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Out of Reach

Chapter Text

 

Laura swats at her phone in attempt to silence the alarm she sets thirty minutes before her online lectures are due to start. There was once a time when that same alarm had to account for getting ready for the day and a forty-five minute long commute, but that’s not so much the case anymore these days. She guesses that’s at least one good thing that’s come out of all this.

 She begrudgingly pushes away the blankets and swings her legs off the edge of the bed, her sockless feet finding purchase in fluffy house slippers. She moves to stand and does a stretch, shivering a little at the cool air that leaves ripples of goosebumps along her bare arms. There’s a grey zip-up that’s hanging off the back of her desk chair that she slips into then shuffles off towards the bathroom before her bladder bursts.

Laura falls into her usual morning routine and finds herself in the kitchen a bit later turning on the kettle. She gathers her faithful Tardis mug, a deep bowl, spoon and cereal box. While the kettle boils, she rests her elbows on the counter and eats her breakfast with a longing sigh.

Looks like another eventful day in Lockdown, Laura thinks as she takes another spoonful.

She turns on the news in hopes of any new developments but five minutes in and she can already tell there’s nothing interesting to report: stay home, wash your hands, essentials only, etc. Same old, same old. When the ever-changing statistics blend into the sound of the kettle whistling, Laura sets off to make a coffee before moving to her desk in time for class.

Before the whole world practically shut down, Laura was probably one of the rare students that actually liked going to university. Granted, the endless assignments and pressure to succeed academically were a lot but there were other aspects that she enjoyed. She loved going shopping for new notebooks and colorful pens and highlighters at the start of the semester. She loved meeting new people and she was genuinely interested in most of her subjects. She didn’t even really mind the forty-five minute train ride to campus; at least, she doesn’t anymore now that she’s confined to the four walls of her apartment. What she would give to be able to be out in the world again, taking in all the sights and smells.

 Well maybe not all the smells. She could go without having to smell hot city garbage ever again.

But university isn’t at all what it used to be now.

Most days consist of boring online lectures that are heartbreakingly void of the usual classroom banter which has been replaced with the ongoing battle of remaining focused despite being surrounded by distractions. She tries to keep a relatively normal routine; class, study break and lunch, back to class, snack time, and more class. But the longer the lockdown persists, the harder Laura finds it to stay productive. The act of staring at the computer screen for hours while her professors fumble through lecture slides in monotonous voices makes her want to pull her hair out and really miss the days when she’d physically be in class with her friends. Now she’s just reduced to texting and an occasional phone call here and there, but she’s finding it harder and harder to not feel so alone.

On top of all that, her professors are still assigning heavily weighted assignments as if everything’s normal! The class she was most excited for in her second year, Features and Storytelling, is now one she dreads. How is she meant to get any inspiration while trapped in her tiny apartment? And without access to the campus library and all the glorious materials there, how the hell will she manage to get a decent grade? True, most of it is accessible online now but still! There’s something about being in the library that really got her journalistic blood pumping. What is she meant to do now? The confines of her apartment don’t offer up much on the inspiration front, if anything her writer’s block is even worse now.

But, there is one idea she’s been rolling around in her head for awhile now. She hasn’t acted yet mostly out of fear of being caught by the landlord, but there’s something about this day that’s different. Maybe it’s the way the afternoon sun trickles in through her blinds and how its warmth has already started to heat up her bedroom and it makes her miss the days of lounging in the sun on the South Lawn as she did her homework.

Or maybe it’s the fact that if she doesn’t get out of this room soon she might go completely insane.

Nevertheless, she closes the lid of her laptop and trades her slippers for some real shoes. She grabs her keys and phone off the kitchen counter and makes her way out into the hallway, the door of her apartment closing behind her with a loud thud. There’s a determined but hesitant look in her eye as she takes the stairs up to the top floor. It’s eerily quiet in the dimly lit halls and if she wasn’t aware that everyone was most likely home, she’d think the place was deserted.

When Laura finally reaches the door labelled Roof Access: Authorized Personnel Only in bold letters she takes a moment to consider if she actually wants to do this. She has always had this fear of the door accidentally closing and getting trapped there, but desperate times calls for less time spent caring about the what-ifs. Laura eyes the door handle wearily but remembers the travel-size hand sanitizer she had stuffed in the pocket of her zip-up and pushes the door open with her elbow anyway.

When the burst of warm sunlight and fresh air washed over her, the first time in more than a week, she nearly fell over. Never again would she take being outside like this for granted she thought as she closed her eyes and smiled up at the sun.

She takes a brick that has been left off to the side of the door and uses it to keep it propped open before pulling out the hand sanitizer and squeezing some in the palm of her hand. She walks around the roof top, the satisfying sound of gravel crunching beneath her shoes with every step, as she rubs her hands together, the scent of vanilla mixing with the faint smell of smoke wafting from a nearby chimney. She surveys her new surroundings, relishing in the sounds of actual birds chirping. The new vantage point allows her to see a typically restless city now still and she thinks it’s almost peaceful if it weren’t for the certain circumstances that made it seem so uninhabited.

Regardless, the sun’s out and it’s not too cold atop the roof and for the first time in a long while she feels genuine happiness. It’s not the kind of happiness she felt when her dad dropped off the huge care package full of Laura’s favorites as well as a bunch of essentials and toilet paper just before the lockdown took place, but the kind of happiness that makes her feel childishly giddy.

She sputters out a laugh and begins to do a little dance. At any other time, this would totally be weird, dancing without any music, but she just doesn’t care now. She’s out on the roof, dancing in the warmth of the sun, and there’s freaking birds chirping! Who the hell cares? It’s not like anyone’s wat-

Laura’s movements come to an abrupt stop when her eyes land on a neighboring rooftop.

There’s a pale-skinned, young woman in a black blouse with dark sunglasses shielding her eyes facing her direction. Laura watches as she pushes the glasses to sit atop her head before moving to the roof’s edge. She tilts her head to the side, arms crossing over her chest, a puzzled look plastered on her face.

A gasp escapes Laura’s lips and she is quick to drop to her knees out of the woman’s sight, face already flushed from embarrassment of being caught having a music-less dance party alone. The woman probably thinks she’s weird and has gone crazy, but she’s the first person Laura has sort of seen in days and the budding journalist in her is intrigued. The longer she stays crouched out of view the more curious Laura becomes.

She moves slowly to peek over the edge but all she finds is a door that must lead to their roof slowly closing and the woman nowhere to be found. The sight makes her feel a little disappointed for some reason and she rises to her feet dejectedly.

Are my dance moves that bad? Laura thinks, hands on her hips, eying the spot the woman occupied.

After a moment, she shrugs her shoulders and turns her gaze out to admire the skyline once again. She soaks in the sights and sunlight a few minutes longer before returning to her apartment for her next class.

 

/

 

She ends the day with her usual routine of microwaving whatever leftovers she has for dinner and a movie marathon. The movie marathon is purely there for background noise in hopes to distract her from the loneliness and a way to kill time before her bed begins to call for her and she repeats the whole thing all over again tomorrow.

But again, this day seems different.

 

/

 

A couple texts cause her phone to vibrate on the coffee table and Laura reaches over to see who it might be. It’s not really a surprise when she finds the name of a group chat she’s in with two friends she met at university: Laf and Perry. They check in on her every couple of days, catching up on what she’s been up to and how she’s finding the university’s online platform. Other than her dad’s phone calls, they’re really the only ones she’s spoken to this whole time.

She usually doesn’t have anything new to report though, but today she tells them about the young woman she saw on the roof. Of course that leads to Perry scolding her for being up there in the first place when she doesn’t exactly count as authorized personnel, but Laf shows equal interest in this mysterious woman and wonders who she is and how she’s handling being in lockdown, you know, for like scientific purposes. Laura wonders too and that confuses her because she only saw a glimpse of her before she disappeared.

Don’t know. I probably won’t ever see her again, Laura tells her friends and the thought hurts a little.

She hopes that she’s wrong though.

Chapter Text

Laura sits through the following days’ classes as per usual, but she often finds herself drifting off thinking of the woman again. She wonders who she is and how she feels in all this and those thoughts take Laura by surprise because why does she want to know so bad? She just blames her inner journalist and being bored out of her mind and hungry for interaction with someone new. Besides, it’s the only interesting thing that’s happened in days and she thinks maybe it’ll prove to be useful for her Features and Storytelling assignment?

Which is precisely how she finds herself cautiously making her way onto the roof again. At first, Laura doesn’t see anyone there but then her eyes are drawn to sudden movement near some kind of utility shed. It’s there that she finds the woman perched on a ledge that’s half shrouded by shade with a book in her hands. This time she’s rather entranced with whatever she’s reading and doesn’t notice Laura standing there so she is able to get a better look. Again, she’s dressed in a black top and the sunlight reflects off tight leather pants and clunky combat boots.

Laura looks down at her own outfit consisting of sweat pants and a grape soda stained t-shirt that hangs off her small frame and frowns because she suddenly feels extremely underdressed.  

What kind of crazy person chooses to wear pants? Laura questions as she continues to stare. She curses herself for not bringing one of her many notepads with her and makes a mental note of her findings instead.

Just then the woman drags her fingers slowly along her scalp through dark wavy locks and tosses it over her shoulder carelessly before turning the page of the book. There’s a slight crinkle between the young woman’s perfectly sculpted brows and Laura thanks the heavens for being blessed with 20/20 vision because it allows her to acknowledge that this woman is absolutely stunning. Like frighteningly stunning. Like no one should be that stunning while the whole rest of the world is pretty much carb-loading and binge watching Netflix in the same pair of pajamas for the past three days.

But the glamorously grungy look of leather and studded accessories only highlight the woman’s ivory skin, the prominent cheekbones and that jawline that could cut through glass.

Laura gulped and crept closer, finding herself being drawn in, hungry for more. But, despite her perfect eye sight, she was too far away to make out what the woman was reading.

I should bring binoculars next time! Laura thinks but then shakes the idea away, Wait no- that’s kind of creepy. Scratch that.

Laura continues to- stare? Admire? Leer? Laura settles on observe. She’s observing the woman, for an assignment at that, so not weird at all. Besides, what’s the harm in people-watching? Everyone does it and at least hers is for academic reasons.

She watches the woman then tilt her chin up and roll her head to the side, revealing the pale expanse of her neck. Laura finds herself hypnotized by the movement, swallowing dryly, as her eyes rake up the slight flex of tendons and smooth skin.

She makes another mental note to bring something to drink next time too because wow these observations sure did make me thirsty!

She snaps out of it when her phone vibrates in her back pocket. It’s an alarm that signals the start of her next class and she really can’t be late to this one, so she gives the woman one last fleeting look before scurrying back to her room.  

 

/

 

The trips to the roof become a part of her daily routine if the weather allows; choosing to spend her break between classes eating lunch and studying there instead of migrating to her living room. Most of the time the young woman is there too, either reading or wearing bulky headphones and bobbing her head to whatever she’s listening to. On those days, Laura feels strangely less lonely because although they’ve never spoken to each other and although they’re separated by a whole building, the woman’s company is comforting. It reminds her that she’s not completely alone in all this.

Also Laura has decided that the woman is now the official star of her journalism assignment. Not that it took much convincing; it was either her or the succulent she named Peat that she’s been trying to keep alive on her window sill.

She has begun to keep a little notebook of findings as well and her new subject is proving to be quite interesting. Well, more interesting than Peat the Succulent. Most days, the woman is usually lounging on the fold out chair soaking in the sun or perched on the ledge in the shade. She’s always reading, Laura notes. She must have her own personal library or something because the books Laura finds her reading change almost daily.

Some days the woman changes it up though, choosing to paint her nails and bob her head to something she listens to through the bulky, red headphones. Sometimes she looks like she’s just taking a nap, book left open on her stomach, one leg propped up and the other hanging off the side of the chair. Laura notes the woman doesn’t think too much about sitting like a lady. She doesn’t blame her though, whatever’s comfortable is the way to go!

One day Laura even watched as she devoured an entire pizza by herself in record time then plop herself down on the fold out chair looking like she was nursing a wicked hangover. Dark sunglasses shielded her eyes and her arms dangled over the arms of the chair haphazardly.

If Laura didn’t watch the whole thing go down she would’ve thought the woman was dead or something, but she guessed she was just sinking into a serious food coma. Or maybe she really was hungover? Laura didn’t judge, just logged the findings.

For some reason though the thought made Laura smile because this mysterious roof woman with consistently amazing outfits and impeccable hair was in some ways just like her: defenseless against a large pizza.

Laura applauded her for that and jot down the observation in the notebook, suddenly craving a pizza of her own.

But the biggest development yet is the occasional glances the woman tosses Laura’s way and by occasional she actually means two.

It has happened twice so far and each time it has made Laura’s stomach do a crazy flip. Why? Who the hell knows. Again, Laura just figures it’s the lack of physical interaction and not because a pretty girl acknowledged her.

The first time it happened, Laura had been trying to feed the crusts of her sandwich to some of the seagulls gathered at the far corner of the roof. Which was all fun and games until they started chasing after her, wanting the rest of her lunch. She had shrieked and took off towards the usual end of the roof she occupied, terrified they’d carry her off into the distance. She eventually had to throw her whole sandwich at them in order to make a break for it. When they finally lost interest in her, she flipped them the bird, no pun intended.

When Laura finally felt the woman’s eyes on her, she smiled awkwardly, wondering how much of that she saw.

This time the woman’s shoulders bounced with a chuckle as she shook her head and smiled back before diving into the book in her hands.

Laura found herself blushing at what resembled fondness but at least this time she didn’t duck out of sight and that was progress!

It was no surprise that the exchange ended up being the highlight of Laura’s day, but she omitted that little detail from her notebook of findings.

 

/

 

The second time was a little more embarrassing than the first because it was the time Laura was caught red-handed in her observations.

She had just arrived on the roof when she found the woman in mid-stretch. She looked to be wearing leggings, a dark purple with black streaks, that did wonders for the curve of that ass and her wavy hair was bunched atop her head in a messy bun. She had her arms were out stretched, hands towards the sky, eyes focused somewhere off in the distance. The muscles in her forearms tensing with every flex of her fingers and as her back arched, the tank top she wore rode up just the slightest to reveal a sliver of toned stomach.

Laura didn’t realize her jaw was on the floor until the woman turned to her like she had heard it fall to the ground.

She smirked slyly.

Laura felt her whole face flush. She probably would’ve ducked out of sight again too if she could move, but she couldn’t because holy cow she’s hot and also maybe if I stand perfectly still I’ll turn invisible. So she remained frozen, eyes bulging in panic, jaw slammed shut.

The woman didn’t seem bothered at all though. If anything, there was a hint of smugness in the way she slowly sauntered away.

Chapter Text

Laura was rather proud of her success so far so that night, after ordering her own large cheesy pizza with extra pineapple, Laura let slip what she’s been up to in the group chat with Laf and Perry. They were mostly really supportive, admiring her creativity but that admiration slowly turned into a bit more prying than Laura would’ve liked.

She sounds lovely, it’s wonderful that she has agreed to assist you with your assignment. Perry typed then it was quickly followed by a text from Laf.

Yeah, this is great! I’d like to hear the story of how you managed to get her number.

Laura bit her lip, Well..it’s a short story. I don’t have it.  

The icon of Perry typing showed on the screen then quickly vanished.

So how? Laf asked.

I’m confused. Then Perry finally asked, Surely you both aren’t yelling at each other? Your neighbors wouldn’t be pleased.

Laura sank further into her couch cushions, Not exactly.

Wait a sec. What was this mysterious roof woman’s name again?  Laf questioned.

 That’s right. You haven’t said yet, Perry typed next, Or is that part of the confidentiality clause? Are we not allowed to ask?

Laura’s cheeks began to flush, feeling like she was under a scope.

You don’t know, do you? Laf replied after Laura’s lack of response. Laura could practically see the judgey smirk they’d most certainly have plastered on their face.

Well..no. Not yet, Laura finally spoke up, instantly regretting it.

You’ve been keeping tabs on someone and you don’t even know their name. Laf teased, Wow, Frosh, that’s weird.

No it’s not! Laura hurriedly defended.

Kinda is, Laf responded, ending their text with a smirking emoji.

 It’s perfectly normal to people-watch! Laura quickly typed back, Person-watch? Whatever..I need her for my assignment, it’s the total opposite of weird.

Laura…you’ve been watching her for a week already. Shouldn’t you have introduced yourself by now? It’s not very polite. Perry replied again, making Laura want to bury her face in a pillow and hide forever.

True, what about consent? Laf added, What if this woman is in some sort of witness protection program and you’re about to blow her cover?

Laura’s eyes went wide. They had a point there.

It’s not exactly easy to introduce myself given the current situation, Laura huffed, her thumbs tapping furiously at the screen before her friends got the wrong idea, Like how would I even get her attention?

You got it once before? Perry offered then came a flurry of different suggestions.

Play loud music?

Have you tried yelling?

All forms of disturbing the peace..

Mail a letter then?

She’d need an address for that.

Very true. What about showing off those sick dance moves again?

Could try throwing something?

Wait no. What if you accidentally hit her..

Laura read through the texts; half embarrassed and half amused.

You could always keep it old school and make a sign? Perry suggested.

Could work, short sweet and to the point! Laf added with a thumbs up emoji.

Laura let that one sink in; she could do that.

She had a decent sized white board in her bedroom and she was sure there were some markers lying around somewhere. She could wave it around and properly introduce herself and her friends would lay off.

And maybe the woman wouldn’t think she’s weird and she’ll introduce herself too?

Confident in that suggestion, Laura typed out a reply.

You guys are the best. I’ll get to work on a sign now! I’ll update you tomorrow.

 

/

 

When tomorrow finally comes, Laura is surprisingly really nervous. She had stayed up late into the night; first turning her room upside down in search of the appropriate markers then putting everything back together before sitting in the middle of her bedroom floor with a blank whiteboard staring up at her. She couldn’t understand why it was so hard to come up with the right thing to say, but she was really struggling.

Before, she could rely on her charm, or lack thereof, when introducing herself in person but this was clearly different. She needed to rely on her wit and she wanted to say something super suave to make up for the lack of introduction thus far. So she tapped the end of the marker to her chin in deep thought, racking her brain for something good until she finally settled on it.

HEY! I’M LAURA

Laura stared down at her blocky script and replayed Laf’s early text in her head short, sweet and to the point. She smiled proudly down at her work, hoping that it was okay.

So when her last class before lunch finally concluded, Laura slammed her laptop shut and raced for the sign. For a moment, she glanced at herself in the mirror and combed her fingers through the fly-aways. She eyed her outfit too, a cozy beige jumper and dark blue jeans because yeah she actually put real pants on this morning. Today was an important day and she wanted to look at least a little presentable. She considered changing her top though, maybe something a little less cozy but decided against. It wasn’t like she was going to be close enough for the other woman to analyze every detail and spot the little coffee stain near her collar.

Regardless, Laura grabs the sign and slips a marker into her pocket before heading up to the roof.

She’s all a buzz and the anticipation makes her stomach flip.

When she reaches the roof, she’s somewhat relieved to see the woman lazing about with a book in her hand.

She’s here, Laura thinks, that’s half the battle already!

Or so she thought.

Having the sign is great and all, but in order for the woman to read it Laura had to first get her attention and that was a lot harder than she thought.

At first, she tried waving it around above her head but the woman was too focused on the book in front of her to notice. After those failed attempts, Laura tried her hand at whistling and it was then that she discovered whistling wasn’t really a strong suit of hers. She could do it, it just wasn’t very loud and what she needed was something loud.

But she kept trying anyway until she was light-headed and probably blue in the face. Miraculously, one of the loudest whistles yet escaped her and she looked towards the other rooftop eagerly, awaiting any movement from the opposing building.

The woman lifted her nose from the book and looked around, confused.

Laura took the chance and rushed to the roof’s edge, lifting the sign until it caught the woman’s eye.

Laura watched as she set the book down and moved just a bit closer, eyes steady on the sign in Laura’s hands. Her heart raced, a rush of excitement flooding her senses.

It was silly but ever since Laf and Perry brought up the whole not knowing her name thing, Laura couldn’t stop thinking about it. She tried to imagine what the woman’s name could be, because some people really fit their name and people can look like a Sarah or Emily or whatever so Laura wondered but she never came up with anything that could fit.

She did, however, settle on the fact that it couldn’t be something ordinary because there was no way anyone could look like that and have an ordinary name.

So she watched and waited for a reaction.

But nothing happened. The woman just stared at her.

Laura pondered a moment and figured that maybe the woman needed a little more prompting so she brought the sign down and wrote a new message:

WHATS UR NAME?

She had to forgo slight grammatical errors because the whiteboard wasn’t huge and she needed to make sure the font was big enough to be seen across the distance. She held up the sign again, but found she was too late.

The rooftop was empty and the woman was gone once again.

Chapter Text

Well that was unexpected, Laura thinks as she let’s her arms fall, the back of the whiteboard slapping against her thighs. A hundred thoughts run through her mind as she struggles to come up with a logical reason as to why the woman took off like she did, but nothing makes sense because her chest feels tight and she can’t help but feel a little disappointed. She lets her shoulders droop in despair and sulks over to slump down in her usual spot, continuing to think of a viable explanation, focusing on why the woman left and not why it hurts.  

But with being so caught up in her own thoughts, she failed to notice when the woman had reappeared a moment later. This time holding a sign of her own.

What broke her from the flurry of thoughts swirling in her head was a faint, but very distinct, “Hey!”

Laura’s attention snapped up, eyes drawn to the source of the voice, and found the woman in black standing near the roof’s edge. Laura couldn’t believe it and moved closer as the woman lifted her sign.

Which looked to be the lid of a large pizza box with words in black marker scrawled across the pizza shop’s logo:

I’M CARMILLA

Laura couldn’t help but grin at the words, eyes flickering to the woman, to Carmilla. She almost couldn’t contain her excitement because holy shit this silly plan of hers actually worked!

“Carmilla,” Laura murmured the name, testing the way it fell from her lips, “How fitting.”

A pretty name to match a-

Laura chuckled at the cliché thought and shook it away before it could fully form and quickly wrote a new message on the whiteboard:

NICE 2 MEET U

She cringed at the use of 2 instead of to but again, drastic times called for lax grammar apparently.

But Carmilla read the new message and smiled anyway; the slight bashfulness a welcomed new edition to her usual expressions of boredom and  intrigue and confidence and…lust.

Laura bit her lip at that last one, remembering tight yoga pants and sexy smirks, but she wasn’t going to let her thoughts take her there. She was lonely, like really lonely, and Carmilla was a very attractive woman but she was still a professional…sort of. She couldn’t mix business and pleasure, if she could even call it that. She reminded herself that this was all for a reason, the assignment. She kept those thoughts at bay and just enjoyed the fact that she had properly met someone new today: Carmilla.

/

From that day on, Laura made a point to get Carmilla’s attention and wave in greeting whenever she arrived on the roof and saw that she was there. They hadn’t written any more messages to each other, but Laura felt a little more at ease now that she actually knew the woman’s name and her notebook of findings quickly filled with Carmilla, Carmilla, Carmilla.  They danced around the acknowledgment of one another’s presence, occasionally sharing a glance or a smile or a wave across the distance.

It was nice, Laura thought, being able to share a space with another person again. She didn’t think it could be possible in recent times, but here she was. Even with the distance, it still felt nice.

So nice, in fact, that she forgot how much she hated it when it rained. Really, she didn’t mind the rain. She kind of found it comforting, the sounds of raindrops hitting her window, the rhythmic taps lulling her to sleep easily. Sometimes she would open the curtains in her living room so she could watch the streams of droplets slide down the window panes. She would light candles and make hot cocoa and wrap herself up in a cozy blanket and do homework on the couch.

But now, she hated when it rained because that meant no Carmilla. That meant not seeing her lounge around without a care in the world like a cat sunbathing in the glow of the sun; totally content. Rain meant not being able to admire the delicate way she cradled a book in her hands, the gentle caress of the text as she turned the page. Rain meant no quick glances that seemed to linger longer and longer as the days went on, no soft smiles and definitely no sexy smirks.

Laura let herself get carried away in thought for just a moment.

Also research, Laura reminded herself again.

With the rain closing off the roof for whoever knows how long, Laura would have to pause on her research. Which sucked because this was all meant for something, the observations and research, and she needed to remind herself of that quickly because she couldn’t-

Laura huffed and shook the idea away, she found herself doing that a lot lately. She wouldn’t even let it accumulate to an actual sentence in her mind because there was no way it could be possible. She couldn’t have a cru-

“Okay!” Laura shrieked, cheeks flushing at the almost slip up, and went to turn the tv on, hoping to drown her thoughts in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon.

A distraction is exactly what she needed so with the tv going and the rain falling, she focused back on whatever assignment she was currently working on hoping all the noise would be enough to keep certain thoughts at bay.

 She looked down at the notebook in her lap littered with drawings and sticky notes and Carmilla written all over and quickly closed it shut.

Maybe she’d just take a break from school work all together for the day.

/

The rain ended up lasting for the longest day and a half Laura has ever experienced! She was sitting through her first lecture of the day when she realized the rain had finally stopped. Her knee began to bounce the longer she sat still, attempting to focus on her professor, but her eyes were trained on the window across from her, eyes drifting up to settle on the rooftop of the opposing building.  

She couldn’t wait for her break between classes so she could finally return to the roof and see Carmilla. Or rather, return to her observations. She needed to remind herself of that a lot more lately which was something new.

Nevertheless, Laura couldn’t wait to see Carmilla. So when her second class ended, she practically launched herself out of her chair to get properly dressed. She slipped into a pair of jeans and tugged on a cardigan before gathering up her notebook. In the kitchen, she pulled out the sandwich she prepared earlier and slipped it into her backpack along with a can of grape soda. Once she was ready to go, she reached for her keys and headed up to the roof.

Laura wasn’t sure what she was expecting when she got there, but seeing Carmilla pacing with her phone to her ear wasn’t it. She didn’t look happy at all, Laura noted. Carmilla’s movements were stiff, her free hand cutting through the air as she spoke. Laura’s excitement dulled the longer she watched, feeling somewhat guilty for eavesdropping, but equally concerned. She wondered who she was talking to and what they were saying that made Carmilla so upset and why they felt the need to say such things.

She wanted to know because she had a few words for them! Words that involved questioning who the hell they thought they were getting Carmilla so worked up like she was. But that thought diminished the second that she remembered it wasn’t her place to feel that way. Carmilla wasn’t her friend, barely even an acquaintance, so she had no right speaking her feelings.

The call seemed to end a moment later as she watched Carmilla stare down at the phone in her hand before stuffing it in her pocket. Laura watched as she remained still, so still, but then her hand suddenly shot out and slapped a water bottle that was sitting on the ledge she’d usually be perched on when she wanted to hide from the sun. Laura’s eyes widened as the bottle went flying a few feet.

Now she really felt like she was intruding on a moment, but then Carmilla ran her fingers through her hair and it was different. It wasn’t the same slow, languid movement Laura was used to. This time was rough, full of frustration.

Despite knowing it wasn’t her place, Laura still felt for the woman. She was always rather compassionate so her heart ached for Carmilla, feeling helpless that she couldn’t do anything for her. She continued to observe, quietly watching as Carmilla’s hands came to smooth over her face, flattening over her eyes and cheeks until she let them fall to her sides in defeat. Laura hadn’t seen Carmilla this upset since her observations started and she hated it. She hated how the creases between Carmilla’s brows deepened, she hated how low her head was held, she hated how she seemed to shrink in on herself.

It wasn’t right. From the last couple of weeks of observations, Laura learned that Carmilla was usually indifferent and unphased with all her napping and lounging around and she was content with her many books which might not seem like much to go on but it was enough to know that this wasn’t right.

Laura watched as Carmilla walked over to pick up to bottle she swatted earlier, taking it with her as she hopped up on the ledge. She set the bottle down next to her and brought her knee up, resting her elbow there and her chin falling to her palm. Carmilla’s eyes remained steady on the horizon ahead of her until a slight tilt of her chin.

Laura found herself right in Carmilla’s line of view, eyes locking. It made Laura suck in a breath and her knees lock, but she fought the urge to disappear. She let Carmilla take her in, smiling a little nervously as the woman seemed to soften at her presence. Laura wanted to say something, needed to, but when she reached for the whiteboard she realized she had forgotten it downstairs.

Crap. She cursed herself for letting it slip her mind and looked back up at Carmilla. She wanted to tell her to wait there, but without the sign she had to motion instead, holding up her hands and mouthing the words as if Carmilla could understand. She hoped she could and took off downstairs. She made it there and back in record time all the while hoping and praying that Carmilla didn’t mistake her absence for not wanting to be around.

Laura wanted to be there for her, so much so.

Thankfully, when Laura returned Carmilla was still sitting on the ledge. She hadn’t even moved, eyes focused off on the horizon again.

So Laura quickly scribbled out a message, the movement causing Carmilla’s eyes to fall onto her:

YOU OK?

A small, confused smile pulled at the corners of Carmilla’s lips but she didn’t let it fully form. She stared at her for a moment before hopping down from the ledge. She held up one finger at Laura before turning away, reaching for the door Laura assumed was the roof entry.

So Laura waited, that’s what Carmilla had motioned, for Laura to wait and so she did. After about ten minutes, Laura took a seat at her usual spot and let her legs swing as she kept her eyes trained on the opposing roof, continuing to wait.

When Carmilla finally returned, she was holding a familiar looking pizza box, the words I’M CARMILLA still written across the logo. Laura watched as she flipped the box over, scribbling something new:

SO ORIGINAL

Laura read the sign and frowned. She just wanted to make sure Carmilla was okay, how was that so original? Was she expecting something more heartfelt? Was not meant to ask?

When her eyes drifted to Carmilla, her shoulders were bouncing as she snickered and that confused Laura even more. Was she…making fun of her for caring? Laura makes a mental note to jot down rude as another one of Carmilla’s character traits, then quickly erased her message:

SORRY?

Laura feels a mix of annoyance and confusion as she holds up the sign again. Carmilla’s smile quickly disappears, replaced with a look of confusion. She flips the pizza box back over, writing another message:

I’M TAYLOR SWIFT

If Laura she was confused before, she was even more so now as she read the sign. Carmilla had crossed out her name and replaced it with the singer’s; Laura just scratched at her head. Carmilla clearly was not Taylor Swift, if anything, she was the total opposite so what the heck is she talking about?

Carmilla looked at her sign, also looking a little lost, but then something clicked and she quickly scribbled something else and showed Laura again:

TAYLOR SWIFT

Laura noted that I’M was now crossed out and let the new message sit with her until the light bulb went off.

Oh..wow.

Laura began to laugh, remembering the iconic meme that came from one of the singer’s music videos and watched as Carmilla started to as well.  She didn’t expect Carmilla to make a joke, an extremely lame one at that, so soon after what Laura had seen earlier. She would’ve been embarrassed for not catching on sooner too, but then she wouldn’t have the image of a laughing Carmilla pressed in her memory and that image was beautiful. They stood there a moment longer, the laughter dissipating, their smiles softening once again, their eyes never leaving one another’s.

Laura felt her heart swell, deciding that Carmilla is hands down the prettiest when she’s not being so broody. Because although Laura could admit that the broodiness was cute and the mystery about her was addicting, Carmilla with a genuine smile spread across her face, bunching at her cheeks…that was something special.

And Laura should be wondering how that discovery is going to fit into her assignment, but she decides she’ll cross that bridge when she gets to it.

Chapter Text

After a while of getting caught up just staring at each other like a couple of dorks, Laura looks down bashfully, moving to tuck her hair behind her ear.

God, what am I doing? She thinks, wanting to feel ridiculous for turning into mush because of the woman but concerned because that’s not the case. She doesn’t feel ridiculous at all. If anything, she feels warm all over and butterflies, stupid little unnecessary butterflies, spring to life in the pit of her stomach.

She glances back up at Carmilla and as if on cue, a small part in the overcast sky pulls away and a beam of sunlight streams through. It doesn’t land directly on Carmilla, instead illuminating the space next to her. Laura can’t help but laugh because really? She looks up at the sky and shakes her head; she gets it, Carmilla’s been sculpted by the gods, no need for ethereal interventions.

When her eyes fall to Carmilla, she’s also looking at the space next to her, the sunlight just barely grazing the sleeve of her leather jacket. She pulls away from it like it stings, shaking her head, before looking to Laura.

 There’s something indistinguishable there in her facial expression as she opens up her pizza box to write something new:

OUT OF PIZZA

Laura’s brows bob at the riveting message written over grease stains and dried tomato sauce, she writes her response:

I CAN SEE THAT

She hopes Carmilla can sense her sarcasm; she probably could’ve come up with something a bit more creative than that, but if she did might’ve missed the way the corner of Carmilla’s mouth pulled into another lazy grin.

It quickly dissipates and turns into a quirk of the brow and a sigh. Then Carmilla moves to look around her space for something Laura is unsure of. Coming up with a loss, Laura supposes, Carmilla closes the lid of the pizza box, flipping it back and forth, open and close again, searching, but there’s nothing. Yet Again Carmilla doesn’t find what she is looking for but she ends up showing Laura the amount of scribbles all over the box anyway.

Laura watches, slightly confused, eyes scanning the box for something new. She hadn’t seen Carmilla write anything, but maybe she missed something earlier?

Almost as if Carmilla could sense Laura’s confusion, she put down the pizza box all together and began doing these weird movements and gestures. Laura scrunched her nose, brows knitting together as she watched the show, smirking at how hard Carmilla was trying but still unsure of what the woman was trying to say.

Then she gets it, say. Carmilla’s trying to say something! She must have run out of space on the pizza box. It all makes sense now, so Laura quickly writes on her whiteboard:

CHARADES?

Carmilla claps her hands together and points back, clearly pleased. Laura smiled proudly, she had a little bit of a competitive streak in her and she loved charades. She crept closer to the edge of the roof, whiteboard and marker at the ready, prepared to blow Carmilla’s mind with her sick skills.

Carmilla held up two fingers.

Laura nodded, easy:

TWO WORDS?

Carmilla confirmed her guess with two thumbs up. Laura grinned, triumphantly, this could be fun. She watched as Carmilla began gesturing wildly, hands whisking through the air to make different motions. Laura watched intently, holding up her guess when she settled on one:

VIDEOS GAMES

Carmilla shook her head, no.

COMPUTER GAMES

Carmilla shook her head again, no.

THUMB WRESTLE

Once again Carmilla shook her head. Laura huffed and watched closely, sure of the right answer this time; that went on for three more guesses until-

 MILKING A COW

Carmilla looked a mix of disbelief and amusement at Laura’s last guess, her hands flinging in the air, as if to say what the hell, making Laura smile in apology.

Maybe she wasn’t actually good at the whole charades thing after all.

Carmilla continued though, tapping her chin with her finger in thought for a moment until something seemed to click for her and she went back to gesturing.

Laura concentrated on Carmilla’s precise movements as the woman stuck out her thumb and extended her pinky then pointed to the gesture with her free hand.

Laura nodded, slowly catching on. Carmilla then held the gesture up to her ear like a-

PHONE

Laura quickly wrote down her guess and showed Carmilla who then raised her hands to the sky in praise as if to say finally.  She gave Laura two thumbs up but was quick to gesture again, reminding Laura:

TWO WORDS

Laura nodded, phone was the first word and…

Carmilla pointed to her phone then held it to her ear again all while pointing at Laura.

Laura pondered a moment, why’s she pointing at me? Laura let the thought roll around, watching Carmilla continue to gesture back and forth between her hand and her, moving a little more urgently the longer Laura stared, but she just wasn’t getting it.

