeks.

Lauren opened her eyes to find her girlfriend beaming at her, making her heart jump in her chest. Laughing a little bit herself and willing the redness in her cheeks away, Lauren fished into her purse and got out the keys to the place, which she had borrowed from Ally on Friday. Camila’s eyes shone with understanding as the young cop unlocked the door and opened it for Camila, the girl letting go of Lauren’s hand to go through it.

“Thank you, baby.” Camila said while Lauren locked the door behind her.

“No problem.” Lauren answered, turning the lights on and leaving her purse at the first table she could find. “So, okay. Pick a table and sit down.”

Camila turned to face her. “Just like that?”

“Yeah.” Lauren smiled. “Any table at all.”

Camila smiled as well and picked one in the center of the coffee shop, resting her purse on it. Lauren nodded and started to close the curtains at each window. They had always been there only as adornments and had always been opened, but Ally had given Lauren the green light to close them if she so pleased, and that was exactly what she was doing. Lauren did value her privacy, after all.

Camila watched her in silence and Lauren couldn’t help but wonder what she was thinking. She hoped the smaller Latina wouldn’t find all of this weird or anything like that, but only worrying about it made Lauren’s face burn up. Oh, God, what if she hated it? What if she thought it was too cheesy and-

“Why are you flustered, Lo?” Camila’s voice broke the comfortable silence between them.

“Flustered?” Lauren repeated, unaware that apparently she was blushing once again. “Nothing.” She quickly mumbled, embarrassed, making Camila giggle again. “Why do you enjoy seeing me flustered?”

“You’re cute when you’re flustered. Badass, tough Lauren Jauregui, being all soft and pink. I love it.” The whole thing had only made Lauren blush harder, so Camila got up from her seat and threw her arms around the older girl’s neck. “I love you.”

Lauren grinned this time. “Love you too, babe.” She captured her girlfriend’s bottom lip between her own, starting what would become a long, passionate kiss that would leave both of them breathless. When they parted, Lauren couldn’t help but give Camila another peck. “Now go sit back down, I’m not done.”

Camila nodded and did as she was told while Lauren ran to the back of the shop, gathering the few candles Ally had stored there for her. She then came back and arranged them around the table Camila had picked, leaving the girl in awe. Smiling proudly to herself and a little ashamed of her previous insecurities, Lauren told Camila to wait just a little bit longer and rushed to the kitchen. Now came the hardest part, the food. The young cop opened the refrigerator and took out everything she’d need, from the pasta to the sauce to the already chopped vegetables. She rushed into work and the first pause she got, approximately ten minutes later, she ran back to their table, where Camila sat with a content expression.

“Hey, Camz, sorry to keep you waiting, it will all make sense in a while.” Lauren breathed out, suddenly worried again. This time, it wasn’t about being afraid that Camila would hate it, but about the very real chance that she was bored while she waited alone.

But Camila smiled, easing her worries. “It’s cool, don’t worry.”

Lauren breathed in relief, pecking Camila’s lips quickly before running back to the kitchen. She finished cooking and arranged the meal in what she supposed was an elegant way on the plates and then the plates on a big tray.

With a huge smile making her face as bright as she felt, Lauren made her way back to the front of the café, watching Camila suddenly grin as the food approached. Then she giggled, blessing Lauren’s ears with what she could only call music.

“I feel like I’m on an episode of MasterChef.” Camila joked as Lauren set down the tray on the counter of the coffee shop.

“Well don’t be as harsh as those judges and we’ll be fine.” Lauren shot back, making Camila chuckle.

The green eyed girl placed their plates on their table and went back for the cutlery and a lighter. Lauren set their forks and knives by their plates and lit all the candles she had arranged earlier. Then, she dimmed the artificial light a little bit, leaving the room in almost only the light of the candles. Finally, Lauren sat down herself, only then noticing the expectant expression on Camila’s face.

“Okay, I guess I should explain.” She chuckled when Camila nodded enthusiastically. “Ally always closes on noon on Valentine’s Day, so I asked her if I could use the place and she agreed instantly. Then, I convinced her main cook to work an extra hour to leave the food like halfway through, so we wouldn’t waste that much time when we got here. Stuff like chopping vegetables. At first he didn’t want to do it, but then he was like ‘I’m single and in need of cash so whatever’.” Lauren chuckled again, recalling the moment. “I even got Dinah to make sure you wouldn’t make any reservations until I asked you out.”

Recognition flashed through Camila’s eyes and she even opened her mouth a little before closing it again in a small smile, shaking her head fondly.

“That’s why Dinah was so sure you’d make plans! I knew she sounded a little too sure. Plus, she was super sketchy this morning as soon as I mentioned plans.” Lauren’s face fell into a frown and Camila chuckled. “No, don’t worry, she didn’t spoil anything. I honestly never would’ve guessed.”

Lauren let the frown fall from her face and sighed in relief. “I’m glad to hear that, would’ve sucked if she’d let it spill.”

“I dunno how you managed to keep her mouth shut though, she can’t keep a secret to save her life.” Camila rolled her eyes fondly, starting to cut and eat her food.

“She can when it’s to help me with surprise dates.” Lauren smirked and did the same as Camila. “Just like in our anniversary.”

“True, must be something in your Jauregui hypnotizing eyes.” Camila giggled and Lauren followed suit.

“Nah, I’m pretty sure it’s to blackmail me into not arresting her if it ever comes to that.” Lauren shrugged, still smirking.

Camila laughed out loud. “Dinah may be huge, but she’s harmless. I mean, she has a gigantic heart in which she fits us, her five hundred relatives and the kids she teaches dance to. There’s no room for crime.”

“There is for pranks, though.” Lauren laughed just as Camila was taking her first bite, which made the girl laugh quietly, with her mouth closed.

Camila chewed and swallowed, but her face went from amusement to awe as she did so, and when she opened her mouth, it wasn’t to talk about Dinah.

“God, Lo, you’re such a good cook!” Camila practically moaned before taking another bite. “This is delicious.” She said around a mouthful of food.

Lauren blushed, the smirk she had been wearing turning into a shy smile. “Thanks, babe.”

“And you’re the sweetest, too. I love all of it. Seriously, I couldn’t have asked for a better Valentine’s Day. Wait, let me rephrase that. I couldn’t have asked for a better girlfriend. I love you.” Camila exclaimed, her voice suddenly thick with emotion.

“I love you too, Camz, I’m the one that couldn’t have asked for a better girlfriend.” Lauren replied, feeling a lump form in her throat from the sudden emotional charge of the conversation.

Camila grinned. “You’re amazing.”

“That’s my line.” Lauren chuckled, clearing her throat afterwards, though she knew that not to be true.

Camila chuckled as well. “It’s our line by now.” She said, but after a moment of what looked like contemplation, she stood up and leaned across the table to give Lauren a quick kiss. “I got you a gift.” She whispered against Lauren’s lips before sitting back down.

Lauren smiled as Camila opened her purse. But when Camila took out two tickets for The 1975’s concert in June, Lauren completely lost her shit.

“Oh my God! I can’t believe this! How- how did you know I wanted to go?!” Lauren exclaimed, feeling overwhelmed by excitement.

“Are you kidding me? We literally drove here listening to them.” Camila chuckled and Lauren giggled in glee.

It was her turn to get up and kiss Camila passionately, holding her face and stroking her cheeks while doing so. They were both smiling so much into it that she had to break it to giggle, but Lauren wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

“Thank you so, so much, I love it!” Lauren exclaimed, voice full with glee.

“You don’t have to thank me, princess.” Camila replied cheerily.

Lauren sat back down at that and immediately started to look through her purse, still on a high from the incredible present she had received.

“Maybe not.” She said. “But I wanted to. And I’ve got something for you too!’

Lauren finally found the little black box she’d been looking for, watching Camila gasp as she saw it. Her own heart thundered in her chest as she realized what Camila had probably thought it meant. Coughing, Lauren offered it to her girlfriend.

“Open the box.” She said, gently.

Camila did as she was told and her eyes immediately softened. She looked up from the box with a warm smile, a necklace with a pendant of the sun and the moon kissing hanging on her hand.

“Lauren… It’s beautiful.” Camila breathed out, choked up once more.

“You can open it too.” Lauren laughed quietly in response.

Camila did what she was told and opened the pendant by its middle, separating the sun and the moon to reveal a small photograph on the inside. She seemed even more touched at the discovery and for a moment Lauren thought she was going to cry, from the way her eyes shone and her lip trembled.

“I know the sun and the moon was your parents’ thing,” Lauren started, “but I remember that you once told me that the whole story behind it, the one they used to tell you about the sun and the moon being impossible lovers, made you sad. And that they told you that the story had a happy ending because your parents made it work, but then they unfortunately passed away and that just made the story seem all the more real, and you went back to finding it sad.” Lauren stopped to breathe and found Camila with tear stained cheeks, which shook her immensely. But she had to keep going.  “Well, I mean, I don’t, uh, hope to invalidate your parents or their story, no, but I was hoping that you could find another happy ending for the story of the sun and the moon. With us.” Lauren made another pause to stare at Camila, who was still sitting down, speechless and crying, but with a small smile on her face, and felt the urge to continue. “This would be the part of the night where I told you I loved you, but we already covered that.” She laughed nervously.

Camila only stood up and rounded the table, pushing Lauren’s chair a little backwards so she could sit on her lap, straddling her. She then held onto Lauren’s face with her free hand and ever so softly kissed her, her love transpiring on the way she moved her lips.

“I love you so much.” Camila said once she pulled back. She rested her forehead against Lauren’s, who could only breathe in her scent and try to control the thunderstorm inside of her. “This is the best, most thoughtful thing anyone has ever gotten me. Thank you so, so much.”

“I love you too and you don’t have to thank me.” Lauren replied, imitating Camila’s words from earlier.

The smaller Latina let out a shaky chuckle and Lauren raised her hands to clean her girlfriend’s damp cheeks with her thumbs. Camila kissed her again, more quickly this time, before she got up and turned around for Lauren to put the necklace on her neck. Then, Camila flashed her the brightest smile Lauren had ever seen and went back to her seat, taking the green eyed girl’s hand as soon as she sat down.

“This is the best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had, Lo. And it’s all thanks to you.” Camila said, making Lauren get choked up as well.

“Mine too, babes. I don’t think it’s got much to do with what we did, though. If it wasn’t for you earlier today I wouldn’t have wanted to get out of bed.” Lauren shared.

“But then we would have missed this incredible dinner and that would be just a crime.” Camila joked, lighting up the air.

Lauren chuckled. “A dinner that’s going cold, as usual.” She said, making Camila laugh loudly.

“Our dinner always goes cold when we have dates. Wonder why.” Camila mocked as she squeezed Lauren’s hand.

“No idea.” Lauren laughed and Camila followed suit. “It just makes everything perfect, I guess.”

“It’s already perfect because you made it, Lo.” Camila said softly.

Lauren grinned and didn’t answer, choosing to start eating again instead of trusting her mouth.

For a day that had begun so awfully, Valentine’s was proving to be the happiest day of her life.

Lauren added Babes to the conversation.

Babes (9:21 pm): can’t believe u had this chat without me smh

DJ (9:21 pm): ah shit seriously im gonna be the fifth wheel forever kill me!!!!

Babes (9:21 pm): lauren is telling you to chill cheechee

DJ (9:22 pm): you tell her to chill!!!!

Mani (9:22 pm): dear god can yall get off the group chat!!

DJ (9:22 pm): F I N E

Babes (9:23 pm): hahahahahahah chill dinah

DJ (9:23 pm): B Y E

Babes named the conversation “OT5” at 9:25 pm.

Lauren and Camila got home a few hours later, after cleaning up together at Ally’s, even though Lauren had tried to do it all by herself.

As soon as the green eyed girl unlocked the door, feeling giddy and distracted, Camila cursed by her side.

“What?” Lauren turned to her, her eyebrows scrunching in curiosity and concern.

“I forgot my phone on the car, I left it there somewhere after changing the name of the group chat.” Camila sighed, looking frustrated with herself. “It’s the second time I forget the damn thing today.”

“It’s fine babe, I’ll get it. Go ahead.” Lauren said, her features already relaxed.

Camila smiled and gave Lauren a peck on the lips. “Thanks, Lo.”

Lauren only nodded smiling herself and turned around. She heard the front door shut as she entered the elevator and hummed quietly to herself as it went down. When it got to the garage, Lauren walked back to the car and opened it, immediately finding Camila’s phone on its cup holder. Shaking her head fondly, she got it and locked the car again as she walked back to the elevator. When she was about to press its button, though, her own phone vibrated and she got it from her purse.

DJ (9:37 pm): hey lauser how is mila doing?

Lauren furrowed her eyebrows. For Dinah to be texting seriously, she could only mean one thing by that. Lauren thought about her question. Camila had seemed fine, more than fine actually, throughout the entire day. They’d had a lot of fun, in lots of ways, and the happiness she’d seen shining in Camila’s eyes during the day couldn’t be faked.

Lauren (9:39 pm): She’s fine, don’t worry Dinah. We had an amazing day. :)

DJ (9:39 pm): good to kno, i was worried when we talked earlier yknow

Lauren smiled affectionately at the text.

Lauren (9:40 pm): Yeah, I know. You’re a great friend, DJ, thanks for asking.

DJ (9:40 pm): pls girl i know!!! ur welcome laur, u can go back to your cheesy shit now ;))

Lauren chuckled. That’s the Dinah she was used to talking through texts.

Lauren (9:40 pm): Lmao fine. See ya later DJ.

DJ (9:41 pm): go lauren go!!!

Lauren huffed and shook her head before putting her phone back in her purse and pressing the elevator’s button. As she waited for it and when she got on, her mind went back to the state her apartment had been the previous day, causing a pang on her chest. She’d have to buy some new picture frames and maybe change the balcony’s door, since its glass was easily breakable. Lauren had never thought she would need a heavier door, but now that someone might be out to get her… She needed to protect Camila, her girlfriend had gone through too much already. Two home invasions… that couldn’t be easy. And what were the odds...

Lauren’s thoughts were suddenly interrupted when she opened her front door and, instead of being met with the usual bright light, she found herself in her living room lit by a few candles. Her eyebrows shot up in surprise, which only got bigger when she noticed the trail of rose petals spread on the floor going through the living room into the hallway.

Lauren felt her stomach flutter and her lips immediately formed a grin. She closed the door behind her, locking it quickly, and left her purse and Camila’s phone on the small table beside it.

“Camz?” She called, her voice an octave higher than usual.

“In here.” Camila called back, sounding a little breathless and effectively sending shivers down Lauren’s spine.

Lauren stepped out of her heels and walked slowly to their bedroom, her breath catching in her throat when she reached the doorway.

Like the living room, their bedroom was full of candles and the bed was full of more rose petals, creating a beautiful scenery. But what really caught Lauren’s attention was Camila, in red lacy underwear to match the color of the petals, sitting on the bed and leaning back with her hands supporting her weight while one of her legs was crossed neatly over the other.

“What… How? When did you… What?” Lauren stuttered, her mind long turned into jelly.

“You’re not the only one who can set up a surprise.” Camila chuckled happily. Somehow, instead of breaking the sensual façade she had put on, Lauren only felt her desire grow.

“But… how?” Lauren asked again, her smile growing into a - unapologetically thirsty - smirk as she walked forward.

“I forgot my phone up here earlier and Dinah was supposed to distract you while I set up the candles and the roses, but you even started a conversation, which was perfect.” Camila grinned as Lauren got close enough to touch her, but as she tried, the younger girl held her wrist, uncrossed her legs and stood up. “Then I forgot my phone again and Dinah had to text you to distract you while I lit up the candles.” Camila husked, her voice low, before she started kissing Lauren’s neck.

“Damn... We- we really need t- to thank Dinah.” Lauren chuckled, but it was a low, nervous thing.

Camila only hummed against her neck, almost making her shiver. Then, Camila pulled back with that sexy little smirk of hers and turned them around. She started to help Lauren get rid of her dress and hungrily eyed her once she was done. All the while, the older Latina’s breathing only got more erratic. But-

“How did she know when to text me this second time, though, if you didn’t have your phone?” Lauren asked.

“Notebook. Facebook.” Camila replied simply before pushing Lauren on the bed.

The green eyed girl gulped. No talking, then. Not that she minded, of course.

“I work tomorrow, babe.” Lauren smirked.

(She didn’t mind it at all, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t mess around a little bit.)

“Only in the afternoon.” Camila stated quickly as she climbed on top of Lauren and went back to kissing her neck lightly

“But I’ve- I’ve gotta be well rested, y’know? It’s a demanding jo-”

“Shut the fuck up, Lauren.” Camila growled by her ear, making Lauren’s smirk grow impossibly as she felt her body’s response to her girlfriend’s tone.

“As you wish, love. As you wish.”


Chapter Text

Camila woke up with the ringing of her phone. Again. Honestly, all she wanted to do was have a good night of sleep at this point.

(But then again, it wasn’t the caller’s fault that she and Lauren had fallen asleep so late. Or maybe so early in the morning. Whatever.)

Groaning, she blindly reached for the phone on her nightstand, feeling around until she found it. She was seriously considering not ever taking it off silent mode again when she looked at the caller ID and frowned.

Camila stood up and ran to the bathroom, picking up as soon as the door was closed. Luckily Lauren was a heavy sleeper and hadn’t woken up from the noise.

“Morning, Hiro, what’s up? What time is it?” Camila asked her agent in her still raspy, just-woke-up voice.

“Good morning, Camila. It’s just past seven, but I-” He started.

“Seven? Seriously, Hiro? This couldn’t wait ‘till like ten?” Camila interrupted, running a hand through her face.

“No, actually it couldn’t. Come by the office and I’ll explain it all. But listen, come as soon as you can okay?” Before Camila could even say okay, he hung up.

Hiro’s urgent tone managed to wake Camila up a little bit. She realized he didn’t sound very pleased and decided it would be better to just go and check out what the hell was going on. Sighing, she left her phone on the bathroom’s sink counter before going back to her bedroom and picking out some clothes to wear.

Camila kissed Lauren’s forehead softly and grabbed some paper in her nightstand to leave a note for her girlfriend explaining her sudden absence. Then she went back into the bathroom, yawning as she got into the shower.

It seemed like it would be a long day.

Camila pushed up her glasses as she yawned again. Her legs had already been aching from the lack of sleep, but now that she had ridden her bike to Hiro’s office, all she wanted to do was collapse in one of his comfortable armchairs.

With only one day left of the play, her agent had been searching for new roles for her, while simultaneously looking out for indications of The Times of Her Life being picked up for a longer season. Camila didn’t think either of those options was a reasonable motive to wake her up so early, so Hiro would hear a mouthful from her if it wasn’t anything more serious.

(But then again, either of those options would also make her day, so maybe she could leave the complaining for another time.)

Camila chained her bike to the bike rack of the commercial building’s nearest parking lot and walked to it, her mind wandering as she did so. She wrapped her arms around herself and rubbed her sides, trying to warm herself. Before she knew it, she was being let into the building and going up the elevator. Camila knocked lightly on the door, which was almost immediately opened by his assistant.

“Good morning, Miss Cabello.” The young woman, Ariana, greeted her, smirking.

“Hallo.” Camila smiled, suppressing a chuckle when she realized she had picked up the greeting from Lauren. “How many times have I told you to call me Camila, Miss Grande?”

“About as many as I have told you to call me Ariana.” The assistant chuckled, stepping back to allow Camila into the office and making her laugh as well. “Come on in, Mila, Hiro looks pissed. Wouldn’t want to keep him waiting.”

Camila sighed, but her smile never wavered. “Can’t wait.”

Ariana laughed as Camila stepped inside, striding quickly through the reception room that she had come to know so well over the last week and a half. Getting Shawn’s agent to be her own as well had probably been one of Camila’s smartest career choices, since the guy was simply awesome. But Hiro could also be an enormous headache and she guessed today was one of those days.

Camila knocked on the door, hearing a muffled, “come in,” as soon as she did so. Opening the door, she faced what was probably the grumpiest version of Hiro she had ever seen, so she only gulped and sat down at the huge armchair in front of his desk.

(Truth be told, it didn’t seem so inviting now.)

“What’s up, Hiro?” Camila tried to be nonchalant about it, as if calling her at seven in the morning was no big deal.

“What’s up?” Hiro scoffed before dropping a magazine on his desk, the noise startling Camila. “You know what I learned today? Three facts about you: you’re a lesbian, you’re in a relationship with Lauren Jauregui and you’re a fake activist, apparently.”

Camila’s heartbeat instantly sped up as her mouth hung open. “W- what?”

“At least that’s what this fine gossip magazine told me this morning when I went to the newsstand to get my newspaper. Imagine my surprise when I found your name on the corner of the cover.” Hiro’s frown grew even bigger. “Imagine my surprise when I got to the office and found your name on multiple gossip websites. I mean don’t get me wrong, attention is attention and I’ve found you online before because of the play, obviously, but our first cover is something like coming out story meets controversial activism and it’s not exactly what I had in mind for you. Care to explain?”

“I- I…” Camila was completely speechless. “Do you- do you have a problem with that?” She stuttered, saying the only thing she could focus on at the time.

Hiro raised his eyebrows. “With your sexuality? Not at all, but society might. I’m not saying you had to hide that you’re gay forever, but coming out right now could damage your career, which just started ascending.”

“I’m bisexual.” Camila blurted out without much thought, her heart thundering inside her chest.

Hiro stared at her blankly before sighing and running a hand through his face. “Look, I didn’t mean to overwhelm or scare you, which I clearly have. Just… I’ll get you a glass of water and we’ll talk more, okay?”

Camila just nodded, so Hiro stood up and went outside to do as he’d said he would. He could have just asked Ariana to get them water, which meant he probably wanted to give her room to breathe.

And so Camila did. She took deep, long breaths, trying to wrap her mind around what Hiro had told her. Being an actress, she expected to read articles about her life in the future. Hell, she had been thrilled to give an interview and get recognition for her work, so the fact that she was receiving attention wasn’t in itself the problem. Besides, knowing the event she had attended, Camila had already thought about the possibility of something being said about her or the fact that she was seen with the Jaureguis, and she hadn’t been opposed to the idea.

But Camila hadn’t expected to be already placed in a relationship with Lauren, nor did she think her sexuality would come up so soon. Most of all, though, she surely didn’t expect any controversial activism, as Hiro had put it.

Camila glanced at the magazine on the desk as she thought and it seemed to be taunting her, daring her to grab it. Not one for waiting, that was exactly what Camila did.

Lauren Jauregui’s new girlfriend? Who exactly is Camila Cabello?

Okay then.

Camila took a deep breath and opened the magazine, searching through the pages until she found the one dedicated to both her and Lauren. Before she could start reading, though, Hiro came back with two glasses of water and handed her one.

“Don’t bother reading that. Not now, anyway. The first part is about Lauren, her connection to her uncle and her past relationships. The final bit is about you, it says you’re an actress, it mentions your play and then the interview you and Shawn did. My favorite part is when they say you claim to be an environmental activist but attended to Jauregui’s fundraiser, which obviously means you’re fake and an attention seeker.” Hiro says sarcastically, making Camila gasp in surprise and concern. “Not with those exact words, but it’s basically what they mean.”

“But… I’m new. I mean, why am I on the cover? This is my first somewhat big play.” Camila gulped, still shocked.

“Oh darling, you may be new, but Lauren certainly isn’t.” Hiro stated, looking at her apologetically for the first time.

“But she isn’t famous!” Camila shot back, feeling her mind starting to work again.

“Marcus Jauregui is, though. She and the rest of her family keep to themselves, so they come and go in the gossip world. Mostly because there’s nothing to say about the actual CEO, so these magazines target them when something important has happened. Like the fundraiser.” Hiro gave Camila a minute to digest everything.

What he was saying wasn’t exactly new to her, but she hadn’t thought it would affect her that much. Camila hadn’t thought magazines would keep record of Lauren’s relationships and present her as her girlfriend on their first public apparition together.

“Is this why they’re saying we’re together even though all we did was arrive together? I did see some press inside, but they were focused on Marcus, not on us, not that I had noticed.” Camila said.

Hiro nodded. “Yes. This, and because Lauren is proudly out. Anyway, I found the original gossip website talking about you, the others all follow its base. They all talk about your arrival and the fact that you left close to one another, both seeming distressed. The magazine talks about that too, by the way. Forgot to mention it. Most have variations of the same picture on the arrival and the exact same of you wide eyed when you left.” He paused to type something on his computer, turning the screen for her to see. Camila grimaced at the picture he showed her. She really did seem overwhelmed and even a bit scared. Hiro sighed again. “Yeah. The arrival was a surprise because the Jaureguis had always arrived in one car before. The fact that you two came in a different one became sort of a big deal because of it. The sites don’t mention the activism thing, maybe they don’t know about it. Or didn’t know, since the articles all date to Friday. I only found out about them now because of the magazine, which was why I looked you up on Google. But I’d expect more on the internet now, because this fine piece,” he mockingly said as he held up the magazine, “went into more detail about the fact that Jauregui Mining Corp is involved in some scandals and linked that with your interview to make you look bad. Which, honestly, it is a little fishy.”

Camila scowled at that. “I don’t like Marcus or his stupid company, I was there to support my girlfriend, who has nothing to do with it.”

“You know that, Camila, but they don’t.” Hiro scowled as well, his lips a thin line. “Which is why you need to tell them.” Camila tilted her head, confused, so Hiro went on. “I’m gonna book you another interview for you to clear things up and text you the details. And please watch your moves from now on. Let’s hope all this attention doesn’t get in the way of the negotiations for the play to have an extended season.”

Camila gasped again. “It’s being seriously considered?” Despite the mess inside her head and the turmoil of emotions she was feeling, surprise and excitement were the ones that stood out the most.

Hiro couldn’t help but smile tiredly. “Yes.”

Camila smiled as well, but it soon faded as the other thing her agent had said was registered.

“Wait… You think there’s a chance it won’t get picked up because I’m supposedly on a relationship with a girl?” She asked, fidgeting on the spot.

For her relief, Hiro shook his head. “Not really, no. I was being a little dramatic back there, I’ll admit to it. We have a lot of non-straight people in the industry, Camila, so the thing isn’t that you’re bisexual, the thing is how you came out or, well, how they pushed you out of the closet, and the attention that’s coming your way because of this activism mess plus the fact that it’s Lauren Jauregui that you’re dating. But no, even if the people who the director’s negotiating with are homophobic, even if it makes it harder for them to accept you or if they get a little uneasy or worried about a minor scandal right on your first bigger job, some of them will like this attention. And the ones that won’t like it will probably have more reasons to book you than not. But it would still be best if you cleared the air and kept a low profile until the paps back off from Lauren.”

Camila listened closely to every single word her agent said, trying to learn from his experience. Being twenty years older than she was, Camila knew she could learn a lot from him. She trusted Hiro, so she only nodded, accepting his orientations, and reached up to hold the pendant of her new necklace on some kind of reflex. It gave Camila some kind of comfort, she guessed.

Hiro nodded as well, sighing in relief with a small smile. “Truth be told, I’m surprised no one took pictures of you on Valentine’s.”

Camila smiled a little as well. “Well, Lauren’s a very private person.”

Hiro really smiled now, taking a sip from his water. “Thank God for that. Let’s keep it that way for now, okay?”

Camila only chuckled and nodded again.

Camila (9:13 am): can you believe hiro woke me up at 7? cuz i cant

Shawn (9:13 am): lmao why dude

Camila (9:13 am): google me up lol its wild

Shawn (9:17 am): jfc mila what the fuck

Camila (9:20 am): sorry i was talking to ari, she sends a hug btw

Camila (9:20 am): but i knowww i’m still overwhelmed by it tbh, i’m gonna have to show it all to lauren and she’s not gonna like it lol she hates paps

Shawn (9:20 am): send her my hug as well

Shawn (9:20 am): lmao good luck with that

Camila (9:21 am): thanks shawn lol

Shawn (9:21 am): no problem sis, wanna grab lunch?

Camila (9:21 am): can’t, im having lunch with Lo. i can drop by ur house to play fifa later?

Shawn (9:21 am): sure! harry’s tagging along tho, i had plans with him already but he was asking about you so im sure he wont mind changinf it up a bit

Camila (9:22 am): yesss i miss him! everybody’s been so busy lately, i think i havent seen harry since the play’s premiere

Shawn (9:22 am): its a date then! ;)

Camila (9:22 am): ew shawn why u know i have a gf


The first thing Camila did when she opened the door to her apartment was check her phone. It had just buzzed in her pocket and she hadn’t even closed the door when she grabbed it, thinking it may be Hiro already with the details about her interview.

Lolo <3 (9:57 am): Just woke up and saw your little note, but I miss your face. I’ll be waiting for you at home. Love you, xo. <3

Camila felt butterflies erupt in her stomach from just reading Lauren’s text. The smile on her face couldn’t possibly get bigger either and even though her morning had been all kinds of messy, Camila felt her heart pounding and for once she didn’t mind it.

She closed the door, biting her lip while the simple “love you” came into her vision time and time again. Yes, Camila had written “I love you” on her note as well, but she would never get tired of hearing - or reading - Lauren say it. Camila just loved it, she loved her.

“Honey, I’m home!” Camila shouted in a mockingly deep voice.

“Hey, babe!” Lauren called back from somewhere down the hall, probably their bedroom.

Camila heard her chuckling as she walked there. Lauren was sitting on their bed in only a t-shirt, her hair as messy as ever and with a sleepy smile on her face.

