The first time it almost happens, it's the middle of the night and Serena has almost set the stove on fire four times. Maybe five. She isn't counting all that well.
She likes to flee to the kitchen when she's stressed out from school and theater work, even though she's really not that good of a cook. The only thing she doesn't immediately burn is rice, and that's on good days. That doesn't stop her from trying, though, and neither do the multiple begs from the cafeteria ladies to please, for the love of God, Serena, stop trying to burn the whole school down, do you have a grudge against PA or something?
Serena sighs and turns off the stove after it nearly goes up in flames. The fire doesn't even bother her by this point -- she's starting to think she could be a darn good pyromancer in an alternate universe somewhere out there. So far, in the span of maybe an hour or two, she's made something that could possibly pass as chicken pasta if one tilts their head and squints, and a somewhere-approaching-decent cake after she resorted to using the oven when the stove threatened to explode in her face. She's getting a bit better with cakes, Serena notes as she tastes it hesitantly. Probably a tad too sweet for anyone to stomach, though.
The doors swing open. Serena doesn't really look up when someone enters -- usually it's Schlomo, who likes the quiet of the kitchen at midnight, or Mabel, for obvious reasons. Before she can apologize for the possible stray cinders or burnt food scattered on the floor, though, a very familiar voice goes, "Oh, 'Reena!"
Serena almost launches her entire hand into the cake. Thankfully, she only jabs her elbow into it, which is something easily fixable, at the very least. "Carmen," she says, voice somehow managing to remain steady, unlike pretty much the rest of her. "What're you...?"
Carmen flounces -- there's simply no other word for it -- inside, hair billowing out behind her like a banner. She's in what look like her typical work clothes, even if it's nearing two in the morning. "Got hungry, bored, and awake. Wanted a snack." She yawns, in contrast to her previous statement. "What'cha got there, 'Reena? Ooh, pasta?"
"How on Earth did you recognize this as pasta?" Serena asks, trying, in vain, to keep the plate out of Carmen's reach. Considering Carmen is actually about as tall as a broken toothpick, it's not hard, but a hungry, bored, and awake Carmen is a dangerous Carmen. "Car, no. You might get indigestion or something if you eat this. Best case scenario you puke your guts out in the middle of Bio."
"That sounds awesome. Serenaaaa," Carmen whines, making several frantic attempts to reach the pasta, if it can seriously be called that, "pleaaase? I'm hungry! And I don't wanna eat the shitty shit PA calls food!"
"This is the shittiest shit, Carmen!" It's getting increasingly harder to protest when Carmen is practically leaning on Serena, her body pressing against hers in an attempt to reach the plate. Don't think about the boobs, Serena, she tells herself. Just don't think about the boobs and you're good...
Carmen jumps up and latches onto the counter behind Serena and snatches the plate right out of the other girl's hands. It's probably only because Carmen weighs about as much as a sheet of paper that both of them don't immediately crash onto the tiled floor and crack their skulls in two. When Carmen prances off to take a seat by a nearby table, somehow producing a fork out of nowhere, Serena slumps down to collapse on the floor, heart pounding, mostly because Carmen's chest had been pretty much making love to her face. "You're the worst," Serena says, maneuvering her elbow so it's not sticking to the counter with all the cream on it.
"Thank you. Oh my God, you weren't kidding, this really is shit," Carmen says, in the same tone one would use when talking about the weather. She shoves some more pasta in her mouth anyway, somehow managing to keep her face clean. "I like it anyway. Hey, you should cook more."
"So you can eat trash at two in the morning?" Serena asks, heading over to the sink to awkwardly wash cake off her elbow. It's already starting to give off a really suspicious smell, and Serena doesn't really fancy the idea of getting the stink all over her bed.
"Yes, exactly." Pushing the plate away (she'd wiped it clean in, what, seconds?), Carmen stands up, stretches a bit, and because the universe wants Serena to suffer an unimaginable amount before she can go to sleep, Carmen's eyes land on the elbowed cake on the counter.
Serena practically sees the thought run through Carmen's head before either of them take a single step. "No," she starts, tap water running down her arm, but Carmen's made a mad dash for the dessert already. "Dear Jesus Christ, Car! You're going to get yourself killed by the end of this week if you eat that!"
"Watch me," Carmen says, but a split-second thought seems to stop her in her tracks, inches away from grabbing the cake and smearing her face all over it. It takes her another couple of seconds to turn and face Serena, who's trying to turn the knob so it doesn't leak water for hours. (It's not working. PA really needs to fix the tap.) "'Reena?" She whines.