Carmilla sighed and tried a different approach. She held up both hands, her index and middle finger the only ones left extended, then hit them together to form what looked to be a:

HASHTAG

Carmilla chuckled at Laura’s guess then shrugged her shoulder. Laura could tell it wasn’t the right answer, but she was close.

PHONE HASHTAG?

Carmilla facepalmed at Laura’s guess and it would’ve made Laura even more frustrated and embarrassed if it wasn’t for the smile Carmilla wore as her hand slid down. If Laura didn’t know any better, she would’ve said Carmilla actually looked a little smitten. But there wasn’t any time to unpack that thought as  Carmilla returned to gesturing the phone again followed by the hashtag movement, encouraging Laura to put it together.

When Laura finally figured it out, she blamed isolation and online lectures and that fact that she really wasn’t using her full brain power during this lockdown…clearly.

PHONE NUMBER

Finally, Carmilla praised the heavens. Laura was pleased despite the delay, basking in her redemption, but then she realized what Carmilla was asking for and stopped. The flush returned to her cheeks, embarrassed at how long it took her to guess correctly and a little because Carmilla, who was a very attractive girl, wanted her number. Handwritten signs and charades were the extent of their communication thus far but that was looking to be a thing of the past because Carmilla was asking for her number.

Okay. Play it cool, Hollis. You can do this.

Laura nodded, hoping her face wasn’t so red Carmilla could see it from all the way over there, and began writing her number on the whiteboard, her stomach doing crazy flips and those stupid little unnecessary butterflies returning once again.

This is crazy, she thought, what am I even doing?

To answer her own question, she had no freaking clue. It was one thing to document her observations in order to complete her assignment, but she never thought that would end with exchanging phone numbers? It was a possibility, like a very distant, far-fetched, totally unattainable possibility.

But was it?

Could this be the new normal now? Writing phone numbers on signs and showing it to people you’ve never actually met in person? Is that not completely crazy?

Then again, this is a quarantine situation and she’s literally  bound to the confines of her apartment, like there are actual laws and restrictions in place, and people are panic buying toilet paper and she hasn’t had physical contact with anyone in weeks now and this is all happening because they’re in the middle of a freaking global pandemic! Someone even made a playlist for it on Spotify!

Nothing makes sense anymore.

So she wrote the last digit of her phone number and stared down, letting what she was about to do sink in. She was about to give her number to a random pretty person she hasn’t even officially met yet. She couldn’t remember the last time she had done that; because it has never happened! The last person who even asked for her number was just a classmate she was doing a project with last semester and he didn’t even end up texting her! Granted, he didn’t even pull his weight in the assignment either, but most importantly he was so not her type so it didn’t even matter.

 But Carmilla?

Laura was sure Carmilla was everyone’s type.

So she lifted the sign one last time and watched Carmilla almost brighten as she pulled her phone out, eyes bouncing from the sign to her screen.

A moment later Laura’s phone buzzed with a new text from an unsaved number:

Took you long enough.

Chapter Text

Laura’s jaw dropped and a little surprised gasp escaped at the jab. She looked up to find Carmilla trying to hide a smirk behind her hand, devious as ever. Clearly she thinks she’s hilarious, but Laura isn’t amused despite the text ending with a smirky emoji. Actually, she is pretty amused but she can’t give Carmilla the satisfaction.

She begins to tap at her screen in rebuttal, but with a sudden burst of confidence, she forgoes sending a text all together and presses the call icon instead.

It rings once..twice and then a sultry voice interrupts,

“Hey there.”

Laura gulped, like actually freaking gulped at the sound. The confidence completely vanished because woah she was not expecting Carmilla to sound like that. But also, how was she not surprised? The girl freaking oozed sex appeal, as if that wouldn’t reflect in the way she spoke! Laura was at a loss for words which almost never happened because she always had something about to say about everything whether anyone liked it or not, but woah seemed to be the only word she knew at the moment.

“Hello?” The voice came again, breaking Laura out of her daze. She sounded a little uncertain as she added, “Can you hear me?”

Laura turned slightly to see Carmilla across the way with her phone to her ear and waving with her free hand. It looked like she was trying to ask if she could hear her through charades again, as if Laura hadn’t heard every single word perfectly clear.

Laura blinked furiously and quickly got out a reply.

“Yeah!” She answered a little too eagerly, making her voice crack. Smooth, real smooth, she admonishes herself then clears her throat to try again, “Sorry. Yeah, hi.”

“Ah, she speaks.” Carmilla teases and Laura watches the way the girl drops her hand to find purchase in the pocket of her leather jacket, eyes still glued to her.

Laura chuckles nervously, tucking a fallen strand of hair behind her ear again, “Just re-adjusting to hearing another human being’s voice. It’s been so long.”

It’s Carmilla’s turn to chuckle, “I know what you mean.” She moves to rest against the ledge, eyes still steady on Laura and says after a pause, “You know, I was beginning to think I was going to have to spend my last $20 on another pizza just for the box if you didn’t get what I was trying to say.”

Laura finds herself laughing despite the blush begging to creep across her cheeks, “It probably would’ve just been easier if you’d held up your actual phone instead of gesturing one..” At the word gesture, Laura mimics Carmilla’s earlier gesture and watches the woman shake her head at her, fighting a smile.

“But where’s the fun in that?” Carmilla asks, a coolness to her tone that Laura could’ve mistaken for boredom if it weren’t for the hint of a grin, “Besides…using a prop is cheating.”

“Is it though?” Laura challenges, nose scrunching in skepticism.

“Of course it is.” Carmilla replied like it was common knowledge.

Laura’s not convinced though and says, “I don’t know. I think it’s resourceful. Use what you have to get the point across efficiently. What if this was a life or death situation?”

“Spoken like a true cheater.” Carmilla teased again and Laura could just imagine the girl’s smirk.

“Hey, I don’t cheat.” Laura huffed playfully, a balled fist landing on her hip, then stated, “I’m…resourceful.” Her ear was then graced with the sound of Carmilla’s laughter; like genuine, hearty laughter and the sound made Laura’s heart flutter in the best of ways.

“Mmhmm..” Carmilla hummed, her tone low and gravely. She was clearly unconvinced.

Laura bit her lip to keep from smiling anymore, her cheeks were beginning to hurt. Then she remembered what led her to this exact moment; Carmilla, the observations, the assignment, that poor helpless water bottle and focused up.

“So!” Laura blurted then awkwardly cleared her throat, “Uhm..” She thought about asking if she was okay again considering the whole phone call, but she decided that might be a little too intrusive for their first verbal conversation. She instead chose a different topic.

“How are you handling isolation?” Laura asked and turned away slightly, shaking her head at asking such a hard hitting question. It was good, the obvious way to go, but where was the creativity? She really needed to get it together.

“Well..” Carmilla sighed making Laura peek over at her. Carmilla looked to the sky then back to Laura and said, “I’d say isolation has been rather uneventful.”

Laura nodded, eyes dashing to her side to check if she brought her notebook with her but then-

“Although,” Carmilla dragged out the word and said, “I have had some girl I don’t know keep tabs on me.”

Laura’s heart dropped to the pit of her stomach. All she managed to say was a deadpanned, “What?”

“Yup.” Carmilla said, popping the p, “It has actually been happening for quite some time now.”

“What?” Laura repeated, same tone.

“Maybe you’ve seen her?” Carmilla purred, “Cute blonde? Looks kind of short? Prone to staring? Awkwardly repeats what a hundred times..”

Laura’s lips parted helplessly, probably to say what again, but she stopped herself and instead began rambling.

“I-I’m so sorry. I..you..how-“ Laura sputtered, a heat rushing to her ears, but proper sentences wouldn’t form.

Carmilla just let out a dry chuckle.

“Woah there, Creampuff, didn’t mean to make you short circuit.” She teased smoothly, just a hint of playfulness in her tone.

Laura froze at her statement, not even batting an eyelash at Carmilla’s choice of nickname, because how could she so casually drop that little tidbit of information? She had been caught in her observations before and she thought that maybe smiling at her and waving, made up for the eavesdropping? Carmilla acknowledged her too so she shouldn’t feel so guilty but this was different. Carmilla practically called her out and who knows how long she’s known of Laura’s observing.

She was mortified, absolutely mortified.

She wanted to disappear, completely vanish from the freaking Earth because this? This was the absolute worst possible thing that could ever happen to her. Like of course it would! Was she being dramatic? Was she overacting? Does it even matter? Nope!

God, she could just imagine what Laf and Perry would have to say about this. They’d have a freaking field day!

Chapter Text

Laura brought her hand up to hide her flushed cheeks, trying to regain the ability to think all while continuing to clutch the phone to her ear. She couldn’t just let this be her first impression; she was smart and kind of funny and totally capable of explaining herself.

And yet, she struggled. God, why now of all times?

“I’m so sorry.” Laura finally managed to say again. Her voice shook with nerves but she pushed herself further, asking the question she wasn’t sure she wanted the answer to, “How’d you know?”

“Well, you aren’t exactly subtle.” Carmilla replied, her voice still as cool and composed as ever, like she wasn’t even phased that she nearly gave Laura a heart attack, “You know when you can just feel someone staring at you? It was a bit like that…”

Carmilla trailed off and they fell into another bout of silence.

Laura was stunned; a total loss for words yet again. This whole time she thought she was being super sly, totally inconspicuous with her notetaking and eavesdropping, but apparently not. How was she ever going to make a career out of this? She needed the research but at what cost?

 She really needed to sort out her priorities.

 But also, she didn’t want to make Carmilla feel uncomfortable either. She at least hoped that wasn’t the case. Afterall, if Carmilla was pissed then she had a funny way of showing it. But then again, who’s comfortable with strangers staring at them? Crazy people, that’s who! God, why didn’t Laf or Perry talk her out of this ridiculous idea of hers?

 As her thoughts battled, all she could do was part her lips, open and close and open again, waiting for the words to magically fall out on their own.

Of course, they didn’t and she was met with yet another soft chuckle on Carmilla’s end.

“Laura, it’s fine.” Carmilla tried assuring her. Laura didn’t miss the way her name sounded coming from Carmilla’s lips for the first time; if only it was enough to reverse her humiliation. But there was a softness there that Laura noticed and it almost made her relax until Carmilla added, “Really, it’s okay. You’ve got to get your kicks somehow, right? Honestly, I don’t blame you.”

If it was possible, Laura turned an even darker shade of red. Just when she thought she was finally coming up air, she’s plunged right back under all thanks to Carmilla’s casual, unabashed teasing that was borderline…flirtatious?

There’s no way, Laura thought, she’s just giving me a hard time which I totally deserve. Get it together, Hollis!

“I-I wasn’t trying to get my kicks,” Laura managed to explain after a mental pep talk; she didn’t want Carmilla to have the wrong idea about her even if she was content with her ongoing teasing. Sure, Carmilla said it was fine and she obviously wasn’t angry because she was still on the phone with her but Laura was still a bit weary.

“Oh? Then what were you doing?” Carmilla asked devilishly; she really had no qualms in pushing Laura’s buttons.

“You know, just…” Laura faltered, racking her brain for a sufficient answer, “Hanging out?”

Carmilla snorted, “You really expect me to believe that?”

“Okay, fine!” Laura huffed, forcefully tucking her hair behind her ear again. Time to just rip off the band aid, eh? Laura inhaled, “Like everyone else in the world, I’ve been deprived of human interaction and I’m actually pretty freaking lonely and I miss being outside. So I came out here and then I saw you and I felt somewhat normal again. Well not really normal per say, but something like it. It’s just been me and my succulent Peat and like occasional phone calls from my dad and texts from my friends but it’s not the same as being around someone else. You know? Like physically in someone else’s presence?”

Laura sucked in another breath and pressed her fingertips to her temple. This was not how she pictured her first conversation with Carmilla; just blurting everything. She sighed and began again,” So I started to watch you, not in like a weirdo stalker way, but like just interested in what you were up to? Turns out you do like the exact same three things over and over: read, music, nails… Anyway! I thought it was comforting to find someone so…I don’t know? You were just carrying on like it was business as usual, like we aren’t in the middle of a global pandemic. And I’ve been kind of struggling but seeing you seem so unphased…It made me feel less lonely I guess.”

“And the notetaking?” Carmilla pressed further.

Laura scoffed, “How do you know I wasn’t just…doing homework or something?”

“Like I said, Carmilla answered through a chuckle, “Subtlety isn’t one of your specialties.”  

Laura dragged her fingers from her temple to grab at the back of her neck, squeezing the tension there. She chanced a glance in Carmilla’s direction and found the woman leaning on the roof’s ledge on her elbow with her chin resting in her palm. Her expression was unreadable and Laura hated that she couldn’t read minds. She sighed and let her hand drop from her neck to lie flat against the ledge, “It’s research for this assignment I’m doing.”

“Right…” Carmilla dragged out sounding somewhat skeptical.

Laura just groaned and hid her face in her palm, this was an absolute nightmare. She dropped her hand and frustratedly blew out a puff of air that pushed some of her hair out of her face, “Okay, you know what? How about we just start over? I don’t think I can take anymore embarrassment for the day.”

“Awh, but I was just starting to have fun.”

“Well, I can’t exactly return the sentiment there.” Laura grumbled, her face falling into her hand again.

There was another pause and Laura was sure Carmilla would hang up this time; Laura wasn’t going to be her plaything. This was Carmilla’s out, she had to take it. She’d hang up and they could pretend that this never happened and Laura would never come to the roof again.

“Okay.” Carmilla replied making Laura’s hand drop from her face and her head pop up.

“What?”

“Here we go again,” Carmilla tried sounding bored but a smile graced her lips, “I said okay.”

“Okay?” Laura clarified to which she earned a hum on the other end of the line.

“Yeah, I’ll bite.” Carmilla shrugged, “I have nothing better to do.”

Laura frowned at the slight sound of disinterest but she took what she could get. Really, she was surprised Carmilla even agreed. But she was beginning to think Carmilla was one of those people who could sort of hide their true feelings behind their tone. Unfortunately for Carmilla, Laura was on to her. Maybe?

Laura let her tensed shoulders ease and perked up, “Okay, that’s great! So uhm… Hi, I’m Laura Hollis. What’s your name?”

“Oh, we’re actually re-introduc-“ Carmilla stopped herself when Laura cleared her throat. “Right,” She said and dropped the sass from her tone and started again, “Hey, Laura Hollis. I’m Carmilla Karnstein.”

Chapter Text

The exaggerated friendliness would’ve made Laura roll her eyes, but coming from Carmilla? Apparently the Queen of dry humor and sarcasm? It just made Laura laugh.

“Nice to meet you,” Laura greeted, equally pleasant.

“Likewise.” Carmilla answered then after a pause her voice returned to normal, “So now what?”

Laura just shrugged, she hadn’t really thought that far. She guessed they could carry on like she would if she were meeting a fellow classmate for the first time, “Well, we can talk about what we’ve been up to? My classes are online now so I’ve been doing that.”

“That’s right. You said you were working on an assignment before we…started over.” Carmilla sounded intrigued and asked, “You go to Silas?”

“Yeah,” Laura replied, she chanced a glance in Carmilla’s direction. She was now leaning against the ledge with her free hand tucked in the pocket of her leather jacket. Laura pulled her cardigan closed as a cool breeze made her shiver, “I’m in my second year. Do you…as well?”

“Go to Silas? Unfortunately, yes.” Carmilla answered sounding slightly annoyed. It wasn’t pointed at her, but more the choice of university she supposed. Laura wanted to ask more but Carmilla was first, “What are you studying?”

“Journalism,” Laura replied, she could handle this; the light and frothy topics. She didn’t have to think too much, it was easy.   

“Of course,” Carmilla sighed and clicked her tongue, “I should’ve guessed it.”

“Everyone says that,” Laura commented, looking up again.

“And I can see why,” Carmilla said, “You probably spied on them too.”

“Hey…we’ve started over, remember?” Laura pointed out, resisting the urge to stomp her foot and set her hand on her hip, “Besides, my spying as you so delicately put it was purely academic so no more teasing.”

This time Laura’s stare lingered longer until Carmilla finally gave up with a huff.

“Fine.”

“Okay,” Laura began, perking back up, “So..what about you? What are you studying?”

“Philosophy.”

“Ahh, hence the books.”

“I thought we started over?” Carmilla quipped, repeating Laura’s previous statement back to her.

Laura rolled her eyes, “I wasn’t teasing you about it. It was merely an observation.”

Observation, right. And we both know how you feel about those.” Carmilla hummed again.

Laura wanted to be annoyed at Carmilla’s need to turn everything into a jab at her previous missteps, but she couldn’t stop herself from grinning. Carmilla was just too freaking quick!

“Anyway..” Laura drummed, leaning against the roof’s ledge again, “Do you like it? Philosophy, that is.”

“It can be interesting.” Carmilla answered curtly.

Laura wished she was better at pulling just a little bit more information out of the girl, get her to elaborate rather than having her answers left hanging in the air, teasing Laura. She figured this was good practice though for her future endeavors.

But that thought went completely out the window when Laura replied with and enthusiastic, “That’s cool.”

Carmilla just shrugged, “So. What’s this assignment about anyway?”

Laura’s eyes fell to her hands again as she began fiddling with a small pebble of concrete. She rolled her weight against her side and leaned on the point of her hip, keeping her eyes trained on anything else but Carmilla. She knew this moment was coming, no way of avoiding it really, she only wished it didn’t come about so soon.

She’s going to think I’m so lame, Laura thought. She tried thinking of the best way to explain what she had been up to, maybe find a way to make it all sound less stalkery but she decided it was best to just be truthful and come out with it already.  

“Uhm, well..” Laura began, inhaling a steadying breath, “It’s kind of about…you.”

Me?” Carmilla sounded beyond surprised and the blush returned to Laura’s face. She thought she was totally in the clear, guess not.

Before Laura could continue her downward spiral, Carmilla added, “God, these really are the end times. Surely there are other options. Someone more, I don’t know, useful? You know nothing about me.”

“Well, that’s kind of the point. It’s a feature piece, I thought I might do something like a Humans of New York but rooftop? I figured I’d tell your story and I don’t know, I’m still working out the kinks.” Laura tried to explain but Carmilla’s words interrupted her.

“Trust me, Cupcake, I’m not anything special.” Carmilla dismissed, inserting yet another pastry related nickname. Laura was going to have to say something about that, but for now she focused on the disdain in Carmilla’s tone, “Let alone enough to have an assignment about me. That’s just…it’s ridiculous.”

There was clearly disbelief there but also a hint of self-deprecation and it made Laura frown. How could she think that about herself? Sure Carmilla was right about Laura not knowing much about the girl, but she wouldn’t go to the extent of saying she wasn’t special. And sure, there wasn’t an abundance of choices for Laura to concern herself with but that didn’t diminish the fact that she thought Carmilla was interesting, that she willingly chose her.

Of course Laura thought Carmilla was interesting! Why else would she be so drawn to her? Other than the obvious attraction, there was something definitely there. Under all the dark clothes and disaffected attitude, Laura knew there was more to Carmilla than meets the eye. And with Carmilla’s heartbreaking stance on her own importance, it only confirmed that Laura made the right choice.   

So surprisingly, Laura found her voice again. It came out steady as she said  “How can you say that? I think everyone has something special about them.”

 Carmilla scoffed, “I didn’t peg you for the idealist type.”

“Well, I didn’t peg you for a nihilist.”

Carmilla just sneered, “Sorry to disappoint I guess. I just see the world as it is; people mostly suck.”

Laura’s frown deepened, “That’s sad.”

“That’s just how the world works,” Carmilla shrugged indifferently.

She was taken aback by how dismissive Carmilla was being, like the very idea was just a joke, but Laura didn’t waver, “Well I can’t just spend my days being broody, thinking everyone and everything sucks like some people. There’s more to life than that, there has to be.”

“Don’t you think you’re being a little naïve?” Carmilla suggested.

Heat rose up Laura’s back; it wasn’t out of embarrassment this time but anger instead. She could be a bumbling mess under Carmilla’s thumb, but when her values and opinions were challenged, ridiculed even, it upset her.

So she squared her shoulders and spoke freely, “You might think it’s stupid or ridiculous or whatever but no, I don’t think I’m being naïve. Everyone is on their own journey and what they experience shapes them. Their upbringing and those experiences and their thoughts and their values all makes up a person and I think that’s just so…cool.” Laura paused, her shoulders tensed, “And you really shouldn’t tear down other people’s beliefs just because they aren’t the same as yours. So yeah, whether you agree with me or not, I think everyone has a story. Everyone has something that makes them interesting and special. Even you.”

Laura would’ve assumed Carmilla would roll her eyes or say something dripping with sarcasm, maybe even hang up on her and never speak to her again but she was silent. So silent that, if Laura wasn’t actually looking at her, she would’ve thought she had gone away. And maybe she had, but physically, she was still there with the phone held to her ear.

There was no sign of judgement or mockery; Carmilla just stared, her expression unreadable.  

For a moment, Laura considered if she had been a bit too hard on the girl. She did have a track record of being too emotionally attached to her arguments but that didn’t last long. She was raised to stand up for her beliefs and so she did; she wasn’t going to apologize for it and if Carmilla wasn’t going to accept that then maybe this wasn’t going to work out after all.

But then she heard Carmilla inhale and exhale deeply. Laura watched as her hand moving to brush through her hair before she leaned against the roof’s ledge.  

“So,” Carmilla said after what felt like hours of silence, “What class was this assignment for again?”

 Her voice was void of the cynicism from before and instead was replaced with something lighter, it almost resembled tenderness, and that made Laura smile. Even though the exact words weren’t said, Laura took Carmilla’s not-so-subtle subject change as an apology.

/

For the rest of her lunch break, she and Carmilla talked. She explained her assignment in some detail and talked about possible approaches while Carmilla listened quietly. Occasionally she’d ask for clarification but the tone of her voice never quite reached the level of disdain as it did before. Camilla did still manage to slip in a snarky comment here and there but it was more playful than anything else. Laura assumed it was a defense mechanism, because Carmilla only resorted to making a joke after she’d make a suggestion like she was somehow trying to downplay her interest.

Laura didn’t comment on it though, just quietly took in account Carmilla’s words and made any adjustments. She could tell Carmilla was still trying to keep up her disaffected façade but Laura was beginning to see right through it. In fact, something had changed with Carmilla and she seemed rather interested in Laura’s work. That thought alone made Laura’s stupid little unnecessary stomach butterflies go wild.  

Chapter Text

Since that day, the phone calls between Laura and Carmilla had become a regular thing. Laura found out that her and Carmilla’s class schedules were pretty similar, the only difference was that Carmilla had two classes per day compared to Laura’s three which was why Carmilla always beat Laura to the roof. Carmilla had told her how she used to hate the way her classes panned out when the semester first started, but she didn’t mind a long break between classes now. It gave her more time to catch up on assignments and finish suggested reading.

Also, it allowed her the chance to talk to Laura.

Laura, of course, tried hard not to linger on that new information.

After Laura’s second class, she would gather any materials she needed for studying and go grab her lunch before heading up to the roof where Carmilla awaited Laura’s phone call. As she got herself set up, Carmilla would flip through the pages of another book like always, but sometimes she’d bring her lunch up too and they’d spend the hour and a half just talking and eating together.

It felt normal, like Laura was just meeting up with a friend between classes. Their conversations ranged from schoolwork to movies or shows they were currently watching to the little things they missed now that they couldn’t really go out.

“God…I’d kill for a good cup of coffee. This instant crap just isn’t really doing it for me anymore. I need real caffeine.” Carmilla grumbled; it was something knew Laura was learning about her and she loved every second of it. She discovered earlier that Carmilla was the type of person that drank coffee all day, not just in the morning, compared to Laura who only needed that first cup when she woke up. Occasionally, if she was really tired and needed to get work done, she’d go in for a second during the day but that was rare.

“You should invest in a French press! That’s what I do.” Laura answered between bites of her sandwich, “There’s this one coffee roaster nearby that includes a free one when you subscribe to their roaster list. They send out grounds every couple of weeks so you always have fresh coffee.”

“Sounds like a lot of work,” Carmilla replied nonchalantly.

“It’s not that bad. I mean, it’s not as good as like Starbucks or anything.”

“Starbucks isn’t that good,” Carmilla scoffed playfully, making Laura shake her head and smile.

“Of course you’d say that,” Laura rolled her eyes and said, “It’s not a lot of work. If I can do it, I’m sure you can.”

“I wouldn’t even know how to work the thing,” Carmilla grumbled.

“I can teach you,” Laura chuckled, the words tumbling freely without a second thought. But then she paused and bit her lip, unsure why she suddenly felt kind of shy, “You know, like on Facetime or something?”

“Right.” Carmilla said and let the word hang in the air like she was pondering it, “Well, if you’re open to teaching me then maybe I’ll check it out. Send me the link to their website later.”

“Sure!” Laura replied a bit too enthusiastically. It earned her a soft laugh so she wasn’t too embarrassed. She picked at the edges of her sandwich and asked after a pause, “So, did you have a go-to café before?”

Carmilla seemed to think for a moment, “There’s this place around the corner that I used to go to. I’d stop there almost every morning before class. Now, they made a decent cup and their pastries weren’t half bad either.”

“Which were your favorites? Or did you have one?” Laura asked and it made Carmilla chuckle again.

“Well, I think their croissants were on par with the French. The baker might’ve actually lived there for a time or something, I can’t remember? But I was always partial to their pain au chocolat; they reminded me of the ones I had when I went to visit my sister, Mattie, in Paris once.”

Laura found herself biting her lip at the way the French accent so perfectly fell from Carmilla’s lips. Also, she apparently had a sister? And she had gone to Paris? Who knew! There was just so much about the girl she didn’t know. She was chock full of surprises and Laura couldn’t resist.

“I didn’t know you have a sister.” Laura pointed out, hoping Carmilla would elaborate.

“I have a younger brother too.” Carmilla added, making Laura’s brows shoot up in amazement at all the new information. Carmilla was being so uncharacteristically generous today!

“Wow,” Laura breathed out, “I’ve always wanted siblings.”

“Trust me, you don’t.” Carmilla said flatly, “They’re a pain in my ass.”

Laura just shrugged, she was used to people with siblings saying that. But she always thought that maybe if she had siblings her dad wouldn’t be such a worrywart. Or at least, the worry would be spread out and not just zoned in on her.

“Are you going to add that to your cute little notebook of Me now?” Carmilla teased just a moment later causing Laura to completely drop the dazed smile.

“I wasn’t, no, and stop calling it that.” Laura countered, fighting a blush, then sat up a little straighter, “It’s a notebook of findings, all sorts of findings, not just you. Don’t flatter yourself.”

“Whatever you say, Cupcake.”

Laura felt the tips of her ears burn at the nickname; she had yet bring up Carmilla’s habit of pastry related terms of endearment but the longer they talked, the more the names kind of grew on Laura. She’d never admit that aloud though.

“So what about you?” Carmilla asked, “Anything out there that you miss?”

Being able to leave the confines of my apartment complex, the sound of boom gates when the train is pulling into the station, sitting in a library, another person’s touch..

Laura cleared her throat and shuffled a little in her chair, “Currently? Cookies.”

“Really?” Carmilla asked, somewhat intrigued but mostly amused.

“Yeah, there’s this one brand that you can only get at the corner store on Sixth. I’m not sure why? They’re not expensive or anything and it’s like weirdly the only brand there.” Laura rambled, “But I can’t find them anywhere else. They’re so good though! My dad added a box to the first essentials package he left for me, but they’re long gone now.”

“Your dad left you a package of essentials?” There was a playful lightness to Carmilla’s tone, not so much teasing but maybe something else? Laura wasn’t sure what though.

“Yeah, he didn’t want me going to the store before. He’s a little overprotective like that. Something about how panic buying brings out the worst in people and he didn’t want me to get caught in some altercation over the last bag of flour.” Laura explained in one breath, “I don’t even bake so the joke’s on him.”

Carmilla chuckled and said, “I think it’s kind of sweet. My mother would never.”

Her voice sounded like her thoughts were carrying her off someplace far away. Laura wanted to ask more about her mother and why she thought that, but Carmilla was quick to change the subject back to Laura and what else she missed in lockdown.

/

On one particular day, they hadn’t spoken too much; Laura was caught up in worrying about a quiz she had next class and how she needed to study while Carmilla was wrapped up in a novel she was nearly finished with. The sensible thing to do would’ve been to forgo their daily call, but neither of them wanted to for some reason. Instead, Laura ended up spending the first fifteen minutes of the call venting about how nervous she was for the quiz  and how she hadn’t studied much.

Carmilla merely replied with, “You shouldn’t worry, I’m sure you’ll do fine. You can always study now?”

“But we always talk during my lunch break. I don’t want to blow you off.” Laura pointed out but Carmilla didn’t seem fussed.

“You won’t hurt my feelings if you choose to study over talking to me,” Carmilla replied coolly, “Besides, keeping your grades up is important to you so I won’t mind.”

That was true. Laura had explained to Carmilla during one of their phone calls that she always maintained a high grade point average, but this whole switch from face-to-face learning to online was really testing her. She had a created a strict study plan at the start of the isolation so she could stay on track and everything, but distractions were everywhere and she sometimes found it hard to focus.

Carmilla agreed with her on that, telling Laura that she didn’t miss being around people in class so much but more so having the professors right there if she had any questions. Also, being able to walk around campus was nice. Silas University didn’t have many perks, Carmilla had said, but she admired the scenery.

Laura agreed with her.

For a moment she wondered what it would’ve been like to meet Carmilla in a different circumstance, like if she were to run into her at the library or the student center? She wondered if Carmilla would’ve just scoffed and brush her off or would she stick around for a chat? She tried to imagine Carmilla in a different setting other than her rooftop; maybe sitting near the back corner of the campus café, she probably takes her coffee black, and she’d have her boots propped up on the empty chair next to her as she studied. She’d have a mess of papers and books spread across the table and she’d take up enough space for two people just so no one would sit near her. Not like anyone would try.

Unless it was Laura? Maybe?

And maybe Laura would catch her eye and she’d invite her over and they could study together? She’d order a hot chocolate with marshmallows and they would share a chocolate chip cookie. They’d do that for hours just studying in each other’s presence. Occasionally she’d tell Carmilla something interesting she has read and Carmilla would smile at her and everything would be okay.

But that wasn’t the case and who knows if they’d ever get that chance to try. All she could do was work with what she had now, so Laura took a chance.

“Do you mind if I stay on the phone with you?” Laura asked tentatively, “While I study, I mean?”

It didn’t take long for Carmilla to reply, “As long as it’s not too much of a distraction for you.”

“It won’t be.” Laura said like it was a promise, already switching to speaker and propping her phone against her Tardis mug, “Besides, you’re just reading anyway so there won’t be much talking.”

Carmilla just let out a breathy laugh and went on with her reading.

Laura didn’t say anything more as they fell into a comfortable silence. They stayed that way until Laura’s break was nearly over, but before they hung up Carmilla stopped her.

“Good luck on your quiz,” Carmilla had said softly, “You’ll ace it.”

“I hope so,” Laura sighed, “I still don’t feel prepared.”

“You’ve got this.” Carmilla replied like there weren’t truer words spoken.

It was her words that made Laura really wish her daydreams of studying in cafes with Carmilla were a reality, because maybe then Carmilla’s words wouldn’t have just ended with bye but instead a pat on the shoulder or soft smile or a ruffle of her hair.

Or maybe even a kiss on the cheek if she was lucky?

But maybe Laura was being too optimistic.

She groaned at what her imagination was cooking up but she couldn’t fight the hopefulness that began to bloom in her chest.

Chapter Text

A couple mornings later, Laura was set to attend a conference call with Laf and Perry to discuss some project Laf was working on. It was the one day out of the whole week where she didn’t have class and that meant she could do whatever she wanted. Lately, that list of things she could do wasn’t very long which was probably why she agreed to spend the day doing school work. But a day off of school also meant she had no reason to spend her lunch break on the roof with Carmilla and that made her a little sad. Talking to the woman every day had become a new thing for Laura and it felt weird that she wouldn’t continue their lunch hour ritual by being on the phone together. Her friends were great and she had told them that she wanted to help, but their conversations felt lacking in a way they didn’t use to all of a sudden. There was an emptiness there now, a Carmilla-sized hole if you will, and Laf and Perry just couldn’t fill it.

But again, she promised to help and she wanted to be a good friend and good friends keep their promises. And who knows, maybe Carmilla was enjoying the peace and quiet without Laura’s 20 questions? And maybe she wasn’t missing Laura as much as Laura was missing her? Maybe she wasn’t even missing Laura at all?

But even though Carmilla liked to keep up this act of being broody and a little callous, she was actually kind and sometimes she said sweet things that made Laura’s heart clench in the best of ways. That feeling made her feel hopeful for things, future things, things with hand holding and soft touches.  

And that worried Laura, because those things were very far and few between now and they especially weren’t things to be thinking of when the person in question probably didn’t feel the same way.

So she tried her best to box up those thoughts and stifle the urge to call Carmilla.

At first, she did pretty well in distracting herself. She had planned on video chatting Laf and Perry around 9am which meant she got to sleep in a little later than normal. With the extra hour, she took her time getting ready for the day. She puttered around the kitchen for awhile, getting her usual coffee and breakfast ready, before finding a spot on the couch to catch up on the news until it was time to call.

/

An hour into the call and Laura was in the middle of listening to Laf iron out the details of their project. They were going over a list of questions which Laura should’ve been paying attention to, but wasn’t.

She couldn’t get her head out of the clouds long enough to focus, so caught up in daydreaming of the day when the lockdown was finally over. That was something she always daydreamed about, but her reasons for wanting to be out started to change. She wasn’t spending too much time on thinking about places she missed going to or activities she missed doing, but rather found herself thinking about Carmilla more and more despite her earlier pact of not going down that road. She just couldn’t help herself. She wondered what Carmilla would do on her day off of class if she could go anywhere she wanted and Laura wondered if those plans could involve her? She wondered what Carmilla liked doing pre-lockdown; did she visit art exhibitions or museums, did she spend all afternoon in bookstores, where did she like having lunch? The endless questions and the possibilities swirled round in Laura’s head fueling her hopeful heart in the best and worst of ways.

It wasn’t until Laf pointed out for the third time that Laura wasn’t listening, and Perry poking at the webcam causing there to be a loud thud, to snap Laura out of her thoughts.

“Sorry, what?” Laura blinked and peered down at the screen, “Where are we again?”

“Earth, Frosh. We’re on planet Earth.” Laf grumbled, brow quirked.

“Page 4, second paragraph.” Perry clarified, “Starting with the differences in regional dependency on natural resources.”

“Oh, right! Sorry,” Laura said apologetically, then started reading through the intended text, “Okay yup, I’m following.”

Laf began reading again and this time Laura was intent on staying focused but before Laura could truly tune in, her phone buzzed beside her, the sound interrupting her train of thought. She chanced a look up at the screen and found her friends’ eyes averted to the article, wrapped up in Laf’s research like Laura should be. With Laf and Perry busy on screen, Laura knew there could only be two other people that would possibility want to text her right now: her dad or Carmilla.

A small part of her hoped it was the latter, but the bigger part hoped it wasn’t. She agreed to help Laf and being so distracted like she was wasn’t exactly helping, so Laura was sure that a text from Carmilla would render her completely useless.

 Also, she was spending way too much time thinking about the girl. She had to pace herself or something before she exploded!

But curiosity worked wonders when it came to Laura’s will power and soon she was swiping to unlock her phone to read the new text.

Carmilla: Hey cutie! What are you up to?

Laura instantly blushed as her eyes landed on the new term of endearment and subtly slid her phone off screen so Laf and Perry didn’t see she was distracted yet again. She let her eyes roam the word, a smile forming on its own, then swiftly typed a text back.