“What you laughing about there, huh?” Camila teased, giggling.

“I just sent you a text.” Lauren replied, her voice still raspy from having just woken up.

“I saw it. And then I teleported here because my Lolo missed me.” Camila deadpanned, making Lauren erupt in laughter.

“Dork.” Lauren stood up but when Camila leaned in to give her a kiss, the older girl turned her face.

“I still haven’t brushed my teeth.” She said.

Camila groaned and rolled her eyes. “This again?”

Lauren only chuckled and held Camila by the waist, pulling her closer and into a kiss. Camila’s heart skipped a beat in surprise and she eagerly kissed her back.

“I was just joking.” Lauren said after they pulled back, smirking at her. “I’m gonna brush them now though, stay put.”

“You and your perfect teeth.” Camila joked, hearing Lauren laughing from the bathroom.

“Well, everyone’s got their thing, miss planet friendly.” Lauren replied, making Camila’s smile fade at once.

Oh well.

“Yeah, about that, we gotta talk about something. Are you gonna have breakfast or skip straight to lunch?” Camila asked, fidgeting as she took off her shoes and sat down on their bed.

Camila heard Lauren finishing up in the bathroom and a moment later she walked out of it with furrowed eyebrows in a contemplative expression.

“Hmm, I think I’m gonna eat a little something so I don’t starve ‘till noon, but nothing much so I get hungry then.” Lauren answered. “What do you wanna talk about?”

Camila shook her head with a smile and stood up, throwing her arms around Lauren’s neck. “Go take a shower while I make you breakfast and we’ll talk then. Toast?”

Lauren nodded and gave her a peck. “Sure, thanks.”

“No problem.” Camila kissed her again before letting go. “I love you.”

Lauren beamed. “Love you too.”

There it was again. The fucking butterflies. Not that she minded them. Quite on the contrary, Camila loved it when Lauren had such an effect on her that she had physical reactions.

(Which was like, almost always.)

Camila walked to the kitchen to make Lauren some toast and coffee like she liked to have in the morning, sitting down on one of the kitchen counter stools when she was done. She sighed and ran a hand through her hair, thinking of how to start the conversation. “Listen, I know you hate to have your privacy disrespected but like, we’re gonna get more attention now than before”, didn’t sound like a good idea in Camila’s head.

Lauren came into the kitchen shortly after with damp hair and casual clothes. She would change into her uniform at the precinct, so they still had a while before they had to have lunch and Lauren had to rush to work. She usually had breakfast earlier, but given the… intense weekend they’d had, it was only natural that Lauren had taken longer to wake up.

Camila felt a pang in her chest then, her eyes catching the photographs without frames on the corner of the counter. The young actress had had to throw some things away, and she would have to go shopping some time soon to replace what had been damaged. Only thinking about that sent chills down her spine and Camila fought the sudden need to shiver as she remembered her panic attack.

“You okay there, babe?” Lauren asked, bringing her back to the present.

Camila shook her head quickly with a smile. “Yeah, sorry, just zoned out a little.”

“What’s on your mind?” Lauren kissed her forehead softly in thanks and sat beside her, starting to eat her toast.

“Just remembering that we’re gonna have to do some shopping.” Camila chuckled humorlessly, nodding toward the photographs.

Lauren looked at them and her face fell, filling with concern, which made Camila feel guilty for disturbing her good mood. The green eyed girl looked back at her and smiled softly.

“Well, then we’ll buy stuff twice as good as we used to have to make up for it.” Camila smiled as well at that. “What matters is that you’re okay.” Lauren continued.

“And that you’re okay too.” Camila added, making Lauren tilt her head. Something flashed in her eyes and Camila was about to ask what it was, but Lauren just looked down and up again with a big smile.

“Right.” Lauren sipped on her coffee and Camila decided to let it go, smiling back. “So, what did you wanna talk about?”

Camila fidgeted at that, cringing internally. “Well, Hiro called me earlier today and wanted me to go to his office, that’s why I was up so early in the first place.” Lauren nodded, already aware of this since Camila had said so in her note. “And, uh, I’m in another magazine!” She blurted out, making Lauren smile.

“That’s great, babe! What did they say about the play? Good things, I hope?” Lauren exclaimed excitedly, but her smile faltered when she noticed that Camila wasn’t all that happy. “What’s wrong? They didn’t like it?”

“I mean… I don’t know.” Camila shrugged, averting her gaze. When she looked back up, Lauren was frowning. “They didn’t really mention the play, um, not like you’re thinking anyway.” Lauren nodded, still seeming confused, so Camila sighed and continued. “Okay, so, the thing is I was featured on a gossip magazine and you were too and they know we’re dating and they called me a fake activist for going to your uncle’s fundraiser which made me pissed and there’s pics of us on the internet as well, like, arriving together and then leaving apart and it’s got to do with us using a second car and your family being targeted by the gossip world when something’s up ‘cause apparently your uncle’s boring as fuck.” Camila finished with a deep breath, a little breathless after her rant.

Lauren blinked once. Twice. Her frown was gone, but she seemed lost. Camila started to get concerned when she hadn’t said anything even after her breathing had evened out and was about to say something when Lauren shifted in her seat, resting her coffee mug and sitting straight.

Here it comes.

“Well that fucking sucks.” Lauren breathed out, leaving Camila a little shocked at her calmness. “Fake activist, though? Really? Where the fuck did that one come from?”

Camila furrowed her eyebrows and opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again, Lauren’s reaction confusing her more than anything else. She’d thought her girlfriend would be nervous or anxious about people making money out of her private life, but she just seemed… annoyed.

“Hmm, it, uh, came from my interview, remember? They… painted me as a crazy activist.” Camila answered, her voice lower and calmer now. But that didn’t stop her eye roll or how choked up she felt as she voiced her thoughts. “I can’t seem to look good with the press, it’s like whatever I do goes wrong.” She coughed and tried to swallow the lump in her throat.

“Hey, no, Camz, don’t think like that.” Lauren said, her eyes understanding and apologetic as she reached out to cover one of Camila’s hands with her own, while her other brought the coffee mug back up. “Paps are crazy, these magazines and websites are crazy, they make up all kinds of shit to get attention.”

“Ironic, since they called me an attention seeker.” Camila let out a breathy chuckle, refusing to let herself cry now that she’d spilled everything to Lauren. Who was still confusingly calm.

Lauren smiled softly, caressing the back of Camila’s hand with her thumb. “I know how it feels, you should’ve seen the stuff they called me when I came out. Well, I’ve been out to my family for a long time, but like, when they caught me making out with Keana during college. Next thing I knew we had an event to attend and they were all up in my face about it. Keana and I had already broken up by then but they were really highkey so I lost my temper and went ‘I’m gay, now fuck off’.” Lauren chuckled at the memory, making Camila giggle quietly as well.

“Why are you so calm about this? I thought you’d freak out.” Camila finally asked, making Lauren sigh.

“I’ve had some time to get used to it.” Lauren shrugged. “I mean, I might laugh about this kind of stuff now, but it surely wasn’t funny then. I was angry for like two weeks and I had to change my phone number because it got leaked and the amount of texts I got was ridiculous. I don’t like that my life is sometimes put under the microscope and that some people keep track of me. But I had to get used to it. After my coming out, I decided to stop giving a shit.” Camila supposed the look she gave Lauren was pretty incredulous because Lauren chuckled and shook her head. “Okay, I haven’t been exactly not giving a shit, but before that I’d legit freak out. I’d get panicked when I felt too crowded sometimes and I’d go on rants online and anyway, it wasn’t pretty. But after that, while I still get pretty anxious around paps or on red carpets and while I hate that they keep trying to get info about my life from time to time, I’ve learned to accept it and let it go. If this was like three years ago, I would be fuming right now, probably writing something on my notes to post on twitter.” Camila chuckled again and Lauren smiled squeezing her hand. “But now, while I’m not happy about all of this and while, believe me, I’m annoyed that apparently we cannot get a fucking break,” Lauren huffed, “I’m not flipping tables because of them anymore.”

Camila nodded, taking a moment to let it all sink in. “I guess I’d expected differently because of how you were before the party.”

Lauren’s face contorted into an uncomfortable frown then, the green eyed girl taking a sip of her coffee as if to postpone the subject.

“That’s different. Like I said, I still hate red carpets and that kind of party, they make me anxious because I know that people will crowd me and try to take pics, that kind of stuff. But we’re home now. There’s no one around but you.” Lauren explained. “I also get more anxious before that kind of event because I know that there’s a chance of this kind of shit being pulled afterwards. Like, most of the time it’s just harmless pictures, but I’ve grown warier of red carpets ever since, y’know, ‘I’m gay, fuck off’.” Lauren finished with a deeper voice, making Camila laugh.

The young actress nodded, still smiling gently. What Lauren had said made sense and she guessed she should’ve expected it from someone who’s had so much experience with this kind of thing.

“Yeah, I get it.” Camila turned her hand and laced their fingers together. “I’m sorry they’ll probably be pestering you more from now on though.”

Lauren shook her head lightly. “It’s fine. If anything, I should be the one apologizing. If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t have been in the fundraiser in the first place. Sorry.” She finished, with guilt written all over her face.

It was Camila’s time to shake her head. “Don’t apologize, princess, it’s not your fault, I agreed to go. Besides, I’m an actress, I expected to show up on magazines at some point, I just didn’t see it coming now and, uh, the way it did and what they said. Like, I expected it to be because of me, not you.”

Lauren looked hurt when she said that and Camila’s eyes widened, realizing that she might have taken it the wrong way.

“No, baby, sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.” Camila blurted out guiltily, but Lauren still seemed a little upset even after nodding, so the smaller Latina continued, averting her gaze to the floor. “I didn’t mean that I’m opposed to being seen with you or the press knowing about our relationship, I just meant that I wish my first few articles weren’t about my love life or my sexuality, like, I wish it wasn’t because I’m dating you, who is already kinda famous, but because I’m being recognized for my work. Basically what I meant was that I wish I wasn’t being noticed because of my personal life, but because of the play. I’m sorry if what I said before came out wrong.”

Camila bit her lip as she heard Lauren sighing, but then she felt a couple of warm fingers touching her chin so as to lift her gaze. Her eyes met with soft green ones and the small smile on Lauren’s face made Camila sure she’d been understood. The brown eyed girl sighed in relief, the last thing she wanted was to upset her girlfriend.

(If it were up to her, Lauren would never be upset ever again.)

“It’s okay, Camz. I just misunderstood you, it’s completely reasonable that you feel this way, I’d feel like that too. Sorry that I made you ramble.” Lauren smiled and Camila mirrored her expression.

“Us and our endless apologies.” Camila muttered, making Lauren laugh.

“Yeah, we should probably stop.” Lauren said, taking a last sip of her coffee, her toast long eaten.

“I really am sorry that you’re gonna have to deal with more attention now, though.” Camila stated again.

Lauren grimaced but then shrugged. “Yeah. It sucks, but it’s okay. I thought about that when we first started dating, you know.”

“You did?” Camila asked, surprised.

“Yeah, I mean, you’re really talented and I’d be surprised if you didn’t go places.” Lauren complimented, making Camila smile shyly and blush. “So yeah I thought about it, but I decided that it didn’t matter, because I liked you and felt like we could go places. Like, our relationship. It came a little sooner than I thought, but… Yeah.” Lauren revealed, leaning forward to kiss Camila’s cheek and then hovering by her ear. “I would face an army of paparazzi for you.” Lauren husked.

Camila laughed loudly at that, soon joined by Lauren, who leaned back with a boisterous laugh as well. Camila felt her stomach fluttering and her heart trying to burst out of her chest with how much she loved that fake badass, beanie addict, sushi loving dork. Not that Camila wasn’t dorky as well, but Lauren truly was something else.

(Like she had said all that time ago, when Lauren had come to her celebration party, Camila liked her own dorky self, but she liked Lauren better.)

“Real romantic, Lo.” Camila giggled, her eyes shimmering with affection.

“What can I say? I have my moments.” Lauren chuckled in response.

“I love you.” Camila said all of the sudden, making Lauren beam.

“Love you too.” She leaned forward again, this time to give Camila a proper kiss before standing up to do the dishes.

Camila’s hand shot up to her necklace as she saw Lauren standing up, fiddling with it as she fondly stared at Lauren from her seat. Then, suddenly, she remembered something that made her smile turn bittersweet.

“You know, yesterday wasn’t the first time you said you loved me.” Camila said sweetly, watching as Lauren almost dropped her mug and turned to look at her with furrowed eyebrows.

“What?” Lauren asked.

“When I came home that Friday and you were drunk because of the shooting.” Lauren’s face fell at the mention of the night, so Camila stood up and walked up to her, grabbing her free hand and squeezing it lightly. “Well, you said you’d wait up for me in bed while I showered, but when I came back you were sleeping.” Lauren nodded. “When I got into bed you kinda woke up, but you were still half asleep and when I told you to go back to sleep, you said you loved me. I almost had a stroke, but I said it back, of course.” Camila’s smile was soft even though remembering that night made her sad.

Lauren’s jaw dropped at the information, her eyes wide for a second. Then she shook her head and closed her eyes, taking her hand out of Camila’s hold to run it through her hair, making the younger girl a little worried.

“Jesus.” She breathed out.

Camila frowned. “What’s wrong?”

Lauren opened her eyes again, frowning as well. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Camila was a little taken aback by the question, but she managed to think about it a moment later.

“Well, I tried to figure out if you remembered it and since you didn’t, I let it go and began thinking about how I could tell you that I loved you and make it special.” Camila explained. “Why?”

“I was so hyped about saying ‘I love you’ in a special way as well, but I’d already said it drunk and half asleep after sobbing on you for like an hour. What a mess.” Lauren shook her head, clearly disappointed in herself.

Camila took the mug out of Lauren’s hand at that, leaving it on the sink so that she could hold both her girlfriend’s hands at the same time. She couldn’t let Lauren think like that about herself, not when Camila didn’t consider her a mess in the slightest.

“Hey, look at me.” Lauren still didn’t meet her eyes. “Lauren, look at me. You’re not a mess. Both of us had planned something for Valentine’s because we’re both ridiculous like that,” she made sure to smile so Lauren knew she was kidding and apparently it worked, because then green eyed girl smiled as well, “but I, too, blurted it out at the wrong time. Well, not that there’s a right time to begin with, but anyway, that’s not the point. Just because you had a bad night that day, it doesn’t mean you’re a mess. And I don’t mind that those were our first ‘I love you’s. Both that night and yesterday it kinda came out and it was authentic and unplanned and I loved it, even more than I would have loved it if my plan had worked out. Or yours, I guess, since you would’ve said it sooner. My point is, I loved it, so don’t worry about having ruined anything. And you’re not a mess. I mean, have you looked at this place? It’s hella cool. My apartment was a true mess before you came around. Fortunately I’m learning from you or you’d go insane I guess.”

Lauren chuckled at Camila’s attempt to lift her mood, stepping closer to her and letting her head fall on the younger girl’s shoulder. Camila let go of Lauren’s hands then, snaking her arms around her girlfriend’s torso to hug her close.

“Thanks for that.” Lauren muttered against Camila’s skin.

Camila started rubbing circles on Lauren’s back, tilting her head to leave a kiss on the young cop’s temple.

“Don’t mention it. Apparently it’s speeches day and you’ve had your turn, now it was mine.” Camila joked, succeeding in making Lauren laugh again as she lifted her head and looked her in the eye.

“God, your jokes are terrible.” Lauren chuckled breathily, sounding a little choked up.

“Yet you laugh at ‘em every time.” Camila grinned, making Lauren shake her head with a fond smile.

“Yeah, well, you’re adorable. How could I not?” Lauren smiled, the glint in her eyes coming back as her voice returned to normal.

“You laugh because you’re whipped.” Camila joked, pulling an arm back to make a whipping sound and gesture.

Lauren threw her head back in laughter again, throwing her arms around Camila’s neck. The sound made Camila’s stomach fill with butterflies again and her grin only widened.

“I laugh because I love you and I’m a fool for you.” Lauren replied.

Camila didn’t think she could do anything but kiss Lauren at this point. If she’d opened her mouth, weird strangled noises were sure to have come out. So she kissed her, sure that Lauren would understand. As Lauren smiled against her lips, Camila’s chest felt warm.

(She was pretty sure it meant that her heart was happy.)

Lauren drove to the police station as fast as she could without breaking the law or endangering lives. She had woken up pretty late, so she and Camila had gotten lunch late as well. But fortunately Lauren managed to get to work just in time. She rushed to the lockers and changed into her uniform just as quickly. By the time she got to her desk, Normani was already waiting for her. If they didn’t give each other a ride, the first one to arrive usually waited for the late one.

“Hey, Cutie, finally!” Normani exclaimed, making Lauren roll her eyes.

“I think I actually prefer Screamer to Cutie.” Lauren replied, making Normani scoff playfully with a smirk.

“Fine, Screamer.” As much as Lauren tired not to, she couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Where have you been?”

“In a faraway land called my apartment.” Lauren smirked. She could be pretty sassy when she wanted to, though some would say that she got too flustered too easily to banter.

(Dinah was wrong about that, obviously.)

Normani snorted. “Very funny, idiot. Seriously though, why are you late?”

“Mani, I’m literally three minutes late.” Lauren huffed, leaning down to take a look at some papers left for her atop her desk.

“Yeah, but you’re always like five minutes early unless you’re with me and you’re not, so…” Normani shrugged and Lauren sighed, not taking her eyes off the papers.

“I’ll tell you in the car, we got Battery Park City today. C’mon.” Lauren answered, unlocking a drawer of her desk and leaving the papers inside. The patrol car’s keys were there as well, and she took them before locking the drawer and nodding toward the stairs for Normani to follow her.

Normani huffed as she caught up with Lauren. “Why do you get to keep the car keys? It’s unfair.”

Lauren smirked and nudged her with her shoulder as they went down. “I’m a better driver.”

“Not true.” Normani grumbled, nudging her back.

Lauren gasped in feigned offense at that. “Are you calling me a bad driver? ‘Cause I will end you.” She finished in a more serious tone.

Normani only laughed loudly as they got to the first floor. A few people looked at them, only to go back to their business shortly after, well acquainted with the pair’s dynamic. Normani calmed down by the time they reached the exit and held open the door to the parking lot.

“Shut up, Screamer.” She demanded, making Lauren chuckle as well.

“Yeah, okay. What I said still stands, though.” Lauren stated, opening the doors to their patrol car.

“Sure it does.” Normani agreed mockingly, getting in the passenger seat. “But,” she started, making Lauren face her as she buckled up, “you didn’t answer my question.”

“I did. I really am a better driver, Mani, I’m sorry ab-”

“Not that.” Normani rolled her eyes playfully. “Why are you late? Did some screaming last night, Screamer?”

Lauren felt her face heating up and she knew she must have been as red as a beet. No matter how many times she’d told Normani she wasn’t loud during sex, her partner would insist that Lauren was lying and that she had proof of that.

(Fucking Mrs. Banks and her noise complaint.)

Lauren started the car and ran a hand through her hair, looking anywhere but Normani as she drove out of the parking lot.

“Shut up.” She mumbled, hearing Normani snicker by her side. “Camila and I had a long weekend, we overslept.”

Something in her voice or the way she avoided eye contact with Normani while saying that must have triggered her curiosity, because the dark skinned girl turned a little in her seat.

“Yeah? What happened?” Normani asked.

Lauren wasn’t exactly up for talking about the bad parts of her weekend - and by that she meant that she was fighting not to fidget on the spot. Despite what Camila had told her, she had managed to beat her bad mood during lunch and was actually quite content, so she chose to open with the good part of her weekend.

“Valentine’s was great. Thank you again for letting me use the coffee shop.” Lauren smiled at Normani, trying to keep her from asking any more questions.

“Don’t mention it. It’s Ally you should be thanking, anyway. Did she like it?” Normani asked excitedly.

Lauren stopped at a red light and finally faced her friend, grinning as she remembered how happy she’d been at that moment.

“She did, she loved it. I was gonna drop by Ally’s earlier to tell you both about it but we overslept. Well, I did. Camz had some stuff to work out but anyway, the thing is, it was amazing. She loved the gift and she gave me tickets for The 1975!” Lauren almost squealed in excitement while Normani’s eyes widened as much as her own smile.

“Woah Laur, that’s awesome! Ally got us tickets to go to Paris, can you believe that? I’ve always wanted to go there!” Normani squealed right back.

For a couple of women who insisted that they were badasses, that really wasn’t what they should be doing. Regardless, though, Lauren’s grin only grew bigger as the light turned green and she looked back ahead.

“I can, actually, since she told me.” Lauren laughed joyfully at the surprised look she caught on Normani with her peripheral vision.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Normani exclaimed.

Lauren shrugged. “Same reason you didn’t tell Camz about the coffee shop.”

Normani tilted her head and slouched back on her seat, nodding. “Fair enough.”

They spent a few minutes in comfortable silence after that while Lauren drove them to their designated area. The green eyed girl let her mind wander as she counted on how well she knew the city to drive without much thought.

Lauren had to talk to a lot of people. She had to explain her sudden exit from the fundraiser to her parents, had to apologize to her siblings and Emily for not saying goodbye, had to thank Ally for everything she’d done once again. Thinking about both the party and Valentine’s reminded Lauren of their new problem with the media. It left her wondering about what the internet was saying about them, what pictures were there, if there were any videos, all of that. She decided to check once she got home.

Finally, she also couldn’t help the way her line of thought ended up returning to Camila and how much she loved her. Then, Lauren almost audibly groaned, still a little upset with herself for having confessed her love for Camila on the drunken state she’d been on the night of the shooting. If Camila had thought she was cursed for having her home invaded twice, Lauren still thought of herself as a little bit screwed up, but instead of dwelling on it, she used the comparison to convince herself that Camila was as right about Lauren as Lauren was about her: they were neither cursed nor screwed up.

“Hey, Earth to Lauren.” Normani called her, clicking her fingers in front of her face.

Lauren was startled by that, leaning the car a bit to the right and then left by reflex. She heard Normani curse but soon fixed the car’s position; thankfully she hadn’t made it turn much or surely other drivers would be having a horn party by now.

“The fuck, Lauren?” Normani asked, bewildered.

“Sorry, I was kinda distracted. Lost in thought, you know?” Lauren replied quickly, raising one hand to massage her temple lightly, predicting a headache.

Normani nodded, but she still seemed worried. “What the hell were you thinking about then, Laur?”

Lauren hesitated. Should she tell her? Normani would find out eventually and so would Ally. Dinah already knew anyway, so what was the point in keeping what had happened a secret?

(Well, besides preventing the anxiety that was already bubbling up inside Lauren as she thought about talking about the party, that is.)

Lauren had to tell her. She couldn’t just start opening up to Camila and magically expect that she would feel comfortable with everyone. Those were baby steps. And she needed to take the first one with Normani, one of her best friends, even if it was hard.

“Hmm, so, we went to the fundraiser and everything was relatively okay…” Lauren trailed off, looking straight ahead as she took a turn to the left. Once again her peripheral allowed her to see Normani, motioning for her to continue. “But we, uh, had a fight and she went home early.”

“Damn, I’m sorry to hear that.” Normani said, resting a hand on Lauren’s shoulder. “But everything’s fine now, right? You said yesterday was great…”

“Yeah, yeah, everything’s okay now.” Lauren was quick to confirm. “It’s just that…” Lauren sighed. “When she got home, there was a guy breaking in. Well, climbing in through the balcony, he didn’t actually break in, but you get it. And she had a panic attack and I- I wasn’t there to help her, Mani.” Lauren’s voice trembled as she suddenly felt herself getting emotional at the thought of her girlfriend in such a state.

“Holy shit.” Normani breathed out, her eyes wide.

Lauren swallowed the lump in her throat and nodded, breathing deeply to calm down. “Yeah… She called the police but when they got there the guy was gone, same way he’d gotten in. And the place was trashed, so it wasn’t a very nice night, to say the least.”

Normani squeezed Lauren’s shoulder with the hand that had been resting there. “I’m so sorry, Laur.”

Lauren glanced at her side quickly, smiling gently at her friend. “It’s okay. Camz is tough, she’s fine. We talked about it and managed to have a great Valentine’s Day.”

Normani returned her smile. “I’m happy to hear that.” She said, retracting her hand back to her lap.

“Thanks, Mani.”

Lauren was about to comment on the fact that she’d said that she loved Camila before Valentine’s when the police radio startled them, informing them about some shoplifting, but it was too far away and soon they heard that there were people on it. If they needed backup, Lauren and Normani would head there. For now, they had to stay at their own area in case something came up.

“Eyes and ears open, Mani. We’re here.” Lauren said, but Normani had her thinking face on and didn’t seem to listen. “Mani?”

Normani blinked and turned to face her. “Sorry, I kinda zoned out there for a bit. What did you say?”

Lauren furrowed her eyebrows. “I just said we’re here so we must keep our eyes and ears opened.”

Normani nodded, still somewhat distracted. “Okay.”

Lauren grew even more intrigued at that, since Normani didn’t usually just end conversations like that.

“What’s on your mind?” Lauren asked cautiously, looking around and out the windows, searching for any signs of trouble.

“Mila’s had her home invaded twice.” Normani answered, making Lauren look back at her, her frown even bigger as confusion took hold of her.

“How do you know that?” Lauren asked, looking back ahead.

“She told me.” Normani answered simply, rolling her eyes when Lauren looked at her with wide ones. “Lauren, we’re friends too y’know, she mentioned it this Friday at my place.”

“Oh, okay.” Lauren mumbled, looking at her apologetically. “What about it?”

“It’s weird.” Normani shrugged.

Lauren nodded, looking out the window again. But this time, she wasn’t really looking for something, she was more lost in thought than anything. She saw two boys laughing loudly, she saw a woman with a little girl, walking hand in hand, the girl all bundled up in warm clothes. Lauren saw lots of things, but she was barely processing it all, her mind wandering as she drove.

She thought that Camila having had her home invaded twice was weird and so did Camila. But Detective Norman had said it was probably someone trying to get back at for doing her job. He didn’t know about Camila’s parents, though, did he? Would it change his opinion? Maybe the two invasions were connected somehow…

“Hey, Lo, can you chill? We’re on like one of the safest neighborhoods of New York, there’s no need to keep looking for trouble twenty four seven.” Normani gave her a soft slap with the back of her hand, grabbing Lauren’s attention.

“Sorry, I was actually thinking this time.” She chuckled. “Anything can happen, though.”

“Oh, okay, but still. You should just generally chill too.” Normani snickered, making Lauren shake her head fondly.

“Shut up, jerk.” She glared jokingly at her.

“As you wish, you’re the screamer here, not me.” Normani smirked and Lauren pushed her lightly, making her laugh.

The two cops spent a while in silence after that, but thoughts of Camila and what had happened to their apartment wouldn’t leave Lauren’s mind no matter how much she tried to really focus on other things. Sighing, Lauren gave up and faced Normani.

“Norman’s got the case.” Normani tilted her head and frowned in confusion, so Lauren continued. “The invasion.”

“Oh, okay.” Normani nodded. “What does he think?”

Lauren grimaced. “He thinks it may be someone looking for revenge. Like, someone I arrested. I don’t know…”

Normani hummed and furrowed her eyebrows in thought as she ran a hand through her face, stopping at her chin.

“Do you think he’d change his mind if he knew about Mila’s parents?” Normani finally asked, voicing the same doubt Lauren had had earlier.

“I dunno, Mani. Maybe. It would suck either way. I’d hate to be the reason for her to have gone through that again, even if she assured me that it wasn’t my fault. But if it was connected to the break in all those years ago, then it would make it much more complicated.” Lauren sighed, running a hand through her hair in distress as she pulled up beside a park. She didn’t give Normani a chance to reply before she continued. “Let’s stay here for a while, the papers on the desk said this park has had its rough days.”

“I know, I read them too.” Normani stated obnoxiously, managing to get a smile out of Lauren. “Grab your radio, let’s go.” She said, opening the door and getting out of the car.

Lauren did the same as her partner and locked the car once she was out of it. They began walking around the park in silence, Normani seemingly lost in thought while Lauren tried to clear her mind and focus on watching out for anything that seemed odd.

It was a cold day, though not as cold as Camila had described it to be. There was no snow, but the wind was unforgiving as it cut through Lauren’s cheeks. She was proudly wearing the beanie Camila had gotten her, like she did on most days, even if she loved her other beanies as well.

Some leaves flew around as little kids ran across the grass with a soccer ball, their giggles resonating through the park. They were all dressed in heavy little coats, some wearing scarves and gloves, unconcerned about their surroundings as a group of adults watched them from some benches not far away. Lauren smiled at the sight, her chest growing warm at the thought of having a child herself one day.

Turning her gaze, Lauren saw some teenagers having a picnic, even though it was a Monday afternoon. Maybe because of that, the park wasn’t as full as it usually was on weekends, and Lauren didn’t think anything would happen under their watch. Soon they would have to go back to the car, to patrol the rest of the neighborhood, but if Lauren could spend the day in that park, she gladly would.

“Hey, Lo?” Normani called, making Lauren turn around. She hadn’t realized she’d walked ahead of Normani, who was sitting on a bench. She walked over to her and sat by her side. “Whoever did this, be it for whatever reason, they’re gonna pay for it. Norman’s gonna get them, you’ll see.”

Lauren smiled gently and squeezed Normani’s knee in appreciation. She truly was a great friend and finding her again at the police station after having gone to college together was one of the best things that could have happened to Lauren.

