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Variations on an Ending

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 Emily had it wrong the whole time. So much for being the clever twin. All up herself thinking she had it all sorted. And she had been lucky that her strong head-butt, Katie's pre-existing head injury and the pure embarrassment of standing in front of the whole form looking like a proper mess, had been enough to stun her twin into silence with her completely off-base accusation. Emily was just so fucking wrong, sometimes.

 Katie thought about it now. As if she was upset about Emily being different, as if that was a huge fucking shock. Of course they were bloody different and it was even more obvious that she wasn't Katie. It had never been about that. It wasn't that Katie had been worried that Emily wasn't going to be her double anymore, she was terrified that she was turning into Emily, terrified that they were the same.

 Like hell she'd want Emily to be her. There could only be one Katie Fitch, but to be Katie Fitch there needed to be an Emily Fitch. There needed to be the back-up plan, the shadow, the comparison, the girl she could stand beside and look so much better than, relatively speaking. And even more so, there needed to be Emily, dear quiet Emily, that could be her sounding board for when she came up with a witty, or often just plain poisonous, insult and she whispered it just loud enough for other people to overhear, and remark, “Oh, Katie, you're so right!” (or “cheeky” or “rude” or “funny” or “bitchy” or “clever”. Any of the above worked. They were all compliments to her, after all.)

 What didn't work is coming up with such barbs and saying them out loud to an empty space beside her. Then she just looked like bloody Pandora space-case, or something, fucking talking to herself like some mad homeless pigeon lady who lives in the park and eats chewing gum wrappers. Or minging Naomi Campbell always rolling those annoying eyes at no one – like anyone actually gives a shit if her Highness doesn't think something is appropriate.

 It was all her fault anyway. Fucking twat. If she hadn't come around, prancing around her sister and acting like such a blind stupid cow (which was obviously Emily's type) everything would still be fine and Katie wouldn't be sitting on the sofa glaring at them across the room as JJ shifts obviously uncomfortably beside her and babbles about something completely fucking boring. She wouldn't be sulking, forgotten, as Emily throws her head back with a laugh that Katie can hear sparkling all the way over here. Naomi can not possibly be that brilliant.

 Her eyes narrow as she watches her sister focus again on that blonde colourblind giant, her laughter settling, but the smile unwavering. She is fairly certain that she's going to be ill. And then Naomi fucking Campbell, carpet-munching Queen of everything cold and unholy, reaches forward and tucks a lock of red hair behind her sister's ear. It's so fucking lovey and sweet and Naomi's face matches her own sister's lovestruck dopey face so exactly that any one part of that scene alone is enough for Katie to, at any second, hurl all over JJ's lap. It's like no one else in the world even matters anymore.

 And it had been that way since college had started. There was no use pretending it only began after the Love Ball because even before that when Emily wasn't lying about not being with Naomi, she was thinking about it, or worse doing it and for the life of her, Katie couldn't see what the big huge deal was anyway. As if that shitstain was anything special. But everyday since Naomi came to Cook's massive cock-up of a birthday party, Katie started losing her shadow. Emily's mind was elsewhere, no doubt somewhere between Naomi's legs – metaphorically, of course. Katie couldn't – wouldn't – accept otherwise, because that really must be love or something.

 No. She wasn't upset about Emily being gay. So what? Less competition really. But that was easy to deflect onto. She could scream and bitch and downright beg about that and her pride would be intact. She'd rather be a bigot than a baby. (And honestly, Katie just really didn't like when Emily did things first.) So, that's what it became. And it was made particularly easy since her hatred for Naomi Campbell was pre-existing. Couldn't a girl just not like another girl for no other reason than said other girl was a complete and utter fucking twat, always has been, always will be?

 But she couldn't tell Emily why, not the truth. Emily resented her enough as it was, even she could see that, but it just looked bad and Katie hated looking bad, literally and figuratively. It was more than just losing her ability to impress other people by using Emily like a pet. (A less pretty and charming pet). Katie knew she didn't have anyone other than Emily, not really. She wasn't stupid and saw her friends for what they were most of the time. Outside the prying eyes of their classmates, she and Ems were sisters. Blood thicker than water or some bullshit. But that all changed. Emily's solitary journey began. It was for this exact reason that she hated everything that Naomi Campbell represented.

 She gave Emily courage and confidence and light (even though the dumb cunt totally didn't even deserve her sister's affections) and Emily stepped away and Katie became the shadow. She was the one forgotten at a party beside the weird guy in a corner. She was the one that was asked along as an afterthought, just because they had invited Emily in front of her, and it would just be impolite not to extend it to her as well. She was the one stuck rushing to pull on her shoes as Emily whined about how Naomi was waiting and if she didn't hurry, she wasn't going to get a ride to college since Naomi had no reservations about leaving Katie behind. Where on earth the hobo-hippie cow had even gotten a car was a mystery even if it was a shitbox on wheels, but it was still better than walking alone like a total loser.

 And she detested it all. Emily was just fucking rays of sunshine, except when she and the stroppy bitch were fighting, which was often enough, but even then Katie couldn't catch a fucking break because those blinding rays turned into massive thunderstorms that obliterated her either way. And that might be worse just because it was evidence --solid evidence-- that they cared about each other that much for things to matter enough to fight. Katie never cared enough to seriously fight with any of her boyfriends. They were twats, that was accepted and she didn't really care, not really. Not the way Naomi and Emily care too much.

 Everything was backwards and upside down and Katie had a hard enough time the right side around. It had taken practice and patience to build the reputation and confidence she had before. It was a fucking chore to become that normal (but fucking hot), and Emily (who couldn't be normal if it whacked her up the fanny) had no idea how bloody hard it had been to use all that jealousy towards her (just because she got tits before all the other girls, and then got all the attention first too) and translate it into power. And then keeping it, all the games and things she had to do to convince everyone that she was top bitch. Some secrets even twins can't share.

 And all that meant nothing now. JJ's stopped talking somewhere along the way and instead is bouncing his knee in the most annoying way possible, as she sits and glares, and chews what was once a perfectly manicured nail. The red paint chips off in tiny pieces and she moves onto the next nail. And there's Emily chatting to some fit bloke, her drink splashing over the rim of her cup as she gestures animatedly about something, likely something painfully stupid and boring, and he laughs – and not just politely like boys used to humour her when Katie was beside her. Poor sod probably doesn't even realise he's completely wasting his time since her raging lesbian sister only has eyes for the ugliest damn person in the world.

 Speaking of the she-Devil, Naomi comes up beside them, eyes flashing with something indescribable and Katie knows that there is a 70% chance that there will be a thunderstorm at home tonight but being the coward that she is, Naomi stands there fiddling with her own drink cup, eying Emily in an almost insultingly distrustful way. If Katie was half of who she used to be, before being knocked down twice and being stuffed back into the dark corner like the spastic cousin at a family reunion, she would have walked up to Naomi and swiped that poisonous look off her equally poisonous face. But now she just watches and waits. Fucking JJ starts up again and nudges her to pay attention and she gives in briefly, if only to keep him around so she's not alone on the sofa. She forces a smile when he does even though she hasn't the faintest what on earth he's talking about. By the time she turns back around, Naomi's got on that shit-eating grin again and dumb, happy Emily is wrapped around her like a bloody ape-baby on its mother's back.

 Fucking Naomi Campbell is smirking in that completely repugnant way of hers. It's like she fucking just knows what she's done. Like she's completely aware how much she's fucked things up for Katie, even if she's never even acknowledged her presence the entire night.

 A few months ago, Emily stopped trying to get Naomi and Katie to be nice to each other. It wasn't because she and Naomi had come to some sort of peace treaty to offer or whatever gay shit the two of them thought up, but it was more like Emily just... forgot to care anymore. Like it didn't even matter. There was Naomi and Emily, and that was it. But it still didn't stop Naomi from purposely doing things, small, inconsequential ones, to bait Katie. It worked sometimes, but Emily didn't even notice how unhappy she was around Naomi, who had informed her one night at a very similar and horrible party that “Payback's a bitch, eh, Katiekins?” And in a sense Katie knew that it was revenge, that she had brought on Naomi's behaviour herself after years of taunts and generally trying her hardest to make the blonde's life miserable. But, now, Naomi could stop. She'd obviously won. She didn't stop though and anytime Katie broached the subject with Emily --if and when she wasn't at Naomi's-- Emily would shrug, mutter something about just “trying harder, yeah” and poke at her bloody mobile until 1 in the morning to her giant twat of a girlfriend.