Laura: Cutie? Do you even know what I look like?

She ended the text with an eye roll emoji, feeling quite proud that there was no way the flutters in her stomach could be interpreted through her message. She could totally be smooth too, maybe even smoother than Carmilla.

But that was a big maybe.

Carmilla: Sure I do, my eyesight isn’t that bad. Besides, ever heard of the internet?

Laura caught herself giggling at that but quickly masked the sound with a forced cough causing Perry to ask if she was okay while Laf just eyed her skeptically.

“Yeah no, I’m fine.” Laura assured and cleared her throat exaggeratedly, “Just…dust in the air. Yeah, dust! I haven’t dusted in a while so yeah. Dusty, dusty, dusty.”

“Since when do you dust?” Laf questioned.

“Isolation changes people.” Perry countered soon after, “Don’t question how others cope.”

“Yeah, I’ve been..” Laura’s eyes drifted off towards the towering pile of laundry needing to be done and her unmade bed, “I’ve been doing lots of cleaning in isolation.”

Laf just shrugged then they all went back to reading.

This time, Laura lasted a whole eight minutes before she was glancing at her phone again, her fingers inching closer to send Carmilla a reply.

Laura: Did you Facebook stalk me?

Carmilla: Maybe..

Laura: Hmm..

Carmilla: As if you haven’t? The little journalist in you wouldn’t have been able to resist..

Laura: I might have done a brief search..

“Hollis!”

Laura’s eyes snapped to the screen in mid-chuckle at Laf’s exclamation. They were eying her wearily, arms crossed over their chest. Somehow Laura had moved from leaning off screen to blatantly texting on camera; so much for being sneaky.

“Sorry!” Laura shrieked and pushed her phone away like it was on fire, “Sorry. I’m..I’m not very focused today.”

“Yeah, clearly.” Laf grumbled then their hands returned to their keyboard, “Who are you texting anyway? Per and I are already here and your dad’s great but he’s not that funny..”

“No, it’s not my dad.” Laura replied with the shake of her head.

“Well, I didn’t think you had any other friends?” Laf countered, still thinking of the possibilities.

“I have friends!” Laura gasped, feigning offense.

“Okay, name one.” Laf smirked, “Other than us, of course.”

Laura mimicked a deer caught in the headlights, “Uhm..there’s Betty?”

“You were paired up with her in class, I don’t think that counts.”

Laura huffed, Laf was right. Betty had barely even spoke to her and when she did it was strictly about the assignment and that was all.

“Is it girl from the roof then?” Perry chimed in.

Laura faltered then swallowed dryly, “Her name is Carmilla and...she might’ve texted me.”

“Right, sorry.” Perry softened, “How is Carmilla?”

“Yeah, she’s good I think. I’ll just reply to this last message.” Laura looked down and read the new message, cheeks instantly flushing.

Carmilla: Well in that case..like what you see?

The text ended with a grinning devil emoji, but it didn’t diminish the effect it had on Laura and the way her chest tightened.

She had long ago done her social media hunt for one Carmilla Karnstein and scanned through pictures of the woman like any normal person would when meeting someone new. Before, Laura could only admire Carmilla from afar but after their first phone call where she learned of Carmilla’s last name it was free game. Of course Laura couldn’t help herself and she searched for Carmilla on every social media platform. She found that Carmilla’s profiles were rarely updated and she was quite private but Laura was oddly not surprised. There were still pictures though, the most recent from a couple months ago, but recent nonetheless. Laura admired the close ups; although most were smoldering smirks, there was one from some formal outing where she was finally able to appreciate the brilliance in Carmilla’s beaming smile. Laura didn’t think the girl could look any more beautiful but wow. She scrolled through the few pictures Carmilla had up, taking in new little details about her appearance that she didn’t get from being on the roof. Laura learned of perfect white teeth and gleaming smiles and alluring dark brown eyes. The more she scrolled, the more the images confirmed what Laura could already see from a distance.

 Carmilla was absolutely stunning, frighteningly so.

And Laura was in trouble.

“Yeah. I agree,” Laf said causing Laura to look away from her phone. Laf was smirking and Perry was beginning to grin too. Laura’s brows bunched in confusion as they added, “Definitely a crush there.”

“What? Who? Me? I’m not,” Laura scoffed like the very idea was completely and utterly ridiculous because it was, “I’ve never even met her. Like in person. We’re just..we’re friends, if you can even call it that.” Laura let the label sit with her for a moment like a bad taste in her mouth; like drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth. It was gross at first but it would lose its affect the more orange juice you drank. Calling Carmilla a friend was Laura’s orange juice; gross at first but she’d get use to it eventually and that was probably for the best.  

“It’s okay to develop a crush on her,” Perry tried, “I’m sure you’re not the only one finding romance on rooftops in these tough times.”

“I- that’s not what’s happening here!” Laura fumbled and brushed her hair behind her ear, “She’s…helping me with my assignment, that’s all. No squishy feelings here and definitely no romance.”

Laf just chuckled, “Sure..crushes-on-random-roof-girls.”

“Her name is Carmilla and I don’t have a crush on her. Watch, I’ll text her now to tell her to leave me alone.” Laura clarified again then reached for her phone to text Carmilla back.

She was set on proving her friends wrong, but she hesitated. Carmilla had texted her on their day off which meant she was thinking about Laura the same as Laura had been thinking about her. Only Carmilla had the guts to do something about it. As much as she didn’t want to overanalyze that, she couldn’t help but wonder what it meant. But Laura had appearances to keep up, something to prove to her friends who honestly probably wouldn’t care if she did actually have a crush on Carmilla which she didn’t. Still, she set out to write the text anyway.

Laura: Hey do you mind if I text you in a bit? My ‘friends’ are being insufferable.

Carmilla: Sure thing, Cupcake.

Laura bit her lip as she read the text before remembering that her friends were probably watching and judging. She quickly shuffled in her seat, attempting to downplay whatever look her face was pulling and straightened up.

“There.” Laura huffed and set down her phone off screen.

“Convincing.” Laf laughed, “Very convincing.”

Laura narrowed her eyes, “Let’s just get back to it?”

Her friends returned to talking about Laf’s project, but Laura found herself reaching for her phone again. Just one more time, that’s it. She didn’t want to leave Carmilla hanging before, so while her friends were distracted and she had a sudden burst of confidence, she sent out one last text. She hated unanswered questions after all.

Laura: Also to answer your question...I liked what I saw very much.

She wanted to applaud herself for actually saying it but she kept her cool, finally. She knew she was totally contradicting herself with the text but she wasn’t blind. Carmilla was gorgeous and you can totally think your friend is gorgeous so was it really a big deal? It was just a compliment and what’s so wrong with a compliment between friends? Nothing, that’s what!

Right?

She didn’t wait for Carmilla’s reply before she powered off her phone; if she had learned anything in the past hour it was that temptation and curiosity didn’t work in her favor when she was trying to focus. Surely she could last a bit longer without talking to the girl!

So Laura spent the next hour with her friends, studying and working together on Laf’s project. Laura tried her hardest to immerse herself in her work, resist the urge to turn her phone back on, and she did relatively well. She fought to remain focused, determined to be productive, but sometimes she found herself replaying Laf’s earlier accusation in her head and it really got her thinking again about maybe’s, somedays, and what-ifs.

Chapter Text

It was a little after 4pm when Laura finally finished up with Laf and Perry. She stood up from her chair to stretch; rolling her shoulders in attempt to work out the tension there. She hadn’t expected the call to last that long, but she was glad she could help even if it took awhile for her to really concentrate thanks to-

Laura glanced down at her phone on the desk, remembering the last text she had sent before turning it off, and bit her bottom lip in thought. She had acknowledged her attraction for Carmilla and Laura tried so hard to downplay the fact in her mind. She tried reminding herself of their friendship and how compliments between friends were normal and that Carmilla probably wouldn’t even flinch because Laura was sure that Carmilla had probably heard enough compliments to last her a lifetime. By Laura acknowledging Carmilla’s beauty, she was merely stating the obvious so she really had nothing to overthink about.

Laura let her arms slump to her sides and plopped back down in her chair; all this thinking was beginning to wear her out! She was really starting to notice how much of an effect Carmilla had on her lately, like how does someone she has never met manage to be on her mind constantly? It was such a struggle!

And yet, she kind of liked it.

She liked the ambiguity surrounding Carmilla; it kept her on her toes and she was always hungry for more. She liked learning about the girl; hearing snippets of her past or her family or her likes and dislikes. Whatever Carmilla decided to let slip, Laura absorbed it all! She liked how there was this wisdom about Carmilla, but that might’ve just been the philosophy major in her talking. She liked the sound of her voice; sometimes it was gravely, husky even, but sometimes…sometimes she sounded as if she was recalling something distant, like she had lived and died and lived again. She liked everything about the girl, at least, everything she knew about her so far.

But, she didn’t know how Carmilla would feel about that and that was the real problem.

There were so many lovely little things that made up Carmilla and Laura was sure that she hadn’t even scratched the surface yet. But the line between wanting to know more for the sake of her assignment versus wanting to know more for the sake of just wanting to know Carmilla was beginning to blur. Laura was definitely hooked, but she knew business and pleasure weren’t supposed to mix.

But in such crazy times, who cares about sticking to the status quo?

/

Laura paced around her room practically talking to herself for what felt like a lifetime before she finally turned on her phone. The old Laura wanted to hang on to what little normalcy she had left but new Laura had something different in mind. New Laura wasn’t going to get so caught up in her head anymore. New Laura was going to own her feelings and emotions and she’d deal with the consequences as they came. New Laura was a total badass!

When her phone fully powered on, she saw that there were a couple notifications for social media, a new email, and one new text message. Feeling hopeful, she swiped at the message icon.

Dad: Are you running low on supplies? I’m going to the store in a day or so.

Laura frowned when she saw the only new message she had was from her dad. Did Carmilla leave Laura on read? Did Laura even send the text in the first place? Laura panicked and tapped Carmilla’s name. When the chat window opened, it was confirmed that she did indeed send a text before.

It was there, left unanswered.

Laura’s brows furrowed, but she didn’t linger there long. New Laura took matters into her own hands. She swiped back to her dad’s message and sent him a quick reply.

Laura: I still have instant noodles and toilet paper so I’m ok!

Dad: You can’t live solely on junk, Laura. I’ll drop by another box soon.

Laura shook her head at the message; her dad was something else.

Then she tapped Carmilla’s name again, eyes scanning the conversation for any potential clues. She was going to think logically about this. Maybe Carmilla was  busy and she hadn’t seen the text yet? Maybe she was caught up in reading? Maybe she was talking to her other friends? Maybe Laura’s words had left Carmilla speechless?

She kind of doubted that last one, but here’s hoping?

Her finger had tapped on the phone icon before she even realized what she was doing. Her eyes widened, but it was too late to hang up now. New Laura owned her decisions, so she lifted the phone to her ear and waited.

It rang once…twice…three ti-

“Hello?” Carmilla answered, voice sounding a little groggy.

Laura instantly blushed, “Oh my God, I’m sorry. Did I wake you?”

“You did, but that’s okay.” Carmilla replied, voice thick with sleep. The sound practically had Laura swooning. There was the sound of something shuffling then a yawn, “I’ve probably napped long enough anyway, I’d rather talk to you.”

Then Laura swooned again; like her whole body relaxed and a smile spread across her face. New Laura was meant to be badass but apparently she struggled when it came to sexy sleepy voices. Or maybe she just struggled when it came to Carmilla. Yet to be determined.

“Oh. Okay then,” Laura mumbled, trying to keep it together.

But then Carmilla let out a strained moan that morphed into husky groan and the sound had Laura’s mouth going instantly dry.

“Sorry,” Carmilla said normally, “Had to stretch.”

This was a losing battle; she was going down fast.

“That’s totally fine,” Laura replied. She cleared her throat willing New Laura to get a grip, “So what have you been up to?”

“Just the usual.” Carmilla replied casually, “Woke up, drank some crappy instant coffee, started a new book, took a nap; nothing interesting to report so don’t go reaching for your special notebook of Me.”

Laura rolled her eyes at the teasing tone but couldn’t help grin, “You’re unbelievable.”

Carmilla just chuckled again, sounding even more mischievous than usual. Laura had no words and they fell into a relaxed silence.

She missed this, it was ridiculous how much she missed this. She couldn’t even last a single day without this.

Laura was definitely in trouble, but New Laura embraced it.

“You know,” Laura began, playing with the bottom of her sweater, “This is the first time we’ve talked and we haven’t been on the roof.”

“Speak for yourself,” Carmilla replied easily.

“You’re on the roof?” Laura questioned then corrected herself, “Wait. You fell asleep on the roof?”

Carmilla wasn’t fazed, “That’s nothing new, Creampuff, I do it all the time.”

That was true. Laura had probably caught Carmilla napping maybe three times since she started watching her. Laura couldn’t understand how Carmilla could possibly find it comfortable without a pillow and a blanket.

“Don’t you have like a couch or a bed?” Laura asked; surely those were more comfortable options than a ratty fold out chair.

“Of course I do.” Carmilla replied then added after a pause, “Care to join me?”

Laura’s eyes nearly bugged out of her head and a surprised squeak escaped her lips, “Uhh..”

“Relax. I’m talking about coming to the roof,” Carmilla added followed by a chuckle. Laura could practically see the cocky grin; Carmilla knew exactly how her words had come across.

Cheeky little shit, Laura thought though a smile played at her lips.

“Right. Yeah, totally. Duh. What else could you be talking about?” Laura responded hurriedly, trying to come off unfazed. Clearly, that wasn’t really a strong point for New Laura. She didn’t leave Carmilla enough time to answer though and quickly filled the awkward air, “But yes, I’ll come. Up! I’ll come up to the roof. Yeah, I’ll..be right there.”

 Carmilla really wasn’t making it easy for Laura, but the question made her feel hopeful. Maybe this wasn’t one-sided? Maybe feelings were actually mutual? Maybe she wasn’t alone in this after all? Maybe, just maybe, Carmilla even missed her today too?

New Laura wasn’t meant to be over analyzing every detail, she was supposed to keep a level head and remain calm and collected when facing the all too powerful charm radiating off the other girl and yet…here she was.

Yeah, Carmilla Karnstein was going to be the death of her.

Chapter Text

When Laura reached the roof, the sun was a lot lower in the sky than she was use to. Usually it was at its peak, washing everything in bright, warm light. Now, the air was cooler despite being soaked in tones of yellows and oranges and shadows were cast over what was once illuminated by the sun’s rays. The sky wasn’t its familiar blue but now fiery with streaks of pinks and purples.

It was beautiful.

“So how’d it go with your friends?” Carmilla asked after Laura got settled in her chair, sounding a lot more awake now, “Why were they being insufferable?”

Laura giggled at Carmilla’s impersonation of her. She remembered Laf’s words about crushes and Perry’s words about romance, but she didn’t think Carmilla needed to hear about that.

“It was okay. I helped my friend Laf with their project. They’re a Bio major so it was interesting but all the science was a little heavy for me I think. I had a hard time focusing, I think my brain is over all the school work,” Laura replied and it wasn’t exactly a lie. Most of it was true, minus the real reason why she couldn’t focus but again, Carmilla didn’t need to hear about that.

“I get what you mean,” Carmilla said in that distant sounding voice Laura found so alluring, “You should’ve used today as a break, do something other than school. You don’t want to burn yourself out.”

Laura agreed, “I thought so too, but I’ve sort of exhausted all my options in that department. I think I’ve seen nearly every movie I own at least 12 times by now, so I am tapped out of ways to have fun. I rather stay busy.”

Carmilla chuckled then said, “I might have an idea on how to help you with that.”

Laura’s eyes widened again, but New Laura was quick to take the reins before Laura’s mind could come up with her own possibilities of what Carmilla’s idea of fun may involve.  

“What is it?” Laura asked cautiously; she couldn’t wait to hear what Carmilla had up her sleeve.

“Well.. so I signed up for that coffee subscription you were talking about the other day.” Carmilla began, sounding somewhat hesitant, “I finally received the package this morning. I was going to text you but…yeah.”

Carmilla’s words were left hanging in the air between, like she was going to say more so Laura remained quiet. She waited, but nothing.

“Oh. That’s awesome!” Laura responded trying to fill the empty space, “It’s so good, right?”

Carmilla hesitated again then sighed happily, “It smells amazing.”

“Yup, definitely one of my favorite smells,” Laura agreed then rolled the fabric of her sweater between her fingertips, suddenly nervous, “Did you still want me to show you how to use the French Press it came with?”

Carmilla paused again, making Laura’s heart pound harder and harder in anticipation until-

“Yes please,” Carmilla answered politely, “If you don’t mind. I thought it might be something fun to do that wasn’t school related.”

Laura relaxed, her heart rate returning to normal, “Of course I don’t mind. I’d be happy to teach you! Afterall, I’m kind of the reason you invested aren’t I?”

“A little bit, but that’s great. Maybe we can try next week on our days off?” Carmilla said and Laura wished more than anything that she could’ve seen the smile she could practically hear in her response.

“That would be so awesome. It’s a date then!” Laura couldn’t hide her excitement and instantly blushed when she couldn’t control the words falling out, “I mean-not a date date. I meant it like it’s a deal…I just didn’t say deal-“

Laura was flailing and her attempt to recover was not successful, but the fumbling made Carmilla laugh.

“I know what you meant.” Carmilla replied easily.

“Okay, cool. Just wanted to be…clear.” Laura winced, hiding her face in her hand. New Laura was going to be fired in a minute it she didn’t help a girl out!

After a moment, Carmilla switched subjects, “So you never explained why your friends were being insufferable earlier.”

Laura sighed and shook her head, “They can just be a little nosy sometimes.”

“Oh. Nosy about what?” Carmilla asked, making Laura want to groan out of desperation.

Nosy about you and my feelings and this supposed crush I have on you..

Instead, she remembered the unanswered text she sent to Carmilla. She didn’t want to bring it up. It wasn’t that she was scared, after all it was Carmilla who had prompted her to express her thoughts which Laura did. Maybe she was scared of what was to come of that expression? Maybe Carmilla wasn’t expecting to her to say what she did? Maybe Carmilla was just teasing her like she always and Laura wasn’t meant to actually give it back?

Laura could always just…ask?

That was definitely New Laura talking, about time!

 But Laura wasn’t going to do that either; New Laura and Old Laura apparently were one in the same and she couldn’t bring herself to act on her feelings despite all the big talk of being badass and owning up to them.

Maybe she really was scared?

Scared of being open and vulnerable? Scared of owning up to the very real possibility that she might have feelings for Carmilla? Scared of the possibility that Carmilla might feel differently? Scared of the possibility that she’d lose all of this?

The thought sent a shiver down her spine causing her teeth to audibly clamp shut.

“Cold?” Carmilla asked softly, drawing Laura away from her thoughts.

She looked across the distance at Carmilla who was perched on the concrete slab near a utility shed. She sat with one knee hugged to her chest, the other leg dangling off the edge of the slab, swaying a little. Dressed in her usual outfit of dark colors, she stuck out like a black splotch against the sunset backdrop of darkening shades of auburn and yellow mixing together with lavender.

The image made Laura swallow hard, thankful that the girl was disguised by shadows now. She didn’t want to misinterpret what she swore sounded like tenderness in Carmilla’s voice for something else. After all, how could she sense that from just one word? But she had heard something similar to it once before, maybe, but it couldn’t be. She couldn’t because the thought of Carmilla treating her with anything kind of tenderness cracks her open and she doesn’t want all her misguided feelings to come tumbling out.

Laura felt her shoulders drop with the realization that, yes, she was scared. She was terrified. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt so strongly and it terrified her.

She wrapped her free arm around herself tightly like she was attempting to keep from crumbling apart.

“I guess so,” Laura managed to say after another shiver, “It wasn’t that cold before.”

“True,” Carmilla hummed then the distant tone in her voice returned, “The sun is setting now.”

“It is.” Laura nodded and they both watched silently for a couple minutes as the sun dipped lower and lower behind the tall buildings of the city. They watched as the yellows and oranges of before were overtaken by darker shades of lavender and violet, turning the sky almost inky.

“Well isn’t that beautiful.” Carmilla said softly, almost like a sigh.

Laura’s eyes shifted from the scene to the black splotch that was Carmilla.

She couldn’t agree more.

She shivered again.

“Should’ve brought a blanket up with you,” Carmilla suggested somewhat teasingly, “The chattering is a little distracting.”  

Leave it to Carmilla to still find some way to ruin the moment. Laura could only smile.

“Yeah, maybe I should head inside.” Laura said as she tucked her free hand under her thigh for warmth, “Don’t wanna turn into an ice cube.”

“Yeah, don’t want that.”

They both moved to stand; Laura watching Carmilla hop off the slab in one swift movement as if she had done it hundreds of times before. With the amount of time she spends on the roof, she probably had.

“Are you not cold?” Laura asked as they both walked towards the roof’s edge; the closest they could ever get to one another.

Carmilla just hugged a book Laura didn’t realize she was holding to her chest, “Not really. Then again, I’m actually wearing a jacket.”

There was a playfulness in her tone again and at that Laura looked down at her flimsy sweater that provided absolutely no warmth. In its defense, it was quite old and had thinned significantly from it being well worn. But it was Laura’s favorite and she couldn’t bring it on herself to get rid of it, so here she was freezing.

“You’re wearing leather though,” Laura countered then teased, “Does that even count?”

“Of course it does.”

“Not convinced,” Laura joked, “Leather isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of keeping warm. Fuzy sweaters, cozy jumpers; that’s more my thing.”  

But Carmilla didn’t reply right away, she just stared at her from a distance.

Laura felt suddenly hot under her gaze and briefly she wondered if this was how Carmilla felt. The thought made the corners of Laura’s mouth quirk into a nervous grin.

“What?” She asked but all she was met with was silence.

Finally Carmilla hummed, the makings of that same distant tone resurfacing, “I-I was just going to say-” She stopped herself and stiffened, “Nothing. It’s..It’s silly.”

Did Carmilla just…did she just stutter?

Laura blinked slowly, picking up on nervousness; there was no way.

“Really?” Laura said with a raised brow, “You should know me well enough by now to know that you can’t get away with teasing me like that.”

Carmilla scoffed but there was a sultriness now, “Can’t I?”

Laura narrowed her eyes; no way she was going to let Carmilla sneak back the upper hand. No matter how hot she sounded!

“You can’t,” Laura replied but she could sense Carmilla wasn’t going to budge.

“Sure I can,” Carmilla countered.

Laura sighed; Carmilla would go all day with the back and forth without even breaking a sweat. Laura couldn’t do that; she needed answers because unanswered questions made her antsy.

“Why can’t you just tell me?” Laura asked quietly, “I’m always the bumbling idiot oversharing. Can’t you do it at least once?”

“Well I have to keep some of my secrets,” Carmilla replied slyly, “Otherwise I’ll lose my air of mystery, won’t I?”

 Laura’s lips parted, inhaling in surprise, because that…that sounded an awful lot like…flirting.

Laura blinked slowly again; was she…?

Laura shook her head; there’s no way.

“Fine,” She finally relented after letting Carmilla’s words hang silently in the air between them, “I won’t ask and you can keep your air of mystery or whatever.”

“Perfect.”

“Great,” Laura mimicked and it was meant to be a reflection of Carmilla’s ability to sound so unbothered, but she couldn’t fight the smile that it always pulled from her. And judging by the sound of Carmilla’s last word, perfect, she wasn’t the only one struggling to keep up the act.

Chapter Text

Shortly after the phone call ended, Laura was back in her apartment making herself dinner. Her cabinets were actually quite bare aside from the can of hot cocoa mix and a few packs of instant noodles, so she was thankful her dad was going to be stopping by in the coming days with another boxful of goodies. She wasn’t big on cooking before the lockdown, usually she would just grab something on the way home from a late night study session or order in so it was definitely an adjustment. There were a couple recipes up her sleeve that were tried and true but her dad had packed her first package with mostly dinner kits and instant meals in addition to a few fresh fruits and vegetables. She wasn’t much of a fussy eater, so she had no problem throwing something together.

Now, all she had left to work with were the packs of instant noodles so she set off preparing that which she guessed was an improvement from an earlier meal of mashed potatoes and candy corn. It wasn’t her best combination yet, but it filled her up so she couldn’t complain. After dinner was done, she moved to the living room and kept herself occupied with another marathon, this time Veronica Mars, while she ate her noodles in peace.

Well, maybe not so much peace. She wasn’t feeling very peaceful after the day she had. So much of it had been filled with talking to people and the feeling of someone being there with her even if it was just their voice. She had been spoiled with so much social interaction throughout the day and now the lack of it was really noticeable.

Sitting alone on the couch watching a series she had seen a million times with a bowl of lukewarm noodles wasn’t really how Laura pictured her night ending. If anything, it made her feel more alone than ever before. Her apartment was too quiet, her couch too big, the shows not as funny; Laura felt incomplete.

But, she couldn’t decide if that was the Lockdown talking or if it was the squishy feelings she was trying so hard to deny.

Regardless, she spent the rest of the night as usual until she could barely keep her eyes open. She gravitated to her room hours later and collapsed tiredly into the fluff of her blankets, anxiously awaiting to start the whole day all over again tomorrow.

Yay, Laura thought wearily, eyes already shut, before blindly turning off her lamp. 

/

When the insistent buzzing of her alarm began to pull her from her slumber, Laura groaned. Surely it hadn’t been 8 hours already? She wasn’t refreshed at all!

 She sleepily reached for her phone, eyes barely opening as she brought it to her chest to swipe at the snooze button. Today was probably going to be one of those mornings where she’d hit the button at least four more times before turning it off completely. She would oversleep then rush to get to class before the professors took down the attendance. She’d also probably have several coffees instead of her usual one to get her going.

But nothing prepared her for the name that was displayed across the screen instead of the motivational Time for Class! heading set for her school alarm.

Incoming Call: Carmilla

Her eyes shot open, heart racing. The time shown was nearly 2 am; what was she doing calling Laura this late? It had to be a mistake.

“Hello?” Her voice came out gravely and Laura instantly regretted not taking a sip of water or something before.

“Hey,” Carmilla said, soft like a whisper. Laura hadn’t heard that kind of softness from her before. Then she added, “Sorry for waking you.”

“That’s okay,” Laura replied, shuffling to sit up against her pillows, trying to sound a little more awake, “What are you doing up?”

Carmilla didn’t answer right away and Laura grew worried. It was so unlike the other girl to randomly call in the middle of the night. She hoped it wasn’t something serious.

“Carm?” Laura called out hesitantly, not even flinching at how easy it was for the shortened name to fall from her lips. Maybe if she had a little bit more sleep, she would have time to backpedal but now all she could do was worry.

“I’m looking at the stars,” Carmilla finally said listlessly.

“Oh.” Laura was even more confused, “Is…everything okay?”

Again, Carmilla paused. The space between them filled with something heavy, something Laura wasn’t used to.

“Don’t you think it’s comforting how small we are in comparison?” Carmilla sighed, completely dodging Laura’s question.

“I guess?” Laura offered skeptically, “It’s not a particular thought of mine at 2 in the morning though.”

The sound Carmilla made was like a cross between a hum and a laugh and it made Laura soften. Only slightly though, because something strange was happening.

“What’s going on, Carm?” Laura asked, the name easily finding its way into her question again.

“Do you think isolation is changing you?” Carmilla finally asked after a long pause, her voice again as soft as a whisper.

Laura curled her fingers around the edge of her blanket, tugging it closer to her chest, like she were trying to hide from Carmilla’s question.

“Before all of this happened, I mostly kept to myself. I didn’t bother to get involved with anything or anyone if I didn’t need to and even then I was never truly present. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, I just. I guess I didn’t see a reason to. Why should I?” Carmilla added, voice wavering a little, “But I think that’s changing now. I think I’m changing. I find myself caring more, at least caring more about someone other than myself. I didn’t use to do that.”

Laura quietly nodded as if Carmilla could see her through the darkness of her room.

Carmilla paused and Laura imagined her doing that thing where she ran her fingers through her hair like it was a nervous tick. When she spoke again her voice was soft, “I’ve never given a crap about other people. I’ve never cared how…how cold anyone else was, they could freeze for all I cared, but now?”

Carmilla paused as if she were trying to find the words and Laura hung on every passing second.

“Now I’d do anything.” Carmilla whispered, “I’d give the jacket off of my back to make sure they were warm.”

Laura let all the air in her lungs escape her, like Carmilla was the one drawing it away. This was too much for her to process with so little sleep. She wanted overanalyze every little cryptic detail, but she just didn’t have the brain power.

“Oh.” Was all Laura managed to say, yet again, because no other words were forming, she was completely stunned. She thought she might’ve been dreaming because she never would’ve expected this level of vulnerability from Carmilla and yet here she was basically saying she would’ve given her jacket to keep Laura warm.

At least, that’s how Laura was interpreting it. Carmilla didn’t exactly use her name specifically, so this all could’ve been a hypothetical. Laura would delve in deeper in the morning when she had at least 5 more hours of sleep.

 But Carmilla mistook Laura’s silence and scoffed, this time it was out of frustration, “God, I don’t know what has gotten into me. That was a ridiculous thing to say. Who’s the bumbling idiot oversharing now?”

Laura blinked blankly, jaw dropped, as Carmilla repeated her earlier words and started to retreat. This side of Carmilla was new and Laura was blindsided. She always had the suspicion that Carmilla could be a softy at heart, but that was only a suspicion. She didn’t think she’d actually witness it firsthand. Again, she was blindsided.

 “I’m sorry I woke you,” Carmilla finished and it sounded almost as if she was going to leave.

“Wait!” Laura rushed out before Carmilla could hang up.

She was surprised she didn’t hear the telltale sound of the call disconnecting; Carmilla was still there. Laura didn’t know what to say, she was taken aback by Carmilla’s vulnerability, contrast to her usual confidence. For a moment she regretted how hard she pushed earlier. Her head and her heart and her words weren’t in sync yet, but she knew she didn’t want Carmilla to go.

Because Carmilla felt things too, just like Laura felt things, and maybe they weren’t the exact same things but it was something nonetheless. Carmilla was opening up to her and Laura wasn’t going to be dismissive of that.

So Laura spoke true for the first time in what felt like ages.

“With all that’s going on in the world,” She said confidently, “I think a little change for the greater good wouldn’t be such a bad thing.”

She heard the quick exhale down the line, like a sigh of relief.

Laura let herself catch her breath too.

“The greater good, huh?” Carmilla said a moment later.

 Laura could tell she was trying to make light of it all but neither of them fell for it. If things were different, this would’ve been that moment where Laura would’ve just kissed her because Carmilla was being brave, braver than Laura, and Laura wouldn’t know how else to honor that bravery in any other way than by just kissing her.

The thought made Laura frown and slump against her pillows dejectedly. Right then and there she realized just how badly she wanted this whole isolation thing to be over. She craved Carmilla’s touch; wanting so badly to take her up on her offer and curl up against her, but that just wasn’t feasible at the moment.

It hurt.

“Yeah, caring about other people shouldn’t be a bad thing,” Laura replied with a shrug, trying hard not to linger on sad thoughts, “At least, I don’t think so. You should do it more often, embrace it.”

They remained silent; the weight of their realizations heavy around them.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Carmilla said, her voice filled with longing, “I’ll let you get back to sleep. I’m sorry again for waking you.”

“See you’re already off to a good start! Caring about interrupting people’s sleep,” Laura teased which earned her a soft chuckle.

“Goodnight, Laura.”

Laura nodded, suddenly feeling her heart swell, “Goodnight, Carm.”

Chapter Text

In the days following Carmilla’s late night phone call, Laura feels moments of an odd sense of serenity. When she wakes up, she feels lighter. Her typical breakfast of cereal and coffee is a bit more satisfying, even if the cereal has gone a little stale. When she watches the news, she still wants to throw her whole tv out the window, but it doesn’t make her as frustrated as it use to because there are more positive things to focus on.

Like the fact that she’s almost 100% sure that Carmilla is into her.

The phone call was cryptic, but there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep and some overanalyzing in the morning that didn’t help sort that out! By the time Laura had finished her breakfast the following day, she had managed to convince herself that there was at least a small chance that Carmilla had at least a tiny crush on her and that thought fueled her the entire day.

Carmilla, of course, remained as cool as a cucumber. She never brought up the phone call and Laura would’ve definitely thought she had dreamed up the whole exchange except something was different and only a trained eye could pick up on those little changes. Thankfully, Laura had become quite the expert in reading Carmilla. At least, that’s what she’d like to think. In reality, she was probably just a half of a step closer than anyone else in Carmilla’s life. Laura knew Carmilla played  her cards close to the chest and was very particular about what she did and did not give away about herself.

Meanwhile, Laura was basically an open book about most things. Of course, minus her feelings about Carmilla but that was irrelevant.

Carmilla was guarded and cryptic and if she didn’t feel like talking about something she’d just change the subject, simple as that. Laura had learned pretty early on that she was a great deflector too. But the little changes Carmilla talked about that night, Laura had begun to notice more and more.

Like how Carmilla sometimes didn’t wait until Laura was on the roof to make their daily call. They had known each other’s class schedules by heart now, so Laura would sometimes end class with a new text from Carmilla reminding her to bring a napkin so she doesn’t use her sleeve again to wipe her mouth. Which Laura only did once, but Carmilla cringed nonetheless. Sometimes Carmilla would give her the heads up that it’s a bit chilly on the roof so Laura would need bring something up with her to keep warm. Sometimes Carmilla’s little changes were in the form of Good Morning! and, if she was lucky, Good Night! texts.

The little changes in Carmilla’s behavior towards her were subtle but oh so welcomed. Laura was no stranger to people showing her they cared, her dad was the biggest care bear of them all, but things were different with Carmilla. With her dad, sometimes she couldn’t breathe because he cared so much. Not that she was comparing Carmilla to her dad because that’s kind of weird, but she used him as a point of reference she guessed on the Caring Chart. Sherman Hollis was the ultimate representation of a devoted parent that was at times borderline overprotective. Laura loved him for that, but sometimes she just needed some space.

The way Carmilla cared didn’t make Laura feel smothered because, unlike Sherman,  Carmilla left Laura with room to breathe. She wasn’t endlessly listing off the dangers of everyday activities because she couldn’t stand the thought of her getting hurt. Carmilla was made up of gentle reminders and soft suggestions. Carmilla was caring in a way Laura wasn’t use to and it was scary.

But not as scary as it once was, because now Laura wasn’t just shooting her shot in the vast unknowing realm of Carmilla’s feelings. She considered Carmilla’s phone call that night progress when it came to uncovering the truth about how Carmilla felt about her. Things were different, she knew things now.

Like the fact that she’s almost 100% sure that Carmilla is into her.

/

When Laura asks Carmilla if she wants to video chat a couple days later, she surprises herself with the sudden burst of confidence. She had been thinking a lot lately about how much she hated the quiet that filled her tiny apartment and how lonely she got at night when it was just her, tv shows and a bowl of noodles. She figured that if she could video chat with Laf and Perry on occasion then why couldn’t she and Carmilla do it too?

So before she could convince herself that it was a bad idea, she asked.

Laura: Hey Carm! Are you busy?

Carmilla: Not really. Just finished showering. Why?

Laura swallowed dryly at the image her brain started to cook up of Carmilla wrapped in a towel with damp hair clinging to her bare shoulders. She quickly pushed away the thought and refocused.

Laura: You want to watch tv with me over video chat?