“Thanks, Mani. I hope you’re right.” Lauren said honestly.

“Girl please, I know I am!” Normani exclaimed, making Lauren laugh. “Now, onto more pressing subjects, what the hell even happened in Pumphouse Park for it to require our attention?”

Lauren laughed again at Normani’s question and her annoyed tone. She shrugged lightly, having asked herself the same question on the way there.

“Who knows? I guess someone has to watch over it regardless, but I can google it later and get back to yo-”

“One-B-Nine, we got a ten-ninety three at Battery Park reported at one twenty seven p.m.” Their radios suddenly interrupted them, grabbing the girls’ attention by announcing a complaint.

Lauren immediately rose to her feet, Normani following a second after. Only a look exchanged between them was enough for Lauren to know that Normani had thought the same thing as her: they were close, they had to rush to take the call.

“We’re close, let’s go.” Lauren called and Normani nodded as they both rushed to the car. “This is One-B-Nine, ten-four.” Lauren confirmed that they had received the call and gave her okay to the precinct.

“Caller says that there’s a drunk guy disrupting her child’s birthday party and that said guy states he has a gun, but hasn’t showed it.” The person at the other side of the radio said.

“Arriving at the scene in fifteen minutes. Will request backup if necessary.” Normani replied.

“Understood, proceed with caution.”

Lauren unlocked the car and both girls jumped in, buckling up quickly before Lauren took the car out of its parking spot. Normani turned on the sirens and Lauren looked at her with her eyebrows raised.

Normani smirked. “What? We’ll get there faster this way.”

Lauren chuckled. “The streets are all clear today, Mani.”

“Whatever.” Normani replied, still smirking. “Looks like you’re back to Party Girl after all.” She snickered and Lauren groaned.

“Oh, God, how did we get to the point where I want you to call me Screamer?” Lauren asked, exasperated.

Normani didn’t answer. She only chuckled and shrugged dramatically, leaning back on her seat. Lauren's friends had been calling her Screamer for a while now, but at least she’d warmed up to it. Kind of. It sounded somewhat nice - and by that she meant badass - for those who didn’t know the story behind it.

(Meaning everyone but their close friends, since Normani hadn’t been mean enough to spread the word around the precinct like Lauren had initially thought she would.)

They were silent after that. The unforgiving wind seemed to get stronger the more Lauren sped up, emptying her lungs of air. Or maybe it was the fact that Lauren was growing more nervous the closer they got to the park, her heart spiking up as her mind betrayed her and went places it shouldn’t.

“We’re almost there.” Normani muttered.

“Yeah.” Lauren replied, tapping her fingers against the steering wheel.

“Relax, Lo. It’s just a disturbance call, the guy probably doesn’t even have a gun.” Normani said in a soothing voice, squeezing her shoulder.

“It’s just… Things didn’t turn out so well last time we answered a call involving a gun.” Lauren muttered, avoiding Normani’s eyes.

Lauren heard Normani sigh and glanced at her. She was looking down, but her hand was firm on Lauren’s shoulder. When she lifted her head, the green eyed girl looked away again.

“Don’t worry, Laur, this is nothing like last time.” Normani said simply.

Lauren was the one to sigh this time. “I hope you’re right.”

“I am.” Normani answered without hesitating. “No one’s gonna die this time.”

Chapter Text

At first things were going well enough.

Lauren and Normani got to Battery Park around the estimated time, rushing toward where they’d been directed. What they found there wasn’t ideal, but it was pretty manageable.

The scenery was that of a typical birthday party. Three tables held snacks and candies, a few others had chairs so that adults could sit down and talk while the kids played around. All in all, a small, normal child’s party.

Or, it would be, if it wasn’t for the fact that even from a big distance Lauren could see that two of the tables were turned and that some children were screaming in the distance with women holding them down as three men dressed in suits argued heatedly with another one who was wearing jeans and a big hoodie. The women themselves called for them, one of them crying, and Lauren felt her heart go cold when the obviously drunk man drew out a gun.

“Shit.” Normani hissed.

Lauren had her own gun in hand, her heart beating hard inside her chest, as she started running to the scene with Normani right beside her. She saw one of the women let go of her child to run toward the men only to go back when the child started running as well. Two of the unarmed three backed away slightly, the most aggravated one still trying to confront the drunk armed guy.

His companions held him back as the drunk man just stood there, but when he raised his gun, the third man stepped back as well.

Lauren could hear some indistinctive shouting before, but now she could make out that the unarmed men were trying to calm the drunk one down. They weren’t being successful if the way the drunk was getting redder and waving his gun around more frantically was any indication, but when he settled on one of the three and the shouting came back, Lauren and Normani got close enough so that they could be seen and heard.

“NYPD, freeze!” Normani yelled from Lauren’s left, catching everyone’s attention.

The unarmed men raised their arms immediately, Lauren pointing her gun at them as Normani had hers to the drunk man, the difference being that Lauren’s finger was nowhere near her trigger, using her gun only to gesture the men away. They ran to the women and children, who latched themselves onto them, and Lauren turned to the man with a gun, who still had it up and pointing toward all those people, with his eyes glazed over and a scowl on his face. Thankfully his movements were slowed down by the alcohol, since he did try to grab one of the men’s arm to no success, raising his gun once again and starting to walk there.

“Put the gun down on the ground, now.” Lauren almost growled out her order, pointing her loaded gun at him. It made him stop, but he didn’t turn.

“Fuck you.” He drawled out, clearly more than just a bit intoxicated, as he continued to glare at the most aggravated of the three men. “He t- took everything from me, he- he’s gonna get what he deserves.”

“Shut up and put the fucking gun down now.” Normani yelled, stepping closer and gesturing with her own gun for emphasis.

The man’s eyes widened as he turned and saw who he was facing, probably only understanding the severity of the situation then. He seemed to sober up a little, the scowl still present on his face, though there was also fear, alongside something that Lauren identified as disgust. Normani kept her aim at him as he lowered himself to the ground and put the gun there, but made no move to rise.

“Stand up.” Normani ordered and he did just that. “Kick the gun over here.”

The hood of his hoodie was off, so Lauren saw the look on his face perfectly as he rose to his feet and kicked the gun toward Normani. He put his hands behind his head without even being told to and Lauren felt her breathing picking up. Up until now, she had acted on instinct and adrenaline, letting her training take over her body in quick, well trained and precise movements. Now that she would cuff the man, though, she started to grow nervous once again. Her chest went cold and she fought the need to shudder, ignoring the feeling that something would go wrong. It was probably just some anxiety from her last encounter with a call involving guns.

Lauren breathed in deeply and lowered her weapon, taking the cuffs from her belt, as Normani kept her gun pointed at the man.

And that’s when it all went to shit.

They say when you’re about to die, you see your life flash before your eyes. But Lauren saw none of that. She saw the man draw his second gun out of nowhere, she heard Normani yelling and she heard two gunshots, separated by less than a second. Then she felt an excruciating pain.

That was it, Lauren was going to die. She heard some more yelling and closed her eyes. She hadn’t realized she was staring at the sky, but the bright blue was hurting her eyes and her head was pounding.

Lauren saw Camila behind her closed lids and then everything definitely became black.

Black, until it wasn’t. Until it was bright white and screams and not peaceful at all, and there was no sky anymore. There was only the fucking pounding again, making Lauren groan in pain. But before Lauren could question if this was Hell or something worse, she felt the blackness engulf her again and almost welcomed the calmness of it.

Camila (2:13 pm): hey baby just got to shawn’s and he says hello!

Camila (2:13 pm): hope ur day is good so far, i love you <3

Camila stared fondly at her screen for a moment before she locked it and put the phone back on her pocket. She didn’t expect Lauren to reply quickly, since she probably would only touch her phone during break, so there was no reason to anxiously wait for the answer.

Camila hopped off Shawn’s kitchen counter when she heard the refrigerator being shut by her brother behind her, fixing one of Lauren’s beanies on her head right after she hit the floor. Lauren’s beanies had her scent and Camila just loved to wear them when it was cold. She guessed Lauren didn’t know about it, since she’d never said anything even though she could be quite possessive of her beanies.

Camila wondered if she knew and just let it go because she could also feel the brown eyed girl’s scent. It was mostly the reason why she would always get a different one, she wanted them to smell like Lauren, not her. When she wore the same one too many times, the scent started mingling and changing. The combination was nice, and that really may be why Lauren hadn’t said anything, but still. Camila wants to smell only her amazing girlfriend on her beanies.

“Hey, Mila, you coming? You’ve been standing there for like two minutes.” Shawn’s voice pierced through her, getting her out of her daze.

Camila focused her eyes on him, controller on one hand, bag of snacks on the other, and she didn’t say anything as she ran to the couch, unsure of which was the one to drive her faster to it.

(It became pretty clear once she threw herself in it and grabbed the bag of snacks where her heart truly lay.)

“Sorry, I was just thinking back there.” Camila shrugged, stuffing her mouth with the crunchy snack.

“It’s fine but like…” Shawn trailed off, looking at her with a smirk and jokingly disapproving eyes. “Didn’t you just have lunch?”

“Shut up.” Camila laughed, pushing him by the shoulder. “Where’s Harry? I need to beat his ass on FIFA since he beat mine last time.”

“He should be getting here in like fifteen minutes, you’re a little early, sis. Too anxious to get your ass whooped by me, if you’re obviously gonna win with Harry?” Shawn asked sarcastically, snickering to himself.

Camila gasped and narrowed her eyes, though the smirk on her face totally contradicted the front she was trying to uphold.

“Oh, it’s on.” She said, making Shawn laugh loudly.

He just shrugged and sipped on his bear, to which Camila mimicked him without breaking eye contact. Her act was going well until some of the beer spilled from the bottle and she groaned, trying to not let it hit the floor with her hands.

Shawn burst out laughing then and Camila soon joined him, amused and surprised by her own clumsiness. She shouldn’t be surprised, considering her record, but really? Spilling beer like that was truly another level.

“Why- why are you like this, Mila?” Shawn managed to get out in between fits of laughter.

“It’s your fault for giving me beer!” Camila replied, laughing more calmly now, her cheeks tinted in red. “Why do we always drink anyway?” She asked, changing the subject and hoping Shawn wouldn’t notice.

“It’s way more fun to play FIFA drinking.” He replied, not laughing anymore, but still with a huge grin. “We should get something stronger one day.”

Camila was about to reply when she heard a knock on the door. She smiled widely and ran to answer it.

“What’s up, lovely?” Harry exclaimed, engulfing Camila in a bear hug.

She only chuckled and hugged him back tightly. “I missed you, goofball.”

Harry scoffed mockingly as he pulled back, grinning. “Look who’s talking.”

Camila laughed again and stepped aside as Harry greeted Shawn with equal enthusiasm. Shawn and Camila had many mutual friends, but Harry was one of the closest to both of them. They’d all met many years ago on middle school when Harry’s family had moved from England and he was put into Camila’s class. Since then, the trio had grown much closer.

“So, I was sensing the drunk FIFA vibes and decided to bring something a little stronger.” Harry said, taking out a bottle of vodka from his passenger bag with a smirk.

Camila’s mouth fell open at the sight and she turned to Shawn to find him smirking as well. Then, he looked at her and his eyes screamed something along the lines of, “what did I just tell you?”. Camila shook her head. Unbelievable.

“Seriously? Vodka at two p.m. on a Monday?” Camila asked disapprovingly, crossing her arms.

“What? Just some shots! Besides, you two don’t work today and I don’t have class, so…” Harry shrugged, still smirking.

“Don’t you have a test like tomorrow though?” Shawn asked, snickering at way Harry’s face fell.

“Don’t remind me, mate. That’s why I need this drink.” Harry replied, making Shawn laugh harder.

Camila couldn’t help but chuckle herself before she felt her phone vibrating in her back pocket. She excused herself and left the boys in the kitchen, taking her phone from her pocket to answer it once she reached the living room.

Camila felt her stomach knot and her heart skip a beat when she saw Normani on the caller ID. That couldn’t mean anything good, could it? No, it could very well be nothing. Lauren could have lost her phone or something.

Taking a deep breath, she picked up.

The first thing she heard was a sob.

And just like that, all the air Camila had just sucked in turned out to be useless as she felt it being ripped from her lungs.

“Ca- Camila?” Came Normani’s shaky voice. “You- you need to… get t- to the Lower Manhattan Hospital. Like, n- now.”

Camila felt her heart rate go through the roof at the mention of a hospital and she had to hold onto the wall so as to not fall. Her legs seemed as unable to hold her weight as her soul was of carrying the weight of what Normani had just said.

“Camila?” Normani asked, sounding like she was trying to keep herself from crying harder. “Lau- Lauren got shot and…” A sob. “Mila, it isn’t good, you-,” another sob, “you need to come qu- quick, okay?”

“Okay.” Camila replied weakly, unable to say anything else.

“Okay.” Normani breathed out before hanging up.

Camila still couldn’t move. She was leaning against the wall, one hand holding her up while she felt her entire world start to shatter around her. And as the reality of the situation sunk in, as her universe finally did break into a million falling pieces, she couldn’t help but fall alongside it.

“Mila?!” Shawn called worriedly from the kitchen, but Camila couldn’t see him. She couldn’t focus and she couldn’t think and she could only see him once he was crouching right in front of her.

Amid the hurricane of feelings and thoughts inside her, Camila hadn’t realized she’d literally fallen to the ground. She had also failed to notice the way her breathing was too quick or how her vision was beginning to tunnel and no, not again, not right now.

Camila raised her hand to her mouth to try and keep herself from crying, but her inability to breathe took care of that. She had to stop that panic attack. She had to, because she needed to get to the hospital, and she couldn’t do that if she couldn’t breathe.

Focus. Breathe. In and out. One time, two times, three times…

Camila’s eyes were closed, but she could hear Harry calling for her and Shawn telling him to shut up. But Camila didn’t pay much attention to any of that, she wasn’t even sure that she could. She could only focus on her breathing.

“Come on, Mila. In and out.”

Shawn’s voice was soft and calm, and it actually did help. In and out, just like she was doing. His own calm and steady loud breathing was also good, and soon Camila felt like she was able to open her eyes again, to breathe properly again. She’d beaten the second panic attack in a couple of days, this one before it could even really build, and if this was any other time, she might have felt proud.

Right now, though, Camila couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t getting to the fucking hospital, couldn’t feel anything but pain and despair.

The sob that had been trying to come out finally broke out of her and Camila turned into a crying mess in a matter of seconds.

“Oh my God, Mila, what happened?” Shawn asked worriedly again, but Camila only shook her head and stood up.

“We- we need t- to get to the Presbyterian… Lower Manhattan. L- Lauren got shot.” She choked on the last part, watching Shawn’s face contort into a hurt grimace. Her hand flew to her mouth, this time able to try and suppress her sobbing, because she needed to fucking go.

(She needed to get to the hospital and being either a panicky mess or a crying one was a luxury she didn’t have.)

Shawn reached out to pull Camila in for a hug, but she stepped back and shook her head. One look from her brother was enough to make her sure that he’d understood.

In less than a minute, the trio was out the door and on its way. Shawn drove as fast as possible to the hospital, no one saying a word during the entire drive. Camila hadn’t felt this tense in a long time, probably since the year her parents died. Her chest felt tight and her head hurt, and she felt as if saying anything would maybe be enough to break her.

So Camila stayed quiet. Quiet and rigid, letting sobless tears fall freely down her face and bracing herself for whatever came her way.

Finally, the car arrived at the hospital. As soon as Shawn parked it, Camila jumped off of it, hearing her name being called by her friends, but unable to care. She had to find Lauren, she needed to see her, to make sure she was fine.

(The voices inside her head whispered that she was probably far from fine, but Camila couldn’t succumb to them.)

Camila burst through the front doors of the big hospital, receiving all kinds of looks from those who waited. They varied from annoyance to sympathy, and Camila imagined she must have looked like a mess already, but she didn’t care about that either.

She ran to the reception, hoping to find out where the hell Lauren was, when a hand grabbed her upper arm, holding her in place. Camila turned to the person while she yanked her arm free, ready to tell whoever that was to go fuck themselves.

“Camila, stop, it’s me.” Normani exclaimed, at the same time Camila saw who it was that had held her. Normani looked just as messy as Camila, her uniform wrinkled and strands of hair falling from the bun she had put up for work.

But her eyes… It was the sight of her puffy, red eyes that broke Camila. She stared into Normani’s desolate eyes and couldn’t help the sob that broke out from within her. She couldn’t help the next one either, nor could she stop her shoulders from shaking or her cries from becoming loud and messy.

Normani engulfed her in a hug and Camila could feel her friend’s body shaking slightly alongside her own. She didn’t even know what really happened, but by what Normani had said and the way she looked, Camila knew it was serious. She thought she would never stop crying, but as the taller girl whispered comforting words in a raspy yet soothing voice and ran a hand through her hair, Camila managed to calm down.

When they parted, Camila wiped at her cheeks and sniffled, afraid to meet Normani’s gaze. When she did, though, she saw that same look in her brown eyes through her own, but she couldn’t break again. Camila knew people were probably staring and she noticed that Shawn and Harry were right beside them, but she didn’t pay attention to any of that.

“Where- where’s Lauren? What happened?” Camila asked with a trembling voice.

Normani took a deep breath and bit her lip. “She was shot… Like, on her temple. I- I couldn’t stop him in time, I’m s- so fucking sorry.” Normani sobbed, making Camila’s stomach drop and her chest fill with dread.

For a moment, she couldn’t even move. Then, she launched herself at Normani to try and comfort her friend - even though she was still crying - as she let the new information sink in.

“Wh- what do you mean? She’s not… She can’t- she’s not-” Shawn stuttered, making Camila sob again and close her eyes tightly as she hugged Normani.

Maybe, if she kept doing that, Camila would wake up and find out that this had all been a wild nightmare. Maybe, by squeezing her eyes shut, she would block what Shawn had to say. Camila didn’t want to hear the end of that sentence. If she did, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to ever breathe well again.

(She had promised herself that she wouldn’t lose Lauren, and she didn’t think she would handle breaking that promise.)

“Oh my God, no.” Normani shook her head quickly, wiping at her eyes before pulling back from Camila and staring at the boy. “No one could, uh, explain it to me what had- what had really happened, but… she’s in surgery. When the ambulance got to the scene, they said she had a chance, so…”

Normani trailed off with a little hopeful smile, but Camila’s lip started to tremble again. Lauren had a chance. She was in surgery. That was supposed to make her feel better, but it didn’t. If they had to assure Normani that Lauren had a chance, things really were bad. If she was in surgery, there was a chance, a bigger chance, that she wouldn’t make it. And if she didn’t make it…

“Mila. She’s gonna live. Okay?” Normani interrupted her line of thinking, squeezing her hand hard to get her attention.

Camila’s eyes shot up to meet Normani’s and she nodded weakly. “Okay.” She rasped. “What… What do we do now?”

“Now we wait here and when Lauren is cleared she gets her own room and someone tells us which one is it so we can go there.” Normani stated, sounding more collected than moments before. “I’ve called Ally and her parents, they’re all on their way. Our captain knows already as well and I think he’s coming later.”

Camila nodded and rubbed her eyes, looking around for the first time afterward. All the people staring quickly averted their gaze, but Camila didn’t mind that they’d been looking. Most of them had apologetic and sympathetic expressions anyway.

Sighing, the girl made her way to an empty corner of the rows of chairs, being closely followed by her friends. Camila sat down on one of the chairs and Normani and Shawn sat at either side of her, Harry remaining on his feet. She looked at him questioningly, to which he took a deep breath and kneeled in front of her.

“Hey, lovely. Look, I’m so, so deeply sorry for what happened.” He started and Camila bit her lower lip harshly. “It’s about to get pretty crowded here with Lauren’s family and the police people. I just- I don’t know if you’d like me to stay or not. I’m not… close to Lauren and I wouldn't like to intrude or anything so… I can stay or I can go, it’s up to you.” Harry finished, biting his own lip nervously.

Camila smiled tiredly at her friend and threw her arms around his neck, nuzzling it with her own head as Harry hugged her tightly by the waist. She pulled back after a minute or two, giving him a kiss on the cheek before sitting back.

“It’s okay, Harry, you can go. I get what you’re saying, really.” Camila said, squeezing his arm with the hand she still had there.

Harry still looked hesitant. “You sure?”

Camila nodded. “Yes.”

“Okay, then.” The tall boy agreed, hugging Camila once more before he did the same with Shawn and said a quick goodbye to Normani.

The silence that followed was heavy and emotionally charged and Camila could feel how tense Normani was beside her. Camila herself wasn’t much better, though. She hadn’t known Lauren for as long as Normani, but she couldn’t imagine her life without her. Not anymore.

Camila cursed herself mentally. She needed to stop thinking like that and at least try to convince herself that Normani was right, that Lauren really had a chance and would be okay. A bullet to the head, though… How would she survive something like that? Camila felt her throat closing again and cleared it before swallowing hard, the mere thought making her want to cry.

“Normani…” Camila looked at the taller girl and she met her gaze and tilted her head inquisitively. “How did- what… What happened out there? I mean, you said she was… shot in the forehead but… How?”

Normani’s face fell at once and Camila gulped, regretting her question. But when she felt Shawn grab and squeeze her hand and turned to look at him, she saw nothing but supportive eyes. Squeezing his hand back, she felt some of the guilt go away; she needed to know or she would go insane.

Camila returned her gaze to Normani and was relieved to find her looking nothing even close to mad at her, just so sad. And guilty. No, Normani couldn’t feel guilty about this. She had said she hadn’t been fast enough to stop the man who had shot Lauren, but it still hadn’t been her fault. Camila couldn’t let her think like that just like she hadn’t let Lauren think that way about herself after the bank’s shooting.

“Hey.” Camila started, reaching out for Normani’s hand with the one that wasn’t holding Shawn’s. “It’s not your fault, okay? You didn’t shoot her.”

“I might as well have.” Normani whispered bitterly. “I didn’t stop him fast enough.” Camila was about to protest but Normani didn’t let her. “We were called to stop a drunk man who was disrupting a kid’s birthday party in Battery Park. But, uh, he was armed. Apparently he knew the father of the little girl whose party he had interrupted. And… Well, all the men were pretty aggravated but we, we broke off the fighting before it started and stopped him. Or, um, so we had thought… Lauren, she was going to cuff him. His gun was already on the ground next to me, so I was pointing mine at him but wasn’t expecting anything. His hands were behind his head and everything but… he had an upper back holster, like, there was a gun on his shoulder blades you know? And we couldn’t see it because of his hoodie and we didn’t expect it because he seemed to be cooperating. And he was wasted, but I don’t know, maybe his reflexes kicked in because one second he was still, the next he was getting another gun out his holster and shooting Lauren.” Normani's breathing was labored by now and she was talking faster than before. Camila ran her thumb through her friend’s hand, unable to say anything without choking on her words. “He- he didn’t- I mean, he didn’t even aim, he just shot at her and I was too late to prevent it, because I shot him a second too late.”

Normani’s voice was shaking and so was her body as she tried to suppress a new wave of sobs. Camila couldn’t handle seeing her like that and let go of Shawn’s hand, standing up and pulling Normani with her to hold her tightly once again. Camila was probably a shitty help though, with the way her own body was shaking. That’s why, when she felt two strong arms around both her and Normani in a firm embrace, she couldn’t help the whimper that came out of her.

When both girls managed to calm down, Shawn let go of them and Camila pulled back, immediately wiping at her cheeks. Her lungs burned from all the crying, but it wasn’t like she could do anything about that. What she could do, though, was hold Normani’s shoulders to keep her in place, forcing her to look Camila in the eye.

“It’s not your fault, Mani. You-,” her voice broke, but she swallowed hard to keep talking, “you tried. That’s what matters. You stopped him, you weren’t the one to… shoot Lauren.” Camila took a deep breath to reassure herself and try to gain some of the confidence Normani had displayed earlier. “She’s gonna be okay.”

Camila tried, she really did. She wanted to give Normani hope like she had tried to give Camila, but even the younger girl didn’t believe her own fake confidence. She wanted to, though. Camila desperately wanted to be right. And she guessed Normani knew it as well, so she nodded and smiled weakly before putting her hand atop Camila’s on her shoulder.

“I know. Lauren is tough, she’ll be alright.” Normani stated, as if she wasn’t the one who Camila had been trying to comfort.

It dumbfounded Camila. Her strength… The Latina could only hope to someday be as strong as she was. But still…

“When you say that you know, you mean about Lauren. But all of what I said is true. Okay, Normani?” Camila pressed, making Normani bite her bottom lip and look down. When she looked back up, though, her watery eyes held Camila’s and she nodded.


“Normani!” Ally’s shaky and high pitched voice cut through the waiting room, making Normani turn just in time to be attacked by a bone crushing hug.

Hearing Ally cry made Camila’s stomach twist and turn severely, so she took a step back to give the couple their privacy. Besides, she didn’t think she could look at the scene for much longer without crying again. The look on Normani’s face as she tried to soothe her fianceé would be heartbreaking enough to make her sad if she didn’t know who they were, but knowing that and who they were crying about made it a thousand times worse.

Knowing Ally was in such a state in fear of losing Lauren, the love of Camila’s life… She wouldn’t stand looking at them for more than a few seconds.

So she turned around, thinking about finding some water for all of them, but was met with Shawn’s worried gaze instead. Camila realized she hadn’t thanked for anything he’d done until that moment, and guilt filled her.

“Thank you, Shawn. For- for everything. Helping with the panic attack, bringing me here, for just now… I… Thanks.” Camila said honestly, sounding more choked up than she thought was possible.

Shawn only shook his head and pulled her into another hug. “No need to thank me.” She hugged him back tightly, but he pulled back soon after. “Come on, let’s get some water.”

Despite Shawn having just read her mind, apparently, Camila was now hesitant. “What about Ally?”

Shawn tilted his head and looked past Camila for a second. “They’ll be there when we come back with water, come on. We all need some to calm down.”

Camila nodded and with one last glance at Normani and Ally, she followed Shawn through the room all the way to the reception, where he asked where they could get some water. After receiving instructions, they walked in silence to the cafeteria, Camila pretty much lost in thought.

(And by thought, she meant worry.)

The cafeteria was barely filled due to the time, but the few people there glanced at them quickly, some with sympathy, others not showing any emotion at all. To be used to the suffering of others to the point of apathy seemed like a sad way to live, and though other people might have gotten angry, Camila just felt sorry for them.

Shawn bought four bottles of water, but before they could return to the waiting room, he lightly held Camila’s arm, making her stop. She turned to him, confused, but he just stared into her eyes for a moment before he sighed.

“I’m not gonna ask if you’re okay but… Laur will be. You just need to focus on that.” Shawn spoke softly and Camila bit her lip, nodding weakly. Shawn sighed again and ran his hand through Camila’s hair lovingly. “That panic attack, though… How are you feeling?”

Camila felt her heart beat spike up at the mention of what had happened and averted her eyes from Shawn’s. She didn’t want to talk about it, especially because she hadn’t told him about the home invasion, but it wasn’t fair to let him worry about it when she knew why she had been so fragile.

“I’m fine, just tired. I… Our apartment was invaded this Saturday.” Camila revealed.

Shawn gasped audibly, almost dropping the two bottles he’d been holding. “What?”

“Yeah, uh… I had a panic attack then, so I think that due to the proximity of the two traumatic events and, um, my tiredness and the stress from earlier today…” Camila began, speaking in a formal way out of nervousness. She sighed before continuing. “I guess that’s why I almost had another one when Laur- when I got the news.”

Shawn was visibly shocked by the information, his brown eyes wide. They soon turned warm, though, warm and soft, as he understood the depth of what had happened.

“Fuck.” He breathed out, and Camila could only nod in agreement. “I’m really sorry to hear that. Do they know who did it?”

Camila shook her head and nodded to the cafeteria doors. As they walked back to the waiting room, she explained everything that had happened from the party to the break in, without going into much detail to keep it short.

Shawn listened closely, only throwing his arm over Camila’s shoulder in comfort and pulling her into him when they reached the room. He gave Camila a kiss on her temple and let her go. Camila smiled fondly at him in return before they made their way to Ally and Normani.

The couple was sharing one of the big chairs, Ally almost sitting in Normani’s lap with her head on her fiancée’s shoulder while the dark skinned girl ran a hand soothingly through her hair. Ally seemed calmer but not the slightest bit less devastated. It made Camila’s chest ache, and she wore her best shadow of a smile to reassure the smaller girl as she passed her a water bottle.

“Hey, Ally.” Camila greeted, completely shaken up by how devoid of light Ally’s usually bright eyes were.

When the older girl smiled weakly in response, Camila felt herself get choked up again. “Thank you, Mila.”

Camila impulsively leaned in then, giving Ally a quite awkward hug because of the position they were in. It was heartfelt, though, and Ally seemed to appreciate it, if the way she left Normani’s shoulder to wrap her arms around Camila was any indication. Camila pulled back after a moment, but not without giving Ally a kiss on the forehead, both their eyes shimmering with tears.

Camila gave Normani her water bottle then and, without another word, sat down on her chair beside them, her hand clasped in Ally’s. Shawn was on the chair to her immediate left and soon she felt him take her other hand.

Camila closed her eyes and let out a tired sigh; now they could only wait.

“Mila. Mila, wake up.”

Camila’s eyes were heavy and her mind was foggy, so much so that for a moment she wondered where the hell she was. Then, it all came back to her, and Normani’s anxious face right in front of her made a lot more sense than it had a moment ago.