Everything was pushed aside for cuntface Naomi. She had lost her sister. And this is what Katie had been scared of from the very beginning. This is why sometimes, even before the camping trip from Hell, she had sobbed in the shower (just so no one would know). At this point, she isn't sure if she is even a shadow anymore. She is nobody and not even her twin sister can see her.

 So she turns quickly to JJ, seeing a spark of surprise (or maybe fear) in his eyes. And then she kisses him. Hard. Much harder than necessary and it's sloppy and awkward, but it's loud and when she's done, she straightens her top and glances around coyly. A smile is creeping slowly onto JJ's stunned face, but it's nothing compared to the aghast look on her sister's face across the room. Katie wipes a sleeve over her mouth daintily. It's the only thing she can do to stop herself from laughing out loud. She stands, pulls at her skirt quickly and strolls over to the counter, grabbing an empty cup, filling it halfway with vodka and winking at her sister. Naomi's eyes narrow suspiciously, darting between she, Emily and JJ like there is finally something she is not privy to. At fucking last, Katie thinks taking joy in Naomi's lack of inclusion and notices with a feeling of victory when Emily pulls her hand away from the tenuous grasp Naomi previously had.

 “Aren't you going to offer me some mix, Ems?” Katie says, trilling in a way she had thought she had forgotten. Emily's hand is tightly clasped around the bottle of Irn-Bru, but the question slowly sinks in and she pushes it forward slowly, her face a mess of confusion. There's a brief moment where Katie's pouring and the other two girls are mutely staring at her. She had forgotten what it was like to have other people's gazes burning into her skin. It's warm and comfortable somehow.

Katie turns on her heel and waltzes back to JJ, tossing a cheeky look over her shoulder at her twin and her obnoxious fucking girlfriend. Emily's still staring like she's seen a ghost and Naomi is, well, it doesn't really matter because she looks like that normally anyway. It's almost nostalgically familiar. She settles into JJ's lap, offers him a sip which of course he declines, and she cuts a glance at her sister again.

 Yep, she's watching with that oh so recognizable wounded puppy-dog look on her face.

 Katie Fitch isn't anybody's fucking shadow.

Chapter Text

 

 

JJ likes Emily.

Emily likes JJ.

 

He and Emily were quite good friends, at least he assumed they were, which made the situation he was currently in just beyond the border of confounding. After all, he enjoyed shagging her, purely as friends of course, and really would not turn down the opportunity to do it again. However being in her home at this particular instant had little to do with their friendship and far more to do with her twin's rather indifferent yet somehow convincing demands.

 It smells the same. It smells the same as when he and Freddie had been sat right in the same room prior to the Love Ball. It is a curious scent; like something organic (homemade stew perhaps) mixed with peppermint handsoap and some kind of hairspray. Normally hairspray tickled his nostrils in an unpleasant way, especially the way girls at school chose to cover themselves in it. But in this house it just hangs in the air unassumingly. It actually smells distinctly like Katie Fitch. (Not like Emily, no. She doesn't use beauty products as far as JJ knew.) It all reminds him of alcohol somehow. Likely due to the fact that whenever he had spent any sort of time with Katie, her breath (hot and sweet) had been laced with the same, so much so that he often could taste it on his own lips. Power of association. He wasn't sure he liked the taste. And even more so, it's like that time camping in the woods when everything had gone to pot, and Emily had mistaken Katie's sleeping bag for her own, laid it out beside him and grinned. (He could remember it clearly. It was at him but not for him, like they were sharing a secret (He hated secrets) but he was clueless what it was. She was high on mushrooms (a risky behaviour) so it was very possible she did think they were sharing a secret.) Then Naomi had crawled in, smelling almost identical to Katie. A cloud of weed aroma following her in as she giggled and tossed her own blanket onto Emily's, the alcopops she had obviously consumed leaving their sickly scent in the confined space. JJ also remembers ho she said nothing to him at the time, even though it was his tent. Her glazed eyes had focussed (as best they could under the conditions) only on Emily.

 Something had turned in his stomach at that point. That was also a vivid memory. That was the reason for Emily's smile. She wasn't sharing a secret with him. It was with Naomi. And as Naomi rather rudely invited herself into his tent without thanks, he could swear a familiar memory surfaced and he sat silently as both girls lay staring at the roof of the tent (his tent), murmuring to each other and giggling occasionally.

 Emily was supposed to be his friend, not Naomi's, not after that night at the Roxy. He was better. Maybe he didn't start pointless arguments in Politics class like her, but he was there. Always there. Reliable old JJ. Always there. For Cook, for Freds, for Emily. And they were only ever there for him when it was convenient. Resentment had settled in towards both Emily and Naomi for taking advantage. That was, until Emily had turned to him and asked what he thought about dinosaurs. It was a strange topic for late night conversation but he wouldn't turn down an opportunity to tell Naomi (who was saying that she didn't like nor believe in dinosaurs) something she didn't already pretend to know everything about. They had both fallen asleep while he was talking but to be fair, when he looked at the digital display on his wristwatch, he had been going on for about 21 minutes straight.

 But he remembers at that point missing Cook.

 That night changed everyone, including, for some unfathomable reason, himself. He had woken up during the night, after a nightmare, by a jostling sort of movement. The air in the tent was overly warm and heavy breathing next to him was laced with alcohol still. If such things as sauna pubs existed, he was certain it would smell like that. He focussed on his thoughts and tried to stop wondering which of the girls next to him was also having a nightmare.

 In the morning, the girls were out of the his tent before him and rest had improved his mood exponentially. His mother always said he was a grouch when overtired. He followed them, made comment to which they responded similarly to the previous night, like they were sharing a secret again. It wasn't until he bent down to grab a Tic-Tac that his brain came to a startling conclusion. His tent, inside, it smelled like his room after he shagged Emily. Logic being JJ's strong point left no doubt what had occurred between she and Naomi last night. Instantly things were wrong, and the world was too bright and too loud, and his mind spun with implications. Distraction was necessary. Tic-Tacs. Wheels spun and absences were noted aloud. Thank God. For the rest of the day, despite the fear of losing Katie, searching everywhere, calling, Emily kept smiling and touching Naomi at every opportunity. No one else seemed to notice how odd that was. It wasn't normal.

 

“JJ,” Katie's voice seems piercing and unpleasant in contrast to his quiet memories, even though in reality she was sounding much less abrasive than usual. Once he meets her eyes, shifting uncomfortably beside her, she shakes her head.

 “You're such a spaz. Where's your head at anyway?”

 She's smiling but to him it feels like more of an accusation. (He doesn't doubt she has a soft spot for him now and not just because he's not terrible at sex anymore.) He can't tell her he was thinking about her sister because as socially inept as he's told he is, he's fairly certain that is a taboo, especially if teen dramas have imparted any such knowledge. And despite her best efforts, Katie was the polar opposite of Effy Stonem – she was practically transparent.

 “Hello! JJ?” She sounds more impatient this time. He forces a timid smile.

 “Sorry, Katie.” She looks less forgiving and he decides it would be a bad time to ask if she is just using him because she's obviously lonely and it's a perfect method for revenge on her twin. Quite frankly, he doesn't care as much as he expected to. He's rather lonely too. They seem to have that in common these days, being ignored by people they care about. A twinge in his chest reminds him of Freds, and then a stronger one making him think of Cook. He wishes Cook was here as well. And for some reason, he doesn't think Katie would mind particularly either. They are odd around each other now, but not disagreeable. But he's learned not to ask these things. Experience has taught him that things he thinks are good ideas are usually not in reality.

 “God, you're as bad as Emily. Go upstairs and grab me a jumper. I'm cold.”

 It's only when he's halfway up the staircase that he realises that she was likely not asking for a jumper at all. He mutters and mentally berates himself but it's too late now. His mind is whirling with ideas how to be suave and fix this but nothing seems right. His palms begin to sweat with the enormity of his mistake and he wills (quite futilely) his heart beat to slow. What would Freddie do? No. That won't do. He'd just shag Effy and that certainly wouldn't fix things with Katie. Cook? Also not good, better perhaps but he can't channel that lazy charm yet. He's too honest and Cook is not.

 The corridor is dim, the only light coming through a crack in the door that is emblazoned with “Sexy” in cute cursive. He assumes it must be Katie's though he's never seen her bedroom. (They've shagged a few times now but never here). He pushes on the door tentatively though he's not sure why. It opens another few inches (approximately 5.08 centimetres, really).