After the text was sent, Laura sat anxiously on her couch clutching her phone with both hands. She couldn’t believe she actually had the ladyballs to say that! This was definitely progress. Her knees bobbed anxiously as the hours ticked by, and by hours she meant minutes, until Carmilla finally texted her back.

Carmilla: Sure

Laura just about died when she read the message and ten minutes later, as she waited for the video call to connect, she just about died again.

She decided to set up the call on her laptop and set it down on the coffee table in front of her. She grabbed pillows from the couch and a soft blanket and made herself a little nest in the space between the couch and the coffee table. Then she adjusted the angle of the webcam over and over, dashing around her living room for a quick tidy and flicked on a lamp for some light adjustment, before returning to her spot to check that her framing was okay. Once she was finally happy with it all, she took a deep breath and pressed the call button on her keyboard.

She counted each ring like she always did until her screen filled with the image of Carmilla.

Laura’s video must not have loaded for Carmilla yet, because the girl had this adorable crinkle in her brow as her eyes scanned all over the screen. Laura could see her though and took the slight advantage to observe Carmilla’s surroundings.

She was somewhere a little dark, she couldn’t quite place the room; possibly a living room but could also be a study? There was a bookshelf chock full of books, no surprise there, but there were also little Knick knacks dotted amongst the shelves which did surprise Laura. She didn’t peg Carmilla for someone who kept things like little figurines and small succulents, if anything she thought Carmilla would keep it rather minimalist. There were a couple small potted plants on the floor next to the bookshelf with a very intricate designs wrapped around the pots; another surprising discovery about Carmilla, she liked plants? Off to the other side of the screen was a orangey glow that Laura figured must’ve been a lit candle or maybe even a lamp with one of those old style Edison light bulbs. It could be either, Laura had a hunch Carmilla was a sucker for the industrial design but she has also said in a previous conversation that she loved candles too.

And there was Carmilla at the center of the screen, with her hair slightly damp still. She had traded her faithful leather jacket for a soft-looking, grey sweater and Laura loved this look. It wasn’t exactly the image her mind had created earlier with Carmilla clad in a towel and her bare shoulders poking out, but she actually didn’t mind that. This was Carmilla in comfy clothes, settling in for the night, not the badass façade she put on for everyone else. This was another example of the little changes Carmilla was talking about and Laura soaked it all in.  

“Hey there, Cupcake.” She greeted as usual once the video connected, but there was nothing usual about it this time because Laura could see her perfectly. She could see the way her lips moved around the words and how her eyes danced and the little twitch of a smile; she could see it all.

Laura’s breath caught in her throat; Carmilla was beautiful. But everyone knew that already.

“Uh hey!” Laura managed to say and shuffled a little nervously in her makeshift nest.

Another thing she would need to adjust to? Not being able to hide her obvious dumbfoundedness in front of a webcam.

She took a settling breath and refocused, eyes back on the screen before her. She willed herself to sound casual because she loved talking to Carmilla, there was a comfort there, and she needed to remember that.

“So how are you?” Laura asked after a quick pep talk.

“Well nothing new to report since the last time we spoke about,” Carmilla paused and peered down somewhere at the bottom of her screen, “Two hours ago.”

Laura rolled her eyes at the sass clearly present in Carmilla’s voice, but a smile grew nonetheless. The awkward tension slowly melted away.

“I don’t know what you do at night since someone likes to keep their secrets,” Laura teased, waving her hands about in the air. She talked with her hands a lot and now that she didn’t have to hold the phone, they were both free to wave around as they pleased. The sight made Carmilla chuckle.

“You could’ve just said you missed me,” Carmilla shrugged nonchalantly.

Laura’s jaw dropped a little and she thanked all the gods and goddesses out there that Carmilla just so happened to lean slightly off screen at that exact moment.

This was going to be an interesting video chat, Laura could already feel it.

“So, what are we going to watch?” Carmilla asked shortly after Laura imploded. She returned on screen fully with what looked to be a remote in her hand and thin, black rimmed glasses on her face. She must’ve pressed the On button because Carmilla was then illuminated in a different light, a variety of hues reflecting against the lenses.

Laura couldn’t stop the question from tumbling out, “You wear glasses?”

There was a lightness in her tone, somewhat playful and somewhat in disbelief.

Carmilla had been focused on flipping through the channels but when Laura’s question reached her, she paused and quirked her brow. Then with the tip of her finger, pushed the glasses up the bridge of her nose to settle somewhere more comfortably.

Laura found the whole thing endearing.

“Are you making fun of me?” She asked, still as stoic as ever although there was a slight sternness or maybe sadness to her tone.

Laura began to sputter thinking she might’ve crossed a line and made Carmilla feel insecure. Maybe Carmilla was self-conscious about having to wear glasses and here Laura was poking fun at her!  She felt horrible and began to backtrack, “No, no! I wasn’t trying to, I think they’re cute, it was just, I was just-“

Carmilla began to chuckle again at Laura getting so flustered.

Laura instantly stopped rambling and narrowed her eyes on Carmilla when she realized she was just messing with her, always ever so cunning. Laura wondered if Carmilla was ever going to stop with the teasing? In reality, she didn’t know if she wanted her to.

“You suck,” Laura grumbled, the color in her cheeks slowly returning to normal.

Carmilla just smirked, it was even deadlier over a webcam, “That bunched up little face you make when you're angry is hilarious.”

“Whatever, I’m not angry.” Laura huffed again, trying hard to stay just a little annoyed although it was a losing battle with the way Carmilla was looking at her.

“It was a compliment.” Carmilla tried to assure her, “And to answer your question, I wear contacts during the day and I didn’t feel like putting them back in. Happy?”

And with one look at Carmilla, the witty comeback Laura had come up with melted away; it was so frustrating! Kind of. So instead, Laura avoided the gaze all together and looked to her tv screen to try and find something they could watch.

/

Oddly enough, they settled on some off-brand True Crimes type of show. Laura quickly found that Carmilla questioned everything: motive, evidence, competence or the lack thereof. It was actually pretty entertaining, maybe even a little more entertaining than the show itself. Then again, maybe Laura just liked watching Carmilla get worked up over others’ stupidity. Apparently Laura wasn’t the only one prone to rants and tangents.

When her phone vibrated beside her during the commercial break of their second episode, Laura looked down and subconsciously checked off the possibilities of who it could be. She almost tossed the phone away completely when she came to the realization that she was already talking to the only person she could hope for.

Dad: Hi honey! I haven’t been able to get to the store, something with the car came up but I’m heading out tomorrow. I’ll drop it off later this week.

The text made Laura smile sadly as she began to type a reply. She hadn’t realized how much she was starting to miss her dad. She considered joking about nearly starving, but she refrained. She didn’t want to give him a heart attack.

“What is that look for?” Carmilla asked. Laura hadn’t realized she was being watched.

“What look?” She questioned and tried to perk back up, “This is my face.”

“Uh huh.” Carmilla was clearly not convinced.

“It’s just my dad.” Laura relented, “He’s just letting me know he’ll be stopping by this week with another box. I think I miss him.”

“Ah that’s right,” Carmilla hummed, “Your dad does your shopping for you.”

“Hey! I would love to go out and do it myself but-“ Laura narrowed her eyes again and started to get defensive but Carmilla was quick to cut in.

“I wasn’t teasing you,” She assured her and the softness in her voice was the only saving grace, “I just forgot is all. Parents caring about their kids is kind of a hard concept for me to grasp.” Then she shuffled back a little, resting against whatever that was behind her and brought both her knees up so that that the tops of them were just poking up from the bottom of the screen.

Laura frowned at the touch of melancholy in Carmilla’s tone.

“Why is that?” Laura asked hesitantly. There was always a 50/50 chance that Carmilla would share but there was also the chance she’d brush it off and change the subject. Laura wondered what she’d get this time.

Carmilla’s knees swayed from side to side, her eyes steady on something above the webcam, as her fingers began to fiddle with each other. She was nervous, Laura could tell, but the pause meant something. Like she was deciding whether or not to divulge the information.

Then Carmilla let out a heavy sigh, “Let’s just say that my mother isn’t exactly what you’d call a model parent.”

“Oh, my dad is nowhere near that either.” Laura tried to relate but Carmilla only shook her head.

“I’d rather your overprotective dad than my overbearing mother. At least you don’t wonder if he loves you, you can feel it.” Carmilla admitted and it made Laura’s whole body slump, her heart breaking in two because that was probably the saddest thing she had ever heard. But before she could press forward, Carmilla continued, “The only time I hear from my mother is when she calls me once every couple of months and that’s only to make sure that I’m not wasting my inheritance on frivolous things which is always a fun conversation because apparently majoring in Philosophy is considered frivolous. So yeah, you’ve seen how those phone calls end.”

Laura’s instantly transported to the day on the roof where she watched Carmilla crumble before her eyes. She remembered seeing her hurt and wanting nothing more to run over and hold her, but that was before she got to know her. Now that she did, it didn’t make it hurt any less.

“What about your dad?” Laura found herself asking after a pause.

Carmilla shook her head again, brows furrowed, “He hasn’t been around since I was young. It was just my siblings and my mother. Mattie practically raised Will and I, but she left as soon as she was old enough and I think I’ve always been a little envious of that. I couldn’t leave because I didn’t have any money or a place to go and there was Will and I couldn’t just leave him behind. I’m sure he would’ve been fine though, mother always favored him, but I couldn’t do it.” Carmilla paused and her fingers ran through her hair, “Sometimes I wonder how different my life would’ve been if I just ran away with Mattie. Would mother even care?”

Laura felt her throat closing as a lump formed there. She hated to see Carmilla so hurt, and just like the time she watched her fall apart on the roof, Laura itched to run over and hold her. She wished she could somehow absorb the girl’s pain and make it her own.

“I’m sorry, Carm.” Was all Laura could think of to say, but she wished there was something more.

“Don’t be,” Carmilla replied and slowly began to build her walls back up, “It’s fine. Mother was meant to come for a visit this month but it was cancelled obviously with everything going on. Isolation, you know, the gift that keeps on giving.”

Laura’s jaw clenched at Carmilla’s forced light-heartedness. She hated when Carmilla downplayed her feelings like that and she wanted her to know that she didn’t need to resort to it. Maybe it was something she grew up doing, she could only imagine what horrible habits she had to adopt in order to survive in an unloving home, but she wanted Carmilla to know that she didn’t have to do that with her.

And with another burst of confidence, Laura told her.

“It’s okay if talking about your mother makes you sad,” Laura offered. She watched the subtle changes in Carmilla’s facial expression as she spoke, suddenly hyper aware of the slight twitches and crinkles. Laura continued, “We’re friends now and I want you to feel comfortable when you talk to me. No judgment; just two friends having a chat about things that make us sad or mad or whatever other feelings that rhyme.”

Laura watched the apprehension slowly leave Carmilla’s features until a smile grew.

“Friends?” She asked and Laura shrugged.

“Yeah, friends.” Laura replied happily then began to feel a little self-conscious the longer Carmilla stared, “We talk to each other every day and we’ve just watched several episodes of crappy tv shows together, so yeah! I’d consider that a friendship. Don’t you?”

Carmilla licked her lips and time moved in slow motion. The little poke of her tongue taking Laura’s focus hostage as it ran across her bottom lip until it disappeared again. Then she bit down on said lip in thought and began to smile once more like she had decided something.

“I guess so.” Carmilla replied with a shrug, “Friends, then.”

Little did Laura know, that hesitation and the way Carmilla looked as she licked her lips would haunt her dreams in the best ways for several nights.

Chapter Text

The following day, Laura had taken to her usual spot on the roof with Carmilla on speaker. She had run out of instant noodles the night before so lunch today consisted of a can of fruit cocktail, crackers and peanut butter, and an expired packet of fruit snacks she found at the back of her pantry. Again, not one of her best combos but somewhat satisfying nonetheless.

Carmilla had cringed when Laura had let slip what her lunch was made up of today about halfway through their phone call. She was so concerned for her blood sugar that she even offered to order UberEats and have it delivered to Laura’s address. Laura refused, of course, because she was nearly done with her food anyway but she noted yet another example of Carmilla showing how she cared.

“When’s your dad coming again?” Carmilla asked as Laura tore open the packet of fruit snacks, “Does he know you’re eating all kinds of weird things?”

“It’s not weird, it’s resourceful. I’m using what I have,” Laura argued lightly, “And he said he was coming this week. I don’t want to ask him, he might worry.”

“As he should,” Carmilla chuckled then added, “Your questionable meal choices have reminded me that I need to make a run to the store too. Maybe after class later?”

 Laura found herself frowning; video chatting with Carmilla at night had become a new ritual that she hoped to adopt but she couldn’t if Carmilla wasn’t going to be home. She quickly realized how silly she was being and perked up to say, “That’s a good idea. Stock up. I’ve got pretty big plans too; I think there is a Harry Potter marathon starting around 6 so…have to get a good seat, you know.”

“Of course, you don’t want to miss out on that.” Carmilla replied and Laura could just barely hear the smirk, “It would totally beat keeping me company on the phone while I made the walk to the store.”

Laura’s eyes grew at the offer, “Oh! I could do that too, definitely, I can so multitask!”

“That’s good to hear,” Carmilla said, voice dipping a little lower than usual. The slight huskiness made Laura gulp. Carmilla continued, “I’ll call you when I’m on my way then?”

“Sounds great!” Laura replied a little eagerly. She didn’t even try to mask her excitement; God, she could be so embarrassing sometimes. But she found she was beginning to care a little less about that. Just a little though.

/

Laura expected her final class of the day to drag on, but it actually flew right by. When the professor began to dismiss the class for the day, Laura felt like no time had gone at all. Maybe it was the fact that she had actually enjoyed the lecture or maybe it was the anticipation of what was to come after that kept her distracted. She was thankful either way though and set off to busy herself with homework and assignments until Carmilla called.

Her phone began to ring half an hour later and Laura excitedly answered. She felt like a giddy school girl as she bounded over the back of her couch and plopped unceremoniously down on the cushions. They spent the next hour or so talking like always; talking about each other’s final class of the day, what was on Carmilla’s grocery list, what Laura would put on her grocery list, and occasionally Carmilla would describe something she walked past in great detail like a mural or over-grown vines that were kind of shaped like cats because she thought it might interest Laura. Of course, Carmilla could read her the dictionary and Laura would still find anything she said fascinating.

It wasn’t until Carmilla was on her way back that Laura had realized just how comfortable she had gotten with being on the phone with the girl. She was currently hanging upside down off her couch, watching her socked toes wiggle as Carmilla hummed a song that had gotten stuck in her head when she was at the store. As soon as the tune played, Carmilla cursed the store’s taste in music and began grumpily humming it as she walked down the aisles. Carmilla blamed the catchy melodies despite actually hating the song. Laura found the whole thing hilarious and started humming along too which didn’t help Carmilla’s case.

But now, Carmilla wasn’t so grumpy sounding as she hummed. She sounded at peace and the moment reminded Laura of all the little moments of serenity she had felt over the past days.

“You’re not falling asleep over there, are you?” Carmilla asked, interrupting Laura’s thoughts.

“I’m not,” Laura assured her and glanced over at the clock on the wall, “It’s not that late. Plus, Hermione is about to punch Draco in his stupid face. Can’t miss that!”

“Just checking,” Carmilla replied amusedly, “I’m almost home now.”

“That’s good,” Laura answered and felt a yawn beg to escape. She stifled it, she hadn’t thought she was tired but maybe she was wrong.

“Can you come downstairs?” The question came out so soft that Laura almost missed it.

“Like…right now?” Laura asked, suddenly twisting to sit upright.

“In like 10 minutes, maybe? I just want to put my bags down first.”

“Like…downstairs as in go outside?” A million thoughts raced through Laura’s head but the one that stuck out the most was the fact 4 building stories worth of air would no longer separate them. She almost couldn’t get her head around it.

Carmilla paused and asked hesitantly, “Is…that okay?”

Laura blinked and nodded then realized Carmilla couldn’t see her nodding and replied, “Oh. Yeah! Sure. Totally!”

When Carmilla hung up because her elevator was notorious for dropping calls, Laura bolted to her room to change out of sweatpants and a stained t-shirt. She grabbed whatever acceptable articles of clothing she could find because 10 minutes wasn’t a lot of time for an impromptu fashion show. The outfit ended up being a pair of ripped jeans and an owl sweater; not her best but it would do.

 She grabbed her keys and slid her phone in her back pocket before heading down. It had been weeks since she had exited the actual building, the closest she had ever gone was checking her mailbox in the lobby but that was it. She hadn’t physically left the building probably since the lockdown took effect and she would be lying if the thought of leaving didn’t make her feel just slightly uneasy.

But that feeling quickly vanished once she pushed at the front doors and her eyes landed on a familiar girl across the street, a girl that she only had the pleasure of seeing through a webcam until now. But there Carmilla was, clad in her dark jeans and leather jacket, her hair piled atop her head in a cute messy bun. She lifted two fingers to her brow and saluted, her lips pulled into a half-grin. Laura waved in return then watched as Carmilla tapped at her phone which in turn made hers begin to ring. A single road was all that separated them now, not rooftops, just a road. She couldn’t believe it, Carmilla was right there. Without tearing her eyes away from the sight of Carmilla being that close, Laura answered the call.

“You’re a lot shorter than I thought.” Were the first words Carmilla decided to go with and it made Laura instantly roll her eyes.

“You don’t look much taller so I wouldn’t be talking, Karnstein.” Laura countered to which Carmilla snorted out a laugh.

“Maybe so. I came bearing gifts.” Carmilla replied. Laura frowned, Carmilla wasn’t holding anything. Carmilla must’ve thought her confusion was hilarious because she then said through a grin and pointed, “On your left.”

Laura turned to her left and found a brown paper bag atop the stone ledge of her building’s stoop.

“What’s this?” She asked but Carmilla didn’t answer.

She took the couple steps closer, eyes flickering from the bag to Carmilla then back to the bag. She wedged her phone between her ear and shoulder and reached for it, the paper crinkling at her touch, before peering inside.

 

To her surprise, it was food, her favorite! She did her best to delve into the bag while still managing to keep her phone pressed to her ear. She found that it contained a box of cereal she had never tried called Chokoa Crunch, a couple green apples and some sort of tasty-looking sub sandwich.

“I figured you might need a little more sustenance than what you’ve been trying to pass off as an actual meal, at least until your dad drops off a real package,” Carmilla said breaking the silence, “I tried to grab things you’ve talked about eating before, but I wasn’t too sure about the cereal so I just picked my favorite. Hope that’s okay?”

Laura could tell she was trying to come off casual, but she didn’t miss the little waver in her voice. Carmilla was nervous and it made her heart soar.

“It’s definitely okay! I’m not really a picky eater, but you probably know that already. Not that I would complain because you really didn’t have to do this,” The words died on Laura’s lips once she realized she was beginning to ramble, “This is so perfect, Carm. Thank-“

Laura’s heart almost dropped to her stomach when she reached the bottom of the bag and found she hadn’t seen everything Carmilla packed. Her fingers grazed over the edge of the packaging and pulled out the exact same pack of cookies she had told Carmilla about so long ago. She remembered it clearly, the day they had talked about all the little things they missed being in isolation. For Carmilla, it was good coffee and chocolate croissants and for Laura it was this.

The sight almost made her eyes water, but then she realized she would be crying over a package of cookies and thought that might be a little dramatic.

“You went all the way to Sixth Street?” Laura mumbled, tearing her eyes away from the bag to look at Carmilla.

Carmilla just shrugged, hand moving to hideaway in the pocket of her jacket, “I was in the neighborhood. I figured they might at least be somewhat better than expired fruit snacks. Or if you hated everything else I got, at least there was that.”

Laura knew where Carmilla went to do her grocery shopping and it was nowhere close to Sixth Street. She would’ve had to go out of her way to get this for her, that was the only explanation. Maybe she was in the neighborhood? Laura doubted it, but she also couldn’t understand why Carmilla would go out of her way just for her. There must’ve been another reason for Carmilla to be on that side of town, Laura just couldn’t figure it out.

“You didn’t have to do all this,” Laura said again, a soft smile playing at her lips.

“Well we’re friends now, right?” Carmilla lifted her shoulder, “Isn’t this what they do, save them from high blood pressure or whatever?”

Laura bit her lip at the label, a label she put into place. Oddly enough, she didn’t think she had ever heard Carmilla acknowledge their friendship aloud before until now. She should be happy that Carmilla was taking the title of friend seriously, and she was, but she also felt a little weird about it and she wasn’t sure why.

But this was progress and Laura took what she could get.

“You’re right. Thanks Carm, it’s really sweet of you.” Laura managed to say after just staring at the girl, trying to figure her out. She also contemplated running over to her, to hell with social distancing, but Laura was stuck to her spot.

“It really wasn’t a big deal,” Carmilla tried brushing off, kicking her combat boot at a dry leaf on the ground. There she was trying to sound casual again, but it was a sad attempt at downplaying the fact that she cared. If Laura wasn’t so in awe, she might’ve tried teasing her, payback for all the other times the roles were reversed but she spared her. Then she added softly, “You’re welcome.”

Carmilla’s eyes had averted the moment Laura called her sweet, Laura noticed, but she didn’t mind the sudden bashfulness. It gave Laura the opportunity to really see Carmilla for who she was, a sweet girl beneath leather and sarcasm that did kind things for others. Scratch that, Carmilla was a sweet girl beneath leather and sarcasm that did kind things for her friends.

And maybe Laura wasn’t 100% sure that Carmilla was into her, but she sure was 100% sure she was very much into Carmilla.

Chapter Text

So since the other day, Laura had two realizations. The first being that Chokoa Crunch was freaking amazing and it quickly jumped to the top of her list of favorite cereals ever. She wondered where it had been her whole life and why she hadn’t tried it sooner! The second wasn’t as easy as the first for Laura to acknowledge. It was something that went against everything she had been trying to separate herself from, all the deflecting and topic evading was going to be pointless if she ever admitted it aloud. Yet, here she was unable to put up the front any longer. The second realization was the fact that she had the biggest, gayest crush ever on Carmilla Karnstein.

Her friend.

Crushes on friends weren’t supposed to be a thing! Crushes were meant to be on people that she actually had a chance with, not a girl she met on a roof barely a month ago. This was something Laura struggled with in the past; as soon as someone did anything nice for her it was like a switch going off in her head and feelings would begin to develop. Of course it would happen now! Just because Carmilla did one, or two, or three nice things for Laura over the past few days didn’t mean it was okay for her to go and develop a crush!

But why not? Laura found herself thinking. If it was so wrong then how come it felt so right? Great, she’s now moved onto clichés. This was bad.

But the only explanation she could think of was that she just couldn’t. Why ruin a perfectly good friendship with squishy feelings?

And thus began Laura’s current predicament.

/

When their joint day off of classes rolled around, Laura awoke with extra excitement. Sure she had spent a lot of the time trying to come to terms with the fact that she indeed had a crush on Carmilla and sure she daydreamed too much about holding her hand and maybe kissing her, but she was starting to get pretty good at reminding herself that Carmilla was a friend above anything else. Friends kept promises and Laura was a stickler for upholding promises so when their day off approached she reminded Carmilla of a deal they once made. A deal that involved Laura teaching Carmilla how to use her French Press.

The day before the lesson was to take place, Laura was overcome with another boost of confidence. Somehow she managed to breach the topic of Carmilla possibly coming over instead of what they intended to do which was video chat. She amazed even herself when the question came tumbling out.

“Very funny, Hollis.” Carmilla chuckled but when she found Laura wasn’t laughing she stopped, “Wait, you’re serious?”

Laura’s hand griped at the back of her neck as she replied, “Well yeah?”

“Uh, is that kind of thing…allowed?” Carmilla asked with a noticeable waver to her voice. Laura could just picture Carmilla’s perfectly sculpted brow arching at her with concern.

Laura was surprised, by both the tone and the laughable thought that Carmilla was actually a law-abiding citizen under all that leather. Not that the quality is a bad thing in someone especially during times like this, it was just unexpected coming from Carmilla who painted herself as rebellious and uncaring. Laura should’ve known it was just an act, she already myth-busted the uncaring part.

Laura also wondered if she might’ve crossed a line in bringing up a possible meeting in person. They hadn’t really ever talked about it before. Even when Carmilla dropped off her version of a care package, she kept her distance and then some. She didn’t even cross the street! So it got Laura thinking that maybe she should’ve thought the question through before blurting it. She didn’t want to push Carmilla if she wasn’t comfortable, so she proceeded cautiously.  

“I think so. It’s not like I’m throwing a party or anything. It’ll just be us and that’s under the restricted limit.” Laura suggested lightly, “I can double check with current rules if you like but I’m pretty sure we’ll be okay. It’s up to you though. I just thought we spend all day attending online lectures. I don’t want this to be another one.”

“I see your point.” Carmilla replied thoughtfully.

Laura continued, moving to pick at a loose thread of her sweater, “Plus, it would be kind of nice to share a cup of coffee with a friend…in person. It’s been so long.”

Only the slightest crinkle in Laura’s nose formed at the way the word friend fell so easily from her lips. That was progress, but if Carmilla was going to come over she would need to work a bit harder to be convincing.

Carmilla hesitated a moment and then finally said, “I suppose I’d have to agree with you on that one.” Then she paused again as if she were rolling the thought around in her mind until finally, “Well, when would you like me to come over?”

“Yes!” Laura cheered and pumped her fist in the air then did a little spin on her toes. She nearly slipped but recovered quite gracefully, her finger moving up to tap at her chin, “How about 8?”

Carmilla let out the most adorable sounding, non-threatening growl at Laura’s suggestion. Laura thought about a possible pout or maybe a cute scowl Carmilla might be wearing, but that didn’t help with her whole no-crushes-on-friends­ mantra.

“Way too early.” Carmilla grumbled, making Laura giggle.

“Okay, okay. How about 10?” Laura suggested once more.

“Much better.” Carmilla hummed, “I’ll see you then.”

Laura shook her head happily and, once the call ended, set off to tidy the apartment. It was going to be her first guest in weeks and Carmilla’s first visit ever; Laura wanted to at least make a decent good impression!

Aside from making sure the house was clean, Laura also knew of something else she could do that would make Carmilla’s visit even better. Her dad would probably flip if he ever found out, but she wouldn’t dare let her little adventure slip.

So when morning came, she took her time getting ready since her body clock ended up being ahead of her actual alarm. She showered, even shaved, and put in some thought when picking out her outfit for the day. Afterall, this was the day she would physically meet Carmilla. She wanted to look good, not because she had a crush on the girl, but because first impressions were important! So once she applied just a hint of makeup, the first time since the lockdown took place, she slipped into her shoes and a jacket and headed out onto the street.

Carmilla wasn’t the only one who could go out of their way to do something nice.  

/

Laura’s earlier excitement had slowly intwined with nervousness the closer it got to Carmilla’s arrival. Carmilla had texted her earlier with a Good Morning Cupcake! which was followed by texts asking if she needed to bring anything to which Laura said no and then another later saying she’d be around in 15 minutes which launched Laura in a flurry around her house to make sure everything was perfect.

She turned on the news but kept it muted for a little background movement while she moved to play some pre-made playlist over her Bluetooth speaker that sort of fit the mood she was trying to create. She didn’t really know what kind of music Carmilla liked, but she didn’t strike her as someone who listened to the same Top 40 hits Laura did. She figured a mix of acoustic covers dotted with upbeat songs was a good choice.

The curtains were drawn and let in a bunch of natural light despite it being a little overcast today. She even lit one of her favorite candles, one she had been saving for a special occasion because she loved the scent so much. She figured now was as good of a time as any to light it and soon the living room was filled with hints of lemongrass and clove.

In the kitchen, Laura had set up all her coffee making supplies on her island counter ready for her demonstration. She was no stranger to doing tutorials, something she had dabbled with in the past, so she was totally in her element. Not that using a French Press needed this level of seriousness, it really wasn’t that hard of a concept, but she wanted to be authentic if Carmilla was going through all the trouble to come over.

When there was a soft knock at the front door, Laura nearly fainted. She reminded herself that she was the one to suggest this and she needed to keep her cool.

This was just a friend coming over for a coffee. So what if the friend happens to be super attractive? You have self-control, it’s fine. You got this, Hollis! There is nothing to freak out over.   

She palmed at her hair, hoping to keep down any fly-a-ways, then adjusted her blouse. She took one steadying breath and nodded confidently as she turned the knob and opened the door.

Laura’s practiced greeting died at the base of her throat as she pulled the door further to reveal Carmilla standing before her just a mere arm’s length away, if even. The typical leather jacket she usually wore had been replaced by a faded red flannel. It looked to be just a size too big, the baggy sleeves rolled up to her elbows, and the hem ending a little past the hips of her dark jeans. Beneath the flannel was a deep grey crop top which revealed a strip of pale skin in the space between the top and her jeans. Laura knew instantly she would have hard time keeping her gaze elsewhere, but started practicing now and looked back up. Carmilla’s hair was slightly wavy and fell just past her shoulders, her lips tinged with a faint blush of pink, contrast to the smokey eyeshadow and dark lashes.

Carmilla was stunning at a distance, in pictures, over webcams but nothing compared to witnessing her beauty in person.

Laura soon realized she was staring and quickly rushed to greet her properly.

“Hey!” Laura forced out a little too loudly at the very last minute before she could further embarrass herself. She wondered if she should shake her hand or bump elbows or even hug her, but her limbs refused to work so that answered that question.

“Hey.” Carmilla grinned, a cross between a smile and a smirk.

Laura blinked, finding the grin super distracting. She couldn’t remember what came next now, that’s how long Laura lasted before her first short-circuit of the day. It was barely a minute!

“Are you going to invite me in or are we doing this thing in the hallway?” Carmilla asked, a playful teasing tone to her voice. A tone that Laura had started to find comfort in, a tone that she was growing to love. It was enough to snap her out of the daze and she quickly straightened up.

“Sorry! Yes! Please, come in.” Laura said and shuffled out of the way so Carmilla could walk past. She watched as Carmilla wandered through, taking in the new surroundings. It was a little weird to see someone in her space, let alone that someone being Carmilla. It was like two worlds colliding and Laura just stood there and watched it all unfold.

“Nice place,” Carmilla commented as her eyes danced around the room before turning to face Laura who stopped behind her, “It fits you.”

Laura frowned a little, unsure if that was a compliment or just an observation, “Thanks?”

Carmilla just nodded and lingered in the space between the living room and kitchen, like she wasn’t sure where she should settle. She looked to the couch then looked to the stools by the kitchen, hesitating.

That’s when Laura realized she was meant to be a host and she wasn’t being a very good one so far.

Perry would be so disappointed in her.

“Here, have a seat.” Laura gestured to the stool at the island counter, “I’m sure you’re ready for a coffee but did you want a water or something too? I don’t really have anything else.”

“Water is fine,” Carmilla smiled and slid on the stool offered.

“Okay cool,” Laura reached for a couple glasses to fill before twisting to turn on the kettle. She would need the hot water for her lesson and it took a little time for the water to boil.  

Silence fell over them but it was comfortable, like the kind of silence over the phone when Laura would be concentrating on her notes and Carmilla would be nose deep in a book. The familiarity made Laura relax a little more. Once the glass she was filling neared full, she slid it over to Carmilla.

“Thanks,” Carmilla said then glanced over her shoulder like she was looking for something and asked, “What song is this?”

Laura turned the faucet off to get a better listen, but she found she didn’t know the song either.

“I’m not sure, it’s just a random playlist I’ve found.” She said like it was an excuse. She fished out her phone from her pocket and tapped at the screen to reveal the Spotify player. Laura read aloud, “It’s called Crush.”

For some reason, Laura tensed as she said the song title out loud but she figured she was just being paranoid. She was just saying the name of the song, not revealing a deep dark secret. She needed to chill out.

But as she started to listen to the song she become really aware of the lyrics and it made it all even worse, because she too was just a girl trying to play it cool around her crush.

Carmilla didn’t notice Laura stiffen like a deer in the headlights, just subtly bobbed her head to the beat which Laura found surprising. She thought it would be a bit too poppy for Carmilla’s tastes, but Carmilla was always changing it up on her when Laura thought she’d finally had her figured out; why would music be any different?

“You like it?” Laura asked although she suspected she knew the answer already.

“It’s catchy.” Carmilla commented ambiguously. Laura briefly remembered the catchy grocery store songs that Carmilla grumped about the other day, songs she also labeled as catchy, and became a little self-conscious. But that didn’t last long when Carmilla refocused on Laura and asked, “So do you need me to help you or something?”

“With the coffee? I figured I can just show you if you want?” Laura offered as the kettle began to whistle.

Carmilla just shrugged, “Whatever works for you is cool with me, boss.”

“Okay, well let’s get started then.” Laura started, switching into teaching mode.

Carmilla only dropped her chin to the palm of her hand and propped herself up on her elbow, watching intently as Laura began the lesson.

/

Laura lost that nervous feeling the longer she and Carmilla shared the same space, adjusting to what it was like being around each other in person rather than over a phone or webcam. It was surprisingly easy, despite Laura occasionally having to mentally checking herself if her stare happened to linger too long. She was thankful that Carmilla remained seated so her midriff remained out of sight the whole time. That helped Laura a lot.

 Carmilla never seemed to notice Laura’s struggle or, if she did, she never seemed to mind. She made her usual snarky jokes and playful jabs like nothing had changed. Laura envied her for that.

“This is a lot of work for a coffee,” Carmilla noted when Laura broke out the kitchen scale.

“It’s not, I promise.” Laura replied, trying to sound encouraging.

Carmilla just cradled her chin with both her hands now and peered up at Laura through her lashes, “Can’t I just come over here every morning and have you make it for me?”

It took everything in Laura to keep from melting into a puddle on her kitchen floor, but she remained standing. If she was going to have a successful friendship with Carmilla, she couldn’t bend at every cute smile or flutter of eyelashes. She was better than that! She had will power! Or something?

“No, I can’t do it for you,” Laura did her best to sound convincing and added, “It’s like that one saying. You know? The one about teaching a fisherman to fish or whatever?”

She kept her eyes steady on the digital numbers displayed on the scale, waiting for the right one with each sprinkle of grounds. She tried to push away thoughts of making enough coffee in the morning for two and seeing Carmilla at the start of her day and how nice that would be. She couldn’t allow herself to go down that route, it was too domestic for friends.

Carmilla chuckled then recited, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

“Yes! That one!” Laura replied as she scooped out the correct amount of coffee grounds, “I’m trying to teach you to fish, but with coffee.”

“Doubt you can catch many fish with coffee, Cupcake.” Carmilla shrugged nonchalantly, swinging her legs off the stool to stand closer to Laura.

“Very funny.” Laura deadpanned, noting how lame Carmilla could be. But she quickly grew aware of the girl’s movement, even more so now that her senses were beginning to cloud with the scent of her. She couldn’t quite place the scent; it wasn’t necessarily perfume but more so a mix of laundry soap and shampoo with hints of something deeper like leather-bound books and campfire smoke. It was so Carmilla and Laura found herself wondering if she could get a candle that mimicked those scents that she could light whenever she got lonely.  

Laura gulped at the meaning of the thought, but quickly refocused on talking Carmilla through proper water to coffee ratios and why she used a scale.

“I don’t have a scale.” Carmilla admitted, her hand coming to brace herself against the edge of the counter as she leaned almost against Laura’s shoulder to get a closer look, “You’ll just have to do it for me.”

Laura rolled her eyes and bit her cheek as she began pouring the boiling water into the glass. Carmilla’s words sounded an awful lot like flirting, but Laura was also not very good on picking up hints so she doubted that’s what was happening.

Friends don’t have crushes on friends and they definitely don’t flirt with each other either.  

She chanced a glance in Carmilla’s direction and replied flatly, “I’ve got an extra I can give you. Problem solved.”