(Honestly? She wished it hadn’t, for confusion was much better than pain.)

“What’s up?” Camila asked, rubbing her eyes as she sat up straight, realizing that her neck hurt from how it’d been positioned for the last… “What time is it?”

“It’s just past five. Lauren’s surgery ended and they called for us.” Normani replied quickly.

That managed to wake Camila up quickly enough and in a second she was standing, her eyes wide and searching. There was no one but them and some strangers in the waiting room, which made her frown.

“Where’s everyone?” Camila asked, her voice still raspy despite feeling much more awake now.

“They all headed to Lauren’s room like a second ago. Her parents, Dinah and Captain Russell are here as well, so the room’s gonna be full as fuck. I don’t even know if they’ll explain what happened to anyone that’s not family so we better hurry.” Normani explained and Camila headed to the elevator, not needing to be told twice.

The quick paced walk - or slow running - was silent, Camila too lost in her still somewhat foggy thoughts and worry to engage conversation. She had slept for a little over an hour, which was… something. But with the way she had been exhausted earlier from the long weekend, Camila couldn’t say she was really surprised. She just wished Lauren’s parents weren’t upset with her for it.

(And that her neck wasn’t hurting so much. That too.)

Most of all, Camila just hoped with all her heart that Lauren was fine. Her stomach was twisting and turning with every step she took, and it only got worse when she spotted Dinah, Ally, Shawn and a man she didn’t know in the distance, in front of a slowly closing heavy door. That had to mean only family was allowed to see Lauren at this point, and if that was the case, Camila didn’t know if she would be able to handle the wait.

Camila could feel Normani’s gaze burning into her skull and one glance at her was enough to know that she knew what Camila was thinking. She thought that maybe the older girl would disapprove, but not a second later she nodded toward the door and Camila smiled weakly at her before sprinting to it. She just barely managed to stop it from closing completely, startling her friends, but she trusted that Normani would explain everything to them. If she wasn’t kicked out of the room herself, that is.

Camila slipped through the door and the first thing that came into her line of sight was a surprised doctor in his thirties and Lauren’s parents, worried and confused, but not exactly surprised. Then, she looked behind them and her heart jumped up to her throat.

Lauren was lying in a bed in those weird hospital gowns, seeming to be sound asleep. She would’ve looked perfectly fine, if it wasn’t for the bandage wrapped around her head and the IV tubes that were connected to her arms and nose. That, and the fact that she was pale, more so than usual, which was worrying.

Camila felt tears fill her eyes again, but before she could really do anything about it, an unknown voice caught her attention.

“Who are you? You’re not supposed to be here.” The doctor said tiredly, the hint of annoyance on his tone making Camila’s blood boil.

“I’m Camila, Lauren’s girlfriend.” Camila exclaimed defiantly, the doctor furrowing his eyebrows in response.

“I’m sorry, but this is family only and-”

“It’s okay, she can stay.” Clara interrupted him softly, making Camila look at her gratefully through her blurred vision. “She’s family as well.”

Camila didn’t think her heart had ever been this full with affection for the older woman, who had always been nothing short of kind and lovely toward her. But this? This was the ultimate proof that she truly did welcome her into the family as one of their own.

The doctor nodded then and Camila took advantage of the moment to run ahead and hug Clara tightly, who embraced her with just as much warmth. When they parted, both with teary eyes, Mike rested his hand on Camila’s upper back and squeezed her shoulder caringly, not uttering a word. Camila smiled weakly at him, grateful for the support.

The doctor waited until they were finished and looking at him to start talking again. “So, as you know, Miss Jauregui was shot on the head, on her left temple. The bullet fractured that bit of her skull, which ruptured her meningeal artery and caused a epidural hematoma.” The doctor made a pause and Camila felt dizzy just from hearing all those dangerous sounding medical terms. “That means there was a bleeding inside her head, a buildup of blood between her skull and the dura mater, the outer membrane that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord.”

That was it, Camila was really going to pass out. At least they were already in a hospital, or she was sure she’d have to be taken to one. She grabbed the edge of Lauren’s bed for support, which apparently went unnoticed by Lauren’s parents, both in their own distraught state, and the doctor, whose eyes were focused on them.

“She’s very lucky to be alive, having been shot in the head and all, but because of her distance to the shooter, the angle in which she was hit and the gun’s caliber, she got away with only the epidural hematoma. They actually aren’t uncommon, since blows to the head usually lead to them, but about fifteen to twenty percent are fatal. Your daughter’s could have killed her if the paramedics hadn’t noticed right away what had happened.” Camila held her breath as the doctor paused again, her heart speeding up even more as he looked at her. “But she was taken to surgery and we managed to drain all of the excess of blood, so she should be fine.”

Camila hadn’t realized she’d been crying, but hearing that made her release the shaky breath she’d been holding, followed closely by a sob.

“Oh my God.” She breathed out in relief, her hand raising to cover her mouth as the tears flowed freely.

Lauren’s mother reached out for Camila then and the younger girl let herself be pulled into the couple’s tight embrace, trying her best to swallow her sobs. It was happy news, after all, she shouldn’t be shaking like Lauren had just been sentenced to death.

“Shh, mija, it’s okay.” Clara whispered, pulling back to wipe Camila’s tears while her own ran freely.

The tender act reminded Camila of her mother and the lump in her throat only grew bigger. Yes, Shawn’s parents had been her own for years and she couldn’t love them more, but something about Clara’s touch, or the way she had called her mija, or even how Mike ran his hand through her hair softly as his wife spoke... It just… touched something within her, within her very soul.

(She had lost her parents, only to find two new families to be a part of, and maybe it was the heavy moment or maybe it was her exhaustion, but the realization made Camila feel like she could just about burst with all the emotions running through her.)

Smiling sadly, Camila stepped back. “I’m sorry.” She muttered.

Clara waved her off. “Please, no need to apologize, sweetie.” The woman smiled at her after wiping her own face and turned back to the doctor, who had been awkwardly shifting on the spot.

“Well, uh, anyway, she’s gonna need to be here in the ICU for a while, until we deem fit that she moves to a normal room. Lauren’s also on an induced coma right now, because the brain is a complicated organ. Activity right now might be bad. As the situation gets better, we’ll take her out of it and she’ll wake up on her own. If everything goes as well as it’s gone so far, she should be awake in three days, four tops.”

“Four days?” Camila exclaimed in a high pitched voice.

The doctor nodded. “Yes. That’s everything we have so far, but you can ask me any questions if you’d like.” As the trio remained silent, he continued. “Okay, so, if you need me, ask for doctor Lawrence and I’ll be happy to help. Oh, and try not to crowd the room, please, this is intensive care after all.”

Lawrence smiled softly and turned around, leaving the room and having his wishes immediately denied by the avalanche of people who barged into it. Camila barely had time to blink before Dinah hugged her tightly, taking her completely by surprise. She quickly snapped out of it, though, and wrapped her arms around her taller friend.

“God, Mila, what the hell.” Dinah breathed out, sounding scared.

“I know.” Camila answered, voice muffled against Dinah’s shoulder and neck. She pulled back a second later to find Dinah’s face contorted in a worried frown. “She’s okay, though. She’s gonna be fine.” Camila stated, convicted.

Now that Dr. Lawrence had explained everything to her, she felt more certain of Lauren’s survival. Even if the prospect of having her girlfriend in a coma for four days scared her to death, she tried to hold onto that confidence that things were going to be okay.

(The alternative was too much for her to even consider.)

“What did the doctor say?” Dinah asked anxiously.

Camila sighed and looked around, noticing Shawn standing quietly beside Dinah and Lauren’s parents already explaining the situation to Normani, Ally and the man she didn’t know, but assumed to be Captain Russell. Returning her gaze to Dinah’s worried eyes, she took a deep breath and explained everything Lawrence had told her.

And when Dinah asked how she was doing, Camila had to bite her lip and swallow the lump on her throat. Dinah was the first to pull her into another hug but Shawn soon joined in, the trio staying like that for a minute or so before pulling back. Shawn excused himself then, under the same kind of reasoning Harry had used, even if Camila thought he wasn’t intruding on anything. But, since Dr. Lawrence had advised them to not keep the room crowded, she let him, guessing it would probably be best.

Camila sat down at a big chair inside the room after Shawn left, exhausted from… everything. Dinah soon sat down on the chair’s arm, running her hand through Camila’s long locks. Soon after they were joined by Ally and Normani, who sat down in the same manner in the chair adjacent to that. They stayed in silence for a while, Camila pretty much lost in thought, with the sound of Lauren’s parents talking to her captain only background noise.

She was almost dozing off because of Dinah’s ministrations on her hair when she felt her phone buzzing in her pocket. Groaning, Camila shifted on her spot to get it and rolled her eyes when she saw the caller ID. Great, as if she needed to deal with any of this bullshit now.

“What’s up, Hiro?” Camila sighed tiredly.

“I managed to set up an interview for you.” He answered, seemingly unfazed by Camila’s tone.

The girl audibly groaned and brought her hand up to massage her temple. “I can’t talk about that now.”

“Why not? It’s not a choice, really. You have to be ready for this, we need to go over possible questions and all that.” Hiro replied nonchalantly.

Camila tried her best to maintain her temper because really, how would he know? So, instead of yelling like she wanted, Camila met her friends’ concerned gazes and nodded to the door before getting up and walking out of the room.

“Camila?” Hiro said as soon as she closed the door.

“Listen, I know you mean well, but I really can’t think about that right now. I’m… busy.” Camila finished vaguely with a frown, not wanting to expose Lauren’s situation.

“Honestly, Camila, I’m not only your agent, there are other people who need me as well and I can’t remake my schedule because you’re busy. All I want is for you to come here for half an hour later today, is that such a wild thing to ask?” Hiro said in a calm voice, which Camila thought was rather annoying.

Camila scowled, irritation bubbling up inside her from the implications of Hiro’s little speech.

“Look, Lauren got shot, okay?” Camila finally snapped. “I’m at the hospital right now and I really do not have either the patience nor the energy to deal with this today. So I’m fucking sorry, but yeah, I’m gonna have to kindly say no.”

Hiro stayed silent for a while, but Camila knew he hadn’t hung up because she could hear his breathing. Camila was about to say something when he cleared his throat.

“You could’ve just said so.” Hiro said, making Camila almost groan again. “Well, this changes things.” He continued more softly. “The interview is on Wednesday, so you could come tomorrow?”

Camila sighed and ran a hand through her hair to calm down. “Yeah, okay.”

“Okay. I’ll text you the address of the interview and the time for you to come tomorrow after I make room for you.”

“Sure.” Camila replied tiredly.

“Okay, then…” He trailed off without saying goodbye and Camila simply waited. “How… How is Lauren?”

Camila blinked in surprise. “Uh, she’s gonna be fine.”

“And you?”

“I’ll be okay.” Camila answered slowly, thinking the sudden soft, non-Hiro way of talking was quite odd.

“Good.” Hiro’s voice went back to his usual pompous, professional tone and Camila almost smiled in amusement for the first time since she’d found out about Lauren having been shot.

It was weird how Hiro’s concern made her feel a little bit better. Camila guessed it was because it showed that he cared. Either way, the smile was short lived as the concern she was feeling crawled back into her mind.

Camila shook her head and sighed. “I gotta go now. Bye, Hiro.”

“See you tomorrow.” Hiro replied before hanging up.

Camila hung up as well and put her phone away, entering the room just as Lauren’s captain was leaving it. He greeted her with a polite nod as he walked through the doorway and Camila returned the gesture before closing the door behind herself.

Clara was holding Lauren’s hand as Mike talked quietly with the girls about something Camila couldn’t understand. She thought about reclaiming her seat, still unoccupied, but decided against it, not too fond of talking at the moment. Instead, Camila walked over to the bed and held Lauren’s other hand, afraid to kiss her forehead or do anything else for that matter. She could give her an infection or something, so until Camila talked with Dr. Lawrence, she would refrain from being too touchy. What she could do was wish with all her heart that Lauren’s recovery would go well.

(Camila had never wished for something harder in her life.)

“I love you.” Sighing, Camila ran her thumb through Laurens knuckles. “Come back to me soon, okay? I miss you.”

Camila stared at her girlfriend for a while before letting go of her hand and looking up, only to be met with Clara’s sympathetic gaze. Camila gave her a small smile that was soon reciprocated before turning around and heading for the chair. Mike was still on his feet despite there having a third and final chair and Clara didn’t seem like she was going to leave Lauren’s side, so Camila took her old seat, throwing herself on it.

Camila didn’t try to really engage on the conversation, only saying something when addressed. How could she be expected to participate when she was already so exhausted and emotionally drained? And with Dinah back to playing with her hair like that, Camila felt like she had to fight to stay awake.

She was almost dozing off again when she felt a warm hand on her own. Opening the eyes Camila hadn’t realized she’d closed, the brunette looked to the right to find Normani and Ally holding hands, the former’s left one clutched in her own. Camila smiled softly at her friend as she squeezed her hand, knowing that they were all going through the same kind of pain. Then, Camila took hold of Dinah’s free hand and looked up only to receive a kiss on her forehead.

Camila sighed and looked at Lauren, wishing she at least had sweet dreams until she woke up. Because she was going to. She was going to be okay.

They were all going to be okay. 

Chapter Text

After inevitably drifting into sleep again – for the fourth or fifth time, she wasn’t sure –, Camila was awoken by a soft squeeze on her shoulder accompanied by Lauren’s mother calling her name.

“I’m going home now, you should go too.” Clara said softly once she opened her eyes.

Camila only blinked, still dizzy from just having woken up, before she sat up straight. She almost rubbed her eyes before remembering she was wearing her contact lenses, which was not good. Camila needed to get her glasses if she didn’t want to risk going blind every time she fell asleep. Sighing, she paused her thoughts to untangle Clara’s suggestion in her head, giving her a small smile and shaking her head afterward.

“Okay, but I’m staying. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep in our bed tonight.” Camila replied.

Clara gave her a sympathetic look before looking at her watch. “Okay.” She sighed, meeting Camila’s eyes again. “Mike had to go ahead because something came up at work. And Normani had to go to the station to write a report for what happened.”

Camila nodded. “Ally, Dinah and Taylor?”

“In the cafeteria.” Clara answered promptly.

Taylor and Chris had arrived not too long after their talk with Dr. Lawrence, but the boy had had to leave shortly after, unable to stay longer because of his tight schedule. The younger Jauregui was apparently still there, though, but Camila had a feeling it would soon be just her and Lauren in the room.

(She was glad for the hospital’s policy of not having visiting hours, since she really didn’t think she could make it through being home alone today.)

“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, then?” Camila asked, getting up to hug Lauren’s mother tenderly.

“Yes, I’ll come as soon as possible.” Clara answered once they parted.

The older woman gathered her things then and, with a final warm smile, exited the bright room, leaving Camila alone in it. Well, not completely, Lauren was still there after all, but it was so quiet that it felt like it. For the first time, Camila welcome the quietness of it all, after the mess of a day she’d had. But with the stillness of the moment, Camila was free to think. And with that came all the thoughts that made her heart hurt. She missed Lauren, missed hearing her voice, listening to her angelical laugh.

(Suddenly, the quiet wasn’t as welcoming anymore.)

Camila made her way to the bed, leaning against the edge and taking Lauren’s hand in her own before bringing it to her lips and kissing it softly. A nurse had come and gone during the day and Camila had asked what she could and couldn’t do on her first chance. And so kissing Lauren’s knuckles had become her most frequent gesture.

“Hey you.” Camila spoke softly, lips still ghosting Lauren’s hand. She gave it a final peck and lowered it to the bed, without letting go. “It’s really quiet and I liked it until it made me start thinking things I don’t wanna think, so we’re gonna talk a little, okay?”

(Camila obviously didn’t expect an answer, but she still felt a tug in her heart when the only response she got was the beeping of Lauren’s monitor.)

“Your entire family came to see you today, you know? Dinah, Mani and Ally too. Even Shawn.” Camila stopped for a moment, tilting her head as she remembered something. “Keana and Noah didn’t come, but I don’t think they are aware of what happened. I’ll call them tomorrow, I know you miss them.”

Camila ran her thumb through Lauren’s knuckles one more time and was about to continue talking when she heard the door opening. Turning toward it, she saw that it was the same nurse that had come a few times during the day, the only difference being that now Dr. Lawrence was by her side. Camila sighed and stood up straight, bringing Lauren’s hand to her lips one more time before letting it rest on the bed.

“Get better soon, princess. I love you.” She muttered before stepping back.

The nurse smiled in sympathy and Camila returned the gesture. “We’re gonna do a final check up on her now, okay?” Camila nodded so she continued. “Don’t worry, though, if anything happens during the night someone will be here in a second.”

That wasn’t as reassuring as Camila guessed the nurse wanted it to be, considering that it basically meant that something could happen during the night, but the brunette tried to shake off the dread that creeped into her chest. Nothing would happen, she just needed to be patient and wait for Lauren to wake up. She looked at Dr. Lawrence and he seemed focused on something he was reading, so Camila refrained from asking the few questions that had come up in her mind during the time she’d been awoke.

She let them do their thing, checking the monitor and the IV drip and saying hushed medical stuff that Camila didn’t understand, but once they were finished and about to leave, she called for Dr. Lawrence, making him stop in his tracks.

“Yes?” He asked calmly.

“Hi, uh…” Camila trailed off, making him furrow his eyebrows. “Okay, so, I know you explained earlier, but I mean, how can a headshot not be fatal? I’ve played enough video games to know it should be.” Camila chuckled bitterly, her attempt at humor in face of a difficult situation finally arriving after the hours of pure desolation.

Lawrence’s eyes softened as he stepped closer to Camila. “Lauren was shot right here.” He touched Camila in the corner of her forehead, just above the end of her left eyebrow. Then, he stepped back, retreating his hand and clearing his throat. “If the shooter had aimed well, it would probably perforate the skull and the dura mater. But it didn’t go straight in. Probably because of his drunken state, he didn’t even have a target, he just shot ahead. The bullet didn’t just graze her, though, the hit was hard enough to fracture that bit of the skull, but it went on its way afterward. She was very, very lucky. Another caliber or an inch to the right might have made a total difference.”

Camila nodded again, the pieces finally coming together in her mind to form a picture that had been too hazy from desperation earlier for her to see properly. “Okay, yeah, that makes sense. But… What about brain damage?”

Lawrence sighed. “It’s too early to be one hundred percent sure that she didn’t have any, but the brain scan we did after the surgery suggested that it was the case. The bleeding wasn’t too extensive and she was brought here quickly enough for us to get rid of it before it pressured the brain too much. Miss Jauregui will probably experience confusion and headaches when she’s up, maybe some trouble speaking, but we can only know about permanent damage after she wakes up and we do a MRI. Even so, there is a chance that despite what the tests tell us, the symptoms take long to go away completely. But if there are no complications until she wakes up, it’s pretty likely that she won’t have any permanent brain damage. Again, she was very lucky.”

Camila swallowed hard and nodded, her accelerated heartbeat slowing down just a little bit at the last couple of sentences. “Thank you.”

“No problem. Oh, and she’s all good for now, by the way.” Dr. Lawrence gave her a small smile.

Camila smiled back, relief washing over her upon hearing some good news. “Thank God.” She muttered.

Lawrence nodded and left after a final look at Lauren, just as Dinah, Taylor and Ally came back from the cafeteria, the shorter of the trio carrying a big cup of coffee and a sandwich.

“Hey, Sleeping Beauty, good to see you awake.” Dinah tried to joke, managing to get a smile from the other girls and proving that after a few hours the general mood really had gotten better.

Lauren had been stable the entire time, after all, and with constant reassurance from the nurse who came to check up on her that she would be fine, everyone eventually started to believe her. Camila had been relieved when, after waking up upon Lauren’s siblings’ arrival, she found Ally’s eyes with some of the old light they held. They were far from the usual fireworks, but the little flame of hope had been enough to warm Camila’s heart.

“Hi, sorry ‘bout that, I was just really tired.” Camila answered sheepishly, to which Dinah waved her off.

“We got that part, Walz. But don’t worry, we looked after Lauser for you while you were asleep.” Dinah promised, ruffling Camila’s hair as she passed her on the way to her chair.

Camila huffed and fixed her hair, not even bothering to glare at Dinah. She did look at her, but it was to send her friend a soft smile. Camila knew what she was doing, she had known Dinah for far too long to know that when things got rough and the initial shock was over, the girl was all about lifting up everyone’s spirits in whatever way possible.

(Even by smacking Camila’s birthday cake in her face to stop her thirteen-year-old self from whining about the cast she’d been wearing from breaking her arm.

Camila had been pissed, but then she had laughed, so after a while she just stopped questioning Dinah’s methods.)

“I brought you some food, Mila. You haven’t eaten in hours.” Ally brought her back to the present, handing her the sandwich and the coffee.

Camila felt her mouth water at the sight and as if right on cue, her stomach growled loudly enough to express her gratefulness before her words could.

The girls chuckled slightly. “Well, my stomach and I say thanks.” Camila joked.

“No problem.” Ally replied easily, taking the seat next to Dinah.

Taylor was already on the other one, quieter than the three friends. Camila guessed it had something to do with the fact that she’d been in the hospital with Lauren for less time than them, thus, having had less time to get used to the situation, or as used as it was possible to get to your sister being in a coma.

Camila felt her heart tighten in her chest at the sight of the younger girl, and decided that her stomach could wait a little. Camila left the food on a little table in the corner of the room and sat down at the arm of Taylor’s chair, just like Dinah had done with her hours ago. Then, she started playing with her hair just the way Lauren loved, to try and soothe her.

The little grateful smile Taylor sent her way moments later was worth more than all the food in the world.

Camila realized the next day that her mood only got better when she was with Lauren in her room, where she was sure her girlfriend was safe and sound. But she couldn’t stay there forever, and after half an hour of being away from the hospital, Camila’s mind was once again consumed with worry.

What if something happened while she was away? What if there was no one with Lauren and the nurses didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary? What if-

No. Camila needed to get rid of those thoughts, or she wouldn’t live until Lauren was awake in a few days. The Latina shook her head and sighed, opening the door to her and Lauren’s apartment. Everyone in the hospital was fully able to do their jobs, and worrying like that would make her go insane.

So Camila did the only thing she could and tried to assure herself that everything would be fine. Easier said than done, obviously, especially when there was no one around to distract her. But, well, there were things she needed to do, so Camila guessed those could work as well.

Locking the door behind her, Camila headed straight for their bedroom, aware that a shower was much needed. She reluctantly took off Lauren’s beanie from her head and left it atop the bed, moving on to the bathroom to undress and get inside the shower.

The cold air was soon replaced with hot water as Camila turned it on, enjoying the way it seemed to wash her free of all the pent-up stress of the previous day. Sure, she was still worried, but at least her shoulders weren’t as tense as they’d been for almost twenty four hours straight.

Camila took her time, making sure to rid herself of all her unwanted thoughts and energies, as if massaging her hair with extra care would also cleanse her soul. The intense process was the reason why Camila got out of the shower almost half an hour later, for once putting the planet’s environment aside for a bit of self-care.

(Mother Earth would understand, she was sure.)

Once she was already dressed – and wearing her glasses –, Camila took a deep breath and sat down, thinking about all she had to do that day. Which was a lot.

Well, first things first. Camila took her phone from her purse on the bedside table, noticing that yes, she did have a shit-ton of ignored messages. Most were from Dinah and Shawn, the two caring angels they were. She’d answer them in a bit, after she finished looking through the rest of them.

Another text was from Hiro, with the details for her interview. The thought of it was enough to make Camila shudder. If there was one thing she didn’t want to do, it was that interview. Especially right now, with Lauren in such a complicated position. Still, she had to. So Camila only sighed and sent back her okay.

It was the fourth and final conversation that made her heart ache.

Keana (9:21 am): hey camila, how’s everything?

Keana (9:21 am): listen, i’ve been texting lauren but she hasn’t answered, did she like lose her phone or smth? thanks lol tell her to get int ouch!

Keana (9:22 am): in touch* lmao

Camila’s face fell as she read the words, remembering her promise to Lauren that she’d let her friends know what had happened. But that meant having to talk about that on the phone, listening to their reactions… Camila wasn’t sure she could handle that. And still, even if Lauren was unconscious, she had promised. So Camila closed her texting app and called Keana.

“Hey, Camila, what’s up?” The girl greeted in a cheery voice after a few dial tones.

“Keana, hi. Um, look.” Camila started, hesitating before she continued. “You asked about Lauren-”

“Yeah, I was gonna invite you guys to this party I got free tickets for.” Keana interrupted, and Camila could practically see the smirk the girl was wearing.

Camila sighed, fingers fiddling nervously with the hem of the sweater she’d basically stolen from Lauren.

“Look, Keana, I’m sure she’d love to, but, I have something to tell you.” Camila said in a quiet voice.

“Okay…” Keana replied, the chirpy tone no longer present in her voice.

“Don’t freak out, because it’s all gonna be fine, but Lauren got shot yesterday during work. She’s in the hospital and in an induced coma, but she’s gonna be okay, the doctors have assured us of it.” Camila blurted out, in a way that probably wasn’t too good to Keana, but honestly? Camila wouldn’t be able to tell her otherwise.

There was silence on the other side of the line, a silence that was only filled with Keana’s increasingly loud breathing.

“What?” Keana finally broke the silence in a trembling whisper.

“No, hey, listen. Lauren is fine, she should wake up in like three days.” Camila tried to undo the damage, but she could already hear sniffling on the other side of the line and felt her own throat tightening. “Keana, listen.” Camila cleared her throat, fighting to keep herself from crying. “She’s in the Lower Manhattan Hospital, they don’t, um, have visiting hours. So you can go whenever you want.”

Keana was crying softly on the other side of the line, probably trying to keep herself together just like Camila, but the Latina could hear the muffled, quiet sobs the other girl was letting out.

“Okay.” Keana finally choked out.

“I’m so sorry to tell you like this, I…” Camila breathed out trembly, running a hand through her hair, which only frustrated her more, since it was a nervous habit she’d picked up from Lauren. “I didn’t know how- I… I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s- it’s okay.” A sob. “Thanks for telling me, I’ll let Noah know and we’ll head there.” Keana was silent for a moment and Camila was about to say something when the other girl beat her to it, apparently already managing to calm down a little bit. “Are you with her?”

Camila shook her head out of instinct. “No, I had to come home, I was there basically the entire day yesterday. But trust me, Lauren is gonna be fine. I wouldn’t be able to leave her if I knew she wasn’t okay.”

Camila was impressed at how firm and reassuring she managed to sound, even though she was full of doubts and worries herself. She guessed it was true, though; Camila had only been able to leave her girlfriend’s side after an entire day of witnessing that she was fine.

“Okay.” Keana breathed out. “Thanks, Camila. I’m gonna go now, you have a good day.”

“Thanks, you too.”

Camila frowned after hanging up. How nice of her to ruin someone’s day and then wish it to be good. She could already check “be an asshole” off her to-do list.

Running her hand through her hair again, Camila stood up, mentally reprimanding herself for thinking like that. Keana would have found out one way or another after all. Sighing, Camila tried to push the conversation out of her mind and go through the actual to-do list she had thought of.

Camila needed to be at Hiro’s in a couple of hours, but she also needed to buy groceries urgently. It was something Lauren and her had planned to do on Saturday, but they had been too busy for it, so Camila guessed she could do so now.

She only stared in doubt at Lauren’s beanie on the bed for about two seconds before grabbing it and leaving the apartment.

Camila ringed the doorbell to Hiro’s office, being let in moments later by a smiling Ariana, whose smile immediately faded when she took in the Latina’s appearance. Camila wasn’t badly dressed or anything like that, so she guessed she really must have looked like shit after the previous day. Still, Ariana seemed lost, and it was nice to know that Hiro hadn’t told her what had happened.

(It proved that she could trust him, even if he was a pain in the ass sometimes.)

“Hey, Mila... Why do you look like you had two hours of sleep last night?” Ariana chuckled awkwardly, trying to lighten the already somewhat dark mood.

Camila smiled fondly at the girl’s bluntness. “Because that’s probably what I had.”

Ariana furrowed her eyebrows, stepping aside so that Camila could enter the reception. “Why? Did something happen?”

“Um, yeah…” Camila replied hesitantly, feeling her heart speeding up at the mere reminder of what happened and wrapping her arms around herself, as if it could shield her. “My, uh, my girlfriend, Lauren, she got shot.”

Ariana’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open, seemingly unable to say anything. The shorter girl broke out of her daze by the closing of the door, immediately stepping forward and placing her hand on Camila’s upper arm.

“I’m so sorry, Mila. I really am.” Camila bit her bottom lip and nodded, making Ariana squeeze her arm. “Is she… I mean, is she okay?”

“Like, right now? Not so much. But she will be.” Camila swallowed the lump in her throat and placed her hand atop Ariana’s, squeezing back lightly. “Thanks, though.”

The other girl let her own arm drop at that, allowing Camila to give her a warm smile and head to Hiro’s actual office. For that, Camila was grateful. She couldn’t have continued that conversation for much longer without breaking into tears, and that was something she couldn’t do in that moment.

Unfortunately, that meant that Camila practically slammed the door of Hiro’s office upon entering, her breathing already somewhat ragged. It also made the man practically jump in his seat, which Camila would have found funny, had she been in a better mood.

“What the hell?” Hiro exclaimed with his eyebrows furrowed. His eyes softened once he met Camila’s and he gestured to the chair in front of him. “Good afternoon, Camila. How are you feeling?” He asked carefully.