 If his mistake with Katie had been a serious faux-pas, this one was one of monumentally epic proportions that he couldn't even begin to fathom the consequences. Oh my gid--- FUCK.

 They don't see him, although really the only one that could in their current position is Naomi and that fear is enough to root him frozen in place. He suddenly can't feel his arms; they aren't responding to stimulus. He wonders momentarily if shock can induce paralysis in an otherwise physically healthy individual. Emily's face is somewhere between Naomi's legs, her ass in the air, pink knickers still in tact. JJ feels a rush of relief (and a twinge of disappointment to be honest) that if he is caught, he can truthfully say he didn't really see anything. It was a geometric impossibility unless the laws of physics magically changed.

 He could see Naomi's face however, screwed up like she is solving a maths problem (and JJ knows she isn't very talented in that area. He has that much on her at least. Well, that and the fact he isn't a flaming arsehole 90% of the time.) She doesn't appear enthused about the situation she's in, which he finds quite odd considering the supposed obsession between females and oral sex. Or so Cook had said (“Bloody lick this and that but not like that. Now do it for an hour. Fucking ridiculous. But they gag for it more than cock, J.”) And Freddie who insisted that it was something that girls loved and was fairly enjoyable to give. JJ isn't sure exactly how true either statement is but Naomi's face certainly doesn't give that indication. If anything, she looks impatient and frustrated, if not plain bored by it all. She's upset maybe but he can't really be trusted to properly interpret social cues and body language. Bored, sad.... But mostly bored. There's a word he learned in Philosophy lessons that is bouncing around his mind, knocking against everything else. “Ennui”. It's a terrible word, he thinks. It bombards him with images of his mother, father, Cook, Freddie, Effy, and now Naomi. He bites hard on his lip to stop from screaming at all the visions and noises to stop, the echoes of impermeable unhappiness everywhere around him. The pain is shocking, bitter and tastes like metal.

 Suddenly, like something has snapped, his hearing returns and like he's stepped into a hurricane, he hears the pulse of heavy breathing around him. Surrounding. It's too much like that night in the tent. It even smells the same.

 It's too much. Too much, too much. But he needs to get Katie her jumper. Shit, shit. A tingling returns to his extremities and he flexes his fingers, testing. Yes, they move. Taking a careful step backwards he pulls the door closed to a crack. He can still hear them and when he's quite sure his legs are not going to turn to jelly, the panic sets in. He needs a jumper. Fuck. A jumper. But his mind reels with what he just witnesses and his above average problem solving skills are muted and lost. He's locked on, standing dumbly in the Fitch hall, staring at a mostly closed door.

 An unexpected burst of logic graces him with a plan. There's another room with a poster of Britney Spears on it. Inside is a mess reminiscent of his own bedroom. There's a black jumper on the floor and black is said by the Hair & Beauty girls at college to match anything. He takes it.

 He hands it to Katie with a shaky hand and prays she can't see what he saw on his face. He was transparent too. The fact is she doesn't seem to care. She gives him only a quick glance and snatches the offered garment. Her nose twitches (in a way he would normally find adorable if he didn't feel like he was going to explode at any minute).

 “This isn't mine,” she states. “Christ, JJ. It's tiny! Are you blind or something?” Somehow her voice is small and lacks the venom the words should accompany. She sighs. He's just noticed the skateboard on it. It was a boy's jumper.

 “I thought it would fit you,” he stutters, caught off-guard. Then she does look at him, a mixture of confusion and appreciation.

 “Sit down, Jay.” He does. She sounds so much like Emily at that moment he forgets what happened upstairs. “Thanks.”

He realises she's flattered for some reason he can't comprehend. It's odd. Usually he can't figure out how he's gone wrong but right now he's not sure what he did correctly. She tosses the hoodie aside and pulls her bare feet up underneath her body.

 “If you're still cold,” JJ states unsurely, “I produce body heat approximately 1 degree Celcius above normal average for a boy of my age, weight and height. My mother thinks it's possibly an undiagnosed thyroid condition...” He trails off, realising how he's rambling and twists his fingers together.

 It's the closest he's ever come to chatting up a girl. Maybe it's because he's positive she'll accept the offer, but he's glad it's with Katie, not Emily who would likely just look at him in that pitying way of hers: Poor, hopeless Jay. Katie, by contrast, smiles surprisingly genuinely and takes his arm, looping it over her own shoulders and settles against him as she presses play on the DVD remote.

  

In exactly 12 minutes 32 seconds from that moment, Emily appears with Naomi on her heels. JJ feels his face flush red. The girls just stare at the couple on the couch.

 “Got a fucking problem, Campbell?” Katie's voice has lost its previous softness as she chooses to ignore her sister almost entirely, focusing on the other object of her resentment. Naomi sneers and Emily rolls her eyes. It's so perfectly choreographed that JJ forgets what the last hour has entailed. Katie's hand is smoothing over his thigh soothingly. A twinge of guilt creeps up on him as he is reminded of all the times he considered Katie a horrible person. He gets it now. When she's actually on your side (or more like you're on hers) she gives off a sense of power. It's intoxicating.

 The girls move towards the kitchen and JJ watches with interest, defiantly avoiding Naomi's eyes. (She would read it on his face for sure). He watches. They don't touch or smile at each other. The contrast to that day in the woods is curious. They don't even speak and JJ, even as messed up as he thinks he is, can tell that something is very wrong. This isn't normal.

 

(Philosophy class haunts him. “Ennui is the echo in us of time tearing itself apart.”)

 

Chapter Text

 It wasn't really that difficult if you really thought about it, doing what she did. Effy was so bloody sick of people –Sid, Tony, JJ, whoever– marvelling at her supposed magnificent talent of getting in people's heads, to read their thoughts, so to speak. God, it was fucking simple really. The process was fairly easy, just time consuming.

  1.  Shut up.
  2. Observe.

  3. Draw conclusions.

 

If people just stopped talking once in a while and took a second to actually look at other people instead of suffocating in their own ego, she was sure anyone could do it. If you're always running your mouth or thinking about yourself, it's far more difficult to see others. And honestly? It wasn't like she was doing it because she was some good Samaritan and could pass on this wealth of knowledge she earned. It made her feel better to watch people miss cues, fuck up, and never figure out what the fuck just happened because the entire past was just a blur of self-obsessive memories. It was also just nice to watch other people flail around. She figured that if she just watched long enough, she'd eventually find someone as miserable as she was, and by not saying anything to help, it increased those chances exponentially.

 A cryptic smile, a few choice words, or a mischievous glint was often more than enough to send someone barreling at first down the right path, then to stumble back in the wrong direction as they recalled her expression with self-doubt. Hilarious, in a way. Pathetic in another.

 She wasn't sure she could help anyone if she even wanted to anymore, even with a fucking map and step-by-step instructions, especially since everyone around her was so set on massive and permanent destruction. So why bother? Who was she to be more than a hitch in the plan? It was such a waste of time to attempt to fix things that were obviously meant to be broken. Frustrating and toying with the ultimate outcome was so much more satisfying. If it's all going to shit anyway, why rush it?

 It wasn't always like this, her general apathy and almost misanthropic motivation. She had genuinely tried to fix things once or twice. In fact, she went out of her way. But people either completely misunderstood, ignored her or just wrote of her attempts as futile. She gave up trying to change things for better. If everyone wanted to be miserable, she'd damn well let them be. At least she'd have some company.

 But sitting here she's not sure anymore if everyone she knows is meant to be so undeniably hopeless. She looks at the girls, asleep and completely unaware that anyone else is sharing their small room. She unwraps a stick of chewing gum rather loudly and her only response is a slight shuffle of bedsheets from the redhead in front of her. She chews it with her mouth open, snapping it between her teeth, until her jaw begins to ache. Even trying to make people miserable seems impossible for her now.

 Emily breathes loudly in her sleep as she squirms around, burrowing a little deeper against the naked shoulders in front of her and twisting a bare leg out from the tangle below. The duvet slips down with the movement, a testament to the obliviousness of her presence. Effy doesn't move, nor attempts to look away. She doesn't really give a fuck to be honest. The blonde beside her was the opposite however and Effy watches the pronounced goosebumps rise on her arms and the subsequent unconscious grasp for the blankets, pulling them up over her shoulders, and as a result, over Emily's head.