"I said no, Car." Serena gives up and sets a plastic cup under the tap. Might as well collect what it leaves. "Do you want to get indigestion this bad? It's for your own good, you know."
"You sound like the most stereotypical mom I've ever met," Carmen says. Her kicked-puppy expression doesn't really match her words, but the way her eyes flutter makes Serena's heart hop around in this really annoyingly excitable way. She forces it to stay still and lets her eyes dart over towards the nearby table, where the empty pasta plate and the fork still are. "'Reena? Hey, Serena?"
Serena's already prepared her disapproving sigh and shake of the head, the I'm throwing the cake ready on her tongue, when Carmen dances into her line of sight, still smiling hopefully, eyes twinkling. "Come on. It won't hurt, right? Just a liiiittle taste?"
She splutters, and "a taste of--?" escapes her mouth before she can bite down on her tongue and pretend her mind hadn't dove deep into the gutter. It obviously doesn't work, because Carmen's eyes go wide, the tips of her ears flare red, and Serena swears the ends of her hair stick up.
There's a very awkward silence. Serena can feel her face getting hotter and hotter with each passing second until she's fairly sure she's going to explode if she doesn't--
"Well," Carmen starts, voice low, "I'd like anything you can make."
And Serena's only now all too aware of how close they actually are, that Carmen's fingertips are mere centimeters away from Serena's arm, and all of a sudden it's gotten really hot, and wow, Serena is thinking, with her eyes locking on Carmen's lips and refusing to move, I'm really gay, what the hell--
"That was a joke," Carmen says, after a very long while of what had most certainly not sounded like a joke.
"Just take it," Serena manages, making a vague gesture towards the cake and miraculously not saying "me" at the end of that sentence instead.
The atmosphere changes in what must be less than a nanosecond. Carmen squeals like a five-year-old and pounces on the cake, snatching the fork from the table and eagerly cutting a slice for herself. "Aww, man, thanks, 'Reena! I knew you loved me! I'll curse you all the way to hell when I shit my guts out tomorrow, probably, but thanks anyway."
"You're welcome. That's reassuring."
Serena has no idea how her voice is this stable when she can't even stand straight at the moment. She grabs herself a chair, sits herself down, and when she's sure Carmen's focused on her probably poisoned cake, she buries her face in her hands and forces her heart back down to its proper position, otherwise she's sure that if it stays up in her throat a second longer, it'll lodge itself in there for the rest of her days.
Carmen makes her way out the kitchen when she's cleaned the plate completely, probably sleepy after filling herself up. She mumbles something about having to forego her lunch for three days, but Serena figures Mabel will force-feed her something if she has to.
Serena herself washes her face as best as she can, and is mildly surprised when the heat emanating from her cheeks doesn't automatically melt the ice-cold water into steam.
The second time, they're at a party, Serena remembers Carmen can't hold her alcohol for shit, and she's just had at least three shots in ten minutes. A drunk Carmen is about as dangerous as a bored one -- the fact that they're at a party, the location Serena honestly can't remember but it's probably somewhere close to school, is not helping.
"'Reeee-nah," Carmen slurs, latching on to Serena's arm and possibly causing the heart attack of her life. "What'cha doin'? Ooh, hey, nice hair today!"
"Right," Serena says, deciding it's probably for the better that she doesn't see her own hair right now. Several things could have died in it and it wouldn't have looked any different. Absently smoothing her hair, Serena attempts to pry the giggling Carmen off of her -- the keyword, of course, being "attempts". "Car? Carmen. Let go. Please."
"Don' wanna," she grumbles, but reluctantly detaches herself from Serena anyway, glowering at the actress. Serena's sure she'd be much more intimidating if she isn't laughably short and flushed in the face at the moment. "Gosh! What a biiig meanie. And why're you all happy and grinnin' now, huh, Ree-Ree? You aren't drunk, are you?"
"I'm not grinning," Serena says, grinning, but covering her face anyway. With Mabel's help, she's somehow managed to keep Carmen away from alcohol for some time, but now she remembers that it's kind of a guilty pleasure for her when Carmen gets drunk off her ass -- her accent becomes more emphasized when she's had a shot or three. It's kind of adorable, and Serena should really control herself right now because Carmen's drunk and she doesn't know what she might do. "Car. It's like, twelve? I'll drive you home, okay?"