“Like crap, so can this be quick?” Camila said tiredly, regretting the slight bite to her words the moment they were out. She sat down and avoided Hiro’s eyes. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Hiro didn’t seem upset, so Camila raised her gaze. “I work with people a lot more snappy than you that go off for far less, so don’t worry. The day you yell at me for giving you coffee in a mug you dislike, then I’ll be worried.”

Camila chuckled honestly, once more surprised by how nice Hiro was being. “Thanks.”

Hiro waved her off. “Now, let’s cut to the chase. You need to be prepared for tomorrow. I don’t think the media knows what happened to Lauren, but I did some research and her small, well, fanbase, already suspects something is up, because apparently someone claimed that they saw her arriving at the hospital. And she hasn’t been online, so. With that in mind, the interviewer might ask about her health. I don’t even need to say that most of this interview will be about your relationship with her.”

Hiro made a pause, so Camila nodded, but she wasn’t paying the due attention to what he was saying. The mere thought of people bombarding her with questions like they had when she’d left the fundraiser, especially about Lauren’s health, was something that she’d never guessed would happen, but, most of all, Camila had never guessed it would be something she’d fear.

“Camila? Are you listening?” Hiro asked before letting out a sigh.

Camila looked at him quickly, feeling guilty. “No, sorry, I kinda zoned out. What were you saying?”

Hiro dragged his hand through his face, sighing again. “I was saying that the interviewer will probably start with the play, trying to pretend that this is not about your sexuality. You can say that negotiations are being made if an extended season is brought up. Otherwise, they’ll ask you about the character, that sort of thing. After that, they’ll probably go for your sexuality. Once you confirm it, they’ll surely go for Lauren. Be nice, okay? Even if they seem a bit intrusive. You can deny answering some questions, but please no more scandals, okay? It’s been quite a messy couple of weeks, with the environment thing and the accidental coming out, if you’d like to put it like that. Okay?”

Camila nodded again, but Hiro kept looking at her. “Okay, Hiro.”

He still didn’t seem completely convinced. “Did you not get anything? Were you really paying attention?”

“Yeah, I swear.” Camila answered, huffing in annoyance. Yeah, she hadn’t paid attention before, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t from then on.

Fortunately, the agent didn’t question her any further, nodding slightly before standing up. Camila furrowed her eyebrows, looking at him inquisitively.

“I’m going to ask miss Grande for some coffee, would you like some?” He asked, walking toward the door and making Camila turn on her seat to face him.

“Uh, sure.” Camila replied, a little taken aback by the sudden change of subject.

“After that, I’ll try asking you some questions so you can work on answers.” Hiro stated, looking over his shoulder to Camila.

“Okay.” The girl replied simply, but her insides were twisting in apprehension.

With that, he opened the door and got out to talk with Ariana, leaving a nervous Camila behind. As if she didn’t have enough problems, that fucking interview would probably get intrusive, as Hiro had put it. But being an actress came with a cost, one that Camila was getting to be familiar with sooner than she’d like.

Still, that was the life she’d always dreamed of having and Camila couldn’t really picture herself doing anything else anymore. She would just have to get used to both wanted and unwanted attention.

If Lauren, one of the most private people she knew, could do it, then so could Camila.

Camila’s stomach was growling by the time she left Hiro’s office, and it had only been about two and a half hours since she’d had lunch. Admittedly, she hadn’t eaten much after making groceries – alone – and going to a quiet little Italian restaurant – alone again. She just hadn’t had an appetite.

(Which in itself was weird, since this was Camila, and usually she’d eat all the freaking time.)

Camila guessed that hunger was a good sign, or at least a sign that things are normal inside her. And that she really wanted to eat. Like, a lot. But she’d planned to go to Ally’s coffee shop with Dinah and Normani – the girl had gotten the day out – so she would settle for a muffin. Or three.

But there was still almost an hour left before the time they had agreed to meet there, since the original plan was to go home after going to Hiro’s. Camila was too hungry, though, so she decided to go there before them. It certainly wouldn’t hurt, so why not? She got her phone out to send them a quick text, but her face fell when she opened the group chat. It wasn't the same without Lauren and her neat texts. Nothing was the same without Lauren.

Camila (3:35 pm): hey guys im heading to ally’s a little earlier bc im hungry, ok? i’ll wait for you there

Camila didn’t wait for a reply before she locked her phone and shoved it in her pocket, climbing on her bike afterward. She really should get a helmet, considering the damage her head could suffer should she fall down. Lauren’s current situation had opened her eyes to the matter a little bit, and Camila made a mental note to buy one when she could.

The ride there was chaotic, as it always were to ride a bike in New York, not leaving much room for her to worry about Lauren. But Camila managed quite a good time without any accidents, so she chained the bike behind the café as usual and entered it.

When she looked around and didn’t spot Ally, Camila shrugged and made herself comfortable in new her favorite table of the place, the one she and Lauren had used on Valentine’s Day.

One of the sweet waitresses of the place came to take her order after a minute or two, and Camila didn’t hesitate in asking for the banana muffin, her absolute favorite, and a latte.

After she left, Camila’s thoughts soon went back to Lauren, proving that being alone and without anything to do really wasn’t good for her. But Camila couldn’t help it. Before she knew it, the girl was creating all sorts of scenarios in her head where things didn’t work out for one reason or another. The possibility of brain damage was the scariest one as of now, after Camila had been reassured time and time again that Lauren would live.

Sighing, Camila shook her head as if to forget about that - like she’d done several times that day - and grabbed her phone again to open her messages. Neither Dinah nor Normani had replied to her text, so she decided to check her social media. She went through her Instagram and Twitter for a while before getting bored of them and sighing. Camila was about to lock her phone when she got a notification of a new e-mail from Greenpeace. Guilt instantly filled her as she was reminded of her lack of activism those last few weeks, but she had been so busy…  Well, Camila could still help by donating and she made a mental note to do so when she got home.

(Might as well turn her mind into a journal, with all the mental notes Camila had been making.)

Camila closed her e-mail app when she got a text from Dinah on the group chat, which managed to get a smile out of her. It was a picture of her and a few of the kids she taught dance to, all on top of Dinah, who was sprawled on the ground with a grimace.

China (4:02 pm): [picture sent]

China (4:02 pm): while ur livinf the high life look at what im going thru!!!!

Camila chuckled at the messages, finding it the cutest thing just how good Dinah is with kids. She guessed it was because of all her baby siblings, something Camila never got to have.

Oh hell no. Camila would not let her already shitty state of mind get even worse. Camila knew Dinah was trying to cheer her up, so she would reply to her best friend’s text and make sure to lift her spirits.

Camila (4:04 pm): SO CUTE

Camila (4:04 pm): also im not living the high life i rode a bike to the coffee shop

Moaney (4:05 pm): you’re not grocery shopping for Ally tho so yeah you’re living the high life

China (4:05 pm): bish this is the group chat ur DOOMED

Moaney (4:05 pm): oh shiT

Camila chuckled slightly at that, a fond smile taking over her face as she realized just how much she appreciated her friends. Not that she didn’t know it before, Camila had never been quiet about loving them, but it was tough times like these that made her really think that she couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls. She was thinking of a reply when she got a text from Normani on their private conversation, laughing again when she saw the content of the text.

Moaney (4:05 pm): i only read the last text before i replied omggg don't let Ally see it!

Camila (4:06 pm): sure thing mani! don’t worry i got you!

Moaney (4:06 pm): also pray for me just in case

Camila (4:06 pm): dkehkdnsks

“Hey, Mila, you’re here early.”

Camila was startled to hear Ally’s voice, almost dropping her phone when the girl basically appeared in front of her. It was either that, or the fact that they were talking about her, but either way, Camila clutched her heart for a moment, making Ally let out a quiet giggle.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” Ally said softly as she sat down in front of her.

Camila noticed then that Ally had her order in hand and a sad little smile on her face. She smiled back, quickly recovering from the accidental scare.

“It’s fine, I was just distracted. And thanks.” Camila picked up her muffin and took a huge bite off it, almost moaning afterwards. “You’re such a good baker.”

Ally’s smile got a little bigger at that. “Thank you, it’s my own recipe. Mark and Jane have been desperate to decipher it.” She chuckled softly and so did Camila, picturing the two cooks spying on Ally when she baked. “Why are you here half an hour early, though? Not that I don’t love having you around, I’m just wondering.” Ally was quick to add.

“I left my agent’s office and was too hungry so I decided to come before the girls. Didn’t you see the group chat?” Camila asked innocently before she remembered she was supposed to keep Ally from checking her messages. She almost gasped when Ally furrowed her eyebrows and retrieved her phone from her back pocket.

“No, not really.” Ally lit up her screen and raised her eyebrows.

Damn, that was it. “Uh… What?”

“You guys are chatty today. I have seventy nine unread messages.”

Even Camila was surprised by that. But then again, Dinah and Normani surely knew how to turn a situation around.

“Um, yeah. There’s nothing interesting, though, so you might as well ignore it.” Camila said nonchalantly, hoping Ally would buy it.

Thankfully she did, shrugging as she locked her phone again and left it on the table. A weird silence fell upon them, something Camila was unused to experiencing with Ally. The girl had the kind of energy that fueled Camila’s and usually they were as talkative as it gets. Today, though, Camila guessed Ally’s head was just as full of the same thoughts as hers, and maybe the shorter girl had a harder time letting herself be helped at the same time as helping like Camila had been doing with Dinah and Normani.

“So, Ally, how are you?” Camila finally asked in a quiet voice as she sipped her latte.

Ally blinked then, as if she’d been lost in thought, and gave Camila a weak smile. “Better. I just can’t help but overthink… well, everything. But I know everything will be okay in the end.” She finished, the smile becoming a little stronger.

Camila’s own lips turned up at the sight. “I’m the same, actually. Our brains are always trying to trick us, aren’t they?”

“Yeah…” Ally breathed out.

Camila started to regret saying that as she remembered her talk with Lauren’s doctor. She didn’t even know what a MRI was, but she hoped it showed everything was alright, because she couldn't handle it if-

“Damn it, brains!” Ally exclaimed suddenly, incorporating one of her characters and her voice, along with her tone and expression were more than enough to make Camila burst into a giggling fit.

“You’re the best, Ally.” Camila sighed, smiling adoringly at the girl.

“Oh, please darling, as if Yolandah don’t know it!” Ally continued, making Camila laugh again.

Camila didn’t know why, but she felt her eyes watering up in that moment. Maybe she was just emotional, maybe she was still sad over everything else, or maybe she was just touched by how wonderful Ally was. Either way, Camila stood up and took her chair around the table to sit by Ally’s side, giving her a side hug and resting her head on the girl’s shoulder.

The older girl quickly reciprocated, wrapping her arms around Camila’s shoulders. They stayed like that for a while, Camila holding Ally by the waist, until her neck started to hurt and she lifted her head. A few tears had managed to escape her eyes, but one look at Ally showed her that they were in the same state. Ally was already wiping her eyes, though, but there was a smile on her face when she let out a breathy chuckle.

“I cry over anything, gosh.” She exclaimed.

“Same.” Camila laughed softly as well.

“You should’ve seen me when Normani proposed. I was a mess.” She chuckled again and Camila smiled. “I spent like half an hour crying with Lauren on the phone.” Camila’s smile faltered but she hoped that Ally hadn’t noticed and tried to put up a good front despite the way her heart constricted at the mention of her girlfriend. “She was so- uh… I’m sorry.”

Camila sighed. Ally had noticed. She shouldn’t be surprised, seeing as she had always been easy to read, but still, she didn’t want the girl to lose what little source of happiness she had at the moment from talking about the future. So Camila shook her head and took Ally’s hand, giving it a gentle squeeze.

“No need to apologize, Ally. Lauren was pretty happy when you told her over the phone. Actually, she was ecstatic. She loves you a lot.” Camila told her, as if Ally wasn’t sure of it already. But it did what she had intended and the older girl broke into a soft, but wide grin.

“And I love her a lot as well. We grew up together, she’s like my sister.” Ally squeezed Camila’s hand back and they sat in comfortable silence for a moment or two, until Camila felt the need to break it, not wanting her thoughts to go too far.

“So, tell me about the wedding.” She asked, watching Ally’s smile grow happier with one of her own forming.

And so Ally told her all of their plans so far. There weren’t all that many, sure, but the excitement that radiated off Ally despite the fucked up situation they were in did wonders to Camila's spirit.

They hit a soft spot when Ally brought up that she wanted Lauren as one of her bridesmaids, but before Camila could try and do anything about the sudden quietness from the other Latina, the doors to the coffee shop opened and both Dinah and Normani walked in, talking in a hushed tone.

Camila watched the girls with raised eyebrows, wondering what they were talking about, and one look at Ally told her she wasn’t the only one. She was just about to call for them when Dinah seemed to spot her and nudged Normani, both girls walking slowly to their table as if they hadn’t been caught in what seemed like “Introduction to Battle Strategy”.

Normani was the first to reach them, dragging a chair from a random table beside them to sit beside Ally, much like Camila had done with the other chair from their two-people table. She almost threw herself in the chair, giving Ally a sweet kiss on the cheek, which wouldn’t be suspicious at all, had she not looked like she was trying too hard to be casual.

“Hey, babe, how’re you feeling?” Normani asked, tucking a strand of hair behind Ally’s ear, and Camila watched as the confusion in the shorter girl’s eyes melted into affection.

Camila thought it was probably a good time to move her chair back to its original place, not wanting to intrude on a private moment. She found herself unable to do so, however, when Dinah obnoxiously dragged yet another chair across the floor to take Camila’s place, leaving the girl with no choice but to sit on the side of the square table, between the couple and her best friend. Camila glared at Dinah, who only stuck her tongue out at her, before rolling her eyes and settling for the only available spot.

(Which technically wasn’t even a spot, since it was a two-people table and all.)

“Did you have to take my spot?” Camila asked in a low voice, leaning toward Dinah, who only shrugged.

“Did you have to pick a table for two people knowing two more would join?”

Camila blinked. The girl did have a point. Camila only nodded then, leaning back in her chair and running her hand through her hair.

“Chanch, I’m joking.” Dinah muttered, poking Camila’s arm.

“Sorry, Cheechee.” Camila offered her a weak smile, to which the taller girl smiled back.

The noise of a chair being dragged against the floor reached Camila’s ears yet again and she looked at Normani and Ally to see the dark skinned girl separating herself from her fianceé a little bit. When Normani noticed Camila’s frown over the loud noise, her expression turned apologetic.

“Sorry.” Camila just smiled and waved her off, ridding her face of the frown. “And hi, by the way.” Normani chuckled weakly.

“Hey, Mani. How are you?” Camila asked, to which Normani sighed.

“Been better.” She replied simply. “They’re killing me with the paperwork, too.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Camila said sympathetically, to which Normani smiled appreciatively.

“And hi to you too, Allyson.” Dinah greeted, feigning annoyance.

Ally giggled weakly, but seemed a little guilty. “Hey, DJ, sorry.”

Dinah huffed dramatically. “You get used to being forgotten over time.”

Nobody laughed as loud as they usually would with Dinah’s antics, but Camila knew that everyone understood what she was trying to do and was grateful for it. So Camila smiled at her friend while Normani ordered something for the both of them to eat and drink, already knowing what Dinah would have probably from the amount of time the girl spent there.

“So, you two were suspicious back there.” Camila started once Ally had left to take care of some things, making Normani and Dinah look at her immediately with furrowed eyebrows.

“What? When?” Dinah asked, but Camila wasn’t sure if she was only faking innocence, so she narrowed her eyes at her.

“When you arrived, of course.”

Dinah’s face relaxed in a blink of an eye, whereas Normani laughed a little, making Camila the confused one.

“We were planning what to say if Ally confronted us about the group chat.” Normani confessed, looking sheepish.

“Yeah.” Dinah chuckled. “We may or may not have flooded it.”

Camila shook her head then, relieved to finally satiate her curiosity, even if that was nowhere near what she expected to hear. Not that she had anything in particular in mind, but still, the group chat? Really?

“Was all that really necessary?” Camila asked, amused.

“You don't know Ally like I do. She may be small, but that doesn’t make her any less scary when she’s mad.” Normani stated confidently.

Camila only laughed again and shook her head lightly. “Remind me to remain on Ally’s good side then.”

“Sure thing, Mila. Sure thing.”

The girls finished eating and headed for Normani’s car to drive to the hospital as they had planned, Camila leaving her bike at Ally’s like many times before. Shawn had called and offered to come along, but Camila knew he already had plans, so she’d turned him down after thanking him.

While they managed to keep a surprisingly good mood at the coffee shop, the car ride was silent and Camila’s stomach was in knots again in no time. It didn’t really matter that she’d been there that morning, a lot could have happened in the meantime. But then again, they would have called her, wouldn’t they?

Camila rested her chin on her hand, which was supported by her elbow on the window of the backseat, reasoning with herself that she didn’t have to worry. Keana had also talked to her during the afternoon, saying that she and Noah had visited Lauren and despite the girl’s expected hoarse voice and dark mood, she’d even said Lauren didn’t look all that bad, which was good.

When they arrived, Dinah with an arm around Camila’s shoulder as Ally talked with the receptionist, the Latina started wondering if there was a way she could arrange the chairs in Lauren’s bedroom so she wouldn’t wake up with a raging pain on her neck like she had today.

(Going home never once crossed her mind, the thought of sleeping in their bed alone still making Camila feel sick.)

They walked in silence to the bedroom, which was pretty cozy as far as ICU hospital rooms go. It was a small square, sure, but the chairs were big and comfortable and the view from the constantly closed window was nice. What Camila didn’t expect to find when she opened the door, however, was Marcus standing there by Lauren’s side, dressed in suit with a frown on his face.

“What are you doing here?” Camila blurted out before she could stop herself.

The man looked up with surprise etched on his face and Camila thought she’d heard Ally asking who she was talking to, but suddenly she was frozen. It was only when Camila felt a little push on her back, snapping her out of her daze, that she actually entered the room, being closely followed by the girls. They all seemed a bit surprised, but Ally was the only one to visibly tense when she saw the man.

“Hello, girls.” Marcus replied after straightening up. “I’m visiting my niece, obviously.”

Even in that kind of situation, he still managed to be a jerk. Camila repressed the scoff that was dying to come out and took a step closer to the bed, not saying another word. Yes, he was an asshole and Lauren probably wouldn’t want him there, but he was still her uncle and she couldn’t exactly just tell him to go away, even if this was just what she wanted to do.

So Camila just muttered an apology, to which Marcus nodded, before taking Lauren’s hand in her own and giving it a soft kiss. She was willing to put up with Marcus being there and just ignore his presence so she could make the most of her time with Lauren, but she couldn’t help but feel extremely uncomfortable with him in the room. And by the way Ally was shooting daggers at him through her eyes, Camila guessed she wasn’t the only one.

“You okay, baby?” Camila heard Normani ask Ally and the girl hummed in response.

Dinah was the first one to move, sitting in one of the chairs and looking lost in the awkward situation. Camila heard a sigh before she saw Normani joining her. The two were the ones who less knew about all of this mess, so it made sense that they’d try and stay out of it. But then again, Camila could bet she didn’t know everything about it either, since Lauren had said there were things she wasn’t ready to talk about. And still, she couldn’t help the knots in her stomach telling her to stay by Lauren’s side as long as Marcus was there.

The silence was deafening by the time Ally walked over to the bed as well, a very uncharacteristic scowl on her face, and Camila stepped to the side so she could take Lauren’s hand if she wanted. The girl’s expression softened immediately upon seeing her best friend and she opened her mouth to say something before quickly closing it and looking at Marcus, the scowl back on.

“How long have you been here?” Ally asked dryly, surprising Camila.

Marcus pursed his lips. “About half an hour, why?”

“Could you please give us some privacy?” Ally asked politely, but anyone with eyes could see that she was more so demanding that he leaves than asking.

Marcus frowned and Camila held her breath, too surprised by Ally’s behavior to do anything else but look at him.

“If you don’t feel like sharing the room, maybe you should wait for me to leave.” He replied, just as rudely as she had expected him to.

Normani got up then, making her way over to them and standing by Ally’s side, a frown adorning her features as well.

“We’re just asking for some alone time with our friend.” Normani said calmly, but it was clear that she was annoyed.

“I see.” Marcus nodded, frowning as well. “You have no problem visiting while my brother and sister-in-law are here, but I can’t be. That’s really-”

He interrupted himself as his phone started ringing. Sighing, Marcus didn’t address the girls with another word before he picked up and turned on his back.

“Yes?” Camila looked at Normani and Ally as he talked, the two of them seeming just about ready to strangle Marcus. “Okay, fine. I’ll be there in ten.” He turned back to us, with a smile faker than his fundraiser’s intentions on his face. “Well, seems like you girls got your way after all. I gotta go. Have a good afternoon.”

“You too.” Normani replied dryly.

The moment the door closed behind Marcus, Camila let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding, noticing how Ally immediately relaxed as well.

“What was that about?” Dinah asked, finally getting up from her chair, confusion all over her features.

“He’s an asshole and Lauren wouldn’t want him here, she hates him.” Ally stated firmly.

“I’m pretty sure the entire family can’t stand him.” Camila added, rounding the bed to get to Lauren’s other side and cradling her hand.

Ally didn’t reply, so Camila looked up at her to see her more serious than usual. Not desperately sad like the previous day, just serious.

“He’s pretty creepy alright.” Dinah piped in, making both Camila and Ally look her way. “But now that Corporate Darth Vader has gone away, maybe we could take a deep breath and relax?” She said, standing behind Ally and Normani and putting her hands on their shoulders.

Camila laughed weakly alongside Ally and Normani, but she couldn’t help the uncomfortable feeling still in the pit of her stomach. Maybe Darth Vader was a good nickname after all.

Chapter Text

Lauren was running through a long corridor, darkness surrounding her to a point of blindness, the air thick and hard to breathe in. She couldn’t see where she was going, but the feeling of being chased was enough to make her not once think to stop. Lauren also couldn’t feel her legs, so there was no exhaustion grounding her.

Her mind was foggy and confused, thoughts of bullets and parties swirling inside her, but Lauren didn’t question what was happening; running was all that mattered for now.

But was she running, really? Lauren couldn’t hear her footsteps anymore.

In a blink of an eye, there was nothing more stopping her.

Lauren was falling, or maybe flying down, but there was no more running, and with no sound coming from her feet, a ringing took over her ears.

“If you don't feel like sharing the room, maybe you should wait for me to leave.”

Lauren’s breath caught in her throat as that voice rang through the room, or the pit, or the empty space, or wherever the hell she was. She wasn’t falling anymore, but she felt just as hopeless, sitting in the dark, surrounded by nothing but her own despair.

Lauren didn’t know how much time had passed, her heartbeat going through the roof and her breaths coming ragged and sharp. She drew her knees to her chest, feeling as vulnerable and small as ever, lacking the strength to go back to running.

At least now her mind was a little clearer and she knew. Lauren knew she had been running from him, but she couldn’t bring herself to stand up again, feeling too defeated to even try.

“I’m pretty sure the entire family can’t stand him.”

And there it was, another voice echoing through the corners of her mind, making Lauren lift her head from where it had been resting on her knees. Lauren wasn’t crying, but her eyes sparkled at the sound, and suddenly she was at her feet.

Or not exactly on her feet, but spreading her wings. Not running, but flying, away from everything the first voice represented, flying toward everything the second voice gave her.

Lauren saw a light in the darkness.

Her wings, of a clear, crystal green and somewhat like a dragonfly’s, took her away from the bad, from the hopelessness, from the voice of a man who she once thought had ruined her life.

They took her toward the light, toward the soft white sphere of luminosity, that seemed to grow the closer Lauren got to it.

“I love you, Lo. Love you so much. Wake up soon, okay? I’ll be waiting.”

The sphere of light grew enough to swallow Lauren, and soon she was taken by it, her mind going blank again.

This time, Lauren couldn’t help but smile.

That Wednesday, Camila’s mind was full of thoughts and worries about her interview. It would be just her and the interviewer, no Shawn to support her, no Hiro to guide her.

It didn’t help that the only thing taking up more space than these thoughts were those of Lauren. Yet another day had passed and the doctors hadn’t taken her off the induced coma. Camila knew it was for the best, but that didn’t mean that it didn’t suck.

(Especially since Camila could barely leave the room by herself without growing anxious about Lauren’s health, and boy, was that tiring.)

Sometime during the morning, the girl had dragged one of the big chairs in the room to the side of Lauren’s bed so that she could sit and keep her company at the same time and that was exactly where Camila was right now. She was waiting for Shawn and their parents, who had spoken to her the previous day and had decided to take them out for lunch today.

But Camila was also playing with Lauren’s fingers, telling her about her day, or just random things that she had learned, and hoping that the green eyed girl was listening, that maybe she wasn’t feeling too lonely inside her own mind. She also hoped to distract herself from the incoming interview, which was only making her nervous.

Camila was in the middle of telling Lauren about Dinah and Normani flooding the group chat when the sound of the door opening made her jump. It was just who she had been waiting for, but that didn’t mean that for a second her heart hadn’t skipped a beat and her breath hadn’t caught in her throat inadvertently.

Ever since the break in, Camila had been jumpier than usual, loud sounds and sudden appearances being the worst to her. It wasn’t bad like when she was eleven, thankfully, but she was sure that some time would be needed until she went back to normal, or how normal Camila could be in that department.

But Camila had been especially startled when the door was opened and she guessed she had her nerves to blame for that. So she clutched her heart as Karen and Manuel smiled softly at her, not trying to downplay what she was feeling. If someone would understand, it would be those three people standing across the room from her.

“Hi, darling.” Karen started, rounding Lauren’s bed as Camila rose from the chair. “It feels like ages since the last time we saw you.”

Camila sunk into the arms the older woman had opened for her, hugging her tightly. They gave her the security she needed so that her heartbeat slowed down, just like many times in the past.

“I know, I’m sorry.” Camila pulled back to look into Karen’s eyes. “It’s been a crazy few days.”

“We can see that.” Manuel said from her right, placing his hand on her shoulder before she untangled herself from Karen and hugged him as well. “And I’m truly sorry about Lauren.”

Camila shut her eyes tightly, her face still buried in his shoulder, as she tried to ignore the pain in her chest at the words. She knew he meant well, so Camila only nodded and pulled back.

Camila looked to the girl she loved, lying motionlessly with IV tubes still in place, her head still wrapped in bandages and her skin just a little less pale than it had been on Monday. A lump instantly formed in her throat and she blinked rapidly to stop a few unwelcome tears from falling, but she knew everything would be okay in the end.

(It had to be.)

“She’ll be okay.” Camila stated, unable to stop her voice from wavering no matter how much she wanted to. Her hands flew to her necklace; fiddling with its pendant had become something she did without even realizing it. It brought her comfort, somehow, to hold in her fingers material proof of Lauren’s love for her, and it was quickly becoming an unconscious habit.

“Lauren’s tough, dad, don’t worry.” Shawn assured his father, but when Camila turned around to face him, the boy was looking at her with a soft smile.

Camila swallowed the lump in her throat and smiled back, walking toward her brother and giving him a side hug. He gave her a kiss on the top of her head and kept her arm around her, as if they would walk right out, but Camila got out from under it, leaving him confused.

“Just a sec.” Camila said, before she dragged the chair back to its original place.

Then, she walked to Lauren’s bedside and looked up, meeting Shawn’s eyes again. Without ever saying a word, they understood each other, and soon Shawn was calling for their parents to come with him and give them some privacy. Camila smiled appreciatively at her brother, who winked at her and left the room.

“We’ll be right outside, sweetie.” Karen said gently before closing the door, not waiting for a reply.

And so Camila was left alone with Lauren, again. This time, though, there was something different in the air, as if the prospect of leaving her made it harder to breathe. Just like every other time she’d had to leave, Camila was already growing more worried. But she had to.

“Hey, baby.” Camila said, running her fingers lightly through the tips of Lauren’s hair. “I gotta go again now, but your parents are coming with Taylor after lunch and Chris is coming at night. But I’ll be back by then. I think Ally and Mani are coming as well, I’ll text them later.” Camila ran her hand down Lauren’s arm, reaching her girlfriend’s hand and bringing it to her lips. “I love you, princess, always.”

Camila took another moment to wipe the couple of tears that managed to escape her eyes and gave Lauren’s hand a final kiss before she left the room.

This time, she didn’t shy away from Shawn’s touch, the arm he put around her shoulders as comforting as it could get. Talking to her family helped Camila get her mind off both Lauren and her interview and as they made their way one of their favorite restaurants, her spirits were lifted considerably.

It was when they settled down at a table and waited for a waiter to come get their order that it started to get uncomfortable for Camila, with the looks the older couple was giving her and exchanging between each other, as if trying to figure out how to reach the topic.

(As if Camila hadn’t caught onto them the minute they had called asking for a lunch date.)

The waiter came and went, leaving them with the menus, but it wasn’t as if they didn’t know it by heart already, so all of them muttered a, “Thank you,” and fell into a somewhat awkward silence that left Camila way more bothered than she thought it would.

After a minute or so, she decided to break it. “It’s okay, you can ask. I know Shawn told you guys about the invasion, so.” Camila sighed as all eyes turned to her. Shawn seemed taken aback, so she turned to him and placed her hand atop his. “It’s okay, I don’t mind. I would’ve told them anyway.”

“Well, I’m glad.” He chuckled nervously, rubbing the back of his neck with his other hand. “But how did you know?”