 Effy would laugh if she didn't see the utter tragedy of it all. She's good at that, it's kind of her thing: seeing the most depressing pieces of the puzzle. She doesn't really know that much about the two girls together but what she is aware of is enough. They're on separate pages of the same pathetic book of how to love in the most painful and stubborn way possible. Naomi's too cold, and Emily's too hot. They've always been and neither wants to change. Same as now, with their unconscious struggle over the fucking duvet. With a groan, Emily incoherently mumbles something at Naomi and pushes it down, away from her face. As per usual, there's no response from Naomi. It figures. But not to be denied a reaction, Emily perseveres of course. Effy decides it's a good thing that they're both facing the other wall. She's enjoying this opportunity to watch them, and likely Emily's half-awake at the moment, at least just enough to notice a figure in the room had she been in her blurred line of sight. Effy stops chewing and breathes quieter as Emily reaches over the blonde, and Effy can't quite see what's going on, but it looks like she closes her hand over Naomi's cheek. She can imagine that hot, damp hand against her own cheek and represses an uncomfortable shudder. Like second nature, Naomi swats at it and muffles out something vaguely like “Sorry, Ems”. Apparently satisfied, Emily settles again, the same hand weaving around the body in front of her as her breathing deepens.

It's such a familiar, practiced movement that bile almost rises in Effy's throat. She swallows her own jealousy, and chews harder on her gum, a scowl suddenly breaking out across her normally impassive face.

 She glances at the digital clock on the nightstand. 9:47 AM. Naomi was supposed to be out of her bloody bed by now. In fact, they were supposed to be on their way to Bath in her petrol-powered shitmobile. But here she was glaring rather pointlessly at Emily and Naomi snuggling in the early morning sunshine. Effy is pretty sure that at any moment puppies, rainbows and butterflies will burst through the windows, singing. It's just that lovely a picture, when you ignore everything else under the surface.

 And for Christ's sake, Emily hadn't even been invited. However, Effy had conceded long before now that the redhead would likely be unable to be pried away from her prize, especially if her girlfriend was supposed to be spending the day with the college dropout who put her sister in hospital. She hadn't told Naomi that she was okay with Emily tagging along and Naomi had never even asked. Maybe it was because she just assumes now that everyone knows they are a packaged deal.

 Whatever the reason, it's still fucking annoying. She spits her gum vaguely in the direction of the bin. She doesn't look to see if it actually goes in.

 She's giving them 4 more minutes before she takes things into her own hands. As the countdown begins, she takes another look around the unfamiliar bedroom. On the floor lies Emily's watermelon-coloured bag, various university prospectus' spilling out onto the floor. She picks them up and flips uninterestedly through their glossy covers, each one looking as bland and pompous as the last. All top-notch Russell Group wanker breeding grounds. Nottingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, and fucking Belfast. She couldn't get much further away from Bristol if she tried. Not to mention the ERASMUS flyer. But the most interesting thing to Effy was that she knows where Naomi is headed: London. Didn't seem to matter which school in London, apparently. She wonders if her blonde friend and Emily had even discussed this. It didn't seem like something that wouldn't cause a row to end all rows, if she knew Emily at all. In the end, despite the protests, Emily became just a slower-blossoming, more gay version of her insufferable yet fascinating twin. It wasn't that she disliked Emily (not enough to wallop her over the head with a rock at least), and her languid transformation was curious, but she didn't like doormats, especially if those same doormats were able to do what she wasn't, and be brave...

 Carelessly tossing the brochures back onto the floor, she taps a cigarette from the pack and lights up. She blows smoke directly at the sleeping girls. No reaction. She takes another deep drag and exhales, stronger this time, the dirty grey smoke lingering over the bed. She knows well enough how much Emily dislikes smoking, except when pissed. A sputtering sort of cough erupts weakly from the redhead and Effy smirks. It's Naomi who starts first and sits up abruptly, clutching the duvet against her chest as if it's something Effy would really care to see. The blonde's glare is softened by the bleary way she squints and the amusing way her hair is sticking out at odd angles.

 Effy cocks an eyebrow, her smirk spreading further, challenging Naomi to protest but the bait fails. Instead the miniature spitfire beside her growls.

 “What the fuck, Effy.”

 It's not as much a question as a statement. She glances back at Naomi, then again to Effy. She has no idea what Effy is doing here, which says more than Effy needs to know. Naomi is still keeping secrets, and ones that were pretty inconsequential in contrast to, let's say, future university choices which were now obviously yet to be discussed. An almost hurt look passes from Emily to Naomi, and the response from the blonde looks like forced and reluctant apology, like she doesn't think she needs to apologise. Some things never fucking change.

 It is like watching the slowest train crash ever. Emily's expression shifts from hurt to something akin to disbelief. She huffs, grabs a top from somewhere in the tangle of bedsheets and glares at Naomi momentarily. Pointedly. And Naomi for her part drops the false apology and just resorts to looking typically bored and exasperated. Still neither actually speaks, and as Emily angrily swings her feet to the floor, Naomi watches, a new and peculiar concerned look on her face. But it only lasts a brief moment before she looks to Effy, who merely offers the smallest, most practiced blasé shrug of her shoulders. The blonde tucks the duvet up under her chin and looks sullenly defeated before she rolls over, picks up a tee shirt of her own and refuses to meet Emily's gaze.

 Her glimmer of hope she had for her supposed friends extinguishes at that exact moment. Love is just a fucking lost cause. She once mused inadvertently to Tony about why people even bothered with caring about people. He had thought he'd seen through her facade, calling her on her bullshit, implying she did in fact care. And he wasn't wrong of course. (When was Tony ever wrong? The stupid wanker.) She obviously cared about things, even if she still hadn't figured out how to love anything properly, or even keep them around long enough to learn the basics. But still, the whole thing seemed so bloody pointless. A waste of effort in the end 'cause it all goes to shit no matter what you do or how much you feel.

 She was too lost, wandering aimlessly through the darkness, to see chaos stalking her as it laid claim not just to her own pathetic life but unravelled everyone around her as well. Love (especially love) never worked if she was anywhere nearby. It was like her failure was inevitably contagious, as people around her fell in and then out of it, hard, ending up just as lonely and miserable as she always has been.

 

Looking at the expressions of the girls in front of her, her memory recoils to the picturesque way they were ten minutes ago and she almost wishes she she'd never met them at all.

Almost.

Chapter Text

It's the last place he ever expects to see Naomi Campbell by herself. His local lacked a lot of what she normally seemed to look for in pub, most notably the presence of her gal pal Emily. Not to mention she looked well rough. Cook knows what rough looks like and Naomi's teetering on the edge of bloody fucking miserable. Catching her gaze he motions for her to join him at the bar. She does so with no hesitation whatsoever and immediately orders a scotch, on the rocks, which would have surprised Cook (and also inevitably impressed him) had she seemed not quite so desperate. She says nothing to him specifically. For once, he can't figure out what he's supposed to say to her. He resorts to ordering a drink for himself.

 “Not right for a fit girl to drink alone, yeah,” he tries.

 She snorts a response and merely fiddles with the condensation on her glass. “Right.”

 He tries again. “Where's the missus?”

 For a moment, Cook is incredibly afraid she's going to burst into tears and he has no blinkin' idea how to deal with that insanity. Her eyes water but she quickly squashes that by taking an impressive gulp of her drink. She shakes her head, as if clearing away the sadness. She forces the fakest smile he thinks he's ever seen from her and that's saying a lot considering her regular attitude towards him. It's also when he knows something is actually wrong. Bad news is that she's come to the wrong person. He doesn't do talking. He doesn't do cheering up and he certainly doesn't do girly dramas. For some reason, he's 90% sure that's the reason she came to him. (She doesn't do the talking thing either.) But more importantly, unlike Effy, another person who doesn't do the talking thing, he doesn't silently judge and scheme. Fuck it, he'll give it a shot anyway.

 “So Blondie, you wanna talk about it?” He says it in such a way that it's clear he'd be of no help at all. Predictably she shakes her head and swirls the ice-cubes around what's left of her drink. Her gaze is completely fixed on that task alone. He's curious what's happening with Emily but not enough to push it, especially if it leads to tears. Usually girls crying is hilarious, most of the time because of something he's done but this time he's sure it wouldn't be funny. The last time he had made Naomi cry, it was amusing, until the guilt set in later just after she had given up her chance for school president for him. (Even if she was just --as she said to him much later-- “doing the right thing. Don't get any ideas.” He had responded then with the obvious jibe about her (at the time) hypothetical muff-diving tendencies.)