Carmen makes this ridiculously loud gasp that would have sounded exaggerated under normal circumstances, but just sounds totally fine right now. Honestly, Mabel could come crashing in with a tank right through the wall and Serena wouldn't have looked twice. "Already? But it's only twelve! I haven't broken someone's heart yet!"
"Why is that something usual for you?"
"I 'unno, I've been doing it since I was born." Carmen downs another shot, much to Serena's exasperation. "By that I mean I broke my dad's heart 'cause he was hopin' for a boy. But aaaanyway, 'Reena, I sure am right-darn jealous of that dress you're wearin'!"
"What," Serena says flatly. She'd gone for the first thing she saw in her closet, which was an old black dress she last wore to a funeral. Probably not the best choice for a party, which other than a birthday is the next closest thing to the opposite of a funeral, but she'd been in a hurry and she had planned on booking it out of the place as soon as possible anyway. Maybe it's clinging to her a little because it's been two years since she's so much as touched it, but other than that, it's nothing special. "It's. It's a dress? Carmen?"
Carmen sways from side to side a little, eyes on the ceiling, watching the lights change into different colors. After a while, she looks back down to make the most intense eye contact Serena's ever gotten, and for a moment, she looks a whole lot more sober than she is. "'Cause... 'cause," she says, obviously meaning to make her words clearer, "it's touchin' your body, and I'm not."
There's pop music blaring from the speakers, people laughing and yelling and singing all around them, but Serena thinks the world could have exploded and she wouldn't have noticed. Carmen's still staring at her -- she's still staring at Carmen -- and at the back of her mind, she vaguely remembers an empty guest room just a few ways away where the bed had looked awfully inviting and could probably hold two persons' weight--
"A joke," Carmen suddenly says. She has a shit-eating grin on her face, and Serena is conflicted on whether she wants to kiss it or punch it. "But you look great anyway. I'm pretty sick of these idiots, and like four dudes tried to touch my ass, so let's go home, yeah?"
For one quick second, Serena kind of wants to push Carmen up against the wall, say let's stay here a little longer, and maybe tell her through actions that her tiny red dress can very easily be ripped off if someone has the right amount of strength, but the thought passes as quickly as it had come. She smiles (if it's a little shaky no one notices), lets Carmen grab on to her arm again, and leads them out of the cramped building.
And it's her own business if her whole body feels a tad too warm for the rest of the night.
The third time is less of an "it almost happens" and more of an "it happens".
Carmen had invited herself in Serena's flat under the excuse of a "group study". In reality, she'd wanted to curl up on Serena's bed and sleep the day away, which Serena had no problem with, considering Carmen is both a quiet and heavy sleeper, so Serena could practice her lines out loud without having to move out of her own bedroom.
It's kind of normal when Carmen does this, because for some inconceivable reason, she adores Serena's bed to a really unhealthy extent that she spends the night there a lot of the time and Serena has to push her off to the floor to wake her up. It's happened how many times already that it's a wonder she hasn't suffered brain damage or anything. Sometimes Serena resorts to pouring iced water over her when she's too tired to shove her off the bed, but it takes forever for her sheets to dry so she's taken to singing incredibly annoying pop songs in her ear when she can't bring herself to do anything else. It's a safer process for the both of them anyway.
"I got dinner," Serena says, setting some Chinese takeout on her bedside table and suppressing a stupid smile when Carmen stirs and mumbles something incoherent. "Get off my bed and eat so you can head home, will you?"
"Muh," Carmen says eloquently, sitting up and yawning sleepily. "Ooh, 'Reena. Mornin'."
"Mornin'," Carmen insists. "How much was it? I got like, twelve dollars." A pause. Carmen shoves a hand in her shorts pockets. "Never mind, did I say twelve? I mean two."
Serena rolls her eyes, but she's kind of expected this anyway. Besides, she'd had coupons. "It's fine. Just eat. How's your routine going?"
"Hell. This dumb bitch can't tell one foot from the other and Iris has been giving me the stink eye for a week now. Ain't like I stole her man or anything," Carmen says, pouting as she stretches a bit and glances at the clock. "Hey, it is seven."
"Do you think I'm blind or something?"
"With all the time you spend staring at little Nicky boy, it's possible," Carmen teases, and Serena goes beet red because she still hasn't told anyone about the newest development in Episode 7 of the Serena Sexuality Show. And also, Nick's pretty much married to acting, so even if she is straight...