“I figured it out because they sounded too worried over the phone.” Camila shrugged, smiling softly. “So, I’d say ask away, but I’m actually pretty hungry, so let’s order first, okay?”

Karen and Manuel smiled, the latter laughing weakly before he called for the same waiter. They ordered the same as they usually did, all of them completely acquainted with the restaurant to the point of not even looking through the menu. After the waiter left, Manuel was the first to speak.

“Shawn told us what happened, but he didn’t go into detail. He said that you should be the one to do that, if you wanted to.” Camila smiled appreciatively in his direction before turning back to her adoptive father. “So, we would like to hear what you have to say. Whatever you feel like telling us.”

“We just wanna be here for you, sweetheart.” Karen added, reaching for her hand and squeezing it.

Camila smiled at them, but she didn’t talk for a moment, trying to regain her ability to speak without sounding choked up. She didn’t mind talking, but it wasn’t easy, so she took her time. When she deemed herself ready, Camila squeezed Karen’s hand back before running her other hand through her hair.

“Well, Lauren’s uncle was throwing a fundraiser, right?” They both nodded, so she kept going. “Lauren and I had a fight there, but it was nothing major.” Camila let out the contents of the fight, since Lauren’s situation with her uncle wasn’t something she should tell other people, especially since she wasn’t aware of all of it and since it didn’t matter for her story. “I went home early and found a guy on our balcony. Thankfully he didn’t see me and I managed to lock the door and get to the stairs of the building, but I had a panic attack. It was a bad one…” Camila could feel her heartbeat picking up as it did whenever she brought up the topic and she stopped for a moment to take a deep breath. “I hadn’t had one that strong ever since my parents.” Camila swallowed hard. “Our apartment was trashed when I went in again. Like, I called the police of course. And it was a mess. We still have to buy some new stuff.”

“Mila…” Karen trailed off and squeezed Camila’s hand again. “I’m so sorry, darling. To think that you relived such a moment…”

Camila could feel her throat tightening, all the emotions of the last couple of days being just a little too much for her to handle talking about her parents unaffected.  

“I think- uh, I think I’m fine, though.” Camila continued, changing the topic from her parents. “It didn’t hit me as hard as I thought it would. Don’t get me wrong, it was awful and… and at the time I thought there was no worse feeling than that. But, um, I talked it out with Lauren and all I wanted to do the next day was move past it, y’know?”

The older couple nodded, Karen retracting her hand as the waiter arrived with their food. The talk was interrupted then, but as soon as he went away, Camila felt all eyes on her again. She could only lower her own, slicing her food and hoping that their attention was elsewhere, not as comfortable as she had been when she first started talking because of all the worry and the questions.

“We still have your therapist’s number, if you want it.” Manuel suggested softly, making Camila stop her fork midair. She lowered it for a moment.

“I don’t think it’s necessary, really. I would say so if it was or I would contact her if I thought I needed to. I still have her number too.” Camila tried her best reassuring smile, but she didn’t think it was a very good one, by the way both her parents and Shawn were looking at her. “I’m fine, really, just sad, but that’s nothing worth Dr. Willow’s time. She’s busy enough with people who really need her.”

“What about your other panic attack?” Shawn asked, not meeting her gaze. By the looks on their parents’ faces, they knew about that already as well.

Camila sighed, a little annoyed now, and let go of her fork, giving up on eating for the time being. Shawn could’ve left that part for her to share if she wanted to. Wasn’t it a detail, like they’d said he hadn’t told them? Or maybe her annoyance was caused by the pain of remembering what triggered that second panic attack in the first place.

“Well… When Normani called me about… about Lauren, I think that I was too overwhelmed by what happened on Saturday t- to deal with it, y’know? My mind kinda shut down, but I stopped it in time. Shawn knows this.” Camila turned to him, who looked down again, but she regretted the slight bite in her tone not a moment after her words were out. He was only looking after her, after all. Fucking temper. “Sorry.” She muttered.

Shawn looked up, a sad little smile on his lips. “It’s okay.”

Camila smiled back, turning back to the older couple. “Thing is, I’m fine. Seriously, I am. Like I said, talking about it makes me sad, obviously, and makes me nervous as well, but that’s normal.”

Camila didn’t mention how she was more easily triggered these days, but she was sure that it would wear off eventually. It had when she lived with them and after that, when she lived with Dinah. Maybe it would take more time for her to get used to noises and people entering rooms and stuff like that because of the latest events, so to put it, but she would be fine. Camila’s jumpiness always wore off, and she didn’t see why this time it would be different.

“Well, if you’re so sure, I don’t think we have a reason to doubt you. We’re just happy you’re fine.” Manuel said around a mouthful of food. Camila almost thanked God for finally being able to eat. “You’ve always been so in touch with your feelings, it’s almost weird.” He chuckled.

Camila smiled, glad to have finished that talk. “It’s a gift.” She replied cheekily.

“In touch with her feelings? Tell that to whoever falls victim of your temper next. Did anger not come in the emotional intelligence package?” Shawn half-joked and Camila felt her cheeks grow warm, but laughed weakly nonetheless.

“Dumbass.” She nudged him as he snickered. “I can’t even deny that, though. But yes it did. I know what I’m feeling when I get mad, I just can’t control it sometimes.”

Shawn chuckled again. “Whatever you say, Mila. As long as it’s not directed at me, I’m cool with it.”

Camila was let into the building in which her second interview was going to happen, noticing how it seemed of bigger importance than the first. She didn’t know if that was good or bad, but if there was one thing she knew, it was that it made her even more nervous, if that was even possible.

Camila gave her name to the receptionist, heading to the elevator as soon as she was cleared. It arrived shortly after she pushed the button and she entered it alongside some other people, all dressed in formal clothing, or more formal than her skinny jeans and simple button down blouse.

(Sure, she was wearing an elegant pea coat, but she would surely take it off from the heat as soon as she got to the designated room, since no one would turn on the air conditioner in February.)

Sighing, Camila looked at herself in the mirror of the elevator, glad that at least her make up managed to conceal the traces of the sleepless nights and hours of crying of the last few days. Looking presentable had taken a while, and Camila was at least happy that her work had paid off.

The young actress had just gotten out of the elevator when her phone buzzed in her coat pocket and she reached into it to quickly check it. Unlocking it, Camila noticed she had a few messages from Ally, which immediately triggered both her curiosity and her worry.

Allysus (4:17 pm): hey Mila, dr Lawrence said they’re taking Lauren off her meds

Allysus (4:17 pm): so no more indced coma, she gets to wake up on her own now

Allysus (4:17 pm): induced*

Allysus (4:18 pm): sorry I know you’re busy but I thought you’d like to know. progress!! <3

Camila’s hand flew to her mouth as she gasped, all the nerves she had been feeling because of the interview being swept to the side as both worry and happiness overtook her. Camila worried, because no coma meant more brain activity, which meant possibility of complications. But she was also happy, because if they took her out of it, she had to have been making progress. Lauren had to have been well, or as well as possible, and that was amazing news.

Camila (4:20 pm): omg thank you ally!! i cant wait for her to wake up, fuck

Camila’s hands clasped her phone forcefully after she sent the message, feeling herself become overwhelmed with emotions after the initial shock passed. Camila tilted her head back and blinked rapidly, willing herself not to cry despite the turmoil inside her chest. She had a job to do, after all, and even if all she actually wanted to do was go back to the hospital and count the seconds until Lauren woke up, she couldn’t.

So Camila swallowed the lump in her throat and willed her feelings to the side for the time being. She took a deep breath and made her way to the room of the corridor she’d been told the interview was at, stopping in front of its door once she felt her phone buzzing again, this time still in her hands.

Allysus (4:21 pm): I know!! me neither, trust me haha

Camila smiled sadly, looking through Ally’s little “haha” as easily as if it was made of glass. But it was almost time for Camila’s interview and she couldn’t talk to Ally like she wanted to, so her next texts were brief, shorter than she would have liked.

Camila (4:21 pm): i believe u lol

Camila (4:21 pm): but hey listen i gotta go  hsve the interview wish me luck!!

Camila didn’t wait for a reply before putting the phone on silent and locking it, shoving it on her purse before ringing the doorbell. In no time she was being let in, talking to yet another receptionist, filing some papers and being led to another room. It was similar to the one she’d had her first interview in, but larger and more modern and comfortable.

Camila didn’t pay much attention to that as she took off her coat and sat down on the comfortable armchair, though, since her thoughts were completely filled by Lauren and her health.

And that was when Camila realized that maybe Ally telling her about Lauren hadn’t been such a good idea, since she honestly thought she would have a hard time concentrating on the questions and-

“Good afternoon, miss Cabello!” A short man entered the room, startling Camila and bringing all the fucking nerves back.


“Good afternoon, Mr. Hopkins.” Camila replied politely, standing up to shake the man’s hands even though her insides were bubbling.

“Can I get you something to drink? Water, coffee?” He asked pleasantly.

“I’m good, thank you.” Camila replied, just wanting to get this over with.

“Okay, so let me just get my laptop,” Hopkins said as he walked to a desk in the corner of the room, “and we can start.”

Camila took the time to breathe deeply, trying to clear her mind. She was somewhat successful, but that didn’t mean her thoughts hadn’t rushed back to Lauren the minute he was in her eyesight again.

Camila worried about her, but also about what Hopkins could ask, about what he knew. She didn’t have much time to dwell on it, though, since he quickly sat down on another armchair and opened his laptop.

Hopkins started with the basics. Her full name and age, what made her want to go into theater, at what age she first started to act. Those were easy, objective questions, that Camila didn’t have to think much about to answer, which ended up helping her calm down. Camila was still nervous, though, and even if she tried to hide her agitation behind her usual playful demeanor and some jokes here and there, it wasn’t completely genuine and felt forced even to herself. After all, her thoughts were still elsewhere, no matter how much she tried to immerse herself in the present moment.

(Lauren took over her thoughts like air in her lungs; it didn’t matter if she could let it go, she would always need to breathe it in again.)

“So, ‘The Times of Her Life’. It’s been quite successful so far, huh?” The man more so stated than asked in his high-pitched voice. “Any indications that it might be picked up for an extended season?”

Camila took a second longer than she would’ve liked to catch onto what he was saying. “Oh, yes. Negotiations are being made, and that’s all I can say, but keep an eye open.” She laughed awkwardly.

“It’s good to hear that.” Mr. Hopkins replied with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.

It got easier with time to concentrate, but Camila was afraid she still seemed a little off to the interviewer. Sometimes he would look at her weirdly, as if she was taking longer than he deemed acceptable for this or that question. Camila started to grow worried about that, which only made her more nervous, and after answering what seemed like the hundredth question, she excused herself to go to the bathroom.

Closing the door behind herself, Camila leaned against the sink, supporting her weight on her hands, and took a few deep breaths. Slowing her heartbeat and clearing her mind seemed like impossible tasks under current circumstances, but they weren’t. They couldn’t be.

So Camila closed her eyes and focused on her breathing, just like she did when she had a panic attack. Sure, this was not even close to one, but the technique helped and soon she could look at herself in the mirror and see someone fit to go back to the interview. Camila still wasn’t as ready as she would have liked, but it would have to do.

Camila exited the restroom, checking the clock on the wall of the office and letting out a relieved breath when she saw that she had only been away for five minutes. As she sat down on the armchair, Camila smiled at Mr. Hopkins before apologizing politely.

“No problem, miss Cabello. Are you feeling unwell?” He asked, tilting his head in what seemed like genuine concern.

“No, no, I just needed to use the restroom.  But thanks for asking.” The actress added quickly.

“Are you sure? You seemed a little disorientated for a moment.”

Camila suppressed a groan she was dying to release, angry and disappointed in herself. She sighed and smiled after a moment.

“I’ve just got a lot on my mind, sorry.” She replied, noticing how the man across from her straightened up immediately.

“What exactly is on your mind? Is it related to your career or does it concern personal relationships?” Hopkins asked, taking the breach Camila had unintentionally given him.

There they go.

“Oh, it’s personal. But it won’t get in the way of our interview, I promise.” Camila said, hoping he would let it go.

(In truth, she knew they had just reached the real reason for this interview, but that didn’t make her any less uncomfortable by the prospect of what was to come.)

“It’s not a problem, really.” A pause. “Does it have to do with a certain Lauren Jauregui?” He smiled a sad little smile, but Camila didn’t know what to think of it, so she tried to not let it get to her head.

“Um, yes.” Camila replied after a moment, but before she could say anything else, Hopkins was talking again.

“There have been rumors regarding your relationship status with miss Jauregui. Maybe you could clear them for us.”

Camila was a little taken aback by his forwardness, but only took a deep breath before answering the question.

“She’s my girlfriend.” She said, simply.

Mr. Hopkins didn’t seem surprised in the slightest, typing down quickly on his laptop as she spoke. When he looked up, he seemed almost expectant of something else, and Camila knew she was supposed to come out as bisexual. Camila had never thought it would be that hard to disclose personal information about herself, or maybe label herself publicly, so she looked down for a moment, gulping. Then she remembered how Lauren had come out at a red carpet, telling the paparazzi to fuck off, and almost smiled at the memory.

Her contradicting emotions fought inside of her as Lauren’s tale came to her mind, the sudden urge to laugh mingling with the pride she felt for her girlfriend and the lump in her throat, formed by the reminder of their current situation.

The result, a weak, watery chuckle, was soon followed by this new motivation, by the assurance that if Lauren could do it, then so could she. Camila looked up and raised her chin, reveling in the wave of confidence that washed over her.

(Instead of swimming against the currents, she would let herself float and flow with them, hoping that they take her to safe shores.)

“I’m bisexual, you see, and we’ve been together since November.” Camila stated firmly, not letting her voice waver.

Mr. Hopkins had that same sad smile on his face now, but Camila really didn’t think it was a condescending one. He looked almost sorry for her, though she didn’t know why.

He solved that mystery not a second later, with a gentle, “You must be having a couple of hard days, then, with her incident at work.”

If there was one thing Camila wasn’t expecting, it was that.

(The young actress felt herself be thrown against the rocks by violent waves, her confidence destroyed by simple words, and suddenly the currents didn’t feel as trustworthy anymore.)

Camila realized her mouth had been open a moment later, closing it quickly only to stare at the man in front of her in surprise. The ache in her chest didn’t help the situation and her already messy thoughts only got messier with the revelation that Lauren’s current state was already public information.

Hiro had said there was a chance the interviewer would ask about Lauren’s health, but Camila had thought it was a small chance. At least that’s what she had understood. And even so, she could never have predicted that the media would already know about it, making Hopkins not even ask her if something happened.

“I’m sorry, I’m not sure if I understood you.” Camila finally replied, keeping her voice from trembling somehow.

I’m sorry, that was incredibly insensitive of me.” The man apologized, sighing. “I meant that it has come to our attention that Lauren Jauregui has been hospitalized two days ago. Her uncle, Marcus Jauregui, was filmed leaving the hospital. Here.”

Hopkins placed his laptop on the coffee table in between the armchairs, turning its screen to Camila before leaning over it and pressing the spacebar.

A video started playing. In it, Marcus was leaving the hospital Lauren was in when a photographer walked closer to him and asked him what he was doing there. Marcus seemed annoyed and continued to walk, but the paparazzi followed behind, asking him if he was visiting someone.

“My niece!” Marcus exclaimed, turning suddenly. He sighed. “I was visiting my niece. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go.”

The video ended after a few seconds, with Marcus walking away from the photographer.

“I have to say I’m surprised you haven’t seen this.” Hopkins started, taking back the laptop.

Camila was pretty much speechless, having had no idea about the existence of the video. She was pretty surprised by the whole thing. Shouldn’t Hiro have warned her about this? He surely would have if he knew about it, so the only explanation Camila could find was that he hadn’t seen this in time.

And Marcus. Why had he answered the paparazzi, when he could have simply ignored them? Why had he-

“Some newspapers talked about it, though no one is sure as to what happened to miss Jauregui exactly. Maybe you could enlighten us?” Hopkins interrupted her thoughts, throwing Camila in yet another mental and emotional hurricane.

Surely asking Camila to disclose such information was over the line, right? How could he not see that? Camila could feel her insides starting to boil, but she needed to keep her temper in check, so she took a deep breath and looked into Hopkin’s eyes.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t think that would be appropriate. Neither do I want to spread information without her family’s knowledge.” Camila spoke calmly, her voice icy as she contained her irritation. “All I’ll say is that she’s gonna get better.”

Hopkin subtly pursed his lips, maybe not liking Camila’s tone, but between the aching in her chest and her growing irritation, the brown eyed girl couldn’t bring herself to care. She had been polite, and that was what she needed to do.

A moment later, Hopkins sighed and gave Camila an apologetic look. “I’m sorry, you’re right. I’m sure she will get better soon, and my prayers are with you guys.” He seemed sincere, so Camila nodded and gave him a tiny tight lipped smile.

Soon they were back to the questions, which mostly consisted on personal things like when they had become official or how they had met. Camila answered this last one somewhat choked up, laughing quietly at the memory that she kept so close to heart. It seemed like forever ago, opening the door and finding Lauren standing there in her uniform, all formal and kind of awkward.

(The tug in her heart told her it would be best to change the topic, and Camila did just that.)

Sadly for her, it went right back to what had upset her the most about the entire situation with the media: her activism.

“So, on your interview with your brother, Shawn, you mentioned having a passion for eco-activism. Is that right?” Hopkins asked, making Camila clench her jaw.

“Yes, that’s right.” She answered politely nonetheless after a moment.

“You’re aware that you’ve been criticized for attending Marcus Jauregui’s fundraiser, keeping in mind the toxic waste scandal his company was involved in not long ago.” He continued, without asking something in itself, which could have made replying more difficult.

But Camila knew exactly what to say.

“I am aware, yes. I wanted to clear this up. When Lauren and I first started dating, I had no idea that he was her uncle, since there could be other Jaureguis in the country, you know? I wasn’t too involved with the action people took against his company at the time since I was busier than usual because of the rehearsals for the play and all that.” Hopkins nodded, typing things down. “It was a shock to find out that he was Lauren’s uncle and I didn’t exactly ask to go to his fundraiser. But he’s part of my girlfriend’s family and I was there to support her, even if his company has made mistakes in the past.”

Hopkins seemed satisfied by her answer, but it only made herself frown. Marcus had been on her mind ever since the short man across from her had shown her that video. Camila had her doubts about his actions, since there was no reason for him to have told the paparazzi such personal information. The hypothesis that she had been developing revolved around Marcus doing it on purpose, to attract attention, but that was one fucked up thing to do.

Camila made sure to break her frown not a minute later than it had been formed, worried about keeping up at least some appearance of normalcy. Or as normal as one could be when their loved one was as injured as Lauren.

(Camila ignored the way her chest went cold at the thought and had to take a moment to reassure herself yet again that Lauren would be fine before she could resume the interview.)

An hour or so later, Camila was going over to Ally’s to wait for her friend, Jake, who she had gotten to know through their play. If she were being honest, all she wanted to do was crawl into her bed with Lauren and cuddle her to sleep, but that wasn’t possible. Besides, it had been a while since they had last hung out, and even though the second thing Camila wanted to do the most was just go to the hospital to see her girlfriend, she had accepted his offer.

Camila’s thoughts ran wild as she sat in her Uber, thinking back to everything that had happened during the interview. It hadn’t been the best time of her life, that was for sure, but she realized she had better get used to it quickly.

And still, the interview in itself wasn’t the thing occupying her mind the most. A strange thing it was, not being able to control your thoughts, trying to block other things only to have them slip through your fingers like sunlight, each beam that touches you a new path for your mind to take.

The interview was what Camila tried to focus on, racking her brain for Hopkin’s reactions, for his tone, for his questions. Camila wanted to keep in mind anything that felt relevant about what she had experienced, knowing that she would have to report back to Hiro later and that this was of big importance for her short career.

The beams of light were Marcus and the fucking puzzle he still represented to Camila.

Before she knew it, Camila was already at the door of the coffee shop, thanking her driver and climbing out of the car. The small but comfortable café had become some sort of safe place for her in the last few days, especially after Lauren’s accident. The place had been growing on her ever since Dinah first took her there, and her Valentine’s date with Lauren certainly held a special meaning because of its location, but it astonished her how quickly it had become much dearer to her. In a couple of days the café had brought her more comfort than her own house, where everything was Lauren and everything hurt.

Sighing, Camila opened the door to the coffee shop. She smiled softly at the bell before making a beeline for Ally’s office in the back, greeting the familiar waitresses and the barista on her way. Camila didn’t know if they didn’t question where she was going because they were observant enough to notice that she was Ally’s close friend or because the shorter girl had told them in advance, but either way, no one stopped her when she knocked on the manager’s door.

(Yet another perk of being Lauren’s girlfriend.)

“Come in.” Ally called from the other side of the door.

Camila went inside the small room, closing the door behind her, and turned to Ally. She was sitting by her desk with lots of papers sprawled over on top of it, leaving almost no room unoccupied. The small sofa against the wall parallel to the desk’s and the TV hanging from the wall made up the rest of the small but cozy room.

“Hey Ally.” Camila smiled softly, walking over to her friend and kissing the top of her head.

Ally smiled fondly and got up from her chair to hug Camila, who hugged back tightly. She was the biggest reason for the café to have become her safe place, after all, seeing as their talks always managing to lift both their spirits. Camila couldn’t be more grateful for Ally.

“Took you a while.” Ally joked lightly, without her usual enthusiasm, and sat down on the couch. “When is your friend getting here again?”

Camila followed suit, getting her phone from her bag and checking the time. “In about half an hour.”

“Plenty of time to catch up then.” Ally chuckled weakly.

“Yeah.” Camila smiled, before asking what had been on her mind almost all the time now. “How’s Lauren? Did they take her off her meds yet?”

Ally sighed. “She seems fine. Less pale. And it just looks like she’s sleeping. Dr. Lawrence says she’s well, or they wouldn’t have gotten her off the meds. She should wake up tomorrow, Friday tops.” Ally smiled brightly for the first time in a while and Camila couldn’t help but mirror her, relief washing over her.

“Thank God.” Camila breathed out, almost laughing afterward. “I’ll go back to the hospital after I meet up with Jake, will you go too?”

“I don’t know… It’s gonna be a little late. And I’ll probably stay the whole day there tomorrow waiting for Lauren to wake up.” Ally chuckled, somewhat sadder. Camila just nodded, not knowing how to handle the sudden shift in the atmosphere, but she didn’t have to, since Ally took care of that a moment later. “How was the interview?”

Unfortunately, she didn’t choose the best topic to do so.

“Well…” Camila trailed off and Ally scrunched up her face. “No, wait, it wasn’t bad, y’know? Just… It had its moments, I was pretty uncomfortable at some points.”

“I’m sorry, Mila.” Ally was quick to say, reaching for her hand and squeezing it slightly.

Camila smiled, but it was a sad little thing. “They already knew- they knew about Lauren. Like, about her being in a hospital. Because Marcus told some paps who were there when he left yesterday.” Camila huffed and rolled her eyes, but Ally scowled like she had when they had met Marcus, and it was seriously scary. “You okay, Allycat?”

The shorter girl’s face immediately softened upon hearing the nickname. “Yeah, he just gets on my nerves.”

Camila nodded, but she didn’t quite believe Ally. She wondered if the girl knew something she didn’t, but even if that was the case, Camila wasn’t going to ask. She didn’t want to invade Lauren’s privacy, after all, especially now that she knew that if the green eyed girl hadn’t told her something, it wasn’t because she didn’t trust her.

“I still don’t know what he was doing there yesterday, it’s not like he cares about Lauren.” Ally said, turning fully to Camila and resting her arm on the backrest of the couch and her head on her hand.

Camila turned on her side as well, crossing her legs below her. “I have a theory, actually.” Ally seemed intrigued, so she took a deep breath and looked into her eyes. “This was bugging me during the interview but on the way here I began, like, to really think about it. It is strange that he went. Even stranger that he just told the paps when he left. What if he tipped off the paps about his location because he knew it would give him attention from the media, maybe lenience to push under the rug the bad image? Like, he did answer his phone just before leaving. I dunno.” Camila shrugged.

Ally, on the other hand, was now sitting upright, seeming intrigued and annoyed. “I wouldn’t put it past him.” She scoffed. “Freaking asshole.”

Camila was a little taken aback by the animosity coming from Ally, but she guessed it was just right that if she talked like that about someone, that someone would be Marcus.

“Lauren seems to hate him.” Camila pointed out the obvious.

“Yeah, I strongly dislike him too.” Ally replied, frowning.

It was weird to see their group’s cinnamon roll like that, almost as weird as it was to see her sad, but Camila couldn’t help but smile fondly when Ally said she strongly disliked him. Some things really didn't change.

“Hey, I know he sucks, but don’t give him the satisfaction of dampening your mood.” Camila nudged Ally’s shoulder, to which the girl smiled slightly.

“You’re right.” Ally said, simply, before they were thrown in a minute of comfortable silence, Camila lost in her thoughts. “Would you like to bake a little?”

Ally broke her train of thought so suddenly that Camila was a little startled. “Oh, okay.” She smiled.

Ally nodded and got up, smiling back. “Let’s go upstairs then, we can’t get in the way of the cooks here. We can bring whatever we make down here later. Or I can do so by myself, if your friend arrives before we’re done.”

Camila stood up as well, the prospect of baking with Ally actually cheering her up a little bit. “Yeah, sure.”

“Freaking Marcus isn’t getting to me today.” Ally stated with a laugh as they left the room.

Camila wasn’t going to let him get to her either.

Camila didn’t think she had ever performed anything in her life as nervous as she had been that Friday.

Exiting the stage, she received all kinds of weird and worried looks from almost the entire cast, everybody knowing by now what had happened. Her director knew as well, of course, and Camila was starting to think that he had been right when he said she should take advantage of her emotional state.

Camila put everything she had in that performance. She used her fear, her nerves, her love; she used everything she was feeling to fuel her character’s emotions. And it worked.

(Camila hoped with all her heart it had worked.)

But that didn’t mean she was happy. There was a reason she had been so nervous, after all, and it had nothing to do with work.

Two days had passed and Lauren hadn’t woken up.

She should have by now, according to her doctors. It was just past ten p.m. and Lawrence had said Lauren would wake up today without doubt.

(If everything was okay, that is, and it was the knowledge that something could be wrong that was driving Camila crazy.)

Changing backstage was certainly an experience. The cast had stopped staring, but Camila still felt like eyes were all over her and sometimes they really were. She tried not to mind, but it was difficult to add that to the “to-ignore” list, just below “the pounding of her heart” and “her wild thoughts”.

“Attention, everyone!” The director, Simon, called as he entered backstage. All heads immediately turned his way, even Camila’s, whose thoughts and worries were interrupted for a moment. “Our play just got picked up for another season.”

The feigned calmness in Simon’s voice contrasted the uproar that followed not a second later. He revealed a huge, uncharacteristic grin as soon as he finished speaking, and people were excitedly cheering, but Camila wasn’t able to get into the celebrating mindset. She was incredibly happy at hearing the news, obviously, and she, too, displayed a big smile for a moment, going up to give Shawn a tight hug and even giggling a little when he decided to pick her up and spin her around. But as her feet hit the ground, reality seemed to dawn on her, and her heavy breaths slowly subsided, her smile slowly faded.

“Party at my place tonight!” Exclaimed one of the actors, to which all the others only cheered louder.

Camila couldn’t help but grimace, looking up at Shawn before resting her forehead on his chest as he still held her in his arms.

“Maybe you should go.” Shawn said softly, running a hand through Camila’s hair.

“Not a chance.” Camila replied, the sound muffled by the boy’s shirt.

“I didn’t even hear you but I know you said no.” Shawn chuckled and Camila couldn’t help the little smile that tugged at her lips. “Which is fine, but hey!” He raised Camila’s head. “We got picked up, dude! And the interview came out today and it wasn’t bad! There’s plenty reason to be happy, sis.”

Shawn smiled and Camila gave him a watery chuckle, feeling her eyes start to sting even through her feeble amusement. She knew he was trying to cheer her up and maybe it was working, but Camila still felt a tug in her chest as she thought about the bittersweet day. Despite being described as nervous and somewhat restless because of what had happened, the magazine had been pretty professional and kind in their article, showing that there really was a difference between the first one she had had and this one.

(They had even brought up her casual clothes as a good thing, which had made Camila laugh as she read the interview.)

“I know, Shawn, bu-”

“Hey, Cabello, I think your phone is ringing.” One of her colleagues called, making Camila’s heart skip a beat.

She turned on her heels without saying another word to Shawn, who followed her to the small couch where she had left her purse. Camila thanked her fellow cast member and dug through her purse, finding her phone vibrating just as he had said.

“No problem. I sat down and bumped into it, feeling something buzzing, so.” The actor, Nick, replied, but Camila barely registered any of it through the pounding of her heart that seemed to muffle all other sounds.

Normani was calling.

“Hello?” Camila called, her voice already shaky.

“Mila, you need to come to the hospital right now.” Her voice was urgent and Camila felt like she was getting a déjà vu, one that she never wanted to get again.

“W- what happened?” Camila asked.

“Nothing bad, don’t worry.” Camila let out a sigh of relief as she realized that Normani didn’t sound sad, but excited. “You need to come right now, because Lauren just woke up.”

Chapter Text

Camila almost dropped her phone.


“She woke up! We had to get out, but she’s awake.” Normani said quickly.