 He just didn't want to make her cry again. She was possibly the only person who had said out loud that he was a good person. Well, close enough to.

 Out of nowhere, her voice croaks out, “Got any pills?”

 For a second, he's confused, then surprised, then he laughs.

 “A bit of mandy? That all I'm good for?” He hopes it sounds like a joke, but he honestly wants the answer. Up until about 2 seconds ago, he was pleased that someone had actively chosen his company. She shakes her head adamantly and he's momentarily relieved... until she fixes her blue eyes on him. There is the slightest hint of tears pooling again. Shit.

 “I want either pills or a hug and you're too keen on affection it seems.” Her tone lacks both bite and humour so he's not exactly sure how to interpret it. A challenge sounds closest.

 “Babe, I'm not giving you any drugs.” Hoping it comes off as concerned, he smiles. The gesture isn't reciprocated however and a frown is set on her face and her eyes narrow. It looks dangerous. That's much more desirable than 'depressed' in his opinion.

 “Stupid tosser,” she growls.

 He laughs loudly. “Now that's more like it!” There is a flicker of a smile on her face, apparently amused at his audacity. Tilting back and finishing off his drink, he claps the glass down on the wood counter making her jump a little as a grin sneaks across her lips. He tosses a tenner on the bar.

 “Now stop being such a lazy cow and finish your drink so we can go have a fag, yeah?” His demand is not even close to reproachful and she takes a long swig of alcohol and slides off the barstool a little too quickly. She stumbles slightly until he catches her arm.

 “Fucking mint,” he exclaims in appreciation of her less than sober performance. She flips him off as they walk outside the pub, a smirk etched on to her face. A few steps away, she pauses and yanks a pack of cigarettes from her disgustingly large bag. Bloody girls and their shit. She lights up quickly and takes an incredibly long drag, one which would put Freddie to shame, if the fucker ever did anything fun anymore. This is more like the Naomi he's grown to know. She exhales directly at his face in a peculiar attempt to get a reaction, and he's struck with the memory of Effy doing something similar. He snatches the cigarette from her lips and tries to pull longer and deeper, and ends up coughing before he can complete the challenge. The resulting laugh cheers him up. He wasn't totally useless at being a friend. There is one girl in the would who can appreciate his attempts; just too bad she's a lezzer. It figured really.

 His mobile rings loudly against the darkened residential road. He answers quickly. Speak of the devil...or something. “Hey babe,” he answers. The voice on the other side rambles for a minute and he watches Naomi root around in that stupid bag like a badger, finally producing a tallboy of Carlsberg triumphantly.

 “No can do, munchkin,” he states. “Bit busy at the moment.”

 The second he says “munchkin” Naomi's face whitens noticeably and she stares at him, her eyes boring into him so hard it actually makes him uncomfortable. She knows the only person he ever calls that is her fucking girlfriend. It's the first time that evening that he realises whatever is going on between the two girls wasn't their usual drama. The blonde's regular reaction was more along the lines of an exaggerated eye roll, a snort, or a heavy sigh, some form of annoyance really. She never went ashen. It makes him nervous and he ends the call quicker than usual.

 “What'd she want?”

 He waffles between telling the truth and lying. He doesn't see how it even matters. “Same as you.”

 The answer satisfies her and a small amount of colour returns. However her smirk doesn't. Stuffing the device back in his packet, he shuffles over to her and takes the can of lager, helping himself. He leans back against the wall and studies her for a moment.

 “She sounded like shit.”

 Naomi has no immediate reaction. She reaches for the can instead. Finally she snarls, “Good”. It comes out so coldly that Cook is taken aback. It reminds him of JJ that night in the woods, or Freddie or Effy or any number of people in his life. So full of anger and resentment towards someone else (normally him). Since he had met Naomi, he's never heard that tone, not even directed to him. Not even to Emily when the twin was practically stalking her. Impatience, yeah. Frustration, yeah. Confusion, yeah. But never hate. He wondered if now is a better time to ask about her problems. She seems less likely to burst into tears and more likely to just put her fist through a nearby windshield.

 “Lover's quarrel, eh?”

 The accompanying glare makes it completely clear that she isn't pleased by his flippancy on the subject. She doesn't even need to tell him to fuck off this time. Grabbing the lager back he swallows huge gulps before tossing it onto the sidewalk. There's nothing more he can think to do and she's not making it any easier. Fucking girls. He has no bloody clue how to deal with them. Never had been a strong point, unless they need a fucking good shag. He guesses that isn't even close to what she wants, even if it would do her some good.

 “Oh come on, princess.” He opens his arms. “Give us a hug then. Cookie Monster'll make the bad go away.” There is the comfortably familiar roll of her eyes but she moves towards him anyway and he's not sure if it's because she's drunk and miserable or because they are actual mates now. As he sees her holding back the smallest smile, he's pretty sure it's the second one. He hopes for once that he's wearing a moderately clean shirt.

 It isn't until they're standing there a good minute that he realises that her shoulders are shaking slightly and her hands are tightly clenching at the fabric of his t-shirt. She's crying. Like really crying. It's so fucking different than the last time he saw her breakdown at the student election, and he's positive even that Naomi would never have shown this kind of weakness in front of him (or anyone else). She's different and softer and sort of falling apart everywhere. The only thing he can think to do is hold her tighter. It seems like the right thing though he's not sure when she starts absolutely bawling into his shoulder.

 “Fucking hell,” he murmurs. “She fucked you over good, yeah?”

 It surprises him when she shakes her head. Girls make no flippin' sense.

 “I'm all alone now,” she manages to sputter out between sobs and she sounds completely broken. It reverberates deep inside him, reminding him how similar they've always been. It's hard not to think about Effy being a stupid slag, or Freddie being the worst fucking friend in the world, not to mention his own dad fucking off and being a complete asshole. For once he could empathize with her. It is fucking shit to be feeling what she is, or being ambushed by every single friend you have in the span of a minute. It didn't matter who did the leaving; it all felt the same. Utter loneliness. He wants to blame her flood of tears on the alcohol but he knows full well that it doesn't make a fucking difference. All she needs is a good mate to cushion the fall. For some reason that person had been Freddie for him after his dad turned into the world's biggest cunt and buggered off again. Great fucking choice that was considering it was Freddie and his indestructible lust for Effy that had got them all into the situation in the first place. Now, it's his turn to return the favour (The being a friend part, not the ruining everyone's lives by salivating like a dog with two dicks over Effy part). He figures Naomi's pretty damn lucky that he's not after Emily, and he had nothing to do with their obviously fucked relationship.

 He pulls back, shimmying out of her grip. He takes an old balled up tissue from his pocket and timidly hands it to her. She dabs at her eyes, not once looking him in the face. 'Course she wouldn't. She needs a distraction. He claps loudly and it obviously startles her.

 “Well, Blondie, fuck them! You're alone, I'm alone. Let's forget those wankers and get well fucked up, yeah?”

 She finally meets his eyes, accompanied by a terse smile. “Alone together? How poetic of you, Cook.”

 He grins widely, letting out a huge laugh. Grabbing her and locking an arm around her neck, he plants a sloppy kiss on her temple, that any other day she would have slapped him for. She pushes him off instead, but there's a smile on her face and she marches back towards the pub door. He's right behind her.

 “So, this mean I get a blowjob then?”

 He narrowly dodges her fist and grins at the solitary finger waving in the air behind her as she continues inside.

 

Chapter Text

That horrible fucking troll.

 She's not sure when it happened but she wishes that she had been there. She's sick of watching Emily mope around the house like a fucking grieving widow, and whinging on and on at night. It's not like she really has anything better to do than listen, but it's all getting rather repetitive and boring now. Honestly, it's about bloody time. She can't really say that out loud, but it's true.

 They're trying this new thing where they're sisters, for real. Like all nice to each other and shit, which only works about 60% of the time cos they do live together and seeing someone that much (especially after getting sort of used to being apart) gets annoying. She was hoping –praying even if she believed in that kind of thing– for the day that Emily's stupid munter of a girlfriend would fuck off and leave them in peace. Now that it had happened, it was too sudden and going from having to fight Emily for the shower twice a week to everyday was pissing her off. Well, it wasn't really all that sudden. Katie could have seen it from a month back, or even the beginning, cos there's no way in hell someone like Naomi Campbell could ever keep up with her sister for that long.