Serena clears her throat and fiddles with a loose thread on her sweatshirt a size too big for her. "Oh, yeah. Was memorizing some lines, not a good idea when I'm still knackered from getting caught in Goody and Lambchops' argument for the hundredth time earlier today. For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch and all that."
"Motormouth," Carmen says, laughing. Serena tries to think about the current subject rather than the way Carmen's laugh sounds like it belongs in one of Schlomo's symphonies with how utterly melodious it sounds. "Are you gay? Bi? Pan? Or just ace? 'Cause really, I don't care. If you're insecure about it or something, just tell me who makes a dumb comment your way and I'll punch them upside the head for you."
"The second one." Serena smiles, setting her plate on the table and resisting the urge to play with the ends of her hair like Carmen does. Then it would only be all too obvious that she watches Carmen enough that she's starting to pick up on the other girl's habits. "Thanks, Car. That's really nice of you."
"Duh, you're my friend. And a gosh darn precious one, really, who the hell's mean enough to insult you?" Carmen stands up, taking Serena's plate in her right hand, holding her own in her left. "I'll wash the dishes. You comin'?"
Serena lets Carmen scrub away at the sink while she rehearses lines some more. For all her acting skills, she really needs to come up with a different line other than Juliet's for saints have hands and so on, but Romeo and Juliet probably directs her life by this point with all the time she's spent practicing it. It's nearly eight when Carmen finishes -- mostly she'd been jabbering away about someone named Hilary and how she was totally gay for another someone named Coco and it's incredibly confusing, considering Serena has never heard of these people before, but she nods and says "totally" when Carmen asks a question to make a point.
"I'll grab my stuff, then," Carmen says cheerily, wiping her hands on a towel and turning the knob. (Serena's kind of hypocritical herself. Her own tap needs fixing -- it leaks every other day, but Serena doesn't really have the initiative to call someone for the job.) "See you tomorrow, 'Reena! Hey, you should totally call me to be your scene partner someday. I'd love to hear you say that same line half a dozen times."
"Oh, shut up. I can go be your dance partner, I'd sure love to see you break your back trying out a bunch of impossible moves," Serena shoots back, following Carmen as the other girl laughs at her way up the stairs to Serena's bedroom.
"Aw, you underestimate me." They reach the second floor, and Carmen stops for a second, before turning around to face Serena, an impish grin on her face. "Are you sure it's not just because you want to see me in skin-tight clothes?"
A pause. Serena, for what must be the thousandth time, can feel her face grow hot. "What?" She squeaks out. I am not equipped for this, she screams internally. So not equipped! Call Nick or something, a guy as asexual as him can handle this!
"Was I right?" Carmen says, but despite the smile, she's not laughing. Her voice is low, almost like it's inviting Serena to play along and see where they end up. "I thought so. I'm right a lot of the time, after all." She takes a step closer, and why is she backing Serena against the wall of her own freaking house? Somewhat more importantly, why is Serena letting her?
"... Carmen," Serena starts, but Carmen is running a cold hand up Serena's bare thigh and Goddamnit all, she doesn't know whether to be elated or pissed that she had decided to wear a skirt today. She tries not to let Carmen know that her fingertips sends shivers up her spine, but by the infuriatingly adorable upwards curl of Carmen's lip, Serena has a feeling she's well aware of it. "What're you...?"
Carmen hums, and dear God her thumb just brushed against the hem of Serena's underwear. "What 'm I doing?" She suggests, leaning in until their faces are entirely too close for her to not feel the heat coming from Serena's face (and maybe other parts of her Jesus Christ she needs to go to Church this Sunday). "You," she says, slowly and clearly.
There's a short pause, where they're both staring at each other and Serena is rapidly getting swallowed in Carmen's brilliantly bright eyes. "Aren't you going to say it's a joke?" Serena finally asks, and if her voice isn't as steady as her legs are, only Carmen needs to know about that.
Carmen laughs softly, her breath ghosting over Serena's neck like a promise of something more. "Let's not make it a joke this time."
Her lips are soft and sweet and taste kind of like cherry. A bored Carmen and a drunk Carmen are both pretty scary (kind of more emphasis on the pretty part), but a Carmen in love, Serena thinks, as she lets her hand snake up to fiddle with Carmen's bra clasp, is downright terrifying, and she likes it way too much to be healthy.