Camila felt tears prick her eyes. “Oh my God.” She breathed out in relief, a smile taking over her face despite her shaky voice.

Normani let out a breathy chuckle. “I know! Come quick, okay?”

Camila cleared her throat. “Be there in half an hour.”

The young actress turned around to find an expectant, wide-eyed Shawn. If her initial sob made him believe the worst, the high pitched, “She woke up,” she let out a second later made him sigh. Camila threw herself in Shawn’s arms, giggling through her tears as her brother scolded her for scaring the living shit out of him.

(“Jesus, way to give me a heart attack!”

“Happy tears, Shawn.”)

After they parted, Camila messily gathered her things and left without another word to her friends and colleagues, Shawn following close behind with some eyes on both of them as they crossed the room.

Getting a taxi was relatively easy in front of the theater, but the thirty-seven minutes they spent inside it on the way to the hospital could be considered one the most agonizing experiences of Camila’s life. The brown eyed girl couldn’t keep her knee from bouncing for the life of her, no matter how happy she was. Being nervous was only natural, she guessed, seen as the girl she considered the love of her life had just woken up from a fucking coma.

When the taxi stopped at the curb in front of the hospital, Camila practically jumped out of it, leaving Shawn behind like she had done multiple times these last few days. She would have to apologize in the future, but right now all she could focus on was getting to Lauren’s room.

After he caught up with her and they talked to the receptionist, Camila and Shawn rushed to the familiar room, finding Normani, Ally and Lauren’s mother in the corridor by her room.

“Oh, thank God you’re here!” Clara exclaimed as soon as she saw them, making Camila’s heart skip a beat.

“Why, what happened?!” Camila asked loudly, her eyes wide open, as she came to halt in front of them, clutching her heart.

“Oh, nothing, dear, don’t worry. I just think Lauren would like to have you here.” Clara reassured her with a hand on her shoulder. “Sorry for scaring you.”

Camila practically exhaled all her air in relief. “It’s okay.” She told the older woman, smiling at her.

Then, Camila turned to Ally, who was smiling despite the tear streaks on her face, and, with a breathy chuckle, threw herself in the arms of her smaller friend. No words were exchanged between the two at first, each knowing exactly how the other felt.

And still, the, “She’s okay,” Ally muttered against Camila made the taller girl’s eyes well up with happy tears again as a big smile took over her face.

Camila pulled back, but kept herself in Ally’s arms as she wiped away her tears. She turned her head a moment later when she heard Shawn groaning.

“Not the happy tears again.” He feigned despair, making Camila let out a watery giggle. Ally laughed as well, stepping back, and Camila took the opportunity to slap Shawn’s arm lightly.

“Shut up, dumbass.” She breathed out, before turning to Normani and giving her a heartfelt hug as well. “We still can’t go in?” She asked the other girl after she pulled back.

It was Clara who answered, making Camila look at her. “We have to wait until Lauren is better situated to go back in. Apparently waking up from a coma is more complicated than they make it seem in the movies.”

Camila furrowed her brow. “How so?”

“Well, she wasn’t like talking and stuff.” Normani said. “We knew she was waking up because earlier today she started moving her fingers randomly. Like, in the morning.” Camila cursed herself. Of course the one day she had to leave early was the day this happened. “We didn’t call you because the nurses said it was just a reflex, but that it was good. She kept doing little things like that throughout the day but then like an hour ago she opened her eyes.”

“But she couldn’t focus on us, she was just staring off into space y’know?” Ally piped up. “And I- well, I kinda freaked out, thinking it meant there was something wrong, so they kicked us out.” Ally chuckled and Camila followed suit, stepping forward to let a rushing nurse pass by them in the hallway.

“But Dr. Lawrence came soon after and assured us it’s normal.” Normani completed.

“So how long do we have to wait before we can go in?” Shawn asked.

“Well, we don’t know. I guess it takes a while to really wake up, one of the nurses said they were waiting for her visual and auditory tracking to get better and that they would call us when we could go in.”

“Dude, I thought it was like ‘wake up and go’ from all those TV shows.” Shawn commented, his eyebrows raised.

Camila hummed in agreement, nervous about not being to enter the room. The minutes she spent standing in that corridor seemed even worse than sitting inside the taxi, and Camila didn’t know how Normani, Ally and Clara managed to wait almost an hour there. Camila was thinking about getting some water just to have something to do, too restless to just stand there, when her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the door opening, which drew the attention of the entire group.

Dr. Lawrence stepped out of the room and Camila’s eyes widened inadvertently in anticipation for whatever he had to say. At least he had a gentle smile on his face, which was certainly a good sign in Camila’s book.

“How is Lauren?” Clara asked before anyone could say a word.

“She’s fine. She probably took a little longer to wake up than we had predicted because everyone reacts differently to all the medicine we gave her to keep her in the induced coma, but there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong.” Lawrence assured the older woman, making Camila let out a sigh of relief. He looked at her upon hearing the sound, still smiling. “You can go in now, but one at a time at first so as to not overwhelm her. Lauren is only semi responsive as of now, so she isn’t talking, but she can hear and understand you. She can make almost no movements, so be patient. She’ll improve with time, but I have to warn you she’ll probably still be a little out of it when she starts talking.”

Normani snorted and Dr. Lawrence looked at her with raised eyebrows, making the girl try to keep a straight face, looking down in slight embarrassment. Clara seemed confused by the exchange, but Camila had to bite her lip to prevent herself from laughing, knowing exactly what had made Normani laugh.

High Lauren would certainly be fun to see.

“Sorry, please continue.” Normani managed to mumble after a second. As her eyes met Camila’s, though, the Latina couldn’t help but feel her smile spreading and her need to laugh bubbling up again. She kept it in as Lawrence started talking again, knowing it was ridiculous that they couldn’t keep themselves from laughing at such a dumb thought in light of everything going on.

(But then again, maybe the happiness from knowing that Lauren was awake and well was giving them a high of their own, and Camila wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.)

“As I was saying, only one at a time. A nurse will stay there for a while just to make sure Lauren stays as she is now, but if nothing happens she’ll leave and you’ll have your privacy. If Lauren falls asleep, don’t worry, it’s just exhaustion.” Lawrence finished, smiling politely and opening the door for Clara to go in.

The woman immediately rushed inside the room and even though Camila was physically aching to enter it as well, she knew Clara had the right to go first. Lauren’s father and siblings were probably on the way there and should they arrive before Clara got out, Camila would let them go in as well, no matter how much she wanted to do nothing but grab Lauren and never let go. Family was important, she knew, and not something to take for granted.

The corridor was quiet after Dr. Lawrence said his goodbyes and went on his way, the only sounds being the steps of nurses and doctors walking by the small group by the door. Camila heard Normani and Ally talking after a while, but she didn’t want to intrude on their conversation and there was pretty much nothing she needed to say at the moment anyway.

Camila was beyond ecstatic with the prospect of seeing Lauren again, of touching her and knowing she’s feeling it, of talking to her, of kissing and loving her. All her emotions were mixing inside her being, and for once she didn’t feel the need to talk. The young actress was caught up in her own head, her thoughts running miles per hour and overwhelming her as they showed her how much she had truly missed Lauren.

Camila smiled and looked at Shawn as she realized her eyes had welled up with tears, letting out a watery chuckle and making the boy scoff with a smirk of his own. He only put his arms over her, taking advantage of their height difference, and pulled her into him.

The girl leaned her back against her brother, not a single word exchanged, and waited.

Camila thought she would go insane from the waiting when about fifteen minutes later Clara finally exited the room, tears flowing down her face and a smile glued to her lips.

Camila lunched forward, freeing herself from Shawn’s embrace only to fall into the older woman’s, trying to be there for her the best she could, even if she did know she was crying out of happiness.

“Thank you, mija.” Clara whispered into Camila’s ear, sending a chill down the brown eyed girl’s spine. Once again, she felt herself getting choked up at the thought of her new family and when she pulled back, she knew she really had found another mother.

But when she stepped out of Clara’s hug and moved toward the door, realization hit her. What about Ally? She had known Lauren for such a big part of her life, surely she would want to go first and-

A hand on her shoulder stopped Camila’s train of thought and made her notice she had been standing in front of the door for a while now. When Camila turned her head, she met Ally’s gentle eyes and the smaller girl nodded with a smile, signaling for her to go first.

Camila smiled and overlapped Ally’s hand on her shoulder with her own, muttering a choked up, “Thank you,” before opening the door and going into the chilly room.

The first thing Camila noticed was that Lauren’s eyes were open and glued to the door. Feeling her own fill with tears once again just at the sight of the small smile on Lauren’s face, Camila rushed to the bed, ignoring the nurse on the corner of the room, and kneeled beside it, immediately grabbing onto her girlfriend’s hand.

“Oh my God, y- you’re okay. You really are okay. Th- thank you so much.” Camila exclaimed somewhat incoherently, bringing Lauren’s hand to her lips and kissing it repeatedly.

Camila heard a low giggle, that magical giggle she had been yearning for, and her eyes snapped up to Lauren’s face. She had a loopy smile on it, but she still managed to free her hand from Camila’s grasp and caress her cheek with her index finger for a second before she let it fall back on the bed.

“Jesus.” Camila breathed out, grinning. “You have no idea how much I missed your laugh.”

Camila giggled herself and got on her feet, moving up the bed to kiss Lauren’s nose, since her head was still bandaged. Camila pulled back in time to see Lauren scrunching up her nose slightly and trying to focus her eyes on it, which was just the most adorable sight. She let out another breathy chuckle, gaining Lauren’s attention. Her smile came back not a second later and Camila ran her thumb softly through her girlfriend’s cheek, butterflies fluttering in her stomach when she saw Lauren’s eyes closing and her smile becoming truly content.

“I can’t wait to listen to your voice again.” Camila smiled and picked up Lauren’s hand again, gently playing with her fingers. “I thought that- that maybe, um, maybe I wouldn’t get to hear it again, y’know?” Camila felt a lump form in her throat as she spoke and a frown took over her features.

Lauren squeezed her hand, making her look at her face again, and then she tried to shake her head, grimacing a bit a second later.

Camila turned at the noise of chair’s feet being dragged. “Sorry to interrupt.” The young nurse said, joining Camila close to the bed. “But no head movements, Miss Jauregui, we talked about this. Be still for now, you don’t wanna get a headache.”

Lauren almost nodded, but either she physically couldn’t do that or she stopped herself in time, since she only blinked once. Camila looked at the nurse in confusion.

“We established a code with her. Blinking once is for ‘yes’, ‘understood’, things like that. Blinking twice is for ‘no’.” The nurse said softly and Camila nodded in understanding. “Oh, and don’t let her move her head, sometimes she may forget that she can’t and that the effort will cause pain. Or she forgets that she’s not supposed to, since she’s still confused.”

“Got it, thanks. Oh, and sorry for not saying anything when I ran inside, that was pretty rude of me.” Camila said sheepishly.

The nurse only smiled softly. “No problem.”

Camila smiled and, after noticing that Lauren had started staring off into nothing, she took her chance to drag a chair closer to the bed, sitting down and grabbing her hand again. That certainly got Lauren’s attention, who smiled goofily at her again, as if their emotional moment had never happened.

“You know, you missed quite a lot while you were out. We’re officially a couple to the world now. Everyone also knows about you being here, since your uncle told some paps.” Camila sighed and Lauren furrowed her brow. “Yeah, I know. But anyway, I cleaned my name about the fake activist mess, which is good. And the play was picked up for another season! Now all you gotta do is get better for my life to be made.” Camila grinned, enjoying how Lauren squeezed her hand lightly and gave her a small smile as well. “I love you so much, baby.”

Lauren squeezed Camila’s hand again, but was unable to reply, which caused a pang in her heart. She knew it wasn’t Lauren’s fault for not being able to say it and she wasn’t mad in the slightest, but Camila longed to hear her voice, and a squeeze of her hand wasn’t the “I love you” her soul craved for.

It was enough, though, so Camila smiled widely through her now teary eyes, the sadness in her heart replaced by love and relief, and kissed Lauren's knuckles, one by one.

“I love you so much, you don’t have the slightest idea how scared I was of losing you. I don’t think I would have survived.” Camila made a pause, watching as Lauren scrunched up her eyebrows in the cutest expression of confusion. “Don’t worry, Lo. We’re both safe and you’re getting out of here soon enough.”

Lauren smiled and Camila felt her stomach fill with butterflies again, as if she were on her first date with her girlfriend all over again. Like this was a new beginning for them.

With everything that had happened, Camila didn’t think that was too far from the truth.

Lauren fell asleep shortly after Camila left the room, when Ally was inside with her. The girl had puffy eyes by the time she got out and Camila’s heart raced with fear, but she had been quick to assure them that Lauren was fine. Then, the nurse had gotten out and said the same thing, making Camila finally let out a sigh of relief.

Since Lauren was asleep, the nurse let them all go in to see her, as long as they were quick. Shawn got to see Lauren for the first time that day, and Normani seemed choked up as she gently squeezed her sleeping friend’s hand.

Lauren’s father and her siblings arrived not much later, joining Clara inside the room as Camila and the others left them to give them some privacy.

“I guess we’ll be going then.” Normani said once the door closed behind them. She wrapped her arm around Ally’s shoulders as she leaned into her, her head on the taller girl’s chest.

“I better go too.” Shawn muttered around a yawn. “I’m exhausted and I stink.” He chuckled before turning to Camila. “Want a ride home? I can get us an Uber.”

“Thanks, but I think I’ll stay.” Camila smiled politely, but her insides turned at the mere thought of leaving the hospital.

“Mila, you haven’t slept home since Monday, you gotta go back at some point.” Shawn argued, looking worriedly at her.

Camila shrunk a little under his gaze, noticing that both Normani and Ally had their eyes on her as well.

She tried to play it cool by shrugging. “I can go home tomorrow, I don’t need to sleep there. And I've been going home every day, so…”

“But you need to sleep on an actual bed, Mila.” Ally piped up, with those big, motherly eyes of her.

Camila didn’t reply for a moment, thinking of what she could say to convince them that there was nothing wrong with staying.

(As if the thought of leaving Lauren didn’t make her heart go cold, as if the thought of home without her girlfriend didn't make her sick. Home wasn’t a place, after all.)

Camila gave up after a moment and sighed. “I can't leave Lauren, guys.”

(Home was a person.)

Camila got three sad looks that made her stomach twist and turn, as she knew would happen, but it was the truth. She didn’t think she could willingly make herself leave, even if Lauren was getting better.

Ally was the one to break the silence, disentangling herself from Normani to squeeze Camila’s upper arm with a sad, “Oh, Mila.”

Camila smiled, but soon another silence formed, maybe even more deafening than the first. Shawn was the one to break it this time.

“You do need to go home, though. No offense, sis, but you kinda stink too.” He said, scrunching up his nose as he nudged her lightly in an attempt to lighten the mood.

Camila chuckled, appreciating Shawn’s efforts and realizing how alike he and Dinah were. But then again, the three of them had sailed through a big part of life’s tumultuous ocean together, so she guessed it made sense.

“Yeah, maybe.” Camila sighed, a small smile on her face.

“And you need to take care of that neck of yours, I don’t need to hear about your pain again.” Shawn continued, managing to get a louder laugh from Camila, who was accompanied by Normani and Ally. The shortest brunette stepped back and returned to her fianceé since the awkward moment had passed. “Plus, if you don’t go I’m gonna be forced to call Dinah and have her drag you home.”

Camila’s eyes widened, but not because of Shawn’s little threat. “Oh shit, Dinah! We didn’t let her know about Lauren!”

Shawn grimaced, his own face twisting into a frown. “Damn, true. She’s gonna be pissed…”

Camila turned to Ally and Normani, both seeming half amused at their agitation. “You didn’t let her know, did you?” Camila asked.

“Nah, we thought you’d do it.” Normani answered, kissing Ally’s cheek as the girl returned to her side.

“I forgot.” Camila mumbled. “I better call her then.”

Shawn held onto Camila’s wrist before she could take out her phone, giving her a serious look now. “Call her from home.”

Camila held his gaze for a while, battling her emotions. She knew Shawn was right, but it really was difficult to let go of her need to stay. But she had to try.

“Okay.” Camila said simply. Shawn smiled and let go of her wrist.

“I’m gonna call us an Uber then.”

Camila only nodded and rubbed her eyes, tiredness taking over after the rush of adrenaline had died down.

Maybe she really did need her bed after all.

The moment Camila saw her empty bed, she remembered why she had been so sure that coming home would be a mistake. Camila reached up to hold her necklace and bit her lower lip, the dark, silent apartment being a little too much for her to handle.

It reminded her of her old family house, on that horrible day all those years ago, and as anyone could tell, it wasn’t her nicest memory.

Said memory now had the weight of everything she and Lauren had lived together added to it. Everywhere she turned there was Lauren: in a book, on their TV, on the little note she’d left on the fridge last week. In the frameless photographs, lying on the kitchen counter as they gathered dust, waiting for them to buy new picture frames.

The reminder of what had happened to their apartment only made the situation worse, and Camila felt that she hadn’t been that lonely ever since she was eleven.

When she returned home these last few days, it was to take a shower, tidy it up a bit, get something, simply water their plants, little things like that. She was never home for long and she was never home at night. Camila hadn't gone back to the apartment with the intent of sleeping there before that night, and she realized it made all the difference.

And still, here she was, standing on the doorway to her bedroom, still staring at their bed. Camila couldn't stay there forever, so she sighed and, bracing herself, walked up to their drawers. Fishing for one of Lauren's old, big shirts and some underwear, Camila tried to focus on the positive. Lauren was awake! She was fine! Getting slowly better, just as promised. Camila couldn't dwell on the past, couldn't let her fear that someone burst in through the window at any moment overtake her, couldn't let her thoughts run far enough as to imagine that something would happen to Lauren simply because she wasn't there.

Camila couldn't and she wouldn't.

So she took off her contact lenses and got into the shower. Camila still needed to call Dinah, and tomorrow she would let Lauren's other friends know about her health. But for now, Camila thought she deserved a break, and that was exactly what she had.

Camila felt renewed by the time she stepped out of the shower, the smell of Lauren’s shirt certainly helping her deal with the stress that being in her own home represented. The girl let out a dry chuckle at how ridiculous the thought was, but then again, the circumstances certainly were unusual.

Camila put on her glasses and walked out of the bathroom after brushing her still damp hair, going straight to the kitchen. With everything that had happened, she had forgotten to eat, which was wild for someone like her. Camila was always hungry, and the thought that eating had slipped her mind only showed how much all of this was affecting her. She chuckled again, more lively this time, when she heard her stomach grumbling. It was only a small sign that things were going to be okay, but a sign nonetheless.

Deciding to eat some leftover pizza she had frozen, Camila leaned back against the kitchen counter after putting it on the microwave, thinking about how to approach the situation with Dinah. The Polynesian would be pissed for not being notified right away, but then again, what could Camila do? She had more things on her mind at the time.

Screw it.

The phone only rang two times before Dinah picked up with a cheery, “Chancho!”

A smile invaded Camila’s face, Dinah’s excitement being truly contagious. “Why so happy, Dinah?”

“Oh, nothing!” Dinah was quick to try and cover it up, seeming nervous and apologetic. “Sorry.”

Camila furrowed her brow. “Why sorry? You’re allowed to be happy.”

“Isn’t it insensitive though? Uh, I mean… Yeah?”

Camila relaxed then, a small smile coming back. “Don’t worry. In fact, I have some good news.”

“Don’t you dare say Lauren woke up and you’re only telling me now.” Dinah’s tone turned somewhat threatening, managing to send a chill down Camila’s spine.

“Well…” Camila trailed off, biting her lip.

“The nerve!” Dinah exclaimed. “I can’t believe you, Karla.”

“It was like two hours ago! I was caught up in the moment, I didn’t remember to call you.” Camila frowned. “And chill with the Karla.”

“I’m only gonna forgive you because I’m happy as shit for Lauren.” Dinah huffed, but Camila could feel the playfulness in her tone, and it melted her own frown as quickly as it had been formed.

“I know, Dinah, oh my God! I’m so happy, you have no idea.” Camila exclaimed, grinning now, all worries about going back home gone for the moment.

“I can imagine, girl. I’m super happy for both of you.” Dinah replied, just as the microwave beeped. “You home?”

“Yeah, just heating some pizza.” Camila said, holding her phone between her ear and her shoulder as she used her hands to get a plate for the pizza.

“Shawny finally dragged your ass back home, then?” Dinah hummed. “You don’t sound too miserable.”

Camila laughed, almost letting her phone drop, but she managed to balance it as she laid her plate on the sink with the pizza in it. Of course Dinah would say something like that, she knew how scared Camila was of returning home, she knew how anxious she got at the thought of it. She knew her too well. But then again, Camila was feeling kind of better now, so.

“I was feeling bad but then I took a shower, put on some of Lauren’s clothes, made some pizza, talked to you…” Camila trailed off.

“Aww, I love you too, boo.” Dinah mocked, making Camila roll her eyes with a smile. “Seriously though, want me to come over? I know the moment you lie down you’ll feel crappy again.”

Camila’s heart swelled with affection. “Really? You would?”

“Actually, it depends on how much pizza you have left.” Dinah shot back feigning indifference.

Camila chuckled. “I’ll buy another one if you come.”

“See you in half an hour, Chanch.”

Lauren opened her eyes only to close them again not a second later, the sudden burn she felt being too unexpected and too painful for her to keep them open. Yes, closed was good. The eyes were the window of the soul, after all, or some shit like that. And it was too bright outside for Lauren to open them.

But was she outside? Lauren thought she wasn’t, if the beeping and the smell and the annoying thingies she felt on her arm were any indication. But to check she would have to open her eyes… Nah, Lauren was good. She was comfortable, anyway, so it was cool.

Lauren heard a door opening but didn’t care enough to check who it was. Doors opened all the time, anyway, and she was tired. Come to think of it, maybe she should go back to sleep. It wasn’t like she would talk or anything. Lauren frowned, her eyes still closed. Could she talk?

“What’s up with the swarm of paps outside?” Lauren heard Camila say, smiling dumbly now, all thoughts of talking gone.  She could just listen to her for every single minute of every single day, even if she had no idea what paps were. Maybe they were talking about the Pope? Lauren didn’t know, but she also didn’t care, as long as Camila kept talking. She was sure she would buy the sound of her breathing on iTunes.

“Marcus came by earlier, they appeared shortly after.” Her mother sighed, and Lauren would have rolled her eyes, had they been open. Why had that fucking trashy garbage can been there?

“Do you… Do you think that- I mean, maybe he’s tipping them for publicity? I don’t know.” Camila said in a hesitant, small voice, and Lauren wanted to hug her close.

Clara sighed. “Maybe. Either way, they knew she was awake when he got out, but I think that’s on me because of that Facebook post.”

“Yeah, I saw it this morning. It’s gone kinda viral.” Camila said, and Lauren frowned again. She didn’t want to catch a virus.

“I know… Do you think it was a mistake? I mean, you’re from the Internet generation, I don’t know much about these things.” Clara chuckled. “It was meant for our friends and family, but…” Clara trailed off, making Lauren’s frown deepen. She didn’t want her mom to be upset. Maybe she should open her eyes, after all.

“No, no. It’s not our fault that people share these things, it’s totally normal for you to want to share the good news. And so what if it goes viral, really? Lauren is fine and that’s all that matters.”

Yeah, they were talking about her and a virus. Lauren really needed to open her eyes now, and that was what she did.

She was met with the damn bright light again, which made her let out an involuntary groan. Lauren blinked, trying to adjust to the light, as she heard quick footsteps.

“Lauren?!” Camila exclaimed, by one side of her bed.

“Camziii.” Lauren smiled widely at her, turning her eyes to her mother a second later. “And mommy!” Lauren giggled, because it had rhymed, and because she could talk after all.

“Oh, God, you’re talking.” Her mother exclaimed, grabbing her hand just as Camila took hold of her other one, both of them grinning wildly, though Clara had tears in her eyes as well.

“Don’t... cry, mamá.” So Lauren had some problem speaking and her mouth felt kind of dry, but she didn’t think much of it at first. But then her eyes widened in realization. “Is it… Is it the virus? Oh no!” Lauren pouted. “Tell the, um, the Pope to come up, maybe he- he can cure me!”

Camila and Clara both looked at her like she was crazy before her girlfriend burst into a fit of giggles. Lauren scrunched up her eyebrows, had she said something wrong?

“What?” Her mother asked in a confused tone, gaining her attention.

“You s- said there were lots of... Popes downstairs. And t- that I was viral!” Lauren exclaimed with wide eyes.

“Oh, baby.” Camila gushed, kissing her hand and smiling down at her with adoring eyes.

“The Pope isn’t downstairs, darling.” Clara was now smiling as well. “We were talking about paparazzi. And a Facebook post went viral, you don’t have a virus.”

Oh. Yeah, that made sense. Lauren closed her mouth, which she didn’t even notice had been open, and nodded.

“So w- where… Where are we again?” Lauren asked after a second.

“At the hospital, Lo, remember?” Camila said softly, rubbing the back of her hand with her thumb.

Lauren looked down to her feet and then around the room as realization dawned on her and she remembered what that had happened.

“Oh, yeah... I was s- shot.” Lauren stated nonchalantly, making both women standing frown. “I guess I- I didn’t die.” She chuckled, honestly not getting why Camila and her mother seemed upset now. “Um, I didn’t die right?”

Clara let out a sigh, smiling softly at her, and kissed her hand just like Camila had. Lauren smiled back, guessing that meant that yeah, she really hadn’t died. She turned her gaze back to Camila, who was biting her lower lip through a loving smile. It hit her then that she had no clue about how much time had passed, so she frowned.

“How- how long have I been... out?” Lauren asked, racking her brain for the information but coming empty handed. In fact, she couldn’t remember a single thing in specific, which was kind of weird, but whatever.

“Well, it happened on Monday. It’s Saturday now.” Clara replied. “Your father had to run some errands but I’m going to call him and your siblings to let them know you’re awake.”

With that, Clara let go of her hand and went to the corner of the room to get her cellphone, which Lauren was watching her do intently until she felt Camila kiss her hand again. Then, she turned to her, a dopey smile adorning her face.

“Hey you.” Lauren slurred.

“Hi, baby.” Camila grinned. “Dinah is here too, but she went to the bathroom.”

Lauren broke into an even bigger grin. “Oh, that’s... wonderful! W- where are Mani and Ally and Keana and Noah and Chris and Taylor?” Lauren paused to suck in a deep breath, making Camila laugh.

“Woah, slow down baby. Your mom is gonna call your siblings, remember? I can call everyone else if you want.” Camila offered, smiling sweetly. Lauren wanted to kiss her, but when she tried to sit up, her head hurt and she shut her eyes, letting her head fall back with a groan of pain. “Hey, hey, no moving your head, remember?” Camila exclaimed, her voice now etched with worry, as a hand rested firmly on her shoulder to keep her down.

“Sorry, I didn’t remember.” Lauren pouted, looking down to her feet in shame.

“Oh no, don’t pout.” Camila asked, touching her chin lightly with the hand she previously had on her chest. “I can’t kiss your pout away.” Camila pouted as well, making Lauren giggle.

“You’re pouting too... you dork.” She stated. “You sure you can’t... give me some kisses?” Lauren pouted some more.

Camila bit her lip to stop her grin from stretching too much, quickly looking at Clara, who was on the phone in a corner of the room. Then, she bent down and gave Lauren a chaste kiss, gently holding her down. Her lips tasted like coffee and happiness and Lauren needed more, which was why her pout came back the second Camila pulled away.

“Camziiii, please!” Lauren exclaimed dramatically, throwing her arm above her eyes.

“Is this how she sounds during sex? Wild.” Lauren heard Dinah say, removing her arm from her now wide eyes to see her friend standing beside Camila.

“When d- did you come in?” Lauren asked, dumbfounded.

Dinah smirked and winked at her. “I apparated here.”

Lauren’s mouth hung open. “Fucking wizards are real…”

Dinah burst out laughing, accompanied by Camila, whose shoulders were shaking with both giggles and sobs. Lauren hadn’t even noticed she had started crying.

“Why… Why are you crying, Camz? I can protect you from the wizards, I- I’m a cop!” Lauren exclaimed.

“I know you can, baby.” Camila squeezed her hand. “I’m just happy to see you. I love you so much.” She breathed out, wiping her tears.

“I love you l- lots too, babe, you’re amazing!” Lauren declared firmly, watching as Camila’s grin only stretched. A thought popped in her mind. “Y- y’know, when we started dating and we would say that the other was amazing… One of these days I was thinking and... it felt like our own ‘I love you’.”

“Aww, Lauren, this is so sweet!” Camila gushed, letting out a teary chuckle before leaning down for another quick peck. “You’re amazing too, baby, I love you.”

Lauren grinned as Camila straightened herself up, but she didn’t have a chance to reply.

“Oh dear God, I can’t be here, you’re too mushy.” Dinah groaned in disgust before she went to the corner of the room where Clara had just hung up the phone.

Lauren’s eyes got bigger at that and she turned to Camila in worry. “Did we offend Dinah?”

Camila laughed, caressing Lauren’s cheek softly. “No, Lo, she’s only joking, don’t worry.”

“Oh, okay.” Lauren nodded. “I wouldn’t have… stopped anyway.”

Camila couldn’t seem to wipe her grin off her face. “I’d hope so. I wouldn’t be able to live without you.”

“How come, Camzi?” Lauren asked, genuinely confused. If she died, would Camila die as well? Was it a soulmates thing she wasn’t aware of? Because that would be crazy.