 

 They are Fitches.

 That's all there is to it.

 

But she can try telling that to Emily 'til she's hoarse and it doesn't make a lick of difference. Katie wonders if she should just dress in black and hire some wailing women to follow Emily around for the week. Maybe make an effigy of the blonde twat and throw it on a pyre while they're at it. People could say what they wanted about her, but at least she learned something from Classics last term. Might as well do it all up in style. The way Emily was going on, it certainly seemed to warrant the display.

 The only good news, apart from not having to hear Campbell's insufferable voice or see her smarmy-as-shit ugly face, is that Emily no longer feels the need to excitedly overshare her latest sexual discovery. Katie didn't really care to hear anything about it in the first place, let alone have to picture her sister and that minger doing any of that. To be honest, she felt a little sorry for her twin because it was obvious she had no other girl friends to share that kind of news with. Naomi was a cunt and probably never listened to people when they talked about feelings, and JJ was a boy who passed out at the mention of wet knickers. She was nearly certain that no one with half-a-brain would confide in Panda or Effy about that. Pandora because she was about as helpful as a bag of rocks, if you could get her to actually sit down and listen, and Effy cos if anyone could out-smug Naomi, it was Effy fucking Stonem. Katie couldn't imagine anything worse than being excited about some sexual discovery (or even a normal one) and watching Effy's face just all smirky and cocky and knowing. Well, watching Effy's face do that as Naomi ate her out would be worse, she supposes. Katie wouldn't past either of those two manky whores to do that either. They'd been spending enough time together lately. And the dirty slag Effy would probably fuck anything that moved as long as she could get something in her fanny for a few minutes.

 It brings a shudder through her body, making her skin crawl as foggy memories floated just out of reach. It feels a little like jealousy mixed with something like –No. Katie shakes her head to clear whatever it is.

 Katie randomly tries to remember a time when she didn't hate Effy. She was actually quite taken with her at first. She honestly believed they could rule Roundview together. Never happened, obviously. Rock to the head and all that. Fucking mushrooms. It occurs to her that there was a time, but she can't pinpoint it, when it shifted into an all out proper competition, and Effy hadn't even been trying to win. Everything always turned into a goddamn competition and Katie was sick of coming out on the losing end. With Effy, with any number of tosser boyfriends, with Emily and Naomi...

 Katie opens up her laptop and logs onto Naomi's Facebook profile. It still says she's “in a relationship” if that wasn't like the overstatement of the century on her part. (She knows through Emily that Naomi had refused to disclose who she was in a relationship with the entire time, even though everyone and their mad grannies already knew. Emily cried for about an hour before Katie had dragged her out of bed and to the local).

                    Ur such a fuckin cunt. hope u realise what u did. shows shes better off wivout u coward

 She feels better after she presses 'Share', like she's won. She knows it'll probably be only a few hours before she's blocked. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

 She doesn't realise she must have laughed at her own actions until Emily's voice breaks her concentration.

 “What's so funny?”

 She looks over to see Emily staring at her from her tortoise-shell-like hidey-hole under the duvet. She looks exhausted.

 “Nothing.” She pauses and quirks an eyebrow. “You look well bad, Ems.” Another pause. “Look, it's over now, yeah? Done. So you need to, like, get over it. She's a slut and didn't deserve you. End of story.” That was her best attempt at comfort.

 Emily sighs, and it almost sounds like they're about to have another row over the virtues (or lack thereof) of Naomi Campbell. But Emily just shakes her head a little bit and closes her eyes, the fight in her seemingly gone entirely.

 “God, you're so depressing I'm going to slit my wrists soon.”

 “Thanks for your compassion,” Emily mumbles. There's a small part of Katie that is glad about this, about how she can finally make Emily's life a little more miserable at the moment. After nearly a year of the opposite, it feels almost like they're back to normal. She doesn't think it's vengeance exactly, but it feels pretty justified. It would feel even better if she could rub it in Naomi's stupid fucking face, though chances are the twat isn't even upset about it. She never is when they break up, and God knows, they've done it enough. Something feels more real about this one though. Maybe it's because Emily seems so bloody broken.

 “You need to get laid.” Katie can't quite figure out how words seem to come out of her mouth without her thinking about them first. It's like magic really. Like she's missing that big nervy thing that connects her brain to the rest of her. She feels like one of those monkeys on Youtube with their heads cut open and just being poked at to see what random reaction will happen. She feels just as helpless. She thinks that maybe Emily got her part of the compassionate gene when they were embryos, which is why she's such a sodding crybaby.

 Emily says nothing for a while. “Fuck off, Katie.” It's quiet, but it's angry and so overwhelmingly sad that Katie actually thinks she can feel it too. They are twins after all.

 “Sorry,” she says softly, her attitude shifting. She closes her laptop with a loud snap and faces the lump that signifies Emily's presence. “Come on, Ems. I'm trying to help. It's not healthy.”

 Emily rolls over and pushes the duvet down to stare at her twin. “What would you know? You've never been in love.” There's fight in her eyes at least. Spirit. Katie nods though and doesn't challenge it. There's not much point, it's mostly true.

 “I know you shouldn't cry so much. I know she's not worth it.”

 Emily groans. “You've never thought so. I can't really take your word for it now, can I?”

 It's Katie's turn to growl. “Stop being such a div. You know I'm right.” Yeah, she's fully rubbing Emily's face in her bad decisions now. It really should not feel so vindicating. “Look, I'm your sister and I have to be honest. I'm glad she fucked off cos she's a twat who never came close to being half-deserving of you, Ems.”

 Emily has no response to the statement. Katie's not sure if it's because she's accepted the truth or if she's fallen asleep. It takes maybe 2 whole minutes for anything to come from that side of the bedroom. “I love her. She loves me.”

 Katie wants to argue with that but realises she really has no idea how Naomi feels. She can pretend she does based on the soggy dildo's actions, but she knows that Emily would know better. She settles for the less argumentative answer. “Loved.” She emphasises the past tense.

 “And, for the record, I love you too,” she says with not an ounce of vinegar. She's sincere, for once.

 “Not the same,” Emily immediately retorts and that stings, like it means shit. Katie doesn't tell people she loves them, mostly because she doesn't love anyone –except her sister. And it hurts that Emily can brush off that kind admission so easily. Sure, she doesn't love-love her the way Emily thinks Naomi did, but it should still mean something. Again, she curses the ugly blonde moron. If this had been a year ago, Emily would have smiled at Katie's words. She's not sure she's been brushed off because only Naomi's love matters, or if she honestly doesn't care about Katie anymore. Or she doesn't trust her own sister.

 She considers the conversation over. She was honest, and open, and well compassionate and Emily just kicked it all aside so fuck it. She crawls under her own duvet and flicks off the light switch. She tries to ignore the incredibly quiet sobs seeping out of Emily's pillow.

 

  

In the morning, two days later, Emily is perched on a stool in the kitchen picking at something their mother generously refers to as 'breakfast'. It looks even more healthy and disgusting than usual, if that's possible. She watches her mum shuffle around and pick up objects, then place them back down, reorganizing, as if their immaculate house needs any sort of cleaning whatsover. Emily doesn't even look up when their mother drops some rather odd looking metal utensils, making a huge racket in the process. She turns to Katie in the doorway.

 “Katie, dear, come help me clean this up.” It's probably supposed to be a request but it sounds like a command, and Katie automatically reacts.

 “Why can't Emily--”

 “Emily's eating,” her mother cuts her off and Katie tosses a skeptical look in her direction, completely aware that all Emily has succeeded in doing is push the food around the plate. She's not eating; she's moping. Katie huffs loudly in protest but bends down to pick up the mess anyway and throws them loudly on the granite countertop, finally making Emily jump slightly at the sound.

 Jenna cuts her eyes at her older daughter in warning. Katie turns her back. Ever since Emily had returned, making the less-than-triumphant announcement that everyone could fuck off now cos she and Naomi were through, their mother had been doting on the soppy cow. Going for a sodding Mother-of-the-Year award or something. Katie knew the feeling, and it was suffocating. Not at all helpful in the least. It made everything ten times worse. Just kind of encouraging the fact that there was something to be massively upset about. Katie knows however, that it is completely fake. Her mother couldn't be more excited that Naomi was out of the picture.