“You’re just full of answers, aren’t you? Carmilla teased in a tone that mimicked the same flirtiness as before, showing off a brilliant smile.

Laura couldn’t help but falter in the eye contact, her gaze drifting for just a second to rest on Carmilla’s lips. Everything in her was begging to look away, but she just couldn’t. They looked so soft, Laura could bet they were and she could totally find out for herself if she just moved a tiny bit closer because they were right there!

There was a buzzing in her head, flashing lights and alarms going off wildly, but she couldn’t tell if they were trying to warn her of something or dare her to move, move, move-

“Motherfucker!” Laura gasped when she soon got her answer. She realized she was still pouring boiling water and it had overflowed onto her poor hand.

“Shit. Quick, under the water.” Carmilla motioned, griping Laura’s wrist and pulling her towards the kitchen sink. She turned on the water and let it run coolly over the part of Laura’s hand that was beginning to tinge red.

Laura’s whole hand felt on fire, but she couldn’t tell if it was from the boiling water or Carmilla’s touch. Unfortunately, she would never find out because Carmilla never let her go.

“Who knew Laura Hollis had such a potty mouth.” Carmilla smirked after what felt like hours of running Laura’s hand under the water. In typical Carmilla fashion, she attempted to make light of the whole situation which actually relieved some of Laura’s embarrassment. Maybe Carmilla did know what she was doing after all?

Laura rolled her eyes though and grinned before offering an explanation a little timidly, “It slips out when I get surprised.”

“I can see that.” Carmilla chuckled then gestured over her shoulder, “I didn’t think this French Press thing could be so dangerous.”

“That’s never happened before,” Laura assured her, she was really failing at showing Carmilla how the tiny bit of work would be worth it in the end now that she had sustained a minor injury. Laura bit her lip and kept her eyes on Carmilla’s fingers wrapped around her wrist; it was all too much.

“You okay?” Carmilla asked after a pause, sounding a little more concerned this time. There was that same soft tone again beneath the surface, the same one that sounded too close to tenderness. It made Laura shiver.

Laura swallowed thickly and blinked away, “Yeah, I think we can turn the water off now.”

Carmilla nodded and pulled away from Laura’s wrist to pass her the hand towel hanging off the oven handle. Laura took it graciously and started to dry off, sort of missing the feel of Carmilla’s fingers on her skin already.

“Sorry about that.” Laura found herself apologizing for the mess as she used the same towel to clean up the spilled water on the counter.

“Only you would apologize for an accident,” Carmilla chuckled dryly then nodded to the coffee things, “How about I try this time? You can just talk me through it instead?”

“Okay, sure.” Laura agreed and moved to stand at the end of the counter so Carmilla had some space to move, “So first thing, we’re going to have to start over with the coffee grounds so you’ll need to dump that and clean out the wet grounds.”

Carmilla nodded and did as Laura said, following the girl’s instructions with precision until she managed to brew a perfect cup of coffee. The kitchen soon filled with she aroma of fresh coffee, mixing with the scent of Carmilla and the smell of her lit candle.

“What do you think?” Laura asked after they both took their first sips, “It’s not as good as the kind you’d get from an actual coffee shop but it has to be better than instant?”

A satisfied grin began to form just over the top of Carmilla’s mug before it disappeared again for a second sip. Laura took that as a sign of approval and took another sip too before remembering what she picked up earlier.

“Oh, I almost forgot!” Laura gasped so suddenly it made Carmilla flinch. She spun on her toes and opened the oven; she had stashed the brown bag there for the time being hoping it would help keep some warmth. She slid the bag onto the counter in front of Carmilla before going to find a couple small plates.

“What’s in here?” Carmilla asked as she set her mug down and poked at the bag like she was afraid something inside was going to jump out at her.

Laura chuckled, returning with two plates which she placed in front of them, “Open it.”

Carmilla quirked a brow in question then moved to delicately peek into the bag.

Laura watched her expression, her whole body buzzing once again with excitement.

Carmilla blinked and her lips parted only slightly as she opened the bag wider until it tore at the corners to reveal a couple chocolate croissants, all perfectly golden and flakey. Disbelief covered her face as she finally looked to Laura who wore the biggest, goofiest grin.

“You went to Marco’s?” Carmilla asked breathlessly.

“Yup!” Laura answered proudly, “You can’t really have a coffee without pastries so I went this morning so I could get fresh ones. I had a ham and cheese scroll thing on the way home, I couldn’t wait. But you’re so right, they’re delicious! I’ve never been to France or anything so I don’t really have anything worthy to compare it to, so I’ll just have to take your word for it. I can totally see why they’re your favorite though.” Laura paused to take a breath and pressed her lips together guiltily, “Sorry, I’m rambling.”  

Carmilla stayed silent though a wrinkle deepened between her brows in thought, “Why did you do this?”

Laura had an easy answer for that and merely shrugged, “I figured if you could go out of your way for me, then I can go out of my way for you too.”

A smile crept onto Carmilla’s lips as she set the bag back down on the table. She shook her head and leaned just a little closer to Laura. “I told you, I didn’t go out of my way.” She said sternly, but it was diminished by the sparkle in her eye. She tried to further remind Laura of the excuse she used on her the other day, “I was in the neighborhood, it’s different.”

“It really isn’t,” Laura challenged, eyes steady on Carmilla’s, too busy trying to make her point to notice she had moved just a little closer as well.

Carmilla raised both her brows questioningly and edged closer, “And why not?”

Laura tried to match Carmilla’s arrogance but she faltered under Carmilla’s practiced gaze. Still, she stood her ground and said, “Why can’t you just say thanks Laura you’re the best? That’s what most people do when someone does something nice for them. They say thank you.”

Carmilla looked to the side and let out another chuckle then licked her lips like she was preparing herself. She didn’t respond yet though, taking a moment as her eyes shifted between Laura’s.

Thanks Laura, you’re the best.” Carmilla finally recited through a soft smile.

If it was any other time, Laura would have been a little annoyed with the borderline sarcasm but she just couldn’t bring herself to be anything but enamored with the way Carmilla looked at her. Although Carmilla attempted to sound like the very idea of being thankful was a complete hassle, her tone betrayed her. Along with her smile and those eyes; it was all the proof Laura needed to sense Carmilla’s true feelings.

It was like Carmilla had never had anyone do something nice for her and it showed. Laura briefly wondered if it could be true now that she knew a little more about Carmilla. From the few details Carmilla provided, Laura doubted the girl’s mother ever showed Carmilla any type of kindness. She hoped that maybe things were different between her siblings, but she doubted that too.

Laura hated the thought that kindness could be so foreign to Carmilla and silently vowed that she’d do her best to change that. Carmilla was sweet and caring and she deserved kindness too. She deserved all the good things.

And just like that, Laura’s eyes started to flutter close and she began to give into the magnetic pull drawing her to Carmilla. Her heart was pounding so hard that she felt it in her ears and the flashes in her head from earlier were set off once again. It was like everything was moving on instinct now and she couldn’t stop. She ignored all the warnings and continued moving closer and closer and closer-

“Fuck.” Laura flinched when a heavy knock came from the direction of the front door and broke the trance. Her eyes opened to find she was just a breath’s away from Carmilla’s lips, their noses nearly pressed together.

“There’s that potty mouth again,” Carmilla smirked, voice husky.

Laura only gulped, suddenly hyper aware of the newfound closeness, and glanced up at Carmilla’s darkened eyes.

They were unreadable and it was enough to have Laura putting as much distance between them as possible. Her back hit the opposite counter before her feet carried her out of the kitchen.

She almost slipped up, she couldn’t believe it, she was doing so freaking well!  

Laura’s face felt flushed as she rushed over to the door and peered through the peephole. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust but they widened instantly at the sight, “You have got to be kidding me.”

“What?” Carmilla asked, a little worried. The sound made Laura flinch again, she couldn’t deal with hearing Carmilla speak right now. There was too much going on; one thing at a time first.

Laura pulled the door open and plastered on a smile that she hoped conveyed the message of No I did not just almost do that.

“Hi honey!” Sherman Hollis greeted loudly and pulled Laura into a tight bear hug before Laura could even get a word out.

“Hey dad.” Laura wheezed against his shoulder, giving him a pat on the back.

He let go after a couple seconds and bent down to lift a large box, “How are you? Sorry I hadn’t called beforehand, I hope I’m not interrupting your studies.” He took two steps in and almost dropped the box on Laura’s foot when he saw Carmilla who was now perched on a stool. Her fingers were ghosting over her bottom lip and Laura watched every movement, hypnotized, but she dropped her hand to her lip the instant Sherman laid eyes on her.

Sherman set the box down properly and reached for a can of disinfectant strapped to his belt, “Laura…who is this?”

“Dad, this is my friend.” Laura punctuated the last word like she was trying to remind herself of the title. Friend, friend, friend she repeated in her head like a mantra. She reached over to stop his hands from fully detaching the can and gave him a stern look before glancing at the girl in question, “Carmilla. Carmilla, this is my dad, Sherman.”

“Hello sir,” Carmilla answered politely but Sherman just stayed silent, gaze moving back and forth from Carmilla to Laura.

“Laura, can I speak with you for just a moment?” He finally said.

With Laura’s many years of experience, she knew exactly what was coming and began damage control before he exploded.

“Dad, don’t.” Laura tried to warn but she was too late.

Sherman began lecturing about social distancing and restrictions and a zombie apocalypse which Laura didn’t know what that had anything to do with. She knew he used a lot of hypotheticals when he was worked up and seeing Laura had a guest when she was meant to be isolating was a sure fire way to get him worked up.

“I should go,” Carmilla muttered and awkwardly stood but Laura was quick turn to her.

“Wait Carm, stay.” Laura pleaded. Carmilla looked unsure but hesitated anyway. Laura smiled guiltily and looked back to Sherman, “Dad please, just slow down. I’ve been holed up in my apartment the entire time, I’ve done everything you’ve said. I’ve abided by all the rules, yours and the government’s. Carmilla has literally been my only visitor and she’s been isolating too. I’m washing my hands all the time and I haven’t even left this room except for-“

Laura instantly froze: crap.

“Except for what?” Sherman was nearing max worry capacity, he was going to need a paper bag to breathe into soon.

“The mail.” Laura was surprised to hear Carmilla’s voice and turned to see her watching. She took a step closer to Laura and added, “Laura only leaves to check the mail.”

Laura was relieved at the save and reminded herself to thank Carmilla later. She smiled gratefully to her, hoping her dad couldn’t see then turned back around, “Yes. The mail. I wear the gloves you gave me too.”

“And you spray it with the disinfectant I made for you?” Sherman questioned like it was a test.

“Of course.” Laura answered easily and Sherman sort of relaxed. She put a comforting hand on his shoulder and spoke softly, “See dad? You’ve taught me well. You have nothing to worry about, okay? I’m a big girl and I can handle it.”

She thought about maybe adding in the fact that she probably could do her own shopping too, but she didn’t want to go overboard. Baby steps were good.

“Right.” He said, a lot calmer now. He looked from Laura to Carmilla and softened even further, “I’m sorry, Carmilla was it?” Carmilla nodded at the question and Sherman continued, “I’m sorry, Carmilla, I’m a bit of a worrywart.”

That’s an understatement, Laura thought.

“As any good father would be during these times,” Carmilla replied again, the ease of words another shock to Laura. Carmilla took another step closer, now she was just behind Laura. If she were to take a half-step backwards, their bodies would probably collide.

Laura remained frozen in place, not wanting to test the theory.  

Sherman chuckled and looked to Laura, “I like this one. She gets it.”

Laura felt the tips of her ears warm, because she could agree with that.

“So what are you guys up to anyway?” Sherman asked, lifting the box again to bring into Laura’s kitchen. They had all been sort of lingering near the front door since he had unexpectedly arrived.

“Oh I was teaching Carm-“ Laura turned quickly to show Sherman the coffees when she smacked right into Carmilla’s chest. She instantly blushed when she found that she was basically staring down at her lips, “Sorry.”

Carmilla just snickered and stepped to the side, moving to rest against the back of Laura’s couch instead as she watched from afar.

Laura pushed her hair behind her ear nervously, trying to recover but found that her dad was now eyeing her suspiciously from behind the island counter.

“What?” Laura asked, feeling too exposed for her liking.

Sherman only grinned as he set down the box on the counter.  He waited until Laura was a little closer, although there was no way to be completely out of Carmilla’s earshot in her tiny apartment. He whispered to Laura, “A Friend, huh?”

“Dad..” Laura groaned. She could not catch a break!

“She seems nice. Why didn’t you tell me about her? I could’ve prepared a care package for her too.” He tried whispering again but judging by how hard Carmilla was trying to hide her smile, he wasn’t doing a good job.

“Dad, can we talk about this later?” Laura said, glancing over at Carmilla hiding her mouth behind her hand, “She’s literally right there. She can hear every word.”

“Okay, okay.” Sherman nodded and held his hands up in defeat, “I just want to make sure you guys are being safe.”

“Okay! That’s enough of that.” Laura gasped, face completely beet red. She began pushing at her dad’s side to get him closer to the front door all while Carmilla snickered quietly from her spot.

“What? Did I say something wrong?” Sherman asked as he let Laura push him, “You know, they’re expecting a lot of November/December babies to be born because of all this. Too many lovebirds cooped up in the same place for too long, there might be another baby boom.”

“Not something I need to worry about, dad, thank you!” Laura shrieked and gave him one last hug, “Thank you for everything, I love you, and I’ll see you next time. Goodbye!”

Sherman gave her a big grin, the kind of grin that told Laura he knew he was pushing her buttons on purpose, before saying his goodbyes to the girls.

Laura closed the door behind her and slumped against it, eyes closed as her head tilted back. She was completely mortified for a multitude of reasons, she didn’t know where to begin!

“Well that was quality entertainment.” Carmilla teased, causing Laura to glance over at her. She had moved back into the kitchen now, the coffee mug in one hand as she lifted the chocolate croissant to her lips.

Laura tried her best to scowl, but it was useless against Carmilla’s smirk. So instead she just let out a tired groan and grumbled, “Shut up and eat your pastry.”   

Chapter Text

It took a little time for Laura to somewhat recover from all that happened the other day. She couldn’t stop thinking about the almost kiss and what the heck she was thinking that led her to almost doing that! She could’ve ruined their entire friendship all because she couldn’t keep her feelings in check.

But part of her tried to convince herself that she couldn’t be that dense. While her head tried to dismiss the whole thing, her heart thought differently. It tried to paint the picture to show that her feelings weren’t just one sided, and if she thought about it harder she could remember that Carmilla didn’t exactly back away. That part of her did well with blurring the lines and Laura soon started to doubt what was real and what wasn’t.

If Carmilla didn’t back away then maybe she would’ve let Laura kiss her? Would she have been okay with that? She must if she was going to let Laura do it? And if she did let her do it, what would that mean?

Friends kiss sometimes?

No. No they definitely don’t kiss sometimes, Laura knew that was her head talking this time.

Well they do, but only on the cheek and it was always in a friendly way like in greeting or something.

Nothing about what Laura wanted to do to Carmilla was exactly friendly. If she was going to kiss her, being friendly about it was the furthest thing from her mind. Her body reacted differently around Carmilla, almost like she wasn’t in control and that made Laura feel uneasy. If she couldn’t be in control of herself around Carmilla, things like almost kisses would continue to happen.

The possible repercussions swirled in her thoughts and made her feel even worse.

I just have to try harder, her head was speaking for her again.

She couldn’t help but agree.

/

Thankfully, Carmilla hadn’t adopted the scenario into her daily jabs at Laura. Carmilla hadn’t even brought it up so Laura didn’t dare to either. She was so fine with completely forgetting that it ever happened, or rather almost happened, and tried her best to move forward for the sake of their friendship.

 “How’s it going over there?” Carmilla’s voice rang out through Laura’s laptop speakers.

Laura had invited Carmilla to webcam with her while she prepared one of the dinner kits her dad packed. She had propped the laptop on the island counter, so Carmilla’s view was mostly of Laura’s back while she was standing at the stove.

Laura stirred the sauce, looking curiously at the simmering liquid, and shrugged. It was a new kit but the picture of the end product looked really good so Laura didn’t complain too much. Although, the recipe was a bit more complicated that she was used to.

“I have no idea,” She called over her shoulder towards the laptop, “I’ve never made this before so I’m not sure what it’s meant to taste like.” Laura then reached for the box to read the instructions for the fourth time while Carmilla hummed in response, “I didn’t think dinner kits could be so complicated.”

“Kind of defeats the purpose,” Carmilla agreed.

“How about you?” Laura asked as she continued to scan the recipe, “What are you having for dinner?”

“Not sure yet,” Carmilla replied and then let out a groan. Laura glanced up at the screen to see Carmilla stretching out her back before doing a couple twists with this disgruntled look on her face.

“Lounging around all day tough work?” Laura smirked, her brow arched.

“For your information, I worked out.” Carmilla huffed and scooted to the edge of her seat.

The lie made Laura laugh loudly and she dropped the box to her side, “Does yoga count?”

“Yes.” Carmilla huffed, looking quite pleased with herself that she could get Laura to laugh like that, “Just because you aren’t flexible.”

“Who said I wasn’t flexible?” Laura quipped which earned her an exaggerated wiggle of Carmilla’s brows. “Don’t be weird,” She rolled her eyes at the look Carmilla was giving her and bent down to the screen, “Shouldn’t all the yoga be helping with the-“ Laura waved her hand at Carmilla.

Carmilla’s brows knitted together, “Hot body?”

Laura’s eyes widened, “No! I was meaning shouldn’t yoga help with soreness or whatever? Not..not that.”

Carmilla smirked and shrugged, “No idea.” Then the smirk dropped to a frown as she squinted, “Uh…you should check on your dinner.”

“What?” Laura gasped and spun around to find that the simmering liquid had bubbled over the edge of the pot and was now turning black against the burner. Smoke began to fill the kitchen and she dashed to grab a towel to wave at her smoke alarm in hopes that it wouldn’t go off.

“Did you turn the stove off?” She heard Carmilla ask. Laura rushed back over to check that the heat was off. It wasn’t and she quickly turned the dial down.

“Thanks!” She yelled before going back to fanning the fire alarm. Once the smoke had dissipated, Laura returned to the kitchen and peered into the pot. She scrunched her nose at the smell and the odd color it had turned.

“Is it still edible?” Carmilla asked as Laura dipped a spoon into the soup.

She brought the spoon up to her mouth, trying to ignore the burnt smell, and took a sip. It had barely hit the back of her throat as she turned to face Carmilla to give her a smile.

“Totally edible.” Laura said although her face screwed up in disgust.

“That was not very convincing,”

Laura took a sip of water to wash away the taste. She wasn’t going to let this thing go to waste after she had been working on it for nearly an hour. God, this really was a horrible dinner kit.

“It’s fine. I can fix it. Just needs some salt maybe or-“ She reached for the box again trying to come up with another addition that could salvage what was left of the soup, “Tomato paste? I don’t think I have any of that…”

“I’ve got an idea.” Carmilla interrupted Laura’s rambling as she reached up to the screen of her laptop, “I’ll be there in 20.”

“Minutes?!” Laura gasped but Carmilla had already disconnected from the chat.

This girl, Laura thought with the shake of her head and turned back to the mess on the stove. She wasn’t going to enjoy cleaning that up. But she reached for her dish gloves and broke out the cleaning spray.

/

Just as she said, Carmilla was knocking at Laura’s door 20 minutes later. Laura was still trying to scrape off burnt soup from the stove when she walked over to open the door, not even taking her gloves off before doing so.

“Hey there, Cupcake.” Carmilla greeted holding a pizza box and looked down at Laura’s gloved hands, “Still cleaning up dinner, I see?”

Laura rolled her eyes, feigning annoyance though a smile threatened to blow her cover because Carmilla was standing in front of her again after such a short time of not seeing her. She couldn’t help but feel a little elated. She did her best impression of Carmilla though, her head’s idea, and tried to seem the opposite of what she truly felt instead. She wasn’t going to have a repeat of what happened last time Carmilla was there, she was sure of it.

“I don’t remember ordering anything.” Laura replied flatly, eyeing the box in Carmilla’s hands.

“Don’t worry, this one’s on the house.” Carmilla smirked followed by a wink that nearly knocked Laura out, “I know a guy.”

“Right,” Laura muttered at the joke.

Carmilla’s smirk faltered at Laura’s tone, “Can I come in?”

Laura just shrugged and gestured for Carmilla to enter.

Carmilla smiled in return although she looked confused as she walked past Laura, the smell of melted cheese and pepperonis wafting after her. Laura tried her best not to notice and trailed behind.  

They ended up settling on the floor in the living room with the pizza box open on the coffee table. Laura had a few beers in the fridge from that one time she thought she could be a beer drinker but decided it wasn’t her thing after having half the bottle. They were probably stale, if beer even does that, but she pulled them out anyway. She brought one over for herself and offered the other to Carmilla saying she needed something a bit harder than water after the whole soup fiasco.

Also, acting indifferent around Carmilla is hard work.

Carmilla couldn’t agree more and cracked the cap open with ease.

“Cheers,” Carmilla said and clinked the neck of her bottle with Laura’s ceremoniously before they both took a sip.

Laura scrunched her nose at the taste, “Yup, still hate that.”

“Then why are you drinking it?” Carmilla joked and took another swig. Clearly she didn’t mind the taste.

“Like I said, I needed alcohol.” Laura shrugged and dived in for a slice of pizza.

“I wouldn’t necessarily call this alcohol,” Carmilla mused as she looked at the label, “The percentage is barely enough to give you a proper buzz.” Then she peered over at Laura and began to grin mischievously, “Unless you’re trying to tell me you’re a lightweight?”

“I’m not,” Laura feigned offense and Carmilla’s smirk fell once again. The sight made Laura stutter, nearly breaking character, but she stood her ground, “I just – I didn’t have anything else.”  

“Well I would’ve brought something with me if you said.” Carmilla replied nonchalantly and reached for a slice. As she took her first bite, Laura felt the words bubble up. Her head was really committed to this act.

“You didn’t really give me a chance before you just showed up,” Laura quipped, her tone coming out way more clipped than she intended which didn’t go unnoticed.

Carmilla reached for a napkin to wipe grease from her lips and eyed Laura curiously, “Is everything alright?”

“Yeah, peachy.” Laura dismissed, trying to look anywhere else other than Carmilla’s critical gaze. The front she was trying hard to maintain began to waver and one look in Carmilla’s direction would have it all crashing down.

“I don’t know. You’re being really weird,” Carmilla pointed out then her voice grew softer, “I can leave if you want?”

Laura glanced to her, unable to fight the urge, and felt her body slump at the way Carmilla’s brows knitted. She actually looked a little hurt, she had never seen her look that way because of her. Why did Laura think this approach would work? She’s not abrasive and resigned and indifferent, she’s Laura. She’s anything but those things! She cares way too much about everything and everyone and Carmilla knew that. Right?

 Laura managed to shake her head, her heart trying impossibly hard to take control, “No.”

“Are you sure?” Carmilla questioned, her shoulders squaring, “Because you look like you can’t stand me right now and I’m not sure why. Have I done something to upset you?”

Laura instantly felt guilty upon hearing Carmilla’s words; she had been trying to do the whole careless and disaffected act that Carmilla had been so good at in order to keep her feelings in check. She hadn’t realized it was starting to take a toll in the wrong way. It was ridiculous and childish, pretending to be someone else never helped her before. Why would it help her now?

She slumped further until her back hit the front of the couch. She started down at her half-eaten slice of pizza and sighed, relinquishing the act and letting her heart take over, “No, you haven’t.”

“Could’ve fooled me,” Carmilla huffed, laughing bitterly. She still didn’t look convinced. Laura couldn’t blame her. She was acting like a Katy Perry song, hot and cold, hot and cold; it was confusing.

Laura wanted to assure her, but all she could think of were reasons that involved the efforts she was attempting to go through in order to preserve their friendship. Carmilla didn’t need to know that because she would first have to know about all of Laura’s secret feelings and Laura definitely didn’t want to unpack that tonight either. Laura didn’t want to unpack that ever!

So instead she wracked her brain for something else that had been bothering her lately. Maybe it wasn’t as liable, but it added to it and that wasn’t a total lie.

“I’m sorry. I think I’m just really stressed about school and it’s like all my assignment due dates are quickly approaching and I haven’t even started on like half of them. It’s getting really difficult to stay focused. What’s the point, you know? Then the stupid dinner kit thing happened…” Laura took a deep breath and looked to Carmilla without trying to hide behind her newly built walls although she was straying from the actual reason for the attitude.

She had lots of assignments, it was true, but that wasn’t what really fueled her.  Carmilla continued to eye her, like she was weighing the truth in Laura’s words.

 The longer Carmilla stared, the more Laura felt like crumbling apart.

“I’m just really tired of everything.” Laura whispered, unsure if she was talking about the schoolwork or Carmilla.

“You’ve been doing really great, Laura, don’t be too hard on yourself.” Carmilla replied softly. Laura noticed she actually said her name this time instead of some other nickname which was rare. It made her peek up to find Carmilla fiddling with the label of her beer bottle, deep in thought. “No one anticipated this was how we were going to spend the semester but you’ve adapted and you’ve stuck it out this long. You can keep going. Besides, you actually talk to your professors still so maybe you can ask for an extension if you need more time? I’m sure they’ll give you one. They’d be idiots not to.”

Laura softened even further, sometimes she really didn’t deserve Carmilla as a friend. She could be a little rough around the edges at times, but every once and awhile Carmilla surprised her. Lately, even more so than not. The understanding and kind words made the uneasy, guilty feeling in the pit of Laura’s stomach churn though. She felt like she was lying to Carmilla and she hated it.

“Maybe I’ll reach out then,” Laura said then bit her lip before looking to Carmilla apologetically, “I’m sorry for being weird. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.”  

Carmilla watched her intently, like she was truly trying to understand what was going on with her, and it made Laura feel uncomfortable again for a different reason. Laura hadn’t realized she ventured away from talking about school and was now thinking of her sad attempts at repressing her feelings for Carmilla. She was exhausted with fighting so hard with herself all the time and it was really starting to show.

She could only hide under the excuse of schoolwork for so long, the end of the semester was approaching. What was she to do once it was here? Laura began to feel see-through, exposed, and for a moment she wanted to run and hide.

But then almost as if she could see Laura starting to implode, Carmilla broke the silence.

“Come on. Let’s find something to distract ourselves with, huh?” Carmilla nodded then looked up to the tv, “What are we going to watch tonight?”

Laura smiled at Carmilla’s ability to drop it, thankful that she didn’t try to pry. She reached for the remote and began to surf through the channels. She could stay distracted a little longer, at least for the night. She’d cross those other bridges when she got to them.

They managed to find a crime show they both loved and they sat like that on the floor with pizza and gross beer for hours.

/

The pizza box was now empty aside from crumpled up napkins and remained abandoned on the coffee table next to a couple empty bottles. At some point during the second episode, Laura had popped some popcorn and retrieved two new beers.

Carmilla questioned her choice of drink again, but Laura just said it was beginning to grow on her and that maybe she needed a drinking partner for it to actually taste okay. Carmilla didn’t doubt that and they both clinked their bottles before settling in to finish the episode.

They had moved from the floor to the couch now, albeit with a whole throw pillow’s worth of distance between them. Laura knew what happened when you mixed alcohol and unspoken feelings, she’d seen many romantic comedies and knew she needed to take the necessary precautions. A large bowl of popcorn sat between them also and acted as a blockade. Miraculously their hands never brushed as they dived into the bowl blindly; someone was definitely looking out for Laura.

 The pair of them lounged with their feet propped up on the edge of the coffee table with their beer and popcorn like it had been something they’ve always done. Carmilla had slipped off her boots a while ago and surprised Laura with her cute purple socks with little bats on it. Laura tried to tease her but Carmilla didn’t even look embarrassed, just shrugged her shoulders and wiggled her toes.

“They’re cool socks, so what?” Carmilla replied coolly. The casual tone made Laura want to huff and stomp her feet. How come when she tried to make fun of Carmilla it doesn’t work but when Carmilla does it Laura can’t keep it together?

The thought made her laugh because of course Carmilla was too cool to be embarrassed over something like colorful socks. How could she think the girl would react any differently?

“Murder isn’t funny, Cupcake, have some respect.” Carmilla teased, reaching for another handful of popcorn.

Laura hadn’t even noticed Carmilla eyeing her from the side while a new crime was taking place on the screen, “I wasn’t laughing at that. I was just thinking about something.”

“Like what?”

Laura reached for a handful of popcorn too, something she could use to keep her fingers busy now that she suddenly felt a little shy. She thought about how the night had started and how they were able to turn it around before it could end badly. She thought about how her friendship with Carmilla had evolved from just two people sharing rooftops to writing messages to each other on whiteboards and pizza boxes to phone calls to video chats and now this. Carmilla was literally sitting on her couch watching tv like everything was normal and the thought made her laugh because what are the freaking odds?

Laura contemplated and popped a couple pieces in her mouth, “I was just thing about how nice this is. Me and you sitting here with pizza and popcorn and crappy beer and we’re watching crime shows. It’s nice. I’ve missed doing things like this, just hanging out with a friend.”

“Ah, there’s that word again.” Carmilla hummed and finished the last couple pieces in her hand. Her tone was unreadable, along with her facial expressions, as she kept her eyes steady on the screen.

Laura frowned, head tilted to the side as she looked to Carmilla’s profile, “What word?”

“Friend.” She muttered without looking away.

“What’s wrong with it?” Laura asked now confused, eyes roaming Carmilla’s features for something recognizable, “Do you not want to be friends with me?”

Carmilla just chuckled, the kind that Laura couldn’t tell if she was laughing at you or with you. It made her tense and her heart rate jump at the same time.

“I think that might be up to you.” She finally said wistfully.

Laura couldn’t handle how cryptic Carmilla was suddenly being, or maybe Laura was too tired to follow? She was never good at reading between the lines and if that’s what she was meant to be doing now, Carmilla would have a better chance at just saying what she needed to say. But she noticed Carmilla refused to look her way, so Laura figured she was content with waiting until Laura caught up.

“What are you talking about?” Laura asked impatiently when Carmilla didn’t bother to continue. It came across somewhat defensive, but Carmilla didn’t even flinch.

“You tried to kiss me the other day.” Carmilla said casually to which Laura nearly choked on the remnants of popcorn in her mouth. Carmilla took a moment to finish off the last of her beer, letting her words hang in the air between them heavily, before leaning over to set the bottle down on the coffee table. When she leaned back, her whole body twisted slightly towards Laura’s direction so she was now giving the girl her undivided attention. She brought her arm up to drape over the back of the couch and she spoke freely, “I don’t know what kind of friends you have but that’s not something they usually do. At least, not that I know of.”

Laura gaped at her, unsure of how she wanted approach this. She had spent so long trying to sort through her own thoughts, she didn’t even consider what she’d do if Carmilla ever actually brought it up on her own. She didn’t think Carmilla ever would! And now it’s happening and she’s being so laid back about it, Laura didn’t know how to react.

“Don’t worry, it’s whatever.” Carmilla dismissed to replace Laura’s silence. Her tone sounded too proud, like she was trying to overcompensate for something. She shrugged and began to shift her body towards the tv again, avoiding Laura’s gaze, “It’s not the first time someone’s tried to kiss me because they were bored.”

“Bored?” Laura gasped, unable to stay silent any longer. She couldn’t believe that’s how Carmilla thought of her, that she just acted out of boredom. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Laura couldn’t tell her the exact truth but she could at least dispel that assumption right now, “I wasn’t bored. That’s not why I…”

Laura stammered again as soon as Carmilla turned to look at her. She felt so frustrated and with Carmilla looking at her expectantly like she was didn’t help.  She couldn’t even say what she did, the words wouldn’t come out. She couldn’t make it real and talking about it out loud made it real and she didn’t want that. But she also couldn’t take Carmilla trying to fill in the blanks for her. Carmilla didn’t know her motives and she shouldn’t assume she did either.

When Carmilla began to smirk like she knew something Laura didn’t, Laura grew even more frustrated. She felt like the butt of some unspoken joke, but before words started spilling out of her Carmilla spoke up.

“Look, Cupcake, I get it. Nothing to be ashamed of. You’ve been cooped up in this house for way too long, you’re bored…and lonely. That’s basically the whole premise of our friendship. Isn’t it?” Carmilla said, again replacing Laura’s silence with her assumptions. She spoke so confidently, like she had everything figured out but there was something else there. Laura couldn’t bring herself to figure it out though, too busy focusing on Carmilla’s interpretation of how Laura felt, “You came up to the roof one day and found me because you were bored and you almost kissed me the other day because…well, you’re lonely. It’s fine. I own a mirror so I get the appeal. You just couldn’t resist the other day, it happens. It’s not the first time, won’t be the last.”

If Laura wasn’t so frustrated, she probably would’ve reacted differently but all she could do was laugh at Carmilla’s response. She rolled away from Carmilla and laughed wholeheartedly, bellyaching. She couldn’t tell if she was laughing because Carmilla thought she had totally figured Laura out or the fact that some of what she said held some truth and she was just laughing as a nervous reflex. Either way, tears pricked at the corners of her eyes and once she was out of breath, she straightened up.

Carmilla eyed her wearily but her all-knowing smirk remained, “Are you done?”

“Are you?” Laura challenged. She had stopped laughing and found a new sense of confidence, “I own a mirror. I get the appeal. Full of yourself much? What you’re saying can’t be further from the truth and I can’t believe that’s what you think happened. I don’t just act out of boredom.” Laura shook her head trying to shake away the idea, “You make it sound like I’m some hormonal teenager who can’t control my feelings around an attractive girl.” Laura froze, shocked by her own words, but Carmilla’s looks weren’t a secret. That had been made clear.

Carmilla only lifted her shoulder and looked to her side nonchalantly, “Well, are you?”  

Laura narrowed her eyes and bit her cheek. Carmilla really had some nerve, “No.”

Carmilla snorted at Laura’s response and brought her fist up to rest against her cheek, “So what happened then?”

“I-I just…” Laura began to stammer under Carmilla’s analytical gaze but she stopped and squared her shoulders off. Explaining herself was probably important, but why couldn’t Carmilla just back off for a second? She was tired of Carmilla always having the upper hand, so easily making her squirm while Carmilla didn’t even break a sweat. She was going to give it back this time, “Why do you want to know so bad when it didn’t even really happen? Since when did you become this…this smug, arrogant person thinking they know everything? What happened to not thinking you were special?”

“Would you like me to go back to thinking that way?” Carmilla bit back making Laura shudder at the sharpness of her tone. Carmilla must’ve noticed and ran her hand through her hair while she took a deep breath, centering herself. She spoke again but softer although the bite was still audible, “Someone once told me that everyone had something special about them…even me. No one has ever said that to me before, the idea of me being special wasn’t an something I’d entertain, so forgive me for taking it to heart.”

Laura swallowed hard at Carmilla’s words. She was back to being unreadable again and there was something that sounded like sadness in her tone. Laura hoped it wasn’t, she couldn’t imagine being the cause of it twice in one night. But that was wishful thinking because of course this was her fault. If she would’ve just been truthful about her feelings then maybe things wouldn’t have gotten this far out of hand? Hurt feelings would’ve been spared, possibly, and they could move forward. Instead, the night had taken yet another dark turn and Laura once again felt to blame.

“Maybe this isn’t the best time to talk about all of this. I shouldn’t have brought it up,” Carmilla pointed out, breaking the uncomfortable silence settling around them, “I know you’ve had a hard day so just forget it. It’s getting late. We both have class in the morning.”