“You’re my light, Lolo. You’re always the brightest thing in my life, even when you don’t feel like it. You’re the light I’m afraid will blind me but I don’t wanna look away. Like the sun.” Camila said softly, running her fingers through the tips of Lauren’s hair.

“But you’re the sun.” Lauren argued in a serious tone, even though her insides were fuzzy with love. “And I- I’m the moon, with my phases and shit. You’re the... constant bright light that guides me. If I, uh, if I light up the dark, it’s through you and your light. So I can’t... be the sun, because you are.”

Camila only blinked, seeming surprised. “What did they give you to make you this poetic, huh? I want it.” She giggled, smiling lovingly at Lauren afterward.

“Y- you don’t need it.” Lauren stated, smiling.

Camila beamed down at her, bringing Lauren’s hand to her lips once again. “I literally just said this but I’ll say it again: you’re amazing, Lo. Even now, you’re my clarity. Like, you’re the best part of me.”

Lauren giggled. “Are you quoting Simple Plan?”

Camila snorted, raising her eyebrows in amusement. “What?”

“Tha- that’s a Simple Plan song.”

“I wasn’t quoting them, no…” Camila smirked, shaking her head fondly. “I didn’t know you liked them.”

“Please… Everyone has an emo Simple Plan phase.” Lauren stated matter-of-factly, making Camila laugh loudly.

What was so funny? Lauren was just telling the truth! She was about to reply when her mother came back to her line of sight, followed by Dinah. Forgetting all about Camila laughing at her, she smiled at her mother.

“Mamá, where are, uh, where are Chris and Taylor an- and papá?” Lauren asked, noticing how Camila stifled another laugh but not paying attention to it.

“I just called them, sweetheart. They’re on their way.” Clara said, squeezing Lauren’s hand.

What was up with people and her hands? Lauren wanted to sit and have a decent conversation where people didn’t feel the need to grab her hands all the time. Not that she minded, but… Yeah, okay, she didn’t mind it. But Lauren still wanted to sit up. The moment she tried, though, Camila’s hand went straight to her chest.

(And not in the nice way.)

“Lo, you can’t sit up.” Camila warned her softly.

Lauren pouted. “But I want to.”

“Oh man, this is gold.” Dinah snickered, getting Lauren’s attention. The taller girl had her phone in front of her pointing at Lauren, who only furrowed her brow in confusion. “Say hi to snapchat, Lauser.”

Lauren’s face relaxed into a small smile. “Hallo!” She exclaimed, making Camila squeal as Dinah snorted and typed something on her phone. “What?”

“You’re too precious.” Camila stated, leaning down to kiss the tip of Lauren’s nose, which she scrunched up. “I’m gonna get Dr. Lawrence to see if you can sit up. We should have called him when you woke up anyway.”

“You’re leaving?” Lauren whined.

“Just for a bit, I’ll be right back.” Camila assured her, squeezing her hand one final time before leaving her with her mother and Dinah, who still had her phone aimed at her.

“What… What are you doing, DJ?” Lauren asked, still pouting.

“You’re high, Lauser. I can’t lose the opportunity to film you high.” Dinah answered simply, looking at her phone, to which Lauren gasped.

“I’m high?!” She turned to her mother, who had an amused smile on her face. “Mamá, she’s lying, I swear I don’t do drugs!”

“It’s okay, sweetheart, I know.” Clara said gently, stifling a laugh. She ran her hand gently through the tips of Lauren’s hair, and that’s when she realized her head was full of bandages. “I missed you so much, Lauren, we all did. Your father was ecstatic to hear that you’re up and Chris and Taylor couldn’t be happier either. Emily is coming, too. You’re a very loved girl, you know that?”

Lauren grinned, thinking about all the people she loved as well, and got a little choked up with how much she was feeling. “Te quiero mucho, mamá.”

Dinah had stopped filming by this point and was standing a little far from them, but Lauren didn’t pay her much attention as she brought her mother’s hand to her own lips, kissing it gently.

Clara swallowed hard and Lauren noticed her eyes brimming with tears. “I knew you would make it, sweetie. In my heart, I knew you would.” For a second, Lauren wasn’t sure what her mother meant, but then she remembered that yeah, she had kind of almost died.

“Thanks fo- for trusting me, mamá.” Lauren answered, still somewhat choked up.

They stayed in silence for a few moments after that, a million thoughts running through Lauren’s mind, but she just couldn’t seem to hold onto one to start a conversation. Lauren wondered what everyone had been doing, if she had worried them too much, if the paparazzi – which she had just remembered about – had left, if wizards were really real or if that was just Dinah pranking her and, like, where was Camila again? Also, why was her head bandaged? All Lauren remembered was being shot and then everything turning black.

(And a dragonfly, but Lauren had no idea why she remembered that, so the thought flew through her mind even quicker than the rest.)

Before Lauren could ask about the bandages on her head – which now that she was aware of, were starting to bother her –, the door to her room opened and Camila came in, followed closely by a man and a woman who were vaguely familiar.

“Good morning, Lauren. How are you feeling?” The man asked and Lauren smiled at his soft tone. She liked him already.

“Morning, m- mister! I’m feeling just fine, thank you. How are y- you feeling?” Camila giggled and Lauren’s smile widened at the sound.

The man let out a weak chuckle as well. “I’m fine as well. Do you remember me? I’m Dr. Lawrence and this is miss Bolton, one of the nurses here at the hospital. We talked to you yesterday when you first woke up.”

Lauren frowned, searching her brain for memories of talking to them. She did recall waking up and seeing her mom, Camila and Ally, but she didn’t quite remember what they talked about, and, though the people in front of her now were familiar, she didn’t have much memory of them other than some flashes.

“K- kinda? Sorry, doctor.” Lauren mumbled.

“It’s okay, you were pretty disoriented. You’re having some trouble speaking, I can see.” He noted, moving forward as her mother and Camila stepped back.

“I guess so.” Lauren furrowed her brow. “W- what does it mean?”

“It may be nothing.” Dr. Lawrence said, as the nurse checked her IV drip. “We’ll run some tests later today either way, but it will probably go back to normal with time.”

“Sorry to interrupt, doctor.” Camila piped up. “But it’s already improved a little from the time she woke up.”

Dr. Lawrence nodded and turned back to Lauren with a smile. “See? You were in a coma, it’s normal to have some trouble coming back to normal at first. But you’ll probably be okay in a few days.”

Lauren blinked. “Can I sit up? It’s bothering me to stay like this... but they won’t let me sit by my own.”

Dr. Lawrence didn’t seem to mind the sudden change of subject. “They were right to, you can’t put yourself through the effort of sitting up yourself right now. But we can adjust your bed, just a second.”

Lauren didn’t quite see what they did because it was too quick for her to register, but after a few moments the bed was moving on its own, making Lauren sit as it went up. Lauren giggled at the movement, holding onto the little railings at either side of her bed. When it was done, miss Bolton said her goodbyes and left the room, but Lauren wasn’t too focused on that, distracted by her new position.

“Much b- better!” Lauren exclaimed.

“Okay, now onto recommendations. Mrs. Jauregui, you’re gonna want to listen and take notes as well, since she may not remember everything. You too, miss… um, Cabello, right?”

Camila nodded and moved closer, standing by Clara’s side. Lauren smiled at them, but then her gaze returned to the doctor, waiting to hear what he had to say.

“First things first, if everything goes according to plan, tomorrow we will move you to a normal hospital room and you’re gonna have to be here for a few more days until we deem fit that you be cleared. Then, you’re gonna go home, but you’re gonna lay low for a while. No work, no gym, no strenuous activities of any kind, physical or mental. You have to sleep well at night and you need to rest whenever you feel tired. No contact sports for at least six months, which means you’re also gonna be off field work for six months.”

“What?” Lauren interrupted him, surprised and upset at the news. “B- but I love being on the field, helping… people.”

“You’re not gonna be able to help anyone until you get better, Lauren. Initial recovery usually takes up to six months and you’re lucky that yours will probably be a little shorter, since our first tests didn’t show signs of brain damage. You were very lucky to have been brought here so quickly and that there wasn’t that much pressure on your brain.” He made a pause, waiting for Lauren to take it in, which she slowly did. The serious conversation was even sobering her up a little bit, though she still felt like her thoughts were too scattered for her to be one hundred percent focused. “Just like you’re having trouble speaking, you’re probably gonna have some difficulties with physical activity, which is why you’re gonna have to do very light physical exercises like lifting some light weights with your arms and legs, but you must stop whenever you feel tired. But that’s not my specialty, so you’re gonna talk to our physical therapist after we move you to your room and she’s gonna judge what you can or cannot do on bigger detail. You’re gonna have to take some medicine periodically and I will prescribe you with painkillers. You’re on opioids right now, which is why you might be feeling, uh... weird. But those are more extreme, only for now, and I’ll give you lighter meds for when you have headaches. They’re probably gonna be frequent for a while. I’m gonna go over this with your mother and your girlfriend now, since this is probably already too much for you to remember or deal with right now, okay?”

“Okay.” Lauren mumbled, trying to take everything in, but her still foggy mind wasn’t helping.

Everything just sucked right now. Lauren loved her job and now she wouldn’t be able to do it for six fucking months? Totally unfair. What would she do? Answer calls at the precinct? That is, after the period of time she would be confined to her apartment. Lauren’s frown deepened as she got more and more upset thinking about all of that. She felt personally attacked by these restrictions, as if she wasn’t good enough to do her job after a tiny bullet and a brief coma. Lauren huffed, feeling herself get choked up, but her thoughts were interrupted when Dinah approached her, making her look up with a scowl.

“W- what?” Lauren mumbled.

“Did you hear what he said, Ralph? No strenuous activities.” Dinah pointed out with a serious look.

“Yeah… What about it?” Lauren asked, her scowl relaxing a bit as curiosity overtook her, her thoughts still easily scattered due to the painkillers.

“That means you can’t have sex, Lauser. For months.” Dinah ended in a dramatic tone, her eyes wide open.

Lauren gasped, her eyes widening. The thought hadn’t crossed her mind before, but now that Dinah was mentioning it, everything seemed even worse. Lauren was just so done. Her scowl came back with full force and she felt the lump in her throat get even bigger. This was an offense not only to her, but to Camila as well! Before she even realized what was happening, she was crossing her arms and pouting down at her feet while Dinah burst out laughing.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe you’re crying!” Dinah laughed out loud, raising her phone.

“S- shut up!” Lauren whined, gaping when she saw the device. “You’re filming?!”

“Hell yeah, I’m so thankful I got this on video.” Dinah exclaimed, making Lauren groan and quickly rub her eyes, which she didn’t even notice had been wet.

“I… I hate you!” Lauren breathed out.

“No you don’t, loser, I’m the best.” Dinah chuckled, getting closer to Lauren to nudge her shoulder. “You’ll love me for this in the future.”

Lauren pouted, crossing her arms and looking the other way. She didn’t want anything to do with Dinah right now, the little traitor she was. Lauren didn’t have much time to dwell on what she could do for revenge, though, since not a second later the other people in the room came closer to the bed.

“What’s happening here?” Dr. Lawrence asked, a frown on his features.

“Nothing, doc, Lauren just got a little emotional over here.” Dinah snickered, a smirk stretching across her face.

Dr. Lawrence looked over at Lauren, seeming concerned, but the girl only nodded and glared at Dinah. “It’s no- nothing, doctor.”

Lawrence was the one to nod then. “Okay, I’ll be going then. We’ll talk later about your MRI. Have a good day, Lauren.”

“Thanks.” She mumbled in return, trying to sound a little bit pleasant but knowing she failed miserably.

“What’s got you all pouty, huh?” Camila asked, dragging a chair to the side of her bed to sit beside Lauren and hold her hand.

“D- Dinah sucks.” Lauren muttered, looking deeply into Camila’s eyes.

Camila averted her gaze for a moment to glare in Dinah’s direction, but the girl just raised her arms in surrender, the smirk still on her face.

“What did she do, baby?” Camila asked, turning back to face Lauren.

Lauren’s mother was still there, but she didn’t hesitate before saying, “She said we can’t have sex for months! Months, Camz, that’s so unfair.”

Camila turned bright red in a matter of seconds after hearing that and Clara gaped like she never expected to hear such a thing from her daughter. Dinah let out a strangled, “Oh my God,” as she leaned against the wall for support, apparently unable to stop laughing, and it only got worse when Clara grinned in amusement. When Camila noticed that Lauren’s mother wasn’t bothered, though, the red in her cheeks started fading and she, too, started laughing, though nowhere near as much as Dinah.

Why the fuck was everyone laughing? She had just mentioned that they wouldn’t be able to have sex and… Oh.

It was Lauren’s turn to blush profusely now that she realized just what she had said. All she wanted to do was hide her head in a hole on the floor and never get it out, but she settled for hiding her face in her hands. Lauren heard Camila chuckling just a moment before she felt fingers circling her wrists and bringing them down. Lauren opened her eyes to find Camila beaming at her, her eyes sparkling with love and adoration.

Lauren couldn’t help but smile back.

She recalled their talk about the sun and the moon and yeah, Camila really was her sun. If she gets blinded by her light, then be it. She was too enamored by her girlfriend to care, too engrossed in their staring match to pay attention to the click she heard.

“You two losers won’t fucking believe the pic I just took.” Dinah exclaimed from somewhere on the room, and Lauren’s smile just widened.

“Not now, Dinah.” Camila called without breaking eye contact. Then, she leaned in and gave Lauren a chaste kiss, though it was a little more passionate than the ones they’d shared earlier. When Camila pulled back, Lauren stared at her in the small distance, wondering how the hell had she been lucky enough to find her.

Maybe the sun and the moon were only cursed in the stories, after all.

Chapter Text

Camila woke up with her neck aching, but that was pretty much routine by now. Usually she would get up, stay with Lauren for a while and head for the cafeteria. But today wasn’t an usual day, and the routine was broken when she was greeted by a soft voice, reaching her ears from across the room as she groaned and massaged her neck.

The gentle, “Good morning,” Lauren let out made Camila's heart flutter in both startlement and affection, and she rid her face of her pain inflicted frown to smile at her girlfriend.

“Morning.” Camila rasped, raising her legs off the chair’s arm and turning her body into a regular sitting position.

Having slept there so many nights, Camila had found the most comfortable position to be using the chair’s armrests as support for her back and legs, while the side of her head rested where her back was supposed to be. And still, the position wasn’t all that comfortable, so neck pains? Check.

(One night at home hadn’t been able to undo all the damage, and Shawn would still have to hear her complaining for some time.)

“How are you feeling?” Camila asked quietly as she stood up, an almost shyness in her actions. As if this was too good to be true, and she could ruin it if she wasn’t careful.

Of course, she had talked to Lauren and even kissed her the previous day, but even then it had felt surreal. Her girlfriend’s high state hadn’t helped, but now she seemed to be more sober and aware, and everything felt more serious. The moment, the atmosphere, the room. The air carried a heaviness that hadn’t been there in the lightness she had felt upon Lauren’s awakening.

And even so, Camila couldn’t be happier to see her beautiful face, smiling softly and lovingly up at her as she moved closer to her bed.

“I’m okay. Nurse Gutman came b- by when I woke up and I already ate and took my meds.” Lauren said nonchalantly, turning her gaze a little to the right as she started curling a strand of Camila’s hair around her finger, letting it slide between her thumb and index finger until she got to its tip. Camila watched as Lauren touched her hair with care and gentleness, and she dared think that the look in her eyes as she focused on her brown locks was one of reverence. Camila held her breath as Lauren turned back to her, green meeting brown and touching something inside of her that left a lump in her throat. “I m- missed you.”

Camila let out the air in a breathy, almost teary chuckle, getting closer, in a way that her body was almost touching Lauren’s seated one. She reached her hand out hesitantly, as afraid to hurt Lauren as she had been when her girlfriend had first gotten there and Camila had had no idea if she could even touch her.

And maybe Lauren sensed her fear, since she raised her own hand to take hold of Camila’s, bringing it to her lips and kissing her palm softly as her hand slid to her wrist. Camila smiled, moving her own to cup Lauren’s cheek and caressing it with her thumb, feeling more secure now.

“I missed you too, princess.” Camila said, her voice cracking on the last bit. She almost groaned at herself for being so emotional, especially since everything was okay now. “God, I’m so emo today.” She let out a breathy chuckle.

Lauren laughed quietly herself, smiling lovingly at Camila. “If I slept on that c- chair I’d be emo too.”

Camila felt herself relaxing as a giggle left her lips. She stepped even closer. “I’m used to it by now, don’t worry.”

Lauren furrowed her brows. “What- what do you mean?”

Camila just shrugged before leaning against Lauren’s bed. The green eyed girl was still frowning, but she took a second to move closer to the railing. Camila’s hand fell from her cheek in the process.

“Did you sleep here t- this whole time?” Lauren finally asked and Camila felt a flutter in her heart at the worry in Lauren’s voice.

“Well, I didn’t on Friday?” Camila answered, feeling somewhat nervous for some reason. “I don’t know, I couldn’t sleep at home without you.”

Lauren had a look in her eyes that Camila couldn’t quite decipher, but then her hand found the younger girl’s on the bed. Camila glanced down for a moment, finding only love in the emeralds Lauren had for eyes when she met them again. But then they were gone behind closed lids as Lauren leaned in, and Camila couldn’t help the smile in her lips as she mirrored her.

The kiss was slow and gentle, just the right amount of loving. But Camila was still hesitant, and when Lauren tried to deepen it, she pulled back. The first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was Lauren pouting with her own still closed.

(Her heart swelled inside her chest from how adorable she looked, and if a sight could cure all her pains, it had to be that.)

Camila moved on to gently stroke Lauren’s cheek with the back of her fingers and her girlfriend’s eyes shot open. She let her hand fall to the tips of her girlfriend's dark hair, getting lost in it. Lauren’s eyes never left her face, and Camila realized this was kind of what had happened earlier, with their roles reversed.

“I love you.” Lauren declared all of the sudden, making Camila turn to her again.

“I love you too.” Camila was quick to reply, her smile widening. “And you’re lucky you’re out of duty for a while, because it’s gonna take some time until I’m comfortable with the idea of you risking your life for a living again.” She half joked, squeezing Lauren’s hand.

Lauren just pouted again after scoffing slightly. “This is b- bullshit.” She mumbled.

Camila gave her a stern but caring look. “You just got out of a coma after being shot in the head. Can you seriously tell me you think you’re fit to go back to the field?”

Lauren lowered her gaze in thought for a moment, lifting her chin a second later. “Well, the MRI d- didn’t show permanent damage.”

Camila was about to nod, but decided to mess a little with Lauren as the memory of the previous day flew back to her mind.

“Are you sure?” Camila asked, making Lauren scrunch up her eyebrows. “You were pretty high, y’know.”

Lauren relaxed then, laughing before shaking her head, her cheeks tinting in red. “Shut up.”

“Do you even remember anything about yesterday? You were pretty out of it.” Camila laughed.

“Yeah…” Lauren trailed off, smiling. “It’s foggy, b- but it’s there. I remember talking about the Pope and- and wizards and Dinah being an ass and making videos nonstop.”

Camila threw her head back in laughter, making Lauren retract her hand harshly from her hold, pretending to be upset. Camila couldn’t help but laugh a little more at her attempt of faking irritation, reaching for her hand again.

“Hey, hey.” A chuckle. “Don’t be like that, come on. You were the cutest thing, it was so funny and adorable.” Camila grinned, finally managing to intertwine her fingers with her girlfriend’s.

Lauren finally relented, smiling as well, but her blush remained strong. “Well, I’m glad to have entertained.”

“And Dinah wasn’t an ass, she took a great picture of us.” Camila defended, turning around to take her phone from her purse on the chair beside her own. She raised her eyebrows when she saw how many notifications from Instagram she had. “Damn, it got popular.”

“What did?” Lauren asked as Camila unlocked her phone. She grabbed the chair by its arm and dragged it to the side of Lauren’s bed.

(Camila smiled internally; if there was one thing that had become part of her routine, it was that.)

She sat down on the chair, showing Lauren the picture. In it, the green eyed girl was sitting in a similar manner from how she was now, but with a huge smile on her face and a sparkle in her eyes as she looked at Camila. The young actress was standing close to her, holding her wrists, and had the same look of adoration in her eyes, though the angle didn’t show her entire face.

Lauren smiled fondly at the screen, looking back up to meet Camila’s eyes after a moment. “I remember this.” She said. “Right before we- before one of our kisses.”

“Yeah…” Camila trailed off, remembering the moment, but also thinking about how many likes she had had on the picture.

It was almost three times more than her usual amount, which was surely strange, but easily explainable: Lauren’s followers had begun noticing her, and with that, her own number of followers increased. The thing is, Camila had already posted some pictures with Lauren, tagging her on them, and her popularity had been increasing slowly since they had started dating. But now there had been a sudden jump, and Camila didn’t know if it was due to her play, to the fundraiser they’d attended, to her interviews, to Lauren’s health or a combination of all...

“You okay?”

Camila blinked, suddenly brought back to the present by Lauren. She turned to her and smiled, taking her phone back and locking its screen before leaving it on Lauren’s bedside table.

“Yeah, I was just thinking. Don’t worry about it.” Camila reassured her, giving Lauren a quick peck for good measure and trying to rid her head of those thoughts. Now was not the time.

Lauren seemed content with the reply she’d gotten, smirking slightly at Camila. “I can’t believe you put ‘she lives’ with a gazillion shouting emojis as the caption though.”

Camila giggled. “Dinah said you looked like Frankenstein with your head bandages and I couldn’t help myself.” She smiled innocently.

Lauren wasn’t having it if the look in her eyes was any indication, but she only had the chance to huff and cross her arms before Camila slightly stood up, leaned in again and started kissing all over her face. Lauren had done that to her on the night of the… well, of the break in (Camila’s smile faltered for a moment) and it had managed to cheer her up, so she was hoping it would do the same for her girlfriend today.

Soon enough Lauren was a giggling mess, Camila’s stomach was filled with butterflies and all thoughts of the break in had vanished from her mind.

“Stooop!” Lauren whined amid her giggles, making Camila pull back and sit down. Lauren finally opened her eyes then, smiling widely at her girlfriend. “That was still m- mean, though. I’m mad at you and Dinah.”

“Uh huh.” Camila hummed, with a skeptical smirk. “Then why are you smiling?”

“It was a natural reaction t- to the kissing.” Lauren replied matter-of-factly, wiping the smile off her face. “Badasses don’t smile.”

Camila chuckled and rolled her eyes fondly. “Well then, miss badass. Think about it this way: now you’ll have a cool undercut to add up to your fake badass image.” Lauren bit her lip, trying to prevent her smile from growing, but it didn’t work, and soon she was grinning at Camila. The smaller Latina smiled as well. “Now we only have tattoos and piercings to go.”

Lauren’s smile faltered, but not in a sad kind of way. She seemed to get lost in thought for a moment, but before Camila could ask if there was something on her mind, their eyes met again.

“I think… I think I wanna get a tattoo. Of a dragonfly.” Lauren stated, completely surprising Camila.

“Why a dragonfly?” Camila asked after a few seconds. “And where?”

“I don’t know. Like, either of t- those.” Lauren shrugged. “Maybe it was something I dreamed, but it feels important. I’ll look it up.”

“Okay.” Camila said, simply, resting her hand on Lauren’s leg.

“Yeah?” Lauren asked, seeming insecure for the first time. “What if it doesn’t look good? Because like, I’m k- kinda worried about what this, um, undercut is gonna look like but hair grows back. A tattoo is permanent.”

Camila squeezed her knee softly, knowing that her image was somewhat a touchy subject with Lauren.

“Your undercut will look awesome, Lo, don’t worry. And if you don’t like it, just throw your hair on it until it grows back to normal. And we’re gonna find a bomb ass artist for your tattoo. It’s gonna look awesome.” Camila finished, watching as Lauren’s smile widened.

“Thank you, Camz.” Lauren said, her voice thicker than usual. “For supporting me, for- for being here, hell, you slept here for a week, I… Just thank you.”

“Don’t mention it, baby.” Camila replied, feeling herself get choked up as well. “I’ll always be here, Lo. Always.”

They stayed in silence for a while after that, just looking at each other as they held hands, Camila’s free one playing with Lauren’s hair. The world seemed to have stopped spinning from how peaceful it was in the small ICU room, and this time Camila welcomed the quiet.

And then her stomach grumbled and they laughed before Camila excused herself to go grab something to eat. By the time she came back, Lauren’s whole family was there. Unfortunately that meant that even Marcus was there, and Camila thought it was best to just give them their privacy in the cramped room after she greeted all of them.

(Camila searched Lauren’s eyes before leaving the room, but the girl only nodded with a smile and that neutral air she had around her uncle, so the young actress trusted her judgement and left.)

“So what exactly did I miss while I was out?”

When all of her friends started talking over themselves, Lauren raised her eyebrows. Some busy week that was, huh? And still, Lauren couldn’t understand shit. An intervention was needed.

“Guys, you sound like a flock of birds, calm down.” She said, raising her hand.

The four other people in the room stopped at once after that, looking at themselves and laughing a little.

“Sorry, Lauser.” Said a smirking Dinah.

Lauren rolled her eyes at the nickname just to mess with the girl, but in reality it didn’t even bother her anymore. She mumbled a, “Yeah, fine,” as the Polynesian snickered, and pointed at Normani with the hand that wasn’t holding Camila’s.

After finally being moved to a normal hospital room that Monday morning, Camila had said a group meeting was long overdue, since the new room was larger and more appropriate for such a thing. So after Normani had been freed from work, she and Ally had fetched Dinah in their car and the trio had met Camila in Lauren’s hospital room.

And there they were, the three of them spread around her bed while Camila shared it with her. It didn’t have railings like her ICU one and it was big enough for the both of them to sit together, so while Camila was still too hesitant to cuddle like Lauren had wanted her to, their intertwined hands were resting on her lap, and that was enough to make her happy.

“Everyone at the precinct is worried about you. I actually brought some cards and letters people there wrote you.” Normani said, walking over to her purse and taking them. She walked back to Lauren’s bed with a smile on her face. “Here.”

Lauren had a soft smile of her own on her face as she took the pieces of paper, being reassured that despite all the teasing and all the nicknames, she was liked there. It was a nice feeling, and she found herself getting emotional as she thought about her colleagues writing all of those cards.

“That’s so nice of them.” She said, touched by the gesture.

Camila seemed to have felt her emotional state, or maybe her voice cracked a little, but either way, she got a squeeze on the hand and a kiss on the cheek by her girlfriend. Lauren smiled at the smaller Latina, who smiled back, but then she turned back to Normani.

“I’m gonna read all of them later.” She promised, swallowing the small lump on her throat.

The dark skinned girl nodded and sat on the end of the bed by Lauren’s and Camila’s feet. “Captain Russell was here last week too, he’ll probably be back one of these days to talk to you and your doctor.”

Lauren was the one to nod this time. “Okay. Anything else?”

“I don’t think so, no.” Normani’s face lit up after a moment of thinking. “Oh! They paired me up with that new guy, Dan, while you’re away. And now I get to keep the keys to the car.” She finished with a smug grin.

“He must really suck at driving.” Lauren joked, making Dinah chuckle and Normani scowl and roll her eyes.

“Don’t be mean to Mani, Lauren.” Ally scolded, walking over to her fianceé, who wrapped her arms around the small girl’s waist and rested her head on her chest.

Lauren opened her mouth to reply, but the glare she got from Ally told her not to argue.

(The smug look she got from Normani made her want to put her in a coma to teach her not to get on Lauren’s bad side. It took more than an epidural hematoma take away her skills, after all.)

“Anyway…” Lauren mumbled as Normani bit her lip to prevent her laughter. She couldn’t help being flustered, but she tried to ignore the heat in her cheeks as she sighed and turned to Ally trying to smile. “What about you, Ally? What news do you bring me?”

Ally tilted her head, absentmindedly playing with Normani’s hair. “I think I’m gonna hire a manager for the coffee shop.”

Lauren raised her eyebrows in surprise, looking to her side to find an equally confused Camila. But she didn’t have time to say anything before Dinah beat her to it.

“Just for the record, I’m unemployed.”

“What?” Lauren exclaimed in shock. “You were fired from the dance studio?”

Camila snorted by her side. “No she wasn’t, ignore her.”

Dinah gasped. “Chancho that’s rude!”

“Shut up, Dinah.” Camila laughed, getting an supposedly offended huff in reply. Lauren couldn’t help but smile at their antics, especially when her girlfriend had the most beautiful smile.

“As I was saying…” Ally continued, amused as well. “Mani and I fly to Paris in like a month so we need someone to take over the shop. Plus... I’ve been wanting to have someone there so that I can look into singing, y’know?” She finished in a quieter but still confident voice.

Lauren broke into a wide grin, pride exploding within her at her friend’s words. “That’s amazing, Al! I’m one hundred percent sure you’ll make it.” Lauren exclaimed, so excited that she even tried to lean forward to get out of bed, only to be stopped by Camila’s hand on her shoulder. Lauren turned to her, a small and unintentional pout on her lips.

“You know you can only get up with nurses around, baby.” Camila scolded lightly, making Lauren sigh. She knew, of course, but she was an active person and a trained cop, so she tended to act on her instincts sometimes.

“Sorry.” Lauren mumbled, getting a smile and a chaste kiss in reply, which made her break into a grin again before she turned to Ally. “That’s amazing, seriously.”<