 Normally, Katie would agree but as she sees her sister glumly nibbling at the rubbish on her plate, and their mother's secret smile of victory peeking out every time she looks at Emily, any agreement evaporates. Because, even despite how much she hates Naomi Campbell and how much shit Emily put her through over the past year, they're still sisters. Katie wants that to mean something. She needs it to.

 Climbing onto a stool beside her twin, she sighs. Excessively loudly. “It'd be nice to have what you did with Naomi,” she states as if she just mentioned that the sky is blue. Both women turn quickly to Katie, both confused by her admission. She shrugs it off. It doesn't really matter if it's half a lie. She despises the blonde minger and wouldn't want to voluntarily be within 10 feet of her for any reason, but the ideal is the same. The whole point is that she's supposed to stand by her sister and repair whatever it was that had been broken in their family.

 She catches the smirk on Emily's face as she glances at their mother, who, if Katie didn't know better, looked as if she was about to have a heart attack. She knows she's thinking 'No, for the love of God, not the other one too!'

 Now, Katie may not be able to convince Emily that's she better off without the twat, but she could at least make a go of being friends again. It had the added bonus of witnessing her mother suffer through various levels of horror. It was the one thing they'd always enjoyed together. She decides to push it.

 “Like, I'd go lezza if I could get that kind of love.”

 Emily spits out what little she had in her mouth at that moment. Katie smiles broadly and catches Emily sniggering at the effect it's having on their mum. It feels good to be able to do that again, even if it is at the expense of other family and even if for some reason the image of goddamn Effy Stonem pops into her mind. (She squishes that down quickly). Finally, Jenna's face relaxes from the utter shock of Katie's declaration.

 “Very funny.” She's figured out that Katie's just trying to wind her up. Emily has pushed the mush away from her and has a small smile still lingering on her lips. Their mother leaves the room, obviously having enough of the twins' game. They sit in silence for a few minutes.

 Katie speaks first, softly. “I mean it, Ems.” And she's afraid she actually does. Unlike their mum, she knows it's not about dangly bits between legs. You could staple 100 cocks onto a person and that wouldn't make them anymore capable of love, giving or receiving it. It's about brains and hearts. As much as it pains her to admit it, she knows that her sister was in love and beyond the jealousy of that, beyond the resentment of being left behind and beyond the fact that it was with one of the most undeserving, insufferable cunts in existence, she also knows that it has to be admired. It has to be truly appreciated for how amazing and rare it actually was. (And not just cos she sees loving that fashion-challenged tree-hugger as an impossible task.)

 Emily surprises her by reaching out and grabbing her around the shoulders, hugging onto her tightly. It takes a second for her to reciprocate the gesture, but she does even though it feels so odd after all these months. She can't help herself. “I know you're lonely and all now but I hope this isn't turning you on.”

 There's a sharp sound of shock from her sister as she pushes back so forcefully that Katie falls off the stool and heavily onto the wooden floor. Maybe it should hurt a little, and god knows, it made enough noise to wake the dead, but Emily is laughing so hard that she's almost crying and Katie can't help but laugh along with her cos the whole situation is so ridiculous and normal.

 “You're such a bitch,” Emily finally says through her laughter, and it's obvious she doesn't really mean it this time. Katie pulls herself off the floor and wraps her arms around her sister again, dancing a little in place. She thinks that maybe Emily is crying or something, cos her shoulder feels a little damp and her twin isn't laughing anymore so she hugs harder. She wants to say time heals, it's better this way, it's going to be alright and all that soppy rubbish but it's not necessary. She's pretty sure it already is okay.

Chapter Text

She truly believes, even despite her faults, that she's a good mother. At least to a point. But it still takes her almost 6 days to realise that Emily isn't around anymore and that her daughter is being more contrary than usual, a feat in itself. Not to mention she's barely left her bedroom save for the night she came home at half six in the morning, completely mashed and made a right mess of the kitchen, apparently scavenging for food or drink. Her intuition should have signalled that something was happening, but it hadn't.

 Naomi is lounging on the couch, watching something brainless and trite on the TV, also unlike her. Gina enter slowly as if her daughter were a wild animal, holding the mug of tea to her chest. She has visions of Naomi jumping up and knocking it from her hand in a dramatic attempt to escape the obvious impending conversation.

 “Hiya, love,” she starts, “Brought you a cuppa.”

 Naomi mumbles something that is hopefully thankful but she can't be sure. She places the mug down and takes a seat at Naomi's feet, patting her legs as if she was a dog.

 “Everything all right?”

 “Mum...” The tone is warning and Gina knows it well. It usually means something is terribly wrong but her stubborn as nails daughter either believes she won't understand or that talking about it would make her weak. She blames herself for that facet of Naomi's attitude; she had stressed inner-strength and self-power and all that bollocks, and obviously Naomi had taken it soundly to heart, regardless of the circumstance. It ended up accomplishing the exact opposite of what she had wanted: an open dialogue whenever necessary. The only thing Naomi was ever upfront and honest about was how much and in which ways Gina was pissing her off on any given day. However, she had heard via Keiran about these rare and almost mythical moments of visible weakness in her daughter. She wasn't really made of stone after all.

 “Are you sure? Heard you crying last night.” It is a risky move, she knows that.

 The accompanying glare is something between utter shock, loathing and humiliation. Gina doesn't think she's ever felt so cold. She continues anyway, “Is it about Emily?”

 Finally Naomi shifts her stare back to the television. “None of your business, mum.” Her face hardens into anger again.

 “For Christ's sake,” Gina sighs. “You need to talk about it.”

 “I have done,” the younger woman states clearly, as if speaking to a deaf idiot. “With my friends.” She stresses the final word as if its some kind of insult to her mother.

 “Right, and that's done so much good, hasn't it?”

 Naomi has no gobshite response this time. She chooses instead to completely ignore the comment and focus on the TV programme again. It's bloody ridiculous how difficult her daughter could be. There was just not point in fighting with her.

 “Just tell me, honey. Why did you do it?”

 The implication is that Naomi had done it again. She had fucked everything up and knowing her daughter, it was unfortunately very likely. It wasn't that she wanted to, of course not. Naomi wasn't callous or indifferent, not like her father. It was the opposite. She cared too much and if Gina understood her own flesh and blood at all, that was precisely the problem. Emotions scared the shit out of her and she couldn't control them (or herself) so she ran as fast as possible in the opposite direction, leaving as much destruction in her wake as she could.

 But the response Gina expects never comes. Naomi doesn't huff, she doesn't moan or curse; she doesn't point her eyes sharply in Gina's direction. Instead she stares straight at the flashing screen. She's worrying her bottom lip, possibly to save it from quivering. “Why do you always think it's my fault?” Her voice is as lost as Gina's ever heard it and the resulting shock is staggering. It catches her off-guard. The brutal truth is that she just assumed. Naomi's never proven her otherwise. The idea that Emily may have actually done the running had not even crossed her mind and she wasn't exactly sure if Naomi was insinuating it was the case or if she was just getting better at deflecting. That wouldn't be surprising either.

 She decides to let it go. It doesn't really matter now either way, without the reasoning. But before she had a chance to ask for details, Naomi grumbles again.

 “She's just like him, you know.”

 There is no doubt who “he” is. It's always the same and said with the same disgust. She had tried her best to get Naomi not to hate her father to no avail. There is nothing healthy (psychologically, spiritually, or otherwise) in carrying that burden around. Naomi always denied feeling any acute anger towards her father but it always came through in her tone. Or in her fears. She had never told Naomi she knew about this fear because she wasn't sure which was worse: living life always afraid of getting close to people, in the chances that they will leave after you've become attached, or being told that your issues aren't unique. Her fear was not confined to a rare and exclusive few. For Naomi, that truth may actually be worse; she embraced her uniqueness.

 This 'I Hate Daddy' club had prompted her daughter to spend more and more time with that odd Effy Stonem and the loud boy that followed her around occasionally. They'd been to the house a handful of times and Effy had been quite blunt when Gina inquired as to her parents' well-being, echoed by a similar sentiment from the boy who was obviously already intoxicated and a bit of a lout to be honest. This was a club to which Emily was not privy. As much as she seemed to detest her own family the majority of the time, the simple fact is that she doesn't have a father who buggered off to god knows where. Gina wonders suddenly if it was the Effy girl that had something to do with Emily's absence; if somehow the obviously strong friendship that grew between Effy and Naomi was an issue.

 She swallows hard, and prays that her ex-husband hasn't ruined yet another relationship, even in his own absence.