Carmilla dropped her hand from her cheek and turned to start cleaning up. Her lips pressed together to form a tight line as she pushed herself up from the couch.

Laura just watched Carmilla for a moment; the deepening crease between her brows, the slight frown, how she looked so deep in thought that she was afraid she’d soon see smoke pouring from her ears at how fast the gears were churning.

She thought about what Carmilla had said, how she had taken Laura’s words to heart. It really got her thinking about how her off-handed comments affected people, affected Carmilla and she wondered what else had left an impact because of her. She thought about Carmilla’s mother and wondered if she just joined the list of people in her life that have let Carmilla down. She hoped she hadn’t.  

She thought about how hard she had been fighting with herself and her feelings and how they were such a bad thing. She went on and on in her head, trying to hide them all away. She treated her feelings for Carmilla like she was ashamed and it got her thinking how Carmilla would feel if she ever found out. She assumed it wouldn’t make her feel good, who would feel good about being kept a secret? Who would feel good about being unwanted?

And all this work, pain and despair, for what? Because Laura couldn’t risk making things awkward? She couldn’t risk losing a friend? That was a ridiculous way to live! Who knows what she might miss if she never took a chance! Sure, losing a great friend was a possibility but gaining something more was a possibility too.

Laura grew up with an overprotective father always harping on about worst case scenarios and what-ifs so she had witnessed first-hand what happens when you give up. She vowed she wouldn’t live the rest of her life in fear, yet she’s doing exactly that now. Why?

She was afraid to take a risk, to make that jump, that’s why. Would Carmilla be there to catch her? Would she just let her fall? She’d never get an answer if she didn’t at least toe the edge. Could she live the rest of her life like that? Always wondering what could’ve happened between them if only she just tried?

No. Laura’s heart had answered for her this time.

“I’ll take this stuff with me on my way out,” Carmilla had said after gathering the empty bottles and stuffing them in the pizza box.

Laura didn’t answer, she just reached for the closet thing to her. Her fingers wrapped around the cool leather of Carmilla’s sleeve and she dragged her down to her eye level.

Carmilla sucked in a breath as she twisted to face Laura. Her eyes flickered between Laura’s wildly, a mix of concern and wonder. Carmilla swallowed with a slight crinkle in her brow as she breathed out, “What?”

Laura didn’t know what to say, she didn’t think she could say anything if she wanted. All she kept thinking about was how she never wanted to be ashamed of her feelings for Carmilla ever again. She didn’t want to hide them, she didn’t want to feel guilty, she didn’t want to go another day without letting Carmilla know just how she felt about her because Carmilla deserved that. She deserved to be cared for and Laura wanted to be the person to do it.

But words didn’t work at the moment so she did what she should’ve done earlier.

Laura kissed her.

She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and fell.

And when she felt Carmilla’s lips on her own, she fell further. Everything was Carmilla now, immersed in the very taste of her. Her senses were flooded and when she felt Carmilla’s hands thread through her hair it was like free-falling. She had never felt so high before, never felt so content with any other feeling like she did when her lips were against Carmilla’s. She never felt anything like it.

Her heart was racing and she wondered if Carmilla could hear how hard it was pounding for her. Because this is what Carmilla did to her, she made her chest ache in the best of ways. Before, the thought would’ve made her nervous but now she just didn’t care anymore. She was kissing Carmilla and Carmilla’s fingers were digging in the back of her neck and everything felt right. She didn’t want this to ever stop, she wanted to feel Carmilla everywhere, because if this was how good it felt to just kiss Carmilla imagine the possibilities. Laura couldn’t wait to explore, but for now this was also perfect. Just the feel of Carmilla’s lips on hers was everything she could ask for and she reveled in it.

But then the hands that were at the back of her neck and in her hair just a moment ago began to press at Laura’s shoulders, pushing her back. She frowned at the feeling but let herself be guided anyway. Still, she reached to maintain the closeness, her hands clinging to Carmilla’s forearms.

She didn’t want this to end, it couldn’t.

But Carmilla pulled away completely, breaking all contact with Laura. She felt fingers around her wrists, pushing them away until they were gone. She instantly missed the feeling and fluttered her eyes open, half-dazed from the taste of Carmilla’s tongue.

“Why?” Laura mumbled, her eyes dragging up from slightly swollen lips to meet Carmilla’s eyes. She still felt high despite Carmilla being so far away now.

The feeling didn’t last long though when she took in the sheer panic in Carmilla’s eyes. Suddenly it felt like everything was crashing down around her.

Here were the repercussions of her actions. The possibilities she hoped would never come true. The cons.

Laura stiffened instantly and tried to reach for her again. She felt an apology bubble up, “Carm, I-“

Carmilla didn’t give her a chance and backed away further, rising from the couch again. She shook her head and took shaky steps towards the door, “I need to go.”

Laura called out in a shaky voice, trying to stand but the room spun, “Carm wait!“

Carmilla already had her hand on the knob by the time Laura rounded the couch and chased after her. She hesitated though, her head came to rest on the door as she stared at the ground. Her voice was small as she muttered the words, “I’m sorry, Laura.”

It was all she said before she rushed out the door without another word.

Laura considered chasing her, but she knew what this was.

You can only fall for so long before you finally hit the ground and judging by the look of things, Carmilla didn’t want to catch her.

Laura just had to accept that.

Chapter Text

It had been two extremely long days since Laura last heard from Carmilla.

Laura couldn’t stop thinking about the kiss they shared and how amazing it had been, but it was totally eclipsed by Carmilla’s reaction. The panic in her eyes and the crack in her voice as she apologized made up the last memory Laura had of the girl. To think that just moments before they had been molded together, lips pressed so perfectly like they were made for each other. For that moment, everything was right in the world.

 That couldn’t be further from the truth now, Laura supposed, because Carmilla was gone in a flash. Now it was all that she could remember of the night, almost like the kiss never happened.

Almost.

Laura wondered if she had to, would she trade never experiencing a kiss like that again in exchange for her friendship back. When she couldn’t decide, she wondered if that make her selfish.

Her heart and her head continued to battle, she was torn.

Kissing Carmilla had been better than any daydream she thought up, maybe even the best she ever had in real life, but at what cost? She struggled with wanting to regret it because she lost Carmilla, but if she hadn’t tried she would’ve never known what could’ve been. She had to try and she did. She took the leap of faith and it didn’t work out as well as she hoped. She would have to learn to be okay with that.

Any Carmilla is better than none, Laura decided.

She could fix this, she needed to.

But when her texts and her calls went unanswered, Laura figured maybe fixing this wasn’t going to be as easy as she thought.

Maybe Carmilla just needed some time to think? Maybe she needed time away from her? Laura could understand needing space, she could give her that. They had basically spent every day talking to each other for hours, maybe it was getting to be too much?

Laura hoped that was the case. She didn’t want to assume, but Carmilla left her no choice but to try and fill in the blanks on her own.   

Losing Carmilla was a possibility but she didn’t want that to be her reality. She would do whatever it took to make things okay again, even if that meant getting over how she felt about her. It wouldn’t be easy but she could do it. Probably?

She decided to focus on her schoolwork for the time being. Carmilla would reach out to her when she was ready, at least that’s what Laura hoped. There really was no telling though. All she could do was wait so rather than sit around dwelling, she decided try and be a little productive.

/

When two days turned into three, Laura began to get a little antsy.

Her stance on being patient and understanding started to waver and now she was just getting frustrated. As much as she wanted to give Carmilla the benefit of the doubt, it wasn’t fair that she could just run off like she did and leave Laura there to clean up the mess on her own. Not that she had done much in terms of cleaning. Rather, she just surrounded herself with it while she waited for Carmilla to finally respond. She focused on other things, trying to distract herself a little, but not before pinning the topic to revisit when Carmilla was ready.

After three days though, she began to wonder if Carmilla was ever going to be ready.

All the silence was starting to weigh on Laura, but she fought the urge to send another text. One was enough, sent the next morning after Carmilla left in a rush. Laura wasn’t going to send another. The ball was in Carmilla’s court now, what was she going to do with it?

Carmilla would come around when she was ready, Laura reminded herself when she grew impatient, If she’d only just hurry the hell up already!

So Laura spent the third day with her face buried in her notes, surrounded by books and empty mugs, attempting to finish at least one assignment without needing an extension. She was actually making pretty good time and for a moment she was kind of grateful for the lack of distraction that was usually Carmilla. Not that she ever did anything to keep Laura from her studies intentionally, Carmilla was always reminding her to focus if Laura started to get chatty. Laura didn’t need her reminders now, she did perfectly fine on her own!

But when her usual lunch hour neared, Laura itched to check her phone. She doubted there would be any new text or missed call, mainly since she had been checking every five minutes it seemed, but that didn’t mean she was any less hopeful when she displayed the screen.

Just as she suspected, nothing.

She rolled her eyes and grumbled to herself, cursing Carmilla’s stupid silence. How was she meant to fix things if Carmilla refused to speak to her? Who was being selfish now?

Still grumbling, Laura pushed away from her cluttered desk and walked to the kitchen to prepare something for lunch. She went with soup, microwavable this time, and slouched on the island counter while it cooked.

Laura mentally went through the checklist of studying and assignments she still needed to get through until her eyes fell to the couch just across from her. Thoughts of schoolwork vanished and instead were replaced with the memory of the kiss she and Carmilla shared in that very spot. She wasn’t able to look at the couch the same way since, unable to keep the memory at bay. It replayed in her mind in slow motion, while their conversation about friendship overlapped. Laura had gone over it in her head a thousand times, but she couldn’t understand Carmilla’s cryptic words.

I think that might be up to you…

…Forgive me for taking it to heart.

Nothing Laura came up with made sense. On one hand, she figured Carmilla was trying to hint at wanting to be more than friends. On the other hand, maybe Carmilla doubted Laura’s honesty. Neither explained running off after the kiss though and that’s where Laura stayed stumped. She remained deep in thought until the beeps from the microwave broke the trance.

Laura frowned at the interruption and remembered the kind of mess that kiss got her in. She shook away the thoughts and turned to retrieve her lunch before padding back into her room, making it the third day in a row that she ate lunch alone instead of on the roof with a friend.  

/

It wasn’t until almost 8pm when Laura migrated from her desk to set up in bed. It was a dangerous move but she had too much to carry to the living room and her back was beginning to ache from the desk chair. She laid papers out across the blanket while she lounged against her headboard. She was deep in thought, typing furiously at her keyboard when a notification appeared at the bottom corner of Laura’s screen, signaling Carmilla’s online status on the webchat program they used.

Laura instantly froze. Carmilla hadn’t been online in days.

She knew Carmilla only downloaded the program to speak to her, so there really wasn’t any other reason for her to be online if it wasn’t to speak to her. Laura just stared at the call icon, weighing out her options. Should she call? Should she wait?

She didn’t have to decide; her screen soon filled with an incoming call notification.

At first, Laura thought she might’ve accidentally clicked something but as her eyes focused she realized she hadn’t been the one to make the call.

It was Carmilla.

She thought about letting it ring out, give the girl a taste of her own medicine, but she didn’t have the will power for that. She was way too curious and tired of waiting.

Also, she kind of missed her.

So she answered.

It took a couple seconds to connect, but soon the screen was filled with Carmilla. She was in her usual place, a darkened room with the bookshelf behind her and the small plants on the floor. She was wearing an oversized sweater, a deep green, and her glasses sat perched on her nose. She looked pensive, maybe even a little tired or maybe that was nervousness?  Laura couldn’t tell.

Laura shuffled a little under her gaze, trying to keep her face neutral while the laptop slid from side to side against her thighs.

“Hey.” Carmilla was the first to speak, her voice soft.

“Hey.” Laura answered, trying to keep her tone the same.

Carmilla bit her lip in thought as silence fell around them, eyes flicking off to the side. The silence wasn’t their usual comfortable kind, but instead filled with tension and everything left unspoken for the past few days.

Laura watched as Carmilla swallowed, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose although they hadn’t even slipped yet. She looked back to the screen, “So…how are you?”

Her tone was casual again and it made Laura’s brows shoot up, that’s how she was going to start this? The nerve of this girl sometimes!

“What?” Carmilla huffed innocently, surely noticing the shift in Laura’s features. Her annoyance must’ve shown but Carmilla’s defensive response riled Laura up even further.

She narrowed her eyes as if to ask really? She tried her best to keep a level head, and remember to be patient and understanding, but Carmilla was basically twisting her arm with the nonchalant attitude. She couldn’t be serious!

“You can’t just disappear for 3 days and then reappear asking how I am.” Laura snapped.

To Laura’s surprise, Carmilla looked down at her hands apologetically, “I know.”

Laura waited for something more, because there’s no way that’s all Carmilla had to say. She had three days to think of a response, three WHOLE DAYS. She couldn’t just pout and frown her way out of this, no matter how Laura faltered.

But Carmilla remained silent and just stared at her twiddling fingers. She looked like a scolded child, unable to look at her and Laura hated it. She didn’t want Carmilla to be afraid of her or whatever this was, but she also couldn’t just let it go. They needed to talk about this, for both of their sakes.

“What are we doing, Carm?” Laura whispered, sounding almost defeated.

Carmilla glanced up at the tone, brows furrowed and shrugged. “I’m not sure.”

Laura didn’t know what she was expecting Carmilla to say, but that wasn’t it.

She needed answers, real ones. She ran her fingers through her hair tiredly, “I can’t do this tonight. I have a test tomorrow and it’s a really big one and I still have a paper to revise so..” Her words trailed off, like she was trying to make a run for it but she hesitated. She could see how conflicted Carmilla looked and it made her want to stay despite her own feelings.

Unlike Carmilla, Laura couldn’t just run away. No matter how bad she wanted to.

“Can we just – can we go back to how things were before all this happened?” Carmilla’s voice was small, pained. “Can we go back to when things were easy?”

Laura let her head fall back against the headboard, eyes on her ceiling. Carmilla wanted her to forget everything, to just go back to being just friends. She thought about how this whole friendship began and she tried to pinpoint the very moment her feelings started to evolve. She couldn’t figure it out and she wondered if they had been there all this time.

She wondered how long had she been hiding them?

Laura let out a sigh and let her eyes fall back on the screen. Carmilla was looking at her expectantly so she echoed her thoughts, “Was it ever easy? I can’t remember.”

“Can we just pretend then?” Carmilla pleaded, her jaw tensing, “Just for tonight?”

Laura pursed her lips. She was caught between a rock and a hard place yet again, but she couldn’t stand the look on Carmilla’s face. She didn’t think she would be able to say no even if she tried. She remembered her earlier promises of doing whatever it took to repair their friendship, so reluctantly she slumped. She could play pretend for one night, she had been doing it for so long anyway.

“Fine.” Laura relented and reached for her notebook, “I still have a paper to revise so I guess you can stick around if you want. I can read it aloud to you and you can help with edits?”

A ghost of a smile twitched at Carmilla’s lips as she ducked her head, “I can do that.”

/

Laura wanted to hate how easy it was to fall back into their usual routine, but she couldn’t. Not fully anyway, because she missed this. While she read her paper aloud, Carmilla listened quietly and interjected whenever she felt there could be a correction. The awkward tension was still there, but it wasn’t as thick as before. There was even a little laughter, but Laura assumed that was because she was beginning to get a little delirious now that it neared midnight.

She had finished revising her paper awhile ago and had moved on to studying for her test, but her tired eyes began to blur the words.

“You’re mumbling,” Carmilla pointed out from atop her book.

Laura’s eyes glanced to the screen that was now propped up next to her on the bed. She shuffled onto her side, subconsciously slinking further down the headboard. Carmilla wasn’t even looking at her, too entranced with whatever she was reading. The cover looked old, the gold lettering slightly worn so Laura was unable to make out the title.

“What are you reading?” Laura found herself asking the longer she stared at the slow drag of Carmilla’s eyes across the page.

“It’s a collection of poems,” Carmilla answered, eyes glancing over the top of her book to connect with Laura’s for a moment, “Aren’t you meant to be studying?”

“I am,” Laura countered and reached for a piece of paper with notes scribbled over it. Her eyes scanned it for a minute or two before she was being drawn back to the screen again.

Carmilla had leaned back a little, her arm propped up to rest over the chair while she lifted the book a little higher so that she had to look up to read. The new angle exposed the sharpness of her jaw and the expanse of her neck.

Laura inhaled deeply at the sight and tried to control her wandering thoughts, but she couldn’t stop herself from asking, “What are they about?”

“Your notes? I have no idea.” Carmilla replied innocently, just a hint of playfulness to her tone. It was something she had refrained from since they started talking again and Laura missed it.

“No,” Laura chuckled lightly, “The poems. What are they about?”

“I don’t see how that’ll help you with your test tomorrow.” Carmilla answered, dropping the book a little so Laura could see her face fully. Her brow raised and a weak smirk displayed.

“I’m curious.” Laura shrugged although she knew she shouldn’t go down this road.

 Carmilla narrowed her eyes considering.

“Please?” Laura looked hopeful.

The look made Carmilla shake her head with a sigh, “Alright, but don’t blame me if you bomb your test.”

“I won’t.” Laura promised, propping her head up on her hand to get comfortable.

“They’re about all sorts of things.” Carmilla answered, eyes trained on flipping through pages like she was trying to remember, “There are some about hopelessness, some about despair, some about longing…”

“Sounds light and frothy.” Laura commented with the scrunch of her nose.

“All in the way the reader interprets it, I suppose.” Carmilla hummed and turned the page, “They’re actually quite beautiful.”

Laura could already feel the question forming, begging to be asked although her head was doing everything it could to keep her from going through with it. She was already in too deep, this would just throw her over the edge.

“Will you read some to me?” The question finally escaped Laura’s lips. She pressed them tightly together as she watched Carmilla look to her again, hesitating. She didn’t know what she was doing now. She was meant to be keeping feelings related to Carmilla at bay, not encouraging them but she was curious and she really couldn’t help it.

Maybe she could blame the late hour for her lack of self-discipline? That was her heart talking again, always coming up with the best excuses.

Carmilla rolled the thought around for a moment before relenting. She took a deep breath and scanned the page, “Let me start from the beginning.”

Laura smiled happily, probably the first time in a long while, and settled in a little further against her pillow. She laid there on her side and listened contently to Carmilla’s voice until the room darkened and the voice faded.

/

When Laura stirred the next morning, she felt papers crinkling under her knee. She must’ve fallen asleep while studying last night, she didn’t bother to move any of her materials. She blinked away the last of her sleepiness as she tried to shuffle out of her blankets, her body still feeling a little sluggish. When she finally got her leg free, a heavy book slid off the edge of her bed and landed to the floor with a loud thud.

Upon the noise, she heard a muffled voice behind her and froze.

“Mm, mornin’.”

Laura heard the raspy voice a bit more clearly and twisted slowly to its direction.

Of course it was Carmilla. With her hair a little tousled she gave Laura a sleepy grin through the laptop screen. She no longer wore her glasses and the sweater she had on last night had been discarded at some point to reveal a thin, black tank top. She stretched her arms out in front of her before dragging her fingers through her hair, attempting to tame it.

Laura watched, entranced by toned arms while the events from last night came rushing back. She remembered the poems and Carmilla reading to her and she blushed for a number of reasons. One, being that she asked Carmilla to read to her. Two, being that Carmilla actually agreed. Three, being that she fell asleep.

“Why – you didn’t wake me?” Laura stammered, hoping her flushed cheeks weren’t noticeable.

“Good morning to you too,” Carmilla grumbled, rubbing at her eyes before slipping on her glasses again to see the pointed look from Laura. “I tried,” Carmilla yawned then moved to sit a little straighter, feigning offense, “That’s the last time I read to you. Didn’t even make through one poem before you were out like a light.”

Laura smiled apologetically, she must’ve been super tired if it happened that fast. She couldn’t even remember falling asleep. But there was another question that begged to be answered, one that took the spotlight off her falling asleep and redirected it elsewhere.

“Why didn’t you hang up if I had fallen asleep then?” Laura asked, feeling like she had gained the upper hand.

Carmilla looked almost guilty or nervous, Laura couldn’t decide. She looked to her side, dodging Laura’s quizzical eye, and shrugged, “These things make a loud noise when you hang up. I – I didn’t want it to wake you. You seemed really tired.”

Laura’s jaw tensed as she watched Carmilla soften a little. She couldn’t let herself fall down this hole again, not when Carmilla refused to talk about things properly, but how could she not when she said things like that?

“Also, I didn’t really mind the view.” Carmilla added with a smirk and it was like the final blow to Laura’s stance.

“Carm..” Laura sighed tiredly, her hand coming up to press fingers to her temple, “You can’t just say things like that and not expect me to – you just can’t say things like that. Not if you won’t talk to me.”

“I am talking to you.” Carmilla tried to argue but Laura just gave her a stern look.

“You know what I mean.”

Carmilla slumped, lips forming a tight line, “I know.”

The same silence from last night settled around them, but Laura wasn’t going to be as understanding this time. Carmilla couldn’t keep up with saying one thing and doing another like her actions didn’t have repercussions. If she didn’t want Laura developing feelings then maybe she needed to stop being so…you know!

She inhaled a shaky breath and spoke freely, “You need to figure out what you want because I can’t do this. I can’t just sweep things under the rug, not anymore. I’m tired and I need to know what you want before someone gets hurt.”

“Okay.” Carmilla answered softly. She nodded like she was deep in thought, “I understand.”

“Okay.” Laura replied, everything in her itching to reach out touch the girl before her. She hated to see her looking so defeated, but she had to think of herself and her feelings too. She let the silence hang there for just a moment before she spoke up again, “I’m going to get ready for class.”

“Sure,” Carmilla nodded then gave her a weak smile, “Good luck on your test.”

“Thanks Carm.” Laura returned with a grin.

Carmilla only nodded and moved to end the call, leaving Laura there staring at her reflection before moving to the bathroom.

/

When her lunch break rolled around, Laura’s not surprised that she doesn’t hear from Carmilla. She kind of gave her an ultimatum earlier, but she wasn’t asking for something ridiculous. All she wanted was for Carmilla to think about what she wanted and talk to her about what she was feeling so they could act. If Carmilla didn’t have feelings for her, then she needed to let Laura know so they could move forward.

But Laura didn’t know how long Carmilla would take until she figured out what she wanted.

She needed to talk to someone about this, but it was hard when the only person she really wanted was Carmilla. Obviously that couldn’t happen so instead of making her usual call to Carmilla during lunch, she rang Laf and Perry.

Laura spent a good twenty minutes updating her friends on what’s been going on between her and Carmilla, but neither of them were honestly surprised.

“It certainly is a development,” Perry commented trying to downplay her lack of shock.

“Yeah, a totally expected development.” Laf joked, “Seriously, Frosh, I clocked it from the very beginning. Remember?”

Laura scoffed and dragged the spoon around her soup bowl aimlessly, “No, I don’t remember that being a thing at all.”

“What? You were all there? You said-“

“Regardless! I think it’s quite brave what you did.” Perry cut in before Laf went on a tangent, “You finally acted on your feelings. That’s great, Laura. Although, a conversation first might’ve been better received judging by the sound of things.”

“Well yeah, that would’ve been better but I was in the moment.” Laura replied guiltily, “Carmilla was being all sexy and mysterious and I thought it was the right thing to do. She said it was up to me whether or not we were friends so I thought kissing her would be the way to answer that? Clearly, I missed something.”

“Again, probably would’ve been better solved with a bit more communication.” Perry added, making Laura groan and shove her bowl away.

“You’ve probably just scared the crap out of her.” Laf said casually, “Has she ever talked to you about past relationships or anything?”

Laura pondered a moment. She couldn’t remember Carmilla ever saying anything about a relationship other than the ones with her family, nothing romantic though. Maybe Laf was on to something?

“Not that I can remember. She’s only ever talked about her family. She doesn’t really have a great relationship with her mom, but she’s close to her siblings I think.” Laura answered after wracking her brain. She wondered if Carmilla would be angry if she found out she was telling other people about her, but she figured it was fair since she was writing an article about her. She reached for her mug of hot chocolate, now cold, and took a sip before saying, “Being scared; I guess that could be an explanation?”

“Could be,” Laf replied.

“That would explain the lack of communication too,” Perry commented, “She probably didn’t have much experience with it growing up?”

Laura pondered again, Perry had a point.

“True. Then here comes little Laura Hollis with her many words and squishy feelings,” Laf half-way teased, “You probably had major heart eyes when you kissed her.”

Laura rolled her eyes at the claim, but she smiled at the memory anyway. She probably did have major heart eyes, that was the best damn kiss of her life!

“Laf, don’t tease. Laura is clearly heartbroken over this girl.” Perry chastised.

Laura stilled, eyes narrowed at what Perry could be implying, “I – I wouldn’t say heartbroken. I’m just – I’m really bummed. Yeah, that’s a better explanation.”  

Laf let out a chuckle, “Bummed because you’re in love with Carmilla and she totally got spooked when you kissed her?”

Laura choked out a gasp, “What? I-I’m not. I-I never said anything about love.”

“Oh, I thought..” Perry mumbled, confused, “Isn’t that what your big development was about? That you…had realized you were in love with her?”

“Can you stop saying that!” Laura squeaked, eyes darting around her kitchen like Carmilla was lurking somewhere and could hear the unspeakable nonsense, “My big development was that I realized I had a crush on Carmilla.”

“Oh wow,” Laf deadpanned, “Clearly we misunderstood.”

“I can see where Carmilla is coming from now,” Perry added.

Laura let her head drop to her counter, eyes closed with her phone still pressed to her ear. She had no words, no more explanations. Instead, thoughts of love started to infiltrate and she definitely didn’t need that when she was still trying to get Carmilla to just talk to her first!

“I can’t be in love with Carmilla,” Laura said like she was trying to convince herself, “I’ve known her like a little over a month now and some of that time she didn’t even know I existed. There’s no way.” Laura began to feel hot, her hands clammy the longer she lingered on the topic, “Love…love takes time, right?”

The only answer she received was static.

“Guys!” Laura begged, “I’m freaking out now. I can’t be in love with Carmilla, right? There’s rules or something about these kind of things. Like…like a time limit?”

“This really isn’t my area of expertise,” Laf finally said, “But I don’t believe there’s a time limit. At least, not these days. Time was always a social construct anyway and isolation pretty much got rid of that. I don’t even know what time it is right now.”

“It’s 2:09.” Perry answered instantly.

“Oh, thanks Per.”

Laura frowned; it wasn’t the answer she wanted. She needed Laf to dispel the thought with logic and science, like they always did, not loopholes and exceptions.

“And what about love at first sight?” Perry suggested, “That kind of love happens instantly, no time at all there.”

Laura’s frown deepened, “So not helping, guys.”

She heard them both chuckle.

“Sorry kid,” Laf sighed, “I’m not sure how we can be any more helpful. You’ll figure this out though. Just give Carmilla a little more time?”

“Yeah,” Laura nodded although she felt even more lost, “Thanks for listening?”

“Always,” They said in unison, before Perry answered, “We’ll talk to you later. Keep us updated.”

“Sure.” Laura smiled weakly and hung up the phone.

She stayed hunched over the counter, head filled with knew explanations to consider although one kept pushing everything else aside, demanding her full attention. It wasn’t much of an explanation in terms of what was going with Carmilla, but it did kind of explain why she would’ve bolted.

If only it were true which it wasn’t! Laura thought because it was way too early to think about love.

She wasn’t so sure though after replaying Laf and Perry’s words over in her head. They made sense and it lined up pretty well with explaining why Laura cared so deeply for the girl. Could she have fallen in the category of love at first sight?

Laura looked down at her phone, tapping at the screen to display it. There weren’t any new messages or missed calls, at least none from Carmilla. She wondered how long it would take for her to respond this time and hoped the wondering could drown out the thoughts of love. It was too heavy to think about and she rather focus on one thing at a time.

/

Laura hadn’t meant to make her way up to the roof later. She was sort of avoiding it the past few days figuring it was Carmilla’s spot first. She didn’t want to intrude if she were around, but the tiny apartment was beginning to feel stuffy.

Stuffy with thought of love.

Also, she couldn’t stand being in her kitchen or living room without thinking about what happened there. Laura needed to clear her mind and although the roof was something that reminded her of Carmilla, it also made her feel free.

When she first made it up, she glanced over at the adjacent roof wondering if she might spot the girl who constantly ran through her mind. To her surprise and relief, she found it was empty. She had her whiteboard and marker with her just in case though and propped it up next to her chair. If Carmilla was going to show, maybe she could take it back to the start? It could be like a reminder of how far they’d come? Maybe?

As Laura settled in to watch the sunset, pulling her sweater just a little tighter across her chest, she remembered the last sunset she watched. She thought about how beautiful the colors of the sky were, how the swirled and deepened, but somehow it all paled in comparison to the black splotch that was Carmilla. She couldn’t even make out any distinct features, but she was already convinced that Carmilla could beat any sunset.

Is that when I fell in love with her?

Laura pushed the thought away. She was meant to be clearing her mind up here, not deep diving. She let her head roll back and looked up to the sky. It had gotten darker a lot quicker than the last time she watched, maybe time moved in slow motion then? Now the stars were out and the sun just barely poked over the horizon. Laura let her eyes flicker between the pinpoints of light against the deep purple sky, mindlessly counting the stars. Some shown brighter than others, not always the biggest but never less brilliant.  

 Don’t you think it’s comforting how small we are in comparison?

The memory of Carmilla’s voice echoed in her thoughts as Laura stared. She hadn’t really looked at the stars like this since she was young, but now after everything she’s gone through over the past few days, Carmilla’s words couldn’t be any truer.

It was comforting. Laura’s problems didn’t seem so big and scary up against that light. It really put everything in perspective for her.

Suddenly, she heard the door to the roof creak behind her.

Shit.” Laura cursed beneath her breath as she froze.

Of all days, why’d the landlord have to pick today to finally catch her in the act? She had a good run though, it had been over a month of coming to the roof and he just now caught her. Laura could finally put sneaky on the long list of things she was good at.

 “I’m sorry, I was just going to be a minute!” Laura called out apologetically as she pushed herself up from her chair, “Please, don’t evict me.”

When she turned to face his wrath, she was surprised even further.

For it wasn’t her grumpy landlord, but instead Carmilla.

“Carm?” Laura blinked like she couldn’t believe her eyes, “Wh-what are you doing here?”

Carmilla crept closer, like a cat preparing to pounce, but the expression on her face wasn’t so threatening. She looked so small like she had when she called Laura last night, pensive and uncertain. She took a couple hesitant steps forward, her jaw tensed and her brows furrowed.

Laura watched as her chest rose and fell with a deep inhale until she finally answered.

“I’m here to talk.”

Chapter Text

The door shut behind her with a slam as she stomped through the living room, not even bothering to flick on a light. In the darkness, she felt reassurance and safe. She couldn’t be seen in the shadows and there was comfort in that. With the way she currently felt, like her walls were threatening to topple with the slightest touch, she needed all the protection she could get. She felt exposed and vulnerable and she couldn’t have that. She wouldn’t so she tried to gather everything that was attempting to pour out of her and hide it away like she had done for years.

Because she didn’t do feelings. She wasn’t one to let people in and poke around her heart, because nothing good ever came from that. Nothing good ever came from loving someone.

If anything, it made you weak.

She moved through the hall until she was in her room, again forgoing turning on the light, and sat at the edge of her bed adjacent from a stand-up mirror. In the shadows, she was invisible but the window curtains only blocked some of the glow of the night sky. It left half of her reflection exposed under a dim light while the other stayed in the shadows. It seemed that the longer she stared, the more exposed she felt; like the side illuminated by the light began to spread, banishing the shadows.

Laura’s voice called out to her from memory, distant and broken, “Carm wait!”

Carmilla turned away from her reflection sullenly. She couldn’t stand to see herself right now, she could barely even recognize the girl looking back. She sat at the edge of the bed, furiously untying the laces of her boots while she drowned in her thoughts. Her hands trembled and her lungs still burned from the run over. Then for a moment it seemed like no matter how deeply she inhaled she just couldn’t catch her breath.

Carmilla remembered the panic attacks from when she was younger, spurred by uncertainty accelerated by her mother’s distance and Mattie’s departure, but this couldn’t be it now; she hadn’t had an episode in years. There was no way it would be happening, not because of-

Snippets of everything she had run from rushed to the forefront of her thoughts. All she could see was confusion in Laura’s eyes as broken pleas echoed in her ears; her throat tightened uncomfortably at the memory.

I really messed up this time.

Carmilla pushed herself up and began pacing, “What were you thinking going over there in the first place? What did you expect was going to happen? You knew there was something bigger and you completely disregarded your own warnings! You just couldn’t leave it be and hope that it would go away? You couldn’t just keep your distance? If anything, you fueled it and look how that turned out! You’ve…ruined her.”

She stopped her ranting, nearly tripping over her dangling laces, and paused at the mirror. Where she stood exposed her reflection a little more, catching a glimpse of anguish painted across her face. Her heart ached in an unfamiliar way,  weighed down by her guilt.

What have I done?

Carmilla shrank away from the girl looking back, dipping back into the cover of the shadows until the backs of her knees hit the bed and she slumped down. She returned to her laces, but everything began to blur.    

The breaths she drew in became shorter and shorter and her eyes widened at the familiarity of the sensations. Carmilla felt like she was sinking further and further in her own confusion and regret, the light at the end of the tunnel drifting out of reach.

But her trembling hands stilled at the laces and she pushed herself to straighten up, focusing hard on her breathing before she was too far gone. She needed to get ahold of herself so slowly she inhaled, letting her lungs fill before letting it out just as slowly. The process repeated over and over while she counted back from 100. It was an old technique, one Carmilla always thought was a bit ridiculous, but nonetheless helpful.

Once the feeling had passed, she filled with a new sense of frustration.

Was she really letting this – this whole mess get to her? She was better than that; too experienced in the art of deflecting and disaffection to be swayed by someone she barely knew.

Isolation was making her soft.

She returned to kicking off her boots. Literally. She let them fly across her room; one hitting the wall and the other landing near her dresser as she stood and shrugged her jacket off. She tossed that aside too, forgoing a hanger, and stomped off to the bathroom. A war raged on in her mind, conflicted with being too vulnerable and too guarded. She couldn’t have both, because nothing good came from caring about someone.

They either disappoint you or leave so you’re better off without them.

She swallowed hard at the practiced mantra; hadn’t she just done both to the very person who had shown her an ounce of care in years?

When her fingers flicked on the bathroom lights, she froze upon seeing her reflection again. Just as she suspected, the girl that looked back was still unrecognizable. Her eyes roamed her features tiredly, looking for something like an explanation for what the hell was happening but nothing.

They had no answers, just like she did.

Her eyes fell to her lips and she let her fingertips trace them. It felt like they were still tingling; they hadn’t stopped tingling since she left Laura’s but that was ridiculous.

A kiss couldn’t do that, no matter how great it was.

She turned the faucet on and cupped her hands under the water, letting them fill before splashing her face. Even with her eyes closed, she felt like she couldn’t hide. The backs of her eyelids kept replaying the scene over and over in her head, projecting the whole thing like some romance movie at a drive-in.

But her life wasn’t anything like a movie, especially not a romance.

When she rose from the sink, water droplets gliding off her skin, she stared back at herself in the mirror like she was willing her old self to return. Because the girl looking back? She was too hopeful; she imagined things that were unattainable, feelings reciprocated and…love.

She let her hands fill again and splashed water on her face like she were trying to rid herself of the thoughts. After two or three times, she could almost recognize herself again, but her lips still felt the slightest tingle. Apparently that feeling couldn’t be washed away with soap and water.