 “You know that's not true, love.” She wants to know more, why Naomi would make such a bold claim. It was true in one sense: they were both gay but the difference was obvious and Gina can't believe Naomi would ignore the fact that Emily had been openly comfortable with being gay from the beginning of their relationship. (She couldn't be sure when that was but she assumed it was around the time she saw the pyjama-clad girl wander into her kitchen and inquire about Naomi's whereabouts. Even as a fairly distracted sideline observer, it had been apparent where Emily's intentions were.)

 It had always worried Gina that her daughter may be under the assumption that being gay means abandonment and dishonesty, no matter how illogical that may be. She hoped Naomi would be smarter but she also had learned a long time ago that logic and intelligence didn't always come hand in hand where emotions were concerned.

 Naomi's father, Brian, the stupid prick of a man, had abandoned them both when Naomi was just 11. She was old enough to be thoroughly attached, and also, to understand almost precisely what was happening. (She'd always been clever.) The arguments were loud and often hurtful, and although they never involved Naomi, she bore silent witness to them all. She was there when Gina screamed about knowing yourself, and when Brian had screamed back about living a lie, both concepts still a little convoluted to her young brain. She was there when Gina caught him him in the living room with another man, after they had been at the shops looking for his Father's Day gift (Ironic, really). She was there when Brian cursed at her and slammed the door behind him, never to return... without even saying goodbye to his only daughter. For her own coping, she threw herself into reinvention and new-age spirituality with a healthy dose of strong, almost obsessive feminist philosophy. Anything to convince herself she wasn't as useless as he had made her feel.

 Since that point, she'd seen Naomi become more adamant about people being clear about themselves: their desires, truths, categorizing themselves into pockets (Something Gina was fully adverse to, and knew deep down Naomi was against as well). And she feared that Naomi had inadvertently associated being gay with ruining people. It was stupid but it seemed so ingrained in her daughter that being gay was something to be afraid of, and that it only accompanied pain. It was the main reason she had taken Naomi aside last summer, after having Emily over almost seven nights a week for two weeks straight, and explained that she was happy if Naomi was happy. She couldn't have chosen better than Emily if she had tried. The result had been 5 minutes of Naomi alternating between rolling her eyes dramatically and huffing and puffing about not being “gay”. And she had used air quotes around the word. As if it actually meant something else. As if she wasn't her father, and wasn't therefore going to turn out like him. What her daughter didn't seem to realise was that it wasn't being gay that made Brian a shit father, it had just been him as a person. His personality, his selfishness, his indifference, his cowardice, his rage, his denial. And Naomi's incessant denial was far more similar to her father than she knew. The whole thing was incredibly convoluted, self-defeating and tragically coincidental. Especially now.

 Sending out another prayer to an unnamed deity of unknown and unnecessary gender, she hoped that these issues weren't the reason Naomi's only real relationship of her life so far had fallen apart. Another notch on the scoreboard of relationships ruined by her ex-husband. How many more would fall victim to that pillock? She had tried her hardest for years to reverse the damage that his infidelity and subsequent abandonment had done to their daughter. He hadn't attempted more than a birthday card, maybe, if he was lucky, in the right actual month a couple years out of them all. She knew Naomi would never completely regain her trust in people, and she'd never be free of the baggage it had placed on her shoulders. But she thought they had made it through the roughest parts. In the past year, she had seen what real happiness looked like on her daughter for the first time since she was 11. Now, they were back at square one it seemed: her faith in people shattered and Gina left to pick up the pieces, hoping she could find enough shards to glue together, lest suffer a permanently loveless daughter. She had tried so fucking, fucking hard.

 She remembers the last time. She rented the DVD of 'Moulin Rouge' but by then it had already been too late. Naomi missed the point. She didn't care for the love story, or love in general. As the credits rolled, she had interrupted her mother's thinly veiled attempt to instill the wonders of love on her with a rather bitchy commentary on how she considered the film just elaborate, delusional karaoke. Which then spawned a rant about cinema and the portrayal of sex workers, and thus the legitimacy (or idiocy) of falling in love with a prostitute, all of whom should be self-empowered and not merely slaves to men, or emotion. It was a lot to hear from a 13 year old. Gina gave up trying to show Naomi the possibilities after that.

 She didn't want to repeat herself again. It was a different kind of love that disappeared this time, and showing her a tragic romance likely wouldn't make things any better, or, have any noticeably different outcome from the last time.

 “What happened?” She opts instead to try the communication method that had failed so many times before.

 “I don't know, mum.” Naomi nearly gets to the end of her sentence before her voice breaks, and a strange relief washes over Gina hearing both the confession and the vulnerability. It's not just Naomi's fault. It's not just because of her inability to trust and her refusal to communicate; not just remnants of damage from her father's actions. She lightly tugs on her her daughter's pyjama leg and Naomi responds only half-reluctantly. She sits up and crawls into her mother's arms. If they had anything in common, they both knew too well what it was like to be the one left behind. The moment Naomi's face touches her mother's shoulder, the tears begin.

 “I loved her,” she chokes out, a cold splash of honesty. Gina is momentarily shocked by the admission. “I don't know what I did or why, I don't know what happened.”

 “Sometimes you never do, love.” She wants to add that loving someone is never enough but she withholds that hard fact of life for now.

 “It's not fair!” Her outburst is unexpected. Again. Naomi is full of surprises when she's in pain. And she'd always had a particular obsession with fairness, but more often in the form of human rights and injustice, a philosophical difference to the concept of fairness as Gina had futilely tried to explain multiple times.

 “Life's not fair,” she states simply, like it was actually a satisfactory answer. “And first love's even less so.” A painful-sounding sob reverberates through her body so that Gina can feel it. It makes her own bones ache. She pulls Naomi into a tighter hug. “The only thing it's good for is teaching you that you can survive –heartbreak, loneliness, whatever.” It isn't a very uplifting sentiment really, but Gina always prided herself on speaking the truth, something she hopes Naomi will adopt one day. At the moment, it only makes her daughter cry harder.

 

 

Two weeks later, Naomi's come around a bit. She still doesn't leave the house much, but her bedroom is miraculously tidy and all the applications for her future are filled out in crisp, careful script. Top notch organisation. All of vestiges of her relationship with Emily have disappeared, and she's not sure if they've been thrown away or merely hidden. It doesn't matter much. Naomi's stopped crying at night when she thinks everyone's asleep and that's what Gina is most thankful for. Results come in a couple days and Effy's already been around a few times. From what Gina can tell, they're planning something. The boy, James, makes an appearance once or twice at her doorstep, solo, without Effy, and Naomi greets him warmly every time. Her daughter insists (quite vehemently) that nothing is going on between herself and either him or Effy, and Gina thinks she believes her this time. It's not quite the same as Emily, but then again, it could just be maturity.

 The day after results (3 As, 1 C), Effy shows up with two large suitcases and a brilliant, genuine smile on her face. Naomi bounces down the staircase to greet her, a beaming smile on her lips as well before she drags the bags back into the foyer. A few minutes later, Cook arrives, a single bag slung over his shoulder. They're leaving on the 2:30 train to London. She doesn't think either of Naomi's friends are joining her doing university, but it doesn't matter.

 They all have tea together around the kitchen table and Gina sees promise in the sparkle of her daughter's eyes.

 The phone never rings, not even Naomi's mobile which she's pretty sure is turned off anyway. Emily doesn't drop by to say goodbye, if she even knows. It's probably better that way. Although if Gina is honest, she misses the redhead now. But the smile on Naomi's face when she's with James and Effy is enough to push that away. She's glad when Naomi waves goodbye with a grin on her face, and her hand clasped tightly in Effy's.

 

 

 

Three and a half months after that day, Gina receives a phonecall. Through incoherent sobs, she learns that Effy overdosed during the night. It takes a full minute of silence --save Naomi's cries-- for the news to take full effect. She books the next train she can to London, knowing neither James nor Naomi will be in any state to take care of themselves. She debates over giving Emily a ring but decides it's not her place. Naomi will do that if she wants, though she's almost certain they no longer speak. Likely Emily will never hear the news.

 On the train over, she feels the obvious dread and grief over the circumstances, but even through that she's proud. Naomi loved again, even if it wasn't Emily, even if it was just a friend. ('Just a friend' seeming somehow insulting to Effy even in her own mind.) And she lost it again, but Gina has no doubt that Naomi is learning to love. It will happen again, and again. And even through the tension and worry, Gina smiles.