She reached for her toothbrush next, lining the bristles with minty toothpaste, and she brushed at her teeth hard like the suds could soak into her lips and remove any of the tingling left behind.

Maybe even the taste of her, too.

But no matter how hard Carmilla tried to rid herself of any remnants of Laura, there was a small part of her that held on tighter, refusing to let Laura get boxed away.

She continued with her nightly routine and returned to her room afterwards. The feeling in her lips didn’t fade so she would just have to ignore it for now. Her eyes roamed her room and caught the discarded boots and jacket. She moved without thinking and diligently picked them up to put away properly, her mother’s words of cleanliness and respect for one’s things playing at the back of her mind.

Now Mircalla, is this how we treat our belongings?

If you can’t take care of them properly then maybe you shouldn’t have them.

Some part of her wondered if her mother’s words only pertained to belongings, but knowing her mother and how she regarded everyone around her like they were possessions, the meaning probably didn’t stop there.

No matter how Carmilla had aged or how far she moved, her mother still had that effect on her. Even when she wasn’t around, she felt like she could feel her there, judging her every move.

And here she was, still trying to appease her.

She was hopeless.  

/

Sleep didn’t come easy that night, not that it ever did, but even more so that night. Carmilla’s mind raced with thoughts of Laura and everything that happened in Laura’s living room and it made it damn near impossible to relax long enough to fall asleep. When she finally had enough of the tossing and turning, she pushed off her comforter and padded across to her bedroom window. Carmilla leaned against the window sill and looked up to the sky, thankful it was clear enough that she could see the stars.

She remembered when she was younger how she used to spend her nights whispering to the stars and talking to the moon. Carmilla told them her hopes and dreams, confided in them, but as she got older that stopped. Her mother had caught her once and scolded her for mumbling to herself.

She was six years old.

After that, she became more careful. Her voice softer, the meetings taking place later and later into the night when she was certain the whole house was asleep. Mattie had caught her once, but she didn’t say anything. She just patiently waited to the side, waiting until Carmilla had finished, before guiding her back to bed.

She used to wish upon the starts but that stopped long ago too, probably around the time Mattie moved to Paris. She remembered wishing that mother would let her go with Mattie or that she could skip to a place in life where she didn’t need her mother’s help. She wished for something better, she didn’t know what, but just something better than what she had. She couldn’t bring herself to imagine what better looked like; if it was a change in mindset or living in a different place or maybe even someone new entering her life.

She wished for happiness once, but she was uncertain on the specifics. She couldn’t imagine what happiness looked like though because she didn’t think she ever felt it. Maybe it came in glimpses, but they were so short-lived that she doubted it even counted as true happiness.

When she came to that realization, she felt silly for spending so much time hoping and wishing so she stopped.

Instead, she just talked. It didn’t make her feel so childish and it was comforting. Since Mattie had gone away and Will didn’t understand her most of the time, she felt alone. The stars and the moon were always there to listen though and they never judged. She could tell them anything as if they were old friends catching up over coffee. It was a nice sentiment, because whatever her problems were seemed so miniscule against that light.

But lately, the only stories she told were of Laura Hollis.

It was all her mind could conjure for the past month; it filled all the tiny cracks and crevasses of her poor soul until it was all Laura. But Laura was an improvement compared to what it once was; just endless arguments with her mother on loop, a loveless childhood and a lonely existence. She kept everyone at a distance and built her walls up high, content with being alone.

No one could hurt you if you didn’t let them get too close.

But then Laura fell into her life and things began to change, she began to change.

She was like an unraveling ball of yarn and Laura held the string and she was running with it.

Carmilla never knew of true happiness and she had grown to accept that. Other than the glimpses throughout her life, nothing ever brought her the kind of happiness that filled her up from head to toe until she wanted to burst. Nothing and no one had ever felt like coming up for air after being submerged underwater for so long.

Not until Laura kissed her.

She was gasping and her arms flailed for something to ground herself, figuratively speaking, but the closest thing to her was Laura. She couldn’t have that. She couldn’t need another person, she couldn’t give someone that power over her.

But Laura made everything look so easy. There was a simplicity about the way she viewed the world with rose-colored glasses. Before Carmilla wouldn’t even entertain the thoughts, but Laura had a way of persuading her to consider something different.

Laura made her feel hopeful and special and cared for and when she kissed her she felt something else…something bigger.  

That’s probably why she got out of there as fast as she could. At least, that was one of the reasons anyway. She had always been in control, but being around Laura was changing that. She found herself doing and thinking things she never used to and when Laura kissed her it was like the final blow.

She cracked wide open and it terrified her.

Carmilla had relationships in the past, very short ones, but relationships regardless. None of them ever made her feel as close to what she feels around Laura. No one’s kiss had ever made her feel like her whole body was on fire and it was terrifying.

She grew up with harsh reminders of no elbows on the table and sit with your back straight. She grew up around duty and obligation and high expectations. Hugs were rare, really any show of affection was. For awhile she wondered if she even liked being touched because it was such a foreign concept.

But when Carmilla let her fingertips graze her lips again, she could almost feel the press of Laura’s lips there. She remembered Laura’s hands on her arms and in her hair, the taste of her tongue. With one touch, Laura had dispelled the thought Carmilla had believed all her life.

It wasn’t that she didn’t like being touched, it had just been by the wrong person this whole time. When Laura touched her, she felt alive and she wasn’t use to that so she left.

She didn’t just leave though, she ran at full speed as far away as she could. But as she stood in the darkness of her room, illuminated by starlight, she couldn’t help but feel regretful for leaving. She regretted pushing Laura away the minute she reached the door; how could she not with the way Laura looked at her?  

Carmilla let out a heavy sigh and let her head rest against the window pane, the cold glass a welcomed sensation against her warm skin.

She couldn’t get her head around how this nosy, intrusive, little self-righteous journalist had somehow burrowed her way into her life and made her feel things she had never experienced. More importantly, she couldn’t get the appeal. The obvious attraction was there clearly, but surely it wasn’t enough to make Laura stay? What could Carmilla possibly offer that Laura couldn’t get elsewhere? With someone easier to be with?

Everyone has something that makes them interesting and special…even you.

Carmilla could hear Laura’s voice, persuading her that something she never heard growing up was somehow true. Carmilla could almost believe her too but Laura reminded her tonight that she was also smug and arrogant. Carmilla clung to those words instead, finding comfort in adjectives others’ had bestowed on her in the past. They were words she was use to hearing and she found comfort in the familiar, even if they were harsh. She adopted them along with thick skin a long time ago and it protected her against the unknown.

But Laura was different.

She was able to get under Carmilla’s skin like no one else could and Carmilla was slowly beginning to feel defenseless. She was grasping for something to hang on to because who would she be without her walls? Her guard had always been up, that’s how her family worked, so was she just meant to let Laura tear them down? Willingly? After years of building them up, making them impenetrable?  

Was she just supposed to…let go?

Carmilla stared up at the stars, searching for an answer until the deep, dark blues faded into a sunrise.

/

She had finally gotten back into bed once the sun had fully risen, eyes stinging with exhaustion, when her phone vibrated against her night stand. Carmilla knew it was Laura without looking, but she wanted to see what she had to say anyway. She expected to scroll through a long-winded rant of how she had hurt Laura and that she never wanted to speak to Carmilla again. She’d been there before, so she could handle the anger. She was familiar with people being angry with her, use to unfulfilling their expectations of her. She wanted Laura to be angry with her, maybe she wouldn’t have to fight so hard to push her away then? She’d leave on her own.

But when she lifted her phone, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Laura: I’d like to talk whenever you’re ready.

Carmilla frowned at the text and threw her phone to the side. Even when she thought she couldn’t be anymore of a screw-up, Laura gives her another chance. She didn’t deserve patience and she definitely didn’t deserve someone like her.

With that last thought, she drifted off.

/

In the days following the kiss, Carmilla tried to reach out to Laura at least twenty times. Maybe even more, she wasn’t actually counting.  

But every time she would build up the nerve to actually make the call, she couldn’t do it. She had no idea what she was meant to say. She had no idea what she was feeling. Everything felt so…

See?

She could just hear her mother now, taunting her because although her nose was always in a book they still hadn’t taught her how to articulate how she felt. She read about hundreds of characters’ inner battles and facing their demons, but she couldn’t figure it out for herself. No one ever took the time to show her either.

She figured she would probably have to get her feelings in check before attempting to speak to Laura, but that would mean admitting to actually having feelings and Carmilla didn’t know if she could do that just yet.

Unlike Carmilla, Laura wore her heart on her sleeve, even if she thought she was being discreet about it. Carmilla had informed Laura early on about her lack of subtlety and that hadn’t changed even now that feelings were involved. She kind of admired that about Laura, how easily words came to her even if she often blurted them out all at once.

 At least she spoke about them. Carmilla cringed at the very thought.  

But Carmilla cared about Laura. She could admit to that, but she could also admit that she sucked at showing it. She was flying blind in that department and usually acted out of instinct, but sometimes her instincts were unreliable and put her binds. She had acted out of instinct when she showed up on Laura’s doorstep with pizza; that was good. She had also acted out of instinct when she ran away like some scared little girl after Laura kissed her; that was not so good.

So Carmilla spent the next three days trying to figure herself out. She hadn’t meant to ghost the girl, but she was afraid that anything she said before she was ready would mess everything up even further. So she stayed silent and quietly tried to work on herself. Her only guidance was wondering what Laura would do or say. With her unknowing help, Carmilla tried to delve deep within.

All she found was the inherent need to unlearn every little thing she was forced into thinking since childhood because it clearly hadn’t done her any good. She was changing and it was all because of Laura. She wanted to be a better person because of her, for her, but she didn’t even know how to do that or where to begin.

She figured admitting that was progress though and Laura would be happy with progress.

/

She couldn’t wait to tell Laura about this new finding, but when she glanced at the time, she noticed it was already past eight at night. Would Laura even be up still? She knew the girl often went to bed rather early, but she had to try before she lost the courage.

Besides, three days was long enough to go without seeing or hearing from Laura.

So she made the call.

And Laura answered.

And the first half of their conversation went about as well as she anticipated. Aside from Laura basically calling her out on her shit, something no one besides her own family ever dared to do, and nearly hanging up on her then and there, it went well?

Kind of?

Not really. It didn’t go well at all.

Carmilla had backed out as soon as she saw the slightest tremble of Laura’s lip. She looked so exhausted and Carmilla was to blame for that, she just knew it. She hated that she’d caused Laura any type of pain, because Laura was the kindest person she’d ever met and she didn’t deserve that. She didn’t deserve someone like Carmilla who was so incapable of letting anyone in. Laura deserved someone much better than she.

But at the same time, Carmilla couldn’t stand the thought of that someone being anyone else but her. Was she selfish for thinking that? Of course she was.

While talking with Laura, she realized she needed to work harder before she lost her completely. She knew Laura could only wait for so long, because no one would wait forever, especially not for Carmilla.

But maybe they could pretend one last time that things were different? They needed a break from all the thinking, even if it was just for one night.

They could do that, right?

So Carmilla asked.

And Laura agreed.

And for a moment, it almost felt like things really were different. She missed watching Laura rile herself up with studying, loved watching the little quirks like the way she tapped the tip of her nose with her pen when she was deep in thought or how cute her face scrunched when she was trying to concentrate on something.

Carmilla tried to hide behind her book like always, as if it were her last wall of defense.

Of course Laura just had to climb over that one too when she asked about its contents.

Everything in Carmilla wanted her to deflect, but she didn’t. Not this time and that was progress again. She wondered if it would be easier to let Laura in just a little at a time until she was wide open. That seemed doable; after all, she had sort of been doing that already anyway.

It wasn’t until Laura suckered her into actually reading poems aloud that the night took a turn. Fortunately for Carmilla, with Laura fast asleep, she experienced it alone.

/

Carmilla had gotten halfway through the third stanza when she noticed Laura’s light snoring. She looked to the screen, a smirk playing at her lips as she took in the sight.

“Such a great listener.” Carmilla teased, hoping her change in voice would wake the girl.

When it didn’t, she let out a soft chuckle. She figured she would continue reading aloud anyway, at least finish the poem she was on before hanging up. She had read the book so many times she could probably recite most poems by heart now, but this particular one was her favorite. She didn’t know what drew her to it, maybe the imagery? She continued to read:

You told me to undress

I said "I don't know how-

my walls are so high,

I can't reach around.

 

I'll start with my buttons -

you go brick by brick

I know it'll be hard,

I've built it up thick.

 

And I'm sorry for wasting

so much of your time

but how can I see your heart

when I can't even see mine?

 

And I will talk about life,

and children, and laughter,

the feeling of never getting

what you've been after.

 

And I will cry over reasons

that you'll never find out

and I never really know

what I'm smiling about.

 

And there will be a time

when I know you won't care

because no one ever stays

when I am finally bare.

 

As she finished something became clearer. The words weren’t just hauntingly beautiful, they elicited something real within her. She could suddenly relate on a much deeper level and as she read the last word she looked to Laura with her lips parted and a gasp escaped. She might not know what the future holds for her, but she knew she couldn’t imagine a life without Laura around. What kind of life would that be without Laura to care for her and for Carmilla to return the feeling?

But the question was, how long would Laura wait? She would eventually give up and leave, just like the person in the poem and Carmilla was used to that. She was used to people leaving when they got fed up and it never bothered her before, but the thought of Laura doing it too? That felt different.

Before, Laura had asked what Carmilla wanted and at first she didn’t know what she meant. The question was too heavy, bared too many possibilities. But after reading the words, Carmilla finally understood and the answer came easily.

When the realization hit her, she was winded.

Carmilla felt lightheaded; not from sheer terror, but from the heavy significance of it all because maybe what she believed to be true all her life wasn’t true at all? She remembered failed relationships and bitter words from exes and a lifetime of mother’s remarks burned into her mind, but maybe they were all lies.

They had to be because if she wasn’t capable of love like they said then how could she explain being completely, wholeheartedly in love with Laura Hollis?

Because that’s what she just figured out as she read a poem about despair and longing and vulnerability. She had read hundreds of poems about longing and love and they were beautiful but none of them ever shook her to her core until now.

Because before, she had nothing to compare them to. The words were beautiful but they held little gravity when it came to her. But now she understood the emotion behind their words, because she felt it for herself. Laura had somehow weaved her way into Carmilla’s life in the most unconventional way and she was stupidly in love with her.

“Holy shit.” Carmilla breathed out as she let the book fall to her lap. She rested back in her chair as she tried to process the realization.

I’m in love with her.

She said it again and her heart skipped a beat. She had read about this feeling before, but she never experienced it for herself until now. She was reeling. She wanted to laugh, she wanted to cry, she wanted to yell it from the rooftops and that feeling of running away returned.

But she stilled at the sound of Laura’s muffled snores and looked to her.

Seeing her so peaceful made her feel at peace too. Laura had looked so drained earlier but now she looked anything but as her breathing slowed and her face relaxed. The sight made Carmilla smile, wishing she could reach out and brush her hair behind her ear. She couldn’t do that yet, not only because she couldn’t reach through a computer screen and touch her, but because she still needed to sort some things out with herself before dragging Laura into her mess.

If she was going to open up, she had to do it properly and that was going to be a big task.

She couldn’t just tell Laura she was in love with her without preamble. She needed to work up to it. In the night, with the girl sleeping in front of her, she could say the words freely but she knew that would change when she’d be once again exposed by the daylight.

If she was going to do this, she couldn’t hide behind shadows.

So with her plate full of to-dos, Carmilla whispered, “Goodnight, Laura.”

She slid her finger along the trackpad, nearly exiting the screen when she heard Laura mumble something. The sound made Carmilla smile again and pause, “What was that?”

The mumbling continued as Laura snuggled in deeper against her pillows. It didn’t sound any clearer until she let out a sigh and frowned.

“Don’t go,” Laura pouted sleepily.

Carmilla knew from the eyes still closed that Laura wasn’t coherent but she hesitated anyway. She thought back to her abrupt departure the other day and figured she could start making up for that now, even if Laura wasn’t aware of it.

“Okay.” Carmilla replied softly to the sleeping girl. She considered moving to her bed too, but her charger wouldn’t go that far and she was afraid any sound might wake Laura. So instead, she pulled off her sweater and balled it up to use as a pillow. Sleeping at her desk for one night wouldn’t be great for her back, but small price to pay.

When she slid off her glasses and laid her head down. As she closed her eyes and her mind finally stopped. It was a miracle. For now she needed the rest, tomorrow would be a big day for them both.

/

The next morning, she awoke to Laura’s questioning gaze. Her cheeks were flushed and her hair was a mess, but the accusatory tone overshadowed the cuteness. Questions came at rapid fire before Carmilla could even wake up fully:

“You didn’t wake me?”

Then.

“Why didn’t you hang up if I had fallen asleep then?”

Carmilla felt like she was on trial with all the questions Laura was firing at her. She wasn’t nearly as awake as she should be for the girl to start in on her so early. Carmilla fumbled for an appropriate answer, but she remembered her discovery from last night and it put her on edge.

She wasn’t ready for this yet. She still needed time to process and if Laura didn’t stop pushing, she might run again. Or even worse, she might let her little secret slip too early.

 Neither of those were an option.  

So Carmilla went with what she did best and lied. It was just a little white lie so it shouldn’t have made her feel as guilty as she did when she told it.

“These things make a loud noise when you hang up. I – I didn’t want it to wake you. You seemed really tired.” She said. It wasn’t her best lie, but she hoped it would deter Laura’s prying.

But Carmilla watched how Laura shied away from her words. Before she could stop herself, she quickly tried to patch it with an ill-placed compliment which went about as well as she thought.

“Also, I didn’t really mind the view.” She added too quickly; sometimes she really couldn’t help herself.

But Carmilla knew the instant she said the words that she shouldn’t just stayed quiet.

“You can’t just say things like that and not expect me to – you just can’t say things like that. Not if you won’t talk to me.”

Then.

“You know what I mean.”

And the final blow.

“You need to figure out what you want because I can’t do this. I can’t just sweep things under the rug, not anymore. I’m tired and I need to know what you want before someone gets hurt.”

Just as Carmilla suspected, the daylight exposed her for what she was: a coward. It was easy in the night, she could hide in the shadows but it wasn’t the same in the day. She had to be held accountable for her actions.

Laura deserved more than Carmilla’s slick words and ambiguity.

Laura deserved honesty.

So Carmilla was just going to have to learn how to be honest then because that’s what you did for people you love, you change for the greater good. She was already doing a bang up job, why not continue?

Because it’s fucking hard unlearning everything you though you knew about yourself. How do you even do that?

Doesn’t matter…Laura is worth it.

Once she wished Laura luck on her test, she got to work. Changing for the greater good wouldn’t happen in a day, but she could at least get her thoughts down? She had to start from somewhere and her messy head was a good of a place as any.  

/

After hours of processing, Carmilla had thought about calling Laura. She figured though that these kind of things would be better said in person. No more hiding, if she was going to bare her soul then she’d go all the way. She’d stand in the light and let Laura see all of her, even the broken parts. If Laura wanted to stay even after seeing that, that was her prerogative.

So with the last light of the day slowly fleeting, she made the trip over. Her heart felt heavy as her feet carried her across the street and up the stairs to Laura’s doorstep.

When her knocking went unanswered, Carmilla faltered.

Laura had to be home, there was nowhere else she could be but here. It was still somewhat light out so there was no way she could be asleep.

Carmilla tried again and again, her knuckles reddening with each tap.

She couldn’t have been too late? Could she? Laura wouldn’t just leave her standing out here? Then again, maybe it was payback after what Carmilla did?

She ran her hand through her hair and slumped against the wall behind her, staring at the door as if she could will it to open.

Come on, Laura.

She stared at the gold-plated numbers, wondering if this was it. She tilted her head to the side, her eyes landing on the staircase that led up to the next floor.

She smiled knowingly.

Carmilla knew exactly where Laura would be.

/

Carmilla tried to catch the door behind her so she wouldn’t frighten Laura as she made her way up to the roof, but the creaking noise had alerted her of her presence anyway.

“I’m sorry, I was just going to be a minute! Please, don’t evict me.”

Carmilla couldn’t help but smirk at Laura’s hurried tone, but it fell as soon as the girl faced her.

“Carm? Wh – what are you doing here?”

Carmilla’s heart raced at the question and more so at the undiscernible look on Laura’s face. She continued to move closer no matter how scared she was. She was going against everything she knew just by being there and she’d keep going even if she didn’t exactly know how to do this. She was going to try and Laura could either accept that or turn her away, but she wasn’t going to run.

Not this time.

Carmilla wasn’t a coward, she could be brave too. Despite what everyone said about her, Carmilla was capable of love and she was going to prove it. And maybe she hadn’t quite figured everything out just yet and she certainly was no expert at talking about these kinds of things, but Laura made her want to try and she hoped Laura was still willing to listen.

So she inhaled deeply and spoke; taking a leap of faith.

“I’m here to talk.” 

Chapter Text

Laura could only stare silently as Carmilla continued to close the distance between them. She couldn’t believe she was actually standing there, ready to say the words she had been waiting to hear!

At least, she was hoping they were words she had been waiting to hear. For all she knew, Carmilla was there to remind her that they were friends and friends only and that’s all they ever could be.

Whatever feelings Laura had needed to be pushed aside.

But would Carmilla really go through the trouble of coming all the way over if she was just going to say something that could’ve been communicated through a text?

Laura remained hopeful, she had to.

“Okay,” Laura answered, her voice small and timid.

When Carmilla didn’t say anything further, Laura grew nervous. She needed something to break up the silence and blurted the first thing that came to her mind.

“You’ve just missed the sunset,” Laura added trying to sound casual. She wanted to facepalm, because what was that? Although her voice didn’t waver, she was sure her facial expressions were telling all.

“I suppose I did,” Carmilla finally spoke up, glancing in the direction of her own roof where the sun would’ve set. Laura watched her shift her weight from side to side with her eyes still steady on the horizon, “I went to your door first.”

“Oh! I’m sorry, I should’ve told you.” Laura apologized but Carmilla only shook her head and slowly turned her gaze to the sky.

“You didn’t know I was coming over,” She offered with a shrug, “I should’ve texted or something.”

Laura nodded as they fell into another bout of silence, unsure of what was to come next. She watched Carmilla’s eyes shift between the flecks of light in the sky before Carmilla turned her gaze to Laura.  

Carmilla stood there with her lips parted looking like she was trying to form words, but she was too deep in thought for them to actually come out. When Carmilla found they wouldn’t budge, her eyes darted to the ground in shame.

Laura wanted to reach out and tell her that she didn’t need to be afraid or try so hard; she could speak freely around her and Laura could take whatever she had coming.

But she refrained, unsure if  a sudden movement would scare the girl off again.

 “I don’t know why this is so hard for me to say.” Carmilla admitted with a sigh after another moment.

Laura took a step forward, “Carm, you can-“

“Wait, I need to do this.” Carmilla stopped her with a step back, keeping Laura at bay, the words falling from her pleadingly.

Laura tried not to take the way Carmilla shrank from her like that personally, but it was hard to unsee.  Why was she so afraid of her all of a sudden? Laura tried to keep her face neutral although she could feel the frown forming.

Carmilla looked so frustrated with herself; she pinched the bridge of her nose as she squeezed her eyes shut.

The need to reach out and push her hand away was strong, but Laura didn’t know how Carmilla would react to that, so she stifled the urge. Instead she busied her hands with her sweater, wrapping herself up tighter as she waited.

Carmilla remained still and Laura watched helplessly.

Laura didn’t know how to show Carmilla that everything was going to be okay. Whether Carmilla had feelings for her or not, Laura would still be there for her if she wanted because they were friends first and foremost after all and Laura took that quite seriously.

Laura watched as Carmilla glanced up at the sky one last time. Her chest rose and fell, a deep breath in, before she looked to Laura again with a newfound determination.

“I’m sorry for running out on you the other day,” Carmilla said as her hands delved into the pockets of her jacket. The crease between her brows deepened, “I – I wasn’t thinking clearly. I should’ve…handled that better.”

Laura kept her arms tight around herself as she watched Carmilla curiously. She could actually see the gears churning and for the first time maybe ever, she could read everything Carmilla had to say just by the furrow of her brow.

This wasn’t going to end well.

If Laura wasn’t heartbroken before, she would be after Carmilla continued with what she had to say. With a look like that, Laura was certain Carmilla was just trying to figure out a way to let her down easy.  

Just friends. Just friends. Just friends.

She felt an uncomfortable lump forming as her thoughts flashed the words Carmilla was bound to say. She tried her best to swallow it down. She tried reminding herself that Carmilla not reciprocating feelings for her wasn’t the end of the world. If she was lucky, Carmilla would want to stay in her life and Laura’s feelings would eventually go away.

It wasn’t ideal, but Laura had to stay optimistic.

Besides, she wasn’t going to cry in front of Carmilla, she would wait to do that once she was in the comfort of her room with the covers pulled over her head.

“God, I’m such an idiot.” Carmilla huffed upon seeing the worsening look on Laura’s face.

“N-no, you’re not. I get it.” Laura stammered, her chest tightening at ever word, “I shouldn’t have kissed you.”

Carmilla stiffened and the corner of her mouth twitched in a frown, “Do you really wish you hadn’t?”

Laura tightened her jaw.

She could lie and say yes, and maybe that could save this whole unraveling of a friendship. But she couldn’t, because she didn’t truly believe her own words.

As soon as they left her lips, she felt ashamed and it made her feel dirty. She vowed she’d never feel that kind of shame for how she felt about Carmilla, yet here she was falling back into the same routine all because she was trying to save herself from further heartache.

Laura thought that if she said the words first, then she wouldn’t have to hear Carmilla say them instead.

She wouldn’t have to hear Carmilla turn her fears into reality.

But something new was there in Carmilla’s darkened eyes when she asked her question. It was something that resembled disappointment and Laura wondered how could that be?

In all honesty, Laura was disappointed in herself to. She was never that great of a liar anyway.

“No, I don’t.” Laura admitted quietly, “I’m sorry.”

Then miraculously, a glimpse of a smile threatened to overtake Carmilla’s frown.

“Don’t be,” Carmilla answered through the faint smile, “I’m glad you did.”

Laura’s eyes widened at Carmilla’s words, completely stunned, “Really?”

Carmilla just nodded.

“Why?” Laura prompted curiously, unable to stop the question from falling.

Carmilla’s features hardened.

Once again, she was deep in thought as if she were trying to put together some long speech in her head before actually saying anything. She really took the whole think before you speak thing seriously apparently, but Laura couldn’t decide if it was helping or hurting her.

The longer Carmilla stayed silent, the more time she spent stuck in her head and that couldn’t be a good thing.

When nothing else came, her face fell to her hands. Her body wracked with what sounded like sobs.

“I’m fucking this up.” Carmilla mumbled against her hands. The brokenness in Carmilla’s tone was all it took to finally break Laura’s resolve.

“Hey,” Laura cooed and instantly reached out to the trembling girl.

She pulled at Carmilla’s wrists until Carmilla let her push them away.

Laura’s hands slid so that her palms were pressed against the backs of Carmilla’s, cradling them as she looked up into her stormy eyes. Carmilla wasn’t crying, but her eyes looked glossy as if the dams were about to break.

Laura’s heart clenched at the sight. Why Carmilla thought she needed to do this completely on her own was beyond her. She didn’t have to do that, not if Laura had anything to do with it.

They could do this together.

“It’s only me, Carm.” She whispered, eyes searching Carmilla’s, “You can tell me anything. Don’t be afraid, I won’t go anywhere…unless you want me to. I really hope that you don’t though.”

A twitch of a smile pulled at the corner of Carmilla’s mouth again as her breathing steadied. Then her eyes darted back and forth between Laura’s again, like something had clicked.

Laura knew this look; she experienced it before in her kitchen and on her couch and she knew what was bound to follow, but she pulled away just enough to break Carmilla’s train of thought.

She couldn’t believe she was thinking it but, now isn’t the time for an angst-filled kiss. It can’t take the place of an actual conversation, not this time.

Laura watched as Carmilla blinked, already retracting in on herself.

“I’m sorry,” Carmilla said softly, “I sh-“

“We’re putting a pin in that.” Laura swiftly interrupted before letting her hands drop from Carmilla’s, “Let’s just…talk first?”

“Right.” Carmilla nodded and ran her hand through her hair, “I’m just so bad at it.”

 “I don’t need some grand speech,” Laura whispered as she caught Carmilla’s eye. She smiled and ducked her head encouragingly, “Just talk, it’s only me.”

“You make it sound so easy,” Carmilla sighed at Laura’s words and a small smile crept up.

“Well, isn’t it?” Laura asked innocently.

Carmilla shook her head at Laura’s words, the smile widening, “Not for me.”

“Oh.” Laura softened.

“You’re not just anyone. Why do you think I’m having so much trouble?” Carmilla asked, her boot scuffing at the gravel.

Laura shrugged her shoulders.

Carmilla sucked in a breath and straightened up, “Because it’s you, Laura, and you’re everything to me.”

Laura’s jaw dropped a little, but she remained quiet as Carmilla finally found her voice.

“I don’t do this sort of thing with the emotions and talking about feelings. I never have. I – I  keep to myself and stick to what I know. That’s what I’ve always done because things – they happen when you care too much about someone and I can’t...I know better now and I won’t put myself in that position again…to be hurt.” Carmilla’s voice cracked at the last words as she looked away and Laura flinched.

Laura tried to keep her face neutral although she felt like running. She knew the punchline was coming, for Carmilla to finally say that she only wanted to be friends.

She tried to kiss you, you idiot!

Her heart was on her back again and the thought made Laura stand her ground because it was right.

She kept trying to remind herself that if Carmilla didn’t have feelings for her then she wouldn’t be here and she wouldn’t have tried to kiss her and she wouldn’t have called Laura her everything.

Laura swallowed dryly and continued to listen.

“But then you came along and you just…took over. You came out of nowhere, literally, and you changed me. You showed me how much I could matter to someone and what it was like to be cared for and, Laura, you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for someone to do that. I don’t even know how long I’ve been waiting. I didn’t even know I was waiting, but you came into my life and it was like I just…woke up.”

Carmilla was smiling through her words now, Laura wondered if she even knew she was doing it. She probably didn’t and Laura found herself smiling too, she guessed it was contagious.

“You took the time to understand me and you broke down my walls with your positivity and optimism and incessant notetaking and I let you do it because I-”

Carmilla paused, her lips parted like the thought was caught somewhere within her.  Laura felt suspended in mid-air, hanging on Carmilla’s every word but Carmilla just cleared her throat and continued.

“I remember the first time I ever saw you,” Carmilla admitted and glanced around the roof before pointing to spot near the door, “You were right over there, dancing.”

Laura blushed at the memory while Carmilla’s smiled grew.

She remembered the impromptu silent dance party she had on her first trip up to the roof. She was so overcome with joy being in the sunlight and fresh air after weeks of being cooped up in her apartment. She couldn’t help herself and she just danced away thinking no one was watching.

That was the first day she saw Carmilla too.

“I remember thinking wow this poor girl has lost her mind in isolation.” Carmilla chuckled causing Laura’s blush to deepen, but Carmilla only brought her hand up and brushed the backs of her cold fingers against the warm skin. Her eyes softened as they stayed glued to the movement, “I also remember thinking I wish I could be as happy as her.”

Some of the tension Laura didn’t realize she was holding at the base of her shoulders eased at Carmilla’s touch.

“The more we talked and the more we got to know each other, I realized something that I didn’t think was possible.” Carmilla said softly, her hand falling from Laura’s cheek. She bit down on her bottom lip as her eyes finally dragged up to meet Laura’s again, “You make me want to be a better person and that terrifies me.”

The way the last words left Carmilla sounded too pained for Laura’s liking. Wanting to be a better person was a good thing. How could Carmilla be so afraid of that? Laura couldn’t figure it out, but she remained silent as Carmilla continued.

“No one has ever made me feel the way you do. You make me feel cared for and you make me want things I’ve never dreamed of wanting and I – I’m terrified.” Carmilla paused as her voice broke. She looked so small again with her voice softened, “I’ve spent so many years disappointing everyone around me and somewhere deep down I knew I didn’t deserve good things. Why should I? So I got comfortable with the idea that I was just…meant to be alone.”

“Carm…” Laura sighed because she couldn’t stand the thought but Carmilla shook her head.

“You’re a good thing, Laura, and I don’t think I deserve you.” Carmilla admitted and it nearly broke Laura’s heart in two, “At least, that’s how I’ve been trained to think for so long but you’ve changed that. You started to change that the day you came into my life.”

Laura breathed out in relief; she didn’t think she could stand to listen to Carmilla speaking so ill of herself. Laura knew Carmilla, the real Carmilla. The one, who deep down under all the sarcasm and apathy, was soft and sensitive.

 “After years and years of conditioning, after forcing myself to believe the words spurred from anything but love for so long, you just came in and dismissed it all. I don’t even know how you did it. You believed in me and you showed me that I could be a better person if I wanted.” Carmilla paused, the faint smile faltered and was replaced with a pained expression, “Then the other night, when you kissed me…”

Laura reached out and brushed Carmilla’s cheek with her thumb. She hadn’t meant to invade her space like that, but she felt like it needed to be done. Carmilla had been doing so well so far and Laura needed her to know that she was proud of her.

Also, she might’ve just wanted to touch her to make sure she wasn’t dreaming this whole thing.

But when Carmilla overlapped Laura’s hand with hers, Laura figured this definitely wasn’t a dream.

“I got scared.” Carmilla whispered, “I had never felt so much so intensely like that before and I didn’t know how to react so I ran. I know it’s a ridiculous excuse because I’m an adult, how can I be scared off by a single kiss? But it wasn’t just a kiss, was it? That kiss did something to me and I got scared and ran away. I know it’s silly, but it’s the best explanation I have for now.”

“Stop,” Laura hushed with the squeeze of Carmilla’s hand. She gave her a pointed look and softened, “It’s not ridiculous. Your reasons are valid.”

Carmilla bit her bottom lip in thought then nodded, “I shouldn’t have done it though. I shouldn’t have just left you there like it was nothing because it wasn’t like that. That kiss…it meant something to me. I felt like – I felt like I was falling apart and being put back together all in one go. Or…like I was falling? Does that make sense? Probably not. God, look who’s rambling now.”

Laura smiled, fighting the urge to kiss away any of Carmilla’s doubt, “It’s okay. I felt it too.”

“You did?” Carmilla asked in disbelief.

Laura grinned, she didn’t think she’d ever get tired of that look.

“It was the best kiss I’ve ever had.” She confessed, eyes flickering between Carmilla’s.

“Oh.” She blinked and looked to the ground bashfully, “I feel even worse now for running.”

“Don’t. You had your reasons.” Laura urged, hoping her words would ease Carmilla’s mind.

Carmilla just shook her head guiltily, still looking to the ground, “No, it wasn’t fair for you. I’ve never wanted you to feel like – I don’t know? I don’t ever want to be someone that hurts you.” Carmilla said softly, “And I feel like I did that by running and it’s something that I really do regret. You didn’t deserve that. You deserve someone that’s confident in the way they feel about you.” Carmilla stopped and bit her lip nervously, “Which I’m working on now. I just – I wish I could’ve had the courage to stay and say something sooner. For that, I’m sorry and I’m sorry I made you wait.”

“It’s okay.” Laura replied then took a steadying breath, “You know, I’m scared too.”

Carmilla looked into Laura’s eyes, filled with confusion, “You are?”

Laura shrugged, averting her gaze to Carmilla’s hand. She reached for it and held it between her own, needing something to keep her from floating away, “The things I feel for you are new to me and I’m not expert at this either. Really, I’m just winging it and hoping that I don’t screw this up.”

Laura paused, trying to regain her focus before veering off, “You mean a lot to me, Carm. If that little blip in judgement is what had to happen to get us to this point, then it doesn’t matter. I’d go through it again and again. Don’t feel too bad about not knowing how to do this, because I don’t know what I’m doing either.”

“But you didn’t run,” Carmilla countered, somewhat in awe.

 “Doesn’t mean I was any less scared.” Laura chuckled lightly, “Besides, I was already kind of home so…I couldn’t really run off anywhere if I wanted to.”

Carmilla’s jaw dropped a little at the joke before a hint of a smile appeared.

It made Laura feel proud of the way she was able to ease some of the tension, something Carmilla usually was in charge of.

Carmilla looked down at her hands as Laura twined their fingers together and smiled shyly at the move.

“But seriously,” Laura continued bringing Carmilla’s eyes back up to land on hers, “That kiss meant something for me too and I – I don’t think we can be friends anymore.”

Carmilla’s brow arched questioningly, “Really?”

“Not like that,” Laura rushed out at Carmilla’s tone then grew shy, “We can be friends but just – It would be difficult because…well, I’d want to kiss you all the time and – you know like you said, that’s not something friends do so...”

“Right,” Carmilla nodded at Laura’s rambling and began to smirk, “And I wouldn’t be able to help myself much either.”

“Exactly,” Laura mimicked the nod, “It just wouldn’t work.”

“Uh huh,” Carmilla hummed, trying her hardest to keep the smirking to a minimum, “So if we aren’t going to be friends anymore, for obvious reasons, then what does that make us now?”

Laura could see Carmilla’s usual confidence was beginning to return which made her suddenly feel uncertain. She paused and bit her lip in thought, “I’m not sure, but I don’t think we need to figure out all the answers tonight. Right? We have loads of time to – you know…work that out or something.”

Carmilla tilted her head to the side as a smirk spread across her lips.

Laura shifted awkwardly under Carmilla’s gaze, feeling even more aware of her nerves and the silence they plummeted into. It was much more comfortable this time around, but something heavy still draped over them.

They had said their words, feelings were out in the open, so what now? Laura had kept it relatively cool this whole time, but there was something in the way Carmilla looked at her that made her tense.

Once again, Carmilla was looking at Laura like she had missed some hilarious joke and she was waiting for Laura to catch on.

Problem is, Laura didn’t know when there was even a joke made!

She felt lost.

“Uhh, or we could…” Laura stammered, trying to gauge if that’s what Carmilla was waiting for her to say, “Keep it casual?”

Laura enunciated the words weirdly, completely exposing her nerves and indecision, but instead of Carmilla joking her she just quirked her brow curiously.

“Keep it casual, huh?” She clarified although her tone reflected doubt. She looked like she was about to laugh.

It made Laura question herself, “Yeah? Or we could just…like not do that?”

Carmilla chuckled, her smirk morphing into a grin, “You know, for someone who is so in tune with their feelings and loves a good label, you’re kind of oblivious.”

Laura frowned, “What’s that suppose to mean?”

Carmilla just shook her head before taking a step closer to Laura, “So…let me just go over what happened, for continuity’s sake.”

Laura eyed her curiously.

“So, I know you have feelings for me and now you know I have feelings for you too..” Carmilla left her words hanging there as she looked to Laura expectantly.

“Yeah?” Laura looked back just the same, waiting for Carmilla to continue.

Why was she being so weird all of a sudden?

Speak for yourself, Hollis.

Laura frowned at the little voice in her head. She wasn’t being weird. She was just, not very good a reading between the lines? Whatever..

Carmilla continued to eye her before finally giving up.

She sighed and smiled down at the ground, “I didn’t think I needed to spell it out for you, Cupcake, but I guess I’m going to have to. Aren’t I?”

Laura frowned; what the heck did she miss?

Suddenly Carmilla’s eyes caught something off to the side of Laura and she jutted her finger over to the spot, “Can I borrow that?”

Laura’s eyes followed to where Carmilla pointed: the whiteboard resting against her chair from earlier.

Laura’s already furrowed brows deepened, “Uh..sure?”

Carmilla huffed out one last chuckle before walking around Laura to pick up the board. She rested it against her stomach as she uncapped the marker with her teeth, her eyes never leaving Laura’s. There was something mischievous in the way Carmilla looked at her that left Laura intrigued.

Also, a bit embarrassed because how could someone uncapping a marker look so hot? Laura pushed the thought away, she needed to focus.

Carmilla tore her eyes away from Laura’s as she scribbled out her message and Laura watched her facial expressions shift from playful to something softer. Her face seemed to relax and once she stopped writing, a gentle smile formed.

Carmilla looked back to Laura, regarding her for a moment, then revealed her message:

I’m in love with you, Laura Hollis.

Chapter Text

Laura stood there for a moment just staring.

Surely, she wasn’t seeing correctly. Surely, she had blacked out at some point between Carmilla appearing and now because if she were actually coherent then that would mean Carmilla just said that she’s…

Laura blinked and her jaw dropped a little further as a quiet gasp escaped her, “What?” Then she quickly swallowed, “I mean, I can read but…what?”

Laura looked up to meet Carmilla’s eyes and searched them for clarity, but the look just made Carmilla roll her eyes tiredly although the smile still remained.

“I’m in love with you,” Carmilla said the words with certainty.

Somehow Laura still wasn’t sure. This was a complete 180 on Carmilla’s part, so forgive her if she was a little surprised by this new information.

 

This can’t be real.

“I’m in love with you,” Carmilla said again with a simplicity to her tone, like it was the easiest thing in the world to say. She took a step closer, eyes flinting between Laura’s.

Laura shook her head, eyes averting to the ground as if the truth was written in gravel. She tried wrapping her head around Carmilla’s declaration, but she was utterly dumbfounded. Hearing Carmilla say those words after all the struggling she has done for the past few days with her feelings was the last thing Laura expected.

Not that she wasn’t happy to hear them, she just wasn’t use to anyone expressing their love to her that wasn’t her dad – except there was the one time she got married when she was five but that couldn’t possibly count – or like a friend saying it platonically like I love you buddy.

Oh my God, could she mean it platonically?

No. Don’t even go there. That is not a thing, come on!

Laura nodded, you can’t be in love with someone platonically that like defeats the purpose or something.

She looked back to Carmilla who was still patiently waiting for Laura to process everything. The way Carmilla stared at her, haloed in the glow of moonlight and the one emergency light near the door, could almost pass for a dream and then suddenly Laura had another thought.

I’m dreaming! I must’ve fallen asleep watching the sunset and now this was some elaborate illusion my mind made up!

But Laura had to be certain and went on to say, “Okay so, I – I don’t think I’m hearing you correctly. Just to clarify, did you just say-“

“I did.” Carmilla interrupted with a small smile playing at her lips. She looked down at her handwriting on the whiteboard, “Shocker, I know. It took me by surprise too.”

“Wow,” Laura whispered with her eyes glued to the writing then looked back to Carmilla hesitantly, “Are you sure?”

A disbelieving grin spread across Carmilla’s face, “Am I sure?

“Yeah because I was just talking to my friends about this and it is possible that-”

Carmilla let out a frustrated huff, “Goddamnit, Laura.”

Carmilla couldn’t help herself any longer; couldn’t wait for Laura to inevitably catch up. She dropped the board and marker to the side and pulled Laura in. She took Laura’s confused little face in her hands and crashed their lips together hoping the kiss would be all the reassurance she needed.

And it was.

Laura blinked once, twice then let her eyes flutter close at the feel.

This isn’t a dream.

She’s in love with you, soak it in.  

The sudden move combined with the realization pulled another gasp from Laura but Carmilla stifled it by deepening the kiss, soft and sure.  

A moment later Carmilla pulled away just enough that Laura could feel her breath against her lips as she spoke, “I am very sure about what I feel for you.”

Laura relaxed as she saw something warmer in Carmilla’s eyes, “Just checking.”

Carmilla chucked, “Only you would have me repeating something that has been so hard for me to say a million times.”

Laura let a apologetic smile form, “I’m sorry.”

Carmilla just lifted her shoulder as her eyes dropped to Laura’s lips then back up to meet hers again, “It’s good practice. Besides, I don’t mind when it’s true. I really don’t know how this sort of thing works, but it’s all I’ve been thinking about. I just had to let you know, I – I hope that’s okay?”

Laura’s smile softened as she stared back into the eyes of someone who loved her. She felt like she was soaring above the clouds and through a rainbow, she was that happy.

“Of course it is,” She said and slid her hand to the back of Carmilla’s neck and pulled her in again, letting their lips press perfectly together.

This felt different from the first time.

The first was needy and rushed and Laura felt like she was falling but this conveyed a deeper meaning. She didn’t feel like she was being cracked open, but instead thoughtfully pieced back together just like Carmilla described earlier.

It was like her life had depended on it – hungry and gasping for air – but this was softer, gentler. Carmilla kissed her delicately as if Laura were a balloon and Carmilla were a porcupine; at the slightest touch Laura could burst and she would be gone forever. So Carmilla moved carefully, thoughtfully only applying the slightest pressure against her lips as the tip of her tongue tried to slide past them.

Everything began to click into place for Laura; like dominoes lined up and someone just flicked over the first one and now everything was falling into place, revealing an intricate design set off by the catalyst.

Carmilla was that catalyst in Laura’s intricate design.

It would’ve made Laura feel so silly that it took her this long to believe what Carmilla was saying if it weren’t for being so intoxicated by the very feel of Carmilla’s lips on hers again. It was distracting and amazing and everything she could ever want all rolled up into one.

Carmilla didn’t want to be just friends and this love wasn’t platonic. Laura wasn’t going to have to get over her feelings for the girl because Carmilla was in love with her, her, and it was an amazing thing. Laura felt a laugh begging to burst free because wow what a turn of events!

This guarded, broody girl who had been so afraid of letting anyone in that she rather go through life alone was in love with her.

How did she get so lucky?

Laura’s hands fell from Carmilla’s neck and smoothed down until she and gripped at the leather of her jacket while Carmilla’s threaded through Laura’s hair, deepening the kiss. She didn’t know who was pulling on who more, but any space between them disappeared. Their chests pressed flush, so impossibly close that Laura swore she could feel the pounding of Carmilla’s heart.

Maybe it was her own? She couldn’t tell the difference now but that didn’t matter to her. They could beat as one for all she cared.

Then Carmilla tilted her head and ran her tongue along Laura’s lip which caused a shiver to skate down Laura’s spine and her grip on Carmilla’s back to tighten. Laura parted her lips, welcoming Carmilla in, and suddenly she was breathless.

Laura thought she might actually pass out from the feel because she didn’t think she could remember how to breathe with the way Carmilla’s tongue glided against hers.

She was falling again but this time Carmilla was there with her arms wide open ready to catch her. Laura’s heart raced and everything felt foggy and as Carmilla’s grip tightened all she knew was that she wanted more, more, more-

“Hey!” Someone suddenly called out angrily, voice deep with authority.

“Fuck,” Laura shrieked under her breath and pulled away from Carmilla to face the voice.

 Carmilla was less concerned and scrunched her face in disgust at the interruption as she turned towards the noise too.

“What?” Carmilla scoffed, tone full of utter contempt.

Laura’s eyes widened in terror, slowly dragging from the man in the doorway to Carmilla, “Carm…that’s my landlord.”

Laura’s hushed tone barely made Carmilla’s suddenly defensive stance falter. Her eyes narrowed, never leaving the man’s as she whispered, “So?”

“You’re not meant to be up here, that’s what!” The landlord bit back then jutted his thumb behind him, “Leave before I call the cops.”

“That’s a little dramatic, don’t you think?” Carmilla quipped off-handedly, setting her fist on her hip.

Laura pressed her lips tight together to keep from gaping at Carmilla; what is she doing?

Instead, she gave her a light jab to the side with her elbow followed by a pointed look before calling out to the man, “We’re leaving now!”

Carmilla grumbled something undiscernible while Laura let out a flurry of apologies and quickly grabbed her whiteboard. She then reached for Carmilla and pulled her along. Carmilla, of course, dragged her feet the whole way. Maybe her aversion to authority really was a thing?  

“I’m so sorry, Mr. Dean, it won’t happen again!” Laura urged as she and Carmilla slid past him.

He just gave them both a disapprovingly look before turning back to the door and locking it properly. He grumbled beneath his breath, “Horny kids.”

Carmilla and Laura didn’t linger long after that and tore down the hallway as fast as they could.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe that happened!” Laura gasped as she continued to pull Carmilla along. She looked back at the girl who now wore a proud smirk, “What’s that face? You almost got the cops called on us.”

“I did not,” Carmilla snorted and quickened her pace so that she didn’t lag behind. She wrapped her arm around Laura’s shoulder, hugging her to her side, and whispered in her ear, “He was clearly bluffing.”

Laura nearly tripped over her own two feet at the huskiness of Carmilla’s tone, but she redirected her focus on walking properly.

“We don’t know that,” Laura sputtered out a giggle as they reached Laura’s front door. She fumbled for her keys and moved to unlock it, but when she pushed it open and began to walk through she noticed Carmilla wasn’t following.

Laura looked back and found that Carmilla suddenly looked rather uncertain.

She frowned at Carmilla’s hesitance, “What? Do you need an invitation or something?”

Carmilla’s shoulders eased before she smiled shyly at Laura’s words, “I guess I don’t.”

“Nope.” Laura grinned and reached over to pull Carmilla through the threshold until they were pressed flush together again, “We were interrupted.”  

Carmilla chuckled and let herself be brought in for another kiss. This one was quick and playful and it made Laura smile as Carmilla rested her hands on Laura’s waist, steadying herself as she blindly kicked the door behind her closed.

“You know, it usually takes a bit more effort before I let someone talk me into coming back to their place…” Carmilla mumbled against Laura’s lips, feeling the smile grow.

“Yeah, but you’re in love with me so I think I have special considerations.” Laura smirked, pulling away just enough to see the flash of delight in Carmilla’s eyes.

“Have I just shot myself in the foot by telling you that?” Carmilla asked with her brow raised challengingly, “Are you going to dangle it over my head?” Carmilla slid her hands to splay against the small of Laura’s back, tugging her just a little closer as her tone dipped lower, “Use it against me to coax me into doing whatever you want?”

Laura swallowed thickly at her tone again, but the accusation made her smile and she shook her head, “No, but I might test the theory…on occasion.”

Carmilla smiled back lovingly, “Of course you will.” Then she leaned down to capture Laura’s lips once again, reveling in the ability that she was allowed to kiss her whenever she wanted now without the fear of any repercussions.  

“Actually, now that I’m thinking of it.” Laura drawled out as she pulled away, sneaking her hands around Carmilla’s waist beneath her jacket. She licked her lips, the taste of Carmilla on the tip of her tongue, and smirked, “I think I might want to test that theory out now.”

Carmilla’s brow rose in challenge again, “Oh? What did you have in mind?”

“Ah, what is it that you once said to me?” Laura hummed, dropping her hands from Carmilla’s waist and reached for her hand, “I have to keep some secrets or else I’ll lose my air of mystery, won’t I?”

Laura smiled devilishly and pulled Carmilla to her living room without a care in the world.

/

What Laura had in mind actually ended up being rather innocent. After a night of heavy talks about feelings and love, she figured they could use a bit of a break and what better way to do that than with a family-friendly game? Laura barely had to bat an eyelash before Carmilla was settling in across from Laura at the coffee table, ready for whatever Laura wanted to play.

Laura learned very quickly that Carmilla was effortlessly great at nearly every game she had. Other than Laura’s ruined winning streak, what made the whole thing even worse was the playfully bored expression Carmilla wore the entire time.

The look fueled Laura and before she knew it, they had gone through three tries at Jenga, four games of Connect Four and currently on their tenth round of Uno.

Somehow Carmilla won every single time. It was infuriating!

Especially since Carmilla didn’t even know how to play most of the games before Laura taught her. Apparently family game nights weren’t a big thing for Carmilla growing up, which Laura should’ve guessed. She vowed that maybe once the Lockdown was lifted they could host one with Laf and Perry? The thought made Laura’s stomach do a flip, she was already finding little ways to include Carmilla in her life.

And what made it even better was that Carmilla let her. Albeit with faux-boredom, but Laura could tell by the little glint in her eye that she was at least a little happy to be included.

“Uno.” Carmilla said, pulling Laura from her thoughts.

“How is that even possible?” Laura gasped, she had at least 15 cards in her tiny hand and not a play card in sight.

Carmilla just shrugged and waited for Laura to take her turn.

Laura scanned her cards for something good, but alas she had nothing and slowly put down a yellow 3 atop the pile. She swallowed nervously, awaiting Carmilla’s move.

Carmilla eyed her card, face neutral, then dropped her last card on the pile.

“I win.” Carmilla announced coolly.

“No, why?” Laura cried out dramatically causing Carmilla to chuckle.

“Just the way the world works, cutie.” Carmilla smirked.

“Oh don’t give me that,” Laura half grumbled half giggled, “This has never happened before. Are you sure you’ve never played? You’re not apart of some underground gambling ring?”

“Nope, but it’s okay,” Carmilla told her, “We can’t all be winners.”

Laura shook her head in disbelief, fighting a grin as she gathered the cards, “One more game?”

Carmilla just sighed through a loving smile, “Fine.”

Laura made sure to shuffle really well and dealt the cards. She couldn’t loose ten times in a row, that would just be sad. So she put on her game face and held her cards close, eying Carmilla over the tops of them.

Carmilla just winked back and waved her hand towards Laura, “Ladies first.”

/

Laura didn’t win that game.

Or the one after that.

But what she did win was a kiss to the tip of her nose.

“Better luck next time, Cupcake.” Carmilla said as she hovered over the coffee table then dropped a kiss to Laura’s lips.

The look in her eyes was enough for Laura to forget her losing streak. Afterall, had she really lost if she got a kiss from Carmilla in the end? She thought not.

But there was something that had been playing at the back of her mind since inviting Carmilla in. Something Carmilla said earlier about Laura taking advantage of the fact that Carmilla was in love with her. She knew Carmilla had been teasing when she hinted at Laura at the words, but as the night wore and the number of games increased Laura found herself wondering.

Laura knew she hadn’t said the words back yet; not that she wasn’t ready or maybe she wasn’t, but she just didn’t feel like it was the right time. She didn’t want Carmilla to think she was just saying the words back because Carmilla said them first and it was the right thing to say in response, like it was expected?

Not that she would ever do something like that, but just incase. Carmilla had this awakening and Laura envied her for that and being able to recognize what those feelings meant, but Laura still felt uncertain. She was sure of her feelings for Carmilla, but she wasn’t sure yet if that amounted to love. Her talk with Laf and Perry hadn’t really offered any clarity, but it did get her thinking about what love was and what it meant to her and if she felt it for Carmilla.

She hadn’t come to a conclusion yet.

But that was okay for now, because Carmilla hadn’t made her feel pressured to figure it all out and Laura…really liked that about her.

Whenever Laura decided to tell Carmilla that she loved her too, she wanted to make sure it was the right time for her.

No hesitation or second thoughts, just the truth.

Until then, she could only be her and care for Carmilla the best way she knew how. To Laura, that meant soft words and even softer kisses until the board games were long forgotten and they laid tangled on the couch.

They had moved from the floor and settled on the couch to watch tv, but neither of them were really watching but rather exchanging lazy kisses. Laura’s eyes felt heavy now though in the late hour as Carmilla’s arms wrapped around her. She had never felt so comfortable with the slow and steady hum of Carmilla’s heart against the palm of her hand. The newfound closeness was new to them, but it really didn’t seem like it. They fit together on Laura’s small couch as if it were something they always did, the curves of their sides lining up for a perfect fit. And with the way Carmilla slowly played with the ends of Laura’s hair, twirling the strand around her finger, Laura could almost fall asleep right there.

“You should stay the night.” Laura mumbled from the crook of Carmilla’s neck.

“How forward of you, Cupcake, not even a date first?” Carmilla teased, the sound of her words vibrating against Laura’s cheek, “I’m surprised.”

Laura could just feel the smirk form in Carmilla’s words, but her voice was husky and thick with exhaustion too. It made Laura tilt her head up to see for herself. Sure enough, Carmilla’s eyes were half-lidded and a tired smirk played at her lips.

“That wasn’t even remotely what I had in mind, thank you.” Laura replied and let her fingers circle the exposed patch of skin from where Carmilla’s shirt slid up, “I just don’t like the idea of you walking home this late is all.”

“And so chivalrous too,” Carmilla quipped causing Laura to roll her eyes.

“Nevermind.”

“I’m joking.” Carmilla sighed then said, “I’ll stay if you’d like.”

“I’d like it very much,” Laura assured her and pressed a sleepy kiss to Carmilla’s jaw.

/

The nerves were apparent as Carmilla set off for the bathroom to get ready for bed. Laura was thankful that her dad had bought three of everything when packing toiletries in the last essential box like toothpaste and toothbrushes, so she was able to offer Carmilla her own.

Because I get that Carmilla loves me and everything but it would take much more than that before I went sharing my toothbrush.

That’s just gross.

Laura was meant to be taking the time to grab a change of clothes for Carmilla, because she was sure that sleeping in tight jeans wouldn’t be comfortable. But when she stepped foot into her bedroom, she realized it was actually a mess in Laura’s standards – which really meant the bed hadn’t been made and a couple articles of clothing didn’t make it into her laundry basket – and she quickly began scurrying around to tidy.

“You alright there?” Carmilla chuckled from the doorway as Laura tried shoving all her clothes into the basket. She really was behind on laundry duty.

“Uh yeah,” Laura replied enthusiastically, trying to play it off like she hadn’t been quickly trying to clean her room before Carmilla had finished.

Carmilla’s brow only arched as she crossed her arms over her chest and leaned on the door frame. Her eyes scanned the room then fell to Laura’s desk like something had caught her eye. Without a word, she walked over to it and plucked up a tattered notebook.

Laura didn’t take too much notice until she realized what Carmilla was actually holding and sprinted over.

“Is this what I think it is?” Carmilla asked, smiling mischievously as she flipped through the pages.

“No!” Laura grabbed at the notebook before Carmilla could see the amount of times Laura had scribbled her name in the headers surrounded by hearts and flowers. She threw it under her bed, never to be found again.

“It so was,” Carmilla grinned and crossed her arms over her chest again as she leaned against Laura’s desk, “Why can’t I read it? I’m dying to know what you’ve written about me.”

Laura bit her lip and walked towards the dresser where she had a stack of pajamas waiting for Carmilla, choosing to ignore her and said, “You can borrow these. There’s a t-shirt and a long sleeve and a sweater – I didn’t know if you get cold in the night so there’s options – and also some pants.”

Laura handed over the stack, their fingers brushing as Carmilla accepted it. She felt a spark, like an actual spark, but it could’ve just been from the static electricity.

Carmilla thumbed the pile and pulled the t-shirt and sweater out and handed over the rest, “These will do. Thanks.”

Laura nodded then felt the flannel of the pajama pants and called out before Carmilla had turned to leave completely, “You forgot pants.”

“Did I?” Carmilla smirked from over her shoulder.

Laura’s stomach flipped, “Uhh..”

“Kidding.” Carmilla’s smirk softened as she shrugged and turned back to swipe the pants from Laura’s hands, “I sleep better without, but if it makes you feel better I guess I can-“

“No, no.” Laura stammered and moved her hands just out of reach of Carmilla’s, “Whatever makes you comfortable is okay with me.”

“Then I’ll go without.” Carmilla grinned and sauntered back to the bathroom, hips swaying.

Laura tried to ignore the pounding in her chest that now dipped a lot lower than usual as she changed into her own pajamas. This could quite possibly be the longest night ever if Carmilla kept that up.

/

Surprisingly, they kept it rather PG – not that it was anyone’s business – and mostly spent the short time talking until Laura’s words began to slur and she had fallen asleep.

Carmilla kept her promise of keeping Laura warm and wrapped her up in her arms. It was honestly the greatest sleep Laura has had in awhile. Everything felt so effortless with Carmilla around, she fit perfectly into Laura’s life as if the spot was made just for her and it had been waiting for her to finally arrive.

She felt comfortable around Carmilla, even if Laura’s whole body buzzed at the very thought that nothing was really separating the feel of Carmilla’s legs on her except her own pants. For the most part, sleeping in the same bed as Carmilla felt like the most natural thing ever.

Carmilla was sweet and mostly stuck to her side of the bed, making sure that she didn’t cross any lines even if she teased about it. If it were up to Carmilla, she would’ve probably spent the night glued to the wall so that Laura had enough space.

Laura wasn’t going to have that though. Not after daydreaming so long about sharing a space with Carmilla, cuddling into her and falling asleep as she played with Laura’s hair. She wasn’t going to deprive herself of that now, no matter how chivalrous Carmilla tried to be. It took maybe twenty minutes of just lying there before Laura slid closer, making sure that Carmilla was okay with the lack of personal space.

When Carmilla said she didn’t mind, Laura took all the unnecessary space between them as free game and rolled right into Carmilla’s side. She settled there and let Carmilla’s heartbeat lull her to sleep happily.

/

The next morning, Laura of course forgoes class because she decided she would learn way more by just tracing over the bridge of Carmilla’s nose. Her professors wouldn’t be able to teach her about why her heart skips a few beats at every little twitch in Carmilla’s brow or why the soft sounds of her breathing were like music to her ears or why the very feel of her soft skin made Laura feel like flying.

Don’t even get her started the way her whole body seemed to melt with the way Carmilla tugged her closer in as if she was afraid she’d disappear in the night. It made Laura feel wanted in the best of ways and she couldn’t get enough.

As weird as it might sound, Laura could spend all day watching Carmilla in her slumber. There was a different expression there, a sort of peacefulness, that Carmilla didn’t usually show. Laura dragged her finger down the bridge of Carmilla’s nose again, eliciting a low hum.

“You watching me sleep, Hollis?” Carmilla murmured without opening her eyes, voice raspy.

Laura licked her lips slowly and bent down to press a pacifying kiss to the corner of Carmilla’s mouth, “Nope.”

“Liar.” She smirked and rolled to bury her face against Laura’s shoulder, her arm coming around to land over Laura’s waist.

Laura just smiled at the sleepy tone and tried to settle back down to sleep longer. Maybe they could spend all day in bed? Laura couldn’t remember the last time she did that, but as always, the early riser in her began to get restless the longer she laid next to Carmilla.

She didn’t want to wake the poor girl with her touches and reluctantly slid out of Carmilla’s arms.

“Where you going?” Carmilla pouted, brows pushed together.

The squished face she made had Laura’s heart flutter yet again. It seemed that was the only thing her heart could do now whenever she looked Carmilla’s way and she didn’t know what that meant.

Actually, she had a little bit of an idea as three little words flashed once in her mind.

The thought made her cheeks feel warm, not out of hesitance or uncertainty, but because it came so naturally.

“Keep sleeping.” Laura whispered as her heart continued to race. She smoothed her hand down Carmilla’s arm until she settled again before moving to get out of bed.

She slipped into her fuzzy booties and into a thicker sweater now that she had lost Carmilla’s warmth. She made her way to the door and paused, taking a moment to glance back in Carmilla’s direction.

Carmilla looked so peaceful with her head resting on Laura’s yellow pillow, her hand tucked under her cheek while the other laid splayed out where Laura once was. Watching made Laura’s heart swell and she couldn’t help but move back to the edge of the bed.

She carefully smoothed over Carmilla’s silky hair and bent down to press a kiss to her cheek. She lingered there for a moment as she felt the stupid little unnecessary butterflies return.

Now she didn’t think they were so stupid when she looked at Carmilla, how could she? If anything they made her smile and encourage words that continued to flash in her mind like a strobe light.

But she wouldn’t say them now, not when Carmilla wasn’t awake to hear them so she padded off to the bathroom to start her morning.

It wasn’t the moment she had been waiting for, but she could feel it coming.

While she waited in the kitchen for the kettle to boil, she flicked on the news and went to get her laptop from the coffee table. She set up at the island counter and proceeded to make her first coffee of the day, hoping to get a little work done before Carmilla woke although it was a little harder to concentrate knowing that the girl was just in the other room.

The girl that she loved.

She paused when the thought fully formed and smiled. The words had been flashing in her head all morning, but it wasn’t until now that she really understood what was happening.

Laura could feel the ache in her cheeks from smiling so hard, she just couldn’t contain herself. She felt so full of something and it was begging to burst free from her chest. She wanted to shout it out loud and dance around her kitchen just out of pure happiness.

She couldn’t wait to tell Carmilla, she even considered dragging the sleepy girl from her slumber just so she could shower her with all the love she felt. But she decided against and let Carmilla sleep. Laura was in no rush, she’d have all the time in the world to show Carmilla just how much she loved her.  

Laura settled back on her laptop and flipped through her open assignments before stopping to hover over one tab that she has been kept open in the background for weeks. She clicked into it, eyes scanning over what was essentially her and Carmilla’s story.

They had come a long way from pizza boxes and charades and the thought made Laura smile into her coffee cup, suddenly inspired to finally finish the article.

/

Carmilla didn’t stir for another hour, but when she finally did she was lured out of bed by the smell of fresh coffee and the absence of Laura.

“There you are.” Carmilla greeted huskily as she walked into the kitchen with her hair sleep-tousled and one fist rubbing at her eye, “I forgot to take my contacts out.”

“Ouch,” Laura frowned and looked up from her laptop to take in the sight of Carmilla fully. Laura almost forgot Carmilla was pants-less, but man she did not mind the view. She blinked slowly as her eyes dragged up Carmilla’s bare legs but managed to say a convincing, “Good morning.”

That paired with seeing Carmilla in just her sweater, her favorite one at that, made Laura very happy. She could totally get use to spending her mornings like this. Her eyes stayed transfixed until Carmilla was closer, her legs now out of sight beneath the countertop.

“I think you dropped something,” Carmilla smirked, causing Laura to frown questioningly as she stopped next to Laura. She touched under Laura’s chin, “Your jaw?”

“Ah, so you are this hilarious even so early in the morning.” Laura grumbled sarcastically, making Carmilla chuckle.  

“I try.” Carmilla teased and stepped around the counter to press a kiss to Laura’s cheek, “Good morning.”

The domesticity of it all made Laura nearly melt right on the spot; since when had she become such a sucker for this? She didn’t care about the answer, not when Carmilla looked to her so lovingly.

It reminded her of the three little words that began to flash again.

Was now the right time?

“Is there enough left for me?” Carmilla asked as she leaned on the counter, interrupting Laura’s thoughts with her eyes on the French press.

“Totally,” Laura paused for a moment and retrieved the cup that she had left out for Carmilla. She began pouring the contents of the French press, thankful she decided to brew another just a little bit ago so it was still hot.

“Thanks,” Carmilla smiled softly as Laura handed her the mug and took a sip.

Laura bit her lip at the sight of Carmilla drinking from her favorite Tardis mug as her stomach filled to the brim with butterflies.

Now, say it now.

“What are you working on?” Carmilla asked and settled in closer to Laura.

Laura looked up as Carmilla gestured to the laptop before taking another sip, “Oh, right. Yeah, it’s just this assignment I’ve been working on for awhile, just doing the finishing touches now.”

“Oh?” Carmilla hummed, “What is it about?”

Judging by her tone and how her eyes were already gliding along the title, Laura could tell Carmilla knew already what it was but she just loved to push her buttons.

“Well…It’s about this girl I met on a roof.” Laura answered casually as Carmilla rested her chin on Laura’s shoulder and moved her free hand to encircle her waist.

“Sounds interesting,” Carmilla said and tilted her head slightly so that her lips brushed against Laura’s ear, “Tell me more.”

Laura gulped at the shivers the tone sent but slowly turned so that she could face her fully.

Carmilla’s eyes danced playfully from Laura’s eyes to her lips then back up again like she was daring her to move.

“Well, she’s really great.” Laura continued coolly although her face felt flushed, “She reads a lot and she looks really good in leather…and also my sweater.” Her words made Carmilla smirk and Laura chuckled, “She thinks she’s really badass because she acts so cool and disaffected,” Carmilla quirked her brow in challenge, “But deep down, she’s a kind of a softie.”

“I think she would disagree with you there, Cupcake.”

Carmilla’s interjection made Laura laugh again, “I don’t think she would.”

Carmilla looked to her unamused although she continued to smile.

“Despite thinking she’s a badass – we’ll agree to disagree there – she’s actually really sweet and super kind. She helps me study and she’s always so encouraging whenever I feel overwhelmed. She’s selfless like that. She thinks she’s not so good with words, but I beg to differ.” Laura watched Carmilla soften, “I think she’s amazing at it, even if she can be a little hard on herself sometimes. She tries and that counts for something, I hope she knows that.”

“I think she does.” Carmilla muttered through a soft smile.

“Good.”

“Anything else?”

“Actually yes,” Laura smirked as she wrapped her arms around Carmilla, “I think she’s quite special and she’s so deserving of all the good things. And maybe it sounds a little cheesy, but I hope I can be a part of her life for a long time. I want to be someone that makes her happy because she deserves that too. She deserves happiness.”

“Laura..” Carmilla breathed out in awe, “You’re...”

“Awesome? I know.” Laura snickered and let Carmilla tilt her chin up for one more chaste kiss that began to deepen. Laura put her hand on Carmilla’s shoulder, “Wait, I’m not finished.”

“There’s more?” Carmilla grinned, disbelief in her tone, and pulled away just enough to see Laura smile too.

“It’s the most important part,” Laura reasoned as her eyes left Carmilla’s lips and met her gaze.

This was it. This was the moment, her moment.

Or rather, it was a bunch of little moments that had been guiding her until they finally accumulated to form this wonderful realization.  

There was no hesitation or second thoughts, just the truth.

Carmilla looked back expectantly, “Well, go on. Don’t keep a girl waiting..”

Laura rolled her eyes and pulled Carmilla in for another kiss, unable to fight the urge with the playful teasing. When she leaned back, their noses brushing, she admitted the words she had been waiting to say all morning.

“So this wonderful girl, right?” Laura said and set her eyes on Carmilla’s, “Well, I happen to be in love with her too. I think I have been for awhile now, maybe even since the first time I saw her.” Laura laughed at her own timing and shook her head, “I just – I didn’t realize it until today and now that I have, everything makes so much sense. I can’t stop thinking about it.” She paused as her voice dipped a little lower, “I love you too, Carmilla.”

Carmilla bit her lip at Laura’s words, like she was trying to keep from smiling too big but she couldn’t help it. She set down her mug and pulled Laura in closer, wrapping her arms around her shoulders. The bashful smile spilt and she leaned in for a kiss, soft and slow and full of all the things she felt for the girl.

Laura melted in the embrace, feeling her whole heart swell.

This was the very feeling she never thought she’d get to experience because of the lockdown. How could she if she were to be confined to her home? But somehow, she and Carmilla found a way. This unabashed love and pure happiness wasn’t something she ever hoped to find, at least not in isolation, but she did. Now she was completely head over heels in love with a girl she met on a roof of all places!

The thought made her laugh against Carmilla’s lips, because they did it.

 They actually did it; they beat the system, they cracked the code, they…found love in a hopeless place!

Rihanna really did know what she was talking about!

“I love you,” Laura mumbled happily again, so elated by the way the words made her feel as they left her, “Wow, that’s so satisfying to say. Is this how it feels for you too?” Laura didn’t give Carmilla a chance to answer as she pressed her lips to hers, punctuating each I love you with a kiss.  

Carmilla could only chuckle against Laura’s lips before moving to rest their foreheads together. She smiled back lovingly with eyes full of pride and adoration, “I love you too and you’re going to get such a good grade on this